The First Light
The name is Raphael Ashwind.
A simple mercenary from South-eastern Larenia who kills monsters and outlaws to make a living. A job that is definitely invaluable in these times when monsters and evil is all around us.
The job it is sometimes easy but mostly it is quite difficult or tedious. I must admit that it does not pay much and because of that I am not a rich guy and live on the edge of a small town called Polina. A peaceful town on the inside but its surroundings are riddled with monsters rendering the mercenary guild really powerful here. Anyway, something was going on in the area I live in, the military is getting involved in our job. As I heard from a insolent and annoying mage.
“There is an increasing number of dark monsters in South-eastern Larenia.”
Good for me because I will have work but the military likes to take away the best assignment or even prohibit anybody from entering some areas which can cause a lot of trouble for me and my peers.
Today's job was just to investigate these abandoned ruins of an old castle. This kind of job never turns out good no matter how you look at it. Firstly I don't know what to look for and secondly don't know what I'll encounter when I do find something. Hopefully just some brainless undead but it will never be like that, it is never that simple.
The ruins of this castle have definitely seen better times. Some parts of the building were broken off and some just barely hanging on. Many staircases were broken halfway and walls barely stood on the small amount of stones that were left in them. Probably if I even poked one part it'll make this whole castle or what's left of it to go down.
Carefully I walked around the ruins but nothing other than pebbles was inside.
“The night still too young for monsters to come out I guess.”
I said to myself. I had to wait a little bit more or perhaps investigate further. Suddenly I heard footsteps, something was nearby. Somebody was moving around above me. I slid off my small battle axe out of its sheath. A nice piece of craftsmanship. The wooden handle made of sturdy ash wood and a simple blade of iron on the tip of the it.
By the minute it was getting darker and darker. I rustled my hand in the sachet that hung on my side and took out the light wand, a small magical apparatus with a small metal handle and a small sphere that emitted a blue light. The room was quite spacious and empty but in the far corner of the room I could see a small creature curled up facing the wall.
I took slow and steady steps while walking closer to it, ready for an ambush of any sort. I looked around, nothing was around other than this creature before me. As I come close I could hear a quiet weep. The creature looked dirty and unkempt. At first glance it made me think that it was a banshee but as I looked closer and I could see a bit of the face, it was a little girl. Her face was full of tears that ran down her dirty face. Maybe she is lost or maybe someone is keeping her here.
“What is it little one?”
I asked but did not receive any answer other than a mumble that I could not understand.
“I guess I'll work something out.”
I told her as she turned to me and looked petrified at something behind me.
“Well, your mother is ready little one.”
Said a hoarse male voice behind me. Right after the voice said those word my shoulder started to burn.
“Who are you intruder?!”
He shouted in an angry tone as he started to burn my shoulder to ashes with some kind of magic. Looking at my shoulder I could see the red veins on his hand and already knew something, this man is a blood mage.
He made a mistake of not going straight for the killing blow. I turned to him and charged at him, head butting him in the face. He tried to regain his balance but before he could accomplish this I swung the battle axe to sever his throat. He grabbed his throat, surprised that it was cut and soon fell down, dead.
Not even a sign of surprise was made by the girl beside me. I looked at the mage more carefully, his hands were drenched in blood and also were his black robes. His veins were still pulsating a red colour after the magic that went through them. He was an old blood mage, his face is wrinkled, his eyes gray and the hair likewise, the colour burnt out by dark magicks aswell as age. Just what he was planning to do with this little girl and just what has he done to her mother?
“You alright little one?”
I turned to the little creature but again I got no answer other than a quiet mumble. When she turned her head fully towards me it was full of tears.
“Come on clean yourself up, here.”
I took out a handkerchief and handed it to the small girl. Her eyes were big and bloodshot from the tears and her hair long but all dirty and all over the place. The exact colour of them was unnoticeable through all the dirt that was stuck on them. Her face was all dirty with mud and she wore old rags as clothes, how could someone take so little care of an innocent little girl. She briefly cleaned her face with the handkerchief and handed it back.
