|Posted: Oct 12 6:37 pm
|Engracia stood quiet, her eyes wide with horror. In her mind, excerpts of a brutal battle danced in and out of focus, taunting her with images of bloodied, broken bodies strewn about. She was haunted by the visage of a female troll with wild hair that resembled a dancing flame. The woman stood tall and graceful as she pleaded with the being before her. Pieces of the conversation floated into Engracia’s consciousness; “Dat one is jus a child. Doan be bringin' any harm ta her. I be beggin' ya, don’t kill her!” “Your kind should have thought of that before…” The voices faded away, but the young girl’s mind was immediately filled with piercing shrieks and screams. She clamped her hands over her ears and closed her eyes tight trying to block out the sounds and images.
A dull thunk resounded in her ears, but it was the searing sting across her back that ripped the child from her nightmarish memories. “Back to work, slave!” A tall, muscular, man stood before her with a scowl. Engracia looked up at him and blinked as she tried to get the fuzzy feeling to leave her mind. He raised the cane above his head and brought it down across her back again. “Move it! Now!” Engracia let out a whimper and scampered out to the gardens where she worked, harvesting fruits and vegetables for the family. She worked long into the dusk, carefully tending to the various crops and tilling new soil. She soon heard the booming voice of her master call for her; she stood up wearily and carried her heavy feet as quickly as she could to the little shack at the left gable of the expansive house. There she found her master with the chains already in his hands. “Come here, slave.” the man sneered. Engracia shuffled forward, a pang of hunger ripping through her body. She grabbed her long, golden hair, twisting it about her hand as he clasped a metal collar around her neck. She then held her small arms out, wrists together, just as she had every night in her young memory. The man bound her wrists together and checked all of the bindings a second time before turning to exit the shack. He slammed the door behind him with a chuckle. She could hear the snorts of the dogs outside her shack gobbling up the food that had been meant for her. The waif-like child stood now in the darkness of her confines with tears in her eyes. She curled up on the cold, hard, earthen floor and sobbed herself into a fitful sleep.
When she awoke, the bright sun of mid-morning blinded her. She raised her arms, shielding her eyes. She sat up slowly and looked around. A figure stood before her, instinctively Engracia ducked and winced, expecting the sting of a cane to come crashing down. When no such blow assaulted her, she looked up at the shadowy figure and gasped. Before her stood a being of almost ethereal beauty. Engracia stared at the figure, bewitched by what her eyes saw. Her eyes scanned over the lithe frame of the feminine form that now crouched down, looking as intently at her as she did at it. She noticed the lavender hued flesh, the long, pointed ears, and the deep purple lips that were parted in a smile. The being extended her arm toward Engracia, moving a lock of matted hair from her face. She spoke suddenly, “Talalan would desire this one.” The man Engracia suffered vicious beatings from appeared in the doorway and scoffed, “Well, I suppose that’s his tough luck.” The female tilted her head, causing her long, midnight blue hair to spill wildly over her shoulder, which made Engracia think of the stories she’d heard of the world’s oceans. The being smirked wickedly at the belligerent human and hissed, “Talalan shall have his prize, human. Do not forget your allegiance to Talalan. You’ve received a fair sum.” She turned her gaze back on the grimy child. Engracia thought about the sparkle of the stars in the dark, night sky and wondered how a being could have such sparkles lighting their eyes. The woman stood and turned to face the human once more, “I shall return mid-morn tomorrow. Have her bathed and fed, our journey is a long one, and I don’t intend to travel with starving, filthy company.” She tossed a small pouch at the man and laughed, “For the inconvenience of finding a new slave. Do not make me send word to Talalan that you’ve gone back on your word, Donius. It would not bode well for you.” With a graceful flourish, she tossed her long hair over her shoulder and strode out of sight.
