27 years old
Eliza always remembered being happy as a child. It was was always her, mama, papa, and her older sister Sue Anne in their little homestead in the valley. Mama was a y’all gorgeous orc, with thick black hair down to her waist. Mama taught her how to tend to their few animals and repair things around the farm, and would always be the first one up in the morning to start breakfast. Papa was a tall man with broad shoulder and nut brown skin, and eyes the color or young leaves. Papa taught her how to read and count and he would tell her stories of hero’s and villains before she went to bed. Sue Anne has papas eyes and mamas smile. She would take Eliza on her short hunting trips, and taught her all about rifles and pistols from the books papa brought her. Elizas favorite part of home, though, was the garden. It’s was full of things she loved. She knew every flower by heart and could name any insect that crossed her path.
One day when she was about 8 she showed her first signs of magic. The tomatoes had come in like they had in previous years, much to the disappointment of papa. “I guess no tomato’s for the sauce this year.” Papa would always make a hearty tomato sauce that mama would stew chicken in, towards the end of summer. It was something Eliza hadn’t realized she looked forward to so much until now. When everyone was asleep she snuck out of bed and went to the garden. She sang and hummed gently to the tomato plants, reassuring them that they were strong and beautiful and could produce tomatoes the size of her head if they wanted.
The next day mama, papa, and Sue Anne woke to their kitchen table covered in the largest tomatoes they had ever seen.
“I did it!”, Eliza exclaimed.
“You did this?” Sue Anne muttered in disbelief.
“Yep, I convinced the tomatoes to grow and they listened!”
Mama and papa looked down at their little girl who looked up at them with a smile that was too big for her face. Papa in to town the next day and bought as many jars and as many spell books as his wagon could fit.
Eliza loved learning magic, because it was helpful to her family. She used it in the garden and in the barn. In the kitchen. In the shed. She tried teaching Sue Anne some spells but it wasn’t the same. Which was all fine with Sue, as long as Liza helped her clean her rifles. Eliza never knew how much she enjoyed her life here until it was all taken away.
One day Eliza went out to fetch fresh water at the creek in the woods. As she approached the creek ready to plunge her buckets in, she stopped suddenly. There was a ribbon of red twisting an flowing on the clear water. As she stared the redness grew. She flowed the creek up stream for a while. Injured animals had died in the creek before, but she had never gotten used to moving dragging their carcass out. But what she came upon was not an animal. No shot deer nor maimed coyote. It was a man. He was wearing fine clothes and boots, and he was laying strewn on the banks of the creek, a glistening red slash smiling across his neck. Eliza froze in horror. Up ahead she heard grunt and rustling. She crept along the creek, evening her breath, stopping by a gnarled oak. She saw two figures one; a elflike and a dragon born. They were over turning and ripping apart luggage made of silk and stuffing whatever of value into their bags. A carriage was over turned the horse nervously pawing at the forest floor. Eliza decided it was time to go back. She tried to back away and turn around but slipped on the water slick root of a tree. She stifled her gasp. The rustling stopped. A pistol was loaded.
“I can hear your heart pounding.” A slipper y voice whispered to her left. Several feet away a second elf appeared. His hair was as white as fresh fallen snow and his skin as grey as gunmetal. His eyes were ink black and he had a pale scare that ran down the side of his face to the base of his collarbone. He lunged for her but Eliza swung the bucket with all the force she had, and he was knocked into a neighboring tree.
A shot turned section of the tree they were behind into confetti. Eliza bolted. deeper and deeper into the forest. More shots trailed her.
“Run all you want!” The elf shouted, recovering slowly. “we’ll find you!”
She ran faster than she had ever run before, dodging and weaving like a jack rabbit. She didn’t stop. Eventually she circled back to the farm. She ran out of the woods and straight into the kitchen sobbing. Mama was there with Sue Anne. Eliza buried her face into mamas lap and the whole story cane tumbling out of her in shudders. Papa came rushing in and mama explained everything to him. He bolted the doors and windows like he did when winter was upon them and the winds threatened to rip the house apart. He reassured that they’d be ok, and that thieves and robber were to lazy to come looking for her. She didn’t sleep at all that night, none of them did. How could something so sinister be so close to their happy little home.
