Chapter One Prologue - Beginning of an Era
It has been a eight months since Baruch set her free; for all that time, she has been searching for the whereabouts of the slave trader who had owned her and her younger brother, before she was sold alone almost seven years ago. Her journey has taken her all the way from the Apamea fiefdom back to the capital of the Myrmekion fiefdom, where she had been sold. Tracking down the slave trader to the Dodona fiefdom’s second largest city, Erythrae, she was now finally on the trail of finding her brother.
Pulling the hood lower to avoid unwanted attention, Lahya headed towards the market near the town center. At the Southern corner, the shadiest place on the plaza, she found what she was looking for: Stalls of slave traders, showing off their “merchandize” to people acting uninterested, who would repeatedly pass by to scrutinize the wares on offer casually. Her target was one of the more prestigious slavers, with a large tent in front of which he had some of his more average goods lined up. Interested customers would be discreetly invited in for refreshments and shown the full assortment. In front of that tent stood a man, framed by two men of the physical type, asserting his presence to any passersby who looked remotely rich.
Markos, called “The Sly” under the breath, was a middle aged man with a slim build, wearing lavish robes similar to a noble’s, but with excessive embroidery born from the false perception of luxury only a person of common birth could hold. Seven years only served to increase the varied accessories adorning his ears, neck, wrists and fingers, while his skin has grown paler inversely proportional to the amount of time he had to spend outside to make a living. The bodyguards were testament to his success stemming from the reinvigoration of the slave trade following the invasion of the Ljosalfar territory and the enslavement of those who were not massacred straight away.
Approaching the tent while holding back her anger, Lahya came to a stop mere steps away from Markos. From under her hood she peered up at the man, her sapphire blue eyes fixed on his brown ones without betraying a hint of her thoughts. For a moment, she remained motionless, as the slave trader’s expression bordered on confusion; before it could turn into suspicion, she spoke up.
“I would like to see your merchandize,” Lahya whispered, just barely audible to her opposite. Markos’ face cracked into a wide grin filled with understanding and greed; this was a customer who sought to talk business in discretion.
“Please, come on in,” He invited the secretive girl into the large tent, where the slaves in his possession were sitting on wooden chairs, chained together. When the owner entered, they all hurriedly stood up to put themselves on display, as they have been taught. There were men and women, small children and even a beardless Dvergr, most likely a very young child. Seeing them churned Lahya’s stomach, but she had come prepared to see worse, such as back when she was still in Markos’ possession. As expected, her brother was not among the current merchandize.
“I would like to discuss something with you in private,” Lahya said quietly. Markos looked surprised but then made an all-encompassing gesture into the room. “Do not worry, their presence is of no consequence. They will remain silent until allowed to speak. Just treat them as part of the tent’s furnishing.”
Looking about, Lahya noticed the absence of a will in all the slaves’ eyes, causing her to nearly bite her lip in boiling rage. Holding back her feelings, she nodded to Markos and finally removed her hood, to reveal pointy ears extending horizontally at twice the length of a human’s sticking out from under her shoulder length silver hair: She was a Ljosalf, called Light Elf in the new human tongue.
For a moment, the slave trader stood in perplexed silence, his mouth open in astonishment at the beauty before him; however, his expression lacked recognition, showing his ignorance as to her identity. Lahya knew that a slave trader treated merchandize the same way a fruits merchant treated his apples and pears. Once sold, the memory of the goods would fade even before the next customer could come along. This also meant that most likely he would not be able to recall her brother, and whom he was sold to.
Judging that he needed incentive to jog his memory, Lahya drew one of the rapiers hidden under her cloak in a rapid motion and pointed it right at Markos’ throat. It took the man a moment to realize that he was suddenly being threatened at the other end of a sharp weapon that could take his life with just a slight motion. Stepping forward, she directed his back against one of the pillars holding up the tent, stopping his backwards escape route, the blade only millimeters away from his skin.
“If you call your guards, I promise you won’t be able to finish whatever words you use to do so,” Lahya muttered in a tone that left no room for doubt in the fact that she would make good on her promise swiftly. “I have four questions for you. Answer them truthfully, and you may yet live.”
