Legend of Imelda: Dark Countess

Submitted into Contest #203 in response to: Start your story in the middle of the action.... view prompt


Drama Fantasy Sad

There were Shadow Skulls everywhere, pouring into the Hall through every door and window, a seemingly endless amount, cloaks flapping, blades slashing as they charged at the Champion, determined to keep him from his love.    

Van was close to the tower in which the object of this final quest awaited, but having fought his way through horde after horde of the Undead, exhausted his supplies, given everything he had, he knew he wasn’t going to make it. Not unless he used the Atomic Spirit, the weapon he’d ventured into a secret realm to obtain, the ace-up-his-sleeve he’d been counting on to kill the Countess.  

The weapon he was loath to surrender but realised he had to, as the Skulls pressed in around him, their sword tips nipping at his flesh, his Lifeforce down to its last drop. With more of them flooding the chamber, ten for every one he put down, he had no other option but to waste it.

He had to reunite with the Princess, so he reached into his tunic, closed his hand around the crystal dangling from a chain around his neck, snapped it in half and released the Spirit, initiating a devastating, hurricane-like explosion that only he, at its centre, was immune to.

"Damn. Didn't want to use that but screw it. At least you'll be back in play now and we can move on to the final boss. Are you ready?”

“I was always ready, you just never got past that bit. Should have used that bomb before. Have you maxed out your weapons?”

“Nope. Haven’t played at all. Wouldn’t have been the same without you. I’m surprised you wanted to do it. I wasn’t expecting to hear from you at all, least of all to play ‘Dusk Countess’ online.”

“I was thinking about it a lot. ’Cos we played it for months. Nearly half a year. I know what you mean but it would be sadder if we never completed it. Unfinished business and all.”

“Yeah, well…there’s a lot of that.”

“I know.”

“And it wasn’t for lack of trying. On my part anyway.”

“I know.”

“It’s good to hear from you though. I probably shouldn’t say that but I haven’t stopped thinking about you. I think about you all the time. I’m sure you know that.”

“I do.”

“So…what’s been going on? How have you been, since you left and turned our life upside down?”

When the flashy spectacle of the Atomic Spirit Explosion came to an end, Van was alone, surrounded by discarded swords and empty cloaks. A moment’s pause to regain some energy then a muted cry caught his attention and he was moving, sprinting towards the door at the back of the chamber. “Princess Flor!” he said, skidding to a halt in deer-skin boots and grunting as he struggled with a timber draw-bar, pulling it back to unlock the panel. “I’m here!”

Pushing the door open and accessing the tower, he expected to be greeted by more monsters, steeling himself to fight tooth-and-nail. He needn’t have worried. The foes on the other side of the door had been reduced to smoking piles of charred bone, courtesy of the female with the flowing, ginger locks and ripped, scarlet dress who was sweating and panting in their midst. Princess Flor, who spun to face him as he entered, almost releasing another blast of searing-hot flame from her palms until she recognised him at the last second and closed down her fingers. 

“Van!” she said, kicking skulls out of the way as she ran, buxom bouncing, to embrace him. “You found me! Sweet Deliverance, I was praying! I knew you’d prevail against the Countesses demons, I knew you’d find your way back to me!”

“I never stopped, Princess. I would fight every last demon to the end of the world to retake my place by your side. But…I see you have been fighting yourself.”

“Yes! Would you believe it? A fairy fluttered into my cell and before it could correct its error and escape, I caught it and devoured it, restoring a portion of my Firebrand! Enough to escape my prison and make my way here, in time to be reunited with you. And now nothing stands between us and the Dark Countess and we can end her tyranny over Alabastron forever! Van and Flor, side by side, overcoming all obstacles, unstoppable as long as we’re together.”

“We will be together always, Princess,” said Van, holding her close, his heart and his soul, his inspiration, the reason for all he lived and fought for. “The Forces of Darkness may separate us but our love is strong, nothing can keep us apart."

“God, I forgot how cringe this is. I forget the controls as well. Feels like forever since I played. How do I run again?”

“Hold L1. And do you remember how to activate Firestorm? Tap Y twice then hold X You always used to mess that up. Gonna need that to kill the Countess.”

“Yeah, yeah, I remember, smartarse. Wouldn’t dare forget after how angry you got when we fought that Pig Boss.”

“I wasn’t angry. I was annoyed. How many times did we have to fight that fucker? Right at the end, every time, you’d activate fireworks instead of firestorm and he’d kill us.”

