THE MARCH OF THE DARKEST KNIGHT

PROPHECY AND PROPHET - JAETH TURNCOAT - MARCH OF THE DARKEST KNIGHT
SIEGE OF DENRING - AFTER THE BATTLE

Apparently, things are not always as they seem or so history has taught us. An event, now known as they March of the Darkest Knight, includes the telling of two men, one an old drunk and the other a disgraced knight turned madman by his lust for power, along with the single act justly named the "March of the Darkest Knight" and the Siege of Denring. Some believe that due to the ramblings of the old drunk, Aelder Dregs, the burning of three villages and the destruction at Denring occurred after a power hungry youth turned the prophecy to his own ends. On the other hand, many argue that the man knew something before everyone else, before the object of his dream was even born. However, the truth may never be known of what exactly happened on the Heath of Jernais in 1664 without the old man's prophecy, but the beginning of those dark days happened fifty years before that.

Prophecy & Prophet. The people of the small, walled town of Denring were unjustly wronged in the year 1664 when their town was ravaged. The town had seen trouble before by both men and beasts during the Sarvonian Wars, though it were the silent killers that caused a wall to be raised. The horned wolves that could still smell the lingering scent of their ancestor's dens beneath the town, which had been built on top of many buried dens, were responsible for many killing throughout the years. Though, the town had never seen the likes of Jaeth Turncoat and his mercenaries. However, the trouble within the town had begun almost half a century before the arrival of that madman.

About forty-six years before the trouble in Denring the local drunk took it upon himself to claim to be a prophet. Most of the people of this town, which is situated on the Heath of Jernais, knew Aelder Dregs, who had justly earned the title. He was a nightly customer of one of the town's less savoury inns, "The Dashing Dagger". No one had ever seen him work a day in his life yet none argued over the last mug of the barrel that he always received.

Aelder was going about his usual routine, which included nursing the remnants of a mug of ale at the Dagger, and staring into the fire. According to the barkeep that was his only mug of the night which was unusual for the unkempt man that wasted his life away in the cups, but he had kept a small unremarkable jug next to him throughout the night. The other nightly patrons of the tavern reported that he hadn't touched the jug until the last moment, when questioned further. They said that he downed the last bit of his drink and then downed the contents of the mug before walking out of the tavern slightly past the middle of the night.

Two days later before daybreak, Aelder was found on the corner of the main street, outside the most popular inn. Throughout the day he spoke, telling anyone that passed of a dream he had and how it would change the world that they know. Most dismissed the man and his ramblings about a goddess that visited him in his sleep. Locals knew of the supposed beggar's habits and believed this to be the ramblings of a man too deep in his cups to be saved. For a while everyone continued to ignore him, laughing and snickering as they walked by.

Aelder Dreg's Prophecy. I dreamed of a day with one end. Those that were once took for granted shows their true colors. Atop the walls of our dear city the enemy stands, a mad glint in its eyes and a malevolent snarl upon its face. The world spins and shakes and splits dividing the real from the fake, bringing the mind boggling to life and ending the reality that holds us. When a horned wolf with antlers to rival the largest buck and a ridge as dark as the darkest night emerges from the confines of the pack, the end will be upon us. I saw this creature standing atop the walls, saliva dripping from its mouth in hunger as it looked upon the ground before it, eyes blazing with bloodlust. Beneath it an army of wolves stands ready, the same emotions mirrored on their faces, distaste among them. They prepare for the final battle, prepare to win. One day the world will be ruled by wolves. When the sky bleeds the final stand will be made and all will end.

-- Recorded by the Captain of the Guard, Moraec of Denring

After a time the innkeeper complained and the town watch dragged him off to the local prison for a few days. After being released he moved to another place along the main street. Every other month or so he would spend a few days in the jail, more and more as time passed, but he was apparently harmless so they didn't keep him locked up for too long. This continued for about two years, as he preached his so called prophecy on the street corners from dawn till dusk. Those that lived in the town knew this man's words and they stuck in their minds no matter how hard they tried to ignore him.

