YA High Fantasy
November 10, 2020
Publisher: FyreSyde Publishing
King Athan vanishes at sea. His children, prince Thalos and princess Thara, drift apart with age, their kingdom falling into ruin. Thalos stubbornly clings to the past; Thara, resentful of her father, looks to the future. In the wake of this decline, a beautiful enchantress usurps the throne from the estranged siblings. She exiles Thalos to the edge of the world and slowly
enslaves Thara’s mind.
In his exile, Thalos finds another castaway—an old comrade of his father. Together they begin a voyage in search of the lost king. Thara, meanwhile, resists the new queen’s coercive spells and finds a resistance of creatures still loyal to her father.
With a vast world of enchanted islands and beings between them, Thalos and Thara struggle to restore their family and rekindle the hope of the true king’s return.
“To the abyss with these statues!” swore Aravos.
Aravos, Thara, and Narmo had been in the tunnel for eight days, though it felt more like a hundred. The company was setting up camp for the night in another little space between two of the statues aligning the road—one of a young, male andros, frowning sternly, with his tunic half- draped over his athletic frame; the other of a naiad Queen, holding an oar for a staff and crowned with woven river rushes.
“No matter which side we sleep on,” said Aravos fluttering his wings testily, “there are always another pair of statues staring at you from the opposite side of the road.”
“They’re only stone,” said Thara, trying to comfort him, though her voice carried an edge of impatience. There had been no end to his griping.
“It’s their eyes,” said Aravos, trying to hide as deep in the recess as he could. “They follow you.”
As Thara and Narmo set down their packs, they heard a loud, dull grinding, like the sound of a stone mill. At first, they assumed it must have been something on the mountain, outside of the tunnel. But as they looked onto the road, something stepped into their line of sight.
The statue of the naiad woman was moving toward them!
Thara and her friends screamed, throwing themselves against the black cavern wall.
The statue’s movements were stiff at first, but its pace and mobility soon improved. She brandished her oar-staff, aiming for the companions.
“By the Ethirians!” shouted Aravos.
“Run!” screamed Thara. They grabbed their things and ran down the tunnel, behind the pillars.
The sound of grinding stone filled their ears once more as the statue of the young man detached himself from his pillar. He reached out his arms, swatting at the companions.
Now every statue up ahead was pulling itself from its pillar, reaching out at the travelers.
Some magic had made them come to life. At first, the companions sprinted by the statues, but more and more burst to life up ahead, blocking their way. Sculptors had carved them in the likeness of warriors with bronze swords and spears.
The statues’ swords flashed, but Thara and Narmo drew their own blades to meet the attack. Aravos threw a statue to the ground where it shattered to bits. Then a statue seized the griffin from behind, his neck, wings, and legs caught in vice grips. Soon the other statues caught Thara and Narmo. No matter where Thara looked, droves of the noiseless, stone soldiers surrounded her and stared into her soul with lifeless eyes.
Thara’s heart drummed against her chest, and numb with horror, she could only look ahead as the statues hoisted her and her friends. The tunnel became to Thara a river of shadow, and the statues bore the companions, like rafts, toward rapids of doom.
The statues brought their captives to the end of the subterranean highway. There, Thara realized that the statues of the tunnel were small in comparison to the two carven figures flanking Undergloom’s second gate, which they now beheld. These new colossi of heavily armed warriors projected from the gateposts. The figures and the gates vaulted to the dark roof, one hundred feet or more. The black doors stood ajar, gargantuan braziers lighting the threshold.
As they passed through the gate, a new wonder opened before Thara’s eyes, momentarily quelling her fears. It was a vast cavern, so vast that its height and depth could not be guessed, disappearing into horizons of deep shadow. Thara at first thought this was not a city, for she could only see megalithic stalagmites rising from the ground and giant stalactites dripping from the vaulted ceiling. Gray light that fell through shafts in the roof illumined the chamber. The widest and centermost of the light beams came from the funnel opening at the top of the mountain overhead—Mount Mulakar.
