Category Archives: Short Stories

The Mountain Valley

It was a beautiful summer evening. The sunset caused brilliant oranges and reds to cascade across the sky and tinge the puffy clouds with pink and gold before the colors would fade to a rich purple, then the deep blue of night. Far below, majestic mountains stretched their bare and bony fingers up as if to grasp the falling sun and forever keep it hidden within it’s jealously guarded hoards. Yet they knew it was futile, for their brothers to the East would yield up the glowing orb and it would be morning once again. But as the seasons come and go the sun rises and sets and always the rocky ranges would be there. Greedily extending their peaks to steal the sun from the sky.

Accustomed to it’s fate, the massive ball of fire descends, spreading it’s last burst of light and warmth across the little valley that lay nestled between the great heights of snow-speckled stone. Rising up, yet still far below, the trees of evergreen sought to mimic the mountains with their own towering branches. And yet while the mountains were bare, the trees were full of pine foliage. Deep greens were made darker by the elongating shadows. Beneath the boughs, the cool air faintly smells of water, spiced with the intoxicating aroma of crushed needles and churned earth. Thick on the ground were the needles, mixed in the with compost and moist, warm earth to make a springy cushion beneath the feet of many travelers. A path, small and barely seen, yet well worn and used by the fauna, winds it way through the undergrowth like a snake would wind it’s way through stalks of grass. The beginning of the trail would always remain a mystery for no one can find it. Many small game trails, and a few larger trails as well, eventually combine and join this beaten, dusty path as it twists it’s way into the meadow. Continue reading

Advertisements

From the Ashes – Part Four

*Listen to the Audio*

They both stood there, not speaking, unmoving until Corrin stepped into the circle formed by the bodies of the onlookers.

“I believe that this fight was a fairer trial by combat. The issue is decided. Rill and her associates, including Giles, one of my own, are exonerated of all claims made against them by Akerun, Monarch of the Knights of Ird. Let it be heard in all the land that they are honorable people, beyond contesting.”

She turned to Rill, “Please lower your weapon.”

Rill struggled to wrestle away the inner fire. But after a few tense moments, during which she enjoyed watching Akerun become paler, she lowered her blade. She did not sheathe it but she did step back. She kept her eyes locked on Akerun.

Then R’za, her liege, was beside her, laying a hand on her arm. She looked at him and reached for the connection they had shared then remembered Akerun had severed it. Her eyes brimmed but she did not cry, not while Akerun watched and could see the pain he caused her.

“R’za, I…” she whispered but he hushed her.

“I brought everyone to witness for you.” He said and gestured around the room.

For the first time, Rill really looked around. The room was full of people from her guild and others and more were coming through a portal in the far corner. Her eyes widened. She looked at R’za, who winked at her. Continue reading

From the Ashes – Part Three

*Listen to the Audio*

Corrin shouted, people cried out and began to move but no one was close enough to stop him. Death was never an acceptable end to a duel.

Rill was moving before she realized it as Akerun began to speak. She had trained long to trust her instincts and her instincts moved her body now. She saw the intent in Akerun’s eyes and responded instantly. She reached him just as his sword was starting to fall. Slamming her diamond shield into Akerun with the full power of her legs behind the motion threw him back off his feet. He landed hard on his back, the breath whooshing from his lungs.

“You will not harm him.” She said, enunciating each word with calm certainty. That surprised her a little considering the furious fire that was raging inside her.

Akerun was stunned and unable to reply as he tried to get his wind back..

“I played your scapegoat as you wanted. It held the guild together and that’s all that really mattered to me. As long as I could remain in the guild, unmolested, I was satisfied.” Her heart quavered at the thought of being cut off as would surely be her punishment for her actions today. But her belly burned with fire and the heat of it drove her to speak her mind as she had never done before. It felt good. It felt right.

“But I will not let you kill an innocent man,” She said, her voice ringing out in the shocked silence. Continue reading

From the Ashes – Part Two

*Listen to the Audio*

Giles was standing beside her in a flash. Everyone pulled out their weapons and readied to defend themselves. Akerun held up his hands. His weapons were sheathed. He was tall and stood with arrogance and an air of confidence that stemmed from the belief in his absolute authority. He wore matching red and black Cerian armor, a rare and expensive combination that no doubt had been subsidized by the guild’s coffers. He had a mocking smile painted across his face and his dark eyes were alight with a thirst for vengeance.

“She came to my officer meeting to confess her sins and beg forgiveness,” he said, voice dripping with sarcasm. “I threw her out of the meeting that instant. If it wasn’t for your lover, Bob, arguing so passionately for you, you wouldn’t even still be a member of this guild. He was so convinced you deserved another chance that even when we gave you your just punishment, stripping you of rank and vassals, he gave up all his rank as well to join you. Such a cute couple. All but exiled for your stupidity.”

Rill blushed with embarrassment and fury but she made no response.

“Rill made a mistake but it wasn’t deserving of the punishment you gave her,” Giles spat out. Rill disagreed but said nothing. She had made a small mistake yes, but that error had cost the guild too much. She only ever wanted to help and to know she had betrayed her guild and her monarch’s trust… No, her punishment was exactly right. She had forgiven Giles for what he had done with the information but she could not forgive herself for giving it to him in the first place. She was responsible for all the damage it had caused.

“Oh!” Akerun said, mock surprise on his face, “Have you captured yourself another lover? Someone to defend your precious, non-existent honor?” He pretended to squint at them though Rill knew he was able to see quite well in the darkness. Akerun gasped dramatically.

“Giles? Is that you? Oh my! Have you been under her spell this entire time? If you swear to abandon your lover, I might be willing to bring you back into the guild.”

It was a lie. Akerun would never let Giles rejoin. He was baiting them. Rill flexed her sword hand. She desperately wanted to wipe that smile off his face. He was taking this too far. But, she was not an officer anymore and only officers could bring a challenge the monarch. So she held her tongue and her sword arm in check. Continue reading

From the Ashes – Part One

*Listen to the Audio*

Rill stopped.

It was not just to catch her breath. They had come to a dead end. Her companions stopped with her, breathing heavily.

Behind them they could hear the shouts of their pursuers, echoing across the stone floors. Ahead of them was a cavernous empty room with no exit other than the one they just emerged from. Above them the ceiling was lost in blackness. The room was angular, with many nooks and crannies, except for the center of the room where the floor sloped downward to create a square reminiscent of an arena. The arena was surrounded by large pillars. They were deep underground. No windows lighted the room but glowing orbs were set into sconces randomly throughout the room.

They rested only a few moments. It was all the time they had to spare. Rill took a deep breath and let it out slowly. Her heart was pounding. She was afraid. Not for herself but for her companions.

“Spread out and try the sconces first. Maybe there’s a secret passage.” She said. Secret passages were not uncommon in a citadel such as this but Rill didn’t think they would find one here.

They obeyed the order immediately even though she was neither their senior nor even a fellow guild mate to most. They simply saw the wisdom of her order. After a few minutes they gathered together again near a pillar in the back corner of the room. No luck.

“Put out this light,” Rill said, gesturing to the orb on the pillar nearest them. “Maybe we can fool them into thinking we are not in here. Hug the shadows.” Continue reading