“Poor Alexandra laid sick from the cold, for today was the second day of winter, and she was unprepared. It wasn’t that she lost her winter coat or anything like that. Alexandra intentionally left it. She had escaped her sanctuary during the winter solstice and didn’t bring her coat. But her lack of warmth was not the main issue (her race was known for having a small resistance to the cold), it was the amount of damage done to her body that showed.”
Chapter One: Elf in a Tent
It was the crack of dawn, and the evergreens were standing proud and tall by the small river. The trees stood twenty-seven feet tall, making plant life on the forest floor almost impossible. But these trees were surrounded by roaring hills, standing so tall that they could not be measured. In response to the rising sun, the birds had gone as wild as a tiger in the radius of fire. The bird’s chirping had echoed off the forest with the response being confused as real.
A small, leather tent stood by the fast, running river. Within the tent, a dark elf, by the name of Alexandra, awoke to the sounds of dawn. Poor Alexandra laid sick from the cold, for today was the second day of winter, and she was unprepared. It wasn’t that she lost her winter coat or anything like that. Alexandra intentionally left it. She had escaped her sanctuary during the winter solstice and didn’t bring her coat. But her lack of warmth was not the main issue (her race was known for having a small resistance to the cold), it was the amount of damage done to her body that showed. Scars and bruises went from her face to her ankles, and they were not going anytime soon. Besides that, Alexandra’s appearance had cloaked her true age, for she was a twenty-seven-year-old trapped in the body of a fourteen-year-old. But for a dark elf, she was quite tall, standing five-feet and eleven inches, three inches above the average height.
Alexandra, looking up while lying in the tent, had to figure out what to do. A town had settled not too far away from her location. But her wear had consisted of a completely black shirt with sleeves going to her elbows, pants that went to her knees, and a hooded linen cloak. With damage all over her arms and legs, she could not go to town. Alexandra wanted to avoid questioning and suspicion from the town.
An hour later, Alexandra was squatting outside the tent by a small fire. She stood close by the fire to keep herself warm. Unfortunately, it did not provide much warmth. At a nearby tree, a deer was sniffing the ground for whatever he could find. Although it was the second day of winter, it had not snowed. Therefore, the ground looked like that of a steppe. Alexandra looked at the deer’s fur with envy. The deer looked up and saw Alexandra squatting by a fire. Suddenly, the deer wiggled his ears and galloped away. Alexandra looked confused. She did not move a limb, but the deer ran away. She looked behind herself and saw a man standing high above her. The man had a fur cap and wore a fur coat going down to his knees. The man’s face, in addition to his rough beard, was quite frightening. Slowly, Alexandra stood herself straight in front of the vicious looking man. Although she was tall, the man had stood around a foot taller. Alexandra slouched herself to show the man he was more powerful. The man didn’t seem to care. In a deep voice, he began to speak.
“What are you doing near my tent?”
Alexandra did not know how to respond to the large man. She began to straighten up.
“I use that tent during spring, summer, and autumn,” said the man. “I am a hunter, so you understand why I don’t use it during the winter.”
Alexandra nodded her head.
“Usually, I find runaway slaves and traveling prostitutes staying in my tent. But you’re different.”
The hunter observed Alexandra with his eyes and hands, with no intention of hurting or sleeping with her. She stood frozen in awkwardness. The hunter noticed her long, pointy ears, longish black hair, yellow eyes, and blue skin color. It was not common to find a dark elf running about, but the hunter was unimpressed. He then noticed the damage on her naked arm.
“Well, you have a story,” said the hunter. “But, I know you’re not a slave because you’re not wearing ragged clothes.”
The hunter observed Alexandra again.
“And you’re definitely not a whore. So, if you are neither of those two, what are you?”
Alexandra relaxed herself and spoke in a calm tone. “My story can’t be explained in one word. And I don’t title myself as any sort of class.”
The hunter looked surprised by Alexandra’s voice.
“You are obviously older than you look,” he said. “Follow me, you can tell your story by a warm fire.”
The hunter walked away, beside the river. Alexandra needed warm asylum, but the hunter seemed sketchy. If he did try something on me, she concluded, I can fight back. Alexandra followed.
The fire crackled loud while Alexandra sat in comfort and warmth. She took a drink from her warm, pine tea. The hunter was in another room, fixing a solution for Alexandra’s scars. Alexandra looked around the fireplace and saw the display of bows and arrows. These bows were not just a simple stick and string. These bows looked very powerful and expensive.
“You are obviously very wealthy,” Alexandra yelled to the hunter.
“Yes. I am the only hunter in town, so I tend to get a lot of customers,” said the hunter, walking towards the fire.
Sitting next to Alexandra, he handed her a bowl of crushed herbs.
“Here,” he said. “This should get rid of those scars.”
Alexandra rubbed the solution on her scars.
“What’s your name?” asked the hunter.
“Alexandra. And yours?”
The two stood still while the fire cracked.
“Are you hungry?” asked Bjor.
“I’ll be alright. I don’t want to take any of your product.”
“Well, of course you’ll pay me,” said Bjor.
