Darkened Skies


Formerly known as 'darkspider16'
Aug 4, 2006
In the Shadow
Darkened Skies
Ch. 1.1

The sun rose late that day. Omun, the oldest of the men in the village, said it was a sign, an omen of destruction sent by the gods. The villagers paid no heed to his words; he had predicted many disasters in the past, and only rarely had they proven true. He had once been a great seer, a person who could predict certain events, in his lifetime. Now, as the years caught up with him, he would prophesize more and more frequently, and his predictions were always wrong. The villagers stopped listening to his words when he prophesized a great famine hitting the village. The villagers stocked up on food and slaughtered all of their sheep for two weeks. For a month they waited for the dreaded famine. When it didn't come, the villagers grew angry. The townspeople had then discovered that swarms of locusts had ruined all the stored grain and the meat had began to rot. The villagers anger had reached the breaking point. It was only by the intervention of the chief that Omun lived, though he was now shunned by all.

This time, the villagers went about, minding their own business. The old prophet stood in the dust-trodden path, crying out to anyone who'd listen. "Hear me, people! The great Ragn'az has sent us this sign. We must leave this forsaken land! For, if we don't, we shall be crushed by the on-coming danger!" Pounding up the road upon his steed cam Kael, the chieftain's son. He gave the old soothsayer a loathing look. "You despicable old fool," he sneered. "Why don't you take your lousy omens, and leave this village!" Many of the villagers began to surround the two. "We," he gestured to everyone around him, "are fine without your constant omens of death. The only destruction that would come to this village is you!" He pointed an accusing finger at the helpless man. The circle of people, now becoming a mob, began to close in on the prophet. Some even pulled out their swords. Kael cried out to the villagers. "I say the old fool should be driven out now!" With that, the mass of villagers began to seize Omun.

Suddenly, a flash of movement shot through the crowd. Directly between Omun and Kael stood an arrow transfixed into the ground. Both looked up. At the rear of the mob, stood Thurgim, the chief of the village. In one hand was a massive wooden bow, while his other carried three more shafts. Behind him was a score of warriors at the ready. "Kael," he roared. "What are you doing here?" Kael glanced at the arrow, then replied, "This old fool has caused enough trouble. Remember the famine?" This caused Omun to flinch. "I was doing my duty," finished Kael. His father held the young man's rebellious gaze and asked, "Oh? And what duty would that be?" "The duty of our warriors. This man has been preaching lies," said Kael. Thurgim strode closely to his son and spoke softly. "You will not force any of our village to leave. Remember Kael, you are not the chieftain yet."

Father and son glared at each other. Finally, Kael stalked off. "Not for long, father. Not for long." Thurgim looked down at Omun. "It seems, my old friend, that you are not wanted. I give you till tonight to gather your belongings. Omun," he said, seeing the elder's devastated expression. "I am doing this for your safety. My son," he shook his head. "Kael has a thirst for blood these days. I fear he will cause trouble, even kill. And there is no one he would wish to kill than you." He looked up into the sky. It was beginning to darken, which was very unusual, for, it was barely midday and the rainy season has already passed. "I give you till tonight. My men will escort you out of the village." Omun, desperate, lunged forward and grabbed Thurgim. "You must listen! There is great danger coming towards our village! We must leave! We must…" "NO!" said Thurgim loudly. "Even I tire of your ceaseless omens! Prepare for your departure. And with that, the chieftain left, leaving Omun standing in the dust.

That night, Omun heard pounding on his door. He moved about in the darkness of his home with ease. The building was really a little hovel, on the edge of town. He rarely kept a fire going, for wood was hard to come by in this desolate, hilly area, and Omun had grown accustomed t the cold. His home had had two rooms, a small bedroom with his cot (no one in the village slept on beds), and a slightly larger room, which contained a fire pit, a tub for washing, and a cupboard barely full with bowls and other dishes. Dust and dirt covered the floor and walls, and intricate spider webs hung in the room's corners. Omun opened his wooden door to find two of Thurgim's men waiting with three horses, nervously neighing behind him. One of them spoke up, the agitation apparent in his voice. "Make haste! We must go quickly! Kael has roused the blood of the villagers! They started a great blaze in the center of town, and are prepared to rush up here and set fire to your home, with you inside!"

