My Kingdom Fallen

Submitted into Contest #60 in response to: Write a post-apocalyptic story that features zombies.... view prompt


Fantasy Horror Speculative

I was trapped. Alone in the throne room, I paced, as I’d been doing for nearly two days now. The main doors before me were barred, but the force continually pushing against them was immense and the snarling roar from the other side was deafening. The masses in the corridor outside were getting close to breaching. The sturdy portal of oak and iron heaved in and out giving the appearance of breathing; a false hope of life. There was only death waiting behind those doors.

Anxiety escalated and my heart raced, feeling as if it would burst from my chest. I again surveyed the room for a means of escape. My gaze fell upon the meticulously carved, granite statues of the griffins that sat upon pillars of polished marble. They lined the red carpet that ran the length of the room, beginning at the main doors to end at the jewel-encrusted throne, topped with its twin golden griffins facing off, claw to claw and beak to beak, above pillowed cushions of red velvet. I wished, as I had many times before, that I could fly away on one of those majestic beasts or that they would come to life and aid me in the upcoming fight. I laughed at the thought. If they’d done so, they would’ve most likely eaten me anyway.

Banners of red velvet hung from the walls on all sides, embroidered with the symbolic gold griffins that matched those on the throne. Massive columns of stone were positioned in two rows down the center of the room, supporting an arched ceiling towering high above. Tables and benches lined the walls. Two service doors, one on either side of the room, were also barred and further barricaded with furniture hastily piled against them. The scratching and banging sounds from outside growing ever more intense. There could be no escape through either. Soon, the doors would give way and the throne room would be flooded with the hungry dead, teeth gnashing at my throat and talons tearing at my flesh.

I was weak from hunger, thirst and exhaustion. I hadn’t slept and my powers were waning. My time was fleeting and I began to accept my impasse. I welcomed my deserved end and I was ready for the nightmare to be over. I could do nothing more to stop it. I’d long considered my fate in the hours that had passed, wondering if I would starve first or be eaten? I’d wrestled with which I preferred. It’s surprising what goes on in your mind when death is certain and you’ve ample time to think about it. Now, as the doors groaned and the hinges creaked, I worried less about lack of food.

The events that led me here repeating themselves in my head. My thoughts recalled the beginning of this madness and worse, to how I’d helped bring it about. I should’ve stopped Vorlos, but instead I aided. He was my friend and I was foolishly honored when he asked for my help. I knew the magic he sought was far beyond his skills, yet I said nothing. My bond of friendship may have caused the end of my kingdom and the horror unleashed has me to blame.

Vorlos wanted vengeance for the way the king laughed at his request to wed his daughter. I could never explain her attraction. He was an ogre of a man, twice her size and twice her age and she was beautiful, but they were in love. I’d suspected some magic spell or potion was involved, but I never asked. However, that’s not what concerned the king. Vorlos wasn’t of noble heritage and that’s why he was laughed at. When the king refused what he’d considered a ludicrous request, he insisted that the only way Vorlos could marry Eshtel was over his dead body. The king and nobles laughed hysterically at this. That’s when Vorlos knew what he had to do. He couldn’t beat the king in a challenge of single combat and he dare not strike him down using magic as he would surely be a suspect. So, he plotted something far more covert and sinister for the king.

The magic Vorlos wished to use would require assistance, for it was dark and unpredictable. He had no experience in the art of necromancy. Vorlos was a friend and a mentor to me and I was someone he could trust. He came to me for help. I owed him both as a friend and colleague, so I agree. I didn’t understand how my specialization in pyromancy would be of any benefit, but I stood by his side for moral support if nothing else. Now, I realize helping him was a mistake. Neither of us truly understood the powers we were wielding. We were simple children toying with magic far more powerful than we could fully comprehend.

Vorlos and I studied spells based on the writings of powerful necromancers we knew far too little about. We searched ancient texts and read scrolls older than the kingdom itself and found a way to administer a terrible and deadly curse in the form of a potion. Vorlos wanted to inflict pain upon the king and the necromantic elixir we created would damn him to a restless afterlife, forcing him to walk the lands as a spirit, suffering in never ending sorrow and despair. Vorlos insisted the king was deserving of such an end. He wanted to make sure that even after death the king would bear witness to the fate of his daughter and of his family's lineage. He wanted the king to watch as Eshtel lived her life in the arms of the man he so scorned.

