Eberron The Chronicle Of The Last Prophecy
Was he tall or short? Blond or dark? Handsome or ugly? No-one could really remember. The details were always obscured when memory was summoned to describe him. What remained though was the infinite subtle varieties of his smile and the contrast they played upon his unforgiving eyes.
Dusk drew near. He was panting heavily as he pressed himself onto the trunk of an old tree. Even though he was young, the running climb up the steep forested hillside had taken its toll on his stamina. He tried to slow his breathing and listen. He knew he was not alone. His stalker was close. Speed and stealth was of the essence. Like a squirrel he jumped-up and dashed further-up the hillside. The forest was thicker here and as he pushed forward the light gradually dimmed. Where could he hide? All he had to do was to remain hidden until sunset. That was the rule. As he climbed the steep hill the sparse light began to fade. Like dark thick rain clouds the canopy of trees hid the now crimson sky. He could feel his unseen predator nearby. Droplets of hot sweat came down upon his forehead creating a stark contrast with the evening chill.
All of a sudden his eye caught a strange light. He moved quickly trying to save his breath. In seconds he came upon the mouth of a cave at the base of a large drop. The entrance was only a few arm lengths wide and as high as a kneeling dwarf. A dim purple light was emanating from within. Suddenly he heard a branch snap and heard the whistling of something flying through the air. A large branch of wood hit the rocky wall next to him as he heard a booming voice behind him say “There you are little brother! It’s a tie then… still a bit of light but the sun managed to just hide itself behind the horizon. Hah, next time you might beat me just as well.” “Never mind our game Nairo” he said. “Look at what I found!” he added with excitement. His brother approached him and one by one the crawled into the cave.
Not far from the cave entrance they found a pile of twigs, branches and dried grass set out as if it were some kind of giant nest. In the middle they could see a small blue-red stone the size of a man’s fist. The stone gave away a faint purple light that barely escaped the mouth of the cave. First Nairo, then both him and Hark tried to lift the thing. It felt as heavy as the mountain itself. “We must get back Hark, it’s getting late and soon the forest will be filled with night predators.”
They quickly covered the strange stone with what branches they could muster and ran down the hill back to the village. Not a word was said to their parents although they exchanged mischievous looks over supper that evening.
The boys visited the cave every day after that one spending hours staring into the magnificent red-blue surface of the stone. The colors seemed to swirl and twist never attaining a steady pattern. Every day, the stone seemed to grow a little. At first it was not so obvious but as the days went by the small stone
now the size of a huge boulder looked more and more like a giant egg.
Three months went by and the brothers would keep close watch on their newfound treasure. Then, one night, a fierce thunderstorm roamed the land. Cracks of thunder and lightning showered the landscape and finally the skies were torn open pouring down a thick and heavy rain. Their father stood watch at one of the windows as their mother held them close whispering little tunes to keep their spirits high and their fear at bay. The rain went on for three days. By noon on the third day the rain had subsided so the boys set off to visit their secret treasure place. To their dismay the stone was nowhere to be found. They searched everywhere but it was as if the thing had vanished into thin air. Disappointed they turned back to the village as dusk drew near…
…smoke. The stench of burned flesh fills the nostrils. The sounds of the dying echo in the distance. He feels it in his core. Blood is being spilled nearby. He knows he is close. He unsheathes his swords without a sound. Their blades are smeared with ash, just like his face and hands. His bloodshot eyes scan the landing in front of him. His battle senses are heightened. He moves like a ghost coming to claim the living.
The guard has been nervous and afraid for some time now. The sounds of battle echo in the keep. They are under heavy attack. Somewhere in the tower a fire must be burning for smoke rises in tick tendrils. He feels as if he is living a nightmare. He moves to the door to see if the room’s occupant is well. His heart is beating very fast. He knows he has only moments to secure the door and escape with the person they are guarding. Beneath him someone is screaming in agony. He takes out the bronze key when he catches a movement with his peripheral sight. A demon springs from the mists. Its face is grey like Death. At the center of its head two red eyes burn like the pits of hell. He tries to unsheathe his sword but the demon moves so fast like liquid running along a pipe. It looks like… a ghost coming to claim the living. One blade pierces his heart and the other is forced in his mouth, its tip smashing the back of his skull.
