Chapter 4A Chapter by Nicole
I feel as though the aeterni were my own children for how much I love their history, lore, and characteristics. They are, by far, my best creation.
Livi awoke groggily, her head pounding like a hammer on an anvil. Visions of a brilliant green light were all that remained in her mind as memories of what had happened. Green light like the sun shining through the spring leaves. And warmth, like the sand after a day of toiling back and fro in the tide’s gentle arms, resting upon the beach under the setting sun. Her arms and legs trembled, weak and utterly drained, as she rolled over onto her side and vaguely felt the arms of someone else around her closely. Her eyes focused on the darkening canopy overhead; was it twilight already? The arms around her were bitterly cold and she shivered, find that even her eyes were sore as she raised her head to look down at the young man who lay upon his back beneath her.
Her eyes widened suddenly and she scrambled away, the frantic nature of her movements rousing him as well. The young man looked close to her age, closer than Silvanus, and bore a drastically different manner of aeterni beauty. His hair was the color of silver moonlight, pale and almost white in the failing light of the sun. His skin was white, however, having only a slight blush of color around his cheeks that lent to him being alive. He looked up at her with sleepy, sapphire eyes that chilled her skin; she had seen those eyes before.
“Albinus?” She squeaked, raking some of her unruly dark curls away from her face. Her heart thudded as she studied him, the soft manner of his features that seemed almost babyish and the robust, stocky build of his body that spoke of his recent adaptation into manhood.
He cast her a sheepish smile that would have made any girl in SaltWhine stop dead in her tracks and blush wildly. His face was gentle, much more so than Silvanus though they seemed of common age, and there was a lively sparkle of humor in his vivid blue eyes. “Liviana.” He answered, the familiar wolf’s voice now coming from soft, human lips. Her eyes dropped instinctively to the ground, stomach arranging itself in a series of knots that made her swoon slightly. The legends of the aeterni did little to depict the beauty she found in these men. Albinus, it seemed, was no exception. His clothes were of fine white satin; a broad shouldered doublet trimmed in silver that hugged his torso snuggly and long breeches of a soft silver hue. The long sleeves of the doublet were as white as his flawless skin, making it hard to discern where the sleeve ended and his hands began.
She looked over the fineries before catching herself and glancing away again, her sharp eyes noting a long silver chain that hung about his neck. At the end dangled a pendant of the finest sterling silver, a circlet roughly over an inch in diameter with the image of a snowflake engraved upon its surface. Behind the image of the snowflake was engraved an ornate five pointed star, a symbol she knew immediately to be that of the Ivory Queen. Her lips parted in shock-driven silence; he wasn’t just some two-bit aeterni noble, he was one of the royal attendants, maybe even of the Earthen Council. Or had been, perhaps, back when the Ivory Queen had still ruled. She wondered what manner of torture he would endure if the Men of WestSea discovered him wearing the Queen’s symbol. It was heresy now.
“Smart girl.” Albinus commented, a cunning little edge to his voice that made her look up to meet his gaze. He was no mind reader, but her thoughts had been no challenge to discern. He smiled pleasantly, brushing locks of cream-white hair away from his face. “I am the son of Frigida Icewinde, Matron of Winter, and am the heir to her throne. Albinus Icewinde, at your service.” He offered her a brief bow his head before stretching lazily and lying back down to look up at the gathering night, “He’ll be back soon, you should get ready to go.”
“Who? Silvanus?” Her dark brows furrowed and she scanned the clearing. Silvanus was nowhere to be seen. But judging from his earlier behavior, maybe that wasn’t so strange. She turned her curious blue eyes back to the royal aeterni noble that stretched out on the pallet of their cloaks, popping his knuckles absently and staring at the sky. “You’re…feeling better? Silvanus, he said that you had been poisoned.”
Albinus shrugged his shoulders, seeming less than concerned about it, “I suppose I am. Well enough to travel, which was only his goal. Funny how the Men of WestSea have so easily discerned our weaknesses, things that only aeterni would know. I can’t imagine how they came by such valuable information as the effects of thornbranche poison.” There was a strong flavor of sarcasm in his voice and he gave a sour smile to match. It made her wonder as to what he was referring to. Maybe there was a traitor among the aeterni?
“Silvanus is some kind of healer then.” Livi concluded aloud, wrapping her arms about her legs defensively and resting her chin upon her knees. Albinus seemed to enjoy that suggestion and he chuckled and cackled for several minutes.
