The Coming Home Chapter
The wrapping crumpled at the edges and it was obvious to him that something soft was folded inside. He grinned, shaking his head. Turning over a ticket tied to the package, the grin faded a little as eyes fell over a scribbled message, and thoughts gazed into past crumples where grins were less…...
"Pus! Give that to me," insisted a fat bully between spittle and clenched teeth; his two oafs protruding behind him, s*ing at the intimidated bent figure sat in the shadows of this alleyway.
Bully shot out a fist into the figure and it splayed its body. With a tremble, the figure spoke a solidary word: "No..." But with a swipe of his paw Bully took what he wanted.
The wrapping crumpled around his grip as Bully ripped into it, ultimately discarding the wrapper aside.
Straightening legs slowly, the figure showed half-way into the day's sun: a small, crooked boy shielding an arm, stood for a moment before he was shoved back into the shadows.
Bully flung his prize upwards; a colourfully red garment stitched with the white lettering of a name: Gus.
Bully laughed and attempted to rip at it, but the fabric held. Breathlessly he threw the garment to his oafs, who committed to treading it into the ground. The three of them swung around, kicking the garment with them as they left Gus sniffing and weeping in his darkness.
Tears dried after he caught his breath. Gus had wanted to enjoy his birthday gift alone. A gift from his loving parents, placed out for him this morning at the end of his bed, for when he awoke.
He collected the wrapping, folded it, and placed it between the belt of his pants, before raising to see, an arm covered in welts - scars burnt into him at a time too young to recall.
Gus took a few aimless steps, thought of home, and immediately ran angrily anywhere but. A brief, fierce wind blew up from behind him.
Grousing loud, a bird flew between the puffy white clouds over his head, disturbing crumples of remembrance. Watching, he followed the bird until the sun defended it, where he shot away to look over fields of vegetables around him whilst an orange-green blear faded from his eyes. The bird sounded again, and memories found there way back to his mind's gaze...
Sleep troubled Gus as guilt wrung inside him for loosing his gift. Stirred, the loud grouse from a bird woke him for the last countless time. A sun, low and fresh, hung itself between two neighbouring rooftops.
Gus crept into his clothes and out of his home. He must get it back; find it. Searching without luck through the alleyways, it took him until mid-day to garner the courage to walk out from the city walls of Divinity's Reach to pursue further.
Taking short, quick steps, without letting fears be chief of his thoughts, Gus heard snorts of laughter just as he came to round a cornered wall of a farmer's home. Here he found Bully stuffing pies, sat with his oafs atop a straw roof looking down on a hen pen.
"Pus, you skinny wretch," belched Bully.
"Give it back!" Gus blurted as a stone, thrown at him from above, bounced from the ground and struck his leg.
Bully was retrieving stones from the depths of his pockets and threw them casually towards Gus, who panicked. One hit him hard on the forehead. Whiteness flashed at the edges of his vision, stunning him. Then came a thud as an elbow hit him in the spine, buckling him over towards the ground. Dirt scownd upwards into his nails as hands went out to catch the fall. Gus breathed deep fearful lungs of dust, coughed violently, and took a mouthful of earth as Bully pushed a fat club into the back of his head.
Rolling to one side and reaching blindingly upwards, Gus scrambled. Only to come standing right in front of Bully and his boys.
Making a snap turn, Gus felt a snatch at his arm and saw a pie tumble to the ground.
"Ulg! Burnt * arm!" Bully spat disgustedly before letting go in painful reaction to being kicked in the shin.
Gus ran with dread enfeebling his lungs and quivering his legs, he about managed to climb the fence to a vegetable field before he was sharply caught by a rock, which cut into the back of his leg. Red blotted through his clothing and Gus fell.
Hands and arms pinned him onto his back. A spray of a watering contraption centred in the field, soaked over him, replacing the dry haze of dirt with the new blurriness of watery eyes.
Gasping, Bully eventually came looming over him. Gus was too late to hold a breath before Bully had the watering contraption forced over him.
"Keep him down," Bully snarled.
