Thank you LovethMia and Artemis. When I started the story I never thought it would be so many chapters but somehow the characters started to live their own lives, filling in the details betwen the main events in the story line. Next chapter is almost finished and will also be about Dark elves (one Dark elf anyway).
Erik rested his head on his hand while he studied how the spider in the roof worked on its net. It was fascinating how such a small animal could make something so intricate. An insect with shiny green wings and long delicate legs came dangerously close to the web. Unaware of the danger it took one step in the wrong direction and was trapped by the sticky web. The more it struggled to get free the more it got itself into trouble. Finally there were just some sporadic twitches in the wings.
Erik lost his interest for the drama above his head. The pillow and the mattress were soft, filled with the finest feather but the forced inactivity made his muscles restless. A small oil burner spread a pleasant scent in the room. He had no sense of time because there were no windows in his chamber and he had no idea for how long he’d been unconscious after the elves had caught him. When he thought about how he’d been captured he could still feel the sticky smell of the cloth that had been pressed against his nose.
This was a strange place. Erik could not really put his finger on why, but the castle gave the impression of being a place of show off while he could perceive decay beyond the façade. The long-eared lords and ladies had costly clothes made of fabric most humans could only dream about, but at a closer look he could see that many of them had been repaired so many times that they would not last much longer. The fat spider in the roof seemed, however, to live in abundance. Erik considered his situation. He was still alive and as far as he could tell the elves had for the moment no intention to kill him. The Dragon had even offered him armed elves to help him to take the crown. The problem was, however, that the offer was too generous. Erik had learned that nothing in life was for free and he didn’t have a good feeling about what the elves might want in return for helping him. “The Dragon”, by the way, what a stupid name. If the situation hadn’t been so grave he would have laughed when he’d heard the name of the Dark elf king.
When Erik was a child his mother told him to not go too far into the forest or the Dark elves might take him. His friends were told the same thing by their mothers. When he grew older he had dismissed this as something parents told their children so they wouldn’t get lost in the forest. But now he’d gone too far into the forest on his own and the long-ears had indeed taken him. He smiled when he thought about what his mother would make of this. Most likely the old lady would give him one long look and say “I told you so” whether or not she had believed that such a thing was really possible.
There was a sound at the door. Someone was turning a key in the lock. Quickly Erik pulled the black tunic over his head. Black, always black, no wonder the dark long-ears seemed so solemn when they had no colors that could cheer them up. He still felt naked though, without armor or weapon. But of course the long-ears had taken everything from him. They had even tried to take his beard away but he had drawn the limit there. The khol around his eyes could be washed away but it would take more time for the beard to grow back.
The door opened and the young women who had walked with him to the Dragon came in. She looked young anyway, but as far as Erik knew she could very well be his senior by hundreds of years. She was carrying a pile of clothes, a black tunic on top of his own clothes that the elves had taken from him. Erik didn’t know what to make of this. The dark lady was dressed as a warrior or a guard but did a maid’s work.
She put the pile down, pointed to the black tunic and said in his own language, but with a heavy accent “change.”
“What, do you want me to change tunic now?”
“No now, later,” the dark warrior maid answered. Maybe he was supposed to change before the next meeting with the Dragon? The warrior maid looked at him unabashedly like he had watched the spider in the roof.
Her eyes had a peculiar color and her unblinking gaze seemed even more intense with the khol painted around the eyes. The pale skin looked almost translucent in the light of the lanterns on the wall. Somehow the cold beauty of the lady warrior reminded Erik of Alde.
“What’s your name?” he said. Even a long eared kidnapper would be better company than the fat spider.
This simple question seemed to startle the dark lady. “Indindra,” she replied with a puzzled look.
Erik deliberately pronounced her name wrong, laughed as if he was embarrassed, and asked her to say her name again. He made her repeat the procedure three times before he finally pronounced her name right.
“Indindra, a pretty name for a pretty lady,” Erik put on one of his broadest smiles. A smile that often had worked wonders with human women. To his surprise and amusement the smile seemed to work on long-eared ladies to. Indindra looked down and Erik thought he could see a red flush on her high cheek bones. If there had been a flush it was, however, gone when she looked up again.
“You pretty too,” she said with her unblinking eyes resting steady on his. There was a smile on her lips, a smile that actually seemed to reach her khol-painted eyes.
Erik suppressed the impulse to laugh; he’d been called many things before, good and bad, but this was the first time anyone called him pretty.
