Volume 28: Raine Xavier Thornblade III - Part III
Volume 28: Raine Xavier Thornblade III - Part III
So I have had to split this final part of Raine’s bio into two parts. I want to keep it bite size as we go, so rather than try and give it all at once, there will be one final post following this that will wrap up Raine’s intro. I also wanted it to be known here, that even this is an abbreviated version of the full story.
So it was, Raine did begin taking more of a hands-on approach with his father and his work. Again this was not unusual. In fact most boys Raine’s age were already well into apprenticeships, usually following in their families line of work. Raine’s privileged status (and doting mother) however had allowed Raine to bypass this to some degree, instead allowing him to focus on academics and, much to his mother’s disapproval, daily combat training, which his father had arranged.
Regardless both his father and mother did take pride at this spontaneous interest. Raine could hear his mother talking with some of the other women in her circle over the following weeks about how, “Oh he’s becoming such a little man!” “He’s growing up so fast!” And so forth. It made Raine smile despite himself.
This was a magical time for Raine as well. For the first time in his life it seems he had caught his father’s interest. This was easily the most time he had spent with him... well ever! And though his father was still aloof and rarely showed emotion he was kind enough, and seemed to really be interested in teaching Raine about the family business.
During this time “The Stranger” returned often. She returned for the first time barely a week after their first visit. Raine awoke to her standing over him again but was un-startled. She stood above him smelling as he remembered, like warm tropical fruit and cinnamon.
“I haven’t found the medallion yet.” Raine said rubbing his eyes and yawning.
“I would not expect you to yet my young Raine.” She was staring at him with a look Raine couldn’t quite place. It almost looked like she had been crying.
“Are you ok?” Raine asked.
This seemed to instantly change her body language and for just the briefest of moments Raine could feel cold fury coming off of her. But this passed as she again sat down next to him and placed her arm around his shoulders.
“I am fine my love” she said smiling and gently pushing his hair out of his face. “I’ve come because things have changed...”
“Hey even I know you can’t change the rules in the middle of the game!” Raine protested more loudly than he had meant, and he quickly looked to his door expecting his mother to be there telling him to go back to sleep. When he returned his gaze to the stranger she smiled a jovial smile at him.
“Do not worry about your mother. She is safe and having amazing dreams right now. We will not be interrupted.” This she said producing a small bag Raine had not noticed until now. “And no the game still plays out exactly as before. Those rules have not changed. What has changed is how I will interact with YOU my dear boy.”
Raine was nervous at this but not in a frightened way. More in a way like when you are with an unfamiliar relative who is trying to force a conversation with you. “What has changed then?” Raine asked.
“I have told you some of my people possess the ability to divine another’s fate. I discovered something in you when we first met and now have had it verified by my sisters. They are all quite eager to meet you by the way...”
Raine again felt uneasy. “Found INSIDE me?”
At this the stranger laughed despite herself and tousled Raine’s hair. “Don’t be so frightful my boy.” But then a look of worry darkened her own complexion and she said a little more than to herself, “Then again maybe you should be...” she looked him up and down again. Smiled a sorrowful smile and stood in front of him.
“Raine I have been watching you for a long time and I know other things about you. I know you are tough and resilient. I also know you are very smart. Perhaps even a genius. Despite that, there are things that if I told you now… they would be... they would be meaningless to you...” Her eyes turned to the familiar yet waning moon for just a moment. “Anyway as such I have decided to train you.” She smiled a bright friendly grin at him.
“Train me? But when? What will my parents say?” His mind was racing with the implications. “Plus I’m already playing your game, working with my father, keeping up with my studies, I don’t know when I could have time...”
She shushed him lightly and placed her hand on his shoulder. “My boy my boy. Please don’t continue to be nervous. To all things there is a time. I will train you at night.” She smiled at him again.
“When will I sleep?” Raine asked regaining his calm.
