Sweat poured down Alex’s face and ran into his eyes. The ship’s galley was like an oven. He wiped his brow with the back of his hand envisioning a cool protective suit.
Until he could work.
“Toss the iron balls in the flames,” Vulcan instructed between hammer beats on the anvil.
Alex followed each step carefully. When the metal inside the stove changed from black to red, he removed it with tongs and placed the crimson coals on Vulcan’s anvil.
The smith-god demonstrated how to strike the anvil and then handed the hammer to Alex. Alex raised an arm and began. Clang. Iron met steel. Pound. Teeth and scales emerged. Bang. A body took shape.
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Faster his arm fell as the creation force cursed through his veins. Lumber became flicking tongues and iron swaying heads. A long thin tail appeared.
“Thank you, Vulcan. Nearly–”
Smash! Snapping teeth crashed through the hull just inches above his head. Alex leapt back just inches from dripping jaws. Ducking down behind his incomplete snake, he attached the last green plates.
Its body grew as long as the ship and thicker than the mast. Cool scales shimmered, and the sculpture morphed into a two-headed cobra ready to do his bidding.
Alex cradled one face in his hands. “Wake up,” he said.
Blue slits opened.
“Attack the Leviathan. Now!”
It swayed back and forth as both cobra heads rose, forked tongues flicking at the air. One head hissed.
In response, Leviathan gnashed its jaws. Double rows of sharp teeth tried to close in on Cobra, but the snake heads dodged in opposite directions.
Bellowing, Leviathan struck again. This time Cobra whipped around, each head sinking curved fangs into its neck.
Sickhert’s monster thrashed and shook, but the snake held fast. Pupils dilating, it jerked to one side. Alex scrambled out of the way as its huge head smashed against the galley walls.
“The poker!” Vulcan cried pointing at the hot stove.
Alex leapt over a barrel and grabbed it from the fire. The end glowed red, a steel cigarette poised to strike. Alex jabbed but came up short.
Leviathan turned toward him. It jaws snapped like a thousand slamming doors. Alex felt a tug and clapped a hand to his head. His hair was wrapped in those teeth lifting toward that hole.
Gritting his teeth, he jerked. “Yow!” he cried gaping at the tufts of hair still in the Leviathan’s mouth.
Dropping to one knee, Alex raised his firebrand and waited for the Leviathan to sway his way again. Counted. Four seconds. Five. At six he thrust, and the metal punctured the creature’s jaw like a hot knife in wax. Slowly, Alex stood and drove the poker deeper into the creature’s mouth.
The shrieking monster jerked its head throwing Alex backwards. He landed with a thud near Vulcan’s barrel.
Cobra sunk its fangs in deeper as the monster retreated out of the crack in the hull. Then, with a sucking whoosh of air, both creatures disappeared into the sea.
Alex peered out the jagged hole in the wall. The setting crescent moon and the patchwork of stars barely illuminated the water. In the faint light, all he could make out was the splashing of dark waves against the ship.
Boom! The cannon shot again, lighting up the sea just enough to see the thrashing monsters. One snake still had its fangs in the Leviathan’s neck. The other one was somewhere beneath the surface.
When they rushed up on deck to watch, Alex grasped the railing and stared out to sea. The water began to bubble and simmer in a tangle of twisting scales. In the lanterns light he could just make out Leviathan’s scaly back, spiked wings, and clawed feet. With gnashing teeth, it rolled, pitched, and plunged until Cobra raised one head and jerked Leviathan below.
A few minutes later, the sun began to light up the sky turning the sea a steely grey. The reflecting moon looked like a snake’s fang, one he hoped would strike any moment. He could make out the Italian coastline but no movement anywhere.
Gwen sidled up to his side. “See anything?” she asked.
“They disappeared,” Alex replied continuing to scan the waves.
The Mediterranean was as smooth as Venus’s skin. Then far off he saw the waters rise.
“Look.” Alex pointed.
Like braiding seaweed, the monsters wove through the waves. Coiling and wreathing, they battled. He couldn’t tell who was winning.
“Go on. Dig your fangs in.” Alex said.
“Yeah, get him.” Gwen punched at the air.
They were about fifty yards away when the battling monsters rose out of the water. The sea dripped off the Cobra’s hooded heads. Their triangular faces hung suspended as if on invisible threads, but they didn’t attack.
Alex raised his hands in exasperation wondering what they were waiting for. More seconds ticked by.
When Leviathan rolled over, both heads struck. Curved fangs sank into the tender flesh of its soft underbelly. Convulsing venom glands pumped poison through their teeth.
The weakened Leviathan slapped at Cobra with its tail. Thrashing from one side to the other, its jaws snapped open and closed three times. Then a lolling tongue drifted over jagged teeth.
Alex’s two-headed snake edged closer to the ship, the limp Leviathan in tow. At the port bow Cobra unhinged both mouths.
It floated on the sea.
“Whoa,” Gwen said.
“Well done, Deliverer.” Vulcan reached out to shake Alex’s hand.
“Thanks, it–” Alex started to reply. Then Leviathan raised its horned head. “Cobra, watch out!”
Leviathan’s tail smashed against the hull. Almost losing his footing, Alex grabbed the gunnels.
The monster leaned back, head poised to crash into their boat. Then two snakes rose, dripping water like gaping wounds and coiled around the monster’s neck. Once. Twice. Three times.
The Leviathan threw its horned head back with a guttural bellow that drowned out all sound. Tighter Cobra constricted, twining round a fourth and a fifth time. The great beast thrashed wildly in their coils trumpeting its protest.
Bloody tears began to weep from its eyes, but the snake squeezed more, muscles rippling as it twisted and tightened.
The Leviathan opened and closed its jaw in silent protest. It raised its head toward the sky as if imploring the clouds for help. With a final convulsion, it withered in the snake’s coils.
And moved no more.
Only now did Cobra release it. Leviathan’s body bobbed on the surface before shrinking back into the sea.
“Yes!” Alex cried taking Gwen in his arms. He swung her around and around laughing hysterically. Until he realized that he was hugging a girl. Then he set her down abruptly and stepped back, blushing.
Did she notice? He quickly turned to shake Leonardo’s outstretched hand, hoping that no one had seen the red creeping up his cheeks.
Suddenly Michelangelo, Leonardo, and the crew were all on deck applauding and congratulating him. The Three Graces joined hands, hummed in harmony, and began dancing in a circle. Meanwhile, Alex’s snake crisscrossed from bow to stern their gentle splashes lapping off the hull in time to the music.
“Our world was born from the magic of two, magic of two, magic of two,” their tinkling voices sang.
But many will perish before they are through. Alex thought as he stared at the Leviathan’s watery grave.
The author of The Pharaoh’s Cry, Portal Shift, Kidnapped Smile, and Dragon Sky from the fantasy series The Artania Chronicles, as well as the middle-grade Forest Secrets. Laurie Woodward co-wrote Dean and JoJo: The Dolphin Legacy. Her poetry has been published in multiple journals and anthologies and she was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant, poet, and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes on the Central Coast of California. More about her work can be found at artania.net