My grandfather loomed, monstrous, over his prisoners. The Driudenan came under truce. He’d wrapped them in chains, in the iron their religion prohibited.
Even at eight, I knew cruelty from strength.
The Driudenan claimed ancestral right over the forest. They’d sabotaged mines and timber operations. Now grandfather, victorious, tortured them.
Their leader spat blood. “One chance for remorse, Treebreaker.”
My grandfather stabbed her.
I fled, sobbing. Inside, shouts became screams. Green flames engulfed the castle, gutting it. By dawn, ivy smothered the skeletal walls.
Nobody’s entered the ruins since. I know Driudenan bodies dissolve into earth. The others don’t deserve burial.
Eliantr’s soft voice nudged me. “You are of age. You can reclaim your family’s lands. Rejoin your people.”
I caressed her horn knife, more valuable than anything my grandfather ever gifted. “I am with my people.”
We returned to our forest, green against green, until the trees swallowed us.
Word count: 150. Written for this week’s What Pegman Saw writing challenge. Big thanks to Josh and Karen for hosting this great writing prompt! Every week, Pegman takes us to a new place on Google maps, and we get to search around for whatever sights catch our fancy. This week Pegman takes us to Galway, Ireland. The image I found (above) is of Menlo Castle, which has its own tragic story. It burned down mysteriously when the owners were away, the body of their disabled daughter, who was home at the time, was never found. I’m sure the other Pegman participants found more cheerful images — click the link above to see what they found, and read the stories those images inspired. And as always, feel free to join in and write your own!
This story was one of those that really, really wanted to be twice as long as it is. I had to completely cut the narrator’s relationship with his mother, for instance. Just picture him turning to her during the torture scene, asking her to do something to stop it, and her sneering at him for being “Soft and weak, just like your father was.” Some of the cool special effects that brought down the castle had to be cut too. Originally it wasn’t a fire that gutted the castle, but weird roots that pushed through the stone floors up through the bodies of every slain Driudenan, turning them into huge spreading vines and branches that crushed and smashed and enveloped everything in the castle except the stones. But alas, that took a lot more words to described than “gutted by green flames.”
And if you noticed that the term Driudenan sounds an awful lot like Druid, well, you’re right. My interpretation has a lot more in common with the D&D class than anything resembling historical accuracy, though, so I didn’t feel right using the original word. Still, it felt right to bring my Driudenan into a story based in Ireland.