The couple had been happily married for years, by this point, a few decades at least. It was 3E 401, and their marriage had been sanctioned twenty- five years before. The two lived in a small village in Valenwood, one that rarely saw one of the mighty migrating graht- oak cities of that land. In this town, all knew each other, or almost all knew each other.
Thus, most of the village knew of the couple’s problems conceiving a child. The two Bosmer had managed to conceive two, though one had died in the womb and the other had survived for a mere two weeks post- partum. They were heavily demoralized by this, hoping that next time—next time, maybe it would be different.
Sarthor held his wife’s hand tightly, the blood in his own nearly cut off by the tight clutch of Aedeyna’s own slender fingers. Things were not going smoothly, though that was to be expected. He suppressed a shudder and tears, remembering their first child, a daughter. She had been born a corpse, though they named the lifeless body anyway. He turned his mind away from that. This time would be—must be—different. Aedeyna shrieked again, her body shaking before, finally, she stopped, breathing heavily. The midwife moved to take the child, and the various other that accompanied it, into her hands. Sarthor’s eyes met his wife’s, and he saw her smile as she heard the baby cry out.
“It lived,” she said, her weary voice shaking with joy and her black eyes dancing with delight.
“He lives,” the midwife corrected, adding almost as an afterthought: “What are you going to name him?”
“You name him,” Sarthor heard his wife say. He nodded his agreement, adding “Maybe it will bring him some luck.” Both of their voices were tender, almost relieved but still on- guard. The midwife delivered their miraculous son into his wife’s arms. He leaned over to see the child, as well. Crying a moment ago, the infant was now sleeping peacefully, blissfully unaware of the peril he might be in. At the unusual request, the midwife was flustered.
She tried to revalidate what her ears had just received. “What?”
“You name him,” Sarthor and Aedeyna replied simultaneously. The midwife looked down, perhaps a bit left, her face puckered slightly with thought. After a long moment, she finally responded. “I heard from a passing scholar that ‘farenthel’ means ‘lucky one’…”
Sarthor felt, rather than saw, his wife’s weary smile. “Farenthel. It’s a good name.”
“A good name,” He echoed, releasing his wife’s now- soft hand to embrace the midwife.
“Thank you,” Sarthor whispered into her ear, repeating himself as if to validate his thanks to her. He sensed her face pull up in an awkward ‘you’re welcome’ smile.
When he returned to his wife’s side she was already asleep, weary breathing deep and solid, the baby Farenthel’s echoing hers, a lighter infant breath.
As Farenthel grew, the nickname “Lucky One” became increasingly prevalent in use, for the child seemed such a daredevil that it was a wonder he lived this long. Indeed, it seemed that Farenthel did possess an unusual lucky streak.
His parents, taking pride in his accomplishments, had initially tried to shelter him, for fear of the luckless streak their previous children had. This proved futile, and they resigned themselves to hoping, praying, and asking.
Their question was obvious: When would his luck run out?
Not for a long time, they hoped. As their son grew, so too did his taking to risk. Though the village was small and out of the way, every so often travelers would pass through. Less often, though, someone would settle in the village. As the homes were woven into the myriad branches of the province, it was custom for the members of the town to pitch in and help “weave” a new home for the settlers—as was the case with Myrthailieth and Dan’til Arinor, a High Elven, apparently mother- daughter pair, who moved in some time after the turn of Farenthel’s tenth year, when his parents finally began to relax their wariness towards their unfortunate luck with children.
Around that time, perhaps a year before the fated settlement of the Arinor women, Farenthel also began running with the hunting parties of his small village, during which his behavior earned him the alias “Black- Wolf”, as he ran silently and often tracked his prey alone. A sister, too, was born to his family several months after his tenth birthday, and her name was Fae. She took a much more recessive disposition, preferring the route of inquisition to the path of constant activity that Farenthel seemed to take. Unlike Farenthel again, she took after their father in appearance: Her light brown eyes and blonde hair stood in stark contrast to his black hair and eyes. Her name was given as Fae, and to Farenthel, she was all but a small angel brought to Nirn.
