Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Hero of Twilight: Chapter Six, The Flames of Twilight

Here's Chapter Six of Hero of Twilight (revised and expanded). It's called The Flames of Twilight. A little back story on this one: The Flames of Twilight was originally a short story titled The Flames of Illyar that I wrote long before The Hero of Twilight existed. Flames of Illyar was never published but, being one of my favorite stories, I incorporated it into Hero of Twilight.

Chapter and Story differ only slightly. Other than the name, the chapter is narrated almost entirely by Sir Odon, and take away the few Bathmal interjections, Chapter and Story are just about identical.

So without further adieu, read on. Oh, and yes I must remind you that the pre-order price for Hero of Twilight (revised and expanded) is only $2.99 until December 5th. After that it goes up to $4.99. So strike while the anvil is hot.

Hero of Twilight (revised and expanded)

Chapter One: The Knight Comes

Chapter Two: Millstand

Chapter Six
The Flames Of Twilight

“…It was in Twilight where Sir Amtron Gull, a mage-knight of the Persidian Order, sat studying the history of his ailing town in the rotting ramshackle of the ancient library. It was there he discovered—through reading many partial documents and poorly recorded histories—that Twilight had once been great and had been known as Shining Illyar before a terrible disaster befell it, turning the city into the present day wasteland it currently was. But for all his research and study, he couldn’t find the exact cause of Illyar’s demise; only vague passages describing a conflict to the north of the kingdom gave any clues as to what might have transpired. 
“These tiny bits of information weren’t enough for Sir Gull. He desperately wanted to know what had befallen his once great city and wondered if, perhaps, he could find a way to reverse whatever dire event had taken place, thus restoring Twilight to its former glory and reviving Shining Illyar of old!
“He focused all his energies on forming a plan. Once the plan was created, he steeled himself for what was to come next: announcing his intentions before The Council of the Order, for what he intended could have dreadful consequences—or immense benefits. It would be the former that would give The Council pause, Sir Gull was sure, and rightfully so!”
Bathmal unconsciously inched closer to the group of children, so immersed in the story was he.
“Before The Council, Sir Gull revealed his proposition: to go back in time and discover the cause of Illyar’s fall and prevent it from happening, thus preventing its eventual devastating decline.
“The councilmen argued amongst themselves at great length, for quantum magic was outlawed, with too many variables and too many unseen risks, it was too dangerous a practice, if it were even possible at all.
“Sir Gull assured The Council that it was indeed possible and that he would install in his quest all the necessary safeguards to prevent any perceivable disaster. 
“The Council weighed the risks and rewards and eventually agreed to Sir Gull’s plan, but attached to it a strong stipulation: if he was successful he would be declared Hero and Councilman of The Order; but if he failed, he would be stripped of title and rank and exiled from The Order forever. 
“With his endeavor approved, Sir Gull returned to his chambers and, with the help of his squire Lumley, used his arcane multi-colored chalks to draw out the diagram that would open the portal to the far past.”
Bathmal bumped into something, was startled to find one of the bastard children standing before him. Taking a few steps back, he continued to listen.
“Sir Gull arrived in Illyar during the winter before her doom. Two city-folk who happened to witness his arrival would later describe it as ‘A bright fiery hole, appearing from nowhere, melting the surrounding snow, creating a thick mist, and from the middle of it all jumped a man’. Sir Gull introduced himself to the city-folk of Illyar but did not tell them from where he was or for why he came; only that he was there to help.
“Over the ensuing weeks, Sir Gull learned much of the city and found that it was indeed a grand settlement, complete with running water, medicines to fight disease, and a sprawling college at its center for all who wished could learn. 
“Sir Gull also found the people of Illyar to be cheerful, open-hearted, and extremely friendly; but collectively, they all feared the demon-witch who’d appeared in the north the winter prior. The demon-witch had been using her powers and fell champion to blast the land and slaughter all who stood against her. Rumors were spreading that the capital had fallen to the demon-witch’s horde and her sights were now set on the peace-faring people of Illyar.
