Francis was born to a loving couple from Norvik. His father was a merry sailor who sailed the seas in search of rich spices and other exotic import options. While on one of these voyages he returned with various varieties of tea leaves for his family, eager to teach his son about the ways of the world and what he had seen on his travels.
During this time, his mother began to get sick from an unknown illness. Francis would often make her drinks and bring her soup of his own design, barely 6 he endeavoured to heal his mother back to strength. Over time his recipe's improved with practice. His blend of tea and spices grew to perfection and he began to use them to aide his sick mother.
Each morning, Francis brought her a blend of tea designed to help remove the stuffed sinuses that stopped her breathing easily alongside a loaf of bread seasoned richly to keep her well fed and healthy. Kissing his mother on the head and tucking her blankets up he would walk to the library to return the books he borrowed and take out some more, the librarian never ceasing to offer assistance or inquire about Francis and his mothers wellbeing.
Over the years Francis never ceased his studies and efforts to stop his mothers illness getting worse. It baffled him, each time he tried a new herb she would get better, but then the illness would return and she would get worse. He could keep her stable but she was forever held in the limbo of health and sickness.
Using this confusion as motivation Francis continued onwards in his studies. New recipes were created, more herbs were asked for when his father returned, more books were read and returned and each day. He felt closer to some unknown presence.
The Library and the Student
By the time Francis had grown to be a man he was well aware of the Seven. He knew that they watched over the worlds population as they worked each day. He knew that they held unfathomable knowledge within their halls and that their attention to those who needed them most, would help him make contact.
The following day, Francis gave his mother her morning tea and bread and left for the library, looking to obtain some tomes to teach him about the seven and their ways. Upon entering the library he placed the books he borrowed the day before on the counter and asked the (now) elderly librarian about the seven.
"Well Francis," she started moving her scarf gently to one side, revealing a clear cut ruby delicately hanging onto a silk rope around her neck. "There are many aspects that attract us to a respective faith. What is it you seek?"
Francis scratched his head, "I guess knowledge. I've spent my whole life trying to work out how to cure my mothers illness with these books." He stopped almost angrily, "I'm just not good enough."
The elderly librarian smiled, "There is no perfect way to achieve anything without trial and error. Your mother is well fed and cared for, surely if you were failing her she would not be stable." She removed her glasses and walked round to meet Francis. "I am high mother Jana from the Church of Rolbor. Would you like to talk over tea?" she finished.
The Elderly Priestess
Francis sat in the room with Jana, he mused on how she had seen him come here day in day out to research yet he never took the time to get to know her. He sniffed the tea cup she presented to him.
"Nettle?" he said inquisitively.
"Well spotted." Jana said with a smile, "For a plant that tastes how it does in hot water, it sure puts up a fight when it comes to harvesting."
Francis laughed, "Actually, the nettle is like that to stop it being eaten! I don't think the survival instinct was aware of hot water being a thing when it was created." he explained sipping, "Though you are right. It is an excellent cup of tea."
Jana thanked Francis, "I'm glad it meets your expectations." she cleared her throat and placed the cup down.
Francis looked at the ruby on her necklace, "So, is the ruby ornamental?" he asked politely.
Jana looked down, "I've had this ruby since I was a girl." she began, "I found it while exploring in the forest with my sister. Nothing remarkable, I thought it was coloured glass for a while. One day, my father found it in my bedding. He was overjoyed until he realised it was something I had found and returned it to me." she paused, "Even then he was the politest man I knew. He explained to me that though this gem could buy us more cattle for the farm, more crops and tools, it was mine and he would not take it from me. My father was never a religious man as far as I know but it almost felt spiritual to me that he would respect my possessions and allow me to keep something that could change our lives so much.
I went to the town blacksmith with the gem, back then it was a horrible lump of red glass so I wanted to see what he would pay for it to help my father. The blacksmith told me that he could split it into two smaller gems and clean it with some cuts and that this would increase the value. Eventually, we agreed on a price for one half and he gave me this silk rope to hold the other half. I returned home to my father with the money and explained my actions. From then on, I knew I wanted to help others with their troubles. That feeling of relief and warmth I got from seeing his smile was contagious.
Eventually I began studying, I began keeping myself stable with financial deals, all the while making sure that those I loved were being taken care of." she paused to sip her tea, "After a while, the Rolborian church took notice of my actions and a young priest approached me. He explained the way of Rolbor and how he wants us to succeed whilst helping those who can't achieve their goals for whatever reasons. I said my vows and opened this library for all to seek knowledge when they need it." she finished.
Francis broke from his concentration, "The church." he began, "Would they know of a way to cure my mother?" he asked nervously.
