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[SASS] Solstice

Discussion in 'Literature Library' started by Eclipse, Jun 5, 2015.

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  1. Eclipse

    Level 82
    Apr 3, 2015
    Marshadium Z ★★★★★Dragon Fang ★★★★Luxury Ball ★★★Comet Shard ★★★★Mewnium Z  ★★★★★
    No medals for me, please - I just wanted the practice writing under a prompt.

    Word Count: 7749

    So much for the 4000 words that I had originally planned for. Clearly, I am not known for brevity.

    This story was created as an entry for the Spin a Summer Story contest for June 2015. The prompt was simply to make a story that has something to do with summer, and this I did. I figured that the best way to write for the prompt was in isolation, and to not read anyone else's SASS entries. And I still haven't. I'll probably start to read them later in the month.

    It did take me a while to firmly decide what I wished to do for the prompt, and after that I did have to make it fit within the context of the story, which took a bit of editing. I don't wish to spoil too much before you read the story itself, but if you wish to know more of my thought process behind this writing, I've included an 'Author's Notes' section at the end to read.

    While I use the Original prefix to describe this story, there is exactly 1 character that is originally derived from a video game. (There's another character from somewhere else, but only the name is mentioned - the character is never actually seen or elaborated upon.) However, this story does not take place in that universe at all, and a lot of the personality of that character as seen here is entirely my creation - so it technically isn't a Fanfiction at all, really. Other than that, all characters and objects seen here are completely original.

    Enough chatter; let's get to the reading, shall we? I proofread this several times but it is still possible I made mistakes (if I did, please tell me). Both the story and the author's notes shall be compressed into spoiler tags for ease of scrolling.

    Main Story:

    Summer. One of the four seasons. The name means many things to many people, and so it thus carries many connotations.

    Some associate it with going on holiday - after the events and obligations of life slow down and become less demanding, an opportunity is taken to briefly escape from it all. Others associate it with going to the beach, for those who live in coastal areas - tying in somewhat with the first one, and though the duration of time is much shorter, the same theme still applies. Still others may associate summer with the composer Antonio Vivaldi's Four Seasons, but that's technically cheating. It's a great composition nonetheless, but with a title like 'Four Seasons', of course you will be reminded of it, and all year round.

    But the most common connotation of 'summer' ties it to the Sun, the bright weather, and higher temperatures...which is certainly true, as due to the position of the Sun relative to the Earth's axis, it's much hotter overall at that time of year. Summer is defined as the period of time between two specific days: the summer solstice, the day with the most hours of daylight out of any day in the year; and the autumnal equinox, which has its daylight and moonlight in equal proportions, exactly 12 hours for each. In other words, with each new day of summer, there is progressively less daylight each progressive day, and it continues to decrease until reaching the winter solstice, the day with the least amount of daylight in a year.

    You might find it odd that summer is associated with decreasing daylight, but it's true. And however bleak you may find that interpretation, that is how I see summer: a time of momentary discomfort characterised by abounding, yet decreasing, daylight. It shows a transition from heat and light into cold and darkness. And I utterly dislike the light.

    Unfortunately, they saw differently.

    :::: ::::

    I awoke to the sound of a creaking wooden door. The noise crept its way into my ears, like venom dripping from a dagger. It alerted me to the cold reality I found myself swamped within, fleeting dreams being my only escape from the pain.

    My eyes blinked rapidly. What little light there was shone down from a window above my head, allowing me just enough illumination to view my surroundings. Sadly, nothing had changed. I had dreamt this night that I was soaring through the skies above, twisting and turning around clouds, racing against aircraft... I am sure you are familiar with the feeling, having a dream in which you can fly. There are no limits save your own imagination, and you can take yourself wherever you wish to go. Oh, how I longed for it to be real...

    But there was no solace in that dream, not when I knew I would return to this hewn box.

    "Up, beast," I heard someone call out to me. I turned my head slowly in the direction of the voice. I dreaded it so very much. Before me, a man stood, clad in light armour, holding a large chunk of meat in one hand and a flask of water in the other.

    "I have a name, you know," I responded, wearily, still slumped upon the floor but slowly rising to my feet.

    "The only name you need have is Destroyer," the man spat at me, clearly unwilling to be civil.

    "I have made efforts to call you by your name, Terrence, and you insult me by ignoring mine?"

    "It's no less than you deserve, beast. Here, I've brought you breakfast. Eat up."

    Terrence reached for his belt and produced a small brass key, using it to unfasten a metal lock. With that swift action, the daunting metal pillars that separated us momentarily slid out of view. He always had both his eyes on me, untrusting, as if he expected me to lash out at any moment. Terrence hated me. He made that clear from the moment we met. He set the meat and flask down at the corner of my cell, then promptly hurried out and locked the door behind him again. Those bars reaffirmed themselves. They were inanimate, but they hated me too. Everything hated me.

    "Thank you," I spoke. "Please give my regards to Chef Gusteau and King Brighton."

    "You always say that," Terrence answered, still clearly agitated. "Why do you always say that?"

    "Because, my friend, I am very grateful to both of them for providing for me."

    "You're not my friend. You're my enemy. You killed her and she's not coming back."

    "I did not kill her."

    "You caused it! They invaded under cover of darkness because of you, and she was killed in the raid! Do you know how many deaths are on your head, you monster!?"

