A New Family
I walked around the city for around half an hour trying to find the tavern Arc and I had agreed to meet at. I was starting to think that it had been a really bad idea to split up, when I collided with something hard. I fell backwards, landing with a ‘wud’ on the dirt side street. Looking up I found it to be a low hanging sign that read “The Ax and Bow”, which was the tavern that Arc and I were searching for. It was a dingy looking two story building, set alongside other, smaller, dingy buildings, with dull grey rock serving as their foundations, and sagging roofs that had seen better days. It was the exact mental image I had, had of the place, and aside from the splitting headache that I now had, I couldn’t have been happier to find it. After half an hour of searching I was getting frustrated and wanted a drink. Which is saying something by the way, I’m not a heavy drinker. In fact, I rarely, if ever, drink anything stronger than a spiced mead.
“Well it’s about time.” Arcs voice called from the other side of the street. He was sitting on some old wood crates holding a bag of toasted nuts in one hand, and what I think was a roasted newt on a stick in the other. He stood up and took a bite of the newt before walking across the street towards me and the tavern. “I’ve been here for nearly an hour now. What took you so long?” he laughed and took another bite of the newt then held it out to me. I cringed away from it and shook my head, it smelled awful. He shrugged and finished it off before he prompted me to answer. “So? What kept you?”
“Got lost.” I shrugged “I hate cities. Too many people, too many chances for someone to kill you and make it look like an accident, too many places to hide the body..” I felt my hand go to my throat as I looked around. I felt the scar around the base of my throat, that constant reminder of just how dangerous life as an assassin could be. Before I got married, I trusted one person, and one person only. Andraste.
I guess I should probably explain a few things about the two of us; we are, first and foremost, family. Her, her brothers, and her father are all I have. My family was killed a long time ago and by the time I came to them I had all but forgotten what it was like to be a part of something like that. They had taken me in, taught me to feel again, and because of that I found love in a wonderful woman. We had, had a little boy together and not long after, they were taken from me as well. Once again, they were there to pick up the pieces. You know, it’s funny, I hadn’t actually even intended to be friends with Andraste. I was supposed to kill her.
She was my fifth assignment. The daughter of a powerful Fae Elven general, the legendary Arcanus Blueleaf. The client wanted to send a message to the general, and figured that the loss of his beloved daughter would do the trick. They told me where to find her, what time to find her, and that I needed to do it before she realized I was there. Once again I didn’t ask any questions. She liked to do her meditation at around four in the morning under a low hanging willow tree, on a bed of hot coals. I waited and watched as she set everything up for her meditation, starting smoldering coals with a jet of fire from the end of her staff, and placing a pillow over the top of it. Once she was deep into her trance I moved around behind her keeping my distance so she wouldn’t be able to see me.
The light from the coals lit up the entire dome made from the branches of the tree. As I took a closer look at the surroundings, I noticed the ground around the tree, as well as places on the trunk were covered in scorch marks. I had been warned that the general had taken great care in teaching his daughter to defend herself, but to what degree, nobody had said. It worried me, and I was starting to wonder if maybe it had been a good idea to take on this contract. I pushed the thought out thought because, again, I needed the money, and moved in behind her knife in hand. Before I could so much as place it to her throat fire erupted all around us, and she was facing me, the staff that had been leaning against the trunk of the tree, just out of arms reach, in hand. The spell book that had been open on her lap was now hanging from a golden chain at her hip.
Her deep red and gold robes whirled around her, like the fire that surrounded us, seeming to flicker in the light. The long sleeves were slit from the shoulders down to the wrist where they came together again and fit around her wrists, allowing you to see the black dragon tattoo that wrapped around her arm from her shoulder all the way down to the base of her fingers. She had long silvery-white blond hair that hung down to the middle of her back, and framed her face. Her indescribably beautiful face. High cheek bones glowing, green, pupil-less eyes paired with a bow shaped mouth, a dainty looking button nose, and a thin pointed face that looked like it was made of porcelain.
