The birds sing
The wind breathes
The stream whispers
Her eyes tranquility
And her smile hope...
by Angelo Bertolli
Suddenly, the dreadful beat of wardrums echoed through the
enchanted forests of Alfheim. Galin the Wise looked up. He walked
to the window that looked out northeast from the City of Alfheim.
His wooden house sat close enough to the city to keep an eye on
things, but also a considerable distance within the forest where he
wouldn't be disturbed. And now, he was disturbed. He had a mind
to teach these forest rovers a lesson before he looked out, but
upon viewing the chaos below he was shocked.
The village, laid waste by red orcs, smoldered with the
screams of the dying. Galin had been a priest of Alfheim; he
couldn't help but feel the agony of those people tearing his own
heart. The red orcs were taking the loot back to their home, but
Galin couldn't move. He forgot about the forest and his oath to
protect all the life within it. All he could see was death. He
reflected upon his own life and the choices he had made--to leave
the Temple of Alfheim.
The orcs continued to pillage and kill whoever was left. The
spiteful creatures harbored a hatred for the good people that had
accumulated over the centuries since they were driven to the Broken
Lands. The ruthless humanoids had no mercy for anyone, only self-
pity. And red orcs were the worst. They were the mightiest,
nomadic, warrior race of the entire orc species. They occupied Red
Orcland, and there they even fought amongst themselves to the point
Galin's philosophy was to not get involved, but something
inside him surged with sublime triumph--a feeling he had not felt
in a long time. He angered at the orcs who were continuing to loot
the area, and he was going to interfere even if it cost him
everything that he had gained, even if it stripped him of his
powers. To use his powers one last time, he thought, for such a
noble deed would be worth it. But no, wait. Over the years he had
learned too well the consequences of hasty actions, and it was not
his job to fight the orcs. He made some gestures and put his hand
outside the window. Thunder clapped and the skies grew steadily
darker. He picked up his staff and strided across to the door and
opened it. He walked with the confident eagerness that he once had
when he was young.
As he approached the ruins he saw the orcs hurrying away from
the coming thunderstorm. They had not noticed him standing there
awkwardly amongst the smoldering houses and people that lay about.
Galin raised his arm out with his palm upward, about to bring a
howling wind to frighten the orcs to a point of running. He was
suddenly startled by a noise right beside him. He listened. There
was no sound except for the rain which was now pouring down. He
looked around himself but saw nothing. The orcs had gone, but that
didn't matter anymore. He sifted through the blackened debris and
then stopped. Galin's eyes widened for a moment and then a hint of
confusion crossed his brow. He gazed into the innocent green eyes
of a human child who had been forgotten in the orcs' time of panic.
* * *
Spirit opened her eyes on this bright windy morning. She
loved the wind. She remembered being alone as a child on a day
such as this with no one but the wind to whisper secrets in her
Secrets about how today, of all days, she was going to find
the dryads and fauns deep within the forest and how she would sing
and dance with them. And she always told herself they were just a
little further into the wood. She always promised to go there the
next day to find them.
Now those days were gone and she wasn't sure if she believed
in such things anymore. Tantala had always claimed to witness the
merriment of the fauns every night as they chased the dryads and
played their pipes. If Tantala had seen them, they must exist.
Spirit went to the window and opened it. She breathed in the
gust of strong wind that blew here hair back and exhilarated her
so. With the warmth of the sun kissing her cheek, only a light,
new-fallen snow could have made the moment better. "Tantala," she
called. There was no answer.
She turned around and sat on the bed. She looked across the
room at the mattress-sack where her father used to sleep. It was
days like this when she missed him the most, probably because on
such days he would walk with her in the forest and take her by the
hand past babbling brooks, telling her stories and showing her how
the forest was good and pure and just. The animals had no fear of
her father, nor did they fear her. There was nothing strange about
this, yet her father seemed amazed every time she reached out to
touch a timid rabbit, or even a wolf that approached on gentle
terms. One thing she could not understand was why her father left.
Tantala fluttered in the window. She was small, even for a
sprite, being only four inches tall. "So, you're finally awake,
sleepy-head?" Tantala said childishly in her tiny voice, "I was
up here at dawn trying to awaken you. You're becoming more and
more like those big, lazy humans."
"Well, I am one." replied Spirit in an uncaring tone.
"Don't say that!" exclaimed Tantala, "I didn't mean it.
You're not like them."
"But I am a human."
"Maybe, but you're not like the rest. Or else I wouldn't be
"Do you mean if I start acting like other humans you won't
like me anymore?" questioned Spirit in disbelief.
"I think you already are," Tantala sat down on the edge of the
table to give her wings a rest, "Do you plan on sitting here all
"No. Actually, I was thinking about going into the city."
said Spirit, beginning to clothe herself in her usual garb.
"But what about the fauns? We could look for them again, like
we used to. Remember?"
"I'm too old for that now, Tantala. Anyway, I havenşt been
to the City since my father took me. I want to see it again. I
could use some new clothes,ş tried Spirit as Tantala kicked the
lantern in frustration. Perhaps Spirit still had a little hope of
finding her father.
Tantala flied up in front of Spirit's face, waving her tiny
finger in front of her, "You don't need new clothes and you don't
want to go to the city."
"And why's that?"
"Because," declared Tantala, folding her arms, "they're having
problems with a Conjurer or Enchanter, or something who's giving
them trouble. Anyway, if you go I won't be you're friend anymore,
and this time I mean it."
Spirit looked at Tantala for a moment and the picked up her
knapsack, "I'm going and there's nothing you can say to stop me."
With that, Tantala angrily shot out the window. Spirit walked out
the door and pointed herself towards the City of Alfheim in the