She was beautiful, my wife, her soul was beautiful too. But she was human, and I lost her two hundred years ago.
I’ve seldom left my house since, and my rare visitors found not much pleasure in their visit. Nor did I. Yet, I was the librarian of the elves, retired, though my knowledge worth a blueberry pie or a basket of sweet acorn biscuit for the young, occasionally.
“Conn! Conn! Let me in!” Artair banged on the twisted trunk of the aged hawthorn tree providing my food and shelter.
“I hope you have some pie.” I murmured, climbing the stairs my tree created of her roots. The notes and references he asked for during his last visit were on my desk, whispered in leaves. The kid has brought some food, so I welcomed him with a smile, at least I intended so.
“C’mon, my old friend.” Artair tapped my shoulder. “Don’t be so sour, it’s springtime!”
Yah, I could smell the almondy fragrance of the white flowers of the hawthorn. Then I smelled it underneath the tree as well, where the crooked roots formed the wall of my lonely detention. “It’s from my tree.” I pointed at the flower pinned behind the kid’s long ear. Considering he was a new librarian, the kid experienced a deficiency in seriousness. He wasn’t elfish either. I mean, yes, he has had decent ears and a tall athletic figure like myself, but he usually wore rags, sometimes much worse than the human beggars I had seen in the past.
Today he wrapped himself in a miserable piece of cloth. It looked like the weaver scrapped it away half-done, without sleeves and with an uneven colouring. Then his pants – because he walked in pants in broad daylight – were too short and the rough blue textile was torn just above his knees.
“Here, boy.” I waved, opening the carved wooden crate we used to sit on “get some decent garment.”
“Woow!” Artair sunk on his knees in awe, digging deep into the pile of emerald velvet britches and light-green soft silk shirts, all similar to the outfit I wore. He produced a chemisette with fine whitework, dust and smell of time flickered around.
I grabbed his wrist. “Don’t touch my wife’s belongings!”
Embarrassed, the kid snapped the lid down. “Forgive me, Master Conn, I got over-excited by this collection of fancy dresses. May I borrow a set of yours for the weekend?” Artair cast longing glances “for the jamboree in the city.”
I frowned. “What’s that?”
“The city?” he returned the question in disbelief.
“No.” I growled. “The weekend and the jamboree thing.”
I almost regretted to ask. He turned excited like a child – he was quite that, barely older than eighty. “The humans count the days differently, but I’m sure you know that” Artair paced the room, gesticulating “and on the fifth and sixths evening they gather to drink and dance and such. These times of the year they celebrate entities like us, so I will visit this time. For my research.” he added convincingly.
“How they celebrate us? Last time I was aware we have lived hidden from human cruelty.” I stated, my thoughts ages away, when my love paid dearly for my secret unveiled.
“This is what I will explore. I have little details at the moment.” He stopped, pondering. While he touched a nervous root to calm it down, he faced me “Would you like to join Master?”
“I’m too old for this weekend hassle.” I replied quickly.
“I wouldn’t give you more than three-hundred, you’re younger than my dad.” said Artair killing my argument with an elfin grin. “Then,“ he went on “it’s not us approaching them, you’ll see they sneak closer and closer to our forests with their ugly settlements, you’ll see once you creep out of your cave.”
Here I am, a couple of days later, in my fresh-smelling green britches and jerkin, trying to cover my ears with my dark brown hair. The kid went so far with recklessness he borrowed the chemisette and a long skirt for his fiancé, Aislin, who will come along to this treat. My dear Lettie can’t make a use of it anymore and I can give myself up to the sentimentalism without pieces of textile, like I used to for two centuries. The fairy-skinned little girl will look pretty in the early 1800s latest fashion dress, I admitted.
How funny it is, I wonder outside my tree. I’m thrilled like a kid in his fifties before his first date with an elfie. When my apprentice with his fiancé appears, I almost retreat to my shelter. Artair must have guessed that, the mild distractive magic he releases creates the optical illusion of a path made of glittering leaves. Aislin holds Artair’s hand, popping and jumping along and I follow them into the haunting, scary visibility.
We have to undergo a quick border check – strange I remembered our land border used to be far from this point – then we end up on a grey road. Artair’s leaves fade away. A silver wheely cylinder comes into sight. I drag the kids behind but they free themselves, waving to the giant, shiny waggon.
“I’ll do this.” the boy elbows ahead, pulling out some notes.
“I can pay for myself.” I offer the coins I have carefully spared for so long.
Aislin pulls me back. “Keep it for the numismatists. Just get on the bus.” she laughs, already on the so-called bus, full of humans.
I know they are humans because I can’t sense their magic, but they look like elves and dwarfs and fairies. Some of them dare copy a god or goddess, while others masked their fallen human nature in mascaras unknown to me.
I feel a bit sick. The speed of the bus outperforms an elf’s average speed, not to mention I retained myself from such exercises during the recent centuries. The noise doesn’t help and a modest but unmistakable smell of alcoholic beverages fills the oxygen-poor air.
“Open the window please, I’m suffocating!” A pretty she-elf turns to a man in a red and blue tight underwear and stockings. His cloak sat on his lap, folded up. He obeys shyly. “Thanks Spiderman.” she shoots a sweet smile.
“Superman.” The human corrects the elfie but she doesn’t care.
She’s not an elf, actually. Our women don’t have sun-spots and when I look at her twice – at least – I notice the narrow seal where she elongated her ear with an attachment. She noticed me too. She digs into his bag for a metal can and she reaches it out to me.
By the time we arrive into the city I have learnt she was a wannabee elf – her words – named Delyth in both the human’s and the elves’ world. She taught me how to open the can so when we arrive and my companions drag me away, I’m armed with a second dose of human magic.
All I can sense is a whirling cavalcade of colours, smells, tastes, noises and vibes. We join the human flow until I see a high-posted arch saying “Comic Con Festival”. We are heading there, where grumpy human warriors take the bribe to let us in.
“Just dump me somewhere in a quiet corner.” I breathe totally overwhelmed by the mass. I wouldn’t be any merrier with the annual forest fiesta amongst my own people. I just need a break.
Aislin walks me to a relatively unpopulated stall, and she pays me a drink. “Chill out.” she says. “Don’t use magic, no matter what!” she raises her index finger like she was in charge. “We’ll back.”
The stars twinkle down from the darkening sky, and I’m surrounded by people I don’t trust and don’t understand. When tall fury creatures and warriors in weird armour march towards me, I rather sneak off. I realise if I go against the stream I will avoid the tumult.
Here I am, and the tavern-keeper accepted my shilling. He even gave me a shot of the gift of the house. So, two lucky men here and happy people at a safe distance.
Delyth struggles up onto the high stool beside me. She would be rather short for an elf, but I keep this to myself. “I wonder what am I doing here.” she rubs her ear. Her own ear, under the fake one.
I can’t but nod in agreement.
“I promised my nephew to take him here, and the kid’s nowhere around.” She sips her drink.
“Same here.” I want to say but I say nothing.
“To be honest, I’m too introvert for this.” she pulls a dead-beat smile, stretching out her legs against the bar-counter. “And too old as well.”
“You can’t be more than three-hundred.” I attempt a compliment.
“Yeah, I don’t feel any older than that, not a minute.” She giggles, loosening her bodice. Her ears land in her pocket and her headpiece on her lap. She doesn’t look any less a magical entity, though.
I tell her the truth. “You are enchanting.”
“Sure.” she set a grimace. “I wish I were in an enchanted forest, far from this mess.”
I nod. “Doable.”