I had written this many, many years ago. I believe I was 20 at the time, and I really hadn’t taken the time to proofread over go over my work at all. I am putting this up here for comparison in the writing styles that I had then, to what I have now.
I awoke in a tent slowly, my eyes adjusting to the dark. It was night, and the wind was flapping against the tent, and I could hear the low talk outside. My ears strained to hear what was being said, and soon I heard all I wanted to hear for the past two years.
The war was over.
I heaved a heavy sigh. I would finally go back home to Azironia, and see my friends and family. The idea excited me so much, I sat up. But the wounds hindered me, and I was back down on the cot. Soon I remembered everything I was involved in. The last battle was very hard and long; spells being cast, swords sparking, and peoples war cries that echoed in my ears. At the time, I was in my Elven primal state, a berserker rage, that cut through most that stood in my way. I picked up wounds doing so, and this was where I was being cared for.
But I couldn’t help but smile. The Great War was over, and I could go home. Home in the Elven wood of Azironia.
I looked around in the tent for my clothing and Elvish blades. I found both lying next to the cot, and slowly I picked up the blades. As I did, the rune-insribed blades faintly glinted in the candlelight.
I looked down at myself, examining my wounds. Apparently I fought well, as I had only one slightly big gash in my chest, but that was all, spare the scratches I earned. I leaned over to pick up my cloak, and I picked up some pouches containing herbs I would use to help heal myself with.
I pulled out some of the herb, and slowly stuffed it under the gauze, feeling the wet, swelling sore that had been dressed. Making sure I distributed it evenly, I pulled out my hand and wiped off the ooze with a towel nearby.
I was beginning to close my eyes when someone approached my tent. I was forced to squint my eyes from the light glowing from the camp fires as the tent was drawn open. I did not know who it was, even when the voice spoke to me.
“Kolhinar,” it said. It sounded like another elf, but I could not be sure.
“Who are you?” I asked, trying to make out the silhouette before me.
“You don’t recognize me?” the voice replied. “That rock must have hit you pretty hard.”
A rock? I wondered. Then I remembered what he spoke of. I was charging the retreating line when a sorceress had cast a fireball to cover them. It was far away, but my eyes still followed it, as if it beared something of interest. I saw it head for a massive boulder, and instinctively I drew a magical shield around me. The fireball hit the boulder, and the immense rock exploded, spawning several, more dangerous rocks that were hurtled through the air. It all happened in a matter of seconds, then everything went dark.
“I surmise so,” I said, coming back to reality. I felt my head, and found a rather large goose-egg on my forehead, sensitive to touch.
“Well, since you don’t remember, I am acting Field Commander Golhagen,” he said. That brought back more memories flooding my thoughts. The real Field Commander, Jazeroth, died after suffering a lightning strike that had killed several others. I remembered who he was. My closest friend had died on the battlefield, one I had spent a childhood with. I had tried reviving him a couple of times, but it did not work. The lightning had done the damage. That is what sent me into a rage, and after the retreating line.
Golhagen stepped in his place. He was a formidable Elf, and he saw more of the Great War than I. He took his place, and commanded the rest of our troops to victory.
“I remember you now,” I said. “I feel like a fool not remembering. You swung the odds around for us, and then led us to victory in Jazeroth’s place.”
“Yes,” he said, lowering his head. “I am sorry about the loss of Jazeroth. I know he was a close friend. After you left him, we tried reviving him, but we knew our efforts were in vain if you had already tried.”
He was probably right. I posessed a great magical skill that few could match against, as well as a niche for fighting.
“We buried him on top of the commanding hill, and held a ceremony for him. We tried to wake you, but you were hit pretty hard. The rock sent you back a good 30 yards. Only two others suffered the explosion, and the rocks had passed through them. You were lucky.”
“How long have I been unconscious?” I asked curiously.
“Only half of the day,” he replied. “Don’t worry, though. You didn’t miss anything. The battle, and the war, was over shortly after you were hit.”
“I see. Well, I am sorry, but I am afraid I must cut you short. I have to leave soon. I am anxious to get back home,” I said.
“Your condition is going to leave you in that bed for a couple of days,” he informed me. I looked up at him again, only smiling.
“I can take care of that,” I told him. “Must I remind you?”
