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Taken by the Dark Elf King : Chapter 5

Elvie

THE JOURNEY TO BLACKFIRE CASTLE is a long one.

Gazing out the window of our royal carriage, I watch as the lush greens of our grass give way to rock and sand, the horses of our traveling party lift up their hooves in order to avoid giant rocks that come into our path. The carriage rattles and unease grows in our compartment.

We’re getting closer to the bridge.

As the sun dips lower and the oranges and pinks of the sky begin to give way to darkness. The air filtering through the open window turns salty. I lean back from the window and let the ornate curtain, stitched with our royal crest, fall back into place.

Across from me, Garren sits stiff on the bench, his mate Sybil is pressed to his side. Both in our royal colors of golden and red, her light hair twisted at the nape of her neck, showing off its graceful slope. Her golden eyes are wide and taking in everything. They mated after the war so this will be her first time crossing the bridge as well.

If it were anyone else, Garren would chastise them for such open curiosity. Sybil remains the only one that does not ruffle my brother’s temperament.

My mother’s gown tangles with my own on our side of the bench. Both she and my father made quite a pair as we joined them before our departure. Both regal in their crowns and matching attire. Secret smiles and twinkling eyes.

Now their faces are regal masks hiding secret trepidation.

In fact, the only member of our party who does not seem to be displaying any emotion is Briar. Somehow, even in his stiff finery he manages to look unkempt. Perhaps it is the curl to his blond hair, the hint of mischief dancing in his smile.

“You seem quite relaxed, brother.” Garren cuts me a sharp look but I ignore it. Briar’s smile turns smug.

“What do I have to be worried about? The king searches for a bride and though I do look dashing in white, something tells me I’m not what he has in mind,” he says, cupping a hand under his chin. “I do plan to be a good guest and sample all that Myrkorvin has to offer us tonight. Who knows if we will ever get this chance again.”

“What do you mean by ‘sample’? Garren says we mustn’t consume anything here, for it will be poison.” Sybil turns her wide eyes up at Garren, shivering closer to him. I snort softly and Garren glares over the top of Sybil’s head.

“It is not poison, my love. But you would do well to avoid it at all cost all the same. Their foul magic corrupts everything,” Garren responds, shooting Briar a warning look. “What my brother intends to sample is of a more physical nature.”

“A physical nature? What does—”

“Yes, how many are you planning on fucking tonight, Briar? The stable boys are placing bets and I would hate to lose my five gold marks to Skeven again,” I say.

A cry of shock goes up between my parents and Garren while Briar doubles over with laughter.

“Enough of this. Elvie, what is the matter—”

“How many did you bet on, dear sister?” Briar asks. “I’ll win your coin back.”

“Enough. Briar, do not encourage—”

“Well, Skeven said at the last summer party you fucked all of Lord Eldren’s daughters by sundown. Fourteen in four hours is quite a feat even for you, so with that in mind, I said you were good for at least twenty-seven—”

“ENOUGH!” My father’s command rattles the carriage. His golden skin has turned as red as the rubies on his crown. I have enough self-preservation to look sheepish and Briar is at least smart enough to swallow down his laugh.

“No more talking about bets…or fucking.” My fathers glare is hot on my face. “You will behave yourselves tonight. Myrkorvin is dangerous. The dark elves are dangerous. Do not lose sight of this.”

“Then why are we even attending?” Garren shoots back. “Why put our people, our family, my mate, in unnecessary danger?”

My father opens his mouth but my mother silences him with a hand.

“It is for our people that we do attend. Do not think we are ignorant of the risks. But in the centuries since King Arkain came to power and the Orc Wars have ended, this is the first sign of peace we have been extended by the dark elves.” My mother’s eyes move around the compartment. Her serious expression has made even Briar pay attention.

“Besides Garren, even you do not know what it was like before the separation. Before we were exiled to our homelands. Our people and the dark elves had an understanding that, as elves, we were all permitted to go to the Kingdom of the Gods. To be able to pray and worship the free magic as is our right.” My father sighs, my mother’s hand still resting on his arm.

“Being cut off from our ancestral lands is weakening our people. If we ever want to be able to have passage to them again we must first repair our relationship with this new king. If not, I fear what will become of our people—of me—if I cannot lead us back to them.”

