Originally posted by Thornbrake on July 7th, 2015

At its heart, ElfQuest is a tale of joy, happiness and positivity. That doesn’t mean there isn’t pain, anguish and grimness, however; you can’t have light without darkness. It’s these painful dramatic twists that give ElfQuest emotional depth and what make the happy, quiet times all the more special. (On the flip side, not all dramatic twists necessarily are born of grief or horror; ElfQuest also has its share of misty feel-good occasions too.)

Here are twenty heart-wrenching, tear-jerker moments in ElfQuest. Grab your tissues. (Click on each image for a larger view.)

1. One-Eye’s Death (Original Quest #15)
This was the moment in the Original Quest when things got real, and we learned that Wendy and Richard Pini would pull no punches with our hearts. Injury — and death — would be treated realistically.

2. Krim and Lehrigen’s Final Moments (Final Quest #2)
Krim and Lehrigen both died proud heroes’ deaths during the battle against Angrif Djun’s forces, but it was their final exchange, taunting yet respectful — not to mention Lehrigen’s faithful hound lingering with its departed master —  that made the tears flow.

3. Kahvi Weeps for Vaya (Original Quest #20)
The Go-Back’s warrior chieftess was hard, because that’s what she believed her people needed. No one knew that more than her daughter Vaya. But when Kahvi allowed herself a private moment to shed tears over Vaya’s valiant death, we all cried with her.

4. Shuna’s Mother Meets a Brutal End (Shards #10)
We never learned her name, but the love this mother had for her daughter Shuna was evident in so many ways. For the “crime” of that motherly love — and the withholding of knowledge that Shuna was a resistance leader against Grohmul Djun — the woman’s brutish soldier-husband beat her as he had often done before. This time, however, the crazed abuse did not stop until the woman was dead.

5. The Jury
One of the more noteworthy things about the storytelling in ElfQuest is the way real-life wolf behavior is woven into the plotline. This story of a “near-wolf” — the elves’ term for a wolf-dog hybrid — caught between his wild lupine instinct and his desire to share the love of a human family has multiple layers of sadness born of simple, but fatal, misunderstanding. The tale ends with a question; what do you think ultimately happened?

6. Cutter’s Sacrifice (Original Quest #15)
Though mortally wounded by mountain trolls in their first skirmish, Cutter’s first concern as ever was the safety of his people — even if it might very well mean his own death. Our hearts ached at his farewell to Skywise. And when he raced to defend a grief-stricken Clearbrook, despite his lifemate begging him to stay and be healed, we wept right alongside Leetah and the cubs.

7. Little Patch Reunited with Tyleet (Hidden Years #3)
Not all tears inspired by ElfQuest are born of anguish. Little Patch’s final moment in the arms of his mother Tyleet was the culmination of a life of trial and tribulation, tragedy and triumph. The tale may hurt our hearts, but remains a joyous celebration of life nonetheless.

8. Ruffel Taken by the Lightning (Final Quest #Special)
Ruffel was a creature of joy. When her life was suddenly and unexpectedly snuffed out by bolt of lighting, it was as shocking to readers as it was to the elves. Tears flowed when Ember responded to Teir’s comment (that Ruffel would still be alive had she stayed in the Palace) by pointing out that the former Sun Villager wanted to be with wild flowers. She died experiencing life in full, taking pleasure with Skywise, dancing in the rain, making her death all the more poignant.

9. Old Father Ravaged by Peace Hounds (Shards #5)
Old Father lived in the town that circled Grohmul Djun‘s Citadel. Through his tales of gentle wisdom and his fanciful wooden carvings he helped keep alive among the younger generations of humans, the myths of the good “hidden ones” (elves). For that “treason” he paid with his life in the jaws and grotesque tentacles of the Djun’s horrific, magically-mutated peace hounds.

10. Skywise Bids Goodbye to Cutter (Original Quest #20)
After the elves regained the Palace of the High Ones from King Guttlekraw’s troll army, Skywise’s dream of returning to the stars finally became a possibility … but it would mean the end of his soul-deep friendship with Cutter. When the stargazer reluctantly chose to stay behind to discover the Palace’s secrets, no reader had dry eyes.