He smiled. “I am sorry. I forgot. You have a good evening, and a safe trip home. May the Gods watch over you, Kolhinar Zsareth.”
“As well as you, Commander.” He stepped out of the tent, closing the draping cloth behind him. Once again, I closed my eyes, putting my hands on my wound. I took a deep breath, and began reciting the spell I had learned a long time before.
“Cori cori dsaneth gradora, polante fredi sum codpratho.” The chant seemed to echo in my mind, and I opened my eyes, concentrating the swirling energies around me on my wound. Slowly my hands started to glow an incandescent white, and it suddenly discharged into my torso. I winced at the momentary pain, but slowly all the pain began to go away. I sat up, and saw some people running towards the tent.
“What’s going on in here?” someone asked. Two others were behind him, trying to see what was happening.
“Nothing is wrong here,” I replied. Slowly, I unwrapped the gauze from around my chest, discarding it beside my bed. The puss was still there on top of the wound, and the man at the tent looked at me disgustedly.
“That is… quite the wound you have there,” he said, trying to hold himself from hurling. I smiled, reached over to the towel, and wiped all the ooze away, revealing nothing but a slight scar. I looked back at the men, who were gazing in wonder. One of them approached me, examining my face.
“You are Kolhinar, are you not?” he asked eagerly.
“Yes, I am,” I replied. I reached over, grabbing my cloak and blades, putting them on. I put on my boots and filled my flask with water. I pulled my hood over my head, and I picked up the herbs and placing them on my belt, pushing through a gathered crowd.
“That is Kolhinar Zsareth,” I heard some of them mumble in awe, amongst the whispers. Soon I was leaving the crowd, heading for the top of the commanding hill. I looked up at the sky, noting the stars and the moon. They had shone brightly, ensuring a safe trip home. I was going over memories past, during and before the battle, and I thought about the long year I had spent here under the guiding Gods. Even moreso, I remembered my family. My wife had told me the night before I had left that she was expecting a child soon, and if she had beared a boy, she would name it after me. That night had been hard for me, because it made me want to stay home with her and my children, Jarzamenia, my girl who was taking up magic alongside me, and my boy Faromier, who was taking after my fighting and swordplay.
The following day, they held a surprise feast for me before I left. Jarzamenia had impressed me by making a fireball the size of her forefinger to start the bonfire. I had grown so proud of her accomplishments. We held a party that day in the wood, the bonfire burning on the ground below us as we made merry in the treetops. I gave a farewell speech before I left, and it had put me in good spirits for the war.
Soon enough I was on top of the commanding hill, and I stopped, looking for Jazeroth’s grave. I saw a couple of people taking down tents and moving them downhill, as well as some sitting on the crest of the hill, digesting the battle they had won. My eyes finally caught a graveyard, and I walked over to it. Fellow commanders had been laid to rest here, on the hill they commanded from and helped win a war from. I looked over each of the graves; some of the names were written in Elven sanscript, others in English. I had searched all of the graves, but to my disappointment, could not find Jazeroth’s.
Looking around, I caught a glimpse of another grave at the highest crest of the hill, looking over the battlefield. I walked slowly to it, and I knew whose it was.
I came upon it, looking down at the name. I pulled back my hood and kneeled, bowing my head. I sat there for a while, doing nothing but looking at the grave. Suddenly, memories of our childhood came back to me. The times we had covered each other’s hides, when we were playfighting, when we had begun growing up. He was slightly older than I, but he treated me as an equal. I remember when he had moved away about eight years before the Great War, but fate had brought us back together for this last stand against evil. This last stand together.
I felt the tears come to my eyes, and silently I let them drop on his grave. They soaked into the ground, and at once disappeared. Wiping my face, I chanted our sacred Death Prayer, and stood up.
“As we had promised each other long ago,” I said slowly, “I will not forget you or dishonor you.” With that, I replaced my hood and began the walk home.
I had been walking for a few days when I came upon a small town. I had decided that a good rest would do me some good, so I went in. The streets were fairly packed, but only because celebration had taken its hold on the town. People were drinking and having fun as they danced about the street. It took me a while to get through the thick of the crowd, but I came upon a hospitable-looking inn. I opened the door, looking inside and noticing the rather calm but pleased crowd sitting and drinking.
