by M.A Gonzales
A human princess is promised to the Elven King.
|word count: 1897
The Elven King
Shivering, she closed her eyes as her foot sank into the soft, green moss covering the old, rickety board beneath her feet. This was a cold and isolated place. Fear curled in her belly, tying her stomach into knots, even though she tried desperately to be brave. Swallowing hard, she thought of the future thrust upon her. An arranged marriage, how could her father do this to her? And an elf no less.
Elves were horrible people. Tall, muscular, with the power of manipulation, and illusion. They could either make you what you've always wanted, or to make you live your worst fears. Since they had no love of humans, it was usually the fear they projected. If Sirens were responsible for deaths at sea, then Elves were responsible for deaths on land. This was the precise reason why her father was desperate to make a peace treaty with them. The only way to do this was for a union to take place in order to merge the two kingdoms, and she was the bargaining chip.
Being royalty was the worst, but then again so was being a peasant. Neither were free, especially when one was a woman. Your life was never your own. Father, brother, uncle, always some man deciding who you should marry, and what you were allowed to do. Love had little to do with marriage, and everything to do with personal gain for the males involved. She despised her station, and the men in her family. Vultures, all of them.
Looking around at the large trees, jagged branches hanging low with gray moss, absent of animals of any kind. No birds, or rodents. Nothing just shadows, and silence. The thick, scratchy rope making up the railing of the bridge was frayed with several thick strands hanging down. The bridge leading from the glen, and into the Dark Forest looked as though it were going to collapse any moment. The creepy silence of the forest was more unnerving than the thought of the bridge collapsing beneath her feet. She felt as though she were free-falling now, into a life she had no control over. Walking into a life with a male she didn't know, and didn't trust. Why would an Elf consent to marry a human when their kind despised her kind, thinking them weaker, and unintelligent?
Slowing her steps, she took a deep breath, and buried her hands in the silk of her heavy gown. At the end of this bridge, stood her new husband. He'd requested she come alone, just as he would. Why? She didn't know, but she didn't care if she ever saw her father again. It was his fault she was resigned to this fate, and given to a man...or Elf for political gain.
* * *
Nicoli took a deep breath, pacing back and forth in front of the bridge. She should be here any minute, would be here. She'd be his wife soon, something he'd wanted for a very long time. What kind of Elf fell in love with a human? It was a question asked of him many times by his people, but he always smiled, and said the same thing. The heart wants, what the heart wants, and his heart wanted her from the first moment he'd seen her crying alone in the forest.
He'd been wandering through the forest, like he often did just thinking. He'd been a different elf before the dragon ruined his face. Back then females tried to get his attention by offering themselves to him sometimes two or three at a time. Of course, he'd taken more than a few up on their offer, but he wasn't stupid enough to entertain the idea of marriage to any of them. They only wanted the power his crown would bring them, and nothing more. After his face was ruined, they still hungered for his throne. Offering themselves in the way they always had, but looking away in disgust like they couldn't stomach to look at him.
Reaching up, he ran his fingers across the jagged uneven skin down the left side of his face. Dragon's fire, one of the few things capable of killing an elf. One had been stalking his kingdom, killing off some living on the border lands. He didn't know what provoked the dragon, because elves had existed in peace with dragons for millions of years. Whatever the reason, it was up to him to stop the dragon, and protect his people. He still wanted to know what had provoked the dragon, which became devastatingly obvious once he entered the dark cave.
His most trusted adviser, his second, had been behind the whole thing. Plotting along with his half sister to kill him, and take the throne. He'd worked everything down to the very last detail, even affecting the magic of his shield to allow the fire to get through. After he'd been burned badly, and close to death, his second shared the entire plan with him. He never felt as betrayed as he did then, looking up into the face of a man he'd thought a brother, left him to die laughing all the way out of the cave.
He still remembered the pounding of his heart as the dragon came closer. The smell of burning sulfur thick in the air, and sharp, thick claws scraping along stone. It was his end, and he knew it. He started the funerary chant as the scrapping grew closer to where he lay immobile, and in excruciating pain. He'd never forget what happened next.
