Proposal and FateMorning dawned and I woke to Sabir staring at me with his bright yellow eyes, “Today we make our way home.”
I smiled with eager delight. As soon as we were all ready the Forest Wanderers blindfolded us and brought us to the edge of the forest. From there Lance and I were provided with horses to carry us home. Merlin and Sabir ran beside us. Lance rode his horse like a King and I bounced around like a rag doll. Lance did not hesitate to tease me. Sabir and Merlin laughed along and I flushed
“They will see you clearly one day Willow.” He said kindly.
I did not answer him instead I turned forward and sighed. Lance seemed to know more about me then I even knew. He knew my past and future. I only wished that he would tell me and save me the suspense. I wanted to ask him to tell me the Prophesy that he had mentioned many weeks before. I had not forgotten I had just been too frightened to inquire. I was afraid of a painful and horrible fate but I was too curious to just sit and wait to find out. I wanted to be prepared. So I decided I would ask him once I got the chance.
We made our way to the castle and then to the stables. Bavol was there to take our horses and he was very curious about our journey. Lance told me to go on and he would explain all that had happened. I left them and went to my room.
As soon as I had closed the door behind me the door that adjoined Steph’s and my room burst open and Steph came gliding through. She rushed to me and threw her arms around me. Immediately the tears came and she sobbed onto my shoulder. I wrapped my arms around Steph and stroked her hair, “Oh Steph, please know that you are forgiven. I know you had no other choice! I would have done the same thing if my father was involved. Do not worry! I forgive you!”
Steph looked up at me with wonder in her eyes, “How? I have done the most unspeakably wretched thing on this earth.”
“Do not fret Steph. You should not have been made to choose between two lives.”
Steph whipped her tears away, “Oh Willow! I knew you would be the perfect friend from the first moment I saw you but I did not know that you would be this perfect! How will I ever make it up to you?”
I shook my head, “You have already done so much for me! You have given me a job, my father a good place to stay, and a friend. I have never had a human…” I paused, “or dwarf or Wind Being friend. Just having you as a friend is the best gift I could ever ask for.”
Steph smiled, “You are so wonderful! I think I am going to write a song about you and your loyalty and love. Its like nothing I’ve ever experienced.”
We talked for much longer and mostly it was about my dances with the Forest Wanderers. Steph was terribly curious about how they lived in the forest and she was fascinated when she found out they lived in trees and swung around on vines. She concluded that she would write a poem about them as well. I laughed and left her to it.
After Steph had left I went and sat on my window seal wondering about my fate. Sabir interrupted my thoughts, “To think, you came so close to being a blind possession of Hurricane.”
I stared up at the blue sky, “I have only one year to prepare for his return… right?”
“Lance did mention that. I only wish Hurricane could’ve died for good. I do not want to have to worry about more dangerous adventures happening. I’m worn out from this one.”
A week passed by and life was right back to normal. Lance could not stay away from me for more then a day. He took me on many walks in the gardens during the evenings and I discovered much about him. He told me that he had seen the fire in the clouds coming over the mountains with his own eyes. I could see and almost feel his pain when he talked about it. I told him he did not have to talk about it but he insisted that I must know everything about him so I listened. He told me about his weeks in the forest barely holding on to life, wishing for death. Merlin saved him. Merlin was also grieving from some loss but he never told Lance what it was and Lance never forced it, it seemed to be a far greater pain then even Lance felt. They comforted each other and kept each other alive.
I was surprised when I found out that Lance had lived many years thinking that the humans had killed the elfin race, but through Hannah he found that they had no power over the clouds or fire. After many years of gathering information he concluded that Hurricane was the culprit. Then, after his first encounter with Hurricane he was lead to believe otherwise. No being can swear on Priests name and not die unless they speak what they believe to be true. Although, that does not mean that it is necessarily the real truth, it must only be true on the being’s heart.
Lance told me he was set on revenge and set on revealing the mystery. I, of course, could not understand the full extent of his driven mission and he did not expect me to. He only asked that I listen and I did, very attentively. One of those days I finally got the nerve to ask Lance about my fate.
Lance gave me a disapproving look, “I do not know how you will die, but I do know when you will die. Let me tell you firstly that it is not a specific date, it is after a sequence of things happen in your life.”
“Tell me the Prophesy!” I said anxiously.
Lance shook his head, “I do not remember the exact words, but it says that the Daughter of Three Kings, Dark Elf, Light Elf, and Human will live a life filled with confusion. It says that she’ll make a lot of decisions that she’ll regret. But will eventually rule with a powerful being at her side. Friends will betray her and close companions will shun her. When she finally finds the truth and understands her purpose, then she shall restore order to a confused and broken world. Then she will be killed. That is all I know. And we do not know for sure that the Prophesy is about you. You don’t seem like the type to make a whole bunch of foolish decisions.”
