I awaken, and sit up. Lyari is sitting across the fire from me with her eyes closed. She looks like she is deep in thought, so I don’t want to disturb her. I get up as quietly as I can, get dressed, and eat some of the food they left beside me during the night. Tanithil is nowhere to be seen, and with nothing else to do, I decide to copy Lyari. I sit down across from her, and cross my legs under myself. I put my hands in my lap, mirroring her pose, and close my eyes. I don’t feel as peaceful as she looks, though. My mind is racing. It keeps jumping from thought to thought, and memory to memory. I keep recreating the fight with the devil, the first peri I killed, the rats and things I’ve hunted, the fight with the other two peri, and finally meeting Lyari and Tanithil…over and over in an endless loop. Interspersed between those memories is the memory of the boat leaving me by the river, and the people on that boat. I wish I could see their faces in my memory. I hope I get to see them again someday.
Lyari startles me by speaking. “Is that what you really look like?”
I open my eyes, and look down. I’m female now, but my skin is paler than hers…almost milky white. My hair is as black as hers, and it’s long. I can feel the weight of it, and I see how it flows past my shoulders…almost down to my waist. She hands me a small mirror, and the face I see is that of a beautiful elven woman. I have purplish eyes set beneath fine, black eyebrows and over a thin, small nose. My lips are full and red, and my cheeks have the slightest blush to them. I think I’m the most beautiful person I’ve ever seen.
“I don’t know,” I say. “I think so. At least, I hope so. I was thinking about the river again, and watching those people leave. I think this is what I must have looked like to them.”
“You’re beautiful,” she says.
“Thank you,” I reply. It doesn’t really mean anything to me, though. When you can look like anyone, being beautiful is just a moment away at any time..
“We never introduced ourselves properly yesterday,” she says. “I guess you probably figured it out, but I’m Lyari, and my brother is Tanithil. We’re twins, although he spends more time outdoors, so his skin is darker, and I dye my hair so it doesn’t look like his. It always bugged me that we look so much alike.”
“Why? You’re both so beautiful,” I say.
“Er….thanks. I guess it’s just hard looking at yourself all the time. That’s why I left and joined the Shadow Blades.”
“You’re a thief?”
“Thief. Spy. Assassin. Whatever I need to be to get the job done. I prefer to think of myself as more of a treasure seeker. I specialize in sneaking around, and getting into places no one else can get into. Once I’m there, I find whatever I’m looking for, and bring it home to the elven nation. Tanithil and I work for Queen Alluviel, the monarch of the elves. We find long-lost elven artifacts and bring them home where they belong. Tanithil is more like the muscle, and I’m more like the infiltration expert. I’m an expert at hiding, being super quiet, and making sure no one notices me.”
“Can you teach me?”
“I…can…show you a few things. But here’s the deal. We need your help. So I’ll teach you some things….if you’ll agree to help us.”
“What kind of help do you need?”
“Tan and I were out on a mission. When we came back to our village, everyone was missing. The men, women, children – even the elderly. Everybody was gone. The place was a mess. Animals had been butchered. Homes and shops had been burned to the ground. We left a peaceful, thriving village, and came home to a ruined battlefield.
“We found clues that pointed to peri. So we tracked them. We followed them down into the underdark, and then we tracked them even deeper into the world…and then we tracked them here, to hell. We think we’re getting close, because we’re starting to see more and more peri, out on patrol. However, we don’t really know where they’re coming from, or how many there are.”
“I’ll help,” I say, “but I’m not sure how much help I can be. I’m down to six arrows, and I barely know how to swing my sword or use my dagger.”
“You can look like them,” she says. “When we find them, you might be able to get in and free our people without a fight. Besides, I’m going to teach you some stuff I know, and Tan will teach you some of the stuff he knows, and between us, we’re going to turn you into the deadliest warrior hell has ever seen!”
Over the next few weeks, they do exactly that. Lyari starts by teaching me how to anticipate where a blow will land, and how to not be there when it does. She says that since I don’t like wearing armor, this is the best way to defend myself. She teaches me about the energy flowing inside my body, and how to harness it. She then teaches me how to use that energy to enhance my ability to see in the dark, remain unseen, and move quickly and quietly. She teaches me how to use it to gather the shadows into a deep darkness that blinds my opponents, and how to create a silent space that deafens everyone in it. Finally, she teaches me how to move from shadow to shadow in the blink of an eye. Once I master that, Tanithil takes over my training.
Tanithil improves my abilities with the bow, sword, daggers, and hunting knife greatly. He teaches me how to sense the presence of my enemies, track my prey, and how to set up ambushes to kill quickly and quietly. He hones my ability to see in the dark, and improves my ability to hide from things that can see in the dark. He teaches me how to be one with my environment, and to move through it with ease and competence. He tries to teach me some magical spells, but for some reason, I simply cannot do it. My mind just refuses to wrap around the idea of casting spells. It’s worrisome, but he says that the things Lyari taught me compensate for my lack of spellcasting abilities.
When I’m not directly training under one of the twins, I’m practicing changing my shape when I want, and holding it when I don’t want to change it. I get it completely under my control, and I learn how to change myself into any humanoid, without having to think about it too much. I like being the elf woman from the river, though, so I stay in that form most of the time.
They call me Violet, because of my eyes. It reminds me of something, or someone, but I don’t know what or who it might be. It’s a good name, though. I love it.