Eryn glanced at the horizon. The sun was setting in all it's perfect glory, pink gold and purple hues etched across the sky in a glorious splender not even the best artist could capture. She stopped her horse and gazed at the sky for awhile, taking in the sight. "Oh Luna isn't it beautiful?"
The black wolf looked at her and made a movement with her head that could have been distinguished as a nod.
She watched the sunset for a few more moments then reluctantly urged her horse foreward and continued down the road.
"Look Luna, I think I see a camp up ahead. What do you think...should we stop there and see if they will give us some food and a place to sleep?" Luna turned her expressive yellow eyes to look at Eryn and uttered an almost inaudible whine, which Eryn had learned from experiance meant she was hungry. Eryn smiled, (an expression only Luna could inspire, and thus, witness).
"Alright we'll stop."
Skybax was walking home with the wild turkey he'd killed for supper when he noticed the two figures heading towards him in the ever dimming light. He judged them to be a woman on a horse and a large black dog. As they neared he realized it was not a dog but a wolf. Intrigued, he stopped and waited for the strangers.
Eryn slowed to a stop as she came upon the man standing by the road near the camp.
"Good evening sir."
The man nodded a greeting and glanced at Luna curiosly. "And a good evening to you m'lady."
"Do you know whose camp this is?"
"Aye m'lady, it is the camp of the Stargazer clan."
"Are they friendly?"
"Aye. May I ask the reason for your inquiry?"
"My wolf and I are tired and hungry and wish to seek sanctuary."
The man smiled. "I think that can be arranged. Allow me to introduce myself: I am Skybax, leader of the Stargazer clan."
Eryn was slightly taken aback but did not show it. "I am Eryn, and the wolf is Luna. We are very grateful for your hospitality." Skybax thought it a bit odd for the woman to refer to the wolf in the manner one would an equal but out of politeness decided to save his already numerous questions until later. He started walking down the road and signalled for Eryn to follow. She hopped off her horse and walked with him to the camp
Eryn sat by the fire listening to the pleasant chatter of those around her. When Skybax had introduced her to the rest of the clan they had greeted her warmly and welcomed her. To her surprise they didn't even seem to mind Luna, who usualy provoked fear and suspision in those she met, as black wolves were supposed to be a symbol of bad luck.
"Would you care for anything more to eat?" asked a woman.
"No thanks, I've had plenty."
The woman smiled warmly. "Very well. We have not had much of a chance to meet yet, my name is Silven the clan healer."
"Greetings Silven. Do you mind if I ask you something?"
"Why is your clan traveling, do you not have a home?"
"I thought you'd ask that," said Silven with a wry grin, "Yes we do have a home in Forumland not very far from here. However It was temporarily flooded so we decided to go adventuring and give it time to dry out."
Eryn was curious.
"Flooded? how did that happen?"
"Mage Cullen over there was trying out a new spell and it backfired." Eryn chuckled.
"I knew a mage once who could never do anything right."
"Cullen means well, and she can be a very good mage when she puts her mind to it It's when she tries to experiment that everything goes haywire." The conversation was halted when someone called for a story.
"Yes a story!" Silven said, and soon they were all repreating it.
"All right all right lets not all talk at once," said Skybax.
"Minstrelgirl, would you tell us a story?"
"Actually I'm rather interested in hearing about our guest," said a woman.
"Good idea Night Queen," said Skybax. "Well Eryn, would you care to tell us something about yourself and how you came here?"
Eryn looked a little uncomfortable and wanted to decline, but looking around at all the happy, curious faces she sighed and decided it couldn't hurt to tell them a little. "All right."
The clan quieted and settled themselves to listen.
"I ran away from home when I was 13," she said, leaving out the fact that it was because the man she thought had been her father (but actually was just a farmer who had found her in a ditch when she was a baby) had raped her and beat her to a bloody pulp.
"The day after I ran away I met Luna. A feral dog was going to make me his lunch when she came along and chased him off." Again, she left out all the stuff about wandering the woods delirious from lack of blood and then fainting.
