Stanley and Lynn have been in love with each other for years, but neither of them have a clue. Their friendship is deep, and they would never risk it by admitting their feelings.
Marlow is an elf with the opposite situation. He's ready to make a life long commitment to his beloved Katrina: a bond. A Bond is a magical, unbreakable contract of love that was never meant for humans. When Marlow loses the ring through a portal to the human world, Stanley and Lynn fall under it's spell.
Haven is the Elvin realm beyond the human world that is on the verge of war. A great wall extends across the land, dividing it already. There are two kings, Koeth and Jene. King Jene rules over the Light Dwellers, peaceful people who keep to themselves and strive to avoid violence and war. King Koeth rules the Dark Dwellers, so consumed in hatred for every living thing that they are cursed to never be able to walk under the sun. Dark Dwellers have killed thousands of Light Dwellers in the past few years, and the time has come for the Light Dwellers to build an army. Dark Dwellers make portals to the human world, and use these portals to capture humans and kill them. This is their past time when Light Dwellers are nowhere to be found, and it’s because of this that there is even a story to tell.
Marlow is a young man in Haven, a Light Dweller who lives with his twin brother Spiro in the southwestern region. He and his brother are two of thousands of Light Dweller men who have been instructed to spend the year honing their skills for the oncoming war. Marlow was skilled with a bow and arrow, and had the ability to build or fix almost anything. His brother Spiro was a skilled carver and forager.
It was mid-winter and an hour before sunrise. Marlow crept the depths of the forest with his bow in hand, eyes searching the semi darkness for the first meal of the day. Normally Spiro would have accompanied him, but today was a day that Marlow chose to spend alone. It was on this day that he met the love of his life, the most beautiful woman in the world.
Despite what he had been taught all his life to feel about dark dwellers, the moment Marlow laid eyes on her, she was in his heart forever. His knees weakened at the sight of her, and while his mind shouted for him to end her, a stirring in his chest made him stand and stare. The forest was quiet, and he could clearly hear as she drew in a heavy breath, releasing it with a shudder and dropping her weapon to the ground. She met his eyes, her expression one of complete hopelessness.
She was beautiful. Her long red hair was wild and unkempt, her blue eyes bright with tears in the early morning light. She wore a tattered black dress, and the bow that lay at her feet had chips in the once graceful wood carving. She rose her hands to her face, staring at him with such a look of sorrow that he took an involuntary step closer to her, his arm itching to comfort her. His senses were skewed, and he felt a pull on his heart that he’d never experienced before. He knew immediately that she was different from the rest. She was in need. He shook himself, tense with anxiety, and directed his arrow at her heart. He had to get a grip and do the right thing; destroy her.
“What…what brings you here, dark dweller?” he called to her. “You have no right to step foot on this land.”
She cast her eyes to the ground, her face crumpling. She burst into tears, wailing into her hands and sinking to her knees.
“I surrender!” she cried, gasping.
He stood awkwardly, unsure how to respond. He had never faced such a reaction before. It wasn’t in the make up of a dark dweller to surrender to anything.
After a long, careful moment, he walked over to where she sat, keeping his arrow taut. He kicked her bow out of reach. Then he circled her, searching her person for knives or other weaponry. He found none.
Against his better judgment, he knelt down close in front of her, peering at her face. She hid her eyes from him, one hand covering her mouth to muffle the sound of her cries.
“Are you really a dark dweller?” he asked, voice strangely gentle as he spoke. “Your demeanor is all wrong. You’re supposed to try and kill me.”
She kept her face in her hands, crying heavily. “I am,” she confessed. “Please, you can kill m-me.” she sniffed. “I’d rather die quickly at the hands of a l-light side dweller than slowly of s-starvation.”
