A/N: This is my first story on this site, so Please, constructive criticism only. It is still a work in process in the revision department and everywhere else.
Chapter 1: Looking for Panth
Ethraen woke up with the dawn. Yawning she got out of bed and changed from her nightclothes into a more comfortable clothing. Her nightclothes weren't really the pajama-type, as it looked very similar to her everyday clothes. What made this more sleeping wear, is that it was woven from cloth, so it didn't provide too much armor. Looking at the nightclothes, Ethraen took it and washed it. She also washed her only other outfit. That's right, she only had two outfits and sleeping wear. It took only three minutes for her to clean her clothes and hang them out to dry. She then proceeded to start a fire and cook the food that she had received. Her home was simple, just a plain cave, but it was her home. She had lived in this forest for about 13 years and never had any problems.
She knew the town south of her forest regarded her as a guardian and therefore gave her food once a month. They would place it just inside the forest and she would take it once they all left. In return anyone from the village that wandered in she protected. If they sought shelter she would provide it. As long as they continued to provide food once a month; that was the unspoken agreement. They even brought their children to introduce them to her when they turned five years old. They expected blessings, so she sent Panth, her loyal companion, with some simple herbs and medicines to help the child's health. They took that as blessing enough. As she finished up breakfast she remembered that today was the day that anyone who would turn five years old this year were to be presented to her. She ate and, equipping her weapons, she left her home and headed south. It didn't take long before she realized something was wrong. She mentally called for Panth, but her familiar didn't answer. He had never disappeared or refused to answer her call before. Their link went over long distances, but he was out her forest. This did not sit well with her. She stopped and put her hand on a tree.
In common speech she asked the tree to show her what happened, "Show me what thou hast seen of the black cat."
The tree automatically answered and she was assaulted by images. The trees sent her images of Panth patrolling before getting caught. She saw the figures of humans take him away. Breaking the spell, she hurried toward the entrance of the forest. She leaped over the river, using the branches to aid her, and arrived just in time to see the people gathering. She knew the people of Tyryn and they would not risk protection by taking one animal. Plus it was that animal that 'showed' them she blessed them. They wouldn't take him under any circumstances.
"Dearest guardian." The mayor called out. "We bring these three children to you. Please bless them and extend your protection to them."
They never knew what she would bless them with, but it was normally herbs. She wasn't going to punish them for something that they did not do. She called to three eagles in their language. They came to her and hovered, waiting to hear what she had to say. She told them to guard the three children and to be her eyes. Each eagle was assigned a child and informed that something was amiss. When they gave her the signal that they understood she tied some cloth to their ankles and sent them out. She watched as the eagles flew out and toward the children. The humans flinched but stood still. The eagles hovered over the children before landing in front of them.
"Dearest guardian! Thank you for this great blessing!" The mayor bowed to the forest as everyone followed.
The group dispersed, all but the three children and their mothers. They usually left last, but they didn't move this time. Ethraen knew that they wanted to say something, more than likely about what happened earlier.
"Guardian, I…" One of the mothers hesitated.
Ethraen understood. It was an unspoken rule that only the mayor would talk to her. Ethraen however, didn't care who spoke; she thought the rituals were ridiculous! She waited anyway, knowing it had to be something very important for them to break the 'unspoken agreement'. After a few minutes another mother spoke.
"Guardian, yesterday evening the watch spotted some intruders in your forest." The mother began. "We tried to stop them but they went in anyway. They came out with a cage and a black cat inside."
The third mother picked up the story here, "We thank you for not punishing us. If there is anything that we can do to help, please let us know."
The first mother finished the plea, "We'll search for leads, and we'll help. In return, if anything happens to us, please watch our children."
