A small boy awakens on straw staring up at the sky. Grinning at the blue sky; he mocks the clouds above. The condition of the boy wearing nothing but a pair of tattered shorts becomes clear. His skin only shows a color do to the suit that has settled on him from head to toe. His ribs, and back bones stick out of his skin like ripples in sheets. Though his smile doesn’t fade as he knows how lucky they are to see the day. His spirit surpasses his physical appearance. As he walks without shoes through a shortened torn patch he remains joyous. His feet pass through unable to penetrate scar tissue from previous travels through harsher environments.
In the distance a woman’s voice rings out, calling a name repetitively in a slightly annoyed tone. The child no older than seven sits up and looks off towards a small hut made out of branches. A women with long flowing brunette hair wearing a dirty faded blue dress stands waving at him to come towards her. Her age is clearly in her thirties and the years were hard. Her face is has the markings of a thief and whore indicated by letters branded into her cheeks. A P for prostitute and a T for thief. Her wrists shine with scars from former shackles. Letting out a sigh he stands and begins to meander his way over to her. Boy,” yes mother? ”
Mother with a withered smile and majestic voice gives the boy some instructions,” Glenn I need to run to the river to gather up some water so we can wash up before your brother arrives and I need you to wait here him.”
Glenn reluctantly responds,” Alright…I guess..do I really need to wash up though its a waste of water.”
Mother with a bit of truth continues,” Yes, you do you haven’t washed in a while…and it will be dark here soon.”
Glenn with sigh says,” I know but…”
Mother ends his rebuttal,” No but…just get your brother a bed made up so he can rest, a trip to town takes a lot out of him.”
His mother gathers up a two buckets which may be the only thing they own that is not in rough shape. With a sigh she uses some vines to tie the buckets to each end of a long pole like stick. She lefts up the stick and places on her shoulders wrapping her arms around each end to hold it firmly in place. She begins to walk off down a faded trail towards a small river that ran about two miles away on the edge of a dead forest.
Glenn sighs watching his mother fade off into the distance, picking up a stick he begins to practice his letters in a small patch of dirt. A few hours pass and darkness begins to fall. Slightly worried, for his mother should have returned before dusk. He works on attempting to start a fire. Heading inside he sits down next to a small pile of sticks and straw. Placing the straw in the center of a small fire pit inside the home of sticks and vines. He begins to hum a tune his mother hummed to him to calm him when he was little to numb the worried feeling that was slowly growing. Picking up a stone of flint and a small dulled knife which he slides harshly against to stone to create a spark. After several minutes he manages to catch the straw on fire with a small ember. Blowing on the spark it begins to glow. Smiling having started his first fire on his own he wondered what his mother will say when she gets back.
The glow of the fire shines out of the cracks of the hut. With the light he sets up his brother a place to sleep next to his and his mothers. His brother had been gone for a few days. the small village was about a days trek away, though he often wondered why they lived so far away from town he never did ask assuming that his mother knew best. The brother was only 13 and his mom promised once Glenn turned ten he could go with him to town. He looked forward to the experience of seeing other children and hoping maybe he could play with them as his brother took care of business. His thoughts were interrupted by a smell that he had never smelled before.
It was foul and alarming, turning he looked out the entrance of the hut to see a stocky thing with green skin and pointy ears looking in on him. Its mouth had rows of semi sharp teeth as its lips had red blood dripping down from it. Though it very large by any means but was bigger than the boy. It stood on two legs and was in rotting leather armor which covered its chest and legs. In its hand was a long jagged dagger which had a rough and long life as well. Took him but a second to realize that he was staring at a goblin. Sliding back his hand; landing on the dull knife he used to start the fire he grasped it.
Goblin snarls, “whats…this…?” the goblin’s skills at the common language was limited at best. Grinning it entered the hut. The boy held up the knife and the goblin let out a cackling laugh. ” cute….soft…bony….not much meat….” The goblin look at the boy closely slightly disappointed upon his find.” Not hungry now….eat tomorrow…”
The goblin put away his dagger without taking his eyes off the boy. Taking a step towards Glenn who let out a scream. It was at the moment the Goblin felt something alarming in his back and chest. He looked down at a small piece of metal sticking out of his leather armor about an inch covered in black blood. Confused, by it he reached to touch its sharpened tip cutting his finger on it. The metal returns to the inside of its body and out the back. At this point he realized the pain he was in and it he could no longer breathe. Turning as he fell he Saw a larger boy holding a short sword which the the top half of the blade had black blood dripping off of it. Gagging the goblin rolled over onto its side and life faded from its eyes.
