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Adventure Fantasy Fiction

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

Alien insects were chewing on Sir Danielle Longbow beneath her armour. Her feet were tired of running from hunters with long spears. A godly herald floated above her as she ran.

            Blood fell as drizzle from the hellish sky. Danielle’s green Crann Kingdom tabard was turning from green to blackish brown. Her sword slapped her side in its scabbard. Her shield took the scratches of vicious thorns on every branch she ran through.

            “You’ve outrun the sealgair. Time for your next fight.” The herald conjured a portal in front of the knight. She ground to a halt and shook her head.

            “Not a chance. I need to heal.”

            “I’m not waiting while you tend your scratches.”

            “Then you should move on with all of the other warriors you made deals with,” Danielle said. “No wait, it’s just me. If you want to admit defeat and just leave Crann alone for the thousand years, then I’ll go home now. If you want me to fight the next three monsters of your choice you’re going to have to WAIT!” Her rage spilled over in a yell that stirred the world around her. “I hate this fucking planet.”

            Shock turned to smug silence on the herald’s lily-white face. Curling lips revealed teeth a shark would envy when he smiled. All she saw was herself in his mirrored eyes. She pulled a creature that was part mosquito, part wasp from her wrist. Danielle crushed the hateful thing between her fingers.

            “Don’t fucking touch me,” she told a branch that flowered with sharp petals around eyes that belonged on a fly. It reached towards her as all the plants were. Flora or fauna, it didn’t matter, it was all carnivorous. She hacked the branch off and grunted at the wounded tree as it slunk back into the perpetual darkness.

            Day didn’t dare show itself on the world of the sealgair. The best it had was the intermittent aurora stretched across the sky. Shadows of mighty beasts wove between the mountains that floated above the surface, stealing yet more precious light before it could reach the ground.

            Danielle found a rise and hiked. She’d ignored the blisters of long journeys before. She’d never had to ignore so many injuries as she travelled. Allergic blisters burst with a hot pain. That pain gave way to yet another agony as she walked on the open wounds.

            Luck in being alive at all was with her but no more. Tired, hungry, and anxious, she trekked onwards and upwards. Battle born instincts saved her from creatures in the darkness. Her sword met attacks that her eyes could not see.

            “Tell me about this world,” she said to the herald. She’d been walking for hours and wanted the distraction of conversation.

            “What do you want to know?” He asked with resignation. She’d been correct in assuming that he was bound by the agreement they’d made. He did not have to take her directly to her next fight, neither did she have to go when he commanded it.

            “What is the name of this world?” It was a basic detail, an odd thing not to know while she was there.

            “Sealgair call it Craspeur which means blood sky.” His melodic voice dripped boredom. The red outfit he had conjured for himself to give her up to the warriors hunting her had returned to being the leather and bone armour that was his default.

            “Poetic. What’s your name again?” She asked casually, hoping he would let slip. Her feet crunched on the bones of small animals as she passed through the lair of a mighty predator. The beast looked to have been picked clean by hunters.

            “I’ve told you before. It is not the business of a mortal to know my name any more than that of my god.” He stopped to hover at the edge of a cliff that barred her way. 

            “I bet you made that up for yourself. You’re no god.” She began to climb a tree that was trying to grab her as she did. Her armour seemed to weigh more as her weary limbs reached one over the other. The heavy steel shield which had saved her life countless times was a nightmare to lift as she tried to use the hand to grab branches that were grabbing at her.

            “I am to my god as an ant is to you. You are an ant to me.” His eyes seemed to glitter every time it seemed the tree had her. The glow of malice faded whenever a slash from her sword put the tree in its place.

            She thought to try taking seeds from the tree which would have been at home with the magical trees which guarded her home city of Leonor.

            “Do you always talk so much about ants? You have ants here in Craspeur?” With another scolding whack at the tree, she stepped from a high branch to the clifftop. Throwing her weight forward ripped her from the grip of twigs clinging to her ankle.

            The constant incline kept the breath from Danielle’s burning lungs. She stamped on things that crawled, slashed at things that scampered and hid from anything that could gallop.

            The teeming swarms of insects which had been everywhere below thinned as she climbed higher and higher. Rocky steps were the most welcoming thing she’d found on Craspeur.

            A dead grove greeted her at the plateau. There were insects and rustling noises in the distance but before her stood dead trees. Cutting fallen branches into spikes she arranged them in a semicircle, building herself a hedgehog of a shelter.

            “How quaint. Have you decided to settle down here?”

            “Only until I’ve slept. If it doesn’t suit your high standards as a god’s herald, you can remake it with your magic.” She spoke with her back to him, still crafting the means of her rest.

            He summoned a mighty throne from nothing. Festooned with cushions. Decorated with skulls and horns. “No need. The wildlife of Craspeur is no threat to me.”

            “Goodnight then,” she said, lying down on her gnarled pallet bed.

            “Sweet dreams, lost knight. Don’t let the bugs bite.”

            “Fuck off,” she said and yawned.

Waking in armour wasn’t new to Danielle. Waking with a slithering weight between her legs was. The snake was no different from the snakes she’d heard stories about in Crann. Except it was bigger, thicker than her thigh.

