Short Stories and Tall Tails
- Race:Lightfoot Halfling
- Alignment: Neutral Good
- Class: Ranger
- Languages: Common, Halfling, Elvish
- Personality Traits: If someone is in trouble, I’m always ready to lend help. I’m curious, hardworking and reserved but friendly
- Ideals: Skillful. To be able to protect the innocent from threats they cannot save themselves from.
- Bonds: I left my family behind when I left to travel the world. My shortswords were a gift from my father, and I carry them to feel brave and connect me to my family.
- Flaws: I am single-minded when going after what I want. I am ashamed of my past actions and scared to go home, despite them calling me a hero.
It’s hard to trace the exact chain of events that led to my being here in this wagon with a group of strangers. I move around, never settling in one place for long, and Restwell Keep seemed like the best place to go next. It’s been six months to the day since I left Aberhill, and I haven’t looked back. I don’t want to look back. There is so much in this world to see beyond that small village flanked on one side by rolling grassland and fields of produce, the other side by the vast expanse of the sea. There is so much to see beyond what happened there.
It seemed like any other day when I awoke; in the house that my father’s father had built. That day, my only errands were to pick up vegetables in the market for my mother, and to work on the woodcarving commission that our neighbour had hired me to do. The sun was bright, though the cold sea air was blowing over the village and I could hear the chatter of the market get louder as I approached. Although this was my home, I clutched the hilt of the short sword my father had given me. He had been mugged near this market not 2 months ago, and he had been adamant that I be able to defend myself should it ever happen to me. We lived in harmony for the most part, but there were some who thought they could take advantage of a small Halfling woman. I pushed my way through the crowds – a mix of humans and Halflings alike – and greeted those I knew with a wide smile. I had reached the familiar vegetable stall run by an elderly Halfling named Gilda, when I heard a terrified scream from behind me.
The panic spread through the crowd quickly, and chaos erupted. I turned around towards the noise as a large Halfling male banged his shoulder into mine in his rush to escape…whatever it was. The shove knocked me to ground, and my tailbone it the ground with a painful thud. From my vantage point on the floor, I couldn’t see anything except frantically racing feet, and the terrified faces of those market customers who had also been thrown to the floor in the commotion. Frightened, I crawled on my hand and knees and took cover under the stall nearest to me. My heart was racing faster than I had ever felt it before. People, my friends and neighbours, were running in terror. I had never heard so much noise in my life. With trembling limbs, and forcing myself to breathe in and out, in and out, I ducked my head out from under the table. And stared straight into the face of the deadliest creature, with the sharpest beak I had ever been. I had only seen pictures of it before in the books that my mother liked to read. Axe Beak. The name came to me in a flash; my mind giving identity to the thing my body was so afraid of.
I couldn’t move. My body was literally frozen in fear, and I stopped breathing. The beast stopped too. He just maintained eye contact with me, and slowly bend his head down towards mine. Everything around me faded away. All I could see was the terrifying, cunning eyes of the beast and the crimson liquid dripping from its mouth that had once sustained beings just like me. I, somehow, inched my hand towards the short sword strapped to my side. The hilt felt cold against my sweaty palm. Not breaking eye contact with the beast, I drew my sword; the noise of the blade running against the sheath masked by the screams of terror and pain coming from all around me. I don’t know, to this day, how I found the strength to power through the paralysing fear but I launched myself at the Axe Beak with a piercing scream ripping from my throat. My sword was brandished before me, and I stabbed with all my might. The beast didn’t move as my blade sunk deep into its exposed neck. It slid through the feathers, the muscles, and sinew easily, and I felt the blood spill from its body and onto my hand and arm. My yell petered out into heavy breathing, as I stood over the bleeding creature. My eyes grew wide as I realised what I had done. The beast writhed and screeched, but I had hit the main artery running up its neck and it was bleeding out fast. By sheer luck I had hid the Axe Beak right where I needed to. The beast fell prone at my feet with a heavy thud, and I stood over the body still clutching the blood soaked sword. I had killed it.
I raised my head from the corpse, and scanned the now destroyed market place. There were bodies lying everywhere. Some had been gorged, some trampled by the mobs of people trying to escape, and some crushed under the fallen wooden structures that had made up the market stalls. That image will be seared in my brain, behind my eyelids, and with me when I sleep for the rest of my life. But I never want to feel that scared again, or see that level of carnage. The survivors lauded me as a hero, but I didn’t feel it. I had been terrified, and luck had been on my side. But what I had done was no heroic act. So many people had died that day – the effect that that one Axe Beak had had on the small village was gigantic. We had thought we were far enough away from the hunting grounds of large beasts or creatures, but we were wrong. The world was encroaching on the peace we had built there, and we could no longer afford to look away from the world. The market – though in the process of being rebuilt – brought cold sweats to my body any time that I went near it. In the street I got a mixture of adoration and fear. Even my parents looked at me differently – as though I was no longer the person they had thought me before. So I had to leave.
Aberhill was no longer the haven that I had always thought it, and closing myself off from the rest of the world was no guarantee of safety. I would no longer be scared, and I would face the world head on. And so I am in this wagon travelling towards Restwell Keep with the world before. And this is just the beginning of the journey…