Featured

Chapter One

The following is a rough draft of chapter one of my book. There will be future revisions, but for now, it must take a back burner while I work on other chapters. This is by far my least favourite chapter of the six that I have written so far. Hopefully, in its final draft it will be much improved. Enjoy! As always, I welcome critiques.

On a cool, crisp autumn morning, an hour before dawn, a young elf mounted her pale horse, a quiver of arrows slung over her shoulder. Her silvery blonde hair was bound in a long braid. She had a narrow face with soft angular features, creamy white complexion and bright green eyes that seemed to glow in the darkness. A silver ring pierced the left nostril of her slender nose. She was dressed in an olive green tunic, belted at the waist, and tan deerskin pants, her knee high boots made of the same soft leather trimmed with fur.

She heeled her horse into a trot and set off out of the town. She cut across fields and meadows, crossed a gurgling brook, the horse’s hooves kicking up a spray of cold water through the knee deep stream.

The first rays of the sun were just beginning to peak over the horizon by the time the elf had ridden deep into the forest, where the leaves had already turned to shades of red, orange and gold. She smiled as she inhaled the sweet, earthy scent of fallen leaves, damp earth and decaying wood. She loved the forest in autumn, when, with the turning of the leaves, the whole canopy of wise old trees became a cacophony of vibrant colours, the air turned cool with the changing seasons, and the brambles were heavy with ripe berries. She always felt invigorated at this point in the great wheel of the year, and nothing brought her more joy than the hunt. She rode a great stallion. He was a war horse whose former rider had fallen in battle a few years ago. Dagmar had claimed him, and he had proved a brave and reliable steed.

In the faint light, just as the sun was starting to climb out from the underworld, Dagmar, astride her great horse, spotted a stag through the sparse trees, grazing on the grasses just beyond the shelter of the wood. Silently, she raised her bow, strung an arrow and drew it back. As she focused her aim, she sent a surge of energy flowing through her into the bow grasped tightly in her right hand. A faint green glow radiated into the sleek wood, while a barely perceptible hum rose with the tension in the string. Even the air seemed to still, until, on an exhalation, she letreleased the arrow loose. It shot through the air in a flash, hitting it’s mark; the stag staggered forward and collapsed onto the dewy grass.

Slipping from her horse, the elf sprinted soundlessly toward the fallen beast, and kneeling at his side, drew a long knife from her belt, its razor sharp blade glinting in the early morning light. She plunged the blade into the stag’s throat, tearing through its flesh, a gush of blood pouring from the wound.

A few days later brought the arrival of dragon ships carrying elven warriors returning from their exploits abroad where they’d been engaged in patrolling the coasts and defending the settlements from raiding parties from the north.

Returning home with the warriors were Dagmar’s two elder brothers, Siegfried and Hagar. She rushed out to greet them when their arrival was announced, and threw herself into Hagar’s arms, who laughed. “Did you miss me, little sister?” He asked cheerfully.

She smiled. “I always miss you when you go away,” she said. “Why won’t you take me with you?”

Hagar put his arm around her shoulders and steered her towards their father’s hall. “You know why,” he said. “It’s too dangerous.”

“It isn’t too dangerous for you and Siegfried,” she persisted.

“We are men,” said Siegfried seriously, falling into step beside Dagmar. “We are warriors. You’re just a girl.”

Dagmar caste him a reproving glance. “I can fight,” she retorted. “The other day, I even killed a stag!”

“Hunting deer is not the same as fighting dark elves. You wouldn’t stand a chance against a seasoned warrior,” Siegfried insisted.

“You don’t know that,” answered Dagmar. “I have been practicing.”

“We are only looking out for you, little sister. A battlefield is no place for a woman,” said Hagar.

“Our mother was a Valkyrie. She always rode into battle with father,” Dagmar argued.

“And it was on a battlefield that she died,” said Hagar, giving Dagmar’s shoulders a squeeze. Releasing her, he strode ahead to greet his father, Chief Sigmundr, who had just emerged from the hall to welcome his two sons home.

“Men die on battlefields, too,” Dagmar muttered to herself.

That evening, a feast was held in Chief Sigmundr’s hall in honour of his sons’ homecoming and all the warriors who would winter in Anu Duinn.

When the feast was underway, several serving ladies entered the hall, carrying platters of food, including roasted venison from the stag Dagmar had killed.

Dagmar seated herself at the high table, along with her father and two brothers. She observed that Siegfried and her father were engrossed in conversation, their voices low, so as not to be overhead, and she wondered what could be so important.

“Damn the dark elves!” barked Siegfried suddenly, slamming his fist on the table. “Why should we make peace with any of them? They are all of them evil!” he growled.

This caught Dagmar’s attention, and she leaned in closer to hear what they were discussing.

“Would you prefer war?” Chief Sigmundr asked.

“If it would mean destroying the whole lot of them, then it would be worth it,” Siegfried replied.

“Ah, but at what cost?” Asked the chief. “Would it be worth sending all of our men to their deaths?” To this, Siegfried said nothing, and Sigmundr continued. “You still have much to learn, my son. It is unwise to be reckless in battle.”

At this, Hagar joined the conversation. “Do you mean to negotiate a treaty with Chief Hrothgar, father?” he asked.

Sigmundr turned to his eldest son. “What would you do, if the decision was yours to make, Siegfried?”

“I would much rather see a treaty made with the dark elves of Rathmahen than a feeble promise of peace from Ivar,” Siegfried answered.

“That is where you and I differ, Siegfried. Chief Hrothgar Daggeirsson is far more powerful and infinitely more dangerous than Ivar,” Chief Sigmundr stated. “Never trust Hrothgar. He is cunning and clever and could deceive you without ever breaking an oath.”
“Whereas Ivar is fickle and hungry for power,” Siegfried persisted.
“And far more predictable,” countered Sigmundr. “Ivar is a ravenous dog. You expect him to bite. So, it will come as no great surprise when he does.”
“The elves of the White Wood have made peace with Rathmahen.”
Sigmundr gave his son a disapproving look. “Their Lord also turns a blind eye to the slave trade that goes on in their kingdom,” He stated bitterly. “Hrothgar is patient,” Sigmundr addcontinued. “He will bide his time, lulling his prey into a false sense of security before he strikes,” he spat the words, his expression hard. “There can, of course, never be lasting peace between the elves and dark elves.”

“Chief Hrothgar will not be pleased if he learns that you made peace with his enemies,” Hagar remarked.

“If I make peace with the Berserkir, then let Hrothgar be displeased,” Replied Sigmundr. “As for a treaty with Ivar, I do not yet know if an agreement can be reached.”

“Then you have decided to negotiate with Ivar of the Berserkir?” asked Hagar.

Sigmundr nodded. “It seems to be the safest option.”

Hagar caught Dagmar’s eye at that, and he gave her a questioning look, but she only shook her head.

Later, Hagar came to sit beside his sister. Taking a jug of wine, he poured a glass for himself, then refilled Dagmar’s cup. He turned to study her, but she pretended not to notice. “So, what do you think of father’s plans for dealing with the dark elves?” he asked, at last, when she would reward him with no reaction.

“What do I know of such matters?” she said with a shrug.

Hagar gave her a skeptical look. “You appeared concerned about his decision. I thought, perhaps you’d had a premonition.”

Dagmar frowned. “No, nothing like that. It’s just that I don’t understand why father declined the treaty with Rathmahen’s old chief,” she said, glancing at her brother.

“Daggeir?” Hagar chuckled, brushing his long dark hair from his face. “It was nothing to do with him. He was alright, as far as dark elves go. His son was the problem.”

“Why was that?” Dagmar asked.

Hagar sipped his wine before answering. “Hrothgar Daggeirsson was, and still is, a force to be reckoned with. I have never heard of anyone who loves war and bloodshed the way he does. He knows no fear, and it seems there is no evil he would not commit to further his ambitions. Hrothgar is a thing of nightmares; he can play tricks with your mind, haunt your dreams, and feeds off the agony of his victims and steals their souls!” Hagar flashed a wicked grin, and laughed at Dagmar’s wide eyed expression.

She slammed her fist into his shoulder. “You’re an ass, brother!”

Hagar laughed heartily.

The first snow fell a month later, heralding the beginning of winter. The last weary bands of warriors arrived about this time. Among them was a blonde haired, broad shouldered elf called Ragnar, who was Dagmar’s favourite of Anu Duinn’s warriors. He, likewise, was quite fond of the free spirited girl.

The seasoned warrior was greeted warmly by Chief Sigmundr after riding into the stronghold.

“What news is there from Lan Fayes?” Asked Sigmundr, as he and Ragnar entered the feast hall.

Ragnar accepted a horn of ale a dark haired serving woman brought to him. “They have seen more raids than usual these past few years, and their defences are stretched thin,” he replied.

Chief Sigmundr took his place upon his throne, his expression grave. “I am hearing the same from all over Alfheim. Many of the elven kingdoms are overwhelmed by wave after wave of raiders from the north.”

He looked to Ragnar, who had seated himself at a table near the dais.

“There is rumour that the peace between the Whitewood and Rathmahen is breaking down,” said Ragnar.

Sigmundr’s eyes widened in surprise. “Why is that? Has Hrothgar betrayed them?” he asked.

The blond haired elf shook his head. “Not that I have heard. Hrothgar’s pact with the elves of the Whitewood includes an agreement to help secure the Whitewood against Berserkir raiders, but Rathmahen has its own troubles of late. Word is, the clans are unhappy and that there could be a rebellion. They question their Lord’s decision to make treaties with the elven kingdoms,” Ragnar explained.

“Ha! Is the slave trade not enough for the devils?” Sigmundr thundered.

Ragnar huffed. “The dark elves will never be satisfied until they have total dominion over all of Alfheim! Even that will likely not be enough, and then they will turn their sights to Midgard once more!” he exclaimed in disgust.

Sigmundr sighed. “I don’t doubt it,” he said. “Unfortunately, we are not strong enough to ward off all the raiders of Svartalfheim, and the more we fight against them, the weaker we will become.”

“What do you propose?” asked Ragnar, as he refilled his drinking horn.

“Before the summer raids begin again, I plan to sail to Berserksheim, to negotiate a truce with Chief Ivar,” he answered.

“Do you think that is wise, my Lord?” Ragnar asked. “Ivar is known to be an oath breaker.”

“Yes, Ragnar, I am well aware of that fact, but I do not expect a permanent peace between us. My hope is to buy us time to regather our strength,” Sigmundr replied.

“Why not make your peace with Hrothgar? At least he keeps his promises, and Rathmahen is far more powerful and a much greater threat to have as an enemy than the Berserkir,” Ragnar suggested.

“Hrothgar will demand a regular payment of slaves,” Sigmundr stated flatly.

“And Ivar will not?” countered Ragnar.

“Of course he will!” said Sigmundr. “But Ivar is shortsighted. He will only care how many slaves he can get out of the deal. Do you know what Hrothgar demands from the elves of the Whitewood?”

“Women!” Ragnar joked.

“Be serious, man!” retorted Sigmundr. “Hrothgar demands boys and fighting men! He keeps his enemies weak by taking the strongest elves. The rest — women, prisoners — are only accepted to fill the quota. How will we ever rebuild our forces if we must give up our menfolk as slaves for the slaughter?”

Ragnar, saying nothing, considered his chief’s words.

There was much work to be done in preparation for the winter months. Wood had to be stockpiled for the fires; livestock had to be culled; repairs to buildings and fortifications to be made. Fortunately, there had been a bountiful harvest that year, so there was no shortage of food.

After his return to Anu Duinn, Ragnar kept himself busy helping with the work. He had been home for several days before Dagmar came to see him. He was splitting wood when she found him.

“Ragnar!” cried the elven princess, as she came around the corner of the barn. He lowered his axe when he saw her. “I’ve only just heard you were back!” she declared, smiling.

“My Lady,” said Ragnar, with a bow. “I wondered when I might see you.”

Dagmar, stepping forward, took the axe from his hand, and twirled it, before swinging it down, the sharpened edge lodging in the chopping block. “I have been up in the hills with the skald these past few weeks,” she explained, turning to face the tall elf.

Ragnar smiled. “So, you have not abandoned your studies?” he inquired.

“Of course not!” she replied with a laugh. “Now that you are back, can we resume our lessons?” Dagmar asked, a mischievous glint in her bright green eyes.

Ragnar’s expression became serious. “Are you still set on becoming a warrior?” he asked, stepping towards a barrel to splash water over his face.

