“Are you enjoying yourself Alde?” Alexander asked. He thought that Alde was more beautiful than ever. There was an eagerness and sweetness in her face, a face that otherwise had a tendency to look a bit too sharp. Maybe she wasn’t so bad after all. He realized that he hadn’t really given her a fair chance.
“This feast has overtrumped all my expectations. I told your father, his Majesty the King, that I’m very honored by all his efforts for our wedding. Can you believe that we finally will be husband and wife tomorrow? We must travel to visit my father soon after the wedding, don’t you think?”
“I look very much forward to meet King Knut and your brothers.” He didn’t add that after all the most important purpose of their wedding was to tighten the bands between the two kingdoms.
He took her hands in his. They were small and soft with long slender fingers and he realized that he had barely touched Alde at all during the time that they had spent together. They had never been alone of course, but except for courteous and gentle kisses on her hand he had never touched her. He could feel that she smelled like roses when they were standing close to each other.
“I must not keep you all to myself tonight,” Alde said. “There are so many people here who want a word with you and we will have plenty of time to talk after tomorrow”.
He saw her wander off to a group of Ladies who were delighted to have her attention. Alde was the center of the hall and was obviously enjoying herself. Wherever she went eyes were following her and she seemed to charm everyone.
As Alexander followed Alde with his eyes, thinking that he should be proud to have such a wife, a well known feeling overwhelmed him. It was a very strong feeling of someone watching him. But he knew that if he turned around no one would be there because this had happened once or twice a day for some time now. Of course there would be people watching him in this room but not with that intense stare that he felt touching his very brain. Maybe he was turning mad after all.
Before he had regained control over his own mind he almost fell forward as Erik patted him hard on the shoulder.
“Hi, there little prince, you look pale and tense. Are you nervous about tomorrow? Would you mind if I speak with Princess Alde for a while?”
“Of course not,” Alexander replied, still confused by the feeling of being watched and by almost losing his balance.
“She has charmed all the nobility I believe,” Erik continued. “That girl was born to become queen.”
Erik strolled off to speak with Alde and Alde’s giggles were soon mixed with Erik’s loud laughter. Erik was very much like Alde, Alexander thought, he filled a room with his presence. It was good, Alexander thought, that Alde and Erik seemed to get along so well together. Maybe she could help to unite their families.
Alexander said good night. He had already stayed longer than he was expected. After all, tomorrow was his wedding but he knew that he would probably not be able to fall asleep anyway. Alde had already left with her entourage a long time ago and it was obvious that the party was not the same without her presence. She was like a light that the other guests cirkled around, eager to have her attention. He could hear giggles from different corners of the castle mixed with the music coming from the great hall. Some young couples had obviosly been able to sneak away from their guardians he thought with a smile.
Alexander passed Alde’s door in the long corridor as he went to his room. This was the last night that he would not be alone in his bed and he didn’t really know if that was good or bad. Although Alde had been like a light in the center of the party he had not been able to avoid thinking about Aliendre. It felt like he had a hole inside. He opened the door and entered his empty room.
He couldn’t sleep and it wasn’t because he was thinking about the wedding. As soon as he closed his eyes he could see Aliendre’s face and he felt so empty that it hurt. Suddenly he jumped out of his bed. There had been a strange sound in the corridor outside his room. A sound that he couldn’t really identify, some kind of buzzing that he had never heard before.
He opened the door and went out in the corridor just to find a cat with a mouse in its mouth. He breathed out and realized that he must really be tense if he overreacted like this because of the cat.
But as he turned around he froze. In the end of the corridor was a slender figure with a hooded cape. He remembered the intruder that had been killed outside his room many years ago and cursed himself for not bringing the sword. The figure was small and looked like a young boy rather than a man, but it must be a really cunning boy to be able to pass all the guards. This night would of course be one of the best occasions an intruder could wish for, because there were guests everywhere and he suspected that even the guards might have sipped a little too much wine. He looked around to see if he could find something that he could use as a weapon or maybe throw at the intruder to get some time to get his sword.
“Alexander, it’s just me.” The voice was clear and soft like music. It was the voice of a woman and it sounded almost pleading. It could not be possible, indeed he was turning mad. He took step closer and saw two large wide open blue eyes looking pleadingly at him.
“It’s me, Aliendre, don’t you remember me?” She threw off the hooded cape and her long brown hair fell over her shoulders. The years had made her even more beautiful than he could remember.
“How is this possible?” He could hear his voice trembling as he didn’t really trust his eyes and ears. He closed his eyes and opened them again. She was still there.
“I couldn’t forget you Alexander, so I had to come here to see you.” she said quietly.
Still not knowing if this was real or not Alexander asked “How could you pass the guards?” He could hear his voice coming out more sharply than he had intended.
“Oh, I have shielded myself and I teleported here,” she said as if there was nothing more to it. “Are you angry that I came?” Her voice trembled and her eyes were wide.
“Aliendre I can’t believe that it’s really you. I have not thought about anything else but you lately.”
At his words her tense shoulders relaxed and she threw herself in his arms. She felt real enough. The hole in his body was gone and he was complete and happy.
“Aliendre, how could you believe that I wouldn’t remember you? How would it be possible to forget my one and only love?”
Her laughter was like sparkling water.
