Big Damn Heroes
Becoming an Avenger
Our story picks up once again mere weeks after Illeith’atharia Lauri’ana’s unfortunate incident with Lady Annearth’na Celyalona. With the possibility of undead in the area and the threat to their family, Illeith’atharia’s parents, Lady Priestess Shinnal’thea and Lord Sorcerer Kith’athar, asked their adventuring friends to stay for a while and investigate the area…
“Dinner time!” Illeith’atharia chimed quietly to the little black bat. The tiny sharp needles that served as the small creature’s teeth crunched into the rough exoskeleton of a green grasshopper. The meal was huge for bat, but Illeith’atharia was still figuring out the animal’s habits and preferences. She watched avidly, crouched next to the table that she had deposited her new pet and his meal.
“Fascinating creatures, aren’t they,” a rough voice spoke behind her, causing her to nearly jump out of her skin. A slightly gravelly chuckle followed as a grizzled looking human male walked out of the hall behind Illeith’atharia.
“Dinna mean ta frighten ya, young missy.” His casual steps lead him around the table the young Eladrin was perched next to, and he dropped unceremoniously into the chair on the other side. Dalrick Shadowfoot peered at her from across the table, his legs crossed casually at the ankle and a dark twinkle glimmering in his eye.
As one of Shinnal’thea and Kith’athar’s mercenary-like friends, Dalrick was everything that Illeith’atharia expected an adventurer to look like. His dark clothes were faded and well used, and a wide traveler’s hat hung low over his face. His belt and coat were festooned with a number of interesting little nick-knacks, the most prominent being a silver medallion with a rose on it. He always seemed to carry a heavy broad sword with him no matter where he went, though it was at odds with his wiry frame.
Illeith’atharia felt a slightly embarrassed smile cross her face, “Oh, no. I should have been paying more attention. I was just feeding my new friend here.”
Dalrick shrugged a little, and scratched his chin for a moment in speculation; his eyes taking in both the girl and the bat for a moment or two. With a twitch of his eyebrows he seemed to dismiss what he was thinking about and then brought his attention back to Illeith’atharia’s face.
She shifted uncomfortably under his scrutiny. The small group of her parent’s closest friends knew about her unfortunate heritage; after all, they were the ones who helped hunt down the monster who forced himself on her mother. Having them all in the house made her anxious though.
Every time they all came to stay for a while she was reminded of another time when her parents had invited the group over, back when she was still a small child. It was a holiday, and gifts were exchanged. Everyone seemed to be happy, or at least as happy as their natural disposition allowed.
One friend, an Eladrin Druid by the name of Belpheir’anon, had given the little Illeith’atharia a brightly colored box with a crank. Not even a decade old, the small girl giggled with glee when every turn of the crank produced light plunking music. As the spring in the box finally hit its threshold, a smiling face popped out of the top of the box.
Illeith’atharia fell backwards, and a frightened hiss escaped her curled lips. The startled feeling turned to true fear as she looked around the group of adults. The merriment was gone and tense silence reigned. Frozen expressions of shock and a smattering of narrowed eyes filled the room; a few hands had even moved to sword hilts or staves. As her fear mounted, the little girl started to say something.
Which is when she noticed something was wrong with her mouth. Words died on her lips as her hand moved up to feel the now sharp fangs that had grown with her fear. Terrible emotions filled her; she was a monster, and her parents and their friends killed monsters. Little Illeith’atharia ran away crying.
Before that day, and after, her parents looked at her with love and concern. But since that day, their friends sometimes had other things lurking behind their eyes; hastily covered fear, appraisal, or distaste. It depended on the person. It was something that Illeith’atharia never quite got used to, though she didn’t blame them for it.
Much of the unhappiness she felt about herself after that day had been washed away with years of caring from her parents. And even after that day all of their adventuring cabal treated her with respect, if not kindness. Belpheir’anon and his Elven Rogue lover, Keara Swift, both treated her like a favored niece. The stoic Eladrin Warden, Narith’deare, mostly showed benevolent indifference, while the Paladin to the Sacred Ancesters, Tethnick’near, held an aura of quiet disapproval toward her.
Dalrick was always pleasant but appraising; always watching the littlest thing around him, evaluating it. After a few years of touchiness about this, Illeith’atharia began to ignore it. It seemed to her that he looked at everything the same way, and after a few decades it ceased to bother her all together.
