We get up and sit down by the Holiday Tree. Miahna hands me a box. “You may have heard that one should never accept a gift from the Fae, but you are not a stranger to us, so this is different. Please, you have given Sala so much love, so much happiness, and she is doing better in school. Let us repay you with this simple gift.”
I smile and nod and open the box. My godmother warned me never to say thank you if a Fae offers me something. Inside is a delicate fabric. As I pull it out of the box, it is a cloak made of fine silk. It is so light. I slip it over my shoulders; it covers me like a blanket, making me feel warm and comfortable.
“Though, as an Elf, you don’t seem to be bothered by cold as much as you did as a human, we are just starting winter.” Miahna explains. “The cloak of comfort is enchanted to always keep you comfortable, keeping your body temperature always the same.” This is not a simple gift…
“It is lovely.” I smile. “I have gifts for you as well.” I say, reaching into my haversack and giving Sala a box.
They wait for Sala to open hers. Lending on the idea from my family, I’ve given my girlfriend a charm bracelet like the one I wear, like the one I gave my sister. This one only has two floating heart charms: hers and mine. Sala is beside herself and gives me a long, loving kiss after I attach it to her wrist.
“I have a gift for you in return.” My girlfriend says affectionately.
I’m a little apprehensive by how small the box is. Apparently we all conspired on similar gifts this year… Sala’s gift is the charm in her name and amethyst birthstone, to add to my bracelet. I hold my arm out, so that she can unlock my bracelet. She looks at the direction the hearts are facing to make sure hers aligns with theirs, lets it slide down to the others before closing the clasp again.
“There, now I have added my love to you as you have given your love to me.” She says looking at her charm bracelet with adoration. We trade another loving kiss.
“I have a gift for you as well.” I smile and hand Sala’s parents a long, rectangular box. “Lyric advised I should give a gift of food, a sign of gratitude for all the bounty you have shared every weekend. One of my Druid advisers said you would appreciate this.”
They open the box, pulling out the Elven crafted crystal bottle. Once he reads the tag, he looks up at me in surprise. “Elderberry wine! We’ve not had such luxury since we left the old kingdom! Oh Simiathlas, you do not know how much we cherish this gift!” Her parents look at each other, smile and nod. “With this gift, we will allow Sala to accompany you, it is the least we could do to repay such finery!”
“How did Hrivenahta know what gift I should bring to get their permission?” I ask Lairelindë in my mind.
“When they told my husband that you were dating a Fae, and they only had the one heir. He knew they may need encouragement to release her into your care.” My godmother responds.
“I just bribed them to allow Sala to come with me, didn’t I?” I try to hide my reaction as Sala’s parents examine the intricacies of the bottle.
“They feel the gift you gave is greater than the food they’ve shared, they feel compelled to repay you in kind.” Lairelindë replies.
“It still feels like I just bribed them to allow Sala to accompany me.” I want to frown so much, but I don’t want to show my emotions that I’m ungrateful. “And the cloak?”
“What do you think it is?” Lairelindë tests my instincts.
“A dowry offer for their daughter’s hand.” I say concerned. “If I say thank you, then it will be akin to my accepting a betrothal. As long as I appreciate it it, it’s just a promissory gift.”
“You understand the Fae better than most Elves, dearest godchild.” Lairelindë says with satisfaction.
“Simia, you are being very quiet….” Sala says with concern.
“I am appreciating this time together, while my godmother advises me what you should bring for a four-day trip.” I reply with a smile and kiss her forehead.
“And what should our daughter bring with her?” Miahna looks up from the wine bottle.
I know what my Elven friends have already advised me, so I have an answer for them.
“Arborea is in a constant state of spring to autumn. Lower altitudes never experiences winter or snow.” I say apologetically. “So Sala needs to prepare for warm weather, long days, short nights, and very little worry of rain.” I let that sink in and Miahna nods. “The elves also only know natural cloth. So we’re not to wear any synthetic clothing, or bring anything artificially man made.” I continue “Linens, cotton, hemp, silk or leather should be worn and carried with us.” I am pensive for a moment as I ask my godmother a question. “I’ve been told That Sala will have her own room beside mine, we will not share a bed.” Her parents relax at that comment.
