Tragedy of the Raven Part 2, Chapter 9
By Prince Nightmare
By the time they had reached the camp, Ravens extremities had gone numb from the cold and his body ached with weariness. The women, children, and old ones all rushed out of the lodge with huge smiles on their faces. Raven noticed they were nothing more than skin and bones. They must have been nearly starved to death.
Goroth quieted them all with a shout. He looked round at his people. Baluf and several others have journeyed to the land of our forefathers. But do not grieve, because of their sacrifice we shall live longer! We have brought much food and goods! There are slaves also and we have a sacrifice to give to Vahryiah to appease his rage. The barbarian pointed at Raven, indicating he would be the one given to the wolf boy, and the people cheered their approval. Several young women were crying for lost husbands, but Raven thought the mourning was only superficial. They didnt look too sad once they saw the heaping piles of stolen goods the warriors had with them.
After the goods and food had been divided up, the slaves were forced inside the large lodge. A blazing fire was burning in a center hearth and it wasnt long before Ravens hands and feet began to thaw out. He nearly cried it hurt so bad. He didnt know it was possible to get so cold that when you began to warm up again it burned like fire. The children were all crying from the pain, and some of the barbarians laughed.
They are weak people! Raven heard one toothless old man cackle. It was Deward, the one who first prompted the raid. He poked Raven with a stick. This one has a demon in him. Look at how he glowers at me! The old man cackled again, and Raven wanted to take the stick Deward held and whack his toothless face in with it.
It was sometimes hard to understand what the barbarians said, for they had a thick accent the people of Guardia had rarely heard. Raven listened to the conversations around him as his body slowly became warm again. Mostly, from what he could understand, the barbarians were arguing over the children and who would get them.
Goroth was laughing and drinking beer the whole time, telling stories of the raids while several young women hung on him adoringly. He was obviously the new leader since Baluf was dead. It was he who finally silenced the loud clan for an announcement.
Early tomorrow, before the storm hits, we shall take the little demon into the forest and leave him there! He will not be kept as a slave for it is plain to see he attracts evil spirits and bad luck. The Son of Frost shall claim his bones, and the gods will smile on us again and end the winter!
There was much cheering and drinking over his decision, and for the first time Raven felt a prick of fear. He had been too busy trying to stay alive to think of things before, but now he realized how bleak his situation really was. He would die tomorrow, and he would never see his home again. He would never open his eyes in the morning to see Glenn whistling to the birds or Lucca inventing something new and wonderful. Tears burned in his eyes. He missed them all so much it made him ache inside. Tomorrow he would be dead and none of those he loved would ever know how he died... just like his father who had perished in some far away land where there was nothing to mark his grave.
Long after the others had gone to sleep, Raven was awake, staring at the coals of the dying fire. He could hear the wind picking up outside. How would it feel to freeze to death? He didnt know, for the thought never occurred to him before. In Guardia, it had been the furthest thing from his thoughts, for it very rarely snowed there. Here it seemed like there was nothing but snow and ice. Raven hadnt seen a single green plant since they arrived, as long as he didnt count the fir trees.
The long night wore on and Raven waited for the dawn of his last day to be alive. Despite his promise to himself to be brave, he cried silently. He had failed Glenn, and now he and Aria were probably dead. He had heard Goroth telling the other slaves that their families had been killed. Raven had been afraid to ask. But now there was no hope left anyway, so he decided to ask before they abandoned him.
From the crack in the lodges walls he could see the gray light of dawn begin to illuminate the sky. It wouldnt be long now before Goroth and his warriors would wake and lead him into the deep forest to freeze. Raven didnt believe in their story of a wolf boy who was supposedly going to eat him. It just sounded too stupid. More likely hed die from exposure than cannibalism.
He heard Goroth waking. The barbarian stood up and looked at Raven with a smirk on his face. Soon now, little demon. You wont have to wait much longer. He began to dress in thick furs to protect against the cold.
The other warriors who were to accompany them rose and dressed soon after, and then the rest of the people. They all wanted to see the departure of the demon who was going to be sacrificed to the evil warlock. As Goroth shoved Raven out the door of the lodge, someone threw a rock from the fire hearth at him. It smacked him in the head and Raven wheeled around angrily, snarling at the crowd of laughing barbarians.
Deward cackled and picked up another rock. You want more, do you? The old man chucked the rock at Ravens chest. Raven dodged it and jumped towards Deward, swearing angrily. Goroth caught him by the collar and tossed him to the ground. A heavy boot slammed into Ravens ribs, and he coughed hard from the impact.
