Evenings in Arkhosia were said to have been beautiful in the years before the Drow Curfew. The torches that hung on the outside of Arkhosia’s most noble structures mixed a warm orange glow into the dusky night sky as the streets were warmed with an ubiquitous comforting heat as though the city itself were one large fireplace for the citizens to lounge in and gaze up into the gallery of lights that painted the heavens. The legendary evenings of Arkhosia’s past were now a myth, passed down by elders who can still remember those carefree days as the connotation of sundown in Arkhosia had become one of fear and panic. Only the cruelest of criminals haunted the alleys of Arkhosia in the pitch black night waiting for those who haughtily thought themselves exempt from the dangers of these hours. No victim would be ignored—with the exception of one fiery haired teen who had proven time and time again that she was not the vulnerable fool that these vultures preyed on.
It had been months since the first time Canna had taken a life, and since then she had taken many more. The naivety in this foreigner’s eyes had been replaced by a forlorn maturity that could be read by the well trained eyes of every pickpocket and stick up artist who prowled the corridors of Arkhosia at night. Tonight was no different as she slowly strode towards the usual haunt only to catch eyes with a dragonborn whose soft grey tone was barely visible from the shadows he crept in. The two exchanged a stare before the dragonborn reluctantly shooed the teen away with a dart of his eyes before he returned to his hunt.
Canna’s time among Grash Company was transforming her more and more into a legitimate soldier worthy of the title “mercenary”. Her frame was tanned, cut, and lean. Though her limbs were still thin they were toned to an impressive extent for a woman of her frame. Her clothes were no longer the dingy rags that made her synonymous with the homeless of the slums, but rather well tailored garments worn with pride. A longsword hung from her right hip and a long knife had been tucked into the outside of her left boot. Her youth and delicate features were still apparent from a quick glance, but her body language betrayed her looks with a fierce glare, stout and stern shoulders, and a confident scowl. Her muscles were stiff for every step she made on the Arkhosian streets, but the moment she swung open the door to the Dragon’s Den the tension in her body faded away as her defenses relaxed with a deep exhale and welcomed smirk.
“Canna!” The patrons had come to calling her by name to which she usually responded with an awkward wave before making her way to the bar to catch Garmin in the midst of his humble artistry.
“Hey Garmin. Usual tonight, but feel free to be generous with the ice. Gotta get up early in the morning.” Garmin’s stance barely changed, but the slightest twitch in his neck assured Canna that her order had been properly processed. She was about to walk away when the tender slid a drink down his counter and turned his full attention to the human teen.
“If you’re drinking with Cormag then tell the lazy prick to get up off his ass and get up here because I’m not going to hold this message for him all night.” There was no malice in Garmin’s tone, rather an exasperation that he begrudgingly held onto for a while longer as he poured Canna’s glass of rum before returning to his grind of catching the next order. Canna slapped a handful of silver on the counter, thankful to be rid of excess change, before settling down at her familiar table in the back with the goliath dragonborn already deep into his night of drinking.
“Oy, Canna! What took you so long!?” Cormag said with a goofy grin as he looked up to the teen with glossed over eyes. Canna shook her head before sitting down and taking an appreciative, albeit brief, sip of her drink and letting the flavors dwell on her tongue before swallowing. She sighed deeply as the spice spread throughout her mouth and finally settled in the back of her throat as she greeted her mentor.
“Ah nothing really. I just spent an hour or two after work thinking.” Canna replied, sitting back and savoring her drink for the moment.
“Uh oh,” Cormag utterly sarcastically with a wide grin. “That can’t be good.”
“Fuck you,” indignantly replied the teen before elaborating. “I figured…” She paused, waiting for the right words to gain their courage. “It’s probably about time for me to send a letter to my parents.” Cormag was pleasantly taken aback, but Canna was quick not to admit defeat. “I don’t want to hear any ‘I told you so’. I’m not homesick, and I’m only writing my dad. I’m just letting them know where I am, what I’m doing, and that I’m okay. We’re not going to start playing chess by the mail or anything.”
