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When Darkness Falls – Prologue

Author: 
Margery Meanwell
Old Vault Category: 
fanfiction
Old Vault ID: 
522

Prologue – The First Fall





A cold wind rent the air of the autumn night. The moon shone bright and silver over wisps of white clouds, carried on the breeze across the star-speckled sky. Selûne looked down from the heavens, gentle moonlight seeping softly to the distant land below.



Tearing through barren trees and wilted grass, the wind carried the dying leaves. It carried ash born from the flames that burned the crumbling farmsteads down. It carried pleads and moans, the screams of the fleeing and the wails of the dying. It carried the acrid stench of burning wood, of demons and hellfire, of fear and blood; it carried the air of death.



The dark night fell silent over the swamplands. Ablaze with the fires of burning buildings, no sound could be heard save for the pitiless crackling of flames that tore the houses down. The Hells had come to the small village in the swamplands, and all that remained of the settlement now were blackened hearths amidst the charred remains of homes. The demons that had come searching had left as quickly as they had arrived, leaving nothing but dismay in their wake. The survivors had long since fled, the dead had fallen silent; and in the darkest, coldest hours of the night, only the wind whistled through burnt willows and scorched oaks, through charred timber of homes destroyed, sweeping away the smoking ashes into the impenetrable darkness creeping across the land.



The warlock stood alone in the clearing, watched by shadows on the edges of his sight. The red flames danced madly in the wind, faint light flickering across the green. The blaze flared in his eyes as he stood rooted to the spot, prepared for the battle he knew was coming to claim him; all other thoughts abandoned in his mind, focused only on each passing second as it trickled through the lifeless night.



The fires were dying over the glowing embers of the village. Only the leaves rustled in the wind, as the land around the warlock lay cold and dead. A trick of the light, the shadows moved amid the ruins; death had not yet reached for all it had come to claim, and the demons that had come with it were waiting, baleful, just lurking out of sight.



Darkness settled over the clearing, shadows melding into a pool of black. They rose to the skies, neither smoke nor water, but the very essence of death that waited dormant, taking form, swallowing the night around it. Out of the shadows, a creature grew, the outlines of a beast more horrid than the demons that had torn the life from the land. It materialised from pure blackness, shrouded by fear that froze the hearts of living men, fuelled by a will unyielding and unwavering, pitiless with the purpose that bound it to life, above mortality, above consciousness.



An air of death hung about the creature, the charnel stench of open graves and crumbling ruins. It made not a sound as it moved across the ground, neither ghost nor demon, nor shadow nor illusion, but the very heart of darkness; it moved across the earth like a harbinger of death, an agent of destruction. Eyes focused on the still figure of the warlock – eyes glowing dark with malice, pits of infinity that swallowed all life around them; all the light, all the darkness, engulfing everything in silence, for eternity.



It was the end, the warlock knew; the moment that would decide the fate of the world. There was no room for fear in his mind as he gripped the blade in his hand, determination etched deep into the hard features of his face. Poised and ready to strike, he waited for the creature to make its move.



The shadows recoiled at the sight of his weapon; a blade of silver, shining with a light the creature of shadow could not engulf. The monster observed the blade warily, but showed no hesitation; it charged at the human figure waiting for it, ready to crush the threat he posed with a single blow. Blades materialised at the ends of its arms, razor-sharp and born from shadow, as it silently consumed the distance between the monster and the man. Flickering in and out of sight, it drew ever nearer, moving with the speed come from power unknown to the men of this Plane; the might of centuries of darkness, of magic unfathomable to any mortal creature.



The warlock was ready for the strike; with inhuman strength he met the blow of the creature, as with one swift motion after another the blades clashed and parted, the man locked in deadly battle with the creature of darkness. Arcane fire seared the night as the creature rebounded from every blow, the deadly enemies duelling across the breadth of the charred village, neither able to gain advantage of the other.



His face frozen in rapt concentration, the warlock grimaced with every blow the monster landed on him, but his will remained unbroken, all his might seeping into the blade that separated him from the clutches of the beast, and the land from the eternal darkness that threatened to consume it. Locked in battle, time froze around them, and all disappeared but for the creature of death, which attacked unyielding and returned unfailing, and the warlock, a frail figure to the terrifying form of the monster, every fibre of his being poised on one aim, one purpose; driving back the creature of shadow to the unknown planes from whence it had come, not caring if his mission would cost him his life.



On and on the deadly dance went, silver blade clashed with black shadow, and it seemed the two would remain locked in battle for eternity; both unwavering and inexorably tied to their purpose; for neither could go on until the other lay crushed at his feet.



A forceful blow threw the warlock high into the air; he landed on his feet, crushed deep into the soft earth of the swamplands, immediately poised for another; nothing would stop him from fulfilling his promise, and he would not yield while the blade remained firmly clutched in his hand. It was up to him to drive the creature of shadow back; nothing stood between his world and never-ending darkness but his own strength and will.



The creature charged at him again, ready to strike hard at the threat of the silver blade. The warlock waited, sword raised, ready to attack.



The blow came swift and sudden; powerful and unstoppable. With every ounce of might he could muster, the warlock kept the blade of darkness at bay; but something had happened to his own.



The silver blade began to break, fine lines of fracture etching their way along its length; as he desperately fought to keep the blade, the hope whole, he felt the darkness smothering his will, separating him from his weapon. The creature stared triumphantly into his eyes, the moment frozen between them, and for the first time in a long while, the man felt fear gripping him from the depths of his heart.



The blade shattered into slivers of silver, dazzling light flying into the darkness all around him, the glaring gleam dying in the blink of an eye. The shadows swallowed him, engulfing him deep into the darkness, and he knew the battle to be over.



The cold wind rent the air, thick with ash and death. The night fell dark over the land, the gentle light of the moon seeping quietly from the heavens. A lone, forlorn sound cut through the icy air and the lifeless darkness.



In the silence of the night, a child wailed.







When Darkness Falls – Prologue © Margery Meanwell

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