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Husband, father, and writer working on a short story project and submitting my novel, The Windsmith, to agents.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Darklight

No one really knew what the ruins once were. Lush gardens were now overgrown with vines and small trees, grass growing up between and over the stones that made up the roads and courtyards of the place. Half-broken columns stood next to piles of rubble that probably were once roofs of grand buildings. Here there were marble feet of some long forgotten hero’s statue, there the upper torso of a woman in robes that once held something in her missing right hand. Only one building had enough walls remaining to see that it was, in fact, a building. Right in front of it, in what was once no doubt a courtyard, stood a mostly intact fountain, now long dried and over run with vines and a small, round red flower.

The monks gathered together in the courtyard of the ruined building, re-using the place as a worship ground, a secret temple. A temple that was secret not only from the prying eyes of the secular world, but also from the rest of their own order. There were 15 monks in all, entering the garden in two rows of 7, with a single monk in front, carrying a large wooden box. He was an older man, in his 50’s, with close-cropped hair and neatly trimmed beard. Despite his age, hardly any gray was showing on his deep, chestnut hair, but his eyes shown with wisdom far beyond even his years, and yet also flared with an unspoken anger that the rest of his body did not betray. Like the other monks, he wore simple garments, an earth brown robe and hood, with a light tan tunic over the top, tied at the waste with a rope belt. There was nothing to distinguish rank or position from one monk to the next.

The monks all moved around a central platform in the center of the garden, were once there may have been a statue. Now, it was a plan marble slab, with out so much as a plaque to tell those form the present what marvel of art once stood here. The older monk with the box moved onto the platform while the others circled it, chanting in quiet voices something that wasn’t quite language, but didn’t cross over into music either. Very carefully, the older monk placed the box in the exact center of the platform, and then pulled small silver bar from one corner, allowing the walls of the box to fall, revealing inside a spherical object.

It glowed a bright white, illuminating the darkening garden as the sun set behind them. Upon close inspection, one could see that it was not, in fact, a sphere, but rather a multi-sided object, a polyhedron of such complexity that it may as well have been a sphere. Once the object had been placed, the older monk looked at his fellows, circling until he made contact with a specific one, and then spoke.

“Brother Angelus, tell me, has Brother Thomas been contacted?”

The monk that was spoken too, Brother Angelus, stepped forward from the circle. He, too, was an older man, but unlike his fellow monk, was not as fit. He was a heavy man, outweighing everyone at the temple this evening by 50 pounds. His massive jowls dominated his face, and his eyes constantly darted from left to right, as if he were expecting someone to jump out of the shadows at him. He was balding, his gray hair thinned to just a slight trail around the back of his head. He nodded as he came forward, causing his jowls to roll and shake, giving one the impression of a well fed pig or cow.

“Oh, yes, Brother Vincent. Brother Thomas is at this very moment being prepared for the pilgrimage to this sacred spot. He should arrive within the week.”

“Excellent,” Brother Vincent said, “well done.” He then turned to the glowing orb on the platform, and kneeled in veneration before it.

“My liege, have you heard?”

Suddenly, the globe’s light changed slightly to a greenish tinge, and it pulsed as a voice emanated from it.

“I have.” It was hallow, and yet some how warm. It seemed to contain all the wisdom of the universe in that one utterance, and at the same time, you felt that it was holding back from you, keeping some special secret all to it self.

“Tell me of this Brother Thomas, Vincent. Is he the man I described?”

“Indeed, he is, my liege. He is a veritable saint, in fact, likely to be sainted after his death. He works with the farmers in his village every week, keeping his body in fit shape and good health. He gives his temples’ money to the poor, and provides shelter to the homeless. His sermons are well respected by both nobility and peasantry alike. He is wise and knowledgeable, not only in our scriptures, but also in the scriptures of other religions, allowing him to answer questions and debate philosophy with the best scholars in the land. It is even said that he is a masterful magician, though if this is true he has never shown this power in the presence of others.”

“Excellent” spoke the orb. “And he will come willingly? The possession will not work if he is not willing to accept me.”

“He will be made to understand, my liege, and once he does, he will agree. He is, as I said, knowledgeable, and will come to understand his sacrifice will be for the benefit of all the world.”

