He was not quite as tall as she, with long yellow hair and a round, jolly face. He was clad in a blue shirt, blue tartan kilt held in place by a dark brown leather belt. From the belt hung a furry sporran. He wore knee high socks with a sheathed dirk in the top of the left one, and dark brown brogues. In his right hand he carried a staff, a bit taller than he was. He approached, smiling.
“Gud day, lassie, I’m Jock.” He held out his hand, and Lillian stood up to shake it. “First, lassie, hae ye had aught tae eat?” When Lillian said no, he told her to sit down again, and he would soon change that. She sat, and he went off into the forest. She could see him poking around, bending and pulling things from the ground, and gathering leaves from ground plants, and berries from bushes. Before long, he returned with a variety of roots and leaves, as well as a pouch full of juicy red berries. He quickly prepared the roots, and soon they were eating. Lillian was surprised to find that everything tasted good. They finished their repast with a long drink form the spring, and then he suggested that they be on their way.
As they walked, following the stream, Lillian asked “Do you have any idea how to find the Vorpal Sword? And a burning brand? I am really worried about the next challenge. If we need a sword, I think it will be very dangerous.”
“Ach, hae no fear, lassie. I’ve yet to meet any creature I canna best. And yes, I know richt enow where the sword is, and a brand we can mak’ oorsels oot o’ a pine branch.”
“All right, Jock, I’ll trust your knowledge. I know nothing about using a sword, and am hopeless at physical fighting.” They walked on, and Lillian became aware of the faint sounds of the Questing Beast again. Well, she thought, at least this time I know what it is. When the sound was much louder, Jock chuckled and said “Yon Q.B. is makin’ a right racket. Guess he’s gettin’ tired o’ lookin’ for the White Nicht.” Lillian laughed, and was really glad the Lady had sent Jock to her.
It wasn’t long after that when Jock directed her onto a barely seen path leading off to their left. It led to a cairn of rocks, and sticking up out of it was a sword. “Here ye are, lassie. Climb oop there and tak’ the sword oot o’ yon rocks. I canna touch it, bein’ I’m not human.”
Lillian carefully climbed up the rocks, took the hilt of the word in her hand, and pulled upwards. It slid out of the rocks easily, and she found herself standing like some legendary hero, above the other, with sword raised. She laughed inwardly at herself and made her careful way back down. “Now what?” she asked. ”I’ll need a way to carry it.”
“Lift the rocks on this side o’ the cairn, and ye shud find it.” Jock told her. She did, and found a beautiful leather sheath, with eerie engravings on it picked out in silver. She sheathed the sword, and hung the sheath on her belt. Jock then gathered a pine branch, about three feet long, clearing all but the end of needles. “Noo we hae all the Lady said tae gather. We’re ready for the new beastie.” Jock looked so confident that Lillian felt better about what was coming.
They went back to the main trail, and on to another small glade. Here they stopped for a short rest, drank from the stream, and went on.
The stream had been getting bigger as they went, with other streams adding their outflow to it. Soon it was a quite respectable river, flowing swiftly among the trees. As they rounded a bend in the river, they saw what it was they were to fight. Lillian stopped and stared, badly shaken. How could they possibly battle that? It sat at the edge of a quiet pool on the side of the river, and was a terrifying sight.
“Jock!” she whispered. “It’s a Hydra! We can’t possibly win against that!”
“Ach, o’course we can. Just let me light one of the brands, and then let hae at it!” She didn’t see how he did it, but in a moment one of the pine branches was blazing merrily. “Noo, lass, awa’ with ye, and chop off a heed. I’ll sear the cut, and soon there’ll be nae mare heads!”
For a moment she just stared at him, the gulped, took a deep breath, and ran at the beast. She raised the sword and took a swing, and was amazed. Suddenly, the sword was feather light, and easy to swing. “Jock,” she shouted, “This won’t be as hard as I thought! The sword is light!”
“Aye, lass,” Jock replied. “’tis a sword that loves fighting, so when ‘tis swung in battle, ‘tis eager, and so becomes light.”
Lillian swung again, and this time a head dropped to the ground. The Hydra growled and another head swooped down, mouth wide, teeth gleaming. Lillian jumped back as Jock slipped close to cauterize the severed neck. Eight heads were swinging around, reaching out toward Lillian and Jock, roaring in anger and pain. Once again, Lillian stepped close, dodging and weaving, and brought the sword around, and another head fell. Again, Jock leaped in with the burning brand. Again and again, they pair swung sword and brand, until at last, the final, middle, immortal head, lay on the ground, still snapping and twitching. Jock cauterized the last stump, and they both paused, panting.
Lillian looked at the heads scattered around. Her gaze locked on the last, still moving, head, and she shuddered. “What do we do with this head, Jock? And with all the heads, and the body? We can’t just let them lay here and rot.”
Jock looked around, too. “Weel, lass,” he answered. “we canna leave the immortal heed above ground. It must be buried deep, and a rock placed over it. I’ll dig a pit to put it in, under yon boulder, then we can just throw the rest into the river. The wee creatures there will feed weel.”
It took them the better part of an hour to clear away the heads and body. Lillian had to use the sword to help dig the pit for the immortal head. When they were finished, she looked at it, and shook her head.
“Jock, I can’t return the sword like this. I’m going to the river to wash it.”
Jock agreed, and they went down to the river bank. He scrubbed at his hands, removing all traces of dirt and gore, while Lillian did the same with the sword. When they were done, Lillian asked “Do you know if I will get home now? Or is there another challenge?”
Jock stood looking at the ground for a long moment. “I think there is one more challenge,” he said. “I’ll stay wi’ ye, and see you to safety. But first, ye need tae eat and rest. Best we move on to the next glade, though. ‘tis no far.”
They moved on until shortly they reached another lovely glade. Here Jock found edibles and they ate and rested, drinking from the stream. Lillian sat quietly, gazing around at the beauty of the glade, and wondered what was next.