by J.P. Fischer
A re-imagining of my previous story. Explores the Lamplighters further.
So this is the first time I've written a note before the start of a story. Just to say that I'm not especially pleased with this 'sample'. It's insanely long (for a sample), so most people won't read it all. Besides that, I'm just not proud of the story and writing. This is a 're-imagining' of my earlier story, The Lamplighters. I enjoyed writing the first part, but things really fall apart when the action starts. I only really started redeeming myself at the last few lines, and by then it was too little too late. Still, I enjoyed expanding this universe and these characters a bit more, so hopefully it isn't all bad. I would also like to point out that A Rude Interruption is from the same 'continuity', and the girl is Nimh, and the man Bridgemore.
Waves crashed up against the side of the ship, spraying sea foam into the air, which proceeded to mingle with the impenetrable fog that surrounded the ship. The sky was filled with thick grey clouds, which half-heartedly dribbled rain over the sea. Neither the sun nor the moon were present, although some light still filtered through the clouds, barely keeping the oncoming night at bay. Occasionally, one could hear the low, moaning calls of Torim under the waves, as Bridgemore pulled hard on the reigns, turning sharply out of the way of some submerged obstacle, covered in a slick layer of algae. Occasionally, he would glance at the others, when they were out in the deep of the ocean, away from hidden rocks and such. Nimh often stood staring over the railing, at the waves licking the sides of the boat, as they rose and fell in the shapes of mountains and valleys, her expression stony faced. Sven, determined to be as practical as possible now, rushed back and forth, up and down and side to side, fixing or adjusting anything and everything, no matter how big or small. Occasionally he and Bridgemore would chat, not really of anything important, but simply to break the stormy silence.
"How many days at sea so far, eh Bridgemore?" He would say loudly, trying to get Nimh to join in on the conversation.
"We're counting thirteen days this evening!" Bridgemore would reply in a falsely cheerful voice, as Sven shot hopeful glances at Nimh, although every time her moody expression was set solely on the ocean, paying them no heed.
"How time flies, when you're having fun!" He would chuckle awkwardly as he strolled casually back to the men's cabin, no doubt to rehearse another conversation. Bridgemore had seen very little of Sauri for the last few days. It seemed she had retired to the ladies cabin, where Bridgemore had no doubt she was practising earth sorcery. Indeed, he sometimes felt the boats weight shift suddenly at night, occasionally accompanied by a large crash, likely caused by the sudden appearance of a rather heavy chunk of rock. Other than that, to say their journey was uneventful would be a large understatement. For almost two weeks they had simply been drifting near the shore, just out of sight. They saw no animals (with the exception of Torim) and the weather remained in the same dreary state. The only time they had docked was to replenish their provisions from some seedy looking merchants. Every evening, when Sven took the reins of Torim and steered them out into the deeper ocean, where they could simply cruise for the night, Bridgemore would escape to the back of the ship, where he would try and crack the secrets of his pendant, which remained stubbornly inactive. Try as he might, all the pendant did was sit there gleaming in the lazy flicker of the candlelight. He had tried speaking incantations from other languages, performing every possible magick-ish gesture with the thing, and even thrusting it over one of the many blazing torches, in an attempt to try and channel the flames, only for the thing to come out searing hot, and scald his hand. He thought bitterly of Sauri, and how easily she could control the earth. He had seen her the day before, lazily urging a small pillar of earth, barely the size of a ruler to fall and rise out of the ground on a whim. He thought of this sourly as he recalled an evening a few days ago, where he had asked for guidance in manipulating the flames. But it seemed that he alone would have to learn the workings of the pendant, as her reply had been a fairly blatant 'no'.
