Title: Cries in the Night
Author: Savy
Rating: R
Category: AU - Set on Antar
Summary: One warrior must fight when the truth begins to haunt her.
Disclaimer: Do you see Rath handcuffed to my bed? No you don't. Because I don't own him. Damn. Own nothing but wool socks.
Names:
Alan – Alex
Mariana – Maria (she has multiple nicknames – Ari, Ri, Ariana, etc)
Mikel- Michael
Rath – Rath
Zan – Max
Vilandra – Isabel
Ava – Tess
Kael – Kyle
Livanka – Liz
Note: If the entire story is not present, please e-mail me and I will send it to you in it's MS Word format.
Also: Won Best Unfinished (at the time...) at the Venus Rising Awards during round two.

****

Chapter 1 - And So the Day Shall Fall


Antar – 254364th Cycle

The small group of friends busied themselves with cleaning up; collecting the white roses and daisies placed around the room, pulling, rolling and tying the white silk sashes together to be sent back to storage. It seemed as if there was a silent painful feeling in the air, as each person worked quietly, methodically and quickly, hoping to either clean the scene or pretend as if this day had never happened.

A tall lanky boy with dark bangs walked up behind a smallframed girl with mahogany hair and doe eyes,

“How do you think she’s doing?” he asked quietly, hoping no one overhead their conversation.

“How would you feel if your fiancée talked you into a wedding and never showed,” she bit back at him, but immediately regretted her tone when she saw the look of shock on his face, “I’m sorry Allan, I didn’t mean to snap at you. I’m just…” She let her sentence trail off, opening her palms up to the sky showing a look of uncertainty.

He understood though. They were all walking on egg shells and the room which earlier that day was filled with laughter and good cheer was void, and in it’s place stood emptiness and dispair. But his eyes followed a tall man with short unruly brown hair as he walked out the door towards the bride- that-was. And his heart went out to the pair.

****

She watched the sun set, as the colors swirled and disappeared, giving heed to the coming night. Her soft blonds curls swayed as the wind blew and her hand clenched around the veil in her hand. She felt him coming up behind her, but she ignored him for now. She didn’t need to talk to him and she didn’t need any reminders.

“It’s getting cold out now. You should come back in,” his voice was barely a whisper and yet he knew his best friend had heard him. She didn’t make any move to answer him at first, so he walked closer towards her until they stood side by side, watching the day end.

“The day wasn’t suppose to end this way you know. I was suppose to get my story book ending and go on my honeymoon. It was never suppose to be this way.” Her reply was equally quiet as he was and she blinked back tears threatening to fall.

“I don’t understand either. He wanted to-“ She cut him off abruptly,

“I know he did. He convinced me to say yes,” When she didn’t go on, he continued,

“He wanted this day as much as you did. He was nervous this morning. He was yesterday night too. He barely slept he was so on edge. He gave me this long speech about not screwing up his wedding,” they both let out a sad chuckle. It sounded like him. Not wanting her day to be ruined and at the thought, her heart clenched painfully.

“I never knew. He could have at least come and told me. He could have at least just told me…”

He had no idea what to tell her, to make her feel better, so he did the only think he could, he stayed silent. Both stood still, lost in their thoughts. One wondering why her love put her through this pain, and the other wondering what could make his brother not come to his own wedding, a wedding he so desperately wanted.

“Mariana, Mikel, the clean up is finished. I think… I don’t think he’s coming. We should go. Nightfall’s here and there’s only three more bi-cycles until the moon rises.” Livanka watched in pain as her friends just looked out towards the horizon one last time before starting to follow her back to the crumbling church.

***
“Has anyone seen Vilandra?”

“Actually, no your Highness. Which is strange. You would think the maid of honor would have been here.” Zan absentmindedly waved the servant off as his brow was furrowed in thought. Yes, it was odd that his sister was no where to be found… And for once in his life, the young lord hoped to the heavens that his sister lost track of time and fell asleep.

***
Kael stood in the corner, watching his friend whose brow furrowed. So Vilandra had not shown up for the ceremony and neither had the groom. He didn’t want to believe what that could imply, since he knew Lonnie would never do anything like this to her best friend. Not even mentioning Rath at all. He shook his head and watched Zan picked up his cloak and make his way towards him.

“It worries me Kael. It worries me a lot that Lonnie never even showed up. Especially since it’s Ari’s wedding.”

“Nevermind Lonnie Zan, I don’t understand why Rath never showed up to his own wedding.” Kael pointed out venomously to the taller boy, “It’s his own God d*amn wedding to my step sister. He’s the one who asked her to marry him. He’s the one who convinced her when she first said no. He’s the one who made my little sister cry.” With that said, the tall soldier stalked off to find his best friend and give him a piece of his mind concerning his brother. Hell, since he couldn’t find the bastard, his twin would have to do.

Zan was frozen to the spot. Yes, none of this made sense. Rath was always methodical. He always knew what he wanted. He was strong, he was brave, and he didn’t run from anything. So why did he run from his own wedding?

***
Mariana slowly slid off her wedding gown and changed into more suitable clothes. Holding the fine silk gown in both her hands, she cursed herself for being so weak. Flinging the mass of white, green, and maroon to the floor, she ripped her veil in two and in the process, accidentally set the curtain to her left on fire.

Smelling the whiff of smoke, she cursed and quickly waved her hand over the smoking lace, successfully putting the small flame out and restoring the crocheted lace to its original state.

And she stood, with her eyes closed. She couldn’t think about this day. She couldn’t let her mind wrap around what this all meant. Her powers were too sensitive. And so she stood, until the door to her room flung open and a small golden blonde girl with masses of bouncing curls walked in and shut the door behind her.

“Setting the church on fire wouldn’t be smart Ri. I’m sure some poor fool would want to use this cursed crumbling house for their own joining of two lives.”

Mariana let out a small laugh. Her friend could always bring a smile to her face, even at the most inappropriate times.

“Ava. Hey. What are you doing here?”

“Came to help you pack. With my cousin pulling his adulterous disappearing act,” Mariana’s head whipped around to stare at Ava, “er- I meant that in the most unlikely way Ri. I just meant, well. I know this isn’t the best day and thought maybe you could use some help.”

Mariana nodded her head slowly. Did her friend know something more than she was telling? Or was it just a slip of her tongue. She didn’t know, she didn’t care – yet.

***

Ava walked around the spacious room, collecting all of the clothes and accessories Mariana brought for the wedding and placing them back into either the box or suitcase. She held the ripped veil in two and a look of sadness crossed her face. Her friend never deserved this. And even though she had her own suspicions of where her dear cousin was at this hour, she thought it would be best to talk to Mikel first… Because if her vision was right, havoc would be inevitable.

Brushing a set of blue and white scarves off the small vanity and stuffing them into a bag – she hardly thought Ri would want the reminders, her eye caught sight of a small cream colored envelope with Mariana’s name scrawled precociously on the top. Gentily placing the bag on the floor she picked up the letter and turned it over. The flap was shut and there was no return address.

“Ri… Ri. You might want to see this.” Beckoning her friend over to the small vanity, she motioned for her to sit down. Once she knew the girl was stable, she dropped the letter in front of her eyes, turned, and walked out the door. Ri would need some time alone.

***

Her hands shook. They shook so bad she could barely open the envelope. She ignored the sound of the door closing and kept her gaze fixed on the envelope in her hands. The writing on the face was unmistakable. Rath.

Questions flashes through her head How did the letter get here? Why didn’t he come? Did he still love her? Was he here? Did he come and then leave? Did someone know he wouldn’t show up? Pushing her fears aside, she used her finger to lift the flap of the envelope and pulled out two pieces of paper.

Mariana…

Her vision blurred and her world started to spin. She saw blurs of ink and pink, of red and yellow. And then she saw black. Her questions were answered.




Chapter 2 – Can You Tell Me Which Way to Go?


Antar – 254367th Cycle (approx. three years later…)

“Damn it Zan, we can’t keep looking for Vilandra. She hightailed it out of here three years ago. Give it up. We need to focus on Khivar.” Mariana’s voiced echoed through the hall.

“She’s my sister Mariana. I can’t just give up hope. My mother never did and I promised her I would never stop looking for her.” His reply was uttered through clenched teeth.

War had broken out on Antar in the previous two cycles. The Royalty were having problems holding their own in outskirts and unindustrialized areas of the planet. Khivar was gaining ground and losing the war would mean certain death to most heritage Antarians.

“Haven’t you been looking around you Zan?! There’s a f*ucking war going on here. Millions of people are dying and lives are at stake. And all you can think about is spending valuable resources on finding someone who obviously doesn’t want to be found?” The rest of the appointed Royalty looked on as the verbal battle between Zan and Mariana raged on.

The small, but fierce Commander had a point. Zan had forsaken more men than necessary in attempts to find his sister. Men who were valuable to the balance of this war.

“I think I do realize there is a war going on Mariana. This is my planet after all,” She shook her head at this. This wasn’t his planet. It was their planet. After the Monarch died, it was the King’s last wish that his son rule the planet with the fellow children of the Council in equality, “It’s not my fault you are unable to come to terms the fact that Rath ran off to be with my sister. You have a problem with Rath. Not my sister. Leave her to me.”

The room was silent. Shocked eyes landed on Zan as Mariana’s mouth opened once, twice, but no words came out.

Zan had crossed the line and he knew it. Bringing up the lost man and unsure reasoning for his actions were not tactful or relevant to the argument.

Her eyes narrowed dangerously as she muttered a reply. She grabbed her scabbard off the table and walked out of the meeting, blowing up glasses and vases along the way. The five remaining Royalty cringed at the emotions unleashed in the form of her gift.

Zan let out a sigh and fell back into his chair. Dismissing the meeting and rebuking himself for stupid comments.

“That wasn’t necessary Zan,” The leader of the Royalty looked up through his fingers at one of his valued friends and advisors.

“I know Mikel, I know. I just got so angry. Why won’t she just let me handle Vilandra and I’ll let her handle her job.” He was exasperated with the arguments he had with his friend each week. They rarely agreed on anything, and although he hated to admit it, she was most often right.

Mariana had an uncanny ability to see the darkness in the world and predict where it would strike, and why it would strike. He knew her gift to create and channel energy allowed her to connect to the two halves of life, producing a third and accurate sight. Outside the Hall and off the battlefield, she was still the emotional, loud, and patronizing friend he loved dearly, but at the same time, he noticed her seclusion to most group activities. It worried him, but what was he to do? Leaking word that one of the Royalty was not in top health could very well be the leverage Khivar needed to get the upper hand in this war.

“It is her job Zan. Her and I, we handle the army and the security of this world. This is as much her war as it is yours. She’s still hurting. She still has unanswered questions. Rath, he hurt her. Too much for her to bare. In a twisted sense, this war is good for her. It allows her to focus her energy on something other than what could have been,” Zan just nodded his head, understanding what his friend was saying, “She is right though, about Vilandra. Ri’s not the only one hurt here Zan. Look in a mirror Brother. She knows it. But will you accept it?”

Mikel nodded his head and left his childhood friend and brother to ponder what he meant by his remark. He knew that Zan was just frustrated with this war and in consequence taking out that anger and inability to control the pain and suffering of the people out on Mariana. But Zan needed to come to terms with his emotions as well.

Mikel had long been Zan’s advisor and friend and he knew that during that night three years ago when they returned from the wedding and found Vilandra wasn’t at the palace, Zan was furious. But more than furious he was hurt. Lonnie and Zan had always had a close relationship. They told each other everything and they were each other’s best friends.

When Lonnie never returned, Zan became inconsolable, and he became obsessed with finding his sister. He felt he was betrayed. But did Zan realize it? Unfortunately for everyone, no. The shy, peace driven son of the Monarch King would rather try to solve the planets problem and suppress his own issues than heal himself.

And Mikel hated Zan for it. In his unconscious self-pity, he put himself in the state of mind that no one took this war as hard has he did. No one hurt as much as he could. No one held the world on their shoulder as much as he did. And it was all a bunch of crap.

Striding purposefully down the narrow corridor of the Royalty Palace, he went in search of his best friend – who had unknowingly blown up his latest vase.

***

She paced back in forth, allowing the cool night air and rays of the three moons to soothe her anger. Zan had no right to bring Rath into the argument. This had to do with the idiot’s obsession with his sister. Not with her past engagement. Was it her fault Zan couldn’t come to terms with his feelings? Hell no.

She had told her friend to talk to someone, perhaps Ava or even Mikel about his “feelings”, but he just got this sad lost look on his face and told her she should be the one looking to talk.

Passing by a potted plant, she neglected to realize the air charging around her. And SMASH, the once-potted plant found itself strewn along the path.

“D*amn it, D*amn powers, D*amn planet, D*amn, d*amn, d*amn, d*amn-”

“Yelling at the plant won’t make it like you.”

Mariana turned and shriveled her nose up at her best friend leaning against a column. If her mind didn’t already know, and if he grew out his hair she could swear it was Rath. A sad smile accompanied the thought.

“Mikel. What did you come here for? To tell me to calm down since I might hurt widdle Zan’s feewings?”

Mikel laughed out loud at her comment and his laughing increased as she scowled at the amusement he found in the situation.

“Naw. I came to see if you’re going to blow up any more things. If you were, I’d tell you to go to Ava’s room and successfully disarm her of her many pairs of shoes. I tripped over a pair she left in the hall. Almost broke my neck.” He suppressed a smile, trying to bring his friend out of her mood she recently seemed to always fall into.

And he succeeded. Her laugh floated from her mouth, and she threw back her head, “If I told Ava that, I’m sure she would have wished you had injured yourself.”

He motioned for her to sit down on the bench facing the gardens. When she complied, he went to join her. Both stayed silent as they watched the red sky outline the three moons grazing the stars and clouds.

Mariana…I see the stars…

Her head snapped towards Mikel. But he was looking up towards the stars contently. Maybe she was just imagining things.

And I see your smile…

“Quit it Mikel,” And she shoved him gently. Whispering Rath’s sweet nothings into her ear and joking around was not something she was in a mood for. Besides, Mikel knew better than to antagonize her about his twin.

“Huh,” He looked at her, with a perplexed look on his face, “What did I do?”

And I think you’ve stolen…

She stared at him, mouth agape and narrowed her eyes,

“Quit whispering things into my ear. You’re not being funny Mikel. You’re being an idiot.”

He blinked twice. What? He was watching the stars. He wasn’t whispering anything in her ear. And if she hadn’t been so angry, she could be the one joking around.

“I didn’t say anything, Ri. Swear. Scouts honor.” He held his hands up and crossed his fingers, showing a sign of innocence.

“You were never a scout,” she pointed out

“Ah well, schematics.” He shrugged.

“No, but I’m serious. If it wasn’t you, then…” Her eyes become wide and her mouth was a thin line. Anger flashed in her eyes as she stood up and made her way back towards the palace.

my heart…



Interlude 1 – Rain, Rain Go Away Come Again Another Day


*****

I looked my name up in a book one day. The ones that supposedly tell you the origin of your name and it’s meaning. It never really helped me.

What kind of name do I have? In the thousands of chronicles I searched, the thousands of specialists I questioned, my name continues to remain a mystery.

I found one. Name like mine that is. My name originates from Eve. The one who gave Adam the apple in Eden, which consequently got man thrown out of paradise. Great… I couldn’t wait to tell Mikel or Rath that one.

In Persian, my name represents water. The very element our bodies need to survive. What our planet draws it’s essence from. And in that regard, I find some sort of bliss, or peace. Knowing that maybe I am needed, I am wanted. But by whom I have yet to find. I think I’ll have to wait a little longer.

Do the visions I have stem from the betrayal Eve had been bestowed? Are they a gift, drawing my curiosity, forcing me to see things I wish I did not? Will they lead me to turmoil and grief, or forgiveness and retribution? How can I call these nightmare and dreams gifts when I dread the moment I receive my next message?

They are my pride, they are my joy, but they will also be the end of me. I can not stop them from whispering in my ear or showing me the way. I can not stop them from taunting me and pushing me to insanity. I must continue to live with the thousand of images, of voices which are not my own and learn to decipher the visions that reflect the truth and the ones which mask darkness.

I received my first “vision” at my tenth cycle. I was in the palace gardens playing hide and go seek with my cousins. Or rather I was hiding and they were seeking.

I was crouched low behind a brendleberry bush, my curls out of the pigtails my mother had taken so long to tame, with my fist clenched in my mouth, muffling my giggles and shrieks of laughter. Through the space between the green everleafs, I could see Rath’s dirty boots and I could hear Mikel mumbling about crazy curlgirls and their crazy ideas.

When I was hit. It felt as if a ton of bricks had fallen on my head and had crushed my body.

I felt my entire body falling into a dark tunnel, falling, and falling and falling. I never hit bottom and I was suddenly bombarded with visions of blood and gore. Of mangled bodies lining the green pastures of Antar. I saw swords and flags, lying beside their faithful masters, eyes open and empty, their souls in another land. I felt pain, sorrow, loneliness and solitude. I felt fear and exhaustion. And I felt a glimmer of recognition, the same feeling I felt when my father would lift me high above the ground and throw me soaring through the air, to be caught in his arms again. But I knew I could not be feeling a connection to him, for he was far away from the palace, fighting along side the army of the Monarch. Then the blackness came again.

The next thing I remember was Rath and Mikel, both hunched over my prone body. Rath poking me with a twig while Mikel pulled my curls. Despite their frowns, I could see the worry extending through their eyes – the windows to the soul. I told them I was all right. I told them I had not had enough to eat at mid-bay. And they laughed uncomfortably and told me Mam had been calling.

My father never came back. I didn’t sleep for three weeks.

For the 2 cycles after the incident, the visions came more often, more rapidly, and more confusing. But as I grew older, and my mind wove around the visions, they became easier to decipher. Sometimes though, it’s hard to tell when a vision is merely a reflection of someone’s nightmare or desire. You get those sometimes. The more powerful Antarians have open minds and depending on the cycle of the moons and the intensity of their fears, they will seep through the air and time and lock themselves into my mind, creating an image.

Some are harder to shake than others. Every so often, I’ll wake up in a cold sweat, not knowing exactly what frightened me, but knowing that somewhere on the planet, a being was in fear. I hate those the most.

But the truly disturbing ones come with the senses. I am a gifted visionary, not a dreamer. The difference is that the dreamer have images of beauty, serenity, and all things light. While the visionaries are the ones one receive the pain and suffering. We’re the ones who know when our loved ones will feel the unfairness of the world. We’re the ones who are suppose to try to prevent the true horrors from coming true. But other times, we need to stand back and be an observer, no matter how personal the issue becomes.

There are few visionaries left on Antar. Most were tracked down and killed when Khivar started the war.

I, being one of the Council, was secretly hid away from the probing mind readers, and my aura was masked by either Zan’s ability to warp the mind and perception or Rath, who could manipulate time folds and space. I was invisible to the third sight for an entire year. I almost became insane because of it. You see, the only problem with becoming invisible is that your powers manifest ten folds and you lose your perception to your aura – the one thing that balances out gifts and powers. Mariana and Vilandra kept my feet on the ground. I sometimes think I would have died if it had not been for them.

But anyway, senses. You can feel hatred, fear, and pain if you try hard enough. Or if the sender feels strong enough. It charges you with this negative energy, which unbalances your aura. Because of this, your mind begins to waver and you begin to see dreams and images you are not meant to see. The predictions which are even too gruesome for us to see. And those stay with you until you die. The screams you hear, the flesh you smell burning. The pain you feel, and the feeling of utmost emptiness, of soul, of aura, and of being.

I try to save my friends, I try to drop hints whenever I can, but I am only allowed to reveal the imagery I see in my mind when it becomes truly necessary. And usually that means it’s too late.

I have never fallen in love. Visionaries do not have that right. Our lives are dedicated to our gifts and to the mission that was given to us. We live to serve and we live to save. We hold the balance of the universe and time. The daughters and brothers of the third sight together, hold the string of life and death in our palms. And with most of them dead and smiling among the stars, we, the remaining, become even more precious. Death and Life can never be in the hands of one being. It would outbalance the aura and chaos would rule. Two beings, one cursed and one gifted make the scale tip back and forth. Our desires and our pains drive us and allow us to survive. They allow us to sustain life and our desire to live. So we are to be alone, until the last cycle of our lives.

My mam died two cycles ago. I never saw her time coming and I felt betrayed by something that was suppose to be a gift bestowed to me. I watched in horror as my mother suffocated, as Khivar’s men held me tightly. I think I vomited all over the man’s shoes. What a pity. I can never get over the betrayal of my gift though, no matter how many times it has and will save my loved ones. Mariana once asked me was it truly my mother’s time to die? Or had Khivar altered destiny so that she would perish long before her time in order to render me insane and unstable? I did not have an answer then, and I do not have an answer now. But if what she suspects is true, than I wonder aloud to myself how was it possible?

Dreamers do not hold the ability to see the reaper’s victims. They see the new balance. Dreamers can not channel death in any way or form, or they are stripped of their gift. Only a visionary can see and predict death, and as far as I know, Khivar has no visionaries on his council. So then is it possible that there is a third daughter of sight? A gift yet to be discovered, which can see the possible futures and pick the one it desires?

And again, I can not answer my own questions, but it can not be. When I became a Visionary, I was told that we were the highest of the daughters of sight. We saw all things end while our brothers saw all things begin. There was no middle and there was no source of power. Or is there? I shrudder at the thought that I was lied too. Any being, any person who has that power to control our lives with a flash of pictures is unsettling. It would make crumble the very foundation that our gifts were based upon.

I have no way to protect myself. I have no gift of power or anomaly. I can not manifest minds, I can not twist space. I can not destroy molecules and I can not place fake sights. I am the most defenseless daughter on the entire planet. And so I know one day I will die. Whether a meaningless death or one of honor I can not predict. Because as much as we wish, Visionaries lives must always remain unknown. Our life lines remain in the shadows and our cycles become mysteries. So I may die today, or tomorrow, or thirty years from now. I will never be warned.

I hate this gift. I hate what was given to me. I hate being the visionary of the Council.

But I am the daughter of a fallen General. I am the daughter of a third sight. I am a visionary who’s destiny shall remain a secret until the moons become aligned. I am a princess to a world in war.

So that is who I am. I am Ava. And I hate it.


 

 

Chapter 3 – Turning


******

Mikel quickly ran after his friend, wondering what insane ideas she was sputtering about. He came to a halt and saw her banging on Zan’s door.

“Open the damn door, you inconceivable, self-centered, mind-warping, b*astard! Open this door, or I’ll open it for you, you a$$ hole,”

He stood back and watched as she banged on the door with her fists. He could tell she was seconds from blowing up the door when he noticed her hands glowing a faint red. But before he needed to go and prevent her from punishing the beautifully crafted wood, said door, flung open and a red faced Zan stood face to face with a pounding pixie girl.

“Ow, ow. Mariana… What? What?!” Zan’s shouts of pain brought several servants to watch the scene with wry smiles. They loved it when Mariana got into one of her moods. It was a free show!

Zan wrapped his hands around the pounding girls wrists, stopping her from inflecting any more pain, and he re-voiced his question,

“Mar! What are you doing?! Are you crazy?”

“You bastard, I should turn you into trash s*hit. Don’t you dare play with my mind. Do you hear me?! I don’t care if you use your mind warping abilities on anyone else, but if you ever, and I repeat ever conjure up Rath in my head again, Antar will be looking for a new Head of Council.” And with that, she struggled out of Zan’s hold, pulled her right hand back, and released it, throwing him back into his room.

Mikel stood stunned to the spot. Zan had used his powers to manipulate Mariana’s mind? That’s impossible. The man may be confused, slightly insane, and feeling betrayed, but he wasn’t a complete moron.

Commanding his feet to move, and glaring at any spectators he walked into the Head of Council’s room, slamming the door behind him.

He winced as the unnaturally bright lights that Zan insisted on having installed in his chambers made the room illuminate to the point of blindness. The room was simple, with pictures of the Royalty, especially Livanka sitting on every surface possible. There was however, an obvious amount of photos of himself with Lonnie and their parents. Zan was such a family-boy. It was almost sickening. The bedspread was a deep navy and the walls were a stark white, with portraits of deceased family members, while paintings of animals, and foliage adding personality. Mikel walked over to the fish tank sitting across from Zan’s bed on a shelf and tapped his index finger against the glass. Fish! The man was a powerful head of Council and he wanted one fish in his fishbowl. Like he said, his friend was insane.

“What the h*ell was that?!” Zan exclaimed, spitting blood onto a tissue.

Mikel shrugged, “You tell me. You’re the one she hit.” He leaned back against a wall, avoiding paintings and nick-naks strewn about.

Zan grumbled and looked up at him, “She was saying something about me mindwarping her into thinking Rath was in her head? Or something like that.” He walked towards the table in the middle of the room, aiming for a tissue to clean up his cut.

“But you didn’t… Right?” Mikel replied slowly. He had to be sure.

“Of course not! I’m not an insensitive bastard.” Zan snapped back, ashamed and shocked that his friend would even doubt him. Mikel just shrugged his shoulders,

“Had to make sure man. If you were, I’d-”

“Yes, I know. Yell at me about privacy. I know Mikel. I know where to limit my powers. And despite what she may think, I wouldn’t bring Rath up. It was a mistake in conference today.” He offered.

“Well then apologize to her.” He didn’t understand it. If Zan was really this worried about brining Rath up, why not just apologize?

But before he could ask, Zan answered, “Did you see the way she just confronted me? I doubt Mar’s in a mood for a good old friendly chat.” Zan pulled a hand across his face, trying to rub away some of the exhaustion that was evident. Searching for Vilandra, worrying about the war, and now having to rectify his mistake with Mariana was not helping him at all. He barely sleep for an hour the night before. He knew that the job was stressful, many-a-nights he, his mother, and Lonnie would eat dinner alone, but now he finally understand how strong his father really was.

“Then what the h*ell was that?”

“What?” Zan asked, not really understanding why his friend was still standing in his room.

“I said why did she come in here, and punch you? She said she heard Rath right? But if neither of us caused it, and no one else would have the power to create anything even resembling that. Then what the hell did she hear?” Zan could hear the concern in his voice. He knew that Mar had been having a hard time understanding exactly what happened on the day of the wedding, and if his best soldier was hearing things… It would be best to figure it all out. Before it became a problem.

“Ask her.”

“Huh?”

Zan sighed, “If you really want to know what she heard. Ask her. I’m sure she’ll tell you… Something.”

Mikel just bobbed his head up and down and walked out the door, wondering what had happened in the gardens. She had been angry, understandable, and then she started to rough him up and telling him to quit whatever he was supposedly doing. It didn’t make any sense.

And from what he heard from the rather exuberant outburst minutes ago, she heard Rath’s voice. Which, he knew was near impossible. Yes his twin could bend time folds and space, but not enough for him to transport himself. Hell, he wouldn’t even be able to transfigure his thoughts into her head. It was impossible. Mariana was an Ainkan, which meant her mind was naturally protected by her aura and powers.

Not looking where he was going, Mikel crashed into a pillar, sending him sprawling back towards the ground – fast. Landing with a thump and rubbing his lower back, he growled and wondered why a pillar was installed in the middle of the corridor. He really had to talk to Zan about –

“Mikel.”

He looked up and came face to face with a pair of twinkling blue eyes filled with mischief and blond ringlets framing a round face.

“Ava. I should have known. You’re just as bad as Mariana is.

“Am not.”

“Are to.”

“Am not.”

“Are to.”

“Amnot”

“Areto”

“Amnot”

“Have you had a vision lately by any chance?”

“Ar,” stopping mid-sentence, realizing her cousin had stop playing the notoriously annoying game of yes and no, she thought for a minute.

“No. Unless you count some duke getting a bad case of the fleming. Nothing worthy of a comment, why?” Her eyes had cleared of their mischief as quickly as it had appeared. Her cousin had a frown on his face – not that it wasn’t unusual, but he seemed a little less aggressive, if that made any sense.

“It’s Mariana. She’s been hearing voices.”

“Voices…” She said carefully. This was a new twist.

Mikel nodded his head, “Yes. Rath’s voice to be more precise. I’m not sure exactly what she heard, but she was pretty upset by it.” His cousin nodded, understanding the obvious reaction to one very inappropriate joke. Thinking for a moment, her mind came up blank save one name of possible pranksters.

“Did she ask Za-”

“She actually punched him. But no it wasn’t him. Had no idea what she was even ranting about.” Ava c*ocked her head to the side, brow knit together and mouth in a small pout. Zan was the only one who had an ability to change the mind’s perception, and she hadn’t felt any looming predictions of doom or even a shadow passing over her friend. Nothing in the last mid cycles to even make her worried or concerned for anyone’s health. And Alan would have mentioned if he felt someone’s powers being used. Unless…

“What about Vilandra?” Mikel’s head snapped up and he raised his eyebrow.

“What?”

Ava just nodded her head and continued,

“You heard me. The Monarch family members are the only ones bestowed gifts of the mind. And if all members are deceased, and Zan didn’t have anything to do with it. It leaves one Monarch left. One person unaccounted for, Vilandra.”

“That’s impossible.”

This time Ava shook her head.

