“Most people are afraid of the dark. You can see it in the way they move at night; always searching for movement, always looking over their shoulders, and jumping at every noise. It is like they see figures in every shadow and hobgoblins under every bush or box. Others would scold them for their ignorance, but those same people do it to. What do I say to those people? That is, what would I say to those people if I cared? That they should beware of the night and they should run from the shadows. For I know above most men, what lurks in those debts; and it scares me too. “
I will make my tale short, for I am a musician and not a storyteller. I will try to spin this story as well as I can, without too much obfuscation. My name is Bastious Nightsong; but I have been called many things, some not quite names and others mostly masks. But of those names, I was Derrek Fistoss, Asial Fifner, Len Tarrock, and finally my birthright; Kesurt of House Duskwood. I am noble born and breed, the 5th child of Edis and Patreece Duskwood. Ahead of me in the birth order, was my oldest brother Boron, whom loved books and scholarly ideals. The twins Landon and Derdin were next in line; and both pursuing a life that would keep a sword in their hands as much as possible. My big sister Elistre, with her high ideals and stern demeanor was closest in ages to me, not but two years older and many more in spirit. She was my closet kin, and rival after a fashion.
My sister and I inherited our families’ talent for magic, though as I say this I scold myself. Let me explain… My grandparents, rest their souls were great masters of the arts of magic. Their four children became masters of the arts as well; my father Edis was the oldest of those siblings. Yet, of his children and too his dismay, only we two had shown that inherent ability. My sister, had that inheritance, but while she had a bright mind and quick wit, she worked ten times harder for every scrap learned, then I. And she cared with a deep passion for it as well. While in respect, I had the talent! But not a hint the passion was in me, at least not for magic. When the spark came to me, magic wise, I pulled off tasks that she herself had worked months on, in only days or hours. And while they tried to mold me, I was too carefree. But isn’t that only natural? I was a child of only six at the time.
While as bright and clever as my sister, I enjoyed my youth and found my passion within music. Being of a wealthy house within the high nobility made bards and other musicians easy at hand. My mother loved to sponsor such people, and she bore a gift for music as well. I marveled in those things and found a talent for that growing in me as well. My young soul was wealthy! I had a family full of love, privilege, and power. I had a talent for magic and music; and for getting into trouble I must say. Being the youngest did have its privileges and I abused such thing. For many years after I became an adult, looking back at those days would bring tears to my eyes. Those were the days of my youth, and a month after my ninth birthdays I became an adult.
You ask how I could be an adult at only nine. That was very easy, for when we are young, we live in the moment and think nothing of the future. But on the day we begin to think about the future and our own safety, we become an adult. From that moment on, our childhood is shattered to the wind and can never be brought back. Our eyes become opened, and our minds scream for its loss; and all is changed forever.
Every summer we went into the country to live away from smell and heat of the city. It was only when things began to cool that we would move back and joins the pleasantry of court once again. But that was typical of many families with our means. But on the summer of my ninth year, I woke one night to loud noises. Looking back, and remembering from the eyes and ears of a child. Those noses came from every direction, and the walls of the house shook; I sure I imaged monsters around every corner, breathing fire and lightning, and eating bad children like me. At least, that is how I saw it then. Though now I look at it more rationally; quite simply my families’ estate was being attacked by a large force that had the aid of destructive magic. That would account for my monsters, and did from what I had learned in later years.
At some point that night my sister Elistre rushed into my room, fully dressed for travel; with a pack at hand. Elistre was always well together, 11 years then and more than 30 in spirit. She helped me dress and rushed me into our families lower wine cellars; a place I had played hunter and prey on more than one occasion. Yet she opened a door I did not know about and lead me into darkness. I can only remember now, that the darkness was ever so peaceful from the chaos that engulfed the house upstairs and I found comfort in it. That was the first time I realized, that even in the darkest depths of shadows one could find beauty and protection. We must have spent an hour in that tunnel. Do not get me wrong, it was scary and I was terrified; but I do not think it was because of the darkness, it was in not knowing where we were headed and what we were leaving behind.
Sometime later, we left the tunnel and found ourselves within a thick forest. The moonlight on that night shined through the trees casting an eerie glow upon the land; but only in patches every here and there. I remember how cold my sister was that night, and our brisk conversation.
“Where aw we going sissy,” I asked.
“Safety,” she answered while walking with a staunch determination. She held my hand like an iron vice, and it pained me. Elistre glanced briefly at me, without breaking stride and said, “Grandmother told me where to go, just before she was killed.”
“Mammy was k… ki… killed!” I screamed, too shocked to think of our situation and the peril we might had been in.
