Darkman

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic
The War against The Barbarian Wizard Krohl is just starting and the king needs help. Darkman has drunk himself to something less than what he had been as the head of the Fencry.
Princess Valencia comes looking for him...

Submitted: November 25, 2012

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Submitted: November 25, 2012

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Darkman

By David Grape
 

 

He was known as Darkman.
This night, Darkman sat at the back of the tavern next to the fireplace and stared moodily into the flames. He had arrived hours earlier and the long cloak that had protected him from the steady drizzle outside was thrown back allowing the firelight to dance over a face that held many memories.
He turned from the fire to pour himself another drink and found the bottle empty.
"Missy!" he called. "Another."
As he waited for the drink, he scanned the room with his eyes. The tavern was a large, one-room bar that served food and drink and sported a worn sign outside announcing the proud name, "Kings Pub." Several small cabins on an adjacent lot were rented out to travelers and a ramshackle stable stood behind the tavern hunkered in the shadows of the tall spruce trees like a crippled monster waiting to spring. The tavern was constructed of logs and sealed with pitch, giving the interior a warm, homey look. Hunters and trappers frequented the establishment and subsequently, various trophies adorned the walls. The smoke from the kitchen mingled with the smoke from the old-timers pipes and left a thick haze across the room.
Tonight, due to the rain, the place was more crowded than usual. Men standing against the walls blocked most of the light from the small candles on the walls and cast the middle of the room in dark shadows. Men and women alike moved back and forth talking loudly and laughing. There had been a scuffle earlier between two men arguing over an old debt, but it had subsided and the offenders silenced with more drinks. It had been during the loud disruption that Darkman had first noticed the man. He was a smaller man wearing a long green cloak. Bushy blond hair topped his sharp face. He had been staring at Darkman with an eerie intensity. As soon as their eyes met the smaller man had looked down to his plate and continued eating. Darkman was not overly concerned. Strangers staring at him were not an unusual thing, but he kept an eye on the man nonetheless.
Feeling satisfied that everything inside was in order he expanded his gaze to outside the tavern. He cast about for signs of magic and found the stable boy, Faolan, practicing a spell to keep his boots clean of muck when he was in the stalls. Darkman smiled to himself. He had taught the boy the spell himself two days ago and found the youngster was learning quickly. He moved on. An old man on the street was weaving a picture for a traveling merchant asking directions. He was about to turn back to the fire when a small ripple at the edge of his vision caught his attention. Two travelers were making their way up to the tavern. They were shrouded in a concealing spell. Not strong enough to make themselves invisible but enough that a inattentive person would dismiss them right after seeing them, then later have no recollection of them later. He focused his gaze and tried to penetrate their shield. He couldn’t. His brow wrinkled as he backed off. He brought his gaze back to where it surrounded just the interior, knowing a stronger push would alert them to his presence. Something about the feel of their magic was familiar. He cast a similar spell around himself and decided to wait. Slowly sliding his dagger out of his boot, he stabbed the point into the underside of the table where the hilt hung down within easy reach.
Missy arrived with his bottle just as the door opened and blocked his view of the door as she set it down.
"If you require anything else, luv, let me know." She winked at him and moved off towards the front.
The two at the door were shaking the rain off their cloaks, but only one had pushed his hood back .The young man had elfish features, but that meant little to Darkman. When the wizard Krohl had created the land of Fen he had populated it with his version of a superior race. They looked remarkably like elves and possessed magical qualities. Krohl had almost succeeded in wiping out the human race altogether when Darkman and a handful of others had stopped him and banished him to the south. Freed from their subversive leader the elves had joined with the men and managed to rebuild a working government and create a semblance of civilization. Humans and elves alike now lived together under the rule of King Ghallamhuire.
  The young man looked around the room and then turned and spoke quietly to the tavern owner. Darkman studied the second figure. The hood obscured his face, but the handles of two short swords riding above his shoulders were plainly visible. The tavern owner spoke with the young man then turned and gestured towards the back of the room. As he started towards Darkman, the hooded figure caught his arm and spoke a few words to him. The young man nodded once and the hooded figure turned away. As he did, Darkman caught the glimmer of two eyes that sparked gold. Darkman turned his attention back to the man approaching through the crowd. The young man walked past him to the fire and spread his hands to warm them. As he did so he looked around. His gaze slid over Darkman and continued on. He stood for a moment allowing Darkman to get a better look at him. He was slim and appeared to be in his early twenties. His long hair was pulled back and tied at the base of his neck in the fashion preferred by those in the capital city of Gethurn. His leather half boots were worn on the sides showing where the stirrups had chafed them, indicating the man spent time in the saddle. As he turned to move away his dark riding cloak fluttered open flashing the king’s insignia from the hilt of the sword he wore belted at his waist.
Any other time Darkman would have stayed put and waited them out. But something about the two tickled his curiosity. He retracted his gaze, and then quickly expanded it, dropping the concealment charm as he did so. This was the magical equivalent of clearing your throat in a quiet room. It was a careless move, alerting everyone with magical sight of his presence. But Darkman was drunk enough not to care. As the young man quickly swung around, Darkman noticed the man in the green cloak start, rise to his feet, and hurry out. He would worry about that later, right now he turned his attention to the young elf standing in front of his table.
"Are you the one called Darkman?" he inquired.
"What business do you have with me?"
The young man touched his hand to his forehand and extended it out, palm up in the greeting of the formal court. When Darkman made no move to respond he withdrew his hand and continued. "I am Fenwicke and I-" he looked around and lowered his voice, "I come on behalf of the King." He gestured towards a chair. "May I sit?"
Darkman glanced at the figure by the door that had not moved and nodded his head. As Fenwicke sat down, Darkman poured him a drink and slid it across the table. Fenwicke lifted the glass and took a small sip. After a long day of riding thought the rain, the warm burn in his stomach was an enjoyable. He took another drink and studied the man before him. The blonde hair hanging loose around his face reached his shoulders. He had angular features and a strong chin. Running from below his right ear and disappearing into his collar, Fenwick could see an old scar from one of the countless battles he had undoubtedly been engaged in. It was the eyes that made Fenwicke sure he had found the right man.  Light blue eyes surrounded by a ring of gold stared at him from beneath a haze of all night drinking.
It was a belief among the Fencry, that that if drank in the proper amount, alcohol would magnify their power. This was true to a certain extent, but inevitably many would drink too much and lose control, bringing harm to themselves and others. Members of the Royal Council began to be concerned after on young Fencry walked through the palace and blasted all the doors out of his way rather then open them. Soon after this incident the King issued a decree forbidding all Fencry to partake in alcohol unless it was for the sake of research and well supervised. This greatly reduced the problem and soon it was included in the Fencry's oath taken when sworn into the order.