As the Court Mage, Vorlos was always seated at the dining table of the king during any formal event. He used that to his advantage and during The Great Harvest Feast, when the king rose and walked out to the center of the hall to address his people, as he always did at such gatherings, Vorlos added the tasteless and odorless toxin to the king’s ale while all eyes were on the king. By the meal’s end, the king slumped over into his plate and died. As an advisor to the court and the chief physician, it was easy for Vorlos to explain the aging king’s death as one of natural causes.

The hastily prepared funeral, organized by Vorlos, happened the very next day. The palace was packed with citizens paying their respects to a beloved king. Those who could not fit inside the palace gathered outside the castle walls. The vast city was virtually deserted everywhere outside the palace grounds. Vorlos hurried everything along and I didn’t understand then, but I know now why he wanted to quickly get the body locked away in the royal tomb. Vorlos knew more about the curse than he’d revealed to me. He’d lied about one small detail. The king would be damned to rise from the dead, but not as a ghostly apparition.

For Vorlos, his celebration of vengeance and upcoming marital bliss swiftly ended. Eshtel was more emotional over her father’s death than Vorlos had anticipated and she refused to leave the fallen king’s side. She clung to the purple and red silks that decorated her father’s funeral dais, bawling and blubbering, refusing to subside in her lament. No matter how hard the mage tried to convince her to come away with him, her love of family outweighed whatever enchantment he may have cast on her.

While sobbing, head upon her father’s chest, Eshtel let out a terrific scream. She insisted her father had moved, that the king still lived! A hush fell upon the crowd as the king sat up. His skin was pale gray and his eyes, black discs void of soul. He slid off the funeral dais and stood before his daughter, his mouth half open, drool dribbling down his chin. Eshtel cried and moved to hug her father, but Vorlos grabbed her arm begging her to run. It was too late. The king grabbed Eshtel and sunk his teeth deep into her throat. Her scream became a gurgle as a torrent of blood spilled from the would on her neck. Vorlos, quickly began an incantation to defend Eshtel and himself, but the creature that was once the king moved at lethal speed and was on Vorlos, knocking him to the floor and raking his face with razor-sharp talons. His screams were silenced quickly in a spray of crimson and ribbons of torn flesh.

Before anyone realized what was happening, Eshtel stood up. The crowd near her gasped in relief and someone shouted that the princess was not dead. She pounced on the nearest nobleman and tore him to pieces. The frenzied crowd fled in all directions. Hysteria ensued. I moved into position behind a row of the King’s Pike and prepared my magic while they shielded me from the swarming chaos. The dead fell and rose again quickly. It was a bloodbath of horror and the dead soon outnumbered the living. I fell back toward the main door as the line of soldiers before me were quickly overwhelmed by the creatures.

Standing at the entrance to the Great Hall, hands waving, fiery magics swirling in the air around me, I formed a blazing whirlwind into a ball and thrust it forward into the room. Anything in the path of my fireball, dead or not, was incinerated as it pushed through the crowd. The creatures on the fringes were set ablaze, screeching and running in all directions. But, even given all the power I could muster, the fireball did not slay them all. Dozens of scorched undead remained and came full speed toward me.

I slipped into the hall and aided the soldiers already trying to shut the doors. The undead were faster than we were and they pushed heads, arms and legs into the gap before the doors fully closed. We hacked away at necks and limbs to clear the opening, but more were thrust forward. The soldiers panicked and began to flee and the fight was quickly lost. The halls filled with terror and slaughter. More and more soldiers and citizens were overcome, adding to the ranks of the dead. I ran. I had to stay ahead of the tide of death that now spilled out in all directions. 

Navigating the halls of the palace as quickly as I knew how, I kept moving. I used secret passages known to few and positioned myself in places of opportunity to cast spells of flaming death upon the cursed as they moved through the corridors. I tried to reduce the numbers of the dead and slow the horde, but the slain rose again so quickly that my efforts were in vain. It became apparent after a short time that I was fighting the battle alone. I ceased to see any soldiers or citizens and the screams of terror were replaced by the growls and snarls of the dead. The fight was lost.

I ran toward the Armory. I remembered that there was a way out through a secret panel there. Kings had used the exit in years past to sneak into town and visit the brothels. Secrets best kept from the queens. I could use it to get out of the palace and if lucky, I’d be able to make it outside the walls to safety before the massacre spread further. I needed to warn others. I was determined and I moved with great haste, but I encountered the dead at every turn. They were blocking my path to the armory and forcing me to the far end of the palace toward the throne room.

