Palo Alto Weekly 19th Annual Short Story
The Lone Warrior
by Paul Dupenloup
The sun shone brightly upon the clear beach. The bottle-colored sea crashed softly against the wet sand. On the horizon, not a strip of land was visible; the laughter of the seagulls filled the marine air. To the right of the beach lay a city in ruins. The buildings were tall and gray, and even from the beach, it was clear that they had crumbled and that the windows had been smashed. At the far end of the beach stood a small wharf, high above the water. On the wharf were a few dozens poorly improvised huts. A few rickety fishing boats attached to the pier rocked softly with the waves. A tall ladder gave access to the wharf from the beach.
Ethan strode along the beach to the wharf. He surveyed the destroyed city as his footsteps sunk into the sand. He had plates of armor and carried a long sword in its sheath, hooked onto his belt. A quiver full of arrows and a bow, hung from his back. The young warrior reached the long ladder. He grasped on and climbed up to the high wharf. As he pulled himself up at the top, a horrible sight came upon him. The huts were made of dirty animal skins, cloth, wood--barely inhabitable. People wore rags and ripped clothes, and their expressions registered misery and sadness, as though a heavy curse was upon them.
Not a sound could be heard, and everyone's
eyes were fixed on Ethan. He walked through the city and came
across an old fisherman who hollered in the wind.
"Best fish you can buy! Low prices!"
"Fisherman, what is wrong with these people?" Ethan
asked as he breathed in the foul smell of the fisherman's rotting
"I don't want any trouble, warrior. Stay away from me," the
fisherman said, taking putrid fish out of a crate and placing it
on the table. Ethan took
out a few silver coins from his pocket and put them on the table next to the
"Very well," the fisherman said, taking the coins. "My
people lost hope during the great battle fought decades ago," he
"What was this war of which you speak?"
"Long ago, we lived in the great city to the east of our wharf," he
said. "It was once a great and almighty city, powered by our Kronik
Jewel in the light tower. The jewel gave our city hope and power. We lived
until the day creature lord Praxis escaped the bowels of hell, and attacked
our great city with his army of undead soldiers. They wanted the Kronik
small army tried to resist but we were outnumbered ten to one. They broke
through our defenses and killed almost everyone. Neither women nor children
A few of us survived that horrible battle and retreated to this old wharf,
and here we live in misery. They razed buildings, towers, and churches.
the jewel from the light tower and our great city was no more. Lord Praxis
was victorious. Somewhere, in the destroyed city, he hides with the jewel."
"I will venture into your city and find the jewel," Ethan
"That is very brave, young warrior, but to find the jewel,
you will have to face Praxis himself, and before you even reach
him, he will set traps
and have warriors waiting for you. And if you manage to vanquish them all,
you will have to climb the light tower."
"I'd be pleased to kill Praxis myself," Ethan said. "Getting past
a few soldiers and traps doesn't seem that hard, and climbing an old tower should
be a piece of cake. How do I get to this city?" Ethan said.
"The road to the east. Good luck, young warrior," he
said as Ethan walked away.
He crossed the wharf's gates and followed the rocky path. He soon arrived to
the city's limits. He stopped and hesitated, then went in.
Ethan walked down the steps to the city's barren ruins. His footsteps echoed
in the destroyed buildings, which seemed to be haunted. Destroyed temples, bridges,
towers, buildings, and churches lay everywhere. The city would scare the bravest
of warriors, but the fisherman told Ethan that only there he could find the lost
Kronik Jewel, which could restore the city. Ethan heard thunder in the distance.
Small raindrops started to pour and ricochet off his armor with sharp metallic
sounds. The city seemed even more sinister under the rain, but Ethan stepped
on the ruins of a tower forming a bridge. Under him was a long fall that would
guarantee his death. Halfway down the bridge, the end he came from started to
crack and rumble. The whole bridge seemed to be moving and falling down. One
of Praxis's traps, Ethan thought. He ran as fast as he could for the whole bridge
was now falling to its doom. As he reached the end, he jumped and grabbed onto
the ledge with his bare hands. He pulled himself up and looked down to see the
bridge collapse and crash into pieces.