The guard dies instantly, his mouth full of blood and ash. He takes the key from his hand and eases the body on the floor. He opens the door and burst into the room. A figure clad in an oversized cloak sits in a stool, its face hidden in the shadows. He moves forward, his hands tightening on their grip on his blades.
-“Ingwar Rulaan, you are an aberration. The time has come for you to return to the House or be destroyed here once and for all.”
The cloaked figure turns slowly. A pale hand pushes the cowl back. A stream of raven black hair is unleashed like the waters of a cataract. Two eyes the color of the sea on a stormy dawn lock into his. He thinks he hears voices in his head. He thinks he hears music.
… He is a small child running around the forest. He is trying to hide. He knows his brother is behind him, looking for him. It’s their usual game of hide and seek during their favorite hour; twilight. They are not supposed to be out here. Their parents forbid them to leave the house so late in the day. But they always slip away. Nairo is clever. He always has a new plan on how to trick Mom and Dad so they can go out and play. They both love the twilight. They both love to play soldiers…
The voices get an evil edge. They hurt his head but the music continues. It sounds familiar. Like a long forgotten tune buried deep in his mind, clawing its way back.
… The man that stands above them is huge as an ogre. His massive hands hold a wooden stick that he seems to caress. His body is full of blood and gore and next to him a mighty battleaxe lies. His one good eye scans the slaughter area one more time before resting on them. They are both kneeling over the butchered bodies of their parents. He is shaking and weeping. Nairo is not. The huge man grabs Nairo from the shoulders and lifts him up.
- “Your parents are dead boy. The whole village has been slaughtered. I think you are the only ones left alive. You’ll come with us, unless you want to be food for the wolves.”
Both boys rise and follow the man called Sticks as if hypnotized. They follow him as he joins the rest of his unit; The Red Ghosts. Would they have done that if they knew that their village had been destroyed because the Ghosts cornered the enemy there?
He feels his head is about to explode. Yet all that matters to him now is to remember the music. He must remember the tune even if it is the last thing he does.
… They are the mascots of the Red Ghosts. The whole company is their family now. Nairo is not cheerful anymore. He spends hour after hour with the bow Sticks made for him. He is so consumed by this that he forsakes all other things. In his first battle they give him his troop-name. They call him “Last Wind” for they say that when he draws his bow, the sound of the flight of his arrows is the last thing you’ll hear. He hardly speaks or laughs anymore. So his brother has to do all the laughing and talking for both of them. The Ghosts call him “Smiles”. They grow older and stronger with each passing day and they bond with the scout company to the point where their former family becomes a distant dream. They are the hammer and the anvil, the chosen men of Captain Devon Brass, commander of the Ghosts, and they have found their place in the world.
The music reaches its crescendo. He feels claws pulling at his sanity. He tries to endure. He tries to buy himself more time. He needs a few moments more to try and remember what this tune he is hearing is. He knows it is important. Somehow everything connects to this.
… And then the war ends. The company is decimated in the last battle and Cyre is no more. The Peace Treaty forces the Red Ghosts to disband, like most military special units, and for a second time their family is destroyed. Their skin is marked with strange haunting patterns that twist and turn in their minds’ eye like the fates of their lives. They are hunted and finally brought in the fold of the greatest Dragon House. Once more they have a family but somehow it does not feel like the one they had before. Yet when the Patriarch or Matriarch of the family commands “bring this aberration to me” they are more than happy to oblige.
The music has stopped abruptly. For a moment he feels as if his soul has been stripped away. His vision clears from the fog of the past and the remnants of his former life. The body of a beautiful lady is on the floor, her blood soaking the carpet. A red arrow is jutting from her throat. He hears a voice from behind him.
-" They said dead or alive. Get the head Hark and let’s go."
He looks back at his brother and smiles. He is the only one who calls him that. The only one alive anyhow…