Author: thedarkworld PM
Yuri, f/f. Alindra searches for the fabled city of the Elves. Rescued by the elf Mari, Alindra is thrust into a strange new world. But amidst the suspicion of the Elves, will Alindra be able to keep her newfound paradise and her growing feelings for Mari?Rated: Fiction M - English - Romance/Fantasy - Words: 4,788 - Reviews: 3 - Favs: 13 - Published: 01-13-10 - Status: Complete - id: 2763441
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Alindra shivered as she slashed at some snow-laden branches. The forest of Evermore was far bigger than she had ever imagined, and she feared she was lost. Bards had sung tales of the forest's strange glamour, magic that could see even the most seasoned traveller lost, but Alindra had been desperate.
The world had descended into civil war and madness, eaten up by politics and hatred. Her family had been slaughtered by her betrothed, sent to do the deed by a politician who had whispered in his ear that Alindra's family had betrayed the crown. She remembered the dark night he had slaughtered her parents and siblings. She caught him in the act, but he only shook his head.
"Run from here," he had said, "I do not want to hurt you. Get far away from here, and you might yet live."
So Alindra had fled the city, tears streaming down her cheeks. She had always lived a life of comfort, given everything she wanted. Now suddenly she was thrust into poverty and despair. She took a sword from a dead man lying in the gutter as she left the city behind forever.
But winter was cold, and outside the city gates there was only blood and snow as the two central cities of Ashvale and Madrin fought it out for the continent. She watched armies clash, and took blankets and food from abandoned supply crates.
All that time, it had been as though the forest of Evermore had been calling her. Tales had been passed down through her family that stated somewhere in the forest, the Elves lived in a peaceful paradise, protected from human eyes by magic. That they lived in a city so grand that humans cried to lay eyes upon it, and that their women were so beautiful that any man who laid eyes on them instantly fell in love. She had chuckled when she heard that, for she also liked women, a secret her family had spent much coin to hide lest she bring shame down upon their house. She had dreamed of what the Elves might look like on many nights since then, and longed to visit them, even though it was probably a hopeless quest.
She was sick of the smells of blood and fire on the open road, and there was nowhere to go. Even the refugees seemed lost, heading south towards the country of Leren, a bitter enemy for hundreds of years. It was said that on the other side of the border, they were kept in camps with unspeakable conditions... But where else was there to go for the homeless and the lost?
Cold, she pulled her woolen robes tighter about her. The fit was not perfect, and they were stained with blood from their previous owner, but the cold had nearly killed her those first few nights, and she was grateful for whatever warmth she could keep.
She marked the bark of a tree with her sword. She knew the Elves revered nature, and would probably rebuke her for such damage, but madness was swirling in her head, a little voice of doubt telling her that she was lost, that she was just traveling in circles, or that the Elves did not really exist, only in legends and she would venture this forest until she died, the cold sucking all the life from her bones.
Exhausted, she put down her few supplies and sat on a fallen tree. She was shivering and so tired that she just wanted to lay her head down and fall asleep, but she had heard that to do so in the cold was certain death. Still, perhaps it was better to die this way then be hacked to pieces in her homeland. She would just fall asleep and never wake up. After all, what future was there for her? Her family was dead, she had no place to go... the story of the Elves had been the only thing giving her hope in a world full of despair.
"Alindra..." A voice whispered softly. Alindra wondered if her mind was playing tricks on her. She looked around but could see little in the fading light. There were only trees, and more trees, stretching onwards into infinity, it seemed. She stood, but her legs would not support her and she fell into the snow. She was shivering, her whole body trying to summon warmth that did not exist. As she lay on the ground, too cold and tired to move, she saw a woman come out from behind a tree. She had long hair as white as the snow and she was wearing thick furs. Green eyes contemplated her as she reached out a hand.
"Please... help me..." she said, as she closed her eyes. Exhausted, she gave in and fell asleep.
When she woke, there was white all around her. She shielded her eyes from the light and sat up to see that it was sunlight streaming in from a window in the ceiling. The room she was in had many books lining the walls, but the text on them was alien to her.
Alindra sat up in the bed and pulled the blankets around her. She was not cold now, but she had the memory of being colder than she had ever imagined. As she sat there, a beautiful woman stepped in, her hair the color of honey and green eyes that gave Alindra a curious look. She called out in a foreign language and others came to her side, a tall, lithe man and an older man with the look of wisdom in his eyes.
