When they had parted ways in Etalia they had journeyed to where they finally had a home. A chance discovery of a wurm tunnel, at the edge of the frozen mountains, led out the other side and into an almost diamond shaped valley. One end was the tunnel, the other a narrow crack out into more forest that led to the ocean as well as fertile plains. It was here that the clan of the red rose, or clan Aniketos as they were known amongst each other chose to live by the sea. From entering the cave to getting to the small town took about a week and a half. All the money they had made had gone into buying bit by bit the things they used to build the town, the seeds, the tools, the animals, the books, all the things that usually took time so that they had knowledge as well as the items to harvest, build, produce.
It had taken them years to find the perfect location, decades, since the clan was just a handful of lost elf women. Three years before Kisara had met Jezeron, they had discovered the tunnel and the ideal location for their home. It took the next eight to actually make the town look like a town. They were self sufficient, lived off the land and the sea, their days of wandering over. They were so far removed they might have well started their own country as so far they hadn’t encountered any other people. Eventually there would come a time when new blood would have to be found, but that wasn’t for a while.
For all that she had proven herself to be their leader, she was bored. Her days were spent in more sedate things and it chafed, her brother had left her side to explore and left her alone. She didn’t begrudge him his fun, but she didn’t like staying in one place. She hid it of course, but inside she was restless. She thought over her life, remembering faces, remembering events, she thought of Jezeron and the boy and Deacon. Oh she had always had a thing for the Drow, their spirits akin to hers and she wished there were more of them in her clan. She wondered if in time she’d settle into her role, but eight years in one place should have changed that. She was still as restless as when she’d first come.
It didn’t help matters that she was looked upon with favor by the single men around her. There was no laws saying she had to take a husband, but she hadn’t even taken a lover. She was bored and none of them kindled any passion in her, except in the desire to be away. Why couldn’t this have happened after she had died? At least then she’d have lived the way she was happiest. Her only consolation was that she could occasionally go off on her own for a week into the forests. It was in these times of solitude she could allow herself to feel, to let go, to do as she pleased and not worry about social consequences. Her people were free spirited, except the leader was an example.
She despaired. She couldn’t even abdicate her seat because the reason she would give wouldn’t be good enough. She felt like she was weighed down, slowly being crushed. She needed a more sensible partner who excited her and would be willing to share her burden so she could feel more free. Failing that, she’d rather find someone she could confide in. If she told anyone in her clan, it would be known by all within hours, even if the person meant well. It might start with that person looking for advice, but once it got out the whole damned clan would be trying to help or something. It was infuriating. So, all she had was the rare moments by herself.
She’d gone out longer than she had intended, each person who ventured out was supposed to take a messenger bird with them. They were useful, not just for a call for help, but to send valuable information. In her case, to tell she’d be back in two weeks, not one and that she was fine. If they didn’t like it, oh well. It was okay to be selfish sparingly and she was using one such moment. She was only in the valley, a few hours from the tunnel, camping alone and relaxing in a pond. It was late spring, mid afternoon and warm even under the shade of the forest. She had a fire going, heating a few stones she planned on using later for her meal. If one came through the tunnel the thin ribbon of smoke could be seen from its mouth. She didn’t expect any company and she was all alone.
The tunnel was soon ringing with the jingling sound of horse hooves clattering and galloping in a group. It sounded like a herd of animals who had lived their whole lives together so in synch were the hoof beats churning up the soft soil. They were seeming to be running wild and free but accompanying the happy gallop were sounds of bits and bridles, the squeak of leather and the "Hi-ja!" of the riders urging the animals on. The horses did not need much encouragement as they were happy to run as it was.
There were four of them in total, four black-skinned riders as dark as night, dark as proverbial hate, dark as the stormy night. But their spirits were high and their intentions peaceful not that any who saw them would understand that. The riders were unarmoured, dressed in furs and leathers they were scouts and traders, returning from some unknown market with useful stuffs in their saddle bags- bags of salt, metal tools, rope, wax.
There were three men and one woman, relatively young looking drow elves. Their hair was each as white as one another without a single shimmer of blue to it. So white it paled moonlight, so white it darkened snow. They rode together but in no order just as a group. Tired from the day's riding Deacon turned them down the tunnel and their speed reduced to a trot. The horses were panting though they had enjoyed their run they were thankful for the rest now.
Deacon worse the soft white furs of an arctic fox, fluffy and soft to the touch. The furs bounced as he rode, the pelt snuggly lining his waistcoat.
Enzo rode second, he wore the soft blue leathers of a healer and was adorned with jewellery swinging from his ears and neck. His fingers were long and dexterous, his eyes bright and vivid in their hue. He seemed to be one with the animal below him, riding gracefully by touch and feel. His long hair was decorated with white owl feathers, a few of them tucked into the weaves of his ponytail.
Fidellya was the only woman amongst them. She was wrapped in the browny down coloured fur of stoats and ferrets, the patchwork throw was wrapped around her shoulders like a poncho, covering her riding body. Her hair was braided up around her head in a sculpted plat which kept it out of her way.
Finally the shortest of the group rode in last. He was made of muscle and though he was small he was incredibly sturdy. Bear pelt adorned his clothing, smooth and sensible the white fur of the snowy bear dressed his leathers warmly and practically. Gryndan clicked his tongue at the horse, his long ears listening to the sounds of the winds and his sharp nose picking up the smells of the air. He glanced left and right,
"Hail." He mentioned to the group which caused Deacon to pause and look back. Gryndan rode to the front and pointed with a gloved hand to the smoke ahead.
Deacon touched his sword but Fidellya shook her soft head. "Maybe not." She murmured.
"Be on your guard anyway." Deacon growled, settling defensively in his saddle. He kept his hand on his hilt, carefully, then led the way. Of all their skills and lives he was best suited to hit danger head on. Fidellya kept close, ready to aid him if she so needed to. Gryndan and Enzo exchanged glances, bringing up the rear and keeping quiet.
By the time they would get within sight of the small camp it was full dark. There was one horse and a donkey, but it was clearly a camp for one. Further scouting, if attentive ears did not catch it first, would find a woman getting out of a largish pond wringing her long hair of as much water as she could. Her skin in the dark was a pale cream, her nearly blood red hair almost a red so dark it might be mistaken for black. She was lean, but not overly thin and the only thing that was of interest was the black tattoo on her back. It was a rose in full bloom, it almost dominated the middle of her back. From a distance it would seem like a flower, but up close it was a tattoo of names, though the language would be unintelligible.
She stretched leisurely, clearly not expecting any company and enjoying the feeling of the moisture cooling on her body. After a moment however she stopped, carefully looking around, the sounds of the forest had changed and made her suddenly wary. Only one within the small company would perhaps recognize the lone woman. She didn’t know what danger was afoot, but she knew something had changed. Still she pretended like she was merely cautious, casually walking back to her fire and laying down on the cloth she had set so she could use the warmth to bake the wet from her skin. Under that cloth however was a concealed knife, she’d hid a couple weapons around, but this one was the easiest.
If need be she could find an easier way to escape, but she preferred to play it cool and not arouse any suspicion. For all she knew it could be some of her men trying to play a trick on her, it had happened before.
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