In the lush and enchanting Mistveil Woods on the western coast of Leinyere lived a lovely and young Wood Elf girl. While some might not consider fifty-eight years of age to be young, Wood Elves measured their lives in centuries and took their time with everything, including reaching adulthood.

She was born in a small, simple coastal village and wasn’t particularly curious about the wonders of the world around her, so she remained naïve and immature well into her fifties, which displeased her parents very much.

She wasn’t from a wealthy or socially significant family, but as she reached these young adult years, she blossomed with a rare beauty. It is said, there were no finer or more symmetrical features to be found on any Wood Elf.

While their race was deeply in tune with the natural world around them with all its random and chaotic wonder, Wood Elves had a particular desire for order and symmetry when it came to appearance.

This singular attribute drew many suitors to her, but she quickly became bored of hearing their sweet but empty words.

Worse, she began to believe them.

As a goddess of love, she decided that only the best deserved her attention. She soon developed a cruel streak and delighted in manipulating those who tried to woo her. She enjoyed seeing just how far her suitors would go before she broke their spirits, making them give up.

Two of her suitors were made of stronger stuff and were determined to have her. Both were handsome males from families of good standing in their communities, but beyond that, they couldn’t have been more different.

The first candidate was a Wood Elf from their capital city, a brilliant and serious young male of one-hundred-and-thirty years. Vigilant in his studies and incredibly gifted, he appeared destined to be a Master Druid well before his two hundredth year. His ability to control nature’s power brought him respect and admiration amongst his peers and community. His skills grew quickly, signifying he would soon be working with the most powerful magics known. Hearing of her ethereal beauty, he traveled to the coast, fell in love with her at first sight, and began his efforts to woo her.

Challenging the Druid for the beauty’s eye was a bold and brash young Human. At twenty-eight years of age, he had an almost supernatural athleticism, which allowed him to excel in his efforts to become the greatest warrior ever. There wasn’t a weapon he hadn’t mastered, and he rarely lost a sparring match. Traveling on one of his family’s trading vessels, he spotted the beauty while in port and instantly knew he must have her for his wife.

Both suitors escalated their efforts to impress her as she, in turn, skillfully played them both against each other.

They’d dueled a few times but discovered their distinct skill sets were evenly matched. Neither could best the other. Their determination to end the interference of the other grew with their frustration.

Watching their efforts from the sidelines was a Dwarf who’d made the mistake of indicating his interest to the fair Elvish maiden himself. Her humiliating laughter and scornful words burned in his mind, so he’d vowed to get his revenge.

Unbeknownst to the spoiled maiden, she’d spurned not just a brilliant and highly sought-after metal artisan, but secretly, a powerful sorcerer, highly skilled in the arts of dark magic.

On separate occasions, he whispered into the ears of her two main suitors, offering to provide them with a weapon that would give them a distinct edge over their foe. Both had reached their mental limit with the ongoing stalemate and eagerly expressed their intense interest.

The Dwarf told them they needed their beloved to give them an object to show her favor. They would then give him the items, and he would infuse her favor into the weapons he would create for them.

A few days later, the Wood Elf returned with a silk scarf. The following day, the Human gave him one of her toe rings.

The Dwarf used his consummate skills to craft a magnificent sword for the Human Warrior, incorporating the ring into the pommel.

For the Elf, he added ornate, silk-wrapped metal bands to a powerful Druid staff.

Meeting them separately and secretly, he informed them that the new weapons would ensure victory against their rivals. Both were dazzled by the craftsmanship and beauty of their new possessions, each finding the weight and balance to be perfect. The Dwarf was a master craftsman, after all.

What the Dwarf hadn’t told them was that he’d placed a curse upon their weapons. Once battle commenced, they’d be compelled to fight to the death. The weapons would absorb and amplify their skills while consuming their life force. Additionally, both weapons would simultaneously absorb the life force of the beautiful but cruel female at twice the rate. She would not survive their dual, and at least one of the suitors was destined to die as well.