            Knowing instinctively that moving suddenly was a bad idea, she let it circle back down her body away from her face. She’d slept with her sword in hand, helmet on. The serpent began winding around her left leg. It lifted the leg off the bed as the snake tied her up in itself.

            Opening her gauntleted left hand, she waited for it to move up her body again. The eyes were larger than any snake of her world. As it slithered up her chest again, she grabbed for the serpent’s throat, prodding it with her fingers by mistake.

            It hissed.

            The jaw opened wide; fangs bared.

            She grabbed again at the neck of the thing that twisted and squeezed her. Her hand found no purchase on the scales. It bit at her arm, breaking a tooth on her steel shell. The sword swiped at its body opening the belly of the beast. Blood and viscera poured out over her to the delight of many insects.

After setting fire to the rags of her tabard, the snake made for a thoroughly mediocre barbeque.

            “This better not give me a disease.” She spat bones. “Want some?” She held out the skewer to the god’s servant. Even the fire was the wrong colour to her eyes, redder than orange. It kept the insects at bay if she was close enough to almost burn herself.

            Peeling off her armour to inspect her wounds she found a microcosm of insects gnawing at her flesh in a dozen different places. She couldn’t feel any of them. One or more had numbed her so that it could devour her in peace. She skewered them all with no intention of eating them.

            “I’ve never seen a caterpillar I’d call vicious before,” she said. The thing squirmed as she pushed the sharpened twig through its body. Her blood dripped back out of its mouth. When it and the rest were blackened husks, she tossed the smoking twig away into the dark. Her mighty muscles ached no less than her chewed flesh thanks to the bugs.

            “I’m shocked you made it through the night.” His voice lacked the smug undertone. He sounded genuinely impressed. “I should have given you something harder for your second labour. No matter. The fuilreum will be the end of you.”

            Danielle sharpened her sword with a wet stone and spit, fearing the blood Craspeur offered from the sky would rust her blade. Her throat already ached from dehydration, but she was not ready to drink what the herald called ‘Craspeurian water.’

            Using threads pulled from her tabard before she’d burnt it, she stitched the wounds she could reach with a needle fashioned from one of the snake’s ribs. She retied the leather strap of her shield severed in the previous day’s fight. It wouldn’t last long. Sir Longbow prayed to the other six gods to aid her.

            “Let’s get going then. I want the third trial done as soon as possible.”

            “The quickest way for it to end is to kill yourself,” the herald said hopefully.

            “Fuck off. Keep wishing arsehole. Want to portal me there or are we walking?”

            A flaming portal answered her. The bloody surface dripped. Flowers of impossible proportions covered a clearing beyond.

            “Which one?” She asked, wanting to know precisely before setting foot into the herald’s death trap.

            He pointed to the largest yellow flower in the centre. “Kill that innocent flower and you’re over the halfway mark in your endeavour. A pretty flower, think you’ll manage?”

            “Of course.” Checking the strap for her shield she stepped through the portal.

The foot that stepped on a yellow petal larger than a ship’s sail felt it moving straight away. With no portal left behind her there was nothing to stand on but petals. A puff of orange dust shot from the centre of the flower. Danielle began to cough as the pollen entered her lungs. A woozy feeling washed over her.

            Throwing down a gauntlet that was lost forever she pulled up the collar of her shift from beneath her armour and gambeson. Covering her mouth and nose with the fabric helped block out more spores. She coughed and spat the orange mess she’d already inhaled into her clothes. Blinking constantly to keep her eyes clear she saw tentacles of dark red rising out of the heart of the flower.

            Hoping the fight would be easier from below she stabbed at the petal beneath her feet. Cutting the mighty yellow petal brought sweat from Danielle’s bloody brow. With a hole large enough to climb through Sir Longbow lifted the heavy flower’s bloom over her.

            Pitch blackness beneath was total.

            She swung her sword in the dark, hoping for the best.

            Holding up an unseen yellow sky with her shield she crept forwards. Cuts hit things which gave way too easily. Something sloshed as she struck it. Liquid bounced off flexible walls until it settled. She stabbed. Wetness splashed down over her knees. The itch was instant.

            “What the fuck is that?”

            “That’s flower stomach acid. Enjoying it? That wasn’t even the right flower. You’re screwed little knight. I’ll be back in Crann within the hour. The first person to repeat the invitation will doom your kingdom.”

            “Which way is the one I need to kill?” She groaned.

            “What good are directions in the dark?”

            “Put your hand on my shoulders and push me towards it until I tell you to stop.” It was a command.

            “You don’t get to tell me what to do, little knight.”

            “DO IT. NOW.”

            She felt a hand on her shoulder, then another. She was guided roughly. Sir Longbow swung her sword as she walked.

            “Not that one,” said the herald as another carnivorous flower spilled digestive juices over her. “I bet that’s heaven on your wounds. Here you go. Forwards.” He let go of her abruptly.

            Tentacles found their way through the petals she was cutting to shreds. Tendrils thick as branches surrounded her, trying to pull her in every direction. Feeble sword swings only deterred one feeler at a time as the others came at her in the dark.

