There was once a small elven village built at the forks of two small rivers. The Duin Ninn and the Duin Vanwa joined to form the mighty Duin Ereg-Ruth. It was here that this small tribe of wild elves chose to settle to tend their Vallah and sheep. The Forks or as it came to be known to the tribe after three generations, Feawen Numenesse, was in a great valley that was surrounded by the mountains that gave birth to the rivers. The Myonna tribe had grown comfortable in their valley, never interested (as elves often are) in the troubles of the world.
Things had been quiet in Feawen Numenesse for hundreds of years. Occasionally nomadic tribes of elves that would often traverse the mountain passes in search of rare roots and herbs would bring news of the kingdoms of men, voraciously expanding in the quest for empire, but the Myonna paid them no mind. The sweeping granite mountains provided too great an obstacle for the interests of men to overcome.
Besides, there was no gold or silver in the valley, nor washed from the mountain by the rivers. Celahir Felagund, the keeper of the Myonna would often shake his head, commenting on the pettiness of humankind as he traded wool and salted fish to the nomads for the rare steel tools, herbs and spices they gathered.
Celahir and his wife Merewen, the tribe's healer and priestess of Ehlonna had a very beautiful young daughter. Ireth Felagund knew how Ehlonna had blessed her, and would often flirt with the young nomadic elves to get special treasures they thought of as promise gifts.
She had unspoken betrothals to five different young nomad hunters from different tribes. Her younger brother Findecano would often pick at her and test her patience by threatening to reveal these secret romances to their father. Ireth knew these were idle threats however; she would always make sure she obtained trinkets that Findecano would take as payment for his silence. It was all harmless anyway; Ireth knew she was truly betrothed to the yet-to-be-born first son of Earwen Telemnar, the tribe's chief hunter.
Earwen would often make snide comments to her father about her behavior within earshot of her. There was to be no love lost between future father/daughter-in-law.
Ireth only hoped when Elhonna did decide to bless the Telemnars with a son, which he would be nothing like his father. One young nomad had especially taken a shine to Ireth. His tribe came through Feawen Numenesse twice a year and the two would often slip out at night to the grand falls of Ereg-Ruth and dream together. This past summer he had brought Ireth a musty old tome he had found in a cave while gathering mushrooms.
It made one's fingers tingle to the touch. He had exchanged it as a token of betrothal with Ireth, and she had given him a necklace made of small shiny gems, stones, shells, and metallic beads she had made from treasures she found along the banks of the rivers' fork.
It had been three and a half seasons since she had seen her hopeful suitor. Ireth feared her meddling with the young nomad had angered his father, the keeper of his tribe, and had lead his father to change the tribe's route. She would walk down to the falls where they had spent many nights, and would wonder if she herself was happy with her life in Feawen Numenesse. The first day of snowfall she found herself wandering towards the falls gathering her treasures.
Lost in her thoughts she was startled back to reality by a scream. Then another. It was familiar. Again. Her name? Louder this time, getting closer. She ran in the direction of the shout. As she topped the hill that bound Duin Ninn on its meandering course southeast she spotted her younger brother. Findecano was running towards the river, a startled look on his face. No, it was terror she saw in his eyes. The terror was replaced by great sadness as he saw her, and he dropped to his knees.
Ireth sprinted to him, confused, but most certainly afraid. As she reached Findecano, his arm outstretched, she caught him as he fell forward.
"Men," he sighed as his head slumped onto her shoulder. "What? Men? Findecano you. Ow! She yipped feeling a sting in her other shoulder. She pushed him back slightly and found blood on her pretty fleece tunic. There was blood on Findecano too.
And an arrowhead sticking out of his shoulder. The world was spinning. She felt his warmth, felt it running down her chest from his wound.
Was that smoke she smelled? She heard a horse whinny. Ireth whipped her head around. She saw a human on a horse pulling the reigns and stopping near her and Findecano, inspecting them.
