“Right now,” Elora laughed.
“Really? Do we not have to go to a special training ground, or something like that?” I asked with wide eyes. I couldn't believe this was actually happening.
Elora shrugged. “Maybe at some point we could do some more physical training, but for the moment I still need to explain a lot of things to you. Like what your element is, what a Forge can do and a few of the other gifts that you've already experienced in one form or another.”
I blinked. “My element?”
The Princess nodded, smirking, no doubt amused by my excitement. “Yes! Stop bouncing up and down like that, you'll send me right off the bed.”
“Sorry,” I apologised. “It's just that... well, I needed this. I don't know what's going on and Vera refused to tell me anything. Having something to actually base my experiences on will help quite a bit. I hate going into a situation blind.”
“I understand. I can't imagine what it must feel like to feel this thing inside you and not know what it is, or what it means. So let's start there, yes? With the Bonding itself.”
I nodded eagerly, causing Elora to chuckle and grasp my hand a little tighter in response.
“Okay, the Bond. First, there cannot be more than one Smith for one Knight. When a Smith and Knight Bond for the first time it is the most important moment of their relationship. Thoughts, feelings, intent, all of it comes into play during the first Bonding. If they are Bonded during a moment of happiness then the Bond tends to reflect that and makes the joining of their souls easier on the both of them. Negative emotions like rage, jealously or hatred can make the Bond fragile. Our Bond was kind of unique. I've never heard of another pair that Bonded during a battle before. Because of the emotions of pain, loss and rage that we were both feeling, Vera and Annabelle thought our Bond would be brittle at first. But you proved them wrong when they tried to take me away from you.”
I nodded, remembering the moment very clearly in my mind considering that, from my perspective, it had only happened hours before. I had heard much of this from Vera, but listening to a more in-depth take on the subject was always helpful.
“They theorized that because we didn't feel those emotions towards each other and instead focused those feelings on another, the Bond strengthened itself to unheard of levels to give us the power to combat the immediate threat. There was also the intent to keep others safe, which played a large part in how strong we became.”
“I see,” I responded. “Our need to keep others safe made us stronger. Why would we direct negative emotions on each other? Has that happened before?”
Elora nodded solemnly. “Yes, many times. There are documented cases of Knights and Smiths who didn't want to be Bonded and were instead forced to. Forcing a Bond is never the right thing to do, it almost always ends in one, or both, of the pair dying in the attempt.”
“Spirit,” I replied, grimly. “So you took quite the risk in Bonding with me then.”
“Yes, but it was one I would take again in a heartbeat.” Elora said with fervour.
I smiled and indicated for her to continue with my free hand.
“The Bond itself can be affected by a number of factors, as I've said. It seems that knowing the person well before the event allows for a smoother Bonding. Ours went about as well as could be expected, considering we had never met before that moment. Still, it was surprisingly smooth. Every case of Smith and Knight without some kind of prior relationship almost always ends in disaster.”
I winced but managed to remove the expression quickly enough to avoid detection. Perhaps our Bonding was so smooth because we had met before? It was brief, to be sure, but it still counted for something. For a moment I considered reminding Elora about the day in question. If it had something to do with our Bond then it was worth exploring, right? Unfortunately, embarrassment won out over common sense and I remained silent.
“Then again, I told Vera that I had heard a lot about you before we met on stage. Delithia loved talking about her big brother Orin.” Elora nudged me with her shoulder and I grinned.
“Maybe that's it, then. I heard a lot about you from the Sister, could that have helped?”
“Maybe,” Elora said thoughtfully, “What did she say about me?”
“Fishing for compliments, your Highness?” I asked, trying to hide my smirk.
“No,” Elora's cheeks turned red with embarrassment. “Let's move on.”
“As you wish, Princess Elora.” I bowed at her awkwardly, no easy feat considering I was sitting right next to her.
“Oh, shut up,” Elora snapped, turning a shade darker. “As I said, it's all just a theory right now and it doesn't really matter why the joining went so smoothly. I still think it's because we had a goal before we Bonded and our emotions made that need to complete said goal all the greater.”
“Right, well, how we Bonded would be next. You may have noticed that I turned into pure light before entering your soul?”
“I think I remember something like that.” I replied sarcastically. I mean, it's hard to forget seeing someone turn into liquid light right in front of you before piling into your chest.
