The Fallen King
After his father's death, Liam inherits the title of Keepership to help lead the small village of Lownire. Feeling trapped, he is glad when his Grandfather is awakened from sanity by words in the Old Tongue. ( A mysterious magical language that carries power.) Liam thinks his grandfather should be the Keeper, but he instead asks him not to abandon his Keepership and learn the Old Tongue. After a siege of Darkness and remembering a promise he made his sister before her death, Liam reluctantly accepts.
Liam rolled over, feeling that perfect drowsy joy of being halfway between sleeping and wakefulness. His whole body and mind were heavy, like he was a stone man lying in a pool of warm honey. The outside world was a faraway thing; he lived in a land of soft pillows, heavy blankets, and perfectly content comfort.
Slowly, his mind began to turn, noticing more than the ecstasy of rest. The smell of baking bread downstairs. The gentle sound of movement. Sunlight.
The sunlight was shining into his room through one of the round windows and onto his face, slowly pulling him out of sleep, but he didn’t mind too much. Liam liked sunlight.
Thoughts from the last few days lazily floated across his mind like bumblebees on warm summer days. After the siege the day before, he’d returned to the lighthouse. He had told Grandpa he would accept the apprenticeship. Grandpa had hugged him. Liam had collapsed in bed only a little after noon. He’d stayed there ever since.
He would need to bring a torch to the graveyard. Liam swatted the thought away like it was just a fly buzzing at his face. Yesterday, after the birth ritual, they had four funeral ceremonies for the guards who had died from the hound. They would need torches for another moon cycle. Not yet, though. Now he could sleep a bit longer.
Liam smacked his lips and let himself fall back into the warm sea of sleep for a couple moments, his thoughts fading away.
After a couple moments, he was washed back out onto the tropical beach of wakefulness. He was hungry, very hungry, his stomach’s growling emptiness interrupting his state of contentment. The smell of freshly baked bread coaxed him to full consciousness. Yawning, his eyes fluttered open, and he sat up.
To his surprise, his room was clean. When he’d collapsed into bed, he’d barely been able to see the floor through the mess, but now the late morning sun was shining warmly onto the clear wood planks.
The smell was coming from downstairs. Liam slid out of bed, too excited by the prospect of breakfast to pay too much attention to the cold. He hadn’t had bread in the lighthouse for two weeks!
He stretched as he made his way downstairs. That was the deepest, purest sleep he’d ever experienced, all his soreness was gone, and he felt perfectly rested. Somehow, the terrible things he had seen and heard had not disturbed his dreams. Nothing had. He had been a ship free of the weighty cargo of thought, with a high mast, the keel barely even touching the waves.
He found that, like his bedroom, the first floor had been cleaned. The kitchen’s dirty dishes had been moved to the sink, the floor was swept and clear, and the ashes of the hearth had been replaced with a crackling fire.
Matt, wearing a night robe, and looking rather at home, sat at the kitchen table. The robe was open at the front, revealing his chest and the bandages covering most of his shoulder.
“Good morning, Keeper of the Pillows,” Matt said, taking a sip of steamy liquid.
Liam sat down, looking around. He had forgotten Matt was here. Since the young man had been struck by the Darkness, he would have to stay in the lighthouse for nine days. The traditional quarantine prevented diseases and Corruption from rampaging through Lownire before they were recognized.
“Did you tidy up?” Liam asked. He supposed it would be his job to take care of Matt, not the other way around.
“No, your Grandpa did. He made these too,” He said, pushing a plate of muffins to Liam. “Nice guy. And not a bad baker for a man who was recently unable to speak.”
Liam had been too tired the day before to warn Matt that his Grandpa was lucid, and he was too hungry at that moment to redeem himself now, so instead, he dug into the food.
“Where’d you get that tea?” Liam asked through a mouthful of muffin.
“That’s Gillyweed. I got it from the cliffs. It’s good for your thyroid,” A haggard voice grumbled from behind Liam. Liam whirled around to see his Grandpa trudging down the stairs, carrying more books than he would have thought possible for such an old man. “I hope the breakfast is good. You have used up all the tea, meats, eggs, honey, bread, milk, potatoes, and pudding. I had to make do with what I had.”
Liam took another bite of the muffin. It definitely wasn’t terrible, especially since he was so hungry. “It’s great,” He barely got out between bites. “Thanks.”
Grandpa grunted as if the gratitude was barely sufficient and dropped the books down in front of Liam, making the utensils on the table jump.
The books were varied. Some were large, with thick and beautifully decorated covers - others were thin and looked weathered and stained - and a few looked merely like thick pamphlets, possibly made within the past few decades. The pile was huge, nearly reaching Liam’s eyes.
“A Children’s Guide to the King’s Speech,” Matt read off the top book. “Are you going to force me to study while I’m here?”
Liam wouldn’t have put it past Grandpa, all things considered.
“No, these are for Liam and his apprenticeship. He said he didn’t know the King’s Speech, so I thought we’d start there. A good understanding of the King’s Speech is foundational to learning the Old Tongue,” Grandpa said.
Liam glanced at Matt, wondering if he was confused.
“Don’t worry. You’re Grandpa explained it to me this morning,” Matt said. “Sounds like what Arwen would tell me about, years and years ago - which is to say, I don’t really understand it.”
“It is the same training Arwen received, though I had more time with her. We do not have that luxury now,” Grandpa said, searching his pockets for something.
