EXCLUSIVE FICTION: "A Day for the Departed"

Updated: Nov 24, 2020

Intended to be enjoyed by children and adults of all ages, The Mighty Shall Rise is currently awaiting final revisions, before eventual submission to a major publishing house.

The following is an excerpt from "The Mighty Shall Rise" by Matthew Roland. It follows young Endurian Stonehelm who forges an alliance with the legendary warrior, Tyrelion Ivronwine, to retrieve the lost Sceptre of Nórn from the White Tower in a move that will have long-ranging consequences for all of Pergelion. Drawn into these events is the usurper, Ir-Murazôr, whose mere presence promises a long-awaited end to Endurian’s desperate search for answers. But the tormented Endurian is fighting a losing battle against a lifetime of guilt and terror, and his inevitable confrontation with Murazôr spells disaster of the worst kind.

A COLD WIND WHISPERED AND STREAMED through the still morning, softly brushing back the edges of the hood that was drawn close over the face of Eldaros Orgrim. A rocky ridge that guarded the mountain halls to his left stuck out of the mountainside like a row of bristling bruises, and not far beyond it rose a defiant stone arch that stood tall among the ruin surrounding it.

The arch framed a doorway into the mountain, wherein existed a motley collection of dilapidated halls that had for some time now, served to refuge a solitary group of Eragothian refugees. But now, the iron gates that had formerly barred that archway were twisted and broken: a crumbled ruin of melted steel and crushed iron ore.

Cloak flapping in the slight breeze whistling overhead, he made his way down a ridge and onto the field of battle, now long over. The keening of grieving mothers and spouses rent the still, dead air, as they bent over the bodies of their slain kinsmen.

Night had long since fallen when the last of their enemy had been vanquished and driven back into the hills. But there was no glory in that victory, for both forces, both Eragothian and Kursed had been nearly utterly destroyed, and the dead were beyond number or chance of reckoning. As he passed deeper into the places where the battle had raged the fiercest, Eldaros could not help but be overwhelmed at the sight of loss and despair that fraught everything about him.

But that, in truth, was why he was here. Eldaros had not taken part in the battle and had arrived but a little while before, striding the fields in search of someone he continued to hope beyond hope was still alive. When an hour of oppressive, fruitless searching brought nothing to light, he turned and made his way to the mountain halls and so passed under the archway and into the chamber within.

A wealth of bodies lay strewn about the grey stone, a literal sea of the dead. Stepping carefully forward, Eldaros made his way through the room, eyes searching for any sign of life.

“Heavens above,” he whispered, unable to help himself. “What happened here?”

“Murazôr,” said a voice, loud and clear. “Murazôr happened, that’s what.”

Young and brawny with a will nearly as strong as that of his late father, Urathane Ivronwine stepped over one of the slain upon the stone floor.

“Urathane?” said Eldaros. “Urathane Ivronwine?”

The younger man nodded, coming to a stop beside one of the bodies. “Aye. I am he. It has been a long time, Lord Eldaros.”

“Indeed, it has.”

Urathane bent low and turned the body over, eyes grim, almost dour. For a short moment, he stared at the face as of a close comrade, saying nothing. Then, he reached into his trouser-pocket, pulled out a small, ornate knife, and placed it into the open hand of the corpse, closing the fingers about it at the breast.

“May you rest in peace, brother,” he whispered softly. With a small sigh, he stood to his feet.

“A friend of yours?” asked Eldaros.

Urathane’s eyes were hard. “Aye.”

“I’m sorry.”

“He’s not the only one.”

Urathane strode past him to look at another body. Several more refugees trailed behind him, some limping, hair matted in various fashions, and hands clutching an odd assortment of weapons.

“We are the last ones, us seven,” said Urathane, still not looking to Eldaros. He knelt over the body of yet another numbered amongst the many fallen. “They came out of nowhere, the Hosts of Hell themselves. We sent the weak away to safety: the women…the children…the old and lame…

“We who could fight stayed behind so that the others might stand a chance of escape. Us few, we are all that are left.” For the first time, Urathane’s mask fell, betraying his utter weariness. “We have fallen far from renown. It deeply grieves me to see how our people have been reduced to so mean a state in so little a time. Once...once, our reign was glorious. Once, we were reckoned mighty in the eyes of lesser men. But now...now we are nothing.”

“So it would seem.”

Urathane raised an eyebrow. “You think otherwise?”

For a time, Eldaros did not reply, choosing instead to look out past the wrecked gates and into the sunlit lands beyond. At length, he spoke. “The very fact that Murazôr continues to harry us so, tells me that we are something. Still, it seems, even after so many winters, does he consider us a threat to his overriding ambition.”

“More of a nuisance, really.”

“No, Urathane, a threat.” He laughed quietly to himself. “For all he does, Murazôr can never wholly extinguish that strain of blood inherited from our forefathers unless he were to slaughter us all—to the very last Eragothian. He may say otherwise, but deep within the twisted confines of his mind, Murazôr fears us. As well he should; for to underestimate the tenacity of those imbrued with Eldamár’s bloodline is to act in folly. And it is this one thing which gives me hope, small though that may be.”

