by J. Falconer
Disclaimer: Xena, Gabrielle etc belong to MCA/Universal and Ren Pics, and anyone else who has an interest in Xena Warrior Princess, not me.
Copyright ã 2000: The characters in here belong to me. All rights reserved. No part or whole of this work may be copied or used in any shape, form, or manner whatsoever without the author's express written consent. If you want to use them, all you have to do is ask … nicely.
Violence disclaimer: This story depicts scenes of violence and/or their aftermath. Bit more graphic than usual (enter, stranger, at your riske – here there be icky bits), but readers who are disturbed by or sensitive to this type of depiction may wish to read something other than this story.
Love/Sex warning: This story depicts a love/sexual relationship between two consenting adult women. If you are under 18 years of age or if this type of story is illegal in the state or country in which you live - move along, move along, nothing for you here ...
Major vote of thanks to my ever patient beta readers Foreva Xena and Diamonddog for taking valuable time out to read this. Without their support this would still be an idea floating around in my head. BTW, please remember to feed the bard …
It had taken hours, but they were finally there.
It was early morning in the Elven city of Shimmering Moon. To the untrained eye, the city was not a city at all. The buildings the peace loving forest elves lived, worked and played in were all either skilfully concealed in the thick, ancient trees, or the trees themselves. The farms they had passed through on the way to the city were not farms in the conventional sense; there were no open fields of green crops. The industrious farmers chose to plant their crops in and amongst the trees, at one with the nature they worked with. Elven magicians for generations had perfected their arts so that the crops were always bountiful and no mouth was ever left hungry.
Nightshade, awestruck, had taken all this in, wide eyed, drinking in the surroundings with her thirsty glowing blue eyes. She remembered as a young half elf that her mother had always spoken about the elven city she had called home, recounting tales of all its beauty to her eager young daughter. The young Nightshade had always taken this in with a wistful wonder in her eyes, desperately wanting to go and see her mother’s homelands. Then … then her father had stepped in and her mother had been no more.
Sunstar smiled inwardly, seeing her beautiful lover take in all the sights of the outskirts of the city with amazement, clearly lost in the splendor of what she was seeing.
"It’s beautiful, isn’t it?" Sunstar asked her companion gently, small smile of pride playing about her mouth.
"Yes, it is," replied Nightshade almost overwhelmed, obviously at a loss for words. "My mother once told me about the cities of the Forest Elves, but until now I had no idea …"
Nightshade trailed off, thought unvoiced. Sunstar nodded in quiet understanding. There were people who had heard about Shimmering Moon, but until they were deep within it, they did not believe that one could work with nature, did not have to attempt to tame her to live with her.
"It’s your home now," replied Sunstar easily. "Our home." She pulled Nightshade closer, if that was possible, and gently slipped an arm around he half elf, loving the feel of the slim, muscular body in her arms, utterly content.
Nightshade nodded, wanting to believe her young princess, but unable to stop the worm of doubt that was slowly working its way into her consciousness. "Our home," she repeated wonderingly, tasting the words. Nightshade had never had a home before; she tended to think of her time in Dragonar as a place she had lived at for a while.
They walked further, and were finally on the outskirts of the city itself.
Again, Nightshade drank in the sights with a sense of wonder.
The city was large, by any standards, melded into the forest itself. The elves were creatures who loved beauty, so with this in mind, the elven magicians had sung to the forest, trees and living wood of the buildings, linking them together, so the entire city was a pleasing meld of the most delicate sculptures, verdant life and practical construction. The breeze was softly scented by the smell of fresh wood, fires from the smoke equally fragrant, floating gently towards the travellers.
Once in the city, the guards relaxed their vigilance, knowing that no harm would come to their princess, although the uneasy air they had over the presence of a half drow in the most sacred heart of the Forest Elves did not abate.
Sunstar seemed oblivious to this as she and Nightshade strolled along, hand in hand, Sunstar pointing out the different sights of the city to the fresh eyes that never ceased to fill her with gentle amusement at their mild exploration of the world around her.
At this early hour of the morning, citizens were visible, going about their daily routines as they had for countless generations.
Sunstar paid no attention to them, instead smiling lovingly at her companion who was still looking all around them with quiet, alert interest.