Farenthel sat, the wind whistling through the trees surrounding him though he ignored it well. His knife worked in subtle, quick motions. Two stacks of bone arrows were on either side of the youthful Bosmer, though two noted differences were to be found: One stack was all but mostly- straight bones. The others were completed arrows, fletching and all, with a wolf’s- head silhouette carved near the tip of the arrow.
Sarthor sat down next to his son, memory lane taking him for a moment before he spoke.
“What are you doing, Farenthel?”
“Fl… Flitching?” The boy finally decided on that particular pronunciation of the word, though he didn’t sound very certain of it.
“Fletching,” He suggested. “You’re doing a fine job. For yourself?” Inwardly, Sarthor shook his head in amazement. It was true—they did grow up fast. Almost faster than his mind’s eye could follow, it seemed.
“Yeah.” Farenthel slid back into his fletching. He’d almost ran out of bone, though didn’t seem concerned. He had enough arrows built up in the entirety of his possessions to fill two to three relatively large quivers.
“Sarthor, Farenthel!” Aedeyna called. As Sarthor looked up to his wife, he saw Fae almost clinging to Aedeyna’s side. She had recently turned three, though still saw the world through wonder- filled eyes. Sarthor was about to remark to Farenthel that his mother wanted them, but the boy, a bit tall for a Bosmer, had already swept his arrows, finished and unfinished, indiscriminately into a sack that Sarthor found tossed almost hazardously into his hands as Farenthel dropped everything he was doing—along with his open knife, which clattered dangerously down, hopefully away from any heads that happened to be below. Sarthor almost berated Farenthel.
Then he saw Farenthel joyously embracing his younger sister, swinging her up, to her obvious delight, and around his shoulders. Her arms clung to the neck of her brother, and he supported her from below with his own arms. Sarthor and Aedeyna shared a look of shared love and amusement as he joined the rest of his family.
“So, what is it?” Sarthor put his arm around Aedeyna as they walked.
“A pair of Altmer have decided to take up a home here,” Aedeyna began, both members of the couple watching their children.
“So I’ve heard.”
Aedeyna glanced his way, a bit nervously. “They’re… recluse. I tried to speak with them earlier, so this isn’t just hearsay. They’re also mages.” Sarthor understood her nerves. Mages who alienated themselves tended to be bad news, whether in reality or in the minds of those nearby.
Sarthor glanced back at Farenthel and Fae. Farenthel had set Fae down, now. He might have seen more, but he looked back at Aedeyna to continue his conversation.
They stood in silence, watching their children at play and puzzling the implications in their minds. Later that night, the terror seemed to have passed: as Sarthor began to drift to sleep, Aedeyna whispered in his ear, “Farenthel made bow for Fae.”
“Her size?” Sarthor whispered back.
“He didn’t think of that,” She seemed to laugh a little in the darkness.
“I guess he’ll give it to her when she’s older, then.”
“That’s what he said.”
Time drew on. Fae did eventually fit the bow Farenthel had made for her those years before, much faster than had been suspected. By the time she was thirteen, she fit the bow. Farenthel took instructing his young sister upon himself, and it wasn’t long before both of the siblings could hit almost any target they could see. Fae began joining hunting parties, as well, though in keeping with her disposition was not as prone to wandering off alone to take down her prey. This pack tendency would prove to be fortunate for her.
For Farenthel, his lonesome tactic would prove his downfall.
He knelt, taking a small amount of the mud into his fingers and sniffing it, as if he were a bloodhound in the shape of an elf. He did not recognize the scent, but the shape of the footprint seemed to be that of a wolf. It was much lighter, as if the animal had retained the size of a wolf but mysteriously diminished in weight.
He looked up. Fae might have been about to ask a question, but he had silently sprinted off before it could escape her mouth. She sighed; her brother was twenty, by this point, yet his impulsive nature had still not escaped him. It still amazed her that he ran with only the ghost of a footprint to tell of his passing.
As those thoughts ran through Fae, Farenthel ran. Occasionally, he would slow or stop to verify his course, though he mostly continued pelting through the forest of Valenwood. The midday sun beat down on him and a faint breeze opposed his course. Neither of these bothered him; Farenthel might have taken note, but the Black Wolf did not take note of such things.
