The Elf Who Lost His Mind
Dr. Lissa Goins
Parchment scraps found in unnamed wizard’s ruined library
…campaigned together for many years. There was no surer band to be found, and from the direst of circumstances, they triumphed. However, as all things pass, the elven wizard eventually longed for the elegant peace of his home wood. He bid goodbye to his travelling companions and set out to rest among his people.
They welcomed him home with celebration and merriment. There were none who were not awed by the stories of his adventures. He told of the fall of evil necromancers, the revival of ancient magic, the defeat of wicked armies. Children would stare in wonder from the time he began his tales to the very end of the stories. Ah, he thought, this is real reason I set out from home. It wasn’t to find myself, it wasn’t for treasure. I packed my scrolls and ingredients and left this city only so I could come back to share my stories with my people. There is no greater joy than to sit here with an enraptured audience hanging on my every word, certainly.
Years passed this way, the elf Lorlenn continued to tell of his adventures with the brave human, the clever gnome, the pious hafling, and the stouthearted dwarf. He studied the books he’d left behind, and he concentrated on the magical pursuits that he’d eschewed for more practical spells. Ah yes, he’d always dismissed the more fanciful magics as having no purpose except to occupy an elf’s many boring years, but since his return these tricks and flourishes seemed to take on an incredibly compelling light. Every time he turned a corner or a page, there would seem to be someone else to entertain or another strange little spell to bring a smile to his face.
One hundred years passed, then two hundred years seemed to crowd behind the elf. He raised his head one day and realized that for all the stories he’d told of his friends, it had been years since he’d actually spoken with them. It was startling. But, he thought with a smile, they have ever been on my mind. I have not forsaken them, and surely, they will be happy to see me again.
Lorlenn of the Twilight Spires once again packed his things for the road. It took another five years for him to set his affairs in order for the trip, but he reminded himself every time it seemed he could not pull himself away that this was for his companions, his friends. They would be so happy to see him, they must surely miss him, they would be more than happy to sit by the fireside and talk. He did not need eighteen travel packs of cantrips. But maybe one more…?
It was almost with a wrenching feeling that he found himself on the road outside his city. Was this finally happening? He sighed with a strange relief. Oh, he loved his home, but this was where he belonged. To find himself, to uncover strange and novel treasures, to unravel mysteries and better himself as a wizard, all these things were why he set out to adventure. It was almost with pain that he thought of his friends. My friends, he thought as he traveled, we’ve fought so many battles together. Why did I part from your company when there were still so many things to do? We never captured that fell wizard of the Blackened City. There were rumors of treasure beyond the Quiet Mountain of Snow. We had planned to cleanse the countryside of hobgoblins and ogre mages. Why, why in the name of Twilight Spires did I ever depart for home?
It was with a spring in his step and an air of nostalgia that he entered the countryside of human farms and taverns. He almost didn’t notice the respectful nods of the humans he passed. How strange, he thought, when I passed through here the first time, everyone eyed me with suspicion. It was odd to see an elf in these parts. Perhaps my human friend has told them stories of me. Yes, that must be it. And of course he would! We have done so much!
It did, however, shock him into stopping when he crested the hill and saw Garth Smith-hammer’s city. His jaw hung in speechless bewilderment. Where was the tiny hamlet of human farmers? Where did this massive city come from? From the grey mist of dawn to the west, to the still dark of night in the east, the human city sprawled before him. He felt dizzy. It couldn’t be. He raised a hand to his head and tried to reason with what he saw. It had been over two hundred years, he thought with a start. And humans built structures so quickly, ah, that was it. He shook his head dizzily and stumbled into town.
What a sight to behold, he thought. Streamlined buildings of brick and stone, a smooth street under his feet. And it was busy, so busy. People were packed into every tight corner and alley, doing everything that could be imaged to make a city prosper. Here, he also noticed, the respectful nods and eager looks were more pronounced. Clean shopkeepers and young townsfolk looked toward him without jaded disgust towards an outsider. Children running past stopped to smile and stare without hate or fear. He felt a bubbling wonder at the warm welcome, so different from the few times his human friend had dragged the party this way for supplies.
But where was Garth? At that very instant, he spotted him. An eager greeting had almost left his lips when that face, so very familiar, turned towards him. The stranger, however, lit up in recognition.
“Lorlenn the Wanderer?” The stranger cried. A smile split the man’s bearded face. “Why, it’s been years! Where have you been all this time?”
The elf was speechless. He stared uncertainly at the man.
