part three of chapter eight: https://www.youngwriterssociety.com/work/MaybeAnd...
The Fallen King
Liam is headed back from Lownire with his friends Gwen and Cormac, still trying to sort out how he feels about being an apprentice again.
Soon the group arrived at what Liam regarded as the true enemy of this hike, the stone steps.
“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, sweating, puffing, and grunting, Liam would take the front of the wheelbarrow and Cormac the back, and then 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.
Eventually, they collapsed on a particularly large stone platform. It stood above the sea at a bend in the path. The wind blew off the sea and crashed waves against the jagged cliffs below. Distantly, the village was visible on its little peninsula.
Gwen sat down next to the two young men and stared out at the village. “I meant to ask, how’d the meeting go?”
Liam looked up at her and swallowed, “Good, pretty good. They do all the work for me. I don’t really need to be there.”
Gwen raised an eyebrow, “What do you mean?”
“I mean, all the things I say or suggest are either useless, so stupidly obvious someone would have already thought of them, or too original and unconventional for them even to consider.”
“Have you ever considered that maybe they will need your unconventional ideas, eventually?”
Liam shrugged, “Well, I’d be glad to come to the meeting where they do, but in the meantime, I’d rather not waste all of our time.”
Cormac said up and took a long swig of his waterskin and then passed it to Liam, who did likewise. “What was the meeting about?”
“Food shortage mostly. The storm destroyed three fishing ships, and without them, our winter supplies will be stretched thin. It’s not like I was going to change anything, Hugh and Sitric would debate a bit, and in the end, they’d decide that using the watch during the day to build ships would be a good solution, along with asking some people to give up less important work to become fishermen.”
“What was your idea?” Gwen asked.
Liam felt his face color a bit. His friends would probably see even more holes in it than he did. “It was silly really, but I thought maybe we could water gardens with some less diluted Lastrios water and then use pure fresh Astrum torches to light them. That way, the gardens would bloom like it was spring, and we could get some more fruit. They didn’t like it, though, Sitric said the torches were needed for the wall, and Hugh said that the only plants that could be watered by pure Lasrios were the flowers.”
They both paused, and Liam braced himself for his friends to point out more flaws with this plan.
“Well, I think it’s still a pretty good idea,” Cormac said as he finished off the last of the waterskin. “I wouldn’t mind strawberries in winter.”
“And there is a difference between more Lastrios and pure Lastrios,” Gwen added.
Liam smiled, “Thanks, maybe you could tell your parents that.”
Cormac looked away, and Gwen pursed her lips.
“Thought so,” Liam said with a laugh.
“Sorry,” Cormac said, “I like the idea, but not enough to try challenging my dad.”
They all looked out at the ocean for a moment and the water foaming around the rocks and cliffs below. “Don’t you ever want to take a boat and see what’s past that horizon? Escape all this. See more than this little valley?” Liam said exasperatedly.
“Sometimes I want to go out there, find the Austermen, and take all our stuff back,” Cormac said, grabbing the air and making a fist like all the town’s stolen treasures were just hanging in front of him.
“No, but do more than that. Not to come back, but to find… more.”
“Not to come back?” Cormac said, dumbfounded, “Where would you go?”
Liam gestured out with his arms in front of him. “Everywhere. Become a merchant. That’s what my uncle did. He left to see it all.”
Cormac looked at his friend in horror, “But you’d die. That’s why he never….” He paused and thought better of it. But Liam finished the sentence in his head anyway.
Everyone else thought his uncle was dead, but Liam didn’t quite believe it. Why would he leave if he didn’t know of a way to survive?
“It’s dangerous. Anyone who lives outside Lownire lives in constant fear of the Darkness.” Cormac said instead.
“And we don’t here?” Liam challenged.
“For the sake of argument, say you did leave. Where would you want to go? You can’t see everywhere all at once, so where do you go first?” Gwen asked.
“Well, there’s Somptura. That’s where we trade our silk. I’ve heard that the city is actually bigger than Lownire.”
“But ravaged with disease,” Cormac added.
“And there are the lost villages,” Liam said.
“Who are plundered by Austermen.” Cormac continued
“And I once heard about a city inside a mountain.”
“Old wives tale,” Cormac said.
“Well, maybe that one is, but all the stories Arwen told me were full of places. They didn’t just go away when the kingdom fell.”
“If it was so great out there, then why do people run from all of those places and flee to the walls of Lownire?” Cormac asked, “My mother’s grandmother was from Somptura but fled to here.”
“If it is so great here, why don’t we ever try to help the other villages? If the stories are true, thousands from the lost villages are taken by the Darkness every year because they don’t have Lastrios or Astrum to heal them. Where did the Old One go when he left here? Maybe there are solutions out there, solutions to more than just our villages’ problems.”
“Without this village or its Keepers, my brother would have died a couple of days ago. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else,” Gwen said. “My family is here, my friends are here, I have books and the teachings of the Old One. True, it’s not perfect, but better than anything I’ve heard of yet.”
“Aren’t you tired of all the waiting? Lownire is safe, but not as safe as it could be, and it’s not getting safer. It’s just one little village. Every summer, we have to save up our food for winter, and every winter, it’s barely enough. There are attacks on the village from Darkness or Austermen, and people die. This will happen every year for the rest of history. Even as a Keeper, all I can do is worry about this little village and how we’ll make it to next spring, and then next winter, I’ll have to worry about making it to spring again, and again, and again. It’s so much to worry about, so little to hope for.”
“But now that you have to wait for the shadow, you don’t want to leave anymore, right?”
Liam looked out at the village, thinking back about the market street. “It’s strange everyone is so happy down there. We had four funerals yesterday, and the village was plunged in darkness, but today, so many people were in the streets being so bright, like none of that ever happened.”
Gwen joined him in looking over at the village, “No, it’s because that happened that it’s so bright. Those men did not die, so we could be somber. They died so Lownire could be filled with life. Lownire is bright because everything else is dark, not in spite of it. But because of it.”
They sat in silence for a while longer, listening to the waves. After a moment of thought, Liam sighed and turned to look at his cousin. “All I know, Cormac, is that if I leave the village, you and Gwen and little baby Saoirse and everyone out down are put in more danger. I’m not willing to take that risk. Maybe once I’ve brought the light back or trained an apprentice who can be better than me, I’ll leave, follow my uncle to wherever he went, but for now, I’m trapped.”
Cormac nodded slowly as if he didn’t quite understand but was trying. “
The rest of the hike was difficult, but Liam was glad to do it in the company of friends. When they arrived at the lighthouse, Grandpa was glad to see that Liam had barely forgotten anything, and Matt was glad to see anyone besides Grandpa. They all chatted livelily and talked for a bit before Cormac noticed that the sun was getting uncomfortably close to the horizon. Gwen and Cormac were given their torches and sent on their way.
Liam sat back, ready to have a dinner of new food and enjoy a quiet evening after the long day. Suddenly, a large book was slammed down on his lap, and he took in a gasping breath in pain.
“While I cook, start on William Lakin’s, Birdsong and Squirrel talk. Once you read that, Tree rings, sap, and roots by Loremaster Dorkis, which would naturally be followed up with The Stones of Potestatem by Samual Craige.”
Liam realized with his Grandpa around, he wouldn’t be having a quiet evening for a long time. He didn’t mind too much, though. He’d had too many quiet evenings the past couple of months.
1. Is Liam's internal conflict about duty still evident?
2. Does the mention of Liam's uncle leaving feel forced?
3. Do you like these questions?