Writing Prompt: “The villagers call you their guardian spirit that has protected them since the time of ashes, in truth you are a monstrosity of war that protects the village in an attempt to clear your conscience.”
Years ago a group of travelers came upon the valley with the slow-flowing river. The crystal water which was cool to the touch brought them. They were seeking a new place to live. A safe place without fear from the war and chaos they were running from. This place was a miracle to the group who had fallen on hard times. They had barely survived the journey, but this place seemed safe.
The valley wasn’t completely abandoned. Fish swam in the river. Small hares lived among the patches of prairie grass. Birds flew down from the tall hills and nearby forests. Then among the wildlife there was one being that stood out. One thing that did not belong. I stood there, a metal monstrosity, covered in a thin layer of dirt and grass.
At first they were confused and afraid of me. They did not know what I was. Honestly it had been so long since I had been awake, I had almost forgotten myself. Dark memories never left thought. I know what I am. I will always be a monster of war.
But then the people offered a hand to me. Maybe they were just desperate for a place to stay. A safe place with protection. Or maybe they saw something in myself that I couldn’t see. Something that wasn’t there. But they believed it.
I woke up and saw these people. I saw them as desperate survivors. But I also saw them as a chance to make up for the things I’ve done. Maybe a bit of good could help clear up the ocean of blood and scorn.
I became their guardian spirit. The metal protector which kept an eye out for each and every villager. I helped them cut down trees and drag the logs into the valley. I helped them build their houses and places of congregation. I helped them hunt wild boar and put food on their plates.
As the village grew it became more established in this windswept valley. It became a proper town. More travelers came to the town. Some came to trade and leave. Some stayed and helped grow the village. Families grew and children were raised. I watched generations of people be born in this town, grow up, and eventually grow old before dying.
I was a constant for this village. A part of its lasting identity. Traveling merchants and questing sightseers would come to see the village in the valley with the iron guardian. Even as people were born here, died here, came here to settle, or left for a new place, I remained.
When the people of the town celebrated their centennial. One hundred years had passed. One hundred harsh winters with thick snow and chilly winds. One hundred springs where the river ran fierce and the wildflowers bloomed. One hundred summers where the scorching sun threatened to dry up the river and leave the people without water. One hundred autumns where the changing leaves would be caught up in winds and be carried through town square. One hundred years of peace and prosperity for this town and its people. And I was there to witness every day. Every struggle. Every triumph.
The people knew me. Looked out for me. Cared for me. The children would stop and look up at my large metal frame. They would look at me with awe.
But I took no credit for their victories. I took no solace in the fact that they had survived alongside me. They were the ones who needed food, water, shelter, warmth. I needed none of that. They fought for it and achieved it. I was just there standing there. Among them but not truly one of them.
It was only a few years later when dark whispers came to the village. Travelers talking about dark forces amassing. War and chaos on the horizon. Rumors. Only rumors that the villagers brushed off. This place had never seen even a hint of war. Why would this time be any different?
I knew better. The memories I had pushed down rushed back to me. I felt on edge. I hoped that the villagers would be right. Maybe this would pass like many rumors before it. Hopefully. Or naive. I just didn’t want to believe it.
That winter was one of the coldest and harshest. Snow was piled high and many thought the whole village would freeze solid. It was then when people showed up on the edge of town. Not regular travelers or adventurers. These people were worn down, sickly, and sad. Groups of them traveling as one big group, desperate for help. Refugees from nearby villages, towns, and cities. All shared the same story of death and destruction.
However it wasn’t an army. It was one man. One man that seemed to strike terror into every one of them. It sounded like some sort of living nightmare. A man who wielded darkness and hellfire like a young boy would wield a wooden sword. The embodiment of shadow and death. A reaper that would move from town to town followed by a parade of hellish demons and imps.
When this man showed up on the edge of town, the soldiers would assemble and fight. But not one blade managed to reach its mark. Every soldier, guard, or hero that tried to fight the reaper would face a quick death. Effortless. That’s how quick the reaper would win. The smoke and hellfire would pour through the city killing everyone in sight. The lucky few would escape as the rest were swallowed up by darkness. He was an unstoppable force leaving no other choice but retreat and escape.
Hearing this the people turned to me. Could I stop this monster if they showed up to the village? Could a golem of metal stand against darkness and hellfire?
They were pleading to me. I had to stand between the reaper and the village. I had to be the immovable shield. I had to stop the darkness from reaching them. I could not turn my back on the village now. Not in their time of need.
I could not dull their fears or tell them that we stood a chance. If this reaper would ever show his face, I would meet them on the battlefield. I would give them time to run. I would do all in my power to keep the shadows at bay so they could escape. But I could not guarantee that the reaper could be killed, especially by me. They could hope and they could pray. But all I could do was slow it down. And even that might be a stretch.
So the village opened up their homes to the refugees who held the icy chill of death within their hearts. They did their best to fortify walls, ration their food, and prepare a way to escape. They prayed at their temples. Prayed in the town square. Prayed in the comfort of their homes. They hoped and prayed death would never show its face here.
And I stood at the town’s front gate. Standing there waiting for the darkness to finally find me. To drag to me hell. I do not know if that’s even an option for someone like me, but I had no doubt that this reaper would take me there.
Header Photo Credit to Sutasinee Chainiyom on ArtStation
Writing Prompt submitted to r/WritingPrompts by u/Sorrow41