She had the usual cold indifferent look on her face that all Fae Elves wore, but something was different about her. There was something in her eyes. At that moment it was rage, but still; it was different, and it sparked my curiosity. I pushed that to the back of my head though because I was still in work mode and I really wanted that pay check. She looked me up and down, holding the dragons head at the top of her staff to my throat and pointing a fireball at a very important place. You could see the fire dancing in her eyes it turned her silvery blonde hair to gold and danced across the shimmering surface, it was terrifying, and beautiful.
“If you value your life” she whispered “You will drop the knives, sit down, and answer every question I ask honestly and clearly. Is that understood?” her wind-chime voice was low and deadly. I nodded and slowly sat down, not because I was scared she would kill me, but because I was rather fond of the area she had the fireball pointed at.
She sat with me gracefully folding her legs on the pillow she had been sitting on before, her staff never leaving my throat. “First things first” she chimed “Who are you?”
“You want my real name; or would you rather I tell you an alias?” I grinned, and she glared “The name’s Lucas, Lucas Stoneblade. I’m an assassin for an organization that you don’t need to know the name of, and I would really appreciate it if you wouldn’t mention this to anyone. I don’t really wanna lose all the benefits I’ve got.” sarcasm was not my ally that night, as she was in no way amused. Or so it appeared, I saw the faintest hint of a smile cross her face, but it was gone as quick as it appeared. Although it never left her eyes, and if I looked closely I could see it playing around the corners of her mouth. If you really get to know Andraste you come to realize that it never really does leave. She’s always got at least a faint smile on her face, unless you truly anger her.
“Ok” she, said, her voice slightly less hard, “why are you here? besides the fact that you were obviously about to kill me.”
And there it was, the question I wanted to answer the least. Right off the bat. She never did waist much time with things like that. I sighed heavily before I answered hoping she would have mercy on a boy that was just trying to earn his living in a kill or be killed society. “Well I suppose it’s rather obvious why I’m here.” I said quietly “Your father has enemies, and your the perfect target. Although I am starting to think that someone has it out for me, and not your family.” I rubbed my neck where her staff had first hit, it was going to leave quite a mark.
I’ll never forget what she did then. A smile broke out across her face and before I knew what was happening she was behind me with her staff across my chest like a bar “Well then” she whispered in my ear, “Maybe we should give whoever’s watching a show?” Her voice was no longer cold and uncaring. It was light hearted and full of life. You could hear the smile in every word. “I promise I won’t hurt you if you promise not to hurt me. Your employer will learn why it is in poor judgment to threaten a Blueleaf if nothing else.”
“Alright” I said slightly confused “sounds like a plan to me.” She giggled, and as quickly as she had been there she was gone. The fire that had been extinguished before was back in a ring around us and she was standing in front of me, with a look of excitement on her face. You could see that this was all a game to her. I shrugged and picked up my knives, taking a stance that normally would have meant death to anyone else. She smiled a devilish smile and vanished, I thought I was going insane for a minute then I heard her moving behind me. I turned around just in time to see her appear and flick her hand so that a fire ball came hurdling towards me. I dived out of the way and looked up at her as I hit the ground. I was shocked to see a grin still lighting up her face.
“Common Lucas.” she laughed “Show me what you’ve got.” I smiled and shook my head laughing. This girl was crazy.
“Alright” I laughed “but just remember, you asked for it.” I flew towards her only to be blocked by her staff. For the next ten minutes we were locked in a playful, but aggressive combat, both of us laughing and trying to best each other. After a while we started to notice a crowd gathering around the tree. We started to show off with fancy moves like back flips over each other and in her case a fire whip that would make me drop my knife when it hit my gloved hands. She moved like she was dancing. In my head I could hear the drums, flutes, and violins that Fae Elves are famous for using. Every hit of fire was the beat of a drum and the steps of her feet were the flute and violin as we twirled in our little circle of combat. I half expected the crowd to start clapping to the rythem that was going on in my head, but the song ended, because in my lack of attention she pinned me up against the tree.
“I think,” she whispered “that I have won this one.” Then just like before, she was gone as quick as she had been there, and was now standing about three feet in front of me grinning and bouncing up and down. “What is with her?” I thought to myself.
