As Lief stared, Ascot stared back eagerly until his pale face flushed bright red. He raised his arm and rubbed the back of his head sheepishly. He didn't exactly know why Lief was staring at him but Ascot could admit it was probably just as bad as him staring at the elf. Ascot opened his mouth to say something to distract Lief but the elf spoke up first.

'I wouldn't know,' Ascot replied with a light shrug. It wasn't as if he'd experienced divinity beyond what anyone saw in the temples each week. 'We may worship one main god but we are taught there is an entire pantheon of gods who rule over every aspect of life. The further we travel, the more gods we come across to add to our pantheon. I'm sure some of them are made up by humans though. I can't imagine there being that many gods and goddesses. Our god mostly speaks through natural born oracles and holy people. I mean, the gods can speak to anyone but they're only interested in certain people.'

'Oh. I always thought they'd be about the same size like how humans of one cultural group are all roughly the same size,' he mused aloud. That led him to yet another question. 'Are there different types of elves? Are they different colours with different languages and cultures? What type of elf are you?'

Ascot's eyebrows raised in shock at the anger coursing through his current companion. He didn't answer Lief's comment at first, simply considered what he had been told. It was a long time ago but he was sure it would have taken more than one liar to change all of written history. It would have had to have been an entire conspiracy! Entire kingdoms would have had to have been involved in the lie. The elves hadn't been just one tribe or village. As Lief said, they'd had an entire realm. He could understand humanity rising up to overthrow an evil elven overlord. That was good and just. To think they'd done it out of greed and desire for some hidden thing was just far fetched! Common soldiers and whoever else was involved wouldn't just follow their leaders for treasure.

'I'm not immediately dismissing what you're saying. I believe you believe what you are saying is true,' Ascot began. 'But you are one person - a stranger to me no less. This is the first I've heard of what you're saying with no proof behind it. One person's word just doesn't weigh up against all of known history. I've studied our history like any good heir should. We've done a lot of good and a lot of bad but I genuinely don't believe we have it in us to murder an entire race of elves. I'm sorry, Lief. I need more to go off.'

'Since you ask, I will answer,' Ascot said before taking a deep breath. He didn't want to anger Lief any firther but he didn't entirely agree with what he said either. 'The wicked can only take over when no good people stand up for what's right. It has happened countless times in our history when a tyrant has oppressed their people but eventually people rise up. I believe there would be enough good humans out there to stand up against the slaughter of your kin. If you want me to turn my back on everything I've been taught, you're going to have to show me.'

The blonde winced at how sour Lief sounded after that.

'I'm sorry. I wasn't there. I honestly don't know what happened to them. I doubt there were many elves left and they just bred out... but that really would be naive of me,' he said with a sad little sigh. It seemed Lief's hatred of humans ran deeper than he'd realised. There was no arguing against it. He doubted he could prove any merit to humans in Lief's eyes after the way he'd made that "mingling" comment. Were humans really that vile? 'Do all elves hate humans as much as you do?'

'So the guardian is leader or they advise the leaders,' Ascot commented. It was hard for him to imagine a society without any form of leadership, even if it was a council of the people rather than an inherited or earned position.

'I would have loved to see you realm,' Ascot said, though his admiration was subdued by the loathsome tone Lief had taken towards humans earlier. Even the way he commented on human cities was derogatory. Lief was the first elf he'd ever seen and it was... disappointing that the man was so poisoned by hatred of Ascot's own people.

It was nice to see Lief smile, despite how much he hated humans, and Ascot smiled back. He reahced out and ran his fingers through the healthy, green glow then looked back up at Lief with an expression of excitement on his face. He dipped his fingers in again and burst into laughter. It tickled in a way that was hard to explain. It felt... nice... wholesome. Ascot laughed again, seemingly out of pure enjoyment, before clearing his throat and settling himself down. Gosh! He probably looked like a fool for acting like that! He hoped it didn't ruin Lief's impression of him. Ascot shifted uncomfortably then sat up properly in a more appropriate posture for a man of his status.

Ascot nodded when Lief said his magic was strong but didn't press the issue. Instead of picking up on confidence, he felt he had come across a limit of what he was allowed to know. He wasn't going to push, though that in itself was difficult. Withholding information from someone only made them want to know more. It made it mysterious, secret and curious. In Ascot's privileged life, there were few few questions that had been left unanswered. It was hard for him not to be indulged.

As Lief left, Ascot just stood there looking fascinated. His gaze wandered over that confident body and he found himself wondering what elves looked like without their clothes off. Were they really hairless? Did they have a similar amount of muscles to humans or were they smaller but denser? Lief moved with such grace, like a beautiful, deadly dancer. Suddenly, Ascot longed to not just see Lief again but to spar with him or perhaps dance with him. He wanted to see and feel that grace in action. He wanted their bodies to come together and...

