Scarlet Fog

Submitted into Contest #142 in response to: Write about somebody who likes to work in silence.... view prompt

35 comments

Fantasy Thriller Fiction

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

At dawn, the fog would dissipate, and Lyrei would breathe easy.

Until then, she wouldn’t risk slowing down. She tightened her grip around the handles of her glass daggers. Her leather boots pushed into the dirt with each running step. Dashing across the forest, she slid to a stop, then ran uphill. The scarlet archers taking position would turn the tides if ignored.

“Spare no malice,” a nearby captain called over the clashing of weaponry. He beat the end of his spear against his shield. “And spare no mercy!” Soldiers cheered in unison, rallying together to push the attack. “Our skill bests their numbers! Here we stand, and here we send these fiends back to where they came!”

Lyrei focused in. If one well-placed arrow struck the captain, her people’s morale would drop—his vigour would be needed for the nights to come. Lyrei dashed to the hill’s peak, then channelled the goddess’ power. Her vision blackened at the edges. Shadows seeped in and cloaked her in shade.

Out of sight, out of mind.

The world grew dark, and all noise distant. Lyrei walked between the planes of existence—unseen from mortal eyes. Not even the moon’s silver glow could break through. She approached a scarlet archer, barely hearing the chittering of teeth as it spoke in an odd language, and grabbed its steel helm with one hand.

With her glass dagger, she severed the fiend's throat.

The movement broke her stealth. Another archer turned and pointed, mashing its teeth together as if to break them. The archers—three more that she could count—all took aim at her, the crimson flesh making up for their fingers pulling back bowstrings. Lyrei kicked the body down the hill before fading back into the shadows.

Into the gloom. Silence.

She approached the second fiend and struck—a forward thrust deep into its eye. As her cloak faded, she grabbed the dying corpse and used it to block an arrow, then dodged around it. A sideways cut left the third archer grasping at its throat.

Before she could walk beyond the light, back into the shade, an arrow caught her shoulder. She staggered back and gritted her teeth, wrenched the arrow from her leather armour, then let the shadows take her. Enveloped in darkness. Only the sound of her breathing and the thud of her heartbeat remained.

Start running,” she whispered.

The archer panicked and fumbled its bow, then unsheathed a side sword and swung haphazardly. Lyrei appeared behind the fiend, then sunk her daggers into its neck. The blades struck its spinal cord, locking its fingers, arms, and legs in place—paralyzed from the neck down.

Lyrei flicked the tar-like blood off her daggers. Below, she caught the captain’s eye, who waved in gratitude. The sun would soon rise—the scarlet fog would retreat for another night and its soldiers with it. 

For now, the fight pressed on.

A shriek pierced the forest as she descended the hill. Lyrei faded into the endless silence of the shadows. A beast, an insect rather, with claw-like appendages that stretched out like wings, dropped from the trees. Saliva dripped off its hanging tongue as it searched for her. Blood coated its exoskeleton.

“Come, wasteling,” Lyrei muttered. “You’ll find me ready.”

The fiend caught her scent and broke into a chase.

Lyrei dashed. She jumped over a tree root, hit the ground, then turned and threw a dagger. It struck the fiend’s eye—the monster refused to flinch as it gained speed. It swung with one scythe-like arm, ripping through her leather armour, missing skin by an inch.

With her cloak of shadow broken, a downed fiend on the ground grasped at her leg. Lyrei tripped. Her teeth hit the dirt. She stabbed a dagger at the hand grabbing her, then rolled to her feet. The monster swung its appendage. Lyrei deflected it off her blade, knocking the weapon from her hand, leaving her defenceless.

She stepped back. There’d be no outrunning it.

Goddess, I’ve done the best I could.

Vines sprouted from the ground. They entangled the fiend’s legs, working up to its chest, the thorned plant constricting and bleeding the monster. Its howls echoed in the air. 

“Close call, dark elf,” a thorn mage said. He stepped beside her and lowered his staff. The clinging vines continued the work of bleeding the creature dry. “Look at it,” he said. Shell and bone cracked by the second, the plant filling its mouth, stopping its cries. “A fate well deserved.”

“It had me,” Lyrei said. “I could hear the goddess calling.”

“And think nothing of it.” The thorn mage looked to the sky, and Lyrei followed his gaze. “The sun rises and burns away the fog. We shall live to fight another day. Go and find rest, shadestalker.”

Lyrei nodded, and caught her breath.


