With the unexpectedly positive reception for my previous entries, and the cliff hanger I ended the second piece I knew I had to conclude the historical fiction narrative. Yet, given the “Grave Mistakes,” theme I realized that it was oddly fitting to create epilogues for both interconnected stories. Even though I had to break the word limit to do so. Along with showcasing the transition that the main character undergoes while pursuing this predatory species, that I hinted at in the second piece. Expanding upon that idea in this entry by forcing him to make a decision on who he wants to be.
First piece: Man or Monster?
Second piece: A Royal Request
For those who desire a refresher, or are new to the WEP contest my early entries can be found at the links above. Without any further ado, I present, The Price of Home and Humanity.
The Price of Home and Humanity
Here I sit waiting, in her majesty’s private court. Gas fueled lanterns cast out a dim light through planes of uncleaned glass. Assisting these brass lights from above was an iron chandelier. Each candle mounted within the metal was ablaze, bolstering the restricted glow the lanterns provided. Yet, there was enough illumination to give a limited perspective of this chamber. My hands and feet clamped in irons that were secured to an uncomfortable metal chair. Constable Redding had possessed many roles for this evening, but he was my lone guard for the moment. Both of us averting the others’ gaze, for we were not friends, nor were we enemies.
The gas-powered lamps flickered between light and darkness for several extensive moments. An unseen door creaked open from somewhere within the confines of this stone chamber. Strolling out of this entrance was at least three people, judging from the uneven pattern of footsteps. I suspected this unidentified trio was present to act as a makeshift court for my actions.
The lights had ceased their blinking, mere moments after the sound of footfalls flattened. Standing near the front of the chamber was the queen and two figures, whose’ faces were obscured by a black facial shroud. Both masked persons were covered in formal military garb, complete with decorative medals pinned to their torsos.
Queen Victoria commented, “My people are fleeing the streets in terror, screaming out for the blood of Jack the Ripper. Yet, your atrocious crimes served a purpose that spared England from an even worse, unimaginable nightmare. While Constable Redding relyed a condensed version of those events, it is exceedingly apparent the critical role you played that evening. Having a public execution would muffle their outcry, but I fear what your death may unleash on this world if these demons reappear. Others’ may argue that sparing your life is an erroneous mistake. Fortunately, the decision is not in their hands. By my right as queen, I exile you from these lands and any colonies held by imperial rule, Walter Craigmore. “
Once again, I return to her majesty’s palace with Constable Redding as my company. Unlike my previous visit, my hands and feet were not clad in heavy, uncomfortable irons. Yet, that weight was replaced by an internal sense of guilt that we had failed to completely decimate the unborn. If we had missed even one egg, our collective efforts would be for naught. Our focus was concentrated on the adult stage rather than the embryonic state as we rushed to eliminate the predatory species. Hopefully, that arrogance will not prove itself to be a lethal mistake.
The constable and I were escorted into the queen’s court. Light poured through the stained-glass windows. Each window depicted various iconic events of English history through a cornucopia of colors that tainted the sunlight’s hue. Queen Victoria sat on the throne, waiting for our arrival. Standing around her majesty was her a battalion of royal guards, clothed in bright red uniforms and black bearskin hats. Each protector ready to act if necessary, as sabar clad in an ebony sheath rested at their left hip. A holstered revolver sat on the opposite hip. Magistrates and nobles were stationed around the room, all watching us in solemn silence. This was not the celebratory welcoming I believed would be waiting for us.
Queen Victoria inquired, “I was informed that eggs of this unknown species were found during the exploration of these monsters’ nest. Were they destroyed in the underground explosion as well, gentlemen?”
I replied, “Possibly, your majesty. There remains a vacancy of knowledge regarding the lifecycles of these predatory creatures. The startling presence of eggs provides a testament to that.”
Constable Redding commented, “The initial explosives used to cripple any access to the nest should have wounded anything inside. However, given the additional Orsini bombs you provided to us, anything that would attempt to enter or escape will be eliminated. I hope that after a few weeks, these sensitive weapons can be removed from underneath the streets of England.”
Queen Victoria remarked, “That is not sufficient, gentlemen, the threat posed by these abominations must render the species extinct. Any supplies required to do so will be given. Until you possess absolute certainty that the eggs are destroyed, you are not permitted to return here.”
Constable Redding and I exchanged a wary glance before reluctantly departing the palace. Neither one us eager return to the underground nest, as her majesty demands.
It took us about eight days to return to the ruins of this creatures’ hive. Following three days of nearly continuous digging with assistance from others present in the lair’s initial penetration, we were close to opening the nest from above. Using spades to remove the last mixture of dirt and rock sheltering the hive from the human eye. Being vigilant to muffle our actions from anything that could be listening below. With the ground cleared in multiple places, we could begin digging through the final layer using augers. The modified farmer’s auger should create an opening wide enough to get us a glimpse inside the monsters’ charred nest.
It took a few hours before four cavities were bored out of the earth. With the augers moved aside, our strange company peered into the underground. The shadowy nature of the underground prevented us from discovering anything without an illuminating aid. Forced by the limitations of the human eye, we deposited slow-burning red flares into the crevice. Watching in tension as the attached small balloon slowed the downward descent. As the light lowered, the carnage of our past actions was prevalent, bathing in the reddish light. Corpses blackened by flame and torn asunder from the explosive force littered the cavern. The eggs did not appear to be spared from these forces. If that was true of most eggs, I could not tell, but I hoped it was indeed. For even one intact pod could unleash a nightmare upon England and prove the grievous nature of my own unwitting mistake.
Constable Redding inquired, “Does the light dispel enough of the darkness to reveal if the eggs remain viable or, must we deposit additional incendiary devices beneath our feet?”
I replied, “The later I fear,” stepping back some. “Adjust the timers attached to the combustible devices carefully. Early detonation could prove to be disastrous,” aware that my return home hinged on making this predator extinct. Yet, I had to wonder, did my hand in this action cost me something grander than my native land, my soul? Is that a price I would pay upon my deathbed?
Critique level: Full Word count: 1100