Finding it, he pulled out a piece of paper and placed it on top of the pile.
Liam scanned down the scribbly handwriting. ‘Three jars of blueberries, four pounds of cured beef, one quart of soft cheese….’
“What’s this?” Liam asked, picking it up.
“The first document you will be studying; a shopping list.”
Matt laughed. “Good, I was getting worried I’d only be eating muffins in my stay here.”
“Or tasteless porridge,” Grandpa added, making a sour face. Liam looked between the two, horrified. They had already allied against him. Grandpa glared at him. “This house is a mess, the storage room is completely unorganized, and you are out of a variety of supplies. In case of siege, the lighthouse is supposed to be designed to last at least a month without restocking, but that does not mean you are supposed to go a month without shopping. After shopping, we’ll have to make torches since you are nearly out of those as well. Finally, we’ll clean every square inch of this home, then we can get started on training.” Grandpa looked around, “It’s actually impressive. A tower that can house three families has been trashed by a single boy in a month!”
Liam winced. It was all true. Instead of arguing, he grabbed a second muffin. “So, should I buy that all tomorrow?” Liam asked, taking a bite of it.
“Today, after breakfast,” Grandpa said shortly.
“Today?!” Liam protested, accidentally sending a spray of muffin out of his full mouth. He swallowed. “I’m still recovering from the siege!”
“We can’t wait any longer to start teaching you, and we need the right environment for studying. The lighthouse should be clean, well stocked, and with food. Someone needs to get supplies today,” Grandpa said, wiping off the crumbs Liam had just spewed all over the table. “I’m an old man, and he’s injured. Who else is supposed to do it?” Grandpa asked.
Liam supposed that was a fair point.
“And if my command worked, you should be perfectly rested,” Grandpa said.
“Command?” Liam asked, grabbing his third muffin.
“Yes, the Old Tongue can be used for more than sending away storms,” Grandpa said. “After you fell asleep, I commanded your mind and body to rest deeply and heal from their exhaustion.”
“How do you say that command?” Liam asked. “Sounds like it could come in handy.”
Grandpa laughed and sat down in one of the empty chairs. “That’s not how it works. I can’t just tell you phrases in the Old Tongue and have you repeat them as commands, like a secret pass-word, to reality. The Old Tongue is so much more complex than that. You may be able to watch me play the lute, but you wouldn’t instantly be able to replicate the notes yourself. It is the same with the Old Tongue. It is a hard-earned skill. The words must have the right tone, power, and Authority for them to function.”
“Then how did I wake you up? I had no training, but when I said the words, you, well, came back.”
“You barely said the words. I must admit, there was more power in them than if you said them like common words, you seemed to muster a surprising amount of Authority, but your pronunciation and tone were still terrible. The only reason they worked on me is that they were trigger words. It wasn’t your command which actually healed my mind. My mind was merely dormant, put there by my own command. All your words did was trigger a latent command in my flesh, and that awakened me. Because of your terribly inexperienced pronunciation, they would have worked on nothing else.”
Liam thought about that as he chewed and shook his head. “That’s not true. You weren’t the only thing that listened to the words. Before I woke you up, I muttered to them in the graveyard, and the bowl of Astrum leapt up - not like flickered, but roared so big I was afraid I was going to burn. The words somehow made the fire stronger. I did it again on the path to the village yesterday and made a small burning scrap of paper explode.”
Grandpa frowned thoughtfully at this, leaning back in his chair. “Well, that is interesting. You say Astrum leapt up at the words?”
“Yes,” Liam said, thinking of how the humble flame had roared like a lion and shone like the sun. “Brighter than I’ve ever seen Astrum.”
“Well, the words, roughly translated, mean, ‘awaken, heal, and strengthen - I thought I would cover all eventualities. Astrum must have responded and was given power and strength by the words. Your pronunciation was still terrible, no doubt, and nothing besides Astrum would ever have followed, let alone understood, that command, but Astrum is in the habit of listening to you. It has been doing so for generations and will even respond to commands in the King’s Speech. You have special Authority over it, so when it heard your words, it responded. I suppose you were saying those words with better tone than I gave you credit for.”
Liam smiled, despite himself. That sounded close to a compliment. “Why didn’t you wake up the first time I said it? Was I too far away?” Liam asked.
“Yes and no. The command only worked if my flesh heard the trigger words. In both cases that you said the words, both in the storm and the graveyard, my flesh was too far away to hear naturally. But you didn’t say the words the same both times, did you?”
Liam shook his head. “In the graveyard, I absentmindedly muttered them. In the storm, I shouted them with as much force as I could.”
“Exactly, your intent was different. In both cases, I was too far away to hear the words if they were common words, but in the second instance, you said the words with real intent, so they became a command. A command which could pierce through the storm and the walls of the lighthouse and be heard by me, which shook with power and was able to awaken me from my stupor. You used the training you had from giving commands to Astrum and used it on the phrase, changing simple sounds into a Command that would have been heard by my flesh no matter where I was.”
Liam finished the last muffin on the plate and swallowed. “I guess that all makes sense.”
“No, it doesn’t, not for you. But it all will when you study the Old Tongue,” Grandpa said.
1. If you have read chapters 5-7, does this chapter opening help give an emotional break after all the action and danger
2. Does grandpas explanation help clear up some potential confusion created by previous chapters?
3. How do you like the dynamic between the three characters?