The Dark Design
Story 1: Ebony Wings
Written on 3/04
It amazes me how this all got started. Or at least, where all the interesting parts of my life got started. With a horse. No, I'm not kidding. At least I'm not entirely kidding. I suppose I should explain alittle bit about myself before I really get started.
My name is Tyrien, or just Tyr for short, and I lived in the forest. It wasn't just any forest, mind. It was the most beautiful forest in all the land...at least I thought so. I'm rather young for one of my kind. In human standards I'd be around a very young-looking fourteen or fifteen. Oh did I mention I'm not human? But I suppose for an Elf or one of Elven blood I'm rather unusual or exotic-looking. For one thing I'm short, barely clearing five feet tall, and for another my hair's brown. Actually, its a bit more of an auburnish-shade, but I digress. Anyway, the forest I live in is pretty huge, and its also pretty old. It also has some of the prettiest colors you could ever see in a forest, trees with a bark of bright silver and leaves a shimmering silvery blue. Also there where tall pines, and weeping willows. Populating this forest too where all manner of Faery folk, and I was quite familiar with most of them. They caused me very little trouble, actually we worked together quite often, and I was very much like them.
Where I originally came from I really could not tell. The forest has a habit of absorbing one's past when you step into it, until everything you once knew was the forest, and everything else was like a dream. I do know though, in some of those distant dreams of the past before the forest, that I travelled. I think I was an orphan or something, as I certainly had no mother where I was living now, and was certainly young enough to require one. Needless to say, I wandered into the forest and never really looked back. It seemed to provide everything for me. So I suppose I could say then that the forest was my mother. She was a very good mother too.
She was also the mother to many other orphan boys like myself, though many of them where human. They came from all over the place. I suppose they must have thought the forest a good mother to them too. Because, for whatever reason, their mothers where no longer there. They would tell stories though, of their old life. But soon those memories seemed to become dreams, and our only reality was the forest and her comforting bosom. We where the rulers of this realm, and I was the emperor of them all. My speed and cleverness had earned me this position, as I must admit I was a rather skilled pickpocket and thief. Travellers passing through our forest certainly had more to contend with than just the Faery folk, and together we all lived like kings for quite sometime.
But one day, everything would change forever.
That day I heard talk amongst the woods that "bad folk" where passing through. I knew something was up even before the news hit me, because all the animals in the forest where quiet and laying low. Not even the birds in the treetops where singing. It was a hush that was so unsettling it woke me early from my midday nap. A couple of the boys started to cry. It was something in the air, and it was rather nasty. So, being the self-proclaimed protector that I thought I was, I decided to investigate this strange occurence. It didn't take me too long to locate the source of the disturbance, after having consulted various auguries and other denizens of the forest I was on friendly terms with. What I saw while perched up in a large and sturdy willow, where several elven soldiers. They where very dark, dark hair and dark clothing, and they smelled of something nasty, like death. The whole forest itself seemed to shrink away around their campsite. Among their company though was a most curious thing. A skyhorse, but one looking like nothing I've ever heard of. For one thing, the horse was completely black from snout to tail and from wingtip to wingtip. His eyes where also possessed of a certain ferocity that most would find highly unsettling, and yet I was entranced by him, fascinated. He seemed too like it did not want to be there. Frequently he would buck and kick and pull against his tether, and the dark elves seemed to make quite a sport of tormenting the poor thing, even provoking him to anger. I saw him lash out and kick at one of the soldiers, knocking him off of his feet and sending him into a small stream near their encampment. The rest of his comrades howled in laughter, and they continued to goade the poor beast on and make a sport of him. I had made up my mind then and there what I was going to do about it.
I was going to set him free, you see.
