Pete looked about to see the new world he was in.
The surrounding area was nothing more than a farmhouse in the middle of a clearing with forest surrounding it. The place looked decent enough, able to hold for a few geese, chickens, a goat and so on; Pete thought how he was surprised to see no pigs around.
Pete gave a curious hum at the house before putting the key to the Doorway in his pocket and keeping the Book Of Legends secured in his back pocket; as best it could fit.
“Now to find that Black Cauldron.” He said, walking towards the house. “Bet somebody here knows where I’ll find it.”
He reached the front door and knocked, waiting for someone to answer. He noticed some of the animals looking at him oddly before giving a mean look and a growl. This sent them running as Pete gave amused chuckle. No one answered yet to Pete knocked again.
“Yes, yes. I’m coming.” Someone inside called out.
The door finally opened to reveal a very old man. He had a balding head and long grey hair. He was dressed as any common folk in this land would be.
He looked at Pete with a look of shock and confusion. Clearly nothing like Pete was ever seen around here before.
“Can I help you?” he asked, looking oddly at Pete still.
“How do you do.” Pete said, trying to act like a gentlemen. “I’m a stranger in town and I was wondering if you could help me a bit.”
“Oh, I see.” The man said. “You’re from far away. No wonder you look so.....different.” he cleared his throat and said. “I am Dalben.”
Pete shook his hand and introduced himself. But then he remembered the name Dalben from somewhere: the Book.
“Hey wait.” He began. “Ain’t you the same guy who used to have that kid watching out for your pig? Tar-tar was it?”
Dalben knew who he spoke of and said “Taran. And yes he did. Oh...wait. Are you another one of his admirers? The ones who always come here and ask me about things like his adventures with Elionwy and finding the Black Cauldron?”
Hearing mention of the Black Cauldron, Pete began to form a little plan. He figured it best not to let on he was from another world but to try and play it smart. Perhaps this old man would tell him where to find it.
“Uh, yeah. That’s right. I’m a big fan of his.” Pete said. “Got me an official t-shirt and everything.”
Dalben clearly didn’t understand what he meant, but only huffed and said “Well if you were hoping to be lucky enough to meet him, you’re mistaken. Taran’s been busying training to be a knight. He traveled back to Elionwy’s kingdom with the rest of his friends.”
“Oh, uh, I wasn’t trying to meet him...just yet.” Pete began to lie. “You see I’m a, um, traveling scribe. You see? Yeah. And I was, uh, trying to get down all the right points of the story with whole story about the Cauldron and all that.” He held out the Book of Legends, backwards, and said “See? Got a whole bunch of stories from all over the world written down in here. So I figured I’d come to this place and get all the info I could from guys like the great Taran and good old Mr. BallPen.”
“Dalben.” He corrected. He gave a odd hum before saying “Oh, alright. Come on in then.”
Pete had to duck his head a bit when walking in after bumping it on the doorframe and giving an annoyed grumble. The inside was set well enough, a kitchen area with a table and chairs set, a stove area, a straw bed, a desk with a bunch of papers and maps on it, a nice view of the outside with a window....
Pete’s eyes darted back to the desk. There were all manner of papers there, maps included. Maybe some of them could point to where the Black Cauldron was. He sat down and pretended not to notice it while Dalben went over to the kitchen.
“Can I get you anything?” he asked. “Refreshments? A nice little snack or two?”
“Oh, uh, sure.” Pete said. “I’m starving.”
Dalben nodded and went to work fixing a meal. With his back turned, Pete took the opportunity to rush over and check the desk for anything. He did not and had to rush back just as Dalben was looking back to ask a question.
“Would you like water or something a little stronger?”
“Uh no. Water’s good enough.” Pete said, waiting for him to turn again.
Once he did he rushed back and started looking through the papers again. Still nothing. He rushed back over once Dalben turned yet again to ask a question.
“Would you like any bread?”
“Sure. Fine.” Pete said, annoyed.
Dalben nodded and turned and Pete rushed over to the desk. Even on his third try there was nothing. Pete barley put any effort into beating Dalben turning before he got back to his chair. It was surprising that he did though.