Then came the eve of Princess Valencia’s engagement ceremony to the Chief of the Fencrye, David. Valencia's younger brother, Aiden, had convinced David to go with him to a small pub and have a few celebratory drinks. The bloodbath that started in the tavern and ended in the throne room before King Ghallamhiure himself was still talked about. The citizens and courtiers demanded his life, but the night before his execution he disappeared from his cell. Trackers and members of the Fellcry had been sent out with no results. The nature of the crime led many to believe he had fled to the south and was on liege with Krohl himself.
Fenwicke believed that the man before him was actually David. His task tonight was not going to be easy and judging from the amount of empty bottles on the table it might even be dangerous. Setting his glass down, Fenwicke broke the silence. “The war in the south has just begun and already things are not looking well. The Ward placed on the Silent Mountains is getting weaker by the day. We believe the massive breach appearing on the east coast is where the first major assault will come through. Smaller forces have showed up all along the border of the Ward. The southern army is spread somewhat thin attempting to protect all the possibilities of breakthrough. It would seem reasonable to pull troops from the Northern army to reinforce them; however several of the more prominent figures in the king’s council are urging him to leave them in place in case the army cannot hold them." He paused to take another drink.
He had not addressed how this concerned Darkman’s status with King Ghallamhiure, and was telling him nothing he did not already know. Keeping an eye on the dark figure by the door, he decided to let him talk. It did not appear that they wanted to take him by force...yet. If that was a member of the Fellcry standing there, and it came to force, well, Darkman was not worried about himself, but he doubted that the tavern would survive the fight. Fenwicke resumed speaking and Darkman turned his attention back to him.
"The few attacks that came through were easily destroyed; the creatures were poorly armed and organized-"
"What kind of creatures?" He feigned ignorance
Fenwicke answered without taking his eyes off of him. "They are neither Elves nor Men. They stand upright, but there the similarities end. The soldiers have taken to calling them "The Silent ones."
Darkman raised an eyebrow, "Really?"
"Apparently, they are mute. No battle cries, no screams when they die, nothing. We have not managed to capture one, due to the fact that they fight to the death and do not surrender." He paused for a moment and looked about to continue when Darkman suddenly cut in.
"So where do I fit into all this? I'm assuming you know who I am. Otherwise why bring a Fencry all the way to Doth. How will bringing me in, better the king’s position, especially with a price on my head?"
Fenwicke looked taken aback for a second then continued delicately,
"The king is willing to grant you a full pardon on your return, providing you lend your, ahh, assistance to the cause."
Darkman's face registered surprise then anger. His brow furrowed and he looked as if he was about to lunge over the table towards Fenwicke, when suddenly he leaned back and laughed. It was not a happy sound, and Fenwicke glanced at the hooded figure as if to reassure himself and saw the figure moving slowly across the room. Darkman’s laughter stopped and when he spoke again his voice was laced with bitterness.
"If the king is willing to grant a pardon to a man such as myself, with such heinous crimes in his past, just to save his own skin, than he has become less of a king than I thought. And as such I will have nothing to due with him." Darkman took a drink, wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, and stared belligerently at the dark figure that had reached the table and now stood quietly behind Fenwicke.
"But the King didn't-" Fenwicke was silenced by a hand laid on his shoulder.
"I see you still cannot hold your liquor, David."
It was a soft voice, a musical voice, a woman’s voice! Darkman started in his chair. As she pushed back her hood, Darkman’s face flooded with recognition.
"Valencia!"
He summoned his magic to his left hand which began to glow as a bluish haze surrounded it. His right hand locked around the hilt of his dagger beneath the table. He was about to lunge to his feet when she sat down and began taking her gloves off. She studied his face with a cool, detached look. She had not pushed her hood back all the way, for she did not want to draw undue attention to herself. Being the most beautiful woman in the land of Fen, as well as the king’s daughter, would definitely catch a few looks.
Wavy blonde hair peeked out of her hood framing a face that put cameo sculptures to shame. Her elfish features were softer than most and her large blue eyes surrounded by gold could melt your soul...or burn it to ashes. As she made no threatening moves in his direction it became apparent this was a peaceful meeting. He cautiously relaxed and let the blue flames circling his hand dissipate back into himself. He kept it near the surface, ready to call it forth at the first sign of hostility. He could feel it racing through his veins, whipping his blood to frenzy and sending his heart pounding loudly in his ears. The amount of drink he had consumed made it somewhat harder to rein in. Fortunately, the last few years of drinking had given him substantial experience in controlling it. After they stared into each others eyes long enough to make Fenwicke start fidgeting, Darkman broke the silence, speaking softly.
"Interesting to see you here Val. Last time we were in the same room you were screaming curses at me, and swearing your vengeance."
"I think I had reason."
"Did you?"
"That is what the trial proved."
"It wasn't a trial as much as, a meeting held to figure out the best way to execute me." Darkman stated flatly.
"Considering your crimes, did you expect anything less?" Her voice held a challenge in it.
Darkman started to speak then slowly shook his head, "So why are you not trying to rip the flesh from my bones as you promised?"
She peered into his face, “No denials?"
"Don't mock me, Valencia." His voice was hard.
Something passed across her face then was gone the next instant.
"Times change, Darkman. My father has granted you a full pardon, upon your return and I will honor that."
Darkman didn't believe that for a second. They were not telling him everything. As if reading his mind, Valencia withdrew a folded piece of parchment folded and sealed with the ring of King Giollamhuire himself. She slid it across the table toward him. He looked at it for a minute then broke the seal and examined it. It was a document stating he was granted passage through the land on the kings business and to be allowed to proceed where he wished. It was authentic. Looking at the two seated across from him, Fenwicke studiously examining his fingers and Valencia meeting his gaze with a cool stare, he once again got the feeling they were not revealing all the details.
"So why me exactly?" he asked finally.
Fenwicke put his hand inside his cloak and started to speak when Valencia cut him off and leaned forward.
"My father would like to discuss that with you himself."
Darkman snorted and poured himself another drink.
"We are offering you a chance at life. No more running no more hiding. An opportunity to serve your country." She paused. "I know what that used to mean to you. Do you still hold that passion for the land? A passion for something you once helped create?"
His eyes had a faraway look to them and he was silent for a moment looking into the fire. His mind reeled through images of the past. Battles won, friends fallen, family members lost, loved ones....
His thoughts trailed off and he looked back at Valencia, his face hard. "You use my own words against me, Val. That was my defense when accused of treason." He leaned in towards her, his eyes burning madly. "You loved me once, you fought beside me and we slew Azrael together. You stood with me when my own brother was tortured to death on the castle wall." His eyes glistened as he said this, but as he continued the emotion faded to be replaced by anger. "But when you experienced that same loss-"
"That same loss?!" Her voice was incredulous. "I lost not just a brother, I lost the man I was to marry, and I was betrayed by the man who had sworn to protect me and my family.”

