Having struggled with inspiration for yesterday’s theme, today I am back in the saddle.
The story that came to me for today’s theme ended up being a little darker.
The landscape before him was scorched, razed to the ground. Skeletal trees and the ruins of a village charred black, smouldered in the cool morning air. The armies under his command had pushed on, seeking new settlements to attack. He walked through what once was a town square, now a desolate ash-covered patch of land littered with burnt corpses, some nothing more than blackened skeletons. His gloss black armour seemed to reflect the glow from still-burning fires. A skull disintegrated beneath his heavy boot, crumbling to dust and splintered fragments. Looking down, the brute only felt irritation that the ash tarnished his highly-polished armour.
A church, the focal point of the village, was a shadow of its former self. Stained glass windows smashed beyond recognition, doors hanging off. The spire crashed in on itself as the fire robbed it of integrity. A holy man crawled out, his black robes coated in dust, his face bloodied and battered. He coughed and gasped, catching his breath before seeing the village. Ruined. There was nothing left. He looked over the square, his eyes struggling to focus as they watered. He swiped at them with a sleeved arm, clearing the tears clouding his vision.
“You,” he croaked. “You did this! Why? For money? We have money, take it all! Or do you covet power?”
The man across the square from him cut a terrifying figure. He was tall and broad. The metal armour was all-black and only enhanced the intimidating spectacle. A long flowing cape fastened about his neck. The only thing to break up the black was an awful, red bleeding eye at the centre of his breastplate. His right arm, hand outstretched, rose rapidly before him. The preacher flew up, as if suspended. He clawed at his throat, gulping for breath. The figure stared back with burning red eyes. With his left hand he slowly removed his helm, exposing an ashen pale face. And his eyes, glowing deep red, trailing blood down his alabaster cheeks. He spoke, his voice a gravelly growl.
“You speak of money,” he intoned. “You speak of power. Who are you to be so high and mighty?”
From somewhere the preacher found a reserve of courage and strength. “I am an appointed representative to ensure all lead a humble and pious life! You are only concerned with your own material gain!”
The dread knight flexed his fingers, as though tightening his grip. The preacher kicked his feet, his eyes bulged.
“You take money from your flock. You control and rule over all through fear. Exploit their lack of education. Play on their superstitions. You drink, you sin, you covet and you sit pretty in your church. You rule not for the many, but for yourself. I need not your tainted coin. I only seek to rule so that all may be united under one guiding power.”
“You are destined to burn in eternal damnation! Look at you! The light has clearly never laid upon you. You are possessed by darkness, evil. I do not accept you!” His voice no more than a strained whisper.
The large man squeezed his hand into a fist. Across the square the preacher gasped for breath that would not come. His lips went blue, eyes bulging wide. A deep growl of anger ripped from the dark figure’s throat as he squeezed the life from the preacher. Rivulets of blood trickled from his eyes and streaked down his cheeks. Like something no more significant than a piece of rubbish, the dark knight cast his arm to one side and released his grip. The lifeless corpse of the preacher smashed against the church wall. He replaced his helm before mounting a horse whose coat was as white as snow, its mane as black as night. He rode out of town as the day lightened under blue skies. He passed numerous scorched settlements, his armies marching forth in his name, though none of them truly knew the man under the helm.
His horse slowed as he reached the dry, rocky flatlands. The dark knight observed as fires blazed around the landscape, his armies asserting their control over the land. Those who resisted served no purpose to him. He deftly jumped out of the saddle and looked way off into the distance. The only blot in the pristine sky, a roiling, spinning mass of black clouds. Beneath them an impossibly tall black stone tower, with a fortified structure around its base. The Keep of Sorrows. It would be his. He would rule the land once he sat upon the throne within. His reverie broke as a shockwave of thunder seemingly coming from where he stood. As his march progressed, his powers grew.