The Road Well-Traveled

Tarah, as a person, at first glance does not seem imposing or intimidating in the least bit. Starting from her head going down, her face is slightly oval shaped with soft features that seemed fit more for smiling then being fixed into a battlecry.  Dual pools of violet made up her eyes.  A cute button nose sat above her lips, which were neither thin nor full but that middle ground, with a bit of a cupid bow appearance to them.

The girl's shoulders were slender and lead down equally thin arms, but a trained eye would notice the muscles, while not bulging, were solid and toned, making her stronger then someone might first take her for. Her hands were smaller, but had a few callouses on them from both what little adventuring she partakes in and the time spent honing her musical crafts. As for curves, she was not as blessed as other girls, making her seem a bit younger and more tomboyish. Her modestly sized chest tapered down to a slender waist.  This led further down to rounded, small hips and thin legs, very similar to the build of her arms.  Her's was a body built for the stage and all the trials and performances that happen on such places.

As for clothing and armor choices she tends to favor practical outfits, the more colorful the better, for when she isn't planning on fighting, never being one for dresses or fancy attire. She prefers heavier armor over leather, cladding herself in plates and chainmail to stride into battle. Tarah's favorite weapon is a large blade, swinging it around in a peculiar fighting style.  There is a little of twirling and fluid movements as if the elf was dancing rather than fighting.

But this is the Tarah of present, an adventurer and performer of some little renown or infamy, depending on who the audience is.  You are wondering about the Tarah that was, the girl who sat astride a traveling caravan and saw the world.  If one were to recount all the stories the elf had collected during her childhood years then one would sit there so long they might die of old age.  For now we will turn the clock back and see how the elf had found herself, alone and frightened, in the town of Brost.

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Many suns and moons had fallen across a single, simple caravan.  It's colorful procession had brought it just three days East of the town of Brost.  It was the Fen'lith 'Show of Wonders', one of the best things to happen to the small towns and villages that dot the roadways.  Wagons painted from the many colors of the world, from purples to crimson, but one color stood to be the most prominent and that was an emerald hued teal color.  They were the Emerald Performers in some circles of the world, others they were the Rainbow Bards.  The one thing that everyone had in common to say about these people was they were not only talented but affordable.  Most shows often played for free and relied on donations for income.  Nobody was denied to view their performances, from the highest noble to the lowest peasant, all were welcome.  There was a wide array of attractions from games for children, music, daring tricks, plays, and even one tiger tamer once upon a time, though he had left for personal reasons some summers ago.

It was run by a couple, Elyrriena and Tyrissen Fen'lith.  They were world wise, often shortening their names down to Elly and Tyris for the humans that visited them.  They had a daughter, young by elven years, only barely cresting a few decades past her first century.  Her name was Tar'ahnvera, or Tarah for short, a promising edition to the Fen'lith name in both gentle heart and adventurous spirit.  She had her mother's nose and long black hair and her father's eyes of violet.  The whole troupe was her family, not just her parents as everyone took time to care for the youth as she grew up, a few of the human members of the show even cared for her until they retired to the afterlife.  She remembered them all fondly.

Tarah was seated on the driver's seat of the lead wagon, drawn by two sturdy brown horses.  The steady clip clopping of hooves and the quiet creaking of old lumber filled the air.  That was not the only noise in the air as a beautiful elven man with blonde hair was humming beside her as his striking violet gaze swept along the forested trail in front of them.  The tune he hummed was foreign to her ears which made her scrunch her nose up a bit.  Trees flanked either side of the trail, branches dancing and swaying in the soft breeze that occasionally tickled her nose.  Thick foliage covered the ground around the mighty oaks and gentle maples, except for a wagon wide trail that cut a stamped path through all the green.

"So, what do you think we will find here? Lost fairy kingdoms?  Ancient troll warrens guarding sacred artifacts of heroes past?"  Tarah asked while flicking her eyes to her father, a grin full of teeth flashing into view.

"Ah my little Moon Dove, when one diverts from the main roads, anything is possible!" Tarris laughed with bubbling mirth.

"You always say that, but last time the most remarkable thing we found in the woods was a bug." She rolled her eyes a bit.

"Ah! But it was a very colorful bug." He interjected while raising an index finger up.

The two looked to each other for a few quiet moments and then uproarious laughter burst forth from the the two.  Tears clouded her vision causing her to have to wipe at her eyes with the back of her hand.  Tarah always enjoyed the little back and forth with her father.  It was because of these talks she had not gone crazy from the lack of anything interesting the past few days.  The scent of freshly baking sweet bread filled the air.  So delicious was the smell that her stomach rolled inside her and a growling rumble echoed from within.  Her father had a similar reaction and the two shared an amused grin.  Smoke billowed out from the metal vent that poked out behind her through the roof of the wagon.

"You think she is making it?!"  Tarah asked her father with excited whispering.

"If she isn't then by the gods above I shall make it so.."  Her father joked with a wink.

A delightful, soft voice projected from the wagon with a mock tone of sharp reprimand.

