Well, this story is a bit random in I have no idea where it is going. I don't know if it's a series or just a simple one shot. It was just an idea that popped into my head and refused to leave until I wrote it, and I decided to post it.
What I do know is that this story is a present for the wonderful Crescent Moon Dancer, who inspired the Goddess in this story. :)
I hope you enjoy!
To him, his panicked breaths and pounding heart were the loudest sounds in the world. Muscles burned in his legs as he rushed through the wasteland that his kingdom had become. Dead plants cracked under his boots as he kept moving, forcing smoky and dry air into his burning lungs, anything to get his body to keep running.
His heartbeat was drowned out by the rush of leathery wings and the screams of the four creatures that pursued him. Their talons reached out and their fangs shone as their wings beat the sky, fully prepared to do what they were designed for.
To kill humans.
Their target, however, had other ideas… forcing his tired body to move and summon a stream of fire from his hands, he dove to the side, toasting the first creature and sending its writhing body to the dirt. Barely breaking stride, he seized a knife from under his cloak and let it fly, sending the blade deep into the second monster's throat.
As the beast screamed in pain, the remaining two increased their speed, taking advantage of every updraft… needing to kill their prey.
The man turned and hurled a rope attached to three iron hooks at the nearest creature, pulling it taunt as the hooks sheared through the wing. With a mighty cry, he heaved on the rope, ripping the hooks free and sending the wounded beast on a collision course with his friend.
He dragged his weapon behind him, struggling to move his exhausted body towards the downed creatures, drawing his favorite weapon.
A simple woodcutter's axe.
With a cry he brought it down, expending the last of his energy and ending the lives of the last beasts to chase him.
As he collapsed beside the corpses, a flash of irony pierced his mind… he'd ran for miles with barely any food, drink, or sleep, he'd left the bodies of dozens of his monstrous pursuers in his wake, and yet he had no idea where he was headed… just that he needed to get away from the hell his world had turned into.
But where was away?
Staggering to his feet, he kept walking, only getting a few feet away before collapsing again. He'd die here, despite fighting for so long…
He slipped into unconsciousness, unaware that the environment was shimmering around him.
The sun on his skin woke him, and as he stood up, his mind spun.
Sun? No, they took out the sun… a long time ago. He looked down, starting at the green grass and the fresh plant life. He could even hear animals…
"None of this is possible." He muttered, taking in the forest around him. His home had looked like this a long time ago… but it didn't look like the world he left behind. It looked like the paradise he could have had.
The sound of multiple footsteps broke him from his confusion, and suddenly ten women rushed out of the trees, their green armor blending in perfectly with the forest and showing off their muscles and fair skin. Their eyes bored into him fiercely and their hair blew in the wind, as their hands gripped arrows and javelins, all pointing at his heart.
He raised his hands slowly, not making a move towards his weapons…it wouldn't matter anyway. He'd rather meet his end in this paradise, than knowing he died back in his world.
The fair voice filled the grove, and the women lowered their weapons as the speaker came out of the woods.
She was a tall imposing figure, clad in a regal robe of green, her auburn hair resting over her back in a long braid, with flowers held in the thick curls. Her blue eyes shone as she walked on the dew covered grass, her bare feet making no sound as she observed the newcomer to her lands. The sun glinted off her silver crown, with decorations shaped like large leaves adorning it.
Her face held no anger or concern or curiosity, and her eyes remained locked on his as she opened her mouth and smiled softly.
"What brings you to my lands?" She asked in the same whisper.
"I was running and fighting… then I fell unconscious and woke up here." He answered, feeling sweat trickle down his neck, also realizing how ridiculous his story sounded to the women who were aiming weapons at him. "This isn't my realm."
"You cannot return to your home, but you are welcome to stay here… my maidens will watch over you." She waved her hand at the women, giving him a small smile before turning on her heel and walking away.
Dumbfounded, he reached out a hand to stop her, quickly retracting it as the weapons trained on him again. "Wait!" He said, coughing slightly as she turned back to him. "Who are you?"
"I am the Goddess of nature, and you are in my domain."
And with that, she was gone, and the maidens were pulling him away.
Over the next few days, the Goddess kept a careful eye on the newcomer, either through reports from her maidens or through the eyes of the various animals and birds that lived in her lands.
He had a schedule for her realm, which consisted of rising with the morning sun and running around the perimeter of the forest… which was well over three miles long. Then he'd go to an open field and train with every weapon imaginable, hurling bolts of magic at the sky and pushing his body into feats she'd only heard about, but never thought possible.
Then when he was done, he would sit on the field cross legged, and pull out a small flute. He would play the most soothing melodies, his eyes closed and his face serene as he manipulated each note and breath. Sometimes the animals would stop and listen, and watch him intently as he played… seeming nothing like the warrior from before.
It was before one of these performances that she walked over to him, moving slowly as he put his axe away.
"A place filled with women, a beautiful and tranquil wood, more than enough food and drink… many warriors would gladly call this place paradise, but you seem unhappy." She remarked, walking over to him "Yet you seem restless here… why?"
"Just in my blood," He remarked, pausing in his movements as he locked eyes with her. "Also, I never got your name."
"I am me, the Goddess of this realm. Why must you humans always assign names to forces you cannot control?" She asked, dodging his question. "If something unnatural that you do not understand happens, the first thing you do is assign it a name."