Before he’d decided what to make of this unexpected turn of events, Indindra surprised him again. “May touch?” she said and reached out a slender hand. Before he had answered she was stroking his beard. Without thinking Erik lifted his hand and put it over hers. He’d half expected Indindra’s hand to be as cold as her beauty and was surprised to find it as warm as the skin of any human woman.
Indindra made a sudden movement and before Erik could blink he found himself with cold steel against his throat. The long-eared lady pressed a knife against him, just a few millimeters from his death. If she would press the knife just a little bit harder his life would flow out of him in a read stream that not even the elves would be able to stop. Even at this close distance Indindra’s skin was completely flawless. She smelled like roses mixed with leather.
“No try escape,” she said coldy.
“I wouldn’t dream of it,” Erik lied.
“Dream you can,” Indindra said and smiled grimly. “Plenty guards everywhere. You die if escape.”
“I thought I was your guest. Is this how Dark elves treat their guests?” Erik made an effort to smile and for once found it somewhat difficult to accomplish.
Indindra took the knife down so quickly that he concluded that she’d not exactly followed instructions when she threatened him.
She’d been right though. Of course the possibility to overpower Indindra, take her weapons and break free with her as a hostage had crossed his mind. But he’d dismissed the idea almost as soon as it came into his mind. Such a plan would probably have been hopeless anyway. He didn’t doubt that the cold dark elves would sacrifice Indindra without hesitation if that would be what it took to catch him again. It was also likely that they would rather kill him than let him escape. Erik didn’t want to die. As long as there was hope that he might live he would probably be better off playing the game as the Dark elves wanted instead of getting himself into more trouble by struggling to get free like the insect in his roof. If he couldn’t kill Dark elves he could just as well kill some time instead.
“How old are you Indindra?” he asked, partly to make her stay a moment longer and partly because he really was very curious about her age. He’d never seen an immortal before the long-ears attacked him. Too late he remembered himself. This was hardly a question he could have asked a human lady if he wanted to make a polite impression.
Indindra did indeed seem to find the question inappropriate. She looked uncomfortable. “Many years, me?” she asked and looked at him to see if she had got the question right.
Erik nodded and Indindra looked thoughtful for a while. Finally she showed him all her fingers nine times and then she showed him seven fingers.
“You’re 97 years!” Erik said impressed and Indindra nodded.
“Indindra young but already good warrior,” she said and sounded defiant.
“You’re indeed a very good warrior, “Erik said. You really took me by surprise with the knife.
Indindra looked down and blushed as she had done when he told her that she was pretty. “You good warrior also,” she said and looked at him. “Strong warrior.”
“You never told me what you think of my beard,” he said and looked challenging at her.
She raised her hand again and stroke his chin. “Don’t try to kill me again please,” he said and laughed.
“No try kill, only scare. No afraid anymore, knife sleeps now,” Indindra said and smiled.
“You should know this about me Indindra, I’m not easily scared,” he said and fired his broad smile as he placed his own calloused hand over Indindra’s pale slender hand. This time she did not draw her knife, instead she gave him a smile that made his heart beat faster.
After all, time would probably pass quickly until he would be summoned to the Dragon again Erik thought. Who was he to complain that the long-ears wanted to make him a king? Maybe his situation wasn’t so bad after all.
Wow does Indindra have a crush on Erik. I think Erik is going to find out the hard way that the dark elves do not like humans or they betray him .Another great chapter, my friend but if I may ask did you have any trouble with the problem plumbbods as I noticed a bit of one in one of the images.
"I know, and it breaks my heart to do it, but we must remain vigilant. If you cannot tell me another way, do not brand me a tyrant!" - knight commander Meredith (dragon age 2)
Thank you Artemis I missed the plumbbob, usually I turn them off. Its fixed now. I think some elves, especially the young ones, are attracted to the liveliness of the humans and just as humans find elves interesting and exotic, some elves are intrigued by humans. The general opinion among both Light elves and Dark elves is, however, that elves are superior to humans.
“I swear, it must have been a demon from the underworld. It stared at me with yellow evil eyes, showing its long fangs. On the front of its head it had sharp horns, just like a demon. I draw my sword ready for fight but then it was just gone as it’d never been there.” From the look on Harald’s face one could almost believe that the story was true. But everyone knew about Harald’s practical jokes by now.
The roaring laughter that followed didn’t seem to please Harald, though. “I swear, I’m not joking, the demon was here in the forest not more than half an hour’s walk from here.” It couldn’t be denied that Harald did have acting talent.
“You said it had brown skin, long horns, fangs and yellow eyes?” someone said.