Marlow’s heart burned with pity. She was so beautiful, yet so broken. He knew he shouldn’t spare any time in killing her. This could be a trick. He stood straight again, pointing his bow at her chest. She sucked in her breath and held it. He drew the arrow back, his hands shaking. A moment of unbroken silence passed, and he shook his head, dropping his bow to his side. What had caused this? She looked so untaken care of, so harmless. Part of him ached to help her, a part of him he couldn’t ignore.
He glanced around quickly to make sure they were alone. If anyone saw them like this, they’d likely both lose their lives. He saw nothing but the grass and the trees. He sighed, chest tight with anxiety, and touched a finger to her wrist. “Don’t you have family to care for you?” he asked quietly.
She shook her head, not looking at him.
“Surely the dark side hasn’t completely run out of game. Couldn’t you hunt for yourself there as you were now?”
“My family has disowned me,” the woman whispered, her eyes refilling again as she looked up at him. “I’ve been restricted from hunting on our side. Please, why do you care? I came here to die.”
“Why have they disowned you?” he asked, ignoring her question.
There was silence, and Marlow prepared himself for some terrifying confession to come out of her mouth. She looked up at him again, eyes wide, body shaking as she fought to control herself. “I…” she blushed, looking sheepish. “I told my family I wanted to live here, because I’d rather live here than with them. My father is…overbearing. I was only exaggerating in anger, but he wouldn’t hear any apologies. He cast me out. Even now, seasons later, he won’t…” she whimpered, hiding her face again. “He won’t hear from me.” she finished in a whisper. “My other family have been forbidden to help me.”
Marlow frowned in disapproval. “On our side, family would never disown one another. You really have no one at all?”
“My sister,” she whispered. “But she can’t help me until summer. She lives with our father until then.” She closed her eyes and bowed her head. “It doesn’t matter. I won’t make it that far. Please, kill me.”
Marlow withdrew his touch and stood, looking down at her. She was the most pitiful thing he’d ever seen. He couldn’t. She didn’t deserve this.
“I can’t,” he said. “I’m sorry.”
She remained where she was, crying. He didn’t know why he was doing this. Any other day, any other dark side dweller he met, he could imagine himself killing immediately. It was his duty. But this woman…she had no trace of murder in her eyes. She was different. She needed help.
“Look,” he said. “Please, stand.” He took hold of her shoulder, pulling her up. She didn’t fight him. She wiped her face on her sleeves and met his gaze. He felt himself turn red at their proximity, and tried to release her, but she swayed. He grabbed her shoulder quickly again.
“What’s your name?” he asked.
She looked surprised. “My name?”
He cleared his throat loudly. “Yes. You have one, I assume.”
“Um…Katrina,” she answered, frowning at him.
He nodded. “Alright, Katrina. I’m Marlow. If you swear to keep this a secret, I’ll help you. I’ll build you a small place to live and I’ll hunt a bit for you. Can you cook for yourself?”
Tears of a different sort were brimming in her eyes now. She nodded. “Yes, I can cook. Why are you doing this? You could just…”
“I can’t kill a woman like you,” he told her, confused himself. “I don’t have an answer. Now, find a place to hide. If anyone else meets you here, I doubt they’ll show you the same mercy. I’ll find you when I’m done.”
.. .. ..
Today was the day Marlow had promised himself he’d finally tell Spiro about Katrina. It was evening, and fully summer. He and Spiro lounged peacefully beside one another on the edge of the deck that surrounded their house. Their skin had transferred from the cool green of spring to the wonderfully warm gold of the new season, and today had been a day of complete relaxation. Their house was built high above the ground, hugging a large, red barked tree, and to them, there was no place more enjoyable to be. As the long branches of the tree swayed in the breeze, the leaves changed colors against the different moods of the sun. This place did well hiding the elvin men from strangers, as it was built twice as high as any other elvin home.
Spiro was Marlow’s brother and best friend, born only moments before him. He had sandy hair that curled in wild spirals, and out of obligation, kept it tied back from his face. His eyes were a wise and warming brown. He wore sleeveless robes, green and ankle length, the chest left unfastened. He sat back on his elbows, his pipe hanging from the corner of his mouth as he blew yellow smoke into the air.