Ascot darted to the side as something shot towards him. He didn't expect Lief to shoot him after going to all the trouble of healing him but the arrow was still taken as a surprise attack. The heir took a deep breath and sighed deeply. He couldn't be more relieved to see what he thought he saw sticking into the trunk of the tree behind him. He plucked it out with both hands and was about to run his fingers over it before he realised how bloody they were. He didn't want to sully what would become his most precious possession! He held the thing in his mouth as he wiped his hands on his already spoiled shirt until they were mostly dry and clean. He then held the thing in one hand while running one finger down it. Ascot smiled. This arrow meant he could potentially see Lief again!

Unlike Lief, who wanted to cause a scene, Ascot de Mercier thought it best to make a less alarming approach. He kept his cloak around him to cover the bloodstains on his clothes and didn't get off his horse until he'd reached the stables. While outsiders might think it was odd for someone of his status not to immediately hand his horse over to someone else, Ascot was rather fond of his horse and always made sure she was well taken care of before reporting to his father and his advisors. He wasn't one of those incredibly empathic people who had a bond with their animals but he still had a healthy respect for the fact she'd carried him for most of the day.

'De Mercier!' cried the stable boy, Douglas.

'Shhh! I need you to take care of Chestnut for me,' he said in a hushed tone.

The stable boy raised his eyebrow but nodded.

'Sir! You're injured! Do you need me to get-'

'No! No no no! Just take care of my horse. I'm not injured at all,' Ascot insisted in a hushed voice, holding out his arms to try to get the teen to keep his voice down. 'Actually, I need you to do a favour for me. Can you send for my mother and tell her I'm here. I need to speak with her before I approach Lord Mercier. I'll take care of Chestnut. You just go.'

'How dare you summon me with a stable boy?!' came the outraged voice of his mother. 'You brother and sisters would never think of doing such a thing!'

'Yes, yes. I'm sorry, Mother. Please forgive me. I had nobody else,' Ascot insisted, bowing his head to the matron of Mercier.

'And what's so secret that you couldn't come to my rooms after you'd seen your father. There are protocols for a reason!'

'I know, I know. Please, I have something to show you,' he said soothingly, reaching out with both hands as if trying to approach a spooked horse.

'AAAIIIEEEEEEEE!' his mother shrieked. She had her hand out and was pointing to the hole and blood covering his fine shirt.

Ascot rushed forward and covered his mother's mouth. He held her hand and brought it up to his lips so he could kiss each finger.

'Mother, please. I'm fine. I swear! This blood is hours old and I've been healed since then. Take a few deep breaths and allow me to explain. You're going to love this!' her son insisted.

Lady Mercier took a few deep breaths then bodily shoved her son from her. Now that she knew he was no longer injured, she was outraged he'd laid his dirty hands on her. She hadn't even washed his hands after they'd been covered in blood.

'Go on, boy. This had better be a tale of epic proportions or so help me I will take the wooden spoon to your arse!'

'Mother, I'm a bit too old for that!' he said with a laugh.

'No son is too old for their mother to spank them!'

'Ha ha. Yes, but no. May I continue?'

'You may,' the woman said with her eyebrow raised.

Ascot looked at his mother, held out his hands and slowly drew the arrow from the safety of his sleeve as if it were a magic trick. She gasped and rushed forward to grab her son by the wrists, staring at the golden arrow with wide eyes.

'You... you...' the woman started, before hitting him over the head over and over as she continued to speak. 'You went into the forest! Didn't you! Here I thought you were meeting with Lord Descartes and instead you were planning to go into the Dansk Forest the whole time. OOOOH! I'm going to make sure your father never lets you out on your own again!'

'Ah! No! Mother! Please!' Ascot cried as he started laughing. This wasn't going as well as he'd hoped. He kept backing away and holding up his arms until his back was pressed against the door to a horse stall. 'Yes, I went to the forest but it was probably the only chance I would ever get. Besides, if I hadn't gone into the forest I never would have been able to save an elf's life. If you stop hitting me, I will tell you the story! Ah! That hurt!'

After a final huff, the Lady Mercier stepped back and let her oldest son speak. She straightened herself up and eyed off her son as if she expected him to lie about every single detail if she didn't burn her will into him through the look in her eyes. It was incredibly daunting but he was so used to it that it no longer worked on him... for the most part. He ended up telling his story with incredible detail from the moment he entered the forest until the moment he left. His eyes lit up while he spoke of Lief, which ended in another round of being hit when he made a comment about how beautiful the male elf was. Very few people knew Ascot's sexuality so he insisted that his thoughts were pure and he was simply admiring the man objectively. His mother didn't believe him until he insisted he was attracted to women and would one day take one to his marriage bed and produce lots of grandchildren for his mother. It was something he was secretly dreading.

@[Only registered and activated users can see links. ] Okay, I've actually run out of steam. I was going to do him getting cleaned up, seeing his father then the time skip in this post but I'm beat. Up to you whether you post after this or whether you wait for me to post the skip tomorrow or Tuesday. It'll be five years in the future.