By Natasha Weber
Published by Natasha Weber at Shakespir
Copyright 2018 Natasha Weber
“When you say the boy was ivory and the wizard was obsidian, what do you mean?” Clarice asked the Roc as he was telling her the story.
“All creatures of Dru were made of rock at first—excluding me. They were made of ivory or obsidian. That was just has things were. Until Connie changed things. Let us make a deal, sweet lady. I shall tell you my story, and you will tell me yours. If I find you worthy, I will fight with you against the Wicked Goddess.” Annabelle-Roc said firmly.
Clarice nodded. “Deal.”
The Roc looked up at the sky. “Connie ran away—I came with him. Four more years past, and we lived together in peace in a nearby city named after the leader who lived there.”
Connie kept the Roc safe from the rest of the world as he found work in the nearby city of Klive. The Roc stayed home all day while Connie worked.
Connie had a job as a farmhand—and it was hard physical labor.
The Roc never saw him doing the work, but Connie would always come home exhausted with dirt on his ivory cheeks. He would lean against the Roc and close his eyes.
The Roc would try to get Connie to play with him, but Connie was just too tired. Connie said to his brother, “I’m sorry, Roc. I’m just too tired.”
The Roc cooed soothingly and wrapped his brother in a wing.
“This is really hard work…” Connie said. “But it’s worth it to keep you safe and happy.”
The Roc felt worthless; he wanted to cry like the people of Dry did, but he couldn’t. He was just a bird.
Things got easier for the both of them as time went on, Connie got used to how difficult his work was, and forced himself to play with his brother nonetheless. It actually helped him to relax when he got home to play with the Roc. His mood picked up, and it made it easier for him to go to work everyday knowing he had someone he loved to come home to.
Before, Connie had kept his brother cooped up in the house, but eventually, the Roc got too big, and so Connie told his brother to explore far away from town when Connie was working.
The Roc found many plains to explore—from rocky to grass to stony. His red eyes were filled with wondrous sights, and he felt genuinely free. He wanted to show Connie all of these things, but he was too busy.
The Roc was often not careful enough. He got noticed by multiple people in multiple towns, and they pointed at him excitedly and fearfully. That was the beginning of why they began worshipping him.
As years went by, the people of Dru knew of his existence and began sacrificing to him. Connie caught wind of it and said to his brother angrily, “you haven’t been careful! They know you exist! The obsidian wizard will find us! More importantly—these sacrifices… Roc, they’re sacrificing people to you! You have to stop this!”
The Roc cocked his head to the side in a question.
Connie sighed. “I know what to do, but it will be dangerous. I’ll be your confidant. I’ll make myself known as your holy messenger, and I’ll tell them exactly what you want, alright? These acts they’re doing for you are barbaric. Just promise me… If Father finds out, you’ll protect me?”
The Roc reared up and spread his wings threateningly and cawed ferociously.
Connie chuckled and embraced his brother. “Of course you will!”
At first, the many stony people of Dru came to Connie’s house to ask the Roc for favors. Connie instructed his brother on what to do when these people came. Some of the simpler tasks Connie did for the Roc. Connie gave people gold if they asked for it—although he had not much—and he would help them with any household chores they wanted him to. But if something bigger were needed, such as curing someone’s sickness, the Roc had to step up.
Neither Connie nor the Roc realized the Roc had the power to cure sickness. It was only when a tearful mother came to them with her sick toddle—and Connie was crying that he could not help her—that the Roc stepped in and surprised everyone by taking the toddler into his wings and curing its sickness.
Connie was overjoyed as was the mother. The mother bowed to the Roc, sobbing heavily and curtsied deeply. “I can’t thank you enough.”
Their good deeds caught up to them after that. The people in the city built them a temple big enough to contain the Roc and Connie.
The Roc was just following Connie’s lead, who had previously been doing most of the work and good deeds. But they worshipped the Roc and not Connie, which confused the bird.
Their followers made ridiculous clothing for both the Roc and Connie that matched. It was a green robe for Connie and a green cloak for the Roc. They also gave Connie and the Roc a circlet made of gold.
Connie and the Roc made it clear that sacrificing stone people would anger them, and that cracking eggs at the altars people were erecting all around the world were much preferred. In time, Connie quit his job as a farmhand and devoted himself to being the Roc’s messenger. He and his brother were always busy.
