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Fantasy

This story contains sensitive content

{content warning: brief mentions of violence}

The forest of Sho Prar, brimming with life, secrets, and treasure. The trees speak to the ferns and the moss, sharing gossip and daily news. The nymphs and the fairies meet up to play music by the creek, attracting all sorts of woodland creatures. Explorers congregate with local foxes, inquiring why their compasses are spinning in all sorts of directions. At night, the canopy of leaves is far too thick to see the stars, so the fireflies have taken it upon themselves to compensate. They float aimlessly and illuminate the forest wonderfully. Sho Prar is actually a large valley, situated deep within a secluded mountain range, woefully named The Mountains of Lost Souls. It is an oasis, sheltered from the horrible snow storms that torment the mountain range that surrounds it. Very few make it to Sho Prar and even less make it back out. If you travel ten kilometers west of Sho Prar, you will find yourself not only exhausted from the upwards hike but also in a snowy plateau seemingly devoid of inhabitants. It is frigid and dead silent, with only the crunch of the snow under your boots to be heard. Traveling deeper into this plateau, you begin to notice deep trotted paths with pawprints littering the ground. Perhaps this wretched place isn’t so abandoned as you have previously thought. Almost on queue, you hear the wolves howling their threats to the night sky. After, it is all too quiet for comfort and you begin to squirm under the pressure of the silence. If you choose to continue your journey and not retreat back to the warm safety of Sho Prar, you will be met with a glittering black gate stuck on the side of a large summit. Outside this gate lies a Sentry, a still and peaceful soldier made of stone. 

No one really knows how long this gate and its guardian has been hidden, most people doubt their existences. Anthropologists and historians in the many kingdoms surrounding the area say the Sentry is at least a thousand years old with the gate being even older. Those who have a rich knowledge of the ancient gods say that the Sentry was built ages before the first human came to be, offering the question of how the statue looks so much like a soldier before breathing soldiers existed. Of course, the main question surrounding the mystery is what that gate hides. Philosophers pessimistic about the human condition say it conceals the horror of humanity, arguing that the first humans used it as a prison or an execution chamber- the theory ultimately offering a reflection on human nature about how we try and conceal our immoral actions but still act on our desires anyway. More religious individuals argue that it was a safehouse for the gods when the cosmos was being attacked by creatures from the deep. Pirates and plunderers hope it to be gems and gold, enough to buy a whole country. All kinds of different groups of people have tried to infiltrate the gate, uncover its mystery once and for all. If they survive the harsh landscape, respect the residents of Sho Prar to avoid the wrath of the living forest, and don’t get picked off by the wolves of the plateau, they only have to get past the Sentry for entrance past the gate into the mountain’s cave. Upon sensing any ill intention to compromise the gate, the Sentry gains life, moving at will only to exterminate anything that stands in its way. Armed with a greatsword and with a determination almost robotic, the Sentry has never lost a battle. He has torn through the greatest of armies, slaughtering hundreds with little difficulty. Even with the recent invention of gunpowder, the Sentry stands tall to any challengers. After the carnage, the Sentry whispers a prayer for all those who have fallen and allows the wolves to take care of the scraps. He slowly lumbers back to his stone pedestal and takes one last look at the falling snow before returning to his previous form. So the gate remained a mystery to all of humanity, until the wolves came to the Sentry with a proposition.

It was a beautiful winter sunset, giant puffy pink clouds stretched across the sky and cast a rosy hue on the still snow. It was getting dark quickly, the sun sloping under the peaks and dimming the plateau. The Sentry was in his usual meditative state but still alert to any sort of noise. He heard the wolves from almost a kilometer away and to his surprise they had someone with them. He heard the faint heartbeat of a young human, but no footsteps. Their breathing was shallow, they sounded like they were dying. It was unlike the wolves to eat humans that weren’t already dead, especially young ones, they had some sense of morality too. The Sentry settled that the wolves probably kidnapped a young child for ransom as he’s heard them gleefully talk about devising a similar plan, what they needed from humans was unknown to him. But the wolves came closer, he could make out there were three of them he knew by the names of Ures, Ubu and Ume. They sat in front of him now, and it seemed that Ume, the largest of them, was carrying a girl on his back. They spoke, words smooth and clever.

Kokoto, please allow us entry, we have a child here who will die if they aren’t warmed up” Kokoto translated to “statue” in their native language. 

The Sentry remained still. The life and death of a human was no concern of his. 

