“A child in the woods?!”
A warm and gentle breeze blew softly through the woods, rustling the sleeping child's hair. The Chief of Florin stood over her, smiling softly at the child. It lay, no bigger than a newborn squirrel, amongst the calmness of the forest floor. Valentine looked around, perhaps for a hint of where the child came from, but between the birds singing in the trees and the deer prancing through the forest, there were no signs of anyone. So he carefully picked up the baby Shai, and held her against his chest as he headed back towards the village. The child reached out with her tiny hand and touched Valentine’s beard. Her dew-like eyes opened, and Valentine knew then that the child would be his to raise.
“The first time I laid eyes on her, I thought she was the gift of dawn…”
Valentine poured his affection onto the girl, and instilled one of the primary qualities of the Shai: curiosity. However, the child was different from other Shais. Whereas most Shais take great interest in potions, mixing new herbs together and giving them to unsuspecting travellers, this girl’s curiosity was more about the world around her. Her innocent curiosity was the cause of many headaches for the Chief of Florin, as Valentine saw the child he raised turn into a carefree spirit intent on causing trouble.
The girl climbed Karanda Ridge and took as many Harpy eggs as she could carry. As she was chased from the ridge she howled with laughter, the harpies’ sharp claws not even fazing the youngster. She sang and danced on the herb gardens, destroying the precious herbs beneath her feet. She even stole Valentine’s prized donkey, riding it around the village until its tiny legs gave in and they both ended up in the dirt. Despite the trouble that always followed in her wake, the villagers adored the little Shai.
“A Coming of Age”
Shais do not age like humans. They age considerably slower than humans of the world, and even Valentine, the oldest of the Shais, still looks like he is in his early 20’s even though he is 110 years old by the Elion Calendar! And as the years passed like a leaf floating down the river, the young Shai reached 15 by the Elion Calendar. This is a special age for Shais and marks the first test of becoming an adult.
The alchemy test is one that all Shais must pass, and the young girl was no different. She decided to try and make cookies that cause white leaves to sprout from your head by mixing rare herbs together. So she set off towards the forest, looking for the rare herb.
“Curiosity killed the kitty.”
As she wandered through the trees and thick overgrowth, she stumbled upon a cave. Although Valentine had given strict orders never to enter, the mischievous Shai had no second thoughts. She put one happy foot in front of the other, and danced through the dark cave. A dim light far from the entrance of the cave marked her goal, as she danced past the stalagmites and dived under the stalactites. It was then she stumbled upon Caphras’ hidden laboratory.
“What are all these things?”
Her eyes grew big as they looked upon all the things she had never seen before. Her hands brushed over the tools, across huge jars and tiny vials. A pile of books on a table caught her interest. The book on top seemed to sparkle and illuminate the room. The young Shai climbed up onto a chair, then onto the table. As she reached for the book, the table gave way beneath her feet, everything flew into the air, and as she landed she saw a jar come crashing down.
The jar smashed on the stone floor, and a black mist flew towards the girl. As she reeled back attempting to protect herself, she was surrounded by flames. Florin, her home, was engulfed. Men, women and children lay bloody and fallen all around her. The smell of smoke and burning herbs filled the air, almost suffocating the Shai girl. She stood in the middle of all this destruction, and screamed a blood-curdling scream. Like a lost kitten, she stood motionless, the fear of what she was witnessing filled every inch of her body.
“Shai...the first light...”
She turned to the warm voice that she heard. The sound of the burning village almost melted away as she spotted a small orb glowing on the floor. Fighting the fear that gripped her body, she reached out a hand. When she laid her hands on the glowing orb, the sounds of the burning village raced past her ears, and the black mist vanished without a trace.
Despite the horrors that melted away around her, the orb glowing with the light of the world remained.
She was freed from the darkness, yet the panic remained. As she turned to run she dropped the orb behind her. In her haste, she didn’t even hear the orb as it clanked on the floor. She continued to run as fast as her legs would take her, and the light of the orb became engulfed in the darkness of the cave.
The young woman who was so full of life, so full of innocence grew dark. Where the valley was once filled with her laughter, it now rang with a deafening silence. The villagers were worried about her, trying to get her to at least talk. The girl stayed silent, as if muted by some new illness. She could not shake the images she saw. Nightmares kept her awake at night, picking herbs brought no joy. Everything she enjoyed slowly lost its draw, and she withdrew to a small hut.
Time passed like the pages of a book, and after 15 Elonian years, it was time for the Shai’s second coming of age ceremony. In those years she shook off much of the horrors she witnessed, yet she could not erase the images of the orb from her mind. The radiant light, the small world within. The less the nightmares plagued her, the more visions of the orb shone through. The light of the world, she thought to herself.
For their second coming of age ceremony, a Shai must collect the most precious of treasure. For many Shais, this includes collecting incredibly rare herbs, or a Flondor goose egg that appears once in a while. But for the Shai girl, now 30 by the Elion Calendar, there was only one precious treasure.
‘I can face it once more’
She unlocked the door of her hut, grabbed the Florang next to the frame, and ventured once more to the cave. This time she walked through the cave, making sure that the Florang, a rather large boomerang-like weapon, didn’t hit the roof. With each step, her heart raced, knowing that what she once saw could soon haunt her once more. Each step could have brought her face to face with her deepest fears.
As the faint light of the lab grew closer and closer, she could feel the warming presence of the orb. Yet as soon as one foot touched the lab’s cold floor, she was surrounded by darkness. Her breath stopped, once again fear had consumed her.
“You need to leave, I’ll be right behind you”
As she stood in the darkness, she began to hear the sounds of a conversation from two Shais in front of her. As she reached out towards them, to stop them, to find more about this place, the darkness moved to block her. Face to face with an entity of darkness, the Shai felt trapped. Yet in the corner of her eye, she could see the orb. This time shining brighter than she remembered. She shook off the fear, diving towards the light. The darkness hastily pursued as she reached out. Each moment felt like an eternity, as her hand eventually grasped the orb.
‘My head feels like it’s been cracked open. Where am I? I’m hungry...soooo hungry’
How much time had passed? She contemplated as she stared up at the sky, watching a white fluffy cloud float by. The leaves rustled softly in the warm spring breeze, birds sang wistfully to each other. It all felt unfamiliar. Everything she saw was new, every sound was a surprise, even the feeling of the soft ground beneath her was foreign.
She met that darkness twice, and it had devoured all her memories.
A beautiful song echoed around her. She stood up to try and find the source of the sweet melody. The orb dangled gently from her waist, and as the Shai girl looked at it, it glowed and sang a happy tune. The Shai girl was calmed, as if the warm spring breeze had wrapped itself around her. She skipped her first steps towards her new fate with glee.