The Stables of Angabar, Alfheim
War horses whinnied as Alva offered them juicy apples. Munching on them greedily, they shook their heads and flicked their ears forward, showing their happiness. Stable boys passed by with wheelbarrows of hay and pales of water. There was much work for them to do - having to handle four-legged beasts who want to eat all the time was no easy task. She smiled at some of the young boys, but they carried on past. All were afraid of her, stable boys were no exception, she guessed. Alva became distracted by the horse before her whinnying at an approaching figure. Stroking the dark stallion's muzzle, Alva waited for the knight to come over. "My lady," Mikken bowed - a dip really, so small one could barely notice it.
The female laughed at her old friend. The phrase sounded so weird coming out of his mouth, "Please, Sir Mikken, do not call me that unless we are in court or some other similar event. I find it irksome - for so long you have been calling me captain, or by my first name. I would like you to remain with calling me Alva." She withdrew her hand from the soft hair of the beautiful beast and touched Mikken's chest; just above his heart. "The name is simple. You know how I like things to be simple."
"Very well, Alva," Mikken smiled gleefully. They embraced for a short duration before Alva took up the knight's arm. Leading her back into the fortress, she felt like a hound on its leash - freedom so close yet so far. "Lady Eerika wishes to speak to you. Right away that is; I am to escort you." As soon as those words sounded, she stiffened in fear for Steinar. Blinking rapidly before tears could prick her eyes, the lady carried on with her feet. Left, he's fine. Right, my lord is strong. Left, why would the gods give someone such power if they could not handle it? Right, Steinar, you will be fine. I only wish that I could be with you.
"Do you know what the High Lady wishes to speak of?" Alva kept her head high. Her eyes glazed over the beautiful things, which decorated her home, as she continued on. Continued on through her sorrows; would they ever end? "I suppose she wishes to discuss further of my coronation. After all, there is such little time to come up with all the plans. Then, we must move on to The Woven Castle to prepare for the next battle - which is most assuredly inevitable. Lord Steinar's new power must be taken into account, for the odds must be revaluated for them to be accurate."
Mikken dropped his head for a second. This must be taking a toll, the knight would be appointed Captain of the Guardsmen due to Alva's secret being exposed. Are you ready for it, Mikken? Ready for the responsibility of the lives of every person in our fair Lady Eerika's court and household? Alva knew the burden it could bear on his shoulder's the weight. It had been on her own thin ones, once. However, the weight of captain would never be, and could never be, the weight of Lady Firefly. "I suppose you should know," Mikken uttered softly, gently urging Alva back into reality from her stormy thoughts, "that Ragnar has been keeping your mother's gems all this time. Waiting for your return."
Alva snatched a look at Mikken. His green eyes seemed half-alive; never had Alva seen them be so dull. Even in the midst of battle, they were fervent with peace. Now - after having seen such horror - they were diminished somewhat. "Has he now? Is that not rather optimistic." She returned to looking up the spiral staircase. The stony steps looked as if they were to break any moment, so like that of Alva's soul. Ragnar, I'm sorry. Will you ever begin to feel how distraught I am over your unrequited feelings?
Lady Alva Firefly wiped away the tear on her cheek before anyone could see.
They reached the landing, light streaming in from outside. Breaking in between the turrets of incandescent red, the beams seemed far too bright for this world. "I suppose it is, nonetheless, Ragnar is rather the optimist where you are concerned. Having stayed loyal all this time, that is one thing. Yet, when added to his belief in the fact that you were alive... I would know of only one thing to say to that. Though I'm not sure you would like it, my lady." Ava almost tore her arm from his, almost screamed and burned raised Angabar to the ground. That was the last thing she needed, another to know of her own Captain's intentions towards his lady. Towards her.
"You must not tell a soul, Mikken," Alva stopped dead. Her eyes bored into his, those moss-green pupils so kind. She knew he would do as she asked. "You will promise me that you will keep this a secret. To the grave, if you should ever reach one. Ragnar knows the possibilities, but if anyone were to find out - what rumors would that breed? I have enough coming and going through my ears; the last thing I need is another." Mikken bowed his head.
Turning to a pair of golden doors, the knight opened one for Alva before entering the room himself. Inside rested Eerika in the chair at the head of the table. Ragnar stood opposite the doors, his arms crossed and sword belted to his hip. Upon Alva's arrival, the captain bowed immediately and muttered 'my lady' before straightening himself and nodding to Mikken. They had a mutual benefit and understanding - or so it appeared to Alva. "Lady Alva, so lad that you could join us." Eerika spoke, her head tilting up from a piece of parchment that she was reading.
"I apologise, I-" Ragnar gave the High Lady a glare as she cut off Alva with a raised hand.
