Sir Rohen Vienled took his great helm off as he looked into the icy waters of the small, shallow lake. The night was cold, as it was common for nights in the Timberwoods. Rohen could hardly manage to see anything just 5 meters in front of his eyes due to the darkness, but the small clearing surrounding the lake allowed the Moon’s light to invade the area; allowing Rohen to fully make out the scene. Rohen noted that it was rather beautiful; the autumn leaves that hadn’t fallen off the trees had the characteristic orange colour of the season and the clear water in the lake was so calm that, if it wasn’t for his own reflection, as well as the tree’s, he wouldn’t have noticed it.
Rohen was an old man; he was 51 years old, and his appearance could say as much. Rohen had a bald head, except for the bushy grey side whiskers covering his cheeks. His eyes had no crease and they were mildly sunken; furthermore, their once shiny black colour had faded over time and turned a pale, cloudy grey colour that matched that of his remaining hair. Rohen’s forehead was prominent and wrinkled, as was the rest of his face. Nevertheless, Rohen was not ashamed of his appearance; rather, many would say that he was proud of it. It is a miracle that I’ve lived so long given how many wars I’ve fought in, Rohen thought; he had always thought that hiding his identity, regardless of what that was, was foolish and empty. I won’t hide behind fancy garbs and armour suits, Rohen thought, I am an old man; so let them see the old man.
Rohen had stumbled into his current situation by mere chance; The Gods are truly cruel, he thought. He had intended to make his way to Westlord Gerron Seise’s tourney through The Pass, and perhaps even earn himself a last victory at the melee; but upon departing his small keep in the northern Timberwoods, Rohen quickly ran into trouble. Not too far away from the road that he traversed, Rohen had heard a group of bickering commoners; thinking it wise to offer assistance, Rohen approached them, only to discover they were a group of crudely dressed inhumans. Rohen did not have a Shiumine sword, and so trying to fight them head-on would have been foolish, but the inhumans’ discussion unnerved him.
“I’d much prefer not having to abduct some bratty Ligen girl,” a male inhuman had said while trying to lit a fire with his magic.
“If we are to provoke the Summer Fields into believing the Seises are working against them and The Crown, you must do it,” another one said, with a light voice that sounded bored, yet somehow posh enough to pass as that of a lowly knight’s.
“But why me, Gann? You ought to send Han by himself, after all, everyone’s all ‘Whisperhand this, Whisperhand that,’ about his ‘Great Powers’” the first man had responded.
“Aye, I have them ‘Great Powers’, Ero; a shame you couldn’t see me choking that lowly knight to death because you were too busy fucking some wild dog,” the man named Han had told Ero; everyone laughed.
As he heard the inhumans casually speak about kidnap and murder, Rohen flinched, but in doing so, he fell backwards and alerted the inhumans to his presence. He hadn’t hesitated to chop off the arm of the closest one when he felt threatened, and then slicing that man’s gut open. Afterwards, he had fled as quickly as he could in his armour, until he reached the lake. I am far enough from them, he thought, gasping for air as sat himself down by the lake’s shore.
Realizing that it wasn’t useful to dwell on what had happened mere minutes ago, Rohen shook his head violently and washed his face with the lake’s water and then drank some as well. His kite shield was still strapped to his left arm and it made movement awkward, but Rohen didn’t feel safe without it anymore. When he was done catching his breath, Rohen began washing the blood off of his arming sword, but as he did so, he heard sudden rustling among the woods.
Rohen stood up swiftly, without enough time to wear his helm again, although he did hold his sword in front of him as he pivoted around, looking for the source of the sound. “Who are you?!” he yelled, “Show yourself!”
Slowly, almost as if obeying his command, several inhumans came out of the forest, with stoic faces. Rohen recognized the man they had called ‘Han Whisperhand’, as well as the one named ‘Ero’
“In the name of Snowslord Ren Blackthorn, I command you all to stand down and submit to capture!” Rohen declared, not even convincing himself.
“Is that so?” the man with the bored-sounding voice asked, “I beg you forgive my boldness, Ser, but I believe you are not in a position to command us.” Up close, Rohen could see that he wore a long, dark robe with a hood that covered his head.
“I am Ser Rohen Vienled!” he yelled, feeling insulted, “You are mere inhumans! Heretics! I am in my noble and holy right and duty to arrest every one of you!”
“I believe you misunderstand me, Ser,” responded the man, “You are a Knight, yes. And we are ‘Mere inhumans’, indeed. But I’m afraid I can tell your weapon is nothing more than common steel. That means our power is intact; and we outnumber you, needless to say.”
“If you respect the King’s justice—”
“If we respected the King’s justice, we wouldn’t be alone, without a noble’s supervision, in the middle of the Timberwoods,” the inhuman interrupted Rohen.
“If you intend to intimidate me, inhuman, it won’t work,” Rohen said, his voice weakening.
“I don’t intend to, nor do I need to,” the inhuman responded, seemingly calculating.
Rohen snorted, indignant. “Yet you threaten me.”
“I’m afraid I’m yet to make a threat, Ser,” the inhuman responded as he lowered his hood.
Rohen examined the man’s attributes; he had short, very clean and well-kept dark chestnut hair, a slim yet strong face and deep amber eyes with a crease that made him uncomfortable, as if they could stare into his soul.
Rohen then looked at the inhuman’s companions. “I saw one of you making fire with his hands. And another one was talking about choking a noble; most like than not a wizard that controls winds.”
The inhuman chuckled. “Correct, as makes no difference, but correct.”
Rohen smirked, “Your eyes are that of a noble from The Plains of Kings. You’re an outlaw, for sure... But I didn’t see you performing in any accursed form of witchcraft. Could it be that you have no magic?”
The inhuman’s expression became stoic and bored once again. “Ser Rohen Vienled, was it...?” he asked, looking around him as if wanting to send a message to his companions, “You mistake me, Ser. If I haven’t displayed magic it is merely because I didn’t need to display magic.”
“That being said,” the inhuman continued, “Would you like to see magic...? I suppose I can grant you such a request,” the inhuman declared, and as he did so, his companions nervously looked at each other and retreated back into the woods.
Rohen felt a cold sweat run down his back, and for the first time, he felt his courage abandon him. “Over with it already, inhuman!” he shouted, trying to regain his strength, “Show me! What is your magic?!”
The inhuman took a deep breath. In and out, and as he did so, Rohen heard more rustling in the woods. “Surely you know of the Battle of The Timberwoods that was fought nearby... Just about 12 years ago... Of course you do, after all, you fought in that war; The War of The Eagles. The war that got our late King Erros crowned over his older brother; and the same war that would get Thibos exiled.”
Rohen grew impatient. “Are you stalling, inhuman?”
“Not at all,” the inhuman responded, “As a matter of fact, I’m just about done.”
Rohen saw hundreds, if not thousands of shadows looming in the woods before him. His eyes widened in disbelief as a number of dead corpses he could not count showed themselves before him; reanimated and standing, some missing limbs, some with their guts spilling out. The one that made Rohen lose all the courage that he had gathered in his 51 years of living was the only one that still moved. The corpse moved towards him, not yet decomposed, and likely still warm.
As Rohen saw the corpse of the inhuman he had killed minutes before walking towards him, he gasped. The inhuman with the amber eyes said one last thing, “This is my magic.”