Cormag couldn’t shake off his inebriated grin as he tilted back his drink and basked in the moment. “I’m proud of you, but why just your dad? You don’t want the entire family to know?”
“It’s not that,” Canna corrected. “It’s just… Darek’s probably busy studying, being a mage, unlocking the mysteries of the universe—that sort of thing. If he’s been able to get over the fact I’m gone then I don’t want to cause him any distractions. And for my mom… well… Fuck her we’ve been over that.”
Cormag nodded, but rolled his eyes in frustration. Many a night has their drunken exchanges devolved into a rant about Jude Corbett and her horrid personality. “We have, but you should still talk to her. Family is family, after all.” Canna shrugged as she was used to after that sentiment was brought up. Her mentor could only sigh and take solace in the fact that her letter to her dad would be a start at mending their relationship at the very least. A short silence followed the exchange until Canna spoke up again.
“You know… you’ve never told me about your dad.” Cormag paused, perplexed at this notion. Had he really never explained to Canna who his father was? So much of what he saw in his dad was also in the rookie mercenary that he just assumed she knew, but he realized he had never spoken on his father to the teen. He sat back for a moment drinking deeply from his bottle before getting lost in an amalgam of emotions and memories. His inebriated grin slowly morphed into a reminiscent enjoyment, but his powerful golden eyes hung with the pang of regret to prove not all memories were so blissful.
“My pa was… he was a good man. He lived on the other side of the wall before the drow attacked. He was just a pup at the time, but he and my grandparents lived out on a farm and enjoyed a relatively uneventful life despite the war. However my dad would often tell me about the day that changed.” Cormag’s eyes became distant as he himself became captured in the tragic tale. “My pa used to tell me about these two big shrines to Melora that my grandpa carved out of this enormous oak tree that fell over during a storm. Said he spent months whittling these enormous chunks of wood into these monuments to Melora and placed them up at the entrance to his farm to let everyone know that these fields; their bounty was due entirely to Melora’s blessings. Then one day, my pa woke up and said he saw those two symbols burning, and that’s how they knew the Drow were attacking.
Canna gripped her drink tightly as she felt her muscles instinctively tense at the mention of their oppressors. She scowled, knowing full well where this story was already going if her impression of the Drow was true to their actual nature.
“By that point, the gods must have been already locked away I guess, because I could never comprehend such wanton sacrilege otherwise. My grandpa knew what was coming, so he told his wife and my pa to take a carriage and leave. Said that he’d stay behind to cover up their trail and make sure no one would follow them. He told them about a friend who knew back in Arkhosia, gave them a bag of gold, and then kissed them good-bye. Pa never saw him again. Last thing he saw as his mother rode away from their home in tears was the farm he grew up in burning.”
Canna instinctively spit on the ground, tired of letting the foul taste in her mouth soil her drink. “Fucking Drow. How do you put up with it every day? Every morning I wake up and want to go over that wall to get back at them for what they did to Uncle Leon. Don’t you want to get them back for what they did to your grandparents?!” Canna’s words hung with desperation as though she waited for her mentor to validate her motivations.
“I do, but I didn’t always. In fact, when I was your age I wanted to do everything but that, primarily because that attitude was the same thing my pa woke up with every day. Unfortunately for him, he wasn’t blessed physically. He was a laborer by trade, but not a soldier. Couldn’t swing a sword worth a damn, so he wanted to fight through me, his strong, titan of a son.” The mood at the table soured as Cormag worked through bitter memories he clearly dwelled on too often.
“Wait,” Canna uttered, as she tried to comprehend what was just told to her as though Cormag had just stated the sky was a dark hue of green. “Your father wasn’t a mercenary like you? I thought… I mean I just assumed that’s why you called it Grash Company.”
