Inner Demons by Kibbled
Inner Demons - Part OneRain fell. Lightning flashed. Thunder echoed and droned across the plains of Rohan. It was the fifth day of storms, and the sky was as black as night. Day melted into night without notice; the cloud cover absolute and unfathomable. Gale winds whirled across the plains with unforgiving force, hurling anything not secured to the ground hurtling into the air.
The small village had stood up to many of these storms. Each storm grew darker and stronger, and fear began to take root within its inhabitants. The growing darkness of the world around them reached closer to their doorsteps with each day. Stories of the wild men of Dunlan attacking border villages were whispered in dark corners of the village, spreading fear into the very souls of its residents.
“Keldred,” his mother called, “go ask your father to secure the barn again- I can see the door flapping in the wind.”
Keldred smiled to his mother and ran to the top of the stairs. As he reached the top step, he glanced out of the small window to his right. Something moved in the distance, but what he could not tell. He shrugged his shoulders and continued on his way to his father’s bedroom. Opening the door, he saw him sitting by his desk.
"Papa, Ma asked if you could go and look at the barn door- it keeps slamming in the wind…”
Keldir turned to his son with a look of confusion. “But I bolted it tight last night… The wind could not have shaken it loose easily.” The older man smiled as he looked at his young son. He could not believe how fast the time had past. Was he already 8 years old? It seemed only yesterday that he was born. He shook the thoughts from his mind. “Well, boy, there is only one way to find out. Come and help me?”
Keldred cheered. He loved to help his father out it the barn. As he raced downstairs, he nearly tripped, but his mother caught him before he landed.
“Keldred, you must be careful!” Melewyn laughed, cuddling her son. She glanced up to see Keldir at the top of the stairs. He was looking out of the window, a look of horror on his face. “What is it, Keldir?”
The father’s skin went deathly pale as he turned to his family and ran down the stairs. “Get into the basement and lock the door..!” Melewyn began to protest, but Keldir pushed her towards the kitchen, picking his son up as he passed. “They’re here..!”
“The wild men, they’re here!” He grabbed open the door to the basement and pushed his family inside. Handing his son to Melewyn, he shut the door behind him and began to pile things in front of it. Turning, he reached up to the top shelf of the larder and pulled his sword down. It was old and rusting, but it was still sharp.
Noises came from upstairs. Something was banging against the front door of the house. Bang… bang… bang… and then a loud crash. The front door gave out and they could hear running footsteps upstairs. The floorboards creaked beneath the strangers’ feet. There was another noise. Another person entered the house. They muttered something to each other, what, the family could not hear. Smashing sounds echoed through the house.
Melewyn turned to her husband, tears of fear streaming down her face. “What do they want?”
“I don’t know…” He shook his head. “Look… I want you to take Keldred and get away from here. Climb out of the window and run.” He turned to the small window to the rear of the basement. He looked out and the way was clear.
“I’m not leaving you!” Melewyn began to cry.
Keldred sat on the floor looking to his parents in confusion. “Ma, what’s going on? I’m scared…” He began to sob, and ran to his mothers arms.
There was a sudden bang just outside of the basement door. The wild men were close. Keldir ran to his wife and took her by the hand. “Melewyn, you must go! Now!”
The basement door began to shake as someone tried to break it down. Keldred and Melewyn began to scream. Keldir ran to the window and broke the glass. He ran to Keldred and picked him up. “Keldred – climb out of the window and run. Don’t look back. Just run!”
Keldred cried as he lifted himself out of his father’s arms and clambered through the small window. He stopped and turned back. His mother was pulling herself up when there was a loud crash. The Dunlanders had broken through the basement door. He heard his father scream and the clang of metal against metal. His mother let out a shriek as she was pulled back through the window by her legs.
Keldred tried to grab hold of her outstretched arms but the rain made her skin slippery. He watched through the window as his father was slashed by blades as the wild men hacked at him with their weapons. His mother cried out for him to run, as one of the attackers threw her against the wall, and began to unbutton his trousers, a sick grin on his face.
