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|Adele was going to be a character for AD&D, but she kinda took on a life of her own. Because this was originally only going to be a bio of her, I feel I glossed over the early stages a bit too much. Oh well, I'll work on it...|
Update: I don't think I'll work on this anymore. I've said all the important things, and the rest of her life just isn't story material.
I do not remember being born. There has always just been the glade, joy and merriment. One day is much like any other, but I never tire of it because I have no care for what has been or what will be. There is only laughter in the glade, frolicking in the sunshine with my sisters. Laughter like silver bells, happy and flirtatious, twisting and playing in the air with laughter like golden bells, rich and seductive.
I am fey and fickle; I break hearts because the pieces make a much prettier game. So do we all.
Sunbeams glittered on the waters of the lake, sending shards of light flying to decorate all the nymphs resting or playing in the glade. We all played and danced in the warmth of the sunlight, amusing ourselves with tales of this man or that, basking in the brilliance of our life.
I sat with some of my sisters in the shade of a willow tree, as we took refuge from the midday heat. I had propped myself against the trunk of the ancient willow, my eyes open barely enough to see sparkling sundrops dancing from the lake, the shadows of sisters laughing and splashing. The grass beneath my hands was cool, and as I pressed my hands deeper I felt the slight dampness of earth beneath. I sighed contentedly, and gradually my eyes slid closed, until all I could see was the occasional glitter of sunlight flitting across my eyelids.
I awoke when Ursula shook me gently by the shoulder.
"Come, Adele, a caravan has arrived. Come on! It's our turn!" Ursula was closest to me of all my sisters. We always took our turn at flirting with travellers together, and we often sat together afterwards to tell of our exploits. They were always the same, really; you don't see much new after a few hundred years. We took our meals together, and bathed together. There was hardly a moment we were apart.
"Come on, sleepy!" A caravan meant men to flirt with. Our little glade was not on a trade route, so when someone came this way, it was usually for one thing.
I got to my feet and stretched the sleepiness from my arms and back. Ursula grabbed my hand, and we ran off, laughing.
When we got to the edge of the glade, we saw the caravan had stopped nearby. The men had started to set up a camp, although the sun was still high enough in the sky to allow a few hours more of travelling. Ursula and I looked at each other and grinned. There were only men in the caravan. Women hardly ever came.
We moved around their camp, hiding in the undergrowth, until the setting sun was behind us. We are beautiful, true, but it is wise to use every advantage. So we are taught, and the effect of the sun behind us is an old trick.
I rose up out of the bushes, and Ursula beside me did the same. The men looked at us, and their jaws dropping. They surely knew what to expect, but the reality still took them by surprise. I smiled, basking in the warmth of the lustful gazes.
Ursula had already chosen hers. She moved towards a large, strong man, with a thick orange beard and a beautiful chest. He must have been used to female attention, with such a lovely body, but he was as entranced by Ursula as a moth by candlelight. No man can resist such unearthly beauty as ours.
For me, I took a tall, lean man, with dark hair tied into braids. He had gorgeous dark skin, like polished stone. I walked over to him. He stood up as I drew close, and it was obvious how much he desired me. I looked at Ursula in the lap of the orange-bearded man, and we exchanged a smile before I let my robe fall at my feet.
Others came to the men left over, for it was our turn to choose first. All of us took these men for as long as they will last during the night, and when we were done, we retreated silently into the trees. I disentangled myself from the exhausted man, who quickly drops into sleep. I went to the edge of the trees to wait for Ursula, who was still busy. She made a good choice; the man she is with was still going. When she finally exhausted him, we looked at all the sleeping travellers, and giggled as we slip into the forest.
Nymphs do not fall in love. We see that as a failing of other races. Although useless, it does provide for endless amusement, and many of us court it in those we meet. Many times we have laughed for days about a merchant who, upon being seduced by one of my sisters, would follow her around like a puppy dog, and promise her anything she could desire if she would only marry him. Marry! Oh, how we laughed. Sometimes they would be in danger of starving, they would care so little for their own welfare. Those we fed, and drugged, and when they woke in the middle of a forest path, they would be unable to find us again. This was even funnier - sometimes they took a whole day just to figure out which way was North! The sister who had achieved such devotion was always the star of the glade for next few days, entertaining us all with her account of the lovefool.
