Part one of chapter three: https://www.youngwriterssociety.com/work/MaybeAndr...
The Fallen King
Liam comes returns home from the raging storm, does his chores, and hates that he has to live in a lighthouse. He ascends to the last floor to check on the light
With walls of glass paneling and a door out onto a platform, the lighthouse had the best view of the valley. The lighthouse peak was the highest point in Lownire, barring the crumbling towers of the dark castle or the distant mountain peaks that held the valley in like a bowl. Much of the room was taken up by a huge lens. The complexly blown glass, like the gears, was created by the hands of the Old One. The oblong disk of glass sparkled as it turned around the fire. The light refracted off the complex layers and then shot out in a beam of light that swept over the ocean, the city, the mountains, and then back to the ocean.
Burning in a marble bowl was the blue fire of Astrum. Similar to that of the one at the graveyard, the bowl was carved by the old one out of white marble, but this one was big enough to bathe in.
Shallow and perfectly circular, it came up to his waist. Much of the wood atop it had been burning for decades, but the pyre was almost as tall as Liam.
The closer to the center, the older the wood. The oldest pieces had been reduced to shining coals, looking almost like smooth river stones in the sunlight or gems that glowed with their own internal light. Tradition would have him add another bundle of wood at the Winter and Summer solstice, but besides that, the fire burned with little intervention.
In the center of the pyre was the Heart of Astrum. Surrounded by flames and wood, it could only be seen in the gaps of the coals. Where its light shone through it was almost blinding. It was as if a sliver of the sun or the core of a bolt of lightning as it struck had been captured in stone. A stone of pure blue light.
Being a Keeper of the Light, Liam couldn’t be blinded by the light of Astrum, nor could the fire burn him. Before being the Keeper, he had been burned countless times in his carelessness, with a torch or something else, but he had always understood intuitively never to look at the Heart of Astrum.
Liam still had never looked at it, and even now, his eyes avoided it. The light felt… piercing. Like it was shining through him, into him. It was seeing him, in all his smallness, fear, and confusion. Being in the room with it for too long made him feel weak, or at the very least, reminded him of the weakness he always had. He didn’t want to give that light a more direct window into his mind than needed. To look at it would let it look at him, and possibly form all the more permanent of a chain between them. Another thing he hoped he could leave behind.
To avoid its gaze, he turned to look out at the sea. The pyre’s light lit the drops of rain around the lighthouse, and the lightning would occasionally give a brief snapshot of the clouds, but what allowed him to see best was when the lighthouse beam swept over the cliffs and sea. At that moment, he could see everything as bright as noonday. The wind and waves changed so much between the brief moments of light that it was like looking at a different world when the light came back. This section of the sea, previously mountains, was now low. That deep valley cast high into the sky after crashing against a rock. A boulder that had been visible would then be plunged beneath their churning depths, and a new cliff revealed in the parting curtain of rain.
The lighthouse kept sailors away from the dangerous, difficult-to-navigate cliffs and directed them home, but it did a more important job when night came, and the sailors returned home. The lighthouse held back the tide of Darkness, held back the Shadows ever pressing in for more. Held back the Corruption ever hungering to snuff out the light of Lownire and settle in the valley permanently. The sweeping beam of the lighthouse was a deft blade in the Corruptions maw, holding it at bay.
At least Liam hoped that’s all it was doing tonight. He hoped there were no sailors in need of guidance out there in the waves. His eyes greedily searched the rolling hills of water, looking for three small flashes. Each ship carried a lantern, and they would flash it three times if they required saving. It was his job to take a boat out into that water and rescue them from the peril of the sea. He stared out, the feeling of fear rising as he watched monstrous waves. But the fear had an undertone, the undertone Liam had never understood.
Ever since he was a boy, he had wanted to climb down the cliff to the ship moored at its base and navigate those impossible rocks. He had always wanted to see the three quick flashes that told him he had to brave that water.
But that night, there was only the flashing of lightning among those waves.
He sighed, both in relief and disappointment, and turned to make his way back to the first floor.
In the meantime, Grandpa had eaten his porridge and was now staring wide-eyed into the fire. As he had done the day before, and the day before that, and all the way back to when Liam was just entering training.
Liam led Grandpa up to his bed and let him lie down to sleep. He closed his eyes and in a moment, was snoozing contently. Though covered in countless lines and gnarled like an old root, he was in perfect health. His hair was still thick, a shimmering gray, and he was only missing a few teeth.
Besides his mind, Grandpa exhibited no signs of illness. It was strange, Grandpa hadn’t slowly faded away either, one day he had just snapped, and his mind had been gone, leaving behind only an empty, all be it healthy, shell of a man.
“Are you going to outlive me too, old man?” Liam asked quietly. “Are you going to see the next generation wake up and do the same things every day until the darkness finds them, or until they too break down into quiet insanity?”
His grandfather didn’t respond, “Or maybe you’ll die soon, and then I’ll be all alone up here.”
Liam paused, “Won’t change much. You never respond anyway.”
