Chapter 2 : Chapter II
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A translation of King Volundr IX’s account of the great Ylve downfall.
Translated by O. Stroulger and G. Goshawk.
I am Volundr IV, King of the Ylve*1, Regent of the Weald*2
I have failed my people and brought about their downfall. We have lost this war and I have no doubts that wizard-kind will give us cause to regret our loss a thousand-fold.
The Ylve are a powerful race. We may be small in stature in the eyes of men, but our powers are great and manifold. Hence it is so difficult to understand how we can have lost. It is my belief that we were too proud, too confident in our own power.
Had we won I should have been remembered forever as the greatest of Kings and my line should have lived forever. Instead my line will cease with my death, my sons and daughters have already been taken from me, and my greatest hope is to be forgotten.
I am King Volundr IX, and this is my account of the downfall of the Ylve.
It was the year 610 BC.
Twas summer and it was warm on the day this tale begins. The ground was a lush carpet of soft green grass with patches of pale bluebells.
An Ylve messenger appeared suddenly before a leviathan of a tree, his arrival announced by a sharp snap. The messenger placed a hand onto the old bark. He could feel the life of it beneath his long fingers, all Ylve feel the life of trees, as he wiggled his fingers into the wood, grasping for the door handle. He gave it a gentle twist once he’d grasped it, and a door opened smoothly before him, granting him entrance.
He had to walk up several flights of stairs to reach the throne room, where the recipients of his message awaited him. He could technically have appeared before them instantly, the Ylve can appear wherever they want, they are not constrained in the same way magical Men are, but it was considered politeness to approach the King on ones own two feet. The messenger opened the door.
“My King,” He knelt hastily before the King Volundr IX, the next Volundr*3 X and Prince Thrandl.
King Volundr nodded, gesturing with a hand that the messenger had permission to rise and deliver his message.
“My King, the next Volundr and Prince. I bring dire news from the north. Wizarding Men have moved into our northern forests.”
Three pairs of eyes seemed to sharpen and refocus.
“They are cutting down the trees, my King.” The messenger added.
Thrandl barred his teeth. Thrandl was King Volundr’s second child, and his heir should anything befall his daughter, the next Volundr. Thrandl was slim for an Ylve, all pointed surfaces and sharp angles. His eyes were narrow and his ears long.
“Peace Thrandl,” The King muttered, shooting a glance at his son.
Thrandl was volatile and at times unpredictable. He also harboured an intense hatred of Man which went beyond the general disdain and suspicion most Ylve had of them.
“Father, we cannot let them trespass on our land and destroy our homes!”
The next Volundr turned her gaze on him. The King nodded at her. She would need to be able to handle her brother when she became Queen. He would let her deal with him this time.
“Be silent Thrandl, you leap at every opportunity for war.”
The next Volundr was calm and cool. She turned her attention back to the messenger.
“Are there any Ylve living in the area?”
Thrandl interrupted, his eyes bright. “We should enter some of their settlements and torch their homes. For Justice.”
King Volundr twisted one finger and Thrandl’s body was swivelled around to face him. The King regarded his son with a hard look.
“That is vengeance, son. Not Justice. You will do no such thing! Our peace with Men is tenacious enough as it is.”
Thrandl’s eyes seemed to spark with fury. “We shouldn’t have to struggle to maintain this peace!” He insisted. “We are stronger than they are!”
“It is not necessarily a question of strength, my son. War is rarely good for a people.”
The King released his son. He gave the messenger a short nod.
“I will go to the northern borders. We may be able to come to some kind of trade agreement if it’s only wood they’re after.” The messenger nodded. “You will bring me there, we depart within the hour. Volundr, you are regent whilst I am away.”
It was an uncertain time. Relations between the Ylve and Man were tense. A war was looming closer and closer on the horizon. Thus it was mere days after the departure of the King that another message was brought to Royal house of Volundr.
“I bring a message for the King!” The messenger shouted. The next Volundr stood and approached him, with all the calm authority a future Queen needs.
“The King is away in the northern provinces. I am regent in his absence.”
The messenger nodded, a quick short movement. “There was a raid this morning at one of the southern-most borders of the Weald.” He said, speaking rapidly. “It appears that some human Lord accused one of our healers of making his wife go mad.”
Thrandl looked up from his seat, renewed interest blossoming in his eyes.
“And is it true?” the next Volundr asked.
