Darkness Falls (Tales of the Wolf)

Prologue

Greetings ladies and gentleman
.

W
elcome to the Inn of Quiet Repose.  I am Tallon the Troubadour and I’ll be your narrator for tonight’s story. So, grab up a chair and pull it close to the fire for I’m going to regale you with a tale of sadness and joy, of discovery and loss, of treachery and devotion, of beautiful ladies and terrible enemies. It will be a tale full of heroes and fools but you must keep in mind that the difference between a hero and a fool is razor thin. Is the warrior that kills a rampaging dragon a hero or a fool? Usually, that depends on if he lives or dies in the attempt. However tonight’s tale is not one of some nameless hero; this is the story of the Forgotten King.

You say that you have never heard of the Forgotten King?

That is entirely possible or perhaps you have, just under a different guise. For he has gone by many names over his long years; he is the wolf that hunts in the shadows that all men fear. He is the Grimstalker, the bane of slavers throughout the land.

Even though his tale and this story actually begin long before his birth in the distant region we know as the Highlands, it is told in depth elsewhere. Beware, it is a sad tale; full of pain and loss but it is also ripe with adventure, romance and excitement. If you ever get the opportunity to enjoy the story as told by Rhea Nightingale the Great Bardess, take it. You will simply be amazed by her skill. I strive every day to be worthy of her example.

Even though I do not have her skill and many may have heard the story, some might have not and so, I will briefly speak of it.

Tatianna, an elven princess was traveling with her family in the Highlands in search of an ancient artifact when they were attacked by a small army of gnomes. Completely outnumbered, the elves fought valiantly but to no avail. Even as skillful as they were, they knew that they would eventually fall. So they selected Tatianna to flee with the recovered artifacts. Using mighty magic, she left her family behind and returned to the safety of their camp.

However, all was not well. The camp had been discovered by a deadly pack of werewolves and alas, they had caught her scent and chased her through the snow-covered forests. Making her final stand in an old shrine, Tatianna was raped by the evil warrior Blackfang.

But all was not lost…for the hero of the tale, Hawkeye, a barbarian warrior, intervened and rescued her. Tatianna was gravely injured but Hawkeye bandaged her up and soon she was reunited with her brothers, the only other survivors of their ill-fated venture into the depths of Black Falls Fortress. Hawkeye and a cantankerous dwarf volunteered to act as their guides while they were in the Highlands.

However, the villainous Blackfang wanted his revenge against the elves and Hawkeye. He rallied his army and set out to hunt them down. Fleeing further north Hawkeye and Tatianna arrived in the last stronghold of the Highlanders only to discover that the elven princess was with child. But not just any child, this was the child of prophecy, the Chosen One; the being of all races and none, the one who was both black and white, a creature of the balance, a true son of the Dhyana. The one foretold that would gather the Legendary Nine and lead them in the final battle against the One with the fate of all Terreth hanging on the outcome.

The Dark Alliance also found out about the child of prophecy and laid siege to the Highland fortress. Hawkeye was a wily commander and fought the larger army to a standstill. Even so, the walls of Itasca were breached and the barbarians had to flee west to the safety of the Darkmoor Mountains. Many battles were fought and an untold number of warriors died in defense of the unborn child. Knowing that they could not run forever, Hawkeye and Tatianna forced a final confrontation between themselves and the leaders of the Dark Alliance.

It did not go well for either side.

Three major events happened on that fateful day a dozen years ago. The first being that the overwhelming might of the Dark Alliance army was destroyed which bought the Southlands time to prepare for the coming invasion. Secondly, the Highland Nation was broken
. They had sacrificed themselves to save the unborn child of prophecy. Lastly, the Highlanders had lost the ability to shapeshift. Many felt that this was a punishment from the gods but those who studied the battle of Fire and Death knew the truth. Tatianna had cast a curse on Blackfang but it rebounded to include the whole Highland Nation.

Now that you have heard the humble beginnings of the Forgotten King, I will pick up his tale and enlighten you concerning his trials and tribulations of his troublesome journey from a young man to a slave to an assassin to royalty…and all his incarnations in between.

So…sit back and enjoy this tale.

~ Tallon the Troubadour
                           

  
Unofficial Scribe to the Forgotten King

Chapter 1

Hidden from mankind in the vastness of the
Sea of Torments was a small island that was completely dominated by a simple white marble building. From the outside, there was not anything special about it. It was neither elaborate nor decorative, just a simple round edifice that seemed completely out of place.

In the last five
millennia only two mortals had ever stepped foot on the island. Both had arrived and left via magic and therefore did not know where the Great Library of the Dhyana was truly located. If a mere mortal entered the library, they would become dumbfounded at the sight that awaited them. The walls of the building were covered with shelves upon shelves of books. Since its construction was of a magical nature, if one stood inside and looked up, the shelves and the ceiling would be lost into the darkness. Aside from the books, the building’s most striking feature was the floor since it was covered in a large mosaic of the Dhyana.

