Inside the house, Anan gathered some food, placed it into her basket with a blanket and went to a curtain on the other side of her home. She drew back the curtain and revealed a door thicker than her front door. It was black wood and seemed ancient. She placed her hand on the door, and said a few words in Finaran. The spell let travelers know she would be gone for a while. Spell done, she went to the front door with her basket and smiled to Eloran.
The prince took the basket from her and waited for her to close the door. She slipped her arm through his and led him into the forest behind her house. They walked for a while before she spoke.
“Did you come alone?”
“No, Klaes assigned a guard to come with me. He’s at the village.”
“King Falk knows you’re here then?”
“Yes. I have to return home in two days.”
She glanced up at him. “And where do you plan on sleeping?”
His breath hitched. “In the village, if necessary.”
Anan looked to him again and smiled. “We will discuss that after dinner.”
The grin he gave her showed his happiness.
Anan stopped walking and looked around. They were near a fast moving, rocky river. The sound added pleasantly to the hum of insects. She pointed downstream a bit. Once at a relatively clear spot, she took the basket and pulled out the blanket.
“I will catch a rabbit later, but for the moment, please sit. There are blossoms I need to gather that hide the later it gets.”
Eloran nodded and arranged the blanket. “Go on. I’ll be fine here.”
She nodded and went off into the woods. Prince Eloran sat on the blanket, his back against a tree and breathed quietly for a moment or two. Bored, he looked in the basket and saw bread and salami. He smiled, tore off a bit of bread and used his dagger to cut some salami. As he ate, his eyes moved about, until a flash of color off in the bushes nearby caught his attention. He paused with a bit of salami halfway to his mouth.
Eloran placed his knife and food to the side, stood and walked to the bushes. He went around a tree and smiled. There was a patch of lavender growing near the river. He squatted and inhaled the light fragrance. Eloran reached out and caressed the soft buds. He plucked a bit of the lavender and smiled. This was it. This was the flower he placed in her hair, in the dream. Smiling, he went back to the blanket and saw that Anan was headed to it as well.
“Find something?” She called to him.
He hid the flower behind his back, not sure why. “Yes, but I’ll show you later. Did you get everything you needed?”
“Almost. I’m a little hungry.”
They reached the blanket at the same time and both sat in unison. Eloran placed the flower behind the basket, out of sight, and handed Anan the meat and bread. She smiled and took the food. He stared at her as she ate a little bread and meat.
“Do you ever get lonely out here by yourself?”
She smiled. “I’m hardly alone. I have a lot of visitors.”
“Oh?” He didn’t sound happy about that.
The smile grew. “My home is the gate between Finara and the human world. When a Finaran wishes to enter, they use my house.”
“Oh. Why your house?”
“The house is the Gateway, Eloran. It was build to make things easier. Without the house, the Finarans had a hard time following the path.”
He frowned. “I don’t follow.”
She chewed a bit of bread before answering. “You would have to see it to understand. No one is scheduled to come through tonight, but if you continue to visit me, you’ll see someone eventually.”
He gave her a blank stare then nodded. “All right.”
Anan tried not to laugh, but his expression was priceless. She did laugh, but cut it short when he looked hurt. She reached out and touched his cheek. “No one understands until they see it, Eloran. You just looked so confused for a moment. I’m sorry if I laughed.”
“It was nothing.”
She gave him a slightly woeful look. “That’s not true. I don’t like being lied to, Prince.”
He sighed. “All right. I liked your laughter, it was a lovely sound, but I did not like that you laughed at me.”
She smiled. “Was that really so hard?”
He shook his head. “Why did you laugh?”
“I could see the boy you used to be in your confusion. It was a delightful look.”
Eloran thought about her words, then nodded. “All right.”
Anan reached out again and caressed his cheek. “It was not done to hurt you.”
They stared at each other for a moment or two, then Anan pulled away and stood. “I must fetch dinner. I’ll be back shortly, then we can return to my home.”
Eloran nodded and watched as she turned and left. He wanted to kiss her, wanted to be in her bed tonight, but did not know how to suggest it. She did not react to him as other women did. In the past, all he had to do was look at a woman and she would be in his bed that night. With Anan, a look would never be enough. He leaned against the tree and wondered what to do.
He could simply ask her, as he had his first night here, but he wasn’t sure when to ask. He sighed heavily and picked up the lavender twig. As he brought the twig to his nose to smell the soft fragrance, he wondered why he had not yet placed it behind her ear.