Darkin A Journey East - By Joseph A. Turkot

PROLOGUE

I sicken of burning flesh. Freedom rots here, persists as a parasite of the mind. A withered dream. The lords oppress us forever—no one fights. We are scum to them.

Why don’t we fight back? Why don’t we believe life can be better, or imagine a way to survive without them? We depend on them for all things—they understand this. There is no questioning their control. We must need them, we must love them. Hope is lost, freedom forgotten. Tales of old, whispers, rumors—they serve only to pain my heart now. To hang, or toil away in the confines of hell, which choice better serves me now?

~ excerpted from Remtall’s diary

I: BREAKING THE FARM

Something snapped inside Adacon. He sat in his wooden hut, late at night by a glowing fire. Scraps of bread had served as dinner, along with saved wine. It had been a long and hard day on the farm, but no harder than usual: of all things, he knew he should feel happy, for today was the first of the month—the day he received his meager allowance of bread and water. But something stirred inside him, like a flame igniting, and he stood from his rotting stool, filled with defiance. He stared into the burning embers of the hearth; the fire returned his gaze. Something inside him fought to get out—a feeling he had ignored since childhood, something he always felt buried deep within his soul.

He was barely twenty years of age, a muscular young man. He pushed his fingers through maple-bark hair, staring with granite eyes, set into a face sharply featured and mature. He had no family, nor recollection of one; time clouded his earliest memories, though he could at times recall pieces of life spent in a dirty boarding hall where farm slaves were trained. The lords crammed more orphans there than the dwelling could house. Veteran slaves taught him skills for farm work, and everyone whispered that the lords saw all things. Swordladen guards maintained order at the hall, proving the existence of the lords’ power over all men that lived upon Darkin. When he matured to his earliest manhood, they sent him to the farm he lived on until present; he worked as an earthtender on the seasonal harvests. Slaves spread tales of farms abroad, far across the wilds unknown; a great many farms existed, each meant to fulfill some desire of the lords. The crop work was grueling, and the labor unending.

He once had a friend, a fellow farm hand, who was hanged for defiant behavior. The young man, named Remtall, had spoken boldly about the despotism of the lords. The day of Remtall’s death had burned itself into his mind, buried into his heart. He could remember some of the things that Remtall had told him: freedom was a thing worth having, and without it, life was not. He told other slaves that life was better than what they knew it as; he claimed a rebellion was needed. He said that life on the farm ought not be called life at all. Remtall’s ideas roused the guards, and proved worthy of an unusual length of torture. The slaves gathered round to see his last moments before he hanged, so that they would know the price of insurrection.

Adacon knew his friend was under suspicion for some time, for he had talked of freedom too often, and too many times to the wrong slaves—for that, he had died. Adacon continued to labor, companionless, paralyzed by what had happened, until this moment: a strange force had taken hold of him this night. Death, it seemed suddenly, was no worse than the tireless slavery he endured each day. Something snapped in his head: he could no longer deny the fire Remtall had lit in his spirit; instead he would tend it, help it grow, until it consumed him, even if to his death.

The bravest of slaves stole literature from passing wagons, and learned to read what words they could by poring over the forbidden tomes at night. Rumors abounded that all the parchments ever written were to be burned at the bidding of the lords, and that each passing wagon was journeying toward a great fire in the West, where flames would consume all the knowledge of the world. Some books described a better age, a brighter time in Darkin’s history. The books told of a time before slavery and oppression, a time when all who lived possessed a right to craft their own fate. The

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