The Banner of the Crimson Emperor
The harvest moon was the biggest full moon Tiberius Finley had ever laid his eyes upon. This was his last thought before his life was changed forever and the screaming infant was placed in his arms.
“It’s a girl.” The midwife could not meet his eyes. “I’m sorry, Sir. Your daughter…. she did not survive the labor. We did the best we could. The infant is… healthy.” She hurried away before he could ask any questions. Tiberius, unable to look at the child, turned back to the moon. He cursed the shifter that seduced his only daughter, Solara, and then disappeared as soon as it was apparent that she was with child. And now she was dead. “Am I expected to raise this half beast as my own?” At the sound of his voice the child immediately ceased crying. He looked down and studied her. Her features were mostly human, except for her pointed ears and bright yellow eyes, courtesy of her father. But it was the mess of bright red hair that took Tiberius by surprise. It was the same color as his beloved daughter’s hair. The infant cooed and he felt his heart melt. It didn’t matter who her father was. This was his granddaughter, his flesh and blood. He looked once more at the big red moon. “Salena.” He said and looked down at the infant. “Welcome to Ratheus, Salena Finley.”
Tiberius Finley was a farmer in the nation of Vallimore. He was a widower and had no other family besides Salena. As a man with a vast amount of knowledge, he home-schooled her in many subjects in addition to teaching her how to care for the animals and the crops on the farm. Salena was a bright and spirited child and learned eagerly and quickly. She was especially helpful when it came to caring for the animals. They were quick to trust her, possibly sensing that she was part animal herself. Salena would often accompany Tiberius on trips to the nearby town for supplies and news. On one of these trips when she was 9 years old, she found an abandon and starving puppy in one of the alleys. When it looked up at her and wagged its tail Salena fell instantly in love. They took the puppy back to the farm and washed all the mud off, revealing beautiful bright red fur. Salena named her Fira. The dog was her faithful companion, following her all around the farm and sleeping next to her every night.
On the trips to town, Salena would often try to play with other children. Already she was much taller than the other children her age. Her large yellow eyes, pointed ears, and slightly elongated canines frightened them. She didn’t understand their fear and kept trying to engage them. They would chase her away. Once when she was 11, a group of children began throwing rocks at her. It quickly escalated and suddenly they were on her, hitting her. Tiberius had to break up the fight. Her wounds were minor but her heart was broken. “Salena,” he said, while dressing her wounds, “You are different from the others. And people will always fear what is different and what they don’t understand. People will treat you differently and despite that you must always remember who you are.”
“Who am I?” She whispered though tears.
He held her chin gently, forcing her to look into his green eyes. “You are a Finley. You are my granddaughter. And no matter what happens, I will always be proud of you.”
Silent tears continued to fall down her face. Tiberius began to realize that he was getting older and would not always be able to protect her. He would need to teach her to stand up for herself and to defend herself if necessary. He tucked away the last of his reluctance and decided it was time to tell her the truth about her family.
“Salena, come with me.” He took her to his study and with the key he always wore around his neck he opened the black armoire. Inside was a gleaming suit of armor, a long sword, and some sort of mechanical apparatus that Salena had never seen before. “I wasn’t always a farmer,” He said. “Like my father and his father before him, I was a Magitech Knight. We were feared warriors and all of us were armed with the magic of the Mechanicus Adauctus. And starting tomorrow morning, I will pass that knowledge on to you.” From the next morning on Tiberius trained Salena as a Magitech Knight until she was well skilled in the use of the Mechanicus Adauctus and the long sword.
When Salena was 19 years old, her grandfather became ill and passed away. Many noblemen came to the farm hoping to buy or take the land from her. She would not sell the land and would always turn them away. One of these nobles had a young adult son who became enchanted with her. A pompous and self-centered man, he rode out to the farm one day to propose marriage, believing she would be honored by his request. Salena refused, barely able to contain her disgust. Having never been denied anything, the noble’s son became very angry and tried to bully her into accepting. He grabbed her roughly and backed her against the wall. She broke his nose and threw him out. Insulted and humiliated, the noble’s son swore he would have her and her land, one way or another. A few days later he returned at night with four other men. They planned to burn down the house and kidnap Salena. Seeing them approaching, she ran to get her armor and sword, hoping that she could merely scare them off. Meanwhile, ever the faithful companion, Fira placed herself between the men and the house. Salena, now armed, emerged from the house in time to see one of the men deliver the final death blow to her beloved dog. Grief stricken, she let the rage take her over and awaken the canine predator howling in her blood.
In the morning the noble’s men arrived on the farm to find Salena, covered in blood, sitting among the carnage of the five men she slaughtered, gently cradling the body of Fira, and whispering goodbye to her only friend. She now sits in prison, without hope, having lost all that she loved, and wonders if death would be a welcomed respite.