He was old.
His bones ached in the cold. All his herbs and magics were no longer enough to keep him going.
This day he wandered the forests in search of a mushroom that, when made into a tea, could stave off the effects of the slight congestion that had settled into his chest. His steps still graceful and silent, he moved carefully though the dense woods that covered so much of Evermeet.
A sound... A rasping, panting breathing. There! In the hollow of an old tree. His healer instincts aroused, he peered into the darkness. A large red form lay in the darkness, a smaller form beside it. The red glow of heat faded before his eyes. The old man whispered a prayer of protection and slowly, painfully crawled into the hollow. The large red shape resolved into a wounded jaguar. The panting, pained sounds those of her giving birth.
He watched, saddened at the struggle of the young cat. This would be her first litter if he was any judge. The small cooling form was a stillborn cub. From the deep wounds she bore, the cat wouldn't survive til dawn. She gave a last pitiful mewling pant, and expelled a small, silvery form, lacking even the strength to cleanse it of its birth sac. Her eyes glazed even as he watched. The old man reached out, and gently ended the great cat's pain.
'What do I do with you little one?' He watched the blind wriggling cub, suprized by the pale gleam of its wet coat. He sighed and tore a scrap from his robes, carefully drying the tiny cub, and resolved to do what he could to help the helpless infant live.
Days passed, then weeks. The cub was weak, but growing stronger. He fed it on milk and meat broth, fortifying the odd brew with herbs he gathered each day. He soon realized the cub was female.. and had imprinted on him as her mother. He sighed, gathering the small cat on his lap as he sat before the fire, and fed it from a bottle. His fingers moved in a complicated pattern, using his magic to seal the friendship of man and beast. Then he sat, watching the cub suckle, and came to a decision. He would need to add a new spell to his morning prayers. But perhaps, just perhaps... He had found more than a pet in the small cub. Perhaps he had found a companion.
He spent much of the night and morning deep in meditation. The cub, impatient for her morning bottle, bumbled over. Her fur was a pure silver grey and her eyes a clear, glowing green. She mewled piteously, resting her chin on his knee and gazing up at him with wide, hungry eyes.
'That time already hmm, Shana?' He chuckled quietly at the way her ears pricked at the sound of the name he had given her. She mewled again and batted his knee urgently. 'Feh, alright, I get the point. These old bones don't move that fast, you know!' He grumbled goodnaturedly, and clambered to his feet to fix her bottle. Shana twined around his legs, tripping over his feet and her own too-large paws. 'Like a child you are, for all the work. But at least one that can be trained to use the garden for her toilet!' He stumbled a little over the warm furry body as he made his way back to his hearth with her bottle in hand, Shana's hungry cries following him.
He watched, standing over her, as she drank hungrily at her bottle. 'Like a child you are. And so shall you be. Let the Maiden grant that you gain understanding. May the moon protect you and may you gain the powers to be my legacy, Shana.' He watched her as she stopped her greedy feeding and stared at him with solemn eyes. He wondered for a moment if he imagined the gleam of understanding there. He began the ancient spell to awaken the mind of an animal and grant it the intelligence equal to that of any elf.
Years passed with Shana as his constant companion. The intelligence granted by his goddess glowed in her eyes, and she hungrily learned all he could teach her. Though they never conversed, she understood both elven and the eldritch language of the druids, and some smattering of the common tradetongue, though he himself knew only a little.
He knew he was reaching the end of his days. Shana was gone more and more, prowling the forests, Hunting and dancing in the grasses in the moonlight that shone pure on the soil of the elven island.
She had learned well, and would keep the balance in this area after he was gone. It was a shame though, that she wasn't elven. She could never roam among sentient races, preserving the balance. These musings occupied him as he sat by his fire, sipping his tea. She was his legacy. The one thing he could leave behind to continue his work. His daughter. And she was a jaguar.
