The Wrong Guys
You might be inclined to underestimate the tiny woman. That would be a mistake. Her petite figure give no sign of her true abilities.
She is quite beautiful, although her features betray her mixed parentage. The huge green eyes, golden hair, and pointed ears of her elven father is mixed with the wider face (although still slim) and high cheekbones of her human mother.
With her long hair braided and coiled over her ears, however, she can pass for human, at least for a while. Around the unobservant.
Rana is very cautious about other people, at least humans and elves, which are the only ones she’s met so far. She much prefers the company of animals to other people. This is only natural given her past experiences.
She believes in the neutrality of nature: There is no good or evil, law or chaos. There is only survival or death. She has a particular hatred for things that do not belong in nature, like undead.
At one point, she had a kinder side, but that has been suppressed by years of self-training, and rarely shows anymore.
Shadow is a massive, jet-black wolf. He stands 3’ at the shoulder, is nearly 6 1/2’ from nose to tail, and weighs over 100 lbs.
He is utterly devoted to his mistress, having grown up with her from the time he was a tiny pup.
Lilly Weaver, the washerwoman in a small village near the elven woods, had always had a strange fascination with elves. So when she met a young noble resting from his hunting trip near the river, she begged him to take her with him to his home. He agreed, on one condition. After she had fulfilled her end of the bargain, he just laughed and rode off. Bitterly disappointed, Lilly returned home to her mundane life and her mundane husband. It wasn’t until two months later that she realized she was pregnant.
Jess Weaver was thrilled to discover that Lilly was pregnant, as he had always wanted a son, but they had not yet been able to have a child. Delight turned to worry when the pregnancy dragged on for a month longer than it should have. When the child was finally born, it was a girl. No one but Lilly noticed that her little ears were pointed. Of course, no one but Lilly suspected little Rose’s true parentage.
Fearful of what would happen to her, if her meeting with an elf was discovered, Lilly was careful to keep Rose’s ears covered as she was growing up. Rumors of illegitimacy still swirled, however, for who in the village had such bright green eyes? Jess ignored his daughter, partly because of the rumor, and partly because she was not the son he’d been dreaming of. Despite his best efforts, Lilly did not conceive again.
By the time Rose was three, Lilly was sick of her. She was clearly a half-breed, and others in the village had begun to comment on how slowly she was growing. Lilly feared that she would be found out, and so began to keep the child locked inside, putting her to as much work as she could do.
When Rose was eight, she was found out. Jess came home one early one night to find Lilly combing and rebraiding Rose’s hair, all the while berating her for being a half-breed. If the comments weren’t enough, her ears were clearly visible. Jess was furious and summoned the rest of the village to drive the half-breed out. Lilly and Rose were forced to flee the village.
Lilly turned her rage on her child and nearly killed her when old Thom, a woodcutter, found the pair of them. He rescued Rose and took her back to his cabin, well outside of town. Thom had never had a child of his own, as his wife had died in childbirth, along with their unborn baby. He soon discovered that Rose was a half-elf, but it did not matter to him. She was a child in need of help, and she quickly became his child. Meanwhile, Lilly lied her way back into the village with tales of being carried off by a party of elves.
Thom kept Rose’s existence a secret from the rest of the village, sending her deep into woods whenever the villagers came to pick up the wood he had harvested. She was truly happy for the first time in her life, and Thom was delighted as well. He taught her all he knew of survival in the woods, but she quickly surpassed him, showing a natural affinity for animals.
It was during one of her spells of hiding in the woods that she was discovered by Tharivol. He was an old druid from the same town as Rose’s father, and he saw much potential in her from the moment he laid eyes on her. First, she was cuddling a fawn, both of them nestled in its mother’s flank. Someone that much in tune with nature, without any formal training, would make a powerful druid indeed. Second, and more importantly, he recognized her father in her features. He had never liked Autallios, and the threat of being able to reveal his half-breed daughter was too good to pass up.
Tharivol approached the girl, now fifteen, cautiously after spending a long time observing her. Without her foster father knowing, Rose agreed to meet and train with the druid. Thom was always so careful to make sure that her elven side was hidden, even when there was no one around, that she felt being around Tharivol was liberating. She didn’t have to hide anymore. He never introduced her to any other elves, but he made her father aware of her existence.
