The Noble Green

A Story of Darlock Latar

- February 2023 Popular Vote Runner-up

The thunderous crack of green copper against stone reverberated in the large chamber, the sound so loud he felt an anvil thundercloud crashing down on the roof of the ruins would be quieter by comparison. Dust shook out from the foundation, and the large bricks in the wall where the blade struck split through and flung broken debris across the room. Darlock hovered a second longer in his crouched position under the bastard sword, and then rolled to escape before it could be dislodged for another attack. His knightly opponent was not one to wait for pleasantries.

Darlock Latar could hardly hold in his delight, however. The ferocious guardian was harbored by the forgotten walls, a secret hidden away from the world by myth, tree, and rock. Such a knight was a worthy opponent—a legend, in truth—available now to face off against on the grounds of an ancient temple. This forest of Caelen would be worth more than broken pottery and rusted trinkets, Darlock thought with a grin.

He wiped his brow with the back of his dagger hand and took a step back to examine the first exchange. The slash had been quick and powerful, and the thing in the ancient green armor had reacted immediately to his entry through the roof of the chamber. It had voicelessly lurched after him, though not quickly enough for his timely dodge. The sword swipe gave him a measure of the time available before he needed to engage again. He had only a few moments to study his opponent further.

The old forest hue was correct for the forceful Noble Green myth he’d read about. Darlock observed its unnatural strut to catch back up after it regained the longish sword off the wall. No man was sealed up in this prison regardless of the man-like shape before him. The armor’s design was of a bygone era in warfare, and the sword was uncommonly leaf-shaped. There were no clear exits outside of the sunny hole he created. Nothing natural could live trapped in the deep darkness at the edges of the room.

Darlock wondered mildly if the armor would fit once he relieved it of the protective force which compelled the armor forward. At the very least, he thought, a pendant of magical properties might be hidden away.

Stance corrected for the single sword in front of him, Darlock held his dagger and basketed sword aloft for a defensive position. He didn’t often bear the dagger out in combination. It was hardly necessary, if one knew swordplay enough, but he didn’t want to take a chance on the unknown figure. Soon enough, the knight closed in for another attack, and brought its sword down awkwardly in an overhead strike.

Darlock used his dagger to create an opening, and counter attacked simultaneously with his sword. The parrying dagger redirected his opponent’s attack to Darlock’s right side while his sword’s tip was aimed into the space at the bottom of the knight’s discolored breastplate, just above the crude cuisse plating at the hips. He struck true with his sword’s aim, and he pushed it in with some resistance. Darlock felt no need to hamper his day debating whether he should hold off ending the weird mystical armor. It had flesh, so he would kill it now and wax philosophy later.

The knight held firm against his dagger a moment longer before something groaned deeply, and then the armor crumbled to a knee. He had correctly anticipated the knight’s power was harnessed blindly—it relied heavily on surprise and eliminating threats within one attack. A simple deflect deftly pushed its power aside.

Darlock wasted little time to press his boot against the form to get his weapon freed. He fought it for a moment, and had to stir the blade inside the body until it released. When he was satisfied that the knight was not feinting a gutted stomach, that the magic which made it a long-lasting guardian did not also grant it healing from death, Darlock looked around his new surroundings.

With a small curse, Darlock hated the mugginess here despite being out from under the oppressive sunlight. The brown riding jacket had been useful for the morning cool, when there was breeze about. Yet the sunken chamber had only one opening, the one he had the unfortunate circumstance of falling through, and the air wasn’t stirred below it. His breeches and shirt began to stick in odd places.

The tree roots of the Caelen woods entwined with the musty stone walls in a pattern which reminded him of a poorly-kept cellar. With the hilltop above, nature’s full domination of the temple felt apparent to Darlock. Any majesty the temple once had was eaten away on all sides by dirt and flora, its advanced deterioration like the bones of a defeated knight.

When he strained his eyes he made out multiple archways in the walls, which he presumed were passageways. Those would be his next target for adventure. Anything else worth finding would be below his feet.

“The Noble Green is certain enough, I suppose, therefore undiscovered treasure is sure to follow. I’ll collect the armor on the waay out,” Darlock commented to himself.

Down the stars from out the night,

Drown the fire from its light,

Holy Green in holy spite,

Noble face in noble fight.

Our hands demand the lofty right,

Bend upon our magic might,

Worship full our harrow fright

Horror dark the mystic knight.”

Darlock spoke the poem out loud to remind himself the purported dangers of finding the occult temple. Treasure he was sure of, lost to memory by the consequences of the moral-sick cult of ancient times, but there was more he thirsted for. He wanted to discover true adventure—the kind a decrepit suit hadn’t provided by being felled so easily.

It was then, as he started to turn two paces away, his opponent stirred wildly. In sudden horror, Darlock watched as two gloved hands pealed apart the breastplate and plating at its waist. Dark fluid poured onto the ground as something internal wrenched itself to terrible freedom from the wound he had inflicted. With morbid shock he watched as a single gauntlet and brassard steadied itself on the ground. The armor, once bent over in death, renewed itself with another appendage. Then the second arm sprouted out at the waist, followed by shoulders and an identical helmet whose narrow slits revealed furious glowing green eyes.

A monster then, Darlock thought. He rushed in to slash with his sword, and closed the distance with a step and a lunge. His action gave no time for the bizarre ancient to stop Darlock from cutting deep into an exposed portion of arm. With the knight stunned briefly, Darlock swung a free foot to kick away the dropped bastard sword.

The knight was not without surprise. What Darlock took for dead weight reacted with new life, and the previously defeated Noble Green body—which now had a second, new body—attempted to grab at Darlock’s legs. It succeeded only in knocking back the hardened explorer.

Darlock faced down the inhuman guardian of metal and flesh. It grew until two bodies stuck out of two legs, melded together to form a horror he did not expect. His grin widened though. The myth of the Noble Green had been a lie: no honorable warrior stood before him, and nothing holy to be worshiped in song. Beneath the false exterior, the evil temple could only beget more evil, just as the horror could only give birth to its own hideous image.

Cult or magic—man or monster—his hand would be what toppled the evil of this place. Darlock tolerated not the obscene display before him, and he would turn over every brick of this temple until whatever hid was splayed by his sword. No rest and no mercy.

Victory to the hand which takes up iron and steel.