Omun glanced down the path and saw the flames reaching up to the starry sky. Smoke rose into the air and covered the whole village within an ashy, grey blanket. Many dark, blurry shapes were surrounding the blaze. Omun heard a fever-pitched chant rising from the square. He ran back into the shack and gathered his few, meager things. "Come now," said the other man. "We have brought a horse for you. We shall ride to the next town, where you shall stay." They jumped onto their steeds and rode up the hill, with Omun following. At the crest of the second hill, Omun looked back upon the town, which he had once called home. With a start he saw his little shack burn down, and heard the frightening cries of rage as the villagers discovered he wasn't within the burning wreckage. He turned away and urged his horse faster , trying to get as far away from the villager's burning desire to see him dead.
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Ch. 1.2
Kael was furious. The discovery of Omun's escape had reached his ears. He glared at the men around him, the heat of the fire warming his face. A trio of men (though one was only a little younger than he) ran up to him, panting heavily. "Kael," one of them said breathlessly. "We have found hoof prints heading into the hills. It seems your father sent the seer away earlier." The chieftain's son looked feral and horrifying with the blaze at his back. Fury was etched all over his face as he glowered down at the three scouts. Malice dripped from his voice as he roared at them. "You blundering fools! What are you doing here? Why haven't you chased that weak old fool down already?" Kael drew his sword and gestured to his chest. "You should have caught him and brought him to me! But you failed your task, you imbeciles!" He pointed his blade towards the men and declared, "Now, because of your incompetent ways, you shall feel my wrath! I will not spare you from even the least of pains!" Fury shown in his eyes, and the cowering men knew that they would not survive the man's rage.

Suddenly, men rode up on horseback, calling to everyone. Kael ran up and demanded them to tell what was happening. "What is going on? Why are you making such a clamor?" The leading rider replied with haste, "Sir, a colossal number of horsemen have been seen riding towards the town! Your father has ordered that all able bodies be prepared for battle!" Kael marched back to the three scouts, and said evilly, "You shall be spared from my wrath tonight! But you're not getting off easy. You will fight at the front, and I will watch you. If you try to flee, I shall slay you on the spot!" Kael strode away, laughing maniacally. "Finally! My blade shall taste blood tonight!" With that, he called to everyone about, roaring about his good fortune to be able to quench his thirst for blood. One of the men soon to feel Kael's wrath muttered to the others. "We will die tonight! I fear that Thurgim's son has become insane! We must flee if we desire to live!" The other two agreed with him, and the three fled quietly out of the village, taking only what they needed for their journey.

Overlooking the village, lying upon one of the highest hills surrounding it, was a wolf. The beast gazed down at the scene, then howled into the night. Other wolves from the pack answered his howls. Their howls were a mournful melody, playing upon the wind, telling all creatures of the pain and death that would be suffered here this night. With one last howl, the wolf padded away into the night, his back turned on the village forever.

Thurgim strode silently towards his army. Kael had roused the whole village and stood there, awaiting the enemy. The father looked at his son, and gazed at the figure standing before him. Kael wore a steel helmet, with bright red feathers sprouting from the top. His armor was steel, but also had tough patches of dried animal skin along the outside, adding to the protection. He wore leather chaps, decorated with the red and blue plumage of the local birds. In his right hand was a large claymore. The blade was as tall as a man, and required the use of both hands to wield it. The metal was an iron color, with a faint tinge of red along the edges, most likely stained there by blood. All in all, Kael was an imposing figure.

Thurgim himself was wearing an impressive assortment of garments. Upon his head he wore a black, iron helmet. Over his left eye was a leather eye patch, and his face had blue war paint on. He wore a grizzled old leather tunic, and over that was his ancient, yet still usable, plate armor. On the center was a majestic crow. His bow was slung across his back, and he carried a deadly short sword in each hand. The men behind him were dressed in a similar way, though their adornments were not as colorful and bright as the chieftain's son. Some carried axes, while others swords, and yet others carried long poles with arrowheads jammed at the end, called pikes. And still others carried farming equipment as their weapons, such as sickles and pitchforks, though not many brandished them, for the village did not rely on farming that much.

