In the Darkness

Part 9

Everyone was once again sitting around the fire in the center of their small cave-dwelling. They were in high spirits, gloating and bragging over their earlier victories that day and all of that week. The Fire Sword had given them the edge they needed over their enemies and they were thoroughly enjoying the advantage.

"Just the look on their faces," Aiden laughed, "priceless, really!"

"Indeed," Marcell agreed, "why, I believe that first one earlier today died of shock even before you had opportune to slay it!"

Aiden laughed louder, "I believe it did, they didnít expect us to come wielding fire, did they?"

Terranís confused frown deepened, "But how can they look surprised? They donít have any faces."

"Some of them do," Farrell pointed out.

"And the others, well, you can just tell," Eamon explained, "when youíve spent as much time around their kind as we have. You can kind of get a sense for what theyíre feeling."

"Although usually itís fairly repetitive," Errol added, "All Iíve ever sensed was anger, hate and, well, anger."

"Yes, well, come with us sometime," Aiden suggested, "and you can add the new emotion of surprise to your realm of experience!"

"I shall have to do so," Errol agreed.

Marcell, who had been silent with a thoughtful look on his face since his earlier comment, spoke up slowly, "Aiden, if that monster died of shock, then it does not really count as your kill, does it?"

"What are you talking about, Marcell? Of course it does." Aiden said, waving his friendís concern away, "If it had not seen my blade, it would not have died."

"No, no," Marcell disagreed, "Iíll agree that it died because of the blade, but not on it as it would have had to do to lawfully be counted as your kill. That kill should go to the one who designed the blade to be such a fearful device in the first place, and that would be you, Terran."

"Me?" Terran echoed, surprised to suddenly be brought into the conversation, especially in such a way as to be given a Ďkill.í

"Yes," Marcell agreed, "donít you think thatís only fair, Aiden?"

Aiden glared at the blonde man for a long moment before agreeing in a less-than-agreeable tone, "I guess he could be given that pointÖ"

"Excellent!" Marcell exclaimed, "Now, Terran, you have one kill; and Aiden, you have thirty-two, one less than me!"

"Thatís not right!" Aiden exclaimed, mentally running through the figures in his head.

"Iím afraid it is, little brother," Errol said somberly, "you and Marcell were tied with points. Losing one of your kills sets your score below his."

Aiden glared at the blonde in question, "You said that on purpose!" He accused loudly, "You probably had this all planned from the beginning, you connivingó"

"Aiden, that is enough!" Everyone looked up in surprise at the unexpected but not altogether unwelcome chastising voice of Edan.

"Father!" Eamon, Errol and Aiden exclaimed in unison, their tones betraying their surprise.

The elderly man rolled his eyes, "You say that as if you never expected to see me again."

"Well, you have been gone for two years," Errol pointed out under his breath while his twin spoke in a louder voice to disguise his brotherís statement.

"Of course we believed you to come back!" Eamon said loudly and everyone around the fire nodded their agreement.

"Yes, but what have you been doing all this time?" Aiden asked.

"The Darkness has grown much larger, it took a great amount of time to chart out, but onto the more pressing business that is at hand," Edan said, "during my travels a disturbing rumor has caught my ear.

"Cities and towns are being destroyed at an alarming rate, faster than ever as of late. Fields and forests have been burned to the ground and, rumor has it, all in search of one human."

"What man could possibly be so important to them that they would go to so much trouble to find?" Farrell asked in surprise.

"No, I said it was a human, but not a man," Edan corrected.

"Not a man?" Aiden repeated, "ThenÖ a woman?"

Edan smiled and shook his head again, "Nor a woman, either. What they seek, or so I have gathered, is only a child." His eyes came to rest on Terran who shifted uncomfortably under his gaze.

"You meanÖ they are searching for Terran?" Errol asked.

"I believe so," Edan confirmed, "they are searching methodically for someone. There was a survivor from a recent attack in one town I visited, a young boy maybe a few years younger than Terran. He told me of what happened, the young men and boys of his village were torn away from their families and kept alive while the rest were slain. They tore the shirts of the boysí open as if looking for something, he said, and when they didnít find what they were looking for they killed them. I believe they are looking for your scar, Terran."

Terran unconsciously ran his hand over his left breast, over the burn mark that remained strikingly white over his heart. "But why are they looking for me?" He asked quietly.

"I am afraid I have no good answer for you," Edan responded, "for I can only speculate, I know not the enemyís mind." He paused for a good long moment, formulating his thoughts and deciding upon the best way to proceed.

At last he spoke again, "To even begin to understand the Creatures of Darkness, we must go back to a time when they did not exist. Once the lands of Empra were prosperous and beautiful, the people happy and peaceful, living without the overpowering fear we now have of the Darkness. But, buried deep beneath the surface of Empra, a dark secret was hidden, a fallen raceósome think a mistake of the Great Ones. Hundreds of years ago a man, known by either Jabez or Ernest in some provinces, came upon the door to this fallen world and discovered a way to open it. Not knowing what was in it, he did so.

"It is said Jabez saw the evil he had released and despaired, throwing himself in their path in a desperate attempt to stop them from reaching his people. Some say he fought to the death and died to protect the people of Empra while others tell he was turned by the evil and became the first of the man-creatures.

"At first the Dark Ones stayed in their cave, afraid to go out in the light, but as the years passed their evil and the Darkness of their souls caused dark clouds to form over the land above their cave and they moved to the surface. They slowly expanded with the clouds and the Darkness pushed further over the land. It can only be assumed their goal is to cover the entire of Empra in this Darkness.

"But legend also tells of the fall of these creatures. The coming of a man who will resist the Dark Ones and will find a way to defeat them once and for all. Many believe that the man will come from the very line of Jabez, that the Great Ones will allow his family to finish what they had begunÖ"

"And they think Terran is the man who might one day defeat them?" Errol asked.

"I think they donít know what to think," Edan said, "surely they donít believe in the legends of humans, but at the same time, he was able to resist their power. I think theyíre just tying up all the loose ends, taking extra precaution. Itís clear by the way theyíve been advancing they donít fear us at all."

Eamon nodded, "That makes sense, I mean, we havenít done any real damage in as long as anyone can remember, why should they fear any of us?"

"And what should we do now?" Errol put in, "If Terran really is the one theyíre looking for then we should probably take precaution to protect him, shouldnít we?"

"Yes," Edan agreed, "I believe we should lay low for now, at least until Terran has learned and is at an age to defend himself."

"I can defend myself now!" Terran exclaimed, "Iím not a little boy anymore, did you see what I helped Ro make?"

Aiden chuckled, rubbing the boyís head in a patronizing sort of way, "You are a very talented child, but while you may have grown much in the last two and a half years, you are still very young. A few more years of training and youíll be a capable warrior."

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