The Ballad of Firi

There was once a small elven village built at the forks of two small rivers. The Duin Ninn and the Duin Vanwa joined to form the mighty Duin Ereg-Ruth. It was here that this small tribe of wild elves chose to settle to tend their Vallah and sheep. The Forks or as it came to be known to the tribe after three generations, Feawen Numenesse, was in a great valley that was surrounded by the mountains that gave birth to the rivers. The Myonna tribe had grown comfortable in their valley, never interested (as elves often are) in the troubles of the world. Things had been quiet in Feawen Numenesse for hundreds of years. Occasionally nomadic tribes of elves that would often traverse the mountain passes in search of rare roots and herbs would bring news of the kingdoms of men, voraciously expanding in the quest for empire, but the Myonna paid them no mind. The sweeping granite mountains provided too great an obstacle for the interests of men to overcome. Besides, there was no gold or silver in the valley, nor washed from the mountain by the rivers. Celahir Felagund, the keeper of the Myonna would often shake his head, commenting on the pettiness of humankind as he traded wool and salted fish to the nomads for the rare steel tools, herbs and spices they gathered.

Celahir and his wife Merewen, the tribe’s healer and priestess of Ehlonna had a very beautiful young daughter. Ireth Felagund knew how Ehlonna had blessed her, and would often flirt with the young nomadic elves to get special treasures they thought of as promise gifts. She had unspoken betrothals to five different young nomad hunters from different tribes. Her younger brother Findecano would often pick at her and test her patience by threatening to reveal these secret romances to their father. Ireth knew these were idle threats however; she would always make sure she obtained trinkets that Findecano would take as payment for his silence. It was all harmless anyway; Ireth knew she was truly betrothed to the yet-to-be-born first son of Earwen Telemnar, the tribe’s chief hunter. Earwen would often make snide comments to her father about her behavior within earshot of her. There was to be no love lost between future father/daughter-in-law. Ireth only hoped when Elhonna did decide to bless the Telemnars with a son, which he would be nothing like his father.

One young nomad had especially taken a shine to Ireth. His tribe came through Feawen Numenesse twice a year and the two would often slip out at night to the grand falls of Ereg-Ruth and dream together. This past summer he had brought Ireth a musty old tome he had found in a cave while gathering mushrooms. It made one’s fingers tingle to the touch. He had exchanged it as a token of betrothal with Ireth, and she had given him a necklace made of small shiny gems, stones, shells, and metallic beads she had made from treasures she found along the banks of the rivers’ fork. It had been three and a half seasons since she had seen her hopeful suitor. Ireth feared her meddling with the young nomad had angered his father, the keeper of his tribe, and had lead his father to change the tribe’s route. She would walk down to the falls where they had spent many nights, and would wonder if she herself was happy with her life in Feawen Numenesse.

The first day of snowfall she found herself wandering towards the falls gathering her treasures. Lost in her thoughts she was startled back to reality by a scream. Then another. It was familiar. Again. Her name? Louder this time, getting closer. She ran in the direction of the shout. As she topped the hill that bound Duin Ninn on its meandering course southeast she spotted her younger brother. Findecano was running towards the river, a startled look on his face. No, it was terror she saw in his eyes. The terror was replaced by great sadness as he saw her, and he dropped to his knees. Ireth sprinted to him, confused, but most certainly afraid. As she reached Findecano, his arm outstretched, she caught him as he fell forward. “Men,” he sighed as his head slumped onto her shoulder.