I took up a seat at a vacant table, pulling back my hood. My ears picked up most of the talk going about the tavern. The people seemed quite happy the Great War was over, and I had to agree with them, especially since I had been through the thick of it. I pulled out my flask, drinking from it, watching what was happening, listening to the conversations of adventurers and fighters.
Quite suddenly, the tavern had got quiet. I looked up to see them looking at the door, at what looked like a pirate group who were making way through the doorway. They looked about the tavern, and wherever their eyes followed, people seemed to look away. I had gathered they were the local bullies. Slowly, one of them turned towards me, and his eyes came to rest upon me. He was a human. Slowly he crossed over to my table. He looked down at me with a menacing grin.
“You are in my seat,” he said, cracking his knuckles. I smiled back at him, not about to be pushed out of my seat.
“I am sorry, I was here first,” I said to the brute, and the tavern erupted in whispers. I was not in the least bit intimidated by him, in fact I felt quite superior. I continuted staring into his eyes, not moving.
“I said,” he repeated, “you are in my seat.” He lifted up his hand and grabbed me by my cloak, drawing himself right to my face. Soon, his friends were behind him.
“If you tear this cloak, there will be Hell to pay,” I warned. They laughed, somewhat amused by the warning I had given him.
“You are funny, but I will kill you now,” the pirate said, grabbing for his sword. I bolted my hand behind my back, unsheathing one of my blades. I saw his eye follow my hand, but he was too slow. I brought the sword around, jabbing it up through his mouth, coming out the top of his head.
Everything seemed to stop. The only sounds were the choking coughs coming from his throat. His eyes rolled into the back of his head, sword still in hand. He stumbled backwards and came down on a table, smashing it. Everyone seemed to stare at him, then one by one his buddies looked at me. Whispering started coming from people’s mouths, as they pointed and stared at what had just taken place.
The other five pirates were drawing their swords and knives, menacing expressions taking over their face. Slowly, the people in the bar backed against the wall, watching and occasionally whispering. I was in the middle, crouched with my blades crossed in front of me.
The pirates encircled me, closing any possible escape. I ears listened behind me, my eyes watching in front of me for any attack. My ears picked up slight squeaks in the floor, and I turned around, swinging at the pirate. Immediately, the blade run through his chest, leaving a gash. He fell, but not before one of his friends jumped on my back.
I struggled to get him off, and I saw another coming at me. I got leverage and threw the pirate off my back, into his friend. I took a blade to each of them, killing them.
I turned around to find one more standing there, amazed at what he had just saw. Once again, I crouched, crossing my blades in front of me. He stood there, motionless. He seemed gutless.
As soon as I had turned my back, I heard him running at me. I swung around to find him raising his sword in the air. I blocked overhead with one blade, and dropped the other, grabbing his shirt and tossing him over me. I swung my blade over me, bringing it down and stopping it just a couple of inches short of his neck.
Everything seemed still. I looked at his face, and found his eyes tightly closed shut. I waited, and he opened one eye, and then the other. His eyes met mine, and I was pissed.
“I want you to live remembering the coward that you are,” I said lowly. I stood up, hauling him to his feet. As I did, he noticed my other blade on the ground.
“Go for it,” I egged. “See what happens.” He looked at it, then back at me, and he lowered his head.
“Smart guy,” I said, pushing him towards the door. He ran through, and I watched him run around a corner in the street. I picked up my other blade, and sheathed them both. I saw the two pirates lying in a pile, and the third a little further away. They were all dead.
I went back to my seat, and the bar seemed to return to what it had been a couple of minutes ago. I sat down, getting out a flask and taking a drink. After a little bit, the owner came over to me.
“I would like to thank you,” he said. “That group has been a nuisance to the whole town, and he kept me from getting my regular business. What can I do for you?”
I looked at the bartender curiously, somewhat taken aback by what he had said. Of course, I was unaware the pirates were trouble.
“Could I trouble you for a night in your inn?” I asked, rather eager to get into a real bed.
“Is that all you ask?” the bartender said, surprised. “You are a good gentleman. You can have our best suite tonight free of charge. I will also offer you a discount on prices anytime you pass through.”
