Author's Note: Hello everyone! Welcome to the first chapter of The Chronicles of White Raven (CoWR), by GemHeart! If you would like to see a full list of my most memorable novels on KidzTalk, click here (Several haven't been finished. Perhaps after I complete CoWR, I will hold a vote for what unfinished story I can rewrite)! But until then, enjoy CoWR: it will occupy the story section of the KidzSearch magazine for a while!
A/N 2: Any and all illustrations for CoWR will be added to the chapters, starting next month!
The Chronicles of White Raven
There is a dark side of the world.
Shrouded in blood and darkness, where things of the night come out to play.A hellscape of misery, where only the strongest souls stand a chance in.
A constant battlefield, the memory of warm, sticky blood waking you every night.
The sight of glass armor, and the roar of a dragon.
The ocean struck the shore roughly, slamming itself against the rocky, jagged cliffs. The small town behind the ledge was bustling with some sort of cheerful commotion. There were tall, orange banners flowing in the sea breeze, and sea gulls landed on the cobblestone paths, pursuing the vendors that rushed to set up shop in the more populated town center.
"The Emperor!" shouted someone, in a shrill and squeaky voice. "The Emperor lives!"
A few men sat by the vendors, chatting gruffly and exchanging small animal pelts. "I heard the great thief saved him," said one, his dark skin glistening in the autumn sun, as he dragged the pipe out of his mouth.
"The White Raven?" inquired a young man, interested. His red hair swayed in the breeze.
"That's right," said the same man as before. "Some rebels had taken a sword to our Highness's throat, and the Raven swept in like he normally does, but instead of swipin' the Emperor's crown, he saved the old man's rear. ."
"Maybe he's a changed man," said another, an elderly vendor who had been listening to their conversation, and they all agreed solemnly.
"Whose the White Raven?"
The men turned to see a young girl, made up in a torn and frayed brown rag, staring longingly at the vendors. She glanced at them, and the hunters noticed her brilliant ocean blue eyes. She blinked.
"Ah, you don't know of him?" asked Gredar, the man who had mentioned the thief in the first place. When the young girl had shook her head, he smiled warmly. "What's your name, orphan?" He shifted the dagger attached to his hip.
"I'm Shiigurrin," said the girl squeakily.
"Sounds foreign." said the man with the red hair, slightly rudely.
"Shush, Anwil," snapped Gredar. "Don't mind him," he added, directing his words at Shii. "Anwil's an elf. He didn't take after his race and become an elegant rich boy, so he's got a deep-seated grudge for young people like yourself."
"Just because you're not a pretty boy?" Shii asked.
"No," snapped Anwil, his words hard. "It's 'cause young people have all the opportunity these days."
Shii averted her eyes. "You're not that old, you know." she said, trying to boost his self-confidence. But, of course, she didn't know he had plenty of it, being a huge egoist. "You only look twenty."
"Thanks kid, but you don't look too good yourself," he said, quite suddenly. His quick response surprised Gredar and Shii, and both looked at him, puzzled.
"She was being nice, you know," said Gredar.
Realizing his mistake, Anwil smiled, flustered. "Sorry. Thought she was gonna inform me that I look like a witch," he said, his assumption rather revealing about his character to Shii. He ran a hand through his thick hair and smiled boyishly at Shii. "Sorry, kid. Thanks for your kind words."
Shii nodded, pleased that he was acting a bit happier. "Can you tell me about the White Raven?' she asked. "Everyone's been talking about him."
"The White Raven's a famous thief in Jayorid." said Gredar while Anwil fastened the buttons on his little brown cape and hood. "He stole Lady Nix's prize jewel collection last full moon, and sold it for 6 million gold."
"More than it was worth," commented Anwil. "He's very good at making a profit, even if it's not the traditional way." After glancing about, he whispered quietly to Shii, his voice almost inaudible with the busy sounds around them, "I wouldn't mind joining him on a stealing spree, but gotta protect what little reputation I have. But I heard he pays his gang well."
Shii's eyes brightened. "Does he accept kids?"
Anwil shrugged, but Gredar intervened. "You better not be thinking about it, Shii." he said, rather sternly. "Thieving's a deadly business. The Raven's just lucky to be alive. Luck's all that's keeping him between a sword in the ribs and him stealing the sword. I know you've probably never seen more than 10 gold pieces at one time, but-"
"Why don't you go to the orphanage in the capital? In Ein?" interupted Anwil.
Shii glanced, unsure, at him, rocking back and forth. "I have connections here," she said, as if confused.
Anwil cocked an eyebrow, and leaned back on the wooden bench, resting his back on the weathered, almost twenty-foot tall stone wall behind him. "And I have connections there," he insisted. "I was a bodyguard for quite a while at that place. I could get a good word in for you."
Gredar shook his head, his mouth curled up in a little smile. "Anwil Quar," he laughed, "Always one looking for an excuse to go back to Ein. I thought you hated it there."
