The Locked Door

Submitted into Contest #130 in response to: Write a story titled ‘The Locked Door.’... view prompt

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Adventure Fantasy Fiction

Luthar stared at himself in the mirror in the corner of the squires’ quarters. The dim light from the torches gave him a warm orange glow, a stark contrast to his usually pale complexion. He could see the change that had happened in him since he last slept in this room, his shoulders were broad and muscular, gone were his ribs, replaced with thick muscle and fine sprouting hairs. Three years of travelling and carrying sword and shield had changed him completely from the skinny young boy that had left the nameless village north of Whitestar. 

He’d bathed and shaved the fuzz from his top lip and chin to look the part for today. The smoothness of his face felt strange to him, the only part of him that reminded him he used to be that young boy who dreamed of being a knight. His blond hair had grown long and untidy, covering his face and hanging limply over his eyes. He pulled his damp mop tight behind his head and tied it back with a thin leather cord. Finally satisfied, he grabbed his best shirt, pulling it over his head and tucking it into his trousers.

After a last inspection of his reflection, he turned and strode past the rows of beds towards the door. In the corridor he came to a halt. To his right there was another door, leading to the members rooms. This always remained locked, he’d once had a key, since pages duties included cleaning the members rooms and lighting their torches at night. When he’d been made Chadwick’s squire, he’d had to give that key back. It was only a loan for your duty, as Terence had told him. Soon enough he’d have his own room and that key would be back in his possession.

Striding towards the main hall he felt ten feet tall, almost giant-like. A page called Jon was waiting, holding a dress coat ready for him. Luthar took the coat from him and hung it about his shoulders. It was decorated with red and blue stitching, the colours of the warrior’s guild. When Luthar was happy with his new coat, Jon ran off, eager to impress. Luthar guessed he was hoping to be made a squire in the not-too-distant future. During the promotion ceremony a room in the members quarters would be made ready for him by a page. They’d take his belongings from his trunk in the squire’s dorm and make sure his new room was cleaned and fit for a brother of the guild.

As he reached the foot of the stairs, Luthar didn’t make for the great hall straight away, instead, he headed outside. He had his own mission of great importance to complete before his promotion. He rounded the front of the guild and set course for the stables to see Marcus, the guild ostler.

He found Marcus, bucket of water in each hand, in the yard, heading for the stable. He wasn’t a tall man, but what he lacked in height he made up for in width. From his build he could be mistaken for a blacksmith. A lifetime of working outside had tanned his skin dark and made it dry and cracked. Long, shaggy black hair hid most of his face, greying stubble covered his chin.

‘Can I help you with them?’ Asked Luthar as he approached.

‘Thanks lad.’ He set one bucket down and brushed his hair from his face. He finally seemed to see Luthar properly. ‘Luthar? Isn’t it your promotion this morning?’

‘Aye, it is. But before I go, I wanted to thank you. You’ve looked after Stepper for me all this time. I couldn’t have got here without your help.’ They reached a trough under the roof of the stable and they emptied their buckets into it.

Marcus smiled. ‘Right and proper you are Luthar. You’ll make a fine man.’ Smiling, he extended his hand and shook Luthar’s.

‘I’d like to see you in the hall if you can spare the time?’

‘I best be right there then.’ With another smile, he turned and headed for the great hall.

The spring sun still didn’t rule the day, and the air was fresh. Luthar’s breath was misting before him, escaping to the clouds. Birds were just beginning to wake and sing their songs, in harmony with the hammer of Yan, the guild’s blacksmith. Luthar headed for his door.

As soon as he entered the small workshop, Luthar was assaulted with a blast of fiery heat that he feared might melt his bones. Smoke hung thick in the air, making it seem like the dead of night. Yan was stood hammering away at something on one of his great anvils, his apprentice was nowhere to be seen. He caught sight of Luthar and stood to look at him, wiping sweat off his brow with a thick forearm. 

‘Bit early for you isn’t it?’ He asked Luthar through his enormous red beard.

‘I’m to be promoted, but first, I wanted to let you know I’ve grateful for the times you’ve fixed my armour and looked after my weapons. I’d never have been able to get here without your work.’

Yan seemed taken aback, unsure what to say next. ‘Well, I, er, thanks Luthar. Don’t get a lot of that from the men here.’

