Every Story Needs A Villian
They were restless...
Rugerhak studied the legion of creatures that awaited his order to march, studied them with the attention that he had once studied the Guardians of Light back when he had been Provost of the Stallite Troja, so many months ago. Before the Blood of Darkness had claimed him.
For a time, as he watched the host of Dark creatures mill restlessly before him, his mind drifted back to the past. Back to that fateful day, when the Solaar had decided that his future lay along a different path...
The journey into the Darklands had been a regular patrol that he had conducted on many occasions. With a squad of twenty Guardians, Rugerhak had left the Stallite through the Southern Gate, and they had journey further south to conduct checks on the outposts and sentries that lined the border of the City-State of Troja.
Although it was forbidden for anyone to leave the safety of the Stallite without the express permission of the Sunseers, or to live within the boundaries of Troja yet outside it’s walls, it was quite common to find large caravans of Wanderers camping within the relative safeness of Troja’s borders, as the constant patrols scared off most of the threats spawned from the Darkness. But on this day, it seemed to Rugerhak that no life existed within the Darklands apart from himself and his men.
Upon reaching the first outpost, a guard tower that generally housed several bowmen, scouts, and messengers, Rugerhak was surprised to discover that the portcullis was raised and the drawbridge was down. When he entered the courtyard of the tower, he found no life whatsoever, and to further his annoyance, there were no signs of a struggle or combat to be seen. Whatever had happened here, he thought, it had happened quickly and from within.
After ordering his squad to raise the bridge and set a guard, Rugerhak climbed stairs of the tower and studied the surrounding area from atop the battlements. In the darkness he could see very little other than the outline of a solitary tree, dead and decaying, that stood twenty feet from the tower’s base, but he could hear many sounds, as they traveled easily and far on an otherwise quiet night such as this.
Below him in the courtyard, he could hear his men readying themselves for the afternoon meal, and the occasional laugh or the crackle of the fire, lit by a torch brought with them to fend away the ever-present cold. But from the Darkness around the tower, he could hear nothing. It was as though the wildlife had fled the immediate area somehow sensing the arrival of an animal of prey. But even such an animal would have been heard by Rugerhak, whose keen hearing had been the cause of many a creature’s death while on the hunt. But there was nothing. Not a sound.
The Guardians enjoyed their meal with shouts and laughs and a little ale distilled by the Providers in Troja. The ale, Rugerhak had heard, was unique to the Stallite Troja, as the art of making it had not yet been rediscovered in other stalites.
Rugerhak sensed that his men enjoyed his company, and that they respected him as a leader. And the reasons, he thought, were quite obvious. He was a competent Provost and they knew it, although the Guardians had suffered terribly under the rule of Rugerhak’s predecessor. The old Provost of Troja had never ventured from his office,
and he was involved in a political intrigue that had very nearly brought about the downfall of the Stallite. So the men thought of Rugerhak as refreshing, he believed, and they were proud to follow him. He was a leader equal to the tasks of Guardians such as Zed of Sparta and Daryon of Dohymion, in the eyes of his men.
As the day wore on, and the total blackness of the night surrounded them, the Guardians joyous mood died down, and one by one they drifted off to find a comfortable sleeping place. Rugerhak posted several guards, though he thought it highly unlikely that anything was within range to attack the tower this night. All was well in Troja, and he and his men were happy...
Rugerhak shook his head to clear the memories of his past life. Those memories were becoming harder to call to his mind of late, and although he hated to let them all drift away and be forgotten, his new self, his Dark self, brought him back to the task at hand.
“My people!” he called above the noise, his transformed mouth unable to form the words clearly enough for the ears of Men to understand, but it was heard and understood by the other Light-forsaken creatures before him. “My people, it is time for us to move.”
A murmur of agreeance arose from the assembled creatures, and Rugerhak quietened them with a gesture. “The Infiltrators have sent word to me that Dawnbringer has come to end the reign of Darkness, and in turn, our existence.”
Shouts of rage and horror came to him from his creatures, and again he silenced them with a gesture. “But fear not, my people, for I have a plan that will prove our salvation.”
Roars and cheers, and a chanting of ‘Rugerhak, Rugerhak!’ filled his ears.
“We shall bring Dawnbringer to his knees, and feed him the Blood of Darkness, that which Men call the Archessence. We shall destroy the Saviour of Light and bring home his head as a trophy!”
The cheering grew louder and Rugerhak raised his arms high for effect. “We shall prevail!” he screamed emotionally. “And we shall conquer the weak-bodied Men of the Dark Earth and our reign will begin!”
He contemplated saying more for a second, but finally realized that it would be pointless to try to be heard above the exultant roaring of the large host.
Turning from the creatures who were once proud members of the human race, but whom now despised and hated their old kin, Rugerhak climbed from the small rock upon which he had spoken and walked toward a group wearing the tattered remnants of a once proud uniform. The red and gold of the Guardians of Fire.
These were his men, both before and after his transformation. The men who had slept soundly within the walls of the Trojan tower with him so long ago. Little had any of them known that the Life Blood of the Darklands, the Blood of Darkness, the Archessence, had crept slowly into the tower itself, into the well, into the soil and battlements of the Guardian fortress. But they had been contaminated the moment they had touched the stone, drank the water, and slept upon the ground.
And little did the people of Troja, and all the other Stallites throughout the Darklands, know that the Blood of Darkness impregnated their very defences. That eventually all would be contaminated, and all would join the creatures of the Darklands that they feared so much. Fate had decreed that man would be no more. Fate had said that Darkness should reign eternal over the Earth.
But then the Prophecy had been reborn. A prophecy speaking of a saviour for man. A chosen one who could destroy the Darkness and bring the Dark Earth once more into the Light. He had many names throughout the land, this saviour. Dawnbringer, the Chosen One, the Father of the New Dawn, the Saviour of Man, the Returner, Darksbane, and many more.
When he reached his most faithful followers, the Guardians of Night, they called themselves, Rugerhak spoke briefly.
“We must prepare to march.” he said. “For we must bring about the fall of this man, whether or not he is Dawnbringer. We shall march upon the Fortress of Fire, to the very doors of the Tower of the Gilded Flame, where the Infiltrators say he is being kept.” The assembled group nodded agreement, and Rugerhak continued.
“We have surprise on our side, Guardians, and superior strength and cunning will aid us also. But most of all, we have the numbers to destroy them, if we can but breach their defenses.”
Andhan, the eldest among them, bared his teeth in a snarl. “The walls of the Fortress have never been passed by a Darkblooded creature, but never has such a mighty army marched against it. I believe we shall win the day.”
Rugerhak twisted his face in an attempt at a smile. Having Andhan speak such words was a blessing, as his opinion carried much weight due to his near-legendary service as a Guardian.
With one final glance at the Guardians of Night, and with the continued cheers of the army behind him, Rugerhak’s mind journeyed once more. Not into the past, as it did on so many nights, but into the future. The army, his army, would take the Fortress of Fire, and kill Dawnbringer, and it would not, could not, be stopped. Stallites would fall and Sunseers would kneel before him.
Climbing upon the rock once more, Rugerhak stood proudly before the host. The pure Darkness radiating from him caused the crowd to quieten and turn toward him, seeking the origin of this wonderful essence that flowed from him to them. It was Dark, it was evil, it was power.
“To the Fortress of Fire!” Rugerhak roared.
The Dark Army surged forward with a deafening cry, like a beast with thousands upon thousands of limbs and heads, marching east, toward the man-fort that housed Darksbane...
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