And so went the next few weeks. We painted, sewed, sang (even though I did not have a preferable voice compared to Steph), played music, walked through gardens, and I talked more than I ever had in my whole life put together. I told her how the Cook had told me the story of how Steph me the Prince. Steph blushed, “I was raised in dwarf country. Of course I never looked like a dwarf but it was obvious I was the King’s daughter. We look very much alike but at the same time very different. I was extremely beautiful compared to all the dwarf women, and so they all became jealous.
“They were also maddeningly envious about my musical talent and sweet character. So they thought that by removing me then the dwarf men would stop noticing me and notice them instead. There were riots and many people died, just because of me. I begged my father to just let them get me. I was so tired of all the mean comments and having no friends anywhere. But my father insisted it would turn out all right. I was so miserable I thought of taking my own life to end it all. Then Prince Pashad came into my life. I had never seen someone so handsome. I thought I had reason to live again, but then I heard that he thought I was disgusting, so I sauntered wearily into the nearby forest with a knife in my hand. I thought it would be romantic and dramatic to kill myself amongst the willow trees.” Steph smiled sheepishly, “Then I heard terrified yells and the growling and howl of wolves. I ran to see what was wrong. I saw the Prince cowering against a tree with the wolves advancing on him. In those parts, the animals are very wild. I thought about leaving Pashad there to die but my compassion got the best of me and I sang. The animals were hypnotized by my voice and I sent them on their way. Pashad’s heart has been mine ever since.” She looked up at me and smiled, “That is my version of the story. Do you have any romantic stories?”
I did not have a story to tell so I merely told Steph about some of my childhood memories. The weeks went by quickly. I often visited my father, he was doing exceedingly well. I also went to many balls and social events, often when I appeared publicly along with the Princess, whispers and gasps of awe spread through the crowds. Everyone knew me as a crazy girl and no one knew how I had earned the respect of the Princess. Other then the constant judgmental eyes and gossipy whispers, I enjoyed the balls. Elisha asked me to dance many times over. My first ball was a disaster because I knew nothing about dancing but soon I got private lessons and I became one of the most skilled dancers at the balls. I enjoyed dressing up and looking beautiful. I had put on some more weight so that I was no longer as skinny as a stick.
Steph and I also went horseback riding often so that Sabir and Tashina got their exercise. Tashina liked Steph very much and wished she could talk to her. I had to interpret for them often. During those next month’s I very rarely saw Lance, only in passing, we never greeted each other or talked. I did converse with Elisha more than necessary though. Often when I went down to the kitchen he would be there eating. Always, he would look up and wink at me. I saw little of Bayanai and I was grateful. She did not bother the cook very much at all since our fight.
A year passed, it was the most perfect year of my life. On days when Steph didn’t need me I went back to my old home. I did miss the perfectly green grass and the freedom of the wind maidens dancing around me and singing with voices that could silence the world with awe.
One day I went home just to visit with Sabir, Tashina and Baldwin. Tashina grazed silently on the fresh grass and Sabir wove in and out between trees trying to catch a butterfly in his mouth for me. Baldwin lay loosely around my shoulders. The trees rustled as Wind maidens emerged into the meadow. I smiled when I saw it was Hannah. I had not spoken to her for a long time and it saddened me. Hannah glided gracefully to me, “How is the palace life?”
I met her piercing green eyes, “Nearly perfect.”
“Have you spoken often with Lance Regan?”
My brow wrinkled, “No. I do not like him very much.”
Hannah looked surprised, “Why? He is my favorite man.” She said with twinkling eyes.
“Then why do you not speak with him?”
“It is such a burden to get through those palace walls. It is not pleasant to have to go high up and then descend so quickly into a tiny court yard.”
“I see. He has told me about some of your past.”
I could feel Hannah’s warm wind grow colder. Her face was expressionless, “What did he say?”
“He told me about Pri..”
Suddenly Hannah’s hand became flesh and blood and she slapped her hand over my mouth, “Do not speak or even think his name!” She looked around as though she expected something to pounce on her. Her hand became air again and she removed it from my mouth. Sabir had stopped running and was watching us cautiously.
