Rise of the Ravenborn
For the first time since my arrival at this strange and ancient-looking world, I was able to put my thoughts together. My mind felt focused and I was at least oriented on where I stood in its hierarchy--not very high from what I had experienced--and I had clear and sound questions.
Judging from the clothing and weapons shown to me that whole day with Caladrix supervising me, I concluded that it was quite similar to those used in my world's ancient times, when Man had begun to use the iron as a good tool for war, forging strong short swords and thick reinforced wooden shields. I figured that since I was in the company of armed villagers and huntsman, iron was reserved for the weapons of more veteran fighters who would use forged weapons to their maximum potential. Men and women wore winter coats due to the high altitude of the area, their leatherwork stylized in blue or teal square grids with a dark green background, which I presumed blended well with the forested lands below the mountain range. I noticed the color of the square linings defined the rankings in the camp, giving me the impression these villagers were at least organized and not just assembled together. Simple soldiers such as the basic villagers wore dark and rusty blue colors, whilst sergeants and leaders, such as Aquilax and Falax--whom it felt really good to humiliate later on--bore brighter, more highlighted colors. I wore a coat with no colors whatsoever, something reserved to serfs, slaves, or in my case, outcasts.
Aquilax' attempts to have me accepted in the camp bore some sort of fruit in the sense that I did not have a line of bullies waiting to challenge the freaking Ravenborn. Still, the strange power flowing within me was clearly feared by the soldiers. I also bet Falax alienated some of them after our brief scuffle, which was understood up to a certain point, since he still had greater influence in Lion's Camp, at least more so than a Ravenborn.
I had also the opportunity to scout the entirety of Lion's Camp, and what was obscured to me by the mountainside and rocks clearly gave me the true scope of Aquilax' army. Tents went down and uphill, all in different shades of forest green or gray. Men sharpened their spears, readied their bows, ate birds and small hunt, or joked among them. I figured that not even a tenth of the army there had seen my duel with Falax. I still had a long way before I was accepted.
Caladrix gave his own input of it as we walked over it, with me always glared at fearfully or at least distrustful.
"I do not know if more men and women from the mountains have joined us in the last days, but I would say we are five thousand strong." said he with a proud tone, "That's just what happens when a strong man leads commonfolk."
Yes, Cal, I know you admire Aquilax, but you don't have to allude to him every single time.
So I thought, for the constant reminder of Aquilax' apparent ability to lead people was reassuring in the beginning, but it became quite annoying for my logical mind. Their praise for the captain bordered on religious fanatism.
Dusk finally came, with sunlight cast out of the forest. The mountains were still tainted in this enchanting red light. After climbing and descending on the different layers, my feet already hurt and were hard to move due to the cold that took the camp, with strong winds blowing on my face, chest, and legs. It was hard to keep up, but Cal was kind enough to wait for me. Surely he understood I was not from Ivernia.
Caladrix led me to the top of the camp, a site where we had not visited before. The old man saved it as a surprise. We arrived at an area high up in the mountain, hidden by a narrow passage, short enough to connect with its closest neighboring tents. Then I saw it: a wooden platform over the short grass resembling a balcony, where a round table laid at its center with feathers on small pots--which I suspected was the pens. The same leather as the other tents clothed the place from the icy winds of the mountain but remained open on the far back in order to provide a vista on the valley ahead. From that point, I could see the coastline and the blue sea, tainted in red as the sun faded away. It was truly a vantage point.
Up in the tent's entrance, a teal banner with a white lion at its center flagged above, giving away the former's owner, who just happened to be sitting on one of the steps, its sword on his lap and his head down, as if he were praying.
"Ah, the Ravenborn is here!" Aquilax said as he stood up from the steps, never once looking at me, twirling his sword two times before putting it on his back and into its sheath without even checking it. The way it went in without the need for any additional movements was satisfying to watch. The man before me was skilled indeed.
I bowed my head in respect.
"Captain, I am honored to be here."
"Call me Aquilax, mate." said he, placing his hands on my shoulders. "I welcome thee to my humble tent."
So poetic! Any other man in my world would have had sound stupid but in his words, it actually resonated in my mind with an honorable tone.
"Caladrix, you are welcome to stay as well old man!" He added, but old Cal stepped back.
"I am honored to hear those words, my captain, but I still need to check up on my lads, as the weaklings still rest on the comfort of the nurse's tent."
"Sure thing, I'll leave you be, old man."
I noticed Caladrix' heavy breathing from the excitement. I did not know this man was passionate about his leader like that. It was like watching a girl fainting over a pop star. With unsure footing, Cal left beyond the narrow pass and into the camp, leaving me with the Lion's Camp's commander.
"Please come on in," he said, gently, "I bet you must be hungry, some men mentioned you walked across the whole camp, not bad for a man with your physique."
"Tell me that," I answered, smiling, "I had not walked up and down a mountain like that since I was born."
"Well, here you'll get used to it in no time, these lands are demanding that their dwellers be strong climbers or walkers, to put it simply." He said.