The stranger still smiling a motherly smile at him, reached down and picked up the bag she had brought with her. “I have brought you something better than sleep dear Raine.” At this she produced a small jar filled with a brown liquid. “Do you like dessert?” She unscrewed the lid and handed it to Raine.
Raine held it gingerly and took it to his nose and smelled it. Much to his initial surprise it smelled wonderful, hard to explain, like sweetness and spiciness.
“Go on. Try it.”
“I... I do like dessert...” Raine said actually feeling quite confident and a little bit excited. His mother NEVER allowed him to have candy and treats but on the rarest of occasions. Raine sipped the drink at first but found it so delicious before he knew it he had chugged it down to the last drop. It tasted like it smelled, sweet and spicy like cinnamon with a bizarre but not entirely unpleasant coppery aftertaste.
The stranger once again stroked his hair lightly taking the jar from him, lidding it, and placing it back in her bag. “And how was it my boy?”
Raine started to respond but caught himself as he felt a warmth and power spread throughout his body. In a few short moments Raine felt powerful and awake. He felt he could run a marathon. His senses seemed hyper aware. He was easily able to hear his own heartbeat. He became aware of all the sounds around him. He could even here his mother’s deep gentle breathing a few rooms away. He smiled and looked at the stranger. But then a sudden realization spread over him. He could hear quite literally EVERYTHING down to the rats scurrying in the alley outside his window, but when he looked at her... he could not hear any heartbeat.
The stranger looked at him.. “My you are clever. As I said before likely a genius.” She reached down to take his hand but he jerked away slightly.
“Your heart. Why don’t you have a heartbeat?” Raine looked at her in a spectrum of emotions.
“As I had mentioned there are many things that I could attempt to explain to you now but they would be meaningless to you. However I will tell you one thing. Something you will not understand but I will tell you anyway. It is the reason I am here to train you.”
Raine’s demeanor slackened and he gave her a determined look and nodded.
She gave him the briefest of looks and this time took his hand and looked directly into his eyes. “Raine... Dear Raine.” She paused. “Raine it is true you have a destiny. THAT is what I sensed inside you. But to call it a destiny is... also not entirely accurate. Yours is a destiny... a FATE... so profound that even my sisters and I are having a hard time quantifying it.”
“Kwan to fighting it?” Raine said looking at her.
She laughed slightly. “Putting it into words. Which I seemingly just illustrated” She laughed again. “The point is you must be ready for whatever lies ahead and it has been decided, I will be the one to help train you for this... fate... that you are set to meet.”
Raine felt the power from the drink coursing through him. He felt confident and strong. This time he stood up to face her. “I feel like I could do anything right now!” He stood full of resolve.
“Very well Raine. Let us begin.”
And so it was that almost nightly the stranger would return to him, each night with one of her “special drinks.” Raine figured out right away they were no regular “dessert.” It was obviously some kind of potion. Whatever it was Raine found it hard to say he didn’t enjoy it. Each night they would sneak out his window and into the city where the stranger would train him in all manner of things. She taught him stealth, how to climb, how to hide and when it benefited them, how to run. Whatever was in this potion gave him supernatural endurance and more. He was never tired. When they ran at a full out sprint he could easily tell he was running faster than he had ever ran before. Maybe faster than ANYONE had ever run before?
They would always return to his home an hour or so before sunrise, usually with Raine protesting the entire way home. The Stranger always felt amused by this but said little. Raine also felt he was very much enjoying these outings. His relationship with this “stranger” was very much like a mother training her son. Much like his real mother taught him his academics with a loving but determined hand, so the stranger approached his night studies.
During the day Raine experienced no fatigue or loss of function. He continued his academic studies at home, and traveling with his father about the city learning more and more about the family business. Truth was, he thrived here as well. He was voracious to learn, flying through books that had once taken him weeks to finish in a day. He began requesting bigger and thicker books from the libraries about the empire, which his mother found delightful.