I stared at Hannah’s hand, “How did you do that? You’re a wind maiden!”
Hannah raised her chin stubbornly, “You really want to know? I learnt it from him.” Suddenly the sky darkened. Hannah stiffened, “I really must go, and you must get back to the palace.” She turned to leave then she saw I was not moving, “Quickly, if you know what’s best for you!” Then she was gone with the rustle of leaves.
I looked up and shivered. The air had grown cold and the sky was quickly darkening. I ran quickly to Tashina and leaped on her back. “I feel something brewing in the air, let us leave in haste!” Tashina needed no encouragement she ran as though she knew much better then I, what was coming.
Baldwin was strangely anxious as well, “Hurry, Hurry! Run like your life depends on it.”
As we were running I noticed that there were no Wind Maidens in sight. The air was still. We burst through the palace gates. Lance was there and as soon as he saw me he raced to where I was and helped me down from my seat, “Get inside the palace! There is some evil storm brewing!”
I felt as though my legs would not move. I was terrified. I had seen few storms in my life and I hated them. It was the worst sight anyone could see. Storms were where Wind maidens fought viciously. Storm was the leader and she thought that fighting was entertaining. She was a nomad and fought wherever the dark clouds dwelled winning the fear of the Wind Maidens living in the area. I hated her. Even thinking about her made me feel faint.
Lance saw that my legs would not move. He did not even ask, he picked me up and raced for the palace. I bounced limply in his arms, “What is happening?” I managed to gasp. From what I could see the air was completely still, all the wind maidens had run to hide. Lance did not answer instead he ran into the library. Sabir was running behind, I could hear the soft pad of his feet. Baldwin was still wound tightly around my neck. It made me wonder where Tashina would hide.
Lance wove through the shelves of books to the opposite edge of the Library. He set me down on a window seat and then preceded stand by a shelf and to say strange words. Suddenly an opening revealed itself in the floor. I gaped at the dark hole and wondered how it came to be there. Lance rushed back to me. He glanced out the window as he picked me up. I could see determination reflecting in his eyes. He grasped me against his chest and then flung himself into the dark hole. I screamed as the air rushed past us. I heard a growl above us and I suspected it was Sabir preparing to jump. We somehow landed right side up on the ground and Lance set me down. I heard a thump behind us and then soon afterwards felt a wet nose nudge my hand, “I’m here Willow.” I sighed with relief.
Lance took hold of my hand and led me into darkness. I stumbled over a prominent cobblestone and fell forward. Lance caught me around the waist then proceeded to throw me over his back like a potato sack. My breath came out of me in an echoing Umph. Lance grunted, “Sorry.”
I didn’t say anything but this was the most embarrassing and uncomfortable ride I had ever had. Embarrassing because Lance was holding me firmly around my thighs and uncomfortable because I was bouncing around and Lance’s shoulder was jutted into my stomach. When I finally found my voice I asked, “Where are we going? And why do we have to go so far away from the storm?”
Lance was silent for a while. Then he said, “We are going to a hideout that was used for elves in the days of destruction. The reason is that this is no usual storm. I know this might sound crazy, but its… um… what should I name him… Let us just say Typhoon is here.” He whispered the name. I remembered what Lance had told me about Hurricane’s different names. I suspected that the name Hurricane was probably the most powerful name. I still did not understand the power of names though.
All the same, I was shocked, “Why? Why is he here?!”
Lance stiffened, “Because I told you his story. There is a reason why no one dares to tell his story or even speak his name.”
A shiver ran down my spine, “Will the others be safe? Steph? Elisha? Tashina?”
“Yes they will.” His deep voice echoed hauntingly through the passage but it was firm with confidence and reassurance. There was no doubt.
I believed him of course. Suddenly light blinded me and took me by surprise. Lance stepped into a room. I had not seen it coming because I was facing the other way and it was just around a corner. There was a chorus of voices greeting us as we stepped in. A voice that I knew was Elisha’s said, “Thank-goodness! I thought you two would never come.”
