The air rang with unpleasant metallic sounds as the fearlord Xoth twisted Fobo’s prized bicycle into a tangle of unsightly waste.

Fobo remained on his knees. Any attempt to stand straight in the presence of the horrible Xoth would result in his guards shooting him. Dying would be pointless, he believed. His cousin still owed him money. There was hope in the world still.

After long painful minutes, Xoth dropped the mangled bicycle in front of the kneeling Fobo and laughed a high, cold laugh. Fobo remained silent.

“There lies your precious piece of work metalworker. I have destroyed in minutes what you spent weeks on. What do you say to that?”

Fobo looked up to face the terrible Xoth and flinched upon seeing his face. Then he said, “I can fix it.”

“It will take you weeks just to get this mess sorted out,” said the ugly Xoth and kicked the remains of the bicycle.

Fobo nodded, “True. But I can still fix it.”

The impolite Xoth laughed again, “All those painfully long hours of careful work, all over again. Does the prospect make you afraid?”

Fobo shrugged, “It does, a little. But what am I going to do? This is my work. This is my life.”

The fearsome Xoth leant a little forward and spoke to Fobo coldly, “I will return metalworker. When you are done, I will return and destroy your work, all over again. You will feel this pain… umm… all over again.”

Fobo sighed, “I was kind of expecting that.”

“Then you give up? You vow never to make another bicycle again?” asked the morbidly hopeful Xoth.

Fobo smiled a weak smile, “I don’t think so. No.”

The haughty Xoth stood up and declared, “You will never rest in peace metalworker. Each waking moment of yours will dread my coming, and your nightmares will show you broken bicycles.”

“You know me too well Xoth,” replied Fobo. “Things are indeed as you say they are. But there is still much in my life to make me happy. My cousin owes me money.”

It was well-known that the monarch Xoth had no family. He had executed all his cousins for fear of them usurping his throne. He raged silently for a moment.

All of a sudden, Fobo was lifted off the ground by his collar. The angry Xoth breathed fowl into his face, “I could kill you right now metalworker. You will be dead and then you will make no more bicycles.”

“Indeed you could,” gasped Fobo. “And if you really want me to stop making bicycles, you will need to kill me.”

Xoth dropped Fobo. Fobo coughed a little and said, “You have no other choice.”

The lost Xoth knew the metalworker was right. To kill him would be to prove him right. To kill him would be the same as being defeated by him.

“I will always make bicycles,” said Fobo, unaware of what went on in the defeated Xoth’s mind.