The Traveler: Chapter Fifteen
"Humans are a strange thing," a new voice spoke to her a little while later. MJ shot up, knowing that such a small voice couldn't belong to Brodric.
"Riya!" she breathed and ran to the edge of the cage and pressed her hands up against it.
Riya stood on the other side of the wall in another one of his fashionable getups. This time he wore charcoal colored pants and black boots with a button down ruby shirt and a black vest overtop. How did he always manage to look so good? His dark red hair hung in front of his eyes, and as MJ ran up to him he shook his bangs out of his face and MJ could see his eyes piercing down at her. Now that pixie was elf sized again Riya was big but nothing like Brodric was to her now. She felt a desire to be in her own body again, but knew that this was for the best.
"What are you doing here?" she asked him.
"Could it be that you are actually happy to see me?" he returned a question right back at her, but he could see in her eyes that she was. He pressed his hand against the clear film and MJ reached up her hand to touch his (if she could through the wall).
"You know that I am. Brodric told me everything. I'm so sorry I ever misjudged you Riya."
"Quite alright. It's all an act after all. Brodric contacted me and I have to say I was surprised. I don't think he ever anticipated, feeling something for you. He knew that his role to play was the one of a bodyguard so to keep you safe, but he actually seemed worried that you were in this thing. I explained that your beauty was strange and he laughed it off saying it could be ignored with magic, but…I was wrong. You are a very strange and peculiar little girl."
"I'm only little now. Remember I am ten times the size of you when I'm in my normal body."
"I wouldn't say quite that tall,"
MJ didn't even feel like asking how Brodric contacted him, she had so many other things to think about and still so many things to learn before…well before whatever was going to happen was going to happen.
"Where's Aldar? Did he find Rayne?" MJ asked hopefully.
"Rayne is a tough elf to find. Her magic doesn't give her much leeway with the elves because she is so powerful and still a reacten. Don't worry, Aldar will not rest and apparently neither will Brodric until she is found and helping you out of this mess. But you must understand that I cannot stay too long. Elves have the horrible ability of sniffing out pixies you see and I promised Brodric. We have quite an act to put up, but I had to see you for myself and when Brodric asked me to pay you a quick visit, I leapt at the opportunity."
"Thank you Riya. And if I don't ever see you again…" she trailed off in a sad voice.
"If you don't see me again that means we were successful in getting you out of here my dear. You are a small pixie but your human body is definitely better suited for your giant heart." And with that Riya jumped off the table and took off towards the door.
"Wait," MJ begged but didn't know why. This all just seemed to be happening so fast now. Was it really possible that this was going to be the last time she saw Riya?
It made sense because tomorrow was the day that Aldar was supposedly going to return with Rayne and with Brodric the two elves would send her out of this world. But, would that mean she wouldn't see Luna's horrible reaction when discovering that her key to high court was missing? Surely the elves would find a way to pin this on Brodric, but would the elders even care? It scared MJ more and more to know that she wasn't going to be there to see how this would all end up. Brodric and Riya were already risking so much to save their own races and now she was playing a major role in what would happen next. Worst of all, she wasn't even going to know if the plan even worked!
"Am I so strong, if I get to leave without ever knowing if my effort means anything?" she groaned out loud as the door swung open and Brodric strode in.
"That is exactly why you are so strong," he replied softly and unlatched the cage so MJ was free again.
Relieved, MJ ran out of the cage as Brodric went to get a glass of water and sat down to drink more of her nectar that to MJ's surprise was still simmering. Brodric crossed the room then, scooping up MJ in his hand before sitting on a large chair in another part of the house. As carefully as he could mange he set her down on one of his thighs and gave her one of his hard golden stares.
"What you are doing MJ is amazing. You are putting your life in the hands of strangers and saving two races that you know nothing about. I wouldn't worry too much about your strength and if you are uncomfortable enough, you can go back to your human size when you go to sleep, but not before then please."
MJ shifted on his thigh, thinking about how awkward this must be for the elf.
"If you think it's safer for me to stay in this form, I will. It's only one more night after all right?"
