The First Generation

S-Michael

Prolog:

Isley Tells a Story

They were leaving the ruins of Pieta when they saw the Claymore graveyard. Isley thought about what he should tell Raki when, inevitably, he asked about it. The truth, he decided. (The truth about what this place was, that is; obviously, he wouldn't tell the boy that he had a hand in it.) The question Isley was anticipating never came, though.

"We've got to stop," Raki said. Isley looked at the boy, surprised. The boy's expression was a combination of haunted, worried, concerned, and pleading. It was clear that he knew very well what this place was, and, what was even more remarkable, cared. "Please. We have to stop."

Isley nodded. "Very well." Raki dismounted, and walked amongst the claymores that doubled as gravestones for their owners, warriors of the same name. "What sigil are we looking for?" Isly asked. "What does it look like?" Raki, however, didn't respond. It was clear that he was in another world, a world in which he alone lived and which nothing existed outside of this valley, these gravestones, and this bitter cold. Priscilla moved, but Isley stopped her. "This is something he must do alone."

"No...no...no...no...no...no...no...no...no...no...no...no...no...no...no...no...no..." Raki reached the end of the graveyard, and breathed a sigh of relief. Isley almost did, as well; every time the boy had said "no," it was in a half-forlorn manner, as if he expected the next sword to mark the grave he feared to find here. "She's not here," Raki said, so relieved that he could barely stand from his knees shaking so badly.

"The one whom you want to be by the side of, but don't want to be a burden to...she is a Claymore, isn't she?" Isley asked.

Raki nodded. "Yeah."

"I've suspected as much all along. 'There's a certain person I want to protect...ah, no. I just want to be by her side. That is why I want enough power to make her not have to worry about me anymore...and if possible, enough power to be able to save that person,'" Isley quoted perfectly Raki's statement from several days before. "Her. Now, there are swordswomen, and I don't doubt that a few of them, at least, are quite good. But the way you said it, you seemed skeptical about ever being so strong as to be able to protect her, and being her equal in battle never crossed your mind, or at least seemed not to. And with your resolve to become good, I highly doubt that you'd be satisfied with reaching some pre-self-appointed level of being 'good enough.'

"Tell me, if you know...what was her rank?"

Raki paused, almost as if embarrassed. "Forty-seven."

Ouch. Isley's thought must have shown on his face.

"Yes, I know; she's the weakest amongst Claymores," Raki said.

"Forty-seven...that's...wow," Isley said.

"Oh, shut up, would you, Isley," Raki said dryly. "Why did you want to know?"

"Well, someone had to have set up this graveyard," and it sure as hell wasn't my troops. "The Organization would not have sent people to do it, as, for one thing, they would be too busy preparing to defend themselves from the onslaught that must surely be coming, and for another, this force was likely to have been comprised of those the Organization wanted to be rid of, to be used as a roadblock," Isley said. "The yoma clearly won this battle, and anyone who fled such a battle would surely have been killed by someone hanging back to catch straglers," (you did not have to dirty your sword with the blood of your own kind here, did you, Rafaela?) "so while whomever did this must have been survivors, there wouldn't have been any survivors...unless the Claymores discovered the trap somehow, and conspired to save their strongest warriors by making them look dead when they weren't." You failed in your mission, Rigald. If you were still alive, I'd kill you. "What I was thinking was, if your girlfriend was a particularly high level, we could scour the North and look for her, but forty-seven...she wouldn't be with the survivors. If she's not there, she wasn't here."

"...'the Organization wanted to be rid of'...'roadblock'... My God! That...that's simply dastardly! The Organization is truly abhorrent, to treat people like this!" Raki said, fists clenched and shaking in anger. "How...how dare they?"

"They 'dare' in the name of defending humans from the yoma," Isley said simply.

"That's no excuse!" Raki snapped. "What right have we to survive if this is what it takes?"

"Every animal in the world has a God-given right to do whatever it takes to to ensure its own survival," Isley said. He thought of an old farmer and his wife that he had eaten the other night. Their attempts to escape and fight back were admirable. Futile, but admirable.

Raki sighed. "I guess you're right. Still...the more you tell me, the more I lose my faith in humanity."

Excellent. "Whether you chose to believe in humanity or not is not my concern," Isley said. "I simply speak the truth of a situation, or what I suspect the truth to be."

"It isn't fair, you know..."

"Life is not fair," Isley said.

