The Fortress of Angabar, Alfheim
Watching, the portcullis lowered down until it blocked the entrance, only proving what Steinar doubted. He was a prisoner here. Despite what the Captain would say, he knew he was being kept here just for his mother to do as she wished without the rightful lord to intervene. Breathing deeply to ignore his spiteful thoughts, the lordling looked around the keep, circling on the spot. It was not nicknamed the Bloody Fortress to simply scare children in their beds... The whole of the wall was red, as if painted with the gore of enemies who had tried to assault those high fortitudes. Even the metal, though it gave the strong iron a look of rust and age, had the same gruesome aspect. Luckily, the flagstone keep was as grey as the scenery outside. Mountains stood vastly on every side of the fortress: back, left and right, leaving it unassailable. No trees grew inside the walls; no foliage at all in that regard. It left the fortress with the only idea: war. Steinar still held disbelief at the fact he had to stay here, with no friends in the world. "My lord," Captain Alva stood with her hands clasped behind her back, interrupting his thoughts. "Our rooms are ready. If you wish, I can take you to your chambers and have your trunk brought up later."
He turned his cool eyes to the her, "That would be most appreciated, Captain." Alva nodded and gestured for him to take the lead. Clasping his cloak around him tighter, Steinar marched forward towards the fort. Four huge turrets flew the banner of House Firefly, a fierce line with accents coming off of it, black on a red background. They stood at interchanging heights, the tallest at the back, two medium in height stood at the sides (the left the smaller) and the smallest at the middle. They were all red; similar to the wall yet more vibrant. A slanted roof rested between the foremost towers, along with three walls that ran from the middle-heighted turrets to the tallest at the back. Steinar had never seen something so horrifyingly captivating. "How old is this fortress Captain?" the young Elf turned his head to Alva.
She blinked her dark eyes, "Far older than you grand-sire's grand-sire ever was, my lord." Shaking his head, Steinar carried on to a warm fire and comfortable bed. The wooden doors of red rowan opened before he even came within ten yards of their boundary. They revealed a corridor of grey marble, thank the gods - no more of that awful colour. Stepping across the threshold sent a slight tingle up the lordling's spine. Instincts telling him to turn around and run the hell away - yet he stayed. Even though she too felt it, Alva remained calm and loyal behind Steinar as they carried on down the corridor.
Tapestries of spun gold hung from the walls, depicting epics from many past millennia. One showed a previous High Lord of Alfheim decapitating a traitor, another; bandits being hung for their crimes. Maidens being saved, grand weddings being thrown, the forming of new houses, castles and others of the like were hung up, immortalised with the soft golden threads. They seemed to glow in the dank corridor, though it came to an end, opening out into a hall with many doors leading to other rooms. Steinar paused, unsure of where to go to next. Alva, seeing his hesitation, strode forward for him to follow to an almost-hidden spiral staircase led up to the next floor.
No rail was at hand, making Steinar uncomfortable climbing its ancient stairs. Placing his foot onto the next step, the lordling had not realised the dislodged side. Almost slipping, the Captain grabbed onto his jacket. Loose stones tumbled down, echoing in the wide and barren hall. Steinar watched as Alva pulled him back up with ease. His feet felt, through his tough-soled boots, the sureness of the next step. Loosing a breath, the lordling looked down at the sheer thirty-feet drop. "I suggest you watch where you step, my lord." Alva cautioned. Steinar, slightly irritated, smoothed out his clothing as she let go.
After a few more minutes, another twenty feet and some more free rocks falling down to the ground that looked so very, very far away; they reached the opening in the ceiling. As Steinar emerged into the corridor, the cold bit into his flesh like a wolf. Frost covered the windows and the wall which held them, it stretched down with stranger's hands, leaving the bricks crusted with white swirling patterns. The dark clouds they had seen earlier were now pouring down buckets of water. Occasionally, a chilling wind broke in through the windows, lifting up a tattered tapestry of dyed silk. It ran across the stretch of the left wall; showing a great feast from what was left of the tapestries' grandeur. Steinar squinted, trying to see what was woven into its silken threads until they came to the end of the corridor.
Alva turned left, leaving Steinar to follow. A soft velvet carpet quietened their footfalls as they strode hurriedly down to an oaken door. A carving of a rearing red horse rested on the front, its eyes were pure black, yet; the mane was like a flame - curling upwards to the stars at the top of the extravagant door. "Your chambers, my lord," Alva flicked those eyes to him, the action only reminding the lordling of the carven horse, "I shall have your trunk brought up soon." The Captain started off back to the staircase.
