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Fangs of Light

A Tale of Ezok

By Stephen A. RoddewigPublished 29 days ago Updated 29 days ago 6 min read
Top Story - May 2024
Fangs of Light
Photo by Basil Smith on Unsplash

This story is a continuation of the Tales of Ezok that began in "The Precipice." Reading this story and its companion "Whispers and Whisps" is not required to enjoy this story, but they will each add layers to the character we see here and I would be remiss to not mention them at the very least.

~~~

Fangs of Light

It began, as it always had, in a sun-streaked meadow.

Ezok had not known many dreams. Often, his traverses and battles had sapped so much strength that he had no energy left for such musings. Others of his kind might frolic, gossip, and chase after mates. But he was a whitetail set to his purpose, with little left for lesser pursuits.

Not that he hadn’t wondered at the lives of his fellow deer. No matter how many rotations of the moon, there would always be a piece of him that paused when he happened upon a doe using the same trail. That stared at the fawns leaping and sprinting under their mother’s watchful eye with far less detachment than he knew he should have.

He had long ceased to fight it, even as he imagined Jessop’s disapproving eyes boring into his back. The Old One had considered it all weakness.

Yet, Ezok had come to realize, if he closed himself entirely to his own kind, how would he maintain the will to carry on? Now, with young bones and supple hide, his trials were simple.

But when his joints moaned in the winter winds and his eyes no longer saw so clearly, when he would have to strive twice as hard just to survive, what then? Would he still be willing to do his duty when victory now demanded so much sacrifice? Sacrifice, for a kind he knew so little about?

And there was the reality that, sooner or later, he would have to find a successor. Like Jessop had with him. Could a grown doe or buck be trusted to the task?

Thus, when the warm meadow had first appeared to him, Ezok had concluded his mind was attempting to show him a childhood he had never known, so that he might understand the fawns and, through that understanding, find one willing to hear his words and follow his ways.

Yet, no fawns appeared to him, no invitations to play were shouted over the still air.

The air. It was far too still. Too placid. The ground didn’t even shimmer despite the brilliant sun directly overhead.

At first, when the visions had come to him, Ezok would stand, looking about expectantly. For whatever reason, he never found it in himself to move. To seek, despite all his wanderings in the waking hours.

Perhaps this was meant to be rest. A calm place of safety for a mind confronted with so much darkness.

Darkness, he found himself fixated on the thought. There’s no darkness.

The sun hovered overhead, and yet there was not a single shadow in sight. Not even the thin trails of gray that the meadow grass strands should have thrown over their compatriots.

More details slowly revealed themselves in his visits.

Every strand of meadow grass ended in a perfect point. No one had eaten here in some time, despite the perfect bounty it represented.

Farther toward the tree line, the undergrowth of the forest had spilled over onto the edges of the meadow, shrubs and holly growing to impossible heights. Not only that, but everything was green. Too green. Despite the branches stretching ever higher into the sky, the leaves below had not withered from lack of sun.

It was this growing unease that had finally compelled Ezok to move from his spot.

Yet, the closer he grew to the forest’s edge and the sea of undergrowth, the brighter the sun grew. As if something wanted to hold him back.

But Ezok shut his eyes to it and carried on, confident he would find respite in the shade of the forest.

He pushed through brambles and bracken, only to find the sunshine had not diminished. Instead, it had grown impossibly bright, forcing its way through the part in his eyelids. Finally, Ezok opened his eyes to find himself surrounded by a sea of piercing light.

Perhaps he had gone astray in his blind charge.

Until he stumbled into a trunk. Momentum carried him a stride further, and the trunk was lost to the ocean of yellow-white.

It wanted to halt his path. It wanted to blind him.

And so, despite every collision with a tree or bush, he pushed forward, sensing that the truth lay somewhere in the depths of this brilliant forest.

On this sojourn, as tears streamed from screaming eyes, he at last caught sight of that which the sun had conspired to hide.

A forest creature. One of his own kind, in fact.

But far older than any whitetail should be.

She stood in place, not reacting when Ezok collided with her midsection. Somehow, he had not knocked her over, despite the legs of bone and unused hide drooping around a frame far too recessed. Her strength came from the fact that her hooves had melded with the stone below her. So long had she stood in place that rock formations now crept from the ground to take hold.

It was her eyes that alarmed him the most. Glazed white from far too long in blazing sunshine.

“Why do you not move?” he had asked her. “Why do you not eat?”

For a long time, she did not give any sign of recognition. The eyes remained placid. Unblinking.

Then, finally, her neck shifted the slightest of breadths, bringing with it a great crackling sound.

Like when a dead branch snaps beneath your weight, Ezok thought.

Her jaw unhinged, only able to create the slightest parting for the gasping sound to escape.

“No… need…”

Ezok caught the next question in his throat.

Why do you not die?

He already knew the answer, even before a new voice came from above, sing-song and swirling around Ezok. “You disturb her peace with your treacherous tongue.”

“Peace… or servitude?” Ezok replied.

“Death is the enemy. I have driven it from these woods. My whispering woods,” the child replied. “Here, the Speaker of Life safeguards all her children from the enemy. Join us. You bear the scars of the hostile world beyond. Join us, and rest.”

Ezok shook his head. “My task is not complete. And a life without struggle is no life at all.”

The sing-song voice became agitated. “This insolence is why I speak for all in my woods. You lack the sight, the wisdom. You have been corrupted.”

The white light grew even brighter, until Ezok lost sight of the ancient doe despite the stride’s length between them. Above, the sun widened to an impossible size, its heat so intense that Ezok’s muscles refused to function.

He was trapped. Trapped in this suffocating light.

“Fortunate for you, the Speaker of Life believes all creatures are sacred. In time, you will come to see mine is the true way. Now, know my mercy and surrender the darkness you still hold within.”

Her voice now screamed in his ears, “Surrender to the light!”

Then, a single point of brown shone in the white curtain. It burrowed its way into the veil, forcing it apart until two brown ovals appeared. They locked with Ezok’s eyes, offering a sanctuary from the blazing haze.

A new voice, calm and certain, drowned out the Speaker of Life. “He is not yours to keep.”

The umber hue expanded, driving away the corrupted sunshine and wrapping Ezok in a warmth that he knew all too well. The scent of heather drifted into his nostrils as her voice whispered in his ear, “Look up, dear one.”

She had pushed the sun from the sky, and stars blinked down at him. Jessop had taught him of the patterns, and he recognized some to the north.

The north.

“No!” the child cried at his revelation. “Stay away. You are not welcome in my whispering woods.”

Her screams faded as Ezok awoke to sweet, merciful darkness.

The stars had not retreated to make room for the coming day yet, and he looked to the southern horizon, recognizing the edges of those same patterns.

Lorren’s spirit had freed him, and in her wisdom, shown him the way.

“I’m coming, Speaker of Life,” Ezok vowed in the pre-dawn quiet.