Reluctantly she backed slightly from his firm grip. “We must hurry, she said. They cannot see me but I don’t doubt that my father is keeping an eye on you.”
Not even her mentioning the powerful Eraldor could diminish the happiness Alexander felt.
“Yes, we must hurry,” he replied and smiled foolishly without knowing exactly what Aliendre had in mind.
22nd Jul 2011 at 4:22 PM
Last edited by The Creeper : 23rd Jul 2011 at 8:36 AM.
^Me too, I love both the story and your game, you have such wonderful clothes and objects! I wish I had a medieval 'hood, but I'm way too lazy to collect so many things. Anyway, can't wait for your next update.
Evil doesn't worry about not being good. - The Warden, Dragon Age Origins
“Here, you need this shield so that my father cannot find you,” Aliendre said as soon as they got into Alexander’s room. She slipped a long chain around his neck. The chain had a pendant with a snake on a gemstone.
“I suppose we’re talking about magic here, because I am very familiar with shields and this doesn’t look like one,” he said.
“This will protect you from magic. My father will probably try to find you with his crystal ball but if you wear this he will not be able to see you because I have put my magic into it. Father will of course notice that his magic will bounce from you and therefore he will understand that I’m with you. Therefore we must hurry.”
She talked very fast and eagerly. Now that she was less tense he could see how tired she looked. There were dark shadows around her eyes.
“I believe that King Eraldor has already been watching me,” he said. “That would explain the uncanny feeling I’ve had several times lately. It’s a very strong feeling of being watched. I felt it this night not long ago. “
Aliendre looked very pleased to hear what he said. “It is good that he watched you so recently”. “That means he will not try again for a while. It is very demanding to use magic against another person’s mind, and especially to find another mind so far away. He will need to rest before he can use it again.
“You look tired Aliendre. I cannot let you travel before you have rested.”
She shook her head. “The reason that I’m tired is that I used magic to get here as fast as possible. I have walked, run but also teleported over large distances. To get into the castle I had to teleport through the thick stone walls and I will not be able to use much more magic for a while. Father might try to find you already tomorrow morning. After all he is very powerful. So you see we have no time to rest. I will rest later. But I cannot teleport both of us so we will have to travel without magic nonetheless.”
“That is how I usually travel so that will be fine. But will we not be seen and people wonder about us?”
“They will see us, we are not invisible,” she laughed as if the thought of being invisible amused her and then she continued, “but unless they are very concentrated and look specifically for us they will not pay any attention thanks to our shields. Their thoughts will bounce away from us.”
For a second Alexander thought that maybe he should be considering that it was his wedding day tomorrow and that escaping with Aliendre was not very responsible. There was also another important detail about elves and humans that Eraldor had told him. But these thoughts just touched his mind very briefly. It seemed so obvious and right that he was meant to escape together with Aliendre. There was really nothing else he could do. Aliendre did not even ask him, she seemed to know exactly what they should do.
They could hardly let go of each other now that they were together a last but Aliendre was nervous and restless. She made him pack the most necessary items and hurried him out through the door.
No one tried to stop them or even seemed to notice them as they went to through the castle, passing the wardrobe and the kitchen on their way out to the courtyard and to the stables. Silently they saddled two horses and put all their packing on a third. They took the horses out of the stable and went to the main gate. Although the guards at the gate looked a little skeptical they did not ask any questions about him leaving the castle in the company on an unknown visitor and a lot of packing in the middle of the night. Alexander could see that Aliendre were moving her lips as she looked down and figured that she might be using some kind of magic to affect the guards' minds in addition to the shield he was wearing. He had no idea where they were going but it didn’t matter as long as he was together with Aliendre.
The sky was clear and the stars bright. He could feel the cool night air against his cheeks as he and Aliendre were galloping silently next to each other, heading for the forest. He had never felt more happy and free.
Roe inspected the piece of flint to figure out how to best hit it to make a flint scrape. She grabbed the hammer tool to hit the core stone and thought about Thorundur. Obviously he had forgotten all about her because he was too occupied with Aliendre. He had not visited Roe since Roe had used the magic potion. She hated all Elves. Roe grabbed the hammerstone and hit it hard against the flint. Satisfied she inspected the result and prepared to grab the hammer stone to hit the flint again when she heard her mother calling her name quietly. She looked around and saw Otter and Wolf hurrying into their hut. They seemed to be alarmed by something. Roe turned her head and gaped.
She was dazzled by the creature that was approaching her. It shone in the sun and she could not feel any scent from it because the wind was blowing from her. Could it be one of the spirits coming to punish her for what she had done to Aliendre? When the figure came into the shadows of the trees it didn’t shine anymore and she could feel the scent of a horse. Otter called her name silently from the hut to make her run away and hide. Roe realized that hiding would be the most sensible thing to do but her curiosity was much greater than her fear. Now that the creature had stopped shining she realized that it was an armored rider that she was looking at. The rider looked exactly like Aliendre had described the Elven warriors in her stories. What could a mighty Elven warrior be doing here? The horse was black like her old friend and looked very much like him. The wind turned and she caught another well known scent, but that scent didn’t make sense at all.
“Roe I have much to tell you,” the rider said with Thorundur’s voice. He took off the helmet and tried to make the horse stop which took him a while. Amazed Roe realized that the horse he was riding was the same horse that she had found in the human realm and that she had given the gift of freedom. How could this be? Thorundur jumped down from the horse that was stepping around so that Thorundur almost lost his balance. He did not smile at her.
