The Gatekeeper

short fantasy stories, travelling to other worlds, dimension hopping, amazing short fantasy, tor publishing
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The following story was originally supposed to be a novella and a prequel to a main story I’m currently, once again, writing. Tor & one other publishing company {can’t remember its name right now) had opened their window for novella submissions & I thought since I was in the process of writing a major story, why not write a prequel which can generate attention & then turn it in to these companies to see if they’d be interested?

Well, I only got to about two-three chapters before other events came up in my life & I had to put some stuff on the back burner for a while. Now I’m back to creating again & since those deadlines have passed, I’ve decided to post what I wrote on here & continue with the main story. It’s unedited, so some of it may come across as ‘raw’ in a sense, but it does tie into what I’m creating.

So, jus a li’l background: In a far flung future, on a dying world, a family faces the consequences of a dire betrayal. War has claimed all they knew and as its instigators draw ever nearer, their last hope depends on a mysterious figure to which they owe unpaid debts. The Gatekeeper walks the land and it shall have what it seeks, even as the future of two worlds lay in the hands of a dying family.

Enjoy & leave a comment below letting me know your thoughts. Also, if you like the story, keep an eye out later on, for when I do publish the full book 🙂

~0~

Chapter 1

In an open field, a figure walked, cloaked in black robes with its face hidden in deep folds. Silence permeated the air and a fierce wind howled, raising occasional clouds of dust that whipped at anything in their path. But still the figure walked, pausing for moments at small heaps of red ash on the ground. At each of these, it extended one of its hands and from the ashes would rise bones that then floated into its robes.

Finally, it stopped and after a few seconds; its robes began to shake. Then they were still and the figure rose slowly into the air and sped forward, coming to a stop a few feet away from four people, a red and white circle enfolding them.

Ash lay in larger circles around them and through these the figure walked slowly, bones floating to it, till it came to a stop infront of them. “So; you have made your choice…Are you sure you would seek my help?” Its distorted voice sent ripples through the circles on the ground.

“Dad…why’s it talking like that…the echo’s; they hurt…”

“Quiet Chike…quiet now. Stay by your mother and sister’s side.” As the boy moved closer to his mother and sister, the man stepped to the edge of the circle. “Gatekeeper.”

“Traveller…You trusted the wrong people this time. But that is not my concern. You have made your choice, yes?”

“…Give us a few seconds. Let us speak to our children.”

Pointing at a shimmering purple wall, the robed figure inhaled deeply; “You do not have much time…That won’t hold much longer…but it is your choice.”

Turning away from the being, the man knelt before his two children, as his wife slowly dragged herself to his side laying her head on his shoulders.

“Mom, why are you crying…What are the two of you going to do?”

“Shhh, my Eshe. Listen to your father, please.”

Wiping away tears on her red skinned cheeks, her husband kissed her on her forehead and turned to his children. “Listen, we don’t have much time. Remember, when we explored that winding tunnel of colours and darkness, where you saw pictures of other people living different lives?” As they nodded, he continued “Well, you’re going to get to visit one of those places, just like you always wanted Chike…You’re going to get to explore it and discover some amazing things. To do that, you’re going to have to go with our friend here… It’s okay; I know it looks scary, but trust me there’s nothing to worry about. You trust me, don’t you?”

“Yes!”

“…But what about you and mom?” Their daughter looked back and forth between them.

“Well..”

“Quickly my love. Not much longer left.” A fit of coughs came from his wife followed by a red liquid slowly dripping from her mouth.

Clenching his fists; he spoke rapidly; “Eshe, look at us. It’s spreading…You’re older than Chike; you’re going to have to take care of him.”

“No! No…”

She rushed into her father’s arms as her younger brother copied her and rushed into his mother’s arms. They held each other for a while and as the parents cried, a boom reverberated throughout the field and the purple wall flickered for a brief moment, showing a group of four people their eyes red, standing on a similar field with bodies lying around them. Then it became solid again and their father released a deep breath. Passing his daughter to her mother, he turned to the robed figure.

“Gatekeeper…one last deal! My wife & I shall give you that which runs through our veins and the key we have, to pay off our debts and have you send our children through to another world!”

The figure’s robes shook as it took in the offer. “Is that all you have to offer traveller? I shall not be the protector of that key and while it is tempting…my own abilities would not mesh well with the power that courses through you both…”

Eye’s opening wide, red sweat starting to pour down his face, he raised his hands; “But…but; you asked for it before!”