I was delighted by his offer and his generosity. “Thank you very much. May I have the pleasure of your name?”
“I am Sir Wallace, operator and owner of the Inn. Say, what do you have in that flask?”
“Just some water,” I replied. “Why?”
“Well, it just so happens I have some ale. How would you like to have it for free?”
I had got the feeling I had done more than a service for this gentleman. “Sure, please. I would enjoy that a lot.”
Soon enough, Sir Wallace had escorted me upstairs and gave me the key to my room. It was rather spacious, and it had a bathtub full of steaming water. This had been a long time coming. I took pleasure in the bathtub while eating some fruits. I decided to save the ale for the trip; I had tasted it and it was something to be treasured for a while.
I had finally got into bed after a while, and fell asleep almost instantly. I was dreaming about coming home to a feast, much like the one that had been given to me before I left. My wife and children came up to me, hugging me and kissing me all over. It felt so real. I climbed to the treetops to be greeted by old friends and all of my neighbors. I ate to my heart’s content as my wife, Lorrenia, talked about all that transpired while I had been gone. Suddenly I remembered the newborn, and I asked her. She took me to our treehouse, and in the back was a baby wrapped up in blankets, sleeping. I couldn’t tell the slightest feature as it slept soundly underneath it’s blanket. I looked back at Lorrenia, and she smiled, saying, “Go ahead and peek.”
I walked over to the wooden crib, trying to predict what it would be, a boy or a girl. I came up to it, and I grabbed a hold of the blanket, pulling it back.
I jumped back, covering my nose. The baby was charred! It had been burned! I looked back to Lorrenia, and she sat in the corner with our two children, and she was burning! I was confused. This wasn’t supposed to be happening. I went outside the treehouse, and our whole village was burning, and there were people screaming. I saw them in their homes, tied up, the flames engulfing them. I realized I was screaming in this nightmare.
I looked below and saw black riders leaving on horseback, galloping away very quickly. “Hey!” I yelled, but they didn’t turn around. Suddenly, the flames were around me. I couldn’t move. I looked back at my family, tied up, burning and dead. I couldn’t move! I couldn’t do anything!
I rose up in bed in a sweat, breathing hard and looking around. It was dark, but I could see. I was in the Inn room, in bed. I wasn’t home. But I knew I had to go. Something was very wrong. Something evil.
I quickly got dressed, putting on my two Elven blades and then my cloak. I pulled the hood over my head, making sure I had everything I came with. I left six gold pieces on the dresser, and went out the window, jumping to the ground and into a back alley.
I looked up at the sky. It was early morning, as the sunlight was barely peeking over the horizon, but the stars were still bright in the sky. From here, I could get home by midday running. I made my way out of town, and down the pathway to the wood of Azironia.
I ran, the world around me nothing but a darkness around me. The dream felt so real that I could not ignore it. Otherwise I would have accredited it with the war, but something else was there. Like a presence.
I stopped. I was on top of a crest on a hill, looking over the Azironian wood. My eyes scanned the horizon to the west farther inward to the wood. From what the moon would reveal to my eyes, I could not see any smoke. I looked around, trying to spot any riders, or anyone for that matter. My ears didn’t pick up any sounds other than the crickets that sung in the night. My eyes dashed back and forth, looking for any sign of danger. But I saw nothing.
All at once, I became tired. The adrenaline wore off, and I suddenly realized how exhausted I was. I ran the good part of 20 miles or so without stopping. I sat on the ground, my chest heaving, trying to catch air. I ran the dream over and over again in my mind, trying to figure out its meaning. My town burning, dark riders; none of it made sense. I concluded that it had been a result of drinking a little bit more than I had been accustomed to over the years.
My chest stopped heaving after a bit, and I was rested once more. I got up, dusting myself off. I started down the hill, somewhat weary. Within a few moments I was upon the wood. I entered it, my eyes growing accustomed to the darkness that swallowed any light that would make it through the trees. It would be quite a while before I came upon home, so I began looking for a suitable place to camp.
I found a tree with a sizeable hole in it from a root sticking up from underneath the ground. I crawled inside, regretting having left the inn on such a notion. I put my blades on the ground next to me, so I could lay down comfortably. I covered myself with the cloak, and fell asleep.