"I wandered for a bit and ended up stumbling upon an old, uninhabited, healer's cottage." In actuality Luna had practicly dragged her there.
"So I stayed there for the rest of that year. There were plenty of healing herbs and books, so I learned a lot. Although I'm not as good as a real healer." She had indeed stayed in the cottage the rest of the year, using the herbs to cure at least her physical wounds. In the beginning Luna hunted for both of them, but as she got better she started going hunting herself, and there were plenty of edible wild plants around.
"I found an old hunter's bow in a closet and taught myself to use it. I didn't have much to do so i practiced a lot, and even got pretty good at it." Actually she got a lot more than "pretty good" at it. She seemed to have a knack for the weapon and got better and better every day.
"It was a nice place and I could have stayed there forever but I wanted to get out and see the world. So at 14 I left the cottage and started my travels. I've been wandering ever since, with Luna as my constant companion."
Eryn woke up with a gasp. Luna raised her head and gave her a concerned look. She looked around and suddenly remembered where she was. Silven had offered to let her share her tent but Eryn preferred to sleep outside. The sun was just coming up and everyone was still asleep. She ran her hands through her hair and steadied herself, the nightmare already receeding from her memory. Luna whined quietly and Eryn gave her ear an affectionate scratch. Suddenly an arrow wizzed by and lodged itself in the ground near her and a moment later a bunch of barbarians rushed upon the camp, wooping gutteral war cries.
Eryn leapt up and grabbed her sword, unsheathing it and rushing the barbarian closest to her. He took a swing but Eryn easily dodged. Her sword flashed through the air and the barbarian's head was seperated from his shoulders.
Aroused by the noise, Skybax and the others rushed out of their tents and joined the fight. He noticed Eryn surounded by three men and rushed to help her, but she made short work of them before he could reach her. Realizing Eryn could take care of herself he rushed off to defend the less experianced members of the clan.
The fight was over relatively quickly, the clan had lost no one and suffered only minor injuries. The barbarians had all been weakened by hunger and the attack on the camp had been a foolish one on their part.
A few weeks had gone by and Eryn was still with the stargazer clan. She new not why, for she had planned to leave the very next day. But she kept putting it off, finding she didn't really want to leave. With these people she felt like she belonged, and she already had many friends...though her reclusiveness prevented her from getting too close to anyone.
One day the camp was ambushed, this time by an organized attack of Roman soldiers. Although the clan fought valiently, they were outnumbered at least ten to one, so Skybax decided to surrender, lest his people die needlessly. You had to pick your fights, and he knew that they would see freedom soon enough.
Eryn came to with a groan and tried to feel the large bump on her head but found her hands were restrained. She looked around and saw the other members of the clan chained to posts, most still unconscious. Some roman soldiers were gathered around a fire not very far away. Suddenly she wondered where Luna was. Looking around franticly, she saw the wolf chained not very far to her left. Eryn relaxed a bit. At least Luna wasn't hurt.
"Hey look, one of em's awake!" yelled a roman.
A couple soldiers got up and walked over to Eryn, smiling wickedly. "Well now, what have we here? Pretty Fire hair is awake. What's your name Fire hair?"
Eryn just stared back at them coldly.
"A quiet one eh. Well we shall remedy that soon enough," said the soldier with an evil grin.
He reached out and ran his fingers down her arm, eyeing her lustfully.
Eryn felt the bile rise up in her throat at his touch, and she angrily spat in his face. "Get away from me you disgusting pig!"
The soldier growled and hit Eryn a stinging blow to the face. "You are hardly in a position to be giving orders!"
Eryn barely flinched, though a drop of blood dripped from the corner of her mouth. Luna snarled and stranined to get at the men who threatened her dearest Eryn.
"Be quiet you stupid beast!" said the soldier as he reached for a rock to throw at Luna.
"Leave the wolf alone, the Queen wants them alive...all of them. Though for the life of me I don't know why," said a voice coming from one of the tents. Eryn thought it sounded rather familiar. The soldier dropped the rock.