The Druid met the Warrior outside the home of the female they both desperately wanted. He loudly challenged the Human to another duel. This drew the Elvish female outside to watch with a satisfied smile on her lips. That smile quickly faded when the contest began as she felt herself rapidly weakening. She watched in terror as her suitors fought with a ferocity they had never shown before. They snarled and screamed as they launched attack after attack on each other.

Their weapons picked up the effort to maintain the battle’s ferocity as they weakened.

The Human was down on one knee when it was over, gasping in pain from his terrible lightning burns. Half of his body was paralyzed, and his heart was struggling to keep beating, but he’d won.

He rested his hands on the pommel of the sword, which he’d driven through the chest of his enemy. Looking toward the steps where his beloved had watched, he froze in shock at the sight of her desiccated husk.

Standing over her, gloating, was the Dwarf.

The warrior suddenly realized that they’d been tricked. The Dwarf had killed them all.

The Human knew he was dying, but with the last of his strength, he pulled the sword from the Wood Elf and threw it mightily at the Dwarf, pinning him to the wall of the home like a bug. The warrior died, and the last of his essence was drawn into the sword. The curse was complete for both the Warrior and the Druid.

Shocked and outraged that his revenge would lead to his own death, the Dwarf poured his hatred for Humans and Elves into a new curse he placed upon the weapons, damning both races to eternal bloodshed. So powerful was his curse that black flames exploded around him, consuming his body as he screamed in rage, fear, and pain. This dark energy split and sank into the sword and staff.

When the bodies were found, accusations were made by the Wood Elves that the Human was responsible for the massacre while the Humans saw his burns and the dried-up husk of the female and claimed the Wood Elf had used forbidden magics to punish the two lovers. The arguments flared until an enraged Human pulled the glorious sword from the wall, and a Wood Elf took up the magnificent staff. Another battle exploded into being.

Two wise elders were present, a Wood Elf wizard and a retired Human warrior. They quickly recognized the two now wielding the spectacular weapons were fighting far beyond their natural abilities. This made them suspicious.

The others gathered were getting caught up in the bloodlust and drew their own weapons, so the wizard bathed the area in a stun spell, excluding himself and the old warrior.

The two seniors carefully separated the men from the dazzling sword and magnificent staff, wrapped the dangerous items in heavy cloth, and hid them away. When the men awoke, they were confused about their earlier outburst. This confirmed for the elders that the men had been affected by a curse.

They tried to destroy the weapons, but they were somehow protected from burning or blunt force damage. The wizard determined that even being near them was dangerous, so they sealed them in crates and separated them.

The chest with the sword went on a ship with instructions to sink it at sea. The staff was buried in a secret location deep in the Mistveil Woods.

One hundred years passed before the sword was discovered during the estate sale of a bankrupt merchant in Portoa. It seems the ship’s captain had a change of heart and decided to make a little extra profit by selling the weapon instead of honoring his promise to sink it.

In the deceased merchant’s collection of weapons being auctioned off, the cursed weapon fetched a high price and found a home on the hip of a wealthy timber baron.

The man already had a grievance with the Wood Elves over their protection of the old-growth forest on a peninsula nearest to Portoa. His confidence boosted by the sword, he started felling the trees on the northern side of the peninsula, and by the time he reached the middle, the Wood Elves were in a full rage. One of their Druids discovered the crate containing the cursed staff entwined in the roots of a tree which had fallen during the night. He led the Wood Elf warriors against the Humans with the Druid staff in his hands. They attacked and almost destroyed Grennesh, only driven off when the Dwarves joined the Humans in protecting their interests. Then the Elvish warriors met the Timber Baron’s army on the northern peninsula. The war was vicious and bloody and only ended when wiser heads, aware of the ancient curse, captured the weapons, sealing them away once more and sending them in opposite directions.

The sword went on a caravan destined for the Windscour Desert on the far side of the world, while the staff went south to be dropped into a crevasse in the far away icy realm.

Three centuries passed without a sign of the cursed weapons. Relations between the Humans and the Mistveil Wood Elves returned to the pre-war levels of distrust and dislike. Day-to-day lives went back to normal as people just… forgot.