Nightshade had been raised by the drow, and to pay attention to all her surroundings, never trusting anything to be as it seemed. She noticed that the sleepy inhabitants of the city often stopped to stare at the princess and her retinue … and more importantly, they saw that a dark elf was among them and had such an apparently intimate relationship with their crown Princess. Though not as obviously unkind and blatantly hostile as their drow kin, they did nothing to hide their shock and apparent disgust at seeing in her the presence of their mortal enemy.
The half elf was keenly aware of the stares and the whispered shocked comments.
Sunstar appeared oblivious, intent only on sharing the wonders of her home with her lover as she had wanted for so long to do. The elfmaid saw only the citizens who smiled in respectful greeting to her, knowing that they would accept Nightshade unhesitatingly just as she herself did.
Behind them, Jarrod was a different story. His face was mask like, cold brown eyes revealing nothing. He could feel the skin between his shoulder blades itch with the stares of the citizens he knew felt as he did regarding the presence of the drow. He was a loyal elf, willing to give his life to the Elf King, thinking only of the safety of his home, answering to no one but his King and the Captain of the Royal Guard, Windwalker.
He did not know if Windwalker knew that Sunstar’s heart belonged to a drow, but he would ensure that if the knowledge were not freely available, it soon would be. He would take his leave of the Princess, and report back to the Captain of the Guard, and trust in his commander to … rectify the situation.
The smouldering embarrassment he felt in escorting the Princess and her Demon Harlot finally flared into a deep seated revulsion. He quietly made his way around the back of Sunstar’s escort, who he knew were as uncomfortable as he was, that he knew felt the same way, to the side of the Princess.
"Your Highness?" he asked stiffly.
Sunstar broke off her conversation with Nightshade to stare at him with a raised eyebrow, her eyes icy cold. What was he going to berate her for this time?
"Yes, Jarrod?" she asked with forced politeness, determined to keep a civil tongue in her head, and not strangle the elf for his unconcealed disgust at her companion. Nightshade looked on uncomfortably.
"I will take my leave of you now, Your Highness. We are within the city, and you are safe," he said coldly, expressionless brown eyes glued to the shining emerald green of the Princess.
Sunstar inwardly raised her eyebrows. It was highly irregular. Although crime was almost unknown in the city, it was customary to escort any person of noble blood to the palace. It was more a ritual than anything else, but one still strictly observed. Particularly since Sunstar herself had been taken by the drow. Feeling Nightshade so close, knowing of the half elf’s discomfort in the presence of Sunstar’s bodyguard, the gentle Princess decided not to publicly chastise her marginally obedient bodyguard.
"Of course Jarrod," she replied, equally formally. "You are dismissed." She felt nothing but relief at his departure. If he could not learn to control his tongue, she would request Windwalker find her another bodyguard.
Jarrod gave her the mildest hint of a salute, bordering on gross insubordination and obviously disrespectful. He turned on his heel, and stiffly walked away from them. As though it were a signal, her bodyguard formed into two neat lines, and marched off behind him. Sunstar had turned back to her lover, so fully captured by the gently glowing, flinching blue eyes, that she did not notice that she had not dismissed them. It did not matter anyway; they were quite close to the palace.
Nightshade watched their interaction with interest. It was clear that her presence was going to disrupt the elves, perhaps even divide them, and she began to think that perhaps her absence would be the kindest thing she could do for her beloved Elven Princess. Immediately, the pain that that thought brought was enough for her to draw in a sharp, hissing intake of breath, heart hammering.
Sunstar felt a sudden sliver of fear seep into her heart, and glanced at Nightshade, noting her pallor, the pain in her gentle blue eyes.
"Don’t you even think it," said Sunstar softly, emphatically. "Don’t you dare leave me!"
Sunstar was shocked. She knew that when Nightshade made up her mind to do something, she was absolutely unstoppable. Sudden terror that Nightshade would leave tore through her, and she threw herself into Nightshade’s arms as though it were to be the last time, put her head on the half elf’s chest and listened to the beat of her strong heart.
"Sunstar," murmured the half elf. "I promised you I would stay, and I will."
