Last year I entered the Felix Dennis Creative Writing Competition.
Although I didn’t win (for I didn’t receive a reply!) I very much enjoyed writing the short story below anyway. It was fun but I did feel very restricted in terms of the word limit so I’ve always wondered since then about writing something longer. As you may have seen in an earlier blog post where I wrote about my goals for 2017, I mentioned that I’d love to write a book and the short story was definitely the beginning of those thoughts that manifested into something bigger. So, I’ve decided to share my entry with you and would like to hear what you think about it (but positive criticism only please! haha.) I hope you enjoy reading it nonetheless.
***For All Time***
In a small, secluded town that sat in a valley, in-between the magical mountains, villagers celebrated the tenth anniversary of the non-stop rainfall. Every year, the celebration took place in the town centre where the same crowds mingled and the same, well-known mountain goblins performed their usual routine; for not a single person in town had aged a day since the rain began.
Not everybody in the town had joined in with the celebrations, however. In fact, many villagers didn’t like the sinister sense of déjà vu. Nevertheless, they continued to feign happiness because, for the tenth year running, not a single wrinkle had appeared on their smooth faces.
“But at what price?” an old man preached to the crowd, as an energetic young boy pushed past him.
“Sorry sir!” the boy shouted over his shoulder, waving apologetically. The boy’s soaking cap stuck to his head like an octopus sucker as the rain beat faster, so he sped on. His determined face was visible in the moonlight as he hurried down the long street towards the town centre.
“Where is this promised feast, Sedgwick?” the boy heard a familiar voice remark in his direction. He stopped abruptly and noticed a young lady who stood apart from the crowd, clutching an umbrella in one hand and a book in the other. “Mad rain this, isn’t it, son? There’s still no sign of the royal feast to take our mind off things either.” At that, he instantly recognised her; it was the bookshop owner’s wife. She had always treated him like the son she’d never had.
“Hello Mrs Lambert, ma’am,” he waved as he greeted her, “I wouldn’t be waiting in the wet if I were you. I’m afraid I bear bad news so I better get going and deliver this urgent message.”
As Mrs Lambert said goodbye he sighed and glanced away. The wind had picked up and he saw through a momentary gap in the waving banner, which was bearing 10 Years Conquerors of the Mountains and Not a Day Older, where he saw an arena. He also observed that the King and Queen were sat sheltered, on a roof covered stage, watching the show in the centre.
A thunderous shock ran through the boy and he sprang, like a salmon leaping out of the water. He dodged deep puddles in front of him and peeked over the deserted shop rooftops in their direction, sprinting three steps at a time to get to the entrance.
Not paying attention to what was ahead of him, Sedgwick collided with something hard. He was flung backwards. His arms outstretched behind him to break his fall. Splash! The boy landed in a heap, in a muddy puddle.
“Watch it kid,” grunted a stocky guard. “Can’t you see there’s a show on?” He scowled as he pointed toward the King and Queen. The boy looked past him and saw two mountain goblins fighting comically, gaily encouraged by the audience.
“Please sir, I have an urgent message for the King and Queen who need to know the terrible news,” the boy panted “and it can’t wait,” he added quickly, seeing the guard looking at him suspiciously.
“Forget it, boy,” the guard replied, “forget it or I’ll make you,” he repeated and gripped his longsword firmly in front of him; the blade winked menacingly in the moonlight.
The boy backed away cautiously, his soaked clothes clung tighter to his already sweating body as he did so. I don’t want to be flung into the dungeon but I have to find another way to deliver the message, he thought. I know; the back entrance… He sprinted up the street. He glanced back to see if he was being followed and he saw the guard gaping at the show again with a grimace.
As the boy reached the end of that particular street and turned the corner he saw how Mrs Lambert was being dragged away by two guards.
What was going on? Sedgwick thought, panicking. There were a few people on the street but nobody had taken notice of what was happening. So, hastily, he dashed after them.
Sedgwick was catching up with Mrs Lambert and the guards. He was only a few paces away when he saw the book she had held earlier. It lay flat on the wet floor so he hoisted it up. For that split second that he looked away to read its title, Mystical Metals in the Mountains, he lost them. Desperately, he scanned up and down the street for any sign of the guards. They must have gone into one of these empty shops, he thought as he flung himself to look into the closest window.
Finally, at the third window he saw that the guards sat Mrs Lambert down and then pointed their longsword at her as the blade illuminated the whole room with unbearable white light. The pounding rain above the shop stopped momentarily and the light vanished at the exact same time that the showering rain fell again. It was as if someone up in the clouds turned a tap off, then on again.
Blinded, the boy slipped over as he scrambled for the shop door, which swung open. The guards hobbled past him as the lady peered up into the night sky, shielding her eyes with her hands from the rain.
“Wonderful!” she remarked.
“Are you OK, ma’am?” the boy asked tentatively. “What just happened and where’s your umbrella?”
Mrs Lambert slowly turned her head, her striking grey eyes gazing at him.
