Shadows in the DarkMature

Chapter One

The moon rose, its silver rays sliding over the ancient castle, still presiding on the mountain peak, over the small medieval village below. Outside the village lay the timeless pines shielding myths and legends from the lure of the full moon. However, at the equinox even those sturdy boughs will fail to protect the villagers. Soon the moon will draw their ancestral nightmare from the depths.

Tiny diamonds pepper the sky as the stars catch their stolen light. The gilded village stones lie in silent anticipation as the frosty air hardened on the ground.

Honey coloured walls rise around shaded cobbled streets, darkened with history. The watchful castle is still, as are the streets. The equinox was a time for family, during an age where nature was sacred and religion did not exist. However, myths, whilst mostly forgotten, still roamed freely amongst the travellers and inns, warming the firesides with far-off lands and fantastical beasts. Legends are still in the making and the magic has not yet faded from the earth. The people are twinned with the land and there is a mutual respect. Tonight, the legends that are whispered by the hearths are stirring. The forgotten myths which even now stalk out of the night, drawn by the scent of vitality which pours from them, headier than the most intoxicating liquor.  Because, attuned as they are, these people have lost their faith.

Their belief in the supernatural and the occult, the unholy or the just-plain-weird has all but vanished. Because yet another being stalks the towns. It goes by the name of The One, The God and The Holy Being. Religion has come to this land, leeching away the magic as water cleans away the mud from a stone. This religion teaches that the legends, which teach unity with nature and wariness of the unknown, are evil, that knowledge and ‘modernisation' are good. This is enforced by the threat of ‘divine retribution', should the people wander from the directives set put for them. However, the legends that they try so hard to suppress are stronger than fables, and are not so easily ignored. Should a generation get too ensnared by religion, these ancients myths rise up against it, to reclaim their place as rightful rulers of the lives of these people.

Tonight is such a night. The shadows stir as the people bow down to their new rulers. They boil restlessly as the children scorn the legends, instead of embracing them as they once used to, young hearts thrilling with the magic of terror. Their scorn fuels the ancient anger that was first pricked by the whisper of religion, now a raging inferno that will engulf this small town, and all who stand before it. An example will be made. The people will remember and mourn the day that religion turned their heads from the old ways. The cycle will turn again to the rule of superstition, balance will shift again. The shadows will rise up and live again.

The travellers have brought the legends to this small village, where they gather on the equinox, to rest their wares and to cosy up to the fire, ‘safe' from the night. The locals rest in their honey wrappings, their new idols dancing in their minds.  The shadows in the dark gather their forces and sweep from the forest, as a cloud shields the moon from the village. The inhabitants of the village will bear witness to the new age and the world will never forget.

The streets are lined with buildings. The centre of the village is the market square. Outside are the homes of the locals, scattered with the inns and pubs, shops and work places. Inside the houses, the people of the village sleep, tired from a busy day of preparation. The night is very young, the moon newly risen. The streets are deserted, lying in the silence of the moonlight.

 Inside one ordinary house, a small family lies. The mother, widowed, a daughter, no longer a child, named after the birds that flock around this area: Raven. Also, a young son and a grandmother share the house. This family have seen more than their share of trouble through the past year, many battles have claimed husbands, fathers, sons and sweethearts, leave the women and the one very young son to defend them. A typical family, they pray to their new gods to guard them from the evil that has beseiged them. They pray for the return of distant relatives. The shadows chuckle, satisfied in the knowledge that their prayers will go unanswered.

 Raven is lying in her bed, dreaming. Her dreams are of the legends, but as pretty stories, taken lightly and incomparable with the parables she has been taught. The parables of the new religion, stories containing the moral code-free from the 'evil' magic that had once consumed the village. That still whispered through the older generations. Considered an ‘intelligent' person, she is from the first generation that has been reared on religion, and that have lost the legends. Her eyes flutter slightly as the shadows enter her village, but she sleeps on. The whole village slumbers, even the guards lean against their pikes and pole arms and as the shadows glide over to them, the crowds smother their screams. Their bodies like unrecognisable in heaps as the shadows move on. The new age has begun.

Raven stirs, mumbling as the guards hit the ground. The silence after prevents her waking. The shadows, satisfied with their work so far, move on, reaching the first of the houses. They move in, the doors and locks no barrier to them. They flow through the rooms, darkness on darkness, reaching those sleeping there. The people sleep on until the last second, when survival instinct overcomes the unnatural slumber that has bound them. By then it is too late. The shadows engulf them, showing them why the legends exist. The victims' screams are stifled and silenced by the weight of the shadows. They shadows move in silence, weightless until they strike. There is no warning until it is too late. The shadows flow through the houses, one at a time, a small band of them on each street. The bands take a victim each from each house. All's fair in a fairytale. The clock chimes mournfully in the village square. In that ordinary house, liquid blue eyes flutter awake. Raven blinks slowly, a quiet unease in her heart. Her instincts, stifled by the religion, scream at the presence of the vengeful shadows. Her religion asserts itself over her baser fears. A quick whisper of a prayer and the warning has gone. The echoes of the bell mark her first lost chance.

The End

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