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Short Story Entry – Deadlight (from Reddit)


Deloria
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Words, like wind, have powers untold. Some winds are sweet and soft and full of Spring blooms, carrying the hopes and life of a new generation of growth and innocence, and the tidings of a new beginning for all those blessed by its touch; Others are stark, cold, unloving things that give pause to even the heartiest of men. Galeforce and mighty, leaving destruction unmatched by the most wanton of flames. The eldest of my memories are alike in this duality. A gentle Spring air. Hope. Life. A frigid torrent. Despair. Death.

 

“This man is no longer living. As is this. He as well.” A strident voice rose above the clamor. The fleeting scent of barley and running water escaped my grasp. “Dead. Dead. Dead.” Closer now. The constant, droning tone in my ears began to fade. Sounds were clearer, more acute. My eyes were heavy. To open them was a burden I could live without. “And this? What’s thi…” I awoke fully to see a frail corpse of a man whose grey, sunken face was inches away from my own. He blanched and reeled as I sat up in my cot, casting the makeshift table behind him into rubble. The old man shuffled backwards upon his hindquarters faster than I’d have thought possible, disappearing what I could only assume were the bodies of those pronounced dead moments prior.

 

Men attending other tasks within the faded, dimly lit tent drew cold steel in an instant.
“Speak!” The word was repeated a dozen times in the course of a heartbeat from every corner of the room. I looked around wildly, only to realize that every blade was aimed in my direction. “Speak or perish!” A boy aged no more than twenty approached with a fire in his eye, seething and furious. His form belied his resolve. I’d have been the first man to feel the edge of his blade. Not today.

“Cease!” My voice was faint and faulty and seemed alien to my ear, but it appeared to set each man about me into a trance, if but for a moment. The boy nearest, who moments earlier was prepared to commit violence, dropped his blade. The sound of his steel hitting the frozen earth rang out tersely, as a hammerfall that drove my command to the end. Men scowled, shifted, and returned to their duties, set into motion by some compelling force unknown to me. How queer. My body was stiff and sore. How long had I slept? A thousand thoughts raced through my mind, chief of which must have been: Why have I come to this place?

 

I took measure of my surroundings properly. The tent itself was large and full of cots. The openings were wide, and the low, faint light of a mid-autumn’s moon could be spotted from the northern side. I counted thirteen men of able body within. At least twenty more lay on cots and mats upon the rushes made of hay and long-grass. These were the men being lorded over by the old grey fellow, I presume. All appeared to have perished in bloody fashion. The air was still and sweet with the scent of frozen decay. I briefly admired the fortitude of those within the tent, when suddenly there came a soft voice from my side.

 

“I’m sorry for the display friend. You understand?” The lad extended his arm in greeting. We traded grips and spoke for a time. He was seventeen, youngest son of a farmer who lost his life defending his family and stead from a band of roving looters some years ago. The lad had insisted that his name was Craste, which I found to be quite odd. I’d never heard of anyone with the name of Craste. He would not reveal to me if that was his family name or his own. At any rate, he was well spoken for the son of a farmer, and seemed sincere if not somewhat naive. He considered it an honor to be drafted for service, and although he had not yet seen combat, he was eagre and willing for his part. I let him tell his tale and quietly nursed what I could only assume were a set of broken ribs beneath a heavy bandage. After a time, Craste bade me farewell and suggested I turn in as well for the night.

 

I took stock of my effects under the light of a dying candle which danced madly in my grip. A small pack held naught but three rations wrapped in a flimsy, dirt-stained cloth. A coinpurse lay at my feet. I gave it a quick nudge only to discover that it seemed curiously empty. An old jerkin of boiled leather was also propped against my cot. It bore the emblem of a house unknown to my eye. None of these things looked familiar to me. Reaching under my cot, I found my only possession of value. I gently drew my blade from it’s scabbard and inspected the edge for burrs. The red linen I had tied ages ago to my pommel floated as if enchanted by some unfelt breeze on the air. Upon the ricasso, a black eagle, sigil of my house, perched defiantly. I sheathed my blade, gathered those belongings nearest to me, took a final look upon the forlorn tent that I had called home for the last several hours and set out to find some quarter.

 

The camp was like many camps hastily organized in times of war. A sea of grey-green tents stretched for about a quarter of a mile. A rough count of nearly 80. Each tent could likely house three men uncomfortably. I’d wager many of these tents were holding near twice that number based on the amount of apparent foot traffic and trash strewn about. Many of the campsites were host to small cooking fires with mates telling tales of glory and riches no doubt. I made my way slowly and deliberately through the maze of lodgings, listening to passers-by in hopes to glean some information that could help me in my current position. I found myself wondering how I could have come to be at this particular place. Who was I fighting for, truly? Did it matter in the end? It rarely does. Men fall like a winter’s snow, though the snow will continue to fall long after we’re all gone.

 

As I neared the midpoint of my journey through my new home, I came upon a group of hard-worn fellows sitting ‘round a fire. No man spoke. They set their gazes to the flames, somber and distrait. They wore upon their brigandine a badge of some peculiarity. Covering each of their hearts upon their breast was a large golden tree whose leaves reached in an arch over their shoulders. Carved into the grand trunk of the tree was a magnificently ornate hourglass. Each man’s timepiece read differently. The significance of their heraldry, I never came to know. One of their company broke free of his fiery gaze and met my eyes. At once, he smiled and bade me join them. His brothers greeted me one by one, each giving their name in turn.

