Shalaya the half-elf had helped Lynn search for crystal shards when the god Aloquin broke free from the Channel Crystal. But when Lynn left and the hierarchy fell into chaos, the North Forest entered a period of great turmoil. Shalaya’s human relatives from the West Forest begged her to come stay with them until the danger passed. She moved to live in Nastra, the capital of the West Forest, and there she gave birth to half-elf a son with icy blue eyes and midnight-black hair. He never knew his father.

Shalaya liked the North Forest much better than the West Forest. She was a member of Keramis’ cave, and hoped to make her son part of it as well. The initiation ceremony of a family cave required all the members to agree upon what to call the child, so Shalaya did not give him a name yet. Instead, she sent word to Keramis to come take the boy to the North Forest and raise him there. Keramis promised to guard him with his life. There was much merriment in the cave to celebrate both Keramis’ return and the initiation of a new member into their ranks. They named the boy Raven for his dark hair.

In the days to come, it became obvious that Raven did not fit in with the rest of the cave. His Nastran upbringing had made him gentle, shy, and sensitive, and he didn’t understand the aggressive rough play of the other children. It didn’t take long for him to become the object of violence and ridicule from his peers. A bastard half-breed, they called him, whose own father wanted nothing to do with him. A pathetic Nastran outcast, who even the weakling West Foresters couldn't find a use for. Keramis looked on with sincere empathy, for it reminded him of his own abject childhood, but he knew that interfering would only make things worse. One way or another, Raven would have to learn to stand up for himself.

As the years passed, Raven grew depressed and suicidal. Unable to rely on the compassion of his people, he spent most of his time alone, finding comfort in the forest itself. As dark and gloomy as it may have seemed at first, there was a warmth about it that he felt deep inside. A sweet stillness that cradled him like the arms of the loving mother he left behind. He found a secluded pond overhung with weeping willows, and spent his days sobbing bitter tears into the waters.

But he was not alone. Another was watching him from the underbrush. An Elcorian human girl his age with chestnut brown hair and hazel eyes. The Elcorians abhorred the militant mentality of the North Forest, and hoped to attract others to their cause by being an example of a peaceful society. The girl came out of the bushes, and introduced herself as Gaisa to the startled half-elf. She took him to visit her Elcorian village where people were kind to him. Raven and Gaisa became best friends, and it did wonders for his self-esteem.

The cave saw that Raven’s spirits were on the rise and his will was unbroken. No longer a pitiful shell of a helpless, abused kid, he was an enduring survivor, and they respected him for that. Soon he even asked to be trained in the martial arts, and Keramis was overjoyed. Keramis taught him techniques and styles of many different weapons, including short-swords, long-swords and dual wield, but Raven came to prefer the two-handed sword.

         His skills improved by the day and his potential seemed limitless. Even Keramis, himself the fifth rank, had to be careful around his sparring partner. The next several bullies who picked on Raven got a thorough beating, and nobody from the cave dared bother him again. His status as Nastran outsider became a distant memory as the North Foresters accepted him as one of their own. The half-elf became the center of attention, and Keramis was struck with the bittersweet realization that his own student would likely outshine him in fighting prowess.

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Revised: 12 May 2010 07:47:48 -0400 .