Armies of Feldwin
Level 4 Elf Ranger
Morgasma lived most of her early years living in quiet solitude with her father in a modest earthen hut in the forest, several days’ journey to the north of Feldwin. She and her father, Garreth, lived close to nature, rising at dawn each day to gather nuts and berries for the day. In the fall, they made the journey to Feldwin to buy supplies for the harsh winter, taking with them roots and rare herbs they had gathered to sell in the market. When she was very young, Morgasma loved these trips to the village. She loved the sights and sounds of the bustling market, the smell of cooking animal flesh, the songs of the minstrels, the bright colors in the dresses of the wealthier townsfolk. Her father would always indulge her with a few pieces of gem-colored sugar drops for the long walk home. But the real treat on the way home came around the campfire at night, when Garreth would tell her stories of her mother.
Anora, her mother, was the center of all her bed time stories. The stories that were told at home were always short. A few minutes relating the first time they met. Describing the exact expression on her face and the way the light hit her eyes on the day Morgasma was born. But the tales on the road, in the dark with the crackling of the fire and the sweet smell of Garreth’s pipe, were long tales of her mother’s adventures. Anora was a warrior, descended from an Athasian tribe in the southlands. She had fought beasts and despots, demons and wicked sorcerers. And Garreth spun all of her exploits in the firelight, while Morgasma lay staring up at the smoke weaving its way through the starry sky, seeing her mother, strong, beautiful, brave, fearful, slaying dragons and orcs in her mind’s eye, following her into her dreams. When they had nearly reached their hut, they would always veer off the path a bit. A few hours’ east of the path was the flowering willow which served as Anora’s grave marker.
As she grew older, though, she dreaded these treks. As years passed, the road they traveled to reach Feldwin became more crowded with merchants and pilgrims, adventurers and thieves, and travelers of all kinds. The market place itself became more and more cramped. The stink of ale, and the dirty smell of too many humans packed close together over-powered the delicious aromas that used to come from the food stalls and spice markets. The bright colors became dingy and worn. The minstrel songs,that used to be joyful ballads, became slower and sadder. The paltry amount of gold they were able to raise from their summers’ gathering was barely enough to buy a few sacks of rough grain to make hard bread for the winter.
One night, on their way home form one of these journeys, as Morgasma gathered wood for their fire, and Garreth was tying down their tents, a young human approached them. He walked toward them with his hands outstretched, palms up. “I mean you no harm,” he said, taking another step. “I lost all I had, robbed by bandits a few miles back. I’m heading to the city of Feldwin to earn my fortune over. I just need some food and warmth for the night.” Morgasma instinctively tightened her grip on the heavy branch in her hand. She had watched the pickpockets and thieves in the marketplace of Feldwin enough to recognize one up close. In the city, they never approached elves. The city-dwellers all assumed that any wood elf they saw was a mage or wizard of some kind, and were afraid of them. But one outside the city, a road-thief, would be more worldly. He would see that she and her father had no spells or enchantments, that the only magic they knew was where to look for silver moon blossoms, and what time of year was the best for gathering marrow root.
Morgasma crouched down behind the bush nearest her, shifting her weight up onto the balls of her feet, preparing to spring out and strike at the man with the branch, should he take another step toward her father. She was so intent on watching the man, on protecting her father, that she didn’t hear the other one as he crept up behind her with a stone. When she woke, bloodied and shivering in the cold frost of an early autumn morning, her father was dead. She got no tender moment to hold him and hear his last words. He died a few feet away from her, where she had lain, unconscious and useless. The thieves had taken the few gold coins they had left from their transactions at the market, the thread-thin silver chain Morgasma wore that had belonged to her mother, and the plain band of onyx that her father wore in place of a wedding band to show that he was forever in mourning for his love. They had strewn the grain on the ground all around the camp site.
It took her nearly two days, but she managed to drag her father’s body to the flowering willow. She dug his grave with her own hands, wrapped his corpse in dried leaves from the forest floor, and laid him to rest at the base of the tree. She slept on the soft earth of his grave for the next three nights.
That winter, she nearly starved. She survived on a few half-rotted roots, and dried moss. She didn’t speak to another living thing. She took her mother’s bow down from its mount over the hearth. It was a beautifully ornate carved piece of polished wood, cut from the same willow that became her resting place. She had always been forbidden to touch it. Her father never fired a weapon, keeping it only as a remembrance of Anora, taking it off the wall a few times a year to polish it, and restring it to keep it from warping. She tore a few thin green branches off a tree and made a half dozen or so crooked arrows. The first time she tried shooting, she broke a finger. She bound it with twine, and fired again. She shot at nothing. At the air. Her poorly made arrows didn’t fly straight, and often hit the ground behind her, but in her mind, each arrow struck deep into the chest of the man who killed her father, his throat, his gut. She could see him double over, blood spilling out of his mouth, sputtering and gurgling as he fell to his knees. Everyday she pulled arrow after arrow until her hands cramped and her fingers bled. From first light until she could barely make out the outline in shadow of the nearest tree.
Morgasma took to the road at the first thaw. She headed south. She had mastered her bow by that spring. She made her way from town to village, collecting bounties by killing murderers, thieves, and creatures. It took two years, but she found him. He was staying in a shoddy inn on the outskirts of Ciridrial, near the white bluffs of the western plains. She watched him from the other side of the tavern, her leather hood pulled down low over her face. He was portlier than he had been, and he had grown a ratty beard, but she still knew it was him, the second she heard his voice. She watched him swilling ale and grabbing at the tavern wench each time she walked by, until at last he stood and staggered up the stairs to his room. She was in his room for over an hour before she lit the candle at his bedside and kicked the foot of his bed. She could have killed him without waking him, but she wanted to see him standing. She wanted to watch him fall to the floor, watch the pool of his blood grow larger and larger. He ddidn’t know who she was, didn’t recognize her. He didn’t remember killing an unarmed wood elf at the roadside for a tiny bag of coins. He would lie of course, but she could see he was telling the truth. He honestly had no recollection. He died exactly as she had always envisioned. Three arrows, one for each of the stab wounds she had seen on her father. One to his throat, one to his chest, one to his gut. She stayed in the room with his body long after he had died, relishing in the stench of his death.
When she returned to her hut outside of Feldwin, she buried her mother’s bow at the base of the willow. That bow had been her vengeance. She would build her own weapon now, for a path that was her own. She chose a limb from the tree, and sat down on her parents’ grave to start carving and shaping a new bow.