We entered the tent and I saw several people I had not noticed were already beyond the big round table and sitting comfortably on several cushions around a small fire controlled by rocks and a metal casing above it. That portion of the platform was roofless and had a clear view of the starry vault that manifested above us by the minute. There were three men on one side and three women on the other, facing each other respectively. Of the three men I knew nothing, but they wore cyan linings in their clothes, tassels falling on the edge of their capes, alluding to high rank from what I saw. Only Aquilax bore teal linings. Of the three women, I knew Nywin sitting on the far back next to a woman with a cloak made of thick fur -- perhaps a bear's -- aged in the thirties, golden-haired and a delicate and collected Eowyn at the end.
"Lads," Aquilax said, walking to the end of the platform, instructing me to follow him, "You might've heard the news. We have a guest in our camp."
Everyone looked at me. Nywin and Eowyn were the only ones saluting me with a soft bow of their heads. Looking at Eowyn after my duel with Falax, and remembering the way she covered me in such a kind way made me blush, she simply smiled at me.
Aquilax saw the men and frowned.
"Where is Priest Falax?"
"He decided not to attend, suspecting you may bring the Ravenborn to dinner."
"Well, I actually invited the man in front of the priest, so I guess that was no secret," Aquilax said, dismayed. "I guess that not even in these dire times can a man of faith pardon a small infringement."
He sat down and then tapped the wooden floor next to him, dragging a cushion there.
"Sit, lad." he ordered.
I sat down whilst ignoring the suspicious eyes of Aquilax' retinue.
"With all due respect, captain, we all know you must have your reasons for accommodating a man like him here, but to reject a priest's counsel could be considered a high offense by the Chantry. Best not to make enemies on two fronts."
The man speaking was on the opposite side of us, he had a full-grown and messy beard, long white hair, like Aquilax. Despite his snowy hair, he looked younger than the old man Caladrix, who was a rare sight to behold at the camp giving most soldiers neared their thirties or twenties.
"You speak wisely, Rorarix." Aquilax commented, "but I trust that once the Chantry sees my motives in detail, such an issue would be dismissed."
"Unlike Falax, however, I trust your judgment, so I shall speak no more of this." Rorarix said.
"Good, let us not speak about my decisions anymore for now. There will planning and logistics afterward." Aquilax ordered, "Let us eat!"
Before us lay a huge pork's leg and mountain fruit, which began disappearing as everyone started grabbing it. They joked around and spoke of Noad killing and a few skirmishes down the mountain bed.
I rushed to win a single fruit and a piece of that roasted pork, eating it carefully as the cold had nearly paralyzed my mouth. As I chew on them, my attention as drawn to Eowyn, whose hands grabbed a pear-like fruit and bit it gently. As her lips touched the bulb, caressing it in gentle kissing as her teeth grabbed a part of it, I remembered her breath and her face's warmth so close to mine I chuckled for a minute. I decided to fix my attention again on eating. She did not look at me at all, to my dismay.
I pondered on these feelings for a while as we ate, silent as others joked and talked. Ever since she did that gesture, perhaps out of simple respect, a lingering feeling of attraction rooted in my heart, heating my body whenever the thought came to mind and messing my thoughts with a thorny "what if".
Pathetic. I tried to seal away these feelings. Things did not look as bright as they seemed for me, and these feelings were just a strong first impression on her. Yes, that was all.
The voice interrupted my whirling thoughts.
The woman sitting in the middle spoke to me.
"I did not introduce myself earlier, and I apologize. I am Geowyn, a Sword Sister. My troupe and I had our coven on the other side of the mountains and decided to come to Aquilax' aid just a few weeks ago. Perhaps you know her already, but this is my aide Eowyn."
"A pleasure to meet you, Geowyn."
"Yes, yes..." said she, hurriedly, "perhaps it would be courteous of you to tell us your name?"
"Indeed. From what I understand, not even the Captain is aware of how should we call you, and perhaps Ravenborn may be degrading for your folk."
"Lady Geowyn, if I may," said Eowyn, "I believe he is amnesiac and does not remember his name."
"Hah!" Laughed Aquilax, "He does not even know what a Noad is!"
The men laughed.
"Well, Noads are not native to these lands, and if he is not local, then it is logical to assume he has not heard of them." Rorarix said.
"The man fell from the sky, my lord, so it is fair to assume he does not." Nywin said.
Geowyn turned back to me, expectant.
My mind rushed across my vast knowledge of fantasy names. Quickly, I had to come up with a name and fake a sudden recovery from my memories. I suddenly remembered how my powers manifested, and how they looked similar to the ancient Edda of the Norse mythos. Without second thoughts, my lips uttered a name.
Everyone fell silent.
Baldur. The god of light among the Aesir, son of Odin. That was the best I could come up with. I just hoped that the name was not as despised as my looks and apparent origin.
"Oi kid," one of the men said, this one sporting a small ax tied to his waist, "that was awful quick for an amnesiac."
