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 IV: THE VISITOR

 small puff of dust rises from the ground, snaking upwards as it climbs that which disturbed it. The dust twists along a knobby, rough-hewn walking stick, slowly thinning as it floats ever upward. It pauses in its ascent, until a gentle breeze continues to lift the now spreading motes of dust. The breeze causes the vapor to caress the hand which holds the staff, strong, calloused hands they are. Flowing upward, ever following this line of weather worn skin, it ascends an arm clothed in but simple bleached wool. Finally, the last of the motes disappear in front of thoughtful gray eyes framed by the lines of one much in the sun. The eyes are focused upon the ground that birthed the errant dust cloud; picking out the barely discernable path that has become all but lost in the shaggy undergrowth. Following the bits and pieces of the trail that peek out from under the brush and tangled roots of trees that surround him, he spies out the conclusion of his journey. Down the hill upon which he stands are several worn wooden houses that cluster atop a rise of land that lies hard against the sea, with naught but a few tumbled rocks between the village and the ever hungry water.

“So, this is where I am to stay this coming month”, muses the man. Fingers tighten upon the staff as it is raised off the ground, and the man calls in proclamation, “May the Creator grant me respite from this constant journey. May the Creator grant me his wisdom so I may know his desires. May the Creator grant me his strength so I may follow this path he has put me on.” With the last words of the ritualistic prayer finished, he lowers his staff with a thump, adjusts the cloth strap of his pack, and begins forwards once more.
 

With each step the man draws nearer the small village, and as he does so more details of his new home show themselves. Two women wearing simple dresses, one in pale yellow, the other in gray, stand in front a tattered net, their fingers working deftly to mend the holes that have rendered it useless. Quick smiles and conversation are shared as they go about their work. A sharp gust of wind pulls the netting away from the hands of the younger woman in gray, causing her to fumble after it. The elder laughs as the woman struggles to put it back into its place, so the work can be finished. After finally getting the net secured, she gives the woman in yellow a reproachful look. But, with a few words the older woman has the younger laughing with her.

The man smiles to himself as he sees the friendly banter between the two women. “This bodes well for my stay here”, he muses.

A nearby wooden table with slots between the boards is weighted down by a pile of cleaned fish. A woman with her hair gathered into a long braid kneels beside the table, feeding a pile of green kindling into the slow burning fire underneath the table. Wisps of smoke drift from the smoking fish, setting the man’s mouth to water. A young boy in the midst of the houses rolls a wooden wheel nearly the size that he is. He puts forth all his strength to push it, and laughs as it rolls again. As it slows down it stops rolling and promptly falls over to the delight of the child. With great zeal the boy runs over t the wheel and continues his game.

All of this the man sees as he comes down the hill towards the settlement. Soon, he has come close enough to pick up stray pieces of the women’s conversation when he is hailed from a doorway, “Hello stranger.” This welcome causes the three women to turn from their tasks to look at the newcomer. The boy stands holding his wheel as he watches the man come closer.

A striking woman steps out the doorway of a modest sized house. Her auburn hair ripples in the gentle breeze and her smile is wide and inviting. “It has been a time since anyone has come this way. I am Mayes and my husband Wil is the headman of this place. What news have you of the world outside our little village?” As she says the last words she raises a slimly muscled, pale arm, gesturing to the worn structures about her with an easy smile upon her lips.

“Well met, Mayes. I am Dael and I would gladly share all that I have seen in my travels.” He fingers his pack and lifts his staff slightly. “Though I find it is usually more easily done when I am not burdened by all of my gear.”

“Of course, where are my manners? Wil would think me uncivilized for not offering you a cold drink and a place to relax. Please come inside.”

She ushers him into the doorway and makes a shooing motion towards the people still standing about and the few that have gathered as she and Dael talked. “Off with you now, you’ll all have time to gawk at the stranger later.” She turns to Dael who is now in the front room of the house, “Don’t mind them, it’s like I said, we don’t get much in the way of travelers in these parts. Now let me take your cloak and staff and the like. Don’t want you to think you’re still on the road when you’re in a right proper home.”


Dael has a somewhat bemused look on his face as the woman spins about like an auburn tornado. In but just a moment it seems she has hung his cloak, put his staff by the door, lain his pack next to his staff and has already been to the kitchen and back. As she slows down she offers him a wooden cup filled with golden mead. He knows he is indeed honored, for this would be a rare treat for any of the people in the village. He fingers the smooth, simple lines carved upon the wooden vessel. After a brief smile he raises the cup to his lips and takes a deep draught. The cool, sweet liquid hits his tongue and washes his with an easy fire. Looking at the mead with an analyzing eye he looks back up and says, “Truly this is quite good. It is seldom that I have had any better throughout the whole of the kingdom. Thank you headmistress, you are far too kind.” His compliments bring a subtle blush to her cheeks.

“No need to be getting fancy, I’m a headwoman. We’re simple folks here.” Yet, she still beams at him as she says this.

