The Fallen King
Fifteen-year-old Liam is the new Keeper of the Light after his father's death. He begins to make his way from a visit to his father's grave to his home in the lighthouse. With a storm approaching, and countless unanswered questions, a change feels like it's coming.
(art made by Dall-e 2)
Liam crossed the farmland, passing abandoned silos and barns. He stopped at the treeline and swallowed, taking deep, gulping breaths of the cold air. Looking behind him, he saw the clouds were almost upon the town, making half the sky dark as night. Lownire was pushing back against the shadows with the torches upon the wall, their blue light brighter than any normal fire, and almost impossible to put out.
Yet, all at once, as the wind arrived from the sea, they flickered.
Like an invisible beast, the gust swept through the village, picking up tiles off roofs here and there and making the dots of light waver and dance as the wind passed over them. It rushed through the village and entered the farmland, making the dry grass bow to it as it approached.
Then, it was upon him.
It howled around him, and seemed to collide with him like a solid mass. Liam stumbled back from its force and gasped, tasting the hints of the ocean and ozone it carried. It swept past him and into the forest, making even the mighty trees creak and groan.
In their shaking and cracking, he heard it again.
“He is coming.”
This time though, the thousand voices weren’t muttering it. They were shouting it among the groans and cracks of the branches. But, before they could say more, they were drowned out by the sound of rolling thunder, once more akin to a charging cavalry.
But Liam had never seen a cavalry, no one had since the kingdom fell, and the few times Liam had ever heard the click of a horse’s hoof, it was with terror, not awe.
The wind subsided, like the wave had crashed over him. It was still whistling in his ears, but not nearly as powerfully. Liam stepped forward and faced the storm, dust swirling around his feet and into the forest.
The clouds were being carried quickly on that strong wind, glowing with an eternal flash of purple. The sea below mirrored those clouds, churned up by the water, and reflecting back the flashes.
Smiling, Liam turned and ran into the forest. A part of him wanted to stay there and listen to the storm sing. Listen to it rale against the forest, against light and Darkness.
But staying out in a dark storm is how you get killed, he reminded himself. Other people seemed to understand those things intuitively - other people seemed to know why your bloodline could decide if you were a Keeper or not - other people seemed to know why you should never go past the far horizon - but he never did.
The first drops of rain began to patter through the branches, making his determination to hurry home stronger. He pulled his cloak around himself as tight as he could as the rain started to come down harder, unimpeded by the trees, slung past their branches by the cold wind, which only made it colder.
The drops sizzled as they struck the torch, causing its blue light to flicker concerningly. Liam hurried his step, trying to protect the fire with his body. He scampered up the exposed stones in the path that formed a natural staircase. They, too, were now flowing with water. After only a few steps, his shoes were filled with water, making his toes go cold. He arrived at the flooding creek. It was rushing by, brown and muddy, carrying branches in its foamy swirling. It had risen past its normal bounds and had almost reached the small wooden bridge in the path. Liam ran across the bridge, trying not to slip on its wet smooth surface. As he arrived at the other side, he stopped to catch his breath. The cloak was now heavy with rain, and the water was getting in his eyes.
Suddenly, from behind him, splitting the constant sound of the rain and rushing water, came a cry. It was high pitched like the caw of a raven, but behind the bay was a deep bestial growl. The sounds blended into one terrible cry. One that children had been taught to fear for generations, one that it was his job to hold at bay, and one that pronounced death. The howl of Darkness.
The note was long and sustained and made the cold pierce through Liam’s skin into his heart, sending a shiver up his spine. The storm had chased the sun away, and Darkness had come out to play.
The cry ended, and Liam felt as if freed from a spell. He realized he was holding his breath, and every muscle was tightened. He loosened, looking behind him, but he saw nothing besides the swaying unknown of the forest. Liam held the torch of Astrum closer, feeling its warmth. Its light was his only defense. “Just keep burning, that’s all you have to do,” he muttered to the torch, and as if to comfort him, it flickered brightly.
Turning from the river, he ran, every trace of his exhaustion gone.
