Twynar was not a very big region with only thirteen farm settlements in all
excluding a few other non-farming livelihoods such as the miller, the
blacksmith, but the land was richly fertile, perfectly suited for growing
vegetables and rearing poultry. There had been Avennorian farmers in Twynar
since the time of Barek Swanhild and probably will be until the Ages ended
according to the elders.
The long, unbroken line of farmers was attributed to mysterious reasons never
really fully explained. For the inhabitants of Twynar, past and present, had
largely been left alone throughout turbulent historical events such as the
devastating Seven Hundred Years War.
It was as if no one really remembered there was a small little farming village
in Twynar when kings, sorcerers and princes were too preoccupied fighting each
other for ephemeral supremacy over the other.
Thus it was, the people of Twynar just shook their heads whenever news of the
turmoil happening on the outside world reached them, clucked sadly at the
distressing state of affairs beyond their little village, and went back to
wondering whether Grothar and Jeyriall will see fit to
bless them with enough rain for a good harvest to last them through winter.
Since last harvest had been good, Caled’s parents had felt generous enough to
give out presents to their children as rewards for their help and that was how
Caled got his bow and a quiver of arrows which he had asked for as he fancied
himself a great hunter of the woodland realms from the old stories told.
However his parents did not approve of him shooting practice arrows at the
squealing hens and his brothers made fun of him whenever his aim flew wide
(which was often) so that was why Caled saw himself forced to sneak out into the
Auturian Woods one fine morning, hoping to bag a small rabbit although,
secretly, what he really wanted was to kill a wild boar and wouldn’t his
doubting family be surprised and impressed with his skills as a hunter then,
when he walked through the door and fling the carcass of the boar on the floor
at their feet!
Fortified with this cherished fantasy, Caled hurried to the end of the farming
village where the outermost boundaries of the Auturian
Woods would be but an hour's brisk walk away.
As he passed the last farm, much to his annoyance, he bumped into Jivyan Alaevir
who had woken up early too and was sitting underneath the sprawling and ancient
oak that marked the end of Twynar. Her knees were drawn to her chest and she was
stroking the head of her cat lying sleepily next to her.
“Caled, where are you going? Is that your new bow?” The small girl had asked
immediately when she caught sight of the boy.
She was a year younger than Caled and they had often played together when their
respective parents did not need them to do chores but on this morning, all he
wanted to do was to practice with his bow without Jivyan tagging along.
“Never you mind,” Caled said impatiently and continued walking, hoping the girl
would lose interest, but Jivyan was not discouraged. She gave a quick hug to her
protesting cat and ran after him, following like a puppy dog, her braid bouncing
up and down behind her back as she did.
“You haven’t answered my question, where are you going? Can I come along? I’m
bored! It’s too early to do anything,” she complained.
Caled ignored her but Jivyan, though small for her age, was an observant little
thing. As Caled made his way to the direction of the Woods, she exclaimed with
awestruck eyes, “This is the way to the Auturian Woods! You’re going to the
Woods to try and shoot something, aren’t you?”
The boy stopped. “Shhhh! Not so loud, you nit!”
“You are! Aren’t you afraid of the elves?”
“Not I. Don’t be silly. Anyway, no one has seen the elves for ages and ages now.
Not even when my granddad’s granddad was alive. I don’t think they even live in
the Woods anymore.”
“Dena says they’re there, hiding, and they’re watching us. And they have
horrible looking ears that’s three times larger than ours!” Jivyan shivered with
part fear and part delight as she remembered the scary stories that her best
friend, Dena, has whispered to her. “I’m going to tell your parents what you’re
doing, Caled Gwohann!”
“You do that and I’ll, I’ll take your doll and drown her in the pond!” Caled
“You wouldn’t!” Jivyan shrieked with outrage.
“Yes I would!”
The two children glared at each other, nose to nose.
It was Jivyan who relented as she took her long braid in one hand and started to
chew on the end of it, a habit her mother was despairing of breaking. “All
right, I won’t tell.”
Caled breathed a sigh of relief. “Swear?”
“I swear…but I want to go too!”
“What? No! Just go home, Jivyan!”
“If you don’t let me come, I will tell your parents and see if your father won’t
punish you then. I’ll bet he’ll take away that new bow of yours too,” Jivyan
said with a certain degree of smugness that only eleven-year-old girls were
capable of when they knew they had outsmarted someone of the opposite gender.
Caled scowled fearsomely at the girl for a few moments before muttering a
“And you’re not allowed to borrow my bow once we’re there,” he added quickly in
Skipping excitedly next to him, Jivyan nodded as they went on the path that
would lead them to the outermost region of the Woods.
The children have only ever spied the Woods at a distance, seeing the tall,
densely packed trees forming a dark green canopy against the blue sky. The
Auturian Woods were not small, despite the rather misleading description; it was
more akin to a sizeable forest that spanned at least five times the size of a
city. Like most forests rumored to have elves dwelling within, the trees were of
an abnormal height, taller than most trees in other parts of Caelereth, and
magnificent in their rooted, unmoving majesty.
When they reached the outskirts as the flat grassy lands ended and the faraway
range of the Mithral Mountains could be distantly seen, the first trees of the
Auturian began. The children slowed their steps until they stopped completely.
Their eyes widened as they craned their heads to slowly track the height of the
trees as they rose into the sky, branching into canopies of brilliant green.
They seemed to go up forever.
“Caled, maybe we should go back,” Jivyan said uneasily, tugging her friend’s
In truth, Caled was feeling ill at ease too. There was something about the
Auturian Woods that defied two children in all its ancient beauty. The trees
before them were nothing like the well-tended and tamed fields and gardens of
Twynar where each grass and weeds knew its proper place. The Auturian was not
tamed or controlled under men and it never will be. It was at once wild and
fierce, harkening back to the days before the race of men
stepped foot upon these lands. It seemed to Caled that the forest itself was
looking at him and Jivyan with the tolerant amusement of a predator.
Still, he was but only twelve and he had a new bow and he did not want to appear
weak in front of a girl so he shrugged off Jivyan’s hand to say roughly, “You
can go back if you want.”
He reached back for an arrow with one hand and notched it clumsily.
Jivyan bit her lip and then she hurried after Caled.
Into the Woods, the two crept, quiet as mice. Jivyan kept close behind Caled and
almost bumped into him a few times, earning her irritated looks when she did.
