*This started originally as a Flash Fiction Challenge, but once I started the story I had to finish it. In the writing of it, I decided to try to meet the other challenge from Mark’s blog, however I greatly exceeded his word count but I feel it a story worth telling and refuse to edit it down to the required word count so I guess in that I failed the challenge. 🙂 but I’m not sad about that at all. *
They say, he had lived here for a million years. I questioned the storyteller’s sanity.
Except he didn’t speak of a person.
He spoke of the dark lord’s boat which sailed unmanned nightly.
There wasn’t a night that went by when the dark lord’s boat didn’t sail. No one manned it. No one stood at its helm. Looking through my binoculars I could see the rudder turn, the sails shift and sway, drawn tight or withdrawn from the wind to turn and slow or speed up her passage.
The storyteller continued his tale as though I had not scoffed at his words or his belief. There was no doubt he believed the story. I could hear it in his voice, like the trembling timbre one would have when riding a bicycle across the thin wooden slats of a bridge.
Obviously he wasn’t alone in his belief. Many of the villagers stood around listening to his tale some nodding their heads in unison even as I shook my head frowning not believing a single word even as I watched the ship through my binoculars pass us by as we stood upon the wharf facing the dark lord’s castle which has stood empty for thousands of years.
I scanned every inch of the boat as it passed and could find no guidelines or mechanisms manipulating the boat upon its route. This was the third night I stood upon the wharf observing this interesting spectacle. I knew there had to be some sort of technology behind it, some sort of mechanism, and yet each night the boat took a different tack. I had yet to observe it taking the exact same route.
I watched until the boat returned to its moorings by the dark lord’s castle all the while listening to the storyteller. As the story goes, the boat sails each night the same as it did when the dark lord lived within his castle. Never venturing out except for the few times the boat returned carrying something upon its deck.
No one knew what the boat brought to the dark lord. Each time the boat carried something to the dark lord the villagers hoped it would the last time the boat sailed, but each night the boat sailed again.
Longer and longer periods went by when the boat didn’t carry anything upon its deck to its dark lord. After a hundred years bled into two hundred years the town’s people determined the dark lord had died. There was no sign of life at the castle except for the unmanned boat which kept sailing night after night after night.
I was determined to find the mechanism that sent the boat on its way and guided it upon its nightly journey. There was nothing left to do but to examine the boat up close.
The next day I borrowed a dinghy, settled myself in the contours of its unsteady rocking and began to tentatively row my way across the channel towards the dark lord’s castle. The villagers watching called to me to come back that all who have ventured there never returned. I ignored their pleas and kept rowing. I was a modern day woman after all. I could take care of myself, even in this medieval back country village weighed down by the superstition of a story told over thousands of years if one believes the story which I did not.
The boat was docked in an alcove situated under a section of the castle. If the story was to be believed then the boat was several thousand years old. I could not believe a boat like this could survive that long without loving care. Someone could care for the boat without being seen, however when I arrived in the dinghy the sheltered dock was in very bad shape. It looked to be about to crumble if I were to attempt to pull myself up on the dock. I opted instead to steer my way around the boat, looking at it more closely.
Towards the rear were stone stairs leading up into the castle and I docked the dinghy there to have a look around. The door into the castle was held securely and with no tools I had no hopes of opening it. I turned to the boat and finding a solid wood panel stretched from the side of the stone stairs onto the boat, I knew I had found the way the caretaker boarded the boat and saw to its care.
It took no time at all searching the boat, but I found no mechanism, nothing at all to explain how it could traverse its course without being manned. I decided to get back in the dinghy and search the channel to see if I could come up with another explanation.
With my packed dinner in hand and a firm grip on the oars, I rowed myself out into the channel following the route the boat had taken the night before. I ate my meal as I took moments to rest and look down into the dark water, or paused along the edge to peer into the tall plants growing along the water’s edge. As the afternoon progressed to evening I found myself farther and farther from the village to the point I could no longer see it from where I sat within the dinghy.
My task had so completely occupied my mind, I had not realized how far I had traversed or how late in the evening it had become. I started heading back towards the village only to find I made no dent in my progress. A low fog rolled in around me and within moments, darkness overcame me and I collapsed upon the bottom of the dinghy, no more aware of my surroundings or the chill of the night air. Darkness was all I knew.
