My eyes twitched in annoyance. Daine’s hand came impossibly closer again, and I slapped it away. “I don’t need to know any o f you. Let me and Fluffy go and we will go back to our own territory.” Jhaan chuckled, nudging the village idiot who was tickling the little boy who said I smelled funny.
“Lore, get over here and at least stand by her. We will lead her back,” Jhaan ignored me, taking the lead of the small band of elves that were leading me further away from the mountain I had grown so fond of.
“I need to get back! Just get out of my way. If you are so scared of Creed, then you know he will come hunt for me!” Jhaan stopped, turned, giving me a scowl. It wasn’t intimidating at all since he was my height, so it didn’t stop me from kneeing him in his crotch. Several elves laughed, grabbing my shoulders holding me back in place. I struggled, Jhaan chuckled hoarsely.
“Maybe she is trouble,” he stood up, using his hands on his knees to push him back up to standing. “What’s your name?”
“Odessa,” I snapped, my breath hitched, then cringed. I shouldn’t have said that. The vampires could have spread my name throughout the entire land in search for me. Great.
Jhaan hand continued to hold his crotch, ready for me to strike again. “We are going to help save you from his inhumanity. Now, if you listen to what we say, you should be fine. Now come on.”
“I don’t want to be saved!” I yelled, “I want to go back. Now let me go!” The elves continued to pull me deeper into the forest, fluffy being dragged behind us on a makeshift stretcher. I really hoped they wouldn’t eat him and I would be sure that wouldn’t happen. What kind of weird people would eat a pet!?
The large branches and vines covered the little light the suns could penetrate through the forest. Small beams of light hit on the trunks of the trees as we passed. Daine stayed close to me, too close for comfort. I didn’t feel like he didn’t have malice intentions, but the only man I was comfortable with was Creed, and this elf was different. I felt like he believed me, but didn’t want to trust him. Just not yet.
All the elves wore the same type of clothing, wrapped in brown or green leaf like material. It was stretchy, able to use any movement they wanted like a second skin.
Some had decorations of tattoos, but not black like Creed’s. They were in color of purples and blues. Some had braids in their hair but most wore their hair long, besides the half updo some had to pull it away from their faces. The little boy sported a large smock-like attire, his crazy hair didn’t look brushed, and looked like he was one with the forest. They all were barefoot, their feet still relatively clean even with the dirty soil beneath them. The small glow of their feet as they touched the ground had me be looking in wonder.
Daine watched me intently. Out of all the elves, he wore the most color. There was brightly colored thread wrapped around a few tendrils of hair, some parts dyed in light blue and purple. He certainly was more flamboyant than the others and his attitude to me was certainly more friendly.
“Are we the first elves you have seen?” Daine burst with excitement. I only nodded, feeling like I should revert to my submissive ways like with the vampires. It got me to survive. Pain was not as bad as it could have been. It also got me away after they never would have expected I would slit the Duke’s throat. After being with Creed, however, my thoughts only drifted to him and the urgency to get back. The first chance I get to escape, I would, but I would have to wait until Fluffy woke up.
“Wow, and you had to meet us first, the protectors of the east side territory, you lucky thing,” he cooed. He tried to grab my hand again, but I pulled away.
“Stop that,” I hissed.
“Why? Do you think I am going to hurt you?” His lip curled around one side of his face. “Because I won’t. I’ll make sure you’re fine and taken care of.”
“I’ve heard that before,” I muttered under my breath. The Duke told me many times I would be taken care of and I got stuck in just a bigger cage and only dolled up to meet him in the feeding room. Yeah, that was really taking care of me.
“I’m serious,” Daine holding pain in his eyes. “Do you really not trust me?” I wanted to trust him. I wanted to believe there were good people in this place other than Creed, but the track record was not going so well.
“Well, let’s see,” I began. “I try to get away, away from your territory, and I get shot with a dart that almost kills me if you didn’t give me the antidote. You guys think I’m rogue, but I’m not. I’m with Creed and now you want me to forget the only person I care about? So no, I don’t trust you,” I snapped.
Daine’s shoulders slumped. “Alright, we got off on the dirty foot. It’s just that rogues are everywhere right now, and we have to be careful. Magic is going odd and we don’t know who i s who anymore. Some witches can be vile,” the sadness in his voice made me soften. I didn’t enjoy talking harshly, but I was worried about Creed. I needed to get back to him.
Was he alright? Were the vampires after him or something else entirely? My heart squeezed in my chest, thinking he was hurt somewhere. Alone. I didn’t want him to feel alone.