In truth the Prophesy frightened me and I wished so bad that it wasn’t about me but somehow deep down inside I knew that it was. There wasn’t anything I could do to change it.
“What does it mean by Daughter of Three Kings? How is that possible?”
Lance squinted up at the sun, “Well I do believe that your mother was the daughter of both heirs for the elfish thrones. And…” He paused with an excited glint in his eyes, “Your father is the original heir for the human throne.”
My mouth fell open, “Excuse me? Did I hear you correctly?”
“You might want to ask Baldwin about the details.”
I left him then and rushed to my room. I had completely forgotten about the painting of my mother and now that Lance reminded me, I was more curious then ever.
I burst into my room with impatience, “Baldwin!”
Baldwin slithered from underneath my bed and looked up at me, “Yes Willow? Is there something wrong?”
I didn’t know how to begin so I sputtered and fumed for a few seconds and then burst out, “You knew my mother!”
Baldwin’s eyes widened, “How did you know?”
“My father painted a picture of you wrapped around a woman’s neck. And she looks strangely like me. Also, Lance told me that my father was the heir to the human throne. Is this true?”
Baldwin slithered across the floor and onto his small tree in the corner of my room, “Yes. You see, I was your mother’s guardian. But even though I am her guardian she kept many things from me. There was a man trying to kill her but I am not sure who and I am not sure if I have ever encountered him. In the last few months of your mother’s life she refused to let me out of the house. I was there watching over you.”
“What about my father?” I asked, “Was he sane back then? And how do you know he was the heir?”
“He was sane. In fact, he was more brilliant then any man I have ever met. He had intellect like no other. He would have been a great king! But, he was lost as a baby. His mother went for a walk one day and placed him in the care of very silly maid. The maid was in love at the time and wanted to sneak out to see her lover. So instead of leaving him behind, she took him along. She placed him at the corner of an ally way and went away. Soon she forgot all about him and ran off with her lover. An old blacksmith found the child and took him in. The Maid was hung for her crime.”
I frowned, “How do you know all this?” I asked aloud.
“I put it all together… and I talked to a stray dog who happened to see it all. Your father knew that he was found by the blacksmith in royal blankets. The only reason the Blacksmith never gave the boy back was because he was lonely for a companion and when your father was grown, he was content with his status and did not even want to think of returning.”
“Why did you never tell me about my mother? I wish I knew what she was like.”
Baldwin looked at me with pained eyes, “I never had the strength to talk about her. It breaks my heart to even think of her. She died gruesomely and I felt every ounce of her pain. She screamed in my mind and whenever I think of her, those screams return. I’m sorry I kept such a secret from you. I should not have.”
“If that was the reason then I understand and my heart aches for you. But can you bear to tell me what she was like?”
“I can bear it…the pain has dulled over the years. She was a strange and wild beauty, always getting into trouble when she was a child. Her father was an elfin outcast. His parents, the King and Queen of light elves threw him out for a murder he did not commit. Your mother was treasured by her father and grew up knowing her history and heritage. Her mother she never knew. Your mother was so beautiful that she made men stop in their tracks when she walked by. Many hearts she broke except for one. She met your father in the market. He was selling his paintings when your mother walked by. He was so struck by her beauty that he had to paint a picture of her. She allowed him to and instead of any normal painting, your father showed every flaw and every perfection in her. He painted her as she was. From there they fell in love and married. Once you were born your mother put her full concentration on you. She loved you like no other mother could and then she died. I do not know why or how anyone could kill her. I cannot think of any man so vile. She was far too kind to ever make enemies.”
I looked closely at Baldwin and saw a tear trickle down his cheek, “Thank-you Baldwin. That is all I needed to know.” I turned from him and walked from the room with many thoughts heavy on my heart.
One day about four months later, early in the morning, Lance threw rocks at my window and told me to come down. I had not been able to sleep the whole night so I was not angered by his disturbance, instead, very pleased. Sabir for the first time in his life insisted that he stayed behind.
I went down to the garden where we first conversed at twilight over a year ago. Lance stood there, his hair glowing in the morning sun. The dew sparkled on the leaves and blades of grass. Spring flowers were blooming in the trees and on the bushes scenting the air with a lavender smell. I smiled; it was the most beautiful sight I had ever seen. Lance watched me with soft eyes as I approached. My feet were bare and made no sound on the grass.