11. Strongbow Subdues Lashpaw (Hidden Years #1
Strongbow’s deep affection for his wolf-friend Lashpaw was touching from the start. But the anguish and heartbreak of witnessing the archer having to beat the sickness-maddened wolf into unconsciousness in order to save the animal’s life was a terrible thing to witness.

12. Losing Joyleaf (Original Quest #4)
The Wolfrider tribe had barely recovered from the monster Madcoil’s first attack, and must take stock of the dead and missing. When Bearclaw gently took young Cutter aside and confirmed that his mother Joyleaf had been killed the sense of grief was quiet, but overwhelming.

13. Shale’s Murder (Hidden Years #5)
Redlance once cautioned to his tribe that the Wolfriders are hunters, not murderers, and the elves have striven to live up to that standard. By contrast, Shale’s death at the hands of brutal humans — within sight of his pregnant lifemate Eyes-High — brought forth tears of grief as well as frustration at the utter wantonness of it.

14. The Howl for Nightrunner (Original Quest #12)
We were already saddened by Cutter’s touching farewell to his wolf-friend Nightrunner, whose old body could no longer take the physical exertion of travel while on the Quest. But tears flowed freely when the elves knew that the loyal wolf had finally passed in the cool shade of the forest. Ember, still just a child, is especially hard hit as she suddenly realizes that she too must one day say good-bye to the wolf pup she’s only recently adopted.

15. Dewshine Reunited with Scouter (Siege at Blue Mountain #5)
Dewshine was held captive in Blue Mountain until she was rescued by the Wolfriders, especially her lovemate Scouter. But tears of joy at her reunion were bittersweet because she was unable to rescue their kidnapped infant Windkin from the clutches of Winnowill. For any parent (or uncle, aunt, godparent, or caregiver to children), the helplessness of knowing you can’t help the child you love is crushing.

16. Two-Edge is Suddenly Orphaned (Shards #15)
The final battle of the Shards War was a maelstrom of shock and terror and elation, ending with the beheading of Winnowill. The look of crushing, utter devastation on Two-Edge’s face when he saw what befell his mother–his lifelong enemy, yet the stone on which he kept both edges honed sharp, and the instigator of his tragic quest for love–brought forth tears of pity for this complex and tortured soul.

17. Skywise Ends Starjumper’s Suffering (Kings of the Broken Wheel #2)

Anyone who has opened their life to animal-friends knows all too well the terrible heartache. Sooner or later one has to choose when a loved fur-kin’s suffering has gone on long enough — and to end their life. Though Skywise was willing to challenge “the Way” to save old Starjumper, he ultimately must accept the final responsibility, as must we all someday.

18. Joyleaf Decries Wanton Killing (Wolfrider)
Crescent’s murder by humans is a tear-jerker moment itself, but Joyleaf’s reaction to Bearclaw’s retaliatory slaying of the human shaman is what really crushes the heart. She knew that Bearclaw’s path of revenge would only fuel an endless cycle of wanton and meaningless slaughter.

Moonshade and Strongbow Part Ways (Final Quest #22)

In ElfQuest, as in real life, couples — even those who have long history together — sometimes grow in different directions. Strongbow and Moonshade have been together from the beginning of the saga, but over centuries change can happen. The elves have the grace to accept that reality, but it doesn’t make any easier our seeing the heart-rending process of separation.

20. Cutter Shares his Agony with Rayek (Hidden Years 9 1/2)
At the climax of what can only be called their death-match, Cutter finally forced Rayek to share his anguish at being separated from his family for 10,000 years. It is possibly the most emotionally charged scene in the decades-long history of ElfQuest. The Wolfrider chief made his rival experience the bone-deep pain of loss. Even worse, Cutter now feels the passage of time, having lost forever the “now of wolf-thought.” He has become the “counting tree” into whose bark he cut a notch to mark the passing of each long year without his most loved ones.