Marlow was shorter of the two, with green eyes and black hair he kept tied in a knot behind his head. His robes were the same as Spiro’s, though fastened and blue. He swung his bare feet out over the edge of the deck, one arm looped around the support beam he leaned against. Spiro’s smoke wafted his way, and he waved it away irritably.
“Can’t you put that away?” he snapped. “There’s no need for it now.”
Spiro rolled his eyes and blew a puff of teal in his face. He narrowed his eyes and coughed. Spiro laughed.
“Calm down, brother. It’s not as if the smoke is hurting you.”
Marlow grunted, getting to his feet to be out of the way of the next cloud of smoke that passed by. His stomach was boiling with anxiety. He stared out at the horizon, trying to squelch his bitter mood so he could have this conversation. This was something he needed to tell his brother, something he’d been hiding for too long. He cleared his throat, keeping his eyes fixed on the sky.
“Spiro?” he began hesitantly.
“Marlow?” he returned, a picture of carelessness.
“There’s something I’d like you to know.”
“I knew it!” he declared, pointing his pipe. “You’ve been seeing Serena, haven’t you? I suspected so. Don’t think I haven’t noticed you’ve been gone almost every night this season.”
“Spiro,” Marlow blushed at this assumption. “Serena is far younger than I. I have no interest in her.”
“Oh.” Spiro’s brow furrowed. “Shame; she’s had her eye on you for a long time. What is it then?”
Marlow took a deep breath, his fingers digging into the wood of the railing nervously. “I am seeing someone,” he said. “But she’s not someone you would know.”
Spiro snorted. “I doubt that. What’s her name?”
At this Marlow smiled, thinking of her. “Katrina.”
“Hmm,” Spiro hummed thoughtfully. “You’re right then. I don’t know a Katrina. Where does she hail from?”
Marlow cleared his throat loudly and looked his brother in the eye. He was silent for a long time, unable to find the words, and as the silence dragged on, Spiro’s face began to lose it’s carelessness. He stared at Marlow with curious intensity. As the silence dragged on, understanding passed between them. Marlow opened his mouth to speak, and Spiro shot to his feet, horrified.
“You’re not saying…?” he stopped, taking a step backwards. “Marlow,” his voice became deadly serious. “She’s not a dark dweller.”
Marlow swallowed guiltily and looked away. There was silence again. Marlow kept his eyes on the floor of the deck until the white smoke of Spiro’s horror drifted into his vision. He became angry.
“She’s not like the others,” he said firmly. “She’s different. She’s been abandoned.”
“Abandoned by her own?” Spiro scoffed, waving a hand in the air. “She must be one of the worst! Dark dwellers don’t often discard their own. They stick together, those rotten, disgusting--”
“I’ve planned to bond with her.” Marlow interrupted, fighting to keep the rage from his voice. “I wanted you to know, because you’re my brother. We stand by one another.”
Spiro shook his head, his eyes crazed. “Not this time, brother,” he said.
“How could you?”
Marlow’s face was flushed with shock, and he turned his gaze back to the clouds to avoid Spiro’s eyes. He would have continued to keep his romance with Katrina a secret, had it remained as meaningless as it had begun, but things were changing. He had meant to end the affair back in late winter, but he hadn’t been able to. He was in love with her. Even as he and his brother stood speaking, the ring he planned to give her was in the process of being made. It would be a thin silver band, with a beautiful gem in the center that would be charmed to have pure white and deep black swirling endlessly together, to represent the two opposing sides of the elvin world being bound for eternity. Elvin bonds were unbreakable, and never before had a light side dweller been romanced, let alone bonded, by a dark side dweller.
“Marlow,” Spiro said tensely, catching Marlow’s attention again. “You can’t possibly intend to bond with her. Where would you live? Where would you hunt? What would happen to your children? This…is unheard of. Please, tell me this is a joke.”