While taking another small sip of the heady brew Dael takes a quick glance about him. The house is a small one for the village head to live in, but it is clean and well kept. The walls are whitewashed, and fairly recently if the purity of the white is any indication. He assumes that they are the common brick and mud construction that is found throughout the villages in the kingdom. The floor is the good solid earth beneath him; it is well packed and is swept regularly to keep it that way. The room that he sits in now is obviously the main room as it has several wooden chairs strewn about and a large fireplace against the wall, a few small rugs are strewn about as well, more for color than for anything else. Looking in the fireplace Dael finds that it allows him to see a little bit into what he can see is the kitchen. An iron pot hangs by a hook over the fire, mostly obscuring the little he can see. He catches a glimpse of a table, chairs and some counters. Off to his right he is able to peer into the other room through an open doorway. The goodly sized wooden bed makes its use rather apparent. It is piled thickly with multi-colored blankets and quilts of all kinds. A small, intricately carved chest sits at the end of the bed, secured with strong hinges and straps of iron.

“This is a lovely home here, and I thank you again for such a hospitable welcome. It is quite some time since I was last greeted with such honest enthusiasm.”

“Well don’t start thinking too much about it now”, the woman says with a twinkle in her eye. “It isn’t everyday that we hear any news.”

“Oh, so it is not me that you are interested in, but rather the things I might tell you”, he jests in return. “I suppose it is the very least I could do for courtesies as I have been given.” Dael notices the headwoman blush slightly again, he knows it must not be common for her to be addressed in such a way. “Let me see, where should I begin? There is so much, do you wish to hear of the wild frontier lands, the grape laden hills of Luquador, or the grace of the court? Just tell me where to start, Mayes, and I shall tell you all that I have heard. Though,” he says with a twinkle in his eyes, “I will not tell you all that I know as I would go hoarse first.”

At the mention of all of these places found throughout the varying lands within the kingdom, Mayes' eyes brighten and go wide. “You have been to all of those places? What are you? A story teller?”

“No, I am not, though at times I feel as if I am,” Dael laughs. “Rather, I am a priest of the Order of Urik. So, as you know I wander about from city to town, to village, trying to find the place that the Creator wants me to be, and then that is where I shall finally stay and do the work that he asks of me.”

“Oh, that’s wonderful. I am sure we will just be a stop in your way as we are small and have no temple or priests. I know that your time here will be pleasant though.” Mayes radiant smile and firm nod underscore her kind words. “I know that it is selfish of me to keep you and ask after the world, especially when I should ask the whole village to come by so they can all enjoy your news. But...”, she looks at him with a rueful grin, “I simply can’t help myself.” She shrugs her shoulders lightly. “So, I will only ask for one piece of news to satisfy my curiosity before you are introduced around to everyone.”

“I applaud your thoughtfulness towards your fellow neighbors and my weariness from my journey. Only one piece, hmmm, well then it better be good,” he says with a wink. “I will tell you then of the court and of Prince Surian’s fifteenth naming day that occurred but three months ago. Does that sound interesting?” Seeing Mayes' eager nod he continues. “I was in the capital city Vermoth for a religious matter, when some of my fellows convinced me to attend the festivities at the palace, though to be honest I do not believe that there was a single place in the city where I would not have been caught up in the celebration. The people seem to have a true affection for the young Prince.” He gestured to his rather worn clothing, “unsurprisingly they would not let me attend in my usual mode of dress,” he chuckled. So, there I was finding myself newly outfitted with a fine garment that was as white as lamb’s wool, it was just as soft as well.

I have been to Vermoth several times, mostly to visit the high temple, but I had never seen much of the palace. We arrived, several of my brethren and I, to find a walkway of gleaming marble.”

Amazement covers Mayes' face at this news. “Marble outside, on the road? You can’t be serious, you are just making it more then it was, aren’t you?

“No, I am being honest; I myself was amazed as well. That was not even the beginning of it, trust me. There were twenty soldiers along each side of the road. Their armour was burnished until it gleamed in the torchlight. They all had halberds with silver tips with tassels of silk running down from the blades. Their eyes were cold and their faces hard. They were a magnificent sight in their splendor. Some of my elders breezed by as if it were a common occurrence; I was all but dragged along so as to keep pace with my party. The doors were swung wide open, and - oh! - you should see the intricacies of the carvings upon the wooden panels! Illustrated stories both fable and religious were a mosaic of our history, and then when I entered I thought surely I would go blind. For everywhere that I looked the luster of gold and the glint of jewels assaulted me. Never had I imagined such wealth... - It was on everything, the walls, the ceiling, the guests, even in the guest cup I was offered. I fear I must have gotten my drink all over myself as I was paying so little attention to anything besides my surroundings.