It was so still inside the Woods. The dappled sunlight shining through the
branches was an eerie golden-white, turning Jivyan’s brown hair into a coppery
red. Nothing stirred, not even a ceruwing butterfly, except for a faint rustling
of leaves here and there.
“Caled, can we go home? Please? I don’t like it here,” Jivyan whispered.
All boyish enthusiasm vanished by now, Caled was about to agree.
Then Jivyan screamed. A dark shape burst out towards them from beyond the trees
and hurtled straight at the two children.
Though he was as shocked and scared as Jivyan, Caled managed to bring his bow up
and let loose the arrow quickly. The arrow flew wide and embedded itself against
a tree trunk as he watched in dismay.
“Run, Jivyan!” he shouted but the child was frozen to the spot, her face
The older boy quickly fumbled for another arrow in the quiver strapped to his
back, his breaths hitching in great pants, certain he and Jivyan would be rendered
to bloody pieces in a short time. But incredibly the black thing hurtling
towards them abruptly halted, swayed and then collapsed in a heap, barely a few
peds from where they stood.
Caled slowly lowered the bow, realizing that he was trembling.
“What is it?” Jivyan asked in small voice that shook as badly as Caled’s body
was and though she was not crying, her face was pale and her lips were
“I don’t know. We should go.” He grasped Jivyan’s hand and was about to tug her
along when the girl shook his hand violently as she stared at the thing that had
so scared them moments before.
“Caled, look! There’s an arrow!”
Sure enough, when Caled looked, on the back of the hunched thing on the ground,
there was a long, slender arrow tipped with greenish blue feathers protruding,
the end of it obviously embedded inside the flesh.
“It isn’t my arrow, I missed,” Caled admitted.
Jivyan was squinting hard at the thing, and then she suddenly shook Caled’s hand
loose to run forward.
“Jivyan! You come back here, right now!”
“Caled, come look!” Jivyan was kneeling down next to the thing, heedless of
Caled’s warning, and gesturing frantically. “It’s not an animal at all. It’s a
“I don’t care if that thing’s the King of Avennoria himself, get back here!”
“He’s hurt, oh, he’s bleeding! We
have to help him.” Jivyan fished around her pockets to draw out a none-too-clean
grubby handkerchief and started dabbing at the wound around from which the arrow
was protruding out.
“Please, Caled.” Jivyan looked at him pleadingly, her eyes wide and worried and
the boy groaned.
Jivyan’s heart had a tender spot for little beasts that had been hurt in myriad
small ways and she was forever bringing them back to her home, trying to help
mend their wounds. Her room was filled with small birds that had hurt their
wings or wild cats that were battle-scarred and who spat and bristled at anyone
who approached them, everyone except for Jivyan.
“Even if that thing is a man, it’s not an animal that you can bring home,” he
argued and was rewarded by a stubborn tilt to the girl’s chin.
“I don’t care, he’s hurt and I’m going to help him. With or without you.” Saying
so, Jivyan tried to push the thing over…no, it was a man, Caled could see that
now, that the hunched position was a jutting shoulder, broadening to a back and
a head covered with a pelt of dark hair.
A man but black everywhere, black hair and black clothes, Caled thought
uneasily. Black like the deepest hour of the night.
Meanwhile, Jivyan was still trying to turn the insensible man over to his
uninjured side, hoping to make him more comfortable even though he was obviously
unconscious. He was heavy though, and she started to huff, her face turning red
as she did but she persisted and finally managed to roll him slightly over.
The man reared up and grasped Jivyan’s ankle.
She gave a stifled shriek and involuntarily kicked out with her other leg but
the man hung on, persistent and unrelenting. His face was caked with dirt and
streaks of bright blood and his eyes were blazing with awareness as he glared at
Jivyan, sobbing with undiluted terror by now.
“Jivyan!” Caled dropped his bow and scrambled around the man to the girl’s side.
He heaved his arms under hers to try and drag her away but Gods, the man was
strong, even when wounded.
The man snarled something in a language that was unknown to the children as he
hung on to Jivyan’s foot.
“I don’t understand you! Let her go,” Caled garbled out frantically. "Let her
The man winced in pain as Jivyan’s foot connected with his wounded shoulder but
his grip did not loosen.
He stared at the children. Then he said clearly, “Help me. I am wounded. My
enemies…they are near…the Forest is…danger…”
He collapsed, his fingers finally relaxing around Jivyan’s ankle.
With a grunt, Caled pulled the girl away. “Are you hurt?”
She shook her head, dragging a sleeve hurriedly over her eyes to mope her tears
as Caled examined her ankle. There were the beginnings of bruises where the man
had grabbed her but they did not look too bad.
“He asked us for help,” Jivyan whispered solemnly.
Caled looked at her with incredulity.
“We can’t turn down a plea for help. We have to help him now. He might die.”
Caled turned his attention at the unconscious man and reluctantly, he knew she
was right. The man said the Forest was dangerous and Caled agreed…likening the
Forest to a sleeping predator had seemed quite apt when he first saw it but now,
he had another new feeling: that the predator was waking up. Fright renewed
itself within him and he wanted to get away as soon as possible.
“Help me carry him,” he said even as something inside him told him that he would
regret this act of charity.
How they made it back to Twynar was a minor miracle. Caled was tall for his age
and strong as befitted a farmer’s son used to farm chores but he was still only
twelve. Jivyan was even smaller and though she tried her best, heaving one arm
of the man around her shoulders and valiantly dragging him along, both children
despaired of getting back to Twynar without exhausting themselves in the
Thankfully, halfway on the road back to Twynar, the man seemed to wake to
semi-conscious grogginess and he helped ease the children’s burden by dragging
his feet along, though they still had to bear some of his weight.
By the time they reached the outskirts of the village, Caled and Jivyan were
sweating and panting profusely. Caled thought his heart was going to burst out
of his chest while Jivyan’s face was shiny red.
They propped the injured man against a tree that was hidden from the main road
by some tall weeds. His head lolled back against the trunk and Jivyan tried to
dab away some of the blood from his face again.
His skin was extremely pale although Caled was not sure if the paleness was due
to the wound.
“He stopped bleeding,” Jivyan said anxiously. “That’s good, isn’t it?”
“We cannot leave the arrow inside. We have to take it out soon or else the wound
will rot and he might get blood sickness.” Caled replied. “I don’t recognize the
markings on the arrows. It doesn’t look like anyone’s from the village. Father
“Are we going to bring him to your house?”