    I opened my mouth, but my tongue froze. The words refused to spring forth, as if acknowledging my verbal adversary. I had no rebuttal. And no matter what I would say, he would continue to hate me. I could only sit there in stunned silence as his verbal missiles continued to launch.

    "Everywhere you've been they want you dead! You're nothing more than a soulless monster who eats light and hope! All of the townspeople know you're here and they finally succeeded in convincing King Brighton."

    "What do you mean, they succeeded in convincing him?"

    "Isn't it obvious? In six months, you're going to be killed. Executed. Erased. You will finally pay for all of your crimes. And we have King Brighton to thank for it!"

    "You're lying!" I yelled in anger, jumping to my feet and lunging forward, only to be stopped by the bars in front of me and the chains binding my wrists to the wall. "King Brighton would never let such a thing stand! He has treated me with kindness all this time; I refuse to believe he would kill me!"

    "Admit that you've lost, beast. I'll be counting the days. See you in a week."

    Terrence turned his back on me and left, a malicious grin clearly evident on his face, his expression caused by a co-mingling of his hatred and future satisfaction. I, in the meantime, was incredulous. It was true that I have been King Brighton's prisoner, and have resided down in his dungeon for many years, in a place nearly devoid of light. Yet despite the harm I had caused to his kingdom, and despite the pressure that came against him all round about, he chose to spare my life, and imprisoned me rather than killed me. And he certainly had the means to do so as well. They didn't call him King Brighton the Dragonslayer for nothing.

    I winced. The thought of a sword of the finest craftsmanship piercing my chest was... ...It was his sheer compassion that saved my soul that day - nothing more, and nothing less.

    No, now is not the time to dwell on such things. The past has come and gone, and I cannot change it.

    I walked over to where Terrence had set the food and water, taking great care to not let the chains tangle my steps. In one hand I gingerly lifted the meat, and permitted its aroma to assail my nostrils. It was a rather familiar smell, and one I found quite pleasant.

    "Venison with herbs and spices," I murmured quietly, though no one was here to listen. "Is it Tuesday already? I must say, every time Gusteau prepares this dish, it gets better and better." It may have been a small thing, but it meant a great deal to me. For many years I have languished in this prison cell, with very little in the way of consolation, save for my daily food and the occasional companionship. Some of the guards were nice enough, though. Most were neutral, though Terrence was the bad egg, so to speak.

    My teeth tore into the meat with gusto. Ah, what a wonderful flavour. There are very few chefs of true skill in the world, and I consider myself blessed to have one of them cook for me, a prisoner. Perhaps it was small acts like this that kept me with a will to live; had I not received any, I would have perhaps died, or worse, broken, long ago.

    :::: ::::

    My eyes beheld the ceiling, made from interlocking stone blocks, just like the rest of this place. I found myself on my back, staring directly upward, limbs spread outward. I must have dozed off sometime after finishing my meal. That was no large surprise. There was very little concept of time within these lifeless walls, and the only hints I received were the small rays of sunlight for an overhead window, the sounds of the townsfolk, and the smells in the air. I could pass time only by eating, sleeping, or exercising, and I had apparently chosen the second option after breakfast.

    It was almost sunrise when I had awakened and ate, and now it felt like it was almost noon. I could tell because the rays from the window above had increased in brightness, and the bells were ringing, signifying that the market was opening.

    Wait a moment. That tune. There's something about that tune. The manner in which the bell was being swung, the specific rhythm and pauses between each ring, the sliding of the ball around the bell's inner surface, the emission of a resonating hum...

    "The summer festival!" I exclaimed into the empty air. "The townsfolk are preparing their celebration!"

    Ah, it was truly a joyous occasion for the world outside. No expense was spared; no festivity was restrained or held back. This was the festival that had spawned this realm in time immemorial. Every year, they would hold a festival commemorating the arrival of summer, and it would last for exactly seven days, with the seventh day being the first day of the season. Throughout this week were excuses aplenty for the town to make merry, celebrate life, and enjoy the comforts of brotherly love.

    I know that King Brighton in particular holds a great fondness for this festival, as on one of these festivals many years back, his firstborn child, a daughter, was born unto him. This was long before I was imprisoned here, but I had heard the story told to me. In fact, he held the occasion of his daughter's birth coinciding with the end of the festival in such high esteem, he chose to name her......

    Wait. The entrance door is opening again. I barely heard a creak at all, as if the one attempting to enter was trying to not make noise, moving the door as slow as possible so as not to attract attention. No guard cast forth his hand with such gentle care, so I can assume that the culprit is no guard. Wait, could it be?

    I heard the door gingerly shut with a gentle click, followed by the trademark clink of a lantern, gradually increasing in volume, yet decreasing in distance. I found such a thing odd, as at this point in the day, there is enough light in the dungeon to see all clearly - even my dwelling place - so why carry a lantern? I knew only that this person was steadily approaching. Wait, could it be?

    The footfalls upon the cold stone floor were soft yet deliberate, worn by shoes that were delicate yet functional, and made little noise. Such footwear was not particularly common, I would believe, so I would credit this as yet another unusual factor by a unknown yet unusual visitor. Wait, could it be?

    And then, I heard it - the sound that confirmed all of my thoughts and suspicious as correct. I heard her voice.

    "Eclipse? Eclipse?" a young woman called out. "Where are you?"

    "Who goes there?" I cried out without thinking. Such a foolish sentence.

    "Eclipse! Wait there, I'm coming!"

