They say that of all the Enai, those of the woods, servants of the forest god Silyan are liveliest and friendliest to all other creatures. From within their small family groups, they join their Lord as he crosses the lands, never settling in one spot for more than a few weeks at a time. They travel ever, light and take with them only enough food, tools and tame animals to last until they reach the next camp. Though their range is wide, the woods remain their favorite dwelling. There, after the sun sets each night and the moon goddess Vea awakes from her bed of clouds preparing to lift the ball of light once more, they find sleep. Some would lay on the grass, while others favored rest in treetops. Where the winter they would build temporary tents out of timber and branches to shelter themselves from the cold, wind and rain.
These bold Enai spend their days hunting for wild beasts or foraging for fruit and berries, as the womenfolk collect water from streams and rivers to bring the ingredients together to cook their food. Unlike their mountainous and volcanic cousins, renowned for their skill in metal-work, the forest Enai find little use for weapons save for the small steel knives they use to cut their food as well as bows and arrows, for hunting. Alike Lord Silyan they communicate with all manner of animals and birds. Equally, they have a fondness, like their god, for music and would often sing as they go about their daily lives. Some too play their wooden flutes as they travel on to their next encampment.
Avarrin belonged among the forest Enai. Though, far beyond his childhood, he was considered young by his fellow. His exact age was however impossible to define, for Enai being immortal age little even as centuries pass. Like most of his kin, he was tall and strong with greyish, green eyes and hair the color of barley. He had a fondness for climbing trees and collecting mountain herbs.
One summer Lord Silyan chose a forest near a mortal village as their new encampment. As the Enai began gathering food, Avarrin climbed one of the larger trees and gazed towards the village. From his perch, he watched as the farmers worked the fields, children played in the streets, and the crowds gathered to purchase their food and wares at the market stalls. He then looked west, towards the local river bank where he spotted a young mortal woman washing her clothes under the flowing water. She was pretty with long, dark curly hair and deep eyes. He smiled at the sight. Though soon his sister Danae called, asking him to climb down and help the others prepare the meat for their meal. And so Avarrin did as requested.
Yet the following day, after his daily stroll collecting berries and herbs, he climbed the same tree again and gazed once more towards the village. This time he spotted the same woman running past the marketplace chased by an angry merchant. “What strange customs these creatures have!” he thought to himself laughing. Despite this he felt all the more intrigued to learn about the woman, and so he continued to observe her from a distance.
One night as Lord Silyan and the Enai prepared to rest, the clouds quickly changed. Those once peaceful skies turned dark. They all watched on as Lord Ifir, the sky god, stirred up a storm. Silyan and his Enai took shelter in the woods as the thunder rolled and bolts of lightning pierced the sky. From his favorite tree, Avarrin observed the mortals of the village as they rushed towards their homes, in search of refuge from the storm. From his vantage, he spotted the same dark-haired young woman as she too hid herself inside a small hut. Then suddenly, much to his shock, a bolt of lightning struck her homestead and a fire broke out. Avarrin closed his eyes and prayed to the fire god Fiehri begging him to spare the young woman. He hoped blindly that she would make it out alive. Yet alas…strong winds had forced the doors and windows shut and the blaze spread, swallowing all. Avarrin watched in horror as the flames devoured the wood and then the air filled with the dreadful stench of burning flesh. From the safety of his tree, he heard her cries and he wept. Then at last a deep rain came pouring down and the villagers rushed to the site with buckets of water to end the fire . By morning the storm had passed, and the village stood mostly undamaged aside from the lone shelter which had swiftly turned to ash.
That day Lord Silyan announced that it was time to move on. Avarrin helped the others pack their things and gather the animals. Yet as the other Enai began their journey, he again thought of the woman and he turned back towards the village. Hiding by the trees until nightfall, he slowly walked towards the spot where the wooden hut had once stood. He rummaged through the ashes to see if anything remained. A few small objects were left undamaged by the fire, but he paid no heed. As there amongst the spent embers, he found her lifeless charred corpse. Under the night he carried her body with him back into the forest. He placed her carefully inside one of their wooden tents and instructed a wild dog to keep guard. Her body protected, Avarrin ventured out into the mountains in search of special herbs. He returned soon with his harvest and mixed it with water from the river, and then gently used his hands to carefully apply the salve onto the woman’s blackened corpse. He placed his right hand on her forehead and whispered a spell in the Enai tongue, one that he had once heard his elders utter to heal the wounded. As the sun rose in the sky, the woman’s burns slowly started to fade, her skin returned to its original hue. Her dark curly hair began to grow back. The muscles in her arms and legs twitched. And then finally she opened her once lifeless eyes.