But the burning hate bound to the sword and staff never did.


“No, I want baby potatoes. Ten large sacks, like these, but filled with baby potatoes,” Dell insisted.

The farmer looked up at him in confusion. “But… you get the same amount of potato out of a large bag of regular potatoes as you would from a large bag of baby ones.”

A weary voice broke into their argument. “Husband! You’re as dense as an Orc. He needs the baby potatoes as he’s making his pot pies for the Wood Knot Inn!”

The man spun his head to gape at his wife, then whipped it back to stare at Dell. “You’re the cook who makes the pies?”

Dell nodded as he looked at the farmer’s wife.

“Don’t worry. We have sufficient baby potatoes for your order. I’ll have him deliver them this morning,” the woman said with a genuine smile. Dell nodded and paid for his order. She handed him a receipt, and he ignored her wandering eyes.

As he walked away, his sharp hearing picked up the husband grumbling to his wife. “How was I to know he’s the cook. Look at the size of him! He’s a brute! Besides, you know Halflings never amount to anything!”

Dell kept walking, ignoring the slurs. He’d heard them his entire life.

With his deeply tanned skin, dark, intense eyes, long straight black hair, and the pointed ears poking up out of it, he looked very much like a Wood Elf, if a little taller than most. These features were gifts from his Wood Elf mother. They were also the things that made Humans uncomfortable around him.

His Human father’s gifts were a large frame with broad shoulders to carry the heavy muscles none of the Elven race had. These were the attributes that made the Wood Elves uncomfortable around him. The combination seemed to be a red flag for everyone as few respected Halflings.

At least, that was his experience.

Dell didn’t resent his parents for creating him. His father had spoken of his mother with such love in his voice, he couldn’t blame him for being with her. Unfortunately, she died during his birth, so Dell never got a chance to meet her and experience the phenomenal amount of love his mother contained.

He shook the sad thoughts from his head and turned his eyes back to the list of ingredients he was shopping for.

With the purchase of the baby potatoes, he had all the necessary vegetables. He added the latest receipt to the ones for the sweet peas, carrots, corn, mushrooms, herbs, and spices.

He scanned the dawn Farmer’s market with his eyes and listened to the voices of the merchants, mostly Human farmers, and the few early morning customers haggling for a deal. He’d been one of the first to walk through the gates this morning, targeting the farmers who he knew could get past their prejudice sufficiently to sell to him.

He’d purchased the mushrooms from a Wood Elf merchant who collected them in areas no Human was welcome. They were the most flavorful, so Dell wanted them for his creations. The Wood Elf wasn’t pleased to do business with him, but as fewer customers would approach his stall, he couldn’t be so picky. The size of Dell’s order eased much of his discomfort.

As Dell made his way to the exit, he contemplated his last purchase. He was off to see a butcher to order the cubed meat. He had to use a particular shop as the proprietor knew his father, Karter du Krane, and wouldn’t cheat him by substituting the selected cuts of meat with something inferior. The Wood Knot Inn had an excellent reputation and was well respected by the Grennesh city officials. No one fucked with that.

That didn’t mean the man running the butcher shop showed Dell any respect. While he loved the food Dell made, he was a rude bastard to deal with.

He sighed as he set course for the meat-packing district. Only one more shop, then he could get back to his beloved kitchen.

Coming around a corner, he almost walked into a small group of Grennesh Guardsmen leaning up against a shop’s wall, enjoying a mug of something hot and… he sniffed, alcoholic.

“What’s this?” one of them blurted boldly as he held out his short staff to block Dell’s way.

Dell cast a weary look at the faces of the four uniformed Humans and waited.

“You’re bigger than any Wood Elf I’ve ever seen. You part Orc?” the clever one said. The others chuckled.

“Human. My father’s Karter du Krane.”

Four excited expressions suddenly turned sour as they couldn’t interfere with a respected business. But the clever one wasn’t finished. The guards would be quite justified in defending themselves if he attacked them. “So, your mother was a Wood Elf whore?”

