fantasy, short, stories

A Noble Soul

One evening following a grueling day of judging the souls of the dead, Lord Makar slouched down into his dark throne and listened as his wife began to sing. Ordinarily these quiet moments were his favorite but that particular night he felt unusually tired. Mere minutes into the song, the grim judge struggled to keep his eyes open. He soon raised his right fist in front of his face before yawning.

Seeing his sign, Morae held her voice mid song. She stepped away from the throne and approached her husband.

“You must be exhausted, my love,” she whispered as she leaned over him.

“It has indeed been a long day. I should probably sleep a little,” Makar replied after yawning once more.

“How about a hot bath beforehand?” his queen suggested.

“A warming bath, yes, that seems like a fine idea,” he replied.

Thus Makar ordered the Morkrai to make the preparations. The shadow beings quickly gathered water from the well outside the halls and began to heat it under a fire. Meanwhile the couple stepped away from the chamber and made their way towards the kitchens. One Morkrai followed them and there he picked up a bowl of fruit and offered the fresh harvest to his Lord and Lady. Morae helped herself to a bunch of grapes and some cherries.

Eating with the grace of a queen, she proceeded to grab a handful of raspberries before asking:

“Aren’t you hungry?”

“Not particularly,” Makar responded simply.

Morae ate the juicy raspberries before speaking again.

“Are you sure? It’s been a while since you last ate,” she uttered softly while touching at the fruit inside the bowl. “Why not try some pomegranate seeds?” – she asked.

“Very well, I’ll have a few, just to taste,” he replied.

Morae took a pomegranate from the bowl and passed it to the Morkrai. The creature quickly sliced it in half with a thin knife before offering it back to her.

Morae removed a handful of seeds and put them into Makar’s mouth.

“Mmm… delicious,” he murmured after swallowing the bursting seeds.

Morae simply smiled in response.

“I think our bath should be ready by now,” Morae noted as she handed the bleeding pomegranate back to her servant.

They walked towards the bathroom just as the Morkrai had finished pouring the last batch of hot water into the wide tub. Before leaving, the shadow creatures rested two soft towels onto a marble table in the corner of the room.

As soon as the Morkrai left, Morae wrapped her arms around Makar.

“Alone at last!” she declared happily before they kissed.

Morae then made her way towards the cool marble table. There, next to the towels, stood a collection of numerous glass vials filled with essential oils.

“We have some lavender, jasmine, bergamot, mint….Which fragrance would you like? ” she asked.

“The mint,” Makar decided.

“Mint, good choice,” Morae smiled as she took the bottle from the table.

She poured droplets of the thick oil into the tub before putting the bottle back in place. She undressed and edged into the steaming bath. Makar disrobed and soon joined her. The pair rested in the tub for a while, enjoying the pleasant aroma and soaking until the water started to grow chill. Not long after Makar and Morae grabbed their towels and made their way towards the bedroom.

“How long have we?” the goddess wondered once inside.

“We have time enough. The dead can wait a little longer. Our Morkrai will watch over them whilst I spend some time alone with you, my dear queen,” Makar replied as they perched on the bed.

That night they made love before falling asleep in each other’s arms. Hours later they woke up to the sound of a horn. Finally rested, Makar rose quickly and dressed himself, Morae hurriedly followed. She snatched a comb lying next to their bed and moved to brush her hair. She was about to leave when Makar stopped her.

“Aren’t you forgetting something, my dear?” he asked, holding up a spiky black crown decorated with onyxes and crystallized dark roses.

Morae took the crown from him and stared at it for a few quiet seconds.

“My queen deserves her crown,” Makar whispered.

“And you, my dear king…where’s your crown?” asked Morae.

Makar grabbed his hooded cloak and robed himself.

“I would rather keep my hood up,” he replied before pulling the dark hood over his face, “as long as they can hear my voice, the souls will never need to see my ugly face. I would rather they gaze upon my beautiful queen.”

“There’s nothing wrong with your face dearest,” said Morae as she rested the shadowy crown on her head.

Makar smiled at her before they strode towards the throne room. They passed through the kitchens on their way where Makar ordered the Morkrai to bring food over to their thrones. Unquestioned, the Morkrai obeyed their master and quickly began to prepare a meal.

The couple walked silently into the towering chamber and took their seats on the dual thrones. Soon after the Morkrai laid out great platters of food. Makar and Morae were still eating their breakfast when two Morkrai entered the hall, dragging a dead soul behind them.

Still chewing his food, the Lord of the dead gazed down at the spirit stood before them. The ghostly figure was a middle-aged man with thin grey hair and a long beard. His clothes were left dripping wet from sea water.