But, Connie got sick as time passed. He was coughing, and limestone was spreading from one of his ears.
One day, the obsidian wizard showed up at their temple. Connie stared at him with fear in his eyes.
“Connie, enough time has passed. You have been silly. Come on home. Father will take care of you. Let’s get rid of that limestone.”
Connie hung his head. “I…I…”
The obsidian wizard raised his voice. “Come here, Connie.”
Connie walked down the temple steps sullenly. The obsidian wizard seized his arm roughly. The Roc was angry.
The Roc fluttered downwards next to his brother and screeched threateningly at the wizard. The obsidian wizard, shocked for a moment, released his son. The Roc grabbed his brother and tucked him protectively in a wing.
The wizard was unphased. “Give him to me, Roc, or he will pay the price.”
Connie was frozen with fear. He never knew how to face his father. He simply hoped his father would go as he clung to his bird-brother fearfully.
The wizard smirked and said, “you will give him to me—I have no doubts.”
And with that, the wizard disappeared.
The Roc cooed worriedly. Connie sighed and smiled. “You know, he still has all this power over me. If it weren’t for you, I would have gone with him. What’s wrong with me?”
The Roc wished he could tell his brother that there was nothing wrong with him, but he was a bird. The Roc released his brother from the protection of his wing, and Connie leaned against him as he nestled down.
“I have bruises on the inside and out from that man. He’s always in the back of my mind, telling me I can’t succeed or do anything worthwhile. I want to be accepted by him, more than anything.”
The Roc needed to become human somehow—so he could talk to his brother. His brother was chained to this man he called father, and he could not break free. His brother was the kindest, most selfless person he had ever known, and he had not a bone of confidence or aggression in him. But he needed those bones, or else he would end up right back with his father.
“He was silent much of the time from then on. He still helped me with all the good deeds I was doing for others, but he was distant and aloof. I kept a sharp eye on him, but once I took it off, he went back to our father.”
Clarice had tears in her eyes. “Why?”
Annabelle-roc shook his head. “I never understood it. The creatures of Dru… They create bonds with their parents. It doesn’t matter whether they love their parents or not—they want to be accepted by them. They need it in order to function properly. Connie couldn’t function properly without it. He wanted so badly to be loved that he took any abuse thrown at him by his father in an attempt to get it.”
“How did he…?” Clarice asked.
The Roc looked up. “I went travelling to a distant land to heal a dying, obsidian elf. I tried over and over again to get him to come with me, but he wouldn’t.”
“Go ahead! I’ll be fine while you’re gone. I promise I won’t go with my father—even if he shows up. Besides, you left me with all these guards!” Connie said to the worried Roc while they were inside their temple. “You’ve postponed this for two days already while you’re worrying about me!”
The Roc enveloped his brother in his wings and Connie chuckled, patting his bird-brother’s wing. “There, there… I’m an adult. I can look after myself.”
The Roc finally was convinced to leave.
Connie watched him go with tears in his eyes. Half of him was limestone now. His father had consistently been sending him letters that told Connie he was sorry and wanted to make up. He also told Connie he would cure his limestone and then let him go back to the Roc.
What he actually did was use Connie as a bargaining tool.
When the Roc came back from his venture Connie was nowhere to be found. The Roc was in a panic. But one of his guards read a letter Connie had supposedly left for him.
I’m going back to father. If you want to meet up with us, go to the mountain.
The Roc knew that Connie was speaking of the mountain he and Connie grew up on. But he also had a feeling Connie was directed by his father to write that letter.
The Roc was angry. He screeched and took off with worry gripping his heart.
The Roc arrived at the mountain and spied his brother and the obsidian wizard in the cave of the mountain where he used to live. Connie was reading something while sitting on the stone floor. The obsidian wizard had him trained well. Connie didn’t even need to be chained up to be kept there.
The Roc was too big to fit in the cave. He stood on the mountainside and peered in. The Roc shrieked in rage when he saw that the obsidian wizard had cut Connie’s stone arm off.
Connie looked at the Roc with a dead expression and said nothing. The obsidian wizard was smirking. “You want him back?”
The Roc tried to snap at the wizard, but Connie jumped in the way. The Roc withdrew, stunned at this mind control the wizard seemed to have over Connie.
“I have to live here now…” Connie said to the Roc.