Water flooded Gus' every senses. Limbs disappeared. Time intensified.
"Pus, Pus, Pus!" Glorified Bully, but his words weren't heard by anyone but himself as his oafs retreated nervously. One hurriedly left Bully, the other cried 'stop'.
"Shut it Del," said Bully in reply.
Unrestrained, Gus flung out a hand from the jet that engulfed him - a gust of force took Bully upwards, flinging him yards across the field. Del stumbled also, meeting the ground with his backside. The watering contraption sprung back into its rotating routine.
Gus breathed deeply as Bully rose bewildered, making towards Gus.
"No!" Bellowed Gus, his arm juddering outwards to carry another wind-filled blast that pushed into Bully, taking his feet from under him once more. A fizzle of sparks sputtered between Gus' fingers.
Bully looked about him and found himself alone with this newly different, strange boy. He ran as fast as his fat legs could carry him, as Gus sat in awe under the occasional spray of the waterer, eyeing his hands.
A lengthy shadow spread over Gus and he looked up to find a woman standing. A pistol sat within a holster at her waist.
"Boy," said the woman, "drink this." She handed a flask to him from which Gus took a sip. Liquid dripped down his chin. It tasted of barely anything at all.
"Why'd ya confront them like you did?" She questioned.
Gus looked up at her, startled at the realisation of what she'd said. When he didn't answer her, she asked for his name.
"Gus," said the young boy, and there was a quiet moment between them both.
The woman gave a gentle laugh through smiling lips, "Perhaps we should be calling you Gust from now on." She pulled out a hand to retrieve her flask but Gus reached out to pull himself up instead, which she appreciated, softly laughing once more.
"Will you come with me Gust. I know a particular...elementalist you should see."
With strength and wonderment, Gus brushed himself down, taking a swig from the flask before handing it back.
Reminded of thirst, he reached for a flask at his side and took a swig, before reading the ticket aloud:
" 'Took I a long time to get made. Last thing to be right. - Deldo.' "
He tore gently into the package to reveal a red garment. Holding it out in length, his grin returned to him broader than ever, as stitched in white lettering was the word 'Gust'.
Stretching out his arm, Gus Windbourne wrapped the gift around and secured it.
Festivities from the main streets echoed far into the smaller walkways within Divinty's Reach. Bunting downd over housings and shops that lined the streets, and confetti littered into the walkways beyond.
A mother opened a heavy door before her son had any chance to reach its knocker; Gus spread his arms as Mother entered the doorway, before allowing them to fall, slapping at his side. He smiled broadly, and they met each other tightly.
Patting Gus a number of times across his back, the mother laughed heartedly, "Welcome home son!"
"Has been an adventurous three months, Ma."
"Hungry?" Mother gestured inside proudly.
"Thirsty," replied Gus, showing the empty flask at his side.
"Gus," the woman gave a frown of motherly concern before moving him inside, pushing closed the heavy door, and pulling open a chair. She then hurried off into an adjoining room.
Gus removed satchels and straps, found his place in the chair and slouched deeply within its frame. He looked about him, breathed in deep and stretched his hands across a solid oak table in front of him. Then, a groove in the table caught his fingers, and his breath…
Unkempt hair bothered the boy's eyes as he etched into solid oak with a blunt poniard.
"Gus?" Came his mother's voice, and he looked to her, palming the dagger.
"Going out!" Gus insisted.
"Gus..!" His mother quivered after him, managing two steps of the staircase before the heavy front door clunk shut with a gust of wind. She pursed her lips, took a breath and looked out from a skylight within the space above the stairs, clasping together her hands.
A tall glass of apple juice came down upon the table, which stirred him, and was followed by a bowl of leaves and vegetables garnished with oil, a plate of bread, and a chunk of cheese.
Gus leant forwards for the bowl but Mother quickly moved the tall glass in front of him. With a smirk, Gus emptied it in one.
Mother glanced to the groove before taking the empty glass and heading once more to the adjoining room.
