The Writers of the Universe
9. The Unluckiest Man
The king stood over the bloody mess, his arm still stretched out in a feeble attempt to stop the massacre that had just occurred. “What evil have you brought upon us?”
Jeremy wished that he had an answer for the king’s questions, but each time he tried to speak words never formed. He could feel his leg shaking uncontrollably, an alien out-of-body hollowness crept over him as he stood in disbelief. “I…” he started and failed.
“Not you.” The king stumbled down the three wide steps to their level and crossed the long hall following the blue carpet that would never be clean again. “You warned us, and we did not listen. No. I am asking RICHARD LIONHEART!”
Lionheart positively shrank into a squabbling mess of tears and stunted apologies as the King approached him with furious haste.
“My agents, who now lay fallen at my feet, told me they saw the lot of you coming up the mountain. They said that Jeremy held the moon jewel and you all seemed quite happy. Now on this day, you storm in here with the lady, sword at her throat, saying you found the jewel. Then not a minute later we were attacked by something, not of this world. I have a feeling that if you had not interfered with their mission, everyone would still be alive.”
“My king, I only meant to rid us of these dark ones,” Lionheart managed to squeak out.
“I’ll ask you one last time before I add your body to the pile. Only we will not remember you for your good deeds, your name and lineage will forever be cursed under the moon. What evil have you brought upon us?”
“I meant not to bring evil into this room. I have strived my entire life to rid the world of dark and magical creatures. They are an abomination to life itself and do not deserve the right to have it. I had no way of knowing such a thing like this would happen. I am blameless,” Lionheart shook his bloodless mane like he should be praised for his actions.
The king pulled a sword made of the same metal as his crown from his side. It reflected night and shadow instead of the opposite as would a regular metal. “You call yourself a brave man. All I have ever seen from you is actions a child would think to take. I will not spill your blood as there has been too much on this day. But I will strip you of your knighthood and banish you to the lands of magic where hopefully you will learn to grow a spine.”
Surprised to not be dead Lionheart exited the room with a low bow.
Jeremy still stood in the same position as he had been in when he entered the room. Once Lionheart was fully removed, the king crossed the rest of the distance to stand in front of him. Silently he stood, seemingly to tower over Jeremy though he was not more than an inch or two taller. The king stayed respectfully silent as he allowed Jeremy time to relax and take in all that had happened.
With a terribly heavy sigh, Jeremy finally unhinged his mouth. “May I see my friends Cis and Noal?”
The king gave a smile that changed the entire layout of his usually harsh facial features to one more kind and Santa-like. “When threatened with death, it is always most wise to surround oneself with close friends. They may not be able to walk with us to the final destination, but they can make the passage much easier.”
“Thank you. We will talk later,” Jeremy assured the king before stepping out of the room. Spinning around, he realized Tal-sen was not with him. His eyes found the broken creature kneeled on the spot where Saesha had disappeared from.
Tal-sen placed one hand on the ground like he was trying to follow the princess. Unable to do anything, he howled in the most horrific sound that set Jeremy’s hair standing on edge.
“Come on Tal-sen. Let’s find the others. Then we can go get the princess together.”
“Send me,” Tal-sen replied still in his mournful position.
“That’s not a smart way to go into this. We have to plan out our attack,” Jeremy responded carefully.
The creature roared like an enraged bear and stood heaving with venomous rage. Lowering his one horn, the creature charged Jeremy. Still being somewhat in shock, Jeremy was unable to move as he took the full brunt of Tal-sen’s heavy tackle in the chest.
“Send Me!” it bellowed standing over Jeremy.
“Fine ya stupid brute. If you want to die so badly, I’ll send you,” Jeremy pulled the quill out like he was brandishing a sword and angrily carved the words to send Tal-sen back to the writer’s planet.
“I will tear out all their throats and drink all their blood to bring the princess home,” Tal-sen promised.
“Just don’t kill yourself. I couldn’t bear losing another friend,” Jeremy admitted before Tal-sen hopped into the white inferno.
Once Jeremy was able to catch his breath again, he straightened up and continued on his way without another word to the king, who stood watching in amazed silence.
It took Jeremy a solid half-an-hour to find where his remaining friends were. Not willing to stop for anything, Jeremy smashed through doors until he found Noal happily reading a book next to Cis who still lay in bed, but looked much better. The color had returned to his cheeks and he seemed alert and ready to get out of bed.
Jeremy hugged his friend, happy to see him alive. “So they fixed you?”
“They sure did. I think they healed everything the first night we came here but kept me here for comfort. Where’s everyone else?” Cis asked, suddenly nervous after looking at Jeremy more closely.
