The goal of this scene was to give Balfrith - and the reader - an idea of what it is like to be practically immortal, from the point of view of a young Elefdar. If Balfrith were to ask the same questions of Felaranthir, or any older Elefdar, he would certainly have received different responses. But I think (I hope!) Eldamir's response gives him some humanity, and makes it easier for Balfrith and the reader to relate to him, and perhaps to his race.
* * *
Later, he met up with Eldamir, recently returned from another foray with the Guardians. He went out with them regularly, part of the normal training for all Elefdar males - and for Balfrith, some day. This day, they met at a cold spring higher up the mountain, where the air was typically cool even in the heat of high summer. And the spring itself was ice-cold, too much so for protracted swimming though not bad for a quick dip to cool off.
Today, they simply lay back on the rocks nearby, enjoying the warmth of the sun and talking about this and that. Balfrith suddenly sat up, remembering his lesson from earlier in the day, and asked, “How long do Elefdar live, anyway?”
Eldamir turned his head to look at his friend, then sat up himself, smiling, and answered, “We can live a long time, Balfrith - some believe we’re practically immortal. Why do you ask?”
“My history teacher today said that your father fought in the Great War, as a squire to his father, in the third Aeon. I guess that puts him somewhere between two and three thousand years old, or so.”
Eldamir leaned back on his hands. “Yes, my father is very old by your standards. But to me - to all of our people - he is at the height of his prowess. What matter if he is thirty years old, or three hundred - or three thousand?”
Balfrith paused, then asked, “And how old are you, Eldamir?”
Casually, as if they merely discussed the weather, Eldamir said, “I am two hundred and thirty-seven years old. And I am still but a youth among my people. Even you mistook me for a young man, when we first met - remember? But sometimes I wish we lived shorter lives, closer to that of Men. You have a gift, you know - we call it the Gift of Illë.”
Balfrith tilted his head in confusion, and asked, “A gift? You mean death?”
“Aye, Balfrith. Look at the lives of Men - your flame burns briefly, yes, but so brightly, like a candle bringing both heat and light to defeat the dark and cold. We Elefdar are more like the stars in the sky, immutable, eternal, and cold. We touch nothing, or very little anyway, in this world. But you Men - everything you touch is affected. You may not see it, but we have watched you for long years, and we have seen how you change everything around you to fit your needs and preferences and desires. Though we Elefdar may do the same, we take so long to get anything done. We’re so afraid of change, so afraid of the long-term effects of our actions, that we are often paralyzed into inaction. Not so with Men. I envy you. You see the city below us?” Balfrith nodded - how could he miss it? “Well, that took us thousands of years to create. Aye, it may have only been a few generations of our people, but in that same time we saw the first Men from the far East migrate into our domains in the West, building their first villages, then towns, then cities and finally establishing whole kingdoms. All this, while we built a single city and tended our gardens and the forest surrounding us.” Eldamir laughed bitterly, and Balfrith knew he wasn’t exaggerating.
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