Dalben set a tray down with some bread, slices of cheese and meat, and a small bowl of what looked like a mushy stew. He handed Pete a silver cup with water and had one for himself.
“I should warn you though,” Dalben began “if you’re planning on asking any questions about where that blasted Cauldron is, you’re out of more luck. I don’t know where it is. In fact I doubt anyone does.”
Pete face-palmed himself and said “Nuts.”
“Oh. I think I do have a few walnuts left over.” Dalben said, standing. “I’ll get them.”
Pete dropped his head to the table out of aggravation. All that sneaking around for nothing. While Dalben went to get the nuts Pete flipped opened the Book of Legends and skimmed through the story about the Black Cauldron to find any clues to where it went. The only reference at the end was that it was taken by three witches. Nothing there to help. But then he found the passage about the pig that was able to see things like the future. This gave him an idea.
Putting the Book back he said to Dalben “Say, you don’t still have that little piggy running around here do you? What’s her name? Pen-Wink?”
“Hen-Wen.” Dalben corrected. “And yes, in fact I do. “She’s just outside taking a rest.”
Pete gave a grin and said “Well I’d sure like to meet her.” He gave an evil chuckle before smelling the stew on the tray. “Say that’s smells pretty good.” He dipped his finger and tasted it before saying “Yummy. What’s this stuff anyway?”
“Oh. That will be her lunch.”
Pete instantly spit into the corner of the room before taking a large gulp of his water. He gave out a disgusted noise before giving an annoyed groan.
Dalben came with a bowl of walnuts and placed them down. As he did a large orange cat hopped up on the table and looked oddly at Pete. Pete gave the same threatening look he did to the animals outside, but the cat only recoiled not ran. It still looked at him confused though.
Pete started to dig in, taking large bits and practically swallowing whole slices of meat full. Dalben looked a bit shocked at this and only sipped his water.
“Well, you seem to have a healthy appetite.” He stated.
“Yeah.” Pete said, his mouth full of walnuts. “Take after me ma.”
After gulping down another swig of water Pete asked “So when’s that boy, Tar-head supposed to be here?”
“Taran.” Dalben corrected. “And, to be honest, I’m not sure. He tends to visit as often as he can, but the life of a knight in training can be a busy one. Last time he came though, his friend Gurgi ended up stealing all my apples.”
Pete gave an uninterested “Right.” While wiping his mouth with his sleeve. “So when can I met the pig?”
“Well I suspect she’ll be waking any...”
Just as Dalben was about to finish there came a squeal from outside. Dalben ran over to the window and had a horrified look.
Pete, watching with confusion, saw as Dalben grabbed a shovel and ran outside. Pete followed and soon both of them came to the small hut where the pig, Hen-Wen was kept. She was there but so was something else.
Holding a dagger to the pig’s throat was a small goblin-like creature with a hood. Pete recognized him from the description in the Book of legends. This was the late Horned King’s former little servant, the Creeper.
Seeing Dalben and Pete, the Creeper back up with Hen-Wen and said “Stay back! Both of you!”
Dalben pointed the shovel at him and said “You let Hen-Wen go this instant. There’s nothing she has you want.”
The Creeper laughed and said “Don’t try to fool me, old man. I know this pigs power. She’s going to help me find what I want to become king. The Black Cauldron.”
Pete perked up at the mention of this.
“You are the fool.” Dalben said. “The cauldron is lost. And even if you did find it, the power within it is dead. That’s what everyone has said.”
The Creeper still held the dagger close and said “Shows what you or any other idiot in this land knows. It’s power can never die, understood? It was only stopped. But I know how to make it work again, and this little piggy is going to show me where it is!”
“She will not!” he said, coming closer.
The Creeper held the dagger even closer, making Dalben stop, before saying “Take another step and I’ll cut her open!”
Dalben still stood where he was and said “If you do that then you’ll never find the cauldron. Face it, we’re at a standstill.” Seeing that his words were making the Creeper realize the situation, He continued with “Now look, I’m sure we can find a way out of this where no one has to get...”
