I, Bowen the bard, would like to tell you a tale of light and magic, of good and evil, of wonder and love and above all of sorrow and hope...and it all began long, long ago...
In the land of Arwin in the centuries before man there lived Elves, Dwarves, Fairies, Giants, Ogres, Trolls, and a whole host of other denizens. For years they thrived in harmony and peace. The Elves lived in the forests of the West Lands under the wise and noble Queen Elsam, studying and harnessing the Elf magic that came from nature; while the Dwarves dwelled in the rugged high peaks of the Grey Mountains, ruled by the Dwarf Warrior King Herla, who with his bare hands won back the Dwarven mines from the dragon Windfire.
Every winter solstice the Elves and Dwarves would gather upon the Enchanted Plains to celebrate the coming year and to keep up friendly ties between the two races. It was a most festive occasion that lasted for twelve days and eleven nights and it was here in the tenth year of the celebration that Queen Elsam’s daughter, Ruskla, met and fell in love with King Herla’s son, Laurin. And although the two deeply loved and worshipped one another more than life itself, it could never be, as they came from vastly different backgrounds. Even though throughout time Elves and Dwarves have met and shared many adventures and battles together, and yet no matter how familiar and friendly these Elvish creatures may seem, their immortal and magical spirit sets them apart from all other races. As for the Dwarves, they are as old and hard as the rocks they inhabit; they were a paradoxical people, small but immensely strong, wise and generous but frequently foolish and petty-minded, hiding in the earth, creating marvellous treasures in their fiery furnaces and squirreling them away from the eyes of the outside world.
When Queen Elsam and King Herla learned of the love between their children, they forbade the lovers ever to see one another again. But the love between Ruskula and Lorin could not easily be doused, and so they decided on a most terrible fate, if they could not be together, then they would not live. And so on the night of the harvest moon they threw themselves off of the Tranquil Falls and into the watery abyss of Lake Sweet Water, both too blind to see the fatal consequences that would follows such a foolish act. King Herla was sent mad by the death of his only son; in a rage born from grief he blamed the Elves for the demise of the heir to the Dwarven throne. Equally grief stricken at the loss of her daughter, Queen Elsam blamed the Dwarves for her death. Two different leaders from two different races plunged a land into war...out of sheer sorrow.
The Winter War, the war of the wee folk began, sides were drawn, alliances made and broken, with the magic of Elves aimed at the Dwarves, and the steel of the Dwarves brought to bear upon the Elves, the status-quo of earth, wind, water and fire changed. The land of Arwin was gripped by a harrowing winter. For thirty years Dwarves and Elves did battle. The losses inflicted on both sides was horrendous, thousands were killed and slaughtered. Even King Herla was mortally wounded at the battle of Troll Hill, when a broken piece of metal from an Elf blade pierced him through the left eye and penetrated the brain. It was eight days of agony before he died. The tide of war was now in the balance.
And so in the thirtieth year of the conflict the Elves and Dwarfs met on the Enchanted Plains for the final battle. It was here that the Elf champion Swan, did mortal combat with the Dwarf warrior, Antwerp. The fight lasted for hours, Dwarf metal pitted against Elfin steel. Both champions were evenly matched in martial prowess, that they only outcome would surely be the death of both. In a mighty clash of metal and sparks, Elfin steel found Dwarven flesh and Dwarven metal found Elfin flesh. On the Enchanted Plains fell the two champions slain by each other’s hand, their spilt blood mixed as one. A stillness befell the battlefield, with the death of the world’s greatest champions, the remaining armies laid down their weapons. The war was over and Dwarf and Elf came to sit at the peace table. To cement the new treaty, the dying Queen Elsam, whose broken heart could no longer go on, and the new king of the Dwarves, Kalef, agreed to tie their races together forever. It was through the love of an Elf and Dwarf that this useless war began and thus it would be through a union of Dwarf and Elf that it ends.
The marriage between the Dwarf maiden, Maltida, and the Elf, Galin, was one of rejoicing. The party lasted several weeks as old wounds were buried and shattered friendships were rekindled. Then finally the Dwarves returned to the Grey Mountains and the Elves to the forests of the West Lands to begin the long task of healing the land. As for Galin and Maltida, they made their home in the tranquil Minerva Valley, where a wooden, many storey lodge was grown from the trees themselves – a place that became known as Woodhenge. Here Dwarf and Elf would live together in a neutral environment, and whoever came was more than welcomed to stay at Woodhenge for as long as they like. Many years passed without incident, the land healed and the union between Maltida and Galin prospered, many sons and daughters were born to them, and Woodhenge grew and grew. But the good times would not last, just as the fall must give way to winter, so to must peace to war. Once again Arwin would be shattered by the beating drums of war, but not between Elf and Dwarf, but rather by a new race – that of man.
Humans came to Arwin from across the Endless Sea, not in peace – but in conquest. Under the leadership of the ruthless Dragonlords of Kraken, man waged bloody war against Elves, Dwarves and all the other wee folk that inhabited Arwin. They were enslaved and sold to the unknown lands beyond the Endless Sea or put into work in the mines of the Grey Mountains. The wee folk could not stand against the greed and ingenuity of man and after the fall of the Grey Mountains, the fabled stronghold of the Dwarves, the forests of the West Lands were laid to waste. The good folk of Arwin were forced to flee before the Dragonlords and their army of Kraken Warriors and Trolls.
At that time the only refuge left was the Minerva Valley and Woodhenge which lay hidden in the Yakkus Mountains...but even that place would only be safe for another twenty years and that is where the next part of this tale begins, where the most unlikeliest of heroes would emerge.
Copyright © 2012 by Peter Jessop