Engracia gaped as she stared at the empty space in front of her where the woman had so recently been. Donius scowled as he stalked into the small shack and began to remove the wrist bindings and collar from her small frame. He grabbed a hold of her wrist tightly and jerked her along behind him as he crossed the yard to the porch on the backside of the house. Donius shouted loudly, “Sharina! Woman, get out here quickly!” Several bangs came from inside the house and a small, slender woman with pale, peachy skin and emerald eyes came scurrying out the door. “What is it, Donius? What did that elf want?” she asked. Donius sighed briefly and held his arm up, pulling Engracia to her tiptoes and offered her over to the woman. “The elves want this. See that she is put to work; make her do as much as you have need. She’ll be leaving tomorrow. She is to be clean and fed before mid-morning tomorrow.” With that, he released Engracia’s arm and stormed off toward the stables.
Sharina glared down at the child. “Damn elves! What right have they to claim our slaves? Come child, you’ve much to do. Don’t think that by leaving tomorrow you’ll be spared punishment if you do not do as you’re told. Wait here.” The flustered woman disappeared into the house and came back a moment later with a scrap of paper. “Do all that you see on this list and don’t dawdle. I will come for you at dusk. Go now, get out of my sight.” Engracia clasped the list in her hand and walked toward the gardens. As she walked, she found herself thinking of the morning’s start. She stopped and looked herself over. She couldn’t help but thinking of the similarities in their appearance, that of the she-elf and her own. Her touched her pointed ears, tracing them with her dirty, little hand. The she-elf had the same ears, though a bit longer. Engracia looked at the pearlescent blue tone of her skin and recalled how the elf’s flesh had the same iridescence, though it was more of a purple. She sighed heavily and began to tend to the crops of vegetables and orchard of fruit trees. She finished harvesting the newly ripened fruits and vegetables, loaded them in barrels and baskets and heaved those into a wagon.
Engracia looked at the list and walked toward the dogs to tend to her next task, bathing them. She rather enjoyed this chore, as it was one of the few times she felt free and knew what it meant to giggle. She and the family’s three hunting dogs went off toward the large washbasin behind the stables. Well, more accurately, the three dogs went running all over the fields and drug Engracia along for the trip. Once each dog had been properly bathed, dried and led back to their little fenced in enclosure, Engracia started off toward the stables. She brushed, groomed and fed each of the horses as she had been instructed, cleaned their enclosures of their filth and led them to the fields where they could run free for the day. She envied them this freedom and often dreamed of herself sitting atop one of them and riding about the fields.
She noticed the setting of the sun and looked down at her list; relieved to see she had only one final task to complete. She was to go to the chicken coup and kill three of the chickens, pluck them, and prepare them for cooking. They must be ready by the time Sharina came to retrieve her. She took a deep gulp as she neared the coup, as she disliked having to kill animals. She opened the gate, walked in and closed it behind her. The chickens began clucking wildly and the chase began. She grabbed one and was holding it in a hug as she went to get the bludgeon. She wrestled with the chicken and tried to push its head down on the ground so she could smack it quick and hard, but the chicken began wiggling about terribly and got loose. Engracia chased them around the coup for what felt like forever, but couldn’t catch one and keep hold of it long enough to kill it. Finally, as the sun grew ever lazy in the sky, she decided just to chase after them, swinging the bludgeon at them, as she got close. This proved more effective, though it hardly killed them in one blow. By the time she finished, she was covered in feathers, sweat and blood and cried as she began ripping the feathers from their bodies. She brushed her tears away and continued with her task.
The weary child looked up and realized that the sun was now almost completely hidden by the distant mountains. She heard the light footsteps of Sharina approaching. “Come.” Sharina spoke softly, but coolly. Engracia followed silently behind her, the chickens in her small hands. When they reached the back porch, the woman poked her head inside the back door and handed the chickens to another slave. “Prepare those for tomorrow’s dinner,” she ordered. She turned around and looked Engracia over with disdain. “Here is your dinner for tonight. Eat it in the shack. You’ve got ten minutes before Donius will come to attend to you.” The small child, thankful for even the smallest scraps of food, scampered to her shack and sat in the doorway. She began eating as quickly as she could. She had just eaten the last morsel when she saw the unmistakable figure of Donius making its way toward the shack. She began drinking the water in her cup, slurping as much of it as she could take in. Donius was, if possible, angrier than he had been that morning and shoved Engracia backward into the shack, toppling the poor girl over. She sat silent as he clasped the metal collar around her neck and then bound her wrists. She looked up at him with curiosity and blinked as he looked back at her. “Get to sleep. You have an early morning.” he said and stormed out of the shack. Having a full belly for the first time in three days, Engracia felt pretty good, if not a little too full. She lay down on the familiar earthen floor and smiled as she drifted off to sleep.
