Warforged: the Vaelhawen

FIRST PROLOGUE

Aenerct

The music from the flute was alluring, bewitching. A peasant would have been unable to resist its enchantment. The temptation to seek the source was impossible to refuse and all other thoughts and desires would be forgotten. Its foul magic could not bend the mind of a Vaelhawen. He stalked through trees, bushes and tall grass. It was still wet from that night's rain. He heard the sounds of the river's rushing waters with increased clarity. The longsword sat in the sheath at his belt, a firm glove of black leather seated upon its crow's head pommel. Birds chirped in the distance. Heralds of the dawn.

He paused on the riverbank and peered past a leaning tree. There was a formation of rocks in the shallow river. The water ran around them and something sat on one of them. It sat in the middle of the river, one leg crossed over the other and body leaned backwards. Its hands were on the flute between its lips. From a distance, it may have looked like a man, but for the webbed feet and hands and its abnormally large ears, as well as the lack of any manhood. Its nose was no more than two horizontal slits. A Nixie, male. Its long strains of grey hairs showed its age.

Aenerct unsheathed his longsword and strode forth into the shallows toward the naked creature. It seized to play its flute and turned its gaze to him. Its eyes were those of a predator, but in a moment they grew full of anger. It had no doubt expected some poor soul under it's the Nixie stood up and faced him. Its jaws unhinged like a snake into an unnatural size and then roared.

"Come then beast. You've had your last peasant," Aenerct said.

It rushed toward him, letting the flute fall into the water. It was quick and was on him in seconds and slashed with the claws on its webbed hands. Aenerct stepped back, then to the side and slashed down with the steel. It leapt aside and aggressively struck again. He quickly shifted the edge of the steel and cut deep into the Nixie's side. He roared in pain and rage and leapt at him. He jumped aside at the last moment and it turned and slashed thin holes in his trousers. Aenerct jumped back and gave the damage an annoyed glance.

"Oh, now you have to die."

It held its bleeding side. The blood ran down its leg and into the water. It unhinged his jaws to roar again. Then it charged and as it leapt the Vaelhawen thrusted and his steel pierced its skin and flesh and poked out the back, clean through. It gasped and with a tilt and kick it slid from his blade into the water, mixing the water with its thick red blood.

"By the blood, you were a fierce son of a fiend." For a Nixie at least. He bent down and dragged it from to the riverbank and beheaded it with a clean cut. It took it by the hair and made his way through the forest back to the dirt road where he'd left his horse. A black mare, a stark contrast to his own white mane of hair. He took a pouch and stowed the head there. It smelled foul. He picked an apple from the saddle back and petted her head as she gobbled the treat up instantly. "You bored waiting here for me?" He mounted her and turned her back toward the village and trotted along.

The village proper was surrounded by a tall palisade. The peasants had come alive with the dawn and were already tending to their livestock and fields. Children played games along the dirt road that crossed through the cottages. They played tag and the Maiden and the Beast, a game where the beast hunts the maidens and eats them. Eyes turned to him, suspicious, fearful. An elder man rose from a group of children he'd been telling some tale. He was old, with rough silvery hair and sideburns. He wore a pair of tanned trousers with a blue tunic and a tattered coat over.

"Well," he said. His eyes shifted from Aenerct to the head-sized pouch he held. "You killed it?"

"Smells like it," another said nearby.

"That just the Vaelhawen – all 'em Crows reek of death," a woman whispered.

"Was there any doubt?" He dropped it and turned his head to the pair on his right. They quickly tensed, fearful.

"Tehilite's fire, that smell," the village ealdorman said and waved his hand in front of his nose. "Reckon you'll want payment." His eyes narrowed judgementally, suspiciously.

Aenerct looked back at him and reached out a hand from atop his mare. The ealdorman muttered beneath his breath and fetched a small pouch of coin.

"Twelve coppers, here ye are."

"Sixteen. That's what we agreed."

He hesitated. Then his wife shouted from the porch of their cottage. "Just give I'm his coin so he'll leave us be."

The man sighed and returned to his house and returned soon again. "Bloody hunters. Here ye go."

Aenerct opened it and ensured that they had indeed brought him, sixteen coppers. He placed the pouch in his saddlebag and began to leave the village behind him.