FIRST LINE: The opposite of a hospice? Not a maternity ward or a NICU. It’s a trick question.
SUMMARY: “A twisting story of love and deceit: an American man vanishes on a rural road in Vietnam, and his girlfriend, an emergency room doctor trained to ask questions, follows a path that leads her home to the very hospital where they met.” (New York Times)
The main character, Alexis, is an ER doctor who meets her boyfriend,
Austin, for the first time in the emergency room on a Saturday night
with a bullet wound. Austin also works at the hospital in the research
department. Six months later the two of them
take a bike tour to Vietnam where Austin wanted to pay respects to the
place where his father and uncle fought in the war. Austin vanishes into
thin air. The webs of deceit begin to unravel.
When Alexis returns home to the emergency room in New York, she is unsettled by Austin’s death. She becomes an amateur detective and recruits a private investigator/ex-cop to help her uncover many lies about Austin and the work he was involved in. Rat research labs are discovered in Alexis’ hospital and in Vietnam to create a species of rat that can carry the plague world-wide.
MY THOUGHTS: I wasn’t sure where the book was going after the first 100 pages. Then the twists and suspense began. I couldn’t believe I was reading a book about research being done to create a plague during this time of COVID. The development of the rat research is a big part of the story; but the story is also about friendship and the connections that people make with others.
Sydney is a 9th grade student who participated in the Bad Guy Writing Challenge in April 2020. She completed an epic, 13,000 word novella set in a bleak, fantasy wood where a dark assassin struggles with his inner purpose.
Enjoy Sydney’s story below!
No one wondered what happened to me, for they all knew my
story. No beast dared to threaten me, for they knew I’d slay it. Nothing in
this dark, cold world could care for me, for I once cared too much and now,
what I loved is gone. The savage fire inside my heart could never dwindle by
any form of love or care, for I knew it no more. People say keep your friends
close but your enemies closer, well I only have one friend and one enemy, and
they happened to be the same person. The darkness was my friend and my enemy.
I only knew the dark, he was my friend and my closest ally.
Yet I hated him with all my gut, he was my most feared enemy. What strange kind
of a man is like this you might ask? Well, I can assure you, I am no man. I
know not who I am, but I am not human.
I say this because the once warm feeling of emotion swirled
inside of my chest, I was once proud and full valor and then I was left with nothing.
Something happened to me and it destroyed me. I had no pride and valor, instead
I was left with an empty hole in my soul and a crack in my heart. No man could
go on forever with such an empty vessel, so I had to fill myself with something
I found no happiness in life and seeing people smile, no
love could revive my heart and soul, I knew that good and well, for I had tried
to replace that feeling yet failed. I’d nearly given up on all hope of becoming
my old human self again, when a light was shed on my situation. Only, there was
no light, there was no happy ending or sunset, instead I found darkness and
How strange you might think, is this ‘man’ even a real thing
you ask? Yes, he is very much a real thing, for I know him like a brother. Now,
the darkness was simply dark. Just black like a void to nowhere, yet one man’s
trash is another man’s treasure. I’d hit the goldmine with this new,
In the dark, no one can see anything, not even one’s own
hand. It will hide you from the others, it shall protect you and keep you safe so
that no one can judge you or expose you. I found peace in this—I was hidden
from the outside world where I could be alone and safe. However, the darkness
also prevents you from seeing yourself. You can’t watch yourself become a
monster, nor can you stop it. It hides what’s growing inside of you. Over time
you get so used to it, that you don’t even know what’s happening to yourself.
It will consume you. This I feared—for I could no longer know what I was or
what I could do in the blink of an eye.
Some would describe me as a mad man, others a drunk, I say
I’m neither of those, or any name one could call me. I was no man or beast, no
storm or sea. What am I? I am the dark. A powerful being that’s strong enough
to save you and powerful enough to destroy you.
I wondered the snow bitten forest in the middle of the cold
winter’s night. The moonlight broke through the bare trees casting long shadows
in the crunchy snow. My skin was cold to the touch, as cold as the snow some
described, yet I hardly noticed it. I enjoyed the numb, lifeless feeling
crawling inside my bones. The way my blood hardly flowed inside of me was how I
was living in this very moment. I thrived off of the cold, dark feeling of
I could see my breath in the air, it came out like dragon
smoke and then it vanished into the night. My stallion let out a snort and his
ears twitched as he trotted through the bloody snow. For a moment he was
hesitant to move but with a gentle touch of my heel he moved forward past the
There weren’t many of them, not enough to completely ‘ruin’
the forest floor. Their dark red blood stained the fresh mountain snow. Oh, it
was a beautiful sight, I loved it. For these people were no help to me, and I
was of no help to them, thus their deaths were inevitable.
They were merchants and traders coming in a caravan from the southeast, they’d gotten lost here in the northern woodland trying to get the big cities just beyond this forest, yet very few knew how to navigate through them, most got lost and needed help. I don’t desire to help anyone unless I need one of their skills to help me for my own well-being, but that was rare. I possessed nearly every skill I needed to survive on my own in this wasteland. Very rarely did I seek an acquaintance to help me gain something I did not already have.
Most sensible men, with a normal mind set, would have tried
to help these men in exchange for gold, not me though. People who’d see me this
way would say I was psychotic, not right in the mind, and I very much agree
with them, so I’d kill them too. I killed these men for pleasure, for it filled
the emptiness in my heart and fueled the life of my soul.
The crimson liquid that covered the snow was splattered and
pooling everywhere. A heavy snow fall was coming down just as I was leaving,
the white flakes soaked into the blood, soon there’d be a lighter red puddle of
mushy snow and bloody lumps all covered in a thick snow all over the forest
My work was done for the day, I’d spared these people from
freezing and dying alone in the woods, with no assurance that their wives and
children would be taken care of. For the day I’d killed four of them, these
four were scouts from there caravan trying to find help. I assured those four
men that I would help them, and I most certainly did. I might have been in the
middle of the process of helping them, but I was doing what I promised them.
I’d killed those four now off to find their caravan and kill the rest of those helpless souls. I was being merciful if you ask me, for no help would come from me therefore no help would come to them at all, it was only reasonable that I do this. I was showing them the mercy that I never received.
The wind had picked up since I’d departed from the four
scouts’ bodies. I was perhaps thirty minuet’s due south of them. The poor fools
told me right where their caravan was. If they were smarter, they wouldn’t have
trusted me so easily. Most people don’t trust a strange rider in the northern
woodlands. For these lands are strange and wild, so little is known about them.
Though the forest is dark and unknown to my misfortune not
all people who live here are as dark as I am. There are a few rangers who roam,
they’re no more dangerous than I am, yet there no less smart. They are like me,
but I am not like them. They keep to the shadows away from the world, trying to
perhaps runaway from there past life, yet they’re barely able to stay afloat in
the light, unlike me who completely submerged myself in the darkness.
There is one of these rangers who I am not particularly fond
of—I’m not fond of any of them but this one gets on my nerves—He goes by the
name of Vidarr. Most of us who roam the woodlands have encountered him more than
once. He’s strange like the rest of us, for he wonders without a purpose and he
thrives for no known reason, but he’s rather spirited.
For a ranger such as himself he keeps an optimistic
attitude. For the times that I’d been watching him he seemed so hopeful. He was
kind natured towards the animals, and he didn’t enjoy killing them, but he did
to satisfy his hunger. He didn’t track of hunt for sport, and the thing I didn’t
understand the most about him was how he ‘helped’ others.
I’d watched him before, and the few people we have wondering
in the forest he helped. Whether it be day or night, summer of winter he set
aside his own time to show compassion towards pathetic and weak souls who’d
gotten lost in this wasteland. I couldn’t understand why he was this way, for
people who come here, come here to leave their life behind, but he seemingly
Vidarr and I had encountered two times before. The first
time he happened to look at the right place and the right time, he saw me lurking
around in the woods. I was trying to spy on him and getting to know my new
enemy. He spotted me so I bolted away. To my surprise he didn’t follow me,
however, I picked up that he was a curious creature and he did want to follow
but he stayed put.
The second time I encountered this young man, he and I ran
into each other by the river to the east. I’d gone there to water my horse and
sure enough he was there too. I desired to track him down and slaughter him,
but he barely slipped away by climbing a steep ridge. He however didn’t escape
without a scratch.
To my displeasure, he got away, but our quarrel was far from
over. For any man of no use to me was surely no use to anyone at all, therefore
the reaper would be coming to collect Vidarr’s soul soon enough. I intended to
kill this bright, unique ranger as I did any man or beast I encountered.
Riding swiftly through the forest I soon discovered lightly
dusted over foot tracks, roaming the area. The caravan was close. Keeping a
sharp eye out and an even sharper ear I watched and listened for anything signs
To my pleasure I heard the sound of horses whinnying and
snorting towards my own steed. He gave no response, for I trained him better
than that. We went quietly, slowly gaining ground and getting closer to the
Then I saw smoke rising in the wind and I could smell the
fiery sent as well. I could see the silhouette of people sitting around a large
fire, bundled up with heavy blankets and clothes. They were so far, unaware of
my presence. I could see their horses tied up a fair amount of distance away
from the people, and there were a few well sized carts next to them. These were
a very poor people coming from the southeast, probably wanting to get a better
life for themselves, that dream certainly wouldn’t last long.
