Praxip's Escape from the Shadow Overlords

Submitted into Contest #151 in response to: Write about a character who keeps ending up in the same place.... view prompt

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Fantasy Adventure Teens & Young Adult

Praxip, kneeling behind a row of tall, sky-blue cornflowers, looked down the semi-shrouded lane, trying to make sure no evil Shadow Forces would see him. This lane must lead to the freedom Praxip longed for and spent his nights planning to find. When he could, but always cautiously, he listened to the Shadow Overlords plot their lands with dangerous creatures and traps to keep people out, and unfortunately for him, keep people in. He understood what lay ahead of him, and although the road forward was a mystery, he was not scared. The others stood firm in their commitments to serve as sentries and guardians, but not Praxip, no, Praxip longed for independence and liberation. Even Praxip’s best friend Dalnot just gazed off into the distance when Praxip talked about escape. Dalnot didn’t mind standing rock solid under the blaring sun or torrential downpours. Praxip on the other hand hated it. He hated the boredom, the mundane staring out across the fields while he watched others ride horses and play in the distance. No, he needed to do something about it and escaping the Shadow Overlords and their infuriating and abusive orders for him and his friends was step 1.

The late afternoon sunlight barely held on, deepening the darkness along the lane. Praxip knew he must run for it soon while he could still see the path ahead of him, and before the night’s darkness took over. He could not risk a torch. Besides the unbearable insects (which Praxip hated anyway due to the vigilance needed to watch over his charges without being able to shoo them away), the Shadow Overlords were sure to see the light and chase after him.

He took one last look over his shoulder, then a quick glance towards the stone statue rising above the fenced-in area containing the first danger Praxip needed to navigate around, the multi-colored Snapping Dragons. This is where the journey got real, this is where the danger started, and Praxip tried not to think about it. Instead, Praxip thought about the statue, and he knew he would miss it. Every morning the sunlight crested on this tall monolith, with the etching and stonework reminding him of a caring mother holding an infant. When he could (but never when a Shadow Overlord was about, brooding over everything), he stole envious peeks at the statue. The statue stood much taller than he did and could see further into freedom and beyond the Shadow Lands. How lucky that statue must be. But, Praxip would fix that tonight. Yes, he would escape the Shadow Lands and find the freedom he sought. One small step at a time.

As quick as he could (which wasn’t very quick since the Overlords magically secured his legs together to prevent this very type of defiance), Praxip crept along the path, along the opposite side of the enclosure containing the Snapping Dragons. Keep low, keep quiet and keep going he kept telling himself. He barely breathed, afraid the dragons would hear (or smell) his breath. After what seemed like hours, he was beyond the fence and one step closer to freedom. 

He traveled the path a bit further until he came to a fork, and stopped to debate his next course of action. He couldn’t see this far from his normal guard-mount position, so he didn’t exactly know the right way. He needed to guess and he needed to guess soon to give him enough time to make it to freedom tonight. The left path slopped up a bit while the right path stayed level for a short distance until another turn, but afterwards looked like the turn slopped down. Trust your instincts Praxip told himself. Turn right and let the downslope lead you to freedom.

As quick as he could he hustled along the path. There appeared to be no danger right here. As he followed the slope down, he realized a large empty darkness loomed in front of him, and he heard small waves and a waterfall. Yes, he must be close to the Overlord’s Bug Bane Pond. This must be where all those nasty bugs and gnats came from that swarmed him during his shifts. Hopefully, the bugs were not nocturnal and he could find a way around the pond.

Bugs and gnats started harassing him relentlessly, quickly dashing his hopes for a bug-free night. Deciding to avoid the Pond, he quickly turned right and followed a path around the back of the waterfall since the bugs seemed worse along the left path. 

Soon the bug harassment died away and Praxip was able to make good time. His spirits lifted and he could taste freedom. 

As Praxip rounded a field a large shadow caught his attention and he stopped dead in his tracks…was it a Shadow Overlord? Were they already hunting for him and tracking him this far out? When nothing moved after a few seconds, Praxip slowly lifted his head to get a peek at the shadow looming over him. Standing tall above the path’s junction stood a stone statue. The same stone statue overlooking the Snapping Dragon habitat. Praxip looked around and quickly realized he traveled in a circle and ended up right back where he started. 

Praxip hung his head in shame and disgust. All that work for nothing and almost half the night lay behind him.

