“I hear you made quite a disturbance a day or two ago,” said Eltuthar. “Something involving a tree, I believe?” He stood solidly on the small plateau, his feet set slightly apart, his eyes alive in contrast with the rest of his face. The sun of the new morning shone brilliantly behind him.
Dilmir laughed despite himself. He wore the black leather of the Eth Aniliim now, the red symbol that was so feared etched into it. He did not, however, carry the two swords of Eltuthar’s followers; the sword he had trained with for seven years and which had weathered every one of Ilrin’s vicious blows was still tied securely to his belt. “It was an accident,” he said. “I just gave the spell too much power.”
“Exactly,” said Eltuthar, a light breeze lifting his hair. “When you attacked Cyprien on that night, you woke the magic within you. Denying it for seven years had worked well enough, though it would have broken out eventually, but after using it, there was no quelling it.”
Dilmir had suspected something similar. After all, his magic had only begun to grow after he had attacked Cyprien.
“Spells,” mused Eltuthar, “can be tricky things. If you had ever seen me duel with magic, I would have never cast a spell.”
Dilmir found this hard to believe. “Why?” he said. “Surely you had to cast something?”
Eltuthar smiled as he replied. “The magic that you possess, Dilmir, and that I did, is vastly different from that of the other elves. To change something, they must concentrate very hard, forming the magic before they release it. With us, it is the other way around. We release the magic first, then form it however we wish.”
“Tell me, Dilmir,” said Eltuthar, “haven’t you ever simply felt something through magic, without truly casting a spell or enchantment?”
Dilmir nodded. He had always thought that all elves could do that, however.
“That little ability means that you don’t have to think about what kind of spell you want to cast. All you have to do is release the magic, and then form it. You’ll be faster at casting a spell than any other elf, because they will, no matter how good at it they are, always have to form the spell first.”
“But then,” said Dilmir slowly, “can you cast one spell, and then change it into something completely different in the air?”
Eltuthar’s smile widened. “Precisely,” he said. “For example, that tree that I mentioned. You could easily do the same here, but without casting a spell. Try it now.”
Wondering if this could possibly work, though it made sense enough, Dilmir slowly stretched his magic out over the ground, conscious now of how he allowed it to flow from him, searching through the ground. In a moment, he found a small seed, and began to work his magic into it. Once he had learned its simple structure, he turned his attention to the magic. Carefully, slowly, wondering why this had never occurred to him before, it seemed so simple, he caused the seed to sprout, push its roots down into the earth, and then shoot upwards. The tree grew at an amazing rate, the hard case of the shell falling rapidly away, the first of the leaves unraveling in less than a second. Slowly, bark began to creep up the stem, and then widen, enlarging the trunk. For a moment, the tree looked oddly absurd, its trunk as wide around as Dilmir’s waist, its branches still thin twigs. Then those too grew, widening and lengthening, splitting in two many times, leaves sprouting all along them. In another moment, a small tree stood, placidly growing in what had been a smooth field a few short seconds ago.
Dilmir released the magic. Despite what he might want to think, controlling the tree the way he had was – there was no other word for it – fun. He liked the sense of control it gave him, but the opportunity to not have to withhold his magic for once was alone enough.
Eltuthar quietly observed the birch before commenting, “The more energy you put into the tree, the more you’ll be able to grow it, but you likely already knew that.” He fell silent then, and walked about the tree, examining it, as if trying to find a flaw. Being unable to do so, he said, “I wish I had seen the other elves’ faces when you grew that oak. I heard it was quite a sight.”
“How do you know?” asked Dilmir, puzzled.
“My Eth Aniliim are all about Eld’rin,” said Eltuthar. “They just keep to themselves most of the time. Many of them saw what you did.” He laughed. “But their faces! Such reports I’ve heard, all of them looking disbelievingly at you.”
He resumed his scrutiny of the tree, but the smile that had momentarily come, slowly slid from Dilmir’s face.
True, the elves had not been able to believe what he had done, but it had been more than that, even if Eltuthar’s elves had not seen. Ilrin had been the only elf who was not afraid of him or his power. Dilmir closed his eyes. Ilrin. Try as he might, he could not shake her from his thoughts. He was reminded constantly of her by everything he did. Only now, when she was gone, did he fully realize how much a part of him she had become. They had been together for nearly the whole time he was at Eld’rin, and he had confided everything in her. Everything, he thought bitterly, but what I should have. If I had told her who I was, nothing would have changed. She would have still been with me, trying to help. That was all she did, after all: try to help. If only I had trusted her with more. But he hadn’t. He had made a choice.
This was not the first time he had thought thus. Over the days he had spent at Arath Imil, he had constantly been reminded of things he should have told Ilrin, and now would likely never be able to.
As Eltuthar marveled over the perfection of his tree, Dilmir was slowly turned against the power within him, that which made him different. If he had never had it, none of this would have happened. If he hadn’t had it, Alfimir wouldn’t have attacked him. If he hadn’t had it, the elves would have seen him as just another elf. If he hadn’t had it, he would not now be banished, and the elves would not be turned against him, but most of all, Ilrin, whom had always been there to reassure him and sunder his doubts, would still be with him, likely laughing lightly by his side at this very moment.