The Menegroth Openlands are long at cold war with Rhune. The dark elves of Rhune, known as Drow, have engaged other dark forces -- wraiths, demons, and such kindred creatures -- and have been planning a coordinated attack against Menegroth Openlands for decades, in part for the nomadic Plains Elves’ tolerance of lesser races. An advanced group of Rhune agents are operating within the border town of Peredhel Ar Tirion.
Cali and her twin sister, Eredri, paired to form an ambassador team the Plains Elves call a Dielle -- one warrior and one sorceress -- have been charged to assess the threats in Peredhel Ar Tirion at the river verge between the Menegroth Openlands and the Alliance of West Irens.
Jerich, a widower, owned several respected taverns in Peredhel Ar Tirion. The Dielle lodged in one of these taverns, a great honor for humans to house Plains Elves under a roof instead of their natural ways under the stars. In a freakish attack from the sewers during the new moon, giant spiders assaulted the Dielle at the tavern but were rebuffed. Jerich’s toddler son, Eli, was bitten and fell deathly ill from the spider venom. Cali and Eredri, using Elven healing magic, saved the boy’s life. Cali and Jerich became close and fell in love while the Dielle were in Peredhel Ar Tirion for an extended period of time.
Though the passages to the sewers had been protected with black, wrought iron bars, exactly 8 Moons later, a second attack on the Dielle came in the form of giant spiders. But this time they were aided by wraiths of the underworld, somehow overcoming the protective barriers previously put in place to obstruct the portal created by the dark Elves. In the conflict Cali died, and Jerick died defending her. The sister, Eredri disappeared -- unclear if dead or captured. Shortly after his fifth name-day, Eli was again attacked and bitten by the giant spiders, but miraculously survived the poison -- apparently immune to the venom he had seen before. The orphan boy was raised by his older brother, Jael.
The rather loose parental supervision and the need to survive led this lost boy to become a trickster. The eldest son, Jael, managed to hold on to the tavern in which his father died. After several years of declining business, the tavern had become a shadow of its former glory -- but enough to support Eli, his brother and his cousin, Cedric -- who recently completed his enlistment with the Alliance of West Irens.
Sages in Menegroth divined that a human was with Cali when she died, yet he had survived. A high vision by an Elven priestess indicated that a Drow was somehow involved in the attack. The Plains Elves dispatched Cali’s twin daughters, also Dielle, to find this human that might have information that led to Cali’s death and Eredri’s disappearance. Eona and Rayne have come to Peredhel Ar Tirion to investigate.
As Jael got up to make breakfast for the few customers staying at the disgraced tavern and his energetic little brother, Eli, he heard what he knew to be Plain Elvish and rushed downstairs. He recognized them as soon as he saw them. Even though he had never seen them before, they both bore the fiery eyes of their mother, whose portrait he kept in respect of her love towards his late father. He walked up to them, trying not to look arrogant, but still courageous. He was honored to have Plains Elves grace his tavern with their presence, but scared. He had never met a Plains Elf before, let alone a Dielle pair. He did not know much, only that Dielle were sacred to the Plains Elves, as they had telepathic abilities with each other. When they turned to face him, the one in green robes introduced herself.
“I am Eona,” she said. She gestured to her partner, “This is my sister and bodyguard, Rayne.”
Jael sized them up. The one called Eona he assumed was the diplomat and sorceress of the pair, and Rayne, with arms and armor, would be the warrior.
“I’m Jael,” he said. “Would you two like some food and drink after your journey?”
“Thank you, that would be most welcome,” said Eona for the both of them. The Plains Elves walked up to the counter, and Jael ducked behind it.
“What would you two like to drink?” He asked Eona, expecting her to answer for the both of them. But it was Rayne who said, “Human whiskey, ‘on the rocks,’ I believe they say.” He had expected her voice to be deep and gravely, like his fathers. But it sounded more like birdsong on a warm, summer night, with the fireflies dancing to the music in the clear navy sky, dreading the morning when they would have to stow back away, waiting once again for dusk.
