Anyway, this is a story I wrote for a game I play. It's actually one of the better stories I've written so I hope you enjoy! The picture is by Gina Biggs - you can see one of the characters, Kaylee, on the right. The other person is Henry who's not in this story, but I thought it'd be nice to have some sort of visual reference. The art work was commissioned.
It was a beautiful morning. The stormy season had finally passed and the air seemed crisp as autumn slowly made it’s presence known. I remember noticing that the leaves hadn’t quite began to dry out yet. Encouraged by my tutor at the time, Naia, to enjoy what was certainly one of the last days of summer, I found myself outside wondering how to pass the time. I had been so immersed in my studies recently that I hardly knew what to do with free time. Naia was lucky my brothers were otherwise occupied today, they never approved of “play time”. If Mon’el had his way I have spent all my time reading the dusty tomes piled up in the library. I wished that Surin were home, I hadn’t seem him in months and I missed him constantly. Inevitably I found myself outside the stables, it was where I always ended up when I had time to myself.
Or stables were on the small side, we only housed five horses on a regular basis and there was only room for three more. I suppose it didn’t really matter because we never had any visitors, but it was the static nature of our stables that made me realize the day was going to be a strange one. My horse, Stormlight, was in her stall as usual, as well as Faithless (Mon’el’s), Journey (Grezik’s), and Rhionna (the courier’s). Grey Ghost was out in the field as Surin hadn’t taken her on whatever his latest excursion was. Today something was different though occupying two normally vacant stalls were a pair of beautiful white horses. I had never seen anything like them, they were tall and sleek and looked as if they were kin to the wind itself. I was mesmerized and didn’t notice the stable boy until he was standing right next to me.
“Amazing, aren’t they?” the stable boy asked. I turned to regard him for a moment. Sky was taller than I was, as most of the humans who served us were. He would probably be near six foot when he was fully grown but he was still young and only stood a head higher than I. He had golden hair that fell just below his ears in loose curls and bright blue eyes that I assumed had inspired whomever had chosen his name. He had freckles on his face from spending so much time in the sun, and his usual easygoing smile had been replaced with a grimace. It was strange, I almost didn’t recognize him - it was as if the carefree stable boy had been replaced by... something darker.
“Yes, they are. What’s wrong, where are they from?” He seemed surprised that I didn’t know. Shaking his head and sitting on an upturned bucket he shoved his hair away from his face.
“You really don’t know?”. I shook my head. “They belong to the elves being kept in your brothers’ little dungeon.” I was genuinely startled by this news. Elves, here? Our home was in the middle of nowhere, Robelia. No one ever came here without a reason.
“That’s... well, that’s the strangest thing I’ve heard in a long time. I wonder why they didn’t tell me about it.”
“That, I can’t tell you, although I’d expect there’s a lot your brothers don’t bother to inform you of.” I scowled att he beautiful human.
“You’re probably right, but it’s really none of your business. Still, I wish I knew what was going on.” Sky stared at me for a moment, as if fitting a finishing piece to a puzzle he’d been working on for some time.
“You could always ask them yourself.”
“No, I know what they’d tell you - that they’re spies of some sort. They’re too paranoid to see anything else. I meant the elves.” I cast him a suspicious glance.
“If they’re being held in the cells it’ll be hard to speak to them without my brothers knowing about it.” Sky’s brilliant smile returned to his face at my words.
“Oh I don’t know Kaylee, I think between the two of us we can figure something out.” At this point I was fairly certain he wanted to talk to the elves as much as I did - and he needed my help to do it. Despite the warnings in the back of my head my impulsive nature won out and I agreed. Sky seemed pleased and we agreed to meet by the west tower within the next hour.
Our “dungeon” (more like a secured basement with a few cells) had been relatively easy to access with Sky’s help. Mon’el had been using his magic to back up Surin’s security measures but Sky seemed to be able to unravel the spells and I was able to get through the more mundane traps - Surin had been using his traps to train me for years, if they’d been someone else’s I’d never have gotten through as they we’re beyond my capabilities. I’d learned enough of Surin’s particular style by then to be able to bypass them. I was surprised at Sky’s hidden talents. After this was over I’d have to have a long talk with him as there was obviously more to him then first met the eye. It bothered me that he’d been living with us for six years now and I’d never seen him as anything more than a sweet and handsome stable boy. It bothered me even more that I had a feeling that was exactly what he had intended. As I disarmed the last of Surin’s traps I glanced up to notice Sky smiling at me.