“Yes, where are our good friends?” Noal chimed in.
Finding it hard to look anyone in the eye, Jeremy retold the terrible events of the last few days to a captivated audience. He finished by asking, “What should we do?”
“It’s obvious, champ,” Cis answered. “We gotta get your girl back no matter what.”
“I don’t think,” Jeremy started.
“Dammit man, it’s time to stop being logical and calculated. It’s time to be reckless and romantic,” Cis cut in with much vigor.
Jeremy couldn’t help but smile at his friend’s kind words. “But how? I can’t imagine the King helping us now. Half his guard was put down due to us being here.”
Suddenly remembering the pact he made with Lucky the wizard, Jeremy answered his own question. “We’ll have to do one more favor for these people before we can gain their support.”
“And what is that?” Noal asked cautiously.
“Follow me and you’ll all find out,” Jeremy informed them as they quickly rushed back to the king’s throne room.
Smashing through the door, Jeremy nearly lost his head as he encountered a new legion of soldiers that had replaced the dead ones. They were still a bit jumpy.
“Halt! It’s fine. They are trusted,” the king shouted across the great hall. “What have you for me? An army is it that you seek?”
The small group of three crossed the long hall so that they could appeal to the king in a more intimate manner than shouting across the room.
Understanding that the king’s mood must be less than joyful, Jeremy elected to tell him straight out why they had come back. “That will come later. But first I have another responsibility.”
Jeremy found his words failing as he echoed Saesha’s sentiments about putting responsibilities first. As he started again, he promised himself to put getting Saesha back as his number one priority. “I come bearing an offer of peace from the magical side of the kingdom. On our short journey to retrieve the moon jewel, I met a wizard. He made me promise to convince you that peace was possible and that the two kingdoms needed to be one. I have come to fulfill my promise.”
The King spilled the goblet of wine he was holding when Jeremy mentioned a wizard. Then like a mad man, he turned up his head and bellowed in hearty laughter for a full 3 minutes. Once he recovered and, breathing very hard, he responded. “It has been a terrible day for me and this kingdom. Peace is not an option when dealing with the magici.”
When Jeremy attempted to protest the king’s merry outburst turned vengeful. “I’ll hear no more of this! We’ve tried many times in the past and it has never worked in our favor. You must understand.”
“No!” Jeremy yelled in sudden frustration. He realized with his outburst that he no longer cared to follow the order of things. This was getting done and a prideful king would not stand in his way. There were too many other things at stake.
“I beg your pardon, but generally those standing before the king learn a meek tongue or they lose it quick.” Jeremy looked the king straight in the eye and pointed at him. “You don’t want peace. You are an old and foolish king. There is a danger coming to this world, to our world, to all worlds. You saw just a fraction of that danger this morning. You will stand no chance as two divided kingdoms. By the grace of whatever you think of as gods, you will be so much more powerful when united as one. Don’t let the great people of this kingdom perish because you were too foolish to do the hard thing when you had a chance.”
Noal and Cis became fixated on indiscriminate spots on the ground as they did their best to stay out of what was surely a developing shouting match between two very angry men.
Huffing and puffing with swollen indignation the king replied. “Tell me this. How does one bring peace to the land? What do I do? Just say we’re all going to live happy happy joy joy and forever after it shall be so?”
“I believe that there will have to be a discussion between you and the wizard Lucky. I do not have the answer for you.”
Waving his arm as if dismissing Jeremy’s words, the king continued. “You ask for so much and you come with no solutions. As it stands you are not a person I would follow into battle. Despite the great help you did in bringing me this fallen jewel, you will not have my favor, nor my army, nor peace with the magic kind to our backs. Not today, not ever. You are dismissed.”
“You’re letting fear and pride get in the way of what needs to be done!” Jeremy protested one last time.
“Leave this throne room before you are added to the body count,” the king commanded with a look that would allow no more conversation.
They left, slamming doors behind them. As they wound their way through the streets that snaked down the mountainside, Cis spoke breaking the moody silence. “You shouldn’t have called him a fool.”
“I don’t get it. This morning if I had asked him, I think he would have kissed me.”
“You allowed time for the influence of the writers to guide the king’s subconscious into a place that he would not respond favorably to your quest,” Noal mentioned matter-of-factly.
Jeremy stopped walking. A crowd of people bumped into him and yet he did not budge. He then fell to his knees, looking downbeat and already defeated. “He’s right. I have no idea how to win this fight.”
