The Warrior’s Journey: Book 2: Darkness
THE WARRIOR’S JOURNEY
PREVIEW OF BOOK TWO
BY EDWARD DRAKE
A land of swords, magic and dark mystery.
Garrick Chilver, Knight of Castille, and his allies set out on their first mission.
The land lies in ruin, but the knights will work and fight tirelessly to restore peace and order.
But with enemies all around them, and a far greater threat on the horizon,
Can the knights prove themselves worthy of their rank and save this world from darkness?
The warrior’s journey continues.
The old tales tell us that there was once a time, thousands of years ago, when the Gods walked the earth. They inhabited the bodies of chosen mortals and used them as vessels with which they could traverse the lands. In this form, the Gods experienced all human feelings and emotions. Some embraced this, whilst others stopped at nothing in their attempts to return to their higher plane of existence.
The Gods drew millions of followers, and after centuries of tension catastrophic wars broke out and were fought across entire nations. Whole generations were lost, kingdoms destroyed and the realmss were left in ruin. That was when the mortals fought back.
Turning on their Gods and their destructive ways, the people rose up and as one force drove the Gods back. More death and suffering began, but for every vessel that was struck down, another God and their powerful influence was banished to their higher plane. More and more people were freed and, finally, the forces of the earth massed against the last of the Gods and executed each of the vessels, ushering in a time of peace and civilisation no one had ever known.
As time passed this dark page of history became legend and then myth. Now there are few who remember the descent of the Gods, but there are still those who fear their return. Rumour has it that some of the chosen mortals, the vessels, may still walk the earth and even be amongst us today.
Now, from the shadows, two groups have emerged. The Paladins, a dark sect who are dedicated to the Gods and their teachings and search relentlessly for their throne. The Brotherhood of Guardians, shrouded in mystery and have influenced entire nations for centuries. These two divisions have descended upon the realms, untold death and destruction wrought amongst the people who inhabit the lands.
Amongst the darkness there are those who will stand against these forces and protect the innocent. Men and women who face untold horrors but whose honour, courage and loyalty are unbreakable.
For this is a time of swords, magic and demons. A time of heroes, thieves and sorcerers, where the forces of good and evil continue their eternal struggle. This is a time of warriors.
From amongst the trees and overgrown bushes, a man paced slowly forward. He crouched low, moving unseen and silent. In one hand he grasped a bow, and between the fingers of the other an arrow that was already notched on the cord. A dark cloak covered his chainmail armour and concealed his sword, the hood raised and covering his facial features in shadow. The man stepped forward carefully, avoiding the tangles of roots and branches all around. The sun was shining high above him, but the crisp coldness in the air made his breath appear as vapour. His breath was slow and shallow as he tried to not give warning of his presence to any who could be watching.
Finally, as he reached the edge of the woodlands he stopped and crouched down, still hidden amongst the overgrowth. The woods ended with the beginning of a small village, a cluster of thatched homes gathered around a wooden hall that acted as the village temple and hall. There was a commotion within the village that caught the concealed archer’s attention completely. It was why the man was there.
Foul looking men and women, wearing rusted, damaged armour and tatty, filthy rags and equipped with a wide range of weaponry, were hunting down the inhabitants of the village. The young, old, male, female, all were forced from their homes and dragged towards the centre of the settlement. Screams and cries for help resonated from the village, sending a shiver down the spine of the archer. Any of the inhabitants who resisted were cut down mercilessly and the raiders took anything of value that they set their eyes upon. The vile bandits cackled menacingly at the fear they inflicted upon their victims. The villagers, numbering at around sixty people, were gathered before the temple at sword-point and forced to their knees as the rogues continued to plunder their homes.
As he watched the man lowered the hood of his cloak, revealing a strong, hard-set face. The man was in his early twenties, had thick, dark hair and rough stubble covering his jaw. Even while crouched, it was clear that the man was tall and had a muscular physique. He had a strong yet thin face and piercing blue eyes that watched the chaos in the village unfold with a focussed intensity. Sir Garrick Chilver was his name, Knight of the Realm of Castille.
