The Fortress of Angabar, Alfheim
Eerika appeared, coming out of Steinar's rooms. He had been waiting patiently for a while outside, obviously not allowed to intrude upon Steinar's healing or his rooms. I must tell her, he thought, remembering the news Captain Ragnar had given him. The sorrowful yet pleasing news. The High Lady looked to him as the door shut behind her, the Head Healer's weary face disappearing behind the oak barriers. Eerika studied Mikken, as if he were something new, "Yes, Sir Mikken?" She asked as the knight straightened up from his slouching position.
Mikken bowed, as was expected, then levelled his eyes with the lady's blue ones, "It appears we have found something, my lady." Eerika started to walk towards her rooms, two doors down on the right to her son's. The white train of her skirt slinked palely behind the lady on the dark floor. "When I say 'we' and 'found'; what I mean is Captain Ragnar has revealed something he had decided to keep a secret before." At this, Eerika turned her head to glance at him, "The Captain has informed me that the reason, or so he believes, the demons chose to attack Angabar first was because of a certain necklace made of onyx."
Eerika stopped. Mikken knew what she was thinking, for it what he had been thinking when he had, too, first heard. Onyx was a rare gemstone in this realm - and harboured many useful qualities... Now they had at least seven of them, in one necklace. "Onyx, you say? I hope you are not teasing me, Mikken, for that would be very rude. How many are there and where did you find them?" Mikken could only answer the first question properly; all the other details would have to be dealt with by Ragnar. And the knight didn't suggest in the slightest that Eerika interrogating the Captain would ever go well.
"Captain Ragnar-" he started, though Eerika knew what he was going to say and cut him off. Her eyes were fiercely hopeful. First, Steinar's new magic and now a set of onyx gems from House Firefly. What would come next? They had dealt with demons of fire and wraiths of shadow, but their problems were far from over.
"Then take me to him - and stop wasting my time."
Ragnar flicked the pages of a heavy volume, which rested on his desk. His eyes travelled upward as Lady Eerika entered, followed by Mikken. Immediately, the knight saw the change to the male's features. From concentrating to astonished and annoyed. "High Lady Eerika, to what," he shut the book, its pages hitting each other with a deep and hollow sound, "do I owe the pleasure?" A smile touched his lips, mean and cunning. Mikken squinted his eyes, Ragnar's tone was inexcusable. Knowing that the Captain and Lady Alva were close, Mikken could see how he would be annoyed after not knowing about their scheme; but their was no reason why his anger should be directed at Eerika.
"It appears, Captain Ragnar, that you seem to be in possession of a certain item which may be of use to us." That tone the lady obtained, with such delicacy and finesse, could only be used when she was sure to get something she wanted. "A necklace of onyx gemstones. You know what that means, don't you? Another factor which could help us win this war and save many people from a lot of suffering." My lady, Mikken though pleadingly, please do not push our loyal captain too far. He knew of the Captain's rage. Soldiers had often spoken of it; the way he controlled that blessed anger in him to bend the will of others. The worst part was, that whenever he did become enraged, Ragnar would never raise his voice - not once. He would whisper in your ear, sending shivers down your back. How many times had Mikken heard the tale? More than once.
"I do know of an onyx gemstone necklace - and it is in my draw," Ragnar glanced down to where his desk lay. Behind, on his side, there must have been several pockets for the Captain to store papers and other important things. Mikken could tell by the gigantic (and probably enlarging) pile of parchment on his desk. Never mind the bookshelf behind which towered over them all in terms of knowledge and height. As if noticing him for the first time, Ragnar caught Mikken's eye with disgust. "Though, it is not in my possession - nor will it ever be."
"In other words, it is the Lady Alva's?" Mikken squared his shoulders and shifted his footing on the grey, flagstone floor. Looking up, rather shocked and bemused, was Eerika. Her golden hair gleamed from the high sun of midday that came in through a long window on their left, partially concealed by red drapes. "I apologise, my lady. I shouldn't have interrupted like that. However, I found his continuous uncouth manner begin to feel slightly irritating."
