Sunday, February 19, 2006



The full moon looked down upon Dun Morogh, its lidless eye pierced through a violet-blue velvet canopy of evening, save the holes where the stars shone through. The glare of the moon caused all it touched to sparkle like hot tears, all iridescent pearls and diamonds, blue and white fire. A wolf implored to the mountains, and his wistful query echoed back to him eternally and into oblivion.The pine trees, laden with freshly fallen snow, shot upward like jagged darkened teeth in the subdued gloom, surrounding the outline of a house. Windows gazed warmly out onto the snow, a bright and amber stare that spited the northern wind and the cold fingers of snow that clung to the sides of the house. The sound of enclosed laughter and music floated through the air.The door opens suddenly, the light suddenly thickens. A couple pass through the doorway, arm in arm, waving over their shoulders.

"Yes! Yes, of course, we insist!" said the woman, stopping for a moment while the man hooked up the horses to the sleigh. "It isn't fair to make you feed the whole crew!"
"We'll be back with more food and supplies in a bit - we want to stop on the way to wish a Happy Winterveil to a friend on the way back to town!" said the man. "We promise we'll be back soon - in a couple of hours!"
"Alright, then brother," replied a fellow at the door. "Stay warm out there! We'll wait up for you!"

The man assisted the woman into the sleigh, and she giggled as he wrapped her up to her chin in furs. They whispered and murmured to each other, as though to speak in the silence would be sacriligeous. Then with a snap of the reigns, the two horses cut out a new trail to the main road, bells chiming to their hoofbeats. The sleigh and its riders became smaller and smaller on the hill, and then disappeared over the crest. The sounds of merriment in the house continued.

Behind the house, the shadow of a tree, it seems, appears to separate from itself. A wide-shouldered human form, bent low, walks slowly and warily up to a wagon that sits unattended and horseless between the trees and the house. He stays there frozen as ice, peering into the warmth. Cold, dark eyes glint with reflected moonlight. His head is smooth, save for a jagged scar that runs up one side of his face, narrowly missing his eye, and then over part of his scalp. He turns back to the trees, and makes a sharp motion with is hand.

Several more shadows release themselves from the wood, and with equal stealth, slink up behind the man already at the wagon. With no words, and without looking at the others, the man signals sharply to the left and right and to the opposite side of the house. Three fingers each pointing in those directions, three shadows slide eeirily following his direction. He then turns to the remaining followers. He points to three more, and then points to the spot next to which he stands.

He then brings his eyes to the young lad shivering, holding some heavy blankets, and points up at the chimney, where a billowing pillar of smoke is pulling steadily into the sky. The lad, points at himself and then at the three story summit, and then back at himself; he also says nothing, but his saucer-sized eyes and raised eyebrows beg a question. The scarred man, grins sardonically, and with a smooth and casual motion, repeats his gesture, pulls a piece of gold from his breast pocket and wave it in the boy's face. The boy makes a motion to take it, but at that point the scarred man pulls the coin back into his fist, and crosses his arms. The look the thin boy gives him turns from anger to resigned obedience.

He maneouvers ever so softly over to the corner of the house and begins to climb. The boy, his face now visible in the moonlight, glances down at all shadows below, gazes fixed upon his thin little shadow's progress. He pauses to rub his hands and the scarred man, glares at him. The boy suddenly looks in his direction, as if the man's gaze had poked him with an icicle, and continues the climb.Soon the boy disappears behind the chimney. The smoke breaks its line as the blankets cover the chimney. The dark forms on the ground unsheath weapons and tense, eyes toward the sounds in the house.

At first, the continuing singing and music continue to pierce through the evening stillness. From the outside of the house the silhouettes watch, unmoved and unmoving, as the smoke from the connected fireplaces starts to fill the upper floors, where the youngest of the children lay sleeping. Some smoke manages to leak out the windows, obscuring the top of the house. Then there is a kind of pause, and different noises begin to eminate. Concerned voices, raising now.

"Why is it so smoky in here?"
"Is there a fire upstairs? Wake the children!"
"For God's sake open the door!"
"I can't see where the door is!"

