Elle would have never guessed that Mias had such a compassionate counterpart. It would seem that Mias, after all, subsisted as the evil twin and Elias coexisted as the wholesome one, constantly shadowed and undermined by the heinous actions of his brother. He had convictions
and they did not revolve around chasing skirt.
It did not hurt that he was as devastatingly handsome as Mias, like a figure from an 1800s romance novel cover. He wore his hair long, neatly pulled back wearing a dark billowy shirt and nicely fitted pants that complimented his features.
"I am not from Ærworuld," she confessed, one morning during their daily get-together. "Mias came to my world and kidnapped me. I do not know how he managed to go through the portal. But he did and he can, which I understand to be thought an impossible feat."
Elias' mouth dropped open. "This is terrible news. No wonder he was able to recapture you, you could not escape... If I possessed the ability to open the portal, I would not hesitate to help you through it."
Elle believed him. She could not sense ulterior motives with Elias. He was refreshingly genuine, in the same capacity as Abernos. She could see that he felt. He was unafraid to show concernthat he cared for more than just himself.
"There must be a way to open the portal. Will you help me escape?"
He met with her every day after their first encounter, and to her surprise, she looked forward to their meetings. They discussed her kidnapping in length, the history behind the portal, and Elias explained the mechanics behind the magic of Ærworuld. By the end of their secret rendezvous, Elle always felt disheartened to see Elias leave.
Elias put her at ease, while Mias put her on edge. True, she did not feel the fiery passion she felt around Mias, but she was not afraid of her desire around Elias. The sheer carnality of the tension between she and Mias was absolutely terrifying and she feared she could not control herself around him. Whereas Elias, she did not fear him and he shared her passions. He saw her as a personwhich was a longed-for change.
Though as time passed, Elle found herself wishing Elias had the straightforwardness of Mias. She realized she would not resist if he pursued her, she would welcome it and maybe even might return the affection.
Some small, nagging, part of her felt guilty for having these feelings for Elias and not Mias. It frustrated her more than anything, why should she feel guilty about possessing feelings for a man who respected her over one who did not?
But Mias did try. Elle shook her head. As Mias had commanded, they spent their evenings togethernot exploring each other's bodies as Mias had wantedbut she tried to explain to him how humanity worked while he tried to seduce her. It always ended poorly with Elle storming off into her room and Mias sulking behind her door. If only Mias could be more like Elias or if only her days were filled with Elias and the latter option sounded far more pleasant than the former.
Mias stared at her across the dining table in his quarters. Once again, she wore one of his crafted, poofy gowns which he adored. One elbow on the table, she rested her head on her hand, a mixture of boredom and annoyance rushing through her.
Mias slammed his utensils down on the table. "Would you bother to hold a conversation with me?"
Elle had enough of Mias on this particular evening. "I am sick of your conversation, Mias." She shot him a petulant look.
"Why? I am well educated, interesting, charismatic
my conversation is enthralling."
Elle rolled her eyes. "If your charm and charisma worked on me, then I'd be sleeping in your bed at night."
Mias looked vexed. "Why are you so unreceptive? I have given you everything you have asked. I gave you space, clothing, time alone
"But not my freedom."
"That is not up for discussion."
Elle rose from her seat. "Why is everything on your terms?" Elias never forced one topic on her, or prevented her from speaking on a topic. In fact, he never forced anything on her. Nothing was difficult with him.
"Because this is my castle. My land. You are mine. You do not get to dictate the rules of engagement!" Elle could see she had made him mad.
"I am not a possession. Elias understands this concept perfectly well! Why can't you?" Elle shook. She was by no means, Mias's, nor would she ever be.
Mias paused, looking at her skeptically. "Excuse me?"
Elle felt spiteful, she narrowed her eyes. "Elias would never treat me as you have. He is kind. He understands what it means to be a human being, you calloused louse!"
Mias rose, knocking over the dinner table. "Elias
?" Rage shook on the edge of the name.
Mias closed the distance between them. Elle stood her ground, chin raised, defiance in her eyes. "Yes, Elias."
"You have been visiting with him?" Mias was close, mere inches away. He loomed over her.
"And enjoying every minute of it."
Neither would back down. Mias bored down at her and Elle scowled up at him. He could do nothing to her, anymore. She refused to let him hold any power over her.
Mias's eyes softened, searching in hers. "Whatever your opinion of me, Elle, do not let it blind you against him. He is not all that he seems. He will use you, in a much more derisive manner than I ever could."