Ethraen was almost brought to tears at the dedication of these mothers. They valued their children's lives, but they wanted to help her as well. Taking three arrows from her quiver she walked out of the forest and approached them. She dropped the arrows in front of the women and walked back in. She appreciated their help and gave them a way to help. She had no idea if they knew this, but they would see it as her acceptance of their help. She was liked by the elves and fairies and her arrows were well known among them. No other archer carved runes into their arrow shafts. She was anti-social and hadn't visited the elves and fairies in about 15 years, but she was sure that they would remember. Shaking her head, she went back to her home. She would find Panth and kill those who took him. She grabbed a bag and filled it with the bread, cheese, and jerky that she had. She grabbed more arrows and packed her quiver till there was no room.
She secured her daggers around her waist and put on her leather gloves. She walked out of her home and sealed it. She wasn't sure how long she would be gone. Before she left her forest, she made a stop in a hidden clearing and put some of the bread, cheese, and jerky on the small alter. She bowed her head and kneeled. She quietly prayed to her goddess and asked for her to protect the forest and town in her place. She stood up and headed south, out of the forest. She had to choose which way to go upon coming out. She could go either West or East. Panth and his captors had to go in one of the two directions. She closed her eyes and recalled the map that she had once seen. If she recalled correctly the human capital was west of her. She looked East, then west, before deciding on going east. She wore a cloak and brought the hood over her head.
She wasn't going to like this journey, but she would find and rescue Panth by any cost. She walked and walked and didn't stop even when the sunset. It took her about one full day to until she came to the bridge that connected the middle land with the eastern land. She stopped and looked at the bridge. It was made of wood planks and was being held up by very thick rope. It wasn't too high above the water, but it was easier to maintain than a wooden or stone bridge. Well, easier for her, she assumed stone would have been easier to maintain for humans. Ethraen, however, refused to walk on the wood and so tightroped across. After crossing the bridge she saw a town in the distance. Deciding now was a good time to rest and eat, she sat on a rock close by the road. She surveyed the plain and felt the gentle breeze caress her. She couldn't feel the breeze on her skin; but she could feel it through the thinness of her clothes.
Her hood was still up, so no one who walked past would be able to see her face. She preferred that. She wouldn't be easily tracked down if no one could recognize her. The sound of footsteps closing in made her pause. They were coming from the opposite way she came from; east. She looked and saw a man dressed in white. His simple attire marked him as a peasant, but the aura he had was something more. Ethraen to remember her lessons of the outside world, but found that she couldn't recall any of the lessons. She remained still and invisible, however, the man still looked at her. He stopped in front of her and she saw him clearly. He wore white pants, white shirt and black shoes. Well, she assumed they were shoes, they looked more like slippers than anything. She tried to recall if she had seen that style before; she hadn't.
"Can you tell me if I am going the right way to get to Nevaiyah?" The man asked politely.
Ethraen noticed the low voice and thought about how smooth and polite it was. He was clearly human; but the voice was that of the elfish style. Ethraen figured that it was because of a few things: first was that he was a half elf, second was that was just the way he was, and third was that he was a human raised by the elves. She ruled out the third option, knowing that the elves wouldn't pick up humans and take them home with them. Ethraen didn't rule out half-elven, but it was unlikely. She didn't reply, instead just analyzed him. She felt so out of place and completely uncomfortable. The man sighed and gave a wave as he left. He couldn't have noticed Ethraen's discomfort… could he? Once the man was gone, Ethraen continued as she mulled over what just happened. The man's hair was silver and covered one of his eyes. The visible eye looked milky.
Ethraen thought back to the elders of her village. The ones who couldn't see had that milky look to them. Was he blind in that eye? If he was why hide it? It's what made him, him… right? She shook her head to clear her thoughts, she'd never understand humans. She turned her attention to the group of people coming her way. They had armor that glinted in the sunlight; an army was coming her way. They were moving pretty quickly. She stood off to the side and watched them go past. They didn't even spare her a glance. Once they passed her, she went on her way. She needed to find Panth as quickly as possible. She followed the coastline North until she saw what appeared to be a city in the distance. It was at least a town. It was to the east of her, but not too far away to be unseen. She stopped and debated a moment. Should she go into the town to look? She couldn't remember the town name or any town's name really. The only ones she remembered were Tyryn, the village just outside her forest and Nevaiyah, the human capitol.