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The Fallen King: Chapter Five

by MaybeAndrew


LAST TIME ON THE FALLEN KING

Liam has an argument with his grandfather, who claims Liam needs to train to fight an oncoming evil. In a huff, Liam leaves to go down to the village, and on his way encounters a creature of Darkness

Chapter Five

Promises

Chapter Five

Promises

It watched him with eyes as black as the purest night. Its face was long and almost skull-like, crowned by two branching sets of horns, each of which came to six points. The thin face ended in slit-like nostrils and a long mouth with foaming teeth protruding over the lower jaw. Liam knew the marks those teeth made. They had been on his father when they had found him. Nearly as long as his little finger, the teeth could rip out flex like it was straw from a bundle.

A mane of black fur flowed down the creature's neck and then onto its long back. The creature was as large as an ox and even more muscular. Its four legs were toned with power that made it quicker than any other beast of the earth. Each foot ended in large black hooves that almost looked like they were made of metal, their edges as sharp as blades. Over its body, weaving through its skin, were bands of darkness, like a dark ivy had taken root inside the creature.

It stood before him. The Stallion of the Night. The Calvary of Darkness. The Equine Companion of Shadow.

Liam maintained a gaze with the soulless pits of nothing that were its eyes. Darker than the space between the stars, he almost felt like he could fall into them. The stallion's Darkness was so complete it shone like light, filling the mist around it with thick shadow. The blackness seemed to steam off of the stallion's back and surround it with a halo of the night.

Even the silence was thick with this Darkness.

The Darkness was both magnetic and repelling. The deepest parts of him that knew light from dark and death from life pushed him away from it. His core animal instinct of life knew it was never supposed to touch the Corruption. It told him to run, to get as far away from this pure void of Darkness at all costs.

Somehow though, and at the same time, it pulled him in. It called to him. It whispered to him in the silence. Its breath played seducingly across his mind.

'You are more than they know,' He heard it say in the silence. 'But we see it.' The words were not spoken on the waves of air like most. They were not created with breath and mouth but with something older and more powerful. They used his thoughts themselves as its medium, instead of air or water like the beasts of this world. Whatever was speaking was not less than physical, but more.

The stallion was not the Darkness, merely its messenger. Merely… its gift. Its gift to him.

It was faster than the wind and stronger than the earth. The Darkness was offering him this mighty creature. It was offering him a way to go anywhere.

He was trapped between the two pulling instincts, one to flee and one to accept. He was like a band pulled tight, only able to snap or go flying away when the tension was let go. The stallion breathed out, its nostrils flaring and misting the air with shadow.

Liam resisted the tension. He would not snap, nor would he run. But the stallion also seemed determined to wait.

It would let him mount it if he tried or tear him down the moment he turned, rending his flesh from bone.

The tension was pulling him so tight even his vision seemed to darken. It felt like he was falling into the creature's eyes, its mist enveloping him. He was quivering all over. He couldn't breathe. He couldn't think. He could only resist the purest instinct of life and the most promising seduction of death.

He would not run - but he felt like he might. He was terrified at any moment he might turn and attempt to escape. All it would take is to drop vigilance for a moment.

Liam felt he had to go one way, and if he did not go towards it, he felt he would definitely go away from it.

He was being given a chance to have it all answered.

His hold on himself slightly slackened.

Almost without his control, his hand reached up towards the stallion…

A shield flashed and clanged against the creature's face as Liam was shoved off his feet. The crushing feeling of being pushed and pulled shattered with no resolution as he fell to the ground.

"Back!" An armored figure shouted as he stabbed the chest of the stallion. It was Sitric, standing tall in his gleaming armor, silhouetted against the dull gray mist. His sword flashed as it danced through the air, slicing at the stallion and forcing it to retreat back into the wood. Sitric's every movement was accompanied by a slight clinking of his chainmail and the shimmering of his flowing purple cape. At his side hung his Lownire blade and a silver signal horn.

Sitric must have slipped around the bend in the path while Liam had been distracted by the creature. Liam hurriedly crawled backward and away from the fighting of the Keeper and the creature. The mud squelched under his hands and feet. The path was only a couple paces across and at a slight incline. Liam stopped against the trees that walled in the path, a couple of paces up the path and behind Sitric.

Sitric slashed his longsword along the stallion's side, causing black steaming blood to gush forth. He dodged an upswing of the sharp horns by stepping back. As soon as the creature's head was out of the way, he stepped forward and stabbed its chest, the dark liquid dripping down his long blade. The horse jumped up and landed a kick on his breastplate, sending Sitric stumbling backward. The stallion charged forward and swung its head down, but the many points of its sharp horns were stopped by Sitric's raised shield. He dug his feet into the ground as it slid him through the mud, horns grinding against the metal. Sitric let the horns slip off the shield one way as he sidestepped to the other. He swung down his gleaming longsword, which gashed through the stallion's large muscular thigh.

