Truly, what even is a hero?
Are they the figures of myth, who dash head on into danger with a suit of armor heavy enough to be a cannonball? Or are they the heads of the government, who keep the populace safe? Legends always claim the former. Stories starring the Arisen, Gransys’s penultimate hero. When the people cried out “It’s the Arisen!” or “The Arisen has come to save us all!”, everyone was filled with hope. From the oldest scholar to the youngest merchant, people knew their homeland would be saved when 'Arisen' was spoken on the lips of others. The image of a gleaming silver knight surrounded by Pawns armed to the teeth swarmed their minds. Perhaps even designed upon the tapestry found in an alehouse.
This image is exactly the savior that Gransys needs in times of peril. A person that could face any challenge, no matter how big, and survive. May it be Cyclopes, cults, the Dragon or even God themself. No matter if they were in an ancient mountain or flooded ruin. To the farthest ends of Gransys they’d travel for the sake of the people. Nothing was beyond their blade. Nothing was unconquerable.
Now imagine how their faces dropped at the sight of their actual savior.
Imagine how they spoke amongst each other, in utter disbelief such a *liar* could save them. Some parlor-trick casting wannabe who would collapse after a spell or two. Someone who was dwarfed by their companions. A frail excuse of a human being.
With a face more effeminate than a noblewoman’s and a body just as dainty, there was no way such a person could ever be seen as a historical hero. They were just a useless member of a tiny, forgettable fishing village on Gransys’s southern coast.
As blood seeped into the pristine white sands below, the reality of it all came to a precipice. They were another casualty for the guards to count. Never again will the sunlight reach their eyes. Their fate...They were just...
Just another coffin to add to the graveyard.
A nobody doomed to die without ever amounting to anything.
Their fate borne from dreams of grandeur.
When waking up, more likely than not, the feeling of seagulls pecking at one’s ears would not be a pleasant experience. Their feathers get everywhere and their talons are covered in that morning’s recent catch. The beaks are hard and sharp, with a tendency to find the softest parts first. Unfortunately for a particular citizen of Cassardis, such an awakening was a common experience.
From under the flurry of white down and flashing yellow beak, a petite porcelain hand reaches through the chaos towards the window just above. With a tug and a slam, a ramshackle attempt at shutters close, trapping the birds inside a small adobe home. The birds caw and shriek at their realization of being trapped. Many of them scramble to find gaps in the shutters. Even more find no success.
Still sticking outwards from the amalgamous mass, the hand retreats back into the straw bed it had arisen from.
Then it rises.
The lump that had been hidden under a thin blanket to shield itself from the fury of the gulls brings itself back to this world. Birds scatter along with large clumps of golden straw. Groaning befit for a goblin shudders through the ever-rising mass.
A single gull in particular does not seem startled like its kin. Instead of scattering, it instead decides to hop forward and give a few inquisitive pokes to the lump’s head. Such action prompts it to wildly flail, bringing the blanket all around and covering half of the now-landed birds. The curious bird does not falter, now pecking at a tangled mass of white hair. Its head jerks to and fro, doing its damndest to remove some of the smooth strands for its own.
“Out! Out! You’re too loud! Out!” a hoarse voice calls out, laced with bitterness. A familiar hand waves out, shooing the tugging bird away.
“Move! I said no fish today! Go back outside!” the voice continues.
From under the blanket comes a cacophony of cawing protests. The brave bird moves to peck at the closed window in indication, gulling to its brethren. In turn, another unified cry from the mostly hidden birds. Such actions causes the newly revealed person to blow the unruly strands of snowy hair out of their face. With heavy gestures, they re-open the shutters. In a movement that is more suited to be called the opening of the gates of hell, the birds all flock out of the window at once, taking the blanket with them.
“Feed one bird and it’ll bring its whole family. How annoying.” the voice grumbles, falling back into the bed. A faint sliver of violet begins to close until it is abruptly ripped open due to a knock on the door and a distinct feminine voice calling out.
“Cos? I just saw a flock of gulls fly out of your window. Are you well?”
The still ambiguous human gives a sigh of exhaustion and rolls itself off the bed, landing with an ungraceful flop. Face-first.
“Ah! Cos? Di-Did you collapse? Should I fetch Benita?”
At first, there is no reply. Then, slowly, a groan of 'No' echoes through the empty bedroom. The feminine voice outside lets out a heavy breath of clear relief.
