Nodah, a land of vast mountains and valleys, is inhabited by humans and avens. For as long as anyone can remember, there has been peace between the two species. Now things are different. The harmony has been split by radicals on both sides, and only a small community of humans and avens live together. It is up to this dying group to bring unity back to Nodah, and stop a war whose consequence is extinction.

       Smoke ringed through the air and coiled around the faces by the fire. James looked at the darkening horizon and wondered what their seemingly large flame looked like from above. Hopefully very small and insignificant, he thought. Nothing was worse than being surrounded by hungry men who favored a good meal over safety precautions. They could be attacked at any time, with no warning. No sounds, no stirring of the leaves, maybe just an imperceptible movement of the air. Then they would be starving and dead; not a good way to end the day.

       James couldn't escape with the same ease as the others, which they seemed to forget most of the time. He had no glorious steed to ride out on at a moments notice, no superb ability for running longer than average human, and certainly no pair bond with an aven. A "mend" was what they called it. Humans and avens had a natural preception for befriending each other in a rather permanent way, which was displayed by matching marks on the forearm and neck, respectively. James had no such "tattoo", and didn't plan on having one anytime soon. What he did have was an uncanny grace with the arrow. Not one single being, friend or enemy, had surpassed him in his ability yet, leaving him with his very own legacy in the village. No matter what skills he possessed though, nothing could substitute for the connection he felt with the men around him. Whether human or aven, James considered all of them family. If they were ambushed, enjoying their dinner and talking of the latest siege against their village - unofficially named Potluck by the local kids - not one of them would leave James behind. Likewise, it would never cross his own mind to abandon his friends in even the most horrific situation.

       They could face anything, or anyone, that decided to attack them tonight. They were always prepared - weapons within reach, senses on high alert - for anything. Maybe not tonight though, he thought, not if he comes. So far their village had always had the advantage of being protected by the human and aven alliance of its people, but recently the enemy had employed a new tactic against them. For the past year, the Ranen - as they called themselves - had increased the frequency of bombings on Potluck. One in a number of them had been too close for comfort, almost decimating the vast network of caves and mountainsides that cradled their village. The enemy was slowly wheedling their way to victory every day, and it was becoming clear that the people of Potluck needed a new solution. Or I just need to create a more deadly weapon, one with unparalleled speed and force. James knew like most of them that it wasn't a new tool of destruction the Ranen had created, or even a tactic requiring the collected strength of many, that had nearly razed the village to rubble and flame in as short as a year. It was a man. A single, solitary, unyielding, shadow of annihilation that executed his task without fail. More specifically, he was an aven. Perhaps his speed and stealth would have been exalted by Potluckians had he been one of their own, growing up among goodwill and reverence. But as it stood of late, nothing could be worse for the village. It was big enough to hold its own against the mass of Vanen on a regular basis, but not small enough to effectively keep watch for one man who was impossible to spot in the first place. 

       James decided it would be in the best of luck to take a brief watch on his own, taking care to not wake the others from their much deserved rest, who had lazily slumped hand and wing in a binding circle of contentment. He dumped what little water remained on the fire, secured his bow, and anchored his boots to his calves with a few short tugs. Five minutes later he was nowhere within sight of his group, and shortly thereafter not in hearing range. He climbed a tree and steadied himself against the thick trunk, crouching anxiously on a flat branch. And here I will wait, he thought. Good things come to those who wait. And sometimes bad things, very bad things.


The End

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