DARKNESS DESCENDS
BY DROGO


The following story is about "The People's Rebellion", the first in a tragic chain of events that will rip apart the great Mynian Kingdom and leave it broken, and its people disenchanted with all they once knew. One young man fights against injustice, and another seeks to define it. They will find their own truths, and it might just destroy them.


CHAPTER I: THE CEREMONY

right sunlight shines down, but with little heat to its touch. Spring is cool and crisp as it always is, a light breeze causes nearby branches to shiver as if they are still in the grips of winter. Fresh green sprigs cover the bare branches in a show of renewed life. Below the trees is a space that gives the trees to shame. Ornate stone boxes are filled with flowers already in full bloom, lying scattered about a cobblestone walkway, with shaped hedges separating the flowers. The music of a nearby fountain is another addition that makes this garden one of soothing serenity.

However, the sounds that should be all around are absent. No malise buzzes, no bird chirps, it has been replaced by the sound of ragged breath being noisily gulped in. Two men breathe harshly as they wearily circle one another. Their booted feet seemingly echo in the near stillness. They waver and feint with their weapons, trying to entice the other to make a mistake so their long duel may finally come to an end. Sweat glosses their rippling muscles and the salty perspiration drips into watering eyes. One combatant is a man who is slender with ropey muscles of steel that ripple with each sideways movement he takes. His dancing blue eyes show the pleasure he takes in this fight. A quick wind comes and whips his shoulder-length brown hair into his eyes for a moment. The other fighter takes this opportunity to rush his opponent with a vicious snarl and a crushing blow he drives into the slender man.

The man laughs as he easily parries the blow aside, he dances backward and begins to slowly circle once again. He eyes the other and cautions himself. For the one he fights today is younger than he, though not as quick. He more than makes up for this for his more strength, while not grown into his frame, bulky muscles still flex with every movement. Sweat darkened blonde hair sticks to his soaking body.
 

The darker haired man feints left and then quickly steps to the right, driving his weapon towards the younger man’s stomach. The younger man somehow blocks the blow, but is driven backwards. Blows rein down in quick succession making the blonde move back ever further until he stumbles over one of the flower boxes. He tries to catch himself, but is unable to and he goes down hard. The slender man uses the confusion to place his blade against the blonde’s throat.

“That’s three”, cries the brown haired man. “But I do have to say that you are definitely improving. Someday, my young cousin, you will be a swordsman to fear. Then what will I do?”

The younger one pushes the other’s weapon away and begins to pick himself up. “Do not mock me Wyland!The blonde takes on a superior air as he continues. “It is not wise to mock your prince. No, it is not wise at all.”

The one named Wyland rolls his eyes and makes a rude noise towards the blonde at which point they both begin to laugh. “I mean it Surian; you are already quite good for your age.” Seeing Surian’s somewhat bemused glance at him, Wyland throws up his hands. “All right, all right, you are good for those years your senior.” With mocking exasperation he asks, “There, satisfied?”

“I suppose so”, grins Surian. He looks around at the knocked over flower boxes and a hedge that now has a hole in it, “Now why is it that we had to practice in the garden?”

“Well, for several reasons, first of all weren’t you hampered by all of the obstructions?” Seeing Surian’s nod he continues, “You never know when you might need to call on your blade, and you don’t want the fact that there are obstacles around you to get you killed. Also, I chose this place because I knew that you would not expect to find yourself in a fight here. You were surprised when I drew my sword and tried to attack you, weren’t you?” Surian assents once again, “That is another key lesson, timing is everything. If you are surprised and do not react quickly, even though it seems the least likely place to be attacked or by the least likely person, then you will find yourself dead in a second.” Trying to lighten the mood Wyland says, “You’ve got to learn this stuff because I wouldn’t have anyone to pick on if you died.” Wyland draws closer to Surian and gives him a rough, but playful shove. “Come on, let’s go, you smell like a stable.” Wyland holds his nose in feigned disgust.

Surian walks over to a nearby bird bath and dunks his head into the cool water. Tossing his hair back, beads of water fly free. The sun makes the beads gleam and for a moment it seems as if a holy aura surrounds Surian. Several seconds pass, then the moment is broken by Surian’s exclamation. “Whoah that is freezing! There, all washed up.”

“You call that being washed,” laughs Wyland. Your mother would not be happy, and you know it. Though, your father would probably approve from the stories my father tells of them growing up. Look at us, following in those same footsteps.” He shakes his head mournfully before looking up with a glint in his eyes. “Whatever shall we do, we’ll become just like them.”

Surian considers this for a moment as he wipes the dripping water out of his eyes. “You know, that wouldn’t be that bad. They are both good men whose people love them. I hope that I can say as much when it is my turn to rule.”