The morning light came pouring in, as did the cool morning breeze, which chilled Engracia clear through. She stood without a word and held her arms out. Her bindings were removed immediately, followed by the metal collar. “Move it, Sharina has prepared your bath.” Donius mumbled. Engracia followed along, her head down as she watched the stone path beneath her feet. They came to a stop behind the stables at the very same washbasin she had used to bath the dogs the day before. “Sharina, I’ve brought the little whelp. Do as Salyll has instructed, bathe her and feed her. Give her one of Elisha’s old dresses.”, he said. Sharina opened her mouth to protest, “One of Elisha’s dresses? Never!” “Sharina!” boomed Donius. “Do not argue with me, just do it! Now!” he raged at her and stalked off mumbling to himself. The color drained from Sharina’s face and tears welled up in her eyes. Engracia reached out a small, dirty hand and touched Sharina’s arm to comfort her. “Get off of me, you beast!” she shrieked. Engracia was startled and blinked up at Sharina. Another slave came running toward Engracia and pulled her back from the hysterical woman. “I can tend to her, miss. It’s not a job for one of your status. I’ll deal with this monster,” she said in an oddly soothing voice. The look of hurt was plain on Engracia’s face, but she said nothing. She obeyed the slave woman without another word, climbing into the tub of cold water and scrubbing furiously at the dirt that covered her skin. She took considerable time washing her long golden hair, freeing it from the filth that left it matted in grimy knots. The water was quite cold, but as it was first bath she’d had in weeks and it felt wonderful. When she was thoroughly cleaned, she climbed out of the basin and wrapped herself in the towel left for her. Sharina came slowly toward her and jerked her arm out in her direction. Engracia winced, expecting a slap across her cheek. She looked slowly up at Sharina when it was clear she wasn’t to be hit. The woman stood before her, arm extended with a small dress grasped in her fist. “Take it and get dressed quickly. Your breakfast is waiting on the porch,” she muttered through clenched teeth. Engracia took the small dress and nodded. She slid the dress over her tiny frame and proceeded to comb the tangles from her hair as best she could with her hands and went to the porch as instructed. There, she sat down and began eating the food on the plate already set out. When she was finished, she drank her water and knocked lightly on the door. She handed her plate and cup to a slave inside the door. “Sir Donius will be with you in a minute,” the slave said. Engracia smiled slightly and nodded, and sat back down.
Within an hour or so of sitting on the back porch in the first pretty thing she ever had, Engracia heard muffled voices coming from within the house. Her ears perked, and she strained to hear what was being said. “…Yes, the slave is ready…” “Tis unacceptable behavior, Donius. You’ll not be receiving any more…” Being a child, Engracia hardly understood what all the fuss was about or what Donius would be receiving no more of. Instead, she let her mind wonder to dreams of what her new life would be like. She smiled as she pictured herself running around with other, similar looking children, riding horses and having a cute kitten to cuddle. She always loved cats. She even took in a wee stray one she happened across. She fed it bits from her own scraps each meal, but when Donius found out, he drowned it in front of her. Her face fell and her lip quivered at the memory, but she pushed it from her mind. Once she got to her new home, she’d ask if she could get a new kitten. She was sure the beautiful elfie would allow her to have one. She fluffed her dress a bit and grinned as she looked at the small floral pattern that worked its way across the material. Sighing slightly, she started to swing her feet and sing to herself.
