**Before I begin, I have to tip my hat to a TESOF member for their phenomenal constructive editing (: Kilivin
, thanks for the incredible amount of help! To everyone else: if even one person reads and can give me some feedback I'd appreciate it!
Life is merely a series of stories without an ending, and with each beginning comes a chance to create a new plot. Every story differs from its precursor, and it has the opportunity to be prodigious. Each life creates its own success and failure and continues on its own. However, sometimes fate has a hand in even the smallest and seemingly insignificant stories. This story is only a small sliver of a plethora of amazement and wonder.
“Concentrate, child! Focus on the light.”
The young elf said nothing, only stared intently at the tiny ball of magicka flickering dully in her palm. A bead of sweat started to form upon her porcelain-pale forehead. She watched as the light dimmed and brightened in intervals, but never staying constant until it finally faded away completely.
“I’m useless!” The young elf scoffed and sat back in her chair, defeated.
“You just have to keep practicing. You could never be useless.”
“I’m less useful than a candle! I couldn’t even be used as a reading light!”
“Candles burn, Raen. They wither away until there is nothing left but smoke and melted wax. Once you find your light, it will never diminish.” Her teacher spoke in a hushed, patient tone and kissed the top of the child’s head.
She finally looked to her elder, but she did not smile. Smiles were a rarity for Raen as of late. She stared at the snow elf before her. He was tall, even by elven standards. He sported a white goatee which he kept trimmed to perfection. His face was rather kind, but the rigid bone structure suggested strength beneath the surface. There was a lot of her father in her, or so she was told on numerous occasions. Her face was in her father’s image; though his kindness was replaced by sharpness. Her hair resembled white gold, and she kept the length of it in a tight, manageable braid. Both elf’s eyes were nearly identical; large and a piercing, pale blue.
With each passing day, her father watched her transform from the mere child she once was. While he saw their similarities, it was her mother whom he believed she resembled most. That particular fact pained him greatly, and left his heart aching. He missed his wife dearly, and knew Raen did too. After a long silence, the young elf finally spoke again.
“Well, this has been sufficiently soul crushing.” she said, clapping her hands down on her knees. “If you’ll allow it, I’d like to go out before dusk falls.” She didn’t wait for an answer, but rather just brushed past. As the door slammed shut, her father shook his head.
“Auri-El, keep me sane.”
Outside, Raen moved swiftly down the familiar and always busy streets of her home to her destination. Anytime the opportunity presented itself, Raen would escape the city. Years ago, she had found an old tree just outside the walls which she could climb and perch herself on one of the sturdy branches. The height allowed a great view of the mountainous, snowy plains while remaining hidden from spectators. She cherished the silence, and the aloofness of the moments she had when she was alone. She was never one for large or small groups, but her unsociable nature was becoming increasingly intense. Her father paid the price especially. He missed her smile and the sarcastic nature of her humor. Raen knew all of this, yet still couldn’t bring herself to restore that aspect of her life completely. There was something stopping her, holding her back, and what frustrated her was that there was no obvious way to put it to an end.
Within the protection of the harsh needled pine tree, Raen watched darkness overtake the sky. Slowly, the vibrant hues of orange, red and gold faded until only inklings remained beneath a shroud of black. Shadows stretched, shifted, and disappeared entirely across the snow, and Raen still sat statuesquely in her tree. A breeze blew past, ever so slightly picking up the tendrils of loose hair that had escaped her braid. The faintest whispers of the wind were the only sounds heard over the white canvas before her. As Raen surveyed the land, a light caught the elf’s attention. Before she could put the pieces together, the carrier of the light was visible over the horizon.
It was apparent that a figure carrying a torch was making good time towards her. Behind that figure were countless others, all bearing torches of their own, swallowing up the land beneath them with the determination of a wolf tailing its prey. Raen dropped from the branch with a heavy thud, but any pain that may have come from the fall was absorbed by the snow. The Nords were coming and in great numbers. Flashes of chaos raced across her mind. She pictured her father, alone and caught off-guard; fire and blood, and the chilling sound of a final, desperate cry.
“Raiders! Raiders are coming!” Raen ran through the streets, gasping for air, pushing through the crowds that had yet to return to their homes. Some people stirred at her warning, but most paid no mind to her – after all, she was only a child. With each step, the young elf felt heavier, slower, and more useless. She had given up on calling out to the others, and now focused only on getting home to warn her father. There was no time to make anyone else believe her. She waded through the sea of people as best she could, ignoring the unimpressed noises they made when she pushed by. She could see her street now, which was all that mattered. She kept her eyes fixated on her front door, quickening her pace as much as possible.