“Hey, hey, what’s wrong?” Daine’s arm went around my cloak. With the heavy drizzle, almost rain, the mud had washed away, but also Creed’s comforting smell. I continued t o slip on the ground below me but the elves walked like this was a regular occurrence walking gracefully.
“I just want to go back. I had to run away because Creed was
fighting something off and wanted to make sure I was safe.” Jhaan looked behind him, his thick braided hair swung again, hitting Lore in the face. The little boy began giggling hysterically while Lore hissed at the antics.
“Listen,” Jhaan did a complete turn to look at me straight in the eye. His eyes wandered at my dirtied cloak and bit back a grimace. “I just want to make sure you are okay. We are sorry about earlier. Please let us have you checked out, then we will figure out what to do next.”
I wanted to believe Jhaan’s words, but I couldn’t bring myself to. I didn’t trust anyone, not the same trust I had in Creed the morning he helped me. Sucking in a breath, I let it out slowly.“ Fine, but I need to get back. I need to find Creed.” Jhaan didn’t look convinced. He continued to lead the way while Daine glanced over at me several times.
“What’s a rogue?” I spoke to Daine, who was now excited as I began the conversation first.
“Someone who doesn’t have a group they belong to. So shifters have packs or prides, elves have territories, dragons have tribes, and so forth. It’s like a family, almost. You don’t have a definitive smell, so that got us all upset because rogues don’t have a group. They are outcasts because they have done something wrong. They like to cause trouble,” Daine made a face of disgust. “We aren’t used to human smells because they aren’t part of any pack or tribe, and humans don’t come around much.” I pondered his words in comfortable silence. Humans can’t be rogue and they don’t have a group they belong to. Since there are few of us, does that mean I have to leave? Back to where I came from. I had nothing there. Here I had Creed.
The color in his hair had hints of gold as the rays of light passed through. His high cheekbones and his femininity mannerisms had me questioning his intention. He wasn’t trying to hit on me, but he was certainly touchy.
As we traveled for another hour, my feet were tired and were soaked to the bone. My toes were numb and the pads of my feet wrinkled, not to mention my knee was sore from Fluffy landing on it. Sensing my weakness, Daine put his arms around my back, having me lean on him. “Sorry your pet landed on you,” Daine said in a whisper. My head popped up and gave a small smile. Maybe they weren’t so bad after all, especially Daine.
The trees overhead turned from the dark green, hiding the sunlight into translucent leaves that reminded me of a large glass ceiling. The sun’s rays were easily guided through the now sizeable area of a village. “Welcome to one of the Elven territories. It’s the largest of the several tribes around here. The others aren’t too far either, maybe an hour’s walk. We don’t like to be overcrowded,” Daine mentioned off-handedly.
There were no tents on the ground, but structures in the winding trees above. Make shift wooden bridges wrapped around with branches, leaves and flowers were woven in between the slats of planks. Large treehouses adorned the area, while a massive bonfire sat in the middle. Grass was everywhere in the middle of this meadow, stuck in the middle of the forest. It was its own paradise.
Kids were swinging on branches, and branches moved and held the children for them to climb. “The trees are alive?” I whispered to Diane. He only snorted.
“Nature is alive. It just takes a skill to talk to them, understand them and know of their importance to the environment. Elves have always been close to nature. We have that sixth sense you humans talk about so much.” My eyes widened in amazement. Children swinging from vine to vine, jumping from high tree tops to land on enormous flowers as spring boards.
“Welcome back!” A blonde hair, green eye beauty walked up to us. Jhaan grinned, giving her a hug. “Good to see you sister Lura,” Lura’s eyes glanced at me, looking me up and down.
“The poor thing. Where did you find her? Are you alright?” The softness in her eyes was welcome as she rushed to me, pulling on the cloak now covered in mud. Even though it was dirty, I didn’t want to let go of what little of Creed I had left. “O h, honey, let’s get you cleaned up.” Her nose inhaled, dropping the cloak.
Ah, right, the smell.
“You… smell like dragon.” Lura looked at Jhaan and scowled.“ What have you done? Did you take a dragon’s mate?” she hissed. “There are repercussions for that!” Jhaan shook his head, held up his hands to explain.
“Not just any dragon, she smells of the Black Dragon.” A collective gasp came from many that had gathered to gawk at the human now invading their space. My head automatically duct behind Daine, who was now my new ‘friend-shield.’
