|“||Thaleon was born in the deserts of Rahadoum, in a time before the sands had come to claim Manaket.
A member of the nomadic vourinoi, the elves of the desert, Thaleon was born from two worlds: one parent a woman from the forested elven homeland of Kyonin, the other a kala-shei elf who had always called the dunes their home. As a child, Thaleon traveled from oasis to oasis, learning to appreciate the beauty of the passing landscapes. He was taught to navigate by the stars and find safe water, when to travel, and when to hide from the sun, but most of all, he was taught of an ideal almost too abstract for his young mind to grasp—the quest for a moment of clarity his people called the Brightness. Each described it differently—the windsinger spoke of it as a pure note before dawn, the cook said it felt like the first taste of a family meal—but their anecdotes had one thing in common: to find his Brightness, Thaleon would need to wander the world and make his own path.
While Thaleon was still a child, the vourinoi ventured to the coastal city of Manaket, known for its lush gardens and academic learning, to relay a warning. Through their wanderings, they had studied the subtler patterns of climate and weather playing out over decades and centuries, more noticeable over their elven lifespans. In these patterns, they’d seen a rapid spread of desertification in Rahadoum, with long-verdant shelters now exposed to the desert’s wrath. Working together over several years, the vourinoi and various Manaketi scholars predicted a great storm of dust and sand would envelop the city, choking the sky and devastating crops. Yet government officials wouldn’t take their warnings seriously; they were too focused on shorter-term priorities to risk their popularity by proposing expensive measures to prevent some potential future disaster.
While his parents researched, Thaleon was thrilled to explore a new place filled with wildly different peoples, though he chafed under Manaket’s rigid structure. Why should such a trifling thing as a property line tell him he couldn't perch on a roof to enjoy the starlight? Why would one leave an object in a common area if they didn't mean for anyone to pick it up? Why would one hold an interesting conversation in a public place if they wanted it to remain private? The boy was ever inquisitive and prone to getting swept up in the moods of those around him, taking part in their enthusiasm and wonder, as well as their frustration and pain.
Thaleon’s teachers were quick to label him a problem child due to his tendency to break rules and encourage classmates to do the same, as well as for the strange incidents that regularly happened around him. Confiscated toys hovered back to his fingers as soon as a teacher’s back was turned. Distracting sounds would fill the room during boring lessons. While unfamiliar to Thaleon’s vourinoi family, his Rahadoumi teachers were well acquainted with psychic power, given the country’s tradition of magic that sprung from mortal will. Though his instructors thought it best to place Thaleon in a strict, isolated program to discipline his mind and powers, Thaleon’s parents realized the boy was too free-spirited to flourish in a regimented Rahadoumi classroom. Instead, they set challenges for their son to channel his energy. Find the fastest way from the city gate to the fountain. Detail the journey of a fish from egg to stewpot. Lure a scorpion into a trap without getting stung. Capture a mirage in bluest ink. This last challenge sung the most to Thaleon’s heart, and the boy quickly took up painting, his portraits filled with vibrant colors and complex expressions that always managed to capture a subject’s deeper feelings, even ones they had only hinted at aloud.
One sunset, while Thaleon was putting the finishing touches on a portrait of a fruit seller, he felt oddly tense, his brush quavering in his hand. As tension deepened into apprehension, then fear, he realized the emotion wasn’t his own. The people in the marketplace turned eastward, staring at an unfamiliar cloud on the horizon, one that rushed toward them with unnerving speed. Street dogs howled and birds fell silent. Thaleon knew instantly what it was. The long-predicted storm, come at last.
Drawing a scarf over his mouth, he tried to direct the crowd to safety, but his voice couldn’t rise above the panic, a thousand scrawls of stark white closing in from every direction. The desire to protect the crowd grew in Thaleon’s mind until it finally spilled forth, unleashing itself in a flash of color. For the first time, Thaleon painted with his mind instead of his brush, and soothing lights flickered into existence, drawing attention away from the storm for a few critical moments. In the momentary calm, Thaleon’s voice had a chance to carry as he directed the market indoors and underground.
To Thaleon’s relief, the crowd took shelter, yet the merchant he’d been painting remained frozen in place as the storm approached. The canopy of his stall snapped, sending a heavy beam of wood straight for his head. In that moment, Thaleon felt only one emotion: the desire to protect his friend. As he dashed to the merchant’s side, colors wove together into a dome of telekinetic force, covering them both. The debris crashed against it just as the storm descended. Sand and wind raged, but the barrier held, and in the swirling reds, blues, and yellows, for the briefest second, Thaleon glimpsed a color he’d never seen before, one he couldn’t describe… but he knew it was bright.
On that day, Thaleon’s power became more than a source of entertainment and whimsy. It became a way for him to make the world a better place. A century has passed since the day Manaket’s gardens withered in the sandstorm, but the spark of Thaleon’s curiosity and his desire to help others hasn’t diminished. Like his parents before him, Thaleon left home to wander the world in search of his Brightness, determined to make his own path.1