The Legend of the Silver Fountain? Well, that’s a strange tale, for certain. Or I should say a strange web of tales. People have made up all sorts of things to explain why there is a beautiful marble fountain out in the middle of nowhere, near some caves and a craggy mountain.
I’m sure you’ve heard of the great hunter, Prince Aaron, who went up the mountain to slay the dragon? So brave was he and so true was his aim with the bow, that he pierced the dragon’s heart with one shot and a spray of firey blood erupted like a font of molten metal from the beast’s chest. Well, that’s a nice image to tell a child before bed. Eat your porridge and practice your bow and all that.
The truth is far stranger and perhaps not for the ears of children. It starts not with a prince, but a small and rather bookish lad named Horatio. He was the son of a merchant, though not a particularly wealthy one. His father sold books and Horatio would stay up until the small hours reading anything his father had in his store.
This was the time of the great war with the Eastern Empire. All of the heroes, like that Prince Aaron, who was indeed real and a real prick, were off fighting bloody battles in the plains. That left the town almost completely unprotected. So when girls started going missing, it was poor Horatio, who had just become a man, who was called by the town elders to do something about it.
While Horatio didn’t have skills with a sword or a bow, he did have smarts and that was something. He quickly deduced that the girls were all last scene while picking the berries that grow in the woods to the north, near the caves, so he investigated there.
In his readings, he was fascinated by the occult and by magic both light and dark. He found, near the caves, certain idols, little dolls made of rose stems and nightshade, that he knew were the work of the Cult of Astaroth.
Though not a brave young man, he knew it was up to him to save the girls, so he turned to the dark caves at the base of the mountain and went in.
He walked into the damp and shadowy cave for only a few minutes before he heard the chanting. His studies let him translate some of the words of the ancient tongue. “Sacrifice,” he heard and he shivered in the dark. “Virgin blood,” he heard, chanted over and over again. “Bring forth the demon! Bring forth the dragon!” Was the final refrain of the strange song he heard many voices sing over and over. The frightening guttural words echoed through the cave.
Deeper in the cavern he saw the flickering of fire and soon saw torches and candles illuminating a great chamber under the mountain. Robed figures knelt and prayed to a dark altar stained with blood.
Horatio saw two girls in the corner, their bodies unnaturally still, their nude skin stained with blood. He covered his mouth as not to cry out. He was too late for them, but he knew there were five girls who were missing. The other three were nowhere in sight.
Sneaking from stalagmite to boulder, he stayed in the shadows, glad he wore no clunky armor that might give him away. His boots were soft and made no sound. He snuck around the cultists into a passageway, creeping carefully until he found a small cell closed off with thick metal bars like a jail.
He put his finger to his mouth as the three girls saw him. He knew them, but not well. One was the sister of his good friend. He begged them to be silent as he examined the lock of the cell.
The lock was old and rusted and in his many readings, he had learned of an easy way to open them. He took from his belt pouch two of his finest pens. Cursing to himself he broke them, needing the metal rods within for his plan.
He made quick work of the lock, always looking to the mouth of the passageway for the cultists who would surely come upon him.
The first girl, Elisabo, his friend’s sister, whispered to him once she was free, “Horatio, they mean to kill us! The blood sacrifice of five virgins. One for each finger of the demon’s hand, they said. Surely there is no escape!”
Horatio’s eyebrows furled as he tried to think. He knew all four of them would not be able to sneak out. He barely got past the cultists himself. He looked around and saw no other avenue of escape. Finally, he looked at the three girls and frowned deeply.
“Surely these cultists mean to bring forth the end times. They call the devil Astaroth, Great Duke of Hell. By virgin blood, he will be born unto flesh. A great dragon of fire and disease. I have read of it.”
The three girls wept, huddled together and shivering. Horatio swallowed, being a rational and scholarly man, he knew the only way to save the world.
“I’m sorry this is happening to you. Surely we four can not escape. It seems our lives are forfeit. We do, though, have a chance to save the lives of our families and countrymen. For indeed, the Great Duke of Hell demands virgin blood, and he has already tasted it twice. Our only chance to stop these vile cultists is to make sure he can not have three more.”
The three girls looked up at Horatio in confusion. He nodded gravely as he undid his leather belt. “We must make sure he has no more virgins to feast on.”
And thus, when the townsfolk heard the stories of how they were saved, they came together and built a memorial to Horatio, the brave and the brilliant. A fountain of white water that sprayed high up in the crisp mountain air, to commemorate how he saved them all.