Though she had been accepted into their homeland, many of the elves save for a few had been wary of the child; but who could blame them? A span of thirty-five years may seem long to a human but to an elf, it was only like yesterday. The memories from thirty-five years ago and the cause of their forceful hiding, was still fresh in their minds. However, there was no hostility shown despite distance being kept, and the few who ventured boldly to make the acquaintance of the child growing up in the shelter of Lord Ilyenir's home were pleased indeed.
Elva grew up learning to love the nature surrounding her just like the elves that cared for her. Lorian spent most of his time caring for her in his father's stead, when the Lord was away. No sooner than Elva spoke her first few words than he started teaching her the written word. It would be appropriate to say that he doted on her.
In the spring of Elva's fifth year, Erindor was in the midst of celebrations. Of course, Elva was too young to know their significance but needless to say, she was oft left alone for a few hours at a stretch. She usually obeyed without question, busying herself with finding items to play with or talking to the trees; as they say, a child's mind can never be idle. On this particular day however, her little expedition carried her into a thicket of trees from where she was unable to find her way back – she was lost.
After wandering around for a while, her small legs couldn't go further and she sought shelter in shades of a tree. No sooner than she sat down amongst its roots, she was startled by the sudden appearance of a boy who crouched down beside her and peeked from behind the tree's bark; as though he were hiding from something.
"What are you doing?" Elva asked
He turned around, surprised; he had not realized that there was somebody beside him.
"I'm playing hide and seek." He pointed towards a bunch of older elves in the distance, who all seemed to be searching for something. These elves held bows in their hands and swords on their hips. Even in Elva's eyes, they somehow seemed different compared to the elves in Erindor.
"Hush now, we must not get caught."
She nodded and grinned as they both sat down, hidden among the roots of the huge tree. She liked this game; she played it often with Lorian. Now that she took a closer look at him, this boy was around Lorian's age; with dark hair and deep green eyes.
After a little while, the footsteps died away. "Let us go and hide elsewhere; they are bound to return here soon. Come." He said, offering her a hand.
After running for quite a while, they found themselves deep inside the forest. Soon, the boy slowed down noticing that the little girl with him was panting for breath. "My, you tire easily, don't you? I just realized that I do not even know your name!"
"My name is Elva. What is yours?"
"I am Aeren."
Elva was not familiar with the woods so far out from home; the trees here seemed so much older and somehow, more majestic, and she looked around in wonder. She could hear the whispers of the trees around her, but one particular tree caught her attention. He stood tall, the elder tree; his branches spread wide and swaying in the wind.
The little girl walked up to the tree and placed her small hand upon his bark. "Why are you sad? Are you not well?"
"He is old." Aeren observed.
The branches swayed lightly as though answering her question. "Would you like me to sing for you? Lady Mori taught it to me. The trees were happy when she sang!"
A light breeze gently rocked the tree showing his reply. She closed her eyes and sang in a clear and pure voice that is unique to a child. The air stilled and there was an extreme quiet in her surroundings as all the trees paused to listen to her. When her song was finished, she placed her palm on the tree's bark and gave a beaming smile. "You are happy!"
The tree rocked in affirmation and its branches swayed, showering her with leaves. It was the tree's way of showing gratitude. Then with a sudden crack, the majestically tall tree started to lean backwards. Aeren grabbed her and puller her away just as the tree fell, revealing a hollow bark. The little girl looked on in confusion and distress.
"His lifespan ended. It was time for him to pass on."
Elva and Aeren turned around to see the source of the voice and beheld a person unlike any other they had seen before. His body was adorned with branches and leaves and his whole being seemed to have been manifested by the forest. An ethereal green glow surrounded his body and he seemed to be floating in the air. Aeren bowed his head in respect.
Elva, on the other hand, asked him with her eyes wide, "Did the tree die?"
Seeing tears well up in her beautiful brown eyes, he floated close to her. A kind smile adorned his face as he said, "All living things pass on. However, their soul is reborn into this world. Trees reach the end of their existence; but they leave behind a part of them."
"A part of them…?"
"Look." he said and pointed towards the earth where the elder tree had previously been. There were green shoots already protruding from the soil. Elva's face brightened upon seeing them. "Now watch" he said to her.
