Poony, an elf, sat on a big limb of an old sycamore tree. The tree limb overlooked a border crossing staffed by two guards who operated a red and white striped weighted gate. There was a checkpoint gate house and the border fence stopped and started on either side of the border crossing. This was a crossing from the country of Wirishiem into the Southern States of America.
Poony watched the traffic through the gate, half daydreaming and half keeping an eye out for the human school bus carrying the exchange students. A floating truck approached the gate, the Elven guards checked the driver’s credentials, and the guards directed him to the turn-around loop. Their pass must have been out of date, Poony surmised. The human highway ended here at the loop, the turn-around. Poony scratched his long ear and laid back against the tree. The excitement was over for now.
Humans learned long ago not to disobey the guards. The ancient spears they carried, enchanted by Pixies before the Great War, packed a sting that paralyzed, never mind the razor-sharp head.
Wirishiem forces consisted of Elves, Pixies, Faun, Fairies, Dwarves, Shadowcats, Water Nymphs, Centaurs, Trolls, Minotaurs, and other magical and mystical creatures that had returned to this world via the Great Pulling.
The Pulling was a world-wide event, nature driven and unstoppable, that gathered humans to magical places. It pulled them there and changed them. Scholars wrote that magic returned to the world because religious zealots drove it from existence long ago, burned it at the stake as it were, leaving nature unbalanced. Once a person rediscovered magic, the dam burst and nature righted itself. Those that fell victim to the pulling needed a home. They chose a leader, King Trueheart, and went to war to secure this home. Wirishiem was born and the Elven-led forces won with magic.
Wirishiem forces took the southern half of Indiana, (the location of Wirishiem City), all of Kentucky, all of West Virginia, the southern half of Illinois, the southern half of Ohio, all of Tennessee, half of Missouri, and an unused waterway through Mississippi, and Alabama. They also claimed a part of the port of Mobile for access to international waters.
Poony daydreamed of those times, grand conquests and the Eight Heroes of the Great War three hundred years ago. It was a time when Elves were larger than life and did everything with magic. Magic changed the face of the earth in Wirishiem. They reclaimed all the human-built cities, towns, and highways, to forest. The war lasted through the years 2015 and 2016, three hundred years ago. It was now ancient history.
Sadly, there was no magic now. Some Elven scholars said that magic died from lack of use, other scholars said that breeding with humans weakened Elven magic so much it died out of existence, disappeared. Elven scholars could not agree. Poony wanted it back, longed for it.
Poony watched as the floating Elven bus came down from the direction of El’ha’ven, a nearby Elven city, and dropped off the human exchange students near the gate and turned around.
Another vehicle approached the gate. It was the yellow human school bus that brought the Elven exchange students to the gate. It didn’t float, it rolled on wheels. Some honored Elves attended high school in the human state of Georgia, of the Southern States of America, one of the five countries resulting from the war, and some of their students attended an Elven high school in El’ha’ven. This was her bus. The Elves would leave, and the humans would load. Poony crawled out further on the fat limb to get a better view. He could not miss Twee because of her long blond hair.
The Elves passed through the turnstile and showed their passes on necklaces tucked into their shirts. Of course, the guards could tell they were Elves, but they needed passes or the guards would detain them and call their parents. There was no Twee. Where was Twee? Where was her beautiful yellow hair?
Another vehicle drove up to the far side of the yellow bus and pulled ahead into the loop. It was Twee. He saw her hair through the windshield. She got out of the passenger side of the pickup truck and waved goodbye to her human boyfriend.
Poony frowned. Poony wasn’t a handsome elf. He had an unattractive angular face with high sharp cheekbones. His wide thick lips hid his crooked teeth and he had one tooth that jutted out the side of his mouth when he smiled. Elves’ bodies and faces were like humans except for their ears. Some Elves had yellow eyes, but most Elves had either blue or brown eyes, like humans. Even though Elves were the same and were capable of coupling with humans, Elves were not human. They stood four feet, nine inches tall, give or take an inch, and their ears were long and came to a point. A grown male elf weighed ninety to one hundred pounds, a female weighed eighty. The yellow-eyed Elves could see in the dark better than cats.