“I didn’t want to suggest it, but I know that Alan hasn’t felt anyone use their powers for the last little while…”

“And since he reaches over the entire city, that means it must have been someone outside the walls.” He finished.

“Exactly.”

“I don’t want to jump to conclusions Ava. We haven’t heard anything from Vilandra in three years. Why now? Why Mariana? And why with Rath. It just seems too – too, I don’t know…”

“Obvious?”

“Yes.”

“But you aren’t dismissing the thought that it could be Vilandra.”

“No, of course not. I’m just saying, it was once. She heard the voice once. It could very well be a hallucination or manifestation of developing powers. She never really dealt with what happened three years ago, maybe this is it. Maybe she’s learning to move on.”

“Hey, hey, don’t tell me that,” she replied, lifted one hand up and laying it on his shoulder, “anyway, are you sure you’re trying to convince me or yourself?”

“Really?” Ava nodded, “I’m not sure. I just. It’s just…”

“Why make a huge deal of something that could be just ‘normal’?”

“Nothing that ever happens to this Council is ever normal, you should know that by now Av”

“I know better than you think”

Giving her a strange look, he prepared to ask his cousin to accompany him to Mariana’s room. Maybe she could be of some help in concluding if this voice was real –

A scream ripped through the palace, vashes exploded, glass walls shattered, windows lay in pieces, as Mikel’s hands reflexively outstretched to protect his much smaller cousin.

As many pieces of debris lay scattered around their feet, the two cousins exchanged worried glances as they rushed towards Mariana’s chamber.


 

 

Chapter 4 - Through the Looking Glass, Alice


***

Four sets of feet clambered into the warrior's large chamber. The room was immaculate. The bed was still made, all the paintings of Rath, the royalty and her mother stood straight at attention against the maroon and purple haze on the walls. By looking around the room, you wouldn't see one article out of place. Four sets of eyes turned to exchange glances.

What was wrong?

Until one set of eyes noticed a blonde head leaning against the far side of the bed. Taking long strides, Mikel quickly made it to his best friend and wrapped his arms around her, hugging her tightly. He could feel tremors racking her body but when he looked down to her eyes, they were fixed to her balcony behind him. Twisting around, quickly noticing her sword unsheathed laying two feet from her arm, he nodded for Kael to step closer, motioning towards the opened doors of the balcony.

"Mar, Mar, what happened." He carefully prodded. She wasn't in shock, but pushing her too far could push her away from them. He heard a murmur and leaned his head down lower to catch her near-silent words,

"I saw him… I saw him. There. I saw him there. Watching me. Looking at me. Talking to me. But there was no sound, no sound, just his eyes, and his lips. Him." Not fully understanding what she said, he looked over the bed a second time to look at his friends.

Realizing he looked desperate, Ava took small, but quick steps around to the two intertwined, in what looked like a painfully tight embrace.

"Ari. Ari, honey, who did you see, who was standing on your balcony?"

"Rath…" Again, the two cousins quickly shared a look of concern. Was Rath back? Could that explain the voice she said she heard earlier that evening?

Hearing footsteps coming closer and closer, Mikel shifted Mariana into his cousin's arms, discreetly pushing the shocked girl's sword towards the duo. His cousin may not have any abilities beyond those of a regular Antarian, but she sure as hell could wield a sword.

Turning abruptly, he let out a sign of relief as Kael stopped in his tracks and motioned for Mikel to follow him.

***
"No one's out there. Not that I can see. They couldn't have scaled the wall in the amount of time that it took us to get here."

"Then what are you saying?" Michael bit out, glaring at his friend.

"Whoa Lassie, calm it down a notch. She's my sister. I'm not saying anything. All I'm pointing out is what I saw, and what I know. No. One. Was. On. Her. Balcony." He pointed his fingers to the open French doors leading out to a spacious balcony, overlooking the Royal gardens.

Scowling a little, Mikeal walked back towards the doors to the chamber and grabbed Livanka, pulling her towards the double French doors.

"Liv-"

"I'm on it," the small mouse-like girl stepped out into the slightly chilly air, crouching down, running her hand over the ground, railing and curtains. A small crackling noise could be heard and a faint green glow emanating from the girl's outstretched hand.

Kael turned and walked over to his stepsister and her friend. Leaning down slightly so he could take her from the blonde visionary, he noticed a tattered cream envelope sticking partially out from under the bed skirt. Sparing a glance around him, making sure no one saw his quick movement, he flicked his wrist, sending his fingers skimming the envelope, effectively transporting it into his pocket.

He usually didn't take anything of his sister's but when he noticed the scrawled handwriting on the face, he couldn't help himself. He needed to know what was in that letter.

With that done, he gently pulled Mariana from Ava's reluctant hands and stood up, placing her on top of the comforter, and brushed a few stray hairs off her pale face.

"Hey sis, you ok? You gave us quite a scare. Mikel, he'll find him, ok?" His soothing voice reached the small girls ears and she nodded her head slightly, gripping his hand in an impressive vise-like hold.

"No."

Kael looked perplexed. No?

"No… Don't. Leave. Us. Alone." Perplexed even more at the harsh tone to the words, he removed his hand from his sister's grip and bent down to lay his head beside hers,

"Ri. Listen to me. That person outside on your balcony, it couldn't have been Rath," She shook her head again, "Listen to me," he said a little more forcefully, but still with a gentle tone, "I know you don't want to believe me. But trust me. I don't know who you saw, but it wasn't Rath. It couldn't have been Rath. Alan would have felt him, he would have felt him the minute he stepped into the walls of the city."

She continued to shake her head, this time tears trailed down her cheeks and splashed on the comforter.

"You don't understand."

Rath walked up behind Kael, and pushed him away to the side.

"Explain it than Mar."

She took a staggering breath, and with her eyes still locked onto the balcony, her trembling voice spoke,

"I felt hi-h-im. I felt him Mikel," She tugged his hand slightly, pulling it towards her breast and placed it over her heart. He could feel the surprisingly slow beat of her heart under his palm, "Here. I know.. no one… wants to believe me… But I know it was him. I. Know. It." She let go of his hand abruptly and turned away from him.

Mikel stood up, shaking his head slowly. She wasn't making any sense. Yes, Rath and Ari had a deep connection, a connection no one on Antar had ever seen before between two lovers, but if Mariana said she could feel him, than he should have been able to as well. He was his twin for God's sake. He knew when Rath was pissed - which was often, he knew when he was lonely, and he knew when he was happy. And at precisely 5/9 cycle three years ago, on the day of the wedding, he stopped feeling Rath. Completely. And he hadn't felt him since.

He had a sinking feeling of what that could mean. Twins, gifted at that, not being able to sense each other? Nearly impossible. But when no body was ever produced, he hoped that his brother had somehow managed a way to block the connection. He said he hoped.

Sighing again, he turned to look out the balcony doors and at the three moons. It was almost mid-cycle. Not a good thing. It was getting late and they needed to close the palace off. About to return to Mariana, he noticed his cousin sitting beside the girl, murmuring soft words and pulling her fingers through the curls gently. Knowing she would be all right in his cousin's care, he walked back out towards Livanka, whom he had left to do 'her thing'.

"Do you-"

"Shhh!" She had shushed him! Irritated at being told what to do, he took a step closer to the girl who had her eyes closed and tried again.

"Liv. I wanted to-"

"I said 'shhh' Mikel and I meant it. If you want me to do this properly, then be quiet. For some reason, I can't quite feel anything. There's something here, that I know, it's like something's masking it from my touch, my sight. It's fighting me."

Realizing making the oh-so-cranky-and-mousey-one talk while working would only serve to irritate him and slow her down, he leaned against the railing, looking out towards the horizon, seeing the edge of the wall that surrounded the capital city.

"I don't feel anything."

"I didn't think you would, Alan."

Alan had quietly walked in the chambers, placing a small kiss on his shivering friend's forehead. He gave Ava a small smile in reassurance and she returned one to him, motioning for him to go to talk to her cousin. And now this is where he stood. Beside a man with whom he had created a unique and equally unusual friendship with.

"How did you know?"

Mikel shrugged, something he did often, rather than actually answering people. Sometimes, talking was overrated. " I didn't feel him. If I couldn't feel my twin, what were the chances of you picking up his aura?" Alan nodded in confirmation; he should have known the man would already know that piece of information.

"Then who do you think it was?" He was actually quite curious. With three quarters of the Royalty locked into Mariana's chambers, word had spread around the palace that something was amiss. Alan had tried to the best of his abilities to reassure the people that Marianna was only tired and emotionally exhausted, and he had hoped that his word would be trusted. This needed to be solved as soon as possible.

"I have no idea. Ava did suggest someone though. But…" He let his sentence trail off. Offering Vilandra's name to Alan wasn't something he felt comfortable doing.

"Just because she's gone doesn't mean I can't handle hearing her name you know. We were just friends. Nothing more." Alan scowled, uncharacteristicly. He hated how people thought he was weak, just because he wasn't a soldier or a fighter like the other Royalty. So what if he was more attune to the technological and psychological side of the planet? Nothing wrong with a little psychoanalysis now was there?

"I didn't mean it like that."

"Then what did you mean by it?"

"Nothing."

"Nothing? You never bring up nothing."

"Well I just did, so deal with it."

Exasperated, Alan threw his arms up towards the night sky and shook his head,

"You are impossible did you know that?"

Mikel just shrugged.

"Fine.. Fine… Vilandra right? You were suggesting that Lonnie was the one making Marianna hear voices." Mikel's eyes shot up and he looked at his friend, a little suspicious.

"How did you know that?"

"What? That Marianna has been hearing voices?"

Mikel nodded.

"It hasn't been the first time," Alan's brow furrowed, Mikel was acting oddly to the news.

"What do you mean this hasn't been the first time? When did she hear him?"

Alan thought for a minute, "Probably about a week ago. I'm not sure if she heard something whispering to her, but she felt something. She started to fidget suddenly and got up and left the kitchen. I wasn't sure what it was at first, but I think she heard him."

Mikel just nodded his head. This was a new development. So, "Rath" had contacted her before. She just didn't know it. It didn't make much sense, but he just absorbed the information handed to him.

"And Vilandra?"

"How did I know you were talking about her? The same way you do. You thought about it, and I caught sight of it."

"D-amn Hearken."

Alan just laughed, "Hey, what's a little fun if I can't use 'em right?"

"Wipe that cheeky grin off your face Alan…"

"Why? Make you uncomfortable? Did I make poor Mikel look stupid?"

Mikel's hand shot out towards Alan, but the other man just dodged the clawing motioning, already expecting it. He let out another laugh.

Before Mikel could throw his whole body towards his laughing friend, Livanka stepped between the two with a pale face. Immediately the men lost their smiles and looked at her.

"I," her voice had a light quality to it, "something… Something's not right. Not by a long shot."


 

 

Interlude 2 – élan vital?


****

Before the first cycle, Antarian ancestors came from a planet in a far away land. Where they had orbited one moon, used terms such as “days”, “nights”, “months” and “years”. For months I tried to understand where I came from, where our people came from, but I could never use the terminology on a basic level. It made no sense to think of a full cycle as a “year” or as the various mid cycles as “day” and “night”. They used their terms in relation to what they say and how those things changed. Why would a race do something such as that? Would it not confuse them to say “I am going somewhere today”. And where does a day end and the night begin exactly. That has never been accounted. The two names just miraculously change.
Mid cycle, which is either the high point of the moons or the high point of the sun work as simply and easily as water flows through a stream. Mariana always told me that our ancestors lived in a land of poverty, where, to eat food, they had “cook” it, or when they wanted to drink water, it had to be filtered. It always mystified me. And I believe that is why I’ve sought answers. I was in my tenth cycle then.

I gave up the history of the “old people” long ago. Kael and Ava told me it was ridiculous to try and resurrect the way of our ancestors and although I do believe a passion of mine will always be to discover where we come from, I left my studies behind to fulfill another challenge. Royalty.

I was never born into the position, contrary to what everyone believes. Yes, my parents were on the Council and served under the Monarch, but I was never suppose to be the one standing in the position I am today. I was never suppose to live.

Thirty-five cycles ago, before the downfall of the Monarch and when there was peace on Antar, my parents gave birth to another girl. When she was born, her hair shone of gold and her eyes, brown as chocolate, held a foresight of knowledge, grace, beauty and wisdom. And her name was Rosabel, which meant beautiful rose. It was easy enough for the Elders to presume she would be the one who would hold my family’s honor on the Monarch’s council. And when she began to grow, her name did not do her honor. Her laugh was contagious and her smile outshone the three moons. She was beautiful. She wielded a sword like no other girl her age. She had a natural essence when a sword was placed in her hand. The only other living Antarians who could be comparable to my sister are Mikel, Rath, and Mariana, who all possess a similar grace. Rosa was also amazing intelligent. Her ability to memorize and react was unheard of, and some even thought, despite the age difference, she would be the next crowned Queen of Antar. No one hated her, no one loathed her. Despite her perfection, she was cheered on by men and women, she was loved by children, and she was respected by elders. She was the perfect choice. She was everything the Monarch represented. What happened then you ask?

I happened. My parents never wished to have a second child. They never needed anyone but Rosa. But I was bestowed to them. Wheither I was meant to be Fate’s version of a cruel joke or Destiny’s mistake, no one knows. I was born prematurely, had respiratory problems and was by far too small. I had mousy brown hair, and doe eyes, which held a color comparable to dirt. I was everything Rosa wasn’t. I never grew up gracefully. I was akward and fell over chairs and rocks and roots in the earth. I can not wield a sword if my life were in danger and I do not hypnotize an audience like my sister did. I was and still am shy and scientific. Yes, my mind is an asset of mine, that is valued by Antarian society. My ability to draw a conclusion between simple chemical equations or biological puzzles amazing the Elders. But my wonderment stops there.

I was in my eleventh cycle, playing in the Palace gardens with Zan. Building castle with molecular structures I believe. It is important to remember that Antar was on the brink of the war. People were wary of the Monarch and wished to redivide the social classes. In summary, greed was becoming a quick enemy.

I was searching for the perfect stick to add to the top of the king tower, to carry a blue velvet flag to mark our castle as Royalty, when I felt shadows looming overhead. I turned slowly, believing it was Zan, attempting to play a joke on me, when my eyes froze out of fear.

There were four tall men, as huge as giants who could touch the sky, leering at me. The twinkle in their eye did not reassure me, and their tattered garments which held a putrid stench made my stomach quiver. They were mercenaries.

The tallest one pulled out a small bloodied dagger from his cloak and took a step towards me. My mind panicked and I was afraid. I screamed, so loud. But it was as if my mouth would not listen to my head. My mouth was open, wide as I could, but no sound would espace. All I could manage was whimper.

I barely remember the exact moments she was stabbed and beaten. I don’t even remember what happened after the wounded sound left my mouth. I just knew.

Even though her swordsmanship outranked any soldier she had challenged, four men against one were odds against her. And so she died, protecting me, saving me, her little imperfect sister, with the mousey brown hair and the dirt eyes. My hands were covered in blood as the red liquid leaked around the two of us, as if embracing two people so very different, but yet still the same. Although I could not stop the bleeding, no matter how hard I racked my mind of the knowledge I held, she could not survive the wound. She was suffocating in her blood. But she grabbed by small hand with her pale smooth one and grasped my hand, squeezing it to reassure me. Tears streaked my vision as they traveled to her face.

A sad serene smile greeted my eyes, and it only served to cause more tears to fall.

“Livvy, please don’t cry. Everything’s going to be alright.”

Alright

Alright

“You’re a very special girl, even if you don’t think so Livvy. I saw it, I know it. You’ve yet to live the life you’re destined to see.”

I was never as special as Rosa. I never would be


“You are more important than you know honey. Just promise me something alright?”

How could I promise anything to her? I could never do anything she could.

“Never stop seeing Livvy. Ever. Your eyes, they are who you are, they are the windows to your soul. Don’t ever lose it. Ever… ever…”

Everything was suppose to be alright. As I cried harder into the soulless body, a crackling sound surrounded us, dancing with the ruby blood. It flowed through Rosa and flowed through me. It connected it for a split second, and I felt this feeling of utter contentment and then of pure joy. My helds felt hot and sweltering and the emerald aura my sister was known for, had somehow found itself in the palm of my hands.

I had been gifted… With my sisters life.

I had been given the ability to read and see aura shadows. I had felt my sisters, and it was the first in millions I would feel.

Every being on the planet has an aura around it, a unique imprint of their soul and body. As unique as the colors that compose the strips in prism, each aura holds it’s own color, personality and feeling. And I read them, I detect them, and they speak to me. They whisper their names and their emotions, their goals and their joys, their fears and their loyalties. They are everything that I am.

Auras leave shadows wherever they go. Even after a soul dies. I can feel the man who stood beside the bay windows ten cycles ago and I can feel the joy Mariana felt when I visit her church chamber. I feel everything, every emotion, of every Antarian on the planet.

And so now I stand on the council. I know I hold the place of my sister, and I hear whispering. Not of the auras, but of the elders who lived in the grace of my sister. I can hear them judge me and tell each other how I am not the true heir to my council spot. And I loathe them. I despise them all.

But most of all, I hate myself. For standing where am and having the gift that cost my sister her life. I do not understand why I was the one when my sister was everything everybody wanted, even Fate and Destiny. I do not know why I continue to hold the gift I do. I spite this world.

That is my story. And such as my name, Livanka should not exist. Because Liv, in ancestral Scandinavian means life. Everything I should not be.


 

 

 

Chapter 5 – Necessity


****

Alan and Mikel stood silent, eyes fixed on Livanka, waiting for her to continue. But she didn’t. She stood there, eerily silent and pale.

“Might want to tell us, Liv.”

“I… I can’t explain it. It just feels wrong. Unnatural. I felt a shadow by the edge of the balcony, but it felt incomplete, almost none-existent. I’ve never encountered anything like it before. Ever.”

Kael walked up to the three Royalty, joining into the whispered conversation,

“Which would mean what? What are we up against? Skins? New aliens, Khivar with mutated powers? What?”

Livanka just shook her head at her friend’s suggestions,

“No,” the answer came out slowly, “ I don’t think… It’s hard to explain, like I already said. If it were Skins or Khivar, I would have been able to identify their aura shadows, instantly. Besides, they usually don’t pay too much attention to masking their residue. And evidently, whoever or whatever had been here, if anything was here had to have invested power, time and thought to make me read that kind of image.”

Thoughts swirling in his mind, Alan asked precisely what did she see, but Livanka just shook her said, mumbling something about blank walls, anger and dirt fields. Silence reigned over the four for a couple of minutes, until Mikel let out a heavy sigh and rubbed a hand over his face, deciding what to do next.

“Fine. Since Alan doesn’t hear anything and Liv, you can’t give me a shadow of impending doom, there’s not much we can do-“

“So you’re just going to leave this alone,”

“No. Look Kael, it’s late. I’m exhausted, tired, irritated and Mariana’s asleep. Without any leads there isn’t anywhere else to look. All we can do is continue lock down on schedule, post a guard at the balcony and an extra set securing the gardens and let well enough alone. Tommorrow-” His voice was raising in volume and syllables became more clipped.

“We’ll pick up again. Maybe whatever power was distorting the aura shadow will have dissipated and Liv can get a clear reading.”

Mikel nodded in agreement. Alan was exactly right. Of course he was. The man could hear his thoughts after all. Then again, it might not have been a bad thing. He was more than likely to fall off the handle and get into one of his as Mariana dubbed states of “pissiness”.

Pushing past Kael with a grunt and passing by Alan with a small nod of the head, he made his way back towards the bed, to his cousin and best friend.

“How’s she doing,” he whispered, hoping he didn’t wake her from her sleep. His tone was unusually gentle and his eyes held a soft look of concern at the sleeping blonde. However, his cousin broke him out of his thoughts.

“Better. She just fell asleep a minute ago muttering about shadows, reflections, questions and Rath. I couldn’t catch much, but I think her sleeping mind has settled down and her mind’s consciousness has finally relaxed.”

“So she will have a peaceful sleep?” He had to ask.

“I think so. None of her mind patterns are scattering. If you ask me, she probably won’t remember anything she saw or thought she saw here tomorrow morning. Trauma. Her mind became overloaded. I had a hard time containing her fear and uncertainty let alone my own. Strange thing was the visions I got intensified ten folds when I touched her. But now, it’s gone. As if she’s at peace. Most likely her mind’s blocked it out.”

Blocked it out. Understandable in this situation. She had looked disconnected to the world and perhaps her lack of memory would give them more time to put the hazy pieces together – that is if there was anything to solve.

Leaning over her sleeping form, Mikel lay a feather-soft kiss on her brow and gently pulled the covers over her body and tucked her in safely. Pulling his cousin by the elbows, he hoped that Alan would pick up on his thoughts, and left the room in a hurry.

****
“Mikel wants you to stay here with Mariana.” Alan pointed towards the sleeping girl, looking so small in the sea of moss and violet covers. Kael just nodded his head and pulled a chair up near the head of the bed. Grabbing a random book off of the pile located on the small night table, he prepared himself to look over his sister for the night.

***

Yanking her arm away from her cousin’s grasp, she turned sharply to face him, stopping him in his tracks.

“What the h-ell was that?!” She practically screamed, “You just pulled me out of that room like a fire was blazing.”

Shoving her forward gently as to bring them closer to his chambers, Mikel started to talk,

“I needed you to tell me more about your powers and what you are.”

“Why didn’t you just ask me back there?”

“Because.” That was his answer.

“Because what?”

“Just because.”

“What kind of answer is that Mikel?”

“Mine”

“Has anyone ever told you you’re-“

“Impossible?”

She acknowledged him. And with his trademark smirk and a quick tug into his room, he gave his quick reply, “All the time cousin, all the time.”

***

Frowning at her cousin’s lack of personality in his room, she seated herself on his bed, noting the black covers. Of course. What other color would Mikel have? A nice rose or a dusty cornflower yellow? No. Just his brooding, depressive shades of gray, black and white. Typical. Noticing that he was leaning against the wall motionless, obviously waiting for her to speak she rolled her eyes.

“So, what do you want to know about my powers?”

“Everything.” Again, typical Mikel. Too d-amn general.

“You mean more than you already know? Since you’re my only living relative, I’m sure you know nothing about me or my gift.”

“Cut the bull Av.”

Clapping her hands together she sighed and decided to be as helpful as she could.

“Well, I’m sorry dear cousin,” a sarcastic drawl accompanied the apology, “but you’ll have to be more specific. I’m not a Hearken. I’m a Visionary. Skilled in –“

“Seeing the dead, the pain, the destruction, blah blah blah. I already know that. I want to know how your powers work. What exactly do they tap into when you see another person. That sort of thing.”

“You mean the technical or more scientific side to my gift?”

“Yeah, I guess.”

“Sure your mind can handle it? I mean, you never showed up for Tutorials. Are you sure you won’t pass out from information overload?”

“Don’t be cute.”

Laughing a little, she cleared her thought when she noticed the pointed look he gave her.

“Fine. Ok, scientific. Let me see. Well, think of my mind as a mirror, and the images I see are reflections of the subject. When I was with Mariana in her chambers, it was like she was standing in front of my mind, looking at herself in a mirror. And I’m the one watching. A voyeur.”

“But how do your ‘subjects’ allow you to see their reflections?”

“They want me to. Not on a conscious level of course. But for me to be able to get these reflections, the subject’s mind voluntarily stands in front of the mirror, so to speak. Which means they come into my mind. They don’t mean to, and I’m not sure exactly why – you’ll have to ask Kael about that – but it’s a part of being Antarian. The mind is open.”

“But you don’t always get reflections or visions from everyone you meet.”

“That’s right. The more powerful the person is, the more likely their mind will reach out to mine. But it’s a double standard. The more powerful they are, they are more likely to have the ability to divert their mind, so I don’t get a full and open vision. I’ll still get a vision, just not as clear.”

“Who would you say would be powerful enough to diver their mind?” Ava groaned. He was on a roll. Seconds after she answered, he would throw a new question at her. Well, at least he seemed interested. Not like the time she tried to show him her new shoe storing method.

“I can’t really say without probing them. But off the top of my head, probably the Monarch family, Royalty on occasion, Khivar, and other visionaries. People who have similar abilities or have an enormous amount of energy in their being. And the only beings capable of that are Monarch.”

“But you said Khivar.”

“Yes, I did. I’ve never gotten a vision of him yet. Visions from his victims yes, but of him personally? Never. And no one’s mind is completely cut off. So he must have found some way to harness some sort of ability, why?”

“No reason really. What about my brother?”

“Rath?”

“Yes, would he have had that power?”

“No… I don’t think so. He manipulates time folds and space. Nothing to do with the mind’s capacity.” What was her cousin getting at?

“Would Vilandra?”

“Well, yes and no. Yes, if she actually developed and tailored her powers, I’m sure she could deflect herself rather well. And no, because even though she’s Monarch, I’ve never felt a strong power within her. Nothing overwhelming, nothing special. I could compare her supply to that of a regular Antarian. It’s weird, but not unheard of.”

“What do you mean?” This was getting interesting. So Vilandra wasn’t as powerful as the rest of the Monarch family? Why hadn’t he known that?!

“Didn’t you learn anything in Tutorials?” Noticing his mouth was opening to bite a remark, she hurried on, “the Monarch family, as you know, are gifted with powers concerning the mind. Zan can mindwarp people, Vilandra can dreamwalk, manipulate mind pressure to a certain degree, Alan can read people’s thoughts and feelings, the King could split memories and forge new ones, and so on. But to do this, each have an extraordinary amount of power. It’s a birthright, an added bonus. But every so often, because the Monarch don’t inbreed, and outside members don’t have that particular characteristic, the offspring could get the non-Monarch genes and would not have that power source. It’s very rare though. But Alan’s mother is a perfect example. She was the Monarch King’s sister, the Princess, and yet she didn’t have overwhelming sources of power. And yet Alan, her son, did. It’s the luck of the draw I suppose.” Yawning slightly, she suddenly wished she hadn’t decided to take Enriched Tutorials. She would probably have gotten along fine with her powers not knowing why they worked and why she had them. She would have been speared this game of twenty-questions. Hunching over in defeat, she realized Mikel continued.

“Ok. But would it be possible for someone outside of the Monarch family to have or inherit this characteristic, this large power source?”

“No. Impossible. The Monarch have a special DNA sequence or genetic make up which allows their bodies to store and cycle the ability to withstand so much power energy at rest in their body. It’s the result of selective breeding million of years ago on Earth. It’s a carry-over I suppose. But no, it can’t happen. Against all laws of nature. The marker which allows this is not naturally found in the body or make-up of it. The body can not produce it. It was created through that selective breeding and is passed down. So, if the Monarch die and produce no air, than the potential to have a being with high power source will end. Basically you can’t reproduce the gene. It’s genetic.”

“Well, if that’s true, than why didn’t you get a vision of Mariana’s discomfort over the voices, or before what happened tonight?”

Ava sat stone still. Her head cocked to the side, he brows furrowed, and her mouth opened in a small ‘o’.

“What?”

“You say you always have visions of all being on Antar. Especially those who have larger power sources, like Mariana. But she isn’t Monarch and wouldn’t have the ability to divert her mind. She hasn’t been alive long enough to develop or harness such an ability. So why didn’t you feel her emotions of discomfort and fear if they were so high and overpowering? You only felt them when you were in contact with her, close to her. Why not before then?”

“I…” For once in her life, Ava was speechless, “don’t know.”

***
He rose him from his slumber. Rubbing the sleep out of his eyes and replacing the book back on the nightstand, his senses came alert when he noticed his sister’s bed empty and made. Rushing towards the door, he ran into one of the postguards.

“Where’s Mariana?”

“You mean the Third Commander?”

“Yes, yes. Whatever. Where’s my sister?”

“Using the bathroom I believe sir.”

Blushing a little, he smiled at the guard and returned to his spot in the chair. In the bathroom! Why hadn’t he thought of that? He was just worried. His heart rate lowered and he relaxed, his sister was safe. Now onto more interesting matters.

Glancing around himself, insuring he was alone, he slipped his hand into his pocked and retrieved the envelope he had transfigured yesterday night. Noting that his initial thought was right, Rath’s handwriting did adorn the face. Licking his lips out of anticipation, he had always wondering what that letter his sister had found the night of her – supposed-wedding had said, lifted the flap and he let out a small surprised gasp.

The envelope was empty.

“You shouldn’t read what isn’t yours Dear Brother.”

Damn it, he was caught. Cringing slightly, he turned his body to see his sister looking at him with fire in her eyes, standing in the doorway of the bathroom.

“I was just curious Ana. Honestly. It was just lying-“ But she cut him off.

“No excuses. Yes, I am grateful for you company for watching over me, but you do not ever go into my personal belongings. Ever.”

“But – what did the letter say! It could be important.”

“Nothing that affects you Kael. Rath wrote it to me. And to me alone. Pulling a folded and tattered cream piece of stationary from behind her back, the fire from her eyes lightened,

“You’re not the only who can transfigure objects…”

“But I thought you blew things up.”

“I do.”

 

 

 

 

Chapter 6 – Understanding


***
Marianna pushed her brother outside her chamber, slamming the door shut in his shock-filled face. She didn’t want to explain anything to him. Leaning back against the door, she let herself fall until her arms wrapped around her knees and she pressed her forehead between her arms.

