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Horror Fantasy Adventure

“Darkness is upon us, Will. Throw me another log for the fire, would you?” Father Beacon requested. “There is no moon tonight, so we must remain vigilant at all times. On the morrow at daybreak, we shall continue our journey to the safety of Castle Divinity.”

I questioned not, the decision to undertake a journey so late in the day. Father Beacon had successfully trapesed through the forest of Dean on several occasions. However, on each of those times, he had never had to camp in the woods after dark. So, it was surprising to me and our other travelling companion - Lord Benjamin Moor - that Father Beacon would choose to do so on the night of no moon.

“Now, this is important, Will. So, listen carefully. You have first watch, so make sure you feed the flame. Never let it descend to ember state. Is that clear?”

“Yes, Father,” I reply.

“You are aware of the stories of these woods, yes?”

“Indeed, I am, Father,” I acknowledge. “But what exactly should I be aware of?”

I study Father Beacon – as he unfurls a blanket to keep him warm while he sleeps. The stars twinkling above us in the clear night sky, equates to a chilly evening, so a blanket tonight is a welcome cover - while the blazing fire lights and warms the small radius of our campsite.

“The creatures of the night,” he replies after a long pause. “The abominable. But for as long as you keep that fire burning bright, they will not venture forth from the shadows beyond our glowing pale.”

“Do we have enough wood to burn?” I innocently ask.

“Enough for my sleep,” he replies.

“What after that?”

“Pray that dawn comes before your last log is thrown onto the fire,” he chillingly replies, or none of us will see the light again. Now, take a drink of water from my deer bladder. That should last you through the night. I’ll keep it safe beside me. I bid a goodnight to you, Will. My life is in your hands. Make sure you stay awake. Your youthfulness should manage that.”

“I shall, Father. As God is my witness, I will feed the flame’s hunger for food.”

My pledge trails off into the darkness, as Father Beacon quickly succumbs to the exhaustion of this day’s arduous long trek on bloated feet and ankles balancing his heavy frame. Without encouragement, he quickly drops off into a deep sleep.

To persuade the fire to throw out some extra heat, I poke at it with a small tree branch stripped bare of its leaves.

“There is no God, boy,” Lord Moor’s unsolicited opinion spits at me. “We live through this night, and you will understand that - as I do. So, do not fail your duty.”

“Are you not going to keep me company?” I ask – hoping for some stimulus assistance to my lonely task. He declines to answer.

I watch as Lord Moor produces a deerskin flask from his bed roll, then uncorking it, he takes a long swig, spilling drink down his bushy red beard. Catching my stare, he extends his arm and offers me a taste.

“Thank you,” I graciously decline. “But the only spirits I am allowed to consume are in prayer.”

My attempt at humour has the desired effect on Lord Moor, who chuckles out loud.

“The innocent wit of a child. How refreshing in such apprehensive surroundings.”

“I am beyond the coming of age,” I belligerently declare. “Two years past,” I retort.  

“Splendid,” he congratulates me. “Then, you are no commoner, I perceive.”

“I am the son of a nobleman sent to mission, on God’s calling.”

“And what of your king’s calling, boy?”

“If it is God’s will, then I will serve accordingly.”

The shaking of Lord Moor’s head and broad shoulders mocking me, belie the inner machinations of what most would label a Heretic. However, Lord Moor’s reputation as the king’s most trusted servant, serves to silence any criticism - on risk of retribution. To the king, Ben Moor is an untouchable subject granted immunity from libel and slander. However, there has been on several occasions; the king’s trust in his friend, put to the test. Like, when Lord Moor killed a monk in a monastery, because the inebriated monk had physically accosted the daughter of Lord Moor’s friend, the Earl of Lydney. It wasn’t the killing of the monk that started tongues wagging. The dissent was primarily due to the shocked reaction caused by the monk being discovered in a small chapel of the monastery, nailed upside down naked to a large crucifix attached to a wall behind the altar. His entrails dangling like a butchers’ sausage string, dripped coagulated blood that slowly drained into an overflowing silver chalice used for Sunday Communion. When the king was informed of the atrocity, he summoned Lord Moor to his chambers and banished him for one single calendar year from Moor’s own fiefdom. All rents in that period went directly to the crown. When the year was concluded, Lord Moor’s rights and privileges were immediately restored, sparking whispers among the king’s court of favouritism and privilege. To further add fuel to the tongue-wagging, the king pardoned Moor, then gifted him additional lands to add to his already handsome portfolio.

“There is only the king’s will and the will of the people,” Lord Moor gargled between swigs of mead. “God – if he exists – is merely a spectator to the fallout of that mess he caused during those seven days of boredom.”

“If you have no faith,” I point out. “Then, does that also extend to the existence of the Devil?” I ask - in the self-interested attempt to keep his thoughts consciously working and awake.

“There are only devils in this world, boy. No single devil, but many walking amongst us. If you ever get to see what I have witnessed in my life, you will come to understand that evil is not supernatural. It is not the fallout of imaginary angels. It is solely a result of man’s own lust and greed.”