"I'm sorry Bridgemore," she had said, shaking her head. "I have no knowledge in the realm of fire, nor in the ways of channelling items. I'm sorry; but that's my answer. I suggest you get back to practising." She had said, as he opened his mouth to argue. With that, she had shut the door in his face, leaving him alone in the hallway, feeling quite flabbergasted. So he returned to the back of the ship, where he went every evening, including this equally unsuccessful one, where he thought longingly of his home, and the friendly glow of his fireplace. He felt that using the pendant would have been infinitely easier if he could sit by his hearth, or in fact just the inside of any warm room. Unfortunately, Nimh and Sauri had agreed that just in case he managed to conjure fire (not likely he thought), it had best be done outdoors. So it was that Bridgemore found himself yet again sitting on the ground with his pendant, and although this part of the ship was slightly warmer, he still found himself shivering, his arms clenched tightly with the cold. He stared at the pendant, not entirely sure what to do with it. He had essentially given up hope of using the thing, at least not without a proper teacher, and yet he couldn't help but feel like Sauri must know something, anything that could at least point him in the right direction. He also suspected that she may have been hiding something from him. He seemed to remember a very sad look on her face when she denied him help, but now he wondered whether his brain was playing tricks on him, making him remember things that weren't there to begin with. He sat there, by himself in the dark, contemplating these strange thoughts, but as he stared into the fog, he became aware of an unpleasant feeling of fear, gnawing away at him. Most other nights here he had been too busy with his pendant to think about much else, but now, as he sat there, he began to think about this fear he was feeling, and as he thought about it, shivering in the dark, it seemed to grow. He could hear the thrashing of the waves, the strikes of distant thunder, and as he pressed a hand to his clammy chest, his distant heartbeat, although only a feeling, magnifying the sounds of the night. As his drumming heartbeat intensified, he tore his hand from his heart, the drumming faded, and he became conscious of his deep, heaving breaths. Staggering to his feet, a feeling of nausea coming to him now, he stumbled to the side of the ship, cradling his stomach. As he stared into the endless black of the cloudy night, trying to concentrate on the invisible horizon, he noticed something out on the ocean, barely visible through the fog. His growing fear intensified, his heart racing as he saw several separate lights out in the ocean. They seemed to be the glow of lanterns, swinging in the breeze. They were too far apart and too sporadic too be part of the same vessel, and Bridgemore counted about seven of them. Despite the cold, beads of sweat started to appear on his forehead, and his fear and nausea grew as he stared at them. He knew they were moving, coming gradually closer to the ship, but he couldn't seem to see them moving. They didn't seem to physically move with time, nor did they just appear closer in the blink of an eye, they simply became closer.
"Sven!" Bridgemore shouted. "Come here, quick!" His voice sounded shrill and quaky in the wind. Staring desperately into the dark, Bridgemore's heart sank as nobody came, until there Sven was, stumping there from the back of the ship.
"There you are!" He said. "You left your pendant."
Bridgemore grabbed Sven's shirt, and pulled him to the edge of the ship.
"What in Vvarden's name?" He murmured. Tearing his eyes away from the floating lights, now mere metres away from the ship, Bridgemore looked up at Sven. His hands were trembling slightly on the railing, his eyes wide.
"Come on;" He said shakily. "We're getting Sauri!" With that, he tore off to the inside of the ship, Bridgemore trailing behind him.
"What is it!?" Bridgemore yelled. "What are they?"
"A surprise attack at best;" Sven called back, yanking the cabin door open. To the right was the men's cabin, to the left, the ladies. He skidded to the left and knocked furiously on their door. After a moment, Nimh opened the door, her expression confused.
"Sauri!" Sven boomed, and in a flash she stood behind Nimh.