“Good,” said the voice. “Then I will return to my sleep. Do not wake me again until Brother Thomas is before me.”

“As you will, my liege.”

****

“Brother Thomas! Brother Thomas!” the cry came up from the cobblestone path that made it’s way via a series of switchbacks up the steep hill the abbey rested on. The cryer was a young boy, known to the monks at the abbey as Little Timmy, though no one, even Timmy, knew the boy’s truename. He was left at the abbey when he was one, and has stayed there ever sense, learning all the monks have to teach him and running errands for them.

As he reached the gates, they were opened for him, and he continued yelling as he ran inside. A tall man in a monk’s brown robe came rushing out, shushing the boy as he came.

“I’m here, Timmy,” Brother Thomas said. “I’m here. Now, what is it that you would wake the entire valley to get my attention?”

“There is a summons for you,” Timmy said. He pulled a crudely folded parchment from his belt, one that contained the seal of the High Prelate on it. Brother Thomas gently took the missive from the boy, ruffling his hand through his hair as he did so.

“Thank you, Timmy,” he said. “If you go to the kitchen, Brother Rod still hasn’t cleaned out the mashed potato barrels. You might get a second breakfast if you hurry.”

The boy smiled, did a quick and sloppy bow and ran off. Thomas smiled. Though he tried hard and swore that one day he would be a monk too, Thomas knew that Timmy was destined for a more worldly life. He looked back down at the letter and the smile faded. The Prelate wouldn’t be sending a summons to a simple abbey monk. He nodded to Brother Andrew, who nodded back, an acknowledgement that Andrew understood Thomas would not be able to complete his shift on the vegetable garden this morning. He looked back at the folded paper and walked up the stairs to his cell.

Once inside, he waved his hand, and the candle on the reading desk burst into life, spreading illumination around the small room. It was sparsely furnished; a single bed, the reading desk and a stool, and a footlocker which contained some personal items as well as a few extra robes and other clothing, should they be necessary. It was all Thomas needed as a monk. Everything else was provided by the Abbey, and he was content with that.

He sat at the desk and carefully broke the seal on the letter. Then, he unfolded the parchment to see fine, carefully written script across the page. There was no denying that this was an official letter. He sighed. He feared this day was coming. He read it over, and then read it over again to make sure he understood its wording. He sighed again. All his fears were realized. He would need to talk to the Father Abbot. He walked out of the room, waving his hand once, and the candle went out.

He climbed up some more stairs to the top of the three story building, and walked down the short hall to the office of the Father Abbot. He knocked once on the door, and a voice from inside bade him enter. The Father Abbot was sitting behind a large oak desk with finely carved figures of cherubs playing on it. It was the one piece of art in the building, hand crafted by a monk specifically for the abbey some twenty years ago. It was currently piled with papers that the Abbot was studying. He took off his reading spectacles when Thomas entered and smiled.

“Brother Thomas!” he said. “I heard Young Timmy looking for you a few moments ago. I take it the lad found you okay?”

“Indeed, he did, Father Abbot,” Thomas said, making the proper bowing motion. He stood up and handed the paper to the Abbot. The older man picked up the paper and read it. His smile got wider.

“Excellent,” he said. “My recommendation of you worked.”

“Recommendation?” Thomas said. “You recommended me for this?”

“Indeed,” the Father Abbot said. Then, he sighed and turned serious. “Thomas, you’re being waisted here.”

“I do a lot of good...” Thomas started, but the Father Abbot quieted him with a wave of his hand.

“You do do a lot of good,” the Abbot said, “I agree. But you could be doing so much more good working in the High Prelate’s office. You’ve said it yourself, this church needs a re-working. What better place to make that happen than in the heart of the church itself?”

“I wasn’t aware that you shared that opinion with me,” Thomas said, narrowing his eyes.

“Well,” he said, opening his hands and waiving them back and fourth. It was a typical Itathican thing to do, using his hands to talk. The Father Abbot didn’t often show his cultural heritage, but the hand moving habit was apparently hard to break. “I don’t entirely disagree with it, either. The truth is, I do agree that there needs to be changes made at the highest authority, but I don’t agree with all your proposed changes. But, I’m old, Thomas, and set in my ways. You are young, and exactly the kind of man that can get your changes put through. Plus, in the Central City, you can work your way up to being the High Prelate yourself one day.”