Brodric chuckled, trying to make light of the situation. To MJ's surprise he then moved his hand and took MJ's cup away from her with his massive fingers. As he leaned forward to place it on the table, MJ stumbled a bit but Brodric caught her in one of his massive hands and as he leaned back cupped her gently against his stomach. MJ was mortified at first, and was about to scream but as one of Brodric's fingers gently began to stroke her hair and back, she knew that his intentions were as pure at Riya said. She was happy to be going home, but scared to leave Riya, Aldar, and Brodric behind to deal with whatever consequences would be dealt after her disappearance. She gently grabbed the folds of Brodric's and pulled them close to her, snuggling into his stomach as best she could as he continued to pet her delicately.
"I'm scared," she murmured into the fabric and the petting stop and Brodric pulled her closer to him.
"Even if I can't get you home, I will do my best to make sure that you are going somewhere safer than this…"
"No I'm scared for you guys," MJ continued. "I'm scared of what I will never know. I wish there was just some way to know after I leave that you guys are all okay. I want to know that Luna doesn't become a high court elf, and you become the new high priest. I want to know that Riya's reputation is restored and the pixies are safe. I want to know that Aldar is safe. I miss him," she murmured. She felt Brodric let out a big sigh then and she knew the answer wasn't the one she wanted to hear.
"Well, you may never get to know those things if you leave, and you do have to leave. Believe me, if there was a way to let you know that everything was all wonderful and fixed and happy I would but there isn't. I don't want you to think too much about what happens here, I want you to think about how great it will be when you are come again. Promise me you won't worry too much about this. Riya and I have been working and waiting for this." Brodric looked down at the tiny being pressed against him and was marveled at not only how small she looked against his hands but how much he cared for her safety now. He always cared for the pixies but for some reason this felt so strange to him. He bit back his surprise when she said she missed Aldar but suppressed it because none of it really mattered anyway. In a few days she would be gone, and he, Riya, and Aldar would all have to learn to cope without her.
He knew that he could spend the rest of the afternoon and evening sitting there comforting her, but this was not the time to be romantic. Pulling his hand away, MJ fell into his cupped palm and he pulled her up to his face as he stood up and went back to the table where her charcoal and paper were. As gently as he could, he kissed her on top of her head surprising the both of them before placing her back down on the table again. MJ was touched. She still couldn't understand for the life of her why he was so caring and kind. She was nothing to him; a human could never live up to the standards of an elf. As she was about to him Brodric continued.
"Now, I believe you wanted to know more about the elders and how our voting system works for the high elves?" he said in a voice that must have sounded somewhat strained.
MJ's face was shocked at first but she quickly turned and ran into her cage to grab her writing supplies and sat back down, trying her best to look unfazed and professional.
"Yes, I think you were going to explain…"
"Gwindor and Athena have the gift of persuasion. They are going to attempt to use this gift to explain why Luna should be allowed into the high court and I, though possibly possessing the most amount of magic, should be removed. This troubles me because of the way that the high court and even the elders view the pixies. You see, there are many elves like myself who view the pixies as equals. In fact, I think with time many could come to realize that other than size, there is not much difference in the two races."
"What about magic?"
"Pixies are more than capable of learning magic, hasn't Riya shown you that much? Pixies just need guidance, the same as the elves. Kaji and the others don't want pixies to learn the ways of magic because of their prejudices against them for whatever reason. I guess mostly because they are so small, but I cannot, nor I will not think of them that way. The elders unfortunately, feel the same way as Athena, Gwindor, and Kaji and while the elders may not fully trust me, they trust my magical ability. This is why I must work so hard to become the strongest elf in the forest; I cannot change things until I am. And while you arriving here have certainly sped up my plans a bit, it is a blessing in disguise. With you being here, Gwindor has become even more impatient. It could be centuries before another being comes to this land with blood and body that is neither elf nor pixie. She views this as the opportunity of an existence. With you here and the high elves still thinking I am a stupid, but strongly magical prodigy they can use me to turn Luna back into an elf and remove me from the high court forcing me either to remain silent or become a reacten and rebel against the court."
"So why don't you become a reacten?"
