Anyone who has read my writing knows that I enjoy putting a twist on common tropes. In this case, the "Chosen One of the Prophecy" trope. It's also my first Dungeons and Dragons-style Fantasy story. Enjoy.
When Darkness encroaches, the Chosen will rise
The Mother of Heroes, and the forger of ties
Protects and defends him, the saviour of all
Without them together, the world will fall
The bard and the scholar join hands at their side
With the rogue and the warrior, onward they ride
Foes come, relentless, to steal the child
Stand strong, young mother, against forces wild.
-Prophecy spoken by the Sage of Windemere, presumed applying to Vaneria and Herron of Dimholt’s Keep
*Archivist’s note: Subjects of prophecy are proving reluctant to comply. Suggest that any Mentors wear enchanted armour at next attempt, and recall that just because something doesn’t look like a weapon, doesn’t mean it can’t be used as one.
*Apprentice Adventurer’s note: I know prophecies are important, but can we let this one sort itself out? The healer laughed at me, last time I got sent after them. She fights dirty.
There weren't always dragons in the Valley of Shadows.
That was generally a good thing, because valleys, as a whole, tended to be flamable, and the majority of dragons flying about tended to be either hunting, or looking for a fight. Picking a fight with a dragon was a terrible idea unless you had a lot of powerful back-up, in which case it was only a highly-questionable idea. Adventurers who enjoyed living tended to avoid such quests.
One of those who had lived long enough to become an ex-Adventurer, Vaneria grumbled to herself as she rode Luna down the gloomy forest path, cursing her siblings and wishing that she was practiced enough with magic to make the curse stick.
There was an old pear tree in the garden of Vaneria's childhood home; a brief animation spell when anyone tried to pick the fruit would provide plenty of excitement for certain family members who didn't grasp that being a mage didn't automatically translate to wanting to go off on a quest every other day!
Yes, she had been an adventurer, but that was years ago when she was younger. No-one would call Vaneria ‘old’, by any stretch of the imagination... but some wounds had healed worse than others, and her body was no longer so forgiving of weeks spent sleeping rough, wrapped in a cloak against damp or cold. Besides, she had responsibilities now, and couldn’t just drop everything because her siblings decided that her life needed more excitement.
Fine, threatening to see how much excitement her sister got from having her own wand shoved somewhere unpleasant and anatomically improbable might have been going a bit far, but the point remained that her life was hers to decide, not theirs to play with at whim!
Luna, the moon-wolf who doubled as security and an occasional mount when she needed to get somewhere fast, suddenly stopped, sniffing the air. Vaneria instantly reached for her dagger, going on high alert; Adventurer she was not, but moon-wolves were highly attuned to magic, and it was better to be cautious. She dismounted as a bush rustled... and a tiny figure toddled out, clad in a small tunic and dragging a equally small blanket behind them.
Vaneria blinked and sheathed her dagger. No fell creature in disguise, but if that unfortunate baby wasn’t doomed to become a mage at the least, she was a duck. The cloud of prophecy hung heavy about him, too, and for a moment, Vaneria was tempted to leave him to fate. Prophecies were nothing but trouble, and she had endured more than her fill of them.
Yet, he was only a baby, barely walking. Even as she watched, he overbalanced, sniffled a bit as he looked around expectantly for someone who failed to appear, and began crawling until his hand found a sharp stone. He wailed, the kind of noise designed to bring parents running, and began to cry in truth when said parents again remained absent.
Orphaned or abandoned or both? Vaneria sighed, giving up on the pretence that she would ever be able to turn away from someone truly in need. Walking over, she scooped him up, drying his tears with the corner of her cloak and reaching into her pouch for a dab of healing paste. The baby sniffled, cuddling into the warmth she generated, and Vaneria did her best to wrap the blanket (embroidered with a bird and the word Herron - perhaps the child’s name?) around him one-armed, cursing up a storm in the silence of her mind.
Well, there was an inn only a few miles on, and it would be easier to seek out any family he might have from there. He was old enough that a wet-nurse would not be necessary, at least, and the inn had more than enough food to feed an extra mouth for a week or so. Gods knew he wasn’t likely to survive the night on his own, with the weather growing colder by the minute and the number of animals who wouldn’t hesitate at an easy meal this close to winter.
Wrapping him more firmly in her cloak and suppressing a shiver at the touch of his cold skin against her collarbone, Vaneria awkwardly re-mounted, and urged Luna on. “Hush now, little Herron. You’ll be safe soon."
The Inn was welcoming enough to paying customers, even if Vaneria did grit her teeth at their somewhat Xenophobic attitude toward non-human patrons. Somehow, something about the set of her cheekbones always had people questioning if she was part-elf. The answer was no, but that didn’t stop racist assholes from being racist assholes.
