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The First Renewal

 

     Thousands of years ago, in a time known as the Age of Elements, a large community of elves lived, deep within massive forest of cedar and yew. Ava’ana Terenth, as the village was known, was prosperous and strong. Its leader, Lord Orovae was a powerful and wise elf who tamed the river and conquered the forest. As the centuries passed, he guided the growth of his beloved Ava’ana Terenth from a small village of hunters and gatherers into a dominant farming and trading community. Peace and prosperity was known throughout Southern Archai due to his people’s mastery of the land and military might. However, when the dwarves of the south began to trade a shiny new metal they called silver, Orovae began to know greed.

 

The silver was bright and malleable. Useless for weaponry, but for jewelry it was unparalleled. The elven lord declared the silver to be a gift from the earth spirits, and therefore felt entitled to all the silver he could obtain. His fortress, once a beautiful wooden structure of ebony and redwood, slowly became a bright palace of gaudy silver. The dwarves were unable to keep up with Orovae’s demands and began to charge more and more for the metal. Eventually, the veins ran dry, and the silver trade came to a halt. He began to become obsessed even more with greed, ceasing all trade with the dwarves and confiscating all silver in his domain for his own use.

 

It was almost the start of the new year, when the sun was warm and the fields were ready to be harvested. Of course, for those unaware, in those days the calendar began and ended in the summer, not winter. The last week of the year was when the fields were reaped and the animals slaughtered for the big feast. During this time, all the excess crops and meats were packaged and traded to the nearby villages, in exchange for finished goods and weapons like always. Merchants from all over the realm gathered to collect from the ever-bountiful harvest. This year, however, the dwarves were noticeably absent. However, the human traders seem to be trading for far more of the produce than they had before. This did not go unnoticed by the elven lord.

 

Normally Orovae would not involve himself with the business of the merchants, but he had suspicions the humans had made a deal with the dwarves. He approached one of the traders and pulled him aside. With an accusing tone, he said, “Why is it the humans are so hungry this year? Are your own fields inadequate?”

 

“Aye, m’lord,” flattered the human. “A terrible drought has befallen the valley. Our corn refuses to grow and our animals are thin. We thank you greatly for providing yet another wonderful harvest.”

 

Orovae was unmoved by the niceties. “You forget human,” he retorted. “My realm is vast. I keep close eye on the neighboring lands. While rainfall has been more sparse than usual, it does not account for the amount of food you are seeking.”

 

The human stammered in response, “But..but I do not understand, m’lord! We only seek to fill our storehouses to prepare for winter. Is it wrong to ask for more? We are more than capable of paying for—“

 

The elf lord cut him off with a raised hand. “I see. And how much silver have the dwarves given you in payment for this ‘extra food’, I wonder?” With a swift hand, Orovae snatched a medallion from the neck of the human that was carefully hidden beneath his tunic. “I see the dwarves have found another vein in the mountains!” he exclaimed, holding the medallion high.

 

The human blanched. He began to explain that the silver was not new, but he could not fool the old elf. “I am no dwarf, but even I can tell the difference in quality!” With a forceful tug, he ripped the necklace from the man’s neck and beckoned his guards. “Search all the humans here!” he ordered. “Let us see how much the dwarves have given them!”

 

And with that, the elves surrounded the traders, and stripped them all bare. Once the possessions were sorted through and wagons ransacked, a large pile of silver jewelry and ore lay before the elf lord. He pulled himself up upon the pile and stood triumphantly over the humiliated traders. “This silver belongs to me!” he declared with a wicked grin upon his face. “It is the cost of your treachery! You may retrieve your other belongings, but we will not be offering any food for trade this year. The talk of drought has forced me to order all excess to be stored for our own use!”

 

Before the humans could respond, a soft voice came from behind. “Father,” a young elf maiden spoke. “Please let them share the harvest.”

 

Without turning around, Orovae lowered his head and replied, “My dear Aetoma. I fear your heart is too fragile to deal with the likes of these—“

 

“No!” Aetoma interrupted. “Greed has consumed yours, father. These people have done nothing wrong and only offer fair exchange for the goods they seek. Why must they be punished for seeking more than before? Is it our concern if they have dealt with the dwarves?”

 

At this, he twirled around to face his daughter. Her lean frame, draped in white and green linens, stood tall and resolute. She did not bother to brace for the onslaught she knew was to come.

 

“ How dare you, Aetoma!” He screamed at her, his face flush with anger. “These dwarves have betrayed me! They deliberately have withheld my silver—“

 

“Your silver?” she queried, cutting him off once again.

