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Adventure Fantasy Christian

This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

CONTENT WARNING: There is a battle scene here that describes a gruesome wound.


There once was a rich, fair land named Eden, where man and beast lived in harmony with each other. The sun rose and fell each day to bless the people of Eden. But one day, a power-hungry sorcerer named Merodach set his heart on conquering Eden. Though her people fought bravely, some, by very well-placed bribes, fell to the Darkness. Once every square inch of Eden was finally his, Merodach cast a spell on the land so that it did not see the light of the sun by day nor the moon and the stars by night. Thick, black, roiling clouds covered the sky, oppressing the people of Eden. But though the clouds appeared pregnant with rain, not a drop came from the sky—only peals of thunder and flashes of lightning. The realm was promptly renamed Evergloom. For a thousand four-hundred and thirty-three years, no man, woman, child, or beast had seen the light. All was drab and grey where it was once green and fertile. The only trees that lived were the Elms that served Merodach and Prince Corvus, jillail trees, and the two trees that grew in the heart of Evergloom that had stood there since the nation’s founding.

But now, for the first time in a millennium, the promise of bright hope shone through the thick black clouds. That hope was a young shepherd named Tobran and his band of thirteen adventurers, his childhood sweetheart Cristen among them. Her father had taught her how to fight from an early age and she vowed to bravely stand by Tobran’s side when they finally liberate Eden and restore it to its former glory.

As the fourteen friends sat around their camp’s blazing fire, they reminisced about the last three years. Their campaign had been a success thus far. Word was spreading and their following grew by the day. They were sure now. The sun will shine once more upon Eden, and they will be the first ones to welcome it. And so it was that as they sat around the fire, their hearts were merry and their spirits soared above the gloom.

“Do you remember that time when I had to rescue Sir Callum when we camped in the Witch’s Forest?” Sir Rían said with a booming laugh, his head thrown back, a mixture of spittle and beer foam gushing down his forest-like beard. The others laughed with him, except for Sir Callum.

“You may have been the one to rescue him,” Sir Tristan protested. “But I was the first one to hear him scream for help and the first to rush to his aid. You were as dead as a log, snoring away in your tent.”

“I was there ahead of you, as well,” Sir Jareth said, clapping Sir Tristan on the back. “And you! You took your sweet time coming to our aid. Tristan and I had to work at hacking those steely roots for a good while before you arrived.”

“You hobbled like an old man, if I recall correctly,” Sir Lucan said, mock groaning, trying to imitate an arthritic old man.

“To Hell with you!” Sir Rían said. “I do not sound, nor have I ever sounded like that! And I do not move like that.”

“Come, come, my good sir,” Lucan replied to placate the gigantic knight. “I meant my words as a jest.”

“I warned him not to sleep under an Elm,” Tobran recalled with a chuckle and a shake of his head. “But he didn’t listen.”

“I’ve learned my lesson,” Sir Callum said. “No more sleeping under Elms. Boy, those roots sure are sturdy.”

“I guess old habits die hard,” Sir Elyan said. “Isn’t that where Tobran found you when he asked you to join his cause?”

“I remember it just like it was yesterday,” Sir Callum said with a fond smile.

As the conversations dragged on and the night deepened, the mood slowly turned somber. They were now near Heartstone, the capital of Evergloom, and despite the growing excitement at the prospect of liberating Eden, there was still some fear and trepidation, however little it was. Some, also, were already getting impatient. It had been three years now. When would Tobran lead his twelve men and the villagers that followed them? Some were itching to see battle. Some were itching to see blood. Still others, the liberation of Eden.

“When are you going to make a move?” Sir Emmeric asked. “Merodach and Prince Corvus may fly the nest and slip between our grasp!”

“Tomorrow, Sir Emmeric,” Tobran said, raising a calming hand. “Patience. Tomorrow, we shall march into Heartstone and take Blackveil Castle. But we will do so quietly. Arrangements have already been made.”

“It better be tomorrow,” Sir Emmeric muttered to himself with a huff. “Or there will be blood on your hands.”

-oOo-

Before the Great Battle, Tobran gathered his friends in an upstairs room at The Weeping Rose Tavern for a feast.

“Tonight, we feast,” Tobran said. “For tomorrow, I shall die.”