“Well, I’m sorry, Bjor, but I don’t have any money,” said Alexandra. “And I’m not paying any other way.”
“How about your story?” asked Bjor.
Alexandra felt bad for judging Bjor. He was not the perverted freak she expected.
“Alright,” said Alexandra, putting her tea on the ground. “Now, listen closely, because this is very important.”
A day before the winter solstice, Alexandra was with her two sisters in a dressing room of her family’s castle. The room had a mirror and a small window looking out to the black, oak forest. It was near the end of the day, and a large glare had entered the room. Fortunately, the mirror and window were right next to each other, so the glare did not hit the mirror.
Alexandra and her older sister, Anna, were in front of the mirror, trying out clothes for tomorrow’s party. For dark elves (and other elves as well), the winter solstice was a very important day, for it signified the end of life. Usually on the first day of winter, Alexandra’s father, Mallekath, would host a large party. The party would consist of other families within the region of Mirewood. It was a very large gathering, over a hundred and seventy people or so.
Anna looked at herself, wearing a white dress, in the mirror with Alexandra standing two inches taller than her.
“Alex, do you think this is an excellent dress?” said Anna, posing to the mirror.
“Why would it not be?” asked Alexandra.
“I feel like it would bring too much attention.”
“But isn’t that good?”
“Yes, but last time, I felt like the main attraction of the party.”
Anna took another glance at the mirror.
“I think I’ll give it a second try,” said Anna. “What are you going wear, Alex?”
“Just the usual black cloak, shirt, and pants,” answered Alexandra.
Anna stuck her tongue out at Alexandra in disgust. Alexandra looked at her little sister, Krosna, sitting in the corner of the room. Krosna was only twelve but was very intelligent. However, she was also shy and tended to hide in her room during the winter solstice parties.
“What are you going to do this year, Krosna?” said Alexandra.
“I think I’ll pass on the party this year,” said Krosna in a soft voice. “I’m worried about father. He’s been acting very strange lately. I think he’s getting too close to the Shadow Stone.”
The Shadow Stone was one of the many ancient artifacts that granted absolute power. Each stone provided a special attribute to the user. The Shadow Stone allowed the user to create an army of shadows, if handled by the right person. However, if the Shadow Stone (or any other stone in general) was handled without caution, it would be catastrophic.
“Krosna, that’s silly,” said Anna in a minorly frightful voice. “Father knows what he’s doing.”
Krosna silently shook her head.
“I wouldn’t worry about it,” said Alexandra.
At midnight, Alexandra was lying in her bed looking at her toes, which were uncovered by the blanket. She looked up at the ceiling and saw how extremely tall her room was. She then looked at her large window and saw the moonlight streaming into her room. Alexandra got out of her bed and walked towards the window to draw the curtains. Suddenly, she heard a crash. The sound came from the main hallway, the room where the Shadow Stone sat on a large column.
“What could that be?” Alexandra said aloud.
She left her room and quietly ran towards the hall. When she entered, she saw her older brother, Michael, trying to clean up a vase he broke. Michael looked up at his sister with an evil eye. Michael didn’t have a good relationship with Alexandra. He usually tried to take control of things. But Alexandra tended to resist.
“What are you doing?” Alexandra asked.
“None of your concern,” answered Michael in a rude tone.
Suddenly, their mother, Elis, entered the hall.
“What is going on here?” asked Elis in an annoyed tone.
Michael looked at Alexandra, then at his mother.
“It was Alexandra. She intentionally broke the vase and tried to frame me,” cried Michael in an accusing voice.
“That’s a lie!” yelled Alexandra. “I was in my bedroom when…”
“Alright, alright, I don’t want to hear it,” said Elis. “I don’t care. Just let the servants get to it and go back to bed.”
Michael left the room, not looking at anyone or anything. Elis turned around, walking towards the doorway.
“Go to bed, Alexandra!” yelled Elis.
Then, Alexandra’s mother had left the hall. Alexandra did the same, but she was more frustrated. As Alexandra walked towards her room, she ran into Babastian, the Venorian servant. For those of you who don’t know what a Venorian is, they were basically a cross breed between a lizard and a human. They usually lived in the deserts, wetlands, and mountains, and they originated from the continent of Maltopia.
“Master Alexandra, why do you walk the halls at midnight?” asked Babastian in a concerned voice.
“Why do you ask?” said Alexandra.
“It is my job to make sure you are well, and lack of sleep can turn a man insane.”
“But I am a woman, am I not?”
“It applies to all,” said Babastian.
Alexandra walked on. She then remembered her father.
“Babastian,” she said turning around. “Has my father been acting strange lately?”
“Oh, my dear,” sobbed Babastian. “Your father has truly gone mad. He always stumbles his way to bed, yells out rude things to your mother, and talks to himself all the time.”
Alexandra looked worried. Her father was usually not like this at all. Maybe Krosna was right.
“Do you think it’s the Shadow Stone?” said Alexandra.
“I wouldn’t be surprised,” said Babastian. “I saw him stare at it for over half an hour. Just the other day, little Krosna suggested destroying the stone itself. Although she presented a solid argument, your father was outraged and ended up throwing a cast iron pot at her.”
