Love eternal, p.1
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       Love, Eternal, p.1
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           N.R. Searcy
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Love, Eternal


  N.R. Searcy

  Copyright ©Nicholas Searcy 2011

  All rights reserved. Published in the United States of America. No part of this short story may be used or reproduced in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval systems without written permission of the author, except as permitted by law.

  ISBN: 978-1-4659-6925-5

  Published by K & N Books

  P.O. Box 180244

  Mobile, AL 36618

  Once upon a time, in a land not so far away, there lived a princess named Jacqueline. Prince after prince, dukes, lords, and even kings from distant lands sought her hand in marriage, but alas…her heart belonged to a young knight named Logan.

  Their love was indescribable, and I will not try my meager skills by attempting the impossible. Suffice it to say that what they had was that excrutiating rarity we know as true love. Love itself, powerful though it is, is normal, certainly. We see it every day. What Logan and Jacqueline enjoyed, however, was anything but common.

  As is wont to happen in these sorts of stories, their love was grossly misunderstood. Everyone tried to keep them apart; love, in those days, was irrelevant. Status was paramount, and Logan, courageous knight that he was, was still a lowborn commoner. Eventually, thought, their love won out, and they were together. For two full years, they managed to live a free and loving life together before tragedy struck in the form of an evil witch named Elna.

  Scourge of the world, Elna was jealous of their love, it was certainly true, but more than that, she was bored. She was, after all, an immortal witch, and forever is a long time to live. So, for little more than an activity to occupy her despicable mind, Elna hatched a plan to kidnap the fair princess and imprison her in a dark castle at the edge of the world.

  So it happened that Jacqueline simply disappeared from the modest home she shared with brave Logan, spirited away by means magical and evil. The game, as Elna considered it, had started.

  The evil witch had counted on Logan’s pursuit, true. In fact, that had been the kidnapping’s goal. The old witch had not counted on the intractable nature of his mettle, however. She would come to know it well.

  And so, Logan determinedly set out on his quest. He traveled across the world, racing to and fro, trying to find even the smallest bits of information which might lead him to his love. For almost a year, he sought fair Jacqueline. He battled foul monsters, dealt with the scum of humanity, and pushed himself to the limits of his formidable endurance. All in the name of love, he doggedly searched. Finally, he found a seeress who could direct him towards his beloved.

  “Logan,” she said, her voice a crackle. “What you seek lies at the edge of the world. I can show you the way, should wish it.”

  Logan replied confidently, “Of course. I have spent nearly a year in this quest, and –“

  The seeress interrupted, “Before you make your decision, know that should you choose to pursue this further, your life will forever be altered, and not for the better. You will face trials and torture most foul. True evil awaits.”

  “I care not! I will find my beloved,” Logan answered stoically.

  The seeress sighed. She knew what pain the future held for the young knight, but she could not deny him. She summoned a magical map which would show him the way to Elna’s castle. As Logan ducked out of the cave that was the seeress’ home, she prayed that the knight would escape his fate.

  Aided by the map, Logan found the castle, and it was even darker and more sinister than he could have imagined. The hulking structure, all black parapets and towers covered in dank mold, practically sucked the light and happiness from anyone who saw it. It was evil, through and through – a perfect match for the witch’s black heart.

  Cautiously, the brave knight strode through the castle’s open gates only to find it apparently deserted. Not far into the stronghold, Logan found that his first impression could not have been further from the truth; it was not deserted at all.

  An army of skeletons rose from the very ground, barring his way. A less determined man would have fled, but Logan was not easily deterred. The battle was fierce, and Logan’s skills were put to the test. After hours of constant combat, though, Logan came through the unnatural, undead army alive. But the horde of skeletons was not the last of the obstacles he would face, nor the worst of them. Far from it. A myriad of creatures rose against Logan as he made his way through the castle, each more terrifying than the last. One by one, they fell before his stoic might. He would not be denied.