I woke up at sunrise, dew glistening on the grass as well as on me. I sat up slowly, making sure not to hit my head on the overhanging root. I crawled out of the hole, examining my surroundings. It was quite light outside, despite the heavy foliage on the trees above. I reached back inside the hole, grabbing my cloak and blades, and put them both on my back. It was going to get warmer later, so I decided to go ahead and hurry my pace as to get to the shelter of my home, as well as to see my family.
I started going through my dream again. I didn’t know what it had symbolized; I’d never had visions before. It all seemed confusing to me, so I put it aside, not wasting any of my time on it. Instead, I decided to let my mind drift on whatever came to mind.
It was rather early in the war. I had become accustomed to seeing dead bodies lying on the ground, and those of the suffering. I was constantly been tempted to sit down and heal people, but I couldn’t, as I had enlisted as a warrior. Between the magic and the fighting, I was in fact stronger in the fighting. But nonetheless, I was very strong in both.
We were moving forward after a short skermish with our enemy, the Calgion. They were a faction intent on overthrowing the government and ruling our lands as tyrannists. They were intent on enslaving all of the people who had lived on Kremnagia, our land. Their forces had grown quite strong over the last decade, and they had done border raids and kidnapped several of the people from the border towns. Most of them were either made slaves by the Calgion, or were sent to other troll towns to either be eaten alive or cooked for feasts.
We declared a war on them after they attempted to assasinate Prince Alherien, a noble Human who ruled alongside his father, King Lazeroth. Together they had ruled the lands for over 30 years, and the son was heir to the throne.
The Prince devised a new tactical plan, and we were part of it. However, we never did find out what it was, not even after the war. We were being led west through a swamp to flank a contingent of about 500 Calgion soldiers. As we approached the swamp, I gave myself a spell of Infravision, which would let me detect body heat regardless of light. I was one of the few spellcasters of my troop, however more of a warrior-sorcerer.
“What do you think?” one of my partners asked. “Do you think this is a good idea?”
I looked around, trying to catch any glimpse of an enemy. “It looks like it should be okay. We drove back the Calgion past the swamp, and they rejoined with the troop we are going after.”
“I don’t know,” he said shakily. “There is just something not right with this. My blood is just ice-cold.”
“Whoa, wait a minute,” I said, holding out my hand. My eyes had caught something large and still warm, laying down not too far ahead. “Wait here, I gotta check something out.”
I unsheathed my Elven blades, approaching the body slowly. I crouched low in the water that was already waist deep, in case of a surprise. I came to it; I disspelled my infravision, looking him over. As I looked at his face, my body grew into a cold sweat. His face, although dead, showed shock.
“Ambush!” I yelled, running back. “It’s an ambush!” I ran back towards my troops, who began turning the other way. At once, in front of them, archers stood up, pulling back their arrows. I ducked, going under the water, avoiding any flying arrows.
I popped back up out of the water to find half of my troop dead, and the archers reloading. My body burst in flame, and it was sent forth, and a wall of fire engulfed the archers. I looked behind me to find orcs coming at us.
“Climb the trees!” I yelled, running for the nearest tree. A orc ran at me, wielding a spear that looked rusted. Poison. As soon as he thrusted it at me, I knocked it aside with one blade, cutting off the head with the other. I continued to run for the tree, and scampered up it. I looked around to find that most of my comrades had made it up several other trees, throwing whatever they could find. I started hurling fireballs as fast as I could, picking off one orc after the other. The battle raged on for several hours, and it seemed long before any reinforcements arrived…
My mind snapped back to reality, realizing that I stopped. I looked around to see where I was. My eyes caught a branchless tree. It was a landmark. I was now in Azironian wood. I would only be one more hour before I was home. I grew excited, beginning to go forward again.
Something caught the corner of my eye, forcing me to stop. I looked down at the ground to find a set of footprints. It was uncommon for wood-elves to leave footprints, especially ones this big. I looked down at it, studying it.
The footprint showed the person to be carrying something, loaded in the front instead of being carried on the back, indicating it might be a person carrying another. They had been going on for quite some time, as the footsteps were irregular, indicating fatigue.
