Sork was comfortable with the darkness. He had been at ease with it ever since he was at the age of five, two years before he decided to become a dark paladin.
“Sir!” A small, sickly green goblin scampered up to Sork, who was standing on a rather tall lump of earth. “My men have readied the canons and are awaiting your command. Say the word and we will
fire at the castle.”
Sork casually brushed off some dirt from his midnight black cloak, his hand gently bumping into the heavy sword that hung at his side. “Very good, Captain. But keep your voice down. You know how
unnecessary loud noises annoy me. And you wouldn’t want me annoyed, would you?”
The goblin’s green face paled. “Yes sir. Of course sir. My apologizes sir. I’ll never speak above your desired volume unless it is needed.” And with that, he backed away, scurrying toward the rows
of canons that were assembled a few hundred feet away from Sork.
Sork spat on the ground from the corner of his mouth, scowling. Almost everyone thought Sork had made an evil, foolish decision, becoming a dark paladin. When he refused to change into something
more “reasonable”, people shunned him. They looked away when he drew near and whispered behind his back when he was afar. Resent and fear filled every look that was cast at him. His own home
village demanded Sork to leave when not one month had gone by. At the time, he had still been living under his father’s roof.
The thought of his father made Sork want to howl with anger. His father was an uncaring bastard! When Sork needed him the most, his father turned away and shunned him just like everyone else had.
He let the guards take Sork away, without even the slightest hint of sadness. But the look in his eyes, the last look Sork saw of his father, was of pure disappointment.
Just look at me now, Father, Sork thought, his blood boiling with rage. Look at how far I’ve come, at how powerful I am now. Look at what I’m about to do, what I’m about to accomplish.
And I hope that it makes you cry with regret when you remember that you had absolutely no part in helping me get to this stage.
Sork’s pale hands balled up into tight fists. Nostrils flaring, he closed his eyes and fought to reign in his anger.
“Soon,” he muttered under his breath. “Soon.”
“Look at how he smiles!” the Queen said, her voice warm with a mother’s love. “Isn’t it just the brightest thing you’ve ever seen?”
The King grunted his agreement. Any other night, he would’ve responded with something much happier, but tonight, his intuition was buzzing. Something bad was going to happen; he knew it from his
head to his toes.
“Come now,” the Queen murmured, putting a gentle hand on her husband’s shoulder, “There’s no need to be so tense. You’ve been anxious since the moment you woke up, and now it’s nighttime. We’ve
made it this far; nothing bad can possibly happen so close to the end of the day. Just relax and go to sleep.”
The King pounded his fist into an open palm, sitting up straight in the heavily decorated bed. “Maria, do you know how many sieges happen in the dead of night?!”
The Queen jumped at his sudden shout. The baby in her arms began to cry softly, his hands curling around the blue blanket that surrounded his body.
The King sighed heavily. “I’m sorry,” he said gently, “but things have just been hard lately. We’re having trouble controlling the troll problem, and those prideful dwarves are threatening us with
acts of war. Our son was born just two weeks ago, and every waking moment, I fear for his safety. And now this feeling comes upon me that danger is near. What is a king supposed to do? Not only do
I have to worry about my people, I have to protect my family.”
The Queen hushed the baby in her arms. “I know you’re stressed,” she said softly, “but we have nothing to be anxious about. Rosewood is a perfectly safe castle.”
Just as soon as she had finished that statement, the boom of a firing canon sounded just outside the castle walls.
Sork watched, stony faced, as his goblin soldiers loaded each canon. They moved quickly and silently, just as he wanted them to. Any thunderous noise that happened before they fired the canons
could ruin the whole plan, and no one sane would want to anger a dark paladin.
“Fire when ready,” Sork called to his troops, his voice only loud enough for them to barely hear him. The canons were lit, and the first cannonball exploded out with a deafening boom!
It made contact with the castle wall. Some of the stone fell away, but the barrier was strong, and would not fall down on the first round of firing. The second volley of cannonballs was launched,
and a section of the wall crumbled away, the sound of heavy rocks tumbling over each other and canon fire echoing for miles. After another round of shooting, human soldiers began to pour out from
inside the castle.
