It was clear from her birth that Aesa was no ordinary girl, with her flame-bright eyes and feverish skin. As a toddler she began playing with fire, laughing as she held her hand within a candle flame as though it merely tickled. As a child, she began to focus her will into magic of a different, more primal form than her fellow elves trusted.
It was not unexpected. Years before a massive dragon had descended from the sky upon the wooded mountain enclave, great beats of its scarlet wings sending waves of ash and the stench of burnt flesh through the streets. It demanded sacrifice, and Aesa's mother Aella was chosen as the most beautiful maiden, to be chained in the forest and left for dead as the beast instructed. But Aella was not devoured; for months she was forced to serve the creature, which seemed to change forms as easily as clothing from beast to some half-living humanoid form. Finally, having stolen as many riches as it could find, it departed with barely a word, leaving behind its concubine. Aella gave birth on the remote glacial peak of the Iron Mountain; she took weeks returning to her village. While the strange babe proved hardy, Aella never fully recovered; she perished of slow, lingering sickness during Aesa's childhood.
The clan accepted the child as they had accepted Aella's sacrifice: stoically and honorably. Not compassionately. Not kindly. They shunned her; her fellow children would tease and beat her, then blame her for their little crimes. The girl was too different, too full of rage, anger, and her father's darkness. For her part, Aesa held no love for the near strangers who had left her mother to her death. She took their grudging charity as her due, served her duty as hunter and scout, devoured their knowledge with vague contempt and prepared for the day she would seek revenge against her father. During this time she first met Professor Lorrimor; he studied her, intrigued by the story of the half-living creature in a frozen tower, and was the first besides Aesa's mother to treat her with basic dignity. But he also enjoined her to seek patience, humility, and find a way to accept her kin. In their last meeting for several years she spat upon him.
With little more than her magic and clothes Aesa set out to find her father Ciamar and devour his heart. Her first destination was Ciamar's mountain stronghold, which she knew had been left filled with books and magic. But when she reached the freezing pinnacle she discovered it was occupied; the twin sisters claimed they had merely followed the smell of power, but gave small hints they might know more. With the enticement of knowledge and power the sisters convinced Aesa to remain as their servant. The irony of drudge work in the very structure where her mother had once been enslaved was not lost on Aesa.
The sisters were not cruel at first. Powerful witches, they taught Aesa some ways to control her power and focus her innate arcane energy. The library likewise proved a useful resource. It was not until the dark solstice that things turned awry. The sisters wished to perform some ritual, a dread and powerful thing involving the sacrifice of a small pseudodragon. The witches claimed the power they gained would help Aesa seek out her father across the slim boundaries of the planes, but when she walked outside to slit the tiny beast's throat over ancient stones the athame paused. Aesa didn't hear the cruelty of her father in the creature's telepathic pleas but the first echo of kinship. After an hour with the blade poised at Vareth's neck she released him, spilling her own blood instead for the ritual.
Her substitution was not discovered until it was too late. The cauldron and its noxious brew exploded, burning not only the sister's faces but their very souls. Aesa, too, was changed: her magic magnified, her body rippled with fire and her eyes turned to flame as she was pulled partway across the planar boundary. For days she writhed in agony, slowly piecing herself back together - for the most part - through inhuman fortitude, although the grip remained ever tenuous, likely to strain with her emotions.
She awoke in a cage of cold iron. She was left unsure if the sisters had always been evil, although it quickly became clear they had never had any information to give her, but the broken rite seemed to have scorched away all their goodness even as it had burned Aesa's soul into something purer. Kept for two months as a pet, servant, slave and all too often as a victim, she finally learned true cruelty and turned away from it. She would even come to think fondly of the home she'd exiled herself from. For the witches had observed her resilience and new found power, and sought to claim it as their own whatever the cost to her. Their next ritual saw Aesa chained across the very stone where she'd refused to sacrifice before; stripped in the freezing wind, the sisters clawed out a piece of her soul to serve as their plaything, a bauble of mysterious energy, and left her to die.
Aesa holds memories, during that long night, of Vareth's voice, of his small claws scrabbling at the chains, but she knows that must be delusion. Her fate was hers alone, and of her own making. It was only when she hovered on the brink of mortality, the control so recently learned to hold herself together slipping, that she discovered a new talent. She came apart, sparks in the wind, only to reform again a short way distant. With grim fury, she returned to the stronghold and murdered both witches in their sleep. Only the warmth of the orb kept her from perishing as she fled down the mountain.
Weeks later, half dead herself, Aesa stumbled to Professor Lorrimor's stoop. She couldn't fathom returning to her people; nor would trust strangers. The old man's spurned kindness was a dim ray of hope, but one she clung to. Even standing there, knocking on the dark wood planks of his door, she expected to be turned away for her vileness; but Lorrimor looked into her eyes for a long moment and wordlessly invited her in. It was months before she could speak of the mountain, but he helped her recover in mind and body and this time, when he spoke to her of a better way, she did her best to listen.
By then she was apprenticed to a smith; an odd choice at first, tied to dirt and labor she had once avoided, but when she sought out old Oberin to make a setting for her fist-size jewel she fell in love with the craft. That a gnarled, scarred human could pound the impurities from a bit of ore and twist it into something lovely and useful somehow gave Aesa hope for herself. Impressed by her childhood trick - holding a burning ember like a pebble - he gave her work, finally accepting her as apprentice. When he moved from the city, Aesa followed, bidding the Professor a surprisingly fond farewell to learn her new craft. She grew stronger wielding her master's enchanted hammer, and if never quite confident with the larger pieces she had a particular gift for fine jewelry and detail. Her graduation from apprentice to smith was her proudest moment; she had expected a reply from the Professor with congratulations and eagerness for her return to the city when instead she opened the notice of his death instead. That his last wish would include some sort of help to start her own shop was breathtaking in its tragedy.
Aesa is mostly elven, but the traces of her strange heritage sometimes surface. Her eyes sometimes flicker with an internal flame when her emotions rage, her skin is hot to the touch, and she smells faintly of ashes and smoke even when far from her forge. That is rarely noticed, however: most only see a pale elf, distracting in her beauty despite her rough work, with long black hair and an odd enchanted jewel she keeps constantly nearby. Personality:
Aesa bears the emotional scars of her abuse, is slow to trust or touch, but never meek; she is quick to stand up for herself or any others she sees needing a voice. Unused to friends, those she does make are absolute. She is good, but this is still new enough to her that she distrusts it. She struggles with dark thoughts and still tends to let the ends justify the means: the law has done nothing for her, and she holds little respect for it. Hellfire Pendant:
A small globe of pure flame wrapped in platinum filigree, the shard broken from Aesa's soul is hot to the touch. Despite its obvious power she is able to make little use of it presently: but it radiates a comforting warmth. (Casts Endure Elements 1/day) Story Trait:
Subject of Study