"Gorax, please, the man just said something." Aquilax said, laughing, "Baldur, it looks kind of ominous, but given your overall appearance, it suits you!"
"So, Baldur it is." Geowyn said, satisfied, "It has a nice ring to it, it contrasts with your general build."
I could not help but smile at the comments that sounded harsh however positive they might have been.
"I think it commands respect."
My eyes diverted again to the opposite side of the fire.
She was still looking at the flames, but then her eyes slowly turned to me, glittering beautifully by the fire's light. That look, that enchanting look, pierced my heart. I did not know whether it was my inner romanticism or if they glimpsed at me with genuine interest. Either way, I felt like I was falling for her even deeper. My own eyes opened in surprise.
Geowyn and Nywin looked at her, and Eowyn blushed, her gaze returning to normal and back to the food and fire. The other two women smiled at each other but looked kind of freaked out at Eowyn's remark towards someone like me, a Ravenborn.
"Well then, Baldur, we shall all address you with such a name." Aquilax said.
I smiled, relieved that the name did not trigger any unpleasant thoughts on any of them.
"So where are you from?" Rorarix asked.
"Mate, give this man a break, he just remembered his name!" Gorax said, jokingly.
Night fell, and everyone kept talking for a while longer. As dinner came to a close, I looked at Eowyn one last time.
"Well then, let us all rest, for now, return to your tents."
"Captain, there is one issue pending." the final man said.
"Who will keep Baldur?"
"Aye, he will stay with me."
"I fear for his life were he to stay in the camp with you." Aquilax said, "I'm not saying I don't trust the men, but there are many rumors circling him, and I don't want Baldur to fall victim to paranoia, although from what I've seen he can fend for himself."
"The lad is considered a danger by Falax's followers, if I dare say." Eowyn interrupted.
"Eowyn, do not pretend to give counsel to the captain, know your place!" said Geowyn in a commanding voice.
"She's right, however. As much as I respect Falax and all he's done for our little campaign, he may pose a threat to Baldur." Aquilax said.
"Pardon me insisting, captain, but why favor Baldur, a guest among us, over Priest Falax? Surely you remember how Falax has commanded troops and saved many men with his light magic?"
"I do, and I bet we all feel thankful." Aquilax said, "but Baldur's stay is not temporal, I intend on recruiting him so that he can use his powers to turn the tide."
Everyone stopped, astonished.
"Brother," Nywin spoke, alarmed, "One thing is saving him from the pyre, but actually requesting his aid..."
"Trust me, sis, we need him."
"Sire, I insist, this is too much." Gorax said.
"I've heard your remarks on this subject. My decision's final in this regard. I ask that you trust me in this." he concluded.
"The captain has decided, Gorax" said Guffrendix, "I for one, trust that his abilities might come in handy, given that our forces lack the strength of the Fian champions or the Falx Order and that our cavalry is limited."
"We digress," Geowyn said, walking towards the exit, "There will be much deliberation tomorrow. I am tired, so I will take my leave. Eowyn."
The Sword Sisters exited the tent, followed by the other lieutenants.
Nywin quickly grabbed some cushions and an extra drape, placing them at one of the corners. Then she left as well, stomping on the wooden steps.
"Forgive them, Baldur." said Aquilax, finally resting his sword on a bed on the opposite side where I was supposed to rest, "They let ancient myths and legends affect their judgment."
"I wish I knew which myths and legends."
"Your mind is still void of those, eh?"
I looked at him as I lay on the comfortable fur Nywin had prepared for me.
"You seem awfully receptive to me, given how much warning and clashes you've had with this... Chantry."
"Oh, believe me, I enjoy those, I personally dislike the Chantry, regardless of my respect towards some of them like Falax or how I admire some of their charity work towards my people. However, they cannot let ancient dark stories to blind them from a clear opportunity."
I saw Aquilax' determination on using me, so I felt obligated to tell the truth about my powers.
"Captain... I believe I have not thanked you properly for welcoming me here."
"Don't mention it." He said.
"However, I must tell you... although you saw me making the Earth tremble with my power, I am unable to control it... That was my very first time using it."
Aquilax stood silent for a moment, he stared at the fire.
Aquilax turned to me, smiling.
"I mean, I am unable to properly gauge what kind of power makes the earth shake like that, nor I know a thing about its origin or essence. One thing I know for sure is fighting, though, and I could tell from your movements that you were inexperienced in it."
"I-I see." I said, a little bit let down by those remarks.
"Don't fret, mate." he said, reassuring me, "That power is there, and something will come up to mind tomorrow on how to use it properly."
"Right... Will it be worse to tell you if I have never seen a battle before?"
"Like I said, we'll deal with all of that tomorrow. Rest."
I lay my head on the cushion and let the thick coat I wore all-day be that's night sheet. I remained awake for a while, still pondering on many things. My power, my new name... Eowyn.
Damn, I could not stop thinking about her.
Finally, my mind gave in to exhaustion and I slept, the sound of nature ornamented with the ring of crickets and the chilly wind.