Pete conked Dalben in the back of the head with his wooden club. The old pig keeper fell to the ground, out cold. The Creeper, and even Hen-Wen, looked confused as Pete stepped over the unconscious man.
“Now that he’s out of the way, let’s talk about a real deal.” He said.
“What’s your game, stranger?” the Creeper said, pointing the dagger at him.
“You see, little guy, I’m kind of like you. I want to get my hands on that cauldron so I can be king. I’m thinking, maybe we can, you know, team up. A partnership. See? That way we both come out of this on top.”
The Creeper looked oddly and said “So I should trust you?”
“Sure. I’m an honest enough guy. Believe me. We split it fifty-fifty. What do you say?” Pete said, crossing his fingers behind him.
The Creeper though for a moment and said “Very well then. Partner.” With his fingers crossed behind him.
He reached up and the two shook hands, neither one realizing what the other had in store for him. Hen-Wen tried to run but was stopped when Pete grabbed her by the back of her neck and hoisted her up to his eye level.
“So how’s this work?” he asked, looking down at the Creeper.
The Creeper ran over and pulled a bucket of water over before saying “Like this.”
He took Hen-Wen from Pete and shoved her snout into the water. He held it there while she struggled a bit, keeping her from raising her head. He then began to recite words he remembered hearing from the pig boy who’d preformed this before.
“Hen-Wen. From you I do beseech. Power and knowledge beyond my reach.”
Suddenly Hen-Wen seemed like she was in a trance. She calmed enough for the Creeper to let go and she still stood where she was. A odd colored ripple formed in the water before swirling around and becoming a vision. Images began to show, mainly that of the Cauldron. Both Pete and Creeper watched as the vision turned into a scene of a swamp before finally fading away.
“So the thing’s in a swamp?” Pete asked.
“No just any swamp.” The Creeper said. “I know that place. It’s the Marshes of Morva!” He kicked the bucket over with glee, it falling over Hen-Wen’s head, and declared “I have it. Uh, I mean WE have it.” He said, giving a grizzly giggle.
Hen-Wen shook the bucket off and, now free, ran over to the still unconscious Dalben. Pete only looked and huffed. There was nothing left to get from her.
He turned back and said “So you know where to go? The let’s get moving. By this time tomorrow, we’re going to be kings!”
As the Creeper lead the way he said to himself “Yes. Keep thinking that. Fat fool.”
He gave another giggle before both were well on their way to the Marshes of Morva.
In less than two days the two had finally managed to reach Morva.
Their journey was a hard one, Pete often complaining about his feet aching, but now they’d reached their destination. The marshes were like any other swamp, full of muck and gross looking tress and murky puddles of water.
“So where we going to find the Cauldron in all this swamp gunk?” Pete asked, shaking off a bit of mud from the toe of his boot.
“From what I heard, the Cauldron was taken by three of witches that lived here.” The Creeper explained, looking around. “So look for anything like an old hut of some kind.”
“You mean like that one?” Pete pointed.
He was pointing at the remains of a broken down old hut with a pile of cauldrons and kettles spilled out of it from the front door, or what was left of it. Most of the house was destroyed or in piles of rubble. It looked like something had broken from inside and cracked it in two.
The Creeper perked up at the sight of all the cauldrons and ran over, examining them and tossing some aside. Pete did the same while even looking in one and being scarred when a frog hopped out of it.
He tossed it aside and asked “So which one of these is the Black Cauldron?”
The Creeper tossed another aside and said “None of them. The Cauldron is supposed to have carvings on the side of it. That who you’ll know.”
“Oh, you mean like that one?” Pete asked, pointing to the right.
The Creeper looked over and there it was: the Black Cauldron. It stood out in the large clearing around where the hut was, oddly not being noticed by either of them until now. It just sat there looking very ominous in how black and foreboding it seemed.
Both of them walked over to it before the Creeper lifted himself on the edge of it and looked inside. At the bottom of the cauldron was a few scarps of cloth and two bones.
“Got what you deserved. You old bag of bones.” He said to himself.
Pete looked inside before recoiling with an “Eww.” He then looked around and rubbed his chin saying “You know, something don’t seem right. If the witches took this thing, why’d they leave it out in the open?”
