Here goes nothing.
I pull the rope through the squeaking rusty pulley above the well. Not for water, not for any reasonable purpose at all. It's for memory's sake, and even more to keep me from realizing how mad my plan is.
I just catch the rope from slipping through my hands. "Cordon? Uh. . ." I keep hauling the fraying rope. Keep it nonchalant. "What are you doing here?"
"Looking for you." The setting sun behind him gives the illusion of a nimbus surrounding his long, hazel hair. He saunters over to the well. "What are you doing here?"
"Oh, just went for a walk." A broken bucket handle surfaces from the well. "I love the twilight."
"I know." Cordon's voice is wispy. His thoughts are elsewhere.
I sigh and look out at the wood. The secrets of the trees, the whistle bird who stubbornly nests in the same tree every year, the last of the sunlight as it kisses the damp earth good-night.
"Eelistlle." Cordon catches my gaze and now I can't look away. "You're missing the human race again, aren't you?"
"And what makes you think that?" I give him a lop-sided look. I've never been a good liar.
"Because elves don't take walks by the Well of Realms. In fact-" He leans an arm over the stone wall of the well. "Most avidly avoid it."
I lean against the wall also and stare down into it's darkness. Just like I did five years ago. Is that all? It felt like ages ago when I fell into this well.
"They are beneath us," Cordon stresses.
I look him in the eye. "Just because they live in the Underland, does not make them beneath us."
"You know why they were banished there, Eelistlle." We've argued this before, but just us. Nobody else knows. "They destroyed everything they touched here."
"Yes!" I almost shout. I've never shouted at Cordon. "Yes." I breath. "I know. But Cordon, they-" I turn away. How do I make him understand? All that time I spent down there. They- the humans- they're not all that we're told. Perhaps they didn't fit in our world, but-
"I thought that all you wanted was to come home," Cordon says. "That's what you told me."
I face my mentor. "That is true. But. . ." I sigh. "They are a mess, like you say."
Cordon crosses his arms and gives me that smile that says he's tolerating me, or proud that I'm thinking for myself. He uses that smile for various reasons actually.
"They have flaws, but they try. . ." I don't know what I'm saying. I was never good with words.
"They fight against each other."
"But they have hearts, and they can be noble. Cordon, they can be good," I'm practically pleading. "I have a friend down there. He needs my help. I know it!"
Cordon pinches the bridge of his nose. "I trained you for more than this."
"Who is to say that this is not an honourable cause?" I say. "Who is to know it is, or that it is not? Does anybody know for sure whether his undertaking was worthy of his life until he is at the end of it?"
Cordon swallows. We look out at the last arc of the sun through the pathway in the woods.
"So you are going then?" His head is down, but he still peers up at me.
"Yes," I say. "I- I'm not scorning my family, Cordon. Or our home. I will miss it all. I- will miss you. But please, understand. I have to do this-"
"Eelistlle." He claps his hands on my shoulders. "You have grown and matured so much. I only wished that, well." He smiles. "I thought one day I would have the privelge to fight beside you, as an equal. I am proud of you."
I breath deep and nod.
"Go then." He gestures to the well. "Aid your friend. You are always welcome to return, but I do not know if your path will lead you back."
"I know not either," I say.
"But if you fall for some human female." Cordon jabs a finger toward me. "Then I shall come retrieve you myself."
I crouch upon the well wall. "Cordon, don't be ludicrous."
We nod to each other. The way my father and other elfin kings nod to each other. As equals. With respect for each others' different paths.
I plunge into the darkness of the Well of Realms.
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