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Allan the sentinel of the garden sat perched like a bird on the guard platform. It was the second age and the bringer of life had fallen to the glorious dark. He had had a hand in that, Allan supposed. It had been his plan after all that had been accepted by the nightwalkers, he had even waved the banner of the variance atop the tower of life signifying victory. But then the dark had gone, disappeared from open view, the world was the darkness’s now, what reasons would the nightwalkers have to remain for people to hate and envy. They had left without a word, disappearing silently to the Pits of the Variant. They might profess to be evil but Allan knew better and so did many of his compatriots. They were people, they bled in battle, they wept, and they felt hate. But above all they were the most valiant of the Variant from ages past, men who had not been acclaimed or given lordship over any lands, just simple men who had fought for their people. Torchlight approached his guard tower and Allan dropped to his feet warily, only fools and followers of life used light, especially so close to where his lord and the bringer of life dwelt. There had been a time when the mistress of life could have been brought back with only a whisper of her name, it had been chaos. Though the nightwalkers had promised this as the final victory and Allan hoped it was true, he hoped never to see another high lord gifted with the powers of life. He had seen the bringer of life in battle once, a withered old crone. Surrounded by men with spears who knew better than to get close, but she was suddenly enveloped with white hot fire and those that did not turn away from that brilliance, mortal or not had their essence burned away. Making his way around the torchlight, stealthily dropping to all fours he got behind the man wielding the open flame. Covering the man’s lips and holding a knife to the throat he asked, “Who brings light where there is only dark?”
It was then Allan noticed however that it was a woman, long hair beneath a cowl and wearing as impossible as it seemed a dress of metal rings strong enough to most likely stop any blade. But he had her by the scruff of the neck and she would answer his questions girl or not, her quivering voice answered him and she dropped the torch in sudden fear, “I bring light bec—because I was frightened of the dark an---and I thought that my f—father would be out here, he told me he had first w--- watch”, the girl stammered. Allan felt a sudden stab of pity and disgust for himself; he threatened to kill a girl who was still not used to the dark, whether they had won the battle of ages or not.
Lowering his knife and stooping down to grab the smoking torch he asked, “What possessed you to bring a torch woman?”
“I’m hardly a woman”, her voice trailed off, and she blushed furiously at his penetrating gaze. “I was looking for my father”, she repeated, absent mindedly stroking her hair. “How are we supposed to see you guards in the dark anyway?” She asked, “Especially when young men no matter how supposedly faithful to the dark sneak up on you and put a blade to your throat?”
Now it was Allan’s turn to blush and he glowered at her, “there are no sentries in the garden except for me”, he said angrily. “And your father obviously has some work to do when it comes to manners”, Allan added.
“What’s that”, she asked suddenly, as the wind blew the branches of the trees overhead. “Did they follow me”, she questioned him. Then as if taken on the breeze she leaped from his guard stand completely ignoring his protests and darted down the first of the castle steps. Allan followed after her, scurrying down the guard tower and instead of taking the normal path jumped over the stream, where koi fish could be seen darting around in the moonlight and running from tree to tree barely even taking in their immensity. Climbing up the tree closest to the path he heard her clinking mail before he saw her, dropping down right in front of her and yelping she practically stuck her heels into the ground to stop her momentum but ended up colliding headfirst with him anyway. It was a heap of tangled limbs and Allan had trouble discerning which were his and which were hers. All he could really feel was her hot breath on his cheek and the odd look she was giving him. Wryly Allan lifted up first one leg than the other before standing and dusting himself off, reminding himself why he had chased after her in the first place.
“We can’t stay here; if the watch changes and I’m not at my post I won’t be able to watch the garden anymore.” Allan told her.
“You really like this garden that much, you wouldn’t even let a women get in the way of it and yourself?” The girl asked winking at him through her disheveled hair that hung down like willow branches.
Shaking his head Allan thought to himself, this girl is as flighty as a bird, “what’s your father’s name”, Allan questioned while helping her to her feet.
“Oh you wouldn’t know him”, she replied sullenly. ”He wasn’t at that last battle like you were.”
“How do you know I was at the last battle?” Allan asked.
“Everyone knows”, she said dusting herself off. “You have very nice eyes”, she told him hurriedly and she blushed more furiously than before.
He could hear shouts by his fellow sentinel stand now; the emissary would be very displeased. “It’s going to take a lot of pleading and a confession by you to make the emissary let me guard this place again”, Allan practically shouted at her. “What were you thinking? Was your plan to come to seduce me or something?”
“You are not at all like I remember”, the girl told him with twinkling eyes.
“We don’t know each other, ARE YOU INSANE?” Allan yelled at her.
Unperturbed she continued as if he had said nothing at all, “you used to be so hard and cold. I remember when we used to walk these gardens together; you were always talking to me about duty and honor. I even remember when you were this young, when we played together in the manor”, she finished as Allan simply gaped at her.
“We are going back girl and when your father gets a hold of you”… Allan’s voice trailed off as his replacement for the watch walked right behind her and seemed to be looking about in all directions. The guard was clearly yelling but Allan could not make out what he was saying, and he noticed for the first time, the chilling breeze didn’t seem to touch him here; even the sound of the chattering birds was gone.
