Archive for the fiction Category

Bad news

This is part 3 of a story. Click here for Part 1
Click here for Part 2

It had been a long night. The queen had been ill for many weeks, and struggled out her last few breaths until very early morning. The king, and their 2 children sat around her until the end. “At long last, she is at peace,” stated King Loll as he brushed away the tears he was fighting.

King Utsich Loll fell in love with Pobvom the first time he saw her. She came to Rockhorn with a group of refugees whose village had been destroyed by an earthquake and landslide. It had been a small mining village, and most of the men had been in the mine, and were buried alive. Utsich and Pobvom married young, but it would be several years before they Pobvom would give birth to twins, Andun and Oda.

Andun and Oda grew up fighting, usually each other, but each would fight alongside each other for one another. As heir to his father’s throne, Andun was trained for command from an early age, and took seriously his position. Oda dreamed of becoming a paladin like the heroes she would overhear tales of near the tavern. The priests had long since given up trying to dissuade her, and would teach her healing and faith even while hoping she would outgrow this fantasy and act like a princess.

The king and queen took 2 other children in to raise, Ebla and Tir Totuuz. Their mother died within hours of Tir’s birth, and their father was so consumed with grief, that he drank himself to death within 5 years. Ebla was only a year younger than Oda, and the two of them were the best of friends.

Now they all mourned the loss of Queen Loll, as did the town of Rockhorn, because she was loved by all. She had told her family where she wished to be buried, and as the sun rose, the gravediggers proceeeded to a small grove of trees along the riverbank where Pobvom loved to go when she needed some tranquility.

The day was spent in preparation for the burial the next day. There was barely time to sit and eat, and all went to bed that evening exhausted, and knowing the next day was going to be little better.

It was nearing noon when the rites began. The family and village mourned together as their beloved queen was laid to rest. Little was said beyond the chanting of the priests, and soon the final resting place of the queen’s remains were covered.

“She could not have asked for a more beautiful day.” Ebla hugged Oda, and then held Andun’s hand as they all heading back toward town. Oda slipped her hand around her father’s arm noting how tired and defeated he looked. King Loll saw the concern on her face, and noted how much she looked like her mother. Smiling, he reached over and squeezed her hand. “Don’t worry about me, Oda. I am merely tired. It’s been a long season watching my beloved slowly fade from this world. It took a toll on us all.”

Oda, smiled back and relaxed a little knowing her father was right. Death comes for everyone, and illness cares nothing for status nor station. Each of her parents had lived many years, and her mother would not want any of them to wallow. Grieve, but don’t wallow. Besides, her mother had requested a feast for the people of Rockhorn – one last gift from her to the people she had come to call her own.

Ebla turned to observe Tir who was following close behind and saw how utterly distraught he was despite his effort to hide it. She grabbed his hand and said, “You’re not alone, little brother. We are all here with you.” He smiled weakly, and said, “I know. But I’m still really sad. She was the the only mother I ever knew. And now she’s gone.” Before Ebla could respond, Oda put her arm around Tir, and said, “I understand how you are feeling. It hurts me, too. We’ll get through this. Now how about you come with me and we’ll see how the preparations are going for the feast tomorrow.”

Ebla joined Oda and Tir while Andun went with his father to speak to the commander of the guards. Commodore Terric Sharpthorn wanted to report to the king and prince with his plan to keep the city guard both staffed as normal while giving them opportunity to join in the feast. It was a fairly mundane meeting, but there had not been a feast like this for many years. King Loll and Prince Andun were very pleased with Commodore Sharpthorn’s plan, and expressed to him their gratitude for his dedication to the protection of the city and his care for the city guard under his command.

The formalities having been discussed, the men stood to leave when 2 guards entered the hall to inform Commodore Sharpthorn and King Loll that a runner from Honorwatcher Outpost had just arrived and was demanding to speak to the king. “Of course, send him in,” said King Loll.

“Sire! Commodore! Forgive my haste! I bring grave news from Pitmerden!”

To be continued

There’s a fire! #nablopomo

This is part 2 of a story. Click here for Part 1

The sentries sat playing cards as they had done since their watch began before dawn. Every half hour they would get up and scan the countryside for anything unusual, but there was never anything unusual around Honorwatcher Outpost. Hutt laid down his cards and said, “That’s it, Femo! Ale’s on you tonight!” Femo replied, “I suppose you are getting tired of buying mine all the time.” They laughed, and gathered up the cards. “I suppose it’s time to work,” Femo said. They got up and walked away from each other along the wall of the watchtower. They each wondered to themselves, “What’s the point,” but the commander would have them cleaning the privies if they didn’t at least go through the pretense of carrying out the watch.

