Friday, March 1, 2013

The Garden

(I took part in a flash fiction challenge, though technically I am putting up late, was supposed to be done by noon today and only 1500 words. Oh well, mine's 2500 words, guess I'm a rebel.

The challenge is here, by Chuck Wendig. It's basically this: Pick a number between 1-10 three times. I rolled a d10 using an online dice roller(I am a nerd). The numbers correspond to these choices in three corresponding aspects: Subgenre/Setting/Element.

My random picks?
Subgenre: Sword and Sorcery
Setting: At the Gates of the Garden of Eden
Element: A Talking Sword.

This is what I came up with.)

The Garden

The knight walked the pitted road alone. His armor no longer shined, covered in dried blood and mud. Black hair hung down to his shoulders, dirty and unkempt. He'd lost his helm long ago. He carried a sword, its tip dragging in the dirt.

"How can you be sure?" The sword asked.

"I believe it," the man replied.

"But you don't know. You can't."

"I do know. I have faith. That is enough."

"How do you know you'll make it? It has not been an easy road."

No, it had not. He'd faced hordes of dark men, monstrous beasts and turned death aside each and every time. "Like I said, I have faith."

"You really believe. You really trust in Him. After everything."

"Yes. After everything."

"How will you find it?"

"Faith. Faith, my old friend."

The man walked on, the sword silent. The land lay flat all around, dark and sandy. A hot wind blew dust about. The man covered his mouth with his hand and closed his eyes. It passed and he moved on.

"We've seen nothing for miles," the sword said. "Perhaps there is nothing left."

"Remnants. Vestiges of what we once were. Pieces that are not whole."

"Will never be whole."

The man shook his head. "We will be, again. There is always hope."

"Hope for what?"

"Salvation. For those of us left in this broken world."

A hut appeared in the distance, as the sun neared the horizon and the sky, always gray, grew darker. It stood, walled with gray brick scoured by ages of time. A light shone from the one window.

"We are close," the sword said. "Be wary."

"I will be faithful." He found the strength to pick up the sword and sheath it on his back. The door to hut stood strong and wooden. He pounded on it.

"Who be there?" A frail voice called. "These be evil times."

"A humble traveler, asking only shelter for the long night."

"Do you have anything to offer?"

"I have nothing."
The door creaked open, revealing a wizened old face. The old man peered curiously through a gap in the door. He took notice of the armor and the sword. "You look like one from ancient times."

"I follow an ancient path."

The door opened fully, revealing the one room shack within. A dusty table stood in the center, wooden cupboards against the wall and a cot in the corner.

"I don't have much but what I do have, I offer."

"You have my thanks."

The old man nodded and gestured to the table where two rickety chairs sat.

The knight took a seat as the elder walked around the home, opening the cupboards. He took out a bottle of brownish liquid, sloshing about. He grabbed two glasses and set everything upon the table.

"I thank you but I do not drink liquor," the younger said.

The old man halted, muttering to himself. He went back to the cupboards and pulled out another pitcher. This of water. He poured the liquor in one glass and water in the other. He slid the water glass over to the other man.

The knight took it and drank. "I thank you."

The old man took a seat across the table and drank from his own glass. "Are you a knight?"


"You truly do follow an ancient path, then, one long forgotten in this world. What does a knight do, in a world so lost in darkness?"

"Bring light to the darkness. Seek forgiveness and salvation. Believe."

"Believe?" The old man snapped, drinking more. He cackled. "Believe? You are a fool!"

The knight put the glass down. "If I have offended you, I will seek shelter elsewhere."

The old man chuckled at that. "There is no other shelter here." He shook his head. "Stay. I have not had company in a very long time. Tell me, knight, what do you seek? The Holy Grail?" The old man smiled as if he'd made a joke.

The knight finished the water in his glass. "I seek no holy relic, only a holy place where I can finally rest."

"You seek a temple?"

The knight shook his head. "I will know it when I find it."

The old man, in gray rags and long ragged white hair, smiled a toothless grin. "You search the wrong way. There is nothing up this road but death. Go back the way you came, I tell you."

The knight shook his head. "I must keep on as I am."

The elder nodded. "Very well." He stood and picked up the water pitcher. "Let me refill your glass." He walked around the table.

The other man put his glass down as the elder walked over. The old man threw the water into the knight's face.

The knight's head snapped back.

