Graveyard of Heroes
If you didn’t know, today is the day before Thanksgiving in the United States. This is always a Wednesday. Personally, I would like to thank Indies Unlimited for their tireless efforts in supplying the written and visual prompts for their flash fiction challenge. They give us something to look forward to every week.
The challenge is to write a 250 word story based on the prompts provided. Seems simple, but it doesn’t always go that way. Yeah, this week the story finished out around double that (and I can see it becoming something much bigger than that… This is a definite snapshot in time). But that is neither here nor there.
Graveyard of Heroes
A thousand warriors of the Kandima stood on the grassy bank of the pond across from the castle tower.
Sorbo placed his hands on his hips as he surveyed the site. His battle-scarred face was unaccustomed to smiling, so instead it seemed he wore a grimace. He looked at Davi and arched an eyebrow as he spoke. “This is it, then? Not really very formidable for a place with such a reputation.”
Davi was unmoved by the commander’s skepticism. His attention was fixed on the tower. He spoke slowly, almost as if he were in a trance. “This is the place. You heard the horns as we approached. They know we are here. They are preparing inside.”
Sorbo turned to see the sky almost blotted out by the flight of thousands of arrows sailing from the top of the tower…
“Shields!” The cry shocked the army’s ranks into action. The scrape of metal to wood echoed over the sound of the force reacting as one to the command. Sorbo pulled the war-tipped arrow from his shield and gave the tower a reproachful glare. “The direct assault won’t work.”
Davi turned his gaze from the tower back to his commander. “Traps cover the other sides of the tower,” he said. “This is our only way to the gate.”
Sorbo grimaced. “There is another way.”
Five warriors, the elite led by Sorbo himself set out across the lake in the cover of night. The moon had fallen behind a cloud bank and gave them freedom. Sorbo’s army lay at the ready to rush the gates when they fell.
He hefted the weight of the stones, all six of them, before he handed one to each warrior. “Hold this to the roof of your mouth,” he said. “It will protect you from the lake.” He placed the stone in his mouth to demonstrate and then fell over the side of the boat. The rest followed his lead and they slipped under the waves into the murky depths.
They sank, sank to the sandy bottom of the lake but true to the wizard’s boast, they could breathe. The stone turned the water into nothing more than the coolest winter air. Sorbo motioned toward the tower and they trudged through the silt. Water and sand fought against their movements but they were able to find the hidden opening in the base of the tower. It was exactly where the Seer had told him it would be.
Two of the warriors set to work on the crack in the rock; their blades wedged into place to pry the opening further apart. In short order they had broken it free and could squeeze inside.
They clawed their way through the stonework into a tunnel within the base of the tower. It had flooded long ago through the crack, but they were inside. They half crawled/ half swam through the lower tunnels up and up to a stairway that climbed out of the wet. Single file, with weapons drawn, the warriors climbed up the stairs to the main floors of the tower. Only to be stopped by a wooden doorway that had been barred on the other side.
As Sorbo Approached the doorway, a small window in the upper center slid open and light burst through. “I told you the tower was impenetrable,” Davi said.
“Traitor!” Sorbo slammed his fist against the door.
“Never,” Davi said. “I have always worked for a higher calling. Only those who are worthy may pass into these halls.” He stepped away from the window while speaking gibberish words.
The hairs on Sorbo’s arms and neck stood up and his skin tightened as a strange energy filled the air around him. The surface on the water below began to bubble and seethe. The first of the tower’s original guardians broke the water’s surface.
Bone and steel scraped against the stone stairway as the shambling mass climbed up the small stairwell toward the six warriors.
“I will see you in hell!” Sorbo pressed past his warriors to take the lead toward their doom.
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