Nightshade’s voice was firm and confident, though inside she was quaking. She was tired of being the subject of ridicule, and cared so deeply for her young companion, that she would be willing to make any sacrifices for her. If Sunstar’s peace and long life meant that Nightshade would not stay, then she would leave.
Nightshade’s calm words were the balm that Sunstar’s soul sought. She breathed deeply of her lover’s scent, and smiled gently, fears abating, though a nagging doubt that Nightshade would remain with her began to work its way into her subconscious.
A tear almost unnoticed appeared at the corner of Sunstar’s eye, as the forest elf led her dark lover through the quiet city streets to the palace.
When they were almost there, more people had come out to greet the early morning in Shimmering Moon, and now they openly stopped and stared at the spectacle that greeted their disbelieving eyes. They all immediately looked aside when Nightshade turned to meet each one of them, eye to eye. Their cold gazes faltered and broke under the onslaught of such calm regard, and they all turned away, bar one old elf.
He glared openly at the half elf with considerable malice.
She met his cold grey eyes, glowing blue gaze calm and unafraid.
"You are the spawn of the Dark One!" he cried, and spat at her. "You are no one but a murderer! Your kind should all be destroyed!"
Nightshade met his eyes unflinchingly. She harboured the secret fear that he could be right, but did not turn away from him. She held tight to the thin thread of hope that Sunstar had given her, that she could make this home, and that their love for one another would be enough to overcome the obstacles facing them.
"I am half elf, not drow," she responded calmly. "I have done you no harm."
Sunstar stared at Nightshade, surprised; the half elf had never defended herself before against such unkindness, believing it to be fully justified. She was now more than mildly curious to find out what had happened to Nightshade while she was away.
The old man jeered at them, raining insults upon them, and spat at Nightshade again.
Calmly Nightshade turned around, and continued walking.
Sunstar stayed with her, internal set of eyebrows somewhere in her hairline.
"Nightshade," she began curiously. "You have changed. What happened while you were away?"
"I was helped by some kind people, and they helped me to find some peace," she replied softly, glancing down at her young lover, eyes hooded. She did not want to share any of the tortured details of her existence without Sunstar. It had been hard, so hard, living without her, and trying to find the tenuous peace that was now in her soul.
Sunstar saw the look, and had learned long ago not to try and draw more detail out of Nightshade than she was willing to give. Besides, she reasoned to herself, when Nightshade was willing to speak of her experiences, she would do so, and Sunstar would listen then. At the moment, the princess was still too overjoyed that Nightshade had returned to worry about such minor details.
Finally, they reached the palace.
It was a huge stand of ancient oak trees, trunks thick with age, standing straight and tall to the early morning blue sky. The elves had tunnelled them out and built delicate, almost ornamental bridges connecting the old trees, blended carefully into the backdrop of the forest. Close to the archway that formed the main door, two guards stood to either side of it, watching the entrance, more a formality than a true defending force.
When they saw the Princess and her lover approach, they snapped to attention, eyes widening slightly when they took in the fact that the dark haired elf had the glowing eyes of a drow.
The older of the two guards glanced at his companion, and they crossed their lances just before the Princess entered.
"Halt!" the older of the two cried.
Sunstar pulled her companion to a halt as the guard had instructed. She knew this was convention as far as new palace guests were concerned, not thinking for a second that she was trying to escort the most feared enemy of the Forest Elves into the very heartland of the Forest Elf Royal House.
"Are you true?" asked the younger of the two suspiciously, hiding his smouldering hatred for the drow from the two elves.
"I am true," replied Nightshade formally. She stood calm and relaxed before them, still gently gripping Sunstar’s hand.
"We cannot let you pass," broke in the elder quickly, "Unless you swear loyalty to the crown."
Nightshade thought for a second. It was no problem; she was loyal to Sunstar.
"I will do that," she said firmly, quietly meeting their eyes.
"Do you swear to uphold the laws of the Forest Elf and remain loyal to the Ruling House?"
"I swear," said Nightshade solemnly. Sunstar smiled happily at her lover.
"Then you may pass," said the older guard, almost unwillingly. The young guard pulled back his lance, elder following a heartbeat later, eyes revealing none of his loathing.
Sunstar and Nightshade only had eyes for one another as they entered the castle.
