The Obsidian Crown
A half elven Scout and Forward Lancer, a Sergeant at Arms of the Wolf's Head Brigade, greatest of Anterrus's standing armies. Rael is fairly quiet, steadfast, and a devout follower of the Raven Lady: Ciara 'Dhakiyah.
You see a cloaked figure make his way past you, except for the baggy hood, the rest of the cloak appears to be made of several ragged black, leather tunics sewed together, 3 to be precise, and the tunic angles seem to form a separate side of him, appearing to stand about 6 foot 4 or 5, the hood of the cloak mostly hiding his face. A low scar on the bridge of his jaw can be seen contrasting against a thickly dreaded goatee, blood red in color, a motley mass of bangs poking out of the same color, steel vambraces run up the lengths of his arms, from beneath the corners of the cloak you see black leather straps and buckles going down each of his legs and swallowed up by thick knee high boots. Drooped loosely across his shoulders and wrapping around the cowl of his hood is a worn, heavy. Plaid made up of the colors of Anterrus, pinned with a Wolfs Head brooch, and separate pins of his unit and rank. A heavily bound and wrapped Two- Handed Great sword some six and a half feet long is strapped loosely to his back, flashing from his waist the handles of two broken claymores can be seen, their blades perhaps a foot or more in length still appear to be as sharp as ever. A sudden cool breeze blows back the hood, his blood red hair flipping back and flowing with the wind; several of his bangs you notice are also dreaded and have what looks like a mess of good-luck charms woven into them, two of which may catch your eye, a blackened silver raven, and adjacent to it a half broken medallion of strange elven make. His eye are a stark and eerie emerald green, and the glimmer of 9 silver hoops can be seen running up both lengths of his knife-like ears
Rael Longstrider, never knew his mother or his father, who he favored or who he had gotten his exceptional physique, long ears or heightened senses from. He barely registered that he was different from most of the children who grew up at an orphanage attached to the monastery of St. Rahund, a temple devoted to Ciara’dhakiyah that resided a day and half’s ride south east of Tyrion. But that would change as he and a select handful of other orphans were chosen to be indoctrinated into the Order of the Raven’s Blade. They were all given the choice to turn away, no one the wiser or less cared for, if they so desired, but the Guardians and Chaplains were good at spotting potential.At the age of 8 he began an intensive regiment of physical and mental training that went on for 20 years, chosen for his hybrid being, his instructors were not disappointed in their student. Being half elven would become difficult on him however, just as much as it was a blessing. Over the years, seeing and believing his peers were surpassing him as they completed their initiate studies and moved on to being journeymen or more for the order, he began to grow seeds of self doubt which clashed with his mental training. He was not made aware that his instructors had kept him back, in order to teach him further more radical and dangerous techniques that they had held back from other Guardian’s training. They were not aware of the potential harm they were causing to his psyche and social skills, his having an almost infinite youth made them believe they had the perfect specimen to mold into a strong and most advantageous weapon against the evil they had long been fighting. He was to be a champion of the Raven Queen. Two more years passed by, and a third generation of Guardians were well into their initiate training, two of which would take a strong liking to the silent, “bigger” kid, with the long pointy ears. Jeorgen Hamfist, age 14, and Aslynn Fairchylde, age 12, would remind him that he was still just a young teenager and in need of the joy, attention, and physical contact that came from friendship. With this boost to his confidence his instructors saw him change and become even more focused in his studies, and soon they would have no more to teach him. His having someone care for him, allowed him to realize the necessity for protecting the ones he cared for and others with a clear purpose, and so after another three years he and his friends were appointed journeyman status within the order. They were given a leave of absence from the monastery for two years to travel and enjoy life in the outside world for awhile. Apart of this leave, was to allow them to make new contacts and allies on their journey, Rael was not so good at this part, and though there were charming aspects that drew people to him, he still didn’t know how to reach out and just let others in or how to take advantage of a social situation. The exception to this of course was Aslynn, now a beautifully endowed woman of extreme intellect and wit, she would push him gently at times and roughly at others, and he loved every bit of it. He opened up enough to make his advance, and soon they were as passionate about each other like wildfire. He would later learn of Jeorgen’s feelings