 

Among them was a fellow who had an hourglass nearly empty. He looked to be the youngest and most vital of the crew. His face was clean and his hair well trimmed. I noticed that of his band, he was the only with a clean set of clothing. His voice was clear and high, and he spoke, “Tell me, friend, what are you called?” He followed with a merry chuckle, as if playing at some game. “This man is hero” his comrade belted in a broken bastardization of the common tongue. This one was large and bear-like. Coarse black hair sprouted from the collar of his vestments, and covered his massive arms right down to his knuckles. His was an accent I’d not heard before. Exotic, belonging to some far-away land. Laughing still, the first said, “A hero? Would that there were such men left in this miserable place. I’ve not heard tale of a hero in some time.” The foreigner narrowed his eyes at his comrade and turned to face me squarely. He raised his left hand to the sky, bowing his head and remained like this for a moment. Some custom of apology in his lands perhaps? He then repeated, “This man is hero.” and retired to the tent. I was invited to join in his absence and partake in the modest meal that the group was preparing.

 

After the food and drink were spent, a man with an hourglass three-quarters full suggested that I look to the western reaches of the camp for vacant lodging. The company one by one retired to their tents. Upon giving my farewells, the merry looking man leaned close and whispered, “I know who you are, and I know what you have done, brother.” He would not meet my eye. Who am I? What have I done? Unsure of how to respond, I took my leave with deliberate but cautious haste and headed west through the camp. Most of the fires were out by now, and signs of life were few and far between. The night grew cold, which caused me to quicken my step. When I reached the western reach of the camp, I noticed a large maple standing defiantly amidst the barren landscape. It’s leaves were a deep crimson, lined with a trim of brilliant gold. Weary from a long night of palaver, and sore from injuries I knew nothing of, I settled at the base of the tree and rested my eyes.

 

I awoke abruptly to the sounds of battle. The morning’s early light was cast through a low-hanging formation of dense clouds, giving the camp an eerie, fiery glow. Wind howled through the branches of the sturdy maple, her leaves whipping madly about. From the furthest eastern front, the sounds of arms and armor, heavy marching feet, and the cries of men about to die could be heard clearly. The wind carried the tides of war to my ear as if with some deliberate intent. I rose swiftly, drawing my blade as I strode towards the clamor. The sky grew darker and darker and I neared the eastern front. The battle was fully joined by this point. The sounds and smells of dying men were in full evidence. A heavy snowfall came suddenly and without warning, blustering and bellowing like a frozen tempest on an icy sea. Not far from where I stood, a faint, sickly blue glow rose from the battlefield.

 

“Brother, you’ve joined us at last!” a clear, high toned voice rang. Without warning, the chorus of battle erupted about me. The pulsing blue glow stronger now, but masked still by the winter’s storm. I could hear men fall, but was snowblind. Silence then, but for a single beastial tone; The growl of a cornered dog long whipped by it’s masters finally deciding that enough is enough. This foe was no man. The storm gave momentary pause enough to allow me a glimpse at my adversary. Stood before me was some cruel bastardization of what appeared to be an enormous hunting hound. The beast was freakish large, and strafed to and fro with an unnatural gait. Its hunched, lousy shoulders must have measured chest-height on the average man. Slate grey of fur, matted in the blood of countless victims, the creature was cut and mangled all about its body, but rather than blood, a strange, glowing blue substance leaked from wounds that no mortal being could sustain. The hound locked eyes with me and bared its rotten teeth in challenge.

 

Scattered about the beast’s feet lay the corpses of the men I met the night before. Their proud, golden trees now shredded and bloodstained. A sudden, unexplainable compulsion came about me. This creature was an affront to nature and must be laid to rest. I felt hatred and rage swell within me, but at the same time remorse and sorrow. I raised my blade and prepared to cut the wretched monster down.

 

“Not today, brother.” A familiar, jovial voice from behind me spoke, “The Lord of Shadows will not allow you to interfere with this world.”

 

His blade slipped between my ribs before his words escaped his mouth. I was a dead man again. In an instant, the memories of a thousand lives invaded my consciousness. Each memory a crystal clear window to my past. I lived, I fought, I died. Live, fight, die. An endless cycle of war, death, and despair. When my eyes closed upon one world, they opened in the next. At the heart of these toils, my one true lifetime outshone all others. A life of devotion and sacrifice to my Gods. My son’s lives needlessly cut short. My wife…

 

At the twilight of this newest life of mine, I know a single truth to be self evident. The Gods will pay for their crimes. The spark of life leaves this vessel now and I curse the names of each in turn with my final moments. I will have my vengeance!

 

“Whoa there, hero! Are you alright?” A booming voice echoed in my skull. Stars danced across my vision. The air was hot and arid. “That was one heck of a fall!” I rubbed my eyes with sandy, thin fingers that belonged to an old man well past his prime. They burned and my tears welled. The confusion set in. I have no memory of this place.

 

Crowfallrp.com link

Reddit link

 

*edited to fix links*

Edited by Deloria

www.CrowfallRP.com


Disclaimer: My RP with you might become a public story: https://soundcloud.com/shiv-mahon

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