The Golden Dagger

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic

"I could feel the magic emanating from behind the ancient door. Slowly, I turned the handle and entered the room. That’s when I saw it for the first time… before me, laid upon a gloriously engraved pedestal was what I had spent the last three months looking for. A gruelling three months of blood, sweat and tears."

I could feel the magic emanating from behind the ancient door. Slowly, I turned the handle and entered the room. That’s when I saw it for the first time… before me, laid upon a gloriously engraved pedestal was what I had spent the last three months looking for. A gruelling three months of blood, sweat and tears.

The beginning of those harsh months began with a summons; by none other than Lord Archibald Sanders. Archibald was a wealthy aristocrat who had several of his plumb fingers planted rather firmly into several pies in this corner of the kingdom. He wasn’t a well-liked man by any stretch of the imagination, and I could understand why, but he had the money and I would never turn down a pay cheque so fat that it could rival his waistline. In short, I had been hired to locate, extract and deliver the artefact directly into Archibald’s grubby hands. 

Now that I was actually stood directly in front of this prized possession, all the stories and legends at the forefront of my mind, I found myself incredibly underwhelmed; it was a dainty little thing really, dwarfed by the dazzling décor that adorned the surrounding room. It was rather disenchanting. The artefact was a small dagger, no longer than my forearm, cast from pure gold. The blade was smooth, obviously forged by skilled hands, and the hilt was a perfectly designed mess of decorative carvings and enchanting runes, that barely showed any signs of age. Visually, it was impressive, but I would much rather take my chances with my bare fists than use that blade in a fight. The practicality of the dagger would come as no surprise to anyone who knew the true story behind its history. Well over a century ago the dagger was more commonly known as the Blade of Peace, forged by the legendary Warlock of Anthousa - whose name was lost to time – and bestowed upon King Ronan as a gift by his arch-nemesis Cain of Renfire as a peace offering to end the decade long conflict. It would take a lot to convince me that that was the full story, but as a simple tale, passed down through the generations, it was a captivating story.

I reached out a hand to grasp the dagger and lift it away from the surface of the pedestal. The metal was cool against my skin, but the sensation that radiated through my hand and up my arm was far from cold. It was a reassuring sort of feeling; it made me feel at ease. The runes were still active. There was a loud crash, followed by cursing somewhere behind me. Footsteps followed soon after. I stopped myself from taking my next breath as I drew my hands close to my chest. With my head down, brows furrowed, I strained my ears to hear what was going on out in the main corridor.

There was a thwack, more cursing, some indistinct muttering, and then silence. Nothing. I couldn’t hear a damn thing. My heart was picking up a faster rhythm in my chest; my body had decided it was time for a quick getaway before my brain even had a chance. Sheathing the dagger on my belt I took a few urgent steps towards the door I had entered through and risked a peek down the corridor; there were two, maybe three shadows approaching the corner. In a swift motion, I pulled the door away from the wall and spun myself around to place my back against the same stretch of wall. With a shuddering breath, I closed my eyes and pulled the hood of my cloak low over my face. The seconds seemed to crawl by as I waited. The footsteps gradually got louder. My breathing got much, much quieter. As soon as the first figure crossed the threshold time rather jarringly picked up the pace; before I could make a move, all three of the figures had entered the room and were fanning out for a search. The figure closest to me, a stocky woman with an expensive-looking battle-axe strapped to her back, was stood mere feet away from my hiding spot. Waiting for my metaphorical window to open, I braced my arm against the door and readied myself. The woman turned to face me and for a split second, it was as if she was staring directly at me. At that moment, my heart probably skipped a beat, but my movements didn’t; with a well-aimed kick to the shin and a sucker punch to the face as the woman fell to one knee, she was down. Ducking underneath a swipe from a man whose left eye was just a knot of scar-tissue, I barely had time to process the fist that flashed before my eyes and hit me square in the face. As the hand withdrew to reveal a well-dressed man and as I reeled backwards, I caught a glimpse of the intricate tattoos snaking up his arm. Using the force from his blow I let myself ricochet off the doorframe and break into a sprint as I stumbled into the corridor.

By the first corner, the two men were already scurrying after me. At the second, the woman started screaming profanities as she thundered down the corridor behind us. It was the home stretch now, I could see the opening ahead of me; rubble, sledgehammer, and all. It seemed like hours ago now that I had spent hours hammering away at that wall, desperate to break through into the crypt. I resisted the urge to glance over my shoulder and instead focused on ignoring the glaring pain radiating from the centre of my face. I could taste the blood on my lips. My nose was definitely broken.

The sound of my footfalls became deafeningly loud as I raced out through the opening and across the clearing, heading towards the woods. I knew the three thugs were hot on my heels but that was out of my control, I had to focus on me. Focus on what I was going to do. The trees around me were just blurry shapes as I weaved between them, my heart pounding away in my chest as I plunged further into the dense undergrowth. The deeper I got the darker the world around me seemed to get; this deep into the woods, with the tree canopy overhead, very little light managed to reach the forest floor. Distantly, I could hear the raised voices of my pursuers but I couldn’t seem to decipher whether or not the voices were so faint because I had actually managed to pull away from them, or because the blood rushing in my ears was just so incredibly loud. As the seconds ticked by, and the four of us crashed through the foliage around us, steadily travelling further and further away from the crypt, my eyes latched onto a break in the trees up ahead. It was a small slither of light cutting through the gloom of the forest.

