The ship was a mere plaything in the hands of capricious gods as the storm raged out of control. As dozens of men rushed about frantically, trying to keep from capsizing, none noticed the two scared boys huddled beneath the aft stairs.
Stinging rain and enormous waves drenched all on board, and sent many to a watery grave below. Scott clearly remembered the wind most of all; it sounded like screaming. A massive wave nearly knocked the ship on its side and sent Scott and his younger brother Alexander tumbling from their hiding space.
“Scott! Alex!” cried the strong voice of their father from above.
He descended from the sky like an angel, hanging by a loose rope from the rigging. Captain Christopher Summerset; Scott’s hero. Now that their father was with them there was no way anything bad could happen to them.
“Boys, where’s your mother?” he asked anxiously. An adult would have seen the fear in Christopher’s eyes but the eight year old Scott only saw his powerful father.
“I don’t know papa,” said the elder boy.
“Where’s mama?” cried Alex.
“Shhh it’s going to be ok son,” he placed a reassuring hand on Alex’s head, “the
seen worse storms than this,” he exhaled a sigh of relief when he saw his wife stumbling across the rocking deck.
Scooping up his sons beneath each arm the captain ran to his terrified wife.
“Thank the gods you’re all safe. I was worried sick,” even soaking wet and afraid Katherine Summerset was a vision. Christopher kissed her like he would never see her again. Scott didn’t realise it until a lot later that he probably thought he wouldn’t.
“This storm came out of nowhere Katherine, there’s something…unnatural to it,” the concern was clear in his eyes if not his voice, “I need you to keep the boys safe while I try to save this ship.”
“Be careful,” she kissed him one last time and took the boys from his arms.
“Captain!” cried a sailor in the crow’s nest “Whirlpool, dead ahead!”
The colour drained from his father’s face; a ship could ride out a storm but if a whirlpool had you in its clutches there was no escape.
“Get somewhere safe, I love you all,” and then he was gone; shouting orders, hauling rigging, trying his best to keep everyone alive.
Scott could feel the ship begin to accelerate rapidly as it was caught in the whirlpool’s current.
“Mama, are going to be alright?” asked Alex timidly.
“Of course,” she crouched down and held both boys so close they could smell her hair, “Papa will keep us all safe,”
The next few moments were so traumatic that Scott couldn’t remember them for many years after. A gigantic wave struck the ship, nearly toppling it and washing many brave men overboard. The powerful wall of water knocked the woman and her two young sons from their feet and carried them across the deck. Katherine was big enough to be stopped by the rail but the boys were not. Scott hung on to his mother’s arm for dear life while Alex hung onto him but the force of the water was too much for his little arms and they were torn from their screaming mother.
The look of anguish on his mother’s face would forever be burned into his mind as the trashing waves took them away. To this day he couldn’t fathom how he had survived the ocean and made it out of the whirlpool’s clutches to land. He didn’t care though, that fateful day he had lost everything that meant anything to him; his parent’s went down with the ship while Alexander was lost somewhere in the ocean and likely drowned.
Now it was all happening again. The town of Nabras, where he had lived from the day he washed up on the beach, was burning. He looked on in horror from his hilly viewpoint as plumes of smoke rose from many points around the town.
Was this his doing? He wondered. He remembered the onset of his abilities had caused a fire in the stables and immediately blamed himself. Logic quickly prevailed though and he realised this couldn’t have been the result of the stable fire a day ago. The stables were well separated from the rest of the town, reducing the likelihood of the fire spreading.
He scanned the town more closely and saw a point where the town wall had been knocked down. Only something as powerful as a catapult or a dragon could knock down that wall. Was this an attack? Straining his hearing he could detect the faint calls of voices yelling. Guilt immediately flooded over him; Nabras had been attacked and he hadn’t been there to defend it.
The sound of hoof beats behind him broke him from his thoughts. He spun around and reached for a sword that wasn’t there before realising he didn’t need it. His hand rushed up to remove the glasses containing his power when he realised who was approaching.
“Easy there kid,” said the man named Logan, “you got Xavier worried; the old man thought you ran away,”
“How did you find me?” demanded Scott. Logan merely tapped the side of his nose, he didn’t understand the gesture.
More hoof beats broke the evening as Hank rode through the woods, followed by Lady Jean riding side saddle. A sudden gust of wind picked up through the woods and the lady named Ororo descended from the sky.
He had not had a chance to meet Ororo in person yet. She had been a part of the duo that saved his life the night before, but due to being knocked unconscious and leaving Greymalkin not long after waking up had had not seen her again. She was a beautiful young woman with the type of light brown skin he had seen on many traders from across the sea. More interesting though, was her pure white hair, not the grey of old age but a snow white colour with oddly seemed to compliment her dark skin quite well. Although the squire couldn’t help but find the woman attractive the fact that she could fly so effortlessly and command devastating lightning bolts, frightened him.
“Scott, thank the gods you’re ok,” Jean jumped down from her horse and ran to the squire, “stepfather sensed you were heading straight towards great danger,”
“Well I appreciate you coming to my aid my lady but I’m safe,” said Scott, more than a little surprised that Jean seemed so concerned, “I cannot say the same for my town though, I think it’s under attack.”