"Interesting," she mused from Mikken's side, "I suppose we shall be here for a while, won't we Sir Mikken?" The knight smiled. In the corner sat a small, round table of ash wood. On it rested two crystal-cut glasses and a wine decanter; though there was a small chair tucked under it. Pulling out the seat, Eerika lowered herself down as Mikken pushed it under her. Purely telling by way of feel, Mikken could sense his lady's stern eyes connecting with those of the Captain. "You will tell me of these gemstones - you will tell me all there is to know, Captain."
"I do not have any obligation to you-" Ragnar choked on his words as Mikken pressed the cool edge of his short dagger against the Captain's throat. Light reflected onto his pale skin, revealing tiny scars laced on his neck. Dark eyes looked to him, encouragement glowing in their depths. Who would want to die so easily? Mikken thought as he withdrew his blade. That action should have been enough for the Captain to rethink about disobeying the Lady Eerika. "Of course my lady, I shall tell you what you wish to know."
Repositioning herself on the small chair, Eerika fiddled with her ivory bangles. Waiting.
"The gemstones are the Lady Alva's, as Sir Mikken inferred earlier. Though, before her, they were the late Lady Firefly's. The necklace was given to her by her husband on their first anniversary. However the gemstones were handed down within the family. Over the centuries, they have been set in the pommels of swords and daggers - even shields. Many husbands have given them to their wives as jewellery or good luck charms." Ragnar paused for a moment, a glimmer of memory showing on his face. "I hid the necklace the night after Lady Alva's disappearance and her parent's deaths - to keep them safe. So, as a reply to your statement my lady, I do not own any type of jewellery, however I am keeping hold of the onyx necklace until such time it is needed."
"But you will not give it to us, will you Captain?" Mikken asked, the knight had not moved from when he had drawn his blade against Ragnar. Clearly the slight attack had worked, Ragnar was being of the most help now. Mikken inclined his head studying the male before him. So fiercely loyal after such a long while - one could almost say it was a miracle. Or was it something else? The knight knew that there were other things in this world which could keep a man away, keep him close, keep him broken or afraid. However, to have a man who loves- Ah, Mikken mused in his mind, there is your secret, Captain. The chink in your armour, the thing that will inevitably be your downfall. How I feel sorry for you, Ragnar Broesae.
"Of course I will not give them to you. They are not mine to give," Ragnar shifted a few things on his desk, then dropped down into the carved chair behind it. His dark eyes strayed to the window. Mikken adored how this was being played, yet; there was something that nagged him. Seeing beyond those dark pits, the male Elf caught hold of what the Captain was thinking. He could have jumped ahead. Displayed his findings to his lady and made Ragnar speechless one more. Though, he remained silent. Enough pain had been given over the past few days- scratch that. The past century and a half.
Eerika spoke up, "Ragnar." Delicate and soft, as if trying to prevent the waking of a terrible beast, the High Lady prompted the Captain. Not as the ruler of Alfheim, nor as a high noble. Just as another person in this bitter world. For there were many horrors in it; and those horrors attacked the soul and heart of any being.
"I will pass on my guardianship of the necklace to you." He turned to her. Those eyes striking and cold. Truth, however, clung to them. Along with honesty and that over-powering love he held for his lady. Sometimes, the love for your ruler could be a good thing. Nonetheless, when it was too much, it would burn you so far from the heavens. So far from this realm of light and beauty. For that was what love was: love was fire. Love was cruel. "I hope that when you are finished with them, they will be sound enough for Lady Alva to take up again. They are hers by right of birth and blood and death. You have no right, my lady, to take that from her - not again."
"Captain Ragnar, you are mistaken." Eerika leant forward, her hand reaching to rest atop of his which lay on the table. Mikken stood by and watched as she tried to comfort him. Oh, my lady, you are far too kind. And mistaken once more... for this world is cruel. We have all witnessed the horrors of it and are privy to them. There is no questioning that. Though I suppose, in some sort of way, you are right. When one has seen the side of this world that is painstakingly beautiful - all we can do is comfort the others who have too.
