“I can’t believe you forgot. I sent you to the butchers. I pointed at it. I spoke about it. I did everything I could to remind you to go there and pick-up a sack of scraps. Now, we’re on the edge of Clare de Rune and we can’t go through the forest with the Lutchkins.” Samuel said. He was short, stocky, with a small face, brown hair, freckled skin, and two blue eyes that always burned with cynicism when speaking to his younger brother, Elliot.
“I’m sorry. I just got distracted.” Elliot replied. He was tall, blond-haired, and had a clear complexion, like his face had always been hidden away from toil. Both brothers were dressed in brown tunics and cloaks, with the embroidered letters “BGC” on their fronts and backs. This acronym stood for Brothers Garden Care, which was their business, passion, and only means to make a life in the Empty Plains. They were travelling to Clare de Rune to sell seeds. The isolation of the city made crop rotation somewhat difficult, and they expected to sell out of product when they got there.
“Besides, those are old stories from old people from old times, I’m not sure anyone even follows that rule.” Elliot said.
“Everyone, and I mean everyone, follows that rule. We can’t set foot in Grim’s Wall if we don’t have an offering to the Lutchkins.
“The what? What’s the Grim Wall?” Elliot asked.
“The forest, the name of the forest, man, you really don’t listen to me do you?” Samuel replied.
He pointed at the arch of trees above their head. They were curled outwards into a living tunnel you could pass through with the road. It was like entering a verdant cave. The forest itself made it easier for travelers to reach Clare de Rune. If you wandered off the path, you were as good as dead. “Have you noticed this thing here? Have you noticed how silent the world is outside this forest?”
Elliot, who was sitting at the head of the wagon steering next to Samuel, took this moment to savagely shove his brother backwards into the cargo. He snapped the cord violently on the two brown horses with white spots, which slowly entered the woods under the angry swings of Elliot’s wrists. Samuel jumped out of the boxes and tried to knock his brother aside.
“I told you. I told you. We can’t come in here unless we have an offering to them.” He hissed. The trees were quiet. The wind was gone. The moment they’d entered the Grim Wall time seemed to take on a different flavor, like they were entering a cemetery with no discernible headstones.
“Get off me! Everyone is always bending over backwards for Calamity’s Keep. Why on earth is there is a city here if they living next to him, plus a woods full of demons,” Elliot yelled, pushing back on Samuel.
“What is wrong with you? Where is this coming from? Do you want us to die? You know these things exist. The city uses them as protection from him,” Samuel said. They both wrenched on the reins like they were pieces of taffy.
“Stop it. Stop treating me like a child. I’m not an idiot.” Elliot howled.
Somewhere in the woods, something heavy moved. A tree’s roots cracked and broke under the unholy footprint of a timeless monster. The horses went to their knees and started to shake. Drool formed wildly on their lips. Samuel could feel the urine form between his legs. They were here. He fell backwards into the cargo to hide.
“What? What’s wrong with you now?”Elliot said, standing up.
Somewhere in the eves there was a laughing sound, followed by a rattling, like a jar of rice was being shaken around. There was a piercing rush of air. Suddenly, Elliot’s throat looked strange. His eyes rolled back in his head, revealing the whites, which gleamed like dead pearls. That chalky void matched the tip of the bone spear protruding through Elliot’s jugular, like a piece of his back had inverted through his neck. The Lutchkins had harpooned him through the trees. There would be no saving him.
“No, no, no,” Samuel said, trying to stand. The cargo shifted and the horses screamed. Samuel stared at the point of the javelin they’d hit him with from the trees. It had an ivory-like, with strange etchings of lines and circles carved into it. The spear wasn’t just a tool for killing, but an artistic instrument. In the one grizzly moment Samuel noticed it, Elliot’s body lurched backwards. The weapon was attached to an invisible wire from the trees. They reeled in Elliot like a fish, wrenching his body away in a bloody splash. Samuel didn’t even get to say goodbye. There were only gurgles and gasps from his impaled brother.
The last thing Samuel could see was a shape in the woods. His eyes could barely make sense of it. It was tall, cloaked with foliage, and wearing a white mask with two slits for eyes and three vertical lines at its mouth, which sat over its chest. It looked curled over, like it was old, and gravity had aged it the quickest. Despite its bent form, it was still eight feet tall. There were no arms, legs, or other appendages. The wire dragging Elliot’s body away didn’t appear attached to it. Before anything else could move in the forest, the shape faded backwards into the trees, like a leviathan sinking into the deep. The only sound Samuel could hear from the silent woods around him was the words: “Thank you.”
They seemed to echo from everywhere.
There it is, the long awaited serialized story I’ve been talking about in my musings and whatnot for the last month. It will be called Calamity’s Keep. Each week I’ll try and share a new piece of flash fiction from the world surrounding this castle. I love this story. I’ve already written the first arc of it on my breaks at work. There are projects I’m doing that are sequels to books (the Greenland Diaries and Beware the Ills) and there other things like this that I get to go wild with creativity. Anyways, thank you for reading. I’ll build a page and sent up the links once I get more content out.