Tragedy of the Raven Part 3, Chapter 7
By Prince Nightmare
Klaveer lay dead in the snow, his red tongue lolling out limply, a red river of blood flowing from the places where the poison arrows had shot deep into his flesh. Seventeen arrows... that's how many it took before the black wolf fell, even in his last breath trying to defend the two boys who were making a futile attempt to run away.
Now, almost too afraid to breathe as the hunters dragged him along, Raven could hear Vah'ryiah crying softly behind him, more grieved over the death of his wolf than his own capture. Raven shivered in the cold air, the hunters had stripped the boys of their clothes to make them to cold to struggle. They had already been forced to hike miles through the deep snow, and Raven didn't think he could go on much farther. He prayed now that the Dark Magic would come to him, but it didn't. He wasn't skilled enough yet to cast a spell on command. The two times he had sent the Dark Fire from his fingertips had been induced by great anger as much as fear, but Raven felt only fear now... and it wasn't enough to ignite the searing power within him.
Neither of them recognized the tribe that had caught them, for they wore their clothes in a strange manner and had weird tattoos on their faces. They didn't even speak the universal language that nearly all the tribes of the North, and even the people of Guardia, spoke. The deep voices of the hunters were edged with a strange accent, and Raven couldn't begin to understand the jumbled words. All the men wore long braids and had strange charms dangling from their clothes and weapons. They didn't look anything at all like the normal barbarian men who didn't decorate their clothes at all and never tattooed their faces.
Raven glanced at the one who was in front of the group. The young man with his auburn hair tied back in a leather thong seemed to be the leader of the party. Despite the fact that he looked no more than twenty-three or four, the other men listened to him and obeyed his orders without hesitation. He carried a long, wooden staff with strange markings carved into it and black feathers tied around it with leather straps. Raven wondered what he used it for; it wouldn't have been much use for hunting.
Vah'ryiah sneezed behind him, and Raven tried to turn his head to look to see if his friend was feeling as miserable as he was. His nose had begun to run too... he was sure he'd get terribly sick from being out in the freezing weather without proper clothes. That was, if he lived long enough to get a cold... Light only knew what these men had planned for them.
One of the hunters hit Raven on the head as the boy attempted to smile encouragingly at Vah'ryiah. Raven blinked in surprise and rubbed his head, it hadn't hurt but it made him angry. Gritting his teeth he shouted up at the man, "You think you can frighten us? You think I'm afraid of you just because you have weapons?" Raven's blue eyes narrowed and he spat at the man's feet. "I don't care how good you think you can use your bow and arrow... you'll find out soon enough that I'm a good shot too!"
"So am I!" Vah'ryiah joined in, stepping up beside his friend and clenching his fists. His eyes were red from crying over the death of his wolf, but they were also filled with rage and hatred. "I swear by the Frost I'll see you beg for your lives for what you've done!"
Raven looked at him, a little startled, for Vah'ryiah's voice had taken on a deadly edge to it. He didn't realize that he had sounded just as enraged. He put a hand on the other boy's trembling shoulder and nodded as he looked around at the group of men, who had gathered around them, smirking. "I, too, make this vow! You will pay for this! We've done nothing to you! What right do you have to capture us and torture us like this?!"
The leader began to laugh a bit at the boys. First it was only a quiet chuckle, but soon his shoulders were heaving in guffaws. To Raven and Vah'ryiah's amazement, he spoke then in their language. "Ah, but how do you know you've done us no harm? You don't even know who we are." He grinned down at them, his good looking face screwed up in amusement. "You should think before you speak. It is a lesson that will serve you well in life." When he saw Raven was about to make a retort, the young leader went on. "I am called Ashar, High Druid of the Children of Nature, and we have been watching you both for a long time."
Raven and Vah'ryiah looked at each other in amazement, forgetting even that they were so cold their teeth chattered. Had they heard right? Druids? They looked round at the others, all with their strange tattoos and decorations that were arranged in specific patterns... Raven had to admit they looked like what he had always heard being described as "Druids".
"What do you mean you've been watching us?" Vah'ryiah hissed, "We've never seen you before! You must be lying, because I always know when someone is watching!"
Ashar's green eyes twinkled. "Except for today, isn't that right? Not even the wolf spirit knew, did he? How would he know a normal deer or rabbit from a Druid in disguise?"
