"Elves of the Northern Vale" A Tundrawolf Story

The Gates of Norvale

Katyr could barely open his eyes because of a blinding light coming from above. As he squinted at the brilliant crystal depths of blue he wondered if he was now in the warm embrace of the White Magic. He could not feel his body and he seemed to be floating in the blue expanse he was trying to look into. The Elf was warm and comfortable and thought if this was his ending it was not a bad thing at all.

Suddenly he realized he was still with the living as he felt pain in his head and the concerned face of Glynfiel came into view. She was dabbing and pushing down on his scalp with a wet cloth and muttering something he could not understand. He found his voice when he could see there were tears running down her cheeks, he became worried for her.

“Glyn? Is everything ok? Are you hurt?” he said, much louder than he meant to.

She stopped rubbing and looked at him in surprise. “Am I ok? Of course I am ok, you dolt! You are the one with the nasty gash on your head. I thought you were lost to me!” The concerned look became one of relief at hearing Katyr speak.

“Do not move!” she said as she turned to wipe away her tears. “You suffered a nasty blow and I need to put some more ointment on it. Can you wiggle your toes and fingers?”

He did so and found he could move everything as feeling came back to his body. He looked around at what he could see of the wedge and figured he was in about in the same spot as where he had fallen. While he looked at the walls he realized he must have been out for some time. He knew the wedge pointed towards due north. That meant if it was still morning the rising sun would be shining on the west wall. He could tell the sun was setting and low in the sky because the shadow of the west wall was showing on the east wall below the sun’s rays.

“How long have I been out?” he asked as the small Elf gently rubbed the ointment into his scalp.

“Almost the whole day,” she said as she concentrated on her work. “You gave me and Shadow quite a scare. I could not get the wound on your head to stop bleeding.” The big wolf’s furry face came into view as he looked down on Katyr. His ears were pricked forward and his pink tongue hung from one side of his mouth as he heavily panted. He was excited to see Katyr awake.

“What happened after I fell?” he said in a panic. Memories started to rush back to him. “Is everyone ok? The Dread Cats! Was anyone hurt?” He feared the worst as he started to remember.

“Stay still! I am almost done and then we can try moving you a bit,” she scolded. “Everyone is fine. We had some unexpected help that saved our lives, even if they were a bit rough,” she looked at the back of the wedge with a frown as she said the last part.

“There, all done with that part. You will have a bump for awhile, and probably a scar that your hair should cover,” she said as she wrapped a cloth around his head. “But you will be fine. Stay down for one more minute while I get you some broth. Then we will try sitting you up and see if you can keep it down. One must be very careful with head wounds. I will tell you everything that happened while you were out, when you eat.”

While she went to the entrance where the fire was he tried once again to look around the wedge. He found he could not move his head very far as it was cradled between two rocks. He became curious because he thought he was hearing a lot more noise around him than what their little pack would make, and he could not hear the horses at all. Shadowback had been watching Katyr and came to lie half way on his chest to keep him from moving around. He was a big heavy wolf of solid muscle and took Katyr’s breath away when he laid down, but the Elf was so comforted he did not complain.

Glynfiel came back and shooed the big wolf away, all the time scolding him for almost suffocating Katyr. She was holding a bowl and spoon made of wood. The spoon she used to wave in front of Shadowback’s nose as she sternly told him to be more careful. The bowl was filled with a steaming clear brown liquid that made his stomach growl when he caught a whiff of it. The small Elf carefully sat the bowl down on a rock and put the spoon beside it. She then went above  Katyr’s head and reached under his shoulders. She nodded to Shadowback to come over the top and straddle him while she got in place, all the while telling the wolf to be very careful. Katyr was inwardly smiling the whole time as he watched the little Elf mother over him and make the big ferocious wolf afraid of her.

“Grab on to Shadow. He will walk backwards to help you up while I hold and push on your shoulders. You must tell us if you feel any pain while you rise, do not be a hero Katyr!” she said. Looking at the wolf she said, “Now go, easy!”