“I don’t wish to play the political games needed for such a position, Father,” Thomas said. “I became a priest to aid people, not to make policy.”

“And are you telling me that you can’t do a better job of helping people from the High Prelate’s office? You’ll have access to all his resources, the library, the money, the farms. Think of how many people you could educate, feed, aid with those resources.”

Thomas nodded slowly. It was a valid point.

“Listen, Thomas,” the Abbot said, standing up and walking around the desk. “This is an important move for you. The truth was, the High Prelate’s office was asking about you already. You’ve made quite the reputation for yourself. It’s time you took this step.”

Thomas found himself nodding again. He had become aware that people throughout the church were talking about him. Even the farmers in far off Hightower had heard of Thomas the Kind. He sighed. There really was no way to say no to the High Prelate, anyway. Not, and keep his commission as a priest.

“There, see?” The Father Abbot said, putting his hands on Thomas’ shoulder. “Trust me, Thomas, this really is for the best. Believe me, I really don’t want to loose you here, but you’re not being utilized to the best of your ability here. Go, be who God meant to be. According to this letter, a Knight escort is due here in two days. Take that time to pack and mediate. You will be officially relieved of all duties as of tomorrow morning.”

“But,” Thomas started to protest.

“Uh ah,” the Abbot said. “I’m the Father Abbot. If you choose to work because your packing is done, that’s your choice, but officially, you no longer have any duties here. And that is that.”

Thomas sighed, but then nodded.

“Thank you, Father,” he said. “This talk has been helpful.”

A few hours later found the sun setting and all of Thomas’ packing done. He spent the next meditating, and it was during this time that he had a strange vision. It wasn’t uncommon for Thomas to see things while meditating. His father was a Magus, and thus arcane energies ran through his blood. But this vision was even stranger than most.

He saw a circle of monks, from his order, surrounding a pedestal. He wasn’t sure where he was, but it was obviously a holy place. One monk, in the center of the circle, lowered his hood, revealing a demon’s red face, complete with horns. He smiled and beckoned to Thomas.

“Come, Kind One,” the demon said in a voice that sounded more like two voices. “The possession must take place for our Lord to fulfill his final role in the world.”

Thomas shook himself out of his trance. In all the visions he had ever had, no one ever spoke before. In fact, none of them even had a single sound. This trip he was going to take was going to lead him into danger, he could tell. The visions were always related to his personal future. He couldn’t meditate after that, or sleep that night. He made the decision that first thing in the morning, he would tell the Abbot about this vision. Though Magic wasn’t expressly forbidden to priests, having come from God, it wasn’t taught by the church to its ministers either. The Father Abbot, however, had dome some research in the subject, and so besides Thomas was the only other monk in the Abby familiar with the arcane. In the mean time, he took the time he wasn’t sleeping to write in his journal. He was collecting poems and stories he heard from the farmers, and had heard a few new ones yesterday. Now was as good a time as any to get them down on paper.

Thomas awoke to find that he had fallen asleep at his desk. He had ink smeared on is face and hands. Outside was the bell that noted a visitor was approaching the abbey. Usually, the bell wasn’t rung unless it was someone important. Curious, Thomas rushed outside. He climbed up the stairs in the one and only watch tower on the abby’s outer wall and got there to see a small crowd of other monks. They were all mumbling to themselves. Who was it? A representative of the king?

Thomas squinted in the morning light. He cursed to himself when he saw how high in the sky the sun was. He had missed morning meditation and prayer. He pushed that thought aside, however, when he got a clearer look at the arriving figure. It was on a horse, but whoever it was they were alone. That, in and of it self, was unusual. The area around the abbey wasn’t dangerous, but it was rare that anyone made the trip up the hills on their own. It looked like the person was wearing armor... plate armor?

“It’s a knight!” one of the monks cried out, pointing towards the figure.