“So laugh at me then Torfast, I know what I saw. You won’t laugh so loud when you look into the demon’s eyes one dark night when you go up to take a piss.” Harald said. More laughs followed but silenced as Torfast began speaking.
“I’m not laughing. It was the horns of such a demon that made this,” Torfast finger pointed at the long white scar on his left cheek.
“I thought you said that it was a jealous husband’s knife.” Everyone turned; no one had noticed that Alexander had joined them. “Please sit down,” Alexander made a gesture with his hand to stop everyone from rising and sat down amongst them. “Please don’t let me interrupt.” A bowl with stew was handed over to Alexander. Torfast was looking down into the ground and shrugged his shoulders with a wry smile on his lips.
Njal, the bard never missed an opportunity for a joke, “I heard that you got that scar in a fight against some outlaws. You shouldn’t complain though. According to the women, that scar is what makes you beautiful” he said and laughed. It seemed like everyone had heard a different story about Torfast’s scar and Torfast only smiled and shrugged his shoulders for each version that was offered. The only one who wasn’t laughing was Harald, which was unusual.
Alexander stretched his legs. He finished the stew and felt pleasantly full, a feeling he had almost forgot when he joined the camp. It felt good to sit among the men, almost as if he was among friends and not a lord with his subordinates. But somehow, the distance was always there. Even if there was still talk and laughter around the fire, the atmosphere had changed from when he walked in among them. He had walked in just in time too, in time to hear that Torfast was beginning to tell about how they had captured the forest creature. It seemed that Torfast had forgotten the gold that had been paid in return for his silence about that night. Slightly worrying was also that Harald obviously had seen one of Roe’s kin out there in the forest.
Loki obviously believed that jokes about demons and Torfast’s scar were exhausted because he shouted, “`Njal, please sing “Make a wish.´” The bard smiled, and picked up his lute. The song was well known so everyone could join in the chorus.
Alexander left the party and strolled in the direction of his tent. The bass voices singing the chorus embedded the night in an almost magic feeling.
Jasiri, one of the few jarls that had joined the rebels in the forest waited outside Alexander’s tent. “It’s a beautiful starlit night don’t you think,” Jasiri said and looked up to the sky, his teeth shining white in contrast to the dark skin that he had from his mother. The romantic and tragic story about Jasiri’s mother and father was the theme of some of the most popular songs on the bard Njal's repertoire. But like in most good stories the songs always had a sad ending. The beautiful foreign princess had died when Jasiri was born and the father died within half a year from sorrow. Unlike Alexander, Jasiri had very faithful relatives and they had raised him and managed his inheritance until he was old enough to be his own master. It had warmed Alexander’s heart when he’d first seen his friend in the forest camp.
Jasiri looked down and scratched his beard before he spoke “There is one thing we haven’t told you yet. A couple of months before you came here there were four Light elf riders asking about you and if we would know where to find you. The elves didn’t seem pleased to hear that all we knew was that you probably had been murdered by Erik’s people. Then they searched our camp as if we would have hidden you here. It seemed like they had some unsettled business with you. Would it be a problem for you, if they would come back to find you here?”
Alexander slowly placed a chair for himself and made a gesture to Jasiri to sit down before he answered. “Yes I would be in deep trouble if the Light elves were to find me, and so would anyone hiding me I expect.”
Jasiri nodded thoughtfully but didn’t ask more about the elves. “Sigrid believes that we need to march back to claim your crown before winter. The winter will be hard out here. If Erik’s new relatives decides to march in to help Erik, the lords who are still loyal to you will be replaced by lords loyal to Erik. With Light elves running around in the forest looking for you there’s one additional reason to move soon.”
Alexander noticed that even a warlord like Jasiri referred to Sigrid, the chamber maid, as a leader. As far as he could tell she was not formally appointed as a leader in the camp but everyone still seemed to refer to her as an authority.
“There are too few people in this camp to hope to win a large battle,” Alexander said. “Are you sure we can expect more to join us when we come back?”
“I’m sure. Your father made many loyal friends during his reign and Erik has not convinced as a great leader. There are some other candidates to the crown but they will not challenge you once it’s clear that you’re alive. If I’d been better prepared for Erik’s attack I wouldn’t be sitting here in the forest. But his attack on me made other lords more prepared for what to expect. He’s made some great losses in his still fruitless attempts to defeat the lords that won’t surrender to him. You will be king, no – you are the king. Don’t forget were you belong.”
