"ORIST! ORIST! WHERE ARE YOU!?"
I ran through the halls, ignoring the elves staring at me with wide eyes. Orist was in the war room holding a meeting.
"Keishara," he said in shock. "What has gotten into you?"
"We're leaving," I panted, yanking on his arm. "We're leaving and we're going to Elder Winterblade's colony. Right now."
I spun and shoved the paper in his face. "They made it back, Orist! It worked!"
I sat on top of the table so everyone could see me. The whole colony was facing me. Some looked angry, some looked curious, and some looked terrified. I didn't blame them. Theodore had almost gotten in.
"First question: how did you find your way back?" someone asked.
"I don't know," I said honestly. "We were resting and we both got the memories back. It was like... like the goddesses took pity on us or something."
"What happened to her?"
I glared at the ground. "Her supposed mate," I said through clenched teeth. "He defiled her several times and beat her." I pinched the bridge of my nose as they all yelled in outrage. "We saved her and took her to their king and queen."
"That was dangerous!"
"I'm aware of that," I said coldly. "I was not going to leave her with that madman."
"Are the king and queen going to attack?"
"No. They helped us."
"Who is the other human?"
"Now that the human knows where we are," Rosario whispered, "will they be able to get in?"
"I have no idea, Ro," I said.
"I've written to Queen Keishara and King Orist," Elder Winterblade announced. "They will be here in one day. When they get here, I expect everyone on their best behavior. We're facing dark times, my children, and they're the only ones who can help us."
I went back up to Elder Winterblade's hut. Camila was deep asleep and Gerald was leaning against the wall, watching her. His eyes were red and puffy.
"I'm sorry for what I said," he whispered. "It was wrong and terrible for me to say."
"It's okay," I whispered back. "I understand. You're upset and this is all overwhelming. How long has she been asleep?"
"Not long. A few minutes," he added and looked at the door. "Are the other elves mad?"
"Some are but the majority are just curious. They've built a hut for she and I and you can use my old hut. No offense, but you need to get rest; you look terrible. I'll keep a good eye on her."
He nodded and I helped him to his feet. To my surprise, he hugged me.
"You're a great man, Elwin," he said. "Well... a great elf."
I chuckled and clapped him on the back. "Go rest, Gerald."
I pointed to where my hut was and he walked over, looking nervous about the height. When he was safely inside, I lifted Camila as carefully as I could. Gerald had closed her robe again. Some of the elves were staring and whispering but I ignored them. Arl hurried over to pull back the bamboo curtain for us to get in. I nodded my thanks and he left.
I set her down and she stirred.
"Elwin?" she mumbled, her eyes half open. "You're not leaving, are you?"
"Not if you want me to stay," I said and she nodded, blinking heavily.
"I want you to stay," she whispered. "Please."
I smiled and took my boots off. I didn't get the blanket mostly because I wasn't sure how she was. I got on the other side of the hammock and put my arm around her shoulders. She put her head on the crook of my shoulder and inhaled deeply.
"You smell of pine needles and snow," she murmured. "Always been my favorite. Reminds me of the woods."
I kissed her head and she eventually drifted to sleep.
Horns announced the arrival of the king and queen. Camila demanded to be out there when they arrived. I wasn't for it but she was adamant.
"I'm feeling better," she said and I shook my head.
"You can't even handle having more than this robe on you," I argued.
"Just take me down there," she begged. "I miss Queen Keishara."
"All right," I said slowly. "Let's see.... Can you put your arms around my neck and hold on?"
She nodded and did so. She winced but didn't make any noise as I climbed down the nearest ladder. Gerald was already down there and looked about as happy as I was she was out of bed.
"And you're out of bed because?" he demanded.
"I want to see the queen," she mumbled. "Can you...?"
She fell back asleep and I sighed shaking my head. "Back to bed with you."
I carried her back up, admiring that she at least tired. I put her down and was about to leave when I heard two sets of footprints. I turned and immediately got on my knees.
"Rise Elwin," Queen Keishara said quietly. She floated over to the sleeping Camila. "How is she?"
I shook my head. "Much, much better than when she arrived."
"Turn, Orist," she whispered and the king obeyed. She opened the robe and let out a small sob. "Who could do such a thing?"
As she retied the robe, Camila woke up.
"Queen Keishara?" she whispered and the queen smiled, sitting on the hammock beside her. "What are you doing here?"
I frowned. "You don't remember?"
She shook her head. I blinked. We just talked about it....
"We came to see you," King Orist said softly. "How are you, Camila?"
She blinked. "Have I been out for five days?"
Queen Keishara chuckled and I sat down at Camila's hand, running her finger down her nose. She smiled.
"No. Orist and I are able to travel faster than ordinary elves when needed." She sighed. "I'm so sorry all this happened to you."
"Do you know how we were able to find the realm again?" she asked and I looked up at them.
"I appealed to the goddesses," King Orist answered.
Gerald came in at that moment and hesitated. It was clear he could tell he was in the presence of royalty.
"You must be Camila's father," Queen Keishara said, standing up.
"Papa, this is Queen Keishara and King Orist," Camila said. "This is my papa, Gerald."
"It's an honor. Um.... Do I bow or...?"
The queen smiled kindly. "It's just fine. We came to speak with your daughter."
"If it's about Theodore," he began and she sighed.
"Sadly, yes. It seems he has found a way to get into our realm."
Camila sat up and cried out in pain. I pushed her back down gently.
"How can he get in?" she gasped.
"He has found our daughter," the king answered. "He is leading her here and using her as the way in."
"I thought he couldn't since she lost her memory," I said but the king shook his head.
"We don't understand, either," he sighed.
"So what are we going to do?" Camila whispered.
"War has come," the queen answered, looking around at all of us. "War has come and we have to be prepared."