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Yaalne

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Summary

A collection of short stories based on characters from my upcoming novel Psalms from the Mountaintop. In this fantasy world called the Drop, a planet made from energy of the spirit realm, elves, orcs, dwarves, humans, pixies, and more coexist. These short stories will explore characters both in and out of the upcoming novel that fill the universe. Backstories, character exploration, and character studies. Each short story will have the title, followed by the character being examined in the chapter title.

Genre:
Fantasy / Other
Author:
Kano Barlowe
Status:
Ongoing
Chapters:
2
Rating:
n/a
Age Rating:
16+

Watermark - Fain

He remembered the first day. The guards came by often then. The large stone door, not a light in the cracks, rolled open on the mossy floor at the same time, three times each day. In the hands of the tall guard was a food platter, which he placed on the small table near the door. When he left, he took the empty platter from the previous meal with him.

When the door closed, Fain’s chains unshackled around his ankles and wrists. Up on his feet, the river prince saw no reason not to eat – he knew he would be here for some time. Sitting down at the table, legs crossed, Fain ate warm bread and delicious stew, a rich rabbit meat flavoring the broth.

That first day, placed in this room, Fain felt at peace. Yes, he worried about his clan down in the river valley; he worried about his parents, his people, thinking that he had been executed, lain to waste by the mountain clan. But he did not fear for their lives – he knew that he was the target of the war raid. Now that he was in the deep cells, low under the earth in the mountains, Fain did not worry for the safety of his loved ones.

“I hope I can see the sun again soon,” he said with a smile.

You will, Charity’s voice, soft and pleasant, echoed in his mind. We will wait out the storm together.

“I would go mad without you,” Fain laughed, biting in his bread. “It could be a few months. Perhaps even years.”

Then we will go mad together, Charity replied. Fain detected the amused tone in the spirit’s voice.

The room was quaint. A table and pillow to sit at beside the door, then blankets near the wall shackles. The walls, nearly bare, had narrow cracks between some of the rune-lights. If he pressed his face against the stone slabs, he could see the hallway outside his cell on one wall and a blue-lit room to the left; the other two walls were only blackness when he attempted to sneak a glance.

He remembered the first day. Despite the heightened emotions around him, Fain kept calm. The guards came by often then.


He remembered the seven-hundredth day. Guards came by a little less – food still arrived, but sometimes Fain noticed that, when he sat back against the wall, the shackles would not seal around his limbs. Instead, he would sit with his back against cold stone, watching the door, waiting as his stomach rumbled. The guard would not arrive until the next meal, hours later, with only one portion of food.

This did not bother the river prince. When he realized food would not come, he would shrug, then lie back on the blankets and stare up at the rune-lit ceiling. Sometimes he would get up and peek outside, eye strained as he watched a guard stand idly by the cell door.

Do you think they forgot again? Charity whispered.

“Must have,” Fain mumbled. He stretched his arms high into the air. “Oh well, there’s not much we can do about it.”

It isn’t polite, Charity said. If they won’t let us go home, they should at least feed you.

“They do,” Fain said. He peeked into the blue-lit room. The lights were still on, but he saw nothing.

And can they fix the leak? Charity asked. It is disturbing me, I struggle to focus on our meditation.

Fain glanced up at the ceiling. A crack had formed over the months, and a constant droplet of water fell from the tear, plopping with a small splash at the puddle that now formed on the ground.

“Oh come on,” Fain laughed. “Think of it as a metronome instead.”

I expect that all be charitable to others, Fainrial, Charity scolded. Not just you.

“Well, you’ll have to wait a long time for that to happen,” Fain said, laying back on the blankets once more. His stomach rumbled, but he did not mind.

“Charity?”

Yes, my prince?

“Can we do it again?”

Of course, my prince.

With a twitch of Fain’s fingers, the puddle of water rolled in on itself. Rising up off the stone floor, the ball of liquid floated into the air. Flicking his wrist, Fain watched with joy as the orb broke into millions of sparkles, droplets of water that soon began to dance across the cell’s limited sky.

He remembered the seven-hundredth day. Guards came by a little less.


He remembered the two-thousand, six-hundred and seventy-first day. Pacing in his cell, Fain bit his lip.

They’re not coming back, Charity said. The spirit’s voice was low, quiet, afraid.

“They will,” Fain mumbled. He rubbed his chin. His hair had grown long now, trailing down his back and swaying as he walked from wall to wall. Outside the cell, where the guards stood, was darkness. Not a sound came from the crack for days. Glancing at the table, Fain’s thin stomach growled loudly. The platter from days before sat without a single crumb on it, wiped clean when the starved river prince picked it over.