- - -


Broken walls and dead bodies.

Lyrei walked through the aftermath of the battlefield, where her people worked to recover. The horde would return with the moon, the scarlet fog their lifeblood. Elven soldiers piled the fiend’s corpses into bonfires. Thorn mages repaired the walls, coating them with razor-sharp flora. Men and women, an occasional child, dug graves for the fallen.

She dragged herself into the village. Lyrei crossed a pond, doves keeping their distance, and entered the healer’s abode. Their time would be short—the healer would soon be called to work the morning. Celaena stood by a table, readying her herbs into a satchel.

“My love,” Lyrei said. She stepped forward and embraced her, gripping her tight, fingers pressing into her back. “I didn’t think I would see you again. They grow more vicious by the night, mutating in the fog-”

“You’re hurt.” Celaena pushed her to arm’s length. “Sit. I’ll tend to you before I leave.”

“It was just an arrow...” Lyrei winced as she removed her armour. The adrenaline of battle no longer numbed the pain. The wound had dried over, streaks of blood now claret-red marks. “I’m surprised it broke the leather.”

“Should’ve come to me right away,” Celaena said.

“Did I not?”

“Faster, next time, Ly! Run here if you must. And don’t pull the arrow out in the midst of battle, for the goddess’ sake—if anything, it’s a surprise you haven’t caught the scarlet rot, yet.” Celaena took Lyrei’s hand, then raised her other toward her shoulder. 

“Hold on tight, love. This will sting.”

The healer’s eyes glowed a verdant green. Trails of mist drifted off her fingers, finding the wound, knitting the flesh. Lyrei gritted her teeth as if wasps swarmed her skin. She squeezed Celaena's hand until the healing finished.

Celaena smiled. “All better now. You should know, word has it our seers are a step closer to repelling the fog. Don’t take any risks tonight—you worry me too much as is.” The healer stood and reached for her satchel. “I must go-”

“Stay with me, for another minute?”

“If only I could. Please, find a sound rest.”

“I would that it were so easy.”

“I promise to see you before sunset. For now, our people need me, as they need you.”

Lyrei took her hand, and felt her touch fade as Celaena walked to the door. It closed behind her. The fireplace crackled in the corner of the room. The cycle of fighting, moon after moon, would continue until the seers could repel the fog, or the village fell, however long either would take.

Lyrei exhaled, slowly, and got to her feet. 

She’d need a new pair of daggers by nightfall. 

April 20, 2022 21:20

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35 comments

Alex Sultan
21:21 Apr 20, 2022

Somewhat of a rough draft - I wasn’t going to post this week, but I did like this specific prompt a lot. All feedback would be well appreciated!

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21:49 Apr 20, 2022

Hi Alex, I get this is a draft, so not loads of line notes, but you might want to look at the following: She approached a scarlet archer, barely hearing the chittering of its teeth as it spoke in its odd language, and grabbed its steel helm with one hand. - Overuse of "it/its". Maybe rework... She approached a scarlet archer, barely hearing the chittering of teeth as it spoke in an odd language, and grabbed its steel helm with one hand. “Hold on tight, love. This will sting.” - capital L here. I really like the story, again with your am...

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Alex Sultan
06:40 Apr 22, 2022

Thank you for reading! I haven't written a thriller like this for a while, so I'm glad it worked. For the prompt, and while it may not be too obvious, my intention was that Lyrei worked in stealth, and therefore silence, while others are louder with their approaches. I'll see what I can do to make it clearer.

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Ian Gonzales
14:03 Apr 30, 2022

That was some good sword and scorcery fantasy. An excllent take on the prompt. Thank you for sharing.

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Alex Sultan
15:17 Apr 30, 2022

Thank you for reading, Ian. This genre is one of my favourites - I'm glad you liked it.

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Annalisa D.
03:34 Apr 29, 2022

You do a really good job of bring action scenes to life. With the descriptions its easy to visualize. I always enjoy when stories have creatures of some kind, so I liked reading about these. The world building is interesting to explore in this. It was a fun read!

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Alex Sultan
15:18 Apr 30, 2022

Thank you! I haven't written a thriller like this one in ages, so to write these sorts of action scenes again was a lot of fun.

