The weeks of training passed like sunlight over the hillside, battles with all manner of prey already merging into shadow along the halls of memory. I rested by the shrine of the city, the day warm upon my flanks as I contemplated my progress and considered my destiny.
From Chiconis to Dralk, to the human cities to great Tazoon itself, I had wandered much of the free world in search of learning. Those first days of almost frightful desperation seemed somehow amusing to me. Now… unconsiciously, I flexed a claw and watched with satisfaction the deep gouge that appeared in the ground. I had brought down zombies and other minions of the blight, and found confidence in my abilities that far transcended the shaky wonder of those early days… and yet, my purpose within the world seemed as illusive as ever.
Even the time spent with the crafting masters, while instructive and helpful to my self-sufficiency, did little to whittle away at the sense of lacking that now defined my existance. Surely there is more to living?
I heard rumors of those who had discovered the sealed mines of the world… and had served now and again to drag the stones and blocks of rebuilding for Humans, Dwarves, Saris, Sslik, Half-Giant, and Fiend alike… but the hive of activity about the deep places of the world did not ignite my spirit. A bridge here and there I had aided in much the same way… and while the pleasure of those who sought homes and places of refuge were enjoyable in their own way, the push to rebuild the realm seemed almost pithy in the face of the unrelenting scourge.
I watched the landscape with something akin to pensiveness, idly clawing a furrow into the ground before me as I contemplated service greater than that of a valet, greater than to my own ends… and did not notice the shadow across my resting place until the sudden pressure of another fell across my flank.
Whipping about in surprised and annoyance, I immediately knew contrition, for sliding from my side onto the ground was a lithe form covered in bruises and blood.
Closer examination revealed him elvish… silver hair matted about almost delicate points of ear, and his armor creased and cracked with evidence of battle. His bow hung broken and useless for all it remained tightly gripped, and I realized that, like myself, this elven one endured the ‘blessing’ of The Gift.
The Gift. I snorted softly as the irony of this name occurred once more… the abandonment of the gods, of Istaria herself of this realm and the advent of Stormbringer’s sacrifice and the resulting and apparent immortality… to what end this ‘gift’ but eternal pain and anguish as we are pulled again and again from oblivion? Pushing the morose thoughts from my mind, I pulled his limp form to rest semi-upright against the base of the shrine, then moved to the vendor nearby and bartered for a flask of ambrosia.
Returning, I raised the battered form and urged the thick liquid over his lips… chittering to myself lightly as he stirred and coughed before swallowing it and falling into a deeper and more recuperative rest. Settling beside him protectively, I stood guard as the hours passed and his sleep continued. What tales would this one bear when his body and spirit were recovered, I wondered.
More importantly, might he hold some knowledge that would make this seemingly pointless existance more meaningful?
The sheen of feyness that clung to him even as he slept was somehow comforting to me… more so than any of the other races, I felt a degree of kindredness to the Elves… they who had shared much of the ages before Istaria’s planting of humans and the arrival of other deities with their own children to cover the world.
They knew how the world was before, before the blight and the schism and the days when all was not bleak and shadowed, or harried by the green fog and stench of the undead hordes. They knew what it was to live in oneness with the world… to feel the magic that all things once contained… and to glory in it.
They knew the pain of feeling that magic being leeched away and twisted to serve death and decay… they knew what it was to feel a loss beyond that of home, a loss that affected the very soul.
My thoughts turned in upon themselves and were joined by the whispers of my ancestors as I meditated on the way of the world before all ways became tainted and began to consider how or even if it may be possible to truly undo the terrible damage, to truly rid ourselves of both the blight and the gift.
The blood that spattered across my flank dried and peeled away to ground, the sky faded into dusky twilight, the elven one shifted and murmured wordlessly by me as my thoughts wove strange and new paths… as the first glimmers of meaning and purpose rose to greet me.