The Fallen King
After his father's death, Liam inherits the title of Keepership to help lead the small village of Lownire. Feeling trapped and inadequate, 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 Grandpa 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. In part one, Liam talked with his Grandfather, who merely gives him chores. In Part Two, Liam feels unworthy to bear the Lownire blade, the sign of his Keepership. In Part Three, he encounters a cow, Ahab, who is trapped in a small pen by a small rope going through a ring in his nose. In Part Four, he goes shopping and is asked questions by everyone in the village because he is a Keeper, but he is unable to answer them. In part five, he argues with his friends about whether the world is too dangerous and corrupted to merit celebration, and in part six, he goes to a meeting with the other Keepers, where he is disruptful yet ignored. Now, he is bringing back his supplies to the village with the help of Cormac, his cousin, and Gwen, his childhood sweetheart.
“I’m going to buy a donkey,” Liam growled as he pushed against the wheelbarrow with his shoulder, trying to get the wheel out of a groove. Gwen was holding the torch so Cormac and Liam could deal with the wheelbarrow without having to worry about getting burned.
Who from?” Cormac asked as he attempted to lift the front. The wheelbarrow was more full than Liam had expected. In fact, going up the mountain was difficult in more ways than one.
“I don’t know. Somebody must have an extra donkey around here,” Liam said. Suddenly, Liam’s footing slid on some loose moss, and the heavy wheelbarrow slipped.
Like an angry bull, it threw both Liam and Cormac to the ground. Its contents spilled onto the hill, some of it rolling off the path and into the forest and boulders.
“Or maybe, you shouldn’t have waited two months to resupply,” Gwen said as she stopped the Lastrios barrel before it could roll all the way back down the hill.
Cormac stood up and wiped his hands off on his pants. He surveyed the spillage and then started picking it up. Cormac wasn’t a man to cry over a spilled wheelbarrow. “So you’re Grandpa’s really completely back? Like he’s not even a little… strange?”
Liam had excitedly explained the whole situation to Cormac and Gwen on the way up. They were extremely interested and stunned, and Liam found it relieving to discuss it with someone who found it as interesting as he did.
“His mind is now sharp as a blade. Though he’s definitely strange,” Liam said as he set the wheelbarrow back on its legs.
“I would hope that the other Keeper’s already know about him and the Shadow,” Gwen said, placing the barrel back in the wheelbarrow.
Liam nodded, picking up a large wrapped leg of dried meat. “Yeah, I delivered a letter from him to them, so they know everything you do. Though I have no idea how they would prepare or do anything about it.”
“What even is the Shadow?” Cormac asked.
Liam stopped and leaned on the wheelbarrow with a shrug. “You think Grandpa told me? I barely even know how he’s talking. He just yelled at me a bit for being a slob and said the shadow was bad. All I know is that it will put the lighthouse out and that it’s coming.”
“I bet it will be the Austermen,” Cormac said darkly. He slammed a heavy bag of flour into the wheelbarrow. “I bet they’ll come in their evil ships, attack the lighthouse, break down the door, and steal the light.”
Gwen frowned thoughtfully. “Even the Austermen know that taking the light wouldn’t do them any good. I doubt they’d do it.”
The wind whistled through the trees, making all of their noses cold. “There’s some stuff that rolled all the way down there,” Cormac said, pointing nervously down the hill and into the woods.
“I’ll get it,” Liam volunteered. He liked opportunities to go off the path. The other two exchanged a glance, but Liam took Gwen’s torch and began to pick up items scattered over the hillside, the sounds of the other two talking growing more distant with each item gathered.
Liam spotted the last item, a jar of honey, lying wedged between two rocks just on the edge of the tree line. He nervously scanned the trees but saw no movement. He stepped into their shadow and knelt down, reaching for the jar. He froze, hand inches away. He knew he was being watched. His skin pricked, and he sensed something large on the edge of his vision, deeper in the forest, unseen before his eyes had adjusted to the shadow. Liam looked up quickly, his blood filling with energy as he prepared to face another creature of Darkness.
For a moment, in the patchy light under the tree branches, his eyes could have mistaken the shape for the stallion, but his heart couldn’t have. The stallion had breathed fear into his chest and longing into his mind, but this thing was just quiet, like the stones.
It stood still, so perfectly still he wondered if it was one of the trees - no, it was even more still than them. Their branches danced in the wind, but this didn’t even quiver. It was as if it had stood there since the foundations of time, and the forest had grown around it. The creature was tall and horned, like the elks he’d read about, but it was larger than even they. It was larger than any animal he’d ever seen; he couldn’t have touched its back even if he’d stretched. Its horns were as wide as a man was tall, were stained with green moss, and had plant stalks hanging from them, adding to the feeling that the forest had grown around it.
It was nothing like the stallion. The stallion had been a force of death, so deeply connected to Liam and his mortality that it was terribly real. This was majestically removed from him and his mortality, almost as if a creature out of another age had come to greet him.