Unfortunately things did not blossom as well with his father. Nothing violent or bad necessarily happened but after a few months his father once again seemed to lose interest in him. His father’s interest began to once again turn to traveling to far off lands and collecting exotic treasures. This saddened Raine initially but in the end he decided it was just another challenge to overcome.
By the time his father left again Raine was 9 years old. However, Raine continued to travel around the city in his father’s stead keeping up with daily affairs. Much to Raine’s surprise his father’s workers found no problem with this. In many ways they respected Raine more than his father. He was even headed and had extremely clever solutions to often difficult problems. His reputation in the city was growing.
Each night Raine would have stacks of his father’s books and documents sent to his room. When night training was over he would pour through these looking for some sign of the medallion he had been charged with finding, what seemed now, to be a lifetime ago. Unfortunately, he had as of yet been unable to locate it.
In the city Raine lived in things continued to prosper. The empire expanded at a seemingly insane rate but the truth was, most people in the city paid it no mind. The wars and battles happened far away from the cities they lived in so why should they think about it?
Then, just before Raine’s 10th birthday 2 things happened. One was Raine found the medallion. Or it should be said he found out where it was. It had been purchased by one of the highest ranking senators in the empire as a gift for his daughter. That is where it must be. However the morning after finding this out, he was struck with heavy news by his father who had just returned from another one of his excursions. They would all be moving away. Raine’s father explained that all of his years as a loyal subject to the senate had come to bear fruit, and he was being reassigned as a governor to one of the outlying regions. He was being given a title, additional servants, and a significant portion of wealth. They would be leaving by the end of the week.
Raine’s mother was excited and lavished her husband with kisses and compliments. Raine however felt only despair. He now had less than a week to win the game. What would happen if he didn’t win? Would his night training stop? Would he no longer be able to see his beloved stranger again? His father could see the look of anguish on his boys face. His father approached him.
“There there boy this will be a great time for you too! You have done exceptionally well at our business in my absence. And I am very proud of you.” Raine’s father looked down at him and smiled. Raine himself was taken aback by this rare praise from his father and was rendered quite speechless. “Once we are set up there you can focus entirely on your own studies if you wish. I think you could be a senator one day my boy!” He placed his hand on Raine’s shoulder and squeezed.
“Thank... Thank you father.” Raine managed. This was perhaps the most affection he had ever received from his father. Moments later his mother came and all but scooped him up planting kisses on his face. “My boy! A senator! Oooooh!” She placed him down with a hug and rushed off to start making preparations for the move. And soon his father left too. And Raine stood alone in their morning room with only his thoughts.
That night when the stranger returned to Raine, who looked at her forlorn.
“I know.” she said, her mouth slightly downturned.
“What will I do?’ Raine said searching.
“First thing you will do is gather hold of yourself.” She said this flipping him a familiar jar. “I did not raise you to sulk.” She said winking at him. This brightened Raine slightly.
Raine chugged the drink as usual. Though by now the drink was much redder, having changed slowly over time. Slowly losing much of its sweetness and spice, and becoming overwhelming more and more copper like in taste. Raine found he liked it all the same though. Perhaps even more so…
“You are right.” Raine said now full of power. “I will retrieve it tonight.”
“No.” She replied.
“What?” Raine replied.
To this she produced a small candle and sat it in Raine’s window. Then she turned to him and said, “I have lent you power for quite some time now. But to win the game we started so long ago you must do it on your own. Tonight we will scout the home together. But then I will not see you again. Not until you acquire the medallion. When you have done this light this candle and place it in the window. Then I will know the game is over and I will come to you.” She ran her hand through his hair as she was often to do and looked at him with care.
Raine knew she was right. And he knew he was ready. He offered no protest or question. This was the time. The time to prove himself.
That night they scouted the home. It was a massive estate not far from the senate proper. It was of course guarded by nearly a dozen personal soldiers who patrolled constantly day and night. In the west wing, on the second floor, a light shone into the night. This they determined to be the daughter’s room. This is where Raine would find his prize.
That night when they returned to Raine’s room Raine asked the stranger, “When we leave will I see you again?” Raine found himself emotionally stirred as he asked this.
