Short Story: Golden Glory


The following is a short story submitted to Homewood High School’s literary and creative magazine The Menagerie.

“Golden Glory” by Lilly Maske

The sun cast long shadows over the gilded castle turrets. They crept towards the city, like long ethereal fingers preparing to snatch children from their beds.  The last of the city goers were hustling home for the night, anxious to return to their sanctuary. Tonight was not a time to be out on the streets after dusk. 

Brina observed them from high in the castle, gazing down at the streets from her window. Her room faced the westward part of the city where all of the merchants and shopkeepers usually had carts setup along the roads, hoping to make a sale. But tonight, it was barren and empty. Not even the beggars would be about, drifting from place to place like they usually would. It was haunting. 

She turned from the window and walked into her bedroom. Her dresser was pressed against the far wall while her bed was placed in the center of the room . A small chair also sat next to the bed, its armrests, gilded in gold, were carved with exquisite detail. In fact, everything in her room was exquisitely made. It would have taken a small fortune to decorate her room in such a way, but of course, as the king’s “Glory Born”, no expenses would be spared. Glory Born was the title she had been bestowed with when the king had welcomed her into his castle. She had survived the attack of the Gandal, a creature that had never been seen by anyone except her, but there was not one person in the entire kingdom who doubted its existence. The gashes in the stone pavement from its claws, and the missing families were proof enough that it was not just a figment of one’s imagination, along with the screams of the abducted as they were torn from their beds in the dead of night. Everyone in the kingdom could hear their terror filled cries, but fear of a fate worse than death kept them from venturing from their homes. 

Every year, on the same day, the creature returned in the dead of night, waiting for the perfect moment to tear the world apart with its jagged iron tipped claws. And every year, when the sun rose the next morning, the streets would be bathed in red. Not even the vultures would dare descend upon the bodies that lay scattered about the city. It was as if they too, were just as fearful of the creature’s ever looming presence and the horror that accompanied it.

But Brina had survived her encounter with that creature exactly eleven years ago; the only survivor ever. And while the scars on her back and arms had faded into white lines, the memories would forever be engraved into her mind. 

Flashes of claws and dripping fangs; a midnight body encased in shadows that clung to its frame like souls desperately trying to escape death. The way the room smelled so wrong.  Like death, but also something else she couldn’t describe. 

She remembered the way her parents’ screams had echoed in her brain as they clung to her small body. She had only been eight when they had been cruelly snatched from her life. She remembered a flooding golden light from somewhere in the room, and the sight of blood smattering on the floor. The beast had retreated, but not before dragging its long claws along her skin. A promise that it would return for her some day.  

Now, on the eleventh anniversary of that horrific night, she was standing in the king’s castle, preparing for the ball that had been hosted in her honor. There would be food and music, to remind everyone that there was still light, even in the dark, but Brina knew that it was actually to drown out the inevitable screeches that would accompany the ascending black shroud of night. 

While normally she would groan at the idea of having to attend one of the king’s frivolous parties, she desperately needed an escape from her own mind. The events of that night played on repeat in her head until she had cried her voice horse and her eyes had no tears left to shed. Her parent’s limp bodies. The echoing screams of the dead. The Gandal’s soulless eyes that had seemed to pierce her soul. This would be a welcomed escape from those horrors, even if it was only for one night. 

After debating between several different gowns from her wardrobe, she had finally chosen the perfect dress for tonight. Made from a depthless blue colored fabric that draped around her body and sparkled with glittering jewels, the dress was breathtakingly stunning. The color complemented her chestnut brown eyes perfectly and highlighted her features with elegant sophistication. If she hadn’t been the talk of the court already, she would be now. With her hair swept up into a crown above her head, she looked like a princess out of a children’s story. A knock from the outside of her door pulled her from her thoughts. She knew who would be standing on the other side of the door even before she opened it.

 Alois had agreed that he would meet her at her room before the ball. Then, they would walk down to the celebration together. He knew that she hated parties and all of the flourishing falseness that courtiers hid behind. So he had agreed to let her drag him along as her protection from the deceiving wolves of the court, as she had put it earlier. 

