An arrow whizzed through the trees, barely brushing a long hanging vine and sinking into the middle of the target propped up against a log covered in moss. A childish shout of victory echoed through the forest and a young elf scrambled towards the arrow, pulling it out and flourishing it victoriously.
“See! Fifty in one minute across the forest. I beat you!” The elf gleefully crowed to her brother.
The other elf, slightly bigger but still a child, rolled his eyes. “You beat me by one, and it took you how long?”
The younger one pouted, “Yes, but I’m younger than you, and better already. At my age you weren’t this good.”
The older elf opened his mouth to argue back, but the scent of fresh ozone reached them and both their faces lit up in recognition, argument forgotten in place of shared expectation.
“Ada!” Cried the older one excitedly, nearly vibrating in place as he glanced between his sister and the direction in which he knew his father would’ve appeared.
He waited only long enough for her to get down out of the tree before taking off through the dense forest, her light footsteps following. The two of them ran almost in sync, leaping under and over huge crawling vines, around giant fungi and scaling large elder trees to fling themselves from one to the next. The cries of giant cats and colorful birds followed them with the buzzing of insects, though neither hide nor hair of them was seen.
As they ran they collected more targets with arrows planted in them, barely stopping to wrench them out, so practiced that not a single one broke at the treatment. When they reached a giant tree split down the middle as if struck by lightning, the two broke off from their synchronization, each going a separate direction.
The younger went to the left, following a tiny stream that trickled under dead leaves and by slowly unfurling ferns. She ducked beneath low hanging branches and hopped across a collection of water-slick rocks, all the way collecting more arrows and targets, easily carrying them in the quiver and bag on her back.
Having gone right, the boy followed a short ravine peppered with more targets before running up a small incline to where the vines grew thick and tangling together like snakes. Hissing could indeed be heard, but once again there were no signs of the noise-makers.
By the time the two met up again their well-practiced dance was almost over, ending as they an elegantly carved basin, depositing the targets into it for the next time they came to play. The forest gave way then to a large expanse of golden brush covered tundra, dotted here and there by tall thin white trees and large rocks. The edge of the tundra was sudden in its transition to pebbly beach, but the ever pounding roar of the ocean softened whatever surprise there might have been in the abrupt change.
Racing across the plain, the children flew towards where two tall elves were walking close together, smiles easy on their lips.
“Ada! Naneth!” The children cried, their voices all but swallowed up by the sounds of the surf.
The only thing the water parted for was the great mass of stone running perpendicular to the ocean and even that it beat itself against, it’s slow quest of erosion fruitless in the dreamscape in which it resided. On one side the surf was free and open, disappearing far off into the distance with nothing to hold its comings and goings. On the other side of the stone there was a small bay where reeds grew, springing up along the edge of the water. They were untouched by the harsh pounding on the first side, barely swaying in a soft breeze, the water calm and gentle.
The older elves met the younger happily, the daughter speaking excitedly about her accomplishment that day. The strikingly blond father smiled proudly, though one side of his face failed to respond wholly to the emotional reaction, burned as it was with a scar the stretched across and down his neck to disappear underneath the collar of his shirt. Just as beautiful, though less blond, the mother laughed delightedly at their daughter’s excitement, both adults joining in the celebration with praise. All the while the son pouted and teased his sister, but when she wasn’t looking grinned just as broadly as she did, pride evident in his eyes.
The elven family meandered through the tundra of the dreamscape, settling down against the rocks and listening happily as the daughter recounted her tale of finally, finally beating her brother’s record with a bow.
The dreamscape, for that’s indeed what it was, was filled with joy, laughter ringing through the air and light in the partially cloudy daylight sky.
In the same dreamscape years later the two children had grown into fine young elves, and another child had been added to the family, his additions to the land showing in many ways, small red berried plants on the tundra and high abovethe sounds of hunting bird’s cries. The family had rejoiced at each new addition, and the youngest child, a son, grew with the long grasses that sprung up here and there, reaching up towards the sky.
The stars that could be seen when one looked below the horizon line twinkled merrily, indifferent to all that happened above. While such a thing would be impossible in the waking world, in this dreamscape it was normal, natural and expected. Above the horizon a time of day would be displayed, whether it was dawn or duck, midnight or high noon. Below, only the expanse of stars.
The edges of the island, because that’s also what it was, cut off like some great being had ripped it off of something bigger. In the forest roots hung out over the expanse of nothing, the trees growing deep into the air and vines hanging off into nowhere. The prairie had something of a cleaner cut, dotted here and there with larger plants too close to the edge that their roots also spread outward. The ocean was the loudest, huge waterfalls spraying out over the side, the crushing liquid spreading out and dissipating far below, yet never running dry.
The other child who had been added to the dreamscape and the elven family ran happily down the pebbly beach, followed closely by his ada in case he fell and hurt himself. His naneth currently spoke with her other children, discussing a border patrol with her daughter after she had finished speaking politics with her son. Joy still lingered here.
Not so many years later and there was a darkness that lingered, a fog of sorrow over the entire dreamscape. Instead of five elves there were only four. The three children, one younger than the others, and the ada, the naneth missing forevermore.
A light had been taken from the oldest elf, and nothing the others did or said could bring it back. When the depression set in, when the water started drying up, the oldest boy left.
Years, and he did not come back. As the plants died around the oldest elf, as the soil dried up and the ocean pulled back, he never came back. Soon the daughter left too, and it was just the elf and his youngest, trying desperately to get his ada back.
But when the ocean had completely disappeared, when the forest had turned to a museum of dried husks, and the reads were broken and snapped by the elf’s pacing, the child who was a child no longer finally stepped back. He had tried to reach his father, and he thought in his more hopeful moments that his father had tried to reach back, but there was nothing more he could do when his ada was so faded.
His grip on the other’s dreamscape was fragile, thinning as his ada distanced himself from the world and from his children. The boy let go, and the chasm between the dreamer and the elves he ruled over grew that much deeper.
Years later, the elf looked at the husk of what had once been a lively green forest, the desert that used to be wildly untamed prairies, the smooth sand that used to be ocean, and he wept.