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Crystalline Forest

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Summary

The Fey kingdoms were warring. In a way different than histories have told. This was not about coins. It was not about family feuds. It was said there was a critical need to preserve the cultures of all the courts: The Crelian, whose arts included flight and manipulation of the winds; The Leaman, raise the strength in living things-plants and animal alike; The Wendershault call upon all the basic of elements to influence, conjure, and deceive; The Modenlear, the strongest of them all, take the energies in the atmosphere, the earth, and the beings to elicit fear. The Courts themselves agree the Knight King’s request would draw much division. But if any fall outside the laws, they would be an outcast.

Genre:
Fantasy / Scifi
Author:
Cyndia
Status:
Excerpt
Chapters:
1
Rating:
n/a
Age Rating:
16+

Episode1

The fight was fierce, almost passionate. The two looked skilled at times. At other times, one would scream and plunge into the other like children trying to knock each other over. The other pushed the body of the offender away with such force, it rolled off the raised platform they were tripping on. They parted just a few moments to catch their breaths. One even spoke.

This infuriated the, now standing, opponent. Yet, her body and mind paused. She glanced up, noticing his pants slowing. She took a few steps back. His eyes, the deep dark of them, told her what she did not want to know.

She was done with the games.

“Stay within your borders or I will not be as forgiving.”

*

The Fey kingdoms were warring. In a way different than histories have told. This was not about coins. It was not about family feuds. It had nothing to do with broken promises or trusts. It was the rise of the Modenlear’s Court. It was an older family of fey. Ones who fought away from change with aggression, who went into hiding after the second decade of The Fey King’s rule. With disdain, the leader of their court rode deep into the forest caves. He and his men chiseled stone into new homes and carved a new palace into the mountains.

This effort was an answer to the Fey King’s request to limit the mixing of fey. It was said there was a critical need to preserve the cultures of all the courts: The Crelian, whose arts included flight and manipulation of the winds; The Leaman, raise the strength in living things-plants and animal alike; The Wendershault call upon all the basic of elements to influence, conjure, and deceive; The Modenlear, the strongest of them all, take the energies in the atmosphere, the earth, and the beings to elicit fear. The Courts themselves agree the Knight King’s request would draw much division. But if any fall outside the laws, they would be an outcast. No position could be gained. They would only be eligible for hire into homes, into stables, or into harsh labor, or other menial conditions.

The plight of the dual-lineage was one of constant defense and torment. If played right, however, the power behind the defense could sway one or two elite. If situated correctly, the dual-lineage could find themselves in a very comfortable position. Well, comfort as much as one could trying to fit in..

*

Aoife Afia rose from her sleep as she always did, with beams of light hitting the exposed side of her face. She looked at the soft colors surrounding her: The rose of a soft, cotton blanket. The yellow of the walls, light on one side, dark on the other. She rolled on to her back to see the open changing skies overhead. A small spell she had been doing since she was younger. It helped her sleep. The illusion was transitioning to morning when she woke. It happened each time. The change synced with her own biology, as complex as that was.

A feeling took her and distracted her from her ritual. She woke. Standing, she exposed parts of her body she had not expected the onlooker to see. Aoife grabbed the blanket she had slept so soundly under, placed it around her scarred body.

“You should not make it a habit of entering a female residence without warning, Highness.” The eyes of the mentioned royal looked her over. She herself stared down at her roasted colored, covered-up limbs down to the toes that poked out.

“I did announce myself.” The handsome fey stated. “It was you who failed to move fast enough.” He came closer, which made her ears perk and brows raise. “You are wanted.”

“By whom?”

A smile gave way. He looked off then back to her. “Get dressed. All defenders of The Court have been called.” His eyes look to say more. The words declined, and he exited.

Her eyes turned to the window where she could see the water drops from off the leaves outside her woodland home. The hut in the woods she called a home. Several droplets fell and were tugged by some force stronger than its own will. The drops combined to form an orb of sorts. It hovered before her a while as she dressed. Aoife’s eyes glanced at her greenish, fitted pants and steadied armor. She then looked up at her face. Her simple, non-interesting face. Her eyes looked away.

*

Aoife never liked court sessions. It was always her intention to be a silent observer, not that a fey in her position was given the floor. She would have to be asked and none would ever ask. Today however, the head of Leamen broke her silence with a question only she could answer.

“Excuse me, Sire?” She heard herself say. She did in fact hear the question. Shock just took her over.

“Who is this offender that has you early in defense?” He asked again. “My guards say you sent back a beggar of sorts from our borders.” His words were heard. “Was not the first time he approached?”

“No, Sire.” She cleared her throat. “It wasn’t for any purpose I can deduce. He merely watched.”

The dark blonde hair on his head shook slightly from his chuckle. “You nearly took the head off the fey. Surely, you can make a guess.”

The court was laughing by now. It was something she was all together used to. Annoyed her just the same. “He is nothing but an outcast, beggar. “ Her voice raised above them all. “As you said”

The Leaman head. His name was Sada Kwin. He was a young ruler who married at a young age. His even younger wife gave birth to a son. The Fey that stood close by the mixed-blood, Aoife. It did not make him happy to see it.

“Norio.” The prince was called by his father. “Why have you a defender wasting energy and time on a trespasser? The next time you see him, throw him into the marshes and be done with him. I don’t trust the idea of entertaining border-breakers.”

“Aoife teaches him a good lesson, Father.” He informed. “Quite entertaining.”

“Is he formidable?” Sada asked his son. There was hesitation. The ruler gave a smug smile. “Take him to the marshes.”

His stood. “The next meeting is not for the ears of common folk. “He glanced at Aoife, who gave a nod and left the room.

The sound of the large wooden door's closure was a relief to her. It meant a time away from the uncomfortable. It meant a time to practice.

“Where do you think you’re going?” A lovely voice sang. “Wherever it is, it’s not without me.”

Aoife turned. “I don’t think a lady could go where I am going.”

The redhead slowly made her way over. She wore a light, gray dress. She was beautiful. Her neck was long and her eyes matched the gray. Her movements were smooth like the soft passing of air through finger of leaves. “I am bored with my studies.”

“Then be bored.” Aoife told her. “I need to be alone, Cara”

“You always flee when you are not with the guards. Why is that?” The female fae expected her to answer. When none came she made a noise similar to a grunt. “Have your secrets.”

Aoife smiled. “It isn’t a secret, but it is mine.” She didn’t have to explain it any further than that. She understood. So, she took her leave out of the palace and into the woods.

As much as the woodlands are beautiful, they are quite dangerous. She would never venture with a fey who had no training in defense arts. Although, she could probably defend the fey nonetheless. This was her time, however, away from harsh looks and murmurings. She could practice in peace. No one watching and reporting her abilities to the sovereign. She does not show them what they want to know, only what she wants to show. If they knew her ways, she would pass that delicate line she hovers on. She would be a true capture of the state. She would be used for her abilities not for her skill. She is a very skilled guard.

Her eyes noted a few unsavory fey lingering near a Kwae tree. Kwaes grow right near the border of Crelia. The Crelian highland incline begins soon after the first tree you see. This is where you must be on guard. This is where the danger begins.

The group of them halt their conversation and looked over to Aoife. She did not halt her steps. They stood taller. “Hold it.” One said “The boarder falls right behind that tree. “

She looked up. “You see that flower?” She pointed to an orange “It is very beautiful. It bears itself on my side of things. I only ask that you allow me to retrieve it without dispute.”

The male fey laughed heartily.

“I don’t require your help or …” She jumped a few limbs on the tree. “Your permission.” She continued to climb. Her fingers were about to snatch her prize, when a face appeared out of the air. She wasn’t easily frightened but this was an unexpected surprise. Her foot lost its balance and hands slipped its grip. The tumble down was quick, not so straight though. Her body landed on the wrong side of the large structure.

“Not so agile, are we?” Aoife made a face. They didn’t see the man in the tree? “No flower on this side. “ They went back and forth. She kept her eyes up the tree.

“Not flower” She still gawked.

One tried to grab her. She slapped it away. Another’s arms surrounded her. She was careful not to use her true abilities right away. Her training as a guard was her only defense, at least for the time being.

“Enough of this.” Aoife was tired of playing games. “There was a man in the tree. Is he one of yours?”

They surrounded her now. “You will not distract us.”

“It is not that.”

“We must take you to our court.” A fey uttered. “A Leaman Guard on this side, the Crelian side, is nearly an act of war.”

“Really?” She grew annoyed. “As if you never saw me climb or fall. If you want to continue this discussion, I will be obliged to be very defensive. If you let me cross over, I will ignore your stupidity.”

They chose wrongly. The three or four fey came at her several times to try and apprehend her. They were no match, but they kept trying. Suddenly one used a wind spell and trapped her in its center. She made no attempt to leave. Rightly so, the force of the wind would knock a fey unconscious.

She sighed. “Damn.”

Her eyes were fine but the wind distorted a few scenes. Like one of her offenders being tossed off to the sides of her. She then saw another two leave fairly quickly. She tried squinting, but it was futile.

“What is happening?” Her eyes questioned more than her mouth did. She saw a figure. One of a male fey who’s in no hurry to get her out of her predicament. When he approached, it was awfully slow. It was if he had little intention to save her or just was very hesitant. So, she waited.

The male came in close. She finally saw him. It made her step back a bit. The face was familiar. His skin was nearly pink. What was he embarrassed about? His feathered dark hair was a wispy black. She knew this fey. It was the intruder from earlier. His hand went up and the breezy air grew extremely calm.

The two looked at each other. What words could be spoken at this moment?

‘You are welcome.” He offered. His head tilted. “You could not get out of a simple breeze?”

“Is that what that was?”

She was ignored. “If you move quickly, you can make it over the border no fuss.” He told her. “I will let you go freely, not like you did to me earlier.”

“Why did you attack the others?”

“They were attacking a defenseless fey woman.” He turned from her. He knew she would make a few faces. He stepped away, looking at the tree. “On your way then.”

“You are a vagabond?” She asked really. He turned to her. “I mean to say, you do not actively live in a home of your own?” Her eyes surveyed his clothing. “It all makes sense now”

His resolve was calm. The obvious opposite of the Crelian guards he got rid of. “I don’t answer to anyone if that is…”

“No, I meant you have no home.” He shut up. “Your appearance all but suggested it. “

“I get it.” His brows raised. “I’ve only just knocked their heads about a bit. You should leave. “

“Why the invasion this morning?”

“It wasn’t…”

“You weren’t invited.”

“I don’t remember you being this talkative with me.” His dark eyes looked onto her. “Ever.”

“You have crossed our borders three times already.” The fey sighed. “I don’t forget repeat offenders.”

“You do let them go though.” He reminded her. “Or is it only a favor to me?”

‘Is that why you’re letting me go now?”

“I don’t have a home, remember? So I can’t hold you”

“But you are Crelian.” He smiled. “You manipulate the air.” His hesitance confused her. “I will make my exit.”

“Without your flower?” His arm went out to her. He offered the item she attempted to retrieve. “We are even, Leaman guard.” His eyes glanced down at her. “Until we meet again…and again…and yet again.” He smiled at her. “I know you remember me.”

Aoife shook her head, but even she had to admit there were several somethings familiar about the fey. Her hands grabbed the flower. “Don’t smile at me.”

Her feet left him hurriedly. She had not turned back. It didn’t seem the right thing to do. She was already on another’s property. Speaking with an intruder she let go, one she was ordered to rid of if he should return. It was too odd a situation to acknowledge with a look over the shoulder. At least, that was her rationale.

*

It was the bruise on her neck that would draw attention. One would begin to think she escaped to see someone, and that someone placed the bruise on her neck. It would draw so many questions from one somebody who was always watching her. Never sure why he watched her so often. They haven’t been any more than friends for years now. He was well over the age to marry. It was time, according to his father, to marry an eligible Fey and prepare for his place. She heard it so often, she had to keep things platonic between them for fear of him being taken away when her heart would want him most.

“Aoife.” But he always found her. “Was thinking of training a bit before dinner? What do you say?”

His invitation was desired, but not for right now. “I should be heading to the armory. It is my lot in life to make sure your weapons are sharpened, highness.” She tried to avoid his stare. “One never knows when a strike will come.” Her eyes finally looked over at him. She saw his smile.

“Let me walk you.” He said, hiding a laugh. “You can not refuse me.”

“I can, but you will just use your authority.”

“The choice is yours, but I will follow.”

He did not lie. His steps were close behind hers. It has been a while since he wanted to be alone with her. It has been a while since they could be. Norio finally grabbed her arm and tugged her behind a tree. Aoife sighed and gave him a look.

“I will never get another chance to have you alone.” He told her. “I am betrothed.” Her head nodded. ”You don’t seem surprised.”

“Cada has next to no self-control and spilled that she had been training, as she put it, to be a lady of the court.” Her chin went up. “I know which ladies are allowed in court” He took a breath in. “Any other surprises you’d like to spring on me?”

“Aoife…”

“We are past this.” She reminded. “We are past this.” She repeated it not for effect, but to remind herself how different things are for them. ”She is beautiful. I am plain. She is truly a privileged fey. I am as common as they come, with no other place to be. You put me in so much danger…”

“Alright.” His hands went to her shoulders. “Be calm. I must do what I must do. It does not mean I don’t care. It does not mean that I can forget what we shared. “He drew in close. “We shared so many personal, intimate moments. I have a difficult time forgetting that.”

She shook her head. “Don’t forget it, but don’t bring it so far to the present you lose sight of your purpose.” He sighed. “I am right.”

“You are very rarely wrong.” Norio admitted. His hands went up her arms. “I am having a difficult time with the resolution of things.” She did not know what to say. “One more moment. Just one more. Something more final than avoidance. Something more memorable than an awkward fare-thee-well.”

“Nori…” He inched in. He kissed her cheek. “You are just dangerous.”

His kisses spanned across her neck. As he climbed to her chin, there was a rustling that only Aoife heard. Her eyes looked around. Norio seemed distracted. He turned her face to his. His lips fell on hers faster than she’d like. It was nearly a fumble. Odd, for now she was actually the distracted one.

“One kiss goodbye.” She was trying, but now she felt a cool breeze run up between them. She stepped back. “What is that?”

“I’m sure I don’t know.” Her eyes went to the trees this time. His eyes followed. That is when they noticed it. The red smoke floating in the sky toward them. “Nori?”

“This is trouble.” He grew very alert. “I hear someone in the trees. Do we have a guard surveying the skies?” He moved her out from the forest edge and back toward the armory. “I have to head to my father. Get to Shilla. He will have directives.“ Norio started off. Then, he turned to her. “Be safe.”

Aoife gave a nod. Her steps did lead toward the General of their unit, Shilla Si. He must have already been told. His armor was already on. “General.”

The tall, stocky fey was rushing. “Your unit left you, Fey.” He always called her ‘Fey’. “It may be wise not to go fraternizing so close to group workouts.” He motioned to her neck, as she was afraid of. “Suit up quickly and you may catch them off to the Jasper Highlands.”

“Any thoughts on what is floating in the air, besides crimson gasses?” He gave a sigh. “You’re not withholding something from me? Honesty is all we own, fey like us. Just between us.”

Shilla made an uncomfortable face. “I can, and should, not say. And so, I won’t.”

“You and our leader keep such secrets.”

“Is it not his prerogative?”

Aoife assembled her armor. She did not grab a weapon. Shilla gave her a look. Then, he handed her a short sword. “Is it …”

“Take it.” She heeded his warning and took it. “Always carry a weapon because they carry a weapon.” He told her. He watched her nod. “Was that the prince?” he motioned to her neck.

“That was an accident.” She confessed. “I will catch my unit, Sir.”

“You will.” He made a face. “Safe journey. I will see you there once I assemble a few more captains.”

Her feet were swift. She stared at the red in the sky fairly often. Her curiosity was piqued. It had been a while. She had a thought that made her halt her reach to the others. She paused to take a better look at the situation. Why were they headed in its direction and not back to its source?

“Why?” She looked between the two directions. “Why? Why? Why?”

“Because they are not as smart as you.” A voice startled her. She turned to it so anxiously, she had almost fell over. “Or they are deflecting.”

“You are not here.” She stated nearly to herself. Aoife saw the renegade standing before her holding an orb. Incased in it, was a bit of red smoke. The vagabond put it gently in the pocket of his rather attractive coat. Was he wearing that earlier? “You are very much out of your area. This land is not yours. Not even close.”

“I was following your lead.”

“You were following me?”

He looked off. “I suggest you ask better questions.”

“Who. Are. You?”

“You know the answer to that.” His voice was small. Then, suddenly it shook loose. “I’m headed to the source. You may follow, Aoife.” His head tilted. “If you wish.”

“You know my name now?”

“I’ve always known it.” He admitted. His demeanor changed. “This should not be. You should recognize me. Since you don’t, I will make you work to remember. “

“Oh, will you? Am I not wearing guard armor? ” She took a step forward. “You called me coward once. I want to know why.”

“You want to know more than what you remember.” He was frustrated again. “It was for reference. Tell me, how you became a Fey Guard of Leaman? “

“Enough questions.” Aoife demanded. She revealed her weapon. The stranger glanced at this. “Tell me who you are and your intentions.”

He took a deep breath. The squint of his eyes grew even smaller. “I’m called Ky’on.” He backed away from her. “Not that you will remember who that is.” He turned from her. His feet started toward the red smoke.

Aoife’s mind drifted. “I remember that name.”

*

The movement of his body was familiar. The way his fingers almost twitched when there was a breeze and how his long, black hair picked up and almost floated as he walked. His shoulders were broad as if it were housing something fierce. She followed without question. Was it her curiosity or was it something else? Either way, she would be punished when she is found with such a fey.

“Would you say what is on your mind?” Ky’on stopped and turned to her. “You’re eyes are piercing through my skull. “

“Disclose? The way you have?” She taunted. “The honesty permeates through you’re…”

“Nevermind.” He gave her a look and continued on in his previous direction.

“You are not forthcoming.” She reminded. “You have no loyalty or respect for any member of defense.”

His head went down in disbelief. “The conversation we are having….If you cannot simulate the sensible fey I Knew, then at least pretend to be someone other than who you are right now. I am not your king. Surely, I am not your prince. Speak to me as if I were a brother or a friend.”

“Was that how I spoke to you?” She asked “As a brother or friend?”

Aoife noticed his deflection of the question when he paused to do some air-gauging. It was all she could think to call it. He held a hand behind his ear. Then, elevating his arm, he closed his eyes and waited. When he was satisfied, Ky’on took off in a different direction. She was quick to follow.

“Is it an enemy?” She questioned. There was an answer but it did not come from him. She turned to it.

An average fey came into view. His smile was more of a smirk when he looked between them. Ky’on scoffed at it and gave the stranger a small nod.

“Thought you’d left these parts.”Ky’on took a few steps toward him. “Thought you never to return.”

The fey shrugged. “I heard of a strangeness in the air. Got curious.” His eyes found Aoife. “Very curious.”

She took it upon herself to inquire more of him. “Are you two familiar? Why is it that I feel you are?”

The man’s head jerked. “You know we are Crelian. You know a lot about us.”

“She is not…” Ky’on began. “It is the reason why she did not return. This Fey is not the one we knew.”

Aoife sighed. “Will you tell me, when this was that I knew you? He does not say a word.”

“Why would he? You are a Leaman Guard. You are but repellant for insects like him.” The new fey turned from her. “You are most assuredly not who we knew.”

“If it were not for this fog I would rid you both.” She tossed. “Once I get my answer about that, you will not find me a bother.”

Ky’on made a sound. “Doubt that.” He leaned against a tree. “When you find your pack, you explain to them that we are not the enemy they seek. They will not treat us as such. Jace and I are harmless…We are simple Fey.”