I lived this way for many centuries. Time has no meaning for us. All we care about is a steady supply of travellers to keep us amused, and we are happy. We neither know nor care about the outside world. Sometimes we can tell if there is a war on - instead of merchants we get soldiers, but that makes little difference. We have remained unchanged for millennia.
Another caravan would come, or a group on horses, or sometimes just one or two on foot. I would not always get first pick, and there were too many of us to have a go every time, so sometimes I would be waiting in the glade with the others, waiting for those that had had a man to come back and tell us all about it.
One time, though, was different.
A single traveller came along the path to the glade. It was my turn, but when I saw there was only one, I was disappointed that Ursula would not be able to join me. My disappointment lessened as I watched him come closer, though, for he was a fine specimen. He was tall, and had black hair cut to his shoulders. He had a small beard, and his skin was smooth and brown. He had sensual lips, a strong jaw, and magnificent eyes. His eyes were dark, but seemed to sparkle beneath his brows.
He stopped at the customary place, and set up his camp. I came towards him from the sun, like I always do, letting it cast a brilliant halo of light around me. His beautiful dark eyes seemed to burn into me as he looked at me, and it seemed... that perhaps there was something more than lustful desire there. I ignored it and smiled flirtatiously at him, and did not think about it further.
He had stamina, and lasted long into the night. I rose, and stood looking at his naked form, silver in the moonlight. I thought that when I went into the woods again, back to the glade, I would tell my sisters every detail, and we would laugh, and I would never see this man again. And then I did not want to leave.
I saw a movement in the bushes, and then Ursula was there, waving to me, eager to hear about the night. I gathered my robe and ran over to her, and we went to the glade for all to gather round and listen to my tale.
But with all my sisters listening, instead of telling of the details of his lovemaking, I began praising his virtues - his strong body, his smooth skin, and those dark, fiery eyes. They were confused at first, but then they started laughing. I laughed along with them, and then I realised they were not laughing at my tale - they laughed at me.
I looked at myself. I was becoming nothing but a lovesick fool, like the puppy dogs that followed their masters, watery eyes holding only devotion. They were laughing at me! Rightly so, for I must be quite a spectacle. A nymph, running around like them, begging for favour! I was angry with myself, and I went away to an empty corner of the glade, and hugged my knees to my chest.
When the morning came, my anger had gone, and all that was left was a strange sadness, a longing. I had woken before any of my sisters. I stole quietly away, and went to the place where the night before I had made love. The man had gone, leaving only a pile of ash where the campfire had been and a set of hoof prints leading away.
I barely thought. I ran after the tracks all day, until I caught sight of him once again in the evening after he had made camp. I snuck into the trees, and moved to where I could see his camp. I watched silently from the bushes his every movement until he fell asleep, then I slept too.
Morning came, and he had left before I woke again. I followed him like I had yesterday, and watched again as he set up camp, ate and slept. The third day I awoke as he was breaking camp, and I followed him all day, never losing sight of him, but never coming out from my hiding place among the trees. Sometimes I thought of my sisters back at the glade. They would be laughing so hard if they knew what I was doing. Perhaps they do.
He stopped, and set up camp again. I stayed in the trees and watched. He sat there eating some bread and jerky, the fire accentuating the embers in his eyes. I stood entranced, until a sword blade thrust itself into my vision. My man had a look of surprise on his face as he looked at the man grinning at him from the other end of the sword. Two others with daggers stood beside the swordsman, and all three of them wore murderous grins.
My breath stopped. All I could seem to hear was my heart beating in my ears. I watched helplessly as the leader of the robbers moved his lips and gestured threateningly with his sword. I stood immobile as my man waved his arms, smiling, placating. The leader opened his mouth wide, demanding something. My man shook his head. The leader signalled the other two, and they held my man between them, and the leader held his sword to my man's belly and talked with his face very closely. My mans lips moved, and I stood paralysed as blood spurted between his lips, as the leader slid his sword through my man's stomach and slit him open.
My heart beat like thunder in my ears, in my whole head. I tried desperately to get the breath to scream, but all my lungs would give me was a small, soft whimper. The robbers left my man's body, and took the horse with its saddlebags.