"Are you... the Elves?" Alindra asked. The three looked at each other and spoke in their own language. Alindra felt lost. Indeed, this place was magnificent, a sanctuary and she was grateful for her rescue, but was she to be alone forever, trapped beyond a language barrier? Dreams never told of such obvious problems.
"Mari," one of the Elves kept saying. It was the only word that Alindra seemed to make out.
"Mari," she said, imitating. The three looked at her oddly, then nodded to each other, leaving.
Alindra lay back on the bed and sighed. At least she was safe. Blood and fire were things of the past for now. She only hoped that she would be able to stay, ill-educated in Elven language and ways as she was. Wouldn't she just be a burden to them? Hadn't they cut themselves off from humans because they had grown tired of human wars? Perhaps they would not be happy to have her in their midst.
Breaking her reverie, the woman with the long white hair came into the room. She was wearing a long green dress that was cut low and matched the emerald green of her eyes. She walked gracefully across the room and sat on the side of the bed. She said something Alindra could not understand, but the tone was soft and friendly and Alindra felt comforted by her words, even if she could not understand them.
"You're the one who rescued me, right?" Alindra asked, the sighed as she realized the woman could not understand her either, "Mari?" she said, trying to imitate the word she had made out earlier.
"Mari!" The woman said, smiling. She pointed at herself, "Mari..."
"Your name is Mari!" Alindra said. She rested back on the pillow, "Thank you, Mari, for rescuing me..."
Weeks passed, and Mari had stayed by her side almost constantly, teaching her the Elven language. Alindra was surprised how fast she learned basic conversation, and Mari was a patient teacher, even when she made mistakes. And she was incredibly beautiful. Alindra loved the way she talked, the way she moved, the way she smiled... but she reminded herself that one stupid word could ruin everything for her. She knew little about Elven society. Humans had not been exactly accepting of her love for women, so she knew she had to guard her secret carefully until she knew more about Elven society.
"You are well now, Alindra, and you have learned enough of our language to speak with the Elder. He wishes to ask you a few questions," Mari said.
"Q... questions? Will he send me away? Please say I don't have to go back to the human lands! Please!" Alindra took Mari's hands in hers and held them tightly, "I'll work harder to learn the language..."
"It is not for me to decide," Mari said, "If it were up to me, you'd stay. I like you, Alindra, and I think you'd be happy here. But there are reasons we pulled away from the humans. They enslaved us once, and we can never allow that again. Your arrival raises many questions. Humans are not supposed to be able to break the barrier. Perhaps its magic is weakening. Anyway, I have said too much. The Elder will explain the rest. Come."
Alindra stood up and felt the red dress that the Elves had given her flowing about her. It felt natural to be dressed like this, far more natural then the demure black dresses pulled up to the neck that she had been required to wear in her homeland. She felt free of all the rules that had filled her life as a noble.
She looked around as Mari led her up the tower to the Elder's room at the top. She had not been allowed to leave the tower as of yet, but she had barely even left her room, so absorbed she had been in her studying with Mari. She loved the beauty of the tower, its white stone built open so that the sunlight could shine in, yet kept warm from the cold winds of winter by magical power. She stopped on the stairs and looked out at the Elven city, the snow on the hollowed out trees that made up the homes of the Elves. Small walkways connected some of the trees.
"There'll be time to see it," Mari said, "We must not keep the Elder waiting, Alindra."
They hurried the rest of the way, and Mari bowed solemnly to the guards standing outside. They stepped aside, their highly polished green armor making them look like trees themselves.
Mari stepped forward and opened the door, "Father, Alindra is here, as you requested. Shall I take my leave?"
"No, stay and hear what we have to say, if you would," the Elder said. Alindra stepped in as Mari beckoned.
"Alindra, I am sorry, but I have to ask you a few questions. I know you are new to our language and I appreciate the effort you have put into it, so I will try to be as plain as possible."
Alindra nodded to show she had had understood, "Thank you," she said. She didn't know whether she should bow or whether there was some proper form of address for the Elder, but if he was offended he did not show it.
"What led you to seek out the Elves?" The Elder asked.
