Prologue- Days of Mercy
It was Rtan 30, Year 300 of the Days of Mercy, and their final day. The Scarlet Years would begin the next day, named for the violence and killing they contained. But no one knew of the sacrilege performed in the Forest of Blood this day.
There was a blast of fire in the night darkness of the forest and then another fire blazed up, lighting the Night Elf's face as she stood at bay against a leaping werewolf, three lying dead at her feet. Her black bat wings stretched out over the scene, cutting off the scant moonlight as she fluttered in the air.
A wild howl of pain filled the forest as the final wolf sprang forward and landed on here. The elf staggered and fell with an ominous crack in one of her wings as the wolf rolled off her and lay silent.
There was silence in the forest, broken only by the fire's soft pops as it began to die down.
A dark, tall figure in black robes materialized in wisps of soft smoke above the Night Elf's prone figure.
"Finally," purred a soft voice, "I have the famous Darkraven." The robed person prowled around her, surveying the figure from all sides. The voice changed to a vicious snarl as the figure lifted his head to the moon and howled a wild cry of victory.
In the village, the people shivered. The werewolves were roaming the forest again.
Other dark figures slunk towards the dying flame, and the man watched it flicker down with satisfaction. At last it was only a few coals glowing softly.
"I curse you, Darkraven, by the past you have woven, I curse you, Darkraven, by the future you are weaving, I curse you, Darkraven, the maid of the eagle, to hang in the balance, on the edge of the knife. Cry, eagles, cry, for your daughter has fallen! Cry, ravens, cry, for your sister is dying! Never to wander among us again, cursed by the killings she did long ago." A smile of satisfaction on his face, he gave two short howls and vanished in gray smoke.
All but two of the werewolves slipped away. The remaining two sat, one at the head and one at the feet of the fallen Night Elf till the first streaks of day dawned on the eastern horizon.
They slunk away, leaving the Night Elf alone in a deadly forest. As if by a miracle, she began to stir, lifting her unearthly brilliant deep blue eyes to the pale blue sky above. She moaned softly and then looked around, puzzled, her brow wrinkled in puzzlement. She got up and started to stretch her wings, clenching her teeth at the pain as one of them hung crooked, refusing to stretch out.
The Night of Wrath had ended.
The farmer paused to watch a figure in a black cloak walk past, leaning on a walking staff.
"There goes Traveler again," he remarked to his nearest son, who had also paused and was leaning on his scythe, trying to imitate his father.
"We'll probably see her at the table as soon as we get in." The farmer turned and looked sharply at his son, who started guiltily and set back to work.
"That's more like it," he said with a sigh. "What I don't have to keep up with these sons of mine!" They finished work soon after and trooped into the house for dinner. Sure enough, the black cloak hung by the door, and Traveler's sharp, angled face with it's wealth of black hair turned to face them as the door closed.
Helping with the cooking, she had apparently been telling the farm-wife the latest news from all over. Seeing who it was, she continued talking to the farmwife.
"Yes. I have heard it is an excellent school. There is nothing to stop me from going. I have, as far as I can remember, no family, no ties, no home."
"Are you sure you don't have a mother?" said the farmwife, her voice sympathetic.
"I do not remember," was the quiet answer, the same one she had given every time she was asked about her past. Odd, the farmer always said. She had started stopping by just when the Scarlet Years had started. Bloodshed all over was the news she brought most of the time.
And those black wings of hers just weren't natural. The family had heard many dissertations on her on winter nights from the farmer, but whenever she stopped by, he was always more than happy to talk with her about the news and have her bed down by the fire.
"Well, I'm sure we'll miss you," said the farm-wife, her hand going out to slap her 9-year-old's hand as he tried to sneak some food. Traveler smiled, a rare sight, and then sobered again.
"That is a rare thing. Most people seem to hate me." She stopped peeling potatoes for a moment and looked earnestly at the farmwife. "I will always remember you. Your kindness has been very great."
The good lady wiped away a tear.
"You come back now, you hear?" Traveler smiled sadly.
"Don't worry. I will come back for you always."
"Where are you thinking of going?" growled the farmer, his face displeased.
"I am going to become an Initiate at Deepsea Circle." The farmer got up and stomped out of the room, his pipe in his mouth. Obviously, to him this was not good news.
"After all we've done for you, you're going to leave us?" said the 19-year-old.
"I must go."
"But Mum even fixed your broken wing the first time you came," the wide-eyed 16-year-old protested. Traveler bent down, looking keenly into his eyes.
"I would like to bring this one with me as well," she said quietly. The farm-wife's hand flew to her mouth.
"Oh, we couldn't give Daran up!"
"He has the gift of magic, Kara," Traveler said.
"Well……. he would come back too?"
"Of course. The course only takes a few years, and he could come back at least twice a year."
"Well, his father won't approve…." She bit her lip and looked at her son. "Do you want to go?"
"Oh, Mum! What do you think?" The boy's eyes were sparkling joyously.
"Go pack, but don't say anything to your father. I'll keep you back next morning when the rest go to the fields, and you two can slip away then." She looked nervously at the door. "Oh, I do hope I'm doing the right thing. Do you really think he has the gift of magic?" Traveler nodded, her eyes serious.
"He could be great."
"He will go. Come back with him, Traveler, and keep him safe."
"I swear I will."
"Go in peace with Godspeed."