Adventure Fantasy Fiction

Pain splintered throughout his body and turned his vision black. He blinked, trying to regain some of his composure, at least enough to see.

He could hear the sounds of the struggle raging around him. Someone was screaming. Someone was calling for him. Someone was crying. Maybe it all came from the same person. He couldn't tell. He couldn't see. He let his eyes close.

There was no point in pushing himself out of the dirt. He would just get hit and fall back down again. There was no point in trying. This was the end, he could feel it in his bones. The ache in his chest pulled him down deeper into the dirt. His ribs were on fire, at least two of them shattered. He could feel his insides shift with every shuddered, painful breath he managed to heave into his lungs. Every inhale through his nose, however few and far between, smelled like blood. His mouth tasted like iron.

Like a steady, slow drum, his heart beat in his ears, growing louder every second. But the beat was slowing. His heart was stopping.

This was the end.


Someone called his name again, a mix of terror and grief.


At the sound of her shaking voice, Sam peeled his heavy eyelids open. The world around him was still shrouded in darkness and haze, everything half shapen blurs. But he could see her, pressed into the hard stone of the cave walls by a taloned hand. The blood that ran into his eyes made it impossible to see the look on her face, but the low firelight in the cavern was enough to glint off the tears and sweat that ran down her face.

He saw her legs and arms struggle against the beast that held her there. He saw the desperation in her movements; desperate to be free, desperate to go to him.

In all the time that Sam had known her, he had never seen Mari give up. She was the last person to tell him to get back up, but always the first to show him how to. Never once had she gone down without giving every ounce of her strength first.

It was the same even now. She screamed and she raged and she fought with every single ounce of the strength left in her, how very little that might be. After all that time, she deserved to see Sam do the same for her.

Just one more time. Get up just one more time.

Sam inhaled through his mouth as deeply as he could, sucking in as much air into his broken lungs as they would hold. His chest expanded, pushing his body off the dirt ever so slightly. But that was enough.

One arm was twisted unnaturally, the other only slightly wounded. It was his weaker hand, but it would be enough. His fingers twitched, life slowly returning to him as he breathed in again. Once his fingers remembered how to move, his hand followed and then his arm. He shifted, the muscles in his arm cramped and sore and protesting with every movement, until his hand was pressed against the red dust just underneath him. His nails dug into the dirt as he breathed once, twice, trying to find somewhere within him the strength to push himself up.

Mari let out a strangled cry of pain. Sam looked toward her, his vision finally clear enough that he could see that the beast had sunk its talons into her side. Crimson blood began to seep down its nails, slowly. If he didn't move now, Mari wouldn't make it.

All of his own weight and the weight of the world pressed down against his wrist as he forced himself upward. As soon as his chest was off the ground, Sam's stiff legs shuffled underneath him, the very beginning of his ascent. Cradling his shattered arm against his chest, Sam willed his weak legs to hold him up, one hand still on the ground for some ounce of support from the immovable earth.

He straightened his legs, staggered against the weight of his own body, but steadied himself again with his hand. Vertebrae by vertebrae he straightened his back, until his hand could no longer touch the ground, until he was standing.

The beast's attention was entirely on Mari, but its master turned toward Sam as he rose off of the ground. Mari's eyes were on him, too, something like a smile pulled across her bloodstained lips.

"I thought you were done," the gaunt-eyed man sneered as he watched Sam struggle to even stand.

"I'm not done until I'm dead."

Speaking alone made every broken bone, every bruise, every torn muscle scream with agony within his body. But nothing mattered now except Mari. His body could be broken beyond repair and he still wouldn't let her die like this. She deserved better.

He, on the other hand, this is where he deserved to go. Just like this.

"That can be easily arranged."

Bending down again, Sam picked Mari's discarded sword off of the ground. He had never been good with a sword. He had never seemed to figure out how to move with it. That didn't matter now. His training didn't matter now.

"Sam." Her voice was broken, tired.

He turned his eyes away from the man and toward Mari. Her eyes were drooping, her legs no longer kicking. The beast's attention was divided between her and Sam, loosening its grip on her ever so slightly, but it wasn't enough.

Neither of them could say anything. Neither of them had the strength. But her brown eyes communicated everything she would possibly say to him.

Just go. Leave me.

All he could do in response was shake his head ever so slightly. Mari's eyes shut, tears sliding down her cheeks. She didn't want to watch him die.

One arm wrapped around his stomach, Sam looked back at the man once more, all his willpower honed in on the one responsible for everything that had happened. The sword was loose in his grip, so he clenched his fingers into a fist around the hilt. His fingers cramped from the tension, but as long as it meant he wasn't going to drop the sword, he didn't care.

He took one painful step forward, the dust pluming up in a cloud around his heavy footfall. Once he knew he could take one step, the next one was easy. The next was easier still, until he was walking without thinking, until he was running.

Rage from deep within his soul mingled with the agony in his body and he let out a battle cry that echoed through the cavern like a crack of thunder. Even the beast startled at the sound of it.

By the time Sam reached the old man, he couldn't feel himself anymore. The pain was gone, but so was any feeling of movement. He could barely even see himself as he swung, dodged, struck. It wasn't until he stopped, the length of Mari's sword rammed through the old man's chest, that he really realized what was going on.

