“LUCAS!!” I let out a squeal of excitement as Patches feet touched the ground. I jumped from his shoulder and was caught up in familiar arms that spun me around in a hug. I couldn’t keep the smile off of my face as he sat me back on my feet. I hadn’t seen him in so long, and yet here he was standing right in front of me with the same grin he had, had for over 100 years. “It’s about time you figured it out. I mean, I know I look a little different and all but come on Andraste.” He gave me one of his wicked little grins and I couldn’t help but play along with his teasing, just like I always had.
“Well maybe if you hadn’t introduced yourself as Rook I wouldn’t have been so confused.” I laughed and hugged him again. Pulling away I asked “And when did you become a Shade? Last time I saw you, you were still with Thurani House.”
“I’ve only been a Shade for about 58 years, but I can’t believe it’s been that long since I’ve seen you. What happened to Asmodeas? Is he still around?”
“Of course he is!” I laughed at the memory of Rook’s first meeting with my dragon. Rook had come to visit me, though I hadn’t been home at the time, and had come face to face with a wyrmling bronze dragon, who had just begun to become territorial. “He lives in a cave next to the cottage, and wards off any trespassers that might stray too close.” Rook’s smile widened and he pulled me close again, kissing the top of my head.
“You have no idea how hard it was not to do this for the past few days. I missed you so much.” I sighed in content and pulled him closer, feeling the tears prick my eyes.
It was at that moment, that Patches deep rumbling voice broke into our reunion “Did I miss something?“he growled “Who in the nine hells is Lucas?” I flushed when I realized we had been speaking elvish, and Patches and Arc looked very, very confused. That is also when I realized that we were still in our embrace. We broke the hold simultaneously and turned to face our companions.
“Lucas,” Rook laughed, “is my name. I only adopted the name Rook to keep people off my trail, and to protect Andraste, and her father and brothers.”
“Well,” Arc laughed, “it looks like we’ve reunited a couple of love birds.” The two of us shook our heads, putting up our hands in defense. He couldn’t have been more wrong, Rook was my younger brother.
Before we go on, you’ll need to know a little about me.
I was raised in a- well an unconventional family, at least for a Fae Elf family. For nineteen years, I was the youngest of eight children. Many may be wondering why this is unconventional, and this would be because you are human, halfling, orc, or some other short lived and clan living race. Fae and other elven races, have families which are typically small and spread out in years. The eldest and youngest being between nine and twenty years apart, with nine to fifteen years between children, and only two to three children per household.
My parents, Arcanus and Athena, were blessed with fertility.
I have seven older siblings, six brothers and one sister. Rialvas and Cialynna are eldest. After them comes Mindatar only ten months younger, followed by another set of twins Sovilas and Hidaras one year later, then Quarion a year after them , followed by Draramil one year after him, and finally me a full three years after Draramil. All of us having the same long silky silver hair and pale skin, but only Cialynna, Quarion, and I inherited our mother’s green eyes. The rest of our brothers inherited our father’s deep blue.
Our mother passed when I was only two, leaving our father with eight children under the age of twelve, which for a Fae Elf is nearly an infant. Luckily he was a talented sword mage, a high ranking general in the Fae Elven army, and a war hero of the first black crusade. As such, he was well versed in keeping command over even the rowdiest of troops, and raised us as he would an army. He taught us from the time we were two to fight, and kill. Instilling in us the knowledge that it was important to know how to defend ourselves and our comrades at any given moment, and molding us into the equivalent of living weapons.
He branded us all with a magical tattoo, signifying who we are and what we can do, and reflecting our favored element. For example, Cialynna and I both favor fire and were branded with a phoenix and dragon; the dragon being me. Rialvas, preferring acid and poison, received a vine of nightshade, and Draramil; who favored ice; looked as though his entire left arm and shoulder were made of ice. These tattoos will glow in times of significant distress, anger, or when we perform spells of great power and energy; they also doubled as an early warning system for our father when tempers and emotions ran high.
Our lives were comfortable, but simple. We grew up happy and healthy, as prominent members of the Fae Elven courts. Each attending The College of Magi from the time we were 15 until 19. We were a nearly perfect family; until I was nine. Cialynna, Rialvas, and Mindatar were home from school for mid-term break, when our lives were shaken to the core yet again. Cialynna and I were in the midst of doing the shopping in the market; though we had servants, Father thought it was best for us to do the majority of household chores ourselves. It had grown dark and we were due to meet the guards and carriage back home, when the sounds of screaming filled the air. We looked frantically for the cause, and soon discovered its source; a Dark Elf raiding party. The stench of blood began to fill our nostrils, indicating that they had breached the gates of the town. I knew the guards had been slaughtered. Cialynna quickly pushed me beneath a clothed table and told me to stay quiet in the hopes I would not be discovered. She, being seventeen and in her second year at the college, was confident in her abilities to protect herself and me, and so stood in the center of the street; waiting.
They soon found her, and before the battle had even begun it was over. She had not so much as had the chance to cast a spell. The Dark Elves had surrounded her and clasped her wrist in shackles etched with an anti-magic rune. “You’ll make a fine little pet for the mistress.” one of the fowl creatures sneered, before yanking my sister by the hair to a horse, and throwing her over the back. I was about to run from my cover to help her, when her eyes found mine. Without saying a word, or drawing attention to herself, she firmly told me to stay where I was as the Dark Elves rode away. That was the last time I saw my sister, eyes shining with tears, thrown over the back of a horse like a traveler’s pack. The image is forever engraved in my mind. It is the very reason that I choose to travel, the need to find my sister.