Suddenly a booming voice above them said “To catch thieving fools like yourselves!”
A clash of thunder sounded as the two looked up to see the clouds begin to swirl and change. From them came large spectral images of three witches. There was a tall one, a very scrawny and yet crazy looking one, and a fatter one, who looked the youngest out of all. All three looked down at them with harrowed angry eyes.
“So you two think you could just steal the Black Cauldron from us?” the taller witch said. “You shall be punished for this!”
Pete shook with, while the Creeper stood on the edge of the Cauldron, and said “N-now, now, ladies. I’m-I’m sure we don’t have to go that far. Maybe just give us a warning or a ticket or something.”
“Don’t think you can talk yourself out of this.” The scrawny witch said. “C’mon, Orddu.” She said, looking to the tall one. “Let’s turn ‘em both into toads. Be an improvement for them if you ask me.”
“Oh no, Orgoch .” the fat witch said. “Let’s keep the big one. He’s so cute.”
Pete looked more nervous at this statement before Orddu said “Will be having none of that, Orwen. These two fools tried to steal our cauldron. They deserved to be punished.”
“I beg to differ!” the Creeper said before taking his dagger and putting it to Pete’s throat.
Pete gasped while the witches looked with both confusion and fright.
“What do you think you’re doing?” Orrdu asked, angrily.
The Creeper laughed and said “I won’t be turned into anything by you old crones. I know how to resurrect the power of the Black Cauldron. All it needs is a little blood, and this fat oaf is going to give it.”
Orwen gasped and said “You can’t do that.”
“Not unless we turn you inside out and into stew first!” Orgoch said.
“Any of you try anything,” the Creeper threatened. “and I’ll cut him. Understood?”
“You sneaky little creep!” Pete said. “I was the one who was going to turn on you. But you beat me to it and now you’re trying to take my blood. No one does that to Captain Pete!”
He reared his head back and bumped it into the Creeper’s. This made him drop his knife, giving Pete the chance to reach back and start strangling the Creeper. He struggled before breaking from his grip and grabbing Pete by the ears and pulling.
As the two struggled the witches watched from above. Two of them looked amused while Orwen seemed concerned.
“Orddu,” she said, looking to her. “don’t you think we should do something?”
“Why bother? It’s more fun to watch them kill each other than put in the effort.”
“I hear that.” Orgoch said with a cackle. “I’m putting my money down on the tubby one!”
As the two struggled more, Pete managed to land a punch right into the Creeper’s jaw. This managed to knock out one of his teeth which also took a drop of blood with it.
No one, not even the witches, noticed as both fell into the Cauldron. It dropped onto the bottom among the rest of what was left down there. Something began to stir from the bones and cloth.
The Creeper hopped on Pete’s head before seeing his dagger on the ground. He ran over to it, with Pete recovering and chasing after, before grabbing it and hopping up to the ledge of the Cauldron. He pointed it at Pete, making him stop, and gave a crazed laugh. This made the witches perk up and watch with more interest.
“All of you are going to be bowing to me by the end of this day. Do you understand?” he shouted. “For years suffered at the hands of that decrepit king. Well now it’s time for me to be the one strangling lackeys and ruling over armies of the dead!”
Something in the Cauldron was reach up with slowly forming fingers and a hand.
“I’m the one who will be ruling this world! I will be the new King of Pryd...”
A horrid hand reached up and grabbed the Creeper from behind. Everyone gasped at this while the Creeper screamed as his throat was being squeezed. He struggled and screamed as he was pulled down into the Cauldron.
“NOOOO! LET ME GO! LET ME.....AAAHHHH!”
A green glow began to come from the Cauldron. It grew larger and larger before it erupted into a geezer of green magical energy that shot up. Pete back away before tripping onto the ground as he and the witches watched this happen.
The hand from before reached up and grabbed the edge of the Cauldron. Another one joined it. Something began to lift itself out of the Cauldron as the energy began to swell down into it. Finally the thing stood up and began to lift its head.
