Mirindir strolled through
the forest, the pale moonlight filtering through the trees, illuminating
his pointed elven features and silver hair. An owl hooted in the distance,
mice scampered beneath his feet, the pungent smell of pine filled the air.
The chill of evening was upon him, causing him to pull his white gown tightly
"Es Hazhura mon lah
Es Hazhura lon rah
Caen den quaron
Mes den kaentah
Lesin masah, mon lah
Quaren le Mikhaera."
He sang softly an elven
paean to his home and creator, casually inserting a line about the unusually
chill air. As if to mock him, a wind picked up and blew by him, the strange
feeling of an arm creeping around his waist. He shuddered, hoping to shake
the feeling though at the same time wishing it to be kinder to him.
The wind was gone quickly as he approached a stream in a clearing where
the sky could be seen, the stars clearly visible in its vast, clear darkness.
"It is not so cold here," he muttered to himself, his thoughts sticking
in his throat as he caught sight of a woman on the bank of the stream.
He would not have been so surprised if she were an elf like himself, but
he could sense, though he could not yet see, that she was not. A power
greater than he had ever felt before emanated from the woman, and Mirindir
wondered if he hadn't stumbled into his creator.
"It can't be," Mirindir
said to himself as he crept closer to the woman, though trying to remain
discreet, as if that would help in the presence of a god. He gulped, attempting
to convince himself that if he ever were to meet his maker, then he would
know right away if it were Mikhaera. As it was, this just felt like a very
powerful being, but
not one that would have created anything... The woman looked over in his
direction, her bright, shining eyes piercing the shadows where he hid like
two stars cleaving the darkness of night. Somehow, Mirindir felt as if
he had been violated, though if anything were being violated, it would
have been this woman's privacy.
I am sorry,
sounded in his mind, but whether the words were hers or his, he did not
know. Her eyes struck him like a spider's fangs, drawing out the juices
of his soul...
"Stop," he managed
to say, stepping out from the shadows. "Please, my lady, I did not mean
you any harm..."
She looked him up and
down, and it was then that he realized she was bare. When her eyes
were again level with his, he was surprised to see himself in them, naked
as a newborn babe. Instinctively his hands went to cover himself in modesty,
but his fingers closed over the soft cloth of his garment, not the smoothness
of his skin. He soon realized that this was not a physical creature of
the earth, but rather a creature of the soul--a spirit, actually. This
was the Forest of the Spirits, after all, a garden of the gods, but one
did not see these beings so much as sense their presence. But here was
this woman, appearing as flesh and blood to Mirindir...
"I am sorry, if I am
disturbing you," Mirindir voiced. "I did not know you were here,
The woman smiled and
cocked her head in amusement. The elf, taking this as a more relaxing response,
stopped and laughed at himself. The woman took his hand that he was using
in a futile attempt to conceal himself.
"I am Calliophene,
guardian of Foristen Spirarnen," she said in a musical voice that spoke
of the forest.
"You--you are--a nymph,"
Mirindir stuttered. "I have heard--"
"I hope you have heard
well of me. It is by my will that the things of the outside world do not
disturb your people's home. But if you have forgotten me..." The
nymph released the elf's hand. Mirindir searched his mind for memories
of this deity, stories his people might have told... There were few, but
they were there. Calliophene was reputed to be vagarious, acting on whims
as they suited her--she certainly was not to be trusted. Over the years
the elves had come to rely more on their own forebears for the defense
of their home and less on the "spirits of the forest." But the way Calliophene
was talking, it sounded like she had turned her back because the elves
had turned their back on her first.
"We have not forgotten
you," Mirindir defended for his people, though more for his own sake--the
power coming from the woman beat upon him like a flame, and he did not
want to get burned.
"Then why have I not
been paid my tribute?"
hard, but could not keep from being swallowed up by Calliophene's intense
"Unless you are my
Mirindir felt himself
shrinking as the arms of doom swept around him, enveloping him in their
"My lady--" he whispered
in dread awe.
The nymph approached
Mirindir, spreading her arms to embrace him. Her body pressed against his,
he felt smooth skin--his garment had dropped, he had been laid bare...
"Say no more." The
warm breath touched his ear, the hands caressed him...
The darkness closed
in over him and Mirindir could remember no more.
* * *
The word swept over
Mirindir like a passing cloud as he sat gazing at nothing, his thoughts
"Is something troubling
Something touched him.
He looked down and noticed another pair of hands upon his own. The delicate
fingers belonged to his elven soul-mate--the woman he had proposed marrying
but had not yet sealed the vows of their bond with.
Mirindir looked back
up, his own slender fingers closing over the hand of his beloved.
"I cannot say," he
said lowly, searching his mind for the appropriate response.
She leaned against
placing her head on his shoulder, her dark hair falling over him.
"When can I truly call
you my mate?" she asked softly, though with a faint note of impatience.
"When I feel the time
is right," he answered bluntly, stroking her soft hair.
"What does it matter
when, when we have an eternity?"
She pulled away from
him abruptly. "If we have an eternity, what does it matter if it is now
He turned to face her,
a deep sadness reflecting in his eyes. "It matters. Do not ask me why,
but it does." He turned away again to face the nothingness that he knew
would be there waiting for him. "I cannot tell you the reason, because
I do not know it myself."
She stood up and brushed
herself off, some of the dirt landing on him.
"Well, you know where
I'll be when you change your mind." She stomped off.
"It will be soon, beloved,
soon." He turned to look at her, but she had already disappeared and become
one with the shadows of the trees. "Why do I do this to myself?" he muttered,
resting his head in his hands.