“You know that I am,” answered Dagmar, following him.

Ragnar searched her face, his pale blue eyes stern. “Your father disapproves,” he stated.

Dagmar shrugged. “My father worries too much. He does not believe me when I tell him that I have seen it in the fire. It is my fate to be a shield maiden. My father cannot shelter me forever.”

Ragnar went back to the chopping block and tugged the axe loose; his strong brow furrowed. He tossed another log onto the block, and with one swing of the axe, split the log in two.

“Well?” said Dagmar, stepping up beside him. “You have not given me your answer.”

Setting the next log in place, he said, “Come find me at first light tomorrow.”

Dagmar grinned and dropped a quick kiss on his cheek, then darted off.

Ragnar was already waiting in the courtyard the next morning when Dagmar slipped soundlessly from the house, her sword sheathed at her right hip. Ragnar looked her over critically, then motioned for her to follow.

“Are you going to tell me where we are going?” she asked after they had been walking for some time.

“I thought we’d practice in the woods today,” he said, without slowing his swift pace.

Dagmar had to jog to keep up with the solidly built elf, but she was excited for a new challenge.

Once well within the woods, Ragnar commanded her to wander off a ways. He waited until she was far enough ahead, then slipped out of sight.

Dagmar had been walking as quietly as she could for some minutes when she noticed how quiet it had become. Glancing around, she searched for Ragnar, but he was nowhere to be found. “Ragnar?” she called out, but there came no reply. Frowning, she concentrated her mind, and allowed herself to sense the woods around her. She could feel the coolness of the trees, hear the soft breeze through the barren limbs, smell the sharp scent earth and snow. Then she let her mind reach further, and further — and then, she felt it — a presence somewhere in the trees behind her. Slowly, she stepped forward; maintaining her focus, she slid her sword from its sheath, being careful to keep her back to the presence, until she sensed it draw nearer. With a sudden, swift movement, she spun and lunged forward. Her sword struck out at Ragnar just as he sprang from cover of the nearby trees, but he was too quick for her and easily dodged out of reach. Immediately, he came in for the attack, and Dagmar, quickly recovering, blocked him at the last moment, then stepped away so as to whip her sword towards his legs. Again, Ragnar was too fast, and flicked her sword away with his own. Dagmar was quick and agile, but the seasoned warrior evaded her attacks. When she did succeed in striking him, he seemed to absorb the blow, only to come back at her with such force that it nearly knocked her off her feet.

“You have improved while I was away!” Ragnar commented, when she blocked a particularly powerful blow, holding her ground and throwing such force that he stumbled back. “How did you do that?” he asked in surprise.

“I’ve been practicing!” Dagmar boasted, flashing a grin.

“Enough for today?” Ragnar asked, moving to sheath his sword. Dagmar nodded. “Where did you learn to do that? Throw your weight like that?” he asked. “You should not have had the strength to knock me off balance.”

Dagmar shrugged. “The skald has been teaching me things,” she answered slyly.

“What sort of things?” asked Ragnar as he placed a rough hand on her shoulder to steer her back the way they had come.

“Secret knowledge. Galdr and Rúnar,” she answered, casting a sidelong glance at the elf walking along beside her.

“Magic,” he remarked quietly, frowning.

“I am learning to channel the forces of nature,” she explained, and noticing his doubtful expression, added, “Binding the elements to my will— water, earth, air, fire.”

Ragnar looked at her skeptically.

Dagmar made an exasperated sound. “It isn’t difficult. All elves can do it,” she said.

“I have done many things, princess, but I have never channeled any elements,” he stated flatly. “Unless pissing ale counts!”

Dagmar laughed. “Of course you have!” she exclaimed. “You are like an immovable boulder, yet you absorb a blow, bending with it, rather than letting it crush you. The boulder, your strength — that is earth, but bending and flowing around an obstacle is water.”

“And what you did— forcing me back?” he asked.

“That was the force of the earth, but this is a simplistic way of using these energies. There are other ways— controlling wind, causing the earth to shake, or calming the seas — these are all examples of elemental magic,” Dagmar explained.

“You have learned how to do such things?” Ragnar inquired.

“Some things, but not all. I still have much to learn,” she answered.

Ragnar was thoughtful, and they walked on in silence for some time. “Is it true that your mother was a seer?” he asked, breaking the silence.

Dagmar nodded. “Yes, it is true,” she said.

“Do you get it from her, the gift of prophecy and magical abilities?” he inquired.

“Probably,” said Dagmar. “My brother, Hagar, tells me she was a Valkyrie, but I think he must have been teasing. He tells me all sorts of nonsense, and it is difficult to tell when he is speaking truth and when he is having a laugh,” she added, smirking.

Ragnar nudged her with his shoulder, saying, “Poor little elf. You are not to be teased.”

Dagmar laughed.

Over the course of the winter, Dagmar divided her time between her lessons with Ragnar and with the skald. She was improving, growing stronger and quicker in combat skills, while her ability to conjure the elements and bend the forces of nature to her will became more powerful.

At long last, winter was nearing its end. The last of the snow melted and the ground began to thaw. The farmers began preparing their fields for the sowing of the first crops, while the sheep were let out to graze, the lambs bounding over the grassy meadows. Soon, the sea ports would be busy again with merchants and fishing boats coming and going.

Dagmar was glad for the milder weather, and spent much time outside, enjoying the sunshine. She was just heading out one morning, when, to her surprise, she saw a familiar young woman with auburn hair wearing a brilliant green dress crossing the courtyard.

The woman’s face brightened when she spotted Dagmar descending the steps from the house. “Princess, I was just on my way to see you!” the young woman called out. Her name was Ingrid, and Dagmar had known her all her life. Though Ingrid was a few years older, they had long been friends. Dagmar strode forward, and hugged her. “Lady Ingrid, I have missed you!” she exclaimed. “Why have I not seen you sooner?”

“Did you not hear? My sister had her baby, and I stayed to help her during the winter.”

Ingrid’s elder sister, who had married two years earlier, lived in a neighbouring village a good day’s ride from there.

“When did you get back?” Dagmar asked.

“Only yesterday,” Ingrid replied. “And where are you off to?”

“Nowhere in particular. Would you care to join me?”

“I’d be delighted!” said Ingrid with a smile. “Actually, I wanted to ask if you’d like to pick flowers with me in the woods.”

Dagmar agreed, and they walked arm and arm along the cobbled lane which led north of town, while Ingrid talked cheerfully of all that had been happening while she had been visiting her sister.

Within the woods, they happened upon a creek, and Ingrid stopped to admire a cluster of pretty blue flowers growing near the bank. She looked up in astonishment as Dagmar kicked off her shoes and stepped into the shallow water. “Have you gone mad? The water must be freezing!” she cried.

Dagmar laughed. “It isn’t terribly cold!”

Stepping near the water’s edge, Ingrid took Dagmar by the hand, and pulled her away. “Come, I want to speak with you!” she said.

“We have been speaking,” said Dagmar, smiling as she let her friend lead her away from the water.

“Isn’t there anything you want to tell me?” she asked, but Dagmar only stared at her in confusion. “I’ve been hearing rumours about you and a certain handsome, blonde warrior,” she said teasingly. “Does the name Ragnar mean anything to you?”

Dagmar’s eyes widened in surprise. “Ragnar? He’s my friend!” she answered.

“Only a friend?” Ingrid persisted.

“Yes, of course!” said Dagmar. “Why, what have you been hearing?”

“Oh, that the two of you were secretly in love,” replied Ingrid, playfully.

Dagmar looked to her friend in astonishment. “That’s absurd! I am not in love with Ragnar,” she insisted.

“Are you sure?” Ingrid asked.

“Of course I’m sure!” said Dagmar. “He is only a friend!”

“Well, if you say so…” Ingrid said. “You would tell me, wouldn’t you?” she asked softly after a moment.

“Yes, certainly,” answered Dagmar, casting Ingrid a questioning look. “Why do you ask?” Suddenly an expression of realization lit up her face. “You like him!” she accused. Ingrid avoided Dagmar’s gaze. “Of course, that’s it! You fancy him, but thought that I am love him!” Dagmar declared triumphantly.

“That’s just — it’s not true,” Ingrid muttered.

Dagmar laughed, saying, “Yes, it is! Look at you, you’re blushing!”

Her friend glanced at her scathingly. “Has no one ever told you that it’s not nice to tease?” Dagmar’s giggling ceased at once. “Besides, he’s never even noticed me,” Ingrid added with a pout.

Dagmar offered a sympathetic smile.

They continued on in silence, Ingrid pausing every so often to add another flower to her basket, while the elven princess appeared to be daydreaming.

Suddenly, Dagmar halted. “Did you see that?” she asked, staring off to a point further along the creek.

Ingrid turned to look in the same direction. “See what?” she replied.

“A shadow crossed my eyes,” and Dagmar started off in the direction she’d seen the shadow move.

Ingrid darted after her. “What are you doing?” she demanded.

“I want to find out what that was!” Dagmar called back.

Her eyes quickly scanned her surroundings, and then spotting a flicker of movement, she dashed across the creek and off into the trees, leaving her friend trailing behind.

“Dagmar!” Ingrid called out when she lost sight of the princess, but there came no answer. Ingrid had never been as athletic as her friend, and was soon out of breath from chasing after the younger elf. She paused to catch her breath, and then continued on.

Dagmar had been unaware that Ingrid had fallen behind as she wove her way quickly through the trees. The creek had come around a bend, and she soon found herself following it once more, splashing through the water that gurgled over slippery rocks. She sensed a presence that she had not noticed here before. The elf squinted her eyes as the forest grew darker, and shot a glance up through the trees. Surely, it cannot be very late, she thought.

Slowing her pace now, she allowed her senses to hone in on the presence she had felt. It was still there, she noticed, and growing stronger as the forest grew ever darker. A cold chill ran down her spine, and she unslung her bow from her shoulder, silently notching an arrow. Dagmar felt that she was getting closer. A mist had formed not far ahead, and she crept towards it, keeping her bow aimed straight ahead. As she stepped into the mist, she found herself in a clearing and there appeared to be a spring a few paces further.

Meanwhile, Ingrid was still searching for her friend. “Dagmar, where are you!” she cried out desperately. She could not run any further, and didn’t know in which direction Dagmar had gone. Tears had begun to stream down her rosy cheeks, when she stepped into a clearing. A pool of crystal clear spring water lay before her, and there on the other side, drenched from head to toe, stood the silvery blonde haired elf, her back to the pool. Dagmar’s bow and arrows lay near the water’s edge before Ingrid.

“My lady! Are you hurt?” cried the auburn haired elf, quickly darting around the pool.

Dagmar turned to face her when she approached. “What?” she asked, a confused expression on her face.

“Are you hurt?” Ingrid repeated, and Dagmar shook her head. “I’ve been looking all over for you! Why did you run off? What were you thinking?” she demanded frantically.

Dagmar opened her mouth to speak, then shook her head. “There was someone here,” she explained.

“Who?”

“I don’t know.” she answered. “He’s gone now.”

“He?” Ingrid repeated. “There was a man here?”

Dagmar stared at her wide eyed as she replied, “I don’t know! One moment he was here and then he was gone again!”

Ingrid was at a loss for words. She looked down at her friend’s soaked white dress, and asked, “Why are you wet?”

Dagmar looked down and shrugged. “I swam across the pool,” she explained.

“Why?” was Ingrid’s exasperated reply.

“I don’t know!” answered Dagmar

Pulling off her shawl, Ingrid wrapped it around Dagmar’s shoulders, saying, “Come, let’s get you home.”

Ingrid accompanied the princess all the way back to Chief Sigmundr’s stronghold, and would not leave again before Dagmar was dressed in dry clothes. Only after Prince Hagar had assured her that he would keep a close eye on his sister, did Ingrid feel satisfied and bid them both farewell.

Taking a seat on the couch beside her, Hagar looked his sister in the eyes. “What happened in the forest?” he inquired. “Ingrid said you saw someone.”

Dagmar stared into the flames roaring in the fireplace of the parlour. “I thought I saw a man, but now I’m not so sure,” she answered.

“Was it another of your visions?”

Dagmar shrugged. “It might have been, but it seemed so real. Not like in a dream. But then it just vanished!”

Dagmar would say no more, and so Hagar did not pursue further explanation. However, he kept a close watch over her throughout the remainder of the day. When their father and Siegfried heard of what happened, they were concerned, but Hagar assured them the best thing to do was leave her be. And so Dagmar was free to ponder over the events of the day.

