EmberVale - Chapt. 3 - "Fae'ierVale"
Fae'ierVale - Capital of the EmberVale Empire
Written By: KyAuna Alonzo
Aylmon sat at the head of the banquet table, his lips thin with a smile as he took in the waiting faces of his family and guests. He was a tall man, his pure white hair reached down his back with the exception of the sections of hair that were permitted to sit perfectly over each shoulder. His hair remained tucked behind his pointed elven ears and held firmly in place by the crown that decorated his head. His high elven blood ran prominent in his blood line, his piercing blue eyes studied the face of his last living child, his daughter Eilwyn. She had inherited her mother’s turquoise eyes and hair as flawless as white gold. But the way she returned his gaze made him see only himself. “It pleases me to have you all in my company,” he said, reaching his voice out over the room. The musicians ceased their tune to listen, all eyes fell on the self-proclaimed emperor, “As many of you know, my grandsons have been fighting wars. Ethland in the north-west and Elre on the eastern shore.” Aylmon paused, allowing his guests to whisper among themselves a brief moment. There was some confusion as they turned to the young prince Elre who sat silently at the banquet table among them, “Elre has delivered me victory and EldreMist is now ours.” Applause broke out in the echoing banquet room and Elre smiled brightly under the praise. Aylmon raised a hand and the room settled to a stilled silence, “Being the youngest of my male heirs, and one with the least experienced both in war as well in life, I did not expect victory to befell us so soon. He left simply a prince of his people but has returned as also their champion, it is for this reason that I pass to him the only reward befitting his deeds…I intend to name him King of EldreMist.”
The hall erupted in applause and cheer, Elre appeared stunned briefly before rising to his feet and making his way up the length of the table to where his grandfather sat and embraced him heartily, “Thank you grandfather,” he said gratefully.
“It is nothing short of what you deserve,” Aylmon said softly as he patted the soon to be king on the back, “Take care not to disappoint me,” he added before releasing the young man.
“I will make you proud,” Elre assured his grandfather.
Aylmon said nothing to enforce his grandson’s reassurance but turned back to addressing the room, “I have good news still.” The room settled again and paused in their merriment to hear. “Eiliauna, my youngest granddaughter will wed King Sysier of Orailia Dustica,” he announced.
A halfhearted applause followed the announcement. Eiliauna sat stunned, her large robin’s egg blue eyes slowly shifted to her mother. Eilwyn’s turquoise eyes were smoldering with rage. Aylmon had chosen to exclude Eilwyn from the matter entirely. He undoubtedly knew she would have strongly disapproved.
Adaundria leaned over and gently touched the hand of her youngest sister and whispered in her ear gently, “Look pleased.”
Eiliauna attempted to smile but it failed to reach her eyes. Few of her thoughts had been of a marriage of her own. She had always believed that she would be the last to be made to marry because she was the youngest. To exceed her all but her eldest brother in marriage had been bitterly unexpected. She could feel the eyes of the room resting on her but no gaze weighed on her as heavily as her grandfather’s. She had only turned fourteen a few short months prior and hadn’t yet come fully into a woman’s form.
Eilwyn stood abruptly, the chair protested as it slid harshly against the floor. Her eyes were locked sternly on her father and without a further word she turned from the table and strode out of the room. A flock of ladies in gold hued gowns hurried after her with their hands folded in front of them and their heads bowed. There was a brief silence to follow before Adaundria, followed by her younger sisters, stood from her seat and respectfully curtsied before dismissing themselves from the table and the room.
The castle’s holy sanctuary was immense and breathtaking. Eilwyn stood at the front of the room with her eyes cast up to the goddess she worshipped above all others. The sounds of following footsteps echoed through the vast room. “We will endure,” she said firmly, “Our race was the first among many to walk upon this earth and ours will be the last. We are the children of she who is born of stars and light. It was she who bore the first of our race and brought us to her breast. It was she who created woman before all others for only woman can bring forth new life. She made us creatures of grace, beauty and eternity. Our gold & silver hair and fair complexions are dim reflections of her star born beauty,” She turned away from the alter and statues to look over the gathering of women watching her, “We must never forget of where we come from or the strength that resides within us.” She was fiercely angry with her father but knew she had to lend strength to Eiliauna. If her daughter saw how upset, she was then it would only increase the worry that was already far too obvious. “Blessed are we to be the daughters of she, Earis, the mother of us all.” Please give me the strength that I need to weather through the trials that are to come, she silently pleaded within.
