Once upon a time, in a land now lost to us with the passing of time, but none the less just as real as our time today. The land was not given a name, but was referred to as being the Kingdom of Autumn. Before which it had been called the Kingdom of Mergus. And so through the ages names had changed, along with the type of people living within the various Kingdoms.
Mergus had been an evil Lord, that sort power by sorcery and brought much suffering to the forest folk that were subject to his Kingdom. That is until the Elfin Priestesses had risen up against him. And killed Mergus in a great battle, his body then bound in elfin cords of precious metals, before being cast into the great lake of Aquas a lake of unmeasurable depths. It is in the forests and woods that surround this lake that we take up the story.
This was not yet the time of humans, although some were just starting to be seen here and there. Mainly in the harsher places where the Fairy folk chose not to venture. One such human had been looking for a better place to live and had gone much further into the forest than usual. Big clumsy humans or Stompers as the forest folk would call them. Lacking in all the graces that the elves and fairies had, Stompers were more to be laughed at than feared. Indeed some good fun could be had, playing some fairy mischief upon an unsuspecting human and then watch them run screaming from the forest.
Today though was to be a very different day, for the encounter with this particular stomper would change the lives of the forest folk forever. Thoak (the stomper) was a little uneasy being so deep into the forest he had heard of strange and magical creatures dwelling here, But his need to cut through the forest to find better land to grow some food on, was much more important than paying to much notice to silly stories.
Thoak tried not to listen to the strange sounds of the forest , “just look ahead and keep walking” he said to himself “very quickly Keep walking”. Then of a sudden a wind that seemed to come from nowhere was upon him, and it stirred the leaves into life and blew them all around him spinning them round and round Into a tight funnel. Thoak spat some leaves from his mouth while he wondered how such a wind could happen in these depths and thickness of trees. ”Hellloo”a voice said “hellloo stomper”. It spoke a second time which was twice to many for Thoak. With his arms flailing about in a panic he cried out “stop stop who’s doing this” at which point he fell over. He lay on the ground the wind no longer blowing around him but instead spinning in a column beside him. He stared as once again it spoke,”sorriiee aboout that. My name iiss Twipss”.
It would appear that the human had met with a willow the wisp. Twipss assured the frightened human who he later came to know as Thoak that he meant him no harm, and often found it difficult when meeting newcomers to the forest.
So after a brief chat which Twipss seemed to enjoy more than the still a little bit scared Thoak, the willow the wisp went on his way “byyee byyee stomper”. And he was gone almost as quickly as the way in which he arrived.
This left Thoak with a good idea,”get out of here fast”. He looked around to see the best way to go “there’s no way I’m getting lost in here”. A very wise thought for a stomper in such a situation, and on the verge of panic.
After a brief scratch of the head Thoak decided that he was lost ,and to run off in any direction would do just fine. When just then, crack and then crack again, someone or something was passing near by and making a fair noise about it. As twigs snapped and leaves rustled, Thoak was lost and all he could do was listen as the noise was getting closer and closer. He could hear that there were at least two voices amongst the clamber. A very scared Thoak knelt down beside a large tree.
Thoak said to himself “if I run now I’m sure to be seen”. So he decided to try and hide himself from what ever was coming and maybe see what it was before it saw him. It was very close now, he could hear the voices quite well now. They seemed most distressed and desperate he looked around from the tree and saw two elves. Well he thought that’s what they must be by what he had been told. Elves were not to be messed with, was another thing he had been told. Thoak was now more curious than frightened indeed the elves were far more upset about something to notice Thoak trying his best to look like the root of a tree.
The elves could be clearly heard now. “Come on we must” one of them said “he’s too heavy” said the other. Thoak had to see what this was all about, he looked up to see them dragging something, it looked like a large stone but in the shape of an elf. “We only have till sunset” said one of the elves and before he could stop himself “why is that ?” said Thoak. He slapped his hand over his mouth and pressed himself against the tree. At this point it is impossible to say who was the most surprised by this unexpected question.
After a few moments that seemed like hours to Thoak, one of the elves replied. “It is our friend “ the elf was much to concerned with the desperate situation that they were in than to bother about the fact that Thoak was of human kind. “If we do not get him to the Lord High Elf by sunset he will be like this for ever”.
Thoak did not know what to say this was all getting to be a bit much. “can you help us?” asked the other elf, Thoak could not say no as he looked upon there dire state, “okay “ he said and stood up, “but I’m lost what can I do”. The elves had not seen a human close up before and were amazed by how much bigger he was than they. “Are you as strong as you are big ?” they asked “yes I think so” said Thoak. After a brief discussion it was decided that one of the elves would run on ahead to get help while Thoak carried the elf that had been turned to stone with the help of the other elf who would guide him to their encampment.
“My name is Redberry and this is our friend Cobweb” said the elf. It was tradition amongst the forest folk to be named after something of the forest, so as they went through life they would look after their name sake. This task was taken on with great pride. So whatever the name of the elf he would make sure that the things of the forest that shared his name was looked after as best as they could manage.
