Nothing had ever been easy for Kane. Being half elven meant humans wouldn't allow him anywhere near their carriages. Hiring a horse for travel was out of the question because humans claimed you couldn't trust they weren't using magic coins that would disappear -- a mockery of the elves sense of honor.
This left Kane in an uncomfortable and often dangerous situation when he finally left the city. He did his best to avoid the locals and kept to back trails and deer paths, limping along with the use of a crudely shaped waling stick. Each step sent a little agony through his hip and side and he had to rest often, but he kept going.
He wanted to go home.
The odd thing was that he had no idea where home might be. For a human, it was easy to find where you belonged. You simply chose your place. For an elf, the process involved a call from the spirits in a special location and a magical link with the land. Kane never had the call, but he'd decided to leave after he'd been beaten and left for dead in a dark, dank alley. He'd drawn enough magic, which was hard for him, to heal the worst of his injuries. Then he had started walking. Weeks later he was still walking. And losing faith. Kane had been assaulted again when he chanced on a small village and escaped only because the fools tried to turn their dogs on him; they didn't know elves very well if they thought that such creatures would attack him.
He'd headed into the woods. Kane thought they'd tried to hunt him, but he was elf enough to stay hidden from human eyes. Maybe that was enough? He couldn't say he liked living in the wilds very well, but this was better than the last couple years in the city. A new wave of anti-elf sentiment had swept through the town and Kane had found himself in trouble far too often. He had some magical power, but not enough to make a stand and protect himself.
Could he survive in these woods? He instinctively knew what to eat from the plants that grew wild here. He liked the sounds of the birds in the trees, something rarely heard in the city. He could remain at least through the rest of the summer and give himself a while to think --
"You don't belong here."
The voice startled him and he spun, losing his footing and falling hard on his injured leg. He would have cursed if he could have breathed at all. Two figures stepped out from the shadows of the trees where he had not seen them. He looked to their hands for weapons and finding none, glanced up to their faces.
Elves. They looked almost identical, standing there at the edge of the light, with their long golden hair and brown clothing. He stared; he'd never seen a true elf before. He thought he might look a bit like them in some ways, but a darker version. Dirtier.
"My apologies. I'll leave --"
One stepped forward fully into the light, his hand lifted. Kane fought not to pull back in haste.
"You are a half-brother. I apologize for our rudeness. We thought you human, and we try to discourage them from traversing the woods."
"Injured," the other said in almost the same voice. "Let us help."
No one had offered to help him that he ever remembered. The orphanage had kicked him out when he was ten; he'd never known anything about his parents. When the two elves knelt beside him he had to fight not to kick out of protective reflex.
This was their place and he could feel their magic as part of the land. He had a moment of epiphany; he could not find his own home because he would never be truly elven and would always be caught between two worlds. Oddly, this thought didn't bother him as much as it probably should have. Instead, he found peace with himself. He was so absorbed in the moment that he hadn't realized they'd healed his leg and side until he took the first breath that hadn't hurt in a long time.
"Thank you," he said, with a bow of his head, the best politeness he could manage. "I don't know how I can repay you, expect to do as you request and leave --"
"Come with us." The first one stood and then the other. "Come along. We don't turn brothers away."
"Half-brother," he corrected and stood, still holding to the branch he had used for so long. He didn't need it and sat the stick aside with a whispered thank you to it while he considered options. When he looked back they still waited. "I would like to know what it means to be elven. I've known human too long."
"Yes, it's time you learn," the first one said. Then he smiled brightly. "You've walked a long ways. You need rest. I know the perfect place."
They led him into the forest and from the first steps he began to see the magic around him in a glow of colors he could reach out and touch. They helped him see what it was to be an elf and he felt as though he'd been blind for all his life. The magic had always been there.
The elves were curious about the humans and he tried to be fair. Some had helped now and then and their occasional care had helped him survive. However, he could have wished the peace of elven life for everyone in the world.
He'd been with the elves for some time when he realized that being half-human wasn't so bad. He didn't have to go and find his home. He made it here in the forest he had come to love.
He was home at last.
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