The life and times of Death Dancer.

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Summary

Will Swift is the greatest living hero on the continent. Known as Death Dancer since his days as an undefeated gladiator. He is unmatched in battle prowess and renowned for his mercy and chivalry. A true hero of the people the former slave fights a war to install a new kind of government. One that promises to abolish slavery and enhance the rights of the common people. Then one day without apparent cause or explanation Will changes sides. Betraying everything he believes in and everyone who believes in him. He swears fealty to a blood thirsty, pro slavery, tyrant and quickly becomes renowned for his ruthlessness and cruelty. What makes a continents greatest hero become its most notorious villain? And what is the secret to his peerless skills?

Genre:
Fantasy / Action
Author:
Tom Callahan
Status:
Ongoing
Chapters:
2
Rating:
n/a
Age Rating:
16+

Prologue



Thunder roared outside the castle and

lightning lit up the late evening sky as the

rain came down in a solid sheet. Though the

army camped outside Padwins hall was

certainly not enjoying the poor weather those

inside the hall refused to let it dampen the

festive mood. After all there was so much the

celebrate. The end of a long bitter war, the

defeat of a tyrant, and the dawn of a new age

for the entire continent were all mere days

away from becoming reality. A republic, the

first republic in recorded history. A

government that would put its citizens first,

improve the lives of the common man, limit

the rights of the nobility, and most importantly

of all abolish the vile institution of slavery.

All they had to do was win one last battle.

They had all the advantages. Twenty

thousand fresh troops against no more than

thirteen thousand tired and ragged enemy.

Furthermore the enemy supply lines were cut

off and hunger would soon be an issue if it

wasn't already. Lastly they had the superior

general for the first time since the war

started. Lyle Harklaw had never lost a battle

that he wasn't heavily outnumbered in. When

he was Lord Commander of the red coast

faction his military genius was a large part of

what kept the smaller faction in the war. It

was what allowed the faction to grow into a

signifigant power. While once powerful

factions were wiped out the red coast faction

survived and thrived untill it was the third

largest faction on the continent. Untill finally

what had once been several dozen factions

came down to just three. The red coast

faction was by far the smallest of the three.

However the Republic faction and the Stone

fist faction were evenly matched with neither

able to gain a decisive advantage after years

of struggle. In their wisdom the red coast

leadership put aside their dreams of being

the last men standing. Winning the war just

wasn't realistic. As big as they had grown

they just weren't big enough. They could

however decide who won and that path was

paved in power and influence. Whoever they

aligned with was virtually guaranteed victory

and would pay dearly for that prize.

Initially this didn't seem to bode well for

the Republic. The red coast had always

supported the one continent one king

philosophy. Their leaders were primarily from

ancient and noble famines and few if any

among them had any interest in enhancing

the rights of the commoners or abolishing

slavery. There wasn't a single man of rank in

the red coast faction who didn't own a

significant number of slaves. However while

one king ruling all is appealing when you get

to pick the king it is less appealing when you

don't. Especially when that king is a blood

thirsty tyrant like Darmon Stone fist.

In the end most believe it came down to

integrity. Which faction would be more likely

to keep their promises? Darmon Stone fist

had broken three treaties over the course of

the long war. He was said to be of

questionable moral character and

furthermore he employed an infamous traitor

as his champion and general. The Republic

on the other hand was steeped in lofty ideas

and principles with integrity being chief

among them. So after many concessions i

ncluding red coast being allowed to place

twelve men on the soon to be formed

Republic Assembly and the promise that the

Red coast would be exempt from slave

repirations an agreement was reached. Red

coast joined the Republic and the Republic

now held every advantage. Every advantage

save one. Stone fist still had him.

William Swift. The Demon blade. The

Death Dancer. The single most feared man

on the continent. The gladiator champion

who had never lost in single combat either in

the arena or on the battlefield. The

unstoppable force of nature whose prowess

was matched only by his ruthlessness. The

infamous traitor who had one been the

Republics champion leading them to

uncounted victories before suddenly

defecting to Stone fist three years prior.

However for all his accomplishments he was

just one man. True he was a man thought to

be unbeatable. True he had single handedly

turned the tide in numerous battles that

appeared to be lost. He was still just one

man and even a man such as he couldn't

overcome such overwhelming odds. Stone

fists day was done and the days of the

Republic were here at last.

