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Authors: Steven Drake

The Demon's Blade

BOOK: The Demon's Blade
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Copyright © 2010 by Steven Drake

 

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, write to the author at the address below.

 

Steven Drake
76 Leigh Drive
Benton, KY  42025
www.aspiesteve.wordpress.com

 

 

 

 

 

Printed in the United States of America

Chapter 1: The Execution

The morning sun shone brightly, but it would be a dark day for Darien the half-elf, because it was on that day that he first understood the nature of darkness. She had told him often enough, but he’d never understood those words. The darkness is an insatiable hunger, a void, which can never be filled. It cannot create, cannot grow, cannot change. It can only consume. It is powerful, but the light within us is stronger; the darkness can never prevail unless we allow it. Never let the darkness into your soul, for it will consume you and leave you with nothing. Even as he stood frozen in fear of the horror about to take place, he began to understand, but could do nothing to stop it. The darkness slowly seeped into him as water seeps into dry ground.

The wooden block sat starkly before him, a dark, ugly thing, stained with what he knew must be blood. A wicker basket sat placidly in front of it, for a purpose the dark haired half-elf boy understood well enough. At eight years old, he had enough sense to know what an execution was. It’s all my fault. She’s going to be executed and it’s because of me, the words echoed in his mind. I should never have gone to the village. I should have stayed away. I didn’t want to fight them. I just wanted to watch. This isn’t fair. Why is this happening? His entire body went cold as he faced the grim reality that his mother was about to die, because of something he did. Despair and guilt flooded his mind and crushed his soul as he watched his mother stand in front of the heavy wooden block.

The elf woman stood proud and straight in her forest green dress, with her hands tied behind her. Her raven hair billowed out behind her, flowing in the gentle breeze. Her gentle green eyes looked into Darien’s own grey eyes, and she smiled, trying to calm the boy. She looked every bit as calm and serene as she always did, as if there were nothing at all to be concerned about, as if this was the most natural thing in the world. It was almost enough to make him believe that he was dreaming, and that he would soon wake in his bed, with his mother standing over him, smiling, ready to comfort him and banish the terror of this nightmare. It was almost enough, but not quite, for the dread in his heart was too real, too near, and too powerful.

The execution took place on a wooden platform, raised up a few feet off the ground, in front of the manor house occupied by the village magistrate, who used it to mete out primitive justice in the tiny village. Guardsmen flanked the boy on either side, armored in loose, poorly fitted, and poorly maintained mail armor. Once, it must have been shining silver, but now it was old, and what wasn’t beginning to rust had aged to a dull gray.

The boy’s wrists stung and burned, cut and bloodied by the cords tied too tightly around them. A black crow sat atop the gallows a few yards away. The bird’s gaze seemed to fix unpleasantly on the half-elf, as though it were an omen of the disaster now unfolding. In the late afternoon sun, the bird cast a long and menacing shadow across the wooden platform.

The magistrate sat up on a higher platform in a formal looking, wooden chair with a lion carved atop the high back. He wore a plush purple vest, with a deep green ruffled shirt beneath, and green matching pants. His peach colored hair dripped down his neck and past his shoulders in disheveled ropey strands. He smiled through a thin mustache and short, pointed beard. As he raised his hand, the crowd of people who had gathered in front of the platform quieted themselves and prepared for him to speak.

“Mirianna, elf witch, your son, Darien, stands guilty of an unprovoked assault upon three of our youth, including my young nephew.” The magistrate spoke curtly, almost as if disinterested. “The penalty for assault upon any member of the nobility by a commoner is death. However, since I am a merciful man, I have seen fit to allow you to take your son’s place on the block. Do you still agree to this?” The magistrate yawned. How could he be so casual, as if he were sentencing a pickpocket to a day in the stocks? The proud elf woman nodded yes, and with that, the guards pushed her head down onto the wooden block. She looked at her son through tear-filled eyes as the guards tied her to the block. “Very well. Consider yourself fortunate to receive such a generous offer. If I could work my will, I would exterminate every last one of your cursed race from the face of the world until not a drop of your evil blood was left. Yet I am a man of my word, and to trade the life of a mongrel boy for that of a dangerous elf witch is an easy choice.” The magistrate then waved a frocked hand in the direction of Darien and the guards. “Executioner, come forth to carry out the sentence.”