"You know I managed to hide that from Pappa for many weeks using table cloths and plates… but all along he knew," Mother chortled, adding, "You really were an angry teen."
Gus grinned; a lettuce leaf dangled from his mouth, which he rolled up with his tongue before swallowing largely. The tall glass made its way back onto the table complete with more apple juice and a fork.
"You travelled well? I was worried for you what with all these bandits. You may well be able to throw bolts of lightning at them but that doesn't make you invincible.
"No bandits, Ma." Came muffled words between cheese and potato.
Unsmiling, Mother followed to say, "Centaurs are threatening settlements outside the city. There are even rumours that they have attacked villagers as close as Kessex."
She placed a hand onto her son's arm, "What did she tell you of them?"
Gus stopped gnashing, swallowed and took a small drink from the juice, "I never knew. She...she told me nothing of centaurs."
"Then what?" Mother questioned.
Gus skewered cheese and vegetables onto his fork and took a piece of bread before setting them down on the plate in front of him.
"Something dark. A devastation," he paused, "she told me of why the Norn had moved south. Lots of rumours." He then turned to face his mother, "She told me it was important for me to find out - see it with my own eyes."
"More adventuring, Son?" Mother said with a half-smile.
"It's not just that, Ma," Gus said as he collected the folk and bread, "helping keep the bandits at bay during the day, then serving drinks at night in some sleepy bar in town…they just don't go together." Gus looked up through the skylight above the stairs, "It's time I went out and saw Tyria."
With a moment of realisation, Gus's mother shot up and patted him on the shoulder, "I'm forgetting!" She informed and hurried upstairs.
Gus knew it must be a gift for him. Thinking of past gifts he had received from his folks, his mind fell on one last such gift, from his father: the dagger at his side…
With a swipe of fury, Gus discarded his poniard to the dusty debris of the cavern floor.
"You are not expressing it, young Windbourne,” told the confident voice of a woman sitting on her heels; her hands placed loosely within her lap, “Fire comes from somewhere else within you and you must find it not with anger, but with calmness." .
Gus directed eyes to the floor, focused on the pleasant smell of fresh water, and brought forth a geyser up through the cavern's dry dust. He dove scorched fingers into it, soothing them briefly before the geyser splashed away uncontrolled, soaking downwards.
With little thought, Gus flew out arms. Fizzles of flame floundered. He kicked the dirt, which blew backwards into his face.
The woman rose and walked outside from the cavern as Gus coughed and spat out grit.
Orange covered the horizon. The woman stood gazing outwards. A breeze played with the ends of her long grey hair. She ran a hand through it as Gus came to stand beside her, his lanky lumbering came just short of the woman's upright stature.
"I know," said the woman. She folded her arms, continuing to gaze outwards, "It's hurtful and nothing can stop it from happening. And I understand that entirely." She paused for such a long time that Gus felt awkward, before adding, rhetorically, "Do you know how you got the burns on your arm."
Gus frowned, puzzled, and kept quiet.
"Fire isn't easy to control. It can harm you like no other element will."
Gus looked to his scorched fingers, "I know," he said, and the woman looked at him.
"You are resistant to utilising it. Unknowingly fearful, and angry of the power that is part of you, because it has harmed you grievously in your past."
Gus scuffed at the dirt and mumbled mostly to himself, "Why is air so easy?"
"Young Windbourne, your name is not a coincidence. Attuning with air is in your family line. As are all the elements."
The woman unfolded her arms, returned her gaze to the land below and let out a sigh, "It is my regret that I know not more of the Windbournes."
Confidently Gus retorted, "I don't need to know more of those who abandoned me," before adding ashamed, "I must go home. I...sort of ran out before."
Squeezing Gus by the shoulder, the woman spoke a thoughtful word, "It is important for a tree to know of its roots, if it is to grow."
"Now this is important!" exclaimed Mother as she squeezed Gus' shoulder and landed a brightly wrapped gift into his chest.
"Ma," Gus chuckled, and began to release the folds of the wrapping. From inside he retrieved a thin foldable pewter case, which he found as he pulled open the clasp, held a photo of his folks holding a baby boy between them.