The celebration wore on as the elite of the Republic, their closest retainers and their

families carried on as if the battle had already

been won. Speeches were given, toasts were

made and much food and wine was

consumed. It was fast approaching the time

when all of the children and most of the

wives would leave the festivities for their

beds. That was when the wine would truly

begin to flow and the real celebration would

start.

At the center of it all was Lyle Harklaw.

After all he was the man of the hour. The

handsome young golden boy who would lead

the Republic forces to their long awaited final

victory. A man of fairly humble beginnings

compared to many of his peers in the Red

Coast faction. A man whose fortunes were

on the rise more now so than ever. In a world

where accomplishments counted more than

birth there was no telling how far a man with

Harklaws talents and charisma might rise.

Some were even predicting him to be elected

the first Regent of the new government. That

would make him the single most powerful

man on the continent. Others however found

it unlikely that a newcomer to the cause

would rise so high so quickly.

The crowd around Harklaws table was thick with admirers and well wishers. His

second in command regaled the audience

with the story of one of Harklaws most

famous victories. The story was already well

known but most listeners were rapt with

attention as if this tale was all new to them.

Harklaw sat holding his wifes hand managing

to look both humble and regal at the same

time. Suddenly there was a commotion at the

other end of the hall. There were shouts of

alarm and men jumping to their feet. Several

chairs were knocked over and in one case an

entire table was upended. A womans scream

rose above the clamor and then cut off

suddenly as if she had fainted. Then there

was silence. As if everyone in the hall had

been given a signal everyone went quiet all

at once.

At the center of the hall was a large open

area surrounded by tables. Earlier in the

night it had served as a dance floor before

the celebrants had tired of the activity. The

center of the space had also been the

favored area for most of the speeches given

throughout the course of the night. Once

again a man stood at the center apparently

prepared to deliver one last speech to the

shocked and bewildered elite of the Republic.

A man known to many in the hall and whose

identity was confirmed to the rest through

whispered inquiries. It was him. Death

Dancer was here and he was completely

alone.

He wasn't a large man by any means. As

a matter of fact standing at roughly eight

inches above five feet he was slightly below

average in height. He had a a strong athletic

build never having lost his gladiators

physique despite being years removed from

the arena. Shoulder length brown hair framed

a remarkably plain face. The face of a farmer

or a tradesman rather than that of a peerless

warrior. His only remarkable feature was his

eyes. Pale blue and as deep as the ocean

depths. They were cold and hollow yet full of

knowing at the same time. He had the eyes

of a man who had already seen all hell has to

offer and wasn't impressed. He was dressed

plainly and all in black as was his habit. His

clothes were wet and dripped into the tiled

floor of the hall. He wore no armor another

habit he was famous for and a plain single

long sword hung at his side.When he spoke it

wasn't loudly but his voice carried to every

table in the hall.

"Esteemed Lord's and ladies of the would be

Republic" he said. "I bring you a message

from my king. All men must die someday.

Perhaps my kings day will be soon. So I'm

here to ensure he has plenty of company on

his final journey"

Death Dancer drew his sword and took a

step towards the main table. The hall grew

loud once again and Baron Pawdwin was

screaming at the top of his lungs for his

guards. The guards were already ahead of

him having slowly moved into position

surrounding the lone swordsman while he

spoke. A dozen of them having formed a

circle around him were now closing in. Most

carried pikes giving a decided reach

advantage over a man wielding a sword and

each had a large round shield secured to

their other arm. When the slow moving

guardsmen arrived just our of striking

distance they all stopped. None of them it

seemed wanted to be the first into the fray

against a living legend.

When it was clear that the guards weren't

going to make the first move the lone warrior

took matters into his own hands and

attacked. In a single heartbeat one of the

guards was dead and the killer was out of the

circle. Without hesitation Death Dancer went

after the next closest guard and that man

died too. This however spurred the renaimg

guards to action and they came at him in a

rush. Some tried to encircle him again but he

was a blur of motion and they failed. Some

tried to rush him from behind but he always

seemed to know where they were. Some

tried to poke at him from a distance while

others tried to use their shields to force their

way in close. Everything they tried failed.

They got in each others way and always

seemed to step in the wrong direction. While

in contrast every step took was perfectly

placed. He was always in just the right place.

