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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic
Rumor has it that in the mountains there lives the last King.

I have added this as a short story, but I'm not sure if it might end up being a prologue for a larger story I have in mind.

Submitted: March 01, 2016

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Submitted: March 01, 2016



"Who are you?" called a man from the cracks, and into Gem's vision their came a face, white and hidden by long lank hair. His mouth curdled into something grave, but his voice was high and pleasant. "Oh, it's you. I didn't think I'd see you again."

"You are the King, aren't you?" said Gem.

"Deserter," he said, taken aback. The last rays of sunlight burned a dark orange on his brow. "Betrayer, murderer and King - yes, King."

"Do you have payment?"

As a form of fleeting black shapes he led her, down, deeper into his cave in the mountains. Despite his height, he was somewhat nimble, and would at times opt to crawl. Gem refused to bend; when stopping to turn his head, he would say, "hurry, dog, hurry," but he would say it as if giving encouragement to himself. When they reached the bottom, Gem could no longer see the walls, and with a fright she realised they were not alone. 

"Be easy," he said, stroking at something, his long hand floating before her eyes. The sound was different here; his voice came to her through a damp layer of haze. "Beautiful, isn't she? The war took a lot of things from us, but I say a horse needs legs like a man needs a sword."

Gem blinked at the lack of light; nevertheless, she could feel the beast regarding and measuring her. She put her hand up to a cold, invisible wall, and ran a finger along a line of moss until a set of chains rattled.

"What are you thinking?" he said.

"How did she lose her legs?" she replied.

"I'll show you." He turned his attention to a large chest in the corner of his house. Gem could hear his hands at work. "Not this," he said, "not this."

"What are you looking for?"

"The sword of course," he said, his tone slipping. "You don't believe me. I can smell it on you. You don't believe I'm the King. Well, I'll prove it to you." In frustration, he threw a trinket into a pocket of the abyss - it didn't make a sound. It appeared to Gem as if more light had poured into the place; she could now see the silhouette of the horse, as it emitted an abrupt snort from its nostrils. "The sword - where is it? If you've been through my things again, if you've been through my things again ...”

"I haven't," said Gem. "I've never been here before."

"I wasn't talking to you," he growled. And then a strange light leapt from the black to dance upon his face. Gem saw him smile as he ran a finger up and down the flat of a broken, glowing sword. In a spasm of anger he twisted on his heel, and towards her he strode. "Hold it," he said.

Gem looked up at the man, and saw elegance in his pale face, and virility in the colour of his haunted eyes. His teeth were yellow, and his breath was rotten. Her skin crawled when their hands met. As she took the broken sword from him by the gargoyle-headed pommel, the light lifted from his face, leaving his features to become empty, hollow pits once more. The light of the sword had gone out. There was no denying it:

"You are the King," said Gem, turning the heavy, lightless thing in her hands.

"I am," said the King with a lift of his chin.

There was a moment, and a quiet came over the cave. "I want the sword," said Gem.

"You want the sword? But I'm the King! Do you think I will abandon my principles, for you?"

"But the sword is all you have," said Gem, taking a step back.

"They broke it," he said, leaning down. "Are you going to deny this as well?" He snatched the thing away from her hands, and pointed it at her.

"I'm not denying anything," said Gem. "The sword is broken, and as my common blood has shown, I have no use for it. Still, it is the only thing I want from you."

The King went to say something, stopped, shook his head, winced, laughed at the ceiling, and then took Gem by the arm. "Go on," he said into Gem's ear, pushing her forward and holding her from behind. "Tell her how much you want my sword." They knelt before the horse. He aimed the blade at its face, and so brought it to life. It was not black as Gem had first thought, but brown, with a white strip running down to a pink nose. Propped up upon a stone table and bound at the torso by ropes, its eyes remained lightless, but within them Gem caught sight of something ancient. "That's it!" said the King, reiterating nothing. "She's guilty, isn't she? She wants it. She's greedy." Gem expected a response from the horse - a kick of its hind legs, a violent toss of its head, a screeching bray - but it remained quiet, in spite of the King's energy. And yet, how Gem knew that the horse was in agreement with the King, she could not say. He lowered the sword, and the horse's face fell back into darkness, but still the King held onto Gem.

"You're hurting me," she said. The King laughed and pulled her hair away to bite her on the neck.

"You are like a bird with a fear of heights," he said. "You are my subject. It is in my nature to cut you, just as it is in your nature to bleed for me. Do you want my sword?" His mouth climbed her jaw, finding its way to hers.

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