Your Ivy Grows
So, here’s my one and only submission for @elrielmonth. If I had more time, I would’ve done more days, but life was just too busy. This focuses more on Elain, but I’ve had this fic idea in my mind for a few months and needed to get this out. I’ve finally finished the first draft of IDBTWY Part 24, but it needs some serious edits. My goal is to have it ready for next weekend. 🤞 Anyways, please enjoy and let me know what you think. I love getting feedback from you. 💙💜💚
No trigger warnings for this, other than a little language.
Word Count: 1,279
Elain heard them talking as she made her way down the stairs at Feyre and Rhys’s estate. She’d had her own room that looked out over the sprawling garden that she had single-handedly grown from her blood, sweat, and tears. It was a lovely view full of vibrant colors during the Night Court’s spring season.
In all reality, when Elain heard the voices, she should’ve snuck her way back upstairs to avoid having to speak to him.
The male with whom she shared some bond.
It felt like an anchor to her. Cast into the depthless sea, drowning her until she conformed to who the Cauldron or the Mother or some other god thought she should tie herself to.
She hesitated on the step from the bottom, listening intently to the conversation going on in the other room. Elain had taken to stealthily inserting herself into conversations when nobody expected her to and she kept to the shadows to avoid detection—much like the shadowsinger.
“Are you sure about this?” Lucien had asked.
“Yes,” came Feyre’s voice. “We must reform ties to the Spring Court and I believe this is the best way. Tamlin needs you to regain control over his land and his people. And to help him come to terms with his past and his choices.”
“And what about Elain?”
That made her body go rigid as something oily coiled in her gut.
“Elain will love the Spring Court. It’s the perfect gardening season all year round. She’ll adjust there easily. You two can have your mating ceremony once you’re settled in there.”
They were acting like she didn’t exist. That she wouldn’t even object to them planning her future for her. Deciding for her.
How dare they!
With her head held high, Elain stalked into the room. “Excuse me, but is anyone going to ask what I want? What my wishes are?” she demanded, fury radiating from her every fiber.
But the others acted as if they hadn’t heard a single word she said.
“I believe the mating ceremony held in the Spring Court would help bring Tamlin’s people together. A tie to hold a court together and to slow any talks about rebellion. When Tamlin’s people see the connection to the Night Court, they’ll likely think twice about whatever it is they’re planning,” Rhys mussed from the couch.
Elain moved further into the room, near the doors that led out to the terrace and her garden. “Hello!” she hissed. “What do you all think you’re doing?”
Again, no response from anyone in the room.
The red-headed fae seemed to ponder something. “Is she willing to go through with this?”
Feyre adjusted Nyx in her arms. “Elain is docile. She’ll adjust to anyone who feeds and clothes her.”
“What did you just say?” she snarled, more violently than she’d ever done before in her life.
Lucien’s russet eye met Rhys’s from across the room. “Then it’s settled. Elain and I will move back to the Spring Court tomorrow and will be mated by the end of the month.”
She whirled. “Like hell, I will!”
How could they? How could they just decide for her without speaking to her? Without giving any consideration to how she felt or what she wanted?
Like she was invisible…
Something tangled around her ankles and Elain looked down to see thorned ivy had wrapped itself around her legs, tugging her backward. Two more strands wound around her wrists, moving her limbs for her.
Come, kingslayer, it seemed to hiss.
Atone for your actions.
“Help me!” she cried out as the ivy began pulling her towards the door. The thorns bit into her flesh the more she struggled. “Please!” she begged. “Please, somebody, listen to me!”
“I will go pack her belongings,” Nesta announced, rising from her seat.
“Nesta!” Elain screamed. “Don’t let them do this to me!” Tears were streaming down her face. Her hands clutched at the vines, tearing open her palms, but she didn’t care. She would struggle to break free of these puppet strings until her dying breath. “Please!” she cried out again. “Somebody listen to me! Just hear me!” Her eyes darted around the room she was being forced out of.
To both of her sisters, to Rhys, to Cassian, to Lucien.
But none of them seemed to notice her.
None seemed to care.
Another vine of ivy wrapped around her middle, slicing through the bodice of her gown. It pricked the skin of her stomach. Blood oozed down, staining the amethyst color of her dress.
Elain screamed and thrashed as the ivy tugged her farther and farther into the darkened woods—away from the people who she thought were her family. It surrounded her, blocking her sight from anything but green, wax leaves, and darkness.
“Somebody help me! Please!” she screamed again. “No! No, no, no!”
It was no use.
Nobody was coming to save her.
Nobody would listen.
She had been too quiet for too long. Nobody cared what she had to say now.
Perhaps she deserved this—this life of a puppet. Where others decided who she was to be. Where she would go.
And who she would love.
Another vine wrapped around her neck, tightening its hold and restricting her airways.
She was nothing more than a decorative piece of garden décor. No better than a marble statue to be bought and sold by the people around her.
Elain let it; embraced its curse. She let her eyes shut, tears still rolling down her cheeks. Nobody wanted to hear her. To see her. She was supposed to be the porcelain doll her mother always told her she would be. To be seen only for her beauty and not her wants, her desires.
That’s when she heard it. The distant beat of membranous wings—her name being screamed.
She knew that voice.
The ivy began to recede as that voice called her name again.
“Elain! Elain, where are you?”
“Please!” she cried. “See me! Find me!”
She heard a hacking noise as that voice got closer.
The ivy loosened its hold on her slightly until she could suck in air. The metallic stench of blood filled her nostrils as it released her.
“Elain!” came that voice again. The one that always seemed to see her. Seemed to look at her and not past her. Like she wasn’t a puppet with strings to be pulled.
A flash of silver caught her eye as a blade cut through the living ivy. The greenery hissed in a foreign language, that she somehow knew had been dead for centuries, at the sight of that legendary blade—a bridge between her and its master—light, and dark.
Trembling fawn no more. A fanged beast took its place.
And then, a scarred hand, bloodied from battling its way through the foliage shoved its way through to her. An offer and a promise of something better.
Elain cried at the sight of that hand, reaching for it with all her might. “You came for me,” she breathed clutching the warm, damaged flesh in her own.
“Hold tight,” that voice said as he tightened his grip and hauled her through the rescinding ivy and back into bright, white light.
Elain woke up gasping for air.
Shadows swirled around her bedroom like a raging storm and she blinked, looking up and finding worried, hazel eyes staring down at her.
Scarred fingers traced the contours of her cheek and jaw.
Too locked into each other’s gaze, neither of them saw the string of ivy withering along the balcony outside her window.
A puppet finally cut free of its strings.
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Feathers and dawn
Day 15 of Elriel month/ Explosion of power
The half-wraith gave her friend a feral grin, white teeth flashing against her dark skin, and said quietly in her midnight voice, “Stealthy as a doe.”
Elain matched Nuala’s smile, sending a thrill down Azriel’s spine. “Fierce as a wolf.”
Word count: 3838
Disclaimer: This was a huge challenge for me, because English isn't my first language, so I apologize for any mistakes. Part II is coming out on day 18 (I think). Be kind!
Azriel was kneeling on the ground, panting through gritted teeth as he tried not to succumb to that invisible force covering him like a heavy blanket. Whatever spells and wards casted upon that place were draining his magic little by little as if he had been hit by several ash arrows - only ten times worse.
Even with the cold rain soaking him, the raindrops like ice needles against his skin and wings, he managed to fix his eyes on the cave, scanning and scanning through the dark dots that were beginning to form, trying to see something, anything.
But the cave was as dark as the sky above him. A never ending darkness that seemed to swallow any blue light from his almost drained Siphons.
His shadows detected nothing. Not a whisper, not a move, no sign of her.
After Elain had disappeared inside the Cave and his shadows couldn't get a reading, he had immediately sent Nuala to get Rhysand whilst he tried to find a way in. But he couldn't pass the wards just like his shadows couldn't sense her.
When a female scream echoed from inside the cave, Azriel couldn't breathe, couldn't think. Pure, clear panic was all he knew.
When he had been summoned to the river house in the morning, not in his five hundred years he’d expected it to turn out like this.
Azriel hadn't been able to sleep for more than a few hours, and even so dreams and nightmares made him roll in his bed the entire time. He’d been awake for hours, staring at the two Solstice gifts he’d got from her when dawn came. And with it, Rhys’ orders.
He made a point not to arrive earlier than he needed, so he wouldn’t be - couldn't be - in the same place as her longer than necessary. Keeping his distance when he wasn't at the river house was torture enough, but being in the same house and still feel as if they were at opposite edges of the same abyss…
And yet when Azriel landed outside the river house, his shadows quickly whispered in his ear that Rhysand wasn't alone in his studio.
The warning did nothing to stop his body from stiffen when he stepped through the door, the illusion of a meeting only between him and his brother quickly dissipating, and his eyes shot straight to the window - and there she was.
He didn't know if it was the lilac dress or the sunlight casting through the window, but her eyes were almost the color of pure honey. But something was off, her usually open expression was stark and hard, and then he noticed the pallidness on that beautiful face and the faint black bruises under her eyes. Even though he knew his face was the portrait of boredom, his shadows swarmed him, sensing his unease.
Azriel made his eyes move to where Amren was sitting crossed-legged, her petite body almost hidden beneath a white fur coat. Feyre cradling Nyx in her arms was sitting next to Rhysand, the baby soundly asleep, warm against his mother's chest.
Azriel looked back to where Elain was, her shoulders tensing a bit as if she could sense his gaze on her even when she was peering through the window, and he knew she was deliberately avoiding looking at him. It was only a stolen glimpse from his part - Azriel was well aware of Rhysand's violet eyes on him, almost daring him to disobey his orders.
Azriel made the boiling rage cool down, kept his face carefully blank, his mask of cool boredom still in place whilst he faced his brother, lifting an eyebrow in question.
Amren, on the other hand, didn’t bother to mask her impatience. “We’re waiting, Rhysand.”
The High Lord of The Night Court nodded to Elain, and Azriel felt his body stiffened once again. Rhysand announced, "It looks like we have another Made object to worry about.”
Azriel’s blood went cold in his veins. He asked quietly, "How would you know?"
Elain didn't give many details. But she emphasized it was more of a sense than a normal vision, as if she could smell a storm coming but the skies remained clear. As if she could hear an ancient whisper in the wind. She wasn't sure what it was until last night - when something long forgotten had presented itself in a dream. Azriel was well aware of what kind of objects could call for someone like that.
“What is this object?” Feyre asked.
Elain replied, “I… I can’t See what it is.” Azriel tracked the way she swallowed. “It’s veiled in shadows. Hidden among the silence itself."
Nodding more to herself, Amren said, "Whatever this is, it wants to be found at last.” She narrowed her eyes at Elain’s direction. "It's calling for you, girl."
Azriel's shadows gathered even closer, sensing his concern. He remembered of Oorid, how Nesta’s body shook after she retrieved The Mask. For Elain to be exposed to the same danger…
And yet, he couldn’t - wouldn’t interfere. He knew how much each choice Elain got to make was precious to her. She’d told him that herself on one of those nights in front of the fireplace. Her eyes had been filled with a mix of sadness and hope as if she still could feel her own choices slipping through her fingers as if they were grains of sand.
He had only stared at her back then, imagining how it had been like for her going into the Cauldron - and then spending months trapped in her own visions to the point she couldn't tell dreams and reality apart. So he'd kept silent, let his understanding rise to the surface so she could see it and watched as her body relaxed under his gaze.
So different from now when she looked in every direction except his as she watched the harsh argument, Amren insisting vigorously that Elain should go look for the object.
That explained why Nesta wasn't there, why Rhysand hadn't asked him to fly her down.
Whilst Cassian was in Illyria for an inspection of the aerial legions, the priestesses had recently received another female. Nesta didn't so much hesitate in wanting to help her the way she could and have been spending more time than usual at the library. But not to tell her, to keep this away from her…
"Does Nesta know about this?", Azriel cut in.
"She would take this task for herself." Rhysand didn't even bother to look guilty. "And if it's calling for Elain, we can't risk sending anyone else, even if she chooses not to go. It could end very badly."
"Maybe Nesta would be right to hesitate to send Elain," Azriel argued back, violet eyes narrowing. "Either way, that doesn't justify not telling her."
Feyre was glaring at her mate, undoubtedly saying something in his head, as if they had that discussion before. Many times.
But before she could say anything out loud, Amren cut in, "It's not calling for Nesta, boy."
Azriel's voice was cold as ice. "Do not forget that we already kept information from her before."
Amren didn’t even have time to open her mouth - to disagree or snarl, Azriel didn't know - before Elain stood up from her seat at the window, "That’s enough."
They all twisted toward her, brows raised. The only sound in the room now was the soft rustle of Nyx delicate wings.
Elain looked at Rhys, eyes sharp but voice even. "You of all people should know what it is like to want to protect those who you love and that is no excuse for keeping things from Nesta." Sadness coated her expression. “Not again, Rhys.”
This time, Rhys had the decency to look at least guilty. Ferey intervened, "I'll tell her this afternoon. I want Cassian there, too."
Elain nodded. "I'm not a child for anyone to decide for me. If it's calling for me, I won’t run away.” She said squaring her shoulders, never looking away from her older sister, who was just about to say something. "And I am not asking for permission."
And her posture, her words, her tone were so fierce, those large caramel-brown eyes flickering while she studied them all and Azriel knew that she’d do whatever was necessary to help this court.
A reminder that the Archeron sisters were forged by the same fire.
Azriel's chest ached with pride - and terror. Terror for her. But he pushed aside those instincts that were screaming to keep her safe, to not let her near any danger, and asked at last, "Then how do we find it?"
In a matter of minutes, Elain was sitting before a map, her eyes shifting beneath her lids as if she could See the entire world. Everyone was watching her as she searched for the right place, the one that appeared in her dreams - so Azriel used the moment to admire her.
Beautiful. She was so beautiful, he could admire her for the rest of his days in the same way he looked at the rising sun.
Elain’s hand hovered over that map, the creamy, soft skin marked by small scars, her delicate fingers were calloused, no doubt from her gardening. She cocked her head, as if listening to those whispering to find the right path. Azriel could’ve sworn the room was getting warmer.
She let a finger down and opened her eyes. For a second it looked like a faint golden glow shone behind the familiar brown, just like one could see the faelights behind a piece of glass, but then Elain blinked a few times - and it faded away.
"Here," she said.
Feyre sighted deeply as she cupped Nyx’s head as if she could protect him from her very words. "Of course it's in the Middle."
Nuala didn't ask any questions. She'd only showed up in the afternoon as they had agreed, passing right through the wall. Elain appeared a second later, opening the door and almost scrambling Azriel's brain cells to the point of uselessness.
Her hair was braided behind her head, a blue surcoat, similar to the one she wore in the war, reached the middle of her thighs. It wasn’t Illyrian leathers, but the slits in the lower part of the surcoat combined with her leather pants did absolutely nothing to hide her curves and the color made her skin look almost golden.
His shadows brightened as if to let him see all of her more clearly. He knew he was staring, that he should say something about them going somewhere, but he couldn't even remember his words. When Feyre had suggested he accompany Elain, he’d made his best to not look at Rhys, to just naturally nod in agreement.
Rhysand wouldn't say a word about Solstice. Not in front of Feyre, that is.
But that didn't stop his High Lord to make Nuala play chaperone with a bullshit excuse that her gifts might end up being useful in the place they were heading to and her friendship with Elain could help.
The message was crystal clear.
