Describe your character’s happiest memory.
Toriah really found her niche in the universe when she joined the Farstriders. After being bullied by her peers, and then losing her father, she desperately needed something to keep her grounded— especially something she could call her own.
One week before the induction ceremony, Toriah was the reconnaissance scout on assignment with her two instructors, Captains Lor’themar Theron and Halduron Brightwing. They had been instructed by Ranger General Lireesa Windrunner to take care of an incursion of forest trolls. The young ranger-to-be gladly accepted the mission, eager to prove that she was indeed worthy to be a member of the Farstriders.
Hidden in the boughs of a large tree, Toriah watched the small band of trolls digging through some pilfered goods. After an hour of observation, she crept away and made a beeline for the rendezvous site. When she arrived, however, no one was there. She even returned to the place where she’d parted company with the two ranking Farstriders and found only dust.
Part of her suggested she do the sensible thing and return to the lodge. The rest of her senses, however, demanded that she carry the mission to its end. She was given a task and honor dictated that it be completed. Tightening the straps to her quiver and sheathes that held her twin knives, Toriah set off toward the trolls’ encampment.
When she returned to her observation post in the tree, the trolls were gleefully menacing an adolescent lynx with an assortment of crude devices. Toriah saw only two of the trolls and could not find the others in the moonless night. She wasn’t inclined to wait. A life was in danger and she’ll be damned if she was just going to sit idly by while it happened.
Toriah swiftly fitted a poison-tipped arrow to her bow, keeping the regenerative abilities of trolls in mind, and let missile fly. It buried itself into the troll’s skull through an eye, making him scream in agony. Terrified of an unseen assailant, the other troll turn to flee. In her haste, she fired another arrow at the retreating troll but only managed to catch his upper thigh. She hopped down from the tree and quickly silenced the whimpering troll, glad for the night’s silence once more.
Behind her, Toriah heard a low whine. She found the lynx she’d rescued staring at her with glowing, lantern-like eyes, unsure whether she was friend or foe. Cautiously, she reached a hand toward the big cat but he simply cowered further into his dirty cage. An idea struck her and she found some cured dragonhawk meat in her pack. Food always helped her warm up to others; perhaps the tortured creature would come out when offered a morsel or two.
The peace offering worked. He sniffed the meat once before hungrily eating up the small pile of jerky. Some of the strength seemed to return to the muscular cat. Satisfied, Toriah left a small marker in a stack of crates, in case Captain Theron or Lieutenant Brightwing were still about. She found a trail of blood left by the injured troll as he fled and started to follow it when her sharp ears heard something following her.
To her relief, it was just the lynx again.
“Don’t you have somewhere better to be?” she whispered. “Those trolls are going to be back soon, and I know you don’t want to see them again.”
The cat didn’t budge.
Toriah breathed a sigh of annoyance. “Go on. Shoo! Off with you! Get out of here!”
Finally, the cat’s ears flattened and he slunk away into the shadows, head lowered. She certainly wasn’t proud of what she did, but Toriah did not want to face a group of angry trolls while worrying about a weakened animal whose life was in her hands.
Before she could find the trail of troll’s blood again, she heard the snapping of brush and leaves around her. Well, I didn’t have to go far to find the other trolls, she thought.
Outnumbered five to one, with one troll slightly injured. No wonder they didn’t bother hiding their approach.
Toriah dropped into a protective crouch, letting her cloak hide her hands as she placed a trap by her feet. As soon as a troll came close enough, she leapt up and vaulted over his head, using his wide shoulders as a springboard. The others rushed after her, only to find themselves falling over one another as the ground had turned into an ice slick.
She fought to keep her hands steady as she drew arrow after arrow, intent on making the most of the advantage. The bow sang a dirge as it sent one troll after another to wherever trolls go when they die. Toriah was spotting her next shot when she realized one critical detail: she was out of arrows.
Two trolls remained. The elf slung the bow over her shoulder and drew her blades, adopting a basic fighting stance. The first troll let out a guttural laugh and lunged at her, thinking he had the advantage in reach and speed. He was wrong. Toriah took two quick steps toward the troll, making him overreach, and she thrust her knives into his chest and head. She spun away, pulling her weapons clear as the troll fell lifeless to the ground.
One more, but Toriah was oddly by herself in the forest clearing. Where was the other damnable troll?
Her ears picked up the sound of the troll’s uneven gait off to her left. She whirled to meet him, weapons at the ready. His face split into a feral grin around his tusks. Suddenly, a deafening roar caused both troll and elf to wince and cover their ears. Toriah’s eyes widened as she looked past her opponent’s shoulder.
He turned and found himself face to face with the young lynx he had been torturing. That was everything Tori needed to finish her mission. She came up behind the troll and quickly dispatched the troll before he drew another breath.
Sheathing her knives, she finally collapsed to the ground, weary and tired. The big cat laid down next to her, seemingly satisfied with the outcome of events. Toriah chuckled.
“That was a pretty good diversion back there,” she said. Without thinking about it, she placed a gloved hand on the cat’s head and started scratching his ears. “I guess we make a pretty good team, huh?” The lynx nuzzled her hand in response.
Toriah stood with a sigh. The cat paced along at her side as they made their way back to the lodge. They hadn’t gone very far before two slender figures stepped from the shadows onto the road before them. In a flash of orange-red fur, the lynx stepped protectively in front of Toriah and growled.
“Easy, now!” a smooth, low voice said in familiar Thalassian. “We are all friends here.”
“Could have fooled me,” Toriah said with a derisive snort. “Did my brother leave instructions for you two to continue his work of driving me mad?”
“Nothing of the sort,” Lor’themar Theron said, genuinely hurt. “This was your final test, Tori, as instructed by the Ranger General. Surely you figured that out partway through? In fact, we had to convince them to let us stay close by in case your life was in danger so I could keep the promise I made to your brother to look out for you.”
“What my illustrious colleague means to say,” Halduron Brightwing said, piping up, “is that we were monitoring you the entire time. Seems to me you handled yourself just fine.”
“Yeah, thanks a ton,” Toriah muttered.
“Um, who’s your new friend?” Halduron asked uneasily.
Tori looked down to see the lynx still growling at the two men. She placed a soothing hand on the cat’s head, urging him to stand down. “I rescued him from the trolls. Looked like he was part of the merchant’s inventory to be sold as a pet or something. Whatever he was, he saved my life out there.”
“He seems pretty attached to you, Tori,” Lor’themar remarked.
“I’d be attached to her, too, if she saved my life from trolls,” Halduron said. He ignored the sly glance from his superior. “So, does he have a name? Or are we just supposed to call him ‘Cat’ and ‘Hey you, furball!’?”
Toriah thought for a moment, then recalled an ancient human tale about a great hunter who was immortalized in the stars for his valorous deeds. “Orion. His name is Orion.”