Finishing his meal in grim silence, Makar passed the empty plate to one of his servants before speaking:

“Captain Larnin, son of Erios of Gragia, I am listening. You may begin,” the grim judge spoke in his cold and emotionless tone.

Makar and his queen listened carefully to Captain Larnin’s tale. There Morae waited until he had finished his story before speaking.

“What a fascinating tale. I have never had the pleasure of visiting Makar’s sister’s kingdom, nor have I ever seen any of Afa’s creations. What more can you tell me of these water Enai? – she asked.

Hearing her words Makar turned to face his wife.

“Morae, my dear, I fail to see how this is in any way relevant to my verdict on the Captain’s fate. Why ask?” he whispered into her ear.

“You’re right, it’s not relevant. I’m just curious,” the Lady of sorrows replied.

Makar smiled and kissed her hand before resting back in his seat.

“Very well. Captain Larnin, for the sake of my wife’s curiosity I would like you to tell us more about my sister’s servants,” uttered Makar, all the while staring down at the ghost.

Captain Larnin turned his head slightly to face the goddess before speaking:

“My Lady,” he began, “Lady Afa’s servants are vicious monsters whose love for violence is equal only to their love for their watery home and all creatures of the sea. Their women are beautiful, with long turquoise hair and blue fishtails. Yet the one that sank my ship was a young, strong male. I will never understand why he chose to attack me and my crew but, judging by the look on his face, he appeared to enjoy watching us suffer. Destroying my ship seemed to be enough to keep him amused, but then his kin joined him and pulled some my crew down into the depths. One of his women even drowned my first mate’s young boy,” he concluded his tale before wiping a tear from his face.

“Thank you Captain Larnin. Your tale proved to be very entertaining but now it has now reached the time for me to declare your fate. I see little virtue nor any noble deeds in your life. Before becoming a sailor you lived the life of a petty thief, spending most of your days robbing people in the streets, occasionally getting into drunken fights. I therefore sentence you to remain here in these halls, forever,” the grim judge declared.

The Morkrai grabbed Captain Larnin and pulled him away into one of the cold halls. Makar took a few sips of water from a cup offered by one of his servants. The horns sounded once again and the Morkrai trudged back inside, dragging more members of Captain Larnin’s crew into the hall. Makar listened to each of their stories while some promptly removed their jewelry and offered it as a gift to Lady Morae in exchange for a further audience with the goddess. Morae listened to each story before stepping away from her throne in order to deliberate with her husband.

“It seems this crew mostly consists of former criminals who, like their captain, decided to do something more useful with their lives,” Makar whispered to his wife.

Morae gazed down thoughtfully at the lost souls below before speaking:

“That is perhaps true for most, but not all of them,” she noted before pointing towards the only female crew member, a short brunette dressed in a grey cloak. “That woman there, she’s different. She is the only one here without a criminal past.”

Makar glanced down at the woman again before turning to face his wife.

“Oh her. Indeed, she spoke little of her life. She said only that before joining Captain Larnin’s crew she worked at a market stall,” Makar recalled.

“Well, that is only the barest truth. Once during her time at the market stall she spotted five street children trying to steal her goods. Instead of punishing them, she took those orphans home and raised them as her own. She was a loving mother to all of them, and she helped them to find work and to settle down,” Morae replied shrewdly.

“And you believe her?” her husband asked.

“Naturally, my powers allow me to sense lies. This woman spoke the truth,” the goddess replied.

Makar smiled at his wife before responding.

“Well done, my dear. This in fact means we have found a noble soul, one worthy of an afterlife in my father’s palace. My mother will be thrilled to learn of this,” Makar whispered before turning to face the crew once more just as Morae returned to her seat.

One by one, he announced the fate of each wretched individual and watched as the Morkrai dragged them away until only the woman remained.

“Please, my Lady stop this! These people were my friends, they did nothing wrong. It was the Enai, that caused us this misery, why are you punishing us?” the woman cried out to the queen.

The couple stood up from their thrones and glided down the steps towards the ghost. The woman shivered in fear as she watched the dark gods silently approach her. Once close enough, the pair stood facing her perfectly still, then at last Lady Morae suddenly started to sing. A few seconds later the woman lay down on the ground, her eyes closed, deep asleep. Makar ordered the Morkrai to fetch a bowl of water while his wife stared at the pale body lying on the ground.

With the items in hand, Morae helped her husband as he began to clean the woman’s face, her hands and her feet before pouring the remnant water over her body. Makar finally placed his right palm on the woman’s forehead before shouting:

“Eviria, daughter of Auria, I hereby grant you pardon and release you from my realm,” Makar proclaimed loudly. There he used his divine power to light the woman’s body up under a pale flame. There was a fleeting brightness in their dark realm before the light soon caused her to disappear.

