In a land where non-humans are but legend, ties of blood are about to change everything...
Centuries ago, the Emperors of the Solarian Empire sought to rid their lands of magical creatures, out of fear and hatred. They succeeded. Elves, dwarves, halflings and other magical creatures are now considered legends, tales told to children.
They are not. Their kind persists, hidden away in the deep, dark corners of the land, licking their wounds and nurturing their hatred of Men. Meanwhile, the Empire has grown oppressive, using fear and brutality to keep those in line, who would restore friendship with those magical creatures who persist. But ancient ties of blood is about to change everything...
10 years ago
Kara was walking in the woods as she was wont to do. She often walked into the forest, even though her father had expressly forbidden it. She didn't care. She felt at home in the forest. Despite its reputation, she never felt threatened.
The Forest of Glamours, it was called. Said to be home to evil, magical creatures bent on killing all Men.
Not that Kara had ever seen one. She had seen many animals, but never evil magical creatures. She smiled at the thought.
Leaves rustled nearby. As she turned, she saw it. A boar. It snorted. Blood dripped from a wound in its side.
Kara could feel the lump developing in her throat. A wounded boar was a deadly foe for any hunter; and Kara was no hunter, just an eight-year-old girl.
She did the only thing she could. She ran. The boar snorted and charged after her. Kara ran as fast as she could, ducking under branches and crashing through the undergrowth. Still she could feel the boar gaining.
A vine caught her foot. She fell. Then the boar came crashing out of the undergrowth. Kara screamed.
The boar charged, only to be thrown off its feet by the impact of a black arrow, fired with tremendous force. It tried to get up, only to have another arrow slam into it at great speed and power. Another arrow ended its life.
* * * * *
Lord Tywin looked up at his wife, Merowa.
"How would I know? That girl only does what she wants."
Merowa glanced at him.
"You spoil her. She's probably on one of her forest walks again."
Tywin shook his head.
"Hardly. I told her specifically..."
Merowa raised an eyebrow.
"You said it yourself - she only does what she wants."
Tywin considered it for a moment. Then he hastily rose, and grabbed his sword and bow.
Kara stirred. Something smelled delicious, and her stomach growled. She opened her eyes.
She was propped up against a fallen tree trunk, the remains of a tree felled by lightning some time ago. A campfire was roaring at her feet, close her enough to give warmth, but far enough away so as to not burn them. A large roast was arranged on a spit across the fire, being slowly turned by a young woman.
Kara studied her. She looked no older than twenty, but she carried herself with the confidence of someone twice that age. Her long black hair was braided so as to not get in the way when she moved, flecks of green and gold seemingly intertwined in the braid. But what struck Kara the most, was her eyes. They were green as the first leaves in spring, but they were not the eyes of a young woman. As the women looked at her, Kara realized that this woman was far older than she looked.
The woman smiled. It was a friendly smile, to be sure, but Kara noticed that it didn't quite reach her eyes. Kara returned the smile. "Where am I?" she asked.
"The Forest of Glamours, in the Glade of Golathir." The voice was strangely melodic, but Kara thought she could hear a hint of reluctance, as if the woman had preferred not to speak.
"Golathir?" Kara had never heard of the place or the man. "Who was he?" The woman didn't reply. Kara decided to try another question. "Who are you?"
The green eyes seemed to look into her very soul for a moment. "Morwen."
Kara smiled. "I'm Kara." The green eyes studied her again, and Kara felt compelled to expand upon it. "Well, Carawen actually. But everyone calls me Kara."
Morwen suddenly seemed more interested. "Carawen. That's not a normal name in these parts."
"It's an ancestral name," Kara replied. "My great-great-grandmother was also called Carawen."
"I see." Morwen looked at the roast, slowly turning on the spit. "I once knew a Carawen, a child of House Mineth."
Kara was confused. "That can't be," she said. "The last Carawen in my family was my great-great-grandmother, who died 20 years ago."
Morwen looked at her again. "She is dead?" Kara nodded. Morwen looked at the roast again. "I did not know that. I am sorry."
Kara had the feeling that Morwen was not apologizing to her, and said nothing. They sat in silence for a while. Finally, the roast was done. Morwen withdrew a blade and cut several pieces of the roast. These she placed on two wooden plates she had prepared in advance. She handed one plate to Kara and took the other for herself. Kara dug in immediately.
While she ate, Kara studied Morwen. Her movements were slow and deliberate, one bite at a time. Every move was graceful, even her chewing. Kara found herself fascinated with this strange woman.