Setting the parchment aside, Eerika met her with stone cold eyes. "Your coronation will be moved up slightly - nothing major, just by two days. My court is not here with me, I find myself surrounded by those who do not take a liking towards me or trust me - and I them." Maybe those eyes broke contact with Alva for a moment and found Ragnar. "Anyhow, we will need to proceed on with our plans faster than initially thought. Three days from now, you will be the Lady of the Southern Quarter. Are you ready for this, my lady?" Meekly nodding, Alva let Eerika carry on. "My son has not yet woken. If he is still asleep by the time your coronation is over - then we will move the court to here, for now. I find that would suffice. Though there is another matter I would like to address."
Alva listened to the silence which hung by a thread as the High Lady paused.
"The matter of those gemstones, of which is such a precarious thing. They were your mother's, I know that fact along with how they were passed down from family member to family member of your house. So now, I wonder and sit and wait upon the deciding of the answer to my question which will decide their fate: will I listen to my head or my heart? My head tells me that they will be useful in circumstances of war. My heart..." those blue eyes found Alva once more. The young female who stood just inside the door of this woman's rooms. "My heart tells me that I should give them to you; that they would be of better use and more efficient means in your hands."
This time, the silence was thick and heavy. Drawling on, like a snail in slick mud, the weight of it pressed down on Alva's shoulders. And she was sure that everyone else was feeling the same. "It is entirely my lady's choice. Though, I will tell you of one thing that Ragnar would have felt better kept hidden - something about my mother's necklace that is." The Captain and his lady met, those mirror eyes smouldering across the room from her. "Onyx, little is known about the substance for it is a rare and fickle thing. However, my family have learnt quite a lot about the gem; especially its affinity for elemental magic. Captain Ragnar is right - I know he was thinking it - the gems were why the demons came here. It did not make sense until Sir Mikken told me of their existence. If they had found them, well, I dare say we would all be blackened corpses by now."
Eerika's eyes were deep blue and unrevealing. Yet, Alva saw a flicker of something inside them. Anger? Relief? Sadness? What was that wavering emotion in her eyes that mystified the young Elf so much? "Lady Alva," Eerika rose and clutched hold of her hands as soon as she was in reach, "may I use your gems for a purpose? Never after this will I ask it of you again, though I feel there is something that could be done with them, in the here and now."
Alva took a shuddering breath. "If this is something for Steinar, then all I can do is say," her words caught in her throat. All those men who died in the recent battle. The men who had died in the ones before. All the people who had died from this forsaken war - her liege lord, her friends, her brother, her mother, her father... This was the time when their vengeance would start. "Yes. Wholeheartedly and irrevocably - yes."
Eerika had tears tumbling down her cheeks, falling to the floor and spattering there with such grace. The High Lady began to cry. That emotion taking control of her eyes for one last time. And Alva dared to fear that it would never leave. "Excuse me," she mumbled before curtsying and racing out of the room. Alva remained still as she found out what that emotion was.
Fiddling with her ring, Alva stared at her reflection intently. Mikken had hastily given it to her before chasing after Eerika. That had all happened in such an instant, Alva had to have her shoulders shaken by Ragnar to come to terms with what had happened. Breaking from her reverie, the Elf looked to her protector and smiled. However strained it was, she only hoped that his worry was diminished slightly. "What is that you have there?" His voice came out slightly choked, as if the Captain were holding something back. Though, she supposed he always was.
"My ring, the one my father gave me on the last birthday I had with them," Alva dropped off. Ragnar would understand why, he always did. The dark silver wrought frame glistened vividly from the afternoon sun. "Smoke and flame, Ragnar. You were right," Alva mused as she had the image of a ring imprinted onto her mind. A ring with a firestone set into a dark silver frame that looked like shimmering ash in the aftermath of a glorious fire. Where light brings joy, and the earth heals while the wind calls down calm and water puts you to rest - fire is horribly beautiful. "Escort me back to my rooms, will you, my Captain?" Alva took up a hasty pace as Ragnar trailed slightly behind her.
Many servants walked past and dipped their heads. They probably did not think of Alva as anyone too important for she still wore the white and green dress from the morning. Its evergreen skirts slugged behind her. Slinking across the dark floor, they stood out so extravagantly, which only made Alva feel even more disturbed as the passers by stared even more attentively towards her. "My lady," Ragnar bowed as they reached her doors. Abruptly, the Captain rose without leave and stormed off.
"Captain Ragnar! If you wouldn't mind as to stay a little longer, I do so as to wonder why some choose to think me a child - maybe you could help me on the subject?" Alva felt the flash of anger rise through her. Heat that was uncontrollable and would most probably start a fire. Her jest was a subtle one, she knew. However, the Elf knew that Ragnar would understand. Subsequently, it got what she wanted.