From behind him advanced two more figures, both cloaked and armed with bows. Garrick did not turn, nor look concerned at their presence, his eyes staying on the turmoil before him. The pair carefully picked their way through the woods until they reached Garrick’s side and crouched low beside him. To Garrick’s right was a woman, a few years younger than him with a thin, elegant face whose beauty was masked by a terrible look of concern as she looked out to the settlement. Her long golden blonde hair was tied back and mostly concealed by the hood of her cloak. Beneath the cloak she wore leather riding clothes that hugged her body tightly and acted also as armour. She gripped her bow tightly, anger flaring up through her as she witnessed the horrific treatment of the villagers by these thuggish brutes. The young woman’s name was Lady Aurele Samia, Knight of Castille.
To Garrick’s left was a man, a menacing and haunted look in his narrowed eyes. He appeared to be in his mid-twenties, with shoulder-length black hair and thick stubble. His face was thin but hard-set, the skin pale from many years of absence from the sun’s light. The man had been a huntsman all his life and moved completely silently, not disturbing a single branch or leaf as he approached. His name was Sir Hayden Braav, a hunter and knight of Castille. He scanned the village, looking for someone intently.
The three hidden archers continued to watch the events in the village, anger rising in each of them as the captive inhabitants were beaten savagely. The bandits dragged the last of the villagers from their homes and pushed, punched and kicked them towards the centre of the settlement, towards the temple. When finally all of the men, women and children had been gathered, they were forced into the temple at sword and dagger point. The women and children screamed, the men cursed and spat at their attackers, but the raiders simply laughed, cackled and beat their prisoners back. When all of the villagers were in the wooden structure, the bandits shut the large oak doors as they continued to laugh like hyenas. The structure had no windows and only the one set of large doors to act as an entrance or exit.
One man walked forward from amongst the rogues, limping heavily as he moved. He was tall yet wily- thin and had laughed the loudest out of all the thugs who had rampaged through the village. His wretched smile was a dazzling show of gold, many of his rotted teeth replaced.
‘Bar the doors!’ the raider ordered, appearing to lead the raiders. A large wooden bar was lifted up by three of the stronger bandits and lowered down onto the metal frames that held it, securing the main doors of the temple shut. Screams and prayers to the Gods resonated from within the wooden structure and Aurele clasped her hands over her ears and clamped her eyes shut, as she tried to block out the horrific sights and sounds.
‘Bring me a torch!’ called out the leader of the raiders, the order sending another wave of laughter rippling through his followers who numbered well over thirty. One of the bandits, a young man who could not have been any older than fifteen, quickly emerged from one of the ransacked homes. A small log of wood, aflame at one end, was in his hands, taken from a fireplace that had just been cooking supper.
Garrick knew what was coming as he saw the make-shift flaming torch handed to the man with the glittering, golden teeth. The knight looked out to his right, amongst the wild, overgrown woods and in the distance he saw what he hoped would be there. Amongst the trees and the shaded darkness Garrick saw something shining brightly, the sunlight reflecting off plated armour.
‘Ready?’ Garrick whispered to the two archers at his side as he looked back to the village. No reply came as they all watched the chief raider raise the aflame log high to the cheer of his followers. Garrick raised his bow and pulled back on the cord as he took aim, Aurele and Hayden doing the same. He breathed slowly and calmly as he followed his target.
‘Now!’ Garrick said sharply as he relaxed his fingers, releasing the cord of his bow and sending the arrow soaring. It flew straight and true but at the last moment its target turned. The arrow struck the gold- toothed bandit’s arm, sending the flaming log tumbling to the ground. Two more arrows flew out from the woodlands, cutting down their targets as Garrick, Hayden and Aurele each drew another arrow and sent them flying.
The bandits were thrown into complete disarray as more of their number were struck by the arrows coming from the unseen archers amongst the trees. Their leader had fallen and clutching at the missile lodged in his arm. Then the woods burst into life.
From the trees thundered forward ten armed men upon towering steeds. They wore plated armour, scratched, dented, faded, and marked with lances crossing over a red circle upon their right shoulders. Their weapons shone far brighter than their armour though, care and attention being shown to these tools of war that were wielded with such deadly precision. The mounted soldiers mercilessly cut down all in their path and ripped through the mass of rogues. The lead soldier, who wore what appeared to be an ancient suit of faded armour and a helmet that had the visor lowered concealing his face, urged the squad on, striking any of the bandits who crossed his path. The raiders rushed towards their attackers, fighting for their very lives.
Garrick loosed another arrow, his fifth so far, before hooking the bow over his head and shoulder and drawing his broadsword. He pulled away his cloak, revealing a simple grey shirt over the chainmail armour, so as not to be mistaken as one of the bandits he faced. The knight ran forward, emerging from the woodlands, and struck down the first rogue to stumble into his path with a single swing of his blade. Aurele and Hayden were just behind him, still cutting down any targets in their sight.