    Wait there, indeed. It was not like I had a choice in the matter. All my life is spent waiting for sustenance or companionship, and now another wait has drawn to a close. It was as I suspected. The soft voice, the lantern, the shoes...they were all there. She had come to pay me yet another visit.

    "Solstice, what are you doing here?" I questioned.

    "Do I need a reason to come see you?" came the quick response.

    "Yes, actually. It is forbidden for one not of the royal guard to pay visit to me. I am King Brighton's personal prisoner, and thus, held to a radically different standard."

    "You say that almost every time I come here. And it's not like my father ever punishes me for it. All I need to do is sneak past the guards, and that isn't too hard."

    "...You may want to keep that last part to yourself."

    "Anyway, Eclipse, I have some important news. And it's bad. Really bad. ...Your execution has been ordered."

    "I know," I responded, my voice oddly subdued. "Terrence was on guard duty this morning. Had a go at me, as usual. I'm to be executed in six months. Based on the timing, I assume it will be at the end of the winter festival, where I am publicly executed."

    "Six months!? Oh, that cheeky little snot! That's just like him to say something so underhanded!"

    "I beg your pardon?"

    "Eclipse, your execution isn't in six months. It's in six DAYS."


    "Yeah. The end of the SUMMER festival. And...it was my father who gave the order."

    Never had I been so utterly overwhelmed and shaken than in all my days up to this point. My legs became flaccid and refused to support my weight; as I fell forward I caught my descent by catching the ground with my arms, but even they soon became wobbly, and my wings were also weighed down by my own shock. I fell to the floor of my cell, a crumpled and demoralised heap.

    Not only was my death now assured, and in the very near future, but it was authorised by King Brighton, a man towards whom I had great respect by sparing my life, now having chosen to end it on a day of festivities? I wished to convince myself that I was dreaming, that her words were imagined. It was too surreal for my mind to handle, but I caught a glimpse of her eyes as I fell forward. That gaze told all. It was all true.

    "I can only pray... I can only pray that he shall make my death swift and painless..." I forced the words past my lips in a whisper. My throat was suddenly dry, and speech became a chore. "Let that be my final request. Do try to convince the King, will you?"

    "I am not about to stand by and watch you get killed for something you didn't do!"

    "And possibly incur the wrath of your father?" Chords began to slowly return to my voice, as I attempted to stand back up again, sloughing off the chains that fell over me. "As much as he may love you, I do not think he will let that stand in the way of killing off someone he considers a threat."

    "My father believed in you when no one else did. He only imprisoned you to appease the angry townspeople and his army. I bet this order here is the exact same thing. And if I can forestall this execution, then I will!"

    "Solstice! Don't get yourself killed! You are the future of Brighton's kingdom. I have nothing left to lose."

    "Still, my father believed in you then, and that's enough for me. Listen, Eclipse. We're going to break you out of here. They won't be able to execute you."

    "Are you out of your mind? How do you plan to do that?"

    "Just trust me. You can do that, right?"


    "Yeah, trust me. Trust is what humans do when they want something good to happen but can't do it alone, so they depend on others to help do it with them. And I know they say dragons are horrible creatures that just destroy everything, but you're more human than many humans I've met. More respectful, too. I've seen my father drag insolent men out of his presence with a parting shot of 'The dragon in prison respects me more than you do!'"

    "I simply cannot imagine King Brighton saying that. It is too out of character for him."

    "...Yeah, you're right. I said it, not him. But it makes for a good pep talk, doesn't it?"

    "You little troublemaker. ...What do you need me to do?"

    "Get that body of yours into shape. If we're going to get you out of here, you need to be fit, and right now you're just scale and bone. Even if you escaped you'd be caught in no time. So just get your exercise and keep up the diet. I'll draw up the plan, and try to dissuade my father if I can. And maybe your meal portions might get a bit larger...but I had nothing to do with it." She shot me a wink.

    "I suppose it is worth a shot," I answered, forcing a smile. "But if we fail, I am going to make sure you do not go down with me."

    "It's a deal. Oh, it's almost lunchtime! I'd better go."

    :::: ::::

    I can't deny that I found the next few days to be a rather ironic situation. I had always tried to keep my body well-serviced and intact with a regular exercise routine, to stave off any atrophy, but now I dove into my daily patterns with a renewed vigor. The irony is, of course, that I was doing this in response to learning that I was to be executed the following week.

    Yet there was a major factor that was now added to the equation: hope. For many years I have languished in this prison cell, bound in chains and unable to fly, kept in the coldest and darkest of places like a discarded animal or unwanted child. And now the possibility of a change in address was beginning to surface. I might be able to escape this place. I might be able to one day return home. And even if that were not so, death would still be an escape of sorts.

    Solstice would update me on a regular basis on how her plan was going. Despite her unsuccessful attempts to convince her father, she had it all figured out. She told me of a river that flowed underneath the castle, which could be found by descending further down the dungeon, and deep underground. I would make my escape by swimming through there, and after that I would be free to do as I wished, though she recommended I lie low or return home to my kind. I was partial to the latter suggestion, as I am sure I was missed by many who had possibly taken me for dead.

    I was only able to discern the days of the week based on the cuisine given to me as my daily meals - which, as promised, came in slightly larger portions - and the artichoke hearts luncheon informed me that it was Sunday today. Some time after, I know not how much, Solstice came running back to my cell. She looked flustered and was gasping for air - clearly, she had ran here. I had heard her steps before, and even the opening of the door, and the noise told me that she had no time to waste.