She tried to gather her brother up in her arms and escape. She saw three more humans coming from the direction Findecano had been running. All three were carrying hunting bows. She took two steps and staggered, steadied herself, then stepped on her skirt and fell with Findecano. I've never seen hunting bows like that, Ireth thought. She held onto Findecano, her eyes shut so tight it hurt.
Praying to Ehlonna to awake from this horrible dream. Ireth heard their footsteps and winced. Then she felts hands on her. Her eyes snapped open to see four sets of eyes looking at her like she was a hot leg of mutton at the winter feast.
They spoke, but she couldn't understand their language. She thought it might be common, but their accents were so thick. A burlap bag was quickly put over her head and cinched, her hands and feet bound and Ireth was thrown over the rear of the horse. After what seemed like hours and gallons of tears that had welled from her eyes, Ireth was tossed from the horse onto the ground. She could smell fire and death. It was not a smell she had ever smelled before, but there was no imagining it to be anything else.
The bag ripped from her head, she saw many of her village's young huddled together. Several of the women were with them trying to calm them. She heard a skin-tingling, unholy scream. All of the captured turned to see two humans holding a young elven girl, screaming.
They released her kicking her toward the group. A large human holding a pair of red-hot shears clearly said, "Next." The girl crawled on hands and knees to her mother. The humans had cut her right ear from the point at the top in two, all the way down to the base of her skull. The girl's mother hysterical, trying to calm her child and herself from the ugly wound inflicted on her ear, was grabbed by the two men and dragged to the fire.
And so it went until all of the elves, young girls and boys and women, had their right ears cut in twain. Ireth had not screamed or fought. Most didn't after the first few. Their spirits defeated and no men to stop them, what was left of the tribe's collective minds were turning to survival.
Ireth's mother had played a big part in calming the group. She was all that was left of the tribe's authority, and the others followed her lead. No one spoke. The elves were forced to drag out the bodies of the dead and pile them up in the middle of the village. Ireth thought how ironic it was that her mother's sacrificial alter to Ehlonna was now piled as tall as a human with nearly 40 dead elves.
Is this the gift of Ehlonna to her faithful? She thought. The humans barked at the elves, groped them, hit them spit on them and finally, just before dusk had started tying them all together with rope. They saw their wood and mud dwellings turned inside-out, and then knocked down. Their few valuables pilfered. The humans began making a wooden pyramid with the remnants of the dwellings over top of the bodies piled on the altar. They had begun drinking and celebrating even before the bodies were cold.
The pyre was lit and the elves softly sang their loved ones to Ehlonna's bosom. The humans threatened the elves and sang songs of their own to drown out the elven dirge. The revelry soon died down. The elves tried to stay close to the pyre. Sad as it was, it was the last warmth the slain men would ever bring their families.
Some women and girls were loosed and dragged into the darkness by the humans.
Ireth thought she was to be one of the lucky ones, but just as she started to drift into the sleep she thought would never come, she felt hands on her. She shook and almost screamed. Relieved to find it was her mother. Which meant…? Merenwen saw the look in her daughter's eyes and smiled wanly, trying to assure Ireth that she was fine. Merenwen laid a cold, wet hand on Ireth's injured ear and began her healing chant.
Ireth knew some of her mother's healing spells and potions, and desperately wished she had paid more attention to them now. She felt the pain go out of her ear and could actually feel the flesh stitching itself back together. She felt her mother kiss the top of her head, then Merenwen moved on to the woman tied to Ireth.
Peace filled her and she passed out of the waking world and began to dream of her young nomad. His embrace, they swayed in the breeze coming off of the falls. The sway quickened. He was shaking her. Why was he shaking her? Her dream broken and her weary eyes greeting reality her heart jumped with hope! It was really him! He had come to save her. Her worries forgotten, her broken heart at her lost loved ones gone; he was going to take her away from this nightmare!
No, his eyes were different, his smell that of the humans, not the exotic spices the nomads used to clean themselves with.
His ears were not as long, and the right one… "My lord wishes an audience wild rose," he whispered in perfect elven. It was polished elven, not what one heard in the wilds.