“We?” The almond color of his eyes darkened. “We are not and you know it. We will defend.”

She grew frustrated. “I am not your enemy. How often should I say it?” She glanced at the sky. “There are so many more important issues at hand.” She pointed. “The sky.”

Ky’on glanced up. “I have to do one thing first. It’s important.”

“You’re deflecting again.” She slapped her hands at her side. “I’ll go alone.”

Ky’on took her arm rather forcefully. “You will not.”

She made a few swift movements and held his body down to the ground, with an elbow to his neck. “Touch me again.” She removed her arm, but a piece of armor must have caught him under the chin. There was a small amount of blood there.

The one named Jace dragged his friend to a standing pose. He dusted Ky’on off a bit. “I’d be surprised if I hadn’t seen you do this to him a time or four.” He smiled again. “He loves it. Don’t you, Ky’on.”

He was ignored. “You haven’t a grain of patience and I haven’t the time to teach it to you. If you want my help, you will do this my way. If you seek to help yourself, you will die. I can’t get any clearer than that, Leaman guard.” He walked off, leaving her again.

Jace nodded. “He is right in saying that.” He glanced over at her. “Come. I think I know where he’s headed. We’ll get more answers. More insight.”

“Should we not follow the trail set by the red tail in the air?”

“Does not smoke lead to fire?” he reminded. “Let’s prepare first.”

“I will be missed.” Aoife warned.

“You are.” Jace motioned for her to follow Ky’on’s lead.

She did but with truly hesitant steps. It will get late. It will grow dark. She had disobeyed orders. There will be consequences.

*

The walk was a ways farther than she’d hope. She was in Crelia for certain. The air was cooler here and moved through everything. At times, the air was a soft whisper off her shoulders at others, a whistle against her ears. In the trees were movements of things seen and not. She felt them, even when the movements were still. She felt the stares of onlookers hiding in the dark and shadows.

“They are just curious.” Ky’on would tell her. “We are close.”

“Are you not exiled?”

“Not the point.”

“Not the point? That is the answer?” She questioned. “Here is the problem: If in fact, we are kept here they will take both of us. Perhaps all of us will be forever enslaved to them…to their whims.”

He looked her over. “Enslavement, indeed.”

Jace interrupted. “You will be staying at my place tonight. My Leader is returning tomorrow and he cannot see you in guard wear. Especially Leaman Guard wear. Don’t worry, I won’t let the two of you share a room. “He smiled again to them. “Unless you want your old place, which in fact you did…”

“Enough, Jace.” Ky’on again stormed passed them.

Aoife sighed. “I am out of my element here.”

“You never were.” He dismissed his comment and guided her away.

The fae led her to a large spiral staircase. The make was a mix of wood and some sort of metal. It was wide and led up into a large entrance. A set of tall guards stood at its corners. Then she saw the face of a fey with long blonde hair and, like a pain she never felt, her head seared in a rage. She fell to her knees. The hands gripping her shoulders could not stop it. It was too intense. When she finally collapsed, a force sent the onlookers back several feet…then several hundred feet.

*

Ky’on rubbed his growing beard. He couldn’t sleep much the night before. It was nearly the afternoon and his body was still uneasy. His eyes were fixed but his mind was somewhere else, with someone else. He’d waited for her to wake but it was taking longer than previously anticipated. His ears listened, for the rage of the winds out his window was stronger than anything he had experienced. As a wind dweller, a wind-wielder, that was saying much.

“Will you wake already?” He whispered staring out into the night.

He was soon not alone. “No conjurer here, Ky’on.” The sweet voice replied. “What do you think took her over? It was a spell of some sort that was unleashed. The power…”

“We can guess all night or we can just wait for your leader to return and tell us.” He had not turned to her. Perhaps that was why she came up so close to him. “I need a minute, Xia.”

She looked off. “Something is off about her. “ She continued. “Walking in here with Leaman Guard armor. That is no the Fey that left here those years ago.”

“A minute, Xia.” He made his tone more forceful.

Relentless is this pretty, blonde fey. So, she continued. “You will have to tell her a number of truths, Ky’on. She loathe me before. I wonder what she would think of me now.”

Ky’on moved away from the window. His steps went to the door and flung the door open. She took the hint and walked to it. “Should I call you when she wakes?”

“You know you won’t have to.”

Xia nodded. “You still need to tell her.”

She left him there. He gave no thought to what she said. He knew it was premature. There was no worry because the person he knew hadn’t returned. The Fey he protected and cared for did not remember his ways. She did not remember how they were two against all kingdoms. She did not remember them.

His rich, dark eyes went to the open window once more. The whistling grew quiet. The wind, it ceased.

*

Aoife’s awoke. Beams of light hit the exposed side of her face in a harsh, abrupt way. She looked at the dark, stone wall surrounding her. She rolled on to her back no changing skies overhead. No anything. Where was she? Her body sat up. The night sky did show itself, but it was out the window.

“Where is my armor?” She came out of bed. Her legs wobbled a bit but she made it to the cabinet in the room. A cool air flowed from the window. She wasn’t alone. A small Crelian dweller approached her. She turned to him. “Invader.” She called to him.

“I, an invader?” He seemed just over ten years, she thought. “Perhaps, but some would say the same of you.”

“You are a smart one.” She said with a slight smile. “Where is my armor?”

“It is safe. It is hidden.” The little one was anxiously moving about. “He’s coming and he wouldn’t like to see you wearing that thing. He does not like any of that.”

“Coming here?” That’s when she felt it. There was a presence. It was familiar and powerful. Her eyes glanced at the door. She took a few steps back.

“If you don’t mind, I think I’ll leave before my father sees me in a female fey’s quarters.” The young one left through the window he came from.

Aoife’s brows scrunched. “Father?”

With a push, the doors of the room opened. A gush of air entered first, then a tall dark-skinned, yellow haired male fey approached her. He stopped suddenly. His eyes looked her over a few times. It was judgment.

“No one asked you to come.” He opened the conversation. “What is it you…”

“You already know why I am here.” She interrupted. The surrounding Fey ‘s flank grew tighter. “I can only assume Jace told you how I came to be here.”

The leader of this court lifted his chin. Her shoulders dropped as his steps came toward her. “What is my name? You don’t remember it? According to my son, you don’t remember a thing about any of us.”

“We were taught the names of all the leaders in these lands.” She answered without answering. “Are you not a leader?”

“Disrespectful.” Another voice echoed. It was female and familiar. A scoff followed. “She is just as rude and out of order as I remember. I don’t know see why we entertain her.”

The guards looked at their leader whose white hair was being rubbed vigorously, nervously. “We owe her a listening ear, Xia. So, again I ask. What is it that brings you here?”

Another came rushing in. He was detained by a guard. Aoife glanced over and met his eyes. She remembered something. Something that happened long ago. Her eyes fell.

“Apologies,” She regained composure. “I forget myself. I was following the tail of the red smoke in our skies. It seemed futile not to find the source.”

The Crelian leader shook his head. “You will not find the answer there.”

“I don’t believe that.”

“It is folly and will be your ruin.” He went on. “Those lands are filled,no, Infested with the wretched, that is the Mondelear. They are up to something and I fear it is something we are not prepared for.”

She nodded and glanced again toward Ky’on. She saw Xia move closer. “I don’t need my memory to know I don’t trust you. “ She told her to the room’s surprise. “Who are you exactly?”

“She is my daughter.” The Leader spoke.

“But is she your successor?” this time the room grew more uncomfortable. Some murmured. “May I leave now?”

Xia took a deep breath. “You may want to know that this game you are playing is not fooling anyone…”

“Xia...” Ky’on tried to halt her.

“I will not be silent.” Xia came close to Aoife. “You don’t have to remember me, do you? In the trees that lead back into your territories, is a terror like you would not believe. That is where you’ll find truth and the armor you so boldly entered our lands with. I sent my brother to deposit it there for you.”

“Xia.” Her father interjected.

“It is only what she deserves.” With that statement she bowed at her leader and left them.

“Tor Keawe,” The Crelean leader looked over to Aoife said aloud. “Crelean Leader, Tor Keawe.”

He nodded. “You are free to go. Aoife Afia.”

*

Jace met the two at the base of the staircase. He had not come up to see her as the others did. He knew they would wonder why. So he had his answer ready. He knew Aoife in her forgetfulness will press and ask. Ky’on may have guessed it a time or two but would not make it audible. Ky’on might. If she asks, he just might.

“What are you waiting for?” A young voice cracked the silence. Jace looked down at its owner. “Are you waiting for Father?”

“I am waiting for my friends.” He answered. “And you, Alego?”

“I took the lady Fey’s armor and hid it as Xia instructed. I’m on my way to being her new chief of security.” Jace shook his head. “You say no, but you will see.”

“You’re not even of age to fly the winds.” Jace glanced up at two individuals approaching, skipping down the staircase. Perhaps not skipping. “Where is the armor?”

“What kind of guard would I be if I told you?”

Jace looked his way. “A living, breathing guard with years ahead of him” Alego raised his brows. “She will kill you. Leman guards are notorious for it. She comes quickly and has her sights on you...”

“In the trees near the Pasaic waters.” He hurried. “I hid it in the grass near the water’s edge. But at this time, the day protectors will be roaming, for certain…”

“Hush,” Jace stood straighter. Aoife hurried to the two and Ky’on slowly followed behind her.

“You have no idea how upset you have made me, little fey.” Aoife began. “You will show me where you have put my things or I will tear you into tiny, royally-neat pieces and feed you to the fishes.”

“Aoife.” Jace interrupted. “This is a child who obviously lives to please his sister. Step away from the child.” She did not listen and came closer. Ky’on took her arm to try and restrain her anger. “Besides, I know where he’s kept it. We can head out after we convince our great leader for supplies.”

“Supplies for what exactly?” Ky’on entered. “He’s all but cursed us for trying to head out to the source. Called it Ruin and folly. Ever the adventurer, that one.”

Jace looked down at Aoife’s arm. Ky’on was still holding it with one hand. “Hmm, you’re still standing.”

Aoife noticed his gaze and stepped aside. “Can we get my belongings? We are wasting so much time lingering here.”

“Ah,” Jace nodded. “There she is.” He nodded. “But first, we stop by my home and pick up a few provisions.”

“My armor.”

“My home.”

Aoife took a deep breath. “I have to head back”

Ky’on hesitated closer. “We will help you get back. Once we get all we need. And you need some food, exposure to the elements or you’re useless on this trip.”

She turned to him. “How do you know this?”

“How does he know anything about you?” Jace smirked. Ky’on bowed his head. “A life before this.”

Aoife looked at the young fey watching them. “You will never touch a thing belonging to me again. I don’t care if the creator of us all ordered it.”

The young Fey, Alego, could barely look her in the eyes. “I do apologize.”

She glanced at Jace. “Let’s move.”

The entourage of the Crelian Court came down the stairway in dramatic form. Jace turned away. “Yes. Let’s”

*

“Will you tell me?” Aoife heard Ky’on ask as they approached a short, stone building. It seemed as if it housed at least four families. They stopped there anyway. “How much you remember. Will you?”

She was about to answer when Jace opened the door to the home. An older gentle fey greeted them and then turned to his master. “Are you staying long?”

“I may.” Jace glanced at Aoife. “But she is just here for the teas and the midday snacks. We’ll take it in the gardens.”

Aoife looked around at the stone walls. One lead to another and another. Not even moss grew on them. How could there be a garden somewhere?

Ky’on made a motion to Jace. He nodded. “Let me show you to your room.”

“Provisions.” She reminded.

“And rest” He threw back. “We’ll get you acquainted. Then some strengthening in the gardens.”

She humored him and let him lead her down a long corridor. At the end of it, was a large set of doors. Ky’on opened the doors to reveal high ceilings, small lights bouncing from wall to wall causing Aoife’s eyes to follow. He watched her as she glanced stone to stone. A smile crept on to his face.

Aoife touched the mixed in metal walls.

“It’s a little cool here.” He stated. “The garden is out through those Verandah doors. “ He came closer to her. “I know you need the elements to restore your energy…”

“My energy is fine.” She turned to him, entirely too close for either of them to feel comfortable. So, she took a step back. “What will you do while I go out there?”

“I thought I’d follow. “ He admitted. “Remind you of a few things.”

“Not necessary.” She opened the verandah doors and walked out into an open garden, closing the doors behind her.

Ky’on sighed a sigh. “What do you remember?”

*

Aoife removed her shoes at the sight of the short grass. The atmosphere was strangely familiar. Yet, the sights were very much new. The stone patio had opened into an spacious garden. The sky was covered by glass and there were glass beads that hovered above like rain drops. It made her smile and for an instant, just a moment, she forgot that she was not home.

She let her toes squeeze the short grass and allowed the cool air to rest on her skin. Forgetting she was being watched, she drew in a breath and closed her eyes. The room began to hum. The sound was of small flying insects, violet in color and small. They came from behind leaves and from bushes. How she knew to do this startled her a bit. The thought would have to wait though, these little sprites intrigued her.

“Did you know I would be back?’ She smiled. They were excited. Their eyes danced and their wings fluttered all around her. The air grew lighter. Her muscles relaxed. She followed them with her eyes and had a hard time not laughing. It was almost as if their hums were…Humorous, soft jocularity that only she and the lovely little floaters know about.

“You should eat.” Ky’on’s voice entered her space. It was an easy distraction, as if this had happened a time or two. She tilted her head toward him. “You’re floating”

“What?” At that moment, she noticed how close she was to the dangling beads and how far she was to the short grass. How did it happen? Her float was cut short and she fell to the grass once again.

A sweet smelling bread was placed in from to her. He held the dish close to her face as to remind her that she had yet to eat anything. “You know you want it.”

“How do I know it isn’t poisoned?” She questioned.

“Try it and if you live to tell me it tastes good, it isn’t poisoned.”

She made a face and hoped her acceptance of the food was not an invitation for more conversation. She did take a bite and enjoyed it more than she expected. He was watching her. She was sure.

“This room always seemed to recharge you.” He tried to remind her. “The air calms you. The grass revives you. Those sprites remind you of your connection to the elements.”

“How did I float without harnessing the winds?” She questioned, assuming he knew. He did.

“That was not what you did.”

“Explain it, would you?”

“I will not.” He was serious. “You need to feel it. You need to find it.”

Aoife ate her fill and turned her back to him. She was thirsty and wanted something to drink. Her hands extended and reached out into the air. Remembering she was not alone, she dropped her arms.

“As if I haven’t seen you do it a thousand times.”

“Do what exactly”

“Draw water from the air.” He stood. “But if you go around the bend of this land, you’ll find more than your fill. Draw it up easily.” Ky’on left her.

Aoife looked in the direction she was directed. Indeed, the corner was there. She went around the corner and her eyes widened at the open flow of water. A pool surrounded by lush landscape. It was astonishing, even in its tiny shape and curve. It was commanding her attention.

It was a good thing Ky’on left her, as she soon removed everything she had on, she made her way into the pool. It was going to be the best experience. She knew it. She wondered if Ky’on knew and that was the reason for his quick exit. She loved the coolness of the water. She needed the water. Her pores opened to receive the energy and nutrients. This was her element. Well, this was one of her favorite elements.

She sensed him near. She hated that feeling. It felt more than a just presence. It felt familiar and warm. “I did not ask for company.”

“Company came nonetheless.” She turned her back to him, slightly turning her head. Their eyes met. “With towels.” He placed them on the faux grass nearby. “I would really love for you to tell me what you remember.”

“Presuming that I do…”

“You do.” He said almost angrily. “We never played games with each other. Even when we had the time to, we never did. You said what you meant and that was the end of it. You were very much that decisive with everything else. This discussion, however…This.” He shook his head. “Five years, Aoife!.”

She watched him leave again. This was different type of upset. Her body moved faster than her head and she was out the water, nearly forgetting to grab a towel. She took a breath and summoned the droplets that sat on her skin would lift and melt into the air. She then wrapped the towel. “Ky’on.” She noted him back in the room looking angry at the door he had forgotten to walk out of. “I remember you telling me you betrayed me. I remember being the last to know. I remember how that felt. I remember pushing you away.” He turned fully to her. “Is that what you want me to remember? Because I do. The moment I saw that women it hit me, with every ounce of energy in the known universe it hit me. Every sense I ever felt…”

“Aoife…”

‘…Every moment I ever drew in the elements came to me.” She noticed her breathing changed. It became difficult. “You sent me back to the Leaman. I don’t know why. There, I only knew him…I forgot you…”

“Aoife” He held her. His arms held her as he repeated her name. “Your mind is working itself backwards. I did hurt you. There was a series of events that led to that fact, and that is in no way an excuse.” He was able to calm her down. “It is an opportunity for an apology, however untimely or unfair…”

She looked up at him. “You said you had something important to do here. What was it?”

Ky’on’s eyes looked off. He was still holding the female fey. His arms felt comfortable round her. The closeness was familiar to him. He just wishes it were to her. He’d looked at her exposed skin and had the urge to touch it. “It will have to wait. We need to get your armor. Jace is negotiating with a supplier. We may need more than our strength and will to battle whatever has the Crelian leader hesitating.”

Aoife took a few steps back. “To my armor then.”

“Yes.” He took a step closer. “I am sorry.” Ky’on looked troubled. “When you remember fully, perhaps you’ll believe me.

*

Jace was able to secure some daggers and stash some other medicinal and provisions. He was wrapping things together when he noticed Aoife approaching. His eye automatically searched for Ky’on, but he wa s not to be found. She came up to him slowly and quietly. It made him nervous. So, he stopped what he was doing and gave her his full attention.

“We are heading to your armor…” He began not wanting to hear exactly what she was going to tell him. “Not time to waste, as we will have to send you back right after.”

“He acknowledged you.” Jace stopped. He gave a sigh. “And I knew exactly who he was referring to.”

“I think you’re mistaken.” He glanced over. “It could have been Alego he thought you were referring to.”

Aoife grabbed his arm. “He called you son. “

Jace shook her off. “He can call me anything he wants. The privilege of having his name, however, resides with Xia and Alego. This, “He looked around “is all I am awarded.”

“I feel you don’t mind it.” She almost whispered. “ I also feel how much you love your people. Your brother looks up to you. He left his father’s presence and went to you, not his sister.”

He finished packing the bags. “I will lead you to your armor. Then, I will be done with this side of you.”

“Everything alright?” Ky’on’s voice came out from the stone, glass door. “I’m only asking because…”

“We have a short walk.” Jace grabbed a bag and walked off. He noticed the two others exchanged a look then followed.

*

The trees seemed different there. They were wide and so tall. She’d never see them before this moment. They sat in a cluster enclosed by a few trees that she did recognize. Her eyes continued to survey the area. Soon enough she would see her armor in a short clearing with the wide, tall trees. She knew better than to approach.

“Any water?” Aoife asked the two male fey who was staring at her. “Whatever it is, it’s big. I will need some water and ground. I can mold them into stones for a sling shot.”

Ky’on couldn’t help but smirk. “A sling shot?” he shook his head. “I must admit, I’d love to see that.”

“You can’t knock them down like that.” Jace went on. "They are too strong. Hide too thick.”

“Well then what do you suspect I should do?” She grew very annoyed. “Get that little one and throw him down there? Cause it could be done.” She began to descend to the base of the tree. The boys did not stop her. Instead they posted up at different ends of the hill.

“Careful.” Ky’on whispered.

Aoife noted the silence in the area but sensed something nearby. Someone. It didn’t feel like an animal. It felt too small for the one they were waiting for. It also felt too large to be anything else. Wherever these creatures were, they neither could confirm nor deny her suspicions. It made her restless or alert. She couldn’t tell which.