“Not much choice is there. You and I, we’re not healers.” Caled said glumly,
thinking of the scolding he’ll get once his parents found out that he had
ventured into the Auturian Woods.
“No!” The man suddenly spoke.
Jivyan yelped in surprise. Caled immediately dragged her away, both children
then regarding the stranger from a safe distance.
“Let no one know I am here,” he said.
“But… we don’t know how to take the, the arrow out,” Caled stammered. “My
Jivyan and Caled looked at each other helplessly.
“All right.” Caled agreed reluctantly. “But the arrow…”
The stranger spared a brief, disdainful glance for them. He reached up and using
one hand, he grabbed the arrow shaft and pulled. The arrow, surprisingly, came
out easily, followed by a burst of fine crimson mist and the only sound the man
made as he did that was a small groan.
Caled went white as the arrow came out while Jivyan uttered a tiny, sickened
gulp that she quickly stopped by stuffing a fist against her mouth.
“Make a bandage around the wound.”
“Us?!” Jivyan squeaked.
He merely looked at them with eyes that were so cold that the child
involuntarily clutched Caled’s sleeve.
“You have to tell us how to do it.” Caled said grudgingly, recovering some of
his color. He did not trust this man they had rescued.
But the deed was done and like
Jivyan said, he had asked for their help and bound they were now, to give it as
much as they could.
Using a long strip of cloth torn from the stranger’s cloak and following his
terse instructions, Jivyan and Caled tried their best to staunch the renewed
flow of blood.
“Tighter,” the man muttered.
‘We’re trying!” Jivyan was feeling faint from the copious amount of blood
smearing her hands, none of her injured animals had so much blood spilt when she
tended them, but she bit her lip and persisted on. Both children wrapped the
cloth as tight as they could around the man’s chest first and then over his
wounded shoulder. The man winced, features clenched in pain as they went about
their clumsy ministrations but did not tell them to stop.
”Done,” Caled said, leaning back, sucking in a deep breath. If he ever decided
not to become a farmer like his father, at least he knew he was not going to be
a healer or cleric!
“It will hold.” The man craned his head over his shoulder to inspect their work.
“I need time for the wound to heal. I am too weak to travel.” He spat the last
sentence out bitterly, as if furious that he had revealed a frailty.
“No one must know I am here,” he repeated once more with the same intensity.
Jivyan thought for a while and she brightened as she recalled something. “The
old mill! It’s been deserted for ever so long. We get flour for our bread from
Pellan now and his mill is on the other side of the village. It's only a short
walk from here. No one ever goes there… Dena says it’s haunted.” The girl
fidgeted as she revealed the last bit of information.
Caled groaned. “It is not haunted, Jivyan! You are much too old to let Dena
frighten you like this,” he told her sternly.
Jivyan flared and retorted, “I am not frightened, not in the least!”
“Be quiet.” He did not raise his voice but the two children sensed his
irritation rippling underneath and fell silent. “Take me to this mill. I will
see its suitability for myself.”
It was not a long walk to the mill but the stranger was wounded so the going was
slow and he rejected the two children’s help now, walking slowly by himself.
Once he almost fell. Jivyan sprang forward to steady him but he growled at her
like a wild dog would and Caled pulled her away. After that, they walked behind
Overgrown weeds and trees hid the path so no one from the village saw the
“He’s not very nice, is he? And very proud. Perhaps he’s of noble blood,” Jivyan
Caled shrugged. Highborn or not, the stranger made him wary and fearful.
Whatever comes of this would be no good, he intuitively felt. The man had been
pursued and shot at, that much was clear. He was not friend yet, but was he foe?
Perhaps he was someone who has done a bad thing and was running away from those
who would bring him to justice. Caled agonized within the confines of his mind,
afraid that he might have brought trouble upon Twynar.
“This is the place.” Jivyan pointed to the ramshackle looking building next to a
small stream running. The roof was caved in at some parts but most of it was
still intact and the windows were gaping holes that stared accusingly at them as
if they were to blame for the old mill’s sorry state now.
“It’s a little dirty,” Jivyan trailed off uncertainly as they entered. The
inside of the mill, though dusty and overlaid with spider webs hanging from the
rafters, was slightly better off than the outside in that it was dry at least
“It will do. I have stayed in much worse places than this.”
It was on the tip of Jivyan’s tongue to ask where the man had stayed that was
worse but she swallowed her question. The stranger had spared a brief glance for
her, as if knowing what she was going to ask and that look was not one of
kindness or indulgence.
He doesn’t like us, Caled realized. We saved him but he’s not glad. In fact he
really hates us for having helped him.
And quick upon that realization, came the prickling fear that the stranger’s
urgent need for secrecy might result in danger for him and Jivyan. What was to
stop him from strangling the life from them both in order to keep his
whereabouts hidden from those who had wounded him with that arrow?
He looked at the man and found cold dark eyes staring back at him.
He knows what I’m thinking, he knows, he knows, Caled’s mind whirled in a haze
of panic. He’s going to kill us.
He grabbed Jivyan’s hand, ignoring her look of surprise.
“We have to go now. Our parents will be wondering where we are. I have chores to
do. I have to feed the chickens. And help father mend mother’s spinning wheel.
It broke.” He was babbling but he could not stop. “I won’t tell anyone, neither
will Jivyan. We’ll come back tomorrow. With food. Lots of food and water. You
need food and water to heal.”
Jivyan was looking at him like he had gone mad but the stranger…
the lines of
tension on his face eased and the sense that he had averted something remained
“Very well. Go then,” the man said.
As Caled hurried out the door, Jivyan turned and asked, “My name is Jivyan and
this is Caled. What’s your name?”
He paused and then replied, “You may call me Raven.”
Alone now, the human whelps having scuttled through the door like fire had been
licking at their heels, he allowed himself a small, mirthless smile at the name
he chose to give.
Briefly, he wondered if his decision not to kill the children was correct. They
did not know it but he had a dagger strapped to his belt, hidden underneath the
folds of the cloak, and that dagger had been close to being unsheathed and laid
across both their throats. Even injured, he could have killed them easily and
kept his whereabouts safe from those who were bound to be looking for him now.
He drew back his lip, snarling silently in frustrated anger over his own
carelessness in allowing his presence to be discovered by those Tethinrhim
dogs. He had been chosen because he could almost pass for one of them as his
skin was still free of scars except for one near his belly when he was almost
gutted by a rival but clothing easily hid that. His hair was midnight black like
most of his tribe but he had solved that problem by dying it red.