He gently rose to a sitting position with no discomfort at all. Once he was sitting Glynfiel moved him around so his back was to the wall. She had a blanket waiting to cushion him as he leaned back. The small Elf handed him the bowl of broth after he made himself comfortable. He felt no pain anywhere in his body, only his throbbing head.

Katyr was amazed as he looked about the floor of the small cleft. Over a dozen wolves sat and lay upon the ground around them, wolves of the Solid Tundra Wolf tribe. He could see more sitting and laying about outside with the horses. The Saddlebacks of his pack were about him also. Two of the largest Solids close to him rose to sitting positions as he got settled against the wall.

“Meet Longtail and Sandpaws of the Falling Sky Clan,” Glynfiel said as she started spooning him broth. “It was they and their pack who saved our lives from the Dread Cats.”

Longtail was the Duke and leader of the pack. He wore a coat of long dark gray fur over an undercoat of pale yellow. He looked upon Katyr with eyes of molten gold while showing the tips of his large pearly white fangs. The pack leader was brawny and tall, almost the size of Shadowback, very big for a Solid. Sandpaws was the Duchess of the pack and mate to Longtail. Her fur was a dark brown that turned a tan color on her legs and feet. She was a beautiful wolf and looked upon him with large golden-brown eyes under long delicate lashes. The two led a pack of almost forty wolves.

Katyr sat his bowl down and stood, much to the aggravation of Glynfiel and Shadowback, and his stomach. On wobbly legs he walked over to the wolves and knelt before them. He gave each the proper wolf greeting, first to Longtail and then to Sandpaws. He felt warm feelings coming to him through the Wild Wolf Magic. He first scratched under Longtail’s chin and received a warm lick across his face as he moved his hands up behind the wolf’s ears. He then did the same with Sandpaws and got the same warm greeting back. Katyr then put his arms around the large necks of both wolves at the same time.

“Thank you so much for saving the lives of my friends and myself. We owe you and your pack a debt. Thank you, my new friends,” he said softly to the wolves.

He then arose and walked back to his friends, his legs feeling much stronger under him than before. He sat down next to Glynfiel and started sipping on his broth. Once the little Mage was sure he would keep the thin soup down she helped Katyr up and led him back to his bedroll. When he was sitting again she began telling him about the Dread Cat attack. While she talked she tended to a pot of stew simmering on the fire.

Glynfiel told him she was almost trampled when the horses ran from the back of the wedge. The poor mounts did their best to miss her but as she moved to get out of the way she was clipped by one of their hooves. The second the horses left the wedge it was flooded by the Solids with an angry Longtail and Sandpaws leading the pack. The wolves stormed in with ferocious growls and barks and white fangs bared. Glynfiel said Longtail ran straight for him, jumped up on his back and pushed him down to the ground. None too soon did Katyr fall for seconds later the huge paw of a Dread Cat with claws extended came sweeping down from above, right through the air where his head had been.

Katyr was surprised when she told him it was actually three Dread Cats that invaded their little sanctuary. He had only known of them to hunt in pairs. She saw the third appear as if by magic at the back of the wedge when the wolves came rushing in. The moment it moved she spied the dreadful thing hanging from the side of the rock wall. It was smaller than the other two and must have been their cub.

She believed it was the ancient magic within the Dread Cats that allowed the three to get so close. She thought it was the reason neither she nor Katyr sensed them through the White Magic. If not for the arrival of the Solid Tundra Wolves the big cats would have been amongst them.

He figured the three must have come stalking down on silent paws, gripping the narrow ledges that went throughout the cleft. They could be deadly quiet when they wanted to. Glynfiel said the Saddlebacks did not smell them because they were outside checking on the storm. Only the horses sensed them as they drew close.

