Chapter 1: Birth

Warren glanced up as he heard footsteps outside his workshop. The door quietly opened, though the hand that did so clearly knew the door, as its rusted hinges made no sound. Warren bent back over his work and patiently waited for the careful footsteps to pass behind him, headed for the ladder at the corner of the room that lead to the loft.

"Terrance," Warren said softly. The footsteps slowed, and a loud creak came from the floorboards. The owner of the footsteps had been distracted, and missed the loudest board in the shop. Warren sat up and turned on his stool to see his son's back.

"Terrance," Warren repeated, "what are you trying to hide from me?"

"Nothing, Dad," his son said, reaching out to take hold of the ladder.

"You're only ever this quiet when you're hidin' something from me, son."

The boy groaned, resting his forehead against one of the ladder rungs. Slowly, he turned to face his father.

Terrance was a tall boy, lean and muscled from smith's work. His coal-black hair hung down into his icy blue eyes, which always seemed slightly angry, despite the smug smile that usually played on his mouth. But no such smile was there today, and a large purple bruise had swollen one eye shut.

Warren sighed and set down his engraving tools. "Who did you get in a fight with today?" he asked, stroking his auburn mustache.

His son looked down at the floor, eyebrows knitting together as he tried to suppress his anger. "Nelson," he muttered, then corrected himself. "Lord Nash."

Warren drew in a sharp breath. "Terry. You fought Lord Nash's boy again?"

"I had to!" Terry snapped. "He thinks he can treat everyone like garbage, and everyone's too afraid to do anything about it, so he keeps doing it! And then he goes and slanders our kin. I had to teach him his manners, that just because he's highborn doesn't mean he's any better then the rest of us!"

His father shook his head. "Terry," he said, rising from his work station, and approaching his son, "you can't go on acting like this. People will gossip, it's what they've always done. You have to take the high road, you have to be better than them. Just because he insulted our house doesn't mean you should fight him. We are above that."

"I didn't hit him 'cause he insulted us," Terrance muttered, "he was slandering our patron lord, too."

"…The House of Powers…?" Warren said thoughtfully, as Terry looked away. His son had never shown affection for their new lord, so why would he defend him now? "No? Then, the House of Tan…? But they haven't been our patron since - oh. Oooh, Terrance. Son." He reached out to place a hand on his son's shoulder. "I know that you care about her grace, but this isn't your fight to be fought."

Terry slapped his father's hand away, his face turning red with rage. "He called her a whore, Dad. He said she was a common whore that let any stable boy in the highlands fuck her."

"Terrance," Warren said fiercely as he placed a strong hand on the back of his son's neck, "that is not your fight. I care about my lord patron, but he is not our lord any more. And," he tightened his grip as the boy tried to open his mouth to speak, "I care about Lady Dana as well. I know you have always been protective of her, but you need to know your place. If the Nash boy knows how much you love her, he'll use that against you both."

He released his son and returned to his work table. "She's far beyond your reach anyways, boy."

Terrance glared at his father for a moment, the sides of his mouth twitching. He wanted so much to shout at his father, but kept it inside. He turned and climbed the ladder to the loft, his footsteps heavy with his anger.

Warren shook his head and returned to his work bench. He knew that his son was still young, still trying to understand the world. But he was seventeen, an adult now. He would have to stop acting like a child, and be ready to take over the smithery when the time was right. Putting these thoughts out of his head, Warren set out to work on his most recent project once more. He was not aware that, above him, his son was readying himself to crawl out of the small window.

Terry dropped lightly to his feet, but hissed as he landed. The shock of the landing had jolted a fresh bruise on his side - one that held a remarkable similarity to the shape of Lord Nelson's boot. He clenched his teeth against the pain, trying to remain quiet. Soon he'd make Nelson pay for everything that spoiled brat had ever said. Nelson was a bully, but he was also a coward, and too proud to retaliate against a true beating, else everyone would learn that he could be bested by the son of a smith. That would have to come later, though. For now, Terry had other things on his mind - more pleasant things.

