Thrice The Brinded Cat
The Elven Quiver
Elohia meant Daughter of the Harvest, and the child from New Glade who was given that name chased her destiny like an autumn fire. The village elders were pleased when the young girl sang Ehlonna’s hymns during festival and her song brought tears to the eyes of those who dwelt in the small elven farming community. Each year that she sang, Elohia’s voice grew even stronger.
As an adolescent, Elohia worked the fields for longer hours and with more passion than any boy her age, and once again the elders looked upon the sylvan child with a warmth and understanding that they gave to no other. Great honor was brought to Elohia’s parents and they encouraged their only child to continue her devotion to her chosen goddess, the Mistress of the Fall.
And so it was that everyone in New Glade watched in awe as the young and talented elven maiden named Elohia picked up the bow years later and declared to all that she would master the art of ranged combat.
For the elders, Elohia’s new passion became an affront to their dignity and a disruption to the gentle balanced culture they had for so long nurtured in the golden valley of New Glade. For in the minds of the elders, the arts of war were no place for the feminine persuasion. Now the elders looked out across the delicate elven stoas to the edges of town where the once promising child stood with bow in hand and toiled endless hours letting thick arrows fly to distant targets until her fingers bled and blistered. And the elders saw only promise lost and true talent wasted.
For her parents, Elohia’s new pursuits tore them in half as they weathered ridicule from once gentle neighbors and suffered scorn from New Glade’s own battle masters. “Shame falls thick upon the willful child’s parents,” was the remark Bladesmaster Sa’Ronde spoke each morning to Gheldrian when they crossed paths in the village square. And, “Your daughter’s fall from grace has broken the back of your honor,” was often heard by Maglia, Elohia’s mother while she shopped the market on Stardays. And even though they knew it was folly, her parents stood tall and refused to listen to the blackened words; their pride in Elohia, daughter of the harvest, would not be diminished.
But to Elohia herself, her new love of the bow was far more than any could imagine. For in her dreams Ehlonna herself had come to her and whispered to her of the greatness she would someday rise to. In her dreams Elohia saw herself as a great hunter who provided game to her people so they could survive harsh winters to come. And in her dreams she saw herself as a great defender of her people, who turned back the tide of orcs who would one day rise up to attack the peaceful village of New Glade. And in her heart, Elohia knew this all to be true, so she did not ever falter in the face of harsh words and stares and even worse. And because she knew this all to be true, she simply reassured her loving parents and told them during the quiet evenings under Oerth’s brilliant summer moon that these hardships would pass and that soon the people of their village would come to realize the folly of their hurtful words.
So as the years passed, Elohia spent every day at her craft. Her dedication paid off as she slowly mastered the skills of archery. Elohia learned the tools of her trade like no other archer in New Glade ever had. She learned how to make her own bows, selecting only the best heartwood and how to gently mold and shape the wood into what she needed. She gave up on shaping tools made of metal and discovered that the crystalline edge of an obsidian shard could produce curves in the wood unmatched by anything else ever produced in her village. She eventually learned that the heartwood of the goldleaf tree was superior to that of yew, that the fibers of the fellian reed outclassed the best gut strings to be found, and that the wax taken at midnight from a keldran ant colony was much suppler than that of regular bee’s wax.
Elohia discovered that shafts cut from yellow palm fronds out shot those of birch and eventually she even discovered the benefits of warping arrows just ever so slightly. Nearly by accident she found that by adding a few trout scales in precisely the right angles to osprey fletchings that she could produce angles in flight that would boggle the mind. And Elohia found that obsidian points could be struck finer than any steel razor her people had ever seen.
And of course, Elohia mastered the art of archery as well. Soon not a soul in the village of New Glade could admit to seeing anyone able to out shoot the elven girl. No one could shoot farther nor with more accuracy than Elohia. While the rank and file of Master Jalanai’s bowmen were trying for bullseye’s at eighty paces, Elohia was striking apples from trees one hundred and fifty strides away. And while the Master himself could boast at flying accurate shafts at a heartbeat’s pace, Elohia could do the same, but blindfolded.