Feeling rather sorry for the human he had broken out of captivity. Noal sat on the ground with Jeremy in the middle of the street. Cis quickly followed suit as Noal opened his mouth. “I think this is as good of a time as any to explain as much as I can about the circumstances that led to you being here today.”
“I would love to hear this,” Jeremy said bitterly.
Noal cautioned, “You must know before I start I was only given limited information. I won’t be able to answer everything, but working together and with logic, I believe we may be able to fill in most gaps of knowledge.”
“Give me the download.”
“I explained some of this before, but let’s start with the first time I was given your story. For every other story I have been assigned to document, I have started at birth and ended at death. Usually, I am given a name, birthdate, deathdate, and a few key points that must be met on specific times and dates. The rest is up to us. I didn’t receive your story until you had already reached 2 months of age. Being young and eager to please, I did not question it as I should have. I should have asked where you came from.”
Jeremy cut in with his own information. “That’s the time I was first taken into a foster home. Before that, my time is also a mystery to myself. No one could ever tell me who my parents were or what hospital I had came from. It seems like I just appeared out of thin air.”
“Precisely so,” Noal continued. “Even stranger to me is that they did not give me any key points in your life to meet. When I asked, they simply told me that I would get weekly installments of instructions and that this case would be more hands off. I would have no creative freedom to sculpt and form you. I was to only transfer the words on the page as instructed by weekly notes that were passed to me. Every week of instructions was different so I could never guess at a pattern, but they always seemed to negatively affect you or the people around you. As I was writing I nicknamed you the unluckiest man in the world, as I have never in my lifetime watched as a person struggled through so much trouble and pain. I’m so sorry for the pain I brought you, Jeremy, and I am doubly sorry that I never found out why they treated you so abhorrently.”
It was a long time before Jeremy responded. He sat with wet eyes that he refused to allow tears to flow from and listened to all the people walking around them. Each voice was different and unique. It was in this one impossible moment in this one universe that all these individuals living wonderful lives would see him sitting on the ground and simply continue on with their lives and never see him again. This was a unique intersection of time and space, bumping into each other before flying off in separate directions. Did they all have real lives or were they some construct of the writers being used to influence and control other people? Did it matter if none of them knew the difference?
With a burst of inspiration and clarity, Jeremy hopped up from the ground. “We have to get the people to demand peace with their neighbors behind the mountain. If there is one thing I succeed at today, it will be saving these damn people so they can just go on and not ever have to know how narrowly they avoided obliteration.”
Cis fist pumped with Jeremy, “Fuckin’ right doggy! Let’s start a motha flippin’ revolution up in here.”
Noal smiled at them as he slowly climbed to his feet. “Now is not the time for manners or formality. If we wish to sever the subtle links of the writers, we must insight things they cannot control, emotions. They can tell you what you should be feeling, but you yourself have to believe 100 percent or your emotional core will never be truly triggered.”
“We need something to help us. Even if we found a way so that they could hear us, they would never believe three strangers over their king.”
They each answered the question with the same answer, “Lionheart.” He would be the only person the people would trust for he was a celebrity inside the walls of the city castle.
“Come on,” Jeremy cussed. “I fricken hate that guy so much.”
Noal smiled sympathetically. “Where shall we find the knight?”
Cis looked around in every direction, “Why don’t we ask one of those guys.”
Jeremy followed Cis’s gaze and saw a grouping of knights a level below them. He started to run, with his companions following, to catch up with the enclave. Huffing and puffing they finally caught up to them.
“What do you want citizen? Do not interfere with the king’s business,” One of the faceless knights boasted.
After coughing haggardly, Jeremy answered. “Do you know where we can find the one called Richard Lionheart?”
A cruel grin spread over the man’s face. “Our most recently dishonored knight. He is useless to us, and to the king, and I have no doubt he will be of even less use to whatever you could possibly need him for.”
“No. It has to be him,” Jeremy held a stitch in the side of his rib.
“I don’t have time for this. Not when war is so closely upon us.”
“War?” Noal asked before Jeremy could.
“Where ya been? It’s been rumored all over the streets this morn. Half the king’s inner guard slaughtered. It can only be the work of the magici.”
“That’s not right at all,” Cis observed.
“I think I’d know better than you common scum,” the knight challenged.
“It’s fine. We don’t have time to argue,” Jeremy said to both of them. “We need to find Lionheart. It may save more lives than we realized at this point.”
The knight shook his head with a sympathetic shrug. “You can find him in the Raddy Paddy Tavern. But don’t say I didn’t warn you. He will fail to come through for you and he’ll try to make it your fault all along. But if what you are saying is true then I wish you luck on your quest. May you save many lives today.”