The goblins began to laugh hysterically, firing the canons over and over again. The goblins themselves also shot out their own projectiles: fireballs, globs of poison, sharp shards of ice, and
powerful shots of water. The humans didn’t stand much of a chance. The magic and machinery ended dozens of lives before the soldiers even managed to slay one goblin.
Sork didn’t allow himself to smile with pleasure as he watched human after human fall to the ground in pain and suffering. The job was nowhere near finished, and this wasn’t supposed to be a task
At last, the bottom of the castle wall gave away, providing Sork and his troops a way into the castle. Sork drew out his sword, a visible, dark aura surrounding his blade. The goblins that weren’t
manning the canons had already charged, screaming and yelling war cries. Sork walked down his hill, moving faster and faster with each step he took. By the time he was at the bottom, he was running
straight toward the mayhem in front of him.
Sork swung his sword ruthlessly. With each life he ended, Sork felt no remorse in his heart, just an empty, hollow hunger that was almost animal-like. Blood splattered onto his cloak, bright red
against black. Cries of pain filled the air as more and more humans were impaled or shot down by the goblins’ elements. Sork trampled over a dead soldier and a dying goblin, his senses on full
alert, his body dodging, his arms swinging, his mind focused on the valuable prize.
By the time he reached the castle wall, Sork had slayed over fifty people. He had no injuries except for a small cut on the back of his hand from when he had brushed against the sharp metal of a
Sork led his goblins into the castle, killing anyone who stood in his way. Nothing was going to prevent him from reaching his objective. Nothing.
Not long after the second canon shot, a hurried and urgent knock sounded on the King and Queen’s bedroom door.
“Come in!” the Queen called, her husband already on his feet and reaching for his sword.
The captain of the castle army rushed through the door. “Sire!” he said, “A horde of goblins are attacking the castle!”
“Goblins?!” the Queen gasped in surprise and horror. “I thought they went extinct?”
The captain shrugged. “Well, apparently, they’ve been hiding out, your majesty.”
“No time to wonder where they came from,” the King exclaimed, tying a belt around his waist. “I must get down to the armory. Captain Gilbert and I will try to stop the goblins from doing any harm
to the villagers. Maria, you stay here with Fiona.” Fiona was one of the Queen’s many maids, and the most trusted of them, too.
“But Phillip!” Queen Maria protested, “You’ll get killed out there! An army of goblins for heaven’s sake!”
“I must protect my people,” the King stated, as the Queen knew he would. He leaned down and kissed the Queen, then the baby on his forehead. Then he was gone with the captain.
As soon as he had left, Queen Maria laid the baby gently on the bed and rushed to the window. She could see a giant hole in the castle wall out of the corner of the window. Canon fire sounded
again, and a section crumbled to the ground.
“Oh Fiona!” The Queen whirled around to face the maid who was sitting in the corner. Not only was Fiona the maid she trusted the most, she was also a very good friend. “What am I going to do?
Phillip is a very skilled fighter, but that doesn’t mean he’s immortal. And what if he does die? Then there’s no telling how fast the goblins will get inside the castle. I can’t have them
Fiona rose and took the Queen’s hands in her own. “I have an idea,” she whispered. Her eyes didn’t meet Queen Maria’s, for her plan was a daring one. As she explained what she had in mind, the
Queen’s eyes grew almost too big to fit into her face.
“Are you downright insane?!” she nearly screamed when Fiona had finished.
“Think about it!” Fiona reasoned. “Those are goblins out there. I hate to say it, but it’s unlikely that any of our soldiers will survive in combat. As soon as they wipe out our army, those
loathsome beasts will want to come to this room first, to rid this kingdom of you and the future king as soon as possible. The sooner we carry out my plan, the better chance Prince Caleb has a
chance for survival.”
The Queen’s lower lip trembled in fear and grief. “What if I die?”
Fiona squeezed her friend’s hands tightly. “You will not die in vain. And if my plan works, this kingdom can be revived in the future. If your life must end, at least have it ended with a hopeful
future for your kingdom.”
Tears formed in the Queen’s eyes. “And if you die?” she choked out.
Fiona’s eyes stared hard at the ground. She did not answer the question immediately. At last, she murmured, “Then all will be lost.”
Queen Maria let out a shaky breath. She closed her eyes, composed herself, and said, “Alright. Let’s do it.”