Poony hopped off the limb onto the hard-packed gravel road. (Wirishiem had no paved roads.)
It was a jump from a height that no human could survive without grievous injury. He dusted off and prepared to meet Twee.
She wore her blond hair to her shoulders, parted in the middle and separating around longish ears that came to a point below the crown of her head. Since her ears were shorter than ancient elves, she had some human blood somewhere in her ancestry. She had blonde lashes and eyebrows. Her turned-up nose had a whoosh of freckles from cheekbone to cheekbone.
She was a farm girl, born and bred. Her family was not poor, but not rich. Their farm was big and profitable. Her family’s home was large and two-story, bigger than most Elven homes. She did not want for things, even though she was not as rich as some city-bred Elves. She was the girl that was up at dawn milking goats. Elves couldn’t digest bovine milk. She fed chickens, collected eggs, and wore her rubber boots in the barn mucking horse and goat manure and throwing hay down from the loft for the horses before school. Some of the humans at the exchange school mocked her for smelling like the barn. But she was tops in all her schoolwork. She graduated Elven High School at thirteen, the normal time, but chose to do a year extra as an exchange student to add to her college resume. She took advance placement courses from the University of Wirishiem in Wirishiem City.
“Bon Dea! There you are!” Poony shouted. Bon Dea (Dee ah) was Elven for hello, or good day, or goodbye. “You didn’t get off the human school bus and I got worried. You got a ride from that human school in that fancy new pickup truck.” Poony didn’t’ acknowledge the human boy on purpose.
“Bon Dea, Poony,” Twee said and sighed, with an inflection of weariness in her voice. “Yes, Poony. Bobby brought me home again, he and I are seeing one another. You know this.” Poony grinned and that tooth jutted out of his mouth. She closed her eyes and turned her head. She didn’t look at him as they walked toward the Elven bus. “You’re stalking me, Poony. I’ve told you before that I don’t like it.”
They approached the door to the floating bus that would take her home to her family farm. He stared at her. She looked the other way. She looked up at some of her friends in the bus windows and they mocked Poony’s long inelegant ears with their fingers at the side of their heads. They laughed. Poony ignored them looking at the back of her head and smiling. The solar bus hovered two feet above the gravel road and he felt the warmth of it.
“I’m not stalking. I want to talk to you, that’s all. Wirishiem is a free country.”
She turned to him with one foot on the bus’s step. “Look, Poony. You are a nice guy, but you have these crazy notions about Elves getting their magic back, and about us living in trees again. You know none of that is real…and I’m not living in a tree! You’re what, eighteen, and you haven’t found a mate?” She whipped around, stepped up, and stomped down the aisle of the bus.
Poony turned his face and winced so she wouldn’t see. His lower lip trembled. He swallowed hard. He had to pull himself together, to box up the hurt. If it had come from anyone else, he would have shot back at them. But he could not. This was Twee. He couldn’t lose her. Nobody talked to him, nobody! At least Twee would give him the time of day.
In all areas of growth, physical, mental, and emotional, Elves matured into adults by the time they were fourteen years old. That age was the equivalent of twenty years old in human terms. Many Elven girls had children at twelve. Puberty came on for girls at six, boys at seven. Boys turned to men at ten and hunted alone. Parents taught one and two-year-old Elven children to read and write. Elves were not human and had their own social mores and standards that were also not human. The gestation time for an Elven fetus was four months and a young mother could easily have four babies in two years. Although she was capable, more in that time would cause her body to weaken to the point she couldn’t feed them.
Twee sat in a seat by a window with her back to Poony. She could have sat on the other side where he couldn’t see her but she wanted to send a message.
“You’re fourteen,” he said to the back of her head. He didn’t know if she heard that or not, but it meant that she was in her prime. He kicked at a rock. “You should be married or in college,” he mumbled. All she had was a human boy not yet out of school and her human boy wouldn’t be ready to marry for years from now. He was too young for her. She knew it, too!
