Triumvir: Chapter Twenty-Five

Fiction By Clare Marie // 6/12/2010

 

            The company now had only a few miles to go until they reached the elven fortress. It was night, and the fortress could only be descried as a cluster of soft golden lights. Sterly’ya was the name of the place, City of Stars. The fortress seemed to stretch out sideways for a long distance, but it rose no higher than the trees about it. 
            At last they halted and dismounted. Now that they were so close, the trees seemed to shoot upwards to impossible heights. The twins stood at their roots and strained their necks back.
            Deyn appeared at their sides. “Come my lord, my lady. The Emperor and Empress await thee.” Eltar nodded wearily and turned from the trees. Elinor stumbled behind, stifling a yawn.
            “Goodness knows, I’m excited,” said Elinor, “but I hope they won’t keep us long. Bed is the only place I want to be right now. Where’s Raam?”
            “Horses,” Eltar answered, shaking himself and looking about with interest. They passed through the gates and entered, following Deyn closely. About and behind strode the rest of their company, eyes sparkling brightly and voices conversing animatedly. Late hours didn’t seem to bother them a bit.
            Lamps, lamps, and more lamps lit their way, gradually increasing in number and variety as they drew closer to the heart of the city. It was practically as bright as day. Elinor growled something about sleep and hoped she would actually get some. Nevertheless, the building surrounding them, and its inhabitants, fascinated her. Eltar was obliged to grab onto her arm so she wouldn’t wander.
            “I thought you were sleepy?" he commented dryly, when she stopped for the fourth time and he had to drag her along.
            “Sleepy? Who said anything about sleepy? I feel like I did that one time I broke into the sugar jar.” She skipped and laughed.
            “Hyper, that’s what you are,” moaned Eltar. “Sleep? I hope they put us in separate rooms, because that’s just what I won’t get tonight.” But even as he said this, Eltar felt it too: a queer, bubbling little feeling that effervesced out of nowhere. He thought of waterfalls and dryad-dances and jugglers. 
            Perhaps it was the air of the place. The deep joy that elves carry in their hearts spills out into their dwelling and affects any who enter it, especially those who are not of the wonder-folk. Elves have a name for it, but the common name among the different races of peoples was elvenbreath. (A rare and particularly lovely golden flower is called thus, and is used by wizards in love potions.)
            The company saw the effect elvenbreath was having on their human companions, and winked at one another, laughing. They delighted in seeing the twins go from sleepy and grumpy to wakeful and buoyant. Conversing rapidly together, the time flew by. It was with surprise that the twins found themselves saying goodbye to their companions and, led by Deyn, ascending a winding stair made of silver and lined with lights encased in diamonds. As they neared the top – although the twins couldn’t tell just when that was – a clear voice rose in song, singing the ancient Elvish. Eltar wanted to ask Deyn what it meant, but decided to wait and ask Raam later. Raam was much more affable.
            The top came into view, an open doorway into a room that glowed softly, like starlight. There was a window on their right, just before they stepped into the doorway; looking out, Eltar had a glimpse of the whole of Tothy’ta, the Elven kingdom, and the dark hills beyond, all lit by a waxing moon. It was breathtaking.
            Deyn strode without hesitating into the room, and across the floor. The twins followed. At the other end of the hall were two thrones, wrought out of fine silver. They were set on a low dais which was blanketed in rich white cloth. A tapestry of white with curiously embroidered silver writing hung on the wall above the thrones. In the thrones sat two elves. The throne to the twins’ left held the Emperor. He was tall and noble, with dark hair and grey eyes. To the right sat the Empress. Her hair was golden, her eyes were deep brown, her skin was fair, and her face was lovely. She positively glowed.
            The Emperor and Empress rose to greet their guests, and they descended the dais. The Empress held a gentle hand to her stomach as she did so. 
            Deyn knelt, and the twins followed suit. 
            “Rise,” said the Emperor, his deep voice strong and wise.
            They did so, and Deyn bowed.
            “My Lord and Lady,” he said, “may I present thee the Lord Eltar and his sister, the Lady Elinor.” To the twins, he said, “The Emperor Armir and the Empress Arlawyn.”
            Armir spoke when his counselor had finished. “I bid thee welcome to Tothy’ta, our realm,” he said, “and to Sterly’ya, City of Stars. We have not been honored with the presence of one of thy people for a long time. This is a great moment for both our races.
            “Thou art welcome to stay for as long as needed, according to the requirements of thy journey. We are well aware of the seriousness of thy journey, and also of our common friendship with King Bettle and his people. For both these reasons, we offer thee our hospitality.” 
            Eltar and Elinor stood quietly, awed in the presence of these elves. It had suddenly hit them that they were being presented to the greatest and most important elves in that land; and they were a little overwhelmed. Eltar was obliged to recollect himself before speaking.
            “High Lord Armir,” he said, trying not to stammer, “my sister and I can’t express our thanks enough. If there is any way we can thank you, while we are here, we will do it.”
