Saturday, November 25, 2017

The Light of Gen. A Fantastic Short Story



The Light of Gen

By Matt Brisby


Whip sat by the fire. In her hands was the long stick on which she was roasting a pheasant she had caught just outside their campsite. The fire licked the corpse of the bird as she rotated her supper slowly as to avoid burning it. She looked up at the stars shining through the opening created by the forest clearing. The bright dots entranced her vision as she heard Dormund wake for his watch. Dormund yawned deeply as he sat up, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. The man stood and noticing Whip’s attentions, also looked to the stars.
“Kekyl’s bard has crossed us.” He said, pointing up at a constellation to the north of the sky.
“That’s good. We just might find what we’re looking for.” Whip answered. “But isn’t Kekyl’s bard to our backs now? Doesn’t that mean his blessing leaves us?” It was how she understood the stars. Her people had called the constellation by another name, Y’ktlok, but it’s meaning was the same.  Dormund walked over and laid his heavy, ringed hand on the young Drow’s shoulder.
“Aye. But it is not Kekyl’s blessing we seek, Y’Ishtari.”
            Whip relaxed. Dormund was wise. As a Knight of Eldridge, he had been schooled in the teachings of the stars, gods, deamons and fey alike, and as a mentor, he had always proven to be right about such things. The Knight spoke again, sitting next to her as she began to eat her now thoroughly roasted game.
“The places where we venture forth to next will place our intentions against the god Kekyl. Make no mistake about that. But there are other gods for us to honor, other forces in this world that surpass even a god’s power. We seek the key to the light of Gen. No one has ever been able to find it before us. But it has been tasked to me to find it, and my order would not have sent us here, should the mission be folly. The great ones have knowledge I cannot ever hope to understand, and it is their work we do here.”
Whip knew well the legend of Gen. The god who turned away all the others through his persuasion. The god who convinced Malakain to slaughter his own wife. The God who made King Deportan turn upon his own people whom he so loved. The God who remade the world to his fiendish liking. Of course, the legend spoke of the manner in which Gen was defeated, it usually told it one of two ways. The first is one where Gen, having made the world to his own liking, attempts to transform himself into an even more powerful god, which caused him to actually turn into a mindless Gretch, forced to worship at his own altar for eternity. The second is that he is stopped by the hero Bildgaurd who reflects the beam of Gen’s power back at him with an enchanted mirror. Whip had only heard the second version. Dormund had heard both, but preferred the first.
            After finishing her meal, during which Dormund had told her yet another tale of Knight Nemonis the fabled hero of Dormund’s order who had, in this telling, been able to capture a fleet of Orcish ships through mere slight of hand, Whip fell asleep by the fire. She dreamt of hunting, and fishing. She dreamed also of her own mother and woke next morning saddened and cold for a moment before the feelings faded from her.
            The two were traveling along the coasts of the northern sea of Dalbach, where forests were made of pine and fur trees battered by hurricanes and hard bedrock visible wherever the forests refused to grow. It was the end of the fall season, and some leaves were still clinging to the trees. The sun cut through the morning air with a harsh brilliance, aided by a cloudless sky. As Whip and Dormund rode their horses, which were a speckled brown and silvery grey respectively, they noticed the ocean sparkle in the harsh sunlight like an endless plain of small sharp rocks. Dormund sat upright in his saddle as they went along, his bright silver armor gleaming in the light. He wore a mid-length blue cape on his back, embroidered with the image of a six-fingered hand. At his side was a longsword with a sapphire pommel. He had named the sword Truth as was tradition for his order. Dormund’s face was pale and bearded, which contrasted with his companion’s dark red skin. Whip rode her speckled brown horse without a cape. She was smaller than Dormund, athletic and nimble. She carried a crossbow (which she had called Oaten) slung across her back with a quiver of arrows and wore light leather armor. Whip was a Blood Elf from the western islands, her red skin, small rounded horns, pointed ears and stark white hair made her stand out among the pale human people of Dalbach.