“I wouldn’t say that, though it’s not beyond his talents. Healers use their talents to aid others, save and cure them. Silvan… well, I’m not sure what he’s after, actually. He’s taken a rather keen interest in you and your endeavors. That’s reason enough for me to tag along. Good thing too, as it turns out. A dose of thornbranche to someone who was"”
“Hold your tongue, would-be heir.” A cold voice snarled behind Albinus and made him jump a little, cranking his head around to gather a good view of where Silvan had stepped into the clearing. “Ready us to continue, we begin when the night falls.” Albinus nodded apologetically, raising his hands in surrender and gathering to his feet to set about packing up the camp.
Livi examined Silvanus intensely, noting a strangeness to his usually monotone and demanding voice. His face looked more flushed and pale than usual, and his movements not nearly so quick and decided. Her own expression softened as she caught a glimpse of his large, pale hands trembling beneath the long sleeves of his robes. But he still scowled and glared and moved as smoothly as wind through the willow trees.
“Come now, m’lady.” Albinus urged gently, taking her arm into one of his surprisingly cold hands and helping her to her feet. It felt as though his palms and fingers were carved from ice. She shivered against it but nodded humbly, following him about the camp to help him pack things away. He threw dirt and leaves over their small fire and gathered up their cloaks, brushing away the leaves and briars before handing her the smaller of the three.
“I believe this is yours.” He grinned again, a charming light coming to his boyish features as he handed her the little box that had been her sister’s.
She took it eagerly, holding it against her chest defensively and sending him accusing glares, “You took it?” Her eyes burned into the aeterni noble and he raised his hands again in surrender.
“It fell from your pocket when I carried you to bed.” He explained as he donned his own cloak and approached her boldly, taking her cloak from her and wrapping it around her short, petite frame with particular care. She stared up into his pale, but warm features, admiring the hues of his ice-blue eyes and curve of his lips. “What is it that your sister gave you?” He asked as he arranged the black cloak snuggly around her neck and buttoned it across her chest.
“I…don’t know. I haven’t opened it yet.” Livi barely found her voice in time to answer, enraptured by his face and the quiet workings of his hands. “Our father gave it to her…to wear on the day when she wed.” Her hands traveled over the smooth surface of the sandalwood box, exploring the grains with earnest adoration.
She scarcely breathed as he reached his large, cold hands to touch the box where she cradled it against her breast, his wild blue eyes eyeing it with intrigue. What gift would a parting sister give? He slid it from her hands gently, holding it up to examine the little box with steady precision before lifting the little gold latch and opening it so that she might see. The interior was line with soft blue velvet, cushioning a delicate necklace of tiny white pearls. Tears stung her eyes as she saw it, the beautifully fragile string of pearls and a pendant in the shape of a silver star, the star of the Ivory Queen, with a deep blue sapphire in its center. Her lips parted a bit to see such a thing, what had cost her father so much to buy and had been given as the most valuable possession to his eldest daughter.
“How very fitting,” Ablinus was grinning broadly as he reached to lift the necklace from its hiding place. His hands, steady and cold as the winter’s blood in his veins, fastened the necklace around her slender neck and traced it with his finger tips, stroking down the string of pearls to the pendant that hung just above her breast.
“Why did you take me from SaltWhine?” She asked so suddenly that it shattered whatever dream had glazed the young lord’s eyes and he blinked, looking down to her at a loss for words.
“If you’re quite finished.” Silvan barked from where he had leaned himself against a tree, scowling at them with fires burning in his emerald eyes. She shuttered then and looked away from Albinus’s tender expression, stepping back and swallowing hard as she retreated to carry the now empty box to the edge of the clearing. Muffled growling came from Silvanus, answered by apologies by Ablinus but she ignored them both, taking the box carefully and burying it at the base of one of the trees. Carrying it further would be foolish, she knew, and so her hands carefully hid it there under the soft, dark earth.
“Come.” A strong grip, stronger than Albinus’s, closed on the nape of her neck and lifted her to her feet effortlessly. If looks could have wrought her vengeance, daggers would have come from her eyes but she said nothing, following the dark lord Silvanus as they began into the forest’s waiting arms.
The trees cast long jagged shadows against the light of the waxing moon that soared beyond the reach of the branches. Livi found herself entranced by them, not the shadows, but the two men that walked shoulder to shoulder before her. They were drastic opposites in manner and mood; Albinus a smiling, youthful man with soft and gentle features. He smiled frequently and laughed even more, light coming to his eerie blue eyes with every little grin. She had to admit that dressed as finely as he was, with beautifully white hair that wreathed his brow in a silver hue; he was more what she had hoped the aeterni would be like.