I rested my hand on the cold hilt of my sword. There was a
small crust of frost over it, and the icy feeling it made my adrenaline rush. Slipping
off my dapple-grey horse I silently stalked up towards the people. I was like
the darkness following up on a sunset, unexpected, fast and if you aren’t
There was a particularly young female sitting by the fire,
and she faced me. I saw her look up and I saw the panic in her face. That’s
when I drew my blade. The sound of the metal scrapping against its sheath made
them all look up at me. There were a few slightly older men around the fire,
not well worn but older then the scouts that I’d killed, I saw the fear flash
in their eyes as they too jumped up and started ordering the women and children
to run while drawing their swords.
I was nearly upon them, but I saw something move out of the
corner of my eye. I quick movement that was of a human. Not to mention I saw
one of the men looking behind me, not directly at me. Someone was behind me. To
my knowledge this person had a bow, and probably a sword handy. For I heard something
drop, perhaps firewood, and the stretching sound of a tight string getting
I small smile crept up on my face, and I lowered my sword
ever so slightly, turning my head I could see the figure out of the corner of
my eyes. He looked different from the rest of these men. He was taller and
younger. He wore a thick brown cloak and there was a hood covering his eyes. A
filthy ranger just stumbled across me and my day. Perfect.
‘’Are you going to shoot or what?’’ I taunted, my voice was
deep and calm. ‘’I don’t have all day.’’
‘’Why don’t you just leave, get your horse and go and
perhaps I will consider sparing your life.’’ He was young from the sounds of
it, younger than what I’d thought.
A deep hum of amusement burned in my throat. ‘’Do you really
want to do this?’’ I asked. ‘’I don’t take kindly to strangers—‘’ I eyed the
four men in front of me. ‘’And I don’t spare them either.’’ I warned.
‘’This is your final chance!’’ He snarled. ‘’Leave or get an
arrow through the heart.’’ He growled.
‘’I think I’ll take my chances.’’ Then suddenly barrel
rolling forward and I sprang up right in front of the first man I saw, and I
sank my blade up into his torso. I knew the other three men were reacting fast
for they would be on me in a heartbeat and this ranger was slow and hesitant to
shoot me. For by the time the life had faded in my victim’s eyes I’d pivoted
around him using him as a shield and an arrow lodged itself in his chest. This
ranger wasn’t a big fan of hurting me for he was slow to shoot at me, interesting.
I knew another man was behind me and his sword was raised
over head. I whipped around and I gracefully dragged my sword across his stomach.
It was a quick, clean cut. Not enough to kill him but enough to make him
Over in the distance I could hear the women screaming and
their children crying. One of the three men with dark brown hair was screaming
at them to run and leave so I turned my attention towards him. I swung my long,
silver sword and he jumped back and put up his own stubbier sword in defense.
Twisting it easily and flipping it out of his hands I began
to corner him in. Before I could swing and end his miserable life, I saw the
third man coming at me. He had longer blonde hair and feisty blue eyes, he let
out a battle cry as he swung, he’d missed me, and he slid off of me towards the
side. He had blood smeared across his face and I realized he had been with the
man who I’d struck before—surely, he was dead now.
These two younger men—both scared for their lives and
families—were trying to find a way to gang up on me. I could tell for the one
with the blood on him was circling to the left and the other with the dark hair
picked up his sword and was circling to the right. Oh, this was going to be
I thought back to the ranger for a moment, looking to see where
he was, I realized he was gone. He hadn’t left he was probably circling around
the clearing to find a place he could sneak up on me or he’d gone to the women
and children to help them flee. Either way, whatever he was doing wasn’t going
The one on the left charged at me, he was mad furious. I
could tell due to the way he was swinging. Strong and quick blows from the
sword were coming from him. I saw the anger flash in his blue eyes as I blocked
his attack and shoved him off of me with a kick, then whipping around to meet
the darker haired one’s blade. He wasn’t as mad as the other—more scared but he
put up a fight.
Our swords clanked together, and he tried to shove me back.
Stumbling a little I backed off and turned towards the other and he was really
into it. He was boiling over now. ‘’Having fun yet?’’’ I sneered quietly. His
face and my own were close together and I saw his expression darken. He let out
a growl and I knew the other man was coming at me.
‘’I will end you!’’ The vicious man hissed as I spun off of
him, meeting the other one and the two crashed into each other. Then I spotted
the movement of a cloak, and then with a jolt I felt an arrow sink into my left
shoulder. I hissed in pain as I looked towards the ranger to see he was already
pulling another arrow up towards his cheek.
Then I formulated a plan to end all three of them. ‘’Get out
here and fight like a man.’’ I mocked the ranger in pain as I yanked the arrow
out of my left shoulder and clenched it tightly. ‘’For these two fight like
men—‘’ He knew what I was about to do. He dropped his bow and pulled out his
sword and he ran towards me in fear.
The more angered man with blond hair behind me had already
collected himself and was coming at me like a made bull. I saw the fire in his
blue eyes and the blood smeared on his face made him look like a real soldier.
‘’Gideon don’t!!’’ The ranger yelled.
‘’And they will surely die like men too.’’ I spun around and
I stabbed the arrow into his chest. His eyes grew wide and thick, crimson blood
dripped from his lips. He wheezed for air and I backed away from him, letting
his body drop to the snow-covered floor. And then there were two.
I had no remorse for any of the deaths I’d caused. This
pleased me, and I let it fuel me. Turning quickly the ranger swung his blade
and I blocked, and we had a quick spat. Our swords bounced off of each other
and he blocked as I swung. He circled in around each other for a moment. My
more-calm gaze stared into his own fiery one. ‘’Why must you be this way?’’ He
snarled as he swung his sword out of anger. ‘’You kill everyone for no reason.’’
He stated as I dodged one of his blows. ‘’Why?’’ He questioned as I noticed the
other man with the dark hair begin to scramble away. He was trying to flee for
his life that was unexceptional. I needed to finish him off and end the rest of
‘’You know there’s not a lot of talking in a duel, one
normally keeps his mouth shut before he dies out here.’’ I snarled as I
attacked him with a quick series of strikes.
‘’What makes you think I’m going to die?’’ He asked as he
backed away from me, his sword still held up, yet he knew he was losing.
‘’I don’t think you’re going to die.’’ I saw his darkened
face grow confused. ‘’I know you are.’’ Then just as I was about to charge
without mercy something jumped in between us. The other man with dark hair who
was cowering away now stood there with a blade in his gut.
Yanking my weapon out in anger I finally saw the rangers
face. He pulled off his hood and I saw him stare at the man in shock. I
instantly recognized the ranger. It was Vidarr! He had olive colored skin, muddy
brown hair and wide black eyes. He had a more-square face and a sharp jaw. He
was more no more than the age of twenty-two winters, still young and spirited.
He looked terrified and upset as his comrade fell to the
floor. He looked at me in disbelief and horror as he began to back away from
me. I saw the panic and confusion in his eyes and his mouth gaped open a little
as if he wanted to say something, yet no words came from him.
Talk about killing two birds with one stone, I could get him
out of the picture while helping these souls out as well! The day had just
gotten better. Oh, how I longed to stab him now, but he was making a bolt for
the forest. I had to chase after him, there was no way I’d catch him on foot.
He was much younger than me, thus faster. Not to mention, my shoulder burned
from the previous arrow that was stuck in it.
Turning quickly, I sprinted past the fallen bodies of the
men, looking to see that the women and children had a taken a few of their
horses and things and left. They could run but they couldn’t hide. They
wouldn’t last long out in the wild world of the forest. I’d kill Vidarr and
then I’d easily track them down and slaughter them too.
What a perfect day today was. I couldn’t ask for a better
one. Killing a ranger and some helpless people was just what I needed to make
my day. I spotted my silver stallion and he stood where I left him. His ears
twitched and he lifted his head as he took a few steps towards me in the thick
Grabbing his reins and quickly hoisting myself into the saddle. I sheathed my sword and I gave my horse I hard kick in and he immediately took off in a strong canter. I rode back out into the clearing and past the bodies and towards the forest once more. I quickly spotted the fresh tracks that the young ranger had left. He was in a full sprint trying to get away from me. Kicking my horse a little harder, encouraging him to run faster, he picked up the pace in a full run. He was fast and he would take me to Vidarr easily. Now, the chase was on.
Of all the days in my past, there is one memory that really
makes me remember who I once was. Of when I was a man, of when I was human.
It’s only an echo of the past but I tend to dwell on the memory more then I
should. It’s something I unfortunately wished I had, of course, now it was gone
and I did everything in my power to let go of it, yet I was still clinging to
this small thread of my past, as if I still needed it to live.
There was once a man named Allerick. He was a proud, happy
man who lived outside of a large town just north of the woodlands. He had a
very good life. A pleasant home his grandfather built sat on a grassy green
hill where his family lived. Allerick was married to his wife Adeena, and he
loved her very dearly. He also had two children, a son named Priamos and a
daughter named Nesrin.