Adaundria walked smoothly through the small gathering of women to reach her mother. She was nearly an identical replica of her mother, with her shunning turquoise eyes and long flowing white gold hair. Both women were tall, slender and ample in womanly curvature. Family worn anxieties had imprinted themselves on Eilwyn’s lovely features, aging her slightly faster. While Adaundria’s youthful features remained unmarred by time.
She opened her mouth and a beautiful wordless melody poured forth. Her voice echoed angelically through the stone holy place. It was a melody taught to all in Fae’ierVale from the time of childhood. It was a some of worship, a song of divinity, and when sung correctly and harmoniously it made one feel like Earis was reaching out and touching your soul. Eilwyn joined her voice with Adaundria’s and the song grew in wonder. Eilwyn reached out her hands to her two other daughters. Naevys and Eiliauna slipped gracefully through the ladies in waiting and each took a hand. Four voices melted together with practiced perfection and weighed the air heavy with spiritual admiration. Moonlight cast its way thought the colorful stained glass windows and cast soft colors onto the pale beauties.
When the song finally came to an end Eilwyn caught sight of her father standing in the entry way, watching silently. She cleared her throat and locked all emotions away tightly behind an indifferent mask. One she had long learned to wear when around him, for he tended to use love as a weapon. “You better hurry along,” she urged her daughters. Her eyes landed next on her ladies in waiting, “You are dismissed.” If she were going to speak with her father, then she would prefer to have privacy. It wasn’t that she found fault with challenging him in public but she wanted to hide away her own vulnerabilities. She refused to look weak, beaten down or defeated by him in front of witnesses.
Once the room was finally cleared and the doors were fastened tightly shut, Aylmon walked up the center of the room to stand before Eilwyn, “I know you are cross with me,” he began casually, “It is my hope that you will see that I’ve done what I have out of kindness. I’ve secured the girls future. She will be a Queen of her own people.”
“Do not try to make this sound as though you’ve done her a great honor,” Eilwyn countered, “You are ripping that child from everything she knows to live in a land she’s only read about in books. Do not pretend that you did this for any reason other than your greed and your agenda.” Eilwyn stood rigid, battling to stay calm, “All of us are nothing to you but pawns to be used to further your ambitions. Convince me that we’ve ever been anything else to you.”
Aylmon frowned darkly, “I will not tolerate your slander.”
“The truth cannot be slander,” Eilwyn stated flatly.
“Mark me child,” Aylmon replied with annoyance, “I may be your father but I am more so your Emperor and I will have your respect.” There was a brief silence between the two of them before he continued, “If you find that you are unable to give that to me then I will be forced to treat you as my subject not my daughter. Tell me you understand.”
Anger and pride still burned like acid deep in Eiliwyn’s core but if she didn’t give him the answer he wanted then blood would lose it’s value, “I do.”
The white Friesian tossed his head, the crinet that ran up his neck was designed to look like fanned tail feathers of a phoenix, the metal curving up over the horses head was shaped to be it back, arching wings curved to guard the horses ears and becoming the chanfron, the part covering the horses face. A chest neck of the metal phoenix swooped gracefully outward from the forehead and upper part of the face. The read had its mouth open as though it were screeching its war cry. The detail put into the decorative armor made it a thing of true beauty. The peytral, the part of the armor that secures at the shoulder blades and wraps around the horses front to protect its chest and upper legs, was layered in detail to look as though there were beautiful metal feathers. The same designs were incorporated with the flanchard, which protects the sides of the horse where usually the legs of the rider would be, and the Crupper, which connect with the back of the saddle and flanchard to wrap around the back side of the horse and over its rump, the feathers were all layered in a downward motion. The tail guard that followed the spine continued to flow like an extension of the crinet as the phoenix's layered tail feathers. The horse's legs were also wrapped in protective armor, for men in battle often sweep their weapons at a charging horse's legs.
