berra"If only I could sleep", Berra said out loud. Her companion only groaned slightly at her movements then went back to sleep. Berra was tall and slightly heavier than most Caevari  females, though generally thought of as beautiful in an earthy way. She turned around again in her mat, almost knocking Taz off. Hissing Taz, rolled out and curled up on the floor. "I''m sorry Taz, I just cannot sleep for some reason." Taz was a rather large cat, that was also her constant companion. In fact, she could not remember a time without him. ', '

His thick fur was not quite as dark as a black cat, but more a dark muddy brown. If you looked just right, you could see stripes throughout his fur. When Taz stands up along her side, he comes up just past her knees, and showed he was quite proud of it. They made quite an odd pair. The cat with his ruddy colour fur, and Berra''s almost scale like yellow skin. While at first glance, Taz appeared to be a normal cat. Perhaps larger than most, but still normal. Until someone took a second look, and a bit more closely. Barra''s skin was spotted in a unique if not almost coveted manor. Light orange and brown patterns laced their way around her face and down her back and armors, covering her hands and ended just above the long nails of her fingers.

Deciding instead of trying to fall asleep, she thought perhaps a walk would help. Berra slipped on her doeskin boots and tossed a cloak over her shoulders. It was not cold outside at all. Especially for being almost mid winter. It was actually the opposite. The weather started out as any other normal season. Yet just as winter is suppose to go from cold to snow, it warmed up suddenly. Instead of snow, they had rain, and a lot of it. The cloak was more to keep herself dry in this rain then warm. After binding her long dark green and black hair together with leather strip into a single ponytail, she tied her cloak around her, and before she wrapped her arms through, she bent over and gave Taz a warm hug. "I will be back in a while Taz. Perhaps a walk will help me sleep." The cat looked up at her with eyes that seemed to say, "You are crazy going out in the rain. I''m staying right here."

Quickly stepping through the door and closing it tight behind her, Berra pulled the cloak tighter against her body trying to shut out the wind. The rain was not that heavy, yet it was a strong drizzle, almost stinging as it hit her skin. The wind only made it that much worse. It was odd to have rain this late in the year. She was used to snow. At least if it were snow, then Taz would have joined her on this walk. Scanning the world outside, her serpentine eyes adjusted quickly to the dark and the rain. Berra swore out loud as the wind blew harder at the same time as that thought. "This is almost unnatural!" she exclaimed to no one in particular. Mumbling a slight prayer, she continued on her walk.

So many things have changed over the last several years. At one time she was happy living in the temple. Her family had sold her to the Priest when she was only six years old. However, she did not begrudge them. They were poor and had her siblings to take care of. Plus she was the only one of her parents 6 children that had shown any sign of the Gift. Many of the Low-born Caevari no longer showed signs of having inherited the magical gifts of their ancestors.  It was said that this was their punishment for the Separation.  Berra sighed slightly in longing as these thoughts were drudged up by the wind. Aimless she walked, letting her thoughts carry her where they may. She was oblivious to her surroundings. Yet there was no need to be over watchful, this whole area was warded. Though, she did wish that Taz would have come with her despite the rain. Something did feel a bit off.

Her thoughts of the past took over again. Berra had shown great potential, the priest had said, as he introduced her parents to the Priestess that would be taking over her schooling. It would be ten years before they could see her again, since she would be traveling to the Ridge for her training with the other Sisters. Her mother was crying, though really trying hard to keep herself composed as always. However, this time, it was not working. Her father just stood there with a look of combined shame and pride. It was because of him after all that the hard times fell upon this family. At least that is what he kept telling her on the trip to the temple.

Berra's life was not hard, nor was is bad. In fact it was better than it ever could have been at home with her family. Here she was able to let her gift flourish and grow. Back at home, her grandmother was always telling her to be careful not to draw any unwanted notice. Many races did not care much for the Caevari, a serpentine race of the old days. Berra never quite understood that. The more she learned at the Temple the less she understood her grandmother. The ten years flew past faster then she could pay attention to them. However she had grown quite talented in her skill, and her gift had grown even stronger. More so then she ever thought. Friends, mentors and even a surrogate mother, life was good. That is until this past fall.

The sky was clear, the first sun rose as is always had, dim, small and red in the east. It cast a red glow on the mountain tops that surrounded the temple. Fall colour leaves, red, orange, yellow and even brown took on a glow of its own on each of the trees. It was a beautiful morning indeed. Then there was a rumble. Slowly it came, almost unnoticeable to the residence of the large complex. However the air quickly became filled with baying from the horses and the dogs barking. Then it hit. After about ten minutes of the slow rumbling, the earth opened up and shook so violently that the temples, the study halls, even the living quarters shook so hard they began to tumble. Everyone began to run in several directions. The priestesses gathered and began to pray...

