Chronicles of Cloud: Scars of the Father
Prologue: Melody of the Dead
Golden orbs, like twin suns, starred unblinking at the boundary line between land and water. White crested waves brushed against the sandy shores as the tide rose higher and higher under the seagull's all seeing gaze. Ivory plumage with ebony tips flapped nosily against the cool air as a sudden light drizzle splattered against the protected feathers, but the spring shower was gone as quickly as it came leaving the sun to wink brightly in the nearly cloudless sky. A particularly high wave splashed spray into its eyes and it was forced to blink once then twice. A flash of red skirted across the sand and that was at it took before the seagull folded its wings against its narrow chest and craned its sharp beak forward. The crab was so close it could almost taste it, but a loud sound coming over the roaring crash of waves made it pull up at the last second. Topaz orbs blinked quickly as it cleared away droplets of water from its stare and craned its feathered head around to stare curiously at a most peculiar looking creature with a seemingly endless stream of tears running down its furred cheek.
The owner of the tears sat unmoving as the cold water brushed across his fur covered thigh and nearly swallowed up the large creature he was holding in his arms. Both creatures appeared to be wolves of some sort but their legs were lanky and much longer then their arms a sure sign that they could walk upon two legs. Their paws were large and covered in calloused black pads and separate three jointed fingers, and, amazingly, an opposable thumb. The creatures almost appeared human in their build the only real difference was the fur that covered their body, their large muzzles, and their much larger muscles. They were wolven.
One of the mighty creatures sat hunched over the body of his fallen comrade as he let his sobs fill the air with their strange growled sound. "Micah, I will avenge your death, "he paused, growling," you may have not been my father in blood but you were in heart." With that said the younger warrior stood, taking the body of Micah with him. His entire body felt numb to the morning air as it sent shiver after shiver up his wet body.
Micah was larger then the other, but his long, silver fur and scarred body showed a great age. His face was peaceful with an almost hidden wisdom, it almost appeared as if he was sleeping, but the large, gaping wound on the left side of his chest proved contradicting.
Cloud, as the other wolven was called, carried the much larger body with the care of mother carrying its pup as he placed him down in a higher part of the beach, away from the tide. "I will return shortly my friend," he replied softly as he disappeared into the dark recesses of the forest that lined the beach. As promised, he returned in no time, but now his strong paws were loaded down with a massive pile of dry wood. Cloud laid it down with a grunt and arranged it properly before he placed Micah's body on it. "You will get the best warrior's burial as I can offer," Cloud replied softly to his silent companion as he pulled some steel and flint from a deer skin pouch that rested on his corded belt. Despite his calm demeanor and soft phrases Cloud was heartbroken inside; the steady trail of silent tears that stained his white furred face was proof enough of that.
"I guess this is goodbye," Cloud whispered into the wind as he struck the flint once, twice, and trice before the spark took hold. He blew carefully against it before it flamed to life on the dry wood. Stepping back, he watched silently as the flames leaped and licked up the body of the wolven that raised him. It only took a moment for the entire makeshift pyre to catch and the horrible stench of burning flesh to leak into Clouds sensitive nose. The flames made his eyes water even more at his close distance but he refused to look away, even as ashes began to sear his fur once the wind picked up and went out to sea. "Goodbye," he whispered once more before throwing his head back and letting out a long mournful howl, the melody cared across the trees and the ocean, filled the air in its sad tune and stopped all life in its tracks as all that could stopped to listed to the howl. It was a tune of the lost and it was a tune for revenge. Someone had died and someone's life was just challenged in one dark melody.
After Micah's short funeral, Cloud returned to the town he had always called home, and as expected it was razed to the ground. The same vile creature that had killed Micah had been here as well, and it had left its mark in blood, the vile, metallic scent filled the air and caused him to flinch back with a visible grimace. "My fault," he whispered gently as he gazed at the wreckage with his large, light blue eyes. The small wooden buildings that had made up the town where now only scorches in the dirt and the strong warriors that had lived peacefully in the village were nothing more then bloodied entrails strewn about the place and chucks of scorched fur. In the center of the village rested a seemingly innocent banner that Cloud was certain had not been there before.
The banner was blood red and two, ebony wing symbols rested upon the crimson fabric. It was a simple design but it was enough to cause a deep body shaking growl to escape Cloud's snarling muzzle. "RAVEN!" he howled in barely contained rage. The sight of black plumage littering the ground only further fueled his anger. He could feel red seeping into his vision and before he knew what was going on he was gone in a flash.
Scratches covered his body as Cloud plowed madly through the forest. His long, powerful legs carried him deeply into the hunting grounds. Nostrils flared at the scent of prey.
Mouth watering and body quaking, he managed to crouch down until he was padding on all fours. He skulked forward with skilled silence. Nothing would deter him now. A snow white tail slicked impatiently, but he stayed silent. Waiting.