Azriel's eyes dropped without his acknowledgement to her lips, those sweet lips he had been so close to taste. He heard someone coughing, but his mind didn’t register the sound.
When he finally realized he was staring, he quickly snapped his eyes to hold her gaze. Despite the faint pink coloring her cheeks, a flicker of amusement sparkled in Elain’s expression.
Behind him, someone cleared their throat.
Azriel ignored the smirk curving Feyre’s lips just like he ignored Nuala’s amusement, trying his best to contain the heat spreading across his cheeks at the thought of them watching the staring contest between the two of them.
Finally Nuala decided to put him out of his misery and asked, "Shall we?".
By the time the swirl of shadows disappeared, Azriel was half distracted by the feeling of Elain's small hand in his. But the moment Azriel was able to have a good look at the place before them, he felt the hair on his arms rose.
A deep forest was revealed, huge, gigantic trees side by side, making him feel the same size as Amren. Nuala let go of his other hand and almost unconsciously he tightened his grip on Elain's as she looked wild-eyed at the view before them.
As if one could call it that.
Where the forest should be rejoicing with life, there was none. Not a single leaf remained in those trees, the naked branches curling above the small, meandering trail like black claws. There wasn't a single animal or insect anywhere beneath the dark gray sky, making the atmosphere grievously melancholic.
No light, no life. A place of utter sadness, as silent as Death.
"I've seen worse." Nuala's midnight voice was almost a whisper, but still reverberated like a thunder in that deadly silence, her attempt of being playful covered by the tenseness in her tone.
Azriel studied Elain, who swallowed before saying, "Me too." Her face was cautious, tight. She cocked her head as if heading some inner voice.
He asked, "Can you See where it is?"
She gently let go of his hand, blushing a little as if she had just realized they were still touching. "No, not See it" She said, scanning the forest. "But I can hear it."
"The shadows don't hear anything," Nuala said, moving to be at Elain’s side. “Do you remember what we discussed?”
“Once we enter the forest, watch your steps and try to walk toe to heels most of the time. Listen carefully to our breathing,” Nuala said, gesturing to her and then Azriel, who was watching the scene with raised brows. “And match yours with it always. Be as quiet as you can.”
To his surprise, Elain just lifted a brow at the command in Nuala’s tone, who gave her a Look. “I’m serious, if you can help it, do not make a sound in this place.” The half-wraith gave her friend a feral grin, white teeths flashing against her dark skin and said quietly in her midnight voice, “Stealthy as a doe.”
Elain matched Nuala’s smile, sending a thrill down Azriel’s spine. “Fierce as a wolf.”
And then they walk right into The Silent Forest, living an almost dumbfounded Azriel behind.
They had been walking for what it felt like hours now.
Even with his five hundred years worth of daily training, Azriel could feel his strength being drained slowly as if a heavy hand was pushing them back. With every step he took, it was like the forest itself, every single inch of that damn forest, didn’t want them there.
He kept his wings tucked in tight while eyeing their surroundings, once or twice he saw what seemed a glimpse of eyes watching them. The children of The Silent Forest. He could only pray for them to get the hell out of that place before sunset.
Nuala seemed just as uncomfortable. Shadows gathered around her like a veil of darkness as if they could shield her from that invisible force, even though she was holding Elain’s hand now.
Elain, who did not balk. She just kept walking, stopping sometimes along the way, her head cocked as if she could hear an inner voice luring her into the right direction until, at some point, Elain left the small forest trail to venture in an invisible path between the trees.
More than once Nuala looked at Elain and smirked, causing a blush to spread across Elain’s pale cheeks.
Despite the circumstances why Nuala was there, Azriel was grateful for the female attempts to distract Elain from her visible, growing tension. So he kept a few steps behind, offering the two females some privacy. And when the temptation of using his shadows to know the cause of that blush crossed his mind, which was every five minutes, he pushed it aside and tried to focus on the surroundings or on the infinity, dark sky above them. With the sun almost down, the charged clouds waltzing through it in a promise of desolation.
They kept walking against that invisible force, almost unbearable now until… there. Azriel stiffened.
Deep in the forest, where the darkness seemed to unfold out of it, the entrance into a cave opened as if it was a path to another world, one made of Darkness and nothing more.
Azriel’s shadows whispered to not go further.
Nuala seemed to sense the same thing. "It feels… so wrong.” Her voice was quiet, but it seemed to be swallowed by the cave as if it was greedy to devour any sound, any light.
“Strange,” Elain whispered back, brows furrowing. “It doesn’t feel like that to me.”
Azriel looked once again at the sky. They didn’t have much more time before night - and the beasts - came. He was almost suggesting to turn around, maybe they could convince Rhysand to come along.
"I’ll be right back."
It took a moment to her words sink in, to Azriel make sense of what had just come out of Elain’s mouth. Elain, who was already moving. Elain, who was already walking towards the cave, getting closer with each step.
Azriel moved out of sheer instinct, rushing forward to grab her hand, but again that damn force was pushing him back now. He flared his wings, trying to find some balance to keep going. "Elain," he snarled.
She paused right before the entrance and looked back at him, "I can hear its calling, it won't hurt me.”
Azriel was breathing hard, so lost on his mind that he didn’t realize the rain soaking him. He didn't like that one bit. He wanted to reach her, put his arms around her and shot to the skies. But he only unsheathed Truth-Teller and offered it to her. Elain bit her lip and walked back.
He pressed his dagger to her hands, their eyes meeting - just like he had done once. Elain didn't hesitate this time. “Just…” He took his hand, trying to find the words. And there were so many words. “Come back," he said at last. A request and a prayer.
Elain squeezed his fingers and looked at Nuala before turning around. Azriel tracked every breath, every movement she made. His shadows speared toward the cave, watching over Elain, until darkness swallowed her.
He was still monitoring her through his shadows, Nuala by his side. None of them dared to speak - not that he wanted to. Nuala worked as his spy long enough to know he kept to himself. His shadows were still curling around his neck to whisper in his ear.
Then, they became silent. As silent as they could be as they lost Elain’s track.
The screams came not long after she disappeared.
The female scream was still echoing in Azriel’s ears, his own panic was a fog he couldn't see through. He tried to use his Shiphons, but whatever twisted magic ruling that place, it could not be affected.
And Elain was there somewhere.
So Azriel lunged forward - to be pushed back by that invisible form. He felt a tentacle of darkness grab him, sinking its talons deep in his very bones, sucking on his killing power.
He turned to Nuala, who was trying to summon her own shadows, to see beyond the darkness. “Go back, right now and bring Rhysand.” Her face drained of color. “Now, Nuala.”
“I won’t leave her.”
“That’s an order," he snarled.
She looked back at the cave, before assuming her shadowy form and ran back, passing directly through the trees in her way.
Fuck. Seven Shiphons never felt so powerless. He could only imagine what the hell was happening, ancient spells and wards, casted by god knows what kind of creatures and now Elain - Elain - was there and -
Think. He needed to try to calm the hell down and think. He was always planning, always calculating, that was his fucking job.
But he couldn’t think. Those talons thigned, more and more. He felt his magic leaving him slowly.
And then everything stopped.
When he looked through the raindrops once more to the cave, -
Elain’s head broke the darkness first. A solemn expression printed on her beautiful face and her eyes... they glowed. Nothing like Nesta’s silver fire, nothing like Amren’s once were, but gone was the familiar chocolate brown that Azriel had lost himself in it more times he could count, replaced by a light of white and golden. As if the sun itself was behind her skull and, just like that, the air in the forest grew hotter, wave after wave of heat crashing through him, his own strength being restored. He was only half-conscious about the dark forms of beasts older than Darkness who lived there in absolute silence, that now ran from that promise of light.
And in her hands… a small golden orb.
Any trace of that unholy darkness was gone as Elain stepped closer and on her back... the hair on Azriel arms rose, pure awe ran though his body. A pair of beautiful, strong, powerful wings, covered in feathers, each one white as snow, gleaming and glowing as if they have been sewed with golden thread, perfectly matching her otherworldly eyes. They seemed impermeable despite the water running down, like they were covered by a protection layer where drops glittered under starlight, similar to pearls.
Azriel only stood there, drinking her image and memorizing it as she walked toward him. For she was something from dreams, from tales as old as the forest around them.
Sweat began to run down his back, between his wings, in great rivers and in that moment she was the sun itself. Her face was sheer power, so luminous that radiated from her, warming the world, and he knew that despite the heavenly glow, she could release hell upon them all with nothing but a blink - no kindness, no mercy whatsoever.
Despite the heat, he did not flinch, did not so much as move. This was different from the fire that gave him his scars, a constant reminder of hate and fear. Whatever that fire was made of, this was something else entirely.
It was the warmth of firelights on Solstice nights with his family, of spring days when he would sunny his wings. The warmth of Nyx’s laughter, of Elain’s smile. He wanted her closer, wanted to slide his arms around her and let her light cast through him until the darkness of his very soul faded away. For she was light, always have been. And for someone who is lost in the dark, light is salvation.
Slowly Elain stepped out of the cave. The moment she crossed the dorway, after a few steps, that light dimmed, her wings dropped as if she couldn't sustain its weight any longer. Azriel saw when her hands tightened around the orb, bringing it to her chest. She blinked and every trace of light disappeared, her beautiful face was now mortal - and pale.
Caramel-brown eyes met hazel ones before rolling back into her head. Azriel only had time to catch Elain in his arms before she could collapse on hard rock.
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What if Azriel does feel the pull to Elain? The charged glances. The all knowing looks. The gentle touches. The need to smell, touch, and taste her. The fact that he has literally nearly died to save her from Hybern with no hesitation. He's the only one who SEES her for who she is. And she SEES him. Hell, He'd know if she were dead or grave danger, he'd feel it in his heart because he FELT that when she was with Hybern. What if Azriel feels the pull, but doubts it because Lucien has declared Elain his mate? It goes against all reason. 2 mates have never happened before, so who is he to question? He might not even feel he deserves to be her mate, so he denies the pull. Goes against everything that's pointing to Elain and screams mate,mate, mate. But now? The pull is incessant. He could never deny her. Only the pure dominace and command in Rhysand's order could do such a thing. Is the ONLY reason why he didn't kiss Elain on Solstice. And now that another male is preventing him from simply being around Elain...Azriel questions all logical reason and states, "What if Cauldron was wrong?" Because Elain is his equal. The light to his darkness. So Azriel won't give up. Puts a face of impassiveness around Elain and the IC to appease Rhys. But he's strategically planning on how to go about this. Explore the possibility and truth that Elain would choose him over and over regardless of a bond. And deftly maneuver around political upholdings to be with the love of his life. What if Azriel feels the pull? And Mor or Koschei reveals the Truth between him and Elain. The Truth that's so glaringly obvious but everyone seems to ignore. Mate, mate, mate. I'm so excited for Elain and Azriel's book yall. 🥰
So sorry this post is so messy.🥺
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Whenever Nesta & Cassian interact
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Elriel Month - Day 8
I've always noticed they have a connection, and if in Sarah J Maas's world the Red String of Fate works, then it's definitely suited for Elain and Azriel.
Also I really, REALLY tried taking a good picture but my phone hates me and that combined with the shine the atyou spica give... Well, it's not a good combination, so I left it like this.
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“A flower cannot blossom without sunshine, and man cannot live without love.”
day 6, field of flowers. for @elrielmonth
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Elriel Month | Day 5: Meet Me In The Silence
WORD COUNT: 2,555
CONTENT WARNING: NONE
SONG SUGGESTION: “EXPERIENCE” - ANGELE DUBEAU
“If I have to steal time with you, I will. I’m not afraid to love you in the shadows until we’re safe to love in the light. I choose you, I will always choose you, Azriel.”
Elain stood outside in the chilly evening air looking up at the stars, her breath curling in the air like wisps of magic. This had been their meeting place for so long now, she had come here so many times and yet after everything it felt so foreign to her now. She’d left the note here for him, she had only seen him once since Solstice but they hadn’t spoken, they had shared a moment a-a dance, but no words, he’d even skipped family dinners lately and without involving anyone else she had no way to reach him. The only indication that he’d even received her note was that it no longer sat where she’d left it.
She clutched her cloak tighter around herself and looked up at the sky, so many wishes and dreams watched over her now, were hers there too? Would they help her now? She took a deep breath, the key he’d given her feeling like a lead weight in her hand now when it had once felt like the key to a beautiful future for her-for the both of them. She unlocked the door with trembling hands and stepped inside, every memory rushing to the forefront of her mind, she couldn’t help but smile even while her heart ached as much as it did. Everywhere she looked she saw him, saw them, together being completely free with one another, completely in love she'd thought.
What if he never wanted to see her again? He already seemed to be avoiding her even at the cost of time with his friends and family. She had to talk to him, had to let him know that he didn’t have to stay away, that she wouldn’t bother him again even if it meant letting their friendship slip away. She hung her head and quickly swiped a tear away, their friendship was likely over, if it had even really been a true friendship to anyone but her.
Azriel knew he shouldn’t go, knew that it was the latest in a series of careless decisions where Elain was concerned, but he still couldn’t stop himself. He landed just outside their place and stood frozen for a moment, she was here already, he could feel her. He took a deep breath, his hand resting just over his heart where he’d tucked her note into his coat pocket, where he always kept her notes. The gentle falling of rain pulled him from his thoughts and he strode for the door, not giving himself another moment to hesitate or talk himself out of it. He stepped inside and closed the door with a soft click, taking a few steps into the room before stopping. Elain was there, her scent of jasmine and honey threatening to both end him and make him feel more alive than he’d ever felt before. She turned to him slowly and the pain in her eyes, even as she gave him a gentle smile made his heart ache. He knew what she saw here, he’d seen those memories too the first time he’d been back here, ghosts of happier times when the game still belonged to just the two of them, before anyone else knew about the secret bridge they’d been building to one another all this time. He said nothing at first, maybe if they didn’t speak they could steal just a little more time together in the silence, just one more moment, one more memory of her before he pushed her to leave him behind for good.
Elain heard the door open and close behind her and slowly turned to face him but said nothing. Maybe they could exist here together for a little while longer, here in the silence. She watched him take a few steps closer before stopping, her eyes pleading with him to come the rest of the way before she forced herself to move to meet him in the center of the room. She looked up into his hazel eyes and she could see the pain there, whatever he felt, she knew, she just knew that he didn’t want this to end any more than she did.
“You shouldn’t be here.” He said quietly, finally breaking the silence and pulling her back from her thoughts. “It’s late and I’m sure no one else knows where you’ve gone.”
“I needed to see you, to talk to you.” She said. “To apologize for what happened on Solstice. I obviously misread the situation and...and I hope you’ll still train me.” The words were like ash in her mouth, but she kept smiling, though it didn’t quite reach her silver-lined eyes.
Azriel looked away, a muscle feathering in his jaw, and Elain knew that things were not going to go well.
“Az?” She pushed, quietly.
“I’ve already told you, Elain, you have nothing to apologize for-”
“Then why do I feel as if I’m being punished?” she asked, her eyes glossy with unshed tears. “Why do you look as if this hurts you just as much as its hurting me?”
“I’m sorry that I hurt you.” He looked at her and the pain and regret were clear in his eyes. Truthfully, he had never regretted anything more in his life. “It was never, ever my intention to hurt you, I made a mistake.” the last part nearly a whisper as he forced himself to say it.
“What part was a mistake?” she asked falteringly, afraid to hear his answer, her hands shaking at her sides, though not from the cold.
