The sun was particular harsh today, and Iri was constantly wiping the sweat from his brow, his muscled arms glistening with perspiration. Salty water threatened to kiss his feet, but he took care to keep his feet from meeting its embrace. His body did not respond well to the water before it was purified.

The birds made their songs as they soared through the air, following the currents that would take them much higher than the trees. Sometimes Iri longed to be a bird, free and able to do whatever it was that he wished. His home, an elvish city near the ocean, was pleasant enough, but the work that was required of him was sometimes too much for a twelve year old elf. He wasn't even considered an adult yet.

Iri pressed his slender fingers to his forehead again, frowning slightly. Cursed heat. He wanted to feel the shade of the trees on his back instead of the heat, and the softness of the grass under his feet instead of the sand.

It didn't really make sense why Iri felt that way. He was an elf. They were plants, not animals, and needed the sun to survive. Yet, he hated that yellow will-o'-the-wisp. He was glad that his mother had pulled his hair back this morning. White locks had fallen from the band as he worked but, for the most part, it kept him cooler than if it would have been down. Crystal blue eyes gazed out at the sea for a moment, before he decided that it was best to get his work done so that he could return home. Maybe he would sit in the grass and read his father's old scrolls about a time before the Evil Queen was in reign.

Breathing out through his nose, Iri quieted his mind. Magic, like working a muscle, required some sort of concentration, and he did not wish to be yelled at again for a poor job at purifying the water.

The water that lay in the bucket before him started to glow faintly, and Iri trailed his fingertips through the cool liquid as he muttered the magic words that drove the salt away. Heating the water naturally would have done the same thing, but this method was faster and more effective.

Iri was halfway through purifying the water when a terrible feeling threw a punch at his gut. He stood, his back erect, as he stayed still for a moment. Was he being attacked? Or perhaps the water was bad? An elf's intuition was exceptional, and Iri's elongated pointed ears twitched as he turned his head and his blood ran cold.

His village was considered a seaside village, even though it had to be half a hundred miles from the shore. When Iri peered over at the edge of the forest, he saw a thick line of smoke unfurling from deep within the contents of the forest, right where his home dwelt.

The bucket of water forgotten, he rushed towards his horse companion Oorma, who had been grazing in the grass, always in sight of his elvish friend. Once he sensed Iri's distress, however, he pawed at the ground and took off as soon as Iri swung his leg over the creature's back.

Oorma seemed to know the dire sense of the situation, because he ran more quickly and more gracefully than what was expected of him. Iri arrived back at Illian just as the moon was rising into the sky.

Not that he had a village to return to.

Tears leaked from the corners of his eyes and trailed lines down his cheeks as he stared at what had caused the smoke in the sky. It hadn't been a tree on fire, it had been the buildings that he had spent the first twelve years of his life exploring. Now they were burning, and he could feel the forest's pain.

It appeared as if they had been ambushed. He did not know of what ambushed them, but he knew who was behind him: the Queen.

He stumbled towards his home, which was smoking but not lit up like a beacon like many of the others. He had yet to see a living elf, but he refused to give up hope. Someone had to have escaped the clutches of Death.

The buildings were almost always nestled between two trees, sung magically into shape from the trunks themselves. There were never doors, because privacy wasn't too much of a concern for an elf, and Iri rushed through the opening of his own home, only to be overcome by his grief.

His father lay sprawled across the floor. He had been defending himself and his beloved fiercely, because there were several dead guardsmen surrounding him. He appeared to have taken a fatal wound to the chest, and his hand was outstretched towards Iri's mother, who had been decapitated.

An inhumane howl that would have set anyone's wits on end escaped wildly from Iri's lips as he sank to the ground. Shock was replacing the grief, halting his tears and dimming his senses. Anger, red hot and venomous, was the next to come, and that emotion was the only thing Iri was going to feel for a very, very long time.

He was going to murder the Queen if it was his dying stroke.

*This is something that I wrote on the spot, so it's a little rough around the edges.