Justin Clay had gone from being a confused college student
at Michigan State University, majoring in Communications and having no clue
where to go or what to do with his life - to a sword-wielding, duster-wearing
cowboy in a land of Celtic mythology caught in the middle of a civil war. This kind of journey was more than
life-altering - it was the kind of experience that made a Humpty Dumpty out of
reality and then booted his ass off the wall - shattering it so profoundly
against a deeper, darker truth, that nothing would ever be the same again. The pieces would never fit back together
because they had never belonged together in the first place.
[East Lansing, Michigan, USA]
The winds of autumn swept through the trees of Michigan
State University's northern lamp lit campus.
As Justin Clay walked along the winding sidewalks, a storm of crisp
fallen leaves spiraled down to the earth.
It was late October and the treetops were crimson, dark purple and pale
gold; the fields of grass and sidewalks were all blanketed with scattered
layers of fallen leaves that crunched under his feet.
As he wandered up the sidewalk running
parallel to Physics Road, the strong smell of deep fried chicken wafted over
from the cafeterias of Phillips and Snyder Hall. He grinned to himself. It was chicken strip Wednesday. Back when he had lived in Case Hall, the cafeterias
served chicken strips every Wednesday.
His old Case Hall dorm-mates had begun referring to them affectionately
as chicken sliders - because no
matter how crispy and tasty they were, by the time you finished eating a plate,
you already had to take a shit. About
two-thirds through dinner, people started getting uncomfortable and shifty in
their seats. With bubbling bombs in
their guts, it was a race back upstairs.
There were two people to a room, and they shared a bathroom with
suitemates, which left only one toilet for four guys. Nobody wanted to be second in the
bathroom. People would actually sprint
off the elevator; the hallway would thunder with the pounding of running
footsteps. Then it was the jingle-jangle
of keys as everyone tried frantically to open their door and get to that
untouched bathroom. Then you'd hear
doors slamming and people cursing.
Those were the days.
Good times with good peeps.
But those days were gone, swept away like the leaves of last
year's fall. A new season had come. Another year had passed. The last echoes of summer faded like the red
light from a setting sun.
Those weren't the memories his mother wanted to hear
about. She wanted to know that he was
making something of his life. But all he
had done for the last three years was drift through college without a clue - no
direction, no goal in sight. But how could he explain that none of the job
categories out there interested him? It
wasn't that he didn't want to work, he did.
But he simply had no interest in anything he had seen so far. He'd switched his major five times now...
everything from computer programming to creative writing. He'd taken philosophy and psychology and
political science. He did find interest
in the subjects but had no desire to work in any of the fields.
How do you explain
to people that you aren't satisfied with your options without sounding spoiled
and conceited? He never had a life of
stability or wealth. His childhood was
riddled with abandoned homes, lost friends and surrendered opportunities. In fact, he remembered, not long after his
parents separated, spending one summer living in a van, sleeping in a YMCA
parking lot. If that wasn't embarrassing
enough, his mother had gone on the news and broadcast it to the world. She had been trying to shame his father, but
only ended up humiliating the kids.
"Just think of it as a camping trip," she'd said. Right.
He had later found out that his father had been sending them
a couple thousand dollars a month and his mother had been banking it for her
'dream home'. In fact, in those last
years, whenever his father had tried to reach out, to offer a way bridge the
gap with Justin or his siblings, their mother had always had a way to crush it
- and she was so good at having a good excuse.
He couldn't hate her, she was his mother, but he really just didn't want
to deal with her at the moment. What
infuriated him the most is that she would never take accountability for
anything, not a single decision she'd made.
Justin had always been taught to own up to his actions, by his father of
course. His mother would second that
teaching, even though she was not a follower of that philosophy herself. But at present, none of that mattered. He was on his own.
He felt lost and abandoned... floating through the sea of
life without a paddle. No matter how
hard he worked to put the sails up - the wind just wasn't blowing. He was just... drifting.
Grand Avenue, the lifeline of MSU's eating and drinking
life, was just ahead. It formed the
northern border of campus - separating the school buildings from the off-campus
housing. Most of the houses in this part
of town were old, two-story houses that had never been upgraded because most of
the time it was four or five college students renting them, and the landlords
didn't feel the need to spend more money.
The students didn't seem to care about such details as dependable
appliances or nice paint and carpeting.
They knew they were just going to party and ruin half of it anyway.
