The next four days passed pretty much the same as the first day. I told Elwin more about my past: how my mama died of the plague, how my papa struggled raising a girl on his own. I also told him of the stories he would tell me and my dedication to finding the elves before I was married off.
Apparently, he had been doing the same thing. On the nights when he was hunting, he would slip away from Arl and sneak towards my village. I was the first human he had seen. In turn, he told me about his family. After his mother passed away, his father followed not long after. Elwin was just 23 - the equivalent to 5 in our world. He was raised by Elder Winterblade and had always been a bit of a rebel.
"I'm the only red head," he told me as we jumped on rocks to cross a small stream. We had our arms extended so we wouldn't fall in. "My mom was a red head so they assume it came from there."
"What was she like?"
He smiled. "A rebel like me; although, I guess it would be the other way around, wouldn't it? She was always kind and loved those around her."
"Would she have liked me?" I whispered.
"Definitely," he said without missing a beat. "You remind me of her a little."
"What was her gift?"
"She never told or showed me," he said.
"Your guess is as good as mine. My father, though, was good at speed. He was a hunter like me."
"Did he do patrol duty, too?"
"No. We didn't have guards until we discovered my skill. Arl is a good shot so he joined me. The same happened with my fellow guards. Some are good at shooting, some have enhanced sight, it goes on."
"What's yours? I've forgotten," I added apologetically.
He held my hand. "Enhanced sight and precision with a bow and arrow."
"That's right," I said. "I remember you saying I was a rogue elf. What does that mean?"
"Sometimes, an elf from our colony will run off. They will go to seek a life elsewhere but, as soon as they cross the barrier, their memories of where we live are erased."
"Why weren't yours and Arl's?"
"Because we are hunters; we have been given permission to leave as we see fit." I nodded thoughtfully. "Do you have any special gifts?"
"None like yours. I'm good at cooking and sewing." I gestured at the clothes. "I would love to learn how to make these. Perhaps we can get more for the colony. When Rosario was showing me her dresser, she didn't have many."
He shrugged. "We don't need a lot."
I frowned. "You do not bathe or get dirty?"
He smiled gently. "We are elves, Camila. It is not necessary."
I was contemplating what it was like to never need to bathe, when I felt a strange tingling sensation. I looked up and gasped. In the distance, over a large hill, was our destination. The castle was made of sparkling white marble. It rose in the sky so high that clouds obstructed our view of the top. There were homes around it but I couldn't see them as well from here.
"Come on," he said. "We will bathe before we approach them."
"I thought you said you didn't need to."
"Oh, we don't. It's common courtesy, though."
"Good because I smell awful," I said, wrinkling my nose.
He chuckled and handed me some soap and a change of clothing. There was a small waterfall and he let me bathe on the lower part while he bathed on the upper. I stripped down, covering myself in case he looked over, and put a foot in the water. It was cold and I shivered but bathed as quickly as I could. I had nothing to dry with so I sat on a dry rock, watching the water rush by.
I was worried about my papa and the duplicate. Would she be able to fool everybody? So far there hadn't been any sounds of war so I hoped she had been successful. For now.
I pulled my knees up to my chest and put my chin on my knees. When would my duplicate marry Theodore? Would it be soon or would he wait? I felt guilty. If it was soon, I knew he would not be gentle with her. He would surely take her at least once a day in an attempt to impregnate her.
When my body was dry, I changed and slipped on a pair of Rosario's brown boots. I was very grateful she was my size. I don't think the other elves would have been so hospitable with their belongings.
Elwin was humming when I returned to where we had parted. His hair was still a little damp from his bath and clung to his neck. He made a frustrated noise as he pushed it off his neck.
"Don't like the feel of water on you?" I asked.
He shook his head. "No. Not on my clothing."
"Would you like me to tie it back for you?"
"No and you shouldn't tie yours back, either."
"Why not?" I asked, stopping in the act.
"It is not respectable," he explained and hesitated. "I forgot about this.... I have a lot to teach you as we walk."
"Okay," I said nervously.
He held my hand. "Now, the first thing is you do not speak unless spoken to. When we approach their thrones, I will get on my knees and you will bow your head. They will give us permission to look at them. Until then, keep your eyes and head down. That is very important. When they ask you questions, keep your answers as short as possible."
"You're frightening me," I admitted.
"I know it seems daunting but elves are very strict on respect."
"Okay," I breathed.
We reached the gates of the city and I looked around as we walked through the streets. The streets were cobblestone but incredibly clean. There weren't any horses or cows and I remembered Elwin saying they didn't eat meat very often. The homes were grand and made of stone. Each home radiated a kind of white light that made me feel at peace.
That feeling went away quickly, though, once we got into the more populated area of the city. Elves stopped to stare at me, unsure of what I was. I stepped closer to Elwin and he held my hand tightly. He was walking with his head high and I did my best to do the same.
The stairs to the castle entrance were made of the same white stone as the houses in the kingdom. Guards stepped to the side when Elwin explained who we were. When we stepped inside, a guard led us to the right where a large wooden door was shut. We hesitated before going in.
"This is the throne room," Elwin whispered in my ear. "Be prepared, my love."