When he looked up he stared into reptilian eyes, smoke swirling from the nostrils as it stared down at him. The air around the dragon shimmered, and the large of the dragon shrank into a human one. This was confusing, and he was certain he was close to death because what he'd just seen had to have been an illusion. It hadn't been. The dragon was a shape shifter, and its other form looked human like but wasn't human at all.
She'd knelt down, and studied him. Her eyes flashed gold, then back to green as a slow smile spread across her lips. “Your the one,” he'd heard her say just as he lost consciousness.
She'd kept him in that cave, nursing him back to health, and apologizing for the damage she'd done to his face. Always telling him his destiny was upon him, and he needed to take action before it was too late. Then she told him about the human woman, a princess of the nearby kingdom who had dragon blood in her veins. An unknown descendant of the only half-breed dragon to ever exist. Her heritage had been kept from her to keep her safe, but it couldn't remain that way for long. The dragon side was stronger inside her than any of them had anticipated. If she was found out the humans would use her as a tool against their enemies, and conquering the known world with her fire.
If this were to take place than all would suffer, but not so many as the young princess herself. For her heart was good, and she was kind. Her father's lust for power would kill everything good in her, and she would become the Darkness destroying everything in her path. It would be the end of days for every good creature on earth.
He knew he had to do something to prevent such a thing from happening, but something else began happening as he listened to the story of the princess's life. He began to develop admiration for her, and respect. She helped those in need, and treated even the servants with the up most respect, and humanity. There were those in his own kingdom who'd rather have a limb cut off then show compassion to someone lower than their station. This woman was different, and according to the dragon she was his Beloved. The woman he'd been chosen to protect, the other half of his soul.
Hearing a rustling through the leaves, he lifted his head, and looked across the old bridge separating worlds. He sucked in a sharp breath, holding it as she stepped closer slowly. She looked more beautiful than the first time he'd seen her in the woods that summer day just a year ago.
Walking towards him, a thin veil covered her head, and down her billowing wedding dress. She clutched a bouquet of white roses, keeping her head held high, and meeting his gaze unfaltering. He'd seen some warriors with less courage at the sight of him. She was a vision in white, and she made his heart stutter in his chest. A heart closed off, and bitter until he'd first laid eyes on her. He had no doubt the dragon was right, she was his Beloved because she'd brought him back to life the first moment he saw her.
* * *
Her heart raced as she stepped closer, and closer to the elven king. It had little to do with fear, and more with the overwhelming feeling that she knew him. Such a thing wasn't possible, she'd never met an elf in her life. Looking at him, the scarred side of his face doing little to take away from how handsome he was, she felt something shift inside her. Something deep, something big, and important.
He stood tall, and proud like any king would. His shoulders broad, and incredibly muscular for a king, which told her he was also a warrior. He was at least seven feet. At six feet she was considered abnormally tall among her own people, but she'd be considered short by his. The thought brought her little comfort because she'd still be an outsider, and still looked at suspiciously, maybe even hated. Marrying the king wouldn't buy her any admirers, of that she was certain. Her only alley was the male standing in front of her.
Looking up, she sucked in a startled breath as she looked into his amethyst eyes. Those eyes were so familiar, but how could that be?
Reaching down, he grasped her hand, and brought it up to his mouth. A shiver raced down her spine, fire shot through her veins as his soft lips brushed against her skin. He never took his gaze from her, watching every reaction that crossed her face. “How do I know you?” She whispered, stepping closer to him.
“You are the other half of my soul.” Bringing her hand up, he pressed her palm against the scarred side of his face. “You will always recognize me. In this life, and in the next.”
It sounded absurd, but she knew in her heart it was true. She knew the way he moved, his eyes, and the feel of his skin. It was all achingly familiar, and new all at the same time. Smiling, she pulled on his shoulder urging him to bend down. He did.
“I know your face.” She whispered, pressing her lips against his cheek.
“And I know yours.” He muttered huskily, wrapping his arms around her, and drawing her against his hard body.
For once in her life she felt safe, loved, and truly cherished. Her destiny turned out to be the last place she thought she'd ever find it, in the arms of the Elven King.