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Chapter 12. Eternal Sigil

Reoal'rin Temple

Ati Harei


"Reoki'mani," Alanis said in a questioning way while Tyrell opened the temple door.

After her outing with Wesley, she made her way to Reoal'rin to speak with the temple master regarding her visit with the earth goddess. He had mentioned something about the Reoki'mani before, so it was only logical to assume he had more information regarding the subject.

"My lady, the hour is late." He tried his best to stifle her curiosity, but was ignored as she walked past him. He watched as she made herself comfortable in one of the leather armchairs that sat near the fireplace.

"I apologize for barging in so late in the evening, but this is important and you're the only one I can talk to." She looked up from the fire, to the empty chair that sat across from her.

Alanis waited until he took seat in it before she continued, "This evening I talked with the earth goddess, Reiro. I now know I must sacrifice myself to call upon Reoki'mani, but there's nothing in any of my books regarding this mysterious power. You're the only one who has any sort of knowledge of it."

And search she had, after her last visit with the old temple master, she had scoured all of her books and skimmed every tome in the palace's library. There was absolutely nothing written on the subject, so she was left with the conclusion that any information pertaining to Reoki'mani was lost with the passage of time, or simply kept secret.

And if it were, Tyrell would surely know.

"And you won't find anything." He glanced over, his still face moved along with the jumping flames.

The latter... of course. It is always the latter, I should have known.

"Well, do you know anything more about it? Anything would help."

He was quiet, but she could feel his apprehension towards her question. It was thick, weighing heavily on him as much as her encumbering task. No, he didn't want to talk about it. She could tell he was afraid of her reaction, afraid the truth would hurt her.

"Gods, this is going to be harder for me now, isn't it?" she said while lowering her eyes to her lap then brought her fingers to her temples. How could she handle this new power? It was hard as hell to see his pain as it played on his face, but now she was open to the feelings that were buried beneath that ominous look.

"I can feel your pain, it's coursing through me," she said while lowering her hands, "You need to relax before it worsens."

"I see, the earth goddess must have awakened your power."

"Yes, Reiro said she had given me a gift," Alanis replied with a nod, "I was greeted by her when I journeyed to Furisre Sreuni to visit the God King's Throne. I know this is going to sound weird, but I was transported to the true Furisre Sreuni." She went on to explain the event, noticing Tyrell's lack of surprise as she told the story.

"When I awoke I was able to feel... I'm not sure what to call it, but I can feel both light and darkness. It's like I can feel the good or bad that's buried within people's hearts."

"Not everyone... Those bounded by blood, you will be able to read," he replied, "It is a gift given so you will know who to trust."

"Bound by blood?"

"Yes, those, like you, that have the capability to wield, that are one with nature. It's best to keep your ties with people you can read so you won't be deceived by those who wish to destroy the light of hope you carry."

That would certainly make her task trickier. There were plenty of people who were of settlement blood throughout these parts. She would need to watch out for them, including the prince. It was certainly interesting that he was involved in any of this. The gods must have a good reason to trust him, for she wouldn't be able to read him. Hell, even if she could read him, she doubted she'd get a half-truth from him, he was so stubborn.

"Sometimes we fail to see the magic that's within ourselves," he said sighing, his eyes trailed to the fire as he added, "Don't worry about the things you don't have control over. When it comes to the heart, it should always take rein on matters concerning light or dark. So, if you're ever unsure of anything the answer will be there."

She sat back in her chair and closed her eyes. Her fingertips stroked the armrest, tracing the beveled curve as she wondered what death would be like. That was the only concern she was left with, her death, her sacrifice to save the innocent. That death seemed less important now that she could feel the light of everyone that surrounded her. Something inside, compelled her to help them, even though she was afraid of the price she would pay.

I can do this, she thought feeling a rush of relief with her confession.

She opened her eyes and studied Tyrell once more, it seemed he had calmed and in turn she was feeling his relief.

"Let's try this again. I need you to tell me everything you know about Reoki'mani."