But sitting here now, with him looking at her like a man about to buy a horse, she felt all of that discomfort come back to her. She gently petted the furry back of her little bat, and silently wished she had the armor of her red lenses.
“I hear you’re ah Journeyman Jeweler now. Congratulations.” The gruff human pulled a tiny throwing knife out of a side pocket and began to carefully clean his nails. Illeith’atharia thought the shining blade looked sharp enough to cut the wind.
“Ah, yes. It took me a little while to discern what my project would be, but once I had decided it went quickly.” Illeith’atharia managed an only slightly strained smile and attempted to concentrate on the continued feeding of her new winged friend. “After it was approved by my Master, I gave the end result to Mother. She honors me by wearing it most days.”
Dalrick nodded with sage agreement and continued to carefully work with the knife. “I’ve seen it. Lovely piece o’ work ya made there. You’re a smart lass, and ya have nimble fingers. But I wonder,” he paused to gently blow on the edge of the blade, “…do ya ever think of doing more? Yea parents are experienced. Powerful. Ever think o’ being like them?”
Illeith’atharia sat with her eyes downcast, quietly petting the bat’s furry back. All of the half formed reasons and objections that had kept her from following her parent’s path swirled in her mind.
“Let me toss this at ya another way. ‘Cause of what you are, the undead are gonna be a mite bit o’ a problem for you; one way or another. Why not deal with yer problem straight ‘way, instead o’ running from it? Few undead can stand the might o’ the Divine.” He focused his gaze upon her and lifted an inquiring eyebrow.
She quickly shook her head dismissively as Tethnick’near’s frowning face appeared in her mind, “I have no desire to serve the Ancestors. I am unfit—”
“Horseshit. I’m not talking about those mummy worshipers. No offence to yer dame, mind ya, but they don’ have the sole line on Radiance, as much as they’d like ta think so. No, I’m talkin’ about Divinity within; the spark o’ creation that everyone has. Its yer strength and yer will manifest.”
Having captivated the girl’s complete attention, he leaned in to speak with her in hushed tones. To Illeith’atharia, it seemed he was imparting some sacred truth; some ancient wisdom only a select few were privileged to know. His whole manner captivated her and she found herself fascinated despite the initial caution she felt.
“The strength and power overcome yer enemies and smash the undead into dust comes from inside of you…if yer willing to learn.” With a little nod toward her, Dalrick eased back in his chair and carefully closed his knife. After a moment of looking at her earnest contemplation, he shrugged a bit and made ready to leave.
Just as he was walking away from the table, Illeith’atharia spoke up, “What would I have to learn? How would I start?”
Turning back to look at her, a slow smile spread of Dalrick’s face and his eyes started to twinkle again. “Get some comfortable clothes on, ‘nd meet me in the courtyard. We’ll start there.”
Over the course of the next several weeks, Dalrick slowly began to train Illeith’atharia in the ways of the Avenger. It took a couple of weeks for her parents to find out, for Dalrick was a sly fellow and he knew they might not approve. Once they did find out, it took several more weeks for them to come to terms with their beloved daughter’s choices; both her slow religious conversion as well as her chosen career path.
It helped that she continued to practice as a Journyman Jeweler. She still adored spending time creating beautiful things to wear, and liked when other’s appreciated her skill. But now much of her free time in between projects was spent with Dalrick training.
Belpheir’anon and Keara helped out once in a while too. Sometimes they would stand in as targets or training partners. Other times they would help fill in when Dalrick lacked the necessary skills. Narith’deare occasionally acted as the ‘impossible to hit’ target, and even Tethnick’near unbent enough to offer a word of advice here and there. Shinnal’thea never quite approved of what was going on; but after she lost the initial arguments, she didn’t bring it up.
Eventually the adventuring cabal exhausted all of the interesting jobs in the area. In all of this time no further undead activity was found, and they quickly became restless to move on. When the day of departure came around, nearly everyone was surprised that Dalrick decided to stay on and continue teaching Illeith’atharia.
The announcement to stick around was greeted with well wishes and teasing; though Shinnal’thea seemed to be less than amused. Kith’athar merely winked at his daughter, and offered space for their friend to stay as long as he would like.
Over the course of the next year Dalrick taught Illeith’atharia about the basic tenants of the Blood of Vol. As she built her physical strength and dexterity, he showed her how to focus her belief in herself and the strength of her blood…