Marlow shook his head. “It’s not a joke. I intend to bond with her. The ring will be ready tomorrow.”
Spiro lifted his pipe and took a long breath from it to calm himself. As he let it out, the smoke turned blue, hovering around Marlow’s face. Marlow waved it away irritably.
“Don’t be so worried,” he told Spiro. “Please.”
“DON’T BE SO WORRIED?” Spiro exclaimed, and the smoke that came with his words turned red. “Brother, you’re in uncharted territory here. Literally. If you bond with this woman, you are immediately without a home.”
Marlow’s heart ached as he looked at his brother. “You’d disown me?”
Spiro held his brother’s eyes for a long moment, chewing the end of his pipe. The smoke was now purple, anger and anxiety mixing together in the evening air.
“No,” he said finally. “You know I could never do that to you. But…” he pointed his pipe at Marlow. “This woman…she’s not my blood. I have no reason to protect her.”
“You don’t have to,” said Marlow. “I will.”
“Marlow, you and she were raised in different ways, on different soil. I don’t see how this could work.”
“We’d live here,” Marlow said wistfully. “Until I’ve finished building our house near the wall. And our children would….would…”
“Would what?” Spiro sighed, frowning at Marlow. “Where would they go? Where would they belong?”
“I don’t know!” said Marlow shortly. “Maybe we wouldn’t have children!”
Spiro’s face tightened in disapproval. He blew his last puff and put the pipe away. The smoke that remained had turned red again.
“I haven’t thought that far,” Marlow confessed, forcing himself to be calm.
I just…love her,” he told him quietly, eyes on the sky again. “I can’t get away. She’s in here.” He pressed a palm to his chest.
“How long have you been seeing her?” Spiro asked tensely.
Marlow pursed his lips, reluctant to share the details of their relationship with Spiro, now that he had taken the news so badly.
Spiro’s eyes bulged. “THREE SEASONS? And you didn’t think even ONCE that you should end it? That it might not work out? That it was a risk to your LIFE?”
“I tried to end it,” Marlow said helplessly. “But when the time came for me to tell her it was over, I couldn’t do it. The words wouldn’t reach my mouth. I didn’t mean them. I long to be with her every day, forever. She’s wonderful.”
“How can a dark side dweller be wonderful?” Spiro asked skeptically. Then his eyes widened as a horrible thought hit him. “Marlow, you’re not…you haven’t changed…”
“I haven’t changed sides,” Marlow assured his brother calmly.
“Then how can you coexist?”
Marlow shook his head, wishing he could explain everything he and Katrina had gone through to get to where they are, to how they feel. “We just do. She stands by her leader, but for my sake she doesn’t seek out to harm or bother light side dwellers or humans at all. And I…well, I just don’t speak of my opinions to her. If she’s not doing harm herself, then what is there really to say?”
“She supports a man who is personally responsible for the deaths of thousands of light side dwellers in the past century! Not to mention the humans! She supports a man who plans to take us down.”
“Our King has him under control,” Marlow countered. “There are daily patrols out snuffing their attacks on the human world, and our side is growing stronger every day. The number of deaths and injuries has gone down dramatically since he came to power.”
“That has nothing to do with the woman you love being a supporter.” Spiro told him firmly. “One way or another down the road, one of you will have to choose. Suppose we go to war, like everyone has been fearing? Our King has control at the moment, but he’s losing. Every man, woman, and child on the dark side is fighting to gain control of our side. They want to overrule us. They want us dead. How will it be, when your own wife murders you in the name of her king?”
Marlow slammed his fist angrily against the support beam. “She won’t!”
“You’re securing your own death by bonding with her, brother.” Spiro warned angrily. “She was raised to hate your very nature. I can’t believe you’d let yourself fall into her trap.”
“There is no trap,” Marlow insisted. “Once we’re bonded, I could simply order her not to harm me.”
“What a charming first command that would be.”