The word for wild rose, Clalas, sounded fragile to her ears, delicate. His teeth showing in his grin, Ireth felt her newfound hope stabbed and mutilated by piercing and sudden dread. The half-breed quickly untied her and led her towards a great tent set at the rear of their village. It was nothing beautiful, but large and weather-worn with many patches.
The half-human flung the flap open and pushed her inside, closing the flap behind him. At his shove Ireth fell to her knees. "Get used to that position," the half-human seethed in elven. Then in common, "As you requested, my lord." He bowed deeply and winked at Ireth, then stood and was back out the flap as quickly as they had entered. The man was dressed in thick furs, dyed to distinguish him as an important human. He stood and approached Ireth, speaking his titles and lands; words that were lost on Ireth in her fear.
He cupped her chin and brought her to her feet, forcing her to meet his stare. "My name is Rudyard Yasmin Pattan, Knight of King Eragaar, Duke of Greystone, and third in line for the throne. You are now my slave. Your ear will forever be your mark of servitude…" he trailed off as he turned her head to examine her ear. There was no mark. It was uncut.
Pattan threw her aside in anger. He threw the flap to the tent open and yelled, "COROVAN!!!" A huge beast of a man entered, short of breath. It was the man who had cut their ears earlier that afternoon.
"What in Hextor's bloody tit is going on here?! I told you they were ALL to be marked! No exceptions!" Pattan boomed. "I did my lord! I swear it! Every one! I j-j-just…" Corovan stammered. Suddenly, the half-human poked his head in through the flap, "A witch, my lord. We caught her fixing the slaves' ears." "How in bloody hell did she get loose?!" Pattan demanded.
"My lord, your granted…, well proclivities allowed by you with the slaves," the half-human began. "To hell with them! If you men can't tie them back up then you damn well aren't going to fuck them! Any man caught with one of my slaves in his bedroll tonight is to be flogged!" "Yes, my lord," the half-human quickly said. "And this witch, tie her to a post. I'll want to make and example in the morning.
Mydre, I want her stripped, cut off her hands, and cut out her tongue. No more of her witchery tricks tonight, Pattan ordered. "At once, my lord," Mydre replied. With that the two were gone out of the tent like a bolt from the sky. "And you my dear, you will sleep in warmth tonight with me in my tent. No, no. I will be gentle with you my little wild rose. No need to cry, but I will confess to you that it does quite a bit for my libido," Pattan said with a grin.
Ireth tried to explain. Desperately tried to convey that she would do anything he requested, but to take pity on her mother. Her pleas were mistaken by Pattan for pleas for her innocence. The language and accent barrier between his and Ireth's common were too great when faced by his lust for her. Ireth fought to get away, but Pattan was a strong human; tempered by years of conquest and massacre. He forced her into his bed. He tore her clothes, and then tore more than just her clothes.
Ireth wept. She wept as she heard her mother scream as the humans chopped off her hands, almost in sync with the loss of her innocence. And the last strangled cry as Pattan finished with her and her mother's tongue was removed in a sputtering cry. Ireth lost herself to the abyss of unconsciousness for the third time that day.
The next morning came and Ireth woke to find Pattan himself bathing her gently with a warm rag. She curled up to hide her nakedness. Dear Elhonna, she ached and burned all over! Pattan brushed her soft blonde hair from her eyes and gently kissed her forehead. He finished bathing her and made her stand. He draped warm furs dyed a deep crimson over her shoulders, then placed warm fur boots on her feet.
He opened an unassuming chest and brought out what looked to be a necklace. Gold and ruby encrusted it glittered so!
Ireth was spellbound by its beauty. Pattan opened it on a hinge and placed it around her throat, clasped it in the rear and spoke a funny word. It shrunk to fit her slender neck tightly and Pattan attached a small chain to it just under the hinge. The chain was so fine it appeared to be a golden rope necklace, but Ireth realized too late it was a leash. Her leash. Pattan clipped it to his belt and tugged on it to lead her out of the tent.
The looks her tribesmen gave her as Pattan paraded his new prize to the smoldering pyre made her wish they killed her in the attack the day before. Now his whore, her tribesmen cast their eyes down, some in sadness, others in disgust and anger.