A knight? From what order, Thomas wondered? What would a knight be doing out at a remote abbey? This couldn’t be his escort, could it? That wasn’t supposed to arrive for a few more days. The knight arrived at the gate, and Thomas got a better look at the knight. It was an imposing figure, astride one of the great horses of the Thunderplains, itself wrapped in plate. The plate of the knight was a bright silver color, trimmed with gold, but despite these colors, it was not shiny. And it was also well used, with various nicks and small dents all over it. Then, Thomas saw the knight’s shield, a blue field with a white griffin on it, standing on its hind legs.

“Not just any knight,” said the Father Abbot, who Thomas was surprised to find was standing right behind him. “A Knight of the Silver Griffins.”

They were the most powerful and well respected knights in the realm. They were not connected to anyone kingdom, and only marginally connected to the church. They claimed to serve the word of God itself, and fought for justice and peace throughout the world. This couldn’t possibly be his escort. It was too much, even coming from the High Prelate. He turned to the Father Abbot, about to comment on that, when he remembered the vision he had last night.

“Father,” he said, “I need to talk to you.”

“I know,” the Abbot said in a small voice. “But I cannot. Here, take this, but do not read it until you are two days away from here. Be safe, Thomas. Trust in God and your escort, and you will do the right thing.”

The Abbot handed Thomas a sealed letter, and then rushed off. What was that about? Before he could figure it out, Thomas saw Little Timmy waving to him from the courtyard below. He was next to the knight, whose helmet was removed to reveal long, flowing red hair and a round, soft feminine face. A woman? There were women knights, Thomas knew, but he had never heard of one winning a place in the Silver Griffins. That was an elite knight hood reserved for battle knights. Women usually served in healing or magical orders of knighthood. His curiosity piqued, Thomas walked down the tower to talk to this stranger.

“Are you Brother Thomas?” the woman asked in a strong voice when he got down there. Straight to the point, he thought.

“I am,” he said. “And you are?”

“I am Dame Trina of the Order of the Silver Griffin, and I am here to escort you to the High Prelate,” she said.

Thomas raised an eyebrow. “Escort duty seems below one of your station, if I may be so bold, Dame Trina,” he said.

“Our duty is to serve the Will of God, Brother,” she said. “Whatever form that may take.”

“Well spoken” he said. “Very well. Will you come in for some food? I can smell breakfast being cooked now.”

The woman looked towards the direction of the kitchen, the smell of cooking eggs and vegitables enticing. She nodded once, and then climbed down for the horse.

“We should leave soon, though,” she said after doing so.

Once again, Thomas raised his eyebrow, and she returned the expression to him, as if to say ‘I only follow the will of God. I do not ask questions.’ He nodded his head to her, trying to stifle a sigh. The good news was that his meager possessions were already packed. They went and ate. Thomas found himself gawking with the rest of the monks and the knight’s eating habits. She shoved in food as if she hadn’t eaten in days, and drank from her goblet before the food was completely chewed. It was not only shocking for a woman to each in such a manner, but for a knight of her station to do so as well. Where had she com from?

After breakfast, she was eager to leave, almost as if she expected something to happen. He gathered his belongings, was granted a horse by order of the Father Abbot, and rode off from the Abbey with Dame Trina. They rode together in silence for the first hour of their journey. It was almost enough to get to the next nearest town, Hillside. They were a few hill sides away when the sky exploded in fire. Great balls of fire fell from the sky, shattering into the hillside and setting the woods around them on fire. Thomas cried in fear, trying to reign in his horse, who was desperately trying to run back to the abbey.

Trina rode up to him, her horse hardly seeming to notice the fire all around them. She pulled out her sword, which was glowing a bright white color. She waved the sword over his head, and the light from the sword spread over them both, forming a dome of white. She said a few words and touched the tip of the sword on his horse, who immediately fell calm.

“We must wait out the fire storm,” she said.

“You’ve experienced this before?” he asked in shock. She seemed so calm.

“No,” she said simply. “But it was not unexpected.”

He stared at her in shock. “Not unexpected?” he said. “Okay, I think it’s time you told me what was going on here. Why am I being summoned to the High Prelate? Why are you, a Knight of the Griffin, my escort? And what in the Seven Hells is happening out there right now?”

