On the desk of a Skalderna soldier sits a leather bound book. Its contents:
I can’t believe it’s been so long since she died. Mama Nana may not have given birth to me, but she saved my life and raised me as her own. I don’t know very much about myself. Then again, neither did she. I think that’s why I felt an urge to start writing all of my memories down in this journal. All Nana could tell me was that my mother brought me in to her shack one day, and that she and I were both very sick. Nana spent several days treating me. I was apparently so weak that I couldn’t even bring myself to cry. Whatever it was that was killing us, my mother didn’t make it. She died after only a few hours, and kept fading in and out of consciousness the whole time. Mama Nana never knew what happened, but she kept working with all the skills she had to save me. She even had to name me herself because she had no idea what my real name was. She decided to call me Kal Thanatos, a name that means “the illusion of death”. I think she was trying to be ironic, but it does make sense when you think of the fact that I must have seemed on the verge of death when she first met me. I spent the next 13 years of my life with this old, dark-skinned medicine woman whom I once thought was my only family. We lived on the outskirts of the city in an old, run-down shack near the woods. Ingredients could be found fairly easily there, and Nana never had a problem making any deliveries herself from the alchemy shop she kept. But one day, I went from minding the shop while she was gone, to being her official delivery boy. I spent a lot of time going back and forth to the McKeon family, being that they were one of Nana’s biggest customers aside from the military itself. They would drop off supplies and I would take the completed orders to them. Being a military family that trained almost every day, they needed a lot of medicinal potions. I sometimes wonder if Nana started making me deliver her potions and medicines to the people in the city so I could meet other people and make friends. I think she knew that the life of an alchemist wasn’t for me, even through she did teach me a few things here and there. If it hadn’t been for her forcing me to get out of the house, I don’t know what my life would be like right now.
I remember the first time I ever made a delivery to the McKeon family. I have to say that I was more than a little intimidated by them; a family with a long military heritage that valued both strength and skill, neither of which I had. I remember thinking how pathetic I must have seemed compared to them: I wasn’t strong, fast or skilled. I had never handled a weapon before nor worn a single piece of armor. The first time I ever delivered to their home I felt like everyone but the mother treated me with a sort of mild disregard. Once I explained I was going to be delivering their medicinal potions to them for Mama Nana, they quickly became accepting of me, even a bit welcoming. I used to sit off to the side, on a rock in the shade of a tree, and watch the family train together. The father and two of the boys were as strong as any solider. But the two that caught my attention were the daughter, Siobhan, and Rusk, the fast one with olive skin and unnaturally yellow eyes. The both of them really stood out to me. Rusk’s reason was obvious, and to be honest, I thought he was a little creepy at first sight. As for Siobhan, I remember how strong and powerful she was. She could defeat any one of her brothers in a one-on-one fight, all while her long flowing hair danced and spun wildly around. She It seemed almost beautiful when she fought. Any time I made a delivery, I would always spend a good amount of time watching them train. Sometimes they even let me stay late enough to let me have dinner with them. They were all very kind to me, even the strange looking Rusk eventually became my best friend…although that’s not saying very much, considering my severe lack of friends. I still didn’t know very many people outside of my deliveries. Even still, I felt like my family had grown. My life was going well. Little did I know that my world was about to change forever.
The more I write in this journal, trying to play catch-up with current events and evaluate how I got here, the more I realize that my life has been anything but ordinary. The day started out like any other, except that Nana had been acting stranger than usual; asking questions about the McKeons. Where they nice to me, did I like them, did I make friends with them? The old woman kept to herself for the most part, so it seemed odd that she would take such an interest in her son’s social life. I didn’t think anything of it at the time though. Her ways were strange enough that I had come to expect the unexpected from her. So, I ate breakfast, helped Mama Nana around the shop, and then I headed out to make my deliveries. I finished early so that I could spend most of the day with Rusk and Siobhan. I had never once practiced with them, and for good reason. Rusk was too fast, and the others were all too strong. In fact, it actually got to the point where Rusk would fight his two brothers at the same time. He was very nimble, but no one can be perfect all of the time. I remember seeing him trip, which caused him to drop his sword and start to stumble. His brothers weren’t about to let an opportunity like that pass by without taking advantage of it. I never expected to see Rusk stop his brother’s attack with BLACKED OUT a quick roll to the side, kicking his brother’s legs out from under him. They decided to take a break, at which point I headed home to tell Nana what I had seen. It didn’t take me long to discover that something wasn’t right. I called out to let Nana know I was home, yet received no response. I tried several times more with no luck. After a minute, I found Nana lying in her bed, her hands clasped and resting on her stomach. I went to shake her awake, but she never stirred. The more I tried, the quicker my heart raced and the heavier my heart felt. I didn’t know what to do at first, so I ran. I ran as quickly as I could back to the McKeon’s home. Jacob, Rusk’s father, was standing outside, looking as if though he was staring deeply into the void. It took him a few cries to be aware that I was calling out to him. Once he came out of his trance and heard the urgency in my voice, he rushed to meet me. I explained what I had found, and he ran back with me to investigate. Sure enough, Mama Nana was dead and there were no signs of foul play. From what Jacob could tell, she simply died in her sleep. She must have known her time was almost up. That would explain why she had been acting the way she was. The McKeons helped me erect a funeral pyre, and we released her spirit to Pharasma that night. I was so depressed that I didn’t leave the shack for a few days. It wasn’t until Rusk and Siobhan came to visit me and drag me out of there that I even saw the light of day. It seemed like a form of motivation, but Rusk told me the story his father told him: about his real parents. It’s almost ironic that his life was turned upside down at the same time mine was. I swore to him that I wouldn’t tell anyone his story. He was my best friend after all, and I wasn’t about to betray his trust like that. I even went to swear a blood-oath by cutting the palm of my hand open on this sword. But, after thinking about it and realizing how much it probably would have hurt, I chickened out. Rusk just kind of smirked and told me my word was all he needed. Siobhan, on the other hand, just threw her head back and laughed at me.