The boy in a panic looks to Glenn,”Glenn are you okay? Wheres mom?”
Glenn remained still, his grip on the knife was strong as it remained pointed outward toward the goblin’s mortal coil. Unable to speak nor blink: his brother clapped his hands to get Glenn’s attention. Glenn turned and looked at his brother a moment before tears came across his face. He stood while rushing over to his brother dropping the knife as his arms raised to wrap around of his brother who welcomed him with open arms. Scared Glenn dug his face into his kin’s chest. It was at this point he began to blurt out. ” Kross.” sobbing “Kross..mom went to the river and hasn’t come back…”
Kross,” shhh…its alright now but we need to go…” Kross knew that if one goblin was around more were sure to be in the area pushing Glenn aside he quickly put out the fire as the sounds of a horn blew off in the distance, searching the goblin he removing the sword from the back of the goblin with a steady jerk, he began to remove the armor and collected the goblin’s weapon. Placing the leather armor covered in black blood around Glenn and suiting him up it was a little big for Glenn, but now was not the time to be concerned with such things. Kross wrapped the belt for the sheath of the dagger around his younger brothers waist placing the dagger in it’s home. Taking his brothers hand he pulled him out of the hut.
Kross himself was about a foot taller than his brother and a bit more stocky having been keeping himself composed he wore a slightly worn shirt and pants as well as shoes that shown some wear and tear but still had some life to them. Dragging his brother out into the night, they heard an approaching group coming up the trail leading to the river. Kross shook his head knowing they could not make it town without being spotted. Kross ordered Glenn to dive into the small hay pile that he had been resting on earlier that day.
Glenn took a moment to follow his brothers orders as the fear of being killed grew greater as the sound of the small hoard grew louder. He wondered why his brother wasn’t coming too the pile of hay was big enough to cover them both.
Kross ran back behind the house where he had dropped his spoils from the village earlier having seen the goblin enter the hut. The bag was rather large considering the size of the young man who had carried it all this way. In a rush of fast feet he joined his brother in the hay, covering the bag as best he could without leaving his brother exposed. Kross then took some of the straw in a waded mass and uses it to cover their tracks before diving in as well covering himself fully. The goblin mass passed by the straw as a few broke off to investigate the hut. Finding their dead ally they let out a horrid scream causing the night to fill with the sound of horror. The goblins tore down the hut letting out a war cry they stormed off towards the town assuming someone was already heading their to warn them.
Glenn and Kross remained hidden till dawn. Once the sun rose Kross poked his head out telling his brother to remain hidden. Kross headed off towards the river at a running pace. Upon arriving he began to look around for signs of his mother carefully searching the sides of the rivers and the tracks that lay in the wet earth. Seeing signs of his mother tracks among the claw marks of the goblins; he began to realize the truth of what had happened. Searching for a while he saw some drag marks in the softened soil. Tears began to form around his eyes as he followed it seeing bits of a faded blue dress stained with blood along its grooves. He found his mothers remains tied to a tree. The goblins had cut the flesh from her bones till there was barely anything left. Falling to his knees he began to weep.
After a few moments of morning he stood knowing his brother was alone and scared. He untied his mother from the tree and placed her body in the river watching the water carry it away. He again begun to cry knowing he could never tell his brother what he had found. That there would be no grave to come back to, that she was gone forever. After he regained his composure he began to head back to his brother at a quickened pace.
Upon returning he sees his brother sitting on top of the hay stack with a smile on his face. This confused Kross as he approached Glenn.
Kross with a brief smile which turns quickly to concern,” Glad to see you smiling again Glenn, but why are you not hiding? ”
Glenn very excited responded, ” Kross, Kross, you wont believe it but I saw a wizard.”
” Glenn what are you talking about no one is here. ” Kross demanded while looking around he saw no signs or marks of a traveler nor wizard that his brother was claiming. ” Where did he go? What did he look like?”
Glenn who can barely contain himself was very happy to share,” Kross when you left he appeared next to our hut.” Glenn pointed to the hut that had been repaired with a smile on his face.” You see the wizard waved his hand and the hut was back again. The wizard was dressed in all grey and he had creepy black eyes, but he was really nice. Told me a secret he did and gave me this.” Glenn holds up a black coin with a raven on it.” He said if I ever have a wish all I need to do is flip this coin and he will come back to grant it.”
” Give me that.” Kross demanded as his skepticism grew and Glenn closed it up in his hand and pulled away from Kross all together.