~~~

Author's Note

Many thanks to fellow Vocal author Bri Craig for granting permission to use her character the Speaker of Light in my story. Just as "Fangs of Light" is a continuation of Ezok's story, so, too, is it (and a future story) the continuation of the tale of the whispering woods that Bri established in her short story duology below. I highly recommend checking them out!

Fun fact: they can be read in either order, so you can stick with how I've arranged them or be your own independent person 😁

Short StoryHorrorFantasyAdventure

About the Creator

Stephen A. Roddewig

I am an award-winning author from Arlington, Virginia. Started with short stories, moved to novels.

...and on that note: A Bloody Business is now live! More details.

Proud member of the Horror Writers Association 🐦‍⬛

StephenARoddewig.com

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Comments (7)

  • Christy Munson27 days ago

    I've only skimmed this one given this weekend's time constraints, but I'll be back to fully read and will offer richer comments then. In the meantime, congratulations on Top Story! Even a cursory glance reveals there's depth and great imagery here! 🥳

  • Anna 27 days ago

    Congrats on your Top Story!🥳🥳🥳

  • Cyrus27 days ago

    Love the imagery!

  • Congrats on the top story.

  • Paul Stewart27 days ago

    I have not read this, full disclosure...But...BUT! I am happy you are getting more attention and recognition, Sir! Aand I will read it in due time! :)

  • Mackenzie Davis27 days ago

    Happy dance!! Top Story! (No, it wasn't me!)

  • Mackenzie Davis28 days ago

    Well if I wasn't completely invested before, I am now! Lorren's spirit freed him? What, how, huh??? I need another installment on the fly, chef. ;D Seriously, that was fantastic, Stephen. Superb! I love how even I experienced a burning sensation behind my eyes, imagining how bright the sun grew in the middle of the story. Incredible descriptions, and I just love Ezok as a character. He's so dedicated, yet completely different from your other dedicated characters, Dick and Martin. Your subtle characterizations of him truly do paint him as an animal; there is a disconnect in how deeply I can connect with him, but I like that; adds a believability to him as a protagonist. This is a fascinating story collection you've begun. I hope you develop it as a novel one day. Now I gotta read Bri's stories!

Stephen A. RoddewigWritten by Stephen A. Roddewig

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