Crucible Vows

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Chapter 23

The next day I woke up sore from the previous day’s training. As promised, Luna met with me again in the morning to do some more training, but this time it focused more on strategizing during a conflict to get out of it as soon and safe as possible. The rest of the day was fairly relaxed. Though I wasn’t fully feeling comfortable, I felt safer. I was able to quickly find a library and I spent most of my time reading. I ate meals with Luna and his parents, and as the sun began to set, I would return to my designated room and sleep. I was treated kindly, and no one looked down on me simply for being an Elf. But I knew this wouldn’t last.

Luna and I couldn’t stay here forever. Soon enough, King Rory would come to search for us. We would have to keep moving eventually. As much as I wanted Luna to stay with his family, he was in a lot of danger because of me. I hoped there would be some way for him to return without the danger of the King.

These thoughts lingered in my head all day. As I wandered around the estate, I eventually found myself at the tarres of the upper part of the mansion. I came to a stop when I saw Luna there looking out towards the gardens. He looked different without any armor on. But it was a look that I easily accepted. During the free time I had at the estate, when I wasn’t reading, I was able to find a plant that created a strong pigment that bonded to whatever it was painted on. And I prepared a small gift for Luna with the armor he stole. But he didn’t need it yet. Not here.

He turned when he heard my footsteps and smiled softly. Holding out a hand towards me, he invited me over to join him. My movements were automatic and natural. As I walked over to him, I lifted my own hand and took his, where he pulled me over to stand next to him and stare out to the gardens. The sun was setting and the sky was painted in hues of purple, pink, orange, and red.

“This was always my favorite view while growing up.” Luna spoke honestly. “I’m glad it hasn’t changed much.”

A small ping of guilt filled my chest. I was taking him away from his home.

“Whatever you’re thinking, stop.” He broke into my thoughts and turned towards me. His features held a serious expression. “You’re guilting yourself again about the situation.”

I sighed. “You wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for me.”

“True,” he nodded. “I’d still be in a very small town at the edge of Obrenor. Living the most mundane life a Knight could live. Frankly, I prefer this life compared to that one.”

He glanced over at me with a crooked smile, and I was left speechless. He stared at me while my mouth was agape and eventually pushed himself up from his leaning against the railing. Turning towards me, he grabbed my hand and began to rub small circles with his thumbs.

“We’ve talked about this before, Elora.” He reassured. “You need to stop blaming yourself for everything that’s happened. I know some of it is survivors’ guilt, but you need to be willing to move past that. It’s better for you and your people. Continue their legacy by living.”

His words instantly eased most of the guilt in my heart. The only thing remaining was the truth that I had yet to tell him. And though the fear of being rejected completely was there, I knew I had to tell him. I had to tell him I wasn’t just a noble woman. I had to tell him I was the Princess of Nythstaesi.

“Luna.” I began.

His eyes suddenly shot up as he saw something coming in the distance. “We have to hide.”

He adjusted the grip on one of my hands and began to pull me through the house and down the stairs until we were in the basement. Along the way, we met with Luna’s mother, who guided us to the wine cellar. After passing several large barrels of wine, we stopped in front of one that looked much like the others. With a pull of a hidden wooden rod, the front opened up to reveal a safe room for hiding. Luna guided me inside and closed the door behind us, locking the secret door. The whole time Luna’s hand never let go of mine.

We both let out hard pants as we caught our breath. Luna suddenly slumped to the bench built into the barrel. Silently, I sat next to him and remained silent. Only the light of a candle lit up the dark room.

“We saw the King’s knights coming this way.” He explained. “They won’t find us in here, but we have to be quiet while they search.”

I nodded silently and looked to the ground.

“I think we better leave tomorrow morning.” He continued. “We’ve overstayed our welcome. It will only take a day to get to the Alovia boarder on horseback.”

I nodded again. I was honestly still thinking about telling him the truth. “Luna.”

He lifted a finger to his lips. With one swift movement, his free hand went and put out the flame of the candle. He suddenly pulled me closer to him and wrapped his arms around me. We remained still for a long while. Eventually, I heard the sound of footsteps walking around. They didn’t cease until several long minutes passed. Even then, we remained in the dark room until someone came to let us out.

I have no memory of us getting out though. In the dark room and surrounded by the warmth of a man I had come to love; I began to fall asleep. It became too difficult to keep my eyes open, and I eventually dozed off into a slumber.

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