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Short Story Competition - Alyriel


Alyriel
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Contest link:  http://community.crowfall.com/index.php?/topic/13363-the-most-awesom-crowfall-compititon-in-the-histori-of-the-wurld/

 

 

Survival

 

 

That voice again.  
 
cold cold
 
Sitting here now, in my small cabin at the foot of the mountain, with the fire beside me, I am warm.  Through the window the last light of a brilliant sunset streams in, warming my outstretched arms as I write.  The shafts of light pass through the flask on my table, some combined effect of the glass and potion it contains, my salvation,  sending a prismatic stream of color against the far wall.
 
The voice had begun softly, quietly, just after incarnating on Keshet, the world of rainbows.  Such a beautiful world.  A scent like springtime, promising peace and solitude.  I remember thinking I should have felt sad that it was doomed.  I didn’t though:  I had seen it happen too many times before.  The voice had sounded sad though, in my head.  
 
I’d never experienced or even heard of our vessels talking to us, perhaps retaining some sense of self from before we possessed them.  This one did.
 
As soon as I’d opened my vessel’s eyes, my eyes, for the first time, I’d heard it.
 
cold im cold
 
Awakening in the forest clearing, nearly blinded by the horizontal rays of the setting sun, I’d felt warm, so I had dismissed the voice as a stray thought of my own.  Incarnating always leaves you feeling out of sorts at first.  Strange thoughts are common. This time, I had the feeling all the trees, from the centuries old behemoth growing alone in the center of the clearing, to its smallest sisters ringing it round, shared some secret.
 
Its winter in my lands at home, but a normal winter, not the kind that brings the ultimate fulfilment of the Hunger.  I can look up through cold air, to the highest slope of Etrus and my mountain top citadel, built from the bodies and spoils of dead worlds.  I rarely visit it any more.   Too many memories of too much death and destruction.
 
im cold
 
Keshet too was gone now, another world added to our count.  We heroes of the gods.
 
I remember the last day of Keshet.  I wasn’t with the others at the siege, the final victory to claim the greatest treasures before the world was consumed.  I had an errand of my own.  The chance to accomplish something I’d promised myself.  It was sunset then, also.  And the voice was there.
 
 
 
so cold  and blood and blood
 
My boots crunched over frozen ruts as I approached the cabin of this man who might hold the final piece in my plan.  I had only rumors gathered over the course of the seasons, painstakingly assembled together into something that might just be truth.  Then I saw him, shifting bales of hay into his small barn.
 
Prompted by some instinct, he turned.  Saw me.  He knew me for what I was, and charged.  This mundane human who should have trembled at the thought of being in my presence, given unreasoning courage by the sure knowledge of his world’s destruction and his own imminent death.
 
My foot slipped on the ice as I braced myself.  And then that damned voice in my head again, distracting me.  The man thrust his pitchfork up at my face, but my slip sent me tumbling.  I fell back and watched the pitchfork pass over my head.  I was fascinated by the tines, all rusted over.  What kind of farmer let his tools rust and degrade to such an extent?  
 
so cold  hes dead  am I dead
 
Even with the end of their world looming ever closer, most humans struggled to complete their familiar daily rituals.  As if clinging to the commonplace could save them.  It couldn’t.  Nothing could save them.  
 
I used to wonder, back before the banality of it all had drained me of empathy and left me jaded, I wondered if the gods themselves would stop this endless destruction if they could.  Perhaps some of them, two or three, would have, back in the beginning.   Maybe.  But now I believe they’ve all become consumed by the endless quest for power and resources, anything that could lift them above their peers.
 
I landed on the ground.  The farmer off balance, falling toward me. 
 
it hurts.  why am I so cold.  why all the death
 
As he fell, I pulled the dagger from my boot top just below my knee.  It was long, and a good one.  Telchar had forged it for me when we first reached this world.  He knew his work; he was one of the best.  Shame to sully it with the blood of this nobody farmer who’d be dead soon enough anyway.   
 
The farmer knew it; I could see his knowledge of his own death in his eyes.  I judged his fall, snaked my dagger between his ribs, quickly in and out, then pushed him up and back with my legs.  He flew ten feet and landed with a thump on the ground, already dead.
 
Someone laughed then, and gave a slow mocking clap.  I rolled up onto my feet and leapt back away from the sound.  I landed poised to attack, already fitting an arrow to my bowstring.  
 
“Ah, dearest Sharrow,” he said, stepping out from behind a tree.  “She who alone destroyed the Tarsid Dynasty, assassinating the Emperor Dravis and so artfully implicating the First Families.  Laughing as civil war convulsed a peaceful country.  A glorious tribute to our Trickster god.”
 
