The Call of the Raven
Russell Loyola Sullivan
It seemed like ages since he had been up this way. It crossed his mind that in many ways it had been ages. Years had piled on top of years, too many seasons had let go to new seasons; he had hoped all of that time would wash the memories away. But for all the years he had lived, if anything he learned there was no running away from what you were, or from the things you had done.
He stopped now, more to take in the landscape than to catch his breath. The mountains off to his right were like old friends. He had fished the river running down from the foothills, and enjoyed many a dip in the big lake when he needed to cool off on a warm summer’s day. And she … No, not that. He would not allow it.
Catar trailed along behind him as he resumed his journey. This was new territory for the big cat, and Garand gave him all the time he needed to mark his passage and explore for any possible danger. Garand also knew that his companion was linking into his own thoughts as they walked along; emotions that Catar no doubt took as warning signs for some danger to come. If he did find danger, it would not be their first fight together.
Garand suddenly realized he was holding his staff with as much force as someone climbing a rope. He chuckled. It might be he was climbing a rope of sorts, climbing back into a past that was best buried and forgotten. He stopped again as his peripheral vision caught his black furred friend having done the same; Catar lowered his body ever so slightly; Garand all but saw the leap into action that was to come. He readied his staff, and Catar sprung into the air towards a thicket of bushes just ahead. Garand followed swiftly behind, his staff glowing with energy.
The bushes erupted in a mad fury of lashing, screams, and snarls. Garand moved round to where he could see what was happening, six men armed with swords, and screaming obscenities as Catar mangled one’s leg and deftly leaped to avoid a sword meant for his eye. Garand let go a burst of energy and a man toppled over, the others now turning their attention to him. Catar seized their moment of confusion and bounced into one of the men, and leaped to tear at the neck of a second man; Garand let go another burst of energy and a man fell. Only two remained now, and both decided running was a more profitable possibility. Garand gave a low whistle and Catar ceased his chase.
Catar came up beside him. Garand bent down and scratched the big head. “Well then. It would seem one of us is most unwelcome here.”
Catar sat. While it well might be that he could not talk to his human companion, they both knew what he was thinking. He took his job of protecting his friend seriously, his slow movements on the journey, his constant alertness. Now, perhaps his friend would see why it had been necessary.
Garand sat next to him. “Yes, I know you are all about protecting me. And I’m grateful.” He pulled a small treat from his pack and gave it to Catar. He took one for himself. “I hope you appreciate I stopped when you stopped, all because I know your senses are so much keener than mine.”
Catar gave off the tiniest of growls.
“… yes, I know you are warning me that this entire journey is a bad idea.”
Catar rubbed his head against Garand, and Garand passed him another treat. “… and yes, I know you love me. I love you too, my friend.”
Catar looked up. And if a big cat could smile, then here it was, and so Garand smiled back.
The two finished their treats. They moved down to where the road met the lake; drank, and cleansed the blood and the fury of the short battle from their bodies and their souls, the one perhaps much easier than the other.
So, they were expecting him. There would be no way to avoid a confrontation. What he would give to have a few of his kin along with him, but he was the last, even as Catar was the last of his kind. He recognized the two were joined by more than being the last of their line, they also represented the last Druid and Sentient Cat to be bonded by the Magic. Garand had hoped that when he disappeared after the war he would be forgotten.
Seven visits from a raven, all in one night on the waxing of a full moon, told him his ancestors required his return. Some great desecration was imminent if it had not already happened. Even in the Keep there was no record of such a visit for at least a millennia, and that call had been to seal the world against an evil that even the records was scarce in fear to describe. The war where he and Catar had found each other, bloody and evil, massacres on both sides, even then he had never been summoned to the Keep; and now here they were about to climb into where he had received his training, long ago; a young boy who knew nothing, even before Catar was born. That land was now a place where only the spirits rested, the Keep a place which knew only silence, the days of Magic where over. Or so he had imagined.
Here he was, he and Catar. The raven told him in each of the seven times; he must return to the Keep.
Their short battle told him someone else was aware of his journey. Worse still he realized that those few they had encountered had been sent merely to deliver a message, a message that they knew he was returning.
“I am so sorry, my old friend. I may be dragging both of us to our doom.”
The big cat purred.
Garand nodded. “I knew you would say that. Yes, there will be plenty of food in the Keep.”
I am looking for ideas for my next book, book five. As I finish editing book three, and writing book four (some 50,000 words in) I continue to look for new ideas. The above in one such idea. I would love your comments on this opening scene. Is it enough to make you want to read more.
One of these scenes will most likely be the beginning of my fifth book.