The place it all happens; well, we tend to call it Elfhome, because it was the home of the elves and none of us know what the elves call it. We changed it later to Elphame, which crops up in pagan books and fairy tales from time to time. There are more than just elves there; a race rather like dwarves shares it with us, as do humans. The way I learned about my life there, was rather jigsaw-like, putting in pieces here and there. In some cases, earlier memories were hidden from me on purpose. To tell my story the way I learned it would be too confusing, so I’ll tell it the way I know it now.
My story begins with the story of Ethne Maethyn, a human from a tribe of people resembling JRRT’s Rohan. She was sister to Belin, who was heir to the chiefdom of his clan. But Ethne fell in love with an Elf soldier (a scout, as you would call him). I don’t know his name for sure. Now, such a match was frowned upon by both her tribe and by the elves too, so the couple ran away to find common work wherever they could. They settled in the north, in a country called Llewyn. There they came to Red Hill, a castle near to the sea, owned by the half-elf Lord Tieron. There Ethne found work in the kitchens and the Elf signed up with the local militia. But within the year, the elf was dead, slain in battle.
When he heard the news, Belin travelled north to comfort his sister. When he arrived at Red Hill he found that she was heavily pregnant with the elf’s child, and a few weeks later she gave birth. Sadly, her child was stillborn. But before the day was over, a stranger arrived at Red Hill, with a baby girl, and a message to Tieron from the Elven High King of the time, whose name was Obuirin. The message requested that Tieron gave sanctuary to the baby who was to be fostered in secret at Red Hill, and her identity kept secret until she was called for. Since Ethne Maethyn had just lost her own baby, she was chosen to be the foster-mother. Ethne named the baby Shannagh. That child was me.
Through my childhood I was mostly very lonely. Being the only elf among the servants at Red Hill, the other children would have nothing to do with me except to tease. Though I was raised as a servant in the kitchens I did not enjoy the work. I much preferred to ride out across the moors to the sea, or into the forest where my favourite place to hide was a secret glade where a little waterfall tumbled into a pool. In retrospect I missed out on a lot by not being raised among other elves.
My best friends were horses, but one friend I did have. He was an elf prince named Anadrael, who was a friend of Lord Tieron. The prince befriended me and when I was very small I would sit on his knee and listen to his stories of dragons and heroes from times long past. As I grew older I fell in love with him in the infatuous kind of way that young kitchen girls fall in love with princes… (grin).
When I was seventeen I saw a Skyhorse (pegasus) in the waterfall glade in the forest. Skyhorses had not been seen in Llewyn for over a thousand years, and they were almost never seen away from their remote island home. I knew this to be an omen of great importance, and so it was for shortly after, a terrible tragedy befell me. To this day I remember nothing of what transpired on that dreadful day, but later my father would tell me the truth about what happened.
Barely three weeks after seeing the Skyhorse, Prince Anadrael returned to Red Hill for what was to be the last time. He did not stay long, and when I heard he was planning to leave again, I begged him to take me with him. The Yearning was strong in me; a desire for something I could not define, and I knew I would not find what I sought if I stayed at Red Hill. But Anadrael refused, saying he had other business to attend, in a place that was far too dangerous for a young girl like me.
Now, Anadrael and Uncle Belin had both taught me to use weapons, and being a headstrong teenager I was certain that I could face *anything*. So after Anadrael left I stole a horse and rode off after him. But Anadrael’s business was not in Llewyn, instead he passed through into the Ways that connect other worlds, and I followed after him. What happened to me there I cannot say, except that something must have attacked me, because Anadrael heard me scream and he rushed back to help.
But the prince was too late, because when he found me I was already dead. He fell to his knees and wept with grief for he knew what I did not; that I was really Arhuaine, daughter of Obuirin, and Anadrael’s sister. He picked up my body and carried it back to the King, believing that I belonged with my father in death if not in life.
