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Dark Renaissance

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Dark Renaissance
By Greg Patrick
Romania
Year of Our Lord 1460

“I'm hunger. I'm thirst. Where I bite, I hold till I die, and even after death they must cut out my mouthful from my enemy's body and bury it with me. I can fast a hundred years and not die. I can lie a hundred nights on the ice and not freeze. I can drink a river of blood and not burst. Show me your enemies.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia

The battle had ceased. That much alone I knew. The ringing of sword against scimitar
Replaced by groans and then silence. Night had long cast it’s dark spell over the aftermath of battle like a dark matronly embrace when my eyelids fluttered like mothwings in the last throes of it’s fatal aerial dance with the light, the eyes locked in comprehension at what seemed
the lingering and fading image of dream one did not want to part with.
Two other eyes, looking down, delvingly into my own. Like muse appearing to a vexed
composer in a vision not of notes on a page but the way an artist envisions a masterpiece. The way The Creator seeks to create forms from the void. But as soon as I beheld it, it was gone again.
My hand trailed away from the warding crossguard of my sword that I reached
for instinctively. Leaving me like a last shuddering breath of a life lost among great names in great halls. Like the last notes of a haunting nocturne still recited on the lips as if burning with a parting kiss on eve of battle that strayed from lips to neck and vein beating with the blood-chant of the one heart still pulsing it’s song among others. That had all ceased around me, a soloist’s drum it seemed.
Though motionless among the broken forms of those who would not rise to the call of battle again I had felt the sensations akin to a mariner swept overboard a capsized galleon in a tempest and laying on a floating board, rising and falling on crests of waves after the maelstrom had subsided floating to dark horizons in the foreboding yet solaceful dark, gazing at a fixed point, a gemini of two stars. The sounds of those fighting the pull of the depths at last trail off on field of war.
I had opened my eyes searching for the stars, vigil candles to a midnight scribe
at his parchment, their light like the emissaries of an aloof god’s ardour leaving one
to question the love of angels on field of battle or sleepless one of bereavement
or heart’s betrayal. Stars the one brightness that stands out to the nomad’s eyes that
one who strays awake from his comrades and fire to be alone with his dreams and his stars while they sleep in writhing throes of nightmare or dream’s bliss.
The living came to that field of broken men and banners in three waves.
First those seeking a familiar face in the shapeless press of men and horses
Strewn in a mockery of the flowery songs of troubadours romanticizing war.
I cringed at the cries of recognition…but none looked for me I knew.
My people were in distant lands…I served a foreign king, who served only himself.
The second wave were those who would despoil the fallen of their arms and armour...their talismans and amulets. All the things that mattered nothing.
They fixed eyes gleaming with avarice on golden medallions and lockets entwined in locks of gold and red hair, aflutter like moth wings around fatal brightness ensnared in arachnid chords.
Their eyes had the same look of the third wave after the battle.
As the light of torches weaved like disembodied lights…surreally to my eyed. As I
Whispered soundlessly for a guardian angel’s wings to enfold me from their knives
clutching a remembrance of she I vowed to return in triumph to.
A cry was heard and the torches ceased their motions. Quavering, sonorous...hungry. A wolf? Something human in its tone…everything of hunger in
it. Just the fever from the wounds now. The scimitars
found their mark, yet I still drew breath on the red field.
“Scavengers!” it was cursed.
The darkness laughed.
“Keep gathering! Raise the torches. It will hold them at bay.”
“No…Not in these lands.”
There is a greater power than armies and kings that holds sway here.
One of them gestured to the silhouette of a towering range of mountains like the
palatial battlements of a great castle reigning over dreams and nightmares. The snow on its jagged peaks like the prongs of a dark crown were lit in ghostfire and in eerie majesty.
The rapidly-shifting cloud formations like a lost soul in the throes of lycanthropy’s metamorphosis cast moonbeams like apparitional spotlights that illuminated the misshapen summits in different contours and dark hues like a danse macabre of shadows reveling among ancient sites.