            As they rode, they saw in the distance a large grey spire, jutting out from the rocky shore. Whip couldn’t tell much about what the shape was at first. Perhaps a large rock or a tower of some kind? No, as it turns out the spire was in fact a large statue, and as the two drew nearer to it, Whip began to make out more of its details. The statue was of an old bearded king, and stood at least twenty feet tall. His face may have once been fashioned as a kind one, but years of storms and decay had given the old lord a frightfully distorted visage. Barnacles and seaweed adorned the back and bottom of the statue, as it jutted out from the sharp rocky beach of the ocean. They halted once they were a few feet away from the statue. Dormund’s eyes narrowed, and he slid off of his horse. He began to walk forward and fumbled with the contents of a small pouch he had kept on his belt for occasions such as this.
“What is it?” Whip asked from atop her horse.
“I think…” Replied Dormund, preoccupied with the pouch. “That we’ve found Gen’s first totem.”
            Whip became excited, and met Dormund on foot as he approached the statue’s base. Dormund’s pouch had contained three brass rings and two small blue spheres. He placed the first two rings on his index and pinky finger. The rings then began to glow with a soft blue light and a sixth spectral blue finger appeared on Dormund’s right hand, to the right of his ringed pinky finger. He placed the third brass ring on the spectral finger. And placed the two blue spheres in corresponding grooves in his right bracer. At this point all the lines and ornamental grooves that adorned Dormund’s armor on his right side, glowed with a faint blue light. The Knight of Eldridge then stretched out his hand and began to mutter things in a language Whip had heard him use before, but understood nothing of. She watched as tendrils of magical energy revealed themselves around the statue, and were one at a time dismantled by some incantation of Dormund’s. The statue itself was missing several parts to it, the end of the king’s rod, the crown on his head and bits of his arms and legs had been knocked off or eroded over time. As Dormund’s magic flowed from his palm, a spectral version of the statue, also blue, began to form. The magic completed the missing pieces of the statue and lay overtop the features of the thing, detailing the king’s face, happy and playful looking once again.
“Hail King Deportan!” Spoke Dormund, with grave conviction. “We call upon you now in this time of great need, to seek your council, and provide you service.”
The spectral features that lay over the statue began to stir, and the old king Deportan shook his head and rubbed his eyes with his hand, yawning as if he had been asleep. He looked down on the two adventurers with a bemused expression.
“Awfully strange to seek the council of a dead man, young wizard.” Said the old King in a raspy voice that echoed like it came from a great cavern. “Nor do I anymore have need of service. The time at which I employed great heroes and gallant adventurers such as yourselves to defend my kingdom’s people is long over. I stand here watching the world turn over, cities, forests and rivers turn to dust. It is the way of the world young wizard. We all meet an end, and what was before remains before.”
Whip glanced around, and looked at Dormund, whose hand was outstretched before him. The blue glow of his spectral finger and armor began to intensify, as sweat began to bead on his forehead. When he spoke however, his voice gave no impression of the increased effort.
“Truly spoken great one. It is true that your council would be of no use to mortal men, or those bound to the physical plain. But I seek a greater knowledge.” He spoke his next words slowly, “I seek the path of troubles and the Light of Gen.” The face of the spectral giant before them hardened as if it were the very stone beneath it.
“That light is best left untouched.” He began to shake his head violently, as if he were hearing voices arguing before him. “No! Not again! That light has danger beyond all the works of men and gods. No!”
The ground began to tremble and the blue light that comprised the astral body of the dead king, the light that matched that of Dormund’s magic, began to turn a sickly green, and grow brighter. Sounds like thunder and the gnashing jaws of a bear came from somewhere near the statue’s base. Whip had already drawn Oaten from it’s loop on her back, and loaded a bolt. She saw Dormund’s eyes glow a faint green before the giant’s voice thundered from the top of the statue, without echo or rasp now, filled with malice and venom.
“THERE IS NO LIFE FOR THOSE BELOW THE LIGHT OF MALAKAIN’S BANE! NO LIFE FOR DEPORTAN’S DAMNED!”
            At that moment the spectral lines that had created the king’s shape seemed to burst violently, and Dormund and Whip were both knocked down by a shockwave. There was the sound of rocks breaking and when Whip looked up she saw that Deportan’s statue had begun to move of its own accord, a hulking mass of old rock and barnacle, it began to stride towards the two friends. They scrambled to their feet and began to run to the hill behind them on the opposite side of the path. Whip fired a bolt from Oaten which struck a barnacle off the king’s eyebrow before glancing harmlessly off its stone visage. Dormund shouted some words in his own language and held out his right hand towards Deportan. A large astral bird appeared from his palm and bloomed to the size of a bear almost instantly. The bird let forth a cry and launched itself at Deportan’s face, impacting the statue audibly and exploding in a blue cloud. This caused the statue to stumble back as one does when they walk face first into a spider’s web. Quickly, Dormund sent a second blast of blue energy, this time taking the form of a harpy. However, Deportan was ready now, and slapped down the projection with a stony swipe of his eroded fist.