Four years had passed since Elohia first woke up one morning and picked up the bow and arrow, and still the Battlemasters refused to admit her into their ranks, and the elders continued to frown and their neighbors kept up their bitter sneers, and still Elohia would not be moved. That year upon Elohia’s birthday her father, Gheldrian, delivered to her a gift that he had spent the past two years crafting. It was a surprise to Elohia and Maglia for neither elven woman knew that he had been working on the gift. When Gheldrian removed the blanket that was covering the quiver he had fashioned, both women gasped at its beauty. It was crafted from the finest of doeskin and decorated with small rubies and emeralds. Along its length, Elohia spied two sets of metal buckles and clasps. When she looked at these added features in confusion, Gheldrian just smiled and picked up the masterpiece quiver.
He took his time demonstrating the clever pockets he had built within the arrow container. First, Gheldrian asked Elohia to fill the quiver from a bucket of arrows sitting in the corner of his tidy workshop. She grabbed a handful of slender feathered shafts from the bucket and slid the first arrow, point down, into the mouth at the top of the quiver. She gasped in surprise as the arrow hit the bottom of the case and it shrunk in diameter as if the arrow had been split lengthwise and only about a third of the material remained. Indeed, only one of the three fletchings could be seen!
Gheldrian smiled broadly at his daughter’s shock and surprise and motioned for her to continue filling the quiver. She giggled as each new arrow she dropped into the container hit the bottom and then seemed to shrink in diameter. When she had dropped in the twentieth arrow she looked up at her father, “Father! You’ve placed one of your famous illusions on it so that the quiver only looks part way full! It’s wonderful!” she beamed.
“Oh. You think its full do you?” Gheldrian smiled back, “It looks to me as if there’s room for more. What do you think Maglia?”
Elohia’s mother only smiled and nodded toward her daughter. Elohia tentatively grabbed another arrow from the bucket and placed it into the quiver. To her amazement, it dropped to the bottom as the others had. Her eyes widened as she picked up more arrows and placed them in the container until it finally filled to capacity with sixty arrows; fully three times the number of arrows that her old quiver held.
“How did you . . .” she began, but her father held up her hand, interrupting her.
“Oh, there’s more to see here,” her father grinned even wider.
Gheldrian unsnapped the buckles to either side of the quiver revealing two side pouches. Elohia watched in utter amazement as her father demonstrated how one of the side pouches could be used to store a full score of javelins. And then her eyes nearly popped out of her head as he showed her that six full bows could be stored in the other side pouch.
“It is not possible,” she breathed. “Are my eyes playing tricks on me? IS this one of your famous illusions?”
Her father laughed and shook his head. “No my dear,” he said. “It is far more complicated than any of that!” He smiled warmly. “We elves have arcane lore that dates back to the beginnings of the land itself. It is not an easy trick, but the mysteries of both time and space have been known to us for countless generations. Do not worry about how this gift to you has been made, but concern yourself with how it will be used, instead.”
“I will use it as Ehlenestra wishes me to!” Elohia shouted with glee, “For I will follow the Forrest Mother until my last breath!”
And so in the years after her gifting birthday, Elohia pledged her considerable skills with bow and spear to the goddess Ehlonna. At first she spent her days roaming the stretches of jungle and Savannah just outside the village of New Glade. If the battle masters of her people would not accept her and if the elders would frown upon her and her neighbors whisper behind her back, she would still manage to heed Ehlonna’s calling, but she would do so on her own terms.
Elohia learned the game trails of the jungle and she became adept at tracking deer, boar and other game through the thick foliage. Soon she was bringing game home for her family and, eventually, to her neighbors who, to their credit, at least quit mumbling about Elohia’s choice of pursuits. Soon, Elohia began hunting more than just game. Maurading orcs, goblins, kobolds and even worse were sometimes encountered in the stretches of verdant jungle surrounding New Glade. Ehlenestra, the goddess for which she was named, would speak to her in her dreams at night, urging her to take action against these foul creatures and to protect her people and village. And, Elohia did so with great enthusiasm.
