A. J. Darkholme

Author, Poet, Artist, Philosopher

Most notable work:
The Morningstar Chronicles
(Novel, Series)

The Introvert

The Morningstar Chronicles: Part I
Rise of the Morningstar


(Opens in Goodreads)
(Opens in Goodreads)

Prologue  |  Chapter Seventeen: The Silence  |  Chapter Forty-Five: Fragile Alliances


Chapter One: The Dark King

To those who search for change, the abnormal, and the trite, you need no longer be abased by the powers that be, for the redemption you seek is but a choice away. Cast down the cloak of your past; free yourself from its woollen fibres of pain and circumstance, for where I will lead you, it is much too heavy to go on carrying any longer. Whatever you have been dragged through, know that mediocrity isn’t a marinade for the soul; it doesn’t become you the longer you sink into the quicksand of what you believe you can’t change. The sooner you believe that — the sooner you heed my words — the sooner mediocrity will abandon its throne and be banished from your mind, and your life, forever.

I warn you: the darkened tale you’re about to hear does not end in “happily ever after” — the words so many hold dear. I shan’t abstain from the truth, but know that what lies within contaminates the innocent mind and advocates for the acidulous taste of a grand revolution not everyone is ready for. But they are of no matter; The Unprepared are not your concern. The time for talk is over and the spotlight has fallen to you. This is your one chance to take what’s yours — to do what you’re here to do.

My journey began just a few years ago in a kingdom that no one ever explicitly named. Why? Because there is power in a name, and as long as no utterance came to define it, the idea of it could never be reduced to mere sounds and symbols. It was more than that. Different. An anomaly created among the other kingdoms to be a safe haven for The Uncorrupted… at least, that’s what the historical texts told us. None of us really knew for sure how different or “uncorrupted” we were, because none of us had ever been allowed outside the kingdom walls before.

I’d lived in that kingdom my whole life, going about my days as a typical citizen since the day I was born. Everywhere I looked, everyone was the same; their personalities, only slight deviations from the generic human template of blank, lifeless, habitual existence — living each day like they’d already lived it before. They worked day-in and day-out, living to survive, but not much more than that. Of course, they had social lives to try and help make their existence marginally more interesting, but even those only seemed to be fuelled by their repetitive dissatisfactions with the world around them. Over time, such things defined what life meant to them. What life was to them. What was once innocent conversation meant to connect with others, turned into a paradigm shift that led them to squander their potential for true happiness away like the generations before them. They learned to accept things as they were, rife with dissatisfaction, and soon after that, began to simply… exist. But it’s not enough to merely exist. I know that now. And it was all because of the only one who stood out to be any different: our “Dark King”, Lucaius — the immortal one, himself. His existence intrigued me, because I knew his existence was one the history books would never forget…

He was at the peak of his power, then and always, commanding a supernatural supremacy so great, that no army could ever hope to stand against him. Lucaius was untouchable — the kind that mere mortals couldn’t threaten, nor object to, even if they had all the forces in the world at their disposal. But curiously enough, we had never seen him use that power to attack the other kingdoms — only to shape and maintain his own. Manipulating our world exactly as he saw fit.

And so it was.

An ocean of darkness surrounded our kingdom as far as the eye could see. A light fog hazed the air while impenetrable storm clouds painted thick the heavy skies above. We had never seen the sun; what history books called the “day” had always been kept hidden from us, bound in eternal submission to the night for reasons none of us knew. The land I called home did not feel like home at all, but a prison self-exiled from all illumination and warmth. As I grew up, I was taught to simply accept the darkness that never abated below those sombre skies, as if we were powerless to do anything about it. Forced to watch the shadows crawl along the ground at all hours of the day as they made their way back to the Dark One, no more free of the cycle than we were. Under that kind of suppression, you’d think the others would take notice and rise up, but no one ever did. We saw ourselves as individuals without power or influence. Even when we were given words of hope, they held no more power than Fear’s little finger, but what’s more… we loved Lucaius for it. It was as if Stockholm Syndrome was in the air and no one thought to hold their breath. The more powerful he became, the more we glorified him, for under his rule, we knew our kingdom was protected from our enemies. But not all enemies we need protection from attack us from outside our walls; sometimes the most dangerous ones already dwell within…

