Savior of Aemysa Isle - Part 1/3
Tales of Havek: Volume One - Short Story
Synopsis: A man with no memory is trapped on an island with the only escape blocked by a mysterious Guardian. Meanwhile, a family living on Aemysa Isle finds themselves at the mercy of demonic invaders.
Content warning: Some violence, fictional drug use, and graphic descriptions of bodily injury (non-glorifying).
Darkness has warred with Light for untold millennia on countless worlds spanning the Known Universe; a war that typically goes unseen. However, on the planet Havek, Darkness manifests itself in new and more powerful ways forcing the bearers of Light to respond in kind. There is no winning this war, but there is peace in balance, yet that balance is no more. It’s up to the individual souls who come in contact with these opposing forces to make their own choices, choices that will tip the scales in either direction, for better or for worse. The inhabitants of Havek will never know the outcome of their efforts, but their history will not be lost.
Savior of Aemysa Isle - Part 1/3
We’ve lost you in body but not in spirit.
You are forever present as long as we remember.
The world may not recall your sacrifice, but your life was not yielded in vain.
My thoughts of you have become memories,
my memories into prayers.
My faith persists.
So will you.
With each step the man took along the bridge, the wooden planks announced his presence. He cringed with each creak, hoping the Guardian would not hear. He was desperate that this time would be different, that this time the Guardian had abandoned its post and left the island’s only escape unwatched. Alas, that fantasy melted away before the man’s eyes as he reached the midway point. A silhouette appeared through the perpetual fog. It was a menacing figure, backlit by a dreary blue light, its features impossible to make. Its size and shape were nevertheless imposing, and with six arms elevated–three on each side–it wielded war-like weaponry in a palpable eagerness to thwart his escape.
The man bore neither weapon nor shield. He took in a strained breath and sighed before returning to the island from which he came, of which he was a prisoner. The small island was enveloped by a lingering fog, as if the sky held a deep, smoky breath awaiting an exhalation that would never come. The island was host to life, but in a sick mockery of the real thing, like an image painted from memory, the small details lost, nonexistent. The man believed the fog to be a poison, draining him of his life and willpower, but he could not be certain. He wasn’t certain of anything anymore, his memory scattered like his hopes for freedom.
He made his way back to the center, where he had built an encampment for himself several days ago out of stones and tree limbs. Had it been days? There was no sun to gauge the passage of time, so he could only guess. The knowledge to create the hut to ward off the occasional storm, the skill to build a fire to fight back the bitter cold, and the curiosity to eat, despite his lack of hunger, had all signaled to him that he’d lived a life once before–a life that called to him every waking moment of this strange and miserable existence. He so desperately wanted to find a way back to that life. However, the man knew what he had to do, he was just too afraid to do it. There was only one way off the island. Only one way to discover the truth. He’d have to confront the Guardian on the other side of the bridge.
A smoldering batch of fear seed swirled upward in wisps of purple smoke that filled the hut. The smoke smelled sweet like that of berries and left a floral taste lingering on the tongue. If breathed in long enough, the mind would begin to dance and float from the body, the inhaler subjected to hallucinations of fearful and horrific things. Most people avoided using fear seed as it opened one’s perception to the other side, but Batyg believed it was necessary to accomplish her goal of speaking to the Almighty.
Batyg, a woman of middle years, sat on her knees at the center of the small, circular hut. Her long, braided hair was tied back to keep from falling in her face when leaning forward, and she wore several torcs strung together that hung about her like chains. A thin sheen of sweat glistened on her skin as the hut warmed from being closed off to the ocean breezes. But this was the best way, and so Batyg bore the discomfort and continued her ritual.
Lying before her was a sword made of twisted iron, crafted by the village smith at her request years ago. A request prompted by the departure of her husband and the majority of the Isles’ men in order to face the invaders across the Great Sea. This sword was not solely a weapon of battle, but of faith. The iconography of an ancient history had been painstakingly molded into the base of the sword, rising up through the haft and into the blade where cloudy faces peered out at the realm of man. Depicted at the bottom were the many-limbed demons that had waged war for dominion over Havek. Stories told that the Ungdl of Oudun had banished them back to the underworld. Or so they had thought.