What she did not tell her brother is that she had indeed seen a man in the forest, and that they had spoken, however briefly. She did not dare to mention how he had lured her to him, nor how effortlessly he had lifted her from the cool water. And what had occurred next caused her to blush just thinking about it.

Summer drew near, and the day of Chief Sigmundr’s departure was fast approaching. Dagmar had begged him relentlessly to take her with him, but it looked as though he would refuse to allow her to accompany him on his journey to Berserksheim. He said it would be too dangerous, but she could not see how that could be, since it was to be a friendly visit.

 

Chief Sigmundr, going over the final details in preparation for his voyage across the North Sea, stood on the beach, watching elven warriors load supplies onto his longship.
“When will you set sail?” Siegfried asked, joining his father.
“The day after next,” Chief Sigmundr replied.
“Dagmar will never forgive you if you leave her behind,” Siegfried said with a sly smile, casting a sideways glance at his father, who chuckled.
“No, I expect she will never let me forget such an affront!” he exclaimed, amusement plainly showing on his handsome face, a glint in his green eyes. “I suppose it will do no harm, this being a friendly visit, after all,” he reasoned.
Siegfried huffed indignantly, narrowing his eyes. “There can be no such thing as a friendly visit with the dark elves,” he insisted.
Chief Sigmundr sighed, looking to his son. “You know as well as I that Anu Duinn cannot afford a war. We need to ease tensions with Ivar, before the situation worsens.”
Siegfried grunted. “We need to rid the world of their ilk,” he muttered. His father ignored the remark, his gaze fixed upon the distant horizon.
“Perhaps I shall take your sister with me after all,” Sigmundr said after a time. “She wants to see the world. Let her see the worst of it, as well. It will be an education for her.”

The sun rose in a hazy sky on the morning of Chief Sigmundr’s departure. As he joined his crew on the beach readying the ship, a tall, slender girl ran out onto the beach to join him. Her long silver blonde hair was bound in a braid that wrapped from the left side of her head to hang across her opposite shoulder. She was dressed in her usual deerskin pants and fitted olive green shirt; a bag slung over her shoulder. She slowed as she approached, her bright green eyes gazing pleadingly up at her father’s face.
A hint of a smile twitched at his mouth. “Where do you think you are going, daughter?” Sigmundr demanded, looking down at her.
“With you, of course,” she replied with a pout.
Chief Sigmundr raised an arched eyebrow at his daughter, trying not to show his amusement. “Well then, you’d best get on board,” he said with a grin.
Dagmar’s face brightened with joy and she flung her arms around her father, thanked him, then darted off toward the ship. She tossed her bag up to one of the men and clamoured aboard herself.
As the last of the crew climbed up into the sleek ship, they pushed off, taking up oars, to row out into a placid sea.
After nearly a month, they landed at last in the southern region of Berserksheim, but their destination, the stronghold of Chief Ivar, Berserksborg, lay a few day’s journey to the north by land. Chief Sigmundr had allowed only his and Dagmar’s horses to be brought on the sea voyage, so horses had to be hired for the rest of his men. Only a small number of the crew remained behind to guard the ship.
Upon their arrival at Chief Ivar’s stronghold, they were welcomed cordially, if not warmly, into his company. Ivar’s friendly manners could hardly have been believed to be sincere, but his assurances of desiring peace with Anu Duinn gave Chief Sigmundr hope.

Chief Ivar was particularly interested in Sigmundr’s daughter. “Princess Dagmar, what a lovely young lady you are!” he exclaimed, taking her hand in his. “I am delighted that you were permitted to accompany your father on his journey here. Such pleasant company as yours is hard to come by in this dark and desolate land!” he commented cheerfully, his greedy eyes scanning her body. There was something unnerving about his saccharine manners.

Slipping her hand from Ivar’s grasp, Dagmar met his gaze. “Thank you for your kind welcome, Lord Ivar,” she said in stiffly polite response.

Placing a protective hand on Dagmar’s shoulders, Chief Sigmundr directed his attention to the dark elf. “My daughter insists on accompanying me on all of my travels!” he said, in an attempt to be friendly. “And how is your son, Lord Ivar?” Sigmundr inquired.

“Very well!” Ivar answered. “I only regret that Ásbjorn cannot be here to welcome you and your charming daughter, lord Sigmundr, but he is away to the north hunting bears!”

“I thought dark elves only hunt elves?” Dagmar proclaimed, immediately regretting her words; but Ivar only laughed, clapping a hand on Sigmundr’s back, as he led them into the castle.

“The girl has nerve, I’ll give you that!” Ivar said, grinning. “No, my dear! We hunt all manner of creatures, but elves are the most enjoyable!” he remarked, winking mischievously at Dagmar, at which she felt a jab of revulsion that she barely succeeded to suppress.

Anticipating their arrival, Chief Ivar had ordered a grand feast in honour of his guests, and so, that night they dined together in the feast hall. Many of the Berserkir jarls had come, eager to greet the elven chief, and their ranks filled the hall.

“My people are hopeful that your visit here will result in a future of peace between our two kingdoms!” Chief Ivar explained, gesturing to the dark elves who were seated around the hall.

Dagmar noted the optimism which lit up her father’s bright green eyes. She knew how much he desired to see an end to the raids which plagued their lands; yet when she looked into the fiery red eyes of the dark elven chief, she felt only doubt and distrust and could not share in her father’s enthusiasm.

Letting her gaze wander about the hall, she observed the way many of the dark elves watched their guests, often speaking in hushed whispers, casting skeptical— even hostile— glances towards the high table, where Dagmar was seated with her father. Chief Sigmundr did not seem to notice, absorbed as he was in his conversation with Ivar.

One man seated in the hall caught her eye. He had a square jaw, and his long grey hair was in stark contrast to his rugged youthful appearance. A wolf pelt cloak hung from his shoulders, the silver fur glistening in the torchlight.

The grey haired dark elf was having a whispered conversation with a man seated to his right, when he abruptly turned his steely gaze toward Dagmar. The look of pure hatred in those quicksilver eyes sent a chill up her spine and she quickly averted her eyes.

Dagmar turned her attention back to Chief Ivar.

“Your daughter would make a fine match for my son,” she heard Ivar say. He met her gaze, and the corners of his mouth turned up in a smile, his red eyes narrowing.

She held his gaze with a challenging glare.

Her father, however, did not take the bait, saying, “No doubt your son is a fine man, but my daughter is barely of age and I do not wish to be hasty in making arrangements for her betrothal.”

Ivar’s smile faltered and his eyes narrowed. “Naturally,” he said coldly. “No doubt she has many suitors already,” he remarked, the smile returning to his face.

Chief Sigmundr returned the smile. “A princess will always have many suitors,” he replied.

How different it had been, meeting with the old chief of Rathmahen so many years ago. Dagmar had been only a child at the time, and though she did not remember much of their visit, she did recall how kind and fatherly Chief Daggeir had treated her. Indeed, she had liked him, despite the fact that he was a dark elf and an enemy of her kin. He had desired a treaty with Anu Duinn, but for reasons she did not fully understand, Dagmar’s father had refused the conditions proposed, and all discourse with the dark elves of Rathmahen had ceased.

The hour grew late, and the hall grew quiet, as Ivar’s guests departed or in drunken stupor, fell asleep where they sat.

Dagmar, exhausted from her travels and the lateness of the night, rose from the table. “Lord Ivar, it is late, and I believe my father is more tired than he’d care to admit,” she announced with forced politeness.

“Of course, my Lady, as are you, I expect!” Ivar replied, inclining his head. “How inconsiderate I have been to keep you so long from your beds! Then let us retire!” he announced, and rising from his seat, he motioned for a servant to show his guests to their rooms. Sigmundr and Dagmar thanked Ivar for the generous feast, wished him a good night, and departed the hall.

Dagmar struggled to fall asleep that night. Tired as she was, she could not ignore the uneasiness she felt.

When at last she did sleep, she dreamt of the time she had spent in Rathmahen.

The morning sun shone brightly, the air was crisp and cool as Dagmar skipped along the cobbled lane. When she reached the blacksmith’s shop, she stopped just outside the open doors. She could see the blacksmith busy in the back of the barn, but he was not alone. A tall, dark haired warrior was hammering a glowing hot blade at the forge, the clank of metal ringing like a bell. The warrior’s head was shaved on the sides and his ears were pierced with silver rings, as well as the bridge of his nose, his nostril and septum, and his lower lip. He glanced up as Dagmar entered timidly, briefly meeting her eye before returning his attention to his work, his dark hair, which he wore swept to one side, falling across his face.

Avoiding the forge, Dagmar walked towards the blacksmith, who had by now noticed her presence and was coming her way. She unsheathed her sword and held it out to him. “Would you please sharpen this for me?” She asked, handing it to the dark elf. He was a large, muscled man, with long dark hair and an amber fire burning in his eyes.

The man looked at the sword, then thrusting it back into Dagmar’s hands, said in a gravelly voice; “I not work for elves,” his grasp of the common tongue imperfect. He sneered at her before returning to his work.

Startled and embarrassed, Dagmar began to turn towards the door, when the warrior who had been quietly observing the girl from his place at the forge, came forward and held out his hand for the sword she carried. “Give it to me,” he ordered, his voice deep and smooth. As Dagmar shyly handed her sword to the warrior, she looked up into his blazing green eyes, blushing as his fingers brushed hers, and she quickly averted her eyes.

Taking the sword in his strong grasp, the warrior held it upright, noting the fine quality of the light blade. “To whom does this sword belong, girl?” he asked, glancing at Dagmar.

“It is mine,” she answered quietly.

“What does a little girl need with a sword?”  he growled, raising his brow inquisitively. Dagmar looked at the ground, and when she did not answer, the dark elf went on. “This would be put to better use in the hands of a lad who is destined to become a warrior.” His accent was thick, guttural, and he rolled his R’s, though he spoke the common language flawlessly.

“It was made for me,” Dagmar retorted meekly.

“And what good is it to you?” he demanded. “I ought naught to sharpen it, lest you should cut yourself with it.”

“I will not cut myself, sir!” snapped Dagmar angrily.

The warrior laughed, flashing his sharp canines, but going over to the grindstone, he said; “Take care that you do not, for I will not be held responsible if you injure yourself!” Dagmar attempted to hide a smile as he began sharpening the blade.

When he had finished, he came to Dagmar, extending the hilt of the sword towards her. She reached to take it, but the warrior held it tightly, giving her a stern, challenging glare, before finally releasing the hilt. Dagmar sheathed the blade and thanked him.

“Do you have a name, girl?” he asked, looking down at her.

“Dagmar,” she answered.

“You are the daughter of the elven chief who is here to negotiate a treaty with Chief Daggeir?” The warrior inquired.

“I am,” she replied.

The dark elf studied her face a moment, before he next spoke. “Enjoy your visit, princess.” Then, without waiting for a reply, he turned back to his work at the forge.

When Dagmar awoke in the morning, she pondered over her dream. She never saw the dark elven warrior again, and knew not what had become of him. Curious that she should dream of him now, thought Dagmar.

That morning the sky was dark, as a storm rolled in from the mountains to the west, bringing heavy rain. Lightning lashed across the sky, and thunder shook the ground, and the raging wind howled.

The storm kept everyone indoors the whole day. Chief Ivar’s castle, though large, was ancient and some parts were closed off. Other than the feast hall, only one large parlour was open to Ivar’s guests. After breakfast, Dagmar accompanied Ivar’s wife, Kamilla, into the parlour, while her father and a few of his most trusted men remained in the feast hall with Ivar to discuss the terms of the proposed treaty. Two large north facing windows took up most of one wall, overlooking the grounds and the dark forest beyond.

A fire blazed in the large fireplace set in the western wall, and Dagmar and the lady of the house seated themselves across from one another before its comforting warmth. Lady Kamilla took up her needlework, and they remained in silence for some time, until Dagmar could bear it no longer.

“Fine weather we’re having,” said she.

“Indeed,” replied Kamilla without looking up from her task.

“Is it always so dreary?” Dagmar asked.

Kamilla looked up to fix Dagmar with a cold stare. “I am terribly sorry if you find the weather in our lands so inconvenient. Perhaps you will not care to burden us again with your company,” she snapped haughtily, her golden eyes flashing dangerously, before returning to her needlework.

Dagmar stared aghast at the dark elven woman, then desiring some occupation to pass the time, she glanced about the room. Above the mantle over the fireplace hung a large framed painting depicting Chief Ivar, his wife, and what must be his son, a large, broad shouldered man with black hair and bright green eyes.