Staying low and close to the workshop's wall, Terry snuck away from his father. Once he was rounded a corner and was out of sight of any of the shop's windows, he straightened and picked up speed, heading for the city square, just outside the palace walls. The sound of cheering guided him - cheering for the festival of the king's anniversary. Well over twenty years of successful rule, with no internal struggles in the kingdom that had not been quickly put down. Terry's father was too busy crafting swords and shields for the king's army, as well as his newest patron Lord Powers, to attend. Years ago, he would have gladly let Terry go. This year though, Terry knew that his father would not have agreed, since he knew full well who Terry was planning to meet there.

There - he saw it - a swish of white skirts and the ripple of raven hair, standing outside of the square, apart from the revelers. Waiting for him. He silently padded towards the figure, and clasped his hands around her eyes. She let out a yelp and twisted away from him, wheeling around to slap his face. When she met his eyes, she froze, then smiled, then scowled again. She slapped him anyways, but not as hard as she had meant to, and the smile still lurked on her lips.

"McGinnis, the smith's son," she said in a clipped tone, "you should know better then to sneak up on a lady."

"M'lady Dana," he said, imitating the sweeping bows he'd seen courtiers use, "forgive me. I was so overcome with happiness to see m'lady once again that I couldn't control myself. You tend to have that way with people." He straightened, and gently wrapped his arms around her waist. She let her fake scowl fall and be replaced by a smile as she placed her arms around his neck.

"I had been afraid that you wouldn't come," she said.

"I would never have missed this," his replied, gently brushing a few stray hairs off her forehead. He leaned down and kissed her, gently and sweetly. She allowed him to kiss her back for only a moment, before carefully pulling away from him. Her cheeks burned red, but there was also clear sadness on her face. Terry knew the reason why. They would never be able to be together, as both their fathers were so keen to point out.

He laid a hand on her cheek, and her fingers flew up to touch it. She pulled his hand away, and held it firmly. She gave him a smile, trying to mask her hurt, while he made no effort to hide his own. With a gentle tug, she pulled him along, towards the crowds of revellers.

As the two made their way forward, a rowdy group of men dressed in motley pushed past them, shouting obscenities. One tried to touch Dana, and Terry swiftly moved so that she was behind him, out of reach of the ruffians. He shouted at the men, fully intent on teaching them a lesson the way he had taught the Nash boy, but Dana held him back. Within seconds, he could hear hoofbeats, and managed to step back just in time as three great horses bounded through the crowds. On each horse was a rider in mail and a tabard emblazoned with a soaring bird. The leader of the three was the oldest, dressed in a blue cloak, with black hair and bright blue eyes. The other two were younger, one dressed in green and the other in yellow, and both had the same coal colored hair and blue eyes as the first. They rode with purpose, pursuing the men dressed as jesters, each rider with a look of fierce determination.

In a flash, they were gone, leaving the festival-goers silent and stunned. Dana reached out to take Terry's hand, holding it tightly.

"I hate them," she said quietly, "why do they have to dress like that? Why can't they just leave the rest of us in peace?"

Terry squeezed her hand in return. "I don't know," he said darkly, "some people are just monsters. But they're gone now. The Robins will take care of them."

"I hope they do," she murmured, shivering slightly. The night air had been warm, but now a chill descended upon the revellers. Terry wrapped his free arm around her shoulder and held her for a moment. She leaned against his chest, to try to feel safe once again, then slipped out of his arms. She smiled, linked her arm with his once more, and together they walked to the center of the square.

The entire city was lit up for the night, the old and the young alike joining together for celebration. Great banners hung off of buildings, displaying the king's coat of arms, a black bat on a gray field. The king himself would not make an appearance in the city, too busy attending to matters of court, but the city still celebrated the holiday - at least, those who were not too busy with their work. It was not the celebration that Terry had come for, but he embraced it nonetheless. It was one of the few times he could lose himself.

The night grew long, and the excitement of the people did not slow until past the midnight hour. The food that people had been able to spare for the feast began to dwindle and finally ended, and those that could play instruments or knew ballads tired. Slowly, people made their way back to their homes. Dana, fearful of her maids reporting her activities to her father, slipped away from the festivities with one last kiss from Terry. With little else to stay for, Terry made his way back to his father's shop.