Keldred ran as fast as he could. His vision blinded by the rain. All he could hear was his mother screaming. Keldred tripped and fell into a ditch. Crawling on his hands and knees in the sticky mud, he reached the low wooden bridge his father used to cross into the southern fields and hid beneath it. He closed his eyes and covered his ears, shivering in the cold, and utterly alone.
~~~~~~~~Keldred opened his eyes. The storm had passed and there was birdsong in the air. He tried to stand but could not move his legs, for they were buried in the sodden mud. Digging with his hands, he fought his way out of the ground and pulled himself free of his shelter under the bridge. The sky was clear and the sun was shining. But the air was thick with the smell of death.
Running over to his house he called out for his parents, but there was no answer. He ran inside. Furniture was strewn all over the place. He ran into the kitchen and gasped. His mother lay on the table, naked and pale. He went to her and touched her hand. It was cold. Her unseeing eyes stared deep into his, and a cold shiver ran down his spine. Her neck was shredded and her clothes and skin were covered in blood. He picked up her discarded dress and covered her naked body as tears met his eyes and ran down his cheek.
Tearing himself away from her, he walked down into the basement to find the crumpled body of his father. He turned him over and found him impaled on his own sword. Kneeling before his father, he wept and pulled the sword from his gut. He wiped the congealed blood from the blade and stood. He shook his head and turned, walking out of the room and out of the house. He looked over to the other houses in the small farming village. Most were destroyed; burnt or battered. His neighbours lay gutted in the road, some in pieces. Death was everywhere.
Something stirred within him. Anger, not grief, was now first and foremost in his mind. Anger… And revenge. He turned to the hills to the north and began to walk, his fathers sword in his hand, glistening in the sunlight.
Twelve years later…..
Keldred stumbled into the Prancing Pony, already intoxicated with a whore on his arm. The other patrons watched as he pushed his way to the bar and ordered a pint of ale. He downed the beer and wiped his mouth on the sleeve of his shirt. The whore next to him giggled and whispered something into his ear, making a smile grow across his face. Slamming his mug down, he winked at the barman with a knowing smile and walked out of the inn.
The whore pulled him into a nearby alleyway and began to unbutton his trousers. Just before anything could happen, Keldred heard someone clear their throat. It was a woman, standing by the entrance of the alleyway with her arms crossed. A raven fluttered by her heels, swarking. Keldred turned to face the woman. “Do you mind? Can’t you see we’re busy?”
The woman giggled. “Keldred… you haven’t changed a bit…”
Keldred pushed the whore away and began to walk towards the woman, doing up his trousers. “What? Who the hell are you?”
She sighed. “Your wife…”
Inner Demons - Part 2Sensing the tension between her client and the woman claiming to be his wife, the prostitute stood and looked up at the man before her. “I guess I’ll leave…” She turned to the woman, “…unless your missus here wants to join us…” The woman simply glared at her. “Maybe another time then…” As she walked away, she stopped and turned to Keldred. “I’ll be back later to collect your bill…” Laughing, she climbed the steps, opened the door and went back into the Prancing Pony.
Keldred watched her go, burping from too much ale. Dwarven ale always took it out of him, made him more impulsive and burden-free. It was a great feeling; he just hated the morning after. He turned his gaze to the woman. “What do you mean you’re my wife? I don’t have a wife..!” That I can remember anyway…
The woman walked towards him, carefully stepping over the rubbish and other unmentionable things littering the floor of the alleyway. There was a light from a nearby window and as she stepping into it her red hair was illuminated. He recognised her instantly. She was someone very dear to him, but she was almost certainly not his wife.
“Kibina!” He cried, rushing over to her, pulling her closer to him. He hadn’t seen her in what, 5 years?