He scented the air again and licked his upper lip in hunger as he padded slowly closer to the clearing ahead. Foliage cleared to revel a young buck his prime. The creature was not a good hunting subject but he suited the role of stress reliever perfectly.
Sharp, deadly claws gorged into the earth as he waited. Muscles bunched and jaws clenched in anticipation.
Then the spring uncoiled, the time was right. He struck.
Powerful leg pushed forward as claws raked throw flesh. Once blue eyes flashed red as elongated fangs reached home. Flesh ripped, muscle tore, and blood gushed. Sweet, nectarous, blood filled his palette and he was in heaven.
Suddenly hoof and horn struck out. Pain hit his shoulder. However, only a smirk crossed his blood filled mouth. Powerful jaws clamped down. Crunch. Bones twisted and snapped as the deer fell limp.
The fight was over, the predator had won.
Bright, blood red was now the color of Cloud's eyes as he feasted upon the meaty hind legs. He ate until his belly was full and his instincts content. His mind and body had needed the hunt to help release the pent up emotions, to help him get away from the world and indulge in the hunt at least for a little while. Slowly his eyes lost the crazy hue and returned to the innocent blue as he laid his giant muzzle upon his paws. With his stomach full and his body warm he was tired from the day's events and was rather willing to be carried off to dreamland. Licking off a few traces of blood from his muzzle he snuggled into a ball and went to sleep. His tail covered his nose and his ears constantly flicked from side to side in search of danger.
As his vision darkened and his mind relaxed into sleep he suddenly realized why he had been avoiding the dark world of the unconscious. He did not want to dream, but it was already too late. The flashes of what had occurred only the day before were already assaulting his mind with painful clarity.
The day had started with the land being soaked from an overnight storm brought in from the ocean. Worms were wiggling restlessly in the upper layers of the muddy ground, making it a perfect day for fishing. That was all Cloud had wanted, a nice day of fishing with Micah followed, hopefully, with a fish feast.
"Come on Micah lets go fishing," he called excitingly as he bounced upon the pads of his feet.
"I'm coming you little jackrabbit hold on," Micah called with a laugh as he walked out the door. He was carrying two cane poles in his hand as he walked over to Cloud and handed him on. "Now we can go," he answered to Cloud's hopeful stare. Cloud practically squealed as he grabbed a pole and bounced off into the woods, Micah following after him at a much more sedate pace, shaking his head ruefully as he went.
As Micah neared the ocean he suddenly heard Cloud cry out and quickly raced towards the sea, the pole dropping harmlessly in his wake. When he broke through the trees and onto the shore he went rigid at the sight before him. Cloud looked like he had just fallen on his butt and was looking up curiously at the wolven that towered over him. There on the beach stood a wolven Micah had only heard of in tales used to scare little children. The creature stood almost eight feet tall, easily towering over Micah's 7"5 and Cloud's 6"6 frames. His pelt was as dark as a moonless night with a dusty mahogany color on his shoulders and hips. He wore a deep red loin cloth and a bone dagger at his waist. Though what gave him away as the wolven from the myths was the massive pair of black, featured wings on his back. This was the fabled Raven Ankoku Wolfbane.
Raven starred at Micah with the most unusual eyes he had ever seen. They looked much like cat eyes with their diamond shaped pupil that were surrounded by a deep red that faded into orange and then yellow. Micah had always heard that the great Raven Wolfbane had a gaze that could kill and he had always thought such a thing stupid but now he began to wonder.
"So you are the one that has been raising my eldest son," Raven remarked as his maw turned up into a sickening grin that reveled his white fangs.
"What are you talking about," Micah growled despite his unease and surprise.
Though instead of Raven answering Cloud did. He stood quickly and raised his ears and tail in a sign of a challenge as he growled out," He is my blood father, Micah, the one my mother was trying to keep me from."
Micah looked at Cloud surprised, after all he was a runt and yet now he was being called the eldest son of one of the most ruthless wolven of all time. "If Lady Zaku wished to keep Cloud from you then I am most certainly not allowing you to have him," Micah snarled after he remembered his promise too Cloud's mother.
Raven's smirk only widened as he replied, I had hoped you would say that, it gives me an excuse to kill you. Micah only had time to widen his eyes in surprise before Raven disappeared into a streak of black. The sharp bone dagger had reached its home before he could even blink. The weapon now sheathed in Micah's heart, and, like a puppet with its strings cut off, he crumbled into a heap at Raven's feet, his eyes already glazing over with death's shroud.
"NOOOO!" Cloud howled as he jumped forward and landed on Raven's back, but the large wings brushed h off like a fly as Raven turned to face him. The smirk never left his maw as Cloud tried again and again to attack, but it was like a cat toying with a mouse, Raven was simply too skilled.