    "Eclipse!" she panted, hands on her knees. "Change of plans."

    "What is it, Solstice?"

    "Tomorrow's the last day of the festival. I thought they were planning to execute you at sunset. Turns out it's at sunrise instead. We haven't a moment to lose. We're going to break you out tonight, under cover of darkness. I'm going to be here at midnight. Stay awake. Can you fight?"

    "I can fight well enough. I have nowhere near as much power as I did back then, but I am still about the same size as any guard here, or larger."

    "Good, because I get the feeling the guard duty tonight will be really tight just to make sure you don't escape."

    "Can't we escape now?"

    "It's four o'clock in the afternoon, Eclipse. Everyone would see you. No, it has to be at night when everyone's asleep. I'll work on stealing the keys and coming to get you. Just leave it to me."

    "For your sake, I certainly hope you're right."

    Sunrise. A word I had long hated. It is very true that I hate the light, yet because of it I am granted my power. Light is something I avoid, something I loathe, something I eschew...I long for darkness, but I have no power without light. For many years I have languished in this prison cell, and have oft convinced myself that I deserved it. I had not intended to come here. I had not intended to even stay here. I was soaring through the air high above, and in so doing, my massive size blotted out the Sun. I was told that all that remained was a silhouette of my form, outlined in a blindingly white glow. All perceived it as a bad omen.

    At the time, the town was beset by a siege, being in the midst of a war and battleground. My presence allowed the aggressors to take the town by surprise, looting and pillaging all they could find. While the intruders were ultimately repulsed, they suffered heavy losses, and did not begin on their path to victory until I was shot down. It was truly an act of pure skill and coordination; twenty arrows beset me at once, piercing my body and wings in multiple places, causing me to fall to the earth. I was taken captive by those brave men, and after the battle was over, they brought me to their king, Brighton.

    What happened in my encounter with that man...I can never, ever forget.

    "Dinner!" I heard someone yell, thus shaking me out of my trance. I looked up towards the window, and saw speckles of moonlight shining in from above. Was it truly night already? My talk with Solstice seemed not that far distant in the past. I turned to see a familiar face, but one I will confess I was not fond of seeing.

    "Terrence? I didn't think you patrolled the dungeon on Sunday nights."

    "Stuart's sick. Asked me to take over. Eat up."

    "Bear meat? I didn't even know you had bears in the area."

    "What's it to you?" Terrence spat, opening the cell and placing the food and water in a corner, as he always did with me. Everyone else would just place it near the entrance or at the middle of my cell. Terrence placed it in the corner just to spite me, I'm sure.

    "Just simple curiosity, that's all. Though I have a suspicion as to why I'm being fed bear meat tonight instead of the usual fare."

    "And what's that?"

    "No one else would eat the bear meat, and it would be a shame to let it go to waste."

    "I heard that dragons aren't exactly known for being picky eaters. They'll eat pretty much anything."

    "You're right. We aren't picky with our food. We hunt to survive...not for sport."

    "Should've thought of that a few years ago."

    "Enough." I shot Terrence a dirty look. "I am tired of your taunting. The damage is done. I am your prisoner. There is nothing I can do to you or to anyone else anymore. Let me dine alone."

    "I'd be glad to."

    With that, Terrence left without another word, his steps echoing through these darkened halls, until they concluded with the opening and closing of a wooden door, and I heard him no longer. I could see one notable advantage to tomorrow - regardless of the outcome, I would not have to deal with his hatred and biting remarks anymore. That, too, was a form of solace. I sunk my teeth into the bear meat and tore it off in chunks to eat it. It was certainly one of the tougher meats I'd eaten, but it was palatable at the very least. And it was sustenance. That was enough for me. Dragons are not picky eaters.

    After finishing my meagre meal, I considered my options, and thus opted to take a very brief nap in readiness for the breakout plan. While I could have stayed alert the whole time, there remained the possibility that I would become exhausted in the escape attempt, thus making the plan all for nothing anyway. We were allowed no margin for failure, and thus I ensured that I would minimize it as much as possible. I laid back against the wall, sitting up, and closed my eyes, ready to awaken at a moment's notice.

    :::: ::::

    As my eyes opened slowly, I found that my pupils immediately started to dilate. There was an abundance of light in the area, much more so than was usual for the dungeon. I was blinking rapidly, and found that very strange, but I managed to open my eyes fully.

    Nothing could have prepared me for this terror.

    I was not in the dungeon. I wasn't even in the castle. I was outside. I was in the middle of the town square. And I was surrounded by people.

    Something had gone wrong. Something had gone horribly wrong. I consulted my memory to try and determine the cause. The last thing I remembered doing was eating the bear meat and drinking the flask of water, and then lying down to take a nap. When I woke up, I was here, and I have no memory of the events in between that.

    Wait! The bear meat... I thought it tasted a bit odd because of the texture, but...it must have been laced...with a sedative! Terrence, he must have done it... he drugged me so he wouldn't miss my execution! He must have known... He must have known Brighton's plan to execute me. He may have even been the instigator!

    That no-good, two-timing bastard!

    Hurriedly, I surveyed my surroundings. The sky above was a deep clear blue, with not a star in sight. I remember this colour from years before...that is the colour of the sky right before sunrise. The time of reckoning was thus imminent. I looked around me, and saw that I was on a raised wooden platform, square in form and oriented such that the crowd was positioned in a U-shape to watch. I saw many emotions and expressions worn upon their faces...fear, anger, sorrow, confusion, pity...and, for a small few, glee. They were all looking right at me, through me, to pierce through to the core of my being...and it was clear they had come to watch me die.

