David Russell Mosley
Dear Friends and Family,
I’ve been hoping to do a response post to a recent Mere Fidelity podcast on the Trinity and the Bible with Fred Sanders. I was hoping to have it done by Trinity Sunday (tomorrow). This seems unlikely as I have one son sleeping on my chest and a loaf of bread that I’m baking. In short, I think Sanders approach to the Fathers, while sensical from a sola scriptura approach, is simply wrongheaded. I will try to defend this (and inherently reject sola scriptura) eventually. For now, however, I leave you with the next two chapters of my Faërie Romance. Please, let me know what you think.
As Alfred and Balthazar entered deeper into the wood, Alfred noticed a change. The air seemed richer, more fulfilling, the colours seemed more vibrant. ‘That’s the air of Elfland you’re breathing in, my son,’ Balthazar said without turning around, as if he knew what kinds of affects it was having on Alfred. ‘For most humans it makes them confused, it’s why they get lost. For seers, however, it has the opposite effect. You will feel your senses getting clearer, sharper. Goodness becomes amplified in the good, badness in the bad.’ This made Alfred afraid and so he checked the pride beginning to well in his heart.
‘Can non-seers ever be taught to see?’ he asked the gnome.
‘Not in the way you do. They can never see dreams of Elfland, or anywhere else for that matter. They can, however, be taught to see Elfland with their waking eyes. The air here can have the same effect on them. Even when it does confuse it almost always has a positive effect on those who breathe it. But while true seers are born, great seers are first born and then made.’
Alfred pondered this. ‘You mean the ability is innate, but its application must be practiced.’
‘Tried would be truer, but yes, that is the general idea. You must learn how to see with the sight you have been given.’
‘How will I learn?’
‘By patience, by exposure to Elfland, and by telling me all you see in dreams.’
They marched on for several more hours, with no sign of relenting. It was now that Alfred realised Balthazar was not walking on top of the ground, but wading through the forest floor as if it were water. ‘Is that how you always walk?’ he asked, hoping he was not being impolite.
‘Gnomes are at home in the dirt in nearly the same way fish are in water. Or perhaps more like whales, we do not draw our breath from the earth, but we swim and glide through it. It is our home.’
They continued on in silence. Balthazar stopped. At first, Alfred thought he had offended the gnome with an impertinent question. Balthazar, however, turned to Alfred and whispered, ‘Go stand behind one of these trees, and be quiet. I’ll be back quickly.’ With that, Balthazar burrowed into the dirt, or perhaps dove better describes his entrance into the earth so that he vanished from Alfred’s sight.
Alfred did his best to remain quiet as he moved behind one of the trees. He heard voices in the distance and a loud plodding as if feet which were marching to different beats were trying to keep pace with one another. He crouched down behind a tree and held his breath. What he saw frightened him, and had he not been in Elfland for many hours now, he might have fainted from fear. As it was, it took all of his courage not to scream and run away.
Lumbering before him standing perhaps four and half feet high and three feet broad, with arms that would drag on the ground if not folded, skin a muddy mixture of black, brown, and green, eyes fierce and large, and teeth razor sharp walked two goblins. From how very wicked they looked did Alfred guess rightly that they were goblins.
‘Ar, I hate walking in the sun, even if the trees are dense. It hurts my eyes and makes me feel too warm’ said one goblin to the other.
‘You’d hate the punishment you’d get if refused to do your duty,’ replied the other.
‘That’s the truth of it. Oh, I can’t wait to be done. We’ll take over that mountain and never have to venture into the sun again, except when we want to torture someone. Oh it will be nice.’
‘Keep your voice down, you lumbering idiot. We’re in enough danger as it is.’
‘I still say you were smelling things as weren’t there, Hogsnout.’
‘And I’m telling you, I smelt human, and a human this close to those accursed elves and dwarves will do us no good. I promise you that. My nose has never failed and I tell you there was human nearby. If the smell’s getting dimmer it either means he’s spent too much time in this accursed place and is beginning to smell like it or he’s gone. Neither option is good for us, nor our mission.’