Azriel steeled himself before answering. “All of it. The training, the secrets-it was dangerous from the start and I should have known better. Gods, Elain, you could have been killed on that first mission. I should have stopped it then. Let me take you back home. If they find that you’re gone-”
“I knew the risks when we started, nothing has changed.” She said, trying to find a way out of this. “Please tell me the truth.” she whispered. “You’ve never given me any reason not to trust you.”
Azriel clenched his fists at his sides, hating himself as he said, “I’m not just talking about your training, Elain. You have a mate.”
For a moment, her heart fluttered at the confirmation that she hadn’t misread anything, then dread washed over her and settled into her chest at the mention of Lucien. “Don’t.” She stopped him, a lump forming in her throat at the betrayal. “Don’t you bring him up.”
“Its the truth, Elain.” His voice broke as he said the words. He knew how much she hated the bond, how much she hated the control it had over her life, over her heart. A heart that he knew he was dangerously close to damaging when she’d only just repaired if after that boy had tossed it aside so carelessly. He hadn’t been there, but he’d heard how brutal her former fiancé’s words had been and he’d seen how broken she was at the war camp afterward. The same night he’d risked everything to find her and bring her back to her family, to bring her back to him and now he was letting her go, pushing her away.
“I don’t WANT Lucien, I don’t LOVE Lucien, you know that.” She insisted as she stepped closer needing to be near him, but he stepped back as if being close to her caused him pain. She halted in her tracks, her heart breaking all over again. “Tell me that you think being with Lucien would be best for me. Look me in the eyes and tell me that nobody could love me more than he would.”
He closed his eyes and sighed, his self-control dangerously low. He had his orders and deep down, he knew that Lucien would take care of her if she chose him. He could endure it, if it meant she might be happy and more importantly that she would be safe. Every bit of self control, any scrap of hope he had of talking her out of seeing anything good in him dissolved when he felt her hand on his chest, resting over that note, resting over his heart.
“I can’t.” He said, looking down at her. He had never lied to her and he wouldn’t start now, he couldn’t, if he could keep one pure thing between them, it would be that. He closed his eyes and repeated the lines he’d rehearsed leading up to this meeting. “I cannot in good conscience put you at risk, Elain. If you’d like to continue training, Cassian can-“
“Don’t.” She said, her voice breaking as she began to feel defeated. “Please, don't.” She begged, her heart cracking as she felt a cold wall begin to rise between them. “Don’t do this, don't give me the Spymaster now, Azriel.”
“I am the Spymaster, Elain, its all I am, all I can ever be.” He said, not harshly, but with a coldness that threatened to shatter her further.
“No. You are more than that, it is a part of you but it is not who you are, it is NOT all there is to you. You showed me that, don’t try to hide it from me now. Is this really what you want?” She asked, fingers nervously twisting in the fabric of her cloak.
“What I want doesn’t matter.” He said with such honesty that it broke something inside of her to know that he truly believed that.
“What you want matters, Az.” She whispered through the tears that finally broke free. “It has always mattered to me.” Her hands fisted at her sides as she waited for him to say something, anything. Azriel just looked at her, his eyes full of longing and pain as he fought to force himself to stay where he was, every part of him screaming to be let go, to be free to go to her, touch her, love her.
Pain deeper than he’d ever seen there before reflected in her rich brown eyes as she took his silence as a final dismissal. She took a shuddering breath and took one last look at him before walking out into the rain. The door slammed shut behind her and she finally released the sobs that had been building up inside of her. He had made his choice and it wasn’t her, his loyalty to his court was not to be pushed aside for a mistake.
Azriel’s heart felt as if it were being squeezed in his chest as the door slammed shut behind Elain. It was as if she had taken all of the oxygen in the room with her. This was it, it was now or never. A lifetime of happiness and love or a lifetime of self loathing and doubt. He had never felt as if he truly had a choice before, but this felt so different. The moment was charged with energy, as if the Mother herself were watching his every move and waiting to see what he would do next. As warm tears rolled down his cheeks, Azriel knew that the choice he made now would set him on a path that would change his life forever.
“Elain!” He called out as he threw the door open, his eyes catching on her silhouette through the rain. He rushed toward her, one of his strides matching two of hers until he broke into a run. Elain felt his thundering footsteps behind her and turned to him, his hands immediately moving to cradle her face, the hood of her cloak falling away as his lips crashed into hers.
Elain returned the kiss, one hand fisting in his shirt as the other slid to the back of his neck, a small moan escaping from her lips as they parted for his tongue. Azriel's chest rumbled as their tongues danced, the feeling of her in his arms silencing any doubts in his mind that remained.
“I can’t…” He said breathlessly as he looked down at her, still holding her face in his hands, the rain beginning to soak them both now. “I can’t tell you any of those things, not about Lucien, not about any male.”
“Why not?” she asked, her chest aching, breathing ragged now as she fisted his coat in her trembling hands.
"Because I won’t lie to you, El. He could never love you, no one, not in this life or in the next could ever love you more than I do.” He said, his eyes full of regret for trying to push her away before. “Please forgive me for hurting you, for saying that it was a mistake. For any stupid thing I've ever said or done to hurt you or make you think that I wouldn't give anything just to be near you."
"I do, Azriel, I do." She nodded, the rain masking her tears as her smile lit up and seemed to glow, even in the storm darkened night. She kissed him again softly, once and twice on the lips before a third deeper kiss, her fingers sliding into the hair at the nape of his neck.
They finally broke, his face in her neck, his shuddering breath warm on her skin, arms around her, pressing her into him, both of them shivering.
“You have no idea how much I want this, how long I've wished that we could be together.” he breathed, the agony and fear clear in his voice. She could tell he was crying, even as the rain disguised his tears. “I’ve never wanted anything more in my life. I love you, Elain.”
“Then lets have it.” she whispered, stroking his hair back, that flicker of hope in her chest reigniting. “If I have to steal time with you, I will. I’m not afraid to love you in the shadows until we’re safe to love in the light. I will always choose you, Azriel, I love you.”
He pulled back looking down at her, his hand resting at her neck, his thumb ghosting over her jaw. “Elain, it will be dangerous, more dangerous than you know and we’ll have to hide from everyone, not just outside this court. The Autumn court, Lucien’s ties to our alliances, there is so much I need to tell you, so many ways you could be hurt if this goes wrong.”
Realization lit her eyes and she nodded, a challenge accepted. “Then we will just have to be very careful, won’t we?” She asked, affirming to him that she would not be backing down, not now, not ever.
“Incredibly careful, love.” He nodded, a small smile tugging at the corner of his mouth as he looked down at her, the decision made for both of them now. Elain, the gentle Archeron sister who chose peace over conflict, who followed orders without question-but not this time. This time, for love, they would both defy their family and when the time came, he would fight beside her and for her.
Her heart sang at his words and she kissed him, her heart seeming to glow and warm her as if it were on fire. “Us against the world then?”
“They don’t stand a chance.” He answered, kissing her back, the shadows pulling them out of the rain and back into the safety of their secret place where their game could continue though it had changed again.
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Day 2: your lips on my scars
Pose heavily inspired by the iconic "your hands are cold" scene in Pride and Prejudice.
In my mind this takes place after they spent the day together and they're walking back to meet everyone else. Not wanting their time alone to end just yet, they have a lovely moment in the garden. Kisses and caresses that won't be easily forgotten🌺🖤
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Elriel Month - Day 2
Lips on my scars
Okay I didn't do anything yesterday so today I tried to make something.
Anyway, I'm still not completely happy but it is what it is. This is just one of my wishes, for Elain to kiss Azriel's hands.
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day 1 of @elrielmonth
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What snippets and POVs I need to read in Elain's book. This is mostly an Elriel focused post.
What happened in the Cauldron
post-cauldron interactions at the House
tea sessions in the garden
Azriel researching for Elain's power in the Library
Hybern's war camp
Sharing Truth-Teller in ACOWAR
Killing the King
Solstice in ACOFS
Solstice in ACOSF
Elriel Babysitting a fussing Nyx
The Wraith Twins and the Seer bonding
Mor training Elain.
Elain, showing just how quick a "loyal dog" can turn into a vicious Daglan Hound. Fanged Beast indeed.
Feyre ripping Rhysand a new one for being a hypocrite.
Rhysand being protective over Elain, not just for political standings, but because he cares for her deeply as brother or father figure would.
The Talk between Elriel
Elain approaching Rhysand
Breaking the Bond
The Blood Duel
Elain creating a bargain with Azriel.
Elain befriending Bryaxis as she hunts for the trove. Fear Incarnet, the face of nightmares, vowing to protect her on her journey.
Elain sharing a connection with the Mother
Truth-Teller origin story.
Elain saving Azriel
Heartwrenching confessions of love between Elriel.
The Bond reveals itself between Elriel at some point in this book. Someone is aware of it. Maybe Truth-Teller reveals it. Or Koschei.
There's so many more yall I'm overwhelmed with curiosity and excitement. ✨✨✨
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I love the headcanon of Azriel and Elain leaving little notes and things for each other so i made this 🌺🖤 Elain comes back in from tending her garden and finds this on her pillow 🌺🖤
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Azriel refers to his brothers as Rhys and Cass
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Elriel Month | Day 2: Your Lips On My Scars
Word Count: 1458
Content Warning: None
Theme: Fluffy & Sweet
Song Suggestion: SUN (INSTRUMENTAL) - SLEEPING AT LAST
“I spent so much time trapped in the darkest place, and every time it felt as if the darkness would swallow me whole, it was your hands that always reached out to guide me back into the light.” She said, looking up at him.
Elain sat on the kitchen counter, her legs swinging as she hummed and took a bite of one of the leftover fruit tarts she had prepared for dinner that night. Everyone else had continued family dinner night at Rita’s for drinks and dancing except for her. Rita’s was fun once in a while, but she definitely preferred having a quiet night in if she were being honest. She froze when she heard the side door open and Azriel walked in, freezing in place when he saw her as well.
“I can expwain.” She said as she blushed, her hand covering her mouth which was full of dessert.
“So this is what you do when you stay home on family night, huh? I certainly see the appeal now.” He laughed as he slowly made his way over to her, brows raised.
“Only when there’s leftover dessert.” She clarified, narrowing her eyes at him. “What can I do to buy your silence, Spymaster?”
Azriel sucked air in between his teeth as he shook his head. “I’m not sure you can afford my silence, Seer. Cassian might never forgive me, y’know he’s been taking the blame for all of the desserts you’ve been sneaking.”
Elain squeaked with indignation. “It usually is Cassian, just how many tarts do you think I can eat?”
Azriel considered for moment before nodding. “Fair enough. Just what are you offering for my silence?” he asked in a serious tone, fighting the smile that tugged at the corners of his mouth.
She hummed as if considering before she offered. “Will a tart buy your silence?” she asked, holding a picture perfect tart up for him.
Azriel slowly stepped closer to Elain, pretending to examine the sugary confection in her hand before his eyes locked on her. Her brown hair was braided and draped over one shoulder, tied off with a lilac ribbon, wavy tendrils framing her face. Her eyes sparkled more than usual in the dim fae light of the kitchen, and her lips, that full bottom lip held between her teeth. A blush colored Azriel’s cheeks as he realized that he was staring and his eyes immediately moved back to assessing the tart. Elain held her breath as he stepped closer, her eyes not leaving his handsome face as he gave the tart a once over, a blush coloring her cheeks as his gaze turned to her. It took everything in her not to turn away from him, she was sure that he could hear her heart race from a steady beat to the thundering of a dozen horses.
“Well, Spymaster? Will we be sharing a secret or not?” she asked with a playful quirk of her eyebrow, her eyes trained on his as she held the tart up to his mouth. Azriel leaned in, his eyes not leaving hers until he took a bite and they fluttered closed. His chest rumbled with a satisfied moan and Elain suddenly felt as if her very soul was sparkling like a thousand stars. Elain’s senses screamed as he moved to lift her unfinished tart to her lips for another bite. She took the bite, her eyes not leaving his, not even as he chuckled softly, his thumb swiping the smallest bit of whipped cream from the corner of her mouth. Any excuse to touch her, Azriel thought as electricity shot through his body at the tiny bit of contact. Elain’s gaze shifted, her attention drawn to the cobalt siphon atop his hand, she had always thought it was so beautiful. She started as he seemed to notice where her attention had turned and his hand tensed slightly, his other hand already pulled behind his back in shame.
“I’m sorry. The scars, they can be upsetting.” He murmured, moving to pull his hand back when Elain reached out to take his hand between hers, her touch was feather light, as if she thought she might hurt him. Azriel froze at her touch, her hands cradling his but not holding or forcing him to expose the source of so much of his pain and insecurity. He could have slid his hand away at any time, but his heart leapt at her touch and he couldn’t bring himself to pull away.
“Your scars don’t upset me, Azriel, the thought of you in pain upsets me.” She said quietly, as if speaking any louder might break this spell and send him retreating.
Elain turned his hand over, her fingers gently tracing along his scars, her eyes drifting up to his as she spoke. “These hands have planted some of the most beautiful flowers in Velaris, wielded swords to defend all of Prythian and the human lands, these hands pulled me from the center of hell and carried me back to my family.” Her voice softened to a whisper at the memory and Azriel’s hands were holding hers now too.
“I spent so much time trapped in the darkest place, and every time it felt as if the darkness would swallow me whole, it was your hand that always reached out to guide me back into the light.” She said, looking up at him.
His breath caught as she lifted his hand, placing a gentle kiss just below the spot where his siphon rested before turning his hand over and placing another kiss on his scarred palm. She didn’t move as he pulled his hand from hers and brought it up to gently cup her face as his thumb stroked over her cheek before he blushed and straightened with a nervous smile. “Thank you, Elain. You have a gift for seeing beauty in everything and everyone.”
Elain smiled up at him, his touch and that velvety voice making her heart flutter. “It isn't difficult to see the beauty in you, Azriel. You are filled with it, and I will take every opportunity to remind you so that you never forget it.”
Azriel ducked his head, smiling shyly as a slight blush colored his cheeks. He hoped she didn't notice in the dim fae lighting. “If you’re done trying to distract me with your honeyed words, I believe you still owe me for my silence.” He said, playfully.
“I think we need some milk first.” She said, taking the hand he offered and hopping down off of the counter to grab some glasses. Azriel released a slow breath, trying to get himself back under control when Cassian burst in the side door.
“Az! I wondered where you’d snuck off t-you ate all of the tarts?!” he whined.
Elain chose that very moment to pop up on the opposite side of the kitchen as if she’d just walked in. “Oh, Azriel...” She scolded with a sigh, shaking her head as she crossed her arms.
Azriel’s jaw dropped as Cassian shoved him aside. “I knew I wasn’t the only one sneaking extra desserts. I told you it wasn’t just me, Ellie!”
The spymaster’s eyes narrowed as Elain clamped a hand over her mouth, fighting the fit of giggles that threatened to expose her. She collected herself before nodding. “You did, Cassian, you did, and I’m sorry that I doubted you. I’ll make you an extra dessert next week.” She said, smiling sweetly and sticking her tongue out at Azriel as Cassian pulled her into a hug.
“You’re the best.” Cassian smiled then grumbled at Azriel. “If you’re done ransacking the kitchen, we should head back before Nesta orders the house to lock us out.”
“Right…“us”.” Azriel snickered, stuffing the rest of his tart into his mouth and giving Cassian a satisfied smirk before cleaning up and clapping his hands. “Alright, I’m ready. Oh! Almost forgot, I wouldn’t want a single bite to go to waste.” He said, keeping his eyes on Elain’s as he popped the very last bite of the very last tart-her tart into his mouth with a devilish grin. “Sweet dreams, Elain.”