“What do you mean by that?” Garren asks.

“You must think me a fool if you think I am unaware of what those in the south are plotting.” My father gives a humorless chuckle. “An uprising to overthrow King Arkain? To establish the light elf rule in Myrkorvin again? That will not happen in any of our lifetimes.”

Garren looks like he has more to say but remains quiet. The creaking of the wheels as we travel more rough terrain is all that fills our cabin.

“So tonight is the first step in unifying our people again? To get back to the way things were before the Orc Wars? Is such a thing even possible?” I ask.

A smile tips my father’s mouth.

“That I do not know. What I do know is that there were countless light elf families that lived in Myrkorvin for centuries. Right up until the war, and when the war began those families were ripped apart. Some fled to Lysan, some stayed and helped us in the war effort. I’ve been thinking for some time that they may be our key to reuniting. To remind him that despite our differences our people used to live and work together. Perhaps King Arkain will be sympathetic towards that and allow free travel again.”

“He may be sympathetic if he did not blame us for the death of his own parents,” Garren counters. “I saw him that day. His rage at us and at our people. He has not forgotten and he will never forgive.”

Based on my studies I find that Garren speaks true. There was so much recorded history of the dark elves that was available before the separation. What happened during the Orc Wars and after that final battle is a bit of a mystery. Some who were there recounted the tale of King Arkain’s reign. The arrow that brought down the old king. The queen who had been locked in her own battle letting out a blood-curdling scream before rushing to the dying king’s side.

Their love had been recorded in countless tales. Two warriors, mated under a blood moon. Destined to bring Myrkrovin into a new age. Only for the queen to watch the life seep from her beloved mates eyes on that battlefield. The pain of her loss, it was claimed that she died of a broken heart right next to him.

Leaving their son to take up the throne.

More warrior than prince and more beast than elf. Picking up his father’s sword he turned into a creature historians were too scared to recount, and made the battlefield run red with orc’s blood.

In repayment for our lack of aid, he cursed the light elves from Myrkorvin. Restricting our access to the free magic by way of the Bridge, keeping us to our sunny island. Weakening our people over the centuries.

In all that I had read about him, Arkain was never described as merciful. So why have this party? Unless it was all one elaborate trick, why dangle unity in front of us? What was he planning?

“My hope against all the odds remains the same. That tonight, for whatever reason, King Arkain has entertained the idea of peace between our two peoples.” My father clasps my mother’s hand and smiles at her warmly. “And this peace will not be kept by a usurper but by a bond no one dares break.”

“And what bond is that?” Garren asks.

“The bond of love, of family. Perhaps the king will select a light elf bride, or perhaps he will stay with his own kind. Perhaps he selects no one at all. But his lords will be there. His countrymen. And they will meet someone and fall in love tonight. As is the nature of this evening. Our people, under disguise, will drink and laugh and dance and see that we aren’t so different. Just like it was before the war.”

I raise an eyebrow but my father goes on.

“The king and his advisors know what is to be gained from this evening. And it goes beyond the simplicity of enacting a royal marriage. It is a test and also an assurance that when the time comes, those who are here tonight will see Myrkorvin as a place filled with beings that are just like us. That will be slaughtered should the Orcs rise again.”

“And by that same token, we must use tonight in our favor as well. To secure our people’s free passage to the Kingdom of the Gods. To have the free magic strengthen them once more.”

Garren opens his mouth again but Sybil places a hand on his arm. The similarity of the gesture my mother is doing with my father now. They stare at each other, communicating in a silent way, and it makes me realize that my mother was right before. She and my father are mates in the same way Garren and Sybil are. There’s a familiarity there.

My stomach tightens.

How comforting it must be to belong to someone. Will I ever have that relationship with another? To just look at them and know they belong to me as much as I belong to them?

For as callous and as fickle my brother Garren can be, the only one he is patient with is Sybil. Even now as he looks into her round face, his posture loosens. Leaning down and pressing a soft kiss to her open mouth, it’s clear his affections for her is true.

I wrinkle my nose anyways. He’s still my asshole brother after all.

“Who knows,” Briar says. Obviously the silence has stretched on too long for him. “Perhaps we have the next queen of Myrkorvin in our carriage. Come to unite our people at long last.”

My father cuts him a glare and even Garren bristles.