Perched on the ocean cliffs high above the barns, trees, and waves, the Lighthouse was where its light could shine upon the entire valley. Taller than any building in Lownire, it slightly tapered until it peaked at the glass-walled last room. From within the glass panels shone the bright blue light of Astrum. A condensed beam of the ever bright light swept around in a circle, making the very air shimmer with blue.
Liam ran across the windswept rocks of the cliffs, glad to be in sight of his home. Liam arrived at the old oak door and fumbled with his keys, his fingers numb from the cold rain.
As he opened the door, thunder crackled above and his cloak blew about him. Liam stumbled inside and closed the door against the whirling storm outside. As soon as he did so, the sounds became distant and muffled.
The circular room, though relatively large, was cluttered. Its center was taken up by a large spiral staircase. Wooden bookshelves were haphazardly thrown up along the stone walls, the books making the space slightly musty. The leather tomes were unorganized, in stacks on some shelves and leaning against strange objects in others.
The kitchen that occupied the far side of the room was messy with dirty pots, pans, and plates, not to mention the half-eaten meals and opened jars of food. Liam always thought cleaning was for tomorrow, and since dad wasn’t here to correct him, tomorrow stayed forever away.
Along the kitchen wall there was a large window that gave a view out onto the cliffs and sea, lit by flashing thunder and the dying light of sunset. By the window, in his usual chair, sat Grandpa, not paying much attention to anything. He never really did.
The two other chairs were pulled up on either side of the large hearth. The fire crackled warmly, staving off the cold outside best it could, and lighting the hearth stones, making the legends carved on them almost dance in the flickering light.
Liam peeled off his wet cloak and threw it at the mantle above the fireplace. Unsurprisingly, it didn’t catch on the corner as he hoped it would and merely slid off with a thud and a metallic clang. Liam turned in surprise to look for the source of the sound, hoping he hadn’t broken anything. On the tile, next to the cloak, lay the blade.
Liam bent over and picked the blade up. He had forgotten it had been on the mantle.
It was a little longer than a dagger but shorter than a proper sword. It had a handle of fine Hickory wrapped in leather. The blade itself was bright silver, almost white. It reflected so much of the firelight it seemed to glow. It was spotless, unfettered, and perfectly sharp. One of the three Lownire blades - the mark of a Keeper. The spell weaved blade was lighter than a bouquet of flowers but stronger than any other blade of men.
He hadn’t held it since the day he had gained the authority of Keeper of the Light. It had been his father’s before his. It had been thrust upon him when he had been given the authority. He took a shuddering breath. Why did you have to die, dad? Why did you have to leave this lighthouse to me? He leaned over, taking the leather scabbard and putting it back over the dagger. He placed the blade back on the mantle. Picking up his cloak, he noticed dirt and dust had stuck to it from the unswept floor.
“Didn’t do any cleaning while I was gone?” Liam asked his grandfather as he laid the cloak out on a chair in front of the fire. The fire was always warm and large. Grandpa did little, but still never forgot to keep the fire going–even in the summer.
“Old habits die hard, I guess,” Liam muttered as he moved the logs around with a metal poker.
“Okay, Grandpa, are you hungry?” Liam asked, dripping over to the kitchen. He looked into his Grandpa’s face as if expecting a change in expression. Grandpa was lined with his eighty years, the wrinkles patterning his forehead and surrounding his eyes. Those eyes were the same gray as Liam’s but unlike Liam’s they were empty of thoughts. Grandpa was small now, bent over and shriveled, like a grape left out in the sun. Grandpa turned to look at Liam, still seeming thoughtless. Liam would have to cook something up for him. He never seemed to care what, but if food was presented, he’d eat.
“Porridge it is!” Liam said, turning on his heel and taking a kettle off the counter. He tried to fill it with a large tank tucked in the corner, but it ran out before he got the desired amount.
“Remind me to get some Lastrios water tomorrow,” Liam said to his Grandpa as he placed the kettle on a holder above the fire.
