So I was listening to “The Earth Prelude” by Ludovico Einuadi and got an image in my mind of something from the backstory of my character for Reign of Winter… three pages later, here it is. It’s been awhile since I’ve gotten hit with inspiration like that… I’ve missed it. Do take note that this is essentially unedited so it isn’t perfect.
Her eyes stung as she looked down at the body of her mother. The elven woman’s snowy hair stained with blood and earth, blank eyes staring up at the heavens. Aiyanna Caeliovan tried to fight the urge to cry, but felt the bitter tears leaking down her cheeks anyway.
She did not deserve this.
The caravan had been set upon just after nightfall. The roads through Belkzen had always been dangerous, but in over eighty years they had never seen a raid like this. Father had rushed to the front to help the humans keep the worst of the orc raiders’ forces at bay. She and her mother had remained near the back to help heal the wounded and get the children to safety. They were supposed to be safe there! But there was no safety when the orcs sprung out from the rocks on the side of the road. There were no soldiers when mother shoved her under one of the wagons along with the children. Cries from the caravan guards sounded as they fought towards them, but it was no good.
Aiyanna had watched in horror as the axe blade bit into her mother’s side just as the magic she was weaving released. Fire flashed and she had to hide her eyes, had to protect the children. Heat flared and the roar of the spell surrounded her, drowning out the screams as the orcs burned. When the smoke cleared, mother was on the ground… not moving. Aiyanna couldn’t breathe. Sounds of their fighters grew closer. Her father’s anguished cries at seeing his wife on the ground echoed through her mind. Mother was a healer, but her last act was to kill… to save her daughter and the children of the humans that had taken them in all those years ago.
The ground rushed to meet Aiyanna as she collapsed beside her mother, the sobs wracking her body. If only she had not frozen! If she had climbed out from under the wagon and fought, then maybe mother would still be here. Footfalls crunched behind her, causing Aiyanna to look up. Her father, his gore-splattered breastplate now removed, though his own white hair was caked with orc blood. She turned away, running a hand along the delicate point of her mother’s ear. The tears came so fast that they blinded her.
“I could have saved her, father! I could have fought with her! I could have…,” she gulped in air between the sobs, “I could’ve—”
“No, child.” Her father’s hand gripped her shoulder, turning her to face him. Through the tears, Aiyanna saw the elf’s face was somber, his blue eyes dull with grief. “She made her choice to save you and the others. It is my fault—I should have stayed to protect the two of you.”
“Zubrail needed you at the lead wagon,” she glanced towards the caravan’s leader. The Varisian looked grim as he helped drag the dead orcs out of camp.
“Zubrail is just a human, you and your mother are my family! We left the clan to stay together!” His voice was filled with anguish and guilt. Aiyanna took her father’s hand in hers.
“The caravan is the only clan we have now, father. You did nothing wrong.” The tears were slowing in the face her father’s display of emotion.
“Neither did you, Aiyanna,” he whispered.
It seemed like all movement in the camp ceased as the elder snow elf embraced his daughter. Aiyanna knew they did not expect such behavior from him. The tears rushed back to her eyes as they mourned the loss of her mother. It was just the two of them now… mother was dead, and Azria gone.
“Azria…,” Aiyanna pulled back to look at her father. “She will want to know.”
Her father nodded slowly. “Yes… I assume she would.”
It had been a long time since the young aasimar they had taken in and raised as their own had left with the ranger that had brought her to them in the first place. She had been like a sister to Aiyanna in their youth. Yes, she would want to know that the woman she’d called mother for nearly a decade was dead. Aiyanna had no idea how she would write that message.
“I believe her last letter said she had settled in Taldor,” Aiyanna mused. “A town called Heldren.”
Her father nodded as he rose to his feet. “I will speak with Zubrail about getting you some supplies and an escort in the morning.”
“Wh—what? Escort? Are… are you sending me away?” Aiyanna felt her heart contract again.
“Not like that, daughter,” he shook his head. “News like this should be delivered in person. I am sending you to Taldor to speak with Azria.”
“But I know nothing about Taldor!”
“We knew nothing about anywhere else before we went there,” he quipped. “Taldor is much the same.”
“It will not be the same without you and mother.”
“You will have your sister. She can guide you better than I can.”
Aiyanna looked back at her mother’s body. The others in camp had left the two elves alone in their grief, but she could see them waiting to take the body to the pyre they were building for the others. She would be alone for the first time in her life once she left this place. It terrified her. Aiyanna was considered grown now, had even taken the first steps in following her mother’s path by calling a patron to grant her magic. But right now she felt like the same scared little girl that had curled up next to her mother and cried as they fled the Crown of the World with a different caravan. She would give anything just to hear mother’s voice once more… to tell her she was sorry… that she loved her. She could sense her father shift his weight as he leaned closer.
“She was so proud of you,” his soft voice brought the stinging to her eyes again. “You have always been so strong… you will be fine. Desna will watch over you, and your mother with her.”
Aiyanna bit her lip to keep the tears from falling once more. “I—I will miss you, father.”
“And I will miss you, too; but this is not goodbye… only farewell. If the town is not too bad, perhaps I will join you and Azria later on.”
“You would leave the caravan?” Aiyanna was incredulous.
“We shall see,” he had regained his composure at last. “Come, let’s allow the others to take care of her now.”
Aiyanna knelt once more by her mother, brushing her lips softly across her forehead. For all the rage and sorrow that still churned inside her, it was time to be strong for her father… and for herself. She could not be that little girl anymore. Rising to her feet again, Aiyanna nodded to Zubrail and the others before turning to walk back to the wagon she had shared with her family. Nothing was the same anymore, and she doubted it would ever be again. She would have to take on her hidden name once more, for it was bad luck for outsiders to know a snow elf’s true name. Perhaps too many had learned it here. Either way, Aiyanna Caeliovan would cease to exist after tonight.
Valiaiyanna Snowrunner would have to see this through. At least for now.