Exhaustion. Confusion. Pain. Fear.

She couldn’t remember why she felt that way, but her entire being vibrated with a sense of restlessness, but at the same time her body was dull and heavy. Complete opposites, yet they overpowered all her senses. The forgotten letter lay at her side, her mind wrapping around the idea of being alone and the questions that swam over and over again. Who? What? Where? How… How. How had she transfigured the letter into her own hand? She couldn’t remember. Her mind was covered with a thick layer of mist and every time she thought she had an answer, it floated farther away from her, leaving her all alone, lost, and scared.

Lifting her head from her knees, she ran a shaky hand through her curls, breaking them apart and letting them drop to drape across her shoulders. Stretching slightly, she made the conscious decision to find out what the hell was going on. The letter. What letter? Had someone sent her a letter? She couldn’t remember. But the tattered stationary found at her side indicated that indeed it was her letter and that it had been sent to her sometime ago.

Cursing for the unusual lack of memory, she snatched the paper off the carpeted floor and flipped the flaps opened…

Empty.

“What in the world…” she muttered as she turned the paper over several times, running her fingers across it. Completely empty. For some reason, in the back of her mind, she could have sworn she was screaming at herself that this wasn’t right, that something should have been written on that piece of paper. Not quite knowing what to do, she rose from her sitting position and dropped the letter on her bedspread.

***

Running down the hall, Mariana turned suddenly, and found herself in front of Mikel’s chamber door. She stood there, staring at it, as if it were a piece of art. Her eyes followed the intricate carvings on the face and her fingers ran along the groves.

// Rath’s work…

Her fingers stopped. Where had that thought came from? Her heart clenched. Rath. Rath… Everything had to do with him, and yet, she couldn’t remember. Why? Why? Before she could turn, the door swung open and she found her hand resting on a man’s chest.

Warm gentle hands encased her wrist as her breathing picked up speed.

“We have to stop this. It’s wrong.”

“But it feels so right. Don’t you feel it? The pull?”

“Of course I do. Every fiber in my body wants to be with you.”

“Then why are you stopping this – stopping us?”

“Because you’re not meant for me. You’re meant for another. Remember the prophecy?”

“Screw the prophecy. No one runs my life. I make my own decisions.”

She laughed. “I wouldn’t have it any other way”

“I don’t want her you know, I only want you. Always.”

“I know. But…”

“Come ‘ere.” She stepped closer to him. His arms wrapped around her waist, bringing their bodies together. Her aura shone with contentment.

“I don’t want to lose you.”

“You’ll never lose me.” He dropped his head towards hers and their lips met in a searing kiss. Her entire being vibrated with energy. She could feel him, his power, his love, his fears, his ambition, and she felt herself. He was her and she was him. For a split second they were one.

“Mmmm… Rath. God I love you…so much.”

“Love you too Mariana, love you baby.”

“Ra”


-th”. Her eyes popped open and she pushhed herself off Mikel and batted his arms away from around her waist. She drew her hand up to her swollen lips as she tried to catch her breath.

Mikel stared at her, stunned as she turned around and fled

He didn’t even get the chance to tell her what he saw. Who he saw.

***

Finding herself back in her room, Mariana grabbed the letter off the comforter and pulled it open again. Her mouth hung open as letters flashed across the paper, dimly, but still very visible, but then just as quickly disappeared. Rubbing her eyes to ensure she wasn’t hallucinating, she looked at the piece of folded parchment a second time. The flickering letters appeared a second time, but the words and letters were so disjointed she couldn’t make any words out. Yelling with frustration, she dropped the letter back to it’s spot and sat down on the floor, leaning her head against the side of the bed.

None of this was making sense. Hearing voices, seeing letters, not remembering. None of it was fitting together.

***
Closing the door quietly, Mikel found himself in front of a painted portrait of the Royalty. Stepping closer to examine it, he swore he saw a flicker flitter across the surface. Shaking his head at the hallucination, he kept his eyes trained on one particular pair of people. Himself and Rath. Both were standing side by side, tall and proud. Both wore similar expressions of boredom and annoyance and both looked uncomfortable outfitted in Royal armour. The painter had successful captured the minute differences between the identical twins. Rath’s hair was grown to his shoulders, and held gentle curls while his own hair was slightly shor- Mikel squinted and took three steps away from the painting. He could have sworn he… No, that was impossible. He didn’t see the portraits moving. This was a painting!

Shaking his head, he made his way towards the kitchen, intending on re-hydrating his hallucinatory body.

***
“You can’t keep doing this. They will find out and when that happens…”

“No. We do this my way. This is the only way. You saw how they all reacted, how they all began to go into shock. I was not going to let the Monarch fall. Not now.”

“Then you’re prepared to lose all your friends?”

“What are you talking about?”

“What you’re doing to them, it won’t last forever. I can already notice them becoming suspicious.”

“They’ll never know.”

“Just – just be careful.”

“When am I not?”

She shook her head sadly and walked out the door. What he was doing was invasion. What he was doing was uncalled for. What he was doing was going to bring their downfall.

***

Livanka snapped her head back up, plastering a fake smile to her face. She nodded her head and increased the pressure to the smile until she could feel her skin pulling and a slight ache beginning to develop. This was insanity. Why had she ever agreed to attend the Elder’s meeting in the place of Zan? She could tell they were all mocking her and implying her incompetence to fulfill her position on the council. She wanted to stand up and scream at them to stop being so coy and just come right out and say they thought she was a disgrace. The usual discomfort she felt in the presence of the Elder’s was quickly being replaced by irritation and exasperation. Glancing quickly to the windows on the north side of the conference lounge, she noted that the sun was mid-rest, which meant she had been in this god forsaken meeting for more than four tri-cycles. Heavens help her. She was either going to go crazy from all the discrete insults or die of boredom. Either way she would be able to leave.

Tapping her fingers against the mahogany tabletop, her eyes traveled across the table, eyeing each Elder respectively. Not one of the six had touched their water, but had merely nodded at her, acknowledging that she had somehow miraculously done something correct – get them a glass of water. Moronic Elders. The Elders were composed of three men and three women. All had white sparkling hair and was dressed in robes of white and maroon silk – the sacred costume of the Elder Council, remnants of the days before the Royalty ruled and the planet was under the command of the King.

Her tapping increased in pace as Magena pointed a finger out the window towards the capital’s protective wall.

“Why do we still have the wall up? Does it serve a purpose? No. Khivar and his men are more than likely assembling more battalions and preparing for another attack. More men will die, more soldiers will risk their lives. The only purpose the wall serves is a reminder of the old ways and their ineffective defense strategies.” The women’s tone lacked any conviction and sounded more sarcastic than concerned.

“Well, Mikel and Mariana would both disagree with you.”

“Why do you talk in the place of your other Royalty members Livanka of Antina?” She clenched her teeth and replied with an even tone,

“Because I attend this meeting as the representative of the Royalty Council. I speak for the Council which means I speak for Mikel, Mariana, Alan, Kael and Zan himself.”

“Well why are you here? Where is Zan? Or even Mikel or Mariana? Or that Healer, Kael of Ventive?” This coming from a man sitting directly across from Livanka, Loki. He had been an Elder for over fifty cycles and was an avid “fan” of Rosa. Livanka stiffened even more and her words came from between clenched teeth.

“Loki, I’m sorry his Highness was unable to make it. He was occupied with more urgent matters in relation-“

“What could be more important than a Council Assembly meeting?”

“Oh I don’t know, reading the daily chronicles.” She muttered sarcastically, but quietly enough so the others could not hear her.

“Excuse me? Did you say something?” Another woman, sitting to the right of Loki shot up from the chair, pushing it over. The voice held no support or kindness. Only venom and a tone which suggested an insult to Livanka’s intelligence. The Elder’s eyes were enraged and Livanka realized the lady, despite her volume, had heard the comment.

She had enough. She was tired, cranky and feeling reckless.

“No. But if you have a problem with me, just say so. But unless you would like to explain to the other Royalty members why you disagree with me and my standing, than I suggest you sit your Elder-self back down and never address me in that tone again. Whether you like it or not, whether you wish to acknowledge it or not, I am a member of the Royalty. I am your superior and I demand to be treated with the respect which is due to me. And if you have a problem with that than you had better leave and resign your post, because I will not tolerate any more of this inappropriate behavior.” Slamming her small fist against the table to emphasis her pointed, she glared at each Elder. She was fed up with them. Yes, she wasn’t Rosa, yes she wasn’t suppose to be the one destined to stand on the Royalty Council, but she was. She was a Royalty. And she blamed part of her uncharacteristic outburst to the blood pooling in her legs from sitting too long.

All six Elders sat down so quickly and quietly, you could hear the sounds of a fight in the extremities of the city in the room. Each had their eyes fixed to the small brunette and either held a look of awe, surprise or anger. But no one dared make a remark. Despite their feelings, Livanka was a Royalty. She deserved some sort of respect… For now.

Livanka closed her eyes and took a deep breath, getting herself under control. Grabbing her cloak off the back of her chair and quickly removing her paper and pens off the table, she made her way towards the double doors, signaling the guard on the other side of the glass to open them. Stopping briefly, Livanka looked over her shoulder to address the Elders,

“The Wall will stay up. And it’s final. Dismissed.”

With a smile on her face, she nodded at the post guard and hurried away from the meeting room. Finally, after twenty-two cycles, she had finally spoken up, and maybe she could begin to move on. But even then, one sentence stayed in her mind, repeating time and time again, a sentence which had left her mystified and bewildered,

‘Khivar and his men are more than likely assembling more battalions and preparing for another attack’

Another attack? When had Khivar attacked the first time?

 

 

 

 

Interlude 3 – Heed


***
Mariana and Ava cornered me and forced a small paperback book into my hands. At first I dropped it, thinking it was some kind of “Develop your Masculinity” or “Guys Who’s Only Friends are Girls” manual for dummies, so I dropped the worn, dogeared book as soon as it was placed in between of my palms. It landed on the ground with a small thud. Leaning down, Ava grabbed it and slammed it against my chest. I took a few steps back to regain my balance and Mariana giggled when she heard me say “ouf”. I didn’t think the situation was particularly funny. One of my best friends, who was a girl could beat me up. Not something any male is often too proud of.

But I begrudgedly opened the book to take a small look at it. What harm could it do?! They were my girls anyways.

And that’s how I found myself in the position of the “Baby Names For Expecting Parents” in my hand. I almost fainted, thinking it was some sort of implication that went along with the book, but was relieved when they told me to simply look up my name.

Alan- Male, Celtic origin. Meaning; handsome, cheerful

Who hoo! One out of two. Not too shabby my boy, not to shabby at all. Although I did wish that the correct half could have been the other one. But I guess I shouldn’t complain. At least I wasn’t called ‘Alva’, which means “fair complexion”. Mar and Ava would never let me live that one down.

I perused down the list of names and came upon a name similar to mine, and I thought maybe, if I were every to be reborn in another lifetime, I wouldn’t mind being called Alex.

Alex: Unisex, Greek origin, form of ALEXANDER; helper and defender of mankind

Defender of mankind. It sounds so noble, like a hero, a warrior, a great fighter with a mission. A man who would get the beautiful princess at the end of the fairytale. Something I wasn’t.

I was born into the Monarch family. The King Monarch was my uncle, which makes Lord Zan my cousin. And when I use the term lord I use it loosely and often as a sarcastic drawl. Why? Because underneath that hearty peaceful chap of a cousin, lies a man who’s ego will get the better of this planet. Personally, I love the guy, he’s a great friend, loyal and all that, but if he were to rule the planet? Could I say mass suicide? Wait – that doesn’t really sound too fair does it? No. I suppose not. But all of his life, he was raised to become the King of this planet. He was raised to believe his word was the final word and whatever he said, whatever he wanted to do would be done; no matter who or how many people he had to walk over. It’s who he was raised to be. The ego I suppose was an add on.

I’ve never been in the limelight. I’m more of the background tech guy. If I stood beside my cousin, you wouldn’t be able to tell we were cousins. A quarter of the planet swoons over the King-That-Would-Have-Been, while they scuff at me thinking I’m some sort of sidekick. You learn to deal with it and half the time, I was glad I wasn’t the one under such scrutiny. I had no pressure put on me, and I didn’t have to prance around in tights. But then… when my uncle declared he wanted the rule of the Monarch Family to end, I found myself with more pressure placed on my shoulders than I could have ever imagined.

I’m not a warrior. I’m not a savant. But I am the one who hears all things and I am the one who fixes all the faulty wiring when Mikel or Rath took it upon himself to “fix” the security systems. Antar wouldn’t be able to survive without me!

Vilandra is Zan’s sister, my cousin. She is beautiful, like her mother. She’s cold and uncaring to the everyday observer, but inside, there’s an even more beautiful girl who devoted her time to help those in need, and would sacrifice herself for friends and family. People think I’m in love with her. I’m not. I love her more than a friend, but I love her less than a lover. We aren’t meant to be, and I understand that. She is like a sister to me, a mother to me. She’s my other half. But she isn’t my lover. Besides, like Visionaries, Hearkens are not allowed to love.

I hear everything. Every single thing even thought on this planet. Of course along with the power to hear all, comes this wonderful little perk, I can feel people using their powers.

Every Antarian has power potential. Everyone has the same simple power – manipulate simple molecular structure. Nothing big, like what Rath and Mikel are able to do, but an individual can say, turn a spoon into a fork, and I’ll feel it. Often it’s quite the irritating power. When you’re woken in the middle of the night to feel a flash of someone altering the molecules in a roll of toilet paper you want to hit yourself over the head to fall back to sleep. Stupid things like that. Anyway, Antarians were at one point Earthlings. We all originate from a planet called Earth. I’m not extremely educated in our planet’s history, but what I do know is that as Earthlings, we didn’t have this power, only a select few did. As the human race progressed, they started to discover they could use more of their brain capacity at a higher and more efficient level. So over a span of oh, I’m not sure, two hundred years or so, they started to work on developing their mental abilities, which eventually, with a little technology and slight genetic fine tuning, came the power we Antarians possess today.

Some are more powerful than others. The Monarch family has the most power, like myself. No ordinary non-royal individual can naturally possess the same amount of powers. There are ways to alter your make-up to raise the amount of power to channel, but testing facilities have been banned and we keep a close eye on the production of advancements in genetics. The business use to be huge, now it’s not as exciting. You change a little chromosome here, a little there, and voila you got a kid who can fly. Whop de doo. What a big deal – hence the reason why it lost it’s audience. But then there are those corrupted power-hungry b-astards, like Khivar who want to take over the planet. Not very original I know, but he tries, and gives us a run for our money. He tried a few times to make an underground facilities, but didn’t succeed. Mariana literally burned down his business. He never got he funds or the supplies to rebuild the lab, so he turned … I’m getting a little off-topic. Back to the point. I can feel people. The individuals which have slightly higher levels of kinetic power can do bigger manipulations or maybe can find themselves in others’ minds, but nothing dangerous.

That’s why I have the gift that I do. Since I hear all of this under-the-table happenings, I just tell Zan and he gets Rath and Mikel to deal with the matter. Which usually means a huge amount of debt and Rath scares the @#%$ out of anybody by just looking at them so they usually refrain from doing illegal activity. I’m like a walking, talking, radar machine. Go me!

I hear people’s thoughts. At first when I discovered my gift – at the tender cycle of eleven, while I was in Reproduction Tutorial, I thought I had gone insane. Not a hard conclusion to draw when your father was imprisoned for life to keep your family safe since he had a chemical imbalance in his genetic make-up, making him hear things and see things that weren’t there. I freaked out. As I usually do. But no matter how many pain killers I took, I kept hearing voices. You hear some interesting thoughts in Repro. Tutorial, let me tell you.

I fleed from the room and bumped into, of all people, Rath. Of course Rath and I were buddies, he beat up this senior who was trying to steal my lunch money (what?! Just because I was part of the Monarch family doesn’t mean I had a reasonable, average allowance you know!). And when I helped him peg said senior in dodge ball rec, we became instant friends. Anyhow, I started to babble – something which suspiciously resembles something Mariana does… and he grabbed me by my arms and dragged me into the boys bathroom, melting the lock into place.

And so through third and fourth period, I skipped, for the first time in my life, Population Studies and Regional Tactics to discuss the many “voices” I heard. It was then I found out I had been gifted.

“Close your mouth, Alan. Don’t pick up on Mariana’s less pleasant characteristics.”

“-“

“Good. So what is your mouth running off about?”

“I hear things.”

“Of course you do. You’re not deaf.”

“No, no, I know I’m not deaf, but I hear things when people don’t open their mouths. I think…”

“Continue on twerp.”

“I think I hear people’s thoughts.”

“That’s a good one.”

“I’m serious Rath!”

“Than prove it.”

“Holy Mother of the Heavens! You’re in love with Mariana.”

Bingo folks, I had just proven I had been gifted with the power of Hearing. I was a Hearken.

The power comes in especially convenient during conferences and trials, not to mention tracking down those criminals. I’m like a Doberman. God, I’m turning into Mariana more everyday.

And even today, after everything that has happened, I hear shadows of voices, whispers of things that have never happened, things I do not remember. I know I am not going insane, but I wonder what do they mean?

With my powers, I will find Rath and Vilandra. I promised Mariana and I promised myself.

I even hear the Royalty’s thoughts, despite what people may hypothesize. Yes, they are powerful and can block me on occasion, but like Ava’s power, they can’t completely silence their thoughts. It’s an involuntary part of their being. The only time I will stop hearing voices, is when someone dies.

And that is why I think Rath is still alive.


 

 

Chapter 7 – The Road Not Taken


“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
Except from ‘The Road Not Taken’ by Robert Frost


***
Livanka, Mikel, and Alan found themselves seated around a conference table in the Second Commander’s chamber. All having several questions plaguing their minds.

“Something’s not right.” Livanka was twirling a piece of her long hair, but stopped when Mikel had spoken.

“I know,” she replied, “In the meeting I had with the Elders, they said something that has been bothering me.”

Mikel sat back in his chair, rubbing his temples slowly. He had another headache this morning when he awoke from a dream. He couldn’t remember anything that would have cause him to wake up gasping for air, but he knew whatever it was, it disturbed him enough to ruse him to the conscious world. A sharp pain flew across his head, making him silence a hiss of pain. He stopped rubbing his head and placed his hands on the edge of the table, gripping it until his knuckles went white.

Alan, noticing his friends discomfort, lay a tentive hand on his shoulder,

“Are you ok? Or should be continue this later?”

“No, no. Now. I’ve been having headaches lately, nothing to concern yourself with Hearken.”

“Not true. I hear your cries of pain and thoughts of annoyance concerning them.”

“And you always tell me to go seek Kael.”

“And…”

“I ignore you.”

“As usual.”

“But I’m sure the pressure in my head with lessen if Liv would stop that infernal tapping with her nails on the table.”

Blushing slightly at her friends bitten remark, she pulled her hands back into her lap, letting one twirl her hair again. Waving his hand to tell her to continue what she had been saying before, Mikel released his grip on the table and took a drink of water. Maybe he was just dehydrated.

“Um, as I was saying, the Elders said something. We were talking about the Wall-“, Mikel interrupted her,

“You told them to leave it up.”

Rolling her eyes slightly she nodded her head in confirmation and continued where she had left off, “As I was saying, before someone interrupted me, we were talking about the Wall and Magena said that Khivar was probably assembling an army behind it to attack for a second time.”

“Second time, when did they attack the first time,” The Hearken spoke up, tapping his own finger on the table. Both turned to look at the man in charge of defense and battle, but he looked just as confused as they did, except maybe a little angry.

“The didn’t attack a first time. I think I would have known. I would have been fighting. Khivar’s attacked the outskirts and less industrialized areas of the planet, maybe she was mistaken. ”

Livanka nodded her head, “That’s what I thought. But she seemed rather, well um, certain on that particular statement so I didn’t ask again. Instead I went in search for any records taken.”

“Did you find anything?” Alan asked as he twirled himself in the chair, spinning in circles until a large hand stopped him in mid-cycle.

“Stop it. You’re making me sick.”

“Sorry Mikel.”

“Whatever,” Mikel returned his attention to the small brunette, “Well, did you find anything?”

Livanka leaned over her chair and pulled a small disk from a bag at her feet. Swirling her hand quickly over the surface of the shiny circle, it began to glow and quickly let out a small screen of light. Before the three shone a translucent screen with numbers and letter glaring back at them. Alan pulled the disk towards him and started to search through various folders and dates.

Pointing to the information tracker, Mikel asked, “What’re we looking at?”

“I went down to the archive center, and downloaded everything that has happened for the past five cycles. I thought I had downloaded everything, but something odd came up while I as searching.”

“What?”

“I think I know what she’s referring to,” Alan’s voice piped up suddenly, turning the disk to show Mikel. He pointed a finger towards a small row of numbers, “Look there.”

“Alan, I don’t understand one thing I’m looking at here. Might want to be a little more helpful?” Mikel replied, peering down at the screen with squinting eyes. All the numbers and letters just went in one ear and out the other. He never bothered to take any Archiving Tutorials, so all he could get out was “date” and description, but little else.

Alan pulled his finger towards the far extremity of the screen and hit the “magnify” button. The letters and numbers grew in size and Mikel leaned back. He watched as Alan’s finger continued down to draw an imaginary line under one set of values.

“This row signifies all events happening during the 254364th Cycle. If you look further along the row it has a number beside it. The number indicates how much space was taken up, or rather how much information is stored. Usually there is 19532 Takens. Because the damn archives always have something about everything as small as Zan taking a stroll down to the market in person. Anyway, but if you look at the number which states the amount of Takens for the 254364th Cycle, you notice it’s 299. Which, under no circumstances can be correct. It’s just too small of a folder.”

“Three cycles ago… The year Mariana was suppose to get married,” Mikel murmured.

Cutting in, Livanka pointed something else out to her warrior friend, “That’s not all. When I tried to open the folder, to see why the number was so inadequate, it wouldn’t grant me access.”

“That’s absurd. You’re a Royalty. You have access to everything.”

“No, no. Try it for yourself Mikel.” Not quite believing her, Mikel pressed the folder, but instead of another table of values popping up as expected, a small window bearing the message: “Access Denied” flashed in front of his eyes.

“What the h-ell…”

“What did I tell you!” Livanka exclaimed. She knew he didn’t believe her.

Mikel just scowled at Livanka, who let out a small chuckled and turned back to the screen, yelling a little and pressing his finger rather forcefully at the screen.

“What the h-ell is this machine’s problem? Why can’t I have access. My DNA is right, my voice is correct, I’m a d-amn Royalty, Second at that, what the h-ell’s the problem!”

A computerized voice replied to the Commander’s rant,

“This cycle folder has been encoded with selective access only.”

Growling, Mikel glared back at the screen, “And who gave that order!” Alan, grabbed the small disk out of Mikel’s reach, afraid the man would lose his temper and would do something involving the use of this powers.

“It won’t reply to you Mikel… It’s only a machine.” Alan’s fingers nimbly clicked on various buttons and values along the screen, with his eyes scanning the information displayed. Livanka and Mikel just sat quietly, both drumming their fingers to a similar beat along the table, waiting for their friend to supply them with some answers.

***

Moaning slightly from pain, Mariana grabbed her stepbrother’s arm, “Kaeeelll,” she whined, “make my headache go away!”

He merely chuckled at her adoringly as he placed he on a chair.

“Have you had enough to drink?”

Nod.

“Eaten enough?”

Nod.

“Tried taking pain killers?”

Nod.

“Gotten enough sleep?”

Nod.

“Is it that time of the month?”

This time, he received a small slap on his shoulder.

“I take that as a ‘no’. Well, maybe it’s just because of your gift.”

Looking up through her eyelashes, Mariana become a little more interested, “Hum?”

Kael walked over to a com-link located on his desk and pressed a few numbers and mumbled something into it, then shutting it off quickly. Turning around to his sister sitting on the small blue chair which was located in front of a large window allowing it’s occupant’s to see hills and the perimeter wall in the distance, he noticed she had a questioning look in her eyes.

“Oh. I just called Ava down. Thought that when I explain this, she should be here.” Mariana narrowed her eyes. Her brother looked a little bit uncomfortable, and when he starting to clean his already germ and clutter free clinic, she started to get even more suspicious.

“What’re you up to K?”

“Nothing, nothing,” he insisted, holding both hands up and shaking them, “I just thought that since you weren’t in a good mood that maybe Ava could come down here and try to get a vision off you. To stop the headache.”

Relaxing a little, Mariana’s tone become less threatening, “Oh ok.”

“Anyway. I was saying that I thought your gift had to do with the headache. You’re a Ainkan, someone who has the ability to blow things up-”

“And transfigure.” Slipping his hand over her mouth to inhibit her to speak her continued,

”Don’t interrupt, and I don’t understand how you can do that,” batting his hand away from her mouth, Mariana just shrugged her shoulders,

“Maybe I’m just special…”

“If you don’t stop interrupting I’m not going to be able to continue.” Shooting her a withering glance, Mariana shut her mouth with a small smile still present on her lips.

“As I was saying before I was interrupted twice, you blow up things, which means that because of that particular power, you would have more than the average amount of energy being produced in your body to maintain this power, to keep it under control, and just to be able to use it without fainting. And you haven’t used your powers recently,” he received a nod from her and continued, “which could mean the energy is being kept within your body, causing build up and pressure, which could explain the headaches.”

She jumped off the examining table and starting to walk around the room, looking at all the instruments displayed under forcefield trays and made her away around the small room rather quickly, stopping at the large window to look out towards the hill and perimeter wall. From where the window was placed, she could just make out the top of the church where she would have gotten married three cycles ago.

“But that wouldn’t make sense. I’ve gone longer amounts of time without using my powers before and never once have I developed headaches,” she replied softly, lifting her fingers to the glass, almost as if she were reaching out to the sacred place. Abruptly pushing off the glass she returned to walking around the room.

“If that’s the case, than I don’t know what could be causing the headache. Power build up was the most likely conclusion.”

“Can’t you just do your healing thing on me?” She inquired, while rearranging a crooked painting of a battle scene.

Kael thought for a moment about how to answer that question. On one hand, he should be able to, but when he had tried a moment ago, nothing had happened, except only to increase her pain. Wait a minute-

“I just tried to heal your headache yesturday that way. And it didn’t work… Don’t you remember?” He looked at her curiously when her hands stopped moving, both still cupping the frame of the painting.

“What did you say?” She turned around slowly.

“Don’t you remember yesturday? The day before yesturday? The day before that. You keep coming down here complaining about a headache.”

A perplexed look was on her face, “No,” she started quietly, “The only thing I remember about the past couple of days is hearing Rath’s voice, seeing… seeing.. something and you trying to steal my letter-”

“What? I never tried to steal anything from you!”

“Yes you did. The letter that Rath wrote me three cycles ago the night of the wedding he didn’t show for? Cream paper, this,” she indicated with her hands, “size, old looking, tattered. Don’t tell me you don’t remember, you transfigured it!”

“No! I wouldn’t steal anything from you. And I would certainly remember stealing a letter from you!” Mariana walked up to her brother.

“Look, you piss me off by taking the d-amn thing and now you don’t even have enough pride to actually admit you stole it!!”

“But I didn’t steal it,” he said through clenched teeth, “so I don’t have any pride to try to keep.”

“Liar!” she shouted.

“I’m the liar, M! You’re the one who can’t remember coming down her time after time to bother me about a headache! If anyone should be getting angry, it’s me!” He pushed her shoulder gently, trying to get her finger out of his face. With an enraged cry, Mariana launched herself at her brother, trying to land blows wherever she could.

The man struggled as his spitefire of a sister was managing to hit him quite a few times in the chest, when suddenly the mass was lifted off of him and he found himself coming face to face with burning blue eyes.

“What is going on here!” Ava cried, while holding Mariana from throwing her self back at her brother.

“That b-astard! He’s a liar!” Mariana accused, pointing a finger towards the Healer.

“Wooh there! If anyone’s a liar, it’s her!” he objected, nodding his head at Mariana while inspected himself to ensure she didn’t break any skin.

Both siblings continued to scream obstinacies at each other while Ava took in the damage done to the clinic. Not much, just a few trays had fallen on the floor, but nothing serious. A little molecular reposition could easily fix the mess. Now to deal with the squabbling kids.

Before she could speak, a chill ran through her spine. She spun around the room, looking over her shoulder, but didn’t see anyone. She could have sworn she had a sense of someone watching her.

“Damn it, M! I already told you I didn’t steal your damn letter!” yanked Ava back to the two in front of her. Stepping between the two with arms out, she motioned for both to calm down.

“Ok, I don’t know what is going on here, but I think you’re both right.” Two pairs of surprised eyes landed on her. “Things aren’t right. Memories are missing.” She quickly explained.

Telling Mariana to go outside or return to her chamber and settling a quiet Kael into his desk’s chair, Ava raced out of the clinic, in search of her cousin. She needed to talk to him and she hoped it wasn’t too late.