‘I feel it’s owed. You do a great service to the guild.’ Luthar offered his hand, which Yan shook, his own hand dwarfing Luthar’s as if it belonged to a child. ‘If you could spare the time, I’d like you to come to the ceremony, it would mean a lot.’

‘Aye, I’ll do that lad. Let me finish up and I’ll be there sharpish.’

Luthar turned and took his leave. He walked back through the entrance hall, where Terence was chastising some poor page, and through the doors to the great hall. He took his place next to Garrett and a couple of other squires at the apprentice’s tables. The tables were already filling up for breakfast, more men were here than Luthar had ever seen before. There was a buzz in the air, like every man was anticipating some great event. Luthar couldn’t understand it, they’d seen a promotion before, surely?

After a quick breakfast of porridge and a mug of ale, the tension in the air grew, the men seemed to be at fever pitch. Some of the younger members kept turning to look at Luthar, the older men seemed to be crowding Chadwick like frightened children around their father. Eventually, Leyton rose from his high chair at the head of the room, and everyone fell silent, anxious to hear what he had to say.

‘Brother Ezekiel of the guild, please stand and approach.’ He called in an imperiously loud voice. He portrayed every description of the word leader. Tall, lean, and immaculately presented, he held his head high, surveying all the men from his lofty position on the dais.

Ezekiel stood up and walked the few paces to the front, standing at the edge of the dais, facing Leyton.

‘Brother Chadwick of the guild, please stand and approach.’

Chadwick rose to his feet and took his place at the side of Ezekiel, his former teacher. Chadwick the taller of the two, Ezekiel the broader. They’d both taken care to look presentable, each had trimmed their beards and clearly spent some time bathing.

‘Luthar Shoresmith, please stand and approach.’ Boomed Leyton’s voice right across the hall. Luthar fought briefly with his legs which seemed to have turned to lead as he sat. Shakily, he strode towards his teacher, shoulders back and head held high, determined to look the part of a member of this old institution. On his way he caught Flint grinning at him, another who had made an effort with his appearance. He had tied his hair back, revealing a birthmark on his left temple, which Luthar had never noticed before. On his other side Marcus and Yan watched on, smiles firmly painted on their faces.

He took his place next to Chadwick on the edge of the dais, looking at Leyton, wondering what was to come next. Leyton, however, turned to Ezekiel.

‘Ezekiel of the guild, do you vouch for Chadwick? Do you believe he is experienced and wise enough to judge a squire’s readiness for battle? Is he of a competent mind to recommend this boy for promotion?’

‘He is.’ Replied Ezekiel without hint of emotion.

‘Chadwick of the guild, do you confirm you have taught Luthar well? Have you instilled in him the values of chivalry and gallantry? Do you believe him to be a worthy bearer of our sword?’

‘I do’ Confirmed Chadwick solemnly.

‘Luthar Shoresmith. You have been found to be trustworthy, honest, and brave. You have carried your duties as a page, then squire diligently and with care and attention. These men here today believe you will be a great warrior for our guild. Your skill at arms has grown and your knowledge of the world develops every day. So, I ask you this; will you carry our blade to your last day? To defend the innocent, to bring honour to our institution, and defeat all evil in our world?’

‘I will.’ Said Luthar, keeping his eyes firmly on Leyton, but feeling ever more uncomfortable.

Leyton made his way around the high table to where the three of them stood, carrying a greatsword in his right hand. As he reached Luthar he pulled something small out of his pocket with his left.

‘Luthar Shoresmith, I present to you the badge of our guild, wear it with pride.’ Leyton handed him a small steel disc attached to a cord of leather, bearing the guild’s coat of arms. ‘Wear this always, it will grant you help in places you fear offer none.’

Luthar slipped the necklace on over his head and tucked it into his shirt. It felt cool against his skin, despite being bundled in Leyton’s pocket for who knows how long. It would take some getting used to, nestled against his chest.

‘I also present to you a blade, forged here by brother Yan of the guild. Use this blade to earn your keep, strike down your enemies and defend the innocent. On this blade there is a mark, this represents the rank of blademan, recognised by this guild. If you choose to progress your skill in swordsmanship you will add these marks until you become a blademaster.’ Leyton offered him the hilt of the sword, which Luthar grasped firmly, fearing he may drop it.

