Darkness

They sat huddled around the fire trying to keep warm, the flickering embers provided little heat. There was a silence drawn over them as they awaited their fate. The sage would return to them soon and they knew one of them would be chosen for the dangerous quest ahead.

Exchanging glances around the fireplace, the crackling from the fire breaking the silence. They continued to sit in the darkness, quietly hoping they could go home. Feeling the chill in the air, the men were spared the harsh wind by the trees that formed the woodlands behind them.

The bushes across from the men rustled as the old sage returned. The men stood up nervously. The old sage was tired and weary, the long journey he had taken to reach the oracle was treacherous. He rested for a moment, leaning on his staff. His long gown flowed in the wind as he moved himself towards them.

'The chosen one shall travel forth tonight!' His words were said with a power that belittled his stature. 'All come forward to me.'

The men lined up with their backs to the fire. One by one the old sage pointed and waved away. And then only he was left. The chosen one. Arthur.

The other men walked away knowing that for now at least they were safe. But for Arthur, his journey began and he could not return until he found the orb of eternal light. Without it, daylight would remain an ever fading memory.

No man had seen the light of day since the evil wizard Chargon cast a spell to remove the sunlight, stealing the orb from it's rightful place in this land.

Arthur was face to face with the old sage, he was passed a small purse. Opening he saw three dark stones. He looked up at the old sage, his face frowned as his arm was still outstretched. The old sage explained that the stones were to be used on his quest and that they contained magic beyond his understanding. The old sage had used to defeat many enemies before. 'Use them wisely Arthur. With those stones, magic is in your hand. Arthur still looked confused, but the old sage continued. 'You have been chosen by the oracle and it has been foretold that you will return the daylight.'

Arthur put the purse away safely. The old sage put his hand on Arthur's shoulder. 'I know you are strong Arthur and I know you are courageous, but others have tried on this quest.... Arthur interrupted, 'They've tried and failed?'. The old sage spun him around quickly and spoke angrily, 'They've tried and died.'

Arthur's face whitened, he knew the task was treacherous. And he must go alone. Tonight.

Coming to terms with the quest, Arthur stood for a moment and looked out towards the woodlands that he must travel through. He'd never stepped foot in them before, as a child he was told they contained many dangers. His mind cleared just for a moment and he felt a calmness release his mind from fear.

The old sage looked upon Arthur and smiled. 'You'll return here soon, it has been foretold'. Arthur smiled nervously as he headed out.

 

Arthur held the fire lantern out to light the way, the entrance to the woodlands was ahead. The many stories of the woodlands ran through his head. Slowly he made his way forward, small branches cracking under his footsteps. The noise echoed around the woods.

There was a clearing ahead. Looking around he saw a burnt out fire. Someone else had been here recently. His senses working harder than ever. The trees waved in the wind, but there was something else. He felt like he was being watched.

His heart pounded. A rustle came from the bushes as his pulse raced. Suddenly a creature emerged and stood facing him. Arthur froze. Never before had he seen such a creature. It's large eyes and ears firmly fixed on Arthur, it's dark coloured fur raised up on it's back. The creature stood on it's hind legs, hooves digging into the ground, the creature was now looking down on Arthur. He panicked.

Arthur ran through the trees as quickly as he could. The branches rattled passed his head as he ran. His pulse raced on. His chest pounded. His mind was awash with fear, knowing he needed to keep moving.

Suddenly he stopped. Arthur fell to his knees and looked up. A dark knight stood before him, bigger than he'd ever imagined such foes to be. Crawling backwards for a moment to try and ready himself. He stood up. Sword pulled from his belt and now grasped in both hands. Arthur felt small. Tiny.

The dark knight approached, It's heavy armour concealed much of it's body. It marched closer, lunging at Arthur with it's sword. Arthur managed to duck under the blow, but felt the sword run close past his ear. The dark knight approached and swung again. This time Arthur was slashed in the stomach, the blood seeping through his clothing.

He fell to the ground. His fate was sealed. Arthur's sword dropped beside him, his grip no longer strong enough to hold it. With the thought that he had failed, Arthur looked for the stones. Arthur looked up and saw the dark knight approach. Quickly he fumbled through his bag.

The stones were gone. He couldn't find them in the bag. Looking towards the ground, he saw the purse over where he had first fallen. He fell back down in defeat, the hope in his eyes faded away.

The dark knight came a step closer, it's footsteps trembling the ground around Arthur. Suddenly the bushes beside them came to life and the creature that Arthur had ran from attacked the dark knight. The creature was no match for the dark knight but his heart was bigger than them both. The dark knight was rattled and stumbled backwards. Realising he had a chance, Arthur crawled over to his purse, took out one of the dark stones and threw it towards the dark knight.

