Rise of the Harbingers
To elves, the stereotype of humans is that they’re thuggish, greedy and impatient. It’s not humanity’s fault of course, who could expect wisdom from a species that dies long before an elven child reaches maturity? But it does mean that small elven societies are rarely welcoming of a human living among them, or even a half-elf. As a child, the young half-elf Ransi found that the blame for any trouble often got attributed to her. Something went missing? It’s Ransi who stole it. Another child has a black eye? It’s Ransi who hit them. Wolves got too close to the village? It’s Ransi who was sleeping up a tree on watch. Now, truth be told, Ransi did do all those things and more, but it’s hard to say whether the villagers turned her against them, or it was in her nature from the start and they were merely reacting to it. However, as Ransi grew, the trouble she caused only grew to the point where she was a thug and a thief in truth.
As punishment, Ransi was given to a nearby order of elven druids to straighten out. She was to live as a neophyte and servant, a life of discipline, hardship and constant work. Punishment and a hope that exposure to old elven tradition would bury that human blood and turn her into a worthwhile elf despite her shortcomings. Wonder of wonders, it actually seemed to work. After a few months of rebellion and two escape attempts, she seemed to settle down, coming to accept her life among the druids… and then eventually embracing it wholeheartedly. When she finally had her freedom again, Ransi bowed her head and asked to remain among the druids, she still had so much to learn, and they had shown her a better way to live. As the years passed she became one of their most promising apprentices, a paragon who was held up, a student that all the other young druids should aspire to be like.
When the time came for one of the druids to make the ultimate act of sacrifice to protect the land, she stood among those who volunteered. As had been foretold, a great Beast had risen, a primal power, an avatar of hunger and greed and feral ferocity that threatened everything the elves had. One of the druids would have to take the Beast into them, control it with an iron will and be sealed away beneath the earth for all eternity, a jailor suffering endless hunger and deprivation to keep his prisoner locked in. Worse yet, it would take all the combined might of all the senior druids to capture the Beast, so it would be have to be one of the junior druids to make the sacrifice. Ransi had caused so much trouble for her people, now 5 years later she was willing to sacrifice so much to save them.
The hardest part of it for Ransi was keep a straight face, to not burst out laughing at how foolish the druids were when they bowed their heads in respect. All those years ago after her second failed escape attempt, Ransi realised she needed to be more clever about things, take her time… and take a few treasures with her when she found a way to leave. Snooping around and scouting, she overheard a conversation she wasn’t supposed to hear between two of the most senior druids, realised that soon someone would be called on to sacrifice themselves to contain a godlike being’s power. Sacrifice? Hah! It’s a treasure, and the greatest heist a thief could pull! And so she played the long game, turning herself to the most diligent of students, perfectly honourable, perfectly contained… utterly perfect, 5 long years with her eyes on the prize. She turned herself into the perfect sacrifice, and carefully undermined anyone else who might be a contender, subtly framing them with minor weaknesses of character that would disqualify them, nothing blatant that would be too obvious.
In the end, Ransi was chosen. The took her to the stone altar, bathed her in moonlight, lured the Beast, trapped it and forced it to possess her. It wasn’t quite the moment of triumph she had been expecting… she screamed, she writhed, she cried out in agony as the Beast tried to tear its way free of the mortal prison, claws slicing through her body from the inside, injuries that should have killed her a dozen times over. But the druids wouldn’t let her die, half their number had fallen in battle with the avatar, they could not lose now. In the end, bleeding from a hundred clawmarks and barely conscious, Ransi finally managed to clamp a metaphorical hand on the Beast’s throat with the druid’s aid, caging it inside her. It was time to seal her away with her prisoner, to make sure the avatar could never escape and never trouble the world… but for Rasni, it was time to take her prize and leave. The druids were horrified, shocked, betrayed, but though they tried to stop her, now she had the power to defy them.
And so Ransi ran. The druids would have to kill her, they had no choice, they couldn’t leave the Beast to roam free… and if they tried they’d die in the attempt, they were utterly exhausted already. But Ransi had no desire to kill them. She was a thief and a troublemaker, not a murderer of her own people. And so she ran, flush with triumph and exhaustion, hiding for several weeks as she tended to her wounds, the claws-cuts healing into a hundred scars. Slowly she gained accustomed to the Beast’s power, learned the limits on what she could call on without losing herself to mindless snarling rage, gradually coming to understand the deep hunger that roiled in the pit of her belly… and slowly started to realise that the heist wasn’t over just yet. The Time of the Harbingers had only just begun.
After all, if she’d gained this much from eating one god, how much more would she gain if she ate another? Or a dozen….