Operation Alfur Chapter 4

Operation Alfur Chapter 4 Operation Alfur Chapter 4

Status: In Progress

Genre: Romance

Details

Status: In Progress

Genre: Romance

Summary

Following Chapter 3

Summary

Following Chapter 3

Chapter1 (v.1) - Operation Alfur Chapter 4

Author Chapter Note

Following Chapter 3

Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: April 02, 2016

Reads: 419

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Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: April 02, 2016

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OPERATION ALFUR:

Chapter 4.

 

Shael and Caroline arrived at the home of the storyteller. It reminded the woman of one of her professor's homes in Copenhagen. She had visited there while she was working on her thesis. Even though Lindstra mainly gave recitals, his home was more like a library, with piles of books everywhere. He appeared to be too young to fit the part. He had shoulder-length dark brown hair, that fell almost straight on either side of his face. The only feature that indicated that he might not be as young as he looked, were the lines on his forehead. By far the most noticeable feature were his piercing green eyes. They were of the sort that made one feel as though they were looking right through you.

 

After a light meal of bread and cheese, accompanied with a drink that tasted like lemonade, but with an alcoholic twist in it, Lindstra set about clearing his books from the antiquated chairs in his sitting room. Once he had finished, he asked the couple to sit down. Before he started with the tale, he stated: “I suppose I should consider myself very lucky this evening, to have two lovely young maidens as my guests - nay, my audience. As you can see, I am an established bachelor, too involved in my work to be worried with relationships and marriage, and all that. No I chose the simple life of a bachelor, although it does get lonely at times. And besides, I doubt whether any self-respecting maiden would stand for this mess that I call my home. But you didn't come here to find out about me, so - on with the story:

 

The year was 1283. King Eirik II of Norway was on the throne. One of his palace guards, named Bura, had a son - Buren - who had found favour with the King. In his own words, Buren was a 'bright young lad, always willing to serve.' At the time he was a stable hand, and had the privilege of looking after the King and Queen's own horses. This meant that he was treated a lot better than those whose task it was to care for the Guards' mounts. This position had not been granted to him because his father was a Palace Guard himself, but the merit was all his own.

 

One day, the King called for Bura, and instructed him to bring his son with him. The two of them knelt before their Master. He told them to rise, and then ordered that they be left alone. By that time both father and son had guessed that this was serious business indeed.

 

Once the throne room was empty, King Eirik spoke: “You are aware that the Queen is with child. But what I am about to tell you must be kept between the three of us, do you understand?”

 

“Yes Your Majesty.” Came the reply.

 

“Queen Margaret is very ill.” The King continued, a slight crackle in his normally commanding voice. “Our physicians have been unable to provide an explanation as to her ailment, let alone a possible cure. So I sent for a healer from the Queen's homeland of Scotland to see if she would have greater success, and it seems that she is more competent than the others. The problem is that she requires a supply of the Kingsfoil plant that only grew where there was a river untainted by humans. Alas, too many of our rivers and streams have been either soiled or tampered with, and now this plant no longer grows in sufficient quantities in our land.

 

It seems that our only solution is to beseech the folk of Alfheim to supply us with some. And that is why I have called you, young Buren. I am sending you on an errand for King and country, but mainly for your King. I cannot send your father, because his absence would be too obvious.”

 

“What is your bidding, my King?” The youth asked.

 

“I need you to go to the portal near Stavanger, in the south-west of our land. My brother Haakon is the Duke there. He is the only other person who knows the fullness of this problem. He has arranged for one of the women from that place to act as your guide to where the portal is situated. You must enter the portal, and travel to the Kingdom of Alfheim. There you must find a way to gain an audience with King Dofri, ruler of that Kingdom, and request that he provide us with sufficient Kingsfoil to treat the Queen, and perhaps cure her of this ailment, ere it endangers either her, or our unborn child.”

 

“I understand, your Majesty.” Acknowledged the youth.

 

“That is well, but this task might not be as simple as it sounds.” The King responded, “Relations between the Alfur and our people have become strained, because we are considered to be too much in competition with them. They love the forests and woodlands that once covered these parts. But alas, we have built cities, towns, and farms that have destroyed vast tracts of the land that they claimed to be theirs. This is the reason why they have settled in Alfheim, and it is also the reason why they do not trust our kind as they once did.