“Lord Surin’s trained you well - you’ve grown up a lot since I first met you Kaylee.”
“If you say so - you haven’t really known me that long.”
“Haven’t I though? Since you tend to have a habit of dragging your hapless tutors to the stables for your lessons I’ve gotten to see you progress in your studies. You’ve become more studious, more serious. Sometimes I miss the light hearted Kaylee I first knew.”
“I’m almost an adult in elf years now - I have to become more “serious” as you put it. It’s expected of me.”
“Maybe - but it only proves my point, you’ve grown up.” I didn’t feel grown up but now was not the time to have this conversation.
“We should go. Someone could notice that the wards have been dispelled.” Sky nodded and we continued to the cells.
“I just wanted you to know that I’m proud of you.” It seemed an odd thing to say.
The elf girl was beautiful, but it was the male I noticed first - he seemed to recognize Sky. I watched him carefully as Sky introduced the two of us and saw him quickly shutter his recognition. Interesting, but something that could wait for later. Sky was especially formal when addressing the girl and she seemed surprised to see me there. She was also impatient.
“Please, can you help us get out of here? We haven’t done anything wrong and my companion is injured.” I scowled.
“You misunderstand. I came here to learn why you’re here, not to help you escape my brothers’ prison. What are you doing here?” For a moment I thought she’d start crying but she composed herself quickly. Sky waited silently beside me.
“We mean you no harm! We’ve told the other dark elf the same thing!”
“Not good enough.” Sky coughed softly and we turned our attention to him.
“Please my Lady, I assure you that Lady Kaylee is much more reasonable than her brothers, just tell her the truth and perhaps she can speak on your behalf.” Yet another discrepancy - since when did Sky speak like a courtier? The girl took a deep breath and began to speak.
“Maybe he’s right, maybe you can understand.” She looked at me hopefully and I gestured for her to continue - I realized that she wasn’t much older than me. “I ran away from home. My father had told me that my arranged marriage, something I had believed would never come to pass, was almost certain to go through. I didn’t want to marry a man I’d never even met, and especially not a man from a foreign country. So I escaped. Ostarian and Legan - the elf your brother killed - found me a few days ago and convinced me of the importance of the marriage and reminded me of my duty. By that time I’d been traveling for several weeks, and quite honestly, we were a bit lost. I knew I was in Robelia but not where. We were traveling in the general direction of the Alith’en border when we crossed into your land. We thought to buy supplies but instead have been taken for intruders. I swear on my life that we meant no harm - and I will also swear that neither Ostarian or I will ever mention this place or your family to anyone if you only find it in your heart to let us go!”
I wondered how this girl had survived in a noble house with such an obvious lack of guile - her every emotion shone clearly on her face. I looked over at Sky and rethought my evaluation - maybe she, like Sky, was just that good. I sighed knowing that not only did I believe her story, but that there was a part of me that empathized. I’d speak to my brothers.
“I’ll do what I can, but don’t get your hopes up.” She smiled while her guard glowered at me suspiciously.
“We’d appreciate anything you can do for us. We’re in your debt my Lady.” I shook my head at her, I didn’t want to hear any more of this - she was manipulating my emotions and even though I was aware of it I didn’t seem to be able to do anything about it. It was time to go.
“Sky, we should leave before we’re caught.” He nodded and bowed the girl. She nodded regally in response. Why did I feel as if I was the only one here that didn’t know what exactly was going on? Sky led the way up the winding passageway as I trailed behind him. I was so absorbed in my own thoughts that I didn’t hear Grezik moving down the hallway. Sky shoved me into an alcove before I could react and stepped out to put himself in Grezik’s path. My brother reacted quickly on seeing a servant where they didn’t belong - his sword was at Sky’s throat before I could let out my breath.
“Boy, what are you doing down here?” Grezik’s voice was harsh and sent a shiver up my spine. I worked hard at remaining absolutely still.
