pretentious cosmic picture


A week of classes passed, and then one night all the students were gathered on the grass, and the Mage Supreme was in front of them. "Not a word, all of you. Not a peep. You will see something wonderful, but you must not say anything! Anyone who does will be sent back to their home village."

Silence reigned for a few minutes, then slowly, elves appeared, dressed for the hunt, but smiling at the Mage Supreme. There came one elf with a short beard and a metal circlet made in the shape of leaves. The Mage Supreme bowed low.

"Arise, mortal guest. Arise, best mortal student of elven glamours."


They realized they were looking at Jequeror, who was older than man on Tu, Jequeror, who often hunts with Edonarter, Jequeror, husband of Thorifay and father of Mabnia half-mermaid.

Jequeror turned to the students watching. "Welcome. You are our guests in our land, given to us by Angusin Kaanking centuries ago. We wish you well. Someday, if you become one of the greatest of mages, I might invite you to dinner in the city-under-the-hill. Some of you will succeed in this. I might not recognize you humans grow and change so fast..."

His voice was rich yet not deep. His hair was light brown, and his eyes were forest-green. He wore a thin blade at his side and carried a horn. He wore a cloak of yellow-green, and underneath he wore a tunic and leggings of light grey. He was obviously dressed for the hunt. In the moonlight, he seemed to move effortlessly.

"People of the moment, you seem to us... yet still we mean you well, though often we have little in common." His green eyes threatened to drown them, full of happenings stretching back thousands of years. His retinue of fellow hunters stepped back into the woodlands. The moonlight shone on him like a spotlight, filtering through the trees.

Here was a figure as immortal, as pivotal, as Lilung, dragon-emperor. Falnee had never been close to mortal royalty. Now he was a few feet away from an immortal regalness, a royalty which had been arouund before anyone had heard of the Cathurias. A dryad, at least, was mortal, though its mortality was limited by the lifespan of the tree. An elf, though, would live forever, unless slain by malice or mischance.

When my great-grandchildren are old and doddering, he will be the same, Falnee thought.

"Yet don't envy us, humans. Sooner or later, something will happen to me. My prey will catch me unawares. I will be overcome by a rival, or by some of Sagin's pawns. When I am crushed, I wll be crushed indeed. Soulless, when I die...I will wink out, like a flame."

A cloud shut out the moonlight, making Jequeror's voice come from the darkness. Coincidence? Falnee didn't know, but he doubted it.

"When all the elves have gone, and all of Tu is gone, your souls shall be secure in the Greater World. All of you will face Zaer within a century...but when you die, part of you goes someplace greater, someplace eternal. When Zaer grabs us...when Death comes for will be the end.

"We envy you...that endlessness."

Silence. Then the moonlight reappeared, and the court of hunting elves was gone.

He envies us? He thinks we are endless? I guess it's all in how you look at it, thought Falnee. There was a sadness in the Elvenking's words, more towering than the falls where the oceans rush off the edge of Tu into Under-Ocean. He has had thousands of years to feel the loneliness, the unfairness of it. It is deeper, richer with him than it can be with any mortal man.

He found himself feeling sorry for the immortal, magical Elvenking, something he never thought possible.

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Copyright © 1997 Al Schroeder