Silken Road, Alfheim
The carriage bumped over the inadequate excuse for a road. Walls of white rocked back and forth for yet another time on this long day, though; they could now be described more as a dull greyish tone. Alva peered out of the window, past the gilded gold frame. Flurries of birds soared across the sky, which was dotted with foreboding clouds. The winds picked up, leading to the sickly-looking trees blowing their withered limbs in the devouring embrace of a storm. A few flakes of stone burst upwards on a small gust. Spiralling, like lovers enticed, they soon disappears from Alva's gaze.
The Captain of the Guardsmen returned her black irises to her lord as he moaned. Steinar sat up from the cramped position he had been in, stretching adequately. Draping across his knees and onto the floor, the lordling's black cloak of mourning appeared to be his only comfort. His platinum, shoulder-length hair was ruffled. As too were his clothes. "Good morning, my lord," Alva greeted him, "We may stop at the nearest pool if you wish to freshen up."
Steinar looked up at the sky, his face darkening to the same shade as the clouds he spotted. "Best not. It appears that today will have torrents of bad weather," he returned his head to the inside of the carriage. "Besides, I want to learn of what my lady mother has in store for me." The young Elf slumped back against the carriage's side.
"Of course, my lord," Alva bowed her head after that. And stayed quiet. Though he was wont to admit it, young Steinar was contemplating all that had happened: the battle, the injuries, the lost men, the past few days of torment and (most importantly) the confusing assignment Alva had been given, with which Steinar was dearly involved. Once more, Alva stared out of the window. This place is sick, Alva thought as she noticed the twisted branches that should have been a healthy brown colour; instead, they were a smokey beige. War has truly come... Even the birds were frail. Their wings were all but bones, tattered feathers clinging to the sinews of muscle beneath. The grass was as good as dead. Alva could tell that no animal would dare eat from it - that is, if they survived long enough in this forsaken place.
"Woah there!" The driver called as the carriage came to a startling and sudden stop. The lordling slammed his feet down to prevent himself from falling. Alva quickly reached hand to his shoulder before he slammed into the carriage floor. Steinar's blue eyes held storms as Alva withdrew her hand from his person. The Captain jumped down from the carriage, splattering up mud into its doors. Steinar remained inside, leaving his protector to her business.
Alva walked to the front of the carriage, where she inquired: "What is happening here, coachman?" The horses' grey coats, dappled with flecks of black, were also splattered with dots of hideous dirt as Alva inspected the beasts. They were beautiful in their stillness, those dark eyes mesmerising.
"The horses are tired, Captain," the driver replied from where he sat on the carriage. Alva glanced up to him and then back to the horses. She placed a gloved hand on the nearest one's withers. The mare was so still as the Captain ran her hand down its back and to its hocks. The lack of energy, though, was desperate. "They will need to rest for a while."
"Of course," the female Elf replied stiffly. As the young lord had said, they were both wanting to have this farce over and done with in order to find out what was to transpire with them both. "Tie them up over there," she pointed a finger to a dying and grotesque tree, "but do not go beyond the tree line."Alva eyed the gloomy depths of the diseased forest suspiciously.
"Yes, Captain," the driver climbed down from his high seat. Leathers trailed slightly as he untied the harness and then lead the horses to the side of the road. Alva watched and waited for the forest to show its deceit. All the while the driver cared and tended to the brilliant steeds that had so far taken them diligently to where they wished to go.
"Captain," the lordling called from inside the carriage. Hints of annoyance showed in those deep blue eyes. "How long before we may start moving again? I am growing tired of this long and dull journey." Alva began to feel the signs of outrage from the lordling's show of arrogance. Not saying a word to him; she turned back to the driver.
Drawing closer, so as to be as quiet as possible, Alva asked yet another question. "Coachman, how long until we are under way again? Lord Steinar wishes to know." Her black boots crunched over the golden autumn leaves. The seasons were certainly different here.
"Only about an hour," he proclaimed proudly. The driver was obviously attached to the steeds he cared over. Perceptively, he had raised them since they were merely foals. Touching her daggers from the uneasiness that the dark forest gave her, Alva nodded and returned to her liege lord. His profile was leaning on the gilded frame, strands of platinum hair flying in the slight breeze. Despite their low voices, Steinar had heard the short conversation. Returning to moping, the young Elf slumped back down into the carriage.
"Are you sure you do not wish to walk for a while, my lord?" Alva worriedly suggested, after coming back inside the carriage. His eyes told her no. Willing to sigh, Alva casted her eyes downward to the ivory floor. Only now, it wasn't startling white. The beautiful floor was coated with a slight layer of watery mud.
"Fine, I suppose you are right," Steinar breathed, sounding totally exasperated. Cold winds greeted them as they stepped into the decaying lands of Angabar. The driver glanced out the corner of his eye to see his new lord. Alva turned her own frightening dark irises until their eyes met. The old male dropped his head abruptly back to a stallion.
Steinar strode confidently in front of the Captain. As the wind broke out more force, the lordling's black cloak snapped back fiercely. His patent leather jacket and dyed tunic could only show his high birth - making Alva only more anxious. "My lord," she started, but stopped as soon as she saw the look in his eye. No, I do not care, Alva read in their deep blue depths. She nodded and returned to silence.
"Captain," Steinar's eyes were calmer this time he turned, "walk beside me." Alva came into step next to her liege lord. His blue eyes stayed on her for a while, then dropped to the ground on which he trod. "Do you know of the fortress, Angabar?" Despite his voice showing only discontent, Alva knew better to think he was simply asking for the purpose of a conversation.