“What are you wearing Thorundur, and where did you find, she paused because she had almost said the name that she had called the horse, “where did you find this horse?” she continued.
“Aliendre has run away together with the human prince,” Thorundur said and it was clear that he was upset. “I think I know where she might be and I’m going to take her home,” he continued.
Roe gaped. The potion must have worked after all but Thorundur’s armor and the expression on his face made her fear that something had gone terribly wrong with her plans. She had never seen Thorundur like this before. Although he had been upset and angry before he had never before looked like he did today. Of course the strange outfit made him look different but there was also a grim expression in his face that made him seem like a completely different person. “I don’t like this at all Thorundur,” she said. “If Aliendre ran away she probably wants to be where she is now and why can’t someone else go and take her home if you think that’s a good idea. What are you wearing by the way? It looks very uncomfortable.”
“This was my grandfather’s armor. He died in the war against the Dark elves and Toraldor has kept this armor in his house.” There was pride in Thorundur’s voice. Toraldor and I found this horse running around in the forest and we caught him, although it wasn’t easy. He has a lot of temperament this horse. His name his Night-sky”
Roe snorted. She found the name that they had given the horse ridiculous but she chose to not say anything about it. “Does your brother know that you have taken the armor and the horse and are going to take Aliendre home?”
“Of course not, he would only want me to tell the elves from the court were I think she might be but I am going there myself. Besides I don’t know for sure that they are there.”
“Is that a sword?” she said at pointed at Thorundur’s side. The first time she had heard about swords in Aliendre’s stories it had disturbed her very much. As far as she could understand swords were not useful for hunting but were only meant to hurt other people with. “Would you really be prepared to use a sword against another person?” She couldn’t help the accusing tone in her voice because she had never understood how elves and humans could kill or hurt other people on purpose.
Thorundur snorted. “I think it will be enough that I show the human my sword and tell him to let her go.”
“I think you underestimate humans. It may not be that easy.”
“What would you know about that Roe? After all I have actually met one human and how many humans have you seen?” There was a scornful tone in his voice that he never had used against her before.
She couldn’t really admit that she knew much more about humans and their ferocity than she would have liked. Instead she changed the subject to the horse. “Do you really think that it’s a good idea to ride the horse? It looks like you don’t really get along with each other?”
Thorundur’s eyes were narrow when he looked at her. “The horse is faster than I would be without him. Besides it isn’t that easy to ride a horse. This is a very wild horse and I haven’t much experience of riding but I’m sure I will manage.”
“I thought it was just to sit on their back and let them carry you wherever you wanted to go,” Roe mumbled and patted the horse on the neck. She called him the name that she had used before, a name that was a sound that she had heard horses do when they were friendly. He seemed happy to see her again and pushed his head against her arm.
“No, riding is much more complicated than that,” Thorundur said and for the first time since he came he was laughing. But it wasn’t a very friendly laugh Roe thought. She had to bite her lip to not tell Thorundur that this horse was her friend and that they had travelled together. This was no time to argue with Thorundur about less important matters. She had a feeling that she was on the edge of a disaster.
“Please don’t go Thorundur. The human may also have a sword and you could get hurt or even killed. You don’t have to do this.”
“You don’t understand Roe.” Thorundur’s voice sounded desperate. “If Aliendre gives her heart to a mortal she will die! She will also become mortal. The prince is killing her. You must understand that I have to save her if I can.”
Roe gasped. She hadn’t known this. Thorundur put on his helmet again and with great difficulty he mounted the black stallion who was stepping around. Soon Roe could only see the back of Thorundur as he disappeared into the forest with the armor shining in the sun.
It was not the prince that had killed Aliendre, it was she. She had killed her with the love potion just as surely as if she had poured poison into the tea. Death would not come immediately of course, but Aliendre would age like mortals and like mortals she would not escape the fate that other elves did not have to face. Suddenly Roe realized the total extent of the horrible truth. She could never have Thorundur unless she wanted to kill him and she loved him too much to let him die. It was also obvious that he had never loved her and never would. He was even willing to risk his own life to save Aliendre. Roe’s parents found her sitting on the ground moaning with her face buried in her hands.
Hi! Came over here from PBK to read your story beryllium - I just finished up. Have to say I like it a lot. It's so ambitious too! And very lovely.
Although Thorundur is really PO-ing at the moment! He's so blind to Roe's affection. And won't stop meddling in Aliendre's life, where he has no business. Not to say I don't understand the whole find-her-or-she-will-loose-her-immortality angle, more just his personal involvement. Thank you for your story, though - I look forward to seeing more!
Sweat trickled down Thorundur’s face. Even in the shade of the trees the metal helmet made it feel like his head was boiling. One good thing about the warmth was that at least it seemed to calm the horse down. He hadn’t admitted it to Roe but he was scared every minute that he was on the hot-tempered stallion’s back. Everything was wrong and he missed Roe so much. He didn’t know what he had done wrong but she had been so scornful and angry at him lately.
When he had told Roe how he felt for Aliendre she had make it clear that she didn’t find him worthy of a princess. He had never thought that Roe of all people would make that kind of difference between people. Lately she seemed to despise and dismiss everything that he said. He would show her! Everyone would praise him when he brought Aliendre home and Roe would understand that he was not as worthless as she believed.