“Hush,” Elora said with a glare. “When that happens I'm basically pulling my soul out of my own body, expanding it to encapsulate my physical form and causing me to enter the state known as Etherin.”
Elora nodded. “Yes. Slow me down if I'm going too fast for you. I'm not exactly the best of teachers. I made a list in my head before I got here but I may have missed some key points, so tell me if you don't understand anything.”
“Could've fooled me, you're quite good at this.”
“Thanks,” Elora replied with a hesitant smile, “But I know my limits. I've never been the most patient student for my father and Lady Annabelle.”
“It's a becoming of sorts. One which only a Smith can achieve. It involves strengthening the soul for many years before it can be properly utilised. Honestly, when we Bonded on stage, it was only the third time I'd managed to pull it off.”
“Wow, only the third? How long were you training to be a Smith?”
Elora thought for a moment. “Maybe since five? I don't really remember the earlier lessons, most of them were teaching me what I'm telling you now and I've heard it all so many times over the years that it often feels engraved in my very bones.”
“Five years old and you only managed to do it three times? Will you be able to do it again?”
“I think so. Since I've been Bonded to you I've had this feeling that the next time will be much easier than the first. Honestly, I feel like I could do it right now without a hitch. Lady Annabelle told me it would be easier after the Bonding.”
“So Etherin allows you to become a soul, or become one with your soul and turn into light. I get that part. But once you were inside me I could feel you at the edges of my soul. It was... surreal.” I shivered. When Elora was the border of my black and fiery soul I could feel her pushing against it, as though seeking entry. It had felt wrong to me on so many levels.
“Cellus told me that he went through this with my mother and Lady Vera. Basically when a Smith first enters their Knight there are feelings of wrongness. The trick is to ignore the natural inclination of your body and build a door for the soul of the Smith to walk through.”
I winced. “I didn't build a door so much as cut an opening.”
“I remember, I saw everything. I told Vera about it and she said that manifesting a version of yourself at the confines of your soul showed a remarkable amount of self-control. Usually the Knight learns to sense their soul before hand and build a door over time, as Cellus did. You just used a sword to cut one.”
“Is that a problem?” I asked, concerned.
“I don't think so,” Elora frowned. “At least, Lady Vera never said anything that would lead me to believe that it was harmful. A door is a door, I don't think it matters how it's made.”
“Well, that's a relief. Good to know I didn't mess too much up.” I sighed.
Elora squeezed my hand. “You didn't mess up at all. In fact, considering how little you knew about Bonding you did very well.”
“Thanks.” I replied with a smile.
Elora took a deep breath. “Moving on, once I'm joined with you we receive a number of benefits from it. These are known as 'Gifts'. Each one is powerful when properly used, but they can be expensive in terms of Aurum.”
The Princess slapped herself on the forehead. “Sorry, I jumped ahead a bit there. Aurum is the fuel for the Gifts. It's a production of our two entwining souls. A sort of mystical energy that is released from their contact. Over time, the stores of Aurum grow greater as our souls get closer. Though, Lady Annabelle said our store of Aurum was unusually high for being newly Bonded. She said it was a result of our turbulent Bonding.”
“I get it. If I wanted to move faster or get stronger then we'd have to use this fuel?”
“Aurum. Yes, it's used in every Gift and, like I said, they can be expensive. I might be able to make you strong enough to destroy a siege engine with a single punch, for example, but after that we may be too low in terms of Aurum do much else.”
“What happens when the Aurum runs out?” I asked, engrossed in her teaching.
“Well, two things really,” Elora lifted one finger. “If we run out of Aurum then I would be forcefully expelled from your body. You can think of Aurum as the lining that holds our souls together, if it runs out, our souls are violently pushed apart.”
“Okay, and the second?” I asked.
“We would be pretty much defenceless. That's what happened on stage. The last punch you used on Craven brought our store of Aurum dangerously low. I left before I could be expelled, but even then we were still unable to do much. The last thing I remember is falling into your arms and then nothing.”
“Yeah, I could barely move. I was holding on to you but I could barely think, let alone do something.”
Elora looked at me seriously. “That's the danger with using so much Aurum. One of the first lessons that my mother and father taught Cellus and I was to avoid using so much Aurum at all costs. It might not effect you much the first time, but repeatedly over-extending yourself can lead to dire consequences. It can even fracture your Bond, which I'm told is intensely painful and irreversible.”