Now at this time King Obuirin was the most powerful healer in all of Elphame, and he refused to accept that I was lost. So he used every last ouce of power he could summon, and though he managed to repair the damage to my shattered body, he could not restore the spark of life. In the end, he pleaded with the Goddess to bring me back to life.
The aspect of the Goddess in which my family believes is known as the Dana and is most often portrayed as a dragon, who brought the world into being by the magic of her singing. Three times She told my father that if She brought me back to life there would be a price to pay. Three times Obuirin accepted, believing She would demand his life in return for mine. So the Dana sang the Song of Creation and brought me back to life, but the price was paid by me, not my father. In return for giving back my life She took my sight, so from that day onwards I was blind.
I did not return to Red Hill. Instead I was sent to live with a recluse called Haildar who lived deep in the Great Forest. Haildar was known as the Wise Woman, it was rumoured that she was older than the Elves and that the Great Oak itself had grown from a sapling under her tender care. I stayed with her twelve years, and during that time I learned much of the Magickal arts, particularly that which you would call “green” magick; healing, and other magic pertaining to the natural world. Most important, I learned the magick with which I could compensate for my loss of sight; I learned to sense my surroundings as accurately as anyone else can with their eyes, and by the time I left Haildar’s tuition I was so good at it that I could hunt with a longbow, run through the forest without stumbling, and none who saw me would even know I was blind unless I told them. But though Haildar herself was a good healer, she always refused to make any attempt to heal my blindness no matter how much I begged her to. Even when I tried to heal myself I was unsuccessful. I did not know it then, but now I understand that if ever I am cured of it, my bargain with the Dana will be broken and She will take back the life she granted me.
After leaving Haildar’s tuition, my time was split between life at Court, and life on the open road. At court I joined the military; you call them Scouts, I call them the Elite Guard. They work in units of five, each of which is called a Hand. I soon speciallised in Cavalry, and over the next hundred years or so I developed the Airbourne division, based on Skyhorses, and also dragons as heavy attack vehicles. You have to be careful not to fly the dragons and the Skyhorses together; a Skyhorse is a dragon’s favourite snack! As daughter to the king I also had a lot of diplomatic duties, which I didn’t enjoy so much.
And on the road, when the Yearning had a hold of me, I would be plain old Shannagh Maethyn again, instead of Princess Arhuaine ni-Buirin. And I travelled from one tavern to another, singing for my supper to anyone who would pay to listen. It was on the road I met Cas, another bard. I fell in love with him but he was killed in an accident some years later. (In 1986 I met Cas’s otherself in London; I don’t think he knew exactly who he was but he knew *what* he was, and he recognised me, which was rather strange.)
In the end, I left Elfhome for good, and never went back. I don’t remember anything after that. I left because of a blazing row I had with my father, because of someone he trusted and I didn’t. It came down to an ultimatum; “either they leave or I do”. Well, one thing I know for sure is elves are so damned STUBBORN, and because neither one of us was willing to compromise, I walked out. By this time it was certain the elves were dying out; the birthrate had dwindled so much that the population was in serious decline and “marriages” between elves were largely infertile. Those elves who “married” humans were more successful, but that thinned the blood still further, and each time a half-elf was born, the Elves were diminished.
One of the things you asked about on your web-page was words, and language. I don’t know many, but for what it’s worth, here are some I do remeber.
GWAIROCH: The elven name for Skyhorse. Literally; the GWAI part means sky, and the ROCH (pronounced like loch) is horse.
RUACH: This is my favourite drink in Elfhome. It’s mildly alcoholic, about the strength of an average beer. It’s made from fermented berry fruits, a random mixture depending on whats in season. I suppose if you wanted to reproduce it, fruit like raspberries, redcurrants, blackcurrants, cherries and so on would be the right sort of thing. It’s fermented with spices over the autumn and by midwinter it’s ready. Serve it warm in a large mug, whilst sitting in front of a log fire, watching the snow falling outside… Mmmm!
BRI: Pronounced Bree. Literally translates as “essence” but used to refer to magical energy, what Star Wars fans would call the Force.
