Jorick had heard stories of elves before. Tales of a tall, lithe, and fair-skinned folk. He had never seen one, nor had any of the folks currently living in Winterbourne. Jorick clutched the pommel of his sword tightly. He knew that drawing it would probably mean his own death, and he did not intend to. Tales had said that when you got within five miles of the Elvish city of Un’thrahil, you would have at least three bows trained on you at any moment.
The air seemed to grow colder, seeping like fingers under his fur cloak, caressing the skin beneath. This was not right, he should not be here alone. As his father had forbidden him to come into the Old Forest though, he could hardly ask any of the Knights to come with him. Besides maybe the elves would be less likely to shoot a lone man, rather than a lone man surrounded by a company of three or four armored knights.
His breath condensed into a thick white mist, obscuring his vision. He stepped on a twig, breaking it. In the still of the forest it sounded like a cannon blast. He looked up into the trees but saw nothing; no archers, no birds, just tall trees, most bare of leaves.
Jorick continued walking for hours. His fingers and toes were stiff and aching. Darkness had fallen on the forest completely. Every direction looked exactly the same; tall forbidding trees, flaky leaves covering the ground, and a lack of any animal. Jorick had not brought a lantern with him, nor any provisions should he need to camp. He was woefully unprepared for this journey. He couldn’t bring himself to stop though, they needed the elves help. That’s when he saw it, a tiny pinprick of light in the distance. What was it? A campfire? He’d never seen a greenish-blue campfire before. Some type of insect? Unlikely. He stepped forward, being more careful than ever now. His breath was out of control however, white mist obscured his vision more with each step. He expected at any moment the light to go out, but it didn’t. As the hours or minutes crept by, he wasn’t sure which, the light grew closer. Soon he began to see more lights and the trees began to arranged themselves in odd patterns. Elsewhere in the forest the trees had been spaced somewhat haphazardly. But here the branches and trunks curled together to form archways. He could see a light just beyond one such archway. Was this it? Home of the Elves?
In the castle of Winterbourne it was polite to knock before entering a room. He felt like he should do it here, but there was no door, only trees. He knocked on the left tree trunk that formed the arch, as he always preferred left over right. “There’s another reason your twin will be taking over the kingdom when I’m gone, boy” he could remember his father saying. There was no answer to the knock, but he had knocked so he walked through the gateway.
The Elvish city of Un’thrahil was nothing like he had expected. He wasn’t sure what he had expected, maybe a great castle made out of gold, or perhaps a castle like Winterbourne, only much grander, more elegant. If someone didn’t know that this was supposed to know this was a city, they might think it was a very odd forest. Giant glowing fruits had provided the light that he had seen. Not all of them were glowing however, some were as shriveled and ugly as a spider’s egg sac. The wind blew through the trees, many of which had been hallowed out as homes, creating a haunting melody that also seemed to sound like a child’s laughter. He looked around expecting to see children, or the fair folk, but there was none. He could hear streams bubbling in the distance, and he could hear the wind and it’s haunting melody. That was all he could hear. He felt alone in these woods, and he knew why. The homes, the city was abandoned. There were no elves in the Old Forest, and there was no hope for the people of Winterbourne.