Palo Alto Weekly 19th Annual Short Story Contest
Child Third Place

The Lone Warrior

by Paul Dupenloup

About Paul Dupenloup

Paul Dupenloup, 11, attends Laperouse International School in San Francisco. Born in Paris, the sixth-grader lived in France for five years before moving to Los Altos with his family.

Dupenloup got his first introduction to writing in the third grade, when his class had to create short stories. His interest was quickly sparked.

"It was just a beginning but I really liked it," he said.

His story, "The Lone Warrior" -- which took him several months to write -- was inspired by his interest in medieval life.

"I've always really liked battles and swords, and things from the past," Dupenloup said, "I tried to write a story with action and exciting passages."

Dupenloup enjoys playing the classical guitar, basketball, video games, and reading books (including his favorite, "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy).

He's not quite sure if writing is in his future, but feels he could pursue that option down the road.

-- Erin Pursell

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 fish.

"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 rotting fish.

"Very well," the fisherman said, taking the coins. "My people lost hope during the great battle fought decades ago," he answered.

"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 in peace 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 Jewel. Our 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 were spared. 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. They stole 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 said.

"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 undead warrior.

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 the ground.

"Weaklings," Ethan chuckled. He stepped over the corpses, picking up the arrows that had pierced the undead warriors and carefully placed 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 last destroyed house. 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 church and saw the jewel on an altar at the far end. As his footsteps echoed in the destroyed building, a 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. He wore a long red cape ripped at the bottom and a great golden sword with silver inscriptions on the blade. His silver armor was incrusted with emeralds and crystals, unlike the rags 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 it.

"I am lord Praxis, master of the underworld!" he said.

"Finally I get to meet you. I've been waiting to kill you," Ethan said.

"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 fire.

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 an hour, he finally reached the top of the light tower. In the center of the tower lay a small stone basket. He placed the jewel in the basket and it started to shake. A blue light emerged from 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. He left his stand and ran through the 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.