When the High Elves of the Empire disappeared on mass the peoples they had subjugated were free, and the caste system they had implemented based on species was disbanded. But, as with the fall of any great empire, order went with it, and strife followed in its wake. Much knowledge and magic was lost.
This was the world into which Mara of the Morrigan's Fae was born. In the empire the fae had been bound to entertain the elves. The Morrigan's Fae were a band of fae who had been taught, and bred, to entertain elves with darker tastes. They followed the Morrigan, Goddess of Death in Winter, Fertility in Summer, and Battle all year. Mara was born in Thornhill, a Morrigan worshipping, matriarchal, fascist stronghold. She was a bard, as was the the norm for her people. But she wanted to be a warrior, and as fighting was a part of the lives of all Thornhillites, she fought as much as she sang. She fell in love with Brandon, a human being. Monogamy was not the norm in Thornhill, monogamy between those who could not produce offspring was actively frowned upon. But they were in love and did not care.
Brandon, wanting to hear his name sung in the stories of heroes, left Thornhill to join the Academy of Eblana, which was set up to bring heroics back into the world. Mara followed him there, as she did everywhere. There she started to learn a new way of seeing the world. Rather than letting the weak die in an effort to protect the strength of the group, the heroes of the Academy protected the weak at all costs. This world was very new to Mara, but compassion appealed to her, and their ideals slowly seeped into her being.
After graduation, the people who attended the Academy became a band of adventurers, as the founders were before them. They went on expeditions to right wrongs in the world and fight the good fight. Mara and Brandon graduated with a few others from Thornhill. On Mara's first mission a stranger appeared at the camp and invited Academy graduates to a grand hunt. Mara and Brandon were among those that stepped up. As they found themselves scattered in the dark woods, they realised that he had not specified what their role in the hunt would be. Mara saw the hunters catching another Academy member, Barnaby. She herself was hidden, and could possibly have survived. She fought with herself. Was she of Thornhill? Of the Raven Queen aspect of the Morrigan, who says that the weak should be left to die? Or was she of the Academy of Eblana, a hero, ready to protect those that needed protecting, at any cost. Decision made, she ran forward to save him. He lived perhaps one minute longer because of her interference. It cemented with her who she was, and it cost her life.
Mara woke up. Given that she remembered dying, this was surprising. She learned that the Huntsman, who had killed her, brought her, and several others back. Their life force was now tied to his power. If he was killed, if he could be killed, they would die with him.
It became clear that the Huntsman was merely the first of his kind to attack the Academy. The Sidhe, ancient beings of near godlike power, were unlike anything they had faced before.
Even before the hunt, the people from Thornhill were not well liked or trusted in the Academy. Other graduates now became suspicious, unsure if the loyalties of the risen were with the Academy, or the being that had raised them. And the risen became more insular and isolated over time.
One of the risen began behaving erratically, bringing more suspicion to the group, and, in their eyes, endangering the Academy as a whole. They dealt with this problem as it would be dealt with in Thornhill, and removed it by executing him. The rest of the Academy were horrified and the risen were punished for this by being further ostracised and demoted to undergraduate status.
A second Sidhe, the Storyteller, attacked the Academy and they acquired his book, a powerful magical relic that could be used against the Sidhe. Brandon betrayed the Academy by giving this book to the Huntsman in exchange for power. He exchanged more and more of his autonomy for power, and eventually left to join the Huntsman, giving up the last of his free will. Mara was broken hearted, and swore she would both avenge and kill him. But, although he appeared each time the Huntsman did in future, he was unkillable. He would get back up, or simply disappear.
Mara slowly became useful to, and accepted by, the Academy. She proved herself and was made a graduate once more. Her songs were well known and often stuck in people's heads. She made some friends, including Ishmael, a fellow follower of the Morrigan. And even those that did not like her deemed her ‘useful to have around’. She was often mistaken for a cleric of the Morrigan because she was so devout. But her bardic magics, providing support to others in battle, were well known and respected.
As a consequence of being raised by the Huntsman, rather than really alive, she could not have children. She enlisted the help of a male fae by the name of Yasha in confirming this. She was distraught, because having children, for those able, was a huge part of her Faith. She hated herself for spending so long with Brandon, with whom she could not reproduce. Her people back in Thornhill agreed, and she was shunned.
Once, briefly, the laws of the universe were changed, so that Gods could walk on earth. Several chose to do so, and met their followers. Mara met the Morrigan herself, who assured her that her devotion to Her Battle Maiden aspect, was sufficient. This brought a great lightness to Mara, but it was short lived.
It appeared that the Academy had a way of killing one, or both, of Brandon and the Huntsman. Mara was certain that the time for revenge had come. She resigned herself to her own death, and lamented the deaths of the other risen, and prepared. But the weapon was lost before it could be used to kill either Brandon or the Huntsman. Mara lost all hope and disappeared into the bottom of a bottle for years.
Ishmael, Mara's old friend, roused her from her drunken stupor. He sobered her up and told her that the Academy were on their way to a final battle with the Sidhe. He trained with her and with undergraduates and got her back into fighting shape. Better shape, in fact, than she had ever been in. Mara strode to the confrontation with the sure knowledge that this time her mission would be completed, and she and Brandon would be free, avenged, and dead. Ishmael adopted Mara as his daughter. No longer Mara of the Morrigan's Fae, she became Mara ap Ishmael bin Sheyalia.
The honour of killing the Huntsman fell to another, but Brandon was killed by Mara's own hand. Over the years, her anger at him for leaving her, betraying her, and betraying all she had since come to love, had hidden from her how much she had loved him. But as she stood over his unconscious body, preparing to kill him one last time, and knowing that this time he would stay dead, it all came back. Relief and grief flooded over her together. As soon as the Huntsman was dead she could feel that the energies keeping her going were draining away. This was Mara's final battle, but the Academy had eight more Sidhe to deal with. She stood with them and supported them, as she always had.
The Gatekeeper, who keeps the gate between their world and the next, had barred it on behalf of the Shadow, perhaps the darkest of the Sidhe. Any Academy members slain in the domain of the Sidhe would not pass through. Mara wept again for Brandon, who would not have another chance to live a better life. She worried for herself, unsure if she would make it home before the last of the Huntsman’s power dissipated. And she fought all the harder to stop any more Academy members from falling.
With the other Sidhe defeated, the Academy's final confrontation with the Shadow grew close. The Shadow was aided by Academy members who had fallen, raised as themselves, but twisted. Ishmael was killed. Mara, consumed by grief, saw and heard little else of the fight. He had fallen in battle, a noble and good death for a cleric of the Morrigan, but could not return to his Goddess. But the Academy came through for Mara, as she had always done for them. With the Shadow defeated, the Gatekeeper unbarred the gate. Mara and Ishmael walked through together, towards their Goddess, and the unknown.