A little more than two years after he had begun preaching his self-proclaimed prophecy Aelder turned up dead in his jail cell, the day he was to be released again. The guards found the drunkard dead in a pool of his own blood with a dagger in his side. No one has been able to find out how the murderer got in and out of the cell without the notice of the guards, but no one really cared. The guards made a small investigation but only because they couldn't allow people to think that they could enter and leave the small jail at will. This small investigation turned up a few interesting facts that ended up in the jails yearly logs, which meant everyone knew.

After asking around, many of the other 'beggars' of the city claimed that the small jug that Aelder was seen with before his so-called prophecy came to him, contained swampjuice, which could be fairly easily attained in the small underground market that this town housed. The man was taken into custody though was killed before he reached the jail by a crossbow bolt in the chest. The guards believed that others didn't want the man turning 'rat' on them and let the matter drop after a small search that resulted in the death of two more men. The Captain of the Guard closed the matter a week after the death of Aelder Dregs, claiming the prophecy to be false and the man to be under the influence of drugs and alcohol, though Dreg's words stayed rooted in the mind of those that laughed.[1]

Jaeth Turncoat. A youth, knighted before his time for bravery in small skirmishes to the north found himself disgraced just as swiftly. Growing up Jaeth had always moved too swiftly for his tutors and was always ahead of everyone. He practiced day and night working endlessly to move up, always wanting to move up. At fourteen he joined the Erpheronian military, having given a false date of birth and identify. He registered as Jaeth and any name he might have held before that is lost in history.

He swiftly moved up in ranks, driving himself beyond exhaustion day after day, only to collapse and sleep through the days when he was off duty completely. Within a few years he was already in charge of a few units of men within the military and led many small skirmishes against orcs to the north, beat back and eliminated various bandit groups throughout the province, and settled feuds within villages and cities alike. By the time he was nineteen years old (actual age - twenty-one according to his papers) he was knighted, receiving one of the highest honours that an enlisted soldier could achieve.

But that wasn't good enough for Jaeth. A need for power drove him to commit murder a few months later. The young knight had met one of his fellow knights in a poorer quarter of Voldar while he was checking on things within the city. It wasn't his job, but he felt that putting fourth the extra effort would be noticed by those higher ranked than him. Rumours had been spreading throughout the barracks that a promotion was swiftly approaching and the most commonly whispered names for that promotion was Jaeth's and that of the knight he had bumped into that night.

Before rational thought could take over he had killed the man, coming up on him from behind, elimination the only competition for the position. Unknown to Jaeth, the murder was witnessed by a street-rat and the information sold to the military and later confirmed by one of Jaeth's mercenaries who had heard the man's drunken ranting.

The next morning in the mess hall he was greeted with accusing looks and wary glances from those that refused to meet his gaze. While he was eating he caught a few words whispered under the breaths of others, saying things about the dead knight found and Jaeth's ambitions. He then realized that they had linked him to the murder from the fact that he had been patrolling that area the night before.

Once he finished eating his meal he returned to the barracks, gathered his things and seemingly disappeared as guards sent by the commanded arrived to arrest him. Reports found him a year and a half later leading a group of mercenaries. Common gossip among the groups tracked him throughout that time, placing him in three groups. He was thrown out of the first two groups for attempting to overthrow the current captain of the group. The third, he was able to last long enough to get close to the captain and kill him. Having successfully killed the captain, he was considered the new leader, as was the rule for that particular group.

He led the mercenary group and traveled through the northern part of Southern Sarvonia with them, doing much of what he had when he had been a captain of the Erpheronian military and was commanding his own unit. While traveling he had requested a set of black plate armour prepared by the smith of the company due to the fact that black was all the youth had worn since he joined them, his private disgrace. Most of his group had no clue who he was before he had joined then and few asked, but Jaeth took to wearing all black to remind himself of his stupidity and the ill-planned event that had ruined him.

During one of his jobs as a captain for the military he had been brought to the Heath of Jernais and has put down a group of poachers that were capturing the horned wolves in the area. When they had finished, Jaeth had found that only one horned wolf had survived, one with a silver ridge. He took the animal, bringing it back with him to the city and raising it.