Poony watched the bus silently float down the gravel road, northwest, toward farm country, and the city of El’ha’ven to drop off the students.
“Some things from the old days are still here, Twee. That bus you’re riding is floating with magic. I’ll bet you didn’t know that!” Poony yelled at her as the bus went out of sight.
It was true. A small functioning part, magically enhanced, deep inside the heart of the drive mechanism made the whole thing work. No one knew how the enchantment worked. That part of the lore was long gone. The manufacturer knew how to mass produce them, so they did.
Poony went back to the forest off the road. He grabbed the bark of a tall pine with both hands, hopped and planted his feet on the tree. He hopped up the side of the tree to the canopy, or crown. He looked out over the countryside toward Twee’s farm.
“Shit!” Poony said and looked up into the canopy.
“Don’t curse me, Poony. I’m your Paw, now get up here!”
“You ain’t my Paw, Deench!”
“No, I’m not your Paw, but I’m the one you got since your folks died in that storm! Now get up here, quick! You’re in danger down there!”
The Goddess Maki left her mark on Wirishiem. During the Great War when her, the Pixies, and the Fairies fixed nature and turned the cities back, they splashed the earth with Pixie and Fairy dust, enhanced by the Goddess, and enriched the farm soils. The Goddess asked the trees to step closer together and create the canopies of old, the ones she knew as a young girl, twenty thousand years ago. Ice covered the top half of the world, before she took hers and her lover’s spirits into the stone to sleep for thousands of years – the stone she wore on her head, set in the crown. The trees bowed their canopies to her, as she was also their Goddess, and began the slow journey of inches. Over a hundred years passed, leaves died and could not fall to the ground, as Maki knew they would not. They rotted and formed a thick base for moss and dirt to collect and as rains came, winds blew, and time passed, land formed on top of the tall trees, darkening the forest underneath and forming a fresh new land above with its own ecosystem, dirt, grass, plants, and even its own forest, a forest atop the forest.
Poony lived with Deench and many other Elves here, on top the forest.
He spotted a clearing often used to reach the canopy and leaped. He bounded up to the canopy in a single jump. He stepped up onto solid ground, onto a path that lead toward his home. Grass and flowers grew on both sides of the well-worn path. Looking out to the horizon were clouds and sky, endless sky.
Deench hobbled over to him. Deench was an old elf, bent, with gray hair and white stubble on his chin. He had watery yellow eyes and a hooked nose.
“We need to get home. The human witches are on raiding parties again!”
Poony frowned, “Deench, there haven’t been human witches in two hundred years. The Queen-Goddess Maki destroyed them all. Remember your history?”
Deench shook his finger in Poony’s face, and paused, remembering his faith when hearing Maki’s name. “Hail Maki.”
“Bless the Ancestors,” Poony replied properly. Of the Eight Heroes of the Great War, the two that made it all possible were the twins, Kaitee and Meann, the Living Ancestors. The identical twins had song magic. When they harmonized, things changed. They sang all the fossil fuels and coal in the world inert. That stopped the U.S. forces in their tracks, and shut down their computer systems from lack of electricity, leaving them on battery back-up with no way to recharge. Trains could not move artillery guns without diesel fuel. When the Goddess Maki, the winged Elve, vanquished all the nuclear power, including weapon grade, most of the world went dark, with no coal fired electric plants and no nuclear. Elves changed the world and made nations scramble to build renewable sources of power.
“Don’t contradict me, boy. You think you know things, but you don’t. The witches come with human soldiers. They’re taking Elven slaves again, like in the old days. They have them damn collars.”
There was a time, two hundred years earlier, when the Southern States enslaved Elves. They had devices, things they called “temperance collars,” enhanced from long ago that made the captor compliant. These collars were from the Great War, of course. During that war long ago, the U.S. forces discovered the existence of witches via the great and evil White Witch Hannah. The President authorized hiring Hannah and her duplicate witches to aid the United States in the fight against Wirishiem. She had her own agenda against the Elves and created these collars to capture them and somehow steal their magic. She and her duplicates made the war difficult for the Wirishiem forces.