And funny too, because little did I know that this decision would change my life forever. In fact I think both the skyhorse and I where totally left in the dark at how much our lives would change. I stayed up in the tree and watched them all day long. I had waited until well-past nightfall when the soldiers had fallen asleep. It was then that I made my move. Quickly and silently I descended from the tree—okay I leaped down. But it was a quiet leap. I don’t think my feet so much as made a sound touching the dirt, but then again I had learned a lot on stealth from the animals of the woods, especially the foxes. Sneaking carefully through their encampment, I entered the clearing where they not only had the horse tethered, but tied down as well. I had to be sure to approach him without him seeing me or disturbing him, otherwise he would start thrashing and making noise and that would really do no good for either of us as it would alert his captors. Drawing a knife from a tattered rope belt around my waist, I went to work sawing free and unfastening his bonds. As I made my way to the front of him towards the tethers on his halter he awoke, and my heart lept into my throat. His bright red eyes rolled and his nostrils flared. I don’t think he really knew what to make of me, but it wasn’t long before he realised that he was practically free and, fearing that I was just another protagonist, he reared back and roared. Acting quickly I slashed free the tethers to his halter, dodging slashing hooves as I did so. I then ducked and rolled under some nearby brush as great wings snapped open and drank up the air around them. The strange ebony skyhorse was both free and airborne, and for a moment I almost thought that this was a dire mistake.
It wasn’t long at all before the darkelven soldiers awoke to the commotion, shouting at the horse and at themselves and waving their arms about. Taking advantage of my small body, I dug deep under the roots and brush, staying absolutely still so that my presence wouldn’t be detected. I watched breathless as the ebony stallion, instead of flying away, descended upon his tormentors and proceeded to deal out extreme violence towards them. He trampled tents, kicked and bit. It wasn’t long before most of their small number where trampled to death—what few remained fled through the woods. Fearing for my own safety, I remained hidden until daybreak, where I cautiously emerged and began to seek my way back to the den where the rest of the boys anxiously waited for my return.
But, while crossing over a hill in a clearing, my progress was suddenly cut short by one large snorting winged beast. I froze like a rabbit cornered like a fox. The horse snorted, flattening his ears and dancing lightly on nervous hooves. I remained completely still sweat falling in rivulets down my skin and moistening the rags and old animal skins I wore for clothing. It seemed like an eternity. Finally, it was the horse that made the first move, and surely I felt like I was going to die at the time. He reached forward with his head and nosed me with his velvety snout. I stayed absolutely still until he took a step back, and I wobbled, weak-kneed and breathless. But he did not fly away after that, in fact he just stood there and watched me, ears erect. Cautiously I approached him and ran a careful hand on his smoothe ebony hide.
“Hey there buddy see? I’m not going to hurt you.”
The horse snorted in response and shook out his long ebony mane, fluffing his wings as he did so and folding them neatly at his sides. I hesitated for a moment, then grabbed his mane and, in one fluid movement, swung myself up onto his back. He bucked slightly in surprise, but I held on.
“Whoa! Easy, I only want to play!”
Amazingly that seemed enough for him. He calmed down enough for me to catch a breath. Looking around, I truly felt like a king. Grinning widely, I leaned forward and whispered in the horse’s ear.
“Hey can you run? Can ya gimmie a ride?”
Apparently he could understand exactly what I was saying, because before I knew it we where both racing through the winding paths of the forest. In the exhileration of the moment I let fly one of my loud howls, and some of the other boys in my band howled raucously back through the woods. You see, as luck would have it we where charging right into the encampment of my boys, where eventually we came to a halt. They poured out from everywhere to greet me and to see the unusual skyhorse. Many hands caressed his black velvet hide and many fingers coursed through the long curtain of mane. That night around the campfire I told the story of my daring feat, and how out of it all I managed to acquire a new friend.
But see that wasn’t really the end of the story, or even half of how my life or the life of my new equine friend would be seriously altered. Because you see, even as I was celebrating around the fire the wheels of destiny where turning, things where going to be set into motion. At the time that thought never occurred to me that those darkelven footsoldiers that escaped could come back and bring others with them to reclaim their lost prize. And even if they did, being very headstrong and cocky I didn’t really think much of it. I always assumed I would be safe in my forest domain, and there no one would be able to get the better of me. But, I suppose you could say that there I lived a very sheltered life by comparison, and I was in for a major wake-up call.