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The WindFlower

A Short Fantasy Story

By Kenny PennPublished about a year ago 10 min read
4
Midjourney AI + Kenny Penn

Aeolus pointed to his enemies, and they fell dead before him.

Battle raged only feet in front of him. Fading sunlight reflected against battle hardened swords as the sound of steel crashed against steel. The smell of blood, sweat and feces permeated thick in the warm summer air. Already buzzards circled overhead, waiting to feast.

“Demeter, to me now!” Aeolus yelled, splaying his fingers out wide. From each fingertip, gouts of flame erupted and spread across the field. Enemy soldiers caught in the blaze screamed and ran about in panicked terror, catching other soldiers ablaze.

“I’m here, my Lord,” Demeter said, trotting up behind him. A short man with dark hair and brown eyes, Demeter nevertheless stuck an imposing figure. A heavy battle axe hung strapped over a shoulder thick with muscle and lined with scars.

“Has there been word on the priestess’ location?”

“Not yet.” Demeter frowned, gesturing to the battlefield. “Scouts reported they would be with the enemy vanguard to bolster support against our sorcerers, but it seems they’ve chosen to hang back for now.”

Aeolus clenched his fist. It didn’t make sense. The outcome of this battle would determine the future of the world. Why wasn’t she here, leading her flock of pigeons against them?

Unless . . .

Eyes widening, Aeolus turned and gripped Demeter’s arm. “Is there a way to reach the coronaria fields other than through us?”

“Another way?” Demeter asked, rubbing the back of his neck. “No. We grow all our coronaria behind the walls.”

“Are you sure?” Aeolus demanded. “What about the mountains?”

Demeter raised his eyebrows. “Those mountains run northwest for over two hundred miles. The stone makes it impossible to go around, and it’s damned difficult for one person to climb, much less a group.”

Aeolus waved his hand in the general direction of the battle. “Then where are they?”

“I don’t know, my Lord,” Demeter replied, shrugging. “Perhaps they’ve given up?”

“You obviously don’t know Eleni the way I do. She wouldn’t give up even if she were the last one standing. But she’s not stupid either, she would know how much those men need her to shield them from our attacks. She’s sacrificing them, why?”

“My Lord,” Demeter said, and licked his lips. “A rider approaches, one of ours.”

Turning to face the rider, Aeolus clutched the stump that used to be his elbow in his hand. He suddenly felt cold and a little dizzy.

The rider leapt off the horse as soon as he reached them. A young, gangly messenger dressed in leather and sweating profusely. His blue eyes stared at them, wide and hopeful.

Aeolus recognized the young man. “Nestor, isn’t it?”

“Yes, my Lord. You must come, quick! There are soldiers and priests inside the walls, they’re in the courtyard just behind the fields!”

“Shit!” Aeolus exclaimed. “I knew something was off! Demeter, keep an eye on things here. Send people you can spare to a few other sorcerers and have them come find me inside! The fields must be protected!”

Demeter placed a fist against his chest and ran off, his jaw set and gaze alert.

“Don’t just stand there, Nestor, mount up,” Aeolus shouted.

Nestor blinked, nodded, and began to turn back to his horse, then stopped. “What about you, my Lord?” He asked doubtfully.

“I’ll ride behind you! I’ll need your help to get on anyway, move!”

They ran to the horse and Nestor sprang up with ease, then grabbed Aeolus’ hand and pulled him up behind. Aeolus wrapped his arm as tight as he could around Nestor’s waist.

“Go, Nestor! And pray to the gods we aren’t too late!”

#

It looked like a hurricane with teeth had gone through the courtyard. Men lay dead and broken everywhere. Blood ran in streams across torn grass and scattered flowers and decorated the stone walls in chaotic patterns.

“My Lord,” Nestor said, his voice shaking. He pointed skyward, to the north. “Smoke.”

Beads of sweat broke out on Aeolus’s forehead. He was glad to be sitting astride a horse because his knees had gone weak. No, he thought, shaking his head, no, she can’t have succeeded already.

Aloud, he said, “Come on Nestor! We have little time!”

They burst through the open gateway and into the fields beyond. Smoke billowed a few hundred yards away. Flames gushed from row upon row of the coronaria. The air was filled with the sickly-sweet scent of flower and ash.

Several hundred flowers remained. There was still time. Aeolus peered through the haze, reaching for his quarry.

“See anything?” He asked.

“Yes, I think so, my Lord! Over there!”

Aeolus looked where Nestor pointed and could just make out a few shadows moving beyond the smoke. He let go of Nestor and gestured with a wordless shout. The hairs on his neck stirred as lightning cracked down through the cloudless sky.

Screams blotted out the sound of the blaze. Aeolus smiled grimly, pointing again, and more lightning came down in jagged forks. But this time a bright, golden light flared up in a dome around the enemy, halting the lightning yards before it could cause any damage.

Aeolus gritted his teeth and snarled. Sliding off the horse, he patted Nestor on the leg. The poor boy was quivering, but to his credit has not voiced his apparent fear.

“Go back to the courtyard and lead any of my fellows you can find here.”

Nestor looked visibly relieved. “As you say, my Lord. May the gods be with you in this hour.”

“Shit on the gods,” Aeolus muttered, watching Nestor ride away. A flash of golden light arced through the air toward him. Aeolus flicked his hand and the light deflected away.

He turned toward the forms once more and reached into his pocket, pulling out a vial of blood red liquid. A simple tea, made from brewing the petals of coronaria flowers with simple water.