    I looked at myself. I had always been bound by chains before, but now even more had been coiled around me. My wings were bound to my shoulders, my arms held fast to my sides, and my legs wrapped up with chains fixed to the floor, forcing me into a kneeling position. Even my wrists and ankles were fettered with serrated shackles, thus further increasing my agony. It was clear I would not escape from this, not in my current strength.

    On the stage itself I took note of a lantern directly above and behind me - the same lantern I had seen Solstice hold six days before, now held aloft and glowing with what looked like a magnificent gem, so bright I couldn't make out its shape or features. Two individuals were also on the stage with me, both of whom I recognised. The first was a tall imposing man, clad in the armor of a knight, though without helmet. A sword was sheathed at his side, as a boon companion who had borne him through a myriad of skirmishes. I knew this man - he was King Brighton, the man for whom I had a great deal of respect, despite him being responsible for my imprisonment. The other was bound by rope at the wrists and ankles to a small wooden pillar, six feet in height, and I noticed immediately that it was Solstice, the king's daughter, the one who had plotted my now-failed attempted escape.

    Wait...what!? What was she doing here!?

    "People of our town!" King Brighton proclaimed to the throng, whose eyes were now fixated on him, whose ears now drunk his every word. "Today we are here to expunge a great threat from our fair world, one with the power to destroy and extinguish us all, and bring our lives to naught!"

    I could hear the dulling screams of the congregation, all mingling together into a single blur, chanting for my death. I know that's why...why else would they be screaming?

    "Before us are two individuals, nefarious in the highest degree!" he continued after he had silenced the multitude. "On my left hand is the dragon Eclipse, who five years prior at the winter solstice concealed the light with its darkness, and caused our enemies to nearly bring swift and total destruction upon us!"

    More cheering. As if there were not enough salt in my wounds already, hearing these words from a man I admired brought me unspeakable pain. I could only pray my request for a quick and speedy end was heard.

    "And on my right is my daughter, Solstice Brighton, who must atone for her crime of instigating the release of this dragon from my prison!"

    They were even louder this time, and it hurt even more. The one person I did not want to be hurt by this was now made an object of public ridicule. And to think that she was being debased by her own father! What kind of man was this? Was I wrong about the upright character of Brighton; was he indeed the cruel tyrant he now appeared to be? Had I been so thoroughly deceived by his supposed kindness? I looked to Solstice, as if expecting answers.

    "Eclipse, I'm sorry..." she called to me, trying to get her voice past the roaring crowd. "You wouldn't wake up, so I panicked and tried to change plans, but...the guards found me out... They knocked me out and threw me in your cell until a little while ago, when they dragged us out here... I'm so sorry..."

    "Don't," I replied. "It's not your fault. It's mine..."

    "Before the light of our Solar Lantern, in which resides a fragment of the light of the very Sun itself, these two criminals shall be cleansed with the brightness of judgment. Now, I ask for your silence."

    I heard the clanking of metal boots against a hollow wooden floor. The steps were loud, slow, and purposeful, as if each one was made with the greatest care and intent. Having spent years in that dungeon, I had honed my sense of hearing to identify a person's mood and actions by their gait, but I wouldn't have needed my heightened sense to hear the sound of King Brighton and his armour pacing towards me.

    "Eclipse," he stood in front of me, addressing me directly.

    "...Your Majesty," I responded, nodding and trying to maintain eye contact.

    "Do you remember what acts you have committed that resulted in your imprisonment?"

    "I do, sire. I flew over your town and sealed off the Sun, thus allowing your town to be besieged and infiltrated by a foreign enemy. The deaths and casualties caused by that event are on my head."

    "And do you remember the circumstances of our initial meeting?"

    "I do, sire. I had been shot down by a brigade of your archers and bound thoroughly, then brought to you for you to exercise your judgment upon me. It is so strange to think that you are a man of great stature, and you and I are the same height...and when we met, my height was five times what it is now."

    "And do you remember what I did in my official capacity as ruler of this land?"

    "...How could I not?"

    My arms had been hanging downwards in front of my chest, but I was given enough maneuverability to separate them aside, enough so that my chest would be visible. I did so, and caused all present, except for the king, to gasp in surprise and horror. A large scar, 4 centimetres in diameter, reached across my chest starting at my left shoulder and proceeding down to my right hip.

    "People of this town, hear me," I called out. "This is the result of my crimes upon your town. Your king had the authority to execute and kill me on the spot, and not only was he pressured by many in this regard, he had the means to do so. Yet he did not kill me. Instead, he imprisoned me in his dungeon, but not before rending me with his sword. This scar you see...is a result of his blade. While his prisoner, I have been treated with kindness and compassion, much more than I shall ever deserve, and though my life is now to be taken from me, I accept this consequence as a result of fair judgment. Long Live the King."

    A growing murmur of confusion stirred up amongst the multitude. Rather than anger and fear being the predominant emotions, it was overtaken by a surge of perplexment and surprise. I suppose it was because they had expected a prisoner to either remain silent or utter a string of slanderous oaths against the king and his country. But no, I had nothing but kind words for the man, in whose hands my life was now placed...despite his current appearance as my executioner.

    "Eclipse!" Solstice hissed. "What are you doing!?"