"These are my chambers," said Sunstar, smiling, as she opened the door, and stepped aside for Nightshade to enter.
Nightshade quietly entered the room, looking all around her at the large chamber curiously. The floor was smooth stone, the walls wooden, but appearing to be also made of smooth stone. A huge four poster bed stood to one side, on the wall opposite it a huge window looking out into the city below. It was nothing like the chambers she had had back in Dragonar; they had been spartan, no trace of her personality present. It had merely been a place for her to sleep for a few hours before she went back out on patrol. She eyed the contents of the room carefully, which had the distinct character of the Forest Elf Princess.
Sunstar leant in the doorway, watching her lover with a half smile as she walked around the room, picking up objects, inspecting them closely, then replacing them.
The Princess slipped into the room behind Nightshade, and pulled the rope by the door, which would summon a servant up to the room. She was not disappointed, as a servant was politely tapping on the door for admission a few moments later. Sunstar slipped the door open a crack, and asked the young elfmaid to deliver a message to her father.
"Tell the King that his daughter has returned and would like to speak to him," she instructed softly.
The elfmaid bowed politely, then backed away to do her mistress’s bidding. Sunstar smiled, and closed the door. She did not hear Nightshade slip up behind her. She only felt the half elf’s strong arms slip about her waist, tugging at her shirt, soft lips on her ear.
Sunstar turned and slid her arms around the half elf’s neck, emerald green eyes darkening with desire. She pulled Nightshade’s head down for a kiss, tasting her, breathing ragged. She tugged at the half elf’s clothes, coherent thought vanishing as her hands struggled with the fastenings, seeking the smooth skin and muscle, the sight of which had tormented her so long ago.
She was only dimly aware of Nightshade pulling her shirt off, lost in the feeling of the strong hands on her body. Nightshade’s hands were everywhere as they stumbled over to the bed, lost in each other, the sensation of skin on skin, lips teasing, kissing and tasting one another.
Nightshade’s powerful body reared up over the Elven Princess, and Sunstar felt herself swept away by the raging torrent of pure sensation.
Nightshade, who she had dreamt about, cried for, wanted desperately to touch her was here, loving her in all the ways she had ever imagined.
Some time later, Nightshade lay back with her young lover in her arms, temporarily sated, dark heart at last fleetingly at ease with Sunstar. She loved Sunstar with all her heart, but still could not shake the fear of causing Sunstar pain. They would not be able to stay here; the King and people would never accept her. She would have to try and convince Sunstar to leave, or leave herself.
"Hmmm," murmured Sunstar, content, shifting in Nightshade’s arms, sensation of skin on skin causing another explosion of desire to tear through the dark elf. Hungry hands roamed all over Sunstar’s willing body, and Nightshade leant around to kiss her again, forestalling any comments that Sunstar might have made.
Sunstar, for her part was deliriously happy. She had finally been able to touch and tease Nightshade as she had longed to do, and was sure that her father would bow to her wishes to marry Sunstar once he saw for himself what Nightshade was really like, and how happy she made his daughter. She was just beginning to explore her lover’s body again, when a polite knock sounded on the door.
Uncharacteristically angry, Sunstar growled, "What is it?"
The door hesitantly opened, and the serving girl Sunstar had sent to find her father cautiously put her head in the room. Sunstar pulled the sheets up so she was covered, but Nightshade lay back brazenly naked, small, satisfied grin playing about her lips. The serving girl blushed, trying to pull her eyes away from the half elf’s full breasts.
Sunstar saw the direction the elfmaid’s eyes were straying in, noting the luscious body of her lover. Her eyes darkened in further irritation, and a considerable amount of jealousy.
"Yes," she hissed, "What is it?"
"His Majesty has sent for you," the serving maid stammered, blushing, eyes downcast.
"Thankyou," Sunstar ground out, then saw that the girl was lingering in the doorway. "Well? Get out!"
"Yes, your Highness," said the elfmaid almost inaudible. "His Highness wishes to see you in the throne room in an hour."
With those words, she backed out of the door, closing it with a soft snick. Sunstar fumed. The girl had been making eyes at her gorgeous lover. Well, it was no problem really. The girl would find herself in one of the King’s furthest holdings by the end of the day.
