The Elf and the Box

Here’s a short story I did for my writing group. I honestly forget what the prompt was!


The Elf and the Box

“I’m not what you were expecting, heh?” The toad-like creature croaked from the corner of the dark room, where she was hunched in a chair by the cold hearth. “You thought elves were elegant with lithe, delicate forms?”

Lia said nothing, staring from the doorway with wide eyes. “You’re an elf?”

“The stories have it wrong. Well, maybe some of us started as a thing of beauty, but when you’re as old as I am, everything goes downhill. You’ll know that too someday, and a lot sooner than I did.”

The wrinkled old creature laughed loudly as she shifted her stubby legs and waved a hand over the charred logs beside her. The wood burst into flames.

“Come get warm, child, and tell me why you are here, as if I do not know.”

Lia shuffled forward, the light from the glowing embers sparking in her red-gold hair. She was glad for the warmth, but afraid to get too close to the strange woman. “You know why I’m here?” she asked with a trembling voice.

“What I don’t know is…who sent you?”

Reaching into her pocket, Lia pulled out a silver chain with a small charm hanging from it. She held it in front of the woman. “I found this in my mother’s things after she died. I never remembered her wearing it. I kept it for so many years, and the priest saw it around my neck on my wedding day. He was so distraught he barely made it through the ceremony. Rael and I have been married for five years now, and yesterday the priest came to see me.”

The woman nodded knowingly. “Go on.”

“He…he said there was something my mother should have told me. Something she had confessed to him before I was born. He sent me here to find you.”

“This is why you have come,” the elf reached a bony hand to a box beside her. She picked the wooden rectangle up and leaned forward to hand it to Lia.

Lia hesitantly took the box, holding it in front of her, tracing the elaborate carvings with her thumb.

“The answer to your question is inside,” the old elf whispered.

Swallowing a lump in her throat, Lia whispered, “I didn’t ask a question.” But she knew she had. She wanted to know why she was having such trouble bringing a child of her own into the world. The priest had let it slip that her mother had also had a difficult time conceiving.

“That locket is mine. Your mother agreed to keep it as long as she lived. You may not have seen her wearing it, but she always had it with her.” She pulled at a delicate chain around her neck and revealed an identical charm dangling from the end.

“Why would she do that?” Lia was beginning to suspect the answer already. She opened the lid of the box. Inside there was a short length of faded pink ribbon, a pinched lump of gold sealing wax, a small lock of strawberry blonde hair, a diamond as large as her little finger, and a tiny vial half-filled with dark liquid.

“I made you from those things. The charm was my payment. Wherever the queen went I was, through the locket. Every secret, every plan, every deception your mother or father might undertake, was revealed in full to me. And I used those things not for evil, but to keep my people from being destroyed by her schemes.”

“If you have such magic, how could we destroy you? Why?” Lia kept staring at the box, willing the story to be false, but the clues she had been trying to piece together seemed to come together with the odd scraps she held.

“There are only a few of us left, and because of our magic we are feared by men.” The woman gestured dismissively as if the annihilation of an entire race was not the point of the conversation. “After your mother died, our agreement ended. A wave of my hand and you’d fall to pieces like a worn rag doll.”

Stepping back in alarm, Lia felt all doubt suddenly removed about whether she believed the old woman’s tale.

“But I knew you’d be back,” the elf said with a humorless laugh.

“How?” Lia whispered.

“I knew when you tried to have a child of your own, you’d find it impossible. And then you’d find me.”

Lia wanted to flee, but she couldn’t make herself turn away. She clutched the box tightly in one hand and the locket in the other, with trembling hands. The old elf nodded knowingly and handed Lia a scrap of paper she pulled from her pocket.

“Here are the things I’ll need to get started.”

What do you think?

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