THE DANA: The name of the goddess worshipped by the elves to which I belong. Always referred to as The Dana, as though Dana is a title. She is a creator-goddess who represents the earth as a whole, and she usually manifests as a large blue-green dragon. Watch the film Excalibur for a fuller explanation of her; while the knights perform impossible sexual antics in plate-mail armour, the philosophy behind the film is very elven, from a very British perspective.
ARD’COMAIRLE: The High Council. While this has been referred to by others on your website, this to me was a different entity altogether. The Ard’Comairle was set up in the aftermath of a great war with an ancient race we knew only as the Demons. It was a council comprising heads of state, mages and powerful thinkers from all races, not just elves but humans, dwarves and others as well. The council was designed to protect the planet from similar outside threats which might in the future enter Elfhome through the Ways (see below). Because all races were represented it was a way of keepng peace between al the races of Elfhome; rather like the United Nations. The symbol of the council was three staves; one white, representing Light, one black representing Dark, and one grey representing Neutrality. The council eventually dwindled in power becuse humans no longer wanted to share their power with elves.
COSAIN: Literally, the Ways, or perhaps the Paths. Early in our history, when elves were the only race on our planet, the most powerful mages created a vast pyramid to focus and concentrate magical energy. This pyramid was made of some sort of black stone, like marble or obsidian perhaps. Then something happened and the pyramid was destroyed. Some say it was Demons, others think some creatures came from the future to destroy it, still others believe it self-destructed because of the immense magical pressures in it. Whatever happened, the pyramid was blasted to bits, and fragments were scattered all around the planet. But because the pyramid was so powerfully magical, each piece behaved as though it was still connected to the pieces it was next to in the pyramid, and so by using these stones it was possible to pass into a sort of null-space and travel from one stone to its neighbour even if they were thousands of miles apart. The network was known colloquially as the Ways, and the fragments of stone were called Waystones, and they became a way of travelling vast distances around the world in a very short time.
But it transpired that some of the stones had passed beyond the Veil, out of Elfhome into other worlds, which is how the Elves managed to reach places like Earth, and also how other races such as dwarves and humans came to reach elfhome. But other things got through too; specifically the Demons (nicknamed Big Black Flappy Things. Note however that BBFTs are not always big, black or flappy…). After the Great War with the Demons, the Ard’Comairle kept a close watch on what used the Ways.
There are a few other things I don’t know the actual words but I know their translation. This is perhaps because some of my memories come from feeling and instinct. I don’t know the elven word for elfhome, but I know it translated to “Land of Song” or perhaps “Isle of Songs”. This was because the Dana used Song to create the world, she literally *sang* the magic that brought it into being.
The Demons we called the Dark Enemy, because they were seldom seen in their true form. Usually they used glamour to disguise themselves as something else. Kiing Obuirin was deceived by one of them, and Prince Anarael, along with his twin brother, were the result of that encounter. So Anadrael is half elf, half Demon. I don’t think it’s demon in the biblical sense. More like the difference between the Seelie and Unseelie court, or maybe Elves vs. some kind of Drow. There is a major demon, who is at least as powerful as the Dana.
The Crystal Song was a collection of myths, legends and prophecies about elfhome. It tells of things to come as well as things from the past. It was because of things foretold in the Crystal Song that King Obuirin fostered five of his six children way in secret. Actually with the twins he didn’t have a choice; their mother had other ideas. He wanted to make sure she didn’t get her greedy paws on any of the others. I have a suspicion that it was her, or one of her employees, that was responsible for the attack that left me blind. (Incidentally in this reality I’m not blind, though I’ve been blind in one eye since birth. About 5 years ago I was warned that I was losing the sight of the other eye as well. Because of my memories from Elfhome I wasn’t as scared as I might otherwise have been, but with half a dozen Elves and a few more magicians and witches from other paths doing healing magic for me, my vision is actually better now than it was then).
