Author's Notes: I've slightly changed the chapters for this, now that I've finished the story fully, and gone over it to correct any spelling/grammar mistakes I saw. Reviews are always welcome and I'll try and upload chapters regularly as I revise the finished story on my own computer before I start Maiyn's journey into SoA. thanks to everyone who has left comment so far - it's all the encouragement I need to keep putting the story up regularly, especially since it's completed (after many weeks!)
None of this would likely have ever come about if it hadn't been for the wonderful BGTutu mod which encouraged my creative side to come out and play; the creators of the Coran and Xan romance mods also being largely responsible for Maiyn's development.
General disclaimer: I own nothing, even Maiyn generally decides her own path.
She made no noise as she crouched behind the barrels, waiting for the warden's attention to be wholly absorbed by the approaching caravan. She'd gone through these motions so often before that it was almost habit, but today it was different; today would probably be the last time she would ever sneak out of the Candlekeep gates unseen and unheard, and all on her own.
Maiyn didn't have long to wait. As usual the Gatewarden gave his full attention to the potential visitors, his concentration fully on the book he was examining. It was no doubt to be offered as a donation to the keep's great library as the payment for entry, as was the custom.
She cautiously wrapped her cloak closer around her, the hood shrouding her pale face as she stealthily stalked along the shadow of the mud splattered walls until she was free to duck around the outside palisade of the town. Her pace picked up as she pulled her hood down, and she sprinted lightly into the confines of the forest.
She'd walked here often, sometimes alone and sometimes with her foster father, Gorion. It was on her seventh birthday that he first took her outside Candlekeep. They walked for almost an hour on the edge of the wood, as he pointed out the different flowers to her. Most of the conversation, she reflected, had been him gauging her comfort in the wild setting, but she'd ran around and played happily, and begged him take her back into the trees as soon as he could.
He had smiled that day, a proud smile that acknowledged the growing up of his ward, and her obvious love of the life her kin so fondly embraced. It was from then that she had undertaken some private lessons with him, where she had become quite fluent in elvish despite her human surroundings and human father. Gorion had also taught her of the Seldarine, the Gods of her people, and she had immediately felt an affinity with Fenmarel Mestarine.
The mage had ensured that Maiyn was able to access all the books relating to him in the library, and she had poured over them, learning his history. The more she read of the loner god, the deeper her worship of him became, and she yearned to follow his path, to protect those who came to her, and to protect the forest and woods. Since then, she had prayed and meditated every dusk in his name, and solemnly swore to uphold his values.
A faint smile crept across her face as she walked, memories flooding through her mind of her past twenty years. Although she should still be a child, an enchantment had been woven into her being and she had aged as a human would. Gorion had not been able to explain why this had been, or what could have placed it on her, but he had suggested it was possibly related to her being an orphan. The only definite answer he was able to give her regarding it, was that it would be broken on her 20th birthday - the following day - when she would continue to age as a normal adult elf.
She had asked about her parents once or twice, but Gorion had no details to give her, saying he'd cared for her since she was a newly born babe. Although he had known her mother a little, he had no idea of her sire, and he would only tell of her mother dying in childbirth. The fact the elderly sage had loved and nurtured her for her whole life was enough, and she refused to think of him as anything but her true father.
Her peculiar aging had meant that her friendship with Gorion's other adopted child, Imoen, was incredibly close. Maiyn had been barely three years old when the human girl arrived to live with them, signalling the end of Gorion's adventuring days. Although he clearly adored both of them, he had always kept a closer eye on Maiyn, and Imoen had almost grown up seeing the innkeeper, Winthrop, as a father figure while she did chores for him and picked up some dubious lockpicking skills from some of his customers.
They were as close as sisters, and Maiyn had been distressed when Gorion had called her to his room that morning. She had gone as asked, curious as to what her father wished; it was unlike him to send a messenger requesting her presence. He would either wait until he saw her during her lessons, or seek her out for himself. When she had arrived though, the reason became clear.
"Ah Maiyn, my child, I do not have time to explain just now as I have much planning to do, but we must leave Candlekeep tomorrow, before nightfall," Gorion said as Maiyn quietly entered his room after knocking upon his door.
"But why?" Maiyn asked, surprise showing clearly on her face.
"It is no longer wise for us to stay here," he said, with a faint smile. "You have grown into a fine young woman, my dear, and it is time for us to leave these confines. There is much of the world out there, and perhaps it is time you saw some of it."
Maiyn had barely been able to prevent the beaming smile that spread across her face. "Where will we be going father? Can we visit Tethyr? And I know Imoen would love to see Calimport! Or maybe Waterdeep!"
"Maiyn, child," Gorion had said softly, sitting in his large armchair and looking serious. "Imoen shall not be travelling with us at this time. Winthrop has agreed that she can stay with him at the Inn until we settle some other matters."
"But..." Maiyn was crestfallen, her smile faded immediately. She couldn't imagine leaving Imoen behind, they'd been inseparable for their whole lives.
"I know you must be saddened by this news," continued Gorion, his voice remaining gentle and kind, "but you must trust me when I say it is for the best. You shall see Imoen again, sooner than you imagine I daresay, but for now it is in everyone's best interest for her to remain here, while you and I seek out some of my old friends."
Maiyn nodded. She trusted her father implicitly, and knew he would not separate the two unless it was necessary. "I should pack my belongings," she said quietly.
