“Why are you here? You should be out on the cliffs. I heard the knights and the Guardian routed our first attack. They locked shields like cowards, and stabbed our grunts down to pieces. It was sick to watch. Our counterattack broke them up, but now there is a melee on the rocks. The sky will reflect blood tonight,” the king said.
He was an older Ill. He wasn’t bent or twisted by the centuries, but still tall and sturdy, and dressed in black armor in case the humans breached the subterranean gates. He shaved his head like the Ill king’s before him. It was something the past rulers did. Nobody really knew why.
“What? Oh yeah, sorry,” Tyrule said. He was dangling his giant green feet off the edge of a rickety bridge overhanging an abyss. The caverns were full of unfinished structures of rotted wood and leather.
“Every time, Tyrule, every single time the horns blow and the shields clatter you linger here in our catacombs. The women and children are gone. They left to the Deep End. They’re too far away to enjoy the war properly,” the king said. He sat down next to Tyrule, who was the champion of the Ill clans. He was tall, lanky, and wielded a battle ax the size of small horse.
“I’m tired. We have these battles and we never see the human’s homes, and they never see our caverns. Nothing moves. We’re like a wave washing up against the shore. We eat away at the sand, but then we roll back. Nothing changes,” Tyrule said. His voice was surprisingly low for such a giant.
The king laughed and rubbed the forearm of Tyrule tenderly. Nobody dared touch the champion unless it was ordered by the king. It was another way of controlling the living death that was Tyrule. Once in a century you get a physical specimen like Tyrule, who haunts the humans firelight as a living legend,and will be woven into their tapestries long after he is gone.
“There is nothing to this world but life and death. The humans don’t see our life for what it is. They don’t see our tunnels, cities, and palaces as beauty or progress. They don’t respect the strength of stone or the solemness of the dark. To them we’re just abominations, and over the centuries it hasn’t changed,” the king said. His voice was slightly robotic. He’d said this statement once before. He was tired of these conversations.
“There has to be some end to it. There has to be an ending point. How can we survive with a knife always at our throats? How can we do it if we like the knife at our throats?”
The caverns shook. Dust sprinkled down in fibrous rain. The torches along the caves danced back and forth, like they too wanted to be free.
“You hear that? They’re throwing rocks at us. Launching from the base of the mountain with their catapults. They can’t even lift the weapons they want to kill us with. They’re bugs. We eat bugs. It is how we stay alive,” the king said.
Another tremor echoed against the stone walls. You could almost hear the dull roar of metal grinding on flesh outside.
“Do you know what they call you? They call you the Demon King. You’re the royalty of nightmares. I don’t even get that type of respect,” the king said.
Tyrule laid back against the planks of the rotted platform. He counted the veiny cracks of the earthen ceiling above his head.
“You’re family is out there, Tyrule. You’re family is in here. You want them to die? Think of how many families will be abandoned with every sword slash,” the king whispered.
It was far enough along in the battle for the ultimate guilt.
Tyrule sighed, and rubbed his red eyes like he was wearing glasses.
“Some day,” he said, sitting up.
He walked towards the edge of the cave where a tunnel would lead him to Roc’s Gate, the last door into the daylight. He dragged his ax behind him reluctantly, like a little boy with a toy stick. The king smiled as he walked away. It would be another battle won for the Ills.
Tyrule stopped, and turned back towards the bald king. A rock collided with the mountain. A torch fell free and clanged in the dark like a metal skeleton. It didn’t faze his king. He could see his grinning fangs in the shadows.
“The Demon King,” Tyrule whispered.
In anticipation of my new collection of short stories, Moya, I have started to share some free fiction to sort of set the tone for the anthology. The story is from the same universe as my novel Beware the Ills. Here you get the perspective of the Ills. Moya will have another short story from the same world. To reserve a copy of Moya right now and get a FREE GIFT please click HERE for my store. Thank you everyone for reading and have a great day. Offer expires in one week!