Her body tensed as she saw the slender figure walking down the path, the silver hair, the points of his ears…there was no doubt even though she couldn’t see his face that this was a pure blood Eladrin. She could sense that her mount had also noticed the stranger, a low guttural growl filled her head as she heard the familiar voice speak to her telepathically.
“It is one of them,” Scaramouche warned.
Nadi did not answer him for fear of drawing attention to herself, she instead tightened her grip on his midnight colored fur. As she watched the group get closer to the Eladrin she swiftly changed into her human form. Her heart beat loudly inside her chest as Percival began to strike up a conversation with the local. As he turned towards them his sharp features were unmistakably those of an Elder Eladrin, Nadi had to quell the urge to run away.
Memories came flooding back of a time long ago, instead of the aroma of the delicate flowers along the road all she could smell was the ash and burning of homes. The voices of the conversation drained away as the sounds of screams came flooding into her head.
_The air was thick with smoke as the teenage Hengeyokai raced back towards Tian-Tang, the small village that was built within the Sylvan Forest. To her horror she saw troops by the hundreds infiltrating their peaceful town. The glowing armor of the Eladrin shined even more beneath the fire and the soldiers dragged the male Hengeyokai from their homes while others burned the huts that contained the women and children.
Nadi’s animal instincts begged her to run away, to hide. She suddenly felt a familiar presence at her side.
“This doesn’t make sense, the war is over…” Tears sprang to her eyes. “The Formorians were defeated.”
“They cannot find you, we must leave.” Scaramouche’s voice was stern but kind.
Nadi shook her head. “But Mother, father…”
“That is not their role, you do not owe them your life.” The panther insisted.
Like most Hengeyokai Nadi never knew her birth parents, their long-life span begins in the form of an animal (in Nadi’s case a hare) and after 100 years in that form they begin a new life with the ability to change shape, this was considered a rebirth to the Fey creatures. Sadly, that meant they would never know their birth parents as they would often be dead by the end of their children’s first 100 years.
Nadi had been taught the ways of the Hengeyokai when she became aware of her new form, by a couple who were elders of the village. He was the village Shaman who taught her the ways of the spirits while his wife was their healer. Surprising to the couple Nadi was a very adept student and seemed a natural at both of their professions. When asked which she would continue as an adult she insisted that neither were in her future, but instead wanted to continue to “tame the wild cats”.
She looked at Scaramouche who had an extremely expressive face for a Fey Panther. She reached out and placed a hand on his cheek, he leaned against her in a sign of affection. The panther had now been with her for over a decade, when they first met he had come to Tian-Tang to feed but was instead caught in a trap. The Hengeyokai were ready to kill the large cat when a small child who had only been able to shift for five years climbed into the cage and “tamed” the wild beast. Nadi was gifted and able to speak to the panther, she discovered he had been the leader of a pride of Fey Panthers but they had been hunted for their skin. She was then able to heal the wounded animal and he in turn dedicated his life to hers.
“I can’t leave them.” She insisted to Scaramouche and then transformed herself into a hare.
The carnage inside the village was overwhelming, but Nadi was above all else loyal to a fault. She stuck to the shadows and large vegetation that was native to the Feywild as she searched for her family. She witnessed the soldiers executing all the male Hengeyokai one by one, unfortunately she couldn’t understand what was being said, Elvish was not a language spoken in their village.
As she made her way to her parent’s hut she smelled something besides the burning of wood, she smelled cooking meat. Her heart raced as she drew closer and then the sight before her made her sick. Rows of skinned cranes, badgers and hares hung on a spit. Her eyes then focused on the fire where the carcasses were being roasted and a group of Eladrin soldiers were sitting down for a meal.
She felt the world grow dark and the next thing she remembered was being carried by a familiar Fey Panther running through the forest._
It had been fifteen years since that fateful day, well for Nadi it had been fifteen years but for the mortal realm it had been over a century since the great war between the Eladrin and the Fomorians. Like most of the other Hengeyokai Nadi fled the Feywild and took up residence in Kara-Tur. She chuckled inwardly thinking how terribly that turned out as well.
Basil’s voice brought her back to the moment, he was still speaking in Elvish but his tone and gestures combined with Percival’s reactions let Nadi know what he wanted to do. He wanted to ambush the retreating Eladrin. She then heard Strivian laughing.
“That Eladrin is of pure-blood,” She warned. “If you kill him there will be consequences”
Strivian looked towards the figure with blood lust in his eyes.
“All the better,” he snarled.
“He could be an elder…” She said the words before she could stop herself.
Strivian turned his gaze to her, his smile gave her chills. “Really?” His psychotic laughter was thankfully cut short by the appearance of his better half.