***
One mid-cycles earlier that day (approx. an hour ago)

Ava looked at herself in her vanity mirror. She peered at herself and closed her eyes. Lately she had been waking in the dead of the night out of breath and sweating. But she could never remember any of the dreams, which was odd since Visionaries were not suppose to forget messages. Opening her eyes again, she swore she saw a flicker on the mirror.

“Impossible,” she muttered to herself, “the mirror is real, not a projection.” Getting up from her sitting position she turned towards her bed placed in the middle of the yellow-painted room to make her bed. When she aired the comforter out, a small hairbrush landed with a thump on the floor. She leaned over, picked it up and turned back towards the vanity to replace the brush.

Suddenly she colors started to skip and jump in front of her and she grabbed the edge of the chair attempting to keep her balance. A single thought flashed through her mind,

// She needed to talk to Mikel first, Because if her vision was right, havoc would be inevitable…

With a huge intake of breath, she found herself back in her room, hand on the vanity’s edge. Pushing all the contents off the vanity, she threw the brush against the surface. The loud noise threw her back to her previous state of shock.

// blast fire, pain, screams, Khivar, Nicholas, wedding, vision.

Mariana, Rath, Mikel, sword, war, battle, blood

He’s dead… He’s dead. He’s dead.

// Mariana, Ainkan, why couldn’t you feel her?

I don’t know

Mariana, Ainkan, didn’t develop the power.

PROPHECY

Pain.


// No! We will follow the prophecy. At all costs.

No, no no

RathMarianaswordwarKhivarAinkanfeelher?prophecyallcosts…


“Av. Come down to the Clinic. Mariana’s here, has a headache. Might want you to take her back to her room to rest, since I have appointments all afternoon.” Kael’s voice came from the com-link located on the wall near the door, pulling Ava out of her vision.

Opening her eyes and finding herself unknowingly drumming her fingers along the vanity table, she peered at herself again in the mirror. She carefully inspected her eyes’ reflection and when she noticed a small red ring around the iris, she took a sharp intake of breath.

“Someone’s been erasing my memories…”

***

“I can’t crack the folder. Sorry.”

Both Livanka and Mikel let out a groan of frustration. They had been sitting here for three half-cycles chewing on their nails hoping that Alan would override the access on to the 254364th Cycle folder. But apparently he had no such luck.

“So you think someone’s trying to keep something from us?” Mikel asked, while examining his fingernails.

“I don’t know for sure, but that’s what everything is pointing to.” Livanka answered, taking a small sip from her glance.

Suddenly, Alan spoke up, “I hear Rath.”

The room fell instantly silent. Alan gulped as Mikel rounded on him.

“Did you just say you hear my brother?” Alan took another gulp as sweat starting to form on his brow. He should have told Mikel sooner, but when was a ‘good’ time to break to a guy like Mikel that his presumed-dead brother’s voice was whispering in his head?

“Er well. Yes.”

“But you told me the other night, you didn’t feel him.”

“I never said I couldn’t hear him.” Alan fidgeted in his seat.

“Why the hell didn’t you tell me!” Mikel exploded, jumping from his seat and looming over Alan, a dangerous glint flashing through his eyes. Alan had no right to keep that from him! Rath was his brother for God’s sake! Livanka quickly jumped over the table and pulled Mikel off a squirming Alan,

“Calm down Mikel. I’m sure Alan will explain,”

Shooting a look of gratitude towards Livanka, Alan tried to explain with a surprisingly unwavering voice.

“I don’t really hear him, like I hear you or any other Antarian. But I hear whispers from him. I can’t make out anything he says, but I get the distinct feeling I hear Rath. As if he’s trying to speak to me through a fog. I wasn’t sure what it meant before, that’s why I didn’t tell you and I thought it could have been my mind in denial. But since it hasn’t gone away, but rather gotten more persistent, I thought-”

“You should tell me”

“Yea,” Alan finished lamely, while at the same time searching through Mikel and relieved to find the man was no longer harboring violent thoughts towards him.

“What would that mean than Alan?” Livanka was always the methodical one and was processing the news, but still tried to keep the confrontation from turning violent. She too was relieved when Mikel’s aura reverted from the dark menacing black once Alan finished talking. She knew she wouldn’t be able to pull Mikel off Alan were he to attack her other friend.

“I don’t know. That’s what I’m trying to say. It’s not a clear voice, more like a muted voice. So I think that… well…”

When the room was silent for a few seconds, Mikel too charge,

“You think what?” he barked out, causing Alan to just shake his head back and forth.

“I think Rath is still alive.”

 

 

 

 

Chapter 8 - The Prophecy



***
After the confusing confrontation she had with her brother, Mariana found herself looking at the row and rows of ancient books in the Royalty Library. Sighing quietly, she made her way past dozen of sections until she stood in front of a blank key pad and a thick silver door. Laying her hand on the cool surface, three beeping sounds echoed in the large room and a mechanical voice asked her for identify confirmation. Speaking a couple of words into the small speaker, Maria pushed the door further opened and walked towards a small safe in the far corner of the secluded, underground room.

Using her powers to unlock the security feature, she gently lifted a thin manuscript off the ledge and placed it on a small formica table in the center of the void room. Pulling a chair up beside the table, she sat down, and opened the first page of the manuscript.

She wanted answers, or perhaps she just wanted to remind herself why she continued to do what she did – wait, let things pass by, stop questioning her life like she once did. Her eyes traveled over the words and sentences written in Earth’s native tongue. The tutorials she had taken in her youth had served her well in deciphering and reading through the old texts, remnants of a dead planet, a dead home.

The manuscript itself wasn’t long and did not go into great deal, but from what she had extracted from the multiple read thoroughs she had done, she knew that this prophecy would unknowing direct the course of the Antarian people’s future and fate.

The manuscript had been found in the Granolith, one of the few things which survived Earth’s annihilation centuries ago. The Granolith was supposedly some sort of religious statue, although there was no record of it’s purpose or of it’s role in Earth’s development. It was the only building or statue or thing left standing when colonizers on Antar, which had traveled to the planet to try to find a new home for humans, had returned to Earth in search of survivors and artifacts. After the manuscript had been safely extracted from the cone energy field, the Monarch King at the time had decreed the religious element be sealed in a chamber in an unknown location on the planet. It would not be retrieved, used or dismantled at any time. It was to remain timeless. And when that Monarch King and his Queen died, along went the location of the Granolith. Even to this cycle, no one has ever layed eyes on the mythical artifact. It lays hidden somewhere on the planet, alone for cycles, awaiting it’s next mission.

Preservation

// One man, one force, one creator can not control a planet. The day shall come when blood will be spilt and the words advised that were forgotten and misused shall point the world into a new direction

The end of the reign of the Monarch king. A sad time for Zan and Vilandra’s family. Although the children themselves found no problem in sharing the power with their friends and relatives, many Elders and supports of the “old ways” had protested the change commanded by the late Monarch King. They felt that losing such a cultural tradition would lead the people into death and despair. Although the contrary came true. Antar had just broken out in war, and the Monarch King was killed, his last dying breath handing the power over to a Royalty council. The first part of the prophecy had come true. And the world had been sent into a new direction. For the time being at least.

// One leader, one warrior, one protector, one visionary, one hearer, one dreamer, one seer, and one beautiful saviour will be sent in the time of need. Will rise from below the scales of power and shall help preserve loyalty and welfare

The Leader Tall, strong, powerful and proud. One of the remaining true heirs to the throne shall regain his position within those named to guide and preserve peace.

Zan. The true heir to the throne of Antar, son of the Monarch King. He shows us the way and harbors peace, forever the leader.

The Warrior Dark secrets, regret, pain, and fear shall mask this soul. Though through darkness comes lights, a powerful man shall rise to do what has been said for eeons. Protect and love, through all time, through all space shall he be mated to the one that shall save.[/I[

Rath. He has seen so much pain, felt so much horror and holds so much power, and yet his soul is loving, caring, hurting. And he loves, to the soul.

The Protector Wielding a sword, tall, proud, and vision of another shall this man be the uprise and the one who shall cover those who fear, and hold them fast until the saviour shall r

Mikel, Rath’s identical twin. He’s always there to protect me, always there to help me, my best friend, my pillar of strength. From the day I was born.

The Visionary Through eyes which will see a million times, a milltion memories and a million pains. One who thought all that had been forsaken has been lost. They see what shall happen and feel the pain of others. To see the bright light that one day shall rise

The name carried over. Ava is the Visionary, plagued by dreams and sees the pain of millions.

The Hearer And along the side of the one that shall see, the one that shall hear shall unmist and point a direction to go. Though sight can be marred and fractured, the one that shall hear shall see all that is true.

Alan. The millions of thoughts on the planet all draw to him. And he tells us what is true and he can see through the lies when people talk.

The Dreamer A beautiful soul in and out, with bellowing yellow and bright shine from the souls. The one underestimated, the one with the beautiful dream. The one who sheds light in times of need, the one sent to live in shadows, the one who shall fall from grace.

Myself. I have fallen from grace, the day Rath left me at the alter. The Prophecy does not continue to tell much of future as to tell me whether or not I will ever return from where I fell.

The Seer The one not meant to be shall be the one whos gift shall see the insight to a dying world. To see the present and what was, to please and to care, to evolve and to grow. To feel the glow around men and woman they shall prevail into a life that shall try to shun them. [’I]

Livanka. She was never suppose to be Royalty, she was never suppose to be gifted with the power to read aura shadows. And although the world around her hates her for the pain of mercenaries, she continues to thrive.

The Saviour They shall rise to the occasion, but fall from the pedestal. They shall disappear in times of need, but from the ash that has formed around their soul, they will rise again and bring the world into the light. For the love for a warrior shall show an eternity of pain and suffering a reason to continue. But not before they themselves will see through the panes of p

And Vilandra. Her fall from the pedestal has come. We have yet to find her and her perfection to date has suffered so. Her disappearance worries both the Royalty and the Elders. Without the one who shall bring the light to a dying planet in need, we do not know if we should fight the coming battle, or let ourselves die. And so we wait, for our Saviour to return, in the form of the Leader’s sister, the beautiful Vilandra, meant for Rath – the Warrior who has stolen my Dreamer heart and soul.


There was one page left of the manuscript, the rest of it was missing, torn, as if someone had not wanted it to be read.

The world shall fall into peril many-a-times, but each time, one pure soul give it’s ray of hope and help those who hold the power to resurface. But on one frightful day, after war shall break, the Savior shall be tested. And if the world shall succeed to survive the pain of living and the pain of betrayal, a new threat shall rise from the ground and from the shadow to bring the world to blood and war.

One wrong decision, one wrong move and all the world shall rumble and all the ruins shall shake. On ones shoulders does fate lay, as decree the prophecy.

And only will love and understanding give back to the Savior what she has bestowed to the earth, shall the one with the heart of the warrior in her palms discover what it means to love once again.


And the manuscript ended there. On a page that made no sense. The prophecy was too vague to follow, that she had argued many-a-times, but it seemed the Elders took no notice of her findings. They followed it as a religion, as a way of life.

Perhaps she disliked the prophecy because it had come between her and Rath, or maybe because she felt that the prophecy they held was incomplete and that without the remaining pages, it would be misinterpreted.

Rubbing her eyes and standing up, Mariana replaced the manuscript to it’s sacred spot and returned to the chair. Thinking, she needed to think. It had said the world would fall to peril many a times but each time it would be brought back. Which was true. Antar had been tittering on the brink of war for cycles, and although wars had broken out since she could remember, it was never officially referred to as one until the night the Monarch King was killed in action.

And since the day of War had not yet broken, this meant they still had time to find Vilandra and try to keep the world from sinking to Hell.

“Great,” she muttered, “we have to find Vilandra now I suppose .”

“I was write all along wasn’t I”. Mariana slipped over her chair and swore,

“What the hell! Zan, “holding her hand over her heart, “you scare me. What are you doing down here.”

The man shrugged his shoulders, “Looking for you.”

“You just love to hang in dark corners and pop up in front of helpless girls?”

“You are hardly a helpless girl Mariana.” Zan chuckled.

And for some reason, just the way he was looking at her and they way he said her name, made a chill run down her spine.

 

 

 

translations

Avoem – cloak like garment. Sort of like a kimono crossed with a duster for men.
Katan – elite organization… You know, for rich and wealthy.


 

 

Chapter 9 – Masquerade For the Forgotten


***

Halfway through the doorway, anxious to leave the room and its sudden feeling of disillusion, Zan’s monotone voice stopped her,

“Remember Mar, we have the ball tonight.”

Cocking her head to the side, she protested, “No… I already told you I wasn’t going to be attending. I have other… Matters to tend to.”

Walking up to her and grabbing her arm in a loose hold, Zan just shrugged his shoulders, “You’ll attend. All the Royalty are. I’m commanding you to.”

With his final word, full of arrogance, Mariana tore her arm away from her friend and continued on her way, throwing her own sarcastic comment back over her shoulder,

“Of course, Your Highness.”

It appeared she was going to be spending a long night with stuffed up, old, dull, dreary, tedious Elders. In other words, spending the night with whole room full of Zans. Oh goody.

***
Growling and yanking on the crotch of his pants, Mikel glared at his small golden-haired cousin,

“Why the hell am I wearing these? I feel like I’m wearing a pair of tights. Men, especially Second in Commands, do not wear tights or these these, what are these?” he said, now pointing towards the middle of his collar.

“They’re called buttons Mikel. And you’re suppose to do them up.”

“And choke myself? Who came up with these moronic ideas.”

Sighing and diverting her eyes to stare at Mikel’s reflection in the mirror, Ava snapped her fingers and motioned for him to come closer to her.

“Just do them up! Dressing you is like dressing a third cycle child. I mean really Mikel! They say women take all the time, but it’s been three half cycles and you’re still complaining! Just grab your Avoem and let’s go, we’re going to be late!”

Smirking at her, Mikel just kept fiddling with this collar buttons. They were too constricting on his windpipe. It felt like a rope tightened around his neck every time he swallowed or tried to talk. This would not do. He wa-

“Don’t even think of unbuttoning them. And I already said, let’s go!.” Waving his head at Ava to silence her, he rolled his eyes and continued to look at his reflection in the mirror, his mind on other matters. He needed to talk to Mariana. And for once, he hoped that Zan had used his rather demanding quality and commanded her to join the ball tonight – as he had so nicely done with him and Ava.

She had been avoiding him since they kissed. But he couldn’t understand whether she was avoiding him or rather Rath. Because while his arm was wrapped around her small, fragile waist, he was assaulted by a parade of images. Of her and Rath in some rather unique positions showing his brothers originality and Mariana’s flexibility. He didn’t know whether to be stunned, amazed, or angry.

Because no one was suppose to be touching Mariana like that, no one but him.

“Where the hell did that come from,” Mikel muttered to himself, confused by the sudden thought of possessiveness he had towards his best friend. It was unexplainable, since Rath and Mariana had been together for so long and that it had been established that despite her protests, Mariana was Rath’s. And vice versa. So why did he feel the hot anger growing along his neck and the violent thoughts entering his head? As suddenly as they had assaulted him, they were gone.

Angry at his lack of control of emotions, Mikel lay his hands against the wall on both sides of the mirror and closing his eyes.

“What was that!” Ava yelped suddenly.

Opening one eye slightly to look at Ava, Mikel just make a small movement with his shoulders. He had to talk to Mariana, now. Not tomorrow and not in a half cycle, now. He needed… Needed some answers, to her avoidance, his feelings, everything.

“But – but…” stuttered the wide-eyed girl, evidently not noticing her cousin’s lack of attention. Her eyes were glued to a spot in the room.

Lifting the large black and burgundy cloak off of his bed, Mikel pushed open his doors and strode out of the room. Leaving his talking cousin in his wake.

“You… You… just warped-“ the description was cut short as Mikel’s arm pulled her out of his chamber, pushing the door closed on the anomaly.

***
“You told me to be careful, you’re the one watching them.”

“Why shouldn’t I? I want to keep them safe.”

“By alerting them to your presence?”

“That was a mistake. She didn’t see me.”

“But she felt you.”

“It doesn’t matter.”

“What are you talking about!”

“I’m talking about you continuing this absurd plot you insist on carrying out. You’re just going to hurt them, all of them.”

“I’m doing what’s right.”

“You’re doing what you want.”

“Which is right.”

“You’ll end up ruining all of their lives you know that? Everything they’ve worked towards has been a lie and when they find that out…”

“They’ll do what? Yell at me? I allowed them to escape pain.”

“For lies.”

“Wouldn’t you want that?”

“Not if it meant losing everything I thought I had.”

“You don’t understand.”

“You’re right, I don’t.”

“Everything will work out.”

“Not if you keep this up. Stop it, let them be free! They are already noticing it, especially Ava. They’ll piece it all together. Just stop.”

“No.”

“Yes. What you’re doing is not right.”

“Leave.”

“Not before you tell me you’ll stop this.”

“No.”

“Then I won’t leave.”

“Then I will.”

“And with you, our downfall.”

“You know nothing.”

“But Av-“

“I’ll deal with it.”

“Oh and you’re so good at that.”

“Shut the f-uck up.”

“No, that was you.”

***

She was looked upon with awe. Her small frame was draped by a translucent snow white satin, covered in an avoem of equally translucent shades of emeralds, rubies and sapphire, each adding a new dimension and elegance to already beautiful woman. Each thin layer placed above another created a whimsical sea of colors, as flowing as her golden brown curls. She was a vision all of her own. And her brother grinned at her blush.

But no one’s eyes held her form as strongly as the tall lone figure standing along the edge of the room, with this black leather pants and equally dark shirt. A simple black, but traditional avoem covered the set, embroidered in the interior a burgundy and gold dragon and flames, reflecting the bearer’s soul and passion. He looked like a warrior prince of another time.

Striding up to the vision of sunlight, he left his companion alone, still muttering about space and time tears.

His calloused fingers brushed caringly against her wrist until they cupped her elbow and his other arm snaked around her waist. He felt her stiffen immediately. Nodding towards Elders and Kael, he guided the now-frowning beauty towards a set of doors leading to a balcony corridor. Kael stood left behind, surveying the large ballroom bordered with oak and mahogany tables featuring beverages and foods of an unlimited assortment. Gold emblems and silver etchings dances around the floors and the ceiling in an intricate pattern of designs and images. Large pillars were placed around the perimeter of the room, made of marble, they arched over openings and stood tall, as proud soldiers in guarding. The room was magnificent, the only true space fit for a Royalty Ball.

Eyeing a troubled Ava alone sitting in a chair, he made his way across the dance floor, shaking hands and smiling at Elders and gave a quick squeeze on the arm to Livanka when he passed by.

“You ok Ava?” the question was spoken softly with a hint of concern.

She smiled up at the Healer, her face void of it’s creases and worry, “Always Kael. Just confused and afraid I’m going insane. Nothing out of the ordinary.” He laughed along with her, happy he was able to adjust her mood, but still noting to question her later that evening.

Pulling her from her sitting position, his smile grew as he noted the coral and blue sea colored garment she wore. It brought out her dazzling eyes. Amazing.

“May I have this dance, milady?”

***

She detached herself from the man and wrapped her own arms around her waist – missing the warmth of his touch.

“Why are you avoiding me Mariana?” he almost seethed.

“You don’t need to snap.”

“I’m not!”

“You are!”

“Am not!”

“Yes you are!”

Huffing in an uncharacteristic move, Mikel just shook his head. He could never win with her.

“Fine. But you didn’t answer my question.” He resumed.

“I’m not avoiding you.” She bit back quickly, eying the ballroom behind his shoulder. She could see her stepbrother moving around the floor in what seemed to be an attempt at dancing, with a laughing Ava at his arm.

Mikel, noticing her lack of attention, turned his neck around to see what had her so entranced.

“They look so happy.” She commented.

“They are.”

“Things use to be so simple,” her explanation sounded so sad and vulnerable.

“They can still be.”

She shook her head, “Not without him they can’t.”

“Rath.” It was more of a statement than a question.

“Who else.”

“Why are you avoiding me Mar?” this time he asked gently, coaxing his friend out of the protective wall she seemed to have extracted around herself.

“Because.”

“We kissed?” he offered.

“Yes.” Pushing past him suddenly, she made a quick movement to open the doors, “I’m sorry Mikel, I need to go.”

Turning away from her retreating back, he slammed his fist against the stone railing, smashing it to pieces.

“Damn it.” Knowing that in this state he couldn’t control his powers, he just stalked back into the room which Mariana had reentered seconds ago. Leaving the crumbling railing to be kissed by the moonlight and stars.

With a shaking head, they waved their hand over the damaged stone, repairing it instantly, “This shouldn’t be happening, I’m sorry.”

***

All night she had successfully placed herself in conversations and partnerships where Mikel was not present. She wasn’t avoiding him… She just needed time to sort her thoughts. She didn’t want to hurt him, and she didn’t intend to, but she was just if not more confused than he was.

The kiss, it was still branded in her memory. True, visions of Rath and their love and relationship floated above the kiss, but her lips, after she had pushed away from Mikel, had tingled. They had felt warm and swollen and she felt a feeling of bliss coiling in her stomach. She had fled that night more of fear than of anything else. She wasn’t suppose to be having these feelings towards Mikel. Passion, lust, need, want. They weren’t suppose to be associated with Mikel, only Rath.

But as she had fled from his doorway, her body ached for more. More touches, more caresses, more heat, more love, more passion. Her entire being longed to be with Mikel, the brother of the man whom she had loved from before she could remember. This wasn’t right! It had to be hormones or mourning. These feelings couldn’t be real.

She wasn’t in love with her best friend. She couldn’t be.

As her eyes scanned the room, while her thumb circled the edge of her champagne glass, a pair of molten chocolate eyes held her gaze. A tingling sensation ran up her spin and her body reacted by longing for his. Her fingers itched to lace themselves in his long locks of hair. She licked her lips in anticipation and she could swear she felt a caress on her upper thigh, drawing small numbers along the surface… Moving higher and higher. A barely audible groan fell from her mouth,

“And so, I thought that the best way to get Courtney involved with the Katan was if I told her the most eligible bachelors were members themselves. Don’t you agree? Mariana?”

She jumped slightly when the Elder placed a hand on her shoulder, breaking her eye contact with Mikel.

“Hum?” she asked, slightly flushed, “I agree… Yes, yes. Excuse me, but I need to deal with… A matter.” With a shaky smile and a pat on her back, Mariana quickly made her way back towards the balcony corridor exit.

Pushing one door open slightly and sliding her way through quietly, her entire body jumped at feeling a familiar spark of lust.

A pair of strong arms encircled her waist and a pair of lips laid kisses along her neck, while every so often stopping to bite down gently on the skin. A groan, this time louder, escaped between her breaths.

He twirled her around so that she faced him, not once his lips losing contact with her skin. His nose nudged the fabric away from her breasts, exposing the tops to the cool night air. Small licks and kisses ran along the sensitive skin between them and she felt her knees start to buckle. With a breathless moan, she pulled him back with her to lean against a stone railing…

His lips found hers, and she opened her mouth willingly, her tongue assaulting his in a dance for domination, with his hands roaming her body, pushing moans and stifled groans towards her mouth. Pulling apart slightly to catch their breath, she grinned wickedly at him and ripped open his shirt, exposing his sculpted chest and shoulders. Her teeth bit on his nipple, coaxing a growl from him. Her lips trailed and sucked along his chest, until his fingers lifted her curl framed face up towards his own.

“Not here,” he panted and she nodded before jumping into his arms, legs wrapping around his waist. His own arm dropping to support some of her weight. Their lips found each other again, in a searing kiss, of two lost lovers.

His other hand rose slightly to the side and a small swirling sound was mixed in with those of the two lovers as they found themselves in his chambers. Pushing her dress and avoem off her body entirely, his eyes, full of hunger traveled down her length and back up again, to rest on her eyes, darkened with lust. Shedding his own clothes, he stepped towards her slowly.

He wanted this.

She needed this.

“This doesn’t mean I love you Mikel.”

“I know.”

With the words leaving their mouths, the two bodies fell together against the mass of sheets and pillows, as moans and screams of pleasure drowned out the night’s whispers.

 

 

 

PROPHECY - part of Chapter 8


Preservation

One man, one force, one creator can not control a planet. The day shall come when blood will be spilt and the words advised that were forgotten and misused shall point the world into a new direction

One leader, one warrior, one protector, one visionary, one hearer, one dreamer, one seer, and one beautiful savior will be sent in the time of need. Will rise from below the scales of power and shall help preserve loyalty and welfare

The Leader Tall, strong, powerful and proud. One of the remaining true heirs to the throne shall regain his position within those named to guide and preserve peace.

The Warrior Dark secrets, regret, pain, and fear shall mask this soul. Though through darkness comes lights, a powerful man shall rise to do what has been said for eeons. Protect and love, through all time, through all space shall he be mated to the one that shall save.

The Protector Wielding a sword, tall, proud, and vision of another shall this man be the uprise and the one who shall cover those who fear, and hold them fast until the savior shall rise and allow them to see the light that is brought forth. Through through sacrifice shall this Protector aid it’s long lost friend in their quest to find the next writings.

The Visionary Through eyes which will see a million times, a milltion memories and a million pains. One who thought all that had been forsaken has been lost. They see what shall happen and feel the pain of others. To see the bright light that one day shall rise from the ash.

The Hearer And along the side of the one that shall see, the one that shall hear shall unmist and point a direction to go. Though sight can be marred and fractured, the one that shall hear shall see all that is true.

The Dreamer A beautiful soul in and out, with bellowing yellow and bright shine from the souls. The one underestimated, the one with the beautiful dream. The one who sheds light in times of need, the one sent to live in shadows, the one who shall fall from grace.

The Seer The one not meant to be shall be the one whos gift shall see the insight to a dying world. To see the present and what was, to please and to care, to evolve and to grow. To feel the glow around men and woman they shall prevail into a life that shall try to shun them.

The Savior They shall rise to the occasion, but fall from the pedestal. They shall disappear in times of need, but from the ash that has formed around their soul, they will rise again and bring the world into the light. For the love for a warrior shall show an eternity of pain and suffering a reason to continue. But not before they themselves will see through the panes of pain and discover the truths which lay underneath.

The world shall fall into peril many-a-times, but each time, one pure soul give it’s ray of hope and help those who hold the power to resurface. But on one frightful day, after war shall break, the Savior shall be tested. And if the world shall succeed to survive the pain of living and the pain of betrayal, a new threat shall rise from the ground and from the shadow to bring the world to blood and war.

One wrong decision, one wrong move and all the world shall rumble and all the ruins shall shake. On ones shoulders does fate lay, as decree the prophecy.

And only will love and understanding give back to the Savior what she has bestowed to the earth, shall the one with the heart of the warrior in her palms discover what it means to love once again.

And shall they –

 

 

 

Chapter 10 - Unpredictable


Walking away from Kael, whom she left to "mingle" with some Elders, Ava went in search of her cousin. She needed to tell him what she saw. Pushing past a tall man and his wife, Ava frowned, she wasn't able to locate Mikel, which was odd, because he hated these functions and his large frame usually stuck out like a sore thumb from the decorated walls. Funny, Mariana was no where to be seen either...

Making her way towards the double doors, a hand spinned her around,

"Ava, where are you going? It's a wonderful party!"

"I'm looking for my cousin. Have you seen him?"

"Mikel?" Short, clipped sentence, suspicious.

Frowning slighly, Ava nodded, "Of course. I don't have any other living cousins."

Answering quickly Zan pulled Ava towards a dark corner of the ballroom, "Right, right, what was I thinking?! So, why do you need to see Mikel?"

Looking over her shoulder, and insuring no one was close by, Ava leaned close to Zan, "If I tell you something, will you promise not to alert the rest of the Royalty or People?"

Zan's curiosity was peaked. What was so secretive that a Visionary couldn't inform the Royalty about? Quickly telling her "Yes", he leaned lower to hear the girl's hushed voice.

"I think someone's been altering my memories as well as the memories of the others. I think someone's trying to hide something from us. And that Mikel or Mariana is the key. They both seem to be receving most of the signs, especially Mar."

"What kind of signs?"

"The usual indications, red rim around my pupils, spaces of time missing from my memory, things not making sense, and implication of events that have never happened. Not to mention what Mikel was able to do earlier today."

"Which was?" the man prodded,

"He warped."

"And that's strange?"

"No, but it's wh-" Before she could answer, Livanka stepped up to the pair, pointing at Ava,

"You're looking for Mikel? Last saw him leave onto the balcony. Thought I should let you know." And the dark hair girl gave a quick smile and disappeared back into the throng of Elders and politicians.

Turning to look at Zan again, Ava let out a small gasp, the man was gone. Turning around and looking aroundthe room, she wasn't able to locate him. Where had he gone? Pushing the thought out of her head, Ava quickly made her way back towards the double doors. Zan's disappearing act could be left until later, she needed to talk to Mikel.

***
Pushing one of the doors open, Ava slid into the night's air. Rubbing her hands over her arms, she pulled her avoem tighter around her frame. It was cold.
***
"She knows."

"So what are you going to do about it? Kill her?"

"Maybe."

"You're serious! You aren't going to kill one of the Royalty!"

"She'll expose everything!"

"Let her!"

"No! I've worked so hard, spent so much energy, I won't let it happen."

"Then the only way to stop her-"

"No more. I won't be a part of this."

