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Broken Promises

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: BoMoWriCha Prompts


A short story written for the BoMoWriCha House Competition, and also for the Broken Promises prompt.

Submitted: September 08, 2018

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Submitted: September 08, 2018

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Broken Promises.

All three were summoned by a dream of a single falling leaf that fluttered down from the sky to land at their feet. Hector, Bryony and Jules shared exactly the same moment.

They all felt the desolation and despair, the disillusionment and the betrayal, as they found themselves being sucked up into a misty swirling vortex. They landed in a heap on the floor of some ornate hall. The light there was hazy as they tried to untangle their limbs, all the while eyeing their companions with some suspicion.

Hector was training to be a warrior. He was still young, still a bit on the scrawny side, but he would make it. He had that ruthless streak so important in a battle. Who these other two...people were, he had no idea. He had certainly never come across them at the military academy.

Bryony, the only female, was a petty thief. She was pretty, light on her feet and with her fingers, with an ability to measure up a situation in seconds. She could tell when to strike and when it was better to hold back, and listening to these feelings is all that had kept her from being jailed many times.

Jules was the studious one. He could read and write, and one day, his tutor informed him, he would make a great scribe. Many hours of his life had been spent pouring over scrolls, learning both fact and fiction as he went. Often he found it hard to tell the two apart, and he was the only one of the three that had the slightest idea of the significance of that single falling leaf.

Up on their feet now, names exchanged, they gazed about themselves in a daze. Were they sharing a dream? And if so, whose? The place they were standing was alien to them and although it did not feel hostile there was ‘something’ in the air.

Starting as no more than a tiny speck, a green glow began to form in a corner of the hall. As it grew, the three people turned to look. It increased in both size and brightness until it dwarfed them all, made them shield their eyes from its brilliance. Hector and Bryony stood with a sickly tinge on their skin while Jules had sunk down to his knees, his head bowed.

You have failed me!” A booming voice echoed throughout the hall.

Where are you? Show yourself!” demanded Hector, hoping that he sounded much braver than he felt. He felt the force of a strong but invisible hand push his shoulder, sending him towards the ground next to Jules.

Only Bryony still stood. Alert, she tried to assess the situation, but there was no-one to be seen. She remained motionless, and did not seem to arouse the anger that Hector’s aggressive approach had brought about.

Jules looked up. “It’s the leaf, isn’t it! It has fallen from the Tree of Life, from which none should ever drop.”

The disembodied voice spoke again. “Top marks for the scholar here. It was promised, by your ancestors, that this Tree would ever be protected. No damage would be done to it and no leaves would ever fall. For that, I offered your planet my protection. Many times my sister, Tempest would have torn your world to shreds without my intervention. This is how you repay me?”

Nature, may I address you as such?” Jules stayed kneeling until permission was grudgingly given. “We have not seen this Tree. No human has, although that has been passed down in legends from the past. How could we have harmed it, or protected it, without knowing where it grows?”

The voice boomed out again, with such force that Bryony took several steps back. “Do you think I would have entrusted it’s location to any person? It would have long since been plundered, brought to ruin if I had of done.”

I don’t see how this concerns us.” Hector was itching to draw his blade, to protect himself from the accusations that seemed to be being made towards him. If only he could see a target to aim for.

It concerns you because you live here on this planet! The three of you will right the wrongs, or Tempest shall have her way.”

Bryony at last spoke up. “You want us to replace the leaf?”

No, you foolish girl. A leaf is a living part of the tree; it cannot be just stuck back on! Your job is to find the culprit, deal with him or her, before a second leaf shall fall. DO NOT FAIL!”

The green light seemed to be collapsing in on itself, fading as it shrunk.

But how can we find it? This Tree Of Life?” Jules shouted out the question, being the only one that seemed to appreciate the seriousness of their situation.

Tendrils of green light shot out from the center of what was now not much more than a glowing orb. One fastened its way round Bryony’s wrist, pulling her in towards it; another grabbed Jules. When the third tendril approached Hector he struggled, fought it off, until it wound its way around his neck and yanked him into....green.

* * * *

The greenness was moist, like grass kissed by dew. The smell was of everything. A mixture of flowers and trees, of sea-salt and bogland, a hint of freshness and a hint of decay. The three companions had no control over their movements at all, no matter how much effort they should put in to it.

Neither pleasant nor abhorent the journey came to an abrupt end, just as the three had known it would. That fore-knowledge did nothing to soothe the jarring impact though, for they had not seen the end of the trip approaching.

Hector was first on his feet, looking around himself, feet planted wide apart and ready to go in to attack. Bryony joined him, scanning the area and Jules stood in silent wonderment. It had to be a dream of course. They could not possibly be standing where no man, woman or child had stood before.

But there, on the very top of a hill stood a giant tree. Even from that distance, all three recognized the leaves as being identical to the one that had fallen at each of their feet.

Shall we go?” Bryony asked.

I think we should,” replied Jules.

Hector said nothing but began walking up the slope; Bryony and Jules following behind him.

It was steep and a lot further than it had looked. They resolutely carried on, putting one foot in front of the other, until they finally found themselves standing beneath the tree. Considering it was the Tree Of Life, it really was not that large. About the size of an ancient oak, Jules thought.

Bryony walked around it’s trunk. “Well, there’s some good news at least, no further leaves have fallen.”

Listen!” Hector held a finger to his lips while his other hand clasped his sword. “There’s something moving round up there.”

All three looked up into the branches that were thick with leaves. They knew they had no chance of seeing anything from down on the ground. Not unless it was hiding in the bottom-most branches and that would be too much to hope for.