Slowly I became aware of the unfamiliar contours on which I lay. It no longer had the feel of the curved contours of the dinghy I had been on but a hard flat surface. The rolling movement beneath me told me I was on another vessel upon the water, someone must have come out and found me taking me back to the village. But alas when I opened my eyes, I saw only darkness. Reaching out I felt four walls close around me on all sides and one over my head as well as one under my feet. I was in a box. Trying to lift the top or move one of the sides was impossible. I did not have the strength. I called out but no one answered. So I settled down to wait.
It was not long before I heard the scraping of wood against wood, and then the movement ceased though a slight rocking continued. I knew we had docked.
A different sort of movement began, one in which I could feel the box I was in being lifted and swayed or rocked as it was carried to its destination. I could hear thick heavy doors open and then close shut behind us.
A few more doors and then the box I was in was lowered onto solid ground. In all that time I never heard a single voice or a quiet foot fall, not in entrance or departure or when the box was being carried. I heard nothing more until the wood suddenly split at each of the corners where it was joined and soared passed me through the air to settle safely upon the floor behind me.
I stood up and turned, nothing was visible except darkness beyond the open space and a floor made of ancient slabs of rock. It looked very much the same as the dark lord’s castle appeared from the outside. I turned again pivoting upon my toes in a slow pirouette until I took in the vastness of the room and all its darkest corners.
From one of those dark corners there came a keening so piercing it threatened to pierce the very fabric of my eardrums. I knew the villagers would be able to hear it if I was indeed inside the dark lord’s castle.
I shook from head to toe as the sound penetrated my body. From the corner emerged a man. His head was tilted back to give his mouth the greatest amount of room to open wide as he emitted the eerie keening that somehow his vocal cords created. His arms were stretched out to the sides as far as they could go, his hands spread wide, palms facing me. With his head tilted back, his back arched pushing his naked chest out causing it to expand allowing him the greatest capacity of his lungs as he continued to keen an eerie lament, so sorrowful I could feel my heart curl in upon itself in an attempt to shelter it from the pain so evident in the sound emanating from this man.
I continued to tremble as his lament continued far longer than I thought any mortal man could ever continue in one breath. Finally, his arms relaxed down to his sides, his head dropped back down to its natural position as he looked directly into my eyes with his dark fathomless gaze.
My trembling ceased with that gaze as I took in his countenance. His hair was long brushing his shoulders in the deepest of black waves I’d ever seen. His skin was a soft brown, not golden from the sun but of soft shadow. His brows were just as dark as were his long eyelashes which surrounded eyes so dark brown they were almost black. He wore nothing but a black pair of pants which acted as though they were part of his body. His feet were even bare and if feet could be called handsome then his feet were handsome, matching the rest of him. A smattering of short dark hair across the well-defined contours of his chest practically had me drooling and my fingers reaching to touch him.
He had stood still while I took in all that I could of the man standing before me. He had not said a word. Had made no threatening movement and for some reason I felt to the deepest of my marrow that I was safe with him.
He was dark. There was no doubt, he was lord over his domain. There was no question. I knew him to be the dark lord of the storyteller’s tale. I did not know how I knew this. I just did. It was beyond comprehension when I had never believed the story. Now, here I was in the presence of this man and I knew he was the dark lord of the stories. Not a descendent of the original dark lord but the man himself. Somehow he had survived thousands of years, here alone, in this castle, waiting.
Waiting for me.
He stepped forward, grasped me with gentle hands by the shoulders. Leaned his forehead against mine and spoke for the first time. In a deep resonance so powerful I could feel it invade every particle of my being, he told me of how he had been looking for me for a millennia.
When I lifted up my voice to speak, I discovered it had changed. It was no longer the soft voice of a young modern day woman. Now a contralto surprisingly low and sultry and the words spoken were soothing, easing his ache, my fingers brushing along his cheek telling him I was finally here never to be parted from him again.
His lament had awakened the goddess within me which had been trapped in human form until one day they would find each other again.
© Kate Spyder