tagSci-Fi & FantasyThe Industrial Elf Ch. 01

The Industrial Elf Ch. 01


**This is supposed to be a short chapter. It's not an attempt to tease or anything, it was written originally for another purpose and I've added to it to make it stand alone as its own tale. There will be more very soon, but I think it's best here to keep this part of the elf's life a little bit apart from the rest and I don't want the reader to race past the ending of this one piece.

As always, I welcome comments, and if it touches the reader in any way, please don't forget to vote. O_o


Long before man ventured to what he would later call the New World, others had made the trip before him. There were elves here too.

They lived for a time in pockets scattered in different places on the North and South American continents, and if the indigenous humans here knew of them at all, it was through their own misty legends.

The elves themselves had already learned all they cared to about man and remained distant.

All of that changed as the human population exploded with the influx of people from Europe. Thousands and thousands of square miles of forests fell before a glittering rain of axe blows as the land was cleared by settlers. The elves retreated before the onslaught as they'd done in the Old World before, but some groups stayed longer than others.

One particular elf thought about this long afterward with some bitterness. His own clan had been one of the last to be displaced.

The princess of his clan journeyed to seek for others and left the group in the charge of one very young elf - not yet fully of age, but whose bloodline was high enough to command. None of the group had known, but he'd always loved the young princess from afar. She alone was aware, and had told him to wait for they were both too young at the time of her leaving, especially him.

As a sign of her acknowledgment of the stewardship that he was to provide, she'd tattooed her image on him herself, and he vowed to wait forever if it had to be.

She smiled and kissed him softly, telling him that none could predict the future. "Forever is a long time, even for such as we are. Wait for me as long as you can," she'd said, "I will do my best to return to you. I am sad for the parting and I have my own want of you. If I could, I would proclaim more between us than only this stewardship. In my heart, I want you for my own. Only wait for me and we can begin when I return."

But time passed and no word came to them. The months became years. It took some time, but now and then the others of the clan would seek out their young leader to suggest that it had perhaps become time that they gave up their vigil and made their journey west. At last, he stood before a large group of them and listened as he looked down, considering. There was a long moment of silence, but then he ran his fingers through his long blonde hair once and looking up, he nodded his assent and allowed those who would travel to the mountains in the far west to leave. There was nothing else that he could do for them where they were.

While elves can always rely on their own self-sufficiency, they are still very social beings in their hearts and the young leader was torn. With a heavy heart he made his second choice and watched his people leave without him.

He stayed to await the return of his ruler. He could stay out of the way of the settlers since the rocky ground there in their woods made it almost impossible to farm, and impassable to their wagons.

The solitary elf had learned everything that he could - everything that he'd been taught, he'd absorbed and made the lessons his own knowledge. He'd been left with some writings and he pored over everything endlessly, committing it to his memory with the sad and desperate comprehension that these writings wouldn't last before they faded. With little to distract him, he went over everything and became even more accomplished at living, at survival, and most of all, at mastering the lore and knowledge of the magic of his kind. But it took only a little while before he ran up against the limitations of what he'd been taught.

After that, he worked to grow it into something that might have a place in this new age, something that didn't need the surroundings of the quiet woods to work for him, since the quiet woods themselves were in peril.

He knew that there were no others with which to trade and so he learned to make better bows for himself. The swords that had been left to him were all that he'd likely ever be able to get his hands on and so he cared for these blades better than he cared for himself. With none of his kind around him to help with anything, he did everything for himself, but at the end of every single day, he was faced with the same sadness as he waited for the one that he loved.

He came into his prime all alone.

What he wasn't prepared for was the railroads. The work gangs brought explosives and that changed everything. They could build their right of ways and trestles now, and if they had to move mountains of rock to do that, well that's what they did.

The lone elf was torn and despondent, not wanting to stay, and still feeling compelled to in case his liege finally returned.

A settler built a mill at a nearby spot, and that turned into a small settlement of humans that the settler owned half of the industries and businesses in. The rails brought him more people and money every day.

He had a young daughter who was sent off to school and who returned looking for an outlet for her desire to care for others. Her father gave her an opportunity as he built an orphanage in the town. As events transpired, her first worker was someone not entirely suited to the regimen or the intent of the place at all.

