Excerpt: Wings of Darkness

by Izzy Sharp, age 13
Excerpt: Wings of Darkness Izzy Sharp is a student at Takoma Park Middle School. When not writing she likes to read Warriors, play D&D, Magic, and Minecraft.

“She saw he had wings but only saw the tip, which was white and purple. He threatened to kill her, and she ran away. “

This story takes place in a magical school where the narrator, Autumn, and her sister, Crystal, are learning magic. There are seven different founders and seven different schools of magic. Autumn is in Mitch’s group, a combat-magic-focused group. Crystal is in Jerome’s group, another group focused on combat magic. When they were choosing weapons, Autumn chose a curved type of axe and Crystal chose two handaxes. This is because their group’s founders were brothers who both use axes. The founders are long dead now, though. Crystal has also found a suspicious character in the garden, a man cloaked in fog. She saw he had wings but only saw the tip, which was white and purple. He threatened to kill her, and she ran away. She is now trying to find out everything she can this person. I hope you enjoy this excerpt.

 

I have spent six months here at the school. My fighting skills have gotten tremendously better. The first few weeks were basically catching me up with everyone else, the rest learning more and more weapons work. I can now fight off three opponents at a time. I got a compliment just the other day from Sandra: “You fight well and with grace. You are one of the few students who can make your fighting look beautiful.”  

It’s not as if I enjoy fighting. Well actually, I take that back. I don’t try to look for fights, but fighting gives me a sense of purpose, like I can actually do something. Crystal, my sister, is doing well too. Her skills have gotten better, and she seems to have found her place here. I wasn’t sure if she was going to be ok here, but now she seems to know what she is doing. I am definitely a better fighter than her though. She tends to hold back, even now.

I have discovered other things about the school as well. Like a statue room, with giant stone statues of all the founders, or a secret passage that looks suspiciously like it was hollowed out by water leading to the adults quarters. I know the school like the back of my hand now and can get from the dorms to the garden in the dark.

And I have not forgotten about the angel guy in the garden either. I have not found out anything else about him, and in my free time have been scouring the library for anything that might have something to do with him. I am here now, looking through the shelves. I haven’t found anything yet, but I won’t give up hope. I pull an old, dusty book off the shell. It dislodges cobwebs, and dust bunnies float in the air. A Guide to the Monsters of the Mythical Realms. This might be helpful. I take it over to a table. It is heavy. I plop it down on the table and flip it open. Even more dust floats in the air now, as I inspect the pages. They are yellow with age, and I have to be very careful with them. I feel like they could crumble in my hands.

 

I begin to read. Not really looking for anything in particular, I flip through the pages. One catches my eye. ‘Soulkeepers’ it reads at the top. There is a folded scrap piece of paper at this page, and I set it aside. Probably someone’s long-forgotten bookmark. When I look at what the paper was covering, I gasp in astonishment. It is a dark outline of a man with feathered wings. It looks like it was drawn hastily, with coal or some type of dark chalk. As I read the given information, my eyes widen.  

 

Soulkeepers are very rare. They are not human but once were. They are reincarnations of powerful beings that have died. They can be created in two ways. One, if enough of free flowing magic settles over the dead person and then creates a physical form. Two, if a very powerful magic user has an item that is close to the person then uses it to summon the Soulkeeper.

Soulkeepers are beings of immense power and are not to be trifled with. Most of the time the summoner will lose control of the soulkeeper, and the servant will turn on its master. If you see one of these beings, stay away. They are dangerous and unpredictable.               

       

That is what that thing in the garden was! A Soulkeeper. At least now I know what it was. I look back, but that is all the book says about Soulkeepers. I wonder if there are any other books on Soulkeepers, but when I check, there are none. Still, this is a little more to go on. I walk back to put the book away, and my eyes fall on the sheet of paper. I don’t know if it’s worth investigating, but I unfold it. It reads: if you want to know more about this subject, visit the catacombs. This school has catacombs? I know it has a lot of secrets, but an underground chamber? That’s going a bit far, don’t you think? Anyway, I know what I’m doing tonight.

 

I creep down the stairs to the basement, my hand trailing on the damp wall. The stairs are cracked and uneven in some places. I can see this by the light of my axe, which is glowing a bright blue. I’m not supposed to be out after curfew, but this is important. I continue down into the darkness then abruptly stop as I see what I am looking at. A small, stone room with a couple of moldy boxes in the corner. There is literally nowhere to go from here. I can’t just give up though. I walk over to the back wall and crouch down, looking for any clues to a secret passage or a hidden room. In the very corner there are some runes of a language I don’t understand, but when I reach down to touch them, they glow a bright green. The wall slides back to reveal a hidden passageway, leading downward into the darkness. I can tell that no one has been here for a while, maybe even years. I take a deep breath and head down. The tunnel is only slightly slanted downward, but it is slick with moisture. I take my time, but all my instincts are telling me this is it, the day I learn what I want to know. After minutes of walking down the hallway I come out into a bigger passageway. This one has a thin sheen of water on the floor, and as I step into it, my shoes get soaked. At first I just walk around, looking at things. There are many side passages, and the ceiling is high, receding into darkness. The shadows seems to press in on me, and I will my axe to glow a bit brighter. I slog down the tunnel, the water getting deeper and deeper till it reaches my hips. Just when I am beginning to think this is probably a waste of time, I hear it. A soft sound at first, but it gets louder as it gets nearer. The sound of someone singing. And… the sound of something dragging on the ground. The singing is hard and rough, even the voice seems like it’s crippled by old age. At first I can’t make out the words but then they become clear.