Aiwin sat in the saddle, his own armor glinting in the light of the stars and torches. The training fields were scattered with soldiers fighting one another in the dark embraces of night. Lightning flashed overhead and Aiwin watched as his opponent's eyes shifted toward the heavens. He encouraged his horse forward gently and the steed launched off into a run. He pulled his sword from its scabbard and locked his eyes on the man who'd been distracted and delayed in his charge. Aiwin held the blunted blade tight by the grip and slid his feet from the stirrups. It was horrible to have your feet catch in them and be drug to your death by your own steed. Granted here in the training grounds he would not be drug to death, no one would die, but it was for the point of battle, for there it was all too easy to die. The horses began to pass one another and Aiwin's opponent began to swing but did so too early. Aiwin hit the man in the chest and what would have been the throat if it had been unprotected by training gear. The opponent fell backward but not quite out of the saddle, "Point!" Called the field judge.
"Damn it Aiwin, couldn't you have let up a little?" his opponent trotted up and pulled off the dented extra protection. It was Kilus Reywenys, General Nichrune's son.
"Then what would the challenge be?" Aiwin asked, the two elven men clasped one another on the arm in good humor. "It was a fine match,” Aiwin added.
A squire, a willowy boy with sandy blond hair and vibrant golden eyes ran up to Aiwin’s horse. Startled, Aiwin's horse kicked out at the boy and the squire stumbled backward, barely missing the blow. "Are you simple boy?" Kilus asked with surprise, "That is trained war horse, he will not hesitate to kill you. Never run up to one uninvited."
The boy looked stricken as he stood there ashamed and embarrassed, "I…I am sorry your Majesty," the boy began as he bowed deeply toward Aiwin. The boy fidgeted uncomfortably between the two men a top their large muscled steeds. “The Emperor requests Prince Aiwin’s presence.”
The atmosphere changed and Aiwin felt the tension in his body grow tight and uncomfortable, “Where may I find him?” He asked mechanically. There were a few things that came to mind when he pondered what his grandfather could need him for. He did not dislike, or rather hate, his grandfather quite in the way that many people did but he also rarely saw eye to eye with him. Aylmon had come to him in the past to urge Aiwin to council his mother not to challenge her father while under the eyes of the people. It had been difficult for him to confront his mother on the subject, she’d felt so passionately that her father had been wrong. She’d once been meek and silent but with each death of her brothers she’d grown to be more bold. Aiwin admired her for the courage his mother had but he feared for her as well, as all sane persons would.
Aylmon had proven time and time again that shared blood did not always grant you favor. He’d sent all of his son’s to their deaths fighting for a world he planned to pass to Aiwin. People who whispered their disagreement or challenge the self proclaimed Emperor’s choices had swiftly led to the removal of their tongues. If one were lucky enough only to receive a charge of slander then it would cost them only their tongue but if they were unfortunate enough to have additional charges then Aylmon would flex his creativity in designing their punishment.
“The study Sir,” the boy responded.
“Kilus,” Aiwin said with a respectful nod of the head. He tightened the reins in his gloved hands and encouraged the horse as before and once again it launched into a full run, sailing over the rails of the training fields and speeding ever faster to the castle.
The castle was fuller than usual, Aiwin blamed in on the feast his grandfather had hosted. His mind touched the awkward moment when Aylmon had announced Eiliauna’s engagement. He forced the probing fingers of his consciousness away from the uncomfortable memory. He wanted to protect his sisters, all of them, but he could not deny the tactical advantage that the alliance would provide if they were to lay claim to the Golden Kingdom. It was another name for Orailia Dustica because of the endless seas of golden sand that heavily blanketed the land and the rich gorgeous gold that was mined there. Aiwin moved a little slower down the halls, his foot falls were echoing back at him harshly, his protective jousting armor weighed him down despite being from strong light elven craftsmanship.
When Aiwin reached it, he laid his hand on the partly open study door, he entered the rectangular room. “Close the door,” Aylmon ordered. His ice blue eyes were cast out the window, drawn to the flower filled gardens below. His arms were folded behind his back and over his hair, his posture was straight – flawless. Aylmon waited for the click of the door sealing into place, “How is your wife and children?”