 

Nonetheless, you must find a way. I cannot assist you at all. Only a handful of people can. Perhaps you will find such a person on your way, but I would not count on it if I were you. Make haste, young man, and we shall speak of your reward when you return. For the present, know this: Should you succeed, you will be able to bid good-bye to your life as a stable boy forever. That I can assure you. For now, take this purse with you. There is sufficient in there to furnish any expense you may require before your journey. However, you must depart before the sun sets tomorrow evening. Time is of the essence.”

 

“Yes your Majesty.” Said Buren.

 

“Very well. Farewell, and may your journey be blessed.” King Eirik concluded.

 

Buren and his father bowed, and left the throne room. The youth's heart was filled with mixed emotions. On the one hand, there was an overwhelming sense of pride, that he - among all the other young men in the King's Palace - he, a mere stable hand, had been chosen by the Monarch himself for this task. But with the realisation came an even greater awareness of the enormity of the task before him. Not only his pride, but his sense of duty compelled him to do all he could, not to fail, although he scarce knew where to begin.

 

Having packed what few belongings he could carry in a sack, Buren headed for the town of Stavanger. He went straight to the large mansion on the outskirts, which he knew belonged to the King's brother. The guard at the gate was at first more than a little derisive of this young whelp who deigned to request entry to the Duke's home, never mind an audience with him. His attitude changed dramatically when Buren informed him of the reason for such a demand. Hastily, he ushered the youngster in, bowing low as he walked past.

 

The meeting with Haakon was brief, and soon Buren was on his way to the home of the druid Estiana. Before he departed from the Duke's residence, he was given a purse. In it was a small selection of precious and semi-precious stones. Included were three rubies and even a diamond. Buren was told to give them to King Dofri, should he ever get to meet with him.

 

The Druid’s dwelling was an old tower deep in the forest. There was no road leading to it, only a rough pathway, and it seemed that the forest grew more dense closer to the structure. Buren almost lost his way a number of times before he finally arrived just before nightfall.

 

The doors were closed, and Buren was about to knock when the one opened. Before him stood a woman dressed in robes of rough green material. At first glance, the youth could not tell her age. Her face had no wrinkles or lines on it, but there was something about her that told him that she was very old indeed. Her hair was dark, and he was certain that there was more than a hint of grey in those long, slightly dishevelled tresses.

 

“I have been waiting for you. Enter, young servant of the King.” She greeted.

 

She welcomed Buren in to her home, and insisted that he stay the night with her. That night they dined on a meal of fruit and bread. The youth drank only water, while the druid had wine. She spoke very little, but when she did, he knew that he would do well to listen, for she was very wise.

 

The following morning, just after the day had dawned, Estiana took Buren to a secluded spot near a forest stream. When they arrived, she said: “See hear,” pointing to some bushes that grew under an ancient tree, “This herb, the one with the dark purple flower, is Kingsfoil. Where you will be going, it shall be known also as Athelas.”

 

The druid then picked a few leaves, crushed them between her fingers, and having tested the scent herself, told the youth to smell it. It had a distinctive peppery smell. They returned to the tower, where she gave him a large pouch. In it were a number of smaller sachets, and a few small vials. He was no stranger to herbal remedies, and knew already what most of them were for. He received from her a quarterstaff made of yew, and a scroll with a detailed map of Alfheim. On the staff were engraved ancient runes, last used by his Viking ancestors. The last gift she gave him was an obsidian arrowhead, which she had fashioned herself.

 

“This will protect you, both here and the place to where you are travelling. The markings on that staff still have power, even though the men of our day would deny it.” She then said: “Now - I will take you to the portal. It is not far from here. Do not fear, I will activate it for you. All you need to do is walk through it.”

 

It was a good thing that the druid went with him to the portal, or else he would have quickly got lost, because the path leading to it had all but disappeared over time. No-one had ventured there for over thirty years except for Estiana herself. At last they arrived at the place. Even then, it did not look anything like what Buren had expected it to be. There was an ancient oak tree, whose roots formed a natural archway. There was no indication that this was a doorway to another world, especially not one as distinguished as the home of the Alfur. The only sign was a rune engraved on the one side of the arch. This the druid traced with her staff, and instructed Buren to enter.

