A Wee Bit O' Fable
Devan is a particular elf, from West Glamorgan, Wales, and very pleased for it. Growing up in the caves along the rocky shoreline, she often looked out over the sea and wondered about the people beyond her small part of the world. Early on, she was a trooping fairy, one of the wild elves that flew on raids in the night, riding stalks of ragwort and swarming like bees on a wild adventure. She loved adventure.
All elves like music, and as everyone knows, in Wales it's a supreme compliment if you say someone plays like a fairy. Once the crops are planted and growing, there isn't much to do on the long summer nights, except make music. From under the hills and deep in the caves of the coastland, their music wells up, draws curious humans into the enchantment. All life is rhythm to the elves; the patterns of movement in windswept trees, the patter of raindrops, the regular crash of waves along the shore...Elves play in the currents of sound, revel in the rhythm of life. And some, like Devan, want to travel the world, learning new sounds, feeling fresh currents of life, and playing drums.
Devan likes humans, and feels a bit sorry for them in their short lives and the way they stay so close to home. Sitting back with a tall, cool mug, she begins to tell us the tale of the Elvendrummers.
So, one day, I say its time to leave West Glamorgan and go see the world, or at least England. Not much to keep me here, what with all the planting done. Oh, I used to think I could be a traditional fairy, you know, doing all those things you say we do...cleaning human houses at night, milking the cows, all that domestic work. No way!
I guess you could call me a slob - not like all those Brit elves, spic and span...pinching the maids when they fall asleep doing chores. I never liked chores much myself. And other fairie amusements.... riding around late at night on the breezes, scaring the humans who stayed too late at the pubs, flying into wine cellars to drink our fill and then vanishing by morning...I don't know...it gets tiring all that revelry and foolishness. No future in it. Besides, even elves get hangovers!
She stops for a bit and takes a long drink.
I tried other elven occupations, you know, spinning wheat into gold, making pots of gold to hide from humans, growing flowers... and none of it worked. I couldn't concentrate on the spinning wheel, kept getting off rhythm, distracted by the creaking of the floorboards or the sound of birds outside the window. She stops, seemingly distracted. And the pots of gold - well, the things I changed; rocks, shells, green leaves - they never stayed gold for long. It's no fun to fool humans if the magic evaporates before the game is up
So I wanted to see the world, go to the big Faire, make some money, by honest means. But I didn't want to go it alone. So I decide to take Avatar with me. Me and Avatar go way back...we've been together through all the famine years, the droughts, and the bad career decisions. Avatar is one of those who wanted to 'be somebody.' 'Make his mark on the world.' And I guess he could, except that he is a bit loony. Maybe that isn't fair, but Avatar, for all his blustering and boasting, and he can certainly hold his own with all that, is a simple elf…sometimes too simple.
His mother used to say that everything he touched turned to nothing. Not very complimentary, but that's the way some elven parents are, you know. Modern families, huh... Avatar always dreamed of the sea as a small elf, and he wanted to be a sailor. He actually wanted to be a pirate, but that's not respectable work, you know. So when he was old enough, he signed up on a ship. Ships like to have elves on board, though not too many of them, for entertainment and for luck. Avatar, with his big ears, looked particularly lucky, so he was in. Didn't last long. Three days out and the ship dumped him at the first port. Seemed that the decks of a ship moved a lot more than the floors of caves in West Glamorgan, and Avatar set about retching and whining, whining and retching, complaining, moaning as if dying, and it was a terrible scene. So off the ship he went. Rumor has it there was some nasty business with the Captain's parrot, too, but I'm not sure about that. Worst of it is that he still fancies himself a pirate, bragging and boasting about his 'days on the high seas.' More like his hours below a rolling and pitching deck, I'll wager!
But Avatar is a kind old soul. Like any elf, he has a bit of ale from time to time, and can play the drums with the best of them. He likes to joke about eating children, playing on the silly 'human tales' we heard as children. He doesn't say much, except to proclaim himself a pirate elf or brag of his great adventures on the road and his ability to play cards. Which brings me to the rest of the story...