I defeatedly watch Lord Moor adjust his knapsack, as he prepares to rest. However, the night is still long, so I attempt to stir him from his approaching slumber.

“Are you going to kill another monk at Castle Divinity?” I unashamedly ask.

“Perhaps, I’ll kill you, boy - if you interfere with my sleep any longer.”

I push my luck a little further and ask the unmentionable question.

“What did he do? The monk that you killed.”

“What I killed him for was not just out of retribution. He had a history of molestations against females and males alike. The final straw was just the last on a list of uncontrollable aberrations. The church protected him and confined him to the monastery’s high walls. I made a pledge to a friend, and when Ben Moor pledges something, he delivers.”

His words trail off into slumbering mutterings of approaching dreams, leaving me alone in the waking world, in charge of the two men’s safety.

A faint snap of a twig emanating from the darkness, grabs my attention. Poking at the fire, I resurrect a tall flame that widens the area of light. Then, without warning, the hairs on my arms stand up on end. I feel something or someone watching me from cloaked areas of the forest.

“Who’s there?” I call out. I look over to Father Beacon and then to Lord Moor, but they remain undisturbed, as if a spell has been cast upon them – incarcerating them in a form of sleep prison.

“Don’t be afraid,” a female voice whispers from the edge of the light. “I mean you no harm. Quite the opposite,” she clarifies. “I bring you an offering of everlasting pleasure.”

My eyes dart in the general direction of her voice, but it is not until she steps into the light, that I can focus on her presence. Walking deliberately toward me, she is naked as the day I was born. Her shape is curvy, and her long hair manages to hide her modesty in the appropriate areas. To be exact, her long fair hair is empathetically saving me from blushing my own modesty.

“Tell me your deepest desire,” she demands to know. “What doth a young buck like you want more than anything in this life?”

“I want to serve God,” I defensively reply.

Her echoing laugh sees through my nervousness. After all, I am still of the male species and she is… divine, delectable, and attractively enchanting.

“Does the boy always answer for the man?”

“I answer for myself, and I answer to God.”

“So naïve,” she disapprovingly states. “Where I come from, we only worship ourselves.”

Dropping to all fours, she assumes the gait of a four-legged animal, slowly swinging her hips as she approaches me. A stirring within creates a bead of perspiration to form over my brow. My mouth suddenly feels dry, creating a craving for refreshment, but Father Beacon holds the water satchel, and is not within easy reach. Not that I can move, because I’m transfixed to my seated position, lost in two dream-like dark pools drawing me deeper into the strange visitor’s eyes.

I try to muster a call to Lord Moor, but my tongue has somehow been silenced.

“There’s no need to wake him,” she said – before resting her chin on my lap. “What I am about to do to you, requires no audience.”

“Do?” I innocently ask – my vocal cords returning to normal operation. “What are you going to do?”

My quivering trepidation seems to excite her, causing her to breathe deeply in through her nose, as she rises to her feet - her unusually tall frame towering over me like a giant addressing a dwarf.

“Innocent child,” she hisses. “Why, I’m going to devour you.”

In the blink of one’s eye, she transforms into the most hideous of creatures that nature has ever produced. Her hair – now solidifying into some form of sinew tissue, opens into a webbed membrane from behind her back. The ends resemble the tip of a thick, spikey holly leaf. Her face is now unrecognisable, looking more so like the skinless jaws of a forest wolf. Gone are the seductive eyes - replaced with fiery-red, slits of terror, focussed entirely on an area below my right ear. I freeze in fear, unable to move, helpless to react as her mouth opens wide revealing pointy-sharp teeth throughout her salivating oral aperture. I say Her, but there is no other label other than It to describe this hellish monster about to dine on me – tenderising my face with each forced exhalation of foul air.

I’m about to faint from the overwhelming fright, when the creature suddenly jerks up in a howl-like stance, as the tip of a long sword blade begins to protrude from its mouth. As reddish-brown liquid drips from its jaw onto my lap, the creature’s head is abruptly severed from its shoulders with one swipe of the sword, causing an instant cacophony of screams and howls to cry out from the darkness surrounding me.

Looking up, Lord Moor is standing above the decapitated corpse – wiping his blade clean with his cape.

“What happened?” I croakily ask, as he throws a log onto the smouldering embers of the fire.

“You fell asleep, boy, and the fire almost went out.”

“But how? I was awake?”

“Beacon, I presume. Did he give you any food, earlier?”

“No, just a drink of water from his pouch. Why?”

“You may have been an unwitting accomplice in the attempt on your life,” Moor explains. “However, bigger game was the intended kill. You were just the bonus sacrifice. I was the prey.”

“You? Why?”

“Presumably, a revenge kill for my killing one of their Brotherhood.”

“Do monks act out murderous deeds?” I asked – not thinking clearly.

“Directly? No. But they are not shy of getting someone else to do their dirty work – when necessary.”

I suddenly realise that Father Beacon is nowhere to be seen. Innocently believing that he must have panicked and ran when the beast attacked, I try to rally Lord Moor for a rescue mission.