Glenn shouts at Kross,” NO, I CAN’T, he said if anyone ever touched it other than me it wouldn’t work. ”
Kross in disbelieve,” now your just making stuff up let me see it. ”
Glenn sticking to his story,” NO, I wont. IF I do it wont work don’t you get it? The wizard was very stern about that.”
Kross fed up just shakes his head and gives in,” fine then be that way, I don’t want to look at the stupid coin anyway. I brought back better stuff than that from town anyway.” Kross digs out the bag from the hay and pulls out some apples tossing his brother one who fails to catch it as he holds onto the coin tightly. Kross sighs and picks up the apple, dusting it off hands it to Glenn who takes it with his empty hand and ravenously eats it. Kross also pulls out some salted pork and some shoes for his brother as well as a brand new shirt. In the bottom of the bag he sees the coffee he secretly stole for his mother, with a sigh a tear runs down his face as he lifts it out of the bag. He uses his elbow to absorb the tear before its noticed. Placing it to the side, he shows Glenn the various snares and traps he had gotten.
“Thank you for the cloths and shoes Kross. You’re the best brother a boy could have you know that. Whats that stuff?” Glenn says pointing at the coffee as Kross helps Glenn put on the shoes.
” Its a very rare bean that people roast to and run hot water over, to make a bitter drink, or so the guy who sold it to me said. I remember Mom saying it was one of the finest drinks one could have the luxury of enjoying. ” Kross’s tone goes from anger to a bitter sweet sound.
” for who?” Glenn says in disarray
” Mother you dolt” Agitated by this sudden game Kross glares at Glenn
” who? ”Seeing his brothers look he shyly asks again/
Kross voice turns to rage” stop it that is not funny”
Confused Glenn looks down” I am not being funny Kross, who are you talking about?”
Kross beyond furious yells,” What are YOU talking about? Mom our mother, the lady that takes care of us. ”
Glenn begins putting on his shirt while never letting go of the coin. The shirt is a bit large on him but he will grow into it so he didnt mind it. He can not even look at Kross whom’s rage makes him quiver as he dares to ask another question,” what lady its always been just you and me.”
” NO it hasn’t you jerk. Mom….Mother… you know what I am not going to play this game with you.” Kross looks over at Glenn who looks up and forces a weak confused smile. Kross notices that Glenn seems to have honestly no clue what Kross is talking about. “Eat up, we are going to move somewhere nicer.” Kross says with a forced smile fighting back the tears, not sure whats going on with his brother but he decides it might be for the best. Means Glenn wouldn’t be burden by the loss of their mom as he is nor force Kross to relive the memory.
Years pass as they travel from town to town stealing and conning what they needed to survive, as Glenn held onto the coin. Once Glenn reached 16 he fell in love with a women and soon they had a family. Glenn got a job as a farm hand and stopped his life of crime. Kross decided it was time for him to move on that Glenn had a real future before him and it wouldn’t be fair for him to continue to hold him back. As Kross’ crime kept him on the move, to avoid being captured. One day Kross left his brother a note leaving in the dead of night wishing Glenn the best of luck; telling him he would be back from time to time with gifts for him and his family. It was at this time Kross took up drinking coffee and began to explore the world on his own.
It wasn’t long after that he found himself in a moral conundrum as he saw some smoke rising up in the horizon. Normally he would simply turn directions when seeing something like this, for fire rarely means anything good. Though for whatever reason he for the first time in his life felt as if he needed to press forward against his better judgement and check it out. Upon arriving at a rather gruesome scene where a small hut had burned down with people inside. He could hear the faint cries of a child, and thus he began to search the rubble. Among the Ash and smoldering wood he found a baby with blond hair and red eyes when it saw him it stopped crying. Kross wondered how a water elf managed to find itself in this situation. Kross approached the child and it stopped crying and gave out a giggle and smile holding its arms up to him. He leaned down and picked her up, then left without searching for anything of use. Kross remembers this day very clearly as he has never acted that way sense, and the one time it did he became a more or less a foster parent for better or worse.
Kross awoke up from a memory filled dream to a sharp kick in the ribs by a tearful Snowy who was had her right hand over the rather large lump on the back of her head. Kross rubbed his side a moment before sitting up and yawning. Dawn was barely rising outside and lightly rattled from the beating of drums. Noticing this Kross stood up and looked out the window hushing Snowy before she could yell at him. Once he reached the window he saw a hoard of easily 200 Orcs charging across the fields leading into the town. He also saw what he presumed to be Cecil standing alone only a few hundred feet from the Darklings. Kross shaking his head at the stupidity of the blind man cant help but watch the out come of this. As the Hoard closes in Kross also sees Argos and Ash running to grab/defend Cecil.
