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BLOOD WET HER fingertips when Analissa Eladin touched the warning wound on her shoulder. She frowned, narrowing green eyes at two men, one of whom had shot the arrow.

Bandits, she sighed, and her long ears twitched as the men inched closer. The cold north was rife with people, both human and elf, who tried to make an easy living before returning to the island Ghela. With only a handful of settlements, and one city, of course there were not many of the king’s soldiers to keep them in check.

She had thought she could travel the road safely, especially since it was just past midday. They had not said a word, had not made themselves known until after the arrow had skimmed her arm. He was a good shot; she would give him that. But, putting her finger through the hole in her white chemise, she was more upset they had torn and bloodied her clothing.

“Can I help you…boys?” She smirked. Despite wearing the soot, flame-shaped mark given to her by the gods on her face, they would not know what magic she held, let alone if she could cast at all. These two humans must have been ignorant of magic, or were just plain stupid to mess with an elf. She gathered energy around her blood crystals, and it pulsed through her. If they had poisoned her with the thasian root to remove her powers, it had not taken effect just yet.

The older looking one stepped forward. Grasping his crossbow and pointing it at her again, he tilted his chin up. “Yes, you can. We want everything you have.” His smile darkened as his free hand pulled on a chain around his neck. Slowly, he lifted until a gleaming shard with black veins showed. Now she knew them to not be as stupid as she originally thought. “And when I say everything,” he went on after her smile faded, “I mean everything.

At the man’s words, Analissa frowned. She would take no risk at how far their knowledge of magic wielding extended. Dropping her pack, she gathered more energy around her, knowing humans would not be able to feel for it except for a mild uncomfortable feeling.

“I have somewhere I need to be,” she said sweetly, crossing one leg in front of the other as she stepped forward. She pushed back her crimson braids before raising her hands. “Please, leave me be and disturb the next person who comes down this road, maybe someone with more money.  Or if you like, I can give you a copper piece, and you can be on your way.”  The one holding the shard shook his head, a grin turning his face. Blackened teeth made her cringe.

She could feel the mana coming to him through the blood crystal, but only small amounts.  This far away from  a field, he must have bought it off someone, she thought, crossing one hand behind her back. She rubbed the fingers on her hidden hand together and sparked a flame, small enough to hide through the cracks of her fingers.  But it would grow if they refused to back away.

“We’ve been out here for a very long time,” the one with the crystal said. “It’s been lonely in the northern wilderness, and your red hair is inviting.” Stepping forward, he grabbed her arm, and the blood crystal emitted a faint glow. When burning licked her skin beneath his grip, she jerked away from him. Turning her hidden hand outwards at the same, flames shot at him. The men stumbled backwards with wide eyes.

With a cry, the one holding the crossbow let his arrow fly. She made an attempt to flip out of its way, but she was too slow. The arrow ripped through the back of her shoulder stopping midway. She fell short of landing on her feet, instead falling face down on the ground. Allowing the mana to flow freely around the blood crystals embedded in her, she saw through warm stinging oozing at her shoulder to cause a whip of fire. Turning to her side, she lashed out and whipped them across their faces, causing burn welts to form with a blister here and there.

Despite her power, it did not deter their advances. It only seemed to make them want to fight her more. When they advanced, the pain became too much for her to strike out again, so she shut her eyes and whispered a prayer to Edan.

Clanging metal rang through the air followed by a garbled cry and a thump on the ground. Taking a deep breath through the pain that now spread through her whole body, she propped herself up on her good arm and opened her eyes. The men now lay on the ground. Lifeless.

Her eyes darted around, looking for who had made the assault. A tall orc stood over the corpses. Or, at least through the haze settling on her vision, she thought him to be an orc. His skin was a mixture of earth and stone, and he wore his blackened hair in several braids and shaved on the sides. Heavy brown eyes studied her from the softest face she had seen on an orc. While he held a sword at his side, the vine-like details and runes gleaming in the sun, she thought of her good fortune and nothing more of his appearance. She sent out a prayer of thanks for her double good fortune. Told to be an emissary by the one she worked for, it was her intention to enter into the tribes of the north eastern orcs.

This was not what she had expected, but she remained grateful nonetheless.

“Thank the gods,” she breathed when he strode forward, setting his sword in the scabbard on his hip before dropping to one knee beside her. “Thank you for your help.” He did not respond. Instead, he eyed the arrow in her shoulder. His ears; long, pointed, and ridged; twitched when she spoke the elven tongue. “Do you speak Elvish?” She licked her lips, changing to the harsh Orcish language. “Orcish? Perhaps I should start to…” The arrow snapping sounded before he ripped it from her shoulder. A fresh torrent of burning pain pushed through the numbness that had settled in. Screaming, she grabbed his arm as tears fell down her cheeks. He had not even attempted to be gentle. Even as he placed bandages at the open wound, he was rough, applying pressure to both front and back after he flipped her onto her side.

Large fingers held as tight as stone at her shoulder. Soon though something she had not expected from a fighter happened. Picking up dirt in one hand, he packed it against the bandages over the wound. His hand glowed and warmth spread through her shoulder as the pain subsided. A fighter and a healer, he repeated the process to the back of her wound, eyes completely concentrating on what he was doing. She had met several orcs, those the elves had torn from their families and raised in Ghela. None were allowed to perform magic.  Him having used dirt and mana to perform magic was something new to her. The elven healers often needed nothing to perform their magic.

However, she knew he drew from her energy just as an elven healer would as she fatigue washed over her.

“What do you want?” she asked, the corners of her vision blurring as he lowered her back to the ground. Trying to push away the weariness, she blinked several times.

He snorted through flared nostrils, answering in the elvish tongue. “You sleep.” When he passed his hand over her cheek, she could fight it no longer. Slipping into darkness, she prayed to Nysa for continued good luck.

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