"There's something coming on board!" They both said. Without anything more, Sauri pushed past all three of them, running swiftly onto the deck. The others looked at each other, then followed after her. Bridgemore's sense of fear had doubled now, and he could tell Sven felt the same way, and he was sure Nimh would feel it soon too. It was an unnatural sickly feeling, which Bridgemore was sure was not his fault. From the back of the ship, they heard Sauri call;
"Everybody, back inside!" Her voice was laced with fear. Bridgemore made to turn back, but sheer curiosity kept him moving to Sauri's voice. Clutching his pendant, Bridgemore turned the corner, and for the first time, saw the things that made Sauri, Sage of the Earth, afraid. There were about three on board so far, but the closest one was only a short distance away. The first thing he noticed was its smile. The thing didn't have lips, but the skin of its mouth was stretched into a large, grotesque grin. This revealed several long, thin and sharp teeth, discoloured from years of decay and bloodstains. Its eyes were thin, with no pupils, blank and piercing, although they were partially hidden by a thin, black bandage, wound tightly around the head, revealing only the smile and the eyes. It was about Bridgemore's height, though slightly hunched, making it slightly shorter than the average person. It was clothed in filthy rags which varied in colour from black to grey. Its arms seemed unnaturally long, stretching down to just above the legs, which were bent and extremely thin. It stood on the ball of its feet, animal-like, which were also strangely long. All of this was illuminated by a swinging, creaking lantern held in its right hand, explaining the lights at sea. This provided a soft glow that gave whatever little portion of the skin was visible a sickly yellow tinge. As Bridgemore stared, his feeling of fear and nausea doubled, as his knees buckled, pulling himself up by the railing. His vision blurred, as he became faintly aware of the fact that the thing was advancing, its disfigured face moving closer to him. As it moved, he became illuminated by the light, and his skin started burning, his body wracking with pain. The light was searing his skin, he screamed with pain, although he could not hear it, and sank to the ground. His eyes seemed tainted by the creature, all he could see was its terrible, horrifying face, floating above him, taunting him as he burned. Suddenly he felt his body being lifted, and the distant yell of a man as the pain lifted somewhat. It seemed reality was seeping into his mind again, the vision of the creature fading from his sight. He became aware of his surroundings, cruelly aware of the burning pain on his arms, his hand in particular searing terribly. His ears became filled with his own desperate breaths, he realised that he was being carried, it seemed, by Sven, his body shaking as Sven took great lumbering steps. He saw a flash of Nimh's hair in his vision, heard the earth being bent to Sauri's will, then a door being slammed shut. He was set on something soft, and full consciousness seemed to come to him as he took deep, grateful breaths of clean air. For a moment, he lay there, ignoring the voices of his companions, his eyes shut tight, before Sauri's voice weighed him down to reality.
"You fool!" She yelled angrily. He felt Sauri's staff crash into his side with a dull thud, though it didn't really hurt, and heard the angry retorts of Nimh and Sven.
"Bridgemore!" Nimh said desperately after a moment. Opening his eyes slowly, he saw Nimh's face relax. He looked around him. It seemed he was in his cabin, laying down on one of the beds. Suddenly, there was a colossal crash from outside, and the cabin lurched. Bridgemore gasped in pain as Nimh fell on him, his burns searing again.
"Sorry, I'm sorry!" She cried. Sauri, however, did not have so much sympathy.
"I told you to get inside!" She said furiously. Bridgemore remained silent, shame welling up inside him. Why had he been so desperate to see the thing? He looked at Sven, who was backed up against the door, his arms blistered and red, likely from when he had to save Bridgemore. Sauri had risen a huge slab of earth outside, shielding the cabin from the burning light.
"Keep that light alive!" She said, gesturing to a flickering candle sitting on a table in the corner of the room. "They grow stronger in the dark, where there light reaches the farthest!"
Nimh rushed over to the table, breathing gently on the flame, so it rose, providing slightly more brightness. Sven reached up and wrenched the curtain shut, leaving them in near darkness, with the cabin crashing dangerously occasionally from the creature's onslaught.
"Who are those people?" He yelled, as another crash came from outside.
"People!" Sauri snorted. "Those are the Lamplighters!"
"Lamplighters!?" Nimh asked. Bridgemore stood shakily, peering out of the glass of the door. Sauri's earth wall had been physically melted away by the sheer strength of their lights, but Bridgemore could not see any molten rock. The Lamplighters had surrounded the cabin entrances, and all the lights outside seemed to have been extinguished. Their hideous smiles shone through the darkness, barely visible in the lamplight.