‘Well then let’s get on with what we’ve come to do. Do you think they’ll join us?’
‘Oh I’m sure of it. Our king will offer them land, and plenty of human and elfin flesh to eat. The trolls and giants will be on our side, no worries there. The hobgoblins may be harder to convince. Anyway, let’s move on. You’re right about one thing, whatever’s happened with that human, our best bet is to finish with our mission and get back.’
The two goblins lumbered off, making more racket than was probably good for them. Alfred breathed a sigh of relief and then jumped with a start when he felt something tapping him on the shoulder. He grabbed stick nearby him and swung as he jumped away from whatever it was that had accosted him.
‘There you go, knocking my hat off again. I shall have to make a new one, or have the brownies do it for me, before my time with you is done,’ said Balthazar as he picked up his crumpled hat and dusted it off.
‘So the goblins have found their way out of the mountain. Things are far worse than I feared.’ Balthazar soon began mumbling to himself, ‘Going to get trolls and giants? Things are far worse, far, far worse than any of us have imagined. What are we going to do? What am I going to do with the boy? So much for the wisdom of the gnomes.’ He said finally as he sat down next to Alfred.
‘Is it really so bad?’ Alfred asked, breaking the silence.
‘My son, Elfland has been at a relative peace for the past 300 years. Now war is upon us and we are so near to being caught unawares that anything we can or have planned up to now is just as likely to fail as to succeed.’
What can I do? thought Alfred to himself. After all, he was just one man, and a young one at that. He had never been trained to fight and only found out all of this was real this morning. Still, it could be exciting. Fighting against the forces of evil, protecting his village, really his whole world from the evils of Elfland. He would be remembered as mythic hero, dying fighting back the advances of darkness like the last of the three-hundred Spartans at the battle of Thermopylae. Yes, to die in battle, a sword in one hand, a shield in another, a true warrior, one who had to look his enemy in the eye, to recognise goodness alongside evil and to fight on and to die fighting for what is right.
It was when he started to think of death that he noticed the forest had suddenly gotten very dark and that coming toward him was a small cavalcade. The music he had heard in his dream or a music very like it was playing.
‘Hello, my brothers,’ called Balthazar to them.
‘Hail, Balthazar!’ said an elf who alighted from his horse and walked towards them while the others began to make camp. ‘Well met, faithful gnome. I see you have the young seer with you. Word has traveled to us through the forest, that you were bringing him. We have also felt a darkness being awoken. Come, we shall eat and drink. Tonight we feast ere the morrow brings us joys or woe.’ Alfred noticed many things about this elf. He was tall, his dark hair was worn long, as was his beard. His clothes were a beautiful mixture of greens, reds, and browns. On his chest there were four beasts: a bear, a bull, a boar, and lion, all rampant.
The elves prepared a feast, they had clearly been hunting and a large white deer was roasting over an open fire they had prepared. ‘Tell me, Carlyle,’ Balthazar said to the elf who had first approached them, ‘what are your plans? You have heard our news about the goblins. What are the king’s orders?’
Carlyle drained his cup, ‘The King has given but two orders: help the dwarves and trust the seer.’
Me? thought Alfred to himself. Alfred could not help feeling small, even insignificant amongst all these faerie-folk. To ask questions and observe seemed to be the only things for which he was needed, and those qualities did not seem to be desired. The music still lived on in his chest, making him feel brave, but his bravery seemed completely unnecessary. As he turned over in his mind what had happened to him since yesterday morning, he began to wonder about the two times previous he had come upon, if not this very camp, then one exceedingly like it. ‘Please,’ he asked Carlyle, ‘could you tell me why the first two times I approached your camp, you vanished and I was left sleeping on the ground?’
