Rise of the Ravenborn
The seductive smell of a well-cooked meat stew--with soaked rib slightly coming off the wooden bowl--abruptly woke me from a deep sleep. My senses were still foggy and drunken from all the beating I had suffered at the village, but they strived to focus before the dish presented to me.
"Here, I made some stew for you, captain's orders."
At first, my eyes were fixated on the food but I quickly lift my eyes towards the gentle voice speaking to me.
A girl with luxuriant hair, the color of yellow creme, flowing with the green garments that clothed her body and the black apron she wore. Her eyes were brown but embellished like honey and she stood there nervously yet adorably, waiting for me to dig in.
"Thank you, miss."
"I hope that you liked it, Captain Aquilax was very specific in giving you our best stew."
This guy, Aquilax, was being too helpful for a soul that, from what I saw, was hated to the core.
"I even had to take from my ration."
There went the charm.
"I'm sorry for the inconvenience."
The girl blushed.
"Oh did I say that out loud? By the gods, forgive me!"
"It's ok, I appreciate what you've done."
I took a scoop to my mouth. As its liquid filled my cheeks and tongue, I could feel its contents nurturing my dry and insensitive palate with a sense of taste again. I rejoiced so much that I even let two tears fall through my cheek.
"Delicious!" I said.
"Glad you liked it. It is made with boar ribs and potatoes, the broth comes from the beast itself. The varnished wood helps as well!"
Such a vivid description only marveled me more, as I dug into the dish like a hungry animal until there was nothing but the clean rib.
"Ah, I didn't realize I was so hungry," said I with a smile on my face.
"That's because you slept for almost two days, sir."
"Two days?" I exclaimed, taken aback.
"Oh yes, Nywin said you ranted and ranted nonsense two hours following the village incident. You were brought here by the men. You survived on a diet of a single healing potion."
"Did I do that?"
"What's this healing potion you talk about?"
She smiled and pulled a small vial from a pouch hanging from her waist. The vile contained a green substance similar to oil.
"We wear these vials every day, ensuring that we heal our injuries or wounds. It is an effective way of brushing over a sword slash that creates a flesh wound or in your case, bruises. However, it won't bring you back from the dead or heal a thrusting sword to your heart. We can work around arrows because they are easily removable from the body, but don't get covered by them during a volley, otherwise, you'll be dead. "
She pointed at an empty bottle next to me.
"You survived because we poured a high dose on you. As expensive as it is, I don't understand why the captain would go to such lengths to save someone like y..." she stopped, re-thinking, "I-I apologize, that last part was not meant for you to hear!"
"Well," Said I, giving back the bowl, now clearly used to being despised, "Thank you for your help, I'm afraid I did not ask your name..."
She grabbed her dress and posed with a small bow. So lady-like! I could appreciate the gentleness and elegance in which she moved, gracefully closing her eyes as if she were saluting a noble.
"My name is Eowyn, I am a Sword Sister here in Lion's camp."
"Sword Sister?" said I, as I examined my surroundings for the first time. I was in a large tent with many makeshift litters and several wounded on them. Most of them slept, but those awake had their eyes on me, all of them.
"Yes," said she, curtly.
At that moment a cold shiver ran through my spine, as I noticed that despite Aquilax's compliments, perhaps many did not agree with him regarding me. For the first time since our interaction began, I noticed that Eowyn's composure was merely a facade as she slightly gripped her dress with enough intensity to denote pressure. Social pressure.
"It is a pleasure," I answered, "I-I do not want to set you back or anything," I said, my self-imposed philosophy of no conflict erupting again.
She gestured another pose with her dress, accompanied by a superficial smile. She walked away towards the exit.
"Oh, I almost forgot, the Captain and Nywin would like you to join them for a meal after sunset," said she, without looking back.
"I... I am honored." I answered, mustering all modesty within me.
"The captain's tent, after sunset, don't be late."
As she left, I looked at the other men. They had been staring all the time at our little interaction. As I tried to land my feet on the ground, their despiteful eyes began to affect me deeply. Images of the rapist on that street corner a few days ago, before I ended up in this new world, began to quickly pop up, and the cold yet swift knife piercing my body vibrated in my skin again. I began to sweat, looking to get out of there.
I made my first steps, my head and back, previously damaged by that Gunthax asshole. It did not hurt, the potion had done its work. I walked towards the exit but the weight of a big and sturdy hand landing on my shoulder kept me from going.
"You leaving us?" said the man behind me in a serious, illegible tone.
"Where would I go?" I answered, turning to face him.
He was a man with an old face and a young, built body. Scars of flesh wounds deep enough to keep their mark covered his face and chest. He had a bandage over his waist and belly, perhaps the result of a battle.
"You one of those, right, those men of legend?"
"I don't know what you are talking about." I answered. I thought of stepping back and release my shoulder, but the weak appearance my body bore made to believe I would have to actually struggle against the man to be free.
"Come on, pale skin like yours and hair like that? It should be easy for you to know."
"Is it that no one has black hair here?"
"Oh, we have those all right, they do not fare any better than you, but yours clearly has night blue shades, particularly in your forelocks." He said, mockingly. "We have golden hair, brown hair, even green hair, but almost never a black, and I can assure you, no one as silky and shinning as yours."
"What's the point?" I said, curtly, "I don't remember anything ever since I was found in that pond and brought here. Ever since then, people have been looking for ways to kill me without even telling me why."
The man stopped, now looking at me with a sorry face. At least it was not like Eowyn, who pretended to like me.
"You speak the truth..." He said, closing his face to mine, "Your eyes are a deceitful, young man, but they appear to be honest if you look long enough."
"Come on, old man, don't get very acquainted with that boy, who knows what he'll do to you." said another of the wounded.
"Now, now. Your old man would know when to get acquainted after all these winters, don't you think?"
I pretended not to listen, I simply walked towards the exit again.
"What are you doing?"
"I want to look around the camp."
"Who told you to do that?"
"Why, is it forbidden?"
The man scratched his grisly hair and walked toward me.
"It's not, but I don't know how others would react to you. Let me join you, I could use the walk."
He dressed up his thick coat, covering a body full of scars, and grabbed his sword laying next to his litter. I merely watched.
"Are you not going to dress?"
I looked at my body waist down and panicked before a bare naked inseam. I wanted to shout but I managed to stay collected. I simply feigned to ignore the fact that I had been naked in front of Eowyn.
Was that the reason she was so tense?
I then remembered the looks on everyone's faces when I spoke to her. They were not looking at my hair, not necessarily. They were looking at me in general, perhaps appalled that I was able to stand naked, except for the bandages, in front of the Sword Sister.
As my drama bubble popped, shame got the best of me and I began to laugh.
The old man, everyone else, followed suit.
"I guess men of legend do not pale before a Sword Sister. You are lucky she respects the captain, otherwise, who knows what she would have done."
"Damn it!" I cursed.
Men burst laughing even more.
"Come on then, boy, Caladrix is my name, what's yours?"
I tried uttering my name, the name I had used for years in my other life, yet as I tried to speak, my lips remained sealed, and a big headache surged.
"It's okay, lad." Caladrix said, holding me, "You don't have to remember right away, here... have this!"
He grabbed a furry winter coat and threw it above me.
"Hey Cal, that's mine!"
"Yeah, you have trousers, the Sword Sister won't lash out at you."
We walked out, the last thing I heard was the sorrowful words of the man who lost his coat.
"But it's cold out there..."