The pounding of feet echoed inside my ears, almost mimicking the rapid thumping of my heart. Leaves scattered behind me in the air, my legs shaking as I pushed myself to move faster.
“Give it back!” I shouted, my eyes narrowing when he laughed and continued running. I heard his friends laughing as they rested on the trees above us, no doubt entertained.
He slowed down before he stopped, keeping a great distance between us. I copied, observing as he turned to face me with that teasing smirk, his hand dangling my bow tauntingly.
“You’ll just let him have it?” I heard Faelyn’s voice. Looking up, I noticed my older brother sitting on a branch with his friends, his eyes laughing just as much as his mouth was.
“Give it back, Ayen,” I demanded again, trying not to pout or huff because I wasn’t getting what I wanted.
Ayen smirked wider, pretending to nearly drop my bow. My heart dropped instead. If he so much as damaged it, I would grab his ears.
“Come and take it, sweetheart,” he replied, pretending to drop it again. When he noticed that I was preparing to lunge at him, he crouched low, then jumped up high before I could have told him don’t.
It was something every Elf could do; we had the ability to jump incredibly high. If we were not careful enough, we could reach higher than any bird would fly, but the landing would be extremely damaging.
“Ayen, you drop that bow and I will—“
“Faelyn, she’s threatening me!” He laughed as he bounced from tree to tree.
I crouched then jumped after him, expertly bouncing from branch to branch and ignoring the fact that I was wearing a floral dress. It hugged my body tightly and it was strapless, allowing maximum movement but minimising unnecessary exposure. The wind wouldn’t be able to do anything since it clung to me, reaching the middle of my thighs.
“Faelyn!” I shouted indignantly, deciding to rest on one tree, huffing and puffing, placing a hand on my chest as I tried to regulate my breathing. I was fast but, for some reason, I could only run when I was in danger. I assumed it was because I had a gift; I couldn’t be physically strong and gifted as well.
Due to Elves being kinder and gentler than the other beings, nature decided to bless some of us with powers. We called them gifts. In order to be born with a gift, the Elf must have been born from parents of the same hair and eye colour; in essence, our hair and eye colour must be exactly the same for us to be born with a gift.
There were five realms in total that existed. The realm of the Elves, the realm of the Fairies, the Vampires, the Werewolves and finally the realm of the ultimate predators… the Spiders.
The Spiders were the strongest and most feared. We Elves didn’t know much about them aside from what our Elders taught us, most of which came from magical books from the Fairies. The Werewolves were the second strongest; they weren’t completely feared because they knew mercy, something the Spiders wouldn’t understand. The Vampires came third due to their intolerance for sunlight. Then there were the Fairies who were weaker than the previous three yet stronger than us due to possessing magic and wings; they could fly and cause trouble.
And then there were the Elves: the weaker, smaller, more fragile creatures. If I had to explain how small we were, I would assume we were… like petite humans? The Fairies were a little taller, the Vampires even taller, the Werewolves even taller and more muscular, and the Spiders were essentially beasts.
I hadn’t personally seen one, but from what the books had shown, they were huge. Their height was intimidating and their muscles were purely terrifying.
Even their women were big.
Hearing my cry, my older brother called out for his friends to cease their teasing. He walked up to Ayen and slapped the back of his head, the other mumbling an ouch before he hurriedly handed my bow to my brother.
I heaved a sigh of relief, straightening my back when he approached with an apologetic smile.
“Sorry,” he murmured, leaning down to press his lips to my forehead. His hand extended with my bow held carefully, and I took it with a small sound of happiness. Everyone knew how much it meant to me; it was both a symbol of my position as the best female archer in our village and a gift from my older sister.
“Go home and rest.” He smoothed my hair back.
I nodded, briefly wrapping my arms around him and secretly glaring at his friends before I bounced away, aiming to return home.
Elves lived in wooden homes on treetops. Our ancestors had spent a few Blue Moons building and decorating them, ensuring that they were fit to house people. The homes were large, some larger than others depending on how many Elves were in one family. The houses were connected to each other by wooden bridges that hung from branch to branch, and they were only accessible to people who could jump high… or climb, but that had never happened before.
“Mother!” I called as soon as I jumped into our home.
I heard her voice coming from the back. I assumed she was with her friends, picking some herbs that grew on our trees. One thing Elves were the best at was making herbs of all kinds. We didn’t have the strength, but we were blessed with the knowledge of beauty and health.
