Aphelion Issue 275, Volume 26
August 2022
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The Moost Beautiful Leddy in the Warld

by Adam Ferrari

I was kicked in the ribs. Not hard enough to hurt much, but hard enough to jolt me out of sleep. I looked up and saw a terrible, fat man standing over me. After sitting up and scrambling back a bit on my hands and knees, I saw that the man was not as terrible as I thought, but was, in fact, a dwarf.

He was about four and a half feet tall, with extremely pale skin, a chubby, many-lined face, glaring little brown eyes, a pointed nose, and a disproportionately large head with no hair except for a bushy red moustache. He wore a loose-fitting brown leather jerkin, and a great grey ax, taller than he was, stuck its double-head over his shoulder. Also, he was exceptionally dirty with both mud and dust that obscured his pale features. There were other substances as well, and his smell was brown and powerful. The dwarf may actually have been ugly enough that I should call him a troll. Also, I think maybe dwarfs are supposed to have beards; I’m not sure.

"Garl up there. Leddy," he grunted, pointing towards a tall hill I hadn’t known we were at the bottom of. "Giant’s prisnar. Two-giant. Eat ‘er tonight, ‘e will." The dwarf turned his back to me and started to walk up the trail we were apparently on. I got to my feet and heard him mutter, "Moost beautiful leddy in the warld." I tell myself I was going to follow him anyway, but that part made it certain.

As I walked, I stretched and looked around. It was night, but it was easy to see, because the stars there were so much fatter and brighter than at home. On both sides of the dirt trail were tall pine trees, and beyond them in three directions were regal snow-capped mountains. The hill we were walking up led to a towering sheer cliff.

When I caught up to the dwarf, he turned to me. Just as he would do throughout our adventure, he looked to the side and under me--never right at me, as if I was the sun or Medusa or something. He said, "Arrg." I just looked at him. "Arrg!" he rumbled fiercely, hitting himself in the chest. "Yeuh?"

"Oh, right. Hello Arrg, my name is Adam." Arrg grunted and seemed about to say something, but he jerked his head back towards the trail and was quiet.

After a minute or two, he looked in my direction, more at the ground than at me, and said, "Fart a two-giant befar, laddie?"

"No, I’ve never fought one, or even heard of one. But forget that for a minute--how did I get here?"

Arrg was quiet for a few seconds before he tapped his ear and answered. "Hare dreams. Nart all of ‘em, jest the biggest ones. Garl wants a heyro. Yeuh want ta be one. So brarght yeh hare. Everybody’s happy."

I started to say something about how I wasn’t a much of a hero, but something occurred to me.

"If you could bring me, why couldn’t you just bring the beautiful girl here, so that we wouldn’t have to worry about the giant or whatever?"

He gave me the kind of look a bureaucrat gives you when you have the wrong form. "She is hare. Kin oonly bring ‘em from the arther place. Yar place."

"Alright, I guess that makes sense. Now about me being a hero, I’ll be glad to try and help you, but--"

"Doon’t look quite right, do yeh, laddie? How ‘boot this?"

My next step faltered under too much weight, and the world was reduced to a thin area right in front of me. I wrestled off the helmet and looked down at myself. I was burdened with a shining mail shirt, along with greaves and boots on my legs, and pauldrons on my arms. A broadsword hung from a sheath on my new belt. At first, I couldn’t move very well with the new load I was carrying, but then each step I took got easier and easier, as I got a good kind of pain in my muscles, and a bit of a euphoric feeling ran through my blood, like just after a successful workout. In a few seconds, I felt as light on my feet as Floyd Mayweather.

After these phenomena, I was more sure and comfortable about where we were, and I decided to drop my arguments against me being able to help Arrg, and my questions about why the giant had the lady and why we had to fight him. Also I dropped the helmet, at which the dwarf grunted and nodded, since he clearly also preferred to go without one.

We were almost at the top of the hill, and I could see the cliff better now. There was a huge hole, at least twenty feet high and ten feet wide, in the face. When I asked Arrg about it, he said, "Hollar Moontain. Two-giant’s hoose."

