The leaves of the trees were
starting to show the faint golden colour that announced the coming of
autumn and the approaching of winter. Ehlaina knew she couldn’t continue
roaming the marshes when snow would start to cover the
grouns. She had no clothes that could warm her. She had no place to
She slowly turned to look longingly toward the road that she knew led back
to the city of Astran, the town that she had called home for so long. But
what was there for her now? Nothing, only rocks flung at her and insults
that fell over her like drops of rain.
She knew she couldn’t turn back, they would most certainly kill her if she
did. But who else would give shelter to a starving child? Who would give
home to one that had been scorned by her own people, condemned and hated
because she was not like the rest of the people around her?
Ehlaina lifted her hand to touch over the stump where her arm should have
grown. The small stub felt cold and for a moment she hated it, she hated
the arm that she never had. Falling to her knees she started crying in the
uttermost despair, cursing the Gods that had allowed her to be conceived.
She cursed Queprur for
taking her family away, for not taking her instead. Her words were soon
drowned in the sobs that escaped her lips, making her whole body shudder
as in an intense cold. Her heart was broken
beyond repair, she had no place she could call home anymore. She was
little more than nothing. Even the wild beasts of the forest were more
than her, being able to call the unfriendly forest and marshes for their
home, they belonged here.
The child continued crying until her eyes were dry and sore, not longer
holding any more tears that could be shed. She cried until her throat
ached, parched with thirst and hurting from the sobs that had been
wrenched from her chest. Slowly she lay down on
the ground, covering herself with the still damp and torn woollen blanket.
Exhausted by the long day of wandering, the lack of food and the crying,
Ehlaina fell asleep, completely unaware of the pair of eyes that were
watching her from between the trees, eyes that seemed to glow in the
darkness. They blinked a few times before their owner disappeared without
making a sound.
The night was merciful with Ehlaina, no wild beast bothered her dream, and
no cold rain showered her. The child sleeping peacefully in the middle of
the wilderness spared by some whim of the Gods. It was as if Arvins
himself had ordered his beasts to stay away from her sleeping place. Grothar
kept his rain filled clouds floating
in the sky far away from the marshes and
Eyasha had bidden all the creatures to let the
night be silent so the child could rest in complete peace.
Only when the injčrá
had started her race over the sky Ehlaina woke to the sound of a loud
whistling. The girl was startled as she heard the noise
and swiftly sat up. She let out a small shriek as she saw a large grey and
orange beetle sitting squarely on her hand. Ehlaina shook her hand
violently to scare the insect away, sending it flying several peds
far, as she grimaced in disgust. The beetle
didn’t seem to appreciate the rough treatment either, emitting a low and
slightly rattling whistle before taking to flight and disappearing between
Ehlaina stared at the large beetle as it flew away, still trying to calm
her racing heart, she knew that there was no real danger now, but the
scare from her awakening still lingered in her body, her muscles still
tight and tense. After a long moment she let out a trembling sigh, slowly
turning her head to look around her resting place. The blanket
had dried during the night, and there were no tracks of animals close to
her, almost as if no life had stirred in the place surrounding her. Slowly
Ehlaina stretched herself, running her hand through
her locks, trying to untangle them as best as she could. Slowly she got to
her feet and pulled her blanked up, draping it over her shoulders as one
would with a cloak. She could feel her stomach starting to protest. She
A cold wind blew through the few trees, pulling
away the yellow leaves from the branches, making
them dance around the naked ankles of the child like playful fairies. Yet
Ehlaina saw no joy in the dance of the leaves, it only meant that winter
was moving even closer, and soon she wouldn’t be able to find any berries
or plants to feed on. She shuddered and pulled the blanket closer around
herself before she started her search for food, looking for something to
silence the growls of hunger coming from her empty stomach.
The waterberry bushes were almost completely stripped for fruits, most of
it had already been eaten by squirrels and
birds. Ehlaina found some berries and ate them slowly, as to make them
last as much as possible. The bush picked clean of berries and her stomach
still screaming with hunger she continued wandering in search for
something else to satsify her hunger. But the
luck that had been with her during the night seemed to have left her
completely, as she found nothing to eat, not even a lonely lotann. The sun
finished its run over the sky with the child feeling more hunger than she
had ever felt. Even when her father was without work he always managed to
get food to give her, even when it was only a crust of dry bread. But now
she couldn’t find anything to eat. The bushes that had been heavy with
berries were now shedding their leaves and preparing for a cold winter.