Ethan continued along a path strewn with debris when suddenly, out of the cracked
and wet ground in front of him emerged a rotten arm. More arms came out of the
ground and pushed up through the cracks. Soon, about fifteen of lord Praxis'
undead warriors faced Ethan. They were armed with an assortment of swords, shields,
and daggers, and three of them with wooden bow and arrows. Repulsive skeletons
with chunks of flesh still on them, they wore torn and bloody tunics. Ethan slowly
drew out his sword from his sheath. The blade shined in the rain. The undead
warriors separated into three groups. A group of five was closest to Ethan, then
a bit further, a group of seven, and behind them, three archers. Ethan raised
his sword high above his shoulder and ran up to the first group.
"For death or glory!" he cried as he charged the first
He swung his sword at him and ripped open his stomach. The warrior fell to the
ground and Ethan went for another, who blocked Ethan's attack with his shield.
The undead warrior raised his sword above his head and swung it at Ethan. He
quickly ducked but the blade made a deep cut on his shoulder. Ethan yelled out
in pain and angrily cut off the head of the warrior. Blood was streaming from
his shoulder. He tore a piece of cloth and wrapped it around his shoulder to
stop the blood from pouring. Just in me, he picked up the shield of the warrior
that had wounded him. The three archers fired arrows at Ethan. He blocked the
first arrow with his shield, the second missed him and struck to the ground at
his feet, and the third he deflected with his sword. He ripped the arrow out
of his shield and threw it to the ground. The three remaining warriors from the
first group charged Ethan. He bashed one in the head with his shield and plunged
his sword in the warrior's stomach. Ethan was now between the two other warriors.
One of them swung his sword horizontally at Ethan. He ducked and the blade hit
the other warrior who fell to the ground. Still crouching, Ethan cut off the
legs of the last warrior. Ethan then stood up straight and landed the finishing
blow by plunging his sword in the warrior's stomach. The first group was no more.
The second group who was still far away started running toward Ethan. He sheathed
his sword, threw the shield he stole to the ground and took out his bow and an
arrow. He bent back the string with the arrow and let go. The arrow flew in the
air and pierced the first warrior, sweeping him off his feet. Ethan took another
arrow and fired. This one hit the warrior in his head, sinking into his forehead.
He fell down on the cold, wet stone. The other warriors were getting closer.
Ethan quickly drew another arrow and fired. This one shattered the air as it
flew to a warrior. It lodged so deep into his stomach that the tip of the arrow
came out of his back. Ethan took out another arrow but the warriors were too
close. He stuck the arrow in the throat of the nearest warrior. With the edge
of his bow he then hit the next warrior in the head leaving him enough time to
hang his bow behind his back and draw his sword. He plunged it in the stomach
of the warrior then sliced open the stomach of the next warrior with a swift
swing of his sword. The last warrior from the group retreated in fear. Ethan
ran up to him and cut off his head.
"Who else wants a piece of this?" he screamed, brandishing
his sword, dead bodies lying at his feet.
The three archers began retreating. Ethan slowly put his sword back in its sheath
and took out his bow again with three arrows. He placed his bow horizontally
and placed the arrows so that each one was pointing at a different cowering archer.
Ethan slowly bent the string back with the three arrows, and let go. The archers,
still running were all pierced by arrows in the back, and one by one, fell to
"Weaklings," Ethan chuckled. He stepped over the corpses,
picking up the arrows that had pierced the undead warriors and
them back in his quiver.
Ethan continued his search, rain still pouring on him. Suddenly, lightning struck
a tall tower, and, with a crashing noise, the tower started to dangerously tip
over the path of rocks and boulders. If he did not make it, the tower would collapse
and block the path.