Despite my status as a pawn, I did not see myself as one, unlike the others. Lucaius’ power stirred within my thoughts like a breeze of insight tossing about the problematic clouds of possibility. Clouds that continued to clutter my mind with every waking moment. He had total awareness and control over his destiny — a control any of us could only wish we had over our own. His existence was not one of merely existing, but one of inspiration, if only everyone would’ve opened their eyes to it and convinced themselves to be worthy and capable of having it as well. Perhaps the skies over that kingdom were a lot like the eyes of our potential that reside deep within us: closing off a world of light simply because it’s too bright after having lived in, and accepted, the darkness for so long. I would look up to the sky sometimes and wonder what the sun looked like on the other side; how lonely and pained it would feel if its memories could fall back to the lark’s serenades of sunrises past. But renouncing thoughts like that became a part of everyday life; a practice so common, so accepted, that we not only dwelled in darkness, but became it as well — a “Dark Kingdom” for a dark people whose light had gone out long ago.

But let not the darkness mislead you, for though its connotations are often mistaken for evil, Lucaius was anything but. A king like that would have been easy to hate, and summoning forces against him, even easier. No… he was too kind — too important to our survival as a whole. Whether such kindness was really in his nature or an elaborate illusion, I couldn’t be sure; the true reasons behind his actions were always unclear at best. Though no one knew him personally — though very few ever saw him — we somehow felt comfortable under his rule, for Lucaius was just. Alleviating us of our troubles. Providing a blanket of security no kingdom’s army could ever breach. We were safe from our enemies as long as he reigned over us, and our well-being seemed to mean a great deal to him. But, like a confident and wise father to his needy children, he did not simply give us everything we wanted, nor grant us wealth beyond belief like he easily could have. Instead, it looked as if the Dark King felt that a satisfying life was not dependent on such things, but upon the value of ‘love’ and ‘purpose’: empty shells of sentiment that did little to keep the clothes on our backs and food in our bellies.

It didn’t make sense to me at first; why would a king provide for his people in this way, but shun the light and banish them to only darkness? Or want love and happiness for them, yet become a faceless recluse with no warm relationship with those he provides for? For all I knew, we were experiments of a dark, cruel mind, each given life only long enough to believe we controlled our own destiny until it would be snatched away in one superhuman, genocidal sweep. I’m not one to trust easily, but I’m wise enough to know that we all have an inborn hunger for knowledge and truth, and if we don’t uncover the truth we seek in a reasonable amount of time, our minds construct their own truths, and we act upon those delusions instead. However, such acts-of-hunger have cost many their hands, tongues, heads, or reputations, because decisions were made based on what was assumed instead of what actually was.

I valued my head and reputation, so I sought the truth — first and foremost — to see what more I could uncover. Embracing mythical tales and genuine history alike, I unearthed all the books and stories I could that I believed would help me trace the Dark King’s immortality back through the ages — no easy task, since books and historical documents were considered to be works of deception, stigmatized by the sightless realists who held positions of influence behind our walls. What I did find, however, suggested that the Dark King was not always a child of Eternity, but rather an average man from long, long ago:


“...A time when the majestic Rocs, with sanctified splendour, blessed the sky with their wings and the world with their magnificent shadows. It was said that nothing was more awe-inspiring than seeing the giant, magical birds flying high above the golden sun-lit clouds as they watched over all the kingdoms of the world from high up in their heavenly aeries, ascending to heights where even the gods couldn’t touch them. They reigned over all with a reverence far from contested, and under their care, the world flourished and became a true paradise — one where peace resonated among its inhabitants in perfect harmony.

