For Glory

Daily Writing Exercise: High Fantasy. There’s an evil that lurks in the woods beyond the castle’s walls. A sort of sideways reply to a r/WritingPrompts post, but I still like how it turned out. 420 words.

500 Words Story Index


“You’re all they have left?” It circled the human child, scales rippling with echoes from a millennia of nightmares. Each footfall turned the forest floor to soot and coal. “The best they have to offer?”

Over the centuries it had consumed paladins and warriors, war mages and necromancers. All humans who were skilled masters of their crafts.

And this– this was not.

The child said nothing but gripped the sword tighter, terrifyingly stubborn in its resolve to die.

“I am the eldest,” the creature hissed, rearing up in an explosion of darkness until its shadow swallowed the clearing. “I am the thing of legend. The name only whispered under the brightest sunlight. The first and only fear all men are heir to!”

It wasn’t a roar so much as a rage, a fury that drowned all senses until the child cowered before it.

But still held the sword.

“And they told you —you— that you were worthy of me?”

For a long moment the boiling darkness and the rage were all that existed.

“They told me someone had to die.” The child struggled to stand, buffeted by the weight of the primal magics. “Better me than–“

“No.” The word rang out with a finality that shattered the rising storm.

The child watched as the creature sank back to the ground, magic and nightmares collapsing in upon themselves until they compacted back into the massive beast.

“I am not death,” the creature snarled. “I am failure. I am the competition shot you miss, the person you cannot heal, the leap to glory you stumble over because you aren’t good enough.” It circled the child. “They came to me because they chose to come to me, so sure that they’d succeed where all others had failed.”

It stopped in front of them –stopped in front of the sword they’d never dropped– and gazed into their eyes.  “I didn’t kill them. Some ran away, some went home, some chose not to live, but I am only failure– nothing more.”

“All of them?”

“Yes.”

“Years ago, he brought the bodies home. Said you had killed them and only his magic allowed him to escape. So every year since he’s gone into the forest with our best and brightest and every year he’s brought the bodies home.”

“Ah.” The creature turned to look down the path the child had walked, scales rippling. “And he’s waiting now?”

“Yes.”

“Then come, small one, and let’s see what his nightmares taste of.”

And they brought the bodies home.


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