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Begining

Eleri grew up in the midest of her clan, skilled with a bow, agile and athletic, she was naturally drawn towards her clan war band. Spending her days in training, scouting missions and raids against the local clans, and her evenings with her family and friends, life treated her well.

It was when she was watching the border of her lands that she saw the human- no clan, safe passage or intent markings, just a chalice embriodered on his tunic- that everything changed. None but an elf could enter the Elven Forest and be permitted to pass unhindered. Moving silently and surely through the canopy, Eleri closed the distance between them. When she was above the trail he followed, she waited. When he was directly below her, she dropped, lazily catching hold of a branch to slow her decent just enough to come to no harm, the other lining her dagger up witht he trespasser's right kidney. "Your name and purpose, and maybe I will let you live." She murmured in elvish. "Tariq, and I come with the Lady's word" again, this too was in elven. Unable to bring herself to kill the unarmed man on the spot, she took him prisoner and returned with him to the village, to make his fate the problem of the Chieftain.

She was nearly there, when the alarm gong sounded, turning to her prisoner she told him to stay, or follow her, his choice, but if he ran, he was dead. Then she scrabbled up the nearest tree and took the ariel route the rest of the way - raiders rarely looked up!

As she reached the clearing that housed the village she slowed, to take stock of the scene. The main force - clan Earthshadow from their markings- were advancing on a knot of warriors, although it appeared Stormwind had the advantage. Then a movement below caught her eye. An elf, face and body totally camoflaged in greens and browns, was inching closer, eyes intent on the back of the warrior in front of him, blade drawn but dulled by some kind of coating.

As she started to call a warning two things became clear, it wasn't going to be enough, and the warrior was the clan chieftain. Without thought she dropped, imposing her own body between the attacker and her cheif. She got her leg there in time, feeling the blade cut into her thigh as her cheiftain finished turning, she felt the impact with the earth, fire in her veins, then nothing more.

It was a week and a half before she regained consciousness, and it was an embroidered chalice that she finally managed to focus her eyes on.

****

Pain.

What use was a warrior who couldn't swing a blade. What use was a hunter who couldn't draw a bow. What use was a scout who couldn't walk.

What use was she. No purpose, no joy, no out. That's what happens when you save the chief in such a life altering manner. Hero. Cared for. Not allowed to die.

What's left?

Pain.

****

Trapped in her own head, unable to move, it had been weeks of agony, barely dulled by the cleric who fought for her life day in day out. All she wanted was to die quickly, she'd heard the word that had been diagnosis and death sentence. Manticor venom. No coming back from that. And yet...she still lingered. Why would they not let her go?

Slowly, more things came into focus. The phrases that had fluttered through her consciousness coalesce, becoming prayers "Maiden, Mother, Warrior, Krone, I seek the power to knit flesh and bone, purge poison and heal spirit, keep her with us that she may reach her full potential. Grant this soul your greatest gift, By Life Restore Life."

Over and over again.

Others filtered through

Sounds of life from without the hut. Sounds of training, children running, laughing. Things that were no longer hers. Through the pain she heard her mother, "Will she make it?"

Over and over again, different voices, always the same question.

"Will she make it?"

"If she wants to..."

Slowly, parts of her body returned through the pain. Her face first, dry cracked lips, a strange sensation, almost like the numbness of inebriation, spreading over the contours...slowly she realised it was the absence of pain in her cheeks.

Experimentally she wet her lips with her tongue.

Next a word, just one.

"Please."

The chalice bent nearer...

She moistened her lips again.

"Please, let me die."

In response a word, just one.

"No."

****

It was months later, no visitors now. Just the cleric, four times a day.

She could hold her head up now. That was all. And still they would not let her die.

One by one they had stopped coming, driven away by Eleri's increasing bitterness. Oh, they'd tried to understand, "It must be so hard for one who has always been so active...", "it will get easier as the pain lessens...", "no-one survives manticor venom, you'd think she'd be grateful" "wonders he's worked, and not a word of thanks"

Hour after hour, in the darkened hut, she wouldn't have the windows uncovered, wouldn't have anything in there to remind her of what she'd lost, she lay alone, with her thoughts, only in her sleep was there relief. In her dreams she leaped through the canopy of the forest with the ease that had always come naturally for her, in the mornings she woke with tears on her cheeks. And four times a day,when the cleric came, always the same four words "Please let me die.", always the same response "No".

Except for today.

"Why do you think I came here?".

Nothing

"I follow the Lady Life, but I follow an aspect of her as well. I follow the maiden. I walk this world, looking for those who have suffered, where there is no hope and no joy. I walk this world to bring those things to the people who need them. I feed the hungry, heal the sick, rebuild walls that have been knocked down. This life we have is a gift from the Goddess, it's not a burden to be endured, but a precious blessing, felt in the beauty of a sun set, the feel of a loved ones arms, smelt in the scent of a flower, or a freshly baked loaf. It is what we hear in a child's laugh.

How do I find these places? These people? The Lady sends me. I dream them. The kind of dreams that can't be ignored. And she wants you alive. End of story."

"I don't care what crazed dreams you have, if your Goddess gives two hoots about this world, then she will let me die. I. AM. USELESS. I cannot even feed myself, what purpose is there for me now? Your Goddess must hate me to keep me here!" It came out as an anguished wail. The sounds from without the hut stopped.

"Let me show you how she feels about you, then tell me that you want to die, and I will kill you myself! If not, you work with me."

"Maiden, Mother let your love and light shine for this soul, may they revel in your goodness, by Life Lady's Touch"

In that moment her whole life changed.

****

Fifteen years had passed.

There was still pain. Every day was a war, between Eleri's spirit and the damage she would not succumb to.

She could use her arms now, although both legs still lay unmoving. There was a book open on her lap. A parting gift from Tariq. Prayers to the lady. At her side was a small golden chalice. In her hut, her bright, airy hut, were fresh spring flowers, scenting the air with a heady mixture of fragrances. In the room, on the many chairs and cushions spread around, were the young and old of the village, the Elders dosing by the small fire, the young clustered around the bed, listening to tales of legend and myth and occasionally real life, from the animated face of Eleri. They always begged for tales when lessons were done.

The war band was out on a mission, the neighbouring village had spotted tracks in the forest, a small band, but skilled in hiding their trail. The chief had decided to track them down.

Gently, so as not to hurt her beloved sister, Yelena climbed on to the bed and curled against Eleri's side. "Tell us of the day that Earthshadow came!"

"Only if you can tell me three plants that can help with the summer fever"

"Yarrow, meadowsweet..."

There was a scream.

Suddenly there was uproar everywhere. The oldest of the children ran for the door, as more screams and shouts sounded in the village, a village of the young, the old and the crippled. A scream cut out with a wet sounding gurgle, the child threw the door open, and stepped aback as a hulking man reached through the unbarred entrance.

Eleri pulled Yelena closer.

The man shouted "In here!"

As more raiders poured in, the first grabbed the nearest of the children, thrusting a rag over their mouth. As the child dropped the elders surged forwards as one, despair on their faces, as they thrust themselves in front of the children. And were swept aside or cut down, as if they were no more than blades of grass.

They took the children.

All of them.

They tore Yelena from Eleri's grasp. She fought. If you can call it fighting, strengthless arms, useless legs, she clawed at their eyes, dragged herself towards the men trussing the children like animals, as they laughed at her, her pathetic struggles to reach them. They didn't bother trying to stop her. There was no need to cut her down. She was nothing. She was useless.

They took the children.

****

They found her half way across the clearing, dragging her body towards the forest, where they had taken her sister.