            Elinor was so proud of him.  She knew she wouldn’t have been able to say anything if she was in Eltar’s shoes. It was a rare occurrence when Elinor didn’t know what to say. But oh yes, she was proud of her brother.
            “There is one way thou canst show thy thanks,” said the Lady Arlawyn. Her voice was clear and musical, soothing to the heart and the ear. “Thou art closer to Zolph’yana, the kingdom of Lord Glayde, than thou hast ever been. Thy quest is nearing its end. Thou wish to cast him down from his unlawful throne, do thou not? Then do this for us, and for all thy friends left behind. Then thou shalt show thy thanks.”
            “There is one thing, my lord and lady,” said Eltar, “that I wish to tell you. This quest of ours goes deeper than it seems. The Lord Glayde – he is of our kin. He is our uncle.”
            Deyn started and seemed about to speak, but checked himself. He seemed to have wanted to relay the news himself, for of course the Emperor and Empress were ignorant of this fact. 
            Elinor steeled herself for the Emperor’s wrath, remembering Deyn’s anger and panic when he had learned of their connection to Glayde. Eltar waited quietly, hoping he hadn’t just ruined their stay.
            But Armir showed little surprise, and no anger. Arlawyn, even more composed, merely nodded and watched them with her clear eyes.
            Armir rose. “Come, sit down with us for awhile,” he said simply, indicating a table and chairs set off to one side of the room. Taking Arlawyn’s arm, they led the twins to the table. Armir ordered Deyn to see that their guests’ rooms were ready.
            “We shalt be done shortly,” he said pointedly, as Deyn seemed to hesitate. The counselor bowed and left the room.
            “I sensed,” said Armir, after they were all seated around the table, “something strange about this journey of thine. I knew things were not as they seemed. But I knew that whatever it was, it would mean thou wouldst be in need of our help. I trusted Bettle in his judgment of thee; and my trust was not misplaced.
            “So thou art the children of Lord Gladio? Indeed, I can see the resemblance.”
            Eltar and Elinor looked quickly at each other, then at Armir.
            “You knew our father?” cried Elinor, finding her voice at last.
            Armir nodded. “Verily, I knew him quite well. He was a noble and great man, the best I have ever known.”
            “Oh please, describe him more!” begged Elinor. She stopped and blushed, thinking herself too forward.
            Armir smiled. “I shalt, if thou wish, little maid.” He watched her downcast eyes. “Do not be ashamed,” he said gently. “ ‘Tis not disgraceful to love thy sire.” 
            Elinor, encouraged, braved a look upwards. She smiled as her eyes met his gentle ones.
            Eltar, now just as eager as Elinor, leaned forward. “Can you tell us of when you first met our father?”
            The Elf Lord laughed and glanced at Arlawyn.  “Where shalt I start, my love?” he said to his wife. “His description or our first meeting?”
            Arlawyn’s eyes danced with mirth. “Begin with the meeting, and describe him as thou first saw him.”
            “Hmm,” mused Armir, narrowing his eyes. “ ‘Twas at the naming of a neighboring king’s son – ” he paused, recollecting. “Fie, I cannot remember the king's name!”
            “Dost thou at least remember the son’s name?” interrupted Arlawyn, amused. “‘Twas, after all, his naming thou attended. If thou cannot remember that, thou art forgetful indeed!”
            Armir glared at her playfully. “Interrupt not a master storyteller, impudent maid,” he said, his eyes twinkling. “I do remember the crowds,” he continued. “Many, many folk of all races were present. ‘Twas a great gathering. I was not officially emperor then; my father was. I was made emperor only somewhat recently, though I had been acting emperor along with my father for many years before that. 
            “I remember sitting quietly at table, enjoying my repast, when I saw a commotion in the crowd near me. Watching closely, I saw three young men burst out of the crowd, laughing boisterously and pushing each other. All three wert near twenty years of age, perhaps; two seemed a bit younger, one older. This one was obviously the leader. He had sparkling dark eyes, dark hair that he would impatiently toss out of his eyes, a roguish smile, and well-trained, athletic limbs. The young ladies all thought him comely, it seemed; they gave him many smiles and fluttered their lashes. At least, so it was at first. But once they realized what a troublemaker he was, they ceased their attentions. For he wouldst dart about the room, pulling the jewelry of the ladies, startling them by jumping out from under tables, snitching food and drink, and bumping purposefully into various persons – especially those with heavily-laden trays of food. I was watching it all, of course; and at length, I decided he had gone too far.
            “So, I rose from my seat, and approached this young rascal. He was lounging in a corner, sipping a bit of drink and laughing heartily with his friends. I stepped up to him and addressed him thus:
            “ ‘Sir, what is the meaning of thy conduct?’ He seemed puzzled as to what I meant.
            “ ‘Why,’ I said, ‘I mean thy troublemaking: frightening ladies and upsetting food trays.’
            “ ‘Oh, that,’ he said carelessly, ‘tis only a fun way to pass time. Why do you ask, sir? Do you want to join us?’
            “I laughed then and declared, ‘Nay, not I. But I believe thou art asking for a beating, man.’
            “He grew grave and set his mug down carefully. ‘And who are you to give it to me?’ asked he.