"I know that! Don't you think I realize that shit happens? My family was slaughtered by a yoma, for fuck's sake!" Raki snapped. "What I mean is, the Claymores...they give all they have in the cause of protecting humanity. If they kill even the lowest, evilest piece of shit that dares to call itself human, they are deemed traitor, and are executed. They risk losing their very souls to the beasts inside of them every time they fight. The Organization thinks of them as expendable. And still, everywhere they go, they are feared. Shit happens, but humans supposedly are more that just so much shit, aren't we?" (How elegantly he puts it!) "Do we not have the ability to control our actions? People should at the very least be grateful. The Organization should at the very least respect the sacrifices that Claymores make, both in order to become Claymores and once they have in order to fight yoma and defend humans."

"That was beautifully said," Isley admitted. "We should go; before it gets late."

They rode south for several hours, until the sun was low in the sky. Isley pointed out a cave. "We can stay there for the night. We won't find much better shelter out in the wilderness," also, there's a town nearby where Priscilla and I can stop for a...bite to eat. And so they prepared themselves for the night.

It started to snow heavily a bit later, so they took the horses into the cave and lit a fire, cooking dinner on it. It wouldn't be enough to sate either Isley's or Priscilla's appetite, and it would taste bitter, their pallets geared towards something softer and more fleshy and raw, but Raki would get suspicious fast if they never ate in front of him. Man, having a pet incurred a lot of work!

"Clare's not my girlfiend," Raki said.

"Hmm?" Isley said.

"The Claymore, number forty-seven. We're not lovers. You called her my girlfriend earlier, and I was too preocupied with everything else you were saying to be concerned about putting the record straight on that. I'm putting the record straight now," Raki said.

"Too bad. Claymores need love," Isley said.

Raki gave him a funny look. "By any chance, would you have ever met a blind, traveling bard?"

"No. Why?"

"Oh, no reason," Raki said.

"So you're not Clare's boy toy, then? Great! You'll have no qualms about sleeping with Priscilla, then."

"Uh...you see, the thing is..." Raki stumbled over his words, blushing furiously.

"Relax. I'm just kidding with you," Isley said. "You really love her, don't you? Clare, I mean."

Raki sighed. "Yes. I do."

Isley smiled. "I like you, kid. You remind me of myself, to be honest." Then, "Do you know why there aren't any male Claymores?"

"The bard I mentioned earlier said that it was in order to keep Claymores from breeding," Raki said.

"He sounds...knowledgeable. Did you happen to catch his name?" Isley asked.

Raki shook his head. "He didn't give it out."

Isley nodded. "That's for the best, I suppose. After all, the Organization can't like having such information in the hands of someone determined to spread it."

"You don't mean...I mean, that does sound like the Organization at this point, but...Claymores can't kill humans, or else their lives are forfeit," Raki said.

"Claymores aren't the only resource available to the Organization," Isley said.

Raki nodded, then chuckled ironically. "You know, he mentioned two Awakened Beings...you know what those are, right?"

Isley nodded, "The type of yoma that Claymores turn into when they Awaken. Known to the public as Voracious Eaters."

"Somehow, I figured you would," Raki said. "You know, I didn't say anything when you told me your names, but I thought it was quite ironic that those were your names. You see, the names of those Awakened Beings were Priscilla and Isley."

"How do you know that we are not the Priscilla and Isley?" Isley asked.

"Because if you were yoma, you'd have eaten me," Raki said.

"Yoma sometimes have human pets," Isley said reasonably.

"Well...you don't seem like yoma," Raki said.

"Yoma aren't evil, you know. They're simply animals that prey upon humans," Isley said.

"Can't they live on animals?" Raki asked.

"Can't you live on vegitables? If so, why do you eat animals?"

"That's different! We're sentient!" Raki said.

"Is it? Not to a yoma," Isley said.

Raki tried to say something, and couldn't. Priscilla jumped him from behind, wrapping her arms around his shoulders, and nuzzling on his ear. "Hey, now! Even you've got to think that that's a little much!" Raki shouted.

Isley chuckled to himself. "Hey, Raki, would you like to hear a story about the Awakened Being Isley?"

"Ooh, goody, a story!" Priscilla said.

"...Sure," Raki capitulated to Priscilla's desires.

"Alright, then," Isley said. "It starts before Isley was an Awakened Being. Before he was a Claymore, in fact. It all started when he was a boy..."