Book Suggestion Super Heroes aka Librarians!

One of my favorite parts of being a librarian is helping someone find the perfect book. That book that calls to them when they have to put it down. The book filled with characters that become friends and family. The book that allows the person to escape for a time. It’s really good stuff.

I haven’t been able to do this as often in person lately but it doesn’t mean that I can’t help from afar! We have several options to help find you the perfect book for yourself or your child. So, jump in and put us to work!

Book Fix

Book Fix is a fantastic option set up by our amazing staff members to have you answer a couple questions and then we pick out up to 6 books for you based on that information. Then we pull those books, give you a call/email when they are ready, and you pick them up in the drive-thru! You can use this service for kids or adults. I got to put together a pile of books for a kiddo last week full of construction vehicles and monsters. It was so much fun! Click on “Book Fix” above to get started or find this service under “Readers Advisory” on our home page under “Services”.

Themed Book Lists and Award Winners

Looking for books all about the same theme? Or curious about all the Caldecott winners for a specific year? Need some help with potty training? Explaining divorce or other challenging issue?

We’ve got books for that. Click on the link above to see!

We’ve put together lists of books by theme. Simply click on the desired theme and you will be taken to the page for those titles. On that page will be a list of books that you can click on and then place them on hold. We pull the books from the shelves and then give you a call/email that they are ready. A trip through the drive-thru later and you have a new stack of books ready to go!

So whether you want a stack of surprises or the best books on insects we are ready to help! Books for littles, school age, teens or you, we would love nothing more than to put together a stack tailored to your individual house.

Love,

Youth Services @Derby Library

Grow a Reader Packs

Click here to put one on hold today!

Feeling a little cooped up? Are the small children at your house staring at you wanting to know, what’s next? Worried you aren’t providing enough education for your small charges?

The Library can help.

First off, you are rocking this whole parent thing. The kids are all fed and brushed most of their teeth so you deserve a huge gold star! We do have something to help entertain and educate them though. Check out a Grow a Reader Pack.

There are 15 themed Grow a Reader Packs. Each pack comes in a blue backpack filled with books, games, puppets, and more! Everything found in a pack will help strengthen your child’s early literacy skills. Just by bringing one home, you can pat yourself on the back for scoring a few more parenting points.

You can put one pack on hold and then pick it up in the drive-thru. Don’t even take those lovely littles out of their carseat! We are taking extra steps to ensure each pack is clean and ready to go. A couple clicks and you are this much closer to super parentdom. Way to go!

Cathy’s Book Chat

The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr Review

                The One Memory of Flora Banks is a wild ride! This story is about a seventeen year old girl named Flora who has suffered from anterograde amnesia since the age of ten. The book is told from Flora’s point of view so she frequently repeats to herself the few things she can remember or she writes them down (on post-its, in her journal, or on her arms). Flora is on medication for her amnesia and she lives with her parents. Paige is her only friend, they’ve been friends since they were quite young, but lately things with Paige are fractured. Drake, Paige’s ex-boyfriend kisses Flora on the night before his trip to Svalbard. A few days later, Flora’s parents flee to Paris to be with Flora’s brother, Jacob since he is very ill. Flora is tasked with staying home and having Paige look after her. The only problem is that she kissed Paige’s boyfriend, so Paige backs out of this plan and Flora is home alone. Will Flora be able to care for herself while her parents are gone? Will things with Drake become more than just a kiss? Read this adventure to find out!

                I found the perspective of this story to be quite interesting. Since the reader only has Flora’s thoughts to work with, you learn bits and pieces of her past as well as her current reality. It becomes a mystery for the reader to connect the dots of Flora’s life. At times I felt annoyed by Flora’s repetitive nature, but overall I really felt for what Flora and her loved ones were going through. It must be annoying and frustrating for them to have to retell Flora about her life, but it would be even tougher to be stuck in a state of unknown. This book teaches the reader to have sympathy for what other people are struggling with. This is a story you will not want to put down! It has adventure, mystery, love, and a unique narrator.

Love, Cathy–Youth Services

Ready to put this on hold? Click here!