His nose, too, worked, seeking that faint, ghostly smell he had detected in the wolf footprint. Eventually, though, the footprints faded. Strange—the very first sign that something was amiss. Leaves rustled nearby: Farenthel, thoughts and instinct still blended into harmony, reacted. His bow came up, firing unerringly into a silhouette…
…That stood suddenly straight, with a distinctively female shriek, and toppled, her life cut short with a single arrow. Farenthel stood stunned, unsure of how to react—was that murder? Or a simple mistake? Despite his mental freeze, his legs began to move forward. The body was one of the recluse mages—one of those Altmer who had moved in some time ago. Dead, the younger of the two she- elves, his arrow through her neck. Farenthel was stunned.
The brush crackled as someone began moving through it. An elderly voice called, “Dan’til?” The voice was unsure, and repeated the name, this time with the rising pitch of worry. “Dan’til?” Farenthel had sunk to his knees over the body, tears clouding his vision.
“DAN’TIL!” The elderly she- elf saw her daughter’s body. Farenthel’s mouth ran ahead of him, fumbling over words just as hysterical as he tried to explain what had happened and how sorry he was and that he might as well strike himself down that moment. Myrthailieth, though, grew in fury, brewing a spell.
The Black Wolf took over just as the spell neared completion, leaping to the side as a bolt of electricity arced through the place his head had just been. Arced through there, and into the eyes of Fae as she burst through the underbrush. His sister cried out, falling. She would never see light again.
Where first he had been bent on a course of defend- and- flee, Farenthel was completely and fully replaced by a more animalistic side, now. He dropped his bow, and flew shrieking at the mage. More agile than she could possibly be at that age, when even elven bones grew brittle, the she- elf slipped away, leaving Farenthel to slam face- first into a tree. He turned, intending this time to truly be deadly—but the way that the mage was standing unnerved him. She seemed calm, though angry, as a baleful witch with a heart wrought of ice.
“As you have to all I loved,” The witch whispered, “you and those of your blood will destroy what you hold dear with your own hand, condemned eternally to walk Nirn with the burden of your conscience.” Her mouth curved to form a wicked and bitter smile, “Love, you will. It is in the nature of us all.” She vanished into the air just as Farenthel had recovered his wits and again thrown himself teeth- first at her throat. A final, evil echo of Myrthailieth’s words replayed in his mind.
Then he remembered Fae.
~ ~ ~
Sarthor stared into the forest, or rather more specifically, the section of forest his children had departed into several hours ago. Worry clouded his mind Aedeyna knew, paranoia causing his imagination to prophesy a thousand woes that might befall two of three beings that made his life worth living. She had counseled him several times, trying to erase his own worries.
She had her own, as well, she thought, pushing them out of her mind as she watched Sarthor. They would be fine—twenty years had crested Farenthel’s brow, and Fae was nearing fourteen. It couldn’t be just a streak of random luck—she refused to believe that.
She started when Sarthor suddenly stood up, both relief and apprehension apparent in his frame. Aedeyna’s eyes searched for a moment beyond him before seeing what he saw—Farenthel and Fae. Without the rest of the hunting party they had departed with. For a moment, Aedeyna was joyful. Then she saw—Farenthel walked with bleeding, superficial wounds covering him, seemingly from whipping branches. His face was covered in his own blood, his nose visibly broken and his jaw, perhaps broken as well. He was supporting Fae, who seemed in better condition, though something was causing her to have trouble walking. No—he wasn’t supporting her, she realized.
He was all but dragging her, barely able to support the weight in his own condition. Her feet moved occasionally in a futile effort to aid him, evidence that she wasn’t dead herself. Confused, Aedeyna’s body refused to answer her calls for it to go to her children. She could only watch.
Farenthel dragged his sister into their home, and Aedeyna’s legs finally answered her calls to move, following them inside.
“Wh—“ She stuttered, speaking almost at the same time as her husband, “What happened?” Farenthel’s jaw worked, as if he were about to speak, but he gave a hiss of pain, spitting out blood and putting his hand to the apparently- broken section of his jaw, which was much worse in light of recent events. He didn’t carry his bow—that, apparently, had been left behind. She looked to Fae, who was already fitfully asleep. Burn marks, definitely severe, circled her eyes.