As soon as the wedge filled with the Solids the three cats screamed and quickly jumped back up to the top. They disappeared from view in the blink of an eye. The wolves growled ferociously and tried to climb the walls as she got up and ran to check on him. The Solids stood a restless guard inside and out of the wedge against the return of the cats. Fortunately they never came back.

The little Elf told how Shadowback and the rest of the Saddlebacks came rushing in with the Solids. Shadowback and his two daughters went quickly to stand guard over him with furious growls and white fangs flashing. Mid Day and the other two pack mates came to stand guard over her, terribly upset because of the Dread Cat invasion.

Glynfiel gleaned from Longtail and Sandpaws the Dread Cats were caught in a cave higher in the foothills when the Fell Wind came. The cave was just to the east of their little wedge and not too very far away. The pack of Solids knew about them because they had sought protection in a narrow canyon that happened to be directly below the cats. They were smelling them the whole time the winds blew. The wolves also caught scent of them, their horses and the Saddlebacks before the storm raged too strong. Once the wind stopped blowing the wolves tracked the Dread Cats knowing they would probably make for the horses in the cleft. The Solids followed along at the base of the foothills and saved the day.

Katyr wondered why Dread Cats would attack a band of Elves and Tundra Wolves together. It was not a thing they were known for. When he found out they were holed up in a cave for five days and six nights he knew why. They were hungry, and the smell of horse must have spurred them to take the chance. It would be nothing for a Dread Cat to climb down into their wedge, latch onto one of their horses and then jump back out while carrying it. The big cats were huge, equipped with massive fangs and claws, and extremely powerful.

Glynfiel said she only received a bruise and some minor scrapes when the horses ran by. The little Elf was more worried for him, especially when he did not wake up after receiving such a nasty cut on his head. She knew he was still alive but was afraid he may have fallen into the deep sleep of the White Magic. She sat with him dressing his wound repeatedly as the day went by. The head wound kept bleeding and she had to change the bandage often. Glynfiel started to weep softly again when she told Katyr of the relief she felt when he came back to her.

“It is all right now Glyn,” He said putting down his stew and moving closer to her. “I am fine. My head is even feeling better. You saved me!”

“It was not me, it was the wolves, you dolt!” she said. “I was so afraid I had lost you. I have grown fond of you Katyr and I have known too much loss of late. I did not want to travel to the North Vale without you.”

The two sat quietly for a time just holding each other. Later they cleaned up their kits and started once again to prepare to leave the next day. Both gave shy smiles to each other, happy to be in one another’s company.

When they were done getting ready for the next day Katyr held Glynfiel once again. They sat beside the softly crackling fire while looking to the night sky. It was the first time since staying in the wedge the air above was crystal clear and free of clouds. Thousands of beautiful sparkling stars could be seen through their tiny view of the sky. They seemed so close one could almost reach out and touch them. While Katyr held Glynfiel he recited the names and the endowments of all the stars and planets he knew of within their view. They fell asleep content in each other’s arms under the beautiful sky with almost fifty snoring wolves around them.

The next morning Glynfiel deemed Katyr fit enough to ride out and the two left the wedge that was their home for seven nights and six days. They had no firewood to leave and replace what they burned so they left a bag of their dried rations. The two hoped the food would still be good for the next traveler in need of the use of the wedge.

They rode out just as the sun broke over the Tallspines off in the distance. The world was a white wilderness of snow made smooth from the blowing winds. Their golden mounts made the iced coating over the snow crunch with every step of their hooves. The two Elves were surprised when Longtail’s pack ran on ahead of them. This was the land the pack roamed in. Their territory went almost as far as the road leading into the mountains and up to the Vale. Both were happy for their company as were the Saddlebacks. Dread Cats were prone to stay after their prey if it escaped. With this many Tundras about them the big cats would surely give up the chase.