Raven staggered to his feet. Goroth glared at him in a threatening way. Some more rocks were thrown at him by the others now, several hit him, leaving deep bruises. And yet Raven didnt move. He kept his cold blue eyes locked on Goroth. Something hot and white seared the back of his mind. This time he wouldnt fight the dark power inside him.
Goroth snarled at the boys brazenness and smacked him hard across the face. The barbarians look of anger was replaced by confusion when Raven didnt fall to his knees, or even let out a grunt of pain. Instead, the boy straightened himself and continued to stare menacingly. His eyes were practically glowing and his lips were curled into a hideous sneer.
You going to let that bastard get away with that, Goroth? Bash his head in, and leave Vahryiah a dead corpse to feast on! Deward yelled, waving his skinny arm in the air.
Raven turned slowly and looked at the old man. His vision was filled with flashes of red and white, and he knew the power would overcome him now. It rose up in him like a hot flood, he could feel it surround him with fire. One moment Deward was shaking his fist and cursing, the next second the old man was aflame and screaming in agony as his flesh was burned from his body.
The others jumped back as Deward became a human torch, running frantically. The ceiling of the lodge caught on fire, and everyone panicked. Goroth clenched his fists and shook violently, too afraid to hit the boy now. Everyone was clambering over each other to get out of the burning lodge. Raven simply stood there with a twisted smirk on his pale face. Then he calmly walked out of the lodge as several clansmen scrambled to get out his way. No one tried to stop him.
The fire finally burned itself out. Handfuls of snow were thrown on the smoldering remains of the lodge, and a body count was conducted by Goroth, though it was hard to say who had died because their bodies had been charred beyond recognition.
In the end, four people were killed. All of the food that Goroth and the others had raided burned too. The women began to wail and the warriors just stared in awe at Raven. Goroth finally spoke, his voice booming over the cries of the people.
The boy is a warlock! We must drive him out, for he will bring death to us all! We must call Vahryiah the Son of Frost to take him away from us! Where is the Shaman? He must do the chants!
One of the women stepped forward. He was killed, Goroth. He was trampled when the lodge caught on fire! We are doomed! We have no lodge and no food! A storm comes, listen to the wind!
Raven thought it was ironic that the barbarians would share his fate. They wanted him to freeze to death, and now they would join him on that cold journey to the land of the dead. He might never see his home or Glenn again, but he had his vengeance now he felt almost good That was, until he saw several young children huddled close to their mothers, crying because it was cold. The innocent children would die too, because of what hed done. One small girl looked at Raven with large, frightened eyes that didnt understand what had happened to the place she called home.
Raven blinked hard as he stared at them, trying to hold back tears. He hadnt meant to hurt the innocent, but why did Goroth and the others have to be so cruel? Was there no way to win in this world? Several people at him with both fear and confusion as Raven began to sob silently. He knew his father must have felt the same way, at least until the Darkness completely stole his soul would he live to be a Blood Wizard and hate himself for it, just like Magus had?
Goroth spoke in a quiet voice. We will go to the Skull Clan, who is only half a days walk. We will have to beg them to take us in as slaves. They are stronger than us we have nothing now. It is the only way
The other warriors hung their heads and nodded, they each knew he was right. Slowly, gathering what little was left from the wreckage, the barbarians followed Goroth who led them east across the snowy plains. Raven watched them go. Not one had said a word to him as they marched past. Now he was alone in the howling wind. There was nothing to do but wait for Death. He sat in the cold snow and pulled an abandoned fur around him. It had been only slightly singed and it smelled terrible, but at least it was warmer than his thin jerkin.
Somewhere, not too far away from where Raven sat, a wolf howled.
Klaveer whined as he sniffed the air. Vahryiah stood behind him, perplexed at the wolfs actions. Hed been acting strange since yesterday.
The boy knew that the warriors had returned, he had watched them from far atop a peak that overlooked their lodge. He had gone into his cave home that night feeling lonely as ever, for down in the camp they were feasting. He could smell the roasting food as he chewed his own meal of dried deer meat. Maybe the wolf was just sensing his moodiness
Klaveer, my brother Vahryiah said, placing his head against that of the black wolf and listening to the beasts steady breathing. You say there is something wrong that there is fire on the wind but it does not concern us Klaveer. We have to get enough wood to stock up before the next storm hits. I cant worry about a fire in the lodge of those men. If we went to try to help, theyd tie us to a log and toss us in to burn!