Darien turned around to see a man clothed in black. Where he had come from, the boy did not know. He had not heard or seen anyone approach. Perhaps the shadowy figure had simply materialized from some dark corner of the public square. The executioner strode slowly across the platform. Boots, pants, shirt, gloves, and a ghastly burlap hood, all were dyed black as the deepest night. Death cold eyes peered through narrow slits in the hood, providing the only clue that a human being, rather than some ghastly monster, lay beneath the shroud of darkness. He carried with him a great axe, taller than himself, with a curved blade like the crescent moon. It must have been terribly heavy, yet the executioner carried it almost effortlessly. The sun reflected off the shiny axe blade, flickering back and forth with the movement of the executioner towards his victim.

The black clad figure did not speak a word, but moved slowly, inexorably toward the execution block, a shadowy specter of death. When he came to the block, he looked to the magistrate and nodded. The magistrate acknowledged with a nod, shifting uncomfortably in his chair. The striking black figure inspired fear even in those who commanded him.

As the executioner readied his axe, young Darien’s fear of what was to come overcame his fear of the guards, and he tried to run to his mother. But before he had gone forward even a foot, a heavy iron gauntlet struck him just above the right eye, knocking him back and to the ground. As he got up, he felt a terrible burning pain above his eye. Warm blood flowed down his face, mixing with the tears he had already shed. Ignoring the pain, he struggled to his feet and tried again to move toward the executioner, but a second blow, harder than the first, dropped him to his knees. Dizzy and near unconsciousness, he stared vacantly at the wood of the platform, watching the blood drip from his head and pool on one of the boards.

“Darien, don’t fight them. Just do what they tell you and they will let you go. I promise.” The reassuring voice of his mother cut through the boy’s torment. He raised his head to look into her eyes. “Promise me you’ll stay still,” she pleaded, her head lying sideways on the wooden block. The boy’s face contorted with hurt, anger, and confusion. He didn’t want to agree. He wanted to run to his mother, again and again until they either killed him or knocked him blissfully unconscious. But looking at the pain upon his mother’s face, he relented, nodding meekly to her. “Be strong, my child. My love will go with you always. I will wait for you beyond the doors of death. May you live a long and happy life before you see them.”

“Enough of this!” the magistrate shouted above the hum of the crowd. “Restrain the boy and be done with it!” One of the guards gripped the collar of Darien’s shirt and hauled him to his feet, then held his shoulders firmly, painfully.

The executioner raised his axe high above his head, positioning himself to bring his blow down in precisely the correct spot. As the axe started its motion, time seemed to slow down. Darien watched the reflection of the sun slide across the axe blade as it moved along its arced path, rolling from the bottom up to the edge, and finally disappearing. It seemed an eternity passed as the boy waited for the blow to fall. Then, there was the sound, not a crack, or a pop, or the sound of a cutting knife as Darien expected, but a sickening thud, the sound of a rock thrown into mud, but terrifyingly loud. Then the boy’s horror peaked as his mother’s head fell from her body, and blood poured out her neck, coloring the block a bright crimson. Her head fell neatly in the basket, and it was done.

Darien’s mind broke into pieces, and the life of a young boy ended. In the boy’s place, a beast suddenly leapt forth. Rage and despair unleashed a power that had, until that moment, lain hidden within his elven blood, a power his young body was not prepared to wield. An overwhelming hatred burned forth as a fire burst suddenly to life, and the small boy pushed back against the guard who held him. Not with his muscles, but with his mind and his spirit and all of his will.

The magical energy inside the half-elf child burst outward, and the guard flew backward. He turned and watched as the guard traveled several yards away through the air and crashed to the ground at the base of the platform.

“He’s a sorcerer, too!” the magistrate yelled. “Get him! K-Kill him!”

Chaos broke out and the crowd burst into a cacophony of fear-fed accusations.

“Sorcerer!”

“Devil!”