After their first few months together, Tharivol began to train Rose in earnest. He was a harsh teacher, permitting no mistakes. He drove all the sweetness and kindness out of her, for he taught only the way of nature: survival of the fittest. And Rose was determined to be the fittest.
Thom could see the change in her, although he did not know where it came from. At first he thought it was just the rebellion that all young things go through, but as time went on, he began to fear that he was losing his little Rose. As she became harder and harder, he begged her to tell him what was going on. She refused, partly because she did not want to alarm him with the fact that she was meeting with an elf, and partly because Tharivol told her that to be strong you must rely on no one but yourself, and that means telling no one of everything that you do.
It continued like this for years. Rose became more and more in tune with the natural world, and especially with the animals within it. About a year after she’d begun her training as a druid, Rose had secretly nursed a she-wolf which had been caught in a hunter’s trap back to health. Tharivol would not have approved, of course, but Rose could not bear to let the poor thing suffer. A few months after that, Rose found the she-wolf waiting for her by the side of the trail. The wolf beckoned Rose to follow, and she was lead to the wolf’s den, where a litter of pups lay. The wolf spoke to Rose, and told her to take one of the pups as repayment of the favor. Rose was drawn to the only jet-black pup, who she named Shadow. He soon became her closest companion, and grew to be a truly massive animal under her care.
It might have gone on like this forever, if Tharivol had not needed to make good on his threat to Rose’s father. He invited Rose to the elven town, and she eagerly accepted. As soon as she arrived however, she realized two things. First, the elves hated her as much as the humans did. Second, Tharivol had been using her the whole time. She was nothing more than a bargaining chip to him. Furious, she fled the town, intending to return to Thom, who she had been neglecting.
But, of course, nothing was that easy for Rose. When she returned to Thom’s cabin, she discovered that the door was hanging open. When she entered the cabin, Rose found that her beloved foster father was dead. Murdered. All her toughness broke there, and she collapsed on his body, weeping. She remained that way for two days, eating and drinking only what Shadow brought to her.
On the third day, Rose was roused from her grief by a low growl from Shadow. Tharivol was standing in the doorway. Rose threw herself at him in a rage, shrieking that it was all his fault and beating him with her fists. He did not respond until she wore herself out, and then simply told her that he had wanted to warn her: her father, now aware of her appearance and approximate location, was determined to find and kill the abomination he had inadvertently created. Tharivol turned and left, the last that Rose saw of him.
She stayed in the cabin for a few weeks more, hunting for any clue as to the murderer’s identity. She was hampered in her search, however, by the patrols of elven hunters that her father had been sending out, as well as by the fact that she still looked enough like her mother that the villagers realized at once who she was and chased her out of the village.
With nothing left to live for, save Shadow, and danger closing in from both sides, Rose decided to again take up the teachings of Tharivol. She pushed her grief away, willing herself not to feel. She buried all her childhood toys next to Thom’s body in the backyard, save for a simple amber necklace he had given her when she turned fifteen. She could not bear to part with it, nor bear to look at it, and buried it deep in the bottom of her pack. Wanting to sever all ties to her time with Thom, she even changed her name. His “Little Rosie” became Rána. (Side note: pronounced “rain-a”, means “wanderer” in Druidic)
Finally, she was ready to leave. She never looked back, never saw Tharivol standing there, watching her go. Since that time, Rána and Shadow have been wandering the lands, trying to protect the balance of nature, and to run from the memories.
As she wandered farther and farther into the human lands, Rána has taken to wearing her hair braided to cover her ears again, as she did when she was little. She keeps her hood up and eyes downcast to hide the particular shade of gold hair and green eyes normally only seen in elves.
When she reached the capital, Rána would normally have given it a wide berth, but the one thing she’d been missing most in her travels was a hot bath. After checking that she could pass for human in a nearby pond, and convincing Shadow to wear a bit of rope around his neck as a collar, Rána entered the city and found a room at a cheap inn.
Unfortunately, as she was in the market the next morning haggling over a juicy bone for Shadow, one of the passersby tripped over the edge of her cloak, pulling her hood and her braids aside. Revealed as the half-breed she is, Rána fled, not wanting to try to fight the entire market if they turned on her. Not knowing where else to go, she slipped down a nearby sewer drain, Shadow right at her heels…