Earth Breaker

 

 Cordell Stormlander drifted into a despairing dream. Visions of doom and the eyes of the dead swirled around him. Monsters from childhood stories moved out of shadows. He felt claws going down his back and he screamed silently. He was falling through fire. The flames wrapping around his body burnt so intensely they felt like ice. A voice on the wind called out, ‘Will the end be what you thought and will you escape?’

 

His eyes snapped opened on to a dawn tinted sky. Groaning, Cordell rolled over and felt for his water skin in the short grass. The dream lingered in his head and he could still see flames. Finding the skin, he took a long drink. The water was sweet and chased the burning from his throat. He let the dream fade and focused on tuning his eyes and ears. Around him the grassy plains were silent, but for the soft movements of his horse, Gretel.

 

Putting down the water skin, he struggled to his feet and his arm knocked against something.  Though he know what the object was, he was still drawn to pick it up. The long sword was heavy in his hands. The blade was black and unsheathed.  In tiny letters of an ancient forgotten tongue down the length of the sword were the words; ‘I am a thousand times more evil than thou.’ He couldn’t see it in the dark, but he knew the words were there.

 

Placing the sword down, he got up and went to the horse. She was standing opposite him, next to the remains of the fire. The rest of his gear and her saddle lay close behind her. She heard him approached and neighed softly. Gently, Cordell patted her head and began to speak to her like an old friend, ‘The Lord of Turmoil won’t rest, Gretel. Nor will he stay out of my head. These dreams are getting darker.’

 

Cordell pressed his head to the Gretel’s. She smelt of grass, damp earth and sweat. He drew comfort from her and felt the visons dissipate. Gretel gave a gentle snort, but didn’t seem to mind as he started rubbing his head against hers. Cordell took a deep breath and then spoke once more, ‘We can’t keep running like this. We’ll have to face him soon and then he and I will both pay for our mistakes.’

 

Giving her a handful of oats, he turned to the makeshift camp and began to collect his things. Gretel watched him for a few moments before stamping her hoof and neighing. Cordell glanced over his shoulder and called gently to her. He attached his bedroll and water skin to the back of her saddle. Then checked his other equipment before placing the saddle on her back. He patted her neck and Gretel nuzzled his hip, pushing him back slightly.

 

He rubbed her forehead and cast his eyes to the side. The sword was still lying where he’d left it. His hands itched to hold the blade again, but instead he pulled out the makeshift sheath. Walking over, he swiftly picked up the sword and slotted it in. A soft growling came from the weapon. A tremor shot up his arm. He held his grip and fastened the sheath to the saddle. Gretel whined as if pained. Cordell soothed her and when she had calmed, he mounted.

 

The light was fast growing and he encouraged her towards it. Gretel broke into a trot, keen to be moving. The empty plains stretched before them and they made good time through the flat land. Cordell stopped Gretel a few hours later. He jumped down and his half-elf senses lead her to a small trickle of water. They both drink and he filled up his water skin. He feed her another handful of oats and climbed back on. As she start off again, he dug some dried meat from a side pouch and eat it. He should have felt hungry, but ever since the blackened sword had bound itself to him, things had changed.

 

Swallowing, he nudged Gretel into a trot and then a run. The small horse shot off across the plains and Cordell had to glance back to make sure they were not being chased. It was only Gretel’s love for running though. Despite everything, Cordell grinned and urged her to go faster. She snorted and galloped on. The plains flew by and they felt the wind whipping at them. Gretel slowed the pace sometime later into a comfortable canter. A few hours past then Cordell eased her to a stop.

 

Ahead of them, the plains quickly give way to grey sand with the silhouette of a castle to the right. Cordell suddenly felt very thirsty. He slipped from Gretel, taking the water skin has he did so. Drinking, he kept his eyes on the castle. There’s no turning back now, he thought. Putting the skin back, he took the sword and attached it to his hip. Patting Gretel, he led her across the sand.

 

Unlike it first appeared, the sand was hard and only the top lay shifted as they walked. The castle loomed above them, a threating blot on the landscape. Sooner then he liked, they were standing before it. The gate towers rose up to the sky, but there was no gate standing between them. Cordell felt an icy chill as he walked through. He left Gretel just on the other side. Even though she seemed nervous, she stood her ground. He wanted to say something to her, but the words wouldn’t come. Instead he stroked her face and headed into the castle.

 

Stones crunched under his boots and he drew the sword. The weight of the blade seemed to give him strength and he pressed on. A faint blue glow and a growling came from the sword as he turned a corner. Cordell knew he was close as ahead the castle’s narrow walls expended into a massive chamber. Walking in, he saw rotten banners above and alcoves off to both sides. His feet shuffled on the stained stones and he quietened his breathing.