Engracia jumped, waking quickly from the nap she’d dozed into, and looked around. The loud bang that woke her had been Salyll’s exit from the house. She now stood before Engracia and smiled sweetly. “Come child. We've a long, arduous journey before us. We should make haste,” Salyll spoke quickly motioning for Engracia to follow her. The small child stood and walked past the clenched jaw Donius and the scowling Sharina and followed the elf to the front of the house. As they began walking down the path, Donius approached them and spoke in a low tone with Salyll. A sly grin curved her deep purple lips and her eyes blazed brightly. “You wouldn’t want anyone to learn of the allegiance you’ve sworn, now would you?” She licked her lips and nudged him in the ribs. Engracia couldn’t really see what was going on, but she noticed that Donius backed away from Salyll swiftly and looked scared. Had she been able to see, the site of Salyll’s dagger pressed threateningly against Donius’ ribs might have frightened her. As it were, she simply grinned because the human was getting a crash course on how to take orders and be made to do things you didn’t want to. Salyll sauntered back toward Engracia and they began their journey.
They followed the winding, dirt roads throughout the lands, walking silently for what felt like forever to young Engracia. They crossed a small, stone bridge and Engracia thought she had walked into a dream. The lush, vibrant colors that made up the grasses, shrubs and trees, the beautiful flowers and vines and the gentle breeze that swept passed her brought a bright smile to her face. They walked quite a distance more, entering into a small town filled with humans and other elves. Engracia looked around wide-eyed at the passersby. She hardly noticed them staring at her. Another elf approached Salyll and they began speaking in a heated tone, but it was a language Engracia hadn’t heard before. The mysterious she-elf fled from them quickly shouting things in her strange tongue. Salyll huffed slightly and grabbed Engracia by the hand, pulling her along behind her. “Come child, we should leave this town immediately.” They quickened their pace and continued through the town. Engracia was a little disappointed, as she was rather enjoying the exploration of these new places.
The pair made their way through a large stone archway that led to an expansive bridge. She hardly noticed how high they were or the small loch beneath them. Her amber eyes were fixed upon the very large stone statues that lined the sides of the bridge. She noticed that one resembled the elfies and one represented the humans. There were two others, much shorter in comparison, but Engracia had no idea what strange creatures these were. As they approached the end of the bridge, they went through a hall of sorts and came out into a city street, bustling with activity. Salyll made no signs that they had reached their destination, which rather disappointed Engracia. She thought she would have a great time exploring this strange city, if only she had the time. Salyll led them through the streets without slowing their pace. Their presence on the streets often led to gasps and angry stares from the people present. “Get that monster out of here, Kaldorei!” one man shouted. Engracia bit her lip to stop the tears that were readily available and continued the rest of walk looking at her feet. As they rounded a corner, the air became thick and smelled heavily of the ores and metals that Donius often wreaked of. Engracia coughed and crinkled her nose in protest to the obnoxious smell. They entered a small, dark building that appeared to be utterly forgotten about. Engracia noticed that there was quite a bit of dust covering everything. They walked to the basement of the building and into a tiny room with no windows. Salyll approached one of the walls and whispered some ancient words Engracia couldn’t understand. A dark purple light flashed from the wall and a void became visible. “Come to me, child.” she said. Engracia got closer to her and looked up at her. Salyll smiled sweetly and assured the young girl that everything would be ok. Engracia smiled, but something sparkled oddly in the elven eyes and it made the child rather uneasy. Holding hands with Engracia, Salyll reached out and touch the glimmering void before them. She wasn’t sure what happened, but when Engracia opened her eyes, they were no longer in the small, dank basement. Rather, they were standing on a large, rocky outcropping. There was nothing nearby save for a few buildings and rows upon rows of tents. Salyll led the child toward the largest of the buildings.
Salyll purred as she walked in, “Love! I have brought you a gift.” Engracia looked all around the room, at the different things that hung on the wall and the strange symbol that adorned the door. She glanced at the person was speaking to; it was an elf, tall and muscular with pinkish skin and long violet hair. He bore a large scar on his right cheek and turned to face Salyll with a smile. “Do you, indeed? You were only to see Donius and retrieve the shipment, Salyll. What gift can you possibly offer to make up for delaying my project?” the male elf hissed at her. It was then that he noticed Engracia; a flash of glee curved his frown into a rather wicked grin. He hugged Salyll and planted a quick kiss on her cheek before approaching Engracia. “A troll child. You have brought me a troll child, Salyll. Where ever did you find such a specimen?” He looked Engracia over thoroughly, lifting her arms and pushing her hair from her face. “I found her with Donius. I fear the feeble minded human will betray our allegiance. He demanded…” she began, but the male elf motioned for her silence. “I see. We shall discuss the matter further this eve. For now, take the child to the camps and have her assigned a research code.” he replied. He stroke Engracia’s hair one last time and laughed as Salyll led her away.