The picture of his life long companion lying dead in the cold snow made Vah'ryiah sick with rage. Raven had to hold him back to keep him from lunging at the young man that so haughtily declared they had been being stalked for a long time. His voice shaking, Vah'ryiah choked out between sobs, "Why did you kill him then? Druids aren't supposed to kill animal spirits! Why did you kill Klaveer?! He was our friend!
Ashar laughed a bit. "You are young. You have much to learn. I didn't kill your wolf at all, only the physical form of the spirit inside yourself... which ever of you is the wolf that is..." He leaned the wooden staff against his thigh and reached out to the astonished boys, offering each one a hand. " Come with us now, and you will learn how to control the powers that are inside you, waiting to be set free. You both are the hope of our people, for the prophets and priests have long told of a wolf and a raven that would lead our people out of hiding and back into power..." he glanced round at the other men, who had been nodding silently and listening. They all seemed to have a look of conviction on their faces, as if their half-believed faith had just taken physical form in the two boys.
"A raven and a wolf? Sounds like you can't tell boys from animals." Raven said harshly, not taking the hand he'd been offered. "And why should we trust you? Making us march through the winter cold like this... it seems you want to lead us to our death rather than have us lead your little cult out of hiding. You must be very stupid to think we'd help you after all of this."
Ashar didn't flinch at the harsh words. He seemed to have been expecting them. "Ah.. The raven, messenger of despair, sorrow... and truth. In our legends, raven always speaks with sharp words that cut like a knife... so now we know who the raven is. And truth is, this march in the cold is the first step to opening the path inside you that will allow you to channel the powers you have."
Vah'ryiah looked at Raven and then back to the young leader. Without a word, he flung the outstretched hand away from him, a snarl etched on his pale face. When Ashar offered his hand again, Vah'ryiah turned his back. "I need no help training myself from someone like YOU!"
Ashar chuckled again, his green eyes glowing in amusement. "And the wolf, who acts out his emotions first and then thinks about it later. You are they... I knew it ever since I first heard rumors of two warlocks in this area who ran with a giant wolf. " Ashar slowly knelt before them, placing his hands on the ground and leaning his head between them. "Praise be to Shivah! They have come at last!"
The other men repeated the phrase, each one slowly bending down to kneel before the two boys, who could only look on in confusion.
Magus glanced back at Glenn. The knight's face was weary looking, the eyes bleary with the constant stress he was under. The wizard sighed and waited for him to catch up, noticing with a little surprise that Glenn's hair was beginning to gray at the temples. He wasn't the young man he had been twenty years ago... Magus once again was reminded that the people of Zeal didn't age like normal humans. His own mother had been close to three centuries old when he had been born. Sadly, Magus realized he'd long outlive his friend, providing he wasn't killed in an accident or battle. Even a wizard of his stature could die just as easily as most men when it came to things like that.
Glenn glared at him as he stepped up beside the wizard. "You don't have to wait for me, you know. I'm just feeling a bit under the weather lately." He rubbed his temples to try to rid himself of the dull ache there. His head had been hurting a lot lately.
"Glenn, you're wearing yourself out. You aren't twenty years old anymore. You can't just go parading around for days without rest like a teenager can, so slow it down. We're in no hurry to get anywhere in particular." Magus crossed his arms over his chest and peered at the knight, who was trying to avoid the mage's direct gaze. "You know that I speak the truth."
Glenn ignored him, not wanting to admit Magus was right. He didn't feel twenty anymore. He felt like he was more than his real age too... his heart was already a hundred years old. He had lost Raven and Lucca... but his heart had grown even heavier ever since he had to give up the last shred of light in his lonely life... Aria. Now he didn't even have her laughter to cheer him up, only Magus, who wasn't given to laughing much. "I know you're only trying to help Magus, but I don't see a point in this wandering. What do I have to live for? I'm wanted by every bounty hunter in the kingdom, my family is gone, all I have left is..." Glenn's voice trailed off as he touched the handle of the Masamune, smiling a bit. It was such a beautiful blade. Just touching it made him feel younger somehow.
Magus raised a brow, glancing warily at the mystical blade sheathed and hanging from Glenn's waist. "I don't like that thing. I never did. Too many have been killed by that sword... the blood washes off but not the pain it has brought to numbers uncountable."
