Young Elwen, firmly astride her Asfaloth, cantered from her acreage home, down the gravel road, up the branch-arched path and into the Elf-haven otherwise known as Halfmoon Lake Natural Area.
Since she was a mere six year-old elfling, her dream was to have a pony. Five years later, buttressed by glowing report cards and a minimal amount of whinging, her dream came true. Her parents had found her a sturdy welsh dun, packaged and delivered with high expectations for all the care and labour it deserved. With every spare moment at Asfaloth’s side, tending to her care or in the saddle, it was not long before they had solidly bonded. Their rides into the natural area became a part of the daily routine – every weekday after school and twice a day on weekends. There she would fend off attacking orcs, weave through trees to escape slavering wargs and then, when Asfaloth needed a rest, she would sit a while on a soft patch of reindeer lichen and have words with elder Ents (those that others mistook for jack pines) and write otherworldly passages for her book. The day ended with a canter home, singing wistfully, or boldly, as they jogged along. Supper with family. More chores, homework with Lothlorien playing in the background, then off to prepare for bed. She always had time for pages from a book, and sleep came easy.
But this day, as she emerged from the white-birch woods onto the sandy trail, everything changed.
It had never occurred so quickly and so intensely before. First a hail of clattering orc-darts, then the throb of drums and the demented coyote-yammering of the orc warg-riders. Maws agape and slavering, sand spurting from fervid paws, the wargs descended like an avalanche shattering through the trees. Asfaloth sprang away to a gallop as Elwen’s bow thrummed, but her arrows were soon spent. Reining-in, and drawing her sword, they turned to face the deluge. Ents, hearing the clamour, lumbered to her aid. In the frenzy of battle, Asfaloth, unaware that Elwen has risen in the saddle to slash at the claws of a descending Winged Nazgûl, passed under the outstretched arm of an Ent. Swept from her saddle, Elwen tumbled to the forest floor. Face-down, breathless and stunned, her side aching, she struggled to open her eyes. As she fought to gain focus, a menacing shadow emerged before her. Between the twisted pale-grey trunks of the ghost-trees, loomed the spidery ogre she had always feared.
Attercob the Great! The loathsome hulk that was Ungoliant’s kin dragged itself towards her, fangs wet with venom. Elwen was rigid with dread. Even though the hilt of her sword was still tight in her hand, she could not raise it. Hope faded.
Then, a whirl of movement, a winged knight descended. Black she was, and black her helm, and black her armor glimmered. A knight of Dipogon, of the dark Pompilidae, and neither friend nor foe. Elwen did not know this, but her doom lifted as the dark warrior came between her and the dreaded thing. Fearlessly the knight stabbed, then stabbed once more until the abhorrent creature was stilled. And even as the black knight pulled the stunned adversary away through the ghost-tree forest, Elwen descended into peace.
Months later, early in December…
Elwen’s mother, reading over a short list, mutters to herself: “A camera with macro lens and a flash? What on earth will she do with that?”
I offer this as a formula of re-enchantment to invigorate poetry and myth: mysterious and little known organisms live within walking distance of where you sit. Splendor awaits in minute proportions.”
E.O. Wilson. Biophilia, 1984.
See more on the dark knight of the Pompiliidae here.