Running Free: Prologue

Okay ... so I fell in love with Julien, and decided that I wanted to write a lengthy romance story featuring him. BUT I thought it would be too stereotypical to have the romance be between him and the Arisen, since you can get that in the game, so I came up with this. Part of the story will be from Julien's POV, and part from the girl's. This story begins around the time that the Arisen first arrives at Gran Soren, and will run all the way to the end of the game. I made some obvious changes to the structure of Dragon's Dogma, such as allowing the poor citizens to ride horses (duh, Capcom!), and even though it wasn't explicitly stated in the game, I assume that Julien lives at Windbluff tower when he isn't at the capital. Anyway, enjoy and if you are feeling kind, send me a review and tell me what you think! I shall do my best to update with regularity!

WARNING: This chapter contains some gory images and implied acts of violence (witch-burning). If this bothers you, please don't read.

(Julien's POV)

The wind was bitterly cold that day, speaking of snow in the north. I was all too glad to have finished my monthly inspection of Windbluff and travel southwards to the capital again, where the climate was a little more friendly. In truth, I care not for chill and rain. It may be an odd thing for the Night's Champion to say, but I am a friend to the sun.

My horse was restless under me, champing the bit and prancing sideways. She has the better sense of smell. I thought it was only monsters worried her, and was preparing myself for combat, but there was no need. The road was deserted - almost unnaturally so. The breeze carried with it the smell of dead flames, and beneath that, burnt flesh and fresh blood.

When I came round a bend in the road and all was laid clear before me, I felt a sickening horror in the pit of my stomach. I pride myself on my strong character, and am not repulsed easily by violence, but the sight there was one that I shall never be able to wash from my mind. It was complete carnage.

There was a ring of scorched earth ten feet or more in diameter, and littered with the charred bodies of at least seven people. They were so badly burned - little more than bones - that it was no longer possible to tell their age or even gender. Several were small enough to be women, or young lads.

But the worst of all lay in the center of the ring. A crude pole had been erected there, with a spar crossing it about five feet up. On this, a girl was tied by her wrists. Her head hung down, and her long dark hair shielded her face from my view, but I had no doubt that she was dead. A stake of silver had been thrust though her abdomen and run clean into the wood behind her.

I dismounted from my horse, tying the reins to the branch of a nearby tree lest she spook and bolt. As appalled as I was, my curiosity was aroused as to the nature of the disaster that had taken place here. What had this girl - she could be no older than twenty, probably less - done do deserve such an execution? Any why had it gone so terribly awry for her murderers? For I could only guess that they had meant to burn her at the stake as a witch, and that the fire had escaped its bonds and overcome them before they could flee.

I approached the girl, stepping carefully around the ruins of humanity which lay scattered around her. Taking her head in my hands, I lifted it up so that I might see her face. But to my astonishment, her eyelids fluttered and opened for a moment, fixing me with a blank stare from eyes of the most piercing color of blue I have ever seen. She fainted again at once, but I had seen enough. Whether by some dark magic or by the Maker's love, the girl yet lived.

My thoughts at once fell to preserving that spark of life. Call me what you will, I am not callous enough to leave a dying woman chained in her agony. I was but half-an-hour's ride from Windbluff, and a skilled healer resided there. I resolved to bring the girl back and see what might be done for her.

Taking her from the pole was not as easy as I had imagined, and I very nearly killed her myself in the process. The stake had to be removed first, but when I drew it out, such a rush of blood followed that I became alarmed it would drain every drop in her body. I staunched it as best I could by wrapping my cloak tightly about her midsection, but still it bled through in very little time.

I cut her bonds and carried her to my horse, and I rode back to Windbluff as fast as I could without jarring her. There I left her in the care of the healer, with instructions to send for me if she should awaken within three days time. My business at the capital was pressing, and I rode there with all speed, but my thoughts lay ever with the girl at Windbluff, and whether her tenacity in clinging to life was to be rewarded. But no word ever reached me, and by the time I had to return five days later, I had given up all hope that she had survived.

I thank the Maker than I was wrong.