Following the footsteps for a while, I noticed that the person had in fact laid down a body for a while, whilst seating himself. There were knee prints next to the body as well, showing that the person being carried was either injured or dead.
After a while, I heard voices ahead of me. Straining to hear, I heard an older adult and a rather young child.
“Are we going to get out of the wood?” the child asked, somewhat scared.
“We will. It will be a while yet, though,” the adult responded. “We are deep in the wood.”
At that I knew that they were lost. I continued walking, and soon enough I came upon them. The child saw me first, and I pulled back my hood.
“Who is that?” she asked. The adult, who was a Human, spun around, picking up a stone, defending the child and himself.
“I mean you no harm,” I reassured. “I saw your footprints and decided to see what was wrong.”
He set down the stone he picked up, still wary of my presence. “I am Andalor, and this is my little sister, Granisia. We were playing in the woods, and we got lost in our frolicking. She then cut herself on a rose, and has been feeling nauseous ever since.”
“Would you mind if I took a look?” I asked, trying to look as unthreatening as possible. Andalor nodded, notioning towards the child. I came to her, and noticed she was sweating, while shivering. She edged back a little, still afraid of me.
“I won’t harm you, I promise,” I said subtly. “I am here to help. Could you show me where you got cut?”
She pulled up her sleeve to reveal a scratch that was black and blue around it, however still somewhat closed.
“Now how did you cut yourself on a rose all the way up your arm?” I asked somewhat confused.
“I tripped on a stone,” she said, short of breath, “and my arm hit the rose.”
“Oh, I see,” I said. “Was the rose grey?”
She nodded, pulling her sleeve back down. I looked at Andalor, who was still stunned as to what happened.
“Are you saying a rose did that?” he asked questioningly. I nodded.
“It is the Arthurian Rose,” I confirmed, “somewhat rare but very poisonous. Had this not been treated for much longer, she would have slipped into a coma and died shortly thereafter.”
“It hasn’t been treated yet,” he said, coming to her. I smiled back at him, nodding. “I will take care of it.”
I pulled out my flask and my herbs, soaking a handful of dry leaves with the ale. I pulled up her sleeve, putting the wet leaves on her scratch. I held them there, my hands starting to glow as I closed my eyes.
“Gora notchya suduien gon gora,” I chanted, and my hands stopped glowing. I pulled back my hands, the leaves once again dry. I put them back in my pouch. Andalor looked at the scratch, seeing it the same.
“You did nothing,” he said, somewhat furious. “What did you do to her?”
“I healed her,” I said calmly. “The poison has been removed, but the scratch will stay there.”
“Well, why didn’t you get rid of the scratch?” he retorted. I looked up at him.
“Because if I didn’t know better, I would think that your parents didn’t allow you to come play in the woods,” I explained. “That will show your guilt and perhaps you won’t come out here and endanger both of your lives again.”
Andalor turned away, his eyes unable to make contact with mine. I looked at Granisia, who had a guilty expression on her face as well. I stood up, putting the flask and herbs away.
“You can get out of the woods by following the sun,” I showed. “Now go home before you get in any more trouble.”
They both got up, about to leave, when Andalor turned around. “Thank you,” he said slowly. He then turned, and they ran off out of sight.
I couldn’t help but smile at the fact that I was just as mischevious at their age. I turned around, heading for home once more. Thoughts of food and wine filled my head, as well as thoughts of my family.
I was walking when I caught sight of an inscription on a tree. It was in Elvish writing, showing the boundaries of a tree village. I couldn’t have come upon it already, I thought. I don’t hear anyone. I tried to think of why this could be.
“A surprise party,” I thought to myself, smiling. “They set up a surprise party.” I walked forward, ready for someone to jump out behind a tree. I closed my eyes, trying to guess what my baby was going to look like. But the dream kept popping up in my head, the charred baby, the woods on fire. I kept trying to put it out of mind, but it kept nibbling at me.
I opened my eyes to find I had come upon a clearing. It was the middle of our treevillage. Burnt. I looked all around me, and the flames had left their charred touch almost everywhere my eyes dashed. Fire had lept up the trees, and fire engulfed the homes in them. Some of the bridges had been burnt to the point where they snapped under heir own weight.