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Sharon Hancock
01:25 Apr 26, 2022

Wow! I’m coming to you next time I need to write a fight scene! Lyrei is awesome and I want her action figure! I can see this as a video game my daughter would love. Great story! I enjoyed it a lot!😻

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Alex Sultan
19:49 Apr 27, 2022

Haha, I appreciate the kind words. I'm sure Lyrei would make a killer stealth character in a video game 😅

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Ashley Bowie
14:30 Apr 25, 2022

Battle scenes are certainly some of the most fun to write. The pace is promising and the descriptions are visceral. There was a section in the middle that I feel over leaned upon the word "fiend." Then at the end the pace picked up a bit too much. Maybe you could find a way to linger over the relationship so it's clear how important the fighter and healer are in this society.

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Alex Sultan
19:46 Apr 27, 2022

Thank you, Ashley. It is kind of you to go through my story, and I appreciate the feedback. I agree with you on the pacing. I do like to keep my stories short, but I don't think a hundred more words would have hurt. I look forward to reading through yours when I get the chance.

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L. Maddison
12:43 Apr 25, 2022

You have great skill in conveying complex action- fast paced combat- in fluid detail, so that I can literally see the movements. I appreciated the two balancing sides of the story- the harm and the healing. I wanted to know more about Celeana- she seemed remarkably unperturbed- but maybe that is the way of magical healers!

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Alex Sultan
19:57 Apr 27, 2022

Thank you for reading, friend. Your comment is very kind - writing fast-paced combat like this has always been my favourite. I do think a paragraph or two more on Celaena could've worked, so I do appreciate the feedback. I'm looking forward to going over your newest story when I get the chance 🙂

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Lavonne H.
16:57 Apr 24, 2022

Hi Alex, I am going to say the common refrain "I don't really like fantasy stories but...." I loved this one of yours. As other writers have commented, it feels -- cohesive if that makes sense. A realistic world, realistic characters and realistic war but in another place. I am afraid I am too old to have played D&D type of games. This was enjoyable despite my lack of knowledge. My fav line: "She’d need a new pair of daggers by nightfall." Excellent ending :) Just one itty-bitty question. RE line: "Lyrei ambled into the village." I just wo...

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Alex Sultan
19:53 Apr 27, 2022

Thank you for reading, Lavonne! I'm glad you liked it - I reworked that final line so many times before finishing with what it is now. I like it a lot too. I do appreciate the feedback, as well, I managed to change 'ambled' to 'dragged herself into the village' based on your comment. It was a good catch 🙂

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Lavonne H.
22:20 Apr 27, 2022

Hey, that is what we are all here for! My proofreading abilities (for my own stuff) suck so I appreciate all the extra eyes! Yours in writing, Lavonne

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Shea West
04:27 Apr 24, 2022

Alex, your ability to execute such specificity in the action in your stories. Whether they are historical fiction or fantasy this is a skill that you've finessed in my opinion. The pacing and action were done very well and it ready quickly! My fave line:the cycle of fighting, moon after moon, would continue until the seers could repel the fog, or the village fell, however long either would take.

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Alex Sultan
19:51 Apr 27, 2022

Thank you for reading, Shea. I appreciate the comment - it is so kind of you. I would like to think - even while there is still so much to improve on - I've gotten sort of decent at writing fantasy like this. I hope you are well!

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Michał Przywara
00:09 Apr 24, 2022

Definitely a strong high fantasy vibe! This story moves at an exciting pace, and -- especially considering it's high fantasy -- you don't bog us down with an exposition dump. Nevertheless, enough details are slipped in mid-action that your world grows bigger than it initially seems, and by the end I'm left wondering how this village got this problem, how they'll survive it, and if this is a more widespread issue. I also like some of the descriptions, particularly with the protagonist's vision dimming when she cloaks. On that note though, I...

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Alex Sultan
00:02 Apr 25, 2022

Thank you for the comment! I appreciate the read. All the world-building for this one was very fun to write. As it stands, this is a standalone project I wrote solely for this prompt, but I might do more on it at some point! It definitely opens up a world. I sometimes do tend to ignore how grave wounds can be in the midst of things. It's good feedback. I've taken note of it for the next story I write - I'm glad you pointed it out. Thanks again.

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J.C. Lovero
23:37 Apr 23, 2022

Hi Alex! Always a pleasure to read another one of your fantasy stories. I was immersed in the world you built here, especially with Lyrei fading in and out of the shadows like a rogue from World of Warcraft. Hit a bit of nostalgia for me there. Also enjoyed the thorn mages here - reminded me of druids from WoW 🍃🌿 I'm curious to know more about them and where their inspiration came from. I liked your imagery to describe the healing from Celaena, especially the bits of verdant green, knitting the flesh, and how it felt like wasps swarmed he...

