Chapter 3:

Lion's Camp (2)

Rise of the Ravenborn

A majestic cliff that overlooked the land and where the blue line of the sea was still visible on the horizon. Green, short, and perfectly comfortable greenery grew below my feet and where the tents rested. Behind us the thick woods where Caladrix said the village I was condemned to die inlaid. The air was cold, freezing my feet and those parts in my chest that were not covered by the thick coat. Tents, green like the forest, were distributed chaotically yet together across the large clear edge of the hill ending with a particular tent right next to a waterfall. An occasional watchman crossed our path as we walked near the rocky cliff, observing the beauty of the Ivernian woods.Bookmark here

This was Lion's Camp.Bookmark here

"Incredible, innit?" said the old man as he saluted his brothers in arms, passing by, all looking at me concerned.Bookmark here

"It is, I never thought there was something as beautiful as this."Bookmark here

"Aren't you the poet, lad? The sight is good, yes. That's what we're here for. The captain has made sure we can keep constant watch of the bay as we fight those monsters."Bookmark here

"Monsters?"Bookmark here

Caladrix looked at me surprised.Bookmark here

"You never heard of the Noads?"Bookmark here

"No."Bookmark here

"Well, I'm sure you don't remember if you can't even phrase your name..."Bookmark here

I'm pretty sure it's not that, Caladrix, I thought, keeping my true origin to myself.Bookmark here

The old man looked at the forest.Bookmark here

"Noads... ugh, I believe there is no Ivernian in the North who does not despise those bastards. They are bloody men with nothing better to do than to despoil, rape, and kill. Sometimes, they say, not even in that order." He spat on the ground and then pointed at the extensive forest below us, down to the very beachline barely visible due to the foggy and cloudy weather, "They arrived roughly around a year ago on their ships from the North, way beyond the limits of the known world. They raided our farms and our lands beyond these cliffs, few of us survived their initial onslaught. They would've caught us all in the northern woods were not for Captain Aquilax."Bookmark here

His eyes fell, saddened.Bookmark here

"They occupy these lands now, some say they would've gone all the way to Aron itself were not for the Young Lion, " said he, regaining vigor, "that lad, he rallied the villagers and turned us into a solid fighting force. Most of us had only pitchforks to defend ourselves, now we are the only party that stands between the Noad incursion in the North and the heartland."Bookmark here

"Young Lion, you say? Is that why this camp...?"Bookmark here

"Indeed, laddie, Aquilax did not name it like that, you could say 'tis a moniker we footmen grew fond of after seeing him in action. Say, why do you think we would follow a youngster such as him?"Bookmark here

"Beats me, his towering appearance perhaps..."Bookmark here

"Oh that's a given, sure, but you will truly feel the nickname once you see him fight, I tell you, and boy can that lad fight!"Bookmark here

"All right, you convinced me Caladrix."Bookmark here

"Call me Cal, child."Bookmark here

"Right, Cal."Bookmark here

"What is this?" shouted a person behind us.Bookmark here

A young man as thin as me, white-haired and sporting leatherwork the likes none of the warriors I had seen wore, it shone with golden ornaments I had seen only in one person so far: the Chantry priest from the village.Bookmark here

"Great..." I mumbled. Bookmark here

"Falax," Caladrix stopped him, reaching his hand, "He's here under the captain's orders."Bookmark here

"I know Aquilax' orders, I sent them, yet I never allowed him to roam the camp like a rat, and why is he wearing the warrior's coat?"Bookmark here

Falax spoke with authority yet he seemingly boasted his words with unnecessary elegance, as if he tried hard to earn the respect--or fear--of the men.Bookmark here

"We borrowed it, 'tis freezing cold out here."Bookmark here

"Neigh, I won't have this, he is not one of our own, regardless of what the captain says about him. A Ravenborn is a monster, so says Chantry Law." Bookmark here

"Calm down, priest, he's just a boy, not even older than you."Bookmark here

"A boy? That thing there is nothing short of a human!"Bookmark here

It was like listening to Priest Jazax all over again.Bookmark here

Falax, however, did not depend on a sturdy lackey to do his dirty work, he walked right in front of me and stripped me of the coat, evidencing my naked body again in the middle of the cold. I twitched and covered my chest with my pale arms. He placed a strong kick in my chest and pushed me towards the ground. I fell a few centimeters away from the cliff's edge, all dirty again.Bookmark here

The warriors gathered around us.Bookmark here

I tried to get up at first. My bruises were already healed so it was easy, but the cold and the icy wind made every movement intolerable. Bookmark here

