Operation Alfur Chapter 6

Operation Alfur Chapter 6 Operation Alfur Chapter 6

Status: In Progress

Genre: Fantasy

Details

Status: In Progress

Genre: Fantasy

Summary

Following Chapter 5

Summary

Following Chapter 5

Content

Submitted: June 03, 2016

A A A | A A A

Content

Submitted: June 03, 2016

A A A

A A A


Operation Alfur: Chapter 6.

 

The following morning, after breakfast, Caroline and Shael made their way back to Lindstra's house. They were eager to hear the rest of the tale. When they arrived, the Storyteller welcomed them and offered them some of their favourite tea. This they accepted, and they convened to the sitting room once more.

 

Lindstra took up the story: “Where was I? Ah yes: Buren went to the King once more to bring to him with the gifts that Eirik had given him. King Dofri accepted them even though he said that they were not necessary. In fact he was more than a little insulted by them.

 

He said: “It is well that you did not give me these earlier, or else I would have thought less of you. Does your King believe that he can furnish any trust with trinkets such as these? Or does he believe that Alfheim is so poor that it does not have diamonds, rubies, and precious stones of its own?” Then his face softened again, and he added: “But this is not your doing, Son of Eden. You are following your King's instructions. That is why I accept this offer, and for no other reason.

 

Now, you must bid farewell to the mother of your child, for it is indeed doubtful that the two of you will meet again. Know this: The child - regardless of its gender - will be loved and cared for as one of our own, for I have seen the smile on the Princess's face each time you are near, and I know that the child was conceived out of more than one night's passion. All I ask is, if the child is a boy, that you care for him in the same way.”

 

“You have my word, Your Majesty. But I need to ask: How shall I know when the child is born?” Replied Buren.

 

“We have messengers and representatives even in your world. I believe that you have already met Estiana. She is as your child will be, a half-elf. I will send a message through her when your child is born. Now I bid you farewell, or as we say in our tongue: Numaarie.”

 

Buren followed the King's orders. Freyur and he met in the shade, under their favourite tree, and bade each other a tearful good-bye. They did not say much, but held each other as if neither of them wanted to let the other go. At last the Princess spoke, saying through her tears: “At least I will carry a part of you inside of me. My heart will recall that night when our child was conceived every time I see his or her face.”

 

“I will never forget you, my Princess, for as long as I live.” Buren responded, kissing the tears from her face. “Your smile will be stored near the very centre of my heart. You have my word, if the child is male, I will care for him more than I do my own well-being. Now, if I don't go, I never will.”

 

They kissed for the last time. Buren turned slowly away from the one who had first found her place in his heart. He chanced to look over his shoulder, and saw her standing there like a flower trying to hold onto the memory of spring, his own heart feeling the warmth of their love beginning to ebb away, replaced by the cold sadness of their parting.

 

All too soon, he was on his way to a secret place in the forest where the Athelas herb grew. Galen, the druid who accompanied him, took his sickle and harvested the newest growth from the top of the plant. The leaves were greener and softer than the ones down below. He explained to Buren that these were much stronger than the older ones. They continued through the grove, stopping here and there to collect more Kingsfoil, until the bag that he had been given was full.

 

Galen then said: “You must not tarry too long, Son of Eden. Or else the herb will lose its potency. We must make for the portal through which you entered this realm ere the sun sets. When e'er you rest in your lands, you must soak these cuttings in fresh water so that they remain strong enough.”

 

“But how will I make it back to that portal on time? It took me nearly a full week from there to the city?” Buren enquired.

 

The druid replied: “I will take you through the forest. Fear not. We will be there shortly. Take my hand.”

 

Buren obeyed, and he felt an all to familiar sensation course through him. For a brief moment, the world around him went black. When he could see again, he was amazed to find that he was standing right in front of the stone arch through which he had entered Alfheim, seemingly ages ago. Galen accompanied him until he stood in the archway. Then he traced the rune on the stone pillar, just as Estiana had done before. Once he had recovered, he saw a familiar sight: The giant oak tree towering above him. Standing to one side, waiting for him, was the female druid who had bade farewell to him when he left on his adventure.

 

She greeted him with a smile that broadened when she saw the full bag that he was carrying. She said: “Welcome back, Norway's hero! I had forgotten that time in Alfheim is not as it is here.”

 

“How long have I been away?” Buren asked, “I was in Alfheim for just over six weeks.”

