Dilmir was detached, a mere spectator of the terrible scene he had created. How, then, could Aldir speak to him?
The entire sanctuary was lit with the green glow of the fallen branch, which was slowly fading to blackness. This did nothing to hide Aldir’s expression, however. He stared at Dilmir with a mixture of disbelief and fear. Dilmir thought he detected something else behind the look as well. Was it triumph?
Dilmir was vaguely aware of his own face betraying his shock. He held his hands limply in front of him, as if not quite sure what to do with them. Their green glow slowly began to fade as did the branch.
Neither of their expressions, however, could compete with Ilrin’s.
She stood, not a muscle moving, staring at Dilmir as though an impossible truth of the universe had just been revealed to her. No fear etched her expression, but one look at it was enough to cause Dilmir to turn away.
What have I done?
“The others were right.” Aldir spoke quietly, his fear now gone. “I didn’t think you were deserving of their thoughts, but I see now I was wrong.”
Neither Dilmir nor Ilrin contradicted him. Ilrin remained staring fixedly at Dilmir, and, in time, Dilmir met her gaze. He tried to tell her he hadn’t meant it to happen, but her face conveyed only one emotion: disbelief. It was a wall through which nothing else could pass.
“I’m going to report you, Dilmir,” said Aldir quietly. Dilmir, though he still looked at Ilrin, thought his voice sounded strange, as though he were struggling to suppress something that ought not to be there.
Aldir silently reached out and took Ilrin’s hand. He then turned to the entrance to the sanctuary, but Ilrin did not move. She remained looking steadfastly at Dilmir, who returned her gaze. Aldir, after looking at her, let go and made his exit alone.
A long silence followed, broken only by a lone cricket which chirped his happy melody into the night, unaware of what had just happened. Dilmir and Ilrin stood there, neither moving, facing each other, as the light from the branch and Dilmir’s hands slowly faded, leaving them in total blackness. All Dilmir could see of Ilrin was her silhouette, barely outlined against the starlight from above.
It was a question, nothing more. Ilrin’s voice sounded small in the sudden silence.
Dilmir didn’t know how to answer. His mind seemed to have stopped working altogether, though he was very aware of it whirring along, as though he were feeling it from someplace other than himself. “I did,” he heard himself say, his voice blank, uncomprehending.
With those two words, however, everything seemed to change. He had. He had attacked another elf, the worst crime possible. But it was worse than that, far worse. He had done what the elves had expected. He had proven them right.
“Maybe Alfimir was right,” he heard himself say. “I am too powerful.”
“No,” said Ilrin, her voice surprisingly soft. “You are powerful. You can’t deny it. But that is no reason for the elves to treat you as they did.”
Dilmir closed his eyes, unwilling to hear Ilrin. She still believed in him. After what he had just done, she still trusted him. If only she knew…
Dilmir opened his eyes. He had to tell her. She had to know the truth, the one thing he had kept from her. “Ilrin,” he said, his mouth suddenly dry, “do you remember that day when you asked me who my parents were?”
She nodded, silent.
Dilmir swallowed. “I never told you. I’ve never told anyone that doesn’t already know. When I first came here, an elf found out, though. He kept it quiet, but somehow it got out.” Dilmir swallowed again. He couldn’t go on. But he must. He could hear the tramp of elven feet fast approaching, and he knew that his time was short. He had to tell her.
“You know who the elves say I am, Ilrin.” He said, pushing on frantically. “You know what they say in dark corners and shadowy places, where they think I will not hear them. You know what they think me to be.”
He couldn’t go on, but he seemed to have said enough. A group of elves, led by Aldir, entered the sanctuary, cloaks rustling, but Ilrin had eyes only for Dilmir.
“Are you?” she breathed.
Very slowly, Dilmir nodded into the blackness. A weight dropped from his stomach as he did so, leaving behind only a kind of sickening hollow. Through the dark, he could see the first hint of fear creep slowly into Ilrin’s face. She took a step back.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” she whispered. Her voice was far too quiet, but the accusing words were born to Dilmir on an ill wind, where they lodged, stinging him.
Hands seized hold of Dilmir’s shoulders as he was surrounded by elves. He was turned and led towards the entrance. At the last moment, Dilmir turned, and looked, one last time, at Ilrin. All he saw there was fear, fear of him, and what he truly was. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
What have I done?