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Taken by the Dark Elf King : Chapter 4

Elvie

THE CASTLE HAS NOT KNOWN a moment of peace since the messenger left us.

Throughout these past two weeks, the whole kingdom has been buzzing with excitement. Everyone has been permitted to attend, from nobles to servants to humans. From dusk to dawn, Lysan hums with excitement.

Servants whisper to each other in excited voices as they clean. Seamstresses gossip as they sew new dresses for everyone. I’ve even caught some of the royal guards talking about it, careful to silence all whispering if my brother Garren is to pass by.

After his initial outburst, he has mentioned nothing about the ball. Even though it’s the day of, he has been oddly quiet. Perhaps my father’s tongue-lashing was enough to stop him for the time being.

I am just as eager as everyone else. I stand on the raised platform inside my chambers as my royal seamstress sews the final touches on my gown . It’s pale pink, to bring out the color in my cheeks. Flowing and gossamer, adorned with crystals and jewels and glass butterflies. This is the first ball I have attended since I came of age.

My mother sits in a chair in front of my vanity. She is regal as ever in her long gown that looks like poured gold draped down her body. Her brows are drawn together as she regards me, a million thoughts in her honeyed eyes.

“What do you think?” I ask as my seamstress stows her needle. “And before you say I should’ve stuck with the royal gold, you know how it makes me look sickly.”

My mother huffs a laugh, rising and waving off my handmaids who come to fix my hair.

“I’ll do that, you may all go and get ready yourselves. We depart in an hour.”

There is a chorus of “thank yous” as each one of them dips into a curtsy before departing. I watch as my mother traces a finger along the curve of the tiara. I never wear them and this one is simple enough. A thin gold wire to encircle my head, adorned with flowers and butterflies made of pearls.

“You look lovely, my dear. Like a true princess.” I laugh at that and my mother shakes her head. “It’s true. I know how you detest these things. It means a great deal to your father that you agreed, even if you did most of this to annoy your brother.”

I smile and mumble, “Not most of it, but that was an added perk.” I rub my damp palms on the long skirt of my dress. “Tell me again how this night will go.”

My mother sighs and guides me to my vanity table. Sitting down, her long, delicate fingers begin to part and twist my hair. She used to do my hair for me when I was a child. Tonight, it would seem, is special enough to warrant her taking on this task again..

“Like I said before, it has been a long time since the Night of a Hundred Faces was last held. If this new king has stuck with tradition, the act itself is quite straightforward.” Picking up a golden pin, she slides it into my hair, holding it back from the side of my face. “Your father and I will present you and Briar as our unmated and unattached tributes to the night. Once you step into the room where it will be held, the free magic will lock you in. It is essentially one big bargain struck between you and the free magic. Only those who are willing to participate will be allowed to. The free magic knows if someone is being forced to participate and the bargain will not work on them. Once the Night of a Hundred Faces commences, you will slip on an enchanted mask that will conceal your true form. The magic will disorient you, and throughout the night you must let it guide you. At the end, if you perform it correctly, you should find your mate or the male you wish to marry and forsake your mating bond in exchange.”

While she’s been talking, more pins have been secured in my hair. The sections closest to my face have been pulled back, while the long golden length remains curled and flowing down my back. Reaching for the tiara, my mother hums softly.

“I do not know how it will be throughout. Light elves have never participated in this act before and, as you know, the dark elves do not mate like we do. Forsaking a mating bond to them would be abhorrent to their nature.”

She’s right. In the past two weeks my studies have revolved around the dark elves and Myrkorvin. How their first king spilled blood and corrupted his soul, unlocking a deep well of power that has only seemed to grow stronger with each generation. The corruption spreading and turning their skin dark gray, sharpening their fangs, and growing their once elegant fingers into sharp-tipped claws.

My brother called them beasts and by all accounts he would be right.

Their form should be abhorrent to me. Disgusting. And because of that there must be something wrong with me because I cannot tear my eyes away from their portraits. To wonder what it would be like to lie with one. Something so wild pinning me down and having its way with me.

If my tutors knew the true reason I had taken such an interest in the dark elves they would cease teaching me in a second. If anyone found out how they made me grow damp between my thighs, the nights spent with a hand between my legs as I imagined one of them with me…

He wouldn’t be gentle like my previous lovers. He wouldn’t touch me with trembling hands or regard me with awe in his eyes. He would use me and own me. There would be no lovemaking, as Lucien insisted we call it.

The dark elf in my fantasy would fuck me. There would be no love found in it.

Perhaps I have been spending a little too much time alone in my room.

“You’ve gone flush, my sweet, what are you thinking about? If it is about tonight, do not worry. Be smart and be vigilant and this will all be over by sunrise.” The golden tiara digs into my scalp. The metal is cold, and looking in the mirror, I almost don’t recognize myself. Lysan’s one true princess stares back at me.

