Tales From the Elvinfell
When the new light of the next day had come about, Garril was still very stunned, and still in obvious pain. However, Tarja never seemed to actually notice his pain—if she did, she was just ignoring him.
Now that Garril was feeling slightly better than he was yesterday, he worked up the courage to look outside to see where Tarja lived.
Tarja lived on an isolated farm just on the other side of the Tullamatti River. There was a modest-sized cottage next to a great red barn. Garril decided that was the place he woke up in. The cottage was very tiny. Tarja must live by herself, Garril decided. All around the cottage and barn, there was an orchard of suomatti trees, all of them becoming leafless with the tides of October. The farm seemed to be situated from any roads. Garril wondered how Tarja got into the market to buy food—it seemed too far away to walk to Elvinia. She had no horses either—not a trace of animals anywhere.
Garril’s arm was feeling better; better than it was yesterday. He was sure he could definitely lift light things now.
That day, Tarja was teaching Garril how to catch fish, and the boy was doing at least a decent job of it.
Each time he saw a shadow beneath the rippling waves of the river, he cast the line into it. About half the time, the hook bounced off the fish, another quarter of the time, the fish became angry and swam away, and only another quarter of the time could he actually get the fish to bite the lure.
“That’s it, dear,” called Tarja encouragingly from the side of the river bank. He noticed that she had an unusual penchant for calling him ‘dear’. Perhaps it was an unconscious habit of hers—but he was in no place to argue, and he felt not the need to.
Smiling, the boy carelessly cast another flying line into the river. The hook flew flying backwards—far backwards, in Tarja’s direction—before it hit the water, and caught on something heavy.
“Garril, don’t touch the line!” she screeched from afar. He dropped the rod and glanced back.
Tarja was on her knees crawling and feeling around the grass. Her right hand was shaking and she it held to her face. Garril started to panic, and wondered just what was happening.
“Tarja what happened?” the boy cried in panic. She was still searching through the grass, breathing shallowly. Garril took a step in her direction—and hit something hard. It was a white piece of porcelain. In a mad burst of speed, Tarja crawled over to the porcelain thing. She put both her shaking hands on the thing, and started to lift it to her face.
Her hand slipped.
The thing fell, and Garril was ashamed of what he had done. The right side of Tarja’s face was scarred and burned. Her eye was a drooping, permanently half-closed thing, and it appeared to be perpetually crying. Disfigured red lines ran down along the burned side.
And in a flood of memories, the words of queen Anukka returned to him.
“Years ago, when we were sure you would be a girl, your father wanted to name you Tarja,” she had said.
“What’s Tarja?” Garril had asked.
“Tarja was my sister who...who passed into heaven before you were born.”
“I see. So if I was a girl, you would have named me Tarja?”
“But you said...”
“Well, when my sister moved on, it was only a little while before you were born. You see, my child, Tulla Elvins believe that if you name a baby with the same name of somebody that moved on, who is related to you, only twelve months before, then it will be bad for the baby. So, we decided on calling you Lorena, after your father’s sister.”
“But I ended up not a girl so you named me Garril.”
“Your brother Letorry did that actually, while we were sleeping.” A light chuckle dusted her glowing pale face. “He can make such fantastic names sometimes.”
“I get it...“
“Tarja Vattiksi?” Garril asked her. Placing the porcelain thing on her face, Tarja finally stood from the ground. Her black hair was over her face, once again concealing the previously unnoticeable mask.
“So you know the Vattiksi family?” Tarja said slowly and solemnly. Garril half nodded somewhat reluctantly.
“My mother...Anukka Vattiksi...is she your sister?“
“Yes, the youngest born to my mother,” Tarja said shortly. She felt the white porcelain shell on her face, inspecting for cracks anywhere on it. Her breathing started to become heavy and short. She started to return to her spot in her chair beside the riverbank. She sat down, still pressing the white mask to her face.
No sooner did she finally calm down when Garril started bombarding her with questions.
“What happened? Who are you? Aren’t you supposed to be dead?” were some of the many things he asked the distraught woman. Tarja threw her hands up in surrender.
“I am supposed to be dead,” she said. “But I did not want to die. You see, Garril...
“I was taught to live the life of a sorcerer. Your mother, my sister, did not want that life. I tried to convince her into it, but she always said no. Since she never wanted to learn it, I assumed she never have any reason to go to the school I was learning sorcery at.
“I was wrong.