At some point Eliza noticed a smell in the air. Like when papa starts the fire for supper. Mama shot up.
“The roof!” She gasped. Eliza looked up to see that the thatch curling was slowly catching fire and crackling. Eliza tried to put it out with some simple water spells but the flames were unnatural.
“It’s them. I’m gonna go outside. To distract them. You take the girls through the back.”
They argued. Mama cried. but they were running out of time. The fire began to roar overhead as the heat became suffocating.
Papa took a rifle and Sue Anne took her the remainder of the guns handing one to Eliza and mama each. Papa kissed them all of them. Each girl on the head and a deep long kiss for mama.
Eliza could only whisper “I’m sorry.”
As papa walked out the front door. Mama ran through the back gun raised, her girls behind her.
There were three shots. Two were at the front of the house and one went right through mama. Eliza screamed. Sue Anne grabbed her hand and pulled her to the side. Firing wildly into the dark forest before them. With a thud a body appeared and dropped to the forest floor. They didn’t stop running. They ran deep into the woods until they got to the mountain base and then they started climbing. Eliza never looked back. She couldn’t. She knew she would see mamas body there, motionless. Their house and barn engulfed in flames. They climbed for hours and found a small cave to sleep in. They stayed there for 3 days. When Sue Anne thought it was safe they made the trek straight to town to see if there was any news. Nothing good. Papa had been shot too, but he managed to take out the dragon born. No one had seen or heard of the other elf. But wanted posters were made.
After a year and a half of living with the local bartender and his wife, Sue and Eliza made up their mind to hunt the elf down themselves. It took them 3 years but the found him hold up in a bar out west. And they took him down. After 8 hours of shoot out and multiple wounds on either side he surrendered. As he staggered out hands in the air Eliza had never felt this happy since before the fire. Tears weld up in her eyes. Finally relief. Vengeance. Peace.
There was a slick wet sound that interrupted her thoughts. As sue Anne had tried to cuff the elf, he had drew a knife and slipped it between her ribs. Eliza screamed so loud she couldn’t hear it. Pulled her gun and planted to bullet between his eyes. She cushy Sue Anne and laid her down. The wound wasn’t bad but when Eliza tried to heal it it wouldn’t close properly. Poison. From a cursed dagger. Hot anger and weld up in Eliza and spilled out in tears.
“We’ll get through this. You’ll be fine” she whispered to Sue Anne.
3 months of of research and healers later and the poison was slowed but not stopped. It had continued to spread through Sue Anne until It took her legs, and her right arm. her pain was almost constant now. Her body in steady decline.
“Liza, you should go”
“What do you mean? go where? Do you need something?”
“I mean, you should leave this town. It holds nothing but sorrowful memories for you, and you’re so young. You should be out there enjoying the world. I’m not getting any better, and I hate to see you wasting your time trying to fix something you can’t. Promise me you’ll go when I’m gone.”
“You want me to leave you? Like this? You want me to be alone? Why? No I’m not doing that! And you’ll be fine dont talk like that.
“It’s ok, We can move back in with mr. And Mrs Barton and they can help look after me until I’m ready to go myself. But please don’t stay here. Remember how big the world is.”
“Don’t talk like that! What’s wrong with you?! Why are you giving up, why do you want to leave me?!”
“I will never leave you. I’m your big sister you couldn’t get rid of me if you tried.” She smiled weakly and put a hand up to Eliza’s cheek. She wiped away her warm tears. “I promise you, wherever you go, I’ll be right by your side. You’ll feel me there. Not like I’m gonna miss out on your adventures”
“Ok I promise. I’m sorry”
The next day they moved into the Barton’s but a week later Sue Anne passed. Eliza stayed at the grave well into the night seated between Sue and papa. no one had the heart to bother her. As she gazed up at the moon Something shimmered the air. She blinked. A large, white moth seemed to float directly out of the stars, gently fluttering it’s wings, soft a snowfall.
The moth landed gently on Eliza’s knee.
It opened and closed its wings twice.
“Well then let’s go.”