They were just kids back then. Kids who had seen more death and destruction than someone their age should have done. After the destruction of his family 12 years ago, he became a stray, a wanderer with no home. He would head north along the north-south road, passing through the few villages on the borders of Rohan and Dunland, offering help in return for a place to sleep and food to eat. He could never speak of what had happened to him. Whenever anyone had asked him where he was from, or why he had a sword with him he just made up something, anything but the truth. Sometimes he would lay awake at night, eyes wide open, staring at the stars in the sky going over and over the things which had happened. He would dwell on those thoughts. The screams of his mother as the attackers violated her in front of her dying husband; the sound of his father, choking as he drowned in his own blood after his throat had been slashed. The images burned into his minds eye, never to be forgotten. Never to be forgiven.
One day, two years after his parents’ death, he was walking along the north-south road when he could hear screaming. He stopped and tried to pinpoint where it was coming from when he saw in the distance a young girl running and screaming, two men chasing, closing in on her. Keldred drew his sword and set off at a sprint towards the attackers.
One of the men threw something at the girl and she tripped, falling to the ground and screaming. Just as she struggled to get up, they reached her. Pinning her down, they began to laugh and sneer to each other. The girl screamed and wept. Suddenly, there was a flash of silver, and one of the men stopped smiling. Blood began to seep into his clothing, as he looked up and saw Keldred, sword dripping, standing above him. The other man stood and began to shout, as the other slumped to the floor, a pool of maroon liquid forming beneath him as he coughed breathlessly, trying to breathe.
The remaining man was armed with a heavy and jagged sword, rusted but still sharp. Swinging the large sword, he lunged at Keldred, but the youth was too nimble and dodged the blade. With another flash of silver, the young man thrust the hilt of his sword into the side of the man’s head. The man grunted and held his temple, blood pooling into his hand from the wound. Keldred swung his sword, but this time the man was ready and parried the blow, but Keldred was prepared. He was always prepared. Throwing a low punch knocked the wind out of the attacker, and gave Keldred a split second to turn his blade and plunge it into the man’s chest. The man cried out as he fell to the floor. It was clear he had never expected to die like this, by the hand of a child.
It was silent for what seemed a lifetime. Keldred let his sword fall to the floor as he dropped to his knees. His hands were smeared with the blood of the attackers. He was exhausted from the fight, but he had to keep going. He needed to see if the girl was alright. That was how he had met Kibina. The same age as Keldred, she had been witness to the death of her family also. She came from a small village near the Fords of Isen and had been chased from her village by Dunlanders also. They had been friends ever since.
Five years ago, however, Kibina had formed an intimate relationship with a man who was teaching her about lore-mastery, and this drove Keldred insanely jealous. He had always been very protective over Kibina, having grown up together and protected her over the years. He did not like this new man in her life and one day, when overly drunk on ale, threatened the man. Kibina never spoke to him again. She packed her things and left. That was the last he had seen of her. Until now.
“Kibina, where have you been?”
Her smile faltered, and Keldred knew immediately that something was wrong. He suddenly felt sober.
“Kibina… What is it?”
“Can we go somewhere more private?” She asked, her voice faltering. He nodded and guided her to the place he was staying. It was the home of his friend who had unfortunately started to be known around Bree as the Mad Cat Lady. Upon entering the house, Kibina asked her raven companion Stokes to head away into the skies. Once settled, Kibina opened up.