“He must be powered by something nearby!” Shouted Dormund to Whip, who nodded and began sprinting around to a flanking position, giving a quick rebuke to another of Deportan’s barnacles from Oaten as she went.
            With the stone giant focused on her friend, Whip began scanning the shoreline for something that might be useful. She could hear Dormund’s shouts of ancient language mixed with crashing and shrieking from the projections he was creating to fight the monster. She knew he couldn’t hope to keep doing that forever. His magic, as far as she understood it, drained her friend’s physical energy, and he was only a mortal man. She hopped from the road down onto the rocky shoreline and began to nimbly pick her way among the sharp points toward the stone platform where the statue had originally stood. As she drew closer she could make out a glowing green emerald on a thin stone pedestal in the center of the stone base. It had been concealed somehow beneath the statue before he had moved. She was about to move closer, but at that moment Dormund slammed down onto the platform from out of nowhere. Deportan must have thrown him, because he landed off on his side and slid back into the pedestal. When Dormund’s form hit the Jewel’s stand, the gem shifted slightly, rocking back and forth on it’s perch. As it did this, Whip saw the giant falter as it advanced on Dormund. It looked as if her friend had managed to do little damage to the old king, but whenever the jewel rocked to one side or another as he advanced, he froze, before continuing again like nothing had happened.
            Thinking quickly, Whip took aim with her crossbow and fired at the gem. She missed. The gem found it’s footing again, and the Stone giant continued towards her friend unhindered. Fumbling with another bolt, Whip took a step closer, fitted steel to Oaten, and took aim once more. The Giant was upon Dormund, and Raised up a fist to strike down on the Knight, who had begun to stir. Whip fired at the stone again. The bolt sailed through the air, and this time found it’s mark. The emerald shattered once the connection was made, and the statue, which was in the process of bringing its fist down on Dormund in a fatal blow, stopped as if frozen in place. In fact, the statue stopped so suddenly that the seaweed that had been hanging from the arm of the statue found a new home on Dormund instead.
            Whip rushed forward to help her fallen friend, who slowly sat up as she approached him. Groaning, he brushed off the seaweed and shards of emerald from his shoulders. Whip helped him remove the rest and helped him to his feet. As he brushed still more shards of emerald from his hair, they fell in front of his eyes and to Whip, they almost seemed to reflect their colour back in the whites of his eyes for an instant.
            “I knew we’d have to get him to move.” Said Dormund gesturing first at the statue above him, and then at the pedestal next to them, “I did not think we’d have to fight the last king of the Reach to do that.” 
Whip looked up at the statue’s face again. The impact of Dormund’s magic upon it was now more noticeable, and the face seemed blanker and even more destroyed than it had before. The old king was no longer recognizable.
“Now,” Said Dormund, looking about him. “There should be a- yes. There we have it.”
He strode over to the edge of the platform, and pulled at a small brass ring that was attached to the ground. With what seemed like great effort, Dormund pulled up on the ring which rose on another stone pedestal beneath it. As it did so, the pedestal that housed the green emerald began to sink into the ground. With the sound of grinding stone, an area four feet wide where the gem’s pedestal had been, slowly lowered itself down six or seven feet more. Once Dormund’s switch had been pulled to its maximum extension, the stones clunked into place with a stony locking sound. The stone pit that was now before Whip revealed a darkened doorway on the wall of the pit that faced away from the ocean.
The waves began to crash more intently against the shore line, and ocean spray gave them an icy greeting. Dormund released the switch and rubbed his right wrist, his sixth finger flickering slightly. Whip peered down at the hole, and then looked up at her friend.
“If we’re going down there, you better not wake up any more dead kings.”