The fire had gone out long ago, and I still stood paralysed. I finally took a breath, and sobbed, and then took another, and let it out in a scream of anguish. Like a puppet released, I collapsed, then got up and ran and stumbled and crawled to where my Love lay. I looked at his dark eyes, and the spark still shone in them. Weeping, I cradled him in my lap, and held him as tears ran in a river, mixing with his blood. His breath was shallow and slow, and his eyes were fixed unseeing on some distant place, but the fire still burned in them. I held him so, silently crying, and not until the sun was well up did I notice that his breath had stopped, and his eyes were dead.
I still held him until the tears dried on my cheeks. I then bent and kissed him on the forehead, a final farewell. The tears had taken my sorrow with them as they dried, and now all I felt was a deep rage, a hatred. I looked through his clothes, and found a dagger in his belt. I took it, and then ran down the path the robbers had taken, and I never looked back.
I ran for two days. The robbers were mounted, but I did not eat or rest. I ran on, fuelled by rage, until I saw their campfire ahead, and then I moved silently into the trees. The robbers sat around their fire, laughing at crude jokes and eating jerky. I waited stone-still, watching each of them avidly, my hatred burning, patient.
One of them got up and moved into the bushes. He opened his pants, and let out a sigh as he urinated. His screams came out as nothing more than a bubbling gurgle through his slit throat, a pitiful sound the others could not possibly hear over their raucous laughter. After a time, they looked over at the patch of bush their companion had disappeared into to relieve himself. They called out his name, and then the leader of them, the one with the sword, almost wet himself when he saw the other man lying dead beside him, a deep cut in his back. As he turned, drawing his sword, I cut open his belly.
I was careful not to cut too deep, my hate giving me clarity of thought. He dropped his sword and stared at his wound as he sunk to the ground. I moved away from him and stood there, watching him. He took a very long time to die. Once the surprise had passed, he began groaning at the pain. Eventually he couldn't draw the breath to even do that, and he just lay there rasping hoarsely. I stood and watched, with only hate and rage in my head, until his breathing stopped completely. I then moved over to him, the one that had killed my Love, and kissed him on the forehead. Fare-well hated enemy. Burn in hell.
I collapsed then, and started weeping. The rage had left me suddenly, leaving an emptiness in my heart, and all I could do was sob into the earth. I felt the loss of my Love welling up in me, and as it broke and spilled over me I screamed and cried like I hadn't when my Love had died. I screamed until only a gasp came out, and then I cried until my eyes ran dry, and then I slept.
When I woke, the sun was high in the sky, burning relentlessly. I was empty. I could feel nothing. I looked around me, at the campsite, the dead men. I still held my Love's dagger in my hand. Pain curled in my fingers as I opened my hand and took the dagger out, stiff muscles complaining, but I took no notice. I took my robe off, and walked away from the campsite until I found a river. I bathed myself and my robe, cleaning the blood out. I went back and hung my robe in a tree. I looked at myself naked, water still drying on me, and felt only despair. I went over to one of the dead men, and using his dagger, cut off his leather clothing. I went back to the river to wash them, and then patched the cut pieces on my body until they fit. The result was a patchwork that didn't cover me completely. Like I cared. It would do.
I looked at my robe drying in the tree. It was a beautiful robe, shimmering in the sunlight, the translucent mother-of-pearl fabric moving gently in the wind. I took it down, and wrapped it in a coarse piece of cloth. I took a belt from one of the dead men, and put a dagger in it. My Love's dagger I slid between my clothing and my thigh. I sat down where they had been sitting, picked up a half-eaten strip of jerky, and ate.
I walked North, out of the forest. My eyes kept blurring with tears, and I stumbled on rocks and roots. At night I never slept for long, my slumber interrupted by nightmares full of blood and knives, and my Love dying. I walked and walked in my hazy grief, stopping only when it was too dark to walk anymore, and then falling instantly into restless sleep.
I thought sometimes of my sisters, of Ursula. I must have already decided not to go back. They would laugh, I know, and I couldn't bear it, Ursula laughing at me with these thoughts of love and blood in my head. I missed Ursula, but dimly, like I was remembering what someone else felt. No, I will not go back.
