Fan fiction:Bane Hero of the North/Chapter 9

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Bane Hero of the North is a fan fiction piece by Bane, originally posted on The Dark Library. The fiction series was recovered on April 14th 2010. You can find more information on Bane:Hero of the North article.


Chapter 9: Dark Rider[edit source]

Bane repeated the hand signal again, his movements fluid but slow enough so his new companions could learn the art of Kentu, the hand-code used by the barbarians during the hunt. Bane had gone through it with Kabana, Balkin and Chiana for several days before hand, explaining each hunting symbol that could be made using the hands.

Kabana and Chiana had caught on quickly; Balkin however had been a whole different story. He had gotten angry at the hand-code and chose not to learn it. Now on the hunt the group’s silence was necessary so the game was not startled. Balkin kept reverting to speech, his voice chasing the game away. Bane was not happy.

The deer left his view, springing off into the cover of the woods. Bane lowered his hand, relaxing the grip on his throwing axe and turned towards his small companion behind him, a disappointed look across his face. Balkin simply shrugged.

Bane had been looking forward to the hunt for the past week and now it was in danger of becoming ruined. Bane had planned the trip well several days ago, bored of life spent drinking in taverns all day for the past two weeks spending the gold Travin gave him for the last hoist Bane had participated in.

Bane had voiced his idea of the hunt that was received well and Kabana knew that the surrounding forests of Galmnor held much game. The group made preparations; Chiana bought a short bow that she claimed she could use and well while Bane had bought a selection of well made and well balanced throwing axes preferring them to the bow. He had never liked the bow; in fact he had shunned it almost totally.

Bane’s keen instincts heard a soft patter in front that meant the deer was still close, perhaps the hunt was not ruined after all. Bane turned towards Kabana’s position to his left, the man was deadly still, resting one hand against a tall oak, the rest of his body submerged in the undergrowth. He gave Bane a nod. Kabana was a natural at hunting Bane thought; the man seemed to have the instincts of the barbarian yet the politeness of the civilised world a strange combination yet a useful one.

Suddenly a howl of pain shot out before them. Bane could hear the deer slump to the ground and guessed it was Chiana’s arrow that had downed the creature. Bane stood up and could see Chiana smiling. Bane shook his head and smiled also.

“Good shot girl!” Bane exclaimed as he began a stride towards the moaning creature.

“Lets collect the deer.” He said, throwing his axe into the deer before him with deadly accuracy, putting it out of its pain. Bane stood before it and wrenched his axe clear of the deer’s head and gave its body a nod out of respect. Bane whispered a few words to it before the others arrived.

“You were a noble beast my friend…”

- - -

The closest town to the group of hunters was a small one called Drelar. The hunt had taken longer than Bane had expected, and night dawned slowly upon them. The deer they had killed was skinned by Bane and cooked. Its meat was enough to fill their stomachs. However their thirsts were not. Bane had mentioned the town, more importantly the tavern he had seen sitting there. The town was one that no one knew well; indeed all but Balkin had only rode past it a few times before. Balkin had recalled its name, and said he had been there once or twice before over the last year.

Bane led the way towards the town, his eyes alert. The surrounding forests felt as they were brooding, hiding some dark creature from him. His skin crawled and his mind began to create monsters hiding within the darkness of the woods for tonight was a fabled day in the civilised kingdoms calendar, The Night of Souls. It was a night that was haunted, where the dead and other evil spirits rose from the ground to walk once more among the living, or was suppose to. Bane had thought of it only as a myth, a tale told to children to scare them and give them some kind of imaginative spark, stories of ghosts, skeletons and zombies, vampires and ghouls.

He looked to his companions who seemed ill at ease; eyes wide open staring at shadows. Talk had been little after they had eaten and had decided to go to the town to spend the night and have a few drinks. At first, when Bane had mounted his steed, the group had appeared easy, laughter loud in the air. The atmosphere had changed now, each individual sensing something was wrong in the cool night breeze.

