Interviews With a Woodelf

The Video Camera Part 4

"The Belain did not willingly let us from their grasp," Alger said softly. "They sent everything from beasts to weather against us. At every step, more of us abandoned the journey. When we finally reached the Eastern Sea, only a handful was left. It was foolish to try, but with a group of eleven people, we tried to sail across it. Ulmo rose up and churned the ocean. He pulled our leader into the depths and crushed our poor vessel. I was thrown free of the wreckage, luckily, and managed to keep myself afloat with a piece of the deck. After the storm, there were only three of us left clinging to the broken remains, Mirgalen, Gilorn, and myself. We had no way to navigate: there are no maps or even stories of the waters we were crossing. Blindly, we crawled onto the first pitiful, rocky shore that we met.

"We saw no Evair, but we saw evidence of civilization. There was small trail, and it led to a small, fortified village. I would know later that we were in Britain.

"The people were friendly and curious, if not cautious at first. We started learning their language very quickly, and soon were joining them in their daily lives, helping them in the fields. Then the Belain gave us our final piece of misfortune.

"A blight swept through the area, destroying several crops of wheat. They decided that the supernatural was at fault. We were blamed because we had crawled out of the ocean, where many supernatural things apparently lived, and we were unnaturally tall. Gilorn and Mirgalen also fit what their idea of Fairies looked like, something I wouldn't know until later. They ordered us to undo the mischief that we had done, but we couldn't, so we were sentenced to death. We didn't quite understand everything that they said, so we didn't realize that they meant to kill us, to burn us alive, until that wretched night.

"We were bound tightly, and Gilorn was tied with chains to an iron pole. I was thinking that they planned to starve us for several nights tied to a pole as a punishment, but they started to pile wood and brush around him. We were confused. Then they threw melted pig fat all over him, and suddenly he was in flames. He was screaming, and then I realized what they meant to do. The people backed away from the screams because they were so loud, covering their ears. Mirgalen and I started to try to wriggle from our ropes, but they were so tight and so strong we couldn't get free. It was so horrible, so hopeless, listening to Gilorn scream.

"I think I swooned because the next thing I remember they were dragging me to that pole, to the still smoking ashes of Gilorn. The people were chanting and Mirgalen was sobbing and singing a song of farewell in Sindarin. I don't know why I did it, but I screamed as they started to wrap chains around me. I screamed as loud as I could to the point that it didn't come my vocal cords anymore; my entire body shrieked straight from my soul. The men trying to tie me to the pole dropped me in Gilorn's ashes and fled with the people covering their ears. I continued to scream until I was sure they were gone, and I started to struggle free. It took me almost all night, but I got free of the ropes in Gilorn's ashes. I ran through the town, searching for where Mirgalen was imprisoned. I found him two days later." Alger stops, and rests his chin on his knees.

"Well? What happened? Where did you find him?"

"On the local lord's gate."

"On the gate? I don't understand."

"Well, I found part of him on the gate."

"Part of him?"

"His head. They had beheaded Mirgalen and displayed his head on the gate."

There's a pause, and Grimvoice mumbles, "What did you do after you saw Mirgalen?"

"I wept, I sang a song of mourning, and I ran as fast as I could."

"Where to?"

"The forest. I still didn't know where I was going, but I wandered around until I found another village and more nice people to stay with. This time I had good sense and joined their worship. The nice people I found were especially wonderful and interesting to me, for they were smiths. I was adopted by them and worked for them, and it didn't take me long to become know as a master smith. It was in this time that I learned the language more or less completely, but I still struggled with pronouncing some sounds, so the people guessed that I came from Rome (the belief was aided with me being so tall and dark), and they forgave my accent. They named me Einion, which I quite liked, as it meant "Anvil".

"I learned how to fit in the society, and they got used to me. Word somehow got to the local presiding lord that I was an excellent smith, and he himself came to the family I was staying with to ask me to work in the fort. The local lord wasn't very wealthy, but he was kind, and he paid me to arm his soldiers. This is how I came to make the sword that most likely is remembered as Excalibur, though I don't know who gave the sword that name.

"It was mid-winter, about twenty years since I had gone into the Lord Caronus' service. He came to me old and ailing in the middle of the night, with questions and a request. He asked me if I was one of the Tylwyth Teg – The Fair Folk. When I told him I didn't understand, he explained that Fairies are supernatural people who live very long lives, who live under islands in the sea, or under lakebeds. He guessed that I at the very least had some fairy blood in me, seeing as I wasn't very fair. I was speechless, for I had kept to myself all this time; I had never thought of how I do not age as the people did. It troubled me slightly, because I had wanted to disappear in this land, I'd already seen the deadly effects of being associated with the supernatural.

"He asked me where I came from, and I told him; I told him everything. In the end he still believed that I was a Fairy, as I had washed up from the ocean. He wanted to see some Fairy magic, but I explained that I liked smithing better and didn't know how to do magic. My suspicions are that he wasn't completely a Christian. He, like many in power, had ancestors from Rome, but barely spoke any Latin, instead fluent in the local flavor of Celtic, and took part in the local pagan practices, though they were called by Christian names. His family's poor state, and being largely Celts themselves, put him in a lower position compared to many of the Roman lords around him. His name wasn't truly Latin either; it was Caron with –us added to sound Latin.

"My speaking of smithing reminded him of one of his intentions for coming down to visit me. Another lord, a greater, richer lord had heard of my talents and wished for me to make him a sword. As the old lord told me he became even more excited, and confided to me that he could make the lord pay a greater price for hiring me, I, who Fairy of some sort. I agreed to be hired out, and a month later I rode with my lord's youngest son to this rich lord.