"You already are."

"Because you forced me."

"Because you had no other way. Fine! Run! Run! But telling them will mean revealing your dirty little secret."

***
Livanka emptied her glass and placed it on the table. This ball was probably the worst place she could imagine right now, with all the Elders giving her odd looks of resentment or just plain curiosity. She wasn't planning on coming, much as the rest of the Royalty had decided, but when Zan had literally dragged her to the event, she was cornered. Either run and allow the Elders to know she was a coward or stay and have the worst night of her life.

Noting Ava's blonde head leave through the set of double doors, Livanka sighed. Why hadn't she stayed and accompanied Ava on her search?

"Because Zan's aura was unsettling," she muttered to herself. Grumbling quietly, Livanka pushed away from the table and decided on taking a trip to the bathroom. Better to appear "gone" than to sit around and be the newest addition to a zoo.

***
Entering the bathroom, Livanka stopped. A chill ran up her spine and her eyes zeroed in on the large panelled mirror which sat above the sink and ran from one side of the room to the other. A small gasp escaped her lips as she walked up to her reflection. Turning and pushing open all the stalls and checking the ceiling and window for entry or exit, Livanka rushed out of the room, melting the door shut.

Running towards the ballroom again, Livanka slowed down and caught her breath. She needed to waltz into the room, look calm, retrieve Zan, Alan, or Kael and look as non chalante as possible.

Taking one last breath, she walked into the large ballroom with a smile on her face. Her eyes scanned the room, hoping that perphaps she would see Ava instead and this could be called a practically joke. But no such luck. So instead, she threw herself into the mass of people and pushed her way towards a familiar aura.

***

"Kael," A small voice hissed at him, while a hand tugged on his arn insistantly. His smile faltered for a second and he excused himself from the conversation. Turning to the origin of the noise and movement, he came face to face with a frantic Livanka. Before he could ask what was going on, he was suprised by the force Livanka used to drag him out of the ballroom.

Forcing them both to stop, Kael laid a hand on Livanka's shoulder,

"What's wrong?"

"The mirror."

"Ok... Are you sure you're ok?"

"No no... Just," Livanka just shook her head and returned to dragging the confused man towards the woman's bathroom, where, for the second time, Kael stop them.

"No. I'm not going into the women's bloody bathroom. If someone's not feeling well, they can come out. Men don't go into ladies bathrooms."

Sighing and ignoring the Healer, Livanka waved her hand over the melted mass of silver metal and pushed the door opened, grabbing Kael's arm in the process.

"My, aren't we grabby today."

***

"Look." Livanka pointed towards the mirror.

Kael's face reflected against the mirror in a look of astonishment and incomprehension, "What the hell..."

"That's what I thought."

Both pair of eyes were stuck to the sentence scratched into the hard reflective surface: The Vision is in danger. The letters were etched precausiouly and flashed out.

"It must have been done manually," Kael mused, letting his fingers trail over the etching, "but what does..."

"It mean?" She finished for him.

"Yea" Kael stopped moving his hand and looked back at his friend,

"Maybe it's a warning? A vision, foreshadowing?. Look," her finger pointed towards the message, the vision, what would that mean? It's so vague."

"It's definately a warning," he agreed, removing his hand from the lettering, "but for what? And by who?"

"I don't know, " Livanka explained, "I came in here, to escape the political convention and came face to face with this. No one was in any of the stalls, the ventilation cap is still firmly in place and no one exited the room before I came in."

"But they must have known you were the one coming in."

"That's what I thought. This wouldn't mean anything to anyone, so I figured they must have meant it for one of the Royalty."

"Since when does creepiness directly mean Royalty?"

"Since Zan?"

Both shared a look a burst our laughing, "Ok, ok, so our leader's been acting a little weird lately, not being around and just sort of hovering, but it doesn't mean Zan's creepy. He's like an elephant."

"Creepy elephant you mean."

Returning back to the puzzle and warning left on the mirror, both Royalty were confused.

"Maybe if we think about what the vision reference means?" Livanka offered

"vision of the future?"

"preminition?"

"seeing something?"

The guesses were interrupted by a loud piercing scream which echoed through the castle.

"The Visionary..."

"Oh my god..." Livanka's hand flew to her mouth.

"Ava," Kael croaked

"Transfigure us!" she shouted, shoving him , trying to snap him out of his daze.

"I don't know where she is Liv!"

"The balcony, transfigure us to the balcony!"

Kael grabbed Livanka's hand and with a wave of his other, the two disappeared, leaving a figure to step out of the shadows,

"I tried to warn you, but you wouldn't listen."

***

She nuzzled her face back into the warmth. A pair of arms tightened around her waist and she murmured a few words into his shoulder... His shoulder?

Shooting up from her position face down, Mariana's eyes sprang open. Her eyes went from her naked front to the very naked best friend who's arm still sat around her waist.

"Oh my god... Oh my God... Oh my God..." she chanted, pushing her hair out of her face and scrambling out of the best, "what have I done? What have I done!" her voice escalated until she clamped her mouth shut and rolled out of the bed, falling over, tangled in the mass of covers.

"Mar?" Mikel's voice floated from the bed.

Mariana's head shot up again and she grabbed the covers, yanking them up to cover her body. But unfortunately, there was only one cover, and if she had it...

Mikel cracked his other eye open as his body was introduced to the drafty air.

"What are...What am... OH MY GOD." She kept chanting, tearing her aways away from his now exposed crotch and running around the room, looking for her clothing.

Chuckling at his friend's discomfort, Mikel tried to clear the air, "Still saying the same sentence. We need to widen your vocabulary from "oh God" and "Oh Mikel"."

Mariana stopped her frantic movements and turned to look at her best friend, now with a pillow sitting comfortably over his lap.

"You didn't just say that."

"That I did."

"You're just...."

"I'm just what?"

"Horrible!"

"You weren't saying that earlier this evening."

"Stop it!"

Laughing slightly, Mikel raised both his hands in defeat, "Sorry Mar." But he frowned when she didn't answer him and grabbed one of his many shirts laying on the floor and pulling it over her head.

Reaching over the side of the bed to retrieve a pair of jeans, Mikel stood up and walked towards the girl. She was stark still and just staring at her hands. turned away from him. He walked up to her slowly and cautiously, laying a gentil hand on her shoulder. Before he could turn her around, Mariana whipped around, backing away from him.

"Mar?"

"Don't." she whispered, her hand still clutched in a small fist.

"Don't what?"

"Come closer to me."

"What!" his voice mirrored the surprise and hurt in his eyes.

"Please," she contined, "just stay away from me."

"No."

"Yes!"

"Why are you doing this now!"

"Because."

"That isn't an answer." Both their voices had started to raise in volume as the argument escalated.

"-"

"Tell me!"

"No!"

"Mariana!" he growled, taking a step closer to her,

"This was a mistake, ok!" her shouted response made him freeze.

His face contorted in pain until it became blank, masking his emotions. Now he turned away from her, walking back towards the bed, not saying a word.

"Mikel, Mikel, please you need to understand!" she pleaded, while following him around. He didn't stop as he began to clean his room and the clothes which lay strewn forgotten from earlier that night., "I can't do this..."

"Can't what?" his harsh voice cut through the silence,"Love me? But you can f-uck me? Is that it!" She slapped her hand across his face, "Don't you dare say that to me. I wouldn't just 'f-uck you', as you put it so gracefully," she pulled him away from the bed and made her way towards the door, "I want to need you, I want to kiss you forever, I want to make love with you forever -"

He opened his mouth, but she placed a gentle finger across his lips, silencing him, "I don't know where these feelings came from. I didn't want to fall in love with you a month ago, I didn't want to make love with you until the suns stopped shining a month ago, but suddenly I do. I want to be with you, I want yo give myself to you, I want to stay with you until the end of this world. And it feels right, it's so odd, but it feels so right. I can't explain why I feel this way so suddenly, but I do, I know I do. But this," she made a motion between them, "can't happen."

His face had lost the stoney expression and only a pained expression remained, "Why?"

She tilted her head, "because even though I want to be with you, even if I want to love you, I can't."

"Why?"

She just shook her head sadly and kissed him softly on this lips,

"Because of this..." She opened her palm and placed the object she held in the palm of his hand.

Mikel stared, as his friend and lover walked out of his room, leaving him feeling more alone than he ever did before. His figners plucked the silver ring from his palm and he turned it over in his hand. It was a simple band, but on the inner side a simple sentences was written.

He walked over to his dresser and dropped the ring against the glass surface, hearing a small ping as it made contact, twirled and lay flat. Closing his eyes, he willed the tears to stop. But the pain, it felt his heart being ripped out of his chest. Gasping, his eyes shot open as an image flew into his mind.

Ava.Pushed.Balcony.Falling.Falling.Falling... A distorted cry echoed through his ears... "R-a-gh-s-t-h- h-e-pgs-l-p". Shaking his head, Mikel pushed the message out of his head.

He grabbed his scabeth laying across a chair and ran out of the room, towards his cousin's cries, wondering why she hadn't called to him through their link.

The ring sat alone, on the glass surface, it's message reflecting across the shining surface:

" Until the end of time, you I shall love ~ Rath"

 

 

 

 

Chapter 11 - Unable


***

Pain. Pain shot through every single limb, every single part of her body. Her head pounded and she couldn't feel her legs or move her arms. Her senses were flooded with reactions to the fall, to the landing, to the cement, to the push. She commaned her eyes to open, despite the sparks of pain and circles of lights dancng in her sight. The stars sang above her head, trying to soothe her pain. Twitching her arm, she tried to touch them, but her arm stayed as heavy as metal and after seconds of unbearable pain, she let go.

Though, through hazy vision, she reconized the form of a tall figure, standing over twenty feet above her, staring down at her prone body.

Alarm filled her eyes as she reconized the figure. It couldn't be! She tried to form their name, but her mouth was filled with a warm fluid, the taste of copper adding to her nerve overload. The red liquid trickled from the the corners of her mouth and she snapped her eyes shut, wondering why she couldn't call Mikel. Why she couldn't call him but she tried, she even prayed that Rath would save her, even though she knew it would be impossible.

And her mind worked around the puzzles she had seen, the memories which were missing, the ones which returned to her in fragments, the fear. The reasons, the people, the power, three cycles ago, and tears flowed from her eyes. Because it was so simple, why hadn't they seen it before?

She felt a soothing arm running over her body and she heard Mikel's voice fluttering in her ear. She had to tell him, if it was the last thing, she had to tell him, both Rath and Mikel deserved that much. She used every force her body had to offer to force the blood out of her mouth and her lips formed around one name.

"Rath..."

The darkness claimed her.

***
Grabbing her close to his body, Mikel slapped his cousin's cheek, disregarding the amount of blood seeping over his hands. She wasn't responding.

"God damn it Ava, stop it. Don't do this to me. Don't do this to me! Ava! Ava!"

Her mouth was moving and he pulled her closer to him, praying he could hear her,

"Rath..."

Rath? What did his brother have to do with all of this. He started to ask her that very question, when he felt her body sag against him and her eyes stared out towards the moons, holding no vision.

Shaking her slightly, he rubbed his hands over her arms, "No! No! Wake up, don't do this to me! Ava! Please, oh God, please... Not my family, anything but my family!"

Deftly, he noticed Livanka staring at him, while Kael bent down and told him to let her go, "Mikel, listen to me. You need to let her go and let me take her to the clinic. Mikel!" Kael pried the soldier's arm from around the small girl and using his powers for the second time that night, transfigured to the clinic.

Turning around abruptly, he noticed Livanka pointing up towards the balcony. His eyes followed her arm, her hand, and her finger... And locked on a figure, fleeing from the balcony.

Narrowing his eyes, Mikel rose from the ground, blood covering his hands and chest as a deep growl came from his throat,"That son of a b-itch is dead..." Before Livanka could protest, Mikel disappeared into the night.

***

Wiping the tears from her eyes, Mariana debated whether or not she had made the right decision. Did she still love Rath? Did she make the right decision to let Mikel go? It wasn't fair though, to love Mikel when she was still in love with his brother. It wasn't fair, to herself, Rath, and most of all Mikel. He would find someone else, someone who could love him with all their heart. Someone who didn't have baggage or a past, someone who could love him with her whole heart. Someone who wasn't her. Before she could continue having her internal debate, a form clothed in black ran past her, pushing her off balance. Anticipating landing, she scrunched her eyes shut, but she never hit the ground. Instead, she felt a pair of warm arms holding her up. Carefully opening one eye, she tilted her head back and saw an enraged Mikel.

Glancing down at her, his expression changed to a softer one, pushing back up into a standing position. Insuring she wasn't hurt in anyway, Mikel grabbed her arm and continued runnning down the hall.

Confused and horrified by the blood covering a good part of his chest and hands, Mariana pressed to keep up with him,

"What's wrong?"

"The son of a b-itch that ran past you, pushed Ava off the ballroom balcony."

Mariana gasped, running along side him, "is she ok?"

"I don't know... Kael took her to the clinic..."

"He's the best there is Mikel, she'll be ok." she replied, trying to soothe the man who was obviously in a great deal of emotional pain. She felt an overwhelming need to comfort him, but she refrained, knowing Mikel needed to this, to find this figure. Loosing Rath was already hard enough, and her refusal to be with him probably didn't help any.

"I know, but I can't - I can't lose her. She's all I have left." he choked out between breaths, while scanning the area.

Mariana shook her head, he was trying to act all tough. But she saw through him, just like she could see through Rath.

// Mariana... Love... You...// She halted suddenly, eyes narrowing. That voice, again. Her face paled more, as the voice continued to haunt her, // Never forget... Love... Pro-// She was snapped out of the daze, as Mikel's frantic eyes searched her own,

"Mar? Mar? You ok?," he shook her gently, but she frowned at him,

"Yes. I'm... Sorry. Just a little tired," He flashed her a wolfish grin, but it soon disappeared as he motioned for her to come with him. And the two soldiers continued on.

***

Livanka laied her hand along the ground, absorbing and reading Ava's aura.

"Searching... Frantic... Fear... Pain... Realization," she finished astonished. Whoever had attacked Ava was someone familiar, the identity had startled Ava, "come on, tell me. Tell me who pushed Ava," she murmured, swirling her hand over the ground and blood quicker and quicker, trying to coax an answer out of the aura's shadow.

So engrossed in her reading, she didn't notice the shadow looming over her, with a dangerous glint in their eyes. They pulled a thin blade from the inside of thier black robe and it glistened against the moonlight. A smile played at their lips as they raised their arm on the unsuspecting Royalty.

***

Sweat brook out on his brow, dripping into his eye. Blindly searching for a cloth, Kael drew the fabric across his face, absorbing the sweat. His arm shook. He forced more energy through the connection and mentally cursed Ava for being so damn stubborn. Just like Rath and Mikel. Of course she woulnd't want to be connected too. No one in that damn family was ever an open book.

"Alan," he ground through clenched teeth, "come 'ere."

The lanky boy stepped up beside his two friends, one dying and one trying to save her. His face paled at the excessive amount of blood seeping through Kael's hands. He squirmed.

"Yah," he squeaked, wishing he could be anywhere else.

"I need your energy. Lots of it, " when the Healer noticed Alan's reluctance to touch the wound, Kael let out an exasperated sigh, "For the love of Antar Alan, stop being a wuss, close your eyes and just touch it. Imagine it's a filet."

Pointing to the blood and Kael's hand, Alan held his stomach, "a filet? That... I don't think I'll ever eat mea-"

"Just shuddup and give me your energy."

Complying with a blank stare, Alan squeezed his eyes shut and placed his hand on the wound, trying to establish a connection with the stubborn blonde. "She doesn't want to let me in Kael,"

"I know. Try to flash her some memories, familiarize her with yourself. She knows it you, but she's skeptical," Kael commanded, hoping that Ava would accept Alan's energy. Her levels were falling fast and if he couldn't stabalize her kinetic energy... He didn't want to think about that.

"Figure Ava would be stubborn huh? Even when we're trying to save her?" Alan cracked, even though the strained expression and sweat dripping down his face belayed the joke.

"Oh yeah. Those Guerins are just big on help. At lease she passed out. If she hadn't, she probably wouldn't have even let me transfigure her here. Gets it from Mikel and Rath you know. Too damn stubborn for their own good."

"I use to be scared s-hitless of Rath when I was 6 cycles old. He was tall, scary and growled at me."

Kael laughed at the memory of his best friend, "Yah, he was definately not a happy-go-lucky guy. Mikel wasn't better. They gave a new meaning to Double Trouble."

Alan started to reply, but a sudden blast of light shot both men from the body and they scrambled to their feet, on alert.

Rubbing the back of his head, Alan cursed, "What the h-ell was that?" Kael shook his head, crawling over to the clinic flat and peering at Ava. Her skin was glowing softly and the bleeding had stopped. She looked angelic, but when he went to wake her, she woudn't respond.

Scratching his head, Kael was at a lost of words, "I don't know. I really, don't know."

Neither saw the tall figure disappear through the open door, sparing a forelong glance at the motionless patient on the flat.

***

Mariana plastered her back to the wall, motionning for Mikel to move across from her. They had tracked the figure to the far end of the castle - an area which was vacated since Rath and Vilandra had disappeared. The rooms, which were previously enforced for training and excess wardrobe storage, had been emptied and the furniture and fixtures melted for new parts.

"Do you have a weapon?" Mikel hissed towards Mariana, shaking his sword in hand. She raised an eyebrow at him, skeptical, and pointed to her open palms,

"I'm a Ainkan, Mikel. I'm a walking weapon."

"Right right, so why do I have to go first?" he resolved

"Because, you're the man..." she countered.

"And..."

"The man always puts himself first to protect the powerless lady." she concluded, smiling, knowing she had won.

"Powerless lady my ass," he muttered as he inched closer to the open corridor, sword at ready. He was going to find the bastard and teach him that messing with his cousin, his only family left was not a smart thing to do, especially if they were seen.

Mikel swong out towards the corridor, but his brow furrowed. The hall was dark, no lights and all curtains were drawn, but no sound was heard, and he couldn't see anyone. Motionning for Mariana to follow, he made his way down the hall, examining both of the bare walls, until he faced a large oak door. Rath's training room. He hadn't entered this room for three cycles.

"You go first Mar," Mikel whispered, compelled to be silent. Mariana, knowing the meaning the room held for him, waved her hand over the door, hearing a soft click. Pushing the door open with her foot, she stepped inside, but she wasn't prepared for what she saw.

***

"She's not dead, damn it."

"Well, that's a shame."

"You helped her!" they accused, yelling in their face.

"What if I did!"

"You could jeopardize this!"

"And what is this, some sick game? I never asked to part of it."

"But you didn't do anything to stop it."

"I felt guilty."

"Because you caused it."

"I caused no such thing."

"Just be thankful I was willing to help you."

"You're a sick bastard you know that?"

"Hah. And where would you be, if it weren't for me?"

"Happy."

"Shut up. I'm doing what's right!"

"You're twisted."

"You're just too weak!"

"And you're insane."

 

 

 

 

Chapter 12 part A - Watchful Eyes


***

The two soldiers stood side by side, in the doorway. Both had similar looks of shock on their face, one edged with anger, the other edged by incomprehension. The room was cold and barely furnished, all previous furniture had either been moved or destroyed during the three previous cycles. The curtains were drawn, leaving only thin cracks of bright sunlight to dance across the cement floors. The walls were covered in a thin layer of dust and grime, while a unique smell whiffed to their senses.

But what caused the looks of horror and surpise of the two friends were what was not covered in that very same thin layer of dust. Pictures. Thousands of them. And every single one had a similar theme: The Royalty.

As they made their way around the room, there were thousands of images of themselves, starring back at them with haunting eyes. All captured from a third person's view, it seemed that none of them had noticed being watched. There was a picture taken with a person in each room of the palace. All of them were so unaware... Her stomach churned as a small photograph of herself in her wedding dress was layered between one of Ava in her gown and Mikel scowling in a suit and avoem. Tearing her gaze away from the memories, Mariana walked up towards the wall farthest away from her, a single portrait of Rath drawing her. Her fingers extended and lightly touched the surface of the paper. Cool. Smooth. It felt so impersonal, it felt like death. Snatching her hand away, a set of photos to the right caught her attention.

Anger filled her as a red blush crept up her neck. Feeling Mikel behind her, only served to add to her blush. There, centered alone on an empty wall were two pictures. Both the same size, and placed side by side. One captured Mikel and Mariana's coupling early that evening, in mid-orgasm, while the other one only caused painful memories to surface. Mariana and Rath in a very similar situation. Before her hand could sntach the picture off the wall to end her discomfort, a large tanned one beat her to it.

"Sick bastard," he muttered as he crumpled the image of himself and Mariana and threw it to the ground, stepping over it as he crossed the room. Mariana kept her eyes on the remaining picture on the wall and her entire being vibrated with hot anger. She knew Mikel was hurt by the two similar images captured. It could only remind him of what she and Rath had and what she could never continue with Mikel. Not feeling comfortable with that image leering back at her, her hand closed around the picture, beginning to tear it off, when Mikel called her from the shadows.

"Mar. Come here, I think you might want to see this."

Unwrapping her hand from around the photograph, Mariana made her way across the room, finishing by standing beside Mikel, who was perched over a wooden desk, covered in piles of paper.

"Look," he pointed towards the surface of the desk and papers, "there's no dust."

"But the rest of the room is covered in it, well except for those creepy pictures. What are you thinking?" she questionned, thinking she knew exactly what he was getting at.

"This room, it should be deserted. There should be absolutely nothing in here. I... I was the one who locked it three cycles ago. And at that time, there was nothing in there."

"But there's something in here now." she commented before walking away. She tuned out Mikel's ramblings as her head instictively cocked to the side to look at a crooked painting. It was a painted portrait of all The Royalty, the exact same one which was showcased on the hall in the main corridor. She didn't know the painter had made two...

Using a soft touch, she realigned the painting, rendering it right side up. She retracted her hand and taped the side of her jaw thoughtfully. There was something different about this particular version. But as her eyes scanned the paint and lines, she couldn't put her finger on it.

"What's bugging me about this..." she murmured, squinting her eyes and backing up from the wall, hoping she could find what was calling to her so forcefully.

Mariana... She froze. Look... See... Believe.... She snapped her head sideways, but she only saw Mikel sitting down on the small stool, pushing piles of paper off the table and letting them land with an audible thud along the ground.

"What do you want from me" she hissed

Mariana, look.. She didn't understand. Shaking her head and frowning at the voice, she yelled a response.

"You're dead! You're dead! Leave me alone!" Hot tears cascaded down her cheeks as she slide towards the ground in a crumpled heap, "Why can't you leave me alone?! Why can't you stop this... I don't understand. I don't understand."

I will always love

And as she looked up towards the portrait of the Royalty which was looming overhead, he eyes latched onto two figures in the portrait and she gasped, frozen. She saw.

 

 

 

 

Chapter 12 part B - Find Me Please


***

Her mind was swirling around the painting, the pieces fitting together and the pain and the slight joy accompaning the answer. The letter... She just needed to find out what was in the letter to understand everything. Her hand rose towards the painting, while tears of joy replaced the ones of pain. Maybe things would be alright and she could finally rest and start to feel again. But before her arm could reach the edge of the frame, a small noise made her turn her head instictively.

A large form stood above her and she sat frozen as a chair came crashing down on her head.

***

Livanka moved to the left, feeling a soft breeze of air pass by her head. Watching out of the corner of her eye, a tall figure ran towards the edge of the palace estates. Beginning to rise, she stopped, when a feeling of safetly filled her entire body.

"What's happening to me,,," she mused, her one hand still glowing a soft emerald over the blood stained grass. A sharp pain in her side made her world turn fuzzy and felt her body go limp, crashing towards the ground.

***

"No, no... Please. Not fair, Rath. Mikel. Tell Mariana...." Ava's voice vibrated through the small room, forcing both Alan and Kael to cover their ears. Her screams, they were death defining and they were filled with sorrow and panic. Her body never lay still, but her mouth moved, screaming for her family and Mariana, "Prophecy, NO! NO!"

"Make it stop!" Alan shouted over the cries coming from the small blonde.

The blonde man winced as a shriek reached his ears, "I wish I could, but who knew she could scream so loud?"

"You're the bloody doctor Kael, make it stop!" he shouted again. This time Kael grumbled slightly as he shifted his body towards the small table towards the left, in search of a tranquilizer. He flung his hand over the edge of the pan, squeezing his eyes shut and praying Ava's cries wouldn't render him deaf. Cutting his finger along a scalple, Kael swore and rose from his crounching position, madly searching through the drawers of the table. His eyes scanned the contents, but he coudln't locate the small tranquilizer emittors.

"Damn it," he muttered, as he cut his finger for a second time. Looking around him for a bandange, he stopped on the painting sitting at eye level. He was entranced in it and he couldn't tear his eyes away from it. His other hand dropped from his ear as his eyes seemed to bore into the swirls and shapes of the battlefield.

Alan stared dumbfoundedly at Kael, who's hands were at his side and his eyes were frozen on the painting.

"Kael, what are you doing?!" he shouted, trying to get Kael to hear his words over Ava's, "KAEL!" suddenly the screams emitting from the small blonde visionary stopped, as abruptly as that. Carefully peeling his hands away from his ears, cautious and ready to recover them, Alan scrambled from his position under a bed and ran up to Kael.

"Hey, buddy, what's wrong?"

"Alan, who painted this?" Kael asked quietly, pointing towards the painting. The painting wasn't large, but it's colors were rich and they seemed to be magnified. The figures were blurred but it was obviously a painted scene from a battle. Reminents of a fallen stone building suggested a church or some other historic building. Both women and men were fighting, as deep crimson paint covered a good portion of the bottom half. It was calling to both men as if a long forgotten memory.

"Rath."

"What?" Kael turned to look at him.

"Rath painted it I think. Just like the portrait of The Royalty out in the hall."

"But there's no signature," he pointed out.

"No, but I know Rath painted them." the other insisted.

"How?"

"He showed them to me before he put them up around the palace."

"But why this battle scene? We're never fought beside a palace or church, how did he get the painted so... so... realistic?" the Healer asked, showing no expression on his face.

A small voice from behind both men answered his question, "I told him."

***

Livanka cracked open one eye, but then shutting it immediately, the bright sunrays making her vision uncomfortable. Groaning slightly, she rolled on to her side, her head swimming with pain. Nothing felt broken and apart from the killer headache, nothing appeared to be wrong.

Blinking her eyes several times, allowing them to adjust to the unusually bright surroundings, Livanka rose with a gasp. The air was pure and clean, something that has to be filtered on Antar to allow the population to breath.

The planet looked almost identical to Antar, but appeared cleaner in a sense, it felt cleaner against her skin and it seemed more innocent to her mind and the auras of the plants and foliage around her gave her a feeling of contentement. This couldn't be...

Her eyes travelled upwards and only one sun met her gaze, it's bright yellow rays smiling down on her, making her answer with a smile back.

"Am I on Earth?" she asked aloud, as her mind travelled back to the studies she use to invest so much time and interest in.

"You are. You're on our ancient home planet, where we never had any powers and the enemy we had was greed and warfare. But somethings never change."

Livanka's mind raced. That voice. She could never forget that voice, nor could she ever mistake it.

"Rosa?" she asked meekly, not allowing herself to hope.

"Hey Livvy." Her sisters radiant smile warmed her entire body and tears of happiness coursed down her cheeks and splashed towards the grass.

"What? How.. Why?" She had so many questions for her sister, so many were left unanswered.

Rosa's blonde hair soared in an ark as she snapped her head back and forth, looking over her shoulder, "We don't have a lot of time Livvy. I... It took a lot of power for me to bring you here, but you need to listen to me very carefully, ok?"

Livanka just nodded her head, overwhelmed by seeing the sister she lost so many years ago.

"Things aren't going well for The Royalty are they?" Livanka shook her head, "I didn't think so." A rustling from the forest behind them sent a look of panic shot through Rosa's aqua eyes, "Things aren't as they seem... Everything is right in front of you, you just need to look at it Livvy, and listen to yourself. You're more important and powerful than you could imagine, all of you are. Just dare to believe." she rused out. Suddenly, Rosa rose from the rock she was perched on and started to turn away.

"No! No! You can't go. Where... Rosa! You're not making any sense!" But the world was already spinning around her and she felt herself losing balance as a black shadow passed over the sun and clouded her vision. Pinpricks of pain rose over her body in a wave of darkness and despair, but a small spark of light forced the pain away for a split seconde and as Livanka's eyes were forced close, she heard one last thing:

"The Prophecy was translated..." but the wave of darkness returned and Livanka was thrown into a downward spiral.

***

She rose with a large gasp of air, her lungs screaming for oxygen. Sweat poured down her face and her hair was plastered to her forehead.

"Rosa!" she shouted, her eyes frantically searching through the darkness of the night. The night... She was back on Antar. Rubbing her temples slowing, the cryptic conversation she had with her sister? Or her sister's ghost seemed to repeat in her mind.