Glenn laughed nervously. "You just hate it because it was the blade that defeated you. It is a holy sword, Magus, forged in your own homeland, made for destroying evi..."
Magus interrupted. "Made for killing the Enlightened Ones, that's what. Normal humans got jealous so they forged a blade and stole magic to strengthen it, and then they began to kill the remaining Enlightened Ones that had survived the catastrophe that the Queen brought." The wizard turned away, looking at the horizon. Fields of wheat and barley stretched out before them, and a tall hill dotted with a few trees loomed a few miles off. "Oh... everyone pretended it was all right, that all the hatred and prejudice had been forgotten, but when the Masamune was forged and given life by the winds, that all changed. My people were forced into hiding for thousands of years, where their own hatred twisted them into beasts and strange creatures, all capable of using magic... all wanting revenge.
"The Mystics... is that who you mean?" Glenn couldn't picture the handsome peoples of Zeal as the Orcs and Hydras he'd fought so many years ago. "Are you telling me Ozzy was a Zealian?"
Magus snorted. "A descendant of one... though I'd hate to have him in my family tree. I bet he was Dalton's great great great grandson." The wizard glanced over his shoulder, a slight smirk on his face. "They both were incredibly stupid. Do you remember how Dalton thought he was going to fly the Epoch around like a chariot?"
Glenn nodded, trying to laugh at the idea. He just couldn't manage it though. Instead, he smiled sadly at Magus, who shrugged and sighed.
"Well, I guess we can try to make it to that hill over there, if you aren't too tired. It doesn't matter to me much, but I'd rather be on high ground where we can see what's coming, in case there's a bounty hunter after us tonight."
Glenn nodded and the two walked on in silence. He noticed that Magus had slowed his pace a little so Glenn could keep up. It made the knight angry. Did Magus, even after all these years, still think himself so much better that he had to humor Glenn by slowing the traveling down so the knight wouldn't have to strain himself? Glenn gritted his teeth a little, but then shook his head. Magus was just trying to help, he wasn't being arrogant. Glenn decided to try to strike up a conversation to lighten his mood. He was about to ask Magus about his long travels when he heard a voice hiss his name.
"I'm hearing things," Glenn thought to himself, looking back over his shoulder. There was no one there, just Magus who walked silently ahead of him. Glenn shrugged, deciding the wind must be playing tricks as it swept through the long stalks of wheat.
The whisper came again.
Again he ignored it. He wondered if Magus was playing a wizard's trick on him. "Damn him if he is!" Glenn growled under his breath
" Glennnnn...You grow ssssloooww and weak."
That was it! If it was the mage, he'd learn not to mock a Knight of Guardia! "What did you say Magus?" Glenn asked, looking angrily at the man in front of him, who had stopped and was looking back in confusion. False confusion, Glenn thought, like a child with his hand in the honey pot. So... Magus was playing some sort of stupid trick! Glenn's lips twisted into a snarl. "Just because you're technically younger than me doesn't mean I can't hold my own against you, wizard!" He began to pull out the Masamune, just enough so the glint of the blade's edge caught the sunlight and flashed. The sword shot a bolt of power through his arm and into his heart. He could be strong again! He could still fight even the most dangerous of wizards! "Do you care to repeat your words, Magus?"
"What are you talking about?" Magus asked, his eyes wide. He had never known Glenn to act so hot tempered for... well, unless there was a good cause. But he hadn't said anything, especially not something that would insult the knight! "I didn't say anything like that! I know you're still a better swordsman than I am. No need to get upset!" The flash of the unsheathed sword caught him in the eye, and then Magus knew. The Masamune was controlling him. That had to be it. "Glenn, put the sword back."
"Oh... so you ARE afraid."
Magus nodded quickly. "Yes, I'm afraid. Put the sword back and forget what I said. I'm sorry for whatever I did, just put that sword down... you know I'm no match for you." Magus' breath caught in his throat. "Easy does it, " he told himself, "flatter him, flatter the sword..."
"Not even the Ein'deresch could stop you! But I, Glenn of Guardia, defeated you!" Glenn's eyes burned and he yelled it louder, "I DEFEATED YOU!" It echoed through the empty fields. Glenn laughed and swung the sword wildly through the air. It glowed against the rays of the sun, throwing rainbows over Magus' face and cloak.
