Who says heroes are the only ones allowed to love? Even scoundrels and scheming aristocrats can have a little affection now and then.
This is a sequel to “Elf War.” Enjoy.
Fair in Love, But Not In War, by Alexander Paul Willging
Word Count: 960
From his private turret, Lord Yori nar Ríogan watched as his forces were slowly routed back to the keep. His claws raked furious white lines into the stone wall. It would not do for him, a Lord of Hornworld, to shout bloody murder at these foreigners.
The Earthlings had brought out their most cunning weapons to the fore: handheld mortars, rocket packs, and teleporter beacons. All the fey lord’s knights had to offer were the bows, swords, and pikes of their ancestors. Not even the battle magi could compete. Their spells took too long to construct while Earth’s soldiers rained down fiery death from above or teleported in to kill them point-blank before disappearing again.
“Shing,” Yori muttered. “What is the hour?”
Behind him, his brown-faced attendant knelt and answered, “It is the sixth hour, milord.”
“And still no word from Lady Moura?”
Shing’s hesitation was all Yori needed, but still he replied, “Not yet, milord.”
Yori bowed his head. Shameful. He’d acted shamefully and now he was paying the price. All this fighting, all these casualties, all this dishonor—all because he’d dared to love the wrong fey.
“I don’t want Mab. I want you.”
He’d spoken those words to her in the Sacred Grove outside Castle Leirath last summer. She was quite beautiful under the moonlight: radiant white skin, pure black eyes, pale golden hair. Every inch a true Lady of Hornworld.
But Moura had looked at him with a contemplative stare. “Lord Mab is a good match for your sept, Yori. He’s courageous and handsome. A gentle lover—”
“Mab nar Tuatha may be all those things, but he’s an idiot! He’ll do whatever the Erlking asks of him. He’s no better than a trained wolf.”
“And I have no interest in being your mistress.”
“Then be my true wife,” Yori pleaded. “I only want what’s best for Sept Ríogan and Sept Leirath. Our houses are strong, but together, we could be so much stronger!”
“It’s only politics for you, isn’t it? I know what game you’re playing, Yori.” Moura’s voice dropped an octave. “It’s the Earthlings. You can’t stand their presence on Hornworld.”
She knew him too well—a fact that both infuriated and elated Yori to no end. “No, I can’t. I’ve no fear of saying it, either in here or out in the open. The Erlking is a fool who’s forgotten what happened to my kinsman Finelas. But I haven’t forgotten.” He smiled. “And I know you haven’t either.”
Although her expression never changed, Yori spotted a hint of a blush on the Lady’s cheeks.
“You’re wise and deadly,” he continued. “There is simply no other Lord or Lady like you. Yes, I might have wanted you for a political marriage, but now?” Yori took her hands into his and grinned. “Now it’s real, my Lady. As real as the Two Worlds can be. I’d even let go of my family honor for a chance with you.”
Moura closed her eyes. “Enough, Yori. Though you may be flattering and desirable, I simply can’t break my vows. My sept is in vassalage to Sept Tuatha. If I give myself to you, our house will be disgraced. We’d be outlaws.”
Yori gripped her hands to his chest. “Then let’s be outlaws together, my Lady.”
“Music to my ears, my Lady…”
The kiss that followed was bittersweet.
The next day, war was declared between Sept Tuatha and Sept Ríogan.
“If she values her sept’s honor, she will not come.” Yori could not look away from the carnage that the Earthlings and the Knights of Tuatha inflicted on his forces. “If she really does love me, then perhaps it’s better this way. Give me a quick death by Lord Mab himself, and she can pay homage to my memory in the Sacred Grove.”
“Milord.” Shing leapt up from his kneeling position. “Milord, we will tear down Castle Tuatha before we let that happen!”
Yori turned on his servant with a vicious snarl. “Give it up, boy! We’ve lost! Are you really such a fool that you can’t see it? We played the game and we lost.”
When his servant failed to answer, Yori felt his anger fade into resignation. He retracted his claws and said, “Go to your kin and tell them to lay down their arms. Accept the Erlking’s justice like a true fey.”
Young Shing looked like a whipped pup, but he managed to whisper, “Go with honor, milord.”
Yori nodded his thanks and dismissed him with a wave of his hand. He turned back to the turret window as Shing fled the room.
Beyond the viridian battlefield now soaked with blood and ash was the Royal River. To the east lay snow-capped mountains. To the west were the crimson forests that separated Sept Ríogan from Sept Leirath. Yori could see now why the fey called their lands “Our Garden.” He wondered if it would be just as beautiful in death, or if the legends about the Gray Mists were true.
In the distance, trumpets blared. At first Yori thought it was the signal of surrender. But when he looked back at the battlefield, his breath caught in his throat.
New banners were emerging from the northwest. Knights, pikers, and hydra-riders were charging the Earth troops with green and white banners.
The colors of Sept Leirath.
Tears blurred Yori’s vision of the battle. When he heard a whisper of movement behind him, he turned and saw a pale yellow butterfly enter the turret room. The butterfly exploded in a shower of light and smoke, which took on the silhouette of a full-grown fey.
And there she was.
They rushed toward one another. Their lips met just as the armies outside clashed anew.
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