“It's a good thing we won't be using a lot of Aurum then.” I said, trying to make light of the situation despite Elora's intense stare.
“Yes. I've heard so many horror stories about overusing Aurum that I'm surprised I pushed so hard to give you more strength. If I had been thinking clearly, I would have gotten you to get Vera to Annabelle so they could handle Craven.”
“Don't be too hard on yourself. That guy really wasn't giving us much of a choice. We were backed into a corner with no way out. If we went after the First Knight, Craven could've just unleashed more fire at our backs or worse, attacked the Sister and the kids,” Then I frowned as I realised something. “So, Etherin, this soul state you were talking about. It has some kind of range on it?”
Elora lit up at the question. “Absolutely. The Smith has be within a certain distance of their Knight to activate Etherin. The resonance from their soul is a kind of signal that lets the Smith's soul know it's close enough. You can do it from a couple of feet away, but actual physical contact is best and it happens almost instantaneously.”
“Huh, good it know,” I said musingly. “Does Aurum replenish over time? Or is it a one time, one use kind of thing?”
“Oh no, it replenishes itself, even when we're separated though it takes longer because of it. The more you use, the longer it takes. It also depends on how you use it. Because I was giving you the benefit of Gifts without a Forge, it will take a bit longer for us to be back to full strength. A couple more days should do it.”
“A Forge? You mentioned that before and so did Vera. What is it?”
Elora jumped to her feet, letting go of my hand as she did so and I would be lying if I said I wasn't disappointed. The feel of her hand in mine was quite enjoyable, even considering she didn't realise she was doing it. Knowing a bit more about the Bond let me come to that conclusion quite quickly. I don't know if it was because of my natural control or something unrelated, but I could sense when the Bond was acting up, unlike the Princess. It was most likely the culprit behind the need for physical contact.
“Now we get into the good stuff. Gifts! The first one is the Forge, a manifestation in the centre of the Soul of the Knight,” Elora swept her hands around the room. “A Forge can look like anything, it could be a castle or a garden or a mountain range. In the end it doesn't matter. What does matter is the function it serves. It's a place that a Smith can use to manage the Gifts. Think of it as a gatehouse of sorts.”
“A gatehouse?” I repeated, as confused as ever before.
“Yes,” Elora explained enthusiastically. “Without a Forge, the Aurum runs rampant. Controlling it and pushing it into a specific gift takes an incredible amount of effort and doing so can leave both Smith and Knight exhausted before a fight has even begun. It runs through both sides of the gatehouse unimpeded, like it did during our fight with Craven. The Forge allows me to stop the Aurum from flowing, keeping it locked away until we need it. Then, it's simply a matter of releasing the Forge's hold on it slightly and sending the specified amount of Aurum into the Gift of choice. I can essentially lower the gate that leads to the Aurum.”
“Ah, I understand... I think,” I said thoughtfully, “But what about the Gifts themselves. How do you know which one is for getting stronger and getting faster?”
“That's where it gets a little complicated,” a pacing Elora said.
“Really? It wasn't complicated already?”
The Princess rolled her eyes. “Well, more complicated at least. When we fought at the wedding and we joined I created three objects from the fabric of your soul and my own. I knew I didn't have enough time to make a proper Forge so I skipped that step and created the beginnings of my 'Gifts'. To each of these orbs I assigned a function and this is where it gets rather esoteric. I could implant ideas into these created shapes. With the first I implanted the feeling of strength, of a mountain stretching to the sky, of the golden spires standing in the centre of Myrin, unmovable and unshakable. It was the idea of everlasting power that destroys cities and breaks armies.”
My eyes widened as Elora continued to speak, mouth dropping open. Her words resonated inside my chest. The black flames, which had seemed distant since the Bond had settled, flared and sent sparks of silver into the endless void that surrounded them. My heart began to beat faster as she continued and I could see that she could feel it too. Her eyes met my own and I could see a glimmer of the golden water I had seen only once during our last Bonding: Elora's soul.
“My Idea demanded that you be strong. Stronger than any Knight who has come before and any that will come after. I demanded that you fight and bleed and rage. I commanded you to toss aside mortality and become strength itself. I knew, I believed, down in the depths of both our souls that you were stronger than the yellow-eyed Knight. My belief became reality when you nearly shattered his Weapon.”
