Steinar's Rooms, Alfheim
The lordling paced around the furniture. Tracing his callous fingers across the rough red texture of the couch, Steinar looked up to the raging storm outside. Torrents of water pounded down, making the physical part of his training impossible to do. Sighing, he flopped down onto the couch, his long legs dangling over the arm. Warmth seeped from the hearth and the crackling fire it held. A log fell and broke in two, releasing a bunch of sparks that flew into the air. Stretching out an arm; the lordling held the floating sparks above the palm of his hand using magic. They danced and pulsated around each other. One blinked off while another climbed higher - the other three glowed with such intensity that they burned Steinar's retinas out. "You shouldn't be doing that," a voice stated.
The lordling looked up to see a male Elf standing in the doorway between his dining room and lounge. His hair was dark, his eyes the same smoky colour. The male reminded the lordling of the Captain - how, apart from the characteristics, he did not know. This man was obviously rather more positive than Alva; and definitely a lot less secretive (so far). "And who are you, to say what I can and cannot do?" Steinar stood, his eyes meeting the male's.
"I never said that you could not do it, just that it is in advisable," the male stepped forward, he was dressed in dark black breeches and a jacket of the same tone, lined with red. "My name is Ragnar, Captain of the Fireshields. I only just arrived, my company and I went to the out lands to sort out some... problems."
Steinar smiled. For some weird reason; the lordling liked this male with his strapped sword and bluntness. "Well met, Captain Ragnar." They clasped forearms, sealing a new found friendship. "Why are you in my rooms, Captain?" They let go and held each other's gazes for a moment.
"To greet my new High Lord and see how long he is staying," the smile did not die from his lips. Ragnar looked at the young Elf, Steinar's top crumpled from sleep and his hair slightly mussed. The lordling knew it wasn't what the Captain expected without even asking. "How long are you staying, my lord?"
"Until the Captain of Guardsmen decides otherwise. We were sent here by my mother, the High Lady Eerika. She has certain plans for me. Captain Alva means to keep to them." Steinar saw something flicker in Ragnar's eye as he spoke the female Elf's name.
"Alva?" He whispered softly, "I knew someone by that name once..." Ragnar shook his head as if trying to force something out of his mind's eye. "I suppose I should talk to your Captain about your staying here. This is no place for Nobles."
"But it's fine for you?" Steinar queried, his fair brows picking up. The two males laughed, short and deep. "I suppose you should go talk to Captain Alva then." The lordling turned to the small table with all it's papers and scrolls and books cluttered across it.
"Of course, my lord," Ragnar bowed stiffly. He walked to the door, those heavy boots leaving small grits of dirt from their soles on the polished marble floor. The door creaked as it was opened. Steinar wanted to ask one more question before the Captain left.
"Who was your Alva, Captain?" Steinar looked with dark blue eyes to Ragnar's back. His shoulders were taught as that gloved hand hesitated to pull open the weighted door with its ornate handle.
Steinar could imagine Ragnar closing his eyes in regret, "she was a good friend of mine. Daughter to my liege lord." He turned, those black eyes somehow even darker than possible. "She died though."
"I apologise. I would not have inquired if I-"
"But you did not, my lord, and that is nothing of your fault. We all have lost something." Ragnar bowed once more. Steinar would let him leave this time, with wishes of peace from the lordling. He knew what it was like to loose someone you loved. He knew the pain it held...
The pain that was so much like fire.
Steinar clasped his hands beneath his cloak, behind his back. Watching as the men trained, he heard Alva approach behind him. "Captain," the lordling turned to see the female, her long black hair ripping free into the wind. The gales were like whips, making Steinar certain that this place was - as Ragnar had said - no place for Nobles.
"My lord, I thought you would have been in your rooms." Alva inclined her head as a moderate bow. She eyed the training men, their swords and spears and tridents all flashing in the bleak sun. Their feet twirled around each other as blows were passed and blocked. Leaving the dead grass broken and flattened, the men resumed their stances and started the dance again. "I have been looking for you, in all earnest. There was a certain captain who came to talk to me of my lord."