‘Well, lad,’ Carlyle responded, ‘the reasons are three. First, even in peace we rarely allow ourselves to be seen by mortals, let alone when danger is upon our very hearth. Second, we believed it too much for your introduction to our fine country to begin with a host of evils. Third, even if we had not, it was Balthazar’s duty to meet you first. Come, we have feasted, we will sing and then rest, for tomorrow may bring yet more woe if it is true we now have trolls and giants with which to contend.’ Somehow, Alfred thought the idea of woe and battle was both pleasing and saddening to Carlyle. It was as if his hands longed to feel his sword and to fight for goodness, but that such measures were necessary grieved him beyond anything. So much Alfred could read in his face, it was as if that face could not conceal truth or emotion, but must always wear whatever it felt. Alfred wondered if this was simply true of elves or if his eyes simply saw more now that he was under the influence of the air of Elfland.
Whatever singing there was, Alfred remembered very little of it. As soon as the music began he felt himself getting dreary. A she-elf, also dressed in a warrior’s garb, led him to a tent prepared for him. Alfred laid down without undressing and was instantly asleep. It was not, however, a restful or dreamless sleep.
As Alfred slept, he found himself awake, conscious, but unable to see. At first he thought he was blind, or that he was still in his tent with his eyes closed, so he pulled them open but still saw noting. He continued to worry that he was blind until in the distance he saw a fire. He felt relieved, he was not blind, he was dreaming, and it was the same as the old dreams of the elves. Something, however, was different this time. The ground beneath his feet felt more solid. He reached out his hands to feel for trees, but instead felt rock and stone. He stumbled as he walked, but made his way towards the fire.
Like in his previous dream, the world around Alfred, as it became brighter, remained fuzzy, indeterminate. Again he heard voices, but could not understand what they were saying. He stumbled closer to the fire, trying to make as little noise as possible. Still he almost shouted when he began to understand what was going on. The smell of burnt hair was in the air, and dark figures danced about the fire, while another figure, much smaller, was being turned over and over, as if on a roasting spit. The roasting figure shouted, not from pain it seemed, but anger. Alfred cursed his inability to see or hear clearly. One thing, however, was evident, the goblins were amassing in the mountain, and they had caught at least one dwarf and were torturing him.
Alfred awoke with a start. He knew he had to tell someone what he saw. However, as he stepped outside of his tent all he could hear were shouts and a thunder of feet and hooves. The first thing Alfred saw outside of his tent was Carlyle throwing a sword at his feet while using his own to battle a goblin. The joy had left his eyes. Alfred saw a steeled demeanour. However much Carlyle might normally joy in arms, he had no joy in this fray. This was as far as Alfred was able to think, however, for soon enough the goblins started making their way to him. He unsheathed his sword and prayed he could find that bravery the song of the elves usually stirred in him.
Goblins were now completely overrunning the camp when Alfred felt the earth shake. Several goblins lay dead at his feet, though his mind could little remember how they had died. His sword was smeared with blood and he himself was covered in cuts and bruises. The shaking grew worse. One of the elves standing near Alfred cried ‘Ettin! Ettin!’ It did not take Alfred long to understand this word. Wading and crashing through the trees came an ugly, fearsome, albeit stupidly so, looking creature. It stood nigh 19 feet high. ‘Giant,’ Alfred whispered to himself.
Swinging its mighty club, the giant began clearing a path in front of it. Indiscriminately it struck down both goblin and elf. Whether this was due to the malice that burned its heart or sheer stupidity is uncertain, but whenever anything got in its the giant swiped it away into the distance with its club. Alfred could hear the goblins shouting to it, trying to control it. Heedless to their cries the giant kept moving forward, straight to Alfred.
‘Run!’ shouted the elf standing next to Alfred. ‘We are no match for this brute, you and I.’ Alfred, however, stood firm and so the elf stayed with him. Both of them, swords drawn charged at the giant. Alfred swung his sword at the giant’s tree-trunk of a leg, but it glanced off. He had only one idea. Alfred turned the sword around so it pointed down and raised it high above his head. The giant howled with anger. ‘Puny creatures,’ it shouted and swiped its club directly into Alfred. The force with which Alfred was hit took the breath out of him and sent him flying high up into the air and far away from the battle.
