"The Bow d'Longoria"
a short story
Gary Baker, December 2012
Desperately Esri drew the bow and let loose a sharp pang of heat across his fingertips even as a bolt of pure white struck down a man in the doorway below. Instantly the man became chars and fell to the floor in a crumbling mess.
It worked. The fabled bow had awakened.
Esri stared in awe, expecting it to be the disillusioned ramblings of a dying mind after an unseen deathstroke. It couldn’t have worked, not for him, not for the manservant with none of the abilities that made his race so noble.
He was the dud, the one man hidden away from the rest of the world in the garments and back alleys of servantry so that no one could ever tell such a mishap could take place for a race with powers over matter and energies from other realms. Yet they couldn’t kill him, either, not without altering empires-old legislature at the core foundations of their society.
It wasn’t possible. Logically it never would have happened had Esri not been so desperate for more time as to grab the nearest bow and hope he found an arrow to launch. When none had appeared, the servant had merely told himself that acting as though he had the myst of arrows would prevent the attacking army from entering for fear of exactly what had just taken place.
Another soldier entered, wielding the off neon green of myst-shields painted across his plate armor. Without a thought, Esri acted again against all reason and fired another bolt of light.
The shielding made no difference, he still ended up as another pile of charcoaled timber at the entryway to the keep.
“What have you done?!” Esri shot his eyes at the nobleman captain who called himself Esri’s master, now standing in astonished fear in the archway into the South Wing forays. Triesc’s voice dripped with dread, leaving Esri squirming beneath the man’s glare whilst unable to ease the moment.
Another man clattered through and brandished a lordly greatsword, only to turn dark and fall just like the others. The burn in Esri’s fingers grew with each bolt loosed, but the attackers kept coming.
Esri grit his teeth and bore the burn like a knightly nobleman with earned mysts between his palms. “I’ve just saved us all, master.”
Triesc glared and witnessed the death of two more attackers thinking themselves better than the last. “You know what I mean, Ez.” The gallant leader kept his dark eyes set on the growing pile of charcoal and iron.
For the count of ten further deaths the men stood on the top of the grand staircase in otherwise complete silence. “How did you get it to work?” The master finally whispered.
Esri paused, unable to answer while still firing heavenly light into the hearts of greedy men-at-arms. “I,” he stammered, searching for a clue, stalling for time. He couldn’t just tell his regal lord that he had been so desperate that he had tried firing an empty bow -- only to have it work as though by some divine intervention hellbent on ruining Esri’s life.
Intuitive as always, Triesc spun back to stare angrily. “You don’t know?!” Suddenly Misting was in his hand, one long-hilted shard of unblemished crystalline sapphire, as deific as his leadership was great. He paced and watched Esri fire three more bolts in complete awe. “Well fuck me,” he exclaimed in a heavy breath, “my own manservant -- the prophesied hero to save our world!” He trailed off at that with a deep frown furrowing his brow. “And he doesn’t even know how he does it!”
Triesc then resumed his pacing and kept glancing at the bow in his servant’s hands.
Releasing another streak of light, Esri lowered the fabled curved length and grit his teeth. “Master Triesc, the keep is under siege -- in case you hadn’t noticed -- and yet still our lords feast upon art and fish just upstairs!”
The keep’s highlord stopped in his tracks, Misting lost into an eerie wisp of quickly-dissolving azure fog. “You’re right -- but by whom?”
“Does it matter?”
“Well it would be--”
“Master, you’ve always told me that in times of war it doesn’t matter how or why but what and when.” The lowly manservant let the words sink in as an enemy bowman snuck in and hid behind the pile of once-human firelogs.
The bowman reached up and fired a long, barbed arrow only to be struck through by shaft of light. Esri watched as the arrow burst into ash while the bowman did the same, trailing a line of firework smoke to see the arc it had been sent on. One final bit of condensed ash hit Esri’s chest square between the riblines over his heart and left a dusty smudge.
At this Esri fell back a step and almost lost his legs from beneath himself. It wasn’t just a magical bow -- it was a bow fit for a god.
The two men stared in horrific awe at the falling gray dust that once sought the manservant’s heart. “If this were to fall into the wrong hands….” they both whispered in unison, knowing the ultimate darkness that would ensue.
He shook his head, determined but sorrowful for reasons Esri could do nothing to understand. “No,” he breathed, “you cannot call me that anymore -- I was your master only because my power outdid your lack. But now…” he trailed off with a saddened look upon the bow of dark maroon and pale sand wood, traced with gold trim and a gleaming silvery draw.
Now nothing, master,” Esri met his lord’s eyes and nodded. “We cannot let others know what this is -- tell them out of need I regained my mysts, but absolutely no more. If people found out about this,” he hefted the bow and winced, unwilling to admit how great it felt to feel this raw power finally set free, “who knows what wars might come about?”
Triesc smiled, “ever the strategist, aren’t you?”
“It’s my job, master. I’ll advise you unto La Ghemorra, as the world crumbles under it’s chaotic maelstrom.”
They winced together at the thought.
Triesc shrugged, “too bad it’s not far off anymore.”