The messenger shrugged. “No one knows.”
Thrandl barred his teeth furiously, “Does it really matter Volundr? They attacking our lands!”
The next Volundr frowned at her brother, her narrow eyes squinting at him from beneath the sharp line of her brow. “It matters.”
Volundr was silent for a moment, her expression thoughtful. “We will send part of the royal army to support and protect the settlement should Man return. Also, please summon the accused Ylve and some others from the settlement. I will gather the council and we will discuss how we should react to this.”
“React!?” Thrandl shrieked, eyes blazing, “raid some of their settlements Volundr! Justice!”
The next Volundr shot her brother a glare. “Hasty actions make for hasty regrets!” She hissed.
“There is another thing,” The messenger said, his voice suddenly heavy. “A child died during the raid. Tosilf. She was trampled by the Mens horses.” A moment of stunned silence followed this announcement.
“Send some of the royal army to protect them while we discuss the matter.” Volundr answered. Her eyes had grown large and sad. “We will discuss what to do. Hasty actions, hasty regrets.”
The messenger nodded and spun on the spot, vanishing.
Thrandl scowled and ground his teeth. Volundr’s way was too slow. They needed to send Man a message now. Not tomorrow. There was no time for talking.
Silently he too vanished, arriving a moment later in the unfortunate settlement.
He could feel anger burning, a flaming blaze in the pit of his stomach. They had murdered a child of the Ylve. A shudder ran down Thrandls spine, a shudder at the evilness of Man. Something had to be done.
The settlement was a mess. Several trees had been felled. Food and furniture lay scattered across the forest floor.
It didn’t take long for Thrandl to find the Ylve he was seeking.
“Are you the father of Tosilf?” He asked.
The Ylve was young. Thrandl guessed that she had been his first child. The Ylve nodded, his eyes heavy with sorrow, his expression broken.
“I am Prince Thrandl of the Weald, first brother to the next Volundr. If you gather four loyal friends and follow me I will give you vengeance.”
It was late and Lord Bealdor was hosting a small banquet for his fellow Lords who had supported his feud with the Aelfadl*4 in the forest. They’d expressed their deepest sympathies to Lord Bealdor, for his mad wife. Conversation had slipped easily into one discussing the wickedness of the Aelfadl.
“My Mother,” said one “is plagued by dreadful nightmares. It’s the work of some wicked Aelfadl.” His companions groaned in sympathy, nodding into their goblets.
“Oh that’s nothing!” Insisted another, “In one of the villages not 5 miles from here, all the cows have stopped giving milk and the hens have ceased to lay eggs.”
“Indeed.” Answered Lord Bealdor, “The Aelfadl should be no more than a fantasy creature of nightmares.” His friends nodded and murmured their ascent.
It truly was Lord Bealdor’s belief that the Aelfadl were an evil race, which should be wiped out. Nothing more than a fairytale creature.
There was a sudden snap, and there, right there on the centre of his dining table, stood an Aelfadl. Many of the assembly began to rise, panicked shouts echoed across the room. The hideous creature before him snapped his fingers and everyone froze. Some of Lord Bealdor’s friends were half-way out of their chairs, their swords only part-way out of their scabbards.
Despite its grotesque appearance, Lord Bealdor couldn’t help but notice that the creature wore exceptionally fine apparel. Indeed, even more fine than his own. It wore woollen breeches, green, which stopped slightly above its ankles where they were met by leather stockings. It wore a scarlet woollen tunic, with embellishments adorning the collar and waist. Strings of amber and wooden beads hung about its neck. Over the tunic it wore a cloak of striking green, fastened on its shoulder with a brooch shaped like a crown encircling a tree. Several hoops of precious gold encircled its scrawny wrists and pierced its oversized ears.
The creature turned its gaze to his and its already narrow eyes seemed to narrow even further.
“You,” he said, looking at Bealdor down his long nose, “must be Bealdor.”
The creature began to walk down the table, closer to where Aldrich sat. It stepped into the plates, deliberately kicking over some of the wine goblets.
The message was clear. See how I can come into your home. See how no one can stop me. I can step on your food I can invade your homes and nothing could stop me.
It surprised Bealdor that it had such an ordinary voice. Possibly even a powerful voice. It was deep and smooth, almost lyrical. It was the kind of voice one would have expected of a strong man. Not a small twisted creature such as this.