As he crossed Grand Avenue and rounded the corner to Kedzie
street, a strong autumn wind washed over him - sending a waterfall of colorful
leaves cascading down over the concrete.
Glowing jack-o-lanterns grinned at him from numerous window sills and
porches. Ghosts and skeletons hanging
from tree branches swayed in the breeze.
Here and there a few spider webs stretched from tree to porch railing or
down over window panes. Halloween was
hovering at the doorstep.
Pounding bass reverberated through the air - the weekend
parties were awakening. As he strolled
down the leaf-strewn Kedzie street, his old white house was warm with the glow of
late afternoon lights, his roommates preparing for a party of their own.
He entered quietly, slipping up the stairs to his room
unnoticed. Slinging his hunter-camo
backpack onto his bed, he slumped into his battered leather computer
chair. But instead of moving the mouse
to wake his screen, he simply stared at the dark monitor and fell into deep
It had been at least
a week since he'd been in Akralon - the other
world... the world of dreams. A week of
real life and who knew how much time had passed in the dream world. He knew, amidst everything that had been
happening back in the misty forests of Fablemyr, he really should've returned
by now. But for some indescribable
reason, he just couldn't bring himself to do it. Things had gotten too out of control. Real people may have even died. He felt no pull to be a part of that madness
any longer. It was easy enough to just
remain in real life and forget the fantasy.
Certainly, if he waited long enough, waded back into the stream of
normality - of classes and studying and college parties - it would all become a
As real as the dream world felt while he had been in it, the
longer he stayed here in East Lansing, Michigan, the less real it became. With each passing day, he began to wonder
more and more if any of it had happened at all - if it just been a really lucid
dream. It seemed to fade from his memory
at an exponential rate... not the memories themselves, but the feeling that any
of it had actually happened. Yet,
despite his faltering grasp on the reality of his dream world experience, the
memories of the faces, the personalities, the camaraderie, still filled his
vision when he closed his eyes.
Likewise, he remembered that the longer he had stayed in Akralon, the
less he had cared about things in his earthly life and the less he felt the
need to return. Maybe that was the
reason for flickering? Some kind of balance? Maybe, like the old man, the World War II vet
who had traveled once and never returned, had told him - the pull on new
travelers was too strong to stay, too easy for them to abandon their real lives
- to escape somewhere new and magical where they could start over and redefine
themselves. Maybe the point of
experiencing the dream world wasn't to abandon the real world, but to return to
it with a wider, deeper perspective.
Like a pilgrimage.
Akralon was like a drug.
It came during times of intense emotional stress. Maybe because those were the times in a
person's life when they had the loosest ties to life on Earth. Maybe because in the midst of the turmoil
they were looking for a way out, for some place to escape to. Someone who was madly in love would never
find it - because they were too happy - and their desire to get back to real
life would be unshakeable.
Did that make
Akralon's dream portals sinister? Or was
it merely that only an injured heart could see the deeper things of the world -
of life? Do those who are sheltered and
spoiled miss all opportunity for growth and understanding? Justin felt that might just be true. Anyone who had never been blindsided by a
life-stopping obstacle had never truly lived.
There was no journey. There was
He sighed, leaning forward, elbows on his desk and rubbed
his temples. The grim funeral was the
last memory he had in Akralon. He could
remember Emerald's words, her last remembrance of the friends she'd lost...
The first of five
graves was marked by a gnarled oaken staff, lodged into the earth at the
headstone. A single piece of parchment
was laid over the stone. A list of
ingredients. Not for a spell or any kind
of magic - only a simple recipe. An
Irish recipe for a special kind of peppered corned beef.
Emerald's green eyes
were fastened on that dirty, bloodstained parchment. "Ash... cantankerous old druid. He lived just out of Kinsale, in county
Cork. He'd never shut up about the
famous seafood of The Blue Haven or its old blue clock. He hated emigrants. His philosophy was to stay and fix the
problem, rather than run away, as many Irish did."
Her face turned
slightly and Justin now felt she was talking to him as much as giving a
eulogy. "In one of the rare moments
he'd talk about his youth, maybe more from the whiskey, he told us all about
standing on the edge of Kinsale Harbour and watching the ships sail by...
gliding through cool waters... away to places unknown. Like many a child, he'd often wonder where
they were going or what they were carrying.
