Tag Archives: Hero

The haunting note

I recently did a collaborative story with my friend reddit.com/user/Luna_Lovewell . I started a story and she had the brilliant idea to continue it. The result is below, with her writing about half of the total story. See if you can guess who is who :). If you like her stuff you can find more at reddit.com/r/Luna_Lovewell

Guessing the meaning behind the note had become a game. When the lads were taking watches at night to ward off the werewolves, they would entertain themselves by postulating different theories.

Everyone had one they latched on to. Simon was of the opinion that it was an ancient symbol. A bloodrite passed down by my father to signify that I was an initiate into some secret order.

Gregory claimed it was a play on words. “D Sharp, and it’s a key. So somewhere there’s a key to some hidden treasure which is sharp and in the shape of a D.”

Peter would always think he had it right because none of the others factored in the crossbow. “Why would he only have it on the crossbow then? Why not emblazon it on his shield and armor as well? It’s not the cost surely. We have retrieved more than enough loot from our monster hunting to cover any blacksmithing expense. No, you blokes have got it all wrong. It’s a marksman achievement. There’s some tournament of the world’s best archers. They don’t want to advertise their skill lest people challenge them, but they wish to carry a symbol so other worthy marksmen know. Do we not call marksmen Sharpshooters? I cannot say for sure what the D is for, perhaps a rank. It is the fourth letter. So perhaps our comrade here is highly ranked.”

These were the most exciting theories. The others merely thought it was the key of my favorite song, and debated which of the very few composed in it was the song.

None of them were right. It was a much more personal reason. Before I had joined with the hunters a dragon attacked my cottage. I rushed to get a bow and fend the beast off. I had a bow for hunting boar and fired shot after shot at the beast, but it was no use. It carried off my wife.

She was a brave soul. She didn’t want me to be afraid, so as the beast carried her skyward, I lowered my bow, and I heard drifting through the air a song. Most other women would have screamed. In fact, all other women I’ve seen be victims in a dragon attack have shrieked loud enough to wake the dead. Not my wife. She knew that her suffering would bring me pain. So in the last moments that I saw her, she decided to comfort me with a song to let my know she was alright. A song that ended with the note D#.

I can no longer remember the words, but I still remember the note. She held that note until I could no longer hear her. I have it on my crossbow to remind me that she still might be out there, and that when next I have an opportunity to save her, I won’t miss.

I stirred from my bunk after another half-night of restless sleep, tormented by dreams of fire. Careful not to wake the other guards, I stumbled outside to the well. Damp mist shrouded the camp, leaving only blurs of buildings and hazy orange globes that marked the torches of the night watch.

I tugged at the coarse rope hanging down into the cavernous, stone-lined pit in the center of the camp. A gentle splash echoed from below, and I hauled up a bucket of cool, crisp water that captured the moonlight in its sloshing waves. I drank deeply, filling my belly and soothing my parched throat. From the wall, I heard the chatter and laughs of the guards at their posts, no doubt sneaking mead from the kitchens and wasting arrows on shadows at the treeline. I had half a mind to go reprimand them, but I could save that task for tomorrow’s briefing.

After a final gulp of water, I padded back to my cabin. The mist closed in around me, growing so dense that I could barely see my own feet. Only the bright moon was able to pierce its nebulous veil. The rusty hinges of the barracks door squeaked as I pulled it open, as if protesting that I had woken them up with my nighttime sojourn. Just as I crossed the threshold, another sound trickled through the mists. A soft whisper, lighter than the flap of a bat’s wings at dusk. It was the sound that pursued me every night through my dreams. My beautiful wife’s voice as the beast carried her back to its lair; that haunting song that I knew would end in that final D-sharp. The mists seemed to swirl in excitement upon hearing it, and I wondered (not for the first time) whether I was truly awake.

The door slammed shut behind me with a clatter as I turned and ran back outside. I bounded down the path and bounded up the rough timber steps to the guard outpost overlooking the dense swamp that marked the border between Oltaria and the neighboring Kingdom of the Dead. The voice called to me again, coming from somewhere beyond the trees.

