Time was once a blessing
but long journeys are made longer
when alone within.
Take spirit from the long ago
but do not dwell in lands no longer yours.
Be certain in need,
and the path will emerge
to a home tomorrow
and time will again
be the joy it once was

Amarath’s Prologue

Amarath groggily awoke in the thicket at the bottom of the hill. What happened? His porcelain flesh was cut and grazed all over, though the wet warm stains on his elven cloak told him he had several bleeding wounds before his senses began to come too. All around him, sharp pangs from open wounds and dull agony from bruises told him that was alive, but barely just. He pulled himself to his feet, and instantly fell over in pain as his leg gave way from under him. He collapsed to the ground, feeling around his ankle as he tried to recall how he got here…

Amarath was a dalish elf, a member of one of the nomadic elven clans that travelled around Thedas seeking to reclaim, inherit and preserve their ancient heritage. He’d been born into the Shanae clan, of Keeper Zathrian and having developed a magical attunement to nature even at a young age, he had thought himself the choice candidate to be Zathrian’s first, that is, his apprentice. Fate however had other plans. Bandits had strayed across the clan and, having killed a scout, felt the full fury of Zathrians anger. However, chained in amongst their wagons, he had found a young elven slave, named Lanaya. Taking pity on her, Zathrian had took her and adopted her. Despite not being born into the clan, and many including Amarath having resented his choice, Lanaya had proven herself competent and worthy of being Zathrians first, and the prejudices had faded away. However, seldom do clans ever have more than 2 trained mages, and so when the gathering of the clans occurred, the Arlathvhen, Amarath became first of the Nanda’len tribe. There, under Keeper Sarel, he had developed his preternatural abilities, including shapeshifting, and learned the Vir Tanadah, the way of the three trees, the code of the hunter. Everything was going well, and the clan enjoyed relative peace. However, all that was to change when the halla and wind drew the aravel caravans to the north east of Ferelden, through the Wending Wood.
Dalish elves usually faced hostility wherever they travelled, but this was altogether different. It seemed that a year previous a Dalish clan had been wiped out by darkspawn but believing it had been humans their only survivor, the keeper, had went on a rampage, terrorizing the merchant caravans that passed through the forest on their way between the popular port city of Amaranthine and the Ferelden capital of Denerim. Through the interventions of the Hero of Ferelden, peace had been restored to the woods. However tensions remained taut between the surrounding villages and any Dalish passing through and though for a while both the local villagers and the clan had kept to themselves, slowly but surely the Nanda’len scouts and hunters became more bold and started moving farther away from camp. While both sides claim the other was first to attack, things escalated until a local villager kidnapped and murdered a Dalish child. Sarel quickly withdrew the clan south, knowing that if the elves took their just revenge, things could end up very badly for them, particularly if the Ferelden authorities felt that the clan was more trouble than it was worth. So the clan moved south, but even far away from the Wending Wood, thoughts of vengeance were being planted in amongst the camp. This was not Vir Atish’an, "The Way of Peace, that Amarath had learned from Lanaya, and it greatly troubled him.

It was late summer, in the month of Solace. The camp was warm and unusually humid. Amarath stirred from his slumber. The night was silent, save for the crackling of a few fires in the middle of the camp. Amarath rolled over and attempted to get back to sleep, but just couldn’t find sleep again, thoughts tossing through his mind. Perhaps a walk would ease his worried his mind.
He did know why he walked out of the camp that night, nor what forces drew him to that spot, but as Amarath wandered in the forest, he thought he heard voices. Stealthily, Amarath crept towards the hushed tones.
He could make out 7 of the clans hunters and scouts gathered around a small clearing the moonlight. The chatter was agitated. He recognised one of the voices, Ninaran, the clans chief hunter. But why come out all the way here to talk, away from the safety of the camp? Amarath felt uneasy.
“…Well he’s wrong, I tell you!” The chief hunter argued.
“You won’t hear any argument from me, but he is Keeper, who are we to go against him?”
“Agreed! Vir adahlen, Ninaran,” another piped up. “We are stronger when we are altogether!”
“No, those filthy flat-ears murdered one of our own, why should we be the ones to back down, to live in fear?” There were murmurs of anger and agreement.
“We say we will never again submit, but is that not what we are doing even now?” More mumbling and nodding heads.
“What then do you propose?”
The hunter paused, and smiled. He leaned in and began to whisper in softer tones. Amarath strained his ears. He needed to get closer. Carefully he eased himself through the trees. But not carefully enough. Something in the brushwood snapped underfoot and the talk abruptly halted. All the heads turned in his direction. Ninaran drew his bow, and slowly but deliberately crept towards Amarath, as two of the others followed. Amarath gently crouched down, his mind racing. Should he reveal himself? Should he run? He was running out of time.
Ninarans finely tuned senses honed in on the movement. He stopped and raised his hand to halt the others, then pointed in Amaraths direction. Could they see him? “It appears we have an eavesdropper”.
The Dalish mage felt as if his heart was beating so loud that it alone might give him away.
“Show yourself! Ar’din nuvenin na’din! I mean no harm!”
Amarath could tell enough from his tone to be quite sure that wasn’t the case. Well, giving himself up wasn’t an option then. The mage bolted back into the woods.
“There he is!” A few arrows whizzed by him, thundering into the trees around him. If he could just get into back into the thick forest
Suddenly he felt a sharp shooting pain in his leg, and he collapsed to the ground. He was done for…unless?
The hunters approached, scoffing at the target writing in pain ahead of them.
“It appears we have tagged ourselves a rat!” spat Ninaran viciously. “Come to spy on us?
Amarath dragged himself towards a large shrub beside him. The hunters laughed.
“Nowhere to hide in these woods.”
Amarath disappeared into the middle of the bush. The hunters approached, Ninaran dropped his bow and drew his knife. “Ar tu na’lin emma mi!”
Ninaran leaned in towards the bush, but instead of seeing a wounded elf staring back at him, found himself face to face with a large black cat. Amarath pounced, knocking the hunter back and pinning him to the ground. For a split second, though it must have seemed like a minute, the rest of the group just seemed to stand frozen in shock. The shapeshifter seized the opportunity, and he bounded off into the darkness.
More arrows whizzed by him, another catching him in the side, almost knocking him over, but he quickly found his feet again and kept running for his life. Four legs were most definitely better than two.
Behind him, he heard the chief hunter still yelling murderous curses.

Amarath ran for as long and far as his limbs would carry him. He must have tripped at some point and taken a tumble down the side of the path into the thicket. Who knew how long he had been asleep for? For a moment he half expected to hear the noise of the Dalish hunters coming upon him, but noone came. He could not return to the Dalish. The hunters would intercept and kill him for sure. Killed by human brigands, he was sure they’d say. Which was entirely plausible. All alone, and no place to call his own.
But, there was one he could turn to. The story went that the Hero of Ferelden had taken in the Keeper from the Wending Wood…and that the keeper had repaid the kindness by helping protect Vigils Keep and Amaranthine from the darkspawn threat, not as a slave, but as a friend. Yes. He would go there.
Perhaps in Vigils Keep, he would finally find a home.


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