“Milady, there is an elven woman at the gate, who is asking to speak to you,” the timid voice of her maid intruded upon her.
Sylvana Barenson was out on the balcony, 300 feet above the ground. In the distance she could see the forest in which the last of her two sons had died three weeks earlier. Murdered - cut down by a tall, red-haired stranger.

An elven woman… slowly she turned towards Lina, the shy girl, who had been in her service for the last seven years. She felt old – as though the death of her youngest son had drained her of all life-energy.
Their worst nightmares come had true. The new clan-leader Torkas was a cruel and heartless man, ambitious and cunning. She knew, that he had been the driving power behind her son’s assassination. And he wouldn’t stop there. Already he had arranged marriages for all her granddaughters. Marriages, that would split her family and establish his own power.

Britta, Soren’s youngest daughter had run off to chase the assassin – the brave and foolish girl. But maybe running off, trying to find revenge was better than what Torkas had in mind for her… Being married to a much older man without having any say in the matter was hard enough, as Sylvana knew from her own experience.
She herself had been sixteen at the time, but her husband had been a kind and gentle man, not like this monster Torkas. And since with Soren’s death her family was without leader, Torkas was the next in line not only to take over clan and keep, but also to decide about all their fate.

“Milady!” Lina interrupted her musings, “do you wish to see her?”

“Who is she?” Sylvana enquired. “and why would she want to see me?”

“She said her name is Talina Greenwood, it was about her son.”

Talina Greenwood… Sylvana felt that name should mean something to her. But she couldn’t remember…she surely was getting old.

“I will receive her in the blue chamber. Make sure there are refreshments.”

“As milady wishes,” bowing, Lina left her to her thoughts.

Sylvana went back inside. She put on a more official gown, black and dark green velvet, complementing her long hair that was still full and even had some streaks of ginger in it as a reminder of the lush pride it used to be. Just a quick glance into the mirror that had become her enemy.

Walking down the long corridors of the keep she searched her mind for the name.
Talina Greenwood…she hadn’t met many Elves. A few minstrels, the occasional woodsman. They where flighty creatures, beautiful and gifted but without any sense for the importance of life, almost childlike. She’d never liked them.
She was proud of taking her responsibilities serious even if it meant personal hardship for herself or her family. In the company of Elves, half the time she’d felt outright mocked by their fickleness and the other half they just drove her mad.

Being the sort of person who’d try to be honest with herself, she also admitted, that she felt envious. Envious about them having the prospect of virtual immortality, not ageing, no fear of disease or all those ailments that she herself, being seventy years old now, was suffering from.

She entered the blue chamber, to find Lina and the strange woman had just arrived. The two of them together even emphasised the strangeness of the Elf.
Tall, lithe, with long golden hair cascading down her back she looked like a creature from a fairy tale. High cheekbones with milk-white skin and almond-shaped eyes so incredible large … she was truly beautiful. The material of her gown changed colour between green and brown, soft leather boots on her feet, a short plain staff in her hands.

“You wanted to see me?” Sylvana didn’t want to chit-chat. “I’m Sylvana Barenson.”

“Talina Greenwood is my name, I have come here to speak for my son…”
She stood in the centre of the room, head held high, her hands clasping the staff as though she needed it not to sway.
This elf was surely different. She wore seriousness like a dark cloud.
“You must understand that this is not easy for me, I haven’t been in the company of your people for thirty-one years.”

“Do I know your son?” Sylvana was confused. She couldn’t remember having had any dealings with elves for at least three years. ‘Speak for my son…’ what was this about?

The elven eyes fixed onto hers. There was despair in those eyes, despair and determination. Green eyes like the leaves of the beech.
“No, you don’t know him. His name is Eliah, Eliah Darkwood, he is your grandchild”

Grandchild… her son… Sylvana felt her legs trembling. She stumbled backwards and Lina caught her, helped her to find a seat. Her mind was racing – her heart beating wildly in her chest. Grandson?!

“Lina, please, leave us.” She trusted the girl, but this was too heavy to be loaded onto her.
Wide eyed Lina rushed out.

“My grandson? I don’t have a grandson…”

“I never let him know. I am truly sorry. I have done wrong and my son is paying the price.” Talina’s melodious voice was breaking, she took a deep breath, her eyes still held onto Sylvana’s. There was no colour in her face but those eyes, now more like the blue-green sea.

