The Old Man

Original post to Darkwind’s Garou Board as "Wolf Tales (1)" 14 April 2003

Revised: 
09.10.2021

The Elf stands before the Old Man and weighs a decision that will alter his life. Forever and irrevocably.

The Old Man is silent after talking for a long time -- how long exactly, the Elf doesn't know. Nor does he care. He long ceased to be concerned about the passage of time, so fascinating did he find the Old Man's ramblings. To be sure, the Old Man only talked so long because the Elf asked so many questions, past the point of average patience. But the Old Man seemed content to answer any question the Elf posed, as if he has nothing else to do in life. The Elf supposes that's not far from the truth.

The small clearing in which the Old Man and the Elf stand is part of a larger forest to the southwest of the City. It's not "secret", for anyone exploring the forest would, if they were thorough, eventually stumble upon it. But most people who come here -- the Elf included -- do so because they are drawn.

And what draws them? The Elf can only speak for himself (were he indeed to speak of it at all, which he had never done to anyone): the nagging and compelling feeling that something -- some part of him -- is missing ... unfulfilled ... suppressed ... deeply buried until some catalyst pulls it from the depths of the subconscious.

It began with the dreams. The kinds of dreams where one knows one is dreaming, but cannot stop it -- does not want to stop it --  and then it ends by itself, leaving one strangely bereft of something one held dear, but only realizing it at the end. One dream is clearer than the others and it swiftly passes before his mind's eye now as he stands before the Old Man...

...running through the deep woods, only he can't be "running", can he? The trees on either side fly past too swiftly -- even for an Elf. "Flying" is a more apt description, but then, one's feet don't touch the ground when one flies, do they? And his feet are touching the ground. But how strange ... the rhythm is all wrong for feet alone. Running on all fours? No, impossible -- there is no way for arms and hands, legs and feet, to be that perfectly coordinated.

And there is something else ... moving almost as swiftly away from the Elf. Almost. That's the important point. He's chasing the Thing in front of him -- gaining on it -- it's somewhere ahead, still out-of-sight amongst those ssame trees that shoot past the Elf as he runs (flies). The Elf can't see the Thing -- not with eyes, anyway. But he smells it -- with an olfactory sensitivity that he logically knows he does not possess. The Thing sweats with its exertion. It empties its bowels as it flees. The earth it kicks up in its wake exudes freshness, a hint of the hard winter just passed and the wondrous spring just arriving.

Ever closer he comes, the trees a blur as they fly by on either side. The strange rhythm of his feet (and hands?) quickens, the scent grows stronger. And its fear -- intoxicating.

And then he's on it. What exactly it is, he fails to remember -- it doesn't matter. All that matters is that he's the Hunter, it's the Prey and now his jaw clamps on its neck (why do I not shoot it with my bow?  And why does my jaw feel not like my jaw at all, but like something ... else?) and as his long, sharp teeth (that he knows he cannot have) break the Thing's skin, the warm blood gushes over his muzzle, splashes his face, pours down his throat, and...

...the Elf snaps out of it, just as he's snapped awake on so many occasions, the sheets drenched in sweat and the taste of the Thing's blood still in his mouth.

The Old Man watches him now, a strange glint in his eye that wasn't there before; he knows, thinks the Elf. By Elbereth, he knows!  But the Old Man says nothing, simply waits patiently for the Elf to ask another question.

But the Elf has nothing to ask. Truth told, he cannot find his voice. And yet he knows what he will do, with a clarity of understanding that comes not from conscious thought, but from somewhere deeper. The Elf stands and moves toward the bowl with the strange ointment.