"The son, named Aled, was in his 20's, and a soldier. He was very kind to me, though I suspected that he was afraid of me, but he never let it surface. When we reached the castle I could tell that Aled was nervous, which made me think I had cause for worry too.

"When we first came upon it I was in awe. The castle had real 12 feet deep stone walls, and a stream's course had been changed so it filled huge trenches around the castle's base with water. Then my awe turned to disgust, for there was such a stench! Latrines emptied into that water, there was huge heaps of rotting garbage on the banks, and I saw corpses floating in the slime. Then, I saw something that shakes my heart still; I saw the freshly killed body of a man in a wire cage hanging from the wall. I reined the horse to a stop, and all I could think of was Mirgalen's head impaled on the fence.

"I called out to Aled that I couldn't go inside the castle. He was a little surprised and worried, and he wanted to know why. When I pointed at the dead man and the ravens feeding off him, Aled looked away in disgust. 'That is the way they punish thieves here. Father does no such ungodly torture.' He murmured a phrase in Latin as though it was a magic spell, and I sang a mourning song under my breath.

"And so we went into the gates. Our horses shied at the bridge so we had to lead them across, making some of the soldiers above us laugh. Aled had to lead me across by my shirtsleeve too, as I was shaking in terror. Inside the castle there was a mini village that raised one of the foulest smells I have ever sensed. Even Aled wrinkled his nose as he led me to the keep.

"A guard stopped us at the keep's great doors, and listened patiently to Aled stutter out our quest, and the guard led us to the lord on his throne, explaining that they had just been under siege and had finally defeated a strong enemy.

"The lord was a huge, strong man in the prime of life, a warrior who had killed many. The guard announced Aled and me loudly. The lord got out of his chair and walked to us. He step was springy and he greeted us with a slight bow. 'Blessed be this day that I meet you!' he said and led us back to his throne by our shoulders. 'This is the Fairy smith?' he asked Aled. Aled nodded. 'Here is the gold to hire him for a year's time. Go in safety.'

"Aled was a little surprised at the swiftness of the deal, and quickly counted the coins, weighing them in his hand. The lord had paid more than the fore-agreed price, and Aled protested. 'Tis my obligation to give deeds to the friendship of so good a lord,' the greater lord answered. I later understood that he was paying to keep Lord Caronus as an ally, for he was standing before the tide of Saxons. I was grief-stricken and homesick to see Aled ride away, but I was left little time to dwell on my sorrow, for my work started the next day. It turned out that my stay with my new employers would be cut short, and I never saw Aled or Lord Caronus again.

"My work on the sword was far harder than I ever fathomed. I was worked like a slave, from dawn to dusk with a guard to watch over me. The tools were more primitive than my own, and the resources less pure. Then, one month before I completed the sword, the castle was put under siege again. I couldn't spend all of my time on the sword; I had to mend the soldier's weapons and armor. I could smell the dead outside; I could see the terror on the guard's faces, the sleepless hollows under their eyes. Just as I finished laying the leather on the handle one morning, the keep was conquered. The lord burst in and snatched the sword from my exhausted hands. He was a true swordsman, and my sword became a deadly, silver fire in his hands. Still, it did not save him or the castle. I heard that he was pinioned by a dozen arrows before falling, as none could come near without losing limbs.

"The foreign men spoke of and presented the strange un-jeweled sword that their late enemy had wielded against them to their general, and he sent them in search of the smith, for the sword was obviously no more than minutes old, it still had the heat of the forge in it. They found me asleep on the smithy flour; curled up in a ball by the anvil I had toiled over for so long. The fire was still burning in the forge, and I was the only person there. I was shaken awake and practically carried to the audience of the general. Upon seeing me, he laughed and said that no man so slight and thin could ever wield a hammer, but they grabbed my hands and showed them to him. Only a smith had hands as I did, blacked with soot, calloused, and tougher than leather." At this point Alger holds up his hands to the camera as an example.

"They nursed me back to health, for I had starved as the rest of the castle had starved, and gave me the name Ælfgar. I was made to turn out many other swords and weapons for this new lord, but the conditions in which I worked were far better; I received more meals, sleep, better tools, and finer clothes. It was like I was more of a respected servant. Though I was not paid, I was given a comfortable life. I never suffered, and it was years before I realized that I was a slave. I was a respected Master of my art. I never again made swords to contain so much magic, but still the swords I made were great swords. The general, named Ælle, soon had conquered all of the land that I knew with my swords.

"Later the lord died and the sword passed to his sons, and stories of my sword blended with myth. My immortality was a family secret, a secret passed from father to son. That line was broken with the Norman invasion. I left then, free to wander the country." Alger sighs, and looks up at the camera, frowning. "I'm tired. And hungry. Could we continue some other day?"

Grimvoice answers after a slight pause. "We can allow it. This was a treasure trove of information; we'll need to bring up comparisons to the ancient Brittish histories to see how your tale matches up anyways. We'll start bright and early tomorrow morning, how about that?"

"Sure," Alger mumbles, and flops over, onto his side, tucking the pillow under his head. The camera is turned off, and that is the end of the video tape.

I did some research of my own, though probably not as thorough as Grimvoice could do. I can guess that he washed up on the shores of West Sussex, roughly 450AD. This was when Rome abandoned the Roman settlers in Britain to fend for themselves; and the Anglo-Saxon invasion picked up speed. It's hard to tell which battle he describes, since so few records survive of the time, but he probably is talking about the siege of Anderitum (modern-day Pevensey) in 491AD.

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