Prologue

Long has the realm of the High Breed been forgotten. It was once the most fruitful of realms, for the inhabitants were a peaceful folk, and the lords of the land were not only wise beyond normal men, but also kind and benevolent.

Perhaps it makes sense, then, that they were forgotten, as it is the tendency of men to remember in story and song the deeds of great courage and valor, but oft they forget anything else, even if that something else may be far the greater. You wish for an example? Then hear this: quite often you may hear tales and ballads of the "great" wars, where many years and lives where spent without point, simply because one king had the desire to rule the land of another. But how often have you heard songs sung of the truly great rulers, who made treaties of peace with neighboring kingdoms, thus allowing their peoples to live long, productive lives without war?

Yet, though there are better things that happen in this world than battle and bloodshed, tales of wisdom and goodwill do not draw an audience. Therefore I will tell of the last High Breed lord, who came to be known as the Dark Crusader.

Now, even though the last lord did not become the Dark Crusader until after he came of full age, I fear that starting the story at that point would not be acceptable, therefore I will reveal a small amount of his history. Although it is true that he was the last lord of the High Breed, he was not the last High Breed; he had a brother. In fact, he had a twin brother. However, he was the first child to come out of his mother's womb, the firstborn, and as such was given the inheritance of lordship. For this, his younger brother never forgave him.

As the two brothers aged and matured, it became quite obvious that the older brother was, by far, the greater. At the young age of ten-and-four his wisdom and intellect matched that of the elder sages and counselors; his brother had trouble mastering even basic writing and math, and had only a small amount of common sense. In hunting, the Dark Crusader could slip from one shadow to the next, making no more noise than a still breeze, and get within touching distance of his target without it having any knowledge of his presence; yet even with his abilities in stealth, it was said that he would oft shoot an arrow from over four-hundred yards away, and never fail to hit his target. His brother had as much stealth as an elephant, and truthfully, said pachyderm could probably shoot an arrow twice as well. In matters of the arts, it was said that the elder brother had a voice that would charm the birds from their trees, and skill with the brush to capture their full beauty; He would write poetry, and no maiden who heard could bring herself to dislike it. The younger had tried singing once, and the people could never tell whether the windows had shattered due to the high pitch or the harsh tone. He had tried painting, and after hurling his paints and brushes at the bird that he was trying to paint, the poor thing flew off with many new colors added to its wings. The best poetry he had was not even accepted into the limerick competition at the autumn harvest festival.

The younger knew in his heart, though ever he despised the fact, that the older of the two would truly be a better ruler; for this reason he hated his brother all the more, and he became bitter.

Yet even so, no one could ever see the separation between the two. For although it is true that the talents the younger brother possessed were few, he was extremely proficient at them. And the art of acting far surpassed all others. Indeed, he was so skilled in this way, that he could deceive the eyes and mind of anyone. Unfortunately, he used this talent for ill; oft he would break or bend rules, but never was he punished, for he was able to convince anyone who saw the action that it was well justified and that he needed pity more than punishment. Only the crusader himself ever noticed the poison behind his brother's eyes.

For it was poison that was there. When a mind constantly dwells on thoughts of hatred and deceit, they become a poison within it which will, given time, consume the mind completely; and the mind of the younger had little in it except for hatred for his brother and deceit for everyone else. Even so, his mind was not fully consumed for quite some time.

It happened in the day of full age. According to the customs of the High Breed, on the twentieth anniversary of the day of birth, a child is declared an adult, and receives his or her proper title; up until this point they are called only by nicknames or family titles. The Dark Crusader received a title befitting his actions, VaynMacc, which translates roughly to 'Fearless'. His brother received an insult, for the title he received was VaynVim.

Now, you have probably seen the two titles, VaynMacc and VaynVim, and judged that the names were somewhat similar. This fact in itself was insulting to the younger, (or VaynVim as we now will call him) as it forever linked him and the elder together, and VaynVim wished to be as far separate from his brother as possible. The second fact, and by far the worse, was the meaning of the title. Vayn, by itself, means fear; this word links the two names, the Dark Crusader received Macc as the second part of his title, Macc being 'less'. The younger brother received the secondary title Vim, which, connected to Vayn, meant fearful. This title not only linked him to his brother, but also set him forever below.

The poison completed its task; the mind of VaynVim was completely consumed with thoughts of hatred and destruction; yet even so, he hid his true intentions from all that saw him. All, except for VaynMacc, to whom the full extent of the younger brother's evil corruption was made known. For it was against the elder that the younger strove to inflict pain. And it was against the elder that the younger succeeded.

I have mentioned before that VaynVim was skilled in the art of acting. He now turned his dexterity in that area completely to the destruction of his brother's reputation and state of mind. He did this in subtle ways that could not be noticed by the common man, for he would behave as the people expected. He took on the role of 'adoring brother', and would act out the valiant deeds of his brother; but with his skills in twisting and deceiving weaker minds he would make the greater actions seem as nothing, and the slightest mistake an act of fumbling idiocy.

VaynVim's actions, though light in happening, had heavy effect. As he performed in the fore-stated manner, the people of the realm took on the opinion that the elder brother truly was a fumbling idiot, and would mock him to his face.

There was a time when VaynMacc led only a small battalion of soldiers and fought a battle with over a thousand men from a neighboring kingdom. And although it was an act of courage which would have, under normal circumstances, put him in a position of glory equal to or surpassing the greatest lords of the High Breed, his people treated it as though it were simply a chore that was given him, as the tasks of washing dishes or chopping firewood are given to a servant.

Another time he single handedly pursued and captured a band of thirty-some thieves that had been harassing the smaller villages of the High Breed realm. Rather than honoring him, or even thanking him for the deed, the people of the land went on laughing and jesting for days, for they ignored completely the fact that he had not allowed a single one of the men to flee, and instead mocked him for tripping on an outstretched tree root and 'nearly' letting the last man escape.

This became too much for him. The lords of the High Breed were of proud bearing, and truly they deserved their pride. VaynMacc was not the least of these, in fact he was considered one of the greater. And to receive no honor or recognition for anything that he did, regardless of what he sacrificed to do it, was more than he could bear.

So he didn't. He removed from himself all traces of royal garb and clothed himself in the articles of a knight, a knight who's likeness had not been known before, nor has yet been matched. The only symbol that could link him still to his lordly roots was his weapon, for on his left side he wore the sword of his father.

He left. Leaving the realm to its own ends he became a wandering warrior, fighting always for justice and for God. This is the story of his deeds that occurred after this point, and of the title that he took. This book that you hold in your hands is the tale of the Dark Crusader.

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