for Aslynn, and Aslynn having favored Rael caused Jeorgen to fall out of favor with the two. When they returned to training at the monastery, Jeorgen become dispassionate and mean in his studies and in training duels. He seemed to have changed almost overnight, and distanced himself from the others. Another year went by before the full repercussions would come to bare fruit of the worst kind. Three months came and passed, and their teachers seemed to grow considerably quiet and less responsive to their students. They began harder regiments and pushed their students harder in their studies. Rumors abounded, and another month passed by before it was concluded that they needed to express their concerns with their pupils, that something was amiss with other strongholds that dotted across the kingdom, of Guardians, informants and backers going missing, and of former lips well greased going sourly dry. The Order took to strengthening their fortifications and sent search and response teams to locate these missing individuals. While the order is undeniably cautious, it was known for their quick and decisive response time, however this time they were not aware of how badly they had been caught off guard and how late they truly were. The Night of the Seven Sorrows is a holy day of Ciara’dhakiyah meant for lamenting, and fasting, in respect of the dead who had died from unnatural causes and before their time. A day and night meant to try and appease these spirits or seek out and avenge the wrongs committed against them. On this night, the darkness they assumed they had a stalemate with, came and rushed over them like a flood. There was fighting all over the sanctuary grounds, blood of over a hundred students and Guardians, were spilt across this sacred place. Everyone looked to the Lady for help and response, but found her quiet and seemingly unaware of their plight. The small citadel was burning all around, as Rael and Aslynn, Jeorgen and a handful of Black Guardians led by the Raven Lord pushed and cleared enough of a way into the main chapel for a small band of wounded to seek shelter and safety from the hordes. The Raven Lord drew them into a secret reliquary beneath the dais and podium. Surrounding them were several artifacts and reliquaries from the times before, when the Raven Queen walked the land. They tended to the wounded and then slowly and systematically started to take back ground till they could try and make an attempt to refortify the chapel. With a fervent strength they continued to battle and attempts were made at repairs, and after several hours of this everything appeared to go quiet.
A loud thundering boom collided with the thick stone walls of the chapel, and with it the roof came crashing down in great chunks upon the survivors. A hole large enough for a King’s carriage shown the flames of the rest of the grounds blazing even brighter, with large violent creatures bashing the rest of the property to bits and eating anything they could get their hands on. Dust and bits of smoldering ash fluttered through, as what looked like a man cast of shadows walked through the new entrance. Rael, having been pinned through the collar bone close to his arm by the iron cast spear of a statue of a saint, saw the man thing approach Aslynn lying unconscious upon the ground, struggled and tore at him self to try and pry free. He heard a large bellow come from a mangled Jeorgen, waltzing toward the creature his blood gushing out in torrent from an arm he held limply to his side, “…not her, we had a deal!”. The creature laughed and like a flash of light had Aslynn over his shoulder, and Jeorgen held aloft by his good arm. Rael roiled and with stunted screams tried to call out and beg for their safety. The creature gorged himself on the blood leaking like a faucet from Jeorgen’s arm, he looked over to Rael, “another survivor…hmm…very fascinating”. It tossed Jeorgen over his shoulder like a rag doll, into a mound of pews, and approached Rael, giving him a look over. “Not badly wounded, but too frail and gaunt for my taste, but it has been awhile….” He jabbed a finger through the hole in Rael’s wound, and dribbled the sticky contents across his long snake like tongue, and he screamed with pain. With its free hand it raked and spat the contents out of its mouth, roaring and cursing. Another figure appeared at the door a moment later, tall and stout, perhaps a noble by the looks of his dress and the small admonishments of his person glittering from the flickers of flame behind him. “Stop toying with the remnants of this establishment, you may have your fill later, you need to acquire what we are here for now.” His eyes shifted to the dais and with that the man turned and left. The creature glared at Rael for a moment, Rael glared back defiantly, tears of concern for Aslynn and from the pain he was causing himself with the tearing clouding his vision. The creature shook his head and smiled, then walked off and down the entrance beneath the podium. Rael heard someone charge and scream “In the name of Ciara’dhakiyah, you shall not have them you, you blood sucking hell spawn!” and