It’s been about a year since I have been in the city. I left the city after the day my world was shattered.
These were a few of the things I left behind. Now returning the city looks different, but I still smell the putrid stench of its existence. You can put a fresh coat of paint on something to cover something up, but what is beneath still is there, festering like an infected boil, just ready to pop.
I left this behind because I needed to be free. Coming back here only puts me back in shackles. This city needs a savior, a hero, or heroes that will be it’s champion.
The city is different, the streets cleaner, no beggars, people working; like street sweepers, builders, and repairing the roads. Thorn looks at his friends and help escort the Lady Ileosa home. Parting ways from his friends he stands there in the city listening to it. People passing him by, the conversations, the reconstruction. Narmo nuzzles his hand, snapping him back into reality. He looks at his trustworthy animal companion… Something is not right here.
Thorn heads to the Temple of Sarenrae, where he grew up, and once held the Master Huntsman position there. A place he called home, but he left in a hurry that day. Perhaps he still can.
Walking up to the gates of the temple he looks at it, he’s looked at the temple before many times, but it all seemed different now. Opening the gate he steps in and heads down the path to the stairs up to the temple.
Stopping he turns to see a familiar face, a red headed woman approach him, “Olivia…”
Olivia walks up to him and grabs him by the arm, “You… Come with me.” She escorts him into the temple post haste.
“Hey…” Thorn begins to protest as he is dragged along.
“Do shut up until we get to a safe location,” she responds harshly to his protest. Eventually, Thorn, Narmo, and her arrive in an abandoned barracks. She closes the door behind her and then approaches him.
“Safe? Olivia, care to tell me what is going on?” Thorn straightens himself up.
She shakes her head, “I want to say it is good to see you Thorn. It’s been awhile since you left… abruptly. I feel like we need to talk in private.”
“Yeah well,” he says rubbing the back of his head, “With all that went on in the city, and personal reasons. I made a quick exit. I needed to get out of town with my companions and Lady Ileosa’s offer just came at the right time.”
Olivia shakes hear head, “A very convenient time.”
Thorn looks about, “Why are the orphanage barracks so barren, Olivia?” He says looking about.
She sighs, “After you left things changed. The city changed. The orphanages were taken over by the Church of Asmodeus. We…”
Thorn looks at her in horror, “Asmodeus!”
Olivia frowns, “After you left. We found a new hunter. A… unscrupulous fellow. He didn’t start off that way. He kind of just appeared at our doorstep. He seemed fine at first. Then as time went on he was not as kind as you. We had to buy the meats from him, which we did after all we had mouths to feed.” She pauses, “He took up residence in your old shack and he he recruited some of the orphans to be hunters with him.”
Thorn raises an eyebrow, “I see. I guess it is more efficient that way as long as the laws of nature are respected.” Now he pauses too, “Hm…”
Olivia looks at him, “I sense that you want to ask something Thorn.”
Thorn nods, “I left with some unsettling business with Steven that day. He revealed to me some things that were disheartening.”
Olivia looks at Thorn, her eyes wide, and they begin to swell with tears, “So… you don’t know.”
Seeing the stern demeanor of Olivia just fade away before his very eyes, “Steven?”
Olivia she breathes in hard, “Steven is dead. He was stabbed in an alleyway not to far from here and left to bleed out.” She turns her head from Thorn, “You were a prime suspect.”
Thorn take a moment to process this information, stumbling he sits on a nearby cot, “Dead…” He holds back the emotions feeling very responsible for this revelation. “Suspect? Me… I… No. Never would I.”
She walks over to Thorn, “This I know, but when you left, a bloodied knife was found in your residence by the new hunter under your bed covered in the dirt, and Sister Margret saw you two fighting.” She kneels by his side, “It was a little too suspicious, a fight, you leaving, finding the boy dead, and the knife.” She rests her hand on his leg, “I prayed to Sarenrae every day for weeks, when the truth was finally revealed.”
Thorn looks at the hand, “The truth? The truth is that I failed Steven. I was so distraught with what he told me. That he could be involved with Thousand Arrows’s death…”
Narmo’s ears perk up at the name.
Olivia, “The truth set you free from being the prime suspect. A dark, and mysterious presence… a force of hatred, and evil was the answer I got. A man. A man in black.”
Thorn looks at Olivia and he tilts his head, “What was the name of the hunter that took my spot?”
She looks back at him, “He called himself Raven Slate. He is no longer with us… As I said he was a untrustworthy fellow. He and the orphans he recruited stole from the church and left our coffers barren so we couldn’t keep the…”
Thorn grunts and balls his hand up into a fist, “Raven… Black… Slate… Black. I’m sorry Olivia, but this was all my fault. Thousand Arrows, Steven’s death, the temple being robbed, the orphanage being shut down… It was something Steven said to me about a Mr. Black. Apparently this Black fellow has a grudge against me. I’m not sure who he is, but once I find out…” Thorn stands up and he vows as sense of intense emotion overcomes him, “…vengeance.”
Olivia scurries back from Thorn looking at him seeing an aura about him and she mutters silently to herself, “Ragathiel…”