The Roc was heartbroken. He cooed sadly. The obsidian wizard put a hand on Connie’s shoulder. “Connie wishes to stay with me. He wishes to be of use to his old man. What about you? Won’t you help me?”
The Roc’s red eyes were on fire with rage, and the wizard knew it. The wizard continued, “you are now being worshipped as I always knew you would be. You should let me be your advisor. Connie will come as well.”
The Roc looked at his brother pleadingly. He wondered if this was what he truly wanted. Connie looked down at his feet. “He’ll be a better advisor and assistant to you than I was. Don’t worry, I’ll still be there with you.”
But you will only be there as a slave. As a tool for the wizard to threaten me with to make sure I don’t disobey him. The Roc thought to himself.
“I have rigged my son, by the way. I planted a flame in his heart. He will be consumed by the fire if you kill me.” The wizard explained coldly. “Now, let me rule over all the creatures in the land as your advisor.”
“I let him rule over me, and therefore every creature in the land, for three years. I had to watch him crush my brother’s spirit, threaten him, and turn him into little more than a lapdog to fetch the obsidian wizard things he wanted. I, on the other hand, was forced to do things I didn’t want to do. He made me eat people. Old enemies of his who had long challenged his dark ways. You see, the obsidian wizard was once in a council with other wizards. The first wizards ever to exist. There were seven wizards in the council, and they all had their own idea about how to use their powers.
“The obsidian wizard wanted his wife to reign over all other people with him. But she and the other wizards disagreed. They wanted to use their powers only here and there and only for good or harmless things. The good wizards caught wind that the obsidian wizard was in control of the Roc—and that was why, instead of helping the people of Dru, the Roc was instead abusing the people who worshipped him. Forcing them to erect monuments to the obsidian all around and forcing them to donate gold to the wizard under pretenses that it was for the Roc. The people who worshipped the Roc were treated no better than slaves.”
Clarice listened intently. “The good wizards came to stop you, right?”
“Right, and I ate them. I can never get that out of my mind. They were innocent, good people. It will forever be a stain on my conscious. My brother watched me suffer for three years, struggling with the things I had done, and he could watch me no longer.
The obsidian wizard had gone for a little bit, and it was just the Roc and Connie—who hadn’t had a meaningful conversation in years.
“Roc… I—I’m really sorry. This is all my fault. I’ve been thinking… You should let me die. You should let me die so you can kill my father.”
The Roc cawed in protest. And something happened then. The Roc had to be human. He had to be human now so he could talk his brother out of the poor decision he was about to make.
The Roc’s body slowly shifted, and he became Connie. “I would never kill you!”
Connie was stunned. “You’re… me…”
The Roc-Connie threw his arms around his brother. “If you ask me that again, I’ll never forgive you!”
Connie’s eyes were graced with tears as he said, “you know, I’m going to be dead soon anyway. The limestone is spreading. Roc, you have to let me go…”
“I’ll never let you go! I’d be just a dumb bird without you!” The Roc’s arms tightened around Connie and Connie shook his head with a soft smile.
“I’m going to live my life as a bargaining tool who advocates for the oppression of all creatures of Dru. I’d rather die now with some dignity rather than later with all these overworked deaths on my conscience. In the end, the creatures of Dru are just stone. We’ll break apart and become overgrown with limestone and die. But you—you’re something special. You should always be around to watch over us. You’ll be here a long time. Far longer than me.” Connie told him happily, returning his embrace lovingly.
“But I don’t want you to go. I want you always to be here to guide me!”
“You’ll always remember me, won’t you? I’ll be there with you always, that way. You remember all the things I taught you? You remember how much I love you?” Connie murmured softly.
The Roc nodded. “I’ll always remember.”
“I ate the obsidian wizard, and then the flame he rigged to Connie’s heart enveloped it. He just fell over…” Annabelle-Roc shook his head. “He deserved better…”
Clarice was in tears. “I’m so sorry…”
“Nobody compared to him, and nobody ever will. I wanted to be human like he was. I found this wizard later on who said I could get rid of my bird form entirely if I stayed in Connie’s form long enough. I tried to. I really tried to. I wanted to be him so badly. But it started to hurt after a long time, and I had to change back.
Then Annabelle came along, and I fell in love with her. If anyone compared to Connie, it was her.”
