Chapter Four: part one

A loud knock woke her and Anan quickly realized the knocking was coming from the Finaran side. She bolted out of bed when she remembered she never removed the spell that told others to wait. Anan saw the Prince was still asleep and pulled on her robe. She hurried to the door. Only those with powerful magic would dare knock when she asked for privacy.

Anan opened the door without thinking. She made a small noise as a large man swept her into his arms.

“I don’t like when you keep me out, lass.” His loud voice echoed in the small house.

Laughing she pushed at his massive chest. “Put me down, Pic. You’ll not have me this night.”

He stopped twirling her around, and placed her on her feet. “Oh?”

“Anan?”

Both Anan and Pic looked to the other side of the room, where Eloran stood in only his pants. Anan smiled at him, but looked to Pic. “Close the door. Don’t change yet.”

He did as instructed as Anan went to Eloran. She took his hand and brought him to Pic. “Prince Eloran, this is Pic, King of the Trolls.”

Eloran stared at the troll for a moment, trying not to be terrified. The man was massive. He stood taller than the doorframe, and was twice as wide. Trolls had wrinkled skin from head to toe. But it wasn’t so much wrinkles as excess skin piled up on top of tough muscled. The extra skin aided them in being able to slip through tight crevices in the earth.

Though Pic’s wrinkled face made him look mean, his eyes, green of budding leaves, showed nothing but kindness. He wore tight clothing that showed off his massive muscles, but Eloran felt the man had never hurt another. Eloran bowed to the King.

“It is my pleasure, your highness.”

Pic advanced on Eloran and stared him down. He gave him a quizzical look then sniffed him. “Hmmm.” Without another word to Eloran, he turned to Anan. “He’ll bear your mark soon. ‘Tis a pity. I looked forward to my visits with you.” He leaned in and gave her a soft kiss on the cheek. “Be happy, love.”

Anan stared at Pic. “What are you talking about?”

His loud laughter shook the walls. “You’ll see.”

She frowned at him in confusion. “I thought trolls could only see the past.”

He winked. “Sometimes the future presents itself to those who know how to look.” He held up his hands at her increased confusion. “No more questions. I must be off.”

“Please wait. I tried to explain the Gate to Eloran, but I couldn’t be clear. Would you mind showing him?”

Pic looked to the human and to Anan and nodded. “I can and I will.”

The large troll walked back to the Finaran door, opened it and stepped out. He took a few deep breaths, and walked back into the house, repeating a spell over and over. Anan made sure she and Eloran were out of the way. Pic spoke the words of the spell and walked a straight line from the Finaran side to the human side of Anan’s house.

As he walked, he changed. He shrank, not only in height, but also in body mass. It was odd to watch, but interesting as well. It was as if there were many Pics instead of one. He left trails of himself, but by the time he reached the human door there was only one. He was also human sized, and rather good looking. Eloran bowed to the King.

“Thank you, sire.”

Pic nodded, and looked to Anan. “I’ll be gone for a few days. If I come back and you’re occupied, do I have permission to enter?”

“Always, Pic.”

He nodded again, opened the door and left. Anan went to both the human door and the Finaran door and whispered spells. The spells would alert her to visitors needing passage. Done, she turned back to Eloran.

“He doesn’t mean to be rude.”

He shook his head. “That wasn’t the impression I got.”

“Oh?”

He went to her and took her in his arms. “It was as if he didn’t want to speak of his feelings, and if he acknowledged me overmuch, he would reveal something to you.” He gazed down at the woman he wanted to spend the rest of his life with. “Have you slept with him?”

“I did.”

Prince Eloran considered this for a moment. “I’m not surprised. He is rather handsome. He sounded unhappy at having lost the privilege.”

She slipped her arms around his neck. “He’ll get over it. He has three wives.”

Eloran looked surprised, but nodded and let her go. “So this house is a gateway.”

“A gate, yes. The people of Finara use this house to look human. Those with a lot of magic can walk the path and change, or can simply change. Those without a lot of magic must use a guide.”

He looked her up and down. “You’re a Finaran guide.”

She smiled. “Among other things, yes.”

He crossed his arms to stop himself from reaching out to take her in his arms. “What else are you?”

“A warrior, a protector, an elf.”

Light glinted in his eyes. “I want to see.”

“There isn’t much to see. A spell makes people forget I have pointed ears.”

He smiled and stepped closer. His hands moved to her hair and pushed it away from her ears. They looked normal. “Show me.”

She laughed, but dropped the spell. Her ears became longer and pointed. He stepped back to look fully at her and realized it wasn’t only her ears that changed. She seemed taller, and her features finer. As a human, she looked like a beautiful woman. Spell dropped, she exuded elegance. His breath caught as she looked at him with kind eyes.

“I am Princess Anan of the Finara. My father is the King of the Elves, but also currently the King of all the Finarans. I am a warrior, protector, and Guardian of this Gate.” She bowed to the Prince. “Welcome to my home, Prince Eloran.”

He reached out and touched her cheek. She closed her eyes at his soft touch. “You’re beautiful.”

“Thank you. Do you still wish to share my bed, Prince?”

He smiled down at her. “Nothing could stop me from wanting to share your bed, Princess.”

She smiled up at him and led him to her bed.

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