    "Don't you see?" I whispered to Solstice with a grin. "It's all according to plan."

    "What? What plan? You had a plan too?"

    "You'll see."

    "You could have at least filled me in!"

    "You have chosen your words very well, Eclipse," King Brighton spoke to me, his voice quelling the crowd merely by its presence. "Do you have any last questions or requests before your sentence is executed?"

    "Yes, I do. King Brighton the Dragonslayer, I ask that you make my departure from the land of the living an expedient one, with your sword quickly ushering me into the realm of the dead. But before that...I have many questions."

    "I shall grant you your last request, dragon. Go on."

    "When your sword cut deep into my flesh all those years ago, I assume you must have noticed the large amount of light that burst out from my wound, along with a great deal of my blood. This large outpouring of light caused my body to shrink in size to what it is now, not much larger than you. Thus, you must have noticed that my body stores and absorbs light, hence why you saw me blocking out the Sun. It is true - when the Sun shines at my back, I absorb the light, granting me my energy and sustenance, and that is why you sentenced me to your dungeon, out of the reach of any possible light."

    "You are a wise dragon. You have indeed discerned the reasoning behind your imprisonment."

    "But that's where I am confused. You see, Solstice told me that the Solar Lantern is actually a ceremonial artifact, lit by a special gemstone in which is infused a fragment of the Sun's light - in essence, it is the essence of the Sun in a compressed form. However, you have not only placed this lantern hanging above this platform, so it remains above and behind me, but this platform itself is also facing west, towards the sunset, so the crowd would thus be looking straight towards the sunrise to the east."

    "Those things are both correct, but what is your point?"

    "My point is thus: you have deliberately positioned me in a place and time whereby I can absorb a great amount of light at once - from both the Solar Lantern and the sunrise soon to approach. This leads me to believe a stunning revelation. You are as powerful as you are cunning, King Brighton. You do not actually plan to kill me at all."

    At that very moment, all grew silent. Nothing could be heard - wind, breath, fauna, or even sarcastic remarks. Everything was still. My statements had stunned them all into perfect silence. To hear that the king didn't plan to execute me at all, but rather to free me from my bonds...no one could have seen this coming, no one but the king himself. And he knew. He must have known. I then took the opportunity quickly to break the silence with one final question.

    "You want me to--"

    I had no chance to finish, as suddenly, there echoed a great cacophony of screams within the crowd. "The princess!" I heard someone scream. My gaze quickly snapped to the north, as well as that of the king, to see a cloaked man next to the stake to which the princess was bound, holding a knife right at her neck. Where had this man come from? How had he gone unnoticed? Surely the guards would have noticed such a man...so how?

    "Not another step, King Brighton," the man demanded. "Not unless you want your daughter to be a thing of the past!"

    "Who are you!?" the king raged. "Let her go this instant!"

    "You draw your sword and I will draw mine. If you ever want to see her again alive, you will do as I say!"

    At that moment, the curved dagger that the assassin had held in his hand sprang up into the air, spinning until it dug itself into the raised beam above the platform, near to where the lantern lay hanging. The varlet was grasping his wrist with the opposite hand, as if in pain. He cursed and swore, angered at whoever had disarmed him.

    Then there came a series of snapping noises. Each one resounded with a ferocious crack, followed by the sound of something falling to the ground, which sounded not unlike metal. The sound was loud enough for all to hear, and the crowd was utterly stunned into silence as they looked towards the stage.

    "Who hit me!?" the assassin yelled, looking up and around to find his aggressor. "And...weren't you only half as big before? Oh no..."

    The scoundrel had every reason to be afraid. He was frozen in place at the shocking sight he now beheld, a sight that signified the end of his plans and a surely imminent demise. Even the crowd could see what was going on, and they too were terrified of what would happen next. For it was now sunrise, but the village was paying no attention to the glowing yellow orb that began its slow trek above the horizon. No, they were looking at something much closer, and much more intimidating.

    It was true - with the arrival of the new day came the arrival of my freedom. I had waited so long behind the light of the lantern that I had gathered enough energy to free myself from my bonds. And I grew larger. As my size increased, the chains and fetters that bound me fast snapped in twain and fell to the ground, useless. I was staring right at the assassin, and he at me.

    And he knew that I was the one who disarmed him, and that now, he was next.

    I reached over and grabbed the man with one arm, being large enough that I didn't have to take a single step to apprehend him. The crowd was screaming, but nowhere near as loudly as the one now contained within my grasp. Seeing the imminent threat, I took this chance to utter a proclamation to the town. "Long live King Brighton!" I yelled, reducing the yelling to a series of murmurs. I then turned back to the assassin, who now looked even smaller as I had grown ever larger. I knew now that I was at my peak.

    "How many are there?" I demanded, but was met with a series of terrified whimpers and squirms. "HOW MANY!?" I repeated with a yell.

    "Th-Th-...Three!" he stammered. "W-W-We c-c-came to hold the p-princess for r-r-ransom... Th-They're hiding s-s-somewhere...nearby! I don't know where, I s-s-swear! Don't kill me!"

    "Oh, I'M not going to kill you..." That last remark caused him to emit a shriek so imbued with fear that he passed out from shock instantly. I then turned to the crowd. "You heard him! There are three assassins in town who are after the princess! Everyone, spread out and find them! We will not rest until they are captured and brought before the king!"