“He is close then, very close. If the Dark King is not thwarted, the flame of our house will be extinguished: a mere memory of what once was, and a story parents tell their children to warn them of the dangers of arrogance. The arrogance that men can rise above the trials of this world and stand, weak as we are, in defiance of an overwhelming darkness.”

“Yes,” Eldaros said softly. “Yes, he is close.”

“Why then are we destitute?” cried the other man. “Why are so many of our kin content to linger in the shadows, so afraid to stand: afraid to do what is right and true in spite of the consequence, whatever that may be? Why are so few of us disinclined to stand aside and accede to a law laid upon us all to our detriment?” Urathane looked away, features contorted with anger and despair.

Eldaros breathed a soft sigh and turned from the view to face Urathane. “Yes, the question of our time. Hear me well, Urathane, for I too, have shared in your disheartenment. Why do our kindred stand aside and let be, you ask? Because we are without a home.”

Urathane frowned, seeming taken aback by Eldaros’s declaration. “A home? This is…was our home.”

“Nay, it is not so! This, home? This is not your home. It never was. Home, I think, is an expression of who we are. It is a comforting agent, the chief emissary betokening our very identity as a people. And when one is rendered void of their identity by fate's guiding hand, such a person can only live his or her life without any true sense of purpose.

“We are divided, Urathane: leaderless, and bereft of all sustainable spirit. Like chaff before the winds of the world, we have been scattered far and wide: a people without peace or security to avail us of our many enemies, who would prey upon us like wolves among sheep. But I would not have us live out our lives like this, bereft of home and hearth, and raped of our will to strive for better days! Let that not ever be! I would see us under one banner, restored to our rightful place in this world, as we were of old.”

“Noble words and you almost give me reason to hope. But this vision you speak of can never be. That hope was wrested from us long ago, and I do not think it shall be ever recovered in all our waking days.”

“And with such words, you lend credence to the actions of the very one whom you lamented only a little while ago.” Eldaros shook his head and took a step forward, eyes forcing Urathane to acknowledge the truth of his words. “Have you ever once supposed that this might be precisely what Murazôr wishes you to believe?”

Urathane’s eyes dropped, troubled.

“He fears us, as well he should. So he cudgels our people with sword and spear, slaughters the strong amongst us, using our very despair as a hutch to trammel our assurance, a ploy wrought to utterly divest us of what hopes and dreams we may have once harboured: all with the intent of telling us there is no hope.” He was quiet for a time, allowing his words to take their intended effect on Urathane, then began again. “No one is saying that attempting something akin to what I am now proposing will be amenable to our spirits. Far from it! Do not let me deceive you, unwittingly, for there will assuredly be pain. There will be bitter heartbreak. And yes, there will also be death; the lives of those friends and loved ones yet remaining to us will never hang so precipitously in the balance. But more will die if we suffer the Dark King to exercise his uttermost desire without fear of consequence. Remember it well, Urathane, that all great things start out small in the beginning. Yet, in the end, it is the little things that will shape the fullness of time.

“Your kinsman, Lord Tyrelion, sent me thither to find you, and if I might, enlist your services for our common aim. He bade me tell you that our exile is over and that at long last, the time for retribution and recompense is come. And even now, Tyrelion makes his move, drawing others such as yourself to his side for one, last stand against the Dark King. The summons has been sent; the time is now come to right those wrongs performed against our houses, and we will have our revenge.

“Will you, Urathane Ivronwine, wilfully ally with us in this endeavour? Will you be united with our selfsame vision to reclaim our homeland of old from those who would durst lay claim to it? Will you disavow your former life of errancy to wrest back control of that which is ours by right, and thus free our people from the same bondage and despair which has held you captive, until such a time as this?” In token of his plea, Eldaros held out his hand to the stooping Urathane.

“Can you promise me that you have a plan? That we stand even a small chance of attaining to such heights? That this is more than an ill-wrought quest for glory? It would be beyond cruel to offer hope to the despondent, only to snatch it away at the very last moment.”

“I can, and I will. This, I promise you, Urathane Ivronwine. We have a plan, a purpose, and the will to see it through to the very end and mark my words—we will see it through no matter the cost.”

At that moment, a savage snarl issued through the room. Beyond them, at the far end of the hall, a Kursed appeared, bleeding and dragging a shattered leg behind it.

Urathane whirled about on his knees, knife in hand, and hurled it at the creature, dropping it to the ground dead. Then, without skipping a beat, he accepted Eldaros’s outstretched hand, a determined look on his face.

“Well then, let’s see this through.”

“You know what to do,” said Eldaros, already striding away. “Gather our people, marshal what forces you can find that yet remain, and prepare.”

“Prepare for what?”

“For war,” Eldaros answered. “For this, most assuredly, is a war.”

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