As soon as I was near enough Lance reached out and caressed my face, “Willow.” He whispered passionately, “I must ask you something.” He paused to swallow, “Willow, I love you vehemently and ardently.” His hazel eye stared into mine and without looking away he knelt to the ground, “I have been wanting to ask you this for a long time but I have not had the nerve. You see, I wanted you to be completely over Hurricane before I asked.”
I stiffened slightly at the mention of Hurricane, “Do not worry, I am by far finished with him.”
Lance smiled the light of love burning wildly in his eyes, “Good! Then will you marry me Willow?” He held out a small diamond ring with a silver band.
I stared at it in awe. The sun reflected off of it sending gentle silver rays to play across Lance’s face, “Yes, of course!” I said full of enthusiasm.
A broad grin broke out across Lance’s face. He quickly slipped the ring on my finger and stood beaming even brighter then the sun. Lance took in a deep breath and looked around awkwardly, “Now what?”
I shook my head and laughed, “Kiss me.”
Lance raised an eyebrow, “Oh yes… I forgot.” Then he slid his hands around my waist and brought me against his chest. He leaned far down and kissed me clumsily at first but with a blazing passion.
We spent the rest of the morning talking and spending time together, the joyful morning came to an abrupt end when suddenly Hannah glided into the garden and interrupted our conversation saying, “Lance Regan, I need to talk to you urgently.” And from there, Lance left hurriedly following Hannah. I saw no more of him for a week afterwards. I was very worried of course thinking that maybe Hurricane had become free early. I thought that if I were happily married I would not have to worry about Hurricane bothering me again, but my fears returned.
After one week of fretting and trying desperately to find something to do with myself, Hannah came to me. I was in the middle of getting Steph’s dinner when Hannah came into the kitchen (I was not sure how she made it, Hurricane is the only Wind Being that can go into buildings). I was desperate to hear about Lance so I told the cook to bring the Princess her dinner. Hannah was much more translucent then normal, “Willow, Lance is in the forest by the tree where you once fell and hit your head. He said you’d remember the place.”
I did not even wait to reply, I was out the door in seconds and very impatiently asking Bavol to saddle Tashina up. Soon but not soon enough, we were on our way.
Sabir who had been following me around intently for the whole day said, “Willow, I think you’d better take this meeting on your own. I do not want to invade your privacy.” I thanked Sabir for his consideration.
I found my way easily to the spot where I had fallen off Tashina. At first when I looked around I saw no one there but then I saw something orange out of the corner of my eye. Then I realized that it was Lance with his back turned to me. He was deep in the shadows of the evening sun.
Excitement lit up my face, “Lance!” I rushed forward to throw my arms around him but his hand shot out and stopped me from coming any nearer, “Lance? Are you alright?” I asked, “You’ve been gone so long. Where have you been?”
Lance lowered his hand slowly, “Do not come any nearer.” His voice sounded like music, deep lulling music. It was sweet and heavenly, almost better then Hurricane’s voice. I could still tell that it was Lance’s voice but at the same time it sounded like a completely different person.
I frowned deeply, “Lance? What’s wrong?”
Lance took in a deep shaky breath, “Priest has returned.” As soon as he said those words the world shook like never before, groaning and expressing dread. I fell to the ground but Lance remained standing until the shaking was over.
I stood back up, “How? Where? Who?”
Lance took a step backwards and out of the deep shadows then he turned around slowly, each movement filled with dread.
I gasped in fear when I saw that he was suddenly very, very different. His hair was even more fiery than normal. I nearly fainted as I realized what it was. What before had looked like flames was actually flames now. And when I looked into his eyes for answers, I saw only the whites of his eyes! His eyes were pupil-less… no longer the mischievous hazel that had brightened many of my days. I also realized that he was much taller then before. He was an ugly horrid sightless giant.
Slowly I felt my whole body numbing, first my legs, then to my arms, and then lastly my mouth and face. I stared in horror at this beast that stood in front of me.
I could see pain in Lance’s expression, or was that really Lance? My heart screamed for it to be all a lie, but I knew it wasn’t, it was as true as the sun over my head. Terror rocked through me. Suddenly an anguished cry pierced the air. Lance shuddered as though the scream ripped through his soul and tore it in two. It took me a while to realize that it was me that was screaming. Tears were rolling down my face though I didn’t know why. Was it because he was ugly? Was it because he was the monster I had so diligently feared? Or was it merely because he was not my Lance anymore?
Lance was staring at me with his blank eyes so that my whole being felt exposed. Then he spoke his voice deep, tremulous, and strangely sweet. His next three words were so beautiful yet so full of dreaded fate that they made my heart cease its rhythm for more then a second, “I am he…”