A little child, a limber elf,|
Singing, dancing to itself,
A fairy thing with red round cheeks,
That always finds, and never seeks.
|Samuel Taylor Coleridge|
Brightblossom skipped through the forest, occasionally stopping to pick up an interesting stone or leaf, and played all sorts of games with imaginary playmates. This was how she spent most of her days since there weren't any other children in the elfin village for her to play with, but she didn't mind because she knew of no other life with which to compare hers. Besides, being the only child made her special, and all the adults loved her very much.
She stopped when she found herself near a clearing, carefully peeked through some bushes into the open space, and was delighted to see her most special friend, Bowbender, standing there. He was one of the village elders, and he loved her more than anyone else, even her own parents.
She ran toward him, shouting his name.
"Hey, Bowbender!" She knew he'd be glad to see her.
(O High Ones, thought Bowbender, with all the elves in the village, why must she always bother me?)
It wasn't that Bowbender didn't like children -- well -- it was that Bowbender didn't like children that caused him to dread these encounters with Brightblossom. He was as happy as everyone else when she was born because he knew that a village without children was an unhealthy sign, but he did miss the peace and quiet of a childless existence. He found this specific child to be particularly irritating. It would seem that the words "cute" and "precocious' had been created for the sole purpose of describing Brightblossom, and Bowbender could put up with only so much cuteness and precociousness.
"What are you doing?" she asked brightly.
"Hunting," he replied without showing any interest in her presence, hoping that she would take the hint.
"What are you hunting?"
"Children." The opportunity had been too good to pass up, and he spent several moments enjoying the images entering his mind.
Brightblossom fell to the ground in laughter at his joke. If they hadn't been such good friends, she might have taken what he had said the wrong way. But she knew that he loved her so much that he would be confidant of the fact that she wouldn't be offended.
Bowbender rolled his eyes up into his head until he could stand her laughter no longer.
"Quiet, little one! You'll scare away the game and attract humans."
All it took was this one mention of their ancient enemy to have her back on her feet with her ears pricked. She carefully scanned the surrounding area, even though they both knew that the humans never dared to venture this far into the forest, for fear of elfin magic. The humans didn't know that elves no longer controlled any magic. When she was satisfied that they were quite alone, she turned back to Bowbender, and looked deep into his eyes with an intensity that belied her years.
"Why do humans hate us so much?" she whispered.
(What a stupid question, thought Bowbender.)
"Because that's the way things are," he said.
"But why's that the way things are?"
"Because they are. They always have been, and they always will be."
This depressed her, so her mind did what it usually did when it was thinking about something that was starting to depress her. It jumped to a different track -- but a nearby one. She brightened.
"I had a dream last night. Would you like to hear about it?"
"No." He knew that this wouldn't discourage her, but he felt obliged to try anyway.
"I dreamt that elves and humans lived together in peace and friendship." She beamed in triumph.
(Oh no, not again. Give me strength.)
"That is absurd."
"Because it is."
(Why do children always insist on saying, "Why?" when they're losing an argument?)
"Because humans are incapable of feeling friendship toward anything," he said as his impatience began yielding to anger.
"How do you know?"
"Have you ever tried to make friends with them?" she prodded.
"Certainly not," he said with great indignation.
"Then how do you know?" she said, learning new meanings to the word, "frustration."
"No you don't!" Her anger began to approach his. "I bet nobody does. I bet we can make peace with them if we tried."
"Never!" he shouted at her, but she refused to be intimidated.
"Yes we can!"
"No we can't. Humans are no more than animals. They understand nothing except violence. The only peace this forest'll ever know will be when either all of them -- or all of us -- are dead."
"That's not true! I've seen their village. They're just like us. We can make my dream come true!" she demanded/pleaded.
"Dreams never come true, and you would do well to forget all about your's," he said firmly.
"WHY?" she screamed, starting to lose confidence and seeming very much like the frightened child she really was.
"Because this is the real world that we live in, Brightblossom. And the real world has no room in it for foolish dream chasers."
His words hurt her much deeper than he had intended. He momently regretted them, but then he shrugged. So what if she were hurt? That's what living in the real world is all about -- getting hurt and learning to deal with it. Maybe this would toughen her up.
Unable to think of anything else to say, Bowbender turned and left the clearing. She screamed after him.
"There is so room! There is! I'll show you! Someday, I'll show everybody!!"
She stood there in the clearing, raging for such a length of time that she began to feel very silly for staying angry so long.
She giggled at herself. A sparkle appeared in her deep, blue-green eyes. Her hair glistened in the sunlight. She smiled the smile of a person who was planning to keep a secret from the whole world.
Bowbender had called her a Dreamchaser. She decided that she would keep that name.
Next story: Dreamfinder
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