He started singing a beautiful song, full of mysterious tunes and words unlike any she had heard before. And being a mere five-year old, Elva listened in awe and innocent curiosity. The tiny shoots that were protruding from the ground grew as the song was sung and soon turned into sturdy stalks.
"Now they can grow on their own." He said, as he finished his song. He floated over to the fallen tree; he picked up one of its branches and stared at it closely.
"Who are you?" Elva asked him curiously.
"I am Ruis, a dryad of this forest. And you, human child? What is your name?"
"I am Elva."
"You are a human?" Aeren stared at Elva with surprise. He then turned to Ruis and asked, "But why would a dryad appear before a human?"
Ruis smiled mysteriously. "Destiny will reveal her play with time, elf prince." He then turned back to Elva "Are you lost, child?" he asked kindly.
"Yes" she replied, sheepishly.
"Come." He gestured to the two of them and led them away.
They seemed to have walked for many hours when finally, one could see lights in the distance as they neared the elves' village.
"Are you really a prince?" Elva asked Aeren
"Yes I am" he said, and smiled at her. A lot of thoughts were going through his head as he wondered about why a dryad would possibly show themself to a human. He looked at Ruis and realized he was not going to get any answers from him.
They could make out the silhouettes of people now as they neared the clearing, and a little after, Lorian came running towards them. Lord Ilyenir followed close behind.
"Lorian!" Elva exclaimed as she ran up to her elf brother who caught her up in a big hug.
"Elva! You had me worried."
'Oh but I was playing with Aeren. We were playing hide-and-seek but then we got lost in the woods!"
"Aeren…?" Only then did he notice Aeren who had been standing behind. He glared at him as he grinned sheepishly and stepped forward.
"I did not realize she was your sister Lorian." He said and turned to Elva "Next time, we will ask Lorian to play with us too."
"Yes!" she nodded happily.
"It is unseemly for a prince to shun his duties and run away. On top of that, you endangered my sister!" Lorian snapped.
"Come now, Lorian. Even a prince needs some entertainment in his life. Moreover, these woods are quite safe!"
Lorian just glared at him in reply. Some of the strangely clothed elves Elva had seen earlier, who were actually Aeren's aides, came to escort him back.
Ruis now stepped forward from the shades of the trees which almost camouflaged him. Silence fell upon the clearing as the elves took in the presence of the dryad. They all bowed their head in respect for the dryad. He floated up to Lord Ilyenir and offered the branch of the elder tree that he had picked up previously.
"The spirit of the Elder tree chose this child. Use it well."
Lord Ilyenir bowed again in gratitude as he accepted the branch. His eyes were filled with joy.
The dryad turned to leave as Elva ran up to him "Will I see you again?" she asked him.
The elves looked shocked by the informal way in which she addressed the dryad, but he did not seem to mind. He smiled kindly at her and replied, "Yes, you will my child."
As the dryad floated into the darkness of the trees, Lorian turned to look at the branch in his father's hands. "What does this mean father?"
"It means that the dryads have bestowed their blessings upon this child. This is the first time that a human has been wholly accepted by them. Elva is special." He answered, as a joyous smile lit up his eyes.
Dryads never showed themselves to humans. Nor did they ever gift a human, a sacred branch. Unless they have been accepted by the forest and the dryads, one cannot learn the magic and mysteries of the forest. The elves were the only race that the dryads corresponded with and taught some of their secrets too; that is why the humans sought the help of the elves in acquiring power.
Lady Serina, and the other elves who were wary of Elva, were completely mummed whilst the others looked with wonder. None of the elves could shun Elva any longer. She was rightfully one of them, for the child had the blessings of the dryads.
A/N: First of all, I am sorry. Really, really sorry! I'm not going to make any excuses for the delayed update. But I promise you I will try and update faster next time! :D It's just that I'm very lazy when it comes to typing; I'm more of pen-and-paper kind of person! But you know what would help? Some encouragement! (you know what I mean! :P *hint hint*)
That aside, thank you so much to all of you who review/reviewed! You really make my day! :) Oh and feel free to PM me too! I would love to chat! :D
Now for a question: Do you want to know more about Elva's childhood? I'll frame the next chapter based on what you want! So please tell me your opinion! :')
Love you guys!