Askandar watched as his bride slept soundly at his side. He was still holding her so her cheek would rest lightly over his heart, as it beat soundly in his chest. He hadn’t believed he would live to see this moment, but now that it had, anything seemed possible. A Life Mate meant many things to a Male Elf. More than anything else, it signified immortality. What his Life Mate had already given him was more than he felt he had any right to expect.
Askandar needed to retake command of his Kingdom. He would have preferred to have waited a while, so they could cement their bond before moving on, but time was not something they had an abundance of. They needed the element of surprise on their side if they were to defeat the Hybrids. From what he had seen in the waters of his scrying bowl, their numbers had grown over the years and this made them a very powerful adversary.
To give Erdwen credit, Askandar thought she had worked a miracle on him. He had been dying when the Elves she had arrived with released him from his cage. He had feared this was the way it was going to end before they had burst into his room. He was also aware of the fact that she had risked her own life to save his. She could have walked away from him without any repercussions at that time, but chose not to. Instead, she bonded with him and brought him back into the land of the living, feeling stronger than ever. He was grateful for the gift she had given him and didn’t feel deserving of what he had received. In his arrogance, he had made so many mistakes in the past.
Askandar pressed a light kiss on Erdwen’s forehead and thought of the night they had shared. They had loved well into the morning hours and he could tell she was still tired. Despite this, she woke at his touch and smiled at him, as she stretched to softly kiss his lips. It made him need to feel her come to life around him one more time, but it wasn’t to be. He had a Kingdom to save, if it wasn’t already too late. Would the Fates be cruel enough to bring him back to a world if there was no chance of victory? He had come forward in time to defeat the evil that was now in command of the world around them. He doubted if the Fates would do something like that. They could be cruel, but they did not play games.
“We need to rise. It is important I find out what I can about the world surrounding us as quickly as possible,” Askandar spoke.
Erdwen placed a forefinger against Askandar’s lips and replied, “One piece of news at a time. There is something you need to know before we leave this room.”
Askandar looked at the soft smile on Erdwen’s face and decided to let her have her way. He doubted if whatever she had to say would take more than a moment or two anyway.
Erdwen took Askandar’s hand in hers and raised it to her lips, as she smiled wider and kissed the tips of his fingers. She then guided it to her abdomen, where she pressed his palm against her belly and asked, “What do you feel?”
“Things I don’t have time for,” Askandar replied with a suggestive grin.
“Close your eyes and concentrate,” Erdwen advised.
It didn’t take long for Askandar to sense the tiny flutter of life that was growing deep inside of Erdwen’s womb. The eyes that he had so casually closed before flew open to look into hers and he smiled shakily as he looked for confirmation of his suspicions, “A child? Our child?”
“A son. We bring life and hope to our people and our world with this child.” Erdwen declared.
“A son,” Askandar repeated, as if in awe. Suddenly there seemed to be a greater need for them to rid the world of the Hybrids. He had a son and he wanted to make sure their child was born into a world where peace resided. “It is time we were up and about. Our enemies will know we are on the move.”
“There is little left of the Kingdom but Hybrids at this time,” Erdwen informed Askandar.
“If all I saw in the scrying bowl is true, there is far more to the Kingdom than you think. Two can play the game of subterfuge. The only thing I worry about is the Elves of Power and if they managed to find a way to survive. The Demons coveted their magic and were willing to cross any borders to gain access to it,” Askandar replied.
“Our lands were not immune from the Demon Hordes,” Erdwen reminded Askandar.
“The Light Elves were always the backbone of the Empire. I doubt if much has changed from then. They were also a very prolific lot,” Askandar teased.
“That was probably a good thing, because if they wouldn’t have been, we would have lost the war. It was a very close thing as it was,” Erdwen told Askandar, as she rose and dressed to face the day.
Askandar held out his hand to take Erdwen’s as they headed for the door that led to the main courtyard and they walked through the doorway together. They were about to face a different world. For her, it was one as a newly mated Female Elf. She would be facing the world she grew up in at the side of one of the Ancients. For him, it would be as an Ancient King in a new age.
Erdwen didn’t know what to expect from her Life Mate, or what he figured her role would be. The few hints that he had given her up to this point led her to suspect that he wasn’t the only one that had come through time and space to face the dangers of the world they were about to reenter. The Ancients were reputed to be highly talented Elves, yet a single Hybrid Wizard had tricked them into a state of stasis. She wondered how this had come about, but refrained from asking. She had enough on her mind without looking for more. Most of her concerns had to do with finishing the healing process that was still happening within Askandar.