“I am your judgement, Bealdor.” It said. It looked into his eyes and did not seem pleased with what it saw there.
“A few days ago you saw fit to accuse my people of rendering your wife mad.” The creatures’ eyes flashed, “What a small man you must be, if you cannot even protect your wife from such an ailment.”
Aldrich struggled in his seat. Who did the creature think it was, to come here into his house and offend him? Calling him small. How dare it!
But the invisible bonds which held Aldrich in his chair would not budge.
The Aelfadl watched him struggle for a moment, a small smile growing from the corner of its lips. Then it opened its mouth and continued.
“You orchestrated a small raid on a minor Ylve settlement as revenge, possibly also to show off to your oafish friends here.” The creature gestured towards Aldrichs companions, scowling in distaste.
“During that raid,” The creature continued, “An Ylve child was killed. Tosilf.”
It looked him straight in the eye. Searching for a sign of remorse? Bealdor struggled again, who was it to think that it should hold him accountable for an accidental death during a raid.
It barred its teeth at him, and hissed.
“Men.” It said. “They think that their physical size makes them superior to us. But you forget about the size of power. Power does not always manifest itself so plainly. You Men all seem blind to it.”
The creature stamped his foot and all the chairs collapsed, each leg seeming to have been swept clean off. “I could destroy your cities.”
It snapped its fingers everything went black. The creature’s voice spoke next to his ear. “I could take away your sight.”
It snapped again and Aldrich could see again. He shuddered. The creature stood so close to him that all he could see was its enormous eyes.
“The power of a single Ylve child is worth more than that of three human children.”
It snapped its fingers again. It jumped down from the table and spun Aldrichs chair around so it stood with its back to the table. In front of him Bealdor could now see five Aelfadl. Suspended in the air before them were three of his children.
Bealdor stiffened. He tried to get up. He shot the creature a terrified look. Its expression was hard.
“What are you doing?!” Bealdor exclaimed, speaking to the creature for the first time. “You cannot come in here and murder my children!” he roared.
“This is not murder.” It said, meeting his gaze, “It is justice. Three of your children for one of mine.”
Aldrich struggled frantically in his seat. He looked at each of his children. His son’s Afol and Sceaft. His daughter Féa. They were so young. Féa was not yet 9 years old. They appeared to be asleep. He could see they eyes moving rapidly beneath their delicate lids. He could hear the sweet sounds of their breathing; see the soft rise and fall of their young chests. Only this evening he had heard one of the maids telling Sceaft that if he didn’t soon behave one of the nasty Aelfadl would come and get him. Well. One of them had.
“Please do not kill my children, I beg of you!” Bealdor had said, his voice quavering. “I will do anything you ask of me. I will never come near your forests again, you have my word!”
The Aelfadl met his gaze coolly. His expression was bland, mildly bored even, but Bealdor could see a torrent of rage within its eyes. He realised then that there would be no negotiating with the creature. It would do what it had come to do.
“It is too late.” It said, regarding the quivering mess of a man before him with distaste. “You signed their death warrants when you killed one of my people.”
Tears streamed down Bealdors cheeks as he sobbed brokenly. He kept his eyes open, on his children. If only he could hold then in his arms but once more.
The creature snapped his fingers. The three children appeared to slump in their sleep, their small bodies suddenly inanimate. Aldrich let out a howl. The Aelfadl vanished and his children’s bodies fell to the ground, their small forms hitting the ground with an unpleasant thud.
And thus it began.
*1 Ylve is an old form of the word elf.
*2 The Weald was once a vast forest located in South East England during the Anglo-saxon period. The word means forest.
*3 The first born of the Ylve regent will always receive the name Volundr, irrespective of gender, and will be Regent after the current Regent is dead, again irrespective of gender. The current King’s first born child was a daughter. Her name is therefore Volundr and she will rule after the current King. Until the current King Volundr dies she will be known as 'The next Volundr'.
*4 Aelfadl is a word from middle ages folk lore meaning 'nightmares' and was believed to be an affliction caused by elves. Aelf is another Old English form of the word elf.
Thank you to Wikipedia, the fount of all knowledge (if not necessariy the most trusted of all sources), who helped to enlighten me on old english myths and lore with regards to elves as well as many 7th century subjects including what people wore and how they lived.
Thank you for reading my second chapter :) I hope you enjoyed it.
I'm always looking to improve my writing so any constructive criticism is much appreciated :)
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