When I was young, I walked out of a sandstorm and into a mercenary camp. Before that, I remember only fleeting things. I watched my mother fall dead in front of me as the sand swirled about me in a fury. I remember taking the necklace she had been clutching, and knowing that if I didn't make it out of the storm forming around me I would suffer the same fate. I ran until I saw light, and the light turned out to be a fire. I think that's the first time I remember true comfort, seeing that fire.
The mercenaries around that fire, The Sand Striders, took me in without question. Sila, an aged elven woman had some divination in her blood, and she took my appearance as a sign. The rest did not question her. The never did. I learned not to as well. She never spoke unless she was certain of what she said, so when she did speak, her words had weight. I learned much more from her silence than her words.
There is little else to say about my younger years. My mother was dead, I had no real memories before the storm, I was too young. All I had was her necklace and a will to live. The Sand Striders kindly offered to not leave me alone in the desert in exchange for pulling my weight where I could. I learned quickly. I had to. It was either that or death, simple as that. If I did not take my turn watching at night, we could all wake up in the next life. If I did not learn to hunt, there would be less food to go around, and hunger would surely cut us down as quick as any enemy. And when I was old enough to train with the blade, I took my turn at killing.
I think I was 11 when I took my first life. We were ambushed while escorting a caravan through the desert, some merchant transporting spices from one side of the Anauroch back to civilization. Mistaking me for a child, one of the assailants grabbed and shoved me out of the way, making for the main wagon. My blade was small, but it met his back three times before he realized I was a threat. I remember that night well. Bathuul stayed with me after the battle had finished. He was the oldest of us, and the wisest. Most looked at him and saw nothing beyond his violet skin and the broken horns that jutted from his forehead. The called him demon, they called him tiefling. There were many times I simply called him Grandfather, for that was what he was to us. Together we gathered the dead, and he told me the most valuable advice I'd ever receive.
"Remember this feeling, Sadash," he had said, smoke curling from his nose as he smoked deep from his long pipe. His voice was the kind that that rolled like thunder. When he spoke, you heard.
"Remember the sting in your heart the moment you knew that a life had been severed by your hands. Remember it. Hold it. This feeling is what separates you from an animal, what separates you from a monster. An animal kills because it must. A monster kills because it desires. The animal has never felt this pain, because with it, it would never survive. The monster has felt this pain so many times it has become numb to it. We are neither. We kill because we must. Remember this, Sadash. Remember why you kill, remember when you kill."
There are nights that I miss them dearly. I wonder where they are, if they are alive. I wonder if they think of me. I wonder if they are dead because of me. Sometimes I wonder too much, but I have never forgotten their lessons, never forgotten that pain. And I have felt that pain many, many times.