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The Lantern Keeper

Let There Be Light

By C. Rommial ButlerPublished 2 years ago Updated 12 months ago 5 min read
5
"Symbol of the Lantern Keeper" by Phoenix Butler

There weren’t always dragons in the Valley.

I behold them from my cave near the peak of Mount Alexia.

There are two of them. One is an earthbound serpent. It is very long. I cannot see all the parts of its trunk as it winds between the steep hills below. Iridescent scales reflect the sunlight and render the serpent’s undulating body into a roiling rainbow. Its giant head rises, maw gaping, bearing two sharp fangs that drip acidic ichor. I can see the tendrils of smoke as the venom hits the ground and sizzles into the earth.

This is the Prism Serpent, the Ouroboros, who I’ve encountered in the ancient books of lore. On the other side of the Sainted Valley stands Mount Ganymede. The serpent burst from the great edifice as if from an egg, leaving a crumbled archway in the face of the mountain. I can just make out the serpent’s tail now as the last of it slithers from its rocky womb.

The other dragon is of the winged variety. It beats those great wings to stay aloft, out of the serpent’s reach. The dragon’s entire body is pitch black, like coal. The scales do not reflect. It seems like this dragon absorbs the light. An ever-present mist-like aura wafts from it, as if it smolders. Its actions make it seem like an intelligent creature. I do not recognize it from any tome I studied, ancient or modern.

The serpent rises higher and strikes out suddenly, but the dragon anticipates it. Rolling away with one beat of its massive wings, it then darts forward and to the side of the serpent, moving behind it. The serpent reels and spins to face the dragon, but it can’t whip its massive body around in time. The dragon dives down, biting into the back of the serpent’s head and slamming its face into the ground.

So great is the shaking of the earth that I must steady myself against the mouth of the cave to keep from falling. I watch as the dragon digs its talons deep into the dirt to brace itself and then grounds the serpent’s face violently into the Valley. Huge chunks of earth, grass, rock, and clay fly all about as the dragon buries the serpent’s face deeper.

All of this happened so fast. I stepped outside to relieve myself. I was standing here, facing Mount Ganymede, pleasantly draining the remnants of yester eve’s wine from my bursting bladder, when the Ouroboros broke through the mountain. The black dragon flew so quickly from the southern horizon to face the serpent that it seemed as if the onyx beast had flown straight from the center of the sun.

I clammed up quick, pulling up my pants, and stumbled backwards into the cave. Now here’s this dragon making a mess of my beautiful Valley with this serpent’s face.

All my life I prepared to live as a hermit in this sacred cave so that I could keep careful watch on the Sainted Valley. The Valley is called such because when an army of the undead poured forth from Mount Ganymede during the Hyperbolas Era, many in my community fought and died there to protect our home.

Urnstag, the city of my birth, lies just on the other side of Mount Alexia, to the east, between the base of the mountain and the Crannocan Sea. No one knew wherefrom the undead came, but we vowed never to be unprepared again. Since the defeat of the undead army, this warning system has saved us from surprise attacks by invading humans, orcs, elves, and dwarves.

As the watchman of the Sainted Valley, it’s my duty to run up the path to the peak of the mountain and spark the warning flame in The Great Lantern. But that’s if I see an encroaching army.

No one prepared me for dragons. What in the dark recesses of the Infernal Abyss are we to do about this?

I run up the well-worn path. I feel the ground tremble again beneath my feet. It almost throws me down the side of the mountain. The shaking gets worse so I hug the mountain on the inside of the path for support while I shuffle up as fast as I can.

When I finally reach the peak, the shaking is so intense that I am forced to my hands and knees. I crawl to the edge to see what’s happening.

The serpent is bucking its body beneath the dragon, crashing up and down.

The dragon’s talons have torn free from the earth and are now dug in beneath the scales of the Ouroboros. The dragon’s jaw is still clamped to the serpent’s head, but I can see it won’t be long before the dragon loses its grip.

I crawl back from the west side of the peak and over to the east. The Great Lantern stands against the clear blue sky. It was here before Urnstag existed, a magical beacon from a mysterious bygone civilization. The Great Lantern is pure gold, three times the size of a man, firmly embedded in the rock. Despite the angry agitations of the Ouroboros, The Great Lantern basks in the sun, immovable.

My people must already know something is amiss. They must feel the tremors.

I concentrate all my will on the Words of Wielding, the catechism which was drilled into my mind since my earliest memory. A chant we all hoped I would never speak. I must scream as loud as I can to hear myself over the din of the trembling earth.

In times of trouble, we grow in might!

In times of danger, we stand and fight!

In the Sainted Valley, we join as one!

Beneath the sun our will is done!

In times of strife—

The ground quakes so hard, my arms give beneath me and my face smashes into the rock. I hear a terrible noise from the west, the loud screech of a wounded creature. I hope it’s the serpent, but I suspect it’s the dragon, as the shaking abruptly ceases. When I look up through tear-blurred eyes I can see the faintest glimmer, a bare spark of magic swirling in the center of the ornate gold lantern. I know that if I can only complete the spell, it will explode into a brilliant beacon of pure white light that will be seen far out to sea.

I’ve swallowed a tooth. I am choking, blubbering, spitting out my own blood as I scream:

—LET THERE BE LIGHT!

For more of Phoenix Butler's art, follow her on instagram here.

Other stories of magic and mayhem by C. Rommial Butler:

Short Story
5

About the Creator

C. Rommial Butler

C. Rommial Butler is a writer, musician and philosopher from Indianapolis, IN. His works can be found online through multiple streaming services and booksellers.

Reader insights

Outstanding

Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

Top insights

  1. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

  2. On-point and relevant

    Writing reflected the title & theme

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Comments (1)

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  • Isla Griswald2 years ago

    I appreciate your use of names from Ancient Greece mythology. Choosing names is an art, and your choices complemented your storyline.

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