"Knew you'd be off again," said Mother, who took in a noticeable breath before smiling.
"Thanks Ma, it's wonderful."
Gus took in the scene of photo as his mother told him to eat up, while she ran him a bath.
As he chewed on another piece of bread, the sound of running water and steam slowly pulled him away from the photo in front of him; a sounding splash-fizz from bath salts tore him from it entirely…
The heavy door swung loosely into an empty room. Sounds of running water and steam came from upstairs, and as Gus closed the door gingerly behind him, a splash-fizz sounded too.
Gus reached the first step of the stair before hearing his father croak, "Hello Son."
The man supported himself at the doorway, sweat glistened in his beard. Clearing his throat, the tired man left the door open as he found a chair at the table. Settled, he grinned at his son, "I snuck out while your mother ran a bath," adding after a nod to the other side of the table, "I see you've taken up an interest in carving."
Gus stepped down from the bottom step of the stair, "Papa..."
His father rubbed an arm across his forehead, "You are gonna need something better than that blunt letter opener."
Lifting a flap that covered a large pocket in his coat, the father removed an item wrapped in leather and placed it on the table.
Gus dropped his shoulders, came to the item and collected it.
"Well?" His father mused.
Gus smiled excitedly as he unravelled a dagger from its holder. The blade bore the markings of folded steel; the handle strong, enriched with a comfortable wove.
A tear came and Gus hugged his father to hide it. The man chuckled through a cough and hugged his son in return.
Gus rolled the dagger across his hands as his mother interrupted his thoughts.
"Seeing Petra," she told in question form.
Gus replied, "Yeah Ma, of course. Tomorrow I will. Right now I will really appreciate that bath."
His mother sat beside him and squeezed his arm, "It's good to have you home Son."
Gus placed the dagger onto the table, "It's good to be back, Ma."
Gus’ lips shortened across rosy cheeks as his eyes took a squint of sunlight from the blue above. He hiccupped comically. Leaving the district, his feet ached a rosiness of themselves, and he knew that his recent days of rest had given them renewed feeling.
Continuing through the city, he came to a guard box, and passed it with a genial straightening. The Seraph guard wasn't looking at passers-by, but was sleepily within thought.
With a leg slung over the side, Gus seated on the large high walkway over-looking the Weston Commons, where he waited, occasionally peering up at the sun or looking down into its shadows.
When a deep roughish laughter chuckled out behind him, Gus smiled and crooked his head.
“Gust!” Yelled the bearded man, whose large dolyak sized shoulders raised with the spread of his arms.
Gus shifted to view him. The man had his helm in his hand; a long sword harnessed sturdily on his back featured a wing motif.
“I thought I'd find you first Del,” Gus spoke as he thumbed the view behind him.
“Hey, I'm Seraph. You know I spot you before you spot me eh,” Del spoke loudly before adding in a whisper: “Oh hey, you've been drinking.”
Gus move away the lower part of his coat and poked at a flask of clear liquor.
“Ah ha! Let's stretch our legs huh,” told Delroy, nodding over to the giant set of thick wooden doors that opened to the homes and farmlands outside of Divinity’s Reach.
The two men patted each other across the back and made their way together.
Standing solidary, Gus Windbourne took a short breath as he saw the group of Seraph soldiers around him broaden. As one glanced his way, Gus eyed the giant set of thick wooden doors ahead of him. They opened loudly.
A whooping came from someplace in the crowd; in other places, only silence. The unit moved forward, so Gus put one foot in front of the other. As the gate's dramatics diminished behind him, the fields of Shaemoor revealed in their vastness as the ranks spread. It was then Gus saw the Seraph captain that was to lead his group, and inform him, indirectly, that the oaf who’d bullied his younger years, was to battle along side him this day.
Delroy snorted in annoyance.
Del snorted a laugh and split his drink, “Think you got back in time, Gus - may have centaur bodies to wade through the way things are going.”
“Ma said…” Gus pondered in realisation.