the clanging of metal against metal, the creature screamed in pain… then giggled some retort, and then many death screams echoed from below, and then silence. Rael, in turn, struggled fiercely against the spear, the heat of the flames near by sweltered the metal heating and stinging the wound, and he fell to one knee a prayer to the Lady on his lips, and fell forward, the metal warped and tore free from the statues hand. He opened his eyes, gasping for air, and letting it all out in one tense fluid motion, he shoved the spear out the back of his collar, the metal clanging to the ground. It was still quiet below, and then he heard Aslynn and his heart stopped, she started screaming, and he struggled to his feet, taking the large spear from the ground he charged off and down into the darkness. He struck the bastard from behind, impaling it across its lower spine and up with a crunching sound through its ribcage, it felt to Rael like he had just punched a blade through a stone wall. The creature fell forward, Aslynn in its claws, she fell and rolled forward clutching her side. He ran to her and held her there gently for a moment, they both looked down to her side. His eyes grew wide and scared; she nodded to him with a look of forgiveness upon her face. She leaned forward and caressed his cheek rolling her hand through his hair; they stared upon each other, sad loving expressions upon their faces. The Raven Lord sitting against the wall, blade still in his quivering hand raised it and pointed to the creature, “It’s not dead lad” , he sputtered blood and pointed to a large two handed blade of exquisite beauty, resting in a scabbard of fine black leather, layered with intricate filigree, and tapered towards the guard with long black feathers. “ You must take… ‘sword and this” in his bloodied hand he held a thin crystalline tube garbed in silver and runes, a liquid sloshing passively within it “and ru…” his last words muffled as sharp black tendrils pulled out of the man’s chest and retreated back to the creature upon the floor. Rael, as quickly as he could, threw Aslynn onto his back and he lurched forward his claymore in both hands impaled the creature once more, this time through its ugly gleefully shrieking skull, the blade snapped a foot shy of the guard. Almost simultaneously, Rael snapped back his head as another of the tendrils struck out to catch him off guard, the vile blade like appendage rending a gash across his lower jaw and cheek, and then it fell back to the creature. He then ran, for his life, swooping up the raven feathered blade and the vial from the Raven Lord, and up the stairs. He was met abruptly at the top by Jeorgen, standing there by the power of pure stubbornness; he grimaced at Rael, and then saw Aslynn. His jaw dropped, and then just as quickly it became a face of fury and a look in his eye told Rael that his friend had returned to them finally, “Go ! Get her out of here, there is not much left in me but I will see you two make it from this hell”. Rael nodded and hoisted his load up and into the chapel, he stopped to readjust himself, strapping the large blade to his back, and dropping the vial into his pouch, slid his broken claymore into his scabbard and he grabbed Aslynn up in his arms, he scanned the surrounding area and saw the ladder to the bell tower still standing. He made his way over and readjusting Aslynn who whimpered softly from the pain, he crossed the sword strap around her and proceeded up the ladder. Midway he turned to see Jeorgen scream and run back and down the stairs. His arm started to shake from the stress, he couldn’t stop to watch but as he continued up the ladder, his ears flinched and he looked through the corner of his eyes as more screaming erupted from the tomb, the clanging of Jeorgen’s claymore lit up the shadows from the mouth of the reliquary within, as sparks flew and several of those tendrils sprung past him and out into the light coated in blood. He clenched his teeth at the site, and busted his way through the door and into the tower above.Exhaustion soon swept over him as he slumped with Aslynn against the hard stone wall of the tower, and a short while later he saw glimpses of the sun rising. Many of the creatures below, large and small started to depart as the sun began to rise further. He focused his senses and saw a pale skinned creature devoured in black explode out of the chapel below and run off dragging a large trunk behind it, a bloody corpse in one large misshapen claw it trailed off into the darkness of the forest. He bit his teeth so hard a trickle of blood dribbled down his chin, as he witnessed several humans? Humans were wrestling and driving the other creatures forward, marching them away from the ashes of the estate and into the forest. He turned to look Aslynn over, her wounds were painful to see, and he laid her down upon his cloak to give her comfort. He rested his eyes for a moment. “Love, may I look into those eerie emeralds of yours forah moment” He opened his eyes as Aslynn move to him, a sad smile upon her face. She leaned in and kissed him deeply, her last breath blending into his.