Markos was shaking, looking at the Alf threatening him, with wide eyes. He nodded ever so slightly, fearing that a motion too big may drive the rapier into his flesh.
“First question: Do you remember me?”
The slave trader was visibly racking his brain to recall Lahya’s features. She knew that in the past seven years she had grown up and changed greatly, but she had vainly hoped that he would remember her the same way she had engraved his face into her memory to one day enact vengeance on him. Suddenly, his face lighted up in realization, eliciting Lahya’s eyebrow to twitch in surprise.
“You... I remember you. You were my sla-... I mean, you were with me a long time ago. It’s been what? Four, five years?” Markos changed his words when he felt the cold steel touch his chin.
“Six years, nine month and three days, Markos the Sly,” Lahya pressed out from between her teeth. Her statement was telltale of her feelings about having been a slave in his possession. “Second question: Do you remember my brother, Nerous?”
“I... let me think... ah yes, I... acquired you two together. He was two years younger than you, I recall.”
“Ah yes, four years younger. He and you were both such preci-”
Lahya’s cold murderous eyes shut him up.
“Third question: Do you remember who you sold him to?”
Markos showed recollection straight away, but went deathly pale at the same time.
“You do. Now tell me.”
“To... to a noble from the south of Pandosia, not far from here. His name is... Prokopios of Gornia, a repeat customer. When he heard that the Elves had been subjugated he came all the way to Myrmekion to aquire a...” Markos swallowed.
“... to aquire a young boy Elf.”
Lahya’s eyebrow twitched again, this time in displeasure. She was very well aware of what his words implied, and it caused her anger to very nearly boil over. Composing herself, she went cold to the core.
“Last question, and think hard about this one: How much is your life worth to you?”
Markos’ eyes widened.
Lahya exited the tent, the hood covering her hair and ears again. The two men standing guard outside were surprised to see her leave alone and one of them immediately went into the tent to check on their employer. Markos was sitting in a chair with the back towards him, seemingly brooding over something on the table. The bodyguard approached and made his presence known - to no avail. Sensing that something was wrong, he rounded the table to discover that the slave trader was staring blankly into nothingness, drooling and flapping his mouth silently like a madman. No matter how much he shook his employer, no sign of consciousness returned to his features. Shouting and running out of the tent, he and his colleague were too late to apprehend the girl, who had disappeared into the crowded Erythrae market.
Two days north of Erythrae lay the border between the Dodona and Pandosia fiefdoms. Though, speaking of border, there was no physical difference between the two territories and only a milestone next to the dirt road, half buried in the ground, denoted that this place held any significance at all. Just a few hours’ march away was the town of Gornia, the town the noble named Prokopios governed.
Lahya had barely rested since she had parted ways with Markos. Her brother should be fifteen now, which meant that he may no longer fall in the field of interest of the pedophile lord who bought him. The fate awaiting a slave no longer serving a purpose depended on the owner, and in Lahya’s case, she had been exceedingly lucky. A nobleman with a fetish that could not be made public would never set a slave free that knew of his secret. Even if he did, there were methods to make a person become unable to talk - or be able to reason at all, for that matter. What Lahya had done to Markos was only one of many methods a rich person with access to darker channels in the market could employ. Even though it has been nearly six years since he had been sold to Prokopios, she felt that coming to her brother’s rescue even a minute earlier could prevent the worst from happening.
Being a half-Alf, Lahya did not have to eat much every day and had a lighter step than humans, enabling her to walk longer distances before tiring. However, in the past few days, she could feel her human half more than ever, trading superior stamina for greater physical strength that held no meaning in long-distance travels. Indeed, Alfar were physically weaker than humans, but were more dexterous and persevering; this also allowed them to go without sleep for several days with no consequences to their psyche, something no human could ever do. It was pure willpower that drove Lahya’s human half forward at this point, but she knew that rest was an absolute necessity before confronting Prokopios in what would undoubtedly result in a battle. With every step she took, bringing her closer to meeting her brother again, the impatience inside her grew.