Alexandra was shocked by the story. She could not imagine her father doing something like that, especially to his daughter.
“Anyway, I must be on my way,” said Babastian. “I wish you a good night.”
“Goodnight,” said Alexandra as Babastian walked away from her.
In her bedroom, Krosna was deep asleep with a pillow over her head. Alexandra entered the room and quietly walked towards her sister. She then kneeled beside Krosna and softly shook her.
“Krosna, wake up,” whispered Alexandra.
Krosna opened her eyes and removed the pillow from her head.
“You were right about father.”
Krosna was now wide awake. She rubbed her eyes and took a breath.
“We have to destroy the Shadow Stone,” said Krosna.
“How do we do that?” said Alexandra.
“The stone is pretty easy to destroy. The hardest part is acquiring the stone without anyone noticing. But I have a plan for that, and you would be very useful.”
On the night of the winter solstice, around twenty families had shown up to the party. Alexandra stood at the edge of the main hall, seeing the Shadow Stone towering over the crowd of people. The stone was a cube shape and medium size. Alexandra wore her usual wear with a necklace hanging from her neck. The necklace held a blue, transparent, diamond-shaped gem. She remembered the exact instructions her sister gave her. If anything goes wrong, break the gem in half.
Alexandra felt nervous. It was almost time to do her part of the plan. She needed to create a distraction while her sister snatched the stone. Suddenly, the time had come. Alexandra found a position where she could see most of the party. She cleared her voice.
“Excuse me, everyone, I have an announcement to make.”
The party paid attention to Alexandra (with all eyes looking away from the Shadow Stone.)
“I am happy to say that this is the fiftieth winter solstice party that my father has hosted.”
This was not true. It was actually the twenty-first. But the crowd applauded anyway.
“Because of this special event, let us celebrate to our fullest.”
The crowd was in uproar. Their eyes were still pointing away from the Shadow Stone. Mallekath came out of the crowd and walked towards his daughter.
“You usually don’t speak up like that,” he said. “What gave you the motive?”
“I just found a reason to celebrate,” said Alexandra, hesitating.
“Well, you should have probably waited twenty-nine years, but no harm done.”
Mallekath turned around, and his eyes gazed at the balcony above the left doorway.
“What is your sister doing up on the balcony?” he asked.
Alexandra saw little Krosna on the top of the balcony, gripping a rope. Suddenly, she jumped off the balcony and swung across the great hall, grabbing the Shadow Stone on her way. When Krosna got to the other side, she grabbed onto the ledge with her right hand, her left arm wrapping the stone and holding the rope at the same time. “That little bitch!” yelled Mallekath in anger.
Without hesitance, Mallekath pulled out a crossbow from his left belt (which he always carried for safety purposes) and shot it at the little girl with the stone. The bolt sped through air and hit Krosna in the leg. The little girl let go of the ledge and rope, dropping around twenty feet or so. Krosna hit the ground with a thump, the Shadow Stone beside her. The party had completely stopped and looked at the little girl lying on the floor, unconscious and damaged. Elis came out of the crowd, in shock, and cradled her daughter in her arms. Then came Mallekath and Alexandra. Then Michael, Babastian, and Anna. All surrounded Krosna.
Elis looked up at her husband with an evil eye.
“How could you do such a thing to our daughter?!” she yelled.
“She tried to destroy the Shadow Stone!” said Mallekath, picking up the stone.
“She did it to save you,” yelled Alexandra. “She knew the stone was consuming you, so she tried getting rid of it for good.”
Mallekath stared at Alexandra like a wolf staring at its bait.
“And you. You helped her,” he said in a monster-like tone. “You will pay for this!”
Suddenly, Mallekath pointed the stone towards Alexandra and a great beam of light, coming from the stone, blinded the crowd. Without delay, Alexandra ran away from the stone. But a great blast came from behind and pushed her out of the hall. The main hall behind her was consumed by a blinding light of death. The walls cracked and broke while she sped through the air. In a second, she ended up falling off the outside balcony. Alexandra was speeding down with the rough terrain beneath her. With no time to think, she took the gem from her necklace and split it in half. Alexandra disappeared from the scene.
The fire crackled as Bjor stood in shock from Alexandra’s story. He gave her a piece of venison.
“You’ve obviously been through a lot,” said Bjor as Alexandra was munching on her venison. “You said you were from Mirewood, right?”
“Yes. I was in the northwest. On the border of Morrisland and Mirewood.”
Bjor let out a strong sigh.
“Well, if you’re planning on heading back, I suggest staying ‘till the end of winter.”
“Why?” asked Alexandra in an anxious voice.
“Well, this is Red Pine.”
Alexandra sighed in frustration. Red Pine was a region in the Orcish kingdom of Red Rock. This mostly human area was more than two-thousand miles away from her home. Why did the gem bring her here? It must have been a mistake from the gem. The destinations were sometimes random.
“You can stay here till the spring solstice,” said Bjor in a kind voice.
“Thank you. I’ll try not to be a burden.”