Eloran smiled as he walked through the gardens. His last visit to Anan was three days ago. It went better than the previous time, when Xyta placed a hex on him. He and Anan were undisturbed for two days. It was bliss.
Camilla was not out in the gardens today, but he wasn’t here to see her. Klaes asked to see him privately in the gardens. The elven advisor preferred the gardens to the castle. Eloran found the King’s advisor near the violets. The Prince smiled as he approached Klaes.
“This is my mother’s favorite spot.”
Klaes smiled. “It is mine as well, but for different reasons, I would think. The violet is one of the few flowers that grows both here and in Finara. It reminds me of home.” He looked to the Prince and ignored the bit of blue he could see glowing near the Prince’s heart. “Why is it your mother’s favorite?”
“Purple is her favorite color. She says the violets are the perfect shade.”
Klaes smiled and nodded. “Anan is quite fond of you.”
A warm smile slowly came to the Prince’s lips. He looked at the flowers, but saw Anan. “I am quite fond of her.”
“Prince Eloran, do you understand what it means for an elf to marry a human?”
The Prince turned sharply to Klaes. “We have not talked of marriage.”
“But you have both thought it, yes?”
He thought of his declaration to Anan the first time they slept together. He wanted to be her last lover. He had said it without thinking of the full meaning. Did he want to marry her? He closed his eyes as he answered his and Klaes’ question. “Yes.”
“Elves are long lived, Prince. Do you understand what that means?”
“She’ll outlive me.”
“And if you have children with her, she will most likely outlive them as well. It is a hard decision for elves to marry a human.”
“But I wouldn’t be her only love, would I? How old is she Klaes?”
“She has lived almost two centuries.”
The Prince thought about this for few moments then nodded. “Why has she not married yet?”
“You would have to ask her that.”
“Prince, there is more to it than just an elf choosing a human.”
The Prince was silent for a moment then sighed as he placed his hand over his heart. “Her position as Guardian of the Gate. She can’t keep it, can she?”
“And not only because she is your protector.”
He blushed as he lowered his hand. “She said other Finarans might be able to see it.”
“Only those with strong magic will be able to see it through your clothing, young Prince.”
He nodded as Klaes continued.
“Anan’s sister, Isra, presented her with potential replacements for the Guardian position after you left. She is training them now, finding out who is worthy.”
“She’s training them at her home.”
“I won’t be able to see her until the ball.”
Prince Eloran sighed. The ball was still three weeks away. “She cannot come see me?”
“She has to train the replacement. Her sister will take over when Anan comes for your brother’s birthday, but until then, you will not be able to see each other.” Klaes took a good look at the Prince. “How much of a problem is that, Prince?”
“I will miss her.”
“The time will pass quickly.”
The Prince made a non-committal noise in the back of this throat.
“I hear Randolph will be here tomorrow to speak with your father on the troubles in Taren. Perhaps you can join them and help them.”
“I still don’t understand why the bandits haven’t been stopped. King Nassir’s guards caught Xyta.”
“She empowered another and no one knows who.”
He frowned slightly. “What does that mean? Pixies have magic. Does that mean she gave her magic to another?”
Klaes tried to hide his surprise. The Prince was far more intuitive than most humans. Upon hearing what Xyta did, most other humans asked for an explanation. Though the Prince was asking about it, he was asking if he were right, not what it meant.
“That is exactly what that means.”
The Prince inhaled sharply in surprise. “That sounds terrible.”
“It is. If the person she empowered decides it, they can keep her magic and Xyta will be without it forever, unable to release or recall any magic she has used or handed out. The person holding it would be twice as powerful as before. If we do not find out who the person is, then the bandits can keep their stolen magic. Only Xyta can remove the spells she gave them, and only if she has the magic to do it.”
“Why would she do that? Why would she empower another with her magic?”
“She either trusts the other person completely or had no choice.”
“I didn’t meet her for very long, but she didn’t strike me as the trusting type.”
They both stood silently for some moments, letting the breeze ruffle their hair.
“I will join them. When are they meeting?”
“Tomorrow at lunch, in the war room.”
“I’ll be there. Thank you, Klaes. For everything.”
“You are welcome, young Prince.” Klaes bowed and left the prince to his own thoughts.
Halfway through lunch meeting the next day, Eloran wondered why he agreed to be here. He was having a hard time concentrating. Randolph and five others were talking strategy, which Eloran never saw as one of his strong suits. He sighed and tried to keep it quiet. He picked at his leftover food and let his mind wander to Anan. He missed her already, but then, he missed her as soon as her house faded from view as he rode away from it.
He sighed again but no one seemed to notice. Randolph’s overpowering voice was handy for something. Eloran smiled at the thought. He had never been fond of his brother’s loud voice, but now, he was grateful for it.
Eloran glanced out the window, which was just beyond his brother’s chair. Eloran leaned back in his chair and let his eyes stray to the land beyond the castle. Gateway and Anan were in the direction it faced. His mind easily strayed to her. Propping his elbow on the armrest, he hid his mouth with his hand, thus hiding his smile. Deep in thought of being in Anan’s bed, he nevertheless heard his brother’s voice as Randolph said something interesting.
“The four girls were easy to locate, we just cannot stop the magic they have unleashed.”
Eloran perked up. “Four? But there were five pixies. Xyta and four others.”
Klaes, who had remained silent during most of the luncheon, seemed to come to attention. “At the beginning there were five, but Yxal went home when she was able. She is the one that told us of Xyta.”
Eloran nodded as he remembered. “Right. The guards took her home. I forgot.” He frowned lightly. He vaguely remembered two of the pixies looking alike. “Are the two related? Xyta and Yxal?”
“Sisters. Xyta is the eldest.”
The young prince looked to Klaes. There were many words brewing in the man’s mind, but he tried to keep them at bay. He had to think this through carefully. “And you said that Xyta empowered another? Gave her magic to someone else?”
Klaes nodded. “We do not suspect that she gave it to Yxal. She was the one who came home to tell us of Xyta’s plans.”
Eloran stared at Randolph. “When I was younger, and I wanted to play instead of studying and father confronted me, I would always speak in half truths. ‘Yes, father, I’m done with my tutors for the day’, was one I used most often. It meant that the tutors were done, but that my studies were not.
“As I grew older and he and mother taught me not to do that, father let me know that he used to do the same when he was younger. He said you were the only other of his children to do the same.”
A large grin came to Randolph’s face. “I remember that! I could see a smile in his eyes when I did that, but did not understand why it was there.” Realization dawned on his face. “You think Yxal told us part of the truth to hide the full truth.”
“I think she did.”
The brothers stared at each other for a moment then looked to Klaes. The advisor nodded slowly.
“You may be right. I will send word to King Nassir. He will be able to look into this.” He looked directly at Prince Eloran. “Thank you, Prince Eloran. I knew you would be an asset.”
The young Prince sat up a little taller. The talk continued for a while and this time, Prince Eloran became a participant rather than a bored observer.