 

“Thankfully it has not been that long.” Replied Estiana, “Just over a fortnight has passed since you left. Any longer, and I fear that the Queen would be beyond our abilities to help. That is why we have brought her here to Stavanger so that you need not travel back to Bergen with the herb. At least, this way, it is still as close to full strength as possible.”

 

Together they travelled back to the city, and went straight, under guard, to the home of the King's brother Haakon. There they were met by a elderly woman, her long hair silvery grey, and her face wrinkled with age. The only thing that seemed almost ageless was the sparkle in her dark green eyes.

 

She smiled, and greeted them, saying: “Thank ye, wee young'un. So ye are the young Buren. This day, to be sure, ye shall be a hero ere the sun sets.” Her face beamed as she took the bag full of herbs from him. “No - alas, ye cannot come in. Her Majesty is still very weak, and she'll no be seein' anyone in that state. Mayhap when she's feelin' better, she'll want to see ye.”

 

Buren could hardly understand a word she had spoken, but the expressions on her wizened face said it all. She went into the Queen's chamber, and closed the door. After a while, the old woman came out again. The youth could see that she was tired, and the lines on her face were even more noticeable. She sank down onto a chair, her head in her hands.

 

Buren asked: “How will we know if the herbs have worked?”

 

To which the woman replied: “Time, young'un. Time alone will tell. Kingsfoil is strong, but it too needs time. So - all we can do is wait and see.”

 

Three days later, Buren was summoned to the Duke's mansion again. He was not told why, so his mind began to play tricks on him, trying to convince him that the cure had failed. In his heart, however, he would not accept that he had gone through all that he had, only to be faced with failure at this last stage. Surely fate would not be so cruel!

 

When he arrived, he was taken to the chamber where the Queen lay in her sick-bed. As he entered, his knees nearly gave in when he saw his sovereign sitting up in bed. She was still very pale, but there was the faintest sparkle in her eye, and that was enough to banish the fear that had choked the youth all the way to the bedroom door.

 

The Queen smiled, and in a tired but strong voice, she greeted: “My hero. Your Queen is very happy to meet with you at last. Come closer, and let me look at you.”

 

He felt somewhat awkward as he drew nearer, but managed a reply: “Your Majesty. I am just glad that it seems our efforts were not in vane. To see you at least on the mend is reward enough.”

 

“Spoken like a true hero. So modest.” The Queen responded, stretching out her hand. She held his as he trembled. As she spoke further, however, he began to relax once again. He had heard of the Queen's graciousness and kindness, but now, as they spoke, he realised that the tales had come extremely short of the truth. All too soon, the old physician told him that he should leave Queen Margaret to rest.

 

For his efforts, Buren was knighted, and given a piece of land near Stavanger, close to where the portal was situated. He was also given enough money to build a decent home for himself and his father to live in. Five months after his return to Norway, Buren had an unexpected visitor. It was Estiana, and she bore a message from the King of Alfheim that came as a surprise, not because of its content, but because of the timing. The news was that Princess Freyur had given birth to a healthy boy. Buren asked if the child had been very premature. After all, only five months had passed, which would mean that the Princess would only have been pregnant for five and a half months, six at the most.

 

Estiana replied: “Have you forgotten how much time had gone while you were in Alfheim, and how little had passed here in Norway? Time is fluid, young Buren. It does not pass at the same rate in all dimensions. Thus a year may have gone by in one dimension, while only six - or even three - months would have passed elsewhere.”

 

A year after he settled in his new home, he met Elena Jorgenson, a young woman from a nearby village. Six months later, they were married. On their wedding night, Buren told his new wife about his relationship with the Elven Princess. He also informed her of the arrangement he had made if the child was male. At first she did not believe him, but she knew that he was not given to lying or making up tall tales, so she adopted a wait-and-see attitude.

 

This was a good thing because, four years later, there was a knock on the door. Opening it, Buren discovered that it was Estiana, and that she was accompanied by a strapping youth with dark brown hair, and pale blue eyes. At one glance, Buren knew the boy's identity.

 

Buren nodded, and said to the boy: “Welcome my son. I take it your good mother has told you who I am.”

 

The youth replied: “Yes she has father. And so has Estiana when I arrived. My name is Jokyll.”

 

They shook hands, and then embraced. Buren introduced his son to Elena, who smiled and welcomed him to their home. She said: “It looks like our child already has an older brother, even before she is born.”

 

 

Jokyll was able to give Buren news that the Princess had also remarried, and that she had been blessed with a daughter, who she had named Burelea. He told his father that his mother often spoke about him, and that - up until the day she got married - she hoped that, one day she would see him again. “Although she is very content now, sometimes I have seen a look in her eye, as if she is somewhere far away, and I know she is still thinking of you.”

