Maerklon El'lome1 bore his name for a reason; he was rather dun-coloured compared to most of his kin in the valley, coltishly long-limbed, and quite unusually strong. He was regarded warily by his neighbours, who expected his family's madness to manifest in him at any moment. After so many years with them, he was frankly surprised to find that his family hadn't driven him crazy. For the past several years of his life, he had slept outside, at the top of a tall terebinth tree -- eccentric to be certain, but indubitably safer than sleeping in the house with his mother and siblings. He shuddered to think what things he might wake to if he slept within their reach. But it is good that he chose to sleep in the tree, for in the end, it saved him from more than the curious rages of his delusional relations.

It was a cool, spring night when the goblin raiders came over the hill -- all but a few of the valley's residents slept peacefully in their beds, or at least as peacefully as could ever be expected for some. The odd few youths were clustered about their porches, drinking cider and recounting stories of their bravery and their ways with women. Maerklon lay awake upon a wide branch, considering that perhaps it was time to take his inheritance, and perhaps that of his brothers as well, and leave the valley and his deranged family behind him forever. It was not an unpleasant thought, but it was interrupted by a long howl, and the thundering of many feet.

The dogs came first -- vicious, skinless hellhounds, pain-mad and starving -- and shortly on their heels, wave after wave of goblins sluiced bloodily through the village. The archers woke swiftly, and rose to their duty; a hail of arrows rained down from the rooftops, but they were badly outnumbered. Maerklon could hear them screaming as, felled by enemy fire, they pitched off their perches into the jaws of the hounds below. The goblins had forced their way into most of the houses below, and a huge swath of the village was on fire. Maerklon listened silently to mothers lamenting their children, sobbing as the young ones were dragged into the streets, rent, and eaten. The laments, he noticed, were short lived; goblin bloodthirst is heightened by the sound of fear. He pulled his cloak about himself, and huddled close to the trunk of the tree, hoping it would end soon, and he drifted off to sleep to the symphony of cracking bone and dying wails.

When Maerklon woke, the valley was aflame. For three days and three nights, the fire below blazed, but on the third night, a gentle rain damped the brightest tongues of flame. When the fourth day dawned, the ground was cool enough to stand on in a few places, and Maerklon stiffly climbed down from the terebinth. The valley was a ruin. As he wandered the narrow streets between the smoking piles of charred wood and bone, he salvaged what could be taken from the wreckage -- a miraculously whole leather satchel, a few handfuls of unmelted coins, some slightly charred vegetables. He surveyed the flickering cinder that had been his family's home. He hadn't liked them, and probably would have wound up murdering one of his brothers in order to escape with what he wanted, but somehow, it was still not okay that the goblins had gotten them. His eye wandered to a small gleam on a charred lump. He wandered over for a closer look, and realised the gleam was a small ring he'd crafted for his sister's birthingday, many years ago. He'd liked his sister; she was nearly sane. Prying the ring from her blistered and blackened flesh, he pocketed it, and moved on.

As he set out from the valley, on the only road that led in, Maerklon passed a single small dwelling, untouched by the flames. Hoping there might have been another survivor, he knocked. After several minutes, there was no answer, and he let himself in. In the center of the room sat a beautiful elfin maiden with five goblin arrows protruding from her chest, and her limp hands still tangled in the violin and bow in her lap. At last, a single tear came to his eye. Maerklon gently drew out the arrows, and laid her out for burial on a nearby table. He claimed the violin as his own, vowing to learn to play it, someday, and leaving, he set the cottage afire. At least one of the dead would recieve a proper funeral.

Maerklon managed a few somber notes on the violin, packed it, and fled the valley to seek his solace in the outlying lands.


Notes: Technically, El'lome is an appellation, not a moniker, and the name should be al'El'lome, meaning 'the dark star'. For some reason, I didn't like it, and had a bit of poetic license with the name. Maerklon, translated literally, is 'brown horse'; translated figuratively it is 'plow horse', or 'tiller of fields'. The idea is that any of these translations would not be wildly inaccurate descriptions of the character in the eyes of his neighbours.

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