“Marlow!…I’m sorry. You’re being foolish. I know you love her, but this has to end. You can’t go through with this plan.”
Marlow’s eyes stung with tears. He had so hoped his brother would support him. He stood tall, glaring at him. “We promised to stand by one another,” he reminded Spiro again. “No matter what.”
Spiro shook his head, “I am standing by you. I’m making sure you don’t get killed. If you try to leave at night again, I swear I’ll stop you.”
Marlow turned and walked into the house, throwing back the fabric of the side door with as much violence as he could. He was hurt, angry, and full of disbelief. He couldn’t believe Spiro had turned on him this way. He had thought for sure his brother would stand behind him. He also couldn’t believe that Katrina would hurt him. It just wasn’t possible. The idea was absurd. Their love would last, even at war. It had to.
The idea that Spiro would stop him from leaving was a joke. Spiro slept like a rock, and only noticed Marlow’s absence if he happened to wake the next day before Marlow got home. Marlow intended to meet Katrina that night, and as soon as Spiro was asleep, that’s what he was going to do.
.. .. ..
Marlow took a deep breath of night air, staring up at the high stone wall that divided his and Katrina’s land. Even at night, the side from which she hailed seemed darker than his. An ominous shadow hovered in the sky, hiding all the stars. Each night, as he snuck away from his home to their secret meeting place on his side, he felt the life of the forests fading as he got closer. Birds flew in the opposite direction, and all other wildlife seemed to disappear into the trees.
Still, his heart ached to be there with Katrina.
He sighed now, sweeping the loose strands of hair out of his eyes, thinking of the beautiful Elvin woman that awaited him. He closed his eyes and concentrated his thoughts on her. At birth, both he and Spiro had been gifted with the ability to inwardly see and hear those closest to them. In his minds eye, Katrina was as clear as day, standing at their meeting place, her breath steady, her hair whispering around her face. She wore red, a color he loved on her.
He smiled, opening his eyes again and letting her image fade away. If she was already waiting, he’d better hurry. He followed the wall west for three full valley’s, and then turned south for two. There she was, beneath a large blue barked tree. This tree had full leaved branches that swept low to the ground, and was surrounded by many others identical to it. Marlow knew which tree was theirs because if he circled it, he could see a break in the branches that revealed where he had carved both their names. She was wearing the new red dress he’d gotten her, which flowed gently over her golden white skin. Her red hair was brushed and braided over her shoulder, and she smiled widely as he approached her. He was out of breath, but he didn’t pause in his stride. He swept her into his arms and kissed her, and together they fell against the tree. Her arms were pinned to her sides, and she squirmed, her laugh breaking their kiss.
“Hello,” she greeted pointedly.
“Hello, my dear” he whispered, holding her tightly so she couldn’t see his face. He fought to push the conversation with Spiro out of his thoughts, but their words kept repeating in his mind.
Katrina leaned into his embrace. “How was your day?” she asked.
“Let’s talk inside,” he told her, drawing back to smile. He felt around for the end of the invisible rope ladder. Once he found it, he sent her up ahead of him, trying to collect himself so she wouldn’t see he was upset.
The house he had built for her was much higher up than an elf would normally build his home, so that nobody would spot it and bother her. They reached the small, square deck safely, and after the rope ladder was pulled up, they went inside. The house was small, only big enough to hold a bed and a single dresser for the few clothes she owned. A thin blue fabric had been thrown over the mirror above the dresser, and atop it was a clutter of ribbons, a brush, and a yellow fan.
They sat on her bed, and she placed her hands in his, squeezing. He smiled his best at her and said, “My day was ordinary. How was yours?”
The corner of her mouth twitched, and his heart sank. Whenever the corner of her mouth twitched, it meant something was wrong. He waited, full of concern, and when she didn’t speak he said, “What happened?“
She was silent for a long moment, and then she said, “Nothing happened, I had a wonderful day. I slept well, and then I had a meal that I might have preferred cold, because it’s so unbearable up here in this hot house. But what happened to you? I can feel that you’re upset.”