He sat with the shell of his love, for nearly half the day, his thoughts and emotions screaming at him, and no rest came his way. So he slid down onto the roof, and harried across the rooftop and into the forest, he followed the trail of blood the pale skinned creature took. He came upon a clearing and found Jeorgen, drained and dismembered upon the cold earth, his broken blade lying not far from his corpse. He took his friend’s scabbard and placed the blade into it once more and strapped it to his waist. As was their tradition he set to building several large pyres, and two separate smaller ones, and went about retrieving the remains of what would later be referred to as the Massacre at St. Rahund’s. Rael wept as he finally lit the last two pyres watched his Love, and his best friend’s remains set ablaze, he calmed for a moment as he felt something strange, he looked up and swore he saw their spirits rise to meet the Lady. He looked around, his eyes growing wider, as he saw hundreds of Ravens nesting amongst the wreckage of the estate, several others drifted around in circles above the flames, flying up and around the smoke that reached up to the sky. A small smile pursed his lips, as he dried his eyes and walked back into the monastery, an hour later he walked out into the early morning sun, never to return.Rael did not have the social training or inkling of how to garner fresh contacts like others of the Order, and so he struggled for three years as he continued to train and stalk the citizens of the dark and nether. He knew he could not claim himself a Guardian any longer, for the rumors he heard while he wandered the roads, from rural to city, was that they had all been slain to the last. Other rumors spoke of pockets of Guardians still holding out. But there would be no evidence to the contrary. When Rael had went back into the monastery and while collecting a few necessities, he had scrounged over the remains of the archives, and pocketed a handful of half charred maps of the other estates that held enclaves and/or other relics of the Lady or of her Champions and Saints. As he investigated these locations, he saw many of the people he once knew from over the past 30 years and others bearing the crest of the Raven Queen now deceased, and he drew up many pyres along the way. His instincts led him far, and when he couldn’t rely on them, the Intuitive Lady would lead him even further. While he was unaware of why she had let this happen, and while he could curse her for letting Aslynn die, he did not believe it was solely her fault, nor did he truly bear her the grudge. At the very least she was guiding her champion in his time of need. He traveled under the guise of a monster slayer and many other names, particularly all of them with slayer in the title. At times he would assassinate humans, tied to demons, or necromancers, or ghouls under the employment of vampires and such ilk, his skills at tracking and slaying never dulled. He was sought out by many for a time, and business seemed to boom, the creatures of the wild and dark seemed to have tripled since the massacre. He made enough to keep his supplies in stock, buy a good horse, and kept him fed along the way, any other he would donate to orphanages or temples he felt could use it the most. There were still good and innocent people out there who would help him from time to time and/ or lend him shelter as he traveled. He felt good about the work he did, and eventually his vengeance started to subside, although his diligence never wavered, he would eventually cross that creature again if he kept at it, he knew this, and he knew time was on his side. Or so he thought, as he came back to a little hamlet five days travel due east of Tyrion. The winter estate of one Duke Ackerdson, who Rael thought was a second cousin or something like of the King, had a rather large and beautiful little country hamlet, that stood against a truly gods awful patch of forest and low mountains, known to many as the Blackened Wood and Talon Peaks. The Talon Peaks were known for housing dragons and other fouler creatures, and the woods were just as bad, probably worse. The Blackened Wood was such a dense and large forest that it housed several large swamps darting across its expanse. Rael had read many years ago about sorcerers and necromancers who had held keeps within it, and how it had taken many thousands of soldiers, throughout Anterrus long history years to clean it out and hunt down these foul spellcasters. It was a thick maze of wooded hell; even if you survived the trek through it, you would have to contend with werewolves, vampires, dark fey, several ancient wyrms that somehow had survived this long, and a host of other things, except orcs and goblins. Yes, the place was so damn inhospitable that even they had enough sense to leave it be, and horded around everywhere else. That was at least something the few small communities that held land with Ackerdson could say with pride…of some sort. The Duke had a small standing army of three hundred trained and devoted men at arms that policed the borders between the forest and the populace. He did his best to provide assistance to his knights and serfs. So for all intensive purposes, Rael thought the man ever bit as noble as his title. He would learn the hard way. The Duke sent out an invitation to the Slayer who had been garnishing fame throughout the