“Keep it, can you walk little one?”
I asked her to which she nodded her head.
“Come with me, and tell me what happened.”
The girl said nothing but just walked up to my right side and held my overcoat, scared of what could happen next. I had to check one last thing in these ruins and it was the upstairs. I could not leave this little girl alone downstairs. She looked scared to go upstairs, it had to contain something horrible. I got my axe ready just in case. The set of stone spiral stairs nearby led into a wooden door. The door was well kept considering the state of the surroundings.
I carefully push the door open and beyond it was a sight I did not expect. It was the laboratory of thas sick bastard of a blood mage. Bookcases full of books, tables full of vials and bottles full of liquids that I do not even want to know the names or properties of. I pushed the door fully and then I could see something horrible beyond what I have ever imagined. There was a wooden table with a woman on it. Fresh blood was dripping down from her. The woman's stomach was cut open and big needles bigger than arrows were stuck inside to keep it open. The woman is definitely dead and even if she is alive there is no saving her. How could someone do this to another person is just beyond my imagination. But guessing on what the blood mage said that is probably the girl's mother. The little one hid behind me trying not to look inside the room.
I told the small girl and went to examine the laboratory. On one of the tables I saw a small statue of Lar, the first blood mage. It is an important artefact for blood mages so I just could not let it stay here. I had to bring it back to the mercenary guild so they will destroy it as it can be used for some types of blood magic. On the same table that the statue stood on was a book that is written in red ink and it is in a language that I could not understand. Then I decided to get out of there and report back in the morning.
I turned to the door, prepared to take my leave but the small girl was gone. Just where? Ohh there she was right beside my leg. My attention that was just terrible I have to get a good drink from Isabella in the inn tomorrow morning to cool myself off.
“Let's get out of here.” I told the little one and we headed outside.
The girl obediently followed me while holding the end of my overcoat. Once we were out of the ruins I asked her.
“What is your name, little one?”
“V... Viola.” she said with a scared and studdering voice.
“A beautiful name for a young lady. My name is Raphael it is nice to meet you and don't you worry we'll get you all fixed up when we're in town.”
I told her realising that I had to take care of her from then on.
“That'll be a bother.”
I thought to myself. Just every step I took in life all I stepped into is a puddle of mud. Hey you, Lady Luck can you smile upon me instead of striking me with lightning?
The road we walked back to town was just a normal dirt track made by people who repeatedly stepped on it. It was also lit up by the light of the shining moon which still was still quite low in the sky at this time of the night. I then realised the burn on my left shoulder which was quite irritating. I was lucky my skin was not burned off completely by that blood mage but my favourite overcoat got ruined which did not make me happy at all.
The girl was tightly holding onto me not even asking where we were headed. I wonder how will I explain this to Isabella. Oh you might be wondering who she is, well she probably my best friend and the kindest person I ever met.
I walked slower than usual to make sure that the girl was keeping up the pace with me. I looked at her and she is just looking ahead to where we were headed.
“So Viola, do you have a father somewhere?”
I asked her and then she immediately stopped. The strong moonlight of that day is shining at her brightly and I could spot tears coming out of her big round eyes. She then put her hands on her face to wipe off the tears. Something weird that came to me at that moment was that she never made a sobbing sound.
“Don't be crying on me here.”
I said kneeling down in front of her.
“You're a big girl, big girls only cry to woo the boys.”
I slowly pulled her hand from her face and then started talking again.
“Come, I'll introduce you to someone when we get to the town.”
We soon we arrived at the gates of the little town of Polina, the town I live in. The night guards stared at me with surprise that I had a companion but I just waved them a hello. They knew who I am, as I am the only person who is armed with a halberd on my back along with an overcoat everyday, especially during summer.
