A Close encounter of the elf kind - just another tale
Before you are able to understand the nature of the event described in this tale, I must tell you some things about myself. You see my friends, I like walking in forests...
And I've walked through forests in my day.... ahh, you should've seen them! Great pine forests of trees of immense size, smelling sharp and fresh in cold winter mornings, vast woods of oak and yew and ash, with the air of mystery about them. Deep forests and dark, and others filled with soft light filtered through the green of the fresh leaves. Some as old as memory, others new and young. I've walked through their outskirts and their sullen hearts, listening to the whisper of their inhabitants, breathing in their memory and age.
And it was in summer a few years ago that on a fine, chill morning I decided to take a walk in the forest near my grandmother's house.
The forest over there is ancient and stretches for hundreds of miles to the west, linking countries now torn apart by war. That patch of woods is a portion of what is now left of the great forest that once expanded through all of Europe, so that a squirrel could leap from tree-top to tree-top from Athens to Lisbon. It is vast and dark, but on a summer day, such as the one in question, it was but shady and cool, devoid of the mystery and awe it might hold in the short days of winter.
And so I walked, followed by a few of my grandmother's dogs. The soft rustle of leaves combined with the song of various unseen birds filled my ears as I trod the paths that hunters made once upon a time, and still, after countless centuries, used on occasion. Somewhere in the distance a woodpecker made its home, and the allegro rhythm of his building gave structure and pattern to the other sounds around me. I breathed in the fresh air and felt it course through my veins like wine.
The silent music of the forest interrupted by the multitude of noises made by small animals and my footfalls on the forest floor, lulled me into a dreamlike state. And as I moved, I looked at the great bowls of the trees around me, and the rough bark that withstood wind and rain, quite possibly longer than we, the frail human race, counted our days. And in those bowls and branches I saw faces, some merry and laughing, some frowning, some sad. I watched those ancient beings that died for year upon year and were born again each spring, and wondered about what they have seen and what they might know but will never tell.
As I walked I inhaled the smell of "oldness" of that forest and in my mind traveled back to the ancient times in which strange and wild creatures roamed these woods and hunted men and other beasts alike. And to think that some of these same trees had seen all that!
My mind was filled with ease and joy, as it always was when I walked among trees that old. My heart soared.
But then, one of my grandmother's dogs stopped abruptly in its tracks. It raised its head and ears as if listening to some strange, unfamiliar sound. After listening for a moment, it darted past me and plunged into the trees to the left of the path. The other dogs followed suit.
At first I got scared, wild hogs and boar were known to live in those woods, and wolves even, and all I had was a walking stick to defend myself with. But then, I wasn't too deep in the forest, no, not that deep at all, and besides, the dogs weren't barking or growling. It might just be a deer or a fox or something.
After a few moments' hesitation, I plunged into the trees after the dogs.
The last of them, a small black and white creature, was still visible, so I ran after her.
And I ran, my friends, ran as fast as I could, brushing my shoulders against the thick trees, tripping over roots hidden beneath the decaying leaves and hacking my way through the bushes with my walking stick. I ripped my jeans and shirt in the process but still kept running after the dogs. And then a thought struck me. I was getting lost. The dogs zigzagged through the trees, and as I followed I had lost all sense of direction. I even forgot in which direction the path lay, and the end of the forest. One thing was certain though, I had gone much deeper into the forest than I had intended. Of all the stupid things one can do....
But I still followed the dogs, more frantically than ever, for they were my only hope now. They came into the forest very often and knew their way back. So I had to follow.
But I am a smoker, and pretty soon I got very tired, and desperately tried to keep up, but was losing the dogs. And just when I was about to collapse, I virtually shot out of the trees into a small clearing. And it wasn't even a proper clearing, just a place where the trees weren't as thick as back where I came from.
The dogs had stopped, all five of them, so I laughed and collapsed to the forest floor, trying to catch my breath. But then I noticed that they were all sitting and staring at something. I raised my eyes, but couldn't see the thing they were looking at at first. But slowly I managed to discern a form from the woody background.
It was the form of a man, sitting on a large rock, and looking right at me. And those eyes! The figure was hooded, dressed in a long cloak the color of which I couldn't quite determine; it blended perfectly with the background. But the eyes, they had a peculiar sheen to them, and as they watched me, I felt that they could see into my soul. I jumped to my feet and stared back in horror.
At that moment the figure rose, letting the hood fall off its head. The creature resembled a man in all things. Yet, somehow I knew that a man it wasn't. The hood had revealed a beautiful, long face with pale skin, a shapely, sharp nose, thin lips tinted with a soft pink color, only a tad darker than the white face, and two beautiful gray eyes looking at me from beneath thin black eyebrows. His hair was jet-black and shoulder length, and he was dressed in a strange fashion, wearing a leather tunic and leggings, and leather boots which had seen too many winters. And over all that he had the strange cloak. I also noticed that a bow hung at his back, and a quiver of arrows.
end of part one