Panting, Sam looked up from the blade, his broken arm jammed against the neck of his opponent, a painful parallel to Mari and the beast. He met the old man's sunken, grey eyes. Sam expected anger, confusion, an unwillingness to die. But the man looked...relieved. That look, as what little light was left faded from his eyes, haunted Sam all the rest of his days.

The old man let out one last shallow breath before his body slumped, relaxing against the sword. Sam let out a quiet gasp and stepped backward, away from the body.

He had rammed the sword into the man so hard that it stuck into the rock wall behind them, propping his limp, lifeless body up like some kind of demented puppet. Even his glassy eyes were still wide open. Bright-colored blood dribbled from the lips of the otherwise colorless man.

The beast roared, stepping away from Mari and finally pulling its long talons from her side. Mari lurched forward and fell to the ground, her body collapsing in a heap. The beast raced toward its master and Sam toward Mari. Neither seemed to care about the other. With its master dead, the beast didn't have a single care for Sam or Mari. It let him run past untouched.

Staggering forward at a painfully slow pace, Sam's heart burned more painfully than anything else. If he lost her after all of this...

He dropped to the dust next to her body, tucking his arms under her and gently turning over. As soon as he touched her, her blood coated his hands. But when he had her in his arms, her eyes fluttered open then closed again. She was still alive.

"Mari," he whispered, a smile on his face. "Look at me."

She forced her eyes open and he saw those beautiful brown eyes that always felt like home to him.

"Hi," she whispered, blood trailing from the corner of her mouth.

"Hi," he whispered back. "We need to go."

Mari's smile fell and she closed her eyes again.

"I'm tired," she said. "We won. We can rest now."

"Not yet, Mari. We have to go."

She didn't respond but let out a heavy breath. He looked down at her side. Thick blood oozed from the marks the beast left behind. He had no idea how much she had lost, but if she lost much more, he wasn't sure she would make it.

"I'm so tired," she told him after a long pause.

"I know. I am, too." He pressed his hands against her wounds and she gasped, eyes popping open from the sudden pain. As hard as he pushed, the blood still pressed through his fingers. "I can't fix you here. We have to go."

Finally, she looked at him. She was tired, she said. Tired of trying. Tired of fighting for her own life. He saw that exhaustion in her eyes as she looked at him. She was asking him to let her go.

But he wasn't going to.

"Just one more time," he said to her, his voice breaking as every pain in his chest culminated into tears that dropped from his lashes. "Get up just one more time."

Mari lifted her hand, slowly, shaking, and brushed the back of her knuckles against his marred face. His eyes closed at her cold touch.

He thought this was her saying no, she wouldn't get up again. She would lie there in the dust and die. From dust she came and to dust she would return. He wasn't ready to say goodbye.

But Mari shifted, her body trembling with every attempt to move. She let out a low groan as she forced herself to sit up. Sam opened his eyes and looked at her. She pressed her own hands against her wound.

"I need your help to stand," she said.

Sam let out a breath that was half of a laugh. He forced himself off the ground, letting out a low groan as his limbs protested the movement. He bent down to hook her arm over his shoulder and his good arm around her waist to hoist her off the ground. They both let out various sounds of pain and stumbled, but as they shifted their weight, they managed to find a way to support one another until they could almost do something that might be considered walking.

Out of that cave they carried each other, out of the darkness and into the blinding light of day. Blood trailed after them, staining the dust an even darker shade of red.

It didn't matter what was coming their way after this, because they would handle it together. As long as the other was alive, they would always have a reason to push themselves out of the dirt and carry on the fight.

As long as there was breath in one of them, both of them would be breathing.

As long as there was strength enough in one other them, both of them would be standing.

And if one of them couldn't stand, they would sit together until their time had run out.

From dust they had come separately, but to dust they would return together.

March 04, 2022 20:20

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Howard Halsall
12:19 Mar 18, 2022

Hello Caroline, I enjoyed your exciting tale and appreciate all the wonderful descriptions. It’s a very intense story that builds to a grisly climax and a final escape from danger. However, and don’t take this the wrong way, I would suggest reading through again snd thinking about showing more and telling less. Sometimes less is more, especially with dialogue, and repeating an idea slows down the action. I reckon you could trim out some slack and condense the story to make it even more impactful. Other than that, well done and keep on writin...


Caroline Clausen
20:41 Mar 18, 2022

Thank you so much for the feedback! I've definitely heard before that I write more than I need to, so I'll work on condensing. Thank you for the time you took reading it! Caroline


Howard Halsall
23:28 Mar 18, 2022

No problems, Caroline, Keep writing, enjoy the experience and take care. HH


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Sharon Hancock
01:46 Mar 18, 2022

Such a passionate intense story! I was in suspense the whole time. Thanks for sharing I really enjoyed it 😻


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L.M. Lydon
02:02 Mar 15, 2022

This story was intense and suspenseful. I like the "vertebrae by vertebrae" line in particular. The ending to your story is extremely strong.


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Kron Knaija
14:00 Mar 14, 2022

wonderful story, ngl ur talented. do u have any novels?


Caroline Clausen
23:47 Mar 15, 2022

I do not, unfortunately. I'm a little bit too scatter-brained at the moment to sit down and complete anything. Thank you for the compliment!


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Lucas Gaier
09:10 Mar 12, 2022

Strong ending. The last sentence is easily one of the most important, and I think you nailed it.


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Alice Richardson
08:48 Mar 12, 2022

I like this story. Great descriptions and smooth flow of action. I love the way they encouraged each other to get up from the bottom and aim for the top again.


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