When Alfred woke the sun was shining. ‘That giant must have sent me a good ways from the battle,’ he said to himself. He felt his arms, legs, and chest to check for any broken bones. His arms and legs felt stiff but fine, his chest, however, was incredibly sore and it hurt when breathed. Probably broke a few ribs, he thought. But what was he to do now? Was it safe to call for the others? ‘Carlyle!’ he shouted, ‘Balthazar! Carlyle! Mr Alvin!’ No one answered. He looked around, but could not recognise what part of the forest he was in. He walked, hoping to find someone or somewhere familiar. Eventually he found his way to a lake. He could not remember there being a lake in Fey Forest, but nothing surprised him now. He knelt at the lake with some difficulty, cupped his hand, filled them, and drank. The water was cool and refreshing. He immediately began to feel better.
The water felt so good on his hands and head that he decided a swim would do him nicely. How different Alfred was, if could have stopped to think. Not even two days ago he would never have thought of stripping down to go for a swim in a lake, let alone do so after having battled goblins and a giant. He had pulled off his clothes and found most of his cuts had already begun healing, but he was still covered in bruises and his chest still smarted something awful. He waded into the water and his body immediately began to relax. He could feel strength returning to his limbs. He felt well enough to try a proper swim. It stung his chest at first, but the more he swam the better he felt.
After about an hour of swimming all of Alfred’s cuts and bruises seemed to be healed. Even his ribs, which he thought broken, only caused him a small amount of pain. Alfred got out of the water and dried himself by simply lying on the soft down of the grass. After a short rest, he got dressed, and suddenly all that had taken place before he landed near this lake returned to his memory. He girded his sword and was about to set out in search of the elves and Balthazar when he noticed a cottage nearby. He walked toward uncertain of what he would find inside. Stories from his childhood told him it good be a witch, an elf, a beautiful princess, or an ogress. He felt, however, braver than he had before. Perhaps it was the encounter with the giant or lasting effects from the lake, but he was ready to meet any challenge. He knocked at the door. ‘Hello!’ he shouted. ‘Is anyone home?’ An elderly woman answered the door.
‘Come in, young man. I can see by the sheen of your hair and your countenance that you have been swimming in my lake.’
‘Yes, it has had a wonderful effect on me. I feel almost fully well, though my chest seems still to pain me.’ He looked around the inside of the woman’s cottage. It was homely, but goodly so. It brought to mind home and hearth, the kind of things one wants to return to after a long journey. The old woman was meanwhile busy in her kitchen.
‘Here,’ she said, returning with a damp cloth. ‘This has been soaked in my lake and I have said a few good words over. Wrap about your chest under your clothes and leave it for the rest of the day. Then you shall be completely healed, albeit changed.’
Changed? thought Alfred to himself. Whatever doubts he had were dispelled, however, when the woman continued, ‘Something must be done about those goblins young man, and as you are the seer it seems only right that you ought to be the one to do something about them.’
‘I feel ready to do almost anything, so long as it is good, honest, and worthy of poetry,’ as the words left his mouth, Alfred marvelled at himself. Had he really just said that? Was he desirous of being turned into a poem? He had always felt listless, little likely to do much of anything except in the service of his parents, and then usually with a fair bit of grumbling.
‘You are surprised at yourself, I can tell. I may be old, but I can still see quite well.’
‘To tell you the truth, I am surprised. I have never sought adventure, never wanted to do anything brave. I just wanted to do something, something I loved, something that suited me.’
‘Did it never occur to you that what you wanted was to be good, honest, and poetical? Hmm? Did it never occur to you that this is what you wanted?’
Alfred thought back to all of old Mr Alvin’s stories. He had always felt invigorated after listening to Mr Alvin. Knights saving princesses, slaying giants and dragons, paupers becoming princes because of their virtue. It was Mr Alvin’s stories that caused him to study literature at university. It was this study, however, that caused him to stop loving the stories, or so it seemed to him now. ‘Tell me, Lady,’ he said after reflecting, ‘is it the water of your Lake that has awakened this in me or the air of Elfland or the music of the Elves?’
‘It is all three. No mortal can enter Elfland without becoming poetical unless they be too full of cynicism, none can hear the elfin songs without having even the smallest amount of bravery fanned into flame unless cowardice has too much hold on their heart. And none can swim in the waters of my Lake without having either their goodness or badness brought to the fore. Faerie makes the good things better, but exposes the bad for what it truly is.’
