This week, we honor five very talented young writers, all from our summer camp workshops. These five young ladies were selected as the winner and finalists of our 2010 Rose Million Healey Award in Short Fiction, which was founded by Patrick Million to honor of his Aunt Rose Million Healey, the woman who most inspired him to pursue writing.
Today, we showcase the work of finalist Deepti.
Defeat of the King
I knocked my arrow into my polished oak bow and aimed. I released the arrow, and it pierced the rabbit’s eye. Its life concluded instantly. Finally, an acceptable supper, I thought as I moved to retrieve it
“Beautiful, I have started a fire. We will have an excellent supper tonight!” said Bainion as I handed him the rabbit. I snuck a look at Dale and noticed he too was peering at me, my face flushed to a dark crimson. Looking around at my party, I saw Bainion, Celia, Dale, Anya, Semrun, Holly, Thorontur, and me. Eight sixteen-year-olds traveling across Masania to retrieve Alyan, the fabled sword that was said to be unbeatable and magical, with an emerald hilt made from the most powerful stone in the land. This sword would give us an advantage in our attempt to overthrow the great, mighty, and evil king Garza.
At this point, the rabbit was done, and Dale was handing out pieces to everyone, his hand lingering on my plate just a second longer than everyone else’s. As I bit into my piece, tasting the juice flavor that came from berries picked nearby, I heard something move. I fitted an arrow into my bow and looked around. It seemed as though everyone else heard it too; all around me, my friends were arming themselves with axes, spears, bows, and swords. We were all poised to attack. And it’s a good thing we were because at that moment an arrow soared past the place we had just been eating as three soldiers in Garza’s army emerged, weapons drawn.
I released my arrow, and it hit the first soldier squarely in the heart. He cried out and crumbled to the ground, silenced forever. Seeing the end of their comrade, the other two soldiers charged, and there was a flurry of swords, arrows, axes, and spears whipping everywhere. Then, just as suddenly as it had all begun, it was over. Everyone had bloody lips and a few cuts and bruises, but we were all okay. All three soldiers were dead.
“That was a tad unpleasant,” intoned Holly.
“Yeah. Get used to it. We will be doing that often from now on,” replied Dale.
“Let’s all go to sleep,” I said, and silently, we filed to our tents and slept with the smell of death in the air.
The next morning we wearily got up and packed our things, erased all signs of having been there, buried the bodies, mounted our horses, and continued on our journey to Ganstead.
Later that evening, we reached Solenburg, a sunny little town on the path to Ganstead, where we hoped to find the sword. We got a room at a nearby inn and began planning the next part of our journey. We wanted to avoid crowds of people as much as possible.
“I think we should just keep going our own way and hope for the best,” said Thorontur.
We all agreed that was all we could do. After a good hearty meal, we all fell asleep. It was only 5:00 p.m.
When we woke the next morning, we swiftly packed our bags and left. Better not to stay in one place for too long, especially when you are the most wanted group of people in the land. As we mounted, I noticed Thorontur looking a bit glum.
“Is there anything the matter?” I enquired.
“It’s just that now, after I’ve killed someone, I feel very heavy inside, as if there’s a rock in my stomach.
“You’ll have to get used to it.”
* * * * *
Shortly after we were on the road, we were surprised by twenty of Garza’s men. We realized using weapons would have no effect, so we rode as fast as we could into a group of nearby trees. Luckily the troops didn’t see us and passed right by.
When we reached the great bog, we disbanded our horses and set them free. Then Thorontur, using his knack with animals, summoned the great eagles, and they said they would carry us across the bog in return for a golden apple that could be found on a little bush unreachable to them on the other side of the bog. When we agreed, they swooped down and picked us up and flew us across to the other side. Looking down during the flight, all you could see were grass, weeds, and water. As our time in the air drew to an end, we spotted the apple they were asking for. When we landed, we walked over, sacrificed a feather, and got an apple. For, to get an apple, one has to make a sacrifice, and sacrifices can only be made by humans. They bid us farewell and left. Then we set off for the nearest town, Alsasat.
As we arrived, we saw pictures of ourselves on wanted signs plastered everywhere. We pulled up our hoods to cover our faces and kept walking, staying off the main roads. It seemed luck was on our side because no one recognized us, though we still fled the town as soon as possible after getting reinforcements, new clothes, and food. Unfortunately as we were leaving, someone recognized us, and suddenly there were swords and arrows flying everywhere. That was the battle in which Bainion died. After it was over, we carried his body to the forest, took all of his weapons except his dagger, and buried him a safe distance away. After giving him our last respects and farewells, we continued on.
As we walked, no one spoke. The death of Bainion had dropped a very heavy weight on us. He was a great friend to us all. My heart was filled with sorrow because he had been there for me when no one else had.