"You dare?"Bookmark here

Oh, I dared. I stood before him, glaring menacingly, evidently tired of being dragged again by religious bullies. Bookmark here

Falax was set aback by my new determination, but the social pressure behind him of all his men looking gave him renewed courage relatively quickly.Bookmark here

"Priest Falax, stop this!" Caladrix yelled.Bookmark here

"You, old man, stand where you are, I will not be ordered around by..."Bookmark here

He fell as I mustered all my strength in hitting him in the face. His head bounced on the grass. The troop went silent, waiting for Falax to react. He touched his nose and saw blood coming out, albeit not much, it was enough for him to burst in anger.Bookmark here

He stood up and sheathed his blade.Bookmark here

"You know what you did, don't you?" He said, smiling, "To hit a member of the Chantry is punishable by the whip, I wonder now what to do with you, a wretched Ravenborn."Bookmark here

"I don't know what you are talking about," I said. "I woke up on a pond two days, looking like this... this Ravenborn body you so much hate, and the only thing I've known since then has been the fists and firey fanatism of people here."Bookmark here

I took the most threatening combat stance I could muster.Bookmark here

"So if you are going to kill me, I'll make sure you come with me too. It will be the last thing I do before I die again!"Bookmark here

"You...!"Bookmark here

He prepared to swing his sword sideways but stopped, his eyes filled with terror.Bookmark here

I looked around, seeing that same expression in everyone else. My eyes stumbled in the rusty reflection of one of the watchmen's shields. It was stained with mud and round, but I managed to see my shape and most of all my eyes.Bookmark here

My right eye gleamed blue, with an incandescent sapphire color, like a candle's smoke or incense. Bookmark here

"You see? Do you see now?" Falax ranted, "This is the Ravenborn's wizardry!"Bookmark here

I touched my eye, as I did not feel anything. No heat, no flames, yet I noticed how my long hair and nose were touched by its light. As I removed my hand, so did it began to glow in strange runic linings, covering my the entirety of it and stopping on my shoulder. Bookmark here

"You must die, Ravenborn!"Bookmark here

Falax took out a sphere from his large bag and pointed it at me. It began to glow with intense yellow light.Bookmark here

"Let those who are enemies of the New Gods beware, for the light of the Chantry stands next to you like a sun to your candle!" He chanted. Bookmark here

The sphere glowed evermore.Bookmark here

Shit, what do I do? I thought, looking at my hand, I don't even know how to use this stuff.Bookmark here

"Suffer now the penalty of your defiance!" Falax finalized his chant, and the sphere launched a beam of light towards him.Bookmark here

However, as I panicked, it seemed to stop. Not only the beam, every movement, every gesture, even my own.Bookmark here

Two shades appeared, all identical to me. It was the first time I was able to ever witness my own physical body. I was indeed thin and weak-looking, but my body was built and looked strong. These shades were blue in color and the two performed distinct actions.Bookmark here

The first one moved away from the shot and rushed towards Falax. The second simply placed the hand in the direction of the beam, blocking it.Bookmark here

I see, these are my possibilities, I thought, very well, if this is the power they so dread, they'll have it!Bookmark here

The beam was allowed to continue its trajectory. It was a perfect hit, creating a cloud of grass and dust where I stood. I could clearly see Falax' satisfactory grin, then his subsequent dismay as the dust cleared and he saw my hand reaching out, wide open, glowing with the light he had just released at me.Bookmark here

"No more cowardly hits for you." I said.Bookmark here

"Impossible!" He said, "You should not be in fighting form just yet!"Bookmark here

Let's see, can you release it? I pondered as I clenched my fist. I'm still clueless about this, but there has to be something!Bookmark here

I began walking towards the priest, my expression only showing one thing: retribution.Bookmark here

However, something else lingered, the possibility of a better way. If I spared him, maybe I would earn his respect and the others'. Bookmark here

I cursed as I walked towards him. Falax lingered inert for a few seconds, then reacted with his sword.Bookmark here

"I will not fall before a cursed one!" He said, courageous.Bookmark here

This man. I want to do it! But my policy, my no conflict policy!Bookmark here

Indeed. If I spared him I would avoid his animosity and I would have peace. Bookmark here

Could that be true for a guy as fanatic as him?Bookmark here

"Grraaaaaaa!"Bookmark here

I thrust my fist towards him, but then arched it to the ground, hitting it with all my strength. It was not much, and I could feel my fingers torn by the smash. The light, however, launched itself into the grass, cracking the earth in rifts of light and making it tremble, albeit briefly.Bookmark here