Elain’s eyes lit with fire as she put on her sweetest smile. “Safe flight, Cassian!” she called out before teasingly grumbling to Azriel, eyes narrowed. “Don’t hit any trees on the way home.”
“Goodnight, Elain.” Azriel said with a chuckle as he turned to give her a smile and a wave before spreading his wings and shooting off into the sparkling sky. He wondered if anyone had ever told her how funny she was, if anyone had ever told her anything other than how beautiful she was. He dared one last glance back at her, watching as she disappeared back into the house, his hand still tingling where her soft lips met his scarred hand.
“Goodnight, Az. Sweet dreams.” she whispered, closing the door and heading off to bed, her soul sparkling, smile glowing and heart hopeful for the future.
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Happy Mother’s Day/Adoption
Elriel Month - Day 9
This one is near and dear to my heart. I was looking forward to writing this chapter for a while. Because families is what you make, not what you are born into.
I hope you enjoy! And buckle up, this one is a big boy.
Comments are always appreciated
Fluff, mentions of some sexual things, nothing explicit, lots of talking and loving and good things
They stood in the hallway, Elain looking down at the key in her palm.
Azriel put his heavy, rough-skinned hand on her neck and squeezed lightly, his fingers tangling with her braid.
“Do you mind?” he asked, voice unsure, “if I touch you? Just a little,”
“I mind,” she looked up at him.
His hand dropped at once. He stepped back, his face actually displaying something akin to pain. The Shadowsinger was not easy to surprise, but he seemed genuinely shocked by her response.
She was shaking her head in admonishment though.
“I am so-,” he began stuttering, but she interrupted,
“I mind that you don’t touch me more!” she said fiercely and his reaction was priceless--a smile lit up his features, a pleased little smirk playing on his mouth. Relief that was now rolling off his body was palatable.
“Is that so?” he teased, his hand migrating back to her neck, his thumb stroking lightly, as he moved closer.
“Indeed!” she declared snappily. “You are awfully timid, considering that you are living with Nesta and Cassian.”
“Well,” he began, but she interrupted him again,
“You know, Nesta and I are sisters,” her voice was heavy with meaning and suggestion. “And by the way, I am not a maid. I lost my virginity before her!” She stared at him, a challenge in her pose, on her flushed face.
Azriel’s breath stilled for a bit.
Well, that answered one question that’s been on his mind for a while. Normally, he could tell, but with Elain, he struggled to identify anything in her scent. Either her experience was nominal, or there was no experience to be had.
Elain wasn’t stupid--she knew that he’d wondered. Everyone did, because nobody knew except for her, Greyson and Nesta. The twins suspected, but the three of them rarely discussed matters of love or sex. The twins picked up on her attraction to Azriel a while back, but they never mentioned it. For all she knew, they might have been there on that fateful Solstice night, and witnessed the horribly awkward exchange. Elain, though, under their own tutelage in matters of spying and noticing things that others preferred to keep secret, picked up on something of her own--Nuala had been Azriel’s lover. There was a barely perceptible change in Nuala’s demeanor whenever she spoke of ‘lord Azriel’. An intimate softness seeped into her voice, one born of affection that was more than just camaraderie or companionship. Elain, true to herself, did not pry, grateful that the twins reciprocated and did not question her feelings either.
Sometimes, when she visited Nesta at the House of Wind, she also met Nesta’s friends--Emerie, a clipped Illyrian, and a bubbly, opinionated priestess named Gwyn. There were times, if Elain was being honest, when she went up to the House early in the morning, to watch the training sessions. It seemed like everyone had the same idea--the pristessess, as well as she, because watching the solemn, but gentle Azriel train was something that they all partook in. He never let on whether he was aware of all the admiring glances that trailed him and his every move, and Elain did not know if she were to be amused or jealous of the attention he was receiving. Irrationally, she considered him ‘hers’. Not in some wild mated way, but in a more subtle realization that he was interested in her. And only her. Yet, she kept her thoughts to herself, and no one was privy to her fantasies and affections. The same couldn’t be said for Nesta and her friends, who gossiped and exchanged details that were so intimate, it probably would’ve made Cassian blush.
Gwyn was recently introduced to a young Illyrian named Balthasar, who apparently helped Nesta during the ordeal of the Blood Rite. The young male showed a lot of promise and was now being trained by Cassian himself, which led to the introduction to Gwyn. Balthasar, smitten, requested to court her and they were in the initial stages of the courtship, though that didn’t stop Nesta and Emerie from asking all sorts of questions...especially about his anatomy. Gwyn didn’t even have the answers, but the questions kept coming. Elain was happy that the twins did not put her through the same scrutiny. Curiously, Cerridwen asked a lot of questions about Emerie, the kinds of questions that had Elain promising that she’d introduce them, soon.
“I’ll keep that in mind,” said Azriel with a smile. “And just so you know, and since we are sharing information, but I was the last to lose my virginity out of the three of us. And I am the oldest.”
“Who was the first?”
“Who do you think?” he chuckled.
He booped her nose with his knuckle. “Smart as always.”
There was a pause in their banter, a brief, tense silence.
“Good night then,” he murmured and pressed his lips to her forehead.
Elain bit her lip and it took a lot of self-control on his part not to lick her plump, pink lip on the same spot.
Elain had a suite of two rooms, situated in the back of the mansion, away from Feyre and Rhys, and Azriel’s room and office were close to hers--whether it was a coincidence, or Elain’s hand in designing the layout of the mansion, who knew?
There would be no sleeping for him tonight. He came here to speak with Rhys, and ended up seeing Elain’s legs, touching her, and asking her to enter a forbidden, clandestine affair with him, to which she agreed. He found out that she was not a virgin--he still didn’t know how he felt about that--and that she was ready to defy Rhysand in order to be with him. For someone who was meticulous, thoughtful and controlled, Azriel was not going to sleep tonight. He needed to. He was exhausted and worn out from travelling and worrying, and now…
He undressed and bathed, running the evening’s events in his head over and over again. Was he making the situation worse? For everyone? His usual doubts began swirling in his brain, as he wondered if he’d pushed the situation too far? He wasn’t too concerned about the ramifications for himself, but Elain was…
Standing in his bedroom.
“Lainey, what ar-,” he began, stopping in his tracks. At least he was wearing his underpants, though nothing else.
She was barefoot, wearing only a nightgown--a simple white thing that reached to her knees, with tiny applique flowers on the straps.
Suddenly, he was reminded of the nightgown in which she was dragged before the King of Hybern and how she looked then--terrified, small, so thin. He was barely alive, but the violent, burning rage that coursed through him at that moment, when she was pushed inside the Cauldron, it still flowed through him today, at the memory of it. And then they pulled her out, the nightgown clinging to her, and she naked underneath it, like a newborn babe, wet and crying and sodden...Only she was not born, but someone remade, and at that very moment, a thought penetrated his pain-addled brain...It was a horrible and selfish thought, a thought that he never repeated and never voiced to anyone, even to himself, though it lived in the back of his mind. What if she was reMade for him? What if the Cauldron made her for him? Made Nesta for Cassian? That’s why her mate bond was such a gruesome shock to him--how could the Cauldron that just made her give her to another? Why did Cassian and Nesta remain bound, ever since they first saw each other and the eddies of the Cauldron began swirling in their favour? But he, as always, had his one desire snatched away from him.
Yet, seeing Elain in his bedroom right now, he couldn’t feel so petulant after all.
Elain was choosing him. Not her bound mate. Him. Why that was the case, he couldn’t say, but neither did he care.
“Why aren’t you sleeping?” she asked, her voice very quiet.
“I am not much of a sleeper, “ he admitted.
Her gaze raked over him, his whole form, from head to toe, and then back up. Her eyes slithered over his legs, his powerful thighs, shyly skipped over his middle, then went up, to his thickly-muscled abdomen, the burnished-bronze skin of his chest. Her chocolate-brown eyes skidded over the network of scars and tattoos that flowed from his neck, down to his strong, sinew-corded arms, and then up to his neck, finally meeting his gaze.
He liked it. Liked his woman looking at him. Her gaze was bold, without coquettish pretence, without unnecessary shyness, as she studied his body in silence. He let her.
Her slow and thorough study of him continued for a few moments, her eyes following the contours of his wings, which he tucked tightly behind his back, then to his hands, which he eventually folded on his chest.
She, at last, looked around and then said, almost to herself,
“I designed this room…”
When the house was built, he was simply told that these were his rooms. Truthfully, he liked them immediately. Found the colour scheme of blues, grays and whites soothing and pleasant. It wasn’t dark, which, perhaps, was the most important element for him--he didn’t like dark. For someone who lived in the shadows, he enjoyed light and sun more than anyone could imagine. The dark was a place where he languished for a decade of his life. It was sorrow and horror and reek. It was his half-brothers tossing piss at him, kicking him in the stomach, spitting at him.
“I hoped that you might like it,” she said and then looked down, her bare toes scratching against the cobalt and silver rug. “This gave me quite the headache. I wanted the colour to be just right.”
“It is right,” he assured her, and then took a few steps towards her.
“You are so beautiful,” she blurted, staring at him, watching him move. He didn’t even know how to respond, though the compliment certainly pleased him. Unlike Rhys, who’d probably say “Oh, I know” or Cassian, who’d say something along the lines of “and you haven't seen all of me yet, sweetheart,” Azriel was more humble when it came to women swooning over his looks. Though he was very aware that he was, in fact, beautiful. But he remained silent, his only hope that she would never stop looking at him like that--like he was the only thing that she desired.
He came over to her and they stood so close, she could feel heat radiating between the two of them. Her breasts tightened beneath her nightgown and she knew that he could see her puckering nipples, as blush spread from her face down to her chest.
He cupped her cheek and asked gently,
“What are you doing here?”
“Sleeping with you,” she announced, her brown doe eyes sparkling with challenge.
“Elain, not that I am not,”
“Just sleeping, Az,” she corrected him.
He blew out a breath of relief and she chuckled.
“Is sleeping with me so terrifying a notion for you?”
He shook his head, “Not terrifying at all. But thank the Cauldron. Because I am not sure that I could deny you anything, yet this is not how and where I imagined...things happening…”
Her finger traced a pattern along the markings on his skin, and he needed to exercise all of his famed Azriel self-control not to pull her into his arms and devour her mouth.
“How did you imagine them happening?” she asked, with quiet, pretend innocence. Her lashes fluttered, as she drew her gaze from his chest up to his face.
He smirked and finally allowed himself to squeeze her tight hips in his palms. She was an enticing mix of both slender and voluptuous, with beautiful waves of honey-golden hair and caramel-brown eyes. She even smelled like honey...Like pastry. If anyone doubted it, Elain was confirmation that Azriel definitely had a ‘type’--shapely light-haired women with naturally kind and affable dispositions and brown eyes.
“To begin with, us not being in any kind of close proximity to Rhys...or Feyre,” he snorted and Elain grinned, nodding her agreement. “Then,” he considered, and gently cupped her breasts. They nestled comfortably in his palms, surprisingly soft and supple, a woman’s breasts, not a girl’s. Her breath hitched, and he felt the rapid beating of her heart against his wrist, while he squeezed, gaging her reaction.
“Girls in the village,” she remembered, looking down at his scarred, rough hands that fondled her tenderly and unhurriedly, as if the two of them had all the time in the world, “used to tease me. Said that these were too small...that men liked an ‘overfill’.”
He rolled his eyes and muttered,
“Well, good thing you got out of that village, right? Because those girls knew fuck all about what men like.”
His thumbs brushed against her swelling nipples and she gripped his bicep instinctively, stifling a moan.
“Exactly why I want it to be just you and I,” he whispered against her cheek, his breath warm, his body ever so slightly tense. “So that if you want to moan, you’ll moan. And if you need to scream, then I will delight in your screams and your pleasure.”
“Az…” she looked up at him, “you know that...gods…” she sighed,
“What, my beauty?” he urged her, pressing slightly on her nipples, coaxing a response and a gasp.
“I want you so much…” she confessed at last. “In every way...With me. I want to do all these things that I fantasize about. Going places, making you laugh, doing silly things…”
“And we’ll do them,” he promised, kissing her cheek, “we’ll do them all.”
“Sometimes, I envy Cassian and Nesta,” she admitted. “They are so playful and happy together. They are like two peas in a pod,”
“Yeah, well,” he mumbled, “you haven't lived with them then,”
“But you know what I mean? they live for themselves. They have happiness, and it’s tangible. It’s not that they are happy, which they are, but they have this wonderful aura of joy and understanding about them. I want that too. But I want it to be ours. Uniquely yours and mine.”
His wings rustled at her words, the earnestness in them. It was a twinge of happiness that he couldn’t contain, as the claw on top of his wing flexed, as his throat might, when he was happy and excited. As he was right now.
“Baby, together, we can be anything,” he picked her up in one swoop and pressed her to his chest. She yelped and giggled next to his neck and his wings flared at the sensation. “We can do anything!”
He deposited her on the bed, suddenly painfully, achingly aware that it was Elain fucking Archeron laying in his bed. He couldn’t even wrap his mind around this development.
“We can even kill the King of Hybern together!” she laughed happily, waiting for him to slide next to her.
“We can and we did,” he nodded, spreading his wings across the expanse of his bed, tucking Elain closer to him, her soft breasts splaying over his chest.
They’d never discussed what had happened that fateful day. The memories were too heavy, too overwhelming, and it took a while for all of those emotions to settle.
Nesta couldn’t cope. For many a reason, none of which she discussed with Elain. But Elain knew that the death of 1,000 Illyrians, an entire legion, hung heavily over Nesta’s consciousness. Nesta chose to save one. The only one that mattered to her. The only one she ever loved. She saved Cassian, only to decide a few hours later that they would die together, side by side. That the death of the 1,000 Illyrians was for nothing, for their Commander would still die that day. That the black ash that rained over the battlefield was all because of Nesta’s binding to this one male, who mattered to her above everything else. And if she couldn’t save him again, then she would die with him.
Then after the war, the rumors began to spread like wildfire. The GREAT LOVE. The greatest love story of this age. Nesta and Cassian--the Cauldron-made and the Commander General--for whom she sacrificed a legion of Illyrians. Over whom she draped herself, in the last attempt to protect her mate from certain demise. None of it helped Nesta’s mental state after the war.
“Why did you give me Truth-Teller that day?” Elain asked suddenly.
Azriel wasn’t planning to discuss the battle, not when he snuggled so comfortably next to her, the fire crackling merrily in the white marble fireplace, throwing shadows on the walls. The rain was pelting against the windows, but Azriel never felt better, more at peace.
But he said,
“You know why.”
“I knew you’d follow them,” he said simply. “I knew you’d follow your sisters. I had no way to protect you otherwise...so I gave you the dagger,”
“Listen,” he said firmly. “I knew things were going to go to shit. Cassian was alone out there. Rhys forbade me from fighting. The Cauldron took out a legion...You didn't need to be a great war strategist to know that we were losing, badly.”
“I was such a coward,” she muttered with disgust.
He tipped her chin up and shook his head, his voice stern,
“No. At the end, you came through. At the end, when it mattered, all of you came through. Nesta offered herself--I’ll be honest, I wasn’t expecting that from her. But since then, she’d earned my undying respect. Feyre and Amren were there, by that fucking Cauldron...Anyway, I knew things were going to fall apart quickly and spectacularly.”
“They did,” she agreed.
