• The great eastern forest of Shada’rac; domain of the elven folk and other creatures shone a brilliant emerald in the rising sun. The singing of the birds filled the air and the great trees of the forest swayed gently in the refreshing summer wind. In the forest itself; deer were peacefully grazing in clearings that were no longer seen by human eyes, while two bears lumbered through the trees on the way to the Great River in search of food for the upcoming winter. There were forgotten trails left behind by hunters when humans had a truce with the sylvan folk. Now the only ones to walk the trail were the Elves themselves and occasionally some animals. The trails all led to the same destination, the city of elves, though some meandered for miles before arriving there.

    On this day the forest was silent, there wasn’t even the sounds of birds singing to disturb the air. In a meadow, a doe was grazing peacefully trusting the tall grass to protect her newborn fawn from the nearby predators. The sun shone brightly in the clearing covering everything there with a brilliant yellow light giving the mother and child a divine aura. Farther off in the trees, the young elven princess Ravaella watched them from the safety of a bush trusting the wind to keep her scent from blowing to startle them. Ravaella had long flowing hair that was dyed in the leaf patterns of most of the trees and deep amber eyes that were slanted like the rest of her race. She wore a loose fitting leather vest with a pale green undershirt and trousers to match the vest; she also wore a plain brown belt around her waist and soft deerskin boots.

    “Ravaella, maybe it’s time to be going?”

    That was her best friend and maid; Carlys Stalkingwolf. Carlys was a tall muscular half-elf with short dark hair and even darker brown eyes that were only slightly slanted. She always stood in the background, when they were at the palace coming only when she was called for, but when no one was around Carlys usually stopped playing the part of the meek and shy maid. Because of the elves’ hatred for half-elves, she had suffered terrible teasing by the other kids and which was the reason her father, Ravaella’s bodyguard Vicros Stalkingwolf, had taken her to be trained in the monk arts. Because of that Carlys was a match for any of the guards in hand to hand combat and she always let them know it.

    “Are you listening to me?”

    Ravaella just sat there watching the deer and pointedly ignoring Carlys. She and her father had gotten into a fight that morning and she was taking her anger out on Carlys which was unfair she knew but was too angered to care.

    “Ravaella if you don’t come now I am afraid I am going to have to carry you into the city and how would that make you look?”

    She looked toward her friend and saw that Carlys’ hands were planted on her hips; which usually was a bad omen. Last time she had done that they had to take a guard to the infirmary with a broken jaw and a fractured pelvis. The broken jaw was the result of her fist and the pelvis was when she had thrown him down four flights of stairs. Ravaella also knew that her friend never joked around and the mental picture of her being carried through the city like a sac of meal was too much to bear.
    “Alright, I am coming but I don’t see why you would want to get back there in a hurry.” Ravaella told her in a sullen voice.

    “Because it’s my birthday and I want to celebrate with my family, besides it is starting to get dark and we wouldn’t want your father to send out a search party for us.”

    Ravaella had to agree with that bit of wisdom, and beside she felt bad about having forgotten her best friend’s birthday. It was a big deal for humans when a child turned sixteen because it marked them as adults in the eyes of society. For elves it was usually when a child reached their second century but Carlys’ father had decided to celebrate both her sixteenth as coming of age ,and if she lived that long, her two hundredth.

    The path back to the city was devoid of any animals which weren’t unusual since not many animals enjoy being side by side with those who would eventually eat them. The path was regularly patrolled since news of roving slave traders had reached the palace. Ravaella plodded through the forest absorbed in her thoughts with Carlys following a little farther behind.

    Without a sound of warning a net fell out of the treetops right onto the unknowing Ravaella. Ravaella was born down onto the ground struggling under the heavy weight of the net.

    “Carlys help me, please!” Ravaella cried extending her arm toward her from under the confines of the net. She struggled to move but the weight of it immobilized her completely. Carlys ran up to her and started tugging on the net, trying to lift it high enough so that Ravaella could crawl out from under it.

    “Please Carlys help me!”

    Carlys looked around for something to cut the ropes with when the sound of branches cracking attracted her attention. She dove into the bushes and not a moment too soon; a group of Bone Orcs and a Hell Minotaur appeared. The Bone Orcs were tall humanoid creatures with a slightly ursine face and large tusks protruding from the bottom jaw. Their entire body was covered in bones; from the bony protrusions on their elbows that they could use as weapons to a bone helmet that covered their entire face except for the eyes. The Hell Minotaur was an impressive creature; it stood about twelve feet tall; with burning red eyes and pitch black horns. It had an incredibly muscular torso with arms that looked like they could squeeze the life out of a tree; its hide was black with crimson tips making it look like it was covered in dry blood.