"I see. So what about the Most Beautiful Lady? Do you know her well?"

"Met ‘er a couple times. Duke’s darghter."

"Hmm. She’s never been a duke’s daughter while I’ve known her. But I can imagine her turning into something like that in this place. Well, anyway, isn’t she great?"

Arrg looked at the sky for a moment. "Ooh, aye. She is, erh…" And he sputtered out, then grunted in a very tough way.

"You sure are brave to come and fight this giant for her."

"Two-giant," he said, before indistinctly grumbling a few things that probably were obscenities. "Yeh met ‘er befar?" he asked after a few moments of this.


"So yeh knoo how it is. Nart brave. Isn’t a choice, yeh knoo?"

I nodded, and I couldn’t think of anything good to say to that. I said, "So, you must be a pretty great fighter, huh?"

He shrugged. "Yeh kin judge that soon. Now keep it shut and follar me. Got ta get ‘im in the back farst, befar ‘e sees us."

We walked into the cave, which soon proved to be more of a tunnel. Our footsteps were drowned out by the chatter of bats that we couldn’t see in the dark. I was extremely thankful that it was a giant we were hunting, so we didn’t have to crawl through any tight spaces. The roof never seemed much lower than the twenty-foot entrance.

It seems likely that the first tunnel diverged into many, and that Arrg led us through a complex maze of corridors, but all I know is that I clung to the fringe of his jerkin and put one foot in front of the other. Arrg seemed to be able to see in the tunnels, so given that and his always-squinting eyes, maybe I should consider him a moleman, rather than a dwarf or a troll.

After ten or thirty minutes of walking, some light grew out of the darkness a ways in front of us. Arrg slowed his pace and kept to the side of the wall, gesturing for me to do the same. He took a dirty flask from inside his jerkin and threw back his head for a swig. Then he stuck the flask in my face, and I got a strong whiff of alcohol and onions. "Carrage?" he whispered. I shook my head, and Arrg shrugged. We stepped towards the light.

After the end of the tunnel there was a vast hall, dimly lit by torches. As we stepped into it, I looked up, and could not see a ceiling. A rough path wove its way around the edges, up and up with no end. Bones of every shape and size lay on the floor, most broken or shattered in some way. And in the middle, a grotesque, massive form knelt by a pool--almost a pond--of water.

While I was looking around in awe, and only beginning to think of what to do, Arrg charged forward with unbelievable speed. I found myself following him. As the giant started to turn, Arrg leapt up to bury his ax in the beast’s lower back. A small earthquake shook the hall, as the thing let loose a terrible, low cry of pain. As Arrg wrenched his ax free, the thing got to its feet, and I learned what a two-giant is.

Each of its four legs was taller than me, and led up to a naked, extremely hairy torso. An overlong arm protruded from each side of the torso, along with one deformed arm, shorter and thicker, coming out of its chest. I would say it was (they were?) fifteen feet tall. Its two necks were both seemed long, but were hidden by beards, one black and one grey, and both with bloody flecks of flesh in their tangles. Both faces had a large central eye and a huge mouth full of jagged yellow teeth.

The thing shook its right head and tossed away a gruesome, partially chewed leg. I was frozen with horror for a moment, before I realized the leg was much too short and hairy to belong to the lady that this story is about. I suppose it’s pretty disgusting to feel anything good in response to such a sight, but I was powerfully relieved and happy when I could tell it was not her.

Arrg let out a surprisingly high-pitched battle cry. I chuckled at this, and then it occurred to me that it would be good to draw my sword. I raised it over my head and ran at the left side of the beast, sure that it was the last thing I would do, at least in this place. A great, hairy fist came down diagonally at my head. I cut at it as it smashed down on me. My cut grazed off a knuckle of the great fist, but the force of my swing turned me so that the fist collided only with my side. Air exploded out of me as I flew across the hall.