At the base of the tree, the root’s life bent to form a pool of some sort. Her armor laid just beyond that pool. She herself was more than far from either. Her steps were cautious but quick. Her pace was purposeful. She could not see the animal but knew it, or something like it, was near. Her heart beat quicker.

She noticed how close she was to her armor and took the chance. Her leap was no pounce, but she got a hold of her items. She spun and tripped into a large mound of some sort. It was solid and had short hairs. Her gaze turned upwards to a pair of yellow eyes and a growl.

The female fae’s steps tripped backward. The large beast saw her and turned its body toward her. She glanced up at the thing. “Easy…” She glanced at the two perched atop the trees. They were two far and would never reach her.

“Stay calm.” Ky’on called to her as he worked up a wind to sweep him up and came to the ground below. The Animal sensed him near and took a swing his way that spanned inches to Aoife.

Aoife took the arm of her armor and slipped it on her left. She searched for her small sword. In the process, the beast grew up on his hind legs and growled. Its hand came down quickly and dropped rapidly toward her. It came close but was halted by a long sword. This action caused Aoife to trip backwards. She then got a look at her rescuer.

He stood over six feet easily. His body was slender and dressed in a grey tunic and slacks. His face was handsome, yet angry. He had very little difficulty subduing the animal with just his sword. He swept a deadly slash across the animal’s throat. As it came down to its knees, he looked over at Aoife and his demeanor changed. He looked almost entranced. A stare an onlooker would take as true concern, and something more. His focus shifted to Ky’on.

“You should not be here.”

“Was to say the same to you.” Ky’on looked over to Aoife. The new one did the same.

Aoife glanced between them. “Alright, I’ll say it. I should not be here either. Here I am because a child thought it funny to throw my life’s work into a monster’s nesting pen.”

“It wasn’t a monster. It was protecting itself.” The fae looked off, tossing his shoulder length white hair about. “This is all its home. We are the invaders.”

“You killed it.” She reminded her.

“To protect you.” His expression changed from annoyance to shame. “I ,um, you don’t seem to remember…”

“She doesn’t.” Ky’on interrupted. “Not anyone.”

“He looks familiar.” Aoife corrected. “I can’t think of a name... You are a Wendershault. You were an instructor…distance arms and illusion.”

Jace entered the scene finally. “You remember that but not us.”

Ky’on cleared his throat. “Why are you here, Ren?”

“I was coming to Jace as per always. I have no idea where you were.” He sheathed his sword. “There is a stirring. My people want to know what you know about the evil in the air.”

“Crelean know nothing about it. Leaman even less.” Aoife answered for Ky’on, which made him give a frustrated sigh. “I head to them now. “

“Do you mind my company as I was due there?” The fae Ren began. “Perhaps giving you a chance to save me from the likes of Norio.” He smiled at his comment. He noted Ky’on’s look. “Well.”

“You are free to come along. Not as if I can stop you.” Aoife grabbed her armor.

Jace scoffed. “You just met him.”

Ky’on walked off as Aoife donned her gear. She glanced over toward him knowing that she did something very wrong, but not knowing exactly what.

*

The journey back seemed a lot longer in time even if chronologically it was not. If he had to hear Aoife and Ren laugh one more time he would hurl something at them. Jace glanced at him. Ky’on knew exactly why. Jace was always there to encourage him to say and do what he should and he should say something.

“I think that’s enough of that.” He interrupted Ren and Aoife’s conversation. “Can we push the conversation to something else? If I have to hear about how to conjure a bubble to distract a gnat, I’ll lose my lunch.“ The three gave him an awkward look. “Besides, we are near to the Leaman boarder.”

“Can we talk?” Aoife stormed toward him. Then marched past him.

“I remember this.” Jace tossed a laugh at Ren, who did not find it funny.

The two walked on ahead. Ky’on watched as Aoife gave a huff and stopped by a tree trunk. He stood nearby and waited. She looked upset but only just slightly. “Ky’on, “She started. “What we have was taken from me. I have an idea that he can help me get it back.”

“Ren?” He gave an ill look. “He is not that knowledgeable. He is flirting at best.”

“How can you be jealous of him after just a short time of conversation?” She asked. “You know about Norio and seem more upset with Ren’s presence.”

“You are very much correct.” He told her. “I have no right to react the way I am reacting, but if you knew him before you forgot him, you would know how much of a thorn he was in our relationship. He is to be kept at a distance, Aoife. “

“Is that an order?”

“I am not your commander, am I?”

He insulted her with that. He could tell and did not care. The two were interrupted by Ren and Jace. They assumed the silence between the two meant they were finish their conversation. They were mistaken.

“I have tried to understand you. “ She sighed “to be understanding of the something we were. I realize, however, that I need to stay away from you until I can fully remember why everything I do gets you so turned on your head.“ Her steps turned away from him. She tugged at Ren’s arm as she went to the direction of her home.

Ren gave an uncomfortable look at Ky’on before following Aoife toward the Leaman territory. Jace shook his head.

“It’s like reliving the past.” Jace admitted. “How does he do it?”

Ky’on shrugged. “I can’t even tell you what it is he is doing. All I know is whenever he has his sights on her, something major happens. It is that something I would hope to tell her before her memory does. “

“he is up to something.”

“How could he be? He just tumbled over us all.” He shook his head. “We will meet again and when that happens, I will tear the truth from him.”

*

Ren didn’t speak at all as they walked closer to the lands of the Leaman Fey Court. He hadn’t visited without the Wendershult families surrounding him. Since he came as a diplomat, representative, of all those families, he had to stay focused on his task. He just never knew he would run into her so directly. He thought she’d be out of reach. Hoped they’d had some distance because the last time he saw her…

“What is it you’re thinking?” Aoife asked. She stopped and stood in front of her. “You were different before.” He took a breath. “Now…”

“Now, I am going on my first diplomatic visit with a Fey that has long ignored our people.”

“Wait…”

“I don’t expect you to understand the plight of my people.” He began. “In fact the way we met was due to your need for my people’s skills not to get to know or understand us.”

“I know and understand your people. “ She corrected. ‘I thought you knew who you were speaking to.”

He hesitated. His eyes looked into hers. “I know you.” He assured her. “I knew you.”

“Then know, I think it important for all Fae to find the source of evil filling the sky.” She told him. “I am in full support of your people coming here for insight and clarity. You will not however find a kind word with the leader here. He has a… forceful attitude. Trust me.”

Ren nodded. “I apologize.”

“Before we enter the lands, I need to ask.” Ren raised his chin. “Do you know who took my memory?”

How could he answer and not have the conversation derail his primary objective?

“Aoife!”

An interruption will do. It came out of nowhere it seemed. A familiar face with a small elect group of guards followed. Ren took a few steps back. He heard Aoife sigh.

“Nori’…” She could not get another word. He took hold of her forearm, armor and all, and pulled her aside. “My arm?”

“Nearly 24 hours. “ Norio began the conversation. “Do you know what we think when our own go missing for such a time?” She looked away. The squeeze of her arm to get her attention.

Ren had enough of that. “She was with me at the time, Heir of Leaman court. We were to journey to the source of the red smoke. She convinced me not to but come here, to your people. Was I wrong to trust her? Or your people?”

Norio’s hand let Aoife’s go. He seemed upset. “No.” his eyes glanced over at Ren. “I was just…”He looked at Aoife. “I was wrong. I am sorry.” She nodded. “Aoife…I am sorry.”

“We should head to court and report to your father.” She walked away from him. She obviously knew her way.

Ren’s eyes followed Aoife until she was far enough. “Touch her again that way, and I will forget how diplomatic I am to be.” Norio turned to him. “I am still a Rahilly of Wendershult. I am sure you know what that means.”

Norio approached him with a stern look and purposeful steps. “Do not speak unless you are directed, Ren Rahilly of Wendershult Court. Speak out of turn again and you will see how I forget diplomacy.”

“Fair enough.”

*

Aoife was annoyed, tired, and hungry. She knew the two were close behind her as she stood in front of the door which lead to Sada Kwin. She did not want to see that Fey leader. She did not want to see anyone at all. Her objective was to find out what was threatening Fey lands. What frustrated her the most, was that no one leader seemed concerned? Ren came as a representative to collect information for his leader. Why didn’t the leaders just get together, collect their forces, and formulate a…

“Our leader will meet with you now.” A guard interrupted her thoughts.

She sighed as Norio walked passed her. Ren in tow. He, however, took Aoife’s elbow and tugged her along. They all stood in front of a large, towering yellow-gold seat with tannish upholstery in the back and seat. Seated was Sada Kwin. He stared at the Wendershault fey.

“This is a surprise.” Sada did smile. “It has been, what, nearly six years.” Ren nodded. “You are no longer an instructor, I see.”

Ren shrugged. “I am and do. As much as I can.” He glanced at Aoife. “One can never stop learning. I am here however to share concern regarding the threat in our skies. My mistress of Court, Ba’Riani, is asking for me to collect and investigate. I’m depending on the other courts for a starting point. The Crelian are of no help…”

“Not surprising…”

“The Mondenlear are not this direction. So, here I am.” He waited.

Sada looked over at Aoife. “You were taken care of by this fey?” She hesitated to answer. “I will not judge. I know you two were close a few years ago. Inseparable almost.”

“We were never more than friends, Sir. I did keep her safe on yesterday. It was far too late to send her back.” Ren explained. He noted the look that Norio gave him. “Is there anything you can tell me about the red smoke? Any information will be appreciated.”

Sada made a face. “I sent my defenders out and only one came back with something she did not leave with.” He again turned to Aoife. “You found nothing?”

“Nothing Sir.” She admitted. “But If I am permitted to travel forward, toward the source, I am sure I can find more.”

Sada thought as Norio took a step forward. “It would be adventitious. I would offer my services…”

“You have a union to think about.” His father turned to Aoife and Ren. “I will allow you to go. Travel toward the evil but do not engage it. Scout it out and report your findings. You are representing the Leaman Court, Defender. “

“Understood.” Aoife responded.

“Leave out in the morning. I assume you are weary and hungry from the journey. “He stood and the room was attentive. “I will send food and have attendants greet you and your company at your home.” Aoife, Ren, and Norio gave looked up at the Leman leader. “Looking forward to hearing your report.”

Sada Kwin left them in the throne room. They all were perplexed, perhaps for different reasons.

“He’s never sent me anywhere alone.” Aoife took a breath. “He never sent his staff to set up dinner…to my home.” She turned to the other fey. “Excuse me. I’m sorry. I am too excited…“ The two looked at her with strange smiles. “I don’t …”

Ren took a step forward. “Would love to see your home, seeing that I am guest for the evening.”

She glanced at Norio. She knew what was on his mind. “It may be a better idea…”

“We’ve done this before,” Ren attempted to remind her. “Quite a few times. I behave, as I always have done. We are…close that way.”

Norio did not buy it. “I remember the two of you. Not as close.”

“Funny I was thinking the same about you.” He gave Norio a look over as to dismiss his jealousy. “I have to deal with you and your suspicion now? Why is that, when I hear you are to be given in union?”

“It has been over five years since you’ve been here.”

“Not a thing has changed.”

“You will not do this!” Aoife interrupted. “You will have everyone thinking I am some sort of…of…something I am not.” She calmed herself. Turning to Norio, she whispered “I no longer sleep with you.” Her eyes glanced at Ren, “I have not slept with you. Nothing will change in one night. I want to eat and get some sleep in the comfort of my own bed. Alone!” She went on “Ky’on isn’t here and I still have to deal with this jealousy.”

“Ky’on?” Norio wondered.

Ren smiled. “I assume he falls into the category of no-longer-sleeping with category.”

Aoife must have been tired. She laughed. She walked off. “Come.”

“I’ll be going with you tomorrow.” Norio called out.

“Of course you will.” Ren called back

*

Ren darkened the room without putting out a lantern. She’d already bathed and sat in her night clothes. He did also with assist of the staff Sada sent over. He took full advantage. Aoife sat and watched him a bit, he noticed. He occasionally looked around her wooded home, perhaps since it had been a while. His mind was thinking of the past. He’d made a potion to relax them. She’d let him. She usually lets him.

“Do you remember anything more about me?” He asked her.

Aoife shrugged. “Everything is familiar. Your face. Your walk. The way you make me laugh and others angry.” He smiled. “But you lied.”

“About what?” he handed her a short glass. “I usually am aware when I lie.”

“You said you kept me last night.” He gave a little nod. “You covered for Ky’on and Jace. It didn’t seem like something you’d do. I don’t remember you liking them much.”

He took a drink. “I like them fine. I kept it secret for you. “

“You do a lot for me.” She looked at him. He looked away. “You taught me how to glamor the ceiling to make it look like the sky.”

“What do you want it to look like tonight?” He almost nervously asked.

“You realize I can do it myself.”

“Just tell me.” He demanded.

She smiled. “Make it so the sky twinkles all around, and the moon is…”

“Higher on the left.” He concluded her sentence. She nodded slowly. “You have and haven’t changed all these years.” He finished his drink. “Would you like to get comfortable first?”

“Yes.” She walked to her bed and settled on top of her sheets. She noticed him do the same, and she sat up.

“I promise to behave.” He told her. “We both have had a day. And we are not …like that.”

She allowed him to relax next to her. He extended his hand toward the ceiling. The room completed its dark dream and one by one the ceiling was filled with blinking stars. The air filled with intermittent breezes and the slight illumination showed from a small moon that sat to the left of the ceiling.

“There is more?” he questioned.

“Not tonight, Ren.” She relaxed into her bed.

He agreed and decided to wait to say what was on his mind. It wasn’t right for him to be there. There was so much that just was not right.


Ky’on waited outside the limits of Leaman lands. If there was one thing this Fey knew, it was not to get any female fey upset. If in fact you do, best think of a way to get her to calm down a bit before your re-approach. Jace leaned against a tree and watched his friend, who swayed back and forth. It was a nervous tic of some sort. Ky’on shook his head. After which, he saw a figure appear nearby.

It was a leman guard. He approached them as if he knew they were perched there. Ky’on came down from an arm of the trees to the ground below, startling the guard.

“You are invited into the gates of Leaman. It is a gift from the heir of the Leaman Court.” Ky’on and Jace exchange glances.” Follow me.”

“What kind of trick is this?”

“Not one.” The guard replied.

“Once we step on to your lands you have every right to detain us.” Ky’on reminded. “Where is our protection?”

The guard handed him a sealed letter. He skimmed it. Jace took it from him and verified it all. It was a diplomatic certification. They were to be treated as advisors to the court.

“Alright.” Jace nodded. “Lead on.”

*

Aoife sunk into her bath. She thought about what she was about to venture out to, almost sure that this would lead to the propelling of her career as a defender of the Leaman Court. Her thoughts drifted to Ren and the Wendershult Court. She remembered them being interestingly private. They were not as quiet as Ren. He was very different. From what she remembered, he was a very strict instructor of daggers. Next to the long swords, daggers were Wendershult's trademark. He, a very skilled wielder, never trusted anyone with his books, lesson plans, or equipment. Then again, most wendershults trusted no one with anything.

The ability to conjure and fool an onlooker is a gift most of wenderhult royals hone very easily. Again, Ren was different. He was the one anomaly, a flaw in their theory, as he was the only one of his people not to be of royal lineage, yet is highly skilled at magic and illusion. She remembered this. She felt his relevance. Why couldn’t she feel Ky’on?

“I’ve lost you again?” She heard the voice say at the entrance of the bath area. Her home within the trees held a room dedicated to baths and steam. He’d take a steaming shower as she soaked across the room. This was also familiar, comfortably familiar. “I asked why you didn’t try to calm the animal. You are Leaman. Nature calls to you and bends to you.” He approached her swiftly after he wrapped the lower half of his body.

Aoife sat up with her knees to her chest. Her arm extended and hand went up to stop him. He took the cue and turned his back to her. Her ears heard him go on talking. Her eyes, however, noted the scars on his back. They were old and scattered.

“Who hurt you?” he stopped speaking to slightly turn his head. “The scars…”

“They are dated, Aoife. “ He sighed. “I will get you a towel.”

“I can reach it for myself.” She told him.

She heard a laugh. “You trust me to a point.”

“And you trust no one.” She stood and swiftly moved a towel that hung nearby around her body. When she didn’t hear a reply, she looked over toward him. He was turned slightly to her. He came closer and assisted her out of the tub. “Did I offend you?”

Ren shook his head. “Remember when I first showed you how to wield a leaman bone handle?”

She nodded. “You told me I needed more practice.”

“And you did.”

“And I did. I was horrible at it up until recently” She shrugged. “Your point?”

“I trust you.” He blurted. “You once knew that without question.”

“I do know it.”

“Why do you trust me?” he questioned. “I am in fact an illusionist. I can be deceiving you now.”

She sighed. “We always argue about this. “ She heard herself say. He smiled. “We always argue about this.” She said clearly. It was a clarity that sparked memory. Then, there was a vision, one that overcame her. “Someone betrayed us.” Her breathing quickened. Ren’s ears piqued. “Oh, it was horrible…”

“Aoife…”

Her knees grew weaker.” I can’t…” The room spun and there was a jolt from her with a force that sent Ren into the other room.

Then, her body let go and fell to the ground.

*

Norio looked out of the grand dining hall. He watched as several inner woodland animals gathered on the greens. It was odd, he thought. They were far from home. It was a nice look early in the morning though. His guests were waiting for him to allow them in. He needed just a few minutes more. He was not going to get it though.

“I do apologize…” An attendant began but was interrupted by a dark haired, small eyed muscular fey who was all too familiar.

“You asked for us to come here. Is there a reason why I am so wanted and accepted now?” Ky’on gave him a moment to speak. When he didn’t, “Arrogance.”

“Am I?” Norio came to the two, who were very guarded. “You attack my borders as if you were trying to take back something that is yours.” He looked off. “I did not bring you here to argue and bicker like two younglings who have not lived. “ he paused. “I believe you are Ky’on.”

Ky’on’s demeanor did not change.

“I thought it. “ Norio looked off. “When we were younger, Aoife and I, there was a boy who she’d scurry around with before my father’s guardsmen offered to train the lost one of the court. You lingered everywhere around these parts. “He got a look that asked what your point is. “You know about, the Wendershult, Ren?”

“ I believe the fact of the matter is that she does not know of Ren.”

Norio shook his head. “Hmm, I believe she does.” He stated. “The closeness. The secrets those two had. He was more than her instructor, but the problem is, he can make it as if she never remembered that fact. “

“No.” Ky’on shook his head. “They had their secrets but it was only because he knew…”

The room went quiet. “He knew what? What she is capable of when she was capable?” Norio asked. He did know. “There is something that Fey is up to. I just cannot see it.”

Jace looked over to his friend. Ky’on nodded. “Yes.”

*

Ren watched as she slowly woke. Aoife’s moves were slow. Her limbs started swaying against the bed sheets, just as her eyes squinted then opened. She didn’t seem surprised as much as she seemed confused, then saddened. The sound of rain began to hit the windows. His eyes got distracted with a large bird swooped down into the room. Flutters, squirrels, chipmunks, all crept into the room through the window.

Knowing what was happening, he stood. “Aoife.”

“He betrayed me.” He heard her say. “And you…”

“Aoife, you must calm down. “ He warned. His ears heard thumping at her door. “What did you summon now?” He shooed away some animals. “My Aoife, please. We’ve done this. You have control of this.”

Her breathing changed again. “He left me. You left me.”

“I’m here.” The thump came louder. “I am not opening that door. So, send it away.”

“I’m trying.” She held her head. “The memories…I’m trying.”