They waved their thanks and started charging back up the hill before the Knight’s large bellow brought them to a halt. “Turn around. It’s at the bottom of the mountain, not the top.”
Running past the soldiers, they grinned embarrassed smiles and sped onwards, going down the many levels to the bottom. It was long past midday by the time they crashed through the doors of the Raddy Paddy Tavern.
The dankness of the place compared to the bright sunny day behind them made their eyes hurt. Their eyes took a long time to adjust and see past the first layer of filthy rags that spread across a second entrance way. Stepping through the curtain, they found the Raddy Paddy Tavern to be one of the smallest pubs they had ever entered. The room was long enough for three rows. One of the tables to sit at, the second was bar stools for patrons to order from, and the third row was the actual bar.
Today there were only two people, a barman who stood looking very surprised to see this many people enter his establishment, and Lionheart. Lionheart sat slumped against one of the tables in the corner, already nearly comatose with half an empty bottle of some dubious amber liquid in front of him.
“Lionheart, we need your help,” Jeremy said as they crowded around him.
The barman yelled before anything more could be said. “You may stay here once you’ve ordered something, but I won’t have no vagrants in my tavern.”
Cursing under his breath, Cis rolled around and ordered three drinks while Jeremy returned to Lionheart.
Lionheart answered the repeated cry for help with a wet burp. “Why would I ever do anything to help a briggon like you?”
“Look you help us and say exactly what we tell you to, you will come out of this looking like a hero reborn. The people will cry for your knighthood to be reinstated,” Jeremy promised.
Laughing at Jeremy’s words, Lionheart narfed with a full body shake before responding, “But what’s in it for me.”
Sighing heavily, Jeremy realized that this would be much more difficult than he had realized. “You can be the hero you already know you are.”
“Will people sing songs about me?” Richard asked with honest sincerity.
“I’ll write you a song myself,” Jeremy offered in exasperation trying to push this conversation along as fast as possible.
“Wait,” he held up a wobbly finger. “What do I have to do?”
“You are going to bring peace between your kingdom and the magici before a false war starts.”
The man’s usually fluffed golden mane was stringy with sweat as he began chuckling merrily into the bottle as he took an enormous gulp of the rich liquid. Slamming the bottle down on the table, he responded. “You ask an impossible task. I cannot fix myself, yet alone a division that has lasted through 50 different kings on the top of the mountain. What could you possibly say that could bring peace that hasn’t already been said and tried?”
“That there is something far worse coming to this world, coming to all our worlds, and if we do not unite we all may become obliteration. There wouldn’t even be a planet big enough to bury the dead and even if there were one large enough, their remains would be less than dust. All would be completely erased from existence. Do you want to let that happen to your people? The people you swore to defend and protect.”
“But I’m a pile of shite,” the man pouted.
“Come on man, this is your chance for redemption. Pull your head out of your ass, get up we’re gonna do this,” Jeremy charged as he pulled Lionheart off of the bench.
“You gonna finish your drink, man?” Cis asked curiously.
Jeremy threw back the lager, while still supporting Lionheart, slammed it down and started pulling Lionheart out of the establishment.
It was a long journey to the top of the mountain. Lionheart kept stumbling and tripping and at one point downright refused to walk. Jeremy elected Noal, because of his immense size and six arms, to drag him up the streets.
“Here,” Lionheart shouted three-quarters of the way to the top. “There’s a thing here that if you shout into it will echo up and down the mountain. It was crafted by the ancient mountain dwarves who first built this city.”
“Convenient,” Cis chimed as they entered a monastery-like building. A great horn funneled out of the side so that the opening faced the mountain.
Lionheart slammed through the thin metal doors, shouting for the caretaker. Eventually, a frail looking woman came out from behind a back curtain asking them if she could assist them.
“I would like to use the horn, woman,” Lionheart rudely pronounced.
“Only those with the king’s seal of approval may use it. Do you have the seal?” She asked humbly.
Whipping out his sword, Lionheart sneered before Jeremy could stop him. “This is what I got. Is it good enough for you?”
“Stop!” Jeremy placed a hand on Lionheart’s shoulder. It was quickly brushed off but Lionheart did not move forward with his threat. “We must win people’s trust, not their fear.”
“You deal with it, dark one,” Lionheart said before dismissing himself and sheathing his bloodthirsty weapon.
Returning his attention to the frightened elderly lady, Jeremy excused Lionheart. “We would be in your great debt if you allowed us to use the horn. We have a message of peace that must be spread now before it is too late. You see, the magici on the other side of the mountain chain want peace with us before the final battle. Will you let us use your horn?”