“So much hope and trust they have in me,” Alexander thought, “all their dreams and hopes focus on me reclaiming the crown, when all I dream about is seeing Aliendre and Alex again. I must not fail these people who are willing to risk their lives for me. But I belong with Aliendre”
Alexander found the tarn where he had been told it would be, not far away from the camp at all. The water looked deep, perfect for offers to the gods. Someone had built an altar and carved an idol that watched over the lake.
An offer to the gods had to be something that was valuable or important to him, or the gods might be offended instead off pleased. It was said that in the old days at very hard times when people were starving and no other offers had helped, a king could be given to please the gods. He was glad that such practices had been abandoned a long time ago, if it was true that it had ever happened.
A good stallion could, however, still be a suitable sacrifice to the gods, but they needed all the horses they had and it was unthinkable that he would offer his own horse, his old friend whom he had shared so much with.
But there was one thing that he could give the gods, one thing that was not only costly but also very dear to him. Slowly he lifted the long necklace that Aliendre had given him over his head. The necklace had been loaded with magic to keep him shielded from his father in law, King Eraldor. He didn’t know if there was still magic left in it. Maybe it could still protect him and when he took it off, King Eraldor might find him. The necklace was the only thing that he had to remind him of Aliendre. But it couldn’t be helped. Something valuable must be offered to make the goods listen to him and help him. If Aliendre’s magic couldn’t protect him anymore he had to have faith in his own gods. Alexander took a deep breath and threw the necklace into the tarn.
When the necklace hit the surface of the water he kneeled and silently asked the gods to help his cause and to protect all those who followed him. He also asked the gods to allow him to see his wife and son again.
When Alexander lifted his head he saw that a black raven was looking at him.
It cried, spread its wings and flew.
Alexander’s heart was filled with hope
The raven would take his message to the gods and they would listen.
A light breeze made the leaves rustle. Roe took a deep breath of the fresh late summer air and enjoyed the view from above. She could see all of the valley from where she was standing on the first floor of their new house. Otter, her mother was walking around on the bank of the creek. Thorundur had built their house so close to her parents that they could visit each other every day if they wished.
Thorundur had insisted on building the house in elven style and Roe loved it. For once she walked the stairs from the first floor to the ground as Thorundur had told her that stairs were supposed to be used. Otherwise she loved to find new routes to climb between the second floor and the first and between the first floor and the ground. Thorundur was down on the ground keeping an eye on their baby daughter who was sound aspleep in a crib hanging from a tree. Roe strolled over to them and sat down on the grass next to the crib watching her husband. Watching Thorundur was a pleasure she never got tired of. Sometimes she could still wake up and believe that it was just a dream that he was hers. He smiled at her with that smile that only he could make.
“This is how you must have looked like when you were a baby?” Thorundur’s face had the softest expression that Roe had ever seen as he bent over the crib. “I’m sure Toraldor will change his mind about us when he sees the baby. How could he not love her? Especially now, when he’s also been blessed. Our daughter will have a cousin any time now.”
Roe didn’t answer but she didn’t believe that Thorundur’s brother, Toraldor, would ever forgive her. She didn’t blame him. After all, it was her fault that the elves would lose Thorundur some day in the future. Toraldor had made it perfectly clear that he hated her and would hate her as long as he lived. That was likely to be a very long time indeed, Roe thought.
With a shiver she remembered that terrible day when Thorundur had screamed back at his brother. He’d forbidden Toraldor to ever show himself before Roe unless he would treat her with respect. Roe hadn’t seen Toraldor since that day, and it was almost a year ago now. Thorundur on his side had refused to visit his brother as he meant that it was Toraldor who had erred and should take the first step to reconciliation.
The baby made a small sound and swiftly Thorundur picked her up. The next second, Otter, Roe’s mother, was standing next to Thorundur admiring the baby. She never missed a chance to be with her grandchild.
“Are you sure that those blue eyes will be strong enough for hunting,” Otter asked as so many times before.
“I can assure you that elven eyes are strong enough for hunting.” Thorundur smiled softly and stroke the baby’s smooth forehead. “Do you think she’ll ever grow horns like Roe?” he asked his mother in law.
“We wont know until she’s several months older,” Otter said.
Watching Otter and Thorundur with the baby dispelled the sad thoughts that Roe had about Thorundur’s relatives. Her parents had not been happy at first either when they had realized that she and Thorundur had chosen each other. At least they hadn’t reacted with disgust as Thorundur’s brother had, and Thorundur had very soon managed to win Roe’s parents over. When it was clear that Otter and Wolf were going to have a grandchild they had completely forgotten their last doubtfulness about Roe and Thorundur for the joy of a new baby.
“You must decide her name soon,” Otter said. “The ceremony has to take place next full moon.”
