Friday, February 8, 2008

Chronicles of the Dark Messiah: Prologue & Chapter 1


The thirty or so warriors that remained of the Tribe of the White Elk stood proudly and defiantly, regardless of the fact that they were all that was left of their once mighty tribe. Many carried the tell tale wounds of battle. Their women and children huddled together behind them. Some of the children and younger women whimpered or sobbed, somewhere a baby wailed. The rest of their people stood in silent defiance like their men. All knew what was about to descend upon them. They had just spurred the final offer of the so-called Khan to integrate them into his new confederacy.

The White Elk had been a proud and powerful tribe that had kept its independence for generations through the strength of its warriors. But a mere day ago, that had all been undone. The tides of battle had gone against them as the upstart youngster who called himself a Khan, had wielded a mystic blade of great power against them. The survivors had tried to make a run for the far northern mountains but had been over taken. Now this small valley would see their final, futile stand and serve as their grave.


“What have they to say to my generous offer?” Abtu asked, seated on his plains pony, the Myst Blade upon his lap. The young Hekesh warrior was growing his first true mustache and he scratched it often, almost with no thought. Though his face was that of a youngster, his eyes belayed that fact. They were deep and authoritative. The Khan’s gaze pierced into men, making them squirm and look away. There was an almost fevered drive in them.

“They do not accept. They wish to fight,” said the older warrior, serving as the young would-be Khan’s steward. The family resemblance between nephew and uncle was startling. “Should I give the order to attack?”

Abtu gave his uncle a cross look. “Is that, dear uncle, any way to address your Khan?” Abtu’s hand absent-mindedly caressed his blade. The tingle of its magik ran through his fingers. He had always been ambitious and had known that he would climb far, but even his wildest imagination had never dreamt of what the Sword had given him.

“My apologies…neph…my Khan, how could I have forgotten?” the man did little to hide his sarcasm.

“Very well, give the order to attack. Spare no one, not even the women. We shall make an example of the White Elk Tribe for all the other Hekesh tribes to learn. They can join or face extermination. At least all will not be lost with this waste.”

The other bowed shallowly and rode off to pass on the Khan’s order. Abtu’s eyes followed his uncle closely. Under his breath he said to himself. “And as for you uncle, you too shall make an example of the discipline I demand of others.”


What made Sarnin’s Thousand so
dangerous is that each one was
a man with no hope, seeking only
the glorious death.
Milthanous Diaries

4 Marte AE 514

Adarian wiped the icy rain from his eyes with his left hand, the leather gauntlet was soaked through. With his other hand he gripped the reins of his chestnut while hunkering further down in his cloak. Water ran down his soaked through leather breeches filling his boots. Adarian had already stopped and emptied them thrice. Adarian was thoroughly miserable and it was only midmorning. He shuddered uncontrollably as the wind blew his oiled cloak up and rain pelted his tuniced back.

Glancing about, Adarian eyed the hills and trees that spread about him, with suspicion. The Urgi Hills were not known for the hospitality of their inhabitants. The Urgi Hills were located between Melik and Lserria forming a natural barrier between the civilized lands of Melik, its neighbors Vavitica and Tusin and the tribal Lserr.

The hills were a no man’s land inhabited by brigands, humanoids, and renegades. They were also a breeding place for beast of all types, both mundane and magical. As a sight, however, their dangerous nature could easily be over looked. The terrain was mostly rolling forested hills. Occasional rock outcropping belayed the Urgi Hills true nature. They were all that remained of the once powerful peaks that crossed the land here. The weather was usually very moist providing for a rich canopy. At the southwestern edge of the Hills lay the heavy forest of Ok-Met-Ruyk. It was believed to be the true source of many of the beasts that made their way into the Hills and beyond.

This was the perfect place for what Adarian sought. The North Coast Lands had been to quiet recently, ever since the Second Bhorrgoh Wars had ended. Adarian smiled to himself, running his left thumb over the jagged scar under his left eye. The Second Bhorrgoh Wars had ended two years prior and to Adarian’s grief, he had found himself out of a job as General of the Sued Armies. He had also lost the chance for what he truly sought. The glory of the battle was now denied him. There were other places where he could go. The Inner Sea Lands were always a hot bed of turmoil.

Rounding a huge, two-story rock out cropping of leach covered granite, Adarian found himself looking down upon a serene valley. Tall aspens, just starting to turn green covered much of the ground and a creek, swollen by the melting snow, ran down its center. Despite the dismal weather Adarian found it beautiful, though he wasted little deep thought upon it. Another Adarian, a much younger Adarian, would have thought deeply upon such splendor, but that man was no more. The rain suddenly slackened and the clouds temporarily parted, causing Adarian to smile in relief. It had thankfully been an early spring.