She looked at him, a bit emotional herself and said, “I don’t know. I hope so. You are going quite far away and even though you still need much training I am bound to certain things here. We will have to see.” She pushed the hair out of his face again allowing her hand to linger slightly as she stared at him.
And then she was preparing to leave. Raine watched her and felt a tear rolling down his face. It made him angry that he felt this way. But then again maybe not anger. Frustration? His mind raced. Why should he care about this woman who hadn’t even given him her name. Yes she had trained him, but to her own ends right? So he could win this game? And despite this the next thing Raine knew he was grabbing hold of her from behind and burying his face into her crying.
“I don’t want to go!” He cried. At first the stranger seem quite taken aback but only for the briefest of moments and then she turned to him and returned his embrace. She gently stroked his head and after a time she kissed him on the forehead and gently pushed him away.
“I apologize. I do forget sometimes that despite everything you are only 10.” She smiled a motherly smile at him. “Now what have we said before my love? No self-pity. No tears. You have a destiny to fulfill.” She laughed slightly and shook him making him laugh too. “You are strong Raine and training you these last couple of years has made me feel like I had a son of my own. I BELIEVE in you Raine. You will rise to meet your fate.” With this she grasped his shoulder one last time and moved toward the window. “Light the candle when you have the medallion Raine. We will talk again then. And Raine… My name is Celestial.” And when Raine blinked she was gone. Only the candle remained.
As the sun rose Raine began to prepare. He told his mother over breakfast he had affairs in the city he must attend too so he could not go to lessons today. She had grown quite used to her son doing his father’s business around town so paid it no heed and to be honest was quite distracted herself in preparing to move the household cross country. She insisted he take a snack from the kitchen to eat on his way through the city and left him with a kiss on the forehead.
By noon time Raine had walked by the house he was to rob several times. He saw the guards shared a similar formation and patrol as the ones at night. He studied their movements and began looking for gaps where he could make a move.
That night he dressed for stealth as he had been trained and prepared to head out. With the move being prepared for work in the house had continued into the deep hours, making Raine antsy to be able to leave without being noticed. Finally well after midnight Raine slipped out of his window and began to slink through the shadows to his destination.
He no longer felt the supernatural power he had before but found he had an awareness of his own body that was quite profound. Like the power he had was a great weight he had trained under and now he was light and able to move unburdened by it. It was a different type of exhilaration than he had experienced before and he liked it.
He reached the sprawling estate well into the wee hours. Just a sliver of a crescent moon hung heavily in the sky. Darkness covered everything like a greasy ink. This darkness was by now an old friend to Raine and he embraced its obfuscation and made his way silently to the window they had marked before. The light was off thankfully, so Raine began his approach. He climbed up the wall by the window using pillars and vines as foot and hand holds and crouched in the window when he arrived. He slowly slid it open and slid inside. Then all hell broke loose. Someone was in the room with her.
A dark stranger stood over the girl holding a rag to her face. But he looked up and made direct eye contact with Raine now crouching in the open window.
“Who in Hades are you?!” The man said in a loud whisper.
“Who in Hades are YOU?!” Raine returned at similar volume.
A fecund pause hung between the two both seemingly shocked at the encounter.
“What are you doing to her?” Raine demanded after a time.
“Knocking her out. And you’re next!” He began to make lithe quick strides towards him throwing liquid on the cloth he had just had to the girls face, then holding it out towards Raine as he approached.
Raine’s instincts kicked in and as the man approached and Raine steadied himself. The man lunged at him but Raine moved with a frightening alacrity and got behind the man. The man turned but Raine was quicker and he pushed him. The man became off balance and started to fall out the window, but as he did so he thru the vial of liquid he had been holding at Raine. It was a glancing blow across his face but the liquid splashed out covering the side of Raine’s head. It smelled terribly like chemicals and Raine instantly began to feel woozy. But as he looked he saw the man falling out the window, and screaming. Then there was a thud. Lights immediately began to spring up outdoors and Raine could hear guards rushing from what seemed like every direction. Raine could also hear what sounded like the ocean pounding in his head. What had this man splashed him with? It obviously had knocked out the girl. The room spun and Raine grabbed a bedpost to steady himself. He peered around the room sure he was about to pass out. Was this the end?
