Sunday, August 26, 2018

The Shalafae Archives - Enter the Elf

The young girl leaned against the delicate railing, silver eyes roaming across the colorful garden below her. Even the air smells green, she thought. Such a contrast to Aldeberaan. She sighed again, and turned to make her way back to the party. Someone was surely missing her by now.

Her eyes widened, and the girl gasped as she met the golden gaze of the young guest of honor. "My lord," she said softly, curtsying awkwardly in her leather dress. As Morri straightened, she kept her gaze down.

"Lady Morrigana," Elthanael said, his voice youthful, and he approached. His bootheels clicked on the rose colored marble, and the hybrid blushed. Her mother Layisha had brought her to the birthday celebration of the heir of a prominent elven family, her first social gathering outside the clan. Only two years younger than the elf, Morrigana nonetheless felt like a child near him. "Are you as bored as I am?"

She looked up, pleasantly startled, and a smile stole across her lips. "I would never have guessed. You seemed entertained enough, Lord Elthanael."

The youth rolled his eyes as he leaned against the railing, his pose similar to her earlier stance. "This party is for scheming mothers. My father couldn't be bothered to show up." Elthanael glanced sidelong at her. "I'm surprised to see a dragon here. I thought your kind didn't marry outside their clans?"

Morrigana blushed, turning away from his piercing eyes. No one knows I'm a hybrid. Mother says so. But she wants to do something with me, and she can't ever give me the rheksha position. So marry me off for the betterment of the clan. "Mother is looking to break the traditions. At least elves speak a similar language."

He laughed. "Your mother seems like a very demanding woman. I'd be scared to have her as my mother."

Morri smirked, stifling a giggle. "She's not all that bad."

The elf stiffened suddenly, turning his head. "They've sent a maid to find us." He met the dragon's eyes. "Would you like to see my secret place?" She nodded vigorously, and he grabbed her hand, pulling her after him. They trotted down the stairs, into the lush garden, just as the voice of a maid called the elf's name. Thick bushes hid them from view, and Elthanael led the dragon into the garden.

She felt enclosed by the verdant growth, almost claustrophobically, but she was pleased to be with the elf. There was something exciting about sneaking off from their elders. Morrigana smiled to herself, hodling her skirts up. Elthanael glanced over his shoulder once, golden cheeks flushed almost bronze, and then he lead her off the path.

Overhanging branches snagged at her hair and dress, and she winced at one painful tug. "We're almost there," the elf told her, turning to help free a strand of her hair. "It's right through that bush," Elthanael said, pointing toward a flowering plant. She nodded, and allowed him to guide her through a thin spot in the plants.

Morrigana gasped, pausing, and Elthanael touched her arm, guiding her to one of the many cushions on the ground. "My lord, it's so nice." The ground was covered by a thick emerald rug, pillows and cushions piled everywhere. Crystals hung from the branches, sparkling in the few lances of sunlight. It was a natural bower, and she could smell the young elf above the aroma of loam and flowers.

"Please, don't call me lord," he said as he threw himself down, disregarding his fine clothes. Morri settled more delicately on a thick cushion. "I get enough of that from everyone else."

"Why am I different?"

The elf laughed, rolling to his side. "Because you're the first one to actually listen to me."

Morrigana blushed. "We're not big on titles. They're rather clumsy."

His eyes were glittering, open with curiosity. "My tutor says dragons are informal, but rather structured."

"You sound like you're actually curious."

"I am. I've liked your race since I first heard about them. I've just never had a chance to talk so candidly with one."

She blushed, keeping her hands in her lap. "Your tutor is right. We don't have lords and barons and other title holders. We have just our rheksha, which is the clan leader, and the arkhleyn, which is the war leader. Everyone else are peers, with equal voices. But the rheksha decides everything."

"How do the clans arrange themselves?"

Her smile deepened. "That's not so easy to explain."

