Ancient eyes look out from the shade of a single aspen on a low hill at the edge of the Wild Woods where the rolling plains begin. The early morning light slowly illuminates the plains sweeping out before them, broken in the near distance by the lonely stockade of the doomed human settlement. Small tendrils of smoke form the morning cook fires rising gently into the clear prairie air, forlorn precursors of what she has foretold.
Another figure moves up beside her, His almond shaped eyes, turmoil written clearly in their gold flecked emerald depths; gaze down upon the simple village of farmers and frontiersmen.
“You are certain?” he whispers, eyes fixed upon the proud little settlement.
“Yes. As sure as the sun will set and the moon will rise. When the sun sets next there will be nothing left of Trigadore, their bodies and the ash of their burned homes will nourish the earth, and in barely three moons from now there will be nothing left. It will be as if they never existed.” The Ancient Crone at his side whispers, the weight of prophecy dragging his slender shoulders down.
She turns in a rustle of heavy robes and begins to shuffle off back into the still dark woods, stopping at the edge to regard her young companion, this year’s Warden, her protector.
“We must be going.” She whispers harshly turning back to the woods shuffling surely onwards through the thick undergrowth, Undergrowth that slides eerily away from her as she walks only to reform behind her leaving not a trace of her passing.
“I will wait here.” He pleads to her receding form. “Someone should bear witness to this tragedy.”
“Come, young one.” Her voice carries the command of ages, reminds him of his duties.
“The earth shall bear witness, which is enough for me as it should be for you.”
“Your mind is full of “If’s” boy. “If-you had time, If- you could convince them to trust you, if -you could convince them to flee, “if -you could convince your own people to allow them sanctuary, dangerous are these if’s. And before you even walk down that dark path let me remind you that even If you could rally your people, the sixty bows of your tribe would be no more than a light summer sprinkle to the Nemesis Hordes, ten times your number shall fall upon the foolish humans. They will be wiped out to the last and there is nothing you or even I can do about it. Still your mind and give this no more thought”
Grudgingly he straightens his cloak against the morning chill, his silver aspen leaf clasp catching the growing morning light with a slight sparkle. He turns and disappears into the dark woods behind his charge, with no more disturbance than a shadow on ice.
Life out on the frontier is hard but satisfying for a farmer on the edges of so-called civilization. Being up at dawn and asleep by dusk, some might consider this a simple life, but those who have that attitude know very little about how to work with the land or understand the respect necessary to coax it to bear fruit. The satisfaction of cultivating the earth on which you live, and the responsibility of taking care of the animals that you depend on for food, clothing, and companionship. Life on the farm is never easy; death and disease are as common threats as insufficient rain and harsh winters. A community balanced on the edge of disaster, these people are free.
A young auburn haired girl looks up from the wheat field before her. Shielding her eyes form the growing morning sun she looks west towards the dark woods, convinced she had seen a flash of silver in the trees. Shrugging to herself she returns to her work.
As a child she hung upon the apron strings of her mother working in her home and hearth. She learned to clean and cook at a young age as her mother’s illness and succession of stillborns, forced more and more of the household duties upon her young shoulders. Her daily chores becoming more complicated and laborious, from splitting and hauling firewood, feeding and cleaning up after the animals, and working the earth with her Father to produce the crops they needed to live on, she learned every aspect of farm life and grew to appreciate the hard work that was required just to put enough food on the table.
Though, admittedly with the successful birth of her brother Phoenix, now 2 years old, and her mother’s gradual recovery, life has become slightly less stressful for this willful teenager. Allowing her time to spend wandering the forests edge and fishing in the nearby river. Time to spend carefree with the other children, playing childish games and running like prairie rabbits.
Run like prairie rabbits the farmers and field hands did when the first blaring horns sounded in the distant east, as the morning sun shone down brilliantly uncaring. Like rabbits before a storm they rushed headlong back into the village, to seeming safety behind their high wooden stockade and sturdy gate.
By midday their sturdy gate lay in a smoldering pile, their peaceful village overrun by savage hyena headed humanoids, Gnoll mercenaries in the employ of the Nemesis. Rampant slaughter in the streets. The coarse sounds of their inhuman tongue and hyena laughter a counterpoint to the screams of her doomed people. She watched from behind her father as the savages torn her world apart. Watched as they toyed with and then slaughtered her family, when her father fell before her she snatched up his heavy sword and rushed the cruel beasts that had been tormenting them for most of the afternoon, laughingly the leader of this particular group backhanded her into unconsciousness.
Well after dusk she awoke, still tied by the wrists to crossed poles in the village proper, the cold steel at her neck a sharp counter point to the heat of the burning village, and the abused fiery bundle of cuts and bruises her body had become. The Gnolls had not been kind to the women of her village. The village was burning to ash around her, an inferno of death and destruction blazing away out on the lonely plains, smoke stinging her eyes rising high into the clear night sky obscuring the bright full moon.
