Broken War

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8 months ago

Before I was born, a long time ago, there was a war. It was a war fought silently against the men who had recently discovered us and our kind. Their weapons back then were already impressive, their firearms were capable of killing even the strongest of our warriors.

"How did they find us?" one of the priests asked. He would die in attack a few days later, never knowing why or how it was that the humans discovered our land.

They'd taken half of our people in a month, even after all the tribes had agreed to a ceasefire. They had taken another half as we left, they chased us like dogs through the night and razed the forest to the ground, leaving nothing alive in their wake. We heard the forest scream as they cut and burn through it, we saw the spirits flee, we felt the emptiness of it.

It was my mother, the priest's daughter, that decided to flee into a land with no trees and more importantly, no humans.

"We need time," she said. "We need time to grow and recover."

They trekked north, far into the north where no humans could follow them no matter how badly they wanted to (and believe me, they wanted to). The further north they went, the colder it became, the forests were nonexistent, the cold refusing to cooperate with their growth. My mother, Saida, was a gifted botanist. She rarely relied on magic to help the plants grow, but there were no plants at all. They were hidden deep underneath the chill and the ice.

She complained about this often, she said that no elf could survive without the forest. They needed the sun as the trees did. She heard of an elf who could create light and fire. She heard of my father, Kivessin.

My mother taught others of her science and my father tried to teach anyone he could of wielding fire. They melted away the ice together, cultivating the land into something that could foster life. It took many, many years. Still years before I was born and they were working non-stop to create a new home. Elves are supposed to live for a long time, hundreds and hundreds of years if we were lucky.

My parents were young when they were forced to move. My mother was 70 and my father 102. They told me that when their parents were their age, they were still treated like children by their own parents. My parents died twenty years after they had me, many of the elves died in the journey north, but many more died after they reached their destination. The land that my parents cultivated was barely livable. The land was filled with scorn despite the love my parents poured into it. It was cold, infertile, and unforgiving. Any little mistake was amplified through the early deaths our people were suffering. The harsh of winter killing large swathes of trees that had already fought to grow.

"Never pass the trees, Alwin." my mother said to me. Every parent said that to their child here and every child wondered why.

Years passed in the eternally snowy forest and the world warmed. In my parents' dying years, they had thought that the warmth was a direct result of their hard work, but I knew it had something to do with the humans. The trees grew stronger and our people started to live longer.

After more years, our forest was thick with trees despite the snow and we wanted more. We expanded our territory, we sent scouts out to the south.

"Alwin!" one of the scouts yelled.

I saw them, dripping with sweat that had already frozen over. I waved my hand around them and the snow melted.

"What is it?" I asked.

"We found humans," he said.

"Wake the others." 

We couldn't fight like my parents, who had stronger horses, better weapons, and more land.

At my mother's funeral, I was asked to give a speech as the new chief. I told my people that we were a new kind of warrior, a new breed of elves molded by the harshest of weather.

It wasn't a lie, most of the elves my age had never felt the warmth of the real sun.

"Take it back," were my father's last words. "Take back what's ours."

He died before he turned two hundred, the elves of his world lived much longer than that. He had been the oldest elf in our icy hell, the most in tune with fire.

The humans the scouts found were isolated, camped together in brightly colored tents. There were four of them, all adults. We were a new kind of elf and so we required a new way of fighting. We wrapped leaves around our hands, leaves meant to keep warmth in and the cold out. We held spears of ice, a bundle more strapped to our backs.

"Stick to the plan," I told my soldiers. They dispersed into the snow and they waited. The humans had a tent littered with lights and we waited until the lights were off. It took some time, but eventually we could see the lights dim and I waited a minute more. I took a deep breath and I threw a spear, just one.

It pierced the tent and we all heard the scream. A man came running out, not impaled, but that was better. That was the signal and the spears flew. I emptied half of my supply, I threw until I heard the screams cease. I clapped my hands together, a prayer to the Gods who were keeping my ancestors safe and warm. A ball of fire covered my hand and I threw it onto the tent, the whole thing lit up, much brighter than any light could shine on it.

We gathered near the raging fire, letting it warm us as soldiers dragged the man had first run out of the tent.

"Who are you?" he asked.

I pointed to his legs. Two soldiers stepped on his knees simultaneously. The man screamed out.

"Do not speak until you are asked a question," I said. "Do you understand?"

He nodded, his eyes were bloodshot.

"Who are you?" I asked. "Why are you here?"

"Jeremy Mathewson," he said. "I'm an explorer, I was sent by King John to find new land."

"What happens if you don't return?" I asked. "Will he send more of you?"

Jeremy didn't nod, he didn't shake his head. He waited, frozen in fear. He did nothing as he knew that there was no acceptable answer.

I pointed at his body and the spears pierced through him.

It took many more weeks before more explorers were sent, the same strategy worked multiple times until one day, we heard them fight back from far away, many groups of them. The tent was watched not only by us, but by the human soldiers who had accompanied them. We had anticipated this though and we fought through the snow, losing few, but much fewer than the humans. We took their food, their water, and their clothes.

"You don't want their weapons, Alwin?" one of my warriors asked.

"Burn those," I said. "We have no ties with weapons like that."

Our interrogations were more fruitful too, each conversation provided more detail than the last and their supply of food was unending. We took their scientists, we made them work on our land.

"So tell me this, elf. If you're so much better than humans at everything, then how come even though your ancient civilization dates back millennia before we 'crawled out of the mud pits', you're still just killing and waving pointy sticks around like we did?" one of the humans said.

"We survive," I replied. "We cultivate the land instead of destroying it. We work with it and live with it. You left nature and nature will leave you. If you hurt Gaea, we will hurt you. We live long thanks to the power our surroundings allow us and infuse into us. You will die young and weak like all of your counterparts will."

I stuck my hand out and I could feel it, I could feel his heart pounding and the fear in his body stir. I felt for the fear and calmed it, like my father calmed any fires that raged unabated. I grasped on his life and felt his breathing slow.

"We will learn new ways to grow and protect what is ours," I said. The man shrunk, his skin starting to wrinkle, his hair graying. In my hands, I felt his life force and I carried it past the trees of our village, my soldiers following me. The journey past the trees took longer these days and it would take longer yet. When we reached the forest edge, I planted my hands down and let the life force flow down. It cleared the snow and sprouts of green propped up, aging as quickly as the human had withered away.

The forests will grow again.

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8 months ago