Clarice shook her head angrily. She realized, now, that she had been in love with this man named Connie, and not the pale version of him the Roc represented. She couldn’t believe that he would compare the warmonger, Annabelle, to Connie.
“She forced you to go to war! That’s why you closed your heart!” Clarice said with angry tears.
The Roc shrugged. “Am I… Not allowed to love a creature’s imperfections? Am I not allowed to love my brother’s cursed weakness when he let himself be bullied into death by our Father? Am I not allowed to love Annabelle’s weakness when, after being my neutral charge for so long, she used my affections to convince me to fight against the Haalanites in favor of Yab? It’s an evil sewn into the souls of every creature on Dru. They will always succumb to weakness. The moment the creature’s of Dru grew a heart was the moment evil could take it at any moment. The obsidian wizard was the first creature to grow a heart.”
The Roc was thoughtful as he closed his eyes. “It’s true Annabelle broke my trust and my heart—but what of you? Do you have a story to make me believe in the goodness of the creatures of Dru?”
Clarice had tears in her eyes. She had spent her lonely life pining after a man who was dead. But… She had friends now. She had grown.
She said to the obsidian wizard, “I have nothing… I have never had anything. I am a woman who has lived her life in isolation because she was not fit to live with and love others. I have never known how to get along and communicate with others. I have always fought with them. I was always… So angry. I was angry that both my parents died and left me alone. I was angry that I had nowhere to turn but the army. I was angry that I could make no friends in the army. But now… I have opened my heart again. I have found friends. There is more to my life than wishing that you would come to rescue me from my eternal loneliness. And so, I have opened my heart again. Will you open yours?”
Annabelle-Roc was unsure. He was deathly quiet. It was a minute before he finally said, with tears and strength in his eyes, “I have learned kindness and naivety from Connie, strength and betrayal from Annabelle… Can you teach me to open my heart like you have yours? Can you teach me to heal? I have been ravaged by war. I can’t get it out of my eyes. What is it about me that made me your only friend for so long?”
Clarice looked down with a gentle smile. “Your kindness. You were always willing to help those in need. I believe you will help now. Show us. Show everyone you believe in us! Your heart will open when you share your kindness with he world again. Defend us against this monster; not because we wish to kill, but because we wish to live! We need you for that! Bring back the sun, please!”
Annabelle-Roc’s eyes were glistening and he smiled and then shifted back into Connie. He grabbed Clarice’s hands. “You’re right! I need some of Connie’s kindness and naivety to survive! I need to believe as much as you mortals do! I have rested too much on Annabelle’s strength and hard heart. She may have used my naivety to convince me to go to war—but now, I will help you because it is the right thing! I forgot about the right thing… Connie would be ashamed. I need you to back me up, however. Will you do it, sweet lady?”
Clarice nodded and blushed a little. Her friends were exhausted and still sleeping soundly, but now she roused them. She said to them, “we’re going to save everyone!”
The Roc ate the obsidian wizard and the flame rigged to Connie’s heart enveloped it. The Roc was there for his last dying words.
“Hey, Roc…” Connie said, his eyes becoming pale.
“What is it? The Roc has shifted into a form identical to Connie’s once again and held his brother’s head in his lap. “Don’t go…”
“It was so nice being in the sun with you…” Connie completed. “Nobody else in the whole world would have ever cast a light upon me. I’m so blessed. I didn’t have to die in loneliness and anonymity. So many people die lonely. You opened my heart, you know? I don’t feel like I’m made of stone anymore.”
And it was true. Connie was now made of flesh and bone as the Roc held him in his arms.
The Roc nodded with tears in his eyes and smiled. “You opened mine too…”
“Now, everyone can live in the sun with you. Not just me…”
The Roc never wanted anyone to be in the sunlight with him after that, however. He lived by Connie’s word and the morals he taught him, but could never open his heart to anyone else again until he met Annabelle.
But, things were different now. The Roc was ready to be with the creatures of Dru again. He was ready to fight for them against the Wicked Goddess.
Clarice, a warrior troll, and her group of friends must lift the eternal darkness cast by the Wicked Ant Goddess. In order to do so, they must awaken the old God who used to watch over all the creatures of Dru. The Roc God, a gigantic bird with beautiful ivory feathers. However, rumor had it that the Roc had long ago closed his heart to the creatures of Dru and locked himself away back into his glass egg atop a mountain made of thorns.