A simple message, delivered to the Elven Queen, could ruin a man forever.
|Night settled on the dark, shadow-shrouding canopy of the forest of Ethagald. Among the trees, and indeed within them, the city of Ervatalos remained active. Warm, fire-like lights floated, suspended by enchantment in the air, illuminating well-manicured streets of paved stone below. Elegant topiary lined the roads as they wove organically from high to low, in and among the trees, over streams and around moss-filmed boulders on the forest floor. The elf-folk who called the town home strolled along the city’s well-lit avenues as the twilight gave way to black night, and the shadows beyond the streets grew deeper. The soft, flowing tones of the elvish language drifted musically around, mixing with the gentle burbling of fountains and brooks, and the sound of instrumental recitals throughout the town. |
Gameren walked, accompanied by two elves armed with sharp, gleaming shortswords and long, graceful bows, through the peaceful scene. Other pedestrians paid him no heed, but continued on their way without so much as a glance in his direction. He was being escorted to the palace of Ervatalos, seeking council with the Queen. Even at such a late time, he was to be brought before her at once, with a message from the Lord of Rhedua, to the North. They reached an immense tree settled in a deep glen, its branches stretched high into the night sky, within which rested many circular wooden platforms, illuminated by shimmering, white light. The doorway to the palace was open, a large arching entrance seemingly carved into the tree itself. A sweeping staircase led up to the door, flanked on either side by an expertly carved balustrade and two large pillars. The peak of the arch held a circular crest, the symbol of the ancient House of Ethagald. The messenger swallowed as he mounted the steps, while the guards remained at the base, watching his ascent.
He could not contain his trepidation, hearing the tales of the terrible might and magic of this elven queen. A cold sweat coated his palms and he felt his heart begin to beat like drums in his chest and ears. Fingers shaking, he reached the top of the stairs, where he entered a seemingly impossible hall, great in length, wide and tall, lined with doors on the first floor, and a balcony on the second. Three grand chandeliers hung from the ceiling, a vaulted affair with many beautifully illuminated murals depicting the tale of the Elves of Ethagald. A single elven woman, wearing among the finest gowns Gameren could have ever imagined, awaited his arrival, and motioned for him to follow, speaking in the fair tongue of the Elves. The messenger of the North wondered what her words meant, allured by the enchanting sound of their speech. Perhaps one day he could learn the mysteries of the Elves, but for now he had to deliver the message of Lord Beord.
He was led to the end of the grand entry hall to a set of dark, heavy wooden doors which lay closed. The elven girl knocked upon the door once, twice, thrice. The sound barely reached farther than the two of them standing before it, as it was absorbed by the rich red carpet upon the floor and dispersed into the vast, warm hall. The door noiselessly swung inward and an equally large, equally decadent, equally comfortable throne room appeared behind it. Large, masterful tapestries draped from the ceiling along the walls and the carpet continued towards a central dias, made seemingly of wood and yet as clinical and angular as dwarven stonework. Atop the dias stood a tall throne of twisting, intertwining branches, and upon the throne sat a woman who seemed to radiate light and warmth. Barely a second passed before the majesty and regality of her visage caused Gameren to look to the floor in respect. He notices from the top of his vision the elven woman beckoning him to approach the Queen of Ethagald. He walks forth, barely containing his trembling, and drops to one knee. Presenting the wax-sealed scroll upon which was written the message of Lord Beord, he proclaimed his name and his intent to read the message. The Queen in turn smiled and bade him stand and read, speaking to him in the common tongue. He complied, unfurling the document and standing to read. The fight against the dwarves was going poorly. All the ground gained by the Northern Kingdoms was being lost in a massive assault among the narrow mountain passes. Lord Beord requested the aid of the Elves of Ethagald, a company of soldiers to bolster their numbers and allow them to push the dwarves out of the mountains for good. Gameren read through the letter with ease as he was trained to do, but his mind wandered away from the subject of the recitation, as locked eyes with the beautiful elven queen.
