Garoldth was sure his eyes hadn’t been playing tricks on him and that the woman he had seen slip through the trees was his love. He still remembered the first time he had ever seen her. She had been standing by the edge of the forest, surrounded by a bush of summer roses. Butterflies had flitted all around, and she had been smiling. He had never seen such a beautiful sight in his life.
Garoldth remembered how she had playfully lifted her hands to cup one of the fluttering insects as it had settled in her hands. She had giggled at how the wings had tickled her palms, and it had sounded like music to his ears. She had smiled sadly and dreamily at him as he had sunk to his knees beside her. There had been no pretense to her, none at all. She was not the type to play games with life. He had looked into those fathomless azure eyes and had been lost.
Garoldth remembered gathering her into his arms. Her hair had glistened in the bright summer sun, reminding him of ripened wheat rippling in the breeze. He could not resist the invitation of those full red lips and kissed her. She had smelled of honeysuckle and had tasted just as sweet. He kissed her again, and again, he couldn’t get enough of her. She was so soft, and she welcomed him like one would welcome a long lost love. That had been the beginning of the most incredible two weeks of his life.
They had loved and talked, coming together time and time again as they shared their lives as well as their bodies. He told her of his world, he wanted her with him and he never wanted to leave her behind. She had looked at him with sad eyes, but had said nothing. He could not understand why she had done that, why she would refuse to bond with him when he begged, repeatedly. She had told him to just accept his gifts as he could and love her as she would always love him. It scared him, but she soothed his fears, telling him she was in no danger. She could see these things, she told him, and he knew she had a touch of the sight. It was a talent many Elves had in varying degrees. He, however, had none.
Garoldth, in fact felt he had very little. He had his honor, which he offered to her freely. He had twelve sons, which he shared in word and hoped to continue to do so in person with her. He had his love, which he told her she was the center of. He had his Kingdom, which he was proud of, war torn though it was, and he wanted to make her his Queen. All that he was, he offered to her. He told her she was the sun in his sky, like cool water in the desert. She was his shining star.
She had smiled, but never so much as offered him her name. He took what he could, but it was never enough. She shared. She loved, and completed him. His soul reached out for hers and she allowed him entry, though she refused to utter the words that would make them one. For two weeks she held him in her arms. Then one morning, after a particularly tender night of loving, he woke to find her gone. For two days he searched every place he could. There was no sign of her, and it was like she had never existed. He reached for the tentacles of their bond, but it eluded him. He knew she was there, somewhere. The bond that should have guided him to her; however, was muted and had left him lost. Wherever she was, he could not go, or she hid in places that shielded her. He had no choice. He gathered what she had left him, and returned to his home, an empty throne. Home to perform a duty he could no longer ignore because his love was no longer at his side to shield him from the burden.
He remembered the sad trip home, to find one of his most loyal Lords awaiting his arrival. The Elf had brought his granddaughter along with him. She had been a pretty thing, looking like a woodland sprite, all golden and green. She looked at him, and for whatever reason, her presence made his skin crawl. There was something not right about the girl and he could sense that there was evil within her.
The grandfather spent no time on small talk. He reminded the King of past actions, or promises made and in need of fulfilling. He told him that his granddaughter was a wild creature with Demon tainted blood, who liked to run at night. She was also devious and sly. He doubted if her grandfather had known that she carried a child. He also doubted if her grandfather knew just how evil she truly was.
To honor old promises he reluctantly married the girl. He set up a full tower of the fortress to serve as her quarters. He had then left her there to live in the manner she wished. Alone. She came and went as she pleased. He was not interested in what she did. The fact that he had honored the old alliance meant that he could not go across the portal to retrieve his true love. He had no doubts that if his true love was left alone in the company of his legal wife, the love of his life would have been murdered. Seven and a half months after the agreement had been made between the old Elf and him, his wife gave birth to a green haired, green-eyed child. He made sure both were cared for and comfortable, but had little or nothing to do with either of them.
Garoldth had taken one look at the child and had recognized him for Demon spawn, an almost full-blooded Demon. There was nothing he could do about it. He smiled with gritted teeth and announced the birth of his thirteenth son. He dared not tell the world he had never so much as touched the mother. To say he had spurned her would have dishonored the house from where she had come. He could not do that to them, as they were strong and powerful allies. They had also suffered long and hard during the war. In all ways he admired her birth house, her maternal family, but not her.