I remembered one day in the town, the children laughed at me because my mother was dead, but Bainion was on my side and felt sorry for me. We had been friends ever since.
Soon though, we had to get over our pain, for we were attacked by sympathizers of the king. With anger and the need to avenge Bainion’s death, we fought until every last man was killed, and we had not a scratch on us.
We were almost there. We could see the foreboding city of Ganstead. There lay the unbeatable sword. When we reached the Ganstead, we saw the entire city was waiting for us. We drew our swords and ran in. It was a bloody battle. Swords swished, and arrows flew. Men fell to the ground everywhere. The ground had a coating of blood on it. We had injuries, but no one on our side died. We won because we were determined.
When the battle had finished, we made our way to the stone wall in the back of the city. There, molded into the wall, was the sword. Dale walked up and pulled it out; it came out easily. The sword would only come out when the need was great, and now it had come out for us. Immediately, we remembered the eagles, which could carry us away quickly. They would ask for something in return, but it was faster than walking to the capital.
In a matter of ten minutes, seven eagles swooped down to help us.
“You’ve got the sword! Are you going to fight with it in the battle?” the leader enquired.
“Is there a battle raging?” Celia asked.
“Take us there, please,” I asked.
“As you wish,” said the leader calmly.
They scooped us up and flew us off to battle.
There was indeed a battle raging. The king’s army was enormous, and our army was only half the size of theirs. By the look of it though, we were winning. For every man killed on our side, four men died on theirs. Though we did not have as many men, we had a cause to fight for. But we weren’t the only ones fighting. On the king’s side, they had orqs and dragon-like creatures called Lidacs. Dragons and dwarves decided to join us. So, not only were there battles going on the ground, the air was filled with violence as well.
The eagles dropped us down and told us we would have to repay them by killing the king and bringing fairness to the land once again. We hiked through the bodies and blood. It was horrible to see people we loved—family and friends lying dead on the ground. Then I saw my brother surrounded in blood, an arrow in his chest. My stomach flipped and a blood-curdling rage washed over me. I was mad for revenge, and my need to kill the king became even greater because I could not believe my brother, the brother I loved so much, was dead.
* * * *
We were reaching the corners of the battlefield near the entrance of the looming stone castle belonging to Garza. The only problem was that he had stationed about fifty soldiers in front of the gate. He had known we were coming. What else did he know? Did he hold my father captive, the only family I had left? I saw recognition flash across their faces, and that’s when I knew that he was indeed a captive; I looked just like him.
Immediately, I turned on my heel and ran around the perimeter until I found an unguarded window. Using my dagger, I pried open the window and slipped in. I had landed in the kitchen. When I saw guards patrolling outside, I jumped out into the hall and ran down two flights of stairs, almost getting caught by the king himself. Only then did I look back and see I was alone. Only then did I take a minute to thank Dale in my head for giving me the sword.
Just then, the king himself walked out, and I had the slightest feeling he had seen me, but I didn’t have time to think over it because I had to escape. I hurried to the dungeon. I ran around and found my father. I pulled a pin out of my hair and picked the lock. His face filled with joy as I gave him a hug. We ran upstairs, almost running into a stray soldier. I took out my sword and sent him rolling down the stairs, limp.
We continued up the stairs. When we reached the royal hallway, we ran into the rest of our gang. Dale and I looked at each other, and then ran into the king’s hall. The king was waiting for us. Dale drew his spear, and I drew Alyan. There we battled the soldiers he had waiting for us, killing everyone in our path.
When I reached the king, he too had drawn his sword. He was an excellent swordsman, but he had not yet recognized Alyan. That was when my two years of fencing training came into play. When he slashed left, I blocked right. I controlled the sword with my mind, and it did what I wanted it to. My arm was only there to keep the connection between my mind and the sword. The battle lasted almost an hour. Just when I was about to give up, an unbeatable force seemed to enter the sword and, with a final slash, I stabbed the king’s heart. His face changed to shock as he fell.
Dale and I ran, hoping no one would know it was I who had slayed the king, though someone was bound to figure it out eventually.
A few days later, we had a party in honor of the tyrant’s defeat. While I was sitting in a corner in my pink gown, Dale walked up. My heart fluttered in my chest as I realized just how handsome he really was when he wasn’t covered in grime. He smiled, and I felt butterflies in my stomach.
“Would you like to take a walk?” he asked
“Sure,” I replied.
As we started walking, he took my hand in his, and I looked away, blushing. When we reached the the fountain, he took my other hand, and I turned to face him.
“I love you.”
“I love you, too.”
We kissed, and then he led me back to the dance floor, scooped me in his arms, and we danced.
Deepti, ninth grade, Vandegrift High School