We walked down the long narrow alley, which was unpleasantly dark and damp despite the full moons light and the summer breeze. The coble stones glistened slightly, and I found myself entranced by the way the horses shoes clicked on them; the only steps I could hear because Ton’s and Thieves’ were no where to be heard.
When we reached the street, it was not as grand as the ones I had first seen, though everything was still as beautiful. This road was narrower, and instead of shops there were houses.
Thieves lead us down the winding walk, glancing over his shoulder now and then to make sure we hadn’t fallen behind. Finally he stopped and turned to face us.
“Wait here.” He said nothing else, barely spared us a glance as he walked inside a wide house with a beautiful wooden sign inscribed ‘Eternal Inn’
The name of the Inn made me roll my eyes. I wanted nothing Eternal about my stay here. When Thieves came back outside, he bowed again, not bothering to put his hand over his heart.
“Everything is taken care of.” He said dully, sounding as though he wished he could be anywhere but here. Which he probably did, by the way he kept throwing looks at Ton.
Ton held his hand out to me and helped me dismount my horse. He did not release my hand as he handed the reins over to Thieves and walked inside the Inn.
I said nothing, letting Ton lead as he wished to do. Obviously he was afraid for me, though I had no idea why. The council man said that I was safe here and that no one could bring me harm, though those words did not make me feel safe.
Once inside, I began to relax, though only a little. The room looked like any house, opening up into a beautifully decorated living room. On the east wall there was a stone fire place, with a small fire flickering and throwing warmth threw the room.
All the tables were made of oak, and the floor was adorned with large deep purple and blue throw pillows, half of which were occupied by elfin men. They all looked up at me, their eyes never turning to Ton, and burning with that same heat filled gaze. I looked to the floor, trying to ignore them.
“Ah, Arthiton Fron and Ren Tessier, here is your room key.” A thin elfin woman came from behind a counter to our right, which was cluttered with papers and nick-knacks of horses and fairies. She had hair the color of wheat grass that had a green tone to it, waving around her curvy body. Her bands framed her alarmingly violet eyes.
“Thank you.” Ton mumbled, not bothering to bow as he led me threw the living, then a small dinning room, and finally to a flight of stairs. At the top were the guest rooms. Ton stopped in front of the last door in the hallway on the left. I noticed that every door was marked with an animal instead of a number. Ours was marked with a dove, as was our key.
“What is going on?” I whispered once we were inside and Ton has safely locked the door. He turned to me and led me to one of the two beds.
“Sit.” Was all he said and then he was at the window, looking out and making a low growling sound as he pulled the drapes shut. He turned to look at me then, his eyes torn as if he didn’t want to tell me what was on his mind.
He sighed and sat on the other bed so he was facing me, placing his head in his hands. It was then that I saw how tired he really was. I wanted to reach out and touch his cheek, to show him comfort, but my hand would not move. I curled my fingers into al fist instead.
“My people are good people.” He finally said, his voice a little gruff. “They would never harm an innocent, but…” He looked up at me and his eyes turned to ice. I knew they were not cruel for me, but for someone else. He sighed and placed his head in his hands again.
“You don’t have to explain.” I tried to sooth him, smiling a little. But Ton just shook his head and stood, pacing back and forth in the small space between the beds.
“Yes, I do. You are not safe, despite what you were told. I know that you know what I mean.” He paused long enough to throw me a look, and I nodded. He was right. I did not feel completely safe here.
“The men here…they would never do anything to you…not without your permission.” He hissed the word threw his teeth. “When I was a young, a man came to our town from the human realm. He brought his daughter with him. She was very beautiful, and the men here desired her. You could see it in the way they looked at her.”
He looked at me again, but it was just a fleeting look, and then he was staring at the floor. I remembered the way that the men had look at m down stairs…the way Thieves and Rod had looked at me…
“The man told his daughter not to go any where alone because it was not safe, but she did not listen. She thought that because everyone swore them no harm inside the city that she was safe to go about alone. But she was wrong.”
Ton walked to the window, drawing it back just an inch so he could look out onto the street. He was quiet for a few minutes, but those few minutes were long enough that terrible thoughts were running threw my head, thoughts that he confirmed when he continued without looking at me.
“The girl went to view the shops around the town center, wanting to buy a dress she could take back home with her. There was a man there, one of mine, and he approached her with flowers. She was human, and not used to the charm of elves.
“For the rest of the time she was here, he would bring her around the city, showing her all the places she wanted to see, telling her that she was beautiful, lying that he loved her. When she was comfortable enough to let him get close to her, he used her weakness against her, and tricked her into giving him permission; just enough to kiss her.
“That was all it took for him to have control, Ren. Just one kiss, and she was doomed. We have magic, and it is very easy to manipulate an unprotected mind. And he used his magic to plant thoughts of approval into her head. And then he…he…”
He did not go on, and he didn’t need to. I knew what he was getting at. Ton looked at me, searching my eyes for the understanding that I had. I cleared my throat and nodded.
