Chapter 1: Humble Beginnings
The misty mountains were wreathed in mist, from the rocky peaks which scraped the very fabric of the sky right down to the thickly wooded plains which lay at the base of the mountains.
Technically the misty mountains weren't a real mountain range, just a collection of very rocky hills which towered over the plains of the rest of the land. However anyone who had travelled to the misty 'mountains' would say that they were unlike any other hills in Terra Lucis. The tops of the hills were bare exposed rock which was wreathed in cloud like a mountains peak but completely devoid of snow. Below the jagged rocky peaks were dense forests which covered the hills completely.
These hills are one of the few places in Terra Lucis which appeared to be completely free from human habitation, but in actuality there was one small settlement nestles into the forest and set high in the hills.
As the sun rose in the east light was thrown across Terra Lucis signalling the beginning of another day. The little village of Hockley Heath in the Misty mountains however was still in complete darkness as the jagged peaks blocked the light until two hours after when the rest of Terra Lucis would awake.
The peaks blocked light In the village until two hours after dawn when the sun could be seen over the peaks, but even then little light would be able to filter through the mist which always hung about the hills. Due to the lack of light and constant mist in the hills, the village of Hockley Heath was unable to maintain any kind of beneficial crop. This combined with the harsh weather on the hills and the thick dense forest meant that it was extremely difficult to make a living in Hockley Heath.
The men of Hockley Heath boasted that few people were strong enough to live in such unforgiving conditions all year round. Though many people thought the villagers were crazy for staying in the hills no-one could deny that these people were perhaps the sturdiest in the land, as such they had a reputation for being a tough and tight knit community which cared little for past actions or ones birth right but instead judged a man by his work and determination, values that were vital for living in such circumstances.
Thanks to this attitude the village of Hockley Heath became a haven for those who wanted to hide from the rest of the world. But contrary to popular knowledge this did not make Hockley Heath a hive of crime and debauchery, in fact the men and women of Hockley Heath were a very just people who were willing to ignore all past crimes and give anybody a second chance at life but if someone were to step out of line they quickly found Hockley Heath to be a very inhospitable place to be.
Without a Temple or local constabulary or detachment of soldiers Hockley Heath was run by the village elder Naiko. Retired from the famous ranger corps in the kingdom of Three Lakes Naiko was a very experienced huntsman and it was his expertise and teaching which allowed the hunters in Hockley Heath to make a living in this remote town. Known for his gruff but affectionate nature Naiko was a simple man who had few cares in life. The master huntsman could often be found teaching the boys of the village how to hunt, settling the few quarrels in the village or playing with his beloved daughter Katelyn.
While Naiko was the man that most in the village considered to be a father figure, Lena Solitz the owner of the only pub in Hockley was considered to be the mother hen of the village. After losing her husband and sons to war Lena had moved to Hockley Heath to escape her woes and had taken over the local pub just so that she might have something to do but instead found herself mothering all the children and quite a few of the adults in the village. While Naiko was the authority on all quarrels in the village it was Lena who the villagers went to for advice. From parenting problems to lovers tiffs Lena was considered the most experienced in all of Hockley.
The unofficial assistant to Naiko and Lena was Domitan De Savros, a man with a Mediterranean complexion and salt and pepper hair Domitan was the village smith and a kindly character. A caring man who appeared to have no temper to speak of was greatly liked by all the villagers even though he was one of the younger additions to the village. He had arrived a dozen years earlier with a baby boy in his arms after travelling with the caravan which made two trips to Hockley a year.
The villagers were initially curious about the lone man and child but any who got to know him could see his utter devotion to the boy and both man and child quickly wormed their way into the hearts of the villagers. Finding the village smith to be an elderly man who wished to spend more time with his grandchildren Domitan offered his services to the smith in return for lodgings, claiming to have been a smith in his old land. Wary of the young man who was averse to talking about the past of himself and his child the smith reluctantly allowed him a trial period if only for the sake of the young boy who could have been no older than a year and a half old.
The elderly smith was surprised and delighted to discover that the young man was every bit the master of smithing that he was and it quickly became apparent that his abilities surpassed those of the elderly smith. And so Domitan became the village smith and his son Leonard became the latest chick for Lena to mother over. When asked about his skill and his past Domitan always became evasive and refused to answer but the villagers shrugged it off and accepted the father and child at face value. Until the day he died five years after Domitan arrived at the village the elderly smith maintained that Domitan was much more than he appeared and suspected that he was much more talented with the forge than he let on but like the rest of the villagers he left Domitan to his own devices.
Over the years Domitan firmly established himself in the small community and quickly became invaluable to the village as he was one of the only people in the village who could create high quality weapons. Though Naiko was able to create and maintain weapons as it was part of his training as a ranger he freely admitted that any weapon he forged was just about adequate for hunting and would not stand up very long to strain while Domitan's weapons were of a superior quality which one would expect a noble Lord or Knight to wield. This fuelled suspicions that he was more than he appeared to be but most were grateful for the quality weapons and left it at that.
