The rays from the bright morning sun shone through the charred side of the small home Eletha had chosen to sleep in. It had been so long since she had felt a mattress under her thin frame that she did not mind the acrid smell that permeated the interior. Moaning, she pulled the blanket over her head, the outcome a torrent of tossing and turning that ended in defeat, the young woman throwing off her covers and sitting up.
She was filthy...covered in soot and grime...as was the modest dwelling. Rubbing at her eyes she looked closely at her surroundings. Ash covered every surface and a light wind continued to breathe it into every nook and cranny of her being. It was going to be another long day of scavenging and scrubbing it off now would just be a waste of time. Grumbling, she pulled up her hood and rose, collecting the items she had procured the day before, a small bag of coins the last thing she attached to her belt.
There was little left of the village she had resided in for a year past. The businesses and homes had been burned to the ground, their stone foundations jutting up from the scorched ground like broken teeth. Livestock--gone--burned beyond recognition. Even the stray dogs and feral cats were dead, their bodies littering the alleyways. The streets were choked with the blood of the residents, their bodies reanimated by some unholy spell that summoned a black mist to engulf the cold flesh. Even the sun had not been able to penetrate the haze, so potent was the magic. There had been no fight...only slaughter...the townsfolk taken by surprise as they fled for their lives from an army led by skeletal figures.
As the sole survivor, the half-elf was left to fend for herself. Hidden in the shadows, frozen in fear, she had gathered her wits. Panic...shock...even those were not enough deterents to keep her from starting to search and collect the meager bounty that was left behind after the attack. She rifled through the pockets of the few abandoned corpses...those that had not been retrieved for some reason unknown. They were mutilated, dismembered, perhaps too damaged for reanimation, but it was beyond her scope of reasoning. Her desire to think on it was curbed by her revulsion. She wondered if she would miss them...the few she had come to think of with some small fondness. The baker, whose shop she had slept behind, his occasional handout and the awning that kept her from the dampness of storms. Or the old widow who offered her a smile as she passed. Familiar faces...but nothing more...not friends...not family.
And now, on the day after, she stood inside the small hovel along the outskirts of town, a building that was little more than a hut. The door was behind her, the decimated town in front, framed by an opening that once was a wall. She had a pouch of coins, a few articles of clothing, and some food in her possession. Not much, but more than she had yesterday. She would continue her search, dig though every inch of rubble until there was nothing left of value. She owed it to herself to be thorough...and she had nothing but time. She would clear the watering hole of the recent debris that had been swept into it and when she was done she would bathe in privacy, not having to worry about being observed for the first time in months. She could live here...alone...at least for a time. The smell would dissapate with the rain that autumn was sure to bring. Already the insects and carrion birds were starting the cycle of cleansing. And she could hunt...and grow food...how hard could it be? With the slightest trace of a smile on her face, El stepped out of the house, the ground crunching underneath, pulling her hood tighter around her head and wrapping her arms around her chest. The morning was cool...but soon the sun would warm the air and she would be hard at work, looking for the remaining treasures among the dead.