Drama Sad Fantasy

Darin was not the sort to cry.

When he’d stubbed his toe as a child, he’d never bawled nor even whimpered. As a teenager, heartbreaks hadn’t drawn a single tear from his eyes. He'd always closed his heart to things he knew would potentially break it in the future. His mother was positive that Darin had been born without tear ducts, and had even taken him to the doctor to examine him.

She was wrong.

Today, a beautiful sky-blue summer day, his nineteenth birthday, Darin cried.

He staggered through the narrow streets, cluttered with old rags and dead rats, as his heart was cluttered with grief. The City of a Thousand Souls, called Isant by the mapmakers, was quiet and dim, the shapes of its inhabitants swirled with mist that hung always below the bright sun. Darin didn't care who saw him weeping. If the city was awake at this forbidden hour, then it deserved to see the worn figure stumbling across the dirty cobblestones. It deserved to see the quiet sobs that shook his body, and the raw pain on his face.

A bench. Low limestone, a few feet above the street. Blurry through the tears.

Darin pulled himself up and crossed through the orange light. The hanging lanterns ran in lines down the streets, casting strange light on the ramshackle buildings and the Black Segori trees to which they were anchored.

He sat, and tried to still his heaving sobs.


The tears ran down his face and into his cupped hands. They were such meaningless things—tiny droplets of water, overflowing out of someone’s eyes because of petty emotions. Anyone could be tricked into feeling emotions, if they were manipulated well enough. And if they let their guard down. He'd never experienced this feeling before. Looking down through blurry eyes, over swollen cheeks, to his tear-filled hands, Darin felt out-of-body, as if he were only watching, a bystander. He'd never wept, never let anyone in enough to weep over them when they were gone.


Darin let the tears go, cascading to the damp street below, and regretted it immediately. They were valuable. As valuable as the red sun that gave them heat, as valuable as the protective Segori that gave the City of a Thousand Souls shelter and hiding. Tears represented the strongest of forces, for human emotions ruled the world. Grief and joy were the warring forces in the modern age of the Nation For Which the Moon Died.


Lust started wars, committed crimes, and broke relationships. Anger responded with equal fury. Sadness and compassion tried to soothe the wounds, but only succeeded in asking more questions then were already there. Envy drove people over the final step. And the Nation -- the Nation With No Name, the Nation of a Million Tears, so called by the mapmakers, but not by its inhabitants -- lay helplessly in the midst of all the wars.


That was where grief came in. Grief was having been the one whose lust sparked the flame, whose anger blew it into a tempest, whose sadness changed it from a force into a monster, and whose envy gave it life.

That was grief.


Darin’s father had been one of them. The Fortunate. In corsairs faster than should’ve been possible, men had come from far away places with Tinoran technology, claiming that any who would volunteer could receive a better life. One could escape the Nation of Heartbreak, the Nation of Death and Hunger, if one went with the Tinoran men and did whatever they said. And if one went, one could come back, with food and money, and save the Nation For Which the Moon Died, for so was called the Nation by its inhabitants.

If one could survive.


His father had been the first to volunteer, and the act had broken Darin’s family.


Darin could never forgive his father for what he’d done; he had left his family in torment and famine. And Darin could never forgive himself for what he’d been driven to do.

And grief filled his eyes, and his hands.

* * *

Isant, the City of a Thousand Souls, was like a wild animal faced with civilization, unsure whether to flee, fight, or accept the impossible.

The population had turned out in full to hear the strangers speak, but they did it with wariness in their eyes and crude weapons at their hips. These strangers had come in their ship that floated above the waves and offered things impossible for anyone but a god.

Standing on the platform in the town center, they offered strength enough to defeat any man, and intelligence to outwit any foe. They were dressed in sumptuous, expensive clothing, with bellies that hid their own feet from their eyes and long glossy beards. The shrivelled, starving Souls of the City, dressed in dirty rags and animal skins, looked upon the strangers with envy and greed.

To Rasad the carpenter, son of Eliman and father of Darin, the strangers offered life. The City could not live much longer—not without some way of fighting against the wild tribes that lived on the other side of the island. The mountains barring the way were steep. Only the strongest could make it over and live, much less fight an entire barbarian village on the other side.

But if he were to accept the strangers’ gifts, he would be a hero. His family would be warm and healthy, and his children safe from the shame of his past. With that safety and gladness he could reforge all of their lives.

But there was a catch. Only those worthy would survive “the fignus”, as the strangers called it. The others would die in agony.

In the heat of the crowd driven to a frenzy by the words and dress of the strangers, Rasad knew what his choice would be. His wife would be heartbroken. She might even leave him. To her, the possibility of Rasad's failure was too high to risk.

“I cannot afford to be wrong. You have turned tail before—how can I trust that you will make it through alive? Think of your children!”

Shame filled his heart as her words came back to him.

“Who will go?” the stranger on the right asked, hunger in his eyes and a small child on his shoulders. “Who will be the first to make the leap into this new world?”

No one spoke. Fear and hope shone together in their eyes. There were three of the strangers, standing all alone on the platform in the middle of the hungry City. They were tall—taller than any man should be.

Fear and adrenaline played a dual symphony within him, sharp notes and clanging bells weaving together into a tapestry called uncertainty. He had a decision to make.

I will never be a coward again. He set his jaw. If I die, so be it.