“You were angry! But I don’t blame you. Doing the wrong thing at the wrong time is the story of my life. And I did a lot worse than that, many times. You put up with a lot of shit from me.”

“Ah, you put up with my shit too. My insecurities. I know I was a pain in the ass.”

“Just a tad. Not enough to… No, I was a shit partner, Glen, it’s as simple as that. I was selfish and ungrateful. You were so good to me. I used to say ‘you saved me’ and that was never a lie. My life was a mess when I met you and you took a chance on me and calmed me down. Don’t know what would have happened if you hadn’t. Probably never would have finished my degree or got a job, it was all you supporting me and pushing me on.”

“Of course you would. You’re not an idiot. You would have figured things out without me. Maybe not as quickly but I’m sure you would have gotten there in the end! As soon as you got tired of all the partying and, you know, the other stuff.”

“As if that would have happened without you reigning me in. I was out of control. And I let myself drift out of control again. Settling down, 9-5, housework and shopping and chores…I tried to adapt, I really did, and I was successful, for a while. I thought I was going to be okay with that kind of life. But you know my family background. You know how I was brought up, the dysfunction of it all. It’s painful to admit, but the pressure of living a ‘normal’ life with someone grounded and reliable got too much for me and I…slipped.”

“I know. Wasn’t the first time. I understood. I would have stood by you while you worked through it. Look, how about we meet up and chat in person? I’m open to that. It’s not like I’ve moved on with someone else. I’m still me, hanging out, working away. We can talk and maybe...”

“That’s not a good idea. Listen, Glen, I didn’t get in touch with you just to finish the game. There’s something I have to tell you, something I should have told you ages ago.”

Having loaded up on potions and explosives, as many as they could find amongst the corpses, they left the castle, using a door that had unlocked in the Grand Hall following the destruction of the Skulls. It was a small postern that led them into a walled, outdoor passage, which they wasted no time in navigating to the final arena, the sprawling castle courtyard, which for the moment was unsettlingly calm, red, crescent moon glaring down, ramparts and battlements empty.

The Countess was close, the ominous silence and bulging shadows told the tale. She was ready to launch her attack and they would have to work together to defeat her, powerful and unified, as ever.

“This isn’t easy to say. But I know you’ve been going around with rose-tinted glasses, thinking I was going through one of my ‘phases’ and eventually I’d come to my senses. And, that could be true but…it’s not going to work this time. The thing is…well, I can’t sugarcoat it. I’ve been with someone else.”

“Oh. Well. Yeah, I mean, I assumed you would have been. That was the reason you left, wasn’t it? Because you weren’t sure if you were being true to yourself in this relationship and needed to ‘find yourself’? It’s natural you would have tried to do that by, you know, being with other guys and everything. I get it. If that’s what it took for you to figure out where you belong then…”

“It wasn’t other ‘guys’, Glen. It was just one. One guy. And… God, this is hard. I’m sorry. I know I should have been honest from the start, instead of lying so much.”

“What do you mean?”

“It’s just…I have been with someone else and…not just since leaving. It started before.”

“What do you mean, before? Wait. So… Wait a second. You told me you were leaving because you’d lost track of who you were and needed to figure that out before you could commit to marriage. You swore it had nothing to do with another guy.”

“I know. I’m sorry. I didn’t want to hurt you and…it just dragged on and then it got too hard to tell the truth.”

“So…are you saying you were actually cheating on me? You were with someone while we were together?”

“I’m so sorry. I didn’t plan it. I was so confused about who I was and what I wanted. I didn’t mean to lead you on. We had so many good times and I really do love you, I just realised I wasn’t in love with you and…”

“Who was it? I swear to God, Imelda, if you tell me it was Lucas I…”

“I’m really sorry.”

“What the fuck, Imelda? Every time I asked if there was something going on between you two you swore blind you were just friends! He was just your ‘work husband’. Are you fucking serious? How long was that going on? How long were you lying to me and sleeping around behind my back?”

They moved towards the old, dried-up fountain in the centre of the courtyard, walking, not running, in trepidation of triggering the encounter.

Van was in the lead, just by a step, broadsword at the ready, shard bombs dangling from his belt, the most powerful explosives he’d found amongst the corpses.

Flor followed, flames dancing around her fingers, torn, scarlet dress whipping at her legs. They’d come a long way since the start of the quest, sometimes together, sometimes forced apart, but they were together again now, when it mattered.