“Is that your son?” Dagmar asked Kamilla, pointing to the painting.

Kamilla glanced briefly towards it and nodded. “Yes, and a fine young man he is,

too,” she answered, a smug expression upon her long face.

Dagmar offered a weak smile. Whatever Kamilla’s son might be, he certainly looked formidable, she thought.

Unable to sit in this attitude any longer, Dagmar stood and walked about the room, studying the few portraits which were hung from the walls, and reading the titles of the books on a rather small bookshelf. Lord Ivar and his family did not appear overly fond of reading, she observed. After a while, however, Dagmar grew bored of her perusal of the dark parlour and returned to her seat by the fire. Kamilla continued to ignore her, and the morning was spent in near total silence, until the bell was rang for dinner.

The midday meal was served in the family dining room, rather than the feast hall. Chief Sigmundr was in high spirits, just as Chief Ivar appeared to be.

“Perhaps, we will be friends, yet!” Ivar declared jovially, and held up his glass. “Here’s to a thousand years of peace!” he toasted. Everyone raised their glass in agreement. Everyone except for Dagmar, that is. As she sipped her wine, she saw Chief Ivar’s eyes narrow as he met her gaze, an unpleasant smile turning up the corners of his mouth as he studied her.

When at last the day came to depart from Ivar’s cold abode, Dagmar felt a wave of relief, but it could not melt the sensation of cold dread that had been gnawing at her these last days, though she could not say what troubled her.

Advertisements
Featured

Prologue

The following is an excerpt from the prologue of my manuscript. It is shit, I must admit. The scenario isn’t the problem, just the way it is written. But this is only the first draft, and the prologue has been neglected. In time, it will be revised, but for now my attention is on other sections of the book, so you’ll all just have to excuse the dismal state in which it is currently presented.

Constructive criticism is always welcome. So, without further ado, I give you an opening glimpse into my magical world!

Under the eerie glow of the two full moons high in the midnight sky of winter solstice, an elf was forced to drink a strange dark liquid from a chalice of pure quartz. He was then brought to lie upon a massive altar of solid white stone set in the middle of a clearing within a dark and ancient forest. There he was bound by a hooded figure cloaked in black. Rising up from the snow covered earth, and encircling the clearing, were thirteen standing stones, looming high into the darkness. 
The hooded figure stepped toward the altar, a gleaming dagger in hand, and in a single swift movement, slashed the bound elf’s neck. As dark blood gushed from the wound, the hooded figure lifted a quartz chalice to the elf’s neck, and filled it with blood. 
Standing before the altar, with head bowed, he whispered a strange incantation over the chalice. Then as the life drained from the the fatally wounded elf’s eyes, he drank, emptying the chalice. His head snapped back, his green eyes blazed but saw nothing.  Then, slowly fiery green eyes staring up to the darkened sky but not seeing, he felt his spirit soar into the abyss, searching for guidance that could heal the agony which had left him cold and hollow—guidance that could help him do what needed to be done.

Suddenly, a figure took shape in the void, its brightness penetrating the blackness of the abyss and searing through his spirit.

He found himself in a forest of ancient trees. The air smelled of damp earth and decaying leaves. Sweet and pungent. He could hear flowing water, and was drawn towards the sound. It was a small creek, dark from the leaves that lay on the bottom. A flicker of movement upstream caught his eye and he moved towards it as it slipped through the trees. Catching the occasional glimpse, he could make out a figure radiating a pale shimmering light. As he pursued the figure, the trees opened to reveal a deep pool from which the creek flowed. Steam rose from the jeweled surface of the water. On the opposite bank stood a young woman, her aura like sunlight reflected from the multifaceted surface of a diamond, her silver-blonde hair flowed past her shoulders. She wore a white dress of gauzy sheer fabric that flowed ethereally about her tall, slender body. She held a hunting bow, its arrow notched and pointed at him. As he came into view, she lowered it slowly.

“How are you here?” She asked.

He didn’t reply. It wasn’t the first time he’d encountered her in his astral travels. For much of his life, she’d haunted his dreams. Usually, they did not speak. There had been no need for it had been as though he knew her mind and she his. Always before when she’d wandered into his dreams, he had simply observed her, until she noticed him. Then she would stop and come to sit with him, or walk with him in silence.

He studied her pretty face, her intense green eyes. “Come to me.” He said at last.

Hesitating, she set her bow upon the ground and stepped towards the water’s edge. Kneeling down, she slid into the water, dipping under the surface as the steam closed in, obscuring her from view. For a moment he wondered if she would reappear. Then she reemerged at the bank where he stood. He held his hand out to her, and she reached to take it. Effortlessly, he lifted her from the water, as though she were weightless.

As she stood before him, his eyes skimmed over the contours of her body where, the drenched fabric of her gown lay translucent against her pale skin. A thrill of excitement rose in him, an urge to take her into his arms, sink his fangs into her neck and to do unspeakable things to her. She tilted her head, exposing her neck, as she eyed him curiously.

“I’ve been waiting a long time for you.” She whispered.

“This isn’t real.” His voice sounded hard, unyielding.

“I am real.” She said softly.

He shook his head. “This is just a dream.” Her expression changed in an instant, the hurt registering in her eyes. He stepped forward then and pulled her against him, sliding his hand behind her neck, running his fingers up into her hair.

She tilted her head to look up into his face, a look of longing in her eyes. “It doesn’t feel like a dream.” She whispered.

He lowered his head to kiss her and her lips parted at his touch. She slid her arms around his lean waist, her delicate hands trailing up his muscled back, as he tightened his grip on her, pressing his hips against her hips, his mouth exploring hers. She licked his sharp fangs with the tip of her tongue and a groan sounded in his throat, sensing her excitement as her body tensed, her back arched, but then the mist began to close in around them, darkness drowning out the vision as he was pulled back through the abyss.

Opening his eyes, he found himself in the clearing before the altar. The heat coursing through his veins, his arousal, very real, even if the vision had not been. He cursed. This was not what he had hoped for. He’d been seeking guidance and instead the hollow aching in his chest had increased.

There had been a time when he was a young man when he had dared to hope that the dreams which plagued him were a sign of what was to come, — a time when he had still believed he could find her. And yet, after centuries of searching — even venturing into Midgard, the realm of mortals, — he had finally given up. She was a dream, nothing more. A vision of beauty and innocence that was forever beyond his reach.

Featured

Writing My First Fantasy Book

So, I am writing my first book, and yes, it is a fantasy. I was first inspired to write this book due to a senior year English class writing assignment. The assignment was to write a short story following the hero cycle.
Well, I was very excited about this assignment, since this was a theme I really love! Knights, warriors, magic, elves, etc! Of course, ever the procrastinator, I put off beginning my short story until the night before it was due, when the creative juices finally began to flow.
Funnily enough, I scored higher than any other student in my class, not only with a perfect score, but also received extra credit on my short story, which was several times longer than the assignment called for. Yes, I know, bragging rights, even if only for a small accomplishment. But it was as a direct result of that seemingly insignificant accomplishment, that I received the motivation to write a book. My teacher had encouraged me to develop my short story, and I took his suggestion to heart.
Over the years, I’ve gotten rather sidetracked from writing, and my story took a back burner for a while. From time to time, I’d come back to it, only to scrap everything and start new, every time. Until now.
Finally, I have the inspiration I need to move the story along. My plot is thickening. My characters are developed and continuing to develop. Ideas are streaming in, and in these last few months, I have managed to put more work into this project than ever before. I still have a long way to go, but I am confident that this time I will finish it!
In fact, this project is shaping up to become a trilogy of, hopefully, epic proportions!


Life’s Demands

Hi everyone! I just want to apologize that lately I haven’t been able to keep up with everyone’s posts. Usually, I try to read at least a couple from everyone I follow, but demands on my time have caused me to fall behind. What little time I do have has been dedicated to my own writing and research, which has left me with none for all of you who follow my blog. Please excuse me for failing to keep up.

Have a nice weekend!

Preview Of Addition To Chapter 1

Here it is, unedited and unrevised. This is the scene I spoke of, in which I will impart some of the lore. I hope it is not too much. What I had written on paper was much longer with a lot more detail, but I found a way to condense much of it. Unfortunately, that means much was sacrificed. Feedback greatly appreciated!

Over the course of the winter, Dagmar divided her time between her lessons with Ragnar and with the Vitki. She was improving, growing stronger and quicker in combat skills, while her ability to conjure the elements and bend the forces of nature to her will became more powerful.

Midwinter came and went, along with its festivities. Once again, Dagmar returned to the hills where the Vitki, Bran, resided. She met him in the sacred wood. The Vitki was dressed in robes of black and carried a staff hewn from ash. The hood of his cloak was pulled over his fair hair to ward against the cold.

Dagmar bowed in greeting. They walked together amidst the barren trees, speaking in soft tones.

Then Bran said, “Let us see how much you have learned. Tell me, how were the worlds formed?”

“It was the Úr Aldr— the Primal Age,” Dagmar, pensive, began. “In that time there was no sand, nor grass, no sea, nor cool waves. There was only a mighty chasm, Ginnungagap. Then in the north formed a world of mist, called Niflheimr. In its midst lies a spring, Hvergelmir, from which flow the Élivágar rivers.

“In the southern region of Helheimr was Sökkdalir, or Musspelheimr. It is a world that burns bright and hot, but there was no sun to shine. From Helheimr flows Urðarbrunnr, the fountain of warmth and strength.

“The Élivágar rivers flowed into the chasm where they hardened into ice. From this ice Kvikudropar, the poisonous liquid, spewed out and froze into icy rime. Then layer by layer the icy rime grew in the northern regions of Ginnungagap.

“Within the gap, there was mist and windswept rain. But light grew in the south from the sparks and glowing embers which flowed out of Helheimr. The fire gave life to the ice, and Ginnungagap became as mild as a windless sky. In each direction rose a sacred fountain which would bring life into the worlds.”

The Vitki, Bran, nodded approvingly. “And how did Yggdrasil come into being?” he asked.

Dagmar studied the wise old trees, under whose barren limbs they walked, and answered, “Where Ginnungagap once was lies Mímisbrunnr, the well of wisdom. In the darkness, a golden seed was formed, which fell into the well. From this seed sprouted the mighty World Tree, Yggdrasil, which sent out roots through the three powers. Its interlacing root threads formed the foundation on which Jörmungrund, the underworld, rests. Throughout the long ages the tree grew ever higher, and upon its overlapping branches the various worlds would have their foundations.” Dagmar looked expectantly to the Vitki when she had finished speaking.

“Very good,” he commented. “Tomorrow, you will tell me who were the first beings in the ancient land and how they sprang to life. Off you go now, Princess,” said Bran with a twinkle in his blue eyes.

The next day, Dagmar returned, just as she had the day before. As they walked through the wood, she told him how Ymir’s, the first Jötun grew out of the dripping rime; and of his descendants, Mímir and Bestla, who gave rise to a family of beautiful and benevolent Jötnar. Also, of those descendants of Ymir, descended from his strange three headed son, the frost giants called Hrímþursar.

A long time they walked under the trees, until Dagmar had finished the tale. Then the Vitki led her to sit beside a spring. Steam rose from the surface of its warm water. Around this spring the earth remained green with vegetation all year round.

The Vitki sat in silent contemplation for some time, then asked, “Do you remember from whence come the Rúnar?”

Dagmar nodded and answered, “Óðinn sought a drink from Mímisbrunnr, to acquire power and wisdom; but Mímir, the well’s guardian, would only grant his request if Óðinn would prove himself worthy through self-sacrifice. It was said by Óðinn,

‘“I know that I hung

On the wind-tossed tree

Nine nights,

Wounded by my spear,

Given to Óðinn,

Myself to myself;

On that tree

Of which no one knows

From what root it springs.”’

“And so,” Dagmar continued, “Óðinn received Fimbulljóðar, the nine rún songs, that contain secret powers.” She went on to explain how the Rúnar came to all races of beings, saying, in conclusion, “Even to the Jötnar, by whom the Rúnar would afterwards be put to ill use.”

“Well done, Princess,” Bran remarked with a smile. “When next we meet, I will tell you how Vanadís Freyja learned the magical arts of Seiðr and Galdr.”

Dagmar laughed merrily, saying, “That is easy! Freyja learned Seiðr from the wicked Volga Gullveig. Óðinn taught Galdr to Freyja in exchange for knowledge of Seiðr.”

