"We don't have many other customs," King Alec told me as we strolled down the Hall of Royals again. "The ones we do are much like the human customs."
"Why are our two races so...?"
I tried to think of the word but it didn't come to me.
"Because of a war that happened at the beginning of time," King Alec explained. "Let's go sit in the parlor. Faith knows the history so I will let her tell it."
I liked Queen Faith. Even though she didn't speak, I could tell she was a loving woman and that she liked me. I was happy that they both did. It made this easier.
"Can you bring Miss Greentree another brownie and some tea, please?" he asked a servant who nodded.
"Won't Elder Donne be mad?" I whispered. "I don't want him to harm you or Roan."
The king's eyes glinted. "He never said anything about snacks."
I smiled and we waited until the brownie and tea arrived. The brownie was delicious again but the tea strange. I tilted my head at it.
"What kind of tea is this?" I asked.
"Chamomile," he answered. "Do you not have that?"
"No," I said. "We drink grass tea."
"And it's absolutely deplorable."
I laughed as Roan walked in. He looked angry but, as he sat next to me, he smiled and stole the rest of my tea. I pretended to pout but the servant came back with a pot and enough cups for all of us.
"You're just in time for our tale," King Alec said. "How did your meeting go?"
"Let's hear the tale," Roan said and his father got the hint.
"Okay, Faith," he said, putting his arm around her and we all got comfortable. "Take it away."
The war happened thousands of years ago. All races were fighting each other. The war was over politics and gods. They didn't accept the idea that different races could have different deities. Much blood was shed and it was a bitter time for all.
The werewolves were the ones that surrendered first. They lost many troops to the vampires and were willing to back away if someone else agreed. So, the humans followed. Like the wolves, they had lost many of their number to the other races. They once had a small alliance with the elves but that stopped when they surrendered.
That left the vampires and elves fighting. Neither the wolves nor the humans would take a side and they disappeared. As the years passed and their numbers dwindled, the war came to a standstill. Each race took hundreds of years to replenish their numbers only for the war to start over again.
That is when the human elder of the time came up with the idea of the silver barrier. It would separate all races and keep them in their realms until an agreement could be made. Should either race try to cross it, they would die a very painful and slow death.
And so the war ceased. But the two races resented each other. It wasn't until Elder Arlan became the elven elder that things changed. He had the Meeting Hall built and convened with Elder Donne every year. But politics kept getting in the way. Politics and the barrier. Many vampires and elves died proving that the barrier still worked.
But now, the chance has come to stop that. While the hunter elf from the elven realm stays with the vampire prince in the vampire realm for the required month, the treaty is being put together. Once it is, both elf and vampire will meet once more in the Meeting Hall and sign the treaty. Then they will wed, bringing the two races together.
I looked at my hands, remembering the condition and what Elder Arlan said about sacrificing my freedom for our races. I hadn't realized how much death andn blood corrupted our history. So that's why we've been at odds for so long. It made me sad and I leaned back.
Roan reached over and held my hand.
"And so we will do all we can to make you feel welcome while you are here," King Alec repeated, reaching over to hold my other hand. "You will become our princess and eventual queen. We are aware of all you are leaving behind and we thank you for that. How long do elves live?"
"We are immortal," I sighed, tugging my hair. "Just like you but we have different weapons we can be killed with. Forgive me, but I cannot divulge those to you; especially now that I know our past."
"We do not hold it against you," King Alec promised. "Now, what would you like to do this evening?"
"She sleeps at night," Roan said and King Alec looked surprised.
"Really? That's fascinating! I had assumed they were nocturnal beings as well!"
I shook my head, blushing.
"Well, in that case, we will see you in the morning." He smiled sadly at me. "Elder Donne has.... Well, he has cancelled dinner."
Roan shut his eyes wearily. "Come on, Lillian. Let's get you to bed."
"What's wrong?" I asked as we walked.
"I'll tell you when we get to the room," he answered but looked terribly guilty.
When we did, he picked up the nearest chair and threw it against the wall. I jumped. His fangs had reached his chin and he was snarling as he kicked over the nightstand that held a beautiful vase on it. I backed up against the wall as he continued to rage. When he calmed down, he sank to the floor, putting his head in his hands.
"Roan?" I whispered, walking over slowly. "Roan, what is it?"
He didn't answer and I sat beside him. I reached for him but he grabbed my wrist. I froze then he pulled me to him. His pull was so strong I bumped into his chest and he held me there.
"I'm so sorry," he breathed. "This is my fault."
"What are you talking about?" I asked.
He was shaking in anger.
"I-I upset Elder Donne," he answered. "He is taking it out on you. I am very sorry, Lillian. This has become terrible. I do not blame you if you choose to leave."
I sighed and timidly hugged him back.
"You know I can't, Roan," I whispered and he growled in the back of his throat. "But, even if I had the choice, I would stay."
"You would?" he asked, pushing me a little so he could look into my eyes.
I nodded. "I-I like being around you and your parents," I said, color creeping into my face. "Though I miss my friends, Elder Arlan said I can visit him in the Meeting Hall whenever I choose to so I will still have some kind of connection with them. Besides, Trevor and Opal both made it clear that there are those who feel I am a traitor."
"I feel responsible," he muttered, looking away.
"You're not," I promised. "It is Elder Donne."
He sighed and pulled me in for a hug again. I pressed my cheek to his chest, listening to his heart beat. It had slowed some and he wasn't shaking anymore.
"He has agreed to let us bring some more green into the palace," he said and I let out a sob of relief that made him hold me tighter. "But... he does not want you communing with Adelpha."
"Why? Who else can I commune with?"
"Our god, Caricus," he answered.
"But I can't!" I said, pushing away again and looking at him with wide eyes. "Roan, if I try to commune with him, he will-!"
"I know," he said. "Calm down. I have a plan."
I bit my lower lip but nodded and looked at the room. I tried to smile.
"Remind me not to make you angry."
He laughed breathlessly. "Yes, sometimes I lose control. I will clean while you sleep."
"I'll help," I said. "I'm not very tired right now anyway."
He just nodded and I put the chair back where they were while he reassembled the vanity. He was muttering things in his native language. Though I didn't know what he was saying, I had a good idea they were swear words. When the room was cleared, I changed into a nightgown and got under the covers.
"I have a surprise for you," Roan said softly, getting in next to me. "Close your eyes."
"Okay," I said, covering them.
He pulled on my arm so I was on my back. "Open."
I gasped. He had hung the painting so that it was right above me. He held my hand.
"That way you can always see a bit of your home," he whispered.
I rolled over and kissed him, crying a little.
"Thank you," I whispered against his lips and he smiled at me. "You don't have to sleep. Your father said you are nocturnal beings."
He shook his head. "No. I'd rather stay. Unless you want me to leave."
"No. You can stay." I closed my eyes, my face going red. "Can I ask you a question?"
"Of course you can," he said after blowing out the candles.
"Do you...." I cleared my throat. "Do you love me?"
He didn't answer right away. Instead, he put his arms around my waist and pulled me close to him.
"I'm starting to," he whispered.