Chelsea’s Confessions

Confession: I am a Youth Services Library Assistant, and I do not (typically) enjoy reading elementary and middle grade fiction. I reread my favorites, and introduce them to my kids, but it is quite difficult of my heart to leach on to most books of the genre. I read “Small Spaces” as a suggested project during quarantine, and I must thank Miss Carrie for it.

First line: October in East Evansburg, and the last warm sun of the year slanted red through the sugar maples.

Summary: Olivia Adler escapes the world she can no longer love through her books. After an eventful day at school, the eleven year-old pedals her bike to her favorite spot. There she finds a woman crying; worse yet, the woman is throwing an innocent book into the river! Olivia rescues the book and becomes encapsulated in the mystery it presents. When mystery finds its way into her world looking much like the mystery of her novel, she has to choose her direction carefully.

Highlights: The first line, while beautiful, worried me the novel would be an attempt at a literary award which forgets the plot for the sake of its own beauty. Luckily, I was let down. The writing remains beautiful throughout the novel. The plot does not suffer for its beauty—thank goodness.

One of the first rules a writer learns is “Show, don’t tell”. Arden presents this skill artfully in the example of Olivia’s mother. To my recollection, the words “die”, “death”, or “dead” are never used in conjunction with Olivia’s mother. Her absence is felt like a hole in the main characters heart, ever present and without words.

The characters who join Olivia in her quest, purposeful or not, are also well developed. Each character gets a chance to surprise the reader. All in all, I thoroughly recommend this book to any reader, big or small.

Lowlights: As some parts of this story are quite dark, it is not suitable for all audiences. This is targeted toward elementary and middle grade readers, so be certain of their capability to read “creepy stories” before you put this book in their hands.

FYI: This is the first story in a series! It is a great stand-alone, but I look forward to joining Ollie for another mystery soon.

Chelsea–Youth Services Librarian Assistant

Ready to put it on hold? Click here!

Cathy’s Book Chat

A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi

A Very Large Expanse of Sea is about a sixteen year old girl named Shirin. Shirin wears a hijab and is treated extremely unkindly by her classmates, teachers, and complete strangers. This story takes place in 2002 in a town obsessed with basketball. Shirin has become quite good at suppressing her emotions and blocking out the world with music and a tough exterior. The only solace in her day is breakdance practice with her brother, Navid and his friends. Then she meets a classmate by the name of Ocean who makes her think that maybe there are people worth talking to. Ocean is the star basketball player at school and he desperately wants to get to know Shirin. When their interactions make others angry and cruel, the two must decide whether the connection they have is worth protecting.

At the beginning of the novel I felt like Shirin was a bit harsh to those around her. She didn’t have the best attitude and seemed really passive about life. Then I learned more about her experiences with racism and how she felt like she couldn’t confide in her parents about her personal life. When her breakdancing partners and brother confronted her about how she comes off to other people, I could see Shirin start to grow and reconsider her approach. When you are sixteen it’s easy to be angry with the old, on top of normal teenage emotions Shirin was going through both verbal and physical abuse all because of her religion. I began to feel her frustration and wanted to scream at her peers, too. This book may be fictional, but there are enough bigoted people out there that it is easy to be up in arms about the treatment minorities face in this country. Surprisingly Shirin was able to block that ugly side of people out and focus on what made her happy. That was what made her story inspiring and brave.

Happy Reading!

Cathy–Youth Services

Ready to put this book on hold? Click here!

Youth Services Summer Reading Program @Home

Since we can’t be together as we normally would we have a developed a fabulous and innovative Summer Reading Program!  Derby Public Library’s Youth Services Department has created ways to bring those programs you love into your home, while coming up with new programs to keep them busy and entertained.  Whether you have a newborn or an 18 year old at your house, we have planned programs that will tickle their funny bones and engage their imaginations.

Beanstack and Prizes

This will be our first summer using Beanstack, a free app that patrons will use to track their reading and earn prizes!  May 26 is the first day of SRP and the final day for submitting reading times and picking up prizes is July 26. Every child who finishes the reading challenge will win the following prizes:      

  • New Book!     
  •  Derby Bowling Alley for 2 free games
  • Other prizes as available due to Covid-19

Finishers will also be entered into their age groups Grand Prize Drawing:

  • Tiny Tales:  Baby’s first library: $200 gift card to Watermark Books and personal bookshelf
  • School Age: Nintendo Switch Bundle
  • Teen: Beats Headphones and Wireless Speaker

Facebook Events

We will be doing most of the digital programming from a Facebook Event so make sure to click “Interested” to stay up to date. However, you do not need a Facebook account in order to participate in these events. They are available for all the public to see.