Bran chuckled. “Well, then, I must think of something else to teach you,” he stated. “But now it is time for you to return to your father’s home.”

Dagmar thanked the Vitki and bade him farewell before departing alone.

At long last, winter was nearing its end. The last of the snow melted and the ground began to thaw. The farmers began preparing their fields for the sowing of the first crops, while the sheep were let out to graze, the lambs bounding over the grassy meadows. Soon, the sea ports would be busy again with merchants and fishing boats coming and going. 

TheThe Úr Aldr…

…The Primal Age

Prepare for info-overload! 😉

I’m working on an additional scene for chapter one, to provide some context and educate the reader in the lore, from which this story is inspired. Currently, the dialogue alone makes up one whole handwritten notebook page. I would like to condense this, if possible, without sacrificing too much information. A better way to introduce the lore tto the reader might be to break it up throughout the books, and I’ll do that where I can. Unfortunately, I don’t see any other opportunity to present the creation story in a series of small parts, and already I am omitting a load of details!

Once finished, I’ll post the revised chapter on here to get some feedback from those of you who read my blog. It will be helpful to hear what bits you find worthwhile and which you could do without.

So far, I think I’ve been successful in avoiding big blocks of information dumping, having mostly imparted necessary details in bits and pieces within a contextual framework. The last thing I want to do is fall into the trap of boring my readers! 

Excerpts from Chapter 2

A few teasers, still in the first draft, but I’m pretty content with how most of this chapter has turned out. Enjoy!

Up first, is the opening of the chapter.

Dark clouds obscured the sky, blotting out the light of the sun. Thunder rolled over the hills and heavy raindrops began to fall, spattering against the packed earth. Dagmar,tears staining her cheeks, took one last look at the distant mountains. Silently, she vowed revenge against the dark elves who had murdered her father. She alone had escaped. Someone had wanted her father dead. The question was who. She felt in her heart that it had been Ivar who had ordered the attack.

It had been late in the afternoon. Dagmar and her father, Chief Sigmundr, and his men, had just arrived in the sea port where their ship awaited their return. It had seemed too quiet on board the ship, and as they drew nearer, none of the remaining crew came out to greet them. Dagmar had been thinking at the time that the men might have been in the small tavern just up the road from the harbour, when suddenly, hooded figures on horseback sprang from their hiding places alongside the road. From the ship more figures revealed themselves, and fired arrows. Chief Sigmundr, fearing for his daughter, ordered her to flee, and so she had wheeled her horse around, to race back the way they had come. Buying Dagmar time to make her escape, Sigmundr and his brave warriors fought valiantly to hold off their assailants for as long as they could. She had turned back once, only to witness an enemy sword pierce her father’s chest, his face contorted in agony as he fell to the ground, but there was nothing she could do to help. Hooded riders were pursuing her. Rage rushed through her whole being. Like a consuming fire, it burned, and a red hot glow began to emanate from her palms.
The first rider had dealt a blow of his sword to her ribs, deflected by her chain mail. She reacted instantly and drew her sword. Dagmar released her fiery rage into her sword, causing the razor sharp blade to glow as if it had been pulled from a forge. Slashed the tip across the rider’s throat. Blood sprayed from the wound, and Dagmar heeled her horse hard, as the next assailant came at her from the left. Hooves thundered over the muddy ground, and the rider caught up to Dagmar. She parried his attack before sinking her sword into his gut, the glowing blade burning through leather armour. Then bounding forward, she urged her horse on, putting as much ground between her and the three hooded assassins who yet pursued her. Sheathing her bloodstained sword, she drew her bow, and dropping the reins, notched an arrow. She took aim, sent her rage into the taut string, and let the arrow it loose. It shot through the air like a lightning bolt, hitting its mark in the chest, but Dagmar did not watch to see if it was fatal. She shouldered her bow, took up the reins and made for the tree line ahead. The dark forest lay beneath the foot of the Iron Mountains to the east, marking the border between Berserksheim and Rathmahen. Within that dark forest, she hoped to escape her assailants.

Dagmar did not slow her horse after entering the forest. She rode as fast as he could carry her, dodging low hanging branches as she reined her horse through the dense trees.

In the silence of the forest, the sound of her horse’s thundering hooves and the pounding of her heart filled her ears. The musty scent of damp earth filled her nostrils, and her mind reached out, connecting with the spirit of the wood. The forest answered her call, opening their limbs to allow her passage, only to close behind her, barring the way to her enemies. For a while, she could hear the the riders who hunted her, but as she rode ever deeper into the dark canopy of trees, the sounds of their pursuit grew fainter. Still she did not dare to rest.

Two riders had followed the elven princess into the dark woods, but soon encountered obstacles to their pursuit. Brambles obscured the elf’s tracks and caught at their horses’ legs. They slashed and hacked with their swords at low hanging branches which twisted and tangled across their path, making their progress tediously slow. They soon lost all trace of the girl’s retreat, nor could they detect her scent amidst the much more potent aroma of the forest.

One of the dark elves swore. “To Helheim with this!” he exclaimed. “The Dvergar will find her if the beasts don’t get to her first!” He turned his horse, and with the second dark elf following his lead, they abandoned the hunt.

It was nearly nightfall by the time Dagmar felt it safe to rest her horse, the sun sinking behind the mountains, the ancient trees allowing little of the remaining light to filter through their intertwined limbs. She had few provisions, enough only to last her a day or two if she rationed her food. She found a stream of fresh mountain spring water, to which she led her horse. Her drinking horn was empty, so she knelt to refill it. Dagmar looked around to gain her bearings. She needed to find the mountain pass which would bring her to Rathmahen. In the darkness she could see little beyond the gnarled, centuries old trees, their twisted roots rising up from the damp, leaf strewn ground. However, the stream certainly flowed from the mountains, and she knew she was south of the pass, so mounting her horse, she rode on, following as close to the stream as the trees would allow. Gradually, at first, and then increasingly, Dagmar’s horse began to climb as the mountains seemed to rise up beneath them, and she steered her horse northwards.

She slept very little that night, waking to the slightest sound, and woke well before dawn the following morning. With her horse saddled, Dagmar mounted and continued on her way toward the pass. When darkness fell once more, she did not know how much further she must travel before she found the way that would lead her through the mountains. After what seemed like hours, the forest fell strangely quiet. Not a sound broke the deathly silence save the crunch of leaves and twigs as her horse’s hooves thudded along. Dagmar felt her senses heightening, her ears straining at the slightest sound. Something was near, she could feel it. As quietly as she could she dismounted her horse. Leading him by the reins she crept forward, peering into the darkness. Somewhere up ahead, a twig snapped, the sudden sound loud in the stillness of the trees. Dagmar’s horse halted abruptly, tossing back his head. His ears pricked forward, while his eyes stared ahead at a point in the darkness. Dagmar dared not speak, she hardly dared to breathe. The blood pounding in her ears seemed like a drum beat.

A whisper, barely audible at first, seemed to speak from somewhere to Dagmar’s right. It was a rough, grating sound. Dagmar took a step away from the sound, her horse growing restless. Then a shape, darker than the darkness of the night, seemed to materialize from the depths of the wood. As it drew closer, Dagmar could make out its form. Low, stooped, and broad, the creature seemed gnarled as the trees.

“What are you?” She asked in a whisper, fear causing her breath to tremble.

The creature stopped in its approach, its head tilting to one side. It garbled something in its own strange dialect, and when Dagmar did not respond, it gestured for her to follow.

For a moment she did not move. The creature, who had already begun to hobble back in the direction from whence it had come, stopped again, turned back and gestured once more. Tentatively, Dagmar began to follow, leading her horse along with her. They soon came onto a barely visible forest path and began to follow it along an ever increasing incline. The further along they went, the rockier the terrain became, and the trees grew spindlier and sparser as they climbed to higher elevation. The heavy clouds had cleared, revealing two crescent moons high in a sky bejeweled with glittering stars. The mountain air was cold and crisp, and Dagmar inhaled deeply.

Once out under the clear night sky, beyond the oppressive darkness of the forest, Dagmar could see the creature more clearly. Its skin appeared dark with soot, and it was crudely clothed in animal skins and fur. Long, coarse, dark hair was bound in a single, rough braid. Its features were blunt and rugged. A short axe was holstered at the creature’s hip. After a while, the uneven path led towards a gap in a wall of dark rock ahead. When they reached the opening, the creature turned towards her and motioned for her to follow. Dagmar’s horse struggled against the reins, hesitant to enter the confining space, but she urged him on, and reluctantly, he obeyed. The path led along a narrow gap that penetrated deep into the rock, and eventually opened up into a large cavern. Three massive doors chiselled out of the mountain itself stood in a semicircle around the cavern. The creature made for the central door, and rapped out a sequence of knocks. The sounds of clicking and scraping followed, and a moment later, the heavy doors swung open. Dagmar followed the creature through the doors, casting her eyes about the high, carved ceiling. Great pillars of stone lined the wide lane. The clacking of her horse’s hooves upon the smooth stone echoed loudly in the cavernous hall.

Narrower paths branched off from the main lane in various directions within the mountain, but the wider path brought them to the foot of a wide flight of stairs before a massive set of doors ornate with gold enamelling, and encrusted with glinting gems. Standing guard at the doors were two more creatures much like Dagmar’s guide. Their attire was vastly different, however, as they were clad in scales of steel armour, their helmets made of the skulls of beasts.

The creature spoke to the guards in its grating language, and after a short exchange, the doors were opened, and Dagmar was admitted with her guide. Her horse, however, was to remain outside with the guards.

Dagmar’s eyes widened in wonder as she passed through the doors. She had entered a grand hall, larger than anything she had ever seen. The stone walls were polished smooth. Columns of gold lined the length of the hall, each engraved with sharp, elaborate patterns, which upon closer observation, revealed images of torture and creatures writhing in agony. The entire floor was polished black marble. Along the walls stood crude, but skillfully crafted, stone sculptures. At the farthest end of the hall stood a dais. Torchlight illuminated a figure seated on a throne of what appeared to be bones, glinting with jewels. As they drew nearer, Dagmar could see the being was richly clad in leather and armour, a cloak of heavy fur draped over stooped shoulders. The figure’s white hair was pulled back from his grizzly face, and he wore a crown of jewel encrusted bones upon his head. The long beard of coarse, white hair was bound in a braid.

As they approached, Dagmar’s guide bowed low. The king, which he certainly was, inclined his head towards the stooped creature. When he spoke, his gravelly speech was loud and clear. The crude creature next to Dagmar, gestured to her as he began to speak to the king, his words clipped and rapid. The king eyed Dagmar closely. When next he spoke, it was in the common tongue.

“Who are you and why did you trespass into our domain?” he asked, his speech slow and rough.

Dagmar offered a slight bow before answering. “I am Princess Dagmar of Anu Duinn. I was fleeing from assassins who murdered my father and our companions,” she began. “Riders pursued me into the forest, where I hoped to escape and make for the pass to Rathmahen,” Dagmar explained.

The king listened with astute alertness as she related the events which had taken place earlier that day. When she had concluded her story, he seemed to ponder her predicament for some time.

“Forgive me, Lord, but who are you?” Dagmar asked, breaking the King’s reverie.

“I am Gunlod, king of the mountain!” he answered proudly.

“And what are you?”

The king looked at Dagmar curiously. “Some call us Svartálfar, some call us dwarves. Others call us goblins,” he replied in his slow, grating speech.

“What do you call yourselves, lord?”

King Gunlod considered this. “We are mountain folk,” said he, with a slow nod of his head. “You say you want to cross the mountains?” asked the king.

“Yes. I need to go to Rathmahen, to see their chief,” Dagmar answered, her tone pleading. “He is my only hope.”

The king was thoughtful. At last he spoke. “A gift for a gift,” He demanded.

“A gift, lord?” Dagmar asked, confused at his odd request.

“Yes,” the king hissed. “A gift. We show you way through the mountain. You give me gift in return,” he grinned evilly, revealing chipped and yellowed teeth.

“And what sort of a gift would you ask of me?” Dagmar inquired.

The King’s smile broadened.


#2 I feel that this could be much improved.

Dagmar had agreed to the mountain King’s request, and he had upheld his end of the bargain. She had slept a restless sleep that night in the mountain hall, and in the morning, had been escorted, along with her horse, through the heart of the mountain.