"If you both eat the entire pan again before dinner is over you are sleeping outside tonight!"

"Awww shucks, Ma, I told you it was the fae badgers they are quite the menace this far far South!"  Her father called back.

"Outside!" She replied with an edge of warning in her voice.

There was a brief pause of silence before the trio broke into more joyous laughter.  The good humor was cut as a giant of a man lumbered up beside the wagon with those easy going strides only the longest of legs can produce.  It was their strongman, Agie.  This job was given for good reason, while some had a barrel chest, his was more like two barrels, maybe even two and a half.  He stood several inches above six feet and looked every bit like a bear.  Big, hairy, except for his head which was shaven bald.  Upon the top of his lip there was an impressive mustache that curled up at the ends.

"You are making all the others sick with how sweet you are acting to each other." Agie rumbled in a deep baritone voice, while waggling a thick index finger. "We are losing lunch back there!"

"Agie, come on you know I can't help it!" Tarah flashed him a cheeky little grin as she shrugged in a helpless fashion.

The giant waved a ham hand and harumphed softly.  "Bah!  You are too confident of your own worth, just like your father.  You should do well not to be following his example.  I mean what fool waits until the sun in near setting to start placing down camp?"

Even as he said it the light deadened around them, turning into soft shadow as the sun crept down through the treeline, hiding itself from those watching.  Her father jolted upright and then offered a bashful smile to both Tarah and Agie before jumping down and calling the line of wagons to a halt.  Agie dropped back and helped Tyris get the wagons into a nearby clearing and into a nice, big circle.  Tarah was pleased as she managed to lead the caravan with their own wagon, having practiced many a day with her father in guiding the beasts drawing the wagons.  She hopped off herself, drawing her colorful cloak around her shoulders, crimson and teal colors flashing as she did so.  She loved the old cloak, it was a gift from her latest nameday and it was both warm and had handy little pockets sewn on the inside.

The show was a bustle of commotion and noise as they cheerfully set up their site for a night under the stars.  People drawing up stones from around the area to pile into fire rings and the youths of the camp setting about to listen to Old Lady Pally's stories.  Tarah missed those nights, sitting around and listening to her speak of ancient folklore, but she was older now and with that there was responsibility.  She was right in the middle of untying the horses from their positions and giving them their muchly deserved food when a scream bellowed from the darkened forest.  All noise from the camp died immediately.  A heartbeat passed when another scream sounded, higher in pitch.  It was close.

Everyone moved to their families and to their wagons, gathering what weaponry and securing the children to safety.  Cold fear tightened in her belly as she moved around to fling open the Fen'lith wagon.  Inside was a cramped, but cozy array of cushions and living supplies and the metal bulb of the cooking oven.  No one was inside which meant her father and mother were already rallying up the show and seeing that everyone was prepared.  Tarah tugged over an old trunk and opened it up.  Within was an aged shirt of chainmail and some leather bracers and pads for her legs.  She worked quickly, fumbling with the cool metal a bit as she slipped into it.  The chainmail hung loosely from her figure, much too big for her figure, but that was to be expected as it was Agie who gave it to her.  The armor smelt stale from disuse, but she ignored it as she pulled a longsword from under her sleeping pad.  It was a simple blade about arm's length and it was well cared for.  Agie again, gave her the weapon on her nameday and taught her how to care and clean it.

Once she was dressed and ready for danger should it rear its ugly head she made her way back to the center of camp.  The armor hung on her shoulders with a strange heaviness that she was not used to.  It slowed her jog down a bit, though it turned out it was not needed.  When she arrived the showfolk were crowded around her father and Agie.  Next to them stood three people, two men and a female.  They looked malnourished, twig thin and sickly looking.  They all were marred with bite marks and claw wounds, dirt and mud clinging to their tattered clothes and bodies.

"Don't worry my friends," Her father called out with a cool, calm tone. "These poor people were set upon by wolves most fierce but nothing Agie couldn't handle."  He patted the giant on the side of one massive arm a few times.  "Get these people some food, Pally get Varrik out here with the medicine.  Tarah, get some wood for the fires, tonight we dine with guests!"

Tarah didn't speak a word, smiling brightly as she nodded once to her father.  Tyris returned both smile and nod as his wonderful daughter sped off into the woods with a small wooden sled dragged behind her.  He was so proud of her, so proud of what she had grown into.  He noted his wife looking after Tarah as well, same look in her eye that he probably bore.  They truly were the luckiest parents around.

*****

It took a few hours, but Tarah had gathered an impressive amount of firewood of varying sizes.  They would have warm toasty fire for hours tonight and into the morning if anyone stayed up that late.  The rope of the sled burned against her palms as she lugged the lumber laden sled behind her.  It was dark now, all but the glow of a simple lantern in her hand was gone, replaced by inky blackness.  The forest always managed to look equal parts mysterious, beautiful and terrifying at night.  She was getting close to camp though and soon she would be singing with her parents and enjoying some tasty sweet bread.

Another scream.

