The finale to this short story experiment…
Three weeks have all led to this moment. What happens? Let’s find out:
The Sword of Morality. Legend. Myth.
An object forged by the blue flames of the world’s last known sorcerer. The wielder of the sword would be able to cast out evil once and for all.
In order to retrieve this mystical weapon, one must cast the greatest sacrifice into the Fountains of Garicton.
Many have tried. All have failed.
Zinnia threw her sword at Erebus, but he had vanished. She darted to the boy’s side, as a red pool began to circle him. He was so still, so cold. She was too late. He was dead because of her.
She nodded her head to pay her respects, but something grasped her wrist. Her eyes snapped open and pulled a dagger out, reflexively.
“Even when I’m dying, you threaten to kill me.” He gagged on his own words, blood trickling from his lips. She immediately dropped the weapon, lifting his head.
“I…” She didn’t know what to say, what to tell someone who had sacrificed himself for her. No one ever did, so willingly. “Thank you.”
He shook his head violently. “It’s on y-you. You m-must finish my quest.”
“Quest? What are you talking about?” He gripped her wrist tighter, holding onto it as if it would tether him to this world a little while longer.
“Sp-spread the a-ashes in the Fountain. F-find the S-Sword of M-Morality. D-destroy all e-evil.”
“Don’t you know, Dus? I am evil!” He shook his head once more, bringing her close.
“No. You’re. A. Survivor.” His hand began to loosen around her, until it fell. And he was gone.
She screamed out; not wanting to let go of him.
The thicket in the forest beyond them began to rustle. Voices called out from the deep. Erebus, the ghost of her father, was coming back. With reinforcements.
She jumped to her feet, instincts setting in. She flipped Dus onto her shoulders, struggling against the weight before lifting him onto his horse. She jumped on behind him, holding him with one hand and clutching the reins with the other.
She kicked the steed and they bolted, just as the others were breaking through. And they ran. With every jolt, she pleaded for the horse to go faster and faster.
They climbed over the final hill. Down to the town gate. “Open in the name of the queen!”
She shouted it a thousand times until they did; her throat burning against each word. She slowed, enough for the gate keeper to recognize her face. “The fountains? Where?”
“Straight ahead, malady. Take a right after the final house and keep going.” He bowed to her, but she’d charged away before the first knee could hit the ground.
It was a long enough ride- it made her mind travel.
Travel back to when she was ten, and all of her brothers were dead. The people believed that she had killed them. But they had killed themselves, all for the crown.
Her father, King Erebus, was a cruel man. He enjoyed the sport of pitting his sons against each other. He hadn’t paid much mind to her as a contender.
But in secret, she would sneak away. A good knight from the Eastern Plains would train her to defend herself. That’s all it merely was. Defense.
Until someone had discovered the training, telling the king that his princess was plotting against him.
He summoned her to his chambers- it was late, so she brought a torch.
When she arrived, her father was holding the head of the guard, only the head. “This is what happens to traitors.” He’d declared. She panicked, dropping the torch and the room ignited in flame.
She ran away, scared, unsure of what to do. By morning, out of the rubble, she had become queen.
She wanted to be good. She didn’t want to be this thing that they had made her out to be. This creature of evil. But in this world, she determined that it was kill or be killed. Weakness would have her dethroned. She wielded all their fears as a weapon, and became the very thing they said she was.
But the kindness of a stranger, this boy, had touched the last, small glimpse of hope within herself. No matter how many times she threatened to kill him, he helped her from the goodness of his heart. He died for her.
Just like his father.
“Know when to fight. Know when to surrender.” Those were the rules instilled in her long ago by the knight who’d taught her well. Words that she had long forgotten. Words that echoed in her heart now.
She could hear the rush of water as they approached. Swinging herself off the horse, she walked on. The trees broke, and she approached the pool.
The water glided off the mountains, sparkling against the midday sun. She inhaled a deep, lung-filled breath taking it all in. It was a beautiful sight. But, she knew what she must do.
Taking the urn out of his saddlebag, she twisted the lid as she stepped to the lake. Zinnia poured until it was empty.
She then took Dus’s body, and placed it in a nearby boat. She took his father’s sword, resting it in his hands. She sprinkled it with the rest of his ale, which she knew he only used for medicinal purposes. She struck a fire, lighting a torch, before pushing the boat in with her legs.
