By reading any further, you are stating that you are 18 years of age, or over. If you are under the age of 18, it is necessary to exit this site.Copyright © Leah Grant 2015. All Rights Reserved, Evernight Publishing
Gwenndali jogged to keep up with Ingspar’s long strides. “Why won’t you speak to me? What is happening?” It frightened her how quickly his mood had changed. She felt frozen out of his sphere. Her heart ached from being shut out.
Finally they reached the inner sanctum. The enclave reserved for the king was quite beautiful and reminded Gwenndali of the one where she’d spoke to Rivalton. Looking around, the area was much larger, its sole purpose to enhance the king’s moments of contemplation. Long trailing plants with large shiny leaves grew out from the rocks. Planters filled with vibrantly-colored flowers were placed throughout the area. Trickles of mountain run-off made their way down through the jagged rocks and into a carved reservoir, which echoed the water’s soothing effect. Gwenndali imagined the king meditating with the sounds of water splashing and the smells of rich plant life.
At last Ingspar spoke. “Have you been here before?”
“No. Have you?” She put it out more of a challenge than a question.
“Yes. Many times. This is where most of the planning has taken place.”
Their private moment ended as Haedirn entered. Gwenndali inclined her head in the usual show of respect, then searched his face for any clue as to why he’d taken such harsh actions.
“You do look troubled. Let me assure you, Gwenndali, it had to happen. These events will make our kingdom stronger, and life will become richer once again,” Haedirn said.
“Richer for whom, I wonder?” She stared at Haedirn, wanting to lash out.
“Do not forget yourself. You may be mostly Elf, but you were an acquired companion, and that can be reinstated,” Haedirn warned.
“Enough. You know she’ll never be in that life again. Let’s try to keep focus here. I’m not getting into the petty squabbles that led this kingdom into the ruin it has now become.” The sharp edges of Ingspar’s tone showed his impatience.
“The Elves will fight against you. You can’t just walk in here and take over.” Her fear turned to blatant anger. Does he seriously believe no one will stand up to them?
It was Haedirn who responded. “Did you not just hear and see what happened in the throne room? The Elves did not take to freedom. They did not want the changes it brought into this kingdom. Only Elves such as yourself and lesser races benefited. Freedom? What is it really? Are you free, Gwenndali?”
Her whole body shook. She wrapped her arms around her body, trying to stave off the chills going through her. Lesser races. No doubt he meant humans and anyone who wasn’t a pure Elf. Even being one-fifth human had meant she’d had little choice about becoming an acquired companion. This “richness” he spoke of was only meant for the elite.
“I wonder now if I ever was.” She sunk down onto a bench, a tendril of hair coming loose about her face.
“Enough! Now, where is he?” Ingspar’s eyes changed again, the black pooling returning as though someone had tipped an inkwell into their depths. The fine pinpoint of white starlight cut into her.
Haedirn crossed over to a far wall, held his hand up to its stone face, and suddenly a doorway appeared. Gwenndali stared, transfixed. Had Celil known about any of this?
Gonnor strode into the enclave, an air of confidence about him Gwenndali hadn’t seen since he’d been captain of the guards.
“What is he doing here?”
“Gonnor has been reinstated to his former position, with a formal apology for the events that he had to endure under Rivalton.” Ingspar lowered his very stately form down next to her.
“Really? What he had to endure?” A bitter taste filled her mouth. Gwenndali turned so she could look Ingspar directly in the face.
He leaned down and his lips just grazed hers, so brief and light, she hadn’t even had a second to react and kiss him back. The spark that kiss sent into her was unsettling. “Your reaction is understandable. This must all seem as though a nightmare and you are not able to wake. I want you to know that I chose you to walk beside me on this journey.”
“I would like to visit with Celil. Will you allow it?” How quickly the old manner of speaking came back, to ask permission for everything and wait for the whim of a pure Elf male to grant it.
Ingspar seemed oblivious to Gonnor and Haedirn, who just stood there. If she’d been a total stranger without any knowledge about the recent events, she’d have sworn Ingspar was the king, the one in charge. He had such a commanding presence. Even Gonnor’s newborn self-importance didn’t shadow it.
“I am happy to have you see Celil. Visit as often as you wish. You are free to roam in the kingdom as you like. Remember, you belong to me now. No other may touch you.”
“I can go to Celil? Where is she?” As if I don’t know. No doubt locked up again.
“She is being housed where you were before. It is very nice. I have seen to it that she won’t lack for anything.” He smiled and her heart flipped.
Rising, she bowed to Ingspar and then made her exit, leaving the three to plot.