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HOME > Classical Novels > The King of Elfland's Daughter34 > CHAPTER VI The Rune of the Elf King
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CHAPTER VI The Rune of the Elf King
 On the high balcony of his gleaming tower the King of Elfland stood. Below him echoed yet the thousand steps. He had lifted his head to chant the rune that should hold his daughter in Elfland, and in that moment had seen her pass the murky1 barrier; which on this side, facing toward Elfland, is all lustrous2 with twilight3, and on that side, facing towards the fields we know, is smoky and angry and dull. And now he had dropped his head till his beard lay mingled4 with his cape5 of ermine above his cerulean cloak, and stood there silently sorrowful, while time passed swift as ever over the fields we know.  
And standing6 there all blue and white against his silver tower, aged7 by the passing of times of which we know nothing, before he imposed its eternal calm upon Elfland, he thought of his daughter amongst our pitiless years. For he knew, whose wisdom surpassed the confines of Elfland and touched our rugged8 fields, knew well the harshness of material things and all the turmoil9 of Time. Even as he stood there he knew that the years that assail10 beauty, and the myriad11 harshnesses that vex12 the spirit, were already about his daughter. And the days that remained to her now seemed scarce more to him, dwelling13 beyond the fret14 and ruin of Time, than to us might seem a briar rose's hours when plucked and foolishly hawked15 in the streets of a city. He knew that there hung over her now the doom16 of all mortal things. He thought of her perishing soon, as mortal things must; to be buried amongst the rocks of a land that scorned Elfland and that held its most treasured myths to be of little account. And were he not the King of all that magical land, which held its eternal calm from his own mysterious serenity17, he had wept to think of the grave in rocky Earth gripping that form that was so fair forever. Or else, he thought, she would pass to some paradise far from his knowledge, some heaven of which books told in the fields we know, for he had heard even of this. He pictured her on some apple-haunted hill, under blossoms of an everlasting18 April, through which flickered19 the pale gold haloes of those that had cursed Elfland. He saw, though dimly for all his magical wisdom, the glory that only the blessed clearly see. He saw his daughter on those heavenly hills stretch out both arms, as he knew well she would, towards the pale-blue peaks of her elfin home, while never one of the blessed heeded20 her yearning21. And then, though he was king of all that land, that had its everlasting calm from him, he wept and all Elfland shivered. It shivered as placid22 water shivers here if something suddenly touches it from our fields.
Then the King turned and left his balcony and went in great haste down his brazen23 steps.
He came clanging to the ivory doors that shut the tower below, and through them came to the throne-room of which only song may tell. And there he took a parchment out of a coffer and a plume24 from some fabulous25 wing, and dipping the plume into no earthly ink, wrote out a rune on the parchment. Then raising two fingers he made the minor26 enchantment27 whereby he summoned his guard. And no guard came.
I have said that no time passed at all in Elfland. Yet the happening of events is in itself a manifestation28 of time, and no event can occur unless time pass. Now it is thus with time in Elfland: in the eternal beauty that dreams in that honied air nothing stirs or fades or dies, nothing seeks its happiness in movement or change or a new thing, but has its ecstasy29 in the perpetual contemplation of all the beauty that has ever been, and which always glows over those enchanted30 lawns as intense as when first created by incantation or song. Yet if the energies of the wizard's mind arose to meet a new thing, then that power that had laid its calm upon Elfland and held back time troubled the calm awhile, and time for awhile shook Elfland. Cast anything into a deep pool from a land strange to it, where some great fish dreams, and green weeds dream, and heavy colours dream, and light sleeps; the great fish stirs, the colours shift and change, the green weeds tremble, the light wakes, a myriad things know slow movement and change; and soon the whole pool is still again. It was the same when Alveric passed through the border of twilight and right through the enchanted wood, and the King was troubled and moved, and all Elfland trembled.
When the King saw that no guard came he looked into the wood which he knew to be troubled, through the deep mass of the trees, that were quivering yet with the coming of Alveric; he looked through the deeps of the wood and the silver walls of his palace, for he looked by enchantment, and there he saw the four knights32 of his guard lying stricken upon the ground with their thick elvish blood hanging out through slits33 in their armour34. And he thought of the early magic whereby he had made the eldest35, with a rune all newly inspired, before he had conquered Time. He passed out through the splendour and glow of one of his flashing portals, and over a gleaming lawn and came to the fallen guard, and saw the trees still troubled.
"There has been magic here," said the King of Elfland.
And then though he only had three runes that could do such a thing, and though they only could be uttered once, and one was already written upon parchment to bring his daughter home, he uttered the second of his most magical runes over that elder knight31 that his magic had made long ago. And in the silence that followed the last words of the rune the rents in the moon-bright armour all clicked shut at once, and the thick dark blood was gone and the knight rose live to his feet. And the Elf King now had only one rune left that was mightier36 than any magic we know.
The other three knights lay dead; and, having no souls, their magic returned again to the mind of their master.
He went back then to his palace, while he sent the last of his guard to fetch him a troll.
Dark brown of skin and two or three feet high the trolls are a gnomish37 tribe that inhabit Elfland. And soon there was a scamper38 in the throne-room that may only be told of in song, and a troll lit by the throne on its two bare feet and stood before its king. The King gave it the parchment with the rune written thereon, saying: "Scamper hence, and pass over the end of the Land, until you come to the fields that none know here; and find the Princess Lirazel who is gone to the haunts of men, and give her this rune and she shall read it and all shall be well."
And the troll scampered39 thence.
And soon the troll was come with long leaps to the frontier of twilight. Then nothing moved in Elfland any more; and motionless on that splendid throne of which only song may speak sat the old King mourning in silence.

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