There were little fireflies in the dark sky, and that's how I knew it was nighttime. Momma called them stars, and I always loved looking up at them. There was also an enormous white will-o'-the-wisp that watched over the fireflies, but Momma called it the moon. Momma sometimes let me sit outside the place where we sleep to look up at the stars with her, and that's what I was doing now.
The place was peaceful. Many others that looked like me (Momma called us elves) liked to be out when it was light out, and I found myself, even though I had only been alive for two short years, able to know that I'd rather be awake when it was light out too, but I enjoyed looking at the fireflies too much, so I usually fought the exhaustion away.
I was looking up at the stars when something unusual happened. The stars started to go out, one by one. That had never happened before and it frightened me. I cried out and Momma pulled me closer. I could tell she was frightened too and I didn't understand.
Suddenly there was so much going on. Bad men were stepping out from behind the trees, carrying shadows of smoke behind them, and they had pointy sticks that could fly. One of the pointy sticks hit our neighbor, and his shirt turned red. I started to cry; I didn't like the screaming or loud sounds. Momma picked me up and pressed my face against her shoulder.
"Close your eyes Peridae, and keep them closed." She was running inside, and I could hear her begging with Papa. She didn't want him to go fight the bad man. She wanted us to run away. Papa wasn't happy about that. We would be called deserters. I didn't understand what any of that meant, but in the end, Momma won. She usually did.
Momma set me down and gripped my shoulders tightly. "Go grab something you want to bring with you, and then come right back here. I am going to grab your brother." I nodded my head solemnly and then pumped my small legs up to my room, next to my brother's nursery. He had been born only about a fortnight ago. I heard him crying while Momma pulled him out of his crib, and I hurried to my bedside table, where my dragon was sleeping, smoke furling out of his nose.
"Small Grass we have to go," I whispered to the small dragon. He was the first magical item I had ever created. Momma had weaved the grass together to make him, but I had used my very own magic to bring him to life.
He yawned and cracked one eye open, and then lazily got up and flew to my shoulder. "Good boy," I said, patting his tiny head with my finger. Papa burst into the room, and I covered my hand protectively around Small Grass. I could hear him growling lowly.
"Come on child," he said quickly, his sword at his belt as he shuffled me into his arms. "I want you to close your eyes when we go outside, okay?" He sounded frightened, which I had never heard in his voice before, so I made sure to do just what he asked. I watched Momma hurry down the stairs behind us, Roland in her arms, and he stared over at me warily, as if he knew something bad was going on. I pressed my finger to my lips and then looked up at Momma, who smiled at me tightly.
"Okay, Peridae, cover your eyes." At my father's words, I pressed my face into the crook of my father's neck and I couldn't see anything else. I could only hear the horrible noises. Sometimes I heard screaming and then it would suddenly stop, but the sound of fighting rang in my ears like an overpowering waterfall. I just wanted to look at the fireflies in the sky some more. I felt my father reach for his sword, and then there was a wetness on my back. I wanted to look so bad, but I knew father would be very mad at me if I peeked, so I kept myself comforted with the darkness.
However, my mother's scream pierced the air, and there was no way I couldn't look. Besides, my father had halted, grabbed my mother's hand, and was now dragging her along behind us.
That wasn't what had my attention though. I couldn't even hear the screams of others or sounds of the bad men's swords. All I could see was one of those pointy sticks sticking out of my brother's side, and there was red collecting along his shirt. He wasn't crying anymore, like he had been earlier. He wasn't moving at all. I had seen that same red color on others whose Souls had left their bodies to join the Diaesse Straya, our beloved Tree of Life, but I didn't think it took little boys that were so young.
Mother was crying and she refused to let go of my brother, even though his eyes were glossed over and we all knew he was dead. In fact, that was happening to a lot of people in my home. I could see that now that I wasn't hiding my eyes anymore. So much red covered the grass, turning it ugly. So many bad men were standing over my people.
I decided I didn't want to look anymore, so I threw my face back into Father's shoulder, tears rolling down my cheeks. I hoped to wake up soon, and this could be a bad, bad dream. Mother would be in the other room, and Father would come in and sing to me in his beautiful voice until I fell back asleep.
But sometimes the nightmares are real, and as we made it into the forest, Mother finally released her grip on my brother and he fell to the ground. I watched as Small Grass flung himself from my shoulder and flew over to my brother's body, where he curled up on his chest and they both returned to the earth. I waved a small hand to my brother – wishing he knew that I was saying goodbye. Mother and Father were silent, but after a moment, we seemed to have come to the place that they were heading towards.
"Are you ready Peridae? We're going on an adventure," Father said, setting me down and gripping my hand tightly. I could hardly contain my excitement. I loved adventures! Father always told me about his adventures, but this was my very first one. I looked up to him only to see that he was crying. I squeezed his hand more tightly – I didn't want to see him hurting anymore – and he squeezed back. I took Mother's hand and did the same thing, and then we stepped forward. I suppose this place was magical, because a feeling grabbed me by the belly and then pulled me into darkness.
I had no idea what an adventure I was up against.