  As Logan trekked through the castle’s dark corridors, he heard a cry.

  “Barnabus!” The sound bounced off of the stone walls.

  Logan knew what it was; he had heard stories of the evil creature. It was known by its cry. It was known as Barnabus. And it was close.

  As it came into view, Logan had to suppress a shudder.

  “Barnabus!” it growled.

  It was huge, grotesque, and vaguely human. Drool fell from its mouth, and its bare torso was scarred. Over and over, it shouted, “Barnabus,” as it advanced on the young knight.

  The battle commenced, and Logan was sorely tested by Barnabus. Hundreds of foes had fallen before Logan’s blade – trolls, undead vampires, demons, and many more – but Barnabus pushed Logan closer to death than any had before. Eventually, though, Logan won the battle, wounding the monster so grievously that Barnabus could not move. It was pitiful, lying there, broken and beaten, its “Barnabus” cries a weak whisper.

  Logan did not hesitate. Even though the monster no longer posed a threat, he killed it with a sharp thrust of his blade.

  The castle shook when Barnabus took his last gurgling breath, and the echo of a chillingly high pitched scream rang in Logan’s ears. There were no words; just a cry of anguish.

  The brave knight continued his search, and after hours more of searching, found his way to the dungeon, where awaited the evil witch and her captive, Logan’s beloved Jacqueline.

  Tears streaked the witch’s creased, aged cheeks as she shouted, “Murderer!”

  Logan was taken aback as Elna continued in a hoarse whisper, “You have murdered my child, my poor Barnabus! You shall pay for your treachery!”

  With a wave of her hand, Elna threw Logan against the dungeon’s dirty wall. Elna sank to the dungeon’s floor, and buried her face in her hands. Logan tried to speak, but could not; the witch’s magic prevented it. He could only nod at Jacqueline reassuringly.

  “I have been thinking,” Elna said after what seemed like hours. “What would be a suitable punishment? I will not kill you; that much I know. No, I think you shall live for a very long time. Both of you.”

  She stood, an evil smile on her face, “I grant you one boon, for I am not without my own guilt. You will live ten years together before you are forever parted. Happy or sad, I can not predict which it will be. But you shall have a life together, short though it may be,” the witch explained.

  “But on a day ten years hence, you shall both die,” she said. “It will be painful, as befits your crime.”

  Logan tried vainly to speak, but the witch continued, “You shall live forever, but not as you might expect. No, you will live a series of thirty-three year lives. Each time, you will die, and be reborn. You shall never be far from one another, for your lives are linked by a magic much stronger than anything I could muster. But you will know nothing of your former lives. You will only know, in the deepest recesses of your hearts, that your true love is out there, somewhere, just out of reach. There will be no doubt in your minds that true love is real. You will both feel it at your core, but you will love n
or be loved by any other. Eventually, your lives will revolve around this certainty. It will become an obsession.”

  Elna paused for a moment, staring at nothing, then continued, “True love will forever be just out of your reach, and then, you will die, and start all over again. Madness will be your reward, if you are lucky. If you lack luck, you will remain lucid throughout.

  “As I said before, I am not without mercy, though,” Elna allowed. “Fall in love all over again, and you will be free.”

  Logan let a small smile creep onto his face, but it faded with Elna’s harsh laugh. “Do not get your hopes up, mortal. It will take quite the spectacular event to make her notice you. It is a punishment, after all. You will suffer, and the curse is unlikely to be broken. You will live an eternity devoid of love.”

  The evil witch let Logan fall, and the chains which held Jacqueline clanked to the ground. The princess crumpled atop them. Logan rushed to her side, and cradled his beloved in his arms.

  “No be gone, and let me grieve the death of my only child in peace,” Elan whispered.

  And so, the two left the castle warily, only half believing what the witch had said. It could not be, they told themselves. No one had that sort of power, they reasoned. But doubt remained, and in the deepest recesses of their minds, they both believed the curse.

  The two went back to their lives, married one another, and were
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