He smirked and hopped down into the pit, conjuring a spectral blue torch with a pale flame as he did so. Whip slid down next to him and, holding the torch before them, Dormund lead the pair down into the dark corridor. The walls were stone, but the floor was a hard dirt one. There were no designs on the walls, and the roof of the corridor was equally uninspiring. It was a dull grey tunnel, with nothing but blackness before them.
“You’re sure this is the way?” Whip asked, as the light outside began to fade.
Dormund did not reply at first. Because he was walking ahead of her, she couldn’t see his face at all unless he turned back. After they had walked about ten paces or so into the tunnel, he replied that it had to be the right way. The Golem, as Dormund now called Deportan’s statue, had been powered by an Algeritan Emerald. The same kind that Gen used to power his own creations during the first age. No, he said, this was the right place.
            The walk down the tunnel, which Whip assumed was called the Path of Troubles, was a long one. It seemed like hours went by as they walked, always sloping slightly down as they went. The tunnel never curved or cornered, widened or really changed at all as they went. For a while, whenever Whip turned around she could see a prick of light from the opening at the shoreline, but even that faded from view after a while. The only source of light now was Dormund’s pale blue torch, and the pale blue strings of magika that ran along his armor. The temperature began to drop as they ventured still deeper into the ground, and Whip began to hear, and sometimes feel, water droplets falling from the ceiling.
“We’re beneath the great river Gach.” Said Dormund’s voice, which sounded oddly chipper given the surroundings. “Some distance under it, I might venture, but still. Best to send a prayer to the river goddess, eh?” He turned his head and grinned at Whip.
“I think I’d rather drown.” She said. “So just how much did the great ones tell you about what we might find at the end of this tunnel? Assuming there is an end of course.”
Dormund chuckled lightly. “There’s an end alright.” He stopped and turned to her, pointing at the flame on his torch. “See how it’s drawn to the opening behind us? That means there’s airflow down here. There’s something at the end of all this alright. Probably another way out as well.”
“The great ones tell you that?” She said, still wanting to know more.
“They told me all I’d need to know Y’Ishtari.”
He turned and kept walking down the passage. She lingered for a moment and then followed him saying under her breath, “I hate that name.”
            The tunnel descended further and further into the Earth, and the temperature began to drop as they went down. Before long the two were seeing their breath before them, and the sound of dripping water stopped. After what felt like hours the passage began to level out, and Dormund stopped walking. He stood sideways in the narrow passage, so Whip could see what was in front of them. It was a dark wooden door, carved with runes older than the statue above the tunnel’s entrance had been. Dormund ran his ringed hand over the door, and the runes lit up with a pale white light when he did so. It was as he did this that Whip noticed his spectral finger was flickering and seemed to be on a delay with the rest of his hand. Dormund handed the astral torch to Whip. As she took it, it stung her fingers, and she swore loudly, dropping the torch.
“Oh. Yes. Sorry about that, my mistake.” Said Dormund, who with a wave of his hand transformed the torch into a burning orb which he made float above them.
“Why did it do that?” Hissed Whip. His projections had never hurt her before.
In response, the Knight held up his right hand, and Whip saw that the third ring, which usually belonged to the astral finger was missing.
“My container band must have fallen off in the fighting.” He said, almost sheepishly. “It’s not a big deal, my magic is just a little more… unpredictable with out it.” He began examining the runed door again. “If I had noticed earlier, I would have gone back for it, but it wasn’t until we had gone, well, I guess now I can say it was about two thirds of the way down, after we passed where the great river ran. That’s when I noticed it was gone. Damned thing.”
Whip was unsure of what to make of this. She had heard Dormund say before how his magic requires all three rings and those two blue spheres he called Heart Stones, to work “the way it should.” But she trusted Dormund. She was not a mage or a sorcerer, and knew truly very little about magic. It was usually the realm of those who could take the time to study it, learn it’s many different intricacies and methodologies. Whip had never had time for that. It had been her and Oaten against the world for about as long as she could remember. Every day, a new threat or challenge, no rest, no true sleep. It was not until she had fallen in with Dormund that she had gotten any sense of normalcy or routine. After their first adventure together, Dormund had provided Whip with a room in the dormitories of Wrighthouse, the abbey of the Knights of Eldredge, defenders of the hand. While not a part of the order in any official capacity, Whip earned her keep with the Knights by training the initiates to shoot, as well as Rekinsis, the language of her native land, which few in the central kingdoms knew any of. These pursuits kept her mind and body busy, but of course, she also aided Dormund on most of his errands that took him outside the city. She found that, while routine was nice, she in fact got quite bored of it given the chance. Still, it was nice to have the chance.