It was then he could hear the faintest of sounds in front of him, over the wind it was difficult to tell exactly what it was but it had a constant rhythm, like that of a horse galloping. Bane turned to his left, towards Balkin. The man seemed uncomfortable on his horse and looked sleepy. Bane knew Balkin had not heard the sound. He looked towards Chiana and Kabana but the two were apparently oblivious to the surroundings, caught up in their own thoughts.

Bane kept his eyes on the road ahead, listening out for the sound. A light rain had begun to fall, a pleasant one that seemed to ease the companions. Bane however had heard the horse again, and could spot the owner of it.

In front, about a mile off and coming over the hill was a horseman. A strange white glow emanated around the horsemen as he galloped towards them. The figure was tall, he could see that from this distance, and the way he rode made him appear confident yet desperate to get somewhere quickly. The horse seemed to move with a great speed, a speed that seemed impossible. Bane stopped his horse before the dip of the road and turned his steed to face his weary companions.

“You see the rider ahead of us?” He asked the group.

“Yes, just about.” Replied Balkin, holding his hand horizontal across his brow to block out the rain so he could see the rider. Bane’s face was grim.

“I do not like the look of him.” Balkin shrugged and slumped forward onto his horse, his eyes watched the horsemen intensly.

“What is wrong Bane?” Asked Kabana, leading his horse forwards slowly. Bane turned towards the horsemen coming towards them. The glow was brighter and the man was nearing them.

“Let us take cover in the trees. The rider is a bad omen.” Kabana nodded his head.

“What is that light?” He asked.

“I do not know my friend but we shall take cover and watch him closely.” It was then a gasp came out of Balkin’s large mouth.

“The Dark Rider…we must flee before he sees us!” Balkin led his horse quickly into the foliage to his left, a ghostly expression drawn across his face. The Dark Rider? Who was he and why was Balkin so terrified of the horsemen coming towards them?

“Lets do the same.” Kabana whispered and turned his horse towards the cover of the trees. Bane led his horse slowly away, interested in the rider.

“Lets go Bane!” Called Chiana who had already got off of her horse and notched an arrow, ready to release it in an instant if necessary.

Bane led his horse to where the others had dismounted. It was a small clearing, the trees made a dome above their heads, preventing the rain from striking them. Bane leapt from his horse quickly and tied his mount to a branch that almost caught him as he hit the ground.

Light-footed he made his way to the front of the dense forest, so that he could watch the road and more importantly the rider. To his left was Kabana; the man was behind a clump of trees on his knees. Kabana watched the road with as much interest as Bane. The barbarian began to look for his other two companions but the horse could be heard close now. His head whipped back round to the road and Bane could see why Balkin had been afraid. As soon as the dark rider hit the path they were moments ago he stopped his horse. With slow and jerky movements the beast led his horse around in circles, the rider peering into the darkness of the woods as if it were searching for Bane and his companions.

The Dark Rider was a towering creature; even its horse was larger than any he had previously seen, black as the night itself. The Dark Rider was dressed in Black mail. Spikes were found on its shoulders just like the sets of armour in the house of Horthis he had seen in his dreams. The rider wore no boots or helmet however, and those two areas were the most shocking.

The beast did not have a human head or feet. Instead it looked to be that of a horned goat, with sparkling dark red eyes that stared hauntingly towards him. Its feet were cloven, like that of an animal. Bane had never seen such a being before.

A cold flush ran through his body and something told Bane to run. He ignored his urges and took a hold of his sword hilt. Should he attack the creature or stay hidden in the bush like a scared child? Banes instincts took hold and the thought of survival crossed his mind. Why attack such a creature, it did not even appear normal with the white glow about him that strangely enough failed to light up the area more than one yard from the rider. Perhaps it was best left alone, allowed to continue on to its destination wherever that may be.

The rider grunted and looked towards Bane, its eyes widening as it did so. Its gaze fell onto Bane’s, who in reply withdrew his sword quickly and silently ready to defend himself in a heartbeat. The beast appeared to smile and it roared suddenly before galloping off the way it had come, back towards the town.

It was not for several minutes did anyone move or talk. Bane was the first to stand and walk back to his horse. Quickly he untied it from the branch and led it back out into the rain, which had begun to fall harder and quicker and onto the road. Bane stared out into the darkness and could see the feint glow of the rider still making its way from them.