Elora was the first to break eye contact, looking away and breathing heavily. I wondered what was wrong for a moment before I realised that I felt exactly the same way. My body was shaking and sweating. It was like I had just run for an hour in full plate armour.
“That was intense.” I spoke between rasping breaths, noticing the Princess sit heavily in the chair at my small desk, the light pouring in from the small window painting the sweat on her arms and face. I noticed a bead drop down her neck and into her cleavage and quickly looked away before she caught me looking. By the Spirit, this girl might be the death of me.
“Yes,” Elora replied, looking exhausted. “Some Gifts resonate with Bonded pairs more strongly than others though it is very rare and the Idea must be deep. It seems that ours is Strength. It came easily to me when I was joined with you. The Idea I used was so simple, but very effective.”
“Is it that way with all Knights?” I asked plainly as I wiped at my damp forehead.
“No, it depends on the Knight and the Smith. For example, my father couldn't just tell me what Idea he used to create my mother's Gift of Strength, it had to come from me. Using an Idea that I don't truly identify with could result in a weaker Gift than is common. Worse, it could end up being something so weak that it can't be used at all. There have been reports of greater Gifts upon joining, but they are few and far between. They are called Resonant Gifts, powerful boons that make us stronger than average. My mother and father didn't get such a Gift when they Bonded, but Vera and Annabelle have the Resonant Gift of Thought.”
“What is that? Something to do with reflexes?”
Elora nodded. “It's one of the reasons that Vera and Annabelle are as powerful as they are today. Their thought processes speed up to a point of being able to perceive even the most minute details. They can be weaker and slower physically than their opponent, but it wouldn't matter. They can adjust on the fly to take advantage of their perceived disadvantage.”
“Spirit, that's incredible,” I wondered what I would do with something that strong, being able to think faster than an opponent would be an incredible advantage to a warrior like me. Still, being super strong is something all its own. “At least we're stronger than them, right?”
Elora looked at me like I was dense before throwing her head back and laughing like I had told the funniest joke she'd ever heard. Did I become her court jester when I wasn't looking? I feel like this isn't the first time she's made fun of me during this conversation.
“Vera and Annabelle are Masters, named so by those sitting in the Hall of Tyra. They have been Knight and Smith for twenty years, which may seem like a long time, but to obtain the rank of Master usually requires a lifetime of dedicated training. I'm not exaggerating when I say that, when Bonded, they are a force of nature, unstoppable and indestructible. We may have the Resonant Gift of Strength, but it pales next to their common Gift, which they have trained and tested in battle for years.”
“Alright, alright, you've had your fun, Princess,” I sighed. “What are the other Gifts? The Hall of Tyra I've heard of, but little more than rumours.”
“The Hall of Tyra is the training ground for Knights and Smiths. It is also the home of the the Masters of Tyra, a group of Knights and Smiths who are in charge of said training. You can't become a Master without a unanimous decision from the Masters of Tyra themselves. They are also completely neutral and have been since their founding, over one thousand years ago.”
I nodded along as she spoke. I had heard that the Hall of Tyra was important to Knights and the Smiths, but I knew little about how they ranked themselves.
“Are there other ranks besides Master?” I asked.
“Yes,” Elora closed her eyes as though trying to remember. “After you have gained entry you are officially an Apprentice, then comes the rank of Adept upon graduation, followed by Journeyman though I don't know how you attain that rank. That's followed by Master but, again, Vera and Annabelle never told me about how to become one, only that it involved the final step in becoming a Knight and Smith.”
“Are there a lot of Masters in Ouros?”
“No,they are relatively few. Only the Council knows the precise number but becoming a Master marks you as having reached the highest echelon of the House's structure. There are only seven pairs that are Masters in our Kingdom and that's out of hundreds of pairs. Even Lord Elgard, one of the oldest Knights in the Kingdom, and his Smith Asterd, are only ranked as Journeyman.”
“So a big deal then. Your mother and father are Masters as well, right?”
“They became Masters a few months ago. My mother hated being beaten by Vera and Annabelle, despite being better than them in combat.”
“So becoming a Master has nothing to do with being strong?”
Elora frowned. “I don't think so? No one told me anything about it, but that's the opinion I've come to. Even when Vera and Annabelle became Masters they stood no chance of beating mother and father in combat, they were just too powerful.”
