4. The Dark Lord

‘To my King,

I hope this letter finds you in the best of health as I  give my greetings to their royal highnesses. But  I am not writing for pleasantries today. It is with a heavy heart that I am forced to relay this message to you, I am trusting two of my best men to get this to you swiftly and safely. 

The Forgotten lands have begun to stir. I took no notice of it despite the suspicions and the sense of foreboding that has consumed me over the slight change in the beasts and monsters that roam the land. If it was not for the men I  have lost and the marks on their body I would not have believed it. Just like back then, it is the very same.

The threat we had hoped never to face again has returned, he is not dead, and I fear he lay dormant regaining his strength over the years. But without a doubt, he is back and the promise of vengeance that was promised to us fifteen years ago when we destroyed him or so we thought, is clear on his mind.

The last of my warriors who were attacked, passed a message before he died, ‘The Dark Lord seeks vengeance’

I had my suspicions after seeing the movement and the aura around the border but now that he has sought to pass a message to us, I did not wish to waste more time or write it off as a sadistic joke.

Declan and Aren have both ventured to the borders of the forgotten lands, they will be able to inform you of the changes within the cursed lands. 

We may have moved on from the nightmares of the past, but we can never forget the cost of peace. We cannot waste time and must prepare the kingdom for war. I plead that unlike last time under our previous sovereign may his soul rest in peace we must act quickly.

We cannot let our overconfidence and pride blind us like last time.

I have been informed by our soldiers in the surrounding villages along the border that a strange disease has hit livestock. One that has left all the doctors and herbalists confused at their sudden death, and the rate of decomposition of the bodies.

He has given us a warning willingly, which begs the question how long has he been watching and biding his time?

I apologise for not being able to pass this message to you sooner, I have failed you as your brother in arms and  your general. But I am confident that the next generation will do us proud.

If I die, I wish Declan of House Storm to become the general in my place. He has the eye and wit needed. Like his father, he will make this country proud. With Aren of House Silver Mountain to be the second in command.

Keep both by your side until we are ready, I strongly fear that he may have snuck past our defences and entered the capital already.


General Elian of House Halan'

Declan frowned, despite the initial  shock of the possibility of war, there was one more thing he could not get out of his mind. ‘Like his father, he will make this country proud’ what had Elian meant by that, he never even knew the man knew his father, he had never mentioned him in any sense of familiarity, never talking about him.

Aren was first to break the heavy silence.

“The dark lord, is he not a myth?” he said confusion clear in his eyes.

“If only he were,” Evaan said looking at the two men before him, he understood Elian’s reason for sending them, he trusted them and believed they could lead this threat. But it was a lot to take in for the king. His stomach was knotted, the feeling of dread and foreboding crawling up his skin.

“We need to prepare without causing fear in the land,” Evaan said

“What does it mean, he may be in the capital already?” Declan asked in his cold voice. He had not expected this, yes there had been some odd sightings and occurrences in the forbidden land but nothing the army there could not handle. Elian had called in more of their soldiers and knights, and they were constantly on watch no  matter how peaceful the kingdom was. So what did this mean? Additionally, how could Elian state him as a general? Did he think he would die soon?

Declan hated this kingdom with a passion, but if war was here, would he let innocent people die just like his clan had died? The answer was simple, No. No matter how much he hated the royals and the fake materialistic beauty of Ehlesaar he was not going to be like the king. Yes, he would get his revenge upon the royals but no he could never sit back and watch children and women be killed.

“The Dark Lord was... is… I have no idea what to address him as,” he said not able to bring himself to speak of him as if he was alive. “He had the ability to enter and take control of the mind, anyone with fear or some hate in their heart were easier targets, the stronger ones were harder for him to possess. But it was the way he made his way into our ranks. We did not even know who could be foe and who was not, scared of even our brothers. What human would not fear on a battlefield, with that increased fear he would overcome and consume them.  It was a dark time. I  did not meet him in battle, I was not allowed to, my duty was to make sure the future of this kingdom had an heir. I was forced to watch from the side-lines as my father rode into battle with my younger brothers. And I could do nothing,”

The pain was palpable in the kings' voice, the bitterness, the regret.

“So you stood by and watched your family die like a coward?” Declan said looking the king in the eyes. Evaan looked at him

It took strength to remember my duty and not run to the battlefield! You do not know the pain of having to stand by and watch your family die,” He said coldly, the pain was consuming him, he had had three brothers, and had lost them all within months of one another.

He looked at the arrogant young man in anger “So do not think you know anything,”

“The pain of standing by and watching your family die? It seems even the mighty Evaan of Ehlesaar has grown so old that his memory has become poor,” Declan hissed his eyes flashing with barely hidden anger, “I know the pain, I was barely five when my family was slaughtered before my eyes, the only difference was even at that age I tried to fight, to protect them, so don’t give me your shit about doing your fucking duty,” 

A sharp intake of breath from Aren was heard at Declan's blatant disrespect, but neither men bothered with him as the king looked at the man before him his words echoing in his mind. He had been there. He had been there, the king had not known that. When they had found Declan he had been miles from his home town. It was for his sake that Evaan had hidden the truth of his family from the world, not wanting the young child to be haunted by the trauma of what had happened to his family.

He had originally wanted to raise Declan as his own but fearing he would hear about the massacre and the hate and fear people wrongly had towards the House of Storm he had sent him to Elians’ care. Elian had trained and raised him well, protecting the boy and giving him a chance to live a life without the shadow of the past looming over him.

“I….did not know you were there that night. When you were found, you were miles from your home,” Evaan said in a softer voice.

“Hmph,” Declan said a mock smirk on his lips, “Isn’t that a shame,”

A thick tension rose between the two men, Dark grey eyes meeting the lighter grey of the kings.

“Declan… Your majesty, we need to put aside our differences and do something about this enemy to make sure we can protect our home. We need to plan,” Aren said softly looking between his friend and his king.

Declan said nothing, he sometimes wondered why he kept the loud annoying idiot by his side, but he knew it was his irritatingly bright and positive personality that seemed to keep him from the brink of darkness that was ready to consume him.

“Declan I want to-” The king began but Declan didn’t want to hear his petty excuse of a cover-up to why his family were treated the way they had been, why they had been so ruthlessly sacrificed. Not right now. Not until he was ready to hear it. Besides he wanted the truth, not some bullshit made up by the king.

“Not now, I don’t want to hear it, let’s  focus on what's at hand,” he said looking at the empty fireplace, his black hair falling over his eye slightly.

Fifteen years ago. That was what the letter said, did that mean his families death and the dark lord were connected? If so, he needed to learn everything, surely the palace would have some records of what truly happened. He would get his answers himself.

“Very well,” the king who was usually emotionless and cold said in defeat, taking his seat. “Let's start with you both informing me with an in-depth account of all that has happened at the borders,”

Aren nodded and stepped forward taking one of the seats opposite the king. He  began explaining the odd happenings at the border, things they put down to just the beasts that lurked there.

Evaan looked at the two men as he listened, if war was truly upon them, then he needed to make sure all his daughters were settled. Their position was already fragile and with the fear of war, it would be even more so. Terania’s wedding needed to be moved even closer, as she needed to bear the kingdom heirs.

As for the rest of the princesses he needed to find them strong, trustworthy husbands. In case  anything happened to him he needed to make sure they were all secure and safe. As dark as it seemed, if anything happened to Terania, the rest needed to be prepared that they may need to take the place as queen in order of birth. If that happened, the spouses needed to be men from the best dukedom houses in the kingdom. They must be prepared for the worst...

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