I came into this world the daughter of an unambitious farmer and his plain-looking wife. In my younger days I never really ventured very far beyond the weathered fields of Shaemoor. Bandits and centaurs would periodically raid the outlying fields for food and hostages – only the most enterprising (and perhaps foolhardy) among us were permitted by the Seraph to tend those volatile plots of land. It was not uncommon for even the best-guarded cropsmen to occasionally disappear in the quiet of the night, their absence heralded by the harried cries of their distraught retainers.
I was fortunate in that I never had to deal with any of this. My parents preferred living in the subdued shadow of Divinity’s Reach, passing their days plying the honest trade of soil husbandry. We remained out of reach of the opportunistic bandits that haunted the southern caves. They seemed to me to be mostly harmless: a couple of ales and they would readily carouse with anyone who could dance or hold a tune. My later experiences taught me otherwise, as it was some of that same firewater that fueled many of their rapacious rampages. Anyone who resisted was murdered, man or woman. I learned to fear them in time.
My gifts were uncovered the day I absent-mindedly skirted past the windmill on my way to visit the moas Farmer Cassie kept on her property. Without warning, I was bathed in the ephemeral warmth of a sudden whirl of light – had I triggered the traveling magic? I was gently chided by the nearby guardsman before being shooed away. “The arcana wrought by the Asura are not to be trifled with, young lady.” In a fright, I obeyed the command to depart. Upon seeing the light return once more as I scurried away, he called me back over to his post and had one of his swords accompany me to the Upper City to register for an audience with the Royal Examiner. In the space of a very short time I was transported from a world of innocent, mindless play to one of furrowed brows, querying faces, and serious talk using unfamiliar words.
Everything happened so quickly amidst the bustling movement of the city proper that I became preternaturally confused – a confusion I would in later years come to master and turn against the Queen’s enemies. I was evaluated by several authority figures that day – I figured by the flow of their colorful cloth and the luster of their polished armor that they must have been the richest people in all of Kryta. I later came to know them as the men and women responsible for cultivating the talents of villagers and city-dwellers alike who had been identified as candidates for service in the Queen’s militias. They deferred in a gratingly obsequious manner to the well-heeled gentry of something called “The Ministry,” which I later understood to be a popular yet polarizing political entity that often sought to control things believed to be far enough outside the Queen’s purview that she would either not notice or not care. But at this time, coming from a comparatively small corner of the world, I did not bother myself with thinking about such things.
Instead I allowed my thoughts to run wild as I became briefly enamored with the head of the Seraph, Logan Thackeray, who – at least in my mind – was a man who could do no wrong. Once I understood the depth of his commitment to the Queen and the hardships he was tasked with addressing, however, my childish affection turned to sober respect. His weathered face belied a deeply abiding kindness that was often subsumed by the need for heavy-handed callousness in the face of the constant dangers presented to us. I was summarily enlisted at my rather young age out of necessity – desperation, if I am to be completely honest – in combating the relentless assaults of the horsemen on the garrison at Shaemoor.
It was his second, Lieutenant Francis, who accompanied me to the stony interior of a building I had only ever seen from the outside. I was given what was called a “greatsword,” a longish weapon that weighed about as much as a threshing sickle that hummed with electricity as I held it in my unpracticed hands. I had the luxury of a few hours to flit about within the walls of the garrison, clumsily swinging my sword at imagined foes while the restless watchmen looked on with a mixture of hardened concern and restrained bemusement on their faces. The call of the scouts came out not suddenly, but in the calm and practiced tones of those who had seen battle many times before. Centaurs were approaching – hundreds of them.
Archers manned the ledges and walkways whilst the melee took position behind the southern gates which to my astonishment were flung wide open. It was later explained to me that the Seraph would adopt a siege mentality if the citizens of Divinity’s Reach were ever threatened, but not here – this territory was theirs, and they would be damned if they were going to hide behind a mass of stone while the centaurs mocked their cowardice.
I was told to stay up top and aim my greatsword at the enemies down below, which seemed a rather odd fighting tactic to me, but I complied. The centaur masses were allowed to break through the front ranks and were then encircled – it was their brutish pride being used against them to great effect. As I looked on despondently, there was a sudden surge of electric energy throughout the entirety of my body and then the snap of an arc of lightning as it struck one of the shield-bearing horsemen at ground level, sending him into a paroxysm of frantic rage. The Seraph on either side of him noticed this immediately and sent him to the next life.
Visions of my own childhood came rushing through my head and my own reflection passed briefly before my eyes before rushing down the stairs in a whirlwind of swordsmanship, cutting a path through the horde of Tamini and downing several of them before stopping in front of the western inner wall. The Seraph were emboldened by this and began pushing the centaurs back while decimating their disheartened numbers with grim precision. As the battle moved toward the rough terrain of Scaver Plateau, a hard-looking guardsman rinsed his bloodied sword, sheathed it, and walked up to my position overlooking the killing floor. He clasped his hand firmly on my left shoulder and looked through the back of my eyes with the thousand-yard stare of a battle-weary gladiator. “Good.”