I was learning so much that I needed to stop and think. Elora had really told me nothing about what the two for us would be doing but having the veil of mystery pulled aside after the years of not knowing exactly how the Bond between a Knight and Smith worked was a dream come true. Learning that we had a rare Resonant Gift caused me to fill with pride as well, though I didn't tell that to Elora. I didn't want her to feel bad when she eventually broke the Bond. I didn't know if her coming to talk to me now was a good idea, after all. I had been excited to learn more at the beginning of this conversation but the more she told me, the more I wanted to learn. I had to remember that Elora wasn't telling me this because she had accepted me as her Knight, nor because she wanted me to remain at her side. She was telling me this to prevent worse things from happening further down the line in regards to our Bond. I understood completely, but that didn't mean I had to be happy about it. The more she told me about the power I could wield, the wonders I could see as a Knight, the less I wanted this Bond to break. I would never see the Hall of Tyra, never say I belonged as a Knight with Elora by my side.
The Princess must have noticed the melancholic look on my face because she immediately addressed me with concern.
“Are you alright? I'm not going too fast, am I?”
“No, it's not that... it's... well, it doesn't matter. Please continue.” Just the death of my dreams, but telling her about it would achieve nothing.
“Alright, if you're sure,” She still looked concerned about me so I forced a smile on my face and waved her on. “You asked about the Gifts before. I'm allowed to tell you about a couple of them, but only a couple. If I told you any more it might tempt us to actually try them, which would mean the strengthening of our Bond. Something that Vera is very against.”
“Lady Annabelle as well?”
“Not so much. Annabelle is pretty unfathomable when it comes to expressing one's self. She's like a glacier. I can't tell if she cares or not about our Bond, but she usually defers to the First Knight in situations like these.”
I had never even seen the Lady Annabelle before the wedding but I had heard the rumours, like everyone else. She was said to be ruthless and colder than the ice wielded by her Knight. For some reason, even from the small glance I had given her, I had the sense she was even more dangerous than Vera.
“Alright. So I know we have the Resonant Gift of Strength, and I know there is one called Thought. What else? I'm assuming there is one called Speed?”
Elora placed a finger to her lips. “There might be and there might not. We'll only be talking about the Gifts that I used on you. Strength, Thought and Healing.”
I blinked, confused. I was sure that I was moving faster during the fight with Craven. I wasn't as fast as him but I was able to keep up with his attacks. Could that have only been through the Gift of Thought?
“As you know, Strength increases how much natural strength your body can generate. It builds itself on top of what you, as a mortal, are capable of. Luckily, you keep yourself plenty strong so it was rather easy to build on top of it with a Gift.”
I smirked at the compliment and immediately flexed an arm, raising my eyebrows at the Princess who chortled in response.
“Yes, yes, you are very strong with big muscles. We can all see them, well done,” Elora rolled her eyes and continued. “Thought we just talked about, of course. I sped up your mind's ability to perceive information so that you could keep up with Craven's attacks. I didn't increase your speed, if that was what you thinking.”
“I could have sworn that I was moving faster. But I guess if I was, I wouldn't have gotten cut up so much.” I shrugged.
“Which brings us neatly to our last Gift. Healing is hard to manifest and harder to control. It has it's unique advantage in that it can still be used even if seperated at a passive rate. The way it is now, the wounds on your hand should be gone this time tommorow. Figuring out an Idea to make the Gift a reality is difficult and took me years to realise how to do it. Eventually I settled on the Idea of growth, of preservation. Even that doesn't really explain it properly. The deeper the Idea, the stronger the Gift and, as a result of my poor attempt, I wouldn't be surprised if our Gift was weaker than average. I was never good with Healing.” Elora sulked.
“Hey, I think you did a good job. I mean, we're both alive, aren't we? Could have been a lot worse.”
“I suppose,” Elora replied. “I surprised myself by getting you on your feet before Craven could reach you.”
“Do you all call him that, by the way? Craven?”
Elora smiled. “It was a very fitting title to bestow upon him. Lord Elgard loved it so much that he wouldn't stop laughing after the battle was over.”
“Well, I'm glad it went down so well,” I laughed. “Another thing. Earlier you mentioned something called Armour? Is that what Lady Vera was wearing on stage?”
Elora fixed me with a firm stare. “Shush! If Vera learns that I even mentioned it we might not be able to meet again. I'm here because she allowed it and I can't tell you more than I'm allowed to.”
“But you did mention it.” I responded defensively.
