The battle had left many dead, and many others wounded. It was a horrendous sight to look over the fields, but there was a wide swath of green where the dragon's blood had touched. We carried Aloron's body to the fire, and he was the first we burned after the Elven ceremonial fashion. The survivors started fires across the battlefield, burning bodies. We couldn't take them back to Greensage. The kings met up with us; they were ecstatic that we'd won. They went on and on about how brave their men had been, how valiantly they had fought. Gabrithon joined in, and he was the first one to praise me. I listened only half-heartedly to them speaking highly of me. I was still hurting from Aloron's death.
The army prepared to return to Greensage after we had cleaned up the field. Instead of marching in formation, we all just moved at our own pace; we were too weary to care about marching, and the kings weren't going to force us. On our return, we noticed that some people were losing hope. Melanari had been one of them. She tearfully embraced Elthinor, and they spent an entire day together.
The Elementals came back, some of them wounded, and others that weren't even mine. Ember trotted up to me and barked happily, looking from me to another Kindle Wolf. It was a little more delicate than Ember, making me think she was female. He licked her nose and erased any doubt that she wasn't. I pet her softly, kissing her head. I approved of her, and Ember yipped happily. I told Ember to make sure all the new arrivals behaved then turned and walked away.
A month later found me sitting on a small hill outside of town. Quite a few people had already left for their home villages, while the kings were negotiating peace treaties. Even the Satyr king was now hospitable toward his old enemy; apparently Lolaiken had saved his life twice during the battle. And as for the Human king, I had nominated Jaiden. He was young, but smart, and incredibly spiritual. The Humans agreed with me, and he was still getting the feel of his new occupation. Of course, he had also been the one who was baptizing believers. He couldn't dunk the Centaurs, but he did pour water over their heads as they were kneeling. He had joyfully baptized me and all of our friends first, then Elthinor had baptized him.
I played with Elthinor's necklace, which I had worn since he had proposed. The bone on the end was carved in the shape of a wolf. I liked to think it was a Kindle Wolf.
I turned to see my friends standing there. "Hello."
Their faces, save Elthinor's, had morphed into shock, their eyes glued to the necklace in my hand. They all spun on my Elven fiancé.
"When exactly were you going to tell us that you're engaged to Filynora?" Gabrithon demanded.
"We've been busy," Elthinor defended.
"Yes," Jaiden said. "But this is important."
"When are you getting married?" Pinnathir asked.
"I don't know. He hasn't said a word about it since he proposed," I said, hearing the bitterness in my own voice.
Elthinor suddenly looked sheepish. "I've been putting off telling Melanari and the other females. I wanted to spare you that indignity for as long as possible."
"I'll never understand why females make such a big deal about a wedding," I said crossly.
Elthinor laughed. "It usually only happens once in a person's lifetime. Can you really blame them?"
"Yes," I said matter-of-factly. All my friends laughed.
"Well, let's go tell my sister and the other females," Elthinor said. "But you're bringing this upon yourself."
"You're the one who proposed," I pointed out with a grin.
The females we told included Petra the Dwarf, Melanari the Elf, Vincentia the Centaur, Leah the Human, and the Satyr princess and queen. They all were thrilled and started working together to make my dress and shoes, and discussing what they would do with my hair. Elthinor and I didn't have to worry about planning the wedding at all, apparently. Jaiden practiced the Human way of marrying us so that he could get it right when the time came, while Lolaiken agreed to do the Elf portion.
The day of the wedding dawned beautifully. I knew that because my female friends had pulled me out of bed and washed me while the sun was still barely peeking over the horizon. They swept my long hair up into a complicated twist of braids for the Dwarves and the Centaurs. When that was done, Petra and Vincentia left to check on the preparations. After they had instructed me to put on my dress, which was a lovely green and silver, they left, and I obeyed with a secret smile. Boy would they be surprised! I also put my shoes on, refusing the tight, constricting shoes they had made. I also refused makeup when they got back, but they convinced me to accept a tiny bit on my cheeks, but there I drew the line.
They deemed me ready, but when they weren't looking, I slipped my mother's bracelet on my wrist. There, now I was ready. We waited several hours until a female Elf came to get us. They walked with me out to a place outside town, hurrying me along so I wouldn't see the decorations. I did anyway but ignored them. They circled me around to the side then instructed me to walk up and stand in front of Lolaiken and Jaiden when the flute started. I did so, Elthinor meeting me in the middle. His shirt was red and gold, and it made me smile. He smiled back at me then we turned to face the two kings.
"Greetings to all!" Jaiden called. "We have come here to unify these two souls together, in the sight of God Almighty and the assembled congregation. But before we do, we have an announcement to make."
Lolaiken cleared his throat. "Due to her bravery and cunning, and her all around grand nature, we, and the other kings, have decided to make Filynora an honorary princess of all the races."
I blinked. "Um, that's fine, I guess." I really didn't know what to say beyond that.
Everybody laughed then Jaiden went back to work. He read several passages from the scrolls, particularly the first one. He talked of the originals and how they had been married by God Himself. It was interesting, but my insides had sprouted wings and were fluttering nervously. I was most nervous about the upcoming kiss. I didn't know how to feel about it. It meant that my life was changing forever. Suddenly I realized it was no longer Jaiden who was talking, but Lolaiken. I gave him my full attention.
