The Prophecy of the Faerie Hunter
"Once upon a time.." The storyteller's words were interrupted by loud, protesting groans from his audience. The old man raised a white eyebrow, seemingly amused at their grumbles. "Is there something wrong?"
"Excuse me, sir, but all fairy tales start out that way," complained one of the oldest children, an ancient boy of nine. "It gets a bit boring after a while."
The raconteur smiled, his eyes twinkling with merriment. "Well, we can't have that, can we?" He leaned back thoughtfully, his hands resting gently on his knees. "Let's see, how should I begin.." He stared off into the distance for a long moment, his lined and weathered face illuminated by the flickering campfire. Then he shook his head in a sudden, resolute movement, sending pure white strands everywhere. "I've got it!" His entire manner was triumphant and many of the children grew eager to hear the new beginning. Clearing his throat, the storyteller began, his voice a low, husky bass that reached every listening ear.
"Gather 'round, all those who would listen to this old teller of tales. For I have wandered this world for many years, since before your parents' parents were born, and have assembled many stories during the long time that has been my life. So many in fact, that I am known in some places as the Chronicler of the Little Folk-" He stopped himself short with a quiet, embarrassed laugh, but the eager young children urged him on, wondering who these Little Folk were. "To some, as the Chronicler of the Little Folk; to others, I am simply the Storyteller. But the story I begin to tell you is not about me. Alas, I never had the fortune to meet the brave souls who are chronicled in this tale. They are from the times of yore, all either dead and gone or long ago lost to us. But their memories live on in my tales. The story I prepare now to tell you is called, 'The Faerie Hunter.' Aye, my young ducklings, you heard me correctly, 'tis the history of 'The Faerie Hunter.' For in the long forgotten past there were once mortal men and women who hunted the beings known as the Fata. The faeries, the same creatures that help keep our world, Suolo, from being destroyed every eve at midnight from the curse sent upon our world not long after this story ends. And when I say faerie, I mean all of the world's magical creatures that were born from Mother Suolo's tears: the elves, the Elementals, the dryads, the gnomes, the dwarves and countless others.
"There were many Faerie Hunters back then, but the one I shall tell you about was the most powerful of them all. Both man and faerie alike feared him for he made no alliances and wished only to perform his job. And perform it he did, destroying any faerie he saw. Soon after he rose to power, times grew so dangerous for the faeries that they retreated to the underground, where their mother Suolo would protect them from the monsters above. It came to pass that the faeries began growing tired of being hunted and killed. They discussed what should be done to destroy all the Hunters quickly. For many months they bickered among themselves until one of their youngest thought of a plan. 'Why not take care of their greatest warrior, the one whom all fear?' exclaimed the young faerie, an elf by looks. 'If he falls, the others shall too.' The young elf's insight was widely accepted but then came another problem. Who would kill the Faerie Hunter? And that, my listeners, is how the tale of the Faerie Hunter begins.."
. . .
Countless years earlier-
"Who will kill the Faerie Hunter?" the eldest of the gathering questioned, his ancient eyes searching the assembled masses. Everyone was silent and the elder's face fell. "Alas, then the plan is useless."
"I shall, Father Conklin." The voice was quiet and firm, just as resolute as the look on the speaker's young features.
"You?" Elder Conklin replied, looking almost amused. "Nay, child. He would surely kill you." The child's face remained unyielding.
"I though up the plan, I should carry it out," was his calm reply.
"Elfin Jilikien, you are nearly a newborn. One of the older should do it."
The juvenile elf's molded silver eyes flashed at the rebuttal. "I will, Elder Conklin. None of the older has spoken up, so I shall go and rid Suolo of the menace."
"How?" This time it was another who spoke, his voice condescending. Jilikien spun around to glare at his archrival, who was only fifty years older than he.
"Stay out of this, Truciler," he stated coolly, his eyes daggers. His adversary half-smirked, his own intense blue orbs lighting with an amused fire.
"But it would be ever so fun to hear your plan, Jili." The patronizing nickname brought redness to Jilikien's fair cheeks.
"I was planning to journey to The Shrine of Suolo and ask for her blessing, then to Evelyn's Arsenal to get a weapon, and then I would be off to slay the Hunter." As the crowd murmured among themselves, Truciler's smirk broadened.
