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Aya’s Story
An autobiographic recollection, by Aya

The crisp autumn wind was not quite cold, but hinted at the coming winter. The Waylander poked his head out from the rough wooden cottage he presently called home, rubbing a scarred and calloused hand across his grizzled chin. "A good day for a hunt," he mused to the packhorse tethered by the door. "Wouldnt you agree, Stepper?" he inquired of the horse. Stepper turned to glance at his master with baleful eyes, and chomped down on his bit in crotchety indifference. The Waylander chuckled hoarsely. "Somehow, I knew you would say that." He then slipped his skinning knife into his belt, filled his quiver with arrows, and slung his bow across his back. The old man then took up the reins of the horse, and the two disappeared into the woods.

Two hours later, the Waylander crouched in the underbrush and took a draught from the gourd at his waist. "A fine day, perhaps," he grumped, "For chasing one’s shadow through the forest." The horse snickered and pawed the dust with one iron-clod hoof. "Shut your mouth, you mangy carrot-munching flea-ridden-" He stopped in mid-sentence. A slight movement off into the underbrush caught his attention. Yes! Finally! There was a great hart drinking from a stream about twenty spans to the south. A slow smile crept across his face as he raised his bow and silently nocked an arrow. True, the beast was at a great distance, but it was certainly within range of the sturdy longbow. It all depended on skill. If he missed this shot, the sound would alert the stag, and it would bolt. That would mean one more night of scrapping a meal out of burnt orc ribs. (Contrary to popular belief, orc ribs are not as pleasing to the palate as is venison.) Clearing his mind, blocking out all distractions, willing the stag’s breast to seek the tip of his arrow....

--A shrill cry pierced the still afternoon air. The great hart started, alarmed, and quickly disappeared into the brush with a great thundering of hooves. Cursing with a foul tongue, the Waylander seethed in fury. What fool was roaming about his woods, spoiling his hunt? He would soon find out.

"Xys Zryg Cbmr!" The sounds were carried on the breeze.

"Oh, perfect," he muttered. "Another pig-brained imbecile trying to hone his skill on a wisp. Just what I need to end a lovely day." He approached the clearing. He caught a glimpse of a knight, in full plate armor, hacking uselessly against an infuriated wisp. "Fool," he called across the clearing, "You’ll nay save your arse with that."

The Waylander unequiped his bow and summoned the mystical powers to him. "Vas Corp Por," his voice rang out across the clearing, and he made the magical gestures that summoned the dangerous Energy Vortex. Drained of mana, the Waylander watched as the dangerous Energy Vortex materialized in mid-air, right next to the wisp. Its hollow voice boiled with rage, and its empty eyes looked upon the wisp with a mindless need to kill. The wisp turned from the battered knight to focus its attention on the Vortex, and that was all the Waylander needed. He sprinted across the clearing and grabbed the knight by the edge of his armor and half helped, half dragged the man out of harm’s way.

Once they were far enough away to be safe, the Waylander threw the knight on the ground. "What in God’s name did you think you were doing, you fool boy? What kind of hero did you think to be? A matryr? Not in MY woods!" Enraged, he kicked the knight sharply, just below the helmet. "Did you even stop to think that—" As the helmet fell off the man’s head, the Waylander saw that it had not been guarding a man’s head at all. Silvery blue hair tumbled about a small face with alien, delicate features. Somehow not quite human, yet still lovely in every way. His anger disappeared, and left in its wake a sense of awkwardness. Aye, it would be fair to say that he loved her the moment his eyes fell on her face.

"I thank you for helping me, kind sir," she said. The language of the land seemed foreign to her, and she slurred her words with an unfamiliar tongue.

He nodded, and brought a flask to her trembling lips. "Drink this," he instructed her, "It is a powerful healing potion."

She drank deeply, and smiled. "I feel my health returning to me aleady, sire," she breathed.

"Good," he replied. "So my cousin’s skill in alchemy is still strong."

The young woman nodded and smiled. "M’Lord, what is your name?" she inquired.

He sat back and blinked, caught off guard. "I am a simple Waylander, Lady, and some have come to call me that as name. My true name was lost when I was orphaned, but those who raised me called me the ‘Shadow Walker.’ You can call me either." He smiled briefly as he gazed upon her features. So lovely, he thought, like a rosebud just coming into bloom. Involuntarily, he reached his hand up to touch her smooth cheek.

A smile graced her lovely features. "I am known as Aya in these lands," was her reply.

"A beautiful name," he said, "Very beautiful. But it does not do justice to a face like yours, my lady. A smile from your lips would cause the heavens to sing." Color crept into Aya’s pale cheeks at such praise. He continued: "I would nay be surprised to discover that the sun only shines her warm rays upon the earth so that she may protect your beauty from the harsh winter." He grinned impudently, and stood. " I will be back shortly," he stated, and disappeared into the back room of his cottage, leaving the bewildered young woman alone with her thoughts.


Moments later, Shadow Walker emerged from the back room. Aya could scarce recognize him! He had taken a razor to his scruffy beard, used a comb on his long, bedraggled hair, and washed the grime from his body. Standing before her now was a portrait in angelic beauty. Auburn hair cascaded down his back. His face was smooth and unblemished. So handsome.... and he could not have been more than a year older than she. The figure before her could not possibly be the same man that had rescued her from the wisp! That man had been so old and gruff... this man was young, handsome.... the very sight of him set Aya’s heart to pounding. How could he be the same person???

And then he stepped closer, and she gazed deep into those crystal blue-green eyes..... Yes, this was he....

He smiled, and leaning forward, allowed his lips to brush ever so gently against hers.

She trembled, and savored the kiss for a moment before backing away. "I- - I should be leaving soon," she said.

He nodded. "Perhaps."

She gathered up her helmet and backed towards the door. "I... I suppose I wll be seeing you around...." she whispered, and before her heart failed her, she ran out into the woods. She had already lost a battle today. She could not stand to lose her heart as well.

Shadow Walker stood in the doorway staring after her with a chuckle. "It may seem like the end, my dear," he chuckled to himself, "but we both know ‘tis but



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