He paused, thinking. She looked up at him and brushed her fingers over his face, soothing him, dulling the memories, calming him tenderly, with a kiss or two on his chest, over a pronounced scar on his shoulder.
“I had to save you,” he said at last, voice hoarse. He wasn’t comfortable with the disclosure. That like Nesta, he didn't care about anyone else, other than Elain. Her survival was the only one that mattered. It was clear to him then, that Mor didn’t matter quite as much as he thought she would. Cassian, his brother, his second half, was a soldier and he expected that he could perish--they both did. His gentle little fawn though, his beautiful girl who somehow understood him without speaking, who accepted him instantly, and who was thrust into the madness of war and this world against her will, well, his girl had to survive.
“I had to give you the one thing I trusted,” he continued, his lips pressed to the top of her head, “and hope that it would be enough.”
“But that’s not all you did,” she reminded him, bringing his hand to her lips, kissing it absently like she enjoyed doing. Azriel still marvelled at how natural it came to her, how easily she offered him this simple, loving gesture.
“You wrapped me in shadows.”
“I mean, you are shit with a dagger, baby,”
She smacked him harshly on the shoulder and he burst out laughing. Azriel only laughed like this with her and Cassian. She never heard such joy and ease come from him, unless he was teasing her or goofing around with his brother.
“Not so shit after all,” she snapped her fingers and stuck her tongue out at him. “Stabbed that bastard like it was a walk in a park!”
“That’s my girl,” and he slapped a loud kiss on her forehead.
She became a bit more serious and said, “I couldn’t have all that be for nothing...Nesta, Cassian, you, with your shredded wings, but still fighting...Rhys on that battlefield. I mean, if Tamlin was there, how could I not be? I had to save Nesta,” she swallowed. “I had to...and Cassian. Because without him,”
“I know, love, I know,” he nodded simply.
“After all that, for her to lose him, it would’ve been intolerable. And I think that for you, too.”
She sighed and clutched at his arm.
“No one even saw me, from behind the shadows. I knew where the Cauldron was--I could feel it--and I knew that both Nesta and Feyre were there. I had no idea what I would do, to be honest. None. But when I saw it--gods, the bloody horror that was Cassian, just blood everywhere, and my sister sprawled over him, it was…’ she shuddered at the memory. “I just saw the King’s back to me, and I went for it...I don’t really remember it all too well. It was chaotic. I guess I stabbed him in the throat,”
“Yes, in the neck. And Nesta finished him.”
“I honestly don’t remember. But thank you. For the shadows.”
“Any time, love, any time. Remind me never to get on your bad side.”
“You are horrible and I can’t believe that I like you.”
“I can’t believe it either,” he murmured, with some seriousness in his voice.
She only shrugged and yawned and asked, “Do we sleep?”
“You sleep, baby,” he encouraged, stroking her back soothingly. “I’ll do some work.”
She lifted her head off his chest and looked at him. He grunted his displeasure.
“No, get back in there,” he whined.
She shook her head. “No. You aren’t doing any work. If Rhysand can go to the opera and fuck my sister in a hotel for the night,”
“Elain Archeron, what language!” he mocked teasingly.
“Well,” she ignored him, “then you can take the night off as well, and sleep. You aren’t obligated to work constantly.”
“So I request to court you two hours ago and you are already ruling over my life?” he chuckled.
She shrugged, “I guess I am.” Then, gently, she cupped his face and brushed her thumb over his mouth. “Please Az...I want you to rest. Please.”
He smiled at her and finally nodded. “As my lady commands.”
“What do you need to sleep?” she asked with glaring sincerity which rattled him. He wasn’t used to people caring about him. Cassian cared. Azriel wasn’t sure that anyone else did.
“I...I am just happy that you are here, with me,” he rubbed his head, “I don’t really need anything.”
She looked at him and asked, “Do you want me to undress?”
He almost choked, but mustered himself about to groan, “Baby...yes. But no. If you are undressed any further, there will be no sleeping. And all our plans will go to seven hells!”
Giggling, Elain settled within the embrace of his heavy, thick, warm arm and wrapped her arm over his torso. Her fingers brushed over one leather cuff around his wrist that contained a cobalt siphon.
“Only one?” she inquired.
“I mean, I am careful, but I don’t sleep with seven siphones,” he chuckled. “Just one.”
She turned on her belly, looking at him curiously. He shifted and then pulled the blanket over them.
She propped her cheek, leaning onto him, within the hold of his arm, from which she apparently did not wish to move. Good.
“What happens if you don’t have it on?”
“I don't know,” he admitted, “I haven't been without them for a long time. I imagine nothing good. If we are threatened, I’d probably destroy the entire mansion,”
Her face changed ever so slightly, but not in fear, but in awe.
“So you are very powerful?”
“More so than Rhysand?”
“Different kind of power. My shadows allow me to have predictive power--know certain things in advance...they warn me if there is a threat, or if someone is in danger. I can send them to look for things, to seek things out, to scout. Also, they hide me, as you are well aware. The siphons channel my power, the physical, killing power, but also allow me to heal myself and others--not from diseases, or wounds,”
“I can also move through space with the shadows or winnow,”
“I am different.”
He stroked her back tenderly and said, “But I don’t do magic tricks, like Rhys,” and at that, she snorted. “And my power isn’t confined to this Court. I can be a shadowsinger anywhere.” He levelled a serious look at her, and added, “and you, my dear, are Cauldron blessed. Your powers,”
“I don't think i have any powers,” she protested.
“Wrong. But like mine, they are predictive in essence.”
Elain hummed, thinking about his words. He was likely correct in his assessment, but she didn’t know what it meant. He didn’t push her further into this conversation, sensing that she wasn’t comfortable with the discussion. So he stroked her head and she settled next to him in silence.
She’s never slept with a male before. Never with a man either.
She had met Greyson in the field early, early in the morning. Even the servants and the grooms in the stables were still asleep. She snuck out, so not to wake up Nesta and answer questions that she didn’t want to answer. Greyson was always surrounded by his men and his soldiers and privacy was hard to come by. They’d kissed. Never for too long or too much, ever in fear of being discovered and interrupted. Greyson, eager to emulate the heroes of Old, of the First War, was polite, chivalrous and domineering. He had to prove himself to his father, and she made for a good match--pretty, soft, wealthy. So he treated her accordingly. She loved him. Or at least was infatuated with the idea of loving him, of being a proper wife to a warrior. That was until she had met real warriors, that fateful night. Ancient, scarred, wild and magnificent, she’d never forget seeing them for the first time--so indescribably beautiful, the three of them, and so dangerous. Greyson was but a boy compared to them, his life experience meager, his aspirations juvenile. He didn’t know the world beyond their village and the adjacent lands. And something cracked in her chest that night, after she’d gone to bed. Azriel stunned her. But he was utterly unattainable. He was so outside the realm of her wildest dreams that she tucked her fascination with him deep inside of her, never to think of him again. He could never be. It would never be. She resolved to be a good wife to Greyson, the Lady of the Manor, and was convinced that eventually she’d forget about the winged Fae male who spoke beautiful words to her and permitted her a glimpse of a different and beautiful, if savage world. Then, that early morning, in the mists, just as the sun was touching the horizon, Greyson made his move. She was not forced or pressured, and for that she was grateful. She agreed, lost in his scent and his kisses, and then it happened, in a bale of hay. She wore more clothes then than she did now. He hiked up her skirts, and then with some fumbling and grunting slid into her. It was unpleasant, and painful too, but after the first bout, he was ready again, and the second time was better, as he was more loving and even popped her breast out of the bodice and squeezed it like it was a sponge. Some mystery was solved for her that morning, and it made her giddy. So when she returned home, she was smiling.
Now, she was wrapped around Azriel. Their legs tangled together. His breath was steady and the movement of his wide chest even and deep. He actually fell asleep, that massive arm pressed around her. He was so hard and so big, she kept getting a little lost in him and it was the most thrilling sensation of all.
When she had to, Elain Archeron acted. Tonight, she had to act. This impasse between the two of them, with Rhysand in the middle, was becoming intolerable. Azriel was too loyal to his oath, and though he chafed and fought against Rhys’s order, it was more complicated for him to stand against his High Lord. Elain had no such qualms. She didn’t obtain immortality only to lose Azriel.
It was so early, it was still dark in the room, the embers gleaming in the fireplace. The rain had stopped sometime in the night. Now the barest lick of light seeped through the blue velvet curtains. Elain knew that she should probably sleep some more, but that would be impossible. She was too happy. Her heart overflowing with joy.
Azriel was asleep atop of her, his head resting just below her breasts, his torso situated comfortably between her legs. Gods he was heavy! His wings splayed over the bed, draping over the edges, and Elain realized that they added additional weight to his already muscle-clad body. She also marveled at how enormous they were. Of course she’d flown with him and seen them unfurled before, but it was different when he was in motion. Now, it was like an endless dark mantle that spread over the bed, drooping all the way to the floor.
Azriel’s palm rested on her breast. During the night, she reached for his hand sleepily and placed it there, and he hadn’t let go of it since. It would be nice if he never released it. If she could spend the next century here, in his bed, with him sleeping soundly within her embrace, his hands palming her breasts, she wouldn't think of it as a century wasted. He was sleeping! It filled her with unusual, inexplicable excitement--that with her, he was so relaxed, so at peace that he found rest at last. Even his shadows were at rest. The shadows usually left the two of them alone, disappearing when they were together. Elain had asked about that, and Azriel explained that since the shadows detected no possible threat from her, and because they sensed his feelings towards her, they didn’t feel like they needed to be present. Apparently, they trusted her Azriel with her. The notion made her chuckle, when he told her.
“Emani,” he murmured sleepily, shifting atop of her at last, his mighty shoulders rippling with waking muscles.
“Sleep, sleep,” she urged him, stroking his jet-lack hair. “It’s early.”
He moved his head though and looked up at her, chin pressed into her upper stomach. He looked even more handsome right now, if that were even possible--the planes of his face softened, the hair tousled, eyes an unusual emerald green, which she’d never seen before. The shadows awoke with the master, and like a bored puppy, they saw that there was nothing interesting to be done around here, before disappearing.
“I am squishing you,” he noted, though didn’t make a move to lift himself. She lightly rubbed her foot against his lower back and smiled at him.
Looking at her, he gushed softly, “You are beautiful, Elain,” and she blushed at the ravenous hunger in his eyes, the expression of awe.
“You can squish me every night,” she told him, drawing her fingers over his cheekbones, studying his face.
The sombre fact that that would not be the case, and that this was a stolen night for both of them, hit them like a pile of bricks.
She would not lounge in his sprawling bed ever again--or at least any time soon--and either would they enjoy the intimacy of last night. There would be no loving embraces, or soft conversation, not the tangle of their limbs, or the caress of their hands on each other’s bodies. He would not be cupping her breasts in his scarred palms protectively and she would not be waking up wrapped in his love.
“We should...” she began.
He placed a kiss between her breasts and then lifted himself off her. Her warm, damp center immediately missed the sensation of his body pressing into it, and she groaned, not caring that he knew.
“Lainey,” he kissed her hands, “I am sorry.”
“You have nothing to be sorry for…” she sighed.
“No, emani, I do,” he sat up, running his warm hand over her hip, where her nightgown hiked up almost to her stomach. “I should’ve come up with a plan of some sort by now.”
She propped herself on her elbows, golden brown hair sliding over the pillows. Those trusting chocolate eyes looked at him with expectation. He rubbed his head, mussing his hair even further, and then said,
“I slept like I was dead…”
She smiled. “That was the idea, shadowsinger.”
“Some Cauldron-born power you exercised on me?” he teased. And then, leapt to his feet at once. It startled her, this abruptness, which was so unlike him.
“I am such an idiot!” he exclaimed, slapping his forehead.
Brows furrowed, as she awaited an explanation.
He snapped his fingers, thinking, figuring something out.
“We’ll need your sister!” he said at last.
“Which one do you think?”
“Nesta. What can she do?” she frowned. Then ordered, “come and touch me, while you tell me.”
He was back in the bed in a second, as he began trailing kisses over her arms, her shoulders, bypassing the too-tempting throat, his calloused hand landing on her naked thigh, caressing languidly.
“Remember the ball in Hewn City?” he asked, punctuating every word with a kiss. She nodded, attempting to stifle a moan of pleasure, which proved unsuccessful. He only continued his delicious, measured assault on her flesh with his lips, and Mother above--if this is what she was feeling now, when he was just casually kissing the least sexual parts of her, then what would happen when he was keen on actually making love to her? She already knew that she’d never felt like this before. And they’ve done nothing. Nothing at all, with Azriel being a gentlemale as always. Well, at least one of them was smart and collected. Elain was about to fling her nightgown off and then...come what may.
He pulled back a bit, sensing the turmoil inside of her.
“Yes, I remember,” she groaned, having difficulty keeping her eyes open, her back arching towards him.
“Baby,” his voice was gentle. “Look at me, love.”
She managed to, somehow.
His expression was kind, understanding.
“I want to kiss you a little more, emani,” he said, tucking her hair behind her ears. “But, you can’t,”
Don’t get aroused. Don’t mark his bedroom with her scent. She knew what he was not saying. It was an impossible request, but he was right. So she nodded.
“Good girl,” he approved, and the praise did nothing to ease the wild craving that engulfed her.
“Just call me Elain,” she begged, hating it. She wanted to hear ‘love’ and ‘baby’ from his lips. She needed to hear him say ‘emani’ to her--’darling’ in Illyrian--something Cassian frequently called Nesta as well. The greatest, most intimate term of endearment in Illyrian.
“Tell me why we need Nesta?” she asked at last.
He nodded, playing with her hair lightly. “Her scent--rather Cassian’s scent--was glamoured for Nesta for her dance with Eris,”
“Yes, I remember. Morrigan did it for her,”
“Yes, but Morrigan showed her how to do it as well,” he explained at last. “Which has been a fucking blessing!” he added with a groan and Elain burst out laughing. “Stewing in their fucking scents was a nightmare that I do not wish on my worst enemy!”
“Poor Azzie,” she stroked his face, laughing.
“Yes! Yes, indeed. Poor Azzie indeed,” he was nodding vigorously.
She wondered, “Does she have to glamour both of us?”
“No, either one would be sufficient. I don’t really want to be coming to Nesta every time we want to kiss,” he muttered.
“Which,” she noted dryly, “we haven't done yet.”
“We will,” he winked at her.
“I want to dangle something in front of you to keep you guessing.”
“Again, why do I like you? I don't know. I must be crazy.”
Both of them heard Nyx cry in his nursery.
“Well, I guess that’s all the time we got,” he sighed.
She took his hand and asked, “Are you busy today?”
“I have some meetings, but nothing that I can’t move or postpone. Why?”
“I think you need to spend the day with me,” she suggested, kissing his knuckles.
He agreed, “I think that I do, too. Do you have something in mind?”
“Oh yes, absolutely. Can you meet me at 9 bells, at the Brea Bakery?”
If he was surprised, he didn’t say anything.
When Elain opened the door and stepped out into the hallway, in nothing but her crumpled nightgown, she was met with Nuala’s shadowy presence.
“Good morning,” said Nuala cheerfully, though she understood everything at first glance.
Azriel was behind Elain, his gaze heavy, and edged with warning. The twins technically worked for Rhysand. He paid their salaries and they served in his household. They were found, hired, trained and worked for Azriel just as well. So…
“Cerridwen went to get the baby,” said Nuala evenly. Then her eyes darted to Elain’s bedroom doors. “You should probably get in your bath now. The High Lord will be coming back soon.”
