I sobbed at Adelpha's feet. I held tightly to the base of the shrine, crying so hard my throat hurt. When I heard the footsteps, I thought it was Roan.
"Lillian," Elder began but I made a crude hand gesture and he sighed. "Please, hear me out."
"Why should I!?" I screamed, jumping to my feet and pointing angrily at him. "You should have told me from the beginning, Arlan!"
"He made me swear not to," Elder Arlan said.
"Who?" I snapped.
"Elder Donne," he answered and held my hand, turning me to face the realm. "It was his condition, not mine. When the day comes before your wedding and you return here, that is when you and Roan will make your decision."
I scoffed. "More like Roan will make his decision."
"I have a feeling Roan will not give his answer unless you agree with it. But, personally, I would rather you come back every five years than never at all." He sighed. "That was Donne's first desire: that you never come back. It took a lot of talking to get him to five years."
"But why?" I whispered.
"I don't know," he said.
"Why did you choose me?" I asked, sniffling. "Out of all the she-elves in this realm, why me!?"
His eyes were pained and he looked at the statue.
"Because she told me to."
I looked up at the shrine. "What?"
"Before each session, I communed with Adelpha. This time, when I did, I heard your name loud and clear. And right after yours: Roan Dragomir. At the time, I had no idea who he was. I didn't know what you two had to do with everything, but my answer came to me in the meeting. The reason it took so long is because we were negotiating your return."
I frowned. So that's why Adelpha had given me her permission.
"This isn't fair," I whispered and he hugged me.
"I know, little elf," he said. "But you can visit me in the Meeting Hall whenever you wish. You just cannot cross the barrier."
I collapsed to my knees. "The whole point of this damn marriage is so that we can cross it!"
He sighed again. "I know. And your people will. That's what is important, dear. Your people will get to finally experience peace with all races in this land. Even-Even if it means sacrificing your freedom."
I sobbed into his shoulder and he held me tightly.
Roan was waiting at my hut, his bag of gifts held tightly in his left hand. Elder Arlan hugged me one more time before leaving us.
"There's something I want to show you," Roan said, pulling me back into the hut. "I was going to give this to you on our wedding day but, after what Elder Donne just said, he probably shouldn't know about it."
I frowned as he ducked under his bed. I gasped as he passed me a miniature replica of Adelpha. It stood at two feet tall and was a perfect resemblance. I looked up at him, tears once more in my eyes.
"I made it while you were sick," he whispered, taking it and putting it in the bag with everything else. "It was going to be a surprise." He sighed and hugged me. "I'm sorry, Lillian."
I stepped out of his arms. It had been the first time he used my name. He bit his lip but then took my arm in his and led me out of the hut.
Elves waved to us, oblivious to the fact that, after my wedding, I wouldn't see them again for five years. The knowledge of that pierced my heart so I tried to think of something else as we crossed the border. Waiting on the other side was a large procession with Elder Donne at the head.
"Welcome to our realm, Lillian Greentree," he said in a cheerful voice that only made my resentment for him worse. "We are proud to have you here. Please, ride in our royal carriage to what will soon be your home."
I didn't answer, knowing I didn't have a choice anyway. Roan helped me in and slid the bag of gifts under the carriage seat. Elder Donne sat across from us with a woman who resembled Roan. She was trying to get Roan's attention but he kept his gaze on the back of the carriage.
As it trundled down the slope, Elder Donne sighed.
"I know you are upset with me, Lillian," he said quietly. "But this is what is best. If you were to constantly go back, you would never spend time with Roan."
"It was all an act," I whispered and saw the woman glare at Elder Donne. "At the risk of being rude, Elder Donne, I do not want to speak with you right now."
"It doesn't matter what you want," he said in a hard voice and I lowered my head. "I know you only agreed to this marriage so that you could go between each realm as you see fit. That is for your fellow elves and our vampires to do. As the queen, you will have other duties; duties that will give you no time for crossing to the elven realm. And we're not keeping you from there forever. Just every five years," he added as if it were a treat.
Silence fell in the carriage until we got to the palace. Roan got out first and helped me an the woman down. HE didn't hold the door open for Elder Donne, though. Instead, he shouldered the bag of gifts, took my arm and the woman's arm, and led us inside.
When we entered the foyer, a man who looked a little like Roan was standing with a large grin on his face. He was handsome, just like Roan. He had black hair, though, and blue eyes. It was obvious Roan got his strange red hair from his mother. The woman that was riding with us kissed Roan on the cheek and stood beside the king.
Her smile, though, was sad and I wondered why she came along.
"You must be Lillian Greentree!" the king said and I curtsied, still too upset to speak. "I'm so glad you're spending this month with us! My name is Alec and this is my wife, Faith."
Her name took me by surprise. It's not what I was expecting for a vampire.
"I'm sure you're rather tired so we'll show you to your quarters. You can freshen up before dinner," Alec said happily and he and his wife walked upstairs.
Roan had an unpleasant look on his face as he walked with me. The door Alec stopped out of had Roan's name on it and I realized I would be sleeping in the same room as him. Roan opened the door and beckoned for me to go in first.
"We'll come down for dinner in an hour," Roan said to his parents. He glanced at me. "We... we have some things to discuss."