I was immediately swept up into a whirlwind of social pleasantries and introductions, meeting a new face and learning a new name every minute. Which, I might add, in the confusion of it all, they were all promptly forgotten. I soon found myself surrounded by strangers all enjoying themselves and pressing me to a seat near them. I still believe that it is the softest thing I have ever sat on; they must have captured a cloud and sewn it into a cushion. Do not look at me, I am not jesting! I cannot imagine how it was so soft. A glass was thrust in my hand, whose contents merrily splashed upon me, much to my dismay, and a plate was quickly set before me. All manner of meats, vegetables, and fruits lay piled in heaping mounds about the table, and this table was but one of many. The food there would have fed this small village for a month, no two months...

During this dream-like night I vividly recall first seeing the King and then his son walk out together. Shall I tell you of them?” Seeing the way the woman's eyes widened at the mere mention of seeing the King and the Prince he continued. “The King came out first, and he was the perfect image of a strong regent. His grey eyes seemed depthless with the wisdom of a learned man, his full blonde hair and beard gave him the image of a mature eternity. His jaw was strong, as all kings need strength to rule, but it was softened with a smile, which is what so amazed me about him. Unlike so many of the brief faces I saw, he truly seemed to be happy, there was no calculated crook to his lips, no guile in his eyes. Now that is a King!” He saw the same admiration that he felt reflected in her own eyes and reveled in the shared comfort they had knowing that there was someone in control who really did care.

“Next came the young Prince, he was every bit the man his father was, and showed promise to be even more. His blonde hair haloed his head giving him a holy air, but the light in his hazel eyes and the mischievous smile he wore belied the little devil he kept inside. He was surprisingly well-grown for his age and I saw many a lady seemingly agree to this. I watched him all throughout the feast. He interacted with not only his peers, but also his elders. Never have I seen a boy that age act with such maturity and seem to have such any easy way with all he encountered. Truly, I see why the whole of the city loves Prince Surian.”

Mayes gives a silent nod of agreement without even seeming to know of it. Throughout the whole of his story Mayes’ face had been filled with wonderment and she imagined herself there along with Dael. She saw the grand palace and all of their guests in their finery along with him. She too saw the King and the Prince and felt the same awe he did as well. The whole of her life she had heard stories of the king and his court, of the noble lancers and their ladies, and of the bustling capital. “It is good that the Creator has blessed us so, may it always be that way,she lets out a quick wistful sigh. “It must be great to travel like that.” A part of her longed to be there and join in it all, but after a moment reality re-asserted itself. Simple common sense told her that her ever leaving this village was unlikely. Taking a quick look around her small, comfortable home she felt fine with that knowledge as she was happy with the life she and Wil had with their two children.

After a moment she gives her head a shake and appears to come back to where she sits. She looks about at her humble yet well kept home and a glimmer of pride enters her eye. “It may not be a palace and our village may not be a castle, but I wouldn’t give it up for nothing. Now then let us get you settled.”

With that Mayes pushes herself up to her feet sprightly and as Dael rises up a bit more stiffly. She takes his cup and rushes it into the kitchen, she returns just as he begins gathering his belongings.

“Come, I shall take you to one of the families that have a spare room and more importantly good hearts.” She opens the door and gives him a wink as she says, “It’s my sister Yurin, and don’t worry, Mom raised us up right. The Creator knows that I’d clobber her one if she didn’t have a good heart”, she laughs lightly. She closes the door behind them as they emerge into the late afternoon sunlight. “Right this way.”

The woman leads Dael through the village passing whitewashed wooden houses, well-tended gardens and a few wondering looks. As Dael looks about he finds a peace that he can never seem to discover in the cities much to the consternation of his brethren. He smiles inwardly at the sight of several children playing raucously nearby, and his smile appears on his lips as they stop their play to look at the stranger in their town. Then deciding that he was interesting they fall in line behind the two of them, chattering the whole of the time. He looks across the village common to see the hard scrabbled rocks and the endless sea. He sees several small ships, some with sails and some without, all going about their daily business of catching and hauling in fish. A simple life to reflect the simple truths of the Creator he reflects as he walks along.

“Well, here we are,” Mayes announces as she gestures to a house that looks as if it is twin to her own. She rapidly knocks on the door and gives Dael a reassuring smile. The door opens wide to show a younger version of Mayes. Curious hazel eyes glance over at Dael and the children standing behind them in a small gaggle. Her gaze turns inquiring as she looks back to Mayes, and her lips turn upward in a slight smile. “Ummm, I see you brought company, are they all coming in?”

“What,” Mayes looks to where Dael is standing behind her, it is only then that he notices the two boys and the little girl behind them. One boy is pushing the other closer to Dael. The nearer boy touches Dael’s cloak, giggles, and rushes over to his other friends. “Shoo, you little rascals get out here!” She laughs as she motions them away with her hands. They all run off laughing. “There, it is just Dael and I if that’s all right.”

“Of course, come on in.” She nearly pulls her sister and her guest in to her home. She mirrors her sister in many ways including the hospitality that she shows Dael. They talk for some time, with laughter predominating the conversation. Eventually Mayes brings up the hope that Dael can stay at her house. Yurin quickly assents and both women express their hope to Dael that he will find that this place is where he is meant to be and that he will stay longer than a month.

 

Story written by Drogo View Profile