    The plan was going perfectly - this had the intended effect. The crowd was now no longer in a terrified clamour, but in an excited frenzy. There was now a new public enemy, a new aggressor and disturber of the peace against the town, and one who had the gall to kill the very princess! They separated themselves into groups and spread out through the streets, like a series of stampedes on an unstoppable hunt.

    With a single claw, I quickly severed the restraints holding Solstice to the pillar, rendering her no longer helpless. She ran to her father instantly, tears streaming down her face in a grand torrent.

    "Dad! Why didn't you tell me...?" she managed to force the words out past a quivering throat and a pair of eyes blurred by water.

    "Now is not the time," King Brighton responded. "Your life is still in danger. Eclipse!"

    "Yes, sire," came my answer.

    "Take Solstice and fly outside the town. They may have brought reinforcements. Take care of them, and above all, keep my daughter safe!"

    :::: ::::

    The question I had for the king, the one I never had the opportunity to finish, was "You want me to save her, don't you?", a question that was answered quite matter-of-factly by the advent of the would-be kidnapper upon the stage. The entire execution had been staged from the beginning; King Brighton had always believed in me until the very end, and not once did he blame me for the loss of life I had helped to instigate. Though I truly regarded that as my own sin, he urged me to cast it away from myself, as that act did not define me.

    With the aid of the castle guard, the townsfolk were able to quickly find and locate all three of the remaining accomplices in town, all of whom were brought before the king and immediately executed. One clean cut and their heads no longer enjoyed the company of their necks. Brighton wasn't just a Dragonslayer. I myself found a few more of their number waiting outside the city, trying to find a way in underneath the walls. The instant they saw me, all courage fled. I brought them before the king also, alive and unharmed. You can imagine what happened to them after that.

    I learned after the fact that the king had received a letter one week before from an unknown person that his daughter was to be abducted in a week's time. Not wanting to let this news become public, and simultaneously wishing to appease the people, he then ordered my execution to be shown before the entire town, and had his daughter captured as well for the act of helping a prisoner escape. Of course, it was all a ploy - he had juxtaposed his daughter and I in a public place so the conspirators would be forced to appear in that location as well, known to all. The positioning of the platform and lantern, so the Sun would remain at my back, was also part of his plan; he doubted his own ability to handle the assassins in my current state, so he staged my 'revival' by enabling me to absorb enough light to replenish that which I had lost years before from the wound.

    My scar has never healed, but perhaps that is for the best. After all, in my initial encounter with King Brighton, I did act most foolishly, and had things become worse, he would have lost his kingdom because of my ignorance. The reason he had kept me alive all of these years was, as I had supposed, his firm belief that I was not his enemy, and he had me imprisoned only to appease his people. Despite being in the deepest dungeon, with no company but the guards, I was well taken care of, and had a spectacular chef cooking for me.

    I now reside here as an esteemed guest of the king and an ally of his kingdom. This was partially at his request; my original intent was to return home to my kind, but Brighton informed me that he believed this summer would have an especially detrimental heat wave, which would be damaging to crop output, among other things. Absorbing the excess light and heat not only kept me sustained, but it ensured a bountiful harvest for the year. In addition, it would help to secure an era of peace and prosperity for his kingdom - after all, no foreign power would knowingly invade a nation that had a thirty-foot-tall dragon for an ally.

    Perhaps after the summer is over, and winter arrives, I shall return home again. But the fact of the matter remains that the season of summer, the time of year I had despised for so long because of its light, turned from my doom into my salvation in the course of only a few minutes. To me, summer is not about the temperature, or the holidays, or the seasons, or the music, or any of those things - to me, summer marks one of the most momentous and defining occasions of my life, and its solstice now marks for me the time when I passed from the realm of the forgotten back to the world of light and life, through the strength, compassion, and cunning of a single man.

    Long live King Brighton!

    Author's Notes:
    As was given in the prompt, this story has to have something to do with summer. In the opening paragraph I gave several potential things that summer might make people be reminded of (and I reiterate those things in brief at the end as well), but then finish with an astronomical definition of summer and how the days gradually get shorter.

    My original plan was to have something to do with light gradually being drained out of the world, or disappearing from the day, but as far as the prompt was concerned, I went with the time of year specifically, with the events all leading up to the first day of summer at the conclusion. The notion of light gradually disappearing I retained, though in a slightly different form.

    When writing this I decided to go for an approach that leaves details either vague or unanswered, and gradually fill in the necessary pieces as I go along. This isn't something I'm used to, as I like to describe things as fully and accurately as I can right at the start, but as a writing device that can make stories rather boring and predictable. My very first exercise in this was describing the protagonist, who is the narrator, and tells the entire story from his point of view.

    The story opens with the individual opening its eyes, having woken up from a 'flying dream', only to realise it was just that, a dream, and nothing else. Reality is described as 'cold', with 'fleeting dreams being my only escape from the pain', indicating that the real world really sucks. The environment is described at first only as a 'hewn box', and this is when the details begin to appear.

    The first person you see is some kind of guard, and it's now known that the narrator is in a prison cell (given by the 'metal pillars', and a fact which it reiterates many times), and the jailer hates the prisoner, who he views as a monster who has killed someone important to him, potentially a lover. It's not even until Solstice comes in that you learn that the protagonist has a name - Eclipse - and that it's actually a dragon. And because Eclipse is a dragon, I went for a Middle Ages-esque setting while writing this, where towns and cities were walled fortifications, and kings and armies were commonplace.