I got to my feet and saw that Arrg had circled around me to strike the two-giant near the heel, bringing another bellow that shook the Hollow Mountain. Spinning around with great speed, the beast took Arrg in its right hand. Arrg flung his ax at its left face, but the weapon glanced away, only making a shallow cut on the beast’s forehead. The two-giant raised the dwarf high and started to crush the life out of him. I charged forward again, yelling at the top of my lungs in an effort to distract it. Again its hand, bloodied now, smashed down towards me, but this time I dove under the blow and rolled, somehow managing not to stab myself. I was under the beast, and Arrg’s ax lay on the ground next to me.

Dropping my sword, I hefted the ax and with a dwarfish grunt hurled it up into the most central of the two-giant’s three groins. The beast did not bellow this time, but grunted and paused, then sunk to its knees, nearly crushing me as I scrambled out from under it. Arrg rolled free and immediately climbed onto the back of the two-giant, whose hands and attention were occupied for the moment with its own blood. I saw Arrg doing something atop the monster’s shoulders, but I didn’t know what.

I gathered my sword up and slashed it towards the two-giant’s right face, ripping open its cheek and bringing forth dark yellow pus along with blood. The monster snarled, and a huge head surged at me, so fast that I had time to do nothing but smell its overwhelming, putrid breath. With a sickening snap, it crushed my right shoulder and some of my ribs in its jaws. It is no good to try to describe the pain--it became my whole world, and I fell, no longer afraid or excited or anything except suffering. I closed my eyes.

In some time--I cannot say how much--I remembered the fight and looked up. Arrg was on the back of the right neck, suffocating half of the beast with his belt, even as twelve talons from three hands strained to claw at him. The right head was bluish and gasping, while the left snarled and spit. Finally a talon found Arrg’s face and slashed open his skin, again and again, as the dwarf tried in vain to dodge and continued to pull on the belt. A strong thrust tore into Arrg’s forehead, and he fell off the two-giant’s neck. But the little man did not release his grip, and his dangling weight drove the belt deeper into the beast’s neck. The two-giant made a terrible, mangled squawk, and the right head sagged. A moment later, the left arm and left two legs fell limp, causing the beast to topple over.

With blood flowing freely down his face, Arrg climbed to the two-giant’s head and began to viciously stomp on its nose. The stubby central arm lashed out and knocked him sprawling in my direction. At this point, I noticed my sword was in my left hand. "Arrg!" I yelled, and for the first time, my friend looked directly at me. I hurled the sword to him, but despite my augmented strength, I was not too good with my left hand, and the sword clattered to the stones in front of Arrg.

The dwarf dove and rolled under a blow from the two-giant’s fist, and he took up the sword. Dodging blows from two fists, Arrg rushed back atop the prone beast. He let out another high battle-scream and jumped into the air. As he landed, he sat down and plunged the sword down into the two-giant’s eye, spewing a fountain of blood into the air.

This time it was no small earthquake. The two-giant’s dying bellow shook the fabric of the universe, and writing about it now brings back a trace of the jagged pain it filled my head with. I tried to cover my ears, but couldn’t lift my right arm that high. After a minute, when the echoes wasted away, we could hear muffled cries from far above us.

Arrg took another shot of courage and walked to the dead two-giant to wrench his axe free. He ripped off part of his undershirt to tie around his bleeding forehead, then walked to the pool, where he very quickly washed his hands and face, then very carefully washed his ax. Dumbfounded by pain and by the mind shivers that come after violence, I just stood still and watched Arrg until he came over and reached up to pat me carefully on the unbroken shoulder. My pain started to fade away then, becoming dull and bearable, though still strong. We began to follow the cries up the winding path and around the sides of the Hollow Mountain.

It took awhile, since I had to walk slowly in an effort not to shake my mangled side, but in five or twenty minutes, we saw her. She was gagged and chained to the wall about a hundred feet ahead of us. Just before it would reach her, the path fell away into a deep fissure that was maybe five feet across. I squinted and looked at her. She was a gorgeous buxom woman with golden curls, and she wore a tattered and ripped white dress which must’ve once been magnificent.

"Hmmp," I said. "That’s not the most beautiful lady in the world." When I realized it wasn’t her, I started to hear the breathing and crashing of a distant garbage truck.