In time, few such creatures could be seen anywhere near New Glade. If an orcish hunting pack strayed too far from their mountain homes in the Hellfurnace Mountains, Elohia would soon catch wind of them and would hunt them down. Elohia was always very careful during these missions, but she also knew she had the protection of Ehlonna who watched over her. And with the blessing of the gods, Elohia succeeded in destroying any dangers that threatened the village of New Glade.
As the years went by, Elohia began staying out longer and longer, sometimes many days and even weeks at a time, ranging the tropical forests and sandy coastlines of the Sasserine Peninsula. The farmers and settlers who lived in these remote locales came to know her as the Silver Archer and they relied on her for protection. Even the wealthy plantation owners on the steppes of Cauldron adored her and all paid her well for her services. Sometimes she would protect a coffee plantation from a wandering band of orcs or hillfolk and the plantation owners of that area would pay her in gold and fine jewelry. Other times she would bring meat and jungle fruits to poor settlers and they would reward her well with love and kindness of a sort she had never experienced before. The jungle became Elohia’s home.
Yet, still, her heart was always with the people of New Glade. And still, the elven society she belonged to would not accept her. In the minds of the New Gladians, elven women were fair maidens, one and all, and elven women were not warriors. In these years, the people of New Glade learned to quit smirking, at least in public, when Elohia visited her home village. They learned to respect her abilities and her generous heart. But, the people of New Glade never accepted Elohia as one of their own. They never learned to welcome her; they never truly loved her. For to them, she had disgraced them and their pride would not heal.
And so it was when Elohia was returning to her village of New Glade after spending many months away helping the city of Sasserine deal with an infestation of rats, that she saw the smoke rising from the hillside by the coast where her village was. She could see the smoke from quite a distance and she knew it was more than just one building which had caught fire.
Panic seized her and she ran the last few miles only to find her village in complete ruin. The village walls had tumbled down and every building was burnt to a pile of ash or its smoldering frame still stood like a blackened skeleton. Bodies lay strewn about and many were dismembered. She found, amongst the dead, many of the elderly battlemasters that had rejected her so many years ago. She also found amongst the dead hundreds of the village’s destroyers – goblins. So many dead goblins lay upon the ground that it was as if a thick carpet had been created out of their corpses and then used to cover the ground all around the village.
Elohia was nearly in a state of shock as she realized just how many of the creatures must have attacked her town. They must have numbered in the thousands, she thought.
It was with a surge of hope and elation when she found a clear set of recent footprints leading out of the village and towards the coast. There were survivors! And she realized if she followed the trail she would find them, and her parents as well.
But hope turned to despair two days later when Elohia finally caught up with the band of elves fleeing south along the coast, heading to the capitol city of Sasserine. She learned quickly from ash covered faces and desperately remorseful eyes that only this handful of villagers had escaped. She also learned that her parents were not among the survivors. And at this news, Elohia wept.
Her own despair was soon interrupted by a shout from an elderly elven woman, “Where were you, oh mighty protector? Where were you when we finally needed you?” Elohia vaguely recognized the old woman – a neighbor, perhaps. “You, who so boldly and arrogantly trod upon our ways! Our customs! They meant nothing to you! And you disappeared off into the forests, chasing girlhood dreams that should never had been yours to begin with! Where were you? You should have died defending our walls with the rest of our men!”
Days later, Elohia could not recall exactly the events that took place after the old woman’s rant. The people of New Glade, her people, had rejected her over and over during her lifetime, but nothing ever hurt her as bad as those words hurled at her that day. No insult, jibe or sneer in all of her years in New Glade cut as deep as the accusation by the dirty faced old woman on the beach outside Sasserine. The old lady was right, of course. Elohia had spent her life preparing for the day when she was to be called upon to protect her people and in the end she had failed them because she was not there when it really mattered. It was her fault her village was now destroyed. It was her fault that her people were now dead. And, it was her fault that her parents had been murdered. Despair like a silk black cloak at midnight descended upon Elohia’s soul at the thought of this and she spent the next few days stumbling aimlessly in the jungle. Night and day blended into one. She forgot to eat and to drink. She was scratched, bruised, battered and half starved when she discovered herself once again.
