- Category: Flash Fiction
- Published on Tuesday, 20 August 2013 14:13
- Written by Samuel Plum
- Hits: 2260
Young Charlie really wanted to see the fabled demon of Skora, said to be imprisoned for centuries by the shackles at the local shrine, only appearing at the winter solstice. Instead he has found what seems to be a grumpy old man. Does he dare release him at the risk of unleashing a demon on the world?
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A tale of Taloria
Samuel J. Plum
Cover Illustration by
Copyright 2013 Samuel Plum
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.
There is a legend told in the valley of Skora, passed down from generation to generation, about the shrine at the rift on the hill. They say that a demon lord of the Scourge had been trapped there: Ashgereoth the Destroyer, the most powerful and vicious demon of his kind. The mages of the time fought tooth and nail to hold him and used their most potent magic to create shackles that no force could break. But Ashgereoth was strong, far stronger than most demons, and when others would have faded to nothing, he remained. Even when bound, this demon could work powerful magic, but asno summoned creature is able to summon another, he remained for a century, alone and unable to do anything but shake the mountain in his impotent rages. Eventually even he faded away to almost nothing, but to this day, the chains remain and his spirit is still bound by the shackles to the shrine on the mountain. It is said that during the winter solstice, when night is deepest, he regains just enough power to manifest himself again.
“You heard me young man. I said it's poppycock. The whole blasted story, made up to give you kids something to be spooked about.”
“But you’re wearing the shackles,” Charlie groused accusingly. “The legend says the shackles still hold the demon, and right now they are holding you.”
“Is that what’s bothering you?” he asked. “Every year gullible folk come up here looking for a demon. Some fool kids decided it would be funny if this year they found something. They grabbed me from my home, threw me in a sack, dragged me out here, and slapped these shackles on my wrists. I'm no demon, boy. What I am is an old man that has just about had it with today's youth!”
Charlie had to admit that the old man before him did fall quite a long way short of the vision he had held in his mind of the fearsome demon lord from the legend. The demon was supposed to be towering and menacing, skin made of bone and blood and fire, horns stretching out like a mighty beast, muscles promising a strength capable of tearing a man apart with less effort than it would take to pull a leaf from a tree. The old man, on the other hand, seemed about as feeble as they come: balding head, lanky frame, sallow skin, and he smelled a bit like old cheese.
The old man paused for a moment to look Charlie over, his demeanor softening. “But you, you seem like a decent lad. Can you help an old man out?” he said.
“What do you mean? I thought you said the legend was 'poppycock'. The chain is long enough, you should be able to open the shackles yourself.” Charlie said.
“If only I could. You see, the first part of the legend is real enough,” the old man replied and drew himself up as if giving a speech. “The demon lord, the mages, the chains that can’t be broken - all that’s true. But the last part, the part where Ashgereoth is bound to this world by the chains? Demons don't work like that, and you should know it. Their bodies are made of magic, and even the most powerful of them will fade over time and return to the shadow realm of Nokari to wait for another chance to be summoned back and bring pain and destruction to Taloria again. No, the demon lord is a century gone. Now only the chains remain, but they still work. Anyone held in these chains would be unable to open the shackles themselves. And, and I can't stress this enough, they chafe something fierce on my old skin.”
“How do I know you aren't the demon just trying to trick me?” Charlie asked, his skepticism beginning to falter. “That sounds exactly like the kind of thing a demon would say to get free. Even if the demon's body is gone, maybe his spirit is still trapped in the chains. And besides, if the chains can't be broken, how am I supposed to be able to open them?”
“You do ask a lot of questions,” the old man muttered. “The demon is long gone. If it wasn’t, those kids wouldn’t have been able to open the shackles to put them on me. That’s another part of the legend,” he continued. “If the shackles are empty, they are just shackles. But if not, only someone with a good heart and pure intentions could open them. As long as the demon was still held by the shackles, they knew no one good would ever open them and set him free, but they also knew that the chains would last an eternity. They must have imagined that something like this could happen.”
Charlie stared at the old man for a decade of a second. His young heart had really wanted to believe in the demon, to believe that it was still here. He had been waiting so long to see it. But looking at the old man, he just wasn’t sure anymore.
"I don't know," he said. "We aren't far from the monastery. I should go and get help."
"It will take some time to rouse the monks, and I've been freezing out here for hours now. I'm not sure how much more I can take. You can do this on your own. Please, child."
Looking at the man there, chained and shivering in nothing more than his bedclothes, Charlie’s better nature won out. He knew what the old man was saying made sense, more sense than childish tales of sleeping demons. And he felt the cold himself, seeping through his winter coat. The old man’s night clothes would be useless against it.
“Give me your hands,” he said. The old man held the shackles out to him, a mixture of hope and disbelief dancing across his face.
When Charlie touched the shackles they began to glow with an eerie light. He found a clasp, and with a small clink, it came free. He repeated the release on the other and the old man sprang up, waving his arms around in the joy of refound freedom.
“Thank you my lad,” he said with a grin creeping across his face. As he looked down at Charlie, his eyes began to glow with an ominous yellow light. “I promise you, I won't forget what you've done here today.” And with that, he vanished.