Out of surprise, he laughed. “You act as if we’re in a bond,” he said, his stomach fluttering. Only days from now, they would be.
“Well,” she said, blushing. “I know you. You’re acting…” she stopped, apparently unable to find the word.
He sighed, and then reached to pull her into his arms again. He rubbed his cheek into her hair, breathing her in. “Alright,” he admitted softly. “There….” he struggled to think of what to say. He couldn’t tell her he’d spoken to his brother about them, because they were meant to be a very well kept secret. “There has been talk of war,” he decided to say quietly.
“There’s always talk of war,” she returned, her voice careful. She circled her arms around his waist, and he felt her fingers rub his lower back softly. He nodded.
“It seems to have gotten to me.” he said, trying to keep his voice light.
She drew back to look at him, biting her lip. He looked into her eyes, blue pools of worry. This was the subject they fought to avoid. He wished he’d done better at hiding his feelings.
“I’m sorry,” he told her softly. “Nevermind.”
The corner of her mouth twitched again. He shook his head to indicate that the conversation was over. “Let’s just be together,” he whispered, touching her cheek. “Up here with you, I feel that nothing else in the world exists.”
She smiled, though her eyes still showed worry. “I feel the same.”
He leaned in and gave her his most disarming kiss, with his hands in the back of her hair, and gently pushed her down. She clung to him, and he closed his eyes, forcing himself to focus only on her for the remainder of the evening.
. . .
At dawn, Marlow went home. Spiro was asleep, and Marlow himself was exhausted, although dazed with happiness. The morning sun warmed their house horribly, so he went around the three doors and hung the fabrics up on the walls, to let some air in.
In the main area of their home were two long velvety benches facing one another atop a large silken rug on the floor. The rug itself was made by their mother, and managed to hold every color imaginable, while still remaining elegant in design. Other than the rug, there was no real elegancy in the way they decorated their home. There were two puffy armchairs on either side of a fire place that hadn’t been used since winter, and rickety rocking chairs by each door, where the brothers often lounged for cool air or a place to puff their smoke. The walls were bare. Candles covered the mantle piece, and the wide wooden table between the benches, to give them light at night. There were also fat candles sitting on the floor around each of the rocking chairs. The candles varied in color and size, and once blown out, gave off unnamable floral scents that mixed together in the air, creating an atmosphere that was easy to fall asleep in.
There were another two door flaps that led to the brother’s bedrooms, and Marlow dragged himself through his and collapsed on his bed, asleep in seconds.
Later that day, Marlow paid his due to the welder, and slid the beautiful ring into his pocket. The sun was setting again by this time, and as he ran, his heart seemed to soar above him in the clouds. Katrina was waiting for him, completely clueless to his plans. He didn’t care what Spiro thought about him not coming home.
Buzzing with excitement, he shoved his hand into his pocket again, touching the ring as he ran. He came upon an uprooted tree, and joyful sprang over it to get to the wall.
. . .
As he and Katrina lay together that night, in a twist of her dress, Marlow felt it was the perfect time. They had gone to the ice lily field, and lay hidden by tall blue grass, broken up by the glowing lights of thousands of ice lilies. The air was warm, the breeze whispering around them serenely. He reached over her, leaning down to kiss her neck. With her distracted, he felt in the pocket of his pants, which lay on the ground behind her. He frowned as he found the pocket he felt into empty, so he pulled her closer and searched the other one.
His hand closed around empty space.
He stopped kissing her and stared into space, shocked. No. The ring was gone. No! How could this happen?
Katrina pulled back to look at Marlow’s face. Black lip coloring was smeared across her cheek from kissing, but her teeth gleamed white in the light of the flowers as she smiled at him. He forced a smile in return, hiding his panic. Maybe the ring fell onto the ground around them. He pressed her into the ground with his body, making her sigh happily, closing her eyes and waiting for him to kiss her again. His eyes searched the area as quickly as he could, but he didn’t see it. It was gone.
