Paeris and I hid for what felt like hours. Hiding had always been everything I was against. I had always been the 'run toward the action' type of girl. Paeris made me realize that maybe that was one of my biggest flaws.
He had held me, covering me from any prying eyes. His minty scent made me feel drunk and dizzy.
Through it all though, a lingering thought made my blood boil. Why was it that everyone knew of my whole life except me?
Finally, Jonas trekked out to the forest, giving us the all clear. I let out a breath, rolling my eyes at the whole situation.
Most of the ride to the High Wall was silent, despite Paeris' efforts to get me to speak.
I just wanted answers. Answers that Paeris clearly didn't believe I was ready for.
Finally, the carriage came to a stop, the horses around us stomping the ground in anticipation.
"Are you ready to see your kingdom, Your Highness?" Paeris said in a chipper way, extending his hand to help me out as he opened the door, but I cooly bypassed his help and stepped out into the crisp air.
The scene around me was almost as beautiful as the dream land I had been introduced to the first night I had met Paeris. The road beneath my feet seemed to lead through each part of the kingdom like veins through a body. The small houses that surrounded the outer part of the walls confused me, but I wasn't willing to ask Paeris questions right now.
Horse hooves clattered on the iron planks of the bridge leading to the main castle-like structure. The building was plenty big enough for the entire Elder civilization. Sweet smelling perfume hung in the air as people slowly began to gather in wonder at my arrival. Soft fur surrounded me, snapping my attention back to Paeris as he smiled down at my awe.
"It's beautiful, isn't it?" He said softly, helping to pull the hair at the base of my neck out from under the skin so it wouldn't pull. "I saw you studying the houses. Did your sister explain what they are for?"
Of course not. We were too busy staying out of each other's way.
"No." I said simply. "Are you going to tell me? Or are you going to withhold that information from me as well?" I snapped, narrowing my eyes at him. There was so much he had neglected to tell me.
That he was a real person, who my real mother was.
I knew deep down that it wasn't his fault that I didn't even know the basis of who I was, but I needed someone to blame.
Paeris stepped back from me, giving me the space that I needed. Instantly, I regretted my snappy behavior.
"I'm sorry, Paeris." I said softly, running my fingertips over his hand. "I just feel so lost. Everyone is treating me like this fragile thing..."
"I know you won't break easily." He whispered back, entwining our fingers and pulling me closer to him. I breathed a small sigh of relief.
"Then tell me what I need to know."
Paeris simply nodded, motioning for me to follow him to the square of the small village where elves slowed as we walked closer, as if they didn't understand why I was interrupting their daily duties.
"Let me start with the things I know. We can figure out the rest together." He said, pulling me close enough that only I could hear him as he spoke.
I nodded slowly, smiling at him slightly.
"There are eight houses of the Council. Cruor, which you know, is made up of shifters. Spiris, the earth elves. Penum, love elves." He listed, pulling me over to a table that had necklaces with different symbols on them. He pointed to one of them, smiling at me as I touched the cool metal with my fingers. "That is the symbol of Brun, fire elves."
"It's beautiful. They're all beautiful." I smiled, looking at all of the necklaces that were on display. "There are all seven symbols here."
"One is missing. That's your symbol. There is a tapestry hanging in your room with your symbol surrounded by all of our's." He kissed my fingers on the hand he was holding before shooting me another small smile. "There is also a giant library full of our histories. I'll show you to it."
"I like the way you tell me." I touched the next symbol cautiously, raising my eyebrow at him to continue.
"Essos, healers. Atmos, air. Fluvis, for water." He listed, pointing at each symbol in turn.
"That seems like a lot to remember."
"You will get there. We will get there." Paeris promised, waving over the apprehensive elf who looked like she wanted to avoid us but couldn't. "Can you wrap up one of each of these for us?" He asked the woman, shooting her a smile that made my world spin. He looked back at me and winked. "For memory's sake." I grinned at the idea that he kept little tokens for memories the same way I did.
"What else do you want to know?"
"Everything about you, next."
Paeris shot me one of his perfect smiles, though he shook his head at me slowly. "Tell me about you, my future Queen."
I frowned, thinking about the request. "I don't know anything about myself." I said honestly, I didn't know who was or who I was meant to be.
"Of course you do." Paeris smiled at me, as if to encourage me to think of something remarkable.
"My favorite color is green. Like your eyes." I smiled at him. "My favorite season is winter. I think snow is beautiful and dangerous."
I laughed at his statement, shaking my head.
"Ray, about your mom..." he started, sighing in defeat. "Her name is Lorelei. She was the Queen once."
My eyes widened, shaking my head in denial. "That's not possible. She's gone dark."
"Right." He sighed. "She was of Penum. Like my mom. She was the strongest Queen we have ever seen. And now... the most dangerous threat."