“Some things have changed on my side Traveller. I have changed…”

“…”

In the silence, a voice spoke up; “Then I offer you something you need for more than my father seeks!”

Stepping to her father’s side; Eshe stared defiantly at the robed figure.

“Eshe, what are you doing?”

“Father, you know how close I listened, how much I followed. I know what it wants…Creature; I offer you a body…I offer you me!”

“No!”

Turning to her father, she breathed deeply; “Father, we have nothing else it’ll want…At least, one of us will get to live…”

“Husband…she is right.” Turning to his wife, who tightly held on to their young son, he held his hands up ready to protest.

“Listen husband… she knows more than you…I showed her more…we have no other choice…and we know what the creature is. We know what it is…she…she will survive…she and it will be one…isn’t that right creature.”

As blood slowly dripped from her eyes, the figure finally removed its hood to reveal words and ghostly images circling rapidly in the shape of a head. “So, their line lives on…Then you know she may hate what was done.”

Nodding her head, their mother turned to her husband. “Let her go. Let them live…please”

Crying now, he looked at his daughter and smiled slowly. As she smiled back at him, he turned back to the figure and nodded.

Turning its ghostly head towards the young girl; the being spoke; “Then I accept…but since you are giving us what we have wanted for so long…freedom…true power…I shall leave you all with a gift. First though; Eshe child of those who shall soon be no more, are you sure of what you give and do you do it of your own free will?”

“Yes… I do.”

“Then; so it is.” Floating into the air, the figure rushed forward through the circle and enveloped her into its robes.

“No! We need more time!” As she vanished, her father lunged at the creature, only to have it bat aside his hands and throw him to the ground. Then as it rested one of its hands on his head, words flowed slowly from it into him. Releasing him, it turned towards Chike and his mother, as the words expanded outwards and begun to rapidly move around Chike’s father. Kneeling before them, it cocked its head to a side and spoke: “Not you little one…step to the side.”

Clenching his little hands, Chike moved infront of his mother. “No! Leave her alone.”

Standing, the creature moved forwards slowly, then stepped to the left and vanished. As Chike looked around, it reappeared behind them and gently lay one of its hands on his mother’s head. As she whimpered, Chike turned and rushed at screaming in anger. Words slowly flowed from the creature into his mother, while also forming a barrier between them and Chike. Suddenly there was a flash of green and the barrier burst apart and the creature was thrown into the air, its body contorting and robes slowly beginning to rent. From within its robes, a dark fog began to slowly pour out, till a voice whispered; “No.”

As the fog slowly poured back into the creature, Eshe with her body flickering appeared at Chike’s side. Her hands passed slowly through his green aura and he shivered as he felt her cool touch and heard her voice, barely a whisper; “Let go Chike…let go. We mustn’t fight…it’s listening for now, but you have to let go. You trust me don’t you?”

Turning to her, his eyes dilated and contracted “…Yes, but it’s hurting mom and dad. And it…it took you. Where are you?” Opening his arms, he tried to hug her only to pass through and fall to the ground. Tears began to well up as his green aura slowly faded.

Turning to her brother Eshe smiled slowly; “It’s okay Chike; it’s going to be okay. They’re not hurting. Everything’s going to be alright.” Stepping forward she kissed her brother on his forehead and as his eyes slowly closed, she turned to the creature which was now slowly walking towards them and disappeared into its robes once again.

Coming to a stop before the now sleeping little boy, the creature cocked its head to a side; “Well, that was disconcerting.” Turning to look at both parents, it straightened its head and raised its hands. From them both, words and images began to flow entering into its robes. After a short while, they stopped and the creature waited.

Shaking his head, the children’s father looked around. Clenching his fists, he began to run towards it; “What did you do; where is she!”

As a barrier of words circled around the creature, it rose its hands and pointed to his wife; “You’ll innerstand soon enough…but for now she needs you…”

Screaming in anger; the children’s father unclenched his hands and turned to his wife, who now lay flat on the ground. His eyes widening, he rushed to her side and touched her red skin. “No…no.”

Smiling she slowly raised her hands and passed them alongside his cheek, as the creature spoke; “Witness Traveller. The second piece of our deal. Witness and know that he will be taken care of.”

As he turned, he saw words enveloping his sleeping son, followed by a cloud of darkness flowing out from the creature and engulfing him. When it faded, Chike was gone. “He will be delivered to the one other who owes you a deeper debt…and we will watch over him for a time. But…he will forget, for to remember such, would be too much… Now; I think, mmm I think… I have kept them back and kept you around long enough. It has been…interesting. May you both rest well.”Stepping back, the creature faded in a cloud of darkness.