“Her father found her body outside the city, where their promises of protection meant nothing, though that did not matter, because he tricked her into allowing what happened to happen. She was not dead, but what happened to her was far worse than death. I still remember her father carrying her threw town…her hair was matted with mud and her naked skin was almost completely hidden by the bruises…”
His eyes never left mine as he told me this. I was speechless and I could feel the shock on my face. I took a breath, which made my head spin, and wondered how long I had been holding it in…
“But…why?” I gasped. “Why would he do that?” I couldn’t wrap my head around it. Yes, the elfin man had tricked her to get what he wanted, but why hurt her?
“He did it because she was his sport. Here was this beautiful girl that no one was aloud to touch, or even think about touching in any way, without her permission. And so he made a game of it; getting off on the idea of working around the rules. He made her believe that he cared for her, and that was just what he wanted. And once he had her, he did what ever he wanted because that was his prize…the goal that he worked for all those weeks. And he took it without care or regard for her at all.”
“But surely they aren’t all like that?” I said, a little breathless. Ton closed his eyes and shook his head. When he opened them again, he came and sat beside me one the bed, looking at his hands.
“No, not all of them. His name was Mercedes, the elf that harmed her. He was the first one to think of a way to bend the rules without breaking them, and because of that, there was nothing done to him, no punishment, because he used magic to make her willing. And when others learned of the trick, they tried it too. Some succeeded, but no one was as bad off as that girl.
“What was her name?” I asked gently, trying to comfort him. This time, I managed to make my hands move, though they felt as though they were made of stone, and placed it over Ton’s. He took it absentmindedly, playing with the silver ring on my finger. His eye brows pinched together.
“I promised I would never tell you.” His voice was just barely a whisper.
“What? What do you mean?” Why would he promise anyone not to tell me that story?
“Her name was Rosaline Black.” And when he said the name I knew why. I felt my body completely drain of any warmth it had left.
“My mother?” The words were voiceless, only mouthed because I was too confused and drained to speak. “My real mother?”
Ton simply nodded.
My breath came out in a gust. I knew my mother’s name. When Helen adopted me, she needed proof, and my mother’s name was on the documents, both printed and signed. As much as I loved Helen and fully accepted her as my mother, I often looked at that piece of paper, just o I could see my birth mothers signature; to prove that she was real.
My birth father’s signature was not on the paper.
“Then…does that mean…that this Mercedes is….my…my…” My voice choked off. Ton squeezed my hand, looking ashamed.
“Yes, he is your father.” He said in a whisper so full of anguish it made my heart hurt. But I could not feel sorry for myself. I felt betrayed…lied to…and by the person that I thought I knew the most.
“You knew…all these years you knew and you never told me.” I whispered, the accusing words sounding harsh and cold as ice. Each one seemed to stab him like a dagger.
“Please try to understand. I did not know until much later on, years after Helen adopted you when we were playing at your house for Halloween. I went inside to get the bag you got, remember? And I heard your Helen and Van talking about your mother wanting to come back for you because she felt bad for what happened. She never wanted to give you away.
“She was young when she had you, and her father made her keep her pregnancy a secret, and when you were born, he sent you back to the place that he thought you belonged. But your mother, after she turned eighteen, wanted you back.
“When Van sensed that I was standing outside the door, he brought me in and made me swear I would never tell you. He said it would be too much for you to learn.”
I took my hand out of his, none too gently, and moved away from him, unable to look at his face.
“You should have told me.” I said, blinking back the tears of betrayal. I though of my mother, wonder what it must have been like for her, to give away her child. I didn’t even know what she looked like. The word mother always brought memories of Helen, and that just made the betrayal all the worse.
All the times I asked her if I would ever be able to meet my mother, she told me that she wanted nothing to do with me. How much of my life was a lie?
“I wanted to. But if I did, it meant that I could never be aloud to see you again.”
I looked up at him in alarm.
“My parents told you that?” And when he just nodded I felt such over whelming anger that I wanted to hit something, which shocked me. I hated violence more than anyone else in this realm.
“Do you see why I couldn’t tell you?” Ton took my hand again, examining my fingers as he spoke. “I couldn’t risk not seeing you.”
I blushed when I remembered earlier yesterday in the classroom, back before everything took an awful turn for the worst.
“So my mother did want me.” That gave me some small piece of mind. “And my father was and elf…which means…”
Ton’s eyes met mine and he nodded. “Yes, you are half of my kind. If it wasn’t for elfin blood running threw your veins, the only type of magic you would be able to do is making potions.” He paused, looking at me for such a long time it made me want to turn away. “Promise me you will not go any where without me while we are here. I could not bear it if anything were to happen to you.”
His hand reached up so he could tuck a stray piece of hair behind my ear, and I leaned into his hand.
“Why is this happening?” I whispered, closing my eyes to keep the new tears from falling. As much as I was upset with Helen, I loved her and the worry I felt for her was just as strong as it had ever been.
Ton did not answer me. Instead he looked to the door and stood, moving gracefully over to it. He opened it before the maid outside could knock.
“I’ve brought you dinner.” The girl said in a high, melodic tone. She was the youngest elf I had seen and probably the most beautiful I would ever see.
Her hair was cut short and straight to her shoulders with no layers, the color such a light blond it was almost white. Her eyes were large round deep blue things, so innocent it almost made me smile. They paired well with her pale skin and small body.
“Thank you, Anna.” Ton smiled at the child and took the tray. She couldn’t be older than thirteen in elfin years. Her eyes looked to mine and she smiled.