“Speaking of which,” interrupts Wyland, “We both have to get ready for the incoming nobles for this year's council meetings. I’m lucky that the rules that apply to everyone showing up around the same time don’t apply to me. I would have had to wait outside of the city with my father for the past week, and that would have quickly gotten quite dull. Anyway, let’s get going. We have to look our best ya know.” With that said both of the young men grab their respective shirts from where they were hastily thrown and follow the path out of the garden, continuing to talk amiably with one another.


They pass under a vine enshrouded trellis and go through the small side door into the keep. As they walk down a long hallway, their boot steps silent upon a thick rug. As they saunter through the winding hallways with their swords upon their hip and their brows streaked with sweat they catch several surprised looks from the younger servants. An old woman sees them coming and grins a gap toothed smile as she sees the two moving towards her. She pokes a gray haired man next to her and mutters several words while pointing in the direction of the young men. He nods and smiles at the sight of Surian with his shirt tossed over one shoulder and Wyland seemingly instructing him as they walk.

“Good day m’lords”, she croaks out as she attempts a rather unsteady curtsy. The man next to her is nearly as unsteady as he attempts a jerky bow.

Both Surian’s and Wyland’s attention is drawn away from their conversation, and smiles come upon their faces simultaneously. “Gurna, there is no need for you to curtsy,” and laughing he grabs the old man as he is about to fall over. “And you should not be bowing Huron, admonishes Surian. “You have been part of the household here since before my father was my age, or maybe even his father,” he adds with a twinkle in his eye.

Wyland walks over to the woman named Gurna and smiles warmly towards her. “Why, in fact Gurna you more or less raised Surian when he was young and the Creator only knows how you put up with me running around here when I was younger as well.”

“Still roughhousing I see,” comments Gurna while pointedly eyeing Wyland’s dirty shirt.

As he is about to respond Huron starts talking. “Why, of course they have, they’re boys, and that’s what boys do. Why, when I was a boy we had great adventures by the riverbanks, let me tell you. Why, we’d…”

He quickly stops as Gurna interrupts him. “Now Huron, these boys don’t need to hear you go on. If I’m not mistaken they need to get ready for the ceremonial arrival.”

Looking at each other Wyland and Surian agree and quickly say their farewells. As they continue on their way Surian remarks, “No matter how old I get she still sees me as a child. I wonder if it will be any different when I have children of my own.”

“I doubt it”, comments Wyland, “you should see the way she treats my father. I’m surprised she didn’t ask if we needed someone to help us change for the ceremony in an hour, or in fact offer to help us herself,” he chuckles.

They draw near an iron bound, wooden door and say their goodbyes. Wyland opens the door and goes into his lavish guest room. Looking around in amusement he notes once more how very different this room was from his own back in Tormac. He strips off his dirt streaked shirt and casually tosses it upon the rumpled silken linens of the bed. His own bed was not nearly as large, nor did it have such fine linens. As Wyland unbuckles his sword belt he walks over to a wrought iron hook, shaped like a dragon, which is on the far wall. Hanging his sword up on the hook by its belt, he runs his calloused fingers over the smooth metal of the hook and admires the small intricacies of the design.

“So many details, in even the smallest things, truly amazing,” whispers Wyland. “This is nothing like our humble keep on the fringes of the kingdom.” Another glance brings a rueful look to his face, as he sees a tapestry showing fanciful people and some event that he doesn’t recognize. “I doubt I can even appreciate the quarters I have.” With that said he turns away and walks over to an intricately worked wooden table that has a brightly colored basin and pitcher upon it. “No time for a proper wash, I’ll have to follow Surian’s lead,” he says with a slight grin.

Several minutes of pouring water and scrubbing ensue until there is no sign of dirt or sweat upon his face or hands. He even dunks his head into the water and uses the nearby bar of fragranced soap while he washes it. After his hair is rinsed clean Wyland grabs a nearby cloth and wipes the water from his face.

“Oh no!” he exclaims in dismay. The cloth he grabbed was not a towel, but rather yet another exquisite tapestry. “Who hangs one of those here?” He quickly looks around with an expression of guilt upon his face. He rushes over to the nearby towels and dries his face. He then brings the towels over to the tapestry and begins to blot it rather carefully. After getting as much of the dampness out of the tapestry as possible he is relieved as there doesn’t appear to be any damage. With that small incident taken care of Wyland finishes undressing.

