Sunlight filtered through the dust laden windows of the inn, somehow managing to find the face of the young occupant. The boy moaned in displeasure, then rolled over to his other side, covering his face with the dirty wool blanket that served as his only comfort from the cold. His room was always freezing, mainly because it was the old storehouse, but he did not seem to mind much. The old windbag of a woman who served as his guardian and constant tormenter had at least been considerate enough to give him that blanket one frigid evening, claiming that the only reason behind her kindness was that a live charge was looked upon by the village better than a dead one.

The lad had only managed to get comfortable again when there came a loud rap on the door, closely followed by a high voiced screech.

"Nefizan! Get out of bed, you lazy layabout! The fire needs tending, and the guests are awake. I don't want another leaving hungry just because you couldn't bother to drag yourself off the floor!"

With a defeated sigh, Nefizan rolled over, shielding his eyes from the sun with one thin hand. There was no way to escape the morning chores this morning, he assumed as he searched for a semi-clean tunic and pants on his floor. He yawned, his hand finally grasping a shirt of dark green fabric and some plain tan pants.

"Better than nothing," he murmured, slipping the tunic over his bare chest and muscled arms, the fabric drawing a few locks of black hair over his hazel eyes in the process. Feeling thouroughly annoyed at nearly everything on this accursed morning, he tucked the troublesome bangs behind his ear, grumbeling audibly.

"Are you up yet?" came another shriek from the outside, quickly followed by obnoxious banging.

Scowling, Nefizan shouted back, "Of course I am! How could anyone sleep with an old hag like you bashing down their door?" He immidiatly regretted the comment as his door was thrown open and his caretaker barged in, a faded blue dress hanging limply on her bony shoulders, a rolling pin in one hand and a frightening expression on her face.

"How dare you?" she shouted, brandishing the rolling pin like a club as she advanced toward him. Nefizan stumbled backward, narrowly avoiding a haphazard swing for his head. "After all these years I've cared for you. I've clothed you and given you a roof over your head after your good-for-nothing turncoat parents dumped you on my doorstep, and you have the nerve to insult me in my own home!" She swung at him again, clipping his shoulder painfully. She pointed savagly at the dining room, where a good many faces had turned to watch the struggle. "Now get to your work, or you'll find yourself sleeping with the dogs tonight. And cover your ears. It's bad enough that your face shows who your mother was; I don't need every Loyal down here bashing down my door because of some elf half-breed."

Nefizan edged past her, casting a wary glance at her weapon before tugging his hair to cover the points on his ears. There was no purpose in denying who his parent were, as far as he was concerned, but the old woman was always fretting about what the villagers thought of her inn and hated the idea of having business disappear just because of some stupid boy who lived under her roof.

A few moments later, he found himself sitting by the old fireplace, trying to provoke life into a few smouldering embers and simply producing a thin trail of smoke. The entire endeavor seemed more than pointless in his mind, but he kept at the taks, hoping that appearing busy would be enough to keep the old woman off his back for a while. It seemed to be working so far, though he could hear the whispers of the guests behind him. The innkeeper was easy enough to ignore, but the mumbeling of strangers always drew his attention from his task.

"Did you hear what she said about him earlier?" one asked, his voice gruff and low. "She said he was an Elf!"

Nefizan tensed involentarily at the mention of the word "Elf." Great, just what his morning needed. He sat quietly, listening even harder to the conversation behind him and abandoning the fire.

"Yeah, I heard," responded the first's companion. "I thought something was strange about that boy when I saw him last night. He nearly dropped a tankard on the innkeeper's foot, and I swear he did it on purpose."

"Like my father always said: no good can come from an Elf."

Nefizan's face grew hot with anger as he spun around, glaring viciously at the two men, who immidiatly ceased their whispering. Every time that woman lost her temper, he was the one who suffered for it. The guests regarded him as some feral beast that could turn on them at any moment, always watching him as he went about his chores, asking again and again why she didn't just keep him locked in the storehouse all day instead of letting him out with the "normal people."

"I bet your father was nothing more than a foot soldier who spent most of his pay on ale and women in the taverns," Nefizan said, bright emerald eyes gleaming with an urge to fight. "I wonder if he ever actually saw an elf. He probably just repeated what he heard from men who actually fought them."

"What did you say?" the stranger roared, rising to his feet. His breath reeked of ale, and he walked with the distinct stagger of a drunkard. Not exactly the opponent Nefizan would have chosen, but anything was worth the entertainment a fight would provide. "You think you're better than me, little Elven scumbag?"

Nefizan ducked as the man swung a fist for his nose, nearly falling over himself as he missed. The younger thanked the gods for getting more than just the look of an Elf. His mother's inborn reflexes had probably just saved him a week's worth of recovery. With a wicked grin on his lips, he spun, bare foot colliding with the man's jaw and sending him reeling into the table.

"I don't think; I know," Nefizan said calmly, his expression smug. He would probably get a whipping for such behavior later, but he could escape with due reason for the rest of the day now. He shot the customers one final glance, then pulled open heavy front doors and stepped out into the mid-morning air. He glanced to the hills that surrounded the village like a fortress wall, and his smile widened.

He set off toward the hills at a brisk walk, his feet carrying him to the one known as Eagle's Crest.