Published on 2011/08/21

The Devils Puppet

Tyler Bowler

I

Lord Nicholas, Duke of Norfolk in Medieval England in the year 1425 AD, wasn’t always the Duke of Norfolk. In fact, he had started out life as a Serf for the former Duke, Larand. When it came time to pass the fief, Lord Larand had no children to take over his position. Being known as the most kind and generous Duke in the history of England, he cared for his people too much to leave them without a leader. So he told Nicholas to spread word to all of Norfolk that he was going to hold a tournament in order to decide who would be taking over as Duke. He roared proudly to his Serf to make sure that he tells the people that everyone, even a Serf may compete!

“I will do as you wish, my lord.” Nicholas told his master as he kneeled before him and kissed his family ring.

“You must hurry Nicholas,” Larand said as he closed his eyes in an attempt at rest. “For I know not how much time I have left on this earth, and I have one last message for you when you return.”

“My Lord if you tell me now I may be able to deliver the message on the way,” Nicholas inquired.

“I cannot,” is all that his master replied.

The Duke of Norfolk’s seat is situated in Arundel Castle in West Sussex England, which is about one hundred and fifty four miles from Norfolk. This is a two to three day walk, without sleep. Considering Larand is on his death bed with one last message for Nicholas to deliver, there is not much time for him to complete this very difficult task.

II

Nicholas had been excited about the competition, but he had begun to cry a little at all the walking he was expected to do, not to mention the short time he was anticipated to do it in. The walk he had been projected to take was going to take two to three days just to hit the borderlands of Norfolk. It would take another week at least to walk around and notify everyone in the county of the tournament, and to nail posters up in all the major inns.

Nicholas burst out of the castle with a sack full of food and water in a fit of hysteria, and began hiking as fast as he could down the trail towards Norfolk. He had begun to wonder if Lord Larand believed that he had possessed some sort of magical powers. Larand had always expected Nicholas to achieve the impossible, and although he had the utmost respect for his master, he was beginning to get a little tired of receiving such ludicrous tasks.

Almost as if God himself had heard Nicholas’s cries, dark black clouds riddled with thunder and lightning appeared in the sky out of thin air. The environment took on a chill that made Nicholas feel as if little knives had been piercing every inch of his body, and a lightning bolt struck a hill not too far from where Nicholas was standing and created a dark cave like structure at its foot.

“What kind of dark magic is this?” Nicholas asked himself as he cautiously made his way up to the entrance, peering curiously inside.

“Come inside and find out,” A dark and booming voice echoed cheerfully throughout the cave in reply, making Nicholas want to jump out of his skin.

“What in God’s creation was that?” Nicholas blurted out as he felt an overwhelming and terrifying urge to jump back, causing him to trip over a boulder.

He then began to let out fast and heavy breaths as he scrambled to his feet, all the while never taking his eyes off of the cave. A part of him wanted to explore all of its hidden secrets and treasures, but the other more rational part of his brain warned him to stay clear of it all together. He told himself that some things are better left unfound, and that a dark and booming voice spoken from a dark and creepy cave was probably a bad omen.

“You shouldn’t be so hasty Nicholas,” the dark voice told him. “Looks can be so deceiving; you might just find the treasure that will change your life forever in the depths of these caves. Or you could walk away and go about your business. However, you will never know what could have happened had you entered that dark cave with the dark voice.”

Nicholas had always considered himself a rational man, and invariably listened to what he thought of as the rational side of his brain. At this time, his rational brain had been screaming and bellowing for him to just walk away from the cave, trying to convince him that he was just wasting precious time that he did not have. It rather rudely pointed out that finding treasure that is valuable enough to change his life forever in some dark cave seemed highly unlikely to happen; especially to someone like himself, and that he is ill-advised to even believe so.

However, Nicholas thought of something that the rational side of his brain couldn’t elucidate. Just before the lightning struck, there was no cave at all. By following that train of thought, Nicholas couldn’t remember anyone one else in the area that could have entered the cave before him. So who was this man, and why was he in there?

“There’s the question you should really be asking,” the dark voice told him. “That’s the question that will answer all the questions that your ‘rational side’ could ever ask.”

“I will only enter on one condition,” Nicholas warned. “That no harm will come to me while I am inside that cave.”

“Done,” was all the dark voice said.

