Dedication: This story is dedicated to Nainika Gupta. She came up with the incredible character Ishalae!! (She also mentioned Vanvathar.) Thank you so much!! Her profile page:
“I can’t believe it’s been so long since we’ve met.”
I squeezed Vanvathar’s hand.
“Five hundred years,” Vanvathar breathed.
“Five hundred fifty-three years,” I corrected him.
“Don’t call me that,” I snapped.
Vanvathar just squeezed my hand again. I got the feeling he would still call me those human pet names. I wasn’t sure if that was sweet, endearing, or annoying. Perhaps all three.
“Honey, we have to do the thing in a few minutes. Are you ready?”
“Gee, I wonder. Am I ready to--”
I paused. What expression did the humans use again?
“Spill the tea about our relationship for the Western elves and Eastern elves to hear? Not to mention that if we fail to encourage both nations that they can become one with our love story, then the war will break out again, and it’ll destroy Dryadalis Terram and the humans, too. Of course I’m ready! I’m not nervous at all!”
Vanvathar laughed under his breath. Then, he kissed me. It wasn’t for much long, but I could’ve stayed in his arms this way for. . . who knows how long. He smelled like baked apples and citrus. Like the sweets at Eastern elves’ bakeries.
He let go, and I was sure my cheeks were bright red. I stared into his crystal-colored eyes, which held a merry glow. His eyes were strangely cute because of that. I could’ve stared into his eyes all day. That thought made my cheeks grow even warmer.
“Are you still nervous?” Vanvathar asked slyly.
I fought to keep a grin off my face.
“You haven’t answered my question yet,” Vanvathar noted, tucking my frosty white hair behind my slightly pointed ear.
We stood right outside the huge door to the throne room, listening to Alastair, the only elf that was both Eastern and Western.
“Both the Western and Eastern elves have been fighting in a war for millennia, and we still haven’t stopped today. But it has come to many of the elves’ attention that the war is pointless. The Western and Eastern Elves are meant to be different. We are opposites. Push and pull. Earth and air. But that doesn’t mean we should be fighting in a war forever.
“Five hundred fifty-three years ago, two elves met. One Western, one Eastern. They were fated to be enemies, fighting on opposite sides of the war. Yet they became life-long friends. And eventually, lovers.
“We are gathered here today in a truce. The queen and king of the Western and Eastern elves together, along with a crowd from both nations. Without fighting. We will hear the story of these two lovers, who were forbidden from one another. A war divided their people, but I personally hope that changes today.”
“Aren’t ‘two lovers, forbidden from one another; a war divides their people’ lines from a human song?” Vanvathar muttered. I shrugged in response.
“Please welcome Ishalae of the Western elves and Vanvathar of the Eastern elves!” Alastair announced.
I heard the sound of polite clapping, and we walked into the throne room.
King Urudusin of the Western elves and Queen Lythienne of the Eastern elves sat on their respective thrones. They were doing their best to hide their hatred for each other, but it was definitely there. I wondered what made them hate each other so much. Romantic tension?
The room was filled to the brim with elves. A sea of blue and green clothes, each with the power of earth or air.
We bowed to the king and queen and stood before them.
The king spoke.
“Tell all of Dryadalis Terram your story.”
A few Eastern elves stood to the side, ready to control the sound waves of our story into the houses of the Western and Eastern elves. It was a strange substitute to the humans’ radio.
“Me and Vanvathar first met when we were nine hundred fifty three years old. It was on the day when I was sent to the court that slaughtered my parents.”
Images of that day flooded my mind.
I had stood before the court, shrinking under their combined gazes. My clothes were still stained dark gold. The blood of Prince Halafarin of the Eastern elves.
I had killed him with my bare hands.
“That court sentenced me to death as well. Because I had killed the son of Queen Lythienne.”
Gasps echoed through the room. Ignoring the commotion, I continued,
“I admit, looking back at it now, I don’t remember why I killed Prince Halafarin. But I did, and that’s all that matters.”
I was hung on a pole, high above the ground. I couldn’t fight so far away from my element.
Princess Chalsarda stood below me, pure hatred in her grey-brown eyes. They boiled with anger for killing her brother. And I was at her mercy.
Princess Chalsarda gestured with her hands.
The oxygen got sucked out of my lungs and it hovered above my head, just where I couldn’t reach it. All life abandoned my body.
“Before I could pass, someone saved me. Vanvathar.” I recalled.
Just as my eyesight started to dim, an elf ran toward me and gestured with his hands.
A blast of air slammed into the princess’ chest. She fell to the ground, unconscious.
“I’m Vanvathar of the Eastern elves.” Vanvathar told me. “Come. Run away with me to Hominem Mundum. The war is causing me much pain as well. We need to get out.”
“Why on Dryadalis Terram should--”
“You go with me, an Eastern elf?” Vanvathar finished. Was it some Eastern elf power to read minds? One that the Western elves didn’t know about? I hoped not.
“Because I have people who have died in this war as well.” Vanvathar explained. “I want to avenge my brother as much as you want to avenge your parents.”