Tyrell nodded, knowing the follow-up question that was looming. "In the coming days of your sacrifice the followers of light will flock to you, to give aid and protect you. In order to power Reoki'mani, those followers must gather and feed him their light."

"Him." Alanis slumped forward. "... what do you mean, by him?"

"Reoki'mani is a weapon, a man that's a blood descendant of Letando. You see, if a mortal tried to harness the light goddesses power it would kill them instantly. "

"Who is he, and how do I find him?"

"Berthold's crest is that of the Phoenix, the symbol of rebirth from the ruin. It is also the keeper of Losre'ro Thonti, the last ray of hope."

"W-What's that have to do with what I asked?"

Why was he bringing up Berthold?

Her insides tightened as she jumped to the most logical conclusion. Berthold's Creed, the keepers of light. Alexander was the most skillful fighter she had seen, he was able to take a dragon down while blinded and had found her when she transported to Moras' hidden lake.

Was he the one, the Reoki'mani?

"Lord Blair was blessed by the light goddess," Tyrell answered as he sunk into his seat. He picked up her thoughts by her stare and added, "Not in the way you were my child. The Blair men are of divine blood."

"You're telling me the source of an Oraur Lahre's power, my power, is channeled through Berthold's king? What happens to him when I call on Letando's power? If I am to die... does that mean—"

His drew back sullenly. There was definitely more, something he didn't want to say.

"Tell me," Alanis demanded, "I must know. No matter how you think I'll react, I must know the truth."

"Both you and the Berthold king will perish. He is Letando's weapon, the Reoki'mani. A source of light without compare."

"Does he know?"

Tyrell shook his head, "Yes," he muttered while keeping his eyes low, "The Blair men have kept their bloodline a secret after the death of Richard Blair's Oraur Lahre. It was clear there was a spy amongst his men, someone who opposed the plans of the gods. Now only the keepers of Reoal'rin know of the Blair's secret."

"He knew all along," she whispered as she sat back.

While the crackling fire muffled her words, it did little to conceal the following sobs that escaped after she spoke.

Things used to be so simple. She wasn't fully convinced that she could sacrifice her life to save everyone else's. And now, she was told that she would have to sacrifice the life of a man she used to have deep feelings for.

Could she really do this?

She sat silently, slumped in her seat as her mind whirred with images. The sounds of her grief and anger were lost to her as she dwelled on her sorrows. They were now as silent to her as her future was.

Alanis brooded in the princess' suite for a week straight. She was stuck debating a choice, would she take on her destiny or would she turn her back on it?

She could always hide and avoid the question, which was exactly what she was doing in that dark, lonely room. But one thing was for sure, she couldn't hide from it forever. Time would surely pass with or without her decision. One could only play ill for so long.

After she snuck away from the castle servants and guards. she made her way to the stables and readied Trista to head to Furisre Sreuni.

Early in the morning, Faris had discreetly slipped a note beneath her door, asking if she was feeling up to training and leaving her an invitation to meet him if she was. And right now, the prince's offer was the safest choice. She knew what to expect with him, jokes and sarcasm, of course.

The fresh, cool air felt great as she rode across the white plains. Even Trista galloped with great zest. They reached the old stone tower in little time. It had been awhile since she last took her for a ride, poor thing must have been bored and lonely while she was away. At least she was happy and excited for their run, she'd forget about that ole stable in no time.

Alanis dismounted quickly, noticing the prince was unaware of her presence. Usually he was a hard target to sneak up on, so she strolled behind him, careful not to make a noise.

When she reached him she lowered her covered sword, prodding the onyx sheath against his lower back. He chuckled softly and cocked his head to the side to view her intimidating pose, then just as quickly, hid the small parchment he had been so engrossed in.

"It's about time," Faris quipped while standing, "I was just about to leave. I figured you had chickened out."

She unsheathed her sword and replied, "Sorry, I was bombarded with—pleasantries as soon as I opened my door."

The castle servants she couldn't evade on her trek to the stables were curious about her well-being. They offered her their prayers and one had even promised to send a herbal tea to her room later that night that would help strengthen her immunities.