The stranger paused a moment, before his eyes cleared in understanding. “Ah, we’ve never met. But my great-great grandfather Garth the Beast Slayer told me all about his adventures when I was young. He told me what you looked like, so that if you ever visited I would know to give you hospitality.”
The elf was stunned. “And where is your, um, great-great grandfather now?”
The man was slightly confused at the question. “Uh, he died some years ago.”
It felt as if he’d been stabbed through the gut. He didn’t remember leaving the town or saying goodbye to the descendant of his traveling friend. Dead. How long did humans live? Why had he never thought to ask exactly? He had always heard about human mayfly lives, but Garth had always been there during their adventures. Stalwart. A leader to their group. A credit to his race, his home. Dead.
No. Not just dead. Dead and gone.
Did the others know? The elf staggered down the road almost bent double from phantom pain. Clea lives nearby, he realized abruptly. The gnarled trees towered above him, strangely welcoming and warm. He almost wept in relief. The gnome druidess who had always hated his spellcasting, who had critiqued and frowned at his incantations, who argued incessantly with him over every trap and ambush would surely ease the bleeding pain of unexpected loss.
He traveled agonizingly slowly through the shaded woods. The air was rich with life and mischief. It soothed his aching heart as if Clea herself stood next to him, ready to release a spell that would rip the roots from the ground and tangle her enemies into an unorganized mess. The gnome settlement must be nearby, he thought. They won’t be happy that I’ve just wandered in, but surely, the word of a druid of such renown as my dear friend will sway them.
It was as he thought this, nearly tripping over a sudden root, that a gnome peered around a tree. Lorlenn kept his hands down but open to show that he was unarmed with no spell at ready, and he opened his mouth to profusely apologize for the trespass, that the gnome suddenly began to laugh.
“Ah, ha, I know you!” The gnome bellowed. “Lorlenn of the Twilight Forest, yes, yes?”
The elf was taken aback. Perhaps Clea had spoken of him more positively than he thought. He felt ashamed that he had once again underestimated the gnome who had proven herself such a reliable member of the party.
“I have come with sad tidings.” Said the elf. “Perhaps I can speak with Lady Clea of the Green and Gold?”
The gnome paused. Lorlenn rushed to continue. “I understand if I am not welcome.”
This time the cheerful gnome interrupted him with a laugh. “Welcome? Of course you are welcome, you silly elf!”
Lorlenn blinked. For an instant, it was as if there was a double image. Clea’s eyes squinted at him from the face of this stranger. Silly elf? It would be just like his gnome companion to ensure that all of her kin called him that despite how aggravated it made him. He almost wept in joy that she would care so much.
“Can I speak to Clea then? It has been such a long time.”
The gnome’s smile turned sad. Dread closed the elf’s lungs and he knew, he knew what the gnome’s next words would be.
The gnome, who was the grandson of his dear friend, told him that beloved Clea had become an adventurer later in life. She had grown children and grandchildren before wanderlust filled her soul and she packed her bags for a longer trip. Her faithful bear mount carried her bags and she didn’t return until she had fulfilled her dreams of seeing what grew on the edge of the world. Dear, wizened Clea returned with pride, and told her stories to her great grandchildren before peacefully passing away in her sleep. His friend was dead.
He barely remembered reaching the foot of the mountain home of his old dwarven companion. A cave-in caused by a young and inexperienced dwarf digger had been the end of Half-Silver Broad-Shoulders. It was an innocent mistake and the younger dwarf bore the shame, but he was one companion less. It was as if in their final adventure together, he had been impaled and left to bleed slowly to death through all these years, but only felt it now.
He stood staring up at the temple his halfling companion had served for a long time. The world stood still. The doors opened and one of the young initiates came to greet him. He was taken to an alcove in a place of honor and saw, to his numb horror, a statue in honor of his long gone friend. Slain in battle while protecting those in need. Truly, there was no other way the small, but brave hero’s life could have ended.
It was as if the world began to speed up beneath him. He fled to his home and threw himself into his studies like a drowning elf. He couldn’t let this stand. He couldn’t accept that this was the world he lived in. The shouts and pleas of the other elves were ignored. There was a way. There was a way for things to be as they should.
Time did not seem to pass for the elf Lorlenn. Time no longer seemed to matter.
It was later that he was found by a concerned relative who had always looked up to the wandering soul. It was with horror they found that despite initial appearance, Lorlenn still lived.
In his memories, they say, he has reunited with his companions. Perhaps, in dreams, they adventure once more.