• anniecarpenter

Warlock - Capturing the Dark

Capturing the Dark by Warlock

The Dark was walking through the forest, as he often did, with Thorn on his back, the Crow on his shoulder and the Serpent at his feet. It was a crisp autumn morning in the forest. The birds were whistling in the trees and squirrels rattled through the dead leaves. But as the Dark reached a clearing, he saw something most unusual. It was a statue, of sorts. A large X made of solid oak, set firmly in the forest floor.


‘What mortal scheme is this?’ the Dark asked, scratching his beard. ‘The forest is sacred. It will tolerate the statues of fools.’


‘Do not be hasty. It could be a trick’ hissed Thorn.


‘Hmph, there is no one alive who can trick me’ grumbled the Dark, striding over to the cross. He intended to use it as firewood to roast his dinner. But as he got within a yard, he felt the leaves beneath him vanish. He was falling into a hole. Thorn leapt off his back and clung to the crumbling walls, but the weight of the Dark dragged her deep into the pit along with him. They fell for a long time, until each could feel the heat of Hell around them. Finally, they landed on a bed of sharp, wooden spikes, one of which pierced the Dark’s back and jutted from his chest. The Dark wailed and, looking up, saw a circle of green eyes peering down at him from the top of the trap. There were echoes of laughter.


‘You will all be food for the Crow!’ the Dark yelled. But with the Dark's power weakened, the Crow found himself completely without appetite. The Serpent slinked calmly down the hole and lay by the Dark's side.


‘A fine mess you’re in’ he hissed.


‘Thank you for reminding me, worm. Can you get us out?’


‘I can come and go as I please, but I can’t drag you out of here. You're bleeding rather heavily, you know? I believe your blood will fill this hole by morning. If you don’t bleed to death, you’ll drown.’


Indeed, the Dark's blood was slowly filling the pit.


Quiet, wicked creature!’ Thorn gasped, flailing at the serpent with her spiny arms. ‘I will get us out, but it will take some time. First, we must stop your bleeding. Can you lift yourself up off that spike?’


The Dark didn’t have much strength left in his body, but with Thorn’s help he was able to heave himself up off the spike. He knelt in his own blood for hours as Thorn used her tongue and a strip of his leather cloak to sew up the wounds at his front and back. Then she shuffled beneath him so that both were lying on their backs. She began to creep her limbs up the crumbly walls of the hole, ever so slowly.


The mortals who had trapped the Dark danced about the wood with glee. They marched back to their villages and summoned all their kin. They lit towering fires that singed the trees and made the Crow choke. Insect and rodent were roasted in the flames, but still the mortals continued. They drank beer and smashed glass on the rocks. Whenever the fires sank low, they hacked more trees to keep them burning. When the revellers had gobbled their fill of beer and meat, they turned upon each other, fighting with fist and stick and knife. They ganged up on the weak and drowned them in the river or tossed them on the flames. So many bled and drowned and burnt that the Serpent couldn’t cope and the bodies rotted where they fell. This caused a terrible plague amongst the living.


Men and women had oozing pink callouses on their faces, but still they gobbled and fought and fucked until everything was filthy and barren and there was nothing to hunt or grow and the water became filthy. The only things to eat and drink were the flesh and blood of the dead, which the living gobbled hungrily. The plague ensured there were always corpses to spare and, with all the fucking, there were plenty of mouths to feed. So the mortals died and ate and fucked and ate and died, until the skin of the living was so swollen with blood you could no longer tell the healthy from the sick. Leeches and other foul creatures rose to the surface to feast on the swollen tomato folk. When Lady Frost arrived, she laughed at the mortal's folly. They had no wood left for fire or shelter and she gnawed at their flesh with abandon.


Mother Root took shelter beneath the soil and Father Stone cared not a bit. From space, the Moon and Stars laughed at the mortals’ folly. But deep below the earth in Hell, the Spirit of the Dark gurgled with fury. And from his bloody hole, the Dark could feel the mysterious spirit beginning to wake and knew that if its anger overflowed, it would split the world into a billion pieces.


Luckily, Thorn was growing her brambly limbs as fast as the sun and rain would allow. It took many years for her to reach the top of the pit but reach it she did. Using her barbs as hooks, she pulled herself and the Dark to freedom. During his time in the hole, the Dark had done nothing but eat blackberries and reflect on his situation. He had gone through years of anger and bitterness, but now that he was finally free, he was determined to act with wisdom. Still, looking around at the barren wasteland that had once been his home, he couldn’t help striking the ground in anger. The X that lured him in had been burnt to blackened stumps. With a hiss, his old companion the Serpent slithered at his feet.


‘What took you so long? The forest is almost destroyed’ he smirked.


‘Wipe the grin off your face, snake. Where is that damned Crow?’

But he couldn’t find the Crow. He whistled and whistled but no bird appeared. He would need the Crow to put things right. Whistling and wondering, he made his way through the smoky wood. After some time, he came upon a grove. There he saw a man. For a moment, the Dark was dumbstruck. For just like himself, the man wore a cloak of leather hide. He also wore a helmet of horns, as if in imitation of the Dark. Only, instead of being a mossy green, he was painted head to toe in red. Worst of all, the Dark noticed the Crow, sitting on the imposter's mantel piece. It looked every bit like the Crow, but sat perfectly still, even when the Dark whistled.


'What have you done to the Crow?' the Dark asked. The mortal turned and smiled.


'I improved him. I took out his guts and filled him with wires. He'll never grow old and never get sick. Watch this...'


The imposter pressed a button on the Crow's throat and a screen flashed with an impossibly large number, counting down rapidly. The Crow paced forwards and flapped his wings up-down-up. His beak snapped mechanically, and the imposter laughed and laughed.


'This isn't the funniest part' he sniggered. 'When the dial reaches zero and the universe explodes it’s hilarious.’


But the Dark didn't find this funny at all. He punctured the man's throat with a single swipe of his arm. Then the Dark tore open the Crow, tossing aside the wires and wheels and buttons. They found the Crow's guts and heart in a pan on the stove and Thorn was able to stitch them back inside with her tongue. The only part they couldn't find was his tongue, which is why the Crow of death is always silent. With a breath of warm air from the Dark, the Crow fluttered his wings and his eyes burned with darker fury than before.


The Crow set to work immediately. He swooped on the fat mortals and seared through their flesh like a dart. The Serpent needed a thousand of his companions to drag the tomato folk into Hell and the Dark Spirit breathed life into the furnace to roast their greasy bones.


Only two mortals were spared the Crow's beak: a man and a woman who, throughout all the mortal's cavorting, had remained in their hut at the edge of the wood, reading and hunting and tending their vegetables. They were given the title of Witch and Warlock of the Northern Dark and were charged with the duty of protecting the forest. The Dark gave the Warlock a pointed stang, to root him to the Dark Spirit. To the witch, he gave a scourge of thorns, to drive away folk with bad intentions. To each he gave a sword, as sharp as the tip of Thorn’s tongue. Finally, he gave the witch and warlock a long, pointed hat to represent the Dark triad: blade and branch and bone. They could use steel to fight steel and protect the forest; they could develop their wisdom like the branch develops leaves; they could take what they needed from the forest for their health.


Eventually, the Witch and Warlock had children, whose children had children, and each generation appointed its own Witches and Warlocks to ensure that the forest and the Dark stayed long in the heart of mortals. But because the imposter had eaten the Crow’s tongue, the mortals had tasted death, and it is not a taste easily forgotten. There will always be an Imposter with a deathly tongue and he will always seek out destruction.

© 2018 Allenheads Contemporary Arts, Allenheads, Hexham, Northumberland NE47 9HR

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