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Short Story Entry - Magdela


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Soft light filters through the green canopy above me. I breathe deep of the earthy loam, reveling in my new senses after the long darkness. Birds chirp and animals scamper among the brush, unafraid of me, of what my arrival means to them and this world. A shy wind rustles the leaves upon the boughs. Gaea's last breath. 

I've awoken to this scene countless times, but here something is different. Different, yet oddly familiar. It takes me a moment to realize that it's my body. My body, not some random vessel stolen from the worms to house my immortal soul. I flex my hands, feeling the power in them, and run them through my hair. There's more than I remember. What does this mean? I don't dare to hope. Answers, if any are to be had, lie ahead of me.

I rise and follow my feet where they will, careless of my destination. The Hunger is coming. Nowhere is safe.

The trees part before me, forming a tunnel through the forest, and beyond a wide clearing. In the center stands a giant, squat mushroom, a single red door and lazy smoke rising from an impromptu chimney the only signs that this is, in fact, a house. My feet guide me unerringly forward. My hand pulls upon the latch. The interior is dim and it takes long moments for my eyes to adjust.

I hear her before I see her, humming a tune I knew in my youth. She turns to me as my gaze comes into focus and I know that I have died, truly died, for before me stands my just reward. 

"Magdela," I whisper, barely able to form the word. 

Black curls frame her face, the scar on her cheek accentuating rather than marring her beauty. She smiles and diverts her eyes, a blush rosing her cheeks.

I reach for her, but her hand on my chest stops me. 

"Time is winding down," she says. "Answers are needed, before the end."

I take her hand in mine, her skin soft and supple and warm. "What must I do?"

"Mother...the Earth Mother. As long as life endures, her spirit lives on." She cups my cheek with her free hand, wiping away the tears. "Find her." 

"How?" I ask. "Where can I even begin to look?"

She turns from me and the contact is broken, filling my heart with more longing than I can possibly endure. Long, agonizing moments pass as she retrieves something from the cupboard. 

"Take this," she says, placing a large gemstone in my hand. "It contains a sliver of Gaea's soul. In each world you visit, it will guide you to another sliver." Tears well in her eyes. "If you find enough...if there are enough left...maybe she can still be saved. Maybe we can all be saved."

I wrap her in my arms and hold her tight, caring only that this moment never end, but already the world around me has begun to fade. Our lips meet, briefly, sweetly, before the darkness takes me once more.



I'm in a graveyard, in a body not my own. This one feels dirty, and not just because it has been lying in the ground. The vessel echoes with the memories of the man who wore it before. He was a knight, originally, but one fallen far from the callings of duty and honor. I shut out the memories with practiced ease and in their place, I see Magdela again. I remember her face, her smile, the warmth of her embrace. 

I remember the task she has given me.

The gemstone. Where is it? I search around frantically until I recall my training from another world, a hundred lifetimes ago. 

Night has fallen and the mists have rolled in from the moors, but neither can hide the altar from my sight, for it calls to me. No pulpit this, but a sacrificial table etched with runes. I trace the markings with a finger, leaving a trail of glowing blue light. I have no idea what the runes signify--they are as incomprehensible to me as they are to the stone in which they are carved--yet by some magic they understand me, recognize me despite this strange body I wear.

With a groan of grinding stone, the top slides back. Inside are a sword and shield, both hard used, and beneath them the gemstone. No mortal hand could have cut that gem. A deeper green than emerald and large enough to fill my open palm, it has more facets than I could possibly count, and all but one dark beneath the light of the broken moon. That single facet shines brightly. As I turn it, I find that the light grows weaker or stronger based on its facing. I know little of magic, but the purpose seems clear. I strap on the sword and shield and let the stone guide me, hoping that its light won't be a beacon to unfriendly eyes.

I walk for hours, my bearing due east. I do not stop. Never stop. Food or water, shelter or succor, none of these things matter more than my task. Clouds push in from the north bringing bitter winds and a threat of snow. The night deepens, yet the light from the stone grows stronger with each passing league, urging me ever forward. There are no chirps or hoots or howls, only the keening of the wind and the thump of each labored step upon the frozen ground. Nothing lives in this place, though it is not the living that I fear.

After a period of time I cannot measure, I come to the ruins of a once mighty fortress. The walls have fallen, the battlements thrown down, the people ground to dust. Rime crusts the broken walkways, crunching beneath my feet as I stumble toward my destination.

The Tree of Life has been uprooted. Its leaves, once golden, have turned to blood.

A wisp flits among the broken boughs. At my approach, it stops its erratic movements and floats out in front of me. The gemstone clutched in my hand grows warm. I lift it toward the wisp, not knowing what to do or what to expect. 

The wisp darts forward. 

I flinch, shielding my eyes with my free hand. When I look again, the wisp is gone, but a second facet of the gem now glows. 

"You can't save her."

I spin and draw my sword all in one fluid motion. This body has been well trained.

A man stands before me. At least, I think it's a man. The dark cloak masks the shape of his body and the cowl frames his faceless head. No eyes or nose or mouth, just pale white skin like the belly of a fish. A pair of bog bears, twisted by the hunger, flank him. Jaws snap at the air, limbs quivering with anticipation, as they await their master's order.

"Who are you?" I ask, though perhaps I should have asked what instead of who. I slip the stone inside my cloak and reach for the shield strapped to my back.

"I had hoped we could skip the introductions," he says with a sigh, though how he says it, or how I hear it, is a mystery. More magic. "But if it is important to you to know the name of your killer, you may call me Dirge."


"Yes, yes, I know. You're the hero."

"Let me pass," I say. "You have no idea what's at stake here."

Dirge's laughter fills my head. "Oh, that's rich. I like you Chuckles, so I'll make this quick."

The bog bear on the left leaps at me. I thrust with the sword, piercing the beast in the neck even as I spin away, wheeling around to block the second bog bear with my shield. The force of its charge sends me skidding backward. The first thrashes as its lifeblood spills onto the ground. The second circles, looking for an opening past my shield.

Too late, I realize I have lost sight of Dirge. The knife slips between my ribs, puncturing something vital. On instinct, I snap my head back, connecting on a move meant to break a man's nose. I fall to the ground and begin to laugh. 

"You did well, Chuckles."

He's mocking me, but there's pain in his voice. A thought slips through my mind about small victories, quickly replaced by the crushing realization of my utter failure. Darkness crowds my vision.



I'm in the mushroom house again, in my own body. Magdela hums that same old tune. 

No, not Magdela. She looks like her. Sounds like her. Moves like her. Gods, she even smells like her, lye soap with a hint of jasmine. But this woman is not Magdela. She never was. The weight of that realization compounds my failure. It was all for nothing.

"You did well," not-Magdela says.

"I lost the gem," I say, picking myself up from the floor. 

"As you were meant to."

"What do you mean?" I ask, anger coloring my voice.

"Plans are in motion," she says. "We've drawn them out."

I open my mouth to ask again, but realize it doesn't matter. Only one thing matters. "Where is Magdela?"

She steps close and pulls my face to hers. Our lips meet. I am powerless to resist. A warmth passes between us and settles in my chest.

"Go to her," she says. "Enjoy each other while you can, for I shall need you again, before the end."

The familiar darkness envelopes me like a lover's embrace.



Edited by Arkade
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