    “Look what we have caught Graerl, isn’t she a pretty morsel?”

    The orcs were crowding around Ravaella poking and prodding her with their taloned fingers. Graerl, a giant Orc with a multitude of scars all over his face and body stepped forward and rested his massive club on his shoulder.

    “You’re right Grar she is pretty, I think I am gonna take her as my mate.”
    All the other orcs around Graerl burst into laughter, but stopped as someone else stepped out from the shadows of the forest. Carlys tried to see what he looked like but was impeded by the bush and the fact that he wore a cloak. What she could see was a giant sword strapped to his back and when he turned his back towards her she clearly saw the skull cross guard on the blade.
    “You know the deal Graerl; if she is a virgin you are in no way to harm her understand, the price she could fetch on the markets will be incredibly high.”

    He motioned toward the Minotaur who easily hoisted the net of f of Ravaella. As soon as she felt the weight off her back, she bolted forward catching everyone but the cloaked man off guard. She had made past Graerl when he stepped in front of her and caught her in his outstretched arms. Ravaella struggled and bit him until Graerl clubbed her and knocked her unconscious.
    “You better hope that you didn’t damage her too much, because if she is damaged in any way I will have your head and that of your clan.”

    “How do you think you are going to achieve that?” Graerl growled at him shifting his oversized club slightly on his shoulder.

    “I know the Orc-Bane Kazaki, and I happen to be a very good friend with him, so as I have warned you once I won’t warn you again.”

    Carlys didn’t know who Kazaki was but she could tell by the stiffening in the orcs that they were scared of him. But it seemed that even that threat wouldn’t stop the orcs; uttering a low growl four of them moved towards the man holding Ravaella. The man slowly lowered her to the ground then drew his sword from its scabbard on his back. Carlys’ eyes widened when she recognized the sword as one of the three Dragon Fangs forged by the legendary smith Garn Onyxarm. The blade was about six feet long and it glistened as if it was bathed in some sort of liquid. The eyes of the skull glittered darkly in the setting sun as if they were alive with an evil presence.

    “Stryphe put your blade down and we’ll talk.” Graerl pleaded with him.

    Stryphe looked at Graerl and shook his head. “It’s about time that I showed your men that making me mad isn’t a good idea.” he told him curtly.

    Four orcs charged Stryphe, swinging their weapons trying to hit him. Stryphe ducked under the first blow coming up right in front of the orc and running his sword right through it. The other three turned around quickly but he was ready for them; Carlys saw him run his index finger along the blade and the sword burst into flames. Two of the orcs backed away form the fire but the third brought his club down hard on the sword shattering the blade entirely. The orc stood there grinning victoriously as little sparks from the flames landed on his clothing. Standing and smiling is how the orc died when the little sparks exploded blowing the orc’s body in four different directions. The remaining two orcs looked at each other and the body of their fallen comrades before lowering their weapons. The Hell Minotaur picked Ravaella up and walked past the astonished Graerl without even looking at the disgraced chief. Stryphe brought his hand with the palm against the blade and moved from the cross guard outwards. Where his hand had passed the blade of the sword slowly regrew until it was once again a six foot long blade.

    “Did you really think I was bluffing about killing you all? I don’t really need you, my skills and the Minotaur is enough for most jobs. The only reason you are here is to help transport the cargo.”

    Graerl didn’t look too happy about what had just happened but he nodded his head and walked away into the shadows. Stryphe looked around the clearing then raised his hand and murmured a single word; “brazier” the bodies on the ground erupted into flames and were soon consumed by the fire leaving nothing behind. Only after this was done did he turn around and leave the clearing.

    After he left Carlys came out from her hiding place and started running toward the palace in the hopes of being able to stop the slavers before they left the forest. As she ran, ignoring the branches that slapped her face, she couldn’t help but blame herself for what had happened. She, who was an incredible monk, had stood cowering in the bushes as Bone Orcs had kidnapped her friend. What were her parents going to say? even worse what would King Seafire say when he would learn the news? She tried to think about what she was going to say but couldn’t get a hold on the words as they where casually blown away by the memory of Stryphe, she knew he was evil but somehow something about the way he had acted attracted her to him. She tried to phantom why this would be happening but the lights of the city glimmering on the horizon stopped her short.