“I’m Thoak , what should I do “? The elf who was almost half the size of his new friend took charge. After a bit of a struggle Thoak managed to get the elf on to his back being very careful not to drop him in case he shattered .
Although Thoak was strong the stone elf was very heavy.”How did this happen ?” Asked Thoak “We have a long way to go “ was the reply.”then tell me on the way .” And so the elf led on and told of how this came to be.
It was about a hundred years ago at the time when Mergus was thrown into the lake. One of his wives tried to recover the body but was driven of by the elves and fairy folk. She stayed deep in the forest and practised the arts of blackest witchcraft still trying to raise the body of Mergus from the great lake.
The witch is called Mortrid and any chance she gets to get her own back on the elves she relishes. Mortrid must be stopped from getting to the lake but as time goes by her spells get stronger and it is harder to stop her.
Thoak stumbled but managed to keep the elf on his back. They had been travelling for some time and he was exhausted.”Come on we must hurry the sun is getting low.” Redberry was very anxious, he was afraid for his friend.
Thoak knew things were getting desperate and it was time for his greatest effort he rose to his feet. “Which way”, the elf pointed towards an old stump in the distance. With that Thoak let out a strange bellow and charged off “ahrahrahr”. It was now as much as Redberry could do to keep up.
”ahrahrahr”. Thoak just kept on going past the old stump through streams and thorny thickets alike. With occasionally Redberry calling out “go left” “straight on” or some other such instruction. Thoak just kept on going much to the amazement of Redberry. He could not jump with the weight of Cobweb on his back so he just ran through what ever was in his way but all the time being very careful not to drop the elf of stone.
After covering a great distance Thoak started to slow down and Redberry caught up. Thoak was finished, now barely able to put one foot in front of the other, he was in a right state. Thoak was scratched and bruised his clothes were torn but still he tried to keep going. Redberry was doing his best to encourage Thoak and spur him on “we are getting near now, come on”. Thoak looked through the trees to see the sun now very low in the sky he had given more than his best effort but there was no sight of the elfin camp.
Thoak had done his best he stumbled and fell. Now on his knees “I’m sorry Redberry I can’t go any further”. Redberry Knew that was it, they stayed as they fell to watch a sun set that would bring much sorrow.
Neither Thoak or Redberry wanted to talk, the elf of stone still on his back Thoak fell forward all of his strength had gone. Only a short time had passed when Redberry got to his feet. “Thoak Thoak I Think I can hear them”. Thoak could not move with the weight on his back. “Where are they can they see us”. No sooner had he asked, than he saw a small bright light dancing about them. Redberry’s face lit up with excitement. “Yes it’s Stardancer”. Stardancer is one of the elf’s fairy friends and was about to put on a display that would let the world know where they were.
She flew up and down leaving a trail of light behind her and with in seconds there were beams of light every where, and of course she giggled all the time. Within less than a minuet a dozen or more elves arrived all desperate to do all they could for their friend.
Another group had taken a different track so Stardancer went off to find them. The elves had brought a cart with them, it was normally used for gathering wood but it could carry the elf of stone quite well. As they lifted Cobweb from Thoaks back he looked up to see the sun just above the ground and wondered if there was enough time left.
The elves are normally very polite and gracious but this was not an occasion for good manners in welcoming a visitor. “The Lord High Elf is making things ready”. One called to Redberry. “What about Thoak” he asked
“leave him, there’s no time to spare”. And with that off they went, Redberry stayed and watched as they sped off “I must go, but do not worry Stardancer will Bring the others to help you”. With that he hurried off to catch up with the cart. Thoak still lay on the ground where he fell he was so tired and worn out he fell asleep.
The next thing he knew was to awaken to the sound of much cheering he was on a wood cart being taken in to the elfin camp. There was a great fire burning with everyone stood around it in a large circle. An old elf with a long white beard that touched the ground was throwing strange little parcels into the fire. The cart with Cobweb on was sat beside the great fire a young elf held a book that the old elf was reading from. He spoke many strange words and the flames of the fire turned to purple, the cart with Cobweb on was pushed into the fire, all was silent even the fire stopped crackling .
In the breathless silence every one watched as the stone began to slowly dissolve. The cart was pulled from the fire not even scorched and Cobweb sat up to the loudest cheer you could imagine. Needless to say a great celebration was to follow. Thoak now found himself the centre of attention with elves bringing him food and drink the like he had never had before.
They tended to his cuts and bruises and set about mending his torn clothing. Thoak was very happy he looked up and saw Redberry coming towards him Cobweb was with him and Grubs the elf that had run off to get help. Cobweb thanked Thoak with tears in his eyes, and told him that no one had ever been able to get someone that had been turned to stone back in time to enter the fire of change.
They told him that they would be honoured to be his friends forever. He had done a great kindness to the elfin folk, a deed beyond measure that songs and stories would be made of to remember this day for all time.