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Taken by the Dark Elf King : Chapter 7

Elvie

BLACKFIRE CASTLE IS JUST AS ominous as the forest that surrounds it.

As soon as my feet crossed over the threshold into the great hall, I could feel the change. Not only in the air around me, but within myself as well. The other highborn elves linger close to me and my parents. Still too afraid to venture too far out from the pack.

But I know they feel it too.

I am weighed down by the strength of the magic in the air. Its metallic scent assaulting all of my senses. My body feels like I have just drunk a barrel full of our sweetest wine. This power is intoxicating and all-consuming.

In Lysan, I am no more powerful than a typical elf. My father wields a great deal but the separation from the free magic after all of these years has weakened him. Now as I look towards him, it is as if he has doubled in size.

The warmth of his magic is radiating off him like warm rays of sun. His silver hair glowing with power. His eyes are glowing as if he has been lit from within. My father was never a slight man, but standing next to my mother, is it just my imagination or is his chest more robust? Has my mother’s head always just barely grazed the underside of his chin?

Even Garren and Briar seem to be glowing and strengthening before my very eyes. Glancing down at my hands, I have to assume I am as well, my pale skin is a stark contrast to the ominous black mask dangling from my fingers.

Procuring this was most awkward. The servant who handed me this mask had the strangest look on her face that I still cannot place. I shake myself out of those thoughts and keep in step with Garren at my side.

His eyes scan the room, taking in the figures around us. So much gray skin and red eyes. Even after weeks of studying them, nothing could have prepared me for the sight of them in front of me. It is hard to tell that we were once the same kind. If their outward appearance did not highlight the difference, there is an animalistic aura that surrounds them.

Countless pairs of red eyes appraise us from behind gold-encrusted wine goblets. Elongated fangs glinting in ferocious smiles as we pass them and reach the center of the throne room. I am shocked by my lack of fear. It is obvious to me that we have built the dark elves into these creatures of the night they clearly are not.

Different does not always equate to beastly. Perhaps, though, I am the only one who thinks this way, as I watch one of Lord Sunwyne’s daughters nearly faint as she brushes against a dark elf guard.

We cannot all be critical thinkers.

“So,” Briar whispers next to me, “twenty-seven? And if over half are dark elves, is Skeven really going to double your bet?”

A laugh leaves my lips. “Is that doubt I hear? Are you worried your usual charms won’t appeal to them?”

“Dear sister, how you wound me with your lack of confidence. Believe me, if King Arkain were a queen I would’ve had our two countries reunited after one pleasure-filled night. No female—human, elf, or otherwise—can resist me when I make my affections known.” His smile at me is all teeth, glinting in the candlelight from the sconces along the wall.

“And so humble too, brother. You truly are a gift to females throughout our realm.”

“That’s what they tell me when my head’s between their—”

“Be quiet, you two!” Garren’s blond head whips around, shooting dangers from his eyes at us. Briar tries to smooth his laughter with a hand but it is to no avail. We’ve stopped moving now. We are lined up facing a dais and an ominous black throne looms in the center of it. It seems to be constructed from the same black stone that the castle is made from.

Looking around, both light elves and dark elves regard each other warily. It has been an age since our two people were in the same room. There is an unease that permeates the room. Maybe it is the guards armed to the teeth that stand at each exit. Once we have all filtered inside, the great oak doors slam shut with finality.

But not before a figure sneaks in.

Moving silently on the polished stone floor, I can just make out the figure of a young male. Perhaps no taller than me, slight with glowing red eyes that are too big for his face. His clothes are nice but far too big for his skinny frame. Black hair falls down his neck and slightly over his face. He looks too out of place compared to everyone in their finery.

Yet no one besides me seems to notice his arrival.

I turn my head to ask Briar if he sees the youngling only to be greeted by open air. I narrow my eyes and see Briar chatting to one of Lord Alderred’s daughters. He looks over at me over her dark hair and winks and I simply shake my head.

Looking back, I have lost sight of the figure.

In fact, it seems I have lost sight of everyone I came with. My mother and father are no longer beside me and neither are Garren and Sybil. The smell of magic has begun to intensify, my head is feeling light whilst my body feels too heavy to move.

Instead of going in search of my parents, my feet feel glued to the tile beneath me. The candles along the wall flame brighter. The sound of heavy boots pounding the ground intensifies until the door next to the dais is thrown open. A line of imposing dark figures enter the room and line up in front dais. Each one is completely obscured by their own dark cloaks except for one.

A white-haired dark elf takes his position at the front. He is older, lines of age are deep along his eyes and forehead. A prominent scar runs along the side of his face. His black armor is adorned with gold markings indicating his rank is of importance. His red cape is held at his shoulders and detailed with matching golden thread.

This must be Wylan, Advisor to the King, if my memory serves from my lessons.

“Good evening, dark and light elves alike,” His deep voice booms across the hall. All chattering has stopped as red and gold and silver eyes turn towards him on the stage. “It is the pleasure of King Arkain, Ruler of Myrkorvin and the Dark Elves, to welcome you to Blackfire Castle as we come to celebrate and participate in our longstanding tradition of the Night of a Hundred Faces. May the First Gods smile on us tonight and bless the unions that will be forged this evening.”