It took the Elves a full one and a half moon turns to reach the beginning of the road leading to the Northern Vale. It was a cold day when they reached it, the day of the Full Frost Moon. They said goodbye to Longtail and Sandpaws plus some of the pack members they befriended. The Solids had no desire to visit the Vale even though they would have been more than welcome. Tundra Wolves were always accepted in any of the Elven Vales for they were deemed Elf friends with hearts of gold. The wolves turned and ran back the way they had come making new trails as they ran and jumped through the deep snow.

Katyr was amazed at what he saw when they arrived. Two huge statues stood at the beginning of the road going up into the mountains, one at each side.  At the base of each statue stood a small grove of gossamar trees. Katyr could see their smooth white trunks and large canopies of red leaves. Glynfiel told him the little groves were there for  weary travelers to camp in. A place to rest before taking the day long walk up to the mighty gates of the Vale.

“We will camp under the gossamars for tonight,” Glynfiel said. “The air is sweet and refreshing in the groves. It will give us all a good rest before we take the long walk to the Gates of Norvale. If we leave early enough in the morning we should be at the gates by this time tomorrow.”

“The Gates of Norvale,” Katyr said. “We shall see the Norvale Guard then, will we not? Halamar and Orist will be so jealous!”

Katyr was entranced with the two statues that guarded the entrance to the road. On the east side stood a beautiful Elven Queen over a hundred paces tall in a long flowing gown. She was carved from a beautiful pink and white granit which was polished to a high degree. She faced towards the south and looked up at the sky. With one hand she held a bouquet of long stemmed flowers across her chest. The flowers and leaves on the ends of the stems were intricately carved. The other hand was placed under the Queen’s chin with the palm facing upward. Her face looked as if she were blowing a kiss. Glynfiel said it was the Elves thanking the Sun for the defeat of the Fell Ice. She said the Queen’s face always looked towards the sun as it went across the sky. No matter how long or hard one watched you would never see her move.

The other statue was that of a mighty Elven King. He stood taller than the Queen and faced towards the north with his shield and sword raised to the mountain tops. His armor gleamed in the late afternoon sun. The  black granite from which he was formed was so polished it shone like glass. Glynfiel said the mighty King faced the Fell Ice at the top of the world. She said that it was told the Fell Wind never blew through the road to the Vale, nor did ice or snow stick to it, because of the King’s protection.

“You are looking at the great King Filvandor and his Queen Valindra. The last leaders of the Elves at the end of the Dark Times, when the White Magic defeated the Black. They were also in charge during the first battle against the Fell Ice. When it first attacked the world,” Glynfiel said as she came to stand beside him. “Many Elves of the Northern Vale claim to be direct descendants of the two. They call themselves the Pure-bloods, or the Royals, and believe it should be they that reign over all of Elven-kind. They hold themselves above all Elves.”

“You do not think much of them, I take it?” Katyr said, noticing the contempt in her voice as she spoke the last part.

“Let us just say they are very hard to talk to. The High Mage Belador could never get anywhere with the Northern Elves when he came here. The politics within a Vale is troubling he would say, but when it spills over to the other Vales it becomes a disaster. He always left in disappointment and frustration,” she said.

“You are going to have to be very forceful when you talk to the Mages of the North, Katyr. They think themselves high and mighty. And the Pure-bloods affect everything in the Vale. Your saving grace is the strength of the White Magic that resides within you. You will have to act the part of a Mage, Katyr. They must not question if you have attended the House of Lore. Hopefully what I have taught you will get you by,” Glynfiel said as they walked back to their camp. “Hopefully the message you bring and the death of the General and the High Mage will make them take notice. Like you Katyr, I fear for their people, and I hope they do too”.

As they set up their camp the little Battle Mage continued to tell him all she knew about the Elves of the Northern Vale. They talked long into the night under the fragrance of the gossamar trees.

The next morning, well before sunup, the Tundras milled excitedly about the camp. They woke the Elves as they were eager to get started on the road up to the Vale. The two quickly packed up camp while eating dried rations. While they put their packs and bags on Besh the small Mage gave Kaytr some last words of advice.