“Do you hear that?” I asked wildly to the guards as I burst through their door. They stood wide-eyed with fear and nodded, instantly sobered by the haunting sound. The song began to fade, receding deeper into the trees, luring me out. I knew it was likely a trap; all sorts of beasts lurked in these woods, and their magics had tempted many a traveler to stray from the road, ending in a grisly death. But how had it known to use that one song? How could it mimic the soft tone of her voice? How did it know about my obsession with that final note? I had to know if she was out there, no matter the cost.

I snatched my crossbow from its peg and vaulted over the rim of the rough timber wall that guarded our fort. The guards behind me called out, thinking that the sound had driven me mad. They didn’t know about her. They didn’t know what the sound meant. My bare feet squished into the mud as I sprinted into the swamp.

“I’m coming,” I whispered to her.

The dead forest, so called because of what was in it, and what failed to come out of it. Only hunters were crazy, greedy, or desperate enough to live on its borders, and even hunters knew not to venture into the woods without plenty of backup, and plenty of daylight left. So slim was the chance of survival after dark that soldiers who failed to answer roll call at sundown were automatically listed as KIA.

I could hear my men shouting at me from the fort, but now one venture after me. When I approached the tree line, their voices died down to avoid attracting monsters, and I dove into the darkness alone.

I dropped into a crouch and drew my knife. I held my knife hand in front of me and balanced my crossbow on it. If something came at me, I would only have one shot with my ranged weapon, and I needed my knife at the ready to ward off the teeth, poisons, and claws the waited for me here.

That note, that beautiful terrible note was still ringing in the air, calling to me. It was a trap. I knew it was, but I could not help it. I would not wait another year aching to hear that voice again. That memory died here tonight, one way or the other.

The voice is getting close now. Less than fifty paces off. I cannot make out anything distinct, but there is a faint heavenly glow in the distance. It was so hauntingly otherworldly that I almost thought the dead forest had already claimed me, but this was not my first hunt. It was going to take more than mind games to deter me.

I drop to the ground, keeping my arms out in front of me, and begin slowly moving forward. The voice and the glow are stationary, there’s no hurry. I take my time, tilting my head sideways to minimize my profile, and never lifting a limb more than an inch or two off the ground.

It’s excruciatingly slow going. Moving a few feet takes minutes, and I become painfully aware of how muddy the ground is, but the mud is not my main concern. My main concern is the hissing sound that’s uncomfortably close to my head.

Grateful for my slow pace I freeze in place, not even daring to move my eyes from the point they were fixed on.

I can now hear more than a hiss. I hear a slither moving towards me from the opposite direction I’m looking at. I try to guess the species of the snake. It sounds like it could be eight or even nine feet long. That was bad. It had to be poisonous at that length. Constrictors would be over fifteen feet, and less dangerous snakes would be under three. Nine was exactly the wrong length.

I hear the flicker of its tongue as it tastes the air, searching for prey. There are rapid swishing motions as its head must be turning left and right. It’s close now. I could kick it if I had a death wish.

I tense my muscles as it closes the last few inches and touches my ribcage. I want to feel like a rock so I keep my muscles as tense as possible. Feel like stone, not flesh. I tell myself. Stone, not earth. I’m literally holding my breath as the weight of it moves onto my back, like a giant hand pressing against my side, and slowly, easily moving up my back to my shoulder.

Earth, not flesh, earth not flesh. I said it like a prayer as the head of the thing reached my shoulder blade, and out of the corner of my eye I got a glimpse of its sleek glittering black eyes. I dared not look at it lest it become startled by the sudden movement of my eyes.

The thing was pressing on me so hard that I almost exhaled from the weight of it. It was becoming a strain to keep my breath in and as the thing passed so close to my face I could’ve kissed it, a bead of sweat began to form on my head.

The feeling of the thing moving on my back, the sight of its eyes as close as those of a lover, and the tell tale drop of sweat on my head made we want to cry out and try and bring my knife to bare.

Then I hear that D# cutting through the night again, reminding me why I’m reminding. Reminding me that some things are worth kissing a viper for.

It’s just barely enough for me to hold on as the head of the thing passes by, and begins to move back into the brush. There are a few more seconds where my lungs begin to burn as the remaining few feet of serpent move off of me and into the night.

