There are not enough words to describe this darkness adequately. One might say it was darker than any starless night you can imagine. Others might say it was like death. To the boy, it was like finding oneself dreaming in the blind.
In this darkness, he felt he must do something, so he swam. He did not know where to go, but the darkness took shape and tried to guide him. Small cold tendrils came to touch his back and then hold fast, piercing his back and then pulling back at him like a clawed hand.
He began to drown in darkness, the cold touch poisoning his mind, making him forget who or what he was.
A sudden mournful howl cut through his thoughts, and a faint recollection of a warning came to him — one that his parents said regarding the evil things in the dark.
The memory of them pushed him to continue to struggle against the cold hands, while the sound of howls drew closer.
For how long he fought the blackness in this dream, he did not know. But the howls gradually grew louder, before they crescendoed to a maddening volume. And in that moment when he could not bear the sound anymore, he felt the wind of a thousand stampeding animals swirl about him to cut through the blackness, severing the claws that held him fast.
“Too soon,” the wind whispered to him as it ran softly through the darkness, carrying him along on its warm and soft back towards a light he had not seen before.
“Too soon for what?” he asked the wind.
“To know,” it howled as the light exploded, and washed over them both.
Maximilian suddenly opened his eyes to a strong light over his face. In that moment, he wondered if the wind had been just a dream.
The sudden feeling of a thousand pins piercing his skin stopped his wondering. His small body began to spasm violently in pain that was indeed quite real and he began to wail in pain.
“Hush, human,” a crowd of faces that were foreign and beautiful came to stand over him. Their voices were soothing and warm in contrast to the searing pain that riddled his body. “Let us help you.”
With tears in his eyes, the young boy relented. He was not sure who they were – but they were kind as they washed his body and put a sweet smelling salve on the strange raised marks on his body.
As the pain eased, he was able to look at them with clearer eyes. They were tall and elegant – and marked by strange ears.
“Am I dead?” he wondered aloud. “And are you angels?”
A tinkle of laugher greeted him. “We’re elves,” she had said. “We are Minstrel elves, if you must know.”
As he had never seen an elf before, he didn’t quite know what to do or say or the meaning behind the distinction of the kinds of elves. They, in turn, didn’t have much of an idea of what to do with a young human child, but once he was able to remember who he was, they focused their wandering with the intent to reunite him with his family.
He passed a wonderful time with them as they undertook the journey back to the village he was from. They subjected him to teaching tunes, bardic tales, and all sorts of nonsense that had no apparent meaning. Their overall merriness helped soothe the memories of the darkness.
However, seeing his parents and their disconsolate faces, he was compelled to remember what he would rather not. Still, he would never be able to forget the sight of his mother’s face when she first spotted him – a face that reflected expressions of terrible sorrow, disbelief and then finally – joy.
His return to the village brought resolution to the chaos his disappearance had caused. There had been those who did not believe he would return. The children he had been with had spoken of a large dark monster that had stalked them. The elderly spoke of the ghosts in the woods that would come out and frolic when there was no moonlight from either moon. His parents had worried that he had been lost or run away. No matter the cause, the village had simply prohibited all from wandering out during the weeks that the eclipse had lasted.
The elves were greeted with awe and wonder. The villagers, too, were initially puzzled as to what these tall creatures were, but embraced their kind presence readily. The elves pitied the villagers in their fear of the darkness and agreed to stay a few more nights camped at the edge of the woods to watch for the return of the mysterious thing that snatched children. They agreed to stay until the moonlight grew stronger.
In that time they stayed, Maximilian wanted very much to see the elves again, but did not venture near the encampment. Despite his wishes to join the throngs who sat around them listening to their stories, his parents kept him inside, afraid too of the darkness.
On the night of the first new moon when light first began to return to the sky, the elves came.
It was an elder who appeared at their door with two young elves. They waited outside as she entered through their doorway. She was an old and beautiful being that stood tall and white in the front room of their cottage, her presence filling the entire room with a powerful and bright light which both hurt him and soothed him.
She lowered the white hood that covered her head.
“I come to you with good news and bad. Which will you hear first?” The experience of singing gave her an enormous power behind her voice and lent a lyrical and unusual sound to her words. As she spoke, her voice reached everywhere, including inside the heads of those who would listen.
His parents looked at one another, quietly agreeing before his father spoke.
“The bad news.”
“You three must leave this village. Your son is not safe here. For he has been marked by something, and it is clear to the other humans that he is not normal.” As the woman turned her intense green eyes upon him, his mother and father instinctively laid a protective hand on each of his shoulders.
Maximilian, only a young child, heard the words, but it was the woman’s last words about him that pricked at his feelings. Max looked up at his mother, both ashamed and anxious about not being normal.
“My son is normal,” his mother’s arm tightened around him. As he looked up at her profile, he saw her face grow fierce and strong, daring the woman to contradict her again.
“If he were,” the woman held up her hand, silencing his mother. “We would not have found him where we did. Do not be so quick to see it as a curse, for you have been given the gift of your son’s life.”
“The price of this gift?” His father was uneasy.
“I do not know,” the woman answered.
“Is there nothing that can be done?” they asked.
The woman paused. “The mark on his back ties him to whatever it is that came after this boy. It has been weakened by the healers, but can not be removed by them or even me, for I am not powerful enough.”
“And it is your belief that the thing may return?” His father tensed, making a face that Maximilian had not seen before.
“Perhaps,” the woman thought aloud. “It is unknowable. But you must leave as these humans can not protect you as they are now. Nor can we linger here, for the eclipse has passed and we must continue north to seek out new songs. Leave with us in the morning. Let us bring you safely away from this place.”
Silently his parents conferred again, and relented.
The woman turned to leave, but stopped when his mother suddenly remembered something. Her voice, still full of hope, called out after the elven wisewoman. “And what of the good news?”
The woman turned her head to look back at the mother and then at Maximilian. With a faint smile, she said, “The blood of our kind flow in this child of two moons. Seeing his parents assures me of this. We are kinsmen, if distant.”
Maximilian looked up at his parents, thinking that very odd. They certainly didn’t look like elves, but…
“And know this. For every enemy gained, there will be an ally. Fear not the future, for when the need arises, your son will never truly be alone.”
With that last cryptic statement, the white lady disappeared back into the night.
And in the morning, the three of them began their journey north – back to the land his grandfather’s family had settled.
From that point forward, they put the human world behind them.