Coming of Age

By Rachel

Taking a long leisurely stretch before turning over, the Drow looked at her bedmate and spoke in a soft tone, "Yes," she started off saying with a sly smile, "You do have your uses." Returning the smile, Luke watched Vinlesu play with the ring piercing her naval, "Well, you get what you pay for." He replied, wondering what the dark elf would do to him next. She was a good customer he thought, but he always lost the next days work after their bouts of sex, recovering from the aches and pains the Drow inflicted upon him, maybe he wondered if he shouldn't raise his rates with her?

Watching the gigolo, Vinlesu knew the expression on his face; he always had that look when thinking about money. She only hoped that he would not try to demand too much. She liked Luke, even if he was human, and would for a few seconds lament killing him.

"Playing with it again."

Luke's comment brought Vinlesu out of her mussing, "Mmmm?" she replied drowsily.

Turning on his side, Luke placed his hand on top of the Drow's stomach fingering the gold band with its sparking emerald piercing Vinlesu's naval. "Whenever you get that deep in thought look, you start playing with that ring." Looking on as the Drow glanced at the ring, his own curiosity gave way, "Does it mean anything?" he asked with a nod of his head in the direction of Vinlesu's stomach, "The ring I mean."

Staring at the ceiling, Vinlesu didn't answer at first. Luke was beginning to think he made a mistake asking the erratic woman until she suddenly let lose a small sigh, whether or not it was happy or sad, he was not sure.

"It's a long story," she finally replied still looking at the ceiling.

Nodding, Luke laid his head on the pillow watching the dark elf's face. "I told you that I would like to hear about the Drow, tell me." He asked in a voice that betrayed his youth.

With a smirk, Vinlesu looked at the human, then turned back to staring at the ceiling before closing her red eyes, and starting to speak.

*It was my seventy-ninth year, in human terms, I believe it would make me about your age, seventeen, or there bouts. All Drow as they grow learn how to fight in groups, and to survive aboveground. So a raiding party would take about four cubs as we were called since we never been out of the caves to the surface. We all still had our cub markings, that's long locks of hair braided next to our ears. Only a raid leader could cut them off to show that we're no longer children. I of course stood out from the rest from the beginning.*

"VINLESU!" The tall Drow screamed at the sleeping girl. "For the last time, get your ass out of that bed roll, night is almost here." Satisfied to see movement, the Drow looked up at the approaching twilight, "By Innoruuk, it's like waking the dead." He growled before storming off.

The girl peeked out from underneath her blanket, and immediately squeezed her eyes shut. Even with the fading sun almost gone, the dull light brought pain, she missed the darkness of the caves, and in a few short days came to hate the sun. But at least she was smarter than some of the other cubs, she thought with a smile as she tossed the blanket back, she kept her clothes on when they went to sleep the first morning. Spyre, a cub male who wanted to be a mage, stripped down to his loincloth saying that he would not suffocate while sleeping. Only his feet stuck out from under his blanket, and having never before been exposed to the sun, by the time he woke, the soles of his feet were one large blister. One of the group had to carry him back, now it would be at least another two to three years before he would be allowed to come to the surface again, putting him behind most of the other cubs.

Keeping her back to the setting sun, the girl rolled her blanket tightly, when several of the Drow ran passed her. Looking around she saw Arkana; barreling towards her bow in hand, with a look of pure excitement upon her face. "Grab your bow and hurry!" she called out as she ran by. Calling out, Vinlesu asked what was happening. The answer sent a chill through her body.

"ELVES."

Elves; as the Drow are dark, the elves are to the light. There was no love between the two cousins as they often referred to themselves. The fights between the Drow and Elf's been going on since the two races were first birthed, it was rare to find an Elf or Drow that has not had a ancestor killed by one or the other, the hatred was deep, and alive in both races.