She stared at him with eyes that were cold, controlled. For a second he flinched at that glare. But then he decided to stand his ground. He deserved to know what was happening to him. He glared back at her, trying to suppress his fear. He was sure he failed at that, but he continued to stare at her nonetheless. The sounds of roaring fires and falling balls of flame could be heard outside. Thomas noted that he couldn’t feel the heat inside the white dome. Eventually, Trina sighed. She got off her horse and reached into her saddle bag for her bed roll. She motioned for Thomas to do the same, and he did, still glaring at her as best he could.

“I had been lead to expect that you were a patient man, Brother Thomas,” she said.

“Well, when I don’t have balls of fire raining down on me and mystic knights protecting me, I am pretty patient,” he replied. She nodded in understanding.

“Very well then,” she said. She spread out her bed roll and then pulled out some trail rations, again indicating that Thomas do the same. She then sat down. She waited for Thomas to get settled, that she pointed towards the dome. “There have been reports of fire storms like this appearing all over the Nine Kingdoms. We are still unclear if they happen outside them, but it’s irrelevant at this moment. These storms are not natural. They are a thing of great evil.”

Thomas took a moment to look up, as if he could see the storm through the white barrier. Then he looked back at her. “How do you know this?”

She sighed again. “I belong to a secret society, one that has members from both the church and the knighthood, and even some merchants and nobility. It is a group that has been in existence for thousands of years, with the stated goal of keeping an eye on those with power, to make sure that peace and justice rules the world. We are called the Order of the Golden Serpent.”

“I’ve heard of them,” Thomas replied. “I always thought they were a myth, something made up by the old High Prelates to justify the Inquisitions.”

“No,” she replied. “Though the order was a direct result of the First Inquisition. When reports first came in of these storms, we did research. It turns out these happened once before. Five thousand years ago, during the reign of the Elven Kingdoms.”

“I know this story,” Thomas said. “A great evil had spread through the land, burning villages, corrupting the churches and nobles, and generally causing great suffering. Eventually, a hero appeared, a knight of such pure heart that he was able to resist the evil and captured it, putting it into a gemstone, where it will stay for all time.”

“Yes,” she said. “The descriptions of this evil match events that are happening in the world of late. These storms are just one. And we have traced these events to the High Prelate.”

“Wait,” Thomas said. “I’m a believer. I trust in God to direct me, and was even willing to believe that this ancient, almost mythical evil of old could be returning. It’s hard to argue with a storm of fire. But you want me to believe that this is all connected to the High Prelate?”

“You have been in this remote monastery for a while, but even at that, you must surely have noted the strange orders coming from his office?”

This caused Thomas to pause. The Father Abbot got some orders from the High Prelate just a few months ago, and the result was an end to the feeding of the poor. A few weeks later, the Father Abbot suggested that those monks who wished could begin training in the staff and spear, as was the tradition during the High Wars of a thousand years ago. He told Thomas that the request came from the High Prelate. He looked at the Knight, and nodded.

“We have other evidence that you have not seen,” she said. “It is getting dark out there. The church has began a pogram against other religions, and is using the political tensions with Suthmar to fuel it.”

Suthmar was the only one of the Nine Kingdoms that didn’t follow the Church. Instead, they followed some convoluted pantheon of gods. This major cultural difference caused much strife between Suthmar and the other kingdoms. This news disturbed Thomas.

“We do not know what his interest in you is,” she said, “only that if he has an interest, it cannot be good. So I was sent to detour you.”

“Detour me to where?” he asked. It was clear by this point she wasn’t taking him to the High Prelate.

“To a village a few days from here. There, you will be transferred to some other members of the Order, who will know better what your role in all this is.”

“How do I know that you haven’t been corrupted by this evil?” Thomas asked.

Trina smiled. “Good, keep that suspicion,” she said. “What do you know of the Knights of the Silver Griffin? Specifically, about our swords?”

“Only what all the stories say,” he said. “They are magical, and the magic in the sword is different for each person. And that the swords are said to only be held by those of the purest heart.”

“They are not mere stories,” she said, pointing again to the shield. “My talent is protection. I can create these energy shields with my sword. It was why I was chosen to get you. But, as long as I hold this blade and it does not burn me, you can be assured that I am not corrupted.”