"Only pack what you will need," the sage advised as he stood up. "I trust you will know what that is, but visit Winthrop now - he will have a few things for you."
She had seen the innkeeper that afternoon, and he had given her some leather armour and a plain helmet to wear. She had put them on, and instantly felt clumsy and restricted; she was far too used to just her tunic, skirt and cloak. She had inspected herself in the full length mirror behind the bar. Her black hair was neatly braided into several tails which fell around her shoulders, and mostly covered her pointed elven ears. Her mottled brown cloak fell almost to her ankles, designed for a much taller human; she had found it several years before, along with an old bow and quiver, and she'd become inseparable from all three. Her ventures out with the keep walls were used mainly for her to practise her aim and skill with the weapon, and she had become a capable archer.
The leather armour hung down and protected her to the top of her legs. Her dark green skirt flowed out from under it, swirling around above her knees, the only bit of flesh that showed. Her boots were old but still sturdy, and fit around her calves comfortably. She seemed to have perfected the art of being stealthy in them and she couldn't bear to part with them, even when Winthrop offered her a new pair.
The most surprising gift had been left until last though. A gleaming sword complete with its own scabbard was produced from somewhere underneath the counter, and Maiyn had fastened the belt around her waist. She knew little of the outside world, but was aware of the iron shortage plaguing the Sword Coast, and remarked on it while admiring her new blade.
Winthrop told her that it was the best he could do at such short notice, but that it was better than nothing. 'I doubt ye'll need it lass,' he'd said, 'but if anything happened, I'd never forgive mysel' for letting ye leave these walls unprepared.'
The rest of the day had allowed her to catch up with her errands so she would have the day of departure free for herself. The inhabitants of Candlekeep had all somehow learned of her impending travels, and had reacted strangely whenever they met her. Phlydia was one of the older students in the library, and she had almost cried when she passed Maiyn that afternoon.
'Oh, you remind me of Gorion when you smile like that,' she had said while wiping her eyes. 'Raising you has been hard on him, I know, but he says it's a toil of love... a toil of destiny even. You must be a very special child indeed to draw such praise from a man of his silent nature.'
Dreppin, the cattle herder who was only a few years her senior had been especially strange. Normally he was cheerful and playful with both the young elf and Imoen, but he had seemed withdrawn and quiet when she stopped to talk to him that day. There was sadness in his eyes whenever he looked to her, but he did not mention her leaving, and in the end she was called away by the dwarven storeman, Reevor, to finish her chores. When she had returned to the barns, Dreppin had gone.
The encounters had not become any clearer as the day went on. When dusk was falling, Maiyn had settled upon the ground within the inner gardens, outside the library walls to begin her meditation and prayer. As she was in deep thought, the keep chanters wandered past, but paused upon noticing her. Distracted by their gaze, she looked to them and smiled, and they'd began to sing.
'In the Year of the Turrets, a great host will come from the East like a plague of insects, so sayeth the Wise Alaundo...' the Voice of the East had chanted.
The Voice of the North joined in. 'When conflict sweeps across the Dales, the great lizards of the north shall descend with fire and fury, so sayeth the Wise Alaundo...'
'When the Shadows descend upon the lands, our divine Lords will walks alongside us as equals, so sayeth the Wise Alaundo...' chanted the Voice of the South,
'The Wyrmm shall wander the earth, and such a pestilence will follow in his wake that all who know of his passing shall be struck down by the plague, so sayeth the Wise Alaundo...' the Voice of the West finished.
'The Lord of Murder shall perish, but in his doom he shall spawn a score of mortal progeny. Chaos will be sown from their passage, so sayeth the Wise Alaundo...' had intoned the High Chanter finally, his gaze fixed directly on Maiyn, who was watching them enraptured. A subtle nudge to the side had brought her back to reality, and caused the chanters to continue on their way.
'You are leaving tomorrow, child, had spoken the familiar voice of Tethtoril, Gorion's close friend and one of the Elders of Candlekeep. 'You have learned much in your time here, and I am sure Gorion is proud of you - as am I. Listen well to him, Maiyn, for without knowledge, life is a mere shadow of death, and your foster father is a very wise man.' Without another word, he had turned and left, though Maiyn was sure she'd seen tears shining from his eyes.
She paused as she made her way between the trees, taking in her surroundings to be sure she would never forget it. She noted the way the trees grew, widely spaced with plenty of room between them for the wildflowers underfoot to flourish. Bushes and shrubs littered the gaps, scents of honeysuckle and lavender would whip through the air whenever she passed them. She wondered if they'd return to Candlekeep when they were done - Gorion had assured her she wouldn't be parted from Imoen for long; perhaps that was what he had meant. Something in her heart told her otherwise though, and she had a sense of foreboding about their departure.
With a sigh, she knew she should return to the keep. The final caravan was due to arrive soon, and after it there would be no sneaky entry back to the town - and Gorion would find out what she'd been up to all these years. She was pretty sure he knew about her having acquired a bow, but he had never asked her where she used it, despite knowing that the guards would not permit her to play with arrows in the confines of the settlement. She was quite happy assuming he wasn't aware of the things she got up to, and she would rather trust that he believed the rather far-fetched tales both she and Imoen came up with to explain their absence from classes whenever they played truant.
She smiled wistfully as she began to head back. Her life was good, especially for an orphan. She wasn't sure why things had worked out so well for her, but she wasn't complaining.