Close encounter of the Elf kind, part 3 - the end
True, men were always reckless with their world, but now they have built machines to destroy the forests for them, and they have built weapons of such power, that they could destroy the Earth at one push of a button. And that is why we have come. The world is on the verge of disaster, and we are here to try and heal its wounds, or at least `estimate the damage' as you would say, and take the knowledge that we gather to those that have made it." He paused for a moment, staring blankly into some spot on the floor, and then continued slowly, pronouncing each word as if saying it for the first time: "And after the damage that I have seen wrought..." and then trailed off into an uneasy silence.
I waited for him to speak again, and then I pleaded in my mind for him to tell me that all is not lost, but still he sat silent, staring at the same spot, with sadness in his eyes so great, that it brought tears to mine. "But, there is always hope..." I mumbled, "Is there not?" my voice was trembling.
He looked up then, with a strange expression in his face, one of wonder, anguish, pleading and despair all at the same time. "For your kind there may be hope, for you were blessed with the gift of death, to leave this world and forget, yet we, the Elven-kind are bound to it, to live and to die, and in death still live within its circles, `till the day that it is unmade by the One who envisioned it all. But we do not want this world destroyed, not by men, who in their pride and vanity take no notice of the growing shadow of their own malice."
By then I was crying. "But there is no hope in death! I hope for life, I hope to see the land restored, the destruction stopped! I hope to live in peace, without the threat of shadow!"
He looked at my face, studying every inch of it for what seemed like an age. "But hope is not enough, little one." He said softly, "for the shadow spreads across the world, walking in the disguise of men, and fear walks beside it in the garb of weapons that murder and destroy. It is hate and it is fear. Hope in itself was a gift of the One to Men, but it is not enough to fight the shadow."
Another unpleasant silence. And then he added: "Care is needed, for the path of shadow is seductive, and with pretty words and promises of wealth it leads men into oblivion, lulling them into a state of false tranquility in which they are blind to what happens in their own world."
He looked absently up through the trees at the sky and remarked: "The day is growing old. I must be off now. But pray, promise me one thing, speak to no one of this encounter before I tell you the name that I have given you."
"But how shall I know that name, how shall you tell it to me?" I asked.
"You will know, when the time is ripe. I will find a way to tell you. But I must leave now, the world is big and I have lands to visit!" the last he said with a hint of humor that cheered me up immensely.
"But, will you not walk with me to the path, before you leave me, for I don't know my way back?"
"Of course, I was counting on that. You see, I sensed your presence in the woods, and I liked the feel of you, and wanted to talk with you, for I haven't spoken with a human in eons. So I called your dogs to me, counting on the curiosity of men to guide you here. And I apologize for doing so, but I could not risk venturing myself to the path for fear of praying eyes, and you running away in horror. This way I was sure to get some conversation, even if it was mostly I that spoke. So I shall now walk you to the path but quickly, and then I must disappear again."
We rose off the ground and he picked up his cloak, dusting off the leaves and mold that clung to the fibers. In a few moments we started in the direction from which I had come, the dogs running merrily around our feet.
And as we walked I felt the urge to ask another question. So I spoke slowly: "One more thing, friend, for I have no other name for you, you said you had to keep away from praying eyes. Why? Is there some agenda against you, the Elves that have returned, or Orcs about maybe? To whom do those eyes belong?"
"Why, to men of course." He said and laughed the melodious laugh, "and there is no agenda, friend, nor Orcs about. Men have dealt with Orcs a long, long time ago. As they have dealt with the dodo and Tasmanian wolf. It is just that all men would, just like you, immediately upon seeing me, know that I wasn't of your kind. But you knew what I was, and most other men wouldn't, and they would be scared and would, in their sudden fear, shoot their weapons at me. Especially the hunters that walk yonder path. And, even though I am immortal, I could be killed."
"Oh, I see." I felt rather stupid upon assuming that Orcs roamed the woods outside my grandmother's house. But then again, I was walking those same woods with an Elf at that very moment, so the feeling of stupidity went away rather quickly.
"But do you walk then only in the wilderness away from all eyes?"
"Mostly, but I have walked in cities as well, but I prefer the woods."
I felt like a five year old kid, but I kept on asking anyway: "But how can you walk in cities, when as you say, people can know that you are not a man?"
He laughed and looked right at me. "You are inquisitive. You see, the difference is in surroundings. When I walk in a city, I'm dressed in your fashion so I do not `stick out' in the street. But people still feel that I'm different, but in the big cities they feel safe, guarded from the `supernatural' under which they would surely classify me. And in an environment of concrete, cars and lights I just get strange looks from people in the street. They know there's something different about me, but they are too rational in such surroundings to pay any heed to the fact. But here, in the forest, they would react rather differently, here they have no anchor for the ratio, their imagination runs wild, and they fear the forest and its secrets, for they are used to their rational environments. And here from a strange person in the street I become an evil demon to them. Which, you will agree, is not pleasant if they also have a rifle."
I laughed. He was right yet again, for I thought about how I would react if I saw him in the street. But besides all that, he was a handsome person, so I thought that the `strange looks' might be on account of that as well, but I said nothing.
We walked on in silence for a while, and then I saw the path through the trees. We stopped simultaneously. I turned to him and we both smiled.
"This is where I leave you, little one. But remember your promise, tell none of this encounter until I tell you the name that I have thought of for you."
"I promise I won't. And I promise to think of a name for you, so, when you tell me mine, I can tell you yours."
Then we clasped hands and parted.
I turned and walked to the path. When I looked back he was nowhere in sight.
I was 13 when all this took place, yet I still remember every detail.
The first few months were torment. To keep such a secret! It was almost unbearable. But as time went by, I got used to it, and almost forgot that it ever happened. It was always there in my mind, yet somehow distant and unreal. I even began to think that I imagined it all.
Five years passed since it happened.
But a few weeks ago I went to visit my grandmother again. And, as I lie sleeping one night, I had a strange dream. In the dream I was lying in the same room I was really in and the window was open. The stars were unusually bright, and there was an air of magic about everything. At one point a dark cloaked figure climbed into the room through the window. I was petrified at first, but the figure took off its hood and it revealed my Elven-friend. I was overjoyed, but he put his finger on his mouth, signaling me to be quiet. I sat up, and he tiptoed over to the bed. "I bring you what I promised." He whispered, and produced a sealed envelope from his cloak. I reached for it, but he stayed my hand and put it under my pillow. "Men cannot read in their dreams."
"I have thought of a name for you." I said in a low voice, and as he bent over me, I whispered it into his ear. He smiled and took my hand, then kissing it, whispered "Namarie".
I woke up with a start. It was morning outside and the air was filled with the smells of summer. I remembered my dream and my Elven-friend and smiled. But just in case, I put my hand under the pillow, and lo! there was a letter in a sealed envelope there. I broke the seal and took out a note.
I have come to you on the path of dreams. The time is ripe, and you may now know the name I have given you. But before that I need you to know that you were right all those years ago, there is always hope, hope in life, not only death. But so was I, hope is not enough. You must defy the shadow and spread your hope on others. Just open their eyes, and they will see for themselves, farewell elf-friend, I hope, yet doubt that we shall meet again.
At the bottom of the page he had written the name that he gave me, but that name I cannot tell, for that which is known can be destroyed.