A thud against the door to his cabin jolted him from reverie. He looked at the door, wondering if his imagination was playing tricks on him. Then he heard it again... A thud, and a dragging sound. Then a pitiful mewl of pain.
Alarmed, he got to his feet as fast as his stiff creaky old bones would allow. Throwing open the door, he was aghast at what lay before him. Shana, her silvery coat stained with blood, wicked hunters arrows bristling from her heaving flanks, lay sprawled on his threshold. Blood bubbled in her throat staining her muzzle crimson with each breath. His hope, his one legacy, lay at his feet, drowning in her own blood. He was a druid. He had no power to heal so mortal an injury. But perhaps, just perhaps... Her spirit could be saved and harnessed, her mind and learnings intact.
In desperation he called upon the power of his goddess, praying with all the strength left in his soul. And he was answered. As the last breath escaped Shana's body, she shimmered. Her fur glowed as if illuminated by the moon, although t'was dark on his threshold. Her body vanished as he held his hands high, chanting, pleading... A form slowly formed from mist and moonlight, crouched, huddled in on itself. It trembled and howled in agony, lashing out with a pale skinned hand... And ended the old mans chant.
She came to herself huddled in a corner, her mouth filled with the metallic tang of blood. Flies buzzed around her, landing on the streaks of drying blood on her bare body. She looked up with confused, frightened eyes, not comprehending what had happened to her. She remembered flashes... The shouting, being chased, she had to escape... Then pain. Ae burning pain that consumed her her very soul. Darkness. The worried face of her beloved teacher. Again the darkness. A sensation of being wrenched aside and shaken like a dog worries a rag, then intense burning pain. Had to fight, had to escape, to get away...
She raised her eyes, confused by the fall of silvery hair that obscured her vision. Tossing her head, she gazed in horror at the destruction around her. She tried to get to her feet, her legs not responding right. Her hindquarters felt stretched and her tail gave her no balance. Wait... her tail wasn't there! What torture had she undergone while she was unaware? She looked down, noticing her forelegs were not responding properly either. And stared at smooth, flawless pale skin. Her paws were gone, replaced by slender, flexible hands covered in gore. The scent of death tickled her nostrils faintly, forcing her to look up. Sea green eyes filled with grief at the sight of a mangled elven body sprawled across the threshold.
A soft keening whine tore from her throat. She made her way in a shaky crawl to her beloved teacher's side, tugging at him with her new strange, flexible hands. She saw by the half-light that his flesh was no longer warm as it had been in life. The ancient elf's throat had been torn out. She stared, uncomprehending at the even, rounded bite. It looked like an apple after her master had taken a healthy bite from it.
She howled in grief and took off running awkwardly on all fours towards the deep woods. She found a den she could squeeze herself into and huddled there for days, keening uncontrolably while strange water leaked from her eyes. She didn't understand what had happened. Her master was dead. Her body warped and disfigured.
The stench of the rotting gore coating her body finally drove her to find water. When she reached a chilly forest pool she dove in, heedless to whether or not this new body was capable of swimming. Her malformed paws proved useful, allowing her to scoop up handfuls of sand to scrub her tender skin. And scrub she did til she was all over pink and raw from the effort. Afterwards she lay on the grassy bank, gathering the courage to fully view the horrors that had been done to her.
The face she saw in the still, clear waters of the pool had sharply defined cheekbones and a narrow, slightly hooked nose above full lips drawn thin by fear and tension. Enormous sea green eyes gazed steadily back at her, and graceful curving elven ears peaks up from under matted, wet, silvery hair. She met her own eyes in disbelief. Her hand reached up to trace her features, the image's movements mirroring her own. She had been transformed into an elf.
Bewildered and afraid, she returned to the cabin where she had grown up. She found the scavengers had already descended upon the place. But wait... A fresh mound of dirt marked a newly dug grave. Someone had been here and buried her master's body. She crouched, looking at the footprints of many booted feet. They were shallow, not disturbing much of the grass. Elves, then. Elves had come to take her master's body. That was fitting. He, too, was an elf.
