Posted by Richard Pini on January 20th, 2023

Goosebumps aren’t the sole province of R.L. Stine. There are plenty of instances in ElfQuest where something happened and either (1) a character, (2) the reader, or (3) both got blindsided with a revelation. Sometimes these events may impart a shivery sensation that comes from a warm-fuzzy place; other times the chills may carry a hint of sadness or dread. Whatever the case, here for your enjoyment (and shivers) are some examples where someone — we or the elves — truly didn’t see that coming.

(Click on each image to view a larger version)

1. The Wolfriders Confront a Legend (Original Quest #3)

Cutter and his tribe have been through a lot recently. They’ve been burned out of their forest home, the Holt. They’ve been betrayed by the trolls. They’ve barely survived a brutal trek through a merciless desert. They’ve just encountered another tribe of elves. So they may be forgiven for being totally unprepared to meet a being — the stately (and unsettlingly tall) Savah — the likes of which they have only known through misty legend.

2. Say WHAT?! (Original Quest #16)
It is one of the most harrowing moments in the Original Quest — maybe in all of ElfQuest. Cutter has been mortally wounded by a troll’s spear, and not even Leetah‘s healing powers are enough to pull him back from death’s door. A mysterious stranger suddenly appears and somehow turns the tables. And with just ten words, an echo from years past, Leetah gets the surprise of her life. Rayek, long thought dead, is very much still with us.

3. The Hunter Becomes the Prey (Original Quest #13)
Winnowill is a virtuoso at intrigue and manipulation. After all, it is she who really pulls the strings within the Gliders’ Blue Mountain stronghold. She wants the Wolfriders gone from her domain and, for a moment, believes she has subdued their chief, Cutter, by threatening his children. Bad mistake — for it is in his family that he finds the strength to resist any pain the “Black Snake” may inflict. And suddenly her own death feels nearer than his.

4. A Myth Truly Reborn (Original Quest #20)
The war with Guttlekraw‘s fierce trolls is over. At great and tragic cost, the Palace of the High Ones has been regained by the distant descendants of those who arrived in it millennia ago. All is calm — until one who has been with the Wolfriders from the start of the conflict shockingly reveals her real nature. Timmain, the last living Firstcomer elf, a true High One, has returned.

5. A Discovery Brings Quiet Horror (Original Quest #20)

Ekuar, the rock-shaper, was held captive, along with two companions, by the Frozen Mountain trolls for untold time, forced to do their bidding. The maimed but gentle elder finally escaped, with Rayek‘s help, but he never knew what became of his fellow shapers. At the conclusion of the War for the Palace of the High Ones, he gains a partial answer — and we are left to imagine with a shudder what he sees and feels.

6. A Sudden Change of Heart (Original Quest #20)
The Quest — to find other elf tribes and regain the Palace of the High Ones — is done. The Wolfriders are finally able to return to the forest and begin to settle a new Holt. But chief Cutter’s heart is heavy with sadness and loss. He has painfully bid farewell to his “brother in all but blood” Skywise, who has decided to remain with the Palace to explore its mysteries. Or … has he?

7. From the Mouths of Babes (Kings of the Broken Wheel #1)
The archer Strongbow is in a bad way. He killed the Glider Kureel but the desperate act of self-defense now weighs so heavily on him that he can no longer function. Not even the healer Leetah can help. Suddenly, with the pure and simple logic of a child, Ember finds an answer — and Cutter‘s gobsmacked expression in the final panel is priceless.

8. The Unthinkable (Kings of the Broken Wheel #6)
Cutter and Rayek have been foes since the Wolfriders first came to the Sun Village. But never has the rivalry taken such an unforeseen and terrifying turn as when Rayek stole the Palace of the High Ones — along with Cutter’s family and closest friend — into a future time.

9. Wait, What? White?! (Kings of the Broken Wheel #9)
In the far future, Skywise and others battle Winnowill for the Palace — and, shaken by the loss of their tribemates in ages past, they are losing. The stargazer is just now recovering from a wicked blow and for a moment doesn’t register what he thinks he sees. Could it possibly be?

10. When the Plan Goes Wrong (Kings of the Broken Wheel #9)

Rayek had it all mapped out. Bring the Palace to the moment the original High Ones got blasted backward in time, and prevent the accident from happening. Or so he thought. In his monomania, he forgot that doing so would wipe generations of elves from existence. Only when Ekuar gently refused to be part of the scheme — thus dooming himself — was Rayek confronted with his own blindness.

11. Words He Never Imagined (Hidden Years #9 1/2)
Even though Cutter regained his family, he could not excuse Rayek‘s abduction. The inner wound festered until it must explode in ElfQuest’s knock-down, drag out battle to the death between the two antagonists. Rayek knew what he’d done, and was prepared to pay the price — until in his last moment, he uttered what the enraged Wolfrider chief could never have imagined hearing.

12. Did I Just Hear What I Think I Heard? (Final Quest #20)

As long as we’ve known him, Two-Edge — half troll, half elf — has bemoaned his split nature. He engineered the war between elves and trolls (in the Original Quest); whichever side won, that’s what he’d be. Leave it to coquettish Ahdri to provide a completely different and unexpected solution for the master tinker to ponder.

13. The World Changes Forever in One Terrible Instant (Final Quest # Special)
Never were two elves more suited to each other in playfulness than Ruffel and Skywise. The two met — and more — when the Wolfriders discovered the Sun Village (“The Heart’s Way”). Many years later the pair would again frolic in the protective shadow of the Palace of the High Ones. But as benevolent as Nature can seem in the midst of a gentle rain, so it can turn deadly in the deafening clap of a bolt of skyfire.

14. You Are Not Who You Thought You Were (Final Quest #11)

Wolfrider chief Cutter endured much upheaval in his (relatively) short life. But nothing in his experience — indeed, in that of any elf on the World of Two Moons — could prepare him for the shock that Timmain presented. The last living High One, ancestress of the Wolfriders themselves, blindsided Cutter and ElfQuest readers alike with the revelation that her spirit and his are one, occupying two bodies. In essence, they are the same being. It was a bombshell, and yet clues are planted in tales going back more than 20 years.

15. Like a Thief in the Night (Final Quest #24)
For four of our human decades, ElfQuest spun the tale of Cutter, chief of the Wolfriders. From infant to mature leader, through trial, tragedy, and triumph, he carried readers along on his hero’s journey. Many expected him either to live a long, contented life, or to go out in a blaze of battling glory. But Cutter never cared about that; he made it clear, the world would determine his time. And it did, in the unexpected (but foreshadowed) form of a spirit-maker spider.

16. The End is Not The End (Stargazer’s Hunt #7)
When a spirit-maker spider took Cutter‘s life, his “brother in all but blood” Skywise was distraught. He was not there when his chief passed, too many of his questions went unasked and unanswered, and he became broken in mind and heart. But in the depth of his grief, his dearest friend and soulmate did not desert him. It was — and remains — a resolution and reconciliation of the most enduring kind.