            Dormund finally managed to get the door to open, through some spell or another, and the mighty oak patrician swung open to reveal a large hall. The hall was as large as any that Whip had seen, with pillars lining the walls, and supporting the beams of silvery metal that ran across the roof which arched upwards to a peak. On the roof were murals of ancient battles of gods and deamons, each one depicting a figure clad in pale green which Whip recognized as Gen himself, grinning or laughing at the misfortune he had managed to cause. At the pinnacle of the roof was a small opening, out of which spilled the cold harsh light sunlight the two had left behind at the entrance to the tunnel. It shone down in a beam in the centre of the room and was reflected off the floor which was made of polished gold, so that what little light there was made the whole room visible. At the far end of the hallway there was a pool of pale green liquid, and lining the sides of the hall were six great statues, carved from marble.
            As the two entered the room in earnest. Dormund snuffed out the orb of light, which was no longer necessary, and seemed to relax his shoulders. He strode in confidently and began to look at the pool at the far end. Whip, not one to be caught off guard, began to examine the statues. The first was of a man with long hair, simple armor and a longsword held at his side. The next was of a young dwarf, with no beard to speak of. Whip was unsure if it was a male or female, but this dwarf had a concerned expression upon its face, had a thin rapier on its belt and appeared to be taking notes on a small pad of paper. Next to the dwarf there was a tall elf, with long hair and a bow trained upon an unknown target. Across from the elf, on the other side stood a single piece of marble that was carved into a statue of two men, farmers by the looks of them, one with a large pitchfork, the other a small club, each wearing a small crown and bearing dazed expressions. To their left, across from the dwarf with the notepad, stood a tall broad-shouldered Orc statue. The Orc held no weapon, and appeared to wear long robes and a hood. He had his head bowed and appeared to be in a state of prayer. Lastly, Whip regarded the statue of a stout dwarf, this one was male, and considerably older looking than the others. This one wore heavy looking armor, and brandished a dwarven Warhammer before him. A hammer which bore a small symbol upon it. Whip stepped forward and examined it closely. It was of a bolt of lightning, laid over a mountain. She knew this symbol… She was sure of it! Some book she had read in the Abbey…
“They’re the Heroes of Phandalin.” Came a voice from behind her. Dormund had returned from his examination of the pool. “That’s Togan Stormwatch, across from him is Sildar of The Lord’s Alliance, next to him, Craig Cragstone the famed interrogator, then Malagash the ranger of the foothills, then of course Garthur, or rather Garth and Arthur Vakaran, the twins, and lastly, Clock Bragadoon, the only Half Orc to learn the ways of meditation from the monks of the Silver Island.” Dormund paused, and looked about the room again. “They saved the town of Phandalin from the dark Wizard Glass Staff more than 200 years ago. They then became the first mortals to successfully Pillage the mines of Phandelver, bringing its treasure back to the people of Phandalin, making that small town the sprawling metropolis it is today.”
            There was silence in the chamber now. As Dormund looked around, wondering to himself, Whip stared at the face of Cragstone the dwarf. It seemed… odd. Too smooth to be made with any tool she knew of.
 Before she could bring this up, Dormund continued. “Truly, these Heroes are great legends of the last age. But… Why here?” He sounded genuinely confused. For the first time since the two had adventured together, the Knight seemed genuinely confused. Whip didn’t like that one bit, and went to examine the pool herself while Dormund continued. “From the readings the great ones have conducted, this cavern appears in all the expected places. This beam of light makes sense, the golden floor, the murals, even the pool of Thok is here. These Statues appeared nowhere in the scrying of the elders.”
Whip got to the edge of the pool. She didn’t know what a Thok was supposed to be, but to her it looked as if it were a dark green liquid, thicker than water, but not as thick as blood. The pool appeared deep. Very deep in fact. The walls of the pool where made of golden bricks, and bands of silver. At the bottom of the pool, there was… what was that?