Tears pouring down his face, he held on to his wife. “Come love…they’re going to…they’re okay. I..love you.” Smiling, she pulled him closer to her and kissed him. As they kissed, her skin grew drier and the redness brighter, till she disintegrated into ash. Holding what was left of his wife, he began to cry as behind him there was a bright purple flash and the sound of tearing.

“Well; something else we’ll have to…taste later. There was something greater…here. What happened and where is our key?”

Slowly standing to his feet, he turned and faced two men and two women, their scaled armour drenched in blood. At the front stood a young man, with a twisted single braid and a crumpled helmet in his hands, his teeth in a white shining smile.

Laughing wildly; the children’s father stumbled slowly forward; “You’re too late. It’s all gone. They’re gone!” As his laughter echoed into the sky, his skin reddened quickly, until a woman with long silver hair stepped forward and stabbed him through his shoulder with an ornate spear, blood flowing from her hands along the spear onto him. As the redness slowly faded, she smiled “No, no, no. You don’t get to go that easily, old friend. We have much to discuss.”

Suddenly a hand rested on the father’s shoulder and from it flowed words reddening his skin till it dried up and he turned to ash. “Now, for the third and final part of our deal, or I guess I should say…my deal.” Standing before them, in dark robes and with words flowing over her, Eshe smiled.

Chapter 2

“Well; this is unexpected.” To the far right, another figure stepped forward and removed her helmet. Running her hands through her short spiked silver hair, she smiled slowly and walked forward; “Do you remember me Eshe? I know it’s been a few years since we last saw each other…but do you remember?”

“Leondrea, Sister…how do you know this one?”

Turning to her right, she smiled at the woman with the spear; “Yes Lucette; from seven years ago when she was around ten years old… that month our parents, Lela & I spent in the countryside before all this shit started…I never thought they’d bring their children here…”

Turning back to Eshe who was still smiling at them, she walked closer to her; “Do you remember the times we had; the things we promised we’d do when we met up again?”

“Leondrea, she does not remember. In fact, who’s to say she’s even what you remember? Listen to her currents…she’s what was keeping us back a short while ago.”

“Quiet Omarr! You think I do not sense the changes, but it still her and she must remember! What have they done to you Eshe?”

At that, Eshe began to laugh; “Of course I remember…but I also remember what you and the rest of you did two years later. I remember you and your family not answering my mother’s letters and then came the slow deaths, the blood…the rifts. Oh yes, we remember…even if we weren’t there. And let’s not forget what you all just caused. We remember all.”

Stepping back, Leondrea looked at her allies; “Her voice…it echoes…. You were right Omarr; I think we shall have to pull the truth out of her.” Putting on her helmet, she took a deep breath and raised her hands.

Smiling, Eshe stepped forward and raised her hands, only to have a bright beam of energy rip through her body. White teeth gleaming, Omarr lowered his hands upon which sat a mini cannon and laughed. “Well, that was easy!”

Suddenly a stream of clear energy wrapped its way around his throat and raised him into the air, then slammed him into the ground. Rushing towards Eshe, whose body had reformed, Leondrea leapt at her enfolding her in a crushing embrace. As she tightened her hold, Eshe cocked her head and faded slightly, phasing her body through Leondrea. When she passed, Leondrea screamed as streams of blue energy coursed through her body, pulling her slowly to the ground and crushing her legs.

Twirling her spear, Lucette cut through the energy still attached to Omarr and quickly sketched out symbols into the sky. From these came ten grotesque human-like beings, their skin red and stringy with extended sharpened teeth and blades jutting throughout their arms.

Screaming horrific cries, they rushed forward until Eshe removed her hood. As their eyes widened, she raised her hands and pointed and they turned and run towards Lucette who now had to raise her spear and defend herself.

Turning towards Omarr whose body had now healed, she cocked her head and waited. Smiling, he stepped forward; “Dammit Iniko. You just going to stand there and leave this shit up to us!? Well, damn it all then!” Raising his hands to the sky, his armour extended over his hands completely forming small cannons, with two similar ones appearing over his shoulder. Laughing wildly, he aimed them at Eshe who was now walking forward slowly and fired blasts of energy which carved into the soil as they sped forward.