She sat regally upon the remarkable natural throne, outlined by the soft mossy green upholstery of the chair. Her apparel was simpler than that of the maiden who led him to the throne room, a plain white dress beneath a large, thick shawl of maroon, woven with intricate patterns of wildlife and nature. The garb draped over her shoulders and down to her waist, adorned with a golden band with a simple black motif across it. Large black boots stuck out from beneath the skirt of the long white dress and swayed gently side to side as the Queen listened to the request of the Lord of Rhedua. Her head was left uncovered by the shawl. However, a silver tiara was tucked into her deep chestnut hair. Her long, wavy hair cascaded around her face and down her back, catching the warm light of the room in bright, gleaming streaks. Her hair was tucked behind two delicate ears as it fell, framing her fair face and soft features with a dark, elegant outline. Her eyes focused intently and mesmerizingly upon his, dark in color, though the light of the room refracted off of them, giving a hue like glowing honey or amber through sunlight. They were further brought forth by expertly applied eyeliner, ending in long, slender wings to either side of her face, and soft eyebrows which curved in a friendly and inquisitive manner. Her nose fit well between her kind, stunning eyes and smiling, full lips. The pleasant curve and deep red shade reminded Gameren of the deepest shades of red in the band of sunset, and perfectly rounded out her gentle face. It was a few seconds more before Gemeren realized he had long since stopped reading, the message having finished, and was staring dumbfounded at the Queen.
The messenger blinked, bewildered, and shook his head somewhat as he brought himself back to reality, causing the Queen to give a faint giggle, bringing her small, elegant hand to her lips, curled into an even warmer smile. He bowed his head again and turned to let himself out. The Queen’s musical voice rang out from behind him, bading him farewell, and that he would be well taken care of until a response could be produced. He turned and with head still bowed, spluttered out a gratitude to the monarch of Ethagald. As the door closed behind him, he let out a sigh as he realized he had been holding his breath, his blood pumping through his head like war drums and his face returning to its normal color, from the bright shade of red it had become under the gaze of the most beautiful and fair woman he had ever laid eyes on. Shakily, he allowed himself to be led back through the city to a clean, quiet lodging near a gently burbling brook. He laid down in the warm, soft bed and stared up at the ceiling. In his mind, the elven queen still sat before him, her gaze holding him paralyzed with admiration, smiling with great personability at him. In what seemed like the blink of an eye to him, the sun began to peer through the canopy above, casting warm yellow rays upon the city below. The magical lights which illuminated the town were extinguished all at once, and the city resumed its daytime activities. A knock came at his door and a summons issued forth for him to return for another audience with the Queen. His heart skipped a beat in his chest and he felt blood begin to rush back to his cheeks. Gameren opened the door to his elven guide, who asked if he wished for breakfast. Gameren shook his head, replying that he could not possibly eat. His guide nodded and led him to the halls of the Queen once more. It was even more impressive in daytime than it was at night, the sunlight cast flattering shadows across the gardens which surrounded the great tree in its dale, and the doors remained open. The messenger walked back through the grand entry hall and waited at the doors of the throne room to be admitted.
The fair elven queen still sat in the chair, as regal and alluring as before. Gameren felt his breath catch in his throat. He cleared it quickly as he knelt before the dias, announcing himself to her. He could feel her radiance even without looking at her, and heard her lovely tone permitting him to rise. He did so, and listened to her address, a simple decree, explaining the contents of the message she was providing, as well as the company to be sent with him, as response to the message. The elves would lend aid to the people of Rhedua. Gladly, Gameren accepted the sealed message, and took his leave. He was brought to a garrison on the outskirts of the city where a large collection of armed soldiers waited for his arrival. Accompanied by such a large group, Gameren had no fear of being attacked, and certainly no need to worry about the night watch. And yet, night after night he laid awake, staring at the dark night’s sky, haunted by the beautiful visage of the elf-queen. He could tell no one, and certainly never act on such a desire to be near her, not that he would ever be sent on such a mission again, nor would she ever return his feelings, even if it were permissible. Elves felt no love, not as men did, for in their immortality there was no need for families or marriage or children. Night after night tears crept into his eyes and his chest sunk into the earth as he realized that no human girl could ever hold a candle to the unforgettable beauty of her majesty, the Queen of Ethagald, the Lady of Ervatalos.