Its fur was long and golden brown, especially thick down the front neck and chest, and looked more solid than normal fur like it might be able to stop an arrow. Its horns weren’t sharp like the stallions had been, coming up into four rounded points.
It was watching him with its forest-brown eyes. The eyes were not threatening or scared, merely observing. Almost human in their curiosity.
Liam watched it too. Neither was a threat to the other, no earthly weapons could hurt this beast, and it would hurt no creature of earth. It was a beautiful animal, wild and unclaimed by The Beast. Though it was quiet and almost gentle at that moment, it was powerful. Its power was older than the organizations of man, older than The Beast, so it did not have to bow to either.
“Liam?” Cormac shouted.
Liam looked back at his cousin, who was looking after him, searching the brush with his eyes. “Sorry, I’ll be back in a second!” Liam shouted back. He turned back to look at the stag, only to see its bounding legs disappearing through the trees. He watched it go, amazed by its grace, despite its size. After a moment, it was gone, completely out of sight.
Liam sighed and climbed back up the hill, feeling a strange sense of loss. It was as if he had forgotten something interesting when the stag left.
Soon the group arrived at what Liam regarded as the true enemy of this hike, the stone steps. There were only a couple hundred paces of them before the lighthouse, but a couple hundred became nearly infinite when you had a wheelbarrow to lift.
“Well, this will be fun to watch,” Gwen said as Cormac or Liam approached the steps. Neither wanted to waste energy on a reply and instead began lifting.
Gwen was soon proved right. Each large stone step was nearly a quarter of Liam’s height, made out of the natural boulders of the mountain. For each one, Liam would take the front of the wheelbarrow and Cormac the back, and then, sweating, puffing, and grunting, they would lift it up a single step, rest, and then do it again. After only a couple steps, cloaks were removed, and the two began to be grateful for the cold winter wind.
Their progress was slow, and by the time they reached the last of the steps, Liam guessed the sun was only an hour from the horizon. He could tell that made Gwen and Cormac nervous. He didn’t blame them; he’d been struck on this path only days before.
Luckily for them, they soon broke out of the trees and onto the cliffs. The cliffs, treeless and rough, jutted out over the ocean; they were the last arms of the valley’s mountains before they were claimed by the sea.
Cormac excitedly pushed on, seeming to have a burst of energy now that they were close to the final destination. Liam, on the other hand, felt his limbs grow heavy. Returning to the lighthouse, not to leave it substantially for possibly months. When the wheelbarrow got stuck in a rivet, he was glad for the excuse to stop and rest for a moment, leaning on the wheelbarrow as he stared out at the view below.
“It’s beautiful,” Gwen breathed quietly. Liam supposed she was right. He had grown up with it, but she’d never seen it.
From up here, on the cliffs, so much was visible. The lighthouse, standing high and tall, perched at the edge of the valley, had a view of everything - from the high mountain tops to the valley below - from Lownire on its little peninsula to the ocean horizon, long and thin.
The horizon had been visible from his window since he’d been born, but he’d never seen past. Maybe that was why Gwen and everyone down in the village didn’t feel the same pull to it he did. They lived low down in the village, surrounded by buildings and people that seemed big because of perspective, but because Liam lived in the lighthouse every day, up high above, he was forced to view the reality that Lownire was a tiny little village in a large coastal valley, which itself was a small little gorge in huge mountains and a vast sea.
Liam’s horizon was farther than the others, and no one in Lownire had ever seen past it.
Uncle Hadrian had.
He had never returned. He had left nine years ago, May Day. Even at the age of six, Liam had understood that people distrusted him for leaving, that they feared for him, and that they thought he’d never return.
And he never had.
Nobody who left Lownire ever returned.
The pen was safe; it had food, it had shelter, and it had a herd.
The pen was cramped, full of flies and filth.
The horizon held a promise of more; it held the promise of everything terrible and everything great. Nothing called to Liam more than that horizon.
Yet, in his nose was a ring - his promise to Arwen. Grandpa had looped a thin rope through that ring and tied him to the tower. It was a thin rope, weaved out of strings like the Keepership, the promise of the Old Tongue, and the fear of the shadow. All strings that wouldn’t have held him down if it weren’t for the ring. So instead, Liam merely tugged, the ring in his nose holding him in painful tension.
What would happen if he did break that thin rope? Would he be like the elk, free and majestic? Or would he be like Ahab and injure those around him, eventually being culled himself for the good of the herd?
Was he a cattle who had forgotten his place or an elk incorrectly placed among the cattle?
“Liam, what are you looking at?” Cormac asked him, noticing the break had gone on for longer than before.
Liam turned and looked at Cormac. The beam of the lighthouse swept the path and drew his attention to the tall lighthouse, where his thin rope led.
1. Does this end bit make all the seemingly disparate sections of this chapter come together?
2. Are the metaphors and thoughts forced and on the nose? (hehe)
3. If you have read other chapters, does chapter eight fit with the style of previous chapters and feel like a natural next step from chapter seven?
Thanks if you read all of chapter eight, it was a beast!