The Legend of the Goddess, cont’d
In the quiet of the woods, Shiir crept along a narrow passage between the berry bushes, keeping his head low. Like most of the elves from his village, he wore boots of softened leather, which muffled his footsteps, and buckskin pants to match. The wool of his shirt had been dyed to match the green of the foliage, though it was beginning o fade from the washes that it had been through. He brushed a twig from his brown hair and looked around.
Shiir realized that he was far from the other hunters, but he did not turn back. He was not willing to let the stag go, even if nobody expected him to bring down such large game on his first real hunt. He had watched his father hunt for seventeen summers, and before that was fed in the womb from meat that his father had caught; he had a heritage to live up to. There would be a stag in the village even if it took him all day to track it down.
To his fortune, it did not take quite so long. Shiir heard the rustling of leaves of the other side of the bushes, and peered through the branches to see the massive creature chewing on the fresh greens of the forest floor. He readied his spear, steadied his feet, and leaped over the bushes, aiming to strike the stag just behind its shoulder. Startled, the animal took off running again, leaving the young elf to shout after it.
Shiir grabbed the horn at his belt, and gave it a strong blow before taking chase, hoping that his brother and the other hunters would be able to help him head it off and spear it. He ran as fast as his feet could carry him, not caring about the ruckus he was making through the forest. Several dozen birds fled as he approached, afraid that he would make a dinner of them if they were not careful. As he ran, he began to see a light ahead of him, and thought that he was approaching the edge of the forest.
Instead of the wide and sunny plains, however, Shiir found himself in a clearing, the branches above giving way to the daylight only narrowly. It was brighter that it should have been, he thought as his eyes adjusted to the light. Besides that, it was more golden than any light that Shiir had ever seen, and also far more green. Confused by the sight, he blinked and stood completely still.
“What is this place…?” he murmured, gazing around in awe.
There was a pond in the middle of the glen, where several water lilies floated. The stag strolled to the opposite bank of that pond and looked over at him warily. Shiir, however, had lost all interest in the hunt and was staring at the middle of the water, not so much at the giant lily pad, but at the woman who sat on top of it.
He saw the back of her first, the long, straight hair the flowed down her back in ebony strands that seemed impossibly long. Her shoulders stood bare, and as the lily pad slowly turned on the water, Shiir caught a glimpse of the pale skin of her leg, and wondered whether she was wearing anything at all. The golden-green light seemed to be coming from her, for the air around her was bright and flowing with colors. Shiir had never so much as heard of anyone being able to glow.
“Umm…” he began, uncertain whether he should disturb her. “Excuse me.”
The woman glanced behind her, clearly startled by his voice. She stared at him with wide eyes, one of them as bright and yellow as Ser, their world’s star, the other a green that seemed to represent every leaf and blade of grass that the elves had ever seen. She said nothing at first as she floated along, as though she were in awe of him, and Shiir stared back. He noticed that a triangle was painted above each eyebrow and on each of her cheeks, the same green and yellow as her eyes. A lock of hair, as red as the sweetest cherries, fell across her face, and she pushed it away. The hair that framed her face, he realized was not black like the rest, but a bright red that no elf had ever grown.
Strangely, though, the rest of her looked elvan. The woman had long ears like his, and was hardly taller than him, and a sweet smile crossed her lips not much different from his mother’s. As the lily pad turned her towards him, he was relieved to see that at least some kind of cloth covered her, even if it was hardly more than a wide band of silk. It had been dyed to match her eyes, the various shades of yellow and green flowing from one to the next.
“You are an elf,” she said, as though noting it with a certain amount of uncertainty.
“I—I am,” Shiir replied, trying not to let his voice shake. She had sounded so beautiful, so gentle, and he wanted to her her voice again. “Are you not an elf as well?”
The woman shook her head, gazing at him curiously. She glanced at the stag, and then back at him, her eyes lingering on the spear that was still in his hand. “You are also a hunter.”
Shiir nodded. “But… what are you?”
“I never expected that you would find me here, like this,” she said, half in thought.
Shiir did not think that she sounded lost; it was more like she was making note of some kind of fact that he could not understand. “Milady…” A thousand questions floated through he mind as he watched her, and he could not settle on only one to ask her.
“It is all right, young elf,” she said to him, slipping her fingers into the water. The liquid glowed yellow and green around her fingertips, and she began to drift towards him. “I did not come here to harm you.”