“Die?” Sir Threep protested. “Never! You will not die, Tobran! You shall live to see our victory march.”

“Sadly, my friend,” Tobran said solemnly. “That is not so. The words of the sages and seers must come to pass. My death shall bring the sunshine back to Eden. What’s more, you shall all abandon me at my greatest time of need.”

“Nonsense!” Sir Threep shouted. “I would die for you, Tobran! Even if the others don’t!”

“I wish you would, Sir Threep,” Tobran said softly, sadly. “I wish you would.”

After two hours of feasting, the company left The Weeping Rose and made their way to Merodach’s stronghold, with swords in hand, and there they camped at the foot of Mount Blackveil. After they had set up camp for the night, Tobran slipped away from the company to be alone with his thoughts. Then he called for a cup of jillail. The jillail was a poisonous tree that had many uses. Its roots could be chopped up and ground into a very fine powder to mix into food or drink. This caused barrenness to the drinker so that he or she would not have children. If a naughty pupil wished not to attend to his lessons, he might eat a few bites of the long pepper-like jillail fruit. Consuming half of it would produce a fever. Consuming a whole fruit would kill him. The boy would then be excused from school or farm work. Its bark, flowers, seeds, and leaves were boiled and used in various witches’ potions. The juice of the jillail fruit itself was a very potent poison. It had a bitter, sour taste and was stronger than the strongest hemlock. It was said that the poisonous jillail was so strong that only one sip was enough to take down a strong, healthy man who had never known illness. Nevertheless, Tobran poured the foul black liquid into a goblet and drank it. He put the goblet to his lips and it burned him. Fire coursed down his throat and down into his stomach. Still, he drank on, gulp after agonizing gulp. Cristen, Sir Threep, Sir Tristan, and his brother Sir Rían watched in amazement and confusion as Tobran downed the bitter brew. They were expecting him to drop dead at the first sip, and yet there he stood, victorious over the cup. He dropped the goblet onto the ground and stumble forward, weak, exhausted, and drenched in sweat.

“Come,” Sir Tristan offered. “Let me help you to your tent.”

“No, no,” Tobran said, shaking his head and waving Sir Tristan off dismissively. “I shall stay here awhile. Be vigilant and watch with me. The Enemy is everywhere.”

“We will,” Sir Threep vowed, his hand tightening around his sword’s grip.

Despite his promise, however, all three men fell asleep by the roaring fire. Only Cristen was alert enough to notice Sir Emmeric emerging from the darkness, a company of Merodach’s soldiers behind him. With them were Prince Corvus himself and two of Merodach’s top generals. Cristen gasped in shock and the men scrambled to their feet, woken by adrenaline and yet dazed and confused.

“Hello, brother,” Sir Emmeric said, approaching Tobran. “We meet at the edge of battle.”

“Brother,” Tobran whispered, embracing Emmeric. “Come. Fulfill your destiny—and mine.”

“Emmeric, you traitor!” Sir Threep screamed, drawing his sword. The other men and Cristen followed suit, drawing theirs.

“Seize him,” Sir Emmeric said, stepping back.

At once, a company of fifty soldiers surged out of the surrounding forest and converged on the small band of twelve men and one woman. They were outnumbered five to one. Nevertheless, they fought like lions, felling Merodach and Prince Corvus’s forces left and right. Tobran himself led the charge, knowing full well that he would never survive the battle.

“For Eden!” Sir Threep bellowed, hacking away at the enemy before him. One soldier had lost his helmet and the brave knight moved to strike, aiming for his neck. However, he missed and cut the man’s ear instead.

The battle raged on for fifteen bloody and grueling hours and the air was filled with sounds of clashing metal—sword against sword, sword against shield, arrow against shield, spear against spear. By then, Tobran had been weakened by the effects of the poisoned cup and he was bleeding from his head, hands, and feet. The villagers that they had rallied and recruited, who had hailed Tobran as Eden’s true king, were now nowhere to be found. They were in hiding, their windows and doors securely barred. When the others realized that no help would come and none of their followers were willing to fight alongside them, they lost heart and turned tail, with Sir Threep leading the retreat. Only Cristen and Sir Tristan remained to fight bravely by Tobran’s side.