Ren sat next to her on the bed. He gave a quick look at the door as the aggression against it grew worse. He then placed a hand on her face. He stroked her face and began to speak to her softly. She resisted at first, as she remembers this technique. His hands ran up and down her neck as he continued to repeat the words he knew would calm her. He hated to do it. But she was just becoming who he knew. He saw her eyes grow heavy.

“Don’t…leave…” Her body sunk and he lowered her back down.

Ren sighed and stood. “I did not want to do that.” He grew curious and went to the door. He hesitated for a moment. Then, he opened the door. Standing at least two feet taller than he was a large, hoofed mammal with the greatest of antlers and largest head.

He made a face. “Did she mean to trample me?” The animal turned slowly and left.

*

Ky’on and Norio walked up the path that led to Aoife’s wooded tree home. They had not expected to find as many woodland animals about. They’d all but tripped over the plentiful pack of them. As they came closer to the home, Aoife’s guest came into view. The two continued forward with their eyes fully on him. He had not seen them yet.

“She finally kicked you out?” Ky’on called out to Ren, who glanced below at them. Ren then turned away slowly and entered the home. “Son of Gnome!”

“He is a cheeky bastard.” Jace laughed. “Well, you know those two.” He reminded him.

Norio went ahead and started to climb to the front. Ky’on had other plans.

*

Aoife felt she was not alone even before she fully woke. She almost didn’t want to open her eyes. It would mean she would face the realities and all she knew about the fey in her life were wrong. There was a shift in the bed. She sighed. The company softly copied. She felt a hand on her arm. She turned her body away from it.

“You made me sleep.” She told him. “You promised…”

“You were not in control.” Ren explained. “Reality is coming. So, please wake up.”

“Is that what you call the series of lies I now remember?” She finally sat up. She felt her body shiver a bit. She was still in her towel. A sweater came across her shoulder. “Did you actually stumble on us or was that planned?”

Ren made a face. “I would have said. I did indeed go to the Crelian Court to find Jace and Ky’on. I was sent by my leader, as I said.” He turned her to him. “He and your heir are here. What will you do?”

Aoife was not sure. “I remember what you did for me.” She told him. “I also remember why.” Ren lowered his head. “I don’t trust them. How can I? But Ky’on has been trying to save me for five years. Norio kept me protected for five years.” She looked at him. “ And you’ve been gone.”

Ren tried to say something. He couldn’t seem to formulate the words.

“I didn’t know who to be until you showed me how to be myself.” She admitted. “And you just left me.”

“What choice did I have?”

“You could have stayed.”

“Not after…Do you not remember what I am?” He grew angry. The color in his eyes began to change. She knew exactly what that meant. “You, who would ask me everything about myself and remember every detail of the conversation, question me now? You know my lot in life.” He stood. “Of all the things to say to me.”

“Ren.” She stood. “I didn’t mean…I am only wondering why you didn’t try.”

He rolled his eyes and left the room. She was left alone.

“That was awkward. “ A voice near the window said. “He couldn’t try. He was rented by Wendershult Court Leader. She found out about the things he can do, and secured him in her care alone. He was no longer to be rented out.” Aoife looked over her shoulder at him. “He’s a fool like the rest of us. “

“Is he marrying a member of the court for leverage also?” Aoife retorted. Ky’on looked off. “Right. Wait with the others outside. I need to get dressed and we still have a mission.”

*

Three stood right outside her door by the time she opened it. They turned to her. She looked at them and felt nervous. It was as if they were waiting for her lead. She did not wear her armor but did have her daggers secured. Norio’s face questioned and she knew it. Aoife looked off.

“I am not who you knew yesterday.” She announced. “The truths I know now…”

“How in fact did you forget?” Jace asked.

She did not want to answer. “It isn’t relevant.” She said sternly. “Can we not just go toward the tail of the red stream toward the head? I am way too eager to finish this and move on from all of you.” She turned “Right now, that is our mission. We follow it to its end. We report back to your ruling bodies.”

“That was not what my father agreed to.” Norio reminded.

“How is this not about all courts?” Ky’on questioned. “If you think I will not head that way and report any threat to my people, you are mistaken.”

Norio looked at Aoife. “May we speak away from others?”

“Not necessary.” She shook her head. Her body left the conversation. “You are not permitted to participate in this, per your father.”

“I am coming along.” Norio was certain.

Aoife was tired of having the conversation with this fey. She was already upset at making Ren upset. “Do what you want.” She turned from him and finally made the trek down her outdoor stair case. Her eyes began to search for her friend whose feelings she hurt but decided to leave him be, certain he’ll show up. The direction of the red tail seemed definite now.

“Onward.”

*

Ky’on looked at every corner of the wooded area. They were not familiar with these lands. It was not the safest of missions, but certainly the most excitement he’s had since he’s been on his own. This thought made him think of times past. His steps caught up to Aoife’s.

“Do you remember…”

“Probably.” She retorted.

“We all were hiding in the tree house at the Fey King’s and Jace managed to distract the guard so that one by one we would leave the hold.” He smiled. She did also, perhaps because they had some great adventures as a child. “You and I were left behind and you saw a fey boy trapped, his legs caught in barb of some sort.”

“Yes.”

She did not say any more, so he continued. “How did you get him out?”

There was a pause. She stopped walking.

“She bent each wire til it widened, bound the wounds, and the young fey, being incredibly gifted, vanished.” It was a story she never told anyone. Even at this moment, the words were not hers. The fey came into view. Ren had returned, bearing fruit apparently. “Found some Maiden fruit.” The crunchy red food was tossed, then another.” He approached Ky’on and handed him one. “To interruptions.”

Ky’on made a face. He accepted. “I should be used to it.” He walked away to have his snack. He did watch them closely, seeing Ren offer her two fruits he held in each hand. Aoife accepted both of them. She could hardly look at Ren. He stepped away from her. His retreat was stopped by Aoife’s hand to his arm. She then offered him the fruit. Ren’s eyes caught hers as he accepted it. “Damn.”

*

Norio threw the rind away and started toward Ren. His approach was cut short by Jace’s arm. He shook it loose. After giving Jace an ill look, he then approached Aoife, whose eyes noted him. He made a motion for her to follow him. She did. They took their steps into a brush of soft long grass.

“What is it that you are not telling me?” He started. “Your fey has secrets we should be privy to.”

Aoife tilted her head. “My Fey?” She tossed back. “I don’t own any fey. That right belongs to you and your father.”

“Are we at that now?” He was angry. “When you had no knowledge you had more knowledge of who I am. I have always been on your side. That is why I stand here now.”

“Is it?” She came back. “I can’t tell. I am not sure it’s so that your property doesn’t run away with a Creliean or a…another Fey.”

There was a rustle in the trees nearby. The two turned to look. They found no one. The rustling however was accompanied by a stomp, which got everyone’s attention. Emerged was a giant, brownish mammal. It stood on all fours. The group of them stood surprised. It seemed very obvious that none of them has ever seen it before.

“Ren.” Aoife called.

“These are animals of another land.” He drew his sword. “Of the Eternal court.”

Norio looked over toward him. “You are not serious.”

Aoife seemed in thought as the animal came closer. It gave a roar. “It’s just an animal.”

“You remember the last one?” Ky’on reminded. He watched as she moved closer. “Aoife…”

“Let her try.” Ren said calmly, as he did most things.

Aoife did try. She came close and attempted to speak to it as if it were rational. It grew more annoyed and snarled in its frustration. Ky’on came closer toward her.

Norio did the same. His arms extended toward the trees and the branches began to quiver. Jace produced a winded funnel nearby ready to hurl it at the animal. Aoife, however, motioned for them all to stop. Norio did not understand.

“He is larger than just any animal, Aoife. Let us destroy it before it rids the world of us.”

Her hand motioned for him to stop. “Come now.” She inched closer to it. “Off those legs and down to me.” Jace made a face.

“What am I watching?” Norio wondered.

“Quiet when you’re watching.” Ren glanced over toward him.

Aoife came closer to the animal. “You will calm yourself. “ The others were not sure if she spoke to them or the animal. The animal did in fact relax a knee to the ground, then the other. “You must go back to where you came.”

“No Leaman can do this.” Norio kept pondering. “What fey…?”

“This Fey.” Ky’on answered.

Jace shook his head. “She’s never done this before.” He sighed. “This is…I don’t even know what this is.”

The animal began to breathe heavy. A grumble grew to a growl which lead to the animal get to its legs once again. Aoife took a few steps back.

“Someone pushed me away.” She said.

“What?” Jace questioned.

Ren revealed his sword again. Ky’on stood ready. Norio went ahead and summoned the roots beneath the animal’s feet to wrap and contain it. The animal wrestled.

“This isn’t right.” She turned to Ren. “This isn’t right. “

“Right or wrong, he is angry.” Ky’on went in with hits of wind, making it difficult for the beast to breathe. “C’mon get scared!” It indeed was panicking. Soon enough however, the thing swung a limb at him. Jace threw a breeze off toward his friend to move him out the path. He took a terrible tumble.

Norio made the grip tighter on the animal til it screamed. Aoife held her head. He noted this and sent another vine across the neck. The animal writhed in pain.

“No!” Aoife turned to Ren. She knocked his sword hand upwards and the sword itself was released. She grabbed the hilt too quick for anyone to protest. Her leap went high. The sweep of her swing was quick and deep. Her feet fell to the ground just as the animal’s body succumb from the gnash under its neck.

“Aoife.” Norio said her name. He saw her eyes.

She looked off defeated. Ren came up close and released the sword from her hand. He saw her eyes drop.

“It wasn’t in control.” She shook her head. “It was being controlled.”

“Let’s not scare the others.” Ren whispered. “You’re fine. This is an ability you have just discovered.”

Aoife looked up to him as Norio came closer to the two. “What was that?”

She shook her head. “We need to keep moving.”

Jace assisted his friend to his feet. “There may be a homestead within the end of Gregor, end of the woodland. The Crystalline Forest. Personally have not been there, but it is said to be…”

“That is too close to the Fae King’s Palace.” Ren entered.

“What a surprise, a deterrent.” Norio entered. “Is there nowhere you haven’t been?”

Ren gave him a look. “Do you think it wise to allow him to know all of our intentions?”

Ky’on’s ears perked. “What do you mean?”

Aoife sighed. “Our own sovereign not making a move to find the cause of the Red tailed danger in our skies is highly suspect.”

“And our leaders going against him to find the cause is troubling.” Ren added.

“It’s a good thing we rejected were sent out to figure out the red tailed puzzle.” Ky’on sighed.

They were defeated. Norio felt ashamed. Aoife eyes remained to the ground. The Leman Leader knew there was danger out there and sent her instead of his son. It was not a privilege. It was a way to get a distraction out of his son’s way. No one could say another word. So, they didn’t. They moved onward to whatever would come next.


Crystalline Forest

They were being watched. They all must have sensed it. The caution in their steps showed the hesitance. It was strange. The moment they entered the threshold of the land of Gregor, the air grew thicker and their feet more weary in motion. The sight before them, however, gave reason to press forward. It was the view of the famed Abode of the Fae, Aelsa. She was one the most powerful Fairies known. She was banished to seclusion by the fae king. There is still debate as to why. The only conclusion? The misuse of her magic hurt someone close to him…

“They were lovers, you see.” Ren went on. “He is a possessive Ruler and even more possessive partner. He could have taken her up as his equal. Instead, he placed her here, between him and the people he hates the most.”

“Are we that close to Mondelear?” Norio asked.

“We must be.” Aoife glanced up to the sky. The red band shown thicker. They were on the right path. “I’m nowhere near her and I feel her power. “

“Is she benevolent?” Ky’on asked Ren. “We would just need to stay for a few hours. Get rest and escape the morning.”

“Escape?” Jace questioned. “What about leaving? Can we leave?”

Ren gave them each a look. “Whose idea was this again?”

“I only mentioned the glass palace because I thought it would be the best place to lay low.” He defended them. “No one would care to come out here.”

“Glass palace?” Aoife kept searching. “Why haven’t we seen it yet?”

Ky’on shook his head. “She is an expert at all things mystic and magic. It’s probably hidden but not.” He looked around for any sign. “Jace and I have only heard accounts. Seen sketches. But experience has always been positive.”

Aoife walked off a bit. She felt something. It was as if she was being guided. She sensed it. Then her feet stopped and her eyes finally saw it. With that, the rest one by one, gazed on several large clear structures with blue and pink and lavender walls. Its height was tall with multiple peaks and perches. She had to step back to see the fullness of it. Within the moment, a rumble of a Castle door pushing open sounded. The band jumped at the light that spilled onto the valley where the fortress laid.

“Did you say this was a welcoming place?” Aoife asked. “A lodging?”

Jace nodded. “Albeit one made of glass…”

Ren came closer to her “What do you feel?” He heard her sigh. “That much?”

She shook her head. “We have no choice, it’s late.”

“Be on your guard.” Norio entered in. “We’re just travelers.”

“Fae travelers dressed as Crelean, Leaman, and Wendershault.” Ky’on shrugged. “Why not?”

The group entered the main corridor of the Magical estate and stared in wonder at different articles decorating the walls. Beautiful tapestries and rugs finished off the look. There were different types of weapons and articles of clothing. The long cool hall was soon filling with tall and slender personnel wearing silver and white. The room suddenly erupted in clapping. The confusion shown in all of their faces.

“Welcome.” A voice called to them. Their ears perked. “Do you understand where you are?” They gawked at the beautiful dark Fairy. Her skin looked like roasted chestnuts. Her hair was hidden under a shimmery wrap. She was statuesque and commanded their attention.

“Would you like to clarify, just in case?” Jace felt he had to say. Aoife gave him a look. “So we all start where we should.”

“The two of you.” She exclaimed. “You have an aura around you.” Her eyes found Aoife’s. “You have several, My Dear One.” She came closer to Ren and Aoife. She started with Aoife. “You have a broken line. Recently broken. “

“Yes, well, I knew that.” She told the strange woman. “I felt that.” Ren lowered his head. Aoife saw the Fairy’s eyes notice Ren. “We are in need of some rest. Just for a few hours.”

“Did you know the two of you have an old spell on you?” Aelsa hovered her hand over Aoife’s shoulder. Then to Ren. She looked at him in depth. “Hmm, “She began. “I know those eyes.”

Norio interrupted. “If you please, Fae Aelsa, we would like to stay a night to rejuvenate. There is still some way left on our journey”

Aelsa scoffed. “Right you are.” She smiled. “One more piece of information before you head toward Mondenlear. Gather your courage. Gird yourselves. Trust this one fae.” She glanced over toward Aoife. “She has more strength then even she knows.”

Ky’on looked over to Aoife. “She’s going to need…”

“Water.” Aelsa nodded. “And light and air and food.” She nodded. Her eyes glanced at the other. “You three can go with my hands.” They hesitated. “You’re safe here. She’ll be off to rest in a minute.”

Aoife gave them a nod as she and Ren stood before the owner of the home fortress. The fae looked between herself and Ren. “What is it you see? It’s something you did not want the others to know.”

“Someone is keeping you two a part.” She caught their attention. Her eyes went to Ren. “You know this. I can see that you do, as soon as I told you there was an aura. You have a strong connection to our creator and the strength of our creator. I can see it.” She touched his hair. “It’s nearly pure.” She looked off. “Who were your parents?”

“We both are left without them from when we were younglings.” The wrong fae answered.

Aelsa looked at Ren once more. “Are you usually this quiet?”

Aoife had to turn to Ren. He sighed. “It is as she said.”

Aelsa nodded slowly. She was thinking of something. Was it something to say or something to do? “I can remove it.”

“Can you?” Ren spoke up quickly this time. “It isn’t dangerous? Removing a spell can be more fatal than the application of one. “

“How did she break free of hers?”

“Naturally.” He answered. “I was not powerful enough when I applied it. It took great focus even then.” He went on. “If it will hurt her, I prefer you not make the attempt.”

“Any way I can speak for myself, Ren?”

He looked at her seriously, “You don’t know this magic.” He turned back. “And I don’t know this Fae.”

“You know yourself though, don’t you?” Aelsa scoffed once again. The two did not understand. “The source of our abilities flow from the same. I am not here to hurt any of you. I may be a captive here but I am not in any way a captor. I see you still don’t trust those affiliated with the Fae King…”

“I don’t.”

“I am not the Fae king!” She grew emotional. She looked off “He is not even himself. I have no desire to steal children and sell them into servitude. “ Her body turned to Aoife. “You are filled with fortune, even if you cannot see it. Stay in the present because it becomes your future.” She glanced at Ren. “Your future is mighty, beautiful, and grand. Ren knows it. He is drawn to your strength. He will protect it. But he needs you just as much.“ She nodded. “His future is difficult before his truth is realized.”

“What do you mean?” Aoife asked.

“That’s all that I know.” Ren’s chin went up. His eyes squinted. “You don’t believe me?”

He took a pause before answering. “You said all I need to hear for the night and even more I had not asked for. “ He grabbed Aoife’s hand. “We do thank you for your hospitality, but enough of your imposition and lies.”

“Ren?” Aoife began.

Aelsa motioned toward a handmaid of hers. “Make sure they are comfortable.”


*

The two stopped outside a tall set of doors. She had placed them in the same room? Ren took a step back and looked up at the door. He placed a hand on his head. He was visibly uncomfortable. He was uncomfortable. It was something she very rarely saw. He usually is the controlled one. The one whose poise never changed. So, she moved before him, standing on her toes as to get his attention. He finally saw her.

“We are not…” He began.

“But we are.” Aoife admitted. “Everyone sees it. We hardly have to admit it. You stayed away from me. Why did you it? “

“Have we not been through this?” Ren took her shoulder and gently pushed her aside. “We’ve been through everything. And everything has been through us.” He opened the door to the room and she followed. “Not even a small moment between us was ever allowed. “

She understood now. “You did not see the aura.” She uttered a loud. “Who is counting how many times you get something wrong?”

“Not the point, but I don’t get things wrong half as much as your comrades do.” Ren noted. “I got this wrong. This.” He shook his head. “I told you everything that night. Do you remember?” Aoife looked off. “We can’t talk about that night until this is lifted. Aoife…”

“You’re careful about everything but this is a different type of cautiousness.”

“I never had reason to be more.” He looked over at her. “I hate believing in this Fae. Someone who makes inferences about me and who assumes so much of the two of us.”

‘So you are not drawn to my strength?” She smiled.

Ren tried to hide his interest in the conversation. “As much as I am drawn to protect it.” His body turned to her. “I would like her to remove the spell.”

Aoife nodded but knew she had to admit something. “I am sorry. For making you take away my memories. “ He took a step closer. “I am sorry we lost all that time. I am sorry for whatever happened within it. “ He held her face “I feel responsible for it. “ She admitted. “If someone wants us to stay apart, what other lengths would they go through to do it?”

“So we are agreed. It remains.”

*

Ky’on heard what was said and knew he was right. He had no idea how but he could almost sense the spell surrounding them. He took a few steps back from the door and spun into Aelsa and two of her many hands. She did not speak at first, only glanced at the door he had been standing by. The intimidated Fae stood straighter. He wasn’t fooling anyone.

“You will leave her to her future, Young Fae.” He was told. “You two are on different paths. “

“We are all of us headed on the same path.”

“You understand my meaning.” She folded her arms. “ I think you are very important here, but not to her as much you are to him. “ Ky’on made a face. “You can’t see it now but you will.”

He nodded slowly. “Now I see why the Great Leader hid you away.” Aelsa looked off. “You are an oracle. Were your people just Fae or are you mixed? Most of us are…”

“Get some rest.” She turned and made her way down the long bright corridor.