Trying not to think it would happen, he ran as fast as he could. Ethan jumped
and rolled under the tower at the last minute. The tower crashed on the path
in a thunderous noise that bounced off the ruins of the city.
For another hour, Ethan followed the path without having to face
any traps or undead warriors. He reached the end and walked around
The stain glass of a church in ruins shone with the blue light
from the lost Kronik Jewel. Ethan walked into the remains of the
on an altar at the far end. As his footsteps echoed in the destroyed
dark, pitch black hole appeared in front of him. Ethan then remembered
what the fisherman had said. Even if you find the
jewel, you will have to face Praxis himself. A warrior slowly came out of the hole.
Ethan could now see his body completely. This one was different.
a long red
at the bottom and a great golden sword with silver inscriptions
on the blade. His silver armor was incrusted with emeralds and
the other warriors wore, and two human heads and a skull hung from
his belt. His
own head was a white skull with pieces of rotting flesh still on
"I am lord Praxis, master of the underworld!" he said.
"Finally I get to meet you. I've been waiting to kill you," Ethan
"You fool! You may have defeated my warriors and made it past my traps,
but what makes you think you can defeat me?" Praxis cried.
"We'll see about that. Any last words, Praxis?" Ethan
said as he drew out his sword.
"Die warrior! Die!" Praxis yelled as he started running
toward Ethan with his heavy sword.
"For death or glory!" Ethan screamed as he too started
running toward Praxis.
They both raised their swords over their shoulders and swung at
each other. The blades clashed. Ethan swung his sword at Praxis
and the blades met again. Praxis
heaved his heavy blade above his head and swung it at Ethan
with such power that when Ethan blocked, it knocked him on the
floor, his sword flying out of his
hand and landing a few meters behind him. Before he could get
back up, Praxis was already swinging his blade at Ethan. He quickly
rolled to the side and Praxis'
blade hit the ground making several cracks in it. Ethan quickly
kicked Praxis in the stomach, got up, and ran for his blade. Praxis
was already on Ethan, swinging
his sword at him. This time, Ethan blocked his attack grasping
his blade firmly by the handle. The blades met with a great clash,
and the two opponents kept
contact, the two weapons forcing against one another.
"Ready to die, warrior?" Praxis said.
"I don't think so. Say your prayers, Praxis!" Ethan
said, sweating heavily.
He broke free of the contact of the two blades and swung his sword at Praxis's
hand. Praxis had no time to dodge the attack. The blade went through his wrist
and cut off his hand, which fell to the ground still holding onto the sword.
Ethan plunged his sword into Praxis' stomach. Praxis coughed up black blood.
Ethan ripped the sword out of Praxis's stomach and deftly cut off his head. The
head rolled onto the floor and disappeared with the body and the hand in a black
Ethan walked to the far end of the church and lifted the Kronik Jewel. It shined
a blue light in the palm of his hand. He stepped out of the church. The light
tower, tallest of all buildings, stood in the city center. The jewel started
to vibrate and a blue trail of light created a stairway, leading from the church
to the tower. Ethan walked down the stairway to the base of the tower. He looked
up at the long and treacherous climb awaiting him. Reaching for the small cracks
he started to climb the tall light tower.
Many times, he lost grip and thought he would fall to his
death, but he always found another crack to hold on. After
he finally reached the top
of the light tower. In the center of the tower lay a small
the jewel in the basket and it started to shake. A blue light
the jewel and covered the city. The blue light could be seen
from afar, and back
at the wharf, the old fisherman stop placing fish on his
table. It was the same blue light from before the great battle.
city screaming:"He did it! He did it! The young warrior
defeated Praxis! He retrieved the Kronik Jewel and placed
it in the light
tower! Our great
city is saved!"
The villagers poured out of the wharf and ran to the city. From the top of the tower, the lone warrior smiled down at the great, restored city.