“I think she’s been brainwashed. She says she cares for him because he rescued her. I want her to see the resident witch.” Lura slapped her brother’s arm. “If she says she is with him, you should have left her be. If she is happy.” Lura looked at m e, “honestly, are you happy staying with the black dragon?”
“His name is Creed, and yes I am. He is none of those things Jhaan has said about him. He’s kind, caring and saved me.” Several male elves whispered to each other and one walked away. Holding my cloak tighter, her hand came to mine, pulling me away from Daine. “Let’s get you cleaned up, and I know what you say, but it would make us all feel better if you saw our witch.”
Shaking my head, I tugged away. “No, no witches. I don’t trust them.” They all looked bewildered that would say such a thing, but my mother sold me to a bunch of vampires. What if that witch wanted to do the same?
“Why not?” Daine spoke up. “She’s my mother. She’s half witch, half elf, and mated to my father, who has lived in this territory for years. My mother is the most trustworthy half witch to the tribe.” I bit my lip. I didn’t want to go to her. I just wanted to find Creed and go back to the cave.
“Please, she won’t do anything to hurt you,” Lura spoke
“Neither does Creed. I’m fine,” my voice unbearably small.
“She has no choice,” a booming tone came as a taller elf saunter up. He was wearing a large beaded necklace, and a dried crown of vines sat on his head. “She will see Daine’s mother and make sure she isn’t bewitched. If she isn’t, then w e will discuss it from there.”
“That’s Zaos, the Elven Territory leader,” Daine whispered.” I’ll go with you if it makes you comfortable.” I heaved a breath, pulling at my fingers. Daine had me loop my arm around his arm while the small crowd that gathered followed me to a distant tree.
“Once Glinda accesses the situation, have her cleaned. This is for your safety, Odessa?” My eyes glanced up to the overly tall elf, only looking down again. “All humans are to be treated with respect, by order of the Queen of the Moon Kingdom. Then we need to understand how you came to be here.” Zaos turned to the small crowd gathered. “Warriors, be prepared for a dragon visitor. If it truly is the Black Dragon, then I want us prepared.” Murmurs spread as vines descended with a platform for Daine and me to stand on.
Pulling us upwards, the vines went more slowly than they did with the children. I held on to the vine for dear life as we slowly ascended into the tall trees. Daine chuckled how scared I was but heckers it was to dang high.
“Zaos means well,” Daine began. “He was a full-blooded Fae
until he met his mate, Annabelle, who is an elf. Once species are mated and bonded, their blood mixes with each other, giving each other some of the same genetics of species. So they are considered half and half. That’s why Zaos is so much taller than the rest of us. It’s great for the sirens, so they can walk on land for indefinite periods of time.” Daine spoke like I would understand any of this. My mouth hung open, clutching the vine for dear life.
“Ahh, I will explain it in more later,” his cheeks flushed pink. What the heck is bonding, mating and blood mixing have anything to do why that elf is so tall? I squeaked, feeling the platform coming to a halt.
With much coaxing, I was led off and stepped on the porch of a beautiful cottage in the trees. “Come in!” A sing-song voice poured out of the open windows. Daine escorted me inside, his hand clutching my hand and patting it like you would a child. A rush of ease went through me while being led to the seat at the kitchen table.
“So they think you are crazy, huh? For being so love struck about the Black Dragon and his willingness to help you?”
“How did you?”
“Everyone is so loud, I heard it through the open window,” she chuckled. Pouring three cupfuls of I’m assuming tea, she laid it in front of us. The smell reminded me of mint and chocolate. “Have a taste of this, it will calm your nervous. I feel your soul shaking inside.” My eyes glanced at Daine, who
already started drinking. We had all been given the same drink. It couldn’t possibly be poisoned. At least I hoped.
I took a sip. The thick tea slid down my throat with ease as I drank it all down. I was so cold the heat of the cup warmed my body instantly. I finished the cup entirely, setting it neatly on the ceramic leaf saucer. “Excellent,” she picked up my cup and looked inside. Dashing a white powder on the rim of the cup, it stuck where my lips stayed. A beautiful shade of pink lips graced the cup.
“Nope, she isn’t bewitched by magic,” Glinda spoke. Daine snapped his fingers and pointed at her.
“I knew it, she spoke passionately about him,” his eyes fluttered to me. “What’s it like?” His hands went under his chin, looking at me longingly.’
“W-what is what like?” I picked at the dolly that held my tea
“To be in love?” Daine sighed dramatically.