His head pulsed and his ears rung as Kale lay on the hard bitter ground. Iron shackles bit his wrists and his mouth was bound with a rigid black cloth that scratched his cheeks. The skin was red and inflamed underneath and prickled as if blades of burnt grass crackled along his flesh. His nose flared as a rancor stench sifted through the sable air and drifted like mist. His head still hurt, and the small lump grew each time he woke.
He flashed awake from his dazed slumbers often, but always found himself back in the motionless void of sleep. This time was the longest. His eyes had finally adjusted themselves and he had complete control of his limbs. He was still in the Dark, he knew that much. The ash told him that, for it fell like rain, hard and thrashing. There was nothing around him, just blank blackness; grim eerie and oppressive; thrust overhead like a great mantle of shadow.
The piercing spears of cutting wind howled in the vast expanse of barren darkness and ripped at Kale’s arms. The mist shimmered as if wrought of shifting rubies and reached down with malevolent talons of crimson. Something moved next to Kale, but it was just Ekin. The Knight, Kale found never slept or drifted, but lingered on the verge of sleep, never falling to the darkness. His face was smeared with dried red blood that gathered in rivers on the sides of his face and ran down from his nose, cracked and rough.
There was a sudden clasp of contorted red light that drew Kale’s eye. It flashed like a branch wreathed in flame and ripped down through the dreary blackness and tore the sky in two. The flickering fingers of crimson light arced down and played against a stark obsidian spire. The black rock spear of stone shot through the sky like a black talon, red light flickering in its heart, like a pulse. The jagged and glossy obsidian glinted in the flashing light darkly and shimmered like shattered glass.
The piercing spike at its peak ate the Mist and swirled with curling fingers of red mist that hissed with the wind. There was a depression in the earth around the spire and at its base. Ekin’s ancient Blade rested against the black obsidian and his plate armor laid on the ground, the mist swirling around the glowing steel. Ekin coughed dryly, his chest rising and falling rigidly.
There a sudden glimmer of light in the black distance before Kale and his eyes narrowed. There was a shimmering red-yellow glow, burning through the darkness, soon accompanied by many other bobbing lights. They were torches, Kale discovered as they approached closer, until at long last he could see through the fluttering red light the carriers. There must have been ten figures who held the torches, all cloaked in red garbs, long and billowy. The cloaked figures hung their heads low as they walked through the blackness, their faces hidden beneath long shrouding, pointed hoods. The cloaked men were solemn in their approach and hummed a dreary and sullen tune, ripe with grief and sorrow.
At the head of the red cloaked line, there was a tall figure draped in thin flowing robes of black, shadows hissing at his feet with misty fingers as he walked. His torch shivered with a black flame, glinting with purple embers that drifted up into the black sky like stars of amethyst. They moved along the black earth toward the spire of obsidian and wrapped around the structure until the black-robed figure broke off and swept towards Ekin and Kale.
The figure of shadow spoke in the Ilmar, “The Three Brothers will be pleased.” His voice was thin and icy. Kale knew he was Ilmari by the way that he talked, but also under his pointed hood, his face was sharp and grey with long tendrils of black hair streaming down his chest, shimmering in the black light with an ominous sheen. Ekin grunted at the statement and rubbed his arm against his bare mouth.
“Do you know who I am?” Asked the Ilmari to Ekin. “Do you know your captor, King Ekin?”
“I am the Black Priest of Vhardd.” Said the Ilmari. “I am the son of shadow and the brother of blackness. The ash is my home; the Outside is my realm. This is my kingdom; this is my domain. And you have entered it.”
“The Darkness can never truly be whole.” Said Ekin. “As long as there is still light that remains.”
“Then we shall see to that.” Said the Black Priest. “The end is closer than you think.”
“And how is it you know?” Asked Ekin. “How does a Darkdweller know?”
“Darkdweller is a harsh word to use, Knight. You would do well to remember my name, for I have heard such news from the very lips of Rrea, the Oppressive One.” Said the Ilmari priest. “I am their prophet, I am the preacher of shadow on this earth. I have heard it from the ears of the Brothers. They have told me to spread their glory, their might. They have spoken to me, told me what it is I must do for them. I know…”
“Rrea does not care about you.” Said Ekin.
“You are wrong.” Said the Black Priest. “How very wrong indeed. I know more than you will ever to know in all your long life. Rrea will reign atop his Black Throne in Harfir for eternity, ruling all and enslaving all. There is no escaping it; it will come true. It is fated to, just like you are to die. And when it does come true, there will be nothing left to challenge us. You will all die, every Knight, everyone who opposes us.”