Leaving the bedroll, she grabbed her bow and quiver and took off following after Arkana, quickly catching up; they ran silently alongside each other. One of the first rules taught, was noise meant death at night, the Drow's eyesight was unsurpassed in the dark, but all enemies could hear just as good. Soon up ahead they could see Crinos, their group leader, a Drow close to four hundred years old, many cubs have been send back to the caves to start their training once again at his word. Yet so respected for his teaching the Drow to survive, not even the most powerful family would dare speak against him. Standing with the pack leader in deep conversation was another Drow Vinlesu didn't recognize. Slowing to a walk, the two girls advanced side to side, just then noticing that the third and final cub left out of their original group was walking towards them.

Samek, was as tall, as Vinlesu was small, almost seven feet, and huge, some suggested that maybe he was part troll. But never to his face, it seemed natural that he wanted to be a warrior. Standing next to him, Vinlesu felt smaller than her four foot, ten inches, "What going on, we heard something about elves?" she asked, working to keep the excitement out of her voice, her mother taught her to always stay calm, let the others panic, then strike when they're weak like a true Drow.

The cub nodded, his red eyes glancing toward the stranger, "His party raided a human caravan, seems the humans in a near village didn't care for it, so about fifteen of them took up the chase, along with five high elves. They're quick and only about a two marks behind." Arkara, licked her lips, still flowing with energy, "How many are there of the raiding party, and are we going to help or run?"

Vinlesu smiled as she watched Samek, as Arkara was excited, the tall Drow was calm, almost bored, he would most certainly have his braids cut before the pack returned underground. "There are six, with the three teachers, there's nine raiders, with two pack leaders in the group. Crinos don't think the humans will put up much of a fight, but he's worried about the elves."

"What about us?" Arkara asked worriedly, "We're not going to be left out are we?"

Revealing his first emotions, Samek frown with a shrug of his shoulders, "We're inexperienced Crinos' say's. He's wants us at the fringes of the fight yelling and screaming, make the humans think that there's more Drow than there really are."

*Needless to say, Arkara was not happy, nor was Samek, but we were not about to argue, none of us wanted to be sent back, especially when there was to be a battle involving elves. So with the human's only two marks away coming in from the north, Arkara was set out to the west, Samek, east, and for some reason I was in the center. So we waited, and waited, Crinos send all the others up in the trees but for himself. He wanted to be sure that the cubs didn't interfere, so he wanted to keep an eye on us.

You know, humans and elves should never go out at night, you're both night blind. You hide behind rocks and trees, thinking that since you can't see, then you can't be seen. But the night is to the Drow, what the day is to you. They suspected that the raiding party was waiting for them, but they could not know the party ran into another group of Drow. I was only a Drow child at that time, yet I easily saw them trying to move stealthily, using the trees for shields.*

Vinlesu jumped in her hiding place, Arkara had started yelling. She watched as the humans froze in place, then four fell pierced with Drow arrows. Before they could recover Samek started yelling, the humans at first started towards Arkara hiding place, then did an about face, racing towards Samek as two more fell. With a lick of her lips, Vinlesu's voice felt so dry, but on time she gave out a battle cry she heard some of the other cubs had practiced. It worked, the group of human's immediately turned towards her. Only to have more fall. In the space of a few beats of a heart, half the humans were dead. But what of the elves she thought, where were they?

As if to answer, a strangled cry came from the tree to her left, after a brief few seconds a Drow body fell out to the ground. The real fight had started; the elves had dashed into the trees when the first human fell, their keen hearing picking up the twang of a bowstring. But they already lost the battle; the human's most likely thinking they were surrounded, deserted their Elf companions without even checking their own wounded. Now outnumbering their enemies, the Drow dropped from the tree's hunting the elves.

Vinlesu was petrified, unable to move she listened to the silent forest, until the stillness was shattered by the clash of swords, then a cry of pain, followed by a moan, and once again silence. Images raced though the young Drow's mind, each and every lesson, every word, yet none had prepared her for the terrifying unknown of a first battle. More clashes and silence followed, Vinlesu didn't know what was worse, not knowing who was winning, or waiting in the dark, thinking that each passing moment could bring her own death.

Then a branch moved to her right, narrowing her vision the Drow stared at the tree. It seemed like an eternity passed before a dark shadow dropped to the ground, Vinlesu immediately recognized Crinos. The Drow leader was creeping silently from tree to tree, circling the small clearing before her. All of a sudden, the pack leader fell back to the ground, a figure on top of him, an Elf figure. Stunned Vinlesu watched the life and death struggle, never before had she seen one of her pale cousins outside of the broken slaves in the city.