Alindra remembered the past. It felt like a bad dream, but she told it anyway, "In the human lands there is a civil war for the crown. My parents were murdered and I had nowhere to go. I had heard tales of a sanctuary of Elves in Evermore Forest and so I went, hoping, dreaming of a way to escape the war and misery that has destroyed everything I know."
"War seems to follow humans wherever they go. Crowns are far too heavy for men's heads, it seems. A shame, child, but also no concern of ours. Indeed, many of our kind are concerned that your arrival here means the barrier is growing weak. Other humans may follow, and we cannot allow that. Only Elves are supposed to be able to cross the barrier."
"It could be that I went through the barrier, Father," Mari said, "I was chasing a deer and may have accidentally strayed into human lands without realizing. Alindra would have been able to cross the barrier in my care."
"It is possible," The Elder said, scratching his chin, "Either way, we have a situation. We have a human in our lands. If we expel her, she could lead the humans here. If we keep her, our magic may kill her with time."
Alindra stopped in her tracks, "Kill me? What do you mean?"
"Humans cannot use magic," the Elder said, "Your bodies are not strong enough to handle it. But also the presence of magic over a number of years... seems to shorten the length of the already short human lifespan. Some humans who had joined our cause stayed with us when we erected the magical barrier and left the human world... That was twenty years ago, and none of them are left here today. If you stay here Alindra, you may well die."
Alindra looked around. Vines grew their way up the walls. A small tree blossomed in the corner. Magical gems glowed with life. Life was all around her... yet she could not live here?
"If I go back to the human world, I will certainly die," Alindra said, "I used to belong to a noble house. There are those who would certainly try to kill me, if I don't die from starvation or the cold. I don't want to go back."
"That is not for you to decide at this point," The Elder said, "We will convene this afternoon to decide your fate. We are not fond of sending you out to die, but the forces of Nature created magic this way for a reason. Humans are not supposed to use it or live with it."
Alindra bowed her head, "I beg you, please! I am sick of war and murder. There is nothing in the human world that I care for. All I want is to live in peace with you. If that costs me my life, then that is acceptable. I would rather spend ten short years in happiness then a lifetime in horror and misery."
"Mari, please take Alindra back to her room. We are done here for today."
Mari led Alindra downstairs, "Don't look so sad," she said, "We will find a way to keep you here, if that is what you want. But perhaps it is best for you to go back. I am fond of you Alindra... I don't want you to die."
"Mari... Will you take me around the city? I have only seen the tower, and I would like to see everything... How Elves live and work, your culture... I want to see it all."
"I thought you'd never ask," Mari said. She took Alindra's hand, "I want to introduce you to everybody."
They spent the afternoon going from tree to tree. Alindra saw the smithy, several families, some Elven children. But more than anything she felt a sense of peace. Like she was home, and that she didn't want to be anywhere else.
On the way back to the tower she saw two Elven women, holding hands. One turned to embrace the other and they kissed deeply. Mari smiled and called to them, "Hello Lenai and Maia." The women waved back, smiling, before moving on.
"They just got married last week," Mari said, "I was their bridesmaid. It was beautiful..."
"Women can get married here?" Alindra's mouth was open in happy shock, "In the human lands, such couples have to live in secret, as though they have something to be ashamed of..."
"Not so here," Mari said, Va'lania, women who love women, are rare, but valued just as much as anybody else. Nature creates in all ways, we say." She beamed with pride, and Alindra wanted to ask the question, but she dare not. She still did not know whether it would be polite to ask such personal questions, so she stayed quiet.
They returned to the tower, and Alindra parted ways with Mari. Mari smiled at her, and she couldn't help but feel sad. What if she had to leave Mari behind, forever, to return to the land of blood and fire? What if she never saw that smile again?
She rolled sleeplessly on her bed as she tried to take a short nap. She knew the Council was meeting to decide her fate, but she had no say in the matter and could only wait. She thought about Mari, the only thought that gave her any solace. Mari was the kind of beauty she'd had fevered dreams about, the kind of woman she'd always dreamed of meeting. Mari had saved her life, taught her to read and speak the Elven tongue, and now...?
Alindra loved her, she was sure of it, but how could she proceed? She was sure to be exiled, and even if she wasn't, how could she tell Mari she loved her? Women could love women in this world it was true, but Alindra was just a human. How would she ever be accepted by the Elder's daughter? It would be like courting a lowborn with no status.