"Even if that is true, it is no less than what you have done." She felt the heat from his body radiate from him. The same electrifying tingles, that she had come to know so well, began to surge through her. Her breath became shallow and her eyes dilated.
Mias paused, glancing away. "Do you really believe that?"
Elle's eyes drifted down to his lips. It had been so long since he had taken an unwanted kiss, since they succumbed to the fireeven if it was only briefly and with short kisses.
Mias cupped his hands around her face. "Do you really believe that? That I have just used you for ill purposes?"
Elle's hands rested on his. She found she could not think, not with him so close, or with him touching her. She looked into his eyes. "Have I been unclear in expressing my feelings on the matter?"
Mias's eyes rested on Elle's lips. A shudder rippled through her. She closed her eyes and prepared for the kiss, for total possession of her mouth.
But it did not come.
Elle fluttered her eyes open. Mias studied her for a moment, his eyes searching for something. He released his hold of her face, backing away. She dropped her hands to her side, still dazed from his proximity.
He stormed to the door, hand on the knob. "Elle, I
I." He sighed, averting his eyes from her gaze. "You will find that Elias is not the angel that he pretends to be. I just hope that when you realize this fact, you will not be crushed by his malice and contempt."
With that, Mias turned the door, leaving her speechless and with her fire un-satiated. Angry tears formed in her eyes, though she knew not why she was angry or why Mias was worth crying over. For once he had done what she wanted him to, leave her alone, unmolested.
That is what she wanted, right?
Hands pushed Abernos and Berenos to their knees and forced their heads down. Gasps of astonishment erupted through the Stag and Doe courtiers.
They had made it, weeks of travel and dodging their father's political allies to arrive home. They did not expect a warm welcome, but the dirt, the trees, and the moss invigorated them. The forests knew the sons of the Stag Lord had returned, bending and bowing at their entrance.
The throne room was far more imposing and glorious than Abernos had ever realized. Thousands of trees had been magicked to form the walls and roof of the entire castle, rich dirt formed the flooring, as sunlight dappled through the trees. The power of the Stag Lord was a thing to behold.
The Lord Stag bellowed over the noise. "I banished you both. How dare you return here? How dare you show your faces in my forests?" Silence fell upon the room.
Abernos smelt the rage on his father's lip and the fear on Berenos's brow. The trees quaked and the earth trembled. This does not bode well.
Abernos spoke. "We would not have returned if it had not been important, father." He emphasized the word, though he knew it would do little good. The Lord Stag had long stopped being their father, when their mother died; it was if her children were no longer good enough to be remembered. But the forests knew the truth and that the Stag Lord could not deny. More creaks and groans trembled from the forest, this family dispute only caused them turmoil and uncertainty.
His father rose from his throne. "Everyone out. Out of my court."
Hastily, the court filed out until Abernos, Berenos, their father, and two guardsout of ear shotremained. Abernos looked into his father's hazel nut eyes. "How dare you banish your only two sons?"
The wind whispered through the hall in agreement.
His father snarled. "I am the Lord Stag. I do as I please." A flurry of leaves circled around him, recognizing the power of their lord. He raised his arms, inviting in the tokens of nature which he ruled.
Berenos glowered. "Mother would not have approved."
The Lord Stag paused and turned to face his two sons. "What do you want?"
Nature swirled all around the throne room, curious and fearful of what would transpire.
Abernos turned to Berenos. "We have information that we are willing to share
for a price."
"What is the nature of your information?" The Lord Stag looked suspicious.
The trees, and the wind, and the leaves turned their attention to Abernos, interested in the words of their princes.
"It regards the Ágend family and the portal," Berenos confirmed.
A flurry of commotion exploded in the room. Abernos was concerned by the forest's response to the mention of the Ágend family, usually the affairs of wizards and mortals and any non-creatures who lived outside of the forest were not their concern or care. Why should they care about the Ágend family?
And what is your price?"
Abernos focused his attention. His questions could be answered later, this drama needed to be dealt with now. "Berenos had a spell placed over him. We want it removed and we want our banishment to be lifted."
The Lord Stag rolled his eyes, appearing bored. "And why would I lift your banishment?"
Abernos spoke firmly. "Because this has gone on long enough, you two need to apologize and forgive one another."
Berenos cried. "What? I never agreed to forgive him!"
Abernos looked each one in the eye, his lip and eyes stern. "You both were stubborn and wrong, and both of you know it. How much longer is the fate of the forests going to be dependent on the contradictory wills of the Royal Family? There is no need to fight. We are family."
