Rise of the Ravenborn
PART ONE: MARUNATH VALLEY
No matter how you look at it, whether welcome or dreaded, no one can truly grasp the feeling of life slipping away from you. The knowledge of closing your eyes and not waking up again instills with an icy yet burning rush that numbs your feet and blocks your mind.
I guess it is the fear of the unknown, they say. Such is death for all of us; humanity's entropy. Indeed, mankind might one day manage to overcome their greatest obstacle but one thing was certain: It was not in my time.
I was born the eldest of my siblings, the first of three. Life was easy until my second year and 10 months when my first brother was born. I had all the attention, all the correction and education coming from my parents until that changed the moment he came, for then I became part of the educating party. My parents expected me to become the exemplar of their values and the foremost champion of their cause.
"You are expected to know better." they said, "You are the oldest, you are supposed to behave like a grown man."
For the entirety of my life, my heart adopted a motto: 'Avoid conflict and you will find love. People will cherish you if you simply never meddle in their affairs.'
Thus, I took on myself never to confront people, never to complain, never to seek to put my will against others. That included never standing up to my parents, even if I strongly disagreed, even when I hit puberty and I began expanding my views on this world and the gap between our positions regarding different fields grew wider, I refused to engage in the emotionally exhausting undertaking of debate.
I did that for a short span of 17 years until my uneventful death.
You see, everyone's philosophy and ideals are meant to eventually be challenged, even one as pacifist as mine, for there are people and circumstances that would oppose them, no matter what. It is here that your mettle is tested.
I was walking through the catwalk, like any normal, law-abiding citizen. It was almost midnight, and I had just come out of a recent book presentation my city was so blessed to have held. The intention of the author to do it escaped me completely, but nevertheless I was glad. I had bought a small beverage to keep me awake and alert in the midst of a territory I had alienated from me since forever. However, the growing volume of a scuffle in the vicinity caught my attention despite my efforts to not listen to it.
Bodies intertwined, one above the other, or at least that's what it sounded like. The little dialog heard gave enough material for my imagination to run wild.
"Stop fighting me! Just let this happen!" one said with deep and violent tones.
"Ah! No...!" said the other, desperate and vested with despair.
By now, it was obvious. My life-long philosophy, the self-taught condition of not partaking in any sort of conflict advised me to just walk away. For a second my steps re-directed their course back into their initial, safe journey.
The scuffle continued.
Even now, I cannot comprehend what took me. The voice of conflict began not with someone else but within me. Such betrayal!
Now my steps changed course, finding myself before the scene. It was disgusting to say the least. A man on top of a woman, forcing himself on her like a hungering animal looking to feast. The woman kept fighting, moving legs and arms as best as she could, her mouth covered in a greasy and furry hand. I could not see neither's faces for I faced them from behind.
In a blitz, the woman shushed, giving in before silent threats the man confided unto her. For some reason, that was the signal to my attack. My legs moved on their own and before I even rationalized what had happened, I was over the man like a desperate feline. Here, my sound mind and stalwart heart failed me, for my body acted in open rebellion. I scratched, punched, and kicked as best as I could. Yes, my eyes could see how a different man took over my body.
"The f- get off me you piece of..." The man could not even phrase as he was robbed of his triumphant moment, the woman regained strength and fought again, freeing herself from the weight and strength of the attacker that was distracted by an unknown ambusher. She stood up, undressed as she was, and did not think twice as she disappeared behind the next corner in the street and into public view. All I ultimately heard from her was a cry that faded as she distanced herself from her attacker and her would-be savior.
I smiled in contempt. I had accomplished my goal. My damsel in distress was safe. However, I immediately regretted my decision, for a man who towered over me, casting a shadow upon the poor street light, was blocking my exit. It was too late when I saw the end of his grip: a knife reflected incandescent, golden light from the catwalk--the light of my destiny.
The next minutes I remember not, for the crushing fever of a mental breakdown flooded my thoughts, nullifying any form of concentration. The man thrust the knife in and out my body with little resistance. What could a bookworm like me do in a dire situation as that? This was not raping anymore, it was a murder in all its splendor. I could feel the stranger's hate in every stab. The irony was that I had read a book about martial arts, the whole series in fact, yet I had never conceived that my life, as devoid of conflict as it was, would face such a test. It was a test that I would fail, for the first time in my life, and it would cost me my life.
The attack was quick enough, for the man gave in moments after. I was already on the ground at that time, unable to breathe and to move. All strength had abandoned me and my eyes were the only functional members in my body as even them began to forsake me. All I saw before finally closing my eyes was the man I had foiled walk away. Was his bloodlust satisfied? Furthermore, was the woman grateful? Had I hurled myself at death's door for naught?
Tears came up, giving me a way to vent out the frustration. I was going to die. All because I had disobeyed my prime directive.
"I don't want to die" I wept.
It echoed through every fiber in my being.
The savior had turned into a victim.
Darkness took me and within the span of a second... I awoke. Still in total obscurity. I suddenly found myself in the depth of an unknown body of water. My instincts and previous swimming lessons forced me to seek the surface. Soon enough, my lungs gasped for air as my head violently emerged from the water. My eyes were no longer blind so I scouted my surroundings. Confused. Alarmed. The previous experience of being stabbed left a lasting mark in my psyche. What I saw confused me even more, for the sight of greenery, trunks and branches, rocks, and the white moonlight cast upon me via a small opening in the dense leaves of rainforest trees.
"What... where am I?" I asked.
I came up with a thousand conclusions, thousand explanations. Many of them included the possibility of an afterlife. Reincarnation? Ascension? Was this paradise? It certainly looked like.
"Hyaaaaaaa!" shouted someone behind me.
I turned. The feminine figure of a girl donned in simple and rough cloth was looking at me, brown-haired and eyes as green as lime.
"Brother!" cried she, "A naked man is on the pond!"
"N-naked?" I thought. I inspected my body and indeed my body was illuminated by the moonlight, shining in a pale white I had never noticed before. Was this my body?
I had little time for questions, for the sudden and strong impact of a hardened foot kicked me in the back, and there I laid, unconscious. Death nearly took me for the second time.
This was the day--or rather night--that I arrived at your world, the world of heroes and magic, the Majestic World of Etreia.