Logan shifted in his saddle and sniffed the air loudly. With his thick fur cloak, rough hair and unshaven face he gave Scott the impression of an animal in a man’s skin.
“This place’s got the stink of Raven and her cronies all over it,” he stated.
“Raven…the elf who tried to abduct me last night? Didn’t you capture them?”
“Nope, the sneaky she devil and the others escaped,” replied Logan, “you see we were a little more concerned with this idiot who went and fell on his head.”
Scott ignored the barb, “What could she possibly want with Nabras?” “Perhaps the Brotherhood of the Chosen has decided to make a show of power?” suggested Hank, who looked awkward in the saddle with his apelike physique.
“Then we better go find out,” said Jean.
“Are you sure you’re ready Jean?” asked Ororo, “You have never seen battle before.”
“I’m ready,” her voice strong with determination.
“Fine but Charles will not like it,”
“Well it’s about time stepfather realised I’m not a child anymore and I want to do my part for the knights.”
“The knights?” asked Scott.
“The Knights of Greymalkin,” explained Jean, “it’s what the townspeople have been calling us. I kind of like it.”
Without a word Logan started off down the hill to Nabras, leaving the others behind. Scott hurried to Jean’s horse and leapt into the saddle, he reached out to help the lady up but she ignored his hand and pulled herself up with little effort.
The trio took off on horseback after Logan while Ororo took to the air, buffeted but strong currents of wind.
“Don’t you think it would be wonderful to fly?” asked Jean in his ear as she looked up at Ororo.
“Don’t you think it’s kind of…unnatural for a man or woman to fly?” replied Scott.
Jean laughed in reply, “Scott, your eyes can knock down walls, I can move things without ever touching them, nothing about us is natural or normal,”
He didn’t reply; she was right but he didn’t want to think about how different his life was going to be.
Logan had already arrived at the town wall and hitched his horse to a small tree. Nearby, the town gates were wide open and there were no guards in sight. The trio caught up to the feral man and tied their horses to another tree.
“You shouldn’t run off ahead like that Logan, we’re a team we stick together,” admonished Hank.
“While you were all busy playing friend with the page boy here people are dying inside those walls,” replied Logan tersely.
He stalked along the wall to the open gates and signalled for the other three to remain still. Crouching down, he touched the dirt then sniffed his fingertips and grimaced.
“The stink of that fat ogre’s all over the place, along with Raven and the toad,” he sniffed some more, “the witch was with them too.”
“What about Magnus, any sign of him?” asked Hank with a hint of nerves.
“Can’t smell him or his boy, doesn’t mean they’re not here though. Swift moves so fast he barely leaves a scent, and Magnus can float right over all this like the god he thinks he is.”
Ororo chose that moment to descend to the ground beside them and report. “It’s chaos on the streets; they’re killing them like cattle! The town militia is fighting valiantly but they’re no match for the Brotherhood.”
“Who did you see in there ‘Ro?” asked Jean.
“All of them bar Magnus himself,”
“Good, we can take the rest of that scum,” stated Logan, “let’s go.”
He led the group in through the main gates and down an empty street. Scott was shocked to see this street he had traversed for over a decade was now in ruins. Igan’s bakery was aflame and the cobbler’s shop was smashed beyond repair; it broke his heart.
“Where’d you see them Ororo?” he asked.
“Three streets over, near a large open area with a fountain,” she replied.
“Elan’s Square, it’s the marketplace,” he replied, “follow me.”
The young man, knowing his town quite well, took the group on a tangent down a narrow alley and onto another street. Quickly they hurried across the cobblestone street and into another alley. This time the alley brought them out in a dead end lane, but Scott was not worried. He led them to the end of the lane and to the door of a nondescript house. Without knocking he pushed the door open and stepped inside.
Not knowing what was going through Scott’s head, the others followed. The house was currently occupied, but Jean could sense no-one was home.
“Don’t worry, this is Yon the tailor’s home,” said Scott calmly, “he lets me cut through here all the time when I’m doing my errands for Lord Essex.”
The squire paused for a moment when he realised he said have said when he used to do errands for Lord Essex. Another reminder of the life he had left behind.
Through the kitchen was another door, this one sealed shut with a hefty bolt and large padlock.
“Dammit!” cursed Scott, “We’ll have to go back.”
With a grunt Logan pushed past Scott and extended the claws on his right hand, clearly he planned to try and break the lock. Before he could even try though, the locked mechanism clicked open and fell to the floor.
Logan looked over his shoulder to Jean and said, “He could’ve bought a new lock,”
“But this is the nice thing to do Logan. Remember nice? You should try it,” smiled Jean.
Logan simply grunted in the way that was fast becoming typical for him and opened the door. The sounds of combat quickly assaulted their ears. The door opened into a small nook between other two houses, and from it Elan’s Square could clearly be seen.
Elan’s Square was a large area, about a hundred spans a side, near the heart of the town. It was commonly used to host markets and other festivities, but today it only hosted a slaughter.
Dozens of the town’s militia lay dead or injured in the courtyard and dozen’s more surrounded a handful of figures standing by a large fountain.