"I'm coming with you." The words of the Fire Elemental took Jilikien by complete surprise, and he gaped at the elemental for a long moment before replying.
"No!" He looked appealingly towards Conklin but was horrified to see the elder nodding.
"An elf and a Fire Elemental," Conklin murmured. "Exactly as prophesized." Jilikien stared at the ancient dwarf.
"What prophecy?" The words were echoed by Truciler a scant second later. Conklin smiled in amusement, nodding almost to himself.
"The Prophecy of the Faerie Hunter, of course," he said, as if it should be obvious to everyone.
"What are you talking about?" Truciler questioned with impatience, barely managing to keep his tone respectful. Conklin grinned, showing off the places where many of his teeth should be, cleared his throat, and began:
"When all the faerie kindred dwell within the ground
And the Faerie Hunter has risen to rule
Then an elf will give the answer found
And, with a Fire Elemental, the Hunter duel
Through The Shrine of the Goddess
And Evelyn's Armory
To battle the Hunter with lightest of tress
The two opposites will journey
One wields a sword that Arnicas would claim
The Silver-Gazed one so youthful and strong
The other, one whom none would dare tame
Fires arrow after arrow that all hum a song
On Winter's Solstice, when darkness is slow
Arnicas by their side
The Sword-Bearer and the Elemental who wields his bow
At last find the place where the Hunter abides
The battle of all battles shall answer the call
To reunite both mortal and fey
And fight no longer, for in the Darkness's fall
An even more frightening destiny lays."
The Fire Elemental and the elf glanced at each other, both looking bemused at the prophesied words.
"And what," at last declared Truciler, "is that supposed to mean?" Conklin smiled at the two, looking more than somewhat delighted with their obvious bewilderment. The elder dwarf clapped his hands together as he replied.
"It means you two are going on an adventure!"
. . .
Most of the crowd had dispersed, disappearing to give news of the prophecy, but many stayed behind to watch the two young faeries be sent on their way. The enormous marble room was silent, save for the two arguers, who stood in the middle of the black-and-white tiled floor as they looked fiercely at each other.
"This is completely your fault, you know," Jilikien grumbled to the Fire Elemental. Truciler smirked, flicking a lock of fiery red over his slender shoulder.
"You're the one who came up with the plan, Elf."
"Well, if you hadn't spoken up, Father Conklin wouldn't have remembered the prophecy!" Truciler snickered at his rival's words, shifting in place.
"He would have remembered it sooner or later, Elf. And besides, I was going to follow you anyway." Jilikien glared at his adversary with loathing in his eyes, fists clenched at his sides.
"Shut up, Fire Boy," he snapped. The Fire Elemental rolled his eyes, mocking the younger faerie.
"You really should respect your elders and betters, Jili," Truciler drawled scornfully, arms crossed against his broad chest.
"Well, you're not my better, so shut the heck up!"
"Ooh, you said heck. What a horrible curse word." The Fire Elemental sharpened his tone. "Conklin was right. You are a child."
"And you are too. You need to learn to respect your elders, Elemental Truciler," came the mild voice of the one they spoke of. The Fire Elemental colored as Jilikien bit back a snicker.
"Sorry, Dwarf Father Conklin." The mumble was soft, so soft that Jilikien could only just hear it. The ancient dwarf still looked serene as he nodded, eyeing them both thoughtfully.
"Apology accepted. Now, as I was about to say, you two must first journey to Evelyn's Armory, as Jilikien had planned. There, she will give you the weapons decreed to you by the Goddess herself." Both elf and Elemental raised an eyebrow.
"This Evelyn speaks to Our Goddess Suolo?" Truciler sounded skeptical as Conklin no longer looked amused.
"She does. Evelyn is the Weapons Master. She is a human who was granted immortality nearly two thousand years ago by the Goddess." Truciler snorted in disdain.
"Two thousand years isn't that long," he sneered, the words dripping with contempt. Fire Elementals were well known for their dislike of humans.
Jilikien glared at his adversary. "It is for humans! You know they're so weak that they only live six decades or so, Truciler!" the elf disputed, scowling.