Elthanael sat up, grinning broadly. "Meaning you don't want to tell me."

Morri plucked a leaf from the wall of their hideaway. She twirled the leaf between blunt fingers, chewing her lower lip. "Meaning I don't understand it all myself. There's so many complications, and it's really rather intense."

The elf sighed, drawing his knees up near his chin. "And our parents expect us to learn it all, to be able to keep up with them. I don't want to know all this stuff."

She ripped the leaf into pieces, frowning silently. "And they're just trying to marry us off, without giving us a choice. We're too young for this!"

He looked toward her, eyes half closed. "I don't know about you, but I've yet to even kiss someone."

She nodded her head. "There's almost no one I like, let alone close to my own age."

He laughed bitterly, lifting his head from his knees. "Some of the women Mother brought here are over three hundred years old. What could I have in common with a woman like that?" Elthanael shook his head. "Even if I told her I was gay, she'd just bring me old men."

Morrigana laughed loudly, and the elf grinned broadly. "Not like we even know what we want yet."

Elthanael grew suddenly sober, reaching for her hand. Morri turned, realizing how small the leafy enclosure was, tasting something strange from the elf. "We could always try."

"Try what?" she asked, mouth suddenly dry.

Elthanael leaned closer, his eyes intense, his voice low. "We could find out what it's like to kiss someone. Unless you don't want to."

The hybrid moved closer, lowering her eyelids, her impulsive nature reacting to her presence. "I think I would like to try."

He raised one hand, cupping her cheek, his breath washing across her face. Then his mouth brushed hers, lips pressing briefly to hers, and she sighed softly.

They remained like that for a few heartbeats, then parted slowly. "That was nice," Morrigana said softly, sure someone needed to say something. The girl felt let down, the whole moment rather anticlimactic.

Elthanael was blushing, his hand still on her cheek. "My sister kisses her husband differently."

"How is that?" Her heart stumbled as she fell into his eyes. Then he moved, claiming her mouth.

His lips were fierce, his hand sliding to the back of her head. Morri whimpered faintly, letting herself melt against him, her hand rising to his chest. The elf's lips were warm, and tasted of wine, and she took comfort from them.

They broke apart slowly, her lower lip trapped in his. Elthanael sighed warmly as he finally opened his eyes. "I like the way your sister kisses," Morri whispered.

Elthanael brushed his lips across her mouth again. "So do I." The hybrid smiled, closing her eyes, and let him kiss her again. She kissed him back this time, pressing her mouth against his, tasting his silken lips.

Morrigana gasped, hearing her mother out in the garden. "I have to go," she said sadly.

Elthanael kissed her cheek. "Thank you." Morri smiled, and returned to her mother's side.

***

The hybrid folded her wings behind her, the sharp metal of her bootheels chiming on the marble patio. Peach moonlight danced around her, the air scented with night blooming flowers. Even the air smells green. How can they stand it? Morrigana shook her hair, shifting shape to dismiss her wings. Then she strode into the mansion.

So trusting, she thought, pulling her hunting magic around herself, hiding her aura and sounds from the residents of this ornate mansion. Father always has wards up, even on the open doors and windows. But there is no magic anywhere on these grounds.

Hunting senses guided the assassin to her prey. She'd been close to the elf lord at a recent ball to celebrate his victories. As ambassador to the other races, he wielded much power. Power Father wants to slow. This lord has the potential to swing the opinion of many races.

Morrigana wound her way through the decorated halls, admiring many of the antiques. Centuries of living with her father had given her an appreciation of delicate objects. Dragons kept mostly bulky or utilitarian decorations, though they loved colorful and shiny objects.

Finally she stood before the ambassador's bed chamber. She felt her prey inside, sleeping deeply, and chuckled low in her throat. He wouldn't be a fight. She could be home in time for dessert.