Reaching the top of a hill, the walled town came into view. Practically every town and city with a population greater than a thousand in the Eternal Empire of Zenter had walls, remnants of a bygone era of strife and a seemingly endless war for supremacy. The first Emperor, Alkaios Ohm Zenter, made it into a tradition to maintain the walls and allotted substantial funds to city defenses. The period of stability ushered in by Alkaios’ successor was mainly based on the fact that bandits and remnant troops from the defeated nations were unable to raid settlements of significance and soon scattered.
Gornia was a town inhabited by a mere two thousand souls, surrounded by fallow fields covered in the frost of winter. It was rare that no snow fell at this time of the year, but temperatures had been moderate throughout the entire winter. Unlike the South, which easily reached tropical conditions during the summer, the northern parts of Pandosia could be considered subarctic. Lahya barely felt the cold, another boon granted by her heritage.
The city gates were open and guards checked merchants seeking to peddle their goods inside. Activity could in no way be described as busy, but it appeared decent considering the size of Gornia. Soldiers stared at Lahya wherever she went, owing to her hood and heavy robes, and this time was no different. However, whenever a guard glimpsed her face, he would turn to his colleague and speak in a hushed voice. Deciding to make the first move to preempt any suspicions, Lahya walked up to one who displayed the insignia of a captain.
“Greetings, sir. Could you please tell me if his lordship, Prokopios of Gornia, is presently in this town?” Her demeanor was the trained facade of a lesser noble, masking her high birth and the fact that she had once been a slave. The inquiry was but small talk, considering this was the city Prokopios governed, meaning there was little reason for him to ever leave it - aside from maybe going out to personally pick his boy slaves.
Perplexed at Lahya’s manners and resolute appearance, the captain first needed a moment to collect his thoughts. When he finally did, he scratched his stubbly chin while scanning the girl’s features, as if trying to perceive her motives for wishing to meet his master.
“Lord Prokopios is in town,” He finally responded. “Who are you? You look just like the escaped boy servant the lord is looking for.”
At the captain’s words, Lahya’s heart skipped a beat. Her unique facial characteristics due to being of mixed human and Alfar blood meant the only person he could be talking about was Nerous, her brother. He mentioned that he had escaped and was being pursued. Throwing all caution into the wind, the young half-Alf could not hold herself back from questioning the captain further.
“You say I look just like him? When did he escape?” She quickly asked. Raising his eyebrows, the captain’s gaze became one of concern. Scrutinizing Lahya’s features once again, he waved over a nearby guard.
“Three days ago. Nobody matching his description has exited the city... as far as we know,” He said, absentmindedly, as he took a paper scroll the guard handed to him. From her angle, Lahya was unable to see the content, but judging from the captain’s eyes repeatedly going between the paper and her face, it was something like a wanted poster. “The resemblance is astonishing... Men, apprehend him!”
If he had been more subtle in his comparing gaze, Lahya would have been surprised at this turn of events. But now she had ample time to prepare mentally, and responded by taking off her hood. Underneath, her shoulder length light brown hair came into full view. Her eyes, a cornflower blue, were firmly gazing up at the captain.
“Even if I look like him, you should be able to tell that I am a woman,” She said, while casually fixing a strand behind her ear, intentionally showing off that she had human ones . The captain looked at her with his mouth hanging slightly open in surprise. “Do I really resemble him that much?” Alfar were generally androgynous, with males looking effeminate and females lacking the pronounced feminine curves human women had. The telltale difference between the Alfar genders was their heights when they reached full maturity, in which males were almost always about a head taller than females. Since Nerous was four years younger than Lahya, they should have been about the same height by now.
Once the immediate suspicions regarding her identity were cleared up, the captain’s expression relaxed slightly. Instead, a hint of something even more unpleasant crept into his features, when his eyes wandered over her face and down her body, practically undressing her in his mind.
“Oh yes, you do. So I’ll have to check whether you’re really a woman or not,” He finally said, thinly veiled lust plastered all over his face. “It’s all proper procedure.”
