|Allegiance:||Clan of Embers|
|Favorite Wonder:||The Dragon's Hoard|
The battle was fierce, but the Bannor men proved true. Turin was called up from the reserves, and he gathered his relics and poultices assuming he was needed to tend the wounded. Alas, the body they presented to him was beyond his or his god's help.
"Turin..." Aethil begin, "we found it in the fire-pit. I'm sorry, my friend." The guardsman held out his hand, displaying the tiny bracelet with the Acolyte's family crest. Turin grabbed it and pushed past him, kneeling before the fire-pit. The blood of orcs and men, mingled with the melting snow soaked though his pants as he cradled the tiny skull he found there in his hands.
"My Jessua..." he murmured. The hope had been small, but it had been, and now it died at the sight of his daughter's ashes.
"At least these Orcs will take no more sacrifices," Aethil said, wiping his saber and surveying the wasted camp. "Though we're likely to find another camp here as soon as we turn our back."
"Lieutenant!" A warrior approached them, a bundle in his arms. "This one's still alive."
Aethil grabbed the Orc child by the leg, holding it up to examine as the wrappings fell to the trampled earth. "A girl. Damned ugly, but definitely a girl. Turin, take it. Kill it, you'll feel better."
Turin took the child from his friend, cradling it in his arms as he had his own. "This girl did not kill my own. No justice is served by her death." "It is a corruption, a blight. You'll be saving someone else's child from the ravages of the beasts she'll spawn."
"Aethil, she's a baby!"
"Fine, leave it here to die by the wind and the wolves. Or were you planning on raising it yourself?"
The priest had already wrapped the child his own fur cloak. "I shall, then Aethil. And we'll see how she takes to civilization. If law and goodness can be taught, maybe our relentless war could end."
"Confessor Turin! Come in, come in. I was so sorry to hear about your wife."
Turin ran a hand through his hair and sighed. "Yes. We had dreamed of living to see the end of Winter together... I guess she gets to see green pastures... before I do." Turin let the Adept lead him to a chair by the fireplace, and they sat for a moment in silence. "How go your studies, Pharsalus?"
"Good news at last. Official sanction from Torrolerial and Sabathiel himself, so they say. We may continue our studies on the mana we have uncovered as long as it aids the war and contributes to the land's law and peace."
"Well, then, I have a favor to ask you. My.... The Orc child-"
"Yes, how is she?"
"I fear I was overly optimistic. She has grown demanding and selfish, barely able to toddle around, just learning our speech, and it's Â‘no' this and Â‘no' that. It seems her chaotic nature asserts herself. With the passing of my wife, it is becoming so difficult to raise her, between that and my duties. But I'd hate to have to send her out."
"Jessua... she died at what age?"
"She'd been just weaned when they took her. What are you implying?"
"Simply that perhaps you don't have the experience to judge this Orc child. Many children are-"
"No. My sweet Jessua would not do the things this child does!"
"Very well, my friend, what is the favor?"
"I heard rumors of a spell you have uncovered. One that can touch minds and bind loyalties. Cast this on my child."
Pharsalus sighed. "I should protest that it is extremely experimental, but I know better than to try to dissuade you. I could do it here and now, if you had a clump of hair or some other part of her."
Turin pulled out a small fang and held it up. "She just lost a tooth."
The Adept took it and walked to the next room, bare of furniture except for shelves of reagents and a perfectly round fire-pit carved out of the stone floor. He picked a few ingredients out, added the tooth, and started the fire. In went an item now and then as he intoned words, some in the common language, some in a more ancient tongue, ending with, "Qualum en noctum et solum nivum sheelba!"
Turin watched from the doorway, uncertain that the ritual was over until Pharsalus turned to him. "It is done. The spell will be strengthened whenever you repeat that last word in her presence."
"Yes. It is from her native tongue. Forsaken. Whether in night or day, never to be forsaken.'"
"Thank you my friend. I shudder to think what would become of me if I raised a wild Orc in the heart of the Tor Elyr."
Wild celebration was occurring throughout the civilized world, and the home of the High Priest of Tor Elyr was no exception. "To those that didn't make it to this day," Turin toasted his friends with the finest wine. The windows had been thrown wide open, letting in not the chill winds of winter but the gentle breezes of spring, at last. The city guard Captain chugged his down in one swig.
"More! Might as well finish this vintage Turin, the coming harvest is sure to make a much better wine."
"Indeed, my friend." Turin rose to satisfy Aethil's request.
"Sit, sit. Why do you bother to get up when you have this Orc here to do your chores?"
"It isn't..." Turin sat. "Sheelba, get some more wine for our friend."
"Yes father." As she left, Turin drained his own glass, adding it to the pile of empties.
"You let her call you that? Father!'" Aethil spat the word. "You're not her father. I know, I probably killed him myself, 12, 13 years ago was it now?"
"Aethil! Please, this is a happy time," Pharsalus interrupted, spilling wine down the front of his robes.
"I suppose you dress her up in Kiradia's clothing? Call her little Sheeba Jessua Stonelaw do you? It's vulgar, I tell you."
"It isn't... she's not... She's not my daughter, Aethil, I know that. Keeping her here amuses me, alright? Better than out pillaging isn't it?" Turin averted his gaze from his friend's eyes when he said it.
"It is if she ever manages to bring back that wine." Aethil got up and staggered towards that kitchen. "Girl! The men are thirsty here!" Turin and Pharsalus followed him. They found the wine sitting on the kitchen counter and the back door wide open. A quick search showed the girl missing.
"Where is she?" Turin asked.
"I think... I think she heard us talking, Turin," Pharsalus said. "I think she heard you and ran off..."
"She can't leave me! She's all I have!" He turned to the mage. "Pharsalus, I said your word every day, so much so she thought it was her name! Where's your Loyalty spell now?"
"My what? You mean... way back then? That was ten years ago! I was but an adept then, and I told you the spell was still experimental!"
"So it wore off?"
"No, it never took effect. I had the reagents wrong. I thought I told you..."
"Of course it took effect! From that day on she never left my side! She became the most true and loyal daughter I'd ever seen."
Aethil saw that anguish in his friend's eyes, and it momentarily overcame his hate for the people he had fought against all his life. "Turin, don't you see? See wasn't loyal because she was ensorcelled! She grew up! She became your daughter once you began treating her like she was going to stay with you, rather than always looking for some glimmer of rebellion in her."
The confessor fell to his knees, grasping his graying hair. "Good gods, what have I done?"
She ran out of the village, tearing away the trappings of civilization. Words escaped her, and she let out a roar, rushing through the dense jungle. She was nearly naked by the time he grabbed her.
"Gotcha! Hey, you aren't human," the huge Orc said.
"No, no I'm not, am I?" Sheelba shook herself free. "I'm not, and he's not my father, and they mean nothing to me, they can burn they can all burn!" She beat the chest of the Orc in front of her with each word. Out of breath, she finally collapsed at his feet. He lifted her up.
"I am Rantine of the Ember Clans. Who are you?"
"I am Sheelba."
"Come, Sheelba, I will take you home."