*

Ren was awake early. He’d look at the night sky, which he’d conjured up for Aoife as he’s done so many times. She had allowed him to stay. She always allowed him to stay. There was no harm in it. The attraction they had apart, waned when they grew too close anyway. He slept though a few hours longer than he ever had. He dreamt. He closed his eyes again.

“Don’t go.” He heard Aoife say softly. “I love it when you stare off in contemplation. Do not go into the dark drift of dream”

He smiled. “I believe that I had a vision.” Ren glanced at her. “I was trying to return to it.”

Aoife liked where this was going. “You are never going to tell me, but I do hope I was in your little unimportant see into the future.”

“If you were there how unimportant could it have been?”

She rolled her eyes. “How indeed.” She thought a few minutes more. Then, finally asked, “How does it feel?” She paused. She was asking about the spell, he was sure of it.

“It is a push,” He almost was ashamed to say. “A yank away. It is difficult to describe. I am here now and I feel it… But I also feel you, us, underneath it all. And you?”

She shrugged. “A distance. As if I knew you, not know you. Like a repellant, I guess, I don’t understand it. But it is effective. But we find each other. “

“We always do.” Ren admitted. “We always will.” His hand reach for hers. Their fingers met and he thought he felt something. He glanced up at her to see if she did, but her confused expression doubted that. He looked away.

“Was it horrible? The dream?” He flinched. “I can handle horrible.”

Ren shook his head. “The word ‘love’ was used.”

He heard a hmmm. “By whom?”

Their early bedroom conversation was halted by a knock at the door. Ren was up fast enough. Aoife still caught his arm. She wanted him to answer.

Ren glanced between her and the door. Then, he answered. “Between the two of us only one of us has ever used that word.” He left her side and headed to the door.

“That doesn’t answer…” She let it go, to his relief.

The Door opened to reveal a very awake Jace. He looked past Ren to Aoife. His view was blocked by the impatient yet calm mannered Ren. Jace’s stance changed a bit. He even let out a laugh. After a shake of his head, Jace finally speaks.

“We are wanting to head out as soon as possible. Also, Ren you can past this information to Aoife, Ky’on will meet her with breakfast in the gardens—there are gardens. As soon as possible. We want to make it past The Fey King’s…”

“I understand why” Ren slightly raised his voice. “I’ll pass the message.”

“You two didn’t really...?”

“Would slamming your face with this door answer your question?” Ren responded.

Jace made a face. “Ah, no.” He folded his arms. “I come in peace. Ky’on just has to tie some loose ends, my friend. I think a chance is to be given.”

“It is not-not up to me, anyway.” Ren’s head tilted. “We will be down soon” Jace nodded and left. The words were heard by Aoife. He noticed her movement toward the bath. He slowly closed the door.

“We are not that, are we?” He heard her say.

Ren turned to her. He gave a quick smile. “We are not.”

*

The gardens were in doors, of course. Aoife was distracted by the greenery and pools of water the spacious grounds. She could sense the magic in the air and feel the moisture melting within her skin. It was invigorating. She needed this cleansing. She needed a restart. What she did not need was the conversation that would come with breakfast.

She and Ky’on sat and ate an assortment of fruits and nuts. They drank a fruit blend that included some of her favorites. Her eyes surveyed the plant life and found an outdoor sitting area nearby where her other traveling companions sat. Norio was looking over. Jace nudged him a few times because of it.

“I still don’t understand what you find attractive about that Leamen fey.” Ky’on started. “Even the other one has more life to him and that is saying much.”

Aoife sighed. “I was distracted.”

“By his privilege?”

She scoffed and continued eating. “If I didn’t know you…”She looked up. “You wanted to talk about something, do so.”

“Don’t be upset.”

“I am not.”

“You are energized in this garden. You’re emitting all your emotions.” She hated the way he knew her. “Tell me I am wrong.” She took a deep breath. “Right.”

Aoife didn’t agree nor disagree. “If this conversation has to do with Ren…”

“I had no way to apologize to you.” He interrupted her thoughts. “You were not you faster than I could even take a breath” She ate. “When I had a mind to find you, I did. And you fought me. Every time I came anywhere near the Leman border… each time. “

Aoife glanced at him.

“You did not remember and I nearly got tired of trying to remind you.”

Her eyebrows raised, then lowered.

“I never stopped caring.” He paused. “I guess, I never will. “ He reached over and stopped her hand from giving her mouth another bite. “I still love you, Aoife.”

*

Ren’s composure still. His ears piqued however. His eyes saw a squirming Norio and an annoyed Jace. The two of them arguing about one thing or another. He refocused his senses on the two sitting far and within the gardens. He heard a word he’s never heard anyone else say to that female fey. He decided to eat, ignoring the two. Not bringing any motion to their attention. His eyes won’t catch theirs. He’ll keep them elsewhere while he eats.

And elsewhere he did, his looks went out the door of the garden entrance. He noted the Fae Aelsa walking past the open door. She turned her head slightly into the room and met Ren’s stare. Her voice echoed in his ear….

“Trust her.”

He did not like the imposition. He has never liked it. “Out of my head!” His full voice rang out. He then noticed the faces on the other two.

Jace’s smirk annoyed him more. He stood. “Alright, Ren. It isn’t serious. We all knew you never liked those two together. Don’t let it get to you.”

“Shouldn’t we be going?”

Norio lifted his chin. “Are you not upset at those two having a picnic while there is evil looming?”

“If I’m honest, this is the only time I have ever seen you so out of…control, I think?” Jace went on.

Ren took a breath and sat back down. He refocused on his meal. He was not sure why she bothered him so much. Jace made a face at him. “I’m alright.” He assured, even if he in fact had no idea if that was true.

*

“Ky’on, please.” She avoided his gaze. “Is there a point?

“That is the point, isn’t it?” He answered. “You never gave me a chance to say goodbye, I’m sorry, or it’s not what you think…”

“Really.”

“You chose to forget us.”

“No, you did.” Aoife slammed the fruit she was eating back on to her plate. “You speak of privilege. Isn’t she its definition? I could not give you what you wanted.”

“It isn’t as you think. I was trying to save you from ending up like Ren, being bought and sold. The courts were close to selling us all when Crelian was at its lowest. They wanted to rent you to the highest bidder on some contract. What would you have become?”

“The Leaman sought me out.”

“Because I whispered to the Crelian leader your aptitude for wielding nature.” He informed her. “I will always have you in mind. It’s just the impression you have left on me. There. I have said it.”

Aoife sighed. “So, you have.” She looked over her shoulder at the others. “We should get going.”

“Admit to nothing,” He stood. “That is fine. You’ve never admitted to anything before. Why should I expect to hear a word of truth now?”

She sighed. “What truth could ever recover what is lost?” She finally gave into her anger. “You ruined us. You did that. Made me forget myself. Forget everything I ever wanted for myself. All I ever did was want you and it nearly killed me.” It was what she needed to say. He understood. He understood it all.

*

The band gathered what they could and prepared for departure. They were close to leaving the polished hideaway, glass-castle when Aelsa softly entered the room. Aoife turned to her as the others seemed to tense up. She was given a smile. So, she returned it. It was as if she wanted to say something to the group of them, but did not know how. It seemed strange. Aoife was sure this was one fairy that never hesitated to speak. She seemed almost afraid to.

“Be well.” She finally stated. “Be careful.”

And that was all that was said by the famed prisoner of the Gregor Castle. The caravan of fae moved forward in silence. It was a strange awakening for them all. The moving forward on a quest that they all now felt it was their destiny somehow. Aoife stepped forward in the direction of Mondelear. The gang of warriors followed closely.

“We have to succeed.” They heard her say.

“How do we do that when we have no idea what the problem is?” Norio questioned.

“There is no mistake of us being the ones that will shift things.” She went on. “You can see that, right? Even if your father thought it a wonder-of-an-idea to send the degenerates of the lands to go off into a losing battle, it does not mean we have to lose. “ She nodded. “I’ll do all that I can to rectify things. Even if that means challenging the Fey King himself.”

Ren looked in her direction. “Can I have a word?”

“Say what’s on your mind.” She turned to him.

“Away from the others.”

“If it has nothing to do with them.” The silence was more than palpable. Ren got his way as she did walk away from the others…

*

Norio turned to Ky’on. The feeling he was getting. The words stirred in his head. He wrestled, unsure if they should remain in thought. He surveyed the sky, then the ground. His mind debated this until Ky’on sighed. Jace shook his head. The three knew what was coming next. It would be an uncomfortable conversation.

“She is not yours.” Norio uttered. “You must remember that before having private picnics.”

Ky’on ignored his rant.

“Look how confused she is now,” Norio went on. “We were sent out to fail. It was as clear as day…”

We went out to fail, Heir to the Leaman Court. You are not one of us, you cocky fool of a fae.” Ky’on came close to him. “You have no idea who she is. If you did, you would have never spoken so selfishly. Haven’t she proven that she is more than just any fae.”

“I know she is,”

Jace entered the conversation. “Then why the outburst? You sound as if you are wanting her to fail. Wanting this to end in your favor not hers.”

“She will find answers and something tells me, you do not want her to find them.” Ky’on made a face.

Norio took a few steps toward him. “Make it plain...”

*

They were far enough not to be heard even with the slightly raised voice of Ren trying to calmly explain to Aoife how her approach was very much the wrong one. He wanted to sound logical and not emotional. She, however, knew better and had no problem telling him that.

“We are but a few miles from the source of this looming doom, Ren. You stand here in doubt.”

“Doubt of the journey not its end.” He tried to explain. She did not understand. “You know who I am, you know where I’ve been. In all of my travels, I have never heard of any being threatening the Fae King and survived that threat.”

“Not emotional, eh?”

“Aoife.” He paused. “Focus on the source of this current threat. The red ribbon noosing itself around us all. Leave the court drama to play out as they will.”

“It was not their fault you were rented out. “ She reminded him, “You are not me.”

Ren glanced down at his feet. “No. Nor you me,” He nodded. “I am sorry.”

Aoife touched his arm and watched him startle. She laughed. “I repel you now?”

He shook his head. “No, that is not…” He touched the hand on his forearm. “Do you feel this?’

“I’m not dead.”

“No.” He moved in closer. “Do you feel this?”

Aoife looked at him a bit. She noticed a sudden change in his eyes. It was a subtle shift, from brown to auburn. His gaze seemed a bit different or the same and his touch was different. His body was close in a way she was familiar with, but not with the warmth this came with. She hadn’t felt it before. Her eyes went back to his. He must have known it.

“I thought we agreed.” She whispered. He touched her face. “Ren.”

“When are we ever going to be this alone?”

“When everything is done.” She focused him.

He nodded in agreement, but his hands on the base of her back, drawing her closer spoke of a sooner time and place. The hush of the trees and sweet calls of the flight animals above them urged his move further in. His lips were inviting.

“We never asked how…” Aoife offered. “Who broke the spell?”

Ren shifted his head so he could look down at her. “We did.”

*

Ky’on held his head as he had to hear Norio go on and on about legacy and lore. He spoke exactly as a privileged court would speak when threatened. Jace occasionally laughed until he didn’t. The frustration in Norio’s voice was almost pitiful. They let him finish nonetheless. Once he was done. Ky’on took a deep breath.

“I think you should head back.” He made it plain. “We must stay on track. Whatever this is that we will encounter will require a concentration that we were never needed to have before.”

Jace began to walk toward Aoife and Ren’s direction. “It’s time to leave the work to the expendables.”

Norio shook his head. “This is the concern of us all. You don’t have to like a thing I’ve said.”

“You’re saying it, at this time, is a problem.” Ky’on warned. “Neither of us will end up with her either way. Let’s not pretend we don’t know what’s happened or what’s happening.” He turned from Norio. “Go home.”

Jace continued walking away from the two. Ky’on’s body moved to leave when Norio’s sigh made him hesitate. He knew that sound. It was the release of disappointment. It was the acceptance of the unspeakable. This may have been the only thing the two had in common.

*

Ren kept her close a moment more. He wanted to remember everything about the moment. He wanted to remember it was their choice, even if the spell and its current state was not at all planned. It was their mutual decision to complete the task at hand before fully expressing their feelings for each other. It was the only thing he could remember owning.

“I see your magic, in your eyes, did I tell you?” Aoife made him smile. “You show me each time. I just don’t know what they all signify.”

Ren made a face. “It takes time. Some are obvious. Some I don’t even know exist. It is the mark of my people, you know. The wonder of the Wundershault” he smiled again.

“I thought that was you?” They laughed slightly embarrassed at their new experience.

Another body entered their view. The two separated slowly. Jace nodded. He looked behind him to signify Ky’on’s approach. When Ky’on did appear, the two noticed quickly that he was alone. Aoife stepped forward and looked off behind him.

“He’s not …” Ky’on began but Aoife knew him well and gave him a look. “He has a different opinion on things, Aoife. It isn’t safe. He is one of the aristocrats. How is this helping his advance?”

She frowned. “We need his witness. He will go directly back to his people.”

“You are his people.” He reminded her. “You are of Leaman .”

Jace cleared his throat. “ We must move forward and figure out how we will address what we may find.”

Ren’s head whipped toward the trees. There was movement. He drew his sword. “I do not like these trees. they don’t say what they mean. “ His eyes did their searching. “Jace is right.”

“I usually am.” Jace led the way forward. The group came to a small open field with a rock-solid wall in front of them. He shook his head. “This has no business here.”

Ky’on moved toward the wall. He touched it . He could almost feel its magic. “I don’t think we can go any further.”

Ren looked over at him. “Figured that out all on your own , did you?”

Sarcasm was ignored for fear. There was an approach to something. The sound came from all sides. They were in defensive positions, but Aoife saw something the others did not. Ren noticed this and stared as hard as he could in the direction of her gaze. He saw nothing. He saw Aoife extend her hand. She lowered it slowly and the leaves and branches. in a wave, revealed it self. The reason they were not seeing the persons who surrounded them, was because of a very smart glamour. Ren swore under his breath

“No one saw it.” Aoife made clear. It was a Wundershault trick, but it was not that type of fey who stood before them.

The long arm of the slender male fae extended to them. it was a motion that suggested they lead the way. The four were confused. It wouldn’t take long for them to realize, the wall in front of them had begun to dissolve. They were shown a bright caravan of guards. Not just any Guard. They represented the highest legion there was. It was The Fae King’s Royal Brigade.

*

Ky’on felt uneasy. It was all he could think to describe the anxiousness he had being locked in a well decorated, fully stocked, and nectered living room. They actually had nectar in barrels and goblets. His eyes were gazing at the amount of it. Was there an event going on? He pondered and pondered until his bewilderment was extinguished and led to an unfriendly feeling of terror. A figure came into view, moving familiar-like toward him. He looked off.

*

Jace tried the door a few times. His room was pale and quiet. He was used to stone but not of this color. It nearly had no true metal. He could almost see the heat releasing itself. It was stifling. He attempted to draw air and produce a breeze. It only made him weaker and his body collapsed from the energy.

*

Ren sat in the middle of the room. They kept him chained to a post. It was something he was too familiar with. He's been in worse predicaments. His mind was busy. He calmed it the best he could while he searched for her. He could sense her. He's done it before. There was sudden movement in the room that kept him from fully concentrating. It was an animal, a rather large one . It was there to threaten him. It would not deter him from his purpose.

*

Aoife purposefully took in the atmosphere. It was a cool, moist room. It was adorned with ivy and all manner of roses. The flutters flew about and lighting bugs sparked all along the ceilings and walls. Her breaths were easy, always in this type of air. She felt her body fill with life. She also felt a presence. She wasn’t sure who it was, but they were watching her.

“You are anything but polite.” She called out in the direction of the hidden presence. “Where are my friends? What’s the purpose of separating us? You have no idea why we have come.”

“He’s gone” She heard Ren’s voice say. “He purposefully put us here, separating us from the others. “ She looked at him. “Are you alright?”

She looked at his eyes and noted the dark of them. They remained the same color for longer than she’d ever seen. She shrugged. “He’s obviously threatened by us.”

“He should be.”

“Ren.” Her hand went up. “Were you not the one that said…” Her head swooned a bit. She thought he heard a voice in her head call her name. “Perhaps the air in here isn’t as lovely as I thought. “

“There needs to be answers and since he is the one we answer to…” He shrugged. “I have to hear what he has to say. I have to hear it from his mouth.”

Aoife shook her head. “What are you talking about…” Her head spun again. This time she could swear she heard her name. Her eyes widened. “What have they infused here?”

Ren looked around and exclaimed almost, “What was the plan? We did have a plan…”

“You know damn well we had no plan.” She sighed. “What do we do now? And stop acting as if you are about to do something big and bold. It was agreed. We are not approaching anything boldly until I figure out things.”

He looked at her a bit with a slight smile. “You are take-charge.”

“Thought you preferred me that way?”

“I would say, “ he paused. “It is extremely attractive.”

Aoife… She heard Ren’s voice in her head. She looked at the fey in front of her and then away.

“Ren?” She questioned in-mind. This was altogether strange. She turned from the fey. “Why are you in my head?

“They have me tied or else I would’ve knocked every wall down to find you.” His voice was so loud, she thought the fey in front of her heard.

“May I ask, why have you locked us away?” Aoife questioned the imposter. “We mean no harm...well, it is not our goal.”

“Who are you talking to…?”

It was a strange and slight shift that revealed the older and handsome face of the Sovereign of the Fey families. His authority nearly exuded from his skin. He gave a nod. Aoife took a breath.

“I thought it a good glamour.” He admitted to her. “It was a good glamour.”

She began to breathe a bit faster. “I am not here to see how good your magic is. I am here to understand why we are not being warned about the menace in the skies.”

“The only menace I see are the three of you.” The room shifted and the room presented itself in its true form. It was a stone room. the green sifted away. The guards were obvious and held long spears. “Threaten me.”

“No one….”

“Kneel and state your lineage. I must know who to hold responsible for you three.”

“We represent the houses…”

“Kneel!” he ordered. “The imprudence. Exclaiming the scheme to use your lack of talents on me.” Aoife could not get a word in. “You will pay dearly.”

She’d had enough. Her mind again shifted to the mind of the chained Ren She felt a bit of a tug. Her skin tingled, then sensed a cooling breeze knock her into a swift darkness. When her eyes got it’s clarity and her feet lost it’s wobbling, she saw him. He was exhausted on the floor, bound with chains.

“Be still.” he told her and motioned to the large animal behind her. She began to sturn…”Still!” She froze. “How did you get here?”

“That isn’t the question.” Aoife felt it’s presence, the animal. “I will try and communicate with it.”

Ren shook his head. “Careful.”

“Let me try.” He nodded as the animal’s breath blew against her neck. She turned slowly. Her eyes noted the soft breaths of the animal. The eyes on it were closed. “It is asleep.”

“How can you tell?”

She saw a paw extended. “I can see better in the dark apparently. “ she gently touched the greyish fur on the animal. Her fingers intertwined with it. She sensed a presence in it’s mind. “We won’t have long. It is asleep, but it’s monitored by our host.” After she freed Ren, her eyes searched for a way out. “Ren…”

“There isn’t a way.” He shook his head. “He is good.”

“He is the best of us.”

“No.” He stopped her. “He isn’t. Where are the others? We were a quartet.”

“Oddly, he kept referring to us as a trio.” Ren gave a look. “Can you find them like you found me?” He nodded. “If we are together, perhaps a chance to get past the Guards at least.”

“You can do what I do, Aoife.” Ren told her. “You still don’t believe in yourself. It’s the single most frustrating thing about you.” She gave him a look. “Can’t believe she…”

“What are you rambling on about?” She demanded. “I hear a rather unpleasant tone. And this is not the time for that.”