Not receiving the kiss she expected, Katrina opened her eyes. “I love you,” she whispered, looking up at him.
“I love you,” he answered hollowly. His heart was racing. He had to find that ring.
“What’s wrong?” She pulled away from him completely, her fingers touching his cheeks.
“I have to go,” he lied, agonized. “I’m sorry. I just realized my brother expects me home tonight. I…forgot to give him an excuse. I have to run.”
“Oh!” she exclaimed, clearly confused by his actions. She paused, her lower lip jutting out thoughtfully. Then she seemed to accept his excuse. She pushed against him. “Go then! He’ll find out about us!”
He cradled her face in his hands and kissed her forehead, then her lips, touching the tip of his nose to hers. She remained silent, and guilt weighed down on him. But he had no choice. Later, she would understand and forgive him, he was sure. In a rush, he scrambled to get dressed and turned away from her, but as he made to leave she grabbed his hand.
“Marlow, I forgot to tell you…” she said as he faced her again, bouncing on one foot worriedly to show her he was in a hurry. “I won’t be here for a while tomorrow. My Uncle has spread word that he wants to see me.” She beamed. “This whole mess might just be over.”
“That’s wonderful!” Marlow said, clasping her hands. “When will you return?”
“Tomorrow night, late,” she answered, smiling. “You’ll be here, won’t you?”
“Of course,” he stammered automatically, concern nagging at his heart. “And you’ll try to be safe, won’t you?”
“Of course. Now hurry!”
He nodded, releasing her and sprinting for dear life the way he had come.
He had to find that ring.
. . .
Marlow stopped by an uprooted tree, where he had last felt the ring with him. He knelt to look under, and what he saw nearly made him lose consciousness.
The underside was full of red, shimmering smoke.
It was a portal to the human world.
“What have you done?” a voice came from the darkness, making Marlow jump in the air. He whipped out his knife and searched for the source. It was Spiro.
“What are you doing here?” Marlow asked, letting his arm fall to his side.
“I followed you. Why didn’t you do it? What happened?” His eyes fell on the portal. “What are you doing?”
“You…” Marlow felt himself turn scarlet and swell with anger. “You FOLLOWED me?”
Spiro waved away his brother’s anger. “I didn’t watch you the whole time. Be calm. I walked away for the parts you wouldn’t want me to see.”
“I wouldn’t want you to see ANY parts.”
“Marlow,” said Spiro dangerously, ignoring his outburst. “What are you doing near this portal? What have you done?”
Marlow shook his head. “It’s not what you’re thinking. I had the ring welded for her. I had it in my pocket and this is where I last felt it in my possession. I think…” he turned his eyes to the portal. “I think it fell in.”
Spiro’s eyes grew wide, and he took his pipe out of his pocket. He puffed, nodding as if trying to convince himself that this was all perfectly normal. Blue smoke blended with the night around them.
“We’re going to have to go and get it,” he said to Marlow bravely. “It’s the only way. We can’t let the humans find it.”
Marlow’s stomach ached. “Go…to the human world?” He took a step back from the portal, shaking his head. Spiro put his hand on his back and pushed him forward.
“You started this,” he said. “I refuse to allow you to put an innocent human’s life in danger because you’re too afraid to fix this. Go on.”
Marlow looked at his brother, full of fear, and then nodded. “Alright. If I don’t come home tomorrow, then the portal was closed on me.”
“Don’t be stupid,” Spiro scoffed at his brother. “I’m going too.”
“You’re my brother,” he told Marlow seriously. “I stand by you.”
Marlow grabbed his brother in a rough embrace, tears in his eyes, and Spiro slapped his back a few times before pushing him off. “Alright, alright,” he said. “You first.”
Spiro pushed Marlow’s head down and shoved him in.