The old man thrust a dagger at the other man's neck.

The knight caught the wrist, twisting it away.

The pitcher crashed against the knight's head, knocking him over and out of his chair.

He rolled, standing, lights flashing in his eyes.

The old man came on.

The sword flashed out in the knight's hand, knocking dagger and pitcher away. He held the point of the blade against the old man's neck.

"Yield!" The knight called.

The old man hesitated.

"Adam," the knight said, his voice soft and low, vision clearing. "Yield or die."

Adam sighed and raised his arms. "I yield."

The knight sheathed his sword.

Adam gestured to the table. "Shall we break bread and talk?"

The knight nodded.

Adam went to the cupboards and brought out a loaf of bread. He brought it to the table and broke it in half.

The knight sat, accepting half a loaf.

"We tried to come back," Adam said, nibbling at a piece of bread. "We knew we couldn't go back, just as you cannot go there...but we tried. Just as you will try, and fail."

"I will not fail. You guard it now?"

"I suppose we do. What do you expect to find? Paradise?" Adam laughed without mirth. "You will not find that."

"I do not search for paradise."

"You seek the Garden. You are close but the way, the way is perilous."

"Is Eve here, too, then?"

Adam nodded, his eyes heavy with sadness. "The most beautiful woman. The only woman. We tried to come back." His voice filled with regret, he looked ready to cry. "I would cry but I have no more tears left. I have cried for all that I have done, all the sorrow I have wrought. I have no more tears left."

The knight ate in silence.

"You should kill him," the sword spoke.

Adam's eyebrows rose in surprise. "Your sword speaks? The sounds familiar." Adam stared at the weapon. "Who is it?"

"That is none of your concern," the knight said.

"You should kill him and abandon this quest," the sword said. "The pathetic man is right. You will not find salvation."

"What?" Adam asked, standing up. "It cannot be true! A human believes where an angel does not?" He burst into laughter.

The knight finished his bread and stood. "I will seek shelter elsewhere," he said and headed for the door.

"He abandoned us, knight!" Adam called out. "You will not find Him!"'

The knight left the old man bent over, cackling with laughter.

Night had fallen, pitch black and thick. The knight walked along the road, leaving the hut behind.

"You will not sleep this night?" The sword asked.

"I will walk. We are close."

"You will do no good if you get yourself killed."

"You forget, you always forget. My faith protects me."

Silence held the air as the man walked, boots crunching dirt.

"You are a good man," the sword broke the silence. "I am glad you are the one who found me. I hope you find what you are looking for."

The knight gripped the handle of the blade. "He forsake us for our sins and left us to destroy ourselves. We did so and now we are left, broken and bleeding. He did not believe we deserved saving. I will show Him we can be pure of heart and mind, we can be saved. I will ask for forgiveness, for all of us. And he will give us salvation."

The sword did not answer.

The knight kept on, his muscles drained and his body exhausted. The sun rose, lightening the dull gray sky and illuminating the flat plain around him. The road led on, empty and lifeless. The air around him seemed to thicken. Each step felt harder to take than the last until it seemed he walked through water. Haze obfuscated the land around him, blurry and distant. His vision grew distorted, colors swirling, mixing, spreading, growing.

"What manner of trick is this?" He asked, spitting out the words, sounding shaken.

"I know not, but it is dangerous. Do not..." The sword's voice faded from his mind.

His feet no longer touched the ground. His body fell miles.

He forgot.

He opened his eyes. He lay on a bed in a white room underneath white blankets. Pain was gone. Exhaustion was gone. He struggled to remember. Why would he be in pain? Why would he be exhausted? He realized he was naked in the bed and looked for clothes around the room, but there were none. No sword, either. Why did he think of a sword? He had no need of a sword. This place felt safe, peaceful.

He pushed himself to sit up and the door swung open. Had there even been a door before...His thoughts stopped abruptly as a beautiful woman walked in, wearing nothing but a flimsy black robe. Long and flowing brown hair fell down her back, her eyes not pools but oceans of blue you could drown in and she flashed a radiant smile at him.

"You're up," she said, her voice as beautiful as her body, light and magical.

"Yes but..." He frowned. "Something's wrong..."

"Don't worry," she said. "I'll join you in bed. We can forget about everything, here."

"No, wait." His cheeks flushed red. “We can't-”

She pulled the robe apart. “Why can't we?”