His stomach began to burn almost immediately after swallowing the tea down. It tasted bitter, like the peel of an old lemon, but he could feel his power spreading within, transcending its limits until he almost trembled with it.

With another grim smile, be increased his pace to a jog. Streaks of golden light flew at him from several directions, but he batted them away with hardly a thought. Splaying his fingers outward, he hurled lightning toward his attackers. One, two, three, four barrages in quick succession.

The shields were thrown up once more, but his constant strikes proved too much, breaking through the third and final shields to strike the enemies within. Screams erupted as he breached the smokey haze.

“ELENI!” Aeolus shouted, then coughed as smoke filled his lungs. He wove a mask of purified air onto his face. “Come out and face me! If you don’t, I’ll kill everyone here!”

The ground beneath him shook, providing ample warning before the earth at his feet began to crack and split. He quickly gestured to his feet, creating a platform of air on which to stand, then sent another barrage of deadly bolts at the enemies ahead, slaying several more.

“Your tricks will not work! The power of a priest is nothing to the power of a sorcerer, and I have taken the coronaria! Come out, Eleni!”

Movement ahead, and then a few people shifted to allow a woman to pass through. A tall, dark-haired woman, green eyed and fierce, side-stepped the flaming flowers and approached him. She wore a white robe, somehow completely unstained by ash, blood, or dirt, and carried an elegant wooden staff.

“You’re too late, Aeolus.” She said, stopping a few yards away. She gestured to the rows of burning flowers around them. “Already Phaedra’s will is being done.”

“You haven’t won yet, Eleni. Stop this now. Surrender, and I won’t have to kill you.”

Eleni snorted and shook her head. “The blood flower causes you to grow overconfident, Aeolus. Even the famed one-armed mage cannot defeat all of us, even with your ungodly brew.”

“Ungodly to you,” Aeolus snapped. “Not to me, and you underestimate my power.”

Her expression turned stony. “After all the wars fought between your brethren over this flower, the thousands of lives lost, cities torn down to their foundations, and you still don’t see how evil it is?”

Aeolus shrugged. “It’s only a tool. A means to an end. Power is a tool given by the gods, not meant to be thrown away as your ilk would preach.”

“Some tools are tests - “

“Enough!” Aeolus cut her off with a sharp motion. “I have debated all this with you before, Eleni. It’s time to finish this.”

For a moment, Eleni only stared down at her hands, her face slack. But when she looked up, her eyes locked with his and she nodded, a decisive, final gesture. “You’re right, Aeolus, the time has come.”

Without another word she shoved her staff forward. The flames to either side of her bent away as light exploded outward in a blast far too large to dodge.

Aeolus cursed and gestured his hand in a chopping motion. The air in front of him shimmered, then solidified. The light slammed into his wall with a loud groan, its progress halted. But instead of dissipating, more light burst from the staff, pushing against the makeshift wall of air like the hand of a giant.

Realizing the wall wouldn’t hold, Aeolus clenched his fist, his eyes going black as night. He summoned every bit of strength he had and called to the wind, strengthening his wall while using the remaining bit to whip up rocks, earth, and tree branches in a gale. He threw them at her in a furious barrage, forcing her to lessen her push to throw up her own shields.

He was impressed. She must have been the strongest priestess in generations, to keep a sorcerer on his toes in such a fight. But he didn’t think she could keep this up for much longer.

Smiling, Eleni reached into her pocket with her other hand, and pulled out a blood red vial.

“You! Conniving bitch!” Aeolus screamed, face reddening. “You would deny us the use of the flower while using it yourself?”

“It is no sin to use the enemy’s tools against him. I will pray for forgiveness when the battle is won.”

Aeolus screamed again and lashed out, calling down lightning, summoning forth flames from outstretched fingers. The light slowed and stopped. All Eleni could do for the moment was defend against his onslaught.

Two more bolts of light flew at him from both sides. Aeolus realized his mistake too late. He pulled his own power back and conjured more walls, but another bolt took him from behind. He fell forward with a pained gasp, tried to catch himself with his hand but toppled over, groaning.

An ambush. He thought. And cleverly done.

“You see, Aeolus,” Eleni’s voice spoke above him, “you cannot defeat us all.”

Aeolus realized his lungs must be filling with blood. Each breath was harder to pull in than the last. He forced himself to smile at Eleni through red smeared lips. “You should kill me, before my brothers arrive.”

“It will be too late for you, and too late for them,” Eleni said, moving away. “While we’ve been talking and battling, my soldiers have continued to burn the fields. You have lost, Aeolus. The last of the flower will be burned away.”

His vision began to fade away. He heard shouts somewhere in the distance. Perhaps his brethren, come at last. But he knew Eleni was right, they were too late to save him. He only hoped they weren’t too late to save themselves.

-End

Hello and thank you for reading! I was blessed enough to make it to the second round of NYC Midnight's 2023 Short Story competition with my piece, "An Ominous Song", also published here on vocal. My fingers are crossed that this one does just as well, and I hope you liked it too!

Any comments/suggestions? Please leave them below!

AdventureShort StoryFantasy
4

About the Creator

Kenny Penn

Thanks for reading! I enjoy writing in various genres, my favorites being horror/thriller and dark/epic fantasies. I'll also occasionally drop a poem or two.

For a list of all my work, and to connect with me, go to www.kennypenn.com

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Comments (1)

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  • R. J. Raniabout a year ago

    Congratulations on making it to round 2, Kenny! Would you be willing to share your prompt for this short story? I quite enjoyed your vivid descriptions and the world you are creating here. Will you write more in it?

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