A few weeks ago I participated in Sue’s #writephoto prompt, and a story came to me of a darkness that swallowed whole settlements. When I saw this image, the story came back to me, and I realised there was another part I needed to tell. So here it is…
This time, they were ready for the darkness.
The stories had come ahead of the storm, like crows bringing bad tidings on dark featered wings. Of whole settlements ravaged, men, women and children disappearing into a merciless blackness, hardened warriors swallowed up like smoke.
Stories to strike fear into the hearts of all who heard them, enough to make people flee their homes, heading for the one place they hoped would offer sanctuary.
And now they waited, the last ragtag group of stragglers safe behind closed gate and stone wall, the holy island ringed with wards, a circle of light and the hope that it would keep the darkness at bay.
At the heart of the keep, in the circle of ancient stones that formed part of its foundations, the Elders gathered. Despite their name, they weren’t all old. Men and women, some barely out of their teens. But all of them touched with Light. As the first grumble of thunder was heard on the horizon they joined hands and closed their eyes, focusing their wills on strengthening the light that guarded their borders.
There were others, too, waiting on the battlements. Warriors, some marked with a crescent moon, like the goddess, others with the hammer of the god. Sacred, chosen, joined together in a single cause. They watched the darkness gather and, as it drew near, like ink spreading across the landscape, they readied their swords, their spears and their arrows. In the courtyard below, families huddled together, parents clutching their children, strangers and friends coming together to ensure no one was left alone to endure what was to come.
Then the storm was upon them. The screams of the villagers changed to cries of wonder as each warrior on the wall became as a shaft of light, piercing the blackness, revealing the grasping claws and hungry mouths of those who rode the clouds. As the light of the warriors hit the monstrous creatures they dissolved into shreds of dark mist, the winds called up by those who chanted below taking them away as though they had never been.
The circle of light around the sanctuary held strong, the darkness dashing itself against it, again and again, to no avail. And, slowly, the clouds began to break apart, the thunder to lessen in its intensity, the light from the warriors increasing until it flared so bright no man could bear to gaze upon it. The barrier became wider and deeper and stronger, the love and light of all those who stood within the circle of stone reaching out across the landscape, scouring the shadows and dark places for any vestige of horror that might remain.
As dawn broke, painting the landscape with golden fingers, the villagers rejoiced that the long night was over, the storm passed. And all that remained was light.
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