Things aren't as they seem... Everything is right in front of you, you just need to look at it Livvy, and listen to yourself. You're more important and powerful than you could imagine. Just dare to believe

What did it all mean? Everything was right in front of us. None of it made any sense. The thought that this was some kind of invasion fleeted across her mind, but she threw it out immediately. Rosa said to believe and to listen to herself and she did need to do that. Maybe if she could, all of this would make more sense. They could all just have one night of peaceful sleep.

Rising from he ground, frowning at the dried blood on her hands, Livanka started towards the clinic. She needed to talk to Ava.

***

Her neck felt sore and a stick substance was oozing down her back. Blood. The f-ucking idiot made her bleed. She tried to open her mouth but realized all too soon she was bouned, gagged, and blindfolded. Someone didn't want her to play any games. The fabric shoved into her mouth tasted salty and dusty. Her arms were tied to a chair painfully and she could feel the cord cutting into her wrists. And her head, oh, whoever did this to her was going to get a nice wake up call. And she wasn't going to be kind about it either. If only Mikel..

Oh god, Mikel. She didn't see his body behind her, but before being attacked, she had seen a small pool of blood beside the desk and mountains of paper. She prayed that he was alright. Her thoughts left her mind as footsteps neared her.

"muhfge hgiehs," she spat through the cloth

"Now now, that's no way to talk to me," the voice replied smoothly. She closed her eyes and tried to place the voice. It was so familiar, so damn familiar, but it sounded different, as if it were synthesized.

"Oh very very good, Mariana. This isn't my real voice. There's this amazing little contraption called a voice calpulator which alters the frequency of the users voice. It's great!" the voice was taunting her, which only served to irritate her and make her scrape the chair against the ground in an attempt to move.

"Hurting yourself will only cause more pain for yourself Mar."

She growled at him through the cloth. Her mind was swimming in fog. She couldn't remember what she was doing... Why she was looking at that painting...

"You can't seem to remember what you saw in the painting? Well, isn't that convenient, for me!"

She remained silent.

"You're wondering how I know what you're thinking," he singsonged. He knelt down closer to her and she could feel his warm breath against his cheek. He tapped her head gently and whispered as if it were a secret, into her ear, "Your anger is letting your natural guard down. It's easier to read you than to steal candy from a baby." A wave of revulsion traveled through her body as a wet tongue licked her cheek.

She growled again, which only caused her more anger.

"Oh come on, Mar, don't tell me you don't like the kinky things. I've seen you and Rath. There's nothing vanilla about you two."

A blush crept up her neck, partly from anger, revulsion and embarresement. So this a-ss hole was the one who was the creepy stalker. Well at least she woudln't have any moral problems sending him to the clinic indefinately when she got unbound.

"I like a feisty girl. If I didn't know you'd kill me, I would let you go and show you what a real man is,"

She felt bile rise in her throat. This maniac wouldn't...

"Oh but I would Mar. You're so beautiful." He dragged his finger over her forearm and between her collarbone, letting his hand rest over one breast, squeezing it painfully.

She yelpt from the contact and he only squeezed harder.

"If you keep up with those sounds, I think I might need to fill the pretty little girl sooner." He removed his hand from her breast and began to trail down her stomach, drawing little eight figures across her exposed skin.

"You should see yourself in ecstacy. It's breathtaking. Your legs lock, your head thrown back, a name cried from your mouth into the night. I feel the power from just thinking about it, " he moaned. His hand moved lower to lay flat across the meeting of her thighs, "You're so beautiful. He didn't deserve you." The attacker leaned over her and began to suck against her exposed skin.

Panic ovepowered all her senses. She needed to get out of here. She began to squirm.

"Squirming only serves to excite me further. Squirm more." he laughed against her quivering stomach. She froze. This wasn't happening. She was always in control, always. Why couldn't she use her powers? She tried to center energy, but her body woudln't respond.

"Oh that. That's just a little trick I picked up on. Your body believes it's in a safe environment. It doens't feel any danger, just your mind. You're mine." She shivered involunterrily. Her panic only increased as he felt the man's hand start to unbuckle her leather pants and pull them down her legs to bunch at her knees. Yanking her knees apart with pure strength, he forced the pants down lower. His hand danced over her covered sex and she jolted as he applied from pressure.

"Don't think I don't know what you like, Mar... I've been watching you."

Tears were falling from her eyes and soaked up by her blindfold. This wasn't happening to her. It wasn't happening to her.

She heard his zipper and she started to squirm more and more, fear rolling off of her. A cackle rose from his throat as his voice echoed through the room, "Oh it's going to happen, and I'm going to enjoy every single thrust."

She felt him step closer to her and behind her blindfold, her eyes were shut tightly.

"Please, please don't let this happen," she prayed "please."

His fingers slipped under the waistband of her underwear and she forced herself to stay still. She woudln't give this monster the satisfaction.

"Let me ask you one question, "she thought, forcing her words to be heard clearly, "where's Mikel?"

"He's dead." the voice replied morosely, but he didn't remove his hand from her undergarment, but starting to roll them down her hips.

She prayed for the second time that night, and in that second she began to think that maybe there was a higher power in this world.

Because she felt his arm being snatched away from her body and a very familiar voice met her ears,

"Get away from her now! Leave! If you don't I will kill you."

"You wouldn't dare," her attacker taunted.

"For what you were going to do? You should be glad I would be the one to do it."

His laughing was cut short abruptly as she felt the walls of the room vibrate.

"I said, to leave!"

And then there was silence in the room. Mariana felt her body relax and start to shiver. A warm hand removed the gag from her mouth and began to untie her hands. It stopped momentarily at the back of her head,

"Promise you won't kill me."

"I promise... Lonnie." her voice was meek and barely audible. Her friend removed the blindfold and she threw herself in the arms of the friend she thought she lost. Dry sobs racked her body as the tall brunette tried to soothe her friend,

"Shhh... It's ok, Ari. Shhh..." her body didn't stop shaking, and although Mariana knew she should be more worried about the reappearance of her missing friend of the past three cycles, she didn't want to let her go. But Vilandra pushed her sobbing friend from her shoulder when both felt a wave of anger.

"He's coming back, Mariana. You can't stay here. Go!" Vilandra scrambled to grab the leather pants from the ground and thrust them towards Mariana, "Put them on and get out of here." Mariana, not knowing what else to do, just complied silently, rubbing the tears from her eyes.

"I'm so sorry. But go! Go towards the church where everything began three cycles ago. Go! Everyone will be there. This has gone on long enough." Vilandra pushed Mariana towards a door at the back of the darkened room and squeezed her shoulder, "believe me Ari, please. I know you have no reason to, but please. Please just do this. Three cycles ago you would have. Do this now, for Rath." Mariana shot her head up at the mention of her still-missing lover. And nodded. Maybe it was because she was going through shock. Maybe it was because it was Vilandra, or maybe it was because she mentionned Rath, she didn't know. But she nodded at Vilandra and on shaky legs, made her way out the door, but not before stopping suddenly and looking back towards the brunette, letting herself get a good look at her friend.

"What about you, Lonnie?"

Vilandra waved her off, with a sad smile, "Don't worry about me. Just go."

The tall princess was as beautiful as she rememebred her, but a small, barely visible scar across the brow marred the porcelain face. Her eyes were haunted and a sad smile played against her lips. Her hair, which was originally a stunnung blonde was a dark brown, a shade off of Livanka's. She needed to ask... But the urgency in Vilandra's eyes made her keep the question for later. Because she would see her again. She had to. So many questions. And in that moment, she knew that Vilandra was a victim in all this. Not someone to fear.

"I have one question though, please?"

"Of course."

"Were they telling me the truth, is... Is Mikel dead?" Her entire soul dread the answer. She couldn't do this. She couldn't lose both of them, first Rath and now Mikel. She couldn't. Vilandra's eyes were filled with pity and an emotion she didn't reconize. Regret? Remorse?

"Yes Ari, Mikel is dead."

 

 

 

 

Interlude 4 - Touch


***

Alan came up to me today and told me to read this book. The man is weird... It's a baby name book. I almost thought I wouldn't stop laughing when he had this sullen look on his face and told me: "Hey, at least Mar and Av didn't get to you." Poor guy - but that's what you get when two of your closest friends are girls.

Ok, where to start, where to start. My "best friend" isn't a girl, I'm sorry to say. I'm not all in-tuned to the females. But Mariana tries her best to explain to me what I should or should not do, that is when she isn't trying to get me to do something stupid and embaress myself. But she's a sweet kid. Annoying, whinny, but - and don't tell her this - I wouldn't want a better step sister. There, I said it. I'm forever free. Now she can't ever say I never appreciated her. Hah!

My father, years and years ago, fell "head over heels" (or so he told me) in love with Mar's mother, Amee. At first, I hated living with two girls, one who was at least twenty cycles younger than my father and another small child with sparkling emerald orbs who's laughter was contagious. She always cried at night and althought she'll never admit, I think she was always looking for something. She was never a quiet baby and even when she started to grow up, she would have these weird conversations in her chamber alone. I mentionned it to my dad once, but all he said was that it was a great thing she had such an imagination. Imagination? I don't think so. Most of her conversation were a little too interllectual for a child at their fifth cycle. She would be talking about something, at that time, I had never heard of before. A planet called Earth, of Antar, of a time of war, and of a person. Of course, I always caught the tail end of those conversations because as soon as she saw me - and she had an unnatural knack to do that - she'd just close her mouth and not utter a word. Anyway, I would try to listen through the ridiculously thin walls, but her words were muffled. But time after time, she would talk about this person as being someone great, someone who would save her. She never called him by name, but she would always talk with this voice which was filled with awe and reverance and this serenity, which was surprising, since Mar was always a small ball of energy.

She use to have nightmares too. I would be sleeping in my chambers, playing soldier, making whispered battle noises, when suddenly, out of no where, you hear this high pitched screams of terror. Of fear. Of pain. It litterally horrified Amee and my father's blood pressure would always rise. He always considered Mar the "Daughter He Never Had". She would never tell anyone about the dreams that she had, or the images she saw, or of the pain she felt. She'd simply tell Amee that she was alright and that she just wanted BooBoo (her stuffed panda bear - courtesy of yours truly) to help her sleep. And she would pull the blankets over her small frame, turn over and fall back into a dreamless sleep. It mystified me and it partly scared me. I thought my sister had some sort of mental disorder. She doesn't, well one that I can identify at least, and maybe I'm way off base here, maybe I'm grasping at straws, because I can't prove the connection, but I those screams stayed with me for my entire life. They never let you go. They tugged at your aura and soul. And the only other time I heard screams like that, was the night Mariana thought she saw Rath on her balcony.

But the even stranger part of her imaginary friends was that three cycles later, she would completely forget about having them. I asked her once, about why she was always talking to herself and she'd look back at me, with clouded eyes and shake her head, telling me she had no idea what I was talking about and that I needed to get my head checked. I couldn't tell whether or not she was just lying to me, but I get this feeling, that she didn't rememeber, that she didn't know that she was talking about, what I know now was The Prophecy. And the person of awe that she spoke of in her young cycles, I thought it was Rath. Because the very next time I heard her use her "special" tone was when she fell in love with Rath. With no one else, not with myself, with Ava, with Liv, or even with Mikel. Just Rath. And whenever she was close to him, with him, or just staring at him, her eyes would lighten two shades and this irridescent glow would just barely creep onto her face. I had never truly seen soulmates before, but I think that's what they were. They complimented each other and in a strange sense, he was her, and she was him. And when I realize that my best friend is no longer in this place of existance, my heart tugs a little, but this time it isn't from screams of horror, but sorrow.

But lately, things are different, because I've seen that look in her eyes and I've seen a slight blush to her checks. And when I have to guess who could make her feel that way, I can only suggest one person, Mikel. So maybe, just maybe my sister wasn't given one soulmate, but two. Maybe, she can find happiness and maybe this person she use to speak of in her youth was Mikel, and not Rath. I just want my sister to be happy.

Well, now that you've all seen my emotional "hey, I'm a sensitive guy" personality, I should explain Rath. He was, no he IS, my best friend. He use to make me piss my pants whenever he'd growl at me or send me his "Guerin" scowl, but underneath that dark, bleak, warrioir exterior, is a guy who just wants to find his place in this world. I could tell you my theories about why I think he has this entire "bad boy" image, but when I tried telling Mariana about it, she just slapped me across the face twice quickly and threw water on me. She wasn't very appreciative of the length of my analysis. But that's regardless. All you need to know is that Rath was and will always be my best friend. True, he would aggrevate Mar to no end, he'd even made her cry on occassion, but he's never truly hurt her, he'd never harm her. He could only love her. And without him, maybe Mikel can take his spot.

Enough about other people, let's talk about ME. Me, me me me me. No, I'm not self absorbed, I'm not egotistical, I'm just the Healer, the "Doc", the "Guy with the Needles". And my best quality? I can make pesky headaches, from small lack of nutrients all the way to full blown migraines, disappear with a wave of my hand. I'm like a magician, but without the hot assistant... I convert my own energy and energy around me into a usuable form which I use to pass onto the patient. What the energy does is it heals the wound or problem. Usually bodies heal by using the energy they produce themselves. But doing that takes a while, so I'm an energy battery. The supplimentary energy I provide them is used by the body to heal the wound. And I'm special.

Well, my case is. Usually gifts (in my case I can heal people, if you didn't already get that) are bestowed to the reciepient when they are in their early teens, but usually when they are considered mature enough to have these powers. The reason being that whoever created the mechanism whichs iniates the surfacing of the powers was smart enough to realize that small kids with the potential power to destroy the planet were running away, only disaster would be left in their wake. Generally, the person woudln't be able to consciencely and maturly use the power in the way it was intended. In short, it would be too dangerous. So you can look at my case from two viewpoints. The first would be Cool. The seconde would be Cursed. The first because who woudln't want the power to heal themselves when they were eleven cycles old running about and breaking their bones? Hum? But the downside, I was a Healer at birth and I'll remain a Healer until my death. My future was planned and it was announced at the exact moment of my birth. I didn't get the chance to be a normal child, I was thrown into studies and medical training. And I'm the best damn doctor Antar will ever see because of it, unfortunately. You'd think I would be more bitter, surprisingly I'm not. Although I didn't get to make my decision, I help millions of people and I'm one of the Royalty. Without this gift, this ability, I would be a simpliton nobody, another dumb Antarian, who would die and not know any better. So I have gained knowledge and although there is pain and suffereing which inevitably tags along, I can't say I would trade my power in for another life.

My sister, my best friend, and my family mean too much to me. And although this Prophecy gives us each a title, I know we will overcome it, we will fight it, because it is still unfinished and I know, being a Healer, the soldier off the battlefield, that even if we don't have the power to rewrite history, we have the power to save and heal.

I am Kael. I was forced to be thaat hope. Because even though Mariana and I aren't related by blood, I know I am living in the wake of a new era, because she is more powerful and more beautiful inside an out than anyone could imagine. I saw it when I was young and all I do now is wait until it resurfaces. I will walk with my sister wherever she may have to go. But I can only heal her physical wounds.




 

Interlude 5 - DESTINY'S WISH


***

I'm suppose to be this great Savior. I'm suppose to take this planet, my brother's kingdom and save it from a terrorfying end. I'm suppose to rise and be this beautiful angel from the Heavens, when in reality, I'm just a small child, looking for someone to love me, for someone to look at me the same way Rath looks at Mariana. Would I want to be alone for the rest of my life, to fight this darkness which will fall on this world. Do I want to be the one everyone looks to in a time of need? I can't be that person, or can I? Do I have the power to do this.

When I was a small child and I use to run around the grounds wearing one of my mother's gowns, I wished I would be all grown up. I wished I could be a beautiful lady, with a husband, my Prince Charming, by my side in a world fille with peace. I wanted to grow up so I could be Antar's Savior. Because when you're a child, the life you so desperately want is glamourous. Filled with awe and wonder and everything is magical and free. But now? All I want to do is be a child again, to trip in my mother's shoes and to smear her lipstick along my own small pout, posing with a feathered scarf around my neck as Alan looks on with rolling eyes. Because back then, I didn't have to be a Savior, I didn't have to prepare, and I didn't have to have secrets. I could just be myself and have no worries in the world except whether to ask for peanut butter or chocolate chip cookies for snack. I could dream of being a powerful goddess with a smile that would radiate around the entire planet, a source of awe for all people to see.

When you are a child, you have the ability to dream of your future. To see yourself as something so huge and important, you become impatient for it to come. Savior was spoken of as a mystical figure, a position which would bring great strength and ability to the one who was prophecised. Everyone wanted to be that person, Ava, Livanka, heck, even Alan and Kael. Anything to be the "Hollywood star" of Antar. All except Mariana. She was a child, filled with light and ambition. She was a tomboy who would roll in the mud and tackle Mikel into the snow. She never dreamt of being the angel of the prophecy or of being beautiful and powerful, she just wanted to be Mariana, the warrior. And she got what she wanted. She was the only one of us who didn't want to be something bigger than what she was.

Maybe that's what makes her so special, that which draws people to her so easily. She radiates love and compassion and despite her own antics, when I'm with her, a sense of calmness and serenity falls over me. And I can breath again, because I think, maybe being the Savior won't be so hard. But couldn't I just run away? Couldn't I walk away from the palace and my Destiny and never turn back? Because then I woudln't have to live up to words scrawled on paper and I wouldn't have to be the Princess of Antar. I could be Vilandra. Just Vilandra, another girl walking along the path, who is as non descript as the next passer-by. So much pressure is upon me. The Elders saw me and they knew I was the Savior, they knew that I would be the one that would save a planet. But did anyone ask me? Did anyone want to know what I wanted? No.

But it's my duty and it's my Destiny and I can't fight it. Being the King's sister puts me in an even more difficult spot. I'm not on the Royalty by association, I'm one because of blood. So no way can I leave this Destiny which awaits me. I will know no love. I will know no freedom. And I will never be given a choice.

My entire world is mapped out for me. From the moment I was born to the very moment I shall die. I live to serve the people and Antar. But I dream, of a life where I need not be tied down by history and paper. I dream of a world where I can love and be loved in return, where my soulmate will come to me and on one knee, ask for my hand in marriage. That's all that I dream of.

Dreams, how ironic. My gift is to place and manipulate dreams, and yet, they are the only aspect of my life which keeps me sane and in touch with this planet. When I first got the gift to Dreamwalk, I used it for my own gain. I would place dreams of myself in the minds of men and boys, to become the desired. But as quickly as I learnt how to do this, it became stale and insignificant. Because it was all too easy, all to simple. Nothing without a fight is worth having and everything you want is out of reach. The phrase I live by. To live in secret, to die in secret. But my powers stop there. And I am shamed because of this small aspect. I am of blood Royalty, yet my power is so minimal and so small that the Elders contemplated being wrong in their assesment of my place in the Prophecy. The Savior would have immense amounts of power to show the planet how to love again, and all I can do is manipulate the minds desires and change a nightmare into a dream of purity and genorosity.

Some nights, I hope that my life was a dream. I wish that I were not Princess Vilandra of Antar, but a simple girl on Earth, without power, without being so different, yet so alone in this world I am forced to live in. With anything but a false smile and a nod of enjoyment, anything to show me that I am alive and that this is my life, not the life of a person created millions of years ago. We follow the Prophecy down to the ponctuation, and to some, mostly the Elders, it runs their lives. But for the new generation, we wish to break apart from our traditional ties and live the life our ancestors did, with freedom.

I dare to break away from my stiff and horribly starch brother, who stands straight and who lifts only a finger to command a soldier to fetch me. The man who commands me to walk with my left foot first or my right. My two surrogate brothers, who live more in their minds than the world around them, who are angry at the world for the injustice placed upon them, the warriors. And then the children of Sight, my cousin and my best friends, Alan and Ava. Both are like me, bound to Destiny. And yet, they find themselves able to live a life filled with laughter and intrigue. They are not suffucating, they are not dying.

I sometimes dream of telling the entire planet that I renounce my Royalty position and that I run from the Palace as fast as my feet will take me, away to a far away land where I'm not a Princess bound by duty and blood, where I can love who I want to and be with them. And I dare myself to place myself in danger, to draw the mystery into my own life and wish it to grow and radiate throughout my dreams. Because I'm not living life, I'm waiting for it. I'm waiting for my time to come, for me to rise above this, to experience love and action, of life and interaction. To pick a bouquet of flowers or to laugh with my friends without having to stand straight with a diplomatic tone of voice. To leave this world I am trapped inside, to become a peasant, a servant, a nobody.

Anything better than Antar, anything better than this position. I am said to be the Savior of Antar, but who else am I? Am I Vilandra, or am I only Antar's Princess?




Chapter 13 - Archaic


***

She stood over his unmoving body, debating whether to wake him or to leave him there. The wound on his head was just a surface scratch and she knew beyond a doubt he would survive without any sort of breain damage. So she knelt down, onf hand fingering her darken locks, while her other was placed on the cement floors, to provide her with stability. Her hand dropped from her hair and she gently pushed the body over, laying him face up. He leaned over, fingers checking for pulse and her eyes watching as his chest rose and fell in a steady rhythem. Satisfied that he was breathing, she rose from her position and walked across the room towards his scabeth, which was carelessly dropped in the corner, as if forgotten. While contemplating whether or not she should wake him, the soud of a door scraping aganst the surface of the floor made her turn around and run towards the closing door.

She took a quick step back as his face popped up in the small window, with a terribly joyful smile playing on his lips. Her head went from the body on the floor to the closing door,

"You can't do this to me!"

"Don't think I haven't already Vilandra."

"Don't call me that."

"That's who you are, isn't it?"

She pur all her weight against the door, trying with all her effort to prevent it from locking her in the bomb shelter with the body.

"No! No! Please, don't do anything," she screamed, as the door slammed shut with a lound echoing bang. She pressed her ear agains the cool metal and all she could hear was his footsteps, growing more and more silent.

"You bastard" she yalled a final time, pounding her fists against the metal before sliding down to sit on the floor, continuing to watch his chest rise and fall, rise and fall.

***

Livanka stopped in suddenly in front of Zan's quarters. She was intending to go to the clinic to see if Ava had woken, but the thought of the files her, Alan and Mikel had been trying to read earlier that day made her stop in front of this particular chamber.

The folders were locked with required access only. And if neither her nor Mikel had that kind of accessibility, that only left one person who had the ability to lock two of the Royalty out of those folders. And she was standing in front of his room. Now she had a new dilema running thorugh her mind.

If Zan had been the one to impose the lock on those folders, why?

***

A small hand gently tapped Kael on the shoulder as both men, with wide eyes took in the appearance of a frail Ava looking past them both at the painting they had been previously discussing.

"What do you mean you told him?" Alan asked, his eyes following every single one of her movements.

She simply shrugged her shoulders and turned to look at him. He froze. Her eyes held a haunting realization, as if she knew more than he ever could and it scared him. Because whatever it is she knew, it felt cold and unforgiving. It felt of Death.

"I told Rath what to paint." she said, turning away from him to continue looking at the battle scene painting.

"We got that. But... Um. Why did you tell him?"

"Because he's my cousin."

Alan looked on perplexed, "But you can't tell people, especially Royalty your visions. It's against the fundamental laws of the gifts"

She shook her head, her curls bounching across her face, "No. But it's Rath. I hardly thought he would run away telling the people of the visions I saw at night. I didn't see him as a cause for panick. Besides, it felt right to tell him. And I didn't tell him everything, I just told him of the visions, in no detail, and he came up with these..." she let her sentence trail off.

"He's painted more than one?"

"Yes."

"But you just said you didn't tell him what to paint in detail."

"Yes, why do I have to keep repeating myself."

Kael interrupted the conversation, finally regaining some composure, "but are these exactly what you saw in the visions?"

"Yes."

"How's that possible?"

"I don't know. He was just able to do it. One day, he told me he had a secret and that he was afraid it would come true. I had no idea what he was talking about. he just looked at me with hollow eyes and told me I had visited him in his dreams. I told him it was impossible since I didn't have the ability and he simply said he knew that, but he saw what he saw. And he had painted them."

"What did he paint."

"Two portraits. Almost identical except for one small things."

"Which was," Kael pressed

"I'm not sure."

"What do you mean you aren't sure?"

"I never saw the second one he painted. He hid it. And he told me when it was needed, the person who was suppose to see it would find it."

"If that's true then that means Rath had the power of Vision as well?" Kael asked, confused at all this new information. Ava shook her head,

"No, I don't think he was gifted with that power, but... I think we've been misinterpreting the reasons we are gifted."

"Cryptic much?" Alan joked, trying to rid himself of the coldness the room had suddenly taken on. He didn't feel comfortable here, it felt as if a shadow had lifted above them all, blocking them from sunlight. He shivered and looked out the windows into the dark night.

Ava ignored her friends joke and rolled here eyes. Smiling gently towards her friend, "Alan, go find Liv. She'll probably need her."

Alan blinked twice and just shook his head, mumbling as he went towards the door, "cryptic, they're all cryptic."

Suddenly, a flash of pain hit her and she stumbled, her hands flailing in the air to grab onto anything to steady herself. She felt herself falling, falling falling., when suddenly she was being held up and she felt herself floating.

***

She opened her eyes and looked around, being met with ruins of the church overlooked from the clinic. An owl was hooting and the night held no compassion in itself. It felt charged, angry, deadly. Rain was falling in a thick sheet around her, sliding over her body, as if missing her. A small noise from her right made her turn and she watched unmoving as a tearfaced Mariana, clothes torn and misworn, hair matted to her face, water trickling over her body, stumbling towards the ruins, only a few feet from her own current position. Ava took a small step forward, but her legs felt heavy - a usually feeling while being in a vision. But this one was so sharp and in focus, so realistic and too easy to see. It wasn't a message, it was a warning.

But before she could step towards her friend, a dark cloud rose in the sky and a tall figure, cloaked in the darkness raised a sword in both his arm, thrusting them down with force towards her crying friend,

"If you won't have me, no one will have you.... Die b-itch." his voice was so familiar and panick filled Ava eyes. A scream rose from her throat,

"No!!"

***

Her scream travelled towards her conscience state as her eyes snapped open and Kael's worried face meet her own one covered in sweat. He opened his mouth, but she cut him up, pulling herself up in a standing position.

"Did Mariana ever talk to herslef as a child? Talk about Earth, Antar, anything odd?"

Kael didn't know why she was asking all of a sudden but nodded his head, "Yah, up until she was in her seventh or eighth cycle I think. And she use to have nightmares too. Freaked the entire family out. Why?"

She just looked out the window overlooking the church ruins and nodded her head, it hadn't started raining it. That meant they still had time.

"Don't talk. We need to go. Now." Kael just watched as Ava walked towards the door and quickly began to follow her, his ears hearing her murmured words, "She can't die... She can't die until she's been told. Not yet, she can't die.."

***

"Liv!" Livanka looked up towards her lanky friend as he made his way towards her. "Liv, what'cha doing here?"

She snorted, "want to go on a little adventure with me Alan?"

"If it involves tequila and a bed, I'll have to pass."

Livanka rolled her eyes and shoved him gently, chuckling as she pushed him towards the connecting corridor, "Stand there and tell me if anyone's coming." She knelt down and began to fiddle with the circuit panel on Zan's door.

Alan looked both ways before asking over his shoulder curious as her fingers worked quickly around wires and a circuit board, "Could you tell me why it seems you're trying to break into Zan's private chambers..." a small beep and the opening of the doors made him widen his eyes, "and since when can you pick Royalty locks?"

She just smiled at him as she pulled him into the room after herself, looking both ways to ensure no one had seem them, "Aw, just a small trick Rath taught me."

He dusted himself off and went to close the blinds.

"Great, just great, my best friend was teaching girls how to break into rooms and what does he teach me? How to cook a mean plate of spagetti and meatballs. Aren't you seeing something wrong with that picture?"

"You can cook Alan?"

***

She watched his chest rise and fall, rise and fall. She shifted her gaze towards the empty shelves lining the wall. A bomb shelter. The room was made thousand of years ago during a time where the Antarians had not discovered a way to use their powers to deflect airborn weapons. But once they did, it seemed as if everyone forgot that these room existed and they became abanded. She shifted her gaze again towards the graffited walls of the shelter, reading over the words etched names. One message held particular interest to her and she thought that if this hadn't been her first time here, she could have been the one who wrote it.

Decisions decisions. What to do? Choose life or death or something in between. Should I help them or should I not? What do I want to do? Live my own life or the life of the one I'm suppose to be. I've made so many mistakes, but it's not too late to make decisions. One good can not right a wrong, but it can't hurt either

Suddenly making up her mind, she pushed herself off the door and towards the unconscious body. She shook his shoulder gently, taking care not to hit his head against the floor. At first, he didn't respond, but she suddenly found herself being pinned against a wall and a very angry and a very familiar face looked back towards her.

"What the hell are you doing," they growled, but their grip lessened and disappeared altogether as their eyes adjusted to the dark.

"Lonnie..."

"Hi Rath...."

***

He growled again, sending an angry glance her way, "I'm not Rath." She just blinked her eyes twice as a pained look crossed her face. "I'm sorry, I didn't know. I thought you were... He didn't tell me that you were here and that..."

"Shut up." She gasped at his harsh tone, partially hurt and partially surprised.

"What?"

"Shut up. And tell me where Mar is." Lonnie averted his gaze, looking everywhere but at him. He cocked his head to the side and narrowed his eyes.