 

On a stone platform, seated in a large wood throne was a giant suit of armour. Cordell approached slowly, his eyes taking everything in. The armour sat tall, the feet planted on the stone and the arms out in front, the hands resting on the pommel of a great broadsword. Visons from his dreams suddenly flashed into his mind and he heard a dark laugh. He tightened his grip on the sword. He stared into the eye holes of the armour. Red eyes, that hadn’t been there before, glowed back at him. The Lord of Turmoil regarded him carefully and then spoke into his mind, ‘What do you want, boy?’

 

Cordell froze, that voice was the same one that haunted his dreams. Fear tightened in his stomach, but he didn’t turn away. Choosing his words cautiously, Cordell replied, ‘To win.’ His voice echoed gently, but seemed to hold itself. The Lord laughed and stood up. Metal squeaked against metal and as a foot stepped down, the chamber vibrated. Cordell relaxed his shoulders and held the sword with both hands. He took up a fighting stance. The Lord came to stand next to him and Cordell was assaulted with a powerful smell of decay.

 

‘You really think you can fight me?’ The Lord asked.

 

Cordell nodded, not trusting himself to speak.

 

‘Then let it begin.’

 

The Lord pulled his sword up into both hands and took a similar stance to Cordell. Then he brought his sword down, causing Cordell to bring his up to block and as he did so the Lord shoved him backwards. Cordell caught himself on his toes and spun around. His sword sung through the air and hit the Lord’s with a loud clatter. Pulsations shot through them both and then they parted. Cordell quickly stepped back in and tried to get the Lord to move back. Instead he was met with an unmovable mountain. The Lord of Turmoil laughed and blocked all of Cordell’s attacks with ease.

 

Cordell spun away and created some space between them. He was breathing hard and sweat was clinging to him. However, he could feel the sword burning in his hands. The blade was faintly glowing and now the power within seemed to have been awoken. He didn’t have time to ponder this as The Lord roared and changed at him. Cordell brought his blade up and managed to block an attack which would have gutted a normal man. He jumped to the side, his blade locked with the broad sword and caused The Lord to turn after him. Yet The Lord still had the upper hand and with a quick strike, he sent Cordell stumbling backwards.

 

Recovering, Cordell lashed out with his sword, but The Lord knocked it from his hands with a crashing blow. The sword spun to the floor and Cordell unexpectedly drained fell after it on to his knees.

 

‘You will all bow to me eventually. That’s how it always will be!’ The Lord of Turmoil shouted, ‘and now boy, I’ll make you regret ever disturbing me!’

 

‘It can’t be like this,’ Cordell said under his breath. He glanced across and saw that the blackened blade was just out of reach. Still though, his hand reached out of it.

 

Arcing his sword down, The Lord dealt a killing strike. At the last moment, Cordell rolled away, grabbing his sword and parrying. The Lord was momentarily stunned and Cordell saw his chance. He swept the board sword aside and pushed his blade and in-between the armour plate. The Lord looked down and then swatted his sword away like a fly.

 

‘Foolish boy!’ The Lord rumbled.

 

‘No,’ Cordell replied coldly.

 

The Lord paused and looked at him. Cordell raised the sword and in one single movement pushed the blade through the breast plate and into the Lord’s chest. The Lord gasped and started shaking. Cordell wrapped his fingers around the pommel and pushed the blade in deeper.

 

‘This sword once belonged to you,’ Cordell stated, ‘When you out grew its power and tried to burn it, the sword cursed you.’

 

A gargling sound came from the helmet as The Lord tried to speak. Cordell ignored the noise and carried on, ‘This sword has been seeking revenge for so long that it’s become more powerful then you could ever be.’

 

With that, Cordell went to let go, but found he couldn’t move. What sounded like crackling chuckling came from The Lord of Turmoil, ‘and you thought once you’d given its vengeance Earth Breaker would let you live?’

Cordell panicked and tried to remove his hands once more. This time he felt the blade move. He step back and yanked the sword out. The Lord crumbled before him, instantly turning into dust. Cordell fall to the floor and let go of the sword. His hands looked scarred by fire. Shuddering, he got up and collected the sword. The blade was still glowing blue, but as Cordell sheathed it, he felt the power subsiding.

 

Exhausted, he made his way out and back to the courtyard. Stepping out, cleansing rain started falling. He put his head back and let the water wash over him. He heard Gretel neighing in welcome and hurried over to her. He buried his face in her neck and took in gasping breaths. Gretel rested her head on his shoulder and then nudged him. Slowly, Cordell climbed into the saddle and led her out.

 

‘They were all wrong,’ he whispered.