The pitch night is as still as the breeze that fills it, the trees call back a rustling echo of the gentle pushing wind, causing the whisper of rustling fir and pine trees fill the air. A lone night owl that stands on an outcropping tree branch lets out a soft sound of satisfaction as it pushes off its perch and descents to its prey below.
But harken to one disturbance, a ripple of disturbance in the wood resounds through the low hanging willows and swamps. The soft footfalls of a stricken young woman, tussling throughout the underbrush with no apparent destination; just seeking refuge to her life which seemed to become more and more desolate with the passing time.
She leapt through the hanging branches and jagged rocks like a jack rabbit, both mind and limbs in constant rhythm, looking for anything. Once coming into a gully she paused, and ever so suddenly darted into a rock deformation only a few feet wide. Gasping for air she scanned the dark pinewood scene, gripping at the dirty cloth garments that hung loosely over her small frame, her chest felt like it was going to implode with the stress she gave it. Pulling out a worn piece of bread out of a small leather satchel, and absent-mindedly nibbled on the morsel. The sound of approaching heavy horse hooves met her ears. With great effort she lunged back out into the cold of the night.
After a small amount running a glint of firelight met her wet eyes, hoping for that slither of comfort, she followed the glint. It brought her into a clearing, her hope kindled once more for a log cabin stood unshaken on top of a large flat rock.
Stopping by a well out of clear sight, she pondered the safeness of approaching the little dwelling. In apparent decision that her followers would be among the more dangerous sorts she pushed warily toward the porch. But before she could set foot on the wooden landing, the door opened quickly but silently. With and abundant flow of firelight it illuminated her terrified face.
But what met it was a kind glow of a weathered, middle-aged, strong bearded face. The woman fell to her knees before him and pleaded a silent cry for his help. A moment later in the silence, the sound of thundering hooves of about a dozen horses met their ears.
Without needing explanation he stepped onto the porch in full light, and the stature of a strong man with green and grey clad clothing, hardy leather boots and an assortment of knives strapped around his belt came into view.
The woman instantly identified him as one of the King's Rangers, washed over with hope and praise to the first that she found the help she needed. He stood silently at the edge of the porch when the thundering tide of a dozen horses filled the clearing, the woman slipped into the darkness of the porch, praying that the Ranger would give to her desperate need.
One horse came out of the dozen with a hanging pride, one that indicated his rank among these cultists. Peering deeper into their appearance from the porch, the woman saw these men were dressed in hanging garments and fully clothed all over with nightmarish black. Their horses too were an unnatural dark shade which fitted their darkness of heart.
“Well, Ardorn” the leader hissed, “I never thought of you as one to take to the quiet life in the woods, getting too frail to wield that Longsword of yours eh?”
The other horsemen snickered in mocking slander.
“Now,” the leader said as his hooded cloak turned so slightly to reveal some of the grim face hidden below,
“Down to your new kings bidding" He let the title hang in the air as he tasted his new status.
“The woman if you please, or face your fate” he said.
The Ranger lifted his head slowly to the arrogant cultist. “Well, Juan, I have always taken to you as a traitor, this is a night for evil, is it not? Killing your own brother, and then forcing the fair lady into allegiance?"
Juan lifted his head in question as he was taken aback by the accusation and spat “You rangers always have your uncanny source of knowledge, but yes, my brother is dead by my own hand, not by my will but the will of destiny."
The ranger let out a small grunt. “Destiny can just as easily change your fate as well as the kings, you have no authority over its influence, or alliance to anyone but the sovereign. Even if you do have the stone,” the ranger said in a simple mock.
Now Juan was taken back, for his plans had been known, the riders around him even whispered in silent question. “Your meddling will now come to an end; you know too much, too much to see another day."
Juan dismounted his horse swiftly and took the scabbard from his horse’s saddle. The ranger revealed the hilt below his cloak, and with a hiss of steel throughout the night, and a glimmer of razor sharp metal ringing though the darkness, he prepared for the tide on which was coming quickly across the clearing.
Following the same motions, Juan swung out his sword, but instead of the glimmer of polished steel, a dark blade was produced, only leaving an aura darker than black. Ardorn knew that it was infected, and one mere scratch of the darkened blade would mean disaster, this was a dual that would have to be ended quickly.
Both of them stood in concentration, anticipating the play out of the battle. They monitored each other’s expressions and movements carefully, and examined the placement in which the held their feet.
With supernatural speed and agility, the wraith-like figure flowed towards Ardorn, but he parried it in simple movements. Withdrawing, Ardorn used the rebounding force to hurl his Longsword in an overhead strike, which came down at a lethal speed towards Juan’s exposed shoulder; but in a roll, the strike only thudded into the soft soil.
Then in a series of hacks and slashes Juan attempted breaking the Rangers block, but Ardorn was undeterred by the skills that were shown. In one strike Ardorn saw an opening, and wrenched Juan’s strike into a deadly arm lock; and with one stroke he dug the sharp side of the blade into his armpit. Shrieking in agony Juan was mortally wounded, too far to wield his sword.
The other dark riders lunged into action to save their master and avenge the treachery towards the kingdoms new ruler. A hefty masculine thug lifted a Broad Axe to his defence, and charged towards his master’s side. In one downstroke, Ardorn’s block was broken, but rebuilt as he lunged towards the thug’s saddle, cut it swiftly, and slapped the horse with the flat side of his sword.
The stricken horse galloped away, dragging the broad man with it screaming in confusion. Then Ardorn saw the purpose of the distraction, Juan had mounted his horse in the broad thugs attack and prepared for retreat. As the other horsemen prepared to disembark, Juan shouted in evil intent to his rival “I swear by the oath of blood! You rangers will pay a dear price for your betrayal to your new king! “Whipping his deathly black horse, He reared his and galloped away in a thundering display as his dozen of rugged thugs flew into the night.