“After Phandalin, the Heroes set out for Highborn Peak, Togan’s homeland. They were searching for the remnants of Togan’s people. You see, Y’Ishtari, the Stormwatch clan was once the most powerful of the dwarven families, before the Eldredge Hand moved in. We had to of course, they were hoarding masses of Heken, the stuff they make these Heart Stones out of. It’s a powerful substance. The Stormwatches knew nothing of it’s worth, and… well negotiations turned hostile I assume.”
The pool’s bottom seemed to be patterned in some way, patterned like- like circles. She tested the Thok with the tip of her finger and it seemed to be fine enough. There was something down there.
“Of course, this was a long time ago, before me to be sure, or you for that matter, Y’Ishtari. But anyway, the heroes went searching for, well the texts say the rest of Stormwatch clan, but we’re pretty sure Togan was after the Heken. They made it as far north as Neverwinter, we know that much, it’s where Garthur and Sildar parted from the group. After that… well it becomes hard to say. Did they do it? Did they find it? The Heken Gen? We never did find where that vein ended…”
Whip wasn’t listening to Dormud’s ramblings anymore. She reached her hand down into the Thok, it was thick, and her arm began to tingle in a delightful manner. As if it were finding new ways to feel strong and capable. The thing at the bottom was hard for her to make out from above the surface, she felt sure that if she just put her head under, she would be able to see what it was.
“Could that be it? Heken Gen…Gen. Oh! Oh of course. Gen, Gen Gen Gen. You were a clever one. So very clever.”
If Whip’s head had been above the surface of the Thok, she would have heard this last part. But she had put her head under the Thok. It felt wonderful. Like she was thinking and seeing clearly for the first time in a long time. She opened her eyes and peered down and saw clearly the thing she had been searching for. Her stomach began to tie itself in knots.
            The bottom of the pit was not covered with a pattern. It was covered with rings. Corroded by the Thok from generations of time spent beneath it’s surface the rings looked to Whip to be the same kind that Dormund wore. The rings of what must have been dozens of Eldredge Knights before him, and on top, still glowing a faint blue colour, an uncorroded container ring.
Dormund’s Ring.
As she pulled her head back above the surface, she noticed that the room was now bathed in green light. The pool of Thok had begun to bubble and from its surface shot tendrils of the liquid, manipulated by some magical force the tendrils shot to the centre of the room, to meet the outstretched hand of Dormund. His eyes blazed pure emerald, without a speck of white in them, as the tendrils of Thok engrained themselves in every crevice of his ornate armor. As the grooves began to fill and shine a bright sickly green, Dormund spoke in a high-pitched tone. He was giddy from excitement.
“Don’t you see Whip? Gen’s Light? Heken, Thok? It’s all one in the same. The Mad God used this stuff to do whatever he wanted!”
The pool of Thok was draining quickly as the liquid was absorbed by the armor and then started to flow into Dormund’s nose, filling him up as well. His spectral finger became encased in Thok and looked suddenly organic and clawed, longer than it had been and more terrible. As the pool was fully drained, the last thing to change were Dormund’s Heart Stones, which burst from their housing and rolled away across the floor, replaced by the Thok. His very skin seemed to be a pale green, and liquid Thock dripped soundlessly from his tear ducts.
“Dormund?” Asked Whip, tentatively. “Are you alright?”
“Alright?” Replied the Knight. “I’m more than alright! We did it Whip! We found the light of Gen! It’s here, in me now!” He moved towards her and clapped his hands on her shoulders, pulling her in for an embrace that had never been given before. He held her tightly, laughed and began to almost swing her back and forth, crying out, “We did it! Oh! Whip I feel so good!” He released her but still stood closely in front of her. His eyes. They were green and swirling, sickening and intoxicating. His face was twisted into and fanatic excitement she had never seen on his face before. Dormund kissed her fiercely and without invitation. His lips were colder than ice, they were the lips of a corpse. She recoiled, pushing Dormund away violently.
“What?” Asked Thok Dormund. Looking concerned, and hurt, yet still smiling with half his mouth. “Is this not what you wanted, Y’Ishtari?” The smile extended to the rest of his face and he advanced upon her again, grabbing her by the wrist. She pulled back again.
“You are not yourself Dormund, you… you are not-”
“What? Your precious mentor?” Thok Dormund responded, mockingly. “I never wanted to teach you anything Y’Ishtari. I wanted you. I wanted you from the minute we met. It’s why I never let you learn magic. You wouldn’t be able to use it anyway. You’re just a blood elf, you’re not even a real fey, you’re a half breed, and a half wit, and I took you as my trophy.”