"Wait, Captain," Steinar turned to face her, where she only glanced over her shoulder. "It is raining, can that not wait until the morrow?" From what he saw, Alva frowned her dark brow, leaving the skin creased between. "I would much rather hear the letter that my mother sent; what she has in mind of our being here? Would that not be a more efficient use of our time?" Exhaling, the Captain started, again, down the corridor.
"I may be strong enough to protect you from what you mother fears," she hesitated at the corner, "but I am not strong enough to read a letter that has not yet arrived." Steinar felt her line of sight as Alva kept her eyes trained on him for a while, before disappearing down the corridor. Listening to her footsteps (and feeling cheated as he heard the Captain travel down the stairs so swiftly), Steinar waited until he was utterly sure she was gone before entering his rooms.
A table, with places for eight, stood tall in the middle of the first room. Opening up the doors to the second, Steinar waited at the threshold between the two as he surveyed the couch and high-backed armchairs at the right of the room, with their roaring fire in front and bookshelves that were waiting to be filled behind. Stepping inside, the lordling could not see how this place was connected to that broken corridor outside. The young Elf would be as confused as any as he continued to look around the place. To left and right were singular doors, the left leading to a washroom, the right to a long closet. However, another set of double doors led to a bedchamber.
It was a grand room, the centre piece was a four-poster bed with satin drapes and crisp linen covers cascading down in flows of fabric to the marble floor. White veins ran across the grey stone, which formed the barren walls as well. Wanting nothing but sleep, the lordling shuffled over to the bed. Barely being able to remove his cloak, jacket and tunic, he folded them and placed them on the bedside table. With its feather pillows and deep mattress, Steinar fell easily into an undisturbed rest.
Sunlight poured in through a window which was annoyingly to the side of the comfortable four-poster. I suppose, not everything is perfect... Steinar thought as he angrily shut the drapes. He rested his head against his hands, tired from the eventful trip the Captain and him had when they were travelling to Angabar. Shaking his head, Steinar walked to the dining room. Dishes were laid out on the oak table; silver dishes which held pears, apples, oranges and more. Cutlery was placed at the head of the table. Even though Steinar knew it was where he should sit - he could not bring himself to be in his father's seat.
The lordling settled for the chair next to it, pulling the plate round with the corresponding cutlery. Placing an apple, a slice of bread and pulling the butter jar towards him, Steinar sought out to beak his fast. The apple was sour but appealing. He cut a slice with the carving knife for the chicken, popping it into his mouth, eager to eat. Next, he tore off a hunk of bread, putting that in his mouth too. The two foods mingled together, creating something disgusting and awful in his mouth. "My lord," Alva called through the doors, "may I come in?"
Steinar swallowed, standing, he went to the door and opened it. The horse glowered down on him, as if insulted by his indecency like Captain Alva. "Oh, yes," the lordling opened the door wider, "I am quite indecent." the Captain stepped inside. Those eyes flicked to his pink scar across his belly from the previous battle, in which his father had been served a wound so great that had led to his death. She stopped by the table, scanning the rows of food. "Please, have something to eat Captain." Steinar waked back into the bed chamber, past the couch and warm hearth, to throw on his dusty cloak. "There is far too much of it!" he called over his shoulder.
Returning, the young Elf saw the parchment envelope in Alva's hand. He stopped. "These are the letters from your mother, my lord. I had thought you would like to see it immediately, especially since you specified last night." the wax was broken. The silver seal of House Elverssen was split in half. The scrawling writing of his lady mother peaked out from the fold of the letters. "Would my lord like to see the letters?" Alva asked again. Obviously, she had no problem with the fact they were meant for Steinar and no one else, yet she read them.
"Captain, you have read those letters?" Steinar tore his gaze from the paper and to her face. The Captain frowned as he spoke the words. Slight surprise was written across her face. "Must I repeat the question, Captain?" Alva said not one word, despite her lord's grievance upon an answer. Instead, she merely passed the letters to him and sat down opposite to Steinar's seat. Dear Captain Alva, it read. Now, the lordling was more startled by this then Alva was at being asked such idiotic questions. "She sent the letter to you?"
"I suggest you keep reading, my lord, before asking any more queries," Alva gestured for him to carry on with a flurry of her wrist. Blinking, Steinar returned to the orders, "Dear Captain Alva," the female Elf said aloud to prompt him into returning back to a level head. It would not do for him to be shocked at every little thing now that he was the High Lord.
