The Tale of the Hunter and the Finder
There once was a wood elf of marvelous strength. He was swift of hand and foot and journeyed to far places, and saw many things. For this reason he was given the name Nerethal, which means Hunter. Of all the things he saw, beauty was most precious to him and it was beauty that he sought. Not simply the beauty of a maiden’s form or the beauty of sunlit trees with leaves of gold, but the subtle beauty that was present in life itself.
And so it was that he wandered far from lands of cities and farms and far into the realm of rock and tree. One night, in the depths of a thick forest that no man has seen, he caught the scent of another elf on the cool breeze. Intoxicated by the scent of a fellow woodland wanderer, Nerethal rushed through thicket and thorn to reach the elf’s side. Reclining at the base of a silver-blue Willow, the most wondrous sight he had found in his long searching reached his tired eyes. An elf, beautiful with pale skin that spoke of the moon’s light, and raven hair that whispered of cool streams beneath mountain rock. Her skin was not unadorned, rather it was decorated with words he could not understand in a tongue he could not fathom. Her smile was inviting and her eyes were as pearls in the depths of a still, frozen, lake.
“Come now,” she said, and the sound of her voice was the sound of wondrous birdsong that echoed in the untouchable woods beyond the map. “I am nothing more and nothing less than what you are searching for.”
Nerethal watched as her wonderful form stood and was struck by her beauty, as one is struck by a mountain-wind. Icy, breathtaking, and bracing. The Hunter knew that through all his journeys, through lava-filled canyons and poison-filled seas, he had not yet seen anything as dangerous as the smiling elf that stood but an arms-length away. The Hunter had learned many words in his travels, and knew many tongues and the script that wove patterns over her skin disturbed him and fascinated him with its mystery. “What is your name?” he asked, knowing that names are important and powerful words.
Her smile became smaller, but if anything it only made her face more luminous and inviting. “My name is Varethay,” which is The Finder, “and I have found what you seek.”
She brought out a pouch from the gap between two roots of the moonlit tree at her back. A faint light emitted from the pouch’s mouth and when opened, its glow was like the still-heated coals of a just-left fire. She allowed Nerethal to peer within the cupped pouch and he saw a gem of shimmering colour. The orange fire of coals gave way to the depths of sea blue and on to the blaze of the noontide sun.
“It is the Forever Stone, a Gem crafted in the deep time by Dwarves who have lost their names. Its light is the light that shone on the world before Darkness had its say. Its light is the light of unsullied golden days and unspoiled silver nights, and in its heart is the life of all things that now fall short of breath. It is the Forever Stone and it speaks of days long gone, and whispers of days that can come again. It holds knowledge that can change this world.”
Stunned by the power that Verethay held within her cupped hands, Nerethal stepped forward, drawn to the glow as a moth is drawn by flames in the night.
The Finder’s eyes glowed in the light of her prize, and the sound of her voice trilled in the evening air. “It can be yours for an exchange of gifts. I will give you this prize, above all things in glory and wonder, ancient and beautiful.”
In that moment, The Hunter wondered what could possibly match this gift. What could he possibly give for the light of the beginning of time, and power no mortal has known for ten ages? He thought to himself then, that if it was truly the treasure of all time he would give whatever he had to possess it. He would give anything and be right in doing so. He would even perform some small evil for the chance to change the world for all good.
Here the Story is told in a few endings: some say that the Hunter slept with the Finder to receive the gift. Some say that he made a sacrifice for it. Some say that Verethay was a Fae creature with a twisted deal. Others do not say what occurred in the Hunter’s future.
Older Version of Tale
In the Older version of this tale, collected in A Compendium of Lore by Amagant Coppersmith the Unknown there are a number of differences noted by Archaius Noctivagan. The names of the two characters are changed: Seolfor instead of Nerethal (the Hunter), and Caladhris instead of Varethay (the Finder).
The ending in the Old version is much darker. Seolfor the Hunter sleeps with Caladhris to gain information on where the Forever Stone is located. After acquiring the Stone, Seolfor realises that the price of its use is horrible.
“When Seolfor had spent his night with Caladhris, he left at first light for the hidden spot that Caladhris had named. When he had climbed the peak he was sent to, he searched for that which he was told to find. And find it he did, but he found not the true prize he wished. For Caladhris had betrayed Seolfor, and her betrayal cost Seolfor his soul. The power to change life forever came at a cost too terrible to name, and Seolfor died in pain and agony. Caladhris endured, and her laugh was terrible to hear.”