As they approached the area strewn with tents, Engracia noticed that many were occupied. Curious, she looked around and peered closely at the residents. She noticed many large, very muscular beings with thick, green flesh and tall, slender beings that looked, oddly like the elves, but more like herself. They approached another row of tents and Salyll turned down it. Another elf came forward and spoke with Salyll, grabbed Engracia’s hand and started to tug on her arm. The poor child was confused and had become comfortable with her elven companion. She struggled against this new elf and fought to get free of his grasp. He spoke angrily in the same strange tongue Salyll had previously and Salyll began laughing. “You can’t even handle a child, Xond? Come now, she’s quite small. Use the chains if you must. I should, perhaps, advise against harming her though. She’s to be Talalan’s new…pet.” Salyll walked away laughing, leaving the elf to deal with the struggling child. “You won’t be so petulant once Talalan begins his project.” the elf spat at her. He grabbed her tightly, dragging her along by her arm. She looked for Salyll and screamed in retaliation, but it only made the elf squeeze her arm that much tighter. “Come along, heathen.” With that, all hope of a wonderful new life left Engracia’s heart. She realized that her life of hard work and unhappiness had only moved to a new location. As her heart sank, so did her will to resist. She grew quiet and complacent, walking beside the elven escort. “I see you’ve learned your place. Good. This is your tent. Come here,” he growled. He set to work chaining her feet with bindings. When he left, Engracia allowed herself to cry, which she did with all of her heart.
Engracia woke slowly, squinting her eyes against the rays of light that assaulted them. She stood and walked out of her tent. She looked up and down the row of tents and noticed that several of the green skinned creatures were also stepping into the morning air. They looked around with sleepy eyes and stretched loudly. Engracia noticed one, in particular. He was fairly short, by orc standards, with long white hair he kept pulled back into ponytail at the nape of his thick neck. He had many months of growth upon his face, resulting in a beard of considerable length. This too was the color of fresh snow. His eyes met Engracia’s, and he smiled at her. She grinned, though she kept telling herself she should ignore the large creature for he could prove to be quite dangerous. “Throm’ka, young one.” came a throaty voice. Engracia tilted her head to the side with curiosity. “Thomkra?” she replied. The elder orc let out a hearty guffaw at her bungled attempt to return his greeting, and her cheeks darkened as they gave way to a crimson blush. A loud noise sounded throughout the camp, bringing everyone to silence. Engracia looked down the row, toward the sound, and noticed that several tall figures were making their way toward her. They slowed their pace as they drew nearer her, and she was able to see the smirks that curved their lips.
A male elf spat as he reached out for her, "Come, slave." She did as she was instructed and followed the elf without question. She looked at her feet as she stumbled along the rocky path until they arrived at a large building. As they entered, she noticed many of the green skins were lifting large objects and moving them about as their elven guards kept close watch over them. She saw several trolls fighting in a pit while the elves looked on and shouted commands. Xond stopped before a large door. “We’ve arrived, Talalan,” he spoke into the air. “Yes, I’ve brought the troll child.” Engracia looked around to see who he was speaking to, but saw no one else in the corridor. The door slid open and Xond ushered her inside. Talalan immediately approached with a devious smile. “Come in, come in, child. I’ve been waiting for you to arrive,” he said. He waved Xond away and instructed Engracia to follow him. As she followed along behind him, they traveled through many rooms, stopping in a rather small one. Engracia looked around curiously at the many strange objects present. Talalan told her to sit on the large table, which she did immediately. He wheeled a table nearer to her and lifted one of the many instruments that sat upon it. He gave a sly grin to Engracia as he approached her with the strange device. “You are not afraid, young one. Well, at least not yet,” he chortled. He pressed the strange instrument to Engracia’s neck, but before she could scream, the room went dark and her thoughts were silenced.