He nodded, still not quite convinced. He started to question more, but she cut him off.

“Eat,” she said. “Then we sleep. Our reports state that these storms last for several hours. We may as well rest while we can. We will need our strength in the morning.”

Thomas couldn't argue with that. This was all a lot to take in. He ate his rations in silence and when finished, rolled into his bed roll and fell asleep. When he awoke, the white dome was gone, and his heart immediately started beating hard. He sat up straight, looking for the falling balls of fire, and when he glanced to the Knight’s bedroll, he saw that Trina was not there. He panicked further, getting to a standing position before he realized that the sky was a clear blue. No fire. He glanced around and saw that much of the forest was burnt down, however. Charred remains of trees could be seen for miles.

But that still left he question of the Trina was. He reached out his hand and his walking stick flew up into it. He gripped it uncertainly in front of him, not sure what he woudl do if there was danger out there. He was a monk, not a warrior. He heard a snapping sound from behind him and twirled, his thin walking staff clumsily flinging around, hitting his hours in the processes.

“Peace, Brother,” Trina said. “I am not your enemy.”

Her eyes contained a smile, and Thomas realized just then how foolish he had been.

“It is fine, Brother,” she said. “It is good to see that you are at least properly frightened. Though you should probably be more prepared to run, or defend your self with that magic I saw you use, rather than fight with a staff that will break after one solid hit.”

Thomas looked down and then back up. She had seen him use his magic to pick up the staff.

“I’m not a Magus,” he said. “Not a true one, any way. My father was a fully trained Magus. I just have some natural skill with it due to my blood.”

She nodded. “Still better for you to use that to protect yourself that relying on physical combat.”

He could only nod at that. He had not been one of the monks that had taken up the spear training.

“Come,” she said. “We must be on our way. The devastation seems limited to a few miles, Hillside should have escaped unscathed. We can get dinner there and be on our way.”

“We are we going, ultimately?” he asked.

“A fishing village called Crystal Lake,” she said.

Thomas wasn’t familiar with that village, but that wasn’t surprising. His geographical knowledge was limited to the area a few miles away from the Abbey, which only included the two villages, and no lakes. He packed his saddlebags and the two of them rode off. For the most part, it was a pleasant ride, with the exception of the devastated forest. His companion was rather quiet, but he could appreciate that. He found himself wishing he could read a book if she wasn’t going to talk, but reading a book on a horse was next to impossible.

A few days later, they arrived at the fishing village. Thomas understood immediately why it was called Crystal Lake. The lake behind the town was so large that the end of it couldn't be seen beyond the horizon. The water was mostly still, and by the town was so clear the bottom could be seen. The scene as they rode in was very picturesque, with the lightly wooded hills surrounding the log cabins, smoke curling lazily out of the chimneys. Thomas didn’t see any boats on the water, but he figured that the fishermen were probably further out, beyond the horizon.

When they rode into the town itself, they were greeted by a commitee. Mostly, it was made up of women, probably the wives of the fishermen. However, several monks were there as well. Thomas smiled at them, and they smiled back.

“Welcome to Crystal Lake, Dame Trina and Brother Thomas,” one elderly woman said. “We have been expecting you. I am Matron Donna wil’Tor. If you would, we can take your horses to our stable and prepare them for our good Knights return journey. Brother, please let me introduce you to Brother Andrial. He is to be your guide in town.”

Both Trina and Thomas smiled, glad to be off their horses and in some place safe. Thomas was lead away by Andrial, while Trian followed the horses. Knights were particular about their mounts, so this wasn’t something Thomas questioned. Andrial guided him through the village, and to the church. It was a simple structure, and the four monks Thomas had seen at the welcome were all there were in town. He felt like this was a place he could really make his home. Andrial was to be Thomas’ guide to the next stage of his journey, to the sacred place. He was still uncomfortable about all this, but he wasn’t sure what else to do besides go along.

Andrial had a fine lunch prepared for them of spiced fish and some local root Thomas had never head before. It was all very tasty. Yes, he could indeed get used to living here. He was shaken out of his revere by sounds of screaming outside. He and the other monks ran outside, where they saw several squat, gray beings running through the people with bright red stocking caps on their otherwise naked bodies. They carried curved, serrited blades and crude wooden shields, and were slaughtering the town folk. Every time a town person fell to one of their blades, he would stop to dip his hat in the blood.

