There once was a mage who caught a lucky break in earning a job in the king’s court. On his way to serve his lord, he became lost in the woods for many days and nights. His savior, an elfin maiden, discovered the mage in the forest near her village and took the weakened man in to her home. Over the course of nursing him back to health, the two fell in love and had a daughter, but the mage still had his duty to the king. He stayed until the day the babe was born, and, to make life easier on the mother, worked his magic on the babe, making her the most obedient child in the land. To do this, however, he had to remove her free will and lock it in an amulet to be worn around her neck. Who so ever held the amulet controlled the child. Kissing mother and daughter good bye, he continued on his way to the king, vowing to return when the child turned fifteen in order to restore her will. As fate would have it, ill became of the mage. He was the victim of a plot, framed by a lord in the king’s court for the rape of the king’s daughter and hanged for all to see. With the mage dead and gone, the lord gathered his men and rode into the forest in search of the girl. They pillaged the village and kidnapped the child. The fate of her mother remains unknown, although it is assumed she perished in the attack.
Ten years later sees the coming of the girl’s twenty-second year. For ten years, the lord had kept her as his servant, bending her- quite literally -to his every wish and whim. What the lord hadn’t realized was his maid’s fondness and pity for the child, and one day while he was out without the amulet, she snagged it for herself and returned it to the elf, telling her to run away as quickly as she could. The lord returned home to find his prized possession missing. After punishing the maid for her insolent behavior, he sent for the best bounty hunters his money could buy, swearing to have her back in his grasp.
Character the First
Let the Story Begin...
The last rays of the sun disappeared below the horizon as the earth gave way to the gentle light of the moon. An owl’s low cry broke the silence of the forest, acting as an alarm for the little elf sleeping under the canopy. It had been quite a while since daylight had touched her features. Traveling was much safer for her under the shelter of the darkened sky. She had traveled many weeks to get this far and wasn’t about to take any unnecessary risks that could lead to her getting sent back to the very place she was running from.
Yawning softly, she opened her eyes to the forest canopy, listening to the owl’s soft hooting. Slowly, she rolled off of her makeshift bed- a carefully woven mat of sticks and moss on top of a thin layer of leaves and grass- and propped herself up on her knees. A few feet from the bed was a shallow hole in the ground, surrounded by rocks, with a sturdy looking stick resting beside it. Picking up the stick, she dug around in the ash, bringing a few glowing embers into sight. She had to rebuild her fire, eat, break camp, and move on. Though she had many days and weeks behind her, there were still many months of travel ahead before she reached her destination.
Her destination? It could hardly be called such. She didn’t even know where she was headed. All she knew was that she had to get away, far away, and fast. If she couldn’t reach the kingdom’s borders, her flight would be pointless. But the question of where she was going was still left unanswered. Perhaps she could stow away on a ship, sail to a new kingdom, and start he life anew? Or perhaps she could remain a nomad, forever wondering the forest and hiding from those paid to track her down. While the first was a more comfortable thought, the prospect of leaving her homeland was unsettling. ‘I best not get ahead of myself…’ she thought, ‘I have to first elude capture…’
Throughout her internal debate, she had been piling small sticks and dry grass on top of the glowing embers, and it didn’t take long for the small pile to light. Once it was lit, it was only a matter of building it larger, but not large enough to overflow the makeshift pit. Standing, she slowly added larger and larger kindling to the flame until it was large enough to spread it’s flickering light across her camp. Her body not yet fully recovered from her time in captivity, the excretion of energy from even a simple task as building a fire left her feeling drained and weak.
Still needed to hunt but too tired to do so, she returned to her bed to rest and regain some energy. Her hand rose to her neck, her fingers wrapping around the gem that hung there. Holding it out so she could see it when she looked down, her thoughts drifted back to a time before her enslavement, to a time when her life was happy and carefree. Her mother had always been kind and understanding, had always allowed her to keep the amulet as long as she was an obedient child. Losing the amulet had always been a punishment, and it never lasted more than a few hours. As a child, she hadn’t realized she was different, hadn’t realized she was cursed. She had assumed everyone in her village- for her village, she thought as a child, was the entire world -had been exactly as she was, everyone was bound in some way, that having your will was a privilege, and that misbehaving always resulted in losing it for a time.
Looking back on it now, a humorless laugh passed her lips. How naive she had been! It would have been a blessing if everyone had been exactly like her, not the curse she later realized it was. It wasn’t until she was eight or ten that she finally realized she alone was bound in this fashion, that she was unique, but it didn’t become a curse until her twelfth year. The realization had started with a letter, a mere letter, that had sent her mother into hysterics. Written in the hand of the king himself, the letter brought news that her father had been found guilty of raping the princess and was sentenced to death by hanging. The older elf woman had wept for days, though it hadn’t been for her own betrayal and loss but for her daughter’s. The man sent to death was, as far as she knew, the only man that knew how to lift the curse from her daughter. Without him, her daughter would be vulnerable to anyone that knew her weakness for many years to come.
Finally calming herself enough to speak, the woman had explained to her daughter everything she knew of the amulet, stressing to the child how important it was to guard the gem with her life. The girl hardly had a chance to put the warning to good use; a few weeks later, her village was under attack. The screams of her friends and family still echoed in her thoughts, the shadows cast by the flickering flames as they ate at the buildings still danced before her closed eyes. Many had asked why it had happened, but her question had been answered as one of the men seized her and removed her amulet; her last free thought had been, “It is because of me.” Her memories of the dreadful day stopped there, even though she could still remember most of what had occurred in the years that followed. She knew not what had become of her mother, whether she had died trying to protect and save her daughter or escaped after finding it hopeless was yet to be known.
The gem slipped from her fingers and hit her chest once more with a soft thud. The young elf started out of her thoughts at the sound, closing her eyes and wiping dry her dampened cheeks before once more forcing herself to her feet. She needed to hunt, to eat, and to move on; remaining in the same place for too long would lead to her recapture. Reaching into the folds of her cloak- her cloak, one of only five possessions she had to her name now other than the dress and shoes her captor had clothed her in and the amulet around her neck -and pulled a knife from the folds. Her feet turned her away from the fire and led her between the surrounding trees seemingly of their own will; her mind was still on her past. First her father, the other elves of her village, and possibly her mother had given their lives because of her curse. She was certain the maid that had aided in her escape had met the same fate, and now she who had been raised as a vegetarian and to believe the life of every creature was sacred had to kill for food and strength.
She had spotted a herd of deer grazing and crouched in the shrubs around them. Picking off the weakest, smallest deer of the herd- a young buck whose flank bore a gouge from another buck’s antlers -she darted forward. As she had expected, the young buck’s leg had been affected by the wound, and his speed severely decreased. She caught him easily, jumping on his back, and drove the blade into his throat. The deer cried out in pain, a loud heart-wrenching cry, as it fell to the ground. Pulling out her knife, she once more buried it in his flesh, this time his heart. As he gave once last kick before falling still, a single thought crossed her mind, ‘How many more must give their lives for me because of this curse?’