“Walking the road to the Northern Vale is not like walking ours at home,” she said. “There will be no guards hailing us once we pass the statues, but that does not mean they are not there. We will be watched every step of the way and they can hear everything we say. So let us be careful with our words.”

The two Elves were soon ready and rode off on their golden mounts with the small wolf pack around them. Katyr was amazed once again as they rode between the giant sentries marking the entrance to the Vale. As they rode between the stone giants he could not stop looking at the craftsmanship of the stonework that made them. He was also surprised no snow was upon the wide cobblestone road going beyond the statues, even though snow covered the boulders and stone walls all along the sides. Katyr noticed it was very quiet as they passed the tall sentries and he could feel what Glynfiel had been talking about. It seemed eyes were upon him with every step they took.

They met very few travelers as they walked at an easy pace up the road. Most did not travel to the Vale at this time of the turn. The ones they did meet were mostly bands of soldiers, all wearing light armor and bundled up in their gossamar cloaks against the cold. They rode down to relieve others in hidden outposts along the stone walls. Occasionally they would meet a solitary hunter wearing furs and pulling a string of pack horses on their way down to the Snow Forest or the foothills of the Tallspines. Once they even met a pack of Solid Tundras leaving the Vale on their way to the Wolfswood. The large pack of wolves mingled amongst them sniffing everything and giving happy barks and howls as they went by. Glynfiel told him when she had been on the road before it was often choked with travelers of all kinds. However it was during the spring and summer months when the lands were warmer and the journey was easier. All those they did meet were friendly and gave greeting as they passed them by. It gave Katyr an encouraging feeling.

The road was a series of fairly steep climbs as it wound and twisted through the mountains. They encountered many switch backs that took them higher and higher. Katyr was glad for the magic that kept the road clear of ice and snow, the climb would have been treacherous without it. The two would dismount often and walk giving their horses a rest as they ascended the well kept road. The wolves would constantly run on ahead only to return whenever they met travelers coming down. Not once did they encounter any travelers going their way as they climbed up to the Vale.

The tired little band arrived late in the afternoon at the gates that guarded the entrance to the Northern Vale. The mighty Gates of Norvale were thrown open wide to allow any that wished to enter. Once again Katyr was truly amazed at the sight that lay before him. The gates stood at over a hundred feet tall and were made of thick solid stone. They gleamed bright in the afternoon sun and were made of the same strong black granit as that of the King below. Thick steel straps as wide as an Elf made an ‘X’ on  the gates to reinforce the stone. They were held by heavy steel studs running down each strap. Glynfiel told him the gates sat on thick, well oiled hinges made from the finest Manser iron. She said even though the gates were so large it took only a handful of Elves to quickly winch them shut in times of trouble. The gates were massive and looked as if they could never be breached.

At each side stood a flanking tower even taller than the gates hanging from them. They were made of huge stone blocks cut from the dark gray stone of the mountains. Many long sky-blue tapestries trimmed in gold hung down the sides of each tower. Katyr could see flocks of white dove and other birds circling around the tops of the battlements. Soldiers wearing gleaming winged helms and highly burnished armor patrolled up on the wall-walks looking down from the huge circular towers. They wore long sky blue cloaks trimmed in gold and carried tall lances tipped with flags of the same color. He could see more of the same soldiers looking from the wide arrow-loops that went up the sides of the towers and down at the base of the gates. The metal of their blue tinted armor gleamed brightly even in the fading sunlight. Those were the Norvale Guard, the finest warriors of the Northern Vale.

Katyr was in awe of the fortifications and the soldiers as they rode through the giant entryway and into the Vale. Yet all of the grandeur and might he had seen at the entrance did not prepare him for what was beyond. He was astonished with the view that lay before him. Glynfiel’s words had not done it justice.

The little band finally reached their destination. The Saddlebacks barked and howled in delight as they went running on ahead.

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