The scarred man raises his arm. He watches with satisfaction as one member of each trio stationed around the house, raises an arm in response. Sounds of coughing and yelling out names, then screaming. The front and back doors bursts open, and several men and women blunder out, some dragging unconscious children, some carrying blankets or empty buckets. They are coughing and trying to speak and their eyes burn with the smoke. One man is holding a woman back from entering the house.

As soon as the doors open, the scarred man brings down his arm in a sudden slashing movement. He doesn't even look to see what his men are doing, and leaps into the small group by the front door with the efficiency of an ermine. Slithering up like reared snakes, they are all advancing in practiced and expert unison; shivs, scythes, clubs, knives and poison daggers drawn. Striking. Eyes are focussed, jaws are set. They don't even flinch when the blood sprays into their faces, or they hear neck bones crunching, or when the blades slip into ribcages, lower backs or eye sockets. They all step back and look at the scarred man, who nods. At this motion, they all bend to loot their victims. The man signals the boy on the roof to take off the blanket and come down.

The youngster clambers down, clumsily, and nearly falls. "Something bothering you, apprentice?" He sneers, his scar seems to glow a darker pink than a moment ago. The young man, looking as pale as the moon, manages to shake his head. He avoids looking down at his comrade's busy work. "Aren't you going to take anything? You worked as hard as anyone this evening." The scarred man, waves airily to the twisted mess. The boy looks up helplessly at his master.He suddenly turns away, and bolts to the shadows of a tree. No one can see him, but they do hear his noises as what little is in his stomach boils out of him.This elicits a chuckle from the scarred man, and he shakes his head. He throws the gold coin in the direction of the wretching sound, looks to his faithful group and shrugs, "Apprentices!" This causes the others to snicker and laugh softly, subdued to prevent detection. "Let's go finish up in the house."


A dwarf walks through the wood, carrying a bag of herbs he has hunted for, toward his cave, thinking of his warm little fire... So much so, that he chastises himself for thinking he actually smells smoke. "But wait a minute," he stops in his tracks. "That is smoke!" The dwarf's curiousity gets the better of him. "Oh, Thoom, you old fool," he mutters, as though he is used to arguing aloud with himself. "You've been alone all this time. Who cares if you smell that something's on fire?" He hesitates a moment longer, then sees a strange glow on a clearing in the wood from his vantage point above the tree line. "What the devil?" Something else is blocking the starlight and spreading in front of the moon. "Smoke alright!"

His pace quickens, and then he sees some horses tied to a tree. He turns his head a little and sees another set of horses several yards away. Checking out the opposite direction, he sees yet another trio of horses tied to trees. "Oh... that can't be good..." Something about a whole team of horses spread out over several yards sets of an alarming thought in his head. Thieves!

He drinks an invisibility potion - something that he has stocked well in his little cave. He runs carefully, but as quickly as he can, conjuring up the illusion that the snow he trod on did not leave footprints. To his left he heard, then saw movement. He froze, hardly daring to breathe as he watched several humans stomping past him in the snow, carrying bundles and bags. Behind each group, one other would sweep a bundle of pine branches and cover up the tracks again with snow. Soon enough he could hear all the horses and their riders leaving, and he then made off toward the sound and smell of burning wood in earnest.

He reached the clearing and was appalled at the scene. The house was in high flames - the old dry wood was burning almost as fast as kerosene. His brow furrowed as he observed that around the house, in the snow that was now quickly melting, blood was spilled. "Well, there won't be much evidence of that left," he muttered, thinking of the lost lives. He wasn't sure how he felt about his discovery, other than he wished that he hadn't given in to his curiosity. There did not seem to be anything he could or should do.