As she awoke, Avarrin stood back in fear of her reaction. For a while she looked around in dismay, confused by her surroundings. The guard dog barked at her and she quivered in fear, though soon he relented and dashed off through the trees. Only then did the woman break her silence.
“Where am I? Who are you?” she asked in a daze.
Avarrin approached her carefully in the hope that she would not run .
“You are in the woods near your village. I brought you here after the storm,” he said.
“The storm…I…” she stammered still shivering. “The fire…What happened to me…?” The last thing she recalled was running towards the door as the unrelenting flames began to spread.
“You died and I brought you back. You’re safe now,” said Avarrin.
“Thank you… How is it possible?” – she asked still bewildered.
“My people are skilled healers, and we have the ability to revive the dead,” Avarrin explained.
“Who are you?” the woman questioned again.
He was silent for a moment before he responded – “I am called Avarrin”.
The woman then came closer to look at him. For despite having similar features to mortal men, Avarrin, like all of his kin was taller and, fairer than mortals and in the sun light his skin shone with a green hue. Awestruck by what she had seen, the woman touched his face before moving back and yelling:
“You are an Enai! An elf of the forest…”
Avarrin smiled at this and gently nodded. He took out an apple from his bag and offered it to the woman. He stood back, watching her eat. Next he gave her a wooden cup filled with cool water to quench her thirst. After she had finished, they sat together on the open grass and they spoke once more.
“I’ve heard stories of your people. They say you travel with the forest god Lord Silyan and that you tend to the animals and the trees,” she said timidly.
“Indeed, we do,”- Avarrin responded.
“I remember as a child, my grandparents would send me to collect flowers from the field and fruit from the orchards and bring them to the woods as gifts for Lord Silyan and his servants. They said that it would bring us good luck and that the Enai would protect us from the wild beasts,” – she continued.
Avarrin smiled at her words before responding: “We do our best to keep the beasts at bay and your gifts are most welcome. My sister Danae loves lilies and Lord Silyan has grown quite fond of cherries you offer. But enough about me and my kin… I have told you my name, yet I still do not know yours. What do they call you?” – he asked.
“Amara,” the woman replied. “I should go,” she quickly added.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you Amara!” Avarrin proclaimed and proffering his hand and helping her to get up.
“Where will you go? Everyone believes you to be dead. Do you have any family or friends who might be looking for you?” Avarrin wondered.
“There’s no one. My grandparents passed away a long time ago. I am not well liked in my village. They recently caught me stealing again , luckily I got away in time,” she explained.
“You can stay with me if you wish,” Avarrin suggested. He paused to look at his bag again and realized that it was left empty.
“Now that you have eaten all of my food, perhaps you could help me fetch some more?” he suggested.
Amara nodded and off they went through the woods. Avarrin taught her Enai ways and together they foraged for berries, fire wood and herbs. Occasionally they would go swimming in the river. And at night they slept side by side in the tall grass. As the days passed they hunted for wild beasts. Although Amara had little skill with a bow and arrow, but she quickly learned to track their prey and retrieve the meat with the help of one of Avarrin’s dogs.
One day he took her to the mountains in search of wild herbs. After gathering the plants, Avarrin wished to show her the view. So together they climbed to the top of a small mountain peak and for a while they looked down over the valley below. Amara admired the wonderful sight and she swore to herself that she would never forget this day. Before they made their descent, she convinced Avarrin to stop within a natural cave cut into the mountain side. There buried within the rock walls she spotted a fist-sized, clear quartz crystal. Borrowing Avarrin’s knife, she carefully edged the gem from the wall. As they came out of the cave she gazed into the jewel, and smiled as the crystal reflected the rays of the sun.
Still smiling, she handed the crystal to Avarrin as she spoke: “This is for you. Truly, I cannot thank you enough for all that you’ve done.”
Avarrin examined the stone and with a light smile: “There is really no need. I wanted to help you and I ask for nothing in return,” he finally answered and tried to return the gift.
