The Mighty Ronin, Fukitso,
returns in...

Fukitso and the Lair of the Havok!

An 11-chapter Sword and Sorcery Spectacular!

By Jeffrey Blair Latta

Previously: Fukitso was taking Fadil Khan back to the gallows at Adji Po when they encountered a cloud out of which appeared a twin of Fukitso.  Fadil Khan leaped into the cloud, but Fukitso followed to another world where the peasants mistook him for their King Shakara.  One peasant informed the court sorcerer, Vultan, that his plan to get rid of King Shakara had not worked.  Vultan was in league with the king's brother, Drandal.  Because King Shakara was invincible, their plan was to banish him to another world.  Fukitso pretended to be King Shakara, but, with the vizier, Karim, sent a message to another wizard, Giana, asking for help.  Fadil Khan revealed Fukitso's deception to Vultan and Vultan promised to make Fadil Khan king instead of Drandal.  Meanwhile, the twin Shakara was mistaken for Fukitso, captured, then rescued by Migoti.  Meanwhile, Vultan unleashed a mystic plague.  Consulting the Idol (secretly controlled by Vultan), Fukitso was sent to steal a havok egg. Vultan was ambushed by the betrayed Drandal, who was nonetheless defeated. Thinking Fukitso dead, Vultan pronounced Fadil Khan the new King, only to have Fukitso return. But then Vultan noticed Fukitso had been wounded by the havoks...proving him an imposter...

Episode Eleven:

The Wrath of Vultan

INSTANTLY FUKITSO WHIPPED HIS SWORD from its scabbard and wheeled at the top of the steps, dropping into a crouch.  He cursed under his breath.


Like a fool, he had fallen into Vultan's trap.  In a heartbeat, the game changed.  The crowd became a mob.  The people turned on him, shouting and screaming, believing him to be a demon who had killed their beloved king.  Like a living tide, they surged up the stairs, overrunning the guardsmen, meaning to tear him apart with their bare hands.

"He speaks the truth!" bellowed Fukitso, bringing the crowd to a halt with a single, vast sweep of his blade.  "I am an imposter, hai.  But I did not kill your damn king.  It was this dog here, Vultan, in league with the king's brother, Drandal.  The two of them banished your king to another world."

"The demon speaks lies!" Vultan shouted.  "It is he who killed King Shakara!"

Suddenly, the vizier, Karim, rushed from the palace and to Fukitso's side.  Believing Fukitso to be dead, and unable to prevent Vultan's treachery, he had chosen to remain in his chambers.  "This man speaks the truth!" he cried.  "They banished King Shakara to another world.  They are the ones to blame!"

But the crowd wouldn't listen.  "Lies!" they screamed hysterically.  "Kill the demon!  Avenge the king!"

Some of the peasants tore cobbles from the pavement.  One of these hurtled out of the crowd, striking Karim on the head.  He crumpled in a heap, blood spilling from his brow.  Fukitso snarled like a caged samadhi.  He lashed out with his katana, driving back the crowd, but almost immediately they surged forward again, driven by those behind.  There were far too many of them for him to fight.  Cobbles began to rain on him, striking his body with numbing blows.


Suddenly, there was a tremendous sounding of a gong.  The crowd paused in surprise and turned as one to look.  In the middle of the courtyard stood a great brass gong hung on a wooden arch.  Standing beside this, still clutching the hammer with which he had struck the gong, was the king's brother, Drandal.

Even as they looked, the nobleman dropped the hammer and collapsed to his knees.  His robes were sopped with blood, his features pale, like a corpse.  After the attack on Vultan and the death of the twelve men whom Drandal had hired to murder the sorcerer, Drandal alone had managed to crawl away.  His wounds, though, were too severe and it was only a matter of time until he joined the others in death.

But not until after he had had his revenge.

"They speak the truth!" he gasped, blood spilling from his quivering lips.  "Vultan and I were working together.  We used Vultan's magic to banish King Shakara to another world.  We are to blame, not him!"  His eyes turned accusingly on the sorcerer.  "You are a demon, Vultan.  You are a monster!  And now you will pay!"  He looked at Fukitso.  "I know his secret," he cried triumphantly.  "He told me the source of his power!  It is his scep--"

Vultan simply gestured -- and lightning crashed out of the cloudless sky, blasting Drandal full in the chest and hurling him twenty feet across the courtyard.  But Fukitso had heard enough.  Even as Drandal died in a holocaust of smoke and sparks, the Ronin struck out with his sword.  Ginago cut cleanly through the sorcerer's jewel-crusted sceptre -- with decidedly spectacular results.