"That figures, everyone was worried about you."

"It was nothing. I was only sick. They acted like I had been stricken with the plague."

He tittered, "You're their Oraur Lahre, their savior, of course they're going to act like fools when you come down with a cold. I'm surprised they didn't gather for a prayer at the temple and light candles."

Alanis gave a mock laugh spurring a wide grin from the prince. It certainly wouldn't surprise her if they did, though the people here weren't as bad as the populate of Berthold. They had a way of observing her that made her feel like she was always being watch, even when she was alone.

Training was easy, easier than normal. There were no taunting words thrown between them, though the clashing of steel spoke on their behalf. After a while the song of their swords were dulled. All that was left was the beating of her heart as it thumped within her ears and mingled with each of her laboring breaths.

Either the prince's heart wasn't in it or he was letting her win. Before she was sure it was the latter she bested him in several moves he was more adept at.

"What is this?" Alanis panted between strikes, "Why are you going so easy on me?"

"I'm not," he grunted with a sloppy parry, that seemed too exaggerated to be real. "You're fighting has improved."

"You're joking, right? Are you trying to piss me off?" She shoved him away.

"No," he said with a forming smile that gave him away.

For gods sake, why couldn't he be a better person or at least a better liar, she told herself. He always told her the truth, even when it hurt. This was just another way he could back up his claim that she shouldn't participate in the tournament. With everything that had happened, partaking in the festival would be a treat. It was something she could look forward to.

"Stop," she shouted while striking near the hilt of his sword, "I've already signed up for the festival. I don't intend on running away from it simply because you don't think I have what it takes."

"Listen," he grumbled while side stepping several paces. "I don't know what you think, but you've got to learn how to accept a compliment!"

"Ha, you... compliment me?"

"I may have, but that moment has passed!" he chided with downwards dive. His sword crashed into hers and she froze, stunned as the metallic hum that shook through her blade crawled up her arm, leaving her numbed and motionless. He swiftly looped around her, until he was standing behind her.

Alanis turned around to meet blade to blade with him. They both held their ground. Maybe he was right, she thought while she glanced his taught face over. She'd normally be sweating buckets by now, but she felt like she had several good moves in her before fatigue set in.

So she did.

For her first move, she lunged forward with an upper thrust with her sword. It broke through his parry and he instantly dropped his left arm that was folded neatly behind his back.

Move two wasn't as carefully thought through. She inched to his left before he could properly stable his footing and brought her blade to his. It was her hope to knock the sword from his hand, thus giving her, her first win with him. But again he held ground.

She retracted her sword and stepped back, as she pulled away she spotted a fresh layer of blood that was painted across the lower edge of her blade. She dropped it to the snow, unable to understand how she allowed her pride to control her in the way that it did.

"What's wrong?" Faris asked, he sheathed his sword at his hip then strolled to Alanis' side.

"I cut you," she stated, her eyes were locked on the discarded blade. "Didn't you feel it?"

"You did?" His eyes lowered to his left arm, to the sleeve of his tunic. A noticeable tear slashed through the thick fabric. "Well, would you look at that..."

He rolled up sleeve, exposing the small gash that tore through his forearm. The wound wasn't bad, but was deep enough to make a bloody mess of his tunic.

"Take a seat. I'll grab your bag and be right back."

He gave her a knowing look. One that told her he was going to start up again, but she wouldn't allow him to go untreated.

"It's only fair that I return the favor. Besides, you can't tend to your arm yourself." Alanis subtle quip was received by the prince with a short chuckle.

She unhooked the prince's bag that contained an assorted supply of goodies for injuries and lobbed it over her shoulder. Faris waited, perched upon the same toppled tree he had her rest on while he tended to her wound.

First, she cleaned the wound. It was as small, as she figured, but too stubborn to close as each time she thought it settled, it would surprise her and start bleeding again, thus forcing her to freshen the healing salve.

"Hmmm, It's refreshing to see a woman who isn't repulsed by blood."