"I am sorry to have to rush you away like this. I had thought there would be more time... however, as good as my intentions were - to keep my son safe, that is - I terribly miscalculated. As we, the Elven Court and the whole realm know, my lord husband is dead by the hands of one of Surt's generals. This means that my son, Steinar Braveheart, should and will be crowned as the High Lord of Alfheim. Though, I am sure that his father taught him very well in the time they had, it is not enough. Steinar's life was kept from the clutches of death by his father giving up his own life. I need him to be ready - not just as a son or a lord. But as a commander. Now, my dearest Alva, you have been through the most hardships-" Steinar paused, unsure whether he should keep reading.
"Carry on my lord, it is perfectly alright," the Captain replied, sensing his hesitation.
Steinar nodded, continuing: "You have been through the most hardships, surely you can teach my son how to get by this one? Not only that, but you are a very great Captain of the Guardsmen - not simply for your prowess in combat; but also your attitude towards leading and being led. Some may be wont to admit it, nonetheless, you are perfect for my son. Where he is a sword, you will be his whetstone. Train him in the art of war. Make him understand what it means to be High Lord of Alfheim. Teach him the honour of our house and of the men that will serve him. Let him acknowledge the ways of politics through allies and enemies. Make him better than his father or his grand-sire. Make him a legend, Captain!" the young Elf paused yet again, afraid, "What does she mean?"
"Keep," Alva looked at him, a blade in her hand, "reading!"
"When he comes back to the Woven Castle, let me see what my son truly can do. Let him win this war. Make him win this war! That will be all that I ask of you - and yes I do ask. This is a favour of which I can order no soldier to carry out. If I look out of my window, one day, and see you two return in an ivory and gold carriage before I ask you to return; I will not be angry or even disappointed. I will merely see that this task was too great for you, Captain - and there is no dishonour in that..." Steinar trailed off before realising he had not finished, "I thank you, Alva, for all that you have done - and especially if you do this. With Wisdom, You Lady Eerika Elverssen." the parchment dropped from Steinar's hands. A shuddering breath passed his lips. He was back on that burnt plain, his father's blood around him along with the cries of thousands of males and females; all surrounding him in a cacophony of blood and death. How could he do this?
"My lord, are you alright?" Alva was standing next to him. Her dagger was on point, into the oaken table. Steinar watched as her hand was steady - the Captain was always calm, it appeared. The lordling's blue eyes connected with her own worried, dark ones. Her face was always a mask, though now, it was slipping. Showing something no one had seen in a long while.
"Perfectly fine, Captain," Steinar picked up the letters, fumbling with them for a while. That spiked writing disappeared from his sight as Alva took them in a gloved hand. Always wearing gloves, it seems, Steinar thought as he recalled that fact accurately. Glancing up, Steinar saw her nod minutely to his statement. "What are we to do now, Captain Alva? I'm not entirely sure what my mother meant in this letter; it seems rather far fetched to me. And what does she mean by: 'terribly miscalculated'? In what? How was she to keep me safe? And why address the letter to you and not me - her son?"
"My lord, I suggest you calm your mind and listen to what I am to say next," Alva kept her cool eyes on him as Steinar nodded slowly, "There are enemies all around us - even here, even at the Elven Court. She was trying to keep you safe, but did not take in the fact that this war might cause your father to die, which would leave you vastly vulnerable. This was how to keep you safe; right here in this Bloody Fortress where no one shall either find us or attack us. And I will keep you safe, Steinar, I will protect you until my last, dying breath. That is why she addressed it to me, to keep you safe. Now, will you listen to everything I tell you to do?" Steinar obeyed, nodding his head, that silver tongue of his turned to led. "Good."
Alva took the letters in her hand, folding them and then slicing across, leaving them as small little shreds in her palm. Walking to the hearth in the next room, the Captain threw it into the fire. "Captain, you still haven't answered my question. What are we to do now?" Steinar repeated as he trailed after her into the living room. Roaring and wild, the fire welcomed him, with the Captain next to the hearth. Her hair floated backwards - but not from a draft, nor a gust of wind. The flames were emanating some sort of power, making the room incredibly hot, the air being displaced from it, outwards. Creating a convection current so powerful, the drapes snapped back, along with sending the lordling's cloak and Alva's knee-length jacket flying.
"Now?" those dark, mystifying eyes found Steinar once more, "We will make you the most righteous High Lord this realm has ever seen!"