“Exactly what it looks like Lord Grezik, I was talking to your prisoners.” I was startled that Sky hadn’t tried to lie until I realized he was hoping Grezik wouldn’t look for anyone else if he thought he had the culprit in hand. I was, after all, obvious that the traps had been disabled and dispelled. Grezik was more than willing to accept Sky’s confession - he had never been one for intrigue.
“You’ll be coming with me boy, and perhaps you can explain how it is a stable boy comes by enough magical talent to counter our failsafes. We can have a nice long conversation.” There was poison in Grezik’s words. It was enough to make me begin to step out as they passed the alcove. Sky noticed and waved me back. I froze yet again and saw him drop his belt pouch to the ground. My brother only had eyes for his prisoner and continued on, oblivious to his little sister standing only a few feet beyond him. After he was out of sight I stepped away from my hiding place and picked up Sky’s pouch. At first I thought there was nothing special about it but then I opened it. Inside, imprinted on the soft leather, was the emblem of a House. Sky didn’t expect to survive and he had left me the clue I needed to find out who he really was - the elvish symbols surrounding the emblem translated to Callandras. I knew him well enough to know he’d dropped this not only to keep it out of my brothers’ hands, but also to give me a way to find his family, to tell them what had happened to him. Realizing this I also understood something else - whatever else he was, Sky was my friend, and he was going to die because he needed me to help the elves downstairs. Whoever my brothers’ had imprisoned was important enough to die for.
I had come in the room in enough time to hear Sky repeat his story again and inform my brothers of just what he thought of their actions. Quicker than my eye could follow Grezik’s sword slid through Sky’s body. I stood horrified as his once vibrant body slid to the floor, lifeless. Blood pooled around his body and all I could think was that his beautiful hair would get blood on it. My mind had blanked, part of me hadn’t really thought they’d kill him. Mon’el was yelling at Grezik - something about killing Sky before they’d learned what he’d been up to. Grezik made some excuse about Sky falling onto his sword. I barely heard them and they hadn’t seen me standing there. I’d come to try and find a way to stop them, to convince them to let him go, even if it meant sacrificing Sky’s precious elves. Now that he was dead the only thing I could do for him was rescue the prisoners. I left the room quietly tears welling up in my eyes. Surin had just come home, I had seen him walking toward his room on my way from the west tower. He was the only one I could turn to now.
“Please Surin! Mon’el won’t suspect you; he doesn’t even know that you’re back yet!” Tears were running down Kaylee’s face. It wasn’t the homecoming I’d expected, but obviously things had taken a turn for the worse since I’d been gone. Perhaps living on the surface world had softened me, but seeing the pain in my little sister’s eyes was enough to make me agree to her request, outrageous though it was. Sitting there holding Kaylee as if she were still the small child whom I’d carried away from the Underdark, I came to terms yet again with the fact that I’d do anything she wanted me to. She was one of the only things that made me feel as if the world wasn’t all coldness and cruelty.
“Princess, please stop crying. I can’t help at all if you don’t tell me why you want me to lead our elven prisoners back to their home. What’s happened?” Kaylee pulled back from me to look up into my face and took a few deep breaths to steady her voice. Calling her by my pet name for her always seemed to calm her down.
“G-Grezik found them on our land - they didn’t know we were here! Mon’el thinks that they’re spies, or at least that they’d tell the other elves about us. Sky took me to talk to them. It’s one girl, hardly older than me, and an older man who seems to be a guard. She told me how she had run away from home. She - she said that she didn’t want to marry a man she had never met. Her guards found her and convinced her to come home. They saw our home and wanted to request shelter and supplies for their journey back. Grezik found them and killed one guard and captured the girl to force the other guard to surrender. They didn’t know, and they won’t tell! The girl promised me - I’m afraid for them.”
“Afraid of what, Princess? I can’t think that even our brothers would kill them for no reason. Mon’el may just be keeping them until he can research a spell that will allow us to release them without knowledge of our whereabouts.” Her tears had begun to dry and the fierce passion that I was so familiar with began to burn in her eyes.
“Then why did they kill Sky?!?” I was genuinely confused.
“Sky? The stableboy? Kaylee, what are you talking about?” There was a strange energy that rolled off my sister’s body and the shadows began to coalesce around her. She was angry enough to be losing control of her magic.