Why had it ridden this way only to turn back the way it came? Was it looking for them? Bane shook his head, a goat! The creature was half man and half goat! What evil had spawned such a thing? His hand wavered over his sword hilt as if expecting the goat-man would bring his allies to try and find them. Bane could hear the loud shuffle of Balkin from behind leading his horse out of the thick vegetation. Bane swung on him a volley of questions let loose.

“Who was that and how do you know of it?” Balkin swallowed his saliva and spoke quietly, as if afraid someone would hear him.

“It’s the Dark Rider!” Bane nodded his head expecting more from the man. Nothing came. He just stood on the road holding onto his horse’s reins like a lost child.

“Explain.” Bane said, nearing in on the man, ready to crush the life out of him if he did not speak up.

“It is a demon, a being who has plagued man-kind for centuries, particularly this area,” Balkin continued, recounting the story and the myth behind the Dark Rider.

“He was once a man and a leader of men lad, I am not sure of the details but he was supposed to have been a great warrior. Unfortunately he was manipulated by demons and fought alongside them afterwards. He has been roaming this world ever since, coming to steal children during the Night of Souls. It is said he rides a tall black horse and wears black mail. It is all a myth, something I was told by my father when I was a child and his before that. I had never believed it until now.” The story reminded Bane of some tales he had heard while growing up in the mountains. He smiled; perhaps civilised men and barbarians were not so different after all.

“What are you smiling about man? There’s a devil riding these parts. We must return home or get to safety soon.” Balkin was sweating; Bane had never seen the man so afraid. He simply nodded and the group returned to their horses and as they re-entered the road they began a nervous quiet ride through light rain to Drelar, Bane’s keen eyes ready to spot the Dark Rider.

The small town of Drelar was a strange place Bane thought, his cold eyes scanning the surrounding area carefully as the group rode slowly through the main street. Bane could see no man, women or child and every door, window and opening was barred shut. Shop signs swung in the night’s breeze, the pitter-patter of rain surrounding them.

The town’s main street was becoming muddy, and Bane had direct his horse away areas that looked completely drenched, avoiding them as if they were quicksand.

The group had become drenched in the rain, not that it was a downpour; the ride to the town had taken longer than expected, especially since the sighting of the Dark Rider twice more on the plains. Bane had halted the group and met the Dark Riders gaze for a brief moment. It sent no shiver down his spine; Bane felt an urge to confront the beast in battle but had held his barbarian instincts back.

Bane felt the wind pick up and rush harder and faster against his face. He wanted nothing more then to drink the remainder of the night away and sleep until morning. The sight of the large tavern ahead was a relief, something he found quite odd. He had never needed such luxuries in the wild barbarian lands of Kamidia. Had he become soft amongst these weaker people?

It did not matter though, he knew he was strong; his combat skills had been tested regularly since his arrival in Entsteig. He had killed men and beast, bloodied his hands with the blood of his enemies. He had been victorious in every encounter, a source of pride swelled within him at the very reminder of his actions over the past few months in the civilised lands.

“There is not a living thing out here?” Kabana’s voice was muffled by the strong wind. Bane’s keen hearing could hear the words and Bane slowed his horse’s trot so that he could speak with Kabana.

“It’s the Night of Souls, only idiots would remain outside after dark man.” Balkin’s voice filtered roughly through the wild onslaught of air, a hint of wonderment and fear on his voice.

“Let us get to the tavern, stable our horses and relax.” Bane said spurring his horse towards the tavern.

The tavern was bordered up the same as any other building in the town the party had seen. Light filtered out from cracks of the wooden walls, which meant that the tavern was occupied, perhaps even open despite the closed and barred door. Bane stepped down from his horse, handing the reins over to Chiana who had also dismounted.

Bane stepped forward swiftly and raised his hand to the door. He could hear voices from within the tavern, quiet voices that silenced as soon as Bane banged hard on the door. No answer. Bane banged once more but harder this time and followed the action up with raised voice.