“She followed me to school one day, just to see what kind of things would happen there. That day we were trying to create a very powerful and dangerous potion known as Elvinfell. Anukka did not know what it was, and since it was clear, she thought it was just water.
“So she drank it. It made her twitch and flail and vomit. She knocked over many different potions—mainly Drakarfall, Wildeflor. If you put those things together in a potion, it can cause fires.
“Which is just what it caused. A fire broke out everywhere and it looked far too strong to extinguish. Anukka was trapped in the middle of it and she was passed out. The only way to get to her was crawl over something. I looked everywhere and the only solution in sight was to break an enormous beam to get to her.
“However, I had no ax or sword to break it. I could only do what I could think of next: throw fire at it. Of course it broke, and I just barely managed to rescue her, but it caused an even greater fire in the other halls.”
Tarja began to weep almost silently. From beneath the white porcelain shell of a mask she wore, a tear slid out and down her face.
“What happened after that?” Garril asked in a whispering voice, afraid to suddenly shock the shivering woman.
“The fire spread far across the hallway, down to the boys’ hall. I couldn’t stop it. I just held Anukka and looked for a way to get her out. When I finally did manage to get her out, I just took one last look at the flames behind me. I should have never done so...
“Then a fallen beam blocked the door, and I could no longer escape that way. I thought I was trapped.”
She paused, seemingly unable to continue her story.
“Tarja,” Garril said commandingly; “continue, please.”
The woman gasped; her visible eye was wide with shock and silence. Her mouth was frozen in its position. At last, she finally swallowed and started her tale once more.
“I thought for sure I was going to die. But I did not want to suffer the same fate as those poor people I had...brought to their deaths.
“I became desperate and cast a spell; any spell I could think of.
“I forget exactly which one I cast, but it threw me through the door of the school. Anukka had already started to leave...I could see her down the road, limping.
“But I...I was left with a reminder of my murders. I was left this ugly burning scar on my face.” She touched her hand to the mask once more, and pulled it away quickly and angrily.
“Do you see it boy?!” Tarja wailed. “Do you see the blood I’ve made spill?!” Tarja thrust out her hand to Garril’s face. The boy backed away, apprehensive.
“Nothing is there!” Garril exclaimed, frightened of the woman’s seeming mindlessness. Tarja gasped again, and her breathing soon became shallower. The two of them were both breathing apprehensively, in a synchronized manner.
It was a while before either of them finally started to breathe normally.
“I never forgave myself,” Tarja said, seemingly to nobody in particular. She finally stood from her chair, still holding the porcelain shell to her face. Garril was silent. He still sat kneeling on the grass as he was before.
Inside, he felt ashamed that he made Tarja finish her story. He remained silent and in that spot, even when Tarja was halfway to the tiny cottage. As Tarja had never forgiven herself, Garril probably would not either.
“Hurry up and get inside,” she called from afar. “Dinner will be ready soon.” He followed her into the cottage, just as the sun started to set.
The sun was starting to set over Elvinia. The growing darkness made the castle seem that much more depressing after the death of the King and the banishment of Garril.
While it made Letorry feel honored that he was the new king, inside he was dying. It was bad enough that the King, his father, was dead, but his brother was gone too. Heaven only knew where Garril could have gotten to, or if he was still alive or not. Maybe somebody found him and they were nursing him back to proper health. Or perhaps somebody with ill intentions against the Royal Family found him and tortured him to death. Or perhaps...
Letorry did not want to go over all of the possibilities.
The permanent candlelight vigil in his bedroom burned brightly in the darkness. Ethereal shadows snaked around the room and over Letorry’s body. The setting sun seemed to make the shadows grow taller and far more menacing with the ticking seconds. As the time passed, Letorry’s depression grew stronger.
There was a painting above him, resting above his bed. It was of a woman bent over a fallen angel, her face in her hands and she was crying. Letorry realized the woman and he were the same—crying, confused and nude as if exposed to the world. He felt himself starting to become more like her; two-dimension and without definition. Letorry may as well have been dead to the world—a trail of dust vanishing on the light winds Elvinia.
It became darker. Soon, the sun had sunk behind the horizon, and he was alone again.
Once the nighttime had set over Tarja’s farm, Garril was well into supper. He was again attacking his host with questions—somewhat rudely with a full mouth.
“Tarja,” he said with a mouth full of wild rice.
“Yes, dear?” she replied, daintily cutting at her slice of chicken breast.