I need to relax. If we are meant to find dark elves repulsive, then they would surely feel the same about us. It is just the possibility of the unknown that has put me in this state. That has to be it. If my mother knew that it was not nerves over attending this ball that brought color to my cheeks, but rather the wanton thoughts of fucking a dark elf, she would certainly forbid me from going.

As would my father. Garren would drop dead from shame. And if Ryvik thought me a whore before—

Ryvik. A shudder passes through me. He’s more monstrous than any dark elf I’ve studied. Probably more dangerous than them because he disguises it behind a beautiful face. At least what others consider beautiful. Not me though.

Never me.

“Do you ever regret it?” I raise my silver eyes to meet my mother’s in the mirror. She still stands at my back, twisting the final strands of my hair around the golden circlet.

Arching a thin brow she asks, “Regret what, my sweet?”

“Forsaking your own mating bond. For dad.”

Her hands freeze on my head. We’ve never discussed this before. Most of our people do not even know that my parents are not mates. That they had both forsaken their bonds in order to be together. I don’t know why I’m asking this, tonight of all times, but I want to know.

My mother blinks rapidly and laughs softly, her hands continuing to work my hair.

“I think your father and I were too quick to do so. You know mating bonds between our people are not as quick as those between the dark elves. They can take decades, centuries even, to form.”

“So you don’t regret it then. Even if there was someone else out there that was supposed to be yours? That your soul was tethered to?”

“All I know is the moment I saw your father, he was what I wanted. For eternity. And if he was not my mate, I would not have another.” She finishes my hair and steps back. “Luckily for me he felt the same, if not a bit more…eager.”

Smiling wistfully, she helps me to my feet. Both of us standing together in front of the long mirror. Mother and daughter. The same face, with the same hair, but with mismatching eyes.

“Who knows, Elvie, now that all of our people are being permitted to participate in the act, maybe you’ll find someone you want to introduce to us. So that you can stop sneaking off into town.” I snap my head to look at her, my mouth falling open.

Gods damn me, she knows about that?

“Who told you?” If it was Amara the scullery maid who caught me coming back four nights ago with twigs in my hair, I was going to…

“You’re not half as clever as you think, my sweet. Besides, I was young once too. I may not have grown up in this palace, but I do understand how stifling it can feel. Especially as you become more curious about things.” Giving me a knowing look I groan covering my face with my hands.

We are not having this conversation.

I would rather fucking die than have this conversation with her right now.

“No need to get shy on me, Elvie. You’re twenty-three years old. A fully matured female. It’s natural to have urges you want to—”

“Stop. Please, dear gods, make her stop.”

“I’m your mother, Elvie. I just want to make sure you’re being safe.” My mother gently pulls my hands from my face. She’s looking at me expectantly and I know I’m not avoiding this conversation.

“Shouldn’t you be mad at me? Disappointed that I didn’t stay pure for my wedding night with one of the royal suitors Dad has been lining up for years?”

The quiet stretches between us. If she tells me she is now it’ll break my heart. I know some of the courtly ladies whisper about me, it was foolish of me to think she didn’t know. Is she ashamed of me and my choices?

Guilt curves my shoulders and I stare down at the marble floor.

A cool hand cups my chin, bringing my eyes back to her warm ones.

“To some males it would matter. But you already knew that.”

I give a humorless laugh. “A marriage between me and Ryvik would never have worked for a million reasons. My chastity was the least of them.” My mother flicks my nose and chuckles.

“You’re right about that. I do not know what your father was thinking with that.” She pauses and I know there is more that she wants to say. She had been silent when the first talks of my betrothal to Ryvik had begun. I remember the stiffness between my parents that I had never seen before. My father’s pleading looks in her direction during dinner. My mother’s cold stare.

Now it doesn’t seem like so much of a coincidence that it was broken off after that initial dinner and my father never raised the subject again.

“So you’re not mad at me then?”

My mother smiles and links our arms together as we make our way out of my chambers.

“We live long lives, Elvie. Some spend hundreds of years before they find the one they want to spend the rest of them with. If you are happy and are being safe, then that’s all I care about.” I roll my eyes and mumble that I’m being very safe.

We pause at the doorway, the hall before us already lined with people in their finery. I can just make out the golden heads of my brothers and father at the far end. Waiting for us to join them so we can begin our journey.

My mother turns to me, cupping my cheek in her hand. Her eyes are open, deep golden pools staring down at me.

“Your father didn’t care when it came to me. Who I had been with before…I had doubts that he wouldn’t be as understanding. But he didn’t care. And I didn’t care when it came to him. It was like our lives had begun the moment we locked eyes.” She tucks a loose curl behind my pointed ear.

“The right male for you won’t care either.”


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