I wake to the soft insect-like noise of the various machines around me in this noise filled world. I sit upright in my… what did they call it? “Sleeping bag?” They offered me a bed in the keep with the rest of the soldiers and villagers, but I just cannot bring myself to be caged inside. Out in the parade grounds surrounded by the high stone walls is certainly preferable. Sometimes I stay in the large iron carriage stables when the weather turns to rain, and the stable boys are accommodating. No one here seems to be bothered by the pale, whitish green hue of my skin. The raised warts, poorly aligned teeth, and the unruly black hair does not even attract any notice at all. Perhaps that is because most everyone here has similar, unattractive features.
Drenched in sweat again. It is the same dream, over and over. Even after how ever many eons since it happened until the present, my failure still haunts me. Rewarded over and over for my service to his Majesty all those years ago does not absolve me from guilt…
I am back outside Iron Top, the underground city and castle of his Majesty Tai Khan. The Dwarven leader provided refuge and protection from the Gillienheim forces who sought to kill all of the Cursed Ones. Those like myself. The elves of Gillienheim believed that only through our extermination would their shame for not accepting their fate from the Gods above finally be buried. Fools. Shame comes from within and can only be removed by one’s own actions. We Cursed Ones gave away our Elven beauty, our artistic nature, and our very identity as Elves to atone for the sins of our race. We no longer shared the shame of our brothers and sisters who refused.
Everyone sought our extinction, regardless of race, simply for our being different. Only the Dwarves and their logical view of the world understood what we did generations ago. They were the only ones to provide us sanctuary. But they are only one of many kingdoms. Harboring us refugees, this protection put them at immediate odds with Gillienheim, and war erupted over the charity of Tai Khan. The bulk of the Dwarven army had marched out to battle a few days before, hearing of the approaching Gillienheim army. Of course, our warriors accompanied the Dwarven army. Protection comes at a price, one we were more than happy to pay. Iron Top’s defenses were legendary, but centered on the main city located underground, not above the surface where poorer Dwarves, merchants, and other races with dealings with Dwarves made their home. As for us Cursed Ones, we lived in tents in the main square of upper Iron Top.
Unfortunately, Tai Khan was tricked into sending his army away, leaving Iron Top less defended, particularly the surface. When the Gillienheim forces attacked, Iron Top’s underground fortress was sealed, leaving the surface defended by all the Dwarven soldiers Tai Khan could muster. But is was not enough. Within minutes the Dwarven soldiers were pushed back to the main square, and I made a decision. The maidens of the Cursed Ones would take up arms to protect the city and stand with the remaining Dwarves. If we failed, hundreds would be slaughtered,
The situation was complicated. By this time, the other races within the upper city wanted to sacrifice all of us for their own escape. Calls to the Dwarves to end this attack by turning on us could be heard loudly. We Cursed Ones could not move our young. The safest place was with us all. The Dwarves refer to what came next as the heroism of the Cursed Maidens. How could it be heroic when the only option was to fight for survival?
The Elves eventually broke through the outer defenses and poured into the city. The inhabitants all fled to the fortress within the mountain, placing them squarely between the anvil of the fortress and the hammer that was the Elven army. The Dwarves defending the upper city fought gallantly, but were steadily pushed back. When they reached the main square where we lived, we knew what followed…
We fought out of desperation. We fought to protect our loved ones. We fought against the seemingly endless tide of arrows and eventually the foot soldiers of Gillienheim. Despite our best efforts, those soldiers began cutting down the young when they could reach them. After all, their goal was to eradicate every last one of us. Thus, not even the children were to be spared. Whether the ferocity of our defense or fear of suffering too great a loss of their soldiers, the elves were pushed back. When I finally could look back, nearly half of us, inclusive of our families, were dead or dying on the ground. Including my son. I found his small, limp, and bloodied body clutching his favorite doll. Now stained in blood, this doll drew in my tears. I would never lose this priceless treasure.