Chapter 51. Deraynia
A light breeze made the leaves rustle. Roe took a deep breath of the fresh late summer air and enjoyed the view from above. She could see all of the valley from where she was standing on the first floor of their new house. Otter, her mother was walking around on the bank of the creek. Thorundur had built their house so close to her parents that they could visit each other every day if they wished.
Thorundur had insisted on building the house in elven style and Roe loved it. For once she walked the stairs from the first floor to the ground as Thorundur had told her that stairs were supposed to be used. Otherwise she loved to find new routes to climb between the second floor and the first and between the first floor and the ground. Thorundur was down on the ground keeping an eye on their baby daughter who was sound aspleep in a crib hanging from a tree. Roe strolled over to them and sat down on the grass next to the crib watching her husband. Watching Thorundur was a pleasure she never got tired of. Sometimes she could still wake up and believe that it was just a dream that he was hers. He smiled at her with that smile that only he could make.
“This is how you must have looked like when you were a baby?” Thorundur’s face had the softest expression that Roe had ever seen as he bent over the crib. “I’m sure Toraldor will change his mind about us when he sees the baby. How could he not love her? Especially now, when he’s also been blessed. Our daughter will have a cousin any time now.”
Roe didn’t answer but she didn’t believe that Thorundur’s brother, Toraldor, would ever forgive her. She didn’t blame him. After all, it was her fault that the elves would lose Thorundur some day in the future. Toraldor had made it perfectly clear that he hated her and would hate her as long as he lived. That was likely to be a very long time indeed, Roe thought.
With a shiver she remembered that terrible day when Thorundur had screamed back at his brother. He’d forbidden Toraldor to ever show himself before Roe unless he would treat her with respect. Roe hadn’t seen Toraldor since that day, and it was almost a year ago now. Thorundur on his side had refused to visit his brother as he meant that it was Toraldor who had erred and should take the first step to reconciliation.
The baby made a small sound and swiftly Thorundur picked her up. The next second, Otter, Roe’s mother, was standing next to Thorundur admiring the baby. She never missed a chance to be with her grandchild.
“Are you sure that those blue eyes will be strong enough for hunting,” Otter asked as so many times before.
“I can assure you that elven eyes are strong enough for hunting.” Thorundur smiled softly and stroke the baby’s smooth forehead. “Do you think she’ll ever grow horns like Roe?” he asked his mother in law.
Watching Otter and Thorundur with the baby dispelled the sad thoughts that Roe had about Thorundur’s relatives. Her parents had not been happy at first either when they had realized that she and Thorundur had chosen each other. At least they hadn’t reacted with disgust as Thorundur’s brother had, and Thorundur had very soon managed to win Roe’s parents over. When it was clear that Otter and Wolf were going to have a grandchild they had completely forgotten their last doubtfulness about Roe and Thorundur for the joy of a new baby.
“We’ve already agreed on her name,” Thorundur caught Roe’s eyes with a proud smile on his lips. “Her name will be Deraynia.”
As expected, Otter looked doubtful. “That doesn’t sound like a name for a baby at all.”
Chapter 52. An Overcast Day
”So, this is the place where we’ll write history”, Jasiri was the one who finally stated the obvious.
“It looks much better than what we were prepared for”. Torstein continued, expressing what everyone was feeling.
Alexander quickly summoned the situation in his head. The odds looked very much to be in his favor. They outnumbered Erik’s troops. In addition a considerable part of Erik’s troops were inexperienced farm boys who’s loyalty Erik obviously doubted as he’d put loyal archers behind them.
Erik had, however, placed his most loyal lords around himself.
”I hope that you’re prepared to meet the gods, because we’re sending you there”, Erik shouted over the field.
The smug smile on Erik’s face must be a false act. Alexander’s scouts and spies had obviously been right; King Knut had not yet sent an army to help his son in law.
”Fear not”, Alexander said to his men. “We all know that if you fight bravely and fall in battle the gods will welcome us to a better world. But I hope that you’re in no hurry to meet the gods because the odds are in our favor”.
The men and the few women in Alexander’s troops didn’t seem to need more encouragement. They slammed their swords against their shields and roared in response to show their eagerness.
The ravens that had followed them for some time now, shrieked in response to the roar. No matter how the battle ended, the ravens wouldn’t be disappointed today.
Next thing the inferno was over them. Shouts, the sound of metal meeting shields and soon enough also the smell of blood and the cries from the wounded or dying filled the air.
When the baggage trains reached the battle field both sides started to raise spiked barricades. Alexander found himself with loyal Jasiri on one side, spiked barricades behind him, and Erik’s men crowded in front of him and Jasiri aiming for the horses. Galaxy bravely did anything Alexander asked him to do but it was obvious that he would soon fall and Alexander with him. It was time to part and hope that Galaxy would be wise enough to look after himself.
Swiftly Alexander slipped down from Galaxy’s back to the ground, sword raised in hand. Jasiri followed Alexander’s example and back to back they fought against a wall of enemies.
“The gods are truly with us today” Jasiri hissed from the corner of his mouth as the enemies fell one by one for their swords.
Erik was always outside Alexander’s reach. Surrounded by loyal swordsmen he kept in the periphery of the battle. This could, however not last for very long. The enemy lines were thinning out and Erik couldn’t keep out of reach forever.
From the corner of his eye Alexander caught a glimpse of Sigrid. It made him happy to see that she had made it until now. Although it looked like she could do with some help, Alexander had his own business to finish first. He deflected a blow with his shield and with one swift strike his sword finished the fight and the enemy fell to never rise again.
