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This story was written with the direct inspiration of a passage in one of the Exalted novels. It's not nearly the same as said passage IMO, but if anyone feels like accusing me of plagiarism I'll take it away.

This is also Requiem's first appearance, and here he is as I first imagined him.

Soulsteel horseshoes struck sparks from the chipped marble slabs of the old road, breaking the tranquillity of the night with their discordant song. The five cowled horsemen guided their mounts into the village square, taking in the incongruous sight of wooden shacks beside the gleaming marble road. It was good to be into the comforting darkness once more.

Berit sat in his comfortable chair in his shack, cleaning his sword. The sword had been his since the day his father had passed away, Dragons comfort his soul. It was an heirloom of Berit's family, and as he carefully ran the cloth down the steel he saw that it was as sharp as the day it had been forged. His wife was winding thread on her distaff, while their son lay sleeping in the back room. Their dog warmed itself by the open fire on the hearth. None ventured abroad on a night such as this, with Luna's clean silver light hidden in shadow. Berit had heard it said that evil things were abroad on nights such as these; he had seen too many disquieting things of an evening to disbelieve such tavern talk.

The black-clad riders brought their horses to an abrupt and noiseless halt in the exact centre of the square. Their breath left no mist the cold night air, as they dismounted in perfect synchrony. One turned to the leader, bowed its head. Its voice was the death-rattle of a soldier who had seen one too many battles for his life. "Why do we tarry here, Great Lord? The Howe is surely not hidden by such peasantry."

The leader did not turn, did not so much as incline his head. "I did not recall asking you." The tone was pleasant, the voice mellifluous, but the Essence in the words struck the servant and forced it to its knees. "The peasants will doubtless have heard of a place of its power. Or would you have us search a hundred square miles of land by sunup?"

"Forgive me, Great Lord. My words were ill-born. I abase myself..."

"Yes, yes, I am sure you do. Rise. I shall go within and enquire. Do hold my horse for me, won't you?" The pressure on the nemissary’s chest abated, and it staggered upright.

The Abyssal strode towards the nearest of the dwellings. His fist rapped thrice upon the door.

Berit and his wife regarded one another in panic at the rapping on the door. No member of the village would be abroad at night. The farmer's grip tightened on his family sword, but neither of them made a move to unbar the door.

The rapping came again, louder. The door rattled in its frame. Berit's hands began to shake. This was the stuff of myths and tavern tales, not of real life. The sword seemed heavy in his hand as he began to realise just how little he really knew about how to wield it.

The Abyssal sighed and called forth but a little of his power. Darkness flashed through his eyes for a second as he rapped for a third time upon the timbers of the door. The door was but a little thing, a made-thing. There would be nothing of it left in a thousand years' time. Why should it stop him?

The solid timbers of the door blackened, warped, twisted, then the door crumbled away to dust, the work of an age in an instant. The Exalt stepped neatly over the pile of dust into the farmer’s home as the occupants leapt up and away from the door. The dog let out one loud bark, but a glance from the Abyssal and it fell deathly silent.

"Back! S-servant of d-darkness!" Berit held the sword up, its point describing a figure-of-eight in the air before him. The firelight glinted off white teeth beneath the shadow of the creature’s cowl. It was smiling.

"How rude of me, barging in here without an introduction." The thing's voice was strangely beautiful. "Let me rectify that. I am the Requiem for the Fading Light at Eventide. You are Berit, farmer and respected pillar of the community in this fine village. I trust the evening finds you well?"

"Y-you’ll not trick me, fiend! I know what y'are!"

"I doubt it. You doubtless believe you do; let us leave it at that. But where are my manners? I have not stated my business. Fear not, it does not concern you or your beautiful family.

"It is a small thing, nothing more – a mere bagatelle. There is, I believe, a small hill around here. Karlat's Howe? Long ago, someone left something there; as I say, a mere trifle. If you would be so kind as to direct me there?"

"A-Anathema! I’ll tell you nothing!"

Requiem raised one perfect eyebrow. The Immaculates had done their job well, even here in the Threshold. He threw back his hood, exposing his flawless patrician features and flowing jet-black hair. "Perhaps I was too kind phrasing it as a question. Tell me." The last two words carried a touch of Essence – a tiny drop of power to the Exalted, but more than a mortal mind could comprehend.

Berit heard the words as if they were a thunderclap in his ears. He went weak at the knees under the onslaught of power, but managed to keep his footing. "Do your worst, Anathema, for I've the faith of the D-dragons in me!"

"My worst? My dear fellow. Just tell me where the Howe is, and I will leave you in peace." Berit heard a deep rumble at the edges of hearing. He imagined he could see the black circle of Anathema on the Exalt's brow. Almost-transparent flames flickered at the edge of his vision.

"Never! I'll gut you like a pig 'fore I tell you!"

"Oh, a threat? Please. Maybe I should rephrase. Tell me, or I will burn your village, kill your family and make you wish I had killed you." Requiem's voice was still perfectly even and calm, quite at odds with the threats tumbling from his lips.

Berit stood still, his sword-arm now trembling so much that he had trouble just keeping hold of the weapon. The devil raised its eyebrow. "Do you like your dog?" The animal cowered in its basket.

Berit could not speak.

"Do you? I think it's a nice dog."

Berit's jaws felt frozen shut.

"Well, then. Maybe it should serve to show you I am serious." Requiem looked at the animal, shivering as it tried to get as far as it could away from him. He breathed in. It breathed out, and was still. "I am sorry about your dog. It was a nice dog. But you brought this upon yourself. Your lovely wife will be next. Where is the Howe?"