A soft chuckle escaped her before she could halt a memory. She chewed on her lower lip, stifling the goofy smile that followed. The night of the dragon's attack, Alexander had said something similar. She remembered how fascinated he was that she didn't hesitate while working on his wound.

"What's so funny?" Faris said, noticing her smile.

"The last time I tended wounds I was praised for the same thing."

"In Berthold?"

Alanis nodded, then told him the story of the night the dragon attacked. The prince hadn't heard the tale before, he wasn't as up-to-date on dealings with the other kingdoms as a prince, or noble, should be. But she was okay with it, his personality was refreshing. And she could tell he was impressed that she had went through such a dangerous assault unscathed.

This was better, not being on the receiving end of wound care, especially by him. She grinned, feeling the first rush of happiness she had felt since she was visited by the earth goddess.

Before wrapping his arm she uncapped her canteen and offered it to him. She had visited the kitchen before she left the palace and filled her canteen with a mysterious brown liquor. It smelled and tasted similar to the drink Faris had shared with her in the past, so she assumed it was his brand.

"Should I be worried?" he asked skeptically then took a drink from the canteen and coughed, "Now this is more like it. A man could get used to this. I've always wondered what it would feel like, being catered to like I was something special. I suppose this sort of treatment is normal for you." His brow rose, expecting an answer.


"Are you implying that I don't appreciate everything that's been done for me?" Her hands stopped with her question. It was hard to tell if he was serious or in one of his jesting moods, but it hurt all the same. After a moment of waiting for a reply, she continued to dress his wound in silence.

"Shit," he snarled and wiggled his arm in protest, "It's too tight. Do you want my arm to fall off?"

"It needs to be tight, you jack-off," she quipped with a tug that forced him to stand to his feet.

"What the hell's gotten into you? You're too damned soft and easy to provoke. You've got to learn how to conduct yourself, or someone's going to use you as a stomping mat."

And treating me like one was going to help, how?

"Let them," she replied while lowering her head, hoping he didn't catch the start of her tears.

While he continued to stare, she knelt to the ground and laced her boots trying her best to settle her emotions.

The way things were going she could take his bullying comments, or those made by others. She would give anything for things to be that simple.

"I was merely giving you a hard time. There's no need to blubber like a spoiled child," he said, though he did little to hide the fact that he was genuinely concerned. That sarcastic retort was coated with hidden guilt that he'd never admit to.

"You're right. And you know what, sometimes I wish more people were like you. You're an asshole, but you've never once catered to my title, nor bent the truth to spare my feelings... Honestly, I'm not who they think I am. And I'm not who you think I am." Alanis lifted her head and her eyes caught his, she didn't care if she seemed weak to him, or whatever other opinions that may have swam though his head. "And I don't know if I can follow a god who uses their followers as pawns."

"What's going on?" he asked, offering his hand to help her from the ground. She stood on her own, ignoring his gesture. As she walked away, her slow gait was set to her borrowed weapon.

"Why don't you take your own advice and leave Ati? You have no interest in the throne, yet you stay. So what's keeping you from leaving?" She picked up the sword then glided the edge of blade against a strap of scrap bandaging, cleansing it of the prince's blood.

Why didn't he?

What was he thinking? He was deep in thought, twisting his emerald ring around his finger. One thing was for certain, her question had him caught him off guard.

"You always wear that ring," she stated, her eyes lifted along with his and they both regarded each other, "is it special to you?"

He smirked.

Again, she had struck something.

"It was my fathers," he muttered surprisingly, giving up his secret with little effort.

"A heirloom passed down from the king?"

He replied stiffly, "My real father,"

His real father?

"Before my mother died, she gave Queen Laurel a pair of rings. Both cut from the same stone. My adopted mother would tell my sister and I stories at night, claiming the stone was taken from a fallen star. When the rings are worn by a pair that are bound by true love, the ring will guide them back to each other if they were apart.

"My sister was given my mother's ring and I was left with my father's," Faris laughed bitterly, "Charon lost hers many years ago while traveling. My guess is it's tucked somewhere in a bookshelf, forgotten by her in her studies."