The noise pierced her ears and sat heavily in her chest as she felt her whole body go tense.  It was familiar.  There was a distant crackling noise on the air followed by something that smelt like cooked meat, but also it smelt wrong.  An orange glow broke through the wall of tree in the distance.  She picked up her pace as something in her mind screamed at her to get back home as quickly as possible.  Tarah took several shaky steps and left her left arm bump hard into the trunk of one of the bigger trees.  Her limb felt a little numb and she dropped the rope.  She went to pick it back up, though paused as her gaze was brought back to the flicking glow.  The young elf made a mental note and started jogging through the woods, towards the source of this horrible feeling.

When she broke through the treeline the world almost stood still.  The wagons were a wreck, smashing open like fresh chicken eggs.  Two of the wagons had been dragged to the center of the clearing and were ablaze with fire.  Shadowy figured danced around the flaming wagons, chanting in some odd dialect.  The figures resolved in her vision as more of those skinny weird people, only they were colored in some kind of tribal paint and were armed with crude weapons of bone, dripping with some kind of sickly yellow substance.  In the fire she saw more shapes, engulfed in the heat, cooking into charred husks of who they once were.  Her family were lined up in the wreckage, children and adult alike.  Pain hammered into her heart with enough force to make tears instantly flood down her cheeks.  She didn't see her parents at first.  But, she wish that had stayed true.  Her father was splayed out on the ground, half charred with flames and three of the horrible people crouched over his body.  She witnessed with horror as with a meaty swick and crunch one of the larger of the the tribesman ripped off an arm and started chewing.  The sound was deafening, horrible and wet.

Tarah screamed.  She screamed with a rage born of despair as she clumsily ripped the sword from the scabbard at her hip.  Her legs burned as they carried her towards the tragic scene in front of her.  The tribesmen seemed to freeze from the sudden sound, the horrific sound.  It was enough for the young elf's blade to slice cleanly into the arm of the creature that was eating her father's arm.  Blood sprayed out in a crimson wave that splattered her form and left the monster writhing on the ground, screeching out its pain in an almost inhuman cry.  It was all chaos after those first few moments.  Five more of them crawled into view, two with daggers of bone, one with a spear and two with no weapons.  She recognized the two without weapons as two of the people they had saved.  Tarah had no time to question, nor did she have a mind to as she threw herself at them.  The two with daggers jumped to the side and almost simultaneously slashed at Tarah with those daggers.

The crude weapons bit into the chain links of her armor, though thankfully they only left thin little grazes.  There was some warmth as hot blood welled on the thin cuts.  Unfortunately for the one with the spear it did not act quick enough and let out a gurgling mess of a death rattle as a foot and a half of steel plunged into his neck.  Tarah whipped the sword around and cut into the flank of one of the unarmed tribal bandits.  A gouge of flesh parted up the woman's torso and she fell wordlessly onto the ground.  Her stomach was tied into knots as death and opened organs filled her nose.  The elf's violet eyes were hard and burned with anger intense as she turned to face the last three.  The last unarmed bandit glared at Tarah with hate before taking off at a dead sprint.  Tarah bent at the waist to scoop the spear of the fallen bandit and hurled it.  The point of the spear drove clean through the calve of the man and toppled him to the dirt where he let out a painful cry and then started to convulse and writh before going still.

Then there was a sharp explosion of pain in her lower back as she looked down to see the tip of a bone knife sticking out her stomach.  Blood trickled and bubbled forth.  The elf girl stumbled almost to a knee but pushed with her feet while twisted to tackle one of the daggermen to the dirt.  She growled with pained determination as she slammed the hilt of her sword repeatedly into the man's face.  His features distorted under the blows as he struggled with malnourished strength, but his flailing grew still as his life bled from his ruined face.  She heard a russel and turned just in time to see the last man leaping at her, dagger raised in a killing blow.  Tarah cried out in both terror and defiance as she held up her hand.  The dagger broke into her left forearm and the blade of bone bounced against her bone.  Her sword found its way into the monster's heart and the last of the bandits died without even a last gurgling stutter.

She only had a moment to feel triumph before she felt her body give out and crumple to the ground.  The pain was dulled as she felt poison course through her blood.  If the poison did not finish her she was pretty sure she was bleeding out from the two grievous wounds.  The last thing Tarah saw before the pain and poison enveloped her into darkness was the orange glow.  The remains of her family on display.  A feast for monsters.

Tarah knew not how long she slept, how long she was away from the world.  But when she awoke she was resting in some kind of hospice in the town of Brost.  Apparently, some travelers found her not long into the morning.  It was a small miracle she survived at all.  And for that, she wept there on the bed.  She wept for she would not get to see her family.  She wept because she would now have to live with this.

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I know what you are thinking.  Tarah is a bright individual and many have not heard this depressing tale.  But it is true, for this is how I got to Brost.  It is a rough tale for me to tell.  Life moves ever onwards however.  I have made my peace with that knight.  I did what I had to and now I do what I can to make my family proud.  An adventurer, a performer, these things I am.  So come round my friends gather around, the next tale will be filled with less sorrow I promise.

 

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