Trying to maintain myself, I ran over to my family’s tree. I climbed up the ladder as fast as I could, reaching the top at a fast pace. I kicked open the scarred wooden door, revealing a partially burnt inside. I looked around, trying to see if anyone was in here. I checked both rooms, only to find burnt furniture and cold ashes.
That stopped me for a second. The ashes were cold. Whatever had happened here took place some time ago. I ran outside, trying to peer into the other treehomes. I couldn’t see anyone. My hopes were slightly up again, thinking that they might have been captured and taken away.
Flashes of the dream kept coming to me as I struggled to make sense of it all. Why would anyone want to burn a defenseless tree village? Why would they take away all of the people? Who was it? Again, the sight of the riders from my dream came to me, and it only made things worse.
I stepped outside, daring to cross the bridge that had been partially burnt. I took a couple of steps on it to make sure it wouldn’t collapse under my weight. I crossed it, coming to my neighbor’s tree. I opened the door, only to find the same thing. Burnt inside, and no one there.
I climbed down the tree back onto the ground, where I tried to fit the puzzle pieces together. I paced around, somehow hoping it would help me think. I thought of the things I found, the dream I had, and where the villagers might have gone.
I stopped. Something barely caught the attention of my nose, and I sniffed the air trying to figure out what it was. I looked, and there was a food storage compartment at the bottom of a tree I was next to. I guessed that food had long since been untouched and spoiled. In hopes of finding an answer, I opened the door.
The putrid smell assaulted my nose and watered my eyes, causing me to stumble back and cover my face. In a few moments, the stench became bearable enough to enter inside. Some of the food had been burnt, some of it was still there in bags. I ventured in further, looking around a corner. I froze in my steps.
The villagers had been burned alive, and that is what the unbearable stench was. They had been piled on top of each other, tied up and burned. I ran back outside, suddenly lost in the world I had grown up in. I had no clue of who I was, or where I was. The cold shivers had overcome my body, and I began to puke.
For a while I sat up in my burnt home, in the old chair I used to read books in. The shock was still there, and I thought I would be able to handle it after a war. There couldn’t possibly be anyone that cold-hearted, that evil to come upon a defenseless village and burn it and everyone in there. Why would someone want to do that? We held nothing of importance except for our simple lives and our simple ways.
It took me the rest of the day to get enough courage to go back into the food storage. I had left the door open to let the rest of the stench out, so it wouldn’t be putrid when I went back in. I brought the charred bodies outside so that they could be cremated, in the tradition of Azironians. As I was doing so, I had learned that they had been stripped of their clothes before being burnt.
Far into the night, I had set up the bodies on a wooden pile. I gave each one of them a blessing of eternal life, dusted them with a sacred spice, and set them afire, this time in honor. I sat there, watching the bodies go up into the Heavens in the form of smoke. Past memories seemed to go up in smoke as the fiery rage inside my body was lit up and fed. Whoever had done this was going to pay with their lives.
I had sat there throughout the night, watching the fire shrink in size, smolder and finally go out. A pile of fine ash was left to be scattered throughout our village, which I did the following day. I scattered them around the village, inside it, and on the family trees. As part of the tradition, I was to keep a small portion of the ash with me to shield me from the evil forces. After I made a pouch of leather clothes, I put the ashes in there, tying the pouch closed and hanging it on my hip.
The rest of the day, I was back in my home, reading old books from which I had learned my magic, as well as the journals that my family had wrote throughout the generations. At dusk, I went about to the other homes, reminiscing on the times people had been alive and joyous. The anger was consuming the good in me, I realized this now. And it would not stop feeding until those people who had done this had been brought to justice, and death.
The following day, I went about the other people’s homes, trying to find anything of use that would aid me on this quest. I then went out, hunted food, brought it back and cooked it. I took a whetstone to my blades and sharpened them. I squeezed any knowledge out of the tomes of magic I could, memorizing spell after spell over and over so that it would be perfect. I learned so much that day because I was on a path for vengeance. I was preparing myself for the long road ahead.
I decided I needed to head North; this was where most of the evil lay, and it was probably where I would find my answers. I rolled up a map and took it with me. As I was leaving the village, I turned around once more. Now desolate, I left it behind, nothing but a relic to me now.
“I will find the ones who did this,” I promised the empty village, “and they will pay.”