Pain. Terror. I had emerged from the forest, and had been confronted by an army of warrior humans. There was one warrior human standing alone on a hill, staring at The Heart in his hands.
"Wa's that!" A soldier yelled.
The man holding The Heart turned and smiled at me. Poison green eyes were all I could see of his face.
"Welcome Elf." He said, bowing, "How glad I am that you could make it. But where is the rest of your race? I thought you were still two days journey from here."
Man holding The Heart paused, as warrior men began to close me in wielding sharp metal sticks. I want to run, but my body won't let me.
"As long as you're here, why don't we test your strength?" The man says coldly, "The loss of one Elf won't matter."
A warrior man charges at me, but is stopped as a vine shoots from the ground at my feet, and impales him though the bottom of his jaw out the back of his skull.
I stand in horror, as warrior men fall all around me. Why was I doing this? I didn't want to kill. Stop! STOP! It was as if my will had been separated from my body, and had been replaced by a savage beast.
In my mind prison, I lay curled in a ball upon a cold hard floor. I tried to rise, but pain hurt me. I didn't like the pain. Is this what was happening to my kin as well?
I closed my eyes, as the pain enveloped me. I'd been so happy to be alive. But now, all was despair.
When I open my eyes, all the warrior men have been slain. Their bodies lay in piles around me. Man with The Heart had walked over to stand before me, and stare in wonder.
"One Elf is this powerful?" He says, greed and malice shining in his eyes, "One Elf can slay an entire army single-handed! Why would anyone seal this power away?! The Dwarves were fools!"
Dwarves? Did man with The Heart mean small Dwarf? Where was small Dwarf?
"I will destroy the Dwarves with your power!" The man yelled, "All the nations shall kneel before my might!"
Kill small Dwarf? No, I would not. Gathering my thoughts, focusing my entire concentration, I take a single step back. My body writhes in silent agony, and I fall to the blood soaked earth, as man with The Heart laughs.
"Do not resist." He says scornfully, "You have no will, nor choice in the matter. You are merely a tool! A weapon! You're only here to serve me, your master!"
I open my mouth, my face twisted in agony, and I let out a silent scream. Pain. Why was there so much pain? How could I survive, how could I exist in such pain?
A figure entered my mind. Small Dwarf? No, it was silent man that had been with small Dwarf.
I stared at silent man from my position on the floor, and he stared back with a glazed expression. He seemed to understand my thoughts, and I his. Silent man was asleep. Silent man was drifting.
"Come find us." Silent man said, his voice seeming to come from miles away, even though he stood only feet from my collapsed frame, "Shal'hartha offers his help to you."
What was Shal'hartha? I looked into silent man's mind, and saw an image of wings. A golden hand reaching out. A voice.
My body leaped up, my mind still conversing with silent man.
"What are you doing?" Man with The Heart demanded.
Pain such as I'd never known assailed me, yet it was lessened. Silent man's eyes were bulging, his figure becoming rigid.
"Hurry." His thoughts entered mine, "I will share your suffering, but I am not as strong as you, I cannot endure. You must escape NOW!"
My body ran into the forest, man with The Heart screaming after me.
My body ran unguided, avoiding trees and roots as though I knew the forest.
Silent man collapsed panting in my mind, and I stared at him. The pain was increasing. Silent man would die from the pain. Slowly, I took a deep breath, and steeled my spirit. I sensed that silent man was guiding me. I would buy him time. Delving into his mind, I took all the pain upon myself, and my consciousness shattered.
I stood silently, as Flint began moving the still Tel'arair to the hut.
"What's this?" Flint said, as a stream of blood oozed from the Tel'arair's mouth.
Without warning, the Tel'arair shot up, and pushed Flint away from him. His eyes were wide, frightened, but fierce, "Dwarf." He said vacantly.
"What is it?" I said, curious but suspicious.
"I know that you have a healer here. Get the healer. There's someone coming who needs it more than the girl."
"What would have more importance than a Nir'lin!" I scoffed, but I was silenced as an object threw itself clumsily out of the forest, and slammed heavily into the ground. It was the Elf.
The Elf lay, twitching and convulsing, tears streaming from its eyes.
"What's wrong with it!" I shouted in alarm.
"I-it's resisting something." The Tel'arair panted, beads of sweat running down his forehead to mingle with the blood, "I'm helping it... Get your healer!"
Nodding, and with another look at the Elf, I ran into the hut, and through the hidden entrance.
"Tal'hirtha!" I shouted.
"Grdar!" Hirtha scolded, "Where were you? I had to heal this Nir'lin by myself. That's not easy for someone of my age. She'll be fine but-"
I bowed low, "I'm sorry Tal'hirtha, but something has come up. I need you to come with me. Please."
Hirtha raised an inquisitive eyebrow, "I cannot leave this place." She said slowly.
"You must! Tal'hirtha, it's an Elf! It's going to die unless you help it!"
Hirtha gasped, and immediately grabbed a bag of herbs and medicines, "An Elf?! Guide me to it my child."
I guided Hirtha through the passage, and out of the hut.
Hirtha shielded her eyes from the light, then ran over to the Elf.
"Is this the healer?" Flint asked.
"Of course I am!" Hirtha snapped, "Now stop your foolish questions, and light a fire!"
As Flint hurried to obey, Hirtha ran her fingers over the bark-like skin of the Elf.
"Tal'hirtha, what is wrong with the Elf's skin?" I asked, voicing a question I'd had from the first time I'd seen it.
"Nothing." Hirtha said, pulling a knife from her medicine bag, "This is not its skin."
Slowly, she inserted the knife in a crack behind the Elf's face, and pulled outwards.
Like a mask, the bark-like skin fell off in one piece, leaving a thin, pointy, feminine face. Its skin was pale, almost translucent.
As Hirtha began "de-barking" the Elf, all doubts as to its gender were silenced.
Flint and I stood about awkwardly, averting our eyes, but the Tel'arair let out a cry and ran into the hut covering his face.
Flint muttered something to me, and followed the Tel'arair. I was about to enter into the hut as well, when Hirtha called me back.
"Not this time Grdar." She said, wagging a stern finger, "I'm too tired to heal her myself. You begged me to attend to this Elf, it's your responsibility to help."
Tugging on my beard, I nodded reluctantly, and took my place at the still Elf's side.