Thurgim looked over his force, and felt pride for the men whom he ruled over. The men looked at their leader, knowing that he wouldn't give much of a speech. Their chieftain wasn't a man of many words when it came to battle. Raising his blade into the air, Thurgim called out to the men gathered around him. "Men, tonight we stand on the brink of destruction," the men broke out in short, rasping chuckles. They were used to Thurgim always preaching the worst before battle. Thurgim wore a brief grin, but that changed into a serious expression as he spoke. "The invaders have been spotted behind that ridge. Tonight we must hold off the onslaught, for the sake of our home, our women, our whelps. Tonight, pray to the raging god of war, Krytos, and the fearsome god of death, Detamos, so that they will bring down their wrath upon our foes!"

On top of the hill, illuminated by the moonlight, were the hordes of enemies, preparing to charge. "To war!" cried Thurgim, and the nomadic warriors turned to face the oncoming horsemen. Like wolves preying on a flock of sheep, the enemy came. Up close, Kael could see that the men's armor had the bones of dead animals welded onto leather jerkins. The helmets were the skulls of some wild beast, either a wolf, or deer. Even in the faint light, Kael could tell that blood had been spread over every bone. All together, the enemy looked fearsome. Kale suddenly remembered a mural he once saw when he was a child. It depicted the underworld, Ergos, and the army of the dead rising up and slaying all around. The invaders did look like the dead, and Kael was fearful that they really were up against fiends. Yet, when one of the villagers threw a spear and it struck a rider straight through the chest, causing instant death, all doubt left Kael.

With a surge of confidence, he charged forward, and with a blood-curdling battle cry, threw himself onto his enemies. Men ran forward as the first wave of cavalry rushed down. The riders mowed down the first few lines, but fell when the villagers surged up against them, an immovable wall of bodies and blades, slaying all that got in its way. The village men quickly drew back from their initial strike. Once again, the men were filled with fear as they saw the countless numbers of the invaders. Thurgim looked in horror as men fell everywhere around him. This enemy was far better than any he had ever encountered.

Suddenly Thurgim felt a sharp pain in his back. He reached back, and in horror, discovered he had been stabbed. He fell down upon his chest and watched the blood cover the ground. He cried out in pain as the blade was pulled free from his body. His enemy kicked him onto his back, and with a gasp, the dying chieftain discovered who had killed him. Standing over him was Kael, a wicked grin set on his face. The son watched as the color left his father. Suddenly, he was struck with fear. His vision blurred and he saw a younger version of himself standing on a small hill, a knife in his hand, and his mother lying down upon the ground, her blood splattered all over the ground. He shook himself and saw his father again. "Why did you…." Thurgim struggled to say. "NO!" cried Kael, thrusting his blade into the chieftain's chest. He then ran off, fleeing the battle, and leaving his guilt-filled past far behind.
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The three runaways ran on till their breath ran out. The tallest of them, Nicholi, who was obviously the leader of the three, sat down on a rock. "We'll have to keep moving soon." He said, staring out towards the village. By now, the flames had reached the stars, and were visible from miles around. Yet so also were the cries of the invaders as they looted and killed. The man closest to Nicholi, a short, stout man by the name of Kiyen, spat out and said, "Are you crazy? We've been running for hours. We must rest. Let us sleep." Nicholi shook his head and replied, "Do you not see the flames?" He pointed to the burning village and the other two followed his finger. "Look how high they have reached! They will no doubt find our tracks. Those monsters will have no trouble finding us." The third, barely older than 15, muttered, "We should've never left."

Kiyen looked at him with disgust. "Don't be stupid, Zan! If we stayed we'd be killed by the enemy." " And if we survived we would be at the mercy if Kael." added Nicholi. Zan trudged to a stump and sat down. "Then what are we to do? We have no money, nor do we have any idea where to go!" Nicholi walked over to him and patted his shoulder. Don't worry. There are great and wondrous cities in the South! Each filled with gold and jewels, and food everywhere! A normal man can live like a king! No more hunting deer and searching for the nearest stream for us. All we have to do is head south, and we shall find our dreams come true." Nicholi and Kiyen started walking away from the logs. Suddenly, a deep and terrible roar echoed from the village. Getting up, Zan muttered, "Yeah, if we make it."

