Tuesday, July 12, 2005

The Last Light - Fleeing Time

The ragged band, two hundred strong, stumbled, one and every weary, despairing; some crazed with fear, some weeping with abandon. They stank of the reek of death.

Two hours out from the ruined city of Hadon, their former home, and the unearthly glow from the terrible energies released from that cataclysmic last stand still shone, like an angry, strobing eye. That conflagaration was not something to be forgotten easily. Legions of Jadeon's finest, the Third Centurion, flanked by the largest concentration of warlocks ever seen in the past century, weaving their terrible, dark tapestries of energies that drew out the darkest currents of fear in the stoutest heart. Approximately fifty thousand of the Empire's best troops, shielding the fleeing civilians even as they stood, every one resolute, to face - whatever they were to face.

No one knew where they came, whether, perhaps, from the darkest pits of the Underworld that had for millenia been held at bay by the ceaseless valour of the Pit Guardians, or from across the Dark Ocean, where it was said that the Spirits of Death lay in wait for every soul. They were terrible to behold, clad in smoking black mail, faces unseeable from beneath their helms, tall, huge, like the very agents of Unduras. Pouring in from the night, hundreds of thousands strong, and the sound of their coming was the pealing of horns that sounded like the mournful wails of a thousand dying men- the bravest men quailed at that sound, and it was said that their greatest weapon was their ability to project into a man's mind the unreasoning fear of death beyond its natural bounds - a cruelty.

Stragglers fleeing from Hadon watched as the Third Centurion flinched against the sounding of the Horn of the Dark. Watched as the more derailed of their kinsmen suddenly went wild, as if driven by some mad impulse, beating their heads violently against stone walls as they screamed for the dark voices to get away, as they died, writhing, faces a mask of red, eyes unseeing and milky.

They watched as the greatest host ever collected in the walls of Hadon flinched at the first blot of shadowy darkness against the horizon, flinched at the hearing of a million hooves that shook the ground like an earthquake.

The dark host was made more eerie, because they were entirely silent, even as they marched up the hill, in full strength. No emotion; even raw bloodlust would have been welcome when likened to the faceless, murky, unseeable emptiness of the Dark Ones. They halted suddenly, and in the deadly silence that followed, they lifted their heads as one, looking up at the assembled armies of Hadon above. And men loosened their bowels and bladders in terror, and some cast down their armour and ran, or begged, or groveled, or shrieked in pure, wild abandon.

The slaughtering began.

These deadly agents of the shadows - they moved, swiftly like snakes, swarming the city gates. The metal that formed the gate doors buckled and shrivelled, finally causing the great gate to collapse upon itself in a shower of dirt and screaming men. Like water the dark host poured in. They were impossible to kill - swords hit uselessly against their armour and shrivelled. Men went mad at their unseeable gaze. Their great broadswords, maces, spiked clubs - hurtled against mortal meat. Men were sliced in half, their entrails flying as their bodies were thrown high into the air by the movement of those huge swords. Others liquified in their mail as maces struck with such violence as to deafen those around the afflicted. Spiked clubs impaled tens of soldiers in a single blow. The dark magic of the terrified warlocks, usually so lethal against Jadeon's enemies, were useless - the dark ones merely raised their mail-clad arms and warlocks burst open in showers of meat where they stood. Only arrows that shot true into the middle of a Dark One's face would cause it any harm; six or seven were needed before it would collapse in a banshee-like shriek, leaving only charring armour and cloak behind.

Only four times did it happen.

In two hours the battle was done, and none now were alive to see its aftermath. Hadon burned with unearthly fires from magical conflagarations. Survivors were butchered. The victorious army yet stood silent, unmoved. The dark ones did not heed the refugees that had escaped overmuch, sending a minuscule regiment of their mighty host to harry them. Whereupon they held silent vigil over their smoking conquest.

And night fell with the whisper of the rising moon.

And they, the guilt-ridden survivors, trudged away, beset by the trauma that comes with death, bedraggled and crushed; two hundred strong, even now fleeing from the mad dance of death that had devoured the world.

This is their story.

Sample chapter in a possible series of entries. A prologue of sorts. Yes, the dark ones are based on Nazgul and Dementors.

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