            “ ‘I shalt not tell thee until I know who ‘tis I am addressing,’ I answered.
            “ ‘I am Gladio of Zolph’yana,’ he stated, eyes blazing. ‘I serve the king of Zolph’yana like my father before me. Now I ask you again, elf; who are you?’
            “ ‘None other than Armir, son of Terlus, Emperor of Tothy’ta.’
            “ ‘Emperor’s son or not, you have insulted me, sir; I hereby challenge you to a combat of arms outside.’
            “So outside the hall we went, securing wooden practice swords for ourselves as we did so. Once the word was passed that the Emperor’s son and the King’s guardian wert going to bout, a crowd of mostly the young began to form. We heeded them not, intent only on each other. Gladio’s face wast grim, his jaw set. I, on the other hand, felt more composed. 
            “We reached a flat swatch of grass, and set the boundaries. Then, with the people watching, we made ready. We stood across from each other, in two different corners of the fighting ring. The signal we had decided on wast Gladio’s knife; he would toss it up, and when it landed we wouldst begin fighting.
            “He pulled out the knife and held it firmly. ‘Are you ready?’ he called.
            “ ‘Aye, if thou art,’ I replied.
            “He paused and then threw the knife high, away from the crowd. We tensed. The crowd wast hushed. Then we heard it: the soft plop of the knife on the grass. And immediately we fell to. Back and forth we slashed and parried, and our hands hurt with the force of our blows. Such great noises our wooden swords made as we slapped them against each other, again and again. 
            “I had prided myself a great swordsman; but this Gladio was matching my blows stroke for stroke. I wast obliged to keep on my toes, as they say, and called upon all my skills in swordsmanship.         
            “After one particularly fierce blow, Gladio’s sword cracked and he called a halt.
            “ ‘Thy sword defies thee,’ I remarked, glad for the chance to revive myself. ‘Now what shalt we do?’
            "Gladio looked up, and to my surprise, he grinned. ‘Do?’ he shouted. ‘Why, we shall get real swords! None of this firewood for me!’ And he broke what was left of his sword over his knee. I hesitated at first, but when he pressed me, I agreed. I wast, in truth, glad to set aside the play sword for the real one.
            “So back in the ring we found ourselves, armed this time with our respective weapons. Gladio had a fine sword, all wrought of beautiful black and silver, and of great length. He, however, seemed to admire my sabre greatly.
            “ ‘Perhaps, when we are done here, you can teach me how to use such an elegant weapon,’ quoth he as he put his sword at the ready.
            “ ‘Perhaps,’ I answered. ‘That can be thy reward, if thou shouldst win.’
            "A voice from the crowd asked if we had better not wear armor also.
            "Gladio glanced at me, and I shrugged. ‘Why doth the two best swordsmen in the land need armor?’ I cried. ‘Our goal is to disarm each other, not wound.’
            “He laughed and gave my shoulder a playful blow. ‘Hear him! I do believe the elf is right. Come, my lord, let us be about our business.’
            “With that, we again fell to, only this time more vigorously. The noise wast even louder, and now possessed of a clear ringing sound. We twirled about each other, attempting more intricate moves as we warmed to the battle. Twice I attempted to disarm him: the first time, he had twirled in a circle and attempted to blatantly knock my sabre out of my hand; I dropped quickly and rolled against his legs, knocking him down. I tried to hit his sword as he fell, but he swiftly performed a roll and landed smoothly on his feet, ready. I could not but admire his quickness and lightness of feet. The second time, I lunged at his sword hilt, swinging my sabre; he dodged, and I half-fell with the force of my thrust. He swung the flat of his blade towards my back, for we had also been knocking each other about with the flats of our swords. I had no time to rise and turn about, so I whipped my sabre behind me and blocked his blade. I pulled my sabre up and back down, so my weapon was atop his, turning my body as I did so. Then, with a swift flick of my wrist, I twisted my sabre around his sword and yanked it out of his hand. It flipped once through the air and landed heavily on the grass.
            “He stared in slight disbelief at his hand, his sword; then he dropped to his knees.
            “ ‘I admit myself fairly defeated,’ he said, according to the rite of combat. ‘And I submit myself and my sword to the victor.’
            “I was surprised too; I had not expected that move to work, and I knew he must have been exhausted. I walked away and picked up his sword, holding it out to him hilt-first.
            “ ‘Nay, I care not for this,’ I said, feigning a scoff. ‘Why would I want it when I have mine own pretty weapon?’ I held up my sabre.
            “He quietly took his sword and glanced up at me. ‘Aye,’ quoth he, ‘and now I won’t ever learn how to use a sabre. I wish I had won.’
            “I laughed and raised him to his feet. ‘Fie!’ I said. ‘I shalt teach thee anyhow, victor or no. Besides, I should not have won; thou wert tired.’
            “He looked a little indignant. ‘What, and you weren’t?’
            “ ‘Nay, elves do not tire,’ I said, though I wast breathing heavily. I winked.
            “Suddenly he threw his arms about me and laughed. ‘You jokester!’ he cried. ‘Thank you. I am indebted to you for offering to teach me the sabre.’
            “After which, we went back in the hall, and were inseparable from that day onward.”
 