The creature snorted and reared up, kicking at Sitric. He caught one hoof on the shield and retreated backward from the wildly kicking feet. Sitric stopped to stare at it, equal parts awe and hate filling his face. It was taller than two men, dripping with its own black blood and throwing its head back, sending a terrible cry into the mist.

Sitric dove, rolling out of the way just as the stallion stamped back down. Its sharp hooves hit the ground with enough force to split metal, one of them barely missing him.

Sitric landed in a crouch next to the creature and tried to stab into its side. Before he could, its head swung around and upward at his chest to gore him with the black horns. He caught the sharp points on his shield, but the force lifted him off his feet and threw him through a bush.

He crashed through the branches, armor clanging as he hit the ground. For a moment, Liam wondered if it had knocked him out, but then Sitric was back on his feet, crouching with the shield in front of him and his sword raised, ready to strike. He watched it with narrowed brown eyes as blood trickled out from under his helmet and down one side of his face.

Sitric was an extraordinary fighter, but he could only hold his own for so long.

Once again, Liam realized he could run. Sitric was keeping the creature occupied. He could return to the lighthouse and close the heavy door. Safe from the stallion, safe from the questions that might come if Sitric had seen him reaching towards it.

But Liam couldn't run. He'd already lost enough family members to the Darkness. He looked around for anything that might help. Lying in the mud within arms reach was the torch. Upon it was a glimmer of hope. A small part of it was still above the water and smoldering blue. Astrum was hard to put out.

For a moment, Sitric and the stallion watched each other. Liam could hear their labored breathing as he grabbed the torch… He'd just need to light something with it.

Before he could, the stallion charged, horns down. A clang like two mountains crashing together sounded as Sitric caught its horns on his shield. The pure force knocked him back against the tree behind him and sent two of the horns points bursting through the metal.

With a cry of anger and pain, he plunged his sword into the creature's neck. The same black steaming blood poured thick over his sword and onto the ground, killing every plant it touched. On any other beast, that would have been a killing hit, but steel could not vanquish a creature of Darkness -- only injure.

Reflexively, the stallion tried to throw Sitric off, swinging its head upward, but the pierced shield was still stuck to its horns. So, Sitric was carried with the head's movement and thrown up into the air. He flew through down the path like tossed plaything before landing down the path, rolling and then stopping in a crumpled heap.

Liam frantically looked around for something dry enough for the torch to light. Every twig and leaf had been soaked by the torrent the night before.

Sitric struggled to get back on his feet. He dropped his bent and bashed shield from his strangely twisted arm and growled. Slipping behind a tree, he threw down his sword, and he pulled his Lownire blade off his belt.

With no sword or shield, he was now almost entirely defenseless. But with the Lownire blade, which glimmered like a fang of light, he might be able to kill it.

If the forest was wet, Liam would need to light something that had not come from the forest. Liam's mind was like the gears of the lighthouse, oiled by fear and pulled by the weight of survival.

No longer gunked up by distractions or slowed to consider why they spun. They only turned on towards his one goal: Fire.

'I am not from the forest,' Liam realized. Not all of him was flammable, but a fair amount of him was. Hair, clothes, and best of all, paper.

He reached into his pocket and took out the parchment that he had lined with the rituals. Well, he better hope he had them memorized.

Sitric dodged out of another charge, his feet deftly bringing him behind another tree. Liam realized Sitric was leading the stallion away from him. Sitric's only hope now was to let Liam escape or get a killing hit in with the short blade.

Liam crumpled the paper in his hand and pressed a corner against the torch's smoldering section. He blew on it slowly and steadily, trying to ignore the snorts and stamping of the stallion and the frantic movements of Sitric's foot. Both were more sluggish than when the battle had started, but Sitric's were slower.

"Come on, come on, come on," Liam muttered to the torch.

The stallion caught the side of Sitric's breastplate with a hoof, and Sitric was spun off his feet. As he landed on his back, the stallion reared up to slam down on him. Sitric rolled out of the way and stumbled back to his feet, his breathing labored.

"Please…" Liam begged the torch. The paper crackled and then caught. Liam quickly moved the crumpled piece of paper, so the fire danced up it.

The horse snapped at Sitric, missed, but cut clean through a large branch.

Liam looked between the crackling piece of paper and the horse's back which faced him. With the limited time, what could he do with that little crumpled piece of paper?

Suddenly, he felt Father's hand clutching his again and heard his wheezing voice speaking those three words.

