THAEOLYN GREYBORNE

Only by greater purpose have I endured great pain.”

Elves are a strange people, it is said. Recording the sufferings of the dead by marking the bodies of the living. Demanding their youth cling to the past while begging their elders tell them what lies in the future. To foreigners, they move as one host throughout the world, yet natives know they are as divided as any other nation state on Terminus. Perhaps even more. And of all races, they have only deepened in religious tradition, even as communion with their gods has remained sealed from altar and verse for nearly a thousand years.

Yes, Elves are strange, it is said. Strange, like you and me.

Now, let us consider the ongoing tale of one of the most passionate leaders of their kind. A daughter broken, a runaway redeemed. A shadow dweller who leads from the fore. A living, breathing contrast, just like her own strange people.

I speak of Thaeolyn Greyborne, the one they call “the Red Mar”.

Thaeolyn is an Ember Elf and commander within the Elven military force known as Dythiir’s Hand. She is the second of four children to Hossa and Faedryn Greyborne.

At the time of Thaeolyn’s birth, her parents were rising leaders in the Elven capital of Faerthale, with expectations that one or both would eventually sit on the ruling body of the Anadem Council. Hossa was a member of the Ashen Elves since her youth, while Faedryn departed from that stoic path shortly before he and Hossa were wed, opting to return to his Lucent origin. While unusual, this move was without controversy in the Elven hierarchies due to the near universal admiration for Faedryn and Hossa. Yet none so admired Faedryn as his daughter, and much of Thaeolyn’s youth was spent chasing the folds of his cloak as he swiftly passed through the halls of the mountain city. Such a common sight was the daughter of Greyborne at her father’s side that she was often referred to as “Faeolyn”, a playful nod to her studious but childlike attempts at imitation.

Sadly, the twelfth year of Thaeolyn’s life saw the death of her beloved father. While portions of that tragic day are known only by those who were there, there is no doubt that Faedryn saved the life of his daughter and several of her companions before losing his own. The effect of this loss was seismic, not only to the Greyborne family but among all Elves as well. Yet it was Thaeolyn who grieved the hardest, helped not at all by Hossa’s strict emotional composure. It was said the whole city would have heard Thaeolyn’s cries if they were not swallowed by Hossa’s silence. In time, a latent schism emerged between mother and daughter, one that would set the younger on a course neither the living nor dead could have predicted.

Elven culture is often defined by its “three branches”: Lucent, Ashen, and Ember. Yet far below those limbs lies a group that does not trace its origins to any of the heralded trio. Known as Splinterfolk, this lowly subset of the population dwells in the shadows, some by circumstance and others by choice. As their name suggests, splinterfolk are a group broken loose from the established arms of Elven civilization. The name splinterfolk is something of a pejorative, first used as a term for the few Elves who rejected the Anadem Council and Faerthale at large, “splintering off” to walk the world alone. Becoming splinter is culturally taboo, with a motivation that is fundamentally difficult to grasp by the rest of their brethren. Elven culture is hardly a hive of singular thought, yet Faerthale and the Lucent Tree posses such gravity that few will ever consider departing their orbit.

The more dubious reputations of splinterfolk are that of thieves, beggars, and of general roguery. These accusations are often well earned, but the latter of those three is what caught the interest and ambitions of young Thaeolyn Greyborne in the years after her father’s death. She was already practiced in some of the basic arts of a rogue as a youth, and Faedryn was not discouraging of her interest or talents. Instead, he chose to push his daughter to redeem the often duplicitous role of hiding in the shadows. (Hossa however was not so enthusiastic, and this is perhaps where the delicate sprain in their relationship began.) Among the splinterfolk, Thaeolyn found kin of a very different sort, and in time a reputation born of her own actions rather than her birth. Before long, it was common for the daughter of pristine Elven heritage to leave the city for months at a time, seeking caravans of wandering merchants or the coin of war-making mercenaries. She was a fox among wolves, quicker and more cunning than foes twice her age or size. In a few short years, Greyborne’s sojourning taste and talent led her to visit more of Terminus than most Elves will hear about over their entire lifetime.

Yet one night in the summer of her 20th year, Thaeolyn returned to Faerthale as a prisoner ransomed from a continent away from Kingsreach. Captured while assisting a military coup, the young leader was betrayed by members of her own mercenary group and imprisoned. After the bounty was rendered, Thaeolyn was brought by ship to Thronefast, with Hossa nowhere to be found as her daughter’s bandaged body was carted through the indifferent Human port. Thaeolyn was brought to Faerthale on the edge of death, sick with fever and infection, her skin and face scarred from battle and worse. Beneath the bandages it was revealed that her captor had gone so far as to remove a portion of her ear.

During the half year fight for recovery, Thaeolyn beheld the city and valley of Faerthale with fresh eyes. The prismatic waterfalls, soaring mountains, and radiant Lucent Tree seemed to treat her as their long lost friend. Faerthale felt alive for the first time since Faedryn’s death. It is said this love healed her more than any art or medicine, and as autumn spread from the gilded leaves of Redgrove to the boughs of Oldwood, Thaeolyn found purpose in the thought of protecting these lands alone. The path of splinters was forsaken, like a snake shedding its skin.

As a tree replanted by peaceful waters, Thaeloyn’s interest in the Ember Elves grew in kind. She pledged as an Ember before she was healthy enough to walk, crawling one night from her bed to the doorway of the Ember headquarters, known as the Triarc Sun. She slumped and slept with a dagger lain across her lap until morning, when the door was opened by a stammering scribe. There she spent the last months of her recovery on the Triarc Sun’s cold stone floor, sleeping, studying, and struggling to walk in an awkward but constant rhythm. Over the next five years Thaeolyn would rise in their ranks with uncommon speed, her devotion and focus as unwavering as the mountain called Aegis. Those who once knew Faedryn spoke of his formidable spirit being present in his daughter, though they did not call her “Faeolyn” anymore. And all of this while Hossa ascended in the Ashen quarter, her reputation for discernment and imperturbability second to none, even within a group known for its dogmatic adherence to poise of mind.

Having proven her worth, Thaeolyn now commands a troop of Dythiir's Hand, defending the White Gate, a pass in the Roan border. She is a fierce and loyal commander, changing course from that of a rogue to a front of the line warrior, though still retaining the knacks of her previous life. While serious in battle, Thaeolyn relishes the jovial family life of her small but elite band of soldiers, seeing them as kin as much as her older brother Kassal (himself a Warden of Oldwood), or younger twins, Taellon and Myssa. And while there will never be another Faedryn in her life, he is the heartbeat of her service to their people.

Much is left to be written about the life of Thaeolyn Greyborne. For now it should be said that the Red Mar’s dedication to the Elves has earned her respect from foes within Faerthale, and interest from those far beyond it.