Sunstar turned to Nightshade, unable to tear her eyes away from the half elf’s naked form. "Father can wait," she murmured, and Nightshade laughed as Sunstar leant in close again, hungry hands not at all sated by the recent bout of lovemaking.
When Jarrod had left the silly Princess, it had been with the intention of reporting all that he had seen to his superior, Captain Windwalker. Jarrod intended to tell him that the Princess was in love with a female drow, and clearly planned on marrying her.
Outrage and simmering hostility would not leave him as he strode through the city streets, unseeing, princess’s honour guard trailing close behind him. The forest elves had had peace for centuries, safe from the prying of the outside world. The people were flourishing, and finally they were able to forget the agony of the Kin wars, which had been fought so long ago. The Kin Wars! Elf had been set against elf, and they had fought the vicious attacks launched by the Drow and each other.
They had almost lost that war, the drow had been powerful and plenty, with a bloodlust that remained unmatched by any of the races – even humans. They had finally repelled the drow, and retreated deep into the heart of the magical Elven Forest, resisting all attempts by any other races to contact them. Serenity had returned, and apart from the odd skirmish with the scouting parties of the Drow who ventured too close to their borders, they had finally had peace.
Then the Crown Princess Sunstar had been kidnapped by none other than the Drow. Jarrod still clearly remembered that day. The Princess had escaped from him, and hared off into the forest with her young friend, then gotten herself kidnapped, and her friend killed. He had searched through the forest, finding no sign of the two elfmaids. Then he had been pulled aside by Windwalker and told that the body of Meagan had been found, but there was no trace of Princess Sunstar. The disappointment in his Captain’s eyes had been terrible to bear.
Jarrod had not been able to forgive himself.
When Sunstar had stumbled to the border of the Elven lands several weeks later, Jarrod had been deep in the forest, still searching for the young princess, so had missed the final battle. He had heard the whispers about someone called Nightshade, but had not taken them seriously, nor had anyone else, dismissing them as thoughts from a mind grown unstable with being held captive by the Drow.
But he had been wrong. They had all been horribly wrong.
There was a Nightshade.
She was a real.
She was a drow.
Jarrod snorted with disgust. Of all the things the Princess had to do now, it was run off with a drow.
He stalked into the soldier’s quarters, unmindful of the young elves quickly snapping a respectful salute to a senior commander, one who was held in high regard by the King, second only to the Captain of the Guard Windwalker himself. Absently, still mulling over his angry thoughts, Jarrod returned the salute, and continued on his way to his superior’s office.
Once outside, he knocked on the door deferentially, and waited until the deep voice within told him to enter.
He opened the door, eyeing the familiar clutter of the Captain’s office, and approached the desk where a busily writing elf, dressed in brown guard’s leathers, only sign of rank being the hawk on his breast, sat easily in his chair. He was reading reports, making notes on each.
"Excuse me Captain," began Jarrod formally, bringing his lanky and scarred body to attention.
"Yes Jarrod," said Captain Windwalker smoothly, deep voice oddly melodic. His scarred hands stilled as he gave his second in command his full attention.
"There’s something I thought you might like to know Sir," began Jarrod quietly. "The Princess returned to the city this morning."
Windwalker leaned back in his chair, eyeing the elf curiously, handsome face with a half smile for the young Princess. He was an easygoing elf, with a very shrewd, calm mind that the King had found invaluable on many occasions. Quite fond of the young Princess, he had hoped that time would heal whatever wounds the drow had imposed on her gentle mind. Perhaps she would even come to love him as much as he loved her, and bow to her father’s wishes for them both to marry.
"Jarrod," he said easily, "I gathered that by your presence. Now what’s wrong?"
He had seen the tense set to his second in command’s shoulders, and was quite curious to know what it was. Jarrod was an excellent soldier, one of the best, but quite prone to displays of temper and no small amount of emotion in recounting tales.
"The Princess was not alone," replied Jarrod dramatically, and paused.
Windwalker sighed inwardly. There was Jarrod’s theatrical streak again.
"Of course not," he said, frowning, deliberately misunderstanding. "You came back with her."
"Sir," said Jarrod admonishingly, brown eyes flashing rage. Windwalker straightened.
