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Fantasy Horror Fiction

The buzzing grew louder outside, as did the banging on the door. They didn’t have much time left. Eilidh had to act, she knew it, her people knew it.

“M’lady, we must descend now,” her advisor, Nyella, urged. Eilidh nodded and looked to the hallway, where the entrance to the depths awaited.

Eilidh had been afraid of the dark since she was a cognizant child. The few times she had been made to face the dark, she felt it changed her. Not in the way that fear either grows or diminishes with time, but in a way that made her feel she was not in control of her mind. It took hold of her and morphed her into something she feared, but also something powerful. She had never been sure if that power she felt in the dark was good or evil, given that it had consumed her ancestors in the past, so she remained fearful of it.

Fixated on the hall that would descend to her destiny, she knew their time was growing short before the hasharas broke through. While her royal name no longer had any power to it, given the state of the humans, she felt every obligation to it. It was time for Eilidh to face her fears to protect her people if she could.

But none of them knew what awaited them in the depths. It has long been shrouded in mystery to all the species above ground. The entry point here had only recently been discovered. It was said to unlock an unknown power to those who were inclined to receive it, whatever that meant.

“M’lady, now!” Nyella sounded panicked. Eilidh looked to the door and saw the wood was bending under the banging of the hasharas, their buzzing sounding enraged. The hasharas were a sentient, bug species that had long been warring with the humans. They had hunted most of the human species to extinction and their descent into the depths was a final effort to escape that same fate. There was also the hope that Eilidh could harness the long-lost power of her ancestors for good and defeat the bloodthirsty species.

Eilidh quickly looked over the hundred or so cazmirtian and other species of humans left of her people. Courage won and she knew the time had come at last.

“Everyone, let us begin our descent!” Taking the first step forward, Eilidh began to lead her people into the unknown, hoping the decision would not be one that she would come to regret into the afterlife - if it should come to that.

The wooden stairs gradually became more decayed until they were following along a stone path, their torches flickering as they continued to descend. Eilidh felt herself anticipating the coming darkness, her skin tingling with each flicker of the torches. Eilidh’s heart began to race faster, her fear attempting to consume her.

“Nyella, come to me, please,” Eilidh ushered her over. Eilidh took Nyella’s hand with her right and used her left to hold up as a sign for her people to slow their pace so they could speak in private.

“Nyella, none of us know what awaits us in the dark beneath. We have only heard the legends. Are you familiar with the earliest legends of my ancestors?”

“Of course, m’lady. Although I do not wish to speak of such blasphemous stories that were likely left by enemies of the Cazimir family.” Eilidh looked at the ground before them and smiled softly. While Nyella was her advisor, she also considered her to be her closest confidante and friend. Someone in her position, the head of a royal family at war with many nations of various species, did not find that often. However, Eilidh had not once even remotely questioned Nyella’s loyalty and friendship. It was a certainty to her. Nyella was also known for her keen memory and interest in history.

“You are too kind, Nyella. But please indulge me. What do you know?” From the corner of her eye, Eilidh could see Nyella frown, but she began to tell the story of Eilidh’s earliest known ancestors.

“The story begins with the oldest known queen of the Cazimir family, many generations before our own. Her name was Amoranna. It was said she was very beautiful and very kind, as well as one of the last remaining pure cazmirtian humans left in the world.” Nyella looked to the side when she said this, clearly worried that this phrasing may have offended Eilidh. Eilidh squeezed her hand in reassurance. There had not been a pure cazmirtian human, or any species of humans for that matter, in ages. The main traits left of the cazmirtian humans were the blue tinge of their pale skin and the slight dimple at the crest of their ears that made them heart-shaped. Most who had cazmirtian blood showed these dominant traits. There were a few other traits that typically only appeared in those with royal blood, such as the midnight-blue hair and icy-green eyes that Eilidh showcased.

“I take no offense, sweet friend. Please continue the story, you tell it so well.” Nyella blushed slightly but continued.

“In those times, cazmirtian humans were born of the dark, living underground before slowly migrating to the surface world. This was a time when the people of the depths and the ground folk lived harmoniously, coming and going as they pleased.”

“However, there was an evil that existed underground that frightened the cazmirtian humans and the other species from below. They didn’t speak of it with the surface peoples, but one day Amoranna made a plea for help from their allies, above and below. ‘The darkness comes for us, arm yourselves with light before it consumes us all.’ Those are the words recorded in the legend.”

“The species from underground were in tune with a power that exists within these depths of our planet. Some, such as the cazmirtian royals, were able to harness this power to its full potential. It is said that it is an energy that gives life, while this ‘darkness’ harnesses the power of unnatural death. In the war between the darkness born from the depths and the light, the dark ultimately prevailed. All the species that existed below, except for the cazmirtian humans, were thought to have been wiped out during this war. The few cazmirtian humans that escaped, Amoranna included, collapsed the passageways to the depths in a final effort to save the other species of the world.”

