The wind howled over the mountain range. Far in the distance a pack of wolves howled at the moon. The silver shadows that played on the snow made the land eerie and mysterious. The dying embers of a campfire glowed from under an overhang.
A man stepped out of a tent, his dripping sword held in his hand. The men that exited after him also held their swords at the ready. They seemed to be searching for something hidden in the shadows. Then suddenly a horse broke from their tethered steed and galloped into the blackness, a lone rider clinging to its back. The men yelled and waved their swords at the retreating knight. Their other steeds scattered in all directions, slashed ropes hanging from their halters. The man who had appeared first stood still in the moonlight, a small smile playing on his lips. He narrowed his eyes and smiled again as he listened to the howling of the wolf pack.
The country side was silent; the silence that hung in the air was filled with waiting; a waiting for what would happen. In the black shadows at the foot of the cliffs something moved. With a toss of its head, a horse broke from the darkness and raced along the mountain path. Its hoof beets were muffled by the newly fallen layer of snow. The armor of the knight in the saddle shone brightly for a moment in the moonlight. His long black cloak billowed out behind him.
A bundle cradled in his arm whimpered, he held it closer and reached a hand back to touch the knee of the small figure clinging to his back in under the folds of his cloak. The moon above the racing steed shone bright for moment and then slid behind a cloud. The countryside was thrown again into complete and utter darkness. From the blackness a horse whinnied, a wolf howled and was joined by the savage voices of his pack, the horse uttered a piercing neigh of terror, there was a thud as something fell to the ground and then silence reined again.
A light glimmered in the tower above the guard’s head, but his snores went on unbroken. Two figures glided past him in dark capes. They stopped at the foot of the tower and ducked to the side. A moment later a black doorway opened up to them. They ascended the winding staircase in silence, speaking only when the first clanked his sword against an uneven step.
“Quiet!” the taller man hissed and they continued upward. They pushed through a wooden door at the very top of the stair and found themselves in a circle room. Deer heads, massive antlers and a giant bear skin decorated the walls. A crackling fire lay in the imposing fireplace at the far end of the room.
A high-backed chair sat in front of it and in it a man sat, motionless, his pale eyes staring, unblinking into the flames. The two men bowed low, their hands on the jeweled handles of their weapons. They waited in silence while the man stared. Finally he rose slowly turned to them. His pale eyes seemed to be without eyelids and scar decorated his right cheek. It was perfectly round and high on his cheekbone, as if someone had pressed red hot ring into his face. He narrowed his eyes and spoke in a low rasping voice to the taller of the men,
“I trust everything has gone according to plan, Captain Messelhart,” The two knights opposite him nodded and the older one, a big man with black eyes and raven hair, answered,
“All has gone according to plan, M’lord. You should have control of the kingdom in less than three weeks. The troops you sent us to gather are stationed in the woods near here and are ready to battle the king’s armies,” The man at the fireplace nodded and turned to the younger man,
“And you, Rautel? Have you accomplished your business?” the young man bowed his blond head and replied,
“My men and I lay in wait for the Reyhars as you instructed, but the king was not with the party. The queen and her maid were taken care of, but that villain Doucam was able to snatch up the child and escape into the woods. He cut loose our horses so we were unable to give chase right away. By the time we had recaptured the animals he had disappeared into the shadows. This morning as we were riding home we found some remains…wolves,” The man turned from his flame watching and rubbed his hands together,
“Perfect. No doubt that weasel of a knight has perished and the child with him. Nothing stands in my way now but Jerrell, and he will be taken care of shortly. Gentlemen, I commend you on your success,” Messelhart and Rautel bowed low and spoke in unison, “Long life to you, Lord Bearharn!” and they swept away again as silently as they had come leaving Bearharn to gaze, unblinking, into the fire.
16 years later…
The castle stood on the hill, a symbol of tyranny and oppression. The peasants in the valley viewed it as a grim reminder of their ever present bondage. The nobles that lorded over the provinces saw it as the ultimate peek of power and control. The ones that lived within its cold walls saw it as a grey wall prison.
The sun seemed to never shine on the turrets of the place. The clouds that surrounded it were always grey and stormy; often streaks of lightning would flash their twisted fingers across the sky as if trying to snatch the towers from their resting places on the earth. The moat that surrounded the castle was overgrown with reeds and small shrubs. The flag that flew from the highest turret was tattered and sun bleached. The chains that held the mighty drawbridge were rusted over from the many years of rain, sleet and fog. The only thing that would have stood out to a passerby was the crest and the portcullis. The gate was new, shiny steel with gleaming rivets and reinforced bars.
The crest hung in the very center was one that brought both hatred and pain to everyone that passed it. The kneeling man’s face was roughly outlined, though with no distinctive features. He was raising his arms to guard his face. His shield lay on the ground beside him and a broken sword lay on the ground a few feet behind him.
Towering over him was another man. His features were more distinct; the cruelty and hatred in his eyes shone were captured magnificently in the hardened bronze. The scare that decorated his face, a perfectly round circle, only added to his hideousness. A falcon rested on the man’s shoulder and a long cloak billowed out behind him. The sword in his right hand was raised high, about to strike the fallen man pleading for his life on the earth before him. Behind the two figures was a battlefield; bodies lay in piles and a banner lay trampled in the mud. Over the two warriors flew another banner. The words, “Never Forget”, emblazoned forever on the frozen standard brought a chill to all that read it.
This was the crest of the regime; the regime that had swept from the hills; the regime that had worked through traitors and liars; the regime that had destroyed all; the regime that had taken the king; the regime that had struck his head off on that bloody battlefield; the regime that had confiscated all hope when they hung their scarlet banner in the tower; this was the regime that had taken all happiness, and this was the regime that had taken the light.