“That was years and worlds ago,” I said emotionlessly.
 
“And now, nearly brought low by a sickly old farmer.  Sometimes I despair of you, my dear.  Sometimes I truly do.”
 
I should have expected Seth.  Most favored of the god we both served.  Recently I couldn’t go anywhere without him showing up. I had a clear shot though, and I’ve always hated wasting a good opportunity.  I finished my pull and let the arrow fly.  It passed just above his head, through his hair.  And if it sheared off a dark lock of that hair, he richly deserved it.
 
He didn’t dodge or even flinch, damn him.  Just stood stock still, with a knowing look.  “Hardly a proper greeting for a dear friend,” he chided me.  “Your attentions were more tender the last time we were alone.”  
 
“We weren’t friends then, Seth.  Only a few night’s indiscretion.”  I could feel my anger rising.  These days, he was the only thing that could elicit any emotion from me at all, anything beyond the desire to find an ending and finally escape.  “And we certainly aren’t friends now.  Why do you insist on playing my constant shadow?”
 
“My dear, my only love.  If I’m your shadow, then you are without a doubt the bane of my existence.”  He shrugged, looked skyward for a moment, maybe appealing for help from the gods.  
 
He unstrapped his lute from behind his back, tuned it quickly, then strummed a few martial sounding bars.  “You are missing your chance, you know.  We’ve won, the spoils of war are even now being divided.  Everyone vying for the choicest bits to deliver to our Lord of Shadows and gain favor.”  He looked up, gave me a crooked smile, changed the fingering on his lute and played the opening of a carefree tune everyone knew.  “All the treasures you’ve had a hand in winning being divided even as we speak.  That should be enough to tempt anyone.  Yet you’re here.”  
 
“Put the fiddle away, Seth.  There’s no room for bards here,”  I said angrily.
 
“It’s a lute, my sweet.  Not a fiddle.  Still, a rustic instrument, true – just try finding a decent luthier in this dying husk of a world – but worthy enough in capable hands.  Such as mine.”  He stepped closer, winking at me.  “You know I’ve capable hands.”
 
I patted his cheek and stepped away, speaking softly and letting a whisper of regret enter my voice.  “Not nearly as capable as you imagine.”  
 
He looked hurt, very briefly.  Good.  I wanted to hurt him.  He closed his eyes, then smiled his insufferable smile.  
 
“Sharrow, ” he began, running a hand through his hair and wincing.  “I could scarce believe when I saw you really had decided not to join us in destroying Tar Disen, the very last city standing on this doomed world.  They’ll be busy dividing up the spoils from now until the White Mist devours all.  Treasures for us all to take back.  Yet you elect to waste your last day here, doing…what? Killing the last dregs of survivors, doomed to die anyway?”
 
I pushed past him, walking over to the dead farmer as he lay in the blood darkened snow.  Winter had not been kind to him; you could say I’d done him a mercy.  Sallow skin, emaciated face, skeletal frame.  I marveled that he’d even been able to lift that pitchfork.  Bending down, I grabbed the key he wore on a leather thong around his neck.  I broke it off with a quick twist of my wrist, then turned my back on Seth and walked slowly toward the shack.  Inside, under a loose floor stone before the small hearth, I found what I’d been seeking.  
 
I couldn’t fathom how he had come to possess an artifact as valuable as this.  In fact I almost hadn’t come, hardly believing my own conclusions distilled from endless rumors.  Yet here it was, kept by a gaunt, wasted farmer doing little more than waiting for the end.  My Lord of Shadows would glory in it.  But I had no plans to offer it to him.
 
I went back out through the door, and stopped.  
 
It was here.
 
I’ve heard it called many things.  The White Mist, the Destroying Wind, the Nothingness.  Even fanciful names like Void’s Breath, or, ironically, Hero’s Welcome.  Ha!  That one I liked, in certain moods.  It seemed each faction among us had their own name for it.  But the Hunger was good enough for me.  
 
Seth had seen it too.  He stood, his back to me, staring at the final approach of the Hunger.  He fears it.  He’d told me as much, in an unguarded moment, as we’d traded intimate secrets in the slow languid time before sleep claimed us both that night.
 
I think we all fear the Hunger.  But not because it means death for us.  It does, in a way, but probably not the way you’re thinking. Some fear it in anticipation of the pain it promises.  Though it doesn’t kill our immortal souls, passage through the Hunger is not pleasant.  I can’t speak for the others, I can only tell you why I fear it.
 
It means this is not the end.  We’ve picked this world clean, killed any inhabitants the Hunger didn’t get first.  And now its time for us to go, taking everything we can back with us for the greater glory of our gods.  And it means that soon we shall be sent off again, for more death, more plunder, more destruction.  All for gods who barely acknowledge us.  
 
