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Child of the Stars

by Daniel Pierce 4 months ago in Fantasy · updated 4 months ago
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Prologue: Erasing the Stars

There weren’t always dragons in the valley, nor were there mages, but what Aphelia just witnessed back in the city, was something more than such myths her grand-elder had relished in elaborate tales of folklore to her. She feared even he would be mystified by what she just witnessed, before all she knew, in her 9 years, was disintegrated into the plume of smoke now far behind her, ominous in its grim taunt over her hometown; its orange glow like a hellish ember burning against the calm admiral valley.

Aphelia felt the mud seep through the leather of her boots, and her left heel began to feel raw and sting as the thick grassy hillsides transitioned to the toppled stone around the ribs of the mountain. The cold of night laid into her skin tightening her joints, suffocating any chance of comfort as she was yanked on in haste by the giant cloaked stranger through the dark wood. She couldn’t tell precisely where they were, but by the measure of the last familiar landmark she saw, ‘Culprit’s Hill’, at least a few hundred paces behind them now, she knew it wasn’t long before they were beyond the furthest she’d ever journied outside the city; and where they were headed, she did not know.

‘Culprit’s Hill’, so named by her and small band of friends, because not only was this hill nestled in the thick of the forest, but at its peak, was not a peak at all, but a trench. Within the trench, was a hole that led to the wondrous and unexpected hollow of the hill. A perfect place for hiding, especially if one was guilty of a crime and being pursued, thus, ‘Culprit’s Hill’, became it’s legacy in the children’s imagination. Kept secret from all adults, of course.

‘Culprit’s Hill’ was the place where Aphelia and her friends, Tudders, Makalick, Crescence, Duddlious, Nifri, and Jonathan, often played their game of choice, or creation, rather: Warmere. Warmere’s concept: two opposing teams playing with their figures they had built, acting out small fantastical wars between their figures modeled after the mythic characters found in the tales shared by the likes of the elders and books; much like Aphelia’s grand-elder had shared; was initially conceived by Jonathan, but eventually all of them had played a part in making it into the warmere they would come to play for the past 2 years. Duddlious, in his intrepid spirit, suggested that they should have real battles between themselves, acting the fights of wit and brawn out beyond just the makeshift characters of wood, clay, metal and straw. Crescence added the idea of having the figures autonomous, thanks to the help her friend, Silva, the cooped up elder in the tower on the hill with a plethora of world-traveled items spilling from its windows. Vapid rumors kept faces at a scowl any time he was mentioned, for he had unseasoned decorum and all too often his tower screamed some odd raucous that gave the otherwise peaceful town an uneasy jolt. Crescence never saw harm in him, as little as she saw of him. She was never one to prejudge, so his eccentricity never bothered her, to her, it was part of the allure. She was a curious and contemplative creature, so whatever was the most odd in the room, most likely had her attention.

Tudders suggested there needed to be leveling of characters with each battle. As much as his stomach seemed to guide him into acts of buffoonery, he was never short on surprising the group with his sharp intuition.

Nifri said there should be traps allowed. Typical Nifri, pessimisim served her slyness that usually showed itself best in her cunningness when it was needed.

Makalick said there should should be a spy, but not always a spy, as that would make it even more surprising when and if the spy was revealed.

It was Aphelia who added the last touch. Each of them suggested only what felt most natural to them and so did she. She knew it was the most daring of all the suggestions. Regardless, she said that there should never be a declared winner. It really was the best idea of all of them. The concept there not being a winner never deterred fervor of the children, to play with all their might and vigor just as the greatest warriors had in their imaginations. In warmere, war was romantic and death was merely knowing your friends were deft allies they could depend on when it mattered most.

But that all seemed like a sinking shadow, as war and death seemed imminent and nothing was fun about it at all, it was a hammer into the teeth.

Amidst the shock of the uncanny event and the haste of being taken up by cloaked giant and rushed through the woods she hadn’t even thought of the fates of her friends until now. Now as her throat tightened and her eyes welled up she didn’t want to bear the weight of it.

Aphelia’s growing despondency was broken by a deep rapid thumping, as if something very large and very fast was in pursuit not far behind them. Heart in throat she turned to look over the slope of forest below but instead was yanked hard by her large companion as she had to mind her footing across all the loose and jagged stone. Her feet burning even more now but nothing compared to the fear that was leaching onto her mind.

