A happy ending for my fantasy novel
|The sharp clink of redcap pickaxes beating a way through the rubble became no more concerning than a constant drip of water to Harfan’s drowsy mind. They must be close now. He tried to keep track of what the redcaps did but, becoming too weak to keep himself fully conscious, the sounds blurred into one another. |
Suddenly they broke through. The hoards of redcaps pouring towards him made him burst into consciousness. He groped for his war hammer, but the knife in his shoulder held him trapped. The goblins spotted him and Boroden and pelted towards them with bloodthirsty cries.
Light flooded in — beautiful, snowy light that spread in rays like the pleats of a maiden’s dress. It fell from the door at the head of the vast stairs that led down to the vaults. The redcaps stood dazzled. Harfan blinked, confused.
‘Mam,’ Harfan gasped through dry lips as his mother, Isadora, appeared at the head of the stairs astride her snow leopard.
Isadora gave a rallying wave to someone behind her. ‘All right, ladies, lets show them some female might. We’re the ones to get things done, as always.’
Harfan thought he must be hallucinating, for Myfanwy swooped down the stairs whirling her war hammer with a fierce battle cry.
Keahborah flew above the redcaps in a deadly dance, slaying with graceful swiftness all who stood within reach of her fire. Spotting Harfan, Keahborah flew to his side. Her eyes glistened with tears, though she grinned from ear to ear.
She set something down on the floor, rolling it towards him with the tip of her wing. ‘For you.’
Harfan caressed the dragon’s egg, nearly the size of him and perfectly smooth and warm. Its mottled surface shone with all the colours of the rainbow, or perhaps that was simply how the light caught it, for one end of a rainbow had silently fleeted into the cavern. Harfan wept too.
Isadora embraced her son. ‘I’ve got someone else for you to meet.’ She stood aside and behind her appeared Myfanwy. Prince and princess exclaimed in wonderment and delight to behold each other again.
‘I thought you’d been killed,’ Harfan said, smothered in Myfanwy’s thick curls as she grabbed him into a hug.
Myfanwy clasped his free hand. ‘We met a brownie chieftain, Galman, come to Glimfyndor’s house. He said you’d given him orders to lead us to Lutraudros, but he called up the redcaps. Luckily Granny suspected him, so we managed to escape without much harm.’
‘Thanks to your bravery,’ Queen Alwilda, Myfanwy’s grandmother, said.
Myfanwy chuckled, slapping her war hammer. ‘Well, perhaps I might have had something to do with saving the day.’
‘You’ve been in Lutraudros all this time?’ Harfan asked.
‘Yes. Hëki didn’t know that you thought I was dead, or he’d have told you about me. He wanted to surprise you. It’s so awful he’s gone, and the dragons too,’ Myfanwy said.
Harfan’s recollections of his sorrows faded in wonder as the light from the stairs grew brighter as if the cavern were being swallowed by the newly risen moon.
Keahborah lifted her head, a gush of flame flaring from her nostrils. She flew, spinning, above the stairs. As she turned back it appeared a white heat of flame consumed her, the figure riding on her back shone so bright. Then the light gathered together and in one searing bolt got thrown at the remaining redcaps. The blow reverberated around the room not in sound but in bursts of shimmering brightness. When it died the redcaps lay dead as stranded driftwood at the brownies’ feet.
The lady astride Keahborah’s back lowered her upraised arm. The brownies fell into stunned silence. Then they roared with praise.
Harfan forced his cracked lips to breathe out, ‘Aira.’
Yet, was it her? A human sized sídhe, this lady possessed glittering red eyes and hair like molten gold.
Klaufi Spadefoot skipped down the stairs in her wake. Dressed in his best robe, he looked proud, buoyant and fondly ridiculous. Behind him came Gretchen and a host of brownies, many well to known Harfan. Light Elves came too, Glimfyndor and Amulas at their fore. The new arrivals exclaimed horror as they surveyed the darkness and destruction before them.
Quentillian seized the opportunity for a speech. ‘Once this was a place famed for beauty with a great waterfall flowing from the quays to carry the salt water back to the sea.’
‘Now it’s little more than a stinking pit,’ Torden said, his gaze directed towards the arch above the waterfall blocked with debris and the pools festering with Krysila’s ink.
Aira’s smile had been soft and radiant with hope, but as she looked upon the wreckage pity filled her. Her gaze went searchingly about the dark and broken place. She opened her lips as if to cry out, then descended like a weightless bird to Harfan’s side. He felt her take his hand and a wrenching at his shoulder that was too warm to be pain. He looked in wonder at the tear in his coat. The flesh glowed with life again, the wound healing.
‘How?’ he asked wonderingly, feeling strength restored to him by her touch.