In the mirror at home he had seen a mighty elven warrior. He felt embarrassed when he remembered how he had looked forward to the impressed look he had been so sure that Roe would have when she saw him dressed in armor. Roe had only found him ridiculous. Now he felt nothing like the elven warrior that he had seen in the mirror. The old chainmail was warm, heavy and chafed but he figured that the human would give up easily when he faced an elven warrior so he endured the uncomfortable outfit. If the human would be stupid enough to fight him, the armor would probably be useful. Aliendre had once shown him a place that he thought would be ideal if she wanted to keep away together with the prince. He hadn’t really planned what to do if he found her but he figured that the human would give up and that Aliendre would realize the foolishness in running away with a human and come home with him. The king would praise him and everyone would be impressed. He would be a hero and Roe would admire him. Thorundur’s imaginations were interrupted as the black stallion jumped aside when a bird flew from a bush. He almost fell to the ground. Maybe taking the horse hadn’t been a very good idea after all but there was no doubt that he could travel much faster on the back of the horse. Actually he sometimes felt that they travelled a little too fast as the horse didn’t always listen to him when he wanted to slow down the pace. I shouldn’t be far now.
Confused Thorundur looked around and then down on his own chest. He was dressed in armor and was riding a hot tempered stallion. How could this be? He was all alone in the middle of the forest and he couldn’t remember what he was doing here but somehow he knew that he was riding in the wrong direction so he turned around. Maybe Roe could tell him if he went to her. There was something that didn’t feel good when he thought about Roe. Of course, now he remembered. Roe was angry at him but he couldn’t remember why. Or maybe it was he who was angry at Roe. There was someone else he should remember too. Then suddenly it all became clear. He should bring Aliendre home but he had forgotten. He shook his head and smiled. Obviously there was magic working here. Aliendre must have put a spell around her hiding place. He turned back and concentrated hard on the destination. Again he could feel a wave of confusion when he approached the place where he had turned back, but he spurred the horse to make it run forward. For a while he couldn’t remember why he was on the back of a galloping horse but then the trees thinned out and he could see the glade. The fence surrounding a pasture had been mended and there were three horses grassing there. In front of the cabin he could see the human chopping wood. He had been right, they were here.
Suddenly Night-Sky neighed and the horses in the enclosure responded. The prince looked up and the chance to surprise him was lost. The fright in the human’s face made Thorundur feel very content. He tried to make the horse stop but it wasn’t easy because it stepped around and was more interested in the other horses than to listen to Thorundur. This moment wasn’t exactly as he had planned and when he finally reached the ground on unsteady legs Alexander had already put on a chainmail and had a sword in his hand. Stupid horse, Thorundur’s chance to surprise Alexander was gone.
“Stay where you are”, Alexander shouted.
Thorundur stretched his back. He couldn’t see Aliendre. “I’m here to rescue Princess Aliendre. She will come back with me and escape the fate of the mortals” he said doing his best to sound like a mighty elven warrior.
“How could you find this place? It’s shielded.” The prince seemed more worried about the fact that Thorundur had found him than about the sword in Thorundur’s hand.”
“Give up, or you will be sorry,” Thorundur said, making his voice as dark and threatening as he could.
The prince didn’t seem impressed. “It’s Aliendre’s choice to be with me and I will not give her up as long as she wants me. This is ridiculous. Go back.”
Thorundur swallowed. This was not going as he had planned. He had no other choice than to raise his sword to demonstrate that he wasn’t going to give up. The prince didn’t wait for the first strike. Before Thorundur could blink he heard the sound of metal meeting metal as the prince parried his sword with his own. The strength in the blow made Thorundur lose his balance for a short while. He realized that Roe had been right, he had underestimated the human. Every time he moved his sword to strike at the prince, Alexander parried easily. It almost seemed as if he was playing with Thorundur. Not once did he try to strike back. It was like an absurd dance, and Thorundur found that the sword was becoming heavier and heavier while Alexander’s strength didn’t seem to diminish at all.
A sharp cry echoed over sound of metal meeting metal. Thorundur looked up and saw Aliendre’s terrified face. She had raised one of her hands. For an instant he could see her hand being lit up and then there was a sharp pain in his own hand when the light bolt hit him. He dropped the sword and fell backwards.
What are you doing here? How could you find us? Aliendre shrieked. He had never seen the calm princess so upset before.
“I have come to bring you back. The King and Queen are very upset and everyone is looking for you. This is not right Aliendre and you know it. Our kind is not meant to live with the mortals. You will die. The prince is killing you.”
“How dare you believe that you can make choices for me? Do you think Alexander could keep me here against my will? Actually he begged me to leave him when he realized what it will do to me to love him. But this is my choice. I’m happier than I’ve ever been before. Who are you to judge me? You’re only truly happy when you’re with Roe and she’s mortal just like Alexander.” She raised her head high and looked triumphant. “Besides it’s already too late for me.”
Thorundur looked down. Aliendre’s last words were horrifying but she was right, it was none of his business what she did after all. This had been one of his worst ideas ever. He should have listened to Roe. Aliendre was wrong to compare Alexander with Roe though. Roe was not a human and she was his friend, not the woman that he would give his heart to. He knew that elves were not supposed to live with mortals.