As time drew on, the hour closed with the setting of the sun. Business as usual, despite the various wounds that assailed their children, persisted. They went to bed, resolving to speak of the issues in the morning, when the state of shock had moved on.
It never did.
Farenthel looked at the sky, the various stars marking its presence comforting him even under the glare of the moons. Moments earlier, he had left a hand- written farewell note, detailing the events of that day. He looked back, worrying for Fae. He drew his lips in a tight line, remembering the words that had been spoken. Something of magic had to have passed in that moment—he felt it, truly. Two resolutions weighted his mind. He refused to take another’s life again. The second vow was the exception—he would find that witch, and he would kill her. His aching jaw—more accurately, his aching him, begged to be taken to the healer. He refused its cries—he wanted none to know of his going. He would make for one of the larger cities, Greenshade, perhaps, and return when he felt that he could face them again. And when he knew the truth of the apparent curse.
He ran into the night, and long into the subsequent day, on a path for Fallisteni, one of the legendary walking cities of the Bosmer (though at this point in time, it had mysteriously rooted itself in its midsummer location).
Farenthel struggled to find work in Fallisteni, poverty eventually taking hold of him even in the very capital of Valenwood, where work shouldn’t have been overly hard to find. It may have been preoccupation, or perhaps something else conspired against him. Either way, he figured his fate then better than the suffering his family might have gone through.
Maybe it was his reluctance to get attached that landed him in poverty.
Abjorn watched silently as the Bosmer, one of his kinsmen though the two seemed far from it, put his head in his arms, face down on the bar. He sighed and rubbed his head, unsure of how to react to the situation. The Bosmer with his head presently on the table wasn’t a fellow Abjorn had seen often, though, and thus, unlike many of his present patrons, Abjorn didn’t know the story of this one. He had been here and there for several years, though. Dirt crusted most of his being, quite obvious evidence of a lack of bathing.
Abjorn coughed, unsure of how to react to the now quietly weeping elf.
“Uh…” Abjorn’s mind meandered for a moment, finally settling on the standard statement, “Do you want a drink?”
“Huh? Ow,” The Bosmer said, grabbing his right jaw, before letting go of it, “Oh. I’d rather keep my senses, great as it would be to fund drunkenness.”
“I…. I see.”
“A job might be nice, though.”
“What?” Abjorn was set off of his feet, at this point, and was thoroughly flustered.
“I need work. I’m asking if you’re offering, because I’m frankly sick of raw rodent and self-pity.”
“Oh. I suppose—“ Abjorn was cut short as a heavily- muscled Orc slammed his fist into the face of the elf he was conversing with. He sighed, closing his eyes.
“Damn,” he muttered as the fight began, “I need a bouncer.” He knew that the rest of his patrons were probably watching the more likely than not one- sided fight as it broke out. Abjorn turned around, focusing on his stock.
Meanwhile, Farenthel dodged a kick as he all but flailed on the floor. Agile as any cat, he was on his feet in a moment. His subconscious careening back to the various fist- fights and wrestling matches he had become engaged in with his peers, he came at the Orc as aggressively as the Orsimer had come at him. Rather than block the heavy- handed punches, the slight Bosmer used his size to as much advantage as he could muster, dodging under a left hook and launching several fast, hard jabs under the ribs. A knee came up before he could dodge it, hitting him in his jaw, which had never truly healed despite the fact that almost ten years had passed since that day. Figures, he should have taken it to a healer sooner. The joint flared with pain, though it wasn’t broken.
Farenthel rolled with the force of the blow, again on his feet. Barely, he dodged another heavy punch, though only barely—a starvation- induced pang doubled him over.
Right in line for the groin of the charging Orc.
“Hircine’s tight ass…” Farenthel came to a quick decision, and slammed his head into the offending and offensive portion of his adversary’s body, causing the muscle- bound Orsimer to tumble over him with a wail of pain, Farenthel’s first score in the fight.
A fist slammed into his own groin, shaking him from his daze as he flew, head over heels, across the room. It was not Farenthel’s liquid black eyes that stared back at the Orc, when he looked back up. He was staring back with the fiery eyes of the Black Wolf. The Orc was oblivious to this, and infatuated with the thought of drunken victory.