“Nah, my pa was a great man in many ways, but he wasn’t blessed with a frame worthy of his heart.” Cormag’s eyes fell upon Canna’s arms and he looked at them in the same way he reminisced about his father’s arms: so strong, but so very weak. “Grash Company isn’t named as a legacy; it’s named as an apology to the man whose ideals I mocked, to the man I ran away from, and to the man who died when I wasn’t even around. I left my home seeking a life of easy money and women all carried by my physical gifts, but when I finally learned my father died I became lost in trying to understand just what it was that made him want to go over that wall so much.”
“He wanted to bring about a change.” Canna confidentially replied. Cormag, reluctantly bowed to her observation, though he doubted her true comprehension of the matter.
“I always assumed he wanted me to go over the wall so that I could get revenge for his pa, but eventually I realized that my pa knew what dangers were on the other side of that wall, and that he’d never send his only son over there just to end some thirty year old vendetta.” Cormag seized Canna’s attention as his golden lenses flared with a passion the teen hadn’t seen since the day her uncle left. “He knew that someone needed to bring about change even in the face of the impossible, and it pained him to realize that person was never going to be him.”
Canna seemed unaffected by his words, perhaps due to her own devices keeping her from ever believing that the veteran mercenary would doubt her ability to survive on the other side of that wall. She seemed inspired by Cormag’s words instead of detracted, but the grizzled merc knew he could get through to her in time. He instead smiled and let his thoughts continue unimpeded by the filter a sober mind would impose. “That’s why I’m glad I have you. You give me a chance to repair the same rift me and my dad had…”
The teen was taken aback. She initially assumed it was a teasing remark—perhaps some roundabout insult about her skill that he was setting up to. But as she watched his expression melt into a comforting stupor she realized it wasn’t a rib, and warmth she hadn’t felt since she was a child emerged in her smile. She thought it best not press her mentor for any details and instead opted to leave him in his inebriated state for the remainder of the evening. She quaffed the last of her rum and stood up to leave before a small reminder struck her as she was about to head off. “Oh, Garmin says he has something for you at the counter. I don’t know what it is, but it sounds like he’s tired of holding onto it for you. Anyway, I’ll see you tomorrow.”
It took Cormag a couple of moments to realize he was alone again at his table, and even longer before he forced himself from his chair and stumbled over to the tender. Garmin shook his head as Cormag hunched over his bar and slurred out a sentence that Garmin could barely piece together. “You’ll probably want to sober up before you read this.”
With that he handed the mercenary leader a thin envelope that smelled of a rich, earthly tone and was sealed with an authentic, royal imprint. Cormag could never grasp why something bearing an official seal would be sent to him, so he quickly sliced open the envelope and scanned the contents. Inside was a letter, signed by Dwarven nobility, with a daunting request directed at the leader of the famous “Grash Company”.
Cormag’s relationship with Canna evolves to the point where he sees her as a daughter, but the same isn’t true in reverse until this moment. For the longest time Canna only looks at Cormag as someone she can relate to, but she never thinks to place him on the same level as Leon. When she realizes that his feelings towards her are paternal in nature, she comes to accept that she’s found someone to help mold her raw anger into something productive. That’s ultimately what Cormag has been doing. Just as he’s taught her the right way to swing a sword he’s also tried to remove the vitriol she has towards Jude, and simultaneously tries to mold her passion into something positive. Without someone to do that, Canna is borderline self-destructive with her focused hatred of the Drow. If someone can pull her back, then she can see the bigger picture. Luckily in the game Zelas may do just that, so hopefully things will start to go better for Canna.
As for Cormag, his relationship with his own dad is a bittersweet one. He essentially did the same thing Canna did where he ran away from home and decided to pursue the life he wanted. Unfortunately for him, no one was there to guide him when he reached his destination, and it took the death of his father to make him reevaluate his life. He’s ultimately a better person for it, but he’s also a tad bit arrogant in the idea he can “cure” Canna and prevent her from undergoing the same mistakes, but all of that will be told in great detail next week.
Also, I had silver pieces. Fuck them.