As I broke through the treeline, out into the blinding light of uncovered ground, I let my pace slow as a new sound managed to reach my ears: it was quiet at first, but once I managed to smother the other sounds oppressing my ears, it became as clear as anything; somewhere below me was a torrent of water that had carved its own path through the earth. It was a river. There was a flicker of something akin to reckless abandon somewhere inside my mind, a thought I immediately had the instinct to quell until I heard another shout. The aggressive tone and threatening words spurred my feet onwards. A small voice was telling me that this was a bad idea. That voice was telling me I was going to die if I kept running. I could see the drop now; ten or so strides in front of me the ground abruptly stopped. With doubt sitting heavy in the pit of my stomach, I stopped running. Skidded to halt and whipped my head around to scrutinise darkness behind me for any signs of life. Gasping for breath, I allowed myself a second to reach up and wipe at the blood probably drenching my face. From the gloom, a shape shot out heading directly for me. It cut through the air like a hot knife through butter, a spinning blur aimed right at me. The realisation seemed to hit me in the same instant my body reacted. Lurching to the side, a finely decorated battle-axe flew past me, missing the mass of my shoulder by a hairsbreadth. Following the axes trajectory, I saw it wedge itself into the ground a few metres from where I was barely staying on my feet. Narrowing my eyes, I could barely stave off the jelly-like sensation flowing through my legs. That was close. More shouting brought my thoughts back into focus; I snapped my head up to see all three thugs emerging from the trees. The trio seemed to have an identical smirk plastered to each of their faces. I found myself flicking my eyes between them, mouth agape, like some startled deer that had come face-to-face with a hunter. The small voice spoke up again, whispering some incoherent babble about dying. As the trio stepped closer to me I understood that I had to make the decision. Deep down, somewhere in the recesses of my mind, I knew that the river was there, that it was deep enough, that I could survive the fall… I trusted myself to make the right call with the situation I was presented with. I knew all of that, but I didn’t have time to think about any of it, so without another moment’s hesitation I turned on my heel and ran. By my first stride, I could sense the trio behind me start after me, start shouting again, and finally realise I was probably insane. Another stride closer and the small voice started to beg. The next stride I took the trio had stopped. At the point of no return, or rather the point at which even if I stopped running my momentum would still carry me forwards and hurtle my screaming body over the edge, the small voice stopped talking. This was it now, the decision was out of my hands, all I could focus on now was the desperation to try and remember to take a breath before I hit the water.

The air whistled past my ears as I plummeted towards the icy depths. Falling for what felt like no more than a heartbeat I broke through the water’s surface and sank into the swirling currents.

* * *

All I knew was darkness and the roaring in my ears. It was so cold. My limbs wouldn’t cooperate with me, refusing to move or kick out. It felt like I couldn’t breathe. I tried to tell myself not to panic, that everything would be okay, it would all work out. My lungs were burning. I tried reminding myself that I knew what was happening, I knew what had happened, it was going to be fine. I tried valiantly to not let the panic set in.  I couldn’t breathe.

* * *

Opening my eyes, the breath I tried to take didn’t seem to happen. It couldn’t feel my chest expand and for a second the fear of still being thrown around mercilessly in the raging current was overwhelming. Lifting my body away from the coarse earth below me my body was suddenly racked with violent coughs. I gasped and spluttered for air as I emptied my lungs of water. I heaved as my body shook with the effort, and once I could breathe my trembling arms buckles beneath me and I let myself fall onto my back with the complete opposite of grace.

I had no concept of time as I laid there, letting myself indulge in the simple act of breathing; inhaling and exhaling at a leisurely pace. The relief of being at liberty to breathe whenever I needed to was indescribable. Through half-closed eyes I gazed up at the sky above me; a mess of hazy orange clouds gazing back at me. It was a picturesque sight, almost calming. With a sigh of exhaustion, or possibly frustration, I let my eyes fall further towards the ground, as far as my position would allow, to see the sun, fat and bright, just skimming the horizon. Within what felt like anywhere between a couple of seconds and several minutes, I managed to sit up. My clothes were on the more wet side of damp and my cloak was nowhere to be seen. Alarmed, my hands shot to my belt, urgently feeling for the dagger, praying it was still tucked safely away. Fortunately, I found it almost immediately. Heart thudding in my chest, again, I got to my feet. At an agonisingly slow pace, I started to make my way up the riverbank and away from the calm waters behind me. As I took each step I became aware of a pain, growing in intensity. Ignoring the temptation to click my tongue I stopped walking and bent over to prod at my legs until I made myself hiss. Through my grimace, I could see rips in my trousers and through those were several gashes and scrapes from being dragged along underneath the water, no doubt. Standing upright was more difficult than standing up had been mere seconds earlier. With each subsequent step I took the complete lethargy I felt seemed to set in deeper. I felt completely drained, but I had to keep going. If I gave up now everything I’ve done to acquire the dagger would be for nothing. If I wanted to get paid I had to keep going. So, I did. I pushed the fatigue away, buried it under the frustration, and kept walking. As I let my legs do all the work, I let my mind wander: where I jumped was The Rapids, a small portion of the river considered far too dangerous to warrant any sort of use for it. The river ran south, starting up in the mountains, and flowed into the sea a few hundred kilometres away from my intended destination. The river did, however, flow through the middle of Lord Sanders’ land. A small smile flickered across my face; in the vaguest terms possible, I knew how to get back.

From where I believed I was, on foot, it would take me bordering on three days to reach Archibald’s estate. If luck was on my side though, and I hadn’t been pulled down the river too far, I could reach a small fishing village before dusk. If it went my way, I could stay at the inn for the night, buy safe passage with a caravan heading to the next village down – owned by the right honourable Lord Archibald Sanders – and be walking away with a purse full of gold by the day after tomorrow. Since I had accepted this job, all those months ago, nothing had really gone my way.

I wasn’t feeling optimistic.

 

THE END


Submitted: February 28, 2020

© Copyright 2021 insanis. All rights reserved.

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