Unfortunately, the Inn was also currently the only inn in the forest. Travelling between her home and the small manor nestled in the woods that she and a necromancer acquaintance had just finished cleansing of the various forms of undead that had previously infested the place was a journey that took more than one day, and required stop-overs.
Come to think of it, the manor could be converted into a wayhouse with minimal effort, giving people a second option when they travelled through. It would also give Vaneria a permanent place to stay, and a ready excuse for why she couldn’t go on quests whenever her siblings wanted company in attempting to get win themselves an early grave.
Even if the only custom turned out to be from her non-human friends and acquaintances who came to stay, perhaps the location would cut down on the number of annoying relatives showing up to bother her. The lack of social contact might prove a problem with Herron’s development, unless someone else took him in, but that was a problem that could be dealt with later.
Speaking of Herron and being taken in, the constable was returning from checking the board. “No recent attacks with missing or fatalities, Madam, or any reports of missing children.”
That would have been too easy a fix, of course. Vaneria sighed. “Would you be able to keep me informed if any such notices arrive? I suppose that you don’t have an orphanage or anything of the sort.”
In a village this small, it was very unlikely, but still worth asking. The constable, who doubled as the village’s blacksmith and Headman, shook his head in the negative. “Not here, Madam. The closest foundling house is in Oakbridge, some twenty leagues hence.”
Of course it was. The obvious solution would be for Vaneria herself to take him in, but parenting was not something to be done on a whim. She was seriously pondering it anyway when a throat cleared from behind her. “That is not a problem.”
Vaneria turned, and instantly stifled a groan at the sight of every cliche about old wizards crammed into a single person. Shaggy, unkept hair, obnoxiously-bright robes that managed to look ragged despite the lack of patches and the clear expense of the cloth, a big hat and an ‘I-know-better-than-you’ expression. He was also looking at Herron with far too much interest. Vaneria tucked the child more securely on her hip and narrowed her eyes.
The wizard ignored her entirely, speaking directly to the constable. “The boy has an air of prophecy about him. I will be his guardian until the day comes that he must leave me.”
The constable, who did not strike Vaneria as the brightest star in the sky, nodded. “Good of you to take the boy in until his folks can be found.”
Vaneria, who had rather more first-hand experience with both wizards and prophecy, had taken a very different interpretation from the old man’s words. Herron was an infant, and for all of her inexperience, she could still do a better job than someone who would toss him out the door on a Quest as soon as they decided he was ready, because ‘Destiny’.
Destiny and prophecy, bah.
Vaneria switched Herron to the hip further away from the wizard and edged out of grabbing range, thankful that she had left her belongings on Luna. “No, that’s quite all right, I’m able to take care of him as long as necessary.”
The wizard looked shocked that anyone would dare to disagree with him - a common sentiment among wizards and Wise Old Mentors alike when confronted by someone with an inkling of common sense - and Vaneria slipped back out the door before he could recover. She mounted Luna, settled Herron in a makeshift sling, and was halfway down the road before the wizard collected himself to hobble out after her.
The indignant shouting that followed her out of the village put a smile on her face as Vaneria and Herron rode on swift paws to their new home.
The Manor was neglected, though not quite to the point of being a hazard.
It might still be a good idea to call in a few favours with someone who knew more about building and land management than she did, though. Structural integrity was always a concern with old buildings like this one, and ghosts and skeletons weren’t always a reliable indicator. Vaneria’s necromancer friend hadn’t left yet, but there were limits on what sort of tasks the undead could do.
The Manor had been built of solid stone, and the undead who had lived there had stunted the growth of any plant life that, unchecked by a gardener, might have caused problems. The furnishings would need to be replaced, and something done about the decor and windows, but the structure was sound, and everything else could be fixed.
Vaneria started mentally composing a letter to a Nature Elf friend of hers, who might be able to help her put in a kitchen garden, as she headed for the door, lifting the toddler in one arm and her saddlebags in the other. Luna yipped happily and darted away to chase shadows. By the time her rider gave up on the doorknob and kicked the lower corner of the door to un-stick it, the moon-wolf was back, a large rabbit between her massive jaws.
Vaneria carefully reached over to pat the wolf, and led the way in. “Welcome home, Herron."
You can also check out my completed original works on Amazon at the link below...
Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!
Compelling and original writing
Creative use of language & vocab
Easy to read and follow
Well-structured & engaging content
Original narrative & well developed characters
Heartfelt and relatable
The story invoked strong personal emotions
On-point and relevant
Writing reflected the title & theme