Shadows swirled around Azriel at once.
“You have time,” added Nuala, glancing at her sometime-lover. “But do not tarry. You should be gone soon.”
“Thank you Nuala,” he said simply, but there was gratitude in his expression.
“We’ll take care of everything,” she promised.
By the time Elain arrived at the Brea Bakery, Azriel was already waiting for her. The clock tower struck 9 bells just as she approached him.
“Hello beautiful,” he winked at her, head cocked to the left.
It was a sunny, crisp autumn day. The sky was a crystalline blue and the sun was bright, if cold, though it didn’t stop Azriel from stretching his wings ever so slightly to catch the rays. Elain figured that since they were uncovered, the wings were probably colder than the rest of him. He wasn’t in his leathers--just a jacket, trousers and knee high boots, the siphons on his wrists hidden under the jacket. He looked almost normal, if not for his otherworldly handsomeness and the swirling shadows, though they didn’t engulf him, and only floated about lazily.
“Everything alright back home?” he asked, as she threaded her arm through his.
She nodded. “I haven’t even seen him. Only Feyre, and she was busy with Nyx. And yes, you are correct about the stench.” She wrinkled her nose. She’d heard her sister fuck her High Lord more times than she cared to recall, usually when they forgot to throw a shield over their bedroom. It was better now, since her rooms were far away from theirs--definitely her idea--considering the close proximity that they had to each other back at the townhouse. Still, today, they hurried to see their baby son, so the remnants of their nightly activities were glaring.
“We don’t need to disgust people like that,” she decided. “For their sake.”
He was grinning and nodding.
“I think we might have dodged them this time around.” They entered the bakery. “He is not screaming into my head, questioning me. So…”
“Lady Elain!” a green-skinned male Fae smiled at Elain from behind the counter. Then he glanced at Azriel and added, “Lord Azriel. Good morning.”
Elain reminded herself that just like Cassian, who couldn’t walk the streets without being ogled, stared at, admired, whispered about and generally adored by the public, Azriel was also instantly recognizable. Though admiration for him was tinged with a bit of unease and fear, for everyone knew who he was, what he did, and what that famous dagger on his thigh was known for, Azriel was still loved and exalted.
“The usual, Lady?” asked the baker.
“Since I have help today,” she said, “load us up, Bron.”
The baker winked and nodded, disappearing behind the counter.
Within minutes, he began carrying out large, flat boxes. Curious shadows informed Azriel that the boxes contained doughnuts.
“Lord Azriel can probably carry,” Bron the baker sized Azriel up, “seven? Eight?”
Once mountains of boxes were placed on the marble counter, Bron reported, “Jelly. Chocolate. These are chocolate glazed. Caramel. Raspberry. Strawberry.”
“All with sprinkles?” she confirmed.
“Of course. So many sprinkles, I had to place an additional order. Almost ran out.”
Once Elain paid, Bron began loading up Azriel’s outstretched arms with the boxes. They weren’t heavy, but cumbersome. Then he did the same with Elain and bid them a good day.
“Lainey, baby, you hungry?” inquired Azriel with a chuckle, once they were back on the street. She laughed.
“Don’t know how you keep your girlish figure after what...200 doughnuts?”
“A secret of mine. Follow me, Lord Azriel.”
He rolled his eyes, “they never learn.”
“I am always Lady Elain,” she shrugged. “I got tired of correcting people.”
Elain led him down a few winding streets, towards the newly built district, which was still under construction, emerging from the ruins of the Rainbow.
They approached a wildly coloured building--purples and pinks, greens and yellows, blues and reds were splashed over the walls, like the Rainbow itself threw up all over it.
An orphanage, informed the shadows.
Elain opened the door with her boot, hefting the boxes, and Azriel shouldered the door, letting her pass.
“Elain, hello!” “Elain, you came!” “Elain, what’s that? Doughnuts?” “Elain, are we going to play today?” “Elain…”
There were dozens of children, some Illyrian, some Fae, some High Fae, all of various ages.
At the sight of Azriel, some of them paused and stopped to consider him.
One brave boy, of about 10, came forward and asked boldly, “are you the shadowsinger?”
Azriel nodded, “I am.”
“Why are you here?” demanded a girl with bright eyes and blonde ringlets.
“I came to help Elain,” he explained, as they moved through the throngs of children, finally ending up in the dining room.
“Who is going to help us?” asked Elain and hands rose in the air eagerly.
Quickly, she rattled out orders--plates, cups, napkins...the older kids were asked to fill jugs with water, set out fruit bowls, while the younger ones set the tables.
“Lain! you came!” a small Illyrian boy with a pale face and large hazel eyes rushed to her and wrapped himself around her legs. She gently rubbed his head and said, “Temal, how are you doing?”
“Good!” he reported, nodding as well in confirmation.
“That’s excellent. How are you with your lessons?”
Temal frowned a bit and Azriel smiled, observing the dynamic between the two, while he helped unpack the doughnuts.
“I don’t like learning letters,” exclaimed Temal dramatically. “It’s too hard!”
“But you are a smart boy--it can’t be that hard for you,” argued Elain.
“Why do I have to?! You can read to me, Lain!”
He was small for his age, but he was missing two teeth, so Azriel figured that he was about six, and his wing size pointed to the same age.
“Who is this?” he then demanded, plopping down on the bench. His legs dangled in the air, as he studied Azriel. “Are you a prince?” he then inquired.
“A prince?” Azriel shook his head, “no.”
“Are you Azriel?”
“I am Azriel.”
“I know you!” said Temal confidently. “You are a big warrior! And you have shadows,”
“That I do,” confirmed Azriel, while Elain smiled. “What about you?”
“I am Temal. From the Iron Eagle camp.”
“Oh, I’ve been to Iron Eagle,”
“Yes, it was nice,” agreed Temal and then switched to Illyrian, recognizing one of his own in Azriel. “Me and my mali--father--we lived there together. He was a big warrior too,”
“Temal,” interrupted Elain, “Common Tongue.”
The boy frowned, but switched back to the Common Tongue, muttering, “Lain is mean sometimes…”
Azriel chuckled and sat down on the bench beside Temal. “I don’t think that she is mean, but she is correct--you need to speak both languages.”
“But she makes me read too!”
“Which you should know how to do,” noted Azriel.
“Why?” Temal threw his hands up. “I want to be a big warrior! they don’t read…”
Elain implored Azriel with her gaze, and he nodded to her.
A little girl stepped tentatively towards them, her fingers in his mouth, enormous gray eyes watching Azriel, or rather his shadows, with fascination. He sent one over, and it darted towards her, while she tried to grab it, only to watch it seep through her fingers. She grunted her displeasure, trying to grab another, but to no avail. Frustrated, she climbed onto the bench beside Azriel and then her eyes snagged on his siphon and they widened with amazement.
“Do you like that?” he asked softly. She looked at him, then at the siphon, then back at him, eyes blinking. He extended his hand to her. She disregarded his scars entirely, and lightly touched the siphon with a small, chubby hand. He sent a twinge of power and the stone glared brightly, eliciting an excited gasp from the girl and from Temal.
“Sanaai,” said Elain, “do you like the siphon?”
The girl nodded eagerly, caressing the stone.
“Ask Azriel nicely, and he could change the colours for you,” suggested Elain. Sanaai threw a pleading glance at Azriel, but did not say anything. She must have been around three, perhaps four, so old enough to speak, but she was silent, caressing his hand and the leather band around his wrist. Azriel did not pressure her to speak, and changed the flow of his power, entertaining her with the glimmering stones.
“Is that a siphon?” inquired Temal in awe.
Azriel nodded, and Temal immediately touched it, utterly floored by the proximity to the legendary stones, muttering, “how many you have, Azriel?”
“No!!! Seven?” cried Temal. “Nobody have seven! It’s too much…”
“I have seven, and my brother,”
“Only General Cassian have many,” interrupted Temal.
“General Cassian is my brother,” said Azriel, amused at how reverently the boy spoke of Cassian. “And we both have seven.”
“My mali had one,” recalled Temal, leaning over Azriel’s shoulder, sighing. “It was green.”
Azriel was quite aware that Temal’s mali was gone, but he said nothing, other than, “well, then your mali was truly a great warrior if he had one green siphon.”
The fact that it was green told Azriel that the male was part of an areal legion. Possession of one siphon indicated that he was probably of a higher rank--a commander.
“My mali,” continued Temal, “was in the war. He is now with Enalius and other warriors. In Vallahalla.”
Azriel only nodded.
Elain’s face was full of such sorrow at Temal’s detached explanation that it broke Azriel’s heart. Sanaai, who was fussing with his shadows and siphons silently settled on his lap, tucking her head into his chest. She was a lovely little girl, with luminous brown skin, darker than his, those striking glacial eyes and gorgeous curls of honey-brown. She still attempted to catch a shadow in her fingers, though rather than being frustrated, she was giggling at it. Azriel held her to him, her body soft and light against his arms.
“You know what, Temal,” he said at last, “I think that it’s quite possible for you to get a siphon as well,”
“What?” Temal perked up, but then shook his head, “it’s too hard! Mali can do it. You can do it. I can’t. I don’t even know how to fly. My mali was teaching me, but then he go to war. And then to Vallahalla. So I don’t know…”
Azriel chewed on his lip and said, “I can teach you to fly.”
Elain’s eyes flew to him, when she overheard his words. She was helping the younger children settle on the benches for their breakfast, while the older kids were distributing doughnuts and juice. He looked at her and then at Temal,
“Would you like that?”
Temal’s eyes were so enormous and his face a mask of amazement. “You gonna help me Azriel?” he murmured.
“Of course,” said Azriel. “You. Other younglings who don’t fly yet. We’ll do it together.”
“Lain, it’s so true?!?” cried Temal. “Azriel gonna teach me?!”
“If Azriel said he will, then he will,” simply said Elain.
The window was rapidly closing on Temal’s ability to fly. It’s been two years since the war. Temal’s father probably began teaching him when the boy was about 3 or so, which was the right time to start the lessons. However, now, in the melee of the post-war confusion, so many orphaned Illyrians had their lessons fall by the wayside.
“But you have to promise me one thing,” added Azriel, turning on his bench to face the table. Most of the younglings were already seated, eyeing the doughnuts with delight. Sanaai stayed on his lap, unwilling to move, which was just fine with him. He poured her and Temal their juice and then there was haggling over what type of doughnut they wanted. Sanaai didn’t say anything, but frowned and shook her head when Azriel offered her a variety of options, until settling on the strawberry one. Temal couldn’t make up his mind, until Elain proposed that they all share, and fluffy, puffy doughnuts were ruthlessly sliced in half, so the four of them could sample different ones. His face covered in powdered sugar, Temal asked, “What you want me to do, Azriel? So you teach me to fly?”
“I want you to work on your reading,” said Azriel, sipping his coffee, which Elain brough for him kindly, since he was occupied with the children.
Temal frowned, sighed, but nodded.
“We’ll have lessons three or four times a week,” Azriel promised, as he fed Sanaai her doughnut portions, which she stuffed into her mouth until she almost gagged. “Alright,” he muttered to her, “you need to calm down. No one is taking this away from you. I don’t want you choking, you know…”
“That’s a lot!” Temal was excited.
“But,” Azriel added, “before we fly, you will show me what you’d learned and read for me. Agreed?”
“Yes,” the boy nodded, not too enthused, but resigned.
“Good. You’ll get your siphon before you know it!”
They spent the better part of the day at the orphanage.
As heartbreaking as the stories of some of these children were, they seemed to be thriving here. Elain, to his surprise, though he wasn’t sure why he was surprised by her efficiency, ran the operation with kindness and understanding, somehow cued to each child’s special needs and backgrounds. There were other teachers and minders of course, but she was the center of all the activity. Azriel now understood where she had disappeared to most of the time, and what she did with her days. He was aware that she spent a good deal of time and effort working with city planners, designing gardens and parks, and helped out elderly and unfirm Fae with their planting and gardening, but seeing her here, it became clear to him that this place was her favourite, the closest, and dearest to her heart. And it filled him with pride, actual joy that his girl was someone so special, so kind and loving. And it made him wonder if he did, in fact, deserve her.
“Az,” she called him, once the older children were busy with their lesson, writing something scrupulously in their journals.
Temal and Sanaai would not leave his side, along with a few other children, who trailed him and asked him a million questions a minute.
“Do you build?” she asked.
“Build what?” he wondered with a smirk. “I helped build Cassian’s bungalow.”
“I don’t need you to build a bungalow,” she giggled. “Just some shelves. We have the wood, but if you can,”
“Sure,” he nodded. “Though I think I will need some helpers!” and he looked at the younglings around him.
“I’ll help you, Az,” offered Temal immediately. They’d moved from Azriel to Az very quickly.
“And you, pretty girl?” Azriel asked gently, stroking Sanaai’s curls.
She nodded eagerly. The rest of the children all volunteered to become carpenters for the day, and followed him to the yard, where planks of wood were stacked against the wall.
Elain watched him from the window, smiling.
She never doubted him, yet there was a twinge of apprehension. Azriel wasn’t known for his display of emotions, so she didn’t know how he’d react. Yet she needed to show him this place. Wanted him to know this part of her, how important it was for her, what these children meant to her. And now, she felt stupid tears prickle her eyes, when she watched her little boy, her Temal, bond so quickly with her big boy, her Az. Temal and she shared an immediate, unbreakable bond, from the moment she saw the frightened confused little boy and the moment she took him in her arms. He wouldn’t let go. He spent days and days, perched on her hip, silent and shell-shocked. It took a long time for him to finally stop shaking, crying, asking for his ‘mali’. His mother died at childbirth, so his father was the only parent and Temal didn’t know anyone else. The father, as she found out later, was incinerated by the Cauldron, one of the thousand Illyrians who perished and turned into black ash.
Azriel ran his carpentry shop like he commanded his legions. Elain smiled through her tears. In minutes, he assigned everyone a task, distributed materials and tools, engaged everyone from the tiny Sanaai, to the older children, who were stripping and polishing the planks. The older boys were showing off in front of him, displaying their strength, which was amusing. Some even tried to carry a plank of wood on their own, watching how he managed two, on each shoulder. Turned out that they were a bit too ambitious, and had to call upon others for help, but his strength and ability only spurned them into action. Before the end of the day, the shelves were mounted on the walls and the children took to the task of filling them with books and toys.
“Good night, Lain!” Temal gave her the biggest hug, rocking against her for a long time.
“Good night, love,” she kissed his head. “Play, eat dinner and then sleep well and I’ll see you soon.”
“I like Az,” he then whispered in her ear.
She smiled and whispered into his, “I like him too.”
“Az, you gonna marry Lain?” he asked loudly, when Azriel returned from putting Sanaai for her nap.
“Yes,” said Azriel without hesitation. “If she’d like to marry me, I’d marry her.”
“I think she does,” affirmed Temal confidently.
“Well, then it’s settled.”
Temal extended his hand to Azriel, and they shook.
“It was good to meet you, Temal. I’ll see you for your flying lessons.”
“Are you strict?”
“A little bit.”
Azriel helped Elain with her jacket and then wrapped her scarf around her neck.
“I can do it!” said Temal with wild confidence.
Azriel buttoned his own jacket and said, “Of that, my boy, I have no doubt.”
Outside, Elain took his arm and they walked together in companionable silence, each thinking of something. Azriel was chewing his lip, a sign of contemplation.
He halted suddenly and turned to face her.
“What?” she asked.
