Flash Fiction Challenge
Every week Chuck Wendig hosts a flash fiction challenge, and this week's theme was just to good for me to pass up. Especially when I got my random song title.
By M.J. Brudenell
I staggered forward, trying to run, but seemingly unable to place one foot in front of the other. Finally, I was through the gate. The ruins of a palace rose behind me. The home of my nightmares.
The way forward was strewn with debris. The remains of the shattered ramparts. I stumbled on pieces of loose rock, and fell to my hands and knees; releasing my sword in the process. It clattered to the ground. The sound was sharp against the still air.
My body was weak with exhaustion. Blood dripped from several wounds. I may yet survive, if I could only make it to the river.
And then what? Return to my home a failure? In the palace’s history it had been assaulted by armies, and infiltrated by heroes. None had succeeded in exorcising the demon. Why had I thought I would succeed where they had failed. It did not really matter what I had thought. It was my duty. Like so many others before me, I had been chosen. To return home now… I would be outcast. A pariah. My family, and my love would suffer from my shame. Better to die here.
I had found the secret to the demon’s power. I knew how to destroy it, but I had not been strong enough. I could heal, and return. I would be better prepared. I had to convince The Council of Elders that this was the right path. To their eyes I would be an oath-breaker by returning without the demon’s head. I had to convince them otherwise.
Why was it so dark? I looked up, and saw the sun slowly disappearing.
This was the portent the runes spoke of. Runes I had found in the palace that had been nearly obliterated. They were old, but I could read them. Before being chosen, and trained for this task I had been a student of academia. Then omens and superstition had derailed my plans, but the knowledge I had gained allowed me to learn how to destroy the demon, and free us from his demand of tribute.
It had always been on a certain day, foretold by the stars, that the chosen warrior was sent to this broken, accursed palace. Yet, no one knew why. I knew, but did I have the strength. Better to come back healed and ready.
Suddenly, I heard the crunch of footsteps on the rocky ground behind me. I looked back, and there he was.
“So you live.” His deep voice resonated on the sharp angles of rock around us.
He appeared as a man in form only. He was unnaturally tall. At least seven feet, and not gangly. His body seemed proportionate to his frame. On this frame he wore intricate, black leather armor. The skin on his hands and head, which were the only parts visible, resembled alabaster in color and an almost stone like smoothness. He was completely hairless, and his eyes blazed red like fire. In his hand he held a long black sword with wicked serrations along the blade.
“You fought well. After you ran I figured the beasts had finished you. Now I find you here.”
I spat at him. A gesture of contempt.
The demon laughed, low and vicious. He continued walking toward me.
Digging deep I found a tiny amount of extra reserve strength. I prayed it would be enough. I ran. I had to make it to the river. Behind me the demon followed.
As I ran I risked a glance above me. The sun continued to disappear. I understood from my astronomy classes that this was the moon covering the sun. A simple astronomical anomaly, but one that contained immense power to those who believe.
Did I believe?
Right now I couldn’t worry about that. Survive today, and figure that out later.
My love. My Stacsia would believe.
It seemed like forever that I ran, but I knew it was only minutes. The river was close. It was the main water supply for the palace when it had actually held life within. Now the palace only held death.
I ran, and the demon followed. He was so damn casual about it.
Finally, up ahead I could see the river. I could hear the current lapping at the river’s edge as it rushed on its path.
Pain! Sudden and excruciating pain exploded from my right shoulder. I fell to the ground again. My sword falling from my hand, which was now limp. My whole arm was lifeless. I reached with my left hand and felt a dagger protruding from my shoulder. It must have severed the tendons to my arm.
I was so close. Tears fell from my eyes as I thought of my love. I could feel my life’s blood pour from the wound.
A shadow fell across me. Was it the sun, or was it the demon? I turned as much as I could, and looked up. The movement shooting pain through my body.
It was the demon. He smiled, and raised his sword. Behind him, just above his head I could see the last sliver of the sun disappear.
“Time to die.” The demon said the words slowly, as if savoring the taste.
Now. Desperation shooting adrenaline through my body, I grasped the dagger with my only working hand. I yanked the dagger from my shoulder. Blood poured out. The demon’s blade descended towards me. I lurched to my feet, just under the sword. I was too close now for the sword to engage. I thrust upwards with the demon’s own dagger. My aim was true, and the blade entered the soft spot between the demon’s chin and throat. I thrust harder, burying the dagger to the hilt.
I fell with the demon.
Fare you well, my love. Fare you well. I love you more than words can tell.
I listen to the river sing sweet songs to rock my soul.