“Go away now Thorundur. I do not wish to move from this place so I beg you to not tell anyone where to find me.” She didn’t sound as if she was begging. “If I find out that you have told anyone, you can trust that I will make you regret it.”
“I would not, he said with head down. “I’m sorry Aliendre. It was wrong of me to come here but I would never betray you.”
He picked up the sword and walked slowly to his horse who was standing outside the pasture looking as he was talking with the other horses. Thorundur grabbed the reins and swung himself up in the saddle. Night-Sky took a jump forward when he felt Thorundur’s foot touching his haunch and Thorundur fell headlong to the ground. He tried to get up but found himself stuck to a thick branch that had wedged between the plates of his chest armor. There was no end to his humiliation. He pulled hard to get loose. Finally he managed to get up on the back of Night-Sky and started his ride back home with a hanging head.
It was a somber ride back. Not only was he humiliated but also very sad about Aliendre’s choice. It was unheard of that an elf would chose mortality for the love of a mortal. Everyone knew that elves were not supposed to live with the mortals. Aliendre’s sad fate would no doubt be told in stories thousands of years from now. Life used to be so easy and uncomplicated and now everything was a mess. Everything had been a total disaster. He felt dizzy and weak and his chest hurt where the branch had hit his chainmail. The armor was too warm and heavy. He stopped the horse and jumped down to the soft ground. It felt so good to get rid of the weight of the plated armor but every breath hurt. He pulled the chain mail over his head and felt how his hand got wet from the sweat on his chest. The effort it took to bend down to strike the hand against the grass to get rid of the sweat made him feel even dizzier.
He stretched out his hand and saw that it was soaked in blood. It was wet from blood, not sweat! There was a large red patch on the tunic on his chest. He knew that it was too much blood and then he realized something else. Oh no, grandfather will be angry because I have ruined his silk tunic, he thought. No of course not, how silly he was. Grandfather had been dead since long before Thorundur was born. Then Thorundur realized the logic in his thoughts. Of course he would also be dead soon, and then he would meet his grandfather. He would leave this world and he would never meet Roe again. Would she find his bones eventually or would she always wonder why he never came back to her?
Then everything went black and he didn’t think more.
The even breaths told Roe that her mother and father had been sleeping for hours but every time she closed her eyes to try to sleep troublesome thoughts whirled around in her head. She felt sorry for her parents to have such a terrible daughter. Her father had been right; an elf could of course never love a mortal. She didn’t believe that her father had known that such a love would kill the elf but he had been right none the less. If she had listened to her parents everything would be fine now, but instead she had been selfish and now Aliendre would die because of it. Maybe there was still a chance that Thorundur could save Aliendre and that he and the elven princess could be happy together. There was no point in trying to sleep so she sneaked out of the hut and sat down under the clear sky.
Her fantasies had been so childish and selfish. She had believed that she could somehow just borrow Thorundur while she lived. When she died he would continue his everlasting life with the elves. Now she knew that it wasn’t possible. She tried to imagine what it must be like to be immortal and not have to think about the years that passed. Immortality must be the greatest gift that had ever been given to any living creature in the world and if it had been her gift she couldn’t imagine that she would ever want to give it up.
Roe promised herself that from now on she would be a very good daughter and do everything that her parents told her. She would take Bear as a spouse and live a normal life like she was supposed to. After all, any girl would consider herself very lucky to live with Bear. She had been very ungrateful to not appreciate her parents’ care. Of course she wanted to have a family and she was not getting any younger. If she waited too long Bear might chose another girl and she would probably never find a spouse at all. It was time to grow up.
When she thought about the children that she would have she felt some happiness but she couldn’t conjure a feeling of happiness when she thought about the rest of her future. Obviously there was something very wrong with her. Her parents always patiently corrected her and explained things that they seemed to take for granted. She always did things that worried and surprised them. The life that others of her people lived seemed so suffocating and limited but she would do her best to be like them. After all she was a child of the forest and she should be grateful for everything that the forest gave to her people. She would have to give up being Thorundur’s friend although it was almost unbearable to imagine a life without him. It would be even harder to try to live like the Forest people as Bear’s wife if she would continue to meet the person that understood her better than anyone, the person that made her heart beat faster and the colors become brighter.
“Roe, why are you sitting here? The elf needs you. You must go and find him.”
Roe flinched. The voice sounded distant and familiar. She looked up. In front of her was The Mother!
Horrified Roe fell to the ground. “I’m so sorry, I didn’t know. I never wanted Aliendre to die. Please forgive me.”
“ Roe, I am not angry at you. How could I be when I love you so much? You must find the elf before it is too late.” The Mother’s voice was gentle.
“Too late for what? He doesn’t want me, he hates me and I don’t blame him because I’m a terrible person. But I will try very hard to improve. Please forgive me. I will honor my father and my mother and I will always listen to them from now on.”
The Mother put a finger over her lips and smiled a gentle smile. “Hush Roe, where is my brave girl tonight? This is not like her. The elf does not hate you and he needs you more than ever. I know you can find him if you try but I’m afraid that it might be too late. Remember that my love will always be with you no matter what happens.” The Mother started to walk away from Roe and soon she was absorbed into the night like she never had been there, just like the last time Roe had met her.