            Elinor sighed. “So that was the moment you and father became friends?”
            “Nay, we became friends the moment I broke his wooden sword,” he laughed. “That was when we both realized how evenly matched we were. And here both of us thought each could out-fight the other.”
            Eltar was silent. He had loved the story Armir told, for it had brought his father so close. He couldn’t speak for the moment; his thoughts were too much for him.
            Arlawyn turned her dark eyes on him. “Thou art overwhelmed, young Eltar,” she said quietly. “ ‘Tis the most thou hast ever heard of thy father. A powerful moment, is it not?”
            Eltar looked at her. “I would give anything to have known him,” he said.
            At that moment, Deyn entered the hall, and coming up to the table, he bowed.
            “Thy rooms are ready, Lord Eltar and Lady Elinor,” he said. 
            They all rose, and the Emperor and Empress bade them good night.
            “We shalt talk more on the morrow,” said the Emperor.
            “Thank you sir,” said Eltar earnestly. Elinor nodded.
            “Thou art the children of Lord Gladio,” said Armir solemnly. “For his sake, I would do much more than this.”
            Armir nodded to Deyn, dismissing them. The counselor bowed, first to Armir, next to Arlawyn; and led the twins from the room.

 

 

 

 

Comments

I absolutely LOVE how Eltar

I absolutely LOVE how Eltar and Elinor's father met Armir! That's such a cool story! :0) Great chapter!!

Heather | Sat, 06/12/2010

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And now our hearts will beat in time/You say I am yours and you are mine...
Michelle Tumes, "There Goes My Love"

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