The Storm Sheperds - Gremius Hazzengrav
This book is one of the Storm Shepherd series titled "Gremius Hazzengrav". It is the story of a man raised on the streets of Freeport, his rise to notoriety, and his quest for atonement.
Gremius Hazzengrav was born the son of simple bandage merchant in the city of Freeport. When he was only a boy of seven years, he witnessed an exchange between his father and a member of the Freeport Militia. He watched as the militiaman insisted that his father needed to pay more protection money. When his father insisted that he didn't have any more money, the militiaman ran a sword through him and left his corpse for the ratonga to loot.
Not having any other family, Gremius nearly starved on the streets. He was taken in by a ratonga who taught him how to pick people's pockets as they passed by. Gremius was forced to give his guardian all of the coin he earned in exchange for a place to sleep at night. Ten years would go by with Gremius forced to steal for food, while the ratonga did nothing and became rich. The day he turned seventeen, Gremius walked into the sleeping ratonga's room and slid a dagger into his throat. The next morning, he enlisted in the Militia.
While he was training to be a member of the city's law enforcement, he received constant praise for his dedication to the job. The most praise would come from his drill instructor, and took Gremius under his wing. On the final training day, the soldier with the best scores would be made into an officer and the one with worst would be lowered into a pit of hungry, rabid hyenas. As the ceremony began, Gremius was made into an officer and an unfortunate ogre was chosen to feed the hyenas.
As the drill commander put all of his weight into pushing the lever that held the victim suspended over the pit, something unexpected happened. Instead of pushing the lever, he stumbled over it and clumsily fell over into the pit, just barely catching the lip with one hand. For you see, someone had greased the lever. The commander screamed for Gremius to help him up before he fell in. Officer Gremius walked over to the pit, looked down and said, "You killed my father ten years ago" -- and then crushed the commander's fingers with his foot. Gremius didn't leave until the commander finally stopped screaming.
Gremius would become notorious throughout Freeport for his merciless enforcement of the law. If a merchant tried to bluff his way out of protection payment, Gremius would kill them. If a soldier forgot to salute the image of the Overlord whenever they passed one, Gremius would kill them. If a citizen walked within the city without proper papers, he would kill them. This would continue until the day that he tortured and killed some worshippers of a long forgotten god, Karana.
For the next several weeks, he would wake up screaming from horrible nightmares. He would dream of a wizened old man who stood in the center of a massive rainstorm. The winds would begin to tear Gremius apart until he would plead for the man to stop the rains. When the rains stopped, Gremius could see a broken crystal sphere that floated above a pool of darkness that was slowly seeping into the ground. All around him, endless trees would turn black and the darkness would spread, moving towards the ocean. Eventually, the darkness would surround him and finally eat his soul.
Gremius finally realized that the dreams were a vision. Not only did the darkness represent what he had become, but within them were a clue on how he could atone for all of his past rimes. He began searching throughout the Nektulos Forest for answers, but found nothing to give him insight on how he could "clean" the taint on his soul. Then he remembered the pirate's stories of countless islands out within the ocean. He knew what he had to do.
Gremius began constructing a sailing vessel from the trees in the Nektulos Forest. He spent the next year trying to build a boat to take him to the island that he saw in his vision. Having left Freeport, he was now an outlaw and would be killed on sight, or else he would have just stolen a boat from the harbor. During the construction, he had much time to contemplate what he could to change his life around, but could never come about to a clear answer.
When he finally completed the boat, he sailed off into the Neriuss Flow. His plan was to sail upon the turbulent ocean, stopping at island after island, until he finally found the one in his dream. He spent many months searching island after island. On one desert isle he found to be inhabited by nothing more than numerous cyclopses, he stopped to refresh his water supplies. As he carefully looked for water, wanting not to disturb the natives, he came across an interesting sight.
A cyclops was about to kill what appeared to be a High Elf, sharing the same physical traits as many of his countless victims. Believing this to be his chance to atone for his past sins, he came up behind the cyclops and slew it before it could kill the elf. Not feeling the expected sense of absolution, Gremius looked at the elf and prepared to kill him in anger. Seeing the helpless person in front of him caused Gremius to remember the heinous actions he performed upon the worshipers in Freeport. For the first time since the day he saw his father killed, Gremius felt a long-forgotten emotion. Pity.