In the world of Last Fables, the Slayer is the subject of countless books, but The Seven Labors is perhaps the most famous. Remarkable as the first volume to pull together the stories of the Slayer’s most heroic deeds, it has never gone out of print since it was first published. In addition to being Eni’s favorite book, it was also her introduction to the stories of the Slayer as a matter of historical fact assembled by an author who conducted meticulous research.
Writing in the style of Rengard Mithrideirn, the long-dead author of this book, has been quite a bit of fun both times I’ve done so now for these updates, but future blog entries won’t be limited to these extracts from an in-universe story. We have some exciting things planned for the future we can hardly wait to show you!
If there was ever a she-wolf more beautiful than Queen Aeliya, no one had ever seen her. Her beauty was radiant in the way that poets may attempt to describe but always fall short of capturing; to catch sight of her was to love her. But it was in deed as much as in form that she was lovely, and surely no one so young had ever amassed so much power without a single slash of a sword. Queen Aeliya had risen from nothing to rule the Cohere Cities, the empire she carved out with nothing more than her keen mind and bewitching charm.
For what else could it be but an intoxicating magic that bound her subjects to her? No mammal could resist, and even the dread Hydra of Sithis fell to her. The foul beast stood as large as a castle, its three mighty heads ever alert to danger. Each head was large enough to swallow a mammal whole, and it is said that the monster fed well on those who disappointed the queen. Its skin was smooth to the touch, nearly glass-like, but so thick and so tough that the sharpest ax forged by mortal paws would be blunted in a matter of strokes. Should a warrior be so skilled as to get close enough to chop off one of the awful heads, it would be for naught; the beast's powers of regeneration were such that a second head would have grown before the first had even hit the ground.
Aeliya was never parted from the Hydra once it was her thrall, and the beast's enormous size was no hindrance to this. Aeliya's throne room stood not within a castle but on the shores of Lake Lerna. A vast courtyard of polished marble stretched across what had once been a rocky beach, and near the water stood a throne carved from stone upon a plinth.
On the day the Slayer came to see her, Aeliya had dressed in her silken finery, her dress catching the fading light of the sun and doing little to conceal her feminine curves. Her eyes, which were as purple as the last breath of day before night, lit up in unrestrained pleasure at the sight of the hero before her. The Slayer stopped a hundred feet from her throne, but he did not bow.
Aeliya smiled, her teeth gleaming white, and she put her paws together with utterly perfect grace. "Hail, Slayer," she called.
Her voice was every bit as lovely as her body, warm as a hearth and as honeyed as sweetened tea. "I have watched you, as all of Aerodan watches you," she said, "Many monsters have you slain and many mammals have you saved. But tell me, hero, does it not ever seem futile to you?"
The Slayer did not answer. "You save villages and cities, only for them to become threatened again. By other monsters, sometimes. By warlords and bandits at others. But you are always on the road, are you not? You never stop, for there is always someone else who needs saving. But you did not reach Drispas in time, did you? You were too late there. How many more Drispas must there be before you change your approach?"
Memories of the Tragedy of Drispas must surely have filled the Slayer's head, perhaps even the bitter words Orterio the Burgomaster spoke when he welcomed the Slayer to the ruins echoing. His gaze remained steely, however, and Aeliya continued to speak. "Do you not see, Slayer?" the queen asked, languidly crossing her legs as she lazed atop her throne, "The citizens of the Cohere Cities are but ants to ones so powerful as us. Does a mammal concern himself with the vermin scurrying about underfoot with every step he takes? Of course he does not."
The Slayer regarded the she-wolf in silence, the only sound the fitful breeze that blew across the lake and made his cloak flutter. Aeliya reached out and stroked one of the heads of the Hydra, the beast leaning into it with one neck while its four other eyes maintained a deadly focus upon the hero. "Think of what I offer you," Aeliya said, her voice low and breathy.
When the Slayer remained silent, the she-wolf brushed her free paw across her belly, flashing him a knowing look and a smile that would have brought any other mammal to his knees in ecstasy for having seen something so beautiful. "I can be a mother to your children," she said, "Your line needn't end with you or be diluted by inferior stock. We may rule together and guide the world toward the ends we desire. Should you still care for the insects you are so above, how better may you protect their insignificant lives? I will be your companion. Your partner. Your equal."
The wind whispered its secrets as the Slayer considered the she-wolf upon her throne. He stood as still as if he was carved of stone, and then his lips parted and he spoke five words in a voice hard as granite.
"You are not my equal."
Aeliya's perfect muzzle twisted into an expression of terrible sorrow. "Then you shall never leave this beach," she said.
- Rengard Mithrideirn: The Seven Labors