Monday, October 28, 2013

"Laurel of Andar" Excerpt--The Heart of the Elvenking

Laurel opened her eyes and blinked to clear the fog from her vision. Wherever she was, the light was dim, almost like candlelight. For some reason, her head hurt, her body felt heavy, and she could not make out her surroundings.
She flinched when she felt the cold, hard rim of a bowl touch her lips. A soothing voice said, "I am a nurse, and my name is Eurilla. Here, drink this."
Laurel opened her lips and weakly allowed the warm, savory liquid slip down her throat and felt it seep into her body, refreshing and invigorating her.
As her vision cleared, Laurel finally discerned that she was in some sort of room with earthen walls and floor, and directly across the room from the foot of the bed was a tunnel instead of a door. Laurel could hear movement and the steady hum of voices, but she could not see out because the tunnel bent a short ways out from the room.
She lay on a simple bed with white sheets and soft blankets; light streamed through a window on her right, and an Elf-maid dressed in the livery of the royal family watched over her on her left.
Laurel opened her mouth to speak to the maid, but all that came out was a soft moan.
Eurilla smiled gently, "Hush," she murmured, "Just rest, you don't need to speak."
"But..." Laurel struggled to continue, "who--"
"We are the Orvenness, the Faithful Andarians to the Elvenking. We have been waiting for you since the death of His Majesty."

Laurel shook her head; she felt stronger as the medicine worked through her tired, scuffed limbs. Slowly, with Eurilla's assistance, she eased to a sitting position. Once she was settled, she asked incredulously, "Why me? Why should you wait so expectantly for the daughter of a half-elf?"

The elf-maid's eyes snapped wide and her white hand flew to her smooth cheek. "Half-elf!" she cried, "Then you... You're the infant!" the outburst came with a look of shock, confusion, and horror. "How can this be?" Eurilla breathed.

"Trouble, Eurilla?" a voice not unlike Moraenor's inquired from the doorway.
Laurel looked up at the newcomer--an Elvish soldier-- as the flustered Elf-maid murmured, "No sir," curtseyed, and swept from the room without another glance at her patient.

The new elf smiled at Laurel and remained a respectful distance from the bed.
Laurel squinted at his familiar face, trying to place where she had seen him. After several moments, she remembered, "You're the Elf from the corridor!"
The Elf nodded, a bit apologetically, "My name is Imadan. I am sorry if I was too harsh. Our orders were not to allow entry without the password."
Laurel nodded benevolently, "Then you are not at fault, for you obeyed your orders. Sir," she continued, "can you tell me what this place is? Who prepared it, and why?"
The elf frowned, "You don't know? No one told you?"
Imadan sighed; obviously he was more comfortable fighting than explaining. "This, madam, is the Haven of the Faithful, designed here in Mt. Horbaroth by your great-uncle, Golon."
Laurel tipped her head. "I thought he was my grandfather."
"He raised your father, it is true, but you are the granddaughter of his sister, Jerynna, who died of the blight in Andar. She begged him to take her child, and out of love for her, Golon brought your father as an infant to Murinda. He wanted to be sure that you and any you brought with you would be safe in the event of Glastorian oppression or any other major disaster. When he fell on the field of battle, all the elves present--all of us--withdrew into this mountain to await your coming."

Laurel shook her head again, "But I don't understand!" she cried, "Why would you wait all this time for only me?"
Imadan shrugged, "I serve the Elvenking and his kin."

Laurel gazed toward the window pensively. "So do I, but what does that have to do with your serving me? Besides," She turned back to Imadan, "I always thought that the Elvenking died a long time ago, and he had no kin."
Imadan smiled strangely, "Oh, but he had kin, though none realized it." He straightened and said, "With your permission, miss, I would like to show you something in another room. Do you feel well enough to rise from your bed?"
Laurel moved her arms and legs. They felt a bit stiff and extremely sore, but her limbs were by no means incapable.
"Yes," she answered Imadan.
He offered his arm and escorted Laurel out of the room. The young Elf-maid received her first look at the Miselaithe Anoy Orvenness.

The sheer size of the sanctuary struck her first.
To see the outside of it, and indeed with the winding maze of mine-shafts all throughout the mountain, one would never expect much room to be left for a colony of Elves to live, but all around her Laurel saw the Elvish ingenuity. She did not feel one bit like she was inside a mine, nor very far inside a mountain, for that matter. Though the halls, walls, ceiling, and floor were hewn out of rock, everything had been polished until it was smooth as marble, and the odd shaft-tunnel incorporated into the design of the room. In addition there were windows everywhere, and not mere port-holes, either, but those of the large, bay-window variety. Laurel glanced at Imadan.
"Where in the mountain is this place, exactly? Because it would be very hard indeed to hide windows like these from the prying eyes of unwanted company! How have you kept this place from discovery?"
Imadan smiled ruefully, "You forget, ma'am, that this mountain has been considered haunted by the men and dwarves of Glastor since long before we came here. This haven is shielded behind the main peak of Mt. Horbaroth--the one actually called Mt. Horbaroth, as it is the only one visible from anywhere in Glastor--and many of the windows face into the center of the range. See?" he pointed out one of the windows, and Laurel saw only rocky peaks and crags. "Most of the windows have a view similar to this one; their design is to let light into the Haven."