Silvanus was not. He glanced back at her now and again, emerald eyes as sharp as dagger points and his dreadfully handsome face solemn and guarded like a porcelain statue. But there was no denying his breathtaking appearance; hair that fell like a river of black silk down his back, darkly intelligent features painted onto flawless white skin. He looked strange against Albinus, standing head and shoulders taller than his companion, and having a far more muscled, broad-shouldered shape. Perhaps he was older? Livi snapped her eyes away as he cast another one of his disapproving glances back to her, catching a glimmer of a peridot hue through the veil of raven black hair.
Her hands wandered to the pendant about her neck as she padded along behind them, making a conscious effort to keep up with Silvan’s fast stride. She gasped faintly as an arm came down over her shoulder, shaking her slightly and enveloping her in cold as if she had been draped in a blanket of snow. Albinus grinned and swaggered along beside her, all the while keeping a wary eye to where Silvan stalked on ahead of them.
“Where are we going?” Livi turned earnest expressions to him, praying for some amount of useful information; some reason why she had been ripped from the bosom of her home.
Albinus cleared his throat, keeping a cautious eye on Silvan before turning to whisper directly into her ear with breath that was as chilling as a winter wind, “To Delvon.” He said in a low tone that was barely audible to her, but she heard him nonetheless.
“Delvon?” Her face twisted and a dark brow arched in question; she’d heard that name before but knew little of where it was or what that could have meant for her. “Why there?”
Her mouth opened slightly at the brush of his cold breath over her neck, making her skin prickle when he spoke, “To rally your troops.”
“My what?!” She pushed away from him, annoyed at how he teased and taunted. He laughed loudly, wrapping arms around his waist and cackling until his eyes watered. Livi was hardly amused, stopping and planting her hands on her hips and a sour expression on her face. “You’re making fun of me.” She growled, though her face burned with embarrassment that she had actually believed him.
“Aw come on, m’love, no harm done, right?” He patted her back roughly and planted an affectionate kiss to her cheek that made her blush a brilliant shade of red, “We’ve some good friends in Delvon. You’ll like it m’love, I promise.”
She glowered at him until a snort from Silvan distracted her from a blushing rage. “But…why bring me? What’s going on? Why won’t either of you give me a straight answer?!”
Silvan never slowed his pace but barked a command back at them to keep up and stop making so much noise. Livi launched another assault with her glares at his back, envisioning rotten eggs and old cabbage lobbing him in the back.
“This is your fault.” She declared suddenly, returning his barking tone with one of her own to match. It made him stop short and glance over his broadly muscled shoulder. To her surprise, he wasn’t glaring. Rather, his face bore no expression at all, or maybe it was just a moment of calculation because he turned away just as sharply and kept going. Had she struck a chord? It seemed so. She smirked and resolved to strike it again. “Just who do you think you are, anyway? My sister needed me! Who is going to protect her from the Men of WestSea now?! Stop storming away and look at me, Silvanus!”
Her words were immediately regretted as he turned on her, faster than any mortal could have dreamed of moving, and grabbed her from her feet by the back of her tunic. She screamed and fought against him, crying to Albinus for help who simply stood by in his own state of shock and horror.
With his other hand he grabbed her jaw and turned her face to look into his. Chilling green eyes surprisingly calm and absent of the wrath under the soft touch of the moon’s light. But in the revealing silver glow she could see the lines of weariness and fatigue upon his brow, also that his features were still paler and more flushed than how she had seen him before. Was something wrong with him? He hadn’t seemed right since he had healed Albinus.
She squirmed in his grip as he looked over her face, examining every pore and curve for a long while before speaking in a voice that made her whole body shiver where he held her suspended by the strength of his arm. “You would do well…to remember your place. Albinus will not save you, he does my bidding.”
Albinus shifted uncomfortably, his arms crossed over his broad chest as he dug little holes in the dirt with the toe of his silver boots. “Can we keep going? We need to get clear of Casdania before sunrise and at this rate we’ll not even reach the outskirts.”
Silvan stared into her angry eyes for a several minutes, still rendering little emotion on his fiercely angry but exhausted face. The strength of his arm that held her up began to wane and tremble dangerously and his glare flickered on the verge of becoming something fragile.
“Put me down!” She screamed, writhing against where he held her and clutching at his arm with all the meager strength she could muster; it wasn’t enough to move him even in his weakened state. She glared at him hard, momentarily catching his gaze with her own as her blue eyes filled with tears.
A strange look took his features suddenly, making his dark eyebrows draw up in an expression of mournful agony, as if he had remember something horrifying that chilled every corner of his heart. With a gasp and thud she plummeted from his hand and landed on the ground, staring up at him with shock and surprise.