She thought a moment, then haltingly tried to form words. 'Fayyre weel Eldar.' She turned, more of that odd water running down her cheeks and went into the cabin to find something to cover her body with. Elves did not run about the forest naked. She had to learn... And to find out who had killed her master. To do that, she thought with resolve, she needed to become an elf in truth.
She gathered a few things. A ball she had played with as a cub, a set of old robes her master had worn that still smelled comfortingly of him. Some small foodstuffs, a blanket, and an old black quarterstaff were added to her collection. Then she staggered out the door to face a new world.
She turned and looked over her shoulder at the mound. 'Maaidyn Keep hymm sayph'
With those words, she faded into the mists that blanketed her forests.
Shana balanced herself lightly on a branch, high in one of the ancient trees surrounding the walled elven city. Below her was a ranger, by the symbols on his bow and tunic, a hunter of Shevarash. Deep loathing boiled in her breast, her nails cutting into the bark of the tree that sheltered her from sight.
Shevarash. Hater of Drow. It was His priests and worshipers that had taken her home, and master from her. It was His rangers that had hunted the mindless beast companion of an aging druid that had just happened to worship a drow goddess. This one was young, his teachers training him, prolonging the sensless hatred. Still.. He wasn't one of the hunters that haunted her dreams. Dreams that always ended with the unbearable pain of arrows imbedding into her hide and mocking laughter. "Drow Lovers. This is the fate of all who love Drow."
Shana curled her fingers around a small silver and onyx pendant around her neck, feeling the cool, smooth curves of her holy symbol. A dancing, silver haired, ebon skinned elfess framed by a full moon. Eilistraee. Daughter of Corellon and Lloth, Lesser Goddess of Dance, Beauty, the Moon, Hunting.. and Good Drow.
"The only good drow is a dead one, Son. Remember that, and don't miss your target or they'll be at your throat like a mad wolf." The voice drew her attention, a tall, graceful elven man instucted the younger. His voice stirred memories that she only gave into in her dreams. The man laughed, not mockingly, but the timbre of his voice left her no doubts. Shana shifted her balance carefully, silently and leaned loser to hear. She had to be sure.
The man leaned closer to the boy, guiding his hand, sharp eyes following arrow after arrow into the black cloth covered dummy in the yard. The boy gazed up at his teacher, abject hero worship gleaming in his eyes. "But sir, the drow have all been chased into the darkness. Its not like they can touch us here. Evermeet is safe from their unholiness." The boy's voice, young and fluting, had not yet settled into the deeper tones of an adult male. She greived, watching poison spread through his mind.
"Not as far away, nor as safe as you think," rasped the teacher. Hatred tensed his muscles, and the next arrow missed his target entirely, flying off into the forest. "There was a fool in the forest a couple of years back. Teaching that peace was possible with those.. abominations." The older man spat over his left shoulder in disgust. "I led the hunt for his familiar, an unnatural silver-furred monster. We knew it was only a matter of time before the beast started stealing children, be it for sacrifice to his Drow goddess, or food for the monster itself." He paused, smiling cruelly. "We got the beast, it stumbbled off, mortally wounded. The old man too got what he deserved. A party of true druids went out to try to convince him of his folly, and found him dead, his throat torn out. His monster must have turned on him before it crawled off and died. THAT is the fate that awaits all drow, and drow lovers."
Shana narrowed her eyes, hearing confirmation of the mans idenity brought her no joy, only a sick feeling in the pit of her stomach. They claimed to be so much more the creatures of light, yet had no mercy in themselves, these elves of Evermeet. She'd slipped into the jail a number of times, the condition of captured drow testement that the will to torture knows no species boundry. Hate is unreasoning.