He said he was always happy to recognize a ship returning from sea. He said it gave him a sense of security, of
community. It gave him hope that those
who went away would return. That the
community would last.
"In Akralon, he
had a reverent respect for the forest - for all trees, for flowers and fungi,
for shrub and herb. Gruff as he might've
been, he loved this land with a passion rooted somewhere beyond the
understanding of the modern, fast-paced world.
He was a true protector of the realm. And he loved nature and he loved
Justin remembered the
black-bearded, scowling face of the sardonic druid. He cleared his throat and gave his own short
words. "You were a cranky old bastard, I'll give you
that. But you knew your craft," he
gave a tip of his Stetson. "And
don't make a fuss about this forest.
We'll look after her." He
felt honest when he'd said the word, but had he really meant them?
It was Carter, standing in his door way, wearing an orange
"Nah," Justin shrugged, "Just tired and psych
class hurt my brain."
"You ready to get crunked tonight?" Carter smiled,
his green eyes flashing.
"I wasn't planning on it, but we'll see."
"That's the spirit." Carter checked his watch. "People will probably start showing up
around seven or eight - so get ready."
"Get crunked!!!" Barry's voice reverberated out of
his room. As if in response, his
roommate's speakers began blasting the song Butterfly. It was Barry's flavor of the week.
"I'm gonna take a shower and then we're gonna start
grilling some steaks," Carter added.
Justin stared at his blank computer screen. "Sounds good."
Several hours later, the house was once again full of
drunken college students, talking and bobbing to the music, carrying their red
plastic cups full of whatever piss-water beer his roommates had ordered a keg
Justin was out back with Mark and Barry, grilling a second
round of steaks that Barry had marinated all day. They had pretty much exhausted their liquor
supply and were feeling mighty fine.
Justin had long since abandoned cups and finished his Jack Daniels. In silent honor to the memory of his Irish
friends in the dream world, he had bought a bottle of Jameson and was now
carrying it around, taking swigs directly from the bottle.
"To the Irish!" he would yell, with each
swig. Everyone thought he was toasting
the drink and the culture. Only he knew
what dark images filled his mind with each drink. The more he drank, the more his mind let go
of all the nasty memories of their cold, pale bodies in the grassy meadow where
he had found them, the more he convinced himself that everything was okay. Just keep downing that alcohol and let it
wash away the problems of the world.
Barry rubbed his crotch in annoyance. "Man, remember that blonde bitch I took
up to my room last weekend?"
"The weird one with the crooked face?" Mark smirked.
"She gave you crabs, didn't she?"
"Fuck you," Barry smiled tightly. "And no.
I'm clean as a whistle. But that
chick was not down for the foreplay,
let me tell you. She was all about the
"I didn't hear anything, so she must've been a real trooper."
"Oh yeah, she took it like a champ," Barry
sighed. "And I've got some serious
chafing going on. She shaves, but the
stubble was coming back. It was
downright painful, but she wouldn't let me touch her anywhere. She just wanted the D and nothing else."
"Sounds like you got used," Mark laughed. "She wanted some serious deep-dicking
and you were the only guy around to give it, so she settled."
"Fuck you again," Barry retorted.
"She was kind of weird
"Fuck you, Clay," Barry turned on him in mock
indignation. "At least I got
some. You let that fine ass redheaded
beauty slip right through your fingers!
I can't believe you blew that one.
She practically gift-wrapped herself!"
"What?" Mark's curiosity was piqued.
"Yeah," Barry gave his impish grin again. "This bitch was a big-breasted,
tight-assed, redheaded beauty who walked right into his room and sat down on
his bed with an ace of spades wedged in her cleavage and a full cup of beer in
hand. She wanted to get some. And all this chump did was talk to her. Talk
to her. For like half an hour. Then she left." Barry groaned. "What a waste."
Mark looked to Justin for an explanation.
"What can I say?" Justin defended. "I can only think about one girl at a
time, and at that time I was strung up on Mary.
She was all I could think about."
"You weren't even in a relationship yet," Barry
protested. "You could've hit that
sweet ass and had no regrets!! I mean,
god! She wanted it!"
Mark nodded with a satisfied smile. "That's dedication."
"That's a wasted opportunity," Barry shook his
head. "I thought for sure you were
gonna nail that. I was rootin' for
"Thanks for the support," Justin chugged another
throat-full of Jameson. "But I don't
need help getting girls."
