A young elf. In elven terms, anyways. In human years, I’m approaching fifty, but in elven terms, I’ve just turned manhood.
I am unusual in the Elven world as I have a sister; not just a sister, but a twin sister. It’s the rarest of things. And we were as close as you would expect. Taluki was beautiful and charming beyond belief; to meet her was to fall in love. Some say she had the power, but to this day, her fate remains undecided. The Elven mages wanted to train her as an enchantress; but my father agreed to her betrothal to the heir to the one of the Elven Lords, on her age. But the Mages usually got their way, such was their power in the elven realm. Whether we will ever find out, I do not know.
My family were from the far north, the Windhover Woods, in the lee of the Northern Scars. It’s a bleak hard place, that far north. But we were used to it. We became hardy, impervious to the cold from a very early age. We’d swim in the icy rivers; play in the dark cold heart of the forest where the sun hadn’t broken the thick canopy in months. In the winter, we’d hole up in the tree-borne halls and learn the songs, the lore, and the languages of the races around us. When spring pretended to come round again, we’d play with toy bows and wooden swords as soon as we were old enough to pick them up, and then the menfolk would watch over us and give advice. Our playing was encouraged and shaped, and before we knew it, we were being trained. Joined as we were, even my twin sister Taluki became more than adept with the weapons, but it wasn’t playing any more. We became swordsmen and bowmen. There wasn’t anything else. And when we were old enough, we joined the ranks of my father’s garrison.
The Windhover Woods were Elven territory, and ran along the shoulders of the continent. Men said we were welcome to the Woods, so we made them our own. But they still needed protecting. Not from the men, but from the races to the north. The malignant dwarves, the winter bandits, the bear clans, they’d all creep south every so often to raid the Elvish villages, mainly for weapons, and whatever else they could steal. My father had been charged with establishing the garrison years before, and he had done well. He was highly regarded by the elven lords, and not without good cause. The raids continued, but casualties were low; all the menfolk were well trained, hardy and fearless. And they were commanded well, by my father and his lieutenants. The raids would come, we would watch from the treetops as they came deeper into the forest, then at night, we would strike, in the darkest part of the night, when the fires had died. We could see them, they couldn’t see us. No questions, no prisoners. Then we burnt the corpses, as a signal to those in the north who might be considering another raid. It wasn’t cruel. We were protecting our loved ones. There was no room for pity or clemency. They died, swiftly and efficiently.
But we were always looking north. We never saw the raiders from the West.
They came by boat, sailing on the quick currents around the Clavicle, and cut through the forests on the backs of horses they had brought on the boats. They were skilled riders, and used to riding through forest. They struck like lightning, but they weren’t after weapons. They were after slaves.
And they took them. They would have taken more, but one of our lieutenants was returning with a war party and interrupted them, but on horseback, they made good their escape. A few died with elven arrows between their shoulder blades. But there were more elven pyres than slaver corpses that night.
Eleven women were killed, my mother included. Twenty three younger women were snatched, including Taluki. She fought like a dervish, the others told me. Killed two of the slavers with a cooking knife, but they overpowered her in the end.
Our grief was absolute. Elven deaths are felt by the whole community, by the woods themselves, and these deaths cut the community to shreds. Unable to command any further, my father resigned his post, replaced by one of his lieutenants, who still governs the northern borders of the Windhover Woods.
We returned to the elven township, but it was a hollow existence, haunted by the screams of our loved ones, and the unknown fate of the womenfolk of the Windhover Woods. My father, wracked with grief, died last winter, three years after the raid.
I know Taluki lives. I can feel it. She is strong, and I feel her presence still. She is alive. On his deathbed, my father finally gave me his blessing to seek her out.
So with no home and no family, I headed south. I found out what I could about these slavers, and their lightning raids along the west and northern coasts.
And I know their faces. I know what they look like. And I know now that if I keep around this coast, and its islands, then I will come across them again.
We knew from the bodies of the slavers that had been left behind, they are too swarthy to be from the north, but every one of them had blue web tattoos on the palms of their hands; unmistakably, the mark of these slavers. From what I have managed to glean from my travels, they aren’t the only slavers operating in the waters along the west coast, but they are definitely the most feared. It is said they come up from the south and return there once their raids are complete. I will find them. And from them, I will find Taluki.
In the meantime, my money has all but run out. I need work, or quests, to fund my journey, as I have nothing else. No home and no family.
I view all sailors with mistrust. I obsess over checking the palms of people I see in taverns and inns, checking for the tell-tale blue web tattoo that will lead me to my sister.
But at six foot three, and with sandy blonde hair, I’m hardly inconspicuous around the coastal areas and ports of the west coast. I’m lithe and fast, and reasonably strong, but my strength lies mainly with the bow. The past few years have made me cynical in all things, and really? I’m only in this to find my sister, everything else is a means to an end.