Young Writers Society

Home » Literary works » Short Story » Fantasy


The Sentinel

by Liminality


She didn't know what to do when the phantoms came. They were bright in the light of day. Though they clustered together at the city gates at first, soon their shyness melted away and they began to float onto the cobblestone.

The humans gave them a wide berth. Up on the watchtower, she stood silently as the market ladies lifted their baskets atop their heads and hurried into the alleyways. The merchant and his donkey stopped by the side of the road to let the phantoms pass. A circle of children broke up, playtime seemingly over, as they each went their separate ways.

She couldn’t blame them. Even though a peace treaty had been signed, part of her mind was still convinced she should treat them as enemies.

It wasn't long before she heard the sound.

It was a low, keening cry, which seemed out of place in the crowded city. She was surprised she could even hear it - momentarily, because she remembered all too well how the phantoms' calls worked. This one was a distress signal.

There was no one else to hear it but her, a knight left behind since the last battle, because she had broken her arm and was unable to wield a sword. She was supposed to be watching the phantoms for signs of violence. Were there battle songs being chanted, in the range where a normal human could not hear? Did the phantoms enter houses without permission?

But instead, the lonesome wail continued, making the stone wall under her hand tremble. It was a deeply sad sound. It reminded her of whale-song, from the times she spent stationed at the coast with the water mages.

Without her realising it, her feet had begun shuffling towards the staircase, intent on taking her to the source of that wail. Her chest ached, even as her mind told her not to follow.

The child phantom was behind the stables. It had a large, round head. Two equally round eyes gazed out of it, like holes cut in white fabric, as it swivelled its head left and right, calling out. By the way it was floating around the small clearing, it had gotten lost. That cry came again. It was in pain.

For a moment, the knight stood still. Her scarf covered most of her face, hiding the confusion in the scrunch of her brow. Why was she doing this? The commands had been only to watch for the trouble-makers, but this was only a wayward youngling.

Her good hand reached out towards a sconce on the wall. She went through the motions she remembered from the last diplomatic negotiations: pulling out the torch, waving the flame to catch its attention. The phantom gazed at her, shimmering slightly in the still air. After some hesitation, it began to drift quietly towards the building.

Without saying anything, the knight turned and began to walk towards the street. The child knew to float along behind her. Its crying had stopped. Now the only sound was the noise of the crowd as they hurried away from the phantoms.

The edge of the knight’s leather shoe stopped, right at the side of the road. A small noise rang in her head. It sounded like a question.

“Go on, now,” she told the phantom.

She watched as the child phantom swam into the line of pale-yellow glowing faces. The country’s former foes continued to trickle down the main street, uncertain, nervous. There was no riot brewing. Not today.

The knight lingered away from her post, a little longer than she had meant to. Much longer than she ever had before.


Note: You are not logged in, but you can still leave a comment or review. Before it shows up, a moderator will need to approve your comment (this is only a safeguard against spambots). Leave your email if you would like to be notified when your message is approved.







Is this a review?


  

Comments



User avatar
3418 Reviews


Points: 363116
Reviews: 3418

Donate
Tue Sep 27, 2022 7:41 am
View Likes
HarryHardy wrote a review...



Good Morning/Afternoon/Evening/Night(whichever one it is in your part of the world),

Hi! I'm here to leave a quick review!!

First Impression: Hmm this is a lovely little piece here. It manages to elicit a surprising amount of emotion for something this short. I also loved the little details in the worldbuilding here. I think they were wonderful.

Anyway let's get right to it,

She didn't know what to do when the phantoms came. They were bright in the light of day. Though they clustered together at the city gates at first, soon their shyness melted away and they began to float onto the cobblestone.

The humans gave them a wide berth. Up on the watchtower, she stood silently as the market ladies lifted their baskets atop their heads and hurried into the alleyways. The merchant and his donkey stopped by the side of the road to let the phantoms pass. A circle of children broke up, playtime seemingly over, as they each went their separate ways.


This is an interesting start here. We've got a rather calm little scene almost with the description at least although something about these phantoms is making me wonder if maybe its meant to be a little bit more tense that what the descriptions would have you believe here.

She couldn’t blame them. Even though a peace treaty had been signed, part of her mind was still convinced she should treat them as enemies.

It wasn't long before she heard the sound.

It was a low, keening cry, which seemed out of place in the crowded city. She was surprised she could even hear it - momentarily, because she remembered all too well how the phantoms' calls worked. This one was a distress signal.


Ooooh well this is getting intriguing. Especially given we're switching from this person imaging these phantoms as enemies to recognize what appears to be something of a distress call by these phantoms.

There was no one else to hear it but her, a knight left behind since the last battle, because she had broken her arm and was unable to wield a sword. She was supposed to be watching the phantoms for signs of violence. Were there battle songs being chanted, in the range where a normal human could not hear? Did the phantoms enter houses without permission?