I stumbled again. My feet were bleeding. I didn't think to take any shoes - I've never worn any before, and the soft grass of the glade is much less harsh than the stone-littered forest path. Feet aren't important anyway. I thought I'd better do something, or I might not be able to keep walking, and I needed to keep moving. I tried to get up, but a sharp spasm of pain in my foot crumpled me to the ground again. My eyes blurred, and tears started flowing again. I just sat there, and uselessly tried to wipe the freshest blood from my feet. All my hands succeeded in doing was smearing the blood over more of my foot. I kept wiping anyway, while my tears dripped onto my tortured feet. I just didn't know what else to do.
Suddenly, I felt something touch my shoulder. I spun and jumped to my feet, dagger already in my hand. There was only a boy in front of me. Young, only twelve or so. My feet hurt so much they threatened to betray me and let me fall, but I was determined I would not be weak in front of this boy. He had deep golden hair, and his intense, purple eyes seemed to strip away my soul. A thin circle of gold encircled his head, keeping his hair in place.
"Stay away from me." I managed. He just kept looking - a curious, arch look.
"Your feet are hurt." A simple statement of fact, like it wasn't perfectly obvious.
"Stay away from me." I said it like a mantra, but I could feel my conviction in that statement fading. What did I have to fear from a simple boy? I lowered my dagger. "Who are you?"
"My name is Troy. I've come to help you." Anger quickly heated in me. Help? I didn't need help. Not from this silly little boy. What could he know about me? About what I have lost.
I collapsed on the ground as grief overwhelmed me. The tears flowed as fresh as the day my Love died, the
dagger falling unheeded beside me. The boy, Troy, took something and applied it to my feet. I couldn't
see what it was through my tears, nor did I care. He wrapped my feet, then crouched beside me, and put his
hand on my shoulder. He stayed there as I sobbed, until I couldn't cry anymore. I still sat there, and stared
into the blackness. Night had fallen.
"There is always hope." Oh, what did the boy know? "If not for love, then for life." Just stop talking. Maybe he heard me think that, for he didn't offer another word all night. I don't remember falling asleep.
I awoke to sunlight, and the smell of cooking - a delightful smell, rosemary with fresh fowl. I think it may be the first time since that awful night I was grateful for anything, but the memories came flooding back all too quickly. My stomach didn't know my pain, however, and willed me to my feet. I pushed off a blanket that had been put over me as I stood up. Troy sat in front of a fire, tending the cooking bird. I thought I saw a flash of blue out of the corner of my eye, and as I turned there was a rustle of leaves, but nothing other than the bushes. I reached for my dagger, and panicked. It wasn't there. I looked back at where I had been sleeping, and saw it there on the ground. I must have dropped it last night, but everything is such a blur. I ran over to pick it up.
"Don't worry. It was just a fox." I looked back at Troy, who seemed to be watching with a half-smile almost on his face. "It helped me catch this, actually." He said, indicating the cooking bird in front of him. I didn't believe him. I was sure it was blue. Nevertheless, I put my dagger away. Whatever it was, it was gone. "Please, sit down." So I sat, across the fire from him, and just stared at the flames. When he finished cooking the bird, he gave me a piece. I ate, slowly at first, but more ravenously as I realised how hungry I was. When had I last eaten? Before I left, I was sure of that. And how long ago had that been? My thoughts were cut short as my stomach heaved, rejecting the unaccustomed food after so long a fast.
"When did you eat last?" The boy asked. I just shook my head. I threw up again, and that sapped the last of my strength. Whatever had kept me going since my Love died just collapsed, and left me floundering. As I blacked out blood and daggers swam through my vision, my Love dying on the ground, my hands covered in blood. My heart seemed to scream every beat, determined to make each one heard forever. It was then I realised I didn't want to die.
I don't know how long I spent in feverish delusion. With the strength robbed from my body I could no longer hold back despair, creeping in darkness at the fringes of my mind. What can I do? I thought over and over again. I was so powerless.
I finally awoke clear-headed. Dawn sunlight touched the leaves, and a campfire sat cooling. There was no sign of Troy. I sat for a while, wondering what I should do. Eventually I got up, and just started walking, still North, out of the forest. I still had no aim, nothing to live for, and no idea what to do, but I knew the forest was no longer my home.
|Mortal Magic part 5||Loving Angels|
|The Path of Least Forgiveness|