The fountain was near. Once they got within a couple of steps, they knew the earth would erupt and she would appear, but suddenly, Van drew to a halt, spun to face Flor, drew back his sword and swung, drawing a heartbreaking yelp from the Princess as she took the hit hard and went down.

“Did you just hit me?”

“How long was it going on? I can’t believe this. I had my suspicions, all the time you were spending with him, all the texting, that’s why I kept asking but I trusted you. I believed you when you said you were just friends. You made me feel like I was a paranoid, jealous freak!”

“I didn’t mean to do that. You would have kicked me out if I told you and I had nowhere else to go. I wasn’t even sure what was happening. I did think it was just a ‘phase’ and everything would be okay if I got it out of my system. But…it went too far. I fell in love with him. And I’d already lied about so much. I knew it would hurt you so bad and I didn’t want to do that. I was trying to protect you. From me. Because I’m an asshole. And you deserve better.”

Flor pushed herself to her feet, resumed standing calmly, as if she hadn't just been attacked by her love. Flames danced around her fingers. She wore a cute, half-smile on her large-eyed face, rustling, ginger locks framing it like a beautiful picture. 

Van drew his sword back and swung again.

“Stop attacking me! You’re going to kill me and you won’t beat the game.”

“Fuck the game! I don’t care! I thought you wanted… I thought this was a way to open a line of communication. I thought you wanted to talk about coming back.”

“I know you did. I know you’ve been waiting for that, all this time. I bumped into Victor at the airport last week and he said you were still pining for me and holding on to hope that I’d come back. You weren’t even trying to move on. That broke my heart but it’s my fault, because I never gave you closure. I’m an asshole, like I said. So…that’s why I wanted to talk. Maybe I fucked up, maybe I made bad choices, maybe I regret all I did. But it doesn’t matter. It’s done and I can’t take it back. And you deserve better. So I just want you to take off those rose-tinted glasses and…move on, Glen. Forget about me. I’m not the one.”

Flor pushed herself to her feet, resumed standing calmly while Van came closer, lifted his sword, powered it up, struck. The Princess flew back through the air, her Lifeforce diminished by more than half, hit the ground, rolled along the cobblestones, crashed against the base of the fountain and…

The barren earth of the fountain’s base erupted and the Dark Countess rose into the night, crooked skull glaring from within the folds of a cowl, tattered black wings spreading to blot out the moon. A spindle-like arm with a deadly, clawed hand reached down and snatched up the Princess. 

“Six months. Six fucking months you left me thinking there was hope, thinking if I just waited long enough you’d realise you made a mistake and come home. I would have been fine with that. But you made a fool of me. Fuck you, Imelda. Seriously, fuck you.”

“That’s okay, Glen, you’re entitled to be angry, and you need to get it out but don’t log off. Please. If we beat the game you can put it away and move on.”

“Can’t beat the stupid game. You’ve fuck-all energy left. She’s going to slam you into the ground and you’re going to die. Game fucking over.”

“No. We can do it. I’m going to activate Firestorm. You throw all your bombs into the flames. The reaction will take her out instantly. I saw it on YouTube. It’s a trick for people who can’t beat her.”

“Yeah, it’s a cheat, your speciality. It gives a bad ending.”

“There is no good ending, Glen. This is all we have. But we need an ending. You need an ending. So get ready. I’m doing it. Tap Y twice, hold X. Let’s go.”   

The Dusk Countess cracked open a toothless maw, screeched and raised her arm, black, bony fingers crushing the Princess, preparing to smash her to the ground. In her grasp, the Princess threw back her head, slapped her hands together, chanted ancient words and released the Firestorm, flames exploding from every pore of her being and creating an inferno around her. The orb of fire expanded, engulfing the Countesses arm, shoulder and head as Van, at her feet, cast shard bombs in rapid succession.

Into the maelstrom they flew, initiating a tremendous explosion that plucked the Champion off his feet and cast him to the rear of the courtyard, where he slammed into the wall and collapsed in a heap.  

When he shook himself off and got up, Lifeforce flashing red, stamina depleted, the Dusk Countess was gone, stillness had returned to the courtyard and Flor lay unmoving by the fountain.