Okay. That was officially creepy. How did he know that?
Vanvathar’s shining eyes were full of warmth and kindness. They were the mark of a happy, innocent, and naïve child. Not of a person haunted by grief, desperate to avenge a death.
“Besides,” Vanvathar added, “You have the mark of an enemy of the Eastern elves.”
He pointed to my hair, which was turning white.
“Stay in Dryadalis Terram, even in Ad Pagam, and you’ll be killed.”
“After Vanvathar saved me, he asked me to come with him to Hominem Mundum. Despite my suspicions of travelling with an Eastern elf, it was either die or follow Vanvathar.” I explained to some Western elves who were starting to grumble. “I chose the latter.”
Alastair nodded, seeming to understand what happens next.
“So on your perilous adventures in Hominem Mundum, you two fell madly in love immediately! I can already picture the stolen kisses, longing looks, and all of the times you saved each other from danger in the name of love.”
“That’s not exactly it. Ishalae absolutely detested me for many years.”
A tittering laugh was heard across the room.
I nodded vigorously.
“I had hated Vanvathar for many years. He was just so unlike me. Warm and kind, but bland."
Vanvathar was trying not to laugh, but his face strained from the effort.
“I started loving Ishalae shortly after we met. She was beautiful, fierce, and had quite a sharp tongue.
“For the longest time, that love was one-sided. Ishalae, being the dense and hard hearted elf she was, never noticed my affection.”
“Dense?” I mouthed. “I was dense?”
Vanvathar’s lips formed into a small smile, so I guessed the answer was yes.
“So, what changed, Vanvathar?” Alastair asked excitedly. “What formed Ishalae’s burning love for you?”
“A near death experience, actually.”
An anxious feeling drifted through the crowd.
Death was always an uneasy topic for the Western and Eastern elves alike. We knew the answer to just about everything in the world. We knew when time began, and if math was invented or discovered. We even know whether the chicken or the egg came first.
But we had no clue about what happens after we die. That scared us more than we cared to admit.
Alastair smiled, trying to mask his appalled expression.
“Can you tell everyone what happened?”
Despite me and Vanvathar’s bickering, there were a few things we agreed on. We loved each other, we couldn’t wait until we were older so we could gain control over more types of earth and air, “Divergent'' was the best book humans have ever written, Dryadalis Terram needed ice cream, and we don’t ever talk about the near-death experience.
I didn’t ever want to talk about my fear that was triggered on that day. Vanvathar, thank his empathetic soul, understood that.
Vanvathar glanced at me, waiting for me to start. His eyes demanded,
“You tell the story.”
Ah. Maybe he wasn’t as empathetic as I thought.
I glared back at him. I was not talking about that day.
It only took a few seconds until I won the “looking contest” (or was it a glaring contest? You humans and your strange terms). Of course I did. It wasn’t in Vanvathar’s nature to glare at me.
“We were in Hominem Mundum. In Vienna, Virginia. We were talking on the street when a group of elves attacked us.”
It took only those words to trigger the memory.
“Why in the name of Queen Lythienne are we stopping here?” Vanvathar askd.
He tried to sound calm and kind, but I could hear it in his voice. He didn’t like it here. That just convinced me to stay in Vienna a little longer.
Vanvathar stacked his fists in front of his body, then moved them slightly. A knife blade-like shape of compressed air formed in front of his body. He made an “L” gesture with his left hand, then pointed it to the left.
The blade-like shape of air flew towards the left, cutting a slit halfway through a nearby metal statue. It creaked, loudly.
I rolled my eyes, hardly believing Vanvathar’s stupidity.
“Sure. Keep using your Easter elf air powers to cut into that statue. I’m sure you’ll have a happy twelve months in prison.”
Vanvathar being the elf he was, stopped cutting into the statue. He didn’t look one bit affected by my sarcasm. Was this elf bulletproof?
“I just needed to brush up on my training. Um. . .”
Vanvathar seemed to want to change the subject, like I actually made a good point.
“Besides, you never answered my question.”
His tone, which sounded like he was comforting a puppy, made me annoyed. Those were my usual feelings toward Vanvathar. He was just too calm. Like there was no life in him. I wondered why we hadn’t gone on different paths yet.
Perhaps it was because I had been living in Hominem Mundum with Vanvathar for years now. In fact, we had been exploring together for so long that at this point, I couldn’t even manage to picture living in Hominem Mundum without him.
“It was some sort of impulse, I guess. I just felt drawn to this place.”
Despite the fact that it was nighttime, the summer heat lingered in the air. I wiped off the sweat from my brown and fiddled with my clothes, still uncomfortable in them. I wanted to find the human who invented skinny jeans and chuck a rock at them.
“Besides, as far as human places go, this place isn’t so ba--”
I was cut off by around a dozen figures storming down the sidewalk.
As they got closer, I realized they were elves. Humans can’t turn the pavement into molten-red lava or fly by making a tornado at their feet.
The lava snaked across the sidewalk, slowly burning a path toward. . .