 

As he did this, there was an icy cold shiver that went through his whole body. For a moment everything went black around him, and when he could see again, the whole vista before him had changed. Although he was still standing in a forest, it certainly was not the one he left behind. The trees were much bigger, and much older than the ones on the other side. He turned around, and instead of an old oak with an archway, he saw a roughly built structure made of raw stone. But the most obvious indication was that it was night, whereas he had gone through the portal in the middle of the day. Luckily there was a well trodden path ahead of him.

 

He followed the trail as far as he could, and was just about to stop when he saw a light in the distance. He thought it may be a house or perhaps even an inn. In any case, it would be better than staying the night out in the open. He pressed on until he arrived, discovering that it was the latter. He knocked on the wooden door, and soon the keeper opened it.

 

“I seek lodging for the night.” The youth said.

“What! A Son of Eden staying at my inn!” The proprietor exclaimed incredulously, “Mayhap it will bring renown to this humble establishment. Enter sir, and welcome. Uh - the room will cost you a farthing.”

 

Once he had put down his pack, Buren came to the common-room where he was offered a simple dinner. As he sat eating, a young elf came and sat opposite him. He was wearing a leather jerkin with a dark green tunic. On the front of the leather garment was embossed an emblem that resembled a simple tree motif. His manner and bearing indicated that he was no commoner.

 

He introduced himself: “I am Arandron, Ti'Daquin to these parts. I perceive that it is no mere happenstance that brings an inhabitant of Earth to our Kingdom. As you know, your kind are not well trusted here, but if we were in any real danger, you would not have come alone. So I need to enquire of you: What is your business here?”

 

Buren replied: “I would tell you, but not here. Is there somewhere private where we can speak?”

 

“You are not armed, except for that quarterstaff. I also recognise the runes thereon. No-one of ill intent would carry such a staff here. Shall we meet up in your room?” The officer responded.

 

Buren agreed, and they continued their conversation in his room. He explained his task to the Captain, who listened intently. After a while, he nodded and then said: “You had best meet Princess

Friôur, the King's daughter. His Majesty has little love for your kin, but his daughter is better disposed toward them, and has a somewhat calming influence over her father. On the morrow, my troop and I leave for Denedhel, and then on to Yaderheim, our capital. Once there, I will try and arrange for you to meet in private with the Princess. Such a meeting should take place outside of the Palace, so as not to come to the attention of the King. If His Majesty finds out, my life may well be forfeit, or at least my position as an officer.”

 

Buren thanked the Captain, and they bade each other a good night. Early the following morning, he met with Arandron at the entrance to the stables. The captain informed him that he could spare a mount for the journey, provided that he did not mind riding one of the pack horses. The youth just laughed, and was soon sitting on the horse's back. They set off down the cobbled road that led North-West through the small village of Fyedur. (“… as you now know, our little village is very old.” Added Lindstra, topping up their drinks.)

 

Two days later, the troop arrived in Denedhel. The journey there - was as expected - uneventful, and took them through some of the most spectacular scenery. Although the forest was very thick in most places, every so often, it would open out enough to reveal the splendour of the countryside beyond. As they came to the crest of a mountain, Buren could see the forest below, stretching as far as the eye could see, like a green carpet over the rolling hills. A river meandered its way through the valleys like a blue ribbon that ended in a small lake.

 

Just before they arrived at the town of Denedhel, the land became more even once more, and the canopy of trees closed over their heads again. The town itself was somewhat bigger than Fyedur. It consisted of a central market place with a well in the middle, and a ring of double storey buildings surrounding it, one of which was the local inn, where Buren was going to be staying the night. Outside of this central complex were the homes of those folk who owned the shops, workshops, and other businesses that were housed within the centre. Further away, the small holdings began that supplied the town with fresh produce such as fruit and grain.

 

 

Some distance from the centre was a Temple. This was a magnificent work of architecture, with a spire that rose some twenty feet high. As it reached the level of the roof, it changed into a prayer tower. (“... much like the one in our Temple, only positioned higher.” Lindstra explained, lighting a pipe. “I hope you don't mind.” Both of his guests shook their heads, and so he continued:) “Hmm - Hmm - The rest of the building surrounded a central courtyard in the middle of which stood a huge stone statue of their Patron Deity. It was in this courtyard where the townsfolk gathered whenever there was a special occasion.

 

The reception Buren received at the inn was far less welcoming than that which he had been given in Fyedur. He was certain that, if it were not for the good word put in for him by the troop Captain, he would not have been allowed to stay there at all. As he sat at the table eating, he felt as though every eye was on him. He finished his meal quickly, and went directly to his room.