He cupped her face in his hands, and looked at her for a long time, with that inscrutable, piercing Azriel gaze which made people squirm and tremble. She just waited for him to speak.
“They’ll have to be ours, you know,” he said at last. “Temal, and Sanaai.”
Tears spilled on her pink, cold cheeks and he wiped them with his thumbs.
“Yes,” she nodded.
“Yes?” he smiled, his heart full. He’d never been so sure of anything--well, except for Elain. But when they were sitting at the table, sharing their doughnuts, he felt that this was his family. Instantly. His little sweet girl, and his brave Illyrian boy and his beautiful Elain, whose heart encompassed the world.
“Emani, tell me that you know this as well?” he urged her. That these children belong with them, that they were their family. Whatever children the two of them might or might not have, these two were absolutely, incontrovertible theirs.
“Of course,” she sobbed, “of course. They are ours. Az...” she looked at him through her tears, smiling widely, “Azriel…”
“I know, my love,” he murmured. “I will do everything, and I mean everything, to make this happen,” he vowed, kissing her tears away, stroking her face. “Soon, love. Soon.”
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Art (doodle) by me @alwayssara
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Day 9/ Elriel month
Because today I'm emotional and bored. English is not my first language, so forgive me for any mistakes. Be kind!
Elain had just hauled the chocolate cake for tomorrow's breakfast from the oven when she heard soft footsteps.
She looked over her shoulder to find a five year old half hidden behind the kitchen door, hesitant hazel eyes looking at the cake.
Ever since little Kai arrived in her house weeks ago, that aurea of fear had never left him. It broke Elain's heart - and Azriel's - every time he flinched when someone made any sudden moves or raised their voices.
They didn't know what he had been through before Azriel got word of a new orphan's arrival at Windhaven. But given the fact Kai hadn't said a word to either of them yet… it was enough to make her blood boil in her veins.
But he didn't need to see her rage now, so she just smiled faintly. "Hello."
The little one looked away from the cake to meet her gaze, delicate wings tucked in tight behind his back, a blush coloring his cheeks. She smiled at that.
Kai was observant and quiet just like a certain shadowsinger. If only Elain could make the fear and bad memories go away.
So Elain kept her voice soft as she asked, "Do you want some? It's very good, I promise."
He gave her the shallowest of the nods.
"Come sit here with me, then."
She placed a piece of cake in front of him once he was seated and watched as he eyed the plate's content suspiciously.
"It's chocolate. You'll like it." She took a bite and hummed. "It's my sister's favorite."
Kai grabbed his fork and smelled the cake with narrowed eyes before eating it. Then, his eyes widened and he was devouring as he hadn't eaten for days, swallowing almost without chewing.
Elain kept watching him fondly as he ate, trying not to think of those years in the cottage when she became familiar with hunger. Does he know what hunger is, too?
Pushing those thoughts aside, she looked at the clock. The night had already fallen, but Azriel wouldn't be home at least for another couple of hours.
"Where is he?"
Kai's whisper was so small and quiet that for a moment she thought she had imagined it. But when she looked at him, his hazel eyes fixed at his empty plate.
Still looking down, the little boy only nodded.
"He'll be here soon."
Kai let out a breath through his small, open lips.
Without being able to stop herself, Elain asked, "Did you miss him today?"
Kai was quiet for so long, that Elain assumed their conversation was over - if one could call it that. She knew they had to be patient, but… it pained her to see such a young boy always so scared.
She was already washing the dishes, when a small voice murmured behind her, "I thought he had left me."
Elain stiffened and turned around quickly, only to find tears falling from his face. It was the first time she had ever heard his voice, the first time he had said anything in weeks. And it was so quiet, so broken that her eyes burned.
Taking a deep breath, Elain fought through it and knelt before him.
"We would never leave you, Kai." She took his little hand in hers, the golden-brown skin soft against her calluses. "Do you like living here?"
He nodded. Just once as if afraid of what might come next, afraid that whatever safety he had found would be taken from him.
"Good." Elain ran a hand through his dark hair. "Because it's your home now, and we are your family."
Hazel eyes met hers at last, bright as newborn stars as the smallest of the smiles curved his lips.
They watched each other for a while, enjoying the company when she saw Kai stiffening back a yawn.
"Let 's go to bed, little one."
The moment Elain had put Kai to bed and made to leave his bedroom, his little hand fisted the skirt of her dress in silent plea.
So she curled beside him and watched as his breathing became even. Didn't dare to leave him, not after their conversation, not after she saw how much he feared to be abandoned.
Without realizing she had fallen asleep at some point to begin with, Elain woke up being wrapped in strong arms, mist and cedar filling her nose.
She looked up to where Azriel's face was pressed in the curve of her neck, affection and tenderness shining in those hazel eyes she loved so much.
"He asked about you today," Elain said quietly after a while.
Azriel looked at her, mouth hanging open in surprise. "He spoke to you?"
"He was afraid you had left him," she whispered
Azriel swallowed hard.
"He said he likes living here." This time, Elain didn't bother to hold back her tears. Not when Azriel's dripped onto her face.
"Good," he answered, his voice soft. "Because he's not going anywhere."
Kai's eyes opened as if sensing their attention. Still sleepy, he looked at Elain and then to Azriel, who seemed not to be breathing.
His little eyes flickered as Kai breathed the most beautiful word Elain had ever heard, "Family."
When Kai closed the distance, snuggling against her, she felt Azriel's smile when he pressed a kiss in her temple before covering them with his wing. Happy beyond reason, Elain held her family tight, the family she had chosen - and let that love shine bright between them.
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Elriel Month | Day 9: Adoption
WORD COUNT: 5086 (I know...but I fell in love and didn't want to let them go either.)
CONTENT WARNING: EMOTIONAL ABUSE
SONG SUGGESTION: “I GET TO BE THE ONE” - JJ HELLER & “LITTLE WONDERS” - ROB THOMAS
“I saw, it was wonderful!” Elain said through her tears, holding him so tightly, she feared she may never be able to let him go. She met Azriel’s silver lined eyes as he made his way over and knew that they finally needed to have the conversation they had been dancing around for weeks.
Elain walked with Nesta, her blue cloak clutched tightly around her. Elain rarely visited the Illyrian camps and was nowhere near prepared for just how cold it would be. Azriel himself rarely spent time here if he could help it, however, this time he had been asked to stay for an extended period of time, and the thought of being parted for so long pushed both of them to opt for an extended trip together.
“Are you sure you want to do this?” Nesta asked, looking to her sister, worry creasing her brow. Nesta was much more familiar with the ways of the camp, she feared her sister wouldn't adapt well to the treatment she would receive for not only being an outsider, but Azriel's mate as well.
“I’d like to help if I can. With Azriel here for so long, I don’t want to just sit around all day, I want to be useful.”
Nesta nodded. “Well, Madja will find plenty to keep you busy. She’ll be happy to see you doing so well.”
Elain nodded, thinking back on how lost she must have seemed to the healer before, when she had no leash on her own abilities and the visions controlled her. So much had changed since then, since the war, since the breaking of her bond with Lucien, since her mating and marriage to Azriel. She smiled to herself and Nesta nudged her with a smile of her own as she led her inside. “You’re thinking about him again, you always get that same look on your face when you’re thinking about him.” Nesta teased.
Elain laughed, blushing. “You think of Cassian all the time, we all just pretend not to notice. I can’t help thinking about Az. I love him.” She said, the words warming her.
“And he loves you.” Nesta said, taking her sister’s hand, so happy that she had found someone who truly appreciated and deserved Elain’s gentle and loving heart. The sisters were met by a flustered Madja as she was making her way out. “Something wrong?” Nesta asked, noticing the look of worry on her face.
“The scouts have found children on the outskirts of camp. A young boy and a babe, likely orphaned. I’m on my way to see to them now.”
Elain felt her heart sink at the healers words and offered. “I’ve come to help, is there anything I could do?”
Madja took her hand and began walking again, Nesta giving her a wave goodbye as she was led away. “We’ll manage just fine the two of us.” Madja said, as they made their way out, Elain sending a goodbye wave back to Nesta.
“Do you find many orphaned children around here?” Elain asked, the sadness clear in her voice.
“No, the elements are not kind to those unable to care for themselves." Madja said as she walked with her, to the farthest end of the camp. A group of hulking Illyrian warriors waited, parting only as the two women approached. At the center of the group stood a young Illyrian male, to Elain he appeared to be no older than 7 and in his arms he held a small, fussing baby.
Madja looked to the leader of this group, nodding to him. “We can take them from here.” The male shifted his gaze to Elain, as if considering. Elain met his gaze and waited for him to look away as Nesta had taught her, he didn't have to know that her heart was pounding in her chest and her fists were clenched under her cloak. The male shifted his gaze back to Madja and nodded speaking words in Illyrian to the other males before they all followed him away.
“I am Madja, a healer here, and this is Elain. We’re here to help you. What is your name, and where is your family?” Madja asked, to the point but with a tone that seemed to put him at ease.
“I am Valen and my family is here.” He said, lifting the baby slightly. “Her ama and my apa are with The Mother now. When the bad men came to the village, I took Mavi and ran.”
Madja nodded, it was not uncommon for children to be orphaned when smaller groups clashed and there were casualties. “Come, you will be safe here, we'll take you someplace warm, and get you something to eat. You are far too scrawny.”
The boy eyed them both warily before nodding, looking down at the fussy bundle in his arms.
“What have you been feeding the babe? Mavi, was it?” Madja asked.
“Milk, from the goats that cover the mountainside.” He answered, proudly.
“That’s very clever of you.” Elain said softly, as she knelt in the snow, removing her cloak and offering it to the boy. “You must be freezing, may I put this on for you?”
Valen hesitated for a moment, perhaps assessing Elain’s threat level before nodding. Elain smiled and draped her cloak over his shoulders, gently fastening it and pulling the warm fabric in to wrap over the baby. “There now, that’s better.” Elain stood and Madja motioned for Valen to follow, the small group making their way back. Elain’s heart clenched in her chest as she imagined the small boy beside her on his own, out in the cold and caring for the tiny baby in his arms. Without her cloak she was already freezing, clenching her jaw so her companions wouldn't hear her teeth chattering.
When they made it back to Madja’s, Elain watched as the healer negotiated with Valen until at last, he agreed to allow Elain to hold his baby sister while Madja examined him.
“Careful of her head.” He instructed as he passed Mavi to Elain’s arms. Elain nodded and did as he instructed, taking a seat next to him to keep the children as near to one another as possible. Madja looked the boy over as Elain looked down at the baby who was now sleeping peacefully, tiny wings just peeking out over her shoulders.
“She’s beautiful.” Elain said softly, looking over at Valen. “She is very lucky to have a brother like you to watch over her.”
Valen nodded, tucking his wings in as Madja tried to get a look at them. “Not my wings, they are fine.” Madja lifted a brow, but nodded. “If they are fine, then nothing is amiss. You are in excellent health, boy, you need only to eat…scrawny thing. May I examine your sister as well?” Madja asked.
Valen nodded and Elain handed the baby over to Madja’s waiting arms. Valen stretched and angled his neck as he tried to see what Madja was doing.
“Valen? Would you like to come with me to get something to eat?” Elain asked.
“Mavi will be well with me, she can have some milk while you enjoy some stew and then we will find a place for you to stay tonight, hmm?” Madja offered.
Valen considered for a long moment before finally nodding slowly. “She will be here when I return?”
Madja nodded. “She will be here, young warrior, do not worry.” Valen smiled, his chin lifting proudly as he followed Elain and they sat together to enjoy their stew.
“You’re very brave, Valen, and very smart to have taken care of yourself and Mavi out there in the cold.” Elain said, her heart aching at the thought of it.
Valen nodded, mouth full of stew as he said, “Of course, a good male must care for his family.”
Elain nodded and hummed, thoughtfully. “We’ll find some warmer clothes for you once I’ve taken you back to Mavi, hmm?” Valen nodded and after inhaling two bowls of stew, he was ready to see his sister again.
“Where will they go?” Elain asked Madja quietly as Valen sat with Mavi cradled in his arms once more, speaking softly to her in words that Elain didn’t understand.
“They will stay here for tonight, tomorrow we will find space for them with the widows, though the babe may need to stay here for a while longer yet.” She explained.
Elain bit her lip, looking back at the children. “And then?” she asked, her fingers tapping on the counter until Madja’s hand rested over hers, a soft smile gracing her lips.
“Might you have another suggestion to share with me, Elain?” Madja asked.
Elain blushed slightly as she nodded. “They could stay with us, Azriel and I. We have plenty of room and…and they could stay together.”
Madja patted her hand. “Caring for two children is no easy thing, Elain, especially a babe this young. Perhaps you should think on it a while.”
Elain knew she was right, that it was the sensible thing to do, that she should at the very least discuss this with Azriel first, but when she looked back at them again, she just knew. “It will be fine, until you find somewhere for them to go together.”
Madja nodded, brow raised. “Right…alright. I’ll pack some things for the babe and some fresh clothes for the boy...and it appears that you have a visitor.” She smirked, watching as Azriel walked in, scanning the room before spotting Elain and approaching. Elain made her way over to meet him, nerves building slightly as she thought of how exactly she would ask him about the children staying with them.
“Hello, my lovely wife.” He said, smiling and leaning down to kiss her.
Elain kissed him back, blushing, her heart fluttering every time he called her his wife. “Mmmhello, my handsome husband. Azriel, I-I need to talk to you, to ask you something.”
“Alright, ask away.” He said, sliding his coat off and draping it over her shoulders, rubbing his hands over her arms to warm her.
“Well, the thing is…that is to say-” she sighed, shaking her head and feeling flustered. She took Azriel’s hand before starting again. “There were some children found just outside the camp, they need a place to stay, just for a bit.”
“And you want them to stay with us.” Azriel finished, looking down at her.
Elain nodded. “I do, if its alright with you.”
Azriel looked down at her and smiled softly. “Elain, I can think of no better use of our home than to help those who need it.”
Elain smiled and threw her arms around him. “Thank you, Az, I knew you would say yes, I just knew it.”
Azriel held her in his arms and sighed contented. “There is nothing I would deny you, petal. Cassian is waiting to see you outside, he can help fly them over. Now, introduce me to our new roommates then.” He teased, taking her hand and heading over with her.
Madja smiled and offered Elain a basket with supplies for the children, giving Azriel a nod in greeting. “I had thought it might be another negotiation, but Valen is quite eager to get settled.”
Valen puffed his chest out as Azriel took a knee in front of him and gave him a nod, putting his hand out. “Valen? I’m Azriel.” Azriel cringed inwardly as the boy gasped at the sight of his hand, the shame draining from him as Valen touched his Siphon in awe, eyes wide in wonderment.
“Seven Siphons…” he whispered to himself before looking back up at Azriel’s flushed face. “You are a great warrior.”
“I-thank you.” Azriel said, his cheeks pink, especially as he saw Elain, one hand over her mouth and the other over her heart, giving away how adorable she found this moment to be. “We should leave soon, there is already a chill in the air.” Azriel said, rising to his feet, Elain offering her hand to Valen and the four of them making their way out. Madja watched, arms crossed, a knowing smile on her face.
“Ellie!” Cassian called, picking Elain up in a great hug. Azriel placed a hand on Valen’s shoulder, shaking his head subtly to signal that there was no need for him to destroy Cassian right this second.
Elain laughed, hugging him back. “I’m so glad you’re here, we actually need a favor.”
Cassian nodded. “Name it.”
