This is a short story of mine in the Fantasy genre, it's called Arowin's Return and I have entered it in the Sffworld's short story competition which is now taking votes. You can guess what I'd like from my readers! Yes, your vote!
So, first of all, if you have time, read the story:
The rasp of steel on whet-stone was the only sound as twilight fell. All was still. The very earth seemed to be holding its breath as it too realised the last battle was about to be fought.
Arowin had no preconceptions of victory. He knew that it would be just a matter of time before this last enclave of humanity would be over-run, and just as the day was ending, so too would be Man’s freedom in Demetaes. However, he took satisfaction in the fact that his stand on the final bridge before Moridunum would buy his wife and people time to reach the caves that would now be their last sanctuary, their last hope for survival. Perhaps from those caves a new dawn for Mankind would rise in some distant future. He would not be there to see it, but perhaps his bloodline would.
He smiled as he tested the sword’s edge. Blood from his thumb sprung deep red then flowed down his hand to the floor. It was if a signal had been given. Had they even smelled that drop of blood? For the quiet was disturbed by a sound. It was like the noise of locusts or crickets. The rub of chitin against chitin, magnified a hundred, no—a thousand fold. The Scarabi. They had breached the outer perimeter of humans. They had reached the ultimate bridge before Moridunum. They had found its final defender, Arowin and the old mage's sword. Gruffydd's sword.
With a sigh, he threw the whet-stone into the river, watching it spiral end over end before splashing and disappearing beneath the waters. Waters that would halt the advance of the Scarabi for the only way for them to proceed was through him.
“Let them come,” he said softly.
Gruffydd’s sword glimmered violet in the dying light as he reached into his pouch for the last potion. It would have to do. There were no others. He pulled the stopper out with his teeth and quaffed it down. It burned the back of his throat and warmed its way into his belly. The cut on his thumb healed up and he felt rejuvenated. The potion would heal him over a short period but not stop a mortal wound. At least it would buy him more time.
Movement out on the plain made him look up. Three men were running towards the bridge. Perhaps running is not the word as their wounds hampered any speed. Behind them the Scarabi appeared. Their vast numbers infested the plains… and the numbers grew. One man stumbled. The two stopped to raise him, and all three paid the penalty. Now they were within bow range and arrows peppered the ground around them.
Arowin sheathed his sword and lifted his longbow. He drew an arrow from its quiver. Raising the bow, he pulled the bowstring to his cheek and sighted on the nearest Scarabi. It was a shot of four hundred paces and the draw was the most the bow could give. His fingers let fly and the arrow sped out over the crouching men’s heads and straight into the throat of the leading Scarabi warrior. A cheer went up from the three who were now on their feet again. Arowin let fly another arrow and another Scarabi fell. Four more succumbed to his marksmanship before a spear caught the last man of the three and he fell mortally wounded. His comrades hesitated and any chance of them attaining the bridge was lost as the Scarabi charged. The men were ripped to shreds by the frenzied horde; Arowin dropped the bow, unsheathed the sword, and positioned himself at the foot of the bridge.
Red earth marked the spot where they had fallen. The Scarabi’s chittering stopped as they watched him. Suddenly the mob parted. A giant insect-like creature, larger than the normal Scarabi, strode forward. It bowed to him and took up a fighting stance. Arowin had no time for formalities and smiled back, beckoning their champion on. The horde produced a rhythmic sound as they once more rubbed chitin on chitin or snapped claw-like appendages. These warriors had no need of weapons. They were weapons. Arowin calmed his breathing, took a defensive stance, and waited. He didn’t wait long. The champion, with reputation at stake, screamed and charged. Its claws scythed at Arowin’s midriff but the man flowed aside, one foot behind the other, and swivelled as it thundered past. Gruffydd’s blade sang as it whipped through the air and cleaved the champion’s head from its shoulders. Green blood fountained up from the stubby neck as the body stumbled on a few feet and the head described a lazy arc over the bridge wall and into the waters beneath.
“If you see my stone down there be sure to tell me,” laughed Arowin.
The rhythm of the horde stopped. He whipped back around, held up the bloodied sword and shouted.
“Who is next?”
They all were…
It is said, days later, survivors approached the bridge in wonder at the dead Scarabi piled up at its entrance. Of their dispatcher there was no sign. None was expected. Scarabi left nothing. All that was found was a fragment of blade. A fragment that glimmered violet from a blade that was made never to remain broken.
Rumour arose that the Scarabi had deliberately destroyed the weapon somehow. For it was foretold it would regenerate its owner. A warrior would return. It was proclaimed that a nemesis, forged from the Scarabi's own fear, would lead men from their caverns and defeat them. So, the Scarabi, in their trepidation, made sure the sword shards were sent to the corners of Demetaes. To deep places, safe places where they were never to be found.
The Golden Age of Man was over. Devastation ruled the world. Myths and legends sprung up amongst humans. Some were remembered from generation to generation; some forgotten through time.
One legend remained… Gruffydd’s sword and the return of its owner, Arowin.
Well, if you enjoyed it then a vote would be appreciated:
Vote in circle number three Arowin's Return