The leaves of the forest foliage rustle as the couple runs down the worn path. The hot summer sun has made this trek a particularly difficult one. Beinion smiles as he looks back to make sure he hadn’t lost his young, female elf partner in that last rough patch. Tanna slides down a small decline into view of her male guide. As the cloud of dirt settles around her feet, she pats the dust from the bottom of her sun dress.
“Are we going to get there soon?” She asks with a slight pant on her breath. “It feels like we’ve been walking all day? And what’s that noise? It sounds like rushing water.”
“That’s because it is.” Beinion says as he pulls back some over-sized jungle leaves to reveal a dazzling waterfall that pours into a pool just ahead of them. “Welcome to our destination, Tanna.” The green forest that surrounds the rock wall of the fall radiates behind the sparkling blue water. A few birds of contrasting colors fly across the face of the pond as the sun’s reflection shimmers across their bellies.
Tanna can hardly contain her elation at the beautiful site. Her widened smile revealing both shock and amazement. Under her breath, she utters the only words that can come to her mind, “how did you find this place?”
“I stumbled upon it one day when I was cataloging the effects of a spell I had cast on a rabbit. I followed its trail through the woods and came out into this gorgeous spring. I named it Melar Ehtelë. I only thought it fitting that this be the location of our next date.” He says with a cheery smile.
Tanna blushes as she translates the name. “Lover’s Spring.” She turns to hide her face from Beinion as she feels her cheeks warm.
“Come,” Beinion says as he grabs her hand and begins running toward the waterfall. “I want to show you my favorite spot.” As they make their way through the grassy area between the woods and the waterfall, a group of butterflies scatter before them. The lady elf can’t tell if her racing heart is from the physicality of the trip here, or her excitement of being in such a beautiful place. Although her company is a probable cause as well. The chirping of frogs and singing of birds adds to the serene ambiance.
As they approach the rushing falls, Beinion lifts an arm overhead and places the other in the small of Tanna’s back to keep her close. A transparent bubble forces the water around the two as the splendor of their location comes into view from the other side. Tanna gasps for breath with her hand over her mouth at the site. They walk into a small cavern with the waterfall flowing over the opening. The dark room is dimly lit by a few sporadic, glowing emeralds, that stand as tall as she, protruding out from the cool, stone floor. Beinion guides her to the edge of the cavern where they sit on a ledge just inside the reach of the falls. With a wave of his hand, an invisible orb parts the waters before them, and they are able to take in the full view of the magnificent spring from behind the tranquil falls.
After spending a few moments to take it all in, Tanna finally looks at Beinion. “Thank you for sharing this place with me. This is truly a wonderful place.” She looks back to her bare feet and places one under the rushing water to her side, letting it splash over the bottom of her dress. “I couldn’t think of a better person to come her with.” She says, with a playful smile.
Beinion returns the smile as he reaches over and takes her hand before looking back out over the water. The warm gesture sends joyful shivers throughout her body. “You know, I have spent a long time focusing on my studies. There has not been much else worth striving for in my life. Not that I wanted anything else. KemenGûl is more than enough to keep me interested with how I spend my time.” He pauses before turning to look at her. She resists, for a moment, to return the gaze. She can tell that he is giving her that look. The one that will make her heart jump in her chest. The temptation proves too strong, and she finds that she never truly wanted to resist anyway. Their eyes meet and all of her emotion dances with excitement. “But I think I’m beginning to reconsider my priorities,” he finishes.
Tanna’s sheepish smile is the only cover she can muster to hide her exhilaration. To think that a high elven scientist would settle down for an unknown girl like her. She wants to stand and scream at the top of her lungs, but holds back to preserve her lady-like posture. Suddenly she feels Beinion’s hand slip behind her head, and pull her gently toward him. Though their lips meet tenderly, their emotions explode with passion. The flutter of a thousand butterfly wings in her heart makes her feel as if she will lift off of the ground.
As their lips separate, Beinion turns over his partner’s hand, scoops up some dirt, and places it on her wrist. Her eyes widen as she begins to understand the importance of this moment. In the Elven Nations, when a male intends to wed a female, he will inscribe his family’s insignia on her. She had thought that she would be ready for this moment, but now, as it happens, she feels weak. He traces a glowing rune on her skin and blows away the dirt. The world around them seems to disappear as their eyes meet once more.
“I would be honored if you accepted my courtship, fair Tanna,” her lover says. Her eyes well up with tears as she tries to find the words to tell him. She wants to say so many things, but the glory of this moment overwhelms her thoughts and emotions. Unable to fight back the tears any longer, she lets out a gasp and all she can manage to force out is a hushed reply.
“Yes.” The couple’s bodies collide in a dramatic embrace. Tanna’s body feels so light that she begins to sincerely believe that their hug is the only thing anchoring her. So many thoughts flash into her mind in that instant. What will her family think? Where will they live? What will she wear to the wedding? The moment is over in a moment as Beinion pulls back for a second kiss.
As they once again separate, Beinion brushes away a streaming tear from his lover’s cheek. Tanna, thankful for the thoughtful action, almost wants to leave it there as a tangible reminder of her elated emotions. The couple’s focuses transfer to her wrist where the rune is glowing. As he slowly moves his hand over the rune, the reflection of the soft light from under his hand glances off of her soft skin. When the symbol is revealed from under his hand, it has become a permanent stamp. Her heart skips a beat as she hears his voice once more and looks up to meet his gaze. “I vow to always be by your side, my sweet fiancé.”
