Dwarves and Elves
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From the Cover of Dark: 1. From the Cover of Dark
I watch him.
I watch from the dark, with eyes that are heavied by sleep. I watch as he walks lightly over the stony ground, singing softly; his silvery voice lilting through the heavy air.
I watch as he springs from an oddly shaped rock onto a fallen tree, his movement as fluid as molten gold. Though he wears garments lighter then any of ours he seems little affected by the bitter cold of night. Indeed, one would think from the way he lifts his fair face to the starry night that he feels a gentle breeze, a light caress, rather than the biting, howling wind I know it to be.
I watch him, even as fatigue creeps ever more steadily through me and when my eyes finally close and I can no longer watch, I ponder.
What is it about the Elves? Most men feel uneasy around these beings, most hobbits are in awe, but not us. Instead, my kindred distrust the Elves and bear a bitter hatred for these creatures of lightness and grace.
A bitter hatred that once I shared. A hatred I know no longer. Still I understand the uneasiness of men, perhaps even better then before. Watching the Elf, a notion has arisen within me that the hostility my people have for his is merely a cover for our own uneasiness.
What is it about the Elves? We attack their merrymaking and singing whilst knowing deep inside that we are too often creatures devoid of joy. We sneer at their fair faces and lithe bodies yet feel more bitterly our own crudely formed features, stout builds and coarse hair. We mock them for being soldiers of the bow and arrow, jeering at them for not fighting in the enemy’s midst, axe to sword and hand to hand. Yet even as we watch their fluid movements, cat-like grace and silent stealth, we realise that in battle we would not be half the proud warrior they are.
I should not like to fight alongside the Elves, I think to myself, for they would make me feel inferior. My face twists into something that is half-smirk and half-grimace as I realise that I have already fought alongside one Elf.
For a moment I open my eyes, peering into the darkness, searching for the Elf. He sits by the place the campfire would be, were we not so afraid of unseen enemies. I cannot see his eyes for they gaze into the night, ever searching, ever vigilant.
The Elf is part of our fellowship yet separate for whilst he himself is here, his life-spirit is not. It is with the stars, or perhaps the trees he loves so deeply, but not with his companions. We watch with him, fight with him, yet are not permitted to know him. He remains closed. An image forms in my mind – the Elf is like the unblemished diamond found amongst the common quartz. In the group but not of it.
It is only at times like this that I can watch him and allow myself to believe that I am learning of him. That I can pretend that I may know him. So I cherish these rare moments when I can watch the Elf, hidden as I am amongst the darkness, our packs, my blankets.
The Elves intrigue me. They are what we all wish we could be yet know that we cannot. They are a reminder of perfection. My thoughts grow darker. They are a reminder of our own imperfection. When we stand and fight beside them we are but crude imitations of their grace and beauty. I ponder this and think that a deep bitterness should well from within my life-spirit.
But it does not.
Why? Because the Elves intrigue me. Again I open my eyes, meaning only to steal one more glance before I surrender to the fatigue that threatens to drown me and deaden my mind. Once more I seek him out. He still sits, humming lightly. To himself? To the nearby trees? To the sleepers that he guards so vigilantly?
I can hear naught but the wind as it races through the trees, his soft song and the deepening thud of my heart. Suddenly I know that the Elf senses my gaze. I meant only to glance yet could not help but watch longer, watch the perfect being that is the Elf.
The Elf’s head turns as his keen eyes seek out mine in the darkness. His head now poised at an angle, he suddenly reverses our positions. He is the watcher, I am the watched.
A slight smile graces that face and I realise that he has known of my gaze not just now but all this night, and indeed every night that I have watched him. I hear the voice of my father: “Do not trust the Elves”. I shut my eyes, hiding from that smile, hiding from those eyes. I feel as though a deep bitterness should well from within my life-spirit. But it does not.
Why? I would say because the Elves intrigue me. But it is not so.
It is because one Elf intrigues me.
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