“They just want you to think they’re high brow,” said Mumford. Normally his crazy stories were easy to dismiss, but we were camping right near the edge of known elf territory, and so the three of us listened closely. We knew exceedingly little of elves.
“You see ’em coming through town sometimes, off to parlay with some noble about land rights or some such, riding high on their long-legged stags.” He spit in the fire for effect and listened to it crackle. “To look at ’em, you’d think them dainty. Long, skinny arms and legs, pointy ears, and a tiny mouth pulled tight as a miser’s purse. Even when they speak, they don’t open their mouth all the way, they just open it like a fish, gwap gwap gwap.” Mumford pushed in his cheeks to make the sound. “When they eat with a human, they cut their meat into tiny little pieces and push it through those itty bitty lips they keep so tightly closed.”
He smiled at all of us. “But there’s a reason for that, believe you me. When I was a lad I got lost in the woods, and came across a score of elves out hunting – and what I saw that day stuck with me forever. You see, when an elf eats, he pulls his lips all the way back, unhinges his jaw, and reveals a ferocious set of long, sharp teeth. I swear to you, they’re near three inches long, thin as needles, and fit into each other like a key in a lock. If an elf bit you, no way would you ever be able to get those teeth out if he didn’t want ’em out. Those teeth are rending teeth.”
He sat back and smoked his pipe, looking pleased with himself.
“And?” asked Nyavel, who could never resist giving his thoughts after one of Mumford’s pieces of wisdom. “Are elves known to go around biting people? I’m pretty sure they’re not.”
“Ye miss the point, boy,” replied Mumford. “The point isn’t that they bite people, it’s that they have a certain nature to them, a feral hunter who sinks his teeth into prey, a carnivore you see? And they hide it. They don’t want anyone to know. Most people who have never met one think an elf eats nothing but leaves and veggies, but for that you need some flat teeth like a cow. Elves are rending creatures. I’ve never seen it myself, but they’ve got those long skinny bodies built for loping. All a vessel for those sharp teeth. You think you can trust a creature who’s ashamed of what he is, who wants to hide his nature from others?”
Nyavel wasn’t finished of course, and Mumford spat back at him, the argument devolving into questions of decorum and deceit, but I tuned out and tried to enjoy the fire. I happened to meet an elf some years later, after I’d made a name for myself, and the story came rushing back to me – but he was a high diplomat, and I never did get around to asking him if I could see the inside of his mouth, which was probably for the better as far as relations with the kingdoms went.