Editor's note: I left my full review on Amazon, so I won't rant about this story too much here. I'll just say that not reading this story would be one of the biggest mistakes you ever make in regards to literature. It is truly one of the most heartwarming works of fiction I've ever read in my life (which, in spite of the fact that I'm only 16, is saying something; I read about a hundred books every year). So, without further ado, I present: The Legends of Matt Baker: A Collection of Short Stories by Sabina Boyer.
Click here to read Part One, here to read Part Two, here to read Part Three, here to read Part Four, and here to read Part Five.
Isaac watched Katarina, shivering underneath her drenched dress, meekly lead the soldiers out the courtyard beneath a torrent of falling rain. The evil, terrible, soldiers— the monsters — the murders. He cursed under his breath and helped his mother up as the remaining soldiers began yelling for everyone to move.
Cynthina’s betrayal hurt enough, but Katarina too? He bit his lip and wrapped an arm around his mother. He couldn’t believe it. But then again she was probably still in shock from her Grandmother’s death. The girl turned slightly as she passed to the street and gave a tight lipped smile. Something white fluttered out of her hand and she turned away. Isaac glanced around. Had anyone else noticed? The soldiers were busy getting everyone to stand and start moving.
“Just a minute mother,” he whispered, ducking from under her arm, and burst into a sprint.
“Hey you!” a soldier yelled and pointed. “Where do you think you’re going!?” Isaac dove for the paper. It crumpled it in his hands and he shoved it into his pocket. The man pulled out his whip as he towered over him. “You can’t run away,” he snarled.
“Isaac!” his mother screamed but it was to late. The whip crack down on his back and he reared in pain, gasping. His nails dug into his palms and he bit into his tongue. The bitter taste of blood filled his mouth and he coughed. Bright red droplets trickled down his chin and sprinkled into the puddle of mud and water he knelt in. Lightning split the skies and thunder boomed, shaking the courtyard.
“Get up boy!” the soldier growled and raised his whip again.
“No!” Elizabeth shouted and grabbed the end of rough leather rope as it flew toward her son. She wrapped it around her hands quickly and pulled, yanking the surprised soldier into the mud. He gasped and began westling back and forth for the whip. Isaac leapt to his feet and jumped on the man’s back, clawing at his hands to make him let go of the whip.
Suddenly, the entire courtyard was filled with yelling and fighting. Villagers pushed their children out of the way and tackled soldiers, struggling for their lives and for the lives of those around them. The kids followed behind. They tore and pulled at hair and kicked and stomped on feet, screaming furiously, tears and anger filling their eyes.
Isaac couldn’t see, rain blurring his eyesight, but he could feel with his hands. Everything else disappeared from his focus as all his will was bent to tear the whip from this man’s hand. He clawed at the man’s face with one hand and tried to ply his fingers with the other. The man was heaving beneath him. His breath shaky. And then his grip began to slip.
“No!” the man gasped. Isaac slammed his head into the mud and the soldier gurgled for breath. He pushed harder and struggled to keep the soldier's face planted in the deep puddle. The man began lashing wildly and then, he stopped. Isaac relaxed and pulled the whip free of the muddy, stiffening hands. He pushed himself up and managed a small, weary smile.
“I love you mother.”
Elizabeth rushed over and hugged him fiercely. “My son,” she whispered.
Isaac pulled back, wincing from his burning back, and his hand closed around the paper in his pocket he pulled it out. “Surely I shall see the sun rise beyond the distant shores, Flaming red—” it began.
Lightning flashed and he looked up. Silhouettes in the field. A dozen.
Katarina shivered again. She could hardly stop. There were no buildings or walls to protect her from the strong wind that froze her bones and made her icy, soaking dress cling to her skin. She stumbled in the mud and barely caught herself from falling.
“Are you sure that it’s this way?” the captain yelled over the noise.
Katarina nodded and looked ahead. Fog and mist and rain and pitch black. She could hardly see either. “Yes!” she shouted back. “He lives by the cliffs in a tent!” She coughed out the rain and cupped her mouth in her hand to help her breath.
“Shouldn’t we be there by now!?” he asked.
Katarina shrugged and strained to make out any shapes in the darkness. She stopped and looked around. Beside her Amir hautled and motioned his soldiers to search for any signs of where they were. They slid their knives out and crept forward quietly. They quickly became black shadows in the mist. Katarina started after them when suddenly a scream pierced the storm. Before her one of the soldiers bumped into the one before him and they slipped and disappeared. Katarina froze in shock and Amir began yelling as he fought the wind and stood above the spot.
“The cliffs,” he shouted. “We’re here.” Katarina forced herself to breath. What were they going to do to her when they figured out that the man was long gone? The captain turned to her. “Show us the tent, girl.” She nodded and tried to swallow her fear.
