The little cabin welcomed the trio in from the cold and after a moment or two, Brayden lit up the lanterns in the corners, and light was shed onto them. He ushered them in further, and quickly shut and locked the door behind them. The cabin's interior was much neater than the outside. Its floors were actually quite clean and there was only a single cobweb in the corner. Its walls were warm and inviting, and the roof over the head was a big relief to a weary traveller. There were several shelves along the walls, of course loaded to the brim with thick and thin books, old and new, as well as a few photos here and there. It was quite the surprise to see Brayden so young in some of them. He had no facial hair, no wrinkles and his eyes didn't hold the years of wisdom they did now, instead he was plump faced, grinning wide with bright, youthful eyes. There was a small table in the center of the first room, and around it were three chairs, the fourth crammed against the wall, almost in the corner. A red tablecloth covered a portion of the tables surface, and a few circular stains were strewn about it, where several coffee cups must have sat. In fact a mug sat there now, emptied of its contents, forgotten. A small candle sat in the middle, burnt down to nearly nothing, its wick charcoal black. It seemed like a place that had been well lived in for some time, and the way it comforted them so easily made it seem still very lived in, so very much alive.
Elliot turned back to watch Lune's reaction to another house, not the attic of one, but the actual home, and found himself smiling something awful, like he'd done months ago with Nina, like he'd thought he never would again. He was looking around at everything, absorbing every single detail that was in the cabin, and breathing in deep, the smells of the wood, and the wilderness, the warmth it held, which was the complete opposite of the disgusting circumstances he had lived in before. He ran his fingers along the ridges in the wood, and stood up high on the tips of his toes to try and reach at the ceiling.
"This place is beautiful." he said, looking back at Elliot finally, smiling just a little. "It's just marvelous."
It was just then that Brayden turned to face them both, a stern, curious look planted on his face. "I want to hear every detail that will explain why it was you were outside at this ungodly hour, so far away from home, and why you looked as though you had run a hundred years or so. Sit."
Elliot and Lune took their seats on the surprisingly comfortable wooden chairs across from Brayden. Elliot gave Lune's hand a gentle squeeze under the table to relax him a little, though it might also have been to calm himself down. He wasn't sure really how to explain the entire story, but he had to try, he had to at least say something.
"I don't really know what to say Mr. Mann.. er.. I mean, Brayden. I mean, I just don't think that you'll..."
The older man leaned in closer, brows raised. "Don't think i'll what?"
"Well it's just.. I don't think you'll believe me if I do tell you."
"Elliot, I have read a good many books, and I have believed even the things in them. I am sure whatever it is you intend to tell me, will be easier to believe than that. So please, tell."
"Okay.. I guess i'll start at the beginning." he said, leaning a little heavily on the table, poking at it with his index finger. "After Nina's death... I had to do something she asked me to. There was a box, with the legal papers, like her Will and such, and it also had a letter from her, and a small key." He reached his hand into his pant pocket, and pulled the little thing out. He was surprised he actually still had it. He had thought he would leave it behind, or that it would have fallen out when they'd went tumbling down the hill, but there it was. His and Lune's savior. "In the letter she told me she wasn't quite sure what it was for. She had found it one day when she was cleaning outside or something, and she didn't know if it was for our place and she had simply forgotten or what. And well, as you may recall, I always thought the house next door was haunted.. and after she passed and I held the key, I just got all those thoughts I had as a kid back. I checked all the doors and windows inside the house, and in the garage and shed, but it didn't fit. So I kind of thought.. maybe it was for that creepy house. It does look old doesn't it? It was pretty logical to think. Only, the two men who lived there, sort of, freak me out. They scared me when they were ten feet away! I couldn't just march over and hand their key over. I waited til they left, and then I snuck in through the front gate. Which, by the way, the key did not unlock. I tried. I think I almost broke it. The key, not the gate."
"Wait, let me get this straight so far.. You snuck into their home? You trespassed, broke the law? Just because you had a suspicion that the key you had was for their house? You couldn't just leave it on the door step, or mail it to them? Elliot!"