Arrg darkened. He looked straight down for a moment, then turned to face me, fireballs in his eyes. I scrambled to correct what I’d said.

"Oh, well, she clearly is the most beautiful lady in the world. All I meant was, she’s not the most beautiful woman in my world, and that’s who I was expecting. The most beautiful woman there is taller and skinnier, and her hair is kind of reddish brown, instead of blond, and she has the greatest little freckles by her nose, and, uh…But yes, this is certainly the most beautiful woman in this world. No question. She’s absolutely breathtaking."

Arrg stared at me sternly for a moment, before seeming to decide my explanation was acceptable. He looked at the ground and let out a little grunt-sigh. "Well, this is far as I goo. Yeuh kin jump the gap and goo save the leddy. She’s bean a-waitin’ far yeh."

"Waiting for me. What…"

"Yeh knoo, laddie. A heyro…I’ve harde ‘er dream and ‘snot any wee dwarf in it. Look at yeh, tall, and…" He grunted, and I also heard birds chirping and dogs yapping. I looked at my hands, and saw that they were becoming faded so that I could faintly see the rocks of the trail through them. In a hurry now, I responded to Arrg.

"Are you saying you brought me here because you thought I would, eh, be right for this lady?"

The dwarf laughed harshly, "Well, ‘twasn’t far yar fightin’ talent, was it?" He hawked and spit, then stared at the ground again as he talked. "Yeuh fit ‘er dream perty cloose. So are yeh pledged ta the leddy in yar place?"

I heard someone hammering on a roof, each beat growing louder and louder. My hands had become fully translucent, and the pain in my right side was almost gone. "Yes. Well, no. I mean, I really am, but she doesn’t…she’s not my lady."

When I said this, Arrg looked up and gaped as he saw me fading. "Doon’t leave, laddie! This leddy’s been a-waitin’. I’ve come too far noo to disappoint ‘er."

His tiny eyes were right on me now, his ugly face stretched into a look of pure desperation and fear that I recognized very well. I chose my words carefully. "Listen Arrg, you’re a much better hero than I’ll ever be; a better hero than any one that this lady dreamed of. You not only saved the woman you love, you tried to make her dream happen, even though it would take her away from you forever. When I go home, I’m going to try to be like you--for the rest of my life I’ll try."

Arrg looked up just a little bit, and I kept talking. "Go to her and help her. I’m not saying she’ll, you know, kiss you or anything--I guess she probably won’t. But you’ll make her extremely happy, you’ll protect her on her way home, and she’ll know that you’re the greatest hero, like I do." I heard a lawnmower running nearby. My skin was almost invisible now.

Arrg sighed roughly, then looked straight at me and gave me a horribly ugly nervous grin. "Good luck ta yeh, laddie. I’ll bring yeh back if we have a need far giant’s-food."

I reached through my greaves and into the jeans I’d arrived in, taking out a small container and tossing it to Arrg. I was very happy to see that it landed firmly in his hand and remained a solid object.

"These are, eh, magic beans, Arrg. Make sure you eat them, all of them, before you go to the lady. It will feel strange, but the magic will make her happy. They’re called Altoids."

"G’bye laddie."

"Goodbye, Arrg. Thank you for showing me--

And I woke up on the couch. Pain shot through my ribs and up to my armpit, making me grunt and push myself up to a sitting position. I looked down and saw that my shirt and jeans were filthy with both mud and other, deeper, darker stains. Bruises made my body ache all over, especially on the right side. I shoved my hands in my pockets and brought them out empty except for dirt and a little white Altoid dust. Shaking my throbbing head, I frantically wondered what had happened to me.

After a moment of this, I shrugged, too sore and tired for such questions. I lay back down, squirmed until I found a position that didn't hurt too much, and dreamed all day of the most beautiful lady in my world.


© 2007 Adam Ferrari

Bio: Mr. Ferrari lives in Edmond, Oklahoma, where he is a creative writing major at the University of Central Oklahoma. His short fiction has appeared in Gryphonwood, and his poems have been published in New Plains Review and Aquapolis.

E-mail: Adam Ferrari

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