He had lived among the Tethinrhim for almost five months, establishing contacts
and gathering information, before his real identity had been revealed. The only
satisfaction he got after being discovered was that he had managed to track down
the one who had betrayed him and had time to inflict much pain on him by cutting
off every single finger on both hands, one by one, and then blinding him. He did
not kill the traitor but as a final insult, he had mutilated the ears as well,
cutting off the tips. After that, he left him bleeding copiously on the floor
and whether the traitor lived or not, was no longer his business. His business
was now of survival long enough to escape the Woods to return back to his tribe.
His wound was caused when he was running from a band of Kaierians who were
hunting him. He still remembered the one who leashed the arrow from her bow, she
had been fair with red hair coiled around her head and her eyes were full of
hatred and triumph as the arrow struck him. He had dodged, twisted his body
somehow in the last second, so that the arrow penetrated his shoulder instead of
the heart she had been aiming for.
The only thing that kept him going after being struck was the thought that the
Kaierian’s hate towards him was nothing compared to his against her and her
tribe. And that he will hunt her down one day as she had hunted him that day and
he will not kill her when he finds her. He will merely inflict far worse pain to
her than he had to the Elf who had betrayed him and let her live with her
The one who called himself Raven regretted not having killed the whelps now. If
they should divulge his location to anyone, he was as good as dead.
Yet something stayed his hand for Raven had seen the fear in the boy's eyes. And
perhaps the fear would stop both their mouths. It was a chance he had to take
for the boy had mentioned food and much as he detested the idea of being
dependent on humans, he knew without sustenance, he would not heal as quickly
and it was too dangerous to risk going out from the confines of this mill to
forage for himself.
So. He would let them live. For now.
There was someone standing over him.
Rolling to his feet in an instant and ignoring the fresh lance of pain coming
from his torn shoulder, he snatched up the dagger that lay next to his hand as
Jivyan gasped, staring down at the blade that was nailsbreadths from her throat.
Caled, coming in through the door a heartbeat behind Jivyan, shouted, “Stop!”
Raven withdrew his blade when he saw who it was. “Never touch me without my
permission,” he snapped at the girl.
“You were sleeping… I wanted to look at your wound,” Jivyan stammered. “I brought
a poultice. I use it when one of my animals gets hurt.”
“Healing herbs for animals. How appropriate.” His mouth twisted bitterly.
“I’m sorry. I couldn’t get anything else.”
“It was the best we could do,” Caled said heatedly. Raven’s attitude of
superiority and obvious disgust at them was beginning to irritate him. Picking
up the bread and cheese he had dropped when he saw Jivyan's throat nearly being
slit, he thrust them at Raven.
“This was all that I could get without my parents’ noticing.” His eyes glared at
the man, daring him to refute the simple fare.
Raven’s face merely relaxed and if anything else, he seemed almost amused by
He did not offer thanks but he ate the food without further complaints while
allowing Jivyan to redo the dressing on his shoulder, applying the poultice as
“That should stop the wound from infection. I think. I never tried it on a
person before,” Jivyan said doubtfully. She looked at Raven’s long black hair
with interest. “You have wonderful hair, it’s really dark. I don’t think I’ve
see hair so black before.”
“It is a characteristic of my tribe.”
Encouraged by this little information, Jivyan went on, “It’s very long, would
you like some string to tie it back? It looks hot, covering your ears and cheeks
“No, it is not hot.” Raven snapped in annoyance.
“Oh.” Jivyan subsided.
The two children awkwardly sat facing the tall man, dressed still in
blood-soaked clothing, and they sat without speaking as Raven finished the bread
He slipped down once more upon the old pile of hay gathered and closed his eyes,
clearly dismissing the two children.
Caled could only shrug, as Jivyan asked with some bemusement, “Is he snoring?”
“…very handsome. Just like a prince...remember that story?”
Raven considered slitting their throats just to have peace and quiet. It was
always quiet in the mill, except for the soft bubbling of the brook or the
occasional curious cooing of a bird in the rafters, but that recuperative
silence was shattered the moment the two human whelps bounced in through the
door. The human girl especially seemed to have taken a delight in talking to
him, blatantly ignoring that he most definitely did not wish to talk to her. She
would prattle on and on, heedless of whether he was listening or not, telling
him about life in the small village or what she had done and the things her
friends told her. As if he cared about her miniscule, unimportant, miserable
Five days since he came to the village to hide from his enemies and though he
knew the boy’s mistrust of him had grown steadily as each day passed, Caled as
he was called, did not betray him. He and the girl both had kept his secret with
a faithfulness that surprised him at times. Men were not the most loyal of races
in Caelereth. In fact, they have made a dubious history for themselves in
traitorous dealings and numerous betrayals that had brought down empires. Raven
smiled wryly to himself. Maybe Men were not that different from the
“Shhh, not so loud, he’s still sleeping. The story of the raven prince.
Remember? Ordra told it to us last winter at the harvest festival.”
“Jivyan that was only a tale to entertain the younger children.” Even with his
eyes closed, Raven knew the boy Caled well enough by now to also know that he
would be rolling his eyes as he made that remark.
“A sorcerer jealous of a young prince and turned him into a raven that was then
exiled to roam forever and ever in the Auturian Woods. And Raven…
his name is
Raven too and his hair is black like a raven!”
“I do not think Raven is his real name.”
Yes, he would do well not to underestimate the boy. Despite the rough hands and
simple clothing of a farmer’s son, Caled was not the naïve innocent that Jivyan
still was. Not to say that he was as worldly as a courtier in a king’s court but
Caled possessed that rare acumen of instinct. He distrusted Raven because
somehow, though he was not yet consciously aware of it, only as a vague
awareness, he knew Raven would not hesitate to kill either child to protect his
“So maybe he is hiding his real name because of the sorcerer?” Jivyan’s
delighted excitement caused Raven to come out from his pretended dose. The
child’s exuberant innocence made him slightly ill.
Immediately, they stopped talking. Caled passed him another bundle of food as
Jivyan grinned, her freckled face beaming.
He unwrapped the bundle to see a portion of chicken that was dried and
shrivelled-looking and bread lathered with a dark, sweet jam on it.
At least it was not bread and cheese again, Raven thought with a sigh.
On the seventh day, he was not sleeping but sharpening his dagger on his
whetstone and testing the healing muscles in his hurt shoulder when the two
children burst in.
