Jerak rested against the oak door. His legs shook from the long sprint. His captain stood nearby, pressing a hand to a fresh wound at his side. Deep red dripped down his polished armor. Alarm bells tolled overhead, muffled by how deep into the castle they’d run.
“Sir,” Jerak breathed. “We’ve run past our defenses in the courtyard. Surely our brothers could use the aid of Beneger the Brave. Why did we abandon them to guard this simple door?”
Beneger grimaced and pulled a broken spear-head from his wound. “By the time we got there, boy, our brothers would be dead.” His voice rattled as he spoke. “There was a prophecy when the prince was born. An ancient evil would consume the child before his first birthday. The king placed the boy under my care.” Beneger tossed the broken blade aside. “The King is dead. We’re here to protect the baby with our lives.”
Beneger pointed at the oak door. His voice took on a sharp tone. “No matter what happens, boy, nothing enters that room.”
Movement at the end of the hall drew their attention toward a band of short, scaly creatures. Drakkin. They screeched a battle cry and charged, brandishing sharp fangs and black spears.
Beneger grabbed a sword from a nearby armor stand and hurled it down the corridor. The blade skewered two of them, and they collapsed.
“See? They drop like wild pigs. Now raise your sword, boy. Time to protect your new King.”
Beneger withdrew near the oak door and unsheathed his blade.
Jerak drew his own sword, and stepped forward. The King is dead. His blade wobbled as he understood his responsibility. Yardmaster Kormund would’ve flipped a table had he seen Jerak’s sloppy stance.
The first creature clambered within striking distance. Jerak stepped forward and jerked his blade down. The quick sweep cleaved the Drakkin’s head from its body. Black liquid sprayed from its neck. The head mouthed a silent cry as it thumped against the stone floor.
Jerak leveled his blade at the approaching Drakkin, the blade point motionless. He squared his stance. Nothing enters this room.
The mass of creatures pressed forward. Jerak banished his fears and worked through the stances that Yardmaster Kormund had driven him to memorize.
Jerak’s arms felt heavy as the last Drakkin fell to the ground. He looked at his black-stained blade. “An hour ago, I thought Drakkin were children’s tales.” He kicked one of the bodies and bent down for a closer look. “But in the stories, weren’t they always accompanied by a Night Shrieker?”
Beneger replied with a gurgling sound. Jerak turned, and something slammed into his chest. He collapsed to the stone floor, clutching at a dagger between his ribs. A cloaked figure lifted Beneger off the ground and bit into his neck. Dark blood flowed down his armor.
A Night Shrieker.
Sharp pain coursed through Jerak’s body. He faltered as he tried to stand. The blade dug deep into his gut.
The Night Shrieker’s hooded face turned toward him and screeched a laugh.
“The child will die tonight, worm. You cannot stop the prophecy. The old gods awaken. Pathetic soldiers and simple doors won’t stand in my way.” The Night Shrieker turned toward the prince’s room, and hurled Beneger’s drained form, shattering the oak door.
Beneger’s final command roared in Jerak’s mind. Nothing enters this room.
Enraged, Jerak pushed through his pain and grabbed a piece of the broken door. He leapt onto the Night Shrieker, driving the splintered wood through its spine. It screeched in fury, flailing its long, sinewy arms. They tumbled to the stone floor in a bloody heap. Its final shriek echoed down the corridor.
Jerak teetered to his feet. Blood flowed from the knife wound. Beneger had charged him with protecting the infant king. He couldn’t let the darkness claim the baby.
Staggering into the room, Jerak stumbled over pieces of the broken door. He reached the crib and found it empty. A shriek pierced the quiet nursery. Jerak spun around to see Beneger standing in the doorway. Deep red holes marred his pale neck.
Beneger held the infant king in his arms, and smiled, revealing long pointed teeth.
Jerak picked up a shard of the broken door and faced his captain. Nothing enters this room.
Meet the Author
Josh R. Smith lives in rural Northeast Missouri with his wife and two children. He works as an IT technician by day, and is active in his local church. Josh wrote his first fantasy story in grade school, and has been creating speculative worlds ever since. Josh has recently been published several times in Splickety magazine. He even took first place in their Lost at Sea contest. Josh is currently exploring the world of publication and is working on his first full length novel. You can find more information on Josh and the stories he writes at www.joshthewriter.com.