I was once again embarrassed that they all could only see my backside so I struggled to get off of Lance’s shoulder. Then I realized what a great height it was. Lance reached up and put his large hands all the way around my waist. He lifted me easily and set me on the ground. I blushed at the sight of my silent audience and quickly ducked to straighten out my dress. From the corner of my eye I could see the corners of Lance’s mouth twitch with amusement. Elisha stood to greet me eagerly, “Hello Miss Willow! Fancy meeting you here.”
I felt Baldwin uncurl from my neck and make his way down to the floor. I helped him, “Hello Mr. Winstok.” I looked up to greet my other friends, “Hello everyone.” I curtsied. Steph was there, Bavol was there, and Bayanai was there. Their guardians also were there. I was surprised to see Elisha’s bear. But I was pleased to finally see him with my own eyes. He greeted me kindly with a nod of his large head.
Merlin Priest was the one I was most eager to meet again. I smiled broadly at him and he smiled back. I heard Sabir growl behind me. I turned around and smiled helplessly, “No need for jealousy Sabir.”
Sabir rolled his eyes, “Of course.”
Then I turned warily to Lance, “What are we here for?”
Lance tilted his head and narrowed his eyes at the ceiling, “Safety my dear.” Then he winked and smiled smugly at Elisha who rolled his eyes. I thought I saw a faint blush appear on his cheeks.
I turned away and went to talk to Steph. I asked her why only these specific people were here. She told me that each of them had some kind of elfish blood in them. I glanced at Bavol uncertainly, “Is he descendant of dark elves?”
Bavol’s sharp ears caught my question he smiled kindly, “Yes, I am. I was sixteen when all the elves were destroyed. My mother and I were living above in the sun. Although my mother loved my father she could not stand to stay away from the sun so often. So my father, the King, visited her as often as he could. When I felt the rumble on that day I took my father’s guardian who was with us at the time and tried to find my father. Of course I found nothing but ash and magic floating in the air. I was exposed to the magic and therefore my body froze at the age of sixteen.” Bavol grimaced, “And just like Lance, I want revenge.”
I turned to look at Lance who was watching us, “What was your story Mr. Regan?”
Lance shook his head, “It is not a pleasant one, so I will not make you suffer by listening.”
I was unsatisfied but I saw that he would not speak of it at all. So I turned to Elisha and asked shyly, “What about you Mr. Winstok?”
Elisha came to where I was sitting and sat close beside me, “I was raised with humans and had no idea of my heritage until I realized I was not growing any older when all my friends and family were graying. I asked my mother about it and she became terrified of me. You see, my father was not a kind elf. He loved her, then he killed all the people she loved and then he left. She told me to leave. She thought that because I was living long that I would become like my father. So I left.” Elisha smiled sadly.
I felt sad for Elisha, that he was shunned by his own mother. We continued talking. I told them my story which was very simple and short, telling them I did not know anything about my mother.
Everything was fine until I felt a breeze make goose bumps rise on my skin. I froze. Immediately my eyes sought Lance, he was stiff as a statue as well. Suddenly all the talking ceased and everyone froze.
“They have come,” Said Bavol, “Finally.”
I glanced at him to see that he look more excited than scared. Lance rose from his seat slowly and bowed towards the doorway. My eyes searched the darkness but I could see no one. Then I heard the most ancient voice, it was shrill yet so beautiful. It hurt my ears, “You summoned me Lance Regan.”
If Lance was afraid, he did not show it, “I did Master Hurricane.” A tremor shook the ground and a waking magic drifted in the air.
Hurricane stepped forward into the light. The temperature went down a notch. I shivered and took a step away. I narrowed my eyes at Hurricane’s figure. It was more faded then most Wind Beings, “You dare say my name so freely?” His slightly high voice danced through the air hypnotizing each of us. I could feel my mouth dropping open in awe. Lance was the only one who seemed unaffected. Hurricane continued, “You are one brave lad. You even dared to tell my story in the open air.” He paused and reached out to touch Lance. I thought his hand would go right through, but it surprisingly did not, “Who do you think you are?” He asked wonderingly.
Lance stepped away from the outstretched hand, “I am an Elf, entirely. The last one of my kind, and I summoned you here with these witnesses so that you would tell me why you destroyed the Elves.”
