This is my first time delving into the realm of Resident Evil 4 fanfiction, and I started to write this story without first looking at the others in the archive. After completing chapters one and two, I noticed that writing out the events of Ramon Salazar's life isn't exactly an original idea! There appear to be a small amount of such fics on both Fanfiction dot net and DeviantArt. I would just like to note that any similarities between those fics and mine are completely coincidental, as I am holding off reading said stories until I am done mine, to avoid doing any unintentional copying or being influenced by them in any way. Because that wouldn't be very nice.
It was a particularly bitter winter, and all love for life seemed removed from the castle grounds. In the small courtyard, the ornate fountain did little to add any beauty to the scene. Browned, pale grass grasped at the stone like bony fingers, and even the hoarsely croaking ravens on the bare tree limbs appeared chilled to the core. The sky was a pale grey, and had been for weeks.
The only splotch of colour in the desolate courtyard was the washed and pressed blue of the young boy's shirt. The castle doors shut behind him with a low rumble, and he ran down the stone stairs, his hazel eyes searching and a smile warming his delicate features. He ran about in the dead grass, oblivious to the desolation around him, calling "Ruk! Ruk!" and looking behind the trees.
Just as he was peering around the back of the fountain, a slim, elderly man slowly opened the large doors and poked his head outside with an anguished expression. The creases of worry faded as he spotted the young boy, who had done a full circle of the fountain and had still not found whomever (or whatever) he was looking for.
"Ramon!" the old man admonished, though he approached the boy at a dignified pace, smiling fondly. The little boy looked to him and giggled, running out of his reach, but his butler and only human friend knew his tricks, and scooped the delicate looking child into his arms. The looks of Ramon Salazar were deceiving, however, and he struggled wildly before the butler gave up and let him go.
"I've been looking all over for you," the man sighed, walking slowly up the stairs to the doors and opening one. He held it ajar so the little boy could run inside, and he grabbed him gently but firmly by the arm. Ramon turned to look at him curiously, as if first noticing the urgent look in his eyes.
"There's a man here to see you,"the butler said, running his hand wearily through his thin hair. "A priest, apparently, though not representing any God I'm familiar with."
Ramon's expression changed at the words of his caretaker, and the childish innocence turned to something a bit more serious. He had always been excluded from what Jacob, his butler, had referred to as "tall talk" until recently.
Jacob was starting to realize that he would no longer be able to shelter the young boy he cared for so much. The old butler got a little slower and a little more hard of hearing every day, and with the boy's parents long dead, Ramon was the last of the Salazars. He would have to learn to make choices for himself, and the butler trusted that the boy had a good heart. This was the ideal time to let him try out his authority over the castle and the surrounding lands. What harm could a simple priest do, after all?
He let Ramon go, as he now had the boy's undivided attention. The two started to walk down the ornate hallway, which was lit only by the pale light from outside filtering in through the enormous windows that lined the right side of the wall, the mahogany curtains hanging still. Jacob gave one of the portraits hung opposite the windows a brief, melancholy glance before continuing.
"He probably just wants permission to set up a church, or something of the sort. I can't see what harm it could do. The people in the villages are more than welcoming, and maybe it would give them something to do, building it and all."
Ramon took quick steps behind him. The child looked younger than he actually was; at the age of twelve he looked far closer to nine, but he was healthy and happy despite being a bit on the small side.
"But whether you say yes or no to what he has to say is all up to you, of course, my dear Ramon," Jacob added. "You're the castellan of this castle, after all." He smiled and knelt down to ruffle the boy's long, dull brown hair, and Ramon swatted his hand away and fixed his hair before the two of them entered the dining room.
Waiting patiently at the large table was a man dressed on flowing purple robes, the hood of which was thrown back to reveal slicked back brown hair and deep set eyes. He rose elegantly from his spot and bowed to Ramon, and the little boy gave a twisted, perhaps satisfied smile at the gesture.
"Please, have a seat," Ramon said with an elegance that surprised Jacob, and the strange priest did so with a nod of thanks. Ramon got into one of the chairs with a bit of difficulty and sat facing the stranger as his butler busied himself around the room, secretly listening.
"I hope you'll forgive me for visiting with no notice, but I wasn't sure how best to contact you," the priest said in a smooth voice, and when he received nothing but a patient smile from Salazar be continued. "My name is Osmund Saddler. As you may have already guessed, I've come to ask for your permission to erect a church in the nearby town. The proposal, I think, would be of interest to you. It would provide a job for the townspeople and, of course, a place to spend their time. A non-profit organization, I assure you," he said with light laughter in his voice.