"You don't need help attracting them," Barry
admitted, "You just need serious lessons on banging them." He laughed and Mark joined in.
Then Mark clapped him on the shoulder. "Justin..." He held up his blue can of Labatts, "You're
a better man than most."
" Yeah, thanks."
"There goes Carter with that young sorority chick he's
been eyeing," Barry nodded toward the kitchen.
Justin and Mark peered in the window and saw Carter leading
a young brunette through the living room toward the stairs.
"Ten bucks says she runs out of the room crying in like
ten minutes," Barry added. They all
burst into laughing.
Justin and Mark returned their attention to the sizzling
"Mmmm," Justin hummed, "Smells mighty
"Oh they will be," Barry promised. "These are masterpieces of art. And I'm damn sure not about to let this mob
of drunken idiots eat up my excellently seasoned steaks." He looked at Mark, waving the two-pronged
fork with gravity. "I know your big
ass could probably eat them all and still have room for Burger King, but you
only get one."
Mark shrugged, "I can fill this belly with beer and do
a two-in-the-morning BK run!" He laughed.
"You're missing another weekend at U of M, aren't
you?" Justin asked. "When was
the last time you saw your girl?"
"She's been really busy with school," Mark
shrugged. "You know she's a
"Yup," Barry nodded, "Opposites attract. She's got the brains and you've got the
"I miss her visits," Justin laughed, "Because
that's the only time you clean your
Mark burst into his high-pitched laughter.
"Yeah," Barry added, "It's starting to smell
like death in there. I'm about to pay
her to come down just so you can clean that toxic waste dump up and spare the
rest of us the torture."
"It is kind of unfortunate that your dirty bedroom is
right next to the kitchen," Justin said.
"If you guys really want a challenge, I could leave the bathroom
door open every morning."
"Dear God, no," Barry protested. "I will seriously light your room on
"Oh!" Barry turned the steaks again and inspected
the color briefly. He eyed them both
deviously. "You hear about the
neighbors? The girls across the
"What happened," Mark raised an eyebrow, "Did
you bang one of them?"
"No," Barry chuckled, "But Len's been trying
real hard. I mean real hard. There's four of 'em over there. Do you remember the one with reddish-brown
hair, shoulder length, with the real big ta-tas?"
Mark cocked his head in curiosity. "He didn't..."
"He wishes,' Barry laughed. "Apparently she came over the other
night. They were both drinking a lot, and then they ended up going into his
room, making out a little and stuff.
Then he started grabbing on her tits and she got pissed and left!" He burst out laughing. "The best part is that Len brags about
how he got a good squeeze in. "
Mark sighed and shook his head.
"But that's not all," Barry now turned his
attention to Justin. Though he was
clearly talking to Mark, his eyes were locked on Justin. "Did you know she wanted to hang out
with Mr. Clay here, 'bout a week ago?
She made jokes about the old board game Clue, and told him they made a movie. She even agreed to go with him to rent it and
watch it here - with him!"
Mark turned his curious, beer-glazed blue eyes to Justin
Barry grinned, "Guess what happened that night..."
Justin groaned and looked away.
"That's right!" Barry laughed, "Nothing! She agreed to something as lame as watching
an old movie about a board game - just to be over here late with you - and you
did nothing! You watched the friggin
movie and then she went home!"
"You're awesome, Justin."
Barry slapped him sympathetically on the shoulder,
"Clay, you will hereby be deemed the King of Missed Opportunities."
"Always happy to entertain.
It's what I'm here for."
Barry finished his Labatts and flung the empty can into the
overflowing trash bin. He opened the
cooler at the foot of the grill and fished in the icy water for the next blue
can. He popped it open with a refreshing
pssssss and took another swig.
Justin stared thoughtfully through the yellow glow of the
kitchen window. The base from the living
room stereo sent thrumming vibes through everyone inside and outside of the house. The bodies inside, all wearing their nice
party clothes, danced and laughed and drank and talked. Pretty, made-up college girls in tight jeans
and tight shirts, flashed their perfumed hair.
Young bucks, itching for a chance to get physical, subtly flexed their
muscles and sucked in their guts as they talked. They told stories to try to impress, with
"Hey," Barry's steady gaze shook him from his
thoughts. "What would you do if Mary walked in right now?"