That harmony was born anew each morning: the Great Ones would awaken, rise with the sun at the crack of dawn, and spread their wings to take in its life-giving energy; then, when their magical feathers could hold no more of its warmth and radiance, the Rocs would fly down to the mortal world below, releasing the sun’s resplendence over every living creature until all had felt exactly as they had felt. Providing for our ancestors like no other could.

That utopia, however, only lasted for so long.

It is said that while gliding through the updrafts high above the land one day, a Roc noticed smoke coming from the ground. Curious, it flew in to investigate the oddity, only to find that three beams of the sun had been bent — deviously refocused upon the ground so as to trap a family of three in raging flames so they could not escape. The Roc plunged to the fields below as quickly as it could to save them. It grabbed the child, but the boy had already suffered incredible burns to every inch of his body. By the time it rescued the boy, however, his parents had fallen upon a fate much less fortunate. The almighty bird looked back to the boy who was struggling to breathe, knowing that if it left the human baby, it would die with no one to take care of it. And so, with great internal conflict, the Roc brought him back to the aeries where no human had ever been before.

That boy was named Lucaius.

Orphaned under Fate’s care, the magical birds decided to raise him as their own in the Sky Kingdom, each giving up a fraction of their power to be transferred to an amulet they created for the boy. Ritual after ritual was performed, activating the amulet’s supernatural healing, until soon after, no trace of the boy’s burns remained. The amulet had reconstructed the young one’s body, but in doing so, unintentionally infused him with their magic and immortality. It was a consequence unheard of in any of the realms, least of all, Earth.

Seeing that blasphemy, the eternal Spirit of Light, Lux, did not respond so kindly. He visited the Rocs of the Earthly Realm and arbitrated that giving mortals such power was irreverent of all those whose bloodlines had always transcended time itself — but the Rocs defended the boy as their own, and embraced compassion over tradition.

Lux was infuriated.

As the days went on, the Spirit of Light became more adversarial and mischievous, even masquerading as the sun and adding chaos to an otherwise peaceful realm. It wasn’t long before his malevolence grew beyond the bounds of Fate’s protection, however, and once Lux was convinced that his trickery and schemes were not going to sway the Rocs from their decision, he conceived a vengeful plan of rebalance to make things right again.

One fateful morning, as the Rocs assembled where the dusk waits for the dawn, ready to rise with the sun as they had every morning before, a swirling inferno suddenly lashed out from the Beaming Star of Deceit, striking them with blazing bullwhips that deafened them, choked them out mercilessly, and tore apart every last one until the sky fell motionless and every feather had trickled from the heavens to the earth below. Without the Rocs to bring the sun’s nurturing energy to the world each morning, the world lost its ability to live abundantly, and all soon fell to dust, withering away as Lux continued to scorch the earth in a fiery apocalypse. The destruction was intended to kill not only the boy, but everyone else as well… a fiery death to make right again in his eyes what the Rocs had blemished beyond redemption.

Believing he had succeeded, Lux eventually left the Earthly Realm and returned to the space that exists between our world and the next. In the years following, though much of the Earth was barely able to sustain itself, the Dark One, Lucaius, emerged from the ashes and used his power to help rebuild the land — a place where the people could live in peace once more. For a time, he did his best to provide the world with light, as the Rocs used to for humanity, and for him, but the more he travelled the lands sharing its warmth, the more destruction he saw. The more he was reminded of all he had lost. All that had been taken from him. All the atrocities the Spirit of Light had caused.

