A rushing of air, a blast of sound, a flash of light. Alfimir turned as an elf appeared out of nowhere behind him. The elf was cloaked and hooded, his head bowed. He seemed to be hunched, as though he were doubled up in pain. In a moment, though, he raised his hand. Instantly, Alfimir was outlined in black, as though the air about him had been torn away. His eyes widened, and he seemed to bulge briefly before Dilmir’s eyes. He let the knife fall to the ground, and then fell to his knees, gasping for air. “Eltuthar?” he rasped, before falling facedown in the dead leaves, motionless.
Eltuthar remained bent double, his hands hidden in the folds of his robes. Slowly, Dilmir got up, uncertainly.
Eltuthar raised his head. An old visage met Dilmir’s eyes. The lines of the face were contorted in pain, but, as he looked, a smile cracked onto the face. “Dilmir,” he said, his voice dry with age, his breathing hard.
“Eltuthar?” said Dilmir.
Eltuthar nodded, grimacing in pain. “I found you just in time,” he said. “Another moment and you would have been beyond my aid. Tell me, why are you here? The Great Forest is no place for a lone elf to wander.”
“I’ve been banished,” said Dilmir uncertainly, not quite over the shock of meeting an ancient relative whom he had never seen before and who was considered to be the most dangerous being alive.
“Why?” rasped Eltuthar, a note of keen interest in his voice.
“I… It’s complicated,” said Dilmir. Though he had doubtless saved his life, he still couldn’t be sure he could trust this elf, even if he was who he claimed to be.
Eltuthar nodded, a pained smile on his face. “It rarely isn’t. But,” he added, “I feel certain you were banished for a power you can’t control, a magic you don’t understand.”
Dilmir nodded, wary.
Eltuthar let out a small sigh. “They banished me when I was nineteen, halfway through my last year at Eld’rin,” he said. “And now they’ve banished you, from the looks of it, earlier.”
Dilmir said nothing, but remained looking at Eltuthar.
Eltuthar, after a moment, turned. “Come with me, Dilmir,” he said. “I have a few things I believe you will be interested to learn.”
Dilmir didn’t move. “How do I know you are who you pretend to be?” he asked.
Eltuthar laughed as he turned back to him. “Can you think of anyone who would want to be me?” He looked at Dilmir. “If you must have proof, look at him.” He pointed towards Alfimir. “Not many elves could do that.” Dilmir, looking at Alfimir, finally made up his mind. He could see that Alfimir still breathed, and would be awake in an hour or two. What else could he lose?
Eltuthar, sensing his decision, turned into the forest, and, after a moment, Dilmir followed.