The Lake of Shades: Fantasy, Part One

Updated on April 1, 2018
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Chris has written more than 150 flash fiction/short stories.Working Vacation took 21st out of 6,700 in the 2016 Writer's Digest competition.

like the beards of old fishermen.

Source

What does Queen Iyana want with a bag full of rocks? Rothfort considered the stones he had gathered from the shallows of the lake. She offered five thousand rues for this bag of ordinary rocks. That will keep me out of the bounty hunter business for at least two growing seasons.

The Lake of Shades was named, it was told, not for the willow trees with their drooping curtains of leafy branches hanging over her shores like the beards of old fishermen. Instead, the name referred to the spirits of the royal family going back to the first Andaran man and woman who had emerged from those waters when Ror, the God of Lightning, cast a bolt into its depths in a fit of rage.

Ever since, when one of the royalty died, the queen told her subjects, their spirit returned to the place from which all Andarans had come. The stones, Rothfort supposed, were symbols of those who swam freely in the fathomless depths under the orange sky. It was their heaven, the queen said.

#

No one had warned Rothfort of the nature and power of the stones he bore. They spoke to him incessantly, but their voices rolled over each other in an avalanche of words he could not comprehend. Thirty days crossing this barren wilderness had convinced Rothfort that he was losing his mind.

Source

He had a visitor one night as he slept under the sky the color of dying embers. The man stood in the light of the campfire fueled with the twisted branches of a squat bush, the only living thing in this ruined land other than the willows that surrounded the lake, and spoke in not much more than a whisper.

Your mission, you believe, must be right in that it is for Her Highness, the Queen, that you travel, bearing precious carriage. But who is this so-called queen? What is the burden you carry? Is there a story you and your people have not heard for countless generations because such a tale has been erased from your written and oral histories by dark magic? Have you believed lies that have supplanted the truth?

Long ago, in days of leisure, peace, and plenty, the royal family, the true, ruled with benevolence toward their subjects of Dinas Gwyn, the great white city, and the regions around but with inattention to the enemy. The Dark Council was made up of kings and queens, bearers of dark magic who had lost much of their land holdings in the Great Wars.

They planned a secret coup which they carried out in the night, and the council has ruled in the place of the royal family ever since. The people knew nothing of it. The royal family, the peasants, were told, lived happily within the confines of the white palace. In reality, all five hundred members of the extended royal family, in addition to one thousand royal guards, were dispatched over a series of months to the Lake of Shades and drowned. The voices you hear from the stones are those of the ancients, imprisoned.

Source

You gathered the stones thinking they were merely a few dozen, inconsequential rocks. But as you dropped one after the other into the bag, the souls were on the move. The magic which holds them has weakened so they can move from stone to stone. Not one soul was left behind. Their only hope is that you will have ears to hear and a heart to believe what I tell you now.

The one you call, Queen, is the greatest of the Dark Council and the first to fear that somehow the shades of the lake will break free from the spell that holds them. After you deliver the stones to this sorceress, this feigned queen, new dark magic will annihilate the living spirits trapped within.

In this meeting, I will not convince you that all of this is true. But we have time, as your journey is long. Before you arrive at the royal palace, I would have the stones from the Lake of Shades, not by force, but by your free will. If not, the shades will perish. We will speak again.

#

Rothfort awoke the following morning hearing the voices calling out from the bag, the words of his nighttime visitor sighing in his ears and the command of the queen in his memory.

Whom was he to believe?

The land between the royal palace and the Lake of Shades was wilderness without so much as a footpath to follow. Rothfort journeyed northward with the dark shadow of the Hoary Mountains to his left. If not for those ancient peaks which rose into the misty canopy, he would soon have lost his way until winter came and slew him with bolts of lightning, howling winds, and ice that would turn the rocky landscape into a glistening tundra with Rothfort staring up from an icy bed, his lifeless face reflecting the golden beryl sky.

He traveled alone, though he doubted not his night visitor with the strange tale of royal souls imprisoned in stones kept pace to his left or his right. Once, he thought he saw a raven soaring high against the mists. Another time he imagined a wolf lurking in the shadows, sights unheard of in this empty land. His mind was a rough sea casting about his choice night and day. Would he hand over, by his free will, the stones from the Lake, or would he deliver them to his queen? And why, he wondered, is my free will of such importance? The man could throttle me as I slept on any night and be off with the treasure he seeks.

#

Source

Rothfort was weary of the mental torment. He had to know the truth. The voices cried out night and day. In desperation, he fell to his knees and opened the bag, exposing the stones, dry and dull. But the voices continued. "Listen to me. Does the stranger speak the truth or does he lie?"