He turned around to head back in his original direction. "That'll teach ye. Pokin' yer great snout in where it don't belong... Ye silly ol-"He suddenly did an about-face."Wha' was tha' now?" Was it the sound of creaking timbers? "I coulda swore I heard -"

That was what he heard. A baby screaming."Great Grandfather's Beard!" He shouted. He didn't really think about what he was doing, but he charged in, placing himself in a spell of temporary invincibility. He leaped through the front door, and although he couldn't feel the heat, he could certainly see it. "Bloody lunatic! What are you doin' jumping into a burnin' inferno, are ye crazy??!" He listened, but he didn't hear anything. "Where are ye?" he bellowed, as a large piece of wood fell down from the ceiling just next to him. He tried not to gag as he noticed bodies around him and smelled the searing flesh. The cries began anew. A huge chunk of what might have been a piece of burning ceiling bounced off his magical shield, startling him. He swore under his breath and followed the sounds until he came to a table in the kitchen, near the back of the house. The table top was almost burned to nothing. A small bundle wriggled and screamed in a small cradle underneath. "Well, you're certainly outta the way -" He managed to grab the little bundle just before the table it was under collapsed from a piece of burning debris falling on it. "Now I'm gonna get ME outta the way!"

He made a sudden burst of speed out the back door, just as his invincibility spell dissipated. The whole top section of the house tumbled on to the main floor as he lay in a prickly holly bush in a snowbank with a bundle of warmth wrapped safely in his arms. "Ah! Well! I didn't realize I could move that fast!" he panted, looking in wonder at the wreckage.He lifted the sooty blanket, and saw a little tuft of red hair, and bright blue eyes. The infant looked at him in wonder, and touched his grizzled face. "Well... Now what do I do with you, little one?" He said, and marvelled at the tenderness in his voice. He cleared his throat, "Ah, well, yes," he said, pleased that he sounded more matter-of-fact. "I don't think I know anyone who I could get to take care of you..." He got up, and gingerly placed the bundle inside the top of his coat, keeping his arm under the bundle so it wouldn't fall out the bottom. "Well, no one for certain knows me." He began his leisurely walk back to his cave. "Hum... No one left to look after you, ye poor thing." He scratched his head with his other hand. "Well, nothin' to be done but sleep on it," he said and quickened his pace. "That's it. For now, my dear, you'll be with me, until I figure out what to do with ye."

He got home, and left the baby on the bed, propped up with pillows and blankets and covered in his fur coat. He started up his fire. The infant fussed and cried, and he tried to think of what to do. He consulted some of his books, and thought back to when he and his brother were being raised. He flipped through some books on raising young. "Hmph, sounds like what I need. Comfort, warmth, and a full belly." He scratched his head, and made an effort to concentrate through the bawling sounds. He stared hard at the little face all scrunched up in discomfort. "I suppose I could get you milk from my goats to feed ye... " He frowned...

He wasn't so pleased when he finally figured out that he needed to change the child's diaper, as not only did he find it most unpleasant, but he didn't know what to use for subsequent diapers. "Well! Thoom, you're a bloody genius, so bloody well think of something!" He finally settled on cutting into squares some old blankets he had in storage. "They will have to do, I suppose." At least this way, he found out that it was a girl he was dealing with. "Oh, great... A young lady!" He found himself surprised that he fervently hoped she would like him. "Ye know, I'm not too savvy with the females..." he told her honestly as he retrieved the baby and brought her near the fire with him. The babe lay in his arms, with half-closed eyes and tearstained face, looking contented now. She let out a sigh."Well, now... what should I call you?" He mumbled. "Well, I landed in a holly bush, when I was rescuing you. This situation is as prickly as the bush was, and I'm not sure that I know what to do about this whole mess," he looked with utter disgust in the direction he had buried the dirty diaper. "And whether or not I like it or not..." He stared hard at the little face sucking a thumb, her eyes opened slightly and fixed on his. "Ha! What the hell! Suppose I should call you something... call you... Holleigh?"

As if in response, a little hand reached out, and the tiny fingers closed around the tip of his nose. The baby laughed. "Well! I am glad enough that you like my prominent nose. Runs in the family, y'know! Right then, Holliegh you are... Or at least you are for a while..."


The couple that left the house that evening to get supplies were Holliegh's parents. The ones that killed her entire family and thieved from them are known as Defias, and that is why, to this day, Holliegh hates them with all her heart. As it turned out, Thoom is the dwarf Priest that raised Holliegh until she was almost an adult. *** FOR PART II, AURYNN WILL WRITE THE REST OF THE STORY FROM HER POINT OF VIEW ***

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