As he said these things, he advanced on her again, casually flicking off his cape and drawing Truth from its sheath. Whip moved, and scrambled around the empty pool and darted across the room. As she ran around him, Thok Dormund took a swing at her legs, but missed narrowly. Whip Reached the middle of the room, and had already fitted Oaten with a steel bolt. She pulled back the leaver and pointed it at her friend’s head, her fingers trembling.
“Don’t you come near me, you fiend!” She Cried. “You’re not Dormund! He was my friend! He was a good man, not… this! Not whatever you are now!”
Thok Dormund advanced slowly, smiling a sick and sinister smile, dragging the tip of Truth along the golden floor, scratching it as he walked along.
“Oh, but I am Dormund. I am his inner thoughts and his darkest wishes.” Said the figure. “I am Dormund free from rule, and law, and free from the judgement of others.”
He continued walking, and Whip backed away.
“Stop!” She pleaded.
 “I am Dormund free man at last, not beholden to those pompous oafs who call themselves ‘great ones.’ I am Dormund, no longer a slave to crude magic and false friends.” Said the green Knight. “I am Dormund, and I will always be him. I always have. I am Gen. And you cannot save yourself, you cannot save your realm, and you cannot save your friend, Whip.”
            Gen was getting closer. Whip backed up again, finding her back against the statue of Cragstone the interrogator.  
“It is over she-elf.” Spoke Gen. As he said this, green tendrils of Thok slithered out from him and began to ensnare the marble statues of Togan, Garthur, and Clock behind him. The statues began to walk forward now too coming to flank their fell master.
“Please.” Said Whip. “Let Him go.”
The fiend laughed and began to send tendrils of Thok towards Sildar and Malagash now as a respnce to the plea. Whip knew nothing of magic. She did not know how to break a spell or fight a god. Whip was a hunter, she knew forests and animals. She knew not what a Thok was or a Heken did. She did not see how the ways of magic are weaved through the world. She had seen that day the old king driven mad, old heroes usurped, and she had seen her friend taken over. She knew not how to save him, she knew how to survive. She had done it all her life.
“Dormund!” She said, shaking now. Tears running down her face.
“Dormund is dead now elfling.”
Whip pulled Oaten’s trigger like she had done a thousand times before. She pulled it as a cornered animal will lash out at its handler when afraid. She pulled it because it was what she knew.
The bolt found it’s mark, and sliced through Dormund-Gen’s head which exploded in a green and red burst as his body crumpled to the ground, and the statues stopped moving. The Thok oozed it’s way back to the pool, and was replaced on the floor around Dormund by redness, thicker than water and Thok alike.
Y’Ishtari fell to her knees. She wept like she had never done before in her life. Y’Ishtari wept for her friend. She wept alone in the tomb of heroes, where no one could see her.


The end.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Clearance. A Short Story.



Note: This short story has nothing to do with other narratives presented on this blog previously.


Clearance



“It Was the First Time I Killed a Man” by Wade Lewis. The book’s cover was adorned with the face of the man himself, staring blankly out, trying his best to look sinister. It was a round, otherwise handsome face, but in my opinion, thoroughly lacking any intimidating qualities. Wade, when I knew him, was never intimidating. I remember how he used to always talk about writing a crime novel, a cross between Sherlock Holmes and Die Hard, as he would describe it. There would be a murder of course, a seemingly impossible one at that. The investigation of which would send Wade’s hero-detective on a calculated campaign of deduction and confrontation.
            I’ve never really been one to read mystery novels. I’m more of a sports history kind of guy, maybe some Stephen King when I’ve got the occasional craving for fiction. But Wade’s not like me. He always devoured books. From an early age there was hardly a time when wade wasn’t walking around with an Anna Katherine Green, Raymond Chandler, or a Doyle, Christie or even a Poe tucked under his arm, or opened on his lap. Maybe it was because of his parents, but when we were growing up, Wade was always sticking his nose into the worlds of the great detectives, blocking the noise around him with “ratiocination.” Their stories made sense in the end, there was always a reason for every dastardly deed or fiendish plot, a reason that always explained how and why these people would have cause to hurt one another. Reasons Wade never got in real life.