Ireth couldn't blame them. She deserved their hatred. Unlike the rest of her tribe, she had slept in a warm tent and wore warm robes. They had been stripped of all clothing and forced to endure the steadily falling snow and biting winds coming down the mountains through the valley.
As she and Pattan rounded the last pile that used to be a dwelling Ireth gave a shriek and fell in the mud and blood, soiling her new fur robes. The sight was her tortured mother tied to a post in the great common area used for seasonal celebrations and sacrifices. She barely recognized Merenwen. The hair had been burned from her head.
There was dried blood all down the front of her nearly blue, naked body, chilled by the freezing winds. The stumps where her hands used to be, the only color that was left in her body a bright red and dark red from crusted blood. Ireth sobbed, cried out for her mother. "Ireth!" a voice shouted.
It was her brother! Findecano was alive! A human soldier punched his little frame in the ribs hard and he hit the ground, doubled over in pain.
A grunt came from her the body of her mother. Sweet Elhonna! She's still alive! Ireth thought. She began a prayer for her mother's spirit to be taken to Elhonna's bosom swiftly, but was interrupted as Pattan dragged her by her new leash toward a table two humans placed in front of the post where her mother was.
The two men pulled her up and placed her head on the table as Pattan began speaking. Something about submission and the price of defiance. Ireth felt the searing pain in her ear again. She tried not to cry out but was unable to stifle the urge.
Pattan pulled her up by her hair and held her to face her mother, tears running down both of their faces. "This is how I punish defiance and mutiny!" Pattan boomed at the captives. The man who had untied Merenwen last night was led out, hands bound and shirtless. He was large but otherwise common. Another human stood behind him and began to lash him with a flail. The human resisted the first few lashes, but eventually went to his knees and was laying face down in the mud for the last few lashes.
He was lead away and a small elven girl was brought to the table. Ireth was on her knees shivering, afraid of what was about to happen. The small naked child was picked up and placed on the table, her hands and feet slipped into ropes cleverly connected and pulled tight by Pattan himself. Corovan brought the heated shears to the girl and deftly snipped the ear that Merenwen had repaired the night before. The girl yelped and all of the elves flinched at the sound. Silence followed.
Corovan looked to Pattan asking an unspoken question. Pattan answered silently with a single nod. "You," Corovan spoke and pointed at one of the soldiers. A cheer went up among the humans. They were patting the chosen man on the back even as he began unbuckling his belts and tugging at his trousers. "NO!" a shrill shout went out.
The girl's mother rushing to the table to rescue her daughter.
As she reached the table a human stuck his leg out causing her to fall into the table. He picked her up, her hands bound and no way to really struggle, he slammed her head on the table. Blood poured from a gash beneath her eye where she struck the table, and was smeared with the tears flowing from her pretty almond, green eyes.
"You get front row for this event momma," the pant less man laughed as he loomed over the small girl. It was horrible. The screams and the crying. A collective sigh went out when the man was finished and climbed off the table. The man, satisfied pulled his trousers up and buckled his belts.
Then to the elves terror pulled out a dagger and slit the girl's throat. This continued through the morning. Another pile of bodies was made as all of the elves were branded again, Pattan having every third killed. By the time his servants brought out the food for his lunch the tribe of the village of Feawen Numenesse that had yesterday morning been home to over a hundred elves, now claimed 21 survivors, all women and young children, all branded, broken and ready for auction.
All except for Ireth. She was taken back to Pattan's tent, made to bathe and informed by Mydre that she was to be ready to travel back to Pattan's hold to be his chamber-slave.
In his rush to gather her up and cart her off, Mydre didn't see Ireth pick up the old tome they had found and tucked it beneath her robes.
The last Ireth saw of Feawen Numenesse was from the back of a high-walled cart, the bodies of her tribesmen piled around her mother, tied to a post. She saw the humans poring lamp oil over the bodies. Just as the cart bumped over the last hill toward her new life as a slave they lit the pyre. Goodbye my family, Ireth thought silently, weeping.