I had decided I did not want to take part in that any more.  
 
Seth said nothing to me, made no sound as the Hunger enveloped him.  Made no move to run.  He always liked to be in control. Control of himself at least as much as of others.  I realized then that he’d chosen to be with me at the end.  For all his desire for the best of the spoils, he’d come here.   Had our time together been that meaningful to him that he’d want to meet the end here with me?  No.  He must have a reason.  This must be some gambit to gain an advantage.  Something he wanted.  My cynicism has had a long time to grow.  
 
I looked up and saw only white.  No trees, no horizon, nothing left alive.  It was almost like snow, but utterly impenetrable.  It didn’t swirl, though seemed to give that impression.    
 
After another few seconds it was upon me.  I felt cold at first, then warm, warmer, and finally hot as the cursed mist seared my skin, then crept into my bones with its ungentle fingers.  My last thought, as the white consumed everything, was that I would do anything to make this be the last time.
 
 
 
Trying to shake off the memory of the pain, I panic for a second as I rise out of the memory of that last passage through the Hunger.  Realize the heat I’m feeling is only from the fire, not the Hunger.  
 
I am decided though.  The potion I’ve brewed with the ancient relic the farmer had possessed promises me a final release from the constant death and destruction.  I will never raid another world, never pass through the Hunger again.  I will kill no more innocents in pursuit of my master’s goals.  One sip from this, and it will be over.  Slowly, with my eyes still closed, I raise the flask to my lips.
 
Before I can drink though, I see a vision forming before my mind’s eye.  Does it come from the voice?
 
Warm now.  I’m warmer.  
 
I see a huge tree, fir I think, standing tall and proud in the midst of its sister trees.  Looking down, I can see beneath the ground to follow the twisted entangling of their roots.  I see warmth pulsing from the outer trees up the roots of the giant.  
 
My trees.  I feel warm.  My warmth returns.  
 
The pulsing warmth gathers at the base of the huge fir, its energy taking on substance and color and definition.  In some way I cannot understand, it beckons me closer.  
 
I live.
 
The voice.  It was never my vessel.  It speaks.
 
There is another way…

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Well done, Alyriel.

 

I can write a location in a fantasy setting with rich of details in depth - and I`ve the skill to explain something even my english is far from perfect

with lots of grammar usually, because now I use the language too seldom in my relative old age. And the same pattern with protagonists, and your only limit is your own imagination, and that`s exciting! :)

You can read guides, research something if it`s related to mythologies, or ancient history - so it`s a creative process you can train, but some have an unique ability to express their thoughts in a colourful fashion. And it`s difficult for sure which was the main reason I did something else after some years in my early 20.

 

So a story.. It could be in a dark age fantasy setting like Crowfall - maybe if I imagine a village for instance which could be a good starting location for my brief story.. And let`s name it Dawn Spire.

 

So here is my brief story - it begin with barely (100-200) words. (I will not join the competition though - just for fun.) :)

 

 

- The year was 1275 AD (After Dragonwar) - the guard captain shrugged under his frosty mustache, the proud short dwarf breath heavily, and aftermath of battle - `Damn, the living dead!` He spitted blood and the dwarven axe was completely consumed by frost, but he tried hard to loosen it from the ground which was covered in snow this early morning. The sound of water nearby and a local mill indicated he was relative safe, but he was severely injured. And a worried small shadow behind him observed that, and he counted at least twenty corpses scattered around the dwarf.. Obviously an attack this dreadful morning in the outskirt of the Village Dawn Spire! he thought. 

 

`Tholock sir, I`ve grave tidings.` `The latest news is that Dawn Spire is under a siege.` He took a scroll from his weathered leather bag - and gave it to Tholock the guard captain of the local city militia. The small figure was obviously nervous - he was just a messenger after all, and now tidings of ill omen. He shuddered.

Tholock`s eyes was fixated at the old scroll reading every words with a grim expression..

 

Story continue later maybe.. 

 

Anyway, did u all gave up on the Sbemu project, Alyriel?

I was part of the team years ago with Xemise, you, Tybalt and others - I don`t remember all the names. `sigh..  :)

Edited by mythx

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Crowfall Game Client: https://www.crowfall.com/en/client/

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Thats an intriguing start to the story, mythx. You really should continue it.

 

I do so miss working on SB. And omg Xemise, havent talked with him in too long. Heard he got ban...well, not supposed to talk about that here. Anyway.

 

I wish SBemu and magicbane all the best of course. But the time comes you realize you have to move on. Even though it hurts.

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