New Programs

School Age and Teen kids will be able to pick up a craft kit at the drive thru or the front of the library, roughly once a week throughout the program. We also have put together art supply kits featuring crayons, scissors, four Sharpies, and a glue stick for those families in need just ask for an Art Supply Kit at the drive thru. A special Moviecraft program for teens has been morphed into one that can be done on your couch! We’ve even created a StoryWalk @ the Library has been created to exist on the sidewalk surrounding the library to help our littlest patrons enjoy some library time outside.

Links to the Fun

Check out the links below for our website and the Facebook Events.  Please let us know if you have any questions or would like more details.  We can’t wait to see you this summer!

Thank you for your patience during this time of adjustment. At this time our drive-thru is open to help get you the materials you may want or need. Including any materials available for the Summer Reading Program. We will keep you posted as things change. We miss you and can’t wait to hear from you this summer!

Cathy’s Book Chat

Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy is a book filled with spirit, loyalty, and self-discovery. Our story begins with the last few days of summer before Ramona’s senior year of high school begins. Ramona lives in Eulogy, Mississippi where she works two jobs and lives in a trailer with her sister and father. Ramona’s older sister, Hattie is pregnant with her first child and Ramona feels a certain responsibility to stick around and help her sister when the baby comes. Over the summer Ramona has been spending time with a tourist named Grace. Ramona has come out as a lesbian, but Grace is still in the closet. On top of this, Ramona’s childhood friend, Freddie has moved back to Eulogy. Once school starts, Ramona’s relationship with Grace dwindles and Freddie fills the gap. Freddie introduces Ramona to swimming at the YMCA, it’s there that she meets a retired swim coach who encourages her to pursue collegiate swimming. Will Ramona choose to leave her family and try something new? Will Ramona find herself in this year of change? Take a dive and find out!

A lot is happening in Ramona’s world. I think this story does a good job of showing the chaos that is your senior year of high school, all of a sudden you are having to make major decisions about your future. This time can make a person feel lost and insecure. Luckily, Ramona has her friends, Saul and Ruth in addition to her loving family and Freddie. She is able to discover new things about herself when she thought she knew what path she was going to take. I remember the uncertainty of being a high school senior, it was not easy to figure out the “best” direction for myself. I relied a lot on my loved ones during this time as well. I think this novel is perfect for people who feel a bit lost when they want to have everything planned out. Ramona Blue, in typical Julie Murphy fashion, presents the reader with a wide range of characters, humor, and a lot of heart.

Love, Cathy from Youth Services

Writing Challenge Winner: The Darkness in the Woods by Sydney Winegar

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.

Our villain and protagonist

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 new.

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 only darkness.

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, unexplained passion.

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 emptiness.

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 dead bodies.

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 floor.

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.

Vidarr, the Ranger

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 did not.

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 of life.

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 people.

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 smart, fatal.

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 pulled back.

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 suffer.

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 fun!

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 to work.

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 them.

‘’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 snow.

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.

Allerick

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 helpless.

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 could do.

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.

                                                                             –==+++==–

The Woods in Winter

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 kill him.

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 girl defenseless.

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 snap.

‘’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 work.

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!

Reila

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 ranger.

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 towards him.

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 sympathy.

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 foolish.

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 good man—‘’

‘’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.

You must!

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 being him?

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 snorted.

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 in behavior.

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 that way.

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, go!’’

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 a moment.

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 useless.

‘’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 me.

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 me.

‘’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.

‘’You must.’’

‘’No.’’

‘’I’m asking you as a friend and enemy to kill me.’’

‘’I mustn’t.’’

‘’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 out!’’

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 deep voice.

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 mean?

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 me.

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 ended.

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 road.

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.

Redemption

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.

The End

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.

Cathy’s Book Chat

I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver Review

I’ve been 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 read on.

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.

Love, Cathy from Youth Services

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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.

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