"If I become a reacten I would have to consider whether I could take on Luna, Gwindor, Athena, Kaji and the elders all at full strength to remove me completely. The high court holds no mercy for reactens and I would never ask others to follow me. No, for the safety of both races, I must become high priest. So anyway…I'm going off track. The Elders consist of four of the oldest elves in the forest."
"Just how old are the oldest elves?"
"Well the oldest is Gabriel and she is not quite 3000 years old."
"Holy crap!" MJ exclaimed and wrote something done.
"Yes," Brodric continued, "she is the oldest elf in existence, not counting some reactens that may be hiding in the forest. Darwin in the second oldest of all elves and he, I believe is maybe over 2500 years old. Salem and Corin are the last members of the elder court and they are maybe both only 100 years younger than Darwin. They are a very old court, and you should be able to see now that high court status is not based upon age but magic."
"Can the elders do magic like you?"
"Heavens no. I told you, I am something very special. Gabriel could probably make her way as a 5th or 6th in the high court but that is only because she practices magic as a hobby. The rest of the elders care content being just that until their loneliness catches up to them. The elders however carry the tradition that ways down us elves and that is the desire for magic and power. If any of the elders would decide that these are no longer important than I am sure I wouldn't be in the high court."
"Speaking of that, you were also going to explain the workings of your voting system."
"Well it is a seven vote system. The high priest or priestess may never cast a vote as to whom or who shouldn't be in the high court. So what is left right now is myself, Kaji, Gwindor, and the four elders. That is not to say that Athena's words do not hold weight. Gwindor and Kaji both side with the high priestess to have me completely removed from the high court and would like Luna to join them since their beliefs are all very similar. The Elders will hold the key to me staying in the high court and fighting for the high priest position. Every decade votes are cast to see who should become high priest or priestess and who the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th will be. The elders then cast their votes and what is decided is the final word. Now, there is not supposed to be a voting for a few more years, but with you arrival Athena has called for an emergency decision. She is hoping that in a few days Luna will be elf so she can present this to the elders. If Gwindor and Athena are able to properly utilize their gift of persuasion, they need only convince two of the four elders to vote me out and vote her in. You can do the math. However, since magic is so important, if Luna is not elf by the time of the emergency decision the elders will see this as a waste of time and demand that something happen. It is at this point I will challenge Athena for the position of high priest and my two apprentices will step forward to challenge Gwindor and Kaji for their positions as well. It would normally be a pretty hard thing to ask, but the elders will be frustrated at the idea of holding council with no immediate changes. This is my chance. With Kaji and Gwindor gone, and me as high priest I can begin to make more open changes to the relationships with pixies and elves. It all depends on Luna becoming elf, the high court is too nervous about their own positions to take on apprentices such as I have. If Jayde gets here, and we get you out of this world than all will fall into place."
"How can you be so sure?" MJ asked. "Can you predict the future?"
"Don't be silly," the elf laughed. "No one can do that. Is there anything else you wanted to know? I can't believe how long it is taking me to explain this all to you, you must be swimming with questions."
MJ put down her charcoal and stood up.
"I think…I think you are amazing." MJ said with a look of awe in her face.
Now that was something Brodric could have never predicted. His face turned bright purple then, impossible to go unnoticed under his translucent skin and he stood up abruptly, jostling the table and causing MJ to fall on her bottom.
"I'm sorry," he began but she was already standing up again and brushing herself off. He would never get used to having something as small as MJ in pixie form in his house and though he cared for her deeply he wanted her to be human sized again, at least during the last nights they would spend together. He felt awkward and clumsy around her, a feeling that is not supposed to be felt by and elf but suddenly he felt embarrassed by his size difference and figured that letting her be human tonight wasn't really that big of a deal after all. Not letting MJ know his thoughts he left the room and went to grab another shirt out of his bedroom and tossed it on the chair next to her. Next, he went to the windows and shut the blinds and then turned around so he wouldn't face her.
"It's almost nighttime," he declared awkwardly. "If you want to be human tonight, I won't stop you. My instinct tells me that Aldar is very close to finding Jayde. I can smell relief radiating from his skin. To be perfectly honest…it stinks to me," he said finishing off in a bitter tone. In such a short amount of time, MJ was already loyal to Aldar, even though he had done just as much, if not more to save her.
