The Fire and the Mist
Doubt can seep in like a mist.
Orren rose after the sun and climbed the stairs to the watchtower. He lifted the hatch and checked the lamp above the signal fire. It was still burning.
He looked out across the lake. A thick mist hung above it.
Never a good sign.
He checked the oil in the lamp that hung above the waiting logs of the signal fire. It was low, so he decided to top it. He climbed back through the hatch and grabbed the bucket. He set it below the keg, opened the tap, and let it fill.
The sight of the mist nagged at him. It never made the job easy.
It’d been eight years since the beasts emerged from the water and attacked the kingdom, and it’d been two years since he’d been sent to this outpost. In all that time, he’d never seen even a ripple of water that was out of the ordinary.
He closed the tap and carried the bucket upstairs. He pulled a candle from the box, lit it, and hid it from the wind. In his training, they’d drilled him to replenish the lamp with a secondary flame burning.
Orren looked over the battlement to the narrow road that connected him to the mainland and the forest.
It’d been six months since he’d had news from the capital.
Nothing in the official communication, but riders said there wasn’t much talk of the beasts anymore. Their terrible wrath and destruction had faded from the minds of the citizens. Not even the King seemed to speak of them much.
And the last rider had no letters from Connie, Orren’s love. She’d promised to write him at every chance, but that had been so long ago. Had she moved on?
Had the world moved on? Had he been forgotten out here?
He turned back to the mist. Grey and cloudy like thick dark smoke. He hadn’t seen it this dark ever before.
He realized he hadn’t heard a single gull cry since returning to the watch. All he could hear were his quick breaths.
Something wasn’t right. He could sense it.
He studied the mist, no longer looking at it but trying to see through it. It appeared as if it was moving.
No, something was moving beneath it.
And not a little. A lot.
He sliced the rope, and the lamp dropped into the signal fire. The oil splashed everywhere, and the logs became an inferno.
He rang the bell and looked to the outpost in the north.
“Come on, come on,” he hissed, waiting for the others to see his fire.
The floor shook. He looked over the battlements and saw the first tentacles of the beasts rising out of the water.
The creatures must hear the bell.
He wouldn’t last long against them. He drew his sword, knowing none of it mattered if the other outpost didn’t light their fire.
The whole tower shuddered.
He glanced again. The beasts were the size of oak trees and ten times as thick. They swarmed the base of the tower, tearing it apart, stone by stone.
Where was the other fire?
And then Orren saw it—faint at first and then raging. He’d done it. He’d warned the kingdom and its people.
But the floor fell beneath him, and he tumbled through space towards the dark grey mist below.
All he could think of was Connie. He still loved her—no matter what. As he slipped into the darkness, he hoped he’d done enough to protect her.
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