Crucible Vows

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Chapter 28

“They’re arriving tonight?” Princess Meira’s voice held hope and shock in it at the new that King Darien presented.

He nodded. “Yes. Some Knight of Nythstaesi will arrive to take you home tomorrow. You now have an alliance with me and my Kingdom. Rory won’t take the chance of losing his lands and throne to attack you again. It’s time for you to return to help your people rebuild and strengthen. Hopefully, in the future, this grudge that Obrenor holds against the Elves will end.”

“Thank you, Your Majesty.” She responded. “I’ll start preparing to leave.”

She stood up from her seat and began to make her way out of the room with me close behind to follow. To be completely honest, I hoped for a bit more time before it was time for her to return. I didn’t want her to leave at all. I was skeptical that leaving so quickly would be a good idea. But the decision was up to her. I just wanted more time before she left.

“Your Highness.” I began to speak.

She stopped and turned on her heel. “Don’t call me that. I don’t like you calling me that.”

I stopped in my tracks and blinked. “What should I call you then, Princess?”

“Just call me Elora.”

I hesitated. “That is not your name, My Lady.”

A sorrow filled smile came to her lips. “But it was my mother’s name. But I want you to be comfortable around me, Luna. You knew me as Elora. You shouldn’t have to change what to call me simply because I am a Princess.”

“But My Lady.” I began to protest, but she raised a hand and placed her fingers on the part of my helmet where my lips would be.

“You either call me Elora or Meira.” She commanded. “I won’t respond to anything else, Luna.”

She turned around and continued down the long hallway towards her sleeping quarters. I followed behind and remained close while she gathered the few items she had with her. She didn’t speak to me during her time preparing to return to her home. But my heart was in turmoil.

The knowledge of her leaving so soon caused me to be in a form of panic. That was quite possibly the last day I’d have with her, and it scared me. I didn’t want her to go. But I wasn’t certain I could follow her. I was in a debate of whether to tell her my true feelings for her, or to just let her go. But the more that I thought about her gone, the more it hurt to not tell her. And the more I was scared that something bad would happen.

Several hours passed, and it was time to go meet the Knights taking her home. I followed behind her once again towards the gates of the castle. The Knights of Nythstaesi would remain the night and take her home in the morning. They’d leave by boat and arrive in a few days. Spring was just beginning to bloom in her Kingdom. I’d hoped that it would be a kind welcome to her.

As we stood at the top of the stairs of the castle, we saw three Knights make their way towards us. Their armor almost had a leaf look to them but was colored with shades of silver with fine lines of green. One of them took a faster pace to meet the Princess. He pulled off his helmet, revealing bright yellow hair and long pointed ears. I heard a gasp from the Elf I had grown to love when she saw him.

“Meira!” He shouted.

She began to run down the stairs. “Arlen!”

A small ping of pain came to my chest as they hugged each other. But it subsided quickly when I reasoned that this was probably a close friend of hers. It was only natural that she would greet him with a hug after the experience they had. I began to step down the stairs to meet them, but the action wasn’t welcomed by the other Elves. They saw my armor and quickly put themselves between me and the Princess.

“Stay back, Knight of Obrenor!” Arlen demanded, unsheathing his sword.

I halted in my steps and lifted my hands to show I wasn’t there to harm them.

“No, Arlen.” Princess Meira argued. “This is Luna. He’s a friend.”

“He’s a Knight from the Kingdom that attacked ours!” Arlen shouted.

“He was the one to make sure I got here!” She responded.

It was tiring to have to hear her defend me once again. But I said nothing. I simply added it to my mental list of reasons I should let her go. But there was one thing that prevented me from doing as such. The list that argued that I should fight to stay together only had three words on it that outweighed all the arguments against it. In bold letters, it said ‘I LOVE HER.’

Arlen was silent for a while and looked over me. He saw the green color painted on the lion crest on my shoulder and lowered his sword. Putting it back in its sheath, he turned back to the Princess and began to look her over.

“Are you alright?” He was looking for any cuts or bruises that she may have.

She pushed him away. “I’m fine. Luna made sure I was well taken care of.”

Arlen looked back towards me. “You have my thanks. But your services are no longer required. My fellow Knights and I will be taking her home now.”

They turned and began to guide her down the stairs, and my heart dropped. “Wait.”

Even Elora began to protest. “Arlen, we agreed we would leave tomorrow.”

“Why wait,” he countered. “We can make it down to the Harbor before sundown and get going and make it a day early.”

“Arlen!”

“Stop!” I shouted. My sudden outburst caused them to halt and look back at me. “Please...”

Elora pushed passed the Knights and walked up to me. Every moment she gazed at me was another moment I had to stop myself from just grabbing her hand and running away. My hands were tightly clenched into fists as she looked into my eyes. She placed one hand on the cheek of my helmet, and I melted. Reaching up, I grabbed the head protection and pulled it off so I could look her face to face. One handheld the helmet and fell to the side, while I grabbed her other hand with my free one.

“Don’t...” I began but choked on tears I was trying to hold back.

Elora bit her lip. “Don’t what, Luna?”

My grip on her hand tightened. “Don’t go.”

She took in a sudden breath. “We knew that this would happen when we arrived. I would return home. You yourself said I had responsibilities to my Kingdom and people.”

“I know what I said, but...” I was truly struggling.

“What changed?”

“Nothing.” I responded quickly.

I saw her eyes began to turn red with tears. “Then why are you telling me to not go?”

“Isn’t it too early to leave yet?” I offered. “What if something bad happens while you’re traveling? Or you arrive and you get attacked by bandits? Or...”

“But I have several others to protect me.” She tried to break through my logic. “I’ll be safe. You don’t have to worry about me anymore.”

My hand flinched tighter for just a moment at her comment. “I’ll always worry about you.”

“Luna.”

My hand dropped my helmet and went to her cheek. “I don’t want to lose you. If you leave... I’ll never see you again.”

Her eyes slowly widened. I positioned my hand at the base of her skull and caressed her jawline with my thumb. I pulled her closer and pressed my forehead to hers. A content sigh escaped her lips and I pulled away just to look into her purple eyes. She gazed into mine and I bent down closer to press my lips to hers. She inhaled a breath of shock, but quickly relaxed into the kiss before I heard the other Knights running over to separate us.

“I love you, Elora.” I whispered to her as I pulled away.

I took a step back right as the other Knights reached us, and Elora held up a hand to stop them. Her eyes never left mine as Arlen placed a hand on her shoulder and glared at me. I remained motionless as the Knights glared at me and were ready to attack if needed. But there was a hope in my heart that Elora wouldn’t allow it.

Elora cleared her throat before speaking again. “We will stay the night as planned and leave in the morning. Am I clear, Arlen?”

A silent nod was all that was given to her words.

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