“There was an avalanche down the path, I’m sure you heard, the trail to Sho Prar is blocked” The wolves insisted.

Nothing.

“This will relieve your guilt Kokoto” 

The phrase caught The Sentry’s attention. Recently, he had been contemplating all the lives he has taken and how many deserved that fate. Each terrified, desperate face was like scars on his stone body- forever there, forever painful. How observant were these wolves. Mechanically, the statue came alive, stones shifting and grinding. The Sentry observed the wolves, one all white with red eyes and golden claws. She was Ures, the wisest and the self proclaimed leader of the group. Ume was brown with yellow eyes and Ubu, the runt, was grey and unfortunately missing an eye. These plateau wolves were far larger than normal wolves, but the Sentry still towered above them, peering down onto their expecting expressions. Then the Sentry saw her. She was moving slowly, clutching onto Ume’s back and burying her face into his haunches. She was small, but not a quite child and had long hair as white as the snow around them. She had a small green knapsack with flowers coming out of one of the pockets. 

“She is going to freeze, please let us in” 

The Sentry knew he had to make a decision quickly. He slowly walked toward Ume. The wolf put his ears down in instinctual fear but didn’t flinch at the statue’s long stone arms descending on him. The Sentry gently coddled the girl in his arms and turned to face the gate. It was as if the gate was an extension of the Sentry’s own body, he could feel it vibrating with energy and conviction. They were bound to each other, guardian and gate, each serving the same purpose. A purpose that the Sentry was fated to compromise. The gate reluctantly creaked open and the warmth of the cave happily greeted the relieved wolves. Cautiously, they paced inside, followed by the stone guardian and the girl that had now succumbed to her cold induced drowsiness and had fallen deep into sleep. The Sentry felt that she was still very much alive even though she didn’t look it. The gate closed behind them, shutting out all light, but the party could see glowing purple lights at the end of the initial cave they found themselves in. The Sentry, oblivious to what he had been guarding behind the gate, found himself flooded with curiosity. “We will stay here for the night. If there is an avalanche it would be impossible for anyone to reach the gate. Tomorrow morning, after the girl has regained her health, you all will escort her to Sho Prar and I will return to my station.” The Sentry spoke softly, it always felt nice to speak, even if he was just using his voice to justify a potentially bad decision. The wolves soundlessly agreed after casting glances to each other. They too were curious what hid deeper in the cave but perhaps it was best to let sleeping dogs lie. The Sentry set the girl on the floor and the wolves quickly huddled around her, warming her with their bodies. The Sentry turned to observe the gate from the other side. 

Hours later, when all of the wolves were quietly sleeping and the Sentry meditated close to them, the girl shifted awake. She raised her head slowly and squinted in the dim light to see what was around her. To the Sentry’s surprise, she did not scream when she saw the statue get to his feet. Rather, she gawked at him with almost an amused expression, like he was a soaking wet cat. She then turned her attention to the wolves who were also stretching awake and ran her fingers down Ume’s coat. 

“These dogs saved my life, I overestimated just how cold it would be up here” she gazed affectionately at the wolves surrounding her. Her voice was sweet and brimmed with peacefulness. The Sentry felt an overwhelming warmth. He wanted to move closer to her but he remained. She felt around for her backpack and upon discovering it, stood up. She was awkwardly small against the statue. 

“Are we inside the gate?” 

The Sentry nodded, eyes fixed on her. 

“Do you have anything I could use for a light?” The wolves were all up now, sniffing about her. 

“No. Tomorrow morning we will leave the cave” The Sentry repeated, trying his best not to sound threatening or cold but she didn’t seem intimidated by him at all. She turned to put a hand on Ures who was sitting with paws tucked under tail beside her, “She-wolf, can you read Anthurium?” Anthurium was the naitve language of the nymphs in Sho Prar. The Sentry tilted his head, what was she doing with books belonging to nymphs? Ures nodded and the girl took out a withered book and opened a page for the wolf to read. 

“ ‘Upon gaining entrance to the cave, you will see purple lights in the distance, follow them to the underground mushroom forest and find the largest tree. Let the roots guide you lower into the cave and…” The girl turned the page “...there you will find the Heart of the World.’ There’s a drawing here too, it looks like a purple ball of energy with rings of stone around it. Around it are ancient runes, I don’t recognize them except this one- it’s the symbol for Time” Ures seemed out of breath, searching the page in awe. 

“Thank you, let’s go now” The girl put the book back in her bag and began walking before realizing she could hardly see, “maybe someone else should go first.” 