Shaking his head, he retraced his path along the fence line, again, repeating keep low, keep quiet and keep going. This time he thought the fence line passed faster and soon he found himself beyond the Snapping Dragons. When he arrived at the fork, he knew his correct path must turn left and slope uphill. He passed a field of white Bearded Goats sleeping among tall dark green grass and then another fork in the road. Luckily this time there stood two signs and he knew which way he wanted to go, away from the Wort Infested Spiders and towards the Orange Wild Dagga. He knew about spiders and trembled at the thought of Wart Infested Spiders. He overheard the Shadow Overlords talking about them and his fear cemented right then. His decision made, he turned right, away from the Spiders. This path appeared quiet, downhill, and free from danger so he hurried along, although he did hear faint waterfall sounds and shuddered thinking about the Bug Bane Pond, but thankfully he never saw it again. 

An incline became just barely noticeable, but Praxip knew it to be true since he became a bit winded as he struggled along. However, his keep low, keep quiet and keep going mantra echoed in his head and encouraged him along. He sensed rather than saw a fork up ahead and he slowed, ready to make another decision. The moon broke from behind a cloud and a large shadow crept across the pathway, causing Praxip to stop and assess. 

His heart stopped and his head dropped forward. Standing at the crossroads stood a large rock statue, the same statue, and the same crossroad from the start of his trek. He’d gone in a circle again and the moon was descending towards the horizon, indicating the new day drew near. Praxip almost cried. 

Well, he thought, I guess I need to head towards the Wart Infested Spiders. Obviously, the Shadow Overlords used the vicious beings to protect the entrance (and exit) of the Shadow Lands.   

Keep low, keep quiet, keep going.

Keep low, keep quiet, keep going

Passing the Goats and arriving back at the fork, Praxip turned towards the sign pointing to the Spiders. Nearly spent from exhaustion, Praxip followed the path and used the last remaining moonlight to hopefully steer clear from any spiders. The path followed no real direction, twisting and turning multiple times, confusing Praxip on his direction. Still, this is exactly what the Shadow Overlords would do to confuse enemies so he felt some comfort. Soon he realized another path intersected his and, dragging his tired shell of a body, he entered the crossroad.

Trying to find signs to lead him to freedom he looked around but found none along the road, nor in the fields. He needed to find the moon to figure out the right direction. He waited for the moon to emerge from behind a cloud. Like bright hot white light, the moon quickly lit up the area giving Praxip a great view. Praxip’s feeling of accomplishment quickly faded. Standing along the left side of the crossroad stood a large stone statue. Praxip stood at his starting spot again and all his efforts were wasted since the morning was near.

Praxip cried.

“Why are you dragging yourself all over tonight Praxip?”

Praxip quickly looked up at the voice. The statue looked down at him with her head cocked to one side.

“Why are you dragging yourself around tonight and where do you think you are going?” She repeated.

“I’m trying to escape the Shadow Overlords, but after the Snapping Dragons, I got lost near their Bug Bane Pond, started again and then passed the White Bearded Goats, went towards the Orange Wild Dagga to find myself back here, but finally tried to sneak past the Wart Infested Spiders to get out of the Shadow Lands only to be right here again. By the way, how are you, a stone statue, able to talk?”

“Seriously? That is what you are trying to do? You almost ripped up the power cord for the pond’s water fountain and you obviously don’t know anything about what’s around you! What’s in front of me is Snapdragons, over by the fountain is Bugbane, to the left is Goatsbeard, then you went passed the Lion’s Tail, or, as you said, Wild Dagga and finally you tried to go around Spiderwort…all species of flowers in the Overton’s Garden. And, since you are a Garden Gnome and don’t know any of this, I’m not sure how me telling you I am a Garden Statue of the Virgin Mary will help you understand how we can talk.”                     

“Garden Gnome? What is a Garden Gnome?”

The statue hung her head lower. “You are a decorative garden sculpture made of plaster and painted to look like an underground mythical being, or, more precisely, a Gnome. Now go stand in the spot Mrs. Overton placed you in next to Dalnot and be quiet. She is going to be really upset since there are fresh tracks in her garden and the judges are coming today to decide if they won Lawn of the Week.”           

June 22, 2022 20:28

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2 comments

Wendy M
07:42 Jun 28, 2022

Well, I wasn't expecting that ending, you gave me a good laugh there. Clever use of the prompt. The left path slopped up a bit - I'm guessing this should be sloped. Keep low, keep quiet, keep going. - I liked this repetition, it gave pace to the story. Poor Praxip looks like he's doomed to stay!

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Scott Dutkus
18:10 Jul 03, 2022

Wendy, Glad I didn't forecast that too much. I was worried someone might catch the flower names and start wondering. And yes, bad editing, it should be sloped. Praxip is such a lost soul...I'm sure he will continue to long for freedom but he is destined for the life of a Garden Gnome and live in the Overton's Garden.

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