Her prey suddenly gasped, and the hybrid felt a wave of death energy pour from the bedroom. Snarling, Morrigana forced the door open, eyes roaming the dark room. She smelled blood, and focused on the bed. A shadow loomed over the dying elf, and she charged, anger coloring her vision.

The half-dragon drew DragonSoul, the black sword howling with her emotion. Who knew to take my target? The shadow jumped back with a gasp, and she laughed wickedly at the sudden scent of fear. Morrigana pressed her advantage, swinging the sword again, and he continued to scramble back through bars of peach light.

"You don't look like much of an assassin," she laughed as she saw his bright silks and unmasked face. He looked like an elven noble.

"I was hoping you'd help with that," he responded, parrying her thrust with a short blade. Morrigana grunted in approval as his second blade flashed toward her face, causing her to step sideways. "That's why I killed my father."

Morrigana frowned, pausing her attack. "Your father?" She lowered the point of DragonSoul a little. "Just who are you?"

He stepped toward her, blades at his side. "I want to work with you. This is the only time my father isn't surrounded by bodyguards. I knew you'd be here."

Anger overwhelmed her curiosity. "You took my prey, and hoped to use him as a gift?" Her voice was harsh with her growl, and her sword answered. He gave a startled cry as the hybrid lunged, the black iron sword sparking along his short swords as he blocked. Then he danced back, the bright blades flashing with his movement, DragonSoul swallowing everything around it, achingly dark.

Metal clashed against metal, ringing in the moonlit room, their breaths ragged with their efforts. Morrigana was surprised he could keep up with her, and she quickly found her anger turn to admiration and joy. He was beautiful to watch, and she found herself almost dancing with him.

He was tiring, however, and starting to slow. Morrigana watched him closely, noting the openings forming in his guard. The hybrid saw the perfect opportunity, and barreled into him, using her bulk to throw him off balance. Her foot hooked his ankle, and he tumbled to the ground. Morrigana grinned, panting slightly, and pressed the tip of her sword against his throat.

His golden eyes were wide as he met her heavy gaze. "Morrigana, please...please don't."

She frowned, shifting her sword, slicing the lacings of his robe, exposing his lean chest. "You talk as if you know me."

"Everyone knows of the great Morrigana. The Butcher of Aldeberaan. The left hand of the mighty Lord Shalafae. Lost princess of the Takishidar clan. I have never gotten you out of my head."

Morrigana scoffed, further cutting his shirt, tracing her blade along his stomach. The elf trembled, but his eyes never left her. "Speak clearer, elf. What is you obsession with me?" She brought the point of her sword back to his throat. "Speak quickly."

His ragged breathing caused his throat to almost caress the humming blade. "You do not remember me? This house?"

The hybrid narrowed her eyes, staring at him, her mind buzzing as she tried to place his face. "I do not. Who are you?"

"Let me show you," he whispered. Morrigana gasped as he pushed her sword aside, rose in a fluid motion, and grabbed her face. They were of a height because of her heels, and it was easy for him to kiss her. She stiffened, resisting at first, but his lips were unrelenting, and she began to lean into him.
As his silken mouth sucked at her lower lip, memories finally bubbled up from her childhood.

They parted slightly, and the dragon chuckled. "Have you really thought about me since the garden?"

"Yes I have. Constantly. I was sad when I couldn't find you, when I found out you were no longer with your family." Elthanael ran a hand through her hair. "My heart soared when I heard about you slaughtering your people."

Morrigana laughed, wrapping her arms around his shoulders. "Let me show you what I've learned since then." Then she pulled him hard against her, forcing his mouth open, her tongue probing deep. He gasped, clearly surprised, and let her have whatever she wanted.

When the hybrid broke the kiss, Elthanael dropped to one knee before her, head bowed. "My lady, accept my allegiance. I will do whatever you order."

Morrigana stared down at him, thinking. My first follower. Dare I say no? She smiled. "Rise, Lord Elthanael. Come home with me."

The elf beamed as he looked back up at her. "Thank you, my lady."

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