Anwil's green eyes glistened; he tapped the small knapsack fastened to his side, where a few deer pelts were bulging out, rolled up to conserve space. "We're the richest hunting duo in Jayorid," Anwil said, as if to remind him. "I'd love to go back and rub it in their faces."
The elderly man frowned disapprovingly. "Just because they replaced you doesn't mean they hated you. They just found someone better for the job."
Anwil mimicked him in a high voice. Shii could tell that these two were very good friends, even if they disapproved of each other and had their obvious differences.
"But anyway," said Anwil, in his normal voice, "if I hadn't got laid off, I wouldn't be here making the kind of money that I do."
"We do," corrected Gredar. "Anyway, kid. You should go to the orphanage. It's the best in the three kingdoms: every kid wants to go there, even if they have parents!" he laughed, shifting his position on the wooden bench so he could face Shii better.
Shii sighed, and stared longingly at the vendors.
Anwil noticed her forlorn gaze. Smiling, he stretched out one gloved hand. "Give me your hand," he said, and when she did, he pulled it gently toward him and folded something into her clammy, small palm. Squeezing her fingers over it, he reclined back on the aged wood again. "Go ahead."
Shii unfolded her hand. A squat, heavy coinpurse made of old mermaid scales rested there. She slowly lifted the clasp, but when the gold caught the sunlight, she snapped it closed, trying to shove it back to Anwil.
"No, it's yours," assured Anwil. "For saying I look nice."
"Narcissist." muttered Gredar, but he was smiling.
"Under one condition," Anwil added, almost drowning out Gredar's comment.
"Oh, brother." said the old man, stroking his short white beard, in a voice that conveyed humorous annoyance.
"You promise to come to the orphanage with me." Anwil said impishly. "That way you get somewhere safe, and I have an excuse for bragging to my old bosses. Deal?"
Shii smiled. Despite his egoist tone, she was starting to like this elf. "Okay." She glanced around for a suitable vendor, and, spotting one she liked, she hurried over to it. The woman at the stand gestured to the item the girl pointed at, asked her if she was sure. Shii nodded vigorously. After the woman counted the gold pieces the child had placed on the oak table that was apart of the stand, she slipped her the item and bid her a nice day.
"Oh boy. Look what she got," said Gredar.
Anwil glanced over. The girl was walking back over, rather carefully, with a long, ornately-carved dagger, it's thin blade catching the sun. "We can go now," she said cheerfully. Anwil nodded, and glanced at Gredar, who stared at the child with weary eyes.
Anwil straightened his leather boots while the young orphan went to collect her things, whatever "things" meant. He wasn't the most compassionate man, but he didn't mean he was heartless. In fact, Anwil had come to this sea-faring town on the shaky promise of adventure. To him, there was nothing more honorable than dying in some great battle, but he lacked the experience and despair that came with the hardiest and oldest wanderers: the worn souls who told their grandchildren of the joys and pains of the profession in hushed voices. However, Anwil wasn't stupid. He knew of the dangers, he knew of the dark.
Gredar, who was gutting his rabbit by this time, had some experience in sight seeing and bandit-camp raiding, since he had once been a solider, but that had been long ago, and he had never seen a war. He was lucky, and he knew it. He had his opinions about the kingdoms, and they were strong ones: so deeply rooted, no one could sway him, but he enjoyed listening to others' thoughts. He didn't care about the glory of adventuring and preferred his old retired days: taking care of his wife, and visiting his children when he wasn't doing his little side job with Anwil.
He and Anwil were very different, yet found ways to be friends. Anwil benefited from Gredar's experience and Gredar from Anwil's youthful energy. Together, they were the richest hunters in the Emperor's kingdom, and both hoped to become the wealthiest in the whole realm.
Shii rushed out of one of the alleyways. Someone was behind her, a tall and thin woman with a black hood over her head, someone Shii was leading, albeit rather clumsily.
"Whose this?" said Gredar. He stood up quickly as the woman stumbled forward. She wore a head to toe tailor-fit black bodysuit and her hood wrapped around her head, showing only her lower face. Her eyes were hidden in dark shadow.
"This is my friend," said Shii, as if it explained everything.
"Why's she got a bag over her head?" said Anwil, staring at the two, extremely confused.
"I put it there," apologized Shii.
"Why?!" said Gredar and Shii shrugged. She whipped off the bag and the young woman started gasping for air. In a spilt second, she had her hands at Shii's throat, knuckles white.
"If I wasn't your protector," she hissed, her mouth in a deadly, vicious smile, "I'd have you hanged for that!"
She quickly took a glance around, spotting Anwil and Gredar. Shoving Shii behind her, she withdrew a short knife. Her almost-manly stance allowed Gredar and Anwil to get a good look at her: she was young, about 19 years old, and had long whitish hair that reached her lower shoulders, Her eyes where the same general color as Shii's, even though they were slightly greener and brighter.
"Who are these two?" she hissed, using the knife to gesture to them.