“One body, two bodies, three bodies, four. One more body makes the fire roar. One wing, two wings, fly to the sky. When we fall, we will cry”   

It is more of a chant than a song and a creepy one at that. A figure comes walking out of the darkness and into my axe’s light. He shrinks away, as though the light has burned him, but I’ve seen enough. His clothes are dark and probably some type of leather. He has long black hair that looks like it hasn’t been washed in months. His eyes are that glowing white that I saw the night in the garden. Behind him droops a single raven-black wing, dragging across the ground.

“Hissss… Why did you come here? No one comes here anymore.”

“I want to know about Soulkeepers. I read somewhere that going down here could help me.”

“Ahh. You want to know about our kind? You have come to the right place. But why should I tell you what I know?”

“I think, about six months ago, I saw one of your kind. I want to know if they are any threat to the school above us.”

“The school? Yes, of course, they would have built that. Why should I betray the secrets of my kind to you? He shakes his head as if he’s dislodging something. Oh, what does it matter anymore? They have all forgotten me anyway. What do you wish to know?”

“Do you know what a Soulkeeper would want with humans? And where do Soulkeepers usually live?”

“Soulkeepers are beings not unlike demigods. They have immense power and tend not to involve humans in their matters unless they have some use for humans. They have have far greater life spans than humans, so tend to think of humans as insignificant creatures. I am not able to tell you where we reside, because we have all taken an oath to never speak of it to anyone but ourselves.”

“You are a Soulkeeper, then?”

“Yes. Will that be all?”

“May I ask why you only have one wing?”

“Nosey one, aren’t you.  I do not wish to speak of such matters with one of your race. I have already said too much. You will go now.” He says it like a statement, something that will not be argued over. He is already walking out of the light, back down the hallway.

I turn to leave, but then a thought strikes me. “Hey, wait!”

He turns back around so I can see one of his glowing eyes.

“What type of beings come back to life as Soulkeepers?” I ask.

“Any ones that are powerful. Like great magic users or important beings such as ones that changed the timeline of the magical world.”

As I walk back to my room, I begin to think. I have an idea of what might be happening. When I get back into bed, my thoughts are already churning. What if, what if, what if. I don’t know if I’m right or not, but I have a suspicion.

What if the founders of the school are coming back as Soulkeepers?

 

***

 

Now, I decide, is the time to share this with someone. I should have probably gone to a teacher first, but I find myself walking down the hall to Crystal’s room. When I get there, she opens up immediately and we sit down on the bed together. Then I tell her everything. The night in the garden, the book that I found, and last night’s journey to the catacombs. I thought she would be angry with me for not coming to her sooner, but she says she would have done the same thing in my situation. After class that day we decide to walk in the garden together. It is a peaceful thing, just me and her. We don’t talk, just enjoying the scenery. Slowly, ever so slowly, our hands creep together. It feels good to have a sister, someone to tell you it will always be alright.

“I never want to leave you. Ever,” she whispers in my ear. And that’s when I hear it.

 

Whoosh, whoosh. Flap, flap.

Thoom!

 

I remember that sound. Of course I do. “Get down!” I whisper. “Into the bushes. Now!” I crouch down, pulling Crystal behind me.

We reached the plants and push our way in, ignoring the branches that try to hold us back. Footsteps come on the gravel path, and from inside the leaves, I spot four pairs of feet. Whoever it is stopped. They begin to talk to each other in those deep, inhuman voices.

“We are here, now what?” says a first voice  

“We do as master told us,” says a second voice.

“Must we? Can’t we have some fun first?” says a third voice.

“We will do as we were ordered,” says the second voice.

“Aw, come on, you know you want to just as much as we do,” says the third voice.

“We will do what we came to do, which means we are going to destroy-”

“Comrades, I don’t believe our conversation is private.” A fourth voice cuts into the mix.

They all go silent. I hold my breath, willing Crystal to do the same. All at once, four clawed hands reach into our hiding place and pull us out. Lying on the ground next to Crystal, I look up to see four people. The one I’m drawn to first has familiar white and purple feathered wings. I realize now that the glowing green thing on his head is a pair headphones, and I recognize Ty. He has purple claws and a long purple tail that ends in a brown tuft of hair. That’s who that was the first night. The next one is wearing a blue space suit with a blue-and-gold helmet. That must be Jason. His claws are also purple, his wings are metallic blue. His tail also is made of blue metal, and at the end is a sharp, rugged blade that looks very dangerous and scary.  The next two I recognize almost immediately. One wears jeans, a white shirt, and over that a red-and-black hoodie. His wings are purple and are more like a bat’s than an angel’s. His tail is purple and spiked, and at the end is a arrow-like tip made for stabbing. Mitch. The next one is a very fluffy person. Jerome has brown feathered wings, and the tips are gray. He wears no clothes but is so furry he really doesn’t need any. His tail is a mass of fur and drags on the ground behind him, picking up twigs, leaves, and dirt from the ground. They all have those white, pupiless, glowing eyes and all standing about nine feet. Four Soulkeepers. Here! I’m right about the founders coming back as Soulkeepers, but I don’t want to find out like this, sprawled on the ground in front of them.  

