Week 1: Write a haunting description of the eldritch beauty of an abandoned elf kingdom. (Inspired by The Lord of the Rings)
The elf kingdom had been abandoned for almost 400 years when Celia trampled into it. No other visitor had graced it for so long that the moss had grown up around the brick walls, encasing the kingdom in a green tomb. Celia couldn't believe her eyes when she realized where she was. The elf kingdom was known for its extravagance, but she had underestimated its beauty.
The large fountain that stood in the center of the main square still ran just as clean at it had so long ago. Celia ran her fingers through the cool water, but she drew back quickly when the water started avoiding her fingers. It must have been bewitched. Elves were known for their magical items, and it was no surprise to find such charms in their residence.
She headed through the large hall that lead into the lobby of the king's castle. The kingdom was silent, save for Celia's loud footsteps and the soft chirp of a distant bird. It was as if the entire kingdom had just stopped moving forward in time when the people left. Celia shivered thinking about how isolated this castle was, how the world had forgotten it, and how people once lived within the dark grey walls. She ran up the stairs; the faster she retrieved the treasure, the better.
The wind blew through the open holes in the ceiling, sending small leaves and twigs scurrying around Celia's feet. She stepped clumsily through the mess. Tripping over a pebble, she landed hard on the smooth granite floor. The coldness felt nice for a second, and she almost gave in to the temptation to just lay there, forgetting her objective. The kingdom had a way of fixating people on it. That's what her leader had said when Celia accepted the job. She had known that, and yet she still felt its pull very strongly.
Celia pushed herself up, grabbing the wooden banister at the top of the stairs to balance herself. She glanced left and then right, taking in the king's bedroom fully. His bed was neatly made, almost welcoming her to sleep in it at any minute. The bedding was nothing less than the finest silks, untouched by age even though no one had slept in the bed in centuries. She tore her eyes away from the comfort of the bedding to rest her eyes on what she had come for. Walking to the table on the right side of the room, Celia smiled intently.
The king's amulet lay on a blood red cushion in the center of the table. The blackness of the gem inside the ornament was almost ghostly. She held her breath as she gazed into its deep nothingness. This was the reason the elves were destroyed as a race, the reason that the kingdom lived only in memories. Celia reached her hand out to grab it, but just as her fingers grazed the silver edges, she heard a soft snap of a twig downstairs.
Turning around quickly, she poised herself ready for an attack. She breathed quietly, the wind around her rushing more air in and out of the building than her lungs would allow for her body at that moment. She watched the top of the staircase closely, but she was never greeted by another person. After ten minutes had passed, she let her guard down and turned back to the amulet. Much to her surprise and terror, it was no longer there.
In its place lay a small rolled piece of paper tied with an emerald green ribbon. Celia carefully picked it up, her heart beating heavily in her chest. She opened the paper to read a note scrawled out in what could only be the most raw form of Elvish writing she had ever seen. Her eyes scanned the words, and the message was very clear. She stumbled backwards, gasping for air. Turning around in a half daze, Celia managed to make it to the stairs. She ran down them, skipping a step or two here and there until she was at the bottom. She could see the entrance, the green walls. She could hear the wind chasing her as she ran disjointedly. The fountain ceased flowing as she passed it. Celia pushed herself through the arched entrance of the kingdom, collapsing into a thick grassy field.
As her leader strolled up to her, Celia could hear the large woman muttering under her breath, Should have known it was bewitched. Those elves are so damn tricky. Celia managed to push herself up to look at her leader in the eyes.
"What did the paper say, Agent C12?"
Without speaking, Celia handed the note to the woman. Her leader opened it, read it, and nodded sternly.
"You did well. Now get some sleep."
"But, the note... you had to have known sending me in there..."
"Yes, well, elves are mighty crafty. We had no idea. You're lucky you made it out."
Celia didn't think it was luck. If she had had one more second in the castle, she was sure she would have been immortalized the same way that the rest of it was. In fact, she knew it. She walked herself to her barracks as the wind scooped the note out of her leader's hands.
The words echoed softly as the wind carried the parchment over the brick walls into the forgotten kingdom:
"To enter a castle frozen in time,
One must not value their safety or life,
If ancient jewels are what you treasure,
Then as a jewel you'll remain here forever."