"Yes, my lord," came her short reply. He wanted to get a glimpse of what may be to come. Maybe the history of Angabar could help with this. "Very well, I would think, my lord."
"Very well?" Laughter sparkled in his eyes and across his lips. A low chuckle escaped; pervading the choking air. "If you know this fortress so very well, why not inform me on what you know? I would have if I were you. Especially since I am you liege lord." Steinar held that arrogant smirk on his face. Disbelief filled Alva's mind as she remembered the little boy who had run around the castle courtyards, innocently playing. However, he was gone. Replaced by this man who looked strikingly like his father.
"Yes, my lord. I will answer every and any questions you have. What you wish to know, I will tell you." Alva accordingly replied with what the young Elf wanted to hear. She scanned the surroundings once more; anxiety clouding her every thought. "I am yours to command," the Captain finished. Her gaze returned to Steinar.
"Good," Steinar exhaled, readying for his first questions. All the while, Alva kept her eyes peeled for anything in the shadowy forest. Ahead, the road bended towards it, curving around like a snake. Hiding what was ahead, the forest became more distrustful every second. Alva turned to see the driver tending his horses. He was as small as her pinkie finger, making the Captain even more uncomfortable in this horrendous scene. "Captain?" Steinar asked as she halted abruptly.
"I do not like this place. There is something wrong here, a sickness that lies upon everything. Diseased. It was never like this before. It was horrible - but nothing like this." Alva grabbed Steinar's hand. She strode quickly to the carriage. "We should never have stopped."
"Captain! Will you let go?" Steinar yanked his arm back. They were but fifty yards from the carriage. The driver still there, on the borders of the forest. Alva touched the hilt of her dagger. Dead branches rattled in the stirring wind, causing Alva to become even more paranoid. "Captain! What is happening?" The young Elf demanded to know.
"Something dark is making this place as it is. Accursed, you might say. If you want to know something about Angabar, then know this: it is a terrible place. Nothing good ever comes here, nothing good that ever lives, anyway." Alva searched the lord's deep blue eyes with her own black ones. "I have no idea why your mother sent us here... Coachman!" Alva called to him. He snapped to attention. "Harness the horses - we are leaving."
"Yes, Captain," the driver reluctantly agreed. The horses needed a slight more of rest. Nonetheless; that look in her eye made him forget about questioning her. Buckles rang sweetly in the air as they hit against the rocky ground. Drawing her blade, Alva pricked her delicately pointed ears to seek out the sounds below wind and steel. Her dagger shined, despite the lack of sun. The runes made the air around it hum with such intensity, you could feel it.
"In the carriage, my lord," Alva ordered him. Steinar grunted in refusal, keeping his ground. Glaring at him with dark eyes, the young Elf drew out a small knife from his sleeve. Surprise must have shown on Alva's face for he smirked so happily in that moment. Alva corrected her features and focused. The winds stirred again, travelling down towards the way the entourage was heading. Turning to face the source if this ominous wind, Alva repeated herself: "Get in the carriage, my lord."
"What of you?" Steinar frowned as he posed the question. Alva looked down at the knife he twirled with his wrist. It was a frail and small blade. Pitiful at best. Gripping the hilt tighter, Alva felt the worry start up again. She could not have whatever was making her feel this out here with her lord. "I will not cower while you fight my battles for me!" Steinar snapped as Alva did not answer his previous question.
"I will not repeat my self for a third time," Alva turned her head towards the stubborn male. He did not budge. "In the carriage!" Alva growled at him. He hesitated; not knowing what to do. Leave or stay? It didn't seem likely that the odds of one person were better than two to the lordling. "Now, Steinar!" Alva roared. He grumbled something under his breath, clambering into the ivory carriage. Waiting until the shuffling stopped, Alva turned her blade around elegantly in her hand. Just in time, the captain thought as a howling wind raged down upon her.
Flying backwards, Alva landed on her left knee five yards from where she had been standing. Embedded in the ground was her dagger, inhibiting her from moving any further due to the forceful gales. She snapped her head up; dark eyes on fire. Pounding in her chest, her heart was racing until the female Elf saw the dark entity in the warping winds. It was neither phantom nor shadow. Something else... It reached out to Alva, forming what looked like a hand. The hand-like part of the wraith stopped a few centimetres from the Captain's face. Recoiling, the thing snapped and broke in on itself, disappearing as soon as it had appeared.
Alva straightened herself back up. A few strands of her pitch hair had gone astray. She fixed them quickly, then slid her dagger silently back into its sheath on the small of her back. Her boots crunched the stones on the ground as Alva strode forward. The wraith was no longer there. "Captain? Should we head on?" The driver called from the front of the carriage - oblivious to what had just transpired.
"Of course," Alva yelled back. Crack, the whip hit the horses and they were off at a fast-paced trot. Steinar held out a hand for her to take, which she gladly did. Giving her his hand had made it seen as if the lordling had no problem with Alva staying out there on her own while ordering him to cower behind some bone carriage.
"Do not, ever do that again," Steinar whispered ferociously. Alva nodded her head silently; shaken up from the thing that had attacked her. I have not seen something like that in all my years. It is neither phantom nor shadow... Surely, some cruel creature of Surt? If not him, then who? It was made of smoke and evil - most certainly Surt's little fell thing. Alva decided as she watched the trees grow fewer and fewer. At least, my lord will be safe tonight; behind red stone and iron doors... Nothing will hurt him. Not while I am alive and that fortress still stands.
Alva thought lastly as the great fortress of Angabar came into view.