“Be at peace, brave knight.” She commanded, hoping he’d obey her from the grave. She set the boat ablaze, as it drifted out to the middle. She waited until it completely burned, knowing that her father would be behind her shortly. The kingdom would be lost. She would be lost.
Though she felt she had been lost for quite awhile now.
She could hear the shouts coming for her, but this time, she would not run. Know when to fight. She would fight until the very end.
She shooed Dus’s horse away, hearing them edge closer and closer to the Fountains. She could hear her father at the head, screaming at them to move faster. But she was looking at the water now, ever flowing. Never changing.
Something tapped against her foot, and she knelt to grab it. She clutched her side as she did, warmth and wetness seeping into her fingers.
She reached for the object, covered in dirt, bobbing against the waves. She yanked it up, brushing it off. It was a sword.
At first, she was sure that it was Dus’s. That it had floated back to her. But his father’s sword was plain, silver.
This one was gold. Engraved. Her hungry eyes began to flip it over and over, reading and re-reading.
“So you ran here, to give the boy a funeral. What a waste.” Erebus snickered, the men behind him following along.
“At least, I’m not a coward. Bringing an army to do your dirty work.” She turned to face him, holding the sword at her side. “Afraid to fight a girl? Pathetic.”
He snarled, his eyes burning with fury. He dismounted his horse and unhooked his cloak. Unsheathing his weapon, he stepped forward. “You are quick to underestimate me.”
“No, father.” She charged. “It is you who underestimate me!” Zinnia raised the sword, slashing through the air as he evaded her. He swung his weapon out, the two blades meeting in a clash of metal and light. Zinnia’s sliced through his as if it had been made of clay. It shattered, before disintegrating. He stood off-guard, and she thrust the golden point right into his middle.
As she twisted it through, his eyes began to widen. “The enemy’s weapon will be as ashes in his hand.” Erebus ripped open his shirt, his skin crawling with blackened veins around the wound. “Until the enemy himself will become ash and toil.”
She pulled the blade out, and her father realized what was in her hand.
“The Sword of Morality.” He knelt before her, his body crumbling away against the wind. Until he was no more.
She stepped into the pool now; the men not daring to go near her. She knew what must be done.
She would finish Dus’s quest. She would cast out all evil in the land, once and for all. And then she would join him, in his final resting place.
“Know when to surrender.” She whispered, lifting the blade.
10 years later.
They’d journeyed far, several weeks and through the bleakest of rain storms. But they had finally arrived.
The baby cooed, her fingers curling around her father’s. It’d been far too long since they had been here, since that fated day when all evil in the land had been casted out.
Back then, he was a lowly soldier, fighting for a cause he didn’t quite understand. He watched from afar, towards the back, as the young Queen Zinnia drove the Sword of Morality into her father. And then she turned the weapon onto herself in what was the most unselfish form of sacrifice he had witnessed.
He looked onto his wife now, holding their son’s hand as she led them to the water. They knelt down, lowering a bundle of flowers into the clear blue. She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear, a tear rolling off her cheek.
“Mama, why are you crying?” The young one reached up with his little palm, wiping away the drop.
“Oh, it’s nothing.” She looked out into the distance, her silver eyes in a faraway place.
She grasped the hilt of the sword, her eyes lingering to the engravings on the blade.
The enemy’s weapon will be as ashes in his hand. Until the enemy himself will become ash and toil.
She flipped it over.
But those who are pure of heart and intent, will never be harmed by this blade. They will live out their days in peace.
She smiled, drawing her son in and telling him the tale of an evil king, a broken princess, and her brave knight. And their quest of morals.
When she was finished, she ran her fingers through his red hair. “I love you, Dus.” The little boy leaned his head against her side as they watched the sun begin to lower behind the mountain tops.
Know when to fight. Know when to surrender.
Know when to live.
***Writing Prompt: You’re responsible for the hero’s death and must now complete his quest.
FINALLY ITS OVER!!! HALLE-FREAKING-LUJAH!!!
⚔️🗡⚔️🗡⚔️🗡⚔️I hope you enjoyed it. I know I didn’t. I mean, did. I totally did. Yup. (Should have committed to killing her. Dang it.) ⚔️🗡⚔️🗡⚔️🗡⚔️🗡⚔️🗡⚔️