The Tale of the Loveborn
 
The scream cut through the night, dragging those who slept back into the waking world and pumping them with adrenaline. Akren’s eyes flew open as she realised she was alone upon the animal fur she shared with her mate. She glanced over to her baby, swaddled in more furs, not yet understanding the terrifying sound of metal against metal.

Grabbing a spear, Akren pushed aside the cloth that covered the opening to her abode and took in the view of her people. Death surrounded her, parts of her friends and family had been strewn on the ground. Only a few feet from where she stood, a hooded figure was forcing himself on one of the women Akren had known since childhood. The girl screamed, begged in her native tongue for the figure to stop. Frozen in place Akren watched as the figure finished, slowly drew a dagger and opened the woman’s throat so deeply her head almost fell from her shoulders.

Another scream, this time from her own mouth. Drawing the attention of the evil hooded figure. Drawing her arm back Akren threw the spear, hitting him in the neck and causing blood to flood the ground as he fell from his feet.

With a tear streaked face Akren searched for her mate, watching the fighting and the death. Then she saw him, Merkith, stumbling towards her with a blood streaked face. She would help him, they would take Tarlia, their first and only baby and leave this place.

Merkith’s expression changed, he looked wide-eyed, shocked. Looking down Akren saw the end of a blade coming through his chest, dripping with his blood. As he fell to the ground more of the hooded figures surrounded Akren, grabbing her arms and dragging her away from this scene. To enjoy the flesh of her before they ended her life. As she screamed she thought only of Tarlia.

The baby cooed. Unaware of the horror that had befallen her people. She was the last of the tribe now. A woman entered, wearing the same robes as the men who had committed this atrocity. She scooped the baby up into her arms and gently rocked her from side to side. Conception had been hard for her and the only baby she did carry died before it left the safety of her belly. This would be her child, named for her mother Selina. Saved from the life of a wildlander. She would teach her the way of The Taker.

Time goes quickly and the baby that was ripped viciously from her family was now known to her people as Selina Ward and no memory of the wildlanders remained.

It is hard to describe exactly how bones snapping in a tiny body feels, it is something you will only learn by doing and for Selina it was a new and powerful sensation. To hold a life in your hands, to decide if a creature will continue to impact the world in which it walks brings you close to Godlike status.

In normal society, taking the life of another wasn’t something a child in her tenth year should be encouraged to do but it was imperative that everyone in the closed world of the Takers could end another without guilt or fear. To slay a man should be no different than crushing the life out of the tiny field mouse she held in her hand.

As she dropped the misshapen and bleeding corpse onto the grass beside the others she looked around aimlessly at the adults walking around the camp. Her mother had long since passed and her upbringing was a responsibility no one seemed to want.

As a lonely child Selina spent time watching the old wizard weave his spells into reality and always wished she could harness the pure elemental power that he held; jealousy was a strong emotion.

No one could understand how the old wizard had ended up slain by his own craft, but then none of the Takers had seen Selina slip away with the old man’s Grimoire.

The teenage years were unkind to the girl who was now becoming a woman. Her hair had grown long and was the colour of straw. She was a beauty surrounded by the cruelty of the Takers. But she was a part of it. Perhaps the worst of it. The magic had spread within her but the blackness of it had reached her heart. Evil thoughts were all that her pretty head held and the others had learned to keep their distance from her.

Tamlin, the High Priest of The Taker was visiting the reclusive witch who had set up her tent just outside of the people’s camp. A disease was spreading like fire and the weakest were dying fast. The hope was for Selina to save them.

He followed the stench of black magic to her doorway and slowly reached out his hand. Pulling back the leathery material that was her door he saw the girl kneeling before the dismembered remains of one of the dead children from the camp. She had used the blood of the boy to mark her own skin and was chanting to her God. Words he couldn’t understand, nor did he want to. This was too much for him, this girl was damaged.

He fled the scene, knowing that each time he closed his eyes he would see the image of the girl, no more than sixteen, with the blackest eyes chanting for death.

More years passed and the Takers had left the witch alone. They fled in the night, promising that they would return with riches from a local township they would pillage. Such things were beneath Selina, her power was better used on the dead.

Opening her eyes on the morning of her eighteenth year, Selina stretched out her arms and inhaled deeply, taking in the damp odour of death that seemed to follow her everywhere she went. This was the day of her greatest triumph, today she would raise the dead. She would have her army and march them to the takers. Destroy them for leaving her, she would take their lives.

The skull she would use for mixing her herbs was taken from the wizard she had watched. Carefully she had removed the top and worked the inside to create a bowl. For years she had collected the necessary ingredients to perform this spell and excitement ran through her veins.

As she chanted and mixed a group came over the hill, mounted on horseback, and saw the black smoke rising from her fire and they could smell the stench of black magic. Drawing their swords they charged the witch’s home and dragged her into the grass.

The screech that came from her mouth was almost animalistic and a few of the knights flinched at the sound. One of the men, however, dismounted his steed and walked towards her with his sword drawn. He removed his helmet and knelt beside her, blade pointed at her throat. He calmly explained that she need not follow the path of the Taker any longer. Told her that the God she had pledged herself to had turned from darkness and become the Redeemer. Creating the Order, the remaining members she now saw before her.

Confusion swirled in her mind, clouding her judgement. How could her God have turned to the light? How could he abandon everything she now held dear? It would be her life if she refused these men. They would never allow her to live. Bowing her head she allowed the men to help her to her feet and raise her up onto a horse. Selina watched over her shoulder as she saw her home fade into the distance.

The years passed once more and the now twenty five year old woman was a fully-fledged Paladin Knight of the Redeemer. Behind her was the evil she once was. Gone but not forgotten. She had chosen a new name, Daria Loveborn. For a year she travelled the realm with new companions, a ranger, a fighter, a cleric and even a drunk halfling barbarian called Cecil. They saved a great many people, but they had all lost things of importance to them.

For the first time in her life, Daria opened her heart to a man. Ythel. He was on the path to redemption and she trusted him. It was misplaced and the atrocities that came from that trust were blamed on her. The people that died, were torn to shreds by the undead. She could’ve stopped it, could’ve saved them all but instead, she stood by and watched helplessly.

Then the visions came, telling her to lay down her sword. Feeling the failure from the Redeemer Daria turned her back on her God. Once more feeling the crushing loneliness that comes from losing everything.

Daria travelled the whole realm, singing for coppers and trying to channel some form of magic into her voice. She had heard tales of Bards so powerful that enemies had no will of their own when the singing began. Upon her travels she stumbled upon a place known only as Darkened Vale…