As Hutt scanned to the south, he noticed smoke – lots of smoke. “Femo! Come look at this!” Femo came running, saw the smoke, and said, “We need to report this. Now!” Femo ran down to the commander’s study. Commander Shai was reading some paperwork, and looked up annoyed at the interruption. “Since when do you deem it acceptable to barge in unannounced, sentry.” “I beg your pardon, sir, but there is a large fire to the south.” Commander Shai looked at Fema thinking this was a tale sure to be a manifestation of too much ale the night before. However, it would do him good to get away from requisition orders and inventory reports.

Fema led the way quickly up the watchtower, and Hutt snapped to attention at the commander’s approach. “Sir, it’s getting larger!” Commander Shai looked and indeed the smoke in the distance was immense. It was probably just a forest fire, but it did appear to be very near Pitmerden village. “That does appear to be a large fire. I will send Lieutenant Jaim with a squad to investigate. Good eye, boys.”

Commander Shai headed to the barracks to find Lieutenant Jaim, and informed him of the smoke. “Take a squad, and see what’s burning. Be ready to lend any aid to Pitmerden,” Shai ordered. “Yes, sir!” Lieutenant Jaim answered, and mustering his squad, he headed south toward the smoke. It was an 8 hour march to Pitmerden, and they were not going to make it before dark. None were looking forward to dealing with a fire after dark, but they were all willing to do whatever they had to do to keep the fire from the village. After all, protecting the citizens of Saveteron was their sworn duty, and their honor rested on it.

They marched along the river so as not to walk into the forest as it burned. By late afternoon, they all began to see from the position of the smoke, that it was not the forest. “Men,” Lieutenant Jaim said, “it’s looking like the fire is much closer to the village. They do not burn their fields this time of year, so be on your guard.” Everyone was poised to battle thinking that perhaps pirates, or a neighboring kingdom’s faction made a run on the village. It was very good farmland, but that was all. Lieutenant Jaim could not fathom why anyone would attack such a small village, if that was what had happened.

It had been dark for about 2 hours when they spotted the village from the river. It was now clear that the village itself had been burned. Each mad drew his sword, and prepared for a fight as they cautiously approached. As they reached the village edge, there was no sound except for smoldering buildings. As they silently crept in, the light from the buildings was just enough to display the carnage. Every living thing had been slaughtered, and all of the buildings burned. “Remain alert. Whoever did this might still be here. See if there are any survivors,” Lieutenant Jaim ordered his squad. They spread out in groups of twos to search the village, and Jaim held out very little hope of finding anyone who might have survived. He had seen few battles, and his men fewer, and never had he seen anything like this.

“Lieutenant! Over here! I found someone still alive!” Jaim rushed over, and found a young man bloody, but still alive, if just barely. As they examined him, they assessed that he needed serious care, and they did not bring a healer. The squad all reported back finding no other survivors. Lieutenant Jaim said to his squad, “I want to investigate the area before we head back with this young man. We’ll make camp by the river, and tend to his wounds tonight. As soon as it’s light, I will send most of you back here to look for any clues. Let’s move!”

They made camp as ordered, cleaned the young man up, and dressed his wounds. They held watch in 2 hour shifts with half the squad on each watch to get some rest. They would need it for their search, and to head back to their outpost. They needed to get the lone survivor to a healer soon, but needed answers, too.

The next morning, as soon as it was light enough to see, Lieutenant Jaim led most of the squad back to the village. As bad as it looked the night before, it looked even worse in the light of day. “A senseless massacre,” Lieutenant Jaim said to no one in particular. As they searched the village and surrounding area, they noticed prints heading back towards the mountains. No doubt that was where the attackers came from. “Sir, do you suppose those old tales we’ve heard are true? That cave creatures really do live deep in the mountains, and they did this?” Jaim wanted to dismiss that question as foolish speculation, yet he was asking himself the same thing. “I don’t know,” he answered, “but there aren’t enough of us to go searching the mountains for caves. Maybe if the survivor lives, he call tell us what happened here.”

The squad hurried back to their outpost as quickly as they felt they could safely move the survivor. They arrived just before midnight, and Lieutenant Jaim gave his report to Commander Shai as his men took the survivor to Laicha Sharna, the healer. “Men, women, children, and even their animals. Slaughtered. I’ve never seen anything like it,” Jaim reported to Shai. Commander Shai stood silently looking at the fire, but with a look that told Jaim his thoughts were hardly on that fire. Finally the commander spoke, “I will send word to King Loll immediately of what we know, and will send scouts right away to track our killers. In the meantime, you and your men need rest.” Lieutenant Jaim replied, “Yes, sir,” and went to the barracks for a fitful night of sleep. It would be some time before he would rest well.