If we go on like this, I’ll have to give you my energy, Charity warned. This won’t bode well for either of us.

“I don’t want to think about it,” Fain replied. He sat down on the blankets, crossing his narrow legs. He felt cold, so he pulled the blankets up around himself, and he watched the cell door.

The rune-lights overhead blinked every now and again. The cell would go dark when they did, but only for a split second. When they went out, the cell lit up with a faint blue, the cracks on the wall beside him to the blue-lit room ever bright. On the floor, the puddle was stretched thin.

Drip. Drip. Drip.

“Can we do it again, Charity?” Fain’s voice barely came out as a whisper.

We need to conserve energy, Fainrial, Charity said, voice sympathetic and gentle.

“Just one more time? Please?”

… Of course, my prince.

As the water floated up, exploding into sparkling light across the ceiling and dancing for the river prince’s amusement, Fain remembered.

He remembered the two-thousand, six-hundred and seventy-first day.


Fain remembered the bad day.

His vision, blurring, darkening, going in and out of focus, made his head spin. He was splitting in two, screaming as he writhed on the ground.

“I don’t want to,” he sobbed. “Please! Please don’t do it!”

I have to, my prince. Charity’s voice, while gentle, could not mask the pain that pierced Fain’s ears.

Another tug and pull on Fain’s insides made Fain’s vision whiten, exploding stars and colors as his entire bony frame convulsed. The river prince screamed as the spirit tore, ripping itself out from within him, forming like a tumor in his stomach, as another form.

The room was colored in a blue hue.

Fain remembered the bad day.

How he wished to forget.


He remembered the second room day.

Hair long, ragged down his back, the river prince lied next to the puddle, sipping from the ever-dripping water when his weak form managed to turn his head. The only comfort to the dimly lit room left was the endless drip, drip, drip of the water from the ceiling, filling the silent void around him.

“Charity?” he whispered.

Silence.

He fell unconscious for a time that day, dreamless sleep that granted him no comfort, no joy. Only the cold, hard floor to hold him, as the blankets had run ragged by now, thin and wispy and useless.

The sound of stone cracking opened Fain’s eyes. Looking up at the door, he felt numb to see it had not opened. But…

Now the room was brighter, the blue glow vibrant around him, illuminating parts of the cell that had long since gone dark. Sitting up weakly, Fain looked at the wall to see a small hole; it appeared that the crack in the ceiling, since spread throughout the room, had ripped a hole into the wall.

Inching closer, Fain peeked into the blue-lit room. The hole was not big enough for him to get through, but now he could see what lied on the other side. Blue flames sat, magically lit with old runes, in sconces on the walls, flickering with a brightness that would never die. Shelves of books and ledgers filled the room, as did a few odd items on cabinets and tables. It appeared to be some sort of storage room. Across from Fain’s cell, propped up against the wall, was a painting, looking back at him. There were elves on the painting.

They looked familiar.

He remembered the second room day.


He remembered the one-thousand, four-hundred and thirty-sixth day after the second room day.

He sat crossed legged on the floor every single day, staring into the blue-lit room, only looking away to drink from his puddle. He watched, day by day, as the hole progressively widened before him, exposing his cell to further light each time. His frame, pressed up to his ribs, trembled whenever his stomach growled. He felt the mass in his gut, eaten away slowly, day by day, and remembered the bad day. He pet his stomach a moment to quiet the growls.

This day, he stood up. It took some time, as he had not stood up, to his recollection, since the day before the bad day. His hair, heavy on his head and trailing low on the ground, had to be opened around his face like a curtain. With one weak limp after another, the river prince made his way to the hole before finally crawling through it.

Stepping into the second room, Fain turned his head. To his left was a door, but when he hurried over to open it, he found he could not make it budge. Long ago, in the days before the second room day, he might have cried. Instead, he closed his eyes, taking in the sound of the drip, drip, drip in his cell, echoing throughout both rooms.

“I made progress, Charity.” His voice did not sound like his own anymore.

Fain turned to the painting across the room. His skeletal feet tread across the new stone floor, an exciting new texture he was elated by, until he could stand in front of the painting. He looked at the faces, eyes somewhat cloudy as he pondered the faces. They were familiar to him, but he did not know how.

The river prince noticed the metal plaque at the bottom of the frame. He frowned, looking at the runes scrawled over it. Reaching into his mind, to his knowledge before the first day, he slowly read, one letter to the next.

Clan-Father Caedulain.

Clan-Mother Faelthel.

Clan-Prince Fainrial.

He remembered the one-thousand, four-hundred and thirty-sixth day after the second room day.

He decided that day would be called reunion day.

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