Redemption

Redemption is a short that I wrote about 3 years ago now. As everything does, my writing has evolved since then, but even at an early stage I wanted to try and capture the despondency of the main character.

Redemption 
The wind rolled down the valley and the fern trees swayed to and fro in tandem with each other.
Snow plastered wind-swept hair to his face, as a bolt of lightning casts a silhouette of his solitary figure on the rock face nearby. Only seventeen years of age and already a formidable size, he had powered through all the challenges set before him in training. With apparent ease he’d overcome all the obstacles that m on the journey here, relying on the resilience of youth, natural athleticism and the sheer belief and courage of the immortal young. The blood of his ancestors flowed through him and the power of the covenant was strong and pure, resounding with conviction, pushing him to his target with a dogged determination.
Thundering down,the storm carried on around him,  his cloak flapping around his legs in the wind. The only respite would be in the cavern, and he stared at the dead trees framing the entrance with their clawing limbs, reaching outwards and up into the sky.

Easing his sword in its sheath, Finnbarr tested each and every knife in his baldric to ensure that he would have no problems.The cold tended to cause  weapons to stick, when he would need them most.

The snow crunched beneath his feet as he shifted his balance studying the exit for any signs of movement. The import of the ensuing battle weighed heavily on the broad shoulders of the youth, the accumulation of 10 years training leading to this confrontation.

Here’s where it ended, here’s where the death and the suffering on Eosia stopped.
Here was where the nightmare finished and the future began.
Here he would fulfill his promise and finish off what his father had started two years before.

Revenge burned brightly in his heart coupled with purpose, he could carry on the legacy, and banish the demons of man.
Icy crystal’s of  fresh snow sparkled and glittered as clouds emptied their load, blanketing the land anew with their wintry embrace. Shrugging his shoulders to hitch his pack further up his back he moved towards the entrance, boots crunching the ground beneath him. The ferns framing the entrance to the cavern arced out to create a canopy allowing a moment’s respite from the falling snow.
Pushing his hair back into the Kadori, the woven braid of horsehair that kept his warriors tail in shape, he watched the entrance, eagle-eyed for a last time before he ventured within. The crest of his forefather’s, a wolf and a bear side by side was stitched into his cloak,and embossed on his leather chest guard. All the guile of the wolf would be needed tonight along with the strength of the bear. And the ferocity of both.
Under the trees sheltering embrace he swiftly sparked the pitch covered torch that hung by his side with a flint and waited until the flames caught. Once lit the wind coaxed the flames to dance and spit, casting shadows on the floor beneath his feet.
Every inch he moved took him closer to his goal, but each step had to be measured now, caution was key.
Sure in his own prowess he steadily walked forward, feeling his way in the dark with the paltry light from the torch. It’s flames cast an eerie glow around his face as he moved forward and as the darkness swallowed him and he disappeared from sight.

…………………………..

Darkness claimed and consumed him,  serving him up as his old life ended. His screams pierced the air and he woke from his nightmares bolt upright, eyes blurring blinking rapidly as he is jerked into the present.
Pain exploded in his head as he tried to take stock of where he was. The stump of tree pressed against his head as he reached up and attempted to locate the source of pain. Blood mingled with sweat rank and unclean clung to his fingers where he felt an open cut.

It had happened again, the dream and the sleep walking. Somehow he was in front of the cave again, having gone to sleep in the back of an alley.
The morning light dappled as it slowly defeated the shadows. Shivering he pushed himself up on to his feet, swaying slightly and tried to ignore the blinding pain at the back of his skull.

It had been fifteen years since he’d been here. It had been fifteen years since he’d heard that cry. Since he had smelt the sulfurous air burning his nostrils, felt his hair singeing, his eyes watering, his limbs trembling in terror wanting to flee.    Finbarr had endured fifteen of the longest years imaginable ,cursed and  outcast, despised and alone.

Having had to eek out a living, surviving on nothing but a pittance, reviled, deprived of even the basest human comforts, he had suffered.  Always he was plagued by thoughts and whispers, dreams and shadows. Always he felt deep inside that he lived a lie, a cowards life, a half-life… .
For so long now,  he had been a shadow of his former self, that golden warrior young fresh,  brave and confident. Instead he had replaced his past self with a diseased copy, that ate him up inside.

His legs felt like lead and his throat was dry. Hands trembling he took a long deep swallow from the water flask hanging by his side.

Once he had been a proud descendant of the Idike, strong and respected. Time had worked its magic on him and now he felt cowardly weak, broken and old.

A powerful body of sinew and muscle had once stood where he was, and was now replaced by a withered and bent figure, back crooked, shoulders hunched,an air of a solid warrior gone to seed. The prime of his life had flashed before him, his hair once golden, was now grey and lank. Eyes that once were clear and blue ,were now lined and wrinkled…. lifeless.
Pushing his hair back from his eyes he sheltered beneath the fern trees as the rain beat down relentlessly soaking his clothes to skin.
The crest of his forefathers was still with him, the only piece left from the cloak he’d worn fifteen years ago, wrapped in a scrap of linen, tucked in his shirt.          His father’s leather chest guard had been sold a long time ago and his threadbare shirt did little to prevent the cold from penetrating his bones. There he stood shaking from the cold, from the terror, from fatigue.