“We need you to help fly all of us to the house.” Azriel said, his tone letting Cassian know to tread lightly as he nodded to the children.
Cassian, taking the hint, nodded. “Sure, who am I taking?”
“Me.” Valen volunteered, handing Mavi over to Elain, trusting that they would be safe with Azriel. This new male, he could certainly handle him if he needed to.
Cassian smirked down at him, seeing the fire in his eyes. “Alright, ready to fly, little warrior?”
“Valen. My name is Valen.” He said, giving Cassian a nod. “I’m ready.”
Cassian gave Azriel a nod, waiting as he took Elain into his arms, before lifting Valen, the boys arms going around his neck and holding tightly as the two warriors took flight, precious cargo safe in their arms. Thankfully their destination wasn’t too far from the camp and soon they were all filing inside the house after the short flight.
“I’m going to get the kids settled in, thank you, Cassian, it was so good to see you, we have to have you and Nesta over soon.” She said, hugging Cassian with her free arm before leading Valen up to the room he would share with Mavi.
“Its just temporary, until Madja finds a place for them.” Azriel said before Cassian could open his mouth.
Cassian nodded, patting him on the shoulder. “You don’t have to explain it to me, Az, I get it.”
Azriel nodded, knowing that his brother did understand because they had both been those children in their own ways, abandoned, fighting for their survival until Rhysand’s mother had taken them under her wing.
Once Cassian left, Azriel made his way upstairs, checking in on Elain and Valen, the boy washed up and changed into some clean night clothes, courtesy of Madja and settling into bed.
“Will you stay? Until we sleep?” Valen asked Elain. “Mind if I keep you company for a bit?” Azriel asked, stepping into the room.
“Would that be alright? I’ll come back after I wash up.” Elain asked, smiling as Valen nodded. She mouthed her thanks to Azriel and kissed him on the cheek before going to take a hot shower. When she emerged, she found Azriel and Valen snoring on either side of the bed, Mavi a sleeping little bundle between them. Elain smiled, unfolding a blanket and draping it over the three of them, curling up in the comfy chair sat by the bed, the symphony of snoring eventually lulling her to sleep.
The next few days went by in a flurry for Elain. Mavi, thank the Mother slept through the night on most nights and Madja continued to send milk for her with Azriel everyday. Valen, though reserved at first had eventually become more comfortable with Elain and Azriel caring for his sister, instructing them and watching them diligently until he was sure he had taught them well enough to care for her and hold her on their own. Elain smiled, watching as Azriel’s new shadow followed him around, eager to help with any task that needed to be done, Azriel always managing to find something “very important” for him to do. Days turned into a week, then into two until no one cared to keep counting anymore.
Azriel bit his lip, fighting to keep a chuckle inside as Valen puffed up as he saw Cassian approaching, a smirk appearing on the General’s face when he saw the boy with Azriel.
“Permission to approach.” He said, chuckling as Valen glanced up at Azriel who gave a curt nod, Valen then looking to Cassian, giving him the same nod.
Cassian shook his head and hugged Azriel, clapping him on the back. “I thought we’d have a quick fly around while the women folk are oohing and ahhing over the baby. Expect to see Nesta more, by the way, she’s in love.”
Azriel chuckled. “Sounds good, Valen, care to join us?”
Valen’s eyes lit up for a moment, before he shook his head with a small smile. “No, I’ll stay with the females while you’re away.”
Azriel nodded, watching him scurry back to the house before turning to Cassian, the both of them having noticed the same thing about the boy.
“Do you think they’re injured?” Cassian asked. “You should take him to Madja, or bring her here. If anyone can fix it, she can.”
Azriel nodded. “Elain wants to speak to him first, she’s noticed it too.” They had all noticed how Valen would avoid the subject of flying, always finding an excuse to stay behind with Elain.
Cassian nodded. “So, how much longer is this…arrangement going on? You’re always itching to get back home as soon as you can, so, just curious.”
Azriel just shook his head. “Not sure, just enjoying my time here for now.” He tried to sound casual, but Cassian knew that he was asking himself the same question. What would happen when they finally decided to return home to Velaris?
Nesta was busy fawning over Mavi when Elain found Valen sitting out front. She plunked herself down to sit next to him and gave him a little nudge, smiling down at him. “I thought for sure you would want to fly with Azriel and Cassian.”
Valen shrugged. “I wanted to stay and watch over you.”
Elain smiled. “You don’t have to watch over us, Valen, we’re here to watch over you. You should go flying next time, flying with Azriel is one of my favorite things to do.”
Valen looked down, poking at the grass with a stick. “I wish I had no wings, like you.”
“Why?” Elain asked. “I think your wings are wonderful.”
“They don’t work.” He said, his small voice breaking as he said it.
Elain was panicking inside, she wished that Azriel were still there, as wings were definitely NOT her area of expertise. “Would you let Madja look at them?” she asked, gently. “You trust her, don’t you?”
Valen nodded. “Will it hurt?”
“I don’t think so, but Madja will be very gentle, maybe you’d like Az to be there with you?” She asked and again Valen nodded. “Alright, we’ll figure it out together, hmm?” Valen nodded and scooted closer to Elain, cuddling into her side. She tried her very best not to cry as she put her arm around him, holding him closer to her side, her heart spinning and flipping inside of her chest. Elain was in so much trouble, and she knew it. She had felt this way once before, the feeling that someone was meant to be in her life, feeling as if losing them would be like losing part of her own heart. She couldn’t think about it now, not as she felt Valen’s tiny arms squeeze her tighter. She wrapped her arms around him and pressed a kiss to the top of his head. “All will be well, Valen.” She promised. “No matter what happens, all will be well.”
The next day, Nesta stayed home with baby Mavi while the rest of the family flew in to see Madja, Elain also needing more supplies for Mavi.
Madja smiled as she saw the group approaching. “Look at these proud Illyrian warriors. What a well protected Lady you are.” Madja teased Elain before looking down at Valen. “Ready to have those wings looked at?”
He nodded, a bit hesitant until Azriel nodded and motioned for him to follow, going with him.
Elain sighed, watching them go, hoping that they would have positive news about Valen’s wings. Cassian draped an arm over her shoulders. “Don’t worry Ellie, it’ll be fine. Whatever she says, it’ll be fine.”
Elain wanted to believe that Cassian was right, and so she nodded and they waited until Azriel and Valen both sulked out. The flight home was quiet, Elain flying with Cassian and Azriel with Valen, a quiet conversation happening between two of them the entire way.
“I wish I were a daemati right now.” Elain said, making Cassian chuckle. “Hey, if anyone can get him to talk, its Az and I can’t think of anyone better to help him get back into the sky.”
“You’re right.” Elain conceded, watching them, her heart aching slightly. “There is no one better.”
They all made it home safely, Nesta begrudgingly leaving Mavi behind and heading back home with Cassian. Elain and Az put the kids to bed, Elain nuzzling her nose into Mavi’s chubby cheek as she hummed softly. “She is so sweet.” She whispered, feeling Azriel at her back, his arms slowly sliding around her, his chin resting atop her head. “She is, turning Nesta Archeron into putty in your hands is no small feat.” Elain smiled and put Mavi to bed and followed her husband, taking one last look at the children before shutting the door.
“NOTHING?” Elain repeated, sure that she had heard him wrong, but Azriel shook his head, laying back with a sigh.
“Madja says there isn’t anything wrong with them. He says he hurt them flying when he was younger and now he can’t.”
“Do you think he’s just afraid?” she asked, sliding into bed and snuggling into his side.
Azriel pulled his arm closer around her, his thumb lazily stroking her arm. “I’m sure that’s all it is, he’s agreed to try again at least so that’s something.”
Elain hummed in agreement before smiling up at him. “Is that what you were negotiating on the way home?”
Azriel’s expression darkened slightly, his eyes were sad as he was taken back to his conversation with Valen. “We spoke about our fathers…and their expectations. He fears being seen as broken or a coward.”
“After everything he’s been through?” she frowned.
“It is what we’re brought up to believe, Elain. It isn’t easily left behind, not when you know they all see you as a broken bastard.” He said softy, thinking back to the many times he’d doubted himself for not living up to those Illyrian standards that had always seemed to work against him, against his brothers, no matter how much they sweat and bled for their people.
Elain threaded her fingers through his, bringing his hand to her lips and kissing the back of it before resting their hands on his chest. “I love you, Az.”
“I love you too, El.” He said quietly, pressing a kiss to the top of her head. “Valen will be alright, because we’ll make sure that he is, whether he flies or not.”
Elain nodded, drifting off to sleep, Azriel’s thumb still rubbing her arm and soothing her until her eyes finally closed. “We’ll make sure…”
The next morning, Elain fed Mavi as Azriel and Valen discussed the plan for their flying lesson.
Valen huffed, stuffing fruit in his mouth. “What if I can’t do it?”
“All I want you to do is try.” Azriel asserted. “If you meet the challenge and try then we count it as a victory.”
Elain smiled, watching the corner of Azriel’s lips curl into a knowing smirk. He knew how such a challenge would motivate Valen, he saw so much of Cassian in the little warrior, it was little wonder that they’d grown so close in such a short time. Kindred spirits that Azriel felt blessed to have in his life.
Valen nodded. “I will try, but you will see.”
“We will see.” Azriel agreed as they finished their breakfast. Before the duo could make it out the door, Elain was kneeling in front of Valen to see that his coat was buttoned properly before wrapping a scarf around his neck. Azriel stifled a chuckle as Valen looked to him for help from the fussing.
“There will be cookies waiting when you’re finished, to celebrate your victory.” Elain added with a nod and Valen smiled and nodded back, not bothering to stifle his laugh when Elain turned to Azriel and made sure that his coat was buttoned up properly as well.
Azriel humored her and gave her a peck on the lips before heading out front with Valen for their training. Elain had promised to give them privacy, but she found herself passing the front window more than usual today, Mavi cooing and kicking. Elain kissed her head and sent a prayer to the Mother that whatever happened, flight or no, Valen would be alright when it was done.
Valen sighed, kicking at the snow at his feet after over an hour of instruction and failed attempts to fly. “I told you. I’m broken, I have no courage...”
Azriel shook his head, trying to shake off the sadness that spiked in him. He had heard those words before, but to hear them from a child who believed it to be true about himself was like a knife in his chest. “Valen, your wings need work, it won’t happen right away. They’re moving and that’s the most important thing. They need to build strength if you haven’t used them in years, you are NOT broken, and you have the courage of a great warrior with the heart to match it.”
“You wouldn’t understand, you fly as easy as breathing.” The boy said with a huff.
Azriel sat on the front step and sighed. “Come sit.”
Valen sat sulkily and looked up at him, the defeated look in his eyes breaking Azriel’s heart.
“When I was a boy, when I was your age, I had never flown.” Azriel confessed.
Valen’s eyes widened. “But why? Were you broken too?”
Azriel shook his head. “I…was not allowed. I was much older than you when I was finally allowed to learn and I wanted to be in the sky right away, but I couldn’t. I needed to gain strength, and even then, even when I could get myself off the ground, I fell and crashed more times than I can remember.”
“Did you hurt your wings?” Valen asked, his eyes moving over Azriel’s enormous wings.
“Sometimes.” He nodded. “But I wanted to fly so badly, I couldn’t quit. Eventually, it got easier and I had my brothers there to help me.
"You have brothers?" he looked up at him.
Azriel nodded. "Cassian and Rhysand, we're not family by blood, but they are my family. We care for one another, as family should." He chuckled, thinking about Rhys and Cass helping him back then. "I think they just got bored of watching me crash into the same trees.” He added with a small smile. “You can fly, Valen, if you want it, you can fly and I’ll help you.”
“I do.” Valen nodded. “I want to touch the sky like you and Cass.”
Azriel smiled and nodded, standing. “Once more, and then inside for your victory cookies then.”
Valen nodded and jumped up, facing Azriel as he widened his stance and stretched his wings out. His wings moved slowly at first, feeling the breeze before gaining speed and flapping furiously enough to lift him off of the ground, higher and higher until he felt Azriel’s hand take his, holding him steady. Valen’s eyes blew wide open as he continued to flap his wings, straining a bit to stay level. Elain, fighting tears, stood at the door with Mavi who squealed at the sight of her brother.
“I did it!” Valen cried, dropping back to his feet, his wings already tired.
Azriel dropped to one knee, his smile radiating with pride as Valen threw himself into his arms, hugging him tightly. “I did it, Az!” Azriel didn’t have a second to process the hug before Valen ran to Elain next. She dropped to her knees, clinging to him with one arm, Mavi still cheering from the other. “Did you see, Ama! Did you see me flying?!”
“I saw, it was wonderful!” Elain said through her tears, holding him so tightly, she feared she may never be able to let him go. She met Azriel’s silver lined eyes as he made his way over and she knew that they finally needed to have the conversation they had been dancing around for weeks.
As the days passed, Azriel and Valen trained every single day without fail, his wings strengthening faster than either of them had expected. He had taken his first flight out with Cassian and Azriel that day while Elain spoke with Madja about Valen and Mavi.
That evening, Elain tucked Valen into bed as Azriel softly sang an Illyrian lullaby to Mavi, her eyes slowly closing as she drifted off, her tiny hand clutching his finger.
“You seem sad tonight.” Elain said, stroking Valen’s hair back and out of his face.
Valen glanced to where Azriel stood, cradling Mavi. “I wish that Mavi could know how it feels to fly…but they’ll take her wings away.” He said sadly.
“No.” Elain said, shaking her head. “Mavi will fly one day too, you can help show her how when she’s ready.”
“I could think of no better teacher than a natural like you.” Azriel added quietly, so as not to wake the baby.
Valen beamed with pride before his face fell again. “What if Mavi and I are separated? How will I watch over her if I’m training to be a warrior?”
Azriel exchanged a look with Elain who wrung her hands slightly in anxiousness. “Valen, if you could stay here with us, Azriel and I and Mavi too, all of us together, would you like that?”
Valen nodded. “I wish Mavi and I could stay with you forever.”
“Nothing would make us happier than to have you with us forever.” Elain said, tears in her eyes.
“Mavi and I? With you and Az always? Like a family?” Valen asked as he sat up, holding his pinky out to Elain.
Elain nodded, linking her pinky with his as tears spilled over her cheeks. “Yes, we’ll be a family, all of us together.”
Valen threw his arms around her, both of them crying now as he buried his face in her neck. “Ama.”
Elain held him tightly. “I would be honored to be your Ama.”
“Apa.” Valen sniffled, his arm snaking around Azriel’s neck too as Azriel took them both in his arms, baby Mavi snoring through it all.
Azriel held the whole world in his arms at that moment, as he held his family. “Our family, forever.”
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What if Azriel and Elain get married in Rosehall??
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I'd really love to see Mor fighting for Elain and Azriel. I've seen multiple theories talking about how she knows the Truth between them.
I'd love to see her train Elain since Cassian/Nesta are busy with the Valkyries and Azriel is probably trying (and failing) to keep his distance from Elain. Rhys/Feyre probably could too, but they are too busy. Amren is reserved as a last resort for teaching her about her powers, I think, given her general crankiness.
I feel like Mor would understand Elain's personality and preferences in teaching her basic fighting skills and tapping into her powers . The spying and stealthy lessons are already taken by the twins and/or Azriel previously, I presume.
I also think Mor would back up Elain's choices for her love interests given her history with her family, Eris, and revealing that she prefers females.
I just really hope someone SEES the chemistry and fights to allow them to choose their love. I think Mor being an Elriel stan would be soooo good! How could anyone deny what she says?
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