He did not know his adversary.
The Black Wolf rose up smoothly as the Orc advanced, the burly creature seeming to briefly consider clubbing the stubborn Bosmer with a chair. Shaking the thought away, the Orc charged. The Black Wolf dove between the legs of the creature, coming up behind and planting several fast and hard slugs to the back of the Orc’s head, only seeming to further enrage the thing. Farenthel was long out of the way by the time a retaliation was launched, dodging the thick skull on the Orc’s shoulders by a good foot or so. The Orc turned, suddenly displaying surprising agility for one as obviously drunk as he.
Farenthel, aiming more to disable at this point than anything else, snagged a bar stool and smashed it over the Orsimer’s head. Thankfully, this dropped the thick- headed creature, the last slurred words escaping his mouth before drunken sleep being, “dapthmn… bggerth…”
He heard a bottle smash on the floor. Stunned silence ensued. Apparently, bets had been against Farenthel. The heavy exchange of coins was evidence of that.
“So…” Farenthel heard the tavern- keeper say, “About that job.”
~ ~ ~
She traced the place that she knew the small marker, shrine, grave—whatever it was—to be. Soft clicking sounds were picked up by her ears, soon after being uttered by her mouth, outlining the bone- tombstone to her. She saw nothing but blackness, despite the midday sun. Indeed, were the light of a thousand suns placed right before her eyes, she would not be able to gaze even briefly on the magnificence: Long ago, the light of suns, moons, and stars had been removed from her eyes. She shook her head, as if the action would dislodge the painful memories. Might as well have been the day her father died.
It hadn’t come that suddenly, though. Her parents had seen the note, and wept. For many days, they waited for his return. Those days extended into weeks. Those weeks, into months. Those months, into a year. Farenthel had not returned to them by then. They constructed a small grave, for it truly seemed to them that he was dead, and grieved and mourned. Sarthor became recluse, hiding within himself. Aedeyna eventually rose to be the sole supporting force, even as her husband’s will to live withered and died. This day, he was almost entirely invalid, Sarthor. He got up, ate, and sat down again. Once fine muscles had turned to tatters because of lack of use. So often, a line of careless drool had dribbled down an unkempt and wild beard. Fae had taken to grooming her father, almost as if it would bring him back.
It didn’t, and he had long since seemed dead to both of the women. Indeed, Fae could be considered fully adult at this point.
She pressed her lips into a line, whispering a small prayer.
~ ~ ~
Farenthel stood, arms crossed, in a darker corner of the tavern. Naturally, after the fight several months ago, he had been appointed as a bouncer. Figures, to his way of thinking. Now all he needed to do was get drunk nightly and think nonstop about some tragedy or another in his life. The young Bosmer wasn’t the most intimidating figure to have as a bouncer, at least until you saw him move.
Despite years of starvation, he moved with an instinctive grace, muscles tight on his frame and skin tight over the muscle. His black eyes flicked from corner to corner of the dim place. Twilight was soon: the truly rowdy patrons would begin filtering in sometime after that. The sun was riding low on the horizon, sending a few wavering beams into the place, but lights were abound anyway. Mostly courtesy of the torchbugs, though a few foreign candles burned and a magical light would soon be employed to light the place.
“You think there’s going to be trouble tonight?” Farenthel whispered to Abjorn, his employer. The Nord- inspired name couldn’t have fit worse: Abjorn was a small bone- doll of an elf, even for the Bosmer. He’d never make it far in a fight, many reckoned.
“Maybe,” the innkeeper replied unsurely, “There’s a celebration tonight, so be wary of trouble.” Farenthel nodded his consent, checking the light again. Perhaps a few minutes to sunset. He prayed that tonight was not eventful. Scars raked down his face still from the last time there’d been an “eventful” night. The tavern was also a bit short on tables, which wasn’t entirely unrelated.
Farenthel nervously clenched and unclenched his fists. Something didn’t feel right about tonight. He let his bow, one he had recently crafted with the not- so- ample funds of the job he worked (which mostly allowed for food, room, and board), rest near him.
