Font size: - +
Ella raised the boy with patience and grace, naming him Tarin, after her father. He grew quickly, as boys tend to do, and was soon an energetic child with an irrepressible spirit. Though his blue eyes, and white locks of hair, mixed up with the brown, could have marked him as a sorcerer, Tarin showed no signs of magic at all as he grew up. Despite this, the people of Grenwood w ere suspicious of the child, mysteriously found on Ella’s doorstep. Tarin’s ears were slightly pointed, and as he grew, he displayed a strength that belied his size. These were Elf traits, and tensions between the elves and the humans that lived near their forest were only growing worse.
Ella, who lived closest to the wild trees that grew on the edge of the forest, was not afraid of elves. As a young girl, she had come to know many of the Elven people, and held fast friendships with many of them still. She taught Tarin everything she knew about the people and their queen, Lunaria, who was young by elf standards, only a few hundred years old, and how she had a young daughter who was Tarin’s age.
“You see, Tarin,” Ella explained to her young charge one winter night, near the fire. “The elves grow the same as you and I, until they hit a certain age, in the prime of their lives. They stay that age until they die, which isn’t for centuries.”
“How long is a century?” Tarin had asked.
“A hundred years. Elves live for many hundreds of years.” Ella explained.
“And we don’t?”
“No, my son,” Ella explained, laughing quietly. “We certainly try, but no one has ever succeeded in living for hundreds of years.”
“What happens to people when we die?” Tarin asked.
“That’s a conversation for when you’re older,” Ella had said, picking up the boy, kicking and squirming playfully, and setting him in a bed off to the side of the room. “It’s time for bed, time to sleep the cold, dark winter away.”
“So the sun can come out and play,” Tarin recited the old rhyme, before curling up under the handmade quilt and falling fast asleep.
The next morning after that talk, Ella opened her eyes to the soft morning sunlight streaming in through the cracks in the shutters of her window. Opening the window, she looked out to see that, around her small cottage, to about 10 feet on either side, the snow had mysteriously melted away, and the grass was green and soft. As Ella watched, on the other side of the strange border, it began snowing, but not a single flake entered into the small, still sunny, patch of spring around the cottage. Walking into the main room, she saw Tarin, only three years old, his arms wrapped around one corner of the quilt, fast asleep.
“Tarin,” Ella called softly. “It’s time to get up, my boy.” She shook his shoulder softly, and he came awake. His eyes glowed dimly in the darkened room.
“Hi, mama.” He mumbled. “Is it morning now?”
“Yes, it’s snowing again,” Ella said. “I’m going to make some breakfast, does that sound nice?”
“Mhmm,” Tarin made an agreeing noise, sitting up and rubbing the sleep out of his eyes, which were no longer glowing. A peak out of the shutters showed that the strange spring circle had vanished, and snow was landing in Ella’s garden and onto her roof once again.
“Tarin,” Ella said to her charge, who was working on pulling on a brown woolen tunic and a thick pair of leggings. “When you are dressed, could you go get some wood from the woodpile for the stove, I’m nearly out here.”
“Yes mama,” Tarin said obediently, shrugging the tunic on at last, and going for his boots. As he trudged outside, exclaiming at the cold air, Ella watched him go. The boy had some power, conjuring a change in the weather, isolated as it was, so easily at such a young age. She was suddenly reminded of her son, Nikkolus, who had come to her aid when she had been ill, about five years before. He had come home possessing immense power, and he had given her new life. But he had also been a stranger. This boy seemed to have that same power in him, and he reminded the old woman of her son in so many ways.
Tarin shambled in the door, weighed down by as many split logs as his short arms could wrap around.
“Tarin, I think I’m your grandmother,” Ella said quietly to him as he put them in a basket by the stove.
“No you aren’t,” Tarin replied with the certainty of all young children. “You’re my mama.” Ella smiled and added another log to the coals in the stove.
Years passed without another magical incident, and Ella nearly passed it off as a dream. As the boy grew bigger, she hired several strong men from the village to build a third room onto the cottage. Tarin, eight years old now, ran back and forth with beams and tools, trying to be helpful, excited about getting his own room. He was strong, and overeager, and sometimes caused more trouble than help, knocking things down, pushing too roughly on a man carrying a heavy load.
Ella sent him to play in the forest while the men worked, and reluctantly, he went. He usually played alone, but some of the men had brought their own sons to the cottage. Tarin had been introduced to them, and they to him, but the young boys had quickly gotten bored with the project and headed off into the trees. As Tarin entered the shade of the woods, he heard raised voices and yelling from further in. Following the sound, he found three young boys, about his age, whacking at each other with wooden sticks.