Climbing up the valley was dangerous in the light and he shivered at the thought of attempting it asleep.  It had been fifteen bitter and twisted years since he had betrayed himself, betrayed his purpose, his quest and sold his soul in that very cave.
……………..
“Beware the silvery tongue of the shadow, for it can speak more smoothly than a bard and pierce your very being.” His father had warned.
The promises of fame and wealth had come to nothing, Oh there had been parades and feasts and celebrations at first and Finnbarr had been on top of the mountain lauded by all. But that had quickly passed and a drought had replaced the deluge, ridicule had followed  the praise to the point where he was now a pariah shunned by all. Daemonson they called him for he had defeated the spirits in the cave and taken their good luck, taken their fortunes. Forgotten were the pleas to avenge the families that had been spirited away, the promises of riches. If he had killed the demon fifteen years ago who knows what would have happened. But it had been too strong, too fast, its will indomitable, its guile razor-sharp as it had sliced away his resolve. It had been easier to listen to the incessant whispering’s as the agreement had been proposed. Fifteen years ago he had walked through caves and come upon the lair, only to find no monster only a creature, bright and strong, beautiful and shining.

“Go back take a trophy of your success.  Say that you have defeated me and I will leave them in peace.” The monster had said whispering in his ear its shimmering glow coiling around his body holding him fast.
“You will be remembered for all time and people will flock to see you.” It had said seductively stroking his chest.

The smell of sulphur had been replaced by a perfume that invaded his senses dulled his resolve.

“I have come to defeat a monster but I see none.” he said as the glamour caught hold of him.

“But how do I know you will honor the agreement.” He’d asked.

“How do I know if you will honor our agreement young warrior.” It had hissed. “

“We will make our agreement binding. We need a contract of sorts. I will stop hunting when my lands are entered and you will return and say that I am dead. Secondly I will give you the fame and recognition you desire and with it will come all the trappings that you deserve. But you must give me a small thing in return. So small, that you won’t miss them it. Something that will only get in the way of your new life.”
It had sounded so reasonable.

“What do you want? Tell me and you shall have It.” His voice had spoken before he’d realized, suddenly hoarse.

“Just a small thing young warrior, it won’t be missed, no not at all.” It had purred so coaxingly.

“Tell me then. Tell me and you shall have it.” Finnbarr had nearly shouted.

“It won’t be missed, oh no it wont. What I will have is you.” The demon had said smoothly.

“Me? What? What do you mean?” he’d asked confused, doubt gnawing at him. ‘What was he doing?’ The glamour  faltered momentarily.

He remembered his fingers caressing his sword hilt still safe in its sheath its blade silent. A blade that should have been lodged in the monster’s throat by now, draining away its lifeblood. It had been close enough for him to strike and still he had hesitated, waiting.

“The essence of you is your pride, your belief. Has it helped you at all? Or does it get in the way when you should keep good counsel? Is it right to be proud and desire what is not yours? The Covenant your ancestors swore to no longer binds you. Don’t you know each promise, each contract and indenture only lasts a few generations. Your great Grandfather, and his son, and his son after that, were held by the false lies, but you are not held by the ties, or protected. You are stronger and weaker too. ” The Demons words had wrapped around him striping away his questions.

“I wish no harm to you or your cause. Just for you to turn away. Turn away from all the forced servitude you endure and live your life. Turn away from here and let an old woman live out her years.” the figure uncoiled itself and glided back into the shadows strands of hair sticking from its head in clumps.

A beautiful clawed finger pointed to a quill and parchment on a table in the corner.

“Come.” It had said. “Come and sign your name and all that you want will be yours. We are on the same side you and I. The strong will always triumph and the weak will suffer but others make you weak and purpose cloudy. You will still be yourself do not worry about that.”

The pen was pushed into his hand and he found himself looking at it. Long and heavy the length was scaled and pitted and the tip a dull red and blunt. A coppery glow enveloped his hand as he pushed the pen forward towards the paper. If the Covenant didn’t include him then without its protection he was vulnerable. Without the covenant’s all consuming mission he was free to explore and see the World.

“Where is the ink.”? He asked nervously licking his lips. The air was dry and charged with energy.

“This pen needs no ink young master it writes from the heart. See there I have already signed it for my part of the agreement.” It had spoken softly hanging over his shoulder, waiting for the moment.

The blunt nib of the pen scratched onto the paper and his heart burst into flames, his screams pierced the air and the darkness consumed him.

Flick………………

Screaming loudly he dragged himself out of the dream, sweat clinging to him like morning dew on a flower. Feverishly he got up off the ground outside the cavern where he had drifted off again.

Under the trees sheltering embrace he swiftly sparked the pitch covered torch that hung by his side with a flint and waited until the flames caught. Once lit the wind coaxed the flames to dance and spit, casting shadows on the floor beneath his feet.
Every inch he moved took him closer to his goal, but each step had to be measured now, caution was key.
Sure in his own prowess he steadily walked forward, feeling his way in the dark with the paltry light from the torch. It’s flames cast an eerie glow around his face as he moved forward and as the darkness swallowed him and he disappeared from sight.

And it started again.

Neil Sehmbhy is a an author who lives in a town that likes to think of itself as a city. Author of the forthcoming Corporation, Jinx and Sunder novels, you can follow him on Twitter @NeilSehmbhy
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