“Yes, Sky, the stable boy. My friend! Grezik caught us except Sky heard him coming and hid me. He covered for me and now he’s dead because of it. He told them he’d gone down alone to talk to the elves, that he’d broken through all the traps himself. He stood there, stronger than I know how to be, and told them that they were wrong to imprison the elves. Grezik cut him down and all I could do was watch. All I could do...” She was fighting back tears as I stood there stunned at my brothers’ heartlessness. Kaylee was right, if they had done that to the stableboy they certainly wouldn’t release their prisoners. I loved my brothers, as did Kaylee, and we both knew that they did what they believed was necessary to protect what was left of our House. I guess until then I hadn’t realized just how far they’d go - killing an insubordinate servant stuck me as excessive - especially the fact that they’d acted in such haste. I raked my fingers through my hair in frustration and began to pull together a plan.
“Kaylee.” She shook her head and caught my eyes. “We’ll have to do this quickly or it won’t happen at all, do you understand?” She nodded, her anger and despair wiping from her face as she felt responsibility sink onto her shoulders. “You need to free them from the cells and lead them out the west tower passage. I will get supplies but their horses will have to stay here. I saw their mounts on the way in and such expensive trappings will draw too much attention as our brothers will try and pursue them. I’ll meet you in the woods and I will find a way to get them home. I promise.”
“Thank you Surin.” She leaned over and gave me a small hug and pocketed the lock pick set I handed her. Without another word she left and I knew she’d complete her end of our task. I sighed and grabbed my satchel. Luckily I hadn’t even begun to unpack so I’d only have to get supplies for the two elves. Of course I would have to steal from my own home so the servants wouldn’t notice that I’d returned, but that would be easy enough. I buckled my daggers into place and headed for the kitchens.
I wasn’t waiting in the woods for long before Kaylee lead the prisoners away from the western tower. The guardsman was in poor condition - he had obviously given Grezik a fight before capitulating. I was unsure he’d be able to survive the night much less the journey to Alith’en. The girl - the girl was unexpected. She was breathtaking. I stood in the shadows longer than I’d intended, startled by the sight of her. Even as drained as she must have been she seemed to shine with and inner radiance. She was tall for an elf and she moved in the woods as if she were in complete harmony with nature. Her long black hair fell in a soft cape around her shoulders and her green eyes shone with a quiet resolve. As I was observing their beauty I realized that she was staring back at me. Startled out of my reverie I stepped forward and silently offered both of the elves a waterskin and turned to my sister.
“You weren’t noticed?” She shook her head. “Good, then get back before they think to look for you. I’ll handle it from here.”
“Their home... it’s far away from here, isn’t it?” I saw the sadness in her eyes and knew that I wasn’t home often enough.
“About three weeks there and perhaps a bit faster returning.” I had already been gone for seven months before returning today and regretted having to leave so soon. She must have saw what I was feeling. “It’s alright Surin, just get them away from here and come back to me when you can.” She turned to the elf girl. “This is Surin, he’ll take you home. Keep your promise to me - don’t make me regret trusting you.” The elf girl looked surprised as if no one had ever doubted her word in the past. In a soft voice she responded to my sister.
“My friend, I would never betray your trust. You have given us hope and quite possibly our lives. That alone would be enough to assure my gratitude. Even more, you have given us a guide and supplies. I cannot thank you enough. You may trust me and my vassal to keep your secret. Thank you my lady, thank you for our freedom.” Kaylee shifted uncomfortably.
“I’m not doing this for you. I’m doing it because it’s what Sky would have wanted but he’s no longer able to do it himself. The only thing you can do for me is find Sky’s family and tell them how he died. This is the emblem he had on him.” Kaylee showed the girl a belt pouch that had some sort of markings inside it. Obviously there was more to this story than Kaylee had gotten to tell me. The girl studied the emblem and nodded.
“His family will be informed.” Kaylee seemed satisfied with this.
“Go home swiftly so my brother can come home.”
“As you wish my lady. Before I go though, know that if you ever need aid from within Alith’en that all you must do is ask for the Lady Ellariayn and I will help in any way I can. Ostarian and I are both in your debt. Goodbye and good luck my friend.” Kaylee nodded and swept me into a goodbye hug before turning back to the house. I was now alone with the two elves.