Everybody was moved by the tremor, its sound echoed by the height and openness of the cliff's summit. Bookmark here

There was a brief silence.Bookmark here

"Laddie..." Caladrix uttered.Bookmark here

Tears came up, falling into the ground. I dared not see Falax, nor anyone to the face. I was simply tired, and I had not realized it until I dived my fist into the ground.Bookmark here

"You may think of me as a monster..." I said, "Maybe I am, I don't know... I did not ask to be like this... If I had chosen my place in this world I would have chosen differently" I looked at my hand, scratched and full of bruises, maybe some dislocated fingers, "Still, I don't want to fight you."Bookmark here

"I think you did the right choice, friend."Bookmark here

That voice. Bookmark here

I turned and saw the captain, Aquilax had arrived. His white, long, and curly hair flew with the winds, and his big arms reached out to me, lifting me in a swift movement.Bookmark here

"Honestly, Falax had enough of your power. Look at him."Bookmark here

I did so, and I saw the priest laying on the grass, drawn to unconsciousness by the expectation of being hit by my gleaming fist.Bookmark here

"Let me clarify my orders to everyone." Aquilax began, "This man is to be treated as one of us for the time being. If you don't like it, feel free to challenge him again and test his strength. If you find my solution lacking, you are free to leave this place."Bookmark here

Eh? No!Bookmark here

"Any volunteers?"Bookmark here

The men simply stood silent. Aquilax waited a few seconds, then spoke again.Bookmark here

"Then go about your own business, leave the Ravenborn be."Bookmark here

The warriors and footmen walked away. The watchmen resumed their duties. As I looked at them, I also saw two particular figures stand where they were. Caladrix smiled in approval, while Eowyn looked at me with different eyes. They were wide open. They were not superficial anymore. Bookmark here

"Heh, you put quite a show there, friend." He said, jokingly, "I seriously doubt anyone will challenge your stay again, not when you put one of our strongest to sleep."Bookmark here

"What?"Bookmark here

"Sis and I still await our meal together after sunset. My tent, don't be late."Bookmark here

"Eh, yes!"Bookmark here

I started seeing why everyone respected the so-called Young Lion. Bookmark here

"Hey, Cal!" He shouted, "Come here and give this man his coat, it's freezing!"Bookmark here

"Ah! Yes, captain!"Bookmark here

He looked for the coat, but someone else had gone ahead.Bookmark here

Eowyn.Bookmark here

"Ah?" the old man exclaimed, astonished.Bookmark here

Aquilax smiled.Bookmark here

"Captain" she said, "If I may..."Bookmark here

Aquilax stepped back, smirking.Bookmark here

"Sure thing." said he.Bookmark here

She wrapped my back with the coat and closed it around my chest. I could feel her gently crossing her hands so that Furr would cover me fully. She was just a few instances away from my face. I could feel her warm breath, smoking due to the cold, touching my jaw. She was shorter than me by a head maybe, but the boldness in which she approached me had me paralyzed in a more effective way than the icy cold.Bookmark here

"That was... interesting to see." She said to me, whispering, "You are indeed an interesting man, not to say peculiar."Bookmark here

"Ho?" Aquilax uttered, having heard that.Bookmark here

She blushed and firmly walked away from the cliff's edge.Bookmark here

"Most interesting, friend, I'll see you later."Bookmark here

Only Caladrix and I remained, and he welcomed me with a huge flap into my back. Bookmark here

"Now that I know you can beat Chantry priesthood, I'm not afraid to pat you like this." he said, laughing.Bookmark here

"You say that as if beating Chantry priesthood is my every day's bread." I answered.Bookmark here

"Well, you certainly turned the tables on Priest Falax. I don't know what the repercussions will be but I'll enjoy the moment."Bookmark here

"Nice to see I can please you, Cal."Bookmark here

"Heh... let's go laddie. You must be hungry after that scuffle."Bookmark here

"A bit, yeah." I said, scratching my nose. "Do you think Sword Sister Eowyn could prepare a stew like..."Bookmark here

"Oi! Don't get cocky on me, boy!" He said, bursting in new laughter, "You impressed the Sword Sister, yes, but that does not mean she'll grant you any favors... just yet."Bookmark here

"Just... yet?"Bookmark here

"Hehe, let's go lad, the men must be waiting, and I heard they are preparing potato soup with chicken!"Bookmark here

"Whatever you say."Bookmark here

We walked back to camp, with Caladrix' shoulder over me, gaining confidence. I was so immersed in my unusual conversation with him that I overlooked a woken Falax, who was just staring at the forest below us.Bookmark here

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