Now, as a mercenary he was traveling again, spending three years just south of his 'old haunts' before returning to travel the heath again with a good sized band of trained men at his back. Memories returned to him. While traveling as a boy, he had often heard from his mentor of the crazy man in these parts that had believed that wolves would rule the world. That sparked an idea for him. He moved his men south a ways, toward the ancient Kyranian territory and current Xaramon province, into territory he hadn't set foot in before. While in a city in the south the ordered the kidnapping of a well known blacksmith, skilled in the making of 'flashy' pieces of armour and set him to work creating a helm. A black helm made into the figure of a snarling wolf with a large set of antlers.[2] Return to the top


March of the Darkest Knight. When the helm was finished and the blacksmith discarded, Jaeth headed north toward the Heath of Jernais. Along the way, he hired more mercenaries where ever he could find them. Some he bought with the coin looted from travelers, other mercenary bands, and 'taxes' forced from small villages for 'protection' along with other quick schemes during the three years he had spent traveling. Others he gained through his own men's loyalty, taking them into service when they left their old commanders at their old friend's recommendations or won their respect by killing their leader. When he arrived on the edge of the heath, he has assembled one of the largest free/traveling mercenary groups. At that point, what became known as "The March of the Darkest Knight" began and in the eyes of many, it was worst that what came afterwards.

Jaeth marched across the heath, moving directly toward the town of Denring, where the self-proclaimed prophet had spread the word of his dream. While crossing he ran across three villages. The first was a small village, a few strals within the boundaries of the Heath of Jernais. His men rode through the town, tormenting civilians and burning anything they ran into to the ground, though in the end, only between ten and twenty of those living in the village had been killed, either trampled to the ground or burned with their homes. The rest of the people from that village were tired up and carted along with the mercenary band.

The other two villages were attacked much the same. Everything that could be was burned to the ground and the people were mostly unharmed. In the second village, only about two families had died, since they had stubbornly refused to leave their burning homes. In the third and final village before Denring, the men of the village had seen them coming and hid their families in a large barn before coming together to fight. They held back the mercenaries for a few moments, but once the barn went up in flames they scrambled to save their families. In that raid, about fifty people died, most killed by the flames while the others were unusually brave men that tried to protect their families. The rest from that village had submitted once they were surrounded and added to the remaining people from the other villages, carried with the group towards Denring. In order from first the attacked villages were named, Caeaar's Hold, Dekthyr, and Dalash, though the names might have been altered when they were rebuilt.

When Jaeth reached Denring, he left half his horde out of sight, with half the men and half the women and children that he had captured along his way, ensuring the cooperation of those he brought with him to the city. He entered with only a few of his most trusted men, having the rest of his men camp outside the city as he entered, trying to pull off the appearance of a friendly group. Once he was within the walls he was approached by a company of guards and led to the small manor of the leader of the town. There, he pleaded his case, explaining that his company had heard of the raids from a few refugees that he had allowed into his company for protection and had moved this way in attempts to help.

His story was listened to and believed by the Captain of the Guards and the Lord of Denring. The rest of his men were allowed within the walls of the town for the night so that they might rest before heading out in search of those who had been attacking the villages on the heath. That night Jaeth sent out a few men, which he explained away as scouts so that the town couldn't be surrounded in the night, to summon the rest of his men. They approached under the cover of darkness, coming through the gates, opened by Jaeth himself, after the guards upon the wall had been taken care of.

That night, the mercenary company of Jaeth Turncoat, took the city of Denring, killing the guards and capturing the common folk of the city, while their leader rode with a small group of men to subdue the Lord of the town. Before the sun began to rise, the city and most of its occupants were taken care off. While half the men rounded up the remaining citizens Jaeth ordered the other half to collect the dead, citizens and guards, and build a pyre in the most isolated house and burn the bodies so disease wouldn't spread once they started to decay.

As the house was lit and mercenaries stood by with long trails of water buckets so that the fire wouldn't get out of control, the March of the Darkest Knight ended and the Siege of Denring would soon begin. Mercenaries that weren't at work, keeping the fire under control or moving the captured woman or children to the old Lord's manor, were out looting for rewards, though staying away from the area designated for those working, as they outnumbered the ones that weren't.[3]

Siege at Denring. Five days after taking the town of Denring, kingdom soldiers could be seen on the horizon, heading for the town. By that time, the dead had been burned, the town completely looted, and the families of the men captured in the three villages in the city had been secured. Those men had been given weapons that had been taken from the town's armory, from dead guards, or the blacksmiths shop and told to fight to keep their families alive. Each was watched by one or two trained mercenaries and those that chose not to comply watched as one of their family members was killed (or those without family were killed on the spot). By the time the soldiers were within a day's march of the town, the men had given up fighting against the inevitable and stood their turn upon the walls.