“Demon child!”

Several armored men charged toward Darien, swords raised to strike him down, but their blows never fell.

“No!” Darien roared at them. The swords crumpled, bending like blades of grass as they were turned away. The guardsmen dropped the remains of their swords, and joined the crowd in panic. The boy then staggered towards the executioner, who alone out of the entire crowd seemed unmoved. Blood dripped from the executioner’s axe. The sight of it sickened the boy, and he screamed again. “You killed my mother!”

“Did I?” the executioner replied, his voice calm and disarming, quiet, yet inexplicably clear even in the confusion of the scene. It sounded cold, and raspy, like the hissing of a snake. “I am only the instrument. I kill who I am told to kill, and I spare who I am told to spare. I have no more choice than the axe in my hand. Do not waste your wrath upon the weapon.” The executioner said nothing more, silently looking up at the magistrate, who still sat frozen in his chair. In a moment of cold, perfect, awful, clarity, Darien realized the executioner’s meaning and fixed his eyes upon the magistrate. The terrified man suddenly bolted from his chair as though lightning had struck him.

The crazed half-elf boy charged toward the object of his sudden wrath. He howled a guttural, wordless cry of anger. The magistrate ran behind his remaining guards and disappeared into his manor house. Darien started to follow, but the remaining guardsmen rallied, standing between the platform and the manor house, holding their ground even while trembling with obvious fear. With his target beyond reach, he felt a terrible sorrow and despair overwhelm him, along with something else, a strange power welling up inside his right hand, as if the great emptiness he now felt was being given form. He opened his hand and he saw a spinning black ball of nothingness that sucked in the air around it and pulled against his skin. He pressed it into the torso of the first guardsman he could reach and heard the cracking of first the armor and then the bone. The man broke in half at the spot where Darien had touched him, bending in the middle and falling with his head near his feet at a contorted, unnatural angle, an expression of shock and terror frozen upon his face.

In his rage, the boy first thought of trying to push through the men, to kill all of them just as he had killed the first, but the exertion of unleashing the magic had already begun to take its toll. His chest heaved with every breath, and his heart pounded fast and hard. Each heartbeat unleashed anew the stinging pain in the wound above his right eye. He felt his strength waning, and feared he would soon collapse. Though it hurt him, he knew he had to run. He screamed a long, mournful scream, and turned away.

He stumbled down the stairs off the platform, and into the crowd. Everywhere he went, the people cowered in fear, struggling and pushing against each other to get away. As they did, they opened a path for the boy, so he walked, unhindered, through the crowd, out of the hedged yard in front of the manor house, and into the dirt streets, where he soon found himself alone. Then he walked aimlessly down the road that led out of the small village, to somewhere beyond. He had no idea where he was going, or which way home was. He simply walked in shock, exhausted by the exertion. His head throbbed in pain, and his wrists burned from the rope which still bound him.

#

After what felt like hours, Darien heard a rustling. Fearing that he was being followed, he whirled quickly to his left toward the sound. Only a crow. It sat on a tree branch, staring at him. Was it the same crow he’d seen earlier? He couldn’t be sure but he felt a strange sensation, as though the bird were somehow watching him, silently gloating over his misfortune. In that moment, he hated the creature, and wanted it to leave. He picked up a rock from the road and started to throw it, but the bird flew off before he could even draw back his arm, so he turned and began walking again.

After he’d gone only a dozen more yards, he felt a hand grasp his shoulder. Out of fear and instinct, he quickly willed another ball of darkness into his hand and whirled round, thrusting it in the direction of the mysterious hand. To his sudden surprise, the man did not recoil, but grabbed Darien’s hands and dissipated the spell.

“You should be careful with that. You might hurt someone...most likely yourself, with such an amateurish spell.” The voice came from a dark figure. He was wrapped in a black cloak and hood. The hood shaded his face so that only his mouth and chin could be seen clearly.

“Who are you? What do you want?” Darien growled angrily, oblivious to any danger and beyond all fear.

“My name is Kirin and I want to help you,” the cloaked figure answered.

BOOK: The Demon's Blade
9.9Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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