It seems like my whole life I was bounced from family to family: first my own mother, then Mama Nana, then the McKeon family. Little did I know that it was going to happen again. After Nana passed away, I did what I could to keep her shop going. But, let’s face it, I was a delivery boy, not an alchemist. I had a basic understanding of how it all worked, and had maybe seen a handful of formulas that I could recall in my mind, but unless someone wanted a glowing stick or a wanted something that could make smoke, I was practically useless…as always. I tried to keep the shop going, but it was a failed endeavor. With business almost nonexistent, I found myself spending almost all of my time with the McKeons. Every so often when I was at the shop, a military soldier would come in to purchase whatever Nana had left behind in her cache, or to have me gather materials from the woods, which turned out to be a lot harder without Nana there to help me. They must have gotten their own alchemist, because they never had me make anything like they used to have Nana do. One day, I got a different kind of visit from the military. It had almost been a year since Nana died, and a man named Marshall Sarras came to visit me. He told me he was the Commander in the military, and another of Mama Nana’s clients, although indirectly. Having known both Nana and the McKeons, Commander Sarras came to know of the recently orphaned delivery boy, and felt compelled to do something. He offered me a place with the military, although not in it. I would live in the barracks, have access to their alchemy lab, assist them with making supplies as was needed, and generally be their new errand boy. To be honest, it sounded no different than living with Nana, it was just on a larger scale. The nice part was that I was still free to see the McKeons. So, I decided to accept his offer. We proceeded outside where a small convoy waited to clear out the rest of Nana’s cache and escorted me to the city. First my mother, then Mama Nana, then the McKeon family, and now the military. I can never seem to settle down and call a place home. Then again, in this day, that’s to be expected sometimes. I haven’t been back to the shack where Nana raised me since that day. I wonder if it’s still standing.
It was only a few months since I’d come to live with the military before I got my first assignment. Up until this point, they were having me work in the lab when I wasn’t spending my time with the McKeons. They taught me a few things that even Mama Nana didn’t know, but understandably so. Nana made items to help and heal. The military needed those things as well, but just as important was the need to create offensive items, like poisons, acids and liquid fire. Everything I learned from Nana came in handy, and I was a fairly quick study. Eventually I was told that I was going to go out with a patrol team; a small group of soldiers on a routine march. And I was going to be a part of the team…as their pack mule. Patrol units were heavily armored already, so they didn’t want to be weighed down with potions and provisions. They said it would help build my strength to carry everyone else’s supplies. I was so weak that I could barely keep up with the rest of the group. The soldiers kept laughing and making fun of me. So much for a sense of “family”. I remember wishing I was back at the lab, or with the Rusk and Siobhan. That’s when I heard it: a rustling sound in the trees above us. I called out that something was up there, and….
Several pages of the journal have been forcibly removed from the binding, leaving behind only illegible remains of tattered ink stained parchment.
The journal continues
It’s been a very long time since I’ve been able to write in this thing; years in fact. I haven’t been able to see Siobhan and Rusk at all. From what I had last heard, Rusk had been away for a while, going off on his own to do some personal training. I can’t wait to see what he’ll be able to do. I pulled a few strings to see if I could be on the same team as the two of them. Hopefully it works out. No matter what happens, I have to do everything in my power to make sure they don’t learn anything about what I’ve been through these last few years. It could put them both in danger, and the last thing I want is to do anything that might make someone take a closer look at Rusk. I’ll do whatever it takes to keep my loved ones safe. They’re the only true family I have left, and now I have the means to protect them.