There was no ring of steel on steel. Not one

guard blocked an attack with his shield or

managed to cross blades with lone killer.

Death Dancer swung his sword and

someone fell. Every time. This wasn't a fight

it looked more like a choreographed dance. It

was clear to those watching where the name

Death Dancer had come from as he moved

with all the grace and precision of a ballerina

who had spent a thousand hours perfecting

each step. Under most circumstances slaying

a half dozen men single handedly would

cause the survivors to lose their nerve and

retreat. There wasn't even time for that.

Before a man could even get it into his head

to flee he was dead or dying. It was over that

quickly.

Before anyone in the crowd could react

Death Dancer was once again moving

towards the head table. It was clear to all

who his main target was and exclamations

warning erupted from the crowd as they

realized how much damage could be done to

the Republics cause with one swing of the

invaders blade. Harklaw was on his feet

sword in hand and ringed by his top officers.

He wasn't the renowned warrior his assailant

was but he was no coward. Other men were

moving in to help. The bravest and most

formidable of the lords and officers had

weapons drawn and were prepared to do

their part. Death Dancer was deadly but

there were just too many opponents for any

one man to deal with. Someone would get

him it was only a matter of time. All Harklaw

and his men had to do was hold off the

madman for a few moments. A lot can

happen in a few moments when the Demon

blade is involved. Before the brilliant young

general or any of his men could launch an

attack Death Dancer struck. And just like that

the hope of the Republic was gone. The

talented charismatic leader with the brightest

of futures had no future left. Harklaw was a

headless corpse his body draped across the

table he had feasted at and his head

bouncing off the cold tile floor. Harklaws

officers followed their commander before the

reinforcements could arrive and true

pandemonium broke out.

Death Dancer leapt onto the table

creating some space between himself and

his new batch of attackers. Those men in the

hall not trying to involve themselves in the

fight were ushering wives and children

towards the large double doors that were the

only way out of the hall. Only the doors were

closed and wouldn't open. Men and a few

women beat at the doors. When that didn't

work they went after the door with chairs and

discarded piles but to no avail. Finally six

men picked up a table and attempted to use

it as a battering ram but the doors held fast.

They were trapped in with an insane killer.

While the futile attempts to open the doors

were taking place Death Dancer continued to

sew carnage throughout the hall. A few blows

came close to landing and his cloak had

been cut to ribbons but he remained

unmarked and wherever he went men died.

Eldris Brooklawn the latest champion of the

Red coast faction lay with his throat slit open

having accounted himself no better than any

of Death dancers other victims. Suddenly the

overwhelming advantage in numbers wasn't

that overwhelming. Men who had been

waiting for their turn to get into the fight found

their way over to the doors joining the

fruitless efforts there. Suddenly there was no

one attacking Death Dancer nor anyone

close enough for him to attack. Groups were

spread about the hall with fathers and

sometimes mothers standing proactively in

the front holding whatever weapon they could

find.

Death Dancer moved back towards the

center of the hall. A lone figure disengaged

himself from one of the group's and moved

slowly in his direction. He was in his late

twenties and walked with a pronounced limp.

He held no weapon and all who knew him

knew he was no warrior but he moved to

meet Death Dancer with the defiance of one.

The mans name was Simon Dalivance he

was the Republic factions chief treasurer and

one of its founders. He was also the forner

best friend of the killer he now faced. His

former owner and the man who had freed

Death Dancer from slavery before recruiting

him to the Republics cause.

"Hello Simon" said the warrior through

labored breaths.

"Hello Will" Said Simon as if it were a

question. "Is that what you have to say to me

after what you've done here? What have you

done Will? What have you done?" He

repeated nearly shouting it the second time.

"I've done what needed to be done" replied

Will. " And unfortunately for you. I'm not done

yet"

"What's left to do Wll? You've succeeded.

You've wiped our the Republics leadership.

You've set us back decades regardless of

what happens in the battle"

"Not all of its leadership' replied Will coldly.

"So you're going to kill me?" asked Simon

"That's what it comes to. After everything

we've been through. After all we once meant

to each other. You're going to kill me. And in

front of my family.

"I don't have a choice"

"There is always a choice Will. You have

nothing but choices. You chose to betray us.

