The arrow flew through the air, striking the deer in the heart, killing it instantly. Tobias was grateful for the accuracy of his newly crafted bow. He walked over to the stag and examined it briefly before loading it onto his shoulders and beginning the hour long walk back home.
He was hauling his kill home when he saw his neighbor, Charles McDaggen, sitting on a fallen log, looking very dejected, and holding a broken bow. Tobias approached him and asked, “Charles, are you all right?” The craftsman looked up at him, saying, “I broke my bow, and with the fair not being for another two weeks, I won’t have the gold to get a new one until then. But the kids are going to need food in the meantime.” Tobias sighed, already knowing what he should do, but feeling a little torn about it. It wasn’t like the craftsman had ever done anything to help Tobias, if anything he had only been rude to him. But, he needed help, and Tobias could give it to him. Tobias dropped the deer carcass in front of Charles and said, “If you skin and gut that properly it should be enough to last you until the fair.” Charles looked at the deer for a moment before jumping up and embracing Tobias. Tobias tensed uncomfortably, patting the weeping man on the back a few times before Charles released his grip. “I don’t know how I can ever repay you,” Charles said, his eyes brimming with tears. “Just don’t break your bow again.” Tobias replied before walking back into the forest. He needed to find some more dinner.
A couple weeks after this event Tobias came home to find his mother admiring a sculpture of a flower with sparkling petals. He sighed. “Another trinket from a wounded traveler with no way to pay?” She smiled at him, the wrinkles that were now surrounding her eyes becoming more pronounced. “No son, this one is a gift for you; Charles left it here this morning before heading to the fair. Said it was repayment for the deer you gave him.” Tobias walked over and examined the small statue. He shrugged, “Should fetch a good price at the market, maybe enough to get us the shingles to replace the roof before they give out on us.” Annalee shook her head “Oh no! We can’t trade this, it was a gift! And look how beautiful a gift it is.”
She took it from him and carried it to a small shelf where a number of other trinkets sat. Tobias sighed. “Mother, that wasn’t a gift that was payment. And if we sold it and all the other so called gifts that you’ve been given over the years, we wouldn’t be living in a half broken down shack!” He was breathing a little heavily at this point. Annalee smiled sadly and shook her head at him before saying, “Oh son, you already know that I’ve never wanted to be rich. A true healer can never be focused on money or riches, because then she loses all desire for people to be healthy and happy.” She picked up a small bronze necklace, letting the chain run through her fingers “How could I ever make someone pay for the chance to be healthy, or run again, or hold on to life? Those are priceless and as such I will never accept payment more than what I need to continue to heal others.”
Tobias glared. “Well, that would be easier if we had had a man around here when I was growing, or even now.” Annalee frowned at him. “Honey, we’ve talked about this many times; you know why your father hasn’t come back.” “No, I know all the excuses you’ve made for him. Besides, even if he couldn’t come, you could always have remarried.” She shook her head. “I made a promise that I would love your father and be faithful through better or worse. We’re just going through a worse that has lasted decades.” Tobias threw his hands in the air. “What’s the point of a promise to someone who will never be able to honor their end of it? He hasn’t come back and he never will!”
He stormed to the corner where his bow and quiver lay. His mother glanced at it and said, “You can’t be too angry with him. You still use the returning sheathe that he gave you.” Tobias looked at the gilded strap that held his bow in place, a glare still evident in his eyes. “A cheap one trick present that’s been more useful than he’s ever been.” His feet pounded as he walked towards the door. “Thirty years since he’s been here and that’s the one thing he’s given us!” He slammed the door behind him. After the window stopped rattling from the outburst, Annalee closed her eyes to keep the tears in and whispered, “He gave me you.”
Forty three years later
The cleric placed the damp cloth gently on Annalee’s wrinkled forehead before standing up. He then walked over to Tobias, placing a hand on the Aasimar’s shoulder. “I’m sorry Tobias, but it looks like it’s just her age. I could come back tomorrow with some better spells prepared to combat the fever, but I don’t believe it will buy her much more time, and she says she’s ready to go.” Tobias looked the elven cleric in the eyes, no emotion showing on his face, and said, “Just come back tomorrow with the spells.” The cleric bowed his head and walked out the door. As soon as the door shut Tobias ran to his mother’s bedside. He checked the cloth on her forehead and, finding it satisfactory, he took her gently by the hand. Annalee’s eyelids fluttered open, and she smiled at Tobias. “Don’t worry, son. It’s just my time.”
Tobias gently rubbed her hand “Not while I have anything to say about it. Is there anything I can get you?” She thought for a moment and then sighed, “It would be nice to smell some angel breeze flowers.” Tobias bit his lip. The nearest patch of those was deep in the forest. Even running it would take him at least an hour. Tobias kissed his mother on the forehead. “Ok, I’ll go get some.” Annalee smiled at him. “I’ve always been able to count on you. You’ve been so good to me.” Tobias stood up. “I’ll be back as soon as I can.” She closed her eyes. “You be good now.” “Of course, mother.” He stood up and left the room. As soon as he left the room, Annalee let loose a shudder and whispered, “Goodbye, Tobias.”