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Alex Sultan
13:04 Apr 24, 2022

Thank you for reading - it is always nice trading feedback with you. I'm glad you enjoyed this one. Fast-paced stories like this are some of my favourites to write. Admittedly, I was a bit lost at first with these prompts, and then I thought a stealth-style rogue character could work. For the thorn mages(A detail I was very excited to add!) I can't really trace back where I got the inspiration. I've played quite a bit of games and read stories where elves had nature magic, and I thought constricting vines would be a cool spin on it. I'm so...

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J.C. Lovero
13:24 Apr 24, 2022

Not sure if you ever read LitRPG/progression fantasy, but there is an author by the name of Alexander Wales who has a serial online called "Worth the Candle" on Royal Road. It's like... 250 chapters (seriously not kidding, check it out) but when you wrote thorn mages my mind immediately went back to his story. He's developed a super interesting magic system that includes: gold magic, revision magic, gem magic, blood magic... among others. Definitely worth checking out if you are into RPGs and fantasy. You could also Google it and read up o...

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Alex Sultan
23:50 Apr 24, 2022

I've always thought blood magic(Hemokinesis?) is such a cool idea. I eventually plan to write something on it. I'll definitely check it out - Thank you for the recommendation 😁

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J.C. Lovero
00:33 Apr 25, 2022

Now you've got me all excited. I could talk magic systems all day! Check out bloodbending from Avatar: https://avatar.fandom.com/wiki/Bloodbending

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L.M. Lydon
15:55 Apr 22, 2022

I liked the thorn-mage's intervention and how the thorn-mages also build fortifications. This seems like a cool application of magic. Likewise, Lyrei's magic of plane-walking is well-described. You have some excellent battle scenes.

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Alex Sultan
21:34 Apr 22, 2022

Thank you, L.M. I appreciate the comment. I thought the thorn-mage idea was really cool, too. It was a detail I was excited to add. I always do enjoy writing thrillers and battle scenes - I'm glad you liked it.

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13:08 Apr 21, 2022

I enjoyed this Alex. Love the variety of stories you post. Great battle scenes, good opening line, satisfying ending as usual. Is this set in the same world as Vali and Naomi? Keep it up. :)

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Alex Sultan
13:29 Apr 23, 2022

Thank you for reading! I do like writing these sorts of battle scenes a lot - I haven't done one like this in a while. This story is more of a standalone - not attached to any others I've written. A bit too 'high fantasy' for Valianne's world 😅

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12:46 Apr 21, 2022

I like the feel this story has, I understand how it's most likely like that because it's a rough draft of sorts, but it's really nice. I enjoy this universe too, gives me D&D vibes which is always a win for me. I think a bit more narration history in the beginning and or explanation towards the bond the healer and the MC have would be useful. But as you've said- this is a rough draft. And considering that, this story is truly wonderful.

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Alex Sultan
13:32 Apr 23, 2022

Thank you for reading! I'm glad you liked it - the whole high/dark fantasy style universe is always one of my favourites to write. I appreciate the feedback, and while it is a bit late to make any major changes, I've noted your comment for the next fantasy story I write. 😁

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15:20 Apr 23, 2022

Of course! It's really neat. I've been thinking of doing a fantasy style story here soon, so reading them here is giving me so many ideas. I love reading them. I can't wait to see what else you come up with : D

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Kai Corvus
01:28 Apr 21, 2022

I loved this story! I've mostly been reading more realistic fiction/mystery on here, but I love seeing your fantasy stories! A little bit of action and magic mixed with a pinch of drama is my cup of tea. The ending was orchestrated beautifully. It tied everything written beforehand together while still leaving the readers wondering about the future- I love these endings, and you did it so well! Thank you for sharing your work on Reedsy. I have enjoyed all of your stories so far, and I hope to enjoy many more in the future!

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Alex Sultan
21:32 Apr 22, 2022

Thank you for reading, Kai. I appreciate the comment! It is very kind of you - I'm glad you liked the ending. I originally had planned for this story to be a thousand words longer, but didn't want it to drag, so I cut it somewhat short. It is nice to hear it worked 🙂

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21:51 Apr 20, 2022

Hi Alex, I've written 2 this week if you are interested in critiquing? If you only have time to do one please look at Library of Lives. Please don't worry if you don't have time for either!

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