Somehow over those days of wandering she had found her way back to the ruins of New Glade and only by the grace of Ehlenestra she had discovered the goblin tracks heading north into the jungle. At the sight of those tracks, Elohia’s mind cleared, but only one thought remained. That of revenge. Elohia thought of little else from that point forward. Oh, she knew enough to find food and water and shelter from the rain, but other thoughts she pushed away. And even when Ehlonna herself spoke to her in her dreams, Elohia ignored the divine whispers urging her to turn back from revenge and honor her dead.
With a single-minded purpose Elohia pursued the goblin raiders for weeks throughout the Amedio Jungle. And when she finally found their camp, far to the north, she was amazed at the size of the army before her. The jungle had opened up here to form a wide clearing of mud and rocks. Campfires dotted the landscape and crude tents made of hide and bone were scattered amid the clearing. Elohia estimated nearly one thousand goblinoid creatures of all shapes and sizes were in the camp. She could see the smaller green and brown gobs were the most in number, but the taller and burlier hobgobs were plentiful, too. Occasionally she could see the hulking form of a bugbear. The one thing she couldn’t determine was a leader, but she paid this little thought. They would all pay for their crimes against her people and she would have her revenge.
Without wasting any time, Elohia climbed to the top of a hill just inside the clearing but far enough away that the nearest knot of goblins were at the far reaches of her range. With a grim determination, Elohia unbuckled her father’s quiver that rested at her hip and drew forth her finest bow. She calmly knocked the first arrow and pulled the string back to her cheek, straining her sleek muscles. She took careful aim and loosed the arrow. Before it had traveled half the distance, Elohia had another arrow in flight.
Elohia had mastered the bow and arrow trajectories long ago. Now, half driven by an overwhelming desire for revenge and half inspired by a deep down instinct she had barely even tapped in the past, the elven maiden not only aimed her shots to strike their target’s true, but she predicted where her target would likely move to by the time the arrow landed. And so she struck, target after target. Her arrows landed in chest cavities, eyes sockets and throats. Each shot precise and each shot killed its target within seconds and usually with a minimum of thrashing about or sounds.
The goblins were taken completely by surprise. The small group that Elohia was shooting at lost five before the one finally recovered from the shock and surprise to bark out an alarm, and even then only the camp nearest them took any notice at all. That camp nearest them looked up from their smoky campfire and then began laughing and cheering as if it were a comedic show they were watching instead of a slaughter. Pointing and leaping up in down, the other camp was completely entertained by the demise of their fellows. It was only when Elohia had dropped all thirteen goblins in the first camp and began training her fire on the second group did the entertainment end.
Shouts of glee and laughter suddenly turned to barks of anger and commands to defend against the sudden aerial attack. And it was then that some of the other camps began to take serious notice, too. But Elohia did not even slow in her firing. A continual rhythm, “shhhhlk” as she drew an arrow, “clok” as the arrow strikes the nock, “creeeeeee” as the bow string is pulled tight and “thrum” as the arrow took flight. Again and again, shhhlk, clok, creeeeee, thrum. And goblin and goblin far away would suddenly jerk and then fall to the ground already dead or neatly upon death’s doorstep.
By the time the first of the goblins had mobilized and were headed in her direction she had killed nearly two score of them, but she did not pause in her work. The entire camp began to mobilize in front of her eyes like so many ants across the lawn, or more like a flock of birds wheeling into motion. Those goblins near the front reacted first and began sprinting across the one hundred or so yards to her position. The groups behind the first ones were slower to react and a large gap in their lines appeared. Those further behind reacted even slower, so it was as if great lines of goblins with ever widening gaps began pouring in her direction. The larger hobgoblins were smarter than their smaller cousins and took even more time to arm and shield themselves before charging into the fray and the even larger bugbears took even more time as they surveyed the battle zone, assessing the danger, after they had gird themselves.
