- Race: Woodelfin
- Age: 5 decades
- Profession: Hunter Ambassador, apprentice
- Hair: Shoulder length, golden-mahogany
- Eyes: Dark purple
- For the rest you’ll have to wait;)
The wide-brimmed hat tried to sink over his eyes again. Ash pushed it up in frustration. He had been out in the sweltering heat of the Anobi swampland with its festering clouds of bugs. He promptly swatted one with satisfaction, it’s small gooey body washed away by his sweat. This was going to be a long day.
Off in the distance he saw a younger boy. He was reminded of a similarly hot day in his childhood…
The cry escaped the loud flames that licked at their once beautiful home. The smoke was so heavy, it had rained the night before and the wood was still damp. Ash could barely breathe.
“Ashlar!” His mother’s scream came again.
His heart was pounding, struggling to escape his chest, as he dashed between trembling beams. His mother was still caught inside. He didn’t know where his sister and father were. He hadn’t seen them after the raid had put fire to the town.
Crack! A large support fell behind him. A few scant seconds before he had been standing there. Ash struggled against the flames. His mother had taught him a simple fire ward, but he could feel it weakening. He had to move fast.
He came to what looked like it once had been stairs and stumbled down. Underneath a collapsed floor held up by the basement wall made of earth, his mother was huddled against the corner, her hands over her head. Her robes were singed and there was soot all over her face. He wasn’t sure that he looked any better.
She noticed his presence and ran to him. He scooped her up and made a mad dash for an exit. They made it just as the whole house sunk into the ground, the earth barely smothering the flames as it sank.
“Oh Ashlar, you’re all right!” His mother cupped his face in her hands. There were wet lines down her face that showed the pale porcelain underneath that was her skin. It pained him to see that she was so terrified.
“Maer,” he whispered the Woodelfin word for mother, taking her hand in his.
Beyond, they could see the rest of the town in flames. The raiding party had long since dispersed and now the few survivors were pulling their loved ones from the flames. Some were not as lucky. His mother only glanced momentarily at the wreckage before she turned back to him.
Ash could barely bring himself to respond. His head shook from side to side, only barely. His mother’s face sank, but she still held his hand tightly in hers. It was not like her to assume the worst and he knew, once they were away from here, that she would be determined to find them. But now, there was too much sorrow and pain. They exchanged no more words that night as they helped their desperate neighbors.
“Where do you think they could be?” his mother muttered over her ginseng tea.
Her eyes were glossy but no tears had fallen. She looked off into the mountainous range that separated them from Pythis by a week’s journey on horse. If Maer had her suspicions, she didn’t express them. Ash knew, though, he knew where they were if they were alive. And he was going to find them.
It pained him, however, to think of losing his mother and leaving her here all alone. He knew the town would offer their support. They were the Oaker family, the governing family. An Oaker family was chosen every eight years based on communal merit. His family had went above and beyond by establishing peaceful relations with the Lignypmf, wood nymphs in the area. Thus, it had been for four years. Now, part of the family was missing and the community would offer their full support to restore that balance. If he left Maer, he knew without any doubt she would be protected.
“Maer,” his voice croaked. Long exposure to the thick smoke yesterday had left Ash’s throat very dry. He took a long sip from the canteen.
“Maer,” he tried again, softly, “You know just as well as I where they are. You know I have to find them.”
For long, painstaking moments, Maer didn’t look at him. He knew it was hard for her to accept. She thought she would lose the rest of her family. But Ash had proven to be one of the best hunters in the Woodelfin community and she had faith that he would succeed. What else was there left to believe?
An imperceptible nod told Ash that she was satisfied with his decision-but only just. He knew where he ventured would be dangerous, treacherous.
He picked Maer’s hand up in his own and then embraced her in a tight hug, “I will not fail, Maer. I will bring them back safe. We will not be defeated so easily.”
With one last look, Ash made for the community house to pack. He wouldn’t look back. I will see her again, he swore to himself, this will not be goodbye.
The form was barely recognizable. He looked down at it with burning anger. His sister, Kaira. Bloodied and bruised and broken. Upon closer inspection he could see they had defiled her. He was furious, not even tears could escape him. He would exact revenge so horrendous the Faeries of old could not fathom. It fueled every fiber in his body. Whatever vile things they had done to her would be repaid–tenfold!