“You must understand that I didn’t know how to act differently. I had only known suffering from your people, I couldn’t see him for the man he was.
I was born in Roesone, I was but a nestling when they drove us from the land we’d been living on for thousands of years. My father was killed, my mother… enslaved. My father’s brother brought me out.
I had learned that humans are the enemy.”

Sylvana knew of Roesone, the one realm that had enslaved Elves. She had had her own dealings with them.

She couldn’t focus on Talina’s words. A grandson – a son by one of her sons… out of an elven woman. Halfelf!

“I walled off my heart. I cultivated hatred. I’m sorry…” the Elf’s voice broke, she turned toward the window, walked over, lent on the windowsill.

“I lied to my people and to my son – I didn’t know what he was going to do. And worst of it, I don’t think I would have told him the truth had I known his plans. For I lied to myself – all these years I held on to the deceit – I didn’t let it go, there was too much pain…and we have never learned how to deal with pain.”

Sylvana began to understand. Her hands stopped trembling.
“I think I know, who you are.”

Talina turned slowly to fix those eyes onto her, eyes now blue like summer-midnight.
“He told you?”

“Yes he did. Not straight away, but when he returned from his journey, he had changed. He was quiet and not his usual carefree self. So I nagged him, like mothers do, until he told me…”

“What did he tell you?”

“What will you tell me had happened?” Sylvana wasn’t going to give this away.

She held Talina’s eyes. Her lips where trembling, milk-white skin on high cheekbones blushing, she wrapped her arms around herself. Looking as vulnerable as a child.

“I don’t know… he saved me… I had been looking for my mother – in Roesone. I was taken by slavers, my friends slain. I was so young. I hadn’t been aware of the danger. When he freed me… I didn’t dare leaving him…
But I… I couldn’t thank him… couldn’t even just let him be… he scared me so…”

“What happened?” Sylvana’s voice got hard. She stood up, walked over to the Elf and faced her, eye to eye.
Talina tried to shy away, but her back was up against the wall.

“I … couldn’t let him be… He was so crude, wild… like a bear. I was scared… I ridiculed him, reproached him… We fought, he overwhelmed me, he…”, she was going to turn away, but Sylvana took hold of her shoulders.

“Did my son rape you?”

“Please, let me go,…” Talina’s shoulders sagged, hands covering her face.

Gently brushing a golden lock from Talina’s face, Sylvana stroked her.
“Oh my child, it is important that you speak it out… this is how we deal with pain. We talk about it with a friend. Let me be your friend. You are the mother of my grandson…”

Talina’s shoulders shook, she tried to breathe deeply, but could only sob. Sylvana embraced her, like she had done with Soren, then, over thirty years ago. Talina resisted at first, but the old woman was still strong and held her until she gave in.

Like Soren who had thought to have raped a woman, the most beautiful woman he’d ever laid eyes upon. Soren who’d cursed his temper, his own brutality and strength.

Like Soren, Talina cried for a long time. She made no sound, but her body shook so hard, that Sylvana had to brace herself.

“There, that’s good,” she crooned. “You don’t need to hide it anymore, it’s all right…”

“No, it’s not – nothing is right… nothing will ever be right again.” Talina’s voice was a whisper.

“Did he rape you?”

“No! He didn’t – he took me… but I gave in. I surrendered – I wasn’t raped. I ran away because I couldn’t handle it. I couldn’t handle having given myself to a human – I had betrayed my people, my mother who was raped by many human soldiers.
My body had betrayed me, so had my heart – I had to shut it off…”

“I understand, child, I know what it is like. You where all alone, there was noone there to help you… Don’t chastise yourself, it’s all right.”

“No, nothing is all right, you don’t understand, I have caused all this grief. If I wouldn’t have run away from myself, it wouldn’t have happened, he wouldn’t have had to die, he wouldn’t have killed his father.”

Have killed his father… Sylvana’s heart stocked. Have killed his father.

A tall red-haired stranger – Britta had seen him, had attacked him and been knocked out – he took the family sword and left an elven blade…
Weakness flooded her.

Talina looked up.
There were no tears in her elven eyes.

“Now you understand.
A messenger arrived about a week ago, telling me that my son had taken revenge and killed the rapist. He did it for me, so I could find peace. He wasn’t going to come back for he didn’t want to lead anyone to us.
Nothing will ever be alright again.”

Britta Barenson
warning, this one is really violent


revised on the 3rd of June, 1999
copyright by scerijne