INSIDE THE CAVERN ON THE BLACK ELVES
Svartalfheim was quite a distance to travel. Located deep within the bowels of the earth, it was home to the black eleves, the greatest of master craftsmen. If anyone could make good on my wild promise to Thor, I was in safe hands here.
Of all the clans, I chose Ivaldi’s Sons — known for their talents in crafts requiring fine details. They were also clever, though surprisingly quite trustworthy.
They didn’t speak much. I walked silent halls all busy with trade, but almost in silence. The effect was quite eerie as I placed my order, outlining my preferences in a quiet voice, and not forgetting the key to keeping favour with the elves: always ask what else they might like to do for you. It would cost me, but the future advantages would far outweigh the expense.
Besides, I wasn’t as broke as the rest of the Æsir.
The small folk waved me away, giving me a gauge of how long to wait by pointing at a crude drawing of a man on the wall. It depicted a man’s life from infancy to adulthood, and beyond to a wizened, elderly man, with long, straggling hair and a hunched back.
To my relief the silent elf pointed to a young child just beyond infancy. I frowned, hoping he meant a human life span, or I could be down here for centuries. The elves gathered in a small knot, then the same one as before tapped the picture of a baby.
I grinned, nodding, but their expressions never changed, their dark, round eyes haunting in the green light cast by their torches. Just a little creeped out, I backed away and found a hall lined with stalls as a means of escape.
Wall sconces held blackened flames, their chartreuse tips just enough light to see by, trinkets sparkling in the stalls and shops that lined every hall.
And there were plenty of those.
I wandered in the dark for some time, eating when I had to, otherwise watching the elves in their ceaseless work. Needing to sleep only as little as me, they crafted into the night, though without a sun or any visible clock or method to observe time, I had no idea how they worked anything out.
I lost a sense of myself as I watched their habits, learning small tidbits of their crafts, their clever ways they folded things to make the large fit into impossibly small places, or knots that unravelled to create spaces bigger than they should have.
The way they harnessed the winds.
It was perhaps greedy of me, but I enjoyed having the time to myself; though I knew Sigyn would have enjoyed the wonders of the Black Elves’ halls.
Regular dinners with dwarf brothers Brokkr and Sindri broke my concentration, but only long enough to marvel with their wares. Their blacksmithy situated beside an Inn carved into the glistening black rock of the halls, holding to the almost mystical feel of the caverns.
I discovered a fabulous pair of flying shoes, red, with tiny wings at the heel, to speed the wearer to wherever they might wish to go. They fit well inside my cloak, and I was pleased with my first purchase.
One stall in particular held my attention. The tabletop was littered with knots of various uses; one for forgetting, one for finding, one as an actual clasp to secure an item — though none but the bearer could untie it.
I found a string that would twist between my fingers, knotting and uncurling as I practiced the movements the craftself demonstrated with speed. The repetitive motion soothed me, and I was happy to pass over the small sum he required.
What interested me most was the large box at the back of the shop.
When the maker lifted the lid, there were nine secret compartments inside. He could remove one without disturbing the rest, and lock them all. I began to work out just how much to offer him, when the creepy elves returned en masse, at my elbow.
With their blank faces lifted to mine, they gestured together, their movements a mirror of each other.
I nodded, pasting a smile on my face, and followed at a respectable distance.
The hall they led me to dwarfed anything I’d experienced before. And as a god, even with a little ‘g’, that was saying something.
Standing inside the apparently roofless cavern, I stared into the darkness that was the pinnacle of their creation. Sconces lit the tall walls as they loomed forever upwards with a faint tinge of green. I wondered if they’d carved a space all the way from the centre of the realm to just beneath the surface.
I wondered if the land dwellers knew what was right beneath their feet.
Silently, the Black Elves made a line that stretched across the vast cavern; had they downed tools and brought every one of their clan to me for their presentation? I swallowed at the realisation this meant far more to them than it did to me.
One stepped toward me, arms extended with a beautiful skein of gold. It flashed green beneath their odd torches, but when the mastercraftsman — elf? — placed the mass of hair in my arms, it was light as air but smooth, flowing with a life of its own where tumbling over my arms.
He held out a small, drawstring bag and the hair poured in, not wasting so much as an inch of space and tied it off neatly. He presented the bag to me with a steady bow. No flourishes for these folk, but then with the mastery of their crafts, it wasn’t necessary. Their art spoke more than any overbearing gesture could.