Elohia killed another fifteen goblins before the first rank came within twenty yards of her position. At that point she simply spun on her heels and sprinted back into the safety of the jungle. Elohia traveled light and the jungle had become her home so she travelled with great speed and ease through the dense foliage, unlike the short-limbed goblins who claimed the rocky and bare mountain slopes as their favored terrain.
It was only a few minutes before Elohia had outpaced the goblins who ranged far behind her in disorganized clumps, all of which had clearly lost her trail within a minute of entering the trees. Elohia then angled to her left and slowly ran in a long arcing circle back to the jungle’s edge overlooking the goblin camp. There she could see quite a few larger hobgoblins and bugbears who had decided it was not worth the effort to pursue her and who had remained behind. They would soon pay for their laziness and Elohia set up position on a large rock and began to fire her murderous bolts into their midst. Another ten fell before she once again sprinted into the jungle and arced to her left. When she once again found the goblin camp, she discovered that all of the larger monsters had now learned their lesson and were in the jungle looking for her, but some of the smaller ones had given up the hunt and were slowly returning.
She waited then until a sizable number of small orange and green goblins had milled back to the center of camp before she let them have it again. Soon she had spent all sixty of her precious arrows and, by her count, knew that there were sixty less goblins left in the world.
But this was not enough for Elohia; her thirst for revenge had not been sated. Not in the slightest. And so she left the goblin camp, sprinting deep into the jungle and that evening she made a small hunter’s stand and blind from palm fronds high atop a copse of dense figs. And she gathered up two or three armloads of straight branches, tough reeds and thick shoots and carried them up into her treetop fortress. Next, she gathered up pocketfuls of wild fig, mushrooms and fruit and refilled her water skin from a nearby stream. She spent the night up in the trees and by the light of the brilliant moon she fashioned another sixty arrows. She did not have the luxury of time to create tips or fletchings, but to a brilliant archer such as herself, these were only niceties. Elohia could make deadly arrows without these things. And so she worked tirelessly into the night, stopping occasionally to eat or drink.
Twice during the night goblin patrols wandered near to her position, but she did not attack them. Instead, she sat silently in her nest far above them and bided her time. Just before dawn the next morning, Elohia closed her eyes, for even though elves do not require the same kind of sleep that most living creatures do, she did need to rest her mind and soon fell into an elven meditative state. It is in these states that elves will occasionally dream. And so she did.
That morning, Elohia dreamed of the golden fields of wheat and barley that grew so abundantly outside the village of New Glade. In her dream, Elohia saw her neighbors working quietly with sickle and swath, smiling and nodding to one another in the brilliant autumn morning sunshine. She could see her parents among them, and even a small child, that was, perhaps, herself in a much younger time. The bleach white walls and domes of the village lay just beyond the fields and were nestled right up next to the brilliant green palms of the Amedio Jungle. A flock of brilliant blue and red macaws took flight and silently flapped over head. As Elohia watched the scene, her heart warmed and she found herself smiling for the first time in a very long time.
Eventually, Elohia became aware of a figure dressed in a white sari with a brilliant golden sash tied around her middle walking through the golden grain toward her. The woman had long straight yellow hair the spread out behind her from a gentle breeze that wasn’t really there at all. No one noticed the woman’s passage through the field except Elohia and the woman seemed to leave no trace of her passage as she walked through the tall stalks.
When the woman reached Elohia, she could see that the woman was beautiful, and while her features were elven, her ears were small and rounded, like those of human women. She smiled at Elohia as she approached and her smile reached down and touched Elohia’s soul.
“Let the winds of fury die, my child,” the woman said. “Rest with my blessing.”
And then Elohia awoke and found herself staring into a blood red sunrise. Smoke from the goblin camp’s distant fires had filled the sky with a foulness that tainted Ehlonna’s blossom. Elohia gazed upon the stricken sky and scowled deeply, wiping away memory of her dream.
“Divine Ehlenestra,” Elohia spoke out loud to the sky, “yesterday I avenged some of my people. Today I will strike once more and avenge your lost sunrise.”