Did Thorundur really need her? Then he must be in trouble. Roe felt the panic rising in her. Was it not enough that she would be the cause of Aliendre’s death? Had something bad happened to Thorundur too? She would do her best to find him and save him if he needed to be saved. Then she would not cause any more troubles. She would move to Bear and be a good spouse and raise children of the Forest people and she would never see Thorundur again. It couldn’t be too late, it just couldn’t. She looked up at the sky. It was clear enough so the moonlight should be sufficient to track Thorundur.
She strapped a hunting knife around her thigh, rolled some things that might prove to be useful in a skin, and went out into the night.
The atmosphere was tense like a high-strung bowstring. Eskil knew that it would not take much for this bowstring to be fired. It was a good thing that courtesy demanded that weapons should be left outside a hall. Although Eskil’s confidence in his big brother Erik was unshakable he couldn’t help that his throat felt dry when he looked at the crowd that was gathered in his father’s great hall. Everything was at stake now and it all depended on if Erik could convince this crowd. There were families whose loyalty could be counted on, others that shouldn’t be too hard to convince but he could also see faces of men who made him feel uneasy.
Birger raised his hand. “I am glad to see so many of you gathered here today. It is my painful duty to confirm the rumors that most likely have reached you. Not only is it true that Prince Alexander has abandoned his bride and the throne but it is also true that the King, my dear brother, is seriously ill and bound to his bed. Although this is very sad we must plan for the future of our kingdom.”
The brawl that followed made it impossible to hear anything more.
Scattered words that Eskil could pick up confirmed that there were those who believed that the rumors about his family’s involvement in Alexander’s disappearance were true. He thought he could also hear someone whisper the word “poisoned” about the King. Deep down not even Eskil was certain that the rumors were not completely false. Erik looked relaxed and self confident as if he did not realize that his future might be at stake. It was only the firm muscles on Erik’s cheeks that told Eskil that Erik probably was just as tense as he himself felt. Erik’s self confidence was just an act.
Their father, Birger, looked at Erik and nodded. Erik raised his hand and the room silenced enough for him to make himself heard. “I think that now is the time for everyone to think about their own future. King Knut was not happy about how his daughter was treated by Alexander and would not support those loyal to Magnus. My uncle Karl has sworn his loyalty to my father and me. Thus we stand strong and would reward those who are willing to give us support.”
A deep and strong voice was heard from the back of the hall. “This is outrageous, the king is still alive and we don’t know what has happened to Alexander. Is there anyone else than me in this hall who would like to know what happened to the Prince? Is it not strange that first Alexander disappears and then Erik is going to marry his bride?” It was Torstein who had raised his voice. Torstein was a big experienced warrior, a man that people tended to listen to.
The murmur in the hall confirmed that Torstein was not the only one who would like an answer. The fact that Erik was going to marry Princess Alde was also news for many of them.
Erik smiled, but this time his smile did not look relaxed. It looked like a wolf’s smile and his eyes were narrow. “Torstein, we all know what happened. Alexander got cold feet and ran away from his wedding. The shock was too much for the poor old King. Even if Alexander would come back, which I find most unlikely, do you really think that he would be a suitable king after this?”
“Alexander is not known to be a coward. I find it highly unlikely that a Prince who is known for his bravery in the jousting tournaments would be afraid to face his bride. Maybe you think it’s unlikely that he will return because you know more than us about his disappearance.”
Erik’s cold blue eyes were fixed on the man who had spoken. “Torstein, I know the Prince well enough to know that he’s a weak coward who puts himself before his duties. I am happy though that you spoke your mind so freely because I will not forget your words.”
Eskil felt how the blood left his face. Erik was carried away and had taken everything much too far. It was too early for this, there were still people who hoped and believed that the King would recover and that Alexander would return.
Torstein did not turn his eyes away from Erik’s gaze. There was a murmur in the crowd when finally someone spoke and Erik could find an excuse to turn his eyes from Torstein to the young man who had raised his voice.
“I think that you have spoken well Erik. We do need to plan the future for this kingdom and you will have my loyalty.” It was Erik’s and Eskil’s cousin, Karl’s son, who had spoken.
The majority raised their voices to let it be known that they agreed. But there were also some that were silent with grim faces.
Torstein’s strong and deep voice was once again heard. “This will mean war and you know it. The farmers will not like your ideas about how this country should be ruled. They have always supported Magnus and if there is going to be a new king they would like to have a word about it too. They have always kept their weapons sharp. No one can deny that the kingdom has prospered under Magnus’ reign or that the King’s strategies have given his people peace and wealth.”
Erik did not even try to hide his despise. “Troublemaking farmers are the result of Magnus’ politics. Maybe they have grown too fat and wealthy under Magnus’ reign. If war is ahead of us, so be it. Our gods reward brave warriors who die an honorable death on the battle field. Only a coward fears war. After all, that is what all Jarls have been trained for since we started to walk. If a farmer believes that he can go into battle against us let the fool try. Let the gods send ravens to feast on those who are against us! Glory awaits those who are brave.”