"Oh," Alanis replied, "that's too bad. I wonder if there was any truth to the queen's story."

"A child's story. I know these rings weren't paired to my parents. People of the Settlement aren't the wealthiest bunch."

"Well... you shouldn't discount it so easily," she replied, but understood why he had though as he did. The prince was disconnected when it came to magic or the gods. He couldn't believe in it, not when he was unable to feel its pull like she or the others could.

"Oh, so you're going to preach faith, after what you said?"

"I was upset. It was a mere momentary lapse of reason."

"Hmmm," he hummed and studied her still eyes, "You had one of your visions, didn't you?"

"Why would you say that?"

"It's evident that you're no longer seeing the noble captain. Not once did he visit while you were 'supposedly' sick." He took her dropping jaw as evidence he was on to something and continued, "The last time you had one of those visions you packed your things and left Berthold wearing that same look. You're afraid of getting into a committed relationship, I don't blame you."

Great, so the prince was paying attention.

She looked him over, deciding whether she could trust him. Her golden powers had no charm on him, nor could she read where his allegiance was staked. The gods had put their faith into him, whether she trusted him or not was irrelevant at this point.

"I did have a vision," she answered, "but don't celebrate just yet, I won't be vacating Ati anytime soon."

"Believe it or not, I can be caring at time." He tossed her canteen back to her with his reply, "I only assumed you were leaving because of your breakup with the captain, that's all."

Alanis laughed while twisting the cap off her canteen. The simple act of rolling her eyes wasn't reply enough for his bone-headed theory.

"We only went on two dates. I wouldn't say there was anything to break up. Besides, the man is too intense for my taste," she replied and lifted her drink to lips.

"So, he was a bad kisser I take it."

"W-What," Alanis choked on the drink as she swallowed. The strong liquor stung at the back of her throat and each of her puttering coughs brought the burning liquid into her nose.

Faris fell to his back and laughed, it was hardly the calloused laugh she was used to hearing from him. She brushed away the tears that strained from her eyes during her coughing-fit and smiled over at the guffawing prince.

"It wasn't that funny," she said watching the prince's tremors stifle as he took in a deep breath.

Something happened, that rarely happened while she was around him. She found herself regarding him silently as he reclined against the tree, noticing how relaxed and carefree he was.

As she continued to study him, she smiled. He was handsome, in his own right, and if she didn't know him as well as she did, she would have been swooning over him like some stricken fool. She put her hand to her mouth and covered the smile that scaled her lips, like the dirty secret it was.

Follow her heart—the advise Tyrell gave her a week before.

Her lighthearted smile faded while she weighed those inner desires. She put the canteen to her lips and drank her fill, swallowing the stress that was building in her chest.

After there training, the prince offered to take her out for a celebratory drink. He was happy with the fact she had struck him and thought it was a good enough reason to celebrate.

As they walked into the tavern the smell of a smoky stew greeted them, along with a cozy breeze.

Alanis' gasp alerted Faris to her sudden startle. As luck would have it, the captain of the Black Cloaks, Wesley, was there too.

"Well, would you look at that," he said with a smile, "There's the captain, now's your chance to make nice with him." Faris nudged her shoulder and made enough of a ruckus to gain Wesley's attention as he dinned alone.

Wes lifted his stare and called her over with a silent look. She looked back at Faris to give him a warning glare, but he was long gone, off to the furthest corner of the tavern.

She set her sights and motion, towards the captain's table.

"You look to be in better spirits, my lady," Wesley said while standing politely, he pulled out a chair and offered it to her before taking a seat himself. "I was worried about you, but I knew you needed space."

"Wes, I was out of line when we last spoke. I feel horrible for the way I treated you."

"Don't mention it. You have important matters that outshine my pride," he paused, "I am glad to see you made it out of the palace with the prince's help. I didn't mean to impose on your outing, though it looks like he's found company to pass the time," he said, eyeing the dark booth where Faris was seated.

Alanis looked over her shoulder, wondering what had the captain so intrigued.

Seated beside him was an attractive woman with long, dark hair and alluring eyes that sparkled in the dim candlelight. The prince slung his arm over her shoulder and whispered something in her ear.