“Sala, you will wear Simia’s matching cloak while you are there.” Her mother advises. Yep, best way to announce that she is my mate is by having us wear matching cloaks. Thank you, godmother, for planting the seed that a betrothal between Fae and Elves can reunite our people.
My girlfriend realizes the implication of her mother’s request. Her eyes grow wide, she looks at me. I compose my panic, give my Fae a smile and nod. She beams and snuggles into me. Yep, I’m pooched.
“How can we contact our daughter, I doubt a cell phone will reach across the planes?” Her father says sarcastically.
“New Year’s Eve, when I pick her up, I shall bring you a friendship stone. She will have its mate. Through the stones you can communicate.”
“Friendship Stones are Fae magic.” Her father responds.
“There are Forest Fae that live among my Elven kin.” I nod.
“Forest Fae?” her father frowns. “Is there no Seelie Court in Arborea?” I shake my head. “So all Fae have become neutral, they commune with nature and the elements? Amazing!” his eyes grow wide. “Will she meet them?”
I’m quiet for a moment as a debate that question with my godmother. “Lairelindë is not sure. Knowing her husband, he will bring us on a tour of the Elven capital, it’s a city the size of San Marino. As I am now effectively a twin of their daughter reborn, I can expect to be paraded in front of our people as the newest born of their bloodline. Reconnecting the two realms, encouraging Elves to come back to the mortal realm, to rebuild our society.”
“Where would they go?” Miahna gets curious. The Tir sank beneath the waves to stop humanity from pilfering any more of its riches - so the history books say.”
“Lairelindë will sanctify the Fallcrest standing stones, creating a new grove. That will be the new capital for my people here in this realm. We won’t start until the Spring Equinox, however, when we can restore balance to the sacred place.” I reply.
“Fallcrest?” Her father looks pensive. “The last portal to the outer realms, an enchanted vale that never sees a change in seasons, yet everything grows as if it does.” He looks at me. “The elves can build a forest city in the thousands, and humanity would never notice. Your family is wise, my child. I look forward to seeing it grow.” He smiles.
Now that the gift giving is over, Sala asks me if I can read to her. She’s loved our cuddle time, so I reach into my haversack and pull out the Holiday reading assignment that Penny gave us. I settle down sideways on the couch, then Sala cuddles into my lap. Once she’s settled, I turn to the page we were last at and start reading aloud.
“I love your new voice.” Sala says affectionately.
“I love you.” I smile, we kiss, and I then resume my reading. I can see her mother smile in the corner of my eye. What is she planning?
It’s amazing how fast time seems to fly when you’re reading your literature assignment. I have so many days to catch up on since my ritual. I hope we’ll have time to read it all before we go back to school.
Miahna announces that supper is ready. Sala climbs out of my lap, I put the book back in my bag and we hold hands as we join her parents in the dining room. It’s then I noticed that they have the bottle of Elderberry wine on the table, and I do my best to hide my expression of concern. As her mother is dishing out the noodle casserole, her father is getting down four crystal wine glasses. Oh dear.
He then pours a quarter glass in each flute, not wanting to consume all the wine in one meal, but to give us each enough for the toast that is going to seal my future.
“Are you aware what he’s preparing?” Lairelindë asks in the same worried tone as I feel.
“Mother, you started this chain, and they are accepting Father’s offer.” I reply.
“To Simiathlas and Sala, may their joining reunite our people.” King Nixë announces. “To our union!”
“I am so screwed.” I say internally.
“Manners child!” she scolds me. “What will be your answer?”
“The only answer that won’t upset them.” I reply. I look down at Sala, she’s waiting for my answer anxiously. My face softens and I smile at my darling Fae. She relaxes and beams as we turn to her parents.
