Something I wrote back in high school. It’s inspired by a song from Loreena McKennett
The golden sunlight reflected like a strip of gossamer across the evergreen trees. Thick clusters of needle leaves shuffled in the soft breeze. A cool mist wove finger-like through the boughs. The air was warm but damp. A chill made seventeen year old Jane’s skin prick. Her sandy brown hair shimmered, and her skin glowed in the passing light.
Summer was ending. She could almost taste autumn on the air.
She had been watching the woods for seven evenings. She couldn’t explain what she was looking for, but she had been waiting all her life for this moment. Even as a child, she knew there was something magical about those woods. When she entered high school, she thought she had put all this fantasy behind her, but something beckoned her to continue dreaming. Now she would finally know what she was waiting for.
The first night had been an accident. It had been a long day at work, and she was taking a walk to clear her head. She had only paused for a moment, watching the fog drift among the everwoods, when strange lights flickered into place. They bobbed and moved through the trees. But once darkness settled, she had not been able to see the lights anymore.
Each night, the lights became brighter, more clear. Last night she had seen torches, but more surprisingly, ghosts. Images wavered, appeared, then faded from view. Tonight – she was sure – something would happen.
Jane drew in a breath and held it as the lights flickered into view one by one. They came slowly at first, few and far between, but then arriving in clusters. They lit up the trees and dispelled the fog. They moved in a line going from east to west, passing right by her without seeming to notice.
Sunset turned to twilight and the air became abruptly cooler, raising the gooseflesh on Jane’s skin until she shivered.
Slowly, patiently, ghostly figures began to emerge from the mist, taking shape and form, becoming tangible figures with details so refined that Jane could have painted them from memory with just a glance. She dared not blink – the figures might disappear entirely just as they had done last night. She wanted to step towards them, but she feared disturbing the fantastic mirage.
There was magic in the air, she could feel it. A tingling on her skin, a warming in the air. Even while the sunlight faded and the world became dark, the figures in the trees seemed to glow with their own light – sparkling almost.
I can see them, she gasped silently. I’m not dreaming. They’re…they’re actually real.
Elves. Mystical beings. Myth straight out of the story books, the stuff of legends. Not twenty feet away, the elegant creatures glided by, soft as whispers and subtle as roes, with glimmering capes of spider silk and evening dew and raven hair braided with forget-me-nots and violets. Every detail was delicate and intricate.
Jane found she couldn’t believe her eyes – not really. Elves did not exist in reality so the past week surely must have been a series of dreams. Yes, perhaps this was all a dream. If that were the case, then it explained why this evening felt like a goodbye.
She watched the procession with a keen gaze, taking in everything and letting nothing escape her eye. But she wasn’t the only one staring. There was a man standing perfectly still, and he was watching her closely.
She caught her breath. Could he see her? Who was he? Should she be afraid? No one else in the procession paid him any mind – or her, for that matter. Yet he continued to stare.
Just then, he started forward. Jane stumbled back a step, then froze. He weaved around his brothers and sisters without disrupting their solemn walk. He was coming closer. She couldn’t move – could hardly breathe.
He passed out of the woods and hesitated, casting his gaze around the open field as if seeing it for the first time. Jane could see him more clearly now—he seemed both young and old at the same time. His features were smooth and refined, though still chiseled with youth. His eyes told a different story, a story about a world lived over many, many seasons.
Stopping just a few paces away from her, he stood very still, gazing at her openly with starlit blue eyes. It was a strange combination: raven black hair with crystal blue eyes.
Jane very carefully, very hesitantly, lifted her hand to wave. She didn’t know what else to do, but the staring spell had to be broken. He raised his hand as well, holding it up without waving.
“Hi,” she said, swallowing to clear the lump in her throat.
“Well met, friend,” he greeted.
Jane took a deep breath and let it out slowly. This is real. I’m not dreaming. He’s tall and slender with pointy ears and robes of royalty over silk clothes. This is not a dream.
“I am Runal Eytheranea,” the elf said, gesturing to himself, then fell silent and waited for her.
Say something, you dork, she scolded herself. “I’m Jane. Jane Carter.”
“You are human,” he noted.
She nodded her head.
“And yet you opened the doors to Lorienne,” he said.
He glanced back at the trees where his fellows had disappeared. They were alone. The air was still and quiet as if time had stood still. Only crickets sounded like a chorus of tiny voices to fill the silence.
“Are you…” Jane felt stupid to be asking this question, but since she had started, she had no choice but to continue. “Are you real?”
Instead of answering, he held out his hand to her, palm up. For a moment, she felt a twinge of fear. She shook it off. Stepping closer, she reached out to lay her hand in his. His skin was cool to the touch because of the night air, but it quickly warmed in her hand. The touch of flesh was real, and his gentle clasp eased away the sense that he might fade away.
Runal was gazing down at her hand when he spoke. “I feel as if I know you from long ago,” he murmured.
“I’ve never seen you before,” Jane said.
He looked up. “No. From a long-forgotten memory. Or a dream,” he added.
Jane let out a trembling sigh. “I knew it. This is just a dream.”
A deeply sorrowful expression entered Runal’s eyes as he withdrew his hand. “The ships are calling,” he said softly.
It’s not real…
“I must leave you now.”
She nodded, maintaining control over her expression. “I know.”
“They’ll not be returning to this land,” he explained, backing up.
Jane nodded again and raised her hand to wave.
Sunlight broke over the land with just a fraction of rosy light at first, steadily growing as the day began. Jane was still standing before the trees with hand raised in a good bye. It did not feel as if she had been standing out all night. She could almost still see the Elvin man’s retreating figure as he pulled the silver hood over his head and followed his brothers and sisters.
“It’s just not fair,” she said as a tear trickled down her face and sparkled in the sunlight.
“Suddenly I knew that you’d have to go
Your world was not mine, your eyes told me so
Yet it was there I felt the crossroads of time
And I wondered why.
“The thundering waves are calling me home, home to you
The pounding sea is calling me home, home to you.”
–The Old Ways (by Loreena McKennett).