Along the way, we play drums far and wide. Trooping through the forest, the old fashioned way, without benefit of flying ointment or enchantment, we meet many people, some who have never seen elves in their human size before. In the hamlets and villages, it's easy to get a crowd, play for money or food or lodging. Sometimes we play for stranger things - and many's the drum we won for it. In a small town in Glouchester, we had the misfortune of playing for a very poor group of humans. Seems the innkeeper was quite a card player, and he thought it a fair way to compensate us for our troubles. We'd played for a wedding that day - for his unappealing second daughter, and somehow he didn't have the money for it. Mind you we'd stayed in this nasty little town two extra days, and I was ready to travel, and travel fast.
Well, as I sits and drinks a bit, Avatar has at the cards, and before you know it, he's won quite a motley assortment of bounty: two hammered metal mugs, a walking stick, a raggedy old hand drum, and a barmaid. At first, I didn't get the part about the barmaid. Thought he was referring to some other drinking implement not yet known to me, but he wasn't. Seems the tavern owner had this indentured bar maid, a strident, nasty wretch named Dragontina. Strange name for a human, and as it turns out, she wasn't. She said she was one of us.
Now after months of trooping through unsavory human settlement, you'd think me ecstatic to see other members of my elven tribe. But I was not overjoyed to be strapped with Dragontina, who was even less happy to be with us. Maybe it was the years living with humans all the time that did it, but Dragontina was a habitual liar, braggart, whiner and lunatic. She would go on and on into the night about being a poor orphaned elf, changing her story about how her parents died to find the story most likely to elicit sympathy, drinks or attention. To hear her tell it, she was a perfect lady, working an honest job as a bar maid, serving drinks and food to humans. But as soon as she joined our little band of elves, she showed her true nature, whimpering and complaining, primping and shopping and going on about her hair, about her clothes, about how shabby we were and how lacking in culture.
There's a secret about Dragontina, you know, and I don't mind telling it. She seems all sweet and cute and loving, but underneath, she's as wild and fierce as any dragon you might fear to meet! There's a reason she's called Dragontina!
Under ordinary circumstances, we'd have paid the tavernkeeper to take her back, what with her temperament and flitting about like a butterfly and all that. But she was a fine drummer, as fine as any in West Glamorgan, and while she was English, she still had a great measure of talent for a tune and for entertaining humans with money to spend. Plus she was great at hauling drums. Scrawny and wiry, she was strong from her work in the tavern, and she could always be counted on to haul drums, whining and protesting, but still hauling...
So that is how it went, with us traveling, Dragontina changing stories and fancying herself a Princess from time to time, enchanting groups of humans with her playing, vexing the rest of us with her unbelievable stories of past royalty and importance. We picked up other elves along the way, eager for adventure and compensation.
Which brings me to Nerethel. Nerethel Solindas, an elf as tall as his name is long. I never would have believed it myself, had anyone told me, that elves got that tall in human form. The day we met him, I never would have believed he was elven, the way he swung his sword around his head, with much whooping and laughing. I suppose I should be fair and tell you why it was that Nerethel happened upon our merry group, and what strange events led him to jump in between us and a rather nasty group of humans.
But that is a story for another time. It's enough to tell you about his aggravating sense of humor and problematic way with the ladies. See, when it was just the three of us, townspeople left us alone. Merely spending an evening with one of us ruined your reputation for months to come. But Nerethel was, well, charming. He had traveled the area widely, mostly by backroads and alleyways, often quickly pursued by angry husbands and suitors. Seduced by his charm and skill with a sword, women followed him wherever he went. Master of faerie glamour, he is always luring some poor human wretch into his spell, and many's the time we've had to leave town early because of it.
So why bother with the lanky, frivolous creature? Well, you know… glamour works on us elves as well…..