We had made decent time considering the severity of Ostarian’s wounds. I was beginning to wonder if Grezik’s blades had been poisoned. If he was infected with one of Grezik’s concoctions magical healing alone wouldn’t do much more than slow it down - he’d need a doctor as well as a healer. As second boy to House Saphear Grezik was a poisons master and even my extensive training didn’t touch his knowledge. Our House symbol was nightshade for a good reason. I asked the two to travel as silently as possible as I kept watch for signs of pursuit. Eventually it became clear that Ostarian and Ellariayn couldn’t travel much farther and I managed to find a somewhat secure campsite. Ellariayn seemed to know more about the forest than I did so I let her set up the campsite and attend to her guardsman while I scouted the area for possible threats. The last thing I wanted was to be caught unawares by the local wildlife while on the run from my own brothers. When I returned to the campsite I found myself shocked once again by the Lady’s beauty. She had dropped into meditation and I found I difficult to look elsewhere. I felt a shiver run down my spine and shook myself and tried to pull myself together. Having been assured that they were settled in I began to walk back into the night when I heard her calling me back.
“You can’t stay up forever, I can take watch for part of the night.” Turning toward her I saw her flinch as the moonlight caught my eyes. I had seem that look before. Even those who were unfamiliar with the drow seemed disconcerted by our blood red eyes. Although I should have been used to it, somehow I felt hurt by her reaction.
“Rest, I can handle this.” She looked puzzled as if she had heard the hurt in my voice and didn’t understand what she had done.
“I meant no harm. I only wanted to help.” Taking care to avoid her eyes I told her again to get some rest. I couldn’t figure out why I was affected by her when in over one hundred years I hadn’t let myself been bothered by what another thought of me outside of my family. I left her still sitting by her guard and disappeared into the shadows to which I had been born.
We started out fairly early in the morning. Ellariayn was recovered enough to ask the forest for a blessing on Ostarian. I hadn’t been surprised to find that she had been trained as a druid - it seemed to suit her. They followed me silently for a time but as the sun became brighter in the sky I noticed them both staring at me.
“Is there something the two of you would like to say?” Ostarian had the propriety to look sheepish while Ellariayn just continued to stare. She stopped walking and gently turned me to face her. Oddly enough, I didn’t object.
“Your eyes... they’re gold! They’ve changed. What are you?” Somewhat angry I glowered into her leaf green eyes.
“I’m a dark elf, I would think that was obvious.” Blushing, she glanced away.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean any offence. I’ve just never seen a dark elf that could walk in the sun and I could swear that your eyes were as black as any dark elf’s just last night.”
“They change in the sunlight, same as my sister’s. Neither of us have ever had difficulty walking in either light or darkness.” I was unsure why I was bothering to explain. My urge to trust her was beginning to bother me, trusting someone you hardly knew was a mistake that could get you killed.
“Again, I apologize if I offended you, I was just curious. You have beautiful eyes, in the light and in the dark.” I couldn’t have been more surprised if she had sprouted wings and flown away. Not knowing what to say I turned away.
“We should keep moving.” Her hand was still on my arm.
“Of course. Lead the way.” She dropped her hand to her side and I realized that she had been as surprised by her words as I had been. Trying to ignore the emptiness I felt at the lack of her touch I continued through the woods.
Despite the Lady’s healing capabilities Ostarian had taken a turn for the worse by the last leg of our journey. They both seemed against the idea of approaching a local settlement and as neither of them would reveal to me why, I couldn’t come up with any other options.
“Look, I promised my sister I’d get you home, and I will. But Ostarian will not survive the trip. He needs a more experienced healer, and most likely a doctor as well! At least let me take him to the town that we passed this morning. Then I’ll come back and take you the rest of the way home and you can send someone back for him.” Ellariayn seemed inclined to agree with me but Osatrian claimed that he would not leave her side. I was becoming exasperated. “Osatrian, I know you don’t trust me - but it’s either go to the town or die here. Ellariayn can go with you or she can go back to her home with me. Choose now.” He seemed inclined to argue further when his charge turned and spoke with an authority beyond her years.