He stumbled up the stairs to his room on the third floor, getting out of his wet attire and changing into some thick nightclothes. As he did so, he stared out at his small window onto the sea. The sound of the waves, the thunder, and the howling wind could still be heard, but it was more distant. When filtered through the walls, it sounded tamer, almost drowsy.
No creature of Darkness would ever get near the lighthouse. They would never attempt to brave the pure light of Astrum. Even if they did, the solid walls of the lighthouse were stronger than the mountain upon which they were built. Liam turned, slipping a shirt on and stumbling back down the stairs, the sound of the creature nearly being forgotten in the exquisite pleasure of being warm and dry.
In the kitchen, the kettle was now whistling. He took it and placed it on the counter. After measuring some oatmeal in a bowl and honey in a clay cup, he poured the warm water into each. The warm honey water was something Maria had taught him to keep his spirit warm during the cold nights. He placed the jar of honey and bag of oatmeal back on the counter with countless other food containers. They were supposed to be upstairs, but why return them if he would need them again within a day?
The lighthouse stores had been extensive, filling the second floor so full that he could survive weeks inside without needing to leave. He was only supposed to use them in an emergency. In the month since his father had been gone, he’d nearly picked the room clean. He didn’t like shopping in the village then carrying the supplies back up to the Lighthouse.
After drinking his honey water and giving Grandpa his porridge, Liam got to the few chores he kept up with. The rest he ignored, but the genuinely vital ones could not go undone. He climbed up to the storage room, not paying much attention to barrels, boxes, and bags, many of which were near empty. He glanced over at a very dwindled pile of torches. He’d have to make or buy some more soon. Pushing the thought out of his mind, he went over to the rope in the corner, which was dangling through a hole in the ceiling. That rope, after going up through pulleys and over a wheel, attached to the weight. The stone block slowly descended down the hole in the center of the spiral staircase, pulling the gears to make the lens turn around Astrum. This gave it its characteristic flash as the beam revolved around the lighthouse. Once it got near the bottom, he’d have to pull it back up again, so the lighthouse beam would keep spinning.
He took the rope in one hand and began to pull. Normally it would be impossible for him to lift a stone of that weight, but the pulleys made it achievable, if slow.
As he pulled, he let his mind wander. Sometimes he would imagine he was pulling the ropes on the deck of a ship. Later, he would think about the coming spring and what he would do for Mayday. He tried not to think too far past that because then was Samahian, and then the rest of his life, which was all spelled out in terrible certainty.
That day though, he let himself imagine a pleasurable version of the future, one where he found an apprentice and was able to leave the lighthouse to them. He still didn’t know what he would do instead of keep the lighthouse, but he savored the thought of freedom, of leaving the tower behind. Cormac might not understand it, but he didn’t have to because Cormac couldn’t stop him. Liam enjoyed the idea of leaving so much he barely noticed his arms beginning to burn as he pulled.
After an hour, he was sweating, but the job was done. He caught his breath and climbed the many stairs of the lighthouse until he reached their peak. The stairs stopped at a small but tall wooden room with a couple of tools and unorganized bottles scattered about. Dangling near the ceiling was just now lifted stone block, attached by rope to the mechanisms in the room above. It was already slowly beginning to make its way down. After a couple of days, it would be near the bottom again, and he would once again have to pull it all the way back up. Liam took a bottle of whale oil, trying not to think about the weight and how many more times he’d have to lift it back up. He then climbed a ladder up one wall into the gear room.
Instead of the spiral staircase, the center of the room was taken up by a pillar of gears and wheels, each one interlocking complexly. The system pulled and propelled by the slowly falling weight.
Engineering like that had been lost when the kingdom fell, but the Old One had designed and built the lighthouse. Liam oiled the mechanism and checked to make sure it was working. A task he’d done countless times. When he discovered everything was in order, he climbed the last ladder to the top room.
1. How do you like the descriptions in this chapter? (the storm, the lighthouse, and the howl.) Evocative?
2. What feelings are you getting from Liam about him being Keeper of the Light?
3. Am I taking things to slow and making them boring? Or too fast and rushing it?
Part two of chapter three: https://www.youngwriterssociety.com/work.php?id=1...