“Come, Tristan! Don’t be a fool!” Sir Rían said. “Save yourself! Let us regroup at The Weeping Rose!”

“Never!” Sir Tristan shouted above the din. “I will never abandon my king in his greatest time of need! Shame on you cowards, running like dogs with your tails between your legs!”

Just then, a scream—a woman’s scream, echoed through the gloomy afternoon air and Sir Tristan realized that Cristen was in danger. He ran to her rescue, but Tobran had gotten there before him. To both their horror, Tobran shielded Cristen from her attacker and received a deathblow to his side. One of Merodach’s soldiers thrust his spear deeply into Tobran’s side, piercing his intestines, lungs, and heart. A fountain of blood gushed forth like a crimson geyser from the wound in Tobran’s side. With a loud cry, he fell to his knees, keeled over backwards, and breathed his last. A darkness deeper than any they had ever known fell upon the land of Evergloom—a darkness so thick that it could not be dispelled by even the largest, hottest, and brightest pyre.

-oOo-

It had been three days since Sir Emmeric’s betrayal. Three days since their bitter defeat. Three days since Tobran’s death. All hope was lost. The Company seemed a sorry sight, hiding away in an upstairs chamber of The Weeping Rose. Some slept, others wept in the corner like terrified children. Some drank deeply. Some were catatonic.

“Come, Threep,” Sir Tristan insisted. “You must get some rest. You haven’t slept in three days!”

“I don’t need sleep!” Sir Threep answered hotly. “What I need is peace! I have failed him.”

“We all did,” Sir Tristan said with a sigh, laying a comforting hand on his comrade’s shoulder. “Even I.”

“Even you?” Sir Threep said with a bitter laugh. “His best knight?”

“Yes, Threep,” Sir Tristan said. “Even I. I could have saved him. But I did not.”

“But you stayed by his side to the bitter end,” Sir Threep pointed out. “I wish I could say the same of myself, but alas…”

“I am no knight either,” Sir Killian said sadly, cradling a tankard of ale between his trembling hands. “Nor am I a friend. And to think he called us his friends! What friend runs at the first sign of trouble?”

“What if we had be lied to?” Sir Owain blurted out. “What if he wasn’t the One?”

“How dare you?” Sir Callum shouted. “How could you even think such a thought?”

“He said his death would return to sunshine to Eden,” Sir Owain answered in his defense. “Where’s the sun? There is only darkness! A darkness so thick not even a candle could light your way!”

Suddenly, there was a knock at the door. Sir Tristan and Sir Threep jumped to their feet, ready to defend the Company in the event that it was the evil sorcerer’s forces.

“Identify yourself!” Sir Threep said. “Who are you?”

“It’s me, Cristen,” Cristen answered. “Open up! Let me in!”

“Cristen?” Sir Tristan said in surprise, opening the door. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing’s wrong!” Cristen replied. “Everything is right in the world again! He’s alive!”

“Alive? Who?” Sir Threep asked. “Who’s alive?”

“Tobran!” Cristen said, laughing through her tears. She then flew to the window and pushed it open. Rays of light shone through the open window, blinding them in a flash. There, for the first time in thousands of years, was the sun. Green was everywhere. Grass—living grass—sprang up out of the dead earth. There were flowers and buzzing bees everywhere. There were hues of purple, pink, green, yellow, red, orange, blue, and so many others they could not identify. Birds sang their songs as they flitted from live tree to live tree. Evergloom was once again the beautiful land of Eden.

-oOo-

Castle Blackveil...

The earth shook and dust and stone rained down from the dungeon’s ceiling. Stones rumbled and chains rattled, and inexplicably, manacles flew loose, granting relief to prisoners’ tired hands and wrists. After the shaking had stopped, the walls of the dungeon burst open, releasing tens, hundreds, thousands of Merodach’s prisoners and slaves. Through the hole in the dungeon wall stood a figure in resplendent glory, the sun’s rays shining behind him. It was Tobran, alive and breathing. He was not dead as Cristen had said to the Company. The only sign of him having been in a battle were the scars on his head, hands, and feet.

“Citizens of the land of Eden,” Tobran said, addressing the former prisoners. “You are free!”

March 20, 2022 06:22

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