The carriage goes back to being silent and I turn my attention back out the window. Black sky and the whisper of wings from birds overhead are all that I can make out. The lanterns from the side of the carriage cast the night around us in an orange glow.

There is a roaring sound that gets louder with every passing minute. Before I can discern where it’s coming from, the carriage jerks to a halt. There is a sharp whistle and then we are in motion again. The roaring is louder now and I realize what it is.

Waves. Crashing against wooden beams.

Rhythmic clacking of the wheels begins as the carriage shakes and moves in sync with it. The bridge. We’re really going over the bridge. The horses move with haste as if knowing our welcome here is limited.

The air shifts. Not just from the salt of the ocean but it becomes thicker. Tangier. Metallic. The taste of magic is strong. I feel it hum under my skin.

“I forgot what it felt like, to have free magic,” my father says incredulously. I’ve never felt anything like this before. The power I only scented before I now feel it flowing into my body and dancing at my fingertips.

“How much longer until we are there,” I ask.

“Not long enough.” Garren has gathered Sybil closer to him even though she seems rapt by what we are seeing outside of the window.

While it feels like an hour has passed, I know it has only been a few minutes when the rattling stops and our carriage is once again on solid ground. My head is fully outside of the window now, the ocean breeze blowing pieces of my hair out of its twist. I cannot seem to take in enough of my surroundings.

Myrkorvin. I am on Myrkorvin soil.

It has the appearance of Lysan but the feeling is different. There is danger here. Even in the darkness of the night, I feel as though I am being watched by a million different eyes. The sensation becomes too much so I fall back inside the cabin, my cheeks cold from the night air. Even Briar has opened his own window and is staring thoughtfully outside.

“Take it in, my children. And remember, this is not Lysan. There are things here that will not hesitate—”

“Your Majesty!” one of our guards calls from the front of the carriage. “We are approaching Blackfire Castle.”

Anticipation shortens my breath. A million emotions are rushing through my veins. Myrkorvin. Dark elves. The Night of a Hundred Faces. Things here that will not hesitate…

“Not hesitate to do what, Father?”

The regal mask is back in place. My father is no longer in this carriage but rather King Orvian of Lysan. Queen Mirella is at his side, stoic and strong. The only sign of emotion in him is the softening of his eyes when he regards me.

“Things here will not hesitate to kill you.” He turns back to face forward. “The dark elves themselves are at the top of that list. Be vigilant.”

Outside the window a war cry goes up. A legion of soldiers in black armor is posted along the road and are the same massive build as the messenger who brought us word of this event. As we roll on I can see it. The inky black tops and bricks are somehow darker than the night sky.

Blackfire Castle.

That feeling of loneliness in my stomach has curdled into trepidation. Our carriage rolls to a stop. The royal procession has also fallen silent. Those in their own carriages are waiting on a cue from us on how to proceed.

The door to our carriage opens. My father exits first, followed by my mother. Then Garren and Sybil. Briar is next and he holds out his hand for me. I hesitate. Isn’t this what I wanted? Adventure? To see the unknown? Why are my legs refusing to move?

“Come on, Elvie. The longer you stay in there, the less time I have to bed twenty-seven elves before the sun rises.”

I choke on a laugh and place my hand in Briar’s. There is a slight tremble and I know it’s not my hand that shakes.

I smile at him and whisper, “You know, Skeven said he’d double my bet if half of the elves you fucked were dark elves.” Briar laughs and we take our place behind Garren and Sybil as our parents are led into the castle. Soon there is noise from those in our party as they join us in exiting their carriages.

“Well, dear sister, by the time the sun rises I hope to be well and truly satisfied and for you to be ten gold marks richer.”

Our father turns to us and we fall silent. A guard dressed in all black with a long cape of crimson approaches from the castle’s gate and bows before my father. The wood of the castle door is dark, held together by long rods of black steel. The smell of fire is in the air.

“King Orvian and the Light Elves of Lysan. King Arkain welcomes you to Blackfire Castle and invites you to join in the Night of a Hundred Faces.” The guard gestures for us to go through the opening and into the castle.

My father nods and we begin walking, my slippers gliding along the grass. I feel as though I am floating. And for some reason I have this sinking feeling as my feet pass through the archway of the gate that I am never leaving this place again.


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