Fire light danced across the oak and marble walls of the Eluvian temple as Lireal set the candles for the evening. She has been repeating this same ritual for nearly four centuries, each evening pointedly lighting each of the one hundred and thirty-one candles in the main hall in a succinct procession. This evening however was different when there came a rapping on the front door. The other stewards in the room all paused, surprised at the sound, looks glancing from one to another. Putting down her long match Lireal glided toward the front door, the gaze of each of the stewards following her across the hall. She lifted the iron handle, pulling open the large wooden door, which lurched under its own weight.
Peering out into the town of Eglarest, Lireal’s gaze surveyed the square outside the temple. The evening air was soft and quiet. The warmth of the late summer day still clung to the white limestone buildings and the cool air from the Lavalling forest swayed through the oaks outside the city wall. The sound of the rustling wind whispered across Eglarest and Lireal saw a few men across the square finishing closing off the gate for the evening. Besides those elven men though, there was no one else to be seen.
Stepping outside Lireal looked again, confused about the knock she heard, when a weak voice caught her attention to her right.
The voice was delicate, but unmistakable. Lireal’s breath caught at the sound and her hand trembled as she brought it up to her mouth.
“No, it couldn’t be. It simply cannot be," she thought to herself. The simple desire in and of itself was almost heartbreaking enough as she turned toward the voice.
Standing to the right of the door was a young elven woman with blonde hair and striking ice blue eyes. Her hair and clothes were a mess, torn and burned. The skin around her eyes held a distinct tattoo, drawn in white ink following the contours of her cheek bones up to her ears and her brow in the design of dragon scales. Her right eye was bruised and blue and dried blood ran from a fat lip which she nursed with the tip of her tongue.
Lireal’s heart skipped and then sank and the sight of her daughter Adalina. “My child!”, she exclaimed and rushed over to Adalina taking her into her arms. Adalina’s weight pressed into her as Lireal brought her hand up to brush the hair out of her daughter’s face.
“What has happened to you?”
“Mother, please I didn’t know where else to turn.”
“Quiet child, let me tend to your wounds”, replied Lireal, her instincts taking over as she directed stewards to grab water and fresh linens
“Mother, please. They are coming. I am sorry, I didn’t mean to bring them here, but they are coming,” said Adalina before she lost consciousness.
It was not until several hours later that Adalina finally awoke. Lireal was sitting at her side. In the course of a few hours Adalina’s wounds had healed remarkably fast. Her lip had reduced in swelling and the bruises across her body had all but disappeared. As she came to, she bolted up in the bed.
“No, I must leave. I must be gone before they come”.
“Ada, please. What are you talking about?”, asked Lireal. Concern and longing in her voice for the daughter she has not seen in two centuries.
Before Adalina could respond the ringing of the guard bell from the front gate chimed four times and shouts came from outside the temple. Both women arose at the sound, Lireal surprised at her daughter’s swiftness considering her injuries.
Before they could reach the front door of the temple a crash rippled through the building as the front gate to the city exploded into splinters of wood and fire. Lireal threw open the door and ran out into the square. Bodies of elven men and women of the town’s guard lay scattered across the square. An orange glow throbbed like a heartbeat from beyond the city walls as the Oak forest of Lavalling was burning. Through the gate strode Men, borne in iron armor and carrying the magic of fire in their hands. One man in particular stepped forward into the empty square.
“I am the most holy emissary of the White Cloth, come to bless and baptize this town in the name of his lord. My name is Eringas and we have tracked to this place an abomination of the rightful order. Come, bless yourselves in the name of the White Cloth.”
Lireal stepped forward raising her hand in a gesture of calming, but before she could take more than two steps, the whistle of an arrow sang through the night finding purchase. Lireal didn’t even realize what had happened before the dull punch in her chest was followed by the pooling of warm blood across her white dress. She stumbled forward another step, before falling to her knees and the hands of two stewards closed around her shoulders.
Time slowed, the sound of the world dulled to a muffle in Adalina’s ears as she watched the arrow loose from the archer’s bow across the square. With her perception of time and speed she watched in horror as the arrow stretched across the town square and bury into her mother’s chest. The weight of the impact rippled through all her senses as she darted from the door of the temple to where her mother stood, and now began to fall. With each step she took she could hear the weakening beat of her mother’s heart and could smell the fresh blood pouring from the wound.
Silver tears streaked her face as she collapsed over her mother’s body, cradling it in her arms. Each weakening heartbeat reverberated in her mind in slow agony as she listened to the final moments of her mother’s life pass before her. Centuries of time that could have been spent together lost in moments with each beat.
Lireal looked up into her daughter’s face, raising her hand to caress her daughter’s hair.
“I always hoped I would get to see you again.”
And she was gone. The last heartbeat died away in Adalina’s mind leaving behind a void of silence that would never be filled again. It was replaced with the beating of her own heart, of her own rage which she had spent so many years culling and learning to control. It rose deep from within her chest, at first only in her mind, but beat after beat growing and bursting forth in a rage and sorrow that would consume the town of Eglarest.
“Men. Men will pay. Mankind will pay for what they have done.”