            Danielle’s feet came out from beneath her. She’d been still too long. Upside down she hacked at her bonds. Muscles in her stomach ached as she pulled herself up to cut her legs free. Groping vines reached for her as she was pulled back into the light.

            Mighty swipes cut one tentacle holding her leg as she was dangled over the pool of digestive fluid in the heart of the flower. A gaping skeleton welcomed her as company. The dead beast had walked on eight legs. Its jaw was the length of her body. Once sharp teeth were worn to smooth mounds.

            Down she went, still fighting the many arms of the yellow flower. Her helmet slipped from her head as she jerked to avoid the cool surface of the deadly pool. She held to a melted arm that had clawed itself a hold in the thick side of the pool.

            So tired. Don’t let this be how I die. She saw the face of her lover Lupita as her head hit the acid. She closed her eyes and held her breath. Vines no longer had to pull but pushed her down. She turned in the acid and felt gravity correct itself.

            Through her burning eyelids she felt light fade away. The lid of her coffin was closing. The gasped air in her lungs was almost spent. The shield brought to protect her was an anchor in the deep pool of the alien flower.

            All I have is the swordFuck it. She stabbed. The stab was lethargic. The honed point pressed the outer wall of her cell and pushed it. If this is how I die, you’re going to have a stomachache. She pressed a foot against the skeleton of the melted beast and used two hands on the handle of the sword to push the point of her father’s remade sword.

            All resistance fell away. The sword slipped through, down to the hilt.

            How do you like that? Her head ached from holding her breath. She was dizzy. Passing out seemed better than inhaling the bile of the beastly bloom.

            Something stroked her hair, her eyelids, and cheeks. The acid was draining away. She gasped, coughing as her lungs reacquainted themselves with oxygen. She slipped and slid in the smooth inside of the thing. Petals above had folded over the pool. That way out was closed.

            She leaned heavily on the sword that still poked though the flesh of the flower. With the resistance of a blunt blade sawing through steak she used all her might to carve a door to freedom.

            The flower wasn’t done, tentacles grabbed for her again. She hacked at them with the desperate hope of the reborn.

            “I’m coming home Lupita.”

            “Sure about that?” The herald appeared in the darkness outside the flower. “You could stay in there. I don’t mind. Honestly.” His voice was that of a sore loser pretending to be gracious. “It would be kinder of me to leave you here now. You’re a mess Danielle. I don’t think Lupita is going to want what’s left of you after your trials are done.”

            “She loves me. Scars and all. Take me to the next trial. I’m ready.”

            “Are you?” Clear shock cut through his prevailing arrogance. His confidence was fading. “You know it isn’t dead yet. It could survive yet.”

            Sir Longbow hacked furiously at the thing that was the ceiling to her world. She stabbed everywhere and dragged the sword through anything that ripped. Sweat slicked the acid from her body. She itched from head to toe. It didn’t matter. She was alive.

            When the flower was a shredded mess even the herald couldn’t dispute was dead, she fell to her knees.

            “You need to rest.”

            “What?” She didn’t trust him.

            “After that. You should rest.”

            “Going soft on me?”

            “You’ve got me curious now. That’s all. I want to see you at full strength against your next opponent. You can go out in a blaze of glory instead of a whimper.”

            From the ruin of the flower a tower rose. Granite like that of Crann reached for the sky. The dead flower fell away as the servant of a god showed off its power.

            In a tower with no steps down she looked upon yellow flowers far below from a window. A helmet and a sabaton, perhaps those she’d lost, sat on the bed. The bed was hers, an exact replica of the one at home. A steaming bath filled with water beckoned her weary muscles and bones.

            “Rest up Sir Longbow,” said the herald. “This is your last mercy. Tomorrow, you die.”

            “We’ll see about that,” the knight replied. Throwing off her armour and clothes with no hesitation she sunk into the hot water and moaned with near orgasmic pleasure. Skin still digesting in acid felt instant relief. Things that could swim in blood drowned and floated to the surface. It was her little paradise in the endless hell of Craspeur.

June 22, 2022 13:38

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11 comments

L M
14:09 Dec 10, 2022

The herald is awful. Danielle rules though. Another good one. Im hoping she gets to fight the herald?

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Graham Kinross
01:32 Dec 11, 2022

No spoilers from me.

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L M
13:23 Dec 12, 2022

Ok.

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John Hanna
02:54 Jul 22, 2022

Hi Graham, What a fight sequence! The action gripped my insides and I felt for her. What a horrible world, what a horrible opponent, what an imagination. Loved it!

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Graham Kinross
03:14 Jul 22, 2022

Thank you John. Kind words. Her trial isn’t over yet.

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Graham Kinross
15:02 Jul 03, 2022

Here's the next story in the series, use the link below. https://blog.reedsy.com/short-story/68n1zz/

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L M
14:09 Dec 10, 2022

Thanks for the link!

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Graham Kinross
01:31 Dec 11, 2022

You’re welcome!

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Aoi Yamato
01:08 Jul 12, 2023

good action.

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Graham Kinross
05:26 Jul 12, 2023

Thank you.

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Aoi Yamato
03:18 Jul 13, 2023

welcome.

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