“Thank you,” she said tenderly, taking the book that he had outstretched for her to take, “tell me, boy, what’s your name?”
“What have they done to you?” he blurted. “I mean, it’s Sedgwick. You should head home in case they come back.” He eyed the street again and added, “I must find a way into the arena…”
“Oh. When I was younger,” she stared dreamily, “I used to watch the show from under the stage. The King and Queen sat above me and they didn’t even know.”
“Wait! Do you still remember how to get under the stage?” exclaimed Sedgwick, happy to hear this revelation.
Without another word she took his hand and glided past the shops and into the darkness. He was whisked down several streets that he didn’t recognise and they reached a corner with a high fence beside them. She let go of his hand and knelt down to find a loose panel in the fence. She slid it sideways to make a big enough hole for the boy to climb through.
“Thank you, ma’am,” he said, climbing in. Mrs Lambert must have slid the panel back into its original place as her face had disappeared from view.
He continued on as the dampness surrounded him. The ground grazed his hands and knees as he struggled to reach the end of the tunnel. He knew he was where he needed to be because he heard loud cheers on the other side of the wooden wall. The rhythmic rain beat on the wooden surface above like a clock ticking off the seconds, so he hurried. He pressed his hands in front of
him and pushed as hard as he could. He had barely given a few nudges before the rotten wood gave way.
The boy stumbled forwards into the arena unseen. He was obscured in the shadows as the centre was illuminated with lanterns, where the goblins performed. Without hesitation, the boy looked up from where he stood and finally spotted the stage before him. He took a step back and then flung himself up onto it. Hauling himself up with ease, he sprinted to the King and Queen before the guards realised what he was up to.
The boy bowed, whispering into the King’s ear, who nodded. Taking a sideways glance at his wife, slowly, the King stood up to his full height and raised his hand for silence. The audience’s cheers died away and the goblins halted their performance.
“Villagers of the town in the valley…” the King boomed. Every head turned to stare at the unexpected announcement. “Today we celebrate ten years since we conquered the mountains, ten years since the rain began and didn’t stop and, of course, ten years of no ageing.” A few cheers could be heard from the audience, which died away quickly. “However, it is today that our fears have been confirmed. The last farm in town has flooded and we must empty the last remaining food stores to survive the week. We cannot carry on without food, so we must gather up our belongings and leave to find a new place in which to dwell. We need a home where the rain does not wash away our chances of survival.”
A roar erupted from the stands so the King waited for it to quieten before he continued.
“I understand that it may mean that we start ageing again, but it is a sacrifice we must make. Should I also remind you that we have not had the gift of birth for a whole decade? We cannot let our proud population die out. Everyone, go home now and gather your things. We will travel on the morrow and take our remaining supplies.”
“Noooo!” a shout was heard next to the stage.
Sedgwick swung round to see the same two guards he saw earlier. They were trying to push Mrs Lambert out of sight, behind the wall. Sedgwick hastily ran off the stage to help her fight the guards off.
“Please, your highness, you must read this,” she held up her dripping book as the pages shook in her hands. ”Please!” she repeated with an exhausted sigh, glancing at the guards reproachfully.
From the alarm in Mrs Lambert’s voice and her worried expression, the King swiftly reached from the stage and took the book, scanning the pages that she had opened for him.
Sedgwick forgot the crowd was there until anxious voices from the stands could be heard. Evidently, nobody left, too eager to hear what the King would say next.
“One particular magical metal in the mountains,” the King read aloud so that everybody could hear him, “can control time. It can stop time as well as make people forget periods of time through the illumination of light, which it radiates. Use with caution, side effects includes eternal youth, amnesia, barrenness and everlasting weather effects.”
“Wait! I saw the guards do that with their longswords… does that mean…?” Sedgwick swiped a longsword from the closest guard to him and yielded it upwards with both hands. He whacked it into the ground like he would an axe to chop wood at the farm. Slam! The sword crunched and cracked with a screech as it met the cobblestones. The rain stopped. A deafening silence fell.
Where the two guards once stood, two goblins grimaced.
“That’s right!” one of them howled. “Goblins only needed transforming potions and magic metal to stand up for selves. Goblins want village dead from starvation and with no children you are doomed. Leave now and leave our mountains to us.”
Panicked shouts from the crowds grew louder, so the King, who needed not to hear more, steadily stepped off the stage and hoisted the other longsword out of the second goblin’s hands.
“Looks like you need all of your swords to play with nature,” said the King sonorously, whilst pointing the longsword at their throats.
As the goblin stood motionless, several strong looking men from the crowd jumped down from their seats and seized them.
As the rain stopped for the first time in a decade, the villagers rejoiced, for they no longer had to leave their homes. Sedgwick grew into a man and was rewarded for his bravery by the royal family. With all mountain goblins found and captured and their magical metal destroyed, life was able to flourish once more, for all time.
Photo credit: Trichardsen on Devian Art