“Raven! You have to go now!” Caled shouted frantically. "There's people asking
Rolling to his feet quickly, Raven looked down at the children.
Jivyan and Caled abruptly stepped back together in tandem, their faces pallid
with sudden shock and fear that splashed like a bucket of ice-cold water. The
aura of menace that had first surrounded Raven when they saw him had returned
but back then, it had been like the simmering menace of a hurt creature.
Frightening, yes, but endurable to the point where the children could shake off
their alarm to help him. This time, standing up, a smear of daunting black
against the mill’s dusty browns, he seemed so much more… dangerous somehow. He
was utterly terrifying.
Raven said tersely, “Tell me.”
“They’re very tall with skin very white. Like yours. I’ve never seen people like
them. They say they’re elves,” Here, Caled’s rambling voice took on a note of
disbelieving wonder. "And they’re looking for someone they wounded a few days in
The young boy tried to remember as much as he could of what happened this
morning as he poured it out to an intently listening Raven.
He had been in the hens’ house, feeding the squawking things when his brother
had hurried over.
Antar was hovering at that age when his voice would quaver between a boyish
squeak and a baritone. As he shouted Caled’s name, his voice first went high and
then alarmingly low.
“Come now to the house. Mother and Father wants to see you!”
On his guard immediately because of Raven, Caled asked with deep suspicion,
“Why? I have not finish feeding the hens.”
“I don’t know but I think it has something to do with the visitors,” Antar said
“Dressed all in leather armour and with bows and swords. Even the women were as
tall as the men! Come on! Hurry up.”
While his brother hustled him along, Caled’s feeling of impending peril grew
stronger and he would have sprinted over the section of broken wall behind his
house to warn Raven but Antar’s enthusiastic tugging of his arm towards their
house stopped him from doing so.
As he stepped into the house, the incongruousness of the scene before him struck
and he would never forget that scene, etched like a still picture, inside his
mind till the day he breathed his last.
His parents were standing at one side of the room; his father’s arm around his
mother and both had similar expressions of awe, respect and trepidation on their
In the middle of the room, around the large oaken table that his father and
eldest brother had made two winters ago, were several, a half-dozen at least,
tall personages dressed in a kind of brown leather armour that covered the top
part of their bodies down to their thighs. From the underarm openings of the
leather armour were long strips of forest-green cotton sleeves. Strapped to some
of the waists were leather scabbards with sword pommels jutting out and every
single one carried long bows.
All were very fair and tall and their hair colours varied from the blazing
sunset of a red autumn sun to the gentle warm glow of firelight in evenings.
There were also mysterious and elaborate insignias tattooed on each of their
Perhaps strangest of all was that their ears were thinner and longer than most
As he entered, everyone in that room turned to look at him and Caled’s instinct
screamed at him to run, run, RUN! As far as he could and as fast as he could.
He had never seen warriors before but he knew at once that was what the six
before him were. Soldiers who had seen and dealt more than their fair share of
He was afraid. He was only twelve and he was afraid for himself and the stranger
in the abandoned mill.
“This is our youngest, Caled.” His father cleared his throat to announce.
“Caled Gwohann,” one of the warriors called him and Caled realised that it was a
woman. She was very beautiful with long limbs and bright red hair like rubies or
split blood. She was like no woman he had seen in all his short life spent in
Twynar. She was unknown, lovely and inhuman to his eyes. “We bid you well.”
“Who are you?” he asked baldly.
“Caled!” His mother hissed.
The woman smiled. “It is only natural for children to be curious. We encourage
that trait in our own young. My name is Reollár and I am of the Tethinrhim
of the elven race.” She inclined her head slightly.
In the background, Caled heard his parents gasped softly.
“What do you want with me?” He thought of Jivyan who dreamt of elves and raven
princes and was frightened of haunted houses, and Caled suddenly wanted her here
very badly. She would have cherished this moment in his house, unlike him, and
ignored the fear and just… loved it with all her heart.
Reollár nodded to one of the elves around her and he came forth, holding
something in his hand.
It was Caled’s bow. The one his parents gave him and which he had left and
forgotten in the Auturian Woods days ago.
The elven woman beckoned for him to come nearer and he obeyed reluctantly. When
he was before her, the male warrior placed the bow into Caled’s hands which
clutched it tightly.
“A good bow. You left it in our Woods.” Reollár smiled again but the smile did
not reach her eyes which were flinty and grim. “It is yours, is it not?”
“We are looking for someone. Someone who trespassed in our Woods and he is, how
do you say it in your tongue,” she paused to think, “a lawbreaker. Yes. He has
broken our laws and we seek him to bring him to justice. Do you know where he
Caled shook his head, mouth dry.
“If you know, you must tell us. Your bow was found in the boundaries of the
He found his voice with difficulty. “I don’t know. I, I went to the Woods to
practice with my bow. But something came out from beyond the trees. I was
frightened. I ran. I’m sorry.”
She does not believe me, Caled’s mind babbled. She knows I’m lying.
"My boy says he does not know and so he doesn’t.” It was Father who spoke, a
steely note in his words. Caled blinked in surprise. “If you have no other
business, please leave my home. We are but simple Avennorian farmers.”
He was so proud of his father then that he thought his heart would burst from
Two of the Tethinrhim elves stepped forth and from the corner of his eye, Caled
saw his father’s posture tensed. However, Reollár waved them back with a flick
of a hand.
“A brave child. Very well. We have tarried here long enough. My thanks for
allowing us into your home,” Reollár said as, one by one, the other
out of the room, silent as graves. Only the ef woman was left and as she passed
by the family, she spared a glance for the young boy.
A flicker of the smile returned but there was nothing reassuring about it.
“We do not kill unless there is need. And we do not kill children,” she told
them as she left.
“So you have to go as soon as possible before they find you,” Caled was telling
Raven. “I ran to Jivyan’s house as soon as they left and I don’t think they
followed me but Twynar isn’t very big, you can’t hide here forever.”
“No, I cannot.” Raven agreed.
“It’s my fault. I forgot about my bow.” He hung his head guiltily. “I don’t know
how they knew it was mine.”
“They are Kaierian warriors. They can track a scent a week old to its source.”
It did not sound like Raven was blaming him. Nevertheless, Caled still felt the
guilt and his carelessness keenly.
“Your shoulder?” Jivyan asked timidly.