Laicha looked over the young man, and said “I can’t believe he is still alive. I think I have all of his wounds patched up, and I’ve applied enough herbs to regenerate a horse. But if he doesn’t awaken in the next day, he isn’t not going to make it. He’s lost a lot of blood, and needs to drink.” The young man looked deathly pale, and Commander Shai said to Laicha, ” I keep expecting each breath he takes to be his last. Poor lad. If he does wake up, he’s going to get a fresh blow when he finds out he is the only one of his village left.” There was nothing left for any of them to do but wait. Wait on the scouts, wait on word back from the king, and wait and see if their only eyewitness will live.

To be continued
Click for Part 3

The beginning – the end #nablopomo

“Come on, get up!”

“I don’t want to!”

“Yes you do. Let’s go!”

Brele finally managed to open her eyes.

“It’s still dark!”

“It won’t be by the time we get there! We’ve been planning this all week. It was your idea!”

Tesho was right. She had been planning this outing all week. She was finally old enough to go to the river to fish with Tesho. He had been going with his friends for a couple of years, and none of her friends liked to fish. Actually, none of her friends liked to do anything involving slimy worms and fish and mud. Brele had always wanted to do everything her big brother was doing, and for the most part she did.

Tesho adored his baby sister as much as she looked up to him. They had been nearly inseparable since birth until Tesho reached 12 and could go beyond the village with his friends. Truth be told, Brele could defend herself as well as Tesho, but their parents stuck to the rule that all parents in the village enforced. There had been no trouble around their village for centuries, but tales of a dark past still hung over Pitmerden.

Pitmerden is a quaint village in quiet valley between the Qruhz Mountains and the Mylahst River. Small cottages surrounded by fields cut out of forests to the north and south. Ruins in the forest to the south give rise to tales of long forgotten battle with an evil race of cave dwelling creatures bent on destruction. Rumors of adventurers from Rockhorn (the ruling city of the Saveteron Kingdom) searching the hills for mythical caves full of treasure fill the imaginations of the young.

Brele stretches and yawns, and proceeds to get dressed for her first fishing trip with Tesho. Emerging into the main room, her parents sit quietly over tea before their daily routine of farm life. “Tesho, I need you to help me plant the rest of the barley,” their father Xem said. Tesho replied, “Yes, father. We will be back before midday. The fish always stop biting a couple of hours after sunrise.”

The siblings stepped out of their cottage, and headed east toward the river. A very faint glow could be seen on the horizon signaling that dawn would be breaking soon. There was a slight breeze which added to the early morning chill. Each carried a pole and a small bucket of grubs they dug up the day before. The village roosters crowing were the only sounds besides the wind in the trees, and the soft padding of feet hiking along a well-worn path. As they neared the river, the birds were beginning to sing, and the sky was a warm pink signaling a clear sky.

“Looks like a perfect morning to fish,” Tesho said, breaking the reverie Brele had settled into as they walked. Dawn was breaking, and they soon had their poles in the water. As the eastern sky grew brighter, turning from pink to gold, Brele watched with awe the magnificent change just before the sun peaked. “I’ve got one!” Tesho yelled, but Brele attention was transfixed by the peek of the sun as it emerged. So enamored she was that she nearly lost her pole with her first bite. “Oh, I’ve got one!” she cried.

As the sun continued to rise, bathing them in warmth, they caught fish almost effortlessly. They joked that the fish were biting so well they were wasting their time baiting the hooks.By midmorning, they had a substantial bounty of fish, and Tesho decided it was time to go as he had promised their father. As they walked back to the village, they decided that this was looking like the best day they had ever had.

Then they heard a scream.

A cold chill ran down Brele’s spine, and her vision of a perfect day was shattered with a deep sense that something unimaginable now lay before them. “This is bad. This is really bad,” she said to Tesho as he looked at her with deep concern. Suddenly, multiple screams pierced the valley from Pitmerden.

They both dropped everything and ran toward the village with no idea what they were about to find. Then they saw it. Hundreds of creatures with clubs and crude swords indiscriminately attacking the villagers – men, women, and children – slashing, stabbing, and bludeoning. For a moment they were both frozen by the sheer horror of what was happening before them. “We have to get home,” Tesho said to Brele. “We have to get Father and Mother.”

As they ran back along the outskirts, they were spotted. Brele cried, “Tesho! They saw us! We have to run!” Tesho replied, “We’re almost there!” But they were already too late. Their cottage was burning, and the creatures were gaining on them. They quickly glanced at one another just as a group emerged from the field in front of them. They stopped and looked at each other knowing they had nowhere to run.

They joined hands as the creatures closed in, and Brele felt the blow to the back of her head just a moment before all went black.

To be continued…
Click for Part 2