literature

At the Edge of Night

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The city was dark, and wet. It had been drizzling for five days straight, with no sign of letting up. The thatch roofs of the houses were wet, but inside they were warm. At least the north houses, anyways, though this was little consolation to those outside. In the south end of the city, fires still raged, consuming everything, even the stone of the houses itself. Once it touched the ground, however, the fire vanished.

Almost three hundred crusaders, heavily armed and armored, the elite of the Theocracy, huddled behind several hastily erected barricades, blocking the southern end of the city from the north end. Many clutched a heavy musket, without the signature rifling of the Empire and the Commonwealth, though several held crossbows or heavy longbows.

A man strode among them,. He was short and slender, yet with an air around him that commanded respect. He wore a black suit and a wide brimmed black hat over fine, straight brown hair, and clutched a black, leather-bound book in his hand. He went by no name, but by his title: The Prophet of Danforth.

He paced back and forth relentlessly across the barricade, frowning in irritation, hands clasped behind his back. "Of all the places to attack, why here?" he asked nobody in particular. "Why near the border?" For indeed, just a mile to the west was the border of the Jorn Commonwealth. "Unless, of course, this is a trick to force the Thanes into thinking that we're attacking them. They still don't believe the Devil has returned. Fools."

The man following him around, a tall, broad shouldered man with a neat black beard, wearing heavy platemail and a white tabard, spoke, "Well, Prophet, it could be that they intend to push past us into Danforth's Home. If they capture this city, they'll block all iron shipments to the rest of the land, which is unacceptable. However, if they keep us bottled up here, they can march right around us and attack Danforth's Home."

The Propget of Danforth considered Matthew's words, for thus the man was called. "Your words are wise, Matthew," he said, turning and walking back in the other direction. "Very wise. Though this raises the question: What to do about it?" He paused, as if expecting an answer right at the moment, then shook his head when Matthew didn't answer. "I'm starting to suspect that there's only one way to do this. You'll have to march to Danforth's Home in all haste, and block the dark ones from reaching the Home." He stopped, realizing that Matthew wasn't with him, and turned, arching an eyebrow.

"But sir," Matthew said, hurrying to rejoin the Prophet, who started walking again. "What will you be doing?" he asked apprehensively. He already knew the answer, but hoped that it wasn't what he thought it would be.

"I will remain here," the Prophet replied, as calm as if he was merely going to the neighbors for some milk. "I will hold the dark ones away from the town, and you will lead the men and cut off the dark ones' army. It can't be that large, considering they slipped past the Commonwealth and the Prophet of Yarlith undetected."

"Sir," Matthew replied with a stiff bow. "When will you have us move?"

The Prophet considered for a moment. "Now should do, Matthew."

"Sir!" Matthew snapped a salute, hand to heart, and bowed again. "Danforth watch over you, sir."

"Danforth watch over us all," the Prophet replied, giving a nod. His eyes were bright, literally, with the faith flowing through him. "May His hand smite these dark ones around us and lift us from the threat of eternal night. Devil be burned."

"Devil be burned," Matthew said with a serious nod, and turned, shouting to his soldiers.
________________________________________________________________________

The Prophet of Danforth stood alone in the ruins of the city. The occupants of the north end had been evacuated with the soldiers, leaving the Prophet alone. He tapped the book against his leg impatiently, waiting for the dark ones to appear. He knew they would. This was too good of an opportunity to pass up. "Devil be damned," the Prophet cursed softly. In front of him, a large building loomed, the mayor's house. He felt a spring, a fountain, of darkness in the remnants of the house.

He considered for a moment, and was about to investigate, when he heard it. The whispering of the darkness. White fire sprang to life around his hand, and then he heard another noise. He half turned to see around twenty soldiers, Matthew included, standing around him. "Sir," Matthew said, giving a salute. "We talked it out, sir, and decided that somebody needed to be here to aid you. We asked for volunteers."

"Who's leading the army back to Danforth's Home?" the Prophet asked, bemused and amused at the same time.

"Crusader Ian, sir," Matthew replied, unsheathing his longsword in a single, solid move. "He promised to lead them to Danforth's Home safely."

The Prophet nodded and turned his attention back to the unnatural darkness that was settling over the city. "It is good to have you all by my side. As you may or may not know, this is a suicide mission. None of us will make it out of here alive."

The soldiers stayed silent, affixing steady gazes on the Prophet.

"But we will take as many of the Devil's followers with us as we can. If we can reduce their numbers enough, the army may well be able to retake the town from whatever dark ones remain."

One by one, the twenty crusaders nodded. In front of them, tendrils of darkness protruded from the almost solid presence in the ruins of the city.

"Prepare to face the Devil, brave ones," The Prophet said, fire burning brighter, yet leaving his clothes and skin intact. "He has shown his face, and we will bloody it."

Something lurched from the darkness, and the Prophet swatted it down. A blast of golden fire and dark fluids exploded backwards, sending whatever the strange monstrosity was back into the shielding darkness. The soldiers around him lifted crossbows and loosed into the blackness, eliciting screams of pain, rage and death.

________________________________________________________________________


Five hours later, night was falling. The Prophet turned and smacked down something next to him, driving it into the pavement with the sheer force of his will and faith, shattering the stone and spraying fluids and rock chips in a wide arc. Next to him, Matthew spun, slamming his hammer into a creature, then spun and struck another, driving it back into the blackness, before turning and knocking a third into the side of a building. He was tiring, but proximity to the Prophet made even the most weary of men feel as though they'd had several hours of sleep and a hearty meal before entering battle, yet that effect could only stretch so far.

The Prophet himself was an untiring maelstrom of golden fire and kinetic force, yet even he paused, panting, as a lull manifested. "So far, so good," Matthew said, leaning against the side of a building next to him and resting his hands on his hammer. "We may even be able to drive them back."

The Prophet shook his head. "No, they're still out there. Something is empowering them, which makes me wonder why they stopped." The ten remaining soldiers shifted uneasily at that statement.

Their question was answered a moment later, with deep, heavy footsteps. "Behemoths," one of the soldiers whispered in awe, as one of the great, insectoid creatures emerged from the shadow.

"Don't worship it," the Prophet snarled. "Kill it!" He loosed a stream of golden fire from one hand at the creature, which was driven back with a hiss. "The Devil's Advocate himself creates behemoths," the Prophet said as it retreated. "We will make him a little busy, replacing the ones he has lost here."

The behemoth emerged again. Then another. Then another.

"Very busy indeed."
This the prelude to Amidst Dead Gardens. This is the first piece featuring the Prophet of Danforth as a full character, and honestly he's probably my favorite of the characters that I've created for this (besides the Devourer).

Enjoy!
© 2011 - 2022 Okolorion
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evanescentAnima's avatar
Very interesting, very interesting... :nod:

I thought I saw a couple of grammatical mistakes here and there but I might be going crazy because I'm tired. Other than that, the writing is good, all though I feel a bit lost maybe because we don't know much about the world you're writing about.