Sork’s army and the human army—led by the King himself—clashed once again just outside the drawbridge. The King sat atop of a white stallion, and was clad in the strongest armor Rosewood had to
offer. Moonlight poured down onto his sword, making it glow white in the darkness.
“Tear them from limb to limb,” Sork ordered his goblin troops. The smiled gleefully at this command. Inflicting pain was their greatest hobby.
“Turn back now!” the King yelled. “This is your only chance! Retreat or die!”
Typical pathetic offer, Sork thought to himself. Then, to the goblins, he said, “Attack!”
The goblins eagerly leaped into action. Some of them shot out their elements at horses and legs, making soldiers immobile. Others chose to leap onto the humans, tearing at their armor and flesh
with their lethal claws.
The King fought the best he could, and his best was almost good enough. His sword took down many goblins, their blood flying onto his chest. He dodged their projectiles and killed the ones that
tried to attack him with their hands. But even the best of fighters didn’t escape Sork’s army untouched.
Out of the corner of his eye, Sork saw the drawbridge begin to shudder. Then, with a loud groan, it began to rise.
“Leave no one alive!” Sork yelled to his troops before running toward the drawbridge.
The King saw a tall, lanky man dressed in black head to the entrance of the castle. He pointed his sword to him and bellowed, “Don’t let that man get away!”
In his distraction, the King didn’t notice a goblin running toward him. The goblin licked his lips, coating them in his venomous saliva, and took a giant bite of the horse’s leg. The stallion
whinnied in pain and fell to the ground, bringing the King down with him. The King cried out as the horse’s heavy body pinned his leg to the ground. Not only that, but the fall had caused his arm
to bend the wrong way. The King heard a snap, felt something warm trickle down his leg, and then he blacked out.
The Queen rushed down the dark corridor, clutching fearfully onto the bundle that was in her arms. For the first time in her life, no guards lined the halls. It made her feel beyond vulnerable,
like she was a beacon that was drawing everything that was dangerous in the world to her.
The floor was uneven, and her feet were unaccustomed to such ground. Every so often, she’d lose her footing and have to steady herself using the filthy walls.
Never before had the Queen been in such an unsanitary place. Squeaks of mice and rats sounded through the tunnel, and she felt their beady eyes on her back. Cobwebs reached for her face, and
spiders crawled across the fabric of her dress. Grime that was who knows how old covered every surface of the rock walls, and the Queen wouldn’t have been surprised if she found out that there were
bats in the tunnel.
Queen Maria’s breath was hot in her face, and every step seemed to thunder loudly through the corridor. Her heart slammed wildly in her chest, and her eyes could see almost nothing in the blackness
of the tunnel.
The Queen ran straight into something. The something grunted and hissed. Fear gripped her heart, robbing her of her voice.
“Hello, your majesty,” a voice said that reminded the Queen of a snake. “It’s a wonderful evening, isn’t it?”
Queen Maria wanted to turn the other way. Queen Maria wanted to run for her life, as fast as her legs could carry her. Queen Maria wanted to draw the dagger that was at her waist and stab the
stranger in front of her. But she was paralyzed with fear, and couldn’t seem to even think straight.
“I believe you have something that I want,” the stranger said. Before she could react, the stranger wrenched the bundle out of the Queen’s arms and pulled the blanket away.
All that had been in the Queen’s hands was a fine china doll.
Sork felt rage boiling in his chest. He threw the doll onto the ground, shattering it. His eyes that could see as well in the darkness as they could in the light looked down at the Queen. She was
trembling, tears streaming from her face. In his anger, he didn’t bother killing her. Instead, he pushed her roughly into the wall and ran down the tunnel.
The wind was knocked out of the Queen’s lungs. She bit her lip to prevent herself from crying out as her back made contact with a particularly sharp part on the wall. Her head was knocked against
the rock, and blood trickled down her neck. Feeling defeated and desperate, the Queen coiled up into a ball and let the tears fall freely from her eyes.
The baby in Fiona’s arms began to wail. Fiona gently pinched his nose and covered his mouth until he was silent. As soon as her hand left his face, he began to cry again.
“Shh!” Fiona whispered. She wrapped her cloak around the baby and climbed onto a chestnut brown horse. She rode the horse toward the wall facing the back of the castle before climbing down and
unlocking a secret door in the wall. Then, she and the baby rode away into the dark night, leaving behind them the hopeless battle of the demons and
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