Hurricane laughed suddenly. It bounced off the walls and pierced my ears like the peals of twelve o clock bells, “You think it was me? No, no my friend, you were right when you were younger, it was the Humans. I swear on Priest’s name.” The ground shook far more than before and I thought I heard ancient, lost words floating to my well tuned ears. The words grasped at my soul and chilled it. There was so much power in that name. I saw a glow of red to my right. I turned to see that Merlin’s eyes were glowing, like beams of blood red light. He stepped forward and a deep rumbling came from his chest, “You think Priest’s name is something to be sworn on? I think not. Do not swear if you do not know it to be true. There is no proof that the Humans killed the Elves. How do you think that is possible? How would they ever make the sky hold fire in its grasp?”
Suddenly I gasped, “My father painted a picture of that!”
Hurricane’s head snapped in my direction, “Who is your father?”
All eyes were on me, “Janretin, sir.” I bowed and kept my eyes to the ground.
Hurricane swept over to where I was and lifted my chin with his strange hand, “And who was your mother, love?”
I did not look in Hurricanes eyes, “I do not know, sir.”
Hurricane dropped my chin and narrowed his frosty eyes, “That is a shame. Your father’s name and your face spark a memory in my mind. How old are you, girl?”
“I am 18.”
“Hmm…” He said studying my face, “You are very attractive, obviously you have elfish blood in you. But as to how much I am not sure. Are you married?”
Suddenly Lance stepped forward, “That does not matter! Leave her be, it is I who summoned you.”
Hurricane clenched his jaw, “Usually I have patience, but it is running dry with you young man. I find you disturbingly rude! You already know I did not kill your race! I would like to leave if you don’t mind.” Then he paused and turned back to me, “And I would like to take her along.”
I recoiled and stepped away. Elisha stood up and stood between me and Hurricane, “Leave her be.”
Hurricane’s white lips curved into a wicked sneer, “Make me.” Suddenly with the flick of his wrist, Elisha was bound in clear crystal chains and he was slamming against the nearby wall. Hurricane grabbed me and pulled me into his strong but translucent arms. I felt a chill seep through my skin and create a dull ache in my bones. Suddenly Lance was moving. His sword was drawn and he was muttering something under his breath. I heard a shrill, hideous screech that ripped through my mind. I screamed in pain. My knees buckled beneath me and I covered my ears desperately.
Terror filled Hurricane’s eyes, but that did not stop him. Lance brought his sword down on Hurricane. But Hurricane was too quick. He spun, swirled and dodged around everyone. I could tell he was in extreme pain from the screech by the way his face was controrted. Wind Being’s are known for their sensitive ears. Hurricane’s whole body was rigid and suddenly his back arched and he began to scream in agony. He released me, his hands covering his ears. I wasn’t sure what was worse, the pain I felt or the pain I saw screaming in Hurricanes crystal clear eyes. I felt unexplained compassion for him. I reached for him and caressed his face trying to make his pain go away. I turned around to Lance and screamed for him to stop. Lance froze completely confused. Suddenly Hurricane’s arms were around me again slamming me against his chest.
Hurricane was out the door flying at the speed of sound down the tunnel. The screeching faded; a second later there was light and then a blur of green and brown. I guessed we were outside. The sky was apparently no longer dark. Hurricane had seen no need to strike. I heard him shout in his shrill but still deep, voice but I could not understand what he was saying. I saw through his translucent self a huge army of wind maidens following him. Most of them glared at me.
Hurricane looked down at me, “Sleep, love!” I could not resist the musical and hypnotizing qualities of his voice. So I unwillingly lay my head down on his chest and closed my eyes. A soft hum came from inside Hurricane’s chest. Slowly he got louder and louder. All thoughts were erased from my burdened mind, all I knew was the melody, harmony and enchantment of the voice that bewitched me. At what seemed to be the chorus every single Wind maiden in Hurricane’s army joined in. I am sure that there were a thousand different harmonies. I could only hear one melody that was Hurricane’s voice. As we flew over mountains Hurricane stroked my hair and sang me into a deep and dreamless sleep.