The land of Sourswirls was no longer the rich, lush community it had once been. Since the hydra came, the people lived in fear and many starved. The beast ate many crops and just as many inhabitants. The stocks were down and many feared the worst.
Once, the hydra wanted a child sacrifice. When the people presented a watermelon dressed in children’s clothing, she whipped all the children in town with her massive tail, scarring them for life. She ate two of them, as the other five heads weren’t hungry.
The community rallied for a hero, so they sent a letter for one to the Knight’s Guild in Quireton. The knight the Guild chose was Orrick the Ready, who was ready to have his first battle with a serpent. The Guild corrected him, saying a hydra is a hydra, not a serpent, but Orrick just rolled his eyes. “Still ready to fight this creature,” he muttered.
He rode for six hours on the back of an ostrich, until he parked it over at The Ole Ales, a favorite of Orrick’s. Six more hours and he was ready to leave. The ostrich started to flail wildly.
“Sire, this isn’t even the right way to Sourswirls. Must we make this detour each time?”
Orrick laughed heartily. “Trust me, a good ale is what ails me!”
“Ails means it troubles you. Does the drink trouble you?”
“Shut up, steed. Just ride me to Sourswirls.”
The ostrich sighed. “We’ve lost 12 hours and we went in the opposing direction. Get it together, sire.”
They rode back and came upon a cliff.
“Okay, steed. FLY!”
“I can’t fly.”
“Just flap those wings.”
“I can’t fly.”
“Run back and–”
“I can’t fly!”
They waited for an idea to form.
“I’m climbing down. Toss down my armor.”
“Sire! It’ll get damaged like that!”
“Do you have a better idea?!” he snapped.
“No, sire. I’ll toss it down first so it doesn’t hit you.” He wanted to hit Orrick.
An hour later, Orrick was on the ground, picking up his helmet, cape, sword, and various pieces of armor.
“The people of Sourswirls need us, steed. We can’t be concerned with ourselves.”
The ostrich raised an eyebrow, if it had them. “What about the detour with the ale?”
“That was confidence-boosting alcohol, steed. I’m… nervous, yes? I don’t know how to defeat the hydra.”
The wind rustled. The ostrich was at a loss for words.
“Let’s get some shut-eye, steed.”
In the morning, a swarm of bees loomed overhead.
“Did we sleep under a beehive, steed?”
“I think so.”
A woman wearing yellow and black leggings danced over to them.
“I am the Bee Queen!~” she sang. “I know how to kill a hydra!~”
The companions looked at each other in excitement. “What do you want for this information, your highness?” asked Orrick, gleefully.
“Oh, I didn’t even think about a reward!~ But now that you mention it, I’d like The Flute of Bees!~ It summons bees at your beck and toot!~”
“Where do we find this flute?” asked the ostrich.
“My stupid sister has it.~ She won’t let me have it!~ Find my sister, find the flute.~”
The ostrich whispered to Orrick, “How are we supposed to find this person?”
“Wait, steed. Doesn’t it look like she already has a flute?”
The Bee Queen began shaking wildly. Hair covered her eyes.
“I’m the sister you seek. Malinda’s the name. I will give you the flute in exchange for something.”
“Multiple personalities,” said Orrick, and his steed nodded. “What do you want, Malinda?”
“I want the head of a hydra,” she said. “Bring me one and I’ll give you the flute.”
The companions wandered off.
In the village of Persolia, Orrick asked around if anyone knew how to kill a hydra. No luck, no kindness. Some children made fun of Orrick’s stance and one threw a rock at the ostrich. They left quickly.
The outskirts of Persolia had renegade knights loitering in alleys. “Hey, you been askin’ around about hydras?”
“Yes! Do you know how to kill one?”
“What? You don’t know? Wotta loser!” They laughed at him.
“Thank goodness we don’t have to save this town. Let’s never look back,” said Orrick.
As they stepped outside the town boundary, the entire village of Persolia sank into the ground.
“No looking back, steed.”
Finally, Sourswirls was in view. The hydra’s back was also in view. She was quite large and in charge.
“Time to battle. My sword.” The steed handed him his sword.
“Sire, is this wise? We don’t know how to kill it. And cutting off one head grows two more in its place!”
Orrick laughed. “What a fairy tale, steed. Two more heads. I’ll cut off all the heads and we’ll see–”
“See what?” said the hydra.
The hydra’s body was giant. Giant, yellow, scaly, and each of the seven heads looked exactly like Paget Brewster, but no one in the world could have known that. The heads grinned menacingly at Orrick.
“So, they hired a hero. Tell me hero, do you want to die?” Each of her seven heads spoke in perfect unison. Orrick trembled internally, stood resolutely externally.
“I’m not going to die. You are!” He ran up to her second head and sliced it off. Two more grew in its place. “In a couple of hours. Wait here.” He picked up the head, mounted the ostrich and fled.
“What are we doing, sire… no, not sire. You idiot! She’s bound to take her rage on those townspeople!” He flapped wildly.
“I have the head. See, we give it to Malinda, who gives us the flute. The Bee Queen then tells us how to kill the hydra.”
The ostrich thought about this. “Brilliant.”
“I know,” he smugly beamed.
As they passed through the wasteland of Persolia, confused, the steed gained newfound respect for his master. Finally, they found Malinda.
“You have the flute?~” asked the Bee Queen.
“I’ve never seen her, actually. ~ She just leaves me notes.~ Nice head.~”
“Oh, great. We don’t know when she turns into Malinda.”
“And then we have to wait for her to turn back.”
The Bee Queen looked at the head. “It’s very pretty.~ I’ll tell you the secret for the head instead.~”
“Yes!” they said together.
“Bees.~ A swarm of bees stinging the hydra.~”
“Oh great,” moped Orrick. “Where are we supposed to get and control…”
“The flute!” shouted the ostrich. “May we borrow it?”
“Oh, well…~ You mean this yellow and black flute?~ Sure.~”
They rode back to Sourswirls and Orrick whipped out his sword.
He then remembered the flute.
“Bees, listen to this!”
He played a jaunty tune as the bees began to swarm the hydra.
“What are you doing, human?”
“Bees are your weakness, right?”
“No. Cut off my middle head and I go down. And I’m only telling you this because you’ll never manage it. I think you’re pathetic. Small. Weak.”
“Heroic!” He screamed, and jumped off the ostrich, diving into the center of the hydra. He split her middle head in two, down the center. The beast collapsed.
The people of Sourswirls cheered. The brave hero had done it! The two were lifted in the air. The priestess approached them.
“Brave sir Orrick, you have saved this land. However, we heard that the Guild also lends aid to devastated towns by supplying them with clean food and water, medical aid, clothes…”
“Oh, uh. That’s not really my department. You have to talk to someone in HR about all that, okay?”
“I see. Well, thank you again, Sir Orrick and his ostrich steed.”
As they walked back to the Bee Queen, Orrick whispered to his ostrich.
“Can you believe the nerve of that lady, putting me on the spot like that?”
“She doesn’t know our ways. We need to put out a Q&A or a handbook.”
They angrily returned the flute to the Bee Queen and headed home.