“To our union!” Sala and I say together. Her parents beam proudly and we touch our glasses and drink our toast.
“Ashanna is going to be furious with you two when she learns you are marrying off her 15-year-old daughter!” I scream internally as I sit back down and we eat.
Sala reaches for my right hand and we entwine our fingers, and we eat with opposite hands. It’s a good thing that I’m partially left-handed. Lairelindë is quiet, which is more unsettling that if she was trying to apologize. How else did she think the Fae were going to react to her husband’s gift of rare, expensive wine? As we’re both female. The cloak was an equal exchange of a dowry. I should have seen that coming and declined their gift.
“How were you supposed to know?” Lairelindë responds to my brooding.
“You were supposed to know, weren’t you?” I reply, upset.
“My love, you are being quiet again…” Sala says in a worried tone.
“Lairelindë and I are discussing the implications of this dinner.” I reply as calmly as I can.
“Are you upset about this?” Miahna asks me.
I look at her, then look at Sala, she’s giving me that anxious look again. I take a deep breath. “No, I am not upset about this.” Sala relaxes and smiles, and squeezes my hand. I look up. “I am certainly not upset at you. You have been so generous, your hospitality is welcome and appreciated.” I smile. “This is the start of many seasons to follow.”
Sala’s parents smile, and we go back to eating. I will however have a long conversation about this with my godfather.
I’m an immortal elf, that is betrothed to a Fae, before I even reach adulthood! I thought my life was complicated before! This is taking things to a whole new level! Tomorrow, I meet up with my old friends from my human life, and have to hide this existence I now live. I doubt they would believe me, even if I told them. I don’t even believe what’s happening, how in the heavens’ name do I explain this to anyone else! I need to talk to Rose…. I sigh, look back at Sala. My darling, lovely Sala, my little ray of sunshine. We smile at each other, kiss, then go back to eating. I can’t be mad at my fiancée, she’s just as innocent a pawn in this as I am. This is old-world court politics that our parents our playing.
“When are you going to tell you adopted mother about this?” Lairelindë asks hesitantly.
“When we get back from Arborea,” I reply. “Anything sooner and I doubt she would let us leave.”
“What do you think Ashanna will do when she finds out?” Lairelindë now sounds worried.
“I don’t know, I’ve only seen my mother truly once angry before. This is the second time overstepped Ashanna's authority.” I say frankly.
“What does your godmother think of this Simitathlas?” Miahna asks me. “You are quieter than normal.”
“Her husband’s gift surprised her.” I reply.
“Was our response inappropriate?” she frowns, responding to my tone of voice.
“Not at all, I believe your response is exactly what he is expecting.” I smile with more confidence than I feel right now.
“You are very mature for a girl so young.” Miahna smiles. “It’s what I’ve always admired in you.”
“Thank you.” There, that seals my fate. “For everything.” I smile.
My response finalizes, in her parents’ minds, any doubt I may have about their offer of betrothal. Now I get to bring their answer back to my godfather, and hope in the stars this is what he was planning. Otherwise, I just committed myself to something bigger than I’m ready for.
Sala gets curious about Arborea, and I answer her questions as best I can with what the Druids and Lyric have told me so far.
“I’ve not been there myself, but Lyric is constantly praising the beauty and the majesty of the place.” I smile, feeling more myself again. “If it’s anything like the house in my godmother’s Dream… The Elven architecture is part crafted stone and glass, part artistically grown majestic trees, making their buildings a living city.”
“The tree is still alive?!” Sala gasps. “They don’t hurt it, or carve it out somehow?”
“I’ve seen the spells in my godmother’s book. Warp Wood and Wood Shape allow the Elven people to magically create cavities inside the tree to live in without killing it. Then the openings are sculpted from stone or the wood they removed is used to form doorways and window frames. Knowing my Elvin kin, the windows I’ve seen are made of crystal, much like our glasses and the wine bottle.” I say excitedly. “I so look forward to us exploring it all together.”
Miahna smiles as she sees the ‘me’ she knows coming back. “Will you be exploring the city alone?”