It was a good life Allerick lived, and he never wished for
another. He was a content farmer living a simple life—a good one too. He only
wanted to live the rest of his days in that cozy home with his wife, but that
wasn’t meant to be.
Though these lands were filled with good and light, there
was still a shadow following them around. There was a great force conquering
the lands. Vikings from the south wanted to take over the country for
themselves, and they went planning on taking it nicely. Starting in the southwest
and working their way north, the Vikings started taking over the country. They
came with fire, spears and swords, they showed no mercy to anyone. Not even the
Of course, being the head of the household and a respected
member of the town Allerick proposed they stand their ground and fight,
everyone agreed that fighting back was the right call. Defending their home was
one of many ways the people showed their love towards the country.
That fateful day came when fire covered the grass and smoke
filled the sky, the people stood no chance against the Vikings. The men stood
their ground at the tree line to the woodland, but they were overwhelmed and
had to retreat. There was no time to warn anyone against the numbers and brutal
strength of the enemy, the town was to be slaughtered.
The people tried to flee to the north but very few made it
to the outskirts of town, let alone the mountains to which they would retreat
too. Allerick fought honorably, as did all the men but their efforts were of
little use, their families were burned and slaughtered. There was nothing they
Allerick desperately tried to save his wife and children,
but it was not to be. He was held back, forced to his knees and he helplessly
watched as his families’ necks were slit open. The Vikings figured they should
kill him next, but one of the leaders said he was already dead, at least on the
inside. Killing him would be merciful, so he was spared from the jaws of death.
Eventually, over time the Vikings were driven out of the
country, but the losses were heavy, heavier than what everyone would have
wanted. Allerick was a lost soul like many other fathers, his beloved was dead,
and his future was dead as well, he had no reason to move on in life, as the
Vikings said, it would be merciful to kill him. He couldn’t bring himself to end
his life, and that’s when the sun set on his human reign and so arose the
darkness in him.
He became something inhuman, he became darkness, and nothing
more. He was one of the soul survivors who made it through the war, and he
wished that the rest of his days would be spent helping the helpless and showing
mercy to those who had received no mercy.
This man I was thinking of was someone I didn’t know
anymore. He was a stranger of the past who I didn’t care about or love, if I ever
saw him, I would turn my back to him and leave him behind, I had too. He was
dead to me. Once again if you ask me, I was showing mercy to him—killing him
off and leaving him behind in the past. He was only a burden I carried on my
shoulders, he was useless and pathetic, it was only quite reasonable that I’d
I cast the thoughts of this man I once knew to the back of
my mind and I focused on the task at hand. I needed to get Vidarr. I needed to
end him like I ended Allerick so many years ago, it was the only just that I
did this, if I didn’t, I wasn’t doing my job.
Urging my stallion to run faster, I was able to spot the
young ranger ahead of me. His cloak was sailing behind him and he was clenching
his bow in his hand. He peered over his shoulders and I saw panic flash in his
eyes. He was afraid, he certainly should be.
I had no bow and quiver of my own, for many reasons. One
being I liked to end my victims up close and in person. The job just didn’t
seem to feel right ending a man from a distance with an arrow. My hand rested
on my sheath, my fingers inched up towards the hilt and they rested on the cold
metal. I was gaining ground quickly, Vidarr didn’t have long.
I’d been dreaming of this moment for months and know it was
upon me. I was about twenty meters behind him, and I was closing in on my prey
fast, I began to pull my sword out of its sheath. My lips curled into a smile
as I drew it fully out and was getting ready to swing, but that’s when
something unexpected happened.
I was about to end poor Vidarr’s life when I saw another
horse coming at me. It was a small bay colored mare and there was an even
smaller girl riding her. She looked bewildered and she clung to the horse for
her life. What a strange thing, you might say. Seeing a little girl riding a
horse next to me near moments before ending the ranger. I very much agree with
you, I quickly decided that ending her would have to be added to the days kill
list, so turning my attention towards her, I quickly raised my blade overhead
but that’s when my horse reared up, making me fall off of him just as an arrow
whizzed past my head.
Landing in the thick snow, I quickly put together that
Vidarr had tried to pull off a quick shot while my attention was on the girl.
In the process of falling off my steed I lost grip of my weapon. I was able to
spot it just as the girl slipped off her horse and ran towards Vidarr who was panting
in the snow, looking terrified himself.
She tugged and pulled at his hand and he seemed to bounce
back because he scooped her up in his arms and bolted back to the horse. This
was my chance to get them both, I scrambled over to my sword and I grabbed the
cold metal and I ran towards the duo.
My adrenaline was coursing, and my heart was pounding. This
was it! They were right there. Vidarr quickly shoved the girl onto the back of
the horse and his head whipped towards me. He put his bow up in defense against
my swing and my blade chipped into his wooden long bow. There was a snap in the
wood from the sounds of it and the mare jumped because of it. She let out a
panicked neigh and she reared up her back legs, making the small girl fall off
in the process. Then she trotted away still kicking up her legs, leaving the
Vidarr shoved me back but I swung so he was forced to turn
around and use his breaking bow to defend himself. As he fought for his life
and the girls, his head was constantly looking over his shoulder towards her. I
couldn’t figure out if the two were related or not, but they clearly cared for
each other. ‘’Reila you need to run!’’ He ordered her as he tried forcing me
back, but I stood my ground, forcing him backwards and trying to get his bow to
‘’But I won’t get far!’’ She squeaked as she weakly pushed
herself up to standing, now I was able to get a good look at her. She was small
and rather frail, maybe about ten winters old. She had long blonde hair and
hazel eyes. I completely lost focus on Vidarr, for this girl called Reila
looked like Allerick’s daughter.
As I said before, Allerick had a family. Adeena his
beautiful wife, his son Priamos and his daughter Nesrin. Nesrin was a small,
petite girl with warm brown eyes and golden hair. She was innocent and gentle,
not much of a fighter. Reila looked the same way. Same small frame and nearly
the same eye color. Pretty long hair and to innocent to be in the woods.
Something about her made me remember Nesrin before killing
him. I knew Allerick loved his daughter very much, he spoke fondly of the girl
and he cared for her. Something in me was almost tempted to stop fighting and
just look at her for a moment. There was something about her that just…made me
want to stop and turn around.
I was suddenly snapped back into reality and with a hard
push I managed to make Vidarr trip backwards. Now I was on top of him. I was
going to end him. Raising my sword over my head, I looked down at my victim. He
was panting like a dog and staring up at me with hopelessness running over his
eyes. I was about to swing down and sink my blade into his stomach, but the
small girl screamed in fear.
My eyes shot over to her, she was on her knee’s, sobbing her
eyes out. I couldn’t terror my gaze from her. She looked like Nesrin. If I
hadn’t known any better, I would have thought it was actually her. Something
inside of me was screaming at me to leave, it was like this ‘thing’ didn’t want
me to kill Vidarr or Reila.
I still hesitantly stood where I was before, staring at the
small girl with the ranger underneath me. I couldn’t bring myself to lower my
sword and kill Vidarr, instead I just stood there thinking about Nesrin and the
man I once knew.
I ranger didn’t know what was happening either, but he
wasted no more time lying where he was. Instead he scrambled backwards, then he
finally pushed himself up, picked up Reila and he chased after the horse.
I could feel myself come back to my sense’s, I still didn’t
understand why I was hesitant to swing my sword. It was confusing to me, I
looked to the ground back up to the duo to see Vidarr climbing onto the mare
with Reila, kicking the horse then running off deeper into the forest. What
happened to me? Why was I hesitant to kill him?
I shook my head in disbelief and as I ran my fingers through my hair, and I walked back over towards my steed. I couldn’t believe what just happened. Allerick, was very much alive inside of me, and I knew I had to end him again. In order to maintain my current straight of saving the helpless, I had to kill Allerick, and I had to kill him now.
I was enraged at myself. How could I not know Allerick was
dead?! After all this time—it had been years since I’d so much as felt his
presence in me and now he just decided to come out of hiding? This was
unacceptable! I felt foolish for not making sure the man I was knew was truly
dead, and now I had to go through the process of killing him all over again,
while tracking down Vidarr and the rest of the caravan. Perfect, just perfect,
they day was going perfectly fine until Allerick decided to drop in.
There was a growl deep in my throat as I marched back
towards my horse. He anxiously awaited me, a couple meters away. He nervously
snorted as I rested my hand on his muzzle and he calmed down. For a moment I
had an urge to call my companion, by his given name…wait…I just called him my
companion! Allerick was trying to come back out!!
Thinking of a way to shove the man back down into the
darkest pits of my soul I broke my gaze from my horse, and I grabbed his reins
and I hauled myself onto his back. I gave him a sharp quick then he let out a whinny
as he began to trot forward. Yet he knew what I wanted to do, his trot turned
into a gallop and from there into a run. He knew I wanted to get on with my
I followed the other horse’s tracks in the thick snow, they were
trying to get away from me. They were probably a fairway ahead of me, but I’d
soon catch up, there were two people on a small mare on the run from a single
man on a big stallion. They wouldn’t last long.