“We’ve already agreed on her name,” Thorundur caught Roe’s eyes with a proud smile on his lips. “Her name will be Deraynia.”
As expected, Otter looked doubtful. “That doesn’t sound like a name for a baby at all.”
“Deraynia means roe dear in ancient elvish,” Roe said, and Otter looked pleased.
”So, this is the place where we’ll write history”, Jasiri was the one who finally stated the obvious.
“It looks much better than what we were prepared for”. Torstein continued, expressing what everyone was feeling.
Alexander quickly summoned the situation in his head. The odds looked very much to be in his favor. They outnumbered Erik’s troops. In addition a considerable part of Erik’s troops were inexperienced farm boys who’s loyalty Erik obviously doubted as he’d put loyal archers behind them.
Erik had, however, placed his most loyal lords around himself.
”I hope that you’re prepared to meet the gods, because we’re sending you there”, Erik shouted over the field.
The smug smile on Erik’s face must be a false act. Alexander’s scouts and spies had obviously been right; King Knut had not yet sent an army to help his son in law.
”Fear not”, Alexander said to his men. “We all know that if you fight bravely and fall in battle the gods will welcome us to a better world. But I hope that you’re in no hurry to meet the gods because the odds are in our favor”.
The men and the few women in Alexander’s troops didn’t seem to need more encouragement. They slammed their swords against their shields and roared in response to show their eagerness.
The ravens that had followed them for some time now, shrieked in response to the roar. No matter how the battle ended, the ravens wouldn’t be disappointed today.
Next thing the inferno was over them. Shouts, the sound of metal meeting shields and soon enough also the smell of blood and the cries from the wounded or dying filled the air.
On Galaxy’s back Alexander plowed through the enemy troops, his sword falling merciless around him.
When the baggage trains reached the battle field both sides started to raise spiked barricades. Alexander found himself with loyal Jasiri on one side, spiked barricades behind him, and Erik’s men crowded in front of him and Jasiri aiming for the horses. Galaxy bravely did anything Alexander asked him to do but it was obvious that he would soon fall and Alexander with him. It was time to part and hope that Galaxy would be wise enough to look after himself.
Swiftly Alexander slipped down from Galaxy’s back to the ground, sword raised in hand. Jasiri followed Alexander’s example and back to back they fought against a wall of enemies.
“The gods are truly with us today” Jasiri hissed from the corner of his mouth as the enemies fell one by one for their swords.
Erik was always outside Alexander’s reach. Surrounded by loyal swordsmen he kept in the periphery of the battle. This could, however not last for very long. The enemy lines were thinning out and Erik couldn’t keep out of reach forever.
From the corner of his eye Alexander caught a glimpse of Sigrid. It made him happy to see that she had mad made it until now. Although it looked like she could do with some help, Alexander had his own business to finish first. He deflected a blow with his shield and with one swift strike his sword finished the fight and the enemy fell to never rise again.
Meanwhile Sigrid had apparently handled her own opponent who was now lying face down on the ground in a pool of blood. Their eyes met for a short moment but Sigrid’s brows raised, her face filled with fear and she shouted, “Behind you”.
Alexander looked up to see the sharp sword, missing his throat by an inch as he turned around. Automatically his fists clenched harder around the sword hilt. Before he had time to react the enemy sword fell to the ground together with the enemy.
Sigrid had seen the danger coming and with an almost superhuman speed she had reacted. The enemy, all focused on Alexander, had not seen Sigrid coming to Alexander’s rescue. It was not Sigrid who needed his help. Once again he was in her dept. He gave her a quick nod and she bowed back, even making time for a hint of a curtsey.
“Your majesty”, she said. “I think that we’re winning the battle”.
Alexander nodded and let his eyes rest on the enemy whose sword most likely would have sent him to the gods hadn’t it been for Sigrid. What he saw sent cold chills through his spine. This was not an unknown enemy without a name. It was Eskil, his cousin and Erik’s younger brother.
Before Alexander could gather himself the sky opened and a heavy rain started falling. There were shouts all over the field, some filled with fear, other with joy and hope. Alexander looked up. Dark clouds covered the sky completely hiding the sun, but the weather was not the reason for the shouts.
As if they had stepped out of a dark fairy tale, Dark elves invaded the battle field. On a black horse was an elf with a golden circlet around his forehead and a red dragon on his chest plate. This must be the legendary Dragon, the fairytale king of the dark elves and his army.
Alexander realized that he would meet the gods before the sun set. But before that he would fight like the gods had never seen anyone fighting before.