I waited anxiously at the tree. I had been there for almost an hour. Arl was waiting with me, looking terribly uncomfortable.
"We are going to get into so much trouble," he kept saying.
As the time passed, though, a heavy feeling came over me. She was late. But not only was she late, I had a feeling she was hurt. Suddenly, I bent over and threw up like I had earlier today.
"Elwin!" Arl shouted. "Elwin, what's wrong? Is it the same thing?"
"Something's wrong with her, Arl," I panted. "Come. But be silent."
We jumped into the trees, using them as a way to travel towards the village. When we reached her home, I hesitated. I listened carefully.
"I can't, Papa," I heard her voice.
She was in pain. Something was wrong!
"He's demanded you come, though," a man's voice said.
"Tell him I am not well."
"What is wrong, cel mic? You have been like this all day. And you are so pale."
"I am ill, Papa."
"Then I will stay and take care of you," he said simply.
"No," she said quickly and I picked up on the small bit of fear in her voice. "No, you go. Tell him I'm ill. He will understand."
The man sighed. "Very well, Camila."
I watched as a man left the house, walking slowly and glancing back occasionally. I waited to see if Camila would come out but, instead, I heard a terrible noise. She was crying. And not just quietly; she was weeping.
Making sure no one could see us, I jumped down quietly. I hurried into her house. She screamed in fear and ran for her room until she saw it was me. She fell to her knees and doubled over, sobbing so hard I feared her throat would tear.
Arl closed the door, looking as confused as me. I knelt beside her.
"Camila," I whispered. "What is it? What has happened?"
"He knows," she sobbed, grabbing the front of my tunic. "He knows, Elwin. You have to leave."
"I'm not leaving without you," I said firmly. "Besides, what can he do? We're going to see Elder Winterblade. He will give you his protection."
She covered her face. "It is too late for that, Elwin."
"What are you talking about?" I demanded, starting to feel a build-up of anxiety. I took her face in my hands. "Camila, what are you-"
"Elwin," Arl said quietly and I turned, frustrated.
He was holding something. It was a sheet.
"No!" Camila cried but I took it before she could.
There was blood on it. I stood up in horror. The pain I felt earlier today in my stomach.... The throwing up.... Her claim that it was too late to protect her....
"I'm taking you away," I growled. "Arl, go and pack whatever you can find."
"Elwin," he began.
"Do it!" I roared and he hurried into her room.
"No," she said. "No, we can't. They'll find us. They'll kill you!"
I ignored her, finding a piece of parchment and writing a note for her father. I looked around, wondering where he would look first. My eyes fell on a book. There was a slip of paper he was using to mark his place. I slipped it in there and placed one of my arrows beside it. Camila was still begging me to reconsider but I picked her up in my arms.
"Let's go," I said firmly to Arl and he nodded, looking pale, too.
"Perhaps I should go back and check on her," I said finally.
"She's fine," Theodore said smoothly. "It's probably just her stomach."
He seemed amused at the idea and I frowned.
"No, I'm going to go. Thank you for dinner."
Before he could stop me, I jogged home. I had an increasing sense of unease. It only got worse when I saw the door was open. I ran in, shutting it behind me.
"Camila?" I called. "Camila, answer me!"
I ran into her room and my knees almost gave out. Her belongings were all gone. Breathing heavily, I tried to think. Tried to imagine where she could have gone.... Then my eyes landed on my book. There was another silver arrow beside it and a second piece of paper beside my marker. I took it out and read it, covering my mouth.
Darkness still dwells within your village. The man you were to give your daughter to is nothing more than a monster. If you do not believe us, look at the sheet. We have taken your daughter somewhere safe. When we can, we will send word.
I turned slowly to the sheet on the floor. In the middle was a spot of blood and I sobbed, falling to my knees.
Elwin carried me through the forest, running so fast all around me was a blur. He didn't speak nor did his friend who carried a bag of my clothing and other items. As we went further in, my mind went cloudy.
"Elwin," I began.
"Worry not. It will pass."
"What's going on?" I mumbled.
Suddenly, my mind cleared. Elwin had stopped running. He was now walking. Around me, I saw dark figures stopping and staring at us. Above me, I saw bridges and homes. I realized where I was: I was in Elwin's realm.
When we got to a large tree, he set me down only to have me put his arms around his neck.
"Hang on tightly," he said softly and I nodded, putting my head on his chest.
I was still exhausted from what Theodore had done to me. Elwin climbed up a ladder, carrying me effortlessly. Beneath us, Arl was following. When we reached the top, Elwin carried me again. He knocked urgently on the side of a hut.
"Is this the human?" a man's voice said.
"I need your help, Elder Winterblade," Elwin said in a shaking voice. "Please, can we come in?"
"She looks ill," the man said slowly. "Yes, come in."
Elwin set me down on a hammock carefully. He knelt beside me as a blurred figured passed me a bowl.
"No," I said, not trusting whoever it was.
"It's okay, Camila," Elwin whispered. "It will help you."
He helped me drink and it cleared my vision. As it settled in my stomach, though, I felt a terrible pain. I cried out and curled into a ball, the agony almost making me want to pass out.
"What's going on?" I yelled as she writhed on the hammock.
Elder Winterblade looked down sadly. "She was forced upon, wasn't she?"
"Yes, but why is she-?"
"Just wait," he whispered and knelt down beside Camila. "My name is Winterblade," he whispered to her. He put his hand on her stomach, ignoring as she tried to slap it away. "Worry not. Elwin has brought you to me. The medicine we gave you... I'm afraid it is killing your baby."
I sat down on the floor heavily. "Baby?"
Finally, Camila stopped screaming. Winterblade nodded once to me and I rushed to her side. She cried into my shoulder.
"I was pregnant," she whimpered. "It's exactly what he wanted." She looked up, her eyes red and puffy. "But surely the fetus hasn't had time to grow?"
"Not anymore," Winterblade said grimly. He turned to me. "You've done a dangerous thing, Elwin. As soon as they find out where she is, they will declare war."
I shook my head and pulled her onto my lap. "I don't care. I'll fight if I have to. I couldn't leave her in the hands of that monster!"
Winterblade sighed and looked out below. "They are gathered. They must be told what is happening." He looked at us sadly. "I'm afraid we are facing danger, Elwin."
I stood up to carry Camila to my hut.
"I'll do whatever I have to," I told him firmly and stared directly into his eyes. "I don't care what it takes."