“You are an Fae Elf right?” I asked, her grin widened even more and she laughed, a tingling silver bell on an early snowy morning.
“Positive.” She stopped bouncing and held out her hand “I’m Andraste by the way. Andraste Blueleaf.” This was all blowing my mind. Since my mother died I had never seen an Fae Elf smile, and she only smiled if she was playing music, or singing.
All I could think to say was “It’s nice to meet you.” and shake her hand. By that point I had lost the nerve to kill her. She was just too sweet. I was glad that I didn’t though, because that was the beginning of a whole new life. Something awoke in me that day, something I had lost a long time before. A little spark that would gradually grow into a fire.
I enrolled in The Collage of Magi the next day, she had written her father using an enchanted parchment, which allowed him to read even as she penned the letters, and asked him to help me. He agreed to pay my way through at least a semester, which had, conveniently, just started. They had a few classes for Warlocks that I has interested in taking. She helped me with my studies and over the course of a few months we became close. Once break arrived she took me with her to meet her family because her father wanted to meet the person he was sponsoring. All I can say about that first meeting is that it scared the living Hell out of me.
We were greeted at the door by her six older brothers, all six feet tall and extremely muscled, with various tattoos on their left arms just like hers. Each and every one of them had some sort of deadly elemental weapon pointed at me.
Andraste’s hands went to her hips like a mother’s instantly. “Now boys” she said “last I checked this was not how we greet guests. Try saying ‘hello’ why don’t you?” She looked them all up and down and, one by one, they grudgingly introduced themselves. A smile played at the corners of her mouth the entire time. She seemed to be pleased with her ability to control her brothers. After that they didn’t seem too scary at all, except Rialvas. He still scares me to this day.
After a few days I came to enjoy the company of her brothers, and even her father; a very respected general in the Fae Elf army. He even helped me a little with my own studies. He actually helped me figure out Iron Spike of Dis, although I was forbidden to practice it near the house, village, or anything living. Never would I have guessed what kind of turn my life was about to take, however.
We were sitting in the back garden near the end of the holiday, watching Andraste and her brothers train when I asked “So General, do I get one of those tattoos like the rest of your brood? Or is that some kind of religious thing?” He laughed, a cold sound that was more smug than humorous.
“No Lucas. It’s not religious. It is more of a warning to the rest of the world. I have essentially molded my children into weapons, and what kind of fool unleashes an unknown weapon on society? The tattoos show the type of Mage they are.” He began pointing to each of his children in turn, “Andraste being a fire Mage has a dragon that goes along the majority of her left side. Quarion is an earth mage, and has stalactites and stalagmites, and rather large boulders on his upper arm. Rialvas is a poison Mage and therefore he has a vine of nightshade on his arm.” He pointed over towards Mindatar who was working with his sister to create molten metal “barbed wire and a sword for the metal Mage.” He pointed to the twins “a raging waterfall for Hadaris, and a bolt of lightning for Soveliss. And of course” he gestured to the pond where Daramil was freezing and unfreezing the water and creating ice-sculptures for his own amusement. “an arm of ice for the ice mage.”
I paused before asking my next question “And what was Cialynna?”
He stiffened and said quietly “Fire. Her symbol was a phoenix. It’s tail feathers spread out when they reached her fingers.” He was quiet for a while while we watched Andraste practice her fire whip. When he spoke again I heard emotion in his voice for the first time. “She looked just like Andraste, and their mother.” His voice was sad, but loving the kind of voice that chokes you up just a little bit to hear “She was calmer than Andraste however. She had control over emotions. She was sweet though. A diplomat. When their mother died she took over. Until it happened. She was seventeen, and Andraste was nine. She idolized her sister, and Cialynna loved Andraste more than anyone. Out of all of them, Andraste wants her home the most.”
Every time I see the look that crossed his face as he watched his daughter in my memories, I get the same feeling I felt that day when I swore that I would help him find her. That night he officially made me a member of the family, and branded my arm with a string of purple arcane flame.