The Black Priest straightened, his black torch licking. “They say he will cover the entire world in shadow and become the greatest ruler this world has ever seen. They say he will rule all, the heavens, the midlands, and the underworld. They say it will be all his. And you will be his to torment. You cannot defeat him Ekin, nobody can.”
“You speak of lies.” Said Ekin. “There is a way to kill anyone, even a god.”
“Indeed, everyman can be killed.” Said the Black Priest calmly. “I am a man of truth, and I will tell you, Ekin, that Runir is close to fall, it is close to complete failure. Soon, very soon, Runir will be in the hands of Rrea and then he will not stop there. His plans are to move north and claim Vorae. It should not take long before he has taken the northlands, for then he will turn south and conquer the deserts of Hhad and then further to Erediath. He will rule until the end of time, Ekin, he will rule. He will rule all of Aard, he will rule this entire land, and then move across the Endless Sea and reach the Eastlands of Maarkh and beyond and conquer until the sun burns black.”
“And you know this how?” Asked Ekin. “How have you seen all of this?”
“He has told me.” Said The Black Priest. “And I have seen it in the shadows. Rrea has told me through the darkness. I hear him speak to me through the that.” He flashed his billowing arm toward the obsidian spire. “That is my connection to Him.”
He leaned back, “And I shall speak with him soon.” He turned his head to his fellow Darkdwellers, and chanted in the Ilmar, “Sseren rassha illor!” The red cloaks swept away into the darkness and the Black Priest made for the spire. “You will see.” He muttered. “You will see the might of Rrea.”
The Ilmari returned from the shadows with the Aemeri, crying in their graceful voices. Their elegant, crystalline white bodies shimmered in the darkness and their allure glowed bright and white like a star. The animals sang into the night sky as the Ilmari forced the animals towards the spire. Kale could not witness what was about to happen. They were the last of their kind, they were from Aesairia; they were light. The Black Priest slid his black, obsidian ritual blade rom its sheathe at his side and waited until the beasts squirmed before him. The priest slid the black blade against his hand and marked each of the squealing Aemeri with his blood, a slash of red on either creature.
The Black Priest raised his hands into the sky and began to chant in chorus with the rest of the Ilmari. Their deep, sonorous voices carried through the barren land, “Savvenn kheese enyor vhala! Vhala zuin anniv reian! Vhennisi!” At the last shout, a burst of black mist leaked from the priests’ hands and into the Aemeri’s bodies, their glowing eyes turning black as shadow. The obsidian spire began to beam with an eerie blood red and the searing clasps of light zinged against the black spear. The Ilmari priest thrust his dagger upwards and chanted, “Enner vhala Rrea!” and he stabbed at the Aemeri until they dissolved into shadow and drifted into the spire, journeying to the Mist.
Kale cried out as he watched, shelading his eyes from the torment.
“The Lord of Shadow will rule!” The Black Priest shouted, “Forever.”
Ekin kicked Kale in the side and thrust his hand before his mouth. He should have not cried, he should have not shown weakness. He just couldn’t help it. He could not help but weep for the innocent beings of light and pure good while they were killed like that. It wasn’t natural.
The Black Priest sheathed his ritual blade away and walked towards his prisoners, “The Darkness will rule.” The Ilmari smirked, “You shall see soon. But for now, you will wait.” He looked back at his servants, “Throw them in the Pits. Let us see how long they will fall before the Shadows take them.”
The Ilmari cloaked in their blood red garbs swept towards them, and grabbed them fiercely, dragging them from the earth. Kale felt his side being torn as he swept along the jagged rock ground, his flesh and clothes tearing. Ekin seemed lifeless as they carried him through the dark, his eyes closed. They led them across the ashy floor until they reached a stone archway, inscribed with letters of old Ilmar, barred with wrought iron beams, rusted and crude.
The Ilmari Darkdwellers unlocked the gate and threw Kale and Ekin down into the Pits under the earth where shadow consumed them. Kale heard the gate shut with a moan of iron and a scrap as the metal scratched against the stone. These were the Pits, a pit of blackness for the soul.
Kale awoke alone. The grim and grimy stone Pits empty save for him. The rest of the cell was masked under a mantle of black and nothing moved and nothing spoke. Ekin was gone.
Kale’s throat thumped as if it was a drum and his head rung with a terrible drone. Where was Ekin? Kale searched frantically on his beat and blackened knees, his breeches torn and tattered. He scrambled to ever inch of the barren Pit and found nothing but stone and shadow. “Please, please no.” He whispered to himself, distraught. “No.”