As Leonard grew up in Hockley he noticed that he was one of the few children who actually enjoyed the way of life in the village. Though almost all of the children were born in the town and used to the hard way of life many still wished for something different and it wouldn't be unusual to hear the young boys dreaming of how one day they would leave the village to go adventuring around the world or set make their own fortunes in the big wide world while many of the young girls would dream of some Lord coming to sweep them off the feet and take them away from the village and take them to their castle where they would be pampered. Leonard found these dreams to be rather humorous and thought that his peers were rather delusional if they actually expected this to happen. The only other person Leonard found time for was Katelyn, Naiko's daughter. She, like him found life in the village to be a real challenge and enjoyed it to the fullest.
Katelyn was two years older than Leonard but it did not stop the two children becoming the best of friends at a very young age. Both devoted themselves to learning their fathers trade and achieving the same level as mastery that their fathers had. Leonard learn the basics of smithing from a young age when he would watch his father work the forge while he kept up a commentary of what he was doing and why. Both son and father would often be found in the Forge having conversations on everything from designs for better forges to history and politics. Domitan was a very knowledgeable man and passed on everything he knew to his young son who devoured every topic they discussed.
By the age of ten it wasn't unusual to find Leonard working the forge while his father watched him with a critical eye and questioned him on his actions. While most children would be nervous under such pressure Leonard flourished having had such conversations with his father with the roles reversed. It became apparent that Leonard had definitely inherited his father's ability with metal and fire as well as his keen mind and cool temper however he didn't look at all like his father. When asked about this Domitan would simply shrug and say that the boy took after his mother with a wistful look in his eyes.
On his eleventh birthday Domitan told Leonard that there was little more he could teach him now and told him that he had arranged for him to learn a few other things over the next few years. So for the next three years Leonard studied medicines and healing at the knee of the mysterious village healer Margaret, hunting and tracking was taught to him by Naiko who told anyone who would listen that the boy was a natural hunter almost as good as his daughter which was high praise indeed. The lessons which Leonard most enjoyed though were wrestling and hand to hand combat, which he learned from David the barman at Lena's pub. Leonard suspected that David used to be a thief or assassin or some other such character to have acquired such a wide skill in unarmed combat and sneaky fighting, this was confirmed when on his thirteenth birthday David began to teach him how to pick pockets, use lock picks and use his environment in a fight. The lessons with David became very erratic and usual. Sometimes they would be wrestling or boxing in one of the back rooms in the pub or David would have Leonard break into one of the houses in the village, he assured Leonard that they always had permission to do this. But Leonards favourite exercise was where he and David would start at opposite ends of the village hidden from each other and they would try to sneak up on each other and take the piece of coloured cloth each would have in their pocket.
By the time he was fourteen Leonard could sneak right up on someone and pick their pocket without them noticing, he could dress and heal any wound someone might have, forge any type of weapon, armour or tool he might need out of a wide range of metals and alloys his father taught him and he could track a deer for leagues in the dense forest, even over rock and through streams. He learnt what every sound in the forest meant and how to look after himself indefinitely in the forest. He was quite capable of making a shelter, be it permanent or temporary and hunting for food. But the accomplishment which he was most pleased with was his ability with a sword.
Where David taught Leonard how to fight hand to hand with dirty tricks Connor Browne one of the towns most esteemed residents taught him how to use a sword and shield, how to ride a horse in a variety of ways and discussed military tactics and the finer points of leadership with Leonard.
Connor's story was well known in Hockley, he had been a noble gentleman by birth and had trained to become a knight but barely a year after becoming knighted the sister of one his rivals accused him of rape, a crime he maintained he was innocent of, and he was stripped of his title and lands and banished from the Great Northern Kingdom for life. He sought out refuge in the Holy Kingdom after his exile and spent some time in the City of the Gods when he heard about Hockley Heath in the north of the Holy Kingdom and so he sought out the caravan which visited the village twice a year to trade for the quality deer hides and herbs which could only be harvested in the high hills and he hired on as a guard and when he arrived at Hockley he decided to settle down and spent his life teaching young boys and girls how to read, write and various other skill they would need in life. He did pass on his skills with the sword to any who asked and was only too happy to teach Leonard.
At age fourteen Leonard was a prodigy, he could forge blades as intricate and strong as his father, could hunt almost as well as Naiko and Katelyn, he could pick pockets, fight dirty, break into houses silently, knew how to deactivate and circumvent most traps used in homes, he could brew potions and poisons, identify and dress wounds, discuss any topic from military tactics to history and was rapidly becoming a serious danger with a sword in his hand. But despite all of his skills and the praise that his mentors and teachers put on him Leonard was a humble and kind boy who was always happy to share a kind word or help out a neighbour.
As Lena would often say to anyone who listened; "Leonard was a fine young man with a bright future ahead of him, he could do anything he wished. Indeed that boy was destined for great things" Lena did not know just how true her words were...