Once out in the open air, however, she was on her own, and she was no safer here than she had been in the mountains, for Rathmahen was a land of dark elves, ruled by the most ruthless dark elven chief ever known. However, Dagmar’s only hope was to reach Chief Hrothgar and plead for his help. Wiping the tears from her eyes, she turned away from the mountains, and heeled her horse into a gallop as the rain began to pour, soaking through her clothes and leaving her cold and wet.
It was already late in the day, and Dagmar could not afford to waste any time. The chief’s fortress sat upon an outcropping of solid rock overlooking a treacherous sea, a two days ride from the Ragnarok Pass. There were few settlements near to the mountains that bordered Rathmahen, and she took care to avoid the few that existed. A lone elf, especially a young lady, such as herself, traveling through a land of dark elves was easy prey and would not survive long if discovered. She urged her horse on, the bitter north wind whipping her silver blonde hair loose from its braid. When darkness fell, she rode through the night, stopping only to rest and water her horse. She dared not sleep, and shortly before dawn she entered a dark forest. Dagmar knew the way, as only one road led from the pass to Drangavik, the city  where the fortress lay. By dusk on the second day, she neared the city. She pulled her hood low over her face to avoid drawing attention to herself as she passed through villages on the outskirts of the city. Dagmar came across few travellers, as it was growing late, and fortunately, anyone she did pass on the road was too busy going about their own business to take notice of her.
Dagmar was stopped by armed guards when she reached the city gates. “State your business,” demanded a broad shouldered, helmeted guard, wearing chainmail. A heavy sword hung sheathed from a belt at his hip.
“I am here on urgent business with your Chief,” Dagmar announced in the boldest voice she could muster. She threw back her hood and revealed her girlish face and silver-blonde hair. Her eyes narrowed as she glared at the men.
The guards laughed, and the broad shouldered dark elf took a step forward. “And who are you, girl, to have business with my Lord?”
Dagmar held her chin high, pulling herself to her full height upon her massive pale, muscled horse. “I am Princess Dagmar of Anu Duinn and I demand an audience with Chief Hrothgar!” She thrust out her clenched fist, revealing a ring bearing the insignia of her family.
The guard raised a quizzical eyebrow at her, and ordered the gate opened. He barked a command to a guard just inside the gates to escort her to the castle. She followed him through the city, the path ascending the closer they got to the castle walls. They passed through the gate, dismounted their horses and, crossing a courtyard, approached the heavy doors of the great hall. A few words were exchanged between her escort and the guard at the door, after which the man disappearing inside. Some moments later he returned.
“Chief Hrothgar will see you,” he stated. “You will leave your weapons at the door,” the guard ordered.
Dagmar handed over her bow and unbuckled her sword belt, dropping it near the wall, then she unsheathed a hunting knife and tossed it down with her sword, along with the two knives she withdrew from her boots. The guards exchanged a curious look, and the doorman ushered her through the double doors. The massive hall was built of grey stone, lit only by torches along the walls, candles placed on the long tables that lined either side, and fires roaring in each of the two enormous fireplaces set into the walls of both sides of the hall.
Silence fell as Dagmar approached the raised dais at the far end where the Chief sat shrouded in shadow. Several dark elves were present, watching her as she knelt before the dais. Dagmar sensed the dark elven Chief shift upon his throne, though she could not see his face within the shadows. She waited, head bowed low, until he spoke.
He shouted out a command in his own guttural language, before addressing the princess, and the dark elves quietly exited the hall, leaving Dagmar alone with the chief. “Rise, Lady.” He commanded in a low, deep voice. She raised her head and slowly stood. She could feel his eyes studying her. “What brings you to my realm, girl?” He enquired, with a hint of derision at the last word.
“Lord, I am princess Dagmar of Anu Duinn.” Dagmar hesitated before continuing. “My party was ambushed as we travelled from Berserksborg. My father-“ her voice broke at the word, and she fought against the sudden swell of sorrow that rose up in her chest. “My father, Chief Sigmundr,” she continued, her voice trembling as she spoke, “was killed, along with his men. I am the only survivor, and have travelled for these five days to reach you,” she finished, doubt filling her, as she awaited his response.
“What was your father’s business in Berserksheim?” the Chief asked, suspicion clear in his deep tone.
“My father was invited to Berserksborg, to hold peace talks with Chief Ivar,” Dagmar explained simply. Her voice dropped low and dark, bitterness seeping into her words. “It would seem, however, that someone wanted my father dead and knew of our whereabouts, for as we reached the harbour where our ship waited, we were attacked by dark elves.” She stopped, unable to say any more. Tears glistened in her green eyes, and Dagmar quickly brushed them away.

He pondered for a moment. “How did you find your way here on your own?”

“My father ordered me to flee. I was pursued into the forest that lay at the foot of the mountains, but they must have given up and turned back. I passed through the mountain halls to reach Rathmahen, and from there, followed the road southwest,” she answered.

The chief stirred at Dagmar’s words. “How is it that you came to pass through Gunlodsheim?” he demanded, a note of anger raising his voice.

“One of the mountain folk found me in the forest, and he brought me to his king,” Dagmar explained.

The dark elf shifted forward upon his throne, a glint of light reflecting off the crown he wore. “What price did the king demand in exchange for your safe travels through his dark realm?” he growled.

Clenching her fists at her sides, Dagmar answered; “A gift for a gift.”

“And what gift did you bequeath him?” demanded the chief.

“A lock of hair,” Dagmar answered, timidly.

In a sudden burst of rage, the dark elf rose from his throne and descended the dais to stride towards her. “And you, fool of a girl, gave it to him?!” he roared, the anger in his thundering voice menacing, while the shadows that surrounded him seemed to suffocate the little light in the great hall.

“Yes,” she whispered. “But I am not so great a fool as you might think,” she countered.

“Explain yourself!” demanded the chief curtly.

“I did give the king a lock of hair,” she began. “But it was not my own.”

“Then whose was it?” he asked.

“My mother’s,” Dagmar answered confidently, her chin held high. “I carried it with me always. When the king asked for a lock of hair, I asked if I might think on it until the morning. He acquiesced, and the following morning, after having bound the lock with my own hair, I pretended to cut it with my knife,” she explained.

A momentary silence ensued, but then, suddenly, Chief Hrothgar laughed, the sound echoing from the stone walls. “You are cleverer than I gave you credit, lass!” he declared.

Dagmar chewed her lip. “There is more,” she said softly. “The dwarf king asked me to deliver a message to you.” The chief waited expectantly, and so she continued. “He made me remember and repeat it.” Dagmar hesitated, as she recalled from her memory the strange words she was commanded to speak to the dark elf. “Ak gekt na blut dür ak gekt,” she said, pronouncing each word slowly. The chief did not speak, and Dagmar sensed his tension. “What does it mean?” she asked.

The dark elf sighed heavily. “It means King Gunlod demands a gift,” he answered.

“What sort of a gift?” Dagmar inquired uncertainly.

“Never you mind,” was the abrupt reply. “What would you ask of me, girl?”
“Lord, I would offer you my sword,” she replied boldly.

The Chief was silent for a moment. Then he laughed. “Why in all the nine realms would you want to do that?” he demanded when his laughter had subsided.

“I have sworn revenge on he who murdered my father and the noble warriors who fell to protect us,” Dagmar stated. “I offer myself into your service on the condition that when the time comes, you allow me my revenge.”

“Why should I accept your offer? I need warriors in my army, not little girls,” Chief Hrothgar retorted.

Dagmar held her chin high as she replied, “Chief Ivar is a thorn that threatens your reign and the stability of your kingdom. My eldest brother will soon learn of our father’s death, and will take his place on the throne. If he should learn that I have sworn my allegiance to you, Lord, it will not be without influence on his decisions.” She paused, awaiting Hrothgar’s reply.

“Go on,” he commanded.

“Your father long sought an alliance with Anu Duinn, which my father believed would be unwise. My brothers and I did not share his opinion. I do not know your character, Lord, but I was acquainted with your father. If you are half the man that he was, then an alliance with you would be worth it, if it meant defeating our enemies and avenging my father,” she concluded.

The dark elf snickered. “If I were to accept your request, you would not survive your first battle, and you are of no use to me dead. It would be wiser to take you as my hostage. Lord Siegfried would be required to pay a high price for you, girl,” he stated. “However, if you were my sister,” Chief Hrothgar added, his eyes scanning over her body, “I would not give more than a few good heifers for such a scrap of a girl.”

Dagmar flushed, angered by his remark. “I am the princess of Anu Duinn! Surely, I am worth more than livestock!” she snapped.

Hrothgar scoffed. “You were bred for a broodmare, but I expect you would break with your first mounting,” he said loftily.

Anger flashed in Dagmar’s eyes. “How dare you speak to me with such impertinence!” she shouted.

Lunging towards her suddenly, Hrothgar grasped Dagmar’s hair, and jerked her head back, forcing her to look up at him. His face was cast into shadow, so that only his fiery green eyes seemed to shine in the darkness of the hall, while the flickering torchlight glinted from his crown. “Oh, I dare! Remember, little elf, that you are in my realm now, and here you are little more than a hostage, worth only the price your brother will pay, and if he will not pay enough, then I’ll get out of you all that I can before I cut your throat and bleed you dry!” he growled, then thrust her away, causing her to stumble back.

Dagmar choked back a sob. All the weariness of days of travel with so little food and sleep threatened to overwhelm her, and she felt herself sway. Dagmar knew it was foolish to come here, foolish to put her fate in the hands of this deadly dark elf, but what other possibility had there been?  

Hrothgar turned away to walk back to the dais.

Dagmar glared challengingly up into the shadows where the dark elf was seated. “You underestimate me,” she insisted. “Although I have not been tested in battle, I have been trained in the art of combat, and my sword was blooded when I used it to kill two of the seasoned warriors who took part in the ambush. Another I pierced with an arrow.”

“Luck,” was the dark elf’s reply.

“Then let me prove myself!” she challenged.

“I do not permit weapons in my hall, nor will I waste my time in going out to watch you make a fool of yourself,” he answered coldly.

“Your two guards at the door are armed,” Dagmar stated. “Permit me to fight, unarmed, the guard of your choosing, and I wager that I can not only disarm, but subdue my opponent!”

From his vantage point upon the dais, Chief Hrothgar scrutinized the elven princess doubtfully, as he considered her proposal. “Very well,” he said after a time. ‘I accept your challenge. If you win, I will accept you into my service and will not deny you your chance for revenge,” he began, “but if you lose, I will take you as my hostage to use as leverage to secure my ambitions regarding Anu Duinn. If your brother refuses my demands, I will kill you, but not before I have my way with you,” the dark elf finished with a dangerous edge to his low voice.

Dagmar’s jaw clenched. “Agreed,” she replied curtly.

Chief Hrothgar issued a command, and one of the guards stationed inside the doors of the hall stepped forward. He was by far the smaller of the two, standing at least a head shorter than the other.

“Do not be deceived by his appearance, Princess,” said the Chief. “He is a much fiercer warrior than his brother in arms.”

Dagmar cast the chief a scathing look. “I never underestimate an opponent,” she replied coolly.

The dark haired guard whose eyes glowed red, stepped towards the elf. He was of a wiry build, and his muscular arms flexed as he positioned himself for the attack. Dagmar braced herself while scanning her opponent with her eyes. A faint red glow began to form from the palms of her hands.

“Begin!” barked the Chief.

The dark elf lunged, drawing his sword in an instant, but Dagmar dodged out of the way, and the guard spun about to face her. He faked right, and rushed left, but the elf was ready. Avoiding the arch of his blade, she dealt a powerful kick to his side, the force knocking him slightly off balance. As he came at her again, he brought the edge of his sword straight down, slicing through the air with a hum. But rather than dodge his attack, Dagmar suddenly stepped forward and caught the flat of blade between her glowing hands, and sent scorching heat radiating up through the blade, into the hilt. The warrior shouted as he released his grip on the sword, the skin of his hand already red and blistering, and the sword crashed to the ground. Chief Hrothgar stood suddenly from the throne with a sharp gasp.

Reaching down to take up the sword, its tip scraping against the stone floor, Dagmar stepped slowly towards the dark elf, who was already recovering from his blunder. He drew his seax from its sheath and sprang at the elf, but Dagmar thrust the palm of her hand towards him, and an unseen force slammed into the dark elf, sending him crashing to the floor flat on his back. Moving to stand over him, Dagmar held the point of the sword to the guard’s chest, and waited.

“Would you like me to finish him?” she asked the Chief, tauntingly.

“That will not be necessary,” he snapped. “Let him up!”

Dagmar stepped back, and when the guard had scrambled back to his feet she held out the hilt of the sword to him. When he hesitated to take it, she said reassuringly, “It isn’t hot.”