The hoard engulfs Cecil’s position before Argos and Ash can lend their support. Argos gives out a loud battle cry raising up a large double sided battle ax. Cecil is surrounded lifting up his staff he slams it down into the ground and it gives off a bright flash temporarily blinding everyone in the area plus those watching including Kross. Once the flash clears Cecil remains surrounded by figures but they do not seem to be moving. Argos swings his ax at one of the Orcs, but it passes through unhindered causing the Orc to burst into a cloud of dust. Cecil begins walking back towards the village as the wind picks up carrying the powdered remains of the former threat up into the air behind him and proceeds to spread their ashes.
Argos drops his ax and jaw falling to one knee as Cecil passed by. Ash moved out of his way and hid behind Argos having never seen a display of power that profound she couldn’t help but be afraid for a moment. The 25 warriors defending the towns boarder part and also kneel as Cecil passes. Kross rushes past Snowy knocking her down with his movements, his eyes wide and his silence begins to freak her out. Grabbing his jacket off the door handle. She begins to inquire as to whats got him so rattled but he only says “I swear, you best stay put and out of sight.” Kross ignores her inquiry. He makes way down stairs and out of the door looking across the main road of the city. He stairs at Cecil who calmly approaches.
Kross full of shock and disbelief,”What the fuck are you? Don’t give me no healing mage bull shit. Not even the Gods can do that, well that quickly. You ended 200 lives in an instant. You haven’t broken a sweat, you don’t even appear tired. Explain!!!”
Cecil turns his head towards Kross,”You’re lively in the morning aren’t you. Figured you would sleep in like you always do. Perhaps some Coffee will make this morning even brighter.” Cecil reaches into his robe and pulls out already grounded up coffee in a decent sized pouch. He tosses it at Kross who is dumb founded by Cecil’s response and the lack of answering his questions also that Cecil even had coffee. Kross catches the coffee and Cecil walks past him and says,” Be a dear and get that working I could use something warm. ” Cecil pats Kross on the shoulder and walks into the tavern Argos and the Warriors come into the town and head into the tavern as Kross stands in the road utterly confused holding a bag of coffee.
Kross stayed outside for a few moments trying to collect his thoughts at what had just transpired. Cheers erupt from inside the tavern causing Kross to return from the world of thought. He shakes his head and returns inside to find Cecil sitting on a chair that had been placed on a table. He looked very out of place and slightly overwhelmed by the reactions of the common folk. Argos on the other hand had his back to the “hero” and was drinking mead. Ash Sat next to him watching the crowd cheer on Cecil, the way they normally cheered on Argos. Argos though grateful couldn’t help the feeling of envy being overcast for the first time in battle. Argos finishes the mead and the Wench quickly refills it as instructed.
Ash notices the speed in which her large comrade was downing the mead, but knew it would take a lot more to be any sort of ill effect. Kross slides up next to Argos handing the bag of coffee to the wench asking for a large pot and five cups. He asks Ash to fetch Snowy. Kross also orders some food for himself and his ward. Ash slides off the bar stool and heading up stairs to fetch Snowy.
Argos turns to Kross surprised by his presence,” Ah thank you for the room last night. I went to pay for it this morning and said the charges had already been covered. Truly an amazing sight on the battle field this morning. ”
“I know I saw the show. The White Raven, living myth, truly something…..” Kross pauses trying to use the right word.”unique.”
“White Raven? Not familiar with that myth, and I have lived in these parts for decades. ” Argos says with a burp as the mead is not settling well on an empty stomach, it was at this point Snowy and Ash show up. Snowy is wearing a faded red cloak and a basic dust stained grey robe. Her facial expressions show her dislike of her clothing. Ash had filled her in on the special that had been preformed by Cecil earlier.
“I ran into a women a few weeks ago that has told me a tale. The women had dark blue hair another oddity if you ask me, she had with her a large scythe but she gave story of the White Raven. The story goes that once in the beginning days of mortals the White Raven first appeared, he was able to set people on a path to change their fates in. Because of this the mortals were able to increase their power and grow fending off the Darklings. One of the mortals that he help was either naive or vindictive either way they told first Gods all that the Raven had taught them and how the raven had helped them. That the man had helped so many that they even formed a temple in his honor. The gods angry for the White Raven’s interference and influence turned him into a Raven making it impossible to change the world again. Thou The secrets he gave helped the first civilized races defend themselves from the darklings. They say though if you go to his small woods you can sometimes see the White Raven, or find a Feather. ” Kross finishes the story right as his food arrives and Snowy stomach growls she begins eating and talking at the same time
“Its why we- “takes a bite of bread and continues a bit muffled,” came here. Wanted to find see a White Raven.”