The day after the soldiers set up camp, Jaeth stood upon the wall in his black armour with his impressive black helm and his horned wolf by his side, while his 'blood-thirsty' men stood beneath him, prepared to charge after having no action for a few days. Before the soldiers were ready, he let his men loose and watched as they charged across the field. The first clash was a bloody one for the soldier's, but once they were able to get slightly organized they began to dominate the mercenaries. Jaeth called his men back to the city, leaving the gates open long enough for the group that was following them to get within the walls, but the soldier's fell back, avoiding the small trap he had set incase they had followed. It was no big deal as he hadn't expected it to work, but had set it just as a precaution.

From that point on he fought from within the cities, putting just enough men on the walls to keep them from being taken, while the others rested. They would repel most of the day attacks and at night, those that rested rode out on the other gate in the town and struck at the soldiers at different hours of the night, trampling as many tents, killing as many as possible, and setting fire to as much of the camp as they could before retreating to the city. For four days this worked to keep the soldiers awake during the night.

On the fifth day, Jaeth was going tired of waiting for the siege to break and figured the soldiers were tired enough to impair their fighting. Before dawn on the fifth day of the siege he arrayed his men outside the walls and as they sun lit up the battle field, he stood upon the wall once more with his men below him. When the soldiers saw this they hurried to collect weapons, don armour, and organize themselves. Before all of that was even half accomplished the mercenaries charged and the battle began.

At first things seemed to be going well for the mercenaries, but things changed with a fresh group of mounted soldiers appeared from behind the tents and joined a fight. The mounted mercenaries attacked the mounted soldiers in an attempt to find even footing, but the newer soldiers were well rested, where as the mercenaries were slightly warn from the battle and reverting back to their original sleeping schedule. When a pack of horned wolves joined the battle, on the battle, fighting on the soldier's side Jaeth grew angry.

Jaeth Turncoat ripped off his helm and hurled it at the silver ridged wolf standing beside him, the back of the wolf head helm bounced off the beast's backside. Those that looked at the walls at that point said that the wolf turned on the man that had taken it and raised it from a pup. The fighting stopped as all turned to stare at the wall as can terrible shriek covered the battle field, watching as the horned wolf that had stood at Jaeth's side throughout the years ripped out the madman's throat.[4]
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After the Battle. That seemed to be the end of it all as the soldiers recovered first, striking out at the mercenaries that desperately tried to flee. Those that had survived the raids on their villages, the battles, and had been forced into service by the disgraced knight turned on the mercenaries as well, extracting their revenge. By the end of the day, the soldiers had taken the town of Denring back, had captured the remaining mercenaries, and set the woman and children free to find out if the men of their family had survived.

The families returned to their villages and began to rebuild with the help of the remaining soldiers and craftsmen from the city that had survived. Still a scar resides on that part of the heath, the villages and town that had been ravaged by a madman looking for power, and the people who had suffered through captivity and battle.

Those that remember the old man put more faith in his words and perhaps learned to be more accepting of prophets and self-proclaimed prophets as his dream seemed to have come true. When the written account of the words were read again, the phrase "dark as the darkest night" stood out. Many believe that the old man's words had been recorded incorrectly and "dark as the darkest night" was meant to be "dark as the darkest knight" as Jaeth Turncoat has been a disgraced knight. Once that bit was cleared up, everything else seemed to fit into place as the rest of prophecy was altered to fit the events. The people are still unsure if it were just the effects of a drug or alcohol that created the dream, or if the old drunk actually knew something before the rest of them.
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Footnotes.
[1] Information recorded by Moraec of Denring and provided by the town's citizens and guards. [Back]
[2] Information provided by Jaeth's Tutor, his Commander and friends, a street-rat that witnessed the murder, the Military Commander, and various men in the mercenary
group he led. [Back]

[3] Information provided by mercenaries from Jaeth's group that were captured after the Siege of Denring. [Back]
[4] Information provided by the captured mercenaries and surviving kingdom soldiers. [Back]

 Date of last edit 24th Passing Clouds 1668 a.S.

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