He sat there for what felt like an hour, helpless with his head in his hands, rocking back and forth on his heels. It was as he had feared–and worse. He couldn’t even give his sister a proper resting place. What horrors had she endured all because of GOUS and their raids? All because of this government whale that was swallowing Pandoram. What would be left, he wondered. To what end would they continue this maltreatment of people?
Ash shook his head. Whatever the answer, he didn’t care. He could feel all his resolve slip away at the sight of his sister. He hadn’t even found his father, not a trace. What did his mother and him have left? The tears found him then, thinking of his Maer. He had promised, he had promised her he’d bring them back safe. The tears came in a rush down his cheek, silent guilt dripping to the floor, though it was not his to bare. He already could see Maer’s face, so forlorn. He rocked back on his heels and huddled into a ball. Within a day, his comfortable existence had come crashing down. They had heard the rumors. Travelers and merchants from Pythis bringing bad news of a coup in the city, raids outside of the city in towns. They had been closing in on all sides and still the Woodelfin ignored the warnings.
A sudden boom of an explosion kept Ash from drowning in his guilt. He could feel the earth shutter around him in the underground prison. Another fight, he wondered.
Then he heard footsteps outside of the door. Within the blink of an eye, Ash swung himself up between the support beams, blending into the ceiling’s shadows. A second later, the door swung open.
Two guards walked in, Hesspa. Mercenaries and rogues the lot of them, Ash fumed. They could never be trusted! Rumors said it had been the Hesspa council that turned over Pandoram to GOUS. Regardless of their intent, he owed them no allegiance and would happily slide an arrow through their ribs.
Following the Hesspa came a strangely dressed figure. He was tall with a crisp, black suit and matching gloves. His dark skin was darker than the dark elves far to the south. Ash couldn’t determine any distinguishable features. His hair, if any, blended into the skin. In the shadows it was difficult to make out anything except the strange cat-like green eyes.
The Hesspa spread out into the room, one closer to the door, the other on the opposite side. The other figure stooped towards his sister. Ash felt a sting of rage but held it back. He didn’t dare risk getting caught by this…thing. Whatever it was, the orange glow it emanated was not good.
The figure took a vial out and held it up to Kaira’s body. Nothing happened for a moment. Then, silver threads seeped from every pore in her body and dumped into the vile. It took only a minute and then the figure stoppered the vial and returned it to a coat pocket.
It began to turn away, but stopped abruptly. The Hesspa watched warily from their posts. Something was amiss. Ash held his breath.
An excruciating pain exploded all over his body and he plummeted to the floor face first. He tried to scream out, to expel the wrenching that was happening deep within his bones, but he couldn’t. The figure turned slowly towards him, its curious eyes evaluating. It did not speak to him. Instead, it whispered in his mind.
What’s this? An intruder!
Ash tried to compose himself, to gain at least a little air. He struggled in vain as the figure continued to press him.
You avoided our patrols. You gained entry here, but to what purpose.
It was said as a statement rather than a question. Ash glanced over at the limp form of his sister. Whatever he could have done to save her was already well out of his reach. He would at least die knowing he tried to save his family.
The elfin girl, yes, a family perhaps. Ah, such sentiment.
It began to cackle, still telepathically. It made Ash feel like every corner of his brain was about to explode. He could feel the tears streaming down now, uncontrollably, and he was pretty sure he had pissed himself.
Bang! Ash sensed more than felt a part of the wall explode inward. There was scuffling and yelling, none of which Ash could even comprehend. His mind was being crushed. He had never felt this sort of pain.
A figure dropped to the ground next to him. He recognized the black suit. It was only then that his head began to clear. He rolled his head to get a better view. One of the Hesspa stood above him. No, that wasn’t one of the Hesspa that had accompanied the figure, he thought, this one was different. A small symbol adorned its shoulder, a metal pin with a phoenix in a triangle. A memory flitted through his mind. Rebirth, he remembered, Rebirth was an organization that had been spoken about covertly back in his hometown; people were coming together to stand up to this beast of a government in secret gatherings.
Ash glanced back up at the Hesspa and tried to speak, “Rebirth.”
It came out only as a gurgle. The Hesspa called to someone out of Ash’s sight. He then looked back down at Ash, “You are ssssafe, friend. Ressst easssy.”
Then the room grew dark.