Lahya had faced this sort of sexual harassment many times before and understood that the sooner she got it over with, the faster she would get away from these kinds of people. Steeling herself for yet another pair of large hands to crawl all over her body, she composed her breathing and closed her eyes.
“So this is proper procedure for a captain of the city guard here in Gornia. Perhaps I should sign up with you,” A boisterous voice suddenly resounded in the area. Its large volume was picked up by people all around, its deep bass shaking them to their very bones. Flicking her eyes open, Lahya turned to look at the source of the voice, to find a man nearly twice her width approaching in a bold gait. He was by no means fat, but rather well built with a strong core and muscular arms that showed through the inadequately thin clothes he wore despite the cold. Dark suntanned skin, a brown bandana coverings his head and a long dark brown beard twirled into a braid suggested that his profession was of a physical nature. A large leather backpack, rattling with the sound of metal tools hung from his wide back.
The man came to a stop in front of Lahya and the captain, towering a full head above the latter. His presence exuded confidence, as he stared down on the embarrassed guards who looked around to see the gazes of civilians fixed on them, seemingly in reproach.
“Uh... move along, get inside the city or leave,” The captain quickly said to the half-Alf and walked away, the figurative tail between his legs almost visible. The surrounding guards scattered back to their posts as well, bellowing commands to people entering and leaving the city to gloss over their shameful display.
“Thank you, mister...” Lahya began.
“Alexander,” He introduced himself and shook his head at her gratitude. “It’s only proper to extend a helping hand when a person faces injustice.” With a wide smile, Alexander nodded in farewell and walked through the gate, leaving an astonished Lahya behind him.
“To think such people still existed in the empire...” She muttered, watching his wide back disappearing around a corner. A slight smile played over her lips and she quickly entered the city, past the gate guards watching her with scowls.
Gornia was, by all means, nothing more than a village. The only buildings in the city exceeding two stories were the lord’s stronghold, little more than a walled-off mansion, towering over the rest of the city on top of an elevation, and a single inn. The villagers looked all but discontent and children playing in the streets could be seen here and there. The marketplace, despite the time of the year, appeared to be well-stocked, although missing produce from the southern parts of the continent, due to the aftermath of the rebellion.
Lahya had to readjust her view on Prokopios: His pedophiliac tendencies aside, he appeared to be a good ruler to his people and brought stability to this town. Under the empire’s rule, not many corrupt and incompetent governors stayed in power long, extending even to minor local lords and stewards.
In a large city, Lahya’s first course of action would have been to try and find underground dealers or those operating in the black market to gather information. However, Gornia had a small enough population for people to know the names and faces of everyone up to both ends of the streets they lived in. Those who worked in the shadows usually preferred bigger shadows to blend into and avoided such places. Thus, all she could do was to search on her own, not even knowing whether Nerous was still in the city or had already slipped out somehow.
Then again, Gornia was also small enough to cross in less than an hour, and it did not feature an extensive net of small alleyways. It would not even take a full day to comb the entirety of the town’s streets. Still, she could not search inside the houses, in case some kind soul was harboring her brother, meaning it was entirely possible that they would miss each other. For now, all she could do was to search for any potential hiding spots while gaining an overview of the street layout, to systematically search all of the town. Paying attention to the guards and their demeanor, she would be able to deduce whether they had found him or not. She would do anything to find her brother.
Searching for two days without rest or sleep, Lahya was at her limit, both mentally and physically. On the day after her arrival, the presence of guards inside the city had thinned out. When she spoke to a soldier, she learned that they had been unable to find the escapee and the lord had reluctantly agreed to call off the search. They had a better understanding of the city’s potential hiding spots and had given up, most likely because Nerous was no longer here.
The trail was growing cold and Lahya could feel panic welling up inside her previously calm mind. If they had missed each other, she would never be able to find him on this vast continent. By moving from this city in any direction, she risked distancing herself from him with every further step. In all those years she had never given up on the hope of finding him, but fatigue took its toll on her mind, clouding her judgment with pessimism. At this rate, she would collapse in the middle of the street. She had to rest.
