Tuesday, July 28, 2015

I am Alexander Wayne

My name is Alexander Wayne.

I was a soulless warrior a lifetime ago.  A man that tread through fields of blood as I crushed the souls of my enemies beneath my boots.  My sword and bow have taken more lives than memory is to recount.  A soldier for a noble king, surrounded by enemies, I fought his foes with a fury and skill unmatched.  Once a peasant farmer, I now swore allegiance to a royal who would never know my name.  In the smoke and screams of fresh and frightening last battle, I turned away from my life as a ranger.

I wandered in isolation, stricken with the unending guilt and torment of each and every last breath of those who fell before me.  Just as the voices of the damned nearly consumed me, the sweet song of an angel delivered my soul.  I made her my wife, as undeserving of her love as I was.  She bore me a son, William, and we made a life together among the soil and stalk of a new realm.    Only my angel knew my secret, all else knew me as a simple farmer, nothing more, and nothing less.  My past finally left in its proper place only remembered in the darkest tremors of the coldest, sleepless nights.   But nothing good ever lasts forever.  It is the one truth of which there is no escape.

A horde of brutes roamed the land, sacking small villages, taking what they wanted, and shedding innocent blood at each maddening whim.   The poverty of our hamlet protected us for a good while from their gold and blood lust.   But nothing good ever lasts forever, and you can never cheat fate at her own game.

A wealthy provincial prince took lordship over our lands,
purchasing grain at a farthing of its true worth from his newly acquired and downtrodden serfs.   Upon one of his excursions to survey his realm he was fallen upon by marauders, thirsty for the richness of both his blood and purse.   As fate would have it, I happened along to witness the brutality, and because of a cursed instinct, I acted in his defense.  I dispatched his vulgar assailants, and as they fled, I was met with the slobbering appreciation of an entitled fool.   In his undying gratitude, he made me a bargain.  Become his peasant magistrate and he would purchase our wares at full value for as long as he ruled.  You see, he needed such a man to keep order and feared anyone of nobility might attempt to usurp his fragile dominion.
I agreed to save my town, and that sacrifice brought a prosperity never known as long as that dirty little shanty town had legacy.   A legend spread of an unknown savior, who could strike without warning out of the darkness of night, with the ferocity of an animal.  A tale born of my boorish mistake in saving a man whose existence was a silent obscenity to his people.   And in a time of unrelenting superstition and folly, fables are far stronger than gauntlets, guards, or garrisons.  So a definitive, seemingly impervious peace reigned for a time. But nothing good lasts forever and you can never cheat fate at her own game.

A rival lord, vicious and vile of heart, sought to take all lands of our realm.  He had succeeded with his depraved army of thugs and savage ruffians, burning town after town that refused to yield to his protection and taxes.  Now they had reached the borders of our small, unassuming hamlet.  Our sovereign, terrified of his own shadow, rallied his troops around his castle to protect his royal assets and leaving all others to fend for themselves.

With a feeble militia comprised of trembling farmhands, shepherds, and merchants we faced the impending horde.  The battle was short-lived as expected.  Despite the numbers vanquished by the accursed habits that haunted my soul, even I succumbed to the sheer brutality of their mindless violence.  Left to die among the burning fields and shacks, the families of the slaughtered fled to the hills in the illusion of safety.  My angel and child followed, grievingly unaware of my labored breaths lost among the death and debris.

Several long days later, the local blacksmith returned to salvage that which wasn't seized or destroyed.  He found me and brought me back to what remained of his shack.   There he nursed me back to health as he repaired the hovel that represented a legacy's work.    When I was well enough he told me of the end of our village and that my family had become, like the rest of those who survived, nomads, wandering the mountain treks.   But they were being hunted by the remnant of the mob that fell upon our town.  I knew I needed to find them, but what good what it do.  To die together instead of alone, amidst the shadow of the mountains and a frigid winter's sky.  

That is when the blacksmith told me a story about a man who had come to our village long before I arrived.  He came on one of the darkest and dankest evenings and visited his father to commission a very special suit of armor and weapon.  His semblance was ominous, but there was a light of justice that flickered like red ember in his eyes.  He paid the blacksmith's father in foreign gold and presented him a withered and aged piece of parchment with all the designs he required.  He recalled his father told him; it was written in a strange pen, unlike any he had seen.  That it glistened in the moonlight, not like starlight, but the cold and stoic as ice.