Goblins! Red Caps! Thomas couldn’t believe this. They were just myths, evil faries, not real. And yet, here they were, terrorizing this peaceful fishing village. He saw one running towards a small child, who was standing crying over the dead body of her mother. Thomas cired out.

“NO!”

The cry seemed to spread out form him in a wave, and reverberated through the village. Everyone stopped to look at him. Then, all the goblins got wicked smiles on their faces, and charged at him.

“That’s our target, boys,” he heard one say. He froze in shock. He couldn’t make his legs work, all he could do was stare at the four curved blades heading towards him. They got closer and closer, spittle dripping out of their yellow, pointed teeth. He could smell the sweat of their bodies, and the blood on their hats. He thought that this was surly the end.

One of the goblins suddenly flew backwards, a large red slash across its chest. It hit the ground dead. Before Thomas could react to that, Trina jumped in front of him, swinging her glowing sword. Another goblin fell, its head no longer attached to the body. The other two paused and looked at her. They moved in a circle, trying to surround her. She moved in such a way as to not only prevent that, but keep Thomas behind her as well. It wasn’t going well for the knight, though. They had spread around her enough that they were no on either side of her, and they stayed just out of range of her blade. If they both attacked her at the same time, she could only block one. Thomas had to do something.

Then, something struck him, something Trina herself had said earlier. He reached his hand out and looked at one goblin’s sword. He willed it to be in his own hand, and much to both the goblin’s and Thomas’ surprise, the blade felw from the goblin to Thomas’ hand. Taking advantage of the creature’s confusion, Trina ducked to the right, the still armed goblin coming at her on her left. She swung her sword in a wide arc killing the disarmed goblin quickly, and then continued the swing as she moved to the right, killing the second goblin as it continued to chace her down.

“I thank you, Brother,” she said to Thomas over her shoulder. “Now, perhaps, you should retreat back inside, with the others of your order.

He turned and saw that the other monks were waving for him to get into the church, and found several other citizens in there as well. He ran to them, and then went to a window to watch. He couldn’t see much, though, as Trina chased the creatures through the town. In a matter of twenty minutes, the battle was over. Bodies littered the streets, more goblins than people. Still, people were dead, and Thomas couldn’t help but feel this was his fault.

“They’re targeting me,” he said to Trina when she retrieved him from the church.

“Indeed,” she replied. “I feel that I should continue with you on the rest of your journey.”

Thomas nodded. Andrial didn’t protest either, grateful for the extra protection. The two made their exit quickly, getting into the church boat and heading towards the other side of the lake. The journey was several hours long, and the sun was setting in the sky when they reached the shore. Thomas was not surprised to see a group of monks, the hoods of their brown robes up.

One man came forward to help them all out of the boat. He lowered his hood to reveal slat and pepper hair and a weathered face. The other monks lowered there hoods as well, and Thomas saw that most of them were older. He was surprised to see a man he knew.

“Brother Vincent?” he said. Vincent had been his teacher back in seminary.

“My boy,” Vincent said, a smile spreading across his face. “I cannot tell you how glad I was to hear that you were our chosen one.”

“I’m not sure I know what’s going on here,” Thomas said.

“All will be explained,” Vincent said, leading Thomas down a path. “Just come this way.”

“I’m afraid you cannot accompany us, Dame Knight,” the monk that helped them to shore said.

“I am here to protect Brother Thomas,” she said. “Where he goes, I go.”

“Please, Dame Knight,” Vincent said. “This is a sacrade place. No weapons are allowed.”

“She’s with me,” Thomas said, suddenly. “I won’t go unless she does.”

Vincent looked from him to the knight then back again. Then he sighed.

“Very well,” he said. “But you must leave your blade here.”

She nodded, and removed the scabbard from her belt and placed it on her horse. The group all headed down the path. It lead through some ruins, the few bits remaining of an arcitechtual style Thomas didn’t recognize. He did recognize what was in the center of the whole thing, though.