The young Salazar leaned forward with interest, eliciting a warm smile from the priest. He was about to reply when the sudden sound of barking from outside caused them both to turn toward the small door at the back of the kitchen, this one leading to a much smaller and less decorated yard.
"Ruk!" Ramon cried, and was a child rather than a castellan once again. "There you are!" he said as he leaped from his seat and ran toward the door. Saddler and Jacob exchanged a knowing smile, and the priest rose and followed the boy after getting a nod of permission from the butler.
The wooden door creaked as Ramon opened it, and there before it was a wolfish puppy, who jumped at the boy's knees and yipped happily. He knelt and ran his fingers through the animal's thick fur. "I was wondering where you had gotten to," he said, then picked up a stick out of the dry, cold grass and threw it for his pet, who ran after it, barrelling over the ground. Suddenly the pup stumbled and yelped, and Ramon ran to his side. "What's wrong, boy?"
Saddler watched all of this from the door, then shut it silently behind him, maybe to avoid the cold breeze from entering the kitchen, before following Ramon into the yard.
"Is your dog hurt?" he asked softly, and Ramon jumped a bit, not having heard him approach, so pre-occupied was he with his injured friend.
"I... I think so... his leg," Ramon said quietly, indicating the rough, red scratch on the young canine's leg. The skin was torn in a manner that suggested he had been caught in something.
"Oh, the poor creature," Osmund said, looking with concern at Ruk, who tilted his head and regarded this new human with curiosity. Ramon watched without protest as the priest picked up the pup and cradled him in his arms. The young boy had immediately felt trusting toward the man, who exuded confident authority.
"I'll give him a blessing to speed his recovery," Osmund said softly, and ran his hand delicately over the animal's fur, pausing briefly over his flank.
Ramon appeared awed as man gently handed Ruk back to him, and the boy placed him back on the grass. Ruk, looking no worse for wear, ran barking toward a group of ravens who immediately took flight, squawking angrily. Ramon watched with a wide smile and even wider eyes, perhaps taking Ruk's energy as a miracle brought by the strange priest rather than the young wolf-dog's own resiliency.
"Thank you," he said, grinning at Osmund, who returned the grin with another of his warm, inviting smiles.
"No need to thank me," the priest replied. "I'm just doing my duty. I will be able to do other such things when I get my church up and running. Perhaps you could oversee the development, and if you have any objections, we can change the design more to your liking."
"What religion is it that you follow?" Ramon asked.
"We call ourselves the Los Illuminados. It may sound a bit strange, but the whole idea is more to do with, ah...unity, and acceptance, as well as healing the body and mind, than anything else."
Ramon could think of no reason to deny the man his church. He nodded eagerly.
"Of course! I give you full permission, and Ruk and I will come visit, sometime."
"You have the makings of a great castellan, Ramon Salazar," Osmund Saddler said, and bowed once again. "I will fill you in on the details as the building progresses," he continued, opening the door to the kitchen. Ruk ran inside, darting past his flowing robe.
"I must thank you once again for your hospitality," Osmund said to Jacob, who was trying to look as if he had not been eavesdropping. "I do wish I could stay longer, but there is so much work that needs to be done."
"Certainly, sir," Jacob said as he began leading him to the door, Ramon following. "It's no trouble."
They strolled toward the castle gates, which were always left open. The nearby town was peaceful and full of content and simple people, and there was nothing to fear, even at night. As they passed the last of the doors, Osmund picked up his wooden staff, which had been resting by the door frame.
"I didn't want to bring this into the castle. I use it as a bit of a walking stick and I would be loathe to track dirt everywhere."
Jacob laughed. "Ramon and Ruk do enough of that on their own," he said. The old man felt a slight prickling at the back of his neck when he noticed the symbol carved into the top of the staff. It stirred an old memory in him, but he shook off the unpleasant feeling, which was easy enough to do in the presence of the impeccably polite and caring priest.
Osmund laughed pleasantly, and gave them both a final bow before turning and heading down the path to the village beyond. "Thank you once again. I will return once things have gotten started, to make sure you approve of everything." He turned his head to give Ramon a slight wave and a smile.
"Goodbye!" Ramon called, waving back. Once the priest was out of earshot, the butler and the boy turned to head back inside. "Look, Jacob, Ruk got hurt, but Osmund did some kind of magic and healed him."
Jacob chuckled and decided to humour the boy. "Oh, did he now? Well, that was nice of him."
As Osmund Saddler headed through the leafless, dark trees, far past the main gates of the castle, a young raven, cold a weak and unable to stand her first winter, fell from a limb and lay flopping weakly on the ground. The priest passed without giving her a glance.