The symbol was as ancient as the land
and considered by most to be the sign of the Gods. Three teardrops of different colors chasing each other while forming a circle. The three colors represented the creator gods of Terreth, known in ancient texts as the Trôika. The white teardrop represented Hyperion, the god of light. While the black teardrop stood for Nox, the goddess of darkness and lastly, the grey teardrop epitomized Terra, the goddess of balance. When the three creator gods of Terreth disappeared during the first Godwar, the term Dhyana and its symbol came to represent their children, the Firstborn and the Trôika became nothing more than a memory to all but a learned few. Centuries later when the Arachne returned, there was a grand battle and the Firstborn once again used their magic to banish the foul creatures. However, this time the Arachne were ready. They used the power of the Dhyana’s spell against themselves and trapped the Firstborn in an extra-dimensional rift along with their arch nemesis. And so the Dhyana had remained imprisoned for nearly five millennia and their power was waning.

It was only a matter of time before the mortals quit believing in their gods.

Which was one reason the old man decided it was time to make his pilgrimage to the great library. He stepped out of thin air and moved inside without being enamored by the mystical properties of the library. After all, he had been one of the three that had constructed this ziggurat many millennia ago. He paused at the only table in the room and ran his hands over the bindings of a huge leather bound book whose title read
‘The Princess and the Barbarian’
by Rhea Nightingale. The being smiled at the strong and yet elegant script, even though he knew the story well, he couldn’t help but skim through its pages and marvel at the stylish prose.

When Hyperion heard the sounds of flapping wings echoing in the upper reaches of the library, the god shed his mortal form. It would not be right if his eldest daughter saw him in one of the mortal forms he typically wore. The visage of the old blind man fell away like water flowing off a stone to reveal a strong middle-aged man with golden hair that seemed to glow with an inner light. His sky blue eyes flashed with amusement when the beautiful griffon landed a few feet away and immediately bowed her head in respect.

Hyperion took a moment and let his gaze roam all over her body. She was still one of his favorite creations. Cassandra had the body, tail and back legs of a lion but also the head, front legs and wings of an eagle. She was huge, standing fifteen feet at the shoulder and a wingspan of over fifty feet. She was remarkable.

Hyperion laid one hand on his favorite daughter and she looked up.

“Father.”

“Hello, Cassandra. You are looking well.”

“Thank you father. I have tried to contact you for ages.”

Hyperion nodded and began to pace throughout the library, absentmindedly opening and closing books at random. “I have heard all your prayers and understand your concerns.”

“But father, the mortals….they are in grave danger.”

“Yes, I know. We have arranged it to be so.”

“We? The rest of the Trôika is involved in the coming darkness?”

“But of course. Do parents abandon their children? No. But sometimes the wisest course of action is to let them lie in the bed that they have made for themselves.”

“But father, the mortals did nothing to deserve this. The Dhyana are the ones who betrayed you.”

That stopped the elder god in his tracks and he turned to face his daughter. “Betrayed me? You think this is punishment for their betrayal? No, this is recompense for their actions. They broke the Covenant and they shall live with the consequences.”

“But the mortals…they are naught but pawns in this contest.”

“True, but they have the free will to choose their own destiny and that is something to admire in them. They are like the smallest pebble falling down a rocky hillside. They may do nothing other than make some noise and move further down the hillside.” When Hyperion smiled, it brightened the whole room. “But occasionally, one pebble will be the catalyst for a landslide that will completely change the landscape around it forever.”

Hyperion drew a circle in the air and it shimmered and rippled like a pool of water but this was of white light.

The eldest god tapped the portal and an image of a boy with black hair and slightly pointed ears formed on it.

“Take this young man, what can you tell by looking at him?”

Cassandra peered through the portal and watched as the half-elf climbed over some hay bales and moved silently through a barn’s loft until he came to rest into some empty barrels. No matter what the great griffon focused on, he looked like a simple boy at play or one that was shirking his chores. “Other than him being the only half-elf in a community. I see nothing special about him.”

Hyperion nodded. “That is both true and false. True in the fact that he is no different from any other half-breed. There could be dozens, nay hundreds like him wandering the lands of Terreth but false in the fact that he is special. He is unique. He is the lynchpin of the prophecy. He is the spark of the future.”

“But he’s only a boy.”

“True…but soon events will unfold that will make him a man. And not just any man, he will be the weapon the mortals need to strike the fatal blow. Remember, the strongest steel is forged in the hottest fire and the seeds of strength are often contained within the husk of weakness.”

The griffon nodded her great head. “What can I do?”

Hyperion patted her beak and rubbed her eye ridges. “Nothing. Events have been set in motion that even we cannot completely control. The Dhyana wished for free will in their children and now their fate is tied to them.”

Hyperion waved his hand and the portal of light disappeared.

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