((Wrote up the first part of Aria's story just now after spending several hours studying for my economics final. More to come eventually. Hope you like it.))
My name is Aria. It is an Ambertoli name though I am not Ambertoli. I could not be mistaken for anything but Ma’Rhanian but Ma’Rhan’s days of glory ended ages before I was even conceived by parents I never got to know. Sometimes I wonder what my real name is, or who my parents were. I wonder if I ever even had a real name. The Ma’Rhanians I know have taken to calling me “Stolen Child” and it fits but…it is not a true name.
My earliest memories are of slavery. I remember being taught to cook and clean for my master as well as how to read and write and arithmetic. I was not a good slave. I was fiery, impatient and the scars I bear on my back from Ambertoli whips are a testament to my temperament. I was beautiful too, still am to hear Bec tell it and I know my master wished for me to learn some more intimate skills to go with the practical for Ambertoli are not above such things. I remember they had a special teacher for the beautiful slaves, how to pleasure men and women in a hundred ways. It made me sick.
I suppose I should thank my master for wishing to make me his concubine for if it had not been the thought of him using me as he would a whore I would likely never have discovered my gift for Fire. I remember that night, my master demanding I “show him what I had learned” and my furious refusal that caused the fire that wiped my village away. At the time I did not know what I had done; rage and fear battled inside me that night until fear finally defeated rage and sent me running. I was 13….or 14? I do not even remember. As the fires consumed that entire village I ran into the night, crying, screaming, and laughing all at once. I knew what magic was, everyone did. I remember wishing before bed for the abilities of the Ma’Rhanians of old. My wish was granted.
I ran and ran for an eternity, or maybe it was just a few hours. I collapsed, too exhausted to go on and willed myself to die before the Knight Priests caught me. When I awoke I found a man standing over me, looking at me with a curious smile on his face. “You have a strong gift, Little One. There are some who would further your understanding of it,” he told me as I tried to find the strength to run away again. He took me by the hand and lifted me up gently. His name was Durinos Rahl and he was the closest to a father I have ever had.
For several years I studied under him, a mage from a family of mages that stretched into the age of legends and myth. I learned to control my fire. He doted on me as if I was a daughter, when I was not studying he would play with me and speak to me about my feelings. He was a minor noble of some sort I think, I remember he would call me “Princess” occasionally and he always made sure I had clothes and food. Those were happy days. He had a few other students but I am not good at making friends so I never knew any of them well. We moved around a fair amount to avoid the Knight Priests but I thought we were safe. I thought wrong.
One night I awoke to screams and the sound of blades. I ran again. I did not fight, did not try to help the others as the Knight Priests butchered them or bound them to be tortured, just took to flight like the coward I am. I was 16 I think. Or 17. I do not know. I ran to Cealeach to the east and became a barmaid for a time. A very brief time. The Knight Priests caught me there so I ran again, burning the market district to the ground as I went. It is only now that I realize how many lives I have taken to protect my own, most of whom were completely innocent of any crime. One day maybe I will make things right.
I entered Crussaria then and took refuge in a town on a mountain. I took to dressing as a man to hide from the Knight Priests though after a while in the town I realized Crussaria has its own band of mage-hunters. The Inquisition did not trouble me at first. I befriended a girl named Saren who was a skilled healer. She was a little older than I was though not much. Long, light blonde hair that was almost white, blue eyes and pale skin she was the opposite of my dark features. Her eyes had this look of…I don’t know “innocence” about them that I guess I wished for. To be innocent and just a girl instead of a murder, a slave, prey. The Inquisition took notice of her healing abilities though. They discovered quickly she was no nurse but rather a mage. They attacked her in the forest as she went to gather herbs. I saved her with my fire, killed an inquisitor and caused his partner to flee though not before having a rock hit me in the head.
I woke in Saren’s house, my head bandaged but my headwrap and clothing still on so I was fairly certain my secret had not be discovered. Saren beamed at me when I woke “Thank you so much Erebus!” she said, clasping one of my hands in hers. “I left your head thing on while I treated you since I know you have been sensitive about that…can I ask why?” “It is what the Ma’Rhanians do m’lady,” I answered, still groggy.
“Can you take it off please?” Saren asked, blushing, then mumbled “so I can give you a kiss for saving me?”
“Are you sure you want that Saren? You might be disappointed,” I replied. She answered by removing the garment. Disappointed she was not, just confused. I laughed “Still want to kiss me?” She did. I let her. I let her do more than that too, partially out of confusion and partially because I thought I might love her. It was a mistake but I did not care. No one had ever touched me like she did, nor looked at me like she did that night as she fumbled with my pants and I with her gown.
We were happy together for a time. Durinos eventually made it to the town on the mountain himself and my instruction resumed. I tried to keep my lover a secret but I suspect he knew. And I think he was happy that I had found someone. Through my training I studied the history of Ma’Rhan’s mages and learned of Adilimian, the lost city where the “Mad” King Ophellos studied and developed his numerous weapons and dissertations. I knew I had to go there. Something was calling me. I told my master and he told me to bring back whatever I could that “looked interesting”. I found a guide to Ma’Rhan named Marcus and we set off, leaving Saren behind. Had I known what she would do while I was gone I would have killed her before I left.
The voyage to Ma’Rhan took a month by sea. I left before Marcus did and arrived in port with time to kill. I got a job at a tavern and tried bartending again. The tavern was busy, being in the port town ((name escapes me currently)) but it was the first “normal” life I had lived in a while. It was also the first of Ma’Rhan I had ever seen. More than a few times I left work to lounge on the beach, the sound of the waves lulling me to sleep on the warm sands. It would not have been a bad way to spend the rest of my days but that is not what destiny had in store it seems. I used to believe we made our own paths; now I am almost positive that is not true.
Markus arrived and we set out across the sands to Adilimian. The journey was long and dangerous. Along the way a thief joined our party. His name was Niche’ya and while he was a thief by trade he also fancied himself somewhat of an artist and a writer. Unfortunately his joining the party attracted the attention of the local Knigh Priests and during our escape Marcus sacrificed his human body to allow us to escape, somehow transforming himself in to a Phoenix to attract the Knight Priests’ attention. Luckily by this point another guide had joined us. Mezhir led us the rest of the way and also educated me about my culture along the way.
The Knight Priests caught us again despite Marcus’ sacrifice. We took shelter in ancient ruins and it was there I was given the gift of the Arcane.