"Which is exactly what I was doing."
"Oh, come now, do you really expect me to believe my own brother had turned? Don't you think it more possible, with the amount of drink you had consumed, you could have imagined it? You swore to me, Darkman, you swore to never touch the stuff again. Do you know why I made you take that oath?" He made no move to answer, but looked away. She forged ahead. "Because you cannot control it. You magic is far more powerful than all the Fencry together. You know this."
He avoided her eyes for a minute then looked back.
"I know it is hard for you to hear me justify this. But why would I do this? What did I have to gain?"
"It had nothing to do with reason; it was all in your head."
Darkman had considered this many times, but kept coming back to one thing. The magic that had been spawned in that brief instant had erased all affects of the alcohol. In that one moment that had changed his life forever, he had been sober. When the killing haze had lifted, he found he was clear headed with no lingering headache that usually accompanied a night of drinking. He understood how she felt. But on the other hand, he knew his innocence, and there was anger because of it. It was his anger that finally won and he shook his head.
"I know what is true; I have thought it through many times." He met her fiery gave with one that matched it in intensity. "I was true to myself and to you with my actions. What I did was done to protect you. Sometimes it is necessary to cut off a limb to save a life.'
Her face was tight as she replied in a voice one would use to explain something to a small child. "Sound reasoning, but it does not apply when that situation never occurred. It was all in your head."
"Apparently so was the love you had for me," Darkman said sarcastically.
Their simultaneous action looked as if it had been planned. They were both on their feet, she with her sword laid alongside his neck and he with his dagger under her chin. Their voices growing steadily louder had been attracting attention and now the tavern was completely silent. All eyes were on the strange pair in the back of the room. Valencia's hood had fallen back and in her anger she had begun to radiate a blue light that made her beauty as deadly as the weapon in her hand. Her breath came in gasps as she shook with rage.
"I should kill you where you stand," she hissed between clenched teeth. "I loved you and you betrayed me. Broke my heart and betrayed me."
Staring into her awesome beauty, Darkman felt something stir, something he had thought long gone. He was suddenly ashamed of his anger, for he knew how she felt and was entitled to it. He dropped his dagger on the table and leaned in close to her, sliding his jaw along the blade and painting the steel with his blood.
"Take your revenge, for you truly deserve it," he said quietly, staring into her eyes.
She wanted to, oh how she wished to do just that, but as his blood began to drip off the hilt of her sword onto the table her fathers face came to her and she remembered his words. She began to lower her sword then in another burst of rage she spun it in her hand and drove it through the table. The tabletop was made of 6 inches of hand hewn oak but she sank the blade up to the hilt as if it were constructed of nothing but paper.
She drew a shaky breath to compose herself then spoke quietly, staring down at her hand wrapped around the hilt of her sword. "What was between us is irrelevant. My father has requested your presence. If you will oblige him, meet us tomorrow on the north road next to the river crossing. If you choose not to accept his offer-" She twisted the handle of her sword viciously, splitting the table in two. She slid the weapon back into its scabbard as the table splintered to the floor. Lifting her eyes to his she continued, "We will find you and bring you by force."
"Such threats are unnecessary," he replied. "You know me well enough to know where I will be tomorrow morning."
She stared at him a moment, the firelight flickering on her face, giving the illusion of movement on a visage set in stone, “I don't know a thing about you."