Dragging her tired body to the only inn in Gornia, the half-Alf rented out a room as quickly as she could, caring for neither food nor special services. Half-conscious, she followed the clerk to her room, had enough presence of mind left to lock the door behind her, before she fell face-first onto the bed and fell into a deep, dreamless slumber that would last for almost an entire day.
Waking up to the bustling clamor of a crowd coming in through the cracks of the windows’ storm shutters, Lahya quickly scanned her surroundings. She faintly recalled that this was a room she had rented in an inn, but could not remember when she had fallen asleep. Checking her belongings, she found that everything was in order and nothing was missing. Surprised at herself for having the composure of locking the door in the sorry state she had been in the previous day, the half-Alfar left the almost untouched room and exited through the front door of the inn.
Outside, a crowd of several dozen people was gathering around a notice board. Group mentality drove her to become interested in what everyone appeared to be agitated about, and she tried to push her way to the front. Unfortunately, the gathered people were all men, and none would budge until they had had their share of time to read the notice, resulting in Lahya’s unsightly struggle to find an opening to slip through. She was about to give up after several repeated attempts, when a shadow fell over her.
“Notice to all who possess a heart of righteousness and chivalry: Chancellor Hesper of Naxos, the corrupt and shameless pig who keeps the young Emperor hostage, lives in lavish excess while the people of the capital are suffering from a food shortage. His tyranny is a continuation of the misguided Mad Emperor Eugeios Ohm Zenter’s crusade against the free races of Yggdra. He may have signed a ceasefire, but is secretly amassing troops to once again bring about a war of extermination. We are calling out to all those who cannot forgive such injustice to join our Anti-Hesper Alliance and punish the traitor to the Empire,” A powerful but calm voice washed over the people from behind. Everybody turned around to see the person it belonged to, including Lahya. An imposingly tall man, about seven measures in height, towered over the half-Alf of only four and three quarter measures. He had long golden hair of an impressive volume, reminiscent of a lion’s mane. A slight tan that matched the color of his skin with his hair, and wearing clothes in light ocher gave him an overall gilded appearance. The man’s expression was a mixture of righteous indignation and concern, clearly a reaction to reading the notice. His eyes seemed to be eternally narrowed, but the attentive gaze of the golden irises told of his conviction.
Lahya could not help but stare at him.
“What will you do if he is dead? What will you do if you can never find him again? Will you continue chasing his figure disappearing in the horizon, even if it means falling off the edge of the world?” Brynjarr the Shadow asked, his ebony skin illuminated by the campfire. With piercing crimson eyes fixated on Lahya’s sapphire ones, the Dokkalf searched the Ljosalf’s soul, just as she did, for an adequate answer to his questions.
“I don’t know,” She finally admitted, shaking her head and breaking off the connection between their gazes, unable to hold his pressure any longer. “It’s been everything that drove me. I think I couldn’t go on if he was dead.”
“Then what if he has his own life now? What if he has no need for your presence in his life, like you appear to need his?”
“I don’t know,” Lahya repeated.
“Shall I tell you something you could do?”
“Seek revenge. Seek retribution. Seek redemption.”
“Seek ambition. Seek aspiration.... Seek ascendancy.”
The Dokkalfar’s sweet, magic-infused words seeped into Lahya’s very being, exerting their dark influence on her weakened psyche. A part of her was crying out deep inside, screaming not to listen to him, but her frail part yearned for his support, his counsel. He was both a poison and a medicine, an existence that could grant her fortune or bring about her downfall, all with the very same advice. After all, she was the one who held her own destiny, and how she herself acted on his words decided her future.
“Deep down, you know what it is that you want. You have known it all along. Searching for him was just a part of it,” Brynjarr whispered sweetly.
“What should I do?” Lahya muttered in a daze.
“When the time comes, you will know,” Was the only response she received.
As if a switch flipped inside her mind, Lahya expression flared up in determination. Looking down in surprise, as if he only now noticed her presence, his golden gaze met hers. The surrounding people slowly scattered after having finished reading the notice, but the two of them remained, standing still, keeping eye contact like two children playing a game; whoever first looked away was the loser. The man first closed his eyes and a smile appeared on his face, as if he came to an understanding in their exchange. When he opened them again, he was astonished to see that a smile filled with strength played on the girl’s face.