“You will go to the town and seek help. I will go home. No more argument or I will finish the poison’s job myself.”
“My Lady, my duty is to protect you. I cannot desert you.”
“You can if I relieve you of your duty - which I’m doing as of now. You may resume your post when you are able to rejoin me at home. Either way you’ll be leaving me - I’d rather you leave me to go find help than have to watch you leave me for our ancestor’s realm.” He seemed to reluctantly grasp her logic and I left her secured in a small clearing in order to help Osatrian approach the village. It took over and hour to get there. We stood for a moment at the forest’s edge as he seemed to be measuring my worth with his eyes.
“You have upheld your word thus far a shown me that not all dark elves follow their evil Queen’s example. I’m trusting you to keep Ellariayn safe. Don’t fail or I swear by all that’s sacred that I will not rest until I see you dead.” I bowed to him out of respect and left him standing by the road to the village, alone.
“Why do you call your sister Princess?” Aria’s question momentarily broke my train of thought. I had somehow found myself telling her all the good stories about my sister and family. Over the past few days all my training and instincts had been melted away by my traveling companion’s easy laughter and her sparkling eyes.
“Ah, well that’s kind of silly actually.” By the Lady Saphear, had I actually used the word silly?
“Please tell me.”
“Well, when Kaylee was younger I was in charge of her care. When we left our people’s home behind my brother’s were too busy with establishing a place in this world for us to be bothered with a child. So I had to learn how to take care of her. I’d make up stories for her and we’d play games. I began to purchase story books from the human villages and they were filled with stories about fantastic creatures, and Kaylee’s favorite stories were about Princesses who became heroes. After awhile our make believe games began to reflect the stories I read to her and eventually I started calling her Princess all the time. Once she got older it was just what she was to me - a Princess from a storybook. I guess it’s how I remind her that I still care for her even though my duties take me away from home.” I was amazed at how much I had told her about not only myself but Kaylee. I could only hope that she’d keep her word and reveal nothing about us to her people. Even if she did though, I doubted I’d regret our time together. Love makes fools of us all.
“That’s not silly Surin, it’s kind of sweet.” Somehow she had ended up holding my hand as we walked. At some point during our conversation I had stopped walking and found her face pleasantly close to mine.
“Well, I guess. Our brothers never understood.” She smelled like a summer breeze. It was hard to think straight with her standing so close to me. The sun was warm on my face and I found myself leaning in closer.
“I understand though.”
“For understanding.” Suddenly I was kissing her. Even stranger, she was kissing me back. I felt as if nothing would ever be quite the same again.
She had been quiet as we approached the city. She was worried and I knew why. She had somehow fallen for me as much as I’d fallen for her and she didn’t know how to leave me. She would have to of course - despite her reluctance to tell me much about her station I could tell that she had been born to both wealth and nobility. Kaylee had told me that she had run away to escape and arranged marriage and if she had been persuaded to return by Ostarian than there must be more importance to the marriage than just convenience. She’d leave me, this I knew. I hated it of course, but I had yet to find a way out of it.
“We’re here, I won’t be welcome in he city, but you should be safe this close to your home.”
“Yes. The Captain of the guard knows me and will see me home safely. Surin-”
“Please don’t. If you hesitate I’ll ask you to stay with me, and we both know that can’t be. Go home, forget what’s happened. It’ll be easier that way.” Her eyes were wide as if trying to stop herself from crying.
“You don’t understand. It’s who I am, I can’t keep running, too much may be at stake. But I won’t forget you - I love you. If there’s a way for us to be together, I’ll find it. I promise.”
“I love you too Aria, but we both have obligations, roles that will force us apart. Don’t make promises you can’t keep. You may love me now, but in truth you would find me a different man when I’m away from you. It’s better that you leave me behind.”
“No. No matter what you’ve done in the past I feel that I’m one of the few people who have seen the real you. If there’s a way I will find it. I won’t tell anyone about you Surin, I’ll keep that promise too. But I know there’s more to your story than you’ve told me. We’ve both kept our secrets while losing our hearts. Something tells me we’ll meet again, and if that’s true than there’s hope for us yet.” I smiled softly.