There was a flash of light and a crack of thunder. The ground shook for a moment as the power of the stones exploded through the woodlands. The dark knight lay dead on the wrecked ground. Arthur rose to his feet and looked towards the creature. 'You have no reason to fear me. I know of your quest.' Arthur was stunned to hear the creature speak. But he was thankful that he now had a companion. 'I am Arthur, what is your name?', Arthur moved towards the creature as he spoke. 'I am Ramis and I will stand by your side.'

Arthur noticed where the dark knight had fallen, an archway stood behind. Ramis explained that this led to Chargon's realm and it was here that he would find the orb of eternal light.

Slowly they walked through the archway. The beautiful green woodlands became sullen and black, all the trees looked dead and any life here had all but vanished. The stench of a thousand souls haunted them as they continued on through this realm.

Ramis stopped. His senses picked up a noise and he stepped in front of Arthur to protect him. Arthur grabbed a stone in his hand, holding it ready as they proceeded on.

There was a huge rumble that knocked them off their feet. All the trees and bushes around them fell to the floor as if they'd been burnt to the ground. And there it was. The orb. Chargon stood proudly next to it. His evil smile revealing his pointed teeth protruding from his mouth.

Chargon's huge cloak wrapped around him, his wrinkled hands beckoning them closer. As they moved forward, four dark knights moved from behind the orb and flanked Chargon.

Arthur held out his hand, there was only two stones left. Two of the dark knights approached. Arthur stood there braced with his sword. Ramis by his side, ready to fight.

He took one stone and threw it to the feet of the dark knights that approached. A hole opened up in the ground and swallowed them. Chargon looked on. 'So, you think you are a wizard?' He sent two more dark knights towards them.

They marched with lances out in front of them, their footsteps louder than before. Thudding on the ground as they got ever closer. Ramis set himself upon one of the dark knights and knocked him to the ground. Arthur grabbed his sword and duelled with the other.

Sparks flew from their swords as they fought hard. Arthur could take only a few more blows from the sword. It was so much heavier than his and Arthur's wound was causing him pain.

He managed to knock the dark knight off balance as he over stretched. Arthur took his chance and stabbed the dark knight. Arthur's heart thumped faster as he saw the dark knight fall to the ground.

Looking over, he saw the other dark knight hovering over Ramis. He raced over, but it was too late, the dark knight plunged his sword into Ramis, before Arthur could thrust his sword into the dark knight.

He knelt down over Ramis and held his head. 'There is only Chargon to defeat now.' Ramis encouraged Arthur with his last words, his breathing slowed. Arthur looked up angrily at Chargon who stood there confidently.

Chargon beckoned him over. Arthur stood up, his face scrunched up in anger. 'Good. Good. Now you will fight me.' Chargon grabbed his sword from his side and they duelled. Blow after blow struck, the sound echoing around this dark world. Flashes of light flickered across with each contact.

Arthur remembered the teachings of the sage. He backed off and let his anger slip away. Grabbing the las stone from his pocket, he threw them at Chargon. There was a huge flash of light but Chargon just stood there laughing. 'You are no wizard, the old sage was unwise to send such an inexperienced warrior'.

He had used all the dark stones the old sage had given him. He felt defeated. Slowly he backed away. He heard the evil laughter of Chargon echo inside his head. He looked across and saw Ramis on the floor. Arthur's head fell. Defeated.

But he realised it was time to face his fear. Arthur had to fight Chargon to the death. He turned and approached. The evil wizard held his sword out and they duelled again, but Arthur couldn't get close.

With his last bit of strength, Ramis rose up and approached Chargon from behind, biting his leg. The evil wizard turned to see the creature that had bitten him. He kicked out, grabbed a small dagger from his belt and threw it at the failing body of Ramis. But as he turned back to fight, Arthur managed to stab Chargon. His sword now plunged deep into the wizard's heart.

Chargon let out an almighty scream, reaching to pull the sword out. But it was stuck. Chargon dropped to his knees, looked upon Arthur with defeated eyes and fell to the ground. He was dead.

Looking across to Ramis, he was just breathing. Arthur sat by his side for a moment, a small smile lit up across his face as he passed away. Gently Arthur lay his head down to rest.

He got up and turned towards the orb. Grabbing it in his hands Arthur remembered the instructions the old sage gave. He took a deep breath and threw the orb as high as he could into the air.

Suddenly, light drew across the woodlands. The colour returned and flowers immediately flourished to create a rich and inviting landscape. The stale stench that haunted this place was replaced by the smell of flowers that had been gone for so long.

As Arthur grabbed his bag from the ground, he noticed Ramis move. The light had brought him back to life and he got to his feet. Arthur smiled and they both walked back through the woodlands.

His quest was complete. He could return home to his family and be sure that Chargon had been defeated and could never bring darkness to this world again.

Steve Johnson

 

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