That day, Elohia’s changed her tactics as she assaulted the goblin camp. This time she struck quickly from the east. She noticed the goblins were not at all slow to react this time and charged in a more organized mob. Goblins are undisciplined, so as she led them into the jungle, she stalked the mobs, waiting for small groups to inevitably break off from the larger groups, and when the smaller groups got far enough out of earshot from the rest, she slaughtered them. And once more sixty goblins fell to Elohia’s arrows.
That night, after she fashioned another sixty shafts, Elohia dreamed once more. This time she saw herself again, as a little girl, helping her mother bake loaves of light and buttery bread which she then helped serve to her hungry neighbors in the town square. It was early evening in her dreams and each stoa set around the central square of New Glade was lit by colored lanterns. It was later in the season and all of the distant fields had been harvested and lay in rest. Elves, both young and old meandered about, greeting friends and neighbors and speaking quietly of pleasant times as the day slowly bled into night. Elohia was serving one of the village’s graceful and venerable elders when the older woman looked down upon her.
“You look weary child,” the elder elf said. Elohia’s breath caught in her throat as she met the woman’s eyes, and although the woman was extremely aged, she was strikingly beautiful, with waist-length white hair and emerald eyes that sparkled with an inner youth. “You have worked hard and accomplished all that you have set out to do today. It is time for rest, my child. Let the winter in now to chill your fiery heart.”
Elohia awoke then, with a peaceful and warm feeling. But within a few seconds she heard the distance sounds of goblin war drums echoing in the morning gloom. Grimly she packed her father’s quiver with newly made arrows and pledged today to avenge the deaths of her parents.
And so the days went by. Elohia awoke each morning in the jungle, refreshed from her meditation and comforted by her dreams, and then she would descend upon the goblins, with a new an attack, always different than the day before and always just as deadly. Sometimes she would attack at night, and at other times she would attack at noon. On some days she would snipe a few patrols or take out guard posts and on other days she would concentrate her fire at the heart of the camp.
Each day she would lessen the goblin numbers by sixty. Each day she would find a new goblin defense. Crude walls, bunkers, trenches did not stop Elohia and her fierce vengeance. Ambushes, baiting tactics and goblin missile fire never were keen enough to thwart her plans. And even on some days she would find that groups of goblins had deserted, leaving in the middle of the night before they had to suffer another attack. But Elohia would spend the next few days hunting down the deserters and destroying them.
Finally, after nearly two solid months of steady attacks, Elohia awoke one morning to find the remainder of the goblin camp gone. True, only a few hundred of the beasts had survived and most of them were the brutish bugbears, but it had become apparent over the final week that Elohia had broken the back of the hoard and what existed as their leadership had finally faltered; the survivors were left in complete despair.
But the fires within her heart still raged and she thirsted for more blood. Somewhere in the previous days, Elohia became aware that only through the complete annihilation of the goblin host would her debt with the creatures be settled. Nothing less than that would do. The spirit of her people would be at peace only when the last goblin had fallen with an arrow in its black heart.
And so Elohia gave chase. The days bled on as she harried the flanks of the retreating goblins. West and toward the mighty Hellfurnaces they fled, and to where, she suspected, they hoped to find shelter from her deadly barrage. Some days she was lucky and she would meet her daily quota of sixty goblins, but most days it was far more difficult to slay that many as the goblin host rarely stopped for very long and these remaining brutes were much wiser and able to protect their flanks. They were terrified, and Elohia knew it, and she reveled in the pleasure it gave her to bring such terror to the creatures who had wiped out her people.
And each night when she rested, the dreams would return. Finally, as the mighty peaks of the Hellfurnaces came into sight, Elohia estimated that fewer than fifty of the goblins were yet alive, and she knew within her soul that not a single one of them would survive to see their home again. That night she dreamed of her village once more, and the strange but beautiful woman was there once again, sitting on the edge of a fountain in the center of town. The sky was dark as slate and yet it was clearly midday. A bright white powder covered everything in the village and the stuff fell from the sky like so much goose down. Not another soul was in the village on this day, just Elohia as an adult and the strange woman.