· · ·
Jael’s surprise at Rayne’s voice did not go unnoticed by Eona. Rayne hated speaking, and this was why. She needed to say something before Rayne noticed too.
“And I’ll have the same,” Eona stated, bringing him out of his trance.
“Coming right up,” Jael said, turning quickly to hide the blush Eona saw creeping up his neck. She chuckled softly to herself, until she heard a young boy screaming for help from behind the tavern.
Trickster in Trouble
As soon as Eli came out the back door with the shells and coins in his satchel, he searched for someone new to scam. Since his father died, Eli had become a genius in the art of pickpocketing and street gambling. He had not lost a single bet or ever been caught during theft in almost three years. He spotted someone. Eli would let him win the first few times, but when the big jackpot came, Eli would take it all. He walked over, trying to look meek. He tapped the man's shoulder, which he had to jump to reach. When the man turned, Eli gasped a little. Even though he had an amazing poker face, he couldn’t help but cringe at this monstrosity. The man had a scar that ran from the top of his head to just before his throat. It exposed a bit of his nose bone as well as a fair amount of jaw.
“What do you want, scum?” the man barked. Eli gulped. This was not what he had intended when he had come back here.
“Hey, get over here guys!” the man yelled to no one in particular. But just then, two other people in the alley turned and started walking towards him, backing him into the corner. He did the only thing he could think of this close to home -- he screamed for help.
· · ·
As soon as she heard the scream, Rayne ran out the back, her hood falling off as she drew her bow and knocked an arrow in one fluid motion. She saw the little boy scrambling up the gutter skillfully, and the three men who had him cornered.
“Now what do we have here?” She said, temporarily stunning all four of them. She quickly dropped her bow and drew her sword, knowing arrows would barely scratch them. She ran to the men, dispatching one but bringing the others back from their daze. The two left circled around her like sharks. She went into sirithar, her warrior-trance, closing her eyes. Then she struck.
· · ·
As Eona and Jael ran out to see what was going on, they saw Rayne entrapped between two men.
“She needs help!” Jael yelled at Eona. Eona smiled knowingly and, still watching her sister, whispered, “Just wait, and watch.” Jael tried to run to Rayne, but Eona grabbed his arm, and so he watched. And in a split second, the tides turned. He saw Rayne open her eyes, and slash down both of her opponents in one breath.
Jael breathed a quiet, “Wow.” Eona walked over to her sister, who was already coaxing Eli down from the gutter he had scaled. The elder brother walked a little closer and yelled, “It’s all right Eli, you can trust them!” He and his brother shared a look, and Eli started climbing down.
When they got inside, Eli followed Rayne to the counter, and sat beside her with a curious look. “Eli,” Jael said, “Can you come back here a moment?” Eli complied, reluctantly.
“What in Irens were you doing back there!?” Jael whisper-screamed at his brother, “Were you trying to get into trouble?”
“No,” Eli said, wanting to explain, “Look Jael, you’re smart. Where do you think the extra money in the back comes from? You and I both know it’s not some miscount.” Jael wanted to deny it, but he couldn’t. He knew it to be true, so he just said, “Go make their drinks -- whiskies -- so they think we were actually doing something back here.”
· · ·
Eona and her sister smiled at Jael’s last command to Eli. They had both heard the whole conversation, as Elvish hearing is not exaggerated. Eona saw Rayne hide her smile as soon as Jael came back out with their drinks, putting her wall up once again. He set the whiskeys in front of them, and Rayne downed hers within a minute. Rayne looked at Eona, 'tell Jael why we’re here'. Eona nodded.
“I’m afraid we’re not just here to visit our birthplace,” Eona whispered, “But I’m sure you know that already. We were sent here because we have reason to believe that on the next new moon, there will be another attack akin to the one that killed our mother and your father.” Eona let Jael process this. “We would like to investigate, seeing as the next new moon is in two days.” Eona saw the shock on Jaels’ face, as well as a pair of bright, curious eyes peeking out from behind Jaels’ back.