“After this, Amoranna’s light and kindness slowly faded. Now there are only whispers and bedtime stories that speculate why this was. Even though she was no longer in her domain, Amoranna was still connected to its power. As the darkness conquered this domain, its power corrupted Amoranna’s, twisting her power of life into something that created monstrosities rather than the beauties of life.” Eilidh noticed that some of her people closer to the front of the procession were listening intently to Nyella’s story, appearing frightened.

Although Eilidh was familiar with the history of her family, she wanted to make sure that she had not forgotten any detail of what she might face. “What became of Amoranna? In the end?”

“Well, m’lady, she went mad. Those close to her said that the monstrous power that corrupted her led her to hallucinate evils that came to life by that same power. Many of the evil and hateful species that exist on the ground today are a result of Amoranna’s descent into madness, including the hasharas that hunt us now. In the end, she fled and it was rumored she took her own life, as she could not handle seeing the destruction that was born of her.”

“Thank you, Nyella. You are always the most wonderful storyteller.” Eilidh did not ask her to elaborate any more on the legend knowing some of her people were listening, but also because she was frightened to hear the words she already knew. It was also said that if anyone with royal cazmirtian blood came into the presence of this power again, it would consume them much in the way it consumed Amoranna.

On cue with Eilidh’s fears, the tunnel began to widen, and the cold greeted them by extinguishing the flames of their torches. Much to their surprise, they were not submerged in total darkness. Instead, they stood before a great cave that had a soft blue light that carried through the air in streams of misty fog. Searching for a point of origin, the streams appeared to be seeping out of what looked like sparkling crystals all around the cavern. She could not explain it, but there was something comforting about the misty light. However, her fear of what else may lie in the depths would not let her find any peace in this feeling.

While Eilidh’s people stood agape at the mystical beauty that surrounded them, Eilidh felt her heart would burst right from her chest. Something unknown but also very familiar to her soul was creeping into her. She felt a light tingle in the tips of her fingers and she held her hands before her face. To her side, Nyella furrowed her eyebrows in concern. “M’lady, are you unwell?”

Eilidh’s eyes began to fill with tears as she spoke in a whisper to Nyella, “The story of Amoranna. I have always felt every murmur of it was true. Like the story and history of my family were engrained into my very blood. If this power consumes me, Nyella, protect my people. Put me down by whatever means necessary.”

“Surely you cannot mean that, m’lady.”

“I can and I do. I will not further erase my people from the bowels of history. They have suffered too much for my ancestors’ mistakes. I will not cause them additional pain. This is not something that is up for discussion, Nyella. Consider this the last command I may ever give to you.” A tear fell from Eilidh’s cheek as Nyella positioned herself in front of her. She held Eilidh’s hand with her own and leaned in so that their heads were resting together.

“No matter what happens, you have been a kind and just leader to your people. Through every battle we have faced, you stood bravely with our warriors and fought alongside them. I am sorry the burden of your family history weighs upon you so heavily. If we survive after you, I will ensure you are only remembered for what you were in control of.” Nyella’s tears mixed with Eilidh’s and the two stood there only for a moment before Eilidh dried her face on her sleeves.

Eilidh gathered her courage and turned to face her people, “We must continue into the darkness. We do not know how far behind the hasharas may be, but we cannot let them gain on us unnecessarily. Please keep on your toes and cry out if anything suspicious appears and avoid the glowing mist. We do not know if it poses a risk to us.”

As they proceeded into the cavern, they noticed more sources of light other than the mist. There were tiny insects that looked like specks of dust floating around emitting an erratic golden light. Eilidh wondered if they were at all connected to the bug species that pursued them now, but she only felt peace when looking upon them. There were also different amphibious critters that were similar to the species of skinks above, but they had four feathery wings with hundreds of furry antennae jutting off that glowed the same blue as the misty streams. The ground itself seemed to be pulsing with a white-purple glow where they stepped. It was magical and even Eilidh found it hard to stay rooted in her fear whilst looking upon something so marvelous. But the legends spoke of great beauty as well as the evil that eventually overtook her ancestors, so the fear remained.

In the distance, one of Eilidh’s guards spotted some ruins. “M’lady, over there!” Zakarius called. Eilidh followed the direction he pointed and she felt the air leave her body. The ruins appeared just like the ones she saw pictures of in the legends of her family. While her family history terrified her, Eilidh had always wanted to find more answers about who they were and where she came from.

“Okay everyone, I will take a handful of warriors to investigate, that is all. Zakarius, Alec, Fahrin, and Izmaran - with me. The rest will proceed forward with the lead of Nyella. Please continue to be careful. We will be quick and rendezvous with you before you are out of sight,” Eilidh instructed, moving backward as she did. As she turned around to proceed, Eilidh walked straight into one of the streams of mist that were being emitted from the crystals. It was as if any source of light and sound was sucked away into a void, leaving them all in darkness.

