One of our own has entered the fray! While he (along with myself) will not be considered for the $1000 prize, a read from Derek Thompson is a prize in and of itself. Known mostly for his spy novels, Ian Fleming could take a tip or two (I say that as a reverent James Bond fan. Please don’t send Daniel Craig to my house). Here, he dives into magical fantasy fiction with:
by Derek Thompson
For an hour, Errmoyne had sat, facing the altar where the stone Tablet rested. His patience was at an end; he traced the grooves of the pentagram with his index finger, moving it purposefully to focus his intent. If the Guardian wouldn’t come to him then he would cross the boundary by force of will and face it in its own domain. His mouth dried at the prospect and his own dread mocked him – the very thing that he sought above all else was that which terrified him: communion. He lifted his hand free and turned to each of the five candles that encompassed him within a ring of sacred fire. Then he took a final glance at the Tablet and treasured the image for fear that he might not live to see another. His breathing came under practised control, narrowing his awareness, and the world around him faded like a memory.
Pressure. So much pressure at his temples – a crushing darkness that propels him across the divide. There is no time or distance, only levels of consciousness traversed.
In the stillness that follows, patterns of reality shift to frame this higher world, colouring the terrain in muted shades of indigo and purple. A wall appears, the seamless stones defining the Guardian’s domain on this plane of reality. And, as Errmoyne’s awareness stabilises, a rainbow-arched gate emerges from the mist.
“Hosanna!” he cries, making a sign of invocation.
“Who calls me from the Realm of Shadows?”
“It is I, Errmoyne – Keeper of the Tablet.”
The Guardian approaches, magnificent and terrible. Swathes of energy shimmer behind it likem heroic wings; yet whether it is more angel or demon, Errmoyne cannot tell.
“Why have you come here, Keeper?”
He bows low. “For months now I have sought to be your servant, but you have denied me. Am I unrighteous? Have I lost my way?”
“The Way is as it has always been,” the Guardian proclaims, dulling its emanations for his benefit. “The Way is Sarrell and the path is founded upon sacrifice.”
“Yes, Master,” he trembles.
A gate opens and the Guardian bids him enter. Errmoyne crosses the threshold, gazing in wonder as exotic trees and fleeting, morphic creatures burst into colour and form. The Guardian leads him silently, allowing him to glimpse what he will.
They move to an ancient well, where the deep, dark waters touch some hidden part of the physical world, so that Errmoyne may discern the path that awaits him. At first all he sees is his own reflection, for the Gods are content to hide truth in the simplest of guises. Then he stares harder into those limpid eyes and a vision takes hold.
The Guardian stirs and myriad flickers of light bustle around it like attendant flames. They are the slumbering souls of the lost, trapped in this realm – awaiting the second death to another level of existence or rebirth to the one they left behind – as yet denied entry to the Holy City of Sarrell.
“The Enemy knows of my existence,” Errmoyne reveals with tempered conceit.
“You see clearly, Keeper. You must leave the life you have known.”
“And the Tablet?” he wavers, clinging to his role as if it alone sustains him.
“A successor will be chosen. So it has been, so shall it be again, until one who is righteous claims the Tablet and reveals its wisdom.”
Errmoyne kneels before the Guardian and confronts its hollow eyes in realisation. There is no room for compromise in the pattern of perfection.
“So shall it be,” he defers, humbled by a terrible acceptance. His awareness retreats, cascading back through levels of consciousness, crushed finally into the fragile form that he calls ‘life’.
Errmoyne shivered as he awoke. High above the fireplace a small curtain revealed two doors, each adorned with a painted eye. Bridging them was a rainbow, the symbolic gateway to Sarrell.
He stared up at those eyes for a long time and it seemed as if they shared his sorrow. The life that he knew and cherished was over – the Guardian had decreed it.
Heat and rage coursed through his body, sharpening his wits. He leapt up like a man possessed, running from room to room, grabbing belongings and hurling them into the grate.
Once he’d packed boxes around the base and topped the stack with his beloved books, he paused and breathed deeply.
“Burn! Burn!” he added paraffin in a final rite of observance. “Let every ounce of matter and every trace of spirit be banished from this temple!”
He ignited the pyre, watching as the flames spread to the painted doors and beyond. Then he moved swiftly from room to room, spraying fuel like blessings – every drop an aid to intent. He laughed at himself, the voice scornful and empty. The Enemy would still seek him out; he could already sense the shadow of their presence like the sickly breath of the stricken.
At the front door he tossed three matches behind him. Fire engulfed the space, ripping out the windows so quickly that he felt the heat as he ran. He navigated the alleyways blindly, changing direction at every turn until he reached a main street. Even there he felt echoes of the chaos and fought to shut it out of his mind. He slowed his pace, blending with the crowd. The good citizens of Tarsis City State passed by, unaware.
Once free of the Community Zone, he felt the first contact of his successor. Her mind called to him, invading his thoughts in its hunger. She was a Twiceborn – and she was waiting. For a moment he felt confused, paralysed by a lack of understanding, but it was futile: he had already glimpsed his destiny.
He snaked his way towards her, compelled by the instinct to protect the Tablet. Although the neighbourhood was unfamiliar, he could have found his way to her blindfolded. She had become his eyes now, guiding him, drawing him to her like a Siren.
* * * *
Derek is a British author of novels and short stories. He joined the A Word with You Press team for The Coffee Shop Chronicles Vol. 1, Oh the Places I have Bean! and just sorta stuck around. He’s also a short story writer and dabbles in comedy writing.
Looking for adventure? Look no further than Derek’s Amazon page!