Berit glanced at his wife, standing rooted to the spot beside him. Her eyes were a mute appeal to him to speak, to do something, to save her. All at once, his resolve cracked. He barely noticed the clatter as he dropped the sword. "Y-you go north for two miles on the Road. There's a stand of willowberry, it's clear as day. Follow the stream west and you see the Howe to the south." And I hope the things as lives there rips you to bloody shreds, he added mentally.

"There now. That wasn't so bad, was it? See what we can accomplish if we're just polite?" Requiem's smile appeared warm, genuine. He replaced his cowl and turned to leave with a swirl of his cloak.

"Die, fiend!" Berit's son screamed a war-cry as he sprang from the backroom clutching a knife. The fiend turned and opened its mouth – there was no way it had time to draw a weapon. He brought the dagger up in an arc destined to end in the creature’s breastbone.

"BACK!" Requiem's shout was neither melodious nor kind. It struck upon the three mortals with the force of a storm's wave breaking on the shore. The young man was stopped in mid-charge and thrown to the ground; his parents were pushed through the paper wall between the front and back rooms. The Exalt's anima spread behind him like a twenty-armed spider of darkness, and the Caste Mark on his forehead was a weeping circle as black and as empty as the Void itself.

And then he was gone, the adults cowering behind the shattered things of their quiet life, the son cradling his broken dagger like a child and staring out into the moonless night.
Requiem and his nemissaries mounted their midnight-black steeds, as his anima banner calmed itself and dissipated into shreds of darkness and whispers. "We ride north."

"Master?" The newest of the nemissaries turned its twisted visage to its creator as it rode beside him.


"I did wonder, Master. Your greatness could have got the information easier and quicker by demonstrating your power openly and at once. Your wisdom exceeds mine in knowing why the path you took was better."

"Yes, slave, yes it does." Requiem turned his head from the creature. In the back of his mind were the whispers of his master. The boy shall serve death soon enough.

He thought to himself as he rode that at least he had ended the dog's pain. He had so little freedom these nights.

Comments? Suggestions? Insults? Eventide is now on version 1.1 beta.

Requiem you bastard!- Oberon

Hmmm.  I quite like this.  Slight overuse of the term melliflous.  Do zombie soldiers really talk back?  Cool!  I guess his changeable mood might explain why they risk it, but I'd have been tempted to have them talking amongst themselves rather than directly to his greatness.  The final "The boy shall serve death" confused me for a while - it might equally have been talking about the mercenary (who already is) and thus might need an improved phrasing.  Then again, I just might be daft - or not know enough about the exalted background.  A lovely touch of how even the simplest things can be made more difficult for oneself.  --Vitenka
Oops - I tend to accidentally overuse adjectives; I think "mellifluous" appeared about twice as often in the first draft. I think I need a 'vocabulary checker' as well as a spelling checker. And the 'zombie servants' are nemissaries, which are mighty ghosts inhabiting bodies and are a cut above your regular zombies. They might well talk back to a master as... odd... as Requiem; he enjoys 'enlightening' those less 'enlightened' than himself. But I'd probably not made that at all clear to anyone who didn't know about Exalted.
Well, to that, my only reply can be:  I want me some of those zombies.  Though I'm not entirely sure how they are more useful than regular soldiers that way.  I can understand why a death lord type person is hanging out with them though.  --Vitenka
Oh, whilst I'm nitpicking language usage - that whole first paragraph.  "Struck off" doesn't mean what that sentence thinks it means.  Guided is a word that should be struck from the language (gidded? I know it's not a word, but...) and "be into the darkness" sounds just like "I am so into this darkness, you know? {bubble gum pops}"  --Vitenka
Or it's about being into The Darkness... --M-A
  Ok, I'm being overly nasty - it was fine on a first reading, it gets its point across - but on a second reading, I dislike it :)  --Vitenka  (who still needs to do a second draft himself.)
Well, I like it. So nyah :p - But seriously; I think that 'from' is better than 'off' there. Is 'comforting darkness' too much? Is there anything better than 'guided?' My thesaurus is kind of limited. And they are a posse of goths - of course they are into The Darkness.
For "into", I would probably use just "in". I think that should sort it - and I reckon it's better without "comforting". --CH
Possibly agree. Version 1.2 may have a better sentence there. At the moment ItsNotABugItsAFeature.

I don't see a problem with 'struck sparks off' in that sentence, beyond the painful over-alliteration (I mean, 'struck sparks off' on its own okay, but did you try reading the whole thing out loud? you'd be wiping your monitor for weeks). What's your problem with it? -- someone who isn't Requiem
I usually try to sound as if the story is actually being read aloud - /Loss being an exception - all I can say is 'take it slowly and use a handkerchief'.
Oh, well - to each their own.  I would say "Struck sparks against" or "Struck sparks from" - though neither cure the painful to read part.  Mind oyu, I quoite like that effect.  There isn't a better word than guided that I know of, but it's one of those words that just plain sounds wrong.  There ought to be an irregular conjugation of it.  'gid' would do well.  --Vitenka
It sounds OK to me ^^ - SunKitten

I would probably write "The soulsteel horseshoes clattered over the anceint marble road sending sparks flying in all directions" if you really wanted to change it. I think its great anyway. Not quite the same as the Requiem in Candle though. -- King DJ
I think that that would be a bit wordy. As you may have guessed, when it comes to the beginning of stories I don't think you can get better than minimal. I think that 'Struck sparks from' feels better overall.
Mine is about 3 cm longer than yours. -- King DJ
Y'know, reading just the diff makes that look really quite dodgy.
rrrRRRrrrr... wordiness bad. Evil diff. I call moral victory. :) '


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