"I have been waiting for you." A voice said pulling Berra out of her dream of the past. She was pulled back to reality so hard it startled her. Berra had not heard this man at all. Not a breath, not a food step. Once more she wished that Taz had been there with her, he would not have snuck up on her like that then. She scrutinized him for a few moments, trying to assets who he was and how he got there. Berra glanced around a bit in the dark. "No, I had not walked outside the wards." she thought to herself. He stood almost 6 feet tall, almost a head taller than her. He wore dark robes which she could not make out the exact colour, however she could see almost a shimmer in the robes. A very fine bit of embroidered runes were stitched in his sleeve cuffs and around the edges. They had a small glimmer once in a while that made them stand out. 

Berra choose her words carefully. "What is a wizard doing in my wood? And how did you get past my wards without me knowing?" She tried to look him in the eyes, but could only see darkness under that hood. He stood there quietly for a moment. Almost as if he wanted to build the suspense. Berra had no time for games. "What do you want sir?" she tried to say as forcefully as she could between chattering teeth. She saw a flash fo teeth, Berra presumed that he was smiling. "I bring you no ill will my lady" he said with a voice as icy as the wind and rain. Shivers ran up her spine and she began to gather her energy instinctively. "Then what are you doing here? And please tell me how you entered my wood?"

Almost casually, the stranger pulled down his cowl that hooded his head, exposing a simple face. At first it was difficult for Berra to make out his features. It must be the lack of light, she thought. "Come and sit with me," the stranger said as he sat on a rock. "I will explain everything." His voice seemed to soften. It did not have that icy feel it had just moments ago. "It must be this weather. I am getting too jumpy." Berra thought. She walk over, still being somewhat cautious, and sat on a large rock near the stranger. Sitting there waiting for him to speak, she took in his features. Long hair, unevenly cut, hung down to his waist. His face appeared old, yet his eyes were a stark contrast to the rest of him. Though he had stood up tall and strait, he did carry a walking stick. His face was etched with wrinkles, yet his eyes did not match. She could not place his age, it seemed to shift every time Berra thought she had guessed it.

"Let me introduce myself first my lady," he started. "I am Baltison, Master mage, Chief executive to Lord Chambers, ear and advisor to his lordship, King Eos and personal friend to her Ladyship, Queen Ellest." This man held out his arms in a flourished sitting bow and grinned as if he should be known. His smile faltered for a second then recomposed himself. Berra relaxed only slightly. "What is it you want with me Sir Baltison?" she asked plainly and simply. Grinning broadly, he said casually, "Why, to have you help me save the world." Then he chuckled. Her fear had faltered and now Berra thought he was just a simple man that must know a few tricks. Yet, like a stubborn itch, something kept her at guard, even just slightly.

Berra huffed at his last statement. "Surely you jest, old man. There is nothing that a simple lass like myself could ever help with. Plus, this weather has us practically trapped here in the mountains. At least until the rains pass, the rivers go down and the water freezes over. Yet even then it would be a dangerous trek. I think I will be happy just staying here." Berra was always known for being stubborn.

The mage chuckled lightly and smiled a warm smile. It could have melted ice, if there were any around. Yet, Berra remained stubborn. "Something is not quite right here." she thought. Then out loud she asked, "Is this strange weather related to this quest to save the world?" He grinned, "everything has everything to do with everything." And he laughed. That is what her Mentor used to say when she was trying to figure out a puzzle. How odd, she thought. Then he continued, "I have been searching for a select few that can assist me on rather large quest. And yes, it is very important." With that he presented her with a small tapered scroll that was tied with a small red silk rope. Barra did not see him reach for it, yet it was there in his hand, held out to her. She reached out and accepted it and started to pull on the tie. "Oh no! Not yet my lady. Please do not open it up just yet. If you are willing to accept this quest as your own, I can pay you in not only silver and gold, but also in the adventure you have been waiting for." And he placed his left hand over hers before she could pull open the tie.

Berra had been wanting something to do. It had become very boring the last few months here alone. She was the last survivor of the compound. The strange earth quake had killed all but her and one other priestess, Sharlin. Yet Sharlin died less than a month ago, and she was all alone. "If this job you have for me can help me figure out what happened to my home and my friends then I will happily accept." she said in a strong and determined voice. "Of this my lady," he said, " you will for sure find all the answers you have been seeking. Take this map also, and if you do not change your mind, meet me here at the same time tomorrow night." With that he handed her a small pouch that appeared to be filled with coins and a small folded piece of paper. Berra held out her right hand and he set both in her hand.

She took both, realizing that the pouch was heavier then it looked. She unfolded the piece of paper that accompanied the pouch and noticed it was a map of a place she did not recognize. "How will this map..." Berra trailed off. The strange man was gone. "What an odd man" she said out loud to no one around. Then she realized it was about midnight. She ought to get back soon and get some sleep. That was when she realized that she was actually tired now. Walking back to her hut, Berra thought about the old man. She had never met a real mage before, but his tricks were amazing.

Before Berra realized it, she was back home again. She opened the door as quietly as she could, but still woke up Taz. He was curled up on her bed, his furry head on her pillow. He glanced up at her with those amber eyes and looked her as if saying, "Where have you been?" Berra smiled, knowing the cats thoughts, "You would not believe me if I told you." Pulling off her cloak and dropping it to the floor she say down on the cot and took off her boots. Tomorrow was going to be a long day indeed. She curled up against the large cat and fell quickly asleep.