That is when I found myself on the ground, dizzy, with a pain on my head. My sister had struck me down, and was then glaring down at me. No love touched her features, and not only a little hate. Then she spoke to me softly, and with a terrible tinge to her voice; “You shut your fat mouth, our whole family is dead or dying… we might have people after us right now. So you shut your mouth or I’ll leave you for them! You will not talk, cry, or do anything other than nod your understanding to me!”
That was it, I did understand her in some way, and I was afraid. I walked silently at her side through the woods and we stopped a few times to rest or hide I believe. Though I was in a daze and remember very little I am embarrassed to say. I do not know if it was a couple days or even a week later when we finally reached the city; perhaps it was even hours. I can remember expecting to see our compound around every corner, but it never came. Elistre told me our new names were Lisu and Len Tarrock if anyone asked. She of course told me that she would speak for us, and I was to keep silent. But she did continue to drum those names into me while we walked, and I believe that training might had even started on those days in the woods. Again, I remember little.
Once in the city we stopped at many compounds, I remember that they were places I had been when I was younger. They were friends of our family, and I believe Lisu hoped to find protection with those that had called themselves friends to House Duskwood. But word of our families fall had preceded us, and those… noble people seemed to want nothing to do with the pair of us. So the children of House Duskwood were now shunned, ignored, and in some cases chased away by those noble peoples. Whether out of fear or hate, I have never found out. But my families’ enemy must have had an iron reach.
We visited a dozen houses that night, and soon after Lisu believed we were being followed. It took me even longer to hear the noises behind us; both footfalls and metal rubbing against itself. Dangerous sounds, especially at night, when you are young, unarmed, and scared out of your wits. We ran, with all the vigor of youth; and those footfalls pursued us for many streets. But before I knew what was happening, I was dragged into the darkness by strong arms. Those arms held me hostage and covered my mouth until I was completely immobile. Not seconds later, I heard those sounds from our hunters drawing nearer, and then they passed wearing all the livery of the royal guards; there was at least a full dozen of them. Darkness had protected me again, and I lost consciousness to its sweet embrace.
Two years later found me and my sister fully intergraded into one of the city’s largest thief guilds. We had taken on new names again, I was now Asial and Lisu was now Sara; we had remained siblings with the last name Fifner; since we looked so much alike. I believe we had grown closer in those years, but I am not sure if it was out of a sense of mutual protection, the fact that we were all that was left of our family, or that I had changed so much. I had hardened and shred the skin of my youth, I let go of my innocent, my ignorance, and my arrogance. In all respects, I was just like Sara then.
The guild took us in and taught us their trade. And while it seemed that there were large bounties on our heads, Lacindra, the master of the guild took pride in the fact that she owned us and hide us under their noses. You heard me right, she owned us and we put our tallies towards a debt that she long ago told us would be the cost for our salvation. Sara’s star rose in the guild, her sharp intellect and calculated actions allowed her to run her own crew, and all knew of her temper. That temper was when her magic flared to life and broke like a river breaking free from a dam. At least that was the rumors at the time, I suspect it was not always that bad, but kids will express things and bolster them to a greater degree. It was those displays that soon found her sold off to a wizard whom happened to view one of those moods. From what I know, Lacindra made a good deal and she soon found herself with other business deals with that very same wizard was well. After that, my sister and I saw little of each other, but she would come to visit on occasion. And I found out that she was free and no longer property; and how I envied that freedom.
My path was quite different in respect, I started out a teaser; which meant I would distract others while the crews I was assigned too pulled off their tasks. In those first two years, I grew a lot and eventually was larger than most of the boys in my age group. Those were dark days for my soul; I had lost my talent, it hid itself deep within my memories and behind some wall that blocked it all away. Anytime I heard music I would shy away from it, and the only thing that seemed to bring me any passion were my fists. I slowly grew to have a short temper, and I got into many fights. To my embarrassment, I also had a cruel streak. When my sister left me, I felt alone, and abandoned by the last person whom I expected; by the last person that knew truly who I was. I passed through many crews in those years, not many enjoyed the mean boy I had become.
When I was 13, Mistress Lacindra gave me to a weapons master named Karn. I believe she hoped to focus my temper and my fighting spirit, and perhaps to beat the meanness out of me. It worked, and I was reined in; in the most violent manner of a strict teacher. I spent three years living in Karn’s school and training with other students that he was given. I learned the art of fighting, and tactics from his hand and other teachers at the school. But eventually Lacindra wanted me back. You see, I was an investment and she had been my benefactor in those years of training. I now owed her more than I had before. I would also like to point out, that I trained alongside many of the youth born from noble families and merchants alike. Those people and other wealthy families who did not have their own trainers went to Karn for his experience and reputation from battles past. I have always thought Lacindra had a gift for irony, hidden in plain sight I shined for all to see. For Karn regularly held sparring events for the families to view their children’s progress and I won many such tourneys.