Surely those five people could not have caused all this damage, thought Scott.
“Raven,” Said Logan, practically in a guttural growl. Scott was starting to get the impression there was some sort of history between Logan and the elfmaid; a history that had spawned a deep rooted hatred.
The wild looking man was right; Raven and her allies were standing at the heart of the square. They must have more allies in the town, because surely five people couldn’t cause so much harm.
“You already met Raven, Toad and Dook,” said Hank, referring to the blue skinned elf maid, the goblin and the incredibly fat Ogre, “the two humans, the man and the woman, are Magnus’ own children Petros and Wanda. Although they prefer to be called Swift and the Scarlet Witch.”
“She’s a witch?”
“We’re not entirely sure,” replied Hank, “I suspect the god’s have blessed her with the power to wield incredible amounts of magic,”
“What about the man, Swift?” As a knight in training Scott knew it was best to know as much about your enemy as possible before a battle.
“His name’s Swift, what do you think he can do?” Logan rolled his eyes and made his way out of the house, the others quickly followed.
As they drew closer to the scene, Scott could clearly see that the militia were headed by Lord Essex himself. The man sat regally about his chestnut stallion with his armour gleaming. Scott was relieved to see that Essex’s horse had survived the stabled fire he had inadvertently started.
Essex was a commanding presence at all times, most of all in the heat of battle, and this occasion was no different.
“Surrender, demon spawn, and I assure you a quick and painless death!” shouted the Lord.
Raven was a fool to disobey; her vile quintet must have had at least a dozen arrows trained upon them. Still, the elf mailed merely grinned cockily.
“As tempting as that offer is my Lord, I must sadly decline,” with that she hurled a dagger at Essex and leapt aside as the arrows let fly. Thankfully the blade bounced off the Lord’s cuirass but it was more than enough distraction for the Brotherhood.
Arrows rained upon the villains but oddly enough none hit their intended targets, instead injuring other militiamen. The woman Hank had called a scarlet witch stood with her hands extended radiating crimson energy.
“She defies the Goddess by using such corrupt powers,” exclaimed Ororo before flying into the air on a powerful current of air.
“What-” started Scott, but both groups were already leaping into action.
Toad, leapt from Dook’s shoulder’s and landed a devastating kick to a nearby militiaman, whilst extending his tongue and whipping another in the face. Meanwhile the ogre laughed as swords and arrows bounced off his seemingly impervious skin.
Scott was quickly beginning to realise how such a small group could cause so much damage. The man named Swift was exactly as his name suggested; he moved so fast it was difficult to see him. The Scarlet Witch didn’t really seem to do anything; she just stood there in her red gown, but who ever tried to attack her wound up hurt. Men tripped and impaled themselves, crossbows jammed, knee joints gave out or worse. The closer people drew to the witch, the worse the effects were; one man leapt towards her, swinging his blade, only to suddenly explode in a violent shower of blood and organs.
It was definitely time for the Knights of Greymalkin to step in.
Hank dove into the fray, leaping over soldiers like they were a waist high fence. He tackled Toad in midair as the goblin was about to strike a guard from behind.
“Good day my agile friend!” cried Hank jovially as the pair rolled across the ground in a tangle of arms and legs.
Ororo sailed overhead, pelting the group with sleet and hail, but the assault as inaccurate and struck just as many soldiers as Brotherhood. Several began to cry “witch” and turned their arrows to the bizarre woman above.
“We’re trying to help you fool!” cried Logan in frustration as he knocked one archer out with a punched to the back of the head.
This act of irritation attracted the attention of even more soldiers and soon the angry man was surrounded by five soldiers. Logan didn’t bat an eye lid, instead extending his claws and slashing at the nearest target. Before any of the other soldiers could respond though, they were all hurled backwards by an unseen force.
“We’re here to fight the Brotherhood Logan, not these soldiers!” yelled Jean, over the racket.
“Tell them that!” replied the clawed man, before charging at the scarlet witch. As he passed Essex’s horse, the animal suddenly kicked wildly, knocking Logan into Dook’s gelatinous gut. The massive folds of fat enveloped the man completely.
“Heh heh, me think this time my tummy’s aching you,” laughed the ogre.
“Good one Dookie!” replied Toad as he kicked Hank off him with his powerful legs.
Scott felt ashamed for not acting sooner; the whole scene had just been so alien to him. He reached to his enchanted glasses and removed them, releasing the fill force of his eye blasts directly into Dook’s face.
“Ahhhhh my eyes!” cried the ogre as he clutched at his face, “I’m gonna eat you human piece of scat!”
The squire suspected that while his fat proved as an impenetrable barrier his face might be vulnerable, and he was right. The rotund ogre was now blinded, possibly permanently, and distracted enough for Jean to reach inside his fat and pull Logan free with her mind.
Being enveloped in Dook’s fat had starved the man of oxygen and he now lay on the ground panting as Jean ran to his side. Toad took the opportunity to take a flying leap at the distracted woman but thankfully Hank intervened; grabbing the goblin by its snakelike tongue and hurling him into a nearby wall.
Two down, thought Scott.