Now the Sentry was the one staring stupidly at her, the wolves were as well. As far as the ancient statue knew, no one had ever entered this place. He doesn’t remember his own creation or the gate’s, but he feels it deeply that they are the first souls to step into the cave. How did she get all this information? He concluded it was the gods, she must have been sent by them. Divine intervention was good enough reason for him to abandon his post, despite him feeling immeasurable guilt. So he was the first to follow her and the wolves promptly joined him. He even offered to carry her to which she agreed. Although he would’ve preferred to walk to the next area of the cave in silence, she tormented him with questions like his name and when he was built. He didn’t have an answer for any of them. He did however find out her name, Kava. 

Soon, they arrived at the underground forest. It was a lot brighter with glowing mushrooms and crystals on the walls and ground. It seemed uninhabited, but they didn’t get a chance to fully look around before Kava exclaimed that she had spotted the largest tree. She ran over and found a stone staircase, proving human interference and further confusing the Sentry. Down at the bottom of the staircase was a large room. Like Ures had described, there was a large purple ball, vibrating with power and illuminating the room and emitting a low hum. “The Heart of the World” Kava breathlessly said, the purple reflecting in her eyes. She began furiously writing in the nymph book before losing her pencil due to the Heart’s slight gravitational pull. Runes glowed on the walls, the Sentry could make out one that was the symbol for protection, another time. Kava suddenly turned at her companions with a dismayed look. “I’m supposed to walk in there now, thank you for all the help.” The Sentry’s body urged him to grab her, stop her, do anything, but he remained still. He was growing in frustration, what were these feelings? The wolves sat placidly while the Sentry desperately tried to figure out what was happening in his own mind. Kava approached the portal and gave the Sentry one last thank you before the light entirely absorbed her. It was then the Sentry was greeted with an ancient memory from 1,000 years ago as he saw Kava shine with the light before disappearing. 

He felt his own heartbeat in his ears, heard his own breath, something was hurting. A lot. He had forgotten how pain felt. He was in the snow in front of the gate, freezing on the ground. Beside him was an older Kava by maybe 5 or 6 years. His hands cupped her face. He was crying. “Please don’t go, I-I don’t know what I’m gonna do I can’t-” She cut him off “It’s okay, we’ll see each other again I promise, I promise Ziru, I promise.” She was shaking. He felt his feet solidify, he didn’t have much time and neither did Kava. But time didn’t really matter much to them did it, not with the Heart still intact. Still, how do you say goodbye to someone, properly? “We won Ziru, we did it, the Heart will always be safe thanks to us” tears dripped down onto his thumbs. With that she was gone, her injuries were too strong for her mortal body. It was too late to say that he loved her. It wasn’t worth it. Not one bit. He held her gently in his arms before his body was overtaken with stone. Her effort would not go to waste. 

July 16, 2022 01:23

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7 comments

Graham Kinross
04:29 Jul 31, 2022

Was this inspired by Princess Mononoke? This is cool. From the description you have you should use the world and characters you’ve created to write more. Having a world already thought up and characters you know makes it easier to get to work on the prompts here. You should add more tags to this, you get a maximum of three. It means that your story appears in three lists, meaning potentially 3x the views for your work. You can add more tags whenever you like. You could also cut the paragraphs a little bit shorter because reading this on a p...

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Isa C
22:22 Aug 01, 2022

Yes! Princess Mononoke and really all Studio Ghibli films are so beautiful so of course I had to nod to them somehow. Thank you for the advice on the format, it's very helpful and I will absolutely be adding more tags.

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Graham Kinross
23:08 Aug 01, 2022

You’re welcome. Let me know when your next story is up.

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Samuel Yates
16:54 Jul 21, 2022

I really liked this story, has great potential for a much longer story.

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Katy Borobia
18:16 Jul 19, 2022

Your writing is so beautiful. The first paragraph had lovely descriptions and I wondered if this was part of a much longer story. The wolves protecting the girl and the Sentry's tragic backstory were wonderful plot devices. Well done!

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Isa C
21:48 Jul 19, 2022

Hi! As someone who has never completed a writing project before this, your kind words mean the world to me. I would love to tackle a much longer story with the first part serving as world building some day. Thank you so much <33

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Katy Borobia
23:43 Jul 19, 2022

You totally should! The world building was very strong in this story. Congratulations on taking on a new hobby like writing! I look forward to seeing more.

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