The mountains like ageless sentinels bearing protective vigil like dragon’s coils around a horde of stars, as the clouds like fawning courtiers of shadow paying homage to radiance thronged the moon…as the atmosphere wavered between chill and calm that bore an undercurrent of foreboding. He shook his conscious of the vision of a lone nobleman standing aloft a great tower like a man-shaped eclipse silhouetted ominously against the orb of the moon, gaunt and aquiline-featured, more shadow than man flanked by two white wolves, looking down broodingly...almost sadly…save for a flash of honed teeth like those of his wolves in a smile as he savoured baskingly the appartional caress of moonlight from the hermitage of his mountainous turret of a stronghold, like the bastion of an unconsecrated cathedral usurped by agents of the dark yet redeemed by an ancient nobility he presided by, in solitary and fitful repose on dark aerie he gazed upon the chasm with gaze that crossed the vast crushing brink to regard him on the vale far below. With breathless sigh and profound melancholy in its cadence as only an immortal could know in ageless solitude, disdainful yet envious of the mortal existence. He closed his eyes that caught the moonbeams like smoldering embers. Like a lordly patron in the loftiest tier of a great gothic opera house, savouring the choir of wolves like a finely-composed aria, only to have his repose and pleasure in the dark waves of song disturbed by unruly audience members his eyes fix on the looters and then appraisingly on
the fallen warrior, the last who drew breath among his brother knights. A champion of night is chosen.
He sees the shadows of men converge upon him predaciously. Eyes like a raptor locked upon it’s quarry and the shadows themselves shuddered at his look like quarry in a raptor’s hovering shadow about to descend. Like a taloned conjurer’s hand his
Beckoned and the shadows seemed to rally in answer like a flight of ravens from a stage illusionist’s palm…all with the air of the conductor of a haunting nocturne to an audience’s hushed expectation. One of the warriors of the East had deserted...lured by stories told around the fires on eve of battle had sought to loot the fabled hoard said to be undelved in the labyrinthine catacombs of the castle. He confronted the elderly noble sought his heart with a crossbow arrow which the noble caught in mid-flight and snapped the shaft before baring his teeth at the assassin and closing them on him before casting him from the battlements.
His features now rejuvenated he bade his wolves to the hunt...the night tribes unleashed.
The broken forms of knights seemed like shattered chess pieces before a dark player half cast in shadow, before a move of dark urgency.
Another cry was heard like a battle cry of the shadows and choired like an army on the march. The cries were maddening. Those of man or of beast.
A huntress or huntsman with his hounds?
“Those aren’t wolves I tell thee!”
“Raise the torches I said!”
The mothlight…the torchlight illuminates a rare wonder.
I feel the chord of my keepsake drawn from my hand.
Two began to fight over a beautiful medallion.
I try to draw my sword but can only feebly.
I see daggers drawn…Blood splashes my face…
my parched lips.
Their leader steps on my blade and raises his own.
I hear a distant cry. I think it that of wolves. It is my own...
Like an echo…the night answers.
By what name does moon yonder this eve embraced by throngs of clouds so hauntingly?
Tis the huntress moon my lord. The sanguine moon.
A shout is heard. A form beheld. “Unhand him!”
A woman’s voice...cultured...melodious as a nocturne…graceful against
A background of stars as a poem written in endearment to the night.
A mystery of beauty haunting a red field of carnage.
But who would mourn me in these lands?
As if restless shadows were granted form and face to mingle
with the living she seems to materialize.
She is glorious to behold, a cascade of raven hair as if crowned to rule the night.
Eyes maddening as two moons reflected in desert oasises.
Flowingly gowned in blue as if woven of shadows on the sea, raiments aflow like tendrils of midnight flame though no wind stirs the dark manes of horses and fallen banners.
They reach for her. He steps off my blade.
I am a knight...a paladin sworn to bloodshed but also to honour as our time understands it. We swear on our souls to uphold vows of chivalry. We believe in it.
Our faith of courage and of blood.
Hands reach for her.
With strength my arm doesn’t have I strike. An anguished cry replies.
She smiles and I feel the moonbeams tangibly.
They recoil from that smile...why..? They draw back like the huntsman
Out of arrows does from the bared fangs of a shewolf.
But to me it is a smile of rare beauty vexing as the full moon.
“Make way!”
Night is upon you.
Eyes that searched dreamily for falling stars among the myriad of lights above.
Feverishly reciting the names of constellations behold white shapes in the moonlight streak like the avenging ghosts of fallen knights after the looters.
Their eyes have the same look to them as were cast on gold talismans.
Dark horsemen approach as if heralded by hungry cries in the night.
They pass like a maelstrom’s torrent bearing dark banners against the moon.. It was said that when immortals were in dispute over a debated perplexity of mortal character, that they would
send one of their own in mortal guise to test the hearts of man.
Yet they were given away by the unbanished starlight in their eyes
and smiles that could only belong to a goddess.
and given away by their strength.