"Ah," the lordling turned to face his protector, "that would be Ragnar." Seeing from the corner of his eye, the same male was pacing along another group of men who stood tall in their black armour. All his soldiers were straight like posts, with blank yet somehow attentive looks on their faces, next to the busy soldiers to the group's right. "What did he ask of you?"
"To leave," Alva blinked slowly as she, too, looked towards the dark-haired Elf. He caught their gaze and smiled warmly, but something sinister was beneath it as well.
Steinar grunted in surprise and anger. How dare he? Order me to leave? The lordling growled in his mind. Piggybacking off of his tension, Alva rested her hand on his arm. "We can't have him ordering us around," the young Elf looked down to his Captain.
"Finally, we are getting somewhere," Alva smiled proudly at Steinar's newly developed senses and strategic thinking. "What would you propose me to do, my lord?" Alva wandered her eyes to Ragnar's men.
"I would have you do nothing," Steinar knew of her confused look before he had spoken the words. "I want you to find out everything about this Captain Ragnar - which house he is from, how he got this position, who likes him amongst the Fireshields ranks; even what he bloody well eats for breakfast and how he sleeps. I want to know, Captain."
"Consider it done," Alva bowed and left. Steinar knew that she knew what was going to transpire between the Fireshields' Captain and the lordling by Steinar's means. He watched as Alva went back inside to do as she had been asked.
"Enjoying the view, my lord?" Ragnar called from his spot, fifty yards away. Glee was sprawled across his face like a fallen bird. Oh, what Steinar could have done to wipe that look off of the Captain's annoying profile.
Steinar smiled his own devilish grin, "how could one not?" Ragnar grunted in agreement as he drew closer. Squinting against the blasts of shrieking wind, that lifted the lordling's half-cloak of white satin up to the sky, Steinar looked at those dark pits of the older Elf's eyes.
"My lord, you spoke in brief of your reasons for being here... Yet, did not delve further." Steinar frowned as he knew what Ragnar was going to ask next, "may I be able to ask why your mother sent you here? And can I trust you to tell the truth?"
"You can trust me to tell the truth in this:" the lordling stepped slightly closer, their white puffs of breath mingling, "you have no right to inquire after me, Captain. So, I suggest you leave me and Alva alone."
Ragnar's mouth hardened into a straight line. "Of course, my lord," he bowed, strands of dark hair falling free of the knot at the back of his head. Steinar nodded, not believing this act of submission for one second. "But I will still advise you to leave." Ragnar flickered his eyes up for a moment. Than he cast them back down to the slippery ground.
"I will not," Steinar merely defied the lower-born Elf. Ragnar bowed his head deeper. Smiling, the lordling turned to leave when the warning bell sounded. All the men stiffened; they stopped their training with blunt, half-decent weapons and drew their long swords or hunting knives or twin daggers.
Every man waited for orders from their Captain. Nostrils flaring for a scent, Ragnar turned to his High Lord, having almost forgotten Steinar. "Where is your Captain of the Guardsmen?" The lordling stubbornly refused to tell him.
He could take care of himself.
"Where is she, my lord?" Steinar smiled at Ragnar's desperation. Enjoying something so futile in the face of danger could only be described as insanity. And Steinar knew that all too well. Growling, Ragnar waved a hand for a tall, sturdy male to come over, "Pycelle, command these men! I give you all authority until the attack is done and we are safe."
The soldier's eyes flicked between Steinar and Ragnar. Those green gems showing only worry. "Captain, what are you-"
"Do it, Pycelle," Ragnar growled. The soldier dipped his head and scampered off. Armour clanked as the man marched to the fortress' one and only entryway. Ragnar shoved the lordling, snapping him out of the reminiscing. "I am going to protect my lord, since you won't tell me where Captain Alva has gone." Ragnar explained in great exasperation. This was clearly a trial and waste of efforts for the male.
"And if I don't know where she is?" Steinar breathed out. Glaring at him, Ragnar placed a worn hand on the lordling's shoulder.
"Just do as I say and we may survive this," they entered the fortress. The tapestries, which Steinar had so greatly admired at first, greeted them once more. Drawing a sword, Ragnar checked behind him. For what, Steinar did not know but was suddenly, stupidly afraid of the thing at the walls.