Dell stiffened slightly but showed no other sign of taking offense.

“Sorry for interfering with your morning drink. I’m rather busy this morning on inn business, but please visit us tonight to discuss my mother. Then you can truly demonstrate your bravery.” He gave the four a small smile and stepped around the man’s arm to continue on his way.

He doubted he would see them tonight as their authority ended at the city walls. The Wood Knot Inn was a five-minute ride further down the hill. If they showed up, they’d be civilians and fair game in an honor battle.

Dell refrained from fighting whenever possible, but he could handle himself if it came to that.

He’d spent his childhood running around the dark alleys of Grennesh, and he’d given and taken his fair share of beatings. On the fast track to becoming a delinquent, his father had finally had enough and put him in the inn’s kitchen to learn a trade.

It was the smartest decision the man ever made.

Dell shook off the last of his tension and got on with his task.

He had cooking to do today!


Eryllis struggled to keep her temper from fraying as she hunted through the deep woods for precious herbs and roots. She worked for her grandmother with six other young Wood Elf females, preparing potions and learning the craft from the older female.

Normally she found this work to be calming and deeply satisfying, but today, the other ladies were in full gossip mode, and their noise was destroying her peace and serenity.

“Could you possibly perform your work without engaging your mouths for vapid commentary?” she snapped.

Six pairs of eyes turned her way, and she felt their hate and loathing. They all believed she got special treatment at the shop because of her familial relationship with the owner, Haleth. That couldn’t have been further from the truth. Her grandmother showed absolutely no favoritism, and truth be told, she may have been more critical of her because of the blood they shared.

The shop they worked for in the village of Ghelli’Talesh wasn’t a joyful place for Eryllis. With her grandmother’s constant criticism and being treated like a pariah by her coworkers, some mornings, it took every bit of her willpower just to get out of bed.

It didn’t make things easier for her that she had a wicked temper and little control over it or her tongue.

Of course, this was what her grandmother was most critical of.

“Could you possibly perform your work elsewhere?” Lyyrall snipped back at her, and her friends snickered gleefully.

“Rude cow,” Jorina muttered loudly enough for her to overhear.

The other workers in the shop were all tall, slim, and lovely in their own ways as the Wood Elf people were. Eryllis was equally slender but a little more than a hand-span taller than the others. She was also strikingly lovely with unique violet eyes. Of course, her grandmother told her that her beauty was marred by the intensity of her gaze, a slightly bold nose, and the downturn of her slightly oversized upper lip. The old female was always ready to criticize the slightest feature of her granddaughter’s looks.

If the woman’s comments about her height, nose, or lips weren’t enough to shatter her self-confidence, Eryllis also carried a little extra when it came to her breasts. While the others had svelte figures and felt no discomfort when running through the forest, Eryllis was curvy up top and bounced when she ran.

She’d tried binding them down, but that was too uncomfortable, and the pain made her irritable. So, she wore a special sling under her garments that supported the extra weight. This also lifted her breasts up, displaying more cleavage than most Elves had to show off.

Naturally, her coworkers called her a cow.

She felt her temper flaring once more, but she took deep breaths to contain it. The forest was not a place for loud words or hostile actions unless you were hunting. Inattention was never a smart idea here.

It was also not a place to wander around on your own. There was an excellent reason collectors worked as a group.

The forest gave them so much! Their homes, daily food, and livelihoods came from their environment.

But the forest could also take. Unwary travelers had been known to disappear. There were strange and dangerous lifeforms hiding in the shadows and mists which consumed the inattentive or even the solitary. They weren’t evil, just a necessary balance to weed out the weak.

Eryllis glared at the others, knowing full well she couldn’t work elsewhere.

The females giggled and went back to their inane chattering as they carefully looked for the mushrooms, flower buds, and roots they were charged with bringing back. If anything, their voices were just a bit louder and more grating on her nerves. Their favorite topic of the males who pursued them romantically was particularly painful for Eryllis, who had yet to experience so much as a friendly smile from a Wood Elf male.