“My name is Leontis of Dion. May I ask you for your name?” The man finally introduced himself with a bow.
“I am Lahya Eventyr. I am truly honored to become acquainted with a man of valor such as you, Sir Leontis,” She responded, giving her full name for the first time since she was enslaved. Seven years ago, every child in Yggdra knew the name Eventyr; the stories of the Ljosalfar with their immaculate beauty and mystical presence were a tale children would repeatedly request before bed. And the royal Eventyr line always played a part in those tales. As expected, Leontis knew the name and his eyes widened at her introduction.
“You are truly beautiful, Lady Lahya, but surely, you are not an Eventyr. Just as much as I am of noble birth. I am not deserving of being addressed with sir,” He finally said, smiling. Perplexed, the girl in question took a moment to try and process why he had answered with such conviction. Then she remembered the spell she had put on herself that disguised her Alfar features.
“Come with me, Master Leontis.” Lahya walked ahead, into the tavern section of the inn, expecting the imposing man to follow. When she was approached by a waiter, she asked for a more private area, away from prying eyes, upon which they were led to a tea room in the back. Ordering tea for the two of them, she rounded the table and sat down, facing Leontis. At her resolute actions, he could only follow suit unquestioningly. Thus, they sat silently until the tea was served and the waiter was told to leave them in private until called upon.
When the steps disappeared down the hallway, Lahya finally took out a small crystal from inside her robes and held it against her forehead. In the following transformation, Leontis could only hold his breath as he watched light brown hair changing into a silver, glowing like the moonlight, cornflower blue eyes beginning to sparkle in pure sapphire and her rounded ears growing longer and pointed. It was over quickly, and before Leontis sat a person unmistakably of Alfar descent.
“I had no idea...” He muttered. His golden radiance, a mere imitation of the sun, seemed to be overshadowed by the light of a genuine moon that descended from the heavens. “I deeply apologize, your majesty.” Leontis quickly stood up from his chair and made to kneel, but Lahya immediately stopped him.
“No, do not kneel before me, Master Leontis! I have seen something in you, and I want to believe that it is a form of dignity this Empire has forgotten about, deserving more of respect than a monarch without a throne or a throne occupied by a puppet. You possess a spirit of honor and chivalry, something so easily betrayed for greed and luxury in these times,” The half-Alfar stated in a tone filled with respect. “When you read the notice, you were filled with indignation. You were lamenting the state of the Empire and that men of vice were given free hand to defile it further. Tell me, was that an illusion?”
“It was not, Milady. You have a discerning gaze. Indeed, I wish to join the Anti-Hesper Alliance and return the Empire to the hands of its righteous leader,” Leontis responded in unwavering confidence. His expression did not betray the underlying implication that this could include Lahya, who was of royal blood and held a claim to the throne. The person in question was very well aware of that fact, but her most ardent wish was to rebuild Ljosalfarheimr, regain its territories, now divided and swallowed by the surrounding fiefdoms which had invaded it seven years ago, and gather the Ljosalfar diaspora.
“Then shall we-” She was cut off by shouting and the sound of something breaking coming from the front of the tavern. Without hesitation, both Leontis and Lahya jumped up from their seats and rushed outside to see the cause of the commotion.
“Apologize to the lady!” A booming voice shook the entire establishment. The owner of it was a man of large build wearing a dark brown bandana, grabbing the front of another man’s shirt. “You don’t do these things in my presence! Actually, you don’t do these things at all!”
Lahya stopped in her tracks and stared at the man she had met at the gates when she first entered Gornia. Next to him, on the ground, sat a woman with disheveled hair and a bruised face, blood running from the corner of her mouth. Apparently the other man had been beating her and it had been seen by Alexander. Once again, he was up to helping a stranger for only one reason: Because it was the right thing to do.