It was then that he noticed the Smovona box wagon that sat in a small clearing in the valley’s heart, some six hundred paces below. The nomad folk were little danger, except maybe to one’s purse, that is if one was not careful of its whereabouts. It was rumored that these people harbored a secret so deep that it could shatter the Inner Sea Lands and for that reason they were bound to their nomadic life. Adarian paid such legends little heed, meant to scare small children.
The Smovona had come across with the others in the Great Exodus, some five centuries past. Unlike the other peoples who came to these barbaric lands, bringing with them the laws and ways of civilization, the Smovona had returned to the more primitive state of nomads. However they were not hunter-gatherers like so many of the local peoples had been. Now they traveled as entertainers, storytellers and purse pickers. It was quite evident to the perceptive mind, however, that some deeper purpose drove them. These secrets were never told to outsiders, and Adarian had his suspicions, even to most of the common Smovona.

The rain had slackened off and a break in the clouds allowed the sun to peak through ever so quickly, like an arrant child afraid of being punished if caught.

Adarian prepared to ride down the soft hillside when a glint of sunlight reflecting off of metal caught his eye. Adarian stopped, looking closely. He could make out figures moving about. One was clutching something long and thin, and obviously metallic. It was the reflection off of this that had caught his attention. With an over the head swing, the wielder brought it down on to another figure, felling it. A sword! From what he could see, there were probably six or more armed figures down there. A sane man would surely turn away. Who ever accused Adarian of sanity was a fool, and probably a dead fool at that.

Guiding the chestnut down the hill and through the aspens, Adarian made his way to the edge of the clearing. The soft, wet, moss covered ground silenced his approach. The whole of the way down he prepared for battle. The oiled cloth came off of his large round shield, its symbol of Adros shining brightly on the blue gray steel. Adros’ lion and dragon heads faced outwardly portraying the guardian god’s vicious strength for all to see. Once Adarian had been one of the god’s Protectors, cherished in the North for the safety they brought to those around them. Adarian had been the greatest of these, a man of whom legends had been spun, often much more embroidered then the truth.

Adarian spit at these memories. He winced at the cracked skin of his lower lip. Those times were past. He had walked away from his god, though the god seemed to continue to pursue him. Why else had the markings of Adros not faded?

The large double crossbow, also of steel, sat in the crook of his right arm. He
had had it made especially to his instruction during the last great Murghe uprising. The weapon was deadly, able to pierce a steel breastplate at a thousand paces. Only a man of considerable strength could hope to reset the steel bowstrings, even with the use of the pulley and lever.
Mentally Adarian inventoried his various swords and daggers.

In the clearing before him the brigands were busy. A young Smovona man lay on the ground, beside the colorful box wagon, his pale, lifeless skin in sharp contrast to the colorful and conflicting outfit that he wore. His blood flowed from the jagged slash at the base of his throat. It fed the new spring grass. Another Smovona man stood against the side of the wagon, pinned to it by a broken javelin in his right shoulder. His bright green silk shirt was turning dark with blood. His eyes were blank, shock was setting in.

A brigand dressed in ragged furs stood guarding him, holding a bronze tipped spear. The small bow legged man’s attention was, however, not on his charge, least he would have spotted Adarian. Instead the man was watching his seven friends who were gathered around the three Smovoni women who were laid out in a row for the brigands’ pleasure. Three of the brigands were on top of the women, using them.

Bile rose up into Adarian’s mouth, he pushed it back down. No matter how many times he had seen it, it still made him sick. Even his cynical self recoiled at the sight of man’s bestiality toward man. While a younger Adarian might have wished to find a solution to this, a way to placate the evil beast in man, this Adarian wished only to destroy it with all the violence he could muster. He could muster much violence. He would crush these men like the insignificant insects that they were.

Placing his steel and leather half helm over his head, Adarian lifted the crossbow to his shoulder and took aim.

With a high pitched twang the first bolt was loosened. Without seeing the results, Adarian redirected his aim and loosened the second. The first foot long bolt buried itself in the guard’s neck, with such force that it actually snapped the vertebrae. With barely a gurgle the man collapsed. The Smovona only stared in shocked disbelief. The second bolt planted itself in the shoulder of the left rapist, smashing the shoulder blade. The man fell on top of his victim, screaming and thrashing, unable to reach the bolt stuck in his back.