Justin's first impulse was to eagerly search the crowd
inside, hoping against hope that Barry's question was inspired by her actual
presence at the party. But with measured
restraint, he refrained. He could tell
by Barry's eyes that this was not the case.
He silently reprimanded himself for being a pussy.
"I think I'd be pissed," he finally admitted. "I mean, unless she was here to
apologize to me. She wouldn't,
though." He offered a weak smile,
"She won't be coming back here."
He took another swig of his Jameson and stared at the party. "Not ever."
His own words echoed in his ears. Marry had moved on. Now it was his turn. That chapter of college romance had ended. There was no going back, no repairing
it. That bridge was burned. Probably by him.
As the Irish whiskey burned down his throat and heated his
stomach, he watched the drinking and dancing college partiers with a sense of
detachment. Part of him felt like he
didn't really belong here. Like this
wasn't his real life. Part of him felt
his real life was elsewhere... In Akralon.
Just hearing the name of the other world in his mind sparked
a series of thoughts about life and purpose, struggles and goals. Somehow, some way, his time exploring the
mysterious and mythological dreamscape brought clarity to his mind and to his
purpose in real life. It was like
traveling to a distant country and seeing outside one's culture and
stereotypes. Stripped of all the things he
used to define himself, surrounded by foreign landscapes and strange customs, he
had to look deeper inside himself to find his true identity. Maybe that was what he needed. He had no money to travel to France or
Ireland or Brazil. But he could go
somewhere even further, more foreign... where dangerous adventure lurked around
every corner. Maybe it was time to go back.
English philosopher John Locke first brought this notion to the minds of scholars. He said, "No man's knowledge can go beyond his experience," - meaning that you know only what you are exposed to.
This has been taken two ways. First, that only what you see or smell or hear or otherwise with your senses are exposed to. This is a rather materialistic view, but it is nonetheless a valid conclusion.
Second, that which we can piece together from the knowledge in our head. Just as we can see lines that don't quite connect, but our brains connect those lines and make a shape anyway, so can we do this with knowledge and concepts.
Philosophy, as a subject, should be studied before any and all other subjects (with the exception of language and mathematics). Philosophy teaches us how to ask the right questions. It teaches us how to analyze data and think logically. It teaches us how to debate intelligently. Philosophy opens the path through which we find real knowledge.
I believe reality is truth and truth is reality. I believe they are a multi-faceted object. I believe that each subject - literature, mathematics, art, psychology, architecture, biology, chemistry, physics, astronomy, history, sociology, politics, thermodynamics, music... each is a single angle to view this object - reality and truth.
If a person only studies one subject, that person will only see reality from one angle. To get a full picture, to piece the puzzle together, one needs to study as many subjects as possible. Or, at the very least, find people you can trust who have studied the other fields for you.
The brain grows and retains knowledge by making (quite literally) connections. The more information you offer it, the more possibilities it has to connect and make sense of. The more knowledgeable you become.
Don't, however, forget the power of emotion. It can blind and debilitate logic. So it is important to understand emotion, whenever and wherever it comes from - and not to ignore it or pretend it has no influence. Emotion is an angle to truth that logic cannot fathom. They are, after all, two separate parts of the brain.
When people ask what the Akralon books are about, I find it difficult to give a short answer and do the books justice. Akralon is about two things, primarily. First, it's about self-discovery and finding purpose in life. Second, it's about the power of imagination and creativity.
The reason the characters span the globe is to show many different lifestyles and circumstances, but also to show how most people define themselves by their job or their family or their culture. We all do it, to some respect. But who are you without those things? With no job, no family and no culture, what is left?
We have all these societal norms that regulate our behavior that we never really stop to think about. I like to use the old elevator example. There are unspoken rules about etiquette inside an elevator. You step in, you turn around, you stare at the doors or watch the changing floor light. Nobody wrote these rules down, we just sort of adapted into this group behavior. But imagine how people would react if you stepped inside the elevator and did NOT turn around, and instead stared forward. What if you just walked to the back of the elevator and stood silently facing the corner? Technically, you wouldn't be doing anything wrong, but something as simple as which direction you're facing is enough to make people freak out and think you're crazy!
All that, just in an elevator. A household, town, city and country have a million more of these unspoken rules of how we ought to behave. But what if you took people out of their society, out of their country - out of their world? What if you put them in a different world where none of those rules applied. How would they react? What would they think? Without culture, family and friends - how would they now define themselves?