When Alindra finally woke from troubled dreams, she dressed and sought out Mari. Were the Council still deliberating? Darkness had fallen, and the halls of the tower were quiet as the stars shone quietly. She found Mari on the steps outside her father's chamber, her tears illuminated by the pale moonlight.
"Mari? Mari, what did they say?" Alindra felt a sense of dread and panic rising within her.
"They... They are sending you away," Mari said through choked sobs, "Back to the human lands..."
Alindra shook her head, "Please don't cry, Mari. I'm scared, but I'll find a way to survive. Perhaps someday I'll see you again..."
"That's not all," Mari said, new tears coming to her eyes, "They're going to erase your memory of this place and everything that happened here. So you can't ever lead the humans to us. But that means... You won't even remember me..."
"No... They can't!" Alindra said, "I would never tell anybody about this place! I'd die first! I don't want to lose my memory!" She slumped down on the steps, "I don't ever want to forget you... I won't! They can't take that away from me!"
"They can, and they will," Mari said, "They have persuaded themselves they are acting in your own best interests, but it's their own backs they're thinking about! They're as bad as the warlords they claim to fear!"
"Thank you... for fighting for me," Alindra said, "It's okay, though. My people deserve their reputation and I don't blame your father for being afraid. All this wondrous beauty... I wouldn't want to risk it for some stranger either. They don't have any proof that I'm not some kind of spy, sent to disarm the barrier."
"But you could die out there!" Mari said, "All that bloodshed and untold misery. You don't want war, yet war is thrust upon you. All you want is to live here in peace, and I would have taken care of you, in my house... Nobody would have had to have done a thing!"
Alindra moved her hand to Mari's face and gently brushed away the tears, "Don't cry," she said, "I never wanted to bring you pain... You've been so good to me..." She was so close to Mari now, looking into her deep green eyes when she felt Mari's lips on hers and the warmth of Mari's arms slipping around her, bringing her closer. Alindra kissed back, letting the moment happen. What she wanted was this moment, now. Consequences and manners no longer mattered. It was all to be erased soon, so why did she have to care about whether Mari was some kind of nobility?
"You are Va'lania," Mari whispered, "I thought so, but I wasn't sure. And the way you spoke of human disgust, I wasn't going to offend you by asking. Gods, how much time have we wasted? Tomorrow they'll take this all away..."
"We have now," Alindra said, "Take me to my room and damn Gods and men and elves and rules! Do to me as you will..."
Mari scooped Alindra up in her arms, hurrying down the stairs. Alindra smiled as they reached her room and closed the door behind them. They kissed again, taking their time. Mari's hands unclasped Alindra's dress and it fell to the ground in a puddle. Mari fondled Alindra's breasts and her back arched against the door as Mari's fingers explored between her legs...
Afterwards, they lay in silence on the bed, fingers entwined. Alindra wanted to say something, but she could not find the words. She felt like the universe was in the palm of her hands, but also like it was slipping through her fingers with each passing second. Joy and fear, happiness and sorrow all mingled within her and the only thing she could express were the tears that silently rolled down her cheeks.
Mari rolled over and held her, "Hush, please don't cry," she whispered, "Alindra, I'll never forget you. And Elves live a very long time..."
"I could live with it if they were just sending me back to the world I came from..." Alindra said, "I could live with the pain, knowing that you were safe. But... to lose you altogether, to have no memory of the time we shared together..."
"Father, you have to stop this!" Mari was down on her knees, pleading with the Elder, "I love her! You can't do this to her!"
"I don't have any choice," The Elder said, "If you love her so much, you'll understand it's for her own good. Do you want her to waste away because of the magic?"
"She'll die out there!" Mari said, "I know she'd rather take her chances here."
"It's not her decision to make," The Elder said, "I have done all I can, and I honestly believe she's not a spy. But others are not so convinced. Mari, you are my daughter and I want to see you happy. But the safety of this land comes first. Even if I do believe they are acting on old prejudices against humans, I cannot stop them in this."
Mari went away, dejected. She helped Alindra rise and dress in the clothes she had arrived in. Try as she might, she had been unable to remove the bloodstain on the cloak and so it remained, a stark reminder of the cruel world Alindra was to return to.