Oh yes, I was brought back into the folds of the guild. But now, I was taller, lean muscled, and appeared much different than I had once been known to be. She herself gave me my new name before I returned; I was then called Derrek Fistk. I was now in control and focused; and within a few months I came to lead a crew of heavy hander’s. We would bully and push vendors for protection; and we would handle other business as well for the guild. Coming into my own was a new experience, and I reveled in that! The gap between my skills and others around me was self evident; maybe it was worse that I knew it. But I do not believe I was arrogant or underestimating of anyone. I just knew myself well, but perhaps that was only an illusion. For I was still a shade of what I could become.
But this chapter in my life was soon over, in the most dramatic way! I guess I just gave part of my story away; a big change came to me when I was 19. Lacindra assigned three crews to protect her daughter Elendra, on a trip between cities. My crew was placed under the command of one of the guilds most experienced leaders, a man by the name of Gerin. I had sparred almost daily with Gerin, and he had my full respect. Elendra was Lacindra pride and joy; she had been training in the next city for some years. It would be our job to escort her home. The trip was quite fun actually, we had gone early to enjoy a bizarre that entered that city every fall. That was Gerin’s idea, and the crews loved him for it. He was ever beloved for his generosity.
As an escort mission, all was quiet and we made it back to our city without issue. We were making it through the streets of our city, back to Lacindra’s estate when we were attacked by a rival guild. The battle was too quick; they did have the numbers and surprise on their side. They also had magic at their command. All others were killed, but for Elendra and myself. I would have been too, but I believe I appeared to be dead and maybe should have by most accounts. Elendra though, was beaten and raped, and left amidst the other bodies of her escort. She was a message, and the greatest insult they could had made to Lacindra.
Lacindra blamed me, and I was used as another message, not only to our guild, but to all other guilds. I was beaten even further, and I was tortured; then I was burned alive at the end, in the middle of a city park. That was a night of fire and blood; when guilds warred, guards ran, and the cities populous coward behind their walls preying to any power that would listen… hail the night of blood, and the week of shadows; where the kin ruled the city. That was my deathday! My deathright!
Wrapped in darkness I woke falling with no body, my mind was beaten, and I could feel the fires still burning like a phantom clinging to my essence. I believe some time passed in that darkness; maybe it was weeks, months, years, or just a few seconds. A whisper of a voice called my given name. That voice was like a whiplash to my consciousness, and suddenly I remember being fully alert. It then spoke again, and that whisper tore at my soul and shredded my mind; the voice was pure power. This voice said many things, it offered to let me live again, and break the walls that I had put up so many years ago. I grasped at that chance and even begged for it. I wanted to live, pure and simple. But that voice asked if I was willing to pay the price; a larger price. I would have given up anything and everything for it, I had nothing and I knew it. So I agreed to pay whatever I could. And so I was remade, through darkness, shadows, and a fire that would burn your very soul to ash.
I woke, though it could had been years later for all I knew. My body felt warm, and as I looked at it, I found it was not what I had remembered it being like. I looked and felt… foreign in many ways. Though I could not really point out how exactly. But before I could adjust, a voice as smooth as silk spoke to the side of me. It said to me, “I have been told of your choice…” I could then see who was speaking, it was the shadowy figure of a man, and he walked between pillars that were just at the edge of my vision. “I am now your master, to train you and prepare you to leave this…” as the figure passed behind the next pillar, it was now a woman and she continued on without stopping. “Sanctuary, we are in the veil of shadows between…” As she passed the next pillar, still circling me, she stepped out as a child of about eight years of age. “Worlds and nobody can breech this place…” the child began to walk towards me, wearing what appeared to be a black robe that seemed to move on its own, or perhaps the shadows played tricks on my eyes. “For this is a holy temple, to him the Raven, to him the Shadow that Searched for Wronged Souls, and in this divine place, you will learn your talents again, for some have been taken from you, and others have been given back. If you learn quickly, you might enjoy your time here, if you do not… you will see brutality…” the child came into view and stole my breath. It was a young girl, that had no eyes, and yet her gaze was unmistakable, and her smiled would chill a fire. “But when you leave here, maybe years from this time, you will thank me for each act that I put upon you.” The girl stopped in front of me, “and then you will be free to live in your world once again. To stalk the nights, and hide in the shadows embrace; for they have always been there to protect you Kesurt. You are shadow blessed; my name is Zeo and let us begins.”
After spending years in that place, I stepped out of the shadows and entered the world once again. I took the name Bastious Nightsong as my own, and I was a new man; body, mind, spirit, heart, and soul. I had my talent back, both music and magic; and I had a new talent. That new talent had taken me years to learn. It allows me harness, the very shadows of this world. For they are a gift from another realm, and a sign that shows that realms dominance over our own. So I sought out a new life… and that is the start of my tale.
Written by TJ Winter