Eldain’s story is familiar – painfully so. He tried to live peacefully among humans, and, like so many before him, he quickly realized that it’s ultimately impossible. Even if you keep your head down, swallow your pride, there’ll come a surprise hailstorm, a disease, a miscarriage, and someone has to be responsible. This is just how humans work, they can’t accept that things just happen, they need a scapegoat – more often than not, an elf. And then come the beatings, the rapes, the pogroms. Again and again. What were his choices? To run – or to fight. He chose the latter.
Eldain knows he is doomed – all elves are, ultimately – and decided to go out with a bang. He’ll die, tomorrow, in a month, next spring – soon, anyhow. But he can live in people’s memories, he can become their nightmare, a name they mention only in a lowered voice, a name you utter to scare your children. That’s a monument more lasting than bronze.
Eldain knows how to instill fear in his foes. His warriors paint faces with war colours, they torture and leave their victims’ maimed bodies for others to see, they strike from the deep shadows of the primeval forest, silhouettes barely visible in the morning mist, poisoned arrows flying out of nowhere.
But people who actually got to talk to Eldain – and lived to tell their tale – swear he’s nothing like the bloodthirsty monster he’s said to be. Apparently, he’s calm, soft-spoken and takes great pleasure in music. One captive troubadour even asked, as his dying wish, to be allowed to play the flute, hoping that Eldain, moved by the beauty of the song, will spare him. Indeed, Eldain listened, mesmerized by the melody, and clapped with appreciation after the last note echoed off the trees. Then he skinned the troubadour alive.
Concept art by Nemanja Stankovic
Illustration by Anna Podedworna