The Shadow King

Happy Friday!

One sort of “resolution” for my blog was to share my own writing from time to time…so that is what I am doing! This is an older story of mine…maybe like from 1.5 years ago when I was 15, but I still wanted to share it because it is polished and well, finished. Can’t really say that about any other of my other writing projects…but anyways, if you want to critique it or give me feedback, don’t hesitate! Tell me you like it, tell me you hate it…whatever your heart contents.


 

Her cloak was a flashing torrent of black as she zipped through the forest. Gnarled roots twisted out of the ground, but the princess skipped over them with beads of sweat dripping down her face and thighs screaming of pain. Her blue nightgown caught on a root and she slammed into a tree trunk, gasping, pushing the hood of her cloak off of her inky curls. She dropped to her knees, exhaustion blurring the edges of her vision. Her eyes scanned around. The towering trees had swallowed her up, shielding her from the outside world with their bushy tops. When she looked over her shoulder there was no sign of her castle in the distance, its vine-twisted, cobblestone walls and candlelit windows now just a faint memory of bitter times.

A silver coin winked down at her from high up in the sky, sprinkles of gold-dusted around it. The moon. Had she been running for that long already? She looked around. Night had settled over the forest. It cast its thick shadows which danced in the small slivers of moonlight, and its crisp wind which swept through the leaves. Pinching her lips together, she pushed herself to her feet and wandered deeper into the forest. The princess’s shoulders tensed, her neck angled and grey eyes keen as they scanned around.

Crunch. She stopped, breath trapped in her chest and fingers halting mid twitch. Goosebumps sprouted along her arms as she took another step forward, the icy claw of fear seizing her throat.

Snap. Her heart leapt from her chest and onto the ground. She placed a hand over her gaping mouth. Past the darkness, something flailed from behind a tree, and a deep groan echoed throughout the forest. Fingers trembling and knees wobbling, she shuffled towards the tree, carefully skirting around it in a big arc. Behind it, a wedge of moonlight trickled down onto a pile of leaves. Something twitched on those leaves; a body angled oddly with a face concealed in the shadows of the night. The princess swallowed down the bulging lump in her throat.

“Hello?” she croaked and then cleared her throat, balling her hands into shaky fists. “Hello?” she called out again. A wheezy breath rattled in the lungs of the body at her feet. The princess grimaced. “Excuse me…are you okay?” Several heartbeats passed, and she was only answered by silence.

Help me,” a raspy voice hissed, and she whirled around, expecting to see someone lurking behind her but there was nothing. It was the lump on the leaves that spoke. She turned back around, her stomach flipping at the face which was now illuminated in the pale moonlight. It was the face of a young man with sickly skin so white traces of blue veins shone underneath, and dark streaks of blood and dirt were slashed across his cheeks. He blinked, his eyes a dull blue, like the sky before a rainstorm. The princess could tell his eyes were once a brilliant blue, maybe even like the ocean on a summer day, but now they were leeched of their colour and empty. His clothes were torn and tattered, and like his face, blood and dirt stained. Her eyes flicked down to his arms and legs, which had deep, bloody gashes carved into them. The princess looked away, fist pressed against her sealed lips.

“What happened to you?” she asked breathlessly. His blue eyes darted around nervously, and his skin was shiny with sweat. The princess’s heart twisted, and she reached down for his frail hand. It was ice cold and thin under hers. He glanced down at their hands, his entire body tremoring before relaxing.

“What happened to you?” She shook her head. “Who did this to you?”

“The…” he started, his voice hitching and his eyes wide. “The Shadow King.” The princess flew away from him like he had suddenly caught on fire, the blood slowly draining itself from her body. “I was a prisoner,” he continued, pulling his arms and legs to his chest, “for two years in his castle.” He shuddered, eyes fluttering shut as poisonous memories tainted his mind. A seed of uneasiness planted itself in her stomach, and she no longer felt as sympathetic for the young man as she did a few seconds ago.

“How did you escape?” she asked, shaking as that name rang inside her mind. The Shadow King. Her mother used to tell her stories of a king who lived underneath their land for centuries. An ambitious king made of darkness and shadows who was tired of living beneath the feet of humans. A king who was building up an army to take over the lands above. The only thing was that it wasn’t a story, but a fragment of history people chose to forget. Until now.

“He let me go,” the young man said, leaning over and coughing. A dark liquid blossomed on the ground next to him and the world tilted under the princess’s feet.

“The Shadow King doesn’t just…let people go,” she said as the young man rolled onto his back, sweat dribbling down his forehead and his chest heaving up and down. The princess bit her lip. “Tell me the truth.” The young man sighed and looked up at her through the corner of his eyes, defeat and exhaustion painted in grey all over his face.

“He-he let me go to-to,” he started, squeezing his eyes shut and grimacing. “T-to deliver a message to the King of Nordom.” The world around her faded, all noise becoming just a faint static in her ears. She shook her head, lips parted. What message would the Shadow King give to my father? What does this mean?

“What is it?” she asked, head snapping up as everything came back into focus. The young man stared blankly at her. She pushed the stray pieces of hair from her face and glared down at him. “I am princess Adelyn of Nordom,” she hissed viciously, startling him and herself. She had never known herself as the kind to hiss, or be vicious. The princess glanced away, shaking her head. “Just tell me. Please.”

“The Shadow King said,” the young man started slowly and hesitantly, licking his dry lips, “that the world will not end in a bang or a crash, but with one scream at a time…u-until there is nothing left,” he paused, lips shaping invisible words. In his lap, his fingers fiddled with each other. “A-and that end is the next Harvest moon.” The world was a carpet being yanked out beneath her feet. Her knees wobbled and she fell onto the forest floor. The next Harvest moon? That was only four days away! Her stomach flopped and flipped like a fish out of water as fear washed over her in monstrous waves, her skin clammy and chest tightening until no air was left. She dragged her eyes to the young man. He was suddenly still and unmoving. Pushing herself to her feet, she walked over to him, arms crossed over her chest as if to defend her from the bitterness of reality. He still didn’t move. Not even when a stick snapped under her foot, the sound echoing sharply throughout the forest.

“Young man?” she asked, bending down next to him and shaking him gently. No response. She leaned over him and gasped. His blue eyes were open and glassy, and he wasn’t blinking. Letting out a soft breath, she closed his eyes with her fingers before scrambling away and retching beside a tree trunk. Tears trickled down her cheeks in winding streams, sobs silent but stabbing pains in her chest. She stared up at the night sky.

The King’s message played over and over in her head. She realized what she had to do. Adelyn had to go back. She had to go home to her parents and warn her people, despite all the mistakes they made she still loved them.

It was only a matter if they would love her back.

Slowly she backed away from the dead body on the ground, and then spun around, breaking into a sprint. The tears continued to roll down her cheeks, the same words playing on a loop in her mind, inching her closer to the edge of insanity.

The world will not end with a bang or a crash, but with one scream at a time. Until there is nothing left.

Those words sounded insane, the product of one who sees ghosts and talks to the moon like she is a friend, but the princess gripped those words to her chest as she ran through the forest, cradling their power and hoping that it was all enough.

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