I led the way to the Meeting Hall. Neither of us spoke. So she hadn't felt it when I kissed her? That was disappointing. Perhaps I should ask Elder Donne about it.... I was wary of doing so, though. Something was... different about him.
When we walked in, Elder Arlan had us sit on the other side of the table than normal. I was surprised at how comfortable the trunk was. It felt strange sitting next to the elven elder, though.
"Did you enjoy the tours?" Elder Donne asked.
"It was quite interesting," Lillian said. "But it was more of a tour of a castle than a realm."
"Yeah, sorry about that," I said.
"Different races, different cultures, different realms," Elder Arlan said simply. "Now, here's what will happen next. We didn't do this with the werewolves or the humans mostly because the races are so similar." Lillian scoffed. "You will each spend one month in each other's realms." He looked to me. "Which would you prefer for the first month: her realm or yours?"
I thought it over. It would be easier on her to do her realm first.
"We'll do the elven realm for the first month," I said and turned to her. "If that's agreeable," I added when I saw the strange look on her face.
"Yes," she said quickly. "I just didn't think that's what you would choose...."
I could only shrug.
"We'll move another bed into your hut, Lillian," Elder Arlan said.
"I will not be in a separate hut?" I asked.
"I'm sorry but we don't have an extra," he said. "It's probably best, anyway. You will be sharing a life together in two months."
"I need some air," Lillian breathed.
"You do look flushed," Elder Arlan said with concern.
Before we could ask her anything, Lillian ran out of the Meeting Hall. Elder Arlan sighed.
"May I speak with you?" I asked Elder Donne who nodded. I stood up. "Thank you, Elder Arlan, for allowing me to spend this month in your realm."
Elder Arlan nodded. "It's my honor. We will get the bed in as soon as we can." He glanced at the doors. "I will go make sure she is okay."
I waited until he was gone before standing beside Elder Donne.
"You kissed," he said and I nodded, not bother to ask how he knew.
"She felt nothing, though," I said. "I thought you said that, when two mates share their first kiss, they feel warmth. They feel peace."
He stared at me. "Is that what you felt?"
"I felt the warmth," I shrugged. "And I suppose I felt a little bit of peace but-"
"Tell me, do you find her attractive?" he interrupted and I frowned. "Just answer the question. I will explain."
"Okay. Yes, I do find her attractive. She is very beautiful."
He nodded. "As we have all said several times since this began: you are two different races. You share no common bloodline. You felt the warmth because you are attracted to her. And, forgive me, but you are not the traditional pair." I scoffed but said nothing. "There will come a day where you may feel those things and more."
I stared at the doors. "But what about her?"
He shook his head. "I don't know enough about the elven culture and how they fall in love."
I sighed, not used to feeling so vulnerable.
"That's assuming we ever fall in love, Elder Donne," I mumbled. He didn't say anything. "I will see you in one month."
Elder Arlan was waiting for me, rubbing his eyes wearily.
"I can't find her," he sighed.
I looked around and thought. "Where's your hilltop? The one with the goddess's altar?"
He frowned. "To the west. How do you know of it?"
"I'll find her," I said and walked off.
The moon was high in the sky and elves stared, open mouthed, at me as I walked. I kept my back straight but I didn't appreciate some of their stares. Many of them probably thought as her she-elf friend and the he-elf, Trevor, did about our union. I was somewhat familiar with arranged marriages but perhaps they weren't.
I went west for about thirty minutes until I saw a magnificent stone statue appear to rise from the earth as I got closer to the hilltop. The statue had to be 150 feet tall with long hair and pointed ears poking out. She had her arms spread as if to embrace someone and was depicted in a robe. At the base I could barely make out a figure kneeling. I hesitated.
"Please, Mother," Lillian whispered. "I am so terribly confused. To live with the vampires, away from you? I cannot do it with such a heavy heart." I looked at the grass, putting my hands in my pockets. "I will do my best for my people, though. I need your strength to do this. Please." She started to cry and I sighed quietly. "They hate me, Mother. They blame me. Perhaps I should just go straight to his realm."
She collapsed into sobs and I walked over. I sat beside her. She didn't react when I cleared my throat. I had a feeling she knew I was there the whole time.
"They don't hate you, Greentree," I said quietly. "They just do not understand."
"They never will," she cried, her voice muffled into her hands.
I looked at her. "The only way they will understand is if you tell them," I said. "There are vampires that I know are expressing the same thoughts as that Trevor and whatever that other she-elf's name was. When we go to my realm, I will have to do the same thing. I will have to talk, explain, and quite possibly lose some of my friends as well."
I sighed and hesitantly put my hand on her back.
"Look, I know a little about arranged marriages. I know that, if the two go in with bitterness towards one another, it only makes things worse. I appreciate the sacrifice you are making, Greentree." I glanced at the statue. "What is her name?"
Lillian sniffled and wiped her tears away. She looked up, too, and her eyes softened.
"Her name is Adelpha," she explained. "She is the Mother of all elves. She created us and loves each of us." She sighed. "It will be hard not living with her."
"Who said that by moving to my realm you are leaving her behind?"
She looked at me and frowned. "Well... no one, I guess. I didn't think you'd be so open about it."
I shrugged. "It's like I said. I've let go of my bitterness," I sighed, taking my hand off her back. "What good is bitterness going to do when we wed? This is politics, Greentree, and we are both making sacrifices. If... if it will make things easier for you, I will not stop you from communing with Adelpha."
Her jaw dropped. "You won't?"
"No. We have a god of our own. I will show you when we go to my realm." She started crying again and I sighed. It would seem she-elves cry just as much as other females. "Come on, Greentree. I'm tired."
She nodded and we stood back up. I looked at the statue once more before following her down the slope and to her hut.
"You can sleep on the bed," she said when we arrived and I frowned.
"No. The floor is uncomfortable. I will sleep on it."
She rolled her eyes. "You are my guest, Roan."
"I may be your guest, but I'm also a gentleman," I argued.
She shrugged. "Then neither of us will sleep on the bed."
"Are you always this stubborn?" I asked, watching as she got a spare blanket and pillow.
She got comfortable on the floor and shut her eyes.