Alanis couldn't tear her gaze away from them. Was everything Fulton told her true, did he truly buy his women with gold?

Was this one of his 'bought' women?

The dark haired beauty slipped from his arms and patted him on the shoulder. Both of their eyes travelled to her table, to her. Alanis dropped her eyes and sank deeper into her seat as Faris and the mystery woman departed. Fulton noticed her lack of interest, but was kind enough not to mention it for a short moment.

"You worried about your friend's actions?" he asked, picking up on her stare. It was obvious it bothered her, any normal person wouldn't have taken as much interest in the prince's activities.

So why was she, she wondered.

Her eyes jumped back to the captain, hoping he didn't think there was something more between them, that would be truly embarrassing and untrue.

She lifted her scowl into her most carefree smile before answering, "Worried, about that? What makes you think I care who he spends his time with?"

"Don't be disgusted. There are some men who aren't good enough to win the love of a noblewoman. In his case, the best he could ever hope for is the company of a common whore."

"Wow," she blurted before she could stop herself.

She was more disgusted with Wesley's attitude than the things he accused the prince of. It wouldn't have affected her so much as it did if she didn't feel the truth within his words. He loathed Faris and wouldn't have cared if something awful befell upon him.

After a short conversation, filled with subtle hints, the captain finally dropped the request he was holding back. He asked if it would be alright for them to hang out again as friends, that he was interested in helping her through whatever had her worried.

She didn't know what to say at first. It would have been easier to agree to his proposition if she didn't feel the want that lingered in each of his words. Even though he had no idea she could feel those desires, she would still feel guilty, like she'd be leading him on if they casually hung out. So she politely told him she would think about it then excused herself.

The frigid air met with her warm breath as she shuddered from the shock of the temperature change. Her belongings were back at the stable, which included her cloak and winter ware.

During the short visit to the tavern the setting sun was replaced by the silver moon. She glanced up at it while she walked along the pathway that connected the tavern to several shops, oblivious to the person following her.

She shrieked, as a pair of cold hands pulled her back into a darkened doorway.

Alanis kicked and wriggled her way out of their grasp, only to be pulled in once more. This time she bucked back, elbowing the stranger in the gut before unsheathing her hidden dagger. She turned around and lunged forward with the dagger, missing her target by an inch.

"Shit—Gods, It's me!" Faris croaked as he shuffled back into the shop's large door. "Do you normally wander aimlessly in the dark?"

"Shut up," Alanis said between gasps. Her heart was racing from him sneaking up on her in the dark, like some damned fool. "What the hell were you thinking, I could have killed you!"

He snickered and she could tell by his telling laugh that he had a dastardly smirk painted across his face.

"Your boyfriend was staring daggers at me earlier. Was he jealous we came in together?"

She shoved him against the door and shouted, "Not my boyfriend!"

"Shhh," he hushed, then tilted his head to the sky, "Act natural, someone is watching us."

"What... Where?" Alanis turned around, her eyes scanned the dark overpass that sprawled above them. There was no one there, except a pair of large ravens roosting by the lit torches.

"Idiot," he chided and turned her by her shoulders, "Don't look. We don't want to draw attention."

She pulled away from his grasp and kept her hand above her dagger.

"There is no one, this is ridiculous. You think you're smart, don't you?"


"No way I'm gonna—" Her remaining thought was hushed as he scooped her into his arms.

Within his cloak, she was concealed, hidden from the outside. If there was anyone watching they would have thought he was alone, so she stayed still on the off chance he was telling the truth. Soon after, his grip loosened on her waist and he let out a sigh and pushed her away quite abruptly.


Alanis' eyes widened. Just who the hell did he think he was? He pulled her in, he invaded her personal space, then he shoved her away as if she repulsed him. He didn't like it whenever she tried to get close to him, in fact he acted like a horse's ass each time she was close to him.

Then suddenly it hit her, that he needed a taste of his own medicine.

Let's see how he likes this—I'll show him close.