Strange clouds of smoke or mist came from the woman’s mouth when she spoke, “Elohia, my child, I have tried without fail to allow you to see the path you cut through the jungle, and yet every day you so easily forget what I show you. Look around you now and tell me what you see.”
Elohia was shocked to see the same mist rise from her mouth as she began to speak, “It is so beautiful, m’Lady. What is this soft and gentle powder that covers everything so?”
“Ah, my child. You still do not see. Do you not understand the path you have chosen has taken you here? To this cold and barren memory of your past life? Look around! Where are your people? Your family? All of those you have revenged?”
“But, m’Lady,” Elohia pleaded, “I am home. It is here that I wish to be. Why are you so upset with me?”
“Elohia,” the woman continued, “You have not come home, but you have built another one. And it is cold and lonely here. Please. Turn back and go home.”
Elohia awoke in confusion, but as she spied her father’s quiver laying next to her, she remembered her grim task and she set about completing it with a great haste.
The day was clear and hot as she pursued the goblins ever westward. It was early morning when she spied them, a small band of hobgoblins led by five bugbear. The smaller goblins had all perished days ago. This was fine with Elohia, the bigger ones made better targets.
The goblins ran from her at a terrific pace, but every few minutes she would get close enough to get off a single shot and with each shot she fired another one would fall. The day continued on and she grew more and more eager as she saw her grim quest coming to an end. As evening fell, only a single hob and a single bugbear remained. She could see the terror in their movements as they scrabbled across the landscape – the last of their once mighty host.
She missed the next few shots as the first stars came out, but the full moon also rose and she decided to continue her hunt until it was finished. She noticed the pair of goblinkind were making their way towards a bare hillside in the near distance. The moonlight glowed off the ruins of an ancient village that had once sat upon the hill. Marble stone jutted up from the ground like bones or teeth into the night sky.
The goblins were several hundred yards ahead of her when they finally made it to the shelter of the ruins on top of the hill. She was only slightly dismayed to discover the pair had split up once the reached the structures, obviously gambling that at least one of them could make it free and escape into the mountains. Elohia grinned, because while it was inconvenient, she knew the diversion could not save them.
The hobgoblin’s name was Groggletusk and he was a veteran of many goblin raids. A year ago when he learned he would be leading a band of goblins within the largest host of all time to ever attack the human settlements, he was blinded by blood lust for nearly a week. Never in his long and violent life had he ever felt such elation as the day the mighty host left the Hellfurnace mountains and crashed through the jungles looking for blood and plunder. With each village and settlement the host took, Groggletusk’s thirst for power grew even more until he thought he would burst from the thrill of battle. But when the angry ghost began to attack, his elation and blood lust quickly turned to anger. And in the days after the first attack and as the rain of death continued, his anger turned to frustration. And as the leader of the mighty host, Zagmunt, discovered that none of his defenses could stop the ghost from attacking, his frustration turned to worry. On the day Zagmunt took an arrow in the eye, Groggletusk began to panic. His panic in turn became terror as their flight through the jungle did not spare them from the arrows of the ghost. And now, his terror turned to despair, his strength to water, his bravado to pathetic mewling as he hid amongst the bleached ruins on the hill. He knew he was so close to home but he feared he would never make it. Drakthar had insisted they split up, giving them both an equal chance of survival. But Groggletusk found that once he was alone, he could scarcely move. And it was while he was huddled in the crook of two marble plinths, hidden from view, that the arrow took him in the throat. It was sudden and surprisingly painless, but the popping sound the arrow made when it pierced him startled him more than anything. And then he watched as his lifeblood flowed down upon his mighty frame and the lights dimmed forever and he was gone.
Drakthar still had some hope that he would survive the night and find his way home, to the safety of his mountains. He knew he was faster and smarter than Groggletusk and that the lesser hobgoblin was only slowing him down. The elven devil that hunted them would find the hob first, Drakthar knew it, and it would buy him just enough time to escape these ruins and flee further westward.