Ragnar turned to the High Lady, tears glistening on his cheeks. What could make a soldier, such as he, cry? "Please, leave me. Take the gems," he tossed them onto the table, the frame of gold and platinum clunking heavily on the wood. "Take them and go." Ragnar turned his head to the window once more. Men were training outside, their cries and roars echoing through the fortress.
Mikken pocketed the gems into a leather bag as Eerika rose. Carrying on to the door, the knight held it for his lady. "I am most sorry for what you have been through, Captain. With all my power, I will try and keep your Lady Alva safe. By all means necessary." The High Lady curtsied, as was expected on a typical meeting, and left. Glancing back behind him, Mikken saw the scars his fellow brother-in-arms wore on that old soul of his. He turned to leave.
"For what it's worth," Mikken peered over his shoulder, "Lady Alva will always be safe with you by her side. That may be a very cruel thing to say, Ragnar, but it is true. And I doubt you would want any less." Catching up with Eerika, the knight's boots clonked heavily against the flagstone floor. "What are we to do now, my lady?" For a while, Eerika kept her back turned and her mouth shut as they walked and ascended stairs. He only supposed she was thinking over his question and her options.
"The coronation must happen within the next week. We will have to move faster - there is much to do back at The Woven Castle. Alva will need to be their; she is my best strategist. Though, Sir Mikken, I suppose you meant right now - this second." Eerika waited on the lading of the third floor. Her rooms were one level up, opposite Steinar's in case his condition worsened. "I wish for you to take those gems and pace them in the vault . Then, you will bring Lady Alva to my chambers. For there is much we need to discuss."
Vaults were always hidden. This one was no exception. Deep below the ground where the tunnels were, there was a door. A door, just metal burned and jagged in places, rested. Inset into the flecked stone, it was a magnificent barrier, seven-feet tall and four-feet wide. Spikes jutted out menacingly from its flat surface to ward off unwanted thieves. "The Grand Vault of Angabar - what treasure you covert beneath that distant surface, I wonder." Mikken muttered to himself before reaching out and opening the door.
Mountains of jewelery and scrolls and statues and tapestries were horded inside, reflecting the light of the torch Mikken held. Piled on high with secret intent were all of Alfheim's most ancient artefacts. Scepters of gold with encrusted rubies and tapestries covered and hidden by dust all lay there, waiting to be picked up once more. Not to mention the glass cabinet filled with crowns and tiaras of all sizes and types of design. Most of them had settled dust on their bodies of work, though one had much less than the others. A great golden crown with smoky quartz inset into it. Mikken could only have a slight doubt as to who it had belonged to.
"Our late Lord Firefly, Protector of the South and Ruler of the Fortress of Angabar. Lady Alva's dearest and most honourable father." Mikken let out with a despairing breath. Memories always clung to him with such earnest - but the one that he remembered the most, so far, was the day when he had been told of the attack on House Firefly. Only having just turned his first decade, Mikken had almost thrown a tantrum. A few weeks before the riot, his parents and he had been passing through the Southern Quarter of Alfheim. They had stopped at Angabar, knowing they would find rest and comfort there. Alva had been so kind, so very kind - and then the whole world had thought she was gone; in an instant. "Funny, how things will always change. Even funnier, how our homes will be the same, no matter how many people stay inside their walls. Isn't it, you bloody old fortress?"
The walls remained silent.
Mikken snorted at himself. He was talking to walls! How mad would this place drive him? Shaking his head, the knight recalled his duty. Now - he scanned the room - there was no place for the tiny necklace to go. It was tiny, but only in comparison to the rest of the contents in the vault. Weighted and the size of his forearm, the necklace was rather average on its own. Reflected in its gem's surfaces, Mikken caught his profile. A new scar, thin and long, stretched down the side of his face. How had he not noticed? A whole day since the battle had been won; he had not even noticed.
Finding a table, after resuming his search, that was covered in a velvet drape; Mikken moved closer to it. There was a small space, though big enough for what he needed. The necklace was put down, until it was wanted, the gems glittered in the torchlight. They winked continuously as Mikken wondered out of the vault. Out of the eternal darkness.