Try ordering it down, soldier. It might fear the authority in your voice.” Bryony smiled at Hector, who was not sure if she was being serious or sarcastic.

Yes, go on,” put in Jules. It was as good a plan as any to start off with.

Hector cleared his throat. “Hey, you in the tree! Come down to the ground right now. You are committing a crime that is punishable by death.”

A skittering sound, heading upwards, told the companions that whatever it was had taken no notice at all.

We’re going to have to go up there, I think,” Bryony said.

We can’t,” said Jules. “We’d bring down the leaves.”

And I can’t climb trees anyway,” added Hector. “Especially with my sword.”

You go,” Jules said, looking at Bryony. “You’re smaller and lighter on your feet than either of us. See if you can chase it down.”

It?” Hector had been thinking along the lines of it being a naughty child, not something that could be referred to as ‘it’.

Jules shrugged. “Well, we don’t know what it is, do we. It could be something as small as a squirrel or a bird.”

Bryony had already gone, pulling herself up into the branches. The two men could see her progress from the movement of the leaves. For a while, both held their breaths, expecting another leaf, or more, to come drifting down. Eventually they had to give in and breathe again, but there were still no leaves to be seen.

She seemed to be going up the outside of the tree, and that was indeed her intent. The thing, creature, whatever it was, had been spotted by her and she knew that it had spotted her too. Maybe it would have given chase if it had not been so intent on it’s gnawing and chopping at the stalk of a leaf. Bryony had no time to lose; the effort it was putting in to cutting through that stem...well, it wasn’t likely to take it very long.

She carried on upwards and inwards until she was directly above that yellow-haired head. It was now or never! Bryony let go of her handhold and dropped.

She landed right behind the ‘thing’. It did appear to be human, but a very strange looking one. Underneath that yellow sweep of hair was a red face that seemed to sneer and look angry all at once. And from it’s figure it was not someone, ‘something’, used to exercise. In fact, it was a wonder it had not already toppled to the ground without her assistance.

It turned towards her and hissed, “Go away! I know what I’m doing.” It went back to gnawing with renewed vigour and that was all it took for Bryony to slip forward and push.

Coming down!” she yelled, hoping that the two men standing at the bottom of the tree were ready.

Both Jules and Hector looked up to see something dropping. It landed hard on it’s bottom, angrily jumping back up and baring its teeth. Hector drew his sword, but the little rotund figure dodged underneath the blade and Jules just avoided being stabbed by it himself.

“Grab him,” shrieked Hector, and Jules lunged, stunned as one of those thick little fists made connection with the top of his nose. He shook his head, wished he hadn’t, then lunged again. The blade of the sword could not miss him; Jules knew that he was about to die. Instead, the blade passed straight through him, doing no damage but embedding itself in the ground.

You killed me!” Jules said to Hector.

You’re dead!” Hector said to Jules.

He’s getting away,” shrieked Bryony, plummeting her way through the branches. Whether she intended to or not, she landed on the creature, pinned it underneath her.

It scratched and bit, tore and pinched, but Bryony did not move to release him. She had been knocked unconscious when she landed and was incapable of responding to it at all.

The tree began to spin, the ground began to heave, and a green light broke out from a crack.

Nature?” asked Jules. “We have done as you asked.”

You have done well in redeeming your race. Now hand him over, so I can see what we have. If it is not human you will be spared.”

Jules and Hector looked towards Bryony’s unconscious form. Every so often a foot would peep out, or a hand, but the creature, whatever it was, seemed to be well and truly stuck. They approached warily, one at hand level, the other at foot. It must have sensed their approach for it darted towards the other side of Bryony, scrabbling it’s way out from underneath her body to make a mad dash for freedom.

It would have made it, too, if it had not been for the appearance of a large and very shaggy furred dog. It lolloped its way towards the escaping figure and snapped it up in its jaws. The ‘thing’ in its mouth struggled and kicked but the dog shook it’s head, giving whatever he carried a good shaking up and rattling.

As if it knew what to do, the dog walked towards Hector and Jules, dropping its catch at their feet. Quickly, Hector scooped down and grabbed an ankle, while Jules grabbed a wrist. They turned towards the green light, holding the wriggling menace by its two right limbs. The dog retreated to Bryony’s side and gave her a lick.

A Greater Lumptos, no less. Capable of irreversible damage in a short space of your time. Not human. Throw him in! I’ll make sure he does not return any time soon.”

Bryony lifted her head just in time to see the two men swing the body of that ‘thing’ and then let it go.

* * * *

Swirls and twirls, a feeling of falling a very long way, woke three individuals up in their own beds.

Hector, a warrior-in-training, shook the dream away from his head. How he ached, as though he had been engaged in some very real battle. Nonsense, of course; already the dream was fading from his memory. The only thing was, how could he explain the mud and earth that still clung on to the blade of his sword, as if it had been plunged straight in to the ground?

Bryony woke on her bed of straw. She always seemed to manage to find somewhere to stay in one of the inn’s stables. She had a large bump on her head. Perhaps something had fallen from the ceiling and hit her. That would explain the dizziness and the feeling of falling too. She was dismayed at the rips and tears in her clothing, had no explanation for them, but she didn’t have time to waste on figuring it out. She’d have to set off and find some different clothing, the sooner the better.

Jules rubbed at his neck, his shoulders, his back. He felt just as though he had been engaged in a battle with....something. He sat at his desk and picked up his quill. Quickly, before the dream disappeared, he grabbed it, concentrated hard. It was important that he got this right. He began to write every single detail that he could recall out in ornate script with a very permanent ink.

 

(2473 words).


© Copyright 2018 hullabaloo22. All rights reserved.

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