This story is by Raylynn Grace and was part of our 2021 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
“The sorcerers have been executed. This location has been purified by holy magic,” the knight captain affirmed, his tone indurated with an underlay of pride. “The people shall no longer be imprisoned by sorcery.”
Gareth’s body was frigid while the soldiers cheered for their victory. He could still see his parents’ blood smeared across the gravel trail. That knight captain… he killed my parents… he killed Patad and Mamter!
“The boy still lives. He has sorcery, m’lord,” the knight lieutenant advised. “We must kill him and then report to the grand officer of our victory.”
“We don’t murder children. Have you forgotten your vows?” the captain demanded.
The lieutenant bowed his head in shame.
“‘A knight shall refrain from raising his sword to slaughter a child’,” the captain continued. He cocked his head to the side, studying Gareth while he stroked his golden beard, “However, he is injured. We can throw him into the Umbra Forest and not break our vows.”
The captain looked up at the full sanguine moon. Shadows masked his face as his cyan eyes became as gleam and sharp as his bloodied sword, “Yes, I see the holy truth now.”
“What? Isn’t that a bit cruel?” the lieutenant objected.
“Hmph,” the captain sneered. “You still want to give him mercy? How naive.” He glared at the lieutenant, “Many would say that was heretical.”
“T-that’s not what I was saying, m’lord!” the lieutenant stammered.
The captain sighed, “It’s not me who you have to confess to. I know your good deeds. His fate is in the Creator’s hands now.”
“Understood, m’lord,” a knight sergeant complied. He promptly cracked Gareth on the back of his skull with the brunt of his sword and Gareth blacked out.
Gareth first roughly became aware of immense pain. When he opened his eyes, he saw a black wolf gnawing on his left arm, scarlet filmed eyes wild with hunger.
“Get back!” Gareth cried, pushing the wolf away from him, but then felt dizzy. He looked down, I-I’m bleeding! It’s trying to rip my arm off! Go away!
Gareth looked desperately for anything around him that he could use as a weapon. He spotted a silver rock and smashed it against the wolf’s head. The wolf snarled, the hair raising on its back as the blood dribbled from its chin.
What do I do? What do I do? What do I do? Gareth thought desperately, panic crushing his chest like a weight of bricks.
Blood smeared across the tall, dry, and brittle black-grass as Gareth brushed his arm against it, realizing, This is all my blood! What do I do? What do I do?
“Patad! Mamter!” he screamed, petrified. “Help me!”
The wolf snarled and lunged at him, making Gareth stumble back in surprise. Gareth positioned the rock in his hands, ready to smash the wolf’s head.
“By the Haytor!” he shrieked. “Patad! Mamter! Help me!”
His heart raced and he could barely breathe. With all his might, he threw the rock at the wolf and scurried away.
Scarlet mist hovered over the forest, embracing the dead trees to create oblong shadows. Dead leaves blanketed the dark dry ground and his feet rustled against them as he looked for an escape.
He jumped over stumps and fallen trees, hoping they could create a detour.
He slipped over an oak root and landed on the cracked ground. He cried out in agony as he saw his blood splatter beneath him.
He couldn’t fight back. He couldn’t even lift his head up.
“I can’t do this on my own!” Gareth sobbed. “Somebody! Anybody? Please help me!”
There was a low growl behind him.
Gareth couldn’t breathe. His senses began to fade and his limbs no longer responded. Strong emotions of horror clutched his heart and he remained frozen.
Gareth sobbed, I can’t fight back. I’m so weak. Where are they?
The red film on the wolf’s eyes shimmered to cyan.
Gareth sluggishly blinked in disbelief.
The wolf’s mane went from as black as the night sky to morph into sleek long golden hair tied back, his chiseled jawline caped by a trimmed beard, and his body towered over Gareth as an immovable muscular wall.
“The sorcerers have been executed. This location has been purified by holy magic.”
The pain in Gareth’s physical body felt like nothing compared to the pain that scorched his heart. I can still feel Patad’s excitement when he taught me The Theory of Alchemy or the proper techniques to create an anodyne. I can still hear Mamter scolding me while she treated my wounds with the kindest touch. I never deserved any of this!
Gareth sobbed, “You attacked my family for simply existing! We were forced to live in fear because of you and your people! I hate you! I wish you were dead instead of them!”
The captain scoffed, “How naive. This is the holy truth.”
“I’m going to kill you!” Gareth vowed, shakily punching the ground.
Gareth’s eyes widened as the captain lifted his bloodied sword.
The knights shoved Gareth away from his parents.
“Mamter!” Gareth screamed, tears streaming down his face.
His mamter’s soft amber eyes comforted him, “It’ll be okay. Your patad and I love you.”
“Mamter, what’s going on?”
“Silence the boy!” the captain barked and the lieutenant gagged Gareth with a cloth.
The captain turned to Gareth’s parents, who were being held down by other knights, “For the crimes of practicing magick and embracing the path of a sorcerer, by royal decree, I hereby sentence you to death!” He raised his sword.
Gareth shook his head, grasping at his chest. They are never coming back.
“I’m going to kill you,” Gareth proclaimed as fury boiled his blood.
Gritting his teeth in anguish, Gareth climbed to his feet.
When the captain aimed for his jugular, Gareth yelled a fire spell, “Flamma!” His hand glowed saffron and the magick slipped off his hand, like water droplets. The magick merged and rose above his hand, producing a flame of fire.
“I’m going to kill you. I’ll make you regret what you did,” Gareth sizzled.
Gareth’s vision spun and his body felt weak like his weight could no longer keep him upright, I have to keep fighting. He killed my parents! I’m going to kill him!
The flame turned azure.
“I’m going to kill you,” Gareth repeated, the flames glistening against his amber eyes. “I’m going to kill you. I’m going to kill you!”
Gareth directed the spell towards the captain and engulfed him in flames.
The captain glared at him. His cyan eyes shimmered and blossomed scarlet. His tan hands transformed into paws. The silver sword became razor-sharp claws. The captain’s hair slid into a black smoldering pelt.
The wolf howled in agony, rolling on the ground to desperately put out the flames.
Gareth shook his head and glimpsed at his surroundings, stunned by the quick transformation. He placed a hand over his eyes in disbelief, What in the Haytor was that?
All that remained was a pile of ashes. It was surrounded by claw marks, dried blood, and tufts of fur in disarray on the barren ground. It was devastating.
He felt cold, despite the heat. The agony in his abdomen moved its way up to his chest. His heart was shattered, like the time he dropped a celestite crystal and it shattered into dust.
The cramps in his legs became unbearable and he collapsed to his knees, I- I did it. I killed him.
Tears streamed down his face, He tried to kill me! I had no choice! He tried to kill me, just like he did to Patad and Mamter!
“Patad… Mamter,” he croaked.
The bile burned his stomach and he vomited as the heavy pungent odor of the wolf combustion lingered.
His vision blurred and blackened around the edges. He sat shakily on his knees, body listing to the left, and he avoided the blood-tinged vomit.
Angry animal snarls and the knights’ laughter rung throughout the forest as he desperately fought to maintain consciousness.