III

It had been an hour since Nicholas had entered the cave, and at just twenty five feet from the entrance was a wall of water. Literally a wall, with waves flowing from the roof of the cave to the muddy ground, and when he put his hand through this wall of water he could feel a heat so intense that it singed the hair right off his arm.

“Th, th, that’s nnnnoot ri, right…” Nicholas stuttered as he examined his now hairless arm.

“There is a suit of armour beside you,” the dark voice told him. “It will protect you from the heat. Without it you will inescapably be turned into ashes.”

Nicholas examined the cave more closely and found a breastplate, leggings, and two forearm guards resting against the wall to his right. He began to wonder if the suit was there when he had entered the cave, and concluded that whoever this wizard behind the wall of water was must have magically placed them there just now. The only reason why he could justify this claim was that because this cave was not here an hour ago, the suit of armour couldn’t have been either.

“Now walk through the portal,” the dark voice ordered after Nicholas finished putting on the armour.

Walking through slowly and cautiously, Nicholas found that he could not feel the overwhelming heat that he had experienced before. Somehow, the suit of armour was able to not only repel it, but to actually make the heat feel like a cool breeze on a beautiful spring day. The armour had also made him feel powerful, as though he were the king of the world, and capable of anything.

“Amazing creation isn’t it?” The dark voice asked, sounding so close now that he could feel the man’s breath on his neck. What he saw when he looked in the direction the dark voice had come from made his skin crawl. Standing as tall as a castle, it appeared to have the demeanor of a giant demonic bull that’s hell-bent on pulverizing you. This thing wasn’t a man as Nicholas first thought, no not even close; Nicholas actually began to wonder if this was perhaps the devil himself. He had huge horns as black as the night sky that wrapped around his ears like a cyclone, his face looked like it belonged to a werewolf with razor sharp teeth, and he had a body with more muscles than the strongest man he had ever seen, with the exception of it being fire red. His yellow eyes were so bright Nicholas could barely look into them, and his legs looked like they belonged to a dragon with razor sharp claws sticking out of every toe as well as the back of the heel.

“Satan?” Nicholas asked in bewilderment.

“In the flesh,” answered the devil. “I may not be as powerful as God, but I still have my tricks. That suit of armour may be my greatest creation yet; made out of pure magic the suit protects you from everything. Well, except me that is.”

While giving the suit of armour one last look over, Nicholas couldn’t help but think how great he must look in this pure gold magical and indestructible suit of armour that was incredibly light. The fact that it was made by the devil himself both terrified and excited him. Although he was curious as to why Satan had wanted him to put the armour on and come see him, another part of him just didn’t care. He already felt on top of the world, like his life was getting better by the second and nothing could to stop him, and for that, he was grateful.

“You have been chosen Nicholas,” Satan told him, waiting until he saw curiosity in his eyes until deciding to go on any further. “Chosen by me to be the Duke of Norfolk, as I have already seen to the task of letting everyone in the county know of the tournament that your ‘master’ is holding. You will enter this competition, and I will see to it that you win. All I ask in return for this fame and fortune is for you to be my servant in Hell, bringing with you any who touch your new found wealth.”

Excitement and disbelief filled the heart of Nicholas, sending shock through his mind so severe that he completely ignored Satan when told what he wanted in return. Due to this lack of knowledge, only one question rose to his mind. Normally in situations like this one, there is only one question that should be asked, that in the end could save your life. The question that Nicholas asked regrettably, was not that question.

“Why?” was all he could think of to say.

“The answer is simple, Lord Nicholas, Duke of Norfolk.” Satan began with an evil smirk on his face. “I can’t stand by and do nothing while God plays cruel tricks on innocent and good people such as you, making them slaves to serve those who do not deserve the riches they were born with. You should not have a master, you should be the master!”

“You have got yourself a deal my good sir,” Nicholas exclaimed as he left the cave in astonishment.

That night, Satan would prepare hell for the new guests that would surely be arriving.

IV

Nicholas entered Arundel Castle in West Sussex England, where his master Lord Larand awaited him, eager to give his favourite Serf his final message. He had always loved Nicholas as a son, and had a strange and eerie feeling that Nicholas would win his tournament. In fact, he was confident of it. However, although he wouldn’t admit it to himself, he almost wished that his favourite Serf would lose and not become Duke. He feared that the responsibility would be too much for Nicholas.

“I am here master,” Nicholas said as he entered Lord Larand's bed chamber. “My task is done.”

