"Oh, Wren," Ryllae sang and I groaned quietly, pulling my blankets back.
"I'm going to bed," I said.
She barged into my room anyway and jumped on my bed. I rolled my eyes at her and finished getting under the blankets. She was smirking at me.
"So, about Corstelis," she began and I glared.
"How about we talk about Onvyr instead?" I demanded. She blushed. "He kissed you!"
"Technically, we kissed each other," she said.
"Ryllae, you know our customs! Why did you not consult me first?"
She tossed her hair over her shoulder, shrugging them. "Because you were on a walk with Cori."
"You know what I mean."
She shrugged again. "It's hard to talk to you about that kind of stuff." I stared at her in shock. "You're always talking about creatures and Mother."
"So you feel like you can't talk to me?" I asked and she avoided my eyes. I sighed. "I'm sorry, Ry. I just- It's hard."
"It doesn't have to be, Wren," she whispered back.
"I don't know how else to be," I argued. "This is how I've been for 20 years."
"There are people here you can talk to about it."
"Like who?" She lifted her brow. "I am not going to Corstelis about this."
"I wasn't talking about her. I was talking about Bryan." I frowned. "He has a past. I don't know what it is, but it's dark. Open up to him and he might do the same. You can talk with him at dinner."
I scoffed and told her what I overheard.
"I don't think he likes me that much anymore."
"Sounds like Cori took care of that, though. You're too proud, Wren. If you don't do something about it, I will."
"Is that a threat?"
She smiled. "Perhaps. Now, why did you run away from Cori?"
"She told you?" I asked indignantly. She gave me an innocent smile and I sighed. "I ran because... I'm not used to this." I put my head on my pillow and stared at the roof. It was easier to talk about it when I couldn't see her face. "I've had so many she-elves approach me over the years and, the one time I kiss someone, it's on accident and the woman is...."
"Different?" she suggested.
"Yeah. And I was enjoying it. I'm not allowed to enjoy it, Ry. I can't."
"Why not?" she asked and I could hear the frown in her voice.
I held up a finger. "One, I'm a creature hunter." I held up another finger. "Two, we're too different." I held up a final finger. "Three, she's leaving in nine days."
"I've never known you to back down from a challenge and that's exactly what this is. She stood up for you. Doesn't that mean anything to you?"
"Of course it does, but-"
Ryllae stood up and sighed. "The Queen Mother was right, you know." I looked at her. She was smiling a little. "You're not as different from Corstelis as you think you are. Good night, brother."
I was furious with Bryan. How dare he try and tell me who I could and could not spend my time with? I didn't sleep well that night. It didn't much matter. The Queen Mother couldn't spend time with me today so I had decided to wander around on my own.
I got dressed and opened the door. When I stepped out, I nearly tripped over a box. Frowning, I picked it up. I took it back inside and closed the door with my foot. I opened the box. Inside was a flute. I tilted my head to the side and picked up the note.
I know it was you who spoke to Ryllae about me. Please, join us for dinner this evening. This is a token of my appreciation. You will get better. Just practice. - Onvyr
I laughed and took it out. It was whittled from a dark wood. It wasn't metal like the one the she-elf was teaching me with. I sat down and put my fingers on a few holes and blew into it.
"Wow," I breathed. "It sounds just like an owl!"
I played it for an hour. I wasn't playing anything in particular; just random notes. None of them sounded very good....
Someone knocked on my door and I put it down carefully. It was Bryan and he looked upset.
"Shouldn't you be out in the forest?" I asked coolly.
"I owe you an apology," he muttered and I sighed. "I just- After what happened yesterday, I was angry with elves in general."
"Then why did you want me to get to know Almer?"
"He came to apologize for the other elf's actions," he said. "That's something none of the other elves did. I would like for you to join us at dinner tonight."
"Sorry, Bryan, but Onvyr has asked me to join him for dinner with him, Ryllae, and Wren," I said. "Come here and see what he made for me."
I led him inside and showed him the letter and flute. He laughed.
"Playing matchmaker?" he asked and I flushed.
"Ryllae wanted a favor so I agreed to help," I said simply.
"What will you be doing with the Queen Mother today?" Bryan asked as I walked with him to the Bridge.
"Nothing. She has things to do up in her tower. She didn't really go into detail."
"Then what will you do?"
"Probably walk around some more," I said, staring around. "There's plenty to see here."
He laughed. "That's true." We reached the Bridge where Wren and Ryllae were waiting. Wren was avoiding my eyes. "Am I forgiven?" Bryan asked and I laughed, hugging him.
"Yes, dear cousin, you are forgiven."
He hugged me tightly. "I'm just looking out for you," he whispered.
"I know," I whispered back. I stepped back to look at them as Almer joined them. "Please be careful out there, you four."
Bryan smiled reassuringly at me and I watched him walk off, discussing their plans. I bit my lower lip and walked back to the home to get my flute.
Almer was carrying the net in his hands.
"I know it seems overly simple," he said. "But I believe it will work."
"If it doesn't, then we could scare it off and lose any chance," Ryllae pointed out.
"I'm confident," Almer promised. "Bryan, you will be what brings it out of the forest. Since it didn't attack you the first time, I don't think it will this time."
"Assuming it's the same creature," I said.
We were in the forest now and the elves jumped into the trees. I wandered the forest path, feeling nervous. What if this didn't work? I agreed with Ryllae. We could scare it and its fellows off and go back to having to kill them.
I smelled the beast first and turned slowly. It was standing just at the edge of the forest.
"Bryan," it rasped and I frowned.
"How do you know my name?" I asked.
It began to slide onto the forest path again. It was then I noticed it didn't have any feet. It was just a big hunk of slimy flesh. It was a little sickening.
Its tail swung around itself.
"The forest speaks your name. It speaks the name of Corstelis. It yearns for her."
I pulled out the Sword, forgetting our plan.
"What does it want with my cousin?" I demanded.
"She is the only of her kind. It wishes to dissect her. It wishes to make more."
"No," I said. "I won't let it."
Right on cue, the three elves dropped the net over the creature. It let out a wail of anger but we each stood on a corner of the net until it stopped thrashing. I glared at it as it looked at me.
"Forgive me but I cannot let anyone harm Corstelis."