“Thank goodness you are unhurt. I really do worry about you, cos. Gulls are not safe animals to house. They’re quite unclean.”
It pauses, only to return twofold, startled and nearly embarrassed.
“O-Of course if you wish to give gulls a home, I have no problem with it! I’m simply worrying too much again like Pa says. Too big a heart.”
For another long moment, there is silence. Only soft padding and the distant cawing of gulls keeps everything functioning.
“C-Cos? Are yo--”
Yet, before the words can even come free, the plank door swings inwards. In the doorway, a young person stands, their oddly pale violet eyes deeply shadowed by dark circles. Their hair falls in thick and knotted rivulets down far past their shoulders, with strands curling and frizzing in places not thought humanly possible.
“I fed a gull once a week ago. They have yet to leave me alone since. Did you know they can open latches? Because I certainly didn’t. Brats stole all my fish.” the bedraggled person snaps dryly. Strangely, they don’t seem entirely too pleased seeing the woman standing at their door.
Deep brown hair that would put the richest soil to shame tumbles down past the woman’s waist, waves adding a quality not seen often in such a tiny village such as this. Concern is etched in both her ocean-colored eyes and tanned skin, much to the apathy of the home’s owner. In her hands is a basket full of assorted fruits, fish and breads, garnished with a common green herb. Meekly, she holds it out to the person, trying her best to smile despite her clear worries.
“Then you must be hungry then, eh cos? Heraldo had surplus and I thought it’d be a nice time to have breakfast. To raise spirits, no? With word of the dragon and all.”
At first, the scraggly stranger simply stares at her. They try their hardest to understand her words, it slowly registering in their sleep-addled brain. It takes many moments. When it clicks, they simply take the basket with the faintest of smiles.
“...Very well Quina.”
For just a moment, Quina’s worries wash away and are replaced by a deep sense of joy. A gleam of unbridled happiness lights up her already shining eyes and her face breaks into more of a grin than a smile.
“Do not worry cos! I am simply making sure you are well! A healthy fisherman is a productive fisherman, as they say.” Quina recites.
The moment her sentence trails off, she jumps and gasps in realization.
“Oh cos! I forgot! Benita wanted you to fetch some mithridate today. Cortese ate a rotten fish and got ill--again. I would go myself, but I’m afraid I promised Aestella I would aid her hurt ankle. Everyone truly is acting reckless...”
The stranger peers up at Quina from a mouthful of apple, eyes now wide. Though hair covers much of it, the long eyelashes are still obvious from behind the white curtain. Quina’s held tilts lowly, the red beaded necklaces around her neck clinging lightly as she does.
“Wh-When you finish, would you mind reuniting by Pablo’s Inn? A bit before dusk? I heard there is a lobster dinner at the Alehouse tonight. W...We can go together, yes?”
Too busy chowing down on their apple, the stranger is completely unawares of Quina’s reddening cheeks. Pale cheeks distended with fruit, they appear to think over her suggestion. It lasts a few moments until they swallow.
“Don’t see a reason why we shouldn’t. Inez makes an exceptional saurian tail with that batter of hers.”
With a nonchalant throw of the core, the stranger places the rest of the basket atop a large wooden crate near their door. They move to another part of the home as Quina is forced to stand in the doorway. When they reappear, their features are heavily concealed by a crimson cloak and hood. All that shows is the unkempt curls of white hair strewn about inside. The sight forces a startled inhale from Quina. Which she quickly hides behind a wary laugh.
“Your robe still frightens me so, cos. Had I not known better, I think you for an evil magician!”
Her companion only prompts a smug smile at her fear.
“Is that so? And here I thought nobody could think me so powerful. Waa-shah.”
Such sarcasm prompts a gentle giggle from the chieftain’s adoptive daughter. She turns up towards her cliffside home, giving a curt bow to her companion.
“Do stay safe in the meantime, cos.”
Yet as she’s about to leave, she stops. Her expression seems to darken by her own thoughts.
The cloaked friend stalls at the mention of their name. Locking eyes, they seem to stare each other down for an eternity. A tie only broken by the speaking of words.
"Please? He who is haughty is the first to fall.”
And with her ominous words, she heads back up the worn path. Leaving the cloaked figure to their own devices as midday sunlight begins to ascend above the familiar Cassardis cliffs.