Garrick continued to run, avoiding the mounted soldiers who continued to fight as the brigands swarmed around them and leaping over the bodies of those rogues who had fallen to the arrows. Garrick had one target on his mind, one which was obscured by the combat throughout the village and could not be hit by arrow. As he saw the flaming torch fly through the air he already knew he was too late though.
The leader of the raiders had torn the arrow from his arm and thrown the fallen log atop the roof of the temple, igniting the thatched roof instantly. The gold-toothed bandit then turned and faced Garrick, holding an axe in one hand and a short-sword in the other.
‘Get the people out of there!’ Garrick shouted to Aurele and Hayden, as the fire spread across the temple’s roof and the smoke billowed high. As soon as Garrick called out the order the bandit attacked him, leaping forward and bringing his sword and axe down on him. The knight blocked each strike, but the brightly toothed fiend attacked fast, bringing down each weapon onto him repeatedly. He may have been thin and not as strong as many of the opponents the knight had faced before, but the rogue was fast and skilled and Garrick was hard-pressed to parry the attacks.
The fighting continued to rage around them as the mounted soldiers battled against the larger number of raiders that surrounded them. Hayden and Aurele fought their way to the temple, the hunter struggling with the large wooden beam that locked the doors whilst Aurele shot down any who approached with her bow. This was all unseen by Garrick and his opponent though, their focus only on survival and defeating each other.
Garrick parried more attacks by axe and short-sword, the speed of the bandit forcing Garrick back and unable to launch an attack of his own. The leader of the raiders paused for a moment, and cackled as the screams continued to sound out from the trapped villagers within the burning temple. Loud banging came from the doors as the people tried to escape, causing the gold-toothed thug to laugh even louder. This was all the incentive that Garrick needed and he lunged forward in anger. The bandit parried the knight’s broadsword and forced it down so that its point caught in the ground. A roar of victory came from the raider’s mouth as he brought his axe up high ready to strike down. Garrick grabbed the bandit’s wrist with his left hand and it became a battle of wills and strength as both men tried to bring the axe down on the other.
‘Your nation is lost!’ laughed the lead rogue. ‘The Gods will praise and reward us for our deeds!’
Another wave of anger rose within Garrick and he threw his head forward, butting the taller bandit in the mouth. The brigand fell to the ground in a daze, spitting golden, bloody teeth to the grass around him. Out of desperation he swung the axe towards Garrick’s legs, but the knight quickly brought his broadsword round, severing the bandit’s arm just above the elbow. The foul excuse for a man howled in pain as blood spurted from the wound, covering the ground beneath him. Garrick stepped forward, raising his sword point so that it rested upon the wounded man’s throat.
‘The next choice you make will decide you fate!’ Garrick warned the rogue. Out of pure fury the bandit gripped the short-sword and began to bring it round to attack at the knight’s legs again. Seeing this in the corner of his eye, Garrick, shaking his head, simply leant forward, his broadsword piercing the raider’s jugular and ripping his neck open.
Garrick looked up as the doors to the temple flew open, Hayden having cut through the large wooden beam with an axe. The villagers poured out of the burning building, coughing and struggling for breath after being trapped in the smoke filled temple. The surviving bandits threw down their weapons after seeing their leader fall, knowing it was pointless to continue the fight that had suddenly turned very one sided. Aurele and Hayden helped the villagers evacuate the temple quickly, as the soldiers disarmed their prisoners and searched the village for any remnants of the raiders that may have escaped them.
The lead soldier guided his horse towards Garrick and stopped at the knight before dismounting. His sword was coated in blood and his old set of armour had several new dents along its plated steel. He raised the visor on his helmet, revealing a strong and hardened face covered in sweat from the fight. The man was in his mid-thirties and looked tired, dark rings under his eyes.
‘Lord Albrek, sir,’ Garrick said, as he wiped away a trickle of blood from his brow, a small cut on his forehead caused by the jaw of the raiders’ leader.
‘This is a good start!’ the Lord and Ruler of Castille said, as he looked over the villagers as they recovered and saw that all had escaped the burning temple. Lord Albrek and Garrick then watched as the fire spread from the temple to the nearby homes, the embers of the burning thatch floating in the breeze to the rest of the village.