Assenting ovations was heard all around in the hall but Torstein was not impressed. “Maybe the farmers will not be alone, and don’t forget that they by far outnumber the Jarls. There are those of us who have sworn fealty to Magnus and who believe that such a promise is sacred. Don’t fool yourself and believe that your keep and the stone walls that you are building will keep you safe. I value my honor more than my life. The gods know the hearts of men and reward those who are worthy.” With these words Torstein turned his back to Erik and walked out of the hall. A small group followed him.
The faces of the men leaving the hall were unmoved and hard as stone when Erik laughed and shouted after them “Look at those cowards fearing war against farmers!” Roaring laughter echoed in the hall. It seemed as if Erik had won this battle but he had also made enemies today.
Eskil didn’t like to think of himself as a coward but an honorable death on the battlefield was not something that he longed for.
Thorundur was thirstier than he had ever been before and his chest hurt. That was strange! He would have thought that he wouldn’t feel pain anymore. It was a huge effort to open the eyes but when they finally were open he found that it had been worth the effort.
He was looking into the depth of Roe’s yellow eyes. Was she too dead? He felt happy that she was here too but he didn’t know if it was right to be happy when someone had died. But there was something that was wrong. Roe was mortal so she shouldn’t be here if he was dead. Obviously he must still be alive. That would explain the pain and the thirst that he felt. His head was resting in Roe’s lap. Her skin was warm and suddenly everything felt right. He studied the pattern that surrounded her eyes and the red stone on her forehead. He knew her so well that he would have been able to see every detail of her face even with his eyes closed. She was beautiful beyond comparison. Her smiled seemed so sad. He tried to tell her to not be sad but no sound would leave his lips.
“Don’t worry, just rest,” she said and stroke the hair from his forehead. It felt soothing and good. He tried to smile but didn’t know if he succeeded. She stopped stroking his hair and he tried to tell her to continue but still no sound would leave his lips. Roe lifted his head carefully and put a bowl with water to his lips.
“I thought I was dead,” he said and finally he managed to get the sound to leave his lips.
“You were not far from it when I found you,” she replied. She stroke his forehead tenderly and looked at him with a sad smile. “Don’t talk more now. You need to rest.”
But he didn’t want to be quiet. “How could you find me?” he said.
She smiled and he could see a hint of the glimpse in her eyes that she always had when she teased him. “That was easy enough. The track that you left would have been easy for a baby to follow. Don’t you know that you should never follow your own track when you go back? For once I’m glad that you did though, because it saved me a lot of time. ”
“I’m so glad that you found me. It was stupid of me to go after the human with a sword”.
Roe’s face hardened “I hate that human for hurting you.”
The words made him feel warm, but after all it wasn’t the human who had hurt him. He had been a total failure and even managed to get seriously injured without actually being hit by a weapon at all. What a lousy warrior he would be have been if he’d been alive during the time of the war. He considered the possibility to let Roe believe that he was a brave warrior who had been hurt in fight. But no, this was Roe, his best friend. There shouldn’t be any secrets between them. He wanted her to know everything about him. Embarrassed he told her how he had fallen off the horse and that the branch must have penetrated the old and rusty chainmail.
She stroke his forehead again and looked down into his eyes. “I’m glad that I found you in time. If you had died I would never have been happy again.”
Carefully Roe put his head down from her lap. He realized that he was lying on a bed of leaves that Roe had made over a skin that she had spread on the ground. Obviously she had also removed his tunic and put some green leaves under a bandage on his chest while he was unconscious. Instead of the silk tunic he was wearing a leather loin cloth like the Forest people.
Roe hesitated before she started to talk, “I have to get us some food because we have to stay here for a while until you get your strength back. I will be back soon. Don’t you dare die on me while I’m away!” She started to walk away but then she stopped, turned her head and looked at him. “Stupid elf,” she said and smiled tenderly.
He looked at her as she walked away. She moved gracefully and the slender muscles were tight under her dark skin. He had never seen anyone who could move like Roe.
Thorundur smiled and closed his eyes. Everything was fine now.
Thorundur opened his eyes and looked around. He couldn't see Roe anywere. The panic started to rise within him. Maybe he had only dreamt that she had found him? But someone had put a loin cloth on him instead of the silk tunic. There were some green leaves under a bandage that covered his wound. It had to be Roe who had looked after him. With a great effort that made him realize how week he was he sat up. He looked around and realized that Roe had made a camp of this place. There were skins drying and baskets with food that she had collected. She had obviously been very idle and obviously he must have been here for a while. Why wasn’t she here? He realized that he was being irrational. She had told him that she needed to get some food for them. But the anxiety wouldn’t completely leave him. What if she wouldn’t come back? A wave of pain overwhelmed him when he tried to move to look around. Then he saw her!
She was sitting on the back of the black horse without any reins or saddle. Roe and the horse moved in perfect harmony as if they were the one and same creature. She was magnificent. Swiftly she jumped to the ground but when she saw him she looked alarmed.
“I told you to rest, you’re not strong enough to sit up yet,” she yelled at him. She rushed to him and looked at the bandage. Obviously she was pleased with what she saw because she relaxed and sat down next to him.
You have lost a lot of blood and the wound is not healed yet so you need to be very careful so it doesn’t start to bleed again. Please lie down and rest while I make you something to eat.” Thorundur didn’t protest. It was true that he was very week and the pain was really bad.
Roe must have seen the tension of the muscles in his face because she said, “I wish I could take the pain away. But I’m afraid that medicine that kills pain may be dangerous before your wound is more healed. I cannot risk that you would lose more blood.”
