Castle of Sparrows

The sun rose and brought with it a grey dawn. The dreary light did nothing to improve the nerves of the men camped outside of outside Sparrow Castle. In truth it was a castle in name only. A wooden farmhouse from which jutted a squat, stone tower. Grasping vines climbed over the surface of both buildings allowing alone glimpses of the rough stone and rotten wood beneath. Around the perimeter was a circle of fence that would have been unlikely to keep in a single ill-temepered goat. It certainly had not kept out the fifty townsmen the night before.

All had been brought up on the tales of the Castle of Sparrows and what lurked there. They had heard the tales from their fathers who had heard tales from their own fathers. Tales of magic and monsters that had cost them many nights of sound sleep as children and even still kept them from venturing near the castle of its lands. Every night the sun would set behind the castle and the fading light cast the tower’s shadow on the village. And every night those who lived there remembered the stories.

But all it took was one angry voice shouting “damn the stories!” to rouse the townspeople. The had sharpened their axes and pulled forth ill-used swords and spears. Bows and arrows that’d only been used for hunting were now to be used in fear and hate. Torches were gathered and torches were lit. The fence would be trampled and the wooden castle burned.

But rains came. Strong, summer rains. Rains that turned the ground to mud. Rains the seemed to ward off the thrower and keep the flame from catching hold to the wooden structure. Riled and angry, the men sent for tents. They would wait for dawn and then set upon tearing down the Castle of Sparrows.

The rain stopped during the night, but the rising sun did little raise spirits. The men remained due to stubbornness and out of a desire to not look weak. If one had the courage to turn away then most, if not all, would have followed. But they stayed and maintained their one-day siege.

The angry-man from the night before was looked to as their leader. It was up to him to start the destruction or to return to the village and return to his fields. He picked up his axe and gave passing thought to the amount of swings it took to smooth the haft just so. Axe in hand started towards the ornate and oversized door that helped give the simple wooden structure its air of majesty. He spat in the muddy ground, took a firm hold of his axe and readied it for a swing.

The sudden sound of the door locks being slid out of place caused the once angry man to jump back. The other men, who had crowded around in support, drew back at the sound. Clicks and clacks and the rattle of chains echoed forth from behind the wooden door. Hinges screeched as the door drew inward. The men strained their eyes to see into the darkness of the wooden castle.

Grey flesh shuffled into view. A misshapen thing on two legs lurched into the sun. Long, matted hair covered its face but its bulk and strength were clear to all. The crowd of men all head to raise their heads to take in the full size of the thing before them. Large hands grasped what could have been a small tree turned into a club. Powerful arms raised the club high and a roar bellowed up from a chest that not a man among them could have reached around. Fear overtook them. Strength deserted them.

That wave of fear and weakness is what caused the arrow to fly. A hand count no longer keep its grip on a taut bowstring. Fingers lost their hold and the arrow jumped forth puncturing deep into the massive grey body. The roar halted. Black ichor flowed down grey flesh. The men found their courage. The angry man struck with his axe once and then twice. Spears and pitchforks darted forward. Swords slashed as each man struck and then backed away o allow a neighbor a chance at victory.

The beast fell and the men cheered. Their spirits soared and they cheered louder. They stared up at the tower and yelled threats of death and punishment. Their cheers smothered the light drone that was coming from inside the grey beast. With all eyes cast up none saw the first little creature to pull itself free of a deep gash in the beasts chests. None saw its six-legged body crawl forward or saw it clear the black ichor from off its clear wings. The did not see the yellow and black diamond take flight nor did they see another and another crawl forth from the multiple wounds.

It wasn’t until the first yelp of pain that the men took notice. Until the insects were emerging from the corpse by the hundreds, none heard the drone of their wings. The men panicked as they were stung and stung again. Poison and pain filled their bodies. They fought against the very air as the yellow and black cloud over took them. They flailed with useless weapons, hitting each other as the struggled to bring down the wasps. And still more flew forth from the beast.

Men ran down the hill towards their village. Their screams echoed before them. Women and child saw the descending cloud the men brought with them. They could hear the pain. Doors and windows were shut fast. Clothes and curtains were used to plug any gaps as the screams were replaced with a hideous drone that went on for hours.

The silence stretched on for hours before anyone dared open a door. Agonized shapes that were once men lay in the streets and dotted the hill the led to the wooden structure and its stone tower. The few who made it to town were buried, but none dared to set foot on the hill.

Years passed. As the sun set and the moon the shadow of the tower was visible on the hill. Mothers and fathers both warned their children they must never go near the Castle of Sparrows.

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