"Yes General Myton."
A very large man came out of the tent, still dressed in battle armor. He walked up to them and took off his helmet.
"Hello Eryn, It's been awhile."
One look at the face in front her her and Eryn was sure it must be a dream. Only in her nightmares did this face exist...for she had buried the image as deep in her subconscious as possible. But this was not a dream, and the man standing in front of her was the very same man who had robbed her of her innocence and ended her childhood, nearly killing her in the process, so many years ago.
She gasped in shock as an overwelming sense of terror struck her, and her eyes glistened with fear.
"I must admit I was surprised you were still alive," he continued. "You must be wondering how on earth I went from a farmer to a general in the Roman Queen's army. Well it's a long story, but I'm sure we'll have plenty of time to catch up later."
With that, the man went back into his tent and the soldiers dispersed to other activities.
It was night time, and by now all the members of the clan had regained consciousness except for Cullen and, who had been drugged when the romans found out she was a mage.
"Eryn...," Silven whispered.
Eryn either didn't hear or didn't want to hear. She just stood there staring off into oblivion, the look of shock and terror still shining in her eyes.
"Whats wrong with Eryn?" asked Chessie, "She looks like she's seen a ghost."
"I've never seen her like this," said Silven. "In fact, I've never seen her afraid of anything before."
"Well she's obviously been affected by something," said Skybax, "We can only wonder what it was."
Suddenly they heard shouting coming from one of the tents.
"You stupid little wench! Are you trying to poison me!? I said I wanted wine not bilgewater!"
They heard what sounded like someone getting hit and a young servant girl came tumbling out of the tent clutching her face.
"Please sir! It's the best I could find, I swear!" she sobbed, shaking with fear.
The general stepped out of the tent, snarling ferociously. The girl saw the crazed look in his eyes and tried to run away, but he grabbed her and started to drag her back into the tent. The girl screamed and cried for help but the roman soldiers feigned deafness. Skybax and the others strained at thier chains and watched in horror as the girl was dragged into the tent and the general proceeded to beat her.
Eryn started shaking in fear as the girl's cries brought back a flood of long buried memories and a flashback so real and vivid it was as if she were experiencing it all over again. Instead of the girl's voice, she heard her own, sobbing and crying for him to stop. Suddenly a sound broght her out of her daze with a shock. The sound of something being torn.....the sound of a dress being torn. Eryn's eyes popped open and she gasped.
"No..." she whispered, "You will not do it again."
Eryn felt her fear ebb away and become replaced by a deep overwhelming rage. She growled deep in her throat and wrenched at her chains, to no avail. She could feel the anger building up inside of her, until she thought she would explode. She snarled and tried to brake free of her chains again and again, but not even someone three times her strength could have done it. Still her anger grew, threatening to engulf her. Suddenly Eryn felt something strange happening to her. Her sight became misted over and she could feel something rising up in her throat.
The Roman soldiers watched in horrified fascination as the strange red haired woman's eyes glowed brightly and she threw back her head, releasing a trememdous roar like no creature they had ever heard. Her muscles stood out as she strained one final time at the chains, and with a resounding snap, she broke free.
The entire camp stopped dead in their tracks and stared in awe. "No one could have broken those chains!" whispered a soldier to the man next to him. "Especially not a girl!"
"Did you hear that roar? And what about her eyes? She can't be human!"
"She's human alright!" said the soldier who had hit her. "I made her bleed before, and I'll make her bleed again!"
The soldier ran towards Eryn, drawing his sword. She saw him coming and grabbed her sword, easily finishing him off with one quick stroke. None of the other soldiers seemed too willing to attack, until General Myton roared at them angrily, the girl in his tent aperantly forgotten.
"What are you fools all standing around for!? Get her!"
With that the entire camp rushed Eryn, but she fought wildly, as if possessed. Her sword, Mamutoi, glowed with the same light that shone in her eyes, and sang through the air time and time again, never missing it's mark. Skybax quickly cast a spell and released himself and the rest of the stargazer clan, as well as Luna, from their chains. The time was right for battle, it was now or never.