"But not for faeries," Truciler countered. "After all, Fire Elementals live for around fifteen hundred years."
"Then she's lived nearly five hundred years longer than your eldest!"
"You're just upset that elves only live for four hundred!"
"I am not!"
"Are too!" Jilikien glowered at the Fire Elemental, and Truciler glared right back. Before Conklin could speak, the two were on the ground, obviously attempting to bludgeon each other to bloody pulps.
The elder sighed and shook his snow-tufted head before motioning for some of the younger faeries who had been watching to separate them. He had a feeling everyone was going to regret the exact wording of the prophecy.
" 'Exact opposites' indeed.." . . .
Cleaned up and their wounds taken care of, the two dour faeries stood at the gates of the Underground of the Faeries.
"Good bye," Jilikien mumbled through a split lip, his silver eyes studying the ground as he spoke. He knew his parents and little sister were somewhere within the crowd, but he certainly didn't want them to-
"My dear little baby!" The juvenile elf silently groaned as strong arms wrapped around his frame and choked the breath from him. He raised his gaze to meet tear-filled eyes of bluish-silver.
"Hello Mum," he said, more than a little unhappily. Kiena didn't notice, continuing to squeeze him tighter to her bosom as the pale elf began turning blue.
"Kiena, can't you see the poor boy needs air?" A deep bass rumbled in the two elves' ears, and Jilikien's mother released her gasping son with reluctance.
"But Jillian, he's my /baby/!" she wailed, raising her shimmering eyes towards her husband. Jillian sighed and wrapped a supporting arm around his spouse of nearly two hundred years.
"Ilene is our baby," he reminded her as a tiny elfin girl of only five years bounced up to them, beaming from ear to ear.
"Jili!" Ilene giggled, reaching up towards her brother. Jilikien ignored Truciler's snickering as he lifted his youngest kin from the ground.
"Yes?" The giggling child didn't reply, only snuggled into her brother's warm chest and closed her eyes. Jilikien blinked and looked questioningly at his parents, who both shrugged.
"I love you, Jili. Be nice to Arnicas," she suddenly whispered in a dreamy voice, twisting from his grasp and landing cat-like on the ground. Cheerful eyes that were identical to their mother's gazed adoringly at him before she wheeled and disappeared into the watching crowd. Jilikien stared after her in confusion. When had his little sister heard the prophecy? All children under the age of thirty weren't allowed in the Meetings. Thrusting the mystification into the back of his mind, the elf turned back to his parents.
"Don't worry, Mum, Pa. I'll be fine. Just look after Ilene." The sobbing female elf nodded through her tears as Jillian smiled and nodded.
"Fair travels, my son."
"Fair life, Pa. Fair life, Mum," Jilikien stated, bowing deeply towards his parents, who bowed back. "Tell Ilene I love her."
"Elfin Jilikien?" The elf turned to nod towards the abruptly serious dwarf. "It's time for you and Fire Elemental Truciler to be off." Jilikien nodded once more, glancing back for a moment at his pleased parents one final time. Then he turned completely to face the glowing pearly gates. He cocked an eyebrow towards his adversary.
"Wish to do the honors?" the young elf questioned sardonically as Truciler leered back.
"Of course, Jili," drawled the Fire Elemental, stepping forward. He closed his fire-blue eyes for a brief second and exploded into his true Elemental form, a form of pure, unyielding fire that could turn a mere mortal human to ashes at the slightest touch and /almost/ burn a fellow faerie's flesh.
Jilikien shielded his eyes as the human-shaped bonfire of red, orange, and gold pushed forward to unlock the gates. The translucent entrance hesitated under Truciler's grip for a fleeting moment before opening wide without a sound to reveal a mortal forest of lush evergreens. The elf closed his eyes and inhaled deeply, taking in the strong scent of the coniferous woodland.
"Are you going to sniff all day, Elf, or are we going?" came the crackle and hiss of flame, but Jilikien understood the language of fire and nodded, opening his eyes. Truciler still stood in all his glory, his familiar blue eyes blazing from the fire that was his form. Even using his native tongue, Truciler managed to sound sarcastic when he spoke.
Together, the two opposites ventured forward towards their destinies, leaving friends and family behind them.
- TBC -