The night air felt cool against the fever growing within her tiny body. As she opened her fire-like, amber eyes, the face of an elder orc slowly took focus. “Me take care of you, little one,” he said. He waved his hands in a strange pattern and began whispering words, a prayer, as it seemed to Engracia. A gentle glow formed around his hands and she could feel a struggle taking place within her. “Be strong, little Lightheart. Don’t let it eat your soul.” On and on the orc chanted his whisper, until the small girl fell back to sleep. When she awoke, the moon was standing proudly over the rocky mountains, casting her cool glow across the encampment. The elder orc sat beside Engracia and smiled when her warm, amber eyes met his own crystal blue ones. “Throm’ka, Lightheart,” he whispered with a warm, deep voice. Engracia sat up slowly and looked around in confusion. “Where is the elfie?” she asked as she struggled to recall the events of the day. “Da giant one brought you back to da tents,” he replied. The orc offered her a bit of bread and water he had saved from his own meal, which she accepted gratefully. She wasn’t sure what the orc meant by his speak of a giant, she’d never seen a giant before, but she was quite sure she didn’t want to see one. “Rest now, Lightheart,” the orc said quietly when she finished off the scraps of food. She nodded slightly and started to walk toward her tent. She turned around and smiled at the elder orc. “My name isn’t ‘Lightheart’, it’s Engracia,” she offered with a flourishing bow. The orc chuckled as he returned her bow, “I am known as Asho.” She smiled brightly, revealing two, pearly tusks at the corners. She ran off and ducked into her tent, curling up on the hard, rocky bed and slipping into sleep.
When next she awoke, it was morning. She could hear the many grumbles and groans of freshly awakened orcs eager for more sleep. She stepped outside her tent and looked for Asho. When she saw him near the fire, she ran to his side and poked him with a giggle. “Lightheart! Mornin’ to ya,” he said with his gruff voice. She sat next to him and watched as the other prisoners came to life and approached the fireside to ward off the morning chill. “Asho, who dat?” a large female orc asked as she approached. Engracia bounced up and stuck her hand out, a symbol of friendship as she’d seen the humans do, “I’m Engracia,” she announced. The female orc was caught off guard by this enthusiastic greeting and cracked an uncommon grin. “I be Obelia, child,” she cackled. The community of orcs and trolls gathered around the fire, knowing there was a bit of time before their masters came for them. Engracia kept quite a few of them entertained with her cheerful demeanor, bringing laughter to them for the first time in months. She had an electric personality that drew many to her. Soon though, the elves approached and everyone grew quiet. Xond approached Engracia and she immediately rose and took her place at his side. They walked to the large building and entered. Once again, they met Talalan and, once again, she awoke in the evening with Asho looking over her. This continued for several months without deviation.
During her time among the orcs, Engracia learned that Asho was a revered Shaman of remarkable power and that Obelia was once a great warrior. They often told the young girl of their past and how they came to be captives of the elves. While Engracia found Obelia’s tales of fierce battles and wars interesting, it was Asho’s magical prowess that captivated her. She asked hundreds of questions and was enthralled when he would call the power of the earth that would stick her feet to the ground. She would giggle as she tried to walk and found herself considerably slowed. He often would heal the wounds of the fellow prisoners, which excited young Engracia. “I wanna learn magic like that,” she would say. Asho would smile and promise that he’d teach her if the spirits felt she was ready for the training. Engracia looked forward to being taught the healing magics. Each morning when she awoke, she would whisper to the spirits about how much good she would do if they let her learn the magics. As time passed, Engracia won the hearts of many of the orcs, but she struggled to fit in among the other trolls. She had difficulty understanding them when they spoke, though she picked up orcish with ease. She had yet to meet the giant that delivered her safely to her tent each night and doubted Asho’s claim that it ever, in fact, occurred.
