“The Ballad of Hugh and Lilia,” as recorded by Katarina Starsend, sourced from a hidden library near Vestige Lake.
Translator’s note: Countless versions of the tale of Hugh and Lilia have been retold, and reenacted, across the ages. The following emerged from one of the oldest and most detailed accounts this scholar has encountered.
You can also listen to the beginning of Hugh and Lilia’s story in a special bonus episode of the World of Azuria podcast!
Hugh jerked his bow aside at the last moment, and the arrow flew far afield, narrowly missing the stag’s flank. It had appeared almost by magic, one of Ewan’il’s messengers, a white stag blessed by the gods.
The great creature watched him with its left eye, daring him to come closer. Hugh slung his longbow across his back and held out his hands as he crept forward. The stag had to know he meant it no harm.
“It was only an antlered-hare,” he soothed, his voice low. “Nothing like you, save its head attire. They’re mean little brutes.” The stag continued to watch him as he inched closer.
“Why’ve you come to me, eh? Are you hurt?” The creature stood erect, a blaze of white in the deeply shaded forest. His voice grew hopeful. “Do you want to show me something?”
The stag darted away into the forest, and Hugh cursed. He’d be a fool not to chase it. Two days in a row he was following spirits in the wood.
Each time he was sure he’d lost the trail or that the stag was beyond him, a rustle in the trees or flash of white appeared to spur him on. There, at the top of a ridge, its silhouette darted behind an ancient oak tree. Hugh picked up his pace. Surely he was getting close now.
A gnarled branch flew out from behind the oak and struck the top of his forehead. Hugh cried out in alarm and stumbled back. He fell, hard, against the leaf-padded ground, and a root bruised his hip for good measure.
A two-legged silhouette bearing antlers stood poised above him. Hugh scrambled back and called upon the wolf inside, ready to make his escape.
Clouds shifted overhead, and light returned to the forest surroundings. The golden woman from the day before planted the end of her quarterstaff, the branch that had struck him, in the earth beside her.
Katarina recounts a shortened version of this tale to Iellieth before she transmigrates to Hadvar in chapter one of Buried Heroes, which you can read here!