For a moment again I thought of Nesrin, I remembered her
soft voice and cheerful personality, she was gentle towards everyone and kind.
I thought of the girl called Reila, I began to wonder if she was the same
way….ughh….not again!! There was Allerick trying to come out once more! I
thought about how I was to slaughter the girl and Vidarr, I thought how I was
going to kill of the other women and children, yes, yes, the blood! That’s just
what I needed, I needed to see more blood seeping into the snow, I needed to
see lifeless bodies on the ground, yes that’s what I wanted, I was craving it!
The icy wind nipped at my ears and it danced through my hair
and I felt my blood pulse through me. Focus, on killing them, just killing
them. My breath fogged out in front of me and I squinted my eyes trying to
protect them from the chill in the air, soon, more crimson blood would ruin on
the forest floor.
I rode my horse long and hard until the tracks became fresher,
up ahead I could a darkened shape trying to escape me, and it was now or never.
I simply needed to get this over with and move on with this. I saw Vidarr try
to urge his horse to move faster but the mare only seemed to slow, this was
excellent on my behalf. ‘’Come on, faster.’’ I hissed to my steed.
The ranger looked over his shoulder and I stared at him with
wide dark eyes. This was it, no hesitation! I quickly yanked out my sword and I
could almost hear the panic coming from him, I was riding next to them now, and
once again I saw the girl. Reila was cowering into Vidarr and she was trying
not to look at me, I saw her teary brown eyes and she sank back towards the
Vidarr kept one of his arms wrapped around her, and the he
reached for an arrow in his quiver. He was on the defense now, for he was
holding the arrow as if it was a knife, he was not going down without a fight.
Though, he was scared and fearful of me, I realized he’d die before I got near Reila.
Then the thought of Nesrin crept back into my mind. Ah! Why
did this keep happening to me?! I had to act now! I swung my blade without
thinking and the mare neighed in pain and Vidarr yelped. My eyes spotted fresh
red blood on the tip of my steel sword. It was deep and dark, it nearly looked
black. The blood began to drip off the edge of it and I felt satisfaction roll
over me. The blood was an overjoying sight and it calmed me, and I felt
Allerick shrink away again. Oh, how thankful I was now…now I could…
By the time I was snapped into my normal scenes the horse
the duo was riding reared up because I’d struck her flank. She was on her hind
legs and the two fell off, I pulled my steed to a stop then circled around back
towards the ranger and girl.
Vidarr was scrambling around in bloody snow, he was trying
to stand so he could fight, but I’d slashed open his left thigh and there was
red liquid everywhere. The almost black blood pooled down his leg as he grabbed
yet another arrow. He looked to the ground and the girl was scrambling up
She grabbed onto his cloak and cowered behind it. He put a
hand in front of her as I circled around them. ‘’Will you at least consider
sparing her if I gave my life?’’ He winced painfully as his position followed
me wherever I rode.
I heard her whimper when he said, ‘consider sparing’. It was
almost his way of saying ‘there’s no way out of this one’ to the poor girl. I
suddenly remembered Nesrin crying over the fact that we were going to war with
the Vikings so many years ago. She didn’t want us to fight, and she couldn’t
understand why we couldn’t just have peace, and I remembered her screaming my
name to help her just moments before she died.
That ebbing pain I felt as I remembered my daughter made me
want to ride off and leave. I pulled my horse away from the two, for a moment I
stared blankly at my sword. Did I really have to kill people…no…I mustn’t think
that way! I’d already injured Vidarr, soon enough he’d bleed out anyway and
Reila had no chance of surviving in the woods on her own. Mercy was all I could
show towards them!
I slipped of my horse as I stormed towards them and the
cowered back, both of them looked terrified and fearful, Vidarr looked more
ready to die due to his wound and Reila…I swear in the kings name it was
Nesrin!! My hand began to quiver as I lowered my sword. ‘’Perhaps…’’I spoke.
‘’I can spare you both—‘’ I cut myself off and I saw the confusion and hope
swirl in Vidarr’s eyes.
Maybe I could spare them…I could be merciful in the since of
being a leader…For a moment I was brought back to being my true self, I felt
the presence of Allerick come over me. I blankly stared off into thin air and I
saw Vidarr start shoving Reila backwards, but she tried moving towards me.
I watched her small figure scramble out of the rangers grasp
and she came to me. I broke my gaze from her, and I noticed my reflection in my
sword. I saw my normal self, my stormy blue eyes…longer brown hair tied back so
I’d stay out of my face…a sharp jaw and pain. Lots of pain, but there was also
There was sympathy in my gaze and the smallest flicker of
hope in my eyes and I looked back to Reila and her own brown eyes were wide
with curiosity. It was like she wanted to get to know me. How strange, how
He was coming back out again! The darker form of myself who
wanted to kill and slaughter the helpless, I couldn’t, I was back, and I
couldn’t let him return! I felt cold snow fall onto my cheek and that familiar
feeling of emptiness pounded through my veins. That cold lifeless feeling was
back inside of me and oh how I loved it!
I tore my gaze from my reflection, and I saw Reila creeping
towards me. The ranger was still standing where he stood before, and I saw how
cautious yet hopeful he looked, what fools! ‘’Forgive me Vidarr but I must end
this bright moment early…’’
He tilted his head and he inched towards me. ‘’Whatever do
you mean? You haven’t killed us yet, that gives me hope that there’s still good
in you. Don’t let that go to waste.’’ He begged. ‘’We’ve all heard stories of
you. How ruthless and cold you are…prove them wrong. I know you used to be a
‘’Well you were wrong to think that!’’ I hissed. ‘’I never
was a good man—‘’ My voice trailed and I suddenly reached forward and I grabbed
Reila by the arm and she yelped in fear and I pulled her close to me, putting my
blade to her neck. I needed to get her out of the picture!
‘’Don’t you dare!’’ The ranger stepped forward but he was
crippled by pain, he still held his arrow in a stabbing position. ‘’You were
Allerick a second ago, find him!’’ He growled, but I would do no such thing!
Don’t do it.
This isn’t right.
Kill her! Kill her now!
Walk away from this all.
I heard these phrases in my head and they wouldn’t go away. I
began to panic ever so slightly. Do I kill her and the ranger or do I walk away
and spare them? What was I supposed to do?! With these voices inside of me it
was nearly impossible to think straight and now who was right and who was wrong!
Kill or spare do or die! It was nearly impossible to know what I was supposed
to do, I just had to…I had to…run.
Without knowing what to do I ran. I grabbed Reila and I ran
to my horse, shoved her on and I rode him into the forest. I heard Vidarr
scream and Reila tried squirming away from me and she was trying hard not to
cry but I didn’t listen to her plea. I tuned her out and I zoned into my mind.
Take your sword and stab her in the heart!! One voice
screamed. You know that’s wrong, stop, turn around and take her back. No!
You’re a justice giving being that is called darkness, this isn’t who you are,
you’re dark and heartless!! You were once a man called Allerick, don’t you miss
Back and forth my thoughts screamed at me and it made my
head hurt and my heart race. The moment was so intense for me it was hard for
me to know how to ride a horse right. I felt Reila yank the reins around she
was trying to slow my companion, ugh!! She was trying to slow my steed and she
could hardly get the leather reins out of my hands.
‘’Slow down!!’’ She screamed as we ran past a tree, nearly
running right into it. ‘’Take me back! Take me back!’’ She begged me as she
tried shaking my arms that were caging her in. ‘’I don’t want this!’’
For a moment I felt Allerick overcome me and I quickly
pulled back on the reins making Vangelis slow down quickly. ‘’I don’t want this
either.’’ My silver horse jerked his head and he bucked ever so slightly but he
slowed down to a trot. ‘’That’s a good lad.’’ I patted his neck gently and he
Reila turned her head and looked at me. ‘’You’re not going
to hurt me now, right?’’ She asked hopefully as she noticed my sudden changes
I looked into her deep brown eyes and I sighed. ‘’I—I don’t
know.’’ Was all I could say as I began to devise a plan on how to keep the
darker form of myself locked away forever. I needed to kill him just as he once
did to me so many years ago, only this time I was intending for him to stay
I quickly slipped off of Vangelis and he stopped moving and
I made sure Reila stayed put on my dear horse. ‘’Listen to me young one, ride
back to the ranger and—‘’ I stopped talking and my head throbbed as I winced
painfully. He was trying to come back, I felt one of her little thin hands
touch my big rough hand and I felt him disappear for a moment. ‘’—And ride back
to Vidarr, you can follow the tracks that we’ve already made…’’ I backed away
as I felt the darkness overtake me. ‘’Leave! Vangelis won’t stray from you,
I grabbed my head and I fell to my knees and I saw the girl
ride off. Ahh! How could I let her slip away like that?! She was right under my
fingertips and she got away! How could I be so naïve?! I had the girl and now
she was gone! Stay where you belong Allerick! Stay in the grave!! I screamed at
the man who was suddenly back from the dead!
No! I shall fight until you kill me again!! Allerick yelled
back. I grabbed my head and let out a yell as I wished these two voices would
just leave me alone! I never asked for this said Allerick, I never thought
you’d give in so easily, said the other.