Madeleine loved to wander what forest still existed in the area. For all of man's advances and wonders, her heart was really in the wildness of nature.

She didn't know it at first, but she was never alone as she walked in the wild places with her sketchbook for the elf followed, at first out of curiosity and wonder at the human female who walked the forest and the grassy hillsides all alone, and then out of a sense that she might need protection somehow.

It had actually come to that one day since a few men from a track crew had noticed her going into the forest alone. Their dark intent cost them their lives.

When she could run no further in her heavy skirts, Madeleine turned to plead with her pursuers who now walked to close the distance. The young woman heard only a quick buzz past her ear from behind, but she saw the closest of the men fall with an arrow in his throat. A second man fell and then someone with light-colored hair flashed by her as he drew his bow a third time to shoot down the last one running for his life.

When it was over, Madeleine stood in shock straining for breath near the tree that she'd backed up against to face the men. Their bodies lay before her and a few paces beyond stood someone whom she'd always known had existed from the legends of the old country that her grandmother had often told her as a child.

He scanned the forest and listened to be sure they were alone.

"Who are you?" she asked the apparition who now walked silently to each body to retrieve his arrows. One of his quarry still drew ragged breaths, and the elf impassively pushed his dagger through the man's heart from beneath his ribs before wrenching his arrow loose.

He barely looked up as he struggled with her speech and wiped his weapons clean, "Not one, - for you to see, - or know of. I ask you – say nothing to others of this. Do not go back how you came here. Walk another way back."

With that, he was gone, and Madeleine picked up her sketchbook and walked on shaking legs to do as he'd asked. She often stopped to look around her, and would sometimes catch fleeting glimpses of him as he flanked her from a distance. She wondered if he did this out of a desire to be certain that she was safe, or if it was only to make sure that she actually left.

Before she left the woods, she turned to ask him if she might return to speak with him one day. He stood considering it for a few seconds before approaching her soundlessly. It amazed her how he could move with so much grace, never even bending a leaf on a plant with his passage if it could be helped. Another thing that came to her was how quickly he covered the distance between them without seeming to be in any sort of rush or haste. He looked as though he was wandering to her, but it took only an instant and he was in front of her again.

"I have trouble with your words," he shrugged a little helplessly, and Madeleine knew at once that his pauses were not based on his having to think anything over. He was doing his best to make himself understood.

"Not again for the time of this moon," he said. "Others will come to seek the men. Your tracks will be gone to their sight. Say nothing. You can return next moon. I wait near the stream for you in morning-time – inside the forest."

She thanked him, and was rewarded by just the faintest smile and a nod before he vanished.

There was an uproar over the missing men. When their bodies were found, there could be no conclusions drawn for the animals had already been at the bodies, but the searchers didn't stay longer than they needed to after examining the remains and carrying them out. The forest seemed very dark and foreboding now - even a little threatening. They looked furtively around them, but none saw the elf watching them from the trees above.

It didn't take long for rumors to spread of the seemingly haunted woods.

Madeleine struggled as she waited for the time to pass, and walked to meet the elf on the first morning of the new moon. She sat and looked around her, listening. After a few minutes, the forest resumed its normal sounds as the woodland birds and animals decided that she posed no threat.

She didn't cry out, but still nearly jumped out of her skin when she turned to find him there beside her.

"Sorry to frighten you," he said with a shy smile.

They spent the rest of the morning and the afternoon talking and she followed him whenever he suggested that they move. At first, she was a little concerned that he was leading her deeper into the woods, but then recognized that after a while, he was leading her back to where they'd met earlier in the day. He struggled, but managed to smooth out his English for her to a degree, and she learned that he was alone there.

Over the time, she found that she grew fond of him very quickly, and was surprised that he seemed to make her feel more at ease in the forest than she'd ever felt before. For himself, he'd found a human that he didn't regard with distrust, and that was a wonder to him as well.

From that first visit, they became friends, and after a time, their visits together became nocturnal. He would wait for her outside her home in the darkness, and she would creep out after her father had fallen asleep, dressed in her riding breeches so as to be able to walk more easily in the moonlight with him. They'd sit on a hillside and she'd listen as he told her of the stars and the moon and how these things guided him and his kind over their lives. When it grew cold and damp, he'd pull a thin blanket seemingly out of thin air to wrap them up in and she wondered how such a thin thing could keep them so warm as they sat together.

