The Oarman 

A lost oarman drifted with his oar over the wine-dark sea, his galley having been wrecked not long after it had departed from a burning city in the east. The wind and the waves drove the poor sailor to an almost uninhabited land that had fallen under a terrible curse. On the shores, he met three gray sisters who begged him to slay the monster in the west who had cursed their realm. This monster was said to have wings, tentacles, and strong legs. They gave him a glowing, living glass eye with a dark pupil at its center. It was soft and cool in his palm. That night he traveled safely by its light. In the morning he met an orphan girl who also begged him to slay the great monster. She said it was not the hippogriff, not the chimaera, not like the hydra nor one of the gorgons, nor was it a sphinx. It was more like a person with the head of a calamarius and the wings of a phoenix. It lived at the end of the world. She gave the oarman a mechanical pegasus of wood and silver. Mounting this, he could travel faster, and throughout the next night he traveled closer and closer to the end of the world. The next day, he found a colony of horrified sleepwalkers who gave him magic scrolls with enchanted words, an adamant sword that shimmered like lightning, and the head of a statue that could turn whatever it gazed upon into ice. Armed with these wonders, the lost oarman flew further west. After crossing snowy mountains that came down to the shore, he followed the rugged coastline again, searching and searching for the abomination. The mechanical winged horse suddenly began to smoke and wheeze, and tumbled to the earth, breaking into a hundred pieces. The oarman was lucky to be alive. Night had fallen, so he took out the magic eye. It glowed for a time, during which he discovered that the enchanted scrolls had either faded or turned to dust and the adamant sword was quickly melting into water. He unhooded the magic statue to turn some dirt into ice so he could have water to drink, but it stared mutely into space, and nothing happened. He kicked it over the edge of a cliff. Distressed but undaunted, the lost oarman ventured further west along the coast, holding the dimly glowing eye. Just before dawn, the eye began to whisper frantically, but he could not understand what it wanted to say. It flickered and then went out, turning hard as a stone. It did not matter. The stars indicated that this was indeed the end of the world. He had reached the final great cliff. Below him stretched a glittering beach, and beyond stretched the great empty sea sparkling by the light of the moon and stars. The monster would be nearby. The oarman slept. In the early morning, before it was morning, he saw a shadowy figure on the beach below. It had the body of a man, the wings of a giant bird, and the head of a black octopus. The monster strolled up and down the beach, cursing softly to itself. Its wings were in tatters. At long last, it took off its octopus mask and wings, sat down on some driftwood, built a campfire and began to mend the wings with a needle and thread. For hours it sewed and sewed, only stopping now and then to drink from a carafe of wine or water and stretch its muscular arms. When the rosy dawn broke through the darkness, the man dressed in his wings again and put the octopus head back on his own head. In the half-light of the end of the world, the shadow
was truly terrible to behold. 

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