by Sophie Guan
Art by Angela Sun
Issue: Nostos (Winter 2019)

Fenitos, having slain the Katorthoma, the great dragon of menace, began his long journey home. With dream-like bewilderment and disbelief at what he had accomplished, Fenitos heaved the heavy bag of gold coins, jewelry, and other earthly treasures onto his back. His bones were weary but his mind and his soul were elated, soaring at such a height that vertigo overcame him for a brief moment. When it cleared, he stumbled his way down to the foot of the mountain.

There he met Serno, the old hunchback hag who had shown Fenitos the way to the secluded cave of the dragon. The hunchback, leaning on a cane made of thick black intertwined branches, ogled his glittering treasure and his disheveled appearance. Fenitos slowed his steps to let her catch up and when she did, he inquired about her health. Last he had seen her had been a fortnight ago and she had looked younger then—not by much, but enough that her change was evident on her fractured features.

“Oh, I fare just fine, young man,” replied the hag with a raspy voice, reaching out a hand to slow him down. “Where are you off to in such haste? Why not accompany me for a little longer?”

“I’m hurrying home, Ol’ Mistress,” Fenitos said kindly. “I would love to stay longer, but I’m afraid my family is missing me terribly. If I make haste, I can be home before winter sets in.”

“I have just brewed a delicious pot of soup, waiting for you.” Pulling him to a stop, the hag insisted, eyes never once leaving his golden loots. “A pot of the finest soup.”

“I’m afraid I cannot accept your generous offer,” said Fenitos. “I have been too long apart from my family that my heart aches with this distance. Perchance if I am to come back one day, it will be my honor to accept that kind offer of yours.”

Before they parted, Fenitos shared with her a portion of his treasures to express his appreciation. Without her guidance, Fenitos was certain he would not have found the cave in which Katorthoma had cowardly hid in. Her eyes widened into the size of the golden coins that she held in her shaking hands. She was hesitant to let him depart but the allures of the gold seemed to have bought him an exit.

Fenitos continued his way, moving with a spring in his steps. Even the god of the sky seemed to be celebrating such a victory, for the sky was the clearest it had ever been. Not only did the pleasantness lure out the dormant animals but it also drew out the bewildered people. All along the busy main roads were people slowly milling about, marveling at the strange happiness. Wanting to keep his treasure to himself, Fenitos kept off the large roads and took on the windy forest path.  

Here, he met his former mentor Kafchima, from whom Fenitos had learned to wield a sword. It was with the same teaching and moves that Fenitos had slain the dragon. Kafchima was honing his own skills when Fenitos passed by the small cottage. The swordmaster stopped him and invited him for a word.

“You have slain the great dragon Katorthoma!” the man exclaimed. “And what is this heavy bag you carry? It must be the loot!”

“Why, yes, it is,” replied Fenitos, smiling. “How do you fare, my dearest master?”

“Peculiar you asked! I’m just amid sharpening my swords and enhancing further my skills—not that it is necessary, for they are impeccable—in preparation for the next monster I shall slay! Ah, can you believe it? It has been so long since I have slain Asimantos the great sea monster. You should have seen the treasure the ugly monster had hidden in its dark, gloomy den! I was younger then, certainly possessing more prowess than I do now. But fear not! This bag of old bones, even if shoved in front of the great dragon Katorthoma, will defeat it soundly! It is only a pity that I have not found the cave of it earlier.”

“It sure is,” Fenitos agreed. Feeling pity for the man’s state of being, Fenitos shared with him a portion of his treasure and thanked the swordmaster once again for bestowing his expertise, without which Fenitos might’ve very well had died.

From the cottage emerged Mizeria, the wife of Kafchima. Of the few times Fenitos had met her, not once had he been presented a smile. Her face was always downcast and her mind constantly worrying. It certainly was well within Fenitos’ prediction when she offered no words of congratulation.

“What if the horrible dragon is still alive?” asked she, her face twisting into a look of heavy concern. “What if it was to track you down and torch your village? The rage of a dragon, especially that of a wounded one, is unimaginable.”

“Do not fret, young Mizeria. I am certain that the evil dragon is dead; I came ever so close to it that, if it were alive, I would have felt the air hissing out of its nostrils!”

“What if the dragon was only feigning? These ancient creatures my husband has seen only too often and I fear every one of them knows the way of mankind only too well. The horrible dragon might very well be, at this moment, rising up, shaking off its sleep, ready to hunt you and your village down!” She gave a gasp of horror, clutching the front of her skirt tightly.

Fenitos bit his lips, a seedling of doubt settling in. 

However, Kafchima shook his head. “Fenitos is my most promising pupil. With what I have bestowed upon him, I am certain that the horrible menace is forever gone from the world. The only thing that is left is but the fear of it!”

After ushering his young wife back into the house, Kafchima bid Fenitos a hasty farewell. The great hero then continued his way along the windy path, through the forest, out the forest, hoping to return to the main street as the night fell. His belief that there would be fewer travelers on the night path was partially correct, but he did forget to spare thoughts for the black bandits that were a menace almost on par with the great dragon!