“Sir Gull, convinced that the demon-witch was the cause of Illyar’s downfall, set out to prepare the city-folk for her coming. He first had to convince the Governor of Illyar to allow him to raise an army of volunteers and to fortify the city walls and gather stores against a long siege. 
“As the city-folk of Illyar stockpiled food and supplies and built hoardings along the city walls and towers, the smithies were busy hammering out armor, weapons, and sapper tools. Sir Gull gathered all the able-bodied city-folk out onto the fields surrounding the city, where he trained them in the art of combat through the last of the winter storms and all during the spring rains.
“When summer came at last and the demon-witch and her horde appeared on the northern horizon, Sir Gull had a formidable force behind him and a city prepared for an onslaught.
“The battle was met before the city walls, Sir Gull and his army of city-folk against the demon-witch and her horde of ghastly minions. Illyar was greatly outnumbered, but not letting hope fade, her defenders fought on, with Sir Gull encouraging the city-folk, instilling in them the courage they needed to continue facing down certain death.
“In the battle’s center, Sir Gull confronted the demon-witch’s hulking champion: fully clad in fell, light-eating shadow armor, the giant’s name was Pandemonium. 
“Sir Gull fought the champion as the battle raged all around, the horde closing its noose around the small force of city-folk—but when Sir Gull, though horribly wounded himself, slew Pandemonium, the noose slackened, spurring on a vicious counter-attack by the emboldened city-folk.
“Enraged by the defeat of her champion, the demon-witch came for Sir Gull in a fury, scudding through the night sky, riding on fell magics, death flaring in her wicked eyes. Sir Gull spotted her and used his own powers to meet her high above the city, where the two fought under the silent gaze of the moon, the struggle of life and death—good against evil—playing out in the background below.
“Sir Gull quickly grew tired, wounded as he was and battered by the demon-witch’s relentless onslaught, but still he refused to quit; instead he battled back, meeting her stroke for stroke until finally he began pushing her back, cementing his will to live, knowing then he would win the fight!
“With a howl, he struck the wicked head from her shoulders with his charged sword, then watched as her withered body fell to the city below.
“When the cowardly horde realized their leader had been defeated, they broke and ran, retreating back to their sanctuaries in the north.
“The city-folk of Illyar rejoiced in their victory and Sir Gull was praised as a hero. He spent the remainder of the summer resting behind Illyar’s shining walls as the city-folk celebrated and rebuilt.”
Sir Odon paused to clear his throat, drinking heavily from a horn that hung at his belt. Bathmal was mesmerized by the story, and Sir Gull’s triumphs enhanced his intense yearning to become a knight and break himself free of the dull, poverty-stricken life of Millstand.
His thoughts raced as Sir Odon continued.
“Certain that the threat to Illyar had been eliminated, Sir Gull decided, at the close of summer, to return to his own time. The city-folk were sad to see him go but walked with him beyond the walls, to the spot where he first arrived, and waved kind farewells as he reopened the portal and stepped through, never to be seen by the city-folk of Illyar again.
“Upon his return, Sir Gull was dismayed that nothing had changed in Twilight but stood before The Council to report his success nevertheless. When they sought proof of his deeds, he explained about the vagaries of quantum magic and that most things still remained a mystery to even the most experienced practitioners, and that it may take time for the events of the past to catch up to the happenings of the present.
“In any event, The Council deemed that nothing adverse had happened and that Sir Gull would be allowed to return to his regular duties within the Order, which he served to the end of his days, with never a change in Twilight’s plight.
“But centuries past, even as the city-folk waved goodbye to their hero, the portal he opened had set the dry summer grasses alight. The city-folk did their best to defeat the flames but a strong wind brought the sparks to the city and fanned them even more.   
“The sparks landed on the wooden walls and houses of Illyar and soon the flames, fed by the wind, raced through the entire city, razing it to the ground and killing many!
“In the aftermath, the survivors rebuilt the city, but with more dead than living, Illyar never fully recovered. Future generations renamed the faltering city Twilight and forever after cursed the name of Sir Amtron Gull, even as they praised him for a hero.
“As for Sir Gull, he went to his grave never knowing he’d been the true cause of Illyar’s destruction the whole time…”

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