“Oh, heavens no.” I say to their relief. “Ever since my ritual, I have had one or more personal guard close by at all times.” I explain. “Druids are seen much like nobility in the Elven cast system. Even though Lyric says there is no crime, no violence, no poverty - because there is no greed or currency. My personal guard is more a sign of status than concern for personal safety. It feels nice having them with me, regardless.”
“How does a society exist without currency?” Sala’s father frowns.
“Same as society existed before the Mesopotamian shekel introduced it.” I reply. “I read it in my history books. Their lives exist on a system of barter and trade. Elves go through some sort of public schooling system up to adulthood to teach them the basics of language and culture. As they get older and start showing aptitudes. They are then sent to apprentice in the field they show most promise. Everyone’s needs are met, no one goes hungry, basic necessities are shared, and they barter luxuries among the people for other luxuries. Products change hands and are traded around so that people don’t go without, but no one feels undervalued. Even though the Elves live in a cast system, there is no lower cast or upper cast, they just represent one profession from another to recognize a person’s contribution to society.”
“My Simia is so smart!” Sala leans against me affectionately.
“So why would the Druids have a guard if there is no violence?” he still feels I’m missing something.
“Druids are the ruling body. They watch over their people to make sure that everyone is treated fairly. They are a combination of spiritual leaders, judges, and rule makers to keep people in harmony. As Druids believe in balance, they are always seeking to keep society moving smoothly. The guard is a job, usually apprentice druids. There are visitors from other lands, so it’s to maintain a sense of security to outsiders. They also have warriors, rangers and hunters to keep people safe from wild creatures. The wilds provide food and other materials needed that can’t be mined, farmed or fabricated. Almost like one huge, well-oiled machine. They never take more than they need.” I smile. “I really look forward to seeing how it really all works in real life, and not just what’s in a book.”
“Maybe one day, they can bring this belief in balance, fairness and justice to all of our lands.” He smiles at me. “Where did you learn all this?”
“Simia reads, like, really fast!” Sala exclaims. “She’s often one chapter ahead in things, or catches on to things faster than I can. She then turns around and helps me when she’s done. It’s why I’m finally passing math and sciences with a B and maybe even make an A by our final exams! She has this different way of looking at things, that somehow makes me understand it better than how the teachers show it.”
“I’ve been told I have a tendency to think outside the box.” I smile. “There is sometimes more than one right way to get things done. I’ll try it the way it’s taught first, and then see if there’s a way to make it better, more efficient.”
“Like your godparents, ever the Druid, looking for ways to crate balance in your classroom.” Miahna smiles at me.
“I… I guess you’re right!” I smile. “I never thought of it that way, then again, I never knew I was a druid before this fall either.”
I look up at the clock. “Oh, it’s getting late and I need to leave for San Marino tomorrow morning. I still have a few things to complete before I go.”
“Why are you going to the city?” Sala gets curious.
“You remember the computer game I play?” Sala nods. “I’ve reconnected with my friends from my past life. They miss me and want to see me again.” I reply.
“Who will you show them?” Miahna quirks an eyebrow.
“My social media profile shows a human female me, just like most of our school will see as well. The fewer people that know of the wonderful, ever growing complex, magical life I lead… the less I have to explain things to people who aren’t in my daily life.” I turn to Sala. “You, my darling, are part of my daily life. I will not hide things from you. Not now that we are betrothed. Our lives are intertwined together. No matter what happens, as long as we are together, we’ll make it work.”
“You are such a romantic.” Sala smiles lovingly and we kiss.
We make our way to the door and I say goodnight to my future in-laws. I still can’t believe this is happening to me! I say the magic word and activate my illusionary face.
“I think the Elven you is much more beautiful.” Sala makes a sour face, leaving me to giggle.
“I’ll be back for you in three days. Contact me if you miss me.” I give her a kiss and hug her parents. “Goodnight.”
I head to the park, Lairelindë slips out of the necklace and activates the Tree Stride to get me home.