Zan fell to his knees in the dirt and sand. For weeks the three had been traveling south, with barely enough food and water to stay alive. The last village they had passed was miles away, and there was no possible way the men would head back to it, for they had been chased out when Kiyen was caught cheating at cards. Kiyen stopped and sat on a nearby stone. "We must stop Nicholi. It's madness to keep going. We'll die of thirst before long." Nicholi came to a halt, and turned around, glaring at the short man. He strode over to where Kiyen was sitting and spat into his face. "Thirst! We will die of thirst because of you! Who was the one that drunk our canteens completely?"

Kiyen spat back, and growled, "Tell me this Nicholi: Who was it that suggested we stop at that village, eh?" He jabbed a finger at Nicholi. Nicholi drew his sword and said, "Aye, but who decided to bet all our gold on the game? And who decided to cheat, and end up losing everything? It is your fault we were thrown out! It was your fault that we lost all the gold that I—yes, I!-- for you were trying to win the ladies' fancy, had worked hard to get!" Kiyen jumped up and drew his own sword, yelling, "It was you who decided to make us leave the village in the first place!" Nicholi took a fighter's stance and growled, "Why don't we finish this now?" Kiyen held his sword high and replied, "Aye, why don't we? It is not I that is the fool with the blade here."

Zan watched all of this, knowing that this would end up with someone injured, maybe even dieing. Suddenly, the wind blew fiercely, kicking up all the sand around them. The men, blinded, dropped their swords and fell to the ground, trying to hide from the onslaught of sand. Zan, covering his head with his arms, felt the gritty lashes as the wind tore across his back. Abruptly, Zan felt the urge to lift his head and look out. Doing this, he saw two men riding upon horses toward him. Immediately the wind stopped, and all was quiet. The only sound was the hoof beats of the horses. Getting up, Nicholi and Kiyen dusted themselves off. Zan pushed himself up, and then fell down, too weak to move. His vision was darkening when a kind face appeared over him.

Lifting Zan's head, he placed a canteen to Zan's lips. "Here, drink this, then lay down." The man got up and walked over to his companion. The two introduced themselves. "My name is Raphael, and this is my brother, Gabriel." Raphael was tall, with raven colored hair that reached to his shoulders, and a small strand hanging near his right eye. He had hawkish features, yet his eyes, a deep brown, showed kindness. His brother was a little shorter, with golden hair cut short. Gabriel had a kind, childlike face, and there was laughter in his blue eyes. Both were tanned from constant exposure to the sun, yet each wore a brown cloak. Nicholi stood up straight and replied, "I am Nicholi; that is Kiyen, and the young one is Zan." He disliked the two strangers immediately. Gabriel walked over to his steed and pulled out a parcel. "We packed too much food it seems. We would be willing to share." Kiyen beamed and replied, "Food, you say? Of course! We would be delighted to accept!"

Zan, feeling refreshed, got up and walked over to a rock. Sitting down, he received a loaf from Gabriel and tore into it with fervor. Chuckling, Gabriel sat near him and said, "Don't eat it too quickly, young one. You don't want to feel sick when we move again." Chewing his food, Nicholi looked over at Gabriel strangely. "What do you mean 'move again'?" Raphael passed around a flask of water and said, "Yes. It seems you three are a little lost. Gabriel and I happened here on our way to the coast." Zan looked up. "The coast? We are near the coast?" "Yes, and it's only a few days away. Lucky for you that we stopped here." Gabriel replied, his eyes twinkling. Getting up, Kiyen exclaimed, "Well I vote we go to the coast with these two fine men, Nicholi."

Still suspicious, Nicholi asked, "Why didn't we know of the city? No one at the last village told us of this port." Raphael stood up and stretched, replying, "That village? Those folks there barely know how to do anything without swindling or cheating. They don't even know the surrounding area a mile away from their village, let alone know of this port." Gabriel walked over to his horse and asked, "You men do not cheat, do you?" His gaze fell upon Kiyen, who shook his head quickly. Zan noticed the man's lips twitch ever so slightly. He guessed that Gabriel was trying to hold in laughter.