Silence was their response. The absence of the wailing magnified the lonely wilderness around him. The voices returned with urgency as they sensed the moment of Rothfort’s decision had come. He speaks the truth, said one, then another and another until the air around was filled with the chaotic chorus as each sang in their own time—He speaks the truth until the articulations merged with such a volume that he fell prostrate onto the gravelly ground and covered his ears.

Questions & Answers

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      • lawrence01 profile image

        Lawrence Hebb 4 days ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

        "He speaks the truth". And I nearly missed it!!

        I had to backtrack from a later one to find the beginning, so glad I did.

        Rothfort is in for a hard time I think, but a rewarding one, I have to find the next instalment

        Lawrence

      • cam8510 profile image
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        Chris Mills 2 weeks ago from Missoula, Montana at least until August 2018

        MizB/Doris, And you overwhelm me with your graciousness. Thank you. I hope the rest of the story is as satisfying as you found this first part to be.

      • MizBejabbers profile image

        Doris James-MizBejabbers 2 weeks ago

        Chris, Cnce again you overwhelm me with your imagination and very talented execution of your story. I'm anxious to get on with reading more, my friend.

      • cam8510 profile image
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        Chris Mills 3 weeks ago from Missoula, Montana at least until August 2018

        Genna, welcome aboard. Thanks for checking this story out.

      • Genna East profile image

        Genna East 3 weeks ago from Massachusetts, USA

        Very interesting, Chris, and brimming with imagination -- from the ochre sky to the lake of shades and the stones of souls. I look forward to reading the other installments. :-)

      • cam8510 profile image
        Author

        Chris Mills 4 weeks ago from Missoula, Montana at least until August 2018

        JGS, Thanks for checking the story out. As I set out writing, I wanted the setting to be a planet other than Earth. I checked on the color of the skies of other planets with different types of atmospheres. I ran across one with orange skies, so I used it. It does not help the story along, but might create interest. It also makes it very difficult to find photos. This is a great example of the value of having good beta readers before posting a story :)

      • jgshorebird profile image

        Jack Shorebird 4 weeks ago from Southeastern U.S.

        Very readable and descriptive. Thus far, I am with Rothfort in his journey in a very strange landscape, wondering why the sky is orange (but I don't need to know) and what is in those mountains.

      • cam8510 profile image
        Author

        Chris Mills 5 weeks ago from Missoula, Montana at least until August 2018

        Linda, I'm glad to see you chose to check out the story. Rothfort is an interesting fellow who grows in surprising was as the story progresses.

      • AliciaC profile image

        Linda Crampton 5 weeks ago from British Columbia, Canada

        I think I'm going to enjoy this story! The first part is very interesting.

      • cam8510 profile image
        Author

        Chris Mills 5 weeks ago from Missoula, Montana at least until August 2018

        Dora, I tell the voices in my head that all the time, but they keep coming back.Thanks for beginning this story. I hope it is satisfying all the way to the end.

      • cam8510 profile image
        Author

        Chris Mills 5 weeks ago from Missoula, Montana at least until August 2018

        Rasma, The spirits are restless, but they will stick around. Thanks for beginning this story. I hope you enjoy it to the end.

      • MsDora profile image

        Dora Weithers 5 weeks ago from The Caribbean

        Voices for companionship can really affect a man's mental condition. Interesting start!

      • Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

        Gypsy Rose Lee 5 weeks ago from Riga, Latvia

        An awesome story loved this the photos are great and enjoyed the second half just as much. Can tell those sprits are restless.

      • cam8510 profile image
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        Chris Mills 5 weeks ago from Missoula, Montana at least until August 2018

        Nikki, Thanks for visiting. The next one will be up very shortly, probably on Sunday, March 18. The story is complete, although I may touch up the ending between now and posting.

      • nikkikhan10 profile image

        Nikki Khan 5 weeks ago from London

        A great start of an amazing story Chris!

        Loved the beginning and how the voices were echoing in Rothfort’s ears, very well written!

        I’m hooked too, can’t wait for next one to listen those spirits.

      • cam8510 profile image
        Author

        Chris Mills 5 weeks ago from Missoula, Montana at least until August 2018

        Eric, free will is critical because of who Rothfort is. Without his willing participation, all is lost.

      • cam8510 profile image
        Author

        Chris Mills 5 weeks ago from Missoula, Montana at least until August 2018

        manatita, I've worked on this story for quite some time. It will be seven or eight parts. I'll probably release it fairly quickly.

      • Ericdierker profile image

        Eric Dierker 5 weeks ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

        I am hooked. This notion of his free will is pivotal I believe.

      • manatita44 profile image

        manatita44 5 weeks ago from london

        Nice! A great start! I like it. You are building your story quite well. Cool!

      working