Only moments later Eviria woke to find herself lying on a blanket of clouds. Confused by her new surroundings, she gazed upwards to see the ceiling of a vast golden palace filled with the brightest lights. Suddenly she noticed a figure walking towards her. It was a beautiful woman dressed in white with long flaxen hair adorned with a golden crown.

“Lady Era-Gragiya!” Eviria shouted and quivered once she realized quite who she was addressing.

The goddess smiled before holding out her hand and helping the woman stand.

“Eviria, daughter of Auria. My son Makar has deemed you a noble soul, and thus granted your release from his kingdom. I am delighted to welcome you into my home,” Era-Gragiya answered warmly as she led the woman into a hall where the other noble souls were each seated.

Unlike the innumerable souls in the grim Halls of Makar, these spirits appeared almost as though they were still alive. Instead of standing, locked in a state of trance-like sleep, these bright beings were happily sitting together and chatting away, as if merrymaking in a warm tavern. One friendly faced woman rose and offered the newcomer a drink of sweet nectar. Eviria immediately took the cup and sat down on a chair with a fresh smile spread over her face.

fantasy, short, stories mythology

Lord Makar and Lady Morae

All was quiet in the dark halls when suddenly Lord Makar heard a raspy voice calling out his name. He stepped away from his throne and glided towards the iron gates. No horn blew as the Morkrai guards stood in position leaving little cause for alarm. He gazed towards the entrance where he noticed a dark hooded figure standing by the gates. “Makar, my Lord, please let me in!” shouted the cloaked woman as she turned towards him from behind the gates. He watched as the figure removed her hood, revealing a slender face of ivory skin, pale blue eyes and raven black hair. She looked too perfect to be mortal, though from her appearance he could tell she was no Enai. Intrigued by her presence, Makar opened the gates.

“Well aren’t you a sight for my sore eyes?” he whispered softly as she approached. “I am not used to visitors here in my realm. Where have you come from?” he asked keenly.

The Lady responded: “Your father, Lord Ifir sent me. I wish to keep you company for a while if you would let me in.”

Lord Makar smiled at her before responding: “Indeed yes, welcome fair Lady to my humble home. I have little to offer except for my company, but I would be eternally grateful if you choose to stay.”

“Yes I would like that. Thank you.” she replied.

“What may I call you?” he asked.

“I am darkness, I am a shadow, I am made of a thousand tears. But you may call me Morae,” she whispered and held out her hand towards his.

“My dear Morae, so kind of you to join me. It will be my pleasure to be your host.” he whispered.

Lord Makar swiftly took her hand and escorted her towards the halls. Each one was vast and cavernous with bleak, jet black stone walls and stalagmites. The lack of light did not seem to bother her, as they silently made their way through each room, over the sea of pale faced spirits and Morkrai guards. He led her towards the throne room and ordered his Morkrai to bring her a seat.

“Would you sit with me for a while?” he asked.

Morae nodded and sat on the throne placed beside Makar’s own. And there she remained watching. Days went by as Lord Makar returned to his usual routine. The Morkrai would escort dead souls into the halls to await judgment. The Lord would listen and decide each individual’s fate in turn. Most were condemned to remain within his halls, though occasionally his brother Atar would venture out and assemble a few dead warriors to ride with his Enai.

At times, when it was quiet, Morae would sing to Makar. Her voice was low and soothing, so somber that it lulled condemned souls into a trance-like sleep. Yet to the Lord there was no sweeter music than the lure of her song.

As the two became familiar, she asked him to remove his hood so she could see his face. Makar was reluctant to do this and explained: “My face is not a pretty sight, my Lady. I do not wish to frighten you.”

“I am not afraid. There is nothing about your appearance that can scare me,” Morae replied instantly.

Thus, she ordered the Morkrai to fetch her a blazing torch. Flame in hand, Morae rested her palms inside the fire and cast a spell to extinguish it. She then spread her arms causing the smoke to disperse in a circle around them. Sparkles of pallid light swirled, illuminating the ground below.

As the light settled Makar removed his hood revealing his scarred face and damaged nose. Much to his surprise Lady Morae was neither frightened nor disgusted by his appearance. She simply smiled at him and touched his face while stroking his dark hair. “My pale enchantress…” Makar whispered and smiled at her before they shared a kiss. He wrapped his arms around her. There they stood, listening to each other breathe. Oh how he wanted that moment to last. Yet soon the horns sounded again, the smoke vanished and they returned to their seats.

A few days later, he asked her if she wished to stay.

“I want nothing more than to have you by my side. Will you marry me?” he whispered, holding his hand out towards her.

“Yes. I will,” she replied smiling. In all haste Lord Makar asked his mother, the Lady of the skies, to carry out the ceremony.