“What? Men? Findecano you... Ow! She yipped feeling a sting in her other shoulder. She pushed him back slightly and found blood on her pretty fleece tunic. There was blood on Findecano too. And an arrowhead sticking out of his shoulder. The world was spinning. She felt his warmth, felt it running down her chest from his wound. Was that smoke she smelled? She heard a horse whinny. Ireth whipped her head around. She saw a human on a horse pulling the reigns and stopping near her and Findecano, inspecting them. She tried to gather her brother up in her arms and escape. She saw three more humans coming from the direction Findecano had been running. All three were carrying hunting bows. She took two steps and staggered, steadied herself, then stepped on her skirt and fell with Findecano. I’ve never seen hunting bows like that, Ireth thought. She held onto Findecano, her eyes shut so tight it hurt. Praying to Ehlonna to awake from this horrible dream. Ireth heard their footsteps and winced. Then she felts hands on her. Her eyes snapped open to see four sets of eyes looking at her like she was a hot leg of mutton at the winter feast. They spoke, but she couldn’t understand their language. She thought it might be common, but their accents were so thick. A burlap bag was quickly put over her head and cinched, her hands and feet bound and Ireth was thrown over the rear of the horse.

After what seemed like hours and gallons of tears that had welled from her eyes, Ireth was tossed from the horse onto the ground. She could smell fire and death. It was not a smell she had ever smelled before, but there was no imagining it to be anything else. The bag ripped from her head, she saw many of her village’s young huddled together. Several of the women were with them trying to calm them. She heard a skin-tingling, unholy scream. All of the captured turned to see two humans holding a young elven girl, screaming. They released her kicking her toward the group. A large human holding a pair of red-hot shears clearly said, “Next.” The girl crawled on hands and knees to her mother. The humans had cut her right ear from the point at the top in two, all the way down to the base of her skull. The girl’s mother hysterical, trying to calm her child and herself from the ugly wound inflicted on her ear, was grabbed by the two men and dragged to the fire. And so it went until all of the elves, young girls and boys and women, had their right ears cut in twain.

Ireth had not screamed or fought. Most didn’t after the first few. Their spirits defeated and no men to stop them, what was left of the tribe’s collective minds were turning to survival. Ireth’s mother had played a big part in calming the group. She was all that was left of the tribe’s authority, and the others followed her lead. No one spoke. The elves were forced to drag out the bodies of the dead and pile them up in the middle of the village. Ireth thought how ironic it was that her mother’s sacrificial alter to Ehlonna was now piled as tall as a human with nearly 40 dead elves. Is this the gift of Ehlonna to her faithful? She thought. The humans barked at the elves, groped them, hit them spit on them and finally, just before dusk had started tying them all together with rope. They saw their wood and mud dwellings turned inside-out, and then knocked down. Their few valuables pilfered. The humans began making a wooden pyramid with the remnants of the dwellings over top of the bodies piled on the altar. They had begun drinking and celebrating even before the bodies were cold. The pyre was lit and the elves softly sang their loved ones to Ehlonna’s bosom. The humans threatened the elves and sang songs of their own to drown out the elven dirge.

The revelry soon died down. The elves tried to stay close to the pyre. Sad as it was, it was the last warmth the slain men would ever bring their families. Some women and girls were loosed and dragged into the darkness by the humans. Ireth thought she was to be one of the lucky ones, but just as she started to drift into the sleep she thought would never come, she felt hands on her. She shook and almost screamed. Relieved to find it was her mother. Which meant…? Merenwen saw the look in her daughter’s eyes and smiled wanly, trying to assure Ireth that she was fine. Merenwen laid a cold, wet hand on Ireth’s injured ear and began her healing chant. Ireth knew some of her mother’s healing spells and potions, and desperately wished she had paid more attention to them now. She felt the pain go out of her ear and could actually feel the flesh stitching itself back together. She felt her mother kiss the top of her head, then Merenwen moved on to the woman tied to Ireth. Peace filled her and she passed out of the waking world and began to dream of her young nomad.

His embrace, they swayed in the breeze coming off of the falls. The sway quickened. He was shaking her. Why was he shaking her? Her dream broken and her weary eyes greeting reality her heart jumped with hope! It was really him! He had come to save her. Her worries forgotten, her broken heart at her lost loved ones gone; he was going to take her away from this nightmare! No, his eyes were different, his smell that of the humans, not the exotic spices the nomads used to clean themselves with. His ears were not as long, and the right one… “My lord wishes an audience wild rose,” he whispered in perfect elven. It was polished elven, not what one heard in the wilds. The word for wild rose, Clalas, sounded fragile to her ears, delicate. His ...

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