"Lamplighters!" Sauri repeated. "Stay out of the light!" With that, the last of her original stone wall was melted away. The Lamplighters advanced, though they did not seem to move, their blank eyes coming ever closer. With a yell mixed with pain and desperation, Sauri thrust her arms into the air, a huge block of earth reaching from floor to ceiling, much thicker than the last, coming between them and the Lamplighters. With that final act of magic done, she collapsed to the ground, unconscious. Calling Bridgemore over, Sven and he carried her to the bed. For a moment they simply stood there. Even if Sauri's wall did last, they had no food, and the window was too small to escape through. Sven stumbled over to his chair, his face in his hands. Nimh was still desperately keeping the candle alive, her face alive with dread. Bridgemore sat down on the bed, horror filling his entire being. They had failed, failed before they had even done anything. This was the end, no way out. All they could do was wait for the rock to melt away, lambs going to the slaughter. He found himself thinking about the strangest things, things that hardly mattered. What would happen to his dear old house? Would the Red Banner receive the news of a Church of a Thousand Faces? If they didn't, they would surely be crushed. Akevan would be lost, or changed for the worst, everything he ever knew, gone. He winced as the burns on his arms pained him, but did it really matter? No, it wouldn't matter, not in a few minutes. He thought of a woman who he had often seen in the streets, bitterly wishing he had plucked up the courage to talk to her. Perhaps things would've been different, perhaps he wouldn't have been accused of a crime he hadn't committed, framed by a girl from the Northern Isles.
I'll never be able to use my pendant. He thought sadly, before a sudden rush of adrenaline hit him like a speeding arrow. A feeble ray of hope blooming inside him. He fumbled the pendant out of his coat pocket, his heart racing. He laid it down on the bed, shifting into the meditation position he so often saw Sauri in. Nimh glanced at him, before turning back to the candle, which flickered out of life for a moment before rekindling, causing her to gasp with fear. Bridgemore closed his eyes, filling his thoughts with fire, logs crumbling, and wicks fading away into black dust. Suddenly, a large crackle came from outside, as rock crumbled away from stone. The Lamplighters had almost arrived. Sven stood suddenly, sniffling slightly, his eyes blazing with determination. He moved to his pack in the corner, tearing strips of fabric off the bag. He wrapped the fabric around his exposed skin, showing no sign of pain as he brushed his burns. He passed some fabric to Nimh, and when Bridgemore remained in his meditative state, Sven wrapped Bridgemore's skin himself.
"If I'm to be finished," He muttered to himself, twirling his moustache. "Then so shall they!"
Bridgemore frowned, trying to ignore the noise pollution. Images of flames and infernos still flashed through his mind, but he felt no nearer to the pendant's secrets then he had the night before. His mouth felt dry and cracked, and although he tried to ignore it, his own constant, drumming pulse could be felt under the pressure of his wraps. Doom doom. Doom doom. As he felt his heartbeat, the sounds of the world seemed to fade away. The steady crumble of stone became a distant sound, as though he was hearing it from another building. His own drumming heartbeat filled his ears, as his mind became clear of pictures of flame, leaving only pure black for him to see. As he heard Sven give a muffled yell beside him, although it felt like the sounds were miles away, a smooth, clear voice, neither male nor female filled his mind.
"I hope you're good with fire." It was there for only a moment, before the voice faded. For a moment there was nothing, as he pondered these words. Then, in the centre of his vision, a tiny pinprick of light appeared. It glowed with a fierce orange light, before growing larger and larger. Soon, the great flaming image of the sun filled his mind, a great expanse of nothing but flames collapsing in on flames, the source of warmth and growth, but also blazing heat and burns. Suddenly, terrible visions started clouding his mind. He saw a thin white bone, being burnt until nothing but white powder remained, and even for that to be blown out into the wind. He saw entire villages blazing, people being trapped in their houses, before being consumed by the flames, their expressions one of anguish. He saw swords being forged and tempered in fire, then being used to kill and maim, as fire took more and more victims, however indirectly. Then, the swords became red hot pokers, being pressed onto the flesh, used for torture and pain. The face of a woman, as old as Sauri appeared, her eyes flaming orbs, cruel and piercing. Suddenly, her face became that of a Lamplighter, its hideous face clouding his vision, its smile threatening to swallow him, extinguish the flames...
"No!" Bridgemore heard the sound leave his mouth, as the vision faded away, as if it were mere smoke, leaving him in the dangers of reality. He was lying on the floor, sweat beading on his forehead. He heard Sven and Nimh give equal sighs of relief, as he sat up, feeling feverish. He looked up at the door. The stone wall visible through their window was cracked, and faintly glowed red.