Going over to the wardrobe, he flings open the door and looks over the clothing he has been provided. A look of resignation flits across his face at all of the lavish clothing. Golden braid seems to be the favored theme of the seamstress who made the clothes. Some of the clothing has not only braid, but tassels, ribbons, and other ornamentation as well. With an overly dramatic sigh he pulls out whatever looks the least ostentatious. After dressing he stands before a floor length gilded mirror and looks at his ensemble. He looks over at his own clothing forlornly, “Ah well, it befits the station and at this ceremony I must present the station and not myself.”

Several minutes later Wyland is completely dressed and ready to head out. Just as he grabs the iron door handle to the hallway a knock sounds against it, opening the door he sees a slim hand raised for another knock. As the hand comes down and finds the door removed the owner of the hand falls hard against Wyland. Wyland is surprised, but the weight does not move him. The person quickly pushes out and away from him. With the figure no longer pressed against him, he can see that it is a beautiful young women dressed in the household livery of a golden, rearing stallion. The blush infusing her face nearly matches the red of her apron.

“I’m sorry m’lord, very sorry. I didn’t mean to bump into you. The Creator forgive me.”

Wyland makes a small calming motion. “It’s quite all right, no harm done. Now then what can I do for you?”

“I was told to come and inform you that the ceremony was drawin’ near and that everyone was gatherin’ in the main hall m’lord.” Her message delivered she drops a hasty curtsy and quickly scampers off.

Wyland shakes his head in amusement as he winds his way through the marble corridors to Surian’s room. He sees another serving maid approaching Surian’s door just as he comes into view of it himself. He motions her away while saying, “Don’t worry, I’ll get him.” He pounds on the door, making it thud with each strike.

The door opens abruptly and Surian looks out while saying, “What is the meaning of…” He stops himself as he sees who has been pounding. “Oh Wyland, it’s you.”

Wyland gives him an evil grin as he says, “Sorry, I hope that I wasn’t disturbing you at all.”

“No, not at all, I was just about to leave anyway,” responds Surian overly sweet. “In fact thank you so much for coming and getting me. Your thoughtfulness is so very touching,” he says sarcastically.

“Well, I didn’t want you to be staring at yourself in the mirror so long that you missed the ceremony.” Before Surian can respond, Wyland turns and heads down the hallway while calling over his shoulder, “come on, or we’ll be late.”

Soon they are in the great hall in their appointed positions. Wyland takes a deep breath as he covertly scans the room. He is in a perfect position and can see the entire hall laid out before him. Rich ornamentation graces everything that he sees, paintings and bright tapestries cover the walls. What space is left upon the stone is filled with wall scones blazing merrily. Straight across from his position, to the left rear of the throne, are great wooden doors nearly the size of gates. The doors are covered with cunning designs, the smaller of which can not be distinguished over the distance that separates him from them. A statue of a golden, rearing horse stands on either side of the massive doors.

The space between him and the doors is left clear, only a long rug laid over bare marble covers the distance. The darkly veined white marble is mostly covered by the many people who inhabit the hall. All of the court nobility has come out for this yearly ceremony and there is scare enough room to even breathe. They have turned out in all of their finery, most of which is quite more elaborate then that Wyland has chosen. Here and there amongst the crowd he can see those he knows, though he has never been a social animal like many of those around him. A brief smile steals its way upon his solemn face as he thinks of Surian standing at the right hand of his father, somehow enjoying this stuffy event.

A large booming erupts from behind the entry doors startling some of the guests. Those startled look around a bit guiltily with uneasy smiles upon their faces. It would not do well to lack like someone easily frightened in front of so many important people. The booming sounds forth twice more, it is as if a ram has come to batter down the doors. As the echoing sound dies away, two liveried men break from their position next to the door and begin pulling on the great iron rings of the door. They do so with measured backwards steps, revealing what lies behind the door nailsbreadth by tantalizing nailsbreadth. The room is still, not even a breath is heard.

There stands a wizened man, back bent, gnarled fingers resting atop a golden rod. His head is bowed as if in silent prayer. The headpiece of high priest rests precariously upon his sparsely covered head. He raises up his head and his eyes until he is staring at the ceiling. The staff comes up as if of its own, for surely the skinny arms of the priest could not support it. There is a power that emanates from the man as he opens his mouth to speak. “May the Creator give us the wisdom to see his desires laid out before us. May the Creator give us the strength to follow those desires through trials and tribulations. May the Creator give us heart to strengthen those bonds of brotherhood that unite us all. May the Creator give us spirit to better surrender ourselves to him and his realm.” With that last intonation the staff thumps down.

It is only with the banging of the staff that the spell is broken. Wyland can now concentrate on the dignified procession that is behind the now quiet man. Standing directly behind the elderly priest in places of honor are the two wardens of the Mynian Kingdom, each man responsible for either end of the kingdom with the king controlling the central province. The two wardens and the high priest step forward from the procession behind them and enter the room. They keep a measured pace as they all make their stately way to the king’s dais where they stop.