They moved on, and Laurel eagerly drank in the wealth of sights: a glimpse of a kitchen here, a sewing room there, even a room full of drying herbs--and elves everywhere! They crossed from room to room, occasionally stopping to murmur to one another softly in what Laurel identified (with a little thrill) as Andarian. Elves, maidens, and elf-children abounded in this happy, fruitful place. Laurel felt that this was exactly the sort of place her grandfather--or rather, great-uncle, she corrected herself--would have wanted for her.
"All this, for me?" she gasped, trying in vain to take it all in, "Absolutely unbelievable!"

At last, Imadan led her toward a set of tall, ornate doors carved from the milky-white wood of the tree called houm. Two elves stood guard before the doors.
          "If you ever get tired of staring out the windows at rocks," Imadan explained, "You can come in here any time you wish and feast your eyes on this!" He signaled the guards, and they pushed open the doors as Imadan swept Laurel into the grandest sight yet.

A gigantic room of white rock produced an ethereal glow in the light of the midday sun. A giant, round, stained-glass window adorned the back wall. On the dais before it stood a plush-cushioned golden chair, but this was not the first thing Laurel noticed.
This room had only three sides. The fourth side, on Laurel's right, presented a large balcony. Laurel gazed breathlessly over it all. Imadan brought her out to the balcony. The side of the mountain curved inward around the right side of the balcony, creating a sort of cove-like seclusion for it. Just beyond the rock, the nether trees of Beilon forest grew around the edge of the mountain, bringing their branches close to the balcony.
           Now Imadan brought her to the center of the room, where a magnificent book lay on a gilded bookstand. Laurel gazed in awe at its bright crimson cover with the title in Andarian runes etched in gold. She read the runes aloud as she traced them with her finger. "Oy Djenjerod Anoy Rethanandaru."

Imadan looked as pleased as an Elf could. "You read Andarian very well."

Laurel blushed at the praise and smiled sadly, "Grandfather taught me to read it, and after he died father was the only one who would teach me to speak it. I know a little, but I am by no means fluent."
"Well, can you translate the title of this book?" Imadan inquired.
Laurel squinted at the runes, trying to recall the meanings of the words. "Um, The...something... of the... Elvenking."
Imadan nodded in approval. "That word, djenjerod, is literally "age"--that's djen, I'm sure you've heard that term before-- and jerod refers to a record or account. So, djenjerod, age-record; annals, basically."
Laurel's mother-of-pearl eyes sparkled. "The annals of the Elvenking?" she breathed. "May I read them?"

"Of course," Imadan replied easily. He opened the book, and Laurel feasted her eyes on the narrow, curling shapes of the Andarian runes. She scanned the pages, enjoying the magnificent illustrations and picking out words she recognized, asking Imadan about the rest. She saw the word krest  which meant war, and miche, which she knew was the word for sword, and of course, oft repeated was Rethanandaru, Elvenking, but she could not understand the rest.

On the opposite page was a superbly detailed and brilliantly colored depiction of a great sword, with a banner curling around its blade that read, "Raenna Anoy Rethanandaru."
"What does this page say, Imadan?" Laurel asked eagerly.
The young soldier solemnly read the text and translated it with a curious light in his eye. "It speaks of the Andarian rights of legacy, or, how the Elvenking chooses an heir. If he is wounded in battle, or dying of age or disease, he calls the one he has chosen for a private conference, and ceremonially passes the sword to that one. By this sword, the Raenna-An-Rethanandaru, or 'Heart of the Elvenking,' all shall know the Elvenking's heir."

Too bad he never had one, Laurel thought as she traced the lines of the sword in the picture. The ceremony Imadan described reminded her of when Grandfather had given her his sword as he lay dying—
Laurel's head snapped up suddenly. A sneaking suspicion seized her heart and almost stopped it cold.
Laurel gasped, "It can't be!" She scrutinized the illustration of the Raenna-an-rethanandaru. The sapphire pommel, the vermilion scabbard with its multicolored designs--it was Grandfather's sword!
"Then...why, that--that means--" Laurel was so stunned she could not speak, but could only rub her forehead in wonder. "But I thought... Grandfather, he's--he's the--"
She turned to Imadan, who immediately sank to one knee in reverence.
"Yes, Lady Laurelindolonorina, Raennalaerynn anoy Rethanandaru," he murmured softly, "Golon was the Elvenking, and you are his heir."