Ardorn slowly bent down and examined the ground in front of him, and wiped the ground of its defile. It was as he suspected he saw the blood was not that of crimson, but of inky black. He slowly got up, while pondering thoughts that ran through his mind.
In his silence a feminine voice broke his concentration.
“My Lord…” her voice shivered in fright “Th-Thank you”.
Ardorn swung around nodded his head in recognition, “A deed I would have not let myself live with if not done."
The woman bowed her head in utter thankfulness, but she still looked troubled.
“There is more you need to tell me, is there not?” he said sensing her troubled face.
“Sir, I have heard that the rangers have supernatural sources of information, and I need to know…” She said with uneasiness. “There was one I came with, an excellent marksman, clothed in strange garments and unaware of his location, a traveller you might say. He helped me get away from those men for a short time, but we got separated,” she said with regret.
The ranger paused for a short moment, “Follow me”.
The two entered the small cabin on the end of the clearing. As they entered, the woman felt quite safe with the quaint surroundings, and was quite pleased with the simple furnishings. A small fire crackled in the corner of the cabin, which reflected off the pots and pans hanging over the kitchen sink, the table was made of polished oak; all the other furniture was of the same handmade look. A little work table filled the far corner near the window where it appeared Ardorn had been whittling in his spare time, as well as reading the Book of Annals.
The Ranger made a small gesture to sit down at the table. She was glad to finally rest after a long night of turmoil, all her burdens seemed to subside as she felt the soothing warmth of the fire.
Ardorn quietly prepared a kettle and mixed coffee on the stove, while reaching about for different leaves and herbs as he prepared a simple broth. The woman was caught in a maddening curiosity drifting between the quiet of the two, the only sounds were of the bubbling broth and the high fire.
Her mind spun with the questions she had, about the events that occurred in the night surrounding the tragedy.
Finally Ardorn spun around and rested the kettle and cups on the table, poured the coffee, added the sugar, and looked up at the woman. “Well, Princess. You have had a rough night, have you not?” Rangers were probably used to the startled look of wonder that adorned the face of the people they shared their wisdom with. “How did y-“ Ardorn lifted a finger and said “How did I know you were the late kings daughter Elyss? Well, that beside the point isn’t it? I think what’s more to the point is, what happened in the field out there.” As he hooked a thumb toward the window.
Elyss pursed her lips at the amount of information which the ranger kept from her.
“His name is Juan, your uncle. He lives in the kingdom of Vralon, and until now, was a peaceful dictator in those faraway lands. Last news was he embarked on a journey into the northern uncharted lands of Glacia, for unknown intentions. My suspicion was he was searching for the first half of the glyph stone." He continued “He is also one of the Brethren of the oaths. “
There was a slight pause.
If Elyss had questions before, they were now extinguished with new ones. Ardorn explained further “His blood was black, a sign of an oath maker. Their heats are as black as the dark seas and as mysterious as what lies beneath the surface.” Then he said quietly, "They pledge allegiance to the dark precursors fully and completely, their will and minds merge to a certain extent.” Aradorn dropped his head in an apparent dark memory, and after a small pause he continued “And as for the Glyph stone…” Elyss’s eyes showed she was very curious on this matter, “It is a stone as old as time and space.
The Annals say that the first one “Avo”, forged it in complete purity, and the other in utter corruption bred by chaos. And also leaving one as old as it; the chosen one, to see to its proper use."
Pausing to take a sip of his tea only for a moment, then he continued, "The chosen one is a virtues, the essence of balance. She and only she hold the balance to the scale of our world. She can control the power of the pure stone, but not of the corrupt. Only one of the bloodlines of Eyarr can control the corrupt stone for man is a breed of both the Purity of Avo and the Brink of Chaos. If Juan was to find the stones he would have to find both of the chosen ones to unite the stone, and resurrect the arbiter of War and Ruin”.
Upon finishing he left Elyss speechless, still digesting the seriousness of the matter.
Ardorn stood up in a quick movement and in a rather bland voice not fitting the horror of the discussion they just had, said “Well, Princess, I think that’s enough for one day. There is a bed through that door to and up the ladder to the loft” as he motioned to the direction he had explained.
The Princess looked up at him in disbelief, how could he possibly stop at this moment? And how could she possibly sleep after such a burden on her shoulders? She painted her face with utter disturbance of Ardorn’s behaviour. The Ranger apparently read her emotions and said “Sleep will do you well, Elyss, especially now that you are under my care” he said with a tinge of a smile. Elyss hated the sound of the rangers last remark, and wanted to remind him of her higher status, but realised he probably already knew it well. “Don’t Parry, off to bed now, you have a big day ahead of you tomorrow” he said while gesturing a shooing motion with his hands. Elyss had a feeling he wouldn’t receive “No” as an answer, so with a pout on her face, she made her way to the ladder.
She paused on the first rung.
“At what time shall I get up?”
“Oh,… I think you’ll know” he said with a small smirk.
Elyss pondered his meaning for a second, and nodded her head towards the ranger “g’ night”
“Good night” the ranger said as if he was waiting for her dismissal
Climbing the rest of the ladder to the loft, she found a hammock-like bed hanging from the rafters of the log cabin, much like the rigging from a ship with thick ropes and nots going in every intricate direction to give balance to the whole bed. She moved closer to the little airborne hammock, and spreading her hands on the woollen and bearskin covers, sat down. And for the first time in all the night, she wept for her lost father.
wheew, no more de-motivation. Time to get some programming done