One evening, Engracia woke as she had every night since her arrival, under the watchful eye of Asho. “Come Lightheart,” he commanded as he ushered her into his tent. “Da spirits are restless, child. Dey bring word of a new warrior, one dat will restore da balance,” he said breathlessly. “Ya are to be taught the magics. Dey says ya are ready. We gotta begin now,” he continued. Engracia sat wide-eyed as she listened to Asho. “Really? I’m to learn the magics?” she implored. “Yes, ya are. Let’s get started,” he said. Engracia listened intently and mimicked him precisely when asked to demonstrate what she had been told. This continued for several weeks, and Asho was astounded by the speed with which she absorbed his training on healing magics. He confessed to Obelia that she had a natural ability with the healing magics, but worried that her other magics weren’t faring as well. Try as she might, the poor child was unable to conjure the totems of protection that Asho struggled to teach her. Obelia set to teaching her how to handle herself in small physical battles, but Engracia was quite clumsy with any weapon. She continued to practice her magics, but a month later, found herself still unable to conjure the totems or even summon force enough to shock someone as Asho could do. She felt it was rather hopeless, and Asho began to agree.
One morning, she awoke on the table in the very room she followed Xond into each day. Talalan was standing before her with a wide grin. “Come my pet for there is much you must do this day,” he purred. Engracia dropped off of the table and stood before Talalan. “I’ve a pretty necklace for you, pet.” Engracia looked up at him, her amber eyes dancing with the innocence that was her trademark. “A necklace? Is it really for me?” she asked earnestly. “For none but you, my pet,” he replied silkily. The young child’s face erupted in a bright smile as she pulled her hair back so he could put the necklace on her. Talalan reached out and placed a strange metal collar around Engracia’s frail neck. After he clicked it in place, he stood back a moment and watched her. She reached up, feeling the heavy bulk pulling on her neck and shrieked. Tears streamed down her cheeks as she tore at the strange binding on her neck. “Y..you lied to me!” she shouted. Talalan only stood back and laughed with merriment. “Silly pet. Of course I wouldn’t give a lovely necklace to one as hideous as a troll,” he sneered. “Xond, take these things to the site. I shall be along in a moment,” he ordered. “Come now, my pet, surely you didn’t think you were special. You’ve been my puppet and a good one, but I’ve grown weary of toying with you. Shuhalo! Take her to the labs. They are waiting for her.” A gruff snort replied to the order and Engracia blinked in wonder as the giant approached her. “Come,” he said. Engracia obeyed without question, though she looked at the giant beside her frequently. Her voice barely rose above the heavy footsteps of the creature beside her, “Who are you?” she asked. Nothing. “I’m Engracia,” she offered hopefully, but the creature said nothing. Engracia continued walking but stared at her feet. The large creature stopped walking and glanced down at the sad little figure. “I am Shuhalo.” She blinked a moment, unable to speak; such was her shock at this comment. Then she looked up at him and smiled. “I’ve never seen your kind here before. Have you been here long?” she asked. “I have been here longer than you. I have carried you to your tent every night since your arrival,” he said with a sigh. “You…you’re the giant Asho spoke of,” she clambered. “Yes. Let us move along.”
They arrived at a building far off from the rows of tents, rather near a large, rocky outcropping. Engracia noticed there were several elves bustling around frantically. As they entered the building, she noticed a very large orc standing before Talalan. Talalan was speaking to him quietly and the orc gave a quick, mechanical nod of his head before walking away. Shuhalo and Engracia took their places beside Talalan as the elves finished setting up. “Leave me to finish my work,” Talalan ordered. “Salyll, take the child with you,” he said as he waved his hand toward Engracia. Engracia followed along behind Salyll without question as they climbed over several rocky formations to rows that looked like seats. “Sit,” Salyll spat at her. Engracia looked up and down the rows and noticed that there were several of Talalan’s elven helpers in the rows. They began cheering and chanting as they sat above the large pit like structure. Engracia looked into the pit and shrieked with horror as she saw a huge dragon. It was bound, unable to move anything but it’s large head. As they looked on, she noticed the large orc advancing toward the dragon with a crude weapon gripped in his hands. The noise from the elves grew louder, and Engracia glanced at them. She glanced once more at the dragon and frowned. She felt very badly for the poor creature as she realized its death was soon coming. She didn’t know how much time had passed, but she suddenly heard the elves cheers turn into screams. She looked up when a piercing scream echoed from Salyll. The female elf swept passed her, shouting and screaming in the strange elven tongue. Engracia looked down at the dragon and noticed that it was still alive and that the large orc was slaughtering the elves. She heard a large crash and watched as the giant, Shuhalo flung the body of Talalan to the side and lumber off toward the orc. She heard the screams and battle cries of the orcs in the tents and began running toward them.
