In the days long ago, when humans still lived in caves, the clan of the Idwikys was started by the king of the forest elves. His son, Agabo, was the first of the clan, and after Agabo married Megwin, their children, and all their children’s children, even until today, were given the task of protecting the humans. This was the Kings gift to the humans because of a great kindness one of the early humans had performed for him.
Now in those days, the cave people worked very hard. They had to gather enough food during the short spring and summer to last them all year long. They had to gather enough firewood to keep them warm over the long cold winter. Everybody had something to do, even the children.
One warm summer day, a little boy named Trig was in the Dark Woods gathering nuts and berries. He had a basket that Glin, the basket maker had made from reeds and twigs, and in this he carried whatever he found. His mother said the same thing she always said when he went off gathering -“be careful in the Dark Woods, and don’t get lost”. He had heard her say this so many times he did not even listen any more. After all, he was a big boy now, and he was not going to get in trouble, and he was definitely not going to get lost. So Trig walked on the familiar paths, and as he walked he was always looking for something good to put in his basket.
It is difficult to watch where you are going when you are looking all around as you walk. That was exactly what happened to Trig. One moment he was walking along on the path, and the next moment, he had left the path and was going straight into the deepest part of the Dark Woods, and he did not even know it.
When he finally noticed that the sunlight no longer reached the ground because of the thick woods, he looked around and he could not see anything he had ever seen before. All he saw were huge trees covered in long vines. One tree was bigger than the rest, and he could see big claw marks on the tree. His father had showed him marks like these before, and told him they were made by a cave bear, one of the biggest and fiercest animals in the Dark Woods.
Trig started to go back the way he thought he had come, and he walked for a long time. The sun was starting to go down, and this was making the Dark Woods even darker. He walked as fast as he could, hoping that just up in front of him he would see the trail. Finally, he did see something he recognized. It was the big tree with the claw marks. Trig had gone in a circle, and was back where he started.
He was very tired, and very frightened, and he rested for a moment on a flat stone, his basket sitting on the ground by his feet. He thought about what he should do, and he tried to remember everything his mother and father had told him about the Dark Woods. He remembered his mother saying “don’t get lost”, and he remembered thinking that he was too big to get lost.
Night noises were starting. Some creatures sleep all night and come out in the daytime. Others sleep all day, and only come out at night. Night noises are very scary. There were hoots, there were howls, there were yips, and there were yipes. There were growls, there were snarls, and there were quiet little noises that only went swiiissh, or snick, and one even went clickclickclickclickclick.
Whatever noises they made, Trig did not like any of them at all. He was very frightened, and now it was getting really dark.
Trig started to cry. He would never cry when any of the others were around, but he was all alone, and the tears just came. And big sobs. And big sniffs.
Now night animals not only have very good eyes so they can see in the dark, they also have very good ears, and there were lots of different creatures right now listening to Trig crying. He sniffed, and he sobbed, and sometimes he called out “help”. The more noises he made, the more the wild things in the forest wanted to know what was making the noise, and wondered if it was something good to eat.
A sudden big growl came from just behind one of the trees, and Trig jumped up and ran away from it. The sound had scared him so much that he left his basket on the ground, and ran as fast as his feet could take him. As he ran, he called for help, but he knew his voice would not travel very far in the thick bushes and trees that surrounded him.
He did not know that he was running straight toward something else, something that was much bigger and much meaner than the thing that had growled. Something that was crouched and waiting for him.
Something that was very hungry. Something that thought a little boy would be just right for his dinner. He was running straight toward a Spotted Screeple!
In another part of the Dark Woods, Iglum, Oglum, and Uglum were also out doing their chores. But, they were wood elves, and sometimes wood elves forgot about doing their work, and just played. This is exactly what they were doing. They had been gathering soft dry grass, any feathers they could find, mosses, and anything else soft that their mother could use to make pillows and blankets for their little beds. Now they were playing hide and seek, and Iglum was it.
He stood there with his eyes covered while Oglum and Uglum ran and hid. He didn’t count, because he had not been to elf school yet, and did not know how to count. Instead of counting, he sang a song with three verses that he had to sing right to the end. As soon as he was done singing, he could start looking for his brothers. The rules didn’t say how fast you could sing, so Iglum was singing as fast as he could.
Iglum, Oglum and Uglum were not just ordinary wood elves. They were part of the clan of Idwikys. All their lives they had been told by their father Agabo, and their mother Megwin that no matter what they were doing, if a human needed help in the Dark Woods, they must stop doing everything else, and go to help that human. They were still very young elves, and had never had to help anyone yet, but they knew their father had.
Right now though, they were busy playing their game, and so they did not hear the first faint calls for help. They did not hear the crying. They did not hear the sobs.