The lady looked very skeptical of Jeremy’s words and his bunch of companions. “I will be executed for this treason.”
“I give you my word that will not happen. We can pretend to apprehend you. That way you do not face any consequences for our actions,” Jeremy suggested.
“So you do mean to harm me,” she grimaced.
It was Noal who surprisingly spoke next. “Move aside. We must use the horn.”
“Always threats with you men. Can’t ever just accept an answer that was given to you. Good luck getting it to work.” She pointed to the opening of the funnel. It was little more than big enough for a normal sized head to fit in.
Stepping towards it, Jeremy wondered out loud. “What should we have Lionheart say?”
“Just have him repeat what you said to convince him to come,” cis advised.
“By promising them sing songs?” Jeremy asked in perfect deadpan.
Cis laughed at his friend’s sarcastic remark. They both stood at the base of the horn, admiring its simple and large bronze beauty.
Jeremy called over Lionheart as he took out his quill. “Ma’am, do you have something I can write on?”
The lady nodded and scurried to hand over an empty scroll. Jeremy accepted it gracefully, trying to thank the lady, but she strode away before he could say anything. Flicking his wrist, he began writing in earnest. He wrote and wrote like he had never before been able to achieve. It felt wonderful and he realized that it was due to having no more fear. He knew what needed to be done and fear would only distract him. This writing was for Saesha and Tal-sen as much as it was for the people of the moon kingdom.
When he finished, he handed it to Lionheart. “Speak these words and you will be forever recognized as a hero.”
Lionheart looked like for once on their strange journey up the hill that he finally understood the enormity of the responsibility he was being handed. Nodding his head in respectful admittance, he opened his mouth and began shouting the words Jeremy had written. “This is Lionheart…”
His words stopped at the ancient wall and were barely louder than a brave shout.
“It doesn’t work,” he observed audibly.
Out of the corner of his eyes, Jeremy noticed the elderly lady smirking. “How does it work?”
She folded her arms in the most motherly way as she stuck her nose in the air, “Oh, now you want my help? When just five minutes ago all I was good for was stepping aside.”
“Yes, your help right now will benefit everyone. I’m trying to save us all!” Jeremy started to yell frantically. “People I love are in extreme danger right now and I’m stuck here because I made a promise to a wizard that I would make peace with both sides of the mountain. Do me the greatest favor and tell me how this works.”
Something in how Jeremy was near tears and begging the lady made her reconsider. “You poor dear thing. What was the name of the wizard that asked for peace?”
She smiled as if a distant memory appeared in the middle of the room. “My dear Lucky. How nice it would be to see him again. Yes. I will show you how it works as long as you don’t reveal the secret to anyone outside these walls. I’ll lose my bloody head.”
“You have my word and all of us promise to never say anything,” Jeremy wheeled around until everyone in the group had audibly said the same thing.
“Good,” she skipped over to the horn. “Now the drunken one needs to put his entire head into the mouth of the horn. Good. Now simply say the words in a normal voice and I will do the rest.”
Jeremy watched dumbfounded as she swirled her arms and started muttering spells as Lionheart’s words filled the late-afternoon air.
“My name is Richard Lionheart, stalwart defender of men and knight under the moon. I come bearing peace from those on the other side of the mountain. I know many of you will scoff at the idea of a peace that hasn’t existed in a thousand years, but if we do not shrug off the chains of the past, and if we do not grasp this extension of peace, more than just lost lives will be at stake. There is a coming battle, but it is not one with our neighbors behind the mountain. This battle will be against control and fate, an external threat that just this morning slaughtered the king’s guard and then disappeared like water through our fingers. Our world has a choice; fight against the order of the past and have a possibility of securing a future free and new. Or face the possibility of total obliteration. Only the individual people of this great kingdom have the right to decide which path to take.”
At that moment the speech was cut short as the metal doors to the monastery blew off their hinges and a seething red-faced king and his guard rushed into the room surrounding the group.
“I think it’s time we jumped out of this world,” Cis suggested.
“I quite agree. We have overstayed our welcome and it is up to them to decide whether to join us or not,” Noal seconded.
Jeremy waved to the lady and Lionheart thanking them for their help, hoping that the speech had been enough to convince the people to demand peace from their king. He quickly wrote the words that had first taken him to the world of the writers. The message, Get out of there, flashed bright and blue scaring the king’s men from advancing. The rift opened large as they hopped into the light, escaping from a fuming king.
Next Chapter – The Writers of the Universe – 10. As It Is Written
If you like this story and would like to support the author please consider purchasing a physical copy of the novel you are reading, see more here
2014 © Stew Stunes