Klaufi chuckled and flung himself at Harfan. ‘I couldn’t hardly believe it neither. Keahborah brought me back from Lutraudros saying my sorcery was needed to attempt to heal Aira. When I found her, she was near to death. Then her eyes opened, and they were red. Glimfyndor and a whole party of Light Elves appeared behind us saying that the elixir of immortality kicked in and she’s now one of the sídhe. Beautiful, isn’t she?’
Glimfyndor gave Aira a cautioning look. ‘You must be careful, My Lady Aira, how you spend your power. Midhir is a great danger to the Seelie kingdoms and as Velmoran’s queen we’ll need your support against him. Each time you use magic beyond mortal lore you lose not only some of your strength but also hours from your immortal life.’
‘I care nothing for that. I only want Harfan to be safe,’ Aira said.
Glancing round, Aira noticed a bundle crouching against the cave wall, watching her with eyes of midnight blue.
‘Lady Aira, don’t. That thing looks dangerous. It might be one of Krysila’s friends,’ Klaufi fussed, flapping over.
Aira rolled her eyes, giving her stepmother, Gretchen, an imploring look.
Gretchen took the hint. ‘Let her go, Klaufi. She’ll be fine.’
Aira surged towards Boroden and threw herself to her knees beside him. He looked up fretfully from the pile of coins, goblets and other treasures besides which he lurked like a hoarding dragon.
‘This is nothing.’ He indicated the riches. ‘But this…’ His fingers fastened upon Aira’s hair, then her shoulder, ‘this is real gold.’
Giving an unearthly squeak, she gathered him close.
Something fell from his grasp, rolling across the floor. Glimfyndor stopped the bracelet on the brink of tumbling into the depths of the kraken ink. He took it up, his clever fingers opening it out. It became not a bracelet but a crown, a circlet of gold with the heart at its centre resting on a crescent moon. He held it over Aira’s head, speaking words of ceremony. She rose, helping Boroden up with her.
‘I give you Queen Aira of Velmoran,’ Glimfyndor said. ‘I bear with me a gift from The Dagda. In reward for assisting him, he’s granted you Velmoran’s keeping down all the generations of Peladach’s clan.’
The applause was joined by raucous cheers from the stairs. Boroden, who appeared to be basking in the wonderment of finding Aira alive, abruptly came to his senses as Isadora charged towards up, Keahborah flying behind her.
Isadora accosted Aira and Boroden. ‘Boroden, you look and smell like you’ve been dragged backwards through a midden.’
Aira stepped forward, her snowy hem sweeping untarnished over the puddles.
Klaufi narrowed his eyes at the werewolf. ‘Where’s Aira going with that weird dog?’
Boroden looked around wistfully. ‘I remember when this cavern was full of light, the banners of Velmoran lifted high. Happy times.’
Aira squeezed his arm. ‘Come with me, help me make it so again.’
‘I’m not sure I’m much use. I mean, you’re a powerful sídhe queen now. You don’t need a werewolf like me,’ Boroden said.
Aira bent to him, pressing him close and whispering as she kissed him, ‘I do. I need you more than ever now.’
He revived and shook the water from his coat. ‘Ah, well then, in that case…’
They shared a happy glance before launching themselves across the cavern to where light streamed through the rubble. As they stood together on the remains of a spur of rock beside the great waterfall, Aira pictured the once beautiful view this spot had afforded of the turreted King’s dwelling perched high on the cliff.
Aira turned towards the ugly mass of rock barring the cavern mouth and closed her eyes. She lifted her hands and at once a wave of power, brilliant white, fanned out. With a crack like thunder the rocks plunged away, sending sunbeams bursting into the cavern.
With a cry, Aira whipped round. Brownies and elves scattered to high ground as water came laughing and roaring through the cave, snatching up the ink and debris and tumbling it over the waterfall. Spray bathed Aira’s face. She spread her arms to the sun and the barren, wasted land below her and began to chant. Toppled chunks of the palace sprang back as Velmoran set about rebuilding itself. Withered trees blossomed anew. Pastures grew lush and flowers burst out in joyous festival. Swarms of creatures scattered the land below: birds, bees, butterflies, rabbits, squirrels, deer.
Whilst everyone in the palace crowded forward amazed and overjoyed, Harfan remained rooted to the spot. He called out above the song of the waterfall, but no one heard. Something as wonderful as the restoration of the brownie kingdom happened before him. The glossy surface of the egg fissured.
At first Harfan feared to help, but a chunk of eggshell became stuck and he heaved it free. He expected to see a baby dragon appear, but instead an eager little dark-eyed face peered up at him, utterly new yet utterly familiar. His joy was too exquisite to have words. Lifting the newborn from the egg shell, he wiped him down with his cloak and pressed him to his heart. Then he held him out at arm’s-length and laughed.