The creature had a withered body that was slowly being covered the red cloth from the Cauldron, forming into a robe with a good and fur around the shoulders. It’s face was withered like the rest and had sunken in eyes that were closed. But Pete noticed its greatest feature were the two horns on its head.
“No...it’s not possible!” Orddu proclaimed, seeing the creature step out of the Cauldron.
“The Horned King....” Orewn said, just as shocked.
The King finally opened his eyes which blazed with red. He examined his surroundings, seeing Pete first, before looking up at the witches.
Orddu, gaining a bit of courage, said “You were destroyed! And we shall keep it that way!”
Her sisters seemed as confident as she was and charged down from the sky towards him. The Horned King lifted his hand and, to all surprised, fired a blast of green magic that struck all three of them. They seemed in pain as they recoiled into the air, screaming in pain.
Once high enough, all three witches burst into shimmers of light that trickled down into the marshes. The King did not notice, but something bearing the outline of a sword had fallen from the sky once they were destroyed. It fell somewhere far in the swamp but the King never saw.
The Horned King examined his hand, a bit surprised by this new power, before saying “Interesting.” He turned back and placed his hand on the Cauldron, as if feeling the life from inside it. “It would seem the power is no longer within you...but me.” He said.
He walked away, towards Pete, before turning back and holding up his hand. Another blast of magic struck the Cauldron, causing it to shatter to pieces with a large blast.
“Never again.” He said to himself before turning to Pete, who was cowering the whole time. “Who are you?” he demeaned.
Pete jumped with fear before getting on his knees and pleading “Oh please, your Horned Kingyness, don’t hurt me. I-I’m just a stranger here. Honest. I didn’t mean to wake you up or anything like...”
“Silence!” the King shouted. Once Pete was quiet he asked “What manner of creature are you? I’ve never seen or heard of anything like you from this world.”
“Oh, well, uh, you see, sir, I ain’t from around here.” Pete stammered.
“W-well you see, I come from someplace else. A-a whole other world!” he declared out of fear.
“What do you mean by ‘other world’?” he asked.
Pete did his best to explain that Prydain was one of many worlds all connected with his world. The King listened and rubbed his chin as he listened.
“Other worlds beyond Prydain?” he said. “Do you have proof?”
Pete thought of the best evidence before snapping his fingers and pulling out the Book of Legends. The King took it and examined all that was written. Eventually he found the story involving his world and skimmed through. His eyes grew wider with intrigue as he found everything written down mirrored what had transpired before.
“Fascinating.” He said, lowering the boom and looking up. “To think, this world is only one of many. So many worlds. So many different possibilities. So many...new places to conquer.”
Pete heard this and said to himself out loud “Say, I wonder if this is that terrible thing the mirror talked about in its prophecy.”
Hearing this, the King looked down and asked “Prophecy? What prophecy?”
Pete jumped with fear again and stammered “Th-the one the magic mirror told me. I found it up in Master Yen-Sid’s room. I-it talked about some horrible force with horns on its head, coming to bring darkness or something like that.”
The Horned King gave a low hum and asked “And this mirror is in your world?” Pete nodded before he gave another hum. “What is your name?”
“Do you wish to live, Pete?” he asked, his eyes blazing red again. Pete nodded frantically before he said “Then vow that you will now become my new servant. Swear loyalty to me.”
Pete seemed realized as he bowed and said “Oh yes sir, your majesty. I’m your man. I promise, I will be yours.”
“Rise.” The King said, making Pete stand. “Do you have a way back to your world?” he asked.
Pete took out the key to the Doorway and said “Sure do. All you need to do is stick this key in any door and it’ll take you back.”
“Excellent.” He said. “Before we do, tell me more about this magic mirror.”
In Yen Sid’s study, the old master was using the Viewing Basin to try and find Pete.
To his surprise, he was having trouble. The visions of the Basin were become more erratic with each attempt to locate Pete. He was starting to worry about what the oaf could’ve have done to cause this.
But then, to his horror, the Basin’s water’s began to grow black. The images within were overshadowed by the dark murky water that started to consume everything. Soon the Basin’s waters were nothing more than black ink-like liquid.
Yen Sid furrowed his brow and said “What have you done, Pete?”