A young and idealistic outcast


Thorn is tall and wiry with dusky skin and a mess of dark hair in barely controlled braids. She might one day be called graceful, but she is still young and her natural dexterity is offset by an indecisive exuberance that leaves her fidgety and off-balance.

Thorn is kind and open, but fundamentally unsure of herself. She’s quick to offer friendship, but some part of her is on-guard, waiting for insult or rejection. Again, she is a young elf, and her childhood was an odd mix of coddling and hardship.

Character image from: It’s not exactly what I have in mind, but it’s not bad.


Her parents named her Estel, the Elven word for “hope,” and never let her forget either the promise or the responsibility that name held.

Her parents were born into slavery in a faraway land, as were their parents before them and their parents’ parents earlier still. By the time Estel was born, the charred bones of her clan and the ashes of their forest home had been cool for centuries. Estel was the first elf of her now-tiny clan to be born into freedom in a dragon’s age.

Estel’s parents did not escape slavery alone. A brave and righteous halfling woman led the slaves in a revolt and they escaped en masse. After years of wandering, the mismatched tribe were allowed into the city of Stonewall. Allowed, but not quite welcomed, they settled into a ruinous and overgrown slum, encouraging the scrub and weeds to grow into a protective warren of wood and thorn. The neighborhood came to be known as the Bramble, and they as Bramblefolk.

All the Bramblefolk were Estel’s family, and they all pulled together to make the most of a difficult lot. Adults watched each other’s children as they ran between crumbling houses. Children watched each other’s backs as they snuck into finer neighborhoods to steal from the pockets and stalls of the wealthy. Like the other children, Estel understood that she must do her part to feed and clothe her family. If her part should violate some rich man’s law, what concern was that of hers? What good had a rich man’s law ever done the Bramblefolk?

Time passed and Estel grew strong and quick. When the Bramble children fell to fighting with the city children, the city children knew the elven girl was an opponent best avoided.

More time passed and some of those city children grew into positions where they could make use of a strong fighter with an open mind and a closed mouth. They remembered Estel and gave her work watching a door or waylaying a guard. Estel appreciated the money, the respect, and the simple transgressive joy.

But then it all fell apart.

A trusted employer asked Estel to accompany his men as they raided a warehouse belonging to Konrad Hollerin. The man had heard a rumor that something unique and valuable would be stored in that warehouse for one night only. The Hollerins were known around town to be as rich as they were cruel, so Estel signed on eagerly.

Entering the warehouse has easy, but no one was pleased to find it empty. The small band searched until they found a trapdoor leading to a hidden basement. They made their way down a dark hallway toward the voices of two men. Rounding a corner into the light, Estel barely glimpsed a human in Hollerin colors conversing with a dark skinned elf before one of her companions stumbled over a tripwire. An alarm sounded, prompting the man and dark elf to whirl on the intruders. With frightening speed, the elf produced a blade in one hand and a pulsating ball of magical energy in the other. As the dark elf savagely attacked her companions, Estel watched a cruel sneer spread across the face of the man. She froze for just an instant before turning to run. Behind her, the man cried out, “Run all you want, little rat. We will find you!”

Estel ran back to the Brambles in a blind panic, straight to her parents’ house. Through frightened tears, she stammered out her story. Her parents paled at the dangers their only child had encountered, and knew the danger was not yet past. They fetched Nana, the wizened halfling who had once served as leader of their slave revolt and was now something of a matriarch among the Bramblefolk. Grimly, the three adults laid out the facts. Konrad and his drow ally clearly had a secret they felt was worth killing over. They had seen Estel’s face, and so she was clearly not safe in Stonewall. Moreover, she would endanger the whole Bramble if Konrad was given reason to suspect she hid there.

Seeing their wisdom, and wanting to do what she could to protect her family, Estel agreed to leave the Bramble. Out of both a need for secrecy and a feeling of inadequacy, she abandoned her Elven name.

For now, she cannot embody her parents’ hopes for the future, but her new name, Thorn, reminds her of where she come from. One day, she will be powerful enough to face down the men who threaten her family. She will atone for her mistakes, make the Bramble safe again, and more.


The Transformation of Volstoy JacobHeidenreich AndrewFH