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Mists of time, morning mists; both dim that long ago memory of a dawn when I was both boy and man. I recall my keen desire to serve my family, a desire that drove me to scout while my brothers rested in their bedrolls. I would be vigilant; I would protect. But against what? What would I find in the fog? Adventure? Romance? Something had to come from a moment so fraught with possibility. And something did come, dream made true. It was the boy in me that could believe it so and the man that was aborning who could make it so. A step to either side of that knife’s edge in my life and none of what came to pass would have happened.
It was all the more improbable because while it is true that the bards sing of it happening long ago; none expect it now. Humans and Ever-folk do not fall in love, not since the Cataclysm, not since we wrecked our empire and ruined the Ever-folk forests. That could not keep me from loving her when first we met. Of course, I mistook lust for love but that is a common failing among young men, especially princes who are not required to be delicate with the hearts of their conquests. And she did not mind as it made me pliable. That it did become love was no one’s expectation that day except my own and I had no reason to believe it could be so aside from youthful arrogance. Sometimes that is enough. This, then, is the account of how I, Aedric son of Lugaidh, met Ophia and of what followed.
My duty that morning was to watch our frontier for any sign of the Ever-folk. But the mist-draped hulks of the fallen trees called to mind a flight of dragons in the clouds and my thoughts were in the land of bards’ tales. What little notice I gave to my surroundings I spent seeking colorful rocks, easy to find here in the sandy ground. It was a boyish pursuit I had not forsaken despite being grown to manhood and trained for war. Dreams of dragons faded as the sun thinned the mist and restored my dragons to crumbling trunks. Struggling bushes and sparse tufts of grass grew among the toppled giants. Copses of tangled, stunted trees stood in the few places where the soil allowed. It was a barren land seeming all the more bleak set against the silver-gray line of the lush Trionesse Forest in the distance.
Then a woman stepped from the closest stand of trees and my heart leapt, not with concern as it should have given the recent raid, but with a shiver of desire. Was a she a spirit? Or a princess in disguise? Like the first words of a new song, anything was possible in that moment. She was slender and tall, too tall to be a human although her face was rounder than the few Ever-folk I had met as visitors to my father’s hall. Her green eyes flashed, piercing the last of the mist. Copper glinted in her auburn hair. She was garbed in faun-skin like an Ever-folk scout and her belt carried a short sword in a plain scabbard. The stock of a crossbow peeked over her shoulder. I had only met one spirit before, the river spirit of my home and he never carried weapons. But perhaps the spirits of ancient Trionesse were different.