“We are already back”, the bringer of life told him with a small smile as she tore off her cowl revealing her dark hair that cascaded down to her shoulders like a winter storm. “Remember when we used to play Gerard?”
“I DON’T WANT TO REMEMBER!!” Allan screamed at her through the sudden tears that coursed down his face. Memories that were not his own swarmed his consciousness and he felt sorrow, a deep hurt for which there was no remedy.
“It’s time to play again”, the bringer of life said laughing, a smile playing across her lips.
“NO, NOT THIS TIME”, Allan yelled drawing his sword and lunging for the bringer of life with closed eyes, he could not bear to watch a woman die, even if it was the mistress herself. She tried to leap out of the way and his sword trembled as it hit something solid. Allan opened his eyes shocked, he had hit her, he had run her through, was it was over?
Hysterical laughter met his fear and the bringer of life grabbed his sword with both hands, taking it from his trembling hands. “I knew you were young Gerard, but you were never one for foolishness, you could hurt me more with words than you ever could with this”, she said giving his sword a contemptuous look before sheathing it in Allan’s scabbard. “Now come with me, this body cannot maintain this for long she said eyeing the other sentinel who prowled around searching for some mark upon the path.”
“You and I both know that I never go willingly”, Gerard’s voice echoed from Allan’s mouth.
The bringer of life’s eyes appraised him questioningly, “This Allan is not very strong, the age has not even begun and yet here you stand Gerard.”
“Not strong at all”, Gerard laughed. “I do not think you meant to face me so early, so I give you this chance. Leave me or rather Allan this time, do not come for us and I shall not kill you now.”
The bringer of life’s soprano laughter echoed around the garden for the second time, “Gerard you could not maintain a single candle here let alone harm me”, she chimed. “And that age is gone and past, but you Gerard will do me a favor before the end.”
Allan looked out of his own eyes briefly, Gerard fleeing fearfully inside his consciousness as a different kind of darkness took him and Allan’s vision grew dark.
Allan awoke on the cobblestones that appeared to be painted black, sounds of hammering metal coming from the smithy across the street that was full of bustling people which caused such a clamor, Allan was surprised his eardrums didn’t burst. Goats, pigs, sheep and geese were being led by gaunt farmers into the marketplace, the noise of so many people and animals was deafening but the added ringing of that hammer striking against metal made Allan feel woozy. Struggling wearily to his feet, he looked out on the innumerable people clogging the street, he then started asking questions, where was this place he thought to himself. It had been dawn, why was the sun so high in the sky and giving off that awful bright light? It was too much that incessant ringing, wouldn’t the blasted man give it a rest or at the very least take a break. The ringing of the hammer sped up and the bustling crowd grew larger and larger until they were walking on the steps of the neighboring houses. He would put an end to that blacksmith, Allan thought through the haze that tried to cloud his mind. Allan reached for his belt to draw his sword, but before he grasped the hilt the crowd appeared to notice him for the first time, groups of people screamed and pointed, then just as suddenly calmed and walked on their merry way. This was madness, Allan thought to himself drawing his sword completely, causing the people to back away in sudden fright, and stare after him before resuming their steady walk to the center of the town while Allan made his way towards the smithy on the other side of the street.
Every step he took seemed labored, it took minutes and when his foot finally touched cool cobblestones beneath he also felt a tugging on his mind. The hammer falls stopped short, and the street grew eerily quiet as if someone had thrown a blanket over a raucous child. Something was trying to draw him…. Wind whipped about in a sudden gust, pulling at his flesh, it was pushing him back. He did not know why but that smithy seemed important he must reach it, step after arduous step he pushed his body beyond any mortal constraints, he was almost there; the doorframe was a hairsbreadth from his grasp! A great blast of wind knocked him off his feet, lifting both man and glinting sword skyward, straight towards whatever horrible force lay behind and they both landed with heavy thumps on the hard cobblestones. Bruised and battered, Allan struggled to his feet putting his hands in front of his eyes to shield against the flying debris while his sword skittered sideways before being practically thrown back into the abyss behind, for some reason he knew if he looked back at his companion that lost piece of his soul, he too would be lost. He would not lose to her this time Allan told himself over and over again, staring straight ahead at his goal and from this thought he gained strength, pushing the wind back by sheer force of will, no matter how it struck, though it struck fiercely like nature had a mind of its own. He barreled through the pounding storm that turned to sleet, through the lightning that crashed, through invisible townspeople that looked on as the watcher of the garden vaulted over the fence to the smithy. The wind gave a final shriek before he grabbed hold of the wooden framing of the doorway and Allan clutched to it like a babe, hanging on as if it was his life, while immense satisfaction clouded his consciousness, he had done it! Turning around and looking under his clutching arm he saw what he had been running from, and there it stood the flag of the Variant whipping about in the wind of the second age, calling to his senses. He felt the nagging warning of Gerard to late, and Gerard not the wind shrieked in horrible fury before the light of the sun grew horribly bright and Allan was slammed to the ground where darkness consumed him.