Disclaimer: at some points in this story it may seem that I’m discrediting profesor Tolkien, but I assure you that it is not so, for we ll know that he invented the Path of Dreams mentioned here.
And, the story turned out too long, so it will have 3 parts instead of 2 as it was envisioned before.
I can’t quite explain the multitude of things that I felt at that moment. I presume that I felt something similar to what one feels during a ghost sighting or poltergeist haunting, but also an epiphany, only this was more `material’ in some inexplicable way. I looked upon the tall figure and a sense of awe engulfed me, but as I stared into those gray eyes, the fear that I had felt at first, the fear of the unknown, melted away. This creature of flesh and blood was new and unknown to me, but it presented no threat, my heart kept telling me.
On the other hand, there I was, alone in the forest, and a strangely dressed, six feet tall man with a bow and a quiver full of arrows was looking at me.
I swallowed. And then he smiled. And at that moment I knew for certain that my heart was right, for there are some things that a man has to trust to reason, and others that are best dealt with by the heart. The things that you just know. And I knew that this creature was magical in a way too fantastic to be comprehended by the mind.
He stepped forward and the warmth of that smile felt like the first rays of sun that peek over the horizon at dawn. It was magical, so much so, that even in all my confusion I smiled back.
“Do not fear me, daughter of men.” He spoke in a soft, mesmerizing voice. He spoke to me in my own language, but with a strange accent to it. Slowly, a look of wonder came into his eyes as he looked at me. Moving slowly, he came near me and touched my hand. The smile on his face broadened. “I have not spoken to one of your kind for years beyond grasp, and still you have not changed. Frail you are, and as children to us still. Fearfull and mistrusting. But have no fear, I shall do you no harm.” He kept speaking as to himself, still touching my hand.
“Who are you? What are you?” I heard myself say. He raised his eyes, looked into mine and spoke softly: “You know what I am, I can see it in your eyes. Remember the tales you love so much, look into your heart, the answer is there. As to who I am, I cannot tell you. My name is secret because that which is known can be destroyed.”
A thought entered my mind, or rather, it was there ever since I first set eyes on this being, but it was too fantastic, too unreal and unbelievable to take shape immediately. I stared at his face in disbelief, and he only kept smiling and nodded his head.
The turmoil I felt inside cannot be explained by words. Was I going mad? Was it a dream? But the longer I looked at him, the more apparent the truth was. The gleam in those gray eyes said it all, and the look of timeless wisdom. I realized that, even though he looked no more than twenty years old, this creature was far, far older than I, far older than my grandmother and even the land that I live in. Older than the trees around me, older than time as I knew it.
“You are of the Elf-kind, are you not?” I asked, my voice trembling.
“Yes.” He answered simply. My head swam.
“Yes I am of the Elf-kind.” He repeated. “Pay no mind to the reason that prevents you to believe me, for as your wise ones said a long time ago `There are more things in heaven and Earth than are dreamed of in your philosophy’. I am what I am.”
I stood silent for a while, slowly grasping the idea of conversing with an Elf. After some time, a multitude of questions filled my mind. This mixture of fantasy and reality I stood in felt right in a way I cannot and shall not try to explain.
“I have questions for you.” I said when the turmoil in my mind settled. “Will you answer me?”
“After startling you like that, I think I owe you some answers. Come, let us sit down, and I shall tell you what you want to know. I have spoken to no one in a long time, and it warms my heart to hear a friendly voice. But pray, do not ask me of my name, for it is forbidden for me to tell you.”
He spread his cloak over the leaves on the ground and sat, motioning with his hand for me to join him. So I sat beside him, feeling the fabric of the cloak with my fingers. Soft as spider webs, yet firm as steel it felt to the touch.
“My name is…” I began, but the Elf interrupted: ” Do not tell me your name for I feel I would have an unfair advantage over you. And besides, I have already given you a name in my mind, so you do not need to tell me.”
“And what name have you given me?” I asked, feeling intrigued.
“I shall let you know one day, when the time is ripe. And if it proves to be the right name for you.” He said in a soft, yet firm voice.
“All right then,” I continued to speak, feeling kind of awkward, “Tell me how is it that you are here. And why do you look the way you look, when the old tales speak of small, mischievous faerie creatures as Elves, and you look neither small nor mischievous?”
Ha laughed out loud, it was a melodious laugh, very pleasant to hear, but then his face became serious again, and he began to speak in a sullen tone.
“You ask your questions in the wrong order, so I shall first answer the
latter. I look the way I look, for it is what all Elves once looked like. But the
memory of men is short, and they do not remember the time before our race
left these shores and sailed into the West. But you see, it was said of old,
that when the time comes, we shall have to depart this world, or fade if we
stay. And it is of those that stayed that mankind still tells legends. For they
were all great once, but, with the passage of time, as it was told, they faded.
They diminished in stature and power, for they forsook their ancient home,
and stayed behind in a world devoid of the beauty that is essential to the
survival of the soul. In the world dominated by men whose hearts are cold to it, unlike the hearts of the Elven-kind. They, the Elves, loved and still love these lands, but blinded and deafened by that love, they heard not the footsteps of doom that came upon them. And when they realized what was happening, it was too late to depart, for they had lost the power to sail into the Ancient West forever. Some were saddened by this and slowly withered like flowers, and died of broken hearts, and their souls found their way to the halls of Mandos, the same was with those that took their own lives in despair. Others, on the other hand, became bitter and angry, `mischievous’ as you say, blaming the race of men for their own decline, so they became violent and tormented them, until the ever-changing race of men, at home in their own ever-changing world, found a way to drive away or destroy these Elves that were now inhabiting an alien world. What has happened to the souls of those destroyed we know not. And then there were those who resisted change, and finding out that they cannot sail into the West, made their own little kingdoms in the hollows of hills and old trees, using all the power that they had left to them, to make kingdoms in which time stands still. But this use of power weakened these ancient creatures even more, and they forgot the wisdom that they once held and became the witless faeries that feast and play small instruments, and play tricks on unsuspecting men, leaving their dwellings only during the night. Other paths the Eleven-kind took as well, but I have spoken of those that are mostly described in the lore of men.”
I was astounded. Yet, it all made sense. In a way… I stammered: “But that tale, or part of it, the tale of the Ancient West, is told in books I have read, wonderful books written by a man now deceased…”
“Yes, I know of whom you speak. And in those books the real history of this world, taking place eons before the rise and fall of the civilizations of men that you count as the first civilizations on Earth, is told. The man that has written them was an Elf-friend so to speak, chosen for his great imagination to hear the stories of the ancient times and write them down for the new generations of men to hear and learn. For him the Path of Dreams was opened, and traveling on it, he learned the most ancient of lore, and heard the most beautiful of stories in the most ancient of tongues.”
I sat there, speechless, for a long while. And another question entered my head, so I asked. “You have stayed behind, yet you still look as the ancients, how is that?” but somehow, I knew or hinted the answer to my own question, and it was more fantastic than all I had heard up to that point.
He laughed again. “Still you ask in the wrong order little one, but I shall now answer your first and your last question.”