“We should look for Father Beacon,” I loyally suggest, right before a blood-chilling scream rings throughout the forest, shaking me to my core.

“No need,” Lord Moor halts me, as he gently restrains my worried reaction. “Payment for failure has been taken. All that matters now, is that we keep the fire burning strong until daybreak – which shouldn’t be too far away.”

“What was your business at Castle Divinity?” I probingly ask.

“By king’s order, I was to be Lord Protector for three months – as part of a penance for my deadly deed. Father Beacon was the emissary sent to deliver me to the castle. I hope and pray the king had no advance knowledge of what was planned.”

“What if he did?” I asked.

“Then, I would have to choose between justice and survival. However, killing a king is not always healthy for one’s future.”

“You would kill a king?”

“I would kill anyone that wronged me,” Lord Moor bluntly replies.

Poking the fire for effect, I couldn’t wipe the beast’s image from my mind. Never have I encountered such a monstrosity, and I am curious more than ever for information.

“What was that creature?” I ask.

“Neither natural nor supernatural. Nor, a celestial creation or heavenly rejection. These woods are older than time itself. Who knows what lives here. Whomever or whatever they are, light seems to be their enemy, and darkness their domain. Since a boy, I recollect stories of the danger of journeying through here at night. Many from these lands that ignored the peril, have disappeared - never to be heard from again. Their disappearances have always been after dusk, so I found the decision to start our journey so late in the day, a very curious and somewhat suspicious undertaking.”

“The reason now transparent,” I added.

“Indeed, boy. It seems that a most peculiar but fragile alliance was made to prevent me from reaching my destination. The consequences of that failure already evident.”

Exhausted from the excitement leaving my senses, I sit huddled with Lord Moor around the fire, trying to make sense of it all, but secure in the faith that the dancing flames will provide extra protection from those in the surrounding darkness that continue to encircle us. As I stare into the hypnotic dance of hot flames jaggedly stabbing at the thin early morning air, a breaking ray of light in the sky catches my attention. Nervous - though I am, I stand up in front of the fire and point toward its direction.

“Lord Moor, look!” I exclaim.

“Aye, boy,” he welcomingly acknowledges my sharp observation. “As soon as that light tops the trees, we return to our homes, more the wiser and more the grateful to breathe in the fresh air of a new day.”

“What about Castle Divinity?” I ask.

“It will still be there,” he replies. “When I pay a surprise visit next time…”

 

January 08, 2024 15:17

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18 comments

Darvico Ulmeli
18:57 Mar 14, 2024

Lord Moor - really like the guy. Whole story captured my attention. Everything flow smoothly till the end. Nice work.

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Sol Caine
01:27 Mar 15, 2024

Thank you, Darvico. Much appreciated.

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Angela M
15:45 Jan 25, 2024

This story was so palatable. Both the dialogue and the descriptions flowed really well. I especially liked how you described the creature. It felt like it was straight out of a horror movie! Thank you so much for reading my story, "The Modern Addict." I really appreciate it!

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Sol Caine
01:05 Jan 26, 2024

Thanks, Angela. So glad it worked for you.

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Kailani B.
21:47 Jan 15, 2024

I love the atmosphere of your story; it's a nice mix of medieval and fantasy. Thanks for sharing!

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Sol Caine
23:38 Jan 15, 2024

Thanks, Kailani. I was aiming for both, so I'm glad it worked.

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Tammie Williams
19:14 Jan 14, 2024

Great story. I was thinking Lord Moor was the bad guy so I loved the twist at the end.

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Sol Caine
23:51 Jan 14, 2024

Thank you, Tammie. He is a good guy with bad repercussions.

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Helen A Smith
08:53 Jan 14, 2024

An enjoyable and original tale with story characters. Well done.

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Sol Caine
13:15 Jan 14, 2024

Helen, Thank you for reading and commenting.

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Helen A Smith
14:53 Jan 14, 2024

I meant to say with strong characters.

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Sol Caine
15:52 Jan 14, 2024

Thank you.

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Michelle Oliver
10:28 Jan 09, 2024

I loved the language, so authentic for the genre. I like the way you wove this tale in such a way as to challenge the reader perception of who is trustworthy and who is not. Very engrossing.

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Sol Caine
14:33 Jan 09, 2024

Thank you, Michelle. Yes, it's all about deception and perception and fear of what we can't see.

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Mary Bendickson
18:03 Jan 08, 2024

Difficult to know who to trust. Thanks for liking my Match-up And my Magic! And especially 'All for Science'. And 'Where's the Can Opener '.

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Sol Caine
00:55 Jan 09, 2024

Thank you, Mary. Yes, this is a tale about deception.

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17:58 Jan 08, 2024

Very good Sol..this is a tricky enough prompt to do something original with but you managed an interesting and engaging tale. :)

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Sol Caine
00:54 Jan 09, 2024

Derrick, Many thanks for reading and commenting. The dark seems to be a place that frightens many. Light brings some form of security, because for most of us, we can see what is around us. But take that sense away and life gets a little uncomfortable. I hope I succeeded with that sentiment in this story.

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