Her hand lifted to his scarf and grabbed it forcibly, reining the prince closer in the process. Between them, the heat of their breath lingered, warming her lips.

She wondered if her plan was working, but only briefly, as she lost track of her plan, finding it hard to concentrate while her her bottom lip began to warm from his closeness.

Soon after, without realizing what was happening, she pulled him down, taking the liberty of bridging the gap that separated them as she pressed her lips to his. To her pleasure, his lips were warm and inviting and not at all how she imagined them to be.

Noticing he wasn't fighting her grip, she loosened her hold to pull away. But before she could, he took hold of her lower lip, savoring the sweetness that clung to it in a provocative manner. He was skillful at his craft, better versed than she, to which she was secretly grateful.

It was amazing how in little time, he managed to have her panting for breath.

Gods, this was something she wasn't prepared for.

She thought this would teach him a lesson, that she would give him a mere peck on the lips and he would pull away in disgust. It never occurred that she'd take pleasure from it, or even allow it to progress past a simple kiss.

Instead, she found herself clinging to him while her fingers tangled in his hair, gasping as his tongue delve between her parted lips to seek hers.

What the hell am I doing, she pondered momentarily as he pinned her against the darkened corner, forcing her back to their gripping kiss.

This time she joined in his wicked dance, taking everything he offered and allowing him more. All of her thoughts and motives vanished with them in that hidden corner. Instead, there was a need she uncovered, something she thought she'd never feel again.

It felt both pleasuring and exciting, but it also frightened her.

Her eager movements ebbed, allowing prince to take rein while thoughts and fears began to swell, leaving her with the all-to familiar feeling of regret.

This wasn't right, there was no way she could let this continue. There was nothing between them.

How could there be?

There was no way in hell she had feelings for this man. His actions were purely lust driven, and hers were a freakish lapse of judgment that could not be explained. She lowered her hands and pushed away from his hold, disconnecting from their kiss as quickly as it started.

It would be best to ignore what had just happened and pretend that it never happened.

So that's what she did.

"That woman that was with you earlier," Alanis panted. "She wasn't a whore. Who was she?"

"Maybe I was wrong," Faris chuckled, his eyes lowered from hers back to her lips. "After the show you put on, I feel I may have misjudged the situation."

"What are you going on about?"

He picked up his stare. "You're jealous."

"You fool," she said with a shove. "I know what I saw back there, so don't change the subject. She said something about me, then the both of you hightailed it out of there like the building was on fire. What did she say about me?"

"What are you going to do to me if I don't?"

She unsheathed the dagger and pressed its head into his side, "Oh, I can assure you that there'll be penetration, but not the kind you're craving."

"What makes you think I'd bed you?"

"Please," she scoffed, "I could feel your weapon on my hip while we kissed. But that's beside the point. I asked you a question. Now answer it before my hand slips."

"Very well," he took her hand and gathered the dagger before she could fight him for it. "I'll hold on to this for now. Gods know, you may use it on me when I answer your question."

"And that is?"

"I came out to tell you in the first place."

"So tell me and quit stalling."

"There are too many people around here, I can't risk anyone else overhearing this," he whispered into her ear then pulled away to glance at her baffled gaze.

She still didn't understand why he was so worried, as far as she could tell nobody was watching them. And after the kiss, that never happened, she supposed there was never any threat of eavesdroppers. He wouldn't have kissed her like that with onlookers.

"You know that large tree near the back entrance of the stable?" he asked drawing her near once again.


"Go back to the palace and tell Harold you're turning in early for the night then head to that tree... I'll meet you there."

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Author's Note:

So there was a lot going on in this chapter.

*The Blair Men are part of a blood-line linked to the light goddess. Alexander is the Reoki'mani, a weapon that will harness the power Alanis is incapable of carrying. And he will suffer the same fate as Alanis.

*Some history on Faris' emerald ring...

*A kiss, a regret, and a mysterious rendezvous (to come)...

The next chapter is like the true start of everything. After you read it you'll understand. Faris' past will be dipped into and a touching reunion will be had.

Stay tuned.

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