"Yes, yes, you defeated me. I know Glenn, I remember... do you think we can still make it to that hill over there?" Magus made a pointing motion towards the horizon where the green gray hill stood in the distance. It was his one chance... he hoped it would work. Glenn's crazed eyes flicked for an instant towards where the wizard pointed. It was all the time Magus' needed.
A bright flash of light filled the air for a spit second, blinding Glenn. The knight swore and swung the Masamune through the air, but Magus was ready. He quickly ducked the blind swings of the knight and hit him hard as he dared, right in the stomach. Glenn gasped once, and then crumpled into Magus' arms, knocked out cold from the solid punch. The sword still dangled in one hand.
The bright light of the Luminare faded slowly. Magus looked down Glenn and shivered inwardly. The knight's face was sheet white and dark circles had formed around his eyes. It gave his face a skeletal look. Glenn moaned a bit and his loose grip on the Masamune's handle began to tighten a little.
"Glenn, forgive me, but the sword is driving you mad and stealing your strength!" Magus grabbed the sword away from his fallen companion, meaning to throw in far into the field... anywhere away from Glenn... but the second his fingers touched the hilt of the sword, Magus' vision swam with a red haze. Everything seemed to be going in slow motion. His body grew cold even though he knew it was a warm day. His heart and mind began to burn with fear, a deep, dark, all consuming terror that made him forget all he knew of magic. In a panic, Magus looked around for a place to run to. He gasped at what he saw. The fields were covered in blood!
"Oh Light, give me the will to throw this cursed thing far away..." he whispered under his breath. To his horror, he heard only laughter. First it was very quiet, but it grew steadily louder, pulsating in his mind with every heartbeat.
"Kill yourself, wizard. Die by your hand."
Magus nearly choked. The damned sword could talk! It did have a soul, just as the legends said... or rather, it was many souls, all trapped in the evil blade.
Dark forms were rising and began creeping across the bloodied fields, all coming towards him. He looked down again at Glenn and almost screamed when he saw that the knight was only bones covered with half rotted flesh. Then, to Magus' horror, Glenn opened his eyes and extended a long, bony hand to his throat.
"Die by your hand..." all the dark warriors chanted together as they closed in on the wizard. "Kill yourself. We are all slaves to Vengeance."
Magus closed his eyes and covered his face with his hands, screaming. It was just like being back in the depths of his own Darkness again! Except this time the demons weren't his own, they were all the souls trapped by the sword... they were all trying to kill him... the last wizard. The only one who hadn't succumb to the Masamune... He could smell the foul stench of death as it crept nearer to him, nearly making him choke. Any second now the soulless warriors would claw him with their bony fingers and tear his flesh open, and he would die!
Magus heard the sword clank dully as it hit a rock on the ground. Nothing happened. No bony fingers locked themselves around his throat to cut off his life. After a few heartbeats, Magus opened his eyes. The golden wheat fields waved slightly in the gentle summer breeze and a warm sun smiled down on them. Glenn was slumped over a few feet away, moaning softly but still knocked out. There was no sign of anything sinister or threatening in the bright afternoon.
Magus felt his knees buckle under him and he fell to the ground, shaking so hard his cloak nearly slid off his shoulders. The sword lay silently on the ground, looking innocently enough like a hundred other swords he had seen. Magus drew back from it.
"I can't touch it. I can't or it will drive me mad and kill me... " The wizard took his cloak off and covered the sword with it so his hands wouldn't touch any part of the blade or handle. Slowly, he picked it up and wrapped it more tightly in the cloth. Nothing happened, no visions or nightmares. Magus breathed a sigh of relief. "You will do no more harm to anyone... not ever."
Holding the sword with one hand, he hoisted Glenn up on his shoulder. Still feeling cold inside, Magus made himself take a few steps in the direction of the hills. After a little while he felt better, but nothing would shake the eerie visions from his head. In time, he would perhaps forget, but there would be no sleeping for him tonight. Maybe not for a few nights.
Magus pitched the sword in the first lake he saw and watched with satisfaction as the blade sank down to the murky depths. There was little chance anyone would be able to dive deep enough to find it there.
He hoisted his fallen comrade back up on his strong shoulder and didn't glance back to where he had thrown the sword. Wearily, Magus continued to carry Glenn until they reached the high hill that would offer them both some much needed rest.
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