Queen Keishara and I spent the day in the music tower. She taught me all she knew about the harp and I was thoroughly enjoying myself. It felt like she really missed her daughter and was yearning for female company.
"It is time," she sighed suddenly.
"For dinner?" I asked, glancing out to see the sun was setting.
"Yes but, after, you and Elwin will meet us in the throne room," she said as we walked to the dining hall.
"Is everything... okay?"
"No, my dear Camila," she whispered. "I can sense that the humans... there will be war and it's time to tell Elwin the truth."
"He will be upset," I muttered.
We stopped talking as we got to the dining hall. Elwin grinned when he saw me and kissed my cheek, helping me into my seat. The assembled elves ate as soon as we did. They kept shooting looks at me and I sat as straight backed as I could. A few were glaring.
"The news is grim, my dear," King Orist said after a few minutes of silence. "We see no way to appease the humans without sending Camila back."
"So send her," one of the elves snapped and I clenched my jaw.
"Hold your tongue," Elwin snapped back. "If we send her back, she will die."
"You're basing this off of some elder's gift!" the elf argued.
Elwing jumped to his feet. "Elder Winterblade is an honorable elf and will be respected! I have seen this human that lusts for my mate. He will kill her once she gets back!"
"It's her fault!" the elf said, standing as well. "She let him in her home; she let him defile her! She could've-"
"Enough!" King Orist yelled, pounding his fist on the table. He pointed to the elf. "The throne room. Now." He turned to the queen. "Excuse me, please."
"Yes, my dear," she said softly and he stood.
"Elwin, sit and eat," he said. "I will be back shortly."
Elwin was shaking in anger as he dropped back to his chair. I pushed my plate away, my appetite gone.
"Don't listen to him," Elwin said, holding my hand. "It was not your fault."
"He is right, Camila," Queen Keishara whispered.
"May I speak?" an elf asked from the end of the table.
"Speak civilly," the Queen nodded.
"The words of Vulmar Heirel do not speak for the rest of us," the elf said. "This argument should have remained in the war room where it began."
"Thank you," the Queen said and he sat. She turned to me. "See? They do not feel as Vulmar does."
I cleared my throat and everyone returned to the meal. Elwin held my hand as we waited for King Orist to get back.
"Perhaps we should retire early," he suggested.
"No, it's okay," I said. "The Queen has requested our presence when the meal is over."
He looked confused but nodded anyway. Finally, the king returned but Vulmar was not with him. The king nodded once to the queen and she stood. I did the same and held Elwin's hand as we went to the room. Elwin did the customary kneel and I bowed my head.
"Ease yourselves," King Orist said. He sounded weary. "First, Camila, I apologize for my junior elf's words. He has been punished and removed from his position." He sighed and leaned back. "The next part... that is for my queen to speak about."
"Tonight I wish to speak to the two of you for you depart in the morning. There is information that you must know, Elwin, should we have a chance in the war with the humans." He nodded, frowning in confusion. "It is concerning your desire for information on Princess Linata."
King Orist pinched the bridge of his nose. "I hope you are certain this is a good idea Keishara."
"I am positive, Orist," she said. "Your desire is justified, Elwin. Princess Linata was not a human. She was an elf; that was how she was capable of defeating the evil king's armies. She wasn't a gian nor did she have super-human strength. It's simple: she was an elf." She sighed. Elwin's eyes were wide at the revelation. "You are the only descendant of Princess Linata."
Silence fell heavily in the throne room. I glanced at Elwin. His back was straight but his face was impassive.
"Impossible," he said finally. "Even if what you say is true, there is no record of Princess Linata even having a child with her mate."
"That is because, after she betrayed her father, Princess Linata's name and every mention of her was stricken from our realm. She had one child who was kept safe. The young girl was protected by an elder until the end of the war. Linata could not return to our realm for she had broken the pact with the goddesses. Instead, her mate ruled and raised his daughter, telling her that her mother had died of illness."
"But my mother was from the Under Keep," he said. "How could a descendant of a royal lineage end up there?"
"Linata was not the one to order the elves down; it was her mate's. After their daughter had grown and mated, she had two children. One stayed in the palace. The other snuck out one night and went down into the Under Keep where he found his mate. Haven't you ever wondered why you are the only elf with red hair?" she asked and he looked away. "Haven't you asked yourself why you have such a pull to Princess Linata. Who, consequently, is the only other red-haired elf in our history?"
Elwin looked to me. "Did you know of this?"
"Not until today," I whispered.
"Why did you not tell me!?" he demanded angrily.
I blanched at his words.
"I ordered her not to," Queen Keishara said. "Do not be angry with her. If you should be angry with anyone, it is us. We have kept the secret from you until the time was right. Now that war is on our doorstep, the time has come." She leaned forward. "You have Princess Linata's blood flowing through your veins, Elwin Morro. As such, you are the only one who can even hope to defeat the threat that comes with Theodore Jensen."
It was my turn to be surprised. "How do you know his name? I have spoken it to no one."
"Another secret I have hidden from you," she said regretfully. "When I heard that a human was coming to our realm and that she was being pursued by another human, I went to the edge of the realm." She glanced at her king who gave her a nod. "I heard him speaking to another man who addressed him by his full name."
"Then why did you act as if you did not know anything of what has transpired?" I whispered.
"It was what was right," she said. "I am the queen. Though I cannot demand it of you, Camila, I can demand this of Elwin: You must trust me and my wisdom."
Elwin didn't answer.
"You should return to your bedchamber," King Orist said softly. "You leave at the first light of dawn."
We bowed and walked silently to our room. Elwin didn't speak to me nor did he make any physical contact. I kept my eyes cast downward, a heavy feeling settling in my stomach.