"Hey! I'm not finished.. please.. i'll answer all your questions and accept all your criticism after i'm finished. Okay?"
Brayden huffed, and shook his head, pulling at his table cloth's loose threads, making a little hole in the corner of it even larger from fray, and at his silence, Elliot continued.
"I searched all around the house, but nothing had a lock on it, and the few that did, weren't locked at all, and the key certainly didn't fit them. Then I went upstairs, and I found a secret hidden room! I knew it had to be it, I just knew. I crawled in and found another hidden room inside the first, only this one was locked up tight. It was like the grand prisons we've read about, Brayden. Just like it! I compared the key to one of the locks, and they were a near perfect match. This is where Lune here comes in.. I'm skipping a lot of the details, but you have to understand, if I told you every little thing, honestly every thing, we'd be here all night, and I need you to know what happened, and you need to know, as soon as possible."
"Right, right.. continue. I don't mind skipping minor details. I just need the more important points."
"So I found out that behind that locked door, was Lune here. And he was locked up there by those men. See, they had taken him when he was just a small kid.. and they cooped him up in that attic, never letting him out, never opening the window. He was surrounded by only shadows and dust, and his view of the outside world was from a window no bigger than the table cloth here! He had to sit and watch the world pass him by through a tiny block!" Elliot couldn't help but take dramatic pauses when he told stories. He had inherited the habit from his aunt, who had told him it was his mother he'd got it from, so he really had them both to blame, though he did not know his mother well. He cleared his throat, which had started going dry from talking. "I became friends with him, and over the few days, that turned into weeks and then into a month, we learned things about one another. We told each other our secrets, just like friends did. I told him all about life outside of his tiny attic, and he told me about why he was there. And.. i'm sorry can I have a glass of water?" Truthfully he just wanted to delay telling anything else. He was so scared of being told he was a liar, that he was always so full of his imagination.
Brayden gave a nod, and waved for him to continue as he shuffled off to the side where a small kitchen lay. "You're lucky, got a bottle of spring water in the fridge. Otherwise i'd make you suffer the clean well water."
Elliot grinned, thanked him politely, and downed the bottles contents in three large mouthfulls. "Thanks, that's better.. what was I saying? Oh. Now before I keep going, I need you to understand I wanted to take him away immediately. The very day I first laid eyes on him, I wanted to take him out of the attic. I didn't. I know it's horrible of me. I know I should have done something. I was just scared. I didn't know what to do, how I could help him. If I just took him, maybe the men would know it was me, and come after him, both of us. He made me leave each time too. He barely agreed to leave when we did tonight. but i'll get to that in a moment. I learned something really special about Lune just two days ago, Brayden, and this is the part of the story where i'm thinking you'll stop believing.. Lune isn't just a regular kid. He's.. well he's-"
"I'm an elf, Sir." Lune piped up. His quiet voice could barely be noticed by the other two, and it would probably be the same way even if it was even a decibal higher. He was so soft spoken, that he had to clear his throat and repeat himself, though it was likely that he was just doing it because he wasn't sure if he would believe him from just the initial statement. "I'm an elf."
Brayden looked up at the two boys, but his gaze focused more on Lune, old wise eyes hidden under whitened brow. He studied him closely for several long minutes before he sat back again, thinking.
Both boys were watching him with wide eyes, and Elliot was hoping and pleading that he would believe them. Elliot reached across the table almost subconsciously and took hold of Lune's hand. He'd discovered in the past few days that it was mostly for himself that he took his hand. It somehow calmed him down. It made him feel a little better, no matter what the circumstance, if he was holding onto his hand. It was likely it was the fact he had been on his own for only a short time, and the physical attention, holding his hand like he had always held Nina's, comforted him, and made being out on his own a bit better.
Finally, Brayden cleared his throat, and Elliot had to tear his eyes off of Lune's face, to stare at the older man. "An elf." He said simply, getting to his feet.
"Please, Brayden, you have to believe us! He is an elf.. he really is.. and he could prove it but I won't let you force him to do that. And we're not asking to stay with you for long. Only to morning really."
