Original Fiction: “The Running Man”

So I thought it was about time to offer up some of my fiction–some of my real fiction, not some silly fan fic I threw together for a writing contest. I’m rather cagey about my writing, and this does not come easily to me, but I’m always complaining that no one reads my stuff, so I might as well put my money where my mouth is and offer up something to the teeming hordes of the interwebz.

“The Running Man” is a very short little story I wrote when I was tinkering with the concept for my last/current novel, “The Touch of the Saints”–a novel I have currently given up on due to lack of motivation but hope to return to someday. It establishes one of my central characters, as well as the magic system of this universe, which I believe to be one of those very rare semi-original ideas I trip across.

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The Running Man

© 2011 by Tyler F.M. Edwards.

“Tell me a story, grandmother,” Fayn said, huddling by the warmth of the fireplace.

Night had fallen, and all was quiet but for the crackle of the fire and the sound of Fayn’s parents cleaning up after dinner. Soon, the family would retire, but Fayn was still restless.

Her grandmother chuckled, leaning back in a rocking chair and almost invisible beneath her many blankets. “Have you heard the tale of the Running Man?”

“No, grandmother. Tell me.”

Her grandmother closed her eyes. “Long ago, after the fall of the Demons but before the age of peace we enjoy today, there was a small kingdom across the Wolf’s Mouth. It was not a great or mighty kingdom, but in it lived many men and women with strong and pure hearts.

“Though the Demons were gone, that was still a time of violence and peril, and the ruler of this kingdom dispatched many people to patrol its northern borders, on the edge of the Broken Lands, to keep watch over the wicked men and beasts that dwelt there.

“One day, one such man saw a dark shape on the horizon. A chill ran down his back, and he watched as it grew, and grew, and grew some more.”

Fayn shivered.

“Soon, it become revealed as a great army of brigands in black armor. Conquest was on their minds, and murder was in their hearts. And they were headed straight for the kingdom.

“And so the man ran. He ran down the hills of the Broken Lands and into the forests of the south in the hopes of bringing warning to his people. He ran until he could run no more, until his body ached and screamed. He ran until he had nothing left to give, and still he was miles away from his own people, and still the army of brigands marched.”

Her grandmother paused, and Fayn shifted anxiously.

“What happened then?” she asked. Her grandmother rarely told her sad stories, and she didn’t want this to be one of them.

A ghost of a smile touched her grandmother’s wrinkled face.

“He reached down inside himself, and he found the core of strength that is in all good men. He prayed to the Saints, and they blessed him with their fervor. And he ran on.”

Fayn grinned.

“He ran day and night without rest. He ran through shadowed woods and across bright plains. He ran until his shoes shredded, and the ground tore at his feet. But with the Saints’ blessing upon him and the purity of purpose in his heart, he persevered. His feet withstood the sharp pebbles and hard earth, and his body survived the exhaustion and deprivation.

“When a mountain blocked his path, he ran around, moving so fast he lost no time by the change in course. When a lake or a river stood in his way, the Saints blessed his feet with the lightness to run upon the water.

“He ran for ten days and ten nights and went to three of the kingdom’s border keeps. In each, he stayed only long enough to deliver his warning before moving to the next.

“Three full weeks after the Running Man had first glimpsed it, the brigand army entered the kingdom. When it did, they met an army of defenders, pure of heart and filled with the light of the Saints, brought fourth by the Running Man’s warnings. A terrible battle was fought, and both forces suffered terribly, but at the end of the day, the brigands were beat back, and the defenders of the kingdom stood triumphant.”

Her grandmother paused, and it seemed the story had ended.

“But what happened to the Running Man?” Fayn asked. The vivid images of her grandmother’s tale burned in her mind, and she wanted to know more.

At that moment, her father’s voice came from the other end of the family home, telling her to prepare for sleep.

“A tale for another time, my dear,” Fayn’s grandmother said.

Fayn frowned, disappointed, but moved to obey her father. But even as she went to bed, she remained restless, still excited by her grandmother’s story.

* * *

The night was unusually cool for summer, and Fayn shivered as she crept through the darkness. She would be doing extra chores for a week if her parents realized she’d snuck out, but she was too restless to sleep, her grandmother’s tale still fresh in her mind.

She reached the pond at the edge of town. She took off her shoes and socks and stared at the glassy surface, steeling herself.

She knew that some people could do things that others couldn’t. Those with strong minds and the purity of the Saints in their hearts could go beyond the normal limitations of the human race. In less pious lands, they called it magic, she had been told. The Running Man must have been one of those people.

She closed her eyes and furrowed her brow, focusing with all her might. She said a prayer to the Saints, beseeching them for this one blessing.

And then she ran.

A moment later, she was in the water, coughing and spluttering. Water plunged down her nose and burned her throat, and she swallowed several mouthfuls before she started to swim.

There would be no hiding her outing from her parents now. She was soaked to the skin. But she had no regrets.

She looked back at the bank, and saw she was further into the pond than a simple leap could have brought her. And she knew that, for just a moment, she had been running on the water. Just as the Running Man had.

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All comments and criticisms are welcomed so long as they are constructive.

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