As the group deliberated their next move Nadi watched the Eladrin as he moved further and further into the forest. She wondered if he had seen them on the road during their extended rest, how had she missed him if he had come across them? Then another thought sprang to her mind. If he had seen them on the road he would’ve seen her hybrid form, would he have recognized her?
‘No, it has been far too long…’ She thought to herself.
“You’re rather quiet.” Scaramouche’s gruff voice interrupted her thoughts. “The group is moving on, are we proceeding with them? You know I’m sure I can find you a crossing, there is no need to stay let alone head right to the Eladrin’s nest.”
Nadi shook her head and leaned down to whisper to her mount. “There are bigger things happening back home, I must get Percival and Ed back.”
The cat sighed. “You know crossing for them will be dangerous.”
“Sigil, they have put all their hope into the City of Doors?” The cat asked in a defeated tone.
“Where else can they cross, I don’t know what else to do.” Nadi sat back and motioned for Mouche to follow the party.
“There is always Evermeet.” He said in a low voice as if he was afraid someone would over hear his telepathic connection.
Nadi didn’t answer the cat’s suggestion, her thoughts instead drifted to locked corners of her mind as they continued down the dusty road.
_“You’ve never been to Evermeet?”
Nadi looked up from her wine and shook her head. “Gods no, why would I ever want to go there?” She grimaced at the taste of the drink, never being one to abide the stuff. But she had learned it took the edge off her memory and helped her get through the day. While the circus had proved to be an amazing place to hide in plain sight for the Hengeyokai it was also the place for other less than savory individuals to also hide. And to Nadi’s dismay they were all enchanted by her human form.
“Well, I’ve always dreamed of going.” Xavorin continued. “Just to see what’s left.”
Nadi forced herself to take another drink, her head was beginning to feel fuzzy. “They say most of it disappeared after the spellplague.”
“I heard it’s a crossing.” He smiled at her.
“Then I’m definitely not going.” She poured herself another glass.
He walked over to her and gently moved the hair from her face. “Don’t you ever think about going home?”
She shook her head. “This world is my home, the Fey is nothing more than charred memories for me.”
“What about Scaramouche, don’t you think it’s draining for him to be here?” Xavorin motioned to the sleeping specter form of a panther.
Nadi looked at her companion, she often wondered if the Fey Beast sacrificed anything to be a presence with her in the mortal realm. She reached up and took his hand in hers. “It’s too dangerous.”
Xavorin suddenly shifted from a human into a hybrid of a golden fox. “Don’t you ever long to be in a place where we can be ourselves?”
Nadi quickly rose to her feet. “Someone could come in and see you, plus do you honestly think the Fey Wilde is a place we can be ourselves?”
He grabbed her by the arm. “Nadi, come home with me…we don’t belong here.”
She closed her eyes and shifted into her own hybrid form. “We don’t belong there either…”
He smiled at her and wrapped her in a tight embrace. “Then we won’t let them know we’re back. I think the Eladrin have much more to worry about then husband and wife shapeshifters.”
“I wouldn’t be so sure, a fox and hare together with a Panther companion…even for the Fey that is odd.” She offered a small smile and he laughed._
A creaking sound brought her out of the cherished memory, it reminded her of the sound of vines growing but only at a rapid speed. She motioned for Scaramouche to stop and she closed her eyes and listened to the forest around them.
After a moment her eyes opened in a panic, there was no doubt that the vegetation was coming for them. She looked to the group who were all unaware, she called their attention quickly and loudly.
“Run…the forest is attacking!”
Percival summoned his celestial horse and took off running down the path, Scaramouche was only a few paces after him. Nadi turned her head to make sure the group was following close behind, when she saw all of them running she returned her eyes to the road only to see a familiar, slender form emerging from the woods.
Scaramouche and Percival came to an abrupt stop, Nadi once again felt her heart rise inside her throat.
“Battle is inevitable, you will have to reveal your true form.” Scaramouche exclaimed with an unusual sense of fear in his voice. “Unless you run.”
__“Run, Nadi we must go!” Xavorin commanded as he burst through the door.
Nadi rose from her meditative stance and rushed to see what was wrong. She found her husband gathering a hidden bag she was unaware existed from beneath the floorboards. When he turned to face her she saw the splatter of blood on his clothing.
“Xavorin, what is happening?” She rushed to his side. She stopped cold when she realized he was unharmed. “What have you done?”
Without a word, he grabbed her by the arm and led her towards the back of the hovel. Nadi could hear horses in the distance coming towards their location. As they ran she used her connection to Scaramouche and called for him.
As they ran into the woods Nadi felt the claws of her husband digging into her skin, she tried to free herself of his grasp but he was ultimately stronger than she was. Once they were a way from the house she forced him to stop.
“Whose blood is that?” She pointed to his shirt. “I won’t go one more step until you tell me what has happened.”
