June 23, 2020 Flashback

Rhom was still unsure about the date but he marked the seasons one by one and knew he was 14 now. He still rarely left the mountain, hoping against hope his father might return to bring him home. What had he done to upset his sire so? Had he not proven he was strong enough, clever enough and determined enough to survive…to be of worth? It seemed he had not or else father would have come back. A year ago, he had finally figured out who the shopkeeper had referred to as Old Quinn, a sour tempered and cruel trapper and hunter that all but ruled the fur trade in the surrounding areas and had used his hunting hounds to drive Rhom away from choice grounds where good game was found. Rhom made due, finding his own spots away from Quinn and his sons. As he returned to his camp, a freshly killed deer across his shoulders, he saw his fire pit was already lit and someone was warming himself by the flames. Rhom drew back, keeping to the shadows, unsure of what to do. After a few minutes, the man drew out a small hand carved ocarina from his belt and placed it to his lips. The song sounded old, sad and sweet at the same time. It sounded of the pain of loss and the joy of a time long ago. The man stopped, “Might as well come out, teifling, I know you’ve been standing there shivering for awhile now.” Rhom scowled, he thought himself a master woodsman by now, hidden and silent as a shadow stalking the beasts. He stepped out, “This is my home, mister, I don’t want any trouble…” The man laughed, “Don’t want any trouble either, kid, just wanted a place to rest my bones a bit. The trek through these mountains gets harder every year.” He turned to look at Rhom. The man was young. Well, his face and body looked young but you could feel the age pouring off of him. This was a very old human indeed. His hair was black as coal and long, it had curl and waves to it as if he never bothered combing it or no one had ever invented one powerful enough to tame his hair. But those eyes, those eyes stood out…such a deep blue they were almost purple. “If you’ll allow a traveler to rest here tonight, I’ll leave in the morning and give you something in return for your hospitality.” Rhom sat the deer down and took out his knife to start skinning and cleaning it. “Stay if you like.” He had gained much more skill over the last few years and could almost do it by touch alone. “Why would you want to cross the mountains? There’s nothing out here but that tiny village over that way and that’s it.” The man took a silver colored tavasa brewing pot out of his backpack and filled it with snow to melt. “Years ago a warrior found a crashed tower in the ice and snow far to the north, he claimed it had been a flying tower that was powered by some kind of fusion between magic and science. Inside he found evidence of an order called the Dragon Knights. I have been making the trek north every year trying to find it but despite every attempt I can’t locate it.” Rhom paused in his work, “Why though? By now its probably long buried under ice and snow and even then if it crashed you probably can’t get it to fly again.” “An old promise. The warrior was gifted a shield by a ghost there.. a dragon knight shield, old and quite powerful. But he promised to return it one day, and I mean to keep that promise.” He moved his pack and there it was, the shield with the crest of the order upon it. “Honestly I would rather keep it, but it isn’t mine and needs to be returned.” The two talked awhile, Rhom sharing his kill and the man sharing stories, and of even greater treasure to the young tiefling fresh bread and fruit. He bit into one he did not recognize and make a sour face. “This one tastes horrible.” “It is supposed to, that’s a lemon. The juice is good as an ingredient, but better with some teas.” What was supposed to be a night stretched into a week as the human taught Rhom many things…religion, geography, history, how to move in a fight, even how to play the ocarina. After the week was up though, the man said he had to get moving. An old friend of his had predicted the glaciers would shift some soon and may reveal the tower once more. Rhom was sad to see him go, he had been starved for interaction with anyone else and the man was full of things Rhom wanted to know about. A day passed and Rhom resumed his normal routine, and after the sun fell he curled up to sleep. Then he heard a scream. A humanoid scream, female and terrified. He rose instantly, grabbing his wood axe and hurrying out into the dark. It took no time to find the source as there was a girl about his age pressed to a tree with a snarling half starved wolf approaching. Her bow was in the snow out of reach, and she seemed to be alone which stood out as odd. Rhom didn’t dwell on it though and rushed the wolf, swinging underhanded to bring the axe up into the wolf’s underbelly. The force of the blow and the instant pain it caused drove the wolf back several feet but now it had a new target in mind. It lunged, fangs biting through the rough layers of fur and leather and finding flesh. In an instant it howled and pulled back as the Hellish Rebuke ignited in its mouth. This only served to make it angrier and this time it pounced. Rhom went down under the weight and muscle of the wolf, the handle of his axe jammed into its mouth to keep it from biting out his throat. But then something happened, Rhom watched as waves of heat seemed to pour off his limbs and he felt his anger magnify beyond control. He would not die here, the girl would not die here. How dare this beast not see the might and power he possesses. All at once that otherworldly anger exploded and the wolf went flying, Rhom standing up as his eyes burned red, his wings spread wide and wreathed in fire and his wounds dripped liquid that burned the snow as it fell. The girl went silent in absolute terror as Rhom raised a hand and bolts of pure magical destruction lashed out. The bolts tore through it, the wolf’s corpse dropping some 30 feet away in a heap. Rhom collapsed to his knees, trying to understand what he had done, what he had become and his own fear erased the rage and his body returned to normal. He hid his face in his hands, suddenly freezing cold and unable to stop himself from crying. Partly from fear of what he had become but also because of the voice he felt in himself that had awoken that thing…how could anything or anyone be so angry, so full of pure hatred and malice? The girl drew close and knelt beside him as heavy footsteps came from nearby. A man’s voice calling out a name “Elsbeth! Elsbeth!” Rhom heard him coming and scrambled to his feet, fleeing into the dark. His mind trying to come to grips with what had happened. The girl calling out for him to stop. He ran for hours, finally returning to his camp. Father was there waiting and watching the campfire die out. “Finally you prove yourself powerful enough son. Gather your things, mother and I want you to come home.” Nearby, the girl held onto her father. “Dad, we have to find him. He is scared, hurting. I can feel his pain. There is a demon with him…so much darkness in him.” Theorne the Fourth, a partial blue dragon born, looked at his daughter then to his great grandfather. “I do not like you used my daughter as bait, old man. We have to rescue the boy. If that thing is indeed Rhom Corsith we can’t let him have the kid.” Theorne, the first one, shook his head, his almost purple eyes sadly looking down. “He has to walk a path of pain and sorrow awhile longer. I couldn’t save Darius, nor could I save his daughter…if Sulis is merciful we can save his grandson.”