Before entering the house again, Tobias stopped to catch his breath and fiddled with the bouquet to make sure it hadn’t been too badly messed up. After assuring it was fine, he stepped inside. He froze for a moment as he saw a tall winged figure kneeling next to his mother’s bed. With his bow on the other side of the room, his only means of defense were his fists, so he dropped the bouquet and raised his fists before shouting “Who are you?” The figure stood and turned towards him. The stranger stood at least two feet taller than Tobias, was dressed in flowing white robes, and carried a large trumpet in his right hand. The most striking feature, however, was that he had no pupils, just glowing white eyes. Even though Tobias had never met this man before, he instantly sensed who it was. “Dad?” he asked softly.
The angel nodded. “Hello Tobias, I am Mithrail, third Sentinel of Mezotan. I had hoped to meet you under better circumstances. Unfortunately my duties have kept me from coming sooner.” Mithrail hung his head. “And it seems that I came too late to save her.” Tobias inhaled sharply. “What? No!” He ran past Mithrail to his mother’s bed. Her eyes were closed and she wasn’t breathing. “No, no, no, no.” He whispered. He heard Mithrail’s melodic voice from behind, “I’m sorry, Tobias. There was nothing I could do. She told me to let you know that she loved you and–” Before he could finish, Tobias shouted while standing up, “You be quiet, you worthless excuse of an angel! All these years you’ve been utterly useless and now even when you’re here you’re useless useless useless! Get out of here!”
Mithrail stared down at Tobias with a stern expression. “Now, son, I’m sure that you’re distressed, but even so I will not tolerate being spoken to in such a manner.” Tobias stared directly into the archon’s eyes. “Fine,” Tobias growled, and then punched his father in the jaw. The blow didn’t seem to faze the angel. He just stared down at Tobias and said “Enough!” The command rang with an otherworldly energy that shook Tobias to his core, and he found himself unable to move. Mithrail walked towards the door and said, “I know that your mother would not have raised you to speak like this, and I will not tolerate it again. In light of this event I will let it pass this once.”
Mithrail paused at the door and spoke again, this time his voice much softer and gentler, “I made a grievous mistake in never checking up on you before. I can’t promise to be involved much more than I already have been, but I may be able to help you later. Goodbye, my son.” Mithrail walked out and shut the door behind him. Tobias stood there, no longer paralyzed by the shout’s effect but now by anger. He stood for only a few moments before looking again at his mother and then, dropping to his knees, began crying.
The funeral would have been unremarkable, were it not for the fact that an archon had placed his sword as the tombstone. It glowed with a heavenly light and, despite one thief’s best efforts, was not able to be lifted from the ground. Most of the town showed up, all of them at one time or another had been helped by the master healer, and many of them owed her their lives. Tobias didn’t care for their sympathies. None of their condolences would do anything to bring her back. He knew that his mother had lived much longer than should have been expected, but that couldn’t change the fact that she was now gone. Once the cleric finished speaking and closed the grave, Tobias laid a bouquet of angel breeze flowers on top of the mound of earth that now covered his mother. Upon returning home he began packing his bags. He knew he couldn’t take too much, since he would be carrying it all.
He filled one bag with all the trinkets his mother had collected over the years. He knew there was a merchant in the next town over that would likely buy them. He glanced around the room that had been his home for the total 74 years of his life, and then walked out without another look. His journey over the next few weeks was uneventful. Tobias had spent enough of his childhood roaming the forests that he could survive in just about any forest, as long as he didn’t meet anything too terrible. He also had a way with animals, so luckily he was able to calm most down without a problem. He wandered from town to town, not really knowing what he was looking for. It wasn’t until he overheard a conversation in a local village that he decided.
Tobias had been looking for an inn to spend the night, since his neck was beginning to get sore from sleeping on the ground and tree branches. Just as he was heading towards an inn that looked promising, he saw a dwarf with a wide brimmed hat speaking to a tall elf that had a large sword strapped to his back. The dwarf said “Aye, Saijon it be called. Only recently opened for free travel. A mysterious land full of treasure, monsters, and other adventures. I be lookin’ for passengers to join me on me ship, the Dainty Orc. What say ye, matey?” The elf shook his head and said “I’m sorry, Captain, but I’m a little too old for such a trip, and my days of traveling are through. In fact, I’m going to the market to sell this sword that has seen me through my years of adventure.” At this point, Tobias stepped in. “Excuse me, how much is passage to Saijon?”
The dwarf stroked his beard. “Only twenty gold for the trip. Ye look a bit young to be all on yer own, think ye can hold yer own against the perils of Saijon?” Tobias shrugged “I’ve been holding my own for a while now. As long as I have my bow I’m not worried.” The dwarf leaned in closer. “Aye, but what should happen if something gets close to ye? A manticore not be likely to wait while you fill it with arrows from a distance.” Tobias then turned to the elf and asked, “How much for your blade? I heard you were selling it.” The elf unsheathed the sword, and swung it expertly through the air with one hand while saying “Do you think you can handle it? With some practice it can be used with one hand, but works just as well if you use two. I’m not looking for much, since I have no more use for it. Just 35 gold pieces.” Tobias pulled out his gold bag and counted out the pieces for both the sword and passage on the ship. Tobias shook hands with the elf, and followed the dwarf to the ship.
Sailors hustled about, pulling ropes and carrying crates. The dwarf, who had finally been introduced to Tobias as Captain Griphook, walked about, shouting orders. Tobias stood at the rail, watching the dock grow smaller and smaller as the ship gathered speed and left the bay. Tobias looked up at the sky and whispered quietly, “I’ll show you, father. I’ll do great things and do them without you, just like I have my whole life.”