Now imagine, after some time, they return home, to all the familiar things. Would they be any different - changed in any way? Would they simply revert back to their old habits and ways of thinking? No doubt, depending on the shortness of the time away, most people would settle back into their old ways. It's what they've been doing the longest.
But what if they could, periodically, go back and forth? How would they deal with two separate realities? The human brain doesn't like not having everything on the same page, so it would try and adjust, somehow bring the realities together. This means the person would have to develop a stronger, more defined way of viewing the world/s and his or herself.
Throw in the extra spice of having abilities not available in the real world and you have a formula for making heroes and villains. Some people will find strength to overcome their circumstances, to learn and grow and be better people. Others will fall victim to their darker natures and downward spiral into infamy.
So, in a sense, the world of Akralon is a test for the soul.
Firbolgs were the first to inhabit the forests of Fablemyr. While they are fierce and barbaric, they lived in peace and harmony with the surrounding wilderness.
When the Tuatha de Danann arrived, they felt intruded upon the mysterious and haughty elves. A war ensued, and large and strong as the Firbolgs were, they were outmatched by the cleverness and spellcraft of the elves. Upon losing, they were pushed to the outskirts of the forest.
Now the Firbolgs dwell in the surrounding hills and mountains, venturing into the forest only when food runs scarce. Untrusting and quick to anger, some say Firbolgs have giant’s blood in them. They stand over eight feet tall and are usually thick with muscle and coarse hair. Despite their immense size, they are excellent hunters and can move silently through tree and brush when necessary.
The militant and merciless Fomor are a ruined race of deformed mutants, immune to normal weaponry. Their pale flesh resembles melted wax, oozing over brutish malformed bodies.
The Fomor invaded Fablemyr after the Tuatha de Danann, defeating and enslaving them. For long years they ruled with an unyielding iron fist. Lugh Lamfada eventually led the Tuatha de Danann in an uprising. With the aid of the Four Treasures of Ireland, the Tuatha de Danann brought down the mighty Fomorii leader, Balor, and banished all Fomor from the boundaries of their realm.
The Fomor have recently began turning up in various places in Fablemyr, plotting the vengeance that has been festering in their souls for the entirety of their banishment...
The Tuatha de Danann are the magical and mystical race called elves. After a successful campaign to drive out the Firbolgs, they indulged in music making and celebrationsThey first battled and defeated the Firbolgs and later fought the foul and mean-spirited Fomor... and lost.
Despite the beauty and grace of the elven culture, they were no match for the sheer numbers and brute force of the relentless Fomor. It took the combined strength of four great treasures and an inspirational leader to rally them to overthrow the heavy yoke of their militant slavers.
Flourishing for a thousand years in Fablemyr, in tandem with the Fey kingdoms. They spread out and forged four great cities.
The first two cities were Murias in the west and Finias in the east. Murias was a twilight city of water and healing. These elves became the Lunaire, or moon elves by common tongue. They practiced the art of moon magic and studied lunar cycles, curative and calming powers. A soothing city of smooth marble, flowing streams and serene ponds, Murias was the first city to be abandoned.
Finias, nearly the opposite, became a city of light and illumination, of knowledge and research. They built tall spires to bask in the sunlight and became the Syldaer, or sun elves. They spent time harnessing the powers of sunlight, filtered through various precious gemstones to offer the powers of revelation, divination and restoration.
In the north, they founded Falias. Here the elves delved deep into the earth, diving into the darkness where strange molds and fungi grow. They took a strange fascination with herbalism and toxicology. Eventually they began experimenting with shadow magic. This obsession is what led to the title the Dreyth, or shadow elves. Eventually, their experimenting became to radical and severe and they were cast out by the other factions of elves - banished forever from Fablemyr.
Last, in the south was Gorias. Here the elves cast off their fine clothes and jewelry as well as their refined customs and mannerisms. They chose to admire both the beauty and order of nature and the wild chaos of fire. Hence they became the wild elves, or the Wildryn. They hunted and foraged much in the way of the Firbolgs before them. Their tools were of bone and wood, stone and flora. They did not tame the animals around them, as the other elves did, but befriended them in their wild and savage state.
In the end, all the elves had gone. Men came and drove them out with cold iron. Or perhaps they left of their own accord, seeking growth and expansion. There are many explanations and stories, but the only thing beyond debate is that the four cities are but ancient relics, ruined and overrun by the Fey.