The wolf turned his head and licked the boys cheek, still whining under his breath. Vahryiah sighed. He had to gather at least another armful of wood before the storm hit which would be anytime now. Klaveer, I cant go.
There isnt time for me to run all that way. I have to stay here and gather logs and sticks the wind brings another blizzard tonight.
Klaveer blinked, his golden eyes shining in a pleading way. He yipped once or twice as the boy smelled the air full of smoke. The wolf pranced around, as if waiting anxiously for Vahryiah to make up his mind.
Vahryiah stood slowly. I can smell burnt flesh there is death on the wind Klaveer, he said, kneeling by the wolf and patting his muzzle, be my eyes and go to the peak. Look down and see what has happened. I will wait here Vahryiah sat down and closed his eyes. He felt his consciousness within the wolf, and when he opened his eyes again, he was seeing as Klaveer.
Together as one, they loped at a fast pace, putting the few miles behind them quickly. The smell of smoke became thicker and it was strangely quiet. Usually the sounds of people could be heard when they were this close to the camp. But as they peered down from the ledge, they could see no people, only a smoldering ruin where the lodge had stood. There were four bodies sprawled on the ground, and someone was sitting huddled in a fur. They sniffed this persons smell was not the same as those of the tribesmen.
The figure did not move, only sat there as if dead. He did not shudder as he heard the wolf howl. Most people scrambled away in terror, for it was known there was only one wolf within miles of the camp, and he belonged to Vahryiah the warlock.
The wolf and the boy became separate once more as Vahryiah forced his mind back into his body. He blinked until his eyes were focused. He always felt a little dizzy after coming back and he swayed a bit as he stood. As soon as he regained his balance enough not to lose his footing, he began to run to where he knew Klaveer would be waiting.
It took the boy longer to reach the peak alone than it had taken when he was with Klaveer. He didnt have a wolfs long legs or large paws that helped carry his weight over the deep snow. Finally he reached the spot, out of breath. Klaveer was lying on the ledge, his ears pricked forward as he watched the still figure below. The person still hadnt moved. Vahryiah laid on his stomach next to the wolf and stared down at the stranger, unsure of what he should do.
Klaveer howled again, his deep voice so loud that it hurt Vahryiahs ears.
Hush!! the boy whispered as he brushed back his long, nearly white hair from his violet eyes. He felt for sure the figure would run away now with a wolf so nearby, but the stranger never budged. He must be dead Vahryiah thought to himself. No one sane would wait for wolves to come and eat him He stood slowly and beckoned the big animal to follow him down the path to the camp. Maybe we can find some usable things down there a knife or something that didnt get burned up.
The wolf trotted after him as he started down the steep path. He walked very quietly and hid behind trees as he made his way to the burning remains of the lodge. There was no telling if this was some sort of trap, though Klaveer would have smelled others around and already been on guard. But the wolf didnt seem nervous at all. He was acting like a puppy, snapping at snow flakes and jumping around. Vahryiah shook his head. Strange spirits were in the air today, he decided.
Vahryiah and Klaveer both entered the outskirts of the camp silently, watching for any movement. When he saw nothing stir, Vahryiah began to cautiously approach the spot where only yesterday was teeming with northmen.
The person huddled in the large fur was still as the dead that were lying in the center of the smoking rubble.
Vahryiah crept quietly up behind the figure, reaching for the knife in his belt just in case he might need it. He could hear the person breathing, so he knew whoever it was still lived without making a sound,
He motioned for the big wolf to stay out of sight. Klaveer was lurking behind him in a small patch of pines, hidden in the shadows, but Vahryiah could see his golden eyes glowing. He turned his attention back to the motionless person bundled in the singed bear fur. Slowly, Vahryiah extended a hand to tap the figure to see if it was awake, hurt, or
It had been the moment Raven had been waiting for. He quickly turned around and grabbed Vahryiahs hand, pulling the boy to the ground. Vahryiah sprang up quickly, slashing the knife at Ravens throat.
Raven dodged the dangerously sharp blade and picked up a stick that was thick and heavy. Brandishing it like a sword, he waited for the strange, pale haired boy to make the next move. He watched the boys movements, trying to decipher what he might do next, but the boy was standing as still as a statue and gave no hints to how he might attack.
