PART ONE: The Company is Formed
Ah, if only you could have seen them back then, back when the world was still young and the waters were fresh and full of life. The satyrs lived above Gold Creek, where they played and danced the sikinnis, pounding their hooves to a lively strain. Their voices, laughter, and the music of their flutes once floated down from the heights above, now only a distant memory.
Though their song may be gone, their story lives on. Such is the power of memory—a power so strong it can keep a story alive forever. It can open a door from your world to theirs, allowing you to pass through these pages and see them. You would find yourself in Durham Forest, under a great stand of trees bordered on the south by the babbling brook of Gold Creek, whose waters run down from the distant, snow-capped Mithril Mountains. To the north lies The Forbidden Marsh, the source of Fish River that courses down, forming the forest’s western edge. It was said that you could catch fish in its waters as long as your arm. Back then, Old Joe operated the ferry here.
The weather was quite nice most of the year, though it rained a bit. The rain, a secret elixir of growth, bestowed upon the earth a gift of life unseen in modern times. It sculpted a realm of towering trees, giants reaching toward the heavens, their trunks wide and grand like the columns of nature’s cathedral.
There was one tree stump cut so wide across that thirty persons and seven horses could stand upon it at one time. The satyrs used it as their dance floor. You’d have gasped to see them leap out upon it, clapping, pounding their chests, and slapping their knees with only one hoof touching the ground, and most times none at all. They performed with the greatest agility. Their hips swayed and their bodies bowed, pounding the dance floor in double time to the vibrant melody of lyres and flutes. Their movements were a whirlwind of twists, turns, and joyous frolic—a spectacle that captured one's gaze. Undoubtedly, the satyrs were the greatest dancers of all time.
Across the banks of Fish River, opposite the forest, lay a floodplain of green meadows laced with groves of fruit trees and deer nibbling everywhere. Berries, fruit, and melons of every kind grew wild here. From its blooming fields, you could smell the aroma of the flowers before you even saw them. The bees produced the sweetest honey you’ve ever tasted. Humans called where Fish River met Gold Creek the Twin Forks. Yet the elves called it Linthiel, which in their tongue meant “Tree House.” It looked every bit as I have described.
To us, Durham Forest seemed empty of all folk save for the deer, squirrels, and the usual forest creatures one would expect.
Yet here, unseen, the elves hollowed out the huge trees, crafted doors and windows in them, and made them their homes. And living within the trees were the forest elves themselves. Yet you’d have never known Linthiel was even there if you walked by. No—for their homes were invisible to folks such as you and I. Still, some humans knew of it and called upon it occasionally—Old Joe, for example. Yet even he couldn’t see the hidden elves or their treehouses; he just knew they were there.
Old Joe might have been considered the hero of our story, not because you’ll ever meet him, but because he was the one who found the last satyr.
You might have asked, what is a satyr? Well! We only have his one example, so his description will have to do. The satyr was a young, well-built, good-looking lad, one with long, blond locks, golden eyes to match his hair, and a merry smile. Cloven hooves and furred goat legs defined his lower body, while his upper half mirrored that of a man. And though he had pointed ears, he was not related to the elves, lacking their long lives, keen eyesight, sharp hearing, or insight into nature. The boy was much more human in his thinking, usually lazy during the day—though he worked hard at night, always sneaking off with his neighbors’ crops. For—yes—the boy was a thief. Yet a very friendly and welcome one he was, who always shared his ill-gotten gains with everyone (including those he stole them from). He never turned down an opportunity to dance and make merry on his flute. In addition to a keen, critical wit, they said all satyrs were outstanding actors. In this, the boy proved them right. He could outact the great William Shakespeare—a skill he used mostly for telling fibs to anyone willing to listen and gullible enough to believe him. So how did he come to live with the elves?
Old Joe, the human, stumbled upon him as a baby, much like a bumbling adventurer in a fairy tale. “Oh, look,” he exclaimed, “a satyr! Certainly didn’t anticipate stumbling upon one of these today!”