· · ·
“Come on out, young Eli,” The green-robed elf said,“This concerns you as well.” Eli rushed out, happy to be included, and eager to get a closer look at the race he had only ever heard of. “Have you seen an increase in dark creatures lately?” Eona questioned.
“No--” Jael started, until Eli interrupted him.
“Yes,” Said Eli, with absolute certainty. The last time Jael had left the block was a week ago. Eli was the one who went out for groceries, the one who had to find new people to pickpocket every day to avoid suspicion.
“Mostly in the lower town though.” Eli saw the anger flash in his brother’s eyes for going to the lower town, but Eli knew it was worth it to inform the Dielle pair.
“Thank you, Eli,” Eona said with a sad smile,”I’m Eona, and this is my sister Rayne,” Rayne looked up briefly, mumbling a small hi, then resting her gaze back on the ice in her empty whiskey glass.
They heard the door open, and Eli saw a man in armor bearing the insignia of The Alliance of West Irens, and immediately knew it was his cousin.
“Cedric! Cedric! You’re home!” He yelled. He forgot about the Elves and jumped into his cousin’s arms. Cedric started laughing, and gave Eli a big bear hug. Eli let go, all of his breath having been squeezed out of him. Jael came around from the bar and patted his cousin on the back, saying, “Let’s get you settled in, then we’ll catch up, all right?” Cedric nodded.
“Eona, Rayne, this is my cousin Cedric, he needs to know about everything, but we can tell him tomorrow. Eli, you help the ladies to their quarters.” Jael walked out of the room with Cedric, not even giving Eli a chance to argue.
“Fine,” grumbled Eli, wanting to hear his cousin tell stories of his adventures. He led the Elves to their room, then left for his.
· · ·
“Who were they?” Said Cedric, referring to the twins in the bar.
“I’ll tell you tomorrow, it’s a lot.” Jael said, leaving to lock up the tavern. After that Jael headed to his room, and tried to sleep, but Eona’s words kept coming back to him, the one that killed your father.
He had been Eli’s age when it happened, out getting flowers for his dad to give to Cali, when he heard the shouts and screams. Even from the top of the hill, he could see the flames rising from the center of town. He ran down from the steep hill, but he knew he would be too late.
“Dad! Cali!” He saw one of the customers of the tavern running from the town, “Where is the innkeeper?” He screamed at the woman, but all she said was,”Run.” The woman grabbed his arm, dragging him away from the town. All the while he was screaming and crying, trying to go save his family, but she would not let go. After a few hours, he had passed out from exhaustion.
“Dad?” Jael said, after waking up on the top of a hill.
“Shh,” said the woman next to him. Who was she? Then it came back to him. He jumped up, and turned around to see half of his village burned to the ground. He ran to his father's first tavern, The Eagle’s Nest, it was decimated. He ran to his father’s taverns one by one, and they were all gone. Until he only had one to go, the one his father had been in. He was scared, what if it was gone too? Father, Eli, Cali and Eredri, they would all be gone. He knew he couldn’t put it off any longer, so he walked to the last tavern. It was still standing, and he ran in. The first thing he saw was Cali’s dead body, no char, but a stab wound. He looked for his father, his hope fading, until he found his dad’s dead body as well. He could no longer take it, he broke down. His cries were raw pain, and he was shaking to his core. That was until he saw his brother Eli in the door. He stopped sobbing and ran to his brother.
“Thank the Fates that you’re okay,” he whisper-cried. They were okay. He headed back to the hill, little brother in tow. When they got back to the hill, everybody was talking about what they saw. Some said they saw giant spiders, others saw wraiths. When they saw Jael and Eli, they stopped and took them in, giving them food. They took care of Eli and Jael, never knowing they had overheard what had really happened.
Jael woke now from his nightmare, and realized that the stab wounds on Cali and his father were inflicted by the Wraiths. They killed his father, and now Jael would help the Dielle kill them.
He would avenge his father. That he swore, in the name of the Fates.