Amalia silently followed Vala and Elvar as they left the strange room and made their way down the spiral staircase. Vala had retreated into silence, too stunned by this revelation to know what to think, much less what to say.
Unlike the last time crossing the bridge, Vala barely took in her surroundings. The thick mist veiled them, and she hardly noticed, blindly following Elvar back through the cemetery.
Back at the church entrance, Jelly and Max were waiting. Their jaws dropped as they took in the two strangers with Vala, though only one of the newcomers accounted for their shocked demeanour.
“Hi,” Vala said in a voice barely above a whisper.
“Hi? Seriously, Vala, is that all you can say?” Max gaped at his friend. “Is that girl what I think she is because she does not look remotely corporeal!”
Amalia stepped closer to Max, and in spite of his racing heart, Max ignored his compulsion to back away and remained where he was.
“Please, do not be alarmed, Sir,” Amalia smiled. “I am no longer of this world, but you need not fear me. I am the guardian of all who seek protection from the Spindler, catcher of souls. My life he may have taken but he did not ensnare my soul.”
“So you really are a ghost?” Max asked in amazement.
“I am Princess Amalia of Candalia, protector of my people, but yes, only my spirit form remains,” Amalia replied.
“We have to get this on film,” Max said. “This is freakin' awesome!”
As Max readied his various cameras, Jelly pulled Vala aside and whispered in her ear. “What is this, Vala? And who is that gorgeous boy with you?”
“I met him after you and Max left,” Vala explained. “And no, he's not a ghost, though he did lead me to Amalia.”
Elvar approached Vala and tapped her on the shoulder, coughing purposely to attract the friends’ attention.
“Ahem!” Elvar said. “An introduction would be appreciated, Vala.”
“Sorry!” Vala smiled at Elvar and touched his arm. “Jelly, Max, this is Elvar. We met after you guys abandoned me. And no, just for clarification, he is not a ghost.”
Elvar smiled at Jelly and Max, brushing his fingers over Vala's as he did so. Vala felt her heartbeat quicken and a warm flush rose through her body. She felt a tingling flutter in her stomach and her cheeks blush.
“Can I speak to you alone, Vala?” Elvar asked, his breath warm against her ear.
Vala nodded and followed Elvar as he led her away from the others, keeping them within sight but out of earshot.
“Vala, it is imperative that your friends not know what I am. Humans today, at least those not in Candalia, are unaware of the fae and it must remain that way.”
“But you have told me, Elvar, and while I admit that it is a lot to process, it doesn't feel as weird as something of this magnitude should,” Vala replied.
Elvar entwined his fingers with Vala's and she felt the heat rising within her again.
“There is something I need to tell you, Vala.” Elvar said, rubbing his thumb over the back of her hand.
Although Vala would have usually rebuked such early familiarity from a boy, with Elvar it felt right; it felt natural. It also felt thrilling and wildly exhilarating and Vala could not help but wonder what it would feel like to kiss Elvar's soft, full and inviting lips.
“Vala?” Elvar said, breaking her reverie.
“Vala,” Elvar began. “It is difficult to find the right words to tell you this so I shall state it plainly, though there is much you need to know and you will have questions. How much do you know of your heritage?”
“My heritage?” Vala replied. “Um, my father's line has always lived in or near Tintagel. I guess they all felt an affinity with it, as do I. My mother is from Dartmoor. My parents met at Exeter University. My maternal grandparents are from Kealkill near Bantry on the South-West coast of Ireland.”
“Where the stone circle is,” Elvar stated.
“You know of it?”
“The fae know of all the stone circles, Vala. They are all imbued with a powerful magic and provide a portal to Candalia, the fae realm. Though there are a few other more ‘hidden’ portals, one of which I took you through earlier. I cannot tell you everything right now, it is too much to take in, but I will tell you this: your father's lineage is descended partly from the fae, and your mother's fully so,” Elvar replied.
“You're telling me that my mother is fae? And my father in part?” Vala asked. “So I'm what? Not entirely human?”
“Not entirely,” Elvar confirmed.
“So does my mother know what she is? Does my father? Can we do stuff, like 'magical' stuff?” Vala asked, her words spilling out.
“Your mother undoubtedly knows, Vala. The fae have certain abilities. Your father will also have special talents, though he may not know why he is different,” Elvar explained. “You are special, Vala, as are all fae/human hybrids. You are even more unusual than most as you have a higher portion of fae blood. It makes you 'extra' special. Look, Vala, we need to get back to your companions, and I need to return Amalia to the beetle. Can we meet tomorrow?”
“And you'll tell me everything?”
“I will tell you everything. I promise.” Elvar replied, lightly touching Vala's cheek.
“My parents are out all day. You can come to my house, 73 Vine Street, at 10am.”
“I will be there.”
Vala and Elvar walked back to the others. Max and Jelly were standing, their attention captivated as Amalia sang a haunting melody. Her voice had a beautiful, crystal clear clarity, and an ethereal, other-worldly quality to it. As Amalia's song drew to a close, Elvar bowed his head to her and Amalia returned the gesture.
“We must go now,” Elvar said. “It was a pleasure to meet you, Jelly and Max. I hope you have had an illuminating evening.”
“Absolutely the best!” Max enthused. “Don't know where you came from mate, but thanks for this!”
Jelly just smiled at Elvar, glancing between him and Vala.
“Till tomorrow, Vala,” Elvar said, his fingers once again grazing hers.
The three friends watched as Elvar and Amalia walked away until they were out of sight.
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Genre - YA Fantasy
Rating – PG 13