"When we were out last night, we found her mysterious Nightshade," said Jarrod, unable to keep the anger out of his tone, then paused again. Windwalker let the silence stretch out, then smiled slightly, carefully hiding his tension at this news.
"And?" he asked calmly, raising an eyebrow.
"Nightshade is a female drow," said Jarrod emphatically, still standing at attention, eyes boring into the wall above Windwalker’s head.
Inwardly, Windwalker started, outwardly he remained calm. He had only half expected this. When Sunstar had returned home, she had refused to give any details of her imprisonment, saying only that she had had help in getting out of Dragonar. She had not said who had helped her. It was Elven prejudice that had made them all think that Nightshade had been a prisoner, perhaps an elf, more likely a creature of some other race.
"I don’t like this so far, but I imagine Nightshade will stay for a while, then leave again," said Windwalker easily, seeing the naked hatred flare up in Jarrod’s eyes again. An internal eyebrow raised at this.
"No Sir," said Jarrod firmly. "They are quite clearly in love, and Nightshade had plans to stay for quite a while."
Windwalker lost the slight smile that had been playing about the corners of his mouth.
"Really? And how do you know that they love one another and it’s not just a flight of fancy from the Princess?"
"Sir, their behaviour on the way back to the city made it quite clear that this was no childishness of the Princess."
Windwalker sat back and thought for a moment. Sunstar was a gentle elf, very kind and loving, quite young, that was true. If Jarrod was right, and he often was, despite his limited ability in controlling his emotions, then this was a matter that could be of some concern to the elven monarchy. Nightshade was a drow. Even though she was a creature that was apparently gentle, they did not know for certain what her motives were for helping the Princess. It could be some gross plot contrived by the drow to annihilate the Forest Elves.
He tapped a long forefinger on his desk.
"Thankyou Jarrod, that will be all," he said smoothly, expressionless face revealing nothing of his inner turmoil. Jarrod saluted smartly, turned on his heel, and left his commander’s office.
If Jarrod was right, then it spelt the end of his ambition to claim the Elven throne in due course, not to mention certain turmoil for the peaceful Forest Elves. He had to bring this disturbing news to his King.
He got up out of his chair, stretching comfortably, inwardly cursing the amount of time spent sitting at his desk. He would rather have been out on active duty inspecting the borders and outposts of Elven lands, than stuck with reports for most of the day. He strode purposefully from his office, intent on seeking an audience with the King.
As he left the room, he did not see Jarrod lurking in the shadows of the corridor, hatred, loathing and anger shining bright in his glittering brown eyes.
Darkwood, son of Soaringhawk and Fallingstar, King of the Elves, stood staring out of his office window. A stack of reports sat on his desk, mostly unread, the top one lying forgotten, falling to the wayside when he had agreed to see is Captain of the Royal Guard, Windwalker.
The news Windwalker had brought had not been good.
Sunstar had returned to Shimmering Moon after one of her usual night excursions to the place the drow had taken her from, but she had not returned alone.
She had brought one of them with her. A drow.
The mysterious Nightshade.
Darkwood, like Sunstar’s mother Morningstar, had been devastated when Windwalker brought him the news that Sunstar had been captured. He still remembered sitting in his office poring over his reports, almost impatiently waving Windwalker to a seat before his desk. He had kept reading, kept reading! for a few minutes, until Windwalker could wait no more and had softly spoken those fateful words. Darkwood could still hear them, the halting, stiff inflection from an elf that loved his daughter. They still rang in his mind:
"Sire," Windwalker had said. "Sunstar is missing. She slipped away from Jarrod this morning with Megan and did not return last night. We have found the bodies of Megan and the horses in the West Wood. It looks as though the Drow have taken her."
Darkwood loved his daughter, of that there was not doubt; his world had skidded to an abrupt halt when the heir to the throne, his beloved elfling Sunstar, had been taken.
His life had been empty for so many weeks while his daughter remained missing, whereabouts unknown, surrounding human cities promising to return her if she were found. Then an elven border patrol had stumbled onto her, and she had been distraught, screaming incoherently for them to help someone called Nightshade.
The elven scouts had gone looking for the mysterious Nightshade, but could find no trace, just the fallen bodies of a few broken drow.