Berenos and their father locked eyes. The forest stopped all commotion and silence permeated the room. Like a dense fog, tension hung in the air.
Berenos looked to the ground and the tension eased. "Father, I am sorry for my actions. I wasn't thinking
"No, no. It is I who was the stubborn fool
I should not have been so unconcerned
Their father's eyes became glossy. "My sons." He opened his arms walking towards Berenos and Abernos, wrapping an arm around each bound son. The wind picked up, swirling around them. The trees ceased to groan and the earth no longer quaked. Rustling through the forests could be heard as life stirred outside the throne walls.
"Guards!" The Stag Lord commanded. "Release my sons from their bindings! Immediately!"
The bindings on his hands had begun to chafe, so Abernos welcomed the rope falling at his sides.
Abernos, Berenos, and their father united in a giant hug.
The court began to fill into the hall. The Lord Stag cheered to his people, "My sons have returned. This is cause for a celebration!"
The crowd erupted in cheers as the forest danced in reverie over the reuniting of the Stag Lord and the Stag Princes. The forest was whole.
Abernos turned to his father in the midst of the commotion. "We do have an urgent matter to discuss with you father. The Ágend family has been through the portal. Who knows what this could entail? Or if any damage has been done yet. I know at least one soul has been stolen from the mortal world."
The Stag Lord shook his sons shoulder. "Tonight we celebrate. Tomorrow we can worry about the Ágend family. Let us enjoy our reunion."
Abernos held his objections. The forest needed this healing, needed the jubilation. Too long had it suffered under the hate in the Stag Royal Family. Abernos could only hope that the Ágend family's plans were not fully in action.
Mias guided his sword with precision, falling into his routine. But the exercise of his sword did little to silence the thoughts racing through him. He had left her last night and he knew he could not face her.
He was not like Elias in any capacity and certainly Elias was the far worse of the two. Elias was sadistic and cruel, preferring the torment of others rather than the pleasure. But why did she not see this?
It was as if she refused to believe that heher kidnapperwas capable of good, though Mias tried and tried
and tried. He had no ill will towards her nor was hell bent on her destruction. Mias had no intentions of using her to further his purposes. He would not leave her to rot after he had made passionate love to her. He only wanted to keep her, amongst his belongings, so that they could succumb to the flame of their desire.
His purposes with her were not concealed. He had been upfront about his intentions from the beginning.
Doubt settled into his mind. Maybe he had been wrong to have taken her against her will. Maybe, even, he was wrong to keep her locked away. But he had wanted her and so he had taken her as with any other. He would do away with her when he was through. What was wrong with that?
He was no Elias.
But did that make him any better? Mias wanted to say yes, yet he felt that if it was true she would not be so easily swayed by the guile of Elias. She believed Elias because she wanted to, because Mias had given her no reason to trust his word.
Then it hit him. Everything she had spokenpleadedabout humanity. She would not be used as a means to an end. She meant that she would not allow herself to be used as entertainment or pleasure for him, even if she had wanted to partake in the pleasure making.
She would not be treated as anything, well, less than human. Mias understood, she commanded respect in the same manner that he does. For the first time, Mias realized, Elle might be the only person who was Mias's equal: the only person who he could love. He felt it now, he knew the truth.
He had to tell her. He had to explain. Mias felt like he played the part of a fool. He knew, Elle was more than just entertainment or a flirtation. He intended to marry her, as soon as he could convince her. She would turn after she saw his sincerity. She would know.
Mias sheathed his sword and sprinted through the courtyard. He threw the giant doors to the castle open and flew up the stairs.
He panted a moment before he went into his chambers, regaining his breath and composure. With disregard, he opened the door wide to his chambers.
"Elle! Elle, I understand what you mean. I
Instead of finding a surprised, and slightly agitated Elle, as he had expected. He found Elle in Elias's arms locked at the lips.
Elle and Elias jumped apart. Elle stared at Mias in disbelief. She raised her hand to her lips, confusion crossed her face.
"M-Mias?" She stuttered.
Mias tensed. He watched as Elias backed away, a smirk on his lips.
Mias could not breathe. It was as if someone had stolen the air from his lungs. A giant knot formed at the pit of his stomach. He turned around and promptly walked out of the room as quickly as he had entered.
"Mias, wait! Mias
I!" Elle pleaded.
Mias slammed the door. He would not think about the twit in his room or about the deceptiveness of his brother. Mias was tired of this drama. He would leave to where he could regain his sense of self. He just needed to get away from this place, to escape from the disaster whom he might have loved, and to be free from Elle's siren grip.