The limb she was missing made it difficult for her to climb the trees in
search for the few fruits that remained on the now naked branches.
Ehlaina returned to the spot where she had slept last night, looking
around for a safer safer to sleep. And she was
happy when she saw that there was a nearby tree, dead it seemed, with a
rather large hole in its trunk close to its roots. With great effort
Ehlaina scooped together a small pile of dry leaves and proceeded to stuff
them into the hole, providing a soft place to lie during the night. She
made sure to shake her blanket before she crawled into her little den. The
leaves crunched under her weight as she tried as good
as she could to fit her whole body inside the crevice of the tree, curling
up like a small animal hiding from the cold. And the cold indeed came.
That night was a herald for the approaching winter, cold winds swept the
ground, making the dry leaves dance around as possessed
by thousands of little demons. It blew away the leaves from the trees,
leaving the branches like naked and bony fingers stretching toward a gray
heaven. Small animals of all sorts ran for cover as the rain-heavy clouds
started emptying themselves, sending a cascade of icy cold water towards
the ground. Grothar released his powers, lightning crossing the sky from
side to side, thunder rolling over the swamp. The wind joined the rain and
froze the small drops into pieces of ice that pounded against the ground.
The hail destroyed the few berries and plants that were still surviving
the cold of the wind, crushing
the waterberries and killing the lotann with its sharp edges.
The storm lasted all night, rain and hail were
washing the trees and bushes free from leaves and berries, leaving them
empty and dormant, ready to receive the cold snow that would soon start
falling over the lands.
A gray dawn rose over the land, the golden sun hidden behind the heavy,
gray clouds that continued to drift over the
sky. Ehlaina awoke shuddering in cold, even the thick layer of leaves and
the wool blanket had not been enough to keep out the wind and rain. The
leaves were damp and cold under her, and the blanket was stiff and white
with frost. The girl looked out at the ground
and her heart sunk when she saw the thin layer of ice that coated the
ground and the plants, the first hoarfrost of the year had come to steal
away what little food was still in the forest.
The child felt that tears started forming in her
eyes, running down her cheeks to drip on the ground below her.
How could Seyella be so cruel to her? First
robbing her of her father, and now letting the cold coat the earth; for a
moment Ehlaina felt like just curling up in the small crevice and wait for
Queprur to harvest her. But a small voice in the back of her head was
urging the child to leave the hiding place. Maybe the hail had spared some
berries, maybe some small lotanns were still standing, hidden between the
trunk of the trees.
Ehlaina sniffled and slowly crawled out from the place that now served as
her home. She once more draped the blanket around her shoulder as she
started walking, determined to find food.
By the time the injérá was halfway across the
heavens Ehlaina had given up her search, tears streaming freely down her
cheeks as she walked aimlessly among the trees. Not a single berry had she
found, not one edible leaf, nothing. Her stomach
growled in hunger as she searched the ground for
roots that could calm her hunger. But the ground was as hard as stone
after last night's freeze, Ehlaina
's nails broke
painfully, blood mixing with the dirt as she tried to dig after food.
The child was dizzy with hunger. It had been so long, so very long, since
she had felt the sweet taste of bread in her mouth, almost a complete moon
now. And the memory of the last meal she had let spoil was haunting her
mind. She had never gotten
to taste any of the meat she had prepared. Never had
she enjoyed the feeling of the Santharian mint
kisses melting on her tongue, their sugary and sweet taste invading her
She lifted her hand to run it over her head.
Her hair was still short as a boy’s, but at
least it didn’t stand straight out anymore. Her
head was now covered with small brown curls. The sacrifice she had made
had served to nothing. She had not enjoyed anything of what she had
bought, the rats had soiled the food with their paws and their excrement.
And what little she had saved was left in the cottage as the townspeople
had chased her out of the town.
Hate welled up in her heart as she remembered the townspeople, their
shouts and the stones flying towards her. She could almost feel the pain
as a rock colided with her collarbone, nearly snapping it in two. The
smell of the rotting fruits, the feeling of the eggs as they exploded
against her head. All of it was clear in her mind.
