Conflicting CustomsMature

I smiled around the diamond lake. It was underground and about medium sized. On the other side of the lake was a shore with thousands of diamonds in the wall. At the top was a little hole that had worn through over the years. It provided some light and the diamonds glimmered like a thousand stars.

"How'd you find it?" Roan asked, stretching his long legs out until they nearly touched the water.

"It was after my parents," I said. "I was exploring, trying to get away from the glade, and it started to rain. So, I came in and saw the hole. One thing led to another and here we are."

"How did your parents die?"

I didn't look at him. "Humans," I said simply.

"What do you mean?"

"Can you swim?" I asked, avoiding his question.

He narrowed his eyes. "Yes."

"How about a race?" I suggested and he started to smirk. "That's right. I'll race you to the diamonds."

"And what does the winner get?" he asked but he was already taking his boots off.

"Hmm," I thought. "If I win, you have to drink a full cup of grass tea."

He shuddered. "Fine. But if win, you have to kiss me."

I turned red. "What?"

His smirk grew. "Too afraid to kiss your future husband?"

I narrowed my eyes at him. I was the fastest swimmer in our colony. There was no way he could beat me. I held my hand out and we shook hands.

We ran into the water. It was always warm and I propelled myself forward, keeping my focus on the diamonds. I really didn't want him to beat me. Maybe he wasn't serious.... After all, we just met.

I got to the other side only to see him leaning against the wall, that annoying smirk on his face. I rolled my eyes and got out, wringing out my skirt.

"Yeah, yeah, so you're fast," I grumbled.

"All vampires are," he said, pushing himself off the wall and walking over to me. "It's a perk of being one."

"Elves are fast, too," I said, taking a step back nervously.

"We made a deal," he said in a low voice.

I looked into his eyes and hesitated. "I didn't think you were serious."

"Surprise," he whispered and pressed his lips to mine.

I froze, not sure what to do. I had never been kissed before. This was not the way we did things. His fingers were lifting my chin and he pulled my face closer. My feet moved on their own and I shut my eyes out of embarrassment. His fingers slid down the front of my neck then around to the back. I shivered at his light touch. When his other hand started to wander up my stomach, I stepped back.

"Okay," I breathed. "I held up my end. Um.... The-The sun should be setting soon."

I got back into the water without waiting for him. He was there before me and I put my boots back on, leading the way back up the slope.

"It's time to show me your realm," I said, still too embarrassed to look him in the face.

"Right," he mumbled and we began walking back the way we came, completely forgetting about the gardens.

-

It got cold as we crossed the barrier to the vampire realm and I shuddered a little, still damp. I looked around curiously. At first it looked like ours for we hadn't left the forest. When we got through the trees, though, I gasped and stopped walking. He stood beside me, his hands in his pockets.

We stood at the top of a long slope. Below us was a village with hundreds of homes. I recognized the style of humans. They had humans living among them? To the left was a large palace, dark blue in color. Roan was headed there and I sped up to walk beside him.

"There are humans here?" I asked.

"Yes," he said. "It started off as thralls coming to live with their vampires. Then some would fall in love. After a while, many humans wanted to live with the vampires and vice versa. So, eventually, they came and joined us. It's quite strange and a little tempting, but I do my best."

I looked at him, surprised at his vulnerable statement. He turned pink and cleared is throat, leading the way through the palace gates.

"Did they choose you because you're the prince?" I asked.

"Probably," he sighed. "Why did they choose you?"

"I don't know," I said. "I was going to ask Elder Arlan but he left before I could."

"You have much affection for him," he observed, stepping to the side so I could enter the palace first.

"Yes. When my parents died, he raised me."

He didn't ask about my parents again, for which I was grateful. Instead, he took my arm suddenly.

"Um...."

"Oh," he said quickly. "When a man leads a lady, or she-elf in this case, we hold their arms."

"That's strange," I said. "Why?"

He shrugged, leading me up the stairs. "It's just what we do."

"Huh," I said but fell into silence, looking around.

I knew that vampires were dark creatures because of their skin's sensitive nature. But the inside of the palace wasn't as dark as I expected. The main theme seemed to be black and gold. The carpet was black with gold trimming and the walls gold marble. It was very beautiful.

"I thought you were supposed to show me your realm," I said.

"In a sense, this is my realm," he said. "You have been to the human's realm, yes?" he asked and I nodded. "Our realm is exactly like that. Besides, once we're... married, this is where you'll live."

"Oh," I whispered.

I had forgotten about where I would live after we married. In our culture, the two elves would find a place together. But, seeing as he was the prince, I could imagine why he would have me live here. It saddened me, though, knowing I wouldn't get to see my friend as often as I had hoped.

"What interests you, Greentree?" he asked.

"Um.... I don't know," I said. "I like animals and books."

"What kind of books?"

He turned a corner down a hall with a lot of paintings and stopped.

"Mostly non-fiction," I said. "I love learning about other cultures."

He nodded thoughtfully. "Well, this is the Hall of Royals. Every king, queen, prince, princess, duke, and duchess is on these walls." He sighed. "Someday I will be on it, too."

"Will I?" I whispered and he stared at me.

"I do not know," he said honestly. "I don't know a lot of things now, Greentree."

I smiled a little. "Well, looks like we do have something in common after all," I whispered.

He narrowed his eyes. "You were uncomfortable as I kissed you. Why?"

I looked away and started walking down the hall. The portraits all looked rather grim.

"That's not how elves kiss," I said finally. "At least, not for our first kiss."

"You have not been kissed before then?" he asked, surprised.

"No. The only elf to express interest in me was Trevor and I knew he and I were not meant to be. Besides, he's an arrogant ass," I added before I could stop myself.

He laughed. "He is arrogant, I'll give you that. If that is not how elves share their first kiss, how do they?"

"We wait until a full moon," I whispered, looking down. "Then, at a designated time, the two elves meet at the hilltop in front of the goddess's altar. She is the one who observes our first kiss for it is she who gave the two elves the love for on another."

"Huh. So I kind of ruined that for you, didn't I?"

"No," I said. "Not really."

He stopped walking and frowned at me. "For some reason, Greentree, I really don't understand you."

I chuckled. "We're different races, Roan. Of course you don't understand me. I don't understand you."

"So you felt nothing when we kissed?"

I blushed. "Was I supposed to?"

He didn't answer as someone walked into the hall. It was a servant, I think.

"You have been summoned to the Meeting Hall," she said, staring openly at me.

"I suppose it's time to go back," Roan muttered and I nodded.

"Yes, I suppose it is."

The End

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