A pair of dark elves in front of me whisper to each other. Their dark gowns match the inky color of their hair. I crane my neck forward to try and hear them better.

“Which one do you think is the king?” the one on the left whispers.

“Second from last, I saw him perform at the tournament last summer and I’d recognize his build anywhere.”

I drag my eyes back to the stage. How they can even discern these figures apart, I have no idea. If I get selected by a dark elf tonight then perhaps it is a good idea to learn how to tell them apart.

That idea rocks me. I am not staying here. When the night is over I shall return back home. So why does that thought sadden me?

“The rules of the Night are simple,” Wylan continues. “If you are selected by our king, he will bestow his favor on you. At that point you will have to state that you wish to stay. A bride achieved during the Night cannot be someone who is forced. This night is a bargain that both parties must agree to. Is that understood?”

There is a chorus of agreements and Wylan continues his speech.

“For the rest of you, this Night is not simply for King Arkain to find a bride. But rather a chance for our people to reacquaint themselves with each other. Our sisters, while you may hope to end this evening a queen, you may end it with a new friendship, lover, or for a lucky few of you, perhaps even your mate is in this room. May the free magic guide you to them.”

Wylan nods and the figures on the stage bring forth their hands that were clasped behind their backs. Identical black masks are in their hands that match the ones in ours. Slipping them onto their faces there is a sudden burst of white light. A few in the crowd gasp as we watch it occur.

Towering figures are transformed. Still elves but no longer dark elves. The one on the end that was the largest of the bunch has been turned into a lean figure a good foot shorter than himself. With brown skin that glows under the candlelight and a close cut beard of dark coiled hair. The rest of his dark hair is braided back from his face, revealing a strong jaw and amber eyes.

The rest follow this transformation in turn.

“These masks will change your appearance to those around you. When I give the signal, please put on your mask and let the free magic guide you. Once the dawn begins to rise, everyone will return to this throne room. Once we are all back inside you will be permitted to remove your masks. Should the king have selected a bride, she will remain here from this night forward.”

Sweat slides down my spine. I know my father said the chances of me being selected were slim. Just keep to myself and all will be well. Besides, I’d much rather explore than mingle. A chance to move freely without the watchful eyes of royal tutors or my brother sounds like something I have been longing for. The chance to explore this place to its fullest before I’m sent back to live in Lysan for the rest of eternity.

“The castle will be open to all of you. But be cautious of exploring. The King guarantees your safety within these walls, but should you leave them”—Wylan pauses—“the monsters who call the surrounding woods home are nothing short of nightmares. Now please, put on your masks and let the night commence.”

I hesitate and stare down at the black mask. There is no turning back once I slip this on. Without giving myself a chance to reconsider, I push the mask over my nose and I am plunged into darkness just as a cry goes up.

The metal smell burns my nose and coats my teeth. I grind my teeth against the feeling of magic ripping against my skin. The discomfort is brief before my vision returns. I am outside the throne room. I look down and my pink gown is replaced by one of a drab brown.

Patting along my sides and breasts, I definitely feel different. Fuller of chest and rounder of hips. I glance around me and see that I am alone in the hallway. Interesting. Following the sound of voices, I make my way along the corridor.

Royal portraits hang along the wall. Centuries of dark elf kings and queens stare down at me until I find what I need. A mirror framed in silver. The sight before me steals my breath. I feel the same, if only a little lightheaded from all the magic.

But staring back at me is a stranger. One with shoulder-length brown hair and brown eyes. A smattering of freckles cover my nose and chin. The slight point to my ears is the only indication I am not completely human.

There is laughter behind me as a group of other female elves pass. I open my mouth to speak to them but they ignore me. Completely. As if I am no more than a fixture on this wall. No pausing, no curtsying. A laugh escapes me.

Finally, I am invisible.

I am not Princess Elveena of Lysan. I am an ordinary elf. Another giggle threatens to burst out of me when I notice something down the hall. A door is slightly ajar and I can see the hints of pale moonlight. I cannot be chosen by the king if I avoid the party altogether. My threadbare slippers snag on the red carpet as I make my way to it.

I pass by a few more elves locked in conversation. There is already a pair of dark-haired elves kissing behind one of the columns. Lips on throats and hands wandering down the front of trousers. None of them notice me as I pass and I keep going until I reach the door.

The ornate Myrkorvin sigil is carved into the dark wood. With a sigh, I push open the door and am greeted by cool night air. The moon above is silver and surrounded by a bouquet of stars. Making my way down the stone steps, I giggle and spin, my brown gown dragging behind me as the hem is soaked through by the dew on the grass.

Wind threads through my dark hair and though I am not myself, I have never felt more like myself in my whole life. Invisible. Ordinary. A chance to be free. To just be. I keep spinning in the grass until I am dizzy and collapse to the ground with a smile. The stars above shine on my face as I take deep breaths. The floral scent of night blooming flowers tickles my nose.

Alone. Free and alone at last. What am I going to do first—

A twig snaps next to me and I shoot up into a sitting position. The slight figure from earlier stands in front of me with hands on his hips.

I raise an eyebrow at him as he continues to look down at me before opening his mouth.

“You really shouldn’t be out.”


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