MJ didn't make a move to grab her marbles.
"So I'll be going home soon huh?"
"I don't see why not. Now that Aldar is getting closer to Jayde, he will be able to shrink her down and sneak into the elf village."
"Is it even possible to sneak in here?"
"Well maybe not only by shrinking…but Aldar's ability combined with Jayde's ability to use indivisibility spells? I think the two of them will be here in just a few more days…giving me plenty of time to get you out of here."
"I'll be going home…" she muttered. "Aldar's coming back."
"Look, are you going to take the marble or not? I'm giving you a chance to be human tonight."
MJ looked up at Brodric then in a different way. Was he upset that she kept talking about Aldar? What could it possibly matter to him? The two of them just met and she owed so much to Aldar…and Brodric she realized. What had she just said to him? That he was amazing? And he was, but Aldar…what did any of it really matter? She was returning home soon, she reached into her bag then and went to grab another brown marble…but.
"I don't have anymore marbles. Not to grow back to my normal self that is."
Brodric turned around. "How can you be out? I gave Riya so many."
"That's what I thought too," MJ said in a pathetic voice and Brodric felt terrible. How could all of those marbles be gone already? Did somebody know something? But even if they did, no one had the power to take them away from her…except.
"That damn little scamp," Brodric muttered.
"What?" MJ asked in an innocent tone that made Brodric laugh for thinking something so terrible has happened.
"Leave to Riya to play a trick on me at a time like this!" he boomed.
"Wait…wait, Riya took my marbles?"
Brodric shook his head, "I can hear his laughter in my head from here. Apparently he thinks you'd make a great pixie so he used a dissolving spell to get rid of them. Next time I see that idiot…"
"So I can't be in my normal body tonight?"
"Oh please," Brodric scoffed, waved his hand and turned his back to her. Within seconds MJ was her normal size.
"Don't turn around yet!" she yelped and switched from the dress back into one of Brodric's long shirts. "Okay," she sighed and Brodric turned back around to face her.
She was beautiful. As she stood in front of him, her dark brown hair sloppily framing her face and cheeks flushed from all the changing he couldn't help himself. He was an elf, but he was a man after all. In two long strides he crossed the room and stood directly in front of her, which was still a little awkward even when she was in her human form, she barely reached his waist. Carefully, as though still treating her like a pixie, he fell to one knee and gently touched the side of her face with one hand.
"I want you to be safe," he mumbled trying not revealing too much about how he was feeling.
"I want everyone to be safe," MJ mumbled her body shivering at his gentle touch. "I can't stand the idea of you, Aldar or Riya getting hurt because of me."
"It is for a greater cause that we are doing this…but knowing you now, I think I would have acted just the same if simply to save you," Brodric said earnestly. He knew that elves had strong feelings but normally that was just anger, fear, protection, and devotion. For the first time he felt a feeling in him so strong, that he wasn't sure if he could keep it bottled up inside him anymore. He wanted to remain silent but as he held MJ's face in just one hand and looked into her brown eyes the words began pouring out.
"Elves, in general are only supposed to fall in love once. It is a feeling. A feeling that I certainly feel for you and it kills me. I know that you are leaving soon, and our time together has been but the blink of an eye but I know what I feel. I would never ask you to stay because you have a life of your own and this is not where you belong, I simply ask; do you think you could love me until your time here comes to an end?"
MJ's eyes looked like they were going to pop out of her head after his confession. This man…elf who was more powerful than all the elves and could have his pick of any beautiful Luna-like creature in the forest was saying that he loved her and wanted her to love him as well? After only one day? A picture of Aldar danced in front of her, but in reality Brodric knelt in front of her smiling in a way that MJ couldn't deny. He gave her chills and he made her shake with longing. What did it mean to love an elf? Was this the elf way of proposing a vacation relationship? MJ didn't feel as if it could even work…but Brodric was so strong looking and so powerful and this was intoxicating to her. She reached out to grab Brodric's hand that was still holding her face and looked deep into his sincere and golden eyes. Here was a man who was risking everything to save not only his race but another as well. The superficial differences meant nothing to this man and he was explaining to her that he may never fall in love again. Perhaps, as a high priest he wouldn't be able to take a lover anyway but the thought was still painful.