The madness was getting to me as I felt myself fall apart in
the snow, I wanted to be the old me, I wanted Allerick back! But the pain I
felt as the darkness tried to consume me was almost over-baring, I could feel
the two of them battling inside me. It was almost physical like in a real fight,
I felt sharp pains and jabs going on inside of me, for a moment one would win
but then the next the other would conquer the enemy. My head was throbbing, and
I wished it to stop but no end came to the fighting!
‘’Stop this!! Aahhhgrrrr!!’’ I winced as I grabbed my skull
and yelled. I squinted my eyes shut and I felt Allerick pull through for a
moment. Have faith, I’m not going back to the grave he said. You were good
once. Now listen to me—
I didn’t hear Allerick finish what he wanted to say for a
sharp pain replaced his voice and the darkness overruled him. Get up and chase
the girl, go kill her! Go spare her helpless life!! Get up, take your sword and
get her! Remember the blood, remember the darkness hides you and protects you
from those around you! I can hide you, no one will remember you for being weak
and helpless, let me help you!
That offer was so tempting, I grabbed it by the hand, and I
felt myself get pulled into the darkness. Oh, I was back! I was back and I was
going to kill everyone! Yes, yes, I was going to end them all! I pushed myself
up and I dusted the snow off my legs, I let out a sigh and my breath fogged up
for a moment.
I let out a deep chuckle and I grabbed my sword from its sheath, and I began to march forward, following the tracks of my horse. Oh, this was going to be fun! Finally, I could end this once and for all. The darkness was in control and there was no coming back.
I trudged through the snow, quickly following the tracks of
my steed, soon enough I’d end them all. The wind picked up ever so slightly,
and a light snow began to fall once more. Even though it was a light snow fall I’d
rather not risk the tracks being covered, so I went from a walk to a march,
eagerly searching for the ranger and the girl.
Not too much time passed when I was able to spot my horse
trotting along with the girl on his back. One too many times had she slipped
away from my grasp, not anymore though. I kept quiet and I treaded lightly
doing everything in my power to keep to the shadows of the forest.
So far, I’d gone unnoticed, I had the element of surprise to
my advantage, I need to kill her, no more hesitating. I told myself. Show
mercy, I must show mercy, be merciful. Don’t think just do. I looked towards
Reila again and she was occasionally peering over her shoulder to see if I was
following her, of course I’d trailed off towards the far side of her, so I’d catch
her off guard.
The small girl looked so weak and helpless as she rode
along. She was scared and on edge, she didn’t know what to do, as far as I
could tell she was still trying to figure out where Vidarr was. There was no
way she’d get out of this one without a scratch.
I yanked my sword out of its sheath and I started making my
way out of the woods towards her. When I was within thirty feet of her my horse
stopped and he looked towards me. His ears were perked there was a gleam of
happiness in his eyes. He bobbed his head up and down and snorted and the girl
looked at me.
She gave me an unsure smile and it quickly faded away. Her
little brown eyes grew round, and she tried pulling back on the reins, ushering
the horse to back away. He did what he was told but he pawed at the ground and
his ears twitched, the poor thing was confused. He wanted to come to me, but he
knew what I was about to do. He didn’t know what to do though—such a loyal
thing but concerned for the girl’s well-being. He had to decide between
listening to Reila and coming to me.
He dipped his head and he started backing away again, the
girl looked relived, but my steed wasn’t going very far. I picked up my pace
and I snatched his reins into my hands, and he stood there unwavering, he’d given
into me, so pathetic. That’s when Reila tried to slide off the saddle I grabbed
her. ‘’Wait! I thought you were good now!’’ She whimpered in fear as I pulled
her close towards me and I readied my sword.
‘’You thought wrong dear girl.’’ I hissed.
‘’You now you can change.’’ She squeaked as I saw tears
swell in her eyes. ‘’I don’t want to die.’’ And that’s when I struck, there was
no hesitation this time.
I saw crimson red blood drip down my blade, and I saw the
fear in her eyes as the life left her body. Blood dripped from her mouth as she
sank towards the ground and died. Everything happened to quickly, I
just…grabber her and now…she was dead. Good…good. That’s what I needed to do,
and I did it. Her small frail body dropped to the ground and I stared at if for
Her pretty eyes were now dull and lifeless, blood stained
her face and torso, and she didn’t even put up a struggle she just let it
happen. She put up no fight, she was just…so innocent. She was…so similar to…I
couldn’t bring myself to say or even think her name. I knew if I spoke of the
daughter of Allerick he’d come crawling back out of the pit again. He had to
stay there, there was no hope for me now. I’d done too much and gone too far. I
couldn’t let all that precious work go to waste over a single girl that needed
to be put out of her misery.
I needed to move on now, I just needed to leave and take
care of Vidarr and then find the rest of the caravan and end them too, but my
feet wouldn’t budge. I just stared at Reila, I was unsure of what to do
something in me didn’t want to leave, I-I…I felt regret swell in my chest the
longer I stood there.
Allerick must have been trying to crawl his way back out and
for some reason…I let him come. I crashed to my knees and I felt my entire
world fall apart. I…I killed her. She was dead because of me. I killed her for
no just reason…what had I done?!
I found myself crying over the fact that I’d killed an
innocent girl, she was just like Nesrin and I ended her. I killed her, I killed
her…wait no. The dark rider version of myself killed her, I could of tried
harder to stop him but now it was too late! I couldn’t bring her back! I
couldn’t control myself anymore I was a monster. I needed to leave I just
needed to leave and live out the rest of my life in solitude, not that I wasn’t
already alone but I just needed to isolate myself even more so the darker
version of myself couldn’t come out and hurt anyone anymore.
But first I needed to tell Allerick, the younger ranger was
probably not too far off bleeding to death in the snow. I let out a chocked cry
as I dried a small tear that was running down my cheek, what had I become? Over
the past ten years I’d turned into something so incredibly wicked while I was
cowering away in the dark, I didn’t even know what I was anymore.
The darkness might have hid me from the world, but I’d
stayed in it too long and it changed me into something inhuman, I desperately
needed to leave and runway. Yes, I’d been running away from my problems for some
time now, but there was no point in going back or trying to retrace my steps.
No one would help me after the things I’d done.
I just had to pull myself together, tell Vidarr I was…sorry
and then I’d be gone for good. No one would ever hear from me again. As I
sheathed my sword—regret filled my bones as I felt my heart pang with more
grief and sadness after killing the young girl. She had so much to do in her
life, so much to look forward to and I ruined it. Her parents were probably
worried sick and sooner or later they’d find out I killed her.
More tears slid down my cheeks and I felt my friend nuzzle
my face and his hot breath warmed my cold cheeks. He nuzzled me again then he
started sniffing at Reila’s small lifeless body. He then looked back to me and
he pawed the ground and snorted. ‘’I know old friend…I know.’’ I muttered as I
gently rubbed the side of his head. ‘’She was much to kind to be killed, she
didn’t deserve it, and I don’t deserve your compassion.’’ I said as I looked
into his big black eyes he snorted again, and he tried nibbling on my hair. It
was as if he was trying to say, ‘It’s going to be okay’.
‘’You’re such a good companion.’’ I said quietly as I looked
at him. He jerked his head again and he lowered it over towards Reila. I
figured he’d miss the small girl. ‘’I know boy, I know.’’ I said quietly and I
knew I’d best be off to tell Vidarr, what terrible crime I’d done.
I believed it’d be best to bring her body with me so Vidarr
could see her one last time, so I slowly and carefully picked her up. She was
so light in weight, it felt as if I was picking up a feather. I closed her dull
eyes and I carefully picked her up and climbed onto Vangelis. Without me
kicking him he started trotting forward, he was such a good horse.
I think in my heart I knew Vangelis was the only friend I
had whether I was me or the dark rider. Loyal to the fault and he never left
me, I felt as though he was grieving for Reila too. He slowly walked in the
snow and I soon spotted Vidarr sitting up against a tree, slowly dying where
I’d left him.
His skin was pale, and his breath was shallow, blood covered
his leg. He looked to me and his eyes widened, he tried to sit up, but he was
barely able too, he still had his broken bow in hand, and he grabbed it and put
it up in defense. But as I slipped of Vangelis, with his friend in my arms he
lowered it and I saw the pain in his expression. It wasn’t only from his
injuries it was mental too.
He then tried to push himself up to standing, and he
supported himself against the tree. ‘’You—I thought there was some good in you,
clearly—‘’ He winced. ‘’I was wrong.’’ Blood oozed out of his cut.
‘’Vidarr—‘’ I spoke in a soft voice, trying to keep my own
emotions under controlled. ‘’I–‘’
‘’You were just showing mercy? I know…well I don’t call that
mercy, I call that being a coward. You’re just afraid of your past. Now…let’s
settle this and get this over with.’’ He said as he stepped forward and he used
his bow stick as a sword.
‘’Vidarr I know the things I’ve done are bad, I’ve killed…’’
I chocked on my words, for a moment nothing came out of my mouth. ‘’I’ve killed
too many innocent people to count, including Reila.’’ I began.