Wirishiem threatened war with the Southern States of America over the enslavement of their citizens, and later, the slaves were freed. But there were some, like Deench, who said there was never a proper accounting of all the Elves. The Elven population was simply so large that a good census was difficult.
“Remember the last time you got scared and called the county mayor up and you convinced the district council to call in the Craf’ter’fech to come down and cross the border?”
Deench looked away. That had been bad. The Captain of the local Craf’ter’fech, Wirishiem’s Army, had chastised Deench, the Mayor, and the district council over that. “This time’s different. I wasn’t the first to learn of it.”
“You damn near started a war with the S.S.A.! Who else is on your side in this?”
“Oh, for shit’s sake. Your woman?”
“She heard it from Teeter, who heard it from Jop.”
Poony crossed his arms on his chest. “Old women’s gossip.”
“Jop hires out on the farm that’s next to your Twee, cooks and cleans. The next farm, Poony!”
“She’s not my Twee. I wish I’d never told you about her.” Poony looked away. Deench grabbed his arm.
“Instead of running back home like I said, maybe you should get out there to that farm and warn them. You could help your Twee.”
“That’s what you were getting at all along, wasn’t it? Sending me up that farm road like a fool!”
Dench looked at the sky. “There’s not much time, Poony. You need to go now.”
Poony was steaming mad. “Oh FA!” he cursed in Elven. The air moved. Birds flew from their perches below them. Deench looked at him, mouth open, in wonder.
“What was that? What did you do, Poony?”
“What was what?” Poony asked. Fa was an ancient word now used for cursing, it’s real meaning lost, like so many human words.
Deench looked scared. He turned his back to Poony, looked at Poony out the corner of his eye. “Get going now.”
A half-hour later, Poony trotted up to Twee’s family farm. Their large, two-story farm house faced the road and it sat back about a hundred feet. The redeeming quality, besides its obvious wealth, was that it still had a hint of Elven architecture with its turned-up gables and arched windows that came to a point. The mailbox read Uhtrishin’s Farm.
So, Uhtrishin was her last name. Elven families took surnames after the Great War. The population became too large not to.
The house was unlit, but it was still mid-afternoon and that was not so unusual. He double checked his hunting knife at his waist and went to the front door. He knocked and the round-topped door slowly opened. Stepping inside, he paused for a second to let his sharp yellow eyes adjust. He went from room to room but no one was there. This was odd in an Elven home; families were large. He went out the back door and stopped. Ahead and to the right of him was the big red barn, but before that, he noted signs of struggle in the dust. He trotted to the barn.
Inside, on the ground, Elves were back to back, tied to one another around the shoulders, and gagged. They were all men and children and they all slept. He tried to rouse the eldest, Twee’s father he assumed, but he slept. There were five men, the father and four brothers, and many children of all ages. He cut the bindings on all of them, but could not wake them. He smelled around their faces but could not smell liquor or potion. He thought that Deench may be right. This might be a witch’s spell.
There was one thing to do. He had to pick up the trail of the abductors. He went out of the barn, studied the scuffle, and found the direction of the foot tracks. They made no effort to hide them. He scraped a big note in the dust with his bare foot. “Gone after the women.” After that he scraped a large arrow above the note pointing the direction of the trail. He trotted across the road and found the trail again. They had crossed a fallow field and headed for the wood line. Could they make it any easier? He ran toward the forest beyond the field following the many footprints.
There was a party of seven human men and it looked like they pulled as many as ten female Elves. Once they entered the forest their progress slowed and it gave him a chance to gain ground. He ran and leaped into the canopy, but it was too thick to see, so he went to ground and stayed low. Oftentimes, hunkering low in the forest offered the best field of vision. He ran through the broken brush and limbs they traveled through. Soon he heard the roar of the river rapids.
He stopped on the ridge above the rapids and its tangle of trees and undergrowth that leaned over the water in many places. This was the Lun’was in ancient Elven, or Dark Water for its tree cover, its shadiness. The humans had dropped down to the river bank. They headed south, downstream, toward the S.S.A. border. They didn’t know this river, or they would not have done that. He ran along the river on the northeast ridge through wet fronds on thick vines that grew up to the dark canopy above. He headed south as fast as he could through thick brush. Soon, he heard voices, human voices. They argued loudly over the roar of the water. They were at some falls standing on the same side of the river as him.