He closed his eyes. "No, something...this...this is wrong."

"Then why does it feel so right?" She whispered, coming closer.

He felt her sliding into the bed, getting close to him. He slid away, falling to the floor in his haste. "I cannot." He remembered...something. "I've taken an oath."

"Oaths were made to be broken. Trust me, I know."

"No," he said, standing. "I'm sorry but I need my clothes. I need to leave. Now."

"You are a fool." Her voice changed.

He turned as she threw herself from the bed, stabbing him in the side with a dagger. Her hair turned filthy white, her face wrinkled and her eyes black. Her voice blazed with anger.

"Fool!" She screamed.

With a roar he grabbed her arms and threw her away. He stumbled back, clutching at the dagger. "Eve!" He howled, pulling the dagger out and throwing it at her. The world fell away into darkness.

He remembered.

"Wake up!" The sword called. "She's going to kill you!"

The knight awoke, laying on the ground. He wore his armor and his sword but felt blood gushing from his side. He pushed himself up, side spiking in pain. A shriek hurtled through the air and he saw her, dark and old, floating in the air. She looked as she had in the dream at the end, hair white, skin stretched and wrinkled, eyes oozing darkness. She raised a hand and fire flew from her fingertips.

The knight dove to the side, fireball exploding behind him. He ducked another and threw himself back from a third. His body, still weary, seemed slow to respond. He felt burns across his open skin.

Eve screamed and flew at him, fingers extended, claws reaching for him. He turned but too slow. She raked his face bloody. He hit the ground hard.

"Give up!" She screamed like a banshee. "Give up and live!"

"You couldn't forgive yourself, could you Eve?" The knight called out, standing up. "You couldn't ask for forgiveness for your sin. It's eaten at you all this time, turning you to this wretched thing."

Eve snarled like a beast, throwing another ball of flame.

The knight stood tall, open armed and let it strike his armor. It billowed around him but did not harm him, though the metal warmed up. He drew his sword as she threw another. The blade struck it and sent it back. She barely dodged the explosion.

"Let's kill the bitch," the sword said.

"For once, we agree," the knight said, taking steps forward. He ignored the pain in his side, the ache in his muscles and the sheer exhaustion he felt. He strove towards the witch.

Eve threw visions but he saw through them, she threw lies yet he saw truth. She summoned up beasts and he slew them.

He reached her. She looked tired, barely able to stand, arms raised but doing nothing. Her face sagged and her eyes were wide in fright. "You will not find what you seek! You will only find death!"

"Yield," he said. "And I will spare your life."

She smiled. "Never," she spat, eyes twinkling as if she knew something he didn't.

"Behind!" The sword called and the knight turned without questioning, swinging the sword.

The witch's head hit the ground and rolled as the body crumpled to dust. Darkness swirled around the knight and then dissipated, revealing a dark forest with a lone dirt path leading through it.

The knight walked the path. Blood left a trail behind him. He pulled off his breastplate and let it fall to the side of the path. The side of his shirt felt patchy with blood. He said nothing. The sword said nothing.

The man's breath caught at the sight of the gate. It stood, looming over him, its height above the trees of the forest. A dark wall extended from the gate in both directions as far as the eye could see. The gate itself was made of golden bars, bright and polished...No, that wasn't right. There were spots of rust here and there along the gate, the brightness dimmed in spots. Still, it was an impressive sight.

"We made it," the man said.

The sword said nothing.

He frowned as the two giant sides of the gate stood ajar, leaving a gap wide enough for him to fit through. He had expected it to be closed, to open at his touch...

"It's not for me to question," he whispered, stepping through the gate.

His feet faltered and he fell to his knees. The view shocked him. The ground looked ancient and dusty, nothing but old dirt and dead foliage. The trees stood tall but their limbs were bare. Many had fallen, not to an axe but to rot. Bones littered the earth. Bones of every kind of animal the man could think of. So many bones, all over. So much death.

A wail escaped him. Everything welled up and poured out. He clutched his bleeding side and fell, weeping. A cold wind blew but nothing in the Garden moved.

The man pushed himself to stand. He unsheathed his sword.

"Don't do this," the sword said.

"I have nothing left," the man said. He put the point of the blade against the left side of his chest and both hands on the grip. He thrust the sword into his heart and fell.

Eventually, all that was left was his bones, the only human bones in the whole Garden, and the sword, lying at the gate.  

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