She dodged a rather speedy pedestrian going the opposite direction by careening out of the way, but the avoidance was redundant as she made contact with someone else – a skinny, sickly looking woman. The young elf stammered out an apology and turned again to continue home. As Raen took another step forward, a shriek echoed behind her.
With a turn of her head, Raen watched the panic build. An innumerable amount of Nord Raiders had found their way into the city, bearing torches and daunting weaponry. She could see heavy battle axes being swung by brutish men and blunt maces. Many wielded swords, already red with the blood of her people. The sight of one Nord’s sword ripping through a civilians shoulder had her retching and running in the direction of her home. Those around her were scattering to all edges of the city, in a frenzied attempt to save their lives. As the Nords gained ground in the city, the chaos only furthered, and Raen found herself amidst a brutal, one-sided battle. The Nord’s war cries intermingled with their victims screams, and the sickening stench of blood ran thick in the air. Another quick glance back confirmed that carts, merchant stalls, and flower beds were being set aflame. Bright and menacing lights of red and orange consumed the East Market. They flickered violently, quickly heightening until the tips of the flames rivaled the stars in reach. Embers caught by the wind floated away peacefully, unaware of the world around them, twisting and turning slowly until they faded away in the night.
In an instance, Raen found herself on the ground, tripped by a passerby or some loose stone. Panicked masses ran around her. Despite the elf's pained yelps, others trampled over her. The pain was immeasurable. A particularly hard blow had the young elf’s head smashing against the stone beneath her. Each attempt to scramble to her feet was thwarted by another relentlessly heavy foot and her strength was quickly failing her. Her vision darkened, her limbs fell numb, and somewhere off in the distance she heard her name being called and felt arms cradling her, lifting her to safety. She looked up, and through clouded eyes saw her Father’s face, haggard and terrified. He brought her to their house, blocking all windows and doors that could be easily accessed. While the sounds of mayhem outside were still apparent, it seemed they were somewhat safe.
The child, drifting in and out of consciousness, lay on the ground before him, murmuring incoherently. She was beaten and bloody. A nasty gash ran the length of her forehead and bled profusely, matting her hair and staining her pale skin. He fell to his knees in front of her, stroked her hair gently for a moment, and without any further hesitation, held out his hands to the girl. Two balls of yellow light appeared rather quickly between his tremulous fingers. He placed his hands on his daughter’s head and shoulder, watching as the wound healed slowly; receding until only the remnants of blood were still tangible. Raen tensed for a moment, jolted, and then her eyes flew open. Her father sat back, drained and incapacitated. She watched him curiously for a moment and then moved to her feet, remembering the urgency.
“We have to move, come on!” The young elf went to her father and tried with all of her might to lift him from his place on the ground, but he wouldn't budge. She looked around for anything that might be of aid to no avail. She continued to pull on his arms in a futile attempt to inch him towards the door, but his body was too heavy. After an eternity of trying, Raen finally allowed the tears to flow, hot and unbridled, in a stream down her cheeks. She begged and pleaded for her father to wake up, and even held his face between her small, fragile-looking hands.
The sound of feet and triumphant laughter of Nords echoed outside - too close for Raen to escape out the front door. She stood up and went to peer out the crack of a boarded up window, but had to jump back as the wood her father had used to block it was pushed in. This was followed a few seconds later by a lit torch that came sailing through the air and into their sitting room. Raen screamed as flames engulfed the small area rug and devoured the quaint wooden furniture. Again, she pulled on her father’s arms. The heat was tremendous, and as the smoke billowed up from the burnt debris, it poured into the young elf’s lungs. “Please,” She cried, “I can’t lose you too, I can’t!”
She coughed out the last few words and looked around briefly at her situation. The flames surrounded her, catching the doorways and majority of the sitting room in its deathly grip. It edged closer, slowly moving in, daring her to face its power head on. Raen was still crying as she backed up as far as she could to the window that had been opened. She continued to wrench her father’s body towards her, refusing to abandon him. It was then that a ceiling beam came crashing down, separating Raen from her father. The shock of it sent the girl flying out the window and landing hard on the street. Adrenaline had her on her feet, weaving in and out of buildings, steering clear of the Nords that had taken the entire city. Houses burned, chilling screams could be heard from every direction. Nords and Elves were scattering, some obviously injured, but Raen kept running. She continued to run until she had made it out of the city completely finding seclusion in the darkened forest. It was there, beneath the shadows of the trees and in cover from the biting winds that the young elf laid in the snow, curled into a ball, and wept.
For Chapter Two, click here.