So many mirrors, it bewildered her. Shana wondered for a moment if either side would ever see. Sliding silently out of the tree, the young druid slipped away, joining a throng of druidic students heading towards the temple. The High druid greeted her, having long despaired of hearing a verbal response from this strange girl. He watched her though, and noticed how easily she conversed with plants, and the animals of the wilds, yet never with the other Elves. Strange child.
Shana felt the Elder druids eyes on her again, and bent to her lessons, listening intently as her herbal knowledge was expanded. Her voice still carried a gutteral growling rasp, and she only spoke aloud when forced. Even so, her salves and herbal knowledge astounded the others, who had at first thought the pale elf girl slow. Each new day seemed to bring another new use for this or that herb, some even the High druid had never considered. The girl channeled the power of nature with greater ease then some of the students, achieving balance quickly within her own soul, so that her aura glowed pure and silver as her hair.
Classes over, the master sent the young druids running, admonishing them to learn the hollows and creatures of the forest. Shana headed for the park in the center of the city. She trailed her bare feet in the water, listening to birdsong. This was the only part of the elven city she felt at peace.
A twig cracking behind her brought her out of her half-doze. "Oh, hello, Clumsy of me." Shana found herself looking up in the face of a handsome elven man. He wore the robes of a mage, a ranking one in fact. He smiled down at her, genuinly cheerful. "I'm Bailen, Whats your name, m'lady?"
Her tongue tied, she couldn't not answer, it would be impolite, "Dh.. ..Shana." She struggled with the word a moment, not used to saying her own name.
"Deshana hmm? Pretty name, pretty girl. Look.. would you like to earn some extra money?" Bailen assumed a harmless expression, his smile beguiling. "I need a favour, and you're just the elf to help. Will you?" Bailen jingled his money pouch, the shine catching her eye. "Pleeease?" he tugged her to her feet, watching confusion wash over her fine features. He gestured grandly, and she felt herself raising off the ground as a fly spell took hold. She fought panic and nodded. "What.. Favour?"
Even to her own ears her voive was harsh, but he understood her. "I need you to buy a bag for me in the Faerie Forest, ol Fulbar likes pretty elven girls over elven males. I'll give you the money and all, just need you to buy it." Bailen smiled winningly, and she found herself agreeing.
So began her first real friendship with an elf, and so too came her name to be known as Deshana, rather then Shana. Other friends followed, other student druids, and a wise teacher known as Gythi Werewaulker. He taught her the secrets of the forest she had not yet discovered. Kylina, and Zanalista, two student druids, kept her company. Soon she spoke normally, as use of her voice increased, her accent fading to a barely audible purr.
Even so, she never understood the hatred between the races. Blood of drow on the execution block held the same metallic tang as the blood of elves. Darkened Mirrors. Soon she spend part of her day with the captured ones, learning their language and treating their wounds under the watchful gaze of the jailer. She would slip them food and water when she could, the conditions they were held in making her heart ache.
Using her herbal knowlege, some she aided to escape, others she was too late to help. a Draught from her herbs, and the drow would fall into a coma, nearly dead, and without a healer to check, they were often thrown into burial pits, where it was easy to retrieve them and guide them to the tunnels.
So was the first years of her life as an elf. A whisper here, a word there. Finally she was deemed skilled enough, adn given the key to using the elfgates. Perhaps now she would be able to learn more, to understand how one creature could hate another.
Deshana looked at the silvery elfgate with trepedition. What if it could tell that she was not Born? Even so, she steeled herself, and stepped into the silver mist. Wrenching agony, as if the skin was being flayed from her, as if her body was on fire, then, as suddenly as the pain began, it stopped, leaving her on her knees in a clearing.
She stared around her in bewilderment, then felt for the map Gythi had gifted her with. On it he showed the path to the great human city of Waterdeep. He had bade her to meet him there. She smiled, put the map in her pack, and began her journey. Perhaps understanding would come in the human city. A hope anyways. Humming a snatch of tune she headed south.
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