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Night was gathering and the men of castle had begun walking the grounds lighting torches not yet lit. The commonfolk of Jutal scrambled outside the walls of the castle in order to find shelter within buildings. The King of Jutal, Pulon Willows, stood atop the battlements of his stronghold as the bright, burning sun began to set, while being revealed that the moon would not make an appearance that night. This also meant that the world would not see the face of the sun on the morrow.
The last of the commonfolk had finished scattering in the doors as the last sliver of the sun dissipated out of sight. Pulon paced the battlements and watched out over his kingdom. His right hand man, Wec Buol, had been the one to inform Pulon of reports of missing persons in Jutal. There had never been any evidence of kidnappings, running aways or abandonment of posts, people simply just vanished. Then his men began to speculate and grow wearisome that there might be an anonymous kidnapper, even worse, murderer. The scary part hadn’t been that the men’s speculations could be true, it was that they could break at any moment. Any person could see it in their faces every time the sun would go down. They didn’t pray at night that they would soon receive good fortune, they prayed that the moon would come out and the sun would rise in the east.
Wec had climbed the battlements and found himself standing beside Pulon, gazing out amongst The Darkness, soon to be a pitch blackness of nothing.
“Ser, the Intellects determine the Lords of Dark will return tonight,” reported Wec.
Pulon did not respond, and continued to intently stare off into the distance, as though he were watching riders approaching his castle gates. The last sight outside of the walls the King caught were of a citizen slamming closed the shutters to an upstairs room, then everything was black. The night grew silent, as all men atop the outer walls of the castle also noticed the complete darkness. No man moved, and no man dared speak, as a faint sound could soon be heard. Pulon leaned forward on a crenelation in the wall, attempting to hone in on what he heard. A few more seconds passed when the sound could then be confirmed to be that of horses approaching.
The observing King pulled back from leaning forward, snapped to his right, to one of his squires holding his equipment, then turned and proceeded down a flight of stairs to the main courtyard of the castle. Wec followed him down the stairs, as did Henry, one of Pulon’s squire. They reached the ground floor, Pulon immediately getting to work on barking commands left and right to his men, ordering some to prepare mounts to ride out and confront the enemy, others to make preparations, in the event that the Lords of Dark broke through the King and his men. Wec and Henry continued to follow as Pulon passed numerous people, telling them what they should do, what they should expect.
“Ser, if I might ask, what am I to do?”
“You’re to ride with me into battle Wec. It’s past time you take off those robes and have the cold taste of Ulav steel in your hand,” demanded Pulon as he entered the castle’s armory. “However, if, by chance, I happen to perish in the battle to come, divert all efforts to making it out of the debacle alive so that you may live to tell of what is to happen on this night.”
Pulon began to armor himself as Wec stood feet away, frozen and in shock that he was being demanded to ride into battle. Fighting had never been his expertise. Wec could create useful battle tactics and conjure clever stealth maneuvers, but battle itself had never been a field he’d bothered toying with. But an order from the King was an order from the King, and he simply could not deny.
He suited up alongside his King and began to buckle on sword belts, dagger belts and tightening straps to his armor. Pulon noted the overwhelming feeling of anxiousness in Wec. He gave the man a reassuring pat on the shoulder, then handed Wec the sword that belonged in his empty sheathe. As he had stated, Wec was now holding an Ulav sword, Ulav being one of the finest metals in Delsera. The two finished gearing up and reemerged into the swallowing darkness of outside. Further ahead, there were two empty horses awaiting Wec and Pulon, as well as 20 of the best knights available in Jutal.
Wec knew well enough how to mount a horse, mounting one while clad in armor was a different story.
Once mounted upon the mare, Pulon wasted no time in attempting to explain their situation or what they were going to be possibly facing outside of the granite walls. Pulon’s horse reared, letting out almost a whinny of disparity, and made way for the gates to the castle. The winch operators also wasted no time lollygagging around, as they had the portcullis drawn up far enough by the time Pulon and his small army arrived. They strode through the gate and into the vast unknown.
Pulon signaled for everyone to slow their pace, in order to minimize sound being produced. The sound of blowing filled the air, as though it were windy, yet, there was no physical sign of wind present. A low growl soon was heard, and a man at the rear of Pulon’s following screeched in fear, but only for a moment, as the shriek was cut short and simply ended. A few men near the back began to shout that the man had just vanished without a trace. Every knight present had then drawn their swords, preparing for the worse. The low growl could be heard once again, however, no one disappeared. Silhouettes of the night were now surrounding the crunched gathering of now-19 men.
Wec, shocked, astounding, dumbfounded, took note that while they were being surrounded by silhouettes, everything about them could be distinguished. Their facial features, the wrinkles in their clothes, yet all the same maintained no physical form. Nine figures in total had surrounded the knights, King and Wec, all 9 wearing crowns upon their heads: the Usurpers of Night, instead of the Lords of Dark. Not one of them spoke, yet Pulon seemed to be squirming in his saddle, beginning to violently shake his head as though it were being filled with unpleasant images, or as though something was intruding his mind. The silhouettes remained still as the King continued to shake his head, clutching it by the temples, only for the knights and Wec to watch. Pulon then responded.
“No, we will not give in to your demands,” exclaimed the King.
Wec was confused since no one had spoken yet, and then he realized. The Usurpers of Night were speaking to Pulon mentally. Pulon, shortly after, halted shaking and drew his sword, signifying that the Usurpers of Night no longer polluted his mind. No words were exchanged between knights, Pulon, Wec or the Usurpers of Night.
Pulon simply gave Wec a nod, and the man knew what to do. He looked around slowly, examining for some sort of opening between the Nine Usurpers of Night. They were all spaced relatively far from one another, yet Wec assumed they all had a long enough reach to swing a blade at him, in the case that he attempts to escape. Another few moments passed and he had finally realized that he was either going to die not fighting, or die trying to escape, and that was a risk he was willing to take.
Pulon and the knights continued to scan their opponents while Wec took in a few more deep breaths in order to build up enough courage to make a break for it. He kicked his heels into the rear of his mount and burst into a full dash, making his way between two of the Usurpers of Night. Wec passed through the two, and to his surprise, passing with ease. Neither of the silhouettes made an effort to strike or bar passage through. Wec continued to urge his mare onwards, without ever looking back.
He continued to ride when the sounds of shouts and screams and the clash of metal could be heard. The suddenly all sound had ceased to exist and Wec continued onward into the empty void.
Written by TheJangoLegacy