Manon Ageisbane’s first 100 years of life started out very simply. Her parents, Rhone and Lisbeth, worked the farm that Rhone’s parents, and their parents, had worked, in the northern city of Pankto. Pankto rested just inside the northernmost reaches of Falsgaarde’s rule. Rhone had wanted a quiet life after hundreds of years on the battlefield, especially after Lisbeth had their daughter, Manon. They’d helped his parents until they died the same year at the ages of 590 and 650, and took it over. Their experience of over a millennia on the farms had taught them how best to use the tundra to their advantage. The year Rhone and Lisbeth took over the farm, Manon had been twenty. Still very much growing into herself with much to learn. Lisbeth taught her how to cook, mend clothing, help gather the farm’s harvest, and taught her the languages she’d deemed most useful; Elvish, as that was their people’s language, and she should do well to know her roots; Common, as that was the language the majority of the present world spoke; and Draconic, the language of the current royalty who held ultimate dominion over their lands from the south, in Falsgaarde. Her father, on the other hand, taught her how to meditate, how to move swiftly, to build strength, and how to defend herself. His centuries as a fighter made him a patient, but brutal teacher; he’d had years to hone his craft.
The day she turned 100, officially an adult by High Elf standards, was the day she received her own armor and weapons from the best smithy in town as a gift from her father.
But it was also the day she lost her father.
The blacksmith was just fastening the armor onto her when the screams of terror started. Her keen eyesight latched onto the source immediately. Two creatures, making their way through their small town, laying to waste anything in their path. They towered over her at five foot five. They drew ever closer, perhaps drawn by the liveliness of the smithy’s forge and the plentiful crops that the harvest had brought from her farm, not too far away. As they drew closer, she could make out more details. It was like… a patchwork quilt, but with body parts of humanoid creatures and animals. The skin was dark; the torso was that of a man, but built like an orc; the arms were elongated, muscled and the hands were edged with claws; the faces were indistinguishable because of the cloaks they covered themselves with, and seemed to be made from darkness itself. They split up, one heading right towards them, the other veering off toward the farm. The crops withered in the creature’s wake as it drew ever closer to the house. Manon grabbed her battle-axe and started running. She heard the sing of metal on metal behind her as the smithy, Gorgon, drew his blade. It was getting closer to the house. She saw the door of her home open, and her father stepped out with his weapons. His face was grim. The realisation struck her. Her father hadn’t fought a battle in over 100 years. He turned 700 next month. He was too old. He would die.
“No! Over here you evil spawn!” She loosed a fire bolt from her hand. It hit the creature dead on. It wailed and turned to face her. She could hear more screams in the distance as the town proper became aware of the threat. Were there more of these creatures? Her veins filled with cold fear as it stalked toward her. Its mouth was jagged and sharp, ideal for tearing. It was already stained with red blood, dripping with it. The creature swiped an arm toward her and she dodged, but unused to the still unfamiliar weight of the armor, the creature managed to get in a hit that tumbled off her shoulder. She swung the battle-axe and hit it in the arm. She could see her father, getting ever closer with his trusty great sword, when suddenly his face contorted into an expression of fear.
“Manon! Behind you!” Manon turned and ducked, barely escaping a sneak attack from behind. There were two more behind the one that had crept up behind her. Manon planted her feet, hefted her battle-axe, and squared off against them as she heard the sound of her father engaging in battle behind her. She swung her battle-axe again and cleaved off the arm of the creature in front of her. She aimed a fire bolt at the one just trailing behind it, just grazing it but enough to make it stumble. The one closest to her advanced and swiped at her: she dodged and heaved her battle-axe at the creature, this time splitting its neck open. Black blood sprayed from the wound and the creature fell to its knees. She aimed another fire bolt at the one nearly even with its fallen comrade and it made contact.
It was then she heard her father shout in pain. She resisted the urge to turn, to look behind her, but she could not. Her father was on the ground, the creature… feeding at her father’s stomach. Her father was stabbing the creature with a blade, but it was having no effect. She was knocked back a few steps, disoriented as the creature she was supposed to be fighting got in a hit that rattled her bones and set her back more than a few steps. When she looked, her father’s dagger hand wasn’t moving. Manon let loose a yell of anger and grief and shot a fire bolt to the infernal creature that had feasted on her father. It howled and slumped to the ground, no longer moving. She swung her battle-axe at the creature coming for her again and got it in the side. It swung its arm toward her and she couldn’t escape the attack. She was suddenly on the ground, looking up at the creature. She could hear the last one nearby, but finally the Panktonian guard had caught on to trouble and were fighting it. She swung her battle-axe and a deep wound rent through its midsection. A fire bolt from her tired, shaking hand shoved it backwards and had it crumple to the ground. What were these things? In 100 years, she’d never seen anything like this…darkness claimed her.
She slept for a week. When she woke up, the first thing she did was visit her father’s grave and say her goodbyes. For the next thirty years, she would combat any number of these evil creatures that decided to sully her lands, and would train any that wished to learn how to defend themselves. The Baron, however, despised her for giving the people the power to fight. He wanted them scared, she knew. He wanted them to turn to him in times of need, she knew. She was taking that away from him. These creatures attacked in increasing numbers until one day there were 150 of them. The fighters in Pankto turned to her to lead them. The town barely survived. The Baron, who’d hidden in his fortress of a house whilst people died, had been furious with the loss of life and blamed her so she knew she had to leave. She set off for Falsgaarde, hoping she could get her town some kind of aid. She hoped she wouldn’t come back too late.