Iglum was having a hard time finding the other two. Oglum had hidden right in the middle of a very large fern, and had pulled the fern all around himself so he just looked like part of the fern. Uglum had run behind a tree, and then he kept moving from tree to tree, so that when Iglum looked behind one tree, Uglum would go and hide behind that same tree after Iglum went to another.
So Iglum was not having any luck.
“Its not fair” Iglum called out. “You guys are hiding too far away”. No answer. “I see you Uglum. You’re hiding behind that rock” Iglum said. Of course he did not see Uglum at all.
“I’m going home now” Iglum called out, and then he walked a little way and jumped behind a bush. He thought that now Oglum and Uglum would show themselves thinking that he had gone, and he would catch them. But Oglum and Uglum knew all about Iglum’s tricks, and they stayed hidden.
All three elves heard the animal roar, the frightened yell, the sobs, and the calls for help at the same time.
Iglum came back from behind his bush. Oglum climbed out of the fern. Uglum came out from behind a tree that Iglum had already looked behind.
“Did you hear that?” Uglum said.
“I heard it” Oglum said “but I don’t know what it is”.
“I heard it too” Iglum whispered, “I think we better go home”.
“Why are you whispering?” Oglum said out loud to show that he was not afraid.
Uglum was standing very still, and listening very hard. “I heard it again” he said. “I think it is one of the humans.”
Oglum looked thoughtful for a moment. Then he said “Iglum is right, we better go home and tell father.”
Uglum and Iglum looked at each other, then at Oglum. “I don’t think we have time to go home and tell father” Uglum said. “We have to go and help .”
“B b but we’re too little,” said Oglum, “and it’s getting dark too”.
“Besides” said Iglum, “Spotted Screeples are very scary and very big. What can we do?”.
“We’ll think of something” Uglum told them, “after all we are Idwikys, and anyway, I’m not afraid of any old spotty screecher. I’ll grab his tail and tie it to a tree. I’ll wrap a vine around his mouth so tight he won’t be able to screech. I’ll sneak up beside him, and yell in his ear.”
Iglum and Oglum knew Uglum was right. They had to help the human because there was no time to get their father. When they saw that Uglum was not afraid, their courage came back to them, and they were ready to go. They did not know that Uglum was not really as brave as he sounded, and that deep down inside, he was scared.
The three set off toward the sounds. They could hear the sobs and cries for help much clearer, and they could also hear the human running and crashing through the woods. The Spotted Screeple was not screeching now, and they knew that meant it was waiting very quietly to catch the human. They knew they had to hurry.
Trig was headed directly toward the waiting fangs of the Spotted Screeple. He was so frightened by the roar he had heard that his heart was pounding in his chest, and all he could think about was getting as far away from that roar as he could get.
The Screeple was crouched down ready to pounce. Its eyes glowed fiery red in the darkness and it was being very quiet as it watched the boy run straight toward it. Just when Trig was about to run right into its mouth, he tripped on a vine growing on the forest floor, and fell flat on his face. The Screeple’s jaws closed with a loud snapping noise, but he had missed Trig. In fact, Trig had fallen under the jaws of the Screeple, and as soon as he fell, he started crawling forward. Trig still did not know the Screeple was there. He just kept crawling until he could not crawl any further. He had come up against something he could not see in the darkness.
The Screeple gave a long and very loud scream. His meal had disappeared and he was very angry. He turned his head this way, and he turned his head that way, and his red eyes searched for the human. But he could not see any trace of him.
Trig was directly under the Screeple and had run into one of his hind legs. He thought for a moment it was a small tree, but then he felt how warm it was, and how soft, and how furry, and he knew he was trapped under a wild animal.
The Screeple was surprised when the boy disappeared. He had snapped his jaws shut when he thought the boy was going to run right into his mouth. But the boy was no longer there. He looked all around, but the boy wasn’t anywhere to be seen. He held his breath and listened with his big ears. He could hear breathing and he could hear a heart beating very fast. The boy was hiding somewhere very close.
The Screeple sniffed the air. He could smell the boy, and he smelled like dinner. But where was he?
Iglum, Oglum, and Uglum heard the jaws snap shut. They heard the horrible scream of the Screeple. And then they heard nothing. It was very quiet. Were they too late?
They heard the Screeple sniffing the air, but they didn’t hear any chewing noises. Maybe they were still in time to help.
They moved silently and finally they could see the Screeple. Forest elves can see in the dark!
It was still crouched ready to spring. Its head was moving back and forth, and its glowing red eyes were looking all around. And then they saw something else. Between the Screeple’s front feet were two little sets of toes attached to two little feet. Two little feet, attached to two little legs. Two little legs with no fur on them. Two little human legs! And under the Screeple lay a small human, face down, and looking very scared.
