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Copyright © Leah Grant 2014. All Rights Reserved, Evernight Publishing
“I love someone.” Celil sighed out, the fatigue catching up. “He wanted to buy me from the market that day, but Gonnor beat him to it. When I was reserved for Rivalton, well, you know no one can bid against a king.”
“Is he a human?” Gwenndali’s eyes softened.
“No, it’s much worse. He’s an Elf!” Celil held her goblet up for a refill.
“Oh dear. This is a problem. Did you meet him when you were with your previous Master?” Gwenndali poured more wine into Celil’s goblet.
“Yes, it was instant the moment we saw one another. His eyes are…” Celil didn’t finish.
“His eyes are what?” Gwenndali asked, giving Celil the strangest look.
“They are the most amazing eyes I have ever seen. Even more beautiful than the king’s.” Celil looked up. What was wrong with her? Speaking such things in front of a stranger!
A smile spread over Gwenndali’s face. “I understand. The law forbids an Elf to negotiate a purchase from a human. The companion must already be for sale and only then can an Elf bid. So I take it you went to market before he even knew your Master was selling?”
“Yes. My Master never knew that we had begun a love affair. We kept it secret. It was very difficult to have such a relationship. I hoped that I would be let go and that Haedirn would finally have his chance to purchase me. Then we could be together.”
“Love. That isn’t something any of us hear much about. You are extraordinary Celil! Despite all that your life has been, you still were able to have love in your heart. I have never met someone so genuine. You do credit to your race.”
“But aren’t you human as well?” Celil stared, puzzled. “You look human.”
Gwenndali laughed, lifting up her long cascade of golden hair. What Celil saw made her jaw drop. Gwenndali had Elf ears tiny and perfect with delicate points. Precious stones adorned each ear, and they sparkled and glinted in the soft light of the enclosure.
“I am only one-fifth human. All the other acquired companions you see here are not purebred Elves. This is why we are considered lower and must become acquired companions. It is also why we don’t come down with the fever from swallowing seed.”
Well, that explained a couple of things. Like why Gwenndali seemed to be able to read her thoughts and why her eyes were so captivating. She was mostly Elf, just not enough to actually belong to good society, Celil thought.
“You think the Elves are cruel, don’t you?” Gwenndali stared intently at Celil.
“They have such harsh rules. You are really an Elf, yet you are punished by your own kind for not being ‘as pure’ as others. So you must live the life of an acquired companion.” Nothing Gwenndali said would ever change how she saw it.
“I suppose it seems very harsh, especially from a human perspective, but here you are finding yourself in love with an Elf. And don’t forget that to become an acquired companion, you had to make the initial choice, as did all of us.”
How could she respond to the truth? The worlds they both lived in seemed so unfair.
“So I am not banished and now Gonnor will be furious. He will try to make my life as miserable as possible, even though it is going to be that anyway. Why am I the one suffering?” Celil wanted to scream. Even if Haedirn went to petition the king, it wouldn’t do any good. A trial would bring everything out in the open about their secret love affair. The scandal of an Elf falling in love with a human woman.
Silence filled the small room. Finally, Celil spoke again.
“There is no solution. I must accept my fate.” She shut her eyes against her own words.
“No, you must not give up. We have to overcome this.” Gwenndali sat, silent in her thoughts for what seemed an eternity to Celil.
“I think I know how. Gonnor will help you.” Suddenly she jumped up and in her eyes, Celil saw a flash of triumph.
“Have you gone mad? He just wants to use me, to possess me as the king had.” Celil wasn’t certain what Gwenndali was getting at.
“Yes, he wants you, not for anyone else to have you. That is why he’ll help you get away from here. He knows by tomorrow you will be communal property. Helping you to escape will give him what he wants—exclusive access to you. And once you have escaped, you will be an outcast and he will be able to have whatever he wants from you.”
Horrified, Celil stared at Gwenndali. Go from the frying pan into the fire? “Explain to me how any of this is good?”
“Celil, I don’t want you to endure having to submit to all those Elves. I want you to run, to make a life for yourself and I can help you once you are out of here.” Gwenndali nodded.
“You have people on the outside?” Celil could hardly say the words.