Vanvathar tackled me only a second before the place I was standing on turned into lava. He sent us sprawling into the street, where a car almost ran us over.
“What the f--” I started to say, but Vanvathar clamped a hand over my mouth.
“Now’s not the time for cursing,” Vanvathar chided me.
“I almost got burnt by lava and ran over by a car. The Western and Eastern elves are in an apparent truce just because they want to capture or kill us! And you’re worried about me cussing?”
“A ‘thank you’ for saving your life would be nice,” Vanvathar prompted.
“Thanks,” I grumbled. “Can you get off me now?”
“Wait. I need to tell you something.”
Vanvathar stared into my hazel eyes, like he was searching for something that wasn’t there.
“Well, stop stalling and get on with it!” I demanded.
“Look, you need to get out of here. I don’t want you getting hurt.”
I tilted my head in confusion.
“Why do you care? You hate me, just like how I hate you.”
“How dense can you get? I love you, Ishalae.”
I was about to protest. Since when did Vanvathar love me?
Memories flooded into my head. Vanvathar studying my face. Him blushing when I complimented him (which wasn’t that often). Him being an awkward mess around me all of the time.
That one hug we had shared. Vanvathar’s strong but nimble arms had wrapped around me, and I had felt safe in his embrace. Like I had come home after a long day. But we had held each other for a moment too long, and we had let go quickly, blushing like idiots.
The images of the past stopped, and a pair of lips pressed on mine.
Electricity seemed to spark between us. I felt tendrils of emotion curl its way through my body, twisting my heart into putty.
Vanvathar let go much too soon.
“Go!” he shouted at me. “They’re coming for you! I know you’re great with your powers and even better at hand to hand combat, but you’re going to die if you stay.”
“But you'll die!” I managed to say. “You’ll be outnumbered. I’m not leaving you! I--”
I didn’t know what to say.
Vanvathar shook his head.
“I’ll be fine. Get out--”
The elves reached us. A blast of air ricocheted me into the air, before I could attack. Apparently, Vanvathar was incorrect about the elves wanting to kill me. They know that I can’t die from a silly little fall--
My body sank into a neighborhood pool like it was stone. I felt my bones crack from the impact of the fall. Fear tightened in my chest, spreading toward the rest of my body. My heart beat so fast that I felt like it was running a marathon.
I was submerged in the element that killed my parents. That thought just increased my nausea and fear, mixing it into a smoothie of emotions.
I couldn’t tell which way was up. My lungs were bursting, desperate for oxygen.
Fear can make you do irrational things. I inhaled on instinct, and I immediately regretted it.
Water filled my lungs. In the back of my head, I wondered if I was going to die this way.
My chest was about to burst when the entire pool rattled. I felt the impact of an explosion. I knew in my heart that it was from the elves’ battle.
I lost consciousness.
Air filled my lungs, and I was quite surprised that they still worked. I coughed and rubbed my eyes. I coughed again, feeling like my lungs was an engine on the verge of breaking down. Apparently, they didn’t work as well as I thought.
I finally noticed Vanvathar’s eyes on mine.
“Vanvathar?” I whispered.
Vanvathar’s dark brown hair was coated with soot, and patches of his skin were burnt. His eyes brimmed with tears.
But he was alive.
“You need rest. You almost died. If I hadn’t survived that expolsion. . .” Vanvathar shook his head. “You were in that pool, drowning. Unconscious. Not breathing.”
I wasn’t sure whether to be touched by how much he cared or scold him for taking care of me and clearly not resting after he almost died himself.
“You need rest, too.” I murmured. “You’ve been taking care of me for too long.”
I gestured at the sunlight.
“Is that your way of saying ‘thank you’?” Vanvathar asked.
I laughed, sounding like a dying walrus.
I kissed his cheek.
“That’s my way of saying ‘thank you’.”
Vanvathar touched his cheek, staring at me as if I had a second head. I was just as surprised, but I didn’t regret it. It just felt right.
I quickly changed the subject.
“Aren’t you feeling weak from surviving an explosion?”
Vanvathar took my hand.
“How could I feel weak when I’m taking care of my only strength?”
Vanvathar’s voice snapped me back to the present.
“We nursed each other’s wounds for a while. Talking. Apologizing. Kissing.”
Vanvathar shot a quick look at me.
“Guilty,” I said, still dazed from the memories.
“Ishalae’s feelings changed, although I’m not sure how.”
“I think that’s what happens when an elf confesses his love for you, is willing to sacrifice his life for you, kisses you, then saves your own life.” I mused.
“Love is a strange thing.” Vanvathar agreed.
“Well,” Alastair chuckled. “That was one heck of a story.”
There were murmurs of agreement across the room. Someone started clapping, and the other elves joined in.
An elf that seemed no more than five hundred years old called out, “Did you get a happily ever after ending?”
“I’m not sure. That all depends on one thing.”
I fixed my gaze on the queen and king. They’re faces were unreadable. What did they think?
Before I could ask, Vanvathar beat me to the punch.
“Will the war resume?”