As the leader of the brigands pivoted to flee he cast a sword point- first into the ground…like a enshrined cross for pilgrims it seemed, in desperate hopes that it would keep her and her retinue at bay. She laughed at the gesture…melodious it was in the night…like rich venomed honey.
She took up the sword brandishingly waving her minions away from the fallen warrior.
“No. There are others to hunt. After them. Run them down! Leave a horse for me.”
Men clad in dark highwayman robes drew away from him and with movements more hound-like than human began their pursuit, like hyenas scattered by a lioness’ approach and roar they disperse…or like the images of nightmares bedeviling a then writhing throes of a dreaming soldier’s sleep, banished by the voice and harpsong of a bard who will not leave the bedside of his wounded prince.
One of the ravens that had flocked to the red field perched in a flourish of dark wings on her arm and she hummed to it softly as she approached soundlessly.
He shook his head of feverish vision for she seemed to lycanthropically alter form from
human to a moon-white wolf…The bloodied face of a she-wolf became the cosmeticed red lips
of a noblewoman.
“My Lord you’ve been wounded..”
“No. Rise My Lady. How can you address me thus? I am no noble knight or lord of these lands or any.”
Her laughter was as the soundwaves of a Stradivarius played by a master soloist under the stars.
“I drink the souls of Emperor and Sultan like the inebriate of the wine...immortals ponder such things differently Son of Adam.”
Like tears welling from a reopened would I shake my sight of the vision of the fallen knights around me rising at the bidding of a pale graceful hand to protect me.
Hands reaching again for the keepsakes and amulets of newly-made widows.
As they fall from the bandit’s arms like tribute before a dark queen.
She seems to glide rather than stride, in motions like the moonbeams on the ocean waves to a castaway looking to the horizon...eyes following the trailing
light of the moon homeward across the fathoms of the dark sea. Her Shaharazadian eyes, dark with intoxicating enchantment as red eyes of wolves appeared in a coven around him as if vampire bites opened in the darkness.
The eyes were so voluminous to be fathomlessly deep. My face was reflected in them like images of an Amazon’s love in a locket borne to war. Touch light as a raven’s replace the locket to my hands. I reply to her smile as if hearing a Stradivarian song in concert. Her hands were as cold as my own. The lips as chill as the kiss of the emblem of the Black Madonna that I offered in valediction before the enemy arrayed before us. and I crossed blade with scimitar…my battle cry, with bared teeth like a wolf over its kill. First blood was streaked on my face like warpaint of a night tribe. I didn’t feel like a man anymore.
Then…
She kneels next to me.
“Open your eyes.”
Like from a shattered chrysalis a form arose like a dark metamorphosis spreading its wings craving an allure of fatal light and that radiance was a vision of the beauty of star-lit
eves incarnate behind red eyes, like the siren that intrudes into the knight’s vigil
on the eve that he is sworn to the cause of light but all things under the stars are not so simple.
The bright banners that you follow to war, the bright gold crown that adorns brow of queen and king that you hail in bright review as you march to fields of blood in their name...the radiant eyes that hope to catch and favour you hope to wear as the shadow of the sword is cast on you. They are the lights beckons to moth and man.
I am the shadow. I am night that calls you back. Trust me instead.
I had opened my eyes searching for the stars, vigil candles to a midnight scribe
at his parchment, their light like the emissaries of an aloof god’s ardour leaving one
to question the love of angels on field of battle or sleepless one of bereavement
or heart’s betrayal. Stars the one brightness that stands out to the nomad’s eyes that
one who strays awake from his comrades and fire to be alone with his dreams and his stars while they sleep in writhing throes of nightmare or dream’s bliss.
I dimly behold through the gathering mist of mortally wounded senses
The eyes of a wolf, drawn by the aroma of fallen horses and knights.
I gasp for mortal breath. The life is leaving me like a faithless lover before the red dawn..
The face of a white wolf hovers over mine.
Gaze of bejeweled red yield like nightmare-haunted sleep
To dawn…
And like light of midnight sun I behold my rescuer then.
As if represented by the white wolf reaching down to feed.
Hair like the sickly-sweet trickle of blood became the feeling
of thaw to winter mountains to some hibernancy of the soul.
Like vigil candles in a rite the eyes of circling wolves replace the torches.
I’m reminded the royal feast before the battle, trying to catch the eye of my desire.
I see the look in the eyes of the kind and queen over the jeweled rims of
Their cups…their lips reddened by wine.
Their eyes appraising those who were about to march to war for them.
The king’s eyes looks at widows to be. He knows who will be in the frontlines when arrows fall.