The little one beamed. ‘Harfan?’
‘I’m Harfan, but who are you?’
The bairn looked bemused. He reached up to pluck in a disgruntled way at Harfan’s hair that he had cropped so as to lay the locks in Hëkitarka’s grave as a burial present. He tried to comb and plait it as Hëkitarka used to. ‘What’s this?’
Looking up, Harfan found that word had spread that the little prince had hatched and Keahborah, Myfanwy, Isadora and Carnelian crowded around.
Aira too acknowledged his coming with a smile and a shower of rainbow dew drops. Wide-eyed at her radiance, the hatchling failed to see the droplets land upon the stone behind Harfan. The dew rippled over the rock, shaping it like dough.
‘Hëki!’ Harfan yelled. He checked himself. The features were Hëkitarka’s, but carved from stone. Now Hëkitarka’s sculpted form would stand through the ages in the halls of Velmoran beside the chiseled figures of its greatest kings, his bow upraised as if to protect the clan from evil.
The little prince gazed up at the statue with wonderment. ‘Who’s he?’
‘He’s your father,’ Harfan breathed.
‘Cool. Do I look that handsome?’
Keahborah chuckled. ‘Yes, my little fire spark.’
The bairn shook himself and stood up in Harfan’s hands.
‘You still haven’t told me your name,’ Harfan said.
A serious look came onto his face as if he tried to remember something very hard. ‘Gormortarka.’
‘Gormortarka? That means dragon-otter. Whoa, you’re a completely new species. I wonder what a dragon-otter looks like? Do they like fish?’
At once Harfan’s blithe look turned to horror as Gormortarka crowed and writhed. ‘Don’t say that you change into a dragon at the word fish. Fish, fish, fish!’ he said urgently, trying to make the child transform faster to shorten the painful time when he shapeshifted.
Keahborah peered approvingly at the confused dragon launching himself from Harfan’s hands, which were now hopelessly small to contain him for his flapping wings brushed the cavern roof. Gormortarka’s body was covered in both downy hair and scales glistening with rainbow hues.
‘He shall make a great Gormor of our kind,’ Keahborah said as her son grew brave and took off. He chased faster and faster about the columns, skimming over the water and doing a loop in the air replete with a puff of flame. Before Harfan realised what the dragon planned, he found himself toppled off his feet and onto Gormortarka’s back. He whooped in delight, cheering his nephew on as they darted about the cavern, then headed towards the waterfall.
Aira glowed so brightly now that Boroden could barely see her. He only had to sense the atmosphere to tell that she was happy; a rich, peaceful gladness that would fill their days at Velmoran.
Before him the trees grew thick and leafy as ever he remembered them as a child. Everything spoke of lushness and plenty. Did he dream this? If so, he wanted never to wake. Gold and war meant nothing anymore, only beauty and happiness mattered.
‘The last of my magic I’ll entrust to someone who’ll use it well and spread it far across the land of Velmoran,’ Aira said, throwing an orb of power to Gormortarka.
As the young dragon caught it he flamed as bright as a rainbow, colouring the sky above him and sending down sparks like falling stars. These hit the scarred land which burst forth with trees and flowers as he flew high and far. Below him the earth blossomed, touched by the force of life. Velvety green spread over the earth. Birds sang and pirouetted.
Gormortarka turned back to the palace and darted up above the gables and amongst the rising turrets. He nimbly sheered up the roof of the highest turret. He hung aloft with Harfan looking down upon where Boroden and Aira stood side by side on the brink of the waterfall.
Aira seemed to dwindle like a fading star. Taking off the oversized crown, she turned to Boroden, the crimson gone from her irides. Aira became a brownie again, grinning and fighting for breath. The clan cheered.
‘To see you and the rest of our clan happy is all I want,’ Aira told Boroden blithely. Though she created them, the changes before her seemed too much like miracles. For years she yearned for this, but had only ever thought it a dream. Yet here she stood in the heart of Velmoran, its mighty harbour resplendent behind her, Boroden smiling beside her, her loved ones all around.
‘And for their happiness you have given up your immortal life. I don’t blame you,’ Glimfyndor said.
‘I’m a brownie and I always will be,’ Aira declared.
Boroden turned to Aira. ‘You deserve some sort of reward.’
Klaufi nodded. ‘Aye, she does.’
However, the crestfallen look on his face that appeared as Boroden kissed Aira showed that he regretted his enthusiasm.
‘Aira, will you marry me?’ Boroden asked.
‘You’re serious?’ Aira was scarcely able to catch her breath with joy. ‘Yes. Yes, I will.’
Aira threw herself into his arms and he swung her round above the waterfall with a rainbow dancing high above them.