Makani was still, his breath clung to the branches of the tree in which he hid. The red of the sun had begun to wink out of existence as it made its journey to rest behind the mountains. It would be night soon, and it would be his chance to slip away.
How long had he been in the tree, he had no guess. The day still wore him down and his mind raced at the events that had led him here. They played over and over like a bad dream that he could not shake. Yet, it was no dream. This was real. It was now.
It was the time of their leaving. Makani's heart was broken by the news his parents would be fulfilling their duty as the watchers of the foothills. It had been explained to him that is was a duty of honor, and of need. The Elven kingdom had been fairly protected by many of the threats that exist in the other parts of the world, and although they were content in this knowledge, they were not foolish about it. They had established many outposts across the lands that held small villages of what they called The Watchers.
It was these elves that performed the duty of negotiating trade agreements, relations with other races and peoples, and the exchange of information via Runners. Sometimes, the elves stationed at these outposts would be sent as runners to the Elven Kingdom. In return, a new watcher would take their place, fulfilling their roles in the protection and safety of their people.
"But, why can we not stay here Mother ?"
"Because my young one, we have been given a path that we must walk down. Set your mind at ease, we will return some day that has been foretold in stories from long ago. Until then, you must be brave and journey on to the unknown."
Makani never really understood some of what his mother would say to him. The cadence of her voice is what eased his fears, yet they were still to leave and wander from their home. Something he was not terribly fond of, and wished with all of his heart that he could stay.
A rustling from below the tree in which Makani has taken residence brought him back to the present. He tried to slow his breathing so that it would not betray his location to these invaders. Slowly he opened his eyes and gazed down upon a half dozen or so wretched creatures.
They grunted to each other in short syllables that must have passed for the speech of their kind. He remarked on how unpleasant and violent it sounded as it was being spoken. Rather, it sounded more like it was forced from their over sized and oddly shaped heads. He knew of these creature in stories, but had never seen one in his years of watching over this area of the foothills and mountains.
The one that must have been the leader swung a blow with it's club and sent one of the other creatures flying back and onto the ground. The sickening thud of the club against the creatures rib cage came with an audible cracking sound that would have disturbed the birds in the trees, had there been any left to stay behind and watch the aftermath of the devastation. The devastation of his home.
"Here it is, this is our new home"
"Father, it us just a small village, you make it sound like the grand palace of the Elven King"
"You do not see with the eyes of an Elf yet, but you will my son. You may yet find happiness in a place such as this."
Makani hung his head low, and walked into the village with his mother and father. They had traveled long and far, and he was glad that they were finally at their destination. He still found his heart heavy with the sadness of leaving the Elven Forests. Perhaps some day he truly would recognize the beauty his father saw in the place, though somehow there was doubt in his mind.
A hand was placed upon his and gave it a little squeeze.
"It will be your heart's pleasure in time. Give it a chance."
Makani smiled weakly as he turned and looked into the face of Aria, their guide back to this place. She was slightly older then he was, and had been born in the village. Her parents had been the ones in charge for so long, and now their paths were being called elsewhere. They had sent their daughter with news to the Elven King, and it was decreed thatMakani's parents were to be sent as their replacements. It was a great honor.
Aria first told him of this while they walked through the gardens of Nithranial. His hope of this relocation being temporary had fallen from the sky and was dashed upon the cold and unfeeling earth. She saw the look in his face and took his hand for the first time.
"Do not look sad Makani, it's really a beautiful place. I've been there all my life. This . . . ", she waved her other hand about her, "is pretty. A nice place to visit, but I would hardly call it home."
"I assume you'll be leaving with your parents then, when the time has come ?" Makani shifted uneasily when he spoke those words.
Aria looked into Makani's eyes for a long while. "No, I think my path lies elsewhere," she said with a smile.
The grunts and harsh language below the tree suddenly stopped and was replaced by a thunderous noise from far off. Makani knew the giants were on the move, re-enforcing those that had laid siege upon the dwarves in the mountains. They had only been aware of the siege in the past few weeks, and had sent a runner to the dwarves to investigate their situation.
Barinor was a skilled elf, Makani was sure he made it into the mountain, but that was a week ago, surely he should have made it back by now. "Back to what," Makani asked himself silently. The smoke was still heavy in the air, and he wondered if any of the others had managed to escape.
It was earlier in the day, the sun had begun it's climb above the mountains and stretch its rays across the land. Makani was out gathering herbs from the surrounding areas that his mother wanted. She was a skilled alchemist and wove her magics into many of the potions that supplied the village watchers. Some of the flowers she required were somewhat rare, and took him far from the village to find. He spent many times wondering why she had chosen the mystic arts as a path, and why she would decide to take his father, a mere ranger, as a mate.