Garoldth understood, she could not help being whom and what she was. How could she? The things he disliked the most about her were born right in, it was a part of her Demon heritage. Her mother had been captured by Demons almost five hundred years before. It had been a time when the Demon Horde had been regrouping to prepare for another push into Elven lands. The Elven armies had been having great bouts of victories against their enemies. They had hopes that they might see an end to the wars. The Elven maiden had been brutally violated, time and time again, as if the enemy had wanted to make it clear that they were not finished with their campaign to demoralize and defeat their enemies. The prisoner had been returned, which was rare. Elven maidens were seldom ever returned by the Demons. Not alive. She was pregnant with a Demon child, and she seemed incapable of thinking on her own anymore.
The happy, beautiful Elven maiden that had existed prior to the capture no longer existed. She no longer sang and danced through the meadows bringing joy to all who beheld her. She had been so full of life and spirit, and was her family’s pride. When she had been returned she just sat and stared into the empty space beyond. She lived long enough to bring her child into the world, but barely. Her family had been forced to feed her, bathe her, and dress her. Her mind was no longer there. The nights had been worse, filled with her screams and cries. Once her death had come, it was considered one of mercy.
After the birth of the child the tides of the war seemed to turn against the Elven forces. They were losing more of their females, and when the bodies were found they had been mutilated almost beyond recognition. It had struck the male Elves hard, for it served to show them that they could no longer protect the heart of their homes. Females had always been short supply. After the battles, they were almost non-existent. Women were now considered sacred.
Garoldth’s life was full. Every spare moment was taken up with directing the war and making sure that his Kingdom was well served. His sons backed his every decision as they took their places at his side. He had trained them well and hard. He had lost nine brothers during the war. He vowed he would not lose a son as long as he had breath in his body. The Princes responded well to his efforts, proving their love and loyalty time after time. They were his pride and joy.
Despite all the demands of his attention Garoldth’s mind often returned to his love on the other side of the portal. How had she fared after he had left? Was she still there? Had she found another? It was unlikely. Their love was that of Life Mates. Was she waiting for him to return? He had nothing to offer at this time but more dishonor, but despite that he could not stay away. Under the guise of attempting to meet with Daroth he crossed through the portal that separated their lands. The reality was that he needed the light only his Life Mate could bring his soul.
The differences between their worlds struck him right away. He noticed how the forests thrived. There were Elves everywhere and despite the fact that they were at war, they were happy and confident of their chances of winning. They had a new General by the name of Gabriel. He was a young Elf of great power who was leading them from one victory to another. King Daroth had been nowhere to be found, so after an extensive journey, Garoldth had headed for home.
This time his Life Mate had been waiting for him by the portal near the edge of the forest. Dressed in white and green, her eyes full of love and tears, she had opened her arms to him. He could have no more resisted her siren’s call than he could have stopped himself from breathing. They talked. They loved. This time she gave him her name to remember her. Tári. It was a name seared into his soul from the moment it was spoken. Time after time they completed each other, coming together in the throws of a common need.
Garoldth told her he could offer nothing this time. She replied that he was more precious to her than anything the world could offer. Their love bound them until neither could tell where one started and the other began. Their bodies and souls were no more than quaking, quivering masses of hope and desire. This time he contented himself with what they only could give of themselves. She would hear no words of sorrow from him. No regrets. She told him she had enough of those herself. When the time for them to part came, she took him by the hand and led him to the portal entrance. They gave each other one last lingering kiss goodbye and parted. There were no tears, no sad sighs of regret, and no bitterness. The memory of the sweetest kiss and smile he had ever experienced was the memory he took with him past the portal.
Garoldth had crossed the boundary to return to his own land, to face the barren world that was his home, and his life. The trees were losing their freshness, becoming somehow twisted and sick. He knew they were in trouble, just as he knew they were in danger of losing the war. The Demons were winning by sheer numbers, if for no other reason. He returned to his fortress, to find out that his wife was dead by a fall from the tower, and that the war had escalated during his absence. He resisted the urge to once more cross the boundary to claim his Life Mate. He knew he would not be able to find her. It would be like the last time. He would seek, but he would never find her unless she wanted to be found. He turned his attention once more to the war where he was desperately needed.