But then he saw it. The medallion! It lay right atop a small jewelry box on the girl’s nightstand! Raine stumbled to it knocking the box to the floor. He heard a guard downstairs shout something then footsteps racing up the stairs. But Raine clutched the prize. He held it swirling in front of his face for just a moment. “I’ve won...” He said smiling a drunken smile.
His knees collapsed from under him. On his hands and knees he knew his time was less than short. On the far side of the room he saw what looked to be a closet with its door slightly ajar. Raine began crawling towards it. What happened after remains a blur of sounds and images to him. He remembers what seemed like a lifetime crawling towards this open closet. He could hear doors being opened and closed coming closer and closer to his location. As he got to the closet door he lunged forward into it. As he landed his leg, by pure luck, kicked out from under him all but closing the closet door behind him. Sleep hung over Raine like a wet towel. With his last bitter amount of strength he crawled under a few dresses that lay on the closet floor, curled into a ball, and slept.
Raine awoke with a startle, drenched with his own sweat. His head pounded in the heat. He slowly realized where he was and in doing so was forced back to awareness as he threw the dresses off of him. As he did so he heard a clatter and then looked at his empty hands in a panic. He leapt to the dresses, ripping through them and there he saw it. The medallion. He stuffed it into his pocket and slowly stood up, his head feeling like it weighed a hundred pounds. The light seeping in from the closet door was blinding.
“No self pity. No Tears.” Raine winced, steadying himself. Then his training snapped back into place. His mission was not over. What time was it? Hearing no one in the room he peeked out. It looked to be well passed noon. Raine moved to the window but much more consciously. He glanced out the window and below saw a large red stain on the lawn. Right. That man had fell. That looked like a lot of blood. It all seemed like it had happened to someone else. Raine’s muscle memory took over and he climbed down and out and started making his way out of the estate. Unfortunately this proved to be much harder than getting in. The night’s activities had caused a flurry of activity so the patrols he had memorized were obsolete. In fact it looked like the military had been called in! Well that’s the power of being a major senator. It took Raine almost the entire day and afternoon to get out undetected. By the time he got home the sun was setting and he was filthy and exhausted. He entered his home amid a rush of servants still running to and fro preparing for the move. He thought he would come in unnoticed to his mother. He thought wrong.
“RAINE!” His mother yelled at him storming into the room. “Where have you been?! I’ve been worried sick! You are filthy and you stink!” She held Raine at arm’s length looking him up and down, both concerned and furious, like mothers do.
“Mom, I’m sorry, I had um, early, um...” Raines head was still swimming and was finding it hard not to just lay down and sleep there.
“Well Raine it’s fine if you want to go out and play with your friends since it’s your last few days here but I expect to be told when you will be leaving! Now you are absolutely filthy, and whatever that costume you’re wearing is it’s soiled. I’ll have the servant pull you a bath and I expect you to scrub every inch of yourself do you hear me?”
Raine found he couldn’t argue, surprised he had gotten off this easy and began to stagger towards the bathing room. As he walked away his mother called after him, “Raine my dear I had to pack a bag for you since you weren’t here all day. Your clothes and a few belongings are in my room. I’ve had all of your other belongings shipped off to our new home!” She smiled at him and then went running after a servant of hers moving one of her precious vases. At first Raine simply nodded at his mother and continued dragging himself towards the bath, but then the weight of what she actually said fell upon him. “Packed his things...” Raine stood bolt upright and began to run towards his room.
He all but trampled two servants in his way, throwing apologies as he went. When he skidded into his room his heart seemed to stop. Everything was gone. Everything. Including the candle.
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