Drakthar was only mildly startled when the elven woman stepped from behind a crumbling marble wall. He quickly realized that this woman was dark of skin and dark of hair, not the fair complexion and sunny hair of the devil that had single-handedly destroyed their once mighty host. This elven woman was also very old – a single grey stripe of hair stood out predominantly from the black and bushy mass that made up her wiry mane. And Drakthar recognized this woman as not an overland elf, like the one who pursued him, but a dark elf from the depths of the earth itself. And, while often dangerous, Drakthar knew that these dark elves had often had good relations with the goblin race.
“I see you, dark one,” Drakthar said in his quietest voice, “but be warned that an elven she-devil is upon us and she will surely bring doom upon us if we do not make haste and leave this area. Might you have nearby shelter we can escape to?”
Drakthar noticed that the drow woman only smiled and continued to walk calmly toward him as she spoke, “Why yes. I do have shelter nearby. But do not worry about this she-devil, for if she was wandered here then she is foolish, for this is my home and none are welcome without my permission.”
Drakthar smiled at this. This woman, this drow, was clearly powerful and perhaps she could save him from the devil that hunted him.
The drow walked right up to Drakthar and he was surprised at how small and frail she looked. The top of her head just reached level with his chest.
“That is good news, dark one. My name is Drakthar of the Knurleg Tribe in the faraway Hellfurnaces. Let us make haste to your shelter, then. By what name may I call you?”
At this, the old elven crone laughed loudly. Drakthar grimaced and looked over his shoulder to see if the devil-archer was near. “Why Drakthar,” she cooed, “I have many names. But you may call me Mother.”
And at that, the drow leapt mightily upon Drakthar’s chest, wrapping her arms around his head and neck. Drakthar was so stunned at this sudden action that he failed to move at all. Later, he vaguely remembered the sheer strength of the old woman as she yanked his head downward and pushed his chest inwards with her feet and knees. He also vaguely remembered the flash of white teeth, very sharp teeth, as she bared his neck. But Drakthar did not remember the feeling of her fangs as they tore away at his flesh, nor the sound as she gleefully gulped down upon his lifeblood.
What he did remember was the pleasure of it all.
When Drakthar awoke, he found it was later that same night. The old crone sat nearby at the base of a broken marble wall.
“Good morning, my child,” she said. “You have very little time before the sun arises and we will need to find the shelter I told you about earlier. But in that little time, I suggest you seek your revenge. Your she-devil you spoke about with such urgency a while ago still hunts for you within these ruins. Go find her now. And bring me her heart.”
Elohia felt a grim satisfaction wash over her as she spied the last goblin on the edges of the ruins just before daylight. He had obviously given up for he emerged from a behind a broken wall just a few yards in front of her. He looked unwell and he was obviously unarmed. And yet, he calmly walked towards her, resigned to the fate laid out before him.
She smiled and took careful aim. The arrow took him in the eye. He did not fall. Surprised, Elohia took a step back and fired another arrow, this time in the bugbear’s throat. And still, the beast did not fall. Elohia gritted her teeth and unloaded every arrow in her quiver into the body of the beast that stalked toward her and not once did the creature even slow down.
Elohia tried to cry out in desperation and anger as the bugbear’s claws found her. She dropped her bow and drew her long knife, plunging it deep into the chest of the beast before her. Her eyes widened as the mortal wound did nothing to harm the creature. The name of her goddess, her namesake, Ehlenestra, Ehlonna, died upon her lips, half spoken as the beast drove its fist into her chest and removed her still beating heart.
In the years that followed, Drakthar came to fully appreciate his new power and his new station in life. He visited his home in the Hellfurnaces and convinced his old chieftain to give over leadership to him. He took what remained of his tribe and brought war to the old enemies of his people. Drakthar found it a simple task to defeat, destroy and demolish the rival hobgoblins and goblin tribes that once subjugated his people. He won victories against the local gnolls and trolls. Drakthar’s loyal goblin tribe wreaked an unholy swath of destruction across the Hellfurnace Mountains until he grew bored with conquering. It was then that he remembered the humans in the deep jungles. He remembered he once had a great animosity for those people and he decided it was time they knew his name.