“Open up in there, its raining hard out here!” There was still no answer. Bane shook his head and turned towards his companions, a look of frustration crossed his features. Once more he banged. No answer. It was as if the taverns occupants had disappeared. All noise had seized. Bane was angry now for he knew there were people sitting in the warm. His sword came out and his fist once again banged at the door. Then the hilt of the sword was used.

“Open up in there damn it, before I break your door down!”

“Ok, hold on there stranger. I will open the door.” Bane did not relax his grip on the broadsword while he heard someone slide the wooden bar on the other side of the door across. He did this twice, which told Bane that the man within was very scared. Was it the Dark Rider who had the town in a grip of fear?

The door opened slowly, the light from within momentarily hurt the barbarian’s eyes. After his eyes were used to the light, a heartbeat was enough for the transaction Bane could see the man who had answered the door and some people crowded around a large table, standing over their drinks, nervous eyes taking him in. The barkeeper’s brow was sweaty, the light from the lanterns within making it shine as if it were a piece or well polished armour. The man was small and dressed in simple green clothes. His eyes told Bane all he needed to know about the man. He seemed honest but terrified for some reason.

“We need our horses tended too barkeep, then some ale.” Bane stepped through, sheathing his sword quickly. The barkeeper stood by the door holding a dirty apron in his hands. He nodded and turned to a couple of young men standing by the bar, the look of fear written across their pale features. His nervous voice broke the silence that had once more took over the night’s atmosphere.

“Tend to their horses lads, but be quick.” They nodded and quickly ran outside to tend to the horses. Bane walked over to a small table located in a corner, away from the large table and the gathered townspeople. He pulled back the stool under the table and sat.

Bane took that moment to careful check his surroundings. The tavern was not a bad place, a nice little meeting point for the townsfolk. The tables were well polished, the room bigger than he had expected, a raging warm fire next to the bar.

The bar was long and simple, a middle-aged woman with short brown hair stood behind the bar, tears filling her blue eyes. He then turned his attention over to the crowd, who had not taken their eyes of him or his companions when they had entered and sat around the small table. His eyes met theirs and they seemed to panic, turning their attention away from him and back to their drinks. The big table was silent for a moment, but whispers told Bane they were talking about his group.

“Can we have drinks barkeeper!” Shouted out Balkin, sitting back on his chair, leaning his axe against the table leg. The barkeeper nodded and hurried the woman behind the bar. Bane noticed the tender way the little man treated the woman; perhaps they were husband and wife?

“I do not like this place Bane, these people here are treating us as if we were criminals.” Bane smiled and leant towards Kabana.

“Perhaps they have seen the Dark Rider my friend, if so that would explain their fright. None amongst them look like warriors.” The barkeeper rushed over to them, his heavy footsteps ringing out in the room. He laid the tray he carried onto the table and turned to Bane.

“I apologise for taking so long in opening the door barbarian. Forgive me but we are very untrusting during this night.”

“It is only the Night of Souls, most of it is merely tales told to children to scare them into going to bed early.” Bane’s words did not seem to penetrate the barkeepers scared mind. Instead the man leant closer to Bane and whispered into his ear.

“You do not know the half of it boy, most of it aye, all of it isn’t. This area is haunted…” The barkeeper raised his head and looked about as if afraid someone was listening. “It has been like this since I was a boy, longer in fact.”

“Do you refer to the Dark Rider?” The words seemed to send the barkeeper into a panic.

“He has come already, to this town, that’s what people have said. I am worried for my own son has not returned tonight.” Bane raised one eyebrow.

“Your son is missing and you lock yourself up in a tavern like scared children!” Bane could not keep his words quiet, and the table of gathered townsfolk turned towards him, startled by his words.

“Please, keep your voice down.” Bane nodded, his face still red with anger however.

“If it were so I would but I can not for I have to look after my wife as well.” He turned towards the woman behind the bar.

“My son has disappeared before, on this very night but I fear for him this time. I only hope he is old enough to be ignored by the ‘Demon on the Horse’, for it only takes children from our town. My wife however is worried, for it is our only child.”