Though he hadn't known it, those words had been his plan as soon as he had picked up the torch.

Taking the crumpled paper in one hand, he charged the stallion. He slammed his hand against the horse, pressing the burning paper to its side.

"Legus Thu Hume!" He shouted, pushing every ounce of fear and power into the words, "Awaken and be given strength,"

The fire exploded to life, shooting from between his fingers and gleaming like the noonday sun. The blue flame roared up like it had in the graveyard and enveloped the side of the stallion.

It screeched and stumbled away, its side steaming with white smoke. The stallion turned its head and looked at Liam with those pits of eternal nothing. As it did so, Sitric sprung forward and sunk the Lownire blade through the crown of the creature's head. The stallion gave one last cry and then collapsed to the ground. Sitric stumbled away from the vanquished beast as its body began to unmake, steaming with black and white smoke as dark liquid oozed from its wound. The bands writhed and burst as the steam got thicker and thicker until it was entirely obscured. After a moment, the smoke cleared to reveal a patch of blackened dirt in the shape of the creature, but nothing more.

***

Part two linker here: https://www.youngwriterssociety.com/work.php?id=1...


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Mon May 23, 2022 2:20 pm
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IcyFlame wrote a review...



Hello Hello! I can't for the life of me remember which of the previous chapters of this I've read so apologies if I've forgotten something that's already happened. I'm hoping this review gives you some motivation to write this week (I've not managed much over the last 7 days!)

A small note, but it seems you've duplicated the chapter number and name at the top of this. Nothing that detracts from the reading experience, but maybe something you want to reformat.

I think the description of the creature at the start of this chapter works really well. It slowly builds the tension whilst using some really beautiful language and I feel like it sets the scene really well.

It stood before him. The Stallion of the Night. The Calvary of Darkness. The Equine Companion of Shadow.

This particular summary is great - it encompasses everything you've told us about the creature and makes it seem really formidable.

I do think pacing wise the description goes on a little long after this line. You've already built up the creature so well that I'm ready to get into the action rather than reading about the Darkness. I think it could be cut down a little when editing.

The fight with Sitric and the creature is also really well done, so much so that I feel like I'm right there in the action. I love how Liam won't run away despite the fear, it really shows the importance of the 'found family' theme that I can see you setting up here.

I also feel like we've got some real character growth here. Liam is finally discovering his potential and I'm here for it!

Hope this was helpful :)

Icy




MaybeAndrew says...


Thanks so much for the review icy. YEah, I hadn't written much last week XD, was road tripping, probably should of warned you I wasn't going to be Pming you that week



IcyFlame says...


No worries! I was also shamefully lacking in my writing, so hopefully we'll both get back to it



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Wed Mar 16, 2022 7:05 pm
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MailicedeNamedy wrote a review...



Hi MaybeAndrew,


Mailice here with a short review! :D

You build a good beginning for something new with this chapter and show it clearly also in the direction we are in. You manage to reach a new point after all the blows Liam gets from his low self-confidence or also what his grandfather tells, to show his tension clearly. What I liked here in the chapter is how you manage to keep a good arc of descriptions and tension from beginning to end.

Two things stuck in the back of my mind; firstly, that really good description of the creature, which is apt and doesn't stall the story at all here because it's dynamic and 'attacking' and then the fight between Sitric and the creature. You build it up very flexibly, giving a 360 degree panorama of the whole situation.

Even though I found that Liam moved a bit more into the "background", I still think it's fitting how such a tension also developed into tension and fear. All in all, I am very surprised that we went down this road so quickly, but it is a welcome and positive surprise.

Other points I noticed while reading:

Chapter Five
Promises


Chapter Five
Promises

Just a quick note here, that the Chapter has doubled itself. :D

It stood before him. The Stallion of the Night. The Calvary of Darkness. The Equine Companion of Shadow.


For the really wonderful description of the creature, I find this moment you describe here a short letdown because you kind of give the creature too many titles. I wouldn't say remove that, but paraphrase it like "X was called that in the valleys, Y it was called by the people in Z, etc...". With the tension you've built up, this now seems a little disappointing, and gives away the appearance of it being something "ubiquitous" and "simple". In short, it takes away the magic.

Sitric was an extraordinary fighter, but he could only hold his own for so long.


I like how you manage with the tension to mention this only during the fight to give Sitric a little more depth in that moment.

A great start to the next chapter with a climax in the tension.

Have fun writing!

Mailice




MaybeAndrew says...


Thank you so much for the review! I get what your saying about the too many names for the stallion thing, and I'll be sure to edit that!




You sound like you're becoming emotionally involved with the custard.
— Nikki Morgan