When asked, she would smile and simply say, "I knew our paths were entwined the moment we set eyes upon each other. Such is the strength of fate, and that of love. Never question itMakani, it is a part of everything in the world, and each of us has their own journeys and ends to meet with it."
She made it sound simple, but it took him time to understand what she meant by it. Aria then flicked into his mind. Her eyes, her smile, and he knew exactly what his mother had tried to explain to him so many years ago.
He smiled and bent down to pick a small purple flower. "A good omen," he muttered to himself as he knew this was a particularly hard flower to find. Then he froze. He was lost in thought and completely lost sight of his other senses in the forest. It was quiet, too quiet, and he chastised himself for thinking in such a cliche. He heard the rustle he expected to hear, and took note of the location. He wasn't sure if it was friend or foe, so he stood slowly and turned towards the source.
A hideous noise issued forth as a small green skinned looking humanoid charged from the bushes wielding a club. It was too late, the wretched creature had taken maybe a half dozen steps before two arrows lodged themselves into the throat of the creature. It was knocked off it's feet, it's cry diminished with the gurgling of blood, and then it was no more.Makani walked to it slowly and gazed at it for a moment. He tried to search his memory of the stories he knew, as he had not seen a creature like this before.
Then he became dizzy, he was in his village, and he saw the devastation taking place. His mother's voice rang out in his head.
"Makani ! We are under attack!"
Makani got back to his village faster then he ever thought he could manage, but it was still too late. The first thing he saw was Aria fighting off three of the same creatures he had just killed. Her swords dealt out death in a frenzy of poetry that was quite a sight to watch. She was as beautiful in battle as she was the first time they walked together in the elven gardens.
Two arrows were unleashed upon a creature that tried to run at her from behind, and it sailed past her, dead before it even hit the ground.
"Nice of you to finally join the party, now that I've done all the hard work, see if you can clean up the rest"
She spun into a crouch and unleashed a fury of blades that had neatly, and quite surgically, killed the three creature that had her surrounded.
"Show off," Makani yelled out, and began to pick off the creatures running along the bridges of the trees in which the watchers made their homes.
Then, like a storming thunder, a boulder came flying through the trees and obliterated one of the tree homes. The splinters were sent flying through the air, along with the bodies of its inhabitants. Aria rushed over to see if there were survivors, andMakani covered them in a hail of arrows to make sure they were undisturbed. Another boulder flew through the air, and Makani had sent himself to the ground out of it's path.
"Makani, your parents !" Aria shouted, and he followed her gaze to the outskirts of the village. There he had seen them, trying to fight off the next wave of attackers. These, he had seen before, these were giants.
Makani ran towards them, the battlefield blind to him as he ran to be at their side. He had never seen his parents in battle before, and it certainly was a sight to behold. His father made Aria's dancing blades look like they stood still in time. One moment he was next toMakani's mother, the next he had run up to a nearby giant, blades blurred with speed, and then was back again. The giant, had taken a knee during that small performance, and was finished by an onslaught of elemental power from his mother.
To see them as such inspired an amount of awe in the shear power they had both possessed, but never lead on to. It caused him to stop with his mouth hung open in an odd way.Makani had thought he was pretty good with a bow, but he had seen nothing to rival what he had just had. His hand was squeezed, and he knew that Aria had come to join them. He knew she would fight along side him, just as his mother and father had always fought together in the past.
The moment of awe did not last, as past the giant his parents had just managed to defeat, he saw many more. Some tossing boulders into the battlefield, the sound of splintering wood filled the air.Makani's mother and father looked at each other, and he knew that even though he could see that neither of them spoke, they had communicated volumes.
His father rushed forward to set up a defensive position, and another ran to his side, Carinile. He was the guard captain that had trained many of the younger watchers as they grew. Makani knew that his father would have no better ally, other then his mother.
As if they shared the same thought, Aria and Makani began to move forward when his mother quite suddenly disappeared. She was now in front of them and moved as normal, but he noticed that everything else had quite suddenly stopped. His mother touched his mind as she had earlier when she warned him of the attack.
"This is a battle that cannot be won. Some of our paths have been winding to this destination, and we will meet it with the honor that is deserved of our people. Your paths still have yet to travel, and there are others that should be warned. You have been charged to -"
"NO!" Makani shouted with all his might into his head.
"- bring tale of the giants and attacks to those we are indebted to. Aria must tell of what happened to our people. Makani, you must tell the people of Midhaf. I fear that you both may still yet play a larger part in all this before the end."
Makani felt a squeeze of his hand by Aria, though he knew that all, with the exception of his mother, were still quite frozen in time.