Sunstar had sunk into her shell after that, heartbreaking for a father to see. She would not go outside without her honour guard. She had been an outgoing girl, easygoing and good natured, but after her experiences, pale and silent. Often she would slip out of the city in the afternoon with her honour guard, and not return until the next morning, eyes swollen from crying. Darkwood knew she often visited the place from where the drow had stolen her. Windwalker and Jarrod had kept him well informed.
In an effort to break her out of her shell, and get her used to interacting with her people, he had passed much of his normal day to day governing to Sunstar, and had been surprised at the maturity and fairness of her judgements. Debate with her had been lively and intelligent. The unprejudiced attitudes of a young, immature elfling had vanished, replaced by wisdom gained from firsthand knowledge of the outside world, by observing the way other races interacted with one another.
It broke his heart to see.
But this … this was too much.
Of all unholy things.
By Windwalker’s account, and Darkwood’s own sneaking suspicion, Sunstar loved this … this … this creature with all her heart, and it was not the love of a silly young elfling, but had the depth of a mature elf.
"Windwalker," he began slowly. "What do you make of this?"
Windwalker thought carefully about how to answer that. He looked at the tense set of the King’s shoulders, a youthful, tall, strong elf, with the same golden hair and gleaming emerald eyes as his daughter. It was clear from whom Sunstar had inherited her beautiful features. The King’s eyes were cold and expressionless, and he restlessly played with his quill, a sign of distress that all his advisors had come to recognise.
It was a difficult situation for Windwalker. If they accepted Sunstar and her lover, they would be bringing the most ancient and feared enemy of the forest elves directly into the heartland of the Forest Elves. If one assumed that Nightshade was indeed different to her compatriots, one had to ask why she was different? Would this apparent peacefulness remain with her always, or was it just some clever ruse to bring an assassin into Shimmering Moon?
"I think," Windwalker began carefully, "That we must keep a close eye on Nightshade until she proves herself."
Darkwood considered this for a moment. He knew exactly what Windwalker was suggesting they do: throw Nightshade in prison until they could decide what to do with her. He agreed wholeheartedly with that. The dangers of a drow on the loose could only make one shudder with disgust. He knew his daughter would be furious. Of late, she had been exceptionally level headed, but who could remain so where matters of the heart were concerned?
"Thank you Windwalker," he said distractedly, and waved a hand.
Windwalker knew he was being dismissed, so he stood to attention, bowed low and respectfully to his King, and carefully backed out of the King’s office. He was pleased that the King had been so calm about the entire situation. He knew Darkwood would resolve whatever problems arose to face them, and would be fair when passing judgement.
Darkwood stared sightlessly out of his office window at the people below, walking past as they had done for countless generations, pondering what to do with his young daughter and her atrocious choice of companions.
Just at that moment, there was a knock on the door.
"Enter," he called absently, eyes still on the city below, heedless of its otherworldly beauty.
"Sire?" came a hesitant young female voice from behind him.
Darkwood turned, and saw a young slip of an elfmaid. A gentle elf, he smiled encouragingly at the young elfmaid, so unlike both his confident daughters. She was shy; she knew she was speaking to the most powerful Elven Magician King of all time. When he saw her, he was reminded of his own young son, so long ago.
"Yes, child?" he asked encouragingly, smiling gently.
"Your Highness," she began, eyes downcast. "Princess Sunstar has requested and audience for herself and her companion."
Darkwood’s eyes narrowed, and his smile slipped.
"Of course," he replied easily, forcing calm, not wishing to scare the elfling. "Please tell her to meet me in an hour’s time in the throne room."
"Yes, Sire," she said softly, backing out of the room, hands trembling, almost tripping over her feet in her haste to remove herself from the angry elf’s powerful presence.
Darkwood did not notice the girl leave. Sunstar had brought that … drow lover of hers straight into the palace! Of all the stupid things to do! Nightshade would have been sworn to fealty at the door, that was true, but she should never have been allowed to pass. He had thought Sunstar had grown up, but that clearly was not the case. They were talking about the security of the entire Elven nation here, not some fishwife’s hovel. He made a mental note to have Windwalker transfer the palace guards to the furthest outpost of the Kingdom they could find.