When I walked out to the garden, I saw my mother with her friends just as I had expected. Her pale blue hair danced with the soft wind, her ocean blue eyes shining with joy. Her lips were curved upwards and the sound of her harmonious laughter rang inside my ears, a smile lifting my own lips.
My mother had a slightly darker hair shade than my father. I somehow ended up with a lighter hair colour compared to my brother. My eyes were also brighter than my brother’s and they matched my hair tone completely.
We were all born under the water element yet only I was able to control it because my eyes and hair matched.
“Kenia!” one of my mother’s friends squealed, pastel purple hair and soft purple eyes. “Look at you, growing up every day!”
I looked the same every day, I thought, smiling.
“Keep her under your eyes, Ayda. You never know who might want her for themselves.”
The final say was up to me, I thought again, lightly scratching my pale arms.
We were the second palest creatures. Sadly, the Vampires beat us at that one.
The women giggled at that last comment. I found myself huffing as I walked closer to them, deciding to be useful and help them collect herbs.
“I wouldn’t exaggerate that much, Anaria,” I mumbled, beaming at the purple rose I had picked, placing it in the basket. “It’ll only be an Elf who would try to impress me.”
They giggled again, this time deciding to make shameful jokes they wouldn’t utter in the presence of a male.
For our people, the woman was in control. If a male Elf wished to find a mate or if he was attracted to a female Elf, he would need to impress her and get her attention by showcasing his talent, be it singing, dancing, playing an instrument or even working with his element. If the female approves of the male, she would give him her answer by showing her talent as well and then they bond for eternity.
Female Elves stopped ageing at the age of twenty-two whereas the males stopped at the age of twenty-seven.
Unless the Elf was an Elder because eventually, they would end up with grey hair and wise features. Perhaps it was the cost of wisdom and the great responsibility they carried.
I didn’t know how we got on that topic but suddenly we were talking about the Spiders. As the older females spoke, I couldn’t help but wonder if the Spiders were truly as bad as everyone said they were. How did people believe it to be the truth when all their knowledge of the creatures came from mere words, words that could easily be misinterpreted or exaggerated?
Were they truly the monsters everyone believed them to be?
“Of course they are!” Anaria exclaimed. “Do not forget that one of their kind killed your older sister!”
I could never forget.
My sister was violated by a Spider who had perhaps wanted to make her his mate. I did not know how she was caught by a Spider since no one was brave enough to go to their lands. But she did. And she never returned.
Those creatures did not care that we probably could not crossbreed and they did not care that us mating with their kind could kill us as a result of them being too strong and rough for us.
I had heard that the Spider had killed himself after my sister had died. My sister did not die alone, though, because her Companion had died along with her.
Every Elf had a Companion: an animal that constantly followed its Elf and acted as a friend and a protector, each with unique powers of their own. We were connected to our Companions just as they were connected to us; if we died, they would die, too. If they died, we would feel unbearable emptiness.
No one knew how the Spider who killed my sister had died. From what the books mentioned, Spiders could not be killed.
“That’s why, sweet Kenia, you need to remember.” Anaria’s soft smile eased the pain in my chest. She took my hand in hers, giving it a light squeeze. “A Spider cannot be trusted. He’s only gentle and patient when he is trying to lure his prey into his web.”
I nodded, her words so familiar I could virtually recite them backwards if I needed to.
My family had already lost its first and eldest child. If my mother and father lost their only remaining daughter—their youngest child, at that—they would surely be crushed. Even big brother would blame himself, just like how he was always blaming himself for our elder sister’s death.
Amnestria had never been afraid of the Spiders. If anything, I would go as far as to say she had perhaps admired them. She wasn’t afraid of them. Then again, Amnestria had never been afraid of anything. In my eyes, that was as much of a strength as it was a flaw. To be afraid is to be cautious, something Amnestria never was.
Indeed, it was her doom.
If only she had been afraid. For once in her life, if she had only been afraid, she would have still been with me. But as I gathered herbs with the other women, drowning in my thoughts, I acknowledged that fear was something she never knew.
It wasn’t fair for her to die so young at the age of two hundred and fifty Blue Moons. She hadn’t even been mature yet, not ready for a mate.
My sister’s fearlessness had been her downfall, but it would never be mine because there were many things that terrified me—for one, the very creatures my elder sister had admired.
No. Fearlessness would not be it.