"Calm down Elliot." Brayden hushed him and shuffled over to one of the shelves against the wall. He leafed through the books, checking their worn spines before he hauled a thick one off and brought it back to the table. "I believe you."
Elliot was more shocked than he had thought he would be when he heard the three words. "You.. You believe us? You really do?"
"To be honest this is easier to believe than if you would have said you just murdered someone, Elliot. It is not as fantastical as you would think. Certainly not to someone like me anyways. You should know by now that I, like you, believe many things that others do not." He chuckled lightly and sat back down beside the two. "Now then.. I want to hear from you, Lune was it? Tell me about you. What you have been doing, your family, everything. I just may be of use to you."
After a briefly exchanged look of worry to Elliot, and receiving one of comfort from him, Lune twisted in his seat a little. "I.. don't really remember my family. That's horrible.. isn't it.. I mean, I can remember some things, but I was young.. I know it is not an excuse, and i'm so sorry that i've forgotten some details. I wish I didn't. I wish I could still remember every single thing about all of them.. I do remember my mother and father. I remember how they looked, she more than him, and my older brother. I recall his face. I don't remember my home, not well enough, there's just blurred images in my mind, and i'm not even sure if they are real or not. I can't even hear their voices anymore. I don't know what she sounds like when she speaks, or how her voice is as she sings, I can't tell if my father ever sounded stern, or if he was soft spoken. My brother's voice is as gone as the others, and I do not remember anything about talking with him. I know i'm no help. I'm terribly useless."
"Lune don't talk like that! You're not useless, you're brilliant, and it's not your fault that you can't remember them very much. They took you away from them when you were just a small kid, you had to spend your life with them. It's not you, I promise." Elliot mumbled, squeezing his fingers.
"Do you remember what the area looked like?" Brayden was not letting a pause start up and last too long, even though the two boys were both pretty tired, and talking about Lune's past was making him upset. "Was it wooded? Do you remember your mother or father maybe ever mentioning the name?"
"No. I'm sorry. I don't remember them saying anything about it. I know it was wooded though. There were so many large, really nice trees, and there was a place I used to go with my brother. It's one of the only parts of my home I can remember. There was.. a sort of tunnel, of trees. They were so over grown that they overlapped one another and formed a roof over our heads for quite the walk. I think it was along the way to the lake. In the winter, the thick branches would have snow settled on them, and my brother used to tell me that he would shake the tree so hard the snow would fall on me and bury me in it if I misbehaved.. Heh, i've always managed to keep the memories with my brother with me. I guess it means that we spent a lot of time together, huh?"
"I think that's good, that you still remember some things from your past. Even though they are only small things." Brayden mumbled, flipping the book open in front of them and skimming through the pages, searching for something in all of the thick black text in the yellow pages. "Maybe it isn't where you're from.."
"Maybe what isn't?" Lune asked, brows furrowing. "I'm sorry, but i'm confused.. can you explain?"
"Let me ask you this, then Lune. Do you have any, gifts, powers, whatever you would like them to be called?"
"I... wait, why?... you.. you're just like them aren't you? You'll lock me up and take advantage of my gift from Mother Earth!"
Elliot grabbed at Lune's hands and drew him in close, squeezing at his fingers and wrist. "It's okay, Lune.. he's not trying to hurt you or anything. He never would. I've trusted him for my entire life, and he's a great friend to me. He's going to help us, so you have to be honest with him okay? I won't let anything happen to you."
"He needs to calm down.. I have an idea. How would you like to meet a friend of mine, Lune?" Brayden asked, shutting the book and standing. "I'm sure he can help you to calm down and feel a little more secure.."
Lune looked to Elliot for guidance, a hint at what the old man was talking about, but he got nothing, Elliot shrugged. He'd never known about any sort of friend to Brayden, then again he didn't know the man a hundred percent. "I.. um... sure, Sir. I don't see any other people around though. I had thought it was just the three of us. I mean, you unlocked the door and everything. Do you lock your friends up in here?"
"Well... this one I do. But you'll understand why when you meet him."