He thought he might need it.
~ ~ ~
The moons rode the sky, full and illuminating this night. The stars, like so many jewels, glittered coldly. Clouds occasionally drifted across the sky, driven by the cruel whips of a chill wind. The vast and many great trees of the place swayed in this wind, a dance foretelling of some storm. The creatures of the wood were in hiding, finding sheltering places.
The gaunt, underfed elf knew it, as well. Once, he could have been considered a great elf—he was a hunter, a father, and, when the rare occasion called for it, he was a warrior. Once, he had been the glue that kept a family together. Now, he was little but a waste of food and water. He grimaced, knowing this. Some semblance of life seemed to have returned to his battered frame. His eyes flicked to the bow, unstrung and unused for so many years. Something more than the running heralds of a storm permeated the air this night. The elf stood with much effort, walking over to the bow.
His bow. Silently, his mind flew to the family he had all but abandoned, retreating far into himself.
He almost couldn’t manage it, but somehow, sheer willpower and what remained of his muscles saw his bow strung. He tested the draw, finding that he could manage it, though how he would never know. He took up a quiver, and stepped outside of his home.
~ ~ ~
Farenthel looked at the drinks, gallons of potent Bosmeri spirits being passed around the tavern. The stuff sloshed in the mugs, and, foaming, was poured down the throats of Bosmer and Orc alike. The few Altmer in the tavern sipped imported wines and looked around nervously. Farenthel’s eyes narrowed when he saw them. However, he couldn’t help but be amused at the Imga, who kept on with their insistent imitation of the Altmer. The observant Bosmer noted their eyes flicking to an Altmer every so often.
Farenthel looked right back at the spirits, his mind rolling back to the moment just before he had left home. It hit him, then.
“You will destroy what you hold dear with your own hand.” He didn’t need to be present, he realized, to shatter lives.
He looked at the spirits again. There was no rule against it... The noises of the tavern, the roaring, the few scuffles breaking out, the drunken laughing of many of the patrons, all faded into the background.
Ten minutes and many bottles later, a rowdy elf crashed through the wall, slurred curses from the now- drunk bouncer stringing the air behind him.
Farenthel turned. The air seemed heavy, and time slowed, to him. A strange buzz of ecstasy came, as well, with the syrupy state that he was in. He found it all disconcerting, the dulled senses. Yet his body seemed to cry out for more of it.
He ambled over to the bar, though in reality he was lurching violently. Then, he was tumbling. His head hit the floor violently, jarring him. He admired the curious way the world seemed to spin around.
“Farenthel,” a voice whispered, vaguely familiar, “come home.” The voice was pleading, by the way it sounded. He raised his head slightly, curiosity lending him slight strength. His sister stood exactly as he last remembered her, burns and all, near his feet.
Another Fae stepped out of the somewhere between himself and the first Fae.
This time, it was his father that stepped out, and his father whose voice whispered.
The phrase, the litany, was repeated a thousand times over. Each time, another Farenthel, another Aedeyna, another Sarthor—another Fae—stepped out of the somewhere between figures. Farenthel was shaken, roughly, by unseen hands. A thick, heavy voice broke through the void.
“W…” It sounded urgent, but he was tired. So tired.
“Wa…” More urgent. Also pained.
“AAG…” A shriek of pain. Farenthel’s eyes snapped open, but it wasn’t Farenthel. It was the Black Wolf, answering the call in the body of the hungover elf and fighting through the intense headache—even using that to wake itself. This was the first time that the Wolf had come of its own accord.
His hand snapped out for the first weapon he could find, and lifted it, smashing it over the head of the assailant that had slain whomever had attempted to wake him.
The bar stool sent the dremora reeling, its mace flying out of its hands. The demonic being recovered quickly, a bolt of fire searing out, and slamming into, the Black Wolf. It sent him stumbling backwards, but he, too, recovered quickly. The dremora lurched for its mace, but again it stumbled, this time from a flying bar stool.
Then a flying elf, and it lived just long enough to see its flying throat as it was bitten out.
Farenthel put a hand to his head, feeling the hangover now. He groaned, but realized that there were more pressing concerns than overindulgence in alcohol the day before. He turned, sweat falling down his brow from heat, though it wasn’t much due to dehydration, to face the fallen figure that had awoken him.