Askandar didn’t seem to think his body wasn’t back to being totally healed from the effects of his incarceration. The difference between how he felt the day before and now was nothing short of miraculous and he had his Life Mate to thank for this. He knew he wasn’t finished the healing process, he wasn’t that naïve, but he didn’t dare linger in the castle. Too much depended on the element of surprise. Their enemy would know about the return of the Light Elves to this part of the Empire, but not his release. He also had a bone to pick with the Hybrid Wizard that had conjured this spell.
Before Askandar could do anything about making any new plans for the future, he needed to see if anything remained of his armies. The last thing he had remembered, before the doors of his cage had slammed shut, was seeing the commander of his army turn to stone. Had his release from the conjuring freed them as well, or were they locked in stone forever? He needed to find out, not only about the condition of the commander, who was also his brother, but for the rest. Their futures could depend on what he found. The momentary lapse of memory was quickly replaced by that of Endural, as he had stumbled to the doorway of his room the night before. His brother had been weak, as could be expected, but alive.
The moment Askandar’s doors swung open to reveal him with Erdwen at his side, the hall erupted with cheers from his commanders. The sound had shown their weakness, and had quickly been silenced, but it was a good sign that things would work out. He looked around anxiously, as he checked to see if the familiar faces were there and found them. He smiled happily, as he announced, “We have a Queen, my Life Mate, Erdwen.”
Another cheer rose up from the crowd at this welcome news, but Askandar could tell even this much effort was costing them energy they couldn’t afford to use. They needed to work this out, but he could only question how and still march against their enemy. He was quick to let them know what his plans were for the future, if for no other reason than to see their reaction, “As soon as we gather our men from the halls below, we will begin our march on the Hybrids. It is time we took our land back from the enemy.”
Askandar was about to find out his demands wouldn’t be so easily met, as Dondar walked forward to confront him, “If you want these men to live longer than a day, you have to let the healing process take its course.”
“How dare you countermand my orders,” Askandar bellowed at Dondar, as he walked forward to confront the Elf standing before him. “Who do you think you are?”
“I am the head healer and you are not moving any of these Elves from where they are for another twenty four hours, if then,” Dondar thundered back. He was not about to back down from his decision. He had worked too hard to make sure these Elves survived and too much depended on his standing behind his decision to allow them time to rest.
Within seconds, Askandar was confronted by not only one, but several Elves, as they lined up in support of Dondar against the Ancient King. He was astounded by their actions and shouted his indignation for all to hear. “How dare you? I am Askandar. I am King here.”
“I could care less if you were the Emperor Lothrariel himself,” Dondar returned. “These men are not in any condition to leave the building. In fact, the only reason I am not forbidding them from going later is because I have an army of healer Elves coming from the other side of the Elven Empire to help restore their health.”
Askandar was shocked further when Dondar stepped forward and raised a hand to check one of his eyes.
Dondar smiled at Erdwen as he commended her work, “You have done wonders with him in the time you had. He isn’t finished healing either though. I have a feeling he knows it, but is stubborn enough to try to brush his condition to the side nonetheless. You will need to consider the nature of the man you chose when you deal with him.”
“I know,” Erdwen returned Dondar’s grin with one of her own.
“I suggest you try to talk some sense into him. The Hybrids are not going anywhere,” Dondar stated. “They will still be waiting to try to kill us when we come out of the castle. The men in the lower levels are in much worse shape than these. The Hybrid Wizard used their power and energy to feed from over the millenniums. If I have my way about things, they won’t move for a week. If it wasn’t for all the help coming, I wouldn’t allow even that.”
“The Hybrid Wizard…” Askandar began, only to be interrupted.
Elladan grinned smugly, as he led Baylien forward and bowed and answered, “The Hybrid Wizard that caused all of this is dead. I must admit, he was tough, but we managed to finish the job.”
Askandar looked from Elladan to Baylien and back again as he asked, “How? We faced him with a dozen Ancient Wizards and couldn’t defeat him.”
“We had a little help, I must admit, but suffice it to say, he is history. It is why we are not in a rush to face the enemy outside our gates now.” Elladan admitted.
“Who has been making these decisions?” Askandar asked, as he looked at his High Lord General, “Endural?”
“Not I, your Majesty. From what I understand, the orders came from The High Lord General Gabriel Eagle Claw, Commander in Chief of the Elven Empire,” Endural answered.
“I want to meet this Elf,” Askandar ordered.
“Not possible,” Galador replied. “He is forbidden to enter this part of the Empire by the command of the Oracles. We understand this was a message sent through them by the Fates.”
This took some of the bluster from Askandar and, as he looked at the silver blue eyes of the Elves that faced him, he felt a sudden chill, as well as the urge to back down. He couldn’t help but wonder who these Elves were, for none of them struck him as ordinary. These were Elves of great power. The type he had wondered about.