“This way,” she yelled back and carefully weaved around some boulders to where she remembered it to sit. The soldiers followed, more cautiously then before. She could see the fear in their eyes. Soon it would be gone. Soon she would see it replaced with rage. It would be the last thing she would see in her life. She took a deep breath and pointed through the storm the shape of a tent fluttering between a cluster of rocks and beneath the watch of a couple trees. They were bending in the great wind.
Amir smiled and motioned for his men. Suddenly the light of a lantern flashed behind them and a crack resounded as one soldier fell.
“Run!” someone yelled. It was the old Storyteller. He spun his staff around and hit another soldier in the head. The man crumpled. “Run!”
“No!” the captain screamed and dove for Katarina. She dodged and scrambled up onto a rock but not fast enough. Amir snatched her ankle and dragged her back down. With one hand he gripped her neck and with the other lifted his sword and turned. Already the few remaining of his soldiers had fallen: some knocked out, two pushed off the cliff, another stabbed. Before him his men sprawled over the rocks now drenched in pools of red.
“You,” he spat.
The Storyteller smiled but it turned into a grimace. Someone had stuck him in the side and blood soaked his shirt. “You must not touch the girl,” he heaved.
“Too late,” Amir growled and pressed the cold blade against her neck. Katarina flinched and then sobbed.
The Storyteller’s eyes flashed. “I said don’t touch her!” he yelled and pounded forward. The man shoved Katarina aside and blocked and parried to the blows. The old man’s sword went flying and clattered against the rocky path.
“Liar, prepare to die for the welfare of all good citizens,” Amir sneered and raised his blade.
The old man smiled. “No — I am prepared to die for the safety of even just one good citizen.”
“No!” Katarina screamed and began running, but Amir didn’t hesitate. Grabbing him by the shirt, he stabbed the old man through with one great thrust as he did with the man in the courtyard. But then something happened. The Storyteller jerked out the knife tied to the captain’s belt and buried it in his side. There they held each other for a moment. Pain. Great pain for both. Then both let go. Amir stumbled back and fell against a rock for support. The old man collapsed to the ground.
Katarina rushed forward and slid down beside him, clutching his hand.
“It was an... honor to die... for you.” The Storyteller struggled and then went limp, blood seeped from his lips and his eyes rolled back. Katarina stared at him, stunned. He had died for her! Fury filled her every limb. The murder. That Amir. Screaming, she grabbed the Storyteller’s sword and spun around to face the man who had killed him.
The soldier’s eyes were deep windows to look into. Hate and pain — they were there, triumphing over every other thought. He shuddered and glared, his breath was strained and he clung to the knife in his stomach as if he was holding onto his life.
Katarina stared at him, emotions mixed. Rage and disgust. Horror too.
He didn’t bestow mercy for the young mother. He didn’t lower his weapon at her screams. He didn’t stop when the same desperation and fear filled her face.
He didn’t show forgiveness when the old man stood up for his village. He didn’t pause when he swung his sword. He didn’t stop when the old man tried to protect his family and beliefs.
He had almost killed both Isaac and his mother!
And there he hunched in pain. Helpless.
“Well do it quickly,” the captain spat out. “And get it over with.”
Katarina raised the sword but a sob racked her body. This was not love. This was not Light. She was not doing this out of defense or to protect someone as the old, kind storyteller had done. This was hate. This was revenge.
The girl lowered her head and the sword dropped into the mud. Every muscle ached; every limb shivered in the cold.
“So carry not hate,
For it is the weapon of True Kings,
And love always wins.”
“I’m sorry,” she whispered. “I can’t. For that is the way of your master. I follow the way of mine.”
One day punishment will be brought before him — the one that Dethrones and murders. This is the hope that I pass to you so you may pass it on to others, the stag’s words echoed through her head.
What hope was there though? For every soldier killed would not five more come in his place?
Katrina took a deep breath.
She must trust the Creator — the Maker of the universe, the Artist of the sky, the Master of the stars.
Katarina lifted her head with renewed strength. “Tell your master, that he will never conquer the Creator of all and his punishment will come. This is the promise He has given to me and all His followers. Hope shall never leave us but hate will,” and with that she lifted the heavy sword out of the mud and hurled it over the cliffs with all her strength, watching it spin and gleam in the flashes of lightning and before disappearing beyond the foamy mist.
“Katarina!” someone screamed into the wind and somehow above all the noise she picked it out.
The girl spun and tripped on a root. Mud smeared her hands and face and covered her dress, but she pushed herself up. Tears mingled with the rain as they streamed down her face.
Beyond the swirling river of the meadow she could see Isaac’s form silhouetted against the black storm; she could see a loving friend; she could see Light.
Written by Evelyn Kelly
Illustrated by Jeremiah K.
