Tales of Gandamyr
The Mortal Curse
Leif sat motionless and stared deeply into the camp fire. His eyes fixed on the flames as they danced on dry branches. He pictured the town of Vestanfold as it burned to the ground with his family and home.
Alhana Nahac studied the young Leif while elf warriors under his command stood watch in perfect silence at their posts around the camp perimeter.
“A spell of concealment will protect our camp from all eyes and ears this night,” said Alhana. “Tell me, Leif, son of Gunnar and Illyana, what do you see in the flames?”
Leif continued to stare, speechless like a statue, into the fire.
Alhana waited patiently. As an elf he could wait decades for the answer, but Leif was only half-elf. His existence was an aberration — the product of a forbidden union of man and elf maiden. Now that Illyana was lost, presumed dead in the destroyed village of Vestanfold with her human husband, Leif’s fate was uncertain.
Alhana interrupted the silence, “Erevan of the Galanodel, your grandfather, has officially called for your presence. Do you know why?”
Leif looked at Alhana and replied, “I barely know my grandfather. I have only brief and faded memories of him from my early years. Mother said he is very old and wise.”
Alhana expressed agreement, “Yes, his spirit is ancient. He will soon return to the forest. His daughter, your mother, Illyana…”
Leif looked downward, shut his eyes, and covered his forehead with his hands.
“She was unique among our people and her decision to embrace your father was no trivial event in the history of the Tawar’hanni.”
Alhana continued, “She understood there was great risk in living among humankind. Erevan counseled her against it. He foresaw that great tragedy would consume her so far from the Sacred Flame.”
Leif looked up at the night sky and focused on the crescent moon. “If the elves will not help me, I will go to the Order,” he thought.
“Erevan has foreseen great risk and tragedy in your future as well, in this world of mortal men,” said Alhana.
“Let it take me then,” responded Leif angrily, “if Gaan finds me unworthy and abandons me to this fate then so be it! Give me your sword and I will fight to the last breath. I will not cower in the darkness!”
“Eglerio! Your spirit is admirable young eagle,” replied Alhana, “But it is folly to so brazenly ignore the counsel of the Galanodel and the will of the Tawar’hanni. Be warned, you are caught between two worlds. Do not seal your fate with such careless words.”
Leif stared back into the fire. “Gaan tirith ’or nin,” (Gaan watch over me) he said softly.
“Gaan tirith ‘or min p’hain,” (Gaan watch over us all) Alhana replied.
Though Leif was exhausted he could not sleep through the night. Alhana watched in silence as the boy restlessly struggled.
Before dawn the group broke camp and moved on.
Their winding path even confused Leif despite years of training as a ranger with his father. They left no perceivable tracks to follow.
After a half-day’s travel, they arrived at a small stream.
Alhana Nahac stepped into the water and raised his hands upward from his sides above his head reciting an Elvish spell.
As Alhana raised his hands the river glowed softly blue around him. Then a mirror-like portal slowly rose from the stream.
One by one, the elf warriors walked into the portal. Leif followed them through.
The world itself seemed to twist in shape around him as he felt the ground disappear beneath his feet and everything faded into a gentle white glow.
As if awaking from a dream Leif opened his eyes to behold the home of the Tawar’hanni people – the kingdom of the wood elves of Gandamyr.
Alhana Nahac dismissed his band of warriors and turned to Leif as servants approached to remove his armor.
“We’ll need to clean you up and get you some proper attire,” Alhana said to Leif. One of the servants bowed in understanding and hurried off.
Leif looked at his muddied clothing and felt aggravated by the insistence on formalities.
“See to it immediately,” Alhana spoke to another servant, “Erevan of the Galanodel is waiting to see him.”
The servant’s eyes grew wide as he ushered Leif away.
“Heed my advice, cousin. Choose your words carefully,” said Alhana.
Leif was quickly escorted to a secluded chamber on the edge of the Elf settlement which enclosed a hot spring.
He bathed thoroughly but avoided the various perfumes and other scented sundries provided.
