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|THE ORDER – BY MAL OF EUROPA|
The dusty line of dusk slowly descended over the forest, its long, deep tendrils breaking the tree line and slowly changing the forest floor into clouded, patchy greys. The roosting call of the local birds echoed eerily over the light rustle of the leaves that caught the evening breeze, sending small patches of litter skidding across the soils. A slight scuttle was heard as a squirrel left its perch, and ran down its oak tree to collect a nut that it spied amongst the collection of leaves and twigs scattered about.
The birds stopped chirping a moment, as a figure broke the forest trail, heading southwest, the fading sunlight casting dark shadows across his clothing. The trees erupted into a flurry of activity as the warning call was issued from the birds, a mighty song like that of a brass band, and in droves they burst from their perches and into the sky.
The figures footfalls left neither sound nor trace upon the soft wet leaves that were scattered across the ancient cart tracks that he walked upon. Upon his feet were great black boots, crafted from buck leather, and buckled up the side with silver clasps. These reached to his knees, which could not be seen for his heavy travellers robes, which flapped and whipped in the evening breeze. The robes were crafted of a heavy satin, and covered almost all of his body, the great hood pulled over his eyes, which burnt like hot embers in a sea of night. Holding the robe at his waist was an elaborately made belt, which was navy blue, and marked with etchings stained in deep jade. At his belt hung a small bundle held with a golden cord, suspended to his hip. The bundle contained two large tombes, one bound in red stained leather, with golden fittings, etched with the symbol of the pentagram – the marking of the 5 elements of the physical world. The other was bound in flesh, ugly and distorted, and glowed with its’ own sombre light in the encroaching night. Two pouches were hung side by side, both unremarkable in any great way. Attached into the bundle was a collection of scrolls and papers. The man walked more quickly now, his destination in his sights.
Over the tree line broke a ruinous wall, part of an ancient tower that was now overgrown and barren. It had once been the holdings of a mighty mage, a saviour to the people in the village below, but it was corrupted long ago by foul magic. There was a great flapping, accompanied by a low shriek, as a mighty jet-black raven flew from the direction of the ruins to greet his master. The man outstretched his arm, allowing his familiar to land upon it.
Before long, the stranger had left the darkness of the forest, and now walked upon long grass within a ley. The moon now had time to break through the dusky veil, and shone down with a bale silver light. From the ground it seemed so great and desolate, a mighty sentinel sad to look upon the soils and see nothing but bloodshed and greed. He passed through the gates to the estate, mighty wrought iron barriers as thick as a man’s arm. They were heavy on their ancient hinges, creaking in protest as he pushed with all his might to break the years of rust from them. He passed between them, and now stood in the gardens to the estate. The walls that surrounded the gardens were high, made from mortar and granite from the mountains near by. They had stood the test of the many years of their neglect, with minor breaches that were probably the result of the creeping vines that choked the area. Amongst the chunks of shattered stone that lay around the grounds grew weeds and wild plants. As he passed, the man brushed his hand over the deep purple flower of a deadly nightshade plant, nipping a bud from the stalk and playing it between his fingers a moment before letting it drop upon the broken driveway. Small mammals watched from the safety of the grasses as he passed by, his head held high looking out towards the ruined building affront of him.
Although in ruins, the foundations of the tower were visible along the ground, marking it out as once being a vast and impressive building. As well as the main parapet, in places corners of the former tower remained, scorched black from the fire that originally destroyed the structure many years ago. Breaking above the lower floors, the broken shell of the main tower yearned forth, its’ skeletal remains open to the stark weather of the hilly region. Bats flew from the innards of the tower, breaking their roost within the remains of the roof to hunt their prey of insects that were numerous in the nearby swampland, land which was formerly a village.
The man marched to the remains of an oak door, half missing from the fire, and the remains rotted to the point where they crumbled under his touch, leaving rusted hinges barring his way. He attempted to pull back the hinges, but they were set from corrosion, and so he made his way about the base of the wall. He clambered over a pile of rubble that half blocked the breach, and carefully made his way into the building. All about him was black and ruinous. Where once stood a mighty dining hall with finely crafted chairs about a large yew table, set with silverware for feasts, now ashes now stood. Shields that hung along the walls of the hall were now bleached of the former blazons that were painted upon them, and now stared blankly, their faces grey and aged. Hooks were still set into the walls where tapestries once hung, and piles of shapeless glass announced where bottles of vintage wines had melted down from the heat of the inferno.
The man pulled back his hood now, and cast his eyes about the room. They now lost their former blaze, and looked sad and weary. He stood for long moments surveying the damaged shell of the banquet hall before moving on. He made his way from room to room, inspecting the broken treasures that were held within each. As he walked his anguish grew, and his casual searching became more frantic as he swept each room in turn.
Morning broke over the mountainside, filtering hazy light across the forest. Throughout the night, the man had sought hard amongst the ruins and he was now pressed against one of the inner walls, running his hands along the stonework. His face was full of concentration, and under his breath he was muttering words of ancient power. There was an audible click, and a break in the stonework appeared, as a hidden door swung open, revealing a long, dank corridor which reeked of musk. A weary smile broke his lips, and he made his way into the darkness, the red glint of his eyes growing in the gloom.
The corridor led onto a flight of stairs that spiralled deep into the soil, and eventually into the bedrock below. As he descended, the air grew cooler about him, although his cold, dead skin did not register it. Eventually he reached the bottom of the staircase, and was presented with a large room, the walls suited with bookshelves. Each shelf held numerous books and scrolls. Ancient spells mingled with the personal journals of great mages and deranged self-proclaimed prophets, all gathered for investigation and dissection.
The man began to look about the books, pulling each from the shelf, and then throwing them into an uneven pile upon the floor. For two hours he searched the room, emptying shelf after shelf, the mound of books upon the floor growing steadily. Eventually he stopped, staring at the cover of a vast leather bound book. It was around five inches thick, and was held closed with mighty claps held with padlocks of silver. The surface of the leather was stained in a deep shade of twilight blue, and an inscription was etched with gold upon the surface. The inscription was in an ancient tongue, and far from human, the symbols delicate and intricate. He carried the book over the darkwood table that dominated the centre of the room, casting all held on its face to one side, and placing the book down with care.
He reached into his hood, and unattached a chain from his neck, from which a small key was suspended. With this, he opened the locks upon the book, easing it open with great care and reverence.
For many days he read the book, stuck in his study of the lore held within its pages.
Finally he emerged from the ruins of the castle, and found that in the gardens sat a delicate figure.
As he neared her, he saw she was wiping a thick green sludge onto the blade of a fine silver weapon. She wore black clothing, and a scarf pulled across her mouth to hide the bottom of her face. Stitched into the cloth were plates of dragon hide, protecting vital points along her torso and arms. Although she had her back to him, somehow she knew he was watching over her. Her head lifted a little, and at length she spoke.
“You have what you came for?” She enquired, her voice feminine but stern from years of hard bitten combat. The man walked to her side and pressed his hand onto her shoulder. He looked out over the forests, and sniffed the air before replying.
“The order will be revived, sister.”
Last modified: March 27, 2011