“Healed enough.” Then Raven asked Caled, “The elf woman. What did she look
“She said her name was Reollár. Her skin was pale like she was sick but she
didn’t look sick and her hair was red and braided around her head. Do you know
“I know her.” Indeed he did and one day he shall pay her back in kind for the
wound she inflicted upon him tenfold and she will beg him for her death by the
time he was done.
Caled hesitated. “They said you broke their laws.”
“Do you believe her?”
“I don’t know.”
“What she says is true. I ventured into their Ria, the stronghold of their
leader, and I stole from them.”
Jivyan asked apprehensively, “Why?”
“I am not an ensorcelled prince, child of men.” A thin smile stretched Raven’s
lips as he swept his blacker than night hair from the sides of his face, which
has so enthralled Jivyan before with its beauty, to reveal ears just as thin and
angled like the Tethinrhim's. Caled stared incredulously while Jivyan gasped.
“I am of the Coór'hém tribe of the elven race and there is no love between my
tribe and the other elven tribes including the Tethinrhim. Enemies we were when
the Dark Father Coór turned his back upon Avá and enemies we shall remain when
the day comes and this world is destroyed. They call us abominations but in
Coór’s eyes, we are His beloved children.”
“I don’t understand.” Jivyan scowled with confusion.
“Be happy that you do not. It is your ignorance that saved you.” Once more,
Raven thought of killing the children. A wisp of expediency and practicality
going through his mind to ensure his survival. That they had not disclosed his
whereabouts today did not mean they would not do it some other time.
Unexpectedly trustworthy they had proved themselves to be but they were still
“Here, we packed some food for you and water. ” Jivyan handed a bundle wrapped
in clean linen and a flask to him. She blinked at him owlishly a few times and
resisted the urge to run over and hug him like she would one of her injured
animals after it had healed and she was setting it free. Somehow she did not
think Raven was the type who allowed hugs.
“Bread and cheese?” He raised an eyebrow.
“Our parents were getting suspicious of the missing food.”
“Bread and cheese it is then.” He looked at Caled and Jivyan momentarily and
then at the food and flask he held in one hand and finally shrugged. “Thank
Caled was startled. “You thanked us. You never did that before.”
Their deaths would serve no purpose except perhaps hold off the hunters a day or
two. He could afford that time lost. The Kaierian trackers would expect him to
journey to the Cape of Strata in order to find a ship that will bring him to
Nybelmar and they would look to the obvious roads that led from Marcogg into
Stratania for him. What they probably did not know was that he planned to go
overland and lose his pursuers through the Caeytharin Mountains on the way to
the town of Ciosa where a small ship, its captain paid half in gold and the
other half promised when he reached, would be waiting for him to sail him round
the Yanthian Gulf and to the Cape of Strata. He would be safe once he reached
there for the Tethinrhim would be hard-pressed to track down a lone fugitive
across the border in Stratanian lands.
“Please, do go now. Don’t get killed,” Jivyan told him with worried earnestness.
“And it’s all right, I don’t mind that you’re an elf”
Raven nodded distractedly and walked out of the mill without another word. The
two children ran to the door and they stood, side by side, watching him go down
the path in his black clothing, still soaked with dried blood and torn here and
there and the heat of the day simmered around him.
Jivyan waved although he did not turn around. He continued striding until he
rounded a bend, through some trees, and was gone.
Caled had nightmares after Raven’s departure, silent ones that tore him into
wakefulness, sweating profusely as the dark closed in on him within the small
room he shared with his brothers. Always in the dreams, he would watch
helplessly as the red-haired elven woman, Reollár, returned to Twynar because
they had somehow found out about Raven. Bright blood stained the walls of his
house as the elves then slaughtered everyone in the village and he would wake
with his fist pressed against into his mouth to stop the screams from waking his
parents and brothers.
But the horrific dreams eventually passed as the days passed. Winter came and
elves from the Auturian Woods did not come back.
Years went by. Jivyan and Caled grew, as children are wont to do. Caled’s eldest
brother died soon of a sickness and was buried into the still frozen earth of a
winter’s day. His family grieved and after the sorrow, life on the farm went on
with Caled and Antar bearing the burden of their dead brother’s
Jivyan decided to follow the path of Nehtor, to become a healer of
men, not just
of animals and when she was fifteen, her parents sent her to a temple of the God
of Healing in Marcogg. She did not return until she was two and twenty years of
age. When she did, she became the village’s healer and was courted by two young
men from neighbouring farmsteads but she laughingly turned them down and said
she was not the marrying kind.
Her friendship with Caled continued and strengthened when he married her best
friend Dena who used to frighten her with stories of ghostly mills when they
were young girls.
As with everywhere else, Twynar saw its share of death from sickness or old age
and harvests came and went and children grew up and had children of their own.
Travellers through the village still brought news from the outside world and in
the village square, Verimar the blacksmith, Pellan the miller, his
eighteen-year-old son Pelath and a host of other farmers would gather and listen
to them. How Anir Snivild now sat upon the Avennorian throne and signed a
shameful treaty with the Shan’Thai and because of ink signatures on a piece of
parchment, civil war raged like dragon’s fire through the lands between those
who believed that all men should live free without mastery and those who
believed that some men are more equal than others.
Verimar would click his tongue against the roof of his mouth in disapproval at
the sad state of affairs happening outside their village while Pelath dreamt of
fighting in the war, to bring freedom to the enslaved. His father knew exactly
what he was thinking of and explictly forbade him to join the war but a few
weeks later, Pellan would find a letter pinned onto an empty bed and a year
would pass before a battered-looking soldier would tap onto the door of Pellan’s
mill and tell him that his only son had died in a skirmish and hand Pellan a
small jar which contained Pelath’s ashes.
Caled did not join the war for his brother, Antar, like Pelath had,
and when the war of slavery ended, Antar did not return for another war soon started, this
time against the elves of the Woods and Antar had been commanded to fight in
it. For Anir’s and Avennoria's glory, they said.
So Caled tended the farm and though sometimes he dreamt equally of the grandeur
and misery of great battles before the fireplace as the embers glowed and
flickered, he stayed to look after his parents who were growing old and Dena
whose belly was rounded with their first child.
And the older generation continued to say that there had been Avennorian farmers
since the time of Barek Swanhild and there will be Avvennorian farmers in Twynar
long after kings like Anir Snivild became dust and ash in the palm of a hand.
So they said.