Then remembering her training, the young Drow brought up the bow she had been holding throughout the battle. Quickly notching an arrow, Vinlesu pulled back and took aim. The fight between the Elf and Drow continued, both combatants rolling back and forth on the ground trying to get the advantage over the other. The girl's mind was telling her to relax, to ease the bowstring until she had a shot. But her arm refused to listen, it was if she turned to a stone, only the slight trembling of the hand holding the bow showed that she was flesh and blood.

A cry suddenly erupted between the struggling enemies, Vinlesu watched as the Elf slowly rose up, crouching over the still form of Crinos, his hand raising even higher, the moonlight glittering of the blade held within. Her breath now coming in deep gasps, the Drow could no longer keep control of the violent shaking of her hand, the shaft of the notched arrow began slapping back and forth against the bow. Then in horror she saw the Elf warrior halt, twisting his head at the sound of arrow striking against the bow, faster than she could see, he leaped up turning to face the threat behind him.

Startled, Vinlesu let lose the bowstring as she fell back, not seeing the arrow fly into the clearing just as the warrior finished stepping into the path of the wayward shot. Missed seeing the arrowhead bury itself into the Elf's left eye, the force carrying it deep into the warrior's brain. With only an exhale of breath in astonishment, the pale figure fell to the ground dead before his head hit the grass.

Scrambling back onto her hands and knees, the young girl fumbled for the dagger at her belt, swiftly gasping in disbelief at the sight of the dead Elf. So transfixed by the sight, she didn't even notice Crinos beginning to stir, little by little the pack leader raised himself onto his side surprised to see his foe laying dead beside him, then even more astonished when he saw Vinlesu holding her dagger staring at the Elf, her bow on the ground at her feet. Hastily regaining his wits, the pack leader grabbed his short sword and ran into the woods.

*There's not much to say after that, they had killed two more elves, and captured another, the fifth escaped. Six humans were dead, we found two others that were badly wounded, so with a prayer to Innoruuk, Crinos dispatched their souls to his realm Of the Drow, only one of the raiders been killed, and another wounded. The pack leader obviously didn't know how I killed the Elf, and of course being Drow, I would not tell him the truth when he called me before him.*

Standing in front of Crinos, Vinlesu briefly gazed at the camp, Arakara and Samek were watching her with envious eyes. The raider pack and teachers encircled the two of them with proud looks, as Crinos spoke, "Cub Vinlesu, in my hundred years of training, never has a cub so much as wounded an Elf, you not only killed a seasoned warrior with one shot, but you also saved a Drow's life." Pausing to look around the group, the pack leader then held up a golden ring, a bright emerald of high quality set in the mound, "This was taken off the finger of the Elf you killed, take it in memory of this day."

Taking the ring, Vinlesu looked back up at Crinos as he pulled out his dagger, silently cutting the braids at her ears. "I greet you Drow Vinlesu." Dazed, the new Drow barely remembered the following marks, as the raiders, teachers, and last, Arakara and Samek acknowledged her as Drow Vinlesu. It was later that Crinos came to her while she was starting to realize just what had happen, but alert enough to follow the pack leader when he requested it.

They walked only a short distance, to where one of the raiders guarded the captured Elf, catching only fleeting look at the frighten face of an elfin girl, twin braids hanging just forward of her longish ears. "Vinlesu," Crinos started off saying in a quiet tone, "As pack leader during the battle, I get first choice of the spoils, but since you saved my life, I wish to free myself from any obligations to you." Moving aside he nodded to the Elf. "So for my life, I give you a life to do with as you see fit."

"Wait a minute, that's it, you can't stop now!" Luke exclaimed as the Drow firmly started to rub her hands over his chest. "I mean what happen to the Elf, did she become your slave?" Chuckling, Vinlesu's eyes started to glow as she embraced the young human, "You only asked about the ring, as for the Elf, she did have her uses, but that's another story."

Fin