‘’Stop with the speech and just fight me…please. I’d rather
die to a blade then a wound.’’ He grunted in pain as he tried inching his way
towards me, thought it was very hard since his left leg was practically
‘’I don’t want to kill you.’’
He looked at me and his brown eyes were wide like the full
moon. ‘’You’re…you’re you aren’t you?’’ he asked me.
Nodding slowly, I walked towards him. ‘’I can’t kill you. I
can’t bring myself to end another life.’’ When I spoke the word ‘life’ I
practically chocked on it, for a moment I looked at Reila who was dead in my
arms, it was getting harder to bare this by the second.
He then let out a painful sigh as he tossed his broken
weapon aside as tears started streaming down his face as I slowly walked up to
him with Reila. He crumbled to the forest floor burring his face into his hands
and I came to him. ‘’Just kill me already, I’ve got nothing to lose.’’ He
begged as he looked at me. ‘’You killed her, the caravan is probably a lost
cause, I won’t recover from this…’’ he closed his eyes and looked away from me
in shame. ‘’Just please kill me.’’ He muttered through a sob. ‘’You’d being
doing it out of real mercy. This would be justified.’’ He cried as he looked to
I shared his pain as I knelt down in front of him, and he
made eye contact with me. I kept Reila close to me, but I started handing her
towards the dying Ranger. ‘’I can’t—‘’
‘’You must…please. I’d rather die to a sword then a wound.’’
He sniffed, trying to dry his tears, he then looked at Reila and he gave me a
weary smile. ‘’Was it fast?’’ he asked me in a painful tone.
Nodding I began to hand her towards the ranger, and he took
her into his arms with trembling hands. He cradled the small girl in his arms then
I noticed how Vidarr was doing, he looked so weak, I could tell he didn’t have
long. His breath was light, and he was shaking cause of the cold, his skin was
paler than the snow and his eyes were growing dull. ‘’She was like a little
sister to me, they were all like family.’’ His voice trailed as he looked to
‘’You won’t kill them, right? You’re not going to turn again,
are you?’’ His voice grew dark as he looked at me. ‘’I know you’ve been going
back and forth between your current self and the darkness in you…are you going
to stay the same?’’ He sounded as if he wanted me to assure him that I would.
“I-I will try Vidarr.’’ I put a firm hand on his shoulder.
‘’Good, now…please…’’ He looked towards my sword and eyed
it. ‘’Do it.’’ He begged.
I started shaking my head ‘no’ as I backed up from him ever
so slightly. ‘’No, I can’t.’’ I muttered, I feared if I touched the sword the
darkness in me would creep out again.
‘’I’m asking you as a friend and enemy to kill me.’’
‘’It would be justified, I’m asking you to do it for one and
you’d be putting me out of my pain…’’ he winced as he touched his bloody leg,
showing me the deep cut into his flesh.
‘’No Vidarr!’’ I hissed. ‘’If I do, he might come back
The young man paused for a moment. ‘’I-I see…but still, I
want to die Allerick can you not fulfil a dying man’s request?’’ He asked in a
I shook my head ‘no’ once more. ‘’I cannot Vidarr, I am
sorry.’’ I whispered.
Vidarr let out a snort. ‘’Fine, if you can’t end me, I guess
I’ll have to force you too.’’ He suddenly grabbed the sword out of my sheath
and I instantly backed up.
‘’What are you doing?’’ I asked in confusion, very slowly
backing away from him
He winced as he carefully picked Reila up and he set her in
the snow away from him and he barely managed to stand up and hold my bloody
sword in his hands. ‘’Forcing you into something you can’t get out of.’’ He
hissed, as he sloppily swung his blade at me, I slid to the left of him as he
stumbled forward. ‘’End me Allerick or I’ll end you trying.’’ He snarled in
pain as he spun around and tried to hit me again.
I didn’t understand what he was getting at, but I knew I had
to defend myself. Looking around I spotted his broken bow that was snapped in
two in the snow. I ran towards it and I snatched it up a broken half of the
stick and I turned around and his weapon met the stick I was using to defend
myself. ‘’Vidarr lets not—‘’
‘’No Allercik! Just—‘’ He crashed to his knees and he yelped
in pain. ‘’Just kill me!’’ He begged.
I shook my head as I looked at him. ‘’I can’t! I can’t kill
anyone anymore!’’ I nearly shouted at him.
He tried to swing at me, and his weapon nearly skinned my
shin. ‘’Stop being so selfish and think of others for once in your life.’’ He
hissed as he used the sword to support himself as he stood up again and swung
at me, his weapon weakly crashed into my broken bow stick and I backed up from
him and he stumbled around.
‘’I can’t, I’m already a monster!’’ I growled as I swung my
own stick at him and he blocked, for a moment he tilted his head and I saw his
eyes light up as he blocked my attack.
‘’Your pathetic if you can’t end a dying man! It’s a mercy
kill I tell you! Mercy! Isn’t that all you ever wanted to give when you were
the dark rider!’’
Anger flashed up inside of me. How could he bring back
something I was so desperately trying to put behind me? I swung my stick and he
blocked. ‘’That wasn’t me! I can’t kill anyone, he can!’’ I growled in anger.
‘’And I’m not letting him back out again!’’
Vidarr spun around and he sloppily attacked me with my
sword. ‘’Maybe you should, it wouldn’t be a bad idea, I’m already suffering,
he’d surely put me down!’’
Just then I felt myself boil over and I jabbed my stick
forward and I watched in horror as the stick sank into his torso. Vidar fell to
his knees, and there was a small grin on his face as he held his stomach. What
had I done?! I came to his side and he looked at me as a little bit of blood
dripped from his lips. ‘’Die to the blade rather than the wound…’’ he coughed
out as I began to lower him to the ground.
‘’Vidarr I-I didn’t—‘’
‘’No Allerick, this is what I wanted…’’ He croaked as his
eyes began to close. ‘’Might I ask one last favor of you?’’ he asked as he let
out a raspy breath.
For a heartbeat I couldn’t answer him, I was still in shock
that I stabbed him. His blood was everywhere, it was pooling out from his new
injury and my hands were cover in it. I felt myself begin to panic as I looked
to the dying man. ‘’That—that wasn’t supposed to happen!’’ Pain stabbed my own
heart as I stared at the ranger with tear swollen. ‘’You shouldn’t have to die!
None of you should have to die to my hands!’’ I said as I shook him trying to
keep him awake.
‘’It doesn’t matter—can you do one last favor?’’ he wheezed
as he drew a hard breath.
A favor?! How did he see me ending him as a favor?? ‘’I-I
don’t think I can, I can’t live like this anymore!’’ I cried as I watched him
die. I killed an innocent man and girl. I’d killed husbands and wives, children
and the innocent. I was a monster!
‘’Allerick—‘’ He grabbed my shoulder and he forced me to
look at him. ‘’Please don’t let your sacrifice go in vain—‘’
I shook my head as I looked at him. ‘’My sacrifice…? W-what
do you mean?’’ I asked as I forced myself to swallow my sobs.
‘’I mean don’t let the darkness come back out because I
asked you to kill me—‘’ He yelped and more blood came from his mouth and nose.
‘’Don’t live in fear anymore…deep down I knew there was good in you…don’t let
it go to waste. Don’t let him take control of you and make you live in fear—not
worth it.’’ He said more quietly as his hand began to sink away from my
shoulder. ‘’I-I—‘’ he panted. ‘’I lived a good life Allerick, knowing that
someone else benefited from it—‘’ His eyes began to close and his body grew
limb. ‘’Leave…the woods and…and help others that need saving—mercy and
justice…like a king would.’’
‘’Vidarr…please don’t say such things…I can’t do that.’’ I
cried as he drew his final breath.
‘’Yes…you can…I know…because I…was once like the
darkness…too.’’ He rasped then his eyes shut, and his body fell still, and I
let out a mad scream as I cried over the fallen ranger. He was dead, I killed
him! I killed him and Reila and so many people!! I couldn’t live like this! How
did he expect me to live if I just felt myself die on the inside?? I was a
horrible person…who killed the innocent! And what did he mean he was once like
the darkness too? What stories did he have to tell that where never heard? Did
he suffer as I did so many years ago?
I mourned and grieved and cried for many hours to come. I hardly
came to terms with what just happened, I sat in the freezing snow with two dead
bodies next to me. I killed them both, I killed them both! I couldn’t let this
thought escape me but Vidarr’s last words still rang like a bell in my head. ‘Help
others that need saving—mercy and justice—like a king would’ What did that even
Nighttime fell upon me and I was starting to understand what
he meant. He wanted me to show real mercy and justice towards people who needed
help. He wanted me to be like a king and help everybody…he wanted me to truly
become like the Allerick and help people, he wanted me to guide them, lead them
on the right path.
I thought of the war ten years ago when I stood as respected man of the town and I fought in the front lines with other soldiers. I led the charge, people looked up to me, they had a respect for the man I was. He wanted me to be like that. How was I supposed to do that now? I was nothing but a broken man with no one to go too.