The following day, a bright glow filled the halls. In answer, Lord Makar pulled a hood over his face and held his eyes shut. The light still stung his soft face and he shrieked in pain. Yet Morae positioned herself before him to help shield from its glare.

As the golden-haired Era-Gragiya entered the hall, unaccustomed to this much light, the Morkrai crawled towards the dark corners of the room, while the souls of the dead turned to face her.

“Please stop this mother! The lights are too much, I cannot see!” Makar cried out.

“Oh my poor boy. Forgive me. It has been so long since last I saw you.” Era-Gragiya uttered gently. She whispered a spell causing the brightness to fade from the room.

“It is gone now, my love. You may open your eyes, ” Morae said softly as she touched his face.

Slowly Makar opened his eyes and took in the darkness. His mother finally approached him and they embraced.

“May I introduce my beloved Lady Morae,” he announced.

“I am pleased to meet you my dear. Any woman able to bring a smile to my son’s face is a blessing.” Era-Gragiya professed. Eagerly she held out her arms and the two goddesses embraced.

“I have brought a gift from your father,” she continued and held up a pale-flamed blue lamp. “It is the faintest light we could find anywhere in the skies. Such a small flame will never hurt your eyes”.

Makar gladly took the lamp and ordered the Morkrai to place it behind the twin thrones. Quickly doing his bidding, they moved the light into place. Then his mother held out her hand revealing two golden rings inlaid with black onyx stones.

“Here are the rings that you requested. Your brother Fiehri sends his regards and wishes you well,” she declared as she offered him the shining rings.

Makar examined them for a time before responding:

“They are perfect. Tell Fiehri of my gratitude. I am forever in his debt.”

“You should tell him yourself someday. Many times he has offered you welcome and suggested you visit him if you wish,” answered his mother.

“You know very well why I am unable to leave my realm,” Makar explained.

Era-Gragiya was left to sigh in response and when Makar offered her a seat, she refused. Instead she had a look around the bleak halls for a while.

“I will not stay long,” she stated. “I know how busy you are. I will never understand how you can live in such a wretched place. Let us proceed.”

Makar and Morae returned to their thrones and Era-Gragiya turned to face them.

“My dearly beloved. I have come here today to join these two immortal souls in holy matrimony. Will you Makar take Lady Morae to be your lawfully wedded wife?” she asked.

“I do, from this day I shall be yours for all eternity,” whispered Makar smiling at his bride.

Era-Gragiya now turned to face Morae. “And will you Lady Morae take Makar to be your lawfully wedded husband?”

“I will,” she responded and turned to face Makar. “From this day I shall be yours for all eternity.”
Instinctively, they exchanged rings.

“I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may kiss the bride,” the goddess declared.

Era-Gragiya smiled as her son kissed and embraced his new wife.

“Thank you mother. Is there any way that I may repay you for this kindness?” Makar questioned, a smile still etched on his face.

“It was pleasure, my dear, always,” Era-Gragiya responded. “All I ask is that you grant me one noble soul to release from your halls.”

“One soul you may take but no more,” he decreed.

So the sky queen walked through each hall appraising a sea of pale faces when finally she stopped in front of a young mother clutching wordlessly to a newborn baby. “These two here. What was their story?” she asked.

The Lady of sorrows eyed the lost souls before responding: “She was a beggar who died giving birth to a stillborn son.”

“Such suffering is too much for any woman to bear. May I have them?” Era-Gragiya asked.

Makar shook his head in answer. “I promised you one soul, not two. You may take the child or the mother but not both.”

Era-Gragiya sighed before responding: “If that is your will, I shall take the infant.”

“As you wish. First he must be cleased.” Makar snatched the infant from the mother’s arms. Then he instructed his Morkrai to fetch some water and a bowl.

“Do you wish to assist me my dear?” Makar asked his wife. Morae nodded in response. Makar handed her the infant soul and Morae proceeded to wash him in the water before entrusting him back to her husband.

Makar placed a hand on the infant’s head and shouted:

“Aesos, son of Eila, I hereby grant you pardon and I release you from my realm.”

The child’s body suddenly lit up in a pale flame. The ritual complete, Makar handed the baby to his mother. There Era-Gragiya held the child in her arms, rocking it gently. The couple watched in awe as it took a breath and began to cry.

“My sweet little one. You are safe now. Never again shall you feel hunger or cold. Sleep now,” Era-Gragiya whispered, swaying the boy in her arms.

“Goodbye my son. I came this day for a special occasion, though I cannot return to this pitiful realm. If you come across any more noble souls, please deliver them to me,” Era-Gragiya uttered her final words before vanishing in a bolt of bright light.

“Goodbye mother.” Makar replied once the light had fled from the room.

He then joined Morae and together they returned to their thrones to await the next soul to enter their kingdom.

Lord Makar art by Megan Johnson