“I can stand the pain if you’re here to keep me company,” he answered. He could see that she smiled before she turned her head away. It felt so good bee friends with Roe again. They talked continuously with each other about numerous little things. She told him how she loved to ride on the back of the horse and how she had caught a rabbit with her sling while she had left him to get food. “If I had been as skilled as you with the bow I would have got us a deer,” she said. It was silly, but her acknowledgement of his skill with the bow made his chest burst with happiness.
She put his head in her lap and fed him a rich soup that she said would be good for his blood. “You might be well enough to be allowed to get up tomorrow considering how quick elves heal,” she said. “I doubt that any other creature would have survived the blood loss that you suffered but you are already surprisingly brisk.”
She slept close to him with her arm over his body to keep him warm. Not that he really needed any more warmth. The summer night was warm enough and he had thrown of the skin blanket that Roe had put over him. He knew that it would be natural for the Forest people to share their warmth with each other but he was an elf and not really used to such closeness. It felt good but this was dangerous. No matter how close friends they were he had subconsciously always kept their friendship to a certain limit. But he was wounded and her closeness felt so good. He moved even closer to her. After all he had almost died and returned to life thanks to Roe. Tomorrow he would put up the limit between them again. He put his hand over hers and felt the tight muscles under the warm and soft skin of her arm under his own arm. He studied the contrast between his pale skin and her dark in the week moonlight. He didn’t need to see her arm to know that it was completely smooth without a hair while his own arm was covered with fine almost white hairs. Her breaths were deep and even and he could feel her chest moving and her warm breath against his neck with every breath that she took. She was soundly asleep but he didn’t believe that he would be able to sleep much this night. Tomorrow is another day he thought as he squeezed her hand gently.
Roe had been right, Thorundur’s wound looked better next day and she allowed him to sit up and even walk carefully supported by her.
“I went home when I left you sleeping yesterday to tell my parents not to worry. They are not very happy with me but I will make it up to them,” she told him. “It’s amazing how fast the horse can travel.”
“I’m sorry to keep you away from your family Roe,” Thorundur said. “You’ve been so kind to me and I was so terrible to you before I left to go looking for Aliendre.”
“No, it is I who was terrible,” she said and looked down. “I’m so sorry that Aliendre chose the human. You must be so very sad.”
Thorundur chook his head, “No, I was stupid and confused. When I travelled together with Aliendre I realized how different we are. It didn’t take me long to realize that her company bored me. She’s wonderful and beautiful but I mistook admiration for love. Obviously I will still have to wait a very long time to find the love of my life.”
“But I thought that you risked your life to rescue her because you loved her so much.”
“No, that was not the reason. I like her very much and don’t want her to die of course. Don’t laugh at me Roe, but the real reason was that I thought that if I could bring her back home I would be a hero. It sounds really stupid now, I know. She has made her choice and there’s nothing anyone can do about that. But now that she has left, you and I will have much more time together. Think about all the good hunts we will have this autumn.”
Roe didn’t look as happy as he had expected. She looked down and swallowed and when she looked up her face made his throat thighten, and then she said the words that he had always known would come one day.
“I will not be able to see you anymore after this summer,” she said.”I’m going to move to Bear to become his spouse.”
Thorundur’s reaction took him by surprise. Of course he had always known that Roe would take a husband of her own people some day, but somehow it had always been something in a distant future. Now it was reality, Roe would not share his life anymore. It couldn’t be possible. He couldn’t stand the thought of Bear being more important in her life than him.
“But you don’t love him, you said so yourself. How can you take a husband that you don’t love? You said that this wouldn’t happen until next Forest people meeting.”
“I’m not an elf like you Thorundur. Forest people don’t think about love like you do. Bear will be a very good husband and we will share a good life together. It’s time for me to grow up.”
“I don’t believe that you don’t care about love. Everyone does. You’re not that different from me Roe. Do you truly believe that you will be happy with Bear?”
She looked like she was going to yell back at him, but then her face smoothened and she told him calmly; “I will miss you very much Thorundur and I will always remember you, but when you have healed enough to leave this place we must say goodbye forever. Besides you’re wrong, you and I are very different.”
This was even worse than he had expected.
“Roe, how am I supposed to be happy if we cannot be friends?” He didn’t try to hide the despair in his voice.
Her face was filled with sorrow when she answered. “You know that it will happen anyway. You’re immortal and I’m not. I will age and die and you will live forever and forget me.”
“Never,” he protested violently. “I would never forget you. But you’re just going to throw me away and replace me with someone better than me.”
She flinched when she heard the anger and accusation in his voice but her own reply was calm. “I’m of the Forest people and have to live with my own kind. Time is hunting me like you cannot not imagine. You have a great gift Thorundur but that gift is not mine. You cannot expect me to give up the chance to have a family just because time lasts forever for you.” She rose and walked away to prepare some food, but he suspected that it was just an excuse to leave him.
Of course everything Roe had said was true. He had no reason to be angry at her. But what would he do without her? They belonged together. It was impossible to deny any longer what he had always known deep down. He loved her more than his own life and a life without Roe was impossible to imagine. All his happiest memories involved her. One thing he knew, he would not let her know exactly how quick elves healed. He needed more time.
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