“Asho! Asho, where are you? Obelia?” she shouted as she ran through the masses of dead and dying elves, orcs and trolls. She saw Obelia fighting with several elves, piercing them and running them through with one of their own weapons. She screamed as an elf plunged his own weapon into Obelia’s exposed back. Anger coursed through her body and she let it boil forth with a guttural scream. A flash of brilliant light streamed from her small hands, hitting the surprised elf and killing him instantly. She rushed to Obelia’s side and turned the wounded orc over. “Obelia!” she cried. “Engracia, child. Run…get free of these monsters,” the proud warrior whispered. Engracia could see that she was injured badly. She closed her eyes as she whispered a prayer of protection, a beam of warm light surrounded Obelia and the woman smiled. “I…feel…no pain. T’anks…” the woman’s eyes closed, and Engracia knew they wouldn’t reopen. She cried quietly as the battles raged on around her. “Lightheart!” the sound of Asho’s voice resounded loudly throughout the camp. Engracia kissed Obelia’s cheek and set her head down gently as she ran off to find Asho. She raced through the many skirmishes and clashes between elf and orc. “Asho!” she screamed, and at once he turned around. “Noooo!” she cried as she raced forward. Asho didn’t understand her scream meant there was danger behind him until he felt the force of an elven sword crush into his skull. Engracia watched in horror as his body crumpled to the ground lifeless. She looked up with a tear stained face to meet the cold eyes of Xond. She felt the rage burning within and she smiled as a dark, angry magic spewed forth, encircling him and filling him with fear. She whispered quietly and a bolt of hot shadow chased after him. He fled screaming, but he had little control of his movement. The shadow caught up with him and he crumpled in agony to the ground. He held his hands to his head, screaming madly. Engracia walked toward him, hatred stinging her eyes. She looked down at the elf and smiled as she sent a bolt of light at him, killing him. She retched from the smell of his cooked flesh and stumbled away.
Within moments of her triumph, Engracia heard the heralds and cries of joy as she approached the area where once stood rows of tents. She heard a glorious roar bellow from the large orc that was to assault the dragon. She also saw the giant standing near him. She stumbled forward, making her way to the familiar face of the one known as Shuhalo. She stood beside him a moment and listened to the orc with the ears of a child bereft of the innocence she had only a short time ago. "Brothers, sisters! I have been given audience with Grom Hellscream in the spirit world! He has charged us with a new task! We are to form a new clan, in honor of this dragon behind me that gave its life for ours. Our charge is two fold. One, we are to defend the Warsong Lumber Camp, in honor of Grom Hellscream. And two, we are to destroy the elves before their corruption allows the burning legion back into our world!” the orc shouted.
Although she was not orc, Engracia made her vow to fight alongside the proud, noble creatures she had come to love as family. She placed a small hand on the orc known as Sgiahatch and whispered quietly, calling forth her powers of healing. Her spell healed his wounds considerably, and she began moving through the crowds of orcs to heal the wounded and pray for the dead. To honor Asho and Obelia’s memory, Engracia took the name ‘Lightheart’ as her surname. She gave up any hopes of being a Shaman, such as Asho was, as she found the healing magics to be far better suited to her. Even she couldn’t deny they were far more powerful than even Asho’s were. She wanted to be a great healer. She smiled and set to work, finally realizing that she was meant to do great things and that her place was with the Maylstryx Clan.