"You bring us honor in this time, it is with a sad heart that I accept your charge. Go to your paths end with my love and know that you will be remembered"
A smile showed upon the face of Makani's mother as she leaned over and kissed Aria's forehead.
"Take care of my son, you know him better then he knows himself. It will be the thing on our minds when we come to our end, that you have found each other in our lifetimes."
Then with a great amount of power, a command issued forth as the battle started to move slowly back into motion.
Aria and Makani were forced backwards with a wave of energy as these words were spoken. Then she was gone and beside her husband, Makani's father, once again. Makani's father looked back one last time, and nodded. A tear in his eye as he nodded, and Makani's mother had grasped one his hands to give it a squeeze. The sight made Makani smile against his will.
He stood for a moment longer, to see his mother muttering some kind of incantation and she raised her hands. Fire erupted all around the giants in bursts and columns. It seemed to be small explosions that completely took some of them by surprised, and others had fallen over dead. It was a powerful spell,Makani knew, and this distraction gave his father and Carinile the opportunity to strike.
Aria grasped Makani's arm. "We must go, if we honor them, we must."
Makani got up, looked to his parents one last time, and then turned to run. They made their way back to the village, but there wasn't much left. Those green skinned creatures were still running about, but the coming of the giants had sent most of them from the village. Splintered houses, broken bodies of friends, and small fires could be seen throughout the place he never wanted to come to, but found to be his home. Sadness stuck a splinter into his heart, but Aria kept him moving towards the deeper parts of the forest.
He knew that Aria had probably felt the destruction of this place more deeply then himself. After all, she had been born and lived there most of her life. Though she was driven by purpose, and by love. He knew it, he could feel it.
They had run for an hour before stopping. They climbed into a tall tree that gave plenty of cover and enough height to survey the surrounding areas. There, they held on to each other, and at last Aria began to cry about the loss of her home and family.Makani held her for a long while, his own sadness now entwined with hers. At some point, between the sighs of despair, she had fallen asleep in his arms, and he stay awake to make sure no threat would sneak upon them as vulnerable as they were.
The small group of creature at the bottom of Makani's tree finally began to move off. It was now past dusk, and the moon would rise soon. If he were to put some distance between himself and the forces moving throughout the forest, he had to move now. Once the creatures were out of sight,Makani silently climbed down the tree and set off towards the plain. With luck, he'd be at Midhaf within three days time. He would have a lot to think about traveling alone, and choices to make about what to do next.
He had been to Midhaf many times in the past, but never liked to linger long as he was not keen on the openness of the plains the village was nestled in. It also seemed to him that the land was suffering, and he much preferred the lush forests and hills by the mountains. The clerics ofMidhaf had to know of the threat of the giants, this his mother had wanted him to do. It was what he vowed to do in his parents honor.
When he got to the edge of the where the forest, foothills, and plains met, he paused for a moment. The moon was making it's way across the land. Time was important, so he needed to move, but he wanted to do something first. He looked up at the moon and said "Melora, guide Aria on her quest and see that she is safe. She is all I have in this world." Then, he ventured out onto the plain, to make haste forMidhaf.
She woke about an hour before dusk would approach.
"You are still here"
"Always," he replied.
She frowned for a moment, the sadness was still etched deep in her face. She put her head on his shoulder.
"I know I have to, but I do not want to leave you."
"I know," he said, trying to hold back the tears that wanted to come.
"How will I know you will be safe ?"
"You will know here," he said, placing his hand upon the place where her heart was. It sounded like something she would say, and it made him smile a little.
"I will come and find you after my charge is done," she said, "I will find you on your journey."
"You should stay safe with our people. I will come find you."
"No," she said slowly, "I do not have the gifts of your mother, but something tells me your journey is far from over."
They both sat in silence for a few moments. Then she looked up at him, her eyes blazed with emotion and then she kissed him. It was this moment, and others the proceeded it, that told him their paths would be entwined until the end. After a long while, their lips parted, and he spoke somewhat seriously.
"I will travel to the Fire Tip Mountains after my business is done in Midhaf. Perhaps I can find Barinor, or find out what happened to him. I will linger there as long as possible. I will leave word if I have to go from there."
"I will find you, have no fear Makani."
She smiled and with her swords strapped to her back, she hopped down out of the tree silently.
"Until we next meet my love, " she whispered, "Melora keep you safe."
Then she was gone. Makani watched after her for a long while. Too long, the sounds of the forces that had taken their village hours earlier had begun to travel nearby.Makani decided he would have to wait until sundown before he made his move.
"Run swiftly," Makani said silently, and began to mull over the various events of the day.