 

Buren sat down, and tried to hide his face as a tear ran down his cheek. Elena put her hand on his shoulder, and softly said: “I know that she was your first love, and that I cannot take her place.”

 

The young man turned to her and responded: “You do not have to. I love you for who you are, not as a replacement for someone else.” And he hugged her pregnant belly, kissing her just above the navel.

 

The Queen recovered almost completely from her illness. But alas, when the time came for her child to be born, the strain proved too much for her. Soon after the new Princess had been delivered into this world, her mother passed away into the next. In 12-83, two years after she married the King of Norway, the nation mourned the death of their Queen. Her daughter was named after her mother, and later returned to her mother's homeland to become Queen Margaret of Scotland. This she remained until her death in 12-90.

 

Eirik remarried. His second wife was Isabel Bruce, sister of Robert the First of Scotland, also known as 'Robert the Bruce'. Together they had a daughter who they named after his own mother, Ingeborg. In 13-12, she was given the title of Duchess of Oland.

 

Elena gave Buren a daughter, who was named Freya, named after one of the Norse goddesses. She did not have any more children after that. Jokyll grew up fair and strong. By choice, he took up his father's place as chief stable hand at the King's stables. He had a natural talent for training animals, and it was said of him that it was almost as though he could actually speak to them.

 

Back in Alfheim, the situation was not favourable. Yet another war had erupted against Barnoore, the 'Dark Land' to the North. The King led a valiant campaign against his enemies, but alas, was badly wounded in battle. He returned to Yaderheim severely weakened from his injuries, and never really recovered. He died six months later, even before his armies finally defeated the opposing forces.

 

The Royal Family was in a state of turmoil because, not only had the King died, but his oldest son and heir to the throne was killed in battle, in the same war that eventually claimed the Monarch's life. The Elders gathered in a secret place to decide who should take Dofri's place. The conclusion was unanimous, and fourteen years - by Elf-Reckoning - after her affair with Buren, Freyur became the second Queen of Alfheim.”

 

By the time the Storyteller had finished, it was way passed lunch time. Again the two maidens thanked him for his trouble. He insisted that they join him for a light meal, and after much persuasion, they accepted his offer.

 

While they were eating, Caroline asked: “You mentioned the difference in the passage of time between our world and Alfheim, and that it passes more slowly on Earth than it does here. But when I spoke to Arnold, he told me that it was the other way around. He would complain that his brother was gone for days, and yet Sven insisted that he had only been there a few hours. What has changed?”

 

Lindstra replied: “That is another tale altogether, and not a pleasant one at that.”

“Can you tell us the story after we've eaten?” Asked Caroline.

 

“If you have the time, certainly.” The Storyteller replied with a smile. Naturally he was happy to oblige. After all, it meant that his very attractive guests would be staying for longer. Thus, after they had finished lunch, and cleared away the dishes, the three of them resumed their positions in the sitting room, and Lindstra began the next tale.

 

“This shows the contrast between human attitude towards the Alfur before the era you call the 'Dark Ages', and that of Buren's time.”

 

“Actually, many of us refer to them as the Burning Times.” Caroline interjected.

 

“... And so do we, if we care to remember them at all, that is. Early on in the 'Burning Times', the humans in Europe began what were known as the 'Fae Hunts'. No-one actually knows what sparked these off, but it is thought that they began as a form of trophy hunting. Many of the nobility had begun hunting wild animals, not for food or clothing, but for sport. They would often boast of their many kills, indicated by the great number of trophies that were hanging on the walls of their homes. Alas, one of the most prized of these trophies would be that of one of the Fae.

 

But there is another possible reason why, and this has to do with the religious beliefs that were becoming all the more prevalent as the years went by. Traditionally, Christianity - or more accurately Catholicism - would have its followers believe that humanity was the pinnacle of Jahweh's Creation. Therefore, any other humanoid life form would sorely challenge this claim. Because one would have to concede that this God created many sentient life-forms, and indeed there would have to be some dispute as to which of them more accurately reflected the so-called 'Divine Image'. Of course, by their own confession, the human race would have to admit that, because of Adam's apparent failure in the Garden of Eden, their ability as the 'Image-Bearer' had been severely tarnished.