The brigands stood, for a moment, in disbelief before starting for their weapons. It was all the time that Adarian needed. Kicking his horse in the flanks, he charged. A fierce throat wrenching war cry escaped his lips. The long Erdorian sword went singing out of its scabbard. The red sapphires that were the eyes of the lion and dragonheads of the pommel glowed in red flames, while the blade itself shimmered in an unearthly green glow. Once more that blade would taste blood.

The chestnut slammed into the first two men, crushing one man’s skull with a hoof. The other fell and rolled, drawing two daggers as he came up in one smooth move. A third man came charging onto Adarian’s left, his battle scream drawing Adarian’s deadly attention. The large burly, fur clad brigand wielded a huge battle-ax raised over his head to strike. It’s curved and pitted blade promised only death.

Without thought Adarian swung. His sword gave a high pitched hum as it sliced through the battle-axe’s blade, showering red sparks. It ended its flight at the base of the man’s neck, having passed through his head. With a heave Adarian freed his blade, as its victim’s lifeless body collapsed, blood fountaining out. The reverse swing caught the second brigand, severing his right arm at the elbow. The dagger fell harmlessly to the ground. Adarian spared but a second on the man who was now on his knees screaming and grasping the knob that had been his arm.
The remaining three uninjured men had formed a semi circle around Adarian. Two were armed with crude stone tipped spears, the third with a rusty broad sword. The forth man, his pants now up, stood behind them. His left hand clumsily held a short sword of Atherin design, its cross guard almost non-existent. The man’s right arm hung uselessly at his side, the bolt still protruding from his back. His bearded face was set in rage.

“Well what’r you maggots waiting for?” he yelled out, spittle showering through his broken, blackened teeth and hanging in his beard. The others ignored their leader, eyeing Adarian with apprehension and obvious fear. The chestnut snorted, striking at the ground with a hoof. Swinging his left leg over the pommel, Adarian stepped down. He arrogantly rounded on the brigands. They, as one, moved back into a more guarded posture. He watched them. It was obvious they did not know what to make of this mad man who had attacked against impossible odds and as yet was still standing. They slowly shuffled around him, weapons leveled and ready. Ever so slowly Adarian moved his left hand down, the shield hiding the movements, reached for the small hand ax on his belt. It was time to finish this affair.

In a flash, the axe was loose and sent flying and Adarian was a blur on the move. The spearman on the left dodged, the axe nicking his left shoulder. The swordsman charged. The spearman on the right raised up his spear, fear upon his dirty, young face. Adarian butted aside the spearman’s strike. His sword stroke took the man’s head off above the lower jaw, brains spilling forth.

Spinning to meet the sword man’s charge, Adarian slipped on the wet grass and fell to one knee. It saved his life. The rusty broad sword flew by where Adarian's head had been seconds before. Adarian’s blade went forward spitting the attacker, the sword came out between the forth and fifth rib. Blood flowed from between the startled man’s lips. His eyes glazed and the body slumped, sliding off of the blade.

Expecting further attack, Adarian brought his shield up, sword back. None came. Lowering his shield, Adarian evaluated his situation. The remaining spearman was down, his throat slit from ear to ear. An old Smovona woman kneeled beside him, blood covering her naked and bruised form and her long sagging breasts. She made no move to cover herself. The brigand leader just stood there, his face showing the shock of the slaughter. Adarian purposely marched toward him. He batted aside the shortsword the other raised clumsily. Teeth broke as Adarian slammed his fist, sword pommel held tightly, into the man’s mouth. The blow collapsed the brigand. Adarian thrust his sword, turning as he cut, ending it.

Cleaning and sheathing his blade, his shoulders slumped. The nausea was almost uncontrollable. It always was, ever since that slaughter years ago. Adarian heaved for several minutes. Wiping his chin he regained control and began stripping the dead of their meager valuables. He never noticed the Smovona man, no longer pinned by the javelin, coming up behind him.
“Ah…master?” the other began.

Adarian spun around, a snarl on his face. The other man jumped back startled, wincing at the pain of his wound. “What?” Adarian snarled at him.

“I...I...We want to thank you for the help you....”

“I don’t care, go away.”

“But? Will you take my youngest daughter as my gratitude? Teasi will serve
you well.”

“What do I want with a Smovona girl? I did what I did because I wanted to,
not because of you.” Adarian looked down at the coin pouch he was holding. “Here take this” He threw it to the man.


“Tell everyone you meet that Adarian of Thesskelok passed here.”

“But master, a man such as you must have many enemies. Wont they find you?”

Adarian smiled, a fatalistically doomed smile. “Yes, yes they will.”

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