Amara though refused to take the crystal back and insisted he keep it. And so Avarrin agreed and placed the crystal in his pocket. Amara smiled at him and under the peak of the mountain they kissed. As the day drew to a close, they descended the mountainside and made their way back to the forests. That night and for the many nights that followed they slept together under the stars.
As the weeks grew on Amara began to notice a change inside her. She had less appetite and grew tired quicker than usual. Avarrin too soon found that her body was changing. It was long until she realized what had transpired. For the Enai, like mortals, can produce offspring and Amara was carrying Avarrin’s child. At first they were elated and gave thanks to the Lady Era-Gragiya for their new found joy. Yet as the months passed, Amara became sickly, and she could no longer accompany Avarrin in their search of food. As the winter came, from within their wooden tent Amara shivered from the chill. So hurriedly, Avarrin summoned a donkey from the fields and with its help he carried her to one of the nearby caves.
He stayed by her side leaving only to seek out food for their next meal. Yet still she scarcely ate and grew ever more sickly, growing weaker every passing day. Though she lay still on a bed of straw and animal furs, she found little sleep. Avarrin prayed once more to Era-Gragiya to keep Amara and their child safe. One night as her struggles grew, the time came and Avarrin urged his love to push. Feverish and drenched in sweat, Amara strained her tired body as she labored to breathe. Avarrin throughout held her hands and sought to keep her calm. Hours passed by, then Amara’s efforts were finally rewarded. With one last push Avarrin watched as their child came into light. There lay a healthy son with his own greyish green eyes and Amara’s dark hair.
His joy was however short-lived. For as he held his son and prepared to wash him in freshly heated water, he paused to look on Amara. To his horror he watched as her body shivered, blood poured from her and her limbs started to grow cold. He touched her forehead and tried to slow her heavy breathing but to no avail. Rapidly he washed the infant and wrapped him deep within a blanket of fur. Frantically he searched for the herbs he had once used to heal Amara’s burns though this time they each failed. As the dawn rose, Amara’s eyes closed and she gasped her last breath. Nothing, not even the spells he had once used to revive her were able to bring her back.
Distraught by his sudden loss, Avarrin used a layer of cloth to strap his newborn son to his chest, then with the help of the donkey, he carried Amara’s lifeless body from the cave. Solemnly they journeyed into the woods where he buried her remains by the same tree from which he had first seen her. He hoped to find flowers to decorate the fresh grave but none grew with spring still weeks away. He stayed there for a time, weeping, until his son cried out for food. Using his powers to summon a mountain goat, he took some milk for the child. After nourishing the boy, Avarrin lay down inside his tent with his son cradled in his arms.
As they slept, a chilling night wind made its way into the forest. In the ground, by the tree, where Avarrin had buried his love, the Morkrai came for Amara. With one touch, the shadow beings released the spirit from her body and they dragged it away down towards the iron gates of Makar’s Halls. A horn played and the gates opened. Deep below, they guided Amara’s spirit into the halls to await judgment.
As the days passed, Avarrin busied himself caring for his son, the boy he had named Natris. Much to his delight, the child was healthy and ate hungrily. Avarrin soon learned to soothe the cries with his song. He would carry Natris with him, strapped to his chest as he wandered through the woods in search of food. Yet despite all his joy, he felt lonely, missing Amara, thinking of the time they had spent together.
One night he took Natris with him to visit her grave and he wept. “I wonder what will become of her in the Halls of Makar,” he thought to himself.
As he lay down inside the tent that evening, his restless lingered . Even as Natris dozed off in his arms, Avarrin could not find peace. Gently he strapped the sleeping child to his chest and crawled out of the tent. He closed his eyes and whispered a spell, making them each invisible. In this shadow guise, he drifted deep into the ground, passing through the layers of soil, sand and rock. Then at last he found himself facing the tall iron gates and the dark Halls of Makar beyond. Avoiding the Morkrai guards, carefully he slipped past the gates and stepped silently into the shadowy halls. Inside it was almost pitch black with a single faint blue flamed lamp lighting the back of the chamber. There he found himself surrounded by a sea of shadows, pale faces and the lifeless bodies of men, women and children. Among them standing still, he spotted his beloved Amara. Her hollow eyes were staring blankly at the dark stone walls yet as if she could still hear his footsteps growing nearer, her ghost turned towards him.