To betray me. You chose to serve a tyrant

who will see the continent burn if he can't

have it. You chose to turn your back on

everything you once believed in. You chose

to become a monster"

"There is no way for you to understand. I

have to kill you now Simon and no appeal or

reminding me of who I once was will change

that. I'll give you a moment to prepare

yourself"

"Give me more than that Will. You owe me

more than that" Said Simon with tears

streaming down his face. "Give me answers.

Give me a reason why. If I have to die today

tell me why. Why have you done the things

you've done? What possible reasons could

you have. You were once the best of us but

now I'm not even sure if you're even still

human. You were my children's God father

for God's sake" he finished voice choked with

emotion.

"You owe me an explanation"

"Then I can't give you what I owe you. All I

can offer you is a quick death"

And then Death dancers sword was in

Simons heart. Simon Dalivance fell to the

ground dead before he landed and his killer

walked slowly towards the nearest group of

survivors.

The benefit to those who died fighting was

that they never learned of the fate in store for

their families. He killed fathers first. Followed

by mothers. Then he moved onto the

children. While no parent had to suffer swing

their own children killed before them. Those

that remained had to suffer the rest of their

short lives with the knowledge that their

family was next. No one who was left tried to

fight or even to run. Some just huddled

together eyes closed. Some got on their

knees and begged and pleaded. But the

pleas fell on deaf ears. Many prayed but God

wasn't listening either.

Whether by coincidence or design Simons

family were among the last few survivors.

Without a word he killed Lauryn first. Then he

turned to face Simons three children. His

God children. Children he had once swore an

oath to protect with his dying breath. But

what were oaths to a man like Will Swift. He

had already broken a hundred oaths. Already

betrayed everything he ever believed in and

everyone who ever believed in him. When

Death dancers sword fell for the last time that

day it was on little Will. His namesake. There

were six survivors left in the hall and those

six would be allowed to live. As those six

watched Death Dancer wipe little Wills blood

from his blade they saw him drop to his

knees and let out a howl. A howl of madness,

hatred and rage. More hatred and rage than

any human soul should be able to carry.

None of the survivors could say how or when

Death Dancer left. They just new that by the

time the soldiers on the other side of the

doors had broken then in he was gone. And

the thunder roared again.


******************


Daylor Stone fist king of all the lands

simply known as the continent closed the

book and put it down on his desk. He poured

himself some tea and rose from the desk

walking across the office to the rooms one

window. From it he could see a small portion

of his army camped around the borrowed

fortress. Would tomorrow be the day? If not

then surely the day after. Either way the

battle would be soon and it was one he

couldn't afford to lose. Unfortunately the

enemy could. If Daylors forces won the fight

the enemy still had three more armies of

equal size spread around the southern third

of the continent. However if Daylors forces

lost the war was all but over. He just didn't

have the reinforcements or the resources to

recover from such a defeat.

For the thousandth time Daylor wished he

knew more about the enemy. He knew next

to nothing about their motives, their

leadership, their goals or even where the

came from. Their armises moved slowly

across the continent bringing death and

destruction everywhere they went. They

didn't occupy lands or take noble prisoners

for ransom. They didn't negotiate or parlay in

any way. They moved in and they killed and

those who weren't killed were put in chains.

Cities and towns were left empty as were the

fields and the farms. All attempts to

communicate with the invaders in any way

led to the death of the messengers so Daylor

had ceased trying.

Every army that had been sent against

them was thoroughly routed. Daylors forces

had not won a single significant victory.

Daylor reminded himself that the enemy had

yet to face an army led by him personally. But

self doubt crept up on his attempts at

optimism. Yes he was a great student of

military history and on paper he excelled at

tactics and every other aspect of war. What

he unfortunately lacked was any form of real

world experience. His father had been a

great general with many impressive victories

to his name but by the time Daylor inherited

the throne the wars were all over. His fifteen

year reign had been a peaceful one which up

unto now had been a good thing.

On top of that most of his generals lacked

practical experience as well and his army

contained no battle hardened veterans.

Something the enemy seemed to have an

endless supply of. Oh there were a small

handful of officers left over from his fathers

day but they were few and far between.

Many of the top military minds of that day

had been killed over fifteen years ago at the

Padwins hall massacre. Back to that again.