Just as he was about
to close his eyes in despair, Mirindir's eyelids flickered open as he caught
sight of something. A powerful being stood before him, one that seemed
from the elf's lips as the memory that had been pushed back came to surface.
Come here, she
beckoned, and he obeyed, moving away from the relative safety of his people
and their home.
The nymph's arm swept
around him, and they walked along the secret paths of the woodland's guardians.
When at last they came to a certain place, a place that Mirindir was certain
no mortal had ever been before, his guide stopped and drew away from him.
She paced the periphery of the glade and when certain that nothing from
beyond the wall of vegetation and magic could get in, she went once again
over to Mirindir.
So we are together
again. Calliophene embraced the elf, their heads pressed together,
their thoughts passing silently between them.
What do you want
from me now?
I want nothing from
you--it is what your unborn child deserves.
A deep chill froze
Mirindir's heart. It had been easy to forget about this woman when he was
with his beloved, but he could not forget about the promises spoken to
her when he was with the nymph.
This cannot be!
I am promised to another...
You do not have
to take the child. All I ask is that you give him something, something
that will enable him to survive.
Mirindir pulled away
in horror, gazing into the nymph's star-like eyes. "My child will die if
I do not give him something?"
"How can I say? I am not of the earth, nor of the air--as are you. I am
not of the physical world, but I feel the child growing with me; how this
came to be, I cannot say. But I think with a piece of the world, he will
live. Each of us must give him something, for neither of us plans on taking
Guilt stabbed Mirindir's
already frozen heart, and he looked at the shady ground in shame. "I cannot
take him because of my people. My people believe in the sacred vows between
a man and a woman, that they cannot be broken--"
"In this life or the
next," Calliophene spoke sarcastically. "I know."
Anger flared up in
Mirindir, thawing his pained heart, giving him the courage to face this
callous, if powerful, being. "If you knew," he growled, glaring defiantly
at her, "then why did you violate me?"
"Was it not you who
entered my sanctuary?" the nymph defended. "Was it not your people who
had forgotten about me?"
"My people are not
here for your amusement!"
flared. "If that is all you think of me, then your people can just take
care of themselves! Let the humans come and tear your beloved home apart,
see if I care, because I will not be here!"
"We can take care of
"Just as you always
have." She laughed bitterly. "But remember our child." Sense became her
once more. "If you care anything for your own blood, then I will see you
back here in a month's time--with your blessing."
She disappeared and
the glade faded; Mirindir was once again in Hazhura.
A child, he
thought, knowing that whatever he thought when among his people would be
known by them. He didn't care; it didn't matter anymore, anyway.
Putting his hands to
his face, Mirindir cried softly to himself.
* * *
The pale moonlight
streamed into the glade, illuminating the soft features of a newborn babe
held in the arms of a woman with eyes of starlight. A figure strolled into
the clearing, carrying a shining object in its hand. The woman turned to
face the newcomer, who was singing:
Mi kaentahn shandehn
Le mach si Mikhaera
Weachu saen queolah."
Mirindir held the stone
over the baby, who opened his gray eyes to look at the curious object.
"Mahntehn loru caoyen
shandehn," Mirindir chanted softly, the glowing stone in his hand slowly
dimming as the moonlight became trapped inside, swirling around to form
a word, an elven word--Shanadar, meaning rock.
"And now for my blessing."
Calliophene handed the infant over to Mirindir, who placed the stone around
his son's neck. Then the nymph made a gesture, and a squat, furry creature
emerged from the shadows.
At a signal from Calliophene,
the dog-like creature went over to Mirindir. Standing on its hind
legs, it came to about the elf's shoulder.
"Show him the child,"
afraid of what might happen. But however menacing the creature's teeth
might have been under those black lips, its glowing green eyes spoke of
a gentleness that belied its savage appearance. The elf slowly lowered
the babe to the level of the creature's head.
Calliophene went over
to kneel beside the creature. "This is your charge," she whispered in its
ear. "See that he comes to no serious harm. If you ever catch him wandering
the desert of despair, give him a good nip to send him the opposite direction.
This I bid you, from one parent to another."
The creature lifted
its head, indicating that it heard. As the nymph drew away, it set to work
on learning the identity of its responsibility--the sight, the smell, every
nuance of the baby, to indicate that it accepted.
"Remember this especially,"
Mirindir spoke lowly, showing the creature the rock. "By this we will be
able to identify my child, at any age."
The creature lowered
its ears, glared at Mirindir for a moment, then turned and walked away
back over to its lady.
"I bid you leave now,
to take care of your own family," she said. The creature departed into
the shadows surrounding the glade.
"And as for you," she
said to Mirindir. "I bid you return home and leave the rest to me."
Mirindir stood staring
dumbly at the nymph, the baby held protectively against his chest.
"Give me the child."
Calliophene strolled over to him, her hand held out.
She stopped before
him, her head cocked, a sad expression on her face. "Which will it be:
your child, or your people?"
Mirindir withdrew the
baby from the safety of his chest. Holding the infant out at arm's length,
he looked over the soft, moonlit features of his child one last time.
"May Mikhaera bless
you, my little Shanadar," he said, finally relinquishing the child to his
Calliophene took the
infant, gazing intently into her lover's eyes one last time.
needs to be said, spoke silently between them. You know what needs
to be done.
The nymph kissed the
babe on the head. She looked up and smiled, her eyes gleaming.
The nymph and child
departed on the wings of the night, leaving the elf standing alone in a
shadowy and desolate glade.
It was going to be
a long walk home.