I start breathing again after I no longer hear its slithering sound, and begin my hunt for the thing crying out with my wife’s voice.

I reached a clearing in the trees: a wide, open space pitted by bogs of stagnant marsh water. The parts that were solid earth were covered by a tall, dry grass that rattled lightly in the wind. Across the field, I could see that same light glowing through the mist, brilliantly white like an angel.

I stepped forward onto the field, and the ground crunched beneath me. Bones, bleached white by centuries in the sun. Skeletal fingers still gripped a rotten wooden spear, tipped by a rusted metal diamond that had fallen into the dirt. A wicked curved dagger was stuck between two of the ribs. Patches of spiky grass poked through rusted-out holes in the armor, and moss grew over the remnants of his shield. I gingerly tried to avoid disturbing the corpse, but there was another right next to it. Dozens more, everywhere I stepped. The whole clearing was a graveyard; a forgotten battlefield of some long-ago war lost to history. They were in no shape to rise against me, but I unslung my crossbow and notched a bolt regardless; maybe the stories about the Kingdom of the Dead were true after all.

But I would have fought through the entire undead army to cross that field. The luminescent glow through the mists taunted me, urging me forward. Whatever was singing my wife’s song was waiting for me across the clearing, basking in that glow. Armor crumbled under my feet as empty eye sockets stared up at me accusingly. I felt a thousand eyes watching me from the trees as beasts lurked under the boughs; even they didn’t dare enter this clearing.

I came close enough to make it out the object. It was a box made of gleaming steel with thick rivets built to contain tremenous force; The top, however, was a translucent bubble gleaming in the night. I stepped closer, able to view the interior. Gleaming golden gears and cranking shafts scurried around frantically, around one enormous central cylinder, dotted tiny metal notches. The glow came from glass bottles with what seemed like bottled lightning.

BEAUTIFUL, ISN’T IT?” roared a voice from behind me as the ground beneath me rattled violently.

I spun, almost dropping my crossbow. The dragon had swooped in behind me and landed with a crash that sent bone fragments into the air along with a cloud of dust. His veiny red wings spread wide, blocking out the moon that was just beginning to fall. That same, scaly demon who had taken my wife all those years ago. Without another thought, I fired my crossbow bolt with a twang. It didn’t even pierce his thick, chitinous scales; the bolt just veered off, sending a shower of sparks into the mist.

“**That thing won’t help you,” he said with a smirk obvious even across his reptilian face.

“Where is she?” I answered. “I heard her!”

Touch that button next to you,” The dragon told me. I kept one eye on him, but did what he said. The device inside whirred and spun, and the soft notes of my wife’s song drifted out. I turned away from the dragon, pressing my palms against the glass. What is this device?

She’s still alive, you know,” A tear sprang to my eye as her voice became stronger, just as sweet as when she used to sing to the birds in the garden of our cottage. “Wouldn’t you want to see her again?

I fell to my knees before the beast.


“As I told you. Simply touch the button.” The dragon ordered. It was clearly enjoying itself. Dragons were very patient beings. They could spend an entire human lifetime setting up a moment such as this. An ‘entertainment’ they called it. A sick joke that they spent unfathomable amounts of effort into just to see a mortal squirm.

“What happens then?” I asked.

“Then you take her place mortal.” The dragon crushed several skulls under his feet. I hoped he wasn’t foreshadowing what was to come.

“And what happens to her?” I ask. Forgetting that I don’t know where she is.

“She takes your place.” The dragon drags out the last word like it’s a final note in a song. He knows what drew me here. He’s mocking me.

“So you can just take her away again? And leave me trapped wherever she is?” There’s no way that I’ll let her out here. She has to be safer where she is. A whole squad of my best men couldn’t escort her safely out of here without the dragon. With the monstrosity here anything short of a legion of troops would be insufficient.

“I’ll see that she’s….taken care of.” The beast snapped its jaws. It could break grown trees in two with those powerful jaws.

“You know I can’t believe you.” I tell the flying serpent.

Fire shot skyward from its mouth, billowing upward larger than I’d seen any pillar made by human hands. It roared loud enough to wake the heaviest sleeper three leagues off, and swatted its tail through the trees, cutting down a row of strong oaks.