Jana shook her head, "The church rely on the wisdom of Rolbor to increase their skills." she began to explain, "Traders seek Rolbor for his guidance in finding good customers. Scholars seek him for his guidance in their studies. Musicians seek him for his culture knowledge." she said with a smile, "Most of us seek him for the knowledge we cant comprehend with our mortal minds." she finished.
Francis put his tea down, "I see, so it's not the knowledge we're provided with." she said slowly, "but the interpretation of the presented knowledge?" he finished.
Jana smiled, "Precisely! Rolbor can't teach you anything without you first wanting to understand it! Rolbor just points you in the right direction as he did for me and many others." she explained, "If you want, I can show you my personal book of records explaining how I see the world with Rolbors guidance and my vows." she added happily, removing a small red book from her robes.
Francis took the book, "Thank you ma'am. Is there a shrine to Rolbor nearby?" he added, "I have made my mind up. I want to help others and spread my knowledge wide and far in the name of Rolbor."
Jana held out her hand, "Come then my child. Let me show you the shrine I set up in the library archives."
Taking the purple
Francis left with the priest and said his vows under her guidance, she removed a ruby heart from her pocket.
"Francis Teach, you knelt as a sign of respect and humility to the seven, now rise as a member of their kin." she said proudly, placing the ruby heart around his neck.
Francis looked down upon the gem hanging close to his heart. "My lady, I can't."
Jana interrupted, "To refuse the hospitality of another is an insult to Rolbor my child." she said, "The ruby heart was the same ruby I had as a girl, I bought it off the blacksmith as a gift to my father when I became wealthy through my trades before becoming a priestess. He returned it to me when he passed away, saying that no matter what fortune he could have amassed, his greatest creation was myself.
I have held onto it since his passing, looking for a suitable bearer to take it. I pass it onto you. With my blessing the symbol will hold undead back and with the Blessing of Rolbor may you find the knowledge you seek to cure your mothers illness."
Francis looked up, "High Mother Jana, I pledge to thee that if my mother is cured I will give my life to the faith of Rolbor. I will become a priest and share the knowledge that needs to be heard, teach those who wish to know and save those who require my aide. I promise you I will not fail in my task of finding a cure for this illness."
Jana put her hand on Francis's shoulder, "Praise be to Rolbor young one." she said with a smile. "Go now and put my notes to good use."
Francis nodded, "Praise be High Mother." he said with determination in his eyes as he left.
Upon returning home Francis checked on his mother. She was resting quietly, the bread was finished and the plate sat on the floor. Francis closed her door quietly and opened up the book and began reading, taking notes as he did. Each time he came across a herb he would fetch it from the pantry and place it within reach so he could use it in the future. He studied what he would need to make a mix that cured most ailments.
He paused and closed the book, returning to the pantry he took a handful of jars out and returned to his desk. He nervously sniffed some of the jars, the usual zest of burning aromas were washed out by a wet earth smell mixed with an unfamiliar sourness. The herbs had rotted and mould was forming.
"No!" Francis yelled, "My stores!" he shook his head in disbelief, "Father isn't back for three days to replenish!" he cried in anguish. He nervously picked the book up and flicked through the pages, eager to find a way to remove corruption from the jars. Nothing. He collapsed on the floor, images of his mother being unable to cope without her daily medicine washed through his head, seemingly torturing him with the prospect of her passing in agony.
At that moment, he felt the coolness of the ruby against his neck as well as a chill in the air. He wrapped the symbol around his hand and lowered his head. "Rolbor, I speak to you as a naive fool to your power and a humble servant to your faith. Grant me the guidance I seek to save my mother from this ongoing fight. Show me the way to end this and i'll pledge my life to your services. Till we meet in the afterlife. Please help me."
He kissed his symbol and opened his eyes. The ruby glimmered fiercely in the light. There seemed to be no imperfections on it, curious Francis sniffed it. "It has no smell or imperfections, yet it must be centuries old." he said to himself. Picking himself up off the floor he checked the book Jana gave him. As he flicked furiously through the pages he found a mention of Rolbor granting Jana the ability to purify food with her holy symbol.
He looked at the ruby and slowly opened the jar containing the herbs he needed to make the mix he had read about. A foul stench filled his nostrils as he slowly put the symbol into the jar. The smell slowly stopped as Francis began asking Rolbor for assistance. Slowly as he removed the symbol from the jar, it was still blemish free. He sniffed the herb, there was no smell of corruption or earth. Just healthy zesty flavours.
Francis was overjoyed and immediately mixed the medicine as he had done before, he paused as he started to boil the water. "Nettles." he said quietly, he grabbed his coat and left the home to find some nettles for the tea, he knew the plant was rich in properties yet never used them in his teas. He searched near bushes till he came across a few plants. "Praise be to Rolbor." he said as he retrieved his gloves and removed the plants and returned home.
