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Taken by the Dark Elf King : Chapter 9

Elvie

EVERYONE IS STARING AT ARI and me when we enter.

I would like to think it’s because he is not concealed by glamour like the rest of us, but in my heart I know it is because of the pair we make. I pay them no mind but Ari hesitates. I tug him after me with my head held high. These elves are no better than him or me.

The music is louder now that we are back in the throne room. The men who were up on the dais earlier in the night are being engaged by ten to twelve elves each. I hope one of them is the king. That way my evening spent away from the party was not for nothing.

And it was special thanks to Ari.

We cut through the crowd towards the dance floor and Ari tugs on my hand.

“How can you stand it?” he whispers.

“Stand what?”

“All of the staring?”

I glance back at the crowd and they are still looking at us. I do my best to glare and pull Ari closer to me. Who are they to judge? They think they are so powerful with their true forms hidden. It is ridiculous.

“These beings here are no better than you or I. They would do well to remember that. Believe me Ari,” I say as we cross onto the dance floor. “You have something they could never have.”

“What’s that?” He asks, his skin turning a sickly pale gray.

“Kindness. None of them would’ve shown me the willow.” I look around the room. “And honestly, you’re braver than them by staying true to yourself. You should be proud, not cower under their stares.”

“And you are not embarrassed to be seen with me?”

“Embarrassed?” My tone is incredulous. “Ari, I am proud to be with you. We are at the very least friends now. Wouldn’t you agree?”

He’s quiet for a moment then nods. “Yes, friends.”

“And as my friend, allow me to impart some wisdom on you that I have learned over the years. If they don’t like you, fuck them. If they do like you then fuck them too.” Ari’s scarlet eyes go as big as saucers at my coarse language. I smirk and take his hand and guide it to my waist. “Now, my newfound friend, let us dance and forget about all of them.”

Before Ari can say anything else I pull us onto the floor and we are swept up into the music. The polished tiles squeak under our feet as we turn through each song. I spin, Ari spins with me. I twirl, Ari catches me. Around and around we go through each dance.

I am sweaty. Soaking through my threadbare gown, my dark hair sticking to my face but I do not stop. Those around us keep in time with the music. The elves once staring have returned to their conversations. The band keeps up. Playing song after song after song, Ari and I dance through each of them.

The free magic, Myrkorvin, or maybe just Ari himself makes me feel light. Like I am drunk on berrywine and my feet move without my urging. The fast-paced dances keep us going. Around and around we go, never slowing and certainly never stopping.

I do not know how many songs we have danced to until a slow one comes on. Ari and I come together to catch our breath. We haven’t stopped dancing, like the two of us are unable to. There is something pulling me towards Ari and that’s what keeps me wanting to dance with him. To not stop dancing even as my feet beg for relief.

“Aren’t you tired?” Ari asks me as we dance slowly together.

“Exhausted, but why does that mean we should stop?”

He laughs at that and the sound warms my heart.

“I’ve never met anyone like you El,” He says.

“I should certainly hope not.”

Slowing down but still swaying with the music, he takes his hand from my waist and digs in his pocket, producing one of the wild flowers from the base of the willow. It’s a beautiful pale pink that almost matches the gown I was originally wearing.

“May I?” he asks and I nod. He tucks it gently behind my ear and I swear I can feel his finger lightly caress the shell of my ear. I smile at him and feel my face heat before pushing up on my toes to kiss him softly on the cheek. I watch as his face darkens; it’s only fair that he’s blushing too.

We continue to sway softly as the final cords are struck and the hall is plunged into silence. Ari opens his mouth as if to say something but is cut off by the thundering of wooden doors opening.

The white-haired dark elf is back. Wylan, flanked by a legion of royal guards. A few gasps go up and I find myself reeling. This night has flown by for it to be at an end. I look to Ari, whose eyes bore into me as if…pleading?

This is it for us, isn’t it? The thought sours my stomach. If only we had had more time. He’s the most interesting creature I have met in awhile. But soon I will be unmasked and forced back across the bridge to live as a protected princess.

And what is to become of Ari? I reach out and squeeze his hand.

“I wish we had more time,” I say, hurriedly.

His lips tip at that. “You’d want to stay in Myrkorvin for me?”

The hall has grown so quiet you could hear a pin drop. Wylan has assumed his position at the front of the dais, long red cape flowing behind him. I squeeze Ari’s hand again and nod, my heart thundering in my chest.

I would stay here for a chance to know Ari. For a chance to break with my routine. At only twenty-three, how can I already be bored of a life I am supposed to endure for eternity?

“I know there are more places you could show me. I wish I could stay here and see them all.” With one final squeeze, I drop his hand and turn to face the stage.