He ravenously dashed up to the iron bars, and stuck his head between them, looking out into the night. It was there he saw what he knew had come. He tried to shield his eyes, but he couldn’t. He had to keep watching, tears rolling down his face.
Out in the black, Ekin was tied to the obsidian spire, his slouched figure grim and defeated. His black cloak was ravaged and the tendrils of leather flapped in the grating winds. The Knight’s face stared at the ground, his skin blackened with ash. His long strands of brown hair fell down over his forehead and brow, masking his eyes. Mist curled around his body, imprisoning him in bonds of red and black.
The Black Priest towered over him, cloaked in his shadowy black robes, licking with mist. The seven other Ilmari wore their red garb and knelt on their knees before the Spire of Vhardd, singing in deep and grim voices rituals in the Ilmar. Their sonorous voices carried up into the sky, filtering through the Mist and pulsing like heartbeats from the red veil, reverberating down and across thousands of miles. Their heads where held low, their pointed red hoods hanging low over their faces.
The Black Priest stood before Ekin and raised his hands into the black sky, black shadows dancing on his palms like flame. He began to chant in the Ilmar, he began to chant towards the Mist. “Rhassar nerris vhala! Rhassar nerris vhala!” He continued the chant, his booming voice consuming the darkness, the seven voices behind him building in voice and tone and tempo gradually.
Their voices grew louder and louder, playing against each other. Their voices grew faster and faster, the chants jumping and bouncing as they wer said until finally the Black Priest bellowed one word, “Rrea!” And the entire mass of chants stopped to the eerie silence of night.
Ash fell, lighting crackled, mist whispered, and the Black Priest loomed over Ekin. He raised his hands again, his obsidian blade glinting darkly in the red and black torchlight. He muttered words of ritual as he slid the blade against his left palm, the deep red blood dripping off the tip of the blade. He brought his hand slowly down to Ekin’s face and caressed his cheek with his bloodied hand, a slash of red smeared across the Knight’s face. Kale banged at the cell bars, trying to escape, trying to free Ekin.
The Black Priest then looked towards the heavens, where the red veil of Mist shimmered and shifted like the sea. He shouted in the Ilmar, “I give you the Light!” And he thrust his obsidian blade into Ekin’s heart, twisted, then ripped it out. Kale tried to scream, but nothing came out.
The spire suddenly began to glow from within a radiant red and the outside swirled with crimson fingers of curling mist. The Black Priest stepped back, watching what he had done. The Mist shot into Ekin and his body fell back into the black spire and vanished.
Kale’s eyes bulged and his breath faltered. His rage and anger built up, slowly growing and growing. His eyes flared and he ground his teeth, the energy boiling over. He knelt low to the stone ground, the energy overwhelming him. Then, he exploded.
As if a bomb had gone off inside him, he released the stored energy and opened up with a loud scream, the stone cell exploding and the iron bars shattering into thousand of pieces. The loud rumbled thundered through the silent night and Kale leaped out of the cell, his hatred burning deep inside him. He had not known how he had just did what he did, but he could not think about it know. He would have to use what ever he used again.
He ran towards the black spire, the Ilmari Darkdwellers flashing their heads back at him. Before they could act, Kale was upon them, sweeping over them like a great wave of power. He didn’t know how, but he thrust a great force of something at two of them, throwing the aside. With the others he set them on fire, using the torches set around the spire. He did not know what he was doing. It was just happening. The emotion and rage had sparked it. Know he could not control it.
He dashed through the shadows to the spire, where he grasped Ekin’s blade in his hand, the light pulsing with magic and power. The blade was long and grand, yes, but in his grasp it weighed almost nothing. The leather felt nice in his hands and he made for the plate armor, but before so, he was hit with a strange force and knocked aside.
The Black Priest walked towards him, black shadows dancing in his palms, controlling the mist and darkness. The priest thrust another shot of energy at him, but Kale thrust his own back, the two colliding in a spark of white light. Kale glared at the priest, hard and forceful. His eyes burned and he leaped at the Ilmari, throwing himself forward and screamed, letting his emotion pout out. The Ilmari smashed to the ground as a great wave of energy was thrown at him and Kale landed over him, the ground sinking in as he thrust downwards.
He looked the priest in the black eyes he had.
He did not say a word, but bit his tongue and drove Ekin’s Blade into the Black Priest’s heart, light enveloping the shadowy figure and eating him whole. Kale slid the blade out slowly, nothing stirred. He was alone again, alone in the Dark.
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