Aiwin frowned softly, “Naesala is well, growing more and more ripe by the day. Aryn surpasses his peers in swordsmanship and his instructor has recently paired him with a pupil of a more advanced caliber in the hopes to challenge him. Little Alais, as you well know, has barely turned three years old. She is learning well, from her mother’s example, what it is to be a proper lady of high born breeding.” He did not want to go further into the discussion without discovering the purpose behind the question. Certainly his grandfather hadn’t summoned him strictly for small talk. Naesala had been an arranged marriage, she’d been the next in line for the throne in Ealozrusea but her rule had been challenged from all sides because she was unwed. Aylmon had seen the opportunity to bind her kingdom to his own and control their Sapphire Alieaneite mines. The kingdom wasn’t one of the largest but it was a very wealthy one. Aylmon had managed to secure the marital contract in the middle of a coup, orchestrated by her cousin. The moment the papers were signed Aylmon sent the word for his greatly overwhelming army to advance into the capital and reclaim it in Naesala’s name. The following day Naesala and Aiwin were wed.
Aiwin and Naesala had remained in her kingdom for the first couple years, establishing themselves as the rulers of the land. Naesala had asked that her cousin simply be banished, and still believed that he had been. Aylmon, however, viewed the young man as too great a threat and had had him captured and executed in secret. It was a secret that Aiwin and Aylmon shared in silence, one Aiwin greatly hoped would forever remain buried, “You did not ask me up here for small talk,” Aiwin stated void of emotion.
“No,” Aylmon confirmed, “I’ve asked you here to discuss something with you.” He didn’t tear himself from the scene below. Eilwyn sat down among the flowers, surrounded in by the beauties that were her ladies in waiting. He had a particular interest in Lady Elizalyn Ravalynn, the way she dressed and carried herself, drew him to her. Always, in a crowded room it was she who captured his attention. In his opinion, she deserved better than to be married to Count Samlet Ravalynn. He detested the man, but his reasoning was unjustified. Samlet was genuinely a goodhearted man and played his role in the kingdom flawlessly. It was only the fact that he held Elizalyn in his possession that Aylmon despised him.
“What would you like to discuss?” Aiwin asked, dragging his grandfather from his trans.
He turned away from the window, “As of course you know,” he began, “Elre has taken EldreMist. The Queen and King sit securely down in my dungeon while their daughter, Zelila, has been given some freedom to move about the court as she wishes.” He paused to allow both old and new information to take hold, “I plan to permit the girl to keep her life, she will become the Queen she was meant to become and marry Elre,” he smiled as though it were a charitable thing he would be offering this girl.
“I see,” Aiwin said flatly.
“I expect to receive word from Ethland on his progress any day as well,” Aylmon continued, “Should he manage to take SilverSteam then I intend to bestow it to him. Of course,” he smirked, “It will all always belong to me – and one day to you.”
Aiwin did not imagine his brother would look at his claim on SilverSteam to be the gift his grandfather believed it to be. “Do you plan on betrothing Ethland to the Princes Valra of SilverSteam as well?”
“No,” Aylmon made a disgusted sound, “The girl is human, but I am looking for other uses to put her toward. Assuming she survives the coup.”
“I see,” Aiwin stated again.
Aylmon was silent a moment as he looked over his shoulder toward the window upon hearing Eilwyn’s musical laughter, “You mother disapproves of Eiliauna’s betrothal.”
“She is very young, perhaps it would be wise to offer one of the older sisters,” Aiwin knew that he would not succeed in canceling the arrangement all together, if nothing else his grandfather would never allow it, “Or perhaps postpone it for a few years.”
“No,” Aylmon said firmly, “I intend to make far better matches with the betrothals of your other sisters. The older they are, the better claim they have to my throne and thus the more beneficial the betrothal contract becomes.” He would not throw away what opportunities that Naevys and especially Adaundria presented. He returned his ice blue eyes to Aiwin’s indigo gaze, “I do not feel that postponing this betrothal is wise either. King Sysier has many prospects and it took a great deal of negotiating to get him to agree to this marriage. However, he will not officially sign the contract until she arrives, I will not encourage any thoughts he may have to void our agreement.”
Aiwin sighed, “I see.”
“Do you?” Aylmon challenged, “I need to know that you will rule in my stead with the ambition to fulfill my vision.” His voice was firm and his eyes were hardening, “Should you fail to fulfill my expectations then perhaps I will turn my preference to one of your brothers.”
Aiwin was quiet a moment, “I understand grandfather, I will make you proud.”