lands to attend a dinner held at his winter home. He agreed, and all went well until he was lured into taking a job for the lord. For apparently all had not been well at Ackerson’s hamlet for many years, his estate had become infested with devil rats. The Duke had invested in several charms, potent magical elixirs and poisons, and even wandering mages and sell swords over the years to be rid of them. The mercenaries had cleared out most of the foul creatures, the poisons had worked and cleaned out more, but they just kept coming, and just recently the charms had finally worn off or broke. They were rooting through the sewers by the hundreds and starting to split off into the surrounding villages in number. The Duke needed to be rid of the problem in order to save face in court, Rael would learn. His youngest son had come into contact with the creatures and had fallen severely ill, but had managed to break the deathly fever and through expensive medicines had even been purified of their poisonous bite. He could not afford an epidemic to run rampant; he could not be seen as a weak lord who could not keep his lands protected. Rael would need to be quiet about the whole affair and rid the lord of this problem. The Duke then assigned him several knights to “assist him” in his duty. To make an even longer story, shorter, Rael was successful in ridding the devil rats. He learned of the source of their arrival, a place of dark power, a summoning well, once belonging to Ackerdson’s father, located on the borders of the hamlet. Apparently the late duke had been consummating with a succubus for quite some time in order to garner her power and demons to fight back the other evils of the Blackened Wood. The succubus was not so ready to return home, and in the end, she held the current Duke’s eldest son under her sway. His and her life-force were so inter-twined that when Rael finally was able to slay the evil bitch, the son died with her. Ackerdson, in utter delusion and grief, had Rael brought before him; Rael explained everything in great detail to the Duke. Then the Duke, out of grief and to save face once more, tried to have Rael locked up (to later be hanged for knowing too much). Rael, having had several dreams from the Lady, as he would have, realized that the Duke would try something like this, prepared several minor sleeping potions to be mixed with the wine that was served that day, and all but the few the Duke had ordered to assist Rael were present. Rael had grown sort of fond of these few men he had been dealing with for a month, and just left them banged up and with a few scratches as he made his escape. He traveled as fast as he could, and as far as he could, the Duke, having placed several Wanted posters up for the murderer of his firstborn and the proprietor of plagues. Several hundred miles south of Tyrion, Rael followed a flock of Ravens, and ended up in the small town of Ecksis, who was holding several hundred soldiers and several recruiters for the Kings army heading out to meet with the main force in a few days. Rael saw a raven fly off from the flock and landed on a shop sign above a recruiters head. He looked up to the sky and bowed.
Fast forward, throughout his career, Rael learned to keep his head down, but he could not stop himself from being the first to agree to any volunteered situations of great danger or dealing with the malign. His stalking and tactics made him a great scout, his horseback training and strength in large weapons made him an even greater Dragoon or Landsknecht, able to drill holes through the enemy’s lines with the sword on his back. In his off time he was quiet, and fairly to himself, he would spend many nights simply maintaining the “Blood Raven” which he learned was its name from the goddess. However, there would be a few nights where he would stay up drinking and attempting to have a good time with his subordinates, and he would most often pay for it with nightmares of the Massacre and of Aslynn’s death. His survival rate and heroics eventually led him to becoming a sergeant-at-arms, the pay was nice, and he found that he had some leadership qualities, although he never understood how or why? * Eight years had passed in the blink of an eye for him, his dreams from the Lady, and her visions and miracles came less and less to him. He had several new scars to prove it, but he knew the lady was still there somewhere, he carried apart of her on his back for sure, the “Blood Raven” the ultra light two handed Great Sword had a compartment in the guard where the silver crystal vial fit snugly into place. The blade also had a liquid of some sort acting as a weighted balancer along the spine of its blade, he was fairly sure this blade was the left hand of the Raven Queen. Still time went by further, and many more years passed, he still saw signs from the lady here and there (or so he thinks), his faith never faltering. He had a few brief romantic encounters along the march from town to city on their way back to the capitol but they never really worked out for him. He looks somewhat forward to coming back, he still worries if it’s the right decision, will the Duke still be after him, what of the Noble and the Creature from the Massacre, he had managed to leave them behind for awhile, and stay several steps ahead, but this pitted feeling in his gut began to increase as the days grew shorter to the homecoming.