With a shrill scream, partly of rage and partly of pain, Vultan was engulfed by a curling pillar of flame.  For just a moment, the fire raged, its incredible heat so intense the crowd fell back screaming and even Fukitso cringed, raising an arm to shield his face.  In the heart of the inferno, Vultan crumpled to his knees.  And then, the fire dwindled away leaving behind a grotesque, blackened corpse from which smoke trailed in long, coiling threads.

The crowd stared at the dead sorcerer in stunned silence.  Fukitso watched them warily, his sword still raised, half expecting them to renew their attack.  But Drandal's confession had turned the tide.  A nobleman stepped out of the crowd.  "Forgive us," he said, bowing his head contritely.  "We believed him when he said you were a demon."

Fukitso lowered his sword and grunted.  "I should kill you -- but you couldn't have known any better."  He gestured toward Karim lying on the ground.  "But someone had better look to your vizier's head.  He took quite a--"

He stopped, frowning.

There was laughter.

Quiet laughter.

It began as a soft, barely audible sound, then slowly, steadily rose, until it transformed into wild, manic hysteria.  Fukitso stumbled back, cursing, his eyes wide in disbelief.

Vultan's blackened corpse slowly climbed to its feet.

In the charred head, two eyes eerily glowed like two scarlet coals.

"By Doji's Seven Geishas!"

He couldn't be alive.  No man could be alive in that condition.

But then, who said Vultan was a man?

"The fool," the blackened thing rasped in a voice like the grinding of a pestle.  "The ignorant worm!  Did he really think the sceptre was our only source of power?  Did he think we were so weak?  We are Vultan!  We will destroy you all!"

The blackened creature gestured almost contemptuously and again lightning ripped from the cloudless sky.  This time it crashed to earth in the very midst of the helpless crowd -- and another man died in a firestorm of smoke and flame.  Instantly panic took hold.  The people sought desperately to escape, running here and there, but again and again the thunderbolts found them, until the air was thick with smoke and the choking stench of burning flesh.

At first, Fukitso was too stunned to react.  But then his brow furrowed and his teeth clenched.  He raised his sword two-handed before his face.


The Silver Jaw roared, sunlight bursting from the blade as he swung at the blackened thing, its attention momentarily distracted by the crowd.  Without even looking, the creature raised a grisly hand -- and the sword slammed to a halt, as if having struck some invisible barrier surrounding the thing.  Fukitso cursed as the impact shuddered through the hilt, numbing his hands, rattling his teeth.

The creature turned to face him.  "Foolish worm.  Now you will die!"

At another gesture, Fukitso was hurtled off his feet and thrown twenty feet to land tumbling in the middle of the courtyard.  Another man would have perished after such a fall, but the Ronin was built of muscle and steel.  Even as he lurched drunkenly to his feet, he saw the creature gesture again.


He threw himself to one side, just as a bolt of lightning blasted the pavement where he had stood.  Cobbles rained down on his head.  The creature gestured again.  Again, Fukitso sprang aside just in time to avoid a second stroke of lightning.  The creature cackled insanely.  Fukitso saw the thing was playing with him.  It could keep this up indefinitely, while his strength was nearly spent.

But then, it seemed the creature had grown tired of the game.

"Enough of this," it rasped.  "Let it end!"

Suddenly, the cobbles beneath Fukitso's feet seemed to melt, turning to a thick, clinging quagmire.  He sank up to his ankles in the stuff, which immediately hardened, trapping him in solid stone.  Desperately, he hacked at the stone with his katana.  But it was useless.  He was caught like a bug in amber.

He looked up from beneath lowering brows, panting with exhaustion, his lips drawn back in a savage snarl of defiance.  The creature raised its charred arms, and gestured a final time.  He did not cringe.  From the clear sky a blinding bolt of lightning lanced earthward and then...

The lightning simply disappeared.

Fukitso looked up, baffled by his unexpected reprieve.  The creature seemed just as nonplussed.  But then it looked at something in the far entrance to the courtyard.  Following its glowing gaze, Fukitso saw a figure dressed in black robes leaning on a long wooden staff.  The new-comer's face was hidden in the shadow of a wide hood.

But the blackened creature evidently recognized the new-comer.  "Giana, this is none of your concern!" it hissed, angrily.  "Do not interfere.  Go back where you came from!"

Now Fukitso remembered.  Giana.  Vultan's wizardly predecessor.  Karim had sent a message to Giana asking him to come because he was the only wizard besides Vultan himself likely to be able to reopen the doorway between the worlds.

Well, Giana had come!

Giana replied in a deep, powerful voice.  "You were my pupil, Vultan.  Everything you do is my concern.  I always knew you were touched by darkness, but I hoped in time you would grow beyond this.  I see I was wrong.  That was my mistake.  You were my mistake."

