The Great Library of Angabar, Alfheim
Dust wafted in the shallow light of morning. It danced upwards to the wooden ceiling. This room was the only one in the castle made out of anything but stone and mortar. The floor was made of black, rich ash boards, running out to towering bookshelves of the same material. Housing many and more scriptures, scrolls and books on anything anyone could think of; they were assuredly the most useful asset in this fortress.
Alva walked, her boots' heels clanking heavily, down to the window. Surveying the courtyard - with its training men - she tapped an old tune on the sill. Little swords, blunt swords, were held by the 'soldiers' as they sparred with one another. The Captain was tempted to chuck Steinar into their midst and see what they would do. What the lordling, himself, would do indeed.
Thinking of which, Alva returned to him. He noticed her coming and asked, quietly, "how is this helpful towards me, Captain?" Knowing the words off by heart, Alva plopped down into the chair opposite him. They sat at a long table, candle holders at certain distances apart set down on its surface. Tall high back chairs, with attached cushions, were tucked underneath. Alva turned her black eyes back to him.
"Not all training is physical," she settled into the chair as her lord flipped the page to the book he was reading. Grey material scrunched over each itself as Alva crossed her legs. Picking at a fray in the fabric, the Captain tested Steinar once more: "tell me of the High Noble families of Alfheim and what their magic controls."
"I already know-"
Alva tutted at him. Or more likely, at his continuous outbursts of annoyance, "I know that you know, I want you to tell me what you know." Steinar exhaled deeply. His blue eyes looked down at the page. Alva slammed the tome shut, pushing it down the lengthy table. "I thought you said you knew?" Raising an eyebrow at him, the Captain asked her query.
"I do, it's just..." The lordling connected his hands against the table, rose and spun away from the Captain and her continuous questions. "I have been in this library the whole day! And the day before, and the day before, and the day before! Being tested and tested over again on things that I obviously know for no reason at all. May I at least know the reason why?"
"Test completed," Alva rose. Walking to the doors on her right, she picked up the leather book and placed it back on the shelf where it originated from. "You failed by the way," the Captain informed Steinar; carrying on out the door and down the hall.
Alva flipped her dagger towards a brightly coloured target. Wizzing through the air, the Captain drew another fine blade. The airborne dagger sunk into the cloth, covering the padding of grey straw. Twirling the other dagger around her forefinger, its gilded hilt of gold leaving lines in the air, Alva heard the soft pads of footsteps behind her. "If this is supposed to be a surprise..." Alva drawled, her back turned to him. She threw the dagger, and another, and another. The second dagger hit home - directly above the first one she had thrown - and then the third and fourth; forming a completely accurate diamond around the bull's eye.
"It's not," now, the Captain turned to her Lord, his back to an ancient red wall.
Steinar stood gloomily yet strong; his fair hair flying free of the basic braid at the back of his head, travelling towards Alva. He said nothing - did nothing, just waited. For what, she was not sure. "If you are just going to stand there and glare at me, at least, have the decency to come out from the shadows." Alva retorted to his aggravating silence. The Captain frowned as he stood still. Grass blades bent to the wind, a sickly sweet scent riding it like a soldier does a horse. The night sky was dark above her, however, clear with shining stars of pure white. There was no moon. Alva had to rely upon her eyes, which only let her see twenty yards before her in all clarity. The Captain sighed, "your silence is most irksome, my lord. Please, step out from the shadows." All he did was point a finger to the target.
It was glowing, pulsating a weird light of dark red from the centre of a pointed oval. Some sort of emblem that Alva did not wish to remember... Closing her eyes with the utmost scrutiny, she was a frightened animal as she shied away. Steinar was gone from his spot under the shadows of the wall. Alva knew without even looking. What the Captain also knew... It frightened her beyond measure. There was no more Bloody Fortress around her. No more young lord. No more blinding light. Yet, somehow, there was warmth. A heat being emitted from some faraway and strange place. Alva found the courage to open her eyes.
She was her younger self. Clothed in a dress of rough wool. A long hallway stretched out before her; grand flags jutting out from the wall with their keepers of silver rods. A seat of carved ruby rested at the end of the hall, doors with carved, glowering beasts upon them, opposite. Knowing it was useless, Alva ran to the wooden doors of red, despite her thoughts. She banged her tiny hands against the doors; wishing that someone would come. "Please," the word came out, unbidden and broken.
Something hit the doors on the other side.
Alva gasped and ran for the ruby seat. The thumps became heavier and more consistent, as if a great number of people were outside. The Captain - in her little girl's body - slid to a halt; peering over her shoulder to the doors. The sounds had stopped. But then they came again. Harder, faster, more angry.
Thump! Thump! Thump! Thump!
"No!" Alva howled at the doors as they burst open. Tears streamed down her chubby cheeks. A whole swarm of shadows rushed into the room; not caring for the little girl. Charging, the shadows stormed over and past Alva. Leaving her to crumple in a heap on the cold floor. Then they were gone.
Pooling from the seat was horrible, metallic tasting blood. And Alva knew for the disgusting substance had come into her mouth. The flow did not stop nor slow... It was a waterfall of horror. Alva cried and cried and cried. Her silver tears blending into the gore. "Stop it! Stop it! Stop it!" Alva clamped her hands down on her head, "Stop it!"
Alva snapped awake.
Steinar was waiting for her in the practice yard. Wind picked up and died down as the Captain strode over. Beyond the mountains to the left hung storm clouds; not at all surprising since the last few days had been filled with torrents of rain. Mud squelched beneath her feet as Alva drew closer to him. "You're late," the lordling accused.