Brayden moved to one of the other closed doors to their left and pushed it open after a sharp twist of the knob. "Elliot, Lune.. I would like to introduce you to one of my very best friends, San Valentino, or as I commonly call him and he seems to prefer, Vali. Come on out and say hello to the boys, Vali!"
Elliot got to his feet with Lune and eyed the doorway curiously, moving towards it, his hand loosely clutching onto the other's. He was expecting a giant, tall and physically built man to walk out, and that he would have to duck his head or it would hit the top of the doorway. In other words, he was expecting to see a giant walk out. His imagination just never quit.
The door way remained empty and dark. There was no movement from the other room, and it almost seemed like the old man was trying to play a trick on them both, by pretending someone else was in the cabin with them.
Suddenly out from the darkness of the room, a great bounding blurr leapt, throwing the door back with a tremendous force, so hard it hit the wall and ended up swinging to close itself again. The blurr raced into the room, knocking over the chairs as it ran a full circle around the cabin, its great dark form hitting everything in its path. It nearly legswept Brayden when it went dashing by him and then it spotted Elliot. It spun round on the spot and charged forwards, leaping up off the floor. With a cry, he fell back, and found himself on it, with a large bernese mountain dog perched upon his chest, pink tongue lopping out the side of its mouth as it panted, its tail made loud thuds on the floor, wagging back and forth in excitement against the wood.
It ran its tongue up Elliot's cheek, thick drool coating his skin from chin to hair, which stuck up at a strange angle after, and then proceeded to bark several times in his ear, and then went in for a few more licks at his face, tail still thumping loud on the floor.
"Augh! Gross!" He grumbled, wiping his face off with his sleeve and scrunching his nose in disgust. "Brayden!"
With a quiet chuckle, Brayden reached out and grabbed the dog by its collar, yanking the great furball off of Elliot, allowing him to get off the floor back on his feet. He turned round and thanked him, finally getting a better view of the thing that had knocked him over and tasted his face.
Vali was a larger bernese mountain dog, with thick, dark auburn fur, from his muzzle to his paws, and bright green eyes, there were lighter flecks and patches of fur in the mix, down around his belly and legs, giving it a shine. He was pure muscle coated in silky soft fur, and sat proudly beside Brayden, dusting the floor with his tail, and was creating a little puddle of drool from the side of his mouth as he panted.
"This is Vali." Brayden said quietly, patting the great dog on his head. "He seems to like you, Elliot."
"Ugh, nice to meet you, Vali.. and i'm pleased that you like me, but next time can we just formally introduce ourselves instead of knocking each other around?"
"Are you okay, Elliot?" Lune asked softly, looking at him as if he had been mauled by a bear, or some frightening creature, and should be dead.
His soft voice had been barely a decibal above a whisper, as it always was, but the dog heard it like it were a shout, and turned his head to the side to stare at him, tail wagging even faster. He bounded off away from Brayden and Elliot and pounced for Lune, knocking the lightweight back into his chair. He gave quite the shout, but he didn't try to get away and run off in terror like it would've seemed likely. The boy ran his fingers through Vali's thick fur and along his muzzle, before he found the dogs ears and became incredibly fascinated with toying with them.
"I've never seen a dog, a real dog.. only from the books that Elliot gave me! I never thought they were so big, or furry!" He exclaimed, rubbing behind Valentino's ears and scratching down his back. "He's beautiful." He slid gentle fingers across the dog's muzzle and over his wet nose, burying his face atop of his head and squealing when he was nudged away so the dog could lick his face all over.
"Glad you two are making friends with him, he's quite the companion." Brayden said, settling back down into the chair, with Elliot following suit. "I have had him since he was just a new born pup."
Elliot watched Lune with a smile on his face, bemused by the utter joy the other boy was getting out of hugging a real dog. He was incredibly fascinated with his ears, running his fingers from the tips to the very base of them and back up again, over and over. He nodded at Brayden, but he was having trouble paying very much attention to the conversation at hand. It was a strangely nice scene, to see someone look so happy at something so regular. He looked like an innocent child who hadn't experienced anything horrible or frightening, and was taking baby steps in the world, discovering one thing at a time.