She opened the door and smiled at him. He was standing straight in his best outfit. His boots had been polished so thoroughly that she could see her reflection in them. He flashed her a dazzling smile of his own, “good evening Glory Born,” he teased. He knew that she hated the title and the gasps of surprise that were often accompanied with it whenever someone addressed her as such. He loved to tease her, especially at the most inappropriate times.

 Brina had met Alois when she had first arrived at the castle. He had been training as a soldier for the royal guard, when they had first been introduced. She smiled when she thought back to that memory. He had managed to sneak a frog into the castle without being detected and had placed it upon her chair as she was sitting down for lunch. His shocked expression when she had only smiled and pulled out a small lizard of her own from the folds of her dress, had made her tumble backwards with laughter, much to her caretaker’s disapproval. They had been best friends ever since then, an inseparable pair.  

He held his hand out towards her, “Ready Brina?”

Yes… and no. Yes, she was ready to leave for the party, but no, she wasn’t ready to pretend like tonight would be fun. Like those haunting moans from the dead didn’t hover around her soul, always accompanying her everywhere she went. She wasn’t ready to pretend that she had forgotten the way her parents’ eyes had seemed so empty when they fell to the ground, their arms and legs twisting at unnatural angles. But she didn’t want to dampen his mood, not after he had so kindly agreed to accompany her. She almost thought he was looking forward to it. There was a small light in his eyes that normally only appeared when he was anxious or excited about something. So, instead of groaning, she smiled and took his hand. 


When they arrived at the ballroom, Brina was immediately swept away by the colors and light that flooded from the room and into the hallway where they were currently standing. Alois had only called her Glory Born, once more on the walk down from her room. Now, he was silent beside her. He had never lost anyone to the Gandal, but she knew that he still felt remorse for all of the lives that had been impacted by the beast. Including hers.  The other courtiers in the castle wouldn’t leave their rooms tomorrow, they would cower from the death that lurked just outside the gates of the castle, pretending like everything was normal. But Brina would not be like them. She needed to see the faces of the dead, and to pay them respect. 

Every year since she had become the king’s glory born, she had awoken early to help bury the dead. It was the least she could do for them. Alois could always hide in the castle along with the others, but he chose to accompany her. They wouldn’t speak; they didn’t need to because there were no words to express how they felt. But just having someone to stand beside, having someone to help carry that burden… It made it easier. Alois was different from the rest of the people she knew. He was her family, her brother. He knew what they would face in the morning, and he would not run from it. He would stand with her.

She touched his arm and his eyes drifted to her face, they were deep and sorrow filled, she knew he was thinking the same thing she was. But behind that, she thought she saw a flash of darkness. It startled her, but before she could say anything, it was gone. Perhaps she had only imagined it. 

He smiled at her, and it was full of warmth and joy, the smile she had learned to love, but as he led her into the room filled with glittering gowns and music she couldn’t seem to forget the way his eyes had danced with darkness. 


She had only been at the party for less than an hour before she started to notice something was off. The music still played, the dancers still swayed, and the party was still as lively as when she had first entered. But it felt… It felt different. Wrong. 

Alois had disappeared from her sight earlier, going to catch up with some of his other friends from the royal guards. Now, she wished he had stayed with her, even if it was only so she knew that he was safe. But she hadn’t seen him since then, and his growing absence gnawed on the inside of her gut. She checked the time, it was only just midnight, there should be no reason for her to start worrying yet. He probably just got caught up in the party and the fun. No, there was no reason for her to be worried. The castle was a fortress of security, with guards in every hallway and room. If something was wrong, they would be safe here. Besides, there had never been any deaths due to the Gandal inside the castle before. They were safe. But still, fear began to seep into her gut. Her hands were sweaty and her throat was dry. Brina scanned the room so intensely, that her vision began to blur, willing her eyes to land on Alois’s brown hair and his natural smile. 

