An Unusual Upbringing
5 Lirisa 359 — Kaerna Village, Prydaen Home
Eleven pairs of amber eyes watched quietly from a small bedroom as the midwife entered their house.
She was lying limply on a pallet made of straw and down feathers – blood stained the fabric that seperated the raw materials from her sand-colored fur. As the halfling midwife drew near, she attempted to move but the pain was too much. She whimpered, a pitiful sound, and shuddered instead.
Many anlaen passed, and the children in the bedroom grew restless. They paced the confines of their small area and chatted nervously in broken prydaenese until at last a sound from the other room drew them back to the doorway. It was a sound of a newborn kit screaming.
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She was the youngest of 12 children. With nothing left to call her, she was given the name Excetera. As she grew, she was often bullied by her older siblings and at times she went without eating for there wasn’t enough to feed them all. Many nights the kit went to bed bruised and hungry, wishing for all the world that she had never been born. But above all the fights and the emptiness in her belly, the kit had to live with the fact that she was the one who crippled their mother.
One rainy autumn night, it became more than she could handle.
Her oldest brother had been particularily cruel, plucking single strands of fur out of her tail until she lashed out at him with her claws. He struck back, knocking the kit clear across the room where she curled up in a ball at the foot of her mother’s wheeled-chair. She looked up, hoping to see the prydaen smile, but instead there was a glossy look in her mother’s amber green eyes. The woman did not even register her presence.
Later that evening as the large prydaen family slept, the four-year old kit stood in the open doorway of their residence and watched the icy rain fall. She reached her small furry hand out and allowed a few cold drops to pool in her palm. There was a wind of change blowing through Elanthia that evening. To the north, the death of a self-proclaimed emperor shook the lands, and the cries of hundreds followed. To the south, the big city was in an uproar over the execution of one Prince, and the re-coronation of another. A war was ending, and a new struggle beginning in the distant wastelands. High above, a red star gleamed in the overcast sky. She took a deep breath, drawing those winds through her tiny lungs, then stepped outside.
Her bare feet took her south, down the well-worn trade route that was still littered with signs of the war. Soldiers in gleaming armor appeared as demons in the lightening-streaked darkness as they made their way among the destroyed battlements, and the frightened kit fled off the road, into the blackness of the forest. There she pushed through briars thick with wild berries that tore at her clothes and flayed her bare arms and legs with criss-cross scratches. In spite of this she ran on, and midnight found the child in tears as she finally collapsed in an expansive clearing ringed with glowing mushrooms.
Exhausted, the kit just barely managed to sit up in time to see the saucer-shaped yellow eyes that appeared in the darkness at the far side of the clearing. There emerged a large black panther.
‘Don’t eat me!” The kit screamed and covered her eyes with her paws.
“I’m not going to eat you.” The panther replied, speaking in perfect prydaenese, “I am going to show you the way home.” It stepped towards the shivering child, then opened its maw. Frightened out of her senses, she fainted away as the large cat took her gingerly by the scruff of her neck and carried her off into the deeper parts of the forest.
A young prydaen lass emerges from the great forest somewhere south of Kaerna village. She is clad in a ruined daygown that has too many times been altered by unskilled hands to fit her growing body. A small pouch of gemstones and coins bounces on her hip alongside a simple scimitar. Her belongings seem to be those of a pauper if not for the rich black silk cloak that adorns her back — a gift from her guardian, and the sturdy weapons belt around her waist — yet another gift from her teacher.
She makes her way north towards the village on sandaled feet. The signs of the war are gone now, and another struggle has ended in the far south while she had been secluded away from the world. Gates that had never been there before marked the entrance to the village in which she was born.
An aged prydaen in a wheeled-chair marked the house that was her distination. The woman was sitting in the front yard, watching two halfling children chase each other around the inn. From a safe distance, the youngest prydaen observed the house as her eleven brothers and sisters came out to retrieve their mother. A soft smile graced her feline-like lips.
When the lot of them were in the house, she crept up into the yard and left the bundle she had been carrying at the front door. Inside the sizable family would find food enough to last them many months. That done, she made her way back out of town, towards the bustling city in the south. There she would find a new teacher and a new path for her life.
But the forest would always be her home.