Birdcage

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 2 (v.1) - Chapter II - Dreams, or: the driving force behind my actions

Submitted: May 07, 2019

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Submitted: May 07, 2019

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I was born in a village called Vox in the country Cieleta on the continent of Magpur. Cieleta was a decent sized country centered around a large lake. It was home to plains, forests, and rivers full of resources that fueled our economy. Scattered around Cieleta, dozens of villages and towns stood, surrounded by a wall designed to keep out monsters.

 

Ah, yes, you probably have never encountered monsters. Monsters were violent creatures made of darkness and magic that roamed forests and hid in caves. Some crawled from the sea, some marched from icy plains, some flew down from the tops of mountains. Regardless of their home, all monsters shared a single common trait: the hatred of humanity. They hunted humans, not for food or survival, but for the sheer pleasure of the kill. These beasts were, for most of our existence, humanity's greatest adversary.

 

It must seem strange, to someone like you who comes from a world so different from our own, to imagine the concept of monsters. But, for us, they were just a part of life. Although we feared monsters, by the time of my birth they were no longer a great threat. Humanity was able to not just survive, but thrive in Cieleta, primarily due to the existence of an organization known as the Knights of Cieleta.

 

The Knights handled many duties for the country of Cieleta. They were our law enforcement, our soldiers, our explorers, and our heroes. If the King needed something done, they were the ones to get it done. Every kid I knew wanted to be a knight. My drive was greater than most. My grandfather, James Zuckerman, was one of the most revered knights in the history of our nation, because he managed to kill the vampire king when he was younger. My father wasn’t around when I was a kid. When I was ten, I finally worked up the courage to ask what happened to him. He showed me an old photo of a young man with blonde hair and a smirk on his face. My grandfather, tears in his eyes, told me that my father had died in battle when I was three.

 

I had a lot of reasons for wanting to be a knight. I didn’t just want to be a knight because of some misguided dream of glory, like so many other children. I wanted to be a knight because my father had been one, and my grandfather had been one, and his father had been one, and so on. From a young age, the idea of being a knight didn’t seem like a dream so much as an inevitability, a destiny that I gladly accepted.

 

Of course, the glory of being a knight did play a small part in my dreams. After I came to live with him, my grandfather spent hours each night telling me stories of great heroes he knew when he was a knight. His words stuck with me. They made me feel like there was good in the world.

 

A lot of good knights were killed by the Purge and the Abrumian Crusade. I didn’t really hang out with other kids much after the Purge, but when I did hang out with them, I noticed a change from when I was younger. I never met another child who wanted to be a knight. The dreams of knighthood had disappeared, replaced by the dread of dying in the next Purge.

 

An often overlooked horror of the Purge was the pessimism it created. People stopped planning for their futures. Why have dreams of tomorrow when you’re scared of dying in your sleep. To be fair, some people used their fear to fuel their passions, turning the fact that they could die any day into a reason to live life to its fullest. These people had a bad tendency to drink themselves to death or get eaten by monsters while climbing mountains.

 

The Purge didn’t dissuade me from wanting to be a knight. In fact, it made my desire to be a knight even stronger. I’m not proud to admit this, but the Purge taught me an emotion that no child should have to feel: hatred. Two warlocks, Nathaniel Black and Jericho Darkholme, took everything from me. My home, my mother, my innocence. All turned to dust in an instant. I hated those men. I dreamed of making them suffer. And the Knights? They could give me the strength necessary to get my revenge.

 

I used my hate as fuel. It burned within me, giving me the strength I needed to push myself to the limit. I dedicated my days to training and studying, all so I could become strong enough to get my revenge. My grandfather, when he was younger, was a master swordsman. He passed these skills down onto me through years of training.

 

On the night before my exam to become a knight, my grandfather invited me out into our garden. “What do you need?” I asked.

 

His strike was quick, cutting through the hem of my shirt in a single instant. Instinctively, I jumped back. “Nice reflexes,” he muttered.

 

“What was that?” I asked.

 

Instead of answering me, he kicked me in the leg and struck me in the head with the broadside of his sword. I fell to my knees and he swung his sword down, stopping only inches from my head. He sighed. “Real opponents won’t hesitate to kill you, Ernest,” he said.

 

My grandfather walked away from me and stood by a large tree in the middle of the garden. I noticed that a sword, stored safely in a scabbard, was sitting at the base of the tree. My grandfather pointed his blade at me. “Let’s play a game, Ernest,” he said. “If you can defeat me, I’ll let you take your exam tomorrow and become a knight.”

 

“Doesn’t seem very fair, making me force you without a weapon,” I said.

 

“Life isn’t fair.”

 

With that, he dashed towards me and swung his sword. I ducked to dodge his swing and punched him in the stomach. He retaliated by bringing his sword down on my head, hitting me with its broadside, and kneeing me in the mouth. “In a real fight, you’d be dead,” he said. “Let’s go again.”

 

I lunged at him and he stepped out of the way. I crashed face first into the dirt and he hit me in the back with his sword. “Come on, Ernest, you’re smarter than this,” he said while walking back to the tree. “Use your head.”

 

I gritted my teeth. “You’re getting mad,” he said.

 

“Of course I am!” I yelled. “You’re beating me up for no reason.”

 

“Don’t let anger cloud your head. Make a plan and execute it. Otherwise, you’ll never beat me. Understand?”

 

I took a deep breath and let the air flow through my body. I closed my eyes and thought about the situation. I couldn’t beat him without a weapon, that much was clear. But, to get to the sword by the tree, I’d need to run past him without being hit.

 

I smiled. The solution was obvious, once I’d realized it. “I’m going to end this right now,” I shouted.

 

“Bold words. Let’s see if you can back them up.”

 

I charged at him and dove at the ground, grabbing a flower the second I hit my knees. I rolled out of the way to avoid a downward strike and threw the flower at my grandfather, hitting him in the face. In his moment of blindness, I rushed past him, grabbing the sword by the tree and drawing it from its scabbard. I turned around to see my grandfather swinging his sword.

 

Our swords collided. He twisted his arm around mine, grabbing my blade and knocking me into the tree. He stabbed his sword at me and I caught it in the scabbard. I twisted my arm, ripping his sword from his hands, and grabbed my sword from the ground. I swung it at him, hitting him in the forehead with the broadside of the blade. He fell to his knees and I saw a trickle of blood dripping from his forehead.

 

“Are you okay?” I asked.

 

He smiled. “I’m so proud of you Ernest,” he said, reaching in to give me a hug. “You’ve grown into a fine young man. To be honest, when you told me you wanted to be a knight, I was less than thrilled. It’s a dangerous life. But, you’ve shown me that you’re more than capable of protecting yourself.”

 

He led me into his bedroom and opened up his closet. Inside sat a shining suit of white and gold armor and a sword with a golden hilt. “When I was a knight, I wore this armor and wielded this sword,” he said. “The armor is made of mithril. It’s light yet tough, and specially designed to resist magical attacks. The sword is a family heirloom sharp enough to cut through steel. I entrust them to you, Ernest.”

 

That night, my journey as a hero began. A journey that would bring me to the ends of the earth and push me to my breaking point. It’s funny, looking back at how naive I was back then. I have often wondered what would have happened if my grandfather had not allowed me to become a knight. Would things have still ended how they did? Ultimately, the question is meaningless. There is no sense in worrying about events that have long since passed. Besides, if I’m being honest, I would have become a knight even if my grandfather forbid me to. After all, becoming a knight was my dream.


© Copyright 2019 Casey Jarmes. All rights reserved.

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