They came out of the corridor into the hall with its tall, oaken doors. Ragnar held his blade so tightly, his knuckles turned white. Some sort of implacable fear was present in the Captain's eyes. Steinar swallowed and piped up, "where are we going? This isn't the way to my rooms."
"We're going to the tunnels beneath the fortress. Hopefully we can try to escape if they breach the walls." Ragnar hurried on to the doors opposite the corridor. The carving on it was a Phoenix in mid flight. It's tail of flame reached the bottom; it's head the top. Unlike the carven horse's eyes of black, this creature had eyes of flame.
"I need my long sword, Captain!" Steinar called after Ragnar. Suddenly inspired to fight, the lordling only wished to have his father's long sword by his side. Clenching his fists as the Captain of the Fireshields ignored him, Steinar was ready to shout, his mouth open.
"Here is your long sword, my lord." Alva was running down the stairs and towards him. In her hand was a sword, covered in a white sheath with gold leaf patterns. She held it out for Steinar to take, when he hesitated. "My lord," he looked into her eyes - maybe for the last time, "take your father's sword, and make him proud. If we die, then we shall all be joined together in Valhalla. Until Ragnarokk, let us part no more."
Steinar smiled. He remembered the last words his father had told him. The sword was light in his hand. It felt simply... Right. Alva nodded assuringly at him. The lordling strapped it onto his hip with the sword belt. "Thank you, Alva."
Without a word, she went to Ragnar, his face contorted into anger. "Where were you!? His lordship was almost at the very gates themselves. He could have been seriously injured." Alva stopped in front of him, "I must say, the great Captain Alva of the Guardsmen is not living up to what I had expected of her."
"You may leave, Ragnar. I'm sure your men need you at the wall." Alva looked at his drawn sword. Steinar could see what she was doing. Assessing the opponent before taking him on to ensure a victory - very good.
"I am certainly not going to trust you to be alone with the High Lord. If you think for one second-"
"Yes, yes, yes," Steinar interrupted, "I'm such the pleasure to guard and it's an amazing honour; we all know. If you two are going to fight about it - either leave or just both guard me. Wouldn't that be better, anyway?"
"I suppose you're right, my lord," Alva agreed. Opening the door, the Captain waited for Steinar to go through. Ragnar eyed her suspiciously. With that calm face and simple clothes, she's almost too good to be true, the lordling knew that was what Ragnar was thinking - without a doubt.
Steinar sighed as he went to go down the gloomy corridor, "as for the matter of trust, Captain..." He stopped in between the two Elves, "I'm pretty sure we don't trust you either." Smiling, he disappeared into the dark.
Water dripped from the dank ceiling. The sound echoed throughout the tunnels. Steinar stood between Alva and Ragnar. The two captains held burning torches, the flames licking at the walls. Ragnar was behind the lordling, his dark jacket flapping open against his torso. Alva stood before him, keeping the pace with her lengthy strides. Her grey long coat looked silver in the light. Steinar was dressed in his blue half-cloak and brown breeches, the ornate log sword at his hip hammering against his thigh with every step.
They certainly made a rather weird trio.
"So tell me, Captain Alva, how do you know these tunnels so well?" Ragnar pressed her from the rear. Steinar chuckled softly; waiting for Alva's riddle-like response.
"I know what I must know and what I do not know, I don't need to know. The knowing of the way of these tunnels certainly falls under what I must know - therefore I know how to navigate them." Alva glanced backwards for a mere moment before carrying on.
"Something that you will find, Ragnar, about our lovely Captain Alva, is that she is very much like iron to questions. There's no way to break her," Steinar looked at him for a while before turning back to the front, "not one way at all."
"Interesting," Ragnar went silent for a while, along with the rest of them. It was as if there was no battle, no alarm or danger, outside until a rumbling shook the very ground. The group stopped. A few pieces of old mortar trickled down from the low ceiling at the quaking. "They have catapults?" He sounded surprised.
"Who is this 'they', Captain Ragnar?" Alva asked as Steinar caught her eye. Frowning, the lordling turned on him as well.
"I rather much agree," he looked between the two older Elves once more. "You seem to be fairly acquainted with our assailants. And if they are attacking this fortress, I do wonder, whatever for?" Steinar stated the question sarcastically. He knew he shouldn't have, but the lordling was rather enjoying himself.