You also know you can’t win. So I can make a meal of you right now. Or. The thing leaned down as its face was close to me. You can make it sporting for me.

I’d have to fight the beast. There was nothing for it. My love would be in far greater danger here than any she could possibly be facing in her current location. I’d force the great brute to fight me, and then maybe when the sport was out of it he’d let her go. She’d still have to make her way through the dead forest, but perhaps the creatures would think she was under the dragon’s protection, and leave her alone.

I reach for a bolt, readying my crossbow for one final stand. Smoke rises from the dragon’s nostrils as he prepares to end this fight as soon as I start it.

Then, I hear the words. The words to the song that I hadn’t remembered for years. The tune that had followed me into spider’s caves and dragon’s lairs now finally had words to it again. My wife’s words.

Hearth and home have I prepared for you

Rest you now, your slumber’s overdue.

Seek ye peace, the world’s troubles will I mend.

And when you wake, my face will you see again.

And now I know what I must do.

I lowered my bow, defeated. The dragon looked down at me with smoldering amber eyes, savoring his victory. His massive clawed feet dug into the ground as he stomped closer, and the red, scaled tail slithered through the grass behind him, leaving a furrowed trail of dirt and bones.

Wise choice, farmer,” it told me with a heavy emphasis on the last word, mocking me. Dragons savored only the hunt; those who raised food peacefully were the lowest of the low, only good for sport. “Surrender yourself, and I will let her free

I did as I was instructed, pressing the ruby gemstone button in the center of the device. The glass covering seemed to melt, vanishing into thin air. From the interior, the gears whirred and clanked, moving quickly. The dragon leaned closer, so near that I could smell the sulphur on his breath. The large metal cylinder in the middle of the machine rose slowly and popped open with an explosion of green sparks. From inside that golden shell, a long, slender handle appeared. Carved of dark wood, almost black, tipped with a metal ball in the shape of a flower bulb.

We call it a soul rose,” The dragon explained, with a hint of awe in his voice. “It will be your home until I find my next plaything. Or until you break.” He seemed to relish the thought of the latter.

I took it from the cannister and held it gently, admiring the craftsmanship even as I felt the dark power emanating from it. The dragon scooted closer for a better look, surrounding me with his enormous leathery wings. His scaly underbelly loomed above me, blotting out the night’s stars.

“What do I do with it?”

He hummed something in his own tongue, a harsh guttural language that sounded like an avalanche. The rose sprang to life, spreading apart into delicately crafted petals of white ivory. In the center,though, razor-edged golden teeth revealed a gaping black maw.

Now, press it to your heart. Your soul will inhabit the Rose, and your wife shall return in your place.

I looked down at the device, stalling. I could still hear my wife’s song, reassuring me. Soothing my spirit. She was the strong one, putting on a brave face for my own benefit. She would be willing to make this sacrifice, going into the unknown just to save me. A tear rolled down my cheek, causing the dragon to stand tall and cackle, a ferocious noise that sounded like he was coughing up rocks.

Seek ye peace, the world’s troubles will I mend.

With one swift motion, I loaded the rose into my crossbow. I turned back to the dragon, still stretched high into the night in front of me. His eyes narrowed as he suddenly realized what I had done, and his broad wings flapped to protect his exposed belly, but it was too late. The crossbow cable snapped, and the rose soared straight through the air. Maybe not as fast as a sleek arrow would have, but it did the trick. It struck the dragon’s scaly skin right where I knew his heart would be.

A gusting wind swept through the field, rattling the tall grasses and swirling through the tree branches on the edges. The dragon stood petrified for a moment, then began to glow. First only a bit, like a far-off glimmer. Then brighter and brighter until it was more intense than the sun itself, and I had to shield my eyes.

When I looked back, the dragon had disappeared and my wife stood in the field before me.

The hero of prophecy

“It has been almost a decade of training for you my young apprentice. You were brought to this farm as a small child, so little you do not even remember your parents. I have taught you the use of the bow, the sword, your hands, and even a little magic. You have learned speech-craft and the artistry of words so that you can employ them to sway your fellow man and inspire him to deeds of incalculable heroism. Now is the time to depart. Go now, and seek your destiny.”

