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)
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Prologue  |  Chapter One: The Dark King  |  Chapter Forty-Five: Fragile Alliances


Chapter Seventeen: The Silence

“What did he mean by ‘ranked above even myself?” I asked her as we continued walking back to her tent, the little girl holding her hand. “Isn’t Blackheart the leader of The Silence?”

“In The Silence, we all take on the roles at which we are best. It helps us grow as a group and maintain our strength as a whole. Blackheart’s strength is driven by his ambition, allowing him to excel at organization, strategy and other tactical scenarios. When our services become necessary, he plans our entrance, attack, and escape based on our strengths as he observes us in our daily routines. He can hold his own in combat, but he is only ranked third among us, just after Issachar, the one with the scarred face who brought you here. In a sense, Blackheart is our figurehead, but even still, we are a group of assassins, and the strong will always rule the weak.”

“So you’re the actual leader of the group, then? What’s your role among them?”

“In a sense, yes. I have earned my place and respect within the group, but we have no real leader among us. We work together as a cohesive unit; I excel at many things, but choose to specialize where my passion lies — in shadow combat. All other matters are better left to those with a high-functioning capability and passion for what they do well. That way, we stay content as individuals, and when individuals are content and feel valued and feel purpose within a group, the group is more effective and efficient as a whole.

However, though we each have our strengths, our collective strength as a group lies not in trying to improve and perfect those strengths, but our weaknesses. That is why we make sure to train with at least one other member every day. What is your greatest strength, Morningstar?”
“I’m not sure. I was a carpenter, but I guess you could say I’m good at reading people... why?”

“Good; then we’ll start with basic combat tomorrow. It’s human nature to focus on what we’re good at and try to ignore the areas in which we lack. However, you improve most as an individual when you try to improve your weaknesses, rather than enhance your strengths. Take archers, for example; Asher, the flirtatious girl with the bow you were admiring earlier? Her strength is archery. Now, she can train and train for months or years, but as she improves, she will only get millimetres closer to the bulls-eye over time. Millimetres. Now say you take someone who is skilled with the sword and put a bow in their hands; they become an amateur archer who will likely miss the bulls-eye by a few metres. But in a matter of hours or days, they will improve their skill with the bow, shooting arrows a few centimetres or metres closer than moments before. Metres. It follows that by concentrating on improving your weaknesses, you make more notable progress in your well-roundedness as an individual in less time than if you only try to improve your strengths.”

“Interesting,” I mumbled, deep in thought, taken by her eloquence. She was definitely someone whose teachings I would gladly become an extension of. “I’d never thought about it like that; it makes sense, actually. So will you be teaching me combat?”

“A certain type of combat, yes. It’s called shadow combat, where you disillusion your opponent with their own skills through the use of combat trickery, subtle poisons, and confusion of the senses. But you are a long way from mastering that — first you must learn the basics, that is, our mores and paradigms. All that we are, begins with the Code of Silence.”

“Don’t assassins become assassins and rebels because they don’t want to abide by a set of rules?”

“For some, yes, but we are all creatures in need of structure and belonging, whether we fight that fact or not. However, our set of rules, or Code, is not your traditional framework telling you what you cannot do, and how you will be punished, but rather something more contrasting. Those kinds of rule-sets give rise to unhappiness that can give birth to anarchy under the right conditions. However, neither can exist when the individual sees the clear, personal benefit of abiding by those rules. To learn and follow rules should bring a feeling of possibility, not limitation. With possibility comes choice. From choice, direction. From direction, purpose. And from purpose, satisfaction. Once an individual has achieved satisfaction or happiness with their life, they aren’t prone to delinquency and acts of rebellion, as when they are told what they cannot do. Instead, they focus on improvement — first of the self, and then that of others.”

“And the Code of Silence can achieve all that for me?” I trailed-off with open-minded disbelief.

“What I tell you is truth, whether you choose to believe it or not. It is not up to me to convince you, but for you to experience its truth in your life for yourself.”

“I trust you. I guess it’s just a lot to take in at once, especially when you’ve thought a certain way for decades and one day you hear the words you were meant to hear all along. It’s difficult though, because once you hear them, you feel this… temporary dissonance and discomfort, like light being seen through eyes that have been blindfolded for years — like how I was this morning when exiting the tent. It hurts at first, but it’s a life-changing pain. I feel it already, but it’ll take some getting used to.”

“Precisely. You have a way with words, I see,” she said as the three of us entered her large tent. “That will come in handy in the right situations. If you are ready to endure this ‘life-changing pain’ you speak of, then I believe you are ready to learn our ethos through the Code of Silence. The seven tenets are as follows:

‘Pursue knowledge; possess it and you will command the world;
Maintain secrecy; separate yourself from your opponents;
Consolidate power; embrace strengths and improve weaknesses;
Enhance reputation; teach each other to grow ever stronger;
Seek counsel; learn from the experiences of others;
Create unity; act to unite the world, not divide it;
Trust yourself; let instinct transcend all.’
At our meetings, we also repeat the esoteric Maxim of Silence:
‘By seeking knowledge, I have freed myself; by freeing myself, I have freed the world.’