"Do you suppose we can talk a little more now about you, Lune? Now that you're perhaps a bit more calm?"
Lune grunted a little, a heavy Vali clambering sloppily onto his lap and sitting up on him, licking at the side of his head. "Oh.. Sure, Sir." he said, throwing his arms around the pup. "What.. would you like to know?"
"I would just like for you to explain your power, if that's alright. I do not need any demonstrations, I just need to be explained what you can do, how it works.. I don't even need all the details, if you do not want to tell them. Just say whatever it is you're comfortable with. Deal?"
"Alright, deal.." He muttered, shutting his eye before the sloppy pink tongue dragged up the side of his face again. "I do have what you call powers, but I call it a gift from Mother Earth. I can grow her plants. From the small blades of grass, to the mighty trees, and all the exotic flowers in between. And all I need is dirt to do it. My kind always could do that, but the exotic flowers were not included in everyone's gift. Some of us were given the ability, some of us weren't. By now, I should have been able to do so much, but I can't. In fact, I can't even handle one flower without being weakened to a point where I pass out. I'm a pitiful excuse for a woodland elf."
"I see..." Brayden muttered, humming a little as he once again skimmed the pages of the book he had brought out earlier. "It's linked with your energy then? You need to have enough or you can't handle it. I think I understand. What happens if you pass out? Is it dangerous to you?"
"Well.. from the experiences with it i've had so far, nothing terrible happens, I just pass out, like going to sleep. The bad things happen when I wake up from passing out, because then I have to deal with them."
"Had. Had to deal with them." Elliot corrected, clearing his throat a little. "You don't have to deal with them or anyone else ever again. I'll make sure of that."
Lune gave him a smile and rested his head in Vali's soft coat, his hands gently gripping his fur. "Yes, had to. Thank you so very much.."
A bit of a silence started between them both, but it only lasted a moment or two, only allowed them to have to shift awkwardly on their chairs, before it was broken by Brayden, shutting the book in front of him.
"It's late. We will talk more in the morning." He announced, passing a hand through his hair and standing. "My bedroom is here, there's two spares, you both can decide who sleeps where. In the morning i'll wake you with breakfast, and we can discuss what you plan on doing next, hm?"
"Thank you, Brayden.. I really can't thank you enough for all you've done for us." Elliot said, rising up too, and hauling Vali off of Lune so he could do the same. "You saved us from spending a night out in the pitch black woods."
"No need to thank me. Go get some rest. Oh, and turn down the lights when you go, if you would." He said, and then he shuffled off, and disappeared behind the door in which Vali had burst from. It clicked shut, and the small noise echoed slightly off the walls before silence hit again and the two were left alone. Well, nearly alone. The giant dog was still sitting there.
"Well, he's right. Let's sleep. You want to take Vali into that room there or would you prefer the one on the right? It doesn't particularly matter to me." Elliot said, stifling a yawn.
Lune shrugged and peeked into both rooms. "I'll take the one on the left." He said, carefully heading inside, quickly being followed by Vali. "Elliot..?"
"Can you keep your door open a little? I just.. I think I would feel better. To know a friend is just close by."
"Sure thing. And Lune, thanks for coming along with me, even though we don't know each other perfectly, even though I didn't have a plan, still don't have a plan, and made you fall down a hill."
He grinned a little and pat the dog's head as he stood in the doorway of the room and looked back at him. "I'd fall down a hundred cliff sides if it meant I could still be with my friend.. even real cliff sides."
Elliot chuckled lightly and went around the front room, turning off one light at a time, slowly dimming the place down to thick darkness. "Good to know." He muttered, pushing the door open. "Goodnight, Lune. Sweet dreams."
Summary: Elliot Davenport spends his every moment with a book in his face, and his head in the clouds, paying no mind to reality. But there will come a time when he will have to put the books away, and take a step into the world he thought was boring, into a world he thought he knew, only to discover he knew nothing about it at all.
also on fictionpress; [link]
also on fictionpress; [link]