“Good,” Lord Larand said as he let out a cough. “As I told you before, I have one final message to be delivered. This message I will be delivering myself and it is from me to you. More of a death-wish really, I want you to enter the tournament and try your hand at winning the title, Duke of Norfolk. I love you as a son and always have, however because you are not blood related to me I cannot pass over the fief to you without causing anger and riots. So I am going to make you earn it, as you will find out upon entry, this will be a sword fighting tournament. The best sword fighters across the county will be there, and in order for you to fulfill your destiny you must beat them.”

Normally, news of this calibre would cause Nicholas’s hopes to come crashing down as he has no sword fighting skills at all to speak of. With the new suit of armour though, he had felt that even the best sword fighters could never stand a chance against him.

As fate looked highly upon Nicholas, Lord Larand’s disease had rendered him blind. If this were not so, he would have noticed the suit of armour Nicholas had worn, as Satan had also offered him the same deal. A deal that would have landed him a seat on the throne as king. Larand, unlike Nicholas, wisely declined. Being dragged off to hell did not sit well with him; he held Heaven in much higher regard.

Upon the start of the tournament, many people showed up and Nicholas could tell by the pure numbers that this tournament was going to take days. Proving his intelligence, the tournament in fact took five days to complete. In those five days, Nicholas had fifty two short and sweet sword battles that only lasted, on average, an impressive ten seconds long. Considering the average sword fight usually went about five to ten full minutes, many people began to be intimidated by his speed, power, and technique.

When it came to the final battle, Nicholas came upon another one of Larand’s Serfs. This one apparently had lots of spare time to practice with the sword, and surprised Nicholas more than once by swinging his blade only inches from Nicholas’s chest. Sparks were flying and the crowd was on the edge of their seats as Brog, the other Serf, matched Nicholas’s speed. After an hour of grueling swordplay, Nicholas finally was able to disarm his opponent, sending his weapon a clear ten feet across the arena.

The crowd went silent as the new situation took time to sink in, after a lengthy and exhilarating sword tournament, there was now a winner. Gossip quickly ran across the crowd as they discussed whether or not Nicholas would kill Brog. After the shock of being disarmed washed away, Brog went down to his knees and bowed before Nicholas. As he eyed his defeated opponent with wonder, the crowd went wild cheering Nicholas’s name, and he knew what he had to do. He had to give the people what they wanted, and in one swift stroke, he beheaded Brog.

The headless body slumped to the ground and onto its back, with blood spraying out of his neck, creating a river of blood. This silenced the crowd at once, and a long awkward silence ensued until Nicholas stood over the body and began his speech.

“The beheading of this man demonstrates my rule over this land,” Nicholas began as he sheathed his sword. “Any man, woman or child who stands in my way will be punished swiftly. Any friend of mine will be rewarded handsomely. So if you do not wish to die, I suggest you worship me as if I were your God.”

“Who does this guy think he is?” A man in the front row whispered. “You would swear he was just proclaimed the King instead of the Duke.”

Upon hearing the whisper and becoming quite enraged, Lord Nicholas decided to make an example this man. He grabbed Brog's sword and threw it directly at the spectator. The man let out a short scream before it was silenced by the sword lodging itself in his mouth and nailing him to the wall. Letting out gurgling and gasping sounds with streams of blood running down his chin and neck, the man’s eyes rolled into the back of his head and he died, hanging from the wall like a stuck fish.

Leaving, the new Duke of Norfolk walked up the stairs to the top of the castle and into the master bedroom where Larand was laying. Nicholas looked down at his former master and sneered, laughing at the change of events.

“Get this garbage out of my bed!” he bellowed as he peered in disgust at the practically dying Larand. “Change the sheets; I don’t want to catch any diseases this man might be harbouring.”

“What should we do with him?” A maid asked with a look of horror on her face.

“Don’t worry,” Nicholas told her in an exhausted manner. “I will deal with it.”

As he walked over to his former master, Lord Nicholas picked Larand up and hoisted him onto his shoulder and walked toward the window. Fear gripped the stomach of the former Duke as the sudden realization flew over him, the realization of death. He knew that it was his time, and that there was nothing that he could do about it, as he was to sick and frail to fight.

“I got a message for you master,” Nicholas told him as he grabbed his shirt collar and the crotch of his pants and lifted him above his head. “From me to you; you’re fired!”