A loud banging woke Caled from his deep sleep. Tired from the day’s work, he was
most definitely not pleased to be woken up in this manner.
Beside him Dena, his wife, clutched at his hand. “Who is it?”
Bending over for a quick kiss to her temple, Caled assured her. “Probably Durcyn
needing help foaling one of his cows. Calf’s head is turned the wrong way, it’s
not coming out properly. Go back to sleep.”
Dena nodded sleepily and watched him as he dressed and went out of the room.
At the door, the pounding continued, increasing in strength and volume.
“Durcyn, if you break my door down, you’re going to pay for a new one!” Caled
yelled as he undid the latch and swung the door open.
It was not Durcyn. Jivyan was standing at his doorstep with her fist still
poised in the air, ready to slam it against the door.
“Jivyan? What are you doing here? Dena’s not due for another month.”
“I am not here about Dena or the baby. It is…” Jivyan took a deep breath.
Caled noticed Jivyan’s dress looked as if she had thrown it on hurriedly,
without care or concern. Her brown hair was not in its usual style, knotted into
a neat bun at the base of her neck but was streaming messily down her shoulders.
Alarm gripped him. “What is it? What has happened?”
Jivyan opened her mouth to speak but before she could, a shadow detached itself
from behind her and came forward.
Hurriedly lighting a candle on the table nearby, Caled brought the wavering glow
up against the shadow’s face and almost dropped it when he realised who it was.
The elf did not greet him and in the weak illumination of the candle, Caled saw
that he had not changed at all in the sixteen years that had passed since he and
Jivyan hefted him out from the Auturian Woods. No new lines of age creased the
corners of his eyes and his hair was still blacker than the night that
He had not grown or changed and looking at him, Caled had the sense of time
pressing in on him though he was still a man in his prime, only seven and twenty
“So it is true, the elves do not grow old nor do they die, they are beyond
Queprur's reach,” he murmured.
“Hardly. We die in due course, but the process is much slower for us than for
you men.” That tone of scorn and contempt in Raven’s voice had not changed,
“What is it that you want? Why have you come back?”
It was Jivyan who answered. “Because we were going to die if he had not
“Speak sense, Jivyan!” The unexpected appearance of Raven had unnerved him so he
spoke with greater than necessary force at his childhood friend.
“Caled, Raven came to warn us. The Tethinrhim elves are coming this way and they
are burning settlements in their paths.”
“This is madness!” Verimar shouted, his thickset arm waving his forge hammer at
an unperturbed Raven. “Why should the elves attack us? We have nothing to do
with this conflict between them and Anir.”
“Believe it as you will, I speak the truth. Not a day’s journey away from your
village marches a division of Tethinrhim warriors. They are under orders to burn
all the nearby settlements around their Woods including yours,” Raven announced
The entire village of Twynar was gathered in what passed as their version of a
town square which was nothing more than a square patch of brown earth sandwiched
between the butcher’s shop and Verimar’s smithy. After Jivyan had seen Caled,
the two had woken up their nearest neighbours and told them of Raven’s news and
each in turn was told to inform the rest of the village and gather everyone into
the square. There were about a hundred or so inhabitants of Twynar and they were
squeezed into that bare patch of land and all gazed upon the tall
elf with his
black clothing, the glittering sword hanging on his belt, his black hair and
skin like the pale side of the moon with confusion, worry and terror.
It was still the dead of night and torches were lit to provide light, creating a
hazy glow to the air. Some of the women tried to comfort frightened children
while others stood beside their husbands, fathers or brothers. Raven looked
supremely unconcerned by the growing panic around him while Jivyan and Caled
were each positioned next to his left and right respectively. Dena had insisted
on coming with them as well and she stood a little ways behind her husband.
Another man shouted, “Let Anir and the elves fight among themselves. Let them
murder each other to the last one if that is what they want! We are only simple
A murmur of assent ran through the crowd.
“This is our home. We have lived here all our lives. Our fathers have lived here
and their fathers and their fathers before them and so on. Twynar is our
history, it is what we are, what made us and what will make our children and
their children to come. We cannot abandon it,” said Tiran, a short, dark man who
held the farmstead northeast of Twynar.
“Then you will die and so will your children and your history will become a
burning pyre of corpses and blackened fields,” Raven said mockingly and though
he did not raise his voice, everyone present heard his words as clear as if he
had been standing next to them, whispering into their ears. “Whether you like it
or not, war is upon you and war does not distinguish between farmers or
soldiers. To the Tethinrhim, you are all Avennorians.”
“Listen to him. He speaks the truth, I swear it!” Caled said to his villagers.
“And what if he is wrong? What if this elf is lying? We have only his word.”
Pellan spat on the ground, bitter, as he had been since his son’s death. “I have
heard of these Coór'hém elves. That they are wicked and treacherous!”
“But if he is not lying? Pellan Ulothrar, would you take the chance and remain
here? Pelath is dead but you still have a daughter. Would you risk her life?”
Jivyan pointed out, indicating with a hand to the young girl that clung to
Pellan’s side. At Jivyan’s words and reminder of his son’s death, the miller
jerked and clutched his daughter nearer.
“Listen to me! Take what you can carry and go to Marcogg. Within the city walls,
we have a measure of safety.” Caled told them. “The best chance we have is to
“Leave? And who will plant the fields when we are gone? What will we eat if
there is no harvest?” A woman asked shrilly from beyond the outer reaches of the
crowd. “Our homes are here, our fields cannot be left untended!” Once she said
that, many in the crowd started shouting that she was right.
With growing dismay, Caled looked at Raven quickly, hoping the elf would have
more to say in order to sway his fellow villagers but the latter shrugged
elegantly as if the stubbornness of Twynar was no longer any of his interest.
“Why should we listen to that elf anyway? You heard what Pellan said. The elf’s
probably a spy for those Tethinrhim he’s talking about! It’s a ruse.” The mood
of the crowd grew uglier, louder and harsher until it resembled a lynching mob
rather than a meeting of villagers and Caled began to fear for Raven’s safety.
“This is not good, Raven,” Caled hissed.
“Men really are the stupidest race on Caelereth. I do not know how your race has
survived until now without being obliterated,” Raven replied, looking bored.
The initial shock had passed and it was rapidly replaced by furious anger and
several of the men were eyeing Raven in a decidedly hostile way. A few started
towards the elf and Caled was thinking how to hold them back when Jivyan
suddenly darted forward to snatch Verimar’s hammer. He was so taken-aback by
surprise that he relinquished it easily. Though heavy, Jivyan managed to heft it
with both her hands.