He scanned their surroundings, she could see the gleam in his eyes. “Justice has prevailed my love. Justice for you, for me, for all Hengeyokai.”
Her hands began to shake as she turned his face to hers. “What…have you done?”
He smiled and kissed her forehead. “The reign of the all mighty Eladrin will soon come to an end.”
“That doesn’t answer my question Xavorin.”
“The High Council is now without their Queen’s Scribe, Zaltarish is gone.” As he spoke he pulled out his dagger and began to clean the blood in the stream. “I sent a powerful message to the pure-bloods!”
Nadi felt her knees grow weak. “The High Council of Evermeet were not the ones who killed our families.”
“Don’t you see my love it’s all the Eladrin, and if we can show that the Elders in Evermeet aren’t safe then none of them are.” He knelt beside her and cupped her face. “I have helped pave the way for a Feywild that is inclusive of all races, where we won’t have to bend the knee or hide who we are from the elite.”
“You murdered him,”
“I was commanded to target him, there is a difference.” He rose to his feet. “We cannot tally here, they are waiting for us.”
She looked up at him. “Who are waiting for us?”
“The Fomorians, they will be pleased.”
A flash of anger fell on her face. “You…Hengeyokai like you are the reason all of us suffer. Don’t you see, you have proved the justification of the Eladrin’s genocide right with this single act!” her breathing became labored as she tried to make sense of it.
“I am their assassin; the Fomorian’s reign will come about thanks to me.” He began to walk down the hill. “And the Eladrin want everyone who aren’t them to suffer…the ends justify the means my love.”
“I cannot make peace with what you have done.” She refused to follow him. “You spilt innocent blood.”
“Nadi, I don’t care if you can make peace with it or not. The Eladrin already believe we were created to be these monsters, nothing you or I do will change that.” He shouted at her. “What matters is us,” His voice lowered as he moved back to her side and knelt with her. “What matters now is making up for the injustice that have plagued our people, to ensure that this world is a home for future Hengeyokai…for our children.” His smile was cold. “Just picture it my love, how powerful they will be with our combined traits…and together we shall lead an uprising of mixed blood against their pure blood and the Fey will be cleansed of their hatred forever.”
Nadi’s mind raced, his words made no sense to her. “…you would be dead long before our children are reborn, they would not be your pawns in this.”
He leaned in and kissed her softly. “My sweet, naïve wife. Immortality doesn’t need to be a stranger to us.”
Her eyes widened and she pushed him off. “What you are talking about is unnatural, either a gift from a God or a pact with a Devil.”
“You are not wrong my dearest one.” He rose to his feet, smiling down at her. The look in his eyes sent a chill down her spine. “But so often those things are one in the same.”
She shook her head and rose to her feet. “I cannot condone this; the ends will never justify the means…not for me.”
“You believe to be above all this, do you truly think you will achieve peace without violence?” He spat.
She turned away from him and closed her eyes. “I am not as foolish as that my love…the balance of nature requires death.” She slowly opened her eyes. “But, that death must give way for something beautiful to grow, and that is not what I see behind your eyes.” She turned towards him. “Maybe it was at one time, but somewhere it was lost. And I cannot be a part of it.”
As she turned to leave a Calvary advanced on them. Horses and Eladrin soldiers closed off their exits. Nadi dropped to her knees in hopes they would see her innocence (though she had little actual hope). One of the soldiers advanced on Xavorin who threw his dagger into the horse’s eye. Two other soldiers chased after him down the hill. Nadi watched in horror as the man she loved was stabbed repeatedly. She then turned to look at the soldiers who were raising their swords at her when suddenly a familiar roar pierced the sky.
The large Fey Panther raced into the clearing and frightened the horses. This gave Nadi just enough time to climb onto his back and race into the woods. On the way they picked up Xavorin’s dying form and headed into the cover of the trees. After several hours they found a cave and Nadi went to work on her husband, stopping the bleeding and keeping him alive.
As she turned to leave she gave one last glance at the limp form of her misguided husband. It was at that moment she had vowed never to return to the Feywild again.__
Nadi shook off the shadows of the past and focused on the present. Her mind raced as the traces of a time long forgotten drifted from her mind. She had always believed that the ends never justified the means when it came to slaughter, and now as she stood with the rest of her party preparing to battle again to the death how many had they slaughtered in justification of their mission?
She looked at Ed, who was the living embodiment of a God with new power that was clearly a gift. Her eyes then drifted to Strivian who had gained his power another way. His cold smile reminded her of someone she had tried long ago to leave behind. She found herself in a place where she refused to be all those years ago, clearly this was her path no matter how hard she tried to fight it. Her only hope was this time they would replace the destruction with something beautiful.
Oddly she felt as if she could hear her husband’s eerie laughter carried in the wind.