“You can get into the beast's mind, shift your body through what-ever-mineral, claim…” he shook his head. “I believe you are not just any Fey, Aoife. In fact, I know you are more. You lack the confidence and I blame every single caustic fey that ever crossed your path. They knew what I know and made you a doubter. “

Aoife turned from him. She took a deep breath and let her mind search…

*

Ky’on could not believe his eyes. Who was this coming toward him? It was Aoife, clad guard-wear. He was confused. She approached him slowly. She seemed just slightly taller in the Fey King’s uniform. She gave a command to the guards in the room and they vanished. She extended a hand to him. He looked down at it. When he did not approach her, she came in closer, Aoife did.

“Ren, he…” She could not finish. “You told me about him.”

“What did he do? Why are you dressed like that?”

She shook her head. “I spoke to him. Our Sovereign. He told me that it was Ren that led us here. That we need to join his legion, if we want to rid the Fey world of terrors like that which looms over head. Ren had other plans…”

“As he often does, but” He paused again. “He would do anything for you. He would be standing here in uniform, just the same, if that meant not leaving you again.”

“Is he standing here?” She shook her head. “I am here with you.”

“Thank you.” He scoffed and looked off. “The air here is thick, almost. I can not pick up or handle the air. “

She nodded. “ I believe that was the idea.” She attempted to walk by him, but a metal part of her uniform snagged to his robe. The two went to fix the situation and their hands touched. “I’m sorry”

He removed her hand away slowly, holding it just enough to send a message to his receptors and trigger a feeling he’d been trying to suppress. His eyes closed. He sensed her slight tug. She drew him closer until their lips brushed. Ky’on’s restraint was spent. His arms took her in and seemed to vow never to let go.

*

Jase could barely move but he felt a presence near. There was someone in the room with him. The air was awfully thick and he could hardly breathe. He must be hallucinating the figure. But then it touched him. His eyes widened. The female Fey extended her arms out toward the room. She muttered a few words and he began to feel an ease to his muscles. The air lightened enough for him to draw in air then use that air to lift his body to its feet. He took it in a bit more. Then, looked over to his rescuer.

“I don’t even know how you do these things.” He moved his limbs. “ But I am grateful.”

“Be grateful later.” Another in the room stated. “The two of us can not get Ky’on in our reach. “ It was Ren. He felt around the walls. “Where is your friend?”

“The walls are not made of any limitations. There are spells layered into them. So the air was always here, Jase. “ Aoife finally spoke. “ He is truly a terror, Our Sovereign. “

“Let me try one more.” Ren calmed himself so that he could concentrate.

“We have to get out of here.” Jase reminded them.

“That is the idea.”

*

The experience was passionate. He’d forgotten how to make her feel loved. She seemed appreciative of the effort. She held his face for a while. They lay amongst the silken sheets that covered the long sofa. He held her tightly. She gave an uncharacteristic giggle. It made him smile. His hand caressed the nut butter skin. He was amazed by her. He’d almost forgotten his purpose here.

“So there you are.” Almost forgotten. “Searched for a time to narrow you down to this. “

Ky’on shook his head. “What are you doing here, Ren?”

“No,” Ren stated seriously. “What are you doing here? You have chosen to spend your time spinning in webs with this one.“ He paused. “Hold on. I see it now. The spell is a strong one.”

Ky’on was confused. He looked over towards Aoife. She was throwing her clothes on. “Aoife.”

“That isn’t her.” Ren looked off. “I am almost feel sorry for you. Hurry and dress. There will be three of us here soon. “

Ky’on was going to question him more but the image before him disappeared. He must’ve used some sort of mind-link. He was a trickster that way, but what did he mean? He turned back to Aoife. “I don’t know what…” That was when he saw her, really saw her. She knew he could see her and stood. The blood left his head. His emotions were stifled. He’d made a mistake.

“I could explain, but it won’t make a difference.” the woman stated. “I just wanted to keep you safe and I had no idea how. “ Her face was seen. Xia was revealed.

Ky’on lowered his head. He got dressed rather quickly. Xia approached him. “And I am to marry you now?” He walked across the room.

“It isn’t as if you would ever show me the same affection.”

“I never would use your affection against you either.” Ky’on found a chair to sink in. “You do not love me, Xia. You own me. Play me around like a fool. Now everyone knows it.”

“ Ren is no one. “ She corrected. “He’ll find that out soon enough.”

“What do you mean?” The room shifted a bit and three figures appeared.

Jace noticed Xia and made a face. “Who invited…” He looked at Ky’on. “She came for you.”

“Can we not?” Ren entered the conversation. “ She is here by invitation apparently. “

Xia gave a glance to the quiet Aoife. “I came looking for progress. The red smoke in the sky is dimming. Fading. Going away.” She looked between them. “Your journey of sorts was a waste of time.” Her arms folded. “There is no threat.”

“Why could he not tell us this?” Aoife finally spoke. “He nearly killed Jace with his manipulation.”

“What?” Ky’on’s head shot up.

“He is the threat.” Aoife assured. Ky’on put his hand up “He bound Ren, about to feed him to a large animal. Then used an illusion to try and convince me he was Ren. What is the purpose?”

Ky’on sighed. “To show his strength. To show how much he knows about us.” He shook his head. “Or was told about us.” The three others looked to Xia. “Leaving is the only choice we have.”

“I want answers.” Aoife went on.

“Has anyone else met him?” Ren asked. When no one answered, he turned to Xia. “You have never met him? How is it you come to be here?”

Jace came toward her. “ There are ways we can find out.”

“You are a bastard.” Xia uttered. “Truly show yourself each time.”

“I am not here to argue with you, but you have no idea what this monster has done to someone he knows nothing about. You are a wretched woman.” Jace was truly upset. “The first thing I will do, when I get back, is to take this news to father. You have pushed too far.”

Xia laughed. “Father?” She then scoffed. “What does he know of you?”

“Enough” Ky’on came to his friend’s defense. “None of this will aid in our search for answers. The smoke dissipates, what would our question be?”

Aoife turned to him. “We ask about the defense he put on. About his preparation to kill a handful of his own subjects. We ask him about his desperation.”

Ren’s chin lifted. “He sure wanted some of us dead. “

“And others of us, deceived.” Ky’on added.

The door to the room suddenly opened. A female fae, slender and dark, approached them slowly. She looked between them before she spoke.

“ I send apologies from Our Lordship, Our Leader, the Fae King Cleary.” her arms extended. There were three pale feathers. “Each one of these will take you to your accommodations for the evening. He will apologize in the morning over the first meal. “

“There are only three.” Aoife pointed out the obvious.

She tilted her head to Aoife. “One for the Crealean male, One for the betrothed, the last for you and your lover. Please accept it, and with it, his apologies.”

“We move how you move, Aoife.” Jace spoke for them.

With a slight hesitance, Aoife took hold of one. Ky’on of one. Jace of the other.

*

Ren looked over the room. He looked over the room intensely. His eyes searched the corners. He rubbed his chin. Grabbing a chair to get a better look of the ceilings and corners, his eyes found a few tiny animals, who were placed into small ventilations all around the room. He stared at them as they squirmed in his hands. He crushed them. They were tiny spies. Flying insects that could mimic sounds of others. They were trainable and often used to relay information to and fro secretly. He washed his hands and looked over himself in the mirror.

He’d shower earlier as there was plenty of clothing in the cabinets, hidden cleverly in the pristine walls. He was satisfied with his search and opened the door to the baths. He paused at Aoife’s steps out of the large tub. She’d just wrapped a towel around her body.

‘Is everything alright?” She asked him.

“Apologies.” His eyes dropped. “Our host had eyes everywhere. I’d cleared this room, then the bedroom. I opened the door in haste.”

Aoife nodded. “It’s alright, Ren.”

“I’ll have the attendant bring you something to eat and some water.”

“Are you not getting anything?” She questioned. He made a face. “You don’t serve me.”

He looked off. “At times…” he left the room. His mind saw decades of servitude and abuse. He nearly sulked near the window. He looked out onto the greens and blues that surrounded the grounds.

It did not take long for him to feel a comforting hand touch him slightly on his back. “Whatever they did to you, will never be done to you again. “ Aoife’s hand turned his face to her. “Do you believe me?” He looked at her. “Trust me?”

“We’ve discussed this.” Ren has nearly hypnotized from her touch. “More than anyone, I trust you.” She tugged at his shirt. “Aoife.”

“I trust you. “ His hand tried to remove hers. She resisted. “I remember us, years ago. I would say I trust you. You would always say…” She tugged his shirt from his night pants.

Ren raised a brow. “I...am wondering what you are doing …”

“You would say…” He shrugged. He grew uncomfortable at the prompting.“You want a reminder?”

He completed the removal of his shirt. “I would say..I trust you too. “ She made a face. He smiled. “I would say 'I love you'.” His eyes looked into her.

“Then you would try and kiss me. I knew you remembered” She smiled and it melted him. “They’re the warmest of brown” She referred to his eyes.

“Will you never say it back?” He asked.

Aoife nodded. “Of course.” Her steps circled him. Her hands traced across his chest and along his rugged back. After inspecting his back, she moved in close. “We are alone again.” She whispered in his ear. “What do two people in love do next? “ His head shifted to face her.

“Apparently, anything they want.”He turned his body to her. “What is it you want, Aoife?” he asked seriously. “Is it me? With everything and all the many events I have experienced...Look at me, Aoife.”

“When did we switch our roles?” She wondered. “You were the sure one. You were firm.”

“About most things.” He admitted. “I am not like the others.”

“You never were.” She held his face. “It’s what made loving you so easy.” She kissed him lightly “I always knew who I was with you. “ her kiss got deeper. “I love you, Ren Rahily. Would appreciate the opportunity to show you how much.”

Her words were the only fuel he ever needed. Ren could not restrain his feelings any longer. So, he let them go, hoping she’d receive him. He wanted to make sure she knew how he would protect her. Understand how far he could go for her, if only she’d ask . She must know how much he needed her.

She knew.

*

Ky’on was the first one to enter the large hall. Jace followed. Xia entered next with a bewildered look on her face. It did not go unnoticed. Jace extended his arms to ask what happened. She handed a document to Ky’on. He took it and read it out loud to Jace. The words caused Jace to take a few steps back.

“Where did you get this?” Ky’on asked Xia. “How did you get this?”

“I intercepted it.” She admitted. “There was a drunk guard who hadn’t seen me. He’d been speaking of a rumor. He spoke of a threat to the Fae King. He read the decree-draft aloud…”

Ky’on folded the paper and dug it into his pocket. “She’s in trouble.”

“We all are.” Jace corrected. “We were all there. The Fae Aelsa must be found. It never said she was dead. It merely said missing. He kept us here just in time to draw this up.”

“He doesn’t want us.” Xia reminded.. “It’s just Ren and Aoife. “

“ Damn!” Ky’on shouted. “Where in the kingdom are they?”

*

Aoife concentrated on the condensation around the window. She drew it toward her. She floated it over to Ren, who consumed it. His reaction made her smile. She knew why. There was something to the pureness of the morning that made the waters almost sweet. Ren shook his head. He was impressed.

“Haven’t you ever had dew from off the flora, early morning?” She finished dressing. “It’s the only way to begin the day. “

“I don’t wield nature.” He stretched his limbs. “Only Leaman can manipulate nature.”

“No Leaman can do that.” She admitted. “None that I know of. “
“What else can you do that they can not?”

“I can understand, almost hear animals. I make them do as I will. “ Ren approached her. “manipulation of the mind is of the Wendershault. Can I manipulate Fae mind?”

“Most likely.” He told her. He realized very quickly what she was trying to tell him. “Aoife.” He knelt before her. “You are audible.” He paused. “ You are powerful. The Wendershult mind, my mind, is not easily manipulated. You could not manipulate me to love you. “

She shrugged. “The others. Perhaps,”

“They manipulated you. “ He corrected. “I have seen enough to know it. Enough to see it, truly see it.” Ren looked deep into her. “What worries you?”

“I see the lies.” She admitted. “Truly see it.” He understood. “Do you see the spells?”

Ren paused more than a bit. He wasn’t going to answer. She was sure of it. “You can do so much more. “ She stood. He followed. “I am determined to see every step you make. Every revelation. I’ll keep a record of it. I always wanted a library.” Aoife gave in and smiled. “I could fill a library.”

Her smile faded. “We can not go back.”

“Had no intention.” He reached for her, but in that moment the two caught a feeling. An urgent one. It made Ren move toward his sword. It was taken. He'd forgotten.

“I don’t think we’ll need a weapon.” Aoife frowned. “He knows our play. I don’t know if it’s him.”

Ren stared at the door. “He separated us. Everytime i think I know his hand…”

The door was knocked. Aoife’s chin lifted. “I sense worry. Fear.”

“It is not coming from me.” Ren almost strutted to the door. He flung it open only to have the people behind it rush him back in and close it once more.

“They are coming for her!” Ky’on exclaimed. He was not planning on settling. He seemed angry and the walls all around them were also. Ren touched his shoulder and the room ceased its rattle. He glanced at Ren. He nodded.

Aoife walked to Ky’on. “What exactly are they coming for?”

Xia answered. “A lady is dead. they presume you killed her.”

“Xia.” Jace interrupted. “It never said she was dead.”

Ren glanced at Aoife. “I’ll try and find her.”

“Hastily, please.” She turned to Ky’on. In almost an instant a vision took her. That was how she would describe it to the others. It was brief and descriptive all at once.

“What is it?”

“A vision” Aoife answered. “And not.”

Ren looked toward her. “No.”

Xia shifted her neck. “Why ‘no’?”

“You saw the trees?” Ren questioned. “You saw them? Did you see the home?”

Aoife was surprised at it all. Had he seen the same? “ What…?”

“When the fighting starts, that is where…”

The pound on the door was followed quickly by an explosion of scents and gases. The small band succumbed to its blow, knocking them to and fro. Ren got to Aoife quickly and held her shoulders. He began to chant and cast a spell she was all too familiar with. She had to feel his face to make sure it was him. She eased his face toward her to kiss his lips. She knew what he was going to do.

“I knew it was too good.” She heard him say. “I love you.”

“Ren, no.” She begged. “Ren, No!”

“You will find me there.” She shook her head. “Sleep”

“No…”

Second Story

The gold of the tapestries were shining brightly after its cleaning. The laundry was completed before lunch and lunch itself was prepared and ready. Servants waited for their master’s prompt. It was an ordinary day with an un-ordinary feeling. A foreboding? It was felt throughout the kingdoms. It was felt throughout the lands of Meifhal. It’s people were uneasy despite the sun in the skies.

The skies.

It had been six years since the last time any fae had seen an oddity in the air. When it was spotted, it shifted everything. No one was ever the same. The only difference this time was the faces of those in positions of power. They were wiser. They’ve seen more in their young ages to move with urgency.

The lead of the Crealean Fae sent out a trusted member of his court. It was said he sought out a friend who knew more about what was to come. The young prince did as he was told and searched for the Wendershault Fae in lands he was truly unfamiliar with. His search led him to a small populated area outside Wendershault territory called Ku’rad. It was gaining much popularity with the nobles, as was its assigned leader.

When the young messenger arrived, he took care to respect the rules of the lands he trespassed on. He knew all about them. He was trained to know.

“What are you doing here?” The gentleman at the gate stopped the dark haired fae. They were light-haired here, mostly. So, he questioned.

“I came for a stop over.” The messenger confessed. “I am hungry and need a place to rest. It will be just for the night. My destination leads me elsewhere. I promise.” He might be lying, but the broot won’t know.

The gentleman at the gate scoffed. “All weapons are checked at the gate. You can retrieve it on your departure. All weapons.”

“I have none.” he confessed, even though he was not believed. “You can search me.”

His request was granted. When the gentleman was satisfied. He assigned him quarters for the night.


*

The dream was vivid.

Hands ran up his arm. He felt it but did not want to wake from this dream. The story it was telling was important. Even in the state he was in, he could feel it. The woman, whose face was familiar, wielded power he had never seen before. The winds, the land and fires were in her control. He needed to see the end, but again the hand ran up. His consciousness shifted.

“I thought you would never wake.” the woman next to him hummed. “ Aren’t you hungry? I am.”

Ky’on turned his body onto its back. “Do you feel it?” He asked her.

“Feel what, exactly?” she wondered. “Hunger?”

“Xia, “ He sat up. “Something has changed.”

*

The messenger dusted off his clothes prior to entering the lavish...Library of sorts. It was actually a safe haven for all fae. Where they can find lodge, food , and drink under a well protected canopy. It was a recent accomplishment of one Wendrshault who had been recently released from his decades of servitude. The one who knew every way to make a Fae’s stay enjoyable and free from critique or criticism. It was popular. It was getting very popular.

The messenger looked around for a fae he had never met but knew he would recognize by the long sword he always carried and shoulder-length white hair. His eyes searched but he saw none who resembled that description. There was, however, one with hair low on the scalp, white but only barely showing. He was sitting in a corner with said sword. He looked off, dreaming from the looks of it.

The messenger took steps toward the fae. He cleared his mind of any thought. He knew exactly where he was and what mind strength these fae had. “You move with intention.” A voice rang in his head.

“I do indeed.” The messenger continued forward until he faced the Fae. “So, you are him.”

The Fae finished his drink. “And who are you?”

“I’ve been sent to rescue a female fae from the prison you placed her in.” The messenger stated. “That is who I am.”

*

The eyes went to the skies. It was unavoidable now. He had to make some declaration to his people. They must know that the Leaman Court will handle any circumstance. The heir was ready to take this on personally as he did once before. So, when he approached his father, he did so with extreme ferver like he had never known. He was fully knowledgeable of where not to search. He went on and on to his father’s annoyance.

“Norio, you will cease your pursuit of this.” Sada quietly, yet sternly said. “I will dispatch a select member of the guard to …”

“Father, “ he interrupted. “You will need more might than you know. “

“That is the end of this conversation.”

“I am not finished!” Norio heard himself say rather loudly. He was no longer that timid young man. “ It is time for us to take our stand against this pending evil, Father. No more waiting. Our fae are anxious. “ His father glanced at him. “We can not fail them. The strongest of us went out there and nearly lost themselves. The sooner we gather our forces for what is to come, the better.”

The leader of the Leaman court nodded. He nodded slowly. “formulate a plan. I will hear it out in two days.”

With that, the heir had his first lead assignment.

*

Ren took a deep breath. His eyes finally raised to meet the messenger, who seemed perturbed at waiting. He had to be sure however, that this was not a ruse of some sort. He went through great pains to keep Aoife safe. He would be upset with himself if he’d let even one good-intentioned fae know her whereabouts. He’d stayed this far from any major fae city purposefully to avoid a moment like this. Who was this fae and how did he know where to find him?

“You can explain at any minute.” He reached for his drink as the young messenger sighed.

“They told me you were cocky.” The others around them were watching. “You don’t need to worry. I have no weapon.” Ren rolled his eyes. He folded his arms. “You know what’s coming. The Crelean Court sent me to make sure we have her to help us combat this threat. “

“Is that right?”

“If we get her out now, we can make it to the Mondelear gates…”

“What did you say?” Ren stopped him. A look was given. “You want me to tell you where she is before you figure out the threat?” his head shook. “I am not Crelean. I am surely not Leman. Don’t come to me with no plan. No purpose.”

The messenger grew angry. “You are an arrogant fae. You believe you are the only one in these lands willing to protect her? Protect our future? “ he slammed an arm on the table on the next words he spoke. “When was the last time she saw anyone she knew? Spoke to anyone who has ever supported her, Oh benevolent-one?”