But instead, the lonesome wail continued, making the stone wall under her hand tremble. It was a deeply sad sound. It reminded her of whale-song, from the times she spent stationed at the coast with the water mages.


Oooh this is a powerful moment right here. We've got this person unable to really respond because it seems they've been told only to respond to some sort of attack by these phantoms, but instead what we're experiencing here are the phantoms getting into some sort of trouble. Well, this is making things very interesting.

Without her realising it, her feet had begun shuffling towards the staircase, intent on taking her to the source of that wail. Her chest ached, even as her mind told her not to follow.

The child phantom was behind the stables. It had a large, round head. Two equally round eyes gazed out of it, like holes cut in white fabric, as it swivelled its head left and right, calling out. By the way it was floating around the small clearing, it had gotten lost. That cry came again. It was in pain.


Well this is tugging at all the right heartstrings even if we know so little about this world and these people. Its such a simple move, but with the little background you managed to establish it really brings home some powerful emotion.

For a moment, the knight stood still. Her scarf covered most of her face, hiding the confusion in the scrunch of her brow. Why was she doing this? The commands had been only to watch for the trouble-makers, but this was only a wayward youngling.

Her good hand reached out towards a sconce on the wall. She went through the motions she remembered from the last diplomatic negotiations: pulling out the torch, waving the flame to catch its attention. The phantom gazed at her, shimmering slightly in the still air. After some hesitation, it began to drift quietly towards the building.


Ahh I love the way this is going. Also love how you sneak in some extra worldbuilding there with this little gesture, making it extra clear this is a fully different species with some very different habits.

Without saying anything, the knight turned and began to walk towards the street. The child knew to float along behind her. Its crying had stopped. Now the only sound was the noise of the crowd as they hurried away from the phantoms.

The edge of the knight’s leather shoe stopped, right at the side of the road. A small noise rang in her head. It sounded like a question.

“Go on, now,” she told the phantom.

She watched as the child phantom swam into the line of pale-yellow glowing faces. The country’s former foes continued to trickle down the main street, uncertain, nervous. There was no riot brewing. Not today.

The knight lingered away from her post, a little longer than she had meant to. Much longer than she ever had before.


Ahh well that ties this whole thing up beautifully I think. The emotion that ending manages to capture is really powerful. Its quite a moving thing, especially because on some level you can almost sort of relate to these emotions.

Aaaaand that's it for this one.

Overall: Overall I think we've got a powerful piece here. It certainly really nails the emotions it sets out to accomplish and you've got a good balance between things that we can recognize and things that are very much unique to this world so we're not lost in too many new details.

As always remember to take what you think was helpful and forget the rest.

Stay Safe
Harry




User avatar
587 Reviews


Points: 64800
Reviews: 587

Donate
Thu Sep 15, 2022 2:09 am
View Likes
Plume wrote a review...



Hey there! Plume here, with a review!

This was a lovely little flash fiction piece. It was just... it's quite masterful for how short it is and I absolutely adore it. You've introduced us to a new world, and yet I don't feel confused in the slightest; you've written barely 600 words, and yet I feel like I've been served a complete story. I think this is honestly just so enjoyable and honestly very reminiscent of an animated short film, in a way? Regardless, I think it would make a very good animated short. It's equal parts whimsical, fantastical, macabre, and touching, and overall so lovely.

One thing I enjoyed was your subtle worldbuilding. Like I said, I'm absolutely wowed by the fact that you managed to create such a wonderful, fleshed-out world in such a short story. The details all felt relevant, and you conveyed the environment so well, too. You are so good at incorporating little details that add so much to the story. The whole background with the phantoms and humans was really well explained, and I found that I didn't need much context; I felt like you provided sufficient details without it being overdone. You did a great job of giving enough details to give the story context but not too many that it raised questions that didn't need to be answered in this story.

The two characters you focus on were also super unique. You've got an injured knight and a child phantom. Already, that's so inventive. And the little storyline they share is just amazing. Just... the depth in everything is miraculous. It's so multilayered. The background of how these two communities used to be enemies is such a unique position to put the characters in, and you show this remarkable and lovely display of kinship between them. I hope you know how hard I'm trying not to keysmash because honestly, that feels like an accurate representation of my thoughts. It's simplistic but original and it's not contrived or tired. I'm obsessed. I just—I love the progression from people avoiding the phantoms to the knight being certain that they wouldn't cause trouble. You conveyed the uncertainty in that sort of situation so well. It's delightful.

Overall: stupendous job. I really, really enjoyed this short. I'm utterly obsessed. If you have any questions, feel free to ask—I feel like a lot of this review was just me gushing, and if you wanted specific feedback on anything, feel free to let me know! All I know is that I think I'll be thinking about this piece for a while. Until next time!





"Honestly, I think the world is going to end bloody. But it doesn't mean we shouldn't fight. We do have choices."
— Dean Winchester