Raising her hands to the sky, Eshe smiled as the beams hit her. From behind, she was suddenly hit by reverberating circles of sound as Leondrea walked forwards slowly hands raised with her legs finally healed. Caught in the middle, Eshe’s body begun to constrict, till she screamed; “Enough!”

From within her robes, a dark fog slowly poured out and then rushed back in, pulling both Omarr and Leondrea towards her. Holding them in a circle of words, she quickly rose into the air and rushed back to the ground, slamming them into the earth. As she walked out of the mini craters, the circles began to tighten on their crushed bodies. Turning, she watched as Lucette pinned the last of the creatures to the ground and sent a blast of power coursing through it causing it to explode!

Breathing deeply, she raised her head and wiped blood from her face. Looking around, her eyes widened slightly and then she turned and spat at the feet of their still silent companion; “Why Iniko? Why do nothing? After all we’ve done…why!?”

Taking off his helmet to reveal a chiselled face and tattoos set into a dark bald pate, he paused for a moment then raised his hands and pointed. Gritting her teeth, Lucette turned and cursed as Eshe begun to float in the air. “Well, bring it damn you! This is not where it ends!” Screaming she run forward as Eshe rushed towards her. Extending her spear, the carvings on them and her armour begun to glow a deep red and with each step she took the sand around her begun to crack and melt. Colliding in an explosion of heat and power, a thick circular cloud of melting sand fell around them. As the cloud cleared Lucette started laughing loudly, as midway through her spear hung Eshe her body loose and limp. As she laughed; Eshe slowly raised her head and smiled, then rushed forwards her body passing through Lucette.

As she kept walking, her footsteps sinking slowly into the glass, words encircled Lucette slowly binding and constricting her thrashing form. Coming to a stop infront of Iniko, she smiled slowly and passed her hands through her hair.

“Iniko; silent magister of the College of Truth…if you had joined, you all might have stood a chance… But then, you knew that already. Just as you know what comes next and of my limitations…”

Looking up at him, as he closed his eyes, she cocked her head; “No; it’s not that simple silent one. I may not be able to end you all; but something of the old me…the family I knew still exists for a while more and how it wants to hurt you all…” Raising her right hand, the other three figures floated through the air, their bodies still trapped inside the word prisons. As they came to a stop in a straight line beside Iniko, they floated gently into the ground, the figures inside screaming in rage.

“How far did you all delve Iniko? How much did you all see and come to know before your college was destroyed…No answer? I know they initiated you into the highest order, intending you to find others who had some inkling to sense the deeper truths, even as they lay dying. But they all thought they had more time, didn’t they…until it was too late and all you cared for was lost, leading you to this path, which you knew was coming…but you don’t know everything.” Shaking her forefinger side to side; she smiled slowly “You didn’t delve deep enough…but before I tell my secret…I must first…”

As words flowed from her and slowly surrounded him, she raised both her hands and pulled the immobile sisters closer to her. “There’s still one more of you out there and while I can’t reach her to make her pay; make her feel pain for what she helped cause; I can make her feel your pain; I can let her know that you have failed…”

From within her robes, two dark circular spikes of darkness floated out and rushed into Lucette’s eyes. Her screams were soon echoed by her sister as Eshe silently looked on. “Three with one strike;” she whispered as the darkness rolled back into her robes, revealing blood dripping from the sister’s now white eye’s. As their head’s hang limp, Eshe raised her hands and then slowly floated back to Iniko’s side.

Walking a short distance away, she spoke; “Here you four shall stand and be forgotten. The very blood you shed and used shall be your prison. You shall feel their pain, even if only for a moment and if you ever wake it shall be with you eternally. All that you built shall be lost and you shall not gain access to what you so longingly sought after. Now it ends…” As she raised her hands, a low whispering could be heard, rising in crescendo. All over the land, red ash rose in great clouds, rushing in and slowly covering their entire bodies.

“Iniko…I have not forgotten. That which you yearned for; that which you had given up on…those who knew the deeper truths and the way…my mother knew. She was the last of a group who remained on this world…”

As the ash reached his mouth, his eyes opened wide and he began to struggle as his allies screamed in pain. “Too late Iniko. Too late for you all…” Stepping back into her robes, Eshe vanished and after a while the four figures were silent. For miles, all that could be seen were great heaps of sand and a growing shimmering haze. All that could be heard was a deep silence.

magic stories, african stories and legends, afrikan storyteller, afrikan story, futuristic stories
Art by bgk bengiskhan
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