“Do you remember Malendir, my Lore trainer? He went missing…”
At the sound of his name, Keldred felt the heat of jealously spark up, but he needed to be calm for his friend. He put an arm around her and pulled her close to his chest. “Tell me what happened…”
The moonlight glinted off of his armour, and not wanting to draw attention to their passage, Keldred wrapped his cloak tighter around himself, covering the metal of his breastplate. The boat rocked as he pulled upon the oars, steering the small craft towards the darkened isle. He looked over to where Kibina sat in the boat. She was tired and worried, dark circles around her eyes. He wanted to say something to her to assure her it was going to be okay, but the risk was too great. They were nearing the isle now and Keldred could see the scouts surrounding the ruin.Steering the boat to a small, shallow cove, Keldred slipped into the water without any noise and walked the boat up to the shore. Kibina sent Stokes, her raven, up into the sky to scout the area to make sure they were in a good spot, and upon her return Keldred pulled the small boat ashore, covering it with shrubs and branches from a nearby felled tree.Keldred looked to Kibina who nodded. This was where they held Malendir, her Elf friend. It had taken most of the journey from Bree to get it into his head that this mission was for Kibina’s sake, and not for Malendir, whom he had no love for. It was Keldred’s impression that Malendir had bewitched Kibina somehow, drawing her affections away from him. It was nonsense, and he was aware of this, but he could not help but feel jealous. But this was not about him. This was about Kibina. The tomb-robbers were an organised threat against the free-people, and although not working direct with the enemy, they were a symptom of the spreading evil, and had to be stopped.Keldred silently climbed the small hill up to the side of the crumbling ruin and pressed himself against the wall. Rantost was once a grand house of the Kings of Old, when Lake Evendim was a mere puddle. Now it was a crumbled home to ruffians who offended the very rock of the stone walls. The only things these thieves cared about were the treasures they had already stolen from these tombs… It disgusted Keldred. Reaching a corner, Kibina sent Stokes into the air to check that it was safe for them to continue. Just as the Raven began to return, there was a rush of air, and the bird plummeted to the floor, an arrow embedded in its side. Kibina let out a yelp, but Keldred grabbed her and covered her mouth with his hand. A flurry of arrows rained down upon them, luckily missing the both of them, and around the corner ran a swordsman, followed by another… and another… Keldred was an excellent swordsman, but against this many opponents, and even with the assistance of Kibina and her beast, this battle would not be won. He pulled his friend and together they sprinted away as fast as their feet could carry them, just as one of the ruffians swung his sword. An arrow flew past his ear, and Kibina screamed. They neared to where they had hidden the boat, but there was not enough time for them to get it. The robbers were still chasing them as they ran into the water and swam for their lives. Kibina was lagging behind slightly, but she was still following. The archers stood on the small beach and continued to send arrows after them, whilst a few of the braver thieves swam in pursuit.It felt like hours had past when the last of the robbers gave up his pursuit and returned to their island. Keldred could hear Kibina behind him struggling, the death of her Raven obviously causing her pain. They continued to swim towards the lake’s edge, when Keldred heard a splash behind him. He turned and saw that the water where Kibina had just been was stained red. Horror shot through his body as he took a deep breath and dove into the depths, his eyes searching for his friend. He began to panic, using up the breath he took with frantic motions. And then he saw her. She had lost consciousness and was drifting about 20 feet below him. Keldred rushed down and grabbed her arm, pulling her to the surface. As he brought her close to him, he felt something hard jab against his side. He ignored it and pushed himself as hard as he could to get to the surface before he too lost consciousness.And then there was release. The pair broke the lake’s surface and Keldred gasped for breath. They were close to the shore now and it took all of his last strength to get them both there. That was when he realised what the hard thing that jabbed into his side was. It was the feathered end of an arrow. Embedded in Kibina’s side, he ripped the clothing surrounding the wound in a frenzy, needing to see the damage. Kibina cough and spluttered, her lungs clearing of the freezing lake water, but she was turning a deathly pale. As Keldred assessed her wound, he noticed a pool of blood on her other side too. Clenching his teeth, he peered over to see a large gash in her side. Their attacker must have hit her just as they moved.He couldn’t believe that this was happening. He was no medic. He could patch up the odd scrape, but this… this was too much. He cursed himself for not knowing what to do. How could he let this happen? If she hadn’t talked him into coming here this would never had happened. She would be safe. Instead, Kibina was laying here, frozen to the bone and bleeding to death. He took off his cloak and laid it upon her, trying to keep her warm. Lying next to her, he wrapped his arms around her and hugged her close.Stirring, she opened her eyes, her breath ragged and weak, and looked into his eyes. She smiled at him and time seemed to slow down. She nestled her head into his chest and sighed.“I’m sorry…”Keldred closed his eyes, keeping away his tears, needing to be strong for his best friend. Opening them, he looked into hers and realised that no-one looked back.She was gone.