“Do you know where your son goes?” The barkeeper shook his head. “I went to see him earlier on, at the wood house on the hill. He was cutting wood for the fire there, or had been doing so. When I arrived I found him gone, his axe on the floor besides the woodpile he had carefully stacked. It was what was on this that has worried me. The axe was coated in thick black blood, my son has been taken I am sure of it!”

“It is possible, but that demon is not all that roams these forests, Fallen and Devil Kin live in their burrows. I encountered them before my arrival at Galmnor.” The barkeeper shook his head.

“Fallen do not come here, there has not been a sighting of one for more than forty years. It is the Dark Rider.” The barkeeper wiped his sweaty brow and stepped back from the table. He looked at Bane, and then the others that sat around the table.

“Perhaps you can help me?” Kabana leant forward and replied.

“I will offer my help, though I do not know where to start looking.” The barkeeper stood up and nodded. He walked at a quick pace over to the table where the townsfolk sat and addressed a small thin man, with tired eyes, a bushy beard covered his features making it hard to determine the mans age. The two conversed for a few moments; the small thin man seemed agitated.

“Why did you offer our help, they will pay little?” Asked Bane, knocking back his ale. Kabana smiled.

“I only offered my help, the rest of you may choose what you do. The Dark Rider has been a thorn in mankind’s side for more years than any of us can think of. Perhaps its time someone faced it.” Bane nodded and sat back.

“I will come, if only to slay some beasts. These people here look suspicious, and I do not like this ale.” It was then that the barkeeper returned to the companion’s table, accompanied by the man he had been talking too.

“This is Bern,” He said gesturing towards the man beside him. “He knows this area better than anybody else in the town and will show you the way.”

“Explain?” Asked Bane. “Does this man know where the beast is?” Bern nodded, his deep voice unsettling.

“I hunt deer around these woods and have done so for years, I know this area as well as God himself.” Bane could feel the man was confident.

“Very well, if you will lead us to this demon we will do the rest.” Bane looked at his companions, Kabana and Chiana looked keen, Balkin however seemed to want to stay and drink the night away.

“Ok then barbarian, let us depart.” Bane stood up and began a walk towards the door. The barkeeper rushed at him and grabbed hold of Bane’s arm.

“Wait, there is something you must know. It will help you identify my son.” Bane nodded and watched the barkeeper remove a medallion from his neck. The barkeeper handed it to Bane. The piece was incomplete; it was a half circle, with plain markings.

“My son has the other half to this, please find him.”

Bern had led them far from the village, through paths barely trodden by men. The darkness of the night and the green illumination from the lining of the moon made for tense atmosphere. The only sounds were of the group’s footsteps and a wolf howling far away.

The canopy of trees above made it feel as if they were trapped within a room, the bush and plant life harassing them at every move. Bern had moved on ahead with Bane, the two carefully looking for sign of recent travel.

“Footprints!” Bane exclaimed, kneeling low to the ground, one hand on his sword hilt, the other pointing at the prints on the ground. Bern made his way to the barbarian, his eyes a tale of sadness.

“We are close barbarian…the clearing is close.” Clearing? Bern had never mentioned that, in fact he had not mentioned he had seen the beasts home at all.

“You have been to this clearing before?”

“Yes north-man. I came here two years ago; I witnessed the sacrifices made that evening. I must warn you though, for the Dark Rider will have its followers.” Bane nodded despite wanting to press the matter further, to find out how the man had exactly been in the position to see the sacrifices in the first place.

The group moved on through the dark, pushing deeper into the dense forest. As they progressed Bane had detected a foul smell clinging to the very leaves of the trees and plants that they brushed past. He had smelt it once before in the City of Fire.

It was not long before he heard a humming from ahead, no further than a hundred yards. Stopping suddenly Bane turned towards Bern, who was now shaking.

“This is the place isn’t it?” Bern nodded and began taking steps backwards.

“I will not stay here, good luck to you!” Bern broke off into a run, back towards the town. Bane whispered a curse; Bern was clumsy and loud on his retreat, perhaps loud enough to disturb the Dark Rider. Shaking his head he slowly moved forward, as silent as a ghost.