Chief Hrothgar dismissed both of the guards with a word, then turned his attention back to the elf. “How did you do that? Such magical arts are jealously guarded by the Goðin and entrusted only to those deemed worthy!” he demanded, his voice harsh.

“Do you not know?” inquired Dagmar proudly. “I am the daughter of Gersemi, whose mother was Freya. Before her death, my mother taught me all that she knew.”
Chief Hrothgar studied the elf closely, then shouted out a command in his own dialect, and a set of doors to Dagmar’s right swung open. A guard answered the summons, and the chief issued stern instructions in the dark elven language. He then dismissed the elven princess with a careless wave of his hand, as he resumed his seat upon the throne. The guard bowed, then turning toward Dagmar, gestured for her to follow. She bowed before turning to exit the hall without another word.


#3 This takes place somewhat later in the chapter. I have decided not to provide any additional context, preceding to maintain a little mystery. I do love this character, by the way. He will feature more throughout the story.

The sun was sinking low over the horizon, casting long shadows from the jagged mountain peaks, when Ravn, the silver haired dark elf who served Chief Hrothgar, reached the bloody scene of the slaughter which had occurred only days before. Bodies of elves were strewn about, horses lay dead and swollen. The small sea port appeared to have been abandoned suddenly, as if it had been raided, the townsfolk having fled for safety. Many of the buildings had been burned, and the town ransacked. The dark elf searched through the bodies until he discovered a headless corpse. He turned it over, noting the rich fabric of the dead elf’s clothing. He searched pockets, checked the hands, and finding nothing of further interest, swore under his breath. Rising, he set to work gathering dry wood, piling it high. Then he dragged all the bodies of the fallen elves onto the pile before setting it ablaze. Kneeling down, his eyes stared into the rising smoke and flames, and he waited. When the blaze was roaring high, he mounted his pale steed and rode on into the moonless night.

In the great hall the silver haired dark elf, cloaked in black, knelt before his chief. “I have done all that you asked, my Lord,” he said as he stood. “It is as you feared.”
“Did you find what you sought, Ravn?” Hrothgar’s deep voice spoke from the shadows of his throne.
“No, only the body,” the dark elf answered.
“And the head?” asked Hrothgar.
The dark elf’s coldcold blue eyes penetrated the darkness, holding his Lord’s gaze. “Taken.”
A moment passed before Hrothgar spoke again. “You burned the bodies?”
“All of them,” Ravn assured.
Chief Hrothgar leaned back on his throne. “You did well,” he said, tossing an arm ring of solid gold to the dark elf before him. “You are not to speak of this to anyone,” he commanded.
“I understand, my Lord,” Ravn replied.

Chief Hrothgar took a folded parchment, sealed with green wax that bore his dragon insignia, and held it out to the silver haired dark elf. “There is one other thing,” he said. “I’d like you to deliver this to King Gunlod. You need not await his reply. Take a few good men with you, and leave a little reminder of my regard for our friends.”

Taking the letter and pocketing it, Ravn bowed low, then turned and swept from the hall.



#4 Continuing with Ravn’s mission…

Ravn took care to let the dwarves see him riding away on the road that would take him southwest after delivering Chief Hrothgar’s message to King Gunlod. Once he had put enough distance between himself and the entrance to the mountain, he doubled back through the forest, crossing two rivers south of the road from the Iron Gate of Gunlod’s domain.

He found his four companions hiding out deep within the forest.

“Were you followed?” asked one dark elf.

Ravn shook his head. “Tether the horses here. We’ll go the rest of the way on foot,” he commanded.

The dark elves slipped silently through the trees, conjuring the shadows around them so they could not be seen. The dwarves of the Iron Mountains could not venture into the sunlight, but they had human slaves who scouted for them during the day. Ravn knew of several secret passages which the dwarves used to patrol the mountainside during the night, and it was to one of these passages they headed.

The incline became steeper as they jogged higher into the mountains. They crossed a rocky mountain stream by alighting over slick stones. As the terrain became more treacherous, Ravn hoisted himself up into the branches of a tree and sprang from one tree to the next, while the others clamoured over rocks and ledges, until the trees began to thin in the higher elevation. An hour before dusk, Ravn and his companions stopped to rest and waited for nightfall to leave the cover of the trees.

The shadows lengthened. The sun was beginning to dip over the western horizon. Ravn rose to his feet and crept away from the others, glancing around as he moved soundlessly through the shadows cast by the gnarly trees. His ears strained at the slightest sound while his eyes scanned scenery, but the forest was quiet and still.

Darkness had fallen over the mountains by the time Ravn rejoined the other dark elves.

“Time to go,” he whispered when he reappeared.

One black haired warrior flashed a vicious grin. “Let’s go kill some dwarf!” he snarled.

Maintaining their cloak of darkness, the five dark elves moved through the night.

The passage they sought was set into a hollow at the top of a steep crag. There was only one way to get there without being detected. Taking the lead, Ravn and his men scaled the rocks, pausing at the top to check that the coast was clear, before climbing onto the narrow ledge.

They tread swiftly towards the hollow, where they found a stout dwarf standing guard. Just as the dwarf spotted the dark elves, Ravn slashed a short seax across the dwarfs throat. Dark blood gushed from the gash and the dwarf fell to the ground, gurgling as he clutched at his throat.

One by one, the dark elves filed into the opening of the passage. Within a few moments, they chanced upon another dwarf. He never even saw the blade that stabbed into his neck.

A little further along the passage the sound of grating voices grew. They approached an arched opening and the black haired warrior gestured for the others to wait while he moved towards the archway. He stood still listening for a moment, and held up six fingers. Careful not to make a sound, they drew their weapons. The blacked haired warrior carried a battle axe, while Ravn preferred his short blade for close combat.

At once, they stormed through the archway into a vaulted cavern where half a dozen or more dwarves were sitting around a cook fire in the middle of the open space.

The dwarves started at the sight of the armed dark elves who rushed at them, and they scrambled to arm themselves.

The black haired dark elf struck first, plunging his axe deep into a dwarfs chest, which split through heavy armour.

Another dwarf charged Ravn, swinging an axe, but he ducked under the sharp edge and drove his seax into the dwarf’s belly. He wrenched the blade upwards, tearing through flesh. The dwarf roared as his guts spilled from his belly.

Ravn yanked the seax out of the dwarf and whirled about just in time to parry another dwarf’s attack.

One dark elf was battling two dwarves, laughing as he danced effortlessly out of the way of their slashing axes. He swung his broadsword down as one of the dwarves swung an axe at him and chopped clean through the wooden handle. The axe head crashed to the stone floor, the sound reverberating off the cavern wall. Then he jabbed his sword into the dwarfs grizzly face.

It would not be long before more dwarves came to see what all the commotion was.

Ravn struck down the dwarf he was battling, then called out to the others, “Kill them off quick, and chop off their heads! We need to get out of here!”

He grabbed the dead dwarf’s axe and swung it down hard, decapitating him with one blow.

The dancing dark elf killed his other opponent with an upwards-sweeping blow of his sword to the dwarfs belly. Next he began hacking at the dwarf’s neck in a gruesome attempt to chop off his head.

“Diarmad, I said chop off their heads, not chop them to bits!” shouted Ravn, when he looked up and saw the butchery.

“What do you think I’m trying to do?” Diarmad retorted. “The bastard has a fucking tough neck!” he growled as he chopped the edge of his sword into the half severed flesh.

Ravn strode over and pushed Diarmad out of the way. He swung the newly acquired axe once, removing the head completely from the corpse, and gave the other dark elf a patronizing look.

Diarmad looked down at the decapitated dwarf with a disappointed expression.

They quickly gathered up the heads and stuffed them into sacks, then hastily fled back through the archway and along the passageway.

The sound of voices shouting echoed along the narrow passageway. As soon as they were outside  leapt over the edge of the crag. It was a long drop, but Ravn and the black haired warrior both landed on their feet. Diarmad sprang into a tree, catching hold of a branch and swung himself gracefully to the ground.

“Show off,” muttered another dark elf who was brushing himself off after a rough landing.

“Come on, quickly!” Ravn snapped, and the dark elves darted back towards the trees.

The dwarves were not so quick as the tall, limber dark elves. They hurdled along the passage and out onto the ledge of the crag just in time to see the dark elves disappear into the darkness of the trees.

One of the dwarves swore, and barked a command to the others. Several dwarves set off along the narrow ledge in pursuit of the assailants, but it was futile. By the time the dwarves made it to the bottom of the crag and into the woods, the dark elves were long gone.

Ravn and his men returned to their horses. They knew that the dwarves would be searching for them the whole night, so they mounted their horses and headed west until they came to a river. The dark elves rode their horse through the icy mountain water, and when the reached the other side, they turned north.

Their route took them through Jarl Thorgeir’s lands, whom Ravn distrusted. There was still one more five to cross before they would reach the road to the Iron Gate, but they dared not go so near to the dwarf realm at night.

It did not take long to reach the river the bordered the road, but they did not cross. Instead they made camp and waited for daybreak.

They lit no fire that night, lest their enemies should discover them. Diarmad wandered off into the woods, while the others rummaged in their saddle bags for salted meat and ale.

Ravn stripped off his blood spattered leather armour and tossed it onto the ground. Then he pulled his shirt over his head, revealing his lean, muscled torso and walked towards the river bank before removing his leather pants and wading out into the frigid water to wash the sweat, blood and dirt from his body.

By the time Ravn had dressed and joined the others, Diarmad had returned with a couple of freshly killed rabbits. He skinned them and divided up the raw meat amongst the five of them. The dark elf eyed his portion of rabbit hungrily, then sank his sharp canines into the flesh, tearing off a piece.

Ravn watched with an expression of disgust on his face as the other dark elves devoured the meat and sucked at the blood. Reluctantly, he bit off a piece of the meat.

“What’s wrong with you?” asked the black haired warrior.

“I don’t like rabbit,” said Ravn flatly.

“Well, I didn’t see any elves wandering around the forest, did you?” Diarmad chimed in with a smirk.

“You could have had a taste of dwarf,” the black haired warrior joked.

“Fuck that, Throst! I’m not feeding on dwarf,” Ravn retorted.

Throst and Diarmad burst into laughter.

“Don’t worry, Ravn! When we get back, no doubt Hrothgar will reward us all with some sweet elven blood. Maybe he’ll even give you that skinny princess he’s holding hostage,” Throst replied.

“She’s not for me,” said Ravn.

Throst gave him a quizzical look. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

Ravn only shrugged and lay back on the leaf strewn grass, saying, “Diarmad, you have first watch for failing to behead a dwarf.”

At first light, the dark elves saddled and mounted their horses. They crossed the river and made for the road. When they arrived at the Iron Gate, Ravn and the others drove wooden stakes into the ground, upon which they mounted the heads of the dead dwarves, a gesture of Chief Hrothgar’s regard. Afterwards, they followed the road back to Drangavik.


#5 Picking up the tale just after Ravn’s bloody task… and the last except that I’ll be sharing for this chapter…

Several days had passed when Dagmar was summoned to the great hall. She passed through the heavy doors, her eyes taking a moment to adjust to the darkness of the hall, again, lit only by torches along the walls. Her long gown swept about her feet as she approached the dais and bowed before the chief.
Chief Hrothgar was silent, and she gazed up to where he sat upon his throne, but like the first night in his presence here, he was so shrouded in shadow that she could hardly make out his form, let alone his face. She could just perceive his exceptional height, his lean stature and broad shoulders. He lounged in his throne like a cat, his legs spread wide, but he leaned forward as she straightened.
“Why do you bow before me, girl?” he asked in his low, deep voice, sending a shiver over her as he spoke. “Men kneel, ladies curtsey,” he stated matter of factly.
Dagmar shifted uncomfortably and shrugged. Having been raised by her father and two older brothers after her mother’s death, she found the manners of men came more naturally than what was usual for women. She remained silent, and a low chuckle sounded in the chief’s throat. Dagmar stared at the floor.
Chief Hrothgar observed the girl for a moment. He shifted, and a glint of light caught at the bronze crown he wore, which resembled twisted, branching antlers that swept back about the sides of his head. “I have considered your predicament, princess, and have sent a messenger to your kin,” Chief Hrothgar spoke slowly and decisively, his tone firm.
Dagmar grew nervous. “You cannot send me home! We made a deal!” she exclaimed.
“Little girl,” he said with an icy edge to his words, “when I give my word, I keep it, which is why I’ve called you here.”
Dagmar clenched her fists tightly, her jaw set.
A momentary silence ensued before the chief spoke again. “You offered me your sword, and so you will take your place amongst my Hirðmenn. There will be no special privileges. For your service, you will be provided with room and board in the servant’s quarters. Now kneel.”

