As soon as the sun reached the treetops, I drove to river. My heart was beating wildly, but I couldn’t say why. Oton had implied that the celebration had been delayed so I could attend. What was I to these creatures? I pushed the thought away and started walking. I know the way now. The first few times, I stumbled around in circles until they found me, but I blazed a straight path to Elvsmyr last night. Rounding a mound of shrubs, I was dive bombed by a robin. He screeched and peeked at my head, but I wasn’t there to harm him. A few steps later, I realized why he had become so aggressive. The bright robin egg blue caught my eye as I hurried away. Obviously he had nestlings to guard, and was only doing his best to keep his babies safe, but nothing could have stopped me.
Finally, I walked into Elvsmyr. I had stuffed a backpack with kielbasa and onions simmered in a tangy sauce—just to be certain I had food to eat. One never can tell what might be boiling in the cauldrons of the trolls. I handed the pack to a trollkin and told her to take to the cooks. They just needed to heat it up and it would be ready to share. She scampered away with the pack balanced precariously on her head. Oton, with Leaf at his side, greeted me with open arms. I suddenly lost my nerve, started to worry I would be on the menu, but one smile from Leaf and that dissipated into the night.
“Rebecca, we’ve been waiting for you. I told the others the celebration couldn’t start until you arrived.” Leaf’s long brown hair whipped in the wind.
“But why? I’m just a visitor here; don’t let me stand in the way of tradition.”
“I think you are much more than that and you will too before this night has passed,” she said. “Oton, don’t you have something for Rebecca?”
He dipped his chin to his chest and smiled in that twisty mouthed way of his. “I’ve been working on this for a long time. It’s very special to me, and well, now it’s time to share it with you, my human friend.” He reached behind the erratic boulder and pulled out a large piece of cloth, carefully folded and topped with a blooming apple twig. “I’ve had this cloth for a very long time. It’s helped us in ways you can’t imagine. It has become part of Elvsmyr. We all wear a hunk of it every night, but I wanted you to be covered with wind cloth. It will be my honor if you would wear it when you visit.”
I didn’t know what to say. He handed it to me and I gently unfolded a beautiful hooded cloak of dingy white cloth. It was rough to the touch and felt like canvas, but I couldn’t imagine where he would have gotten such a large piece. I looked around and saw that everyone did indeed wear something from the same bolt of fabric. A scarf here and sash there. Oton’s tunic appeared to be made from it and Leaf wore skirts of heavy white canvas, they were covered in a wild design of swirls and zigzagging lines. I unfolded and cloak and the breath left my lungs. It was embellished with bits of bark and colorful pebbles. Oton must have worked many nights just to drill tiny holes into the colorful details now sewn to the cloak. I swung it around my shoulders and it was a perfect fit. With tears in my eyes, I said, “thank you.”
“I had help, but the cloth was mine. You’re welcome. Now, let’s dance.”
Suddenly the night was filled with sounds of drums, and I followed him to the circle of trolls near the fire. As I moved, the bits of bark and stones, clacked together making me feel like I was part of the drum section. Being tall, I was easily able to see to the center where Pod and a few others were pounding madly on drums made from hollow logs. I was immediately entranced as I felt my heartbeat fall into rhythm. All at once, a tall troll with a whip of tail, bounced to the center, He was covered in woven strands of grass and embellished with blossoms and leaves. He walked to the center of circle then stopped just at the same instant as the drummers finished. All was silent, only the sound of the wind and hoot of an owl could be heard. The next thing I knew, the dancer jumped high in the air, spinning like a top and came down on one toe, spinning like an ice dancer. Just before the momentum died, he flung his arms wide, threw his head back, and howled.
The drummers started up again and more dancers dared the same steps until nearly the entire village was leaping and spinning in unison.
I felt a tug on my jeans and saw Leaf smiling up at me. “Come, I want to speak with you away from the others.” I followed her away from the fire and around a bend in the river. Eventually we stopped and she began to speak. “Rebecca, remove your human shoes. You don’t need them here. The earth longs to feel your touch.”
I had no idea what she was talking about, but I was caught up in the wonder of the troll celebration. I did as she asked, even though it was only a few degrees above freezing and the ground was muddy.
“Now, move you feet shoulder width apart and crack your toes.”
I couldn’t crack my toes on demand, but I wiggled them to honor her request.
“It will have to do. Now, plant your feet firmly against the earth and tell me what you feel.”
I felt mud, oozing between my toes and silly—really silly. But the surprising thing was I wasn’t cold. I expected the mud to be frigid against my toes, but it felt warm and soothing. It was weird. “I feel mud.”
“No, forget you are human. Leave that behind. Close your eyes and let your mind release of all doubts.”
I inhaled deeply and did as she asked. I’ve done some meditating over the years so I had an idea of what she wanted.”
“Tell me, what do you hear?”
I was afraid to say. Since I was a child, I’ve heard a melody when I empty my mind. A melody without words, without beginning, without end—it was here drowning out the wind and the clatter of my pebbled covered cloak.
“You hear her, your smile betrays your human ignorance.”
“I don’t know what you mean. What am I supposed to be hearing?”
“You already know …”
I've been awake ever since. It's hard to explain what I'm feeling right now, but something special happened last night. I've been accepted by them. They trust me, respect me, and maybe even love me ... just a little. All I know for sure is that some of my best friends are trolls, smelly, mole-covered, snot-gushing trolls.