A Deal with the Elf King

Page 60

That is a history I will be certain to rewrite. Love is powerful, but so is the hard work Eldas and I have put in. The hard work we will continue to do to be good rulers for this land.

If it were up to me, we would’ve stayed in his chambers for eternity. But duty calls eventually. Sooner rather than later the coronation must happen. We could stall for a day or two, but any more would blow past scandalous into lewd behavior.

We stand before the main entry to the throne room. I have Eldas’s hand in mine with a white-knuckled grip.

“Don’t be nervous,” he whispers.

“Easy for you to say,” I reply and try to smooth out invisible wrinkles in my skirts. The gown the seamstress made for me is breathtaking. Layers of chiffon shaped like leaves almost have a scale-like appearance when I’m stationary. But when I move, it looks like leaves departing late summer trees on a gale. It would’ve been such a shame to see this wearable art go to waste if I hadn’t returned.

“All you have to do is sit.”

“You know that’s one of the first things you said to me, more or less.” I grin up at him and he chuckles. But worry quickly gnaws at my levity. “We should have tried the throne beforehand just to be sure it won’t try to siphon from me.”

“We were occupied.” Eldas smirks. I give a yank on his hand and steal the expression with a kiss. My husband can’t look that handsome without ending up with my lips on his.

“After this, let’s be less occupied. I want to know what’s going on.”

“Going on? About what?”

“Everything,” I say. “I’m here to rule alongside you, after all. I’m more than just a pretty face now that the seasons are fine without me.”

He gives me a small smile and is about to say something when Harrow and Sevenna enter. Harrow still looks thin, and a little paler than I’d like. But his eyes are bright and sharp. His movements are strong.

My hand falls from Eldas’s and, ignoring Sevenna entirely, I cross to Harrow and sweep him up in my arms.

“Good gods, she’s hugging me,” I hear Harrow murmur. But he’s relaxed in my arms. A hand even pats my shoulder lightly.

“I was so worried about you.” I release him and pull away. Eldas had sneaked in an update on Harrow’s condition between sessions under the sheets—we had to eat sometime—but this is the first time I’ve seen him.

“It seems I worried everyone.” He looks guiltily between Eldas and Sevenna. I can tell there are still some discussions to be had about Harrow’s tangle with glimmer and Aria. But there’s time for that. And I’m here now. So I can at least make sure Eldas doesn’t come down too heavily with punishment on the young man’s shoulders.

“We’re just glad you’re all right.” I confidently speak for everyone in the room.

“Harrow, go and speak with your brother,” Sevenna commands icily. “I’d like a word with the Human Queen.”

He obliges, glancing between his mother and me before leaving. Even though Eldas and Harrow quietly talk between themselves, they glance back over regularly. Sevenna ignores her sons.

“Harrow told me what you did for him,” she begrudgingly admits. Her hands are folded before her—white knuckled. “And I think half the kingdom knows about your declaration for my eldest boy.”

“I know it’s not traditional—”

“Oh I think you made tradition with that,” she says curtly. I can’t tell if she’s pleased, proud, cross, or upset, so I try and keep my face blank. Sevenna sighs. “However, Eldas wrote and gave me context. He informed me of your choice.”

“My choice?”

“That you had freedom, and you came back. You chose my son and your oath to him as a wife.” I watch her throat constrict as she swallows hard. Sevenna forces the next two words out almost violently. “Thank you.”

I barely resist asking her how hard that was to say. But I’m too floored that she said it at all. Plus, this is the mother of my husband and the man I love. It’s time to begin smoothing over the rough edges in our relationship for everyone’s sake.

“You’re welcome.” Even though this woman makes me more nervous than anyone, I can speak calmly and plainly when it comes to my feelings for Eldas. “I love your son. And I want to love Harrow like a brother, if he’ll let me. Same with Drestin and Carcina.” I glance over my shoulder and see Harrow looking our way. He no doubt heard his name.

Sevenna snorts softly. “Good luck with that. My youngest is wild.”

“Don’t I know it?”

We share a smile that almost seems like camaraderie. There’s more work to be done here and more layers to Sevenna. But I’ll have time to peel them back.

I’ll have the rest of my life in Midscape.

My husband’s hand slips into my own as the doors open. Trumpets blare and a rain of petals cascades down from the ceiling magically at our entry. Eldas’s walk is as rigid as his crown, his face severe. But I can’t help smiling in wonder as I take in the room.

The same mass of people is here as before. Earlier, they had arrived for an announcement. But now they are here for a coronation—the last coronation of a Human Queen. The room is filled with wild magic and all the creatures who wield it. In it, I see my home—a place where I belong and nothing is missing. It’s the home I have chosen.

Eldas escorts me to my throne and then faces the room.

“The Human Queen has returned.” His voice echoes to the highest beams of the ceiling. “The cycle begins anew. But this cycle we begin now shall be eternal.” He accepts a crown of gold-gilded redwood leaves off a pillow held by Willow. The young man’s eyes shine with tears of joy. “All hail Queen Luella. The last queen of spring.”

“All hail Queen Luella,” the room echoes as Eldas settles the crown on my brow.

Together, Eldas and I sit on our thrones and the room erupts in cheers. I finally relax in my seat. There’s nothing more than the quiet whisper of magic on my skin, humming from across the Fade—a magic that reminds me of where I’ve come from, as I look out on where I am.

I can finally relax here. I hold out my hand and Eldas takes it with a smile. Everything is in balance, and all is right with the world.

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