Larand felt his stomach rise up into his throat as he freefell from the top of the castle. On his way down to its entrance, he couldn’t help but contemplate that this was entirely his fault. He knew that there was no way of knowing that this was what Nicholas was really like, however if he had not let him enter the tournament he never would have started this whirlwind. He had started it though, and now he had to reap it.

V

Nicholas peered down from the window and watched as his former master fell for what seemed like a full minute, and almost jumped for joy as he hit the ground with a bone-crunching thud. Blood squirted out of his ears and mouth and a trickle began to run out of his eyes. The body began twitching, and screams could be heard.

“Get him off my land!” Nicholas called out to the guards that were standing at the entrance. They immediately leapt into action, with one carrying the feet, and the other the hands they hastily carried Larand out of Nicholas’s sight.

From that point on, Lord Nicholas ruled the land with what he called an iron fist, and executed every man, woman, and child that he claimed stood in his way. He was widely feared throughout Norfolk, and the people began to sorely miss Lord Larand. The people loved him so much that once they heard what Nicholas had done to their previous loved ruler, riots broke out on the street, and Nicholas lost all control.

Normally, when a Duke loses control over his land, he would ask help from the King. Nicholas knew in a situation such as this though, because of his ‘iron fist’ the King would most definitely remove his power as Duke rather than help him. Which is precisely why Nicholas never went to the King, instead he barred his castle shut never letting a soul in or out for the exception of his beloved friends. He placed his soldiers by every escape point in every village and ordered that no citizen leave the borders of Norfolk.

Ordinarily, a Duke wouldn’t have the funds or the man power to enforce a rule such as this. Lord Nicholas wasn’t a normal Duke, his funding came from Satan himself. It was because of this funding that after a full year of ruling a land that had been completely out of control, Lord Nicholas was able to become even more rich and powerful than the King himself.

Once attaining this power, he saw it fit to lay siege on the Kings Castle and claim rule to the throne of England. While he would never leave Arundel Castle to do this himself, he had more than enough troops to send out to do the job. In fact, it seemed as if he had enough troops to become the first man in history to ever conquer the entire world, if ever he saw fit. Now, what seemed like millions of troops marched towards the Kings Castle in hopes of conquering England for their Duke.

With the troops victorious, the King sat helplessly wrapped in chains as Lord Nicholas was escorted from Arundel Castle to the Kings Castle, where he took his seat on the throne. He was now more pleased with himself than ever. Just as he sat on the throne, a dark and powerful voice spoke out to everyone almost as if it were coming from the very walls itself.

“Lord Nicholas,” the dark voice spoke out. “Your time is up, and I thank you for the vast amount of servants you conjured for me in the name of Hell.”

“What is that voice talking about?” A soldier grunted. “I am no servant of Hell; I am a guard of Arundel Castle for Lord Nicholas, Duke of Norfolk, and the new King of England.”

“Lord Nicholas belongs to me,” the dark voice explained. “He is my property, and anything he owns belongs to me. Anyone that has accepted a gift from Lord Nicholas, and anyone who has accepted money or land from Lord Nicholas belong to me. In fact, anyone that has accepted anything from Lord Nicholas that has benefited their lives belongs to me and is now a servant of Hell. You will be tortured alongside your master for eternity; tortured and punished for greed!”

The dark voice laughed diabolically, and Lord Nicholas along with all his men attempted to flee the castle and run as fast as their feet would carry them. Terror overwhelmed their souls. Shadowy faceless men rose up from the ground and began slowly dragging soldiers down through the cracks, there bones cracking and breaking.

This went on for what seemed like an eternity until only Lord Nicholas was left. Nicholas hid behind the throne trembling uncontrollably at the thought of Hell without his magical suit. He remembered its powers had left him once he beheaded that man in the tournament, and knew that it would no longer keep back the heat of which Hell was made from.

Finally, a huge muscular red hand rose up from the ground and grabbed hold of Nicholas. Nicholas screamed as if he was being brutally murdered, and reached out to the King for help. With smile on his face, the King gave Nicholas a wink and a nod goodbye, wishing him a brutal and fearsome rot in Hell.


Tyler Bowler currently resides in Havelock Ontario with his girlfriend Victoria Sluyk, who helps edit all his work. Graduating with honors from the International Career School of Canada in the Freelance Writing program, he has written such stories as Saint Tolgata and Area 85. Tyler Bowler is currently working on his first novel "Thade and The Peacekeepers", which is a Fantasy/Sci-Fi series that mixes such stories as Final Fantasy and Star Wars.