Liam blew out the one remaining candle and walked over to his bed, not needing light to navigate the bedroom that had been his since birth. He lay down, trying not to think that he would awake the next morning to the same set of problems. Dawn would come, and none of his questions would be answered.
Liam fell asleep, trying to hope for a future where he could leave it all behind.
But he was wrong, wrong about most of everything. To start, he didn’t wake up the next morning. He awoke three hours before dawn.
He gasped in a breath, the last crackles of an impossibly loud boom still rang in his ears. Thunder so loud he felt like it might have shattered the cliffs.
As the ringing in Liam’s ears faded, Grandpa made a sound for the first time in a long time. It was an incomprehensible wailing - but it was a sound nonetheless.
Liam stood up, his heart pounding. Grandpa’s screaming was not exactly comforting, nor did it abate. He continued to let continuous screams from a long-unused throat and mouth. The sound was deep, using the full force of the old man’s breath to make his throat cry out and Liam’s brain rattle.
Liam stumbled over to the window and looked out. The storm, if it had been angry before, was now in a wild rage. He could hear the wind howling so loud he thought half the forest must have been knocked over, the rain sounded like a waterfall, and the thunder had been loud enough to shatter stone. In the distance was a little island of light, Lownire. The little ring of light made of blue dots showed where the city was in the swirling dark.
Liam looked back at Grandpa, who was still wailing. Why was he doing that? Storms had never worried him in the past before. Something was wrong, Liam could feel it. The thunder had awakened him, but he had been sleeping poorly already. Storms weren’t like this - even the worst summer sea typhoons weren’t like this. Thunder crackled outside once more, a low growl, almost sounding like there were words in it. This storm didn’t just seem powerful, but alive, even purposeful.
Liam turned and ran down the stairs, frantically. He had to figure out what was going on. He ran through the second floor and continued on to the first. Barfoot, he arrived on the cold stones of the first floor. The room was lit by the low coals of the hearth, giving the room an eerie red glow.
A deafening crack and a flash announced lightning had struck nearby, maybe just on the cliffs outside. He knew it was irrational, but he felt like the storm was trying to knock the lighthouse over. Laim started towards the door, and then stopped. What was he doing? Was he planning on going outside? Out there it was dark, out there were the creatures he’d heard on his walk up to the lighthouse, the creatures that had killed his father.
Out there was everyone in Lownire. Cormac, Gwen, Aunt Maria, little tommy. The storm was doing something, and he had to know what.
Liam pulled up the latch on the door, and turned the lock. The door burst open like it had been hit by a battering ram. Liam was flung onto the ground knocked down by the sheer force of it. The wind that had thrown the door open wailed into the room, carrying with it rain and the cold of outside. The little fire behind shrunk even smaller into its citadels of coals. The beam of the lighthouse swept around, illuminating the land outside. The trees danced, like a whole ballroom of spinning, turning, bowing fiends. The sky above churned, and the ocean tossed.
The beam swept away, leaving the outside a dim cohort of shapes, lit only by the everpresent internal cracklings of lightning in the clouds above. The rain was like a veil between him and the outside, so thick it made everything shadow on shadow, only distinct from each other by their varying levels of darkness. The landscape was haphazardly painted in dark oil paints, made of browns and blues and grays so dark they were nearly black.
Liam stood up and stumbled out, his bare feet splashing in the deep puddles below. A wave struck the cliff, shaking the ground beneath him. The beam of light above swept back around in time to illuminate the wall of water that had been thrown up by the epic waves' terrible collision with stone cliffs. The wall stood there for a moment, sparkling in the blue light. Then, it crashed down, soaking any part of him that wasn’t wet yet, and filling his mouth with the taste of salt. Liam stumbled back, and gasped in surprise and at the cold of the water. Waves had never actually sent anything more than droplets of spray over the cliffs. They were hundreds of feet tall and had always protected the lighthouse from even the most terrible of storms. Liam stumbled forward as another wave struck the cliffs, this one smaller. If they were doing this to the cliffs, what was happening to the city?
Lightning shot down, like a great bolt from a ballista perched in the sky, and struck only paces away. The sound was deafening, and the light blinding. Liam fell from the sheer force of it, and tried to blink away the light. After a couple of moments, he’d recovered. The beam swept back around, showing that the entire valley was held in by this storm, an oppressive roof of clouds holding out any sliver of light from the heavens. Yet, the force of this entire storm seemed focused on the lighthouse, its wind coming from all directions, its lightning striking ever nearer and nearer, and its largest waves finding the lighthouse cliffs.
The beam left again, and Liam stumbled through the darkness towards the edge of the cliffs; he didn’t need to see to navigate these well known stones. He blinked away rain and sea water as another wave struck, he was only paces from the edge.
The beam swept back around, to show the sea, awakened in its rage, sending waves like charging ranks of armies crashing into the stone cliffs, and being thrown high by their momentum, letting sea water crash down on Liam's own head.
