I'm about to tell you it is a lie, although not a complete lie. Some parts happened, but I will leave that to you to decide.
Long ago, but not too long, a Faun named Fador lived. His life was simple and primarily merry. He enjoyed making the forest animals happy with his songs and, occasionally, played a prank on an unsuspecting creature. It may be a great surprise when I tell you that Fador was almost always lonely. His smile and silly behavior managed to cover the darkness that dwelled deep in his heart. Life had begun to drag on day after day. Fedor contemplated whether he should visit the Gorgans, gaze upon their faces, and instantly turn to stone. His heart was heavy and cold, without warmth or passion. A mechanical beat that served to remind him that time marched on whether he liked it or not. He had not always been this way; in the before time, the long, long ago, Fador's life was a carefree existence. That changed when the "Dark One" came.
Mörken and his Troth savaged the meadows of Talitha for its gold, silver, and, most notably, iron. The iron was forged into weapons used to massacre animals who were foolish enough to fight back. The Fauns fought valiantly against the oncoming storm, but, in the end, only a handful remained. The survivors banded together and fled to the ancient forest of Älskad, where they lived as refugees. Fador never let go of the images of the battle to save his home. They haunt his dreams, twisting his soul until it's ready to burst. He hides this dark secret with a friendly smile or witty joke.
The forest troll, Thuman, recently traveled outside the woods to learn more about Mörken's plans. Upon his return, the tales of the devastation wrought upon Talitha only pushed Fador to give up all hope of returning to his meadow. He longed to lie in the tall grass and watch the bees dance across the wildflowers, collecting their fragrant nectar. Unless he acted soon against the Dark One, the faun feared he would lose himself in the darkness forever. So, one moonless night, Fador gathered food and a borrowed spear and headed toward his fate.
It was nearing dawn when he descended toward the Valley of Whispers and his beloved meadow. As the light grew in intensity, the full impact of the Troth's destruction could be seen. Piles of uprooted trees lay strewn across the hillside, their gnarled roots broken and limp. He stood before a giant wooden tower surrounded by mounds of reddish-brown earth. Bones, furs, and rotting carcasses from every animal were strewn across the landscape.
Quickly, the faun sought cover behind an overturned tree. Scanning the terrain, Fador saw no movement and heard no sound. So evil was this place that even the crows would not come to gorge themselves on its decaying flesh.
"Where have they all gone?" whispered Fedor. Sensing no danger, he crept toward the tower to gain its height advantage. As he came closer, a foul stench wafted up from the mounds of earth. "What have they done to a land that once smelled of clover honey?" Fador asked. He climbed the tower's structure to view the surrounding meadow. Reaching the top, Fador gazed across the once-pristine landscape. A mixture of shock and fury overcame the faun. The soil was overturned everywhere, and piles of bleached bones were a testament to the destruction. But worst of all, the stream's crystal blue water ran a reddish-brown.
"All is lost!" Exhausted and overcome, Fador collapsed into the corner of the tower and fell deep into a fitful sleep. When the faun awoke, the sun dipped below the hills, leaving the sky pink with darkening purple streaks.
"I'll jump. I'll jump and die in the place I love," said Fador. He sat up and prepared to climb over the platform's edge.
That's when he heard the voices. The Troth's speech is unmistakable. Distant at first but moments later closer, louder, and distinct. "When we are done in two moons, the Dark One will reward us with meat and more killing." said the voice. Fedor carefully peered over the platform's edge and saw a large group of Troths climbing down into the mine shaft. A smaller group took positions around the bucket lines leading to the mine bottom. Fador crept back to the shadows of the corner and remained motionless while extracting the precious metals began. The dark elves toiled away all night, never stopping. Bucket after bucket of dirt was raised to the surface, sifted, and any gold removed. Toward dawn, the workers climbed out of the hole and headed over the hill for food and rest.
Fador's body ached. Fearful the Troth might detect his presence, he had not moved an inch the entire night. He slowly peered over the tower's edge to ensure no elf remained. Then, the faun descended the ladder and followed the departing Troth. Fador was home. He knew this land better than most and got within arm's reach of the Troth without them knowing. Fador heard them say they would finish here and then move on to the next valley to do the same thing, leaving a trail of death and destruction unseen since the giant wars. He had to stop them! But how? He was only one, and there were many. The faun decided he needed food and fresh water before solving the problem. He knew just where to refresh himself and headed to the valley reservoir. The rest could wait until later.
By midday, Fador sat at the water's edge, munching watercress and cattail root while letting the sun dry his freshly washed fur. With a full stomach, the faun could think about stopping the Troth. Fador absent-mindedly skipped stones across the water toward the stone dam as he sat on the reservoir bank. Seeing how close he could skim a stone without touching the dam's barrier soon became challenging. As the sun slipped lower and lower, Fador could not devise a plan. He threw his last stone angrily and watched it skip over the water. Suddenly, it jumped over the dam's edge, falling to the meadow far below. As darkness closed around him, he curled under a tree, knowing the Troth would be busy mining until dawn.
