Dusk War Saga
A half-elf of average height and a muscular build. He wears the high-quality hunting clothes of a noble sportsman but they are tattered, dirty, and have numerous un-skilled repairs. His hood typically obscures his face in shadow and his voice betrays the anger and pain that haunts him.
A man never knows what he is capable of until he is forced to make a difficult decision. Whether it is fear, anger, or love that forces his hand, it is still his hand and he is responsible for its actions.
The streets are dark tonight and a gentle rain falls. The familiar sound of my bow being drawn back to my ear instinctively calms my breathing and slows my heart. The focus of my eye moves from the fletching, down the shaft, and to the steel broadhead at the end of my arrow. A drop of water has formed on its tip and it hangs there. Through it I can see an inverted image of my target. My focus accelerates through open air and settles on my target’s sweet spot. The memory of my mother’s voice whispers in my ear, “Put your arrow through the vessel just above the heart. You will pierce the lungs and they will fill with blood. Death will come quickly and silently.” It is this moment, the moment before I release an arrow, when the rest of the world vanishes. All that exists is my target, my arrow, me. My target, my arrow, me. I exhale. I release. A moment of anticipation follows as I wait to see if my arrow will find its home. It is only a split second but everything that has brought me to this place flashes through my mind.
With a thud an arrow strikes dead center into a competition target. Yards away a young boy holds a bow at his side. He has a satisfied smile across his face that stretches from ear to slightly pointed ear. Next to him stands his mother. She is a strikingly beautiful, lithe elven woman. Her golden locks dance playfully across her shoulders in the gentle summer breeze as she too smiles. She places her hand on her son’s shoulder and says with a voice that is commanding yet softly spoken, “You did well, Ceres, the result of your effort is a bull’s eye. Your very first. I am proud of you, my son.” She moves toward the target, “Walk with me, Ceres.” As they slowly make their way across the lawn she continues, “Your shot was clearly successful but your style was very human. Your stance was stiff and your aim was wavering. You waited for the tip of your arrow to pass over the target and then released. That works fine for a stationary competition target but may not be as effective with more…fluid targets.”
“What else would I ever need to do, mother?” Ceres replies, “I hit the target right in the center and I’m sure I can do it again. Why would I ever aim at anything other than a competition target?”
She thinks for a moment, carefully choosing her words before responding, “One can never predict what the future might bring. You train now for competition but we live in a world rife with evil. There may be a time when you will want to use your skills for something other than sport.” She pulls the arrow from the target and hands it back to Ceres before continuing, “Come back to the line with me and I’ll show you the elven technique.”
The door to the d’Arundel estate swings open and slams against the wall as the teenage Ceres runs through. Sitting together on a plush davenport are his parents, Master Reynaud and Lady Azyr d’Arundel. They look up at their son as he rushes in; a look of irritation crosses Reynaud’s face. He has told Ceres time and time again to avoid slamming the ornately carved door against the wall. His irritation quickly fades when his eyes find the golden trophy clutched in his son’s hands.
“I won! I won!” Ceres exclaims, “It was down to Kasmir and I. He hit three bull’s eyes in the last round but I beat him with five!”
Raynaud’s face beams with pride as he stands up and embraces Ceres, “Well done my son, well done.”
“We are so sorry that we could not attend the tournament, Ceres,” says Azyr. “Our meeting with King Caliph’s committee went far longer than we—”
“Ahh, it’s okay mother, I understand how important your work is,” replies Ceres. “You and Dad watching me probably would have just thrown my concentration anyway,” he says with a smile.
Raynaud thrusts Ceres out to arms length and says, “You have the concentration of an Open Palm monk and you know it! Now come along to the dining room. Fairfax has prepared a special meal in your honor.”
“The King is dead! The King is dead!” News of King Caliph’s murder spreads through Whitegate in usual fashion. The event is like a pebble thrown into a pond and then, by word of mouth, a ripple of news travels outward in all directions until it washes up against the city walls.
Now a grown man, the first son of the noble house d’Arundel hears the news while mingling with his many friends in the Horn Shadow neighborhood. An expression of concern touched with fear crosses his sharply handsome features. He suddenly sprints through the crowd, weaving around and through groups of peasants with an uncanny ease, and heads for the Griffon Horn.
“Father!” Ceres bursts into the d’Arundel estate and passes on the grim news between gasping breaths. Master Raynaud wastes no time deciding what to do next. “Azyr, take the baby and escape through the tunnels. I will meet you at your family’s estate in one month.” Azyr begins to protest, but Raynaud embraces her and whispers something unheard into her ear. She nods, gives him a final kiss, and then rushes from the room with an infant bundled in her arms. Raynaud turns his attention to Ceres and shouts, “Go to where the tunnels exit and cover your mother’s route to the east gate!”
“But why? What is going on? Why are you sending them away?” Ceres questions.
“There is no time. I’ll explain when you return. Now GO!”
Ceres quickly retrieves his bow and quiver from his chambers. He rushes into the gloomy dusk of Whitegate where a gentle rain has just begun to fall. Before long he is running from rooftop to rooftop keeping just ahead of the fleeing Azyr and his infant brother. Near the east gate Ceres spies a man lying in wait. When the man sees Azyr approaching, Ceres notices the subtle glint of a blade as he draws it from its scabbard and conceals it within his cloak. Ceres quickly slides into a kneeling position on a nearby rooftop and draws an arrow from the quiver strapped to his side.
My target, my arrow, me. I exhale. I release. The arrow buries itself deeply into the man’s chest. He opens his mouth to scream as his blade drops to the cobbled street but only a froth of blood is produced. I watch as my mother escapes through the gate and am struck with sadness as I wonder when I will see her again. I begin my trek back to the family estate taking the same route along the rooftops. It is well into the night before I finally walk into the estate’s great room. Lying across the davenport is my father. Fairfax kneels beside him pressing a bundle of bloody rags into the side of my father’s chest. Fairfax looks up at me and shakes his head slightly. Everything around me becomes surreal. It is as if I am in a dream, a nightmare. I am vaguely aware of the sound of my bow striking the floor as it slips from my hand. My father’s eyes open slightly and I rush to his side. He tries to speak. With great effort he musters the breath to say one word which he whispers into my ear, “Treason.” He draws no further breath, and I descend into sorrow.