Chief Hrothgar descended the dais to stand before the elven princess. Dagmar obeyed his command and sank to one knee. She peered up at him, trying to see his face in the darkness, as the chief drew his sword. He held it out in front of him and lowered the tip of the blade to the stone floor.

“Place your hands on the hilt of my sword and swear, under penalty of death, to serve me with honour, loyalty and obedience, until such time as I should release you from your oath,” commanded Chief Hrothgar.

Dagmar clasped her hands over the Chief’s grip of the hilt, and with bowed head she took the oath, saying, “My Lord and Chief, I vow to serve you with honour, loyalty, and obedience, under penalty of death, until you release me from my oath.”

Chief Hrothgar spoke next, saying, “Princess Dagmar, I accept your oath, and vow to uphold my duty to you as your Lord and Chief, to honour my word, and to be just and fair. Now rise!”

Dagmar did as she was told.

“You will report first thing tomorrow morning to the captain of the guard. He will give you your orders. That is all.” His last words dismissed her with a tone of finality.
Dagmar bowed once, thanking him, before turning and exiting the hall.

The next day, as instructed, Dagmar reported to Ravn, the silver haired dark elf, who was captain of the Hirðmenn, the Chief’s household guard.

“Chief Hrothgar said that I am to report to you.” she informed the stony faced warrior.

Ravn looked her over skeptically. “I have been informed,” was his curt reply. “Follow me!”

The dark elf led Dagmar to the armory. “I have been given orders to have you fitted with suitable attire and armour,” Ravn said, as he gestured to the armourer, a black haired man with a mean squint.

Issuing a command, the armourer nodded, and Ravn turned back to the elf. “Frang here will see that you have everything you need,” he explained. “When you are finished here, report to Diarmad for guard duty.”

With that, Ravn exited the armoury, leaving Dagmar alone with the mean looking Frang.

When she was dressed in leather pants and a linen tunic, she pulled on a pair of leather boots, her chain mail and the additional armour with which she had been issued. She was permitted to keep her sword and bow. A seax had been provided.

Next she went to find Diarmad. She found him on patrol of the southern battlements, which loomed high above the rocky coast and was the least vulnerable part of the fortress.

“What’s this? Has Ravn sent me a new pet?” Diarmad teased, as a mischievous grin alit his handsome face.

“I have been ordered to report for guard duty,” Dagmar answered reprovingly.

The dark elf laughed. “And what will you be protecting us from, kitten? Mice!”

Dagmar glared up into his fiery blue eyes in challenge. “Would you like me to stick my sword in your throat?” she snapped.

Diarmad roared with laughter, and said with a wicked grin, “Try it kitten, and I’ll whip your pretty arse with it!”

The rest of the day was spent patrolling the southern battlements with Diarmad. It was an idle task, but Dagmar did her duty without complaint, knowing that she must prove herself before she would be entrusted with anything of greater importance.

Diarmad proved to be a good natured man, albeit rather crude. He teased his charge relentlessly, but Dagmar soon grew accustomed to his lighthearted taunts, and was always relieved when she was assigned to his command.

In the days that ensued, she did not find herself again in the presence of Chief Hrothgar. Only a few times did she think she saw his tall form stalking off into the shadows of the fortress, and she suspected he was keeping an eye on her.
Most of the other warriors kept their distance, and so Dagmar spent what little spare time she had alone.

Nearly three weeks had passed since Dagmar had come to Rathmahen. In that time, she had concentrated her efforts to training, going down to the training field every morning when she didn’t have guard duty, to join the warriors and boys who were honing their skills, when there was no other work to be done.

The dark elves had laughed and mocked her at first, but that had changed one morning a few weeks later, after she had retaliated to the provocations of one dark haired warrior, by challenging him. He was tall and built like an ox — broad and strong, but Dagmar had outmaneuvered him, dodging his powerful blows, only to whip around and strike him repeatedly with the wooden practice sword.

The other warriors stood back in a semicircle, watching the elf buzz about the large man like an angry hornet, roaring with laughter whenever she landed a blow.

Chief Hrothgar had just returned from a visit to Jarl Sigtrygg, whose home was little less than a days ride north. Accompanied by the silver haired Ravn, he passed by the training field to scope out the progress of some of the new recruits. Pushing his way through a cluster of boys, he approached one of the seasoned warriors. “What’s going on here?” Chief Hrothgar asked with a jerk of his head toward the battling elf and dark elf.

The dark elf laughed, saying, “He insulted the girl,” indicating the broad shouldered warrior, who had just taken a blow to the throat, “so she challenged him to a fight.”

Hrothgar folded his arms across his chest as he watched. “That is Ornulf’s boy, is it not?” he asked.

“Yes, that is his eldest, Slothi,” answered the dark elf.

Chief Hrothgar’s eyes narrowed and he inclined his head towards Ravn and muttered, “Keep an eye on that one,” to which Ravn gave a curt nod.

Hearing the laughter of the other men, the dark haired warrior’s anger surged, and he slammed his shield into the elf, knocking her off balance. Seizing his advantage, the Slothi gripped Dagmar’s left wrist in one hand, and punched her in the ribs with the other.

Unable to break free of his strong grip, Dagmar slammed her forehead hard against his, causing the dark elf to stagger back. Without hesitating, she came at him and rammed the hilt of her sword into his face. He fell flat on his back with a crash. Dagmar dropped down to the ground, pressing her right knee into the dark elf’s chest, and pounded her fist into his face repeatedly before someone came forward and dragged her back.

“Let go of me!” Dagmar shouted, shaking off the dark elf who had pulled her off her opponent. She stepped away, seeing stars, and nearly toppled over. She took a moment to steady herself, and when her eyes began to focus, she caught sight of Chief Hrothgar retreating back up the hill.

Slothi struggled to his feet, and stood glaring at Dagmar. His nose was broken, and he spit blood, before sauntering off the field.

That night Chief Hrothgar held a feast in the great hall. Dagmar, being a hostage and serving in the guard, was never permitted to sit with the chief and his sister at the high table during feasts. Instead, her place was always amongst the warriors.

This night, the only people at the high table with Chief Hrothgar and Princess Morrighan were Ravn, seated to Hrothgar’s right, and the chief’s advisor to his left.

Dagmar had met Ravn on a few occasions during her time here. He was a man of few words, but he intrigued her, and she couldn’t fail to notice the preferential treatment he received by his chief. She wondered at that. Now she saw that Chief Hrothgar was in a whispered conversation with the silver haired warrior, and her curiosity was piqued. What must they be conspiring about? Probably about who they are going to kill next.

In the next moment, it appeared that something Ravn said caused Chief Hrothgar to look up. He glanced Dagmar’s way, and catching her eye, raised a hand to beckon her over.

Dagmar stood and went to join the chief. Ravn moved over so that she could sit between them.

Chief Hrothgar poured wine into a chalice and slid it towards her. “Drink,” he commanded.

As she picked up the chalice and sipped the red wine, her eyes briefly glanced about the hall. Nearly all the guests in the hall had turned their attention to the high table.

The chief took up his pipe and lit it. Dagmar watched as he inhaled the smoke. She recognized the herb by its scent; a potent herb revered for its calming effect.

The corner of Hrothgar’s mouth twitched, as if to smile, and Dagmar realized that he had been observing her from the corner of his eye. She quickly looked away, and felt a blush rise in her cheeks. To her right, Ravn stifled a low chuckle.

“Tell me about that fight you got into earlier today.” Chief Hrothgar commanded, as he offered his pipe to Dagmar.

She shrugged and accepted the pipe, puffing it before she spoke. “Slothi has been taunting me since you appointed me to the guard,” she explained. “He insulted me today when he told the others that he was going to put me in my place. He said he would rape me and cut me to pieces when he was finished. So, I dared him to try it,” she added, embarrassed to repeat what had been said.

Hrothgar listened to her story, his stern face unreadable, as he drank his wine. When she had finished, he set down the chalice, and fixed her with a hard glare. “I don’t want you fighting the other men.” He stated, his tone indicating that he would not hear any argument. “Your brothers will not be pleased if you should be injured.”

Dagmar immediately began to protest. “My lord, you cannot forbid me to fight!” she exclaimed.

“I most certainly can,” he retorted seriously.

“No! You don’t understand. I swore! I swore to avenge my father. If I am going to kill Ivar, then I must be able to fight him! That is why I must train harder than ever!” she declared, her sense of urgency apparent in her voice.

Hrothgar took back the pipe which Dagmar still held in her hand and brought it to his lips. “You will train,” he assured her, in between puffs of the pipe. “But not with the other men.”

“How am I supposed to improve if—”

Hrothgar cut her short, saying, “You will train with me.”

Dagmar gaped at him in surprise. “With you?” she repeated.

“Aye, with me,” he responded. Then dismissing her, said, “You may return to your seat.”

Dagmar stood and offered a small bow, which was received with the usual chuckle at her manners.

It’s Gold!

It’s gold! It’s f*cking gold!

I have the solution to my Ragnarok problem! Yes, I will have to kill off all my characters… But I have found the silver lining! And it’s perfect! Beautiful, wonderful! Or at least I think so… 

It will make you cry, but it will also leave you with a smile on your face and tears in your eyes. That is, if I’m good at what I do.

The Makings Of A Trilogy

When I embarked on this journey, I had thought only to write one book (for the project currently underway; I do have other ideas for stories I’d like to write in future). But as the tale progressed, I found myself going back and forth on whether to concentrate on writing just one or breaking it into two or even three books.

The other day, I was rummaging through my mess of notes, which are haphazardly scribbled in multiple notepads, loose sheets of paper, and even old envelopes. Anything I can get my hands on in a pinch will suffice. Upon doing so, an outline resurfaced, one which is rather outdated, as I’ve come a long way since it was penned. However, it was not entirely useless, and when I looked at the general breakdown of the trilogy outline, it occurred to me that I already have enough to work with to make writing a trilogy, not merely possible, but inevitable!

What is particularly interesting to me, is that if I go by that outline at all, then my first book is already nearly finished! What, another chapter or two, or three… and I should reach the point where I had previously decided would be the perfect break. And it is! 

By ending part one where at this specific point, the book would essentially end on a cliffhanger! But all the necessary criteria for the first installment would be there. A beginning, middle, and end, with a suitable climax to the book in the form of an anticipated battle. And then an unexpected incident occurs, our heroine gets swept off course. Her enemy has not yet been defeated. The war has not been won, for that was only the first battle. But before she can defeat her sworn enemy, she must escape. Only how is she to do that? The path that lay before her is fraught with peril…

Don’t worry, I already have the answer to that… I’m just not telling yet. We wouldn’t want to go spoiling any surprises, now would we? I’ve already said too much as it is!

Further Proof That Tolkein Was Inspired By Norse Mythology…

…for anyone who is not wholly convinced of this unequivocal certainty— my opinion —, I give you the following examples.

Járnviðr, also known as Myrkviðr — a forest in Jörmungrund, in which the trees were once made of copper or bronze. After the introduction of the dark art of Seiðr, it was called Járnviðr, because the trees had become iron. (The Iron Wood) Myrkviðr, literally translates to The Murk Wood! The troll women who are called Járnviðjur inhabit the Murk Wood, along with Gullveig after she is banished to a marsh there. This became a dark place. Myrkwood forest? This cannot be a mere coincidence.

Gandálfr, “Wand-Elf”. A Dvergr mentioned in the Poetic Edda. Gandalf the Grey, taken right out of the lore!

Durinn, The name of Surtr when he was still allied with the Goðin (gods) and Mímir.

Miðgarðr, this one is obvious. Midgard literally means “Middle Earth”.
Further observations:

I believe Sauron is the equivalent of Surtr (Durinn after his turn), and his realm seems reminiscent of Sökkdalir (commonly known as Muspellheimr). Sökkdalir is the glowing region to the south of Ginnungagap. It is without a sun, but it is a land of warmth and fire. Think, “lidless, wreathed in flame.”

There are probably many more similarities than the ones I’ve listed here. These are some of the few that stood out to me the most. A lot of the dwarves in the Lord of the Rings bear the same names as the Dvergar spoken of in the Edda. Even Tolkien’s depiction of the elves is more in line with the northern lore.