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Editor's Note: It Was a Dark and Stormy Night

Oct 31, 2003, 23:30 (8 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Brian Proffitt)

By Brian Proffitt
Managing Editor and Keeper of Tales

The wind crawled over the cold desert, caressing the deadwood, the grasses, the occasional creature that scampered in the night. It swept towards the tiny light, a long beacon shining in the chill blackness.

As the wind passed the old man, he shivered slightly as he haunched over the fire. But it was not the wind that chilled him this night--it was the tale he was telling to his companion. He licked his dry lips and hacked out a small cackle before resuming his tale.

"And then, after the master craftsman built the castle with its many rooms, the king and his court were greatly satisfied. The castle was beautiful and functional, and would serve the kingdom's leaders well.

"But there was one who was dissatisfied with this castle's perfection. One of the master's apprentices, who had wanted the castle to be built his way, with his designs, was jealous of the acclaim and praise his master had received. His master had shared the credit with all of his workers, and was generous with the rewards he received, but for this apprentice, it was not enough.

"He wanted all of the credit for the castle, and the ability to change the castle to his liking, regardless of the needs of the king and the kingdom.

"So, quietly, carefully, the dark apprentice began to spread whispers about the quality of the castle. 'The workmanship in this room is shoddy,' he would tell others. 'That wall will not do well defending against outsiders.' The lies were small at first, almost believeable. As time went on, the lies became more outrageous, as more people listened to the dark one.

"Soon, the master heard of the tales being spread about his creation, but did not know from where the lies were coming from. The apprentice was careful, always showing complete obisiance to his master, all the while enjoying how his own tales brought misery to the man who possessed all the apprentice desired.

"After a while, though, even the lies were not working well enough to suit the twisted youth. After all, the castle had not actually fallen apart as the lies predicted, and people began to put such accusations aside in the light of reality. Angry, the apprentice wanted to eliminate the master once and for all.

"So the apprentice went out into the dark forest to seek out the wizard who lived there. He knew the wizard coveted the kingdom itself, so he asked the magician to help him in an evil plan. In exchange for a poison that would kill the craftsman, the apprentice would use his newfound influence to help the wizard regain access to the castle and begin his own plots to take the kingdom.

"The wizard agreed, and gave the apprentice a most insidious poison. It would affect the master craftsman slowly, eating him away from inside until nothing would be left but a cold... dark... shell..."

Silence. Then: "Wait, that's it?" The young man shifted near the fire, pushing his glasses up his nose in frustration. "That's the story?"

The old man glared at the youthful puppy sitting across the fire from him.

"You did not like my tale, young man?"

"Well, er, I mean, it's not that it's bad--I mean, it's just that it doesn't have much of an ending, you know?," the boy stammered, suddenly wary of where he was and who he was talking to.

"Hmmm... I suppose it did lack a certain... climax. But perhaps you will not find the tale so weak when I tell you the name of the dark apprentice."

The young man stood to go. "Uh, sure dude, whatever you say..."

"You see, the apparentice's given name was... Darl."

The wind came by again but it was not what froze the young man in place. His legs gave out as he flopped down on the ground next to the fire, his face a portrait of dread.

The old man looked at his companion's expression and cackled on and on.

The wind carried the sound out into the dark, cold, night.