 

Thus it was easier to deny the very existence of the races that would rival humanity's claim. By doing so, they would add some validity to their so-called being made in the 'Image and Likeness of God'. However, it would be difficult to deny this existence when the evidence was there for all to see. Therefore these hunts were an attempt to rid the Earth of such evidence.

 

Once the last vestiges of the Fae, or more accurately, the Alfur, had been eradicated, the next phase would be to eliminate any who would attest to the fact that these other beings had indeed lived on Earth, and had been exterminated.

 

And this is the gist of the story that follows: It is centred around two women in the county of Fife, in Scotland. They lived there during the early part of the 14 hundreds. Their names were Dolores Baines and Betsy McCullum. They both lived in the rural communities, where they were respected for their gifts as herbalists or healers. That was until the Catholic Church arrived! They claimed that such practice was witch-craft, and that those who dabbled therein were considered evil.

 

They sent an Inquisitor named Laurence of Lindores to 'investigate' the 'Diabolical Practices', that seemed to be very common in the county of Fife. He was especially interested in the two healers, because both of them claimed to have learned their craft from the Queen of the Elves. So, not only were they guilty of witch-craft, but they also had dealings with the very people that the Church of the day was trying to eliminate.

 

 

 

Dolores was captured first. She was stripped naked, and brought before the Council. Laurence himself presided over these sessions, and tried many times to force the woman to confess that she was lying about her dealings with the Elves. He did not even begin to accuse her of being a witch because of her practice as a healer, but insisted that she deny having had any instruction from the one she called Queen Hildir, a name that was given to Queen Freyur, when she was forced into exile during yet another war with Barnoore. It means 'to hide', or 'be hidden'.

 

Despite all his efforts, the healer refused to follow his orders. Thus it was decided that, if talk alone would not work, the Council would resort to torture. They put her on the rack, fed her poison, and even burnt her with hot metal. And still she refused to obey. At last it was decided that she should be formerly charged with witch-craft, for which the sentence - of course - was to be burnt at the stake. Even as the flames consumed her, she still held on to her claim that she had learned to develop her gifts under the tutelage of the Elven Queen.

 

Next the Council turned their attention to Betsy McCullum. Enraged by the other woman's impudence, they were even more brutal in their dealings with Betsy. They tied weights onto her feet and hoisted her up on a winch as they questioned her. As her arms became dislocated by the strain, Laurence of Lindores tried to force her to repent of her heretical claims. Even in spite of her suffering, she refused to obey him. They took her to the courtyard, stripped her, and hung her on a scaffolding, not only in the broad daylight, but in full view of the public. As she endured even more brutality, Betsy still - and even more boldly - held to the truth.

 

Eventually she too suffered the same fate as Dolores. The difference was that many of the local townsfolk sympathised with her, and even held her in high regard for her steadfastness in the face of such cruelty. Her supporters were too afraid to speak openly, but in their hearts, they considered her to be a martyr, and an example to those who refused to bow to the Papists.

 

Many have questioned the validity of these brave women's claims, but this has raised some rather compelling arguments. The first of which poses the question: Why was the Church of the day so afraid of any who claimed to have had dealings with a race, whose very existence they so vehemently denied? If they indeed believed that there was no such creature, then surely there is nothing to fear. And yet, in many cases, people were tortured and even sentenced to death for claiming that they had been in touch with something that does not even exist.

 

The only conclusion is that the Church wanted the world to believe that there was no such being as an elf, but in their heart of hearts, they knew that this was not true. And this sentiment is even prevalent in our modern times, but I am getting ahead of myself.

 

The second question that needs to be asked is: Why were these two women - and many others like them - so determined to hold onto what they believed, even in the face of the most terrible sadistic cruelty? If it was a hoax, then surely there comes a time when one of them would admit that it was all a lie, even just to save their own necks. And if they were insane, which is most unlikely seeing that Betsy and Dolores were not isolated cases, then why would the Church be so determined to be rid of them? Surely the correct course of action to take would be to lock them away in a dungeon somewhere, seeing that there were no facilities for the mentally insane at the time, and make sure that they never come out.

 

Unless, of course, the Papists wanted to make sure that their testimonies died with them. Not only that, but it would send a clear message to any who would dare to make such claims in the future, that the Church takes such 'heresy' very seriously indeed.

 

 

I see that you are wondering what this has to do with the time-line. It is said that the Elven Council - in reaction to these atrocities - approached their Deities, and requested that the Rift or Veil between the Earth and this realm be altered, so that any access would be very limited. This happened before the era in which Betsy and Dolores lived, during the peak of the Fae Hunts. Thus, after the Council's request had been granted, the portals through which people such as the two healers could travel to Alfheim became few and very far between. Not only that, but those who ventured here would find that they would return months, if not years later, having only spent a comparatively short time in the Elven Realm.