“Why are you so away from everyone?” he asked without looking up. Tarja pierced the little piece of chicken with a fork and slipped it into her mouth, without letting it touch her lips.
“Because I chose to be,” was the reply. Again, she began the meticulous process of slowly cutting her meat and eating it without the meat touching her lips.
“Were people bad to you?”
“No...they weren’t really. But...they could have stood to be less cold sometimes.”
“Did you not like the family my mother married into?”
“They were particularly conceited to my sorcerer’s ways.” There was a solid silence that entered the room after that. Garril sat in his seat stilly, barely chewing his wild rice as he watched Tarja repeat her scrupulous little process once more, and again.
“What’s it like to be a sorcerer?” he asked after a long moment of stillness.
“It has its ups and downs, but it is an overall exciting thing to be a sorcerer,” Tarja replied, still not looking up at him. Once again, she resumed her conscientious eating process.
“Will you teach me how?” was the boy’s next question.
Tarja dropped her fork and knife right then. It clattered, making a sound almost as stunned as Tarja, and made wild rice scatter in all directions. She picked up her napkin, began wiping her mouth and stood up, all without saying a word.
“Will you?” Garril asked again, trying not to sound pleading.
“Garril, I can’t,“ she replied almost frigidly. The boy’s head dropped, and he looked like he had been deeply hurt. He set his fork and knife down onto the plate and stopped eating. Tarja pushed away hair that had fallen over her left eye, and walked over to him.
“No child...” she whispered; “I didn’t mean it that way. It’s just...I don’t know everything about sorcery. I can’t teach you all I know if all I know is rather minimal.”
Garril sniffled and held one of his wounded arms underneath the other.
“It’s all right,” he murmured lowly. He did not keep his head up.
Tarja bit her lip. She looked around for something—anything—that she had that could possibly console a crestfallen boy. An old book withering away on a shelf seemed to catch her attention.
“Stay here,” she said, and walked over to the bookcase. Tarja summoned a small force of will and lifted the half-ratty book off the shelf.
“Vainas maad Yhtala Leekente ant Lykramosa,” Tarja read the odd title aloud. Still suspending the book mid-air, she carried the book over to Garril.
“What does that mean?” he asked when he read the arabesque-laden title.
“It should mean Sorcery of Lithium Edge and Lacrymosa,” she said, still staring at the golden words bound to the old brown leather of the book.
“What are those?” he asked her next. Tarja’s pale face seemed to twist into a smile. She opened the dust-layered cover, and scanned the first page of the old tome.
“Nuska lynatti pattu hukkainen aln Yhtala Leekente ja makt attlain Lykramosa...” Tarja read with growing curiosity. “It says, ‘from the wisdom of many sorcerers there was Lithium Edge, the sword which opposes Lacrymosa’.” Tarja took a sidelong glance at Garril, who was curiously eying the words—even though he probably had no clue in Heaven’s name what any of them meant.
“What is Lithium Edge?” he asked her.
“I don’t know much about it. I was only told in my many classes once about it, and even then they divulged very little about it.” She again read what was on the page, except some of it was far blurred and far too archaic to even comprehend anymore.
"Then...what is Lacrymosa?” Garril asked next.
“Lacrymosa is yet another sword, and it opposes Lithium Edge. Supposedly, it was created about a year after Lithium Edge was, and it lengthened the Great War for about another three years.”
She turned her eyes once more to the old, blurry text and scanned the page up and down. Garril, too, tried to read it.
“So...why are these swords so against each other?”
“I really don’t know. It all had to do with a great war that happened years, centuries, millennia ago! Maybe armies just created them to win against the other.” Tarja lifted the old book once more and placed it on the bookshelf.
Garril stared out to the face of the night. It was peaceful, calm and quiet; lit by the glowing silver moon. He could not believe that such a war could have happened in so beautiful a world. The trees whispered peace; as did the grass and the night breeze. War could not exist in this beautiful world. It simply could not.
Just then, a black aerial figure came swooping out of the sky. It circled round on silent wings, but made loud screeches to warn all it was there. Tarja frowned faintly.
“Old hawk,” she muttered with some poison in her voice. Then, as if she disregarded the creature, she turned away toward the stairs leading to the upper level. “It’s about time you go to bed, dear,” she said, and started ascending the dark staircase.
“All right,” came the response, and he followed suit after Tarja.
“Maybe tomorrow, I’ll show you how to use a sword.”
“All right.” And it was not long at all before Garril found himself huddled against Tarja in a warm embrace that made everything the best it could have been.