The blacksmith's father worked on the designs for a year and created a fearsome armor of leather and hide.  Then a quiver and bow fastened from a dying tree, wrapped in snakeskin as black as a harlot's sin.   He made him a host of arrows, crimson as blood, frocked with the feathers of a feeding buzzard as meticulously instructed.  Finally, he forged a sword of onyx steel, etched with bronze that radiated like the sun over spring waters.  It was a terrifying blade, with flame like wings and a horned head completing its pommel.    The blade was so sharp that it sliced through every scabbard until a sheath of a strange membrane was carefully crafted to house its edge.  

When completed the blacksmith's father sent for the armament's owner, but he never returned.  Instead, several months later a letter arrived in his place.  The only words written, in a barely discernible dialect, were the darkest night will make bring evil its proper due.

He told me he held onto the armor, storing it away from sight, too afraid to destroy it, and never believing he truly could.  You see it was a time when superstition and folly were far more powerful than sense and science.   I asked him to show it to me, and he agreed, but reluctantly so.  

As he removed it from its musty crate, the wind changed and a chill traveled like a slow mist, rolling through the haggard shack and through our bones.   I asked him, if his father every named his creation, as many sentimental blacksmiths do.  He said yes but then paused.   After an agonizing moment of silence he whispered, "it is the soul of the bat."  You see, the area was plagued with such vermin.  Many diseases and hardships were thoughtlessly blamed upon their gruesome presence.   They were feared throughout the region as agents of retribution and spirits haunting the sins of man.   The armor had such an appearance of these creatures in texture and contour that it only made sense to make such a comparison.

I asked if I might try it on and shockingly he agreed with warning, though.  He seemed fearful that this lot of leather and skins could somehow contain a dark power.   Ignoring his nonsense, I proceeded, eerily realizing that it was a perfect fit.  As I donned the final piece, a helmet with sharp, angled ears, black as coal, I came to understand its true purpose.  This was the wear of a man with a dire agenda.  I removed the sword from its scabbard as it purred with a metallic glee.  It was lightweight, well balanced, and with each stroke I could sense its devious bite.

"That is the armor of someone who owns the night," the blacksmith wearily remarked,  “someone whose weapon is the very bleakness that surrounds him."

As I returned the winged blade to its home my heart and mind filled with an undeniable intent.   Weapons and armor have weaknesses, no matter how well forged and sewn.  Soldiers are fallible, no matter how well trained and disciplined.   But those who see a device in the things that haunt our existence, those are warriors who have found a craft that has no flaw, armor that has no weak link or vulnerable seam.   No one is without fear.  You see it was a time where superstition and folly ruled the thoughts of even the most callous men.
It would only be days before the monsters who descended upon us would consume those who wandered without a home.  It would take me less to catch up under the shroud of evening and silence.   Justice would dance on the knife's edge of dusk and dawn.    But what is justice but ordained revenge.  If a man is to overcome such men of violence, whose souls have been stolen by their own corruption and brutish amorous, he must become something that those who terrify fear.  No simple task.  But then again, survival, perseverance never has been.

Within a second, with one simple glare, the blacksmith knew the determination, designation of my soul.  Without a word spoken, he provided me the only horse left among the ruin and rubble of dreams and heritage.  With a single nod, our agreement had been made, covenant born.    He gathered some crucial wares in his vesicles as I gathered my quiver and bow.  It would be a long night's journey, and we knew time was not our ally.  But neither weather, wear, nor worry would prevent us.

You see you cannot cheat fate at her own game, but she is a curious mistress, who will bid you well if it so amuses her.  Let us see if this night, she is in a jocular mood.

I am Alexander Wayne, and what I do tonight, I do so my son, and his sons and their sons will never have to.

I am Alexander Wayne...

I am a husband.
I am a father.
I was a man of war.
I was a man of death.
I became a man of the earth.
Then a man of justice.
I was a dead man.
I was a lost man.
Now I will be the one thing I must be to bring horror to the stony hearts of the wicked.
To save those who cannot save themselves.

Before tonight, I was the man Alexander Wayne.
Now I am...The Bat Man!

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