With a bow, and a full kit of combat and wilderness survival gear, the hero departed, entering the woods surrounding the farm. It was his time, the hour of fate, now he was to go forth and… hang, on were those wolves? Yep, those were certainly wolves. Like, a lot of wolves, and rapidly approaching.

Our hero drew his sword, readied his shield, mentally rehearsed the incantation for a fireball, and braced himself for the drawing of his first blood.

He had a bit of a start when a girl, a girl about his age, burst through the underbrush.

“Oh thank goodness.” She said, tears in her eyes, as she caught site of our hero. “They’ve got my scent and I’m unarmed, please will you help me?”

Our hero knew what to do. He produced a pair of knives from his pack and placed them in the girl’s hands.

“I’ve got you covered, stay behind me, keep your back against mine, and yell if you’re about to be overwhelmed. I’ve got this covered.” Without another word he placed himself in front of her, and with renewed purpose stepped in front of the maiden to use himself as human shield against the tide of teeth and claws.

No sooner had he done so then a score of wolves lunged from the surrounding bushes, and quickly encircled our hero. Good, he should be able to pick a few off with fireballs this way. He twirled his sword hand and began reciting the spell accurately. Midway through the incantation he felt the girl begin to shake at his back. He paused his spell to comfort her.

“Hey, I’ve been trained for way worse than this. You’ll see. A little fire and these guys are going to turn tail and run.” Having said this, another man, on horseback burst through the brush and began calling down lightning to fell the wolves. In less than three heartbeats half of the beasts were put down, and the rest were running for the woods.

The horsemen turned to our surprised hero and called out. “Huzzah! And well met my good man, come, help me give chase to the vile things. There is a farm a mile hence which they are no doubt making for with all speed. Quickly now! While the scent is fresh.” Our hero looked at the man, then at the spot where the wolves departed. This is what he trained for, chasing wolves, defending the helpless, but shouldn’t he be better than this guy? He had almost half a minute, and hadn’t killed any wolves, this guy had killed most of them in just a few seconds.

Still, he might learn from him. Who said his training was done. He could follow this man and fulfill his destiny.

Then he felt the girl quivering with his back to him, and he knew what to do.

“Sorry mate, you have a good run at those wolves. I’m going to stay here and make sure she’s alright.” The horsemen nodded, understanding.

“Suit yourself. Good travel to you strangers.” And with that, his horse dove into the woods. Our hero dropped his sword and shield, turned towards the girl who was still staring at the ground as if she expected a wolf to take shape and leap from the earth. He wrapped his arms around her, and pulled her in.

“It’s going to be alright. I won’t let anything happen to you. It’s going to be alright.”

Not your average school shooting

Because of the somewhat sensitive nature of this story I’m going to post one of my favorite pictures to lighten the mood, instead of one that represents what the story is about.

“Everybody on the ground!” The troubled kid from calculus shouted. He didn’t need to ask twice. We all dove under our desks in the class room faster than gravity could have dropped us.

“What is he doing?” I whispered to my classmate Jason. We sat towards the back so I didn’t think the shooter could hear us. “And where did he get that rifle?” The shooter was directing the teacher to lock the door, and then forced her to the back of the class.

“I don’t know Thomas.” Jason whispered back. “His parents hate guns. He for sure didn’t get it from them.”

“Enough chit chat!” He shouted again. “Cell phones out and shove them up front. There’s twenty two of you, and I can count!” I took out my phone and hoped one of my classmates had called the police. I felt bad that I had chosen to talk instead of make the call.

“Everybody listen up!” He shouted.

“Did you call the police?” I whisper to Jason.

“I said listen up!” He yelled again. “I finally get a chance to speak, and nobody’s going to stop me. Thomas!” The name hit me like a shot from his gun. “Quit running your mouth and get up here!”

I appreciated how quite it was as I walked towards the front of the class. No one said a word. There had been no alarm sounded, and as far as I could hear, no police had called. Or at least, if they were called, they wouldn’t get here in time.

“On your knees Thomas!” The shooter shouted. I drop to my knees as he raises the gun.