The light swept away again, leaving the valley in Darkness. Liam squinted, searching the darkness for the little coastal village, almost half fearing to find it entirely underwater. Yet, despite the storm, there it stood. Lownire, its wall lined with blue fire, keeping back the Darkness like water keeps back oil. Each dot was like a little star, defiant against the raging storm and inky darkness. But Liam’s relief was short lived, because he stood there, he saw one wink out. Then another. Then another. To his horror, Liam realized these were not the first to go out. The wall should have had a line of evenly spaced light, but there were large gaps in the ring of light.
The lighthouse beam swept back around, showing Liam how dangerously close he was to the edge of the cliffs, but he did not care. He stumbled deeper into the storm and closer to the edge, trying to get a better view. The light left him, but that was all the better to see the lighthouse. It seemed almost all the lights on the seaward side of the city was gone. Were the waves topping the wall? Was the city now flooding?
The light of Astrum swept over him once more, illuminating the shimmering ground beneath him with that strange blue light that showed more than could normally be seen. This time, the light seemed to shine through him and catch onto a memory. Suddenly, lit by that blue light, he saw something more than the storm whirling around him.
Father grabbed him, and pulled him close, impossibly strong for his thin frame. His breath smelled like rot, his eyes misty, but he held Liam's shirt with determination.
The light left, leaving Liam in darkness, the vision of his memory abating for a moment. Liam blinked, confused, but the dark cliffs were the same as they’d been before.
It had been the middle of the night. He had been awakened by his father's cry for him. He had come to the edge of the bed.
The light swept back over him, once more showing him more than the cliffs around.
“Liam,” His father had gasped like it was a battle to get the words out. “Promise me!”
Another wave struck the cliff as the beam swept around, leaving him. His father had insisted, nearly mad, that Liam ‘promise him.’ Liam, almost terrified, had begged to know what he needed him to promise.
The beam illuminated around him once more.
“Say the ancient words of power,” Father had gasped, “When the Light is snuffed out.”
He stared out at the village and its few remaining points of light. Another winked out. The blue fire of Astrum didn’t go out easily, but now he was watching as, one by one, the storm snuffed out the lights of the city wall, each one winking and disappearing.
The beam swept back over Liam.
“What words?” Liam had begged, tears swimming in his eyes.
Father pulled him closer and whispered them in his ear, his voice momentarily becoming as clear as Lasrios. Three simple words, words that he didn’t understand but he knew weren’t meaningless. Words that crackled with power and smelled of the forest and the mountains.
The light left, leaving the afterimage of the memory in his mind clearer than it had ever been, even when he’d experienced it. The traditions spoke of visions given to the Keeper of the Light by Astrum. He’d never experienced one. He almost hadn’t wanted to. Even now, he almost didn’t want to listen and didn't want to bow to the words of that fire.
Liam stepped forward to the edge of the cliffs, only one step away from falling into the ocean beneath. But Liam had made a promise, and Liam didn’t break promises.
Without the light, the village would be under siege by the terrible monsters of darkness, the same that had killed his father. If the storm put out all of the lights, they would be overwhelmed.
Liam took a deep breath, and the light swept over him once more, illuminating him, standing there against the storm.
“Legus Thu Hume!” He shouted with all the authority and power he could muster. The words cracked with more power than the lightning and shook the very souls of the world, not just their physical form. They hung in the air for a moment, with more power than anything than had been said in centuries.
The storm raged on like he had merely spit in its face. Another fire winked out on the wall. He looked around, at the lighthouse, at the wall, and then at the sky above. Nothing?! The words felt so powerful, so different! They had even made the fire burst up earlier that day. But now, they did nothing?
He realized his father had been delirious. The words meant nothing. He fell to his knees and closed his eyes, tears mingling with rain. The lighthouse beam began to sweep, but it showed him nothing more. Of course it had done nothing, of course what he had seen in the Astrum meant nothing. Liam was alone, unable to help the village. He was trapped, chained to this lighthouse, and yet still unable to do anything with the power it gave him. It had never meant any-
A sharp crack of pain awakened him from the stupor.
Someone had whacked him on the head. “You idiot!” An old haggard voice shouted above the storm. The staff hit him again. “You absolute nincompoop.” The voice added. “You unthinking childish son of an iron skull.” The voice continued.
Liam turned, dumbfounded, to look up at the figure bent over in the rain.
“What?” Liam stammered, putting his hands above his head to block further blows.
“You will say, ‘what, sir!'” The figure corrected, “Did your father not treat you how to respect your own grandfather?” The man said, pulling Liam to his feet.
The Light swept around and illuminated the man. Liam stared down at Grandpa, mouth hanging open. He had to make sure it was him. It was the same face, normally so dull and empty, but now curved in frustration, eyebrows furrowed. The same gray eyes that he had used to stare out the window for hours, but now glistening with sharp wit. Even the same voice, but one he had not heard for years.
“Don’t just stare at me like I’m some confounded spirit! Get inside before this wind sweeps you away, you halfwit.”
1. Is the restless loneliness well communicated?
2. What do you think of Liam's vision in the beams of light? Does it seem out of place/confusing?
3. How is the reveal done at the end?