He removed the leaves and stooped them in the water for a while as he began to grind the other herbs into the water. He heard his mother stir from her sleep and ask for his assistance. Upon arriving she smiled, "You've got mud on your face son." she said, "Not digging a grave for me yet are you?" she joked.
Francis smiled, "No mother, just been finding some new materials for my recipes." he said softly. "This will help your strength."
His mother sniffed the tea, "Nettle?" she said smiling.
Francis laughed, "Yes. How did you know?" he asked.
"Your father made me it when we first met. Before he started bringing home these fancy leaves for drinks and cooking. I love the stuff, used to make you some when you were a baby. Has lots of iron to keep you strong!" she said coughing.
Francis paused, he had read every book in the library up and down, and never once did he think of using iron rich ingredients to counteract his mothers fatigue. "I'm glad you enjoy it mother." he said weakly, "I'm going to go finish my notes." he finished as he closed the door.
Francis slumped against the desk, "All these years without nettles?" he thought to himself. "How could I be so stupid?" he added within his mind. "Wait the High Mother." he said to himself out loud, "How did she know." he finished as he ran out the door towards the library.
A Final Goodbye
Upon reaching the building he slowly entered, "Excuse me." he said politely to the young woman behind the desk. "I wish to speak to High Mother Jana." he began.
The woman looked at Francis and removed her spectacles. "I'm sorry, but she has passed on." she said slowly. "She mentioned her time was done and her faith had prolonged the inevitable. She retired to her home where she died peacefully."
Francis felt his eyes well slightly, "But. I promised her." he said feebly. "She told me...." he tried to speak before the tears caught up.
The woman rushed to his side, "It's ok child. Jana lived a good life. She was a happy woman to her last days and breath." she reassured, "What was your promise?"
Francis rubbed his eyes, "To become a priest of Rolbor if my mother got better." he said, "I wanted to ask her for more advice about the faith." he added clearing his throat.
The woman smiled, "You must be Francis." she said, "I have a few books for you from her." she finished handing a bag to him.
"Thank you ma'am." he said before leaving the library.
A Promise Fulfilled
Over the following weeks Francis began to see changes in his Mothers health. The room she had spent years in under his care became a memory, her symptoms cleared and she would frequently walk around the home and enjoy fresh air for the first time in many many years after her years of sickness. Francis would often walk into her room with breakfast to see her already waiting with a smile.
With his mother able to walk again and care for herself. Francis found that he had more time to continue his studies. He would spend even more time making notes of readings and would often show his mother his research to her delight. "One day Francis, you'll be a great help to the world." she said often with a hearty smile.
One afternoon, Francis reached for the last book of his pile, a small battered tome wrapped in a fine velvet cloth. He paused, "This was the book High Mother Jana left me." he said to himself. He picked it up carefully as a sign of respect to his friend and mentor before slowly opening the velvet.
A single page fell out as he moved the cover slightly, he spotted the small signature in the corner as that of Jana's. "Francis." was printed on the centre of the envelope. Nervously, Francis opened the envelope and removed the letter from inside.
As you likely have been told I have passed on to the afterlife to be with my lord Rolbor at the time of reading. Do not weep for me though my child, I lived a long happy life in service to my lord and knowing that you own this tome is all I require to live on in the memories of others.
I only weep at the thought of your ambition of curing your mother becoming a fantasy instead of reality. I will never know if you succeed but know that with the right dedication and devotion you're sure to find an answer to whatever you seek.
My dying prayer was to ask Rolbor for his help in your endeavours. I hope that my writings help in whatever way necessary.
Praise be to Rolbor my friend,
High Mother Jana"
Francis once again felt his eyes well up, the woman who had shown him the way and taught him about nettle tea in her final breaths, wanted him to succeed. A selfless specimen of perfection to her last breath.
He began reading the book Jana had left to him, vivid sentences formed on the page in front of him as his eyes danced from page to page, furiously absorbing the information held on them.
The Final Steps to Devotion
Days past as Francis read the tome, cover to cover. He finished and closed the book with a satisfying thud as he relaxed into his chair. He mulled over the information he had processed and picked up a purple note book from nearby and slowly began writing notes into the book.
He checked his nearby note pad, "Just five days left." he said as he crossed over a few pieces of information. He stretched and slowly walked out into the main part of the family home. He was met with his mother working on a purple robe of fine design.
"Hey son." she said smiling, "How do you like it?" she finished with a grin.
Francis yawned before replying, "It's perfect." he paused, "What is it?"
She placed the needles in her hand on the table. "They're your robes son, for when you head off on your journey soon." she said with glee.
Francis smiled at his mother, "Thank you." he began slowly, "I love them." he added almost shocked.