Raphael suddenly tensed. Zan noticed Gabriel stiffen too. Kiyen, starting to worry, asked, "What is it?" Gabriel hushed him and listened. Abruptly, Raphael whispered, "Head to the hill to the left. There is enough area to hide." The five crept up the hill and positioned themselves in obscure places. Crawling towards Gabriel, Zan asked in a hushed tone, "What is happening?" Gabriel pointed to the horizon and whispered back in reply, "Look, young Zan, and see."
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Ch. 2.2
Zan gazed out towards the horizon and watched. Slowly, a small mass surged through the sand. In a matter of moments the mass grew larger and larger. Zan noticed Gabriel fidgeting with a pipe. Zan opened his mouth, but closed it as Gabriel gestured. "Watch", Gabriel mouthed. Zan observed as the man placed the flute to his lips and blew. Suddenly, the horses neighed loudly and galloped away. The surging mass, which had now become distinguishable, veered off to follow them. Zan realized that it was really the horde that had razed his village. "They will follow the false tracks for a few days, giving us enough time to leave this place." Gabriel stood up and walked toward his brother. "Let's go," he said.

A glimmer of light caught Zan's eye. He tried to block the thrust with his own sword, but was too slow. He screamed in pain as the blade entered his stomach. He stared at the sword protruding from him, then collapsed. Above him stood his opponent. Clad in black robes, he carried a long, red sword. From deep within the shadowed hood came a low growl, which became harsh laughter. Zan's enemy raised his sword and brought it crashing down upon Zan's head.

Zan woke up with a start. It was only a dream, he told himself. He looked around the camp. It was still late in the night, and the fire had been put out. Zan suddenly realized that he was alone. His companions were not to be found. Cautiously, he got up and unsheathed the sword that Raphael gave to him. He looked at it and marveled at its wonder. The hilt was silver, with an emerald set in the pommel. The blade itself was green, and seemed to glow in the night.

Suddenly, Zan heard a great clamor. He crept across the ridge they stayed on. Below him were the sings of battle. Men in black clothes similar to thieves' or brigands' were attacking them. To the far right was Kiyen, fighting madly with his sword. He was fighting two men at once. Bodies of the enemies lay around him. To Zan's left was Nicholi, his deadly saber striking the men surrounding him. Though he was backed against the rocks, he drove the attackers back. Yet the fiercest fighting came from directly below Zan. A group of men surrounded Raphael and Gabriel. The two brothers stood back to back as they faced their enemies. Without notice, they begun the most furious attack Zan had ever seen. Their whole bodies became blurs of movement as they leapt, dove, parried, and struck at their opponents. They fought with elegance, yet Zan was frightened by the ferocity of their strength.

As soon as it began, it ended. The survivors ran out into the darkness. Gabriel and Raphael stood and inspected the bodies around them. Zan walked down and joined Nicholi and Kiyen. With a nod, the brothers got up and walked towards the three others. "We must leave," said Gabriel. They talked no more, just walked up into the campsite and began to pack up. Zan started to pack his things, yet he couldn't resist his curiosity. "What happened?" None of them stopped what they were doing. After a while, Gabriel spoke up. "It seems we weren't as careful as we thought. We awoke to find them down that ridge there. The four of us drew our blades and charged them. We had surprise on our side, but they weren't fazed for long." Raphael indicated a deep gash on his left arm, near the triceps. "These were not ordinary brigands. They were well trained, and were fierce swordsmen. Not only this, but I believe they were a scouting party. No doubt the survivors will alert the main force to our presence." Zan grew quiet. Holding his sword in his hands, Zan realized the danger they were in. "Defend yourself!" cried Raphael as he swung his blade at the young boy.

Instinctively, Zan ducked and brought his sword into a defensive position. The older man swung at his head. Thrusting the sword upwards, Zan barley blocked the attack. Raphael stepped back and sheathed his weapon. Both he and Gabriel had near identical swords: a silver hilt, wrapped in leather, and a long blade the color of amethyst. The only difference was the gem in the pommel: Raphael's was a blue sapphire, while Gabriel's was a purple diamond. "You have some skill, young Zan." Zan smiled at the praise, the grew worried. How am I going to defend myself if even the others were tried against this enemy? "It's time," said Gabriel. Zan got up and followed them into the wilderness.

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