"Lonnie, I'm glad you're alive, but when I wake up with a headache which could kill and you leaning over me, with Mariana gone and in a weird bomb shelter, I don't exactly think you're here to help me. Just answer my question."

"I..." she began, finally resolved to look at his forehead,"....Am here to help you." She watched his reaction carefully. She knew he wouldn't hurt her, but his emotions seemed wired and he didn't look exactly stable.

"Fine. Whatever. Tell me where she is."

"I sent her towards the church," she admitted finally, continuing to stare anywhere except his eyes.

"And why would you do that?"

"This needs to end."

"What happened. And dammit, look me in the eye." Surprised by him knowing, she accidentally looked him in his eyes and the two locked gazes. She began to stammer, "Nothing... I um, I..."

"Lonnie. What aren't you telling me?"

She just closed her mouth, shaking her head frantically.

"Dammit Lonnie, stop playing these games with me. Tell me where the hell Mariana is."

"I can't," she whispered, walking towards him, "I can't tell you, but you can find out yourself." She took his hands in her own and she placed them on either side of her head, willing herself to allow a connection to be made.

Thousand of images flew past his eyes, too fast for him to comprehend in totality, but suddenly they slowed as he saw himself break down a door and see a man leaned over Mariana, the man's belt undone and his pants lowered... Angered flashes throughout his body, meantally thanking Vilandra for actually stopping the f-ucker, but at the same time, angry for Vilandra's lack of judgement. But another set of images flashes past his closed eyelids and they made no sense to him, but a funny feeling in the pit of his stomach and a glimmer in the back of his mind forced him to push away from her and broke the connection.

"Did you see all that you needed to?" she gasped between pants. He looked at her, blinking twice. When he spoke, his voice was filled with venom,

"You told her I was dead."

"Yes, I did tell her Mikel was dead."

"F-uck you Lonnie." She just looked away from him and watched as he used his powers to break the door down. She shook her head, allowing some tears to fall, this was all her fault, all her fault...

***

Alan heard his stomach growl as Livanka began to sort through Zan's desk and through piles of paper.

"You'd think Zan would be more organized than this, " she muttered to herself, quickling scaning papers and through boxes.

Alan stood back and crouched down to look at Zan's fish bowl, tapping on the glass three times, enjoying how the fish just stared back at him.

"It's like his fish is high."

"Alan," Livanka's irrating voice prattled, "stop fooling around and help me."

Standing up and stretching his arms, he continued to watch his friend let out a small growl and bang her fists on the desk, "If you tell me what you're looking for Liv, maybe I can help you."

She rubbed her face tiredly, "I don't know Alan. Just something. I think Zan was the one who closed access to those files and it's been bothering me. Why would he? They're only newspaper records. What could be so important that he'd use his position as heir to the throne to lock access?"

"He has a dirty secret like a concubine who wouldn't be an acceptable Queen?" Alan offered, but coughed slightly when Livanka threw him a dirty glance. He raised his hands in defence and just pointed towards the fish bowl, pushed up against the wall, hoping to distract his friend.

"Look, I'm telling you Liv, that fish looks like it's on crack. I tapped the bowl a couple of times and it just stared back at me. Take a look."

She shot him another irritated glance but rolled her eyes and decided to do the man justice and just look at the damn fish bowl. She crouched down and came eye to with the small round goldfish.

"Now tap the glass."

Livanaka used her middle finger and flicked the glass a couple of times, but frowned. Alan, thinking she agreed with him, whooped in the air, "See! I told you it was weird."

But she didn't join in. She just continued to look at the fish bowl.

"Liv? Liv?" But she didn't answer him. Instead, she picked up the large fish bowl and handed it to him, nodding back towards the desk. Alan, waddling towards the desk, dropped the fish bowl with a loud thump on the leather desk protector. Shrugging his shoulders when he noticed some water slosh over the side, turned back towards Livanka. Wasn't his fish, wasn't his desk. Not his fault Zan didn't have a closed aquarium. He watched in interest as Livanka began tapping a small square on the wall, which use to be directly covered by the fishbowl.

"Look at this Alan," she beckoned to him.

He returned to crouch down beside her and the two peered at the small square marring the perfectly smooth wall.

"Zan's immaculate. Worse than Mariana is. So why would he have this on his wall, covered by a fish bowl?"

"He has something to hide?"

"Bingo."

***

Livanka passed her hand over the small panel for a third time, but it wouldn't budge. She frowned. This isn't right. She tapped on the small square, attempting to see if it would pop out. Both waiting in anticipation, but nothing happened.

Alan slapped Livanka's hand away and pointed towards the small square, "Look, I don't think it has any sort of spring mechanism. It looks to simple and too rough to have any kind of advanced opening system. It looks more like it was manually done, cut and replaced carefully so it wouldn't move."

"So...."

"We pry it open the good 'ol fashioned way!" Alan flashed his friend a smile as he looked around the room and ran to grab a silver letter opener sitting on the bed. Returning to crouch beside his friend, he shoved one thin end into a small crevice of the sqaure and pulled up, effectively popping the small square out of it's spot on the wall. Rubbing his hands together, Alan dropped the letter opener and nodded at Livanka to retrieve the small folded piece of paper which stared back at them.

***

Livanka sat on the floor below the window ledge, watching as Alan sorted through files on the screen in front of them.

"Hurry up," she hissed, spotting glances at the door and out the window, "I don't want Zan to come back."

"You weren't so worried about being quiet or hurrying before," Alan countered

"That's because we didn't find anything. I could just tell him I was looking for a book."

"And he would have believed that?"

"It's Zan."

Alan just chuckled but lost the smile as he continued to tap through the various screens. "For such an anal retentive guy, he doesn't have that good of skills in the organizational area. His folders are crap."

"Did you find anything though?"

"Yah, pass me the sheet of paper, will you?" Livanka leaned over and snatached the folded piece of white paper and passed it over to Alan. He unfolded it, and scanned the various numbers and words on it.

"Ok, chose a password." Livanka just looked at the long list of words and numbers, "You're sure this is the right file you're looking at? The one he put restricted access on?"

"Yes yes, just hurry up!"

"Sorry... I just don't want to intrude on anything...."

"Personal?" he finished for her. He spared a glance at her and she nodded her head.

"Don't worry. If it's porn, I won't show it to you." She laughed out loud, holding her sides slightly, "That's not what I was thinking Alan, but thanks anyway." he flashed her his own white teeth but nudged her to tell her he wanted her to chose a code.

"Why am I choosing anyway?" she asked, as she looked at all the possibilities.

"You know him better than I did. Maybe you would be able to think like him." he explained

She closed her eyes and circled her finger over the paper several times before stopping it. "This one, " she pointed out to him, "use this one."

"I like your methods."

His fingers flew across the letters as he input the desired code. Both stared unblinking at the screen, hoping luck with with them that night.

"Access Accepted" flashed across the screen and the two friends smiled at each other, but as their eyes scanned over the headers of the articles, the smiles slid off their faces.

***

She ran, not stopping to catch her breath. She inhaled a shaky breath, half from sobbing and the other from the lack of oxygen.

"He can't be dead," she whispered, pushing branches out of the way, "he can't be dead." She closed her eyes and blindly ran forward. She woudln't believe what they had said. He wasn't dead.He didn't die. He couldn't. He was Mikel

// But you didn't think Rath would leave you and look what's happened a voice singsonged in her head.

"Screw you," she muttered, swipping the tears off her face, determined to silence her own voice, "Rath didn't leave me... He just left. It had nothing to do with me."

// Sure if didn't... You just weren't good enough. He left you on your wedding day! Your wedding day!

She pushed pass an oak tree, stepping over it's large roots, attempting to trip her in her path. She slammed her fist in frustration as the voice continued to taunt her

// You think you deserved him? You didn't.... You could never deserve. You were nothing, you are nothing...

"Stop it!" She screamed, as her eyes caught a small pile of ruins two feet away from her. The voice stopped.

Almost there, she was almost there. Scrambling up the small hill, she ran towards the crumbling building, the very place she was three cycles ago. Not watching her foot, it became caught between two large stones and she fell forward, shooting her arms out to cushion her fall.

Sitting up and pushing the dirt from her eyes, while the rain poured down from overhead, she grabbed onto her leg, trying to pry her ankle out from between the two rocks. But a cackle from behind her, made her twist around, and her eyes widened in shock,

"I'm glad to see you two. Too bad Vilandra interrupted us before hum...." She covered her mouth as a gasp escaped. No, it couldn't be...

"Oh my god..."

 

 

 

 

Interlude 6 -Two Strangers in a Familiar World


***

glossary
ninocycles - seconds

note
The "quoted" parts in the beginning of this interlude (which explain Mikel's name) were taken directly, word for word from www.kabalarians.com . But please don't sue me.

***

I thought journals were stupid. They're for chicks and guys who wanted to be more intune with their "feminine side". They weren't made for men like myself. I'm a warrior, a commander of one of the largest and most fierce armies in the universe and here I am scrawling away in a small notebook. At least it isn't pink. Hah, Rath's so whipped.

Ok, where to start. My name I suppose. My name supposedly "gives you a strongly independent and highly creative nature, with drive and ambition to have experiences and accomplish things out of the ordinary." Wow. How do you follow up on that. But I guess if desiring to beat the s-hit out of Khivar is ambition. Good.


"Obstacles to your progress or restrictions on your freedom to act create a sense of frustration which may cause you to feel resentful and even rebellious." Yah well, whatever.

"You can then become intolerant of others, and caustic and belittling in your expression, thereby imposing stress on your personal relationships." What personal relationships? We have Rath, Mariana, Alan, Kael, Liv, Ava and Zan. We're not talking budding social circle here.

"Although you have a clever, quick, capable mind, your progress in life is restricted by instability in your affairs and misunderstandings with people." F-uck this book.

"Your impulsive nature can lead to actions which you later regret taking, or to accidents. " Ain't Mar going to be a happy little camper. But like I mentionned before, this book is full of c-r-a-p.

"Nervous tension centres in the solar plexus, with nervous indigestion and stomach ulcers a possible result." Great. Kael can get a kick out of this too. This is C-r-a-p.

Thank Antar that's done with. Names don't mean anything either. They're a multitude of letters gumbled together to form a nice forming word. It's schematics and society's way of creating individuals. You could just call: "hey you" into a crowd and about twenty million people turn their heads towards you. Shows so much doesn't it?

Next, what to talk about in this. Rath I suppose. He is my twin (unfortunately) after all.

First you need to understand this. Rath and I are twins. Identical and most people say in personality and charm. They're either paying Rath a compliment or they're insulting me. I don't know which. But I do really pay attention to Rath. He and Ava are my only family so, I suppose you could call it, "family ties" or that I "care for Rath" as Mariana likes to point out. But those are womeny terms. I call him a-ss hole and he calls me f-ucker. See the love between us? Anyway, Rath is younger than me. By five glorious ninocycles. No one even know the dope existed. Rath's a tricky guy. Clever and slick. Apprently he was like that in our mothers womb. He hid behind me for the entire maturity cycle, camouflaging himself with my bio signs. He was a real smart guy - not. Because of his brilliance at such a young age, or rather his incapability to trust anyone (and they say I have complexes. The guy wasn't even a cycle old and he was hiding himself), the Healer who took care of our mother, didn't pump enough protein additives into her blood stream so we both almost died of malnutritient. That doesn't really matter, though, because I got my revenge, or rather Fate did. Because when we were born, I came out first, all gopey and scrawny. But then Rath flopped onto the table right after me. Zan's father told me that my mother and father were completely white with shock at seeing Rath. Ha ha. He almost gave them heart attacks. But they still loved him. You see, twins are extremely rare for Antarians. They're virutally unheard of. Not sure why, because there's all this science s-hit that deals with it, but basically it all comes down to the fact that twins are rare. Or when they are born, one dies. Rath didn't, I didn't. We continued to live, much to the future displeasure of our tutorial teachers.

I was named Mikel, a proud kind of name, ha, and then my adorable (and yes, apprenly Rath and I were quite the cute little babies, with our caramel eyes and pouty lips, with barely visible brown hair. We were real lookers) brother was named Rath. I personally think they meant to spell it with a "W", but that would have been just a bit too obvious and potentially scaring. Sooo, they pulled off the "W". So now he was just free to crawl around and bite people's ankles without the terrifying name of 'wrath'.

We were literally double trouble. Apprently we were "hooligans" and we would run around causing havoc. Rath and I were inseperable at birth and we remained so until our eighteeth cycle or so. We did everything together - beat kids up, eat our lunches, take weapon tutorials. Everything. But the big difference is that Rath isn't really a people person (as demonstrated by his stunt in our mother's womb). He doesn't like strangers and usually ends up growling or glaring at them. I'm not much better, but I don't end up scaring the s-hit out of people, so I'm the "better Guerin twin." Rath didn't have any friends for a long long long time. Later on he'd met Alan and the two would bond. But until then, it suited him fine. He would just follow me around or sculk in dark corner and continue to scare people.

That was until we meet Mariana. I was introduced to her when were very young; we were both fooling around in a sand box; I, waiting for my parents to get out of a talk with the Headmaster (Rath and I stole all the tutorial manuals and threw them into a near-by river) and Mariana, her mother talking to some old broad. She was all happy and humming,playing "Magic Little Kingdom" with little figurines and buckets. I trampled her sand castle, she threw a bucket of sand at me and I got some in my eye (painful brat). But somehow we became best friends. Not sure how, not sure why, but she became so important to me - almost as much as Rath did. The funny thing was when Mariana wanted to know who the "Dark, Mean, and Growling-One" was, I saw my brother blush for the very first time. I thought I was in a parallel dimension and tried punching myself - I landed in the Clinic for two days with a concussion. Moving along now, it was pretty obvious Rath thought Mariana was something else. And in reality she was. She was his complete opposite. When Rath embodied all that was dark, angry, brooding and pained, Mariana retaliated with light, love, laughter and compassion. The only thing the two shared was passion - Mariana for life, Rath for Mariana.

So, with my begrudged help, Rath became somewhat of an obsessed fan. He would always follow her and watch her. All shady and creepy. Don't get me wrong, Mar always knew, she had an uncanny ability, and she didn't seem to mind. She'd just smile at me and tell me she thought it was sweet. Sweet? She called something Rath did was sweet? Right. And you're all wondering why would I help Rath? Because, for the first time in my entire life, I saw my brother alive. He wasn't as moody and he wasn't as depressed as he usually was.

Rath has a deeper problem than his inability to trust. He had self esteem issues, or so Alan explained to me in a long and tedious talk. Rath would always weild a sword with might and power, but for some reason he felt inadequent in the world. I don't know why and maybe that is another difference between us, but he barely showed any emotion. Most times, he was either against opinions or was indifferent. But with Mariana, he actually cared about something. He actually payed attention to something. And I couldn't turn my head the other way. So, I'd tell my brother what Mariana's favorite colors were, pastimes were, foods were, and so on. He knew he almost as well as I did, and he never talked one word to her.

That was until some a-sshole, named Douglas pushed her into the ground and told her she was a "bastard child". Rath didn't take a liking to that at all. Neither would I, if I were there, but I was inside with Ava, trying to explain to her the difference between Antarians and our ancestor Humans. Mariana told me later that week, that she was laying on the ground, with scraped knees, a twisted ankle, and a l cut on her cheek. She wanted to punch the living daylights out of Doug (that's my girl), but she was in too much pain and didn't want to give the a-sswipe the satisfaction of seeing her cry. But before Doug could open his mouth to taunt her, a huge shadow came out of nowhere and literally threw little-ol-Douglas to Never-never Land. And said-shadow turned around and walked up to her. His head was cocked and he had scruffy hair and she thought he was me. Until she saw his smirk and long curls (which he continues to wear. That's one of the few characteristics which differentiate us. My longish spikes and his shoulder length hair). He leaned over and asked her: "You's ok?"

She told me she fell in love with him. I told her she'd always been in love with him. Rath and I were fifteen cycles old, Mariana was eleven.

Our parents died five cycles earlier. Not sure how. No one would ever tell us, and that mystery still haunts us to this very day, but all I know is that Mariana took some of his pain away. She didn't get rid of it, she just soothed it and that's all Rath needed. What about my pain? It's still there, deep seeded, until our parent's death can be explained and revenged. Khivar's behind it. I know he is. A high commanding Duke, who became overpowered by the King. He had no moral ethics and all he cared about was money, power and corruption. He wanted to rule the planet and my parents stood in his way. He was vocal about it that it leaves no doubt in my, or Rath's mind of his guilt. The ironic part of the story is a war will no doubt arise between Khivar's men and the Antarian Royalty, and maybe in that, through all the sacrifice and through all the pain, the Guerin brothers can finally find the peace we seek.

I'll never fall in love. I don't want love. I don't have a soul for a love. True, I've been with plenty of women, charmed 'em right off their feet, but, I don't think I could every love. Not like Rath loves Mariana and not like Kael loves Ava. I'm not bitter about it. I don't hate the world for it. I just accept it. I've never come across a person I can't take my eyes off, someone who inspires me to do better in the world. I'm an unattached warrior. I have no room to complain. My family and anyone I "care about" I already know. I don't need attachments and I don't "do" relationships. I just watch my brother and his awkward love and it's show enough for me. Little brother can have that glory. Both he and Mariana deserve it. They both wield strong powers and I sincerely belive their love is a gift from some higher power.

Which brings me to the next topic - my gift. Rath and I, being twins, have similar gifts. Which was odd, since twins would only receive one gift and one twin would get the jackpot and the other... Not. I manipulate physical objects - like walls and lamps and anything youu can touch, as well as wind, fire, and water. But not air. Rath can manipulate time folds and space (where the fourth element is categorized). Both so similar, yet both just as dangerous. And how we got our gifts, nothing too special. I woke up one morning and was too lazy to open the door to the bathroom - my gift did it for me. Rath was kicking dirts and rocks outside (while brooding) and some jocks walked by, snickering at him. He muttered under his breath that he wished some moron would pelt them in the head with something... Suddenly the boys were knocked twenty feet away. The air was fuzzy around us, misty and unclear. Simple as that.

I became Royalty shortly after. I met Zan (he's an odd bird) and Lonnie (who's bent on her anger towards being the Savior) later on and we were destined to form the Council which would govern the entire planet. Rath, Mariana and I, swordmen extrodinaires became Commanders of three sub-divisions of the Antarian Army.

But the Prophecy, a bunch of crap. We make our own destinies, not what some piece of manuscript tells us.

And so here I am, after a short and rather boring life, I am a fighter.

My best friend is Mariana.

My family is Rath.

And I am a warrior, who would sacrifice anything and everything to protect them both.

Mikel.

 

 

 

Interlude 7 - All The King's Men


***

He was going to kill her. And him. And then the others. Not one of them would survive when he was finished. But first she would go. For everything she did, everything she made happen. It was all that b-itch's fault and he'd make her pay. Slowly, until his wounds would heal and he would be able to breath again. True, she was beauty, far more beautiful than any other woman he'd ever seen, but she would not have him. And if she wouldn't stand with him, repent her crimes, than she would simply have to die.

It was a simple decision really. He'd been watching her for months, plotting his next move. At first, he thought she had vanished, her mother had done too good of a job hiding the golden child away safely, but when she became Royalty, it was simply far too easy to find her again. Imagine, sitting in a pub, looking up to a poster with her smile plastered all over the front. He had started laughing so hard, other customers thought he'd gone insane. Maybe he had already. Searching for her, through all those towns, villages, but here she was, right under his nose.

At first he thought it would be near impossible to get close enough to her, but all good things come to those who wait. And he had waited... For far too long.

Who would have guessed Vilandra would have helped him? But the little w-hore was too simple to read and act accordingly. She longed for love and passion and so all he had to do was offer it to her. At first she'd be suspicious and battled the moral issue, but then, as easy as can be, she slid into his grasp and it had all worked out more beautiful than he could ever have imagined. Of course, she'd landed him a nasty cut but now she would left to explain to the Royalty her dirty little secret. See how they would react to her admissions. Vilandra was too obsorbed in self-pity to reveal anything of interest to the Royalty. And what if the Visionary found out what had happen. He only regret he had was he hadn't pushed her harder or added a bit of energy to her fall. Then he would have been rid of her for good and he wouldnt' have her alerting everyone. But no matter, she would be too late.

Do you have any idea how long I've waited for this? Hiding in the shadows, pretending to be some mindless, brainless twit? They think I'm just here for the war, that I loathe the Royalty Council Members, that they run this planet with as much dignity as a dead star. They know nothing about me. And no one would suspect a thing. The stupid are looked over, allowed to pass. That's the problem with the Royalty. They are ignorant and power hungry, and yet they harp of peace and equality. It's astounding in all areas of life. They make me sick.

But above all of them, her. Of course I loathed the Royalty before I discovered she was on the Council, but with her face smiling back at me, her green eyes dancing, it boils my blood and the word 'hate' takes on a whole new meaning.

Revenge... Revenge... Revenge... It's my lulluby. It's been playing through my head for so long, every night. Through the rain, the snow, the sunshine, the rainbows. Through every single festival, every single cycle, I watch them. They smile and they cheer, they rejoice and they laugh. I'll destroy it all and pluck the life aura out of every single one of them. Starting with her.

But the Commander's love for her astonishes me. His soul is almost as dark as mine is and yet he bares to look at her, touch her, open his soul to her. It sickens me. A man of his power should ally with others of his degree. Join me and we shall destroy them together! But no. He chooses her and her goodness. But maybe it isn't her beauty that pulls him to her, maybe it's her power. He must taste it, feel it, see it. It flows through her and around her. That special light that sits around her body everytime she walks and moves. Her power is amazing. If only I could have a taste of that power...

No! No! She is corrupt. And she will corrupt everyone. Die. Die. And I will allow the Commander to see her face one more time, her eyes one more time, the shine of her skin one more time. And I'll allow him to see that glow die and wither, until there is nothing but a souless body laying in a heap by my feet.

Then I will have my revenge. Then I will sleep. Then I will destroy the Royalty one by one. Without her light to protect them, they will be vulnerable. The Commander will follow. A slow and painful death. I want him to feel. His punishmen for loving that that thing. They both have so much power. I'd die to have it. But if I may not, no one else will. Least the Royalty Council.

She doesn't know her story, I suppose her mother hasn't told it to her. The truth at least. And isn't that too bad. She'll discover the life she's been living has been a lie. She's been shielded from the past too long. In this and in her childhood. It's a shame I'll be lifting the curtain.

This planet will be mine. Mine, alone. Just mine. Not with stupidity at my arms length. Just one man at the head. Me.

But before, she must die. Mariana deserves to die. For what her father did, for what she lives for.


 

 

Chapter 14 - part a -The Letter Opener from Hell


********

Ava stopped abruptly, causing Kael to bump into her, "Ouf." When he noticed the small blonde's head c-ocked to the side, he followed her gaze.

"So, we're just going to stand here looking at a portrait?" he asked, tapping her on the shoulder. She whirled around, surprising him. Her eyes were narrowed and she pointed a finger in his face. Uh oh.

"Do you want to help Mariana?" He nodded, "Well then, take down that painting." her demeanor suddenly changed to a more pleasant one, a calmer one. He blinked several times, his mouth slightly agape, "Now."

"Right-e-o." grabbing a chair, one Livanka had said served for 'decorative' purposes, he pushed it under the portrait. Preparing to hoist himself up, Ava's small hand stopped him, "You're going to stand on that?" She asked, incredulously, her eyes wide as saucers.

He looked at her perplexed.. What in the world? "Um, yes. I'm not exactly a pedestal of height here," he waved his hand over the length of his body, "and why not use the chair? It always just sits there collecting dust."

"You can't!" she countered, " That's a Victorian chair! One of the very few artifacts which survived on Earth! It's a relic! You can't just clamber on it with those huge dirty boots of yours!"

He snorted, "I d-amn well can. And besides, I thought you wanted me to take the portrait down."

She gave him an odd look and shook her head, "Yes you moron. Transfigure it down. That's what you do isn't it?" Kael stood still for a moment, a blush creeping up his cheeks. Damn, he looked like an idiot. He waved his hand over the bottom half of the Royalty Council Portrait.

"Right."

Within seconds, the large portrait was laying at Kael's feet, not a scratch on it, leaving an open space along the corridor wall, "Liv's gonna have your head for messing this up you know," Ava pointed out, as she begin to make her way down the hall again.

"What?!" he cried after her, sweat starting to form on his brow, "You're the one who wanted it down!"

***

He grunted from the weight of the painting. Dropping it unceremoniously on the floor with an echoing thud.

"Be careful with that," Ava snapped, pointing to the painting, "You're treating it like an old comic book. Mariana will kill you if you tear the canvas."

"If I tear the canvas," he muttered to himself, "I'm more worried about tearing my g-od d-amn back muscles lugging this around." A small shadow blocked the lights from his view. Dammit, this really wasn't his day.

"Did you say something?" Her voice was low and menacing.

He shook his head, with a sickeningly sweet smile plastered to the front, "nope, not a word. Kael did not say a word."

"Good. Hurry up then. We have to get going." He gawked at her. Being so bossy. So what if she could see the future? He didn't see her carrying the ridiculously heavy painting around the entire palace. It was heavier than it looked! With a resigned sigh and a loud grunt, he hoisted the painting onto his back, before dropping it again,

"This is ridiculous. I am not pulling this all over the place like a horse." He leaned it against the wall and took a step back. Hum, the canvas.... A small smile formed on his lips and he smacked his forehead. Why didn't he think of it before! He flipped the frame onto the ground and kneeled over it. He rubbed his hands together menacingly and let out a small cackle. Oh, sweet lord! Oh hear the birds sing! With a quick motion of his hands, the gold painted frame around the painting glowed for a brief second. With the glee of a child on Christmas morning, Kael plucked the frame from around the canvas and threw it behind him. Aw, well, the frame was ugly anyway. Collapsing the canvas, he paused for a second, taking note of the scrawled message on the back. Typical Rath writing. Couldn't read a damn word it said. Shrugging his shoulders, he rolling it into a small cylinder, then prepared to stand up, a huge grin on his face.

Not paying attention to the rapid footsteps getting closer, Kael began to look up, expecting to see Ava's blue eyes glaring back at her. Wait until he told-but his eyes grew wide as he saw the identity of the person running towards him. And before he would cry out a warning, their feet became entangled in the forgotten gold frame and the person's body was thrown his way, knocking him back towards the ground.

"Ouch..."

***********

"Come on Kael, this way. We're going to drop it off at Zan't chambers and then we'll go out to the church. Come on, hurry up," Ava threw over her shoulder, expecting to hear a grunted confirmation, but when silence was the only reply she heard, she stopped and turned around. Empty. She looked to her left and to her right. Nothing. She sighed and shook her head. God Lord. The portrait wasn't that heavy! She'd seen Rath carry it like it was a piece of paper. Kael had been groaning and complaining for the past ten minutes. The big baby. But when she waited for a couple more seconds and not a sound or sight of the disgruntled Healer, Ava became worried.

"Where is he,"she murmured to herself. She let out a frustrated sigh and ran back the way she had come. She was bound to find him sitting on the ground somewhere along the way.

But when she caught sight of two bodies on the ground, one knocked out and the other trying to sit up, Ava let out a strangled cry.

***********

Livanka looked up suddenly at the sound of the cry, "What was that?"

Alan shrugged his shoulders, his eyes fixed on the clear screen in front of him, his fingers flying across the buttons and his eyes barely blinking, "One of the cleaners probably slipped." He threw offhandedly, his insides giddy with joy. This was awesome! Zan never let him fool around with the Royalty software. Apparently he didn't want people getting the 'wrong idea' about the way the Council worked. Alan had just glared at his friend, more distraught at not getting a new challenge more than anything.

"But I got no coal this time, no sirree." Livanka gave him a strange look. Alan really was a weird bird. Giving a quick glance out the window, she frowned though.

"Alan. It's way too late for a cleaner to be out," She fidgeted nervously. She didn't like this. Getting caught in Zan's personal chambers, wasn't something he'd take lightly. Even if it was her. And with Alan drooling over the protection software that didn't look any promising, "Alan," she hissed, finally drawing his attention away from the screen. He blinked a couple of times,

"Yup?"

Livanka stood up and walked behind him, pushing her hands under his armpits, Alan let out a shriek, "Stop it! I'm ticklish" Livanka just looked at him, posing one hand on her hip.

"Whad ya want Liv?"

She gave him an exasperated look, "What do you think?"

"I dunno."

"Go! Go and see what that noise was."

Suddenly Alan looked defensive, "Why me! Why can't you go!"

"Because you're the man. You're suppose to protect the lady."

"What?! This isn't the twenty-first century you know. There's the entire equality issue here..."

"Go!"

"No!"

"Why!"

"Because they'll beat me up!"

"Oh for the love of Antar Alan, they won't beat you up. Even if they tried, you could... could..."

Alan looked up at her skeptically, "I can what Liv, come on, tell me, what exactly can I do? Read their thoughts to death?"

Livanka sputtered, "Well what am I going to do? Read their aura's to death? I don't think telling them to take it easy on the 'sodium intake' is really going to scare them away. Besides, you could..."