And just when she started to panic, she found him. He was standing alone on the opposite side of the room, his eyes drilling holes into her. She almost sagged with relief as she staggered over to him. Pushing past bodies and darting through the crowd, she made her way across the room, but slowed when she got closer. His eyes were black as pitch and his gaze was hungry and feral. Her heart skipped a beat and she stopped dead in her tracks. Something was wrong. Shadows seemed to seep from behind him and from under the folds of his clothes, pooling at his feet. The temperature in the room plummeted and she felt ice coat her veins. Her mind screamed at her to run, but she couldn’t, she was trapped in place. He took a step towards her and long fangs gleamed in the light when he smiled at her. It was not the smile that she had grown used to in their years of friendship. This smile was void of any cheerfulness or warmth, instead it was like an empty pit, sucking every bit of light from the room and casting the world into eternal night. She had been wrong. The castle wasn’t an impenetrable sanctuary. The Gandal was already inside, and had been for a long time. Because Alois was the Gandal, and he was stalking right towards her. 

Then the screaming began. Screams of pure terror filled with grief and pain that clawed their way into her ears and wailed their cacophonous song. But they were not her own. They belonged to the ghosts of those that Alois had dragged with him to the underworld. They were the voices of the slaughtered and the voices of those that knew death was close at hand. Brina had never known fear like this before. It consumed her, devouring the very essence of her soul and crushing her under its weight. 

Alois stopped only inches away from her, never breaking his gaze from her face. She knew tears flowed down her face, but she was frozen in time, unable to do anything but gaze upon the cause of so much pain in her life. Alois had always been there for her, even when she awoke in the dead of night screaming from the memories of her parents death that haunted her even in sleep. But that person was gone. That boy that she had grown up with, running through the castle halls and not caring how much noise they made, was gone. Stolen by the beast that prowled under his skin. All that was left of her friend was the memories they had shared. She wondered if his joy had been genuine, or if it too, was all just an elaborate lie. She wanted to know if he had meant it, she needed to know.

“Alois,” her voice cracked as she said this, but it didn’t matter, nothing else mattered. She sounded so small. So weak. “was any of it ever real?” She barely managed to draw the words from her throat. 

His eyes stared straight into hers, the depthless swirl of charcoal and ink piercing her courage and sucking her dry of any strength she had left. There was no emotion on his face as he spoke. “ No.” 

No. She felt the earth crack under her feet, and felt herself falling. Down… down… down. She didn’t think she would ever stop. She screamed in pain, in anger, in hatred and in sorrow. It had never been real. He had lied to her for so long, and she had trusted him completely. But it had all been a lie. He had never loved her. Never. And she was alone. She was alone, and it didn’t matter because she had nothing. It was all a lie. Alois had lied. And she was now truly alone. 

No, a soft voice whispered in her ear. You will never be alone. You are the Glory Born. It was her mothers voice, whispering in her ear as she plummeted into the chasm of hopelessness. You are my Daughter. And you are everything. She couldn’t do it. He had lied. And she was alone. 

Then, her fathers voice broke through the sound of screams and pain, No. You are not alone. You are the Glory Born. You will light the way through darkness if you only have the courage to stand. You are my daughter.

She felt their hands on her shoulders, and could see their proud smiles as they looked down at her. Smiles that she hadn’t seen in a long time. Smiles that she had forgotten. She felt her heart burn to ash and reform inside her chest as a ball of blinding flame and light. She was the Glory Born, She was their daughter. She had survived. And she would survive again. 

As soon as she opened her eyes, she felt the world shatter a second time, but instead of falling, she felt herself flying. There was light everywhere, raging through the darkness and tearing it to pieces. The same light she had seen eleven years ago. It was coming from her. She was the light. And she let it shine, battling the darkness until every shadow had disappeared and the room was filled with blinding gold. She watched Alois as he roared and raced for her, but he didn’t make it more than two steps before the light swallowed him whole, leaving no trace of the boy that had broken her heart or the beast that had destroyed her family. There was only light, and glory, and beauty, and slowly, so slowly, she felt her heart start to mend.