She laughed, "Ok now go to bed son, you've been hitting the books hard and it's my turn to look after you." she said with a smile. "Don't forget, your father is back in 4 days." she finished.
Francis nodded and said goodnight before retiring.
The return of Adam
Francis was awoken by the sound of a wagon outside. He got to his feet and got dressed, taking a moment to kiss his holy symbol.
"Morning Son." his dad said with glee as he walked into the house.
"Morning Father." Francis said with a smile before hugging his father.
"Got you them fancy herbs you wanted, sorry it took so long." he said to his son handing him a bag.
Francis sniffed the bag, "Thank you. It's fine really." he said smiling.
Adam looked at his son, "Your mother in the room?" he said softly. Almost changing in tone.
Francis went to answer, before his father walked towards the door and opened it. "Morning Hon-" he began. The room was empty and the bed was made neatly. "Where is your mother?!" he shouted angrily at Francis.
Francis began to explain but was cut short, "What happened? Why didn't you send word!" he said grabbing Francis by the collar. Again Francis could not get a word out before his father shouted louder.
"Put him down Adam." came a voice from the door.
Adam lowered his son, "Maude? Is that you?!" he said slowly staring at the door.
"Yes Adam. It's me." She said with a smile, "You thought i'd miss this by staying in bed?" she joked. "I was out getting some strawberries for my boys." she said gesturing towards her basket.
Francis spluttered on the floor, "You old bastard. I was trying to tell you I managed to cure her!" he said exhaustedly.
Adam looked in shock at his wife, "You're. You're cured." he said silently. "Francis did this?" he said.
Francis shook his head, "I asked Rolbor for guidance, and he assisted me." he said getting to his feet. "If you would have let me finish I would have explained." he finished dusting himself off.
Adam smiled, "Sorry son. I'm proud of you." he said.
The family sat for the first time in what seemed like forever at the table for breakfast together. Francis showed off his tea recipes and his father told them about the ongoing wars with the Guidonese traders over the best prices available. Francis smiled at the sight of his Mother and Father back together after so long.
Francis cleared his throat, "Father, I should probably let you know. This will be the last day I'm going to be here." he said nervously.
Adam looked at his son, "Oh right? What profession are you undertaking then son?" he said smiling.
Francis glanced at his mother, Maude nodded at him, "I'm joining the church of Rolbor Father. I want to help others and share my knowledge like I did with mother." he said confidently.
Adam smiled, "A man of the faith." he began, "My boy. Who would have known?" he said laughing, "Well I approve my lad." he said standing. "But I suppose I shouldn't let you go out into the big bad world without a gift." he finished walking to his bag.
Francis watched as his father removed a long wooden object from his supplies. "My Father gave me this when I first went off to sea. He said that his Father had done the same to him when he went off on his way." he said proudly as he revealed what looked like a wooden sword. "Now it's yours lad." he said smiling.
Francis took the sword and looked it over, "Father I."
"No disagreement here son, this is a gift of protection and a thank you from me for all the years you looked after your Mother." he said proudly, "You've earned it as far as I'm concerned."
Francis nodded, "What is this?" he said pointing at the hilt of the sword which was shaped like a Dragons head.
Adam laughed, "Your grandfather was always an upset child." he began, "Your great grandfather decided to put a stop to that and carved the hilt to look like a dragon so he'd always have a toy on hand for my father. We call him Raphael." he said smiling.
Francis looked at the sword and placed it in his belt, "I will wear it with me always Father." he said proudly before turning to his mother, "I have a surprise." he said slowly. "For both of you." he finished quickly walking to a cupboard and removing a bag.
Adam smiled and opened the bag, "Son, is this what I think it is?" he said slowly.
Francis nodded, "That's enough money to save you and mother from ever having to work again. I sold my recipes to all the inns and apothecaries around." he said shyly, "Just make sure you use it wisely." he finished with a smile.
Adam shook his head, "Son, you could use this to start your own business." he said quietly, "We don't need this." he finished attempting to give the bag back to his son.
Francis looked at his father, "It's a gift. I do not need money where I am going, the church will cover me as I help others in the name of Rolbor. I will earn my money as I go and work hard to make everyone feel welcome in the world." he finished smiling. "It's time for both of you to enjoy your time together." he added.
Maude cried, "My boy. I just." she said, "Thank you." she finished as she began sobbing.
Francis shook his head, "No mother, thank you for your time in my life." he said smiling.
He made his way to his room to pack his books away and began preparations for his new step in life.
That night, they drank and celebrated their new lives as a family one last time. Francis tried on his robes and thanked his mother and father one last time before preparing to leave.
Francis donned his hat, his robes and raphael and set off into the world. His tea cup bouncing merrily off his hip as he whistled a tune and disappeared into the night off the beaten path.