 

Early the following morning, they departed and headed along a wide cobbled road to Yaderheim, Alfheim's Capital. As they drew nearer, the road became busier, with wagons carrying goods, elves on horseback, and carriages for those who were able to afford them. The majority, however, travelled on foot. If there was oncoming traffic, it would stop and allow the troop to pass before carrying on. The whole journey took three days with a day's rest in between.

 

The first night, they stayed at an inn that acted as a half-way house between Denedhel and the next town called Dathnae. The night passed without incident, and they were on the road once more.

 

Dathnae was even bigger than Denedhel. Instead of it being built around a circular market place, the middle of town consisted of a single main street, with the shops and other buildings on either side. The Temple was in this main road. This time it was an imposing structure with two prayer towers, one at either end, and an 'A' shaped roof that reached down to ground level. The apex rose to about thirty feet at each end, dipping in the middle to about twenty five feet. Buren had heard descriptions of elven buildings, and this particular one fitted them perfectly.

 

Surprisingly, Buren received a warm welcome when he entered the inn. Not only the proprietor, but many of the guests greeted him, and were eager to hear the tale of why a 'Son of Eden' was visiting the land of the Alfur. They were more than a little disappointed when he declined their requests, saying only that he was on 'official business' from his King.

 

The Captain had something he needed to attend to the following day, so they only left for the last leg of their journey the day after. When the troop rejoined the main road, it was even more crowded than before. It was obvious to Buren that Yaderheim was a very important city indeed.

 

Upon arrival, they were stopped at the gates, but when the guard saw who it was, he ushered them through without asking any more questions. The vista that unfolded before Buren took his breath away! The first impression was that the city was ancient. Many of the structures had huge creepers growing up the walls and covering the roofs. Through the middle of the lower city flowed the famous Alfwyne River, and behind the more affluent part of Yaderheim, two mighty waterfalls cascaded from the high cliffs from where the Highmark began.

 

This was a range of mountains that divided Northern Alfheim from Southern. Fyedur, Denedhel, Dathnae and Yaderheim, as well as the border town of Sjeltrae, were situated in the densely forested Southern March, whereas the remainder of the Kingdom - comprised of the towns of Maelenur, and Ansohn, and Alfheim's second biggest city, Elmere - was called the Northern March.

 

 

 

Arandron said: “You will stay in my home until I have arranged for you to meet with the Princess. We will go there first, and then I must report to my headquarters. Hopefully, when I return, I will have already made the necessary arrangements.”

 

And so Buren was taken to a small, but comfortable home in the lower part of the city. There he was introduced to the Captain's wife, whose name was Meriel, and their two children - Tallinn and Kharis. Meriel was also a member of the local forces. She was one of the town guards. Buren quickly learned that, like in the days of the Vikings, the sexes were considered as almost equal in elven society. In fact female warriors, either known as 'Sword-' or 'Shield-Maidens', had proudly taken their places beside their male counterparts for centuries, and had earned the respect of those who fought beside them.

 

Having made sure that the youth was properly settled, the Captain left to make his report to his superiors. Meriel offered him something to eat and drink while he waited. She was very hospitable, and there seemed to be no trace of animosity against Buren. The two children were fascinated with the youth's appearance. Tallinn, the oldest, asked if he had something wrong with his ears. When he asked why she would think that, she answered frankly: “Because they are a funny shape.”

 

Meriel was about to reprimand her daughter, but Buren just laughed, and responded: “Yes, I guess they are to you. But there's nothing wrong with them. All my kin's ears are this shape.”

 

Some time later, Arandron returned. He reported: “I have spoken to Princess Friôur's handmaiden, and she has promised to relay your request to Her Highness. She will tell us if our Lady will be prepared to grant your wish, and - if so - where and when you will be able to meet with her. Do not look so concerned, the Princess is very kind. I am sure that she will condescend to meet you.”

 

Lindstra suggested that they take a short breather. He stated: “I may be a bachelor, but I am very well organised domestically.”

 

He went into the kitchen, and emerged with a tray of ginger biscuits, and a jug containing a hot beverage that reminded Caroline of the oriental drink called Chai, a spiced tea with a slightly peppery flavour. It was very refreshing, and helped to clear her head after the lemon ale.


© Copyright 2017 Tristan Biggs. All rights reserved.

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