He leaned forward upon his knees, shielding the flames from the uncertain gusts of wind. That chill breeze had pushed through the forest for days, and the elf wondered if it would ever relent.
He cocked his head then. Was it a wish he just made? The wind did desist, if only for a moment. There was another sound beside it then. The elf reached down and grabbed his spear.
When an ally emerged from the brush, he let his makeshift weapon go, returning his attention to the fire. His companion drew closer, but remained as quiet as he could—as quiet as a ghost.
And Shandranar—or what was left of it—had its fair share of ghosts.
The elf by the fire looked up at his young friend, and noticed that far-off stare. He held onto two dead grouse, and had his bow slung over his shoulder.
“Icarus,” the elf on the ground said. “Icarus.”
Shaken from his stupor, Icarus looked down at the meager flames. That flickering light landed on the other elf’s face, and he once again caught himself staring at the odd bald spot on the side of his head. “I’m sorry, Senah,” he said. “My mind was in another place.”
Senah was shaking his head before the excuse was ever offered. “Not just another place, child. You were in another time. You’ll never be able to move forward until you stop looking over your shoulder.”
That sullen look was gone from Icarus’ face in a moment, and he threw the two hunted birds to the dirt. “Which one is it, Senah? Should I remember my failure or should I move on? You won’t decide which.”
“You must do both,” came the cool reply. “You have to learn from your mistakes and grow with that knowledge. Right now, you’re trapped in the past—and you cannot change that.”
Icarus fumed at those words. Senah was right, of course, but how was he expected to move on from the events that he allowed? His lifelong friend was gone, ripped through to another world. His father and brother had perished as the floating continent plummeted to the ocean below. He was alone in the world, except for the strange elf on the opposite side of the fire.
“You have to forgive your failures,” Senah said. “But you must not forget them. And you must embrace your strengths. For instance: you’re much better at hunting than I am at starting fires.”
The young elf tried to retain a stern visage. He looked down upon his companion; his jaw locked, his brow furrowed. But seeing Senah’s wry grin caught him off guard. He couldn’t keep the smile from tugging at the corners of his mouth. It was then that he realized how long it had been since he had allowed himself a reprieve from his pain.
“How do I move on, Senah? How could anyone in my position? I brought about the worst cataclysm our world has ever seen.”
“You have Rezarius to thank for that.”
“I could have stopped him.”
“Could you have?” the odd elf asked. “He had centuries more experience than you. No, you were fated to fail against him. But you should not have been expected to face him alone.”
“And what about all this?” Icarus asked, pointing out into the sea before him. “The water, the sky, the storm… Shandranar will never be the same.”
“No, it won’t. But it can be better.” Met with an incredulous stare, Senah chortled. “Of course it won’t be right away. Our world needs time to heal. Eventually, those scars will diminish though, and we can make sure that what Rezarius did never happens again.”
“It can’t,” Icarus said. “All the humans are gone.”
The other elf nodded. “Yes, they are. But maybe not for good.” As they considered that thought, he clapped his hands together. “You may hunt better than I do, but I’ll wager I can cook better than you, youngling. Would you go and gather some more kindling while I prepare something for us?”
The younger elf bowed his head and spun on his heel. He left Senah, his rescuer, alone as he disappeared beyond the trees.
That lone elf stood there in the clearing, gazing out at the tumultuous sea. In the distance, just beyond fallen Shandranar, a stark bolt of lightning struck the water. Senah narrowed his eyes, watching as the looming storm grew darker there.