“I did, but will not again. Things like Armour and Weapons are not allowed to be talked about.”
“Oh? Weapons as well? Like the spear that Vera was using?”
Elora smacked her head with a palm. “I am terrible at this.”
I chuckled at her frustration. “Sorry, sorry. I promise, I won't bring it up again.”
“Thank you. The annoying thing is the Bond wants me to tell you about them and it's starting to get to me a little bit. I have to be more careful about what I say and you should be as well. It has been nice to be this close, hasn't it?”
I sighed. “Yeah, it has been. The closer we are, the better the Bond feels.”
“Well, that will be taken away if Vera learns I mentioned anything to do with Weapons or Armour or any other Gift apart from the one's we've already discussed.”
“But you said something about an Element, right? That isn't a Gift?”
“Oh!” Elora jumped in place. “No, it's not a Gift but it is very important. Unlike the Gifts which come from the Smith, an Element comes from within the Knight himself. As you've already learned, Vera's Element is ice. She mentioned that you looked at her soul after we separated?”
“Yes, but I had a question about that, why did Vera's look so much smaller than mine?”
“I'll explain, promise. But for now, you saw the colour of her fire didn't you? The way it moved?
“Yes. Like a deep blue, but it was white in places and looked slightly different to mine. The flames were slower, more sedate.”
“Aspects of her Element,” Elora nodded. “the colour blue usually donates an affinity with water, but in Vera's case the white streaks are symbolic of ice running over water. As a result, Vera has an Ice affinity. She can use water but not as well, so usually sticks with ice itself.”
“So, that means that Craven's affinity was fire?”
Elora shivered. “Usually I would say yes. But that fire, whatever it was, was not true fire in any normal sense of the word. The fact that it was yellow was strange enough, but I felt it when it burned your body. It was cold, below freezing, which shouldn't have happened. Not only that but it felt like it was attacking our very souls.”
“I remember,” I stated, suppressing a tremor from running through my hands. “It felt... corrupt? I don't know if that's the right word for it.”
“No, I agree. I told Annabelle about it and she thought so too. There was something wrong with him, but she has no idea what. She's never seen a Knight with that kind of power before.”
“Well, lets hope he's dead and gone. I don't want to go up against that fire again.” I said the words before I could think and realised my mistake almost instantly. It wasn't like I was going to be able to Bond with Elora again in a fight. I shouldn't have said that, but Elora moved on as if I had said nothing wrong.
“We can only hope. They never found his body, but it could have been incinerated in the blast. That's the best we can hope for.”
“Why did he insist on you coming willingly?” I asked curiously, as I went over the fight in my head.
“What?” Elora asked.
“I mean, I heard him say that he needed you to come willingly. Why would he need that?”
“Yes, I remember. I don't know, but he was clearly half mad. You can't put any stock in what someone like that says.”
I tried to accept that answer but I couldn't, not truly. I felt like there was more to that man than meets the eye. Someone capable of controlling all the gangs at once, as well as replacing the royal guard and attacking during one of the most well defended events in recent memory didn't strike me as someone who was careless with his words. It was something to keep in mind, for now at least. Maybe I could speak to Vera about it at some point, though I doubted she would tell me anything worth while.
“So, what is my Element?” I asked eagerly, pushing those other troubles to the back of my mind. I may not be able to be a true Knight, but at least I can know what my Knightly power would be.
“Right... well, that's the thing,” Elora replied hesitantly. “The truth is... well, we don't really know.”
“How can you not know? Have you guys not got a book with the Elements in it or something?”
Elora snorted in a very unladylike fashion but I didn't capitalise on it, such was my interest in what she was saying. “You're not far off with that. We do have something that can check Elements and it's called Lady Vera. She and Annabelle checked your soul when you were unconscious. We know that you have some kind of affinity for darkness, the colour of your soul and the hunger that comes off it gives that away.”
“That sounds rather insidious,” I said uneasily.
“Oh, there's nothing wrong with a dark affinity. Plenty of Knights have it, though it is rarer than the four cardinal elements of fire, earth, water and air. Actually, you'll be surprised to know that all the Knights in my family have the Dark affinity, including my mother.”
“Okay, so why say that you don't know what my Element really is?”
“Because of the silver sparks.”
Will my confusion never end? “Really? But they're so small, I didn't think they played a part in anything?”