"I'm Gredar Teain, this is Anwil Quar." said Gredar gruffly. "Who are you to the orphan?"
"I'm her guardian." the woman said, still keeping Shii behind her. "Aomidori Liyau, 32nd generation of the famed Liyau clan that has protected the Eyus for centuries." she gestured to the child. "We're bound by an ancient promise to protect them through life and death, health and slums."
"From what?" Gredar asked, rather suspiciously.
"I cannot disclose that," said Aomidori stiffly.
"You're a Liyau?" sneered Anwil, adopting his narcissistic demeanor once again. "Then where's your ears?"
"Hm?" Aomidori snapped. "Ears? We don't have ears like you, Elf. What do you take me for?"
"No, the animal ears. Aren't the fabled Liyaus supposed to have animals ears?" Anwil jeered. "If you don't, I see you as a fraud. A wanna-be, if you may. You don't look like you could hurt a fly."
Aomidori gave him a leveled stare. " You snap at me, I snap your neck." She gave a low-throat growl.
"Aha," said Anwil. "There's your inner beast, eh?"
Aomidori's eyes flashed. In a moment, Anwil had the slightly blunt edge of her knife at his throat. Shii leapt to intervene, grabbing her protector's fabric-clad arm and glancing meekly at Anwil. "Sorry," she apologized. "She'll kill you if you hurt her, me, or insult us in any way," she said. "Just be warned. I like you, I don't want you to die."
Anwil saw something in her eyes say, "Like all the others", or that may have been his imagination. He stared wearily at the tall woman, on edge after the whole knife-at-throat incident. Gredar patted him roughly on the back.
"Got this for you," Shii said brightly to Aomidori. "Thanks for protecting me."
Anwil was about to make an angry remark. How dare she use his money on this nutcase of a woman?! But he stopped himself, biting his lip, not wanting to be assaulted by this Liyau, as she called herself, because if she was really legit, he would be dead for sure.
"Thanks kid. I'll protect you long as you live, you know that," Aomidori said. She slipped the dagger into her ribbon-like belt, beside her sword sheath and bow. As the wind blew, all three weapons gently hit each other, calling Gredar and Anwil's attention.
"Where are you taking her?" questioned Anwil.
"Away from you," said Aomidori roughly.
"I was going to take her to the Ein orphanage," said Anwil sarcastically. "but does she really need it with you around?"
Aomidori smiled sadistically. When she spoke next, her voice was sourly sweet. "We're heading to the White Raven Guild. I heard what you were saying. It's a perfect place for us."
"I don't think they're in the market for an assassin right now," said Anwil.
Aomidori tilted her head slightly. "You could come," she said. "And I could protect you. You don't look like you could hurt a fly."
Her comment really ticked Anwil off. Shooting up from his perch, he stared fixedly at her. "Sure," he hissed. "I'm tired of people like you telling me I can't do anything, so, you're on."
"Of course you can't," Aomidori said. "You're an Elf. You people don't have the stomach to even see blood. You're all graceful, artsy, entitled rich folk who have never even chopped wood. And you know what else?" she smiled as Anwil slowly got more and more angry, "If we got in a fight, I could beat your butt into next century."
Anwil grinned an annoyed smile. "I'd like to see you try."
Gredar groaned. "Don't let her get you." he said.
Anwil took a step forward. "How about this," he said quietly. "You look like you just arrived her in Jayorid. I'll bet you don't even know the name of the main road. I'll be your navigator." he added. "And if I get you there safely and quickly, then you'll be out of my hair for good. You won't come back to this town at all."
"Oh, sure," she said, rolling her eyes. "I can get around a kingdom, thanks very much!"
"Okay. Then which way is Ein?"
Aomidori, her expression unsure, pointed timidly to the east,
Anwil took pleasure in seeing her squirm. "Nope," he said, "Straight north, away from the ocean. How about Ritte?" She pointed west. "Nope, it's a small island off the mainland. Famous for it's militia. See? You don't know your way around. Where you from?"
"We're from the Wyland Kingdom," piped up Shii. "She can't read a map to save her life. She's terrible at directions!"
"Then you'll just be wandering around in circles." said Anwil. "I can get you wherever you need to go within 2 days. How's that sound?"
Aomidori focused angrily on him. "Okay then," she said. "You lead us to the White Raven, and I won't kill you. How's that sound? "
"I have a friend who knows where they are," said Gredar, carving the organs from his rabbit and wrapping them in a special paper in his bag. "Go down to the mead bar down the road, past Yule's Inn. It's called Wine and War. Tell him ol' G sent you and he'll tell you whatever you need."
"See?" said Anwil to Aomidori, staring into her eyes and grinning. "I have connections."
"Fine," she snapped.
Gredar pulled at Anwil's hood. "You better not have yourself an ulterior motive, kid," he said.
Anwil stared at Shii, and winked at Gredar. "She deserves a better home," he said. "She's a nice kid, so I'm gonna make sure she doesn't hang around this woman much longer."
Aomidori didn't hear him.