When in town I headed for the inn to ask for help of Isabella to sort this small girl out. Luckily the inn was quite empty which came to me as a surprise at this hour. It is just the usual drunkards sitting and talking about the same stuff they talked about yesterday. The inside of the inn is warm and bright. Candles and magic stones nicely lit up the whole place. I came up to the main counter and my friend Isabella came to me right away. She was a girl a bit younger than me, she had long brown hair which were let loose and brown eyes that always looked happy. She was also wearing a dress which looked like it was used for the thousandth time.
“Hey there Raphael, who is this little one?”
She asked with a kind voice which she always kept up when talking.
“I found her in the ruins today, some sick blood mage was trying to experiment on her.”
I explained and Isabella looked startled by what I told her.
“She looks awful.”
Commented Isabella looking at Viola and then she asked.
“What is her name if you know?”
“I forgot, I am terrible with names and you know that.”
I told her and lifted the small girl onto the counter. She got really scared when I put her on the table but she soon calmed down after seeing Isabella's kind expression.
“What is your name young lady?”
Asked Isabella with a soft voice.
“V... Vi.. Viola.”
Said the small girl with a shy voice.
“What a cute name, my name is Isabella nice to meet you.”
Said Isabella holding her hand out, showing that she wants to shake the girl's hand but the girl did not even move an inch.
“Hmm... did she say anything else?”
Isabella turned to me.
“Nope she said nothing other than her name.”
I told her and then asked Isabella for a favour.
“Can you help me clean her up?”
“I've got work to do now but I'll come to your house in the morning alright?”
She said with a bit disappointed voice.
“Sure, I'll make sure she has enough sleep then, see ya in the morning at my house then.”
“Goodnight Raphael and Viola.”
Said Isabella with a kind voice and waved us a goodbye while we exited the inn.
My house was halfway across town and we slowly walked down towards it. The road amongst the houses of Polina was made of stone and was nice to walk on. When I looked at the small girl she again was holding tightly to end of my overcoat trying to keep up the pace that I was walking. After realising she was having trouble keeping up I slowed down.
The house I lived in was an old house that I inherited after my mother died. It is just a small house with only one room which had a bed, stove and a small dining table. It was just a poor peasant's house. I grabbed a key from my pocket and unlocked the door of my house. It is really dirty and stuff was scattered all over the place. To be fair I never had the time to clean up as I have never really been here other than sleeping.
“Sorry little one, I probably did not clean this place since my mother died.”
I told the girl who did not move an inch away from me or made any reaction to what I said.
“Come, you'll sleep on the bed, I have a spare blanket so I'll sleep on the ground.”
I told her and again she did nothing. I lifted her up onto the bed and then said.
“Stay here while I get the blanket for myself.”
I then walked over to the press and looked carefully for the blanket. Upon finding it I turned to the bed where Viola should be but she was not there. She was again at my side. I smiled and said to her.
“I told you to stay on the bed but alright.”
I again lifted her on the bed and told her to stay there. Whilst her sitting on the bed I prepared the place where I am going to sleep. I then took off my brown over coat along with my equipment and my weapons. I was ready to go sleep now but when I looked at the bed the girl was gone again, she again is at my side. Does she not understand me or is she making fun of me? I chuckled at the situation and again lifted her on the bed.
“Stay here and sleep, I will sleep on the floor beside you so don't worry. Nobody is going to hurt you here.”
I told her and lay down on my bed and then down on the ground. I then layed down on the blanket on the floor and attempted to sleep.
“What should I do with the girl now?”
I wondered to myself while laying there. Taking care of her would have been difficult especially with the job I had. I had to work something out, I have to. I could not let the small girl have no one to take care of her. Her mother died and her father probably met the same fate, how could she take all that when that small? She definitely was a curious girl indeed.
As I was lost in my thought I felt a light poke in my side. It was Viola who poked me, trying to get my attention.
“What is it?”
I asked her but soon realised what the problem could be.
“You can't sleep?”
I asked and she responded with a nod of her head.
“I'll tell you a story then but first lay down on your bed.”