The man he had grabbed was whimpering, staring up at his much stronger opposite, knowing he could never best him in a fight. He crawled down on all fours and apologized to Alexander. Seeing the sorry sight, Lahya could not help but show a smile; the man had committed another mistake and she anticipated the moment it would be punished.
“Not to me!” Alexander boomed and slapped the man’s head. “To her!” The man looked as if the slap had shaken up his brain, but he turned to what appeared to be his wife and began to shower her with apologies. “Good. Promise her you’ll never do that again. If I ever see her with a bruise... I’ll leave what I’ll do to your imagination.” After the man did as he was told, Alexander lifted him to a standing position by his collar and gave his back a mighty push that very nearly sent him flying. “Now get out of here!” To the lady, he was much more tender, as he helped her to her feet.
“If something like this happens again, don’t remain still. Tell your neighbors. I won’t always be around to help you, as much as I would like to be.” Thanking him profusely, the woman exited the tavern as well. The moment the show was over, the onlookers returned to what they were doing before the interruption. Alexander put several silver coins on the neighboring table, as the one he stood above had been broken in the short scuffle, nodding to the inn owner that this was for the repair costs. With this, he finally turned around and his gaze fell upon Leontis, to whom even he had to look up. Then he noticed Lahya, who had forgotten to reapply her disguise before rushing out.
“Oh my!” He boomed, and approached her. “So you were an Alfar.” At his voice, the person in question went pale and she quickly ran up to him and covered his mouth with both her hands. However, the damage was already done and the room went deathly silent, everybody’s eyes fixed on Lahya.
“Come with me,” She said and grabbed Alexander’s arm, trying to pull him along. For a second he did not understand and remained completely unmoving, despite Lahya’s greatest efforts, but finally realized what she was trying to do, and gave in.
Once back in the quiet tearoom, with the three of them seated, introductions began anew. When Lahya revealed her background, Alexander did not appear overly surprised and instead only commented “the princess of the Ljosalfar, huh?” with an admiring expression. Anyone in the Empire who had not followed the Mad Emperor’s call to exterminate all non-humans were those who had personal relations to them or held a hidden reverence of their mystical natures. Compared to the short life of a human, Alfar, Dvergr and Jotnar appeared timeless, as if a part of the world itself came to life.
“Now, Sir Alexander-” Lahya began, but was interrupted by the boisterous man.
“I’m not of high birth, so no need to add Sir. I’m Alexander of Thoryvodis, a mere carpenter. I was commissioned to work on the local lord’s mansion,” He corrected her. “It was just a small leak, and he called me over from the neighboring town just for that...” He added, displeasure written in his face.
“Master Alexander,” Lahya began anew, earning a dumbfounded look from the large man. “I have seen twice now that you are a man of morals and justice. I believe you are meant for more than just fixing roofs for some nobles.” Alexander scratched his head bashfully at her high esteem of his character. Then his expression grew serious.
“You’re talking about the notice outside the inn,” He said. “Yes, I am going to join the alliance.”
“You are aware that when you join their troops, you will be treated as a simple soldier due to your common birth,” The half-Alf stated and straightened her back. “Join me! We will raise our own army and join the alliance on even grounds with the other lords. Not for glory, not for riches, but for righteousness. What say you?”
For a moment both Leontis and Alexander stared at Lahya with admiration, her small figure was gallant and her radiant aura was reflected in their eyes. They were captivated by her strength and majesty, leaving no doubt in the fact that she was royalty of Alfar descent. In their hearts they had already been moved by her and now they only needed to act on it, to discard all hesitation and walk alongside her on the long and arduous path to peace. The two men looked at each other, then stood up, rounded the table and knelt down on one knee before Lahya, to her surprise.
“It would be an honor to serve under you, your Majesty!” They declared, their expressions filled with determination. Lahya got up from her seat and to their astonishment, joined them on the ground in the same posture.
“It would be my honor to serve alongside you, Master Leontis of Dion, Master Alexander of Thoryvodis,” She asserted, a reassuring smile on her lips. When the two men saw her eyes, they knew that Lahya Eventyr would henceforth shape not only their destiny, but the destiny of the entire Empire.
1 measure - 35 cm (13.7 inches)