"I…I," MJ mumbled not even sure herself what her answer was going to be but Brodric wasted no time. Quickly, he scooped her up in his arms and took her to the bedroom, surely he wasn't going to…but instead he gently laid her on the bed and sat on the floor next to her.
"What does it mean to love an elf?" she tried to ask without sounding strange.
Brodric looked downward, pondering on how to respond. He was 700 years old but in elf years that was still barely an adult. And while Brodric prided himself for his great size and magical ability he had never understood an 'elf's love.' Instead, he tried to think about what it meant to him.
"Elves," he began in a slow and deliberate tone, "are monogamists by nature. We fall in love and marry only once. By me confessing my love to you, if you are to respond positively I would be bound to your words for all eternity. I would never be able to love or appreciate another being in the same way I cherish you. If you were to deny me…"
"Would you be able to love again?"
"It would be difficult, but certainly not impossible. Feelings are very strong to elves, and love is no exception. What I am asking you, I'm afraid is not simply for something sexual but it is something even more than that. I am asking you whether in such a short time you would be willing to allow me to bind to you. I am prepared for what these words mean and if it makes you feel better, I doubt you would be held to the same chains as I for the rest of your years, however many that may be for your race. How long do humans live; 400, 500 years?"
"Humans do not usually live past 90 or 100 years," MJ said matter-of-factly which caused Brodric to stand up.
"But you are already…"
"Nineteen, soon to be twenty."
"But that means…"
"Maybe another 60 or 70 years. That is plenty."
"That is only but a heartbeat! How can you live knowing you are so close to death?" he asked in a scared and horrified tone. Just the idea of thinking that MJ was already so close to dying scared him so much.
"That's the human life span. It's been like that for years. It used to be even shorter. I will consider myself blessed to live to be 80 or even 90 years old Brodric."
The elf sat on the bed now with slumped shoulders. He simply could not get his head around MJ only living for another 60 years. He wanted more now than ever, to hold her close and be with her. The bonds were broken after death and though it sounded terrible Brodric was more than willing to spend the next 60 or 70 years cherishing these small moments.
"I will love you until the day you die and beyond. Please do not deny me this privilege." He declared
MJ stared at the tall beautiful and strong elf in front of her and though she missed Aldar she could not deny her feelings for Brodric. He had protected and provided for her and she knew that if she had to stay in this world he would do anything to ensure her happiness and comfort. Though it pained her to think of him spending the next decades wanting her, what were 60 or 70 years to an elf? MJ would treasure this moment for the rest of her life and wanted Brodric to know that his confession was not going to be wasted on her as. Slowly she crawled next to Brodric and leaned against his large frame and whispered. "I accept."
Brodric felt her light body lean against him and when she said something in a tone he could barely hear, he was nervous about what she had actually said to him. He turned to look down at her then and realized that she must have accepted or humans were the cruelest race he had never heard of. Gently, he brushed her hair out of her eyes and waited for her to look at him.
"So you accept my love?" he asked.
MJ nodded and snuggled against him. Things were going to change soon, and MJ would be gone and Brodric would be grieving her departure. He knew that he would not easily forget his promise to MJ but many things were going to need his full attention as well. He pulled her close to him, thinking about how wonderful it would be if she were with him as he removed Kaji and Gwindor from their positions with his apprentices that were even younger than he. He smiled, thinking of all the lives he was going to save and how this specific time for the elves was coming to a close and he would be partially responsible for the change. Still, it would be very lonely without someone like MJ to keep him company during his down moments and though he certainly looked forward to the changes, he wondered if he would give it all up to be with her. Brodric was an elf who usually thought only of the big picture so it was strange for his brain to wrap around giving up everything for this tiny girl in his arms. Gently, he pulled the two of them into a lying position in the bed and she cuddled up against him. No, he loved MJ but he loved the elves and the pixies safety even more than her. It was only a few nights that MJ had promised him, and even though there was nothing sexual about it, Brodric had never felt so intimate in his entire existence thus far.