Alfred briefly felt rather proud, but as the pride in him began to rise, the old woman stared hard at him and he heard in his mind, ‘but exposes the bad for what it truly is.’ He squelched that rising pride and turned his thoughts to finding the elves and stopping the goblins. ‘You will need to leave soon,’ said the old woman, ‘in order to stop the goblins.’
‘Indeed, I believe you’re right, Mother,’ Alfred said turning to her. ‘Only I do not know which way to go. I have lost the elves and Balthazar Toadstool. Can you tell me, Mother, which is the best way for me?’
‘The only way, Seer, to save Carlisle, the dwarves, and all of Elfland is to return from whence you came. Go back to the beginning and there you will find your answers.’
Alfred was dejected. He did not wish to leave Elfland. He finally felt at home, finally felt as though he belonged in the world for the first time in his life. To return now, he feared, would cause him to disbelieve everything he had seen and experienced until now.
‘My dear boy,’ said the old woman, ‘you do not belong forever in Elfland. Mortals are meant to live on the edges, living on the borders and entering in occasionally. When you started this journey, you simply wanted to save Carlisle, do not forget that.’
Alfred knew that the old woman was right. He prepared to go immediately. ‘Hold on there, young man,’ she said suddenly. Alfred stopped as he was reaching for the door. ‘You will surprise people enough when you return without being dressed like the elves, openly carrying a sword.’ Alfred looked down and realised she was right. He could barely remember how he used to dress, though it had been only a few days, but despite the feelings he had always dressed this way, he knew this was not so. The woman pulled out of a closet somewhere the clothes he had worn when he entered the forest. ‘Balthazar brought them to me,’ she said.
Alfred went into another room in the cottage. This room had a small bed and a small mirror in it. He was surprised when he saw himself. The old woman’s words had caused him to expect to see big changes in himself. Instead he saw his beard starting to come in and his hair a bit matted. He found under the mirror a bowl of warm water, some soap, and a razor. He washed his hair and face, but decided to leave the beard, ‘It’s the only reminder I’m going to have of my exploits here,’ Alfred said to himself. He changed his clothes, folded his elfin garments, and laid his sword on top, bringing them out to the old woman.
‘You keep those,’ she said to him. ‘You never know when they might come in handy.’
‘Thank you,’ said Alfred with a little less rejection in his voice. With his things all packed in his rucksack, Alfred shouldered the bag and headed towards the door.
‘Remember what I told you,’ the old woman called out behind him. ‘Go back to the beginning, only then can you save Elfland and Carlisle.’
‘I won’t forget, Mother,’ he said turning around as he exited the door. The cottage, the old woman, even the lake was gone. Alfred was not surprised. He had face giants and goblins, a faerie godmother was the last thing to surprise him now. And so Alfred sauntered on. Resolve and doubt mixed in him. In the end, what could he really do to stop an incursion of goblins. Surely the elves could take care of it without him. He would talk to Mr Alvin when he got home, he would tell Alfred that it was his job to watch and not fight.
Hours went by and the forest began to grow more familiar. There was the tree he hid behind when he had thought something was chasing him as a child. ‘I wonder if something was chasing me then?’ He asked to no one, who promptly answered in silence. As he walked on he noticed the ground began to be damp. Apparently it had rained in this part of the forest recently. He kept a close eye out for mushrooms, hoping to find Balthazar. Instead he came upon a fairy ring of just the mushrooms his mother would want, but no shepherd guarding them. He picked them all, stowing them in his rucksack for his mother.
With no incident greater than finding the mushrooms, Alfred arrived at the edge of Fey Forest. He was disappointed. He had expected an attack, he had expected the elves or Balthazar or someone to arrive to divert his journey home a little while longer, but with no such luck. Perhaps the goblins were as yet unaware of him, or, like Alfred was beginning to believe, perhaps they simply felt him unimportant. With a sigh, Alfred stepped across the border separating the forest from the village and began to the two mile walk back home.
David Russell Mosley