Then suddenly his spell lifted. Unmasked, Avarrin stood in silence. A ghastly voice bellowed from the end of the hall housing the two great stone thrones:
“What brings an Enai, immortal servant of my brother Silyan into my realm? Your kind are not welcome here!!”
The voice was so loud that it echoed across the halls, brought down the Morkrai, with a small group ready to seize the intruder at their Lord’s command.
Avarrin slowly made his way towards the thrones and he knelt in front of the deathly Lord.
“My Lord Makar,”- he began. “I came here of my own volition to ask for your permission to release Amara from these halls. She is the mother of my child and I take full responsibility for her actions. ”
The Lord of the dead stared at him for a moment before speaking once more:
“I deny you permission. The life I took was not yours to give. I have claimed her soul twice. Life is not yours to toy with. My judgment is final . Amara must remain here.”
Avarrin raised himself from his knees and replied:
“I wish to speak to your queen, the Lady Morae.”
Lord Makar turned to face the raven-haired goddess on the throne next to him.
“What have you brought for me?” – Lady Morae’s raspy voice questioned as she held out her hand.
Avarrin thought for a while. Though he had his son, he had nothing else with him. Suddenly he remembered the crystal Amara had once given him. He pulled it from his pocket and handed it to the Lady of sorrows.
“Please, I beg that you release her,”- he implored the goddess, kneeling down once more.
Avarrin watched as she examined the crystal, holding it up to the blue flame. Even Lord Makar gazed at the gem for a while. Appeased, Lady Morae placed the crystal into a chest filled with rings, necklaces, gold coins and other trinkets.
The Lord approached his wife:,
“What are your thoughts, my love?” he whispered softly before kissing her hand.
For an instant, Avarrin saw what appeared to be a faint smile on the god’s disfigured face. Though the moment was fleeting and soon the grim faced Makar sat back on his throne, facing Avarrin once more.
“Amara’s fate was sealed long before you met her. You had no right to prolong her life. On this, I must agree with Makar . She shall remain in these halls,”- Morae ruled.
Avarrin was silent for a moment then he spoke again.
“And what of my son Natris? What is his fate to be?” he questioned mutely.
To this the Lady of sorrow replied:
“The child’s heart is pure. For he is an Enai, immortal like his father. It is not our role to judge your kin. You may take him back with you.”
Avarrin raised himself and waited though in response Lord Makar screamed:
“You have heard all we have to say on the matter. Leave this place!”
In fear of being dragged away by the Morkrai guards, he turned away and he hastened towards the doors. As he moved, Lord Makar unleashed a cold wind, so powerful that it blew Avarrin and Natris out from the halls and through the iron gates. It carried them upwards back towards the land of the living.
Until this point Natris seemed blissfully unaffected by the cold darkness and noises of the underworld and he had slept through the entire ordeal. The howling wind though woke the sleeping boy and he began to cry. Avarrin rocked him in his arms singing. He held him tightly as they drifted past various layers of soil, sand and rock. By the time they reached the forest it was already night. They rested for a while before searching for food. As morning broke, gathering water from the stream, Avarrin spotted a flock of jackdaws crossing the sky. He summoned one to his wrist and instructed it to find Lord Silyan and the other forest Enai. A few days passed, before the jackdaw returned and they knew their path. After feeding his son, Avarrin packed some supplies for the journey, then strapped Natris to his chest and followed the bird.
A few weeks passed and finally spring arrived, bringing life to the forests. Then at last the pair found their kin, camped near a vineyard in the woods . Danae and Avarrin’s parents rushed towards him with open arms. His mother and father lovingly cuddled their tiny grandson. They were welcomed by the clan and a feast was prepared. Avarrin soon ate his fill, appreciating the offerings of nuts, fresh grapes and wine left by the mortals . As the feast began to subside, the flute music faded away and Avarrin heard Lord Silyan call his name. Natris in his arms, he walked towards the forest god by a tree under in the bloom of spring.
“My Lord Silyan,” he answered, immediately kneeling down before his benefactor.
The forest god turned to face Avarrin and asked that he sit with him on the grass. Avarrin did as requested. Then he held up his child saying:
“This is my son Natris.”