“I’m going to make sure everybody remembers this day. Starting with you.” He had been shouting up until this point, but these words were said in a whisper.

“You haven’t chambered a round dummy.” I say. He looks to the side of his gun to see what I’m talking about. In that brief second I knock the gun away from my forehead, and stand up quickly, using my head to bash him in the jaw. Then punch him just below the sternum to drop him to the floor. I put my foot on his throat and grab the rifle out of his hands.

“Next time you steal a gun.” I tell him. “Make sure the chamber’s open.” He can’t respond because he can’t breathe properly at the moment, but I can tell that my point has been made.

A couple of my classmates flip him over and pin his arms behind his back. I break down the rifle and hand it to the teacher.

“I’ll get this to the principle at once.” She says.

“No.” I tell her. “We can’t give him any publicity. That’s what he wants. He was dying to get some attention from this. We can’t give him that. Give me three of the football players a pass to escort him to the parking lot, and call the police. I’ll stow the rifle in my bag as evidence. Quickly, quietly, no one hears a word of this.”

With great knowledge comes great responsibility

A man is granted infinite knowledge.

Of course! The third carbon on the benzyl amide was the key to it all! My doctoral thesis had just become a snap. I would still have to do the experiment to prove it, but using my infinite knowledge would certainly stream line the process, and already knowing the outcome, I could write my thesis anytime.

It had come to me in a dream, there was something about a great cosmic choice, and upon waking he suddenly knew. To celebrate I decided to take myself out to lunch, the usual Chinese restaurant would do.

As I joyjully hopped into my car I realized that my rear brakes would require replacement in about three thousand miles, that was good to know. I discovered my car would no longer be economical to maintain in about another forty thousand miles. Knowledge was wonderful!

Things started to take a dark turn as I arrived at a stop light. I know the car next to me is going to suffer a terrible crash that will leave the driver on life support for life. This knowledge hits me like a slap to the face. I need to tell the driver. I roll down my window and try to yell at the driver, but the light turns green, and I’m in the wrong lane. The car quickly speeds out of sight to its fate, and a honking horn behind Francis’ sends him in the opposite direction.

“It’s okay.” I tell myself. There are going to be some downsides too. I look at another car driving next to me, and know the girl is going to be proposed to soon. This brings a smile to my face, until I also realize their subsequent divorce in six years will ruin their two children’s lives, driving one to become a homeless alcoholic after he drops out of med school with 100K in debt.

I drive to the Chinese restaurant without looking at anything but inanimate objects. Those are all fairly dull, giving me nothing but what they’re made of and when they’ll break mostly.

When I arrive at the restaurant I grab a menu and dash to a booth quickly. I bury my head in a menu, and when the waiter comes to take my order I quickly spurt out my order, and go back to studying the menu, which I insist on keeping. It is actually a rather pleasant menu, and I learn much about the rich history of China by studying the items.

“I’ll have the lobster.” A girl in the booth over says. She’s allergic to lobster and will suffer a lethal allergic reaction. I instantly know. What should I do? I can’t tell her, she will never believe me, and I certainly don’t want to talk to her lest she should find out all sorts of horrible things. I stew and stew, ignoring the waiter when my own meal of chicken with cashews is brought.

The girl’s own food comes out and I instantly know what to do. I run up to the waiter and knock the plate out of his hand.

“What are you doing!” Both the waiter and the girl shout.

“I’m, I’m sorry.” I say. I want to explain myself, but it would do no good. I just have to stop her from ordering more lethal food.

“Now what am I going to eat?” The girl demands.

“Um, here.” I grab my own chicken and cashews, neither of which she is allergic too. “Take my food.” The girl snatches it from my hands quickly, and sits down to eat without a word.

“Here, this if for my meal, her meal, and your trouble.” I tell the waiter, giving him a rather large tip on top of the cost of both meals. He takes the money, and I know he isn’t thinking pleasant thoughts about me, but his anger is soothed. I quickly move to leave the restaurant, but before I do I look at the girl. I know her name is Sarah.

Sarah, I repeat the name to myself over and over again so it is at the forefront of my thoughts. I may be doomed to know everyone’s fate, and misery, but at least I can save a few, and I must hold onto those few to get my by.