The three elves forgot that they were very young. They forgot that they were scared. They forgot that they had never had an adventure like this before. They only remembered that they were Idwikys, and that a human needed their help.
But, how could they help? A terrible Spotted Screeple was crouched in the forest, with a human boy right under him. Right now, the Screeple did not know where the boy was, but he would soon find him. The elves had to act fast or it would be too late.
Iglum made signals to Oglum and Uglum, and Oglum went to the right, and Uglum went to the left. They moved silently and very quickly. Now Iglum was right in front of the huge beast, Oglum was on one side and Uglum on the other.
Suddenly, Uglum made a roaring noise. It was not a very loud roar, because Uglum was still a very young elf. The Screeple turned its head toward Uglum, but Uglum had already moved to a place behind it. Then Oglum roared, and the Screeple turned in that direction, but Oglum had moved to another place.
Iglum roared next, and again the Screeple turned toward the noise, but Iglum had moved too. Then Uglum roared again, and moved quickly, and Oglum roared again and moved, and Iglum roared again and moved, and so they kept doing it.
To the Screeple, the roars sounded more like squeaks, and it was not afraid of squeaks. But, the noises were coming from all around. It seemed like there were many creatures surrounding it making these squeaks, and the Screeple could not see them. He screamed a terrible scream and leaped straight toward the place he had heard the last squeak coming from.
Trig was terrified. When he realized that he was directly under some huge fierce beast, his heart went so fast it almost stopped. He knew he was about to be eaten. Then he heard the strange squeaks. They sounded exactly like the noises he made when he and his friends were pretending they were fierce animals. They tried to roar, but the roars always came out as small squeaky sounds.
He felt the beast above him move slightly, and then it screamed and jumped. Trig was on his feet and running immediately. However, he did not run far before he tripped again, and again fell flat on his face.
When the Screeple leaped toward the sound, the elves had already moved. When the Screeple landed and nothing was there, it thought it better look somewhere else for its dinner, and with one final scream, it plunged through the bushes and ferns, and ran back into the forest.
The elves laughed. They were feeling very brave now. They knew there were still other dangerous animals around, but they were not afraid. They had fooled a giant Spotted Screeple, and they could fool others too.
Iglum went over to the boy still flat on the ground. He had never seen a human boy before. Oglum and Uglum joined him and they walked around the boy, looking at him, and chattering to each other in the Elvin language.
While Elves can see quite well in the dark, humans can not. So, Trig lay on the ground in the darkness, and heard noises all around him. He did not know what the noises were, but they did not sound like wild animals. It sounded more like children talking and laughing, but the sounds were whispery and soft. He listened and then he was sure they were voices, and finally he began to understand what they were saying, but he could not see them. “What do we do now?” Iglum asked the others.
Oglum thought for a moment and said “We can’t just leave him here”.
“No, we’ve got to help him get home” Uglum said, “and we better do it before that Screeple comes back”.
“He’s not moving” Oglum said “maybe he’s hurt”.
“I’m not hurt” Trig said quietly.
This startled the elves so much they jumped back about ten feet. “He can talk” Oglum said.
“Of course he can talk” said Uglum “ but he talks funny”.
“You’re the one that talks funny” Trig said in a louder voice.
Trig still could not see them very well, but he could just make out their shapes in the darkness. They were quite small.
“We’ve got to take you home. Where do you live” Uglum asked
Trig told them where he lived, and although none of the elves had been there, they knew where it was and how to get there.
“Humans can’t see in the dark, so I‘ll get a light” Iglum said. He searched around under leaves for a few minutes while Oglum and Uglum talked to Trig. They told him how they had heard him calling, and they told him about the Spotted Screeple, and they told him how they had fooled the animal and scared it away.
“But who are you?” Trig asked.
“We’re forest elves, and we’re from the clan of Idwikys” Uglum stated proudly, and they told Trig all about how the clan started.
“You are our very first Human” Oglum laughed.
Iglum was back with the light. He had taken a stick from the forest floor, covered the end with honey moss, and then gathered glow worms which he put on the stick. Glow worms love honey moss, and they glow brightly when they are on it, so Iglum’s little torch cast a dim light in the darkness, and now Trig could see the three little elves that had saved his life.
Oglum went back to the flat rock and got Trigs basket, and then Trig and the elves went through the forest until they came to the trail, then followed the trail until they were just outside Trigs cave.
Before Trig could even think of the words to thank them, they moved very quickly back into the forest and were gone.
That night, there were stories to tell in the cave, and stories to tell in the Elvin village. And for once, it was the children telling the stories, not the adults.
But in a tunnel, far into the earth, in the deepest part of the forest, a very angry and a very hungry Spotted Screeple lay, swishing it’s tail back and forth, and thinking about how good that boy would have tasted.