Ten years passed and I was top of my class, and about to start my final year, at the College of Magi. Our lives had slowly become some semblance of normal again after several years, though nothing ever can fill the empty space, both at the table and in the heart. My brothers had become very protective of me after the loss of our sister and sent daily letters to check on my well being whilst I was at school. Though, at home, they contented themselves with simply insisting I have at least one of them and an armed guard whenever I went into town. One day, a knock came at the door, the servants were all busy; leaving me to answer, and I opened the heavy oak doors to a sight that nearly had me fainting. A large orc man, stood before me. A black traveler’s cloak adorned his shoulders, and he smelled of mingled spices and earth; far from what I had learned to expect from Orcs. “I beg your pardon miss,” he growled, “but would the lord of the manor be home?” I could barely muster a nod, and held up a finger before shutting the door, lightly, and padding through the house to my father’s study.
“Father?” I said tentatively, while knocking at his door. A muffled “Enter” came from the other side and I pushed the door open to reveal my father, sitting behind his ornately carved desk, amid a sea of books which filled the ceiling high shelves that lined the walls of the circular room, and piled high upon the desk’s polished, wooden surface. His sapphire eyes peered up from beneath thick lashes and over the top of reading spectacles.
“What is it child?” he asked, sounding mildly annoyed.
“There is a man here to see you.”
“Very well,” he cleared his throat and sat strait in his chair, “show him in.”
“I think it would be wise to come to the front door to meet him father.”
“And why is that?”
“Well,” I had to think for a moment how to word my concerns and finally decided to simply say what troubled me “He’s an orc, Father.”
“Did you ask for his name?”
“And why not?” His expression shifted from mild annoyance to one of mingled amusement and irritation.
“I was in shock sir.”
He let out an exasperated sigh and stood from his chair, striding across the intricate rug which adorned the wooden floor to the door, and gently pushing past me. “Very well, come along then.” The two of us made our way back through the house to the front doors, where the orc was still waiting outside. Father opened the door, and gave a polite smile, “Ah, Master Gekel, I had wondered when I would be seeing you. Come in.” father stepped back, allowing the orc into the house.
“General Blueleaf,” Master Gekel said, gruffly “we have much to discuss. I trust you received my letter?”
“I did. Follow me.” Father said lazily, gesturing to the staircase which lead to the second floor, “We’ll speak in my study.” The two men began moving through the expansive entrance hall towards the large mahogany staircase, the spicy smell of Master Gekel lingering on the air as he passed. When two men were halfway up the stairs my father turned back to me, “Come along Andraste. This concerns you as well.” I nodded, surprised, and followed the men back to my father’s study, where I sat quietly on the large window bench that my mother had insisted upon having so she could keep father company whilst he worked.
Master Gekel, the leader of an assassin’s guild by the name of ‘The Bleak Disciples’, began to tell us about an apprentice of the guild. A young elven boy of seventeen, who had lost his way. “He’s a talented assassin.” Master Gekel finished, taking a sip of the tea father had had brought up, “But he needs to remember that there is more to life than killing. We cannot allow ourselves to become cold blooded.” Father nodded, his face showed not even the slightest of hints as to what he was thinking.
“I see.” he said slowly, “And your proposal is that we allow him to think he is on his way to kill my daughter; my only remaining daughter mind you ; who far surpasses him in level of skill and could kill him in an instant if she so chose, put him through training at The College of Magi even though he is a warlock and has no use for the place, allow Andraste to gain his trust enough to bring him back here so that I may train him myself, and prey to the gods that he doesn’t discover any of this and goes along with the plan?”
Master Gekel nodded a low growl in his chest signaling agreement.
“Well alright then. I see no way this could go wrong.” Father’s eyes rolled and he sighed in exasperation “Very well, Gekel, we’ll try it. But do not blame me if my daughter kills the boy.”
And so, the plan was put into motion; and to make a long story short, it worked. Lucas Stoneblade, better known as Rook, came to the college of Magi. After his failed attempt on my life we became fast friends, and he came home with me for the holidays. Father taught him control, discipline, and the compassion necessary to be an effective warrior. The only unforeseen event was father adopting Lucas. He had been orphaned years before, and so father gave him a place to call home. He was branded with a string of purple arcane fire, and remains a member of the family to this day.
That was a hundred and thirty-one years before our story, however. Back in present day; Rook and I had begun to laugh at Arc’s comment and explained to him that Rook was my brother. When we had finished our explanation, Patches gave a grunt and pulled out his flask of mead, taking a long draw, and looked pointedly in the direction of the Elves. Arc gave a nod and said “As much as we hate to cut your reunion short, I am afraid we must be off or you will never catch the Elves.” Patches nodded beckoning to me to him so that he could place me back on his shoulder.
I nodded and gave Rook one last hug, and a kiss on the cheek saying, “We’ll see you in the capitol. Stay safe.” and with that I allowed myself to be lifted back to the Minotaurs massive shoulder. The sun had barely started to come up over the horizon and as I took one last look back at my favorite brother and old friend, the light hit him just right and turned his hair back to the golden blonde it had once been, and I could see the blue in his eyes, it wasn’t really there, but I could picture it. ”His appearance may have changed, but at least he’s still my Lucas.” I thought to myself as we lumbered away. I couldn’t wait to catch up with him at the capitol.