Ren stood to his feet. “Who are you?”

“Get her out of her prison.”

“Do more to convince me.”

“Would you really like me to?” Ren did not care for his tone. The messenger saw this and again calmed himself down. “My brother, he is not well. “ It was obvious that he did not want to disclose this to him. “He has waited to call on her. I have been impatient waiting for his call. He knew, in dreams, that the threat would return. It haunted him. It affected him. Once she is freed, I know she could bring him back to normalcy.”

Ren thought. His mind went to that room in the Fae King’s castle. It may have left some damage. He was the worst hurt. There may be some truth. Because of this, Ren sat back. “Jace could have called on me. I am a Wendershault.” He shook his head. “Was Ky’on oblivious to this?”

“When Jace took over the seat, Xia took over Ky’on. He hasn’t been in possession of his own will for a time. My sister is...well...He’s hers now.” He sighed. “Are we in agreement?”

Ren nodded. “What is your name?”

“Alego.”

*


The flowers of the gardens were so fragrant this time of year, this time of day. That was the only way for Aoife to recognize the season. It was spring, but only barely. The air would lose its moisture again and she would have to travel further up into the mountains. She didn't mind it. She enjoyed the winter animals and foliage was just a blancher hue of nature. It almost excited her. It was the only thing she could look forward to. A difference in something was only novel the first year or two. She then had to shift perspective on that third year, for no matter how much she searched, there were no new flower or tree buds that would or could surprise her. Boredom was not a good companion.

There were books however. Several shelves of books. Three that lay open. Each day presenting a new read. Presenting a new rhythm to her strengths. Guiding her to be stronger. Pointing out ways she could wield every element. Wielding in ways she was never taught or ever tried. She knew they were enchanted. She also knew who was smart enough to place them there, a world within a world. These lands could only be found by those knowing the enchantment. It was something she was sure Ren would never give away easily.

*

Norio listened closely as the little insect released the words, and direction Ren gave to Alego, into his ear. He turned to his small band and gave a sign for them to follow him. They were off soon enough

*

Ky’on walked the halls of Ku, the great City of the Wind. He wanted to visit Jace, as it had been quite a while. The new role as head of Court had Jace far too busy to come by his home, no matter how near it was. His feet quickened as he got closer to the steps of The great court itself. Every Fey court has one, a hall to house the seat of authority. This was where movements in the realm commenced before going to the Fey King. This was where he’d find Jace for certain. Ever since Tor Keawe got news from the Fey King himself in regards to how brave the Crealean was, the bond between Tor and Jace grew stronger. Jace was finally recognized.

“You are not here.” Ky’on’s eyes searched. “Then where?”

The court was quiet. It was never quiet. Could there be a secret assembly of constituents meeting that he had not known of? That meeting often took place in the commoners court. His feet moved in that direction. His body was very aware. There was no other way to describe the urgency. He sensed something very wrong. His feet quickened to a run. He bypassed the conference room and flew toward the Royal chambers.

“Jace!” he called and kept calling until he was at his friend’s bedside. His feet halted and he fell to his knees. “Jace.”

“Counselor,” a weak voice forced the word out. “A job was done on me, Friend” His breaths quickened.

Ky’on shook his head. “Is this an illness? What is this ? You were not like this when I was last here. You were whole. It wasn't so long…”

“Ky’on,” he motioned from his bed. His hand motioned to his bedside table. A small box was sitting there. Ky’on struggled but he got to his feet. “Don’t say no.”

The Crelean guard at Jace’s bed side moved. He picked up the small gray metallic box and extended it to Ky’on. The confusion was his, but Ky’on did take it, did open it.

“Your signet?”

“My little authority.” Jace nearly whispered. “I am giving to you until I am well. “ His friend’s eyes widened. “Until they can make me well. Until they can find her.”

*

Aoife picked up the logs, settled them on the twine she stitched together, tied it all well, and dragged it into her cottage home. She’d be making a stew. Something to keep her belly full for a while. She had a lot of reading to do. The spell has her borrowing books from the shelves of other upper-end Fae whose library is cut off from others. She was too excited about this one. It was a thinner book but noted to have a very interesting cover.

“The flame.” Aoife thought to settle near the fire. She sensed a presence and called out to it. “Ren.”

“My Love, “ He answered. They were about to have a conversation audible by them two alone. They always spoke in-mind. They were always available to do so.

She nearly had her face into the small burnt-colored book. “This is a real find. It speaks of an ability to wield fire. I’ve never…Is this a Mondenlear trait?”

There was silence. So she turned toward his voice forgetting he was in her head. He then answered. “There is very little I know about them. It was the one Fae clan who hadn’t demanded my service.” He admitted. “You can do anything, Aoife. Wield away. Whatever you find in that book however, keep close to you. I feel a..strangeness even speaking about it.”

That got her attention. “Hmm. Strangeness.” She could almost hear him smile. “Are you alone, Ren Rahily?” There was a very long pause this time. “I feel ‘no’.”

His presence grew stronger. She felt the shift in the room. She closed the book. “Are you sure that is what you feel? “ He was there. In the flesh he stood there. It was not the first time, but it excited her nonetheless. “May I join you?” He hadn’t let her answer and sat close by her.

“You can do more than that.” She invited. So, he accepted by taking hold of the back of her neck gently, easing her forward into a soft kiss. “Do we have time?”

Ren smiled. “We make time.”

Aoife wished they could be together freely. The distance and limitations were only held together by fear. She needed him available at all times, at any time. If he was truly hers, he would try. After their evening together, he’d ask her to talk freely.

“ Time has passed. “

Ren smiled. “It has.” He turned from her. “What do we do about that?”

“We make time.”

“So, “ he lifted a key. It was attached to a cord. He gently placed it around her neck. “This is to my library.” She made a face. “In my home. “

Aoife touched the bronze item and smiled. “Not exactly a band but I accept. “ He grew nervous. “How long are we waiting?”

“I am sending someone to you. Someone I have no choice but to trust.“ He fixed his clothing. “I, of course, am always being followed. As you know, if you were to use the ability we have to go through spaces, he will be alerted to your presence. Here, for some reason, he has no knowledge. “ Ren looked around. “ The spell my family placed on this home is complicated and intricate, but I am grateful for it.”

Aoife was satisfied and switched the conversation. “For everything you have done, I am so grateful. “

“You are not saying this to me.” he shook his head. “I don’t need appreciation. You know this.”

“And you know I needed to say it.” She held his face. “I love you.”

Ren nodded. “I will see you in a few days. “ She noticed something. “There is a situation…” She continued to keep his face to her. “Jace, it seems, has some residual effects from what happened several years ago. His mind must have been altered somehow, in a way we did not know or notice. The little annoying thing came to tell me that you may be able to assist.”

“You are hesitant.”

“There is something about the timing of all this.” He shrugged. “I knew three days ago that I was going to be standing here today.” He admitted. “You know I do not believe in coincidence.”

Aoife shook her head. “When will you learn to trust?”

“I trust you.” he assured. “It is enough.” He took her in his arms. “I will see you soon”

*

Ky’on stared at the ring.

Jace knew what it meant.

He knew his sister and perhaps even the little brother would be very upset. This was significant. His father is on sabbatical, studying some sort of ancient lore having to do with the Mondelear Court. He has to make sure Jace is well before his father’s return. There was no sign of Alego. he must have caught up to Ren by now.

*

Aoife heard a rustle. She looked in the direction of said noise and saw nothing. There was a spell she could cast that would see everything within a mile. It was extremely difficult and wasn’t worth the effort. She was strong enough now to take on anything or anyone.

Her feet moved quickly as she left her secret home.

*

Ren finished arranging his guest room. Earlier, he supplied the young prince with food and nectar and his fastest stead. He needed to contact Aoife. But inorder to reach her telepathically, he needed complete concentration and stillness, which is increasingly difficult during the day. His hires work the nights. So, the builders and cleaners came in during the day as they slept.

He learned how to connect with Aoife out of sheer frustration, both emotionally and physically. It saved their relationship for sure. They were able to be together without interruption. There was a time when he thought they were destined to be kept apart, but life chose otherwise.

So, he sat and cleared his mind, ready to bring her out of hiding. Well, nearly ready. There was some hesitation but he needed to free Jace. He felt he needed to. He had no idea why.

“Aoife?” Ren’s connection was foggy today. He tried again. “Aoife?”

His body tensed. He did not try again. He used his mind and focused on the hut within the trees. He needed to see her.

*

There they were. Within the trees at the base of the mountain.

Aoife watched three Fae. They sat on horses and wore silvery garb. It was familiar and not. It made her think of another time. Another Life. She drifted in thought of it, which caused her to remember movement, smells…especially one smell. It was of a wood bark Lehman fae called mincin. It wasn’t a popular scent. It was familiar. It was his.

“Are you not going to turn?” The voice sounded the same. Still self-assured.

Aoife’s head turned. She looked over her shoulder at her old commander, lover, and friend. “You were sent?” She looked at the face. He grew even more handsome. He is officially a regent now. How is he rescuing her? ”That is uncharacteristic.”

“You know I have tried to get a better understanding of what happened those years ago.” Norio began a new conversation. “I just heard that the fae king ordered your head for killing his mistress…”

“Captive.” She corrected. “ And no I did not kill her.”

“ I know that, Aoife.”

“Why did he send you?”

“We are back to that.” He sighed. “He was going to send some Fae child to get you. The thing was turned around. We found him on the way and suggested we make the trek instead. He didn’t agree easily but ….there it is.” He glanced at his band. “ Let’s get you out of here.”

Aoife’s gaze looked back into the direction of her home. She felt a pull away, but Ren had said he would send someone. “Alright.”

*

Alego looked all around the house. This was where he was told she would be. The wooded hut was there. It was situated near the base of a snow top mountain. The incantation to enter was not said, so he could not actually go into the home, but he can tell when no life is in something. As he thought this, he saw movement. A confused Ren flew out of the entrance of the home. Afterwhich, he was very confused.

“They found her.” he spoke out, swearing loudly. “How?”

Alego shook his head. “I’ll follow. “

“No.” Ren spoke the words that allowed him to pass off the threshold. They appeared in another area of the forrest. “You will send word to your brother and that other one. We head to the Leaman territories. “

“Leaman?” Alego questioned.

Ren pointed out the hoof marks in the moistened ground near the entrance of the near by forrest.

“I can see them from here.”

“See them from…”Alego shook it off. “I don’t think we have time to go back. And you couldn’t possibly think you’re going to march in front of that bunch and …”

“I only need to speak to one.’

“You are mad.”

“He has her!” Ren yelled. “And he has no idea what he’s brought to his people. My wrath is nothing compared to hers.”

*

Aoife recognized this terra. She stooped down and touched it. The leaves hanging down from off the low branches reminded her, flooding her mind with memories. The training. The missions. The deceit. He must be married by now. Why did he want to find her? They were nowhere near Crelia. She was being duped. She’ll play along though.

“Are you happy to be back?”

Aoife turned the conversation. “How is married life?”

Nori scoffed. “It is living.”

She made a face as they turned into the stables. They dismounted the horses they rode on and servants of the court were quick to take them away. Aoife kept watch.

“We just have to stop by the kitchen before heading to the guest quarters. You must know, your old tree home was remodeled to fit the growing band of troops we gained. Cleared more than a bit of land. Repurposing our trees…”

“Why am I here and not in Crealia?” Aoife gave up her ignorance and asked. “What is your plan?”

Norio paused. “After we get a little something to eat,” he nodded. “I Will show you.”

She kept her eyes moving. There was something he was not saying. When they sat to have a meal, he sat across from her and just stared. Even when the two were given lean meats, flatbreads, butters, and honey. She had to admit she missed these flavors. They felt like home.

No, I’m home with Ren. This felt familiar.

That is right. She shook the thoughts of home off. This was not her home. Leaman was not her people. Thankful for the full belly, but she had to move him to tell the truth.

“Why am I here and not where I should be?”

“Because he had you in a prison.”

“He had me where?” She laughed. “You are one to talk about holding someone in a prison.”

Perhaps she shouldn’t have said that. “My love? A prison?” He slammed his fist on the table, not once but twice. “Is that what you thought all this time? “ He shook his head. “I sought you out. I brought you here to do what I have always done, put you above all else. You run to him after he kept you from everything you’ve ever known. I spoke to my father about giving you a place in our military. Set you up with your own provisions, a stipend…I never kept you off my mind, Aoife. The damned fool that I am, I never will. “

She felt hurt. It did ache a little. “Our time was our time. “ She began. “In it, I could not see the rays of the sun. With him, I am the sun. There is nothing between us but each other. No matter the distance. No matter the influence. No position can compare to that freedom. ” Norio sat back. “With Ren, I am free.”

“Did I not tell you, son?” A voice said behind her. It made Aoife’s skin burn. She’s never liked that voice, but in the stage of her adulthood, it annoyed her into anger. “She’s nothing but a scavenger. Opportunist.” He came into her gaze. “ A strumpet.”

Aoife stood, but she was suddenly shoved back into her chair. She glanced at Norio, who grew nervous. He was very uncomfortable. his eyes looked behind her and so she used her senses to figure things:

Norio knew who just entered the room and could not audibly warn her. She felt something though. It was an energy she had felt before. It was familiar to the point where she had to shift her concentration and close her eyes. Her mind found this one who just entered. She attempted to stand again. This time, no one kept her down. She turned to the entrance and there he stood. Their fey king.

“You have something to say?” Aoife uttered without looking his way.

She heard him scoff. “I will not waste my breath. For you will not remember.”

*

Ren sat in the trees above the Leaman Clan’s main gate. He could not see her but sensed her clearly. He tried speaking in the way they did. Nothing was working. He was sure he was being heard. Why wouldn’t she answer?

*

Aoife’s attention was being called away to his voice, Ren’s voice. She knew he would come. She could not bring that knowledge to the Fey King’s attention. She thought of something. It was threatening but she connected with the coolness in the air, not the moisture. The cool air would guide her to exactly what she wanted.

*

Ren tried one more time to connect with her. He'd leap a few trees over to peer into some windows. They were a bit narrow and stained but he would make her out. He was sure.

“Aoife?” He nearly screamed. His eyes were widely searching.

“Be still. “ he heard her say. He could not.

*

It was the sounds within the woodwork that caught everyone off guard. Then stretching, moaning. At this time, Aoife was concentrating so intently that she felt her brow moisten with perspiration. She continued nonetheless. The Fae king noticed. She expected him to. He took a step back. His concentration began. He was soon in her head.

“What is happening?” Norio began. They all heard but the way he was looking too and fro, no one was quite sure what he was referring to.

“I think you should leave, Son. “ The father ordered. “I believe our leader can handle things from here.” He left leading the way. Norio stalled.

Aoife’s breathing quickened. Her mind was being probed. She could feel it. A spark caught her attention. It was small but she saw it. The Fae king continued to seep into her thoughts. She shook him out a time or two.

A spark.

He would continue to try.

A large spark.

“Aoife…” She heard Norio say. She ignored him.So he grabbed her. “Aoife!”

The Fae king flung Norio against the wall with one glance. It was hard. Aoife gasped and ran toward him. Her feet stopped and her head turned to the sovereign. She was mad. Now, the room began to emit steam. The wooden walls began to sweat and swell. The noise was ominous.

There was a laugh. “You reveal everything.” he told her. His security detail urged him away. “Take her,” he ordered. “Get the Leman guards to drag the heir out of here. “ He turned from them. “And secure the Rahily to the dungeons. He should be somewhere near the East gate.”

Her revenge halted. She did not have to connect with Ren. He already knew. She fell to her knees.

“Get up.” Ren’s voice in her head made her jump. “We will keep up our fight!’

*

Ren drew everything in him to control the minds of the Leaman guards. He had them fiercely attacking each other. More came at him the best they could with spears and swords. He was a talent with his sword though, a real sight to see with a weapon. They could barely touch him. It was that or the suns. They seemed brighter than just moments ago. It was a brightness that came with the heat of the day. Or so he thought.

“ The South Gate!” An alert was rang. A good portion of the Fae took off.

Ren’s eyes followed the group of them. That’s when he saw the immense flames and the thick flow of smoke. “Aoife, Fight.” He started toward the building. There was a tug at his ankles that brought him down quickly. He fell to the ground. His eyes looked down toward his feet and noticed the vines that had him caught. His brows frowned, as he got a sense of what Leaman Fae could catch him off guard.

“You were doing so well for yourself.” Sada told him. “ I do feel bad that this is the way things had to end for you. You are truly a talent.” He motioned to his guards. “...Were a talent. Take him.”

*

The blaze was blinding. Aoife was successful at keeping the Fae King away from her. He was far enough and seemed to not able to tolerate or manipulate the fires. She had one more trick to keep the big, in-charge fae at bay. Her hands gripped the unconscious body of the Leaman heir. She whispered a few words and thought of a way out. She needed to put distance between herself and Leaman lands.

“Ren?” her concentration broke. He didn’t respond.

Should she flee? Should she find him then flee? What of Norio?

“Ren?!”

The smoke was heavy. She tried to summon water from the air, but it was futile. there was not much air left to draw from. If she did not act soon, she and the Leaman air will be finished

*

The shackles were familiar. It had been quite a while, admittingly. He remembered nonetheless. Ren shook his head. What did she do? Was it a mistake to listen to the Crelian boy, even if it was to save the life of a f…fellow fae? Nothing was clear. His eyes kept looking towards the smoke and clamor. She’d done it. She got the attention of the court and the Fae king. What type of attention though? The same as he? Here he was sitting in chains and in the presence of fae he hated.

“Aoife.” He gave a whisper. He couldn’t feel her. He couldn’t even see her, not even a little bit.

A presence grew near. Ren did not need to look up to see him. He could always feel when the Fae King came near. It was odd. It was a different sense than any other of their kind. A ring, He didn’t really hear it. He felt it. Sitting on the cold ground, It started as a hum then emerged to tension in his ears.

“This one goes to the dungeons at Lucian Springs. “ The Fae king demanded. Then he added, “Why is there hesitation?”

Sada answered slowly. “What of …”

“We agreed you would find me the murdering Fae.” The Fae King was calm when he spoke. Still as he answered. “ She perished in the fire she started. This one, I need in the dungeons."

Ren was dragged to his feet. He took a look at his captur. “She did what no other fae have done."

Fae King reached for Ren’s shirt and halted. The resolve this fae had surprised even him. He thought he was the only one with a sense of self and a control of emotions.

The Fae king gave Ren a stern look. “After I get the information I need.” He nodded to himself. “You will forget you ever met her. All you will remember is the pain…Endless amount of it “

“You don’t know my mind.” Ren said through his teeth.

The sovereign of all Fae sighed as if he heard the worst of all riddles. “Looking forward to proving you wrong.”

Even Ren had to admit his defeat. He glanced over once more at the smoke and water soaked wooden frames of the southern end of the kitchens. He whispered her name a few times, making no effort to contact her. He couldn’t bear the thought of reaching for her and she not be there.

As he dragged him away, he thought he saw a few drops of water float past him. He could have sworn they hovered just enough for him to notice. Just enough for them to touch his left cheek. the laugh from the guards told him they thought it was tears. The look on Sada’s face however, told him differently.

*

Ky’on was anxious. For so many reasons. The smoke had the hairs on the back of his neck raised. He brought a handful of Crealian Guards. Alego’s eyes were searching. It was a heightened time. They were horse mounted and very alert. As they grew closer to lands of Leman court, the smell of smoke grew thicker. There were clouds hovering the trees. a terrible noise caught their attention. It was a groan of some sort. It was a guttural, terrible groan.

“There!” Alego called.

