Short Story: My Father’s Death in the Land of Immortals

Crater Lake with snow in winter. Crater Lake in 2015. Not exactly the level of snow I had in mind for this story, but it is the most winter-esque photo I've taken that I could find.

Introduction

I decided to seed my Fiction Writing section with a few stories that have been gathering digital dust on hard drives. This one started with an odd dream that I had more than 10 years ago and I wrote it down. I’ve since made plans to turn it into a larger work, but feel like sharing it here. I’d like to think I’ve grown as a writer since then, but like with most of my works – I don’t really remember writing this and I’ve made a few minor edits as I’ve posted (the written word is never truly perfect). 

The Story

My father’s body rests below the ice and snow of Aesiron. His life was taken by hostile steel that pierced a fracture in his mail. As a boy of seven, this was the message I received. My mother died shortly after my birth, so except for Kavasir, my master, I was alone. When my tears subsided and I returned to the house that eve, I asked Kavasir to prepare me so that I may one day sink my feet in Aesiron powder and cast my head down before my father’s grave. Kavasir agreed saying that my journey would require balance between physical prowess and academic inquiry.

More than a decade later, I stand with feet cold, not from emotion, but from frigid white Aesiron clawing at my boots. My ankles are numb. My legs are burning from frost’s bite. All my efforts to counter the climate, despite a decade’s research, have failed. An adage goes ‘Nothing can prepare the mind or body for Aesiron.’ I see now its literal truth. Yet it is clear the discomfort of biting air is greatly overshadowed by tales of the land that knows no mortality.

Years of obsession with Aesiron left me with little more knowledge than the layman. Each year for a single day the Baldera pass, the gateway to the nation of Sakdion, is transformed into a gateway to the most majestic of realms. Here one can be stabbed and not bleed. A limb can be severed only to regenerate. A skull can be cracked only to mend. Aesiron is a land where one can fly, for a fall off its western edge is a downward journey of four-hundred-thirty-two-thousand hands whose end leaves the traveler outside Aesiron’s borders unharmed.

The shreds of knowledge I hold onto myself are tales often regarded as myths by even the most radical lore keepers. One tale, recorded a parchment predating the formation of the Protectorate, tells of a warrior named Fenreer who was cut down by a mercenary named Karee while he waited outside Baldera on the Sakdion side for Aesiron’s annual appearance. Fenreer’s soul remained tethered to this reality by a single thread; the love he had for a young farm hand, Sagari. He was taken into Aesiron, for it was believed his wounds would heal there. A day was spent, but Fenreer’s wounds remained.

As his companions were getting ready to leave for Baldera, they were ambushed by Karee and thrown off the western edge. Unable to stand, Fenreer rested, surrounded by snow under the watchful eye of Karee. Daylight crept away, slowly at first but then with great speed. When the sun was but a sliver, Karee jumped off the edge returning to Baldera just as the gateway to Aesiron closed, leaving Fenreer behind.

Another tale, an oral history from a sage in Baldera, tells of a man clad in ornate armor not from any known nation who emerged from Aesiron as soon as the gateway opened. Fearful of this stranger, the local villagers fled while several fighters, including the champion Rae, challenged the newcomer. Outside of Aesiron, wounds were fatal and the stranger delivered a blow that cut Rae at his waist.

A beautiful woman came running up to Rae’s body, and sobbed into Rae’s chest. ‘Why did you do this?’ she asked as she cried. ‘You don’t even know him.’ Before the stranger could speak, an old woman came running down the road. ‘Cagari,’ she shouted. ‘Cagri, get away from him. You don’t need to see your husband like that.’ The old woman pulled her away from Rae’s corpse. At this, the stranger left the scene and entered Aesiron, leaving as he had come.

I kept unto myself the most radical of theories, that these two stories are related tales and that Fenreer was the stranger, whose journey into the darkness of Aserion led him to lands undiscovered, lands where my father may reside. I recorded these thoughts three years ago in a journal, along with my ideas about what Aesiron really is. I keep these not for my benefit, but Kavasir and the others I intend to leave behind.

It is my belief that Aesiron is a gateway and that our world is not the only place that it stops. If this is true, then what happens to those who remain within its borders after the journey completes? Part of me, the philosopher, contends that my father may still be alive, given life again after Aesiron connected with a different world. To know for sure, however, I must do what no man has voluntarily done and stay here until the very end.

Kavasir agreed to my entry into this realm under the guise of looking for my father’s grave, for if he knew my true intentions he would not let me set my eyes upon Baldera. My gloves are made arctic fox fur and keep my hands warm, the only part of me not touched by Aesiron cold, as I sift through the freezing white sod. I uncover weapons from fighters of long ago before the days of the Protectorate. Stranger, more exotic weapons also lay there, containing inscriptions written in languages not known to this world. They are too well-kept to be ancient pieces, adding evidence in favor of my theory.

Kavasir reminds me that my time is finite, and I quicken my pace. In part, I wish to find the grave and end this part of my life, yet its counter is that I want my father to not be anywhere in this snow and instead living a life on a distant world, proving that Aesiron is indeed a gateway. The thought of both my pace to quicken even further, as if by looking through every spot of ice and not discovering his armor would prove the theory and existence of different realms. If Aesiron, than why not another.

My master is more direct now, pulling me by my cloak and armor away from the snow. “We must go now.” I shake him off. “Just a little longer. The messenger said they buried in the west. Perhaps he overlooks the cliff. We can use that as our escape.” Kavasir’s hand tightens on the grip of his hilt, leaving me to wonder if he suspects something is amiss or if it is the result of some unperceived sense more aware of my plans than him.

We move quickly across the rolling mounds of snow, the sounds of combat fading as the sky begins to change and grow unsettlingly dark. “We’ve got three minutes,” Kavasir barks. We both dig feverishly. More weapons this time, jewelry, leather bound journals frozen shut and myriad of other assorted items. This area must hold significance to those from other worlds for the quality and craftsmanship of these items is superior to the others found at previous sites.

Digging a little deeper I catch a glint of a familiar jade jewel. It is the hilt of my father’s blade, and attached to it, my father’s sword, broken. I hold it up to Kavasir, who looks to me. He inspects the blade with his unpatched eye. “This blade shows signs of much combat.”

“That’s impossible,” I say. “For father had his blade reforged before his journey.” It wasn’t impossible, I silently told myself. It wasn’t impossible if my father was still alive, still able to weld it in other realms and on other worlds.

The sun falls from the sky, accelerating the clouds across the horizon. “We shall talk later, for now we must fly.” Kavasir grips me, but I throw him off. He stands firm, but his expression is taken back. Without thinking, I stab him with the broken sword. “What are you doing?” he says, pulling away and drawing his sword. “We must flee.”

“No,” I tell him firmly, holding my father’s blade. “I shall stay and see this to its end.” I draw against Kavasir again, but he evades. Now it is I who am taken back, as he is never one to break from combat.

“If your firm in this resolve, then let us wait another year and prepare for the journey.”

“And give you time to conspire to keep me away from this world, no.”
Kavasir shook his head. “I have no such intent. I just wish to be fully equipped for such a journey.”

“Then you shall have no qualms about remaining here,” I said. “I have had supplies dropped just inside the gate, so we need not worry about the journey.”

“You expected me to come along?” Kavasir asked.

“No,” I said. “I thought it might be possible though that we’d both be stranded, so I prepared rations for us both. To think you’d come along voluntarily had never occurred to me.”

The sun was gone now, and the world was black and a void of sound. “You’d be stupid and brash to make this journey without one who has been here before.” And with that, the world grew black.