As he ventured back home, Terry became aware of a smell hanging over the city streets. A smell of wood, and steel, and smoke. He did not think much of it at first, as it was the smell of home to him, and there were smitheries dotted throughout this section of the city. Yet as he got closer to home, a sense of dread began to creep up his spine. The smell got stronger, and he began to feel the sting of his eyes that came from strong smoke. He walked faster, then began to run. The smoke became visible, and it was clear that it was rising out of his father's shop.

He threw the door of the shop open, no longer caring if his father knew he had snuck out that night. Smoke filled the workroom, stinging his eyes and making him cough. He made his way to the forge, and found it filled with more wood than his father ever would have put in it. He fumbled about for the barrel they used to quench steel, hefting it up with all of his strength and emptying it into the forge. The wood had been damp to begin with, smoking more then burning, and the barrel was enough to douse the few flames that remained. He stood back, dropping the barrel and coughing.

At last he was able to look around the work space. Tables were overturned, swords knocked out of their barrels. Someone had been here, someone who had torn the shop apart looking for something.

"Dad!" He shouted, reeling on the spot as he looked for any sign of this father. There was no reason Warren would have left that night. "Dad!"

Terry heard a scraping noise coming from behind the heavy work bench. Then he saw it, his father's arm splayed on the ground. He crossed the space of the shop in two large strides, rushing to his father's side. Warren lay face-down on the ground, his leather apron smouldering. Terry quickly patted out the last of the flames and turned his father over with a grunt. Warren's eyes were closed, his breathing hardly there. His father's face was bloody and bruised.

Terry pressed an ear to his father's chest, searching for a pulse, for breath, for any sign of life. Warren let out a weak moan, and Terry sat upright again to look at his father.

"It's okay, Dad," he murmured, "it's okay. What do you need?"

Warren's lips moved in an attempt to speak, but it was difficult for him.

"D'you need water?" Terry said, trying not to let the panic into his voice. "Here, let me get you—"

His father weakly grabbed the sleeve of his shirt, shaking his head. He looked to the rough wooden slabs laid beneath his workbench, then back to Terry. "Son," he managed to say in a voice barely more than a whisper. Terry waited for him to finish his sentence, but it never came. Warren's eyes went dark, and his grip loosened, his arm falling.

"No, Dad," Terry murmured, then started to shout. "No! Don't you dare… no. Don't go."

A hundred thoughts were swirling in the boy's head. Who could do something like this? And why? His father was just a smith, there was nothing of value in his shop. A few swords and axes, yes, but nothing that couldn't be found another way. In another shop. Terry's entire body shook from rage, and he let out a scream. It slowly died, as the lump in his throat cut off his breath. He felt the tears rise from his eyes as he realized that if he hadn't left, he could have helped. He could have done something, and his father wouldn't have had to die. With a shaking hand, he gently closed Warren's eyes.

He sat there for some time, cradling his father's head in his lap. He freely cried, not afraid to doing so. He ran over his last words with his father again and again, willing for time to turn back and give him a chance to fix this. Slowly, he moved his father's head to the floor, gently arranging his arms over his chest. As he did so, something caught his eye. The planks beneath the table, the ones Warren had looked to in his dying moment. They were loose and overlapped, as if rearranged in a hurry.

Terry stood and pushed the heavy table away. He knelt again and picked up one of the pieces of wood. There was a space beneath it - a hole almost two feet deep and very long. Terry had never seen it before, but it was lined with wood like some sort of box, as if it had been prepared by his father long ago. He pushed the rest of the floor boards out of the way and reached into the darkness. His fingers hit something long and leather-bound. He lifted it out, revealing a blade wrapped in leather. He quickly pulled the leather sheet away.

It was clearly a sword blade, long and heavy, ready to be outfitted with a hilt and handle. The blade had a slight green tinge to it, likely infused with spells of some sort. And etched on the blade, just below where the hilt would go when it was completed, was the image of a hand.

A hand, and the color green… Terry knew that symbol. It was the symbol of his father's most recent patron. Lord Powers, one of the most powerful men in the kingdom, after his Majesty King Bruce. Terry didn't understand. Why would his father hide the sword here? Why look to it as he was dying?

Terry's hand tightened around the blade, its sharp edge cutting into his hand. He did not care if he bled.