Edited by The Flabbits
Copyright © 2018 by The Flabbit Room
Click here to read Part One, here to read Part Two, here to read Part Three, and here to read Part Four.
“Good, then let’s continue.” Amir sheathed his sword. “The gracious king has agreed to spare anyone punishment if they tell us what is going on.” Silence. “Well?”
A young woman broke from the crowd. Her hair was knotted and soaking wet. Her dress of torn and covered in mud. She crossed her arms. “It will cost you,” she sniffed.
“Cynthia, no!” someone hissed.
The captain smiled and motioned for the soldiers to let her approach. “You look like a smart girl. Cynthia, right?” she nodded. “A name worthy of a princess. What can you do?”
“I’m a seamstress.”
Amir smiled again. “How would you like work in the castle sewing robes for the priests and the royal?”
Cynthia nodded primly and turned to the villagers, scanning them. She lifted her finger and pointed at Isaac and his mother. “They’re the ones you want.”
Katarina froze and gripped the stone wall. No!
The captain snapped his fingers as a cruel smile tugged at his lips. “Bring them here.” Two soldiers broke off and marched over, swords extended. Elizabeth’s face went deathly pale and she gripped the shoulders of her son, but stepped forward with her head held high. The soldiers prodded them on.
“Faster!” one growled and she tripped as she hurried to obey. Isaac quickly grabbed her arm and steadied her. Amir chuckled.
“Your son?” he asked as he looked Isaac over. Elizabeth glared calmly back, her grip tightening. Isaac scowled.
“Yes,” he spat. “I’m her son.”
Captain Hanzan smiled. “And a feisty one too! Tell me,” he said, turning back to the seamstress. “What is it that these two have done?”
The woman bit her lip, refusing to look the two in the eyes, and cleared her throat. “The boy listens to the stories of the old man on the cliffs,” she announced. “And spreads them to the village children. And then they all go around with them.”
No one spoke. Words were gone. They were betrayed.
Mothers cradled their children and drew them closer. Men clench their fists and glared, but in their glares was sorrow and despair. The wrath and storm of the Dethroner had come. All hope was gone... or was it?
Never lose hope, the Light had said. But what could Katarina do?
A couple men and women fell to their knees. “We didn’t know!” they shrieked and cried. “We didn’t know! Please! Mercy! We follow the priest! We follow him and the king and his gods!”
The captain ignored them and snatched Isaac up at the neck. The boy struggled and tearing at the huge hands and kicking the air, gasping for breath, but Amir did not let go. “Where is this man, boy!?” he screamed.
Isaac shook his head. “I’d...” he struggled, “rather... die.”
The man shoved Isaac down into the mud and drew his sword up to Elizabeth’s neck. “What about her?” He smiled cruelly. Isaac pushed himself up, heaving.
His mother shook her head, tears streaming. “Don’t Isaac! Don’t do it!” Thunder crashed as a lightning bolt split the sky. “Don’t tell him,” she sobbed.
Isaac bit his lip, tears beginning to fill his own eyes. He shook his head. “Mother...”
“Don’t!” she screamed. “For the Creator! For Him, Isaac! Don’t tell!”
“Well, boy?” the captain snarled and increased his pressure. Elizabeth flinched as some drops of blood began to trickle down her neck. Before Isaac could react, Katarina jumped out of the shadows.
“Stop!” Everyone turned. “Stop,” she sobbed. “I know where he lives.” For moment no one moved, and then the captain lowered his blade and pushed Isaac’s mother away.
“Good girl,” he sneered and pointed the sword at her. “You will show me. You hear?”
Katarina’s gaze wandered to Isaac. He bit his lip. He was crying. She looked back at the murder before her and nodded. “Yes. I will show the way.”
“Good.” Amir waved the soldiers to the villagers. “Bring them to the priest's sanctuary and let no one out until I come back. And I want a couple of you to come with me, while you,” he turned and grinned at Katarina, “while you and I go fix the root of this problem. The king will be very pleased.”
The girl nodded quietly and wiped her tears away. Please, she prayed, Creator, let the others escape. “You might want to take as many soldiers as you can,” she added. “The old man often has visitors and he’s really good with the sword... he also,” Katarina added, “shows off what he can do with magic.”
The captain smiled. “Good girl. You’re a very good girl.” He spun and beckoned over more soldiers. “I want ten of you.” He chuckled and added to himself, “A false prophet and dark sorcerer... the king will be very happy.”
That will leave just a dozen here. A dozen against fifty.
Katarina looked back at Isaac and smiled through her tears.
Like helping you, he had said. That’s Light.
Written by Evelyn Kelly
Illustrated by Jeremiah K.
Edited by The Flabbits
Copyright © 2018 by The Flabbit Room
Welcome to The Flabbit Blog! Here you will find writings by the many members of The Flabbit Room, most of which will be set in the world of Ildathore.