“And your telling me that that man over there is the Raven.” Argos points over to Cecil who is currently having mead poured down his throat by the warriors who are thankful to be alive. Cecil having finished the mead. Smiles a moment before they bring another to his lips forcing him to drink another. Cecil makes it halfway down that one before pushing the cup, he stands at the smell off Coffee. A wench brings out the glasses and cups asked for by Kross. Who was so delighted by the aroma that he forgot what everyone was talking about.
“YOU BET HE IS” Snowy says almost choking on her food. Though she leaves half of everything and slides her plate over to Ash who looks shocked at the free offering of food. Ash takes a bite not wanting to be rude but as she hasn’t eaten yet she cant help but follow that bite with the rest.
“Whats your story then sir?” Argos asks Kross a man he barely knows. Kross pours the coffee for each of them. Snowy and Ash don’t take to the taste too well but Snowy continues to sip on it to appease Kross knowing this was a rare treat for him. Ash on the other hand carefully waits till Kross is not looking and pours it out onto the tavern floor. Argos cheers Kross then takes a burning gulp of the heated hot black drink. He waits a moment before coughing loudly.
“Easy there big fella its hot. Its a drink meant to be savored and enjoyed not shoveled down your throat. The short version is, I like the finer things in life, I am just your average wanderer who has picked up a skill or two here or there. Not much of a story. ” Kross nonchalantly explains. Argos knows there is much more to this man next to him then he is letting on but lets it slide for now.
“Well As I said my father is Ares, yet I haven’t had the chance to speak to him since I was very little when my mother passed. Being a half breed my mortality shall keep me locked to this world. If I earn enough glory perhaps my father well welcome me to the great Hall of the Gods when I parish here on this plane. ” Argos gives up his story without being asked. Kross just nods not trying to be rude but he couldn’t think of a worse hell than being stuck surrounded by self absorbed Gods for the rest of eternity. Listening to them bickering and causing destruction where ever they desire.
Cecil makes his way through the crowd cheering, it was hard at first to separate himself from the warriors, but with many thank yous and nods he was able to slip away and join Kross and the others. Plopping down at the counter Kross pours Cecil a cup. Cecil sips it and makes a funny face as coffee and mead didn’t complement each other too well. Cecil is clearly a bit intoxicated which is indicated by posture as well as his slurring words on the occasion.
“Whoooo…..those guu-ys are gr-ea-t…” Cecil says with a bit of a stumble before sipping the coffee.
Snowy giggles at the state of Cecil forcing Ash to crack a smile. Ash couldn’t keep her cold demeanor around Snowy’s cheer, it was infectious. Ash began to wonder how someone who faces the same scrutiny could have remained so carefree and willful. As Snowy wondered why Ash continued to hide her face behind her hair, there was no point in her mind to hide anything about yourself. In the past she had been hurt by others but Kross always even the score either with pointing out their flaws, or conning others to do the dirty work. Ash wondered if it was because Argos was so honor bound or tried to follow a code, people left her alone for the most part as long as he was around. His size would deter most that would cause an issue. Ash looked over at Kross trying to fully understand this man, he wasn’t carefree nor was he careful. He was a full human and clearly had some rough edges yet you could feel a kindness to him he also wasn’t hard on the eyes. A mystery why a human would even be bothered looking after such an energetic elf breed.
Snowy’s mind continued to wonder as she really just took a moment to take in the size of Argos. Easily the size of a half giant she compared her arm to his and then made a face reading “Good God” to Ash. Snowy then realized she was lucky to have Kross cause if Argos ever had to put her in line it would have been the end of her for sure. Ash smiles lightly at Snowy’s comparison and reaction.
“Cecil was it? ” Argos asks narrowing his gaze on the man trying to sober up at the bar. “now that you have saved the town, would you like to explain why those Seraphs were looking for you?”
“First off,” Cecil says straightening up,” your correct that is my name. Secondly don’t know might have something to do with….you know the end of the world…” he says without a compassion and in a semi serious tone before sipping his coffee.
“Excuse me?!!” both Argos and Kross respond in shock.