“You did it. I knew you would. You can do anything, Glen, you don’t need me. You never did. You’re an amazing person, and there’s an equally amazing person out there waiting for you. It just isn’t me. I wish it was. I’ll forever be sorry for the pain I caused you. But I know you’ll be okay. I know you’ll find happiness. Take care of yourself, babe.


Van of the Vale, royal bodyguard, consort to the Princess, limped to his charge’s broken body, sank to his knees and bundled her up in his arms. The evil that had stalked Alabastron had been defeated at a terrible cost but the Champion had prevailed, as he always did, as he always would, alone now with his memories of love. 

June 23, 2023 23:50

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Michał Przywara
22:26 Jun 27, 2023

Very nice! The beginning felt overwrought, like the kind of clichéd melodrama we might find in a venerable gaming franchise - which is of course what it was :) Great flipping back and forth between game and reality. The idea of having a real-world conversation while gaming is familiar (as is the griefing :) That even adds a bit of comedy to this. Not full blown funny, but a counterpoint to the otherwise sad subject matter. The bad ending being the only ending they can have is a great way to end the story. I also like the contrast between...


07:04 Jun 28, 2023

Thanks Michal. Appreciate that. Yes I wanted to mirror the real life situation with the idyllic game scenario, characters reuniting after being torn apart by a 'Dark Countess' then setting out together to defeat the forces that conspired to keep them apart. Glen was as hopeful and optimistic as Van. Unfortunately, in his case, the dark countess he has to defeat was his own wishful thinking and false hope.


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Kevin Logue
17:18 Jun 27, 2023

Nicely done Derrick. The transition from reality to game well executed...and I want to play that game.


19:07 Jun 27, 2023

Thank you Kevin. not my usual type of story ( I tend to go horror or sci-fi) but still managed to bring in something geeky!


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Michelle Oliver
13:39 Jun 26, 2023

I like the concept of getting closure through an online game, rather than in person. Very cleverly done.


17:12 Jun 26, 2023

Thanks Michelle. I was trying to include a few of the prompts, characters getting into a fist (sword) fight. Two conversations at once..start in the middle of the action. And that idea just came to me. Glad you enjoyed


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Colleen Ireland
20:48 Jun 25, 2023

The way you were able to traverse from the game to reality back to the game is amazing! The transitions were perfect and kept me captivated up until the sad end. If I were Glen tho, I would have done the same.


17:11 Jun 27, 2023

Thanks Colleen . Glen was totally justified!


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Richard T
16:54 Jun 24, 2023

That last 'Bye' conveys so much. Imelda gets to feel better about herself, while Glen gets crushed, but closure is closure. Pretty interesting format. I have to admit though, I was losing interest in the game portion of the story, except for when Van hit the Princess, that was hilarious.


17:04 Jun 24, 2023

Thanks Richard. That's really helpful for you to say that. Hard to get honest feedback, I appreciate it a lot. I may edit the game segments down so we not to get bogged down in them too much. Thanks!


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Annie Persson
22:17 Oct 24, 2023

Wow, this is deep. I love the way you portray their relationship through the video game. This is amazing, keep writing and pulling the readers in like this, it's truly amazing. Well done.


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J. D. Lair
18:33 Jun 28, 2023

So sad Derrick. Hits too close to home for me, so I’m going to need a minute to recover. 😅 if this is based off true events yourself, I hope you have been able to find proper closure. I thought you hit on several prompts smartly and the way you cut back and forth left little cliff hangers throughout the story. That was a good idea to keep the reader engaged. :)


19:40 Jun 28, 2023

Thanks JD. ....yeaaaaa sadly this is based on true experience.......what can you do. Some people. Get the impression you experienced something similar. Sorry to hear that. I didn't get the kind of closure that involved killing someone's avatar in a video game ...but at least Glen did! And yes I tried to hit a few of the prompts deliberately. Glad I succeeded somewhat


J. D. Lair
22:12 Jun 28, 2023

I’m sure writing this story was therapeutic in a way. Giving your MC the closure you wish you got. I know some of my stories have helped heal in some ways too. That makes these types of stories even more of a success. :)


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Mary Bendickson
00:02 Jun 25, 2023

Lots of action and adventure pointing to sad breaking up reality.


09:37 Jun 25, 2023

Thanks Mary. Tried to make the game events mirror the reality. Separated lovers being reunited after being torn apart by 'dark forces'. But unlike within the safe confines of the game world reality is harsher. No happy ending and it was necessary to end the game to get closure and be able to mourn


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