The cloaked giant’s grip tightened and pace became more swift. Aphelia was taken aback when she noticed that despite his prodigious size and immense stride, he never seemed to make contact with any tree branches nor barely make a sound with his giant feet. Was he real? An apparition? There was no room in her mind to consider such things.

The thumping was getting larger and closer. It seemed to zig-zag as the ominous sound panned. She had no idea how it could move like that as the cliffs were only getting steeper as they went higher up the mountain. As the thumping neared a new sound accompanied it. It was like metal scraping metal. It sounded much to heavy to be armor, not that was much use of that in her life time, maybe in the more central kingdoms, but this sounded like thick iron or steel factory machine parts scraping faster than anything thought possible.

The giant yanked again as he dashed a turn into narrow slope downward and onto an open area overlooking the valley. In the brief moment there as they sped across the cool balcony of the mountain dressed by the ceiling of a clear night, she saw what looked like flames incased in ice hovering around the pillar of smoke over her hometown. By the moonlight, the best she could make out, is they were in cages of metal. How they were suspended in the air she had no idea, but for a moment she thought that maybe magic may have returned (if it ever really existed at all)…

Quickly, she was yanked back into the darkness of the woods that sheathed the great mountain, tearing across the black of the underbrush. The stars shone well tonight and the moon was nearly full, so thankfully there was some sight as the giant carried no fire nor bothered carrying her for that matter. He was in a dreadful hurry and understandably so. Though, they had seem to go off any semblance of a path, the thumping was becoming thunderous in shaking the walls of the mountain, its foreboding sounds of grinding metal getting louder as if they were a ticking clock counting down to their deaths.

For the first time the giant had stopped, and for the first time, she wished he hadn’t, as the strident sounds carried in their narrowing proximity. He seemed to be studiously observing the massive boulder before them. At least 3 times his height, and he, was at least 4 of her. She trusted in his pause, but with growing concern.

After a stoical study of the prodigious stone, his right hand reached from his heavy cloak; index finger dressed in single silver claw with a chain dangling from it tethered to his wrist. With it he made a few markings on the stone. Through the etchings rose sheets of light dying down as soon as they had appeared. Aphelia not knowing whether to look the way of the menacing metallic sounds nearly on top of them, or towards the uncanny conjurings of her mysterious companion.

She heard the sound of rolling stone against stone and looked to find a seemingly dank cavernous opening revealed. He turned to her and for the first time, she heard him speak.

“Get in.”

His deep voice was intimidating, but the stabs of metal into stone on the balcony they had just crossed, and she did not give it a second thought for she’s been diving into a cavernous hole for a quarter of her life, and as she could feel the clanking of metal and sounds of stabbing into the mountain resonating in her chest, she dove and crawled into the hole.

It was completely black as she did not know if to expect a creature or some endless drop off or even a tight space where she may suffocate in seconds. She turned toward the whole to look for the giant for she thought he’d be following right behind her.

No giant.

Boom. Boom. Boom. Boom! Boom! Boom! BOOM!BOOM! BOOM!!!

The machine had reached the outside of the cave. But the stone had rolled back.

No giant. Nothing.

Just the horrible sounds of the churning metal fall away allowing silence to remain as prominent the darkness Aphelia finds herself in.

Did she just imagine the giant the entire time?

As her breathing slowed she could feel the burning in her lungs lessen for the air was a bit warmer, but how much air is she going to be able to breath in here? She dared not move for she didn’t know what was beyond the dirt she could feel beneath her.

As the night had stilled for the first time and her thoughts were able to resonate through the blistering of her feet and enervation taking over her bod,. She began to think of all of them. Her friends. Were they all dead? Was she soon to join them in their fate?

Sadness overtook her and anchored her face to the floor as she began to wail. She could feel the dirt muddied up from her tears and cover her face, but she did not care. She felt a warm light fill the room, and if a stone could light onto a flower as gingerly as a butterfly, so was the giants hand that comforted her as he rested it on her head.

She only cried louder, for she felt the comfort and gratitude swell inside her but all she had the capability to do was cry. For she did not care if magic had returned or been born into this world, the loves in her life for all she knew were gone, and that was more than magic can ever hold.


About the author

Daniel Pierce

Filmmaker, voice actor, producer. It all start with writing. All writing starts with listening. I’m always listening.

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