‘The werewolves mutter, the nighthawks moan,
The raven croaks from the Raven-stone’
(From ‘The Knights Return’ by Charles Kingsley)
(A Tale From Kasapian)
The raven croaked, its distinct sound carrying through the still night air. A shadowy figure made his way through the wild jungle of grass, and then turned along the weedy dirt path, which flanked a little stagnant pool. On one side was the rough ghoulish masonry of a terrace wall where it bent at a crooked angle cloaked by a vast magnolia. Then almost silently he crossed an old broken paved court partly shaded by a trellis draped in dead vines. A loud creak gave heed to the opening of an old wooden door, followed by the hollow sound of footsteps echoing down the hallway.
Violet merges slowly into the purple hues of twilight. The raven flew overhead and perched upon a broken gargoyle. Twilight was now drawing to its end; the cloak of darkness was slowly unfolding as the light vanished. An owl hooted as it swooped down upon its prey, snatching it up into the air. The flapping of bats wings sounded through the caves that were strewn around the hillside. Their echoing inside the hollow hills below filled the night air around the old castle Ravenstone.
The strong winds blew upon the old castle, the doors creaked and hinges squeaked, the sound of the feet of rats pattered around in the now disused rooms. The wind whirled around blowing the cobwebs and creating small clouds of dust as it whirled around and around. It blew through the empty halls and passageways sounding like the howling of some wild animal or a cry of one that was lost without hope. Yet, in the midst of this dismal scene, there remained warmth a feeling not of fear but of safety, a subtle feeling that easily could be chased away, fragile, delicate just like a blossom. This was a strange contrast indeed to anyone who would venture so far as to be traveling these hidden roads at such a time as this.
In these dark corridors of the old deserted castle deep in the forest, a hooded figure moved quietly toward the winding staircase. Soon he had climbed up to the room high in the turret overlooking the valley below. The moon had risen to its glory its light brought forth the beautiful nightshades covering the valley floor. The air was filled with the sweetness of perfumes; the aroma of many scents from the vast variety of flowers below filled his nostrils. The wind suddenly picked up whirling through the window and twirling in a circle around the sinister figure. Looking up towards the radiant moon Lord Lathier threw back his hood and let out an unearthly howl!
Meanwhile three days earlier two men set off leaving the city by the first light and making quick headway to reach the Forest of Dearth. It was several hours before they reached it, and Sir Robert de Leure was feeling the strain and the heat of the hot burning sun upon him. He glanced at his companion Hawkdeath, he seemed unperturbed by it all, and aye he must be used to such discomfort from all his travels. Hawkdeath glanced at him and their eyes met. Sir Robert felt a little negative due to his discomfort and glanced away.
"You have been very silent my dear friend, does ought trouble you?” Hawkdeath asked.
Sir Robert looked back at him and nodded, “I know you look upon my age and see only the child you used to play with. I am not experienced as you are, although a knight and trained in arms by Sir Robel, yet I do not have the first hand experience you have. I feel inadequate and am not used to the hardships involved. Yet, somehow, the gods are calling me out; I am somehow to fulfil a mission for them. Nathorb the magician instructed me that the gods wished me to venture forth on this quest. Why chose me and not you or one of the others, I know not. There is a treasure of some sort, a gift from the gods within the forest, also though a danger, some untold danger from generations past. I chose you to come with me, for you were dear to my father, he trusted you and spoke well of you. I do not know what will happen in the forests or what I may come upon, but I have full confidence in you Hawkdeath."
Hawkdeath smiled grimly and looked on Sir Robert with pride. "I am proud that you chose me Robert. You are like the son I never had. I remember all the times as a child you played with me, your father encouraged me in this, knowing as a single man never married or having children of his own it was good for me. Children are part of life, a part I missed out on. No Robert, worry not for I most certainly will not fail you."
So they began to talk in a happier vein and too soon it was that they arrived at their destination, reining in their beasts they surveyed the land before them.
"Well, the time has come, we have reached the appointed place and now I must journey on alone. Look after my animal and wait. I know not how long this may take; there is enough food in the saddlebags for a week and some water in the flasks for a few days. I hear, though, there is a stream of fresh water flowing just beyond yonder bend, so you may refill the flasks as they diminish. I must go on myself dear friend. Nathorb cautioned me that the gods would not bless it if I take you with me any further. Whatever it is I must face it alone. But danger waits here also. May the gods keep you Hawkdeath, and may our journey be fruitful."
"I will wait patiently my young Robert, but if I hear nothing from you within four days I will seek you out myself, I promise on the grave of thy father, I will not leave these woods until I know what has befallen you if you come not. Take this my friend, it may help you on your journey."
He then proceeded to open up a small bag on his saddle and took out a strange round instrument. Sir Robert looked strangely at it.
“This is called a direction finder. It will guide you in your journey; it is a little thing I picked up while on my trips at sea. It will point to the north and thereby will keep you from getting lost while in the forest.”
Then he prodded around a bit more in his bag and handed him another item, looking like a stick.
“This will illuminate your path in the darkness,” he proceeded to take off a cap on the end and a glowing light almost blinded his eyes. “See, this is a glowstone from one of the islands off the coast of Faeath, it shines perpetually and never fades. It will give you light in the darkness. When you have no need of the light just cover it and keep it. I pray these will be of a blessing to you.”
"Thank you dear friend, thank you." With that, he turned and headed down into the maze of trees stretching before him. Hawkdeath examined the scene before him, it was an immense forest that stretched for miles; it blended in with some swamps and marshes further into the interior, and small rocky hills covered with thick tangled vegetation and hidden passes were said to be scattered throughout the area. This was an area used often by bandits and killers to evade the hand of justice; as most of Dearth it was uncharted and held mysteries that no one knew off. Rumors of demons, monsters, werewolves, necromancers and other evils were abundant. What would await Sir Robert in there? That he could but guess at.
After moving the mounts to a hidden spot just off the road, Hawkdeath made camp and settled down to rest while Sir Robert headed off into the dense forest before him.