43. The Emerald Queen

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The group that had dismounted, was led by the general and flanked by the female elf as they walked through the forest in silence, which was only broken by the crackle of dead leaves under the horses' hooves. Beluar still lay unconscious and Athena threw worried glances at him, wanting desperately to go to his side but was kept away with the angry glares given by the elf.

That was not the only thing that worried her. Ever since they entered the forest, a feeling of trepidation shook her, and it seemed to only get worse as she neared the elven city. Lost in her thoughts, she didn't realize they reached until the General shouted to no one in particular.

"General Gael of the First Order. Here with wolves claiming to have come to meet the Queen, as well as Lord Beluar and a halfling." Athena's raised an eyebrow on hearing his name.

Gael. It fits him.

"Keep peace and peace will be kept." A reply floated through the shrubs.

Gael nodded and reached out to grab the leaves of the plant before them. "Before we enter," he said, turning around to face Ryder and Athena," Like Neyer, The Watchful has said, keep the peace, and we will not be forced to eradicate you. Follow my lead and nothing will happen to you." He pushed the leaves down to reveal the kingdom of Lesidor.

Athena, Michael, and Ryder found themselves on a cliff that provided them with the most beautiful view of the city. Staircases went down from one side of the cliff and a slope on the other for horses to take, and in the distance, was a river that flowed through their city in little streams. As the little group walked down the cliff, Athena saw that the whole kingdom was a world away from theirs. Their birds glowed strangely and their animals, monstrous. But that never stopped an elf from stopping when they saw one, petting it and walking away like it was nothing but a familiar cat.

A strange sense of peace hummed through the air, and Athena realized that this was what Neyer meant. She looked at Michael, excited for him but was met with fear in his eyes. Worried, she moved closer to him.

"What's wrong?" she enquired.

"Nothing," he replied.

"I've known you long enough to be able to hear what you don't say, Michael."

"How about you tell me what's been bothering you ever since we left Dreshire?"

"It was just a dream, Michael."

"One that shook you. Nothing scares you, Athena, and yet that dream did." he countered, annoyance replacing the fear in his eyes.

"It was a woman holding a baby, all right? And for some reason, she seemed to know me well. Are you happy now?"

"Oh, that sounds like the kind of thing nightmares are made up of," he smirked.

"Enough about me, Michael. What is bothering you?"

He sighed, running his fingers through his hair. "I remember the first day you came home, you know."

"What brought about that memory?" she asked, surprised that that was what was actually bothering him.

"The fact that after this, I won't see you as much as I used to, Athena. And if what Beluar said is right, about me being an heir, all this..." he said, motioning to the kingdom around him, "... is too much."

"A supposed heir that is giving up before he even starts, pathetic." The female elf commented from behind her. And that snapped her last thread of patience. Turning around, she stood tall in front of her and poked a finger into her shoulder.

"Listen, Elf. I still have not gained control over my beast, and one more word of disrespect is going to bring it out and I cannot be held responsible for what happens after. And I am sure that the Queen won't mind that I did the job for her when she comes to know that one of her subjects have been treating her guests terribly right under her nose."

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