I stared at her. I couldn't do anything else. My bow fell to the floor with a clatter. Bryan quickly picked it up and took my quiver from my shoulder. Wren was snapping at me but I didn't listen to him. I approached her slowly.
The Queen Mother looked a little scared to see me but she didn't back away. Biting my lip, I reached out to her. She held her hand up and we pressed our palms together. Our hands were the same size. Our ears were identical, too: pointed and barely visible through our hair. To further our similarities, her hair was as long and blond as mine.
"It's good to see you are well," she whispered.
"You-You're really my grandmother?" I breathed and she nodded sadly.
Wren cleared his throat behind us, shattering the moment. I glared daggers at him but he ignored me.
"Yes, you're report," the Queen Mother sighed.
"We got a good view of the creature this time," he said.
As they gave a detailed description, I looked around. There was a large canopy bed with a green velvet blanket. A few chairs were set around the room. Light seemed to radiate from somewhere in the room but I couldn't find the source.
"I see," the Queen Mother sighed. "This is grim. You have my permission to recruit more hunters. It sounds like you will need them. How many creatures do you think there are?"
"It's hard to say," Ryllae answered. "I believe they have a nest, though. The must. If we get enough elves to join us, we can spread more ground."
"I agree," the Queen Mother said. "Go now. I must have a private conversation with our guests. And Wren," she added. He turned to her. "I expect better manners when you see them this evening."
He flushed but nodded.
"Please forgive Wren," she said. "Sit. You must be exhausted."
We did so and I shifted nervously.
"Why is Wren so conflicted?" Bryan asked. "It's like he can't make up his mind if he likes us or not."
"He's been like that ever since their mother disappeared," she answered. "Their mother was a creature hunter, too. The last place anyone saw her was on your half of the forest. Wren is convinced she was kidnapped by the humans. Before that, he yearned to know more about them. Now he's confused."
I felt sad for Wren but I had more pressing questions on my mind.
"You are very beautiful," the Queen Mother said finally.
"Thank you," I whispered. "I'm sorry but this is- I don't look anything like my parents. Now, though...."
"It can be overwhelming," she agreed. "Before we speak of anything else, though: King David said that you came seeking knowledge of the darkness that lurks in the forest." We nodded. "Sir Bryan, you will join Wren and Ryllae in their search. You will be searching from the forest road, though. That Sword around your waist will give you all the power you need, so do not be frightened."
"I am prepared," he said. "If it will keep us safe."
"May I have some time alone with Corstelis?" she asked. "If you go down to the bottom of the stairs, you will find an elf waiting to take you to your quarters."
"Yes." He leaned over and hugged me gently. "Come find me when you are done."
"I will," I whispered.
He bowed to the Queen Mother and disappeared down the stairs. I turned back to her, feeling incredibly nervous. She sat on her bed by the pillows, leaning against the headboard. I assumed that was her normal seat.
"Take off your boots and join me," she said, her voice soft. I hurried and did so, lifting my skirts as I climbed onto the bed. I sat across from her, my legs to my side. "I'm sorry I haven't been in touch these long years."
"It's okay," I said. "Mother said you and her are... at odds."
She smiled. "To say the least." She sighed and contemplated her hands for a moment. "You are... unique, Corstelis."
"To say the least," I said and she laughed a little.
"Your mother has contacted me twice during your 20 years of life. In her letters, she has expressed her dismay that you feel so cut off. Tell me your thoughts." I nibbled on my lower lip for a moment, not sure if I should. "You can be completely open with me, Corstelis. You need not hold anything back."
I looked at her and everything came exploding out.
"I do not look like my mother or my father. I do not have any of the powers that each race has. I confuse people. I'm cooped up in the castle because Mother worries that someone will hurt me. My only friends are my cousins and even then it's just Sally and Bryan. My parents refuse to let me learn more about their pasts. They won't even let me learn about the elves! I know pretty much everything there is to know about werewolves! Nymphs are confusing and, as far as I can tell, the only way a supernatural being can even tell I'm part nymph is because of my petite frame and some kind of aura I give off." I sighed and realized I was crying. "I just want to know who I am. I want to know what I am. And I don't want to be so lonely."
The Queen Mother passed me a kerchief and I dabbed my eyes with it. She didn't speak for a while but I had the feeling she wanted to so I remained silent.
"Your mother has been keeping you safe for a reason," she said finally.
I rolled my eyes. "I know. It's because I'm a mixture of-"
"Not entirely," she interrupted. "Rosebud has told you that because she wanted to spare you the details of her birth." I frowned. "Her father did not know I was an elf when we met. It wasn't until after I gave birth to your mother did he realize what I was. First he attempted to abduct Rosebud. When that failed, he tried to kill the two of us. To his dismay, I have a bit of a temper. Then, as I strolled the very forest we have been speak of, a bear tried to attack me. A huntsman saved me, though, so I blessed his sword." She sighed. "Have you seen the Sword of the Thousands?"
"Just the few times Uncle David has drawn it."
"You've seen the sapphire in the center of the blade, though?" she asked and I nodded. "That is where your mother truly resides."
I stared at her for a few minutes. "I don't understand."
"I wanted to protect her so I turned her into a nymph. It didn't work completely. My powers were not honed enough to do it completely so it only made her half nymph. She still wasn't safe. Her father may be dead, but there were others seeking us out. My only other option lay in the Sword I had enchanted. Your mother is bound to the Sword of the Thousands. When it has a new master, she goes to it and serves him."
"How long has she served Uncle David?" I asked.
"Twenty-one years," she answered. "The longest of all her masters."
"So that's why she hates that sword so much," I said. "She won't let me anywhere near it." The Queen Mother nodded. "But how could she have given birth to me if she's in a sword?"
"She has a physical body outside of it," she answered. "If I remember correctly, King David had to kill two rogue wolves while she was pregnant with you. It weakened her greatly and he was not able to use the Sword until after your birth. Thankfully, it had no affect on you."
I leaned forward. "Please tell me: are there others like me?"
The Queen Mother sighed and held my hands. "No, my dear child. There are not."
I bent my head and shut my eyes, sobbing.