The Elven Elite Guard I’ve mentioned briefly before. They are the Special Forces of the elf military. I wouldn’t call them Knights, like your scouts (see Brothers below). They are more the true scouts, trained in stealth tactics, infiltration and general sneaky stuff of all kinds. They are the best of the best (I’m sounding like a recruitment advertisement 🙂 ). All of them are highly accomplished mages as well as soldiers; they have to be because their job is to defend Elfhome aginst all enemies, whether physical or not. They also act as royal bodyguards; each member of the family is assigned at least one Hand. I spend most of my time trying to dodge mine so I can sneak off into the forest on my own.
The Brothers. I think they were the Brothers of Glory, or some-such like that. These were an order of Elven Knights recognised by silver armour, white tabards, gauntlets and boots. They always rode white horses. They were an order of knighthood from history whose purpose was to fight the Darkness wherever it was found. They were the chief reason for the elve’s ultimate success in the Great War against the Demons. But though we won, our losses were great, and the Brothers never really recovered. Their leader disappeared (either dead or lost in the Cosain) and without him, the shattered remains of the order disbanded. I have met two Elves in this reality who previously belonged to this order. One lives in Manchester and one near London, and they have never met.
That’s it for words, at least the ones I can remember clearly. I have lots of other theories but I’ll save them for next time. One of my favourite ways of spending an evening is to stay up late into the night with the Elves I know, sharing wine, philosphies, memories and stories. I’m lucky because we live close enough to be able to meet up reguarly. We are so close to one another that when we moved to Manchester, Andy and his wife moved here too, so he could be near enough that we can still do that!
I’m not certain why it is that elves are gathering together in this reality, or why we all seem to share a desire to find others of our kin. I know some people have suggested some kind of forthcoming apocalypse, but if that is the case it will be a catastrophe of Humankind’s own doing. How that will affect the Elves I don’t know; I suspect our mortal bodies will die while our elven souls will pass into the Ways and find another place to go to. What I do believe is that the earth’s magic is once again gradually waxing again. Perhaps it’s the Aquarian age, perhaps it’s coincidence, perhaps it’s the natural way of magic to wax and wane like the tides.
Oh, and while you’re interested in music, here’s a few of my own favourites that have the feel of Elves about them.
“World Without Heroes” by KISS, from “The Elder” album. To me this is the ultimate Elf song.
“Brothers in Arms” by Dire Straits, from the album of the same name.
“In a Lifetime” by Clannad & Bono, from “Macalla”
“The Man with the Child In His Eyes” by Kate Bush, from “The Kick Inside.” This one is specificlly about Anadrael.
“Stairway to Heaven” by Led Zep. But you probably knew that already. Anything by Jethro Tull, the best one being “Songs from the Wood” “Lost Boys and Golden Girls” by Jim Steinman. (He who writes for Meatloaf.) This song mostly for one verse: “We gotta be fast, we were born out of time. Born out of time and alone. And we’ll never be as young as we are right now, Running away and running for home.” Anything by Rush. I like the lyrics but I don’t like the music at all.
For TV and films, I’ve already mentioned Excalibur. There’s a cartoon called “Flight of Dragons” that’s worth checking out. And I reccommend Babylon 5. If you haven’t watched it before you’ll have to watch the episodes in order or else it won’t make sense. Basically the Babylon 5 station itself is like the High Council. The Shadows are the Demons. The Minbari are like the elves; especially in that they are a dying race but their souls are being re-born in humans. The Vorlons are… well, if you haven’t seen it I’ll spoil the whole thing if I tell you. And if you’ve already seen it you already know.
Another good series was Robin of Sherwood, a British series of the mid-eighties. I don’t know if it’s ever been shown in the States. Full of forest magic and memorable quotes. “Nothing is forgotten. Nothing is *ever* forgotten”.
Another elf-type film is Labyrinth, though Jared (David Bowie) is a rather dark sort of elf. Silly Sarah, she should have realised he was in love with her…! (grin).