Raising her battered head she looked the pack leader right in his feral animal eyes, a sword, her father’s, in its sadistic hand resting below her left ear. Cackling it slashed downward across her chest to her right hip engulfing her in blinding pain and then nothing.
The ground is soft, the air is sweet redolent of the springtime woods, the light warm and comforting here beneath the encompassing boughs of an enormous willow. She is cold despite the sunlight. Her vision blurring in and out of focus, she is dying.
A single speck of crimson slowly swims into focus before her. A single red robin perched in the branches before her. As her vision clears she realizes that the curious little bird is not perched upon the willow branches but the perfectly camouflaged shoulder of a very worried looking Elven male. His almond shaped emerald eyes speaking volumes to her of what she must look like.
She reaches out to him slowly; her vision shifts to her own hand and the golden ring on her finger, her father’s ring, the tears come then.
Kneeling before her he pulls the glove from his right hand and whispers softly to her to lay still. As if she was capable of doing anything else. As his hand approaches hers it begins to glow, golden, the color of the midday sun, the light grows brighter and she can see the bones beneath his skin. When he touches her skin the pain returns blinding before a sense of peace and calm engulfs her. Like cool water to a fevered child.
“That is the best I can do for now. Should keep you until I can get you to a proper healer.” He whispers picking her up gently as she falls back into sweet unconsciousness.
Weeks later Doyle comes storming back into the common room of their home in the trees. He looks at her. Sitting there quietly against the wall staring out into space despondent, with those strange eyes, bright emerald green eyes with a ring of gold around the middle and a ring of dark blue/grey around the outside of the iris. Witchy eyes.
Healed and healthy despite the scars she would forever carry, and her unusual coloring, her once auburn hair gone white blonde with dark crimson strands throughout.
Quietly he moves over to her and sits beside her, Again marveling at the changes in this strange young woman’s appearance.
“Tealia, Saeavaina.” He whispers softly. “I am leaving at dawn. Where I go I cannot bring you with me and as none of my people will take you in I have made other arrangements. You will go to stay with the Revered Guardian Hafwyn.
She is a harsh mistress, as harsh as nature itself but she is wise and you may learn a lot from her. Be prepared for hardship and enlightenment in equal measure.”
“I heard that.” A crotchety vice sounds from the wall across the room as a withered old crone in heavy brown robes walks through the sturdy wooden wall.
Doyle rises and bows low as the Guardian enters his home, gently pulling Tealia up with him.
The Ancient woman looks over the silent girl before turning and heading out the door “Come girl, you have much to learn and not much time to learn it in.” Cackles the Crone
“Go now Saeavaina, We will meet again.” He whispers from behind her giving her a gentle nudge towards the receding Guardian.
He left at dawn with a few of his companions, he did return many years later, In time to say goodbye.
The time flew by after that for Tealia. She learned much in the service of cantankerous old Hafwyn, of the powers of nature and balance, of the divine powers, healing, love and forgiveness. Her love of the forest grew, and the respect for all living (natural) things became a seed inside of her, that grew over time to be a burning tree that filled her with the passion to actively pursue good, to defeat evil—a strength that belied her soft looks.
This unfortunately eventually led to an ever widening rift between the two.
Hafwyn’s strong commitment to philosophical neutrality and her views of good, evil, law, and chaos as prejudices and dangerous extremes, advocating the middle way of neutrality as the best, most balanced road in the long run, no matter the consequences to other people.
Tealia’s passion for doing the best that a good person can do. Her devotion to helping others, not standing idly by as good people suffer. Not seeing the point of gaining the power and wisdom to make a difference and then not doing so.
So it was that one cold winter night, after years of study with the old crone, and countless arguments that the fiery young woman didn’t even blink or get emotional, when Hafwyn, during a particularly heated argument, revealed that she knew before hand of the attack on Trigadore.
Calmly, Tealia said good night to her teacher and retired to her own hollowed out tree shelter, where Amaetheon her friend and companion waited, a strikingly beautiful clouded leopard Tealia found him as a cub, his two front paws were caught in a cruel hunters trap. Dehydrated and near death when she found him. She nursed him back to health, healing him and forging a strong natural bond. The two have since become inseparable.
Quietly she gathered her few belongings and they left walking out into the woods that night never to return.
When she made it to the edge of the woods the next morning, too look out over the nonexistent ruins of Trigadore from her favored vantage point, a familiar figure was waiting there for her. Doyle.
He offered no words of advice or attempts to make her stay, simply handed the reins of a magnificent horse to her, one of his favorites, and the pack of his back saying quietly “This has served me wells for many years. I wish I could go with you but my duties dictate otherwise, however, we will meet again.” With a quick hug, he was gone blending perfectly back into the woods. His bright red robin, Wren, bounced around on the horse’s saddle for a few moments more before winging back into the woods after his friend.
She has been on the road ever since. Doing the best she knows how to help others and make this cursed world a better place.