Ky’on saw it. It was a fae covered in soot, blood, and soaking wet. The crew sped toward him. After a quick dismount, Ky’on knelt next to the injured fae. He looked familiar. “We’ll take you back. You need medical.”

“K-Ky’on?” The voice uttered.

“Who is that?” Alego wondered.

“Was Aiofe with you? Where is she?” His voice got elevated. When he saw Norio closed his eyes with a whimper, he sighed. His head bowed. “Damn.” He composed himself and stood. “Mount him gently and let’s get the heir to his people.”

The acting Lead Guard was the first to see them approaching. He and his men formed a barrier separating them from any advancement.

“We have something you want.” Alego showed them the injured Son of Sada. “Now we need answers.”The Fae barrier parted and Sada appeared. He stalled at the sight of his son, but continued forward. “Leman Lead.”

Alego was ignored. “I had no idea what happened to them.” he shook his head. “I thought..”

Ky’on gave him a minute to say more. When he didn't, Ky’on went on. “Where is she?”

“Have you not seen the condition of my home?” He yelled. “That Fae tried to burn all of Leman along with my kitchen. I have humored my son’s pet for too long. Finally, fate has found her.”

“Where is her body?’ Ky’on demanded.

Sada motioned for his staff to collect his son from the enemy. “This is where my diplomacy ends. Come to me again with force and I will push back.”

*

The sounds were getting louder. There were many voices.Rising and lowering as if there were someone conducting.The light was revealing itself very slowly. Every sense seems distorted. She thought they were in her mind until her ears popped. Then the muffling became loud and resounding. The activity woke her body out of its idle state. She thought perhaps if she moved a finger or two.

“Don’t move just yet.” A deep voice resonated in her ear. “What you did would kill a Leman. You are a Leman, aren’t you?” She didn’t answer. “Better you tell me then them.”

Aoife opened her eyes with an urgency. She needed her body to wake and remember and refresh itself. The ceiling was black, seemingly petrified wood. She could almost smell the soot and burn. Her body yearned to sit up. She was suddenly held down by two unfamiliar hands.

“Not just yet.” She finally saw a face. It was pale. The brown of his eyes were soft, warm. She eased down. “We have you in a healing hold. It should have taken you longer to even get your eye movements started, but you are extraordinary.”

“Where’s Ren?”

“And you are speaking.” He nodded. As he did, the wispy red and gold of his hair looked like flashing lights. “Who’s Ren?”

Aoife turned to her side and eliminated her stomach of its contents. She was suddenly feeling the room spin.

“Thought that may happen.” The stranger stepped away to get a cloth for her. He wiped her face and tossed the cloth aside. “The argument you are hearing are the leaders of this little representative clan. We felt your presence past our kingdom. We were asked to collect you.“

“I am not a Leaman souvenir.” She told him. “Where is the Fae I was with? What did you do to him?”

“Is that Ren?”

“No.” She sighed. “How soon can I leave?”

The stranger made a few uncomfortable movements. “ That is what they are arguing about.” He shook his head. “No one knows what to do. “ His face came into view again. “I am Nashir. I am a medic here. “

“Where is ‘here’?”

“Mondelear Court.”

*

Ren woke in chains, bound with his arms stretched. He felt incredibly tired. His head was ringing. His mouth tasted like metal and burnt. There were sounds of rain outside…outside of where? He was beaten, that he was sure. His belly was empty; his throat dry. He thought these days were behind him. He was older now. Not a slave in the orphan system of Panshier. It was a horrid system of saving abandoned children from fending for themselves.

Why am I thinking of this? I am past this.

How did he get there? How is it he does not remember? There was blood, and soot, and fire still in the air. He was in chains. Did he commit crimes against his owner? Was he owned? He was not. He was freed and…

“You are Ren Rahily. You are a free fae.” The words were familiar. “You gained your freedom and owned land on the borders of Wenderschult. You …” His mind hurt to remember. So he didn’t.

He felt a presence enter the dark of the room. The room was dark as it is but the corner of the room was especially absent of light. He even thought there was a voice coming from it.

“Ren.”

There was a voice coming from it.

“Who’s there?” He called out into it.

The answer would not come back to him. There was an interruption. A fae with unbelievable great strength snatched him up, either forgetting Ren was chained or not caring. Ren groaned. He was then suddenly dropped. His face hit the ground hard enough for him to feel the taste of fresh metal and soot. He could not remember why he was there. His eyes began to search into the darkness again. He felt the answers lie there. In the dark, with the voice.

*

Aoife sat up. She felt breathless and fearful. The hairs on her arms were standing. Her senses were heightened. The air was cool. She felt the moisture in it. So, she drew it out and consumed the drops. She tasted the natural essence that seeped in from the open windows. Her mind sought out into the outside. A bird appeared with a few small flowers. She took and ate them. A settling in her body occurred soon after, as expected.

“Was that in a Camomile family?” The voice had startled her. She did forget where she was.

She was also in a bed she wasn’t familiar with. Her eyes searched the room and found the fae ,Nashir, sitting at a desk nearby. Was he taking notes on her?

“Have they decided?”

“Don’t you want to know anything about us?”

Aoife sighed. She did not want to play this game. “ I am finished here.”

“You need to know more.”

She had enough and stood not realizing she was not at all dressed underneath that soft cover. In quickness, she grabbed it up and held it close. “Damn!”

“I did not see anything, even though I was looking straight at you.” The medic rubbed his forehead. “I will call my assistant to help you get dressed and ready. “ He stood, he had a notepad in his hand he tossed from one hand to the next. “Um, you were crying. In your sleep…”

Aoife shook her head. “I don’t need you to tell me about myself.”

“Trying to help…”

“I have spent most of my life with Fae trying to help me. Each one of them has caused me the greatest pain. Do not think I am some immature, orphaned female in need of your help.” She sat herself at the side of the cot. “I can leave this place, if I will it.”

“You will have to cooperate with me in order for you to get your way.” He paused. “Your will.”

In that instant a few birds flew into the room. Snakes, green and brown, slipped in through the cracked window. Vines emerged from within the charred walls and stone floor.. The medic shifted his shoulders. His eyes went to the snakes first . They suddenly retreated. The vines dried and dusted into the air. The birds were left. He’d pick one up, gently. He settled it near the window. His eyes glanced over toward her. “Better get my assistant now.”

Aoife was stunned but only a bit. She knew she felt something from him. She knew what it was but not how much like her he was. “Who are you?”

The medic hesitated to answer. He looked almost nervous. “I have to do a job. I am the medic. “ he sighed. “I am trying to tell you the ways here,” he said calmly. “Will you listen?”

She had no choice. She had to be careful. She needed to get to Ren but without this Fae’s knowledge and if he wanted, she was sure he would know.

“I will listen.”

“Then, you get dressed.” He promised.

The medic left her room. Soon after a tall dark haired female fae entered in. “Welcome. Let me help you.” She laid some fresh clothing on the bed. “I will draw water for you. “

“You will tell me about all you know about him.”

*

Nashir was upset with himself. It was too soon to show his hand. He'd had no choice really. She gave him no choice. He worried back and forth with how to proceed next. His eyes swung in every direction, pondering. It fell on a book. It was a brown, leather-bound book that sat almost hidden away from all his other books.

He took a breath. His steps lead to the corner of a shelf where he would retrieve the book. He glanced down at the front cover. Then slowly opened it. He looked down at the sketches. Each page was pretty much the same. It was a sketch of a beautiful fae with rich dark eyes and dark hair. He flipped the pages over and over, until he felt the choke in his throat and moisture well up in his eyes.

“Why?” He shook his head till his flamed hair was shaking. “ How do I do this?”

There was a knock on his office door. He let the visitor in. It was his assistant. Did she get freshened up and dressed that quickly? The fae came flustered. She paced to and fro and to and fro. It unnerved him that she did not reveal the problem. So, he held a hand up as to stop her feet from moving. She shook her head. He looked off.

“She got into your head.” he stated. “It wasn’t much of a fight.”He exclaimed. “Was it a days worth or only hours?” The fae folded her arms. “Caisen!”

“She knows about your wife. “ She shouted back. “I am sorry. She asked about you and that was the first thing that came to mind.”

Nashir nodded. His hand went to his hips. “She is different. '' he admitted. “That is certain. I was a step ahead just moments ago.”

A presence startled them. They turned to the door. A thunderous entrance was made by three tall Fae wearing shiny gray, ash, and white. Nashir identified them rather quickly and stood to attention. The higher ranking officer stepped forward. He gave Nashir and the female fae, Caisen, a look, as if he was going to say something the two would not like.

“Is there a reason why our prisoner is in communication with your fae?” Nashir’s eyes widened. “He kept repeating her name in his sleep…Over and over. Is there something we do not know?”

Caisen stepped forward but Nashir answered. “She was with me the whole night. I, with her. Perhaps the memories the Fae king erased were not in its entirety.”

The officer looked off. “How should we answer?”

“It is residual. Simple. Correct?” Nashir offered. “If I could be given a moment…”

“The fae king forbids it. You know that.”

“ I always know that. He does not know everything though, does he?” Nashir said freely. “ He does not know anything about that Fae, just like I have no idea who I am dealing with, other than the fact that she mimics a Mondenlear.”

“Is she not?” The officer questioned. Caisen looked over at Nashir. He did not answer. “Come off it, Nashir. What do you know? You can’t hide anything from him.”

Nashir lifted his chin. “They’re keeping all the secrets, aren’t they?”

The officer scoffed. “I’ll tell him you have no knowledge of the matter. I will also inform him that you will work on getting the female to give you the information he seeks.”

Nashir’s eyes lowered.

“I will return in a few days.”

*

Aoife knew he was behind the door of the baths. She wasn’t sure why he hadn’t made his way in. It was unnerving. She stood out of the bath she soaked in and wrapped herself with the softest of robes. She looked down at the material and knew exactly what animal had been skinned to produce it. It distracted her a bit. Her mind went to the wooded area, where Ren kept her. She remembered a woodland animal that often visited to eat the grass in the back.

“You can not go back.” She reminded herself. Her eyes glanced at the door as she got dressed. It was a sudden realization that she was being watched behind that door. He didn’t have to be in the room. “Damn Mondelear Fae!”

Once she was done dressing she approached the door. her hand went to open it but she instead turned around. There he stood. He was bear chested and had a towel wrapped around his waist. This confused her.

“How long was I to wait?” he asked and walked toward the indoor spring. It was a natural hot bath, with limestone pillars. It’s steam nearly filled the place. It made her hair tightly curl, whereas his grew more straight. “You soak as if you were nobility. Have you a seat at the court I don’t know about?”

She rolled her eyes. “You are angry. Good.”

Nashir clenched his jaw before he entered the hot spring’s bath himself. “ What was your purpose? Entering Caisen’s mind just to find out about me?”

“Entering her mind? It never felt that way, it was so easy.” Aoife admitted. “I wanted to know the truth.”

“And what did you find?”

“You know what I found.” She turned away from him. “You are here because of your wife, doing the good Fae-King’s duties of torture and documentation, in an attempt to release her from his clutches.” She lifted her chin. “I don’t know who the bigger fool is.”

“I will release her from the clutches of that Fae.” Nashir sounded sure. “Your faith wanes, not mine.”

“ I know what I’m capable of. “ She took a step forward. “I know Ren’s mind like I know mine.”

Nashir laughed. “By the time the Fae king finishes with him, he won’t know his own name.”

“She’s been in his capture longer than Ren. How is her mind?”

“ Are you sure you aren’t Wendershault? Oh, I forget you’ve just been influenced by one the past few years.” he leaned against a cool wall. “You don’t know who you are, like you don’t know who I am. If you knew who I was, you’d know that I am helping you.”

She rubbed the back of her neck. “You are helping yourself.”

“Are you in pain?”

“Don’t change the subject.” There was an ache coming on but she was determined to fight it. “I am going to free him, Nashir of Mondelear court.”

He took a deep breath. “Seeking him out through telepathy is wrong. The Fae king will know it. Ren speaks your name at night. It won’t be long until you are found out. I have bought you some time. In that time, you are to strengthen your senses. What we are trying to do will require it.”

Aoife gave up. “And what are you trying to do?”

“I have waited for someone as strong as I am to assist me in doing what our people should have done decades ago. “

“Are you trying to dethrone our leader?” Nashir looked deep into her. She could hear his words before he even opened his mouth. He was trying to kill him.

*

Ky’on tried to block out everyone as he stared at the map of Leaman’s surrounding areas. He thought he’d explored all the hidden spots of all that land. He thought hard and realized that there was a forest area near to those lands. It was thorny and unbelievably difficult and dangerous to move in. The trees were harsh and tightly woven and tall. There is no way anything could live there.

He stood. “ I have to take a journey out.”

“What?” Alego took a step towards him. “ We have to do something about Jace. She has to be found while the trail is still fresh.”

“I know where they went.” Ky’on moved around the conference room. There were some of his men and a very worried Xia present. “I just don’t know how to get there without a leaman. The foliage there…perhaps they can penetrate it. There is no stone to wield for our kind.”

Xia folded her arms. “ You are not going anywhere. I need you here.”

“There’s no time…”

“I have started the process.” Those words caught everyone off guard. Alego turned to her. “There is a child within me that needs you. “

Ky’on’s countenance changed. “I need the room.” He told the guards, who left in a time. Alego started to follow but was stopped. “Are you sure?”

Alego gave his sister a look. “This isn’t a ruse, is it?”

“How dare you question me.”

“I know you.” Alego replied.

“Please.” Ky’on held his head. “I am happy for us, Xia. I just need to get Jase well. He is slipping quickly.”

Xia came to her husband. “It may be out of our hands.”

Alego scoffed. “How can you say that? think that?” He was angry. “You are an evil fae, sister.”

“‘Leg, enough.” Ky’on held a hand out to him. “ I will have to entrust you with this task. But it is dangerous. I’ve been everywhere and I have never noticed terrain, or lack thereof, like that of these lands. I just assumed they were coarse. Prickly. There is no vegetation or animals. But isn’t that what any fae with malintent want the rest of us to think?”

Alego nodded. “I’ll go.” he said. “To save our brother, I’ll go.”

“Not alone. “ Ky’on handed him the map. “In the Leaman guards, there is a leader. He knew Aoife well. He will help. They call him Shilla. Tell him she sent you. Tell him she is in grave danger. You tell him this ‘Leg.” Alego nodded. “Jace needs her.”

Algeo again nodded. “Yes.” Ky’on nodded in return. “I will save our brother.”

*

Ren’s hands were loosened. The chains were still attached to his shackles but he could at least relax a bit. he had no idea as to why…or how even. There was no one in the room. This could mean only one thing. Either his capture had control of the chains or they fell on their own. He was certain that he had nothing to do with it. He did sit back and took a breath in.

“I don’t have much time.” a voice rang out. He was alert. “He must know I’m going to reach you.”

Ren searched the corner the voice came out from. “You aren’t showing yourself. How will I trust you?”

The female fae showed herself. She had thick hair. Her lips were full. She was plain to look at, but he felt something once her face came into view. His body relaxed. His eyes watched as she inched closer. “I know you don’t trust easily. I am urging you to indulge me.” She looked him over. “They hurt you. It was a mistake they will pay for. Just not yet. I need you to find someone. A female fae. She will have short hair with tight curls, like wool…”

“...What is your name?” he interrupted.

“Please, listen.” She dropped her eyes. “Tell her this and she will help free you. Tell her: The moons. The Sun. The skies will not shun….“

“...What is your name?” Ren sat up a bit to see her fully. “Did you loosen these chains?”

She would not let their eyes meet. “I am in your head, Ren. You loosened them.”

“Don’t.” He told her. “I can not remember how I got here. I don’t recall a thing about it, but I do remember you. “ Her eyes finally met him. “Not you per say but You.” He admitted. “What is your name?”

“It doesn’t matter right now.”

“You called me by mine.”

She paused. “I have to leave. Just remember what I told you.” Her body turned.

“I will.” he watched her begin to fade into the dark. “Aoife.”

*

It hurt.

It hurt so much to hear him say her name but not know any reason for knowing it. It was not fair. It was not supposed to be. It took Aoife some time to turn around to Nashir. She had to compose herself the best she could. It took her too long and he walked to her.

“Was the message clear?” Nashir urged an answer. “ Aoife?!”

“It was.” She stated harshly. “He will find her and give her the message. I did not say a thing about who I was or why I was there. Is that what you want to hear?”

Nashir folded his arms. “I need to know if she is there.”

“So, we lie.” She scoffed. “Just to have you find your wife. How do you expect us to get them out?”

“All things in time.”

“Really?” She kept her back to him. “I have not known you long enough to believe that you are actually against our sovereignty. I am following you into this for my own benefit. I am saying this to make sure you know that I will save him, even if that means leaving your wife behind.”

There was silence. It was a long one. Nashir took her arm. It was gentle, even as he turned her to him. “That is the voice of a Mondenlear.” He told her. “We will not leave him behind. You have my word.”

What did that mean to her? “You will train me in your ways?”

Nashir looked to and fro. “You want me to tell you ‘Everything you have is within you’’? It is true. I was born into it, and you were only born with it.” He sighed. “We can wield fire. That is true. We are strong, yes. And because we have fallen by the wayside within the Fae courts, Lack of historians, and data collection cause our history and abilities to differ.”

“How grand.” She shook her head. “And convenient.”

“Stop…”

“Just know, I am a force. “ She began. “Try and betray me and I will show you how true those words are.”

Nashir had enough and walked away from her. “I would stick around for the dramatics but I am not married to you.”

“Alright, Mondenlear.” She stopped him “What will we do about the Fae King?”

He paused, as he seemed to do before answering her, “We follow the smoke.”

Aoife made a face. “Is it visible?”

“If you look,” he took a step toward her. “Really look., it is there. A spell is a spell. No need for a Wendershault to see the spell. We can see the spell for what it is. Like I can see the spell placed on a certain assistant just before I sent her into you.”

Her ears piqued. “Who would…?”

“Who do you think?” He glanced toward the door. “There is a susceptibility to her. Whether she knows this is upon her, I don’t know, nor care. She is remembering every conversation. Everything she hears. We will use that.” He nodded. “For now, we go behind the Great Mountain Lear, the Mondelear. We follow the Red Smoke.”

*

















































































































































































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gamer281: Was soll ich sagen, mit jedem Buch immer besser.

PsychoCatLove: Ich kann nicht wirklich meckern, gute Fantasie, viele gute Szenen, auch die liebe wie sie in Szene gesetzt worden und natürlich Trauer sowie Wut.Es ist spannen und es steigt vom spannend immer weiter.Jedoch sind in machnchen Seiten kleine Schreibfehler, aber sonst geb ich komplette 5 Sterne den e...

gamer281: Ich bin eine mega große Leseratte und es ist daher nicht leicht mich für neue Geschichten zu begeistern, aber diese Story hat es mir echt angetan. Vielen lieben Dank, mach weiter so.

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Melanie: Sehr toll geschrieben 👍. Bin gespannt wie es weiter geht. Würde es jedem gerne weiterempfehlen der auf Wolfgeschichte steht.

ivasulovic: Loved it! It was a warm story, romantic and erotic, I loved the way story developed and the pace it took. I wish there was more to read.

Janice marie: A very good read, another adventure, different characters, love it, thank you Author 👍

marilyn: It's awesome to hear about all these shifters finding their fated mates. I can't wait to hear more about them. I also want to hear about the cubs. And for Daryl to find his mate.

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Inkitt is the world’s first reader-powered publisher, providing a platform to discover hidden talents and turn them into globally successful authors. Write captivating stories, read enchanting novels, and we’ll publish the books our readers love most on our sister app, GALATEA and other formats.