Fiancé? She thinks. Never before had she been graced with a title. She likes the ring this one has to it. Brief toying thoughts with her future name and title are interrupted as Beinion begins to stand.
“We must go.” He says, brushing off his robe and startling his future bride. “As much as I wish this day to go on forever, we are in human territory, and they wouldn’t take kindly to our being here.” A wave of alarm washes away her sense of splendor. Human territory?! She thinks as she rushes to her feet.
“It’s too late for that.” A voice comes from behind them. Startled, they both turn to see a handful of human soldiers in Roman armor standing behind their captain. Beinion notices how proudly he wears the slightly more ornate armor that distinguishes him as their leader. “What a funny site to see through bubble in the falls as we march on our patrol.” He says mockingly over-shoulder to his troops. As he turns back, his stern gaze meets Beinion’s with animosity. “Two lost faerie-folk enjoying our waterfall.”
Seeing the desperation of their situation, Beinion puts his hands up to show surrender. “We were just passing through,” he explains. “Grant us passage, and you won’t see us here again.” The hearty chuckle of the captain deepens their fear.
“Let you go? Why would I do that? So you can go off and practice more of your pagan rituals? Or perhaps you’ll go back to your city and tell of this magnificent place so more of your elf-kin will plague our land.”
“I have known of this place for many years now,” Beinion says in an attempt to calm the irate officer, “and I have yet to reveal it to anyone. If you let us leave, that is the way it will remain.”
The captain’s smile melts into a scowl. He spits in Beinion’s face. “The only good elf is an elf in chains.” As her lover wipes the expectoration from his face, Tanna feels her face flush; her anger temporarily masking her fear. The usually timid young female is overcome by her emotions.
“He is a practitioner of KemenGûl for the High Elven Order!” She exclaims. “You would do well to treat such an important elf with more respect!”
“Oh he is, is he?” The captain turns a sly eye to Beinion. Tanna’s heart sinks as she realizes the dire consequences of the mistake she just made. She gasps faintly and clutches her hand over her mouth as she casts an apologetic gaze to Beinion. He keeps his graceful posture as his unrelenting glare remains on their tormentor. A slight crack in his resolve might give the captain just the opening he needs to place his blade in. “I think this one will fetch a high price on the slave market, men. Put him in chains.”
The soldiers part around their leader as they move to their target. An evil smirk lingers on his face as he watches the helpless elf clasped without event. Beinion’s hope is that by not resisting, the human’s focus will remain on him and Tanna will go free. His hopes get shattered by a questioning soldier.
“What should we do with this one?” A soldier motions toward Tanna. The human leader looks her up and down. She wears only a simple elven sundress and no ornate jewelry of significance.
“She doesn’t seem to be too important,” he says before smiling wryly, “but she is pretty. I see no reason to keep her. Do with her what you will.” His passing wave sets the soldiers into motion. The elves look at each other with wide eyes of horror at the atrocity of his statement. The soldiers turn in on her, all with glee in their eyes, as one steps to the front and turns to face them.
“She is my personal prisoner.” He demands. “Unless one of you dogs would like to challenge me.” His broad hand wrings the leather grip of his sheathed sword in anticipation. He is larger than the rest with better muscle definition. The look of angered defeat in the soldier’s eyes confirm that he is a better soldier too.
The captain pushes through the soldiers to the front to meet the man face-to-face. “Ananias, why are you always so combative with your kinsmen? You show far too much sympathy for these godless creatures.” Ananias does not back down as his commander’s face closes in, separating them by inches. The captain’s eyes shift back and forth between the soldier’s eyes as he studies his unrelenting gaze. “Fine. We take the girl without harm, but she doesn’t go alone with you.” He turns back to issue a command to the soldiers. “Bind her without harm and put her in a cage separate from the male.”
A soldier holds his shield under the falls to allow his superior to pass through. The captain stops just before leaving and looks back to give the insubordinate soldier one final insult. “Your father would be ashamed.” Ananias releases the hilt of his sword as the soldiers move around him to bind the girls arms and the leader disappears behind the waterfall. As he considers the captain’s last remark, a smirk shines briefly on his face. He knows the commander was wrong. It was under his father’s guidance that his morality was instilled. The teaching that having resolute morality alongside his fighting was what made him the best warrior among his peers, and quite possibly the best in the Human Kingdom.
As the Tanna passes by, she gives a sorrowful smile of gratitude to the soldier. He returns it with an almost apologetic one. The young girl knows, though, that if not for this kind warrior, she may not have lived to see tomorrow. She looks over to Beinion as she takes the first step into her cart. He is already seated in his mobile cage with his head hung low in shame. Feeling a watchful gaze on him, he looks up at her. His finger traces something onto his hand, and he blows across his palm as he finishes. As the gust of wind passes by her ear she hears his whisper.
“My dearest Tanna, I am so sorry. Please forgive my boldness in bringing you to such a dangerous place. I will see to it that you are released. I can only hope that you will be waiting when (or if) I am free once more.” She feels a tear streak down her face. Not possessing the magic prowess that her lover does, she offers a blown kiss as a condolence. A shadow of grief hangs over their shared smiles as the wagons begin to pull away. Beinion’s cage to the east, Tanna’s to the west.