Spring 2008, Volume 4

Drury Award Winner

Fiction by Eric Loya

Drowned Men

Dark shapes moved between and upon the branches of a nearby oak. Their movement disturbed the tree little so that the branches did not move and the leaves sway as though in a casual wind. But such delicacy was not at the expense of grace. The shadows leapt from tree to tree, and one jumped across the path, high above it, into the cover of a massive pine. A few green needles floated to the ground but no sound accompanied them.

Aiden turned Hirakles toward the opposite sided of the path, from which the last shadow jumped, and searched for the others. The Paladdin saw one looking at him. He first noticed its green eyes, rich and deep like dark emerald, staring past perfect oak leaves. Moving closer, the shadow revealed pale grey skin like the color of the moon on a stormy night and thick hair dark as the darkest tar. Its delicate features and intense beauty spoke of Elvish blood, and Aiden knew this creature to be a Dark Elf.

Long ago, when the world was not so old, the Elves of the forest had split apart from each other and became many from one. The Dark Elves had retreated deep into the forest and buried themselves in the heavy shadow of the wood. There, they worshipped the harsh and savage gods of the root and the vine until they became hard and mischievous. On rare occasion did the Dark Elves travel beyond their borders.

In this Elf that stared back at him, Aiden saw much youth. The grey skin, unblemished and soft, held no wrinkle and the emerald eyes were still bright with childish thoughts. Yet, for all that, this Elf could have seen many more years in the forest than Aiden had seen beyond the trees. For Dark Elves, as other Elves, stayed in the wood for centuries before they emerged to the outside world. While generations of Men came into, and then left, this world, the Elves remained in their forest homes and learned of the earth through ancient books and the teachings of their elders. And when the time was come, then they would emerge from between the trees to speak with the other races.

And so, with steady but slow moving steps, the Dark Elf made his was onto the road. He crouched, his hands low to the ground, as though at any moment he would spring from the dirt road back into the branches from which he had come. Around his waist a thick leather belt, as dark as his hair, hung and from that pelts of brown fur to cover himself halfway down the thigh. His chest was bare, his arms and legs lean but muscular.

For several moments, Aiden and the Elf stared with blank expressions at one another. The Paladdin gestured as though to speak but said nothing. He watched as the Elf furrowed his brow in response. Then Aiden pulled up on Hirakles’s reins so that his horse took a step back.

The Elf tilted his head without breaking the exchange. So still was the woodland creature that at a single glance one might think him made of stone. And so he remained for a time unknown until a wry smile spread his grey lips and a high pitched laugh wrecked the silence of the forest.

BIO:  Eric Arthur Loya is currently a student working for a Bachelor's Degree at CSULB while taking creative writing classes at Long Beach City College. He hopes one day to be a published novelist and poet and continues to enjoy meeting dedicated writers who inspire his creativity and passion.