    Throughout much of the story, a lot of sensory perception Eclipse (the narrator) experiences is through hearing, not necessarily sight, and while Eclipse is not blind, the hearing becomes more important. It identifies things by the sound they make before what they look like, and draws information and conclusions based upon the noises and sounds first. There are also certain phrases that are given more importance than others, placed there for emphasis - the phrases "For many years I have languished in this prison cell" and "Wait, could it be?" are said exactly three times each, and I think 3 is a magic number for emphasis in a story, to have a detail be remembered.

    All of the names given to characters in the story were also carefully given. Eclipse, the protagonist and the dragon, and the only genderless character in the story, is named after the Golden Sun summon of the same name, and both have the same abilities: they block out the Sun and absorb light. Solstice is the name of the first day of summer or winter - summer in this context - which is also the last day of the festival that's held every year (Eclipse explains that is exactly where she got her name, though is cut off at first).

    King Brighton also carries on the light theme, being a king that is just yet fair, and extols the virtues of the Sun and summer. The 'bright' is also a nod to his intelligence, such as using Eclipse as a tool not only to save his own daughter, but to give the town the same trust in the dragon as he has (even deliberately staging the execution at a place and time for Eclipse to actually regain power). Gusteau is the name of the chef from Ratatouille, and Terrence and Stuart are just names to coincide with the days of the week (Terrence is matched to Tuesday, and Stuart to Sunday).

    I always decide on titles as the very last thing I do, since stories change very often as they are written, and the finished product may end up completely different than what you start with. I settled for Solstice, because the climax of the story takes place on the summer solstice, and also because the king's daughter (named Solstice) is a pivotal part of the story and is a catalyst of sorts to Eclipse's restoration.

    The climax to this story was by far the hardest part to write. In the lead-up, I had already established that Brighton wanted a favour from Eclipse, something that he believed only the dragon could do, while simultaneously regaining the town's trust, but I hadn't a clue as to what. (The trust bit would be easy. The task was not.) The obvious answer would be to go off and defeat an enemy army, potentially the same one that had caused havoc in the years before, but I didn't want to do that since it would be too obvious.

    Using the dragon to foil an assassination attempt seemed like a good idea, but I wanted to structure it such that it was not only necessary for Eclipse to be used, but also enough so that it wouldn't seem like overkill (sure, Eclipse could kill the assassins, but Brighton is just as capable). In the end I went with the suggestion you see now, and rather than focusing on Eclipse's immense newly-found power, I decided to go with using its sheer size as a weapon of sheer intimidation - in the end it is the king who kills the assassins, not the dragon.

    So, yeah. That's the 'skeleton' behind this short story, as it were. I think it might also be enough to structure a small fictional universe branching from this story, though that is dependent on my spare time and my willingness to write. I seem to be fairly good at writing short stories. Perhaps I'll stick to those, if I choose to do anything with this idea at all.
    Shada likes this.
  2. DIO


    Legendary Egg
    (Groudon Egg)
    Level 12
    Sep 14, 2014
    (Hope you don't mind me posting here)

    I really enjoyed this story! I like reading the stories that leave things ambiguous in the beginning and allow me to make guesses about the stories characters and plot. Though I didn't quite expect how it turned out! That sneaky Brighton. :D
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  3. Eclipse

    Level 82
    Apr 3, 2015
    Marshadium Z ★★★★★Dragon Fang ★★★★Luxury Ball ★★★Comet Shard ★★★★Mewnium Z  ★★★★★
    Whoa! Someone actually noticed I wrote something. I certainly have no objection to that.

    I'm enjoying the ambiguous style, as it lets the readers fill in the details themselves, rather than my spoiling all the answers right away. It also lets the readers form mental images how they please, without my trappings involved (notice how Solstice and Brighton only have a few descriptors about physical appearance, and the rest is intentionally left out) - so it can mean many things to many people.

    But yeah, Brighton is sneaky. I enjoyed writing the twist, despite the huge challenge that creating it posed to me.
  4. ✯Ho-OhLugia✯

    ✯Ho-OhLugia✯ Pokemon Masters

    Dec 12, 2014
    Are posts allowed here? If not, then I guess it can be removed.

    This is really amazing - such an exceptional piece of writing! I can almost consider you a best selling author! I apologize since I couldn't read it all, I don't have much time right now. Perhaps I would finish it when I have the time. But this line, "his verbal missiles continued to launch" is an excellent interpretation of insults. I really love your writing! And I those words don't even begin to describe the story (even though I've only read around 15 paragraphs)!
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  5. Eclipse

    Level 82
    Apr 3, 2015
    Marshadium Z ★★★★★Dragon Fang ★★★★Luxury Ball ★★★Comet Shard ★★★★Mewnium Z  ★★★★★
    Posts are fine.

    I suppose being an author is theoretically possible, but I'd much rather do things like this because I want to, not out of a sense of obligation. Maybe one day I could compile a bunch of short stories together, but... that might not be for a long time. And even then, it may not amount to much. On the plus side, it would be a nice source of income, just so long as I kept it as a side hobby than a main occupation - like a supplement.

    I'll admit I cranked up the word quality for this one, more so than I usually do, as I wanted to really make the mental pictures it generates to be very vivid. The 'verbal missiles' are an ideal example of such.

    I'm planning on writing a few more short stories like this one (I already have one waiting in the wings), and maybe even more for future contests just for the practice, so you may wish to keep your eyes peeled.
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