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The Few, The Brave

Harkov set towards the inner keep of Starkhaven walking at his usual brisk pace. The settlement was bustling. Workers and Order members working on various projects, most of them revolving around the refugees that traveled from New Hope. Harkov had been working the last few weeks under his new assignment as an eagle initiate. Suu Nalla was a different teacher than Ventaris, then again, they both follow different paths in their service to Arnath. Harkov was still angered by his reassignment. Everybody he asked said it had nothing to do with Harkov, just somebody up the chain made the decision for them. Oliver said the same thing when he denied Harkov the name of the higher up who gave the transfer order, saying that he was told that all of the answers he was looking for lie in the path of acceptance. Harkov wasn’t even paying attention to where he was going, he was too busy brooding. He almost reached the doors of the library when he felt the recoil of running into another person. Harkov’s release from his anger was almost instant. He turned to see who he had hit and to his embarrassment saw that he had knocked over a young woman.
“By Arnath I am so sorry miss.” Harkov said as he went to help her up.
“No, it’s okay. It was probably just as much my fault.” The girl responded. Harkov reached out and gasped when his hands were suddenly enveloped in a warm silver glow, the same one he had been learning to control.
“ Your hands are really, Oh my god!” The girl exclaimed as she finally looked up and saw Harkov’s hands. Harkov looked down at his hands and focused cutting off the flow of mana. The glow faded slowly, and then all at once. Harkov could feel the heat in his face, he could feel it getting redder. The girl looked at him, she had blonde hair and blue eyes with flecks of green in them. Harkov gave her a quick once over before making eye contact. She looked to be a few years younger than Harkov was, lean but clearly strong, the kind of strength Harkov recognized. He couldn’t quite tell how but he didn’t question it. They looked at each other for a moment in silence before she spoke up.
“I’m Isabella, but my friends and family call me Bella.”
“Well, Isabella I am so sorry for knocking you over.” Harkov replied, still feeling the heat in his cheeks.
“You’re one of the Order clerics?” Bella asked looking back down at his hands.
“Sort of. I’m an initiate set to be an Eagle of the Light.” Harkov replied.
“An Eagle huh?” Bella said, giving him a once over of her own. “You might want to work on your awareness if you want to be an Eagle.” Her smile was a devilish one hinting at challenge. Before Harkov could retort, Bella took off. Harkov watched her go, dumbstruck at how bold she was and how fast she was. Harkov shook himself into focus and continued into the library.
The Library was a vast and grand place filled with scrolls and thickly bound books containing untold amounts of knowledge, still only a fraction of what had been on Faedrun. Harkov wandered aimlessly for a while, building the courage to try and bother one of the many Griffons who were in charge of the collective works. Before he could do so though, one such Griffon beat him to the punch.
“Is there something I can help you with my boy?” Asked a very old man who seemed to carry not a worry in the world. He had a genuine smile, his eyes were mere slits and his lips thin. Harkov doubted if this man was still able enough to understand where he was, let alone help him find the books and scrolls he was searching for, but Harkov gave him the benefit of the doubt.
“Yes actually. I was wondering if you could help me find a few texts.” Harkov responded, doubt obvious in his voice, his tone was almost patronizing. The old man shuffled past Harkov with slow deliberate steps, not once looking back as Harkov stood there awkwardly waiting for a response.
“Well,” the old man said without looking back,“are you coming my boy?” Harkov looked around the atrium trying to find anybody else to help but for some reason all the Griffons except this old man had disappeared. With a sigh and a shake of his head Harkov jogged to catch up with the old Griffon. The path they took was slow going as the two walked up stairs and down hallways. Harkov almost couldn’t comprehend how they fit this many into the keep.
