Art by Mackenzie Hollman, 2021
The hunters raced ahead, carrying the box on their shoulders as the others tailed behind. Eitra and Borivin stayed up front, making sure to keep an eye on the Bowmen and their precious cargo as Taris brought up the rear, shooting an occasional arrow at incoming guards when necessary.
As they continued, they met up with more and more hunters who began to flank them, adding extra protection to their party.
“How much longer?” Borivin growled, The Historian struggling in his arms.
“Almost to the grand hall!” Valin called out in reply.
The group whipped around the corner and entered a large room lined in extravagant carpet. Suits of armor and ornate columns lined the walls, a large wooden door standing at the end of the hall. The wooden planks burst open from their metal hinges and Arragof stood in front of them, beckoning them to hurry inside.
The hunters entered the room first and set down the cargo box on the carpeted floor. Eitra, Borivin, and Taris entered last just as the bowmen closed the large door behind them.
“What is the meaning of this?”
Before them sat six older men, all of them clothed in shining silk and heavy furs sitting on large, wooden chairs carved of smooth, dark wood. They all had both an alarmed and disgusted look on their faces as their eyes darted around the room from the hunters, to the cargo box, to Eitra limping forward to stand before them now.
“Great council of Arabouth,” Eitra began. “We’ve come to give you a warning.”
“A warning?” the man dressed in purple scoffed. “A warning of your own rebellious deeds I suppose?”
“We have done what is necessary to enter this castle,” Eitra continued, her mind buzzing from the pain and adrenaline, “in order to bring the message and our cargo to you personally, without our efforts being thwarted.”
“And so you have decided to bring violence with you?” the man in yellow snarled. “In your efforts, you’ve–”
“Silence!” Valin’s voice echoed throughout the hall. “Let the girl speak!”
Eitra took in a deep breath, then exhaled slowly, “Council of Arabouth, I have come to inform you of creatures ravaging across these lands. They’ve already taken several villages with ease, including my own. Their faces are cloaked in darkness, their armor is an unnatural white, and they brandish destructive weapons with the capability to summon tendrils of lightning. Many of my kinsmen have been slayed in their ruthless massacre.”
“Ha!” the man in purple exclaimed, “A likely description. You have no proof! No evidence to enforce this outlandish claim!”
Eitra nodded to the hunter’s near the cargo box. The two bowmen opened the crate and emptied its contents. The creature tumbled to the ground, its armor almost glowing in the hall’s dim light.
Several members of the council gasped. Many of their eyes widened in terror.
“More of them are coming,” Eitra continued. “They will take your great city as they took over my own home. We ask that you evacuate the outskirts of the kingdom and your castle, before the creatures come, leaving a path of death and destruction.”
The council was silent for a moment. They appeared to be contemplating their own fate, and in turn the fate of their people.
“Your t-time runs short,” The Historian was now speaking, his voice trembling more than ever. “Th-the creatures will be called to their fallen comrade. Th-they are already knocking at your door… your f-future, th-that is. Th-they are an inevitable part of it. Th-they were always g-going to come… eventually.”
“Who is this?” the man in yellow asked.
“This is the one they call The Historian,” Eitra answered. “We found him after some of the creature’s attacked us. He communicated with them. To what extent, we don’t know.”
“This is preposterous!” the man in red shrieked. “We’re supposed to believe the word of a village girl, a lunatic, and–and a bunch of rebel criminals?”
Eitra closed her eyes for a moment, trying to calm the storm of frustration brewing in her mind, “great council of all surrounding kingdoms, villages, and tribes, you are our last hope as we call for protection. We have gone great lengths to ensure the safety of our family, comrades, and newfound companions. These are your people, the people you have promised to protect and uphold the honor of overseeing. We ask you in this final hour for your help. For the sake of your people, their safety, and your great kingdom of Arabouth.”
The hall fell silent. It was so quiet, in fact, Eitra could hear the wind whistling outside the glass windows. One could even hear the scuttling of rats in the rafters. The council sat on their thrones, staring at the creature that lay before their feet. They stared at the rebels surrounding them and the old man shaking violently in Borivin’s arms. They stared at Eitra, the echo of her words escaping from the room.
Eitra’s quest was finished.
She’d fulfilled her duty, for her village, he family. She’d warned them of the creatures. She’d told them to run while they still could.
It was in this moment, that she soon felt a bittersweet sense of closure as it all came to a close. While the kingdoms and villages may not be at peace, at least she was now, in this one singular moment as she stood in what seemed like a never-ending silence.
That’s when Eitra heard the music. Maybe it was the delirium from the pain of her leg or her cloud of emotions, but she heard it: just a simple chime.
Music was only something she heard on Harvest Days, the time when the farmer’s hard work came to an end and the village reaped the reward for their hard labor. Eitra supposed this was her Harvest Day. She’d done the hard labor, and Eitra felt happy for a moment, just as she did on those days with her father, with her family, those days where she and her father laid on the grass staring at the stars as he told stories of their ancestors.
The chime sounded again, and Eitra suddenly warped back to reality. The others had heard the music too, although it wasn’t exactly music, she realized. It was a single note. A single, short, unknown, ominous sound emanating from the creature on the ground.
The Historian’s eyes were closed, “Th-they’ve come to rescue their comrade. Th-the others have come to reclaim this place.” His eyes flew open, wide with wonder, “They have returned.”
A deafening noise cut through the air. The entire castle shook, dusting falling from the ceiling. Before anyone had time to react, even a chance to speak, the door burst open in a great ball of fire, erupting into the hall with unimaginable heat.
They all fell to the ground, eyes burning from the smoke and ash. Eitra managed to take a look at the doorway through the smoke and fire. There they stood. It was the creatures, dozens of them. Weapons raised and armor glinting in the firelight they advanced into the room.
One turned its featureless face to Eitra and pointed its weapon at her chest. She felt herself succumb to the lightning as she felt herself slip away, traveling further and further, joining her ancestors amongst the stars.