Peeling back a bush carefully Bane stared into the clearing, horrified by the sight. The clearing was large, a large piece of rock towards the north end, the front of which had been fashioned into steps so one could easily walk up it. On top of this rock was a smaller rectangular stone slab, upon which blood dripped. Torches burnt violently by the stone slab as well as hanging from trees and fixtures in the giant rock creating a darker atmosphere that matched the actions and sounds of the sacrifice.

Standing behind it stood the creature known as the Dark Rider. It was dressed in similar fashion as before, but crimson and black ribbons draped over the plate mail armour as if he were a priest. Blood dripped from his hands and mouth.

Below the beast was a crowd of screaming beasts. The sight of them made his blood run cold, his anger started to build. Before him were all manners of strange and alien beasts, there were similar looking beasts to that of the Dark Rider, with goat-heads while others had horns and bull heads.

Smaller creatures were among these tall beasts and Bane instantly recognised them as Fallen and Devil Kin. He could see no shaman’s however, always a good sign. Amongst these were robed figures, their features hidden in the dark, the occasional torch light illuminating them. Bane could see that they looked more or less human, burnt danced and screamed the way the other beasts did.

Bane turned towards his companions. Kabana had already drawn his sword. It glittered and shone a pale blue. It looked to be a grand sword and Bane had wondered why he had not seen it before.

Balkin had his axe in hand, and was obviously disgusted by what he saw, while Chiana had notched an arrow ready to fire. It was then Bane saw a group of chained people brought forth from the darkness of the trees. Women, children and old men cried in terror. They were kicked and punched as they were taken up to the stone slab.

The Dark Rider turned to them, drawing forth a curved and bloodied blade. He marched back and forth, grunting and gloating at the captives, apparently it seemed to be a sign of sadism. The blade cut the cheek of a young woman who cried out in pain. The beast nodded and two goat-men unchained her, roughly dragging her towards the bloodied rectangular slab.

The Dark Rider loomed over her as the two goat-men held her tightly by the ankles and wrists. She screamed once more as the beast plunged the blade into her chest. The skies above roared its approval, lightning crashed to the ground.

“We must act!” Cried out Kabana, who stood from his hiding place, his pale blue sword in hand, frustration across his face. An arrow whipped out and hit a target followed quickly by a second and third. Bane was amazed at just how fast Chiana could fire the bow. Quickly now Bane roared out his battle-cry, sword in hand he rushed the back rows, Kabana and Balkin behind.

Bane hacked and sliced his way forward, finding hope that the creatures were to disorientated to act quickly. To his right a creature fell, arrow stuck firmly in its face. Bane’s sword arm worked as if he were painting, his strikes calculated and precise. Roars filled the clearing; screams of pain filled the rest.

Bane fought like a trapped lion-ox, his free hand worked independently from his sword arm, catching attackers by the wrist or simply punching out at them. He parried an attack to his right, then a wild lunge towards his stomach, counter-attacking to deadly effect.

His mind began to become unclear, or reasonable thought slipping away. The blessing and curse of his people was their fierce battle-rage, something Bane had not learnt to tame, crimson screened his vision, and his sword did the rest.

Arrows whipped past his head at a consistent rhythm but they were merely things of battle, only something more to add to the lust. Bane wished to do nothing more than kill. His sword flashed back and forth, hacking his enemies more times than was necessary, his grunts and roars like that of the demons he fought.

It was when he heard a familiar voice cry out for help did he calm, the voice of one he had come to respect. His head turned towards the scream, through unsure eyes he spotted Chiana fighting dearly for her life against more opponents than she could possibly handle.

His mind settled, his actions less barbaric. He sent a wild circular swing above his head, an action that cleared his way back to Chiana. The girl was quick and skilled in the use of the short sword, but the beasts that surrounded her did not seem to care, they through themselves willingly at her blade, if only to drag her down so that tis vile companions could kill her easily.

He rushed forward, as he remembered briefly doing so in the trap the wizard had set up to kill him, instead of golems however were creatures of the hells. His rush attack knocked two of the beasts down, and before they could stand Bane had broken their necks quickly with powerful kicks.