He held out his hand toward Elthinor, saying, "Now let us seal this union with a necklace made by the groom's own hands."
Elthinor handed him the necklace, which Melanari had taken to him the day before. "It is an honor to give it to one so strong."
Was he referring to me? I turned and let the Elf king place the trinket on my neck. I turned back to find the king's hand suddenly in front of me. I blinked at it.
"Now let us have the precious bracelet crafted by the maiden."
Elthinor immediately stepped forward and tried to tell him that I had no bracelet to give. While he was distracted, I pulled off my mother's bracelet and placed it in the outstretched hand. The king pushed Elthinor back and stared at it.
"This is Elven made," he said quietly. "Did you make it?"
"Nay, my father did. He made it for my mother. It's the only thing I have left of her."
"Fily, you really don't have to give me that bracelet. We can always have you make one later," Elthinor said.
I smiled. "Take it. Let's continue, shall we?"
We finished the ceremony, and both kings told us we could kiss. I swallowed nervously as my husband and I turned toward each other. He moved down and captured my lips. The fluttering in my stomach tried to get out of my body as he did that. Then it was over. I stared up at him; he chuckled, leaning down to my ear.
"You look shocked."
I blushed, shoving his hands away. "Is the ceremony completely over?" I asked the kings.
Lolaiken nodded. "It is. Why?"
I grinned at Elthinor, and he immediately looked wary. I took the bottom of the dress to pull the entire thing up over my head. I heard gasps and yells from the audience. There was silence a few seconds then Melanari screamed.
I had put on my normal clothes beneath the dress and now gave a whoop, grabbing Elthinor's hand and pulling him along with me as I began to run back to town. My new husband was laughing gaily at my little trick. We got back quickly and headed for the drinks first. Water quenched our thirst then we got a little bit of wine. We settled on the ground beside a house. Elthinor pulled me close, wrapping an arm around me.
"Well, my beautiful wife, now we just have to wait until we leave tonight for the cabin."
"Cabin?" I asked, my stomach tightening.
"Yes. Cabin. It's where we'll spend the first few weeks of our married life."
"Oh. That's…nice," I said nervously.
He looked at me. "Are you all right?"
"Fine, fine. I'm fine."
"You sound frightened."
"I am not!"
"Then why are you being so defensive?"
"I just…shut up!"
"No. Talk to me, my little unbroken filly. What ails you?"
I sat there for a while then sighed when I realized he wouldn't let up. "I'm scared of being vulnerable."
"But you should know that I would never hurt you. Ever."
"Still. I'm uncomfortable with it."
"Well, we'll work on that. We have three weeks. A month if we stretch it."
My cheeks were hot from talking about such a personal subject. I didn't like being vulnerable. And that's what I would be during the consummation, and every night afterward, no doubt. I was jerked out of my thoughts by a strangely textured hand cupping my cheek. I smiled.
"Greetings Filynora," my Dwarven friend said with a chuckle.
"I cannot believe you took your dress off!" Pinnathir laughed behind him.
"I was wearing my clothes underneath it," I said, though I smiled uncontrollably.
"But still," Gabrithon said, settling down onto the ground. "It was a classic Filynora move. A move that even we didn't expect."
"At least I can still surprise you." I paused. "Gabrithon, you wouldn't happen to be the one who suggested I become a princess, would you?"
Gabrithon smiled. "Indeed. But you deserve it. Now you have a reason to order most people about."
We all laughed at that. The feast was magnificent. It had a great variety of food from every race, and everybody ate their fill. The party was obviously going to last way into the night, so Elthinor and I snuck out just after sunset. We took Flame and Rainstorm, despite my husband's protests. Elthinor was ahead of me, following a mental map in his head. Two days later, we entered the forest where Ellavendir had been. A day after that, we came to a nice little cabin beside a lake that was fed by a river. I immediately set out to catching some fish, and he stoked the fire up high. We ate around sunset on that third day. When darkness fell, I could feel my stomach tighten yet again.
"Fily," Elthinor said softly, grabbing my hand. "I won't hurt you."
He kissed me softly several times then tried to deepen the kiss. I pulled away immediately.
"Elthinor," I said softly, playing with my hands.
I was so nervous, so unsure. I trusted him, but this was asking me to trust him in a wholly different way than I was used to. I trusted him with my life, but to trust him to not harm me in the intimacy that was expected of a husband and wife? I didn't know if I could do it.
"Fily, we can wait if you'd like," Elthinor said, placing his hand on both of mine.
Wait? My husband would wait for me? I could plainly see in his eyes how eager he was; they were dark with want. I suddenly relaxed. Elthinor was my best friend. Why was I so worried? While God was my everything, Elthinor was the only mortal who came anywhere near that mark. I took a deep breath and smiled.
"I need to hear something first."
My Elven husband sat back on his heels and looked thoughtful for a second.
"Of course!" he exclaimed. He kissed me again, a long, slow kiss, then pulled back. "I love you Filynora. I will always love you. You are the princess of my world, and it's because of you that I follow Jesiah. Thank you."
I relaxed and we kissed again. "Elthinor?" I asked one more time.
"Yes?" He was being incredibly patient.
"Can you teach me how to swim while we're here?"
He brightened. "Definitely. And then I'll teach you to read and write. But for now…"
He kissed me again. This time we didn't stop.