 

“MY silver!” he fumed in response. Before he could continue, Aetoma stepped forward and placed a hand on his arm.

 

“One can hardly blame the dwarves, father. You constantly demanded the silver at cheaper and cheaper prices, until their resources were depleted. And once the vein ran dry, you threw them to the side as if they were lower than goblins. You even executed the messenger who gave you the news!”

 

“I must have more!” he exclaimed. ‘I must…” His voice trailed off.

 

“And you shall. I will speak to them myself. We will bring with us the excesses of harvest, and begin trade once more.

 

“Foolish child” he muttered. “You think me stubborn, you have not dealt with the dwarves. The only thing that will make them change their mind is an arrow to the head.”

 

Aetoma scoffed. “Father, you will return all that belongs to these humans and I will fetch your precious silver from the dwarves.”

 

Orovae began to speak but no words came out. His daughter had a power over him that no mortal could have. He sighed deeply, swallowing his massive pride. “You win, Atoma,” he said meekly, stepping down from the collected silver. “I will allow these humans their trade. I will allow you to negotiate with the dwarves. However…” He cast a quick glance at the pile of shiny metal. “This silver is mine!” With a quick gesture, he ordered the guards to collect the silver into a wagon and headed back to the palace with his spoils.

 

The humans resumed their trade with the elves, and begrudgingly returned to their respective villages without the precious metal they brought with them. Aetoma left shortly after the humans with a small caravan carrying the remaining surplus of food towards the mountains. She promised her father she would be back before the great feast and swore she would return with silver.

 

Orovae paced back and forth in his silver palace on the eve of the feast. His daughter had not yet returned. “She should have been back by now!” he muttered to himself. Just then, as if in response, he heard the call of the night watch. The caravan had returned! His precious Aetoma was back!

 

Running down the hallway, he met the returning wagons. Frantically, he scanned the somber faces of the weary elves. Something was wrong. He did not see his daughter. “Aetoma!” he shouted. “Aetoma! Have you my silver?!”

 

No one spoke. The driver of one of the wagons glanced backwards. Swiftly he leapt to where the elf had indicated with a hopeful look. “At last!” he shouted, but then no more words followed. The wagon was empty, except for two elf maidens. One, cradling the other, whose green and white robes were streaked with dried blood. Orovae tried to speak, but was interrupted by a frail voice.

 

“Father…” Aetoma spoke softly and carefully. “I have succeeded.” A weak smile flashed across her pale face. “Trade…will resume as it was…but first…they demanded…compensation.”

 

He reached out to her, but she held up a hand. “But you were right…Father,” she continued breathlessly. “They are stubborn…and…proud. They remember…how you treated their…messenger.” His eyes, clouded with tears now noticed the shiny object sticking out of her bosom. A dagger made of pure silver. She smiled as she caught his glance a wry smile. “As promised…I have brought back..the silver…you…so…desire.”

 

That night, he laid his daughter to rest in the Palace garden, the silver dagger buried along with her. He did not sleep, but walked alone through the forest, talking to himself. “ How did this happen? Should I seek revenge? Was I wrong this whole time? I have lost my most precious possession to my own greed! I have lost myself!”

 

Just then he realized his journey had led him right back to his daughter’s grave. He dropped to his knees and sobbed deeply. “Aetoma! I will change! I swear it! As tomorrow marks the start of the new year, so does tomorrow mark the start of the new Orovae!” In an exhausted heap, the elven lord collapsed upon the newly turned earth and wept himself to sleep.

 

As the day of the feast began the following morning, Orovae was awakened by one of his servants. Without hesitation, he immediately ordered his servants to strip all the silver from the palace and deliver it to the center of the town. As the elves began to gather in confusion at the sight, Lord Orovae addressed his people.

 

“My friends!” he proclaimed with a loud yet clear voice, “Today is a new day, not just of the year, but of my life. All of our lives!” He raised his hands high above his head. “I have decided henceforth to abandon greed and embrace life! My daughter…”he paused briefly, choking back a tear, “Aetoma, sacrificed herself for my happiness, and in doing so made me realize it was her life that made me truly happy. She has gone, and with her, the old me. I declare that from this point onwards, the new year will be a time of renewal for us all! Cast off your evils this day and become a new soul, ready to accept life anew!”

 

On his way back to the palace, he stopped once more at Aetoma’s grave. Something caught his eye in the place he had slept the night before: a small sapling had sprouted up from the soil It had seemed a tree had begun to grow, but one he had never seen before. The leaves were a bright whitish-green and the sapling itself had a shiny, almost silvery hue. The spirits of the forest had acknowledged his change of heart warmly and thus the first silverwood tree was born.

 

 
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