Elven clothing had been hastily tailored to his size and left neatly folded on the carved stone seating near the spring.
The cloth felt like finely woven silk. He wore it as an elf would.
Alhana’s servants returned and looked over Leif approvingly, making a few minor adjustments.
Leif could sense their apprehension. His presence here always felt somewhat controversial and even the servants seemed to exude an air of curious supremacy – perhaps even some disgust.
They escorted Leif to the Grand Hall of the Galanodel. Massive trees were shaped into a large exquisite mansion, housing Erevan and his closest kin, as if the home was grown rather than built. Leif had only seen this place on rare occasion as a child.
The great doors at the front entrance remained closed this day. Leif was instead escorted to the servant’s entrance.
Past the cellar and the kitchen, Leif followed the two servants down a long hallway and finally into the Grand hall to be officially received.
Erevan sat quietly and completely motionless, as if made of stone, seated above the hall at one end. Impressive sculptures and tapestries decorated the main hall which seemed large enough to seat hundreds of guests, though elf-made buildings always seemed larger once inside.
“Well, this certainly is ‘official looking’,” thought Leif as they approached Erevan.
As the two servants bowed Leif stood with his back straight and looked directly at Erevan who motioned to the servants to take their leave.
The servants walked out and shut the doors to the Grand Hall which echoed loudly as they closed.
Erevan spoke first, “Leif, son of Gunnar, of the western woodsmen, and Illyana, of the Galanodel, do you know why I have summoned you?”
“Yes, grandfather,” Leif replied, “Vestanfold has fallen to an orc and goblin horde. It was razed to the ground, burned beyond all hope.”
Erevan showed no sign of emotion, though due to his age his skin even appeared as if it was made of marble or some other polished stone. His silvery hair draped back behind his pointed elf ears. He wore robes of white and silver silk that seemed affixed to his spiritual form.
“All of humanity is beyond hope. I counseled my daughter often about the curse of mortality which holds mankind in the swift embrace of death, within an instant of his birth, like the other low beasts,” said Erevan.
“She refused to accept the truth that a life among common men would bring about her swift downfall. Do you know why?”
“Yes, grandfather,” said Leif, “she loved my father.”
“Indeed she did,” said Erevan, “We elves pride ourselves on mastery of the elements of nature with the blessings of the gods, but like the gods themselves, whom we are closer to than any mortal beings can imagine, we suffer for want of more.”
“This desire is not unlike the greed of men in its power over the mind, but unlike men, elves learn their place and strive for perfection in time. Illyana was too young to comprehend the brief existence of mankind and the doom that follows him.”
“Then why did you allow her to wed my father and live with him in Vestanfold?” asked Leif.
“Because of you, boy. The blood of the Galanodel flows within you though the mortal curse has embraced you as well. Had you been the bastard son of some common servant, you would not be standing in my hall speaking to me without humility. Your existence would have been prevented.”
“My own daughter ignored my counsel, betrayed her family, abandoned her people, and lay with mortal man, and she has finally paid the price for her lack of wisdom.”
Leif fumed and struggled to compose himself.
Erevan seemed to finally reveal some facial expression of emotion as he continued with a shaking voice.
“I loved my daughter. She was my favorite child and I indulged her curiosity for too long. I too must bear some responsibility in the events that followed and I must assume responsibility for you, now that she is gone.”
“You will remain here, for a time, though not in the Grand Hall, until you have the knowledge and skills you need. Once that time has passed, you must choose whether to remain and forsake your human life until the end of your days, or you will leave to endure the mortal curse alone among those doomed men.”
“Take this,” said Erevan with an outstretched hand. A beautiful elven long bow rose from its mantle on the wall behind Erevan and floated across the room to Leif.
Leif watched in amazement and opened his hands to accept the gift as it dropped softly into them.
He lowered his head in respect to Erevan and gripped the bow tightly. His decision was already made.
One day he would find those responsible for the deaths of his parents, and with this bow, seek vengeance.