The first memory I have is of seeing Haleen's loving smile looking down at me. I was probably 5 or 6 years old, (as near as we can reckon), but in the fur lined, small woven basket she found me in, I appeared as but a new born to her. According to Haleen, she was wondering through the forest, deep in contemplation, when she found herself standing beside a stream she had never encountered before. Thinking that she must have strayed from her usual path, she was preparing to retrace her steps, when she noticed a small basket floating down the stream. Curious, she waded into the shallow stream and pulled the basket out of the water. To her amazement, a small baby stared back at her when she looked into the basket.
Many years later, Haleen would tell me that she went into the forest that day to contemplate her life path, as she felt that something was missing. Being the sole female Red Crescent Adept, she too was an outcast in her own society. While the discipline of her kata was without compare, the prospects of a singular and lonely existence played on her fears and doubts. Finding me, she said, was like finding the part of her that she never knew existed, so that she finally felt whole. As for me, it was a stroke of profound providence that Haleen was so enamored with my sudden arrival in her life that she failed to notice, and later even care about, my strange 'appearance'.
According to her, upon finding me, her greatest concern was how she was going to feed me, as she was the only female allowed at the Red Crescent Temple. The fact that I was covered in hair, apparently was not really much of a worry. She just thought I was covered in hair from the fur I was wrapped in, and needed a bath. As she was baby-talking to me, (as adults will do with little babies), I apparently startled her when I told her, "I'm sorry, but I don't understand you", in a clear but very high pitched voice. Haleen, so surprised, she almost dropped me, recovered and asked me my name. I told her that I did not know what my name was. She then asked me of my parents, and how I came to be in the basket. I again told her I had no idea. I think understanding was starting to dawn on Haleen, as she then asked me how old I was. Unfortunately, I again, had no memories to answer such a question. So it was that Haleen carried me back to the Red Crescent Temple.
I came to find that Haleen was the only child of Hakeem, the Red Crescent Grandmaster. Apparently, while Hakeem's discipline and kata were unmatched, the one area of his life that he had no control over, was his love and devotion to his daughter. So it was, that when she petitioned him to become an Adept, that he could not say no. So it was now, with his star protégé and only child, returning from a contemplative walk in the forest, claiming that the gods had gifted her with a seemingly infant child. Hakeem, not bound by the blinding love that had clouded Haleen's vision, quickly deduced that I was a young boy of Halfling "kin", and not an infant child. When he spoke to me, and I answered, his deductions were confirmed. When I again told him that I had no previous memories before seeing Haleen, he apparently could tell that I was being honest.
He thereupon asked me to step out of the basket so that he could have a look at "this hairy child". Upon doing so, I noticed for the first time, that I had something about my neck, that swayed as I stood. It was a very light, but strong necklace of woven fibers, that held a small lock of brilliantly bright, golden hair. Hakeem pronounced that it was of the "Fey". As Hakeem was studying me, I realized that he was hairless. Except for a very small strip of hair above each eye, he had no visible hair. This seemed very strange to me, as I had hair covering almost all of me. At least Haleen had hair on her head, though I now realized too that she did not have any hair on the rest of her skin as far as I could tell.
Hakeem then continued to speak with Haleen, and at one point asked, "So what do you intend to do with your new found 'friend'? To which Haleen stated, "he is a gift, whether from the gods or the Fey, I care little, but a gift nonetheless. So I will raise him as my own, as you did me. Just as you risked it all to throw aside prejudices that would have kept me from achieving the life that I was meant for, I will do the same for him". "And what will you name him", asked Hakeem. Haleen answered, "Given that he is past the age of naming, I will allow him to find his own name, but until he chooses his name, I will call him "Gift".
In time, I did choose my name, though Haleen forever chastised me for my choice, and refused to use it. She continued to call me "Gift". I tried to make her understand. I was not succumbing to the taunts of others, or to their pre-conceived judgments, I was merely taking control of, and honoring my most distinguishing feature, by naming myself, Hairy.
Being the only "Halfling kin" at the temple, (as well as being the hairiest), the other trainees never ceased to tease me. They also, (at first), always tried to get me as their "sparring" partner, relishing the size and weight advantage they would have over me. That preconceived notion, lasted only so long. While I did not have their strength and mass, I had the perfect mentor in Haleen. Just as she had been forced to do, I had to learn to use an attacker's strength and mass against them. While I could never compete with them in brute strength, I could eliminate their advantages, and turn such heavy handed attacks back against them. I also learned how to combine acrobatics and my kata to be able to use my small body to its best extent. It was Hakeem who guided me such, and called it a "Dervish Combat Dance", wherein I would be constantly moving, jumping, tumbling, and flipping in combat, keeping my opponent unsure as to where my next attack was coming from, as well as making it extremely hard to hit me.
Becoming a Red Crescent Adept is no easy task. It takes many years of strict dedication and work. Very few have the discipline to see the journey through. It is both physically and mentally challenging. Due to Haleen never losing faith in me, I knew that I could never let her down by not completing the path that she laid before me. Being a Red Crescent Adept, is an honorable life, wherein the skills, talents and abilities we are taught, are used to both protect our society from those without who would hurt our society, as well as those who would attack us from within. True balance is ever but a wisp of reality, but it is something we all strive to find, both within our selves, and our society.
My final tests were set, and I was well prepared. Haleen, even for her normally stoic self, was obviously upset and emotional. I assumed such was based on my "coming of age" as an adept. Having completed my 3 day testing ordeal, I was shocked and bewildered to find that Haleen had left the temple soon after my testing begun. Hakeem seemed as surprised as I was, but for his concern for me, would not tell me of her absence until I had completed all of my testing. He then handed me the note that she had left for me.
"Gift, I know this is sudden, and will disappoint you greatly, but our paths now must part. I left without saying goodbye, because I knew you would not otherwise let me leave without you. Please do not try and follow me. The journey I must undertake is long and not the path that awaits you. It is mine to walk alone, so please heed my words. I need you there, to help and protect Hakeem, as well as our brethren. Many changes are coming, and he will need your service. You have been truly a Gift and a Blessing and I will never stop thanking whatever powers brought you into my life. I will never stop thinking of you, nor loving you. Thank you for being my Son. Haleen."
After reading the note, I handed it to Hakeem. We both cried at our loss. I desperately wanted to go after Haleen, but was loath to turn against her advice, and to abandon the trust and confidence she had placed in me to care for Hakeem. I was a very morose Adept for the next two weeks. There was nothing that seemingly lifted my spirit. I was not the only one, as Hakeem, was also a bear to be around. Then one day, Hakeem approached me and asked me to spar with him that afternoon. Unbeknownst to me, he decided to invite all of the other candidates and teachers to observe. The point of his lesson, was that to succeed against an opponent that would use your own physical strength against you, you needed to concentrate on defense, and superior mental skills to take quick advantage of any openings in the other's defenses. This is what Hakeem did to me, utterly embarrassing me in front of this large crowd.