As the company approached the nearest stalagmite, Thara observed golden lights winking at her from the structure’s surface, which she mistook for ores and crystals. As the statues bore her deeper into the city, however, she realized the winking lights weren’t shards of crystal—they were windows. Silhouetted figures moved back and forth across these openings of orange light—moving about inside the stalagmites. The Princess’s heart soared higher than the unseen roof. The stalagmites were like conical pyramids, hollowed out, and used for housing. Even the stalactites hanging from the roof were hollow and had windows alight with candles. From their tips, wound staircases onto the ground level. It turned Thara’s stomach just to imagine making such a precipitous climb.
Pale oreads moved through the streets of Undergloom like ants, their eyes deadened with the lightless glaze of those affected by the witch’s spells. Their tunics were as colorless as their faces—plain gray or pale brown in hue. Like moths drawn toward a lantern on a summer night, the oreads drew around the newcomers in a body, following along behind them as the statues moved the prisoners to the central stalagmite sitting within the beam of light.
This central stalagmite was larger and grander than any other. Workers had chiseled its rugged sides to smooth inclines and staircases; six sides in all. At the top of this pyramid stood a gleaming, golden statue.
The marble statues carried their prisoners up the steep stair of the pyramid. As they neared the summit, Thara’s view of the golden statue became clearer. A spasm of terror broke out over her face—it was a statue of Sundra, its golden hands wielding two swords. The face had been shaped to even greater beauty and perfection than the one it was modeled upon. Red gems that glowed faintly like coals had been set within the statue’s eyes.
The prisoners were shoved to the ground before the golden statue of Sundra. Thara and Narmo’s weapons and baggage were cast at the effigy’s feet.
A lightless temple stood behind the statue. From its dark recesses crept a frightening oread King, his robes gray, face gaunt, and his beard and hair like cobwebs. Worst of all were his eyes, which glowed dully with the poisonous rheum of those under the witch’s magic.
“Trespassers in the Queen’s province?” the oread King said in a lifeless, croaking monotone.
From the base of the pyramid, the mob cried with dull, monotonous voices, “Kill them!
Kill them! Give them to the Queen!”
“Servants!” called the King. “Awaken the Queen!”
Other oreads in threadbare, moss-colored robes issued from the dark temple, wafting rusted censers of pungent smoke, an incense that nearly choked the prisoners, making their heads swim.
As the smoke curled around the neck and face of the golden image, an anxious silence fell upon the mob.
Then, with a grinding that gave Thara goosebumps, the head of the golden statue pivoted on some unseen joint. Its red eyes illuminated with an inner fire. The carved face glowered at the captives.
The mob howled, “Sundra! Sundra!” Again, like moths, they drew to the image as if their heads—with eyes unblinking and mouths gaping—pulled the rest of their body along.
The King stood over the captives. “Swear fealty to the Queen, and your life will be spared.”
Aravos and Narmo, their limbs clasped by their marble captors, exchanged pained glances, but neither spoke.
Thara, on the other hand, would not look at either of them.
She felt that all her life led up to this moment, to come crashing down upon her, buried deep under the earth where she would be forgotten. Her quest had failed. Her blood would be spilled before the golden image of the Queen. Part of her felt that she deserved this, and so she almost committed herself to death—until she saw the sword. It was the one lord Arthas had given to her, just out of reach, but far enough away to feel like a thousand miles separated the Princess from her weapon.
She realized now that the smoke of the censers and the beauty of the golden image cast a spell over the people just like the enchanted waters of Anaksanos. Even now, the fumes worked on Thara, as if Sundra herself knocked at the gate of the fortress around Thara’s heart, beckoning.
“Who among you will worship the Queen?” asked the oread ruler.
Neither Narmo nor Aravos moved nor spoke.
But then— “I will,” said Thara, her voice lifeless like the oreads around her.
The griffin and the gnome looked at her, their eyes haunted, mouths gaping.
“Release the girl,” said the oread King.
The statues let Thara up. She marched, slow and spell-cursed, to the image.
“Sundra,” Thara said adoringly with outstretched hands. She turned and looked over the others. “They must be killed,” Thara said. “I will do it.”
About the Author
Frazier Alexander lives in Denton, Texas with his wife Nicole.
He began writing around the age of nine, inspired by movies such as The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and “sword-and-sandal” epics like Jason and the Argonauts. As a reader, his interests gravitate towards older works and the classics, such as Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, Virgil’s Aeneid, Beowulf, and Le Morte D’Arthur. Along with creating his own mythological backdrop for his stories, Frazier is an amateur calligrapher, map-maker, and artist.