They imediatly grabbed their weapons and charged into the battle.
Luna snarled and rushed to Eryn's side, taking out any Roman soldier that dared to stand in her path.
It was a rightous battle, and in the end the stargazer clan, although grossly outnumbered, finished off every last roman soldier.
Eryn looked around the ruined camp. She was covered with gashes and bruises and looked totally exhausted, but her eyes still burned brightly and she was snarling under her breath. General Myton was nowhere in sight, and neither was his dead body.
Suddenly she saw him, riding away on his horse and dissapearing into the night. She grabbed her bow, Windcaller, and leapt onto a horse to pursue him.
"Eryn don't bother, he's too far away, you'll never catch him!" Silven called after her as she galloped away. But her words fell on deaf ears.
Eryn urged her horse to go faster, but it was already at top speed. The horse in front of her was so far away by now she could hardly tell it was there. He was going to get away. In one last desperate attempt she pulled out her bow and notched an arrow to it.
"What is she doing?" asked Silven. "There isn't a person in the world who could hit a moving target at that distance!"
Mage Cullen smiled knowingly. "We shall see about that."
"Cullen is there something you know that you aren't telling us?" asked Skybax. "I know her bow is enchanted, but Silven is right, she can't make that shot."
"Just watch," said Cullen.
Eryn sighted along the arrow and pulled back as far as the bow could go. She uttered a silent, desperate prayer and held her breath. Suddenly she could feel a strange power welling up within her, even more strong than the power her rage had brought forth. Her vision cleared and she could see the retreating figure in front of her with perfect clarity and concentration. Nothing else mattered except her target. She put all her focus, all her strength, and all her skill into that shot. She pulled back even more and with one final burst of power, sent the arrow, blazing with that same magical glow, flying towards the man she hated more than anything in the world. For a moment there was a high piercing call, as if the wind itself was alive, and then she saw the figure in front of her light up and an unearthly scream ensued. Then the light went out and everything was silent except for the pounding of her horses hooves against the ground.
When Eryn finally reached the man, she found him lying dead on the ground with an arrow sticking out of his back and a look of terror plastered on his face. She just stood there staring at the dead man in front of her for a long time. She didn't even notice when Skybax rode up and asked her if she was all right. Suddenly all her energy drained from her and she fainted.
Eryn sat alone at the top of a cliff, immersed in her thoughts. A week had gone by since the event that had changed her life, and today Skybax had asked her if she wanted to join the clan. She knew she ought to say no, but a part of her really wanted to stay. She suddenly remembered Gorum, the old fencingmaster whom had tought her the ways of the warrior.
"Follow your heart Eryn" he had said. "You will know what to do."
That was it, Eryn had made up her mind. She got up and started back to tell Skybax she would accept his offer. Suddenly she heard a low rumbling sound. She perked up her ears and listened carefully as it built up into a roar that echoed through the earth and reverberated inside her, then it slowly died away.
Eryn was thunderstruck with awe. she had heard people speak of the roar of the land before....but never in her lifetime had she experienced it. It was a very spiritual moment and Eryn understood the meaning.
"I hereby declare you, Eryn, the newest member of the stargazer clan." Eryn smiled at skybax, her eyes sparkling with rarely shown emotion, and turned towards the gathered people who imediately began cheering heartily.
"Wait!" yelled Skybax, and everyone hushed.
"There is still one more thing. Our clan is in need of a champion, and we would be honored if you would accept the position. We all saw you fight, and we are aware of your skill with both the sword and the bow. But even more, we know you have the potential to become a mana knight, as I am. All you need is proper training to learn to use the power inside you, and Cullen has offered to help guide you."
Eryn was speechless.
"Well Eryn, what do you say?" asked the clan mage, smiling.
"I........I accept." She finally stammered.
"Then kneel, Eryn of the stargazer clan."
She did so, and Skybax unsheathed his sword.
"I hereby knight you, Eryn, Champion of the stargazer clan." he said as he tapped both her shoulders. "Stand and be recognized."