The Lord of the forest smiled. He took a sip of wine from his wooden cup before speaking again:
“A fine young boy, much like his father. So this is the reason you headed into the mountains instead of following us?”
Avarrin kept his head down and was silent for a moment.
“Forgive me, my Lord…I…” he began.
Silyan took little notice of this, instead he took a bunch of grapes from a wooden dish and handed them to Natris. Avarrin smiled as his son grabbed the offering and attempted to chew the fruit.
Then Lord Silyan spoke once more:
“Your parents were worried about you. Danae asked for my blessing to look for you, but I could not let any more of my servants wander off on their own. Speaking of family, where is the boy’s mother?”
Avarrin remained silent for a moment pondering a suitable response. So Lord Silyan continued:
“There are no laws against your kin pairing with other Enai. Your woman is welcome here if she wishes to join us.”
“She was not of the Enai. She was mortal and I lost her in childbirth,” Avarrin admitted with tears suddenly streaming down his eyes.
This revelation shocked Lord Silyan who swiftly demanded a full explanation. There, before his Lord, Avarrin confessed everything that he had endured including his journey to the underworld.
Silyan listened carefully while sipping his wine and once Avarrin had finished his tale, he responded:
“I should have warned you of the perils of dealing with the race of men. Your powers are a gift, one that I urge you to use with caution in the future.” He paused to take some food before continuing: – “As for my brother Makar, what he told you is true. The Enai are forbidden from entering his realm. And that is a deed which I cannot allow to go unpunished.”
These final words startled Avarrin who hung down his head , and held for his Lord to speak again. Silyan though finished his meal before turning his attention once more to the young Enai.
“Give me the boy,” he ordered.
In fright, Avarrin protested, clutching dearly to his son.
“Do not worry. I will not harm him,” Silyan assured him.
Avarrin reluctantly handed over the boy. Lord Silyan briefly held Natris in his arms before carefully placing him down on the soft grass. Much to his father’s relief, the boy rolled over onto his stomach and crawled towards the wooden dish of fruit.
Lord Silyan then stood before Avarrin and he placed his right palm on the young Enai’s forehead, whispering a spell. Avarrin felt a high-pitched noise ringing in his ears, his head began to ache and his body trembled. Struggling to maintain his balance, he fell to his knees. Seconds later, Lord Silyan ended the spell and lifted his hand away. Avarrin sighed with relief as the ringing stopped and the pain ceased. The moment that Lord Silyan had mentioned that a punishment was due, Avarrin expected the worst. And as if something left him, he soon understood that he was unable to communicate with animals and the spells he had once known were now powerless. Left hollow, he picked up his son from the grass.
As Avarrin held the boy, Lord Silyan shouted:
“Take your son and whatever else you might need and leave! Stay away from our camps, mortals and from the other Enai!”
Avarrin bowed down low in response. Quietly he pulled himself up and walked away with Natris in his arms. He grabbed a clay bottle filled with water and he filled his bag with food. Reluctantly he said goodbye to the rest of his family and left the camp. As he departed, he could hear Lord Silyan announcing his punishment and forbidding other Enai from following.
On the way back to the mountains, Avarrin stopped by the tree where Amara’s grave stood. He decorated it with wildflowers and sang a bittersweet lament before moving on. Traveling in the daylight, they rested in the grass every night. Weeks later, finally Avarrin reached the mountains and found an empty cave which was to become their home.
He heeded Lord Silyan’s instruction and kept to himself. His days were spent gathering food and caring for Natris. The boy’s carefree nature proved to be his greatest comfort during those lonely times. Fortunately, unlike some of his siblings, Lord Silyan was kind and not unforgiving. His anger did not hold. After two winters, and just as Natris had begun to take his first steps, one day Danae arrived joyfully at Avarrin’s cave. She had been sent with a message from the forest god pardoning Avarrin, and thus he was now allowed to rejoin his kin. Avarrin and Natris left the cave and together with Danae they returned to their people. Lord Silyan welcomed them and gladly restored Avarrin’s powers. That day the young Enai swore never to again disobey his Lord . Thereafter he continued to live peacefully in the forests, traveling the lands with the forest god and his clan, always keeping to themselves going about their daily lives just as they ever had. Never again did Avarrin or any of his kin interfere with the lives of mortal men.
Avarrin art by Queencorite