“Like Vera, we believe you have some kind of dual affinity. While the First Knight has her white streaks through dark blue, you have silver sparks off a black flame. We think whatever the silver represents is your primary Element. Darkness is just a result of said Element.”
“A result of my primary Element?” I repeated curiously. “Is that how all Elements work?”
“In dual affinities, yes,” Elora explained. “Same with Vera. She has a water affinity, but that is the result of having an affinity with ice. It can work the other way as well, with water as the primary and ice as a result of having that affinity. How we tell primary from secondary is a little more complicated, apparently, but Annabelle won't tell me how she knows which is which. She says that it's something I'll learn at the Hall of Tyra.”
“This is giving me a bit of a headache. “I grumbled, rubbing my temples tenderly.
The Princess winced. “Sorry. But you might like to know that dual affinities are fairly rare.”
“Good to know, but it doesn't really help us, does it?”
“Not really. But it's alright, you can use the exercises I've devised for you on just the darkness affinity of your soul and, hopefully, glean a insight into your Element at a later date. But that would require us to Bond and...”
“We're not allowed to Bond.” It wasn't a question. There was no way in hell that Vera, Annabelle or Cellus would allow me to Bond with the Princess before we broke the Bond.
Elora walked over and sat down next to me on the bed once more. She didn't take my hand this time which frustrated me more than I thought it would.
“I'm sorry I couldn't be more helpful, but the exercises that I can teach you will allow you to delve deeply into your soul for the purpose of compression.”
“Compression? What's that?”
“You were wondering why Vera's soul was so much smaller than yours? You may have noticed that when you looked at Vera's soul it looked more like a marble with blue flames inside?”
I thought back to that day. “Yeah, I did. My soul looked wild and uncontrolled in comparison.”
“That's because it is. Usually you would have been doing these exercises for years before hand to get a better handle on how to interact with your power but you didn't have that opportunity. You remember when you made a door for me? There was a hard inner layer behind the black flames? The goal of every Knight is get those flames behind that shield.”
I frowned as I thought about it. “Why?”
“To have better control of your soul itself. The closer your soul is to becoming one with it's inner self, the more Aurum you can give to me and the less reliance we will be able to feel upon one another. Our need to be close now is largely because of the flames of your soul licking the Bond. Our Bond advancing in age so rapidly didn't help. It wants to be close to me, as close as is can, because it believes, not incorrectly, that my soul belongs with it. Two halves of a whole.”
“I'm... not really sure I understand.” I said helplessly but Elora merely smiled softly in response and took my hand again. This time, I think she was aware that she was doing it.
“It's hard to explain and I've thrown a lot at you already. Tomorrow I'll stop by and we can go over what I can show you. I promise that we can stop feeling so reliant on each other and ease the pain of being apart for so long, but it'll mostly be on you to make it happen. We Smiths can't compress our souls, we have what we have and that's it. This is one of the things that only a Knight can achieve.”
Elora was closer than she had been before, and the smell of her filled my nostrils. For a moment, I was stuck, staring into the golden orbs that danced in the light. She really was quite beautiful.
She lost the staring match and looked away, while I did the same. I didn't know how long we had been sitting there but certainly longer than was appropriate for a commoner and a Princess.
“I'll, ah, I'll stop by tomorrow then and let you rest.” The Princess said as she got to her feet, releasing my hand and smoothing down her dress.
“That sounds good, thank you. Oh, and Elora,” I called out just as she turned to walk through the door. “The Sister and the kids. I would like to see them at some point. If you could talk the First Knight into letting that happen, I would be grateful.”
Elora smiled dazzlingly. “Of course, I would like to see them as well. I'll speak with Vera as soon as I can. It might not be today, or tomorrow. But I'll figure something out.”
“Thank you,” I said sincerely and offered her another awkward bow which made her to laugh before leaving the room.
That had went... really, really well. A bit too well, all things considered. She was a nice woman, strong in her own way. Maybe a little naive to how the world works but I couldn't ask for a better teacher. Her being close to me was like a drug. The Bond clearly wanted us to be as near to one another as possible but I would have to keep my distance when outside this room. I didn't need to give the Duke another reason to kill me.
I lay down on my bed fully clothed and closed my eyes. Already I could feel myself drifting off. The day hadn't been long but it had been eventful, I just hoped that tomorrow would be better.
My last thoughts were of Elora, her hand in mine and the purring Bond as I finally, mercifully, drifted off to sleep.