The ground beneath their feet began to vibrate. “Could it be the hasharas?” Eilidh tried to ask, feeling the alternative may frighten her even more, but found that no sound emitted from her throat. She reached out her arms to find anyone from her troop, but all she could feel was the vibrating ground beneath her feet.

Then came a sharp ringing noise. Eilidh could not tell if the ringing was in her head or if it was heard by her people as well. Then again, Eilidh was not certain there was anyone near her anymore. The ringing grew unbearably loud and high-pitched, causing Eilidh to cover her ears. This did nothing to quiet it.

Eilidh’s arms fell to her side as something appeared in the distance. A grotesque green and red vaporous light danced through the air in disturbing movements, nothing like the gentle mist they saw before. She felt her heart might stop, images from past nightmares flashing in her mind. “It’s not possible.” This was the true form of her fears. Not the darkness itself, but what it would bring.

As the light grew nearer, Eilidh noticed a pair of icy-green eyes at the head of the vapors, eyes that she would know as well as her own.

“Amoranna.”

The corrupted soul of her ancestor had lived, fully succumbing to the evil that possessed her when she still resembled something human. Snaking violently towards her, Eilidh could see the eyes were locked onto her, filled with vitriol, ready to consume her. She could feel herself freezing up, a lifetime of fear coming to life before her eyes.

But she had to do everything she could to protect her people and there was a power here that only she could wield.

A small wisp of the misty blue light drifted in front of her face in the void and instinct took over Eilidh. Inhaling deeply, the mist entered her lungs and filled her body. The wisp ignited a spark that had long been buried in her lineage, turning into a roaring flame as a dormant power awoke within her. It was nothing like the remnants of her ancestor that twisted toward her now. She could use this to save her people.

A piercing wail filled the cavern as the monstrous vapors descended upon Eilidh in the form of a violent serpent made of acid. If the warped form of her ancestor were to consume Eilidh, she knew she would share the same fate and bring an end to her people.

A silent scream erupted from Eilidh, as a blue fire that matched the misty streams roared from her mouth. The fire and the acid met in a furious dance of lights, the ringing turning into a pained shriek. The beast would not give up easily and had trained its power far longer than Eilidh. She would have to draw upon the innate knowledge from her lineage that came even before Amoranna.

As Eilidh reached into the lines that connected her to her ancestors, she had not kept track of the monster before her. She felt the acidic claws enter her, tearing down her throat, the corrupt energy beginning to possess her. Her fears were becoming realized.

Ripping back against the force trying to pull her apart, Eilidh found the link to the power she was searching for and she unleashed every trace of her energy that she could grasp. Blue flames surrounded Eilidh in a fiery shield that erupted within her and projected all around her, pushing the beast away. The fire chased every line of the perverted, acidic light, burning it to the very end.

Almost as suddenly as it awoke, the flame in Eilidh’s soul was extinguished. Blood seeped from her nose and her heartbeat was faltering. She suddenly hit hard ground, not realizing she had been airborne, and the air left her body.

“M’lady, please hold on!” She heard Nyella’s voice coming from the distance. Though blurred, Eilidh saw the comforting blue light of the misty streams reappear and she smiled knowing that her display of power had not destroyed everything. Her sight began to give out and she finally met with true darkness, as she had always feared.

July 15, 2023 00:12

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7 comments

Marc R. Micciola
19:42 Jul 17, 2023

Really, really enjoyed this. Awesome work Jean! Keep the stories coming!

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Jean Ballard
00:07 Jul 18, 2023

Thank you so much! <3 Definitely boosts my confidence to share more with such kind comments. :)

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J. D. Lair
17:32 Jul 16, 2023

A wonderful first submission Jean! This has great potential to be expanded into a novel. I, for one, would love to know more about this world you have introduced us to. Well done! Welcome to Reedsy. :)

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Jean Ballard
04:08 Jul 17, 2023

Thank you for the warm welcome and your kind words! It's a world I've been stewing on for a bit and I've had some thoughts about writing a novel or series about it. I guess this is a way to dip my toes in, so thank you. 🥺 I appreciate you! 🥰

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J. D. Lair
04:32 Jul 17, 2023

Anytime. :) I encourage you to spend the time to expand on it. I think it’s worth it! Keep writing here as well. I have found it’s sharpened my skills and provided me with ideas I would have otherwise not thought of. Plus, it’s helped create a good habit, which is great!

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11:16 Sep 22, 2023

I can't praise this enough! I love it, love it, love it! The story is so unique and interesting, the writing is amazing and fits it so well. You should make it into a novel! At least make a sequel, please. It's just incredible, especially for a first!

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Jean Ballard
05:43 Sep 23, 2023

I may have some plans to make the inspiration behind this short story into a series! 🙈 But I'm in the very roughest of plotting stages. And I've got terrible ADHD, so we'll see how long it actually thanks lol 🥴 I sincerely appreciate your comment! It's amazing to see love for my stories in such an infant form. 💞

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