“We must unhook the collars and let them climb down. If we leave them collared and they slip, they’ll drag us down with them,” the human woman at the front said. Poony peeked at them from behind some broad leaves. He was wrong. There were six men and a woman. She must be a witch.
“These elf women weigh what, eighty pounds? They won’t drag men down,” a man said.
He surveyed as many of the Elven women as he could see. They were the wives of Twee’s brothers, and Twee’s sisters, Poony assumed, and there was Twee near the bank with her mother.
“Eighty is enough to drown you,” the witch said. “Do what I say or you’ll be collared next.”
He nodded and retrieved a key from around his neck on a beaded chain. He was a big sandy-haired man with big arms and shoulders. He unlocked Twee’s mother’s collar and removed it. He turned to Twee next.
Poony slinked his hand out of the leaves and slipped it around Mother’s mouth. He quickly jerked her behind cover. She almost giggled when she saw Poony’s face, but he gave her the “shhh” sign. She nodded. He motioned for her to help, nodding his head toward Twee.
The man unlocked Twee. Poony and her mother snatched her. That’s when the human noticed the two Elves missing.
“Hey!” the man said. “Ma’am! Two are gone!”
Poony looked up, tugged on the thick cord that grew the frond leaves, grabbed it and jumped, swinging himself out over the river bank. He swung straight into the witch putting both feet into her side and knocking her into the water and over the falls. She screamed as she fell. He swung wide and back toward the crowd. The other men hesitated, watching her fall. Poony rammed his feet into a man and knocking him into another man and they both went tumbling into the swift current and down, over the falls.
He spun round, laughing clinging to the vine when Twee’s father and her four brothers leaped onto the bank, wrestled, and drove knives into the guts of the remaining four men.
“The key” Mother yelled pointing, and father grabbed the man before he fell and took the necklace from his hand and pushed his corpse over the falls. The fight was over in seconds and Twee leaped into the arms of her big brother, Brool. He was the one who had switched Poony away from the farm one day.
Poony’s hands started to slip as he twirled, first clockwise, then counter-clockwise, out over the edge of the falls. He slipped down the chord, shredding leaves as he went. He splashed into the water silently, inaudible over the roar of the falls. The family, Twee, and her sisters, her older brothers and their wives and her parents turned and headed home, joyously hugging and loving.
Poony scrambled and swam, gulped and swam, arms over head as fast as he could swim. He fought the current. As he started to slip over the falls he grabbed a big rock in the center of the river and pulled his head and chest out of the water. He yelled for help but no one answered.
He yelled again, and again. He put his forehead down on the rock and wept.
“I’m going to die here!” he cried.
He raised his head and looked for a long time at the constant river, never ceasing. Its life was simple. Go that way. Go that way.
He started to get angry. Why did they leave him? Why?
“FAAAAAAA!” he cursed just to hear the echo in the river canyon, but something else happened. The water shook. It didn’t ripple as if a stone skipped over it, rather, it shook like a shiver. The running water shook like a weight had dropped on it or like something had pushed down on it.
“FAAAAAAAAA!” he screamed louder this time. The water shook some, but not as fiercely.
I get it, I need to get angry. He thought about his love, and that damned boy and his pickup truck. He thought how much he cared for Twee, what her arms would feel like around his neck, and how much courage it took for him to face those humans. Those ungrateful Uhtrishins turned away from him. Those sorry excuses for Elves went off and left me for dead!
He worked himself into a ball of emotions.
His body arose from the water! He floated over the rock he had clung to dripping, eyes wide, mouth agape, arms twirling. He looked at the river bank and safety. And as he thought it, he floated toward the bank. He thought about standing and his body turned and stood, slow and easy.
Poony ran and leaped his way back to the road. He turned and ran and leaped to the canopy meadow, to his house with Deench in the treetop village of Meer deep in the forest that was on top the forest.