“I don’t want to know, interjected Del between swigs, “there's enough to think about with Separatists and now what looks like an attack from centaurs. The captain feels a change.
“Perhaps centaurs have something to do with it after all. Maybe this is just the start…whatever it is Del, something dark is coming. She didn't tell me much, but that was clear.
Del paused his drinking, “Dragons..?
“Dragons?” Gus returned.
“They are real. Half of the Norn want to prove themselves against dragon invasion.”
Gus rubbed his chin with the back of his hand, “Ain’t dragons a myth?”
“Ah I don’t know, Del spoke into the bottle before drinking away his words, “so much is changing.
“Sir,” called a soldier, and his captain spun around; a parchment in hand. The two exchanged messages before the soldier moved into the ranks of Gus’ group. Each Seraph here carried a fine sword or bow; each volunteer carried their own accompaniment. Gus pressed his palm into the hilt of his father’s dagger. The captain motioned and they advanced.
After a march, it was clear his group was to take a flanking approach through the top area of a cavernous system of earthy tunnels. Gus thought of his elements as he brushed athwart the close sides, two Seraph ahead of him jumped downwards finding easier footing, which gave space for others to move into. It was here Gus saw himself clambering right next to Delroy the bully. Gus hunched his shoulders and fixed eyes ahead. Delroy’s own eyes shot to and fro to the back of Gus’ head before dropping to the floor.
Ahead the captain’s arm shot forwards and a rush came to those behind him, which sent a wave all the way down the group. Gus saw Delroy pass him, along with all the others. He realised he had been at a half-run, and as he looked behind him found he was the last man.
Into view the battle had already fiercely started. The captain and Seraph were into the fray, surprising the enemy as they did. Death had come. At the sight of it, Gus dropped a jaw. An arrow whizzed and embedded itself into rock at head height. A second later Gus took sight of it, spun and pushed himself into the hard cave dirt. A hand held across his skull. Sounds of a woman painfully struck sent Gus forwards to look over an edge to the melee below. He immediately rose onto knees and casted a coalescing fire above an enemy’s head which took it’s concentration before it extinguished. However it gave enough time for the woman to cut the enemy open. What lay groaning was the dying figure of an ogre.
Another arrow took flight and pinged around him somewhere. Taking footing he clenched a fist and briefly closed his eyes. An oscillating bubble surrounded him in time for a different arrow to bounce from it. Gus saw it land and found it’s owner as an ogre pulled another one into the air. Gus flinched, the arrow stung and the shield faded. Uninjured Gus shot his hand forwards and out and opened up a flaming burst of fire into his opponent, engulfing it. A man speared and twisted a fork until it screamed no more.
The enemy lessened into retreat. Gus threw flaming bursts after them as they fought through the group that had flanked them. Across their way a Seraph went down; beside her was Delroy, now left wounded by one ogre full of rage, swinging a large spiked club. Gus jolted into action as the ogre saw its opportunity – Delroy was trapped between a small place and a large anger. Gus saw a long distance. Air bellowed up from beneath him him. The ogre spat sounds as it swung its club upwards. Gus gasped a lung full of breath and sparks jutted from the tips of his body’s angles. With steps no longer grounded he disperse into the brightness of lightning. The ogre turned; a flash in its eyes. With a crash of stun, both Gus and ogre fell away within wind.
Gus sat back onto his hands, astonished, seeing the ogre lay awkward, and motionless, before eyeing Delroy, who grinned back at him; a pistol hung from his fingers. A shout went forth from a captain as he planted a banner firmly among the fallen of the cave.
“Your journey’s not over so quickly, Gus?” Del grinned.
Snapped away from thought Gus replied, “she said time could be short, and that I should find myself. I've been wanting to get away. It’s time I did.”
They sat calmly with Del finishing the liquor, before Gus spoke his decision, “A month, then I head to Lion’s Arch.”
Del threw him a glance, “Could be centaur trouble here within that time, but then what am I to say…you could outrun a centaur.”
The two of them grimaced.