“Don’t you want to know what texts I was looking for? I doubt they’ll be up here.” Harkov asked as they passed fewer and fewer bookshelves. The old man waved a hand at him but didn’t bother with words. Eventually they came to a halt just outside of a door to one the rooms on the top floor of the keep. The area they were in was well lit with windows becoming far more frequent the higher they had gone. The cool air of early spring caused Harkov to shiver. The old man stood at the door rattling a ring of keys, trying several in an attempt to get the door open. Harkov began to bounce in place trying to warm himself, his breath visible in the air like dragon’s breath. Harkov almost let out an audible sigh of relief when he heard the deep clunk of the lock. As they walked into the room, the old man began muttering to himself and started rummaging through an old chest at the foot of what Harkov assumed was his bed. Harkov ignored him and began examining the room, piles of books varying in height filled the room. The room itself had a uniqueness to it. The room formed a half circle with another half circle coming off of it creating a raised platform where a bed sat. Directly to the left of the original half circle was a large fireplace, which was currently void of any fire or fuel. A small stack of logs and a tinderbox sat neatly next to the fireplace. And just to the right of the door was a small balcony that had a full view of Starkhaven. Harkov heard a whistle and turned just in time to stop a small flint block from hitting him in the face, though the catch wasn’t clean and he bobbled it before securing it, glaring at the old man.
“Start a fire lad, it’s freezing in here.” The old man ordered as he sat down, his age showing as he slowly lowered himself into his chair. Harkov set to the fire using a generous amount of tinder. After a little too much effort, a strong fire was burning in the pit. Harkov walked over and sat across from the old man, well past the limit of his patience and glared at his compatriot.
“I hope you didn’t drag me up here to fulfill some sick fantasy old man, because I’m not interested in that sort of thing.” Harkov said in a combination of a snarl and a sneer. He looked closer at the old man and saw a few scars on his time-worn face. The Griffon laughed, much to Harkov’s annoyance.
“Listen son. I’ve seen more war and bedded more women in my prime then you will in your lifetime so you can spare me the tough guy act.” said the old man, opening his eyes wide and staring at Harkov intensely. Harkov recoiled, caught off guard by the bluntness of the response. He laughed without realizing but stopped when the old man didn’t. Harkov grew uncomfortable under the gaze of his elder, it was almost like the man was peering into his very soul.
“My name is James Cullen and I know what you seek.” said James, his gaze unwavering. Harkov laughed again and looked away dramatically before leaning forward in his seat.
“Something funny?” James asked, this time with a much more relaxed tone.
“No, forgive me. Just confused is all.” Harkov answered. Harkov looked at the floor and mulled over his thoughts for a bit before breaking the silence.
“Tell me then James, what is it that I seek?” Harkov asked, not looking up from the floor.
“You are curious about your place as an Eagle,” James answered, adjusting in his seat so he was more comfortable.
“How did you..”
“We’ll get there my boy.” James interrupted with a wave of his hand.
“Let me tell you why you are here son.” James said as his eyes seemed to dim and go somewhere far far away.
“I chose you to revive something The Order has been without for far too long.” Harkov was silent, not sure if he should ask what or just stay silent. The fire now gave the room a comfortable warmth and filled it with a smokey smell that soothed Harkov and allowed him to feel less defensive.
“I am the last of a small sect of the Eagles known as The War Eagles. We fulfilled a role that is much different from the traditional Eagle.” James said, a surprising intensity filling his eyes.
“We were the perfect union of fury and honor. We were heroes. The Great War was our golden age.”
“Brother Cullen, what does this have to do with me?” Harkov interrupted.
“Everything. I want you to be the first of a new generation of War Eagles.” James answered, his tone intense.
“I’ve seen you training. I was the one who requested you to become an Eagle.” James leaned forward and looked deep into Harkov’s eyes again, seeming to look in his soul. Harkov returned the stare in kind, pondering what to say. This was a strange turn of events and Harkov was not sure what to think, let alone say.
“Harkov I want you to become my pupil, to take up the mantel that only a brave few have ever held, and eventually, I want you to replace me as their leader.” Harkov could not hide his shock and his mind raced as he gave out an exasperated breath. Harkov thought back to why he joined the Order. How he wanted to fight for peace and for those who couldn’t fight for themselves. Maybe this was the path Arnath had laid out for him. James began to speak but was cut off by the young Neophyte.
“I accept. I will become a War Eagle.” The room was quiet, but for only a moment. James gave a sigh that sounded as if a weight had been lifted from his shoulders. He stood, moving towards the bed. Harkov looked down at his hands, nervous and unsure of what he had done. Harkov heard James stop in front of him and looked up and saw in James’s hands a plain greatsword.
“Take this my boy. We must begin your training with haste. We only have a week before you deploy to Daven’s Reach.
“Thank you master.” Harkov took his new blade. It was a comfortable weight. The blade felt strong but agile. James made his way towards the door before turning to Harkov and saying.
“Let us begin.”

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