Fador dreamed of stones, water, and keys until loud splashing awoke him. Next to the shore swam a tiny furry head that kept darting back and forth across the water's surface. Fador sat up and stared at the creature. "Good morning, Mr. Faun. Why are you here? Everyone left long ago; you should not stay here." said the otter. Fador walked down to the edge and spoke with the animal. The water animals seemed safe from the dark elves due to their fear of drowning. Fador asked if there were a way to open the damn and flood the valley below. "I can't help you; your people built it. Don't you remember the keystone rhyme?" asked the otter.
Rhyme? Yes! That was in his dream last night. He had forgotten about it until the otter reminded him. Fador bid farewell to the creature and then went to the dam's edge, thinking about the keystone rhyme as he walked.
Cautiously, the faun crawled down the dam's face, noting the different shapes and sizes of the structure's stones. None looked anything like a key. They all looked like plain, ordinary stones. "Slip the key from out of its hole and watch as the waters flow," he said, searching the dam's top. Morning turned to noon, and hunger again called out. Fador returned to the water's edge to eat his fill of watercress. The otter returned and offered him a juicy fish, which the faun politely declined. Fador asked the otter if he knew which stone was the keystone. "No," said the otter. "What does a keystone do?" The faun explained that a keystone was the one stone that held the rest in place, and if it were removed, the rest would fall. "Beaver will know," said the otter and then disappeared below the water.
After finishing his meal, Fador rested and thought about how his ancestors had come to build this stone dam and why they had not used it to stop the Troth armies. Toward dusk, the otter returned with the beaver in tow. "I told him what you said, and he is sure he knows what you need to do," said the otter, trying to catch his breath.
"You do know it will destroy our homes if you do this thing otter speaks of?" said the beaver.
"Yes, and I now believe it was why the elders did not use it before. I know the Troth will also go from here to another valley to destroy it. We must not let them. It must stop here," said Fador
Beaver explained that the keystone was not just one stone but three stones forming an inverted pyramid at the dam's base. Once you removed it, the problem was that a massive wall of water would wash you away. Fador sat quietly, thinking his choices over. He suddenly said, "It can't be helped!"
The beaver explained where the stones were located and how they should be removed to cause the dam to collapse. Word spread around the reservoir for all the families to head upstream as quickly as possible. They decided to wait for the next new moon when all would be black so that the Troth workers would be unaware of the faun's activities.
Otter never liked allowing Fador to die, so he told the weaver birds to attend a secret meeting. It was determined that a rope could be tied around Fador's waist and shoulders to provide a possible escape from the bursting dam. The birds set about their task with little time and no guarantee that it could be completed in time.
On the night of the new moon, the faun ate a watercress meal and readied himself for his mission. Reluctant, Fador finally agreed to wear the safety rope the weavers had only completed hours before. Beaver suggested lowering him from the dam's top, meaning less of a chance of being spotted by a Troth patrol. When all was secure, and the Troth miners were busy, the beaver and otter lowered Fador to the dam's base. Once there, the faun intended to cut the rope, allowing him greater freedom to work. It turned out that he needed the harness to reach the keystones because of his small stature. The faun removed the topmost keystone with a great yank and prepared for the coming water. Much to his surprise, nothing happened. Time passed, but still, nothing happened.
Fador checked and rechecked the wall to ensure no extra pieces blocked the wall's collapse. "Time," thought Fador. "Time has fused the wall, and now there was no way to cause it to collapse." With a great cry of anguish, he realized that he could not stop the Troth, and they would eventually destroy even the Great Forest herself.
The otter and beaver became alarmed by his cry and rapidly pulled him to the top. The Troth also became aware of his presence and dashed toward the sound. Beaver helped remove the harness while the otter cut the rope, allowing it to fall away. The three hurried off the dam's edge and were met by local families who had come to see the dam's destruction.
While the others retreated into the wood, Fador stood at the water's edge, listening to the sound of the advancing Troth. He decided not to run. He would fight to the death like so many of his family before him. He would die near his beloved meadow; what more was left?
Standing near the dam's top, Fador prepared to engage the Troth as they crossed the barrier from the other side. Then, something unexpected happened. As the patrol reached the dam's center, they heard a loud cracking sound. Before anyone could even turn, the walkway collapsed, opening the way for a massive wall of water to flood the valley below. The screams of the Troth were soon drowned out by the water cascading into the valley below. It had worked! Fador had saved his beloved home!
The following morning, the remaining locals, led by beaver, scouted the water's destructive path. The entire valley was washed clean of the Troth, their encampment, and the damage they had wrought. The great mounds of earth and the mine pit itself were gone. The valley returned to its previous glory in the following months as trees, flowers, and grasses covered the land. The water once again flowed crystal blue. Those who had fled the Troth soon returned to rebuild their homes in Talitha.
As for Fador, he finally got to lie in his grassy meadow and watch the bees dance across the wildflowers, collecting nectar. You can find him there most days, and if you're patient and bring tea and cakes, he might even tell you this story as it happened.