Tales of this kind are rarely begun in places of importance. Some of them are, but this one is not, as the people who weaved it with their blades, their blood, their bows and bravery, save one, were not born of royal lineage, nor were used to riches, to the spoils of war and the greed which can corrupt those in power. So mark, this tale has its beginning in the small town of Thornhurst, west of the River Aumere, neighbouring Violetwood, although its cause had erupted in prior years. As the afternoon sunlight was caught in the high boughs of the oak trees, the fish had their play, unaware of the people’s plight, in the Aumere. A swallow, winding its way through the treetops, suddenly found itself caged in the claws of hawk. It struggled against the barred walls closing around it, fighting for breath, for space, until eventually, the struggling stopped. The hawk descended into the higher branches of an oak tree, met with a cacophony of cries from its offspring, calling from their home of twigs, crying out until they were filled. As they fell silent, they nestled beneath their mother’s wings, fighting for the warmth and protection they gave, and became peaceful in sleep.
On the cobbled way beneath, a number of footfalls could be heard. Horses placed down one hoof before another at the behest of their riders. Carts rolled, complaining whenever the reached potholes and broken off chunks of stone, carrying cargo such as food or clothing to the market ahead. In the market, covered over for the most part by awnings, themselves held up by thin wooden structures, men and women called for those in attendance to barter for their goods. The clang of metal being forged into strong weaponry kept time for those who could not see into the sky, the scent of foreign spices and concoctions filled the air and the murmurings of gossip could be heard, an undercurrent of activity, whetting the curiosity of passers-by and merchants alike. A lowly dwarven fishmonger who had made the journey from Faimoor, east of the Aumere, said to a neighbouring butcher,
“I fear that the siege shall come to a terrible end. The soldiers are tiring, I hear.” As he spoke, he stroked his long, greying beard, his dark eyes filled with sadness. The butcher, a rather corpulent man, replied,
“Do not fear, little dwarf, for I have seen fresh soldiers making their way along the Aumere. There is hope yet, small one.” Although the dwarf had been comforted by those words, his feelings were mixed, and he was torn in his mind as to whether or not he would allow the man’s patronising to pass or if he would show him the error of his ways. Perhaps rather foolishly, he chose the latter and lashed out, striking the man in the groin with a cry of,
“Who are you calling ‘small one’?”
A fight was soon in full swing between them, with other insults exchanged between blows. Those around them bayed at the violence, with the dwarves calling the name of Gideon, for that was the name of the short bearded fellow, while men and women alike called for William to win, for that was his. The cries grew louder while the fight became more heated. As William prepared to strike Gideon in the skull, he heard, and almost felt, a lone arrow pass by his head and into the awning behind him. The crowds gasped, ceasing their shouts, fearing a sudden attack. A figure approached Gideon and William, and the crowd which had gathered for the fight began to part. The figure, dressed in a knee-length purple tunic, calf-height dark leather boots and a deep purple cowl, walked slowly, holding a beautiful sword in its grasp, with a long shimmering blade and a hilt adorned with gold, inlaid with an amber stone. A belt bearing a stone of the same kind was fastened at the waist, a small linen bag hanging from it, next to the scabbard from which the sword had been drawn. A quiver was hung over its shoulders and the bow, that had been used to fire the arrow, hung also in its place at the figure’s back. The figure reached the pair, passing its hand between them to retrieve the arrow. At this, the cowl was lifted, revealing long flaxen hair, with a plait worked around a large bun, and eyes the same colour as the stone in the sword and belt. A lavender circlet was pressed against its forehead.
“Good people,” the figure began, asserting for those further back in the crowd that the speaker was female, “if we turn so quickly to fight among ourselves, how much easier then will it be for our enemies to destroy us?” Silence fell over the people, as they realised the truth of the woman’s words, her voice both soft and unwavering. As she turned to face the crowds, it became obvious to all those who were close enough that her pricked ears, slender and pale, much like the rest of her, were the mark of the Elves. Her presence, elegant and confident without assuming authority, was felt most deeply by Gideon and William, who found their cheeks turning scarlet and began to feel heavyhearted, due to the sudden guilt that had worked its way inside them, settling down on their breasts, uninvited. Having spoken little, but loudly, the elf turned and walked away through the sudden silence, aware that the crowds were calmed and beginning to return to their own business. She held her cowl, with both of her hands, between her thumbs and forefingers, pulling it over her ears and allowing it to hang over her forehead, disguising the circlet. She turned to look over her shoulder, marking that as the distance between her and the crowd she had left behind increased, normality was restored, with the merchants once again advertising their goods and the people resuming their activities, wandering from stall to stall. She turned back, continuing to walk to her destination, the reason she had been in the area at all at that time.