Turning a corner, I saw that the double doors of the throne room were closed and the dead were already blocking my path. The corridor behind me was filling up quickly with the savage creatures. My last option was to make it to the service entrance on the south side. I never remember running so fast in all my life as I did then. I made the door, entered and slammed it shut, barring it behind me. Then I looked around the room and much to my surprise, it was empty. I rushed to the north side of the room and quickly barred the door, then I checked the main doors and found that they had already been barred and barricaded from within. Someone had thought to make a stand here too and then abandoned that hope. My stomach tightened and I felt sick. I wondered if this would be the end for me. There was nowhere else to run. I barricaded the side doors with furniture and anything else I could find. The banging and scratching outside the doors continued. I had no food or water. A little time is all I had left.

My attention returned to the present as the doors heaved inward and this time the iron bar that held them buckled under the pressure and the oak began to splinter. The hinges popped on the right and then the entire door crashed inward. The first wave of the dead that entered the room simply fell to the floor. Their bodies were crushed into grotesque deformities by the weight of the masses pushing behind them. The second wave, nearly as broken as the first, crawled over the heap of mangled corpses on the floor, sliding over them and becoming entangled in the shattered remains.

The sluggish flow of the mangled dead into the room bought me time to react. Hands waving above my head I summoned a circle of green eldritch fire and willed the flames to rise. A blazing wall of magic surrounded me towering ten feet tall. I cast bolts of flame and orbs of fire at the gaping entryway as the dead flooded in over a heap of bodies. Many were engulfed by fire, screeching and burning, but still they came forth, driven by an insatiable hunger for flesh and blood.

With a loud crack the north service door gave way to a similar scene, as did the one on the south wall shortly thereafter. The creatures poured into the room like mud through a fissure. Those still intact, able to walk or run, climbed over the mashed dead and stormed the ring of fire. They charged against the magic flames headlong to their doom, bursting aflame as they hit the wall, only to fall in a blazing pile before it. The carnage grew as the swarm filled the room and the smell of burning flesh was overwhelming. The dead climbed the fiery corpses and as they perished in flame, others climbed them. Quickly the top was reached and a scorched creature fell into the circle.

My defense had failed, so I decreased the diameter of the circle, consuming the creature before me in flames. It charged forth in its final moments and I drew the short sword from the scabbard on my belt and dispatched him with a thrust to the throat. The thing fell before me, hair and skin crackling in the flames. Others were hitting the wall and the fallen dead were quickly filling the trench created when the ring shrank. The burning bodies piled high again. This time two vaulted over the top. I had but one trick left. I constricted the wall of fire until it encompassed me. I stood in the center of the flaming heap of the dead as a final blazing pillar of destruction. I was immune to my own magical fires, but all the dead that reached for me perished in flames and I laughed at how I had outdone them.

The dead piled at my feet increasing the size of the barrier around me. It pushed inward as it rose. I panicked. I could not move, locked in place, surrounded by the smoldering dead. Thoughts of being buried alive flirted with my mind and that is when I looked up and realized that as tight as I’d constricted the circle around me, it was still a circle. From the top of the mound a burnt face poked through the chimney of fire and slid into the tube above me. I held my sword high and impaled the creature, but the weight bore down on me. I needed both hands to push the thing away, but the walls of burning corpses were too high around me and my concentration was faltering. I tried to hold. Then a second burning creature slipped into the tube and then another. I fell to a fetal position in the little space I had left at my feet. The pressure mounted as more of them piled on top of me until I couldn’t breathe. My concentration was lost. My power was spent and the summoned flames flickered out.

In one last ditch effort to survive, I fought my way up and out of the pile of bodies. My skin burned and my hair singed in the heat. I realized my sword was lost beneath me as I punched my arm through the corpses and managed to pull myself up far enough to get my head free. I tried to push the smoldering bodies aside and then I felt the pile shifting and moving around me. Slowly, a vision of horror surrounded, as the dead climbed to the top of the pile. The bloodstained faces, broken, flesh-ridden teeth, and soulless, blank stares of the dead were gathering to finish me. With my one free hand raised over my head, I proudly presented my middle finger in defiance as their ravenous jaws descended.

September 26, 2020 02:45

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Kristin Neubauer
21:47 Oct 04, 2020

Wow again - another brilliant story. Such clear and descriptive writing - I’m absorbed into another world when I am reading your work. More, please!


Ryan Dupont
23:57 Oct 05, 2020

Kristen - Thanks so much for the kind words and thank you for taking the time to read my stories.


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