Her hand balled up in a fist as anger washed over her. Why was she to
hunger? Why did she have to starve to death in the marshes? It was not
The child turned and stared in the direction where she knew the town was
located. Indeed, why did she have to starve? There were small
vegetable patches behind most of the houses. Chicken houses with birds and
Ehlaina started walking towards the town. She knew dusk was coming soon
and that she would be safer in the darkness than by the fading lights of
the day. All day she walked, still avoiding the usual paths that led
towards the city, u´ntil at last she was close
to the outskirts of Astran again.
As soon as night started spreading its veil over
the lands she moved as silently as she could
towards a vegetable patch, pulling up carroots
from the still frozen ground, gobbling them down without caring for the
dirt that still covered them,
stripping the peases from the vines and chewing them without
removing the pods. She raided the small garden, stuffing herself with all
the vegetables she found.
She then looked toward the chicken coop, a sudden hunger for eggs
befell her. Silently Ehlaina crept into the
small shack and started collecting the eggs, breaking open the shells and
swallowing the contents raw. But as she reached for the last egg the door
burst open, only to reveal a angry looking
"So we have a thief? You’ll see what I do with
thieves!" he shouted
as he hasted into the shack, his arm lifted high, brandishing a tick
Image description. Mist
over the desolate Silvermarshes. Pic by
Ehlaina tried to sneak past him, but the man was too fast. The staff flew
down and caught her across the back. A sharp pain flared up and burned
her. She let out a scream of pain that woke up the chickens. The man did
not move away from her but simply lifted the staff once more before it
fell over her shoulder this time. The child fell to the ground and tried
crawling away. But it was only met
by the hard kicks from his booted feet against
her stomach and her rips. She thought she heard a snapping sound as he
kicked her chest once more, and suddenly she couldn’t breathe. The pain
was so intense that she thought he had kicked her heart into silence.
Still, somehow she had the presence of mind to get up
somehow on her feet and run as the man was distracted by several of
his hens as they ran through the door, escaping
from the coop. Ehlaina ran as fast as she could, but the
farmer, noticing she was escaping, bowed down
and lifted a stone, flinging it towards the fleeing figure.
The stone flew whistling through the air and hit
precisely, straight in the back of the child’s
head, she toppled over and slammed into the ground, blood spurting from
the wound the stone had made under the brown locks.
And though, Seyella’s hand was still over
Ehlaina, and the child managed to scramble herself to her feet and
continue the run towards the Silvermarshes, disappearing in the fog that
had started to rise from the marshy grounds.
Ehlaina lost the sense of how long she had been running, her head was
aching as were her chest and side. The world was
spinning in a confusing way around her, making her dizzy. At one point she
had fallen to her knees and emptied her stomach, spiting
out all that she had managed to eat before she was discovered. But the
fear for the man with the staff made her get to her feet and continue her
staggering run back to her "home".
By the tree she finally fell to the ground, exhausted both from the run
and from the terrible pain in her head and side, her breath was shallow
and fast and a sharp pain shot through her with
each breath. Several bruises covered her face and her arm, each one a mark
from the booted feet that had kicked her.
Ehlaina felt the world spinning around, making
her even more dizzy than she was. She got to her knees as she felt another
wave of nausea was through her, but throwing up
nothing more than bile.
Slowly she rolled until she was lying on her back, her head aching less
and less as her eyes slid close. In the instant before she actually closed
them she thought she saw several wisps floating over her, as well as the
sound of many whistles filling the air.
She was almost certain she heard the sound of rustling leaves as well as
slow and cautious footsteps approaching her still form. Ehlaina struggled
to open her eyes once more, and what she saw froze the blood in her veins.
A creature, not taller nor larger than her was looking down at her, its
head seeming almost too big for its body, its eyes wide open and staring
at her. It reached out a hand and gently caressed over her cheek, speaking
in a language she didn’t understand. As it moved its hand back the fingers
were covered with blood. The creature sniffed the blood and then looked
back at Ehlaina, leaning closer and closer towards her...
And then she fell into the fogs of oblivion, her mind kindly shutting