"It helps us understand what we can't" He answered, gesturing to the forest around him. "And helps us care about things. I bet you know the name of every tree and blade of grass in this forest."
"I do" She answered "Because they belong to me. I also know you should put your axe away, the trees do not like you with it out."
He chuckled and placed his axe where it belonged, grabbing his flute and sitting down as she studied it, watching him guide it to his lips and begin to play a melody.
The music seemed to carry along the winds as he played, wrapping around them like a blanket as she listened, letting it get under her skin and invade her senses. Every subtle change in volume or pitch caught and held her attention as she simply listened.
Cloud, deer, leaf, amber, soil, dance, flute, destiny, sky, autumn, rose, dew.
All the rules and responsibilities of being a Goddess simply faded away as she relaxed, watching his hands as they masterfully moved around the flute, coaxing the song from it as if the flute were playing him. The notes filled her head with a string of words, each one disappearing with the notes.
Until he finally blew out one final note and removed his lips from his instrument, letting the woods quiver in anticipation as he stood. "Hope that helps." He stood and placed the flute back in his bag stretching his arms in front of him.
"You may call me Rose if you want." She smiled, still in euphoria from the music, her soft voice barely registering in his ears over the sound of distant thunder.
Taking his hand she pulled him into the forest softly, "Come inside with me, out of the storm."
They made it to her simple hut just as the first drops of rain fell on the thatched roof, the drops soon becoming a gentle rainfall.
A fire crackled in the hearth as Rose walked over to him, sitting down and pressing a warm drink into his hands, before opening a book and idly flipping through the pages.
"My name is Robert, king of Govaria… or former king, now."
She put down her book and turned to him as he continued. "I ruled as one of the youngest kings when I was nineteen. Govaria was a large and rich kingdom, well loved and admired by all its neighbors and vassals, and I was a fair and just ruler. Times of war were brief and well fought, outnumbered by times of peace and prosperity… until they came."
Robert shuddered and his skin grew pale as he continued. "A portal opened up high above our land one day, far away from any Govarian province, but close enough to allied kingdoms to merit a response. I sent an army of two thousand men, elves, and beasts to investigate and support our allies… and after a week long journey, they arrived to witness the arrival."
"The portal spawned monsters, unlike any other beast I had seen. Monsters that could shred through armor and magic with no effort. Innumerable creatures and demons that struck fear into men's hearts and turned bountiful areas black with fire and disease, overwhelming us with sheer numbers. They didn't even have a leader to negotiate with or even attempt to dispose of, they only came to kill and burn us." He gripped his knees tightly "Finally I led my armies in one final attack on the portal itself, every person who could wield a weapon or use magic joined my army… and we carved our way to the portal in a desperate attempt to close it."
A single tear dripped down Robert's cheek as his voice dropped to almost nothing, and Rose had to strain to hear it.
The former king seemed to collapse inside himself as he shook his head. "I don't know why I was the only one left alive after the battle… but they captured the world in a few days afterward, and I was hunted down like an animal!" He growled. "Then I woke up here… in your realm… and I keep thinking all the pain will follow me here."
Rose lowered her head and gently placed a hand on his shoulder "Robert… you were dead when I found you. You were a worthy warrior in life, so I brought you to this paradise where you can live your life… surrounded by the solitude and beauty you craved but never received as a king."
Her other hand pressed on his chest, showing the gaping wound that ended his life. He stared at it softly, then back up into the Goddess's eyes. "I'm dead? Then if I'm dead why won't the pain go away… why do I still feel the unease of being hunted by those beasts?" He stared at her with growing unease. "Why do I still feel scared?"
Rose sat still for several seconds, cursing herself, because although she was a goddess and had power over all nature… she had no answers for him. "Lie down in my lap"
Her command, mixed with the sounds of the rain, and the warmth of the drink, produced a heavy-eyed miasma that caused him to obey. He rested his head on her legs and closed his eyes, soon falling asleep as she rested a hand on his head, smoothing back his hair as she closed her own eyes… reaching into his mind.
The scenes of his life played before her like the words from the music, and she watched each one intently.
His coronation at nineteen, the crown giving him a burden he shouldn't have borne until later in life.
The appearance of the portal, and his heavy hearted decision to send men into the unknown.
The battles with the demons and the fear of their armies and unstoppable magic's
The desperations of the decision to risk everything on one final attack.
The depression and shame of being the last person alive kept alive to be hunted and slaughtered at the discretion of the monsters that now ruled his home.
Rose took each memory and smoothed it out like she would do to the stems of her namesake. Roses had thorns and bad memories had jagged edges, true… but they didn't have to be so sharp. So she took the sharpest points of pain and crushed them, making sure they could never hurt him again. Taking away his warrior's instinct was impossible, but letting him relax wasn't.
She shushed him as he moaned and whimpered through the process, resisting the change to his memories, but she simply rubbed his arms and kept moving… until he lay in a dreamless sleep.
"Shh…" She smiled, happy that he was slowly going to accept his fate. He would soon learn there was no need for a warrior here, and he'd be okay without that side of him.
Now she had to grow a peacemaker out of the ashes of pain and loss that lay in his heart, and after all he'd been through, he deserved the rest.
And she had the time.
I hope you enjoyed this story! Like I said I have no idea if this will be a series or a one shot... so I'm marking it complete for now.\
Let me know if you want to see more of Robert and Rose, and thanks for reading!
As always please leave a review, feel free to check out my other works, and have a great day!