All the elves around me have turned too. A few of them are paired off. I wonder how my brother fared this evening after being robbed of his good looks. If he kept good on his boasts I’ll at least have some gold marks waiting for me back at home.

Idly, I think about the king. If he found someone during this night or was this risk to his kingdom’s security for nothing? Perhaps my father is right, that this was merely for show. In hopes that enough of our kind would see that Myrkorvin and the dark elves that inhabit it are just like us. That if anything, this has pushed us towards being closer once again.

Without having the free magic so abundant, it will be hard going back and seeing what little my powers can do.

“Thank you all for participating in the Night of a Hundred Faces. In a few moments I will ask that you remove your masks. Some of you may be shocked to find out who you spent the evening with.” I glance next to me and see Ari and smile. For some reason he doesn’t return it, just keeps looking straight ahead. I chalk it up to just being nervous and return my attention back up front.

“King Arkain hopes that this evening will go a long way in showing both our kinds that there is still some commonality between us. That if we can dance and laugh together, that our relationship can be restored.” Wylan looks over the crowd one final time, eyes catching on something but he quickly disregards it. “You may now remove your masks.”

With a deep breath I reach up and feel the invisible lip of the mask. It takes some force but I pry it off and watch as it clatters to the ground. I am back at my true height. I can feel my long hair tickling down my back. My gossamer gown flowing down my legs once more.

There are light elves and dark elves around me. A few look stunned to see who they were just linked in arms with. The pair of elves I saw kissing along the columns are two light elves from one of our southern territories. They smile at each other and kiss.

How sweet.

I raise my arms above my head, stretching with a yawn as all the dancing catches up with me. One final metallic smell hits my nose and that’s when it happens. A female dark elf turns towards me with a look of shock as she gasps and points.

My time at being invisible was short-lived. Truth be told I’ve never experienced that sort of reaction before, even when I first walked in with my family in the whole royal procession. She’s not the only one to act this way. The whole of the hall turns and gasps at me. Even light elves, which I find very odd.

Surely they are used to seeing me.

Until I realize it is not me they’re gasping at but the figure behind me. Ari. What about him has elicited such a response? There is an anger building in me. I know light elves can be cruel when it comes to outward appearance, but Ari is my friend and to have him be greeted with this abject horror…

But it isn’t horror on their faces. Nor is it disgust. It is surprise? As if they cannot believe what they are seeing. Everyone in the hall has turned, even Wylan on the dais has narrowed his eyes to Ari who is behind me.

Slowly I turn myself, hoping that when Ari realizes who I am he will still wish to be friends. That Elvie the princess is just as wanting of his friendship as El the common elf.

“Ari, why is everyone staring at us…” I begin before trailing off.

Ari is no longer behind me. No trace that he ever was there but the flower I can still feel tucked behind my ear.

Where my friend stood before now houses a hulking figure. He is massive. Easily a foot and a half taller than me. His black leather armor is stretched tight over rippling muscles and wide shoulders. The adornments on his breastplate double Wylan’s and his red cape is twice as long, spilling out behind him in a crimson curtain.

Only the dark gray of his skin is exposed to the candlelight around us. From where I am standing I can make out the thin, raised scars on his neck. Only a few decorate his face. His massive hands that look like they could span my entire waist also have a smattering of scars and calluses. A face of striking features and a strong jaw sit under long tresses of raven black hair. Eyes of burning, red flames look down at me. Consuming me so completely I can barely breathe.

This is a warrior before me and he is the most terrifyingly beautiful thing I have ever seen.

My mouth is suddenly dry. I open it to speak, to ask where my friend went, but that’s when I notice it. The most devastating part of this primal stranger.

The pointed black crown that sits at his brow.

The pointed black crown of Myrkorvin. Of King Arkain of the Dark Elves.

“My king,” Wylan booms behind me. I notice many in the room have regained their composure and light and dark elves alike dip into a curtsy. My knees have locked and I am unable to do anything but stare wide-eyed and blink up at him.

“It seems as though you have given Myrkorvin a gift and selected a bride.”

Ice freezes my veins. No…it can’t be. I was so careful. And Ari, he would not have tricked me, would he? I received no favor and entered into no bargain.

But even as I think it, I realize what has happened. My hand comes up over my mouth and something passes in the king’s eyes. Too brief for me to make it out but for a second I could swear it was shame. Those eyes harden as he looks up to the dais.

“It seems as though I have,” King Arkain says, in a voice that pours over my body like warm honey. This cannot be happening. My family. My mother. My father. My brother. What will they all think? What will they say?

My knees wobble and my vision goes dark. The last thing I see before it consumes me is Arkain lunging for me with a curse and the feeling of the cool leather of his armor through the thin fabric of my dress.


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