Meanwhile Sigrid had apparently handled her own opponent who was now lying face down on the ground in a pool of blood. Their eyes met for a short moment but Sigrid’s brows raised, her face filled with fear and she shouted, “Behind you”.
Alexander looked up to see the sharp sword, missing his throat by an inch as he turned around. Automatically his fists clenched harder around the sword hilt. Before he had time to react the enemy sword fell to the ground together with the enemy.
Sigrid had seen the danger coming and with an almost superhuman speed she had reacted. The enemy, all focused on Alexander, had not seen Sigrid coming to Alexander’s rescue. It was not Sigrid who needed his help. Once again he was in her dept. He gave her a quick nod and she bowed back, even making time for a hint of a curtsey.
Alexander nodded and let his eyes rest on the enemy whose sword most likely would have sent him to the gods hadn’t it been for Sigrid. What he saw sent cold chills through his spine. This was not an unknown enemy without a name. It was Eskil, his cousin and Erik’s younger brother.
Before Alexander could gather himself the sky opened and a heavy rain started falling. There were shouts all over the field, some filled with fear, other with joy and hope. Alexander looked up. Dark clouds covered the sky completely hiding the sun, but the weather was not the reason for the shouts.
As if they had stepped out of a dark fairy tale, Dark elves invaded the battle field. On a black horse was an elf with a golden circlet around his forehead and a red dragon on his chest plate. This must be the legendary Dragon, the fairytale king of the dark elves and his army.
Alexander realized that he would meet the gods before the sun set. But before that he would fight like the gods had never seen anyone fighting before.
Chapter 53 Elves
Dark elves were everywhere around them. So this was the reason for Erik’s smug smile, he’d made a pact with the dark ones. How could that be?
“Forward,” Alexander shouted. “Show them how humans fight!” But what did it help that humans were stronger sword fighters than the more slender elves when the odds had so drastically changed. Erik’s side now outnumbered Alexander’s by far. Each step was heavier than the previous as the heavy rain turned the ground into mud.
It felt like a shock wave. Alexander never saw from where the blow came but suddenly he was kneeling in the mud. Quickly he turned around and jumped to his feet to find himself facing the Dark elf king. Strangely the king didn’t seem to notice Alexander but sat completely motionless with his eyes fixed on something far away.The only part of the king that moved was his lips. A clinging sound of something that hit a rock made Alexander turn his eyes in the direction of the sound. An arrow seemingly aimed for the dark elf king was bouncing on the rocky ground where it had fallen. Around the Dragon king there were piles of more arrows that had missed their target. With a firm grip on his sword Alexander took a step towards the Dragon just be hit by a new shock wave that sent him backwards, this time landing on his back far away from the elven king. When Alexander was back on his feet the battle was all around him again and the chance to get close to the Dragon king was gone for this time.
When one enemy fell there were three new to fill in his or hers place. Alexander’s sword and shield felt heavier and heavier. The slippery and muddy ground was stained red. Warriors had fallen on both sides but it would take a miracle to win the battle.
Alexander flinched as the wing of a flying raven touched his chin. It gave a long shriek. “Are you calling me to the gods? Is it time?”
Next thing the clouds dispersed and the rain stopped falling as suddenly as it had started. The sun that had been hidden behind the clouds sent beams touching the battle field.
“My eyes, my eyes, I cannot focus!”
Even with the different accent Alexander could easily understand the upset words that dark elves were shouting. It hit Alexander that he’d seen dark elf magic all the time without realizing it. It must be the Dragon that had summoned the clouds and the rain because Dark elves were not adapted to bright sunshine. That’s why they lived in caves or in deep dark forest, while Light elves were creatures of the day light but with poor night vision. But not even dark elf magic could do much against the gods’ will. After all, it was the gods who ultimately controlled the weather. In the bright sunshine the Dark elves’ arrows missed their targets more often than not and also the sword fighters had obvious problems. But Erik’s human and elven troops still outnumbered Alexander’s troops.
“The gods are on our side, don’t give up. Try to fight with the sun in your back.” Alexander shouted, although it was difficult to see how they could have a chance to win the battle.
“You, friend of the Light elves, you will die,” the elf almost spitted out the words as he rushed against Alexander with sword lifted.
Alexander met the blow with the broad side of his sword. Instinctively he quickly lifted his shield and took one quick step aside.
The elf lost his balance as the pressure against his sword suddenly relieved. What the elf lacked in experience of sword fighting and proper armor he tried to make up with will-power and hatred. But as he bashed forward he left an opening. Alexander blocked the elven sword with his shield as he drove his own sword deep into the dark elf.
The elf’s face was distorted with hatred and surprise as he died. There was something familiar with that face but the madness had not been there the first that time Alexander had seen those hate filled eyes a long time ago.
“I felt sympathy for you when the light elves once gave you a cruel punishment. But hatred, madness and sword fight don’t go well together,” Alexander said as the elf took his last breath.
Next thing the sound of a war horn filled the air, drowning all other sounds. Baffled Alexander looked around, just to see that the dark elves and Erik’s troops were just as startled as he was.
With armors shining in the sun, the Light elves came riding to join the battle. King Eraldor had finally found Alexander, whom he’d been searching for so long.
The confusion was total. Anger was undoubtedly mixed with fear in the dark elves shouts. Erik and his troops had terror in their faces because they didn’t know about Aliendre. In Alexander’s troops there seemed to be a growing hope mixed with doubt because only Jasiri knew about Alexander’s problems with the Light elves.
What didn’t make sense to Alexander was that the Light elves not only carried their green royal banners with the sacred tree of life, but also Alexander’s blue banner.
Then he saw her!