She swung it against the advancing men, motioning them to step back and all of
them looked at her if she had gone insane.
Then she swung the hammer against the ground with all the strength she could
muster and it fell to its side as she let go, the sound of the impact
“You stubborn fools! Not even Nehtor Himself can bring back the dead! If Raven
is wrong, we lose nothing. We come back to Twynar and our houses will still
stand and our fields will still wait for our hands to harvest them. But if he is
right, then fields can be replanted, homes can be rebuilt but lost lives cannot
be replaced!” The healer cried out vehemently.
Quiet until now, Dena spoke up as well, “I will go to Marcogg with my husband.
Not for my safety or for Caled’s. I leave Twynar because I will do anything to
ensure his survival.” She touched her belly carefully; face soft with tenderness
which subsequently hardened to firm determination.
Reaching out, Caled grasped his wife’s hand and thought it was impossible to
love another so much without losing something of oneself but he did not regret
if that was the price. It was well paid.
He looked out to the suddenly silent crowd, still holding his wife’s hand. “Live
or die. It is your choice.”
“How many followed?” Jivyan wanted to know.
“About seventy. The rest…they stayed behind.”
Uncharacteristically, Jivyan let loose a volley of curses.
“They made their choice. We did what we could.” Caled said heavily
while gazed back at the direction where Twynar lay.
The seventy or so villagers who followed them were presently camped on one of
the low foothills that surrounded the Mithral Mountains. The journey from Twynar
to Marcogg was only a three days’ distance but to avoid any possible Tethinrhim
patrols near the Auturian Woods, Caled and Jivyan decided to detour to the
foothills and from there, they would go on to the Avennorian
Capitol. It would take a week
instead of the three days but Caled estimated they had enough provisions to last
them until they reached the city gates.
“I know that, do you think I do not tell myself the same thing? But it is small
comfort especially if that fool Verimar does what he said to us before we left
and rallies those who remained to fight. Fight?!” She laughed, the sound harsh
like a crow’s death knell. “What chance do they have against a band of
experienced warriors? They will be slaughtered.” Having said that, the healer
covered her face with her hands and wept angrily instead.
As she cried, Caled remembered that long ago day when six of the Tethinrhim came
to his home and he remembered what the elf woman Reollár had said.
We do not kill unless there is need.
Thirty trying to protect their families, their homes, their fields. Would the
Tethinrhim consider that a need?
His grief, like Jivyan, tore at his heart at that question.
“No. We have to go back. Make them come with us somehow. Caled, we cannot leave
them to die!”
“It is too late. See you to where your village lies,” Raven said, leaning against an
outcrop of stone, casually pointing to Twynar’s direction.
They looked and where Twynar was, thick columns of grey smoke now spiralled and
twisted into the skies, stark and ominous against the crimson sunset.
Jivyan choked with stunned horror and she turned away, unable to witness
Caled did not turn away. He stood unmoving and watched as his village was razed
by enemies he did not make and mourned for the deaths of people he had known
“Why?” he asked.
The elf shrugged. “It is war. War does not discriminate.”
“No. That is not what I meant. Why us? Why did you warn only Twynar? If you knew
what the Tethinrhim were going to do, why did you not send word to Chrondra and
Klinsor? Or even Marcogg? Why?” Caled demanded, his hands tightly clenched into
Uncoiling from his position of repose, Raven stood to his full height and the
familiar coldness and menace in his eyes intensified. Except this time, Caled
was no longer a boy of twelve to be so easily intimidated. He looked full back
into Raven’s face and waited for an answer.
“Whether other men of your tribe lives or dies is no longer any of my concern.
Know this, Caled of Twynar. I risked my life to warn you of the danger you
unknowingly faced because, sixteen years ago, two human whelps ventured into the
Auturian Woods and saved one of the Coór'hém. And today, that debt has been paid
in full. I owe you and the girl nothing.”
The man who was a farmer and the elf who had seen and tasted the darkness within
locked gazes for an eternity and finally it was the latter who looked away first
but it was a bitter victory for Caled and the taste of it laid sour in his
“Go south and you will reach Marcogg soon enough,” Raven said grudgingly.
That was how Caled knew he was leaving them.
As the elf walked away, Jivyan said quietly to him, “Thank you.”
He halted his steps and turned slightly. His black clothes made him seem like
one of the shadows wavering on the rock face of the mountain.
Raven said nothing. Then a white thing thrown from a pale hand arced towards
them and Caled caught it.
It was a bundle wrapped in linen and as Caled opened it, he and Jivyan saw a
fresh loaf of bread and cheese nestled in the folds.
When they looked up, he was gone.
The war ended. Even the most destructive ones eventually do. And as wars went,
this was a relatively short one as Anir Snivild soon yielded to the
elves of the
Auturian Woods after a few years. When Anir surrendered, the survivors of Twynar
returned to their village and though the fields were blackened with soot and
their homes burnt to the ground, like Jivyan had said, fields could be replanted
and homes rebuilt which is what they did.
Whilst seeking refuge in Marcogg, Caled’s parents died, one soon after the
other, their hearts too tired to take the strain and they simply gave. However,
sometimes what Queprur takes away, she gives back, for in a temple of Nehtor,
overflowing with wounded soldiers, the air reeking of illness and rotten flesh,
Caled found his brother, Antar, who was grievously injured.
Jivyan took over the task of caring for her friend’s brother and though he
retained a limp from when an Eeven arrow struck his leg and which never went
away, eventually Antar was restored to his health. When Caled, Dena and their
young son made the journey back to Twynar, he went with them, along with Jivyan.
In the month of the Sleeping Dreameress, on a clear day with a sky so blue that
it seemed a gift from the Gods, Antar married Jivyan.
Peace reigned for a short time and then the winds brought the scent of steel and
blood once more as the First Sarvonian War began to reach
However, as chaos raged outside and the one whom the elves called Avá wept for
the folly of the creatures that inhabited Her Dream, the village of Twynar
continued in the ancient cycles of planting and harvest and birth and death.
And the older generations still continued to say to those who will listen, that
there had been Avennorian farmers since the time of Barek Swanhild and there
will be Avennorian farmers in Twynar long after kingdoms crumbled to dust
beneath one’s feet. Only the difference was that sometimes they speak too of a
raven prince who came when the darkest days of a past war reigned and delivered
them from peril.