From the darkened trees and flowerless bushes jumped these bandits, all donning black and their face covered in black scarves. Fenitos’ sword was strapped to his back and, being weighed down by his treasure, he was unable to retrieve it in time to counter the blow to the back of his head.

When he woke, he was in a crate and the most uncomfortable crate on top of that. He was curled up into himself, unable to move beyond wiggling his toes and fingers. All around him were people milling about, ostracizing him for his shabby, tired appearance. He realized that he was in the middle of what seemed to be a town square. A man holding a spear standing by his crate looked down.

“You’re awake,” said the man placidly and squatted down. “Now, why don’t you tell me your name, Mister?”

“I’m called Fenitos. Let me free! Why have you placed me in this wretched confinement?”

“Ha, Fenitos? Even at your current predicament, you dare lie to me?”

Fenitos frowned. “I’m afraid you’ve lost me there. Yes, Fenitos is my rightfully given name. I dare not and will not answer by another name. Please, if you will so kind, tell me what I have done or whom I have wronged.”

“You have been accused of impersonation of the great hero, Fenitos, who have slain the evil dragon Katorthoma! Yesterday, the great hero came to us, for he had seen his impersonator here lately with his stolen treasure. And behold what we found on your person! The bag as it is mentioned! What say you? What more excuses can you offer?”

“I’m afraid you have the wrong person, good sir! I am Fenitos and the treasure—Where has it gone? Where has my bag gone?”

“It has been returned to its rightful owner, of course.” The man laughed. It was an ugly bellowed out croak, much like that of a passing raven or a pond toad, neither which were pleasing to the ears. “I shall come back tomorrow and ask you again your real name.”

When the morning came, the man did come back but not without a look of deepest, deepest regret—but there was a slyness to it. The man slowly unlocked the crate for Fenitos, bowing so low that if he were to sink any lower, he would meet the dead soul of the great dragon deep in the burning pit of hell. “We are so terribly sorry for not believing you when you told only the truth! It is the accuser who is the impersonator. Please, accept our most humble apologies.”

“Where is my bag?” Fenitos demanded, shoving the man out of the way.

“I’m afraid we were unable to track down those wretched thieves. However, we did manage to salvage a few pieces that they have floundered.” The man presented him with a pouch of a handful of gold coins.

Fenitos took it slowly.

“Once again, we are terribly terribly sorry.”

The man guided him back to the road and pointed the direction home for him when Fenitos asked curtly. No longer having a burden to carry,  Fenitos felt lighter but his heart was heavy and his soul even more so. His pouch—alas, not even his pouch!—was light and could easily be placed in his large pocket. His steps slowed heavily but soon picked up again when the memories of home came to him. From his pocket, where it was safe from the bandits, he produced a single golden necklace, which he was saving for Zest, his dearest family. Fenitos smiled slightly, relieved that at least the most important thing of them all was safe.

As he drew nearer and nearer home, he met a long-forgotten acquaintance, Alazon. Even from a distance away, Fenitos could feel the saccharine aura radiating off the person!

“My good friend!” Alazon exclaimed. “How wonderful to see you again! Say, did you depart from a certain wretched village a few ways back?” When Fenitos nodded, the man clapped him heartily on the shoulder much to Fenitos’s distaste. “Then I’m certainly glad that you left intact and well and—oh my, are those gold pieces? Why, it is most fortunate that you left with more than just your life! The great goddess Fortuna must be on your side; oh what am I saying, of course, she must be! You, after all, are the great hero who has slain the wretched, wretched dragon!”

There was a liking that was being rekindled by the man’s good spirit and Fenitos accepted it warmly. The two spoke for a little longer, continuing down the same path. For the first time in a long while, Fenitos laughed. How peculiar it was, to be able to release all the pent up feelings into the air!

When they parted, at last, Alazon produced him a dried, ugly flower from the inside of his torn pocket. “This, my friend, is a flower from the dark, snowy mountain of Mythos. It is during my travel, fighting against the cruel nature, that I have plucked this from the steep sides. I wish you to have it.”

Fenitos tried to refuse, but the man’s insistence left him no choice. Having nothing else of value to return the favor, Fenitos gave the man the pouch, keeping all but one coin for himself. Alazon’s smile was wide and crooked. The two went their separate ways, once again, just as the gate to the village appeared.

The villagers awaiting his gold were severely disappointed when he retold them his unfortunate journey. With a heavy heart, he dragged himself to the door of his home and—behold, the sound of paws striking against the wooden floor as Zest, in a ball of fur and fluff, flew into his arms. Fenitos laughed joyfully as he held the dog against him, the two dancing their own little dance into the house.

“Hello, Zest,” said Fenitos, lips slowly turning upward before he was almost laughing with unexplainable giddiness. He produced the necklace from his pocket and tied it gently around the golden creature’s neck. Not once did Zest spare a glance at it; its eyes were on Fenitos and him only.

“I had the most peculiar journey.” Fenitos began. His eyes were shining with more than just excitement when he asked, “Would you like to hear it?”

An enthusiastic bark answered his prayer. So by the fireplace with the logs restocked and a warm flame crackling into the winter night, Fenitos recounted his tale. And for a moment, in lieu of the fireplace in Zest’s eyes, he thought he saw a mountain of gold.