Raven saw the boys eyes flicker for a brief moment, focusing on a spot behind Raven. Slowly, with a cold feeling, Raven turned around to see a huge black wolf snarling dangerously at him. Before Raven could even think what to do next, the wolf leaped at him and knocked him down. He felt the beasts teeth sink into his arm as he hit the ground . The wind knocked out of him, he lay there, pinned under the huge bulk of the wolf as it prepared to rip his arm off
Klaveer! a voice from behind Raven shouted, Let him go! Raven felt the sharp teeth of the wolf withdraw from his torn arm. Blood soaked his sleeve and dripped onto the ground. He wondered deep the bite mark was. Raven was about to leap to his feet and make a last stand against the boy who could only be Vahryiah himself, when he saw a hand extended before him. He looked up to see the boy smiling at him in a shy way. Not sure if it was a trick, Raven cautiously accepted the hand.
Vahryiah helped the black haired stranger to his feet and threw Klaveer an angry look. I told you to stay hidden! he snapped. The wolf whimpered, ashamed. Vahryiah shook his head and rolled his eyes. He turned back to the strange boy with the pointed ears. Forgive me. I wasnt sure if you were a trap set for me by the tribe that lived here, theyve tried such tricks before. He glanced around at the smoldering ruins. What happened? How did the lodge burn down?
Who are you? Raven asked, still wary of the boy with the huge wolf. I think I have an idea who you are but I want you to tell me. Vahryiah smirked. Hmm. So youve heard of Vahryiah, the wolf boy, have you? Well, I admit it, thats me. Now, Ive told you my name, so you can tell me how all of this happened.
Raven narrowed his eyes. Arent you supposed to be eating me right now? Vahryiah began to laugh, his whole body shaking hard with guffaws. Raven watched him snickering and began to get mad. What the Hell do you find so funny? They told me you were going to eat my bones, so if youre going to kill me, Id appreciate it if youd hurry it up. Im cold and dont feel like waiting out here any longer.
Oh Vahryiah gasped, nearly doubling over with laugher, that is the funniest thing Ive ever heard! He wiped a tear from his eye and sighed. Eat you? Well I usually dont ask the name of my next meal, if thats what you mean. Did they really tell you that? His wide grin turned to a look of concern as he glanced at the wound his wolf had inflicted upon the strange boy. We should get that taken care of. Come on, its going to storm soon. It isnt far to where I live. Well be out of the weather there and then you can tell me what happened. When Raven hesitated, Vahryiah sighed. Look, if I was going to eat you, I would have done it. Its going to storm like mad soon. If we get caught out in it well be seeing our forefathers in the land of the dead. Trust me, I wont bite. He began to walk towards the path that led up to the peak.
Raven looked at Vahryiah and then up at the darkening sky. The wind was really picking up and he was freezing. He took a few hesitant steps toward where Vahryiah was heading, but stopped in his tracks as Klaveer got between them. Vahryiah turned around, exasperated.
He wont hurt you. He only attacked you because he thought you were going to hit me with that stick. I trust Klaveer completely, even though he killed my parents. He smirked as the other boy stared at him in disbelief. Its a long story. Come on Ill tell you on the way. And maybe I can guess your name if you arent going to tell me. I know I can guess it, because I dreamed about you.
Slowly, keeping his eyes on the wolf, Raven walked beside Vahryiah. He was tired and his arm hurt, though he didnt think the bite was too bad. The bleeding had nearly stopped. All he wanted to do was get some place warm and go to sleep so he could escape the memories of the terrible events of the past few weeks, if only for a little while. He glanced over at Vahryiah, who was again smirking at him in a mischievous way.
Your name is Raven, isnt it? The gods sent me dreams about a raven who got blown by the wind until he was lost and couldnt find his way home. He fell from the sky and I found him and healed his broken wing. Strange, how dreams can tell you things like that. His weird, light eyes grew worried as the wind swirled the snow up around them, leaving a dusting of ice crystals on their faces. Weve really got to hurry. This storm is going to hit any minute.
Raven nodded as they picked up the pace, silently marveling how the boy could have known his name from a dream. Maybe fate had led him to meet the wolf boy for some strange purpose. Maybe there was still a chance he could find a way to get back across the sea. With that thought in mind, Raven gritted his teeth against the bone chilling wind that never seemed to stop in this land of snow and ice. He longed for the warmth of Guardia he didnt know if he would ever see his home again, but at least now he had some sort of hope for survival.
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