‘Brothers, I present to you, brother Luthar of the guild!’

The hall erupted with cheers, whistles, and the banging of fists upon tables. Luthar raised his sword in the air and looked around the great room, all eyes were upon him. 

Chadwick leant close to him and spoke into his ear ‘Enjoy this moment lad, you’ve earned it.’ With that, he and Ezekiel stepped down from the dais and took their seats at the table again.

Luthar sheathed his sword and began the walk between the long tables of the great hall, shaking hands and being slapped on his back as he went. As he reached the middle of the room, he turned left and walked down the aisle towards the door to the entrance hall to see Terence.

‘Well done, Luthar.’ He said, shaking his hand vigorously. This was the first time he’d seen Terence smile, he noted he was missing most of his teeth, those that remained were stained yellow. 

He rummaged in his draw for a second before drawing out a large brass key. ‘Here you are lad, go get yourself settled in, eh?’

‘Thank you, Terence. See you soon.’ Luthar took the key with a smile and turned to head up the stairs. Each step he took towards his new quarters lifted a weight from his shoulders; he’d finally made it after eight years at the guild.

He paused, again staring at the locked door, feeling the gravity of all he had achieved in his time here. He’d served meals and drinks as a page, tidied rooms and cleaned chamber pots. As a squire he’d followed Chadwick around northern Calladia to learn matters of combat and how to look after his arms and armour. Now as a member he wondered what great quests lay in front of him. With a surge of excitement, he plunged the key into the lock and turned it. His mind racing, he entered the member’s quarters to get himself settled in.

January 27, 2022 18:17

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24 comments

14:42 Feb 03, 2022

Wonderful story! I love the way you make the reader feel as though they are actually there, watching as everything unfolds. Great job!!!

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James Grasham
09:28 Feb 04, 2022

Thank you Rebecca - glad you enjoyed it! I've got a lot of other stories on my profile from this series and some others if you'd be interested in reading them too.

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N.R. Pierce
02:42 Feb 02, 2022

James, you a a skilled story weaver. You have done an excellent job of building dialogue as well as stacking your story line. I come to your stories to learn the craft of story-telling. Do you have anyone you recommend as far as learning how to write good dialogue? I definitely struggle with writing dialogue and try to avoid it as best as I could. Perhaps because I avoid it in life as well! Heh!

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James Grasham
09:47 Feb 02, 2022

Thank you for your kind words, they're much appreciated! Most of my recommendations are fantasy based - George R R Martin, Robert Jordan, J R R Tolkein and Joe Abercrombie are a few that have influenced me. The more you read, the better your writing will become. Also, writing is like anything - you need to practice for it to improve. Don't avoid dialogue in real life either :) you'd be amazed how many of your favourite characters are based on real people. You can also study people's interactions with each other, this is particularly helpf...

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Graham Kinross
02:34 Feb 02, 2022

“ rummaged in his draw” *drawer. This was good. I’m looking forward to seeing Luthar in action. Being given a sword by the guild would be epic.

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James Grasham
09:38 Feb 02, 2022

Ah, can't believe I missed that - made the same mistake in A Quick Escape but managed to find it in the edit. Sorry Graham! :) This is going to be a much harder test than Luthar has faced before, The sheer size and strength of the mountain folk makes them a completely different foe to the mercenaries he faced at the mill. Luthar's sword is actually quite special - as we'll find out later on! :)

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Graham Kinross
10:44 Feb 02, 2022

We all miss stuff, that’s why I wish grammar edits were possible indefinitely here. There are some people have pointed out in stories I’m not allowed to edit any more.

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James Grasham
10:51 Feb 02, 2022

It would make me a lot happier too. I think once the story has been approved then you lose the ability to change things. I guess that's why professional editors do so well, there are so many words in a book that one person couldn't possibly pick up on every mistake.

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Graham Kinross
13:34 Feb 02, 2022

Having dictation software read it out loud to you can be a big help though. Depends whether you have word or not but there are websites online where you could cut and paste the text to get it to read it back to you and you might spot it saying something that it’s not supposed to then you can edit out the error. Doesn’t work for words that sound the same; to, two, too….

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James Grasham
14:28 Feb 02, 2022

That's a really good suggestion, I'll give it a go with my latest story! Apart from some of the names that I've created it should give me a good idea how the story reads, thanks Graham!

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