Albinus’s face flushed with concern and he took a hesitant step forward, sensing that his companion’s mood had shifted suddenly into something he didn’t recognize, “Silvan…?”
If Silvanus had heard him, he didn’t show it, green eyes focused upon the girl that cowered at his feet as he struggled for breath. There was no way to disguise his crippled state despite all his best efforts. His dark features had drawn into a forced and faltering scowl that he was barely able to maintain.
Livi opened her lips to speak, unable to choke words past the fear that sent tears stinging to her eyes. He looked paler and paler by the moment and his arms trembled despite his efforts to hide it. His heart thrummed painfully with things of past, seeing her there with eyes filled with fear. Gradually, he gathered himself to stand straightly, struggling to control his breathing as he turned to leave.
Albinus stared between them, combing shaggy white hair from his eyes to gauge what had happened, but he couldn’t place it. He watched Silvan storm away in silence and stooped to help Livi to her feet, looking her over to make sure his companion hadn’t hurt her. “You’re all right?” He asked, lifting her chin to look her in the eye. She trembled in fear and against the cold of his touch and his own heart sank in turn. He hugged her lightly, petting her head awkwardly and dusting the leaves and dirt from her black cloak, “Come, little one, and don’t think about it further, all right? He is a hard sort of person, but he is a good man. I promise you, he would do you no harm.”
Livi nodded but said nothing, her lips clamped shut in nervous fear. If Silvan had aimed to horrify her into submission he had certainly succeeded. She followed beside Albinus who looked over her now and again with concerned expressions. It pained him and he swallowed hard, thinking fiercely as they walked on for hours on end. He reached suddenly, taking her hand in his for a moment and grinning mischievously. When he withdrew his hand there was a small ball of snow left behind resting in her palm and she stared at it in surprise. He was still smiling and patted her back again, awkwardly affectionate and obviously proud of himself. She tasted of the snow and found it cold and delightfully crisp to her thirsty tongue. She ate at it sparingly, returning his grin with a weak one of her own; he was trying to cheer her up.
His efforts were not in vain but Silvan’s demanding silhouette against the dark night kept a constant reminder of what had happened earlier. Her doubts of him truly being an aeterni were gone now and she felt he must have been the one responsible for the foul-flavored rumors of his kind. She nibbled at the snowball and stared aimlessly at his back, not glaring but simply looking, wondering at what had transpired between them. She had been ready to curse his name and ram a fist into his face, but when he had his expression had daunted on fear for a moment that struck her heart deeply. She shuttered away, dropping her gaze to the ground that passed beneath her feet, carrying her away to some distant place. Delvon?
“What is Delvon like?” She asked at last, looking up from her icy treat to see Albinus’s placid smile.
“Oh, it’s a fine little city. Built on the rim of Elondia’s east coast, you know?” He began babbling happily, animating his words with elaborate gestures with his large hands, “Our last city made and inhabited by the elf-kind. Oh we have a good many friends there who are decent enough to let us stay with them until things get moving.”
“Elves…” Liviana breathed, filing through memories of what she had heard of them. Little was known of their culture, after the assault of the Men of WestSea, most had fled to their homeland over the Eastern Seas. But a few, it seemed, still dwelled here. “What are they like? Is it true they live in the trees?”
Albinus found that hilarious and laughed loudly, planting a hand on her head and mussing her hair up, “Maybe the ones of old world did! These are ship smiths, though. They make their way on the coast by fishing and dredging for shells. Some piracy even, I’m sure. They can snare up a WestSea ship now again without much fuss. Lucky for us they are eager to see the Men of WestSea kicked back to their own shores. I think you’ll find these elf folk more along your liking than what you might expect. They’re hospitable, even when sober.”
Liviana made a face at that, unsure of what he meant but taking a measure of comfort that these elves, at least, hated the Men of WestSea. Sometimes it seemed those barbarians had more friends than foes, even in Eliondia.
Her hands returned beneath her black cloak once she had finished Albinus’s snow treat. She kept silent for a long while, listening to the crickets that sang from the sagebrush. Their singing began to wane as the moonlight gave way to twilight; a hint of purple brushed over what little of the horizon could be seen through the canopy’s woven branches. The morning birds stirred from their nests, sending up a chorus of gentle songs, hailing soft greetings to the rising sun.
© 2011 Nicole
Added on February 5, 2011
Last Updated on February 5, 2011
The Ivory Queen
Wichita Falls, TX
AboutA Numerical Overview: 1) I am physically incapable of keeping any plant alive. I have killed two bonsai trees and a cactus so far as well as the few potted plants I've bought from walmart over seve.. more..