Why couldn't he get that off his mind. His

kingdom was on the brink of annihilation and

he couldn't stop thinking about Will Swift.

Although to be fair he supposed the

reasons were fairly obvious. It was time to

write it all down. He had thought about it

many times over the last fifteen years but

had never done it. He wasn't sure if it was his

vow that stayed his hand or if people simply

had not been ready to hear the truth.

Perhaps a bit of both. We're people ready to

know the truth now? He wasn't sure. Could

he break his vow though. How long should

someone be expected to keep a vow to a

man long dead and buried. Daylor wasn't

sure about that either. Daylor came to the

realization that he didn't have to decide any

of that right now. He needed to get the story

out him and commit it to paper. He could

decide what to do with it at a later date.

Assuming he survived the next few days that

is. But if he didn't then he supposed it

wouldnt matter as there would soon be no

kingdom and few left to care about the tale.

With his course decided he moved back

to his desk and sat. Removing several sheets

of blank parchment from the bottom drawer

he stacked them in front of him. Taking a sip

of tea he prepared his quill, shifted a bit in his

chair to get more comfortable and took the

first piece of parchment from the pile. Dipping

his quill in the ink well he set quill to

parchment and began to write.

The definitive account of the Padwin hall

massacre otherwise known as the

Republican massacre or simply to some as

the black day is contained within the works of

Melvin Putner. His widely read and well

received book the life and death of

democracy. While there are many accounts

of that nights events including at least four

songs that I'm aware of Putners account is

considered the definitive one. It is certainly

the most detailed account to date and Putner

is said to have personally interviews all six

survivors of that tragic and fateful night. I

contend however that Putners account while

accurate in many ways is inherently biased

as it only tells one side of the story. It is told

entirely from the perspective of the victims

with no account given by the perpetrator.

One would argue that this is not Putners

fault and rightly so. Will Swift was given

many chances in his life to explain his

actions most notably at his trial and

steadfastly refused to do so.

Furthermore how much stock could be put in

the account of a mass murdering traitor who

many believe was more than likely insane.

One could also contend that any criticism of

Putner by me is motivated by bias. Putner

was after all a staunch advocate of

Republican principles and right up untill the

time of his death a vocal critic of my Reign.

He has also written on numerous occasions

that the Padwins hall massacre and the

events that followed are the single largest

contributing factor to my becoming king in the

first place. It is hard to argue against such

claims for any rational person who is familiar

with the events.


I contend however with all sincerity that I

never held any of that against him and firmly

believe I can be thoroughly objective in my

assessment of his work. Much of which I

thoroughly enjoyed as a scholar is not as a

monarch.

Later within the pages of this book I will

relate the tale of the Padwins hall massacre

as related to me by the one surviving witness

never interviewed. None other than Will

Swift. Many will at first be incredulous as

Swift refused to talk about the massacre at

his trial or on any other occasion. He refused

to speak of any of his infamous deeds never

once offering either excuse or explanation.

Will Swift indeed was a man of many secrets.

Secrets he never told anyone. Not to Simon

Dalivance in their days together forming the

fledgling Republic faction. Nor to the person

he loved and treasured above all others in

this world. His wife Megan. Will Swift never

told anyone his secrets. Except once. Just a

few days before his death Will related to me

the story of his life. From his early days to his

time as a slave. From his tenure as a

gladiator to his days as a hero of the

Republic. From his betrayal to the numerous

dark deeds he committed in my fathers

service and right up to the worst atrocity

possibly in the history of the continent. Will

told me every secret he never told anyone

else and while he swore me to secrecy I

believe the time has come to break the

silence. Long unanswered questions will at

last be answered chief among them the oft

asked why. Why did he betray the republic?

Why did he go from the golden hero

renowned for he mercy, restraint and high

ideals to ruthless villain known his cruelty

and blood lust? And most significantly why

did he do what he did on the black day. I will

even reveal the secret of why he was

unmatched in combat prowess though many

will disbelieve my explanation accusing either

myself or Will of lies and blasphemy. There is

nothing I can do to remedy that except for tell

the truth as it was once told to me. However

most of that must come later. I will start this

tale at a much earlier time. A time when he

was called William Farmer. A time when he

wasn't a slave and had loving patents. A time

when the future lay sprawled before him

bright with hope and possibilities.





























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