As the night went on, I built a small fire and I watched the
flames devour the sticks I’d tossed in it. To the left of me a couple feet away
sat two dead bodies wrapped in thin cloths that I found on Vidarr. I’d have to
bury them sooner or later. I figured I’d go bury them by the norther tree line
a couple miles away from one of the big cities in the country. It was quiet and
peaceful there, not many wondered in that area since it strayed into the forest.
I knew there were rolling green hills there in the spring and flowers bloomed,
and once an old town used to sit right next to it. I knew that town for it was
my old home.
It’d be good to pay a visit to my former home, I’d bury
Vidarr and Reila there…and perhaps go to my families’ graves. I hadn’t been
there in nearly ten years, I supposed I owed them a visit. Deciding that in the
morning I would depart north I settled down for the night, hoping that somehow
everything would be okay.
I woke early the next morning to see the two bodies were
lightly covered in snow and my fire had died out. I looked around as I began to
gather myself and I spotted my dapple-grey stallion standing off in the
distance looking at me. He too was covered in a lit dusting of snow, her perked
up his ears and he snorted as I patted my leg motioning for him to come over to
He happily neighed as he trotted towards me, he had a small
prance in his step as he came to me. I grabbed his reins and I gently stroked
his forehead and he stood there patiently. ‘’Off to home old friend, off to
home.’’ I said as I left him standing where he was and I carefully tied down
Vidarr and Reila’s bodies onto his back and then with a click of my tongue I
lead him into the forest, heading north towards home.
Several days passed when I finally noticed the trees were
thinning out. I let out a sigh as I saw the snow-covered hills and old ruins of
homes and buildings littered the landscape. Once a small town stood out there
and now it was rubble, used by travelers on their way to the cities.
As I led Vangelis further out, I spotted a familiar sight.
There was a large pasture filled with wooden crosses and planks labeling fallen
people. Out there was my family and out there I’d bury the innocent lives I
As I walked into the center of the pasture, I found my wife
and children graves. They were buried side by side, each one had a wooden plank
with their name on it. There was Adeena, I missed her dearly. My beautiful wife
whom I loved, lied here now. Next to her was Primaros, my son. He was such a courageous
boy who tried to defend his sister and mother. I wished him to be a great man
but now he was a fallen boy, and next to him was Nesrin, my little girl. I
wanted her to stay a little girl and always be happy but now she was still and gone.
Here they were all silent and dead, here I remembered my family.
Later I found an open spot under a willow tree in the
pasture by the tree line. There I started digging two graves while my horse
patiently waited for me. A little while later I was carefully lowering their
bodies into the ground and covering them with dirt and snow. Vangelis stood
there with a soft expression on his face, he kept his head rather low and he
stood there as I finished my work.
‘’There, there Vangelis.’’ I said quietly as I finished
covering Reila’s small grave. ‘’There in a better place now.’’ I mumbled as I
slowly stood and came to my friend’s side. ‘’There in a better place I’m
sure—away from this world and…People like me.’’ I spoke quietly.
He gently nudged me, and he tried nibbling my hand as if he
was comforting me. I then put my arm under my horse’s neck, and I started
gently rubbing and patting him. ‘’I know boy I know.’’ I said a I sniffed a
little as I thought about Vidarr and Reila. I didn’t know too much about them,
just that they were innocent and didn’t deserve to die to my blade. So, I stood
there in silence, paying my respects to them both.
I stayed in the pasture all day going back and forth between
their graves and my families. Finally, at the end of the day and I knew I’d
have to leave. I stood under the snow frosted willow tree I stared at Vidarr’s
grave. He was such a good man, he died too young to my hands. He was a forest
warrior trying to find the good in people, the good in me. He would have been
an exceptional leader, much better than me.
A chilling breeze ruffled my hair as I pulled my cloak tighter
around me. Vangelis let out a muffled neigh and he nudged my arm. ‘’Yes, I know
boy. Let us…go.’’ I sighed as I took one last look at their graves, but I
didn’t move, I needed to do something before leaving.
I slowly drew my blood-stained sword out and I walked up to
his grave and I sank the blade into the dirt and I didn’t pull it back out.
There it would rest forever. Vidarr died a true warrior, he died to the blade
and not the wound, and he deserved to be respected as one to. My sword was his
now and that’s how it would remain.
Looking to Reila’s grave I knelt down and pulled out a small
knife that I owned, and I started carving something into the wooden stick I
used for her headstone. I slowly carefully carved a small heart next to her
name, it wasn’t much, it seemed to suit her well. It was the same thing I did
on Nesrins headstone so many years ago.
Then with a sigh a stood up and went back to my steed. He
nuzzled my cheek and I patted him once again. I then slowly began to lead him
out of the pasture back to the forest, I didn’t look back to any of their
graves I knew I had to look forward to something much great then myself.
I got onto Vangelis’s back and he slowly walked back towards
the dark forest. I thought of Vidarr once more and what he asked of me. He
wanted me to lead others back into the light…surely, I must do it now. I had to
justify myself, and this was one of the small ways I could. All people knew me
as a dark rider lurking in the forest. It would take a great deal of time for
someone to trust me but if Vidarr could then someone would later on down the
It might take months or years, but one day I hoped to be the
leader and man I once was. I knew I had it in me, just so long as I kept the
darkness locked away. I never wanted to see or hear him again, I had to try my
hardest to move on and stay as my current self. I had to be Allerick in order
for anything worth living for in the future.
For ten years I was darkness, and only darkness. I lived in
shadow and I slaughtered people—calling it ‘mercy’. I was a dark rider trying
to forget about his past. Now, I was my old self, I was Allerick. I was going
to strive to be a good and merciful leader who helped others. That’s what I
needed to do, that’s what I had to do. I had to do this for Vidarr and Reila
and every person I’d ever killed.
As I rode deeper into the forest, I felt a new presence in
the air. The forest was somehow different, it was no longer calling to me and
begging me to come thrive in the shadow it was just… a forest. ‘’What do you
say we try to help that caravan?’’ I asked my horse. ‘’I know…I know they
probably won’t let me help but the least I could do is try right?’’ I asked
him. He simply bobbed his head up and down. ‘’I have too…for Vidarr and
Reila…’’ My words trailed. I felt a chill run down my spine, but for some
reason I was calmed by it. How strange.
‘’I don’t know what I am anymore Vangelis…maybe I am a man, but I still think I have a way to go before earning that proper title.’’ I spoke quietly as we walked into the night. ‘’Over the years I will earn a new name. I know I cannot erase the past, but I can try to mold my future…’’ I spoke and he snorted as a response. ‘’Tell me, what am I?’’ I asked aloud. He whinnied and I chuckled. ‘’I suppose your right about that…I am no longer the darkness in the woods.’’ Then all of a sudden, a great burden was lifted off of me. I felt free…I was free of my past, free of the dark rider. I’d let go of everything I once loved…and now I was moving on. Then somehow I knew, everything was going to be okay.
Sydney Winegar is 14 years old and in 9th grade. She frequents the library’s yoga classes with her family. This is her second time participating in a library writing challenge.
First line: Sienna Scott nearly tripped over the body.
Sienna Scott finds the body of a young woman while walking home in a
snowstorm from a study session. As she looks at the victim she realizes
that the girl has a resemblance to her. Was she the intended victim? Or
is she seeing things that are not there, like her mother? Her father
decides to send her away to London to get her away from her mother’s
delusions and the aftermath of the murder.
When she returns home
she finds that life in Tranquility Bluffs has changed since she last
lived here. But she is more shocked by the state her mother is in. With
Sienna’s return her mother spirals as she worries that with her being
home “they” will come for her. It does not help that the police have
reopened the case of the murder that Sienna stumbled upon. Then strange
calls and white unidentified vans driving by lead Sienna to believe that
the killer is back and try to finish what they started years earlier.
I enjoyed Spindler’s newest thriller. It has several twists that throw
the reader off but also hint at the ending. I had several different
theories as I read but nothing that I was absolutely sure about. I liked
Sienna’s mother. Having a character with paranoia is a good tool to
change the reader’s perceptions as the story progresses. It definitely
did affect mine.
This is not an overly complicated book or
something mind blowing but it was just a lot of fun! I have recommended
Spindler to readers who enjoy thrillers and mysteries. They do not
disappoint and make for a fast read.
First Line: In the corner of a first-class smoking carriage, Mr. Justice Wargrave, lately retired from the bench, puffed at a cigar and ran an interested eye through the political news in The Times.
Summary: First, there were ten—a curious assortment of strangers summoned as weekend guests to a little private island off the coast of Devon. Their host, an eccentric millionaire unknown to all of them, is nowhere to be found. All that the guests have in common is a wicked past they’re unwilling to reveal—and a secret that will seal their fate. For each has been marked for murder. A famous nursery rhyme is framed and hung in every room of the mansion:
“Ten little boys went out to dine; One choked his little self and then there were nine. Nine little boys sat up very late; One overslept himself and then there were eight. Eight little boys traveling in Devon; One said he’d stay there then there were seven. Seven little boys chopping up sticks; One chopped himself in half and then there were six. Six little boys playing with a hive; A bumblebee stung one and then there were five. Five little boys going in for law; One got in Chancery and then there were four. Four little boys going out to sea; A red herring swallowed one and then there were three. Three little boys walking in the zoo; A big bear hugged one and then there were two. Two little boys sitting in the sun; One got frizzled up and then there was one. One little boy left all alone; He went out and hanged himself and then there were none.”