They went to the Council chamber. A magic circle had been prepared, and Mari led Alindra to it.
"Erase my memory too," she said, "I will go with her."
"No," The Elder said, "An Elf in the human lands will alert the humans to our continued existence. You can't hide your ears from them for long. No, I forbid it."
"It's all right," Alindra said, tears running down her face, "But thank you... You don't know how much it means, to know that you would give up all your memories for me. But I won't allow it either. You have a life here, and I would never take you from your home and family to serve my own selfish desires." The Elder grunted approval and left.
Alindra fumbled around in the pocket of her robes and pulled out a ring, "This was my mother's ring," she said, pressing it into Mari's hand, "I want you to have it, to remember me by." She stepped back into the magic circle, "Farewell, my beautiful Mari, I shall hold onto the memory of your face, so that it is the last thing I might lose."
The gathered elves started to chant the required words for the spell. Mari looked down at the ring, and up at Alindra, and tears flooding from her eyes, she fled the room.
"I think she's coming around." Faces swam into view above Alindra's head. Alindra saw three unfamiliar faces crowded around her.
"Where am I?" she asked in the human language, and the faces looked at one another with concern before looking back at her.
A woman pushed through the crowd and knelt down next to Alindra, "Alindra? Alindra!"
Alindra was confused, "What's going on?" she asked, "Who are you?" She heard some foreign words, and then the woman above her burst into tears. Confused, she sat up, and everything seemed to make more sense. Knowledge of the Elven language and all the people surrounding her rushed back into her head all at once.
"Mari?" she asked, then she realized, "Mari! What.. why am I still here?"
"The ring," she said, wiping tears form her face, "This..." she held it up, "this is an Elven heart ring. An Elf's most treasured possession. Given to your lover, then passed on to your eldest child, it is a symbol of eternity created from solid platinum. This is Alyssa A'vensi's ring, a Elf who left the Elven lands when the barrier went up to live with the humans. She must have bore a child with a human."
"But, that's not possible... My ears aren't pointed!" Alindra said, "And my family... I'm descended from a long line of nobles... but I did have a different mother, Lord Ragnar's second wife, Alyssa. She was said to be beautiful but she died in childbirth, and then he married again and I was raised by the third Lady Ragnar... she never spoke of my mother." Her memory was flooding back to her, her father bending down to her and giving her the ring, "This is your mother's ring. Keep it safe..."
"I suppose you have your father's ears," Mari said, "There aren't many half-elves in the world, to be sure, but I suppose that could happen."
"Magic," Alindra said. She was thinking about being a child again. Once she had touched a dead plant and restored it to life. Lady Ragnar had walked in with a look of horror on her face. She had thrown away the plant and rebuked Alindra fiercely, "Such power is demonic! Never do such a thing again or I shall send you to the orphanage and tell your father you have run away from home!"
Alindra stood up. "Where are you going?" Mari asked her, as she looked around. In the corner, a forgotten tree was withering. She walked over to it and tried to remember how she had worked the magic. She remembered feeling sad at the fate of the plant, seeing its little leaves curled and shrunken. She allowed herself to feel the same now, to tap into the forgotten tree. She put her hands on the tree, but nothing happened. Mari watched her intently, and she let her feelings of love spring forth, weaving their way into the magic. At once, the dead leaves fell from the tree and new ones sprang forth, opening as though they had been nurtured and cared for over a period of months.
"I think that settles it," Mari said, to the surprised onlookers. She rushed forward to steady Alindra, who was looking pale, "It's over, love," she said, "We can be together now. They will never expel one of their own."
"It explains how she got through the barrier," the Elder said, "I think this means we are safe from the human world for now. Alindra, welcome home."
Mari carried Alindra up the tower to her bedroom and let her rest. Her father was waiting outside for her.
"I suppose it was meant to be, Mari. I am glad things turned out so well. You seem so happy. I am happy for you, my daughter."
"Thank you, Father," Mari said.
When Alindra woke, Mari was sitting at her bedside.
"I had the most wonderful dream... That I got to stay here forever, with you... That I never had to go back to the human lands again, because I was one of you..."
"It wasn't a dream," Mari said, "It was real. Today is the first day of the rest of your life," she said, and she leaned in to kiss Alindra.