An excerpt from my in progress fantasy novel.
"My father was a ranger of the east. He met my mother when an Elven Lord gave him shelter and food after he saved his household from raiders. Needless to say, they fell in love and married secretly," Aithne explained coldy, taking another sip of her wine.
"I take it he was a dark skinned man from Renau?" Dyaie commented, deciding to take this rare opportunity to find out more about this woman who could rival him in his every skill.
"No, he was a translucent skinned man from the Snowlends," she replied sarcastically, and a flit of a smile crossed Dyaie's lips. He did not comment, and was surprised when she continued.
"It was against my grandfather's wishes, naturally, but he knew his daughter well and was in debt to this ranger, so he allowed it. Secretly, of course. He was high standing enough that he couldn't risk it be known that his only daughter had married a human.
He hid her away when she was noticeably with child, and pretended my younger brother and I were orphans he had taken in out of the goodness of his heart. As a baby, my brother was always accepted by my grandfather's people, for he was entirely elf-like on the outside." Aithne's eyes darkened slightly, and she shifted her gaze from his face to the deep red of the wine in her cup. Unconsciously, Dyaie leaned closer to hear her better.
"I had the dark coloring of the Renau, and little of the elven beauty that was my mother's. The older I become, the more human I looked.
My family's household was invaded by neighboring dwarves after a dwarf was killed in a skirmish over a stream that was rumored to have gold. It was unexpected and they overran the defenses. My father immediately came to defend his wife and children." Aithne closed her eyes briefly, and the rain pounded on the window. Pain was etched across her features, and Dyaie knew she could see all of this clearly before her. He had no terrible childhood memories, but he could still see the bloody battles he had fought whenever his thoughts drifted to them.
"It was obvious when everyone saw the two of them together that my brother and I were their children. My father was slain in the battle, and after everything was cleaned up, my grandfather was forced to cast us from his house.
We became refugees, and were lost in the crowds of migrants trying to find better lives in the Borderlends or escape the skirmishes of their home countries. My mother was merely another woman fleeing with her children.
We managed to survive, and everything was starting to look brighter until..." Aithen's voice trailed off, and her grip on the delicate Elven glass was crushing.
"Until my mother realized she was with child again. It had happened right before my father's death. Now we had no home, no money, no father, and another baby was on the way.
War broke out in Renau, where we had gone to find refuge, and we were forced to flee. The Elves and the Humans were fighting again. One dark, cold night as we were running, my mother went into labor. We were forced to stop in a damp, freezing ditch away from the main road. She gave my brother a sleeping potion because he was so young, only four, and she didn't wish him to be witness to what was going to happen.
Elven births are extremely difficult, but the Elves are of hardy stock. But something to do with the unnaturalness of a union between elf and human makes birthing even more violent. Human women carrying half-elven children rarely survive, and Elven women almost always need the assistance of healers. My mother was underweight and it was bitterly cold. I tended to her through the night and the next day as she writhed and screamed and pushed. The next night I helped her finally deliver my sister; I was covered in blood and fluid, and I was helpless to stop the pain or the bleeding of my mother. It was as if she never realized she'd already given birth to the child within her, and the pains continued until she died from exhaustion and all the bleeding. My mother's dying screams had caught the attention of several Renau soldiers, who came to investigate. My brother was still sleeping, hidden in the tall grasses. The men saw my dead mother and the babe in my arms. They laughed about being rid of another Elf and defiled my mother's body. And then they demanded me to hand over my sister so they could be rid of the elven bastard, and I refused.
'It isn't no doll, girlie. I know yous found it, but yous can't keep it!' he shouted at me. Then I realized that they believed me to be human. I fought to keep hold of my sister, but they took hold of her and murdered her before my eyes. I was eight years old.
I had been cast out by my mother's people, my mother defiled by my father's, and my sister murdered. I certainly had no place in either world. I took my brother and fled to Kei, and there we grew up street rats. That is why I am so bitter, Aente. That is why I trust neither human nor elf, although I find my grandfather's offense against my family less grievous than what my father's people did." Aithne finished. Dyaie stared at her, horrified. To murder a child, a woman with child, or defile a woman or the dead wre the most heinous sins an Elf could ever commit. Any offenders were tortured and executed, although they usually took their own lives first.
Realizing that he had said nothing, he fumbled for words.
"Shigar is not an Elven name. Who was your mother?" he asked quietly, and Aithne finally raised her gaze to look at his face.
"My father was ranger Eikenna Shigar, and my mother was Alethiel Darowyn." she said softly, and Dyaie's eyes widened in shock.
"Alethiel Darowyn? The Sunstar?" He said incredulously, and Aithne nodded slightly. Dyaie felt bile rise in his throat and he had to fight to keep his normal cool expression. Alethiel Darowyn, or the Sunstar as she had been generally known, had been one of the most beloved maidens in the Elven kingdoms. She was renowned for her beauty, her kindness, and her blood. She was descendant of Kiroas Darowyn and Reinee Sunbrow, and relation to the lord of the kingdoms, Zathen I'Lod.
"You do realize, then, that you are the Darowyn heir since your uncle, Lord Darowyn's only son, died in the wars, and your mother perished in childbirth?" He asked her a moment later, and Aithne frowned, her features hardening.
"I do. But my surname is Shigar, and I am ugly to them. They may accept my brother, but he thirsts for humanity. No, Dyaie, my sister would be their heir if she had lived. But not I. And I do not want it." she replied firmly.
"You could create a haven for your people," Dyaie said, and Aithne's eyes narrowed.
"I could do that now, with enough work. The Halflings do not want a haven, and the Elves will not accept it." There was a long, uncomfortable silence. Aithne downed the rest of her wine in one gulp, and Dyaie uncharacteristically fiddled with the buckle for his sword belt.
"My sister was pale and fair-haired, but with eyes as dark as the Renau. She was beautiful, even as a newborn babe. I will never forget the sight of those soldiers dashing her head in." Aithne said softly, then rose from the table and gracefully left his presence.
Dyaie watched her go, and felt something stir in his heart.
"You are not ugly," he said, but it was too late. She did not hear him. A moment later he was glad, because he'd never meant to say it.