The first tenet, pursue knowledge, reflects the idea that everything we need to know is out there somewhere, fragmented — everything from the solution to our most basic problem, to the secrets of our evolution as a species toward ultimate prosperity, truth, and planetary dominance. Some pieces have yet to be found while others already have been found, but are known to only a select few — kept secret for various reasons. A wise choice, according to the second tenet.

The second, maintain secrecy, shows the importance of knowledge as its possession relates to others. We develop as a race by sharing beneficial knowledge so that we may grow as a whole, but as we grow, it is human nature to desire a suitable and just structure or social hierarchy capable of supporting it. It is at this point that all the knowledge you have gained — the value you have contributed —determines your place among its hierarchy. Your place or rank with respect to the others grants you power and influence: things that should be obtained not for means of greed, nor pride, nor ego, but rather to ensure that in the right moment, when your wisdom and benevolence are required to keep humanity strong and united, you can deliver and orchestrate others toward the greater good.

Consolidate power is our third tenet, about embracing your strengths, but also improving your weaknesses. The reason for this is represented in the story of the bowmaster and the swordsman working on their archery skills I mentioned earlier. In doing so, you will diversify your skills, preparing you for more situations faster and more efficiently than perfecting strengths that are already sufficient.

Our fourth, enhance reputation, refers to the reputation of The Silence as a whole. It is our name, and a name is only as good as its reputation. To kill a member would not kill the name, the same way to kill us all would not erase all it has come to represent through its reputation. Therefore, it is a form of legacy left behind for future generations who will uphold its meaning through their actions. As such, the skills we possess, be it combat, cooking, or trickery, should be shared among its members as if tonight was your last night alive and you wanted to pass the torch to ensure a piece of you echoes throughout history. The more we teach each other, the stronger, effective, and more united we become.

The fifth tenet is to seek counsel. Though we are all skilled and experienced in many ways, no one can experience all that life has to offer in the limited time we are given in this world. This is why we must humble ourselves before the other members, regardless of our rank, so we may learn from what others have lived. It is only when we have added their expertise to our own that we can truly excel towards our most ambitious goals and reach our fullest potential.

The sixth tenet speaks of unification. It is an ever-present reminder that our actions, no matter how important or trivial, should reflect our devotion to the advancement of humankind by bringing them together. It also serves as an evaluator of one’s true motivation: if your heart, mind, and actions are selfish, they will ultimately divide yourself, others, or entire kingdoms. When motivation is pure and selfless, it will result in helping bring others together, be it through a kind gesture or a necessary ‘purification’ of evil.

And finally, the seventh tenet acknowledges the connection the mind has to the unseen world around us. It tells you to trust yourself. Premonitions, foresight, intuition, visions — all of these show you a glimpse of what is to come, or how things could be, so that you can change it, if you so choose. They transcend training, instruction, and experience, and should be yielded to when they present themselves. We know not where they come from, why, or even how they choose us, but only that they did — and when you believe that there are other forces at work beyond what you alone can control, that is all the justification you need to allow them to speak to you, and act through you.

Learn these, and let their wisdom guide you always; disenchant your mind from all it believes is true. The way the tenets work is unique to every individual; once they take root inside you, they will tell you exactly what you need to know in every situation. You will be granted insight through them and therefore have an edge over your opponents. Our Secret Order has lasted centuries with these tenets to enlighten us; listen to them, and you shall grow to be one truly admired — and feared.

Do you have any questions?”

“I think I’ll need to reflect upon and memorize these first. You’ve given me more to think about in a short time than I’ve had to think about my whole life... and I like it. I feel like I live in a whole new world, like everything is different somehow: more obscure, like I know less about what I thought I knew, but at the same time like the blinders have been pulled off, and things are only now starting to make sense. And I crave more.”

“That’s a good thing. This new hunger for knowledge you’re experiencing is what we in The Silence call ‘The Presight’; your eyes have opened, but like the long-closed, blindfolded eyes you mentioned opening to the light for the first time, it will take some time to adjust. Right now, you can only see a haze of light, but in time, you will distinctively see and know what lies before you.

Tonight we will be joining the others around the fire for your induction into our ranks. They will cover the seven tenets, but I have explained them to you beforehand so you can focus on the true reason they have brought you before them: you are not just learning our customs. The others will watch you, analyze you, sense your abilities — and more importantly, test your weaknesses. You have proven yourself to us today through terms and circumstances that not everyone believes is an accurate representation and justification of your true capabilities. ‘Blind luck’, if you will. You must show them otherwise. My advice: act, don’t react. Let your words and actions set the conversational environment, lest others ensnare you by theirs.”

“I understand. I will ensnare them before they ensnare me,” I expressed, thinking I knew what she meant.

“Try not to see things in terms of ‘ensnare or be ensnared’, but rather ask yourself how you can remove the snares altogether. Consider the outcomes: if you ensnare them, you will make an enemy out of a potential ally; if they ensnare you, you will show them not only that they can have power over you, but that they have your consent as well. Peace is not made through the exertion of one’s strength, but through the appearance of it; let your enemies see you are their better, but never feel as if they are your lesser, and you will make allies out of enemies.”

I nodded, folding back the tent flap as the little girl walked on through, still holding Naphtali’s hand tightly. “I’ll do my best to make you proud tonight, master. You have my word.”


Prologue  |  Chapter One: The Dark King  |  Chapter Forty-Five: Fragile Alliances

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