The ravens that formerly belonged to the Speaker from Tyr, now adopted by Aemysa’s Speaker, had warned that the new wave of invaders were finally approaching Aemysa Isle after the many years of anticipating their return. Batyg had prepared the hut for prayer and told the boys to keep a lookout. Prayer had been a powerful means of protecting against the Darkness. But many now considered prayer ineffectual, believing the stories of old to be mere fantasies and myths. Batyg knew the truth. She knew to whom she prayed, and knew the power of the fear seed. The old magic wasn’t dead, and her connection to—
There was a commotion outside the hut. The flap flung open and shafts of bright light tore through the dim interior. She scowled, ready to shout, but her anger devolved into terror. The two boys who entered were her children, Myka and Ozryk, but her mind was wild, altered by the seed. She fought to stay sane, knowing that what she was seeing was not real.
“Mama, the invaders are here,” the smaller of the two said. The older one looked panic-stricken, staring at the patch of dirt between them.
“Their ships have reached the shores?” she managed to ask, her voice a raspy whisper. Unfortunately, the hut was in plain sight of the coastal beaches and would be a likely first target. They nodded vigorously.
Her sons were living, but appeared to her as deceased. She perceived their bodies as being gashed and gouged by something inhuman. Their deaths were her worst fear and, therefore, the seed was working. The youngest lifted one arm to show his mother something but all she focused on was the bone breaking through the skin of his forearm.
“Will this protect us if they attack? Myka showed me how to make it since I’m going to be a man soon,” he said. A worm wriggled in his cheek as he spoke. Batyg followed his gesture to look at the small stone in her son’s hand. It was smooth and flat, a bolt of lightning carved into the middle of it. The stone would hang from her son’s torc when he grew of age, the metallic necklaces that distinguished bloodlines.
Batyg placed her fingers gently around his and closed them over the stone. “You’re right, Ozryk. You are becoming a man before my very eyes. This stone will most certainly protect us. Come now, we must leave. Myka, grab the sword.”
Myka reluctantly did as instructed while Batyg snatched up a small purse of unused seed and guided them toward the flap of the hut to escape. She’d believed that being in the location best known to her would amplify the power, but hadn’t anticipated their ships to be so agile on the rough seas. They needed to get a safe distance away to continue her prayer. She hoped there was still time.
“We shouldn’t go out there,” Myka said, halting their progress. He had one eye hanging from the socket and his skull had been crushed in on one side, at least, that’s what Batyg saw due to the seed’s effect on her perception. The side effects would fade eventually, so she hardened her disposition to it in order to fulfill the greater objective.
That’s when the sounds of battle registered to Batyg’s ears. She thought it had been a couple of wyls fighting over a mate in their game of domination, but no, it was the grunts of men as they slew one another in their game of death.
“Please, Myka, you must listen to me. It is not safe here. They will find us and–” she struggled to finish her plea seeing them in such a state. “Nevermind. I am your Mama and you will do as I say. Now let’s go.” Batyg pushed them both forward but stopped again at the sound of heavy footsteps plodding toward the hut.
“Mama,” Ozryk said through an already runny nose. She didn’t need to look down to know he was crying. She placed a hand over his mouth to stifle his sobs. But it was too late, the footsteps were already upon them and there was nowhere to go.
The flap to the hut ripped open violently and a great beast stood on the other side. It was a beast with six arms and a head of horns. Its lips were wet with blood and pulled back in a sinister smile that revealed yellowed, curved fangs. The vile stench that poured in caused Myka to gag. Batyg pulled the two boys behind her as they backed away from the hut’s entrance. If she could distract the beast long enough, the boys could get free by sneaking under the thatching at the back of the hut.
The beast spoke, but the words were unclear, a different language altogether. It stepped inside, the bulk of its frame straining against the sides of the entrance. This was no man. This was something of legend. However, Batyg couldn’t distinguish if the fear seed caused her mind to see this horrific abomination, or if the beast truly did exist.
Myka stepped forward, raising the sword in defiance. The weight of it caused him to wobble slightly, but he found his balance and stood firm. The beast hesitated. Then let out a series of vicious, phlegm-filled coughs that turned out to be laughter.
A strange sensation came over Batyg as she stood with her sons to either side of her, a feeling of completeness that hadn’t been with her in the hut prior to the beast’s arrival. She realized that she’d needed the boys all along in order to complete the prayer and speak to the Almighty. It could work now. She had to try. So she did something she seldom ever did. Batyg prayed out loud, her voice strong and commanding. She maintained her gaze on that of the black, void-like eyes of the beast. This time the beast hesitated and did not laugh.
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