Elwin opened the door and let me pass through first. He closed it a little harder than was necessary. We changed in silence. I was waiting for him to speak but he didn't.
"Elwin," I whispered.
"We must rest," he said, getting into the bed. "You heard the king: we leave early."
"Get in bed, Camila."
I sighed but did so. His back was to me. I wanted to reach out and touch him but I could sense his anger. I rolled to my side and closed my eyes, crying quietly.
An elf woke us at the sun's first light. They brought a large bag of food and Elwin shouldered it. As we walked out, I saw he had discarded the picture of Princess Linata. I shook my head and picked it up. I folded it carefully and tucked it into the pocket on my tunic.
We were back in our normal clothing. Though the queen had given me some of her daughter's old dresses, the were not fit for travel and were placed inside the bag of our clothes. Before we left, they met us at the front entry.
King Orist approached Elwin.
"We understand your anger," he began, "but we only had your best interest in heart. This is for you. It is a token of your true royal lineage." He put a pin on Elwin's tunic. It had the picture of an arrow and sword crossing. "Do with it what you wish; we only ask that you do not destroy it."
Elwin bowed and walked out without a word. I sighed.
"This is for you, sweet Camila," the queen whispered. She put a beautiful ring on my other middle finger. It had the same crest on it. "It was our daughter's. We have agreed it should belong to you. Before I retired last night, I imbued some of my magic into it." She smiled at my wide eyes. "Yes, you will be able to grow the flowers, trees, and plants you saw in my garden whether you are here or in your realm."
Before I could stop myself, I hugged her. She hugged me back, though, and I stepped away with a blush. King Orist held my hand and kissed it.
"Be safe, Camila, and look out for Elwin."
"I will. Thank you for all you have done and given us," I said.
I followed Elwin down the stairs. He was far down the street but I didn't rush to catch up with him. When he was ready for my company, I knew he would let it known. The elves were kinder to me. They waved and little elves would run forward with necklaces of flowers. I giggled as a tiny she-elf waddled over on little legs. Her mother chased after her and picked her up.
"For the most beautiful human we have ever seen," the mother said and the little elf placed a crown of purple flowers on my head.
"Thank you very much," I said and kissed the little elf on the cheek, causing her to erupt into giggles. "I hope to come back soon."
I waved good bye as I reached the city gates. I lingered a second longer, truly wishing I could return again.
Elwin did not wait for me for several hours. When I did reach him, he remained silent as we walked. I was still wearing the gifts from the elves of the kingdom and the scent of the purple flowers had calmed me. It did the same to Elwin; I could feel the tension that had built around him start to ease. Then I remembered these were the same flowers as the ones we had passed on the way here.
"I owe you an apology," he said when we finally stopped for the day.
"No," I said quickly. "I would be upset, too."
I rolled out the blankets and took the flower crown and necklaces off. I set them to the side carefully and yawned.
"But I should not have been so cold to you." He passed me a plate of food and I ate quickly. "It wasn't your fault."
I smiled at him and leaned over to kiss him. He kissed me back and put his hand on the back of my neck. I pushed him onto his back gently.
Rosario and Arl were relieved when we returned. The air around the colony was heavy and I grew nervous.
"What happened while we were gone?" Elwin asked, sensing it as well.
"Word was sent from the humans," Arl said. "Elder Winterblade has asked us to send you to him as soon as you returned."
I climbed the ladder, closing my eyes to keep myself from seeing the height. Elwin set our things down first and I hung the gifts on a hook by the door. I kept the ring on, though, and Elwin had placed his pin under the callor of his tunic. I didn't know why he was hiding it but there were more important things to focus on.
We knocked on the elder's hut and he called us in. He was sitting on a chair in front of his work table. When he saw us, he sighed heavily.
"How was your visit?" he asked.
He closed his eyes. "The humans figured it out. Apparently, when he tried to mate with your duplicate, the force of his advances brought about her... death of sorts."
"I knew he would be rough with her," I whispered, "but I never thought it would be too much."
"They sent this two days ago," Elder Winterblade said.
I took the message and Elwin read it over my shoulder.
What a cowardly act! This only confirms our suspicions of the elves! Return the real Camila in one day's time or we attack! We will find your realm!
I sighed. "How long have they been looking?"
"All day," he answered. "They are getting close. They have a wizard with them who can break our barrier if he chooses to."
"I have to go back," I said.
"No," Elwin said immediately, grabbing my arm. "I won't let you."
"If I don't, your people will die," I whispered, tears in my eyes. "I don't want to go; I want to stay here with you. But I can't put their lives on the line."
"If you leave, you can never find us again," Elder Winterblade said. "Elwin will not be able to bring you back. You understand this, yes?"
My lower lip trembled. "This hurts me so much," I cried and Elwin wrapped his arms around me. "I want to stay so badly. I love you. I can't let you die. That is why I must go."
"I'll go with you," Elwin said in a constricted voice. "If she was able to do it, so can I."
I looked up at him. "Elwin, we won't come back."
He caressed my cheek. "You are my mate, my wife. Where you go, I follow. You are going into danger. I am the only one who will be able to save you."
Elder Winterblade watched us sadly. "Who do you speak of?"
"It matters not," Elwin sighed.
"May I borrow your raven?" I asked and Elder Winterblade nodded.
Thank you again for the hospitality you provided for Elwin and I. I am sad to say that we must leave. They have brought in a wizard to find the realm. It is too dangerous. Elwin has decided to come with me. We both understand that we cannot come back. I will miss you but there is nothing that can be done to stop Theodore except for my return. This is the only choice. If I see your daughter, I will send her your love.