“Well, well, what do we have here?” asks Mitch.

“That’s you!” I stutter, pointing at Ty.

“Have you met before, Ty?” asks Mitch, surprise evident in his voice.

“Yes, on my first scouting mission. She bumped into me. I decided to spare her puny life.” The look he gives me tells me not to talk about what he said to me.

“Well, what do we do with them?” asks Jerome. “We could kill them,” he says it so simply, like he’s suggesting someone make dinner.

“No, I have a better idea,” says MItch. “Jason, go do what we came here to do.”

“But-”

“Who is the leader of this mission again?” Mitch’s voice has gone quiet.

“Fine.” Jason flies off, his wings making metallic flapping sounds.

“Now, where were we? Ah, yes, you two. Ty, take her. Make sure she doesn’t get away.” He walks over and drags me to the side of the path, holding me tight with his claws so I can’t even squirm. He also picks up my weapon and, holding it, turns to Mitch.

“Shall I snap this useless piece of metal?” he asks.

“No, leave it for now,” Mitch replies. Then he turns to Crystal and gives her the two axes she dropped. “Get up.”

Crystal staggers to her feet.

“Now, we fight.”

Crystal readies herself, but I can see the fear in her eyes. She doesn’t want to fight.

“Let me fight instead!” I cry. I would do anything to save her. None of them reply, however. Jerome has stepped back, giving Mitch and Crystal room to fight. In desperation, Crystal strikes the first blow. Mitch knocks her aside as though he’s swatting a fly. To her credit, she gets up almost immediately, but this time Mitch is on the offensive, his axe swinging down. The axe is so big and looks very dangerous. It has one blade one one side, but on the other it has a spear-like point made for stabbing. The skills we learned did not go to waste, however, and Crystal is holding her own. A feeling of helplessness wells up inside on me. I want to do anything I can to help, but I can’t get free, no matter how much I struggle. Crystal is losing ground now, being pushed back toward the walls of the school. I try to warn her, but Ty clamps one of his clawed hands around my mouth before I can say anything.

Then Mitch’s axe spins through the air, so fast I can’t follow it, and stabs Crystal with the spear-like part. Ty has taken his hand away now, and I scream “No!”

Crystal is lying on the ground but starts to get up again. I sigh with relief, but it is short lived as Mitch raises his axe. He cuts down, but Crystal manages to avoid that swing. She doesn’t see the back swing, though, and Mitch brings his axe back up, cutting diagonally across her body.

“No!” I squirm out of Ty’s grip and run over to Crystal. Blood has pooled on the ground around her. I should be angry. I should be furious. But I only feel a deep sadness. The sadness has my heart in its grasp and is rending it in two. I crouch down beside her, taking her head in my hands. Her breathing is fast and shallow. “Autumn?” she says. Her voice is faint and weak.

“Shh. I’m here now. It’s ok.” Even as I say this, I know it is a lie. There is too much blood, flowing from her too fast.

“Did I do good?” she asks, her voice even fainter.

“Yes, yes of course you did,” I murmur. Anything to comfort her. The world has grown smaller, it is only her and me. Everything else is a blur. I feel the tears stream down my face but do nothing to wipe them away. I hug Crystal close to me, and I can hear her heartbeats getting shallower and shallower.

She whispers in my ear, “Carry me in your heart. Never forget me. Live for me.” Then she slumps down on the ground, her last words echoing in my mind.

 

“No, Crystal, I will never forget you. Ever.”

 

I look up, at the three Soulkeepers, and sadness turns to anger in my heart. A burning, roaring fire that will not stop till all of them are dead.

“That was the best thing i’ve seen in a while, but that girl is about to get dangerous,” says Jerome.

“Shall we leave? Jason must be almost finished,” Ty says.

“None of you are going anywhere,” I say. My vision is red rimmed, and the anger burning inside of me is ready to explode.

“A silly human like you has no right to order us around. We will go where we like,” MItch says. The flapping of wings herald the approach of Jason.

“It is done,” he says.

And that is when I lose my patience. I fly at them, no matter what the odds I’m going to kill them. For Crystal. Mitch laughs and grabs me in a chokehold, holding me above the ground.

“No human can ever hope to challenge us. I hope you will realize this, in the days to come.” At the surprised look on my face he chuckles. “You thought we would kill you? Oh no, it is a much better punishment to leave you alive, to think about what we have done for the rest of your pathetic life.”

 

He drops me on the ground, then as one, the Soulkeepers lift their wings and spiral up to the sky.

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