I sat in Elwin’s house and sighed. Elwin studied me with a sad smile. "Why are you here?" he asked. "Memory," I replied. He nodded as if to say, 'Ahh. That.' "It’s unfair--" I began, but Elwin, with a slim finger at his mouth shushed me and I knew that if I let him he would say something like, 'even humans have learned that not much is fair, for them, or for us.'
Elwin uncrossed his legs, grabbed the poker, and adjusted the fire. Smoke and glowing ashes erupted and raced up the chimney flue. Twilight peeked through uncovered windowpanes. I sighed and spoke. "Sometimes I can’t even remember my breakfast."
Elwin grunted--a mixture of scoff and laugh. He replaced the poker in its rack on the hearth, then spoke. "Nine hundred and forty three years ago, I ate scrowl eggs--raw, with a hard biscuit--it was the morning before the First Human War. One of the eggs was rotten."
"Ah." I replied. "I read about that war. But I never remember the key rivers captured and lost, or which general surrendered to whom."
Elwin nodded. "Those rivers have shifted and been renamed. The generals are dead. It no longer matters."
We sat. I, sipping cold creah tea, Elwin puffing and struggling to light his briar pipe--an award of some kind, for service of some type.
"I can't remember her face."
I couldn’t believe I’d said it aloud, to him of all people. My eyes filled with tears. Elwin pointedly ignored me and puffed, his ears twitching slightly. We sat that way, until all light from the window failed. In the flickers of the firelight, our shadows leapt at each other, grappling on the wall behind our chairs.
Elwin took the pipe from his mouth. "Ten years is as a heartbeat. Her face never leaves me." He reached inside his tunic, pulled out a spare pipe, and thrust it at me. My hand twitched, but I took the pipe and applied myself to the lighting process. A few puffs and several applications of the cinder resulted in success. The smoke from my pipe reflected my mood, wrapping itself in and around Elwin’s clouds then blending and rising to his well-blackened ceiling.
I broke the silence. "But, I loved her. If only I could see her again, in my mind, like you do."
He stopped smoking and leaned forward in the chair, pipe pointed at my chest. "She was blonde. A shade of honey, the kind made by bees fed, not on clover, but on pumpkin flower. It was a shade unique to her. Her throat was pale and long, her arms thin, but strong--like her mother's. Her legs, the legs of a dancer. Her voice, the voice of legend--of myth. A voice that both our gods would covet."
Elwin sat back in his seat. He clenched his pipe between his teeth and reached for his tea from the tiny table next to his chair. My tears dried, and my emotion began to fade like my frail, human memory.
"But her eyes. Tell me about her eyes. How they sparkled in the dawn-light. How they could change from green to deep blue without warning."
I leaned forward on my seat and pleaded. "Her eyes are leaving me. Before long, she will be completely gone."
Elwin frowned and grumbled into his teacup. I knew what he was thinking. That he remembers her eyes all too well. He remembers how they snapped from love to fear as he entered our bedchamber, armored, a foot soldier in the Last Human War.
He remembers how her eyes flashed confusion, how they asked him why, how they pleaded and wept and opened wider than he had ever seen.
He remembers that he knew I was away--playing my own part in that stupid war.
He remembers how she squeezed our two-month old child against her breast and how her voice keened in discordant harmony with the baby’s screams.
He remembers how he unsheathed his sword; thrust it through his half-breed grandson, out the other side, and into his daughter.
We puffed at each other in the dying firelight and for the millionth time I considered killing him.
Elwin studied me with a sad smile.
We sat in Elwin’s house and sighed.