8 The siren Elena has a bit of a crush
"My lady I will amaze you with this trick!", Servia shouted joyfully. She waved her hands mysteriously and a small flower appeared. It was a beautiful white flower whose petals blossomed on a thin stalk, Ashley clapped her hands excitedly and Servia placed the flower in her hair wearing an enormous grin on her face. She sent a secret wink to her twin Luxia who had placed the flower in her hand when she was waving it about. The Valkyries were such a solemn lot that it was not often that the twins got the chance to perform their party tricks.
Elise looked on with a gentle smile on her face, compared to the rest of the members of her guards the twins were very kind-hearted and loved to play with children. Unfortunately, most children were frightened by their appearances, they looked just as beautiful and graceful as high elves but their dark skin tone and grey marks across their faces exposed them as the high elves' distant relatives.
"Ashley come here, we're going to head home," Elise called out softly. Ashley bowed her head politely to the twins and shot off like an arrow into her mom's open arms. The knights were still getting used to the effect this little lady had on their mistress. Despite the cold look still on her face, her violet eyes would light up and sparkle when she gazed at her daughter. The rest of the knights quickly finished packing up the campsite and the group set off for the northern dukedom.
They had to pass through several minor villages and one mountain range to reach Arcadia City but perhaps their greatest challenge would be navigating through the 'forest of the forgotten.' Elise looked at Ashley who was curiously looking out of the carriage window at the scenery around her and asked," Did you ever learn about the structure of the kingdom?".
Ashley shook her head, as a child she did not receive a proper noble education and could only read and write the common language. She began to worry in her heart that her mommy would think she wasn't smart enough and then hurriedly said," Mom I'm a fast learner!" Elise did not know the thoughts running through her daughter's mind and just began to pet her hair slowly as she explained the history of Eternia.
The kingdom was located at the very edge of the continent and was surrounded by four neighbouring empires. There was a current uneasy treaty between the empires as none could decide on how to divide up the kingdom should they collectively invade. Eternia lived in a constant state of skirmishes at the borders as neither party would commit their main forces.
The inner kingdom was divided into five major territories each ruled over by a duke household and paid taxes to the royal family in the capitol. Of these territories the northern dukedom was the most isolated as it was within a valley and surrounded by a massive mountain range. Inside the valley was a dark and twisted forest known simply as the 'forest of the forgotten' whose name was given from the countless number of lives reaped by the fierce magical beasts that roamed the forest.
The city of Arcadia was in the middle of the valley and was the only major city within the entire dukedom. Only small hunting villages existed outside but they would constantly face threats of destruction from beast attacks. The city was protected by massive walls over sixty feet in length that were built by an early ancestor of the Blackwolf family and maintained carefully by future generations.
The Blackwolf family had guarded the north against attacks from outsiders for as long as the kingdom had been founded hundreds of years ago. During the numerous crusades organised by the Church of Light, no member of the Blackwolf house participated. The patriarch at the time was Elise's grandfather who spat in the face of the bishop sent and roared that his family and knights did not kill innocent women and children.
The bishop was furious and threatened to ruin the Blackwolf family. Unfortunately, he severely overestimated the church's power as within a week all the churches in the territory were destroyed, and the king could only turn a blind eye to the matter when the bishop sought justice.
This left a bad impression of the northern dukedom in the eyes of the church and no further attempts at spreading their influence on the commoners in the region were made. This isolated stance was good news as Elise had been secretly building small villages to house the persecuted dark races from the church.
Although her reasoning at the time was that the dukedom could use the warriors as weapons against invaders, she would routinely settle in old and weak civilians who could not fight. Her father drilled into her head the ideals of the nobles that it was her responsibility to protect the citizens and the lands that she ruled over.
A small tear appeared on the corner of her eye as she reminisced about the fierce bearded man who would spar with her till her arms bled, only to then take her out for a meal with the rest of the family around the city. Ashley sensed the change in her mood and looked up at her mom, but Elise quickly wiped away the tear and continued enthusiastically teaching her daughter basic knowledge of the kingdom.
The day quickly turned into night and the knights stopped the horses and began to set up camp for the night. This repeated for roughly two weeks until they finally arrived at the mountain range.
Ashley's mouth opened in amazement, there were towering mountains that seemed to stretch all the way to the heavens. The top of the mountains was covered in a thick layer of snow and the cry of birds and flying monsters echoed around them.
The mountains were packed together like an impenetrable barrier but there was a narrow man-made path leading into the valley. It was roughly the size of two horses, so the knights organised a single file and travelled through the gap cautiously.
Elise peered out of the window and saw a flock of red dots approaching the carriage and as the dots came closer and closer, she could make out their figures. Ugly bald heads, narrow red eyes and an enormous wingspan of five feet across. It was a flock of flame raptors, pack hunters who would ambush travellers and use their swift claws and talons to rip them apart piece by piece.
Despite the rapidly approaching enemies, the convoy was surprisingly calm. Elise was about to stroll out of the carriage and deal with the matter herself but was stopped by Floira who spoke," You do not have to worry about these trivial matters my lady. Elena has volunteered to handle the pest control."
Elise relaxed and sat back down, Ashley was curious and tugged on her mom's dress. Elise glanced at her daughter and lifted her up to get a better view of the outside. Elena got off her horse and confidently walked towards the birds swinging her hips as she went. The lead bird was significantly larger than the rest and let loose another cry. The flock immediately dipped and rushed towards Elena who stood in place.
There were no traces of panic on her face as she opened her mouth and begun to sing,
"Let's fly away my beautiful angels"
"Dust to dust the curtains falls"
"The reaper dances in the moonlight"
Her legs became to shift into a long shining tail as her voice rose in crescendo affecting the birds charging at her. The woman had flowing purple hair and a dainty waist but the aura of seduction around her made her seem like the only person in the world. The birds became to act confused and disoriented, as the singing became louder and louder.
The flock leader suddenly turned mad and attacked the closet bird to him. This turned into a ripple effect as each bird began to tear each other apart and terrible cries of pain were added to the song which somehow enhanced its tune.
Elise had long since covered Ashley's eyes and all she could hear was the beautiful melody sung by Elena with no clue the deaths that it caused. Elena finished her song and then there was a deadly silence, all the birds had died. They killed their own kind and then ripped their own bodies apart. Elena stood silently in the middle of the carnage balancing on her tail with an unknown expression on her face. Elise set Ashley down and walked towards her and patted her on the back gently.
"Well done Elena," she spoke kindly.
Elena turned to her, the duchess who had saved her life when she was in her deepest darkest moments of despair and thought that she should reply to her lady.
"Marry me my lady"
Elise was a bit confused.
Oh no! I just wanted to thank my lady. I didn't mean to give a confession!
I'm getting another new mom?!