 

Many were so determined to continue visiting Alfheim, that they were prepared to face the consequences of time dilation in order to gain whatever knowledge they sought. Obviously this was the case with the two Scottish women mentioned in the story. The portal at Alfarkirkjan is one of the last remaining points of access into our realm.”

 

Caroline asked: “What is the ratio between time on Earth and that of Alfheim?”

 

The Storyteller answered: “That is difficult to say, but it is thought that for every hour that passes here, three have gone by on Earth. But that is speculation as no-one has actually measured the difference. As the wise druid, Estiana, once told Buren: 'Time is fluid.' It is not easy to tell the passage of time in one dimension while in another.”

 

This worried Caroline. She had never given a thought to how she would get back to her own world, and now she had to be concerned about what month, or even year, it would be when she did. She realised, however, that there was nothing she could do to change what was going to happen. And besides, she was enjoying every moment with the Elves, and especially with her beloved Shael. She tried very hard to banish any idea that this dream would come to an end, and that she would have to return to Earth some time.

 

During the following months, a team of Elven engineers from Yaderheim had been given the task of removing the fallen debris, that still filled the shaft above where Caroline had fallen. The work had to be done in such a way so as not to weaken the rock strata any more. This they did in much the same way as miners would shore up the tunnels that they were working, using wooden struts to strengthen the formations, especially where there was a crack or fault-line. Inwardly, Caroline hoped that their attempts would not succeed, and that she would have an excuse to stay in Alfheim indefinitely.

 

But alas, such a notion was in vane, and approximately five months after her fateful fall into the caves that led her to Alfheim, Shael returned home, having been summoned to the guard-house in the centre of the village, and announced: “A way has been cleared for you to return to Iceland, even through the same doorway by which you came to be here. Tomorrow I will take you as far as the cave where you fell, and there you will only have to climb up the shaft, and you will be back in your own world again.”

 

The she-elf noticed a frown on Caroline's face, and added: “My dear one. We knew from the start that our love would only be for a short while. I am also saddened that we must part, but part we must. I said in the beginning that we must take as much joy and contentment as we can, from the time we have been together. And that we have done, but the time has come, even if we believe that it is much too soon. Who is to say that we will not meet again some time?”

 

 

 

 

Caroline took the young maiden in her arms, and held her while she responded: “So young, and yet - as always - so wise. Perhaps we will meet again. I sincerely hope so. I still wish that I could take you with me, but Lindstra was right. Even in the face of hard evidence, many of my people still would rather deny your existence, than face the possibility that their theories and beliefs are wrong.”

 

They kissed. They kissed as though their very lives depended on it. They wept until their eyes were red from weeping. And then a strange sense of tranquil resolve came over them. That night, they slept in each other's arms for the last time, and the next morning, Shael took Caroline through the door, back into the caves, and right up to where she had fallen after her line had snapped, thus beginning the adventure that was about to draw to a close.

 

Again they held each other and kissed the tears from one another's eyes. As Caroline begun her ascent, she chanced to look back over her shoulder, and in the dim glow of the lamp that Shael was holding, she saw that pretty face, those deep brown eyes, and that slender figure for the last time. Soon the light became too feint, and all she could see was a silhouette, a mere shadow. But the glow was just bright enough so that she was able to scale the narrow shaft, until she clambered onto the ledge where she had fallen. She took out the small crystal that Shael had given her before they left Fyedur, and placed it on the cave floor at the bottom of the second climb.

 

She was given strict instructions that she could take nothing with her that had any connection with the Elven Realm. This even included the robe she was wearing. She took off the garment, and folded it up, placing the crystal on top of it so that it illuminated the climb to the surface. All she wore was her underwear and her shoes. What was left behind, Shael would collect once Caroline had gone, and return to Alfheim with them.

 

As always, the ascent was easier than when she had climbed down, especially because the light from the crystal did not fail her on the way up. Soon she was on her hands and knees, crawling towards the broad daylight that shone through the entrance to the cave where her journey had begun. She felt a little like Alice as she scrambled through the mouth of her own 'rabbit-hole'. Although part of her felt glad that she was back in her own dimension, there was another that would have gladly returned to her 'Wonderland'.

 

 

 

 


© Copyright 2017 Tristan Biggs. All rights reserved.

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