During the third visit, she couldn't help herself and kissed him. The elf responded, but cautioned her after she professed the strong love that she somehow felt for him.

"We can love, but I hold some of my heart for the wildness around us. I also hold some of my heart for the ruler of this elf-place that was, I wait for her though it has been a long time now. What is left, I can give to you if this is enough for your own heart."

Madeleine decided that it was, and they quickly became lovers after that, only minutes after she whispered her desire to him. He smiled at her a little shyly and taking her hand, he guided her to the soft moss by the stream near to where he worshiped. She felt the magic of the place at once and he told her that she was very different from the humans that he'd been near. None of them felt anything, he said. It was plain in their faces.

And so it was that Madeleine learned the ways of love from her elf as they writhed together on the soft moss. Every lesson was a wonder to her as he loved her so gently at first and only added the fuel of passion when she let him know that she was ready for it. Until then, Madeleine had only thought that there was only one way to do this, but he showed her where her error lay and it had little to do with only the position as she'd thought.

They stayed warm together in the autumn as the brightly colored leaves few everywhere but in the glade and the rain never reached them while it was still cold. Madeleine learned her happy lessons and took him in places that she'd never heard that it might be done and was eager for it once she knew.

Even in the hardest screaming blizzard during the middle of the coldest winter in living memory, it was never cold there in the mist that rose from the only section of the stream that wore no icy covering. The small glade glistened magically in its covering of snow and ice crystals which formed almost a shelter around their mossy bed and it was always pleasantly warm there for them as she found her own ways to make him gasp.

She bundled herself up on the coldest nights and found him waiting outside her door for her dressed no differently as he would on the hottest day in the summer. He would pick her up and carry her into the forest so that there would be no sign of their passage since he left no footprints on even the softest new-fallen snow. Inside the forest, they walked hand in hand as lovers anywhere have always done, but once inside the glade, Madeleine's clothing flew from her body as fast as she could throw it off her and she loved the way that it made him laugh to see it.

But once Madeleine had learned how the closures of his clothing worked, she never allowed him to undress himself. She always undressed him and told him that to her, he was someone who was deserving of her worship in this way. She loved to watch his desire for her mount as she teased only a little, and since he'd taught her so well, this was something that she loved to look forward to. She only wished that her tongue could be in several places at once.

Her father finally gave in to her request to allow the woods behind their home to remain there, rather than add yet another several fields to the many that he held. He was a bit disappointed that she never seemed to accept any of the suitors who came to call, but never got a satisfactory reason for her rejection of them. He turned his mind to other industries that would enrich him. It kept the worry for her farther back in his mind.

On the lot next to his mill, he erected the latest modern wonder, a water-powered generation station, and sold power to the little place. As he counted his money, he was happily ignorant of other events around him.

Madeleine was happy. She loved her elf and the ways that he loved her. She had no want or need of any suitors while she had his arms to hold her. When the orphanage was completed, she lived there and the elf helped as he could, sometimes dressing as a man and keeping a hat on his head. But the best times between them came when they walked back to the glade to make love there.

Rather than turn up his nose at the foul advances of man's industry, his curiosity drove him to learn how this new advance made light. The elves had always known about electricity, but how it could be harnessed continuously and diverted – well that was something new. He often stole into the station at night, casting spells to cause the night workers to sleep so that he could run the thing himself.

Though they were happy, the passage of time cannot be slowed, and Madeleine ran her father's enterprises after his passing. She found it easy to do with enough hired help, but it troubled her that she herself was aging now. The elf knew this would happen, but it didn't change how he loved her. In time she passed on the businesses to the others in her family who came - all except the power plant.

It had outlived its usefulness, though he'd enlarged it to meet the increased demand. When other larger power- providing firms came to the area, the users switched to them, but the long-running orphanage still got its power from the old plant at no cost, even long after there were no more orphans being cared for there.

Only old Madeleine still lived there until she died with a smile in the arms of the elf who had befriended her so many years before.

With her second-last breath, she thanked him for his long love and friendship and the happy life that they'd shared. He smiled at her through his sad eyes as she passed.

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