"Do I fascinate you, Carawen?" Kara hadn't realized that she had been so obvious in her staring. She forced herself to look away.
"Don't be." Kara looked up to find Morwen smiling again. This time, it reached her eyes. "You are not the first to find my people fascinating."
* * * * *
"Have you found her tracks?" Tywin looked at his guide with apprehension. The Lord of Carrovan rarely entered the forest, and so he had asked his gamekeeper, Aenhart, to help him.
Aenhart looked up. "I have, milord. It's this way."
The two men walked for what seemed like hours, Aenhart stopping now and then to check the trail. Suddenly he stopped. Tywin watched him search the ground. "What is it?"
"I have her tracks. There was a boar here." He walked a few feet. "She ran here, followed by the boar." He touched the ground. "It was wounded. We must hurry."
The pair began to run, following the destruction. Suddenly Aenhart stopped dead in his tracks. Tywin looked at him. "Well, come on!"
Aenhart shook his head. "We can't." Tywin stared at him, anger and fear tying his stomach in a knot.
"Why not?!" Aenhart pointed at a mark carved into a tree.
"They forbid it."
Tywin examined the mark. "They?"
"The denizens of the forest. We are forbidden from entering."
Tywin was about to yell at Aenhart, when he noticed that the man had grown pale. He was afraid of something. He took a deep breath. "Who are these denizens?"
Aenhart shrugged. "I don't know what they are, but they protect the forest. I have been warned off before. If we enter, we may never leave."
Tywin tried to suppress the anguish he felt. "But Kara..."
Aenhart tried to force a smile. "Is probably fine. They watch the glades here. If she has been spotted, they would not leave her to die." He sounded more certain than he felt.
Tywin looked beyond the trees. "What do we do now, then?"
"We camp and we wait. If they do have her, they will likely lead her back here. Eventually."
* * * * *
"Morwen?" Kara had finished eating.
"Yes?" Morwen was sharpening her blade, a long curved sword in an unfamiliar shape. It was single-edged and had a marked forward curve. The handle was exquisite, covered with gold and encrusted with emeralds.
"What is to happen to me?" Kara feared the answer. Though Morwen had treated her well so far, she was still not certain of her intentions. Her apprehension was considerably lessened when Morwen looked up. The smile once again reached her eyes.
"Nothing. In the morning, I will lead you back to familiar trails."
Kara smiled. "Thank you, Morwen." Morwen resumed sharpening her blade. Her answer came shortly after.
"You are welcome, Carawen of House Mineth."
* * * * *
Kara woke at daybreak. A plate with fruit was placed next to her. On the other side of the campfire, Morwen was setting black feathers on a black arrow. Kara sat op and began to eat. As she did, she studied Morwen. She now noticed several things she has missed the day before.
Morwen´s eyes were almond-shaped and slightly slanted, and her pupils were almost catlike. Her ears were shaped differently than Kara´s, slim and somewhat elongated. Her features were soft but her almost grim demeanor made them seem harder. Kara caught herself wondering what had happened to make Morwen so dour.
She started when Morwen looked up. Her spring green eyes had turned dark, almost black. Kara blinked, only to find that Morwen´s eyes were back to their natural colour. Morwen rose.
"Come. It is time." She fastened her blade to her belt, picked up her bow and quiver, and began walking. Kara followed.
They walked for some time, before Morwen stopped. She turned to Kara and pointed to a trail, barely visible in the undergrowth.
"Where does it go?" Kara felt apprehensive again. She still remembered the boar.
Morwen smiled. "Home."
Kara looked at the trail. When she turned her head again, she found herself alone. Morwen was gone. With a sigh and no small amount of apprehension, she turned and followed the trail...
* * * * *
Tywin had woken a few minutes earlier. He had kept watch the first half of the night, after which Aenhart took over. Now, they were waiting, eating their cold fare and preparing for a long wait.
Suddenly, something rustled in the bushes. Both men readied their bows. A small figure emerged from behind a tree. Tywin dropped his bow and ran to meet Kara, who breathed a sigh of relief when she saw her father.
Tywin held his daughter for a full minute, before letting go. "Are you hurt, Kara?"
Kara shook her head. "No, Morwen saved me."
Kara was about to reply, when she was interrupted by Aenhart.
Tywin and Kara both followed his gaze. A lone figure stood among the trees, half-hidden. Kara raised a hand, the figure doing the same in reply. Then it vanished.
Tywin looked at his daughter. "Who was that?"
"Morwen," she said matter-of-factly.