"My apologies," Alva carried on towards a rack of weapons. She had ordered the sword master to leave his best weapons out after the soldiers trained - and accordingly, he had done so. Picking up two long swords and throwing one to Steinar, Alva turned to face him. Along with that undeniable anger.
"I would rather you arrive on time than apologise, Captain," Steinar caught the blade, testing out its strength and weight in his right hand. The blades were good enough for a slight spar - nothing more. Turning her feet and standing side-face, Alva completed her stance and waited for the lordling to follow suit.
"Of course, my lord," she obliged. Waiting. Steinar remained still. He took his stance, squat and strong, as he held his blade with both hands at a perpendicular angle; a bad habit if you wanted to use a shield as well. In her own stance, Alva balanced the sword in her left hand - her grip so light that the sword may have fallen. Leaning on her right leg, the left in front, the captain waited for the telltale signs of Steinar's advance.
A boy throated yell escaped his throat. He came charging. The long sword raised above his head. Typical, she thought as his swipe was parried. Sparks flew as the blades struck. The lordling attacked and the Captain blocked. Their dance carried on for a while. Both spinning through their attacks and blocks; their clothes ran around them in whirls of grey, silver, white, gold, purple, red and black.
Steinar threw a blow, so true, Alva's blade broke clean in half.
Cheap metal indeed, Alva tripped over a stone. Landing on her back; the tip of the lordling's blade was all she saw as it was pointed in her face. "I thought no man beat the great Captain Alva of the Guardsmen?" Steinar offered her a hand to rise up.
"They usually do not," Alva took hold of Steinar's blade, "but then again... You are a boy, not a man." She glanced at the fury in his eyes. Returning the weapon to its hold in the rack, the Captain walked back to the fortress. Steinar followed.
"Why do you jape at me so?" His heavy footsteps echoed in the desolate corridor as the lordling strode beside her. Alva looked at him. "Do I not have the right to know?" Steinar replied in response to her glare. Alva walked forward, quicker than before.
Entering the entry hall, the Captain expected her lord to return to his chambers - yet, he did not. "Are you going to follow me everywhere, my lord?" Her dark eyes found his. They were bright for some reason, she had no idea as to why. There was nothing particularly exciting about the day, the ones before or the ones after.
"Until you answer my questions - yes," Alva carried on to her own rooms, opening a double set of doors on the left side of the room. Her lord followed in silence for a while. Two guards came out from the mess hall, haughty laughs on their lips and ale in their bellies. That died soon, however, as they saw the High Lord. After their passing, Steinar piped up once more: "they say that you are quite the mystery, Captain."
"Where do they say this?" Alva swallowed. She knew of the rumours that the servants and other lowly lords spread like wildfire. It was none of their business and they had no right. But what could she, a mere captain, do? "If it is the capital, then you should ignore anything they say, my lord. None of those 'mysteries' are worth listening to."
Her cheeks were red. Alva could feel the heat as Steinar's stare became more pointed. "Well, I don't know about the uncertainty of them but the tales they tell are rather interesting..." A smug smile spread across his handsome features. The light in his eyes growing somehow brighter. "They say that you are blessed with strong magic and that nothing can compare to it. Not even the High Lady Eerika."
"Lies," she cold taste bile in her mouth. He must never find out, Alva thought, no one must find out. The sickening taste made her eyes water. Thinking of the dream she had had the other night, the Captain hurried her pace. Though she could not resist, "what else do these deceitful immortals speak of?"
He chuckled, "many and more." That smug look would not disappear. Steinar stayed in time with Alva's paces, keeping with her until they reached her door. "Apparently, you are not just Captain Alva, but a lady of the Nobility of Alfheim. That you were a deformed child and chucked out, left to die."
Anger flashed through her. Lightning in the storm. Her body flared, wanting to strike. Alva restrained herself; mind, soul, body, heart. "That is a lie!" She snapped, "my father would never have done that. He loved me. He cared for me. And my mother."
"You are apparently a spy. Working for Surt, perhaps?" He kept on saying the outrageous falsehoods. That smirk of his now twisted into a bitter line. The light in eyes dead and broken. This was hurting him as mush as it did her.
"I apologise!" Alva half-screamed, the lordling looking taken aback. "I apologise, my lord, for my inappropriate japes. I should never have said anything. I am very sorry, High Lord Steinar." He was still surprised at her outburst of an apology. Silence hung from a thread. There eyes betraying them in the fact that they will eventually speak. Her words came out hoarse and tough.
"Don't ever talk about my parents."
Steinar came closer to her. His breath stirring the raven-black stands of her hair. Alva looked up into his deep oceans of eyes. "Then do not tease me; and we shall have a deal. I suppose then we would get along rather a lot more, Captain." He withdrew from her personal space.
"I suppose you are right, my lord." Alva grabbed the handle to her room. "We have a deal then." They clasped arms on the matter. For one small moment, equal. Though it soon faded. Waiting for Steinar to leave, Alva shuffled on the spot.
His footsteps faded down the other side of the hall. Swiftly; Alva carried on to her room, opened the door, shut it and slid down to the floor. The cold surface greeted her, its lack of warmth seeping through her bones. Alva's head bowed to find her knees, curling up into a ball of limbs. Tears seeped down her cheeks and into the dull garb of the Guardsmen. Too close, Alva thought as the window banged open and the storm fell.