A Night by the Fire

The boy stood alone on a clear winter morning, close behind a tree at the base of a ridge. The cold was brutal, but he paid it little mind. In the distance, a boy and a girl his own age were having a hard go of it. Yesterday’s snow had crusted during the night and each step held for just an instance before the boot punched through the crust and then a good foot or two into the snow underneath. It made travel difficult and was a good way to get snow in your boot.

Master,” the boy said inside his head, though there was no outward physical sign, “People will notice. They will become suspicious. I will be found out.

As always, the master’s voice came as the rushing of a wind from afar before coalescing into syllables. “There are many ways to avoid detection, human, and I will teach them to you.”

But Master,” he began to protest, but was cut off.

You made the pact, boy,” the voice sneered inside his head, “and you will either keep it voluntarily or you will be compelled. Either way is the same in my regard, but have you forgotten the pain of compulsion?More

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A Boy in the Wood

The boy pulled the glove from his right hand clumsily. It wasn’t that he was ungraceful, but the cold seeped through his coat and his gloves and he could barely feel his hands. Being chilled to the bone wasn’t new. He suffered it nearly every day. But it didn’t get easier.

Sharp pain stabbed into his bare fingers. Carefully, he pulled an oiled string from his coat pocket and slid the loop over the end of the bow. This part was easy, but the other side would be hard. Using all of this strength and weight, pitiful as it was, he managed to bend the wood of the bow just enough for the string to reach. Twice, then three times he tried and failed to slip the loop over. Finally, it went. He quickly put the glove back on and jammed his hand under his armpit to warm.

The boy never complained. There wasn’t anyone around to complain to most of the time. Most of the others paired up for hunting, but they didn’t much like the boy and he was okay with that. He’d tried to fit in once and that didn’t work out. He’d come away with the kind of scars that don’t heal. More

Galamithra Moonshadow

“Bellsulion Taurvantian,” a vision of loveliness materialized before the elf, seemingly drawn forth from the ether into his vision, “it gladdens my heart to see that you’ve survived the attack unscathed.”

Mithra was, by far in Zeph’s opinion, the most beautiful elf and therefore creature to have ever graced Ember. To think of it, Zeph could not recall anyone in Dunmar who ever claimed differently.

“Ah, fair maiden Mithra, as ever you grace my sight as the sun graces a morning meadow,” the wizard bowed deeply like a courtier. He knew he played the fool, and looked it as well in his somewhat tattered cloak, stained with mud from the banks of the Ubathor and the recent battle. The nukks had drawn back after their assault, but it was clear they simply gathered their courage for another bloody attempt at the walls. The smell of burned meat was omnipresent. He did not care how he appeared.

“Only you, Zephyr, would think of courtesy in such dreadful times. Always you hold yourself just slightly above the mayhem.” The girl hurt to look at. Her skin so pale and flawless. Her form, lithe and inviting. Her face, combining mortal features in a way that would shame Ainna Herself. More

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