"Don't make me hurt you, old man!"

Strangely, Fukitso noticed it was the first time Vultan had referred to himself as "me".  He seemed suddenly...smaller.

"It is too late, Vultan," Giana said with a trace of sorrow.  "Look at yourself.  Your corporeal form has already burned away.  All that remains is the darkness in your soul.  And that will not sustain you for long."

The creature laughed.  "You can't kill me!"

"Still you don't understand.  You are already dead."

Like a raving child, the creature began to scream, then, raising its arms, it yelled: "Die, you old fool!"

Dazzling arcs of crackling blue energy rippled from the creature's long fingers.  The energy wound together, forming a glowing, throbbing ball that hovered in the air, steadily growing bigger and bigger, brighter and brighter.  In seconds it had grown so dazzling Fukitso could hardly look at it.  It was like a miniature sun.  He could feel its terrible energy as a prickling on his skin.  He raised an arm to shield his eyes.

Giana barely gestured with one hand.

And the creature exploded, filling the air with a grisly rain of charred pieces that scattered from one end of the courtyard to the other.


What happened after that happened quite quickly.

No sooner had Giana freed Fukitso from the stones around his feet than a stormy violet cloud suddenly materialized in the middle of the courtyard.  Out of that cloud stepped first King Shakara, then -- to Fukitso's surprise and pleasure -- Migoti.  With the help of Vultan's double in the other world, they had reopened the doorway.

Fukitso strode up to his double and regarded him with a narrow gaze.  After a moment, he grunted.  "So, you are King Shakara."

The king replied: "And you are this Fukitso I have heard so much about."  Then, he had a thought.  "Do you know a man named Jabal Shah?"

"Jabal Shah?  How could I forget that son of a whore?  When last we met I laid the dog open with a cut of Ginago!  I thought I'd killed him."

Shakara nodded.  "Well, you didn't.  And you might want to avoid him for the next little while.  I think I made things worse."

A wry smile touched the Ronin's lips.  "I think I could get to like you, Shakara.  I really think I could."

Before they returned to their world, King Shakara gave Migoti a golden bracelet -- the reward he had promised her.  Then Fukitso and Migoti assembled before the roiling cloud.  The Ronin glanced at his gold-limbed companion and grinned.

"I always knew you had a soft spot in your heart for me," he rumbled.

"Don't flatter yourself, Ronin," Migoti snarled back.  "I came here for the bracelet, not for your sorry carcass."

Fukitso shrugged his broad shoulders.  "If you say so.  Would it change your opinion of me if I told you I got into this mess while bound for Adji Po to rescue a rajah's daughter?"

Migoti considered this for a moment.  "No."

"I didn't think so.  Well, I'm going to rescue her now.  You can join me if you want.  It doesn't matter to me.  Step aside."

Pushing past his beautiful companion, the giant Ronin sprang into the cloud and vanished.  Migoti frowned and slowly shook her head.  What happened to 'ladies first'?

"Well," she muttered, with just the trace of a smile, "at least I know you're the real Fukitso!"

And, with that, she followed after.


Fadil Khan staggered into the dark alley, snarling bitterly under his breath.  Curse that fool, Vultan!  Why do I put my trust in such incompetents?  Why do I surround myself with hopeless imbeciles?

He had been so close, so very close.  He had almost been a king!  Now it had all turned to dust.

Still, at least that dog Fukitso had returned to his world.  Fadil Khan would make a new life here, in this world.  He still had his wits.  He still had his cunning.  He still--

Suddenly a figure rose up from where he had been hiding amongst a heap of rubbish.  In the shadows he was only a vague shape.  A dagger gleamed in the darkness.

"Give me your money!"

Fadil Khan stopped.  "Out of my way, fool!" he growled, without thinking; "before I have you flogged!"

The dagger flashed, and Fadil Khan gasped as pain blossomed in his chest.  He slumped into the refuse, sprawling on his back so that a beam of light played on his face.  His eyes slowly glazed in death.

His attacker felt quickly through his clothes, cursing when he could discover little of value except a few jewelled rings.  Then his eyes fell on his victim's upturned face -- and he hissed in surprise.

The man, he thought, could have been his twin.  Wasn't that a strange coincidence?  Perhaps they were related.  Well, too late now for apologies.

And, with an indifferent shrug, he shambled away to spend his ill gotten gains...

The End.

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Fukitso and the Lair of the Havok! is copyright 2004 by Jeffrey Blair Latta. It may not be copied or used for any commercial purpose except for short excerpts used for reviews. (Obviously, you can copy it or print it out if you want to read it!)