“May it be so my Lady. I will wait for that small shred of hope for all eternity.” I pulled her to me and crushed my lips onto hers, wishing there was away to be near her for even a small time more. It only goes to show that you should be careful what you wish for.
“Well, well, if it isn’t the supposedly bedridden Lady Ellariayn consorting with a dark elf. Won’t you’re father be scandalized!” A richly dressed elf emerged from the shadows with a cruel smile painted on his face. Far too late a warning sounded in my mind as I pushed Aria behind me and drew my daggers. “Tsk tsk, it’s a bit late for that isn’t it dark elf? It’s not as if I travel alone after all.” Even with my night vision I hadn’t seen them until he pointed out the obvious. The glint of many arrows caught the moonlight and I knew I was outnumbered. Aria pushed in front of me and faced the man.
“Javek. Have you taken to patrolling the outskirts of the city? You have no authority here.” Javek smirked.
“My Lady, I believe you’ll find I do. You’re father himself hired on my men. These are troubling times, and he needs all the help he can find. I am, of course, pleased to see you so rapidly recovered from your illness.” Aria’s blush was even visible in the darkness.
“My health is none of your concern. You will leave me now and resume your duties.” She pointed back in the direction he had come from, although by then I knew that I wasn’t going to begin my journey home that night. Javek gestured to him men and for Aria’s sake I didn’t resist when they bound my arms.
“A dark elf on the borders of our fair city is my concern my Lady. My orders come from your father himself. You may take it up with him. One of my men will escort you to the gatehouse.” Aria’s gaze would have burned holes into the man if she had been a sorceress. He seemed unfazed and gave her a deep bow.
“If you treat him poorly I will see you suffer Javek.” Javek only laughed. She looked at me, an apology on her lips. I shook my head to stop her from speaking and followed my captors toward the city. I glanced back only to assure myself that they were taking her to the city guard and then concentrated on keeping my head low and memorizing the terrain we crossed. Aria had been right - we had both kept secrets. She was more than a person of noble standing - for some reason it had been very important to her family that no one knew she was missing. I could only hope her secret wouldn’t get me killed.
While the cells in the dungeon hadn’t been designed for comfort I was amazed at how hospitable they were - the elves obviously didn’t take their prisoners seriously enough. Sadly this only reminded me of how many holding cells I had visited in my lifetime. All but one had been because I had been trying to get to a prisoner for one reason or another, not because I was imprisoned myself. The only other time I’d been captured had been in my homelands and I had made sure that my escape from there was rapidly executed. Unfortunately I felt obligated to bide my time in the elven holding cells for fear that my escape would put Aria in a bad position. Love makes us do strange things.
Time passed slowly. Doubt began to creep into my thoughts. How could I have believed that someone like Aria had fallen in love with me? I was a fool to wait around this cell when my family would be wondering what had happened to me. I had considered attempting escape more than once but something held me back. Over and over again I managed to conquer my fears that my time with Aria had been but a dream and I remained sitting in my cell, waiting for something to happen. There was a nagging feeling in the pit of my stomach that told me I needed to go home, but after meeting Javek I knew my presence here could have put Aria in jeopardy. The days dragged on.
I was there for about three months before I was able to see the light of day. I knew then that Aria hadn’t told them anything about me - dragging me outside at high noon was meant to cause me discomfort. It was a common tactic used against dark elves. I didn’t recognize the guards that escorted me across the work yards, but I took that to be a good sign - they weren’t Javek’s men. The prison had a small building off to the side that I assumed was used for preliminary hearings - not something you’d see in many places, but the elves prided themselves on their civilized society. I kept my eyes to the ground attempting to avoid questions about my eyes and hoped that Aria had been able to straighten things out. The guards had pulled me into the building and shoved me unceremoniously into an empty room. They hadn’t bothered to tie me up which made two good signs so far. Things were looking up. I waited patiently for what must have been several hours. I was beginning to approach the end of my patience when the door was opened. To my surprise Ostarian entered carrying my weapons and leathers as well as the rest of my things. He requested my silence with a glare and I complied, happy to see a familiar face even if he didn’t look all that happy to see me. He tossed my gear to me and I quickly dressed and secured my small satchel across my back. He then passed me a deep green cloak that almost matched his own except a difference in insignia which I assume indicated rank. I donned it wordlessly and covered myself as well as I could.