He looks at my muse. I will them away…To mine. Eyes lock like blades sparkingly.
A king’s eyes, an animal’s eyes. Then eyes avert.
For hands clap and the bard has a song to play the court.
I remember the background song that eve. I hear it now through dormant
recollection though it was soundless then. She was the only music I knew then. Her presence.
The entrance she made in a green dress. The very essence of a bard’s inspiration.
I think of the old life. It is as far away now it seems as the stories of legends sung.
I will return to her I vow as I don armour and hone sword…a hero for her.
Not a landless warrior in a distant court, disdained as a mere nomad by the “civilized”.
Now a knight. Close to the end. I dream.
The bell in the palace courtyard tolls among mournful cries, the petals of dark flowers
falls like the raven’s feathers on the fallen warriors, as if hailing a dark prince.
The king in transparent mock solemnity makes an oration for the fallen, as through
an aisle of torches a black knights rides forth astride a dark horse bearing as many spangles of fallen enemy warriors as the night bears stars, in his bearing. The fires of the dark field left behind never left his eyes and the fires before him smoldered in his gaze like a Maharajah’s pavilion fire in a tiger of Bengal’s eye of balefire micrcosmed. Making entrance
as if ushering the light of a midnight sun.
“What do you want here?”
“The same thing you desired king. Blood.
and victory.”
Renaissance faced dark age. The chanting of black cowled monks and the sobbing of bereaved ceased. I draw my sword, then, point it at the king accusingly. Who living would dare?
None…but the reborn of a dark Renaissance.
The eyes from a doffed helm meet my muse’s
Darkness is honest. You see by its veil what you cannot by light.
The queen had begun with her seamstresses to weave a tapestry. Emissaries call out names from a list. The black knight dismounts. As I stride into their presence, warhorses shy from me nearly throwing their riders, men avert their gaze and recite warding words.
The king is bade to seek sanctuary in a cathedral. He staggers towards it.
As if the ghosts of the knights that fell in battle stopped at the threshold unable to pass.
But I follow for them. I am no unhallowed beast as they misunderstand me. When I return I seek her...like a dream that had turned away from Valhalla to reanimate a fallen warrior. Like a bardic tribute that had ceased mid-song as beauty had crossed the soloist’s sight and left the troubadour speechless then resuming.
I ask:
“May I have this dance My Lady?”
“Now? Here?”
“Yes.”
The other people, king and retainer, bishop and serf…all those around become mere shadow lifeless forms like knights.
laying fallen in battle surrounding one last warrior surrounded by dream...motionless as if turned to stone, in the turns of the dance with her. We dance as if on field of war as fallen knights seem to become rendered stone in their effigies around us...as if in forbidden dance in a cathedral’s solemn ground, arms hold close as if in the folds of a rebel angel’s wings.
The helmet remains like a masque undoffed till midnight’s tolling.
I close my eyes as if into a waltz that she could not accept the night I left for war…
On field of lost war. The lips meet mine red as wounds reopened…resuscitative.
Her words a nocturne...a duet in some strange tongue, exquisite in their flow
as wine shared in one cup spilt in slow motion, as music played slowly for a forbidden waltz.
I cross the floor like a somnambulist.
Dance with me to your song.
Do not fear daughter of Eve for it is the way of the knight and the night not to.
Life is short and eternities as long as time felt by the last living warrior on field of battle
Where once many rode, I follow no more the red banner of a blood-thirsty king to war
But follow the stars back to a queen as the nomad knows his way back by them.
Like a sleepless scholar poring through a night library to seek an elusive definition I try to define you, like the a brooded over and sough-after riddle vexing a traveler as the sphinx of myth bars the way and looks hungrily on. Have you the answer mortal before I feed?
I know what you are now...in the stories told by elders around the nomad fires in
my homeland.
Vampyre.
Just as I see by moonlight what you truly are king who rules by war.
I bare my neck like a confession to a priestess before my people foreswore the Goddess.
I see the vision of moth having been singed by a candle, crumpled and burned shuddering
in flightless pain...uplifted on a palm to the moon, wings unfold by a healing hand like petals of a
dark rose to the moon. Bade to follow the starlight instead not betraying earthbound lights.
Then like some trick conjured on a stage to the breathless expectation of
an audience I’m drawn up as if a dark queen says to a black knight “Arise”
The Artemisian countenance becomes that of the moon over field of battle
as if barren stone replaces sculpted façade by an artist’s hand and Gemini
of stars gleam down and a knight is left of field of battle with his dreams.

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