Sunstar would be reprimanded for this. Silly, thoughtless child.
Nightshade … well, Nightshade would find herself in chains so fast her head would spin.
Sunstar lay on Nightshade’s strong breast with a sigh of contentment. The lovemaking had been almost ceaseless since they had arrived; neither one could get enough of the other.
Sunstar had dreamed for so long of taking her beloved half elf into her home and spending as much time getting to know her on an intimate basis as physically possible. Nightshade had not disappointed; all the raging passion Sunstar felt for her had been fully returned, so it seemed. Sunstar loved the half elf with all her heart; she knew her father would love Nightshade just as much as she did. He would agree to their marriage, and would be comfortable with the knowledge that his level headed daughter would govern the elven nation with as much wisdom and kindness as he did, with her beautiful consort by her side.
There was no question in Sunstar’s mind that they would be married and spend the rest of their natural days together. She shifted in Nightshade’s arms to look directly into the face of her lover; the glowing blue eyes were dark with passion. Again, Sunstar could not resist. She leant up and kissed her lover soundly, unable to get enough of the soft ruby lips and strong hands.
Nightshade looked deep into the emerald eyes, so trusting and loving, and felt her heart sink. She loved Sunstar that was true, and felt herself bleed at the thought of being forced to leave. She knew that the elven people would not accept her at first, and she feared that their preconceived notions would place an unnecessary strain on their budding relationship.
She had no doubts at all that the first thing Sunstar’s father would do was clap her in irons and throw her in prison for the rest of her natural days. She had been a prisoner for most of her natural life. First to the dark elves and their evil society, then as a fugitive running from the wrath of the Drow King. In the outside world, she and her kind were universally shunned, justified prejudices of the other races leaving her with no place to call home. She had no desire to become a prisoner again, this time to the forest elves. She could not help but wonder if there was ever a place she would ever be able to call home.
She felt apprehensive with the upcoming meeting with the King. She knew it was not going to run smoothly, but she put all her faith in Sunstar. Sunstar had told her that it was safe to call this place home. As a life without Sunstar was not something her heart allowed her to contemplate easily, she would have to rely on her much younger lover to persuade her father to allow Nightshade to slot into society.
Nightshade knew Sunstar’s father would base any decisions he made on her heritage as a drow. She put her faith in two things. First, she was not a drow, but a half drow, and second, she had, in fact rescued the Elven Princess. Would that be enough to convince them that she was somehow different to the crazed killers who inhabited the bowels of the mountain? If not, then, as painful as the idea was, she would have to slip out of Shimmering Moon and leave her beloved Sunstar behind.
She leant down, and planted a gentle kiss on the lips of her beloved. She held firmly to her courage, and vowed to herself not to waste any of the precious time remaining to herself and her young lover. The kiss turned into yet another raging torrent of desire, and she soon lost herself in the delicious sensation of skin on skin and the young elfmaid’s hands all over her body.
Some time later, Sunstar lay back on Nightshade, hungry body sated, and softly spoke.
"Nightshade, we really should be getting along to see my father."
"I know," replied Nightshade softly, unable to keep the discomfort from her eyes.
"Hey," said Sunstar reassuringly, leaning up so they were eye to eye, and gently kissing her. This kiss was pure love, not designed to ignite passion. "Please don’t concern yourself Nightshade. This meeting is merely a formality."
Sunstar gave her a slight smile, but the worry in the half elf’s eyes did not abate.
"I trust you Sunstar," said the half elf, resigned. "You know your father best. If you say he is going to be alright, then I believe you that all will be well."
Sunstar’s eyes were bright, shining with confidence, so Nightshade cast her fate to the winds and her young lover. Sunstar smiled gently.
"We’d better make a move to see my Father," she said softly, and they kissed again.
They rang for a servant, and a bath was drawn for them. When the servants had left them in peace again, Nightshade slipped out of the wrinkled bed, picked up her lover and gently carried her over to the gently steaming tub.
They got in, and not much by way of washing was accomplished, a slow exploration of each other’s bodies leaving both breathless, and deeply satisfied. When they were both fully dressed again, Sunstar led Nightshade confidently back out into the palace, towards the throne room to meet her father.
CONTINUED IN PART 2
beyond uber <> homepage