Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Forties Club Finalist #4

Chthonic
by Loren Eaton


The court cared not that Enl had pledged love by undying starlight. Commoners daren’t clasp royal hands. The sentence was severe. When the mine doors crashed shut, he had only a mattock and his wits.

Enl knew his sole hope for earning release lay in the lowest level. He kept distance counting steps, his mind by recalling their pledge.

He nearly lost both when a cold breath fell on his neck.

Gemdigger opens his own grave, said a frigid voice. Warm man, tell us why you came.

“For love,” said Enl.

We move through earth as though it’s air. You’ll find nothing here. Icy laughter reverberated. The shinies are so very deep.

“Still,” Enl said, “I’ll dig.”

He did until his palms ran with blood.

Love lives not beneath the earth, the voice whispered. Only dim, dark and dirt.

“Mine lives,” Enl replied.

He dug until the mattock splintered.

The cold breath stunk of sulfur. Forever rest. Join us. Lay yourself in the dust.

Enl’s strength faltered. His legs buckled.

Deeper darkness rose.

What roused him was glittering, distant sparkling of amethyst, ruby, diamond. They were deep. But the earth moved easily now.

When the cave was unsealed, the jewels found piled at its entrance would’ve freed a dozen men. A search yielded only wild stories from ashen guards: They’d heard a gnome voice cold as the spaces between stars murmuring, Until the hills should turn to sand, I’ll wait.

No one marked such superstition.

No one except the princess.

33 comments:

Laurel said...

I love the voice! Nice conflict set-up in the first paragraph. I wanted to know the rest of the story.

Beth Harar said...

You are a beautiful writer. Everything flows so nicely!

J.C. Montgomery said...

The tone fits the story and even though tragic, offers some hope at the end. Beautiful.

Aerin said...

Rock on, Loren. You know I love reading your pieces. Excellent.

maybe genius said...

Lovely fantasy piece. I like the disembodied voice speaking in riddles.

Sarah Laurenson said...

Beautifully done. Love the ending.

Oddyoddyo13 said...

Oooo, so cool! Definitely one of my favorites!

Peter Dudley said...

You slide us into the situation with such ease and create a wholly complete myth in a few words. This is really well done.

Craig said...

Fantastic use of an apropriate voice to set the scene.

Aniket said...

Like others, I too am in love with the voice of the piece. It sets up a dark tone that makes the reader want more, right till the end. Great work.

Michael Morse said...

That is magic. I felt a chill after I finished reading, and it lasted a while.

Loren Eaton said...

Thanks for the kind words, guys! I've also uploaded an audio version if anyone would like to listen to it.

JR's Thumbprints said...

I love the audio version, especially the opening sound effect of the shovel.

Jade L Blackwater said...

I really like this - just the right voice for fairy tale.

The shinies are so very deep.

oh yes!

Precie said...

Ditto what Pete said. Plus it's gorgeously romantic.

Loren Eaton said...

JR,

That's actually the sound of me digging in the backyard. I think my wife must've thought I'd lost my mind. "What are you doing out there with a microphone and a shovel?!"

Deb Smythe said...

Ooo, good story. Beautifully written.

B. Nagel said...

As ever, Loren, you deliver the goods. A classic tale of love and ghosts.

I had wondered about the shovel effect.

Timothy P. Remp said...

Wonderful story. I love the voice through out.

-Tim

http://timremp.blogspot.com/

September said...

Lovely. I got to see and hear this one. Very nicely done. And such a bittersweet ending. I really liked it.

Katherine Tomlinson said...

There's a ballad-like quality to this, channeling Tolkien and the old tales like a minstrel retelling a story before a lord and lady. And yes, the voice is fantastic.

Hadley said...

Wow, this is so beautifully written I had to go back several times because I kept getting lost (in a very good way) in its rhythm. The pacing is superb.

MRMacrum said...

Wonderful prose with a great ending.

Lee said...

Terrific story that could easily be expanded into something more terrific with that strong voice.

Dottie (Tink's Place) said...

Hi Loren!

I loved "we move through the earth as though it's air"... woven with magic...

Great!

Dottie :)

Michelle Davidson Argyle said...

You already know I love your writing. This piece is fantastic!

fairyhedgehog said...

I found this very evocative and poetic.

Joni said...

Intriguing.
I want more.

Vincent Kale said...

Was tripped up a little by some of the phrasing at first. Once I let myself get into the rhythm of the story, everything clicked.

Every single word here is pure magic. I can't decide if my favorite "character" was the taunting gnome or the unseen, suffering princess.

AidanF said...

You've created a beautiful voice for Enl. The ending sends nice chills down my back. Loved the voices in the recording.

JaneyV said...

So beautiful and tragic Loren. A perfectly formed story. Well done!

bekbek said...

Beautiful. You have the rhythm of an old tale without getting lost in flowery words. I liked it quite a lot!

February Grace said...

They’d heard a gnome voice cold as the spaces between stars murmuring, Until the hills should turn to sand, I’ll wait.

Oh, heartbreaking! So romantic- love this...

bru