An elf he didn’t recognize, his ribs caved in to his lungs, which were gruesomely open to the world. Under him, Abjorn, or at least the top half of Abjorn. Farenthel rubbed his head again, said a brief prayer of mourning, and then he was once more the Black Wolf.
He stepped outside… to chaos. The sky was split asunder, cracks of red lining it like a plain after an earthquake. Unearthly roars and shrieks sounded in the air. Fire, fleeting and unable to catch in the mighty walking graht- oak city, spurted in many places. Dremora and other forms of Daedra swarmed the place, their many forms and shapes sharing one commonality: they were all committed fully to the slaughter. Some fought back. Most ran, or, rather climbed. Some up, to the shelter of the tall branches where few could reach. Some down, to the cover of the woodlands. Farenthel realized that the fight was hopeless. Even the ferocious Black Wolf, the embodiment of the warrior and the hunter, was in consent. To flee was wise. To stay was death. Coming to a decision, Farenthel ran, and made a flying leap off of the gargantuan tree.
Sometimes fate is the waking element of a dream.
Behind him, the shrieks of the dying pained his ears, soulless demonic Daedra slaughtering the innocent and guilty alike. He had never truly slain, and the fear that was said to rest in the eyes of the dying had never entered the eyes of the slain dremora. Perhaps the only reason he had killed the demonic thing was that he had caught it unaware.
He stumbled through the vast jungle for weeks on end, and perhaps months. The desolation behind him was ever- present in his mind, though perhaps it was healed by now, or rebuilding at least a thing that had started. He didn’t know if it had or hadn’t, would never know. He would never see the great capital of Valenwood again.
Regardless of the many hunts and steps of the journey, he eventually made it home. A charred scar was on the ground near the center of the village. The whole place looked like it had been slashed and burned, the once- thick vegetation no more. Small rodents scattered amongst the ashes as he travelled. He came to the remains of his home.
There was only one body there.
His mother. Hundreds of superficial wounds covered her, likely accumulated over a period of time. They added up to a severe condition, indeed. Farenthel knelt by her, noting suddenly through her shirt that her ribs made impressions. Starvation, cuts, and burns. Probably dehydration, as well.
“F… arenthel,” She wheezed, breath coming in short gasps, “You came back.” She was older now, so much older. Thirteen years should not have shown so much on an elf, but it looked like thirteen hundred years on her face.
“I never should have left,” he whispered.
“But…” His mother coughed weakly, “You returned. That…” She took another labored breath, “is good.” Her hand rested on his cheek.
“Where is Dad? Where is Fae?” Farenthel felt a sudden urgency, a whisper of a worse fate for them upsetting his mind.
“Your father…” The labored breaths were coming slower, now. Farenthel feared the worst, “…went in. A fiery gate. It shut…” Aedeyna went through a coughing fit, “…but late. Too many.”
“Fae?” Farenthel embraced his mother, afraid that this would be his last chance.
“Gone…some…where. Alive.” Her breath was weak. She fell away from the hug, her arm feebly grasping a knife.
“Farenthel.” The rest of what she wanted was obvious. He shook his head.
“Farenthel, I’m dead already.” The words took a lot out of her, a lot that she didn’t have to give. Farenthel shook his head again.
Finally, she reached under her shirt, pulling it off of her stomach.
Spilling out of it, her intestines stuck through a weak stitching. Her hand weakly guided the knife into Farenthel’s own fingers.
“I love you.” Those were the last words they spoke to each other. Farenthel buried his mother in a place less ashen and ruined, erecting a small memorial for both of his parents—Sarthor, whose valiant body will never be found, his father’s stone said. His mother’s read a solemn statement of a different vein. He cried tears that would never hit the ground, and physically moved on. His heart stayed behind, and his soul searched for lost Fae.
Farenthel never stayed in one place for long, afraid of himself, and what he might do. He took up the occasional vein of work, often employing his knowledge as a hunter or as a fighter, and often passed his skills on to others.
Eventually, though, he would indeed love again. The scars left from before, when that happened, would not have scabbed over.