Some now turned their attention towards him, the new threat. The creature that charged him first was a foot taller that the barbarian, its bull like head scarred and bloodied. It roared, in doing so releasing saliva from its large mouth.

Bane met the challenge and cried out in the same manner, as if he was of the same kind. Bane sidestepped to his right in time, the bull-beast’s sword thrust cutting his arm. Bane’s own thrust was deadly and accurate. The next two beasts were smaller than Bane and even clumsier with weapons than the first one had been, all it took was a swipe at head height to dispatch. Chiana had worked her way free, her fluid twisting style looked more like a dance to Bane.

The number of beasts had thinned. Bane noticed many of them fled; the robed figures hoods dropping to reveal human faces. It was then he felt a pain in his side.

Looking left he noticed the Dark Rider, and the blood that now dripped at his side. Somehow the beast had attacked him from a distance. Enraged by the cowardly attack Bane charged to meet the feared creature.

His sword flashed forward like a lunging snake, but the Dark Rider parried the attack easily, swiping the blade aside causing Bane to become off balance. Realising his peril Bane through himself backwards, the curved blade of the Rider missing his chest by mere inches.

Bane regained his composure and brought his sword up, to defend himself. The Dark Rider stood dripping with blood. It looked as though he had killed his own for the pleasure of it. It grunted at Bane, who followed up by spitting on the ground.

Bane charged out battle-cry once again parting from his lips. The beast parried it once more and followed through with an attack to Bane’s face. With great effort the barbarian managed to get his sword therein time, only forced to bring it back down again quickly, to save his stomach from being stabbed.

Bane cursed himself inwardly; he had been a fool charging in wildly, now he was being made to pay for his mindlessness. His sword arm was not as strong as he would have liked, while the Dark Rider was still fresh. The beast attacked again, Bane parried it and struck out with his free hand, knocking the Dark Rider backwards but not off its cloven feet. It roared out and spoke to him in common, its words strange.

“It has been a while since I last fed on the soul of a true warrior!” Bane shook his head, assuming a defensive position, sword out ready in front. The beast laughed and stepped back.

“You are lucky I have fed enough today barbarian, for I would surely kill you now otherwise.”

“Then try beast, but I assure you that it will be your death at my hands.” The Dark Rider brought its head back and looked to the sky and laughed out loud, mockery evident in its tone.

“I have killed pups like you before a time where Sanctuary fought a great battle with the very demons of hell. For centuries I have fought barbarian of the north, for both righteous and evil causes. What makes you so sure you can win?” Bane said nothing his cold eyes said everything.

“I have no time for this, but perhaps later, when you are older.” It was then a bolt of lightning struck the stone slab behind the beast man; a white light flowed from out of it encasing the Dark Rider within.

“I will enjoy the wait north-man…” Then it was gone, the outline of the Dark Rider burnt into the air. Where had it gone, and what was the talk of meeting him when he was older? Bane could only hope.

“Humans among them, damn devil worshipers!” Balkin cried out turning over a body of a young man whose arm had been severed. Kabana stood beside him, a ghostly expression masking his features. Bane walked towards the group to inspect the man Balkin was so disgusted by.

“I think we should return these villagers and get some rest.” Bane said, looking over his cut and bloodied body. Balkin nodded and walked towards the captives, the friendliest smile he could muster sparkling across his face.

“Lets go Kabana.” It was when Bane began to turn did he notice a sparkling piece of jewellery around the dead mans neck. Kneeling down he pulled out a medallion; one shaped to match the one the barkeeper had given him. The barkeepers words entered his mind, ‘please find my son’ he had said. Bane shook his head. He did not want to tell the man his only child was with the beast.

“Come on Kabana, lets get out of this cursed place.” Bane turned and walked, leaving Kabana to stare at the dead.

“So its true,” Kabana whispered. “Chaos has spread further than Sankekur, Que-Hegan and the Zakarum Council has expected, I must get word to them.” With that Kabana turned and made his way behind the companions, a seed of fear planted in his heart.

References[edit source]