He found him while searching for gold up Gold Creek, where the satyrs once lived and played. Sadly, there were no more of them then, so there was no way for Old Joe to return him. No one knew what had happened to them or where they went. They were simply gone. Even today, they’re still gone. The story you are about to hear is about finding out why and where they went. It’s a scary, yet fun, story. Be ready to pull your bed sheets up over your head, but listen closely, for it’s a story you will love to hear.
The elf woman, Athiel of Cedar House, took him in. She had only one son and, sadly, no prospects for another, much like a single star dimming in the night sky. Her husband had died long ago in a battle with trolls, leaving behind an empty chair at the family table, a reminder of war’s cruel touch. She had lived there for a very long time. Yet you would not have known this by looking at her, for elves live long lives and age very slowly.
They called her home Cedar House for the wonderful fragrance it gave off. If you’ve never smelled cedar, it’s as pleasant as any spice. All agreed that Cedar House was a fine place to live, and no other house matched its lovely fragrance. Wondrous homes, those elf trees.
The elves themselves were a noble and handsome folk, with pointed ears and piercing sea-blue eyes. Their men had no beards and were about normal in height, always lean and never short or stout. This quality made them light, nimble, and quick. Their women resembled wood faeries in appearance. Yet elves were most noted for their keen hearing and eyesight. They could hear an ant sneeze or spot one on a distant mountain. With their forest green clothing designed to blend in with the trees, they were seldom seen unless they wished to be, which was very rare. Their pointed ears could hear blundering people like you and me from far off, and they quickly disappeared—a feat they sometimes accomplished merely by standing still. Most had jet black hair, but a few were fair with golden locks. There was a tendency for them to look very much alike, making it difficult for you and me to tell them apart, although they had no difficulty recognizing each other.
Elves had a unique harmonious relationship with nature. They never used such things as wheels, shovels, or cattle fencing. They only picked fruits, nuts, and caught fish, though they’d plant trees for some future elf’s treehouse centuries later.
The elves only allowed the last satyr to live amongst them due to the insistence of their keeper, Graybeard, whose opinion they had to obey.
You might have been wondering, what was a keeper?
Keepers were members of the Council of Azazel. Every race on Earth, except for those of the Fell such as dragons and trolls, had its own keeper. These keepers vigilantly attended to their charges. An annual assembly convened—the council’s members casting votes on all the races of Earth for whether they should be allowed to continue or not. Fates hung in the balance and if a race faltered, its keeper had to defend them. If he failed, Azazel gave him the same fate as the race he defended—extinction. Thus, Graybeard had a very keen interest in the elves, and they in him.
Graybeard dated back even further than the trees of the forest themselves. He embodied the appearance of wisdom with his baggy blue eyes, shaggy beard, and bushy eyebrows peeking out from beneath his pointy, slouch hat. He carried little—a gnarled wooden staff and a leather pouch—containing mysterious treasures, including pipe tobacco. No elf would indulge in it, and neither should you. Though rarely seen, he was usually found with his pipe, savoring a cup of mead.
Graybeard did not live amongst the elves and only stopped by once a year. The only non-elf living in Linthiel was the satyr.
The other elves very much disapproved of this. It wasn’t that they disliked the satyr (although they had no use for him either) as much as they disliked interfering. To them, a satyr ought to be raised by other satyrs, and not by elves. However, there weren’t any other satyrs around to do the boy’s raising. So they allowed it, but only under the strictest of conditions. The boy was to be raised as a satyr and not as an elf, so there was no requirement for him to attend school or do work. This way, the elves believed, the boy could always return to the other satyrs (if ever found), free of elven influence, and live a normal life with his own kind.
That was their plan. Of course, as so often occurs, what’s planned to happen and what actually happens are two different things.
But no one was trying to kill the boy then.