Ragnar let out some sort of animalistic growl. Smouldering dark eyes glistened in the torchlight, Steinar watched as they glanced upwards to the lordling and his Captain. "You have your secrets, my lord," he carried on past them, the light dying as he retreated from their location, "allow me the pleasure of mine."
Steinar pulled a face at that. Yet he supposed it was fair. "Best press on, my lord," Alva turned to the darkening, long tunnel ahead. Feeling the rumble of catapults and death, the lordling spun to the way they had come. The dark behind was as confusing as the gloom ahead. Pressing against his side was the weighted ornate sword; reminding the lordling of what a coward he was being. "My lord?" He heard the Captain's voice. All that worry - just like when he, too, had worried over his father. The young warrior remembered, reluctantly, of his father's last moments.
Flame had spread everywhere. His father's gossamer, white wings had turned to ash. The old Elf had been shouting for what seemed like hours. Steinar had been deaf to his father's pleas. The drums of war keeping him in a fixed coma of shock and horror. Never, in all the battles he had fought during this war, had they been so undeniably bad.
"My lord?" Alva asked again. She came back to him. Her pale white hand reaching to the young Elf's shoulder. "Steinar!" She said his name so sharply, her tone was a knife to his daydreaming.
"Sorry, I was just..." He didn't know what he was just doing. Couldn't put a name or a label to it; it just was. Bad enough he had seen his father wounded, trying to protect him, even worse he had seen his father die. Those final words sounded very much like the warning bell. Echoing and shrill in his mind.
Alva smiled. Steinar knew now, why his mother had chosen her so willingly. The Captain had been through a lot. He could see the scars - no matter how deep they were. "I knew what you were doing, my lord. You have no need to explain, Steinar." He nodded at her kindness. At one point in his arrogant and short life; he would have scoffed at it for his pride. A lord should not be pitied, he had always thought. Certainly, he had been wrong. "Let us go forward," Alva went down the tunnel, taking the only light source with her.
Jogging to catch up, the lordling fell into step just behind the Captain. The torch sputtered for a moment - warning them of the oncoming darkness. Luckily, they reached where the three had been heading. Beginning to steepen, the floor opened out into a circular room. Ragnar was leaning against the left side of the wall between two cages.
All the walls were lined with the same sort, made of cheap wood and wire, housing red Phoenixes of every size. The floor was littered with the carcasses of dead animals. A small slit, big enough for one of the magical birds at a time, was seven feet up the wall. The small window was diagonally opposite the entryway. "Took you two long enough," Ragnar grumbled as Steinar finished his inspection of the small room.
"Why is this place underground?" The lordling immediately asked. Back at The Woven Castle, their white doves were kept at the highest point of the trees. Ragnar casted his eyes down. "Captain Ragnar, I'm sure you can be more useful on the wall - rather than merely sulking here." Steinar gave him his best smile; which only made the older male even more withdrawn. "Hm," Steinar turned to Alva.
Excitement was glowing in her eyes, radiating off of her like heat. "It's rather a good idea, if you think about it. Secret tunnels with birds that are difficult to control. Makes sending a message rather more the harder, especially if it were to be used against the inhabitants of the fortress."
"So why are we here?" He asked a question again. Telling that Ragnar was becoming further annoyed, the lordling sort to answer his own question. "A room which is hard to find, with birds that can send a message if we find ourselves in a tight spot. Also; we can kill the birds if the fortress is breached." Steinar looked to Ragnar, a ghost of the smile touching his lips. "But there is something else, isn't there?"
The young Elf was drawing closer to the Captain of the Fireshields. He certainly loved a challenge. "As I said, my lord, you have your secrets - I have mine." Ragnar spoke as if the words were a warning. Something other than Steinar was keeping him here. Something - the lordling rather much would not like to admit - more important than him.
"Stop your questions, my lord," Alva turned to him, a Phoenix in her hands. Yellow parchment was slid into the leather pouch at the creature's foot. The Captain, so gently, walked to the slit in the wall. Removing the blindfold from the bird's eyes, she let it go. "It is only a waste of breath," Alva turned back to the two males as the red winged beast disappeared.
"Besides, they do us no good now..."