“A demon orb!” he cried, pointing to the glowing white ball in the center of the glade.

“Indeed I am, Brother Thomas,” the orb said. “Come to me that we might converse.”

“I will do no such thing, demon!” Thomas said, and he felt Trina at his side. He could tell that she wished she had her sword, but was still ready to protect him.

“Please, Brother Thomas,” Vincent said. “Calm yourself. This is not what it seems. This demon orb is what has allowed us to fight the evil off so far. And with your help, it will aid us in destroying it completely. Listen to what it has to say.”

Thomas looked at Vincent. This was still the man that taught him, all those years ago. His eyes were still sharp. This was not the look of a man possessed by demons. He nodded. For now, he would trust Vincent.

“Keep your eyes open,” he whispered to Trina. She nodded curtly, watching the circle of monks carefully.

“Okay, demon,” Thomas said when he reached the ball. “Speak to me.”

“The evil your brethren have been facing is an ancient demon that, until recently, was captured,” the voice from the ball said. “We were all gretefull for this, for while we demons may be evil, we only wish to conqure this world. This demon, this force, wishes to see the world destroyed. If it is destroyed, we demons would go with it. Do you know the texts of Lycrotes? What he wrote was true.”

Thomas nodded. He head learned of Lycrotes in school. The monk had writen about the creation of the world by God in the 1st century, and he described the angels and demons being made from the very soil of the world itself, so that both would be tied to its destiny.

“What does that have to do with me?” Thomas said.

“Have you heard of the Darklight, Brother?” the voice said.

Again, Thomas nodded. This was even more mythical than goblins. That thought made him pause.

“I see that you have,” the voice said. “Good. What do you know of them.”

“I know that the Darklight is a combination of Angelic light and Demon darkness. It is said to be a power not controllable except by the most pure of heart. A man with the Darklight can reshape the world to his will.”

“That is correct,” the voice said. “Or it can defeat the great evil that plagues it now. You, my dear monk, are to be the Darklight.”

“How is that possible?” Thomas asked.

“You allow me to posses you, providing you with the dark power of demons,” the voice said.

“And where would I get the light of Angels to block your influence?” Thomas said.

“You already posses it,” the voice said. “The power in your very blood.”

“Magus,” Vincent said, touching Thomas on the shoulder.

“My Magus blood?” Thomas said. “But I’m not even trained. Or that powerful. I can only perform a few tricks.”

“Tricks that take most months of study to preform,” the voice said. “You do them with but a thought. You even caused the red-caps to pause in their slaughter with but a word. You are the one, Thomas. The power within you is strong, and these monks around you have sworn that you are of pure heart.”

Thomas looked around at all the monks. He saw hope in their eyes.

“What becomes of you when this happens?” Thomas asked.

“I will be consumed,” he said. “My essence will combine with the power in your blood, and together they will become the Darklight.”

Thomas paused. This demon was sacrificing itself, to protect the world.

“Why?” he asked. “Why would you do that for us?”

“I do not wish to see the world destroyed,” the voice said. When Thomas only stared at the orb, the voice chuckled. “You wish my secret motive, my hidden agenda? Very well. You see, there is a chance, however slight, that you will not be able to fully controll the power. After you have defeated this destructive force, I might have enough presence left to still possess you. Then, I would have control of the Darklight, and would be able to reform the world in my image.”

“So, I save the world at the risk of turning it over to a demon,” Thomas said.

“Do we have any other choice?” Vincent asked. “You have seen the devistation brought about by the fire storms, and now the evil is releasing other evil like the goblins. We must stop it.”

“Thomas, this is your only choice,” the voice said. “Become the Darklight. Take its power. Save your world.”

Thomas closed his eyes and said a quick prayer. He had another of his visions during that prayer. This time, he saw the world on fire, but he saw himself above it, providing rain to the world. He knew then what his decision must be.

“I’ll do it,” he said. “Give me the power, demon. I will save this world, then I will protect it from you.”

“Well spoken, Thomas. Well spoken, indeed.”

And with that, the demon sent its energies into Thomas, and he screamed into the night as the power possessed him. He knew instantly what must be done. The world would be saved, and it would be done by him.

Thomas Darklight.

The End

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