Ostarian led me through the city without incident. He had chosen a quiet time of day to travel and the few people we did pass didn’t see past my flimsy disguise. Within the hour we had reached the city docks. My guide gestured for me to wait. I kept to the shadows and watched Ostarian speak to the Captain of a ship that appeared to be making ready for departure. The Captain seemed to acknowledge whatever message had been relayed to him and Ostarian waved me over. I saw why this ship had been chosen for my escape, it was a human merchant ship. The elves are more familiar with the dark elves and while I’d seem exotic aboard any ship, most of the human sailors would ignore me. Ostarian was speaking and I drew my attention away from the vessel.
“-don’t like this one bit, but you did keep your word. Captain Rouss is a good friend of mine and will make sure you get to a port in Ivalice. From there you’re on your own.” I smiled at the older elf and gave him a short bow.
“Thank you for your assistance. I trust my unexpected departure won’t cause you or our friend any undue trouble?” He shook his head.
“No. You gave our friend enough time to arrange this inconspicuously. We both appreciate your being such an amiable guest.” I raised my eyebrow in query but it soon became clear that no other explanation was forthcoming.
“Indeed. You’re quite welcome. You two can consider the debt between us to have been paid in full.”
“Oh, believe me, I do. Especially after enduring whatever your brother coated his blade in. However, our friend feels differently. I was told that you are to pass a message to your sister: ‘I keep my promises - and I remain in debt to you both’.”
“I will relay the message. Please pass on my regards. I believe it’s time for me to take leave of your beautiful city.” He seemed to hesitate for a moment and then handed me a small package.
“I’m giving this to you against my better judgement. Good journey.” He bowed briefly and walked away. The Captain had his second mate find me an open hammock and I settled in for the trip to Ivalice.
The package was from Aria. She explained that my escape would have been jeopardized if she had come herself, although she had wanted to see me again. She didn’t explain what had actually happened to cause my prolonged imprisonment but I could figure out enough of that myself. To have been caught the way we were, it must have been assumed that she had run off to be with me. Her family would have covered up a scandal like that any way they could - the most likely scenario being that an evil dark elf had put their innocent daughter under a spell - or some other such nonsense. She also explained that she had arranged for me to escape via water since Javek’s people still patrolled the city’s borders and she couldn’t risk me being recaptured by him. She also asked me to tell Kaylee that Sky Callandras, the stable boy, had a twin sister and that she would make sure she was taken care of. Trust Aria to even go out of her way for the dead. Once again she promised to seek a way for us to be reunited and begged my forgiveness for leaving me in prison for such a long time. She then wrote that she had enclosed a gift with the letter and asked that I wear it when I wish to remember her. I unwrapped the rest of the package to find a strange yet beautiful silver and amethyst pendant hanging on a woven cord. I promised myself that I would wear it whenever I was able and tied it around my neck. I noticed something else as I read and reread her letter. I hadn’t understood until I saw it written - her name, Lady Ellariayn, it wasn’t a name at all - it was a title. The way she spelled it made it obvious where hearing it had not, it meant Lady “of the dawn”. I began to laugh under my breath when I realized just how many secrets there were between us... I didn’t even know her name. Somehow, this only made me love her more.
It had been near six months since I’d left home. The world was changing by the time I found myself back in Robelia. There were whispers of death on the horizon and I felt a kind of cold fear in my bones. I was worried about Kaylee and my family. Something wasn’t right in the world.
When I finally found myself at home I was met with the news that Kaylee had run away several weeks ago, and my brothers had yet to track her down. I knew then that I had been gone for far too long. I set out immediately in search of my sister.
Falling in love with Aria changed me in the sense that I now feel as if I had learned about a new part of myself. Love has not, however, changed what I am. Being born a dark elf means that there is a monster that lives inside me. Although I have always struggled against it there is a part of me that accepts my inner darkness - without it I couldn’t do what was necessary to protect the people I care for. Somehow I’ll find my little sister and find a way to help her survive whatever’s coming - and perhaps, along the way, I’ll find myself once more in Aria’s embrace, even if it’s only for a moment.