Cloud couldn't even feel the tears that streaked his face as a numbing pain went through his right paw and over whelmed his anger and sadness. He could hear Raven's voice whispering in his ear as pain suddenly hit his shoulder as well," You are not ready yet my son, but you will be." Cloud could only glance at his paw for a moment to see the blood seeping from his palm and the pointed edge of a blade escaping out before he fell forward into the warm blanket of unconsciousness.
Cloud awoke with a start, his fur wet with sweat and morning due as he looked around him. When he was certain no one was around he looked at his right paw curiously. There was no scar on his palm but there was a giant wound on his right shoulder and it was caked with dried blood. "I must have forgotten earlier," he replied surprised as he rose and headed for a near by steam. He cleaned off the sweat and blood only to realize that the wound was a shallow one meant to scar. It was in the shape of a five point star and something about it pricked his memory but he could not remember its purpose.
"Another mark from my father, great," Cloud remarked with a vicious snarl as he starred down at his left leg. His pelt was a brilliant white that was supposed to represent purity, innocence, and good, but that was all lost when looking at his leg. There was a long black mark in his fur that to most almost appeared to be a spot but he knew better. It was in the shape of a raven, its black beak curling up his thigh while the tips of its wings wrapped around his lower leg and the tail feathers turned his paw almost entirely black. It was another sign of his heritage.
Breaking away from his thoughts, Cloud listened to the hunting call of a falcon in the distance, reminding him that he was not the only one who had lost a friend. Almost all of the birds of prey on the island had a connection to the now dead warriors of the village. Wolven and birds had lived side by side in harmony for longer then anyone knew, and at times when a great warrior reached adulthood a bird of prey would come and offer a partnership of sorts between the animals of the land and the animals of the wind. The two betas of the pack had peregrine falcons at their sides, and even Micah had been offered the sacred truce by a beautiful snowy owl that was greatly gifted by the wisdom its kind was known for.
"I wonder what they will do now," Cloud pondered out loud as he began the trek to the beach. He wasn't entirely sure of the bond created between a wolven and a bird and he was certain that he never would. Even though he had yet to reach adulthood he was rather certain that no bird short of a raven would offer him the bond. Though not birds of prey, ravens were considered wolven birds and thus allowed to offer the truce although they were considered the lowest level a warrior could receive.
His father had been given the truce by a raven and he had slaughtered the bird without a second thought. He had considered the bird weak and not worth his time, and by breaking the sacred rite of protection the wolven had long ago offered the birds he had incurred the wrath of the entire raven clan. Every bird that attacked him was killed and in the long run his pack had decided he would be killed on account of treason, but when the pack had gathered and were about to make the final blow a massive black bird had emerged from the sky and plunged into his back. Every creature there had heard his spine break and yet he stood alive and well with an amazing pair of giant black wings. It was then that he had earned the name Raven and all charges of treason disappeared along with his pack mates. Ravens previous name was unknown to anyone besides the dead and it was he said that he held a different appearance all tighter before he had merged with the strange bird.
Cloud's mother was the only one that had known of Raven's true past but she was dead now.
Cloud pondered upon this for a time before forcing the thoughts from his mind with a furious passion. Thoughts of his mother were still hard for him because he knew it was his fault that she had died trying to get him away from Raven. Looking down, he gazed at the forgotten medallion that rested around his neck. It was made of a dark red jade and in blue jade had the saying," Fate may smile upon the weary." Flipping it over he starred at the other side that read in rich black jade, "But destiny will always bear its fangs." He ran the callused pad of his paw across the smooth surface as he pondered the strange meaning. The medallion had been given to him by his mother and the thought made his lips twitch slightly in the beginnings of a smile. His mother had always been weird. After all few new the double meaning of the black jade; in most places black stood for impurity, ill omens, and bad luck but black jade stood for wisdom. Yes, Lady Zaku was strange wolven indeed.
The young warrior's thoughts were broken as he reached the shore and spotted what he had been searching for. There in a small cove rested a wooden raft that his village had once used to fish in the deeper waters of the ocean. "It is time to leave this all behind," Cloud thought with conviction as he approached the well worn craft. It was rather small for a sea going vessel but it would have to do for the time. A small shack rested in the middle of it for over night trips and a medium sized wooden chest rested beside the hunt to house provisions.
Cloud looked at the boat that was to become his home for a very long time and gulped, he had not been sailing sense his mother had sent him away to escape Raven. ANo fear, he whispered to himself like mantra as he leaned down and began to heave the boat out of the cove and off the sandy shore. It did not take as long as he thought and in no time Cloud was ready to set sail. He had no provisions to carry with him, only his deer skin pouch with the flint and steel and a long cane pole for fishing. Hesitating for a moment Cloud carefully stepped onto the raft ad began pushing out to sea with a long pole left on the boat. Once he was sure he was away from the sandbars he pulled up the sail and watched as it was pulled tight by the wind. The journey had begun and destiny's fangs were glittering in the distance.