When they realize that murders are occurring as described in the rhyme, terror mounts. One by one they fall prey. Before the weekend is out, there will be none. Who has choreographed this dastardly scheme? And who will be left to tell the tale? Only the dead are above suspicion. (Book summary from www.goodreads.com)
My Thoughts: This thrilling and ingenious story written by Christie kept me on the edge of my chair all the way through to the end. I thought this book was mystery at its finest. The lack of spoilers and abundance of conundrum was exciting and intriguing at the same time. I think this is one of Agatha Christie’s best novels by far. In this book I could always expect a drastic turn of events, that would have me reading to the last page. Agatha Christie really outdid herself with this amazing mystery
FYI: There are a few gruesome scenes in this book.
excited to finally dive into this book for quite some time. The only
thing I knew about it before I started reading, was that the main
character used they/them pronouns. Personally, that was enough to
intrigue me. Until reading I Wish You All the Best, I had never read a
book about someone who identifies as non-binary. I think it’s important
to educate myself on topics I know very little about, so I felt ready to
The protagonist of this novel is named Ben. The reader
first meets Ben when they are about to come out to their parents. Ben
ends up getting kicked out of their home, because their parents are
shocked and repulsed by this news. Luckily Ben decides to call their
sister, Hannah who moved away ten years prior. Hannah and her husband,
Thomas are very welcoming and even enroll Ben at the high school Thomas
teaches at. The pair also get Ben a psychiatrist to talk through their
circumstances with. Ben loves to draw and paint, so they are excited to
have a supportive art teacher and impressive art room to work on their
projects. They also meet a boy named Nathan who becomes a close friend
and helps Ben come out of their shell. In addition, Ben gains support
from a YouTuber named Mariam who has gone through a similar situation as
Ben. Will Ben and his parents make up? Will Ben continue coming out to
people? Take this book for a spin to find out!
I Wish You All the Best focuses on Ben’s coming out experience and working through the trauma of having difficult parents. I think this book would be really helpful for someone who feels different or alone with their identity. I like that the book shows Ben getting professional help, finding a strong friend group, and dealing with issues even when they are a lot to carry. When you are a teenager (or any age really) it is easy to feel alone with whatever is going on in your life, this story shows you that there is always someone out there willing to help. I’m really impressed and inspired by the direction young adult books are going in these days. I Wish You All the Best is a great example of the power of representation and finding your voice.
First line: We must, by law, keep a record of the innocents we kill.
Society has finally learned to conquer death. The world is no longer
starving, dying from disease or dying in general. However, one small
problem remains. Overpopulation. The solution is the Scythedom. Scythes
are people who are chosen and trained to take human lives in order to
keep the population of Earth to a manageable level.
and Rowan are chosen by Honorable Scythe Faraday as his apprentices they
are less than thrilled. Life as a scythe is one of isolation and
loneliness not to mention death. As their training commences they learn
that there is more to the Scythedom than they originally knew including
some darker secrets at its core.
My Thoughts: I absolutely
loved and devoured this book! It was recommended to me by one of the
booksellers at Watermark Books. I finally bought myself a copy because I
could not wait for the library one to come back in. I am so happy that I
did. It was fast, fun and crazy. So many different twists and turns. I
loved the characters. The world is fascinating. Shusterman did a great
job of creating a real Utopia but also bringing in some very dark themes
as well. As soon as I finished it I immediately downloaded the digital
copy from Sunflower eLibrary. If you need something to suck you in from
the very beginning then this is that book!
FYI: Lots of
death and violence but I don’t think it is over the top. It would be
hard to avoid this topic in a book all about bringers of death.
Normally we see you during your victories and your sorrows. We help you find books about grief when your partner dies. We hold your busy toddler and help keep them distracted while you page through the potty training books. We do a happy dance for that same toddler months later when potty training is mastered. We show you where the books on DIY projects are when you decide to put in a deck. We also show you where the books on back injuries are a week later. We help send faxes to get medical bills squared away or complete your passport for an upcoming vacation.
But this particular strain of challenge has temporarily altered how we can help. We have become creative in reaching out through social media and email. We see your sweet “hearts” and “thumbs up” on Storytime and Yoga videos. We answer your questions over the phone or email. But it’s not the same. We want to be able to hand you new cookbooks to help you cook at home. Or show you where the old movies are to rest your soul from this trying news. Or walk you through downloading an ebook, face-to-face.
For now we will settle for doing those things virtually. We are ready to send you links to a cookbook you can borrow through our eLibrary. We have websites at our fingertips ready to forward you on any topic you may need. Kids bored? Animals antsy? We’ve got you covered.
So for now we will settle for helping you from afar. But know we miss you! We miss helping you find the perfect new book to try out. We miss hearing why that particular book was an utter stinker. We miss seeing your children’s bright faces and ready hugs. We miss your questions, your ideas, and your laughter. We are definitely looking forward to the day when we get to say “inside voices” and “walking feet” to a group of excited children.
On a cool June evening in 2009, after performing a concert at London’s Royal Academy of Music, 20-year-old American flautist Edwin Rist boarded a train for a suburban outpost of the British Museum of Natural History. Home to one of the largest ornithological collections in the world, the Tring museum was full of rare bird specimens whose gorgeous feathers were worth staggering amounts of money to the men who shared Edwin’s obsession: the Victorian art of salmon fly-tying. Once inside the museum, the champion fly-tier grabbed hundreds of bird skins – some collected 150 years earlier by a contemporary of Darwin’s, Alfred Russel Wallace, who’d risked everything to gather them – and escaped into the darkness.
I first heard about this book on the mystery book podcast Read or Dead. And although non-fiction really isn’t my thing, this bizarre true crime tale was just too intriguing not to read. It really has everything – history, the underground world of fly tying, the ultimate heist and so much more! I learned so much from this book and I think if you give it a chance you will too.
When I first decided to write about The Feather Thief I couldn’t for the life of me think how I was going to pair it with any type of food. However, like most of you, I am social distancing and finding myself with a lot more time than I’m used to. And yesterday I had fully fallen down the rabbit hole of social media. But, it was a good thing because I came across this really cool video about the Victorian Era delicacy Mock Turtle Soup. Now I know if you watch this video you won’t be saying to yourself “I’ve got to run right out and find a calf’s head to throw in a pot!” and I get you, but there are more up to date versions of Mock Turtle Soup. This one actually sounds quite delicious and most importantly right now comforting!
So if you are brave, and much more accurately bored enough to try either version of Mock Turtle Soup, drop me a line and let me know how it went!
First line: Jack Torrance thought: Officious little prick.
When Jack Torrance gets the job as caretaker of the Overlook Hotel it
seems to be a dream. A gorgeous hotel with few distractions where he can
finally finish his play. However, when the Torrance family move into
the famed lodging they begin to notice that something is wrong with this
place, especially their son, Danny.
Danny has always had a knack for knowing things no one else does. But life at the Overlook is more eerie than anything he has encountered in his five years. As the months pass while in isolation in the mountains of Colorado the Torrance family are finding out that the Overlook wants more from them then care taking.
My Thoughts: This is probably King’s most well-known novels. I read it several years ago and enjoyed it but I thought it needed a reread after reading the sequel, Doctor Sleep, this last fall. It was well worth it. I had forgotten many of the events of the book and how scary the story truly is. I really wish that they could make this into a movie or miniseries that would do the story justice. I think my favorite and the scariest scenes were the hedge animals. I do not think I will be able to look at any again without worrying about them coming after me.
And this is maybe a
perfection book for quarantine. The Torrance family is isolated like
many of us are in these uncertain times. It can be terrifying. King’s
novel is one that will suck the reader in and make it easy to let the
hours fly by.
FYI: After finishing definitely check out the movie starring Jack Nicholson.
*This is my pick for category #6 (A book that has been (or is being) adapted to the screen) for the ReadICT challenge.*
First Line: Once upon a time there was a girl named Cinderella.
Summary: Cinderella is poor little girl who sleeps in the fire place with the ashes and cleans for her mean step-mother. One day she wishes that she could go to the ball at the palace to dance and wear a pretty dress. Her wish is granted by her fairy godmother. She has a wonderful time until the prince asks for her name. Rather than giving it she runs away and losing one of her glass slippers in the process. The prince is determined to find the young girl and he scours the countryside looking for her. You know the rest. Or do you?
My Thoughts: This was a cute little spin on the traditional Cinderella story. But most of the changes happen at the end when Cinderella realizes that she can make her own choices and choose her own destiny.
I loved the illustrations. They were beautiful silhouettes. I liked that it has a positive message for young girls about making their own decisions and not relying on a man to fix everything. It is easy to see why it was the November/December pick for Emma Watson’s Our Shared Shelf book club.
FYI: This is a short picture book. I expected more when I placed it on hold.
*This is my pick for category #7 (A selection from a celebrity book club) for the ReadICT challenge.*