Tuesday, July 26, 2016

My name is Alexander Wayne.

I was a soulless warrior a lifetime ago, a man treading through fields of blood, crushing the bones and souls of my enemies beneath my boots.  My sword and bow have taken more lives than memory is able to recount.  Once a peasant farmer, I swore allegiance to a royal, a soldier for a noble king.  For years I fought his foes with a fury and skill unmatched.  In the smoke and screams of a last dreadful battle, I turned away from my life as a ranger.

I wandered in isolation, tormented with the constant guilt of the lives spent by my hand.  Just as the voices of the damned nearly devoured me, the sweet song of an angel delivered my soul.  I made her my wife, as undeserving of her love that I was.  She bore me a son, William, and we made a life together among the soil and stalk of a new realm.    Only she knew my secret, all else saw me as a simple farmer, nothing more, nothing less.  My past finally left in its proper place, remembered only in the darkest tremors of the coldest, sleepless nights.
But nothing good ever lasts forever.

You can never cheat fate at her own game.

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 as the shed innocent blood with each maddening whim.   Only the poverty of our hamlet protected us for a brief, precious while from their gold and blood lust.
A wealthy provincial prince took lordship over our lands, purchasing grain at a farthing of its true value from his newly acquired and downtrodden serfs.   Upon an excursion to survey his realm he was ambushed by marauders, thirsty for the wealth of his blood and purse.   As fate would have it, I happened along to witness the brutality, and because of an accursed 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.  If I were to become his peasant magistrate, he would purchase our wares at full worth for as long as he ruled.  I agreed, and that sacrifice brought a prosperity never known by that dirty little shanty town.

A legend spread of an unknown savior, striking without warning out of the darkness of night.  A tale born from my boorish mistake in saving a man whose existence was a silent obscenity to his people.   In a time of unrelenting superstition and folly, fables are far stronger than any gauntlet, guard, or garrison.  A definitive, seemingly impervious peace reigned for a time.

But nothing good lasts forever.

 You can never cheat fate at her own game.

A rival lord, vicious and vile of heart, sought to take the land.  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.  They soon reached the borders of our small, unassuming hamlet.  Our sovereign, terrified of his own shadow, rallied the troops to protect his royal assets, 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.  Even I succumbed to the sheer brutality of their mindless violence, despite my legacy of combat.  Left to die among the burning fields and shacks; the families of the slaughtered fled to the hills.  My angel and child followed, grievingly unaware of my labored breaths lost among the stench and howl of death.

Several long days later, a local blacksmith returned to salvage that which wasn't seized or destroyed.  He found me and brought my broken body to what remained of his shack.   There he nursed me back to health while repairing the hovel that represented a lifetime’s wasted work.    When I was well enough, he told me of what had become of my family.  They, like the rest, had become impoverished nomads, wandering the mountain treks, tracked and hunted by the brutes who had savaged our home.  I knew I needed to find them, but what good what it do; to merely die together instead of alone, amidst the shadow of the mountain under a frigid winter's sky.  

That is when the blacksmith told me the tale of a man who had come to our village long before I arrived.  During one of the darkest and dankest evenings, the stranger visited his father to commission a very special suit of armor and weapons.  His semblance was baleful, but a light of justice flickered like red ember in his eyes.  He paid the blacksmith's father in foreign gold, presenting him with a withered and aged piece of parchment containing all the designs.  Its bizarre language, unlike any he had seen, with etchings glistened when bathed in moonlight.  It took months just to decipher what he could to fulfill the foreboding request.

The blacksmith's father worked for a full year, creating a fearsome aegis of leather and hide.  Then a bow hewed from an ancient tree, tightly wrapped in snakeskin, black as a harlot's sin.   Next, a host of arrows, stained crimson as blood, frocked with the feathers of a raven.

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 adorning its hilt and a horned head for a pommel.  The edge was so sharp, it sliced through every scabbard he fashioned until crafting a sheath of a strange membrane one that he never explained to his son.  

When completed, the blacksmith's father sent for the armament's owner, but the stranger never returned.  Instead, several months later, a letter arrived in his stead.  The only words written, in a barely discernible dialect, were the darkest night will bring evil its proper due.  The blacksmith stored the armor, too afraid to destroy it, and secretly believing he could not even if he tried.

I asked him to show it to me, and he agreed, but reluctantly so.  

As he emancipated it from its musty crate, the wind changed and a chill traveled like a slow mist, rolling through the haggard shack and 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."

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, spirits haunting the sins of man.  The armor had an unmistakable appearance of these reviled creatures, so its mantle made morbid sense.

I asked if I might try it on and shockingly he conceded, but with an ominous warning.  He seemed fearful that this lot of leather and mysterious hides 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.  It purred with a metallic glee as it was freed.  The blade was unnervingly lightweight and balanced, 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 greatest weapon is the very bleakness that surrounds him."

I returned the winged blade to its home.  My heart and mind filled with an undeniable intent.   Arms and armor have weaknesses, no matter how well forged.  Soldiers are fallible, despite the veracity of training and discipline.  Those who possess devices sewn in the things that haunt our existence, however, are warriors who have found a flawless craft, aegis without weak link or vulnerable seam.   Fear is a mighty weapon.  No one is immune to its sting and stab, especially in a time when superstition and folly ruled the thoughts of even the most callous men.
It would be days before the monsters that descended upon our village would overrun those who wandered futility without home or hope.  It would take me less to intercede under the shroud of evening and silence.  Justice could dance on my knife's edge before dusk and dawn met for their sacred moment.

This was not merely justice, this is an ordained vengeance.  If one is to overcome men of such violence, whose souls have been stolen by corruption and brutish amorous, he must become something that those who terrify, fear.

No simple task.

Then again, survival 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 amongst the ruin and rubble of dreams and heritage.  A single nod validated our agreement, birthing a dark covenant.   He gathered some crucial wares.  It would be a long night's journey, and we knew time was not our ally, but neither weather, wear, or 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, will never have to.

I am Alexander Wayne...
I am a husband.
I am a father.
I was a man of war.
I became a man of the earth.
My past has become present.
Death robbed of its claim.
I have been reborn on the cusp of oblivion.
Now, I will bring horror to the stony hearts of the wicked.
To save those who cannot save themselves.

Tonight, Alexander Wayne becomes what evil fears.

Tonight he becomes…The Batman!

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