Then one day, something within him turned. His sadness decayed into anger, and his memories to bitterness. In a windstorm of rage, he rejected any and all forms of light, plunged the world into darkness, sealed up the skies, and pledged himself to an ever-present night. He did everything he could to tame his vengeance from that day on, vowing to never lose those he cared about ever again. His magic intensified as the days grew darker, consuming him with an obsession so absolutely that he left no part of the world untouched. New, lush forests were erected that could survive without light. In the fields, he created beasts so exceptional, that they produced offspring faster than the people could eat, so no one was ever hungry. The beasts were made gentle, and understanding, freely giving of themselves without attacking those who came to them for food. Lucaius provided for his people, as if they were his own, and though the darkness consumed his heart, the others could not help but be drawn to him. He became a father to the fatherless; the figurehead of a new era for all humanity. At least for what humanity could have been; in time, though his benevolence was enough to provide for all who came to him equally, and in good measure, the people lost sight of how good he had made life for them. It wasn’t long before they demanded he establish a hierarchy among them, so that the strong may have certain privileges that the weak should not — that the intelligent deserved recognition for their intelligence, and should not be treated the same as the others.

Lucaius despised what their hearts had become in spite of all he had given them, and banished the disgraceful people from his sight. Humanity had become greedy. In just a short amount of time, their greed had evolved faster than the self-sustaining paradise he had made for them, giving birth to pride, as well as envy, sloth, gluttony, wrath, and lust. Not all were consumed by these deadly sins, however; those who were not, became his chosen ones — people rescued who showed promise and moral restraint. Those ones, he took away to safety, but those he left behind were not so lucky, for the hierarchy they craved so much, would soon come at a very high price...

They began to form their own kingdoms, grouping with one another according to the sins that enslaved them most, but it wasn’t long before they found themselves at odds with one another. War broke out among the lands, consuming Lucaius’ paradise with complete and utter sacrilege. He had seen all-too-clearly what men had become despite having everything they needed, but rather than standing idly by, he took action. In a last-ditch effort to protect and preserve those who were not consumed by their inner evils, he took it upon himself to construct his own kingdom. And what a magnificent kingdom it was...”


That kingdom is where my story begins.

Ever since the day the Dark King supposedly took it upon himself to protect the good of humanity, he kept himself removed from it. Some nights I would climb trees so that I could look up into his throne room window when the moonlight illuminated it just enough to catch a glimpse inside. And every time I did, there he was: slouched upon his throne, alone in an otherwise empty castle, staring deep into what I assumed was the amulet the Rocs had crafted for him. It was rumoured that the amulet had stopped working the day the last of the almighty Rocs had died, but perhaps it still served a new function unbeknownst to us all. For all I knew, it was a clock counting down to our elimination. And yet, the way he looked at it — the way he gazed into it longingly — perhaps it really was no more than a psychological painkiller for the emotional abyss he felt inside — a way for his memories to comfort him as the Rocs did once upon a time.

If those tales were true, it seemed unlikely that the Dark King would want to bring harm to his people, but I didn’t know that for sure. I hadn’t yet been given a reason to believe he wanted to harm us, but I saw no point in waiting around for that time to come. By then, it could have been too late. To go on living an insignificant life in the shadow of someone who could enslave all humanity or kill them with the subtlest of gestures, was not a shadow I wanted to live in willingly.  Something had to be done. Balance had to be restored. In a world of over-confident, unstable people, no one should wield that much power over another — especially over me. He may have been a rose in the eyes of the townsfolk, but even roses have thorns — it’s only a matter of time before you get pricked and the red petals no longer remind you of its beauty, but of the pain and the blood it drew so unapologetically from your skin. As a lowly carpenter with no specialized training, I didn’t know how to fight, let alone slay an immortal so I could restore a proper balance of power to the world. Plots like those only exist in myths and fairy tales. I was certainly no hero; I had nothing to offer the world except my sense of duty and determination — but little did I know, that’s all I would need…

Prologue  |  Chapter Seventeen: The Silence  |  Chapter Forty-Five: Fragile Alliances

Like how A. J. Darkholme writes?

Want to read more?

Donate your support or buy Rise of the Morningstar today!

I'd like to make a donation

© Copyright 2011, Mistero. All rights reserved.