I picked the book up and glanced again at the cover. No, Wade wasn’t sinister or intimidating, but he had the look of a man that knew something. Something terrible and altogether mysterious. It had always looked kind of like that. Perhaps that was why the publisher had chosen to put Wade’s face on the cover, somehow it seemed to fit. It was a good cover. Wade wouldn’t have liked it of course, he hated pictures of himself. He also hated the manuscript for this book, last time I checked, he hated dealing with his publisher too. He hated doing book tours, he hated giving interviews, and he hated being told what to do. In fact, he had hated most things that involved deviating from whatever he had previously planned out.  “Obstinate,” his father had often called him, along with “insolent,” and perhaps his favourite “Dissatisfactory.”
I put the book down, but then I second guessed myself and picked it up again. I wanted to peel off the 80% off! Final Clearance! sticker from the front cover, but saw little point to it. The store itself was busy, last minute shoppers crowding the rows and rows of books and home d├ęcor items, picking over underpriced cookbooks, and overpriced reprints of all the classics. I tucked Wade’s book under my arm as I attempted to make my way to the front of the store, bumping into shoulders, a stroller and a display as I went.
I waited at the back of the line near the front of the store. Light had faded outside since I had come in, the doors now looked dark and cold. As the shoppers in line waited their turn, many of them began to put on hats, gloves and coats, preparing for the inevitable blast of cold air they’d all surely face momentarily.  The counter stood just to the right of the door. Every time the door opened to admit a satisfied shopper into the outside world, the cold wind whipped inside and slapped me across the face with an icy hand.
A bearded man wearing the red sweater-vest of an assistant manager had flipped the open sign to a closed one on the front door as the store began to empty out. I watched families exit ahead of me, old ladies too, clutching each other as a teenage boy held the door open. Behind them was a portly man in a fur rimmed coat and a group of young women chatting eagerly each of them bristling against the cold of the open door. At the head of the line was another girl who looked an awful lot like Lindsey, so much so that I had to stare at her for almost a minute before I realized it wasn’t her.
I wished it was her. She was holding a copy of A Study in Scarlet. One of the many books Wade never convinced Lindsey to read. She wouldn’t read detective stories, or really many books at all, never saw the point. To the outside observer, their marriage didn’t seem to be built on anything. They always seemed to be between fights, despite both of their best efforts. Wade never wanted to become his parents, like most of us I suppose, but there you had it. I often wondered about what would have happened if they had had any kids. I was glad that I didn’t have to find out.
The girl who looked like Lindsey but wasn’t went out the door, looking back at me as she went, perhaps trying to see if she knew me. She had noticed my starring. But it didn’t take her as long to figure out that I was a stranger to her. She was young and beautiful, I would have liked to talk to her, but she disappeared into the night same as the rest.
There were only a couple people still in front of me in line now. The line had been moving quickly despite its length. The store itself had emptied out as well, I watched the last of the people in line filter their way out the front doors. A man with a face tattoo, an old grey man in an all camo patterned outfit and a middle-aged woman who looked like a nurse, judging by the scrubs under her coat. They all paid, and sidled out into the night, disappearing into the gathering force of a biting north east wind, carrying their purchases with them.
Finally, it was my turn, the last customer of the night, standing there holding a book I already owned. The cashier was shifting her weight from one foot to the other, subtly bouncing on the balls of her feet to ease the pain of standing all day. The practiced move of the experienced retail worker. I handed Wade’s book to her and asked how the night had gone. It had been long and stressful, but she said that it had only been busy. She looked down at what I had brought to the table and her eyes lit up. She loved detective novels, she’d been meaning to read this one but never seemed to have the time.
It happens, I never seemed to find time for books like this either. But this one was different.
How?
It’s a long story, and not a happy one.
Short version?
I knew him.
Personally?
I’m pretty sure he based a character off of me.
Which one.
It’s the- well it’s the victim, actually.
That’s good, you can identify with him better then, most of the time people just forget about them, now you won’t.

Our eyes met. Hers were young, curious, beautiful. Mine, tired and worn. I paid, but when she bagged up the book, I didn’t take it. I looked at the doorway, feeling the piercing cold wind without the door being open.

No, you keep it. I’ve read it anyway.