“I will do it!” Rasad stood tall among the awestruck crowd. They all knew him as Rasad, the carpenter, the failure. The one who brought hunger to Isant in the first place.

Across the square, the strangers murmured amongst themselves and rubbed their beards. Their eyes flickered over Rasad's thin frame, the scars of shame on both his collarbones, and the small but starving family behind him. Rasad was more surprised that his voice hadn’t cracked.

“We accept you.” The middle one spoke, his thick eyebrows rising high on his pale, fat face. “Go to our corsair, now—there, by the docks, before it is too late.”

Others began to speak up, emboldened by the courage of the town coward. If he could, if he could do it, then so could they!

As Rasad left the town square, a voice called after him. “Dad! Wait, don’t go!” The cry was that of a child, desperate and hurt.

Tears welled up in his eyes. He couldn’t deal with this. Not now. It would break him before he even faced the test. Rasad turned his back and ran, bolting for the beach where the strangers had moored their flying ship.

He would make the leap. He would leave his family behind. For their own good, he told himself.

And as he ran, grief filled his eyes, and his heart.

* * *

Taya, the coward's daughter, never visited the grave during daytime.

Only at night, and never during any festivals. She couldn’t risk being seen. By anyone, regardless of whether they recognized her or not. To visit a grave was seen as a sign of dependence, some sort of clinging to the dead. Taya could not afford to be seen as dependent.

She never left flowers, and she never said a thing to the Segori stump that was her mother’s tombstone. Taya did not come to pay her respects or to mourn. It was even worse to mourn for the dead. They were gone—the casualties of a decade in which everyone had lost something. Husbands, wives, parents, children.

The strangers had come, promising new life and redemption, but at the cost of death. Out of every ten volunteers, three had come back to the City of a Thousand Souls. And the few that did return were changed. They entered the town, brawny and well-fed, but irreparable shadows of the people they had been.

Taya’s father had been the first volunteer.

He went, and came back with a hunger for power and for revenge. First he had gone for power, destroying the raiding tribes with a brutal brilliance that shocked his family and pulled down the first pillars of civilization. The City began to fear him.

Next came revenge. Revenge on everyone who’d ever called him the Name.


He'd killed dozens—some because of what they’d done to him, and some because he imagined they’d had the same thought. The only one he’d spared had been Taya’s mother.

Watching all of it had broken Saveni. She’d died of her grief. In a way, Rasad had killed her too.

Child of the Missing. That was the name they called Taya.

Each time she heard it, she turned away, hiding the anger flaring in her face. If she broke, and hit someone in retaliation... Taya could not bear to think of what the consequence would be. It would be a relief to the Souls, a final retaliation against the Coward that brought them destruction.

There were an abundance of Children in Isant. Some who’d lost one parent, others both. Too many of each. Despite the social disdain, some of them came anyways to the circle of stumps, crying and blubbering all over the place about their lost parent.

Taya was past that.

She was the last one left to carry the family name onward. Darin certainly wasn’t going to. The last she’d checked, he was almost in shock.

Shock at what he’d done, and shock that his plan had actually succeeded. Taya had helped him, but he was the mastermind. It had been a miracle really. Something that shouldn’t have ever happened…

But Darin had owned the passion and the courage to try.

In all the vastness of Erignathis, he’d tracked down the strangers and somehow convinced them to put him through the fignus.

It had worked. He’d returned as changed as any of the others.

Darin had killed every man and woman who could be called Fortunate. Anyone who'd survived the fignus, as he had, and let them taste the blood in their mouths before they tasted death, as so many of his kindred had. He’d killed his own father in cold blood…

If only those cursed strangers had never come. If only their father had never volunteered! If only Darin and Taya had escaped Isant instead of trying to fight. If only Darin had never come back to do such a bloody deed. If only Taya had tried to stop him.

Death upon death upon death.

If only…

Taya dropped to her knees and lowered her forehead to the stump that marked her mother’s grave.

And as pain welled up inside her, she cried silent tears onto the wood.

This thing. This cursed feeling that filled her heart and her eyes. It seemed to come from every facet of her life. Every failure and every heartbreak. And knowing that maybe she could’ve stopped it. Maybe she could’ve influenced any one of them somewhere along the way.

She’d yelled for her father, but she hadn’t been fast enough to get to him.

She’d helped Darin achieve his plans. Helped him plot and scheme. Helped him acquire weapons. Helped him lead the rebellion against the Fortunate. She’d been so caught up in her own lust for revenge and retribution that she had never considered the consequences. She’d watched her mother slowly die of heartbreak, and she hadn’t even tried to help her. In her eyes, her mother had been one chiefly responsible. Saveni hadn’t helped her husband, nor done a thing to encourage him. No, she’d called him a coward right along with the others. Except instead of a faceless voice, she was his wife.

Now she was dead.

Darin was probably next. He was changed, but not in the same way as the others had been.

And after him, Taya would be alone.

This was grief.

August 02, 2021 19:59

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11:27 Aug 03, 2021

It seems to me that you move a little quickly for the depth of emotion you're attempting to convey. May I suggest slowing the whole thing down and fleshing it out more? Love the concept though.


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The Manticore
20:02 Aug 02, 2021

This Manticore is not sure how it feels about this story. On one hand, it really likes the concept and the overall plot. On the other hand, it feels that the story may tell far too much and be overly dramatic. Also, no clue why on earth I picked the title. Feedback is immensely appreciated. Gloria Deus


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