Wyland takes the moment to look at his father Sioned. A bit of pride enters him as he sees how impressive his father appears. His full, dark beard has been brushed and oiled so that it gleams, and his hair has been given a similar treatment. Clothes made of clean lines show off Sioned’s stoutly muscled figure. Wyland’s eyes next travel to the man next to his father, the other warden. He knows that his name is Eogden, and many a story has his father made of him. While Sioned’s ire may have exaggerated his looks, Wyland can now see that it was not by much. Eogden’s face is not pretty to look at, not by far. For jowls of fat hang from pockmarked cheeks that the scraggly beard can not hide. His skin appears sallow and greasy as if left unwashed, and unlike Sioned, Eogden’s clothing while finely made, can not possibly hide the large stomach that protrudes past his belt.

This analysis of the wardens takes but a second and is interrupted by a crier calling out the men and their titles to the court. The head priest, Furyone, nods to the king with respect, but with a quiet statement that he serves a higher master. The king bows his head in respect to the Furyone and the God they all serve. Next, both of the wardens drop to pay their respects to the king as well. Proper form is shown, the right knee is placed upon the ground, the left foot stays planted, the right hand holds the pommel of the sword, and the left hand is clenched in a fist against the ground, this is all done with their heads bowed. With this respect given, both men get up, though Eogden appears to struggle up rather than doing so as smoothly as Sioned does. Sioned’s ease earns him a quick look of spite from his fellow warden.

Following the introduction of the high priest and the two wardens, the nobles of the wardens’ provinces are introduced with as much quickness as can be mustered without causing any hurt to the nobles’ pride. What seems like hours go by to Wyland as he flexes one of his knees to stop his leg from going to sleep. A furtive glance back at Surian confirms his earlier musings. Surian was even enjoying this part, seeming to note every nobles name and faces, filing it all away for use a later date. Well that seems like a good thing for a future king to do thinks Wyland. He however is not a future king and just wants to get on to the feasting. Finally the last noble arrives into the great hall and the room is appearing to be a bit crowded.

This is quickly relieved when door after large door is opened to the right of the hall. As soon as they fly open the people quickly rush inside. Wyland himself wishes to flood out with them, but restrains himself. Surian however does not and joins the throng as it fills the dining hall that lies adjacent. Through the swirls of the moving crowd Wyland spots his father at the same time that King Ored appears to.

“Come, Wyland, why do we not go and see your father, hmmm?” With that said the king rises from his throne and begins down the steps.

The joy of seeing his father again after a month causes Wyland to be right on the heels of the king. A smile lights up his father's face as he notes the king and his son coming toward him.

While Wyland is focusing on his father, the king says, “You know Wyland, it is not polite to breathe on the back of the king’s neck.” Even though this admonishment is said in a joking tone, Wyland cannot help but feel a little embarrassed.

“There are my favorite two men,” booms Sioned with his arms opened in an expansive gesture, one that almost catches a nearby noble in her finely plaited and quaffed hair. He does not even notice her glare as he continues towards where the king and his son have now stopped. When he reaches them, Sioned begins to go into a bow to pay respects once again, but Ored stops him with a hand.

“There is no need, cousin, I feel I have been shown enough respect this afternoon for a whole week”, he says lightly.

This causes Sioned to laugh and he responds,”Ah, I’m sure that it has, my cousin. In that case I shall greet you simply as one man greets his friend.” The king proffers his right arm, and Sioned takes it, wrapping his strong fingers around the sleeve of the king’s garment, right at the forearm, and the king grasps Sioned’s as well. “I give you good greeting”, Sioned says. Noting the restrained, yet eager way that Wyland has been staring at him, Sioned motions to the dining hall. “There now, go attend your guests mighty king, for I have a son to see.”

“That you do, that you do”, responds the king while smiling. After the king has gotten some ways across the room, chatting with various nobles the whole of the way, Wyland begins talking to his father.

“I give you good greetings, father, it is good to see you. It has been far too long. How is the province? How is my little brother, I’m sure Kurick has gotten into some sort of trouble. Is mother well?” All of these questions come out very quickly, and his pleasure at seeing his father is apparent in the smile and light in his eyes.

Sioned begins laughing even before Wyland is half way through his questions. “Come on son, I’ll answer everything while we eat I won’t be going anywhere, the food however I’m sure is quickly disappearing.” With that said, Sioned puts a comradely hand upon his son’s shoulder and they head off to follow everyone else to the tables and the food that awaits them.

 

Story written by Drogo View Profile