  Then she was striding to the door pulling up her hood as she did so. As she exited, the tavern seemed to expel a simultaneous breath of relief. Men went back to their drinks casting furtive glances at Darkman, commenting among themselves how glad they were not to be in his shoes. Secretly, many thought that even being the object of her anger would be considered a gift from the Sacred.
Fenwicke hurried after her, stopping only to deposit a small purse, which clinked with coins, into the astonished owners hands.
"To pay for the disruption," he said.
As the man babbled his thanks, Fenwicke hurried outside and caught up to Valencia in the stable as she watched the stable ready their two mounts.
"Soo...?" he trailed off.
"Yeah, he'll be there," she snapped muttering curses under her breath.
Their horses were ready in a few moments and as they rode off into the light rain, the shadows of the giant spruce enfolding them, Valencia spoke again. "If he is not, then the Sacred help him."

After Fenwicke exited, Darkman remained where he was until he was sure they were gone. He felt the pressure of many eyes on his back as he strode to the door. As it closed behind him he heard the babble of voices rise. Yes, Doth would have an entirely new batch of stories and rumors to swap. He took a minute to clear his head in the cool mountain air. He lifted his head and let the rain fall in his face, replaying what had just happened in his mind. Finally he lifted his hood and sighed, "Damn women."
Making his way to the stable, he found his horse saddled and ready. He looked at the stable boy questioningly.
"I was watching through the window," he said. "Who is that pretty lady? Why is she mad at you?"
Darkman answered the last question as he put his foot in the stirrup. "I took something she loved." He swung himself up and looked down at the small boy. "How are your boots?"
Faolan pointed to his spotless feet with great pride. Darkman smiled and tossed him a coin. "You learn fast, kid." And with that he road off into the night.
As he rode he probed the surrounding forest with his gaze and kept an eye on his back trail. All this was second nature, and his mind drifted back ten years ago, to a much happier, sunnier time.
 

To be continued…


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