I nodded my thanks, mentally preparing some inane speech that couldn’t possibly compare with their silence, when another took his place. This time, it was an elf with a short stick in his hands. I eyed it warrily; thin lines that looked to have been carved on to the delicate piece with great force, from their depth, lined the thing.
With a quick flick, it extended to a much greater length, just slightly taller than my own height, topped with a very sharp metal point that glinted at me. The craftsman spun it between his fingers, faster than he should ever have been able, wind brushing beneath my ears, caressing my neck before he stilled, then thrust it toward my face.
The breeze of a moment ago returned with full force, assaulting me with its bluster then ceased just as quickly. I peeked through slitted eyes I hadn’t realised I’d closed to find the point of the spear only millimetres from my nose. I slid a finger gingerly between me and it, prodding it away as my brain finally caught up.
“You’ve harnessed the four winds. Very clever. It will never miss, am I correct?”
“Gungnir.” With a short nod, the elf passed the stick to me, demonstrating the movement to extend its length, then reduce it again. He also gave a short bow.
I smiled, insanely pleased with a gift I knew I wouldn’t keep — a weapon of such beauty and craftsmanship deserved a warrior; and that, I would never be.
He backed away only to be replaced by a female elf, brandishing a small envelope. I raised an eyebrow, not willing to guess what it might be. She, alone gave me the vaguest hint of a smile, then gestured me away.
I took a step in the direction she indicated but small hands grasped at my clothes, tugging me backwards. I complied, letting them tow me into a place they were happy with, until we formed a half-ring around the room, the female elf in the centre.
She raised her gift, opening it like one would a newspaper on Midgard. Then another fold opened, and another, white paper flexing and billowing outward until a large sail, filled with wind in a still and silent room sat before us. But even so, it was still dwarfed in such a space, and I knew there was more to come.
At the bottom of the sail she began a complex pattern of folds. Opening and twisting, to reveal something hidden beneath it. When she was finished, her finger on the absolute tip of her work, she turned only her head to me, and smiled.
I couldn’t smile back. I couldn’t do a damned thing, other than stare at her craft. Master indeed. There was no other word for it. A Master of Masters, creating movement where none existed.
In the centre of the room, completely filling it, stood a magnificent ship, with eight large sails which had captured a wind beneath the earth.
Her single word no more than a breath, the ship responded to it, gliding across the stone floor as though it were the open sea.
I gaped in absolute awe, tears springing to my eyes with the beauty of it. Managing to close my mouth, I turned my attention fully to her and bowed in equal silence, finally understanding why these people, existing beneath the surface but in full control of the realms secrets, rarely spoke.
Their arts — their marvels — were their communication.
The elf held my gaze, twisting her wrists to refold her craft, and placed the small envelope in my open hands. I swallowed, still in awe and bowed low, holding it with respect and gratitude as the little elf moved away.
When I straightened, I was alone, the three marvels clutched in my grasp.
Not So…Evil Book 4
by Sofia Aves
Genre: Paranormal Romance, Dark Fantasy
A child isn’t born evil…is he?
Mischiefmaker, silver tongue, trickster… Mayhem follows Loki throughout the nine realms, earning him a reputation as a bringer of chaos. But there is more to Loki than mortals see, and life is boring for an immortal when no one really gets him.
A little mischief is harmless in the hands of a god, right?
Companion to Odin and Thor but shunned by the Norse gods of the Ӕsir, Loki still seeks their acceptance. No matter how many times he saves their supreme backsides, his every effort ends with a death threat casually tossed in his direction.
Increasing his attempts to impress the Ӕsir, Loki tires of their constant disdain despite his successes in their impossible challenges. So, he turns to what he does best: chaos.
Follow the trickster god Loki through the perfectly normal life of a disillusioned god, and find out what makes him NOT SO…EVIL.
This book is a stand-alone read, a chronicle of Loki’s mischief and love in this collection of NOT SO…EVIL origin stories.
Sofia is a romantic suspense author from Brisbane, Australia. She started writing romance when she couldn’t find the books she wanted on the shelves in her local bookstore and became addicted to storytelling. She exists on a diet of coffee and champagne and routinely kills her collection of tortured orchids.
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