Ragnar stopped before turning the corner that lead to the staircase. He quickly trudged back over and harshly told her in a hushed voice: "Maybe because you are a child, my lady." Before he could escape once more, Alva dug her nails into his arm. She hoped he bled beneath that thick jerkin of his. Sometimes, her Captain was so annoying - but she supposed that she, too, was a grievance. As Alva remained listless, Ragnar took this as a sign he could carry on. "You are far too young for this, Alva. Yet Eerika, with all her wisdom, cannot see you as who you are. You are just Alva - not Captain of the Guardsmen or even Lady of Angabar. Not yet, it is too soon. You are too young; and I can't let you-"
"Oh! You decide what I do now, don't you? That's right. You know me so well, Ragnar Broesae, even after a century! You will know my every move before I make it. And what's better than that, you think you know this because you think you love me." That last part came out very quiet and sharp. Alva knew that Ragnar would wish she had shouted it, for then the hurt would not be so horrible. Even though she knew that in her mind, Alva carried on. "You think you love me; but you do not know me. How could you? All you know- No, all you remember, is the girl from one-hundred years ago. The girl who loved to braid her hair and go down to the azure pools in the height of summer. The girl who adored her mother and father, she couldn't live without them. She had to have friends around her, had to have oils in her hair and jewellery on her person at all times. She didn't mind fighting, but preferred to stay at the back where she could safely watch. She always wanted a carriage when going long distances and hated to go anywhere on horseback." Now came the four words which would break his heart. Alva could feel his pain before he would, yet, she spoke those words anyway. His feeling shad to die along with that girl. "I am not her!"
"Well," Ragnar's voice broke, "I suppose I should leave you then. Besides, it seems you have things on your mind and I have duties to attend to. I will commend you, however, as you have kept me from them quite well. Good day, my lady, and I hope you have a pleasant one indeed." This time, Alva let him go as her Captain bowed and hastily walked away. It seems I'm always apologising Ragnar, but you needed it. Your feelings for me were a lie, a memory of the past that should be forgotten. It is best if that happens. Always better to forget some things in order to remember. To remember the pain we have suffered. To remember who took it from us.
To remember the vengeance our demons deserve.
Alva stared at the clothes on the floor. All were brightly coloured, with extravagant materials and matching accessories. They were things that needed to be given away, for she no longer needed them as desperately as first thought. They were clothes for a girl who was long dead. Apart from the ceremonial dresses, which her mother had given her, and the ones for travelling, which had been specially made for her; there was nothing Alva needed from that sickening pile. Nothing at all.
From the hidden servant's door came a maid, her black dress swishing just above her ankles and a woven basket in her arms. Alva glanced out from a part in her loose hair, the maid was already picking up all of the Elf's garments diligently from the floor. Soon, all of the strewn clothes had disappeared - Alva was very much alone. She hadn't spoken a word to any soul since those, which had been so disgustingly parted, to Ragnar. Maybe they were both broken now, though, the only thing that she was entirely sure was that her dear Captain would never love her again. That is a good thing, the female Elf thought as she returned to her bedchamber.
Before she knew, Alva was burying her head into the feather pillows, as if she could hide from all that she had done. During the time she had been at The Woven Castle, the time when she was simply Captain Alva and not the Lady of Angabar, her armour could not have broken. She wouldn't have had time to think about what she was doing; who she was hurting. It had never been a problem, for after one there would have been another. Now, she had stopped, however. And every misdeed, every lie, every broken friendship came at her; she was approaching a waterfall that she could never return from.
Wiping her wet cheeks, Alva rose rom the red and black covers of her bed. they clung to her, as if clawing her back down into the pit of despair, but she shook them off. Her feet hit the cold marble floor hurriedly as she threw open the door. Passing through the rooms of her apartment, she broke out into the hall. Green swathed around her as Alva made her way to Steinar's rooms. The tapestries swayed from a burst of wind that caught Alva's breath in her throat. She hesitated. Is this the right thing? The female Elf stopped, wondering what she was doing and why she was doing it.
Healers escaped from the lordling's rooms. They hurried away, like there was something truly horrifying inside. Alva ducked inside an alcove as they walked by. "...never going to wake up. He's been asleep for far too long already. If you ask me, the High Lady is being far too foolish. There is nothing we can do..." Snippets of what the healer said reached Alva's ears. Right then and there, she could have broken down into tears. Never going to wake up? Now, Steinar, you cannot be that rude. As soon as she was sure they had disappeared, she stepped out from her hiding place and half-ran over to the doors with their carven horse.
It glared at her, telling her to stay away. Making her want to stop what she was doing, those dark eyes connected with hers. Alva merely stared deeper into them, frozen to the spot - unable to move away from what she wanted. Who she wanted. The door creaked open; a pale face peaked round. The Head Healer stood gaping in the doorway, she had seen a ghost, a ghost of the daughter of her liege lord. "My lady...?"
"I'm sorry," Alva whispered, tears pooling in her eyes, "I'm sorry." the words were uttered and she was gone. So very close and yet so very far.