"Another few minutes, and they're through." Said Nimh grimly. "Can you walk, Bridgemore?" But Bridgemore wasn't paying attention to her. His eyes were set firmly on the red-golden pendant. It lay on the ground, and the stone floor around it was singed black. The pendant was burning into the ground. Numb excitement running through him, Bridgemore scooped up the amulet, and although he could feel the heat it was radiating, it was cold to the touch. With a burst of excitement, he conjured a wisp of flame into being, his own will turned into fire. He whooped with joy as the flame spiralled into smoke, lighting the room warmly for a moment. He continued conjuring little balls of flame, his elation increasing with each one he made. When Sven saw what he was doing, he started laughing heartily, his teary eyed face full of joy. Nimh joined in on the laughter, stress and fear fading from her expression. For a while, so glad at this seemingly miraculous pendant channelling, they laughed raucously in spite of themselves, in spite of the seven Lamplighters at their doorstep, in spite of the unconscious Sauri on the bed next to Bridgemore, in spite of the terrible burns on their skin. Their chance at survival had come, they had a defence, offence, light and warmth.
"We can burn off their faces!" Cheered Sven ludicrously. Just when they had started to overcome their fits of laughter, Bridgemore and Nimh had to laugh at the sheer ridiculous notion Sven had just put forth. But Bridgemore's laughter faded as much darker thoughts crept into his mind. Burn off their faces. Burn. He thought of the words with which he had been given the pendant. To manipulate and heat, not to scorch and burn. The terrible images of his visions leaked into his thoughts, of the death and destruction fire brought, and the pain. He thought of the terrible anguish he felt under the glow of the Lamplighters, of the ebb and flow of pain that came and went along with burns.
"I can't do it." He said aloud. Nimh and Sven's conversation and laughter died down as they heard this.
"I can't kill them!" He said loudly, looking at the other two wildly.
"Burn them then!" Nimh said. "Incapacitate them, anything!" Bridgemore could hear some fear and doubt returning to her voice. Suddenly, the door shuddered violently, as a loud bang sounded from outside as the last of the stone wall crumbled away. Sven rushed over to the second bed, where he scooped up the feeble form of Sauri easily, then the three of them backed into the corner.
"If you're not going to kill them Bridgemore, you'd better do something quick!" Said Sven gruffly. Suddenly, the room was plunged into darkness, as the candle behind them fizzled out. Nimh gave a muffled scream as the faces of the Lamplighters shone through the window, some sickly fluid leaking from the corners of their mouths. Dread filling his entire being, Bridgemore tried to conjure a flame to fill the wick of the candle, but no fire would kindle. At that moment, the door caught alight, orange flames licking at the inside of the room. For a moment, it simply stood there, throwing the room into sharp relief as Bridgemore struggled to think of a way to stop the Lamplighters without resorting to killing. He felt terrified and frustrated, unable to think with the smiling faces glaring down at him. Then, the door keeled over, the outside face landing upwards. It was burnt black with glowing orange embers, as if it were a log that had been burning for several hours. Slowly, the Lamplighters advanced, filling the room with their scorching light. Metal sizzled and wood crackled as their light advanced, burning the room away. Bridgemore gasped painfully as the light reached him, his skin searing under the lamps glow. He stared into the lamplight as his companions were reached by the light, their pain becoming his pain, as the centre of the lamp glowed and burnt like a miniature sun. Suddenly, it came to him, in one brilliant thought. The lanterns were candles, not gas lights! Gripping the pendant firmly, he thought of flames extinguishing, the rain quelling wildfire, cold breath outing a candle, flame becoming smoke. In an instant, all became dark. The pained cries of Sven and Nimh faded into confusion, and the searing pain of the lamplight vanished. The Lamplighters lanterns had been extinguished, their power lost.
"Run!" Bridgemore yelled. He grabbed Nimh's hand and ran into the crowd of Lamplighters, the burnt door crunching beneath their feet. He could hear Sven's large, lumbering footsteps coming from behind, presumably weighed down by Sauri. Bridgemore pushed through the Lamplighters, yelping as his skin came into contact with ice cold flesh, almost as if it were dead, and his ears filled with an unbearable buzzing noise. Still, he pushed through the crowd, coming to the faint outline of the edge of the ship.
"Jump!" Said Bridgemore. Without thinking, stopping for a moment to ponder the consequences, he leapt over the side, his world going into freefall, as he escaped the heat, plunging into the deep cold of the ocean.