"I could..."

"You could cook 'em to death."

"What?!"

Grabbing the small mail opener from the ground, Livanka forced it into Alan's hands, his mouth sputtering for a comeback. Before he could supply one, Livanka pushed him out the door, with a mumbled, "good luck."

Alan looked down at the letter opener in his hand as the light reflected off it's silver coating, "This is great. Just great. What am I suppose to do? Poke them to death?!" Thrusting the silver file in front of him, he began to make his way down the hall, towards the source of the noise.

*******

Alan gasped as he saw a short hooded figure leaning over Kael. Anger rose through him, he could take this fiend! Not much taller than Ava really. And they'd wrestled as children plenty of times. He could take 'em. He could take 'em down easy. Running full force at the pile of people, he let out a loud war cry, intending to pierce the attackers back... But his foot tripped over a flash of dull gold and he flew towards the lying figure on the floor, jabbing the letter opener into their lg.

"S-HIT!" And suddenly Alan was thrown back, as one extremely angry Healer was towering over him.

"What the f-uck Alan!" Kael let out another shout of pain as he kicked the letter opener away, grabbing his leg and collapsing on the ground.

"Whoops?"

Ava was quickly at Kael's side, poking the point of impact to see if any skin was punctured. He slapped her hands away quickly, "Stop it, you'll only make it hurt more. Dammit it Alan."

"Well who left all this junk on the floor!"

Kael just glared at his 'attacker' again and mumbled a few words as his hand flashed over the wound, "I'll be lucky if I don't develop a bruise you maniac. A letter opener? What in Antar's name prompted you to use a letter opener. A piece of wood would have worked more efficiently."

"And I just so happen to have a piece of wood in my pocket right?"

"You had a letter opener didn't you?"

"Good point."

Laughter interrupted the arguing Royalty, causing them to look at each other and then at Ava. None of them were laughing... Alan looked towards the final person, lying across the floor, her hands grasping the sides of her stomach as wisps of darkened hair fell across her eyes.

"Lonnie!"

************

Between gasps of air, Vilandra replied to her morosely looking cousin, "Hey, *snort* Alan".

Alan blushed five shades of red, before his mind processed exactly who was lying on the ground. He threw himself towards her, his arms wrapping around her shaking shoulders, "Oh my god! Lonnie! Where have you been? What are you doing here? What did you do to your hair?" He was throwing out millions of questions towards his cousin.

Kael looked on in amusement. Leave it to Alan to act like a girl. The ten men never noticed the anger rolling off the Visionary.

"What the h-ell are you doing here Vilandra?" Vilandra found herself looking into a pair of dark eyes, brimming with anger and hatred. She pushed Alan off of her, with a squeeze to his shoulder and rose from the ground, making herself much taller than the blonde.

"What did you say to me, Ava?"

"I asked what the h-ell are you doing back in the Palace."

"I came to help." The Visionary snorted, pushing the Princess back a couple of steps.

"Of course you did. How else would your conscience let you. Don't think you can fool me Vilandra. I know what you did. I know everything." The Princess paled, all color leaving her face,

"How?" She asked, fear and insecurities swirling in her head. How could this be possible? He said even though she was a Visionary, Ava wouldn’t know, she wouldn't be able to see. How could it be possible?

Alan looked perplexed at the two women, head to head, eyes locked and anger rolling off both equally. Painful thoughts flashed through his mind and suddenly Ava was there, with accusations. His eyes flashed between the two minds, searching through the depths of thought.

Kael looked upon the three with curiosity. Alan was looking between the two, his irises dilating every so often.

"Why don't you tell them Vilandra. Why don't you tell them, where you've been for all this time?" Ava spat, pointing towards the two men, "I'm sure you're dying to tell them."

"How do you know."

Ava looked at her once and then pulled back, turning her back, "Why should I tell you. All that matters is that I know. And soon everyone else will too." Without missing a beat she turned towards Kael, pointing to his hands, "Can you transfigure us somewhere?"

Not knowing how else to respond, he nodded his head.

"Good. You'll need to do it, several times."

Alan continued to watch his cousin with an intense stare. Vilandra, realizing that someone was searching through her mind, turned abruptly o find herself face to face with Alan.

"Oh, hi Alan." her voice was nervous and high pitched. She moved in to hug him, when suddenly he pushed his hand out, inhibiting her.

"Don't."

"Alan?"

"Don't touch me. If she dies, if any of them die, it's your fault. Your damn fault." With a final look of disgust at the Princess, Alan pushed past her and walked back the way he had come. Vilandra looked panic and started to go after him before Ava stepped in her way,

"Get out of my way Visionary."

"Your Majesty. Let him go. He knows what he heard."

"How?" Her voice was so thin and barely audible. Ava relented, pity going out towards the woman.

"How could he not. It was his gift."

"I know that," she argued, "but He told me-"

"Whatever He told you was bulls-hit." Ava laid a gentle arm on the Princess, pulling her down the same hall Alan had retreated to, "Come on Vilandra. It's going to end soon."

"No it won't. It hasn't even begun."

********

The door to Zan's chambers smashed open and Livanka jumped, her hand over her beating heart. She saw the pained look on Alan's face and quickly made her way towards him, grabbing his arm. Her senses were exploding, she could read the pain, the betrayal.

"Alan? What happened? Alan?"

But he pushed past her, and quietly took his seat back behind the computer screen, the same pained expression never leaving his face. The sudden presence of three more beings in the room made Livanka turn... Two were familiar while the third was...

"Vilandra?"

"Oh uh, hey Liv."

"Oh my god...." She felt an arm pull her back and Ava's whispered words in her ear

"Don't let her out of your sight. There's more to this than even I know. I'll explain everything later... Just keep looking. And Kael will return for the three of you. When he does, be prepared. But just remember, don't listen to anything she tells you and...Watch your guard. I have the feeling..." Ava let her sentence trail off, searching Livanka's eyes for any sort of similar recognition.

"That it's just the beginning?"

"You feel it too?"

A nod.

"Be careful Ava."

"I know."

**********

She looked up into his eyes, boring into her face. The rain fell onto her, making her shiver. But the bile still rose in her throat, while the shock still resided in her gut. She opened her mouth once, but no sound came out. This couldn't be... He wouldn't...

"Zan?" She choked out, watching the smirking figure above her.

"Nope, sorry, little sister. It's Kivar."


 

 

Chapter 14b - Time and Space


**************

Three Royalty were seated in an obscure triangle; Vilandra, the farthest from the back window, looking uncomfortable sitting while sitting on Zan's immaculate bed covers; Livanka, glaring at the newly found friend, suspicion and doubt cast in her eyes; and Alan, sitting on the ground, eyes squinting while they run across Zan's personal folders. No one said a word and the only sound in the lightless room were the sounds of breathing and the constant tapping and clicking from Alan's fingers on the keypad.

Livanka continued to scrutinize the Princess, taking note of her darkening and constantly changing aura and her sudden movements. She was hiding something and she didn't want any of them to figure out what it was,

"You can't keep it a secret forever," she whispered into the room, but Vilandra's head snapped up, evidently realizing the harsh tone was intended for herself.

"I... I don't know what you mean," she replied, her voice high and tight. Livanka made a sound close to a snort and just shook her head,

"Whatever it is," she hissed, pointing to her own eyes,"your aura's giving it away. The swirls of colors, the everchanging shades. I see it all. I know there's something that's stuck in your head that you don't want to let out, but trust me Vilandra, I'll find out what it is."

The princess looked shocked and afraid as she tried her best to throw the aura reader a dirty glance adn turned herself around, beginning to watch Alan's inspection and her face transformed into a frown as she caught the look of surprise crossing his features.

"Liv. Liv," Alan beckoned with his arm frantically, "you need to come here, now."

Livanka started to rise from the chair but stopped and pointed a finger at Vilandra, who also began to move from her spot on the bed, "Don't move. Stay where you were. You're name isn't Liv is it?"

Vilandra froze and shook her head slowly, sighing and begin to redescend to her spot on the bed.

"Why are you being so cruel to me?" she whimpered, a look of pain contorting her features. Both Livanka and Alan looked at her for a moment, silent, deciding the best way to answer the question. Sharing a quick glance, Alan made a move to allow Livanka to sit beside him, but he continued to keep his eyes trained on Vilandra, unblinking.

His voice sounded light, but menacing, with a hint of darkness Vilandra had never heard him use before,"I saw it," he began, his face becoming darker and darker, "you're thoughts, Ava's thoughts. I saw it all, and I know you're reappearance in the Palace isn't something to be joyful about. You're been here all along, right under our noses. You made us all worry about you, while you hid a silent killer. And you did it willingly, not caring what effect your decisions did and would have on the rest of us. You know so many answers to so many questions that have plagued us. And yet.... You sit there in front of Livanka and I, not offering any information."

"But, you haven't asked me anything!" she retorted. This was ridiculous, they were being so cold and menacing towards her - as if she was some kind of enemy, someone who shouldn't be trusted.

"And you shouldn't be trusted Lonnie. We don't need to ask the questions. You know very well what answers we're looking for. But like I said, you just sit there. It's disgusting." Vilandra made a move to respond, but was cut short by Alan's voice, "and don't even try to explain yourself. Keep your excuses for the others. They'll be more willing to hear you out. I won't."

Silence.

Livanka looked between the two and gently touched his arm, whispering for him to calm down and show her what he was getting all excited over. He responded to his friend and turned to look at her face, cast in a ghostly light. He nodded his head slowly and nodded towards the screen infront of them.

"That," he pointed towards a folder on the screen, "isn't what we were looking for, but I think...You might want to see this.

**************

He ran faster, forcing his legs to take a greater distance. The wind was howling, the rain was splattering mud and matting his hair to his face and neck. His arms lashed out, pushing aside brances in his way.

Mariana. He had to find Mariana.

Tripping over a root in the ground, he made a small hop, recovering, and continued to trduge along, his breath coming in rasps. His mind was swirling with voices and images, some he didn't remember, others he couldn't understand. Swirls of colors and images unfamiliar to him flashed before his eyes, flashing faster and faster, until they stoped abrutply at one,

// R-a-gh-s-t-h- h-e-pgs-l-p
// Rath, help!

A sharp pain made him lurch to the side, as a vision of a falling Ava assaulted his vision. His mind attempted to wrap around the reason why he was receiving a message sent out to his brother. But the location, the ground... the time... He WAS there. It was screaming at HIM. Not towards...

It was impossible...

But the sudden familiar voice made his mind freeze and his legs along with them. Taking a few steps closing, he stopped behind a tree, his limbs screaming out to go to her. Mariana was sitting on the ground, her body twisted half way, with one of her arms clutching her leg, while the other was firmly planted on the ground, holding her weight.

He lifted his gaze a little and came across a pair of Royatly boots, black and slick... A pair of pants, with a cloak wrapped around the figure. The man looming over his Mariana had a navy blue shirt on, with the Royaly crest on it. Anger flashed through his body. An impersonator... But he had to cover his mouth as his eyes landed on the figure's face.

Square jaw, jutting nose, soft eyes, large ears. Zan?!

"Nope, sorry, little sister. It's Khivar."

His blood ran cold at the figure's words...Khivar? Here? So close to the Palace, looking like Zan. How? Why? Before he could rise from his spot in hiding, Mariana voiced one of the questions screaming through his own mind.

********************

She stared up at him and shivered. HIs glance was cold and calculated, dark and menacing, nothing like the friend she knew. Another wave of revulsion tingled up her spine as the memories of only minutes ago flashes across her mind. His tongue! Zan's tongue! Ewwww....

"What the hell are you doing Mar?" she muttered to herself, shaking her attention back to the potentially deadly position she was in.

"I gather you did a little mind trick to me, huh?" she asked sarcasticly, waving her hand in a series of zig zags to emphasize her point. The man, Zan, no Khivar, just raised one eyebrow at her and let out a dry chuckle, obviously enjoying his position of power over her.

"Why, you're a mightly good guesser."

"Yah well, putting all compliments aside, you're a crazy, perverted b-astard."

"My, my, we're getting touchy. You shouldn't talk to your older brother that way!" He laughed again.

Mariana frowned. The laughing was becoming increasingly annoying. On Zan it was sort of creepy, on this it was just plain aggrivating. Wanting to shut the foul creature up, Mariana's eyes narrowed and her rebuke overshadowed more anger than intended,

"What the h-ell are you talking about? I don't have a brother. Only child. As in one of me..."

But Khivar stood tall, obviously expecting such a response from the warrior and merely nodded his head, a cocky grin on his lips. But the smile soon faded as the rest of her response reached his ears,

"Are you just f-ucked up in the mind? Are you trying to pretend we're a family? To make up for your lack of a childhood-"

"Shut the f-uck up b-itch," his eyes were steel, a dark venomous cloud looming over the twisted features, "You're just like your s-lut of a mother. You should have d-ied right along with her."

Mariana froze, her hand gripping her ankle becoming increasingly warm, but it stayed unoticed as her gaze faded to nothingness but then reappeared, sharper and held equal steel as the man above her,

"What. Did. You. Call. My. Mother?" Her voice was low and sharp. But Khivar was unattentive, his mind reaching into another time and realm and his face took on a calm appearance but suddenly distorted into an ugly monster, his voice deep and gravely,

"You heard me w-hore. I said she was a s-lut and it's the truth. If it weren't for her stealing my father, my own mother would still be alive!"

A sudden explosion shocked the two figures equally, and a string of curses left Mariana's mouth as blood trickled from the lacerations on her ankle - the rock which held her prison now transformed into small fragments in a three mile radius. The rain latched onto the rivlets of blood and together the two mixed and flowed into the ground. Khivar stood still, his mind confused over her ability to use her powers. It was impossible, Zan's mindwarp powers were of the hightest caliber! That was impossible!

"You were saying." HIs head snapped up and he noticed the dangerous look in the girl's eyes. She was still sitting on the ground, but one hand was in a tigthened fist.

He looked perplexed for a moment...

"You were telling me about your family. My father. What?"

Astonishment was evident in his tone, "You want to listen to me?"

"Not particularly. I'd rather blast you until your body turned to dust, but since you're obviously adorning one of my friends, albeit creepy friend's, appearance, I don't think my own mind will let me fulfill my wildest dream. So until I can get enough power to launch that rather sharp rock at your head and kill you with one blow, I suggest you use your time wisely and tell me a story. Maybe you'll strike a cord and I -"

But her speech was cut off as she felt a sudden pain in her head and her entire body convulged, tighinting itself into a fetal position.

"Don't think you're so smart..." he taunted, walking around her in a circling, an eagle hunting his prey. He stopped and crouched down, "I don't understand how you did that. But maybe it's not a bad thing. Maybe you'll start understanding what's wrong with you."

Mariana flinched at the spit flying from his mouth and sprinkling her face. The man was insane, sputtering stories and lies. Despite the pain screaming from her ankle, she leaned forward and shoved Khivar, rendering him off-balance,

"What are you talking about?"

Wiping the dirt off himself, he rose, the laughter returning, "Oh, so you're still curious, hum? Wouldn't you like to know? Because you see Mariana, I know more about the Royalty and the powers you're suppose to have, than even you do!"

Grinding her teeth together, she replied to his taunting, knowing full well he was trying to do, "You're insane! You're minds so filled with anger and jealousy towards my mother and myself, you're dilusional. There's nothing to know about the Royalty. We were gifted, we were chosen, we were appointed, and we were awaited for in the Prophecy. End of story."

"No, you see, Mariana, that's where you're wrong. That Prophecy the Elder Council and the entire Antarian population prides itself on, is wrong! You've been priding your lives on a meanless piece of paper. A step in the right direction, nothing more."

She froze, fear encompassing her entire being. Her blood ran cold as his words were absorbed.

"You're lying."

*****************************

Livanka sat, unmoving, her eyes rereading the sentences, over and over again, "This is bull s-hit." She rose from her spot and punched the wall behind her, causing her to cry out, "This is nothing but lies! Lies!," her voice quieted down and she looked on at Alan with a helpless expression on her face, "It has to be. Or else, everything... Our entire lives have been lies Alan. This can't be true! Rath had to be wrong! He had to be."

Alan didn't respond to his friends questions. He was just as confused as she was, but he clenched his fists. It would make complete sense though! Perfect sense. But with Rath.... There was no one else to help confirm them, unless... Alan pushed himself off the ground and strode purposefully towards the Princess sitting on the bed, eyes closed. His arm shot out and he shook her body, caushing panich to rise in her eyes,

"What?! What?!" her voice shouted, pulling away from Alan's grip, "What's wrong with you!"

"Is it true."

"What?"

His voice was cold as steel as he peered into her eyes, judging the true of her words, "You know d-amn well what I'm talking about. What Rath found. Is it true?"

She shook her head, confusion swirling in her brown eyes, "... I still don't know. Wha-"

"What Rath found! Was it a lie?! God d-amn it Lonnie! You said I never asked, well now I am! So answer me!" HIs voice echoed through the entire room and Livanka cringed at the anger behind the words. But prayed that Vilandra would finally have some sense in her...

Vilandra sat stunned, starring at her cousin's face. Maybe... She could, "Yes. What Rath found was true, The Prophecy that was translated.... It wasn't the true Prophecy. I'm sorry."

*****************

"You think I'm lying Mariana?" his voice was pumpous and loud, condescending and light, "I wouldn't lie. Especially about something so gleeful as this."

"Sick sadistical b-astard," she muttered towards the man, her eyes shutting daggers. He frowned at her words but let them roll off of him. She was going to believe...

"Don't take my word for it, take Rath's."

She was stunned again. Frozen again. Blood running cold. Again. Her voice was strong, but it began to waver, from both the chill of the night and the mention of her lover, "What?"

"You hear me, little sister. Rath, your lover. The one you f-ucked every night until you passed out from exhaustion. Don't tell me he didn't tell you! You two looked so close." his drawl was tinged with venom, but also joy.

Mariana closed her eyes, forcing them shut. This b-astard. He... He... her entire body shook from anger, a strange glow began to encircle her. But neither payed any heed and Mariana gave in, "He didn't tell me what?"

The man leaned over for a second time, his one arm laying carlessly across Mariana's shoulder. She fought back the wave of disgust and shook his arm off, but it stayed there, his other one cupping her face, running a thumb along her check. If only the moron moved his thumb closer, she'd bite it off. Let him laugh over that!

"Oh Mariana, Mariana. Poor poor girl. Your lover, your fiancee didn't tell you? The Prophecy which lays so protectively in the Royalty Library," his voice became lower and lower, until it was just a whisper, "isn't the real thing... It's merely a map. The first clue to send you to the real one. Stupid Elders!", his voice began to pick up volume and rose quickly, jarring Mariana's face, "They thought they found it you know?! That stupid piece of parchment, trapped in the Granolith. Would you really think that the great aliens, our powerful ancestors leave the most important piece of guidance in their little toy?!"

The light around Mariana dimmed down to a thin coat, as she mulled over his words. As demented as this man was, as easily as she wanted to kill him, it made sense his words. But Rath?! He told her everything... He would have told her about this find, woudln't he? Especially if it relashed him from his ties to Vilandra? Wouldn't he?

"You're lying," she hissed, angry tears spilling over her cheeks, "Rath wouldn't keep something as important as that from me! Ever! You're lying!"

Her words made her attacker snap, as his eyes became crazed and his face contorted into a look of pure anger. The usually handsome features of Zan were transformed into ones of a gnarling monster, unrelenting, evil, painful. His voice was deep and shallow, his breath in pants, transforming his voice into a thick muttering,

"You think you're so smart b-itch! You think I'm lying to you! Let me show you I'm telling the only truth here." Before she could react, Khivar, in Zan's body, lunged forwards towards her and gripped her head between his two hands as he forced his lips towards her, evoking a connection...

******************

Mikel watched on in horror as the tears spilt from her eyes and his heart clenched painfull, "Dammit Mikel! Move!" But his body woudln't listen to his words as he stood, still in hiding, overhearing the covnersation.

But when Khivar forced himself onto her, his limbs finally obeyed and he darted forward, a look of pure anger apparent on his face. As he approached the attacker and Mariana, he raised his hand.

Suddenly, Khivar disappeared, but then reappeared seconds later, ten feet from where he previously was, still soaring through the air, until he hit the ground with an audible thud. Mikel stood stunned and looked down towards his open palms, his eyes wide, his mind disbelieving. What had he just done?

****************

"Kael, just hand it over! Hurry up!" Ava grabbed for the rolled up canvas tucked under Kael's arm, but he leaned back, putting it out of her reach.

"Now now, Ava," he smiled, "don't be so grabby. It's unbecoming of a lady."

But her face scrunched up and she thrusted a finger in his face, "Oh stuff a sock in it. Just give it to me. Now!"

Nodding his head quickly, Kael lofted the small roll towards her, ridding his hands of it and putting them infront of his face, protecting himself. When he noticed nothing was happening, he peered through a crack between his fingers and watched as Ava quickly unrolled the canvas and layed it out flat on the floor, frowning as she inspected it, "It's not here, " she muttered, her eyes scanning the edge of the portrait.

"What's not there?"

"Rath's note!"

Kael looked confused. Note? What note? Rath left a note? Why didn't he know about it?

"Why didn't I know about it?"

Exasperated, Ava just threw him a glance which spoke volumes and just returned to looking at the painting, "I do't know. Just some scribbling. Words, I don't know. Just something that Rath wrote."

"Well," Kael offered, "there's some of Rath's scribblies on the back."

Ava's hand froze. And she turned her head towards him, a dangerous glint reflected in her eyes. Uh oh.

"What?"

Kael laughed nervously, scratching the back of his head. He looked around wildly for a change of topic, anything to divert her attention, "Why are we infront of Rath's old room?" Good one Kael. Just keep brining Rath up. Like that's going to throw her off track.

"Because. This is where we should be."

Cryptic. She was always so d-amn cryptic.

Ava flipped the canvas over and peered at the red paint on the back. Bingo. Ok, now all she had to do was find a way to read the horrible writing. Easy. This should be easy. She'd read Rath's writing thousands of times! It was just a matter of concentrating and... guessing?

"Er... What it's say?" Kael asked, leaning over Ava's shoulder.

"I don't know."

"Well why do you know it's a note then?!"

"Because, I saw it in one of my visions."

"Are your visions always right?"

"No Kael, most of them are wrong and jsut like to play tricks on me. YES, they're right."

"Oh."

The two stayed silent, as they both tried to decipher the writing.

"Swindle?"

"Kael..."

"Sorry."

"How about 'swish'?"

"Why would Rath write 'swish'?"

"Ok."

"How about 'sex'?"

"Kael. There are more than three letters. Get your mind out of the gutter."

"Well, I'm trying!"

"'itch'?"

"No... I don't think Rath would be talking about something like that..."

"Kael..."

"Right. Mind out of the gutter."

When time ticked by and Ava became increasingly aggrivating with the situation, she rose from her spot on the ground with a huff. Roughly pushing her golden curls our of her face, "I've had enough. I know what I'm looking for. Another portrait. Identical - almost- to that one. Let's just blast this door down and look for it."

Kael looked at her like she had grown a third head, "Rath?! You want to walk into Rath's chambers and just look for the thing? It's Rath! Not Liv or Zan?! It's the same Rath that needs to keep buying new socks every week because he always loses the last pair he wore! It's the same Rath that Zan woudln't let clean the Palace because he'd always lose things! You can't expect to find this thing in Rath's Chambers! You're insane!" As Kael continued to ramble on about Rath's lack of organization, Ava was busy leaning against the lock of the door, her hand placed over the lock, her eyes closed in concentration. When she was rewarded with a click, she jumped up in glee and pushed the door open, grabbing Kael with her in the process.

Ava blinked twice as her eyes ajusted to the room.... It was... Empty. There was barely anything in the room. But when her eyes travelled to the wall on her left, a smile broke out on her face, "You were saying Kael?"

Kael stopped mid-sentence as he followed Ava's finger.... It was the painting!

"Oh."

***************

Ava stood back from the two paintings, the piece of canvas tacked up on the wall using a push-pin she found on the ground. She wrapped a curl around her finger in thought as she studied the two the portraits. They were identicle! She coudln't see anything different from the two. Same people, no one was missing. Unless... Walking closer to the painting, Ava squinted to look at the lower right hand corner of the painting. Nope. Nothing there. Taking a few steps back again, she let out a sigh in frustration. Why the hell couldn't Rath have just written the d-amn message?! But no, he had to paint it.

Kael stood infront of the framed portrait, his eyes blinking. He shifted his gaze to the one on the left. Back to the right. Left. Right. Left. Right. Le- Wait a minute. looking between the two again, he sucked in air and nodded his head. Oh my god...

"Ava," he squeaked, but she woudln't respond, "Ava," he tried again, but she still continued to ignore him. Figures. When he finally finds something she ignores him! Women!

"Ava!" he shouted, finally forcing her to look at him.

"What," she snapped, obviously irritated with him.

"Look."

"What do you think I'm doing?"

"Ok. Sorry. But look at Rath and Mikel in the two. There's one difference."

"No..."

"Yes! Look at their hair!" Kael pointed towards the figures in both paintings. The one on the left, from the caption, had Mikel with long curls and Rath in a shorter cut. The one on the right had the opposite.

"Ok, so we figured out that Rath painted them in reverse positions. What is that suppose to tell us?" Ava asked.

"Why are you asking me?"

"It was rhetorical Kael."

"Oh."

Ava continued to stare at the two portraits, starting to mutter words, "swindled, witched, itched, swicled..." Suddenly her eyes went wide and when she snapped her head towards Kael, he had a similar look on his face..."switched."

"Oh my god, Kael!" Ava began to frantically pace around in a circle, her arms flailing, "Oh my god. What if?!" But Kael just grabbed her suddenly and shook her gently, "Focus Ava. Come Av, focus. Where is Mariana? Where is Mikel.. .No Rath? No.. Whatever. Where are they?"

"I...I don't..."

But Kael just shook his head, "No, come on Ava, quickly here. Just guess. Anywhere. I can transfigure us anywhere."

"The ruins."

"Huh?"

"They're at the ruins."

"Are you sure?"

"No."

"Ok."

The two Royalty disappeared in a flash.

***********************

Khivar coughed, and rose unsteadily from the ground. A frown on his face. He spat on the ground and his eyes narrowed as he noticed some blood mixed in.That stupid, piece of s-hit. Making his way closer to the couple, the frown slowly melted away and was replaced with a smile when he noticed the look of confusion on the boy's face. He didn't know!

When he stood before the two, he cocked his head to the side, "That's some power you have there."

Mariana's head snapped up towards Mikel and her mouth opened, but no sound came out. It couldn't be... "Mikel?" She whispered, afraid what Khivar was insinuating was real.

"I..." Mikel's voice wavered and confusion clouded his mind. No. This...Wasn't....It... Couldn't....,"I manipulated a space fold... How?" His voice was barely audible and Mariana's heart broke as she noticed the lost look on his face, the vulnerability.

Khivar's laughter broke Mariana's gaze and the anger rose through her entire body. The glow from earlier had reappeared. But Mikel merely looked up towards the man who wore the body and face of one of his closest friends. Khivar continued to look amused as he opened his mouth,

"Well hello there Rath. We were just talking about you. I'm glad to see you've finally broken out of your mindwarp. I was wondering when the great General Rath Guerin would remember the truth."

********************


 

Chapter 14c - Can You Take It Back? I Don't Want It


**************

He stood unmoving, as he let his enemy's words process...

// I was wondering when the great General Rath Guerin would remember the truth

Remember the truth? Could he remember the truth? He wasn't sure what he remembered, what was dilusional and what was real. He didn't know if he was standing among ruins of a church in a downpour, staring down a man who was the splitting image of Zan, with Mariana at his foot, her arm wrapped around her bloodied ankle. He wasn't sure of many things at this moment. Not of the voice he heard minutes ago or of the fear that was churning in his stomach.

All he knew is that he was confused, pissed off and wanted to beat the s-hit out of the man he was staring down.

"I don't know what the f-uck you're talking about." His voice was raspy, even as he tried to control it. He couldn't let onto his uncertainty. Because whether or not this was 'real', Mariana was in pain and was in danger and he would do anything to get her away from this and safe, "Why you're refering to my brother or why you keep that amused smirk on your face."

The man let out a low deep laugh, his chest rumbling, a tinge of giddiness to his voice, "Now come on Rath. A warrior like yourself, of the highest reign, staring at me like I'm some lunatic. I would have expected you would have already figured this little game out."

"Game?"

Khivar nodded his head, greatly amused at the flashes of uncertainty pass through his young counterpart's eyes, "Don't tell me you still think you're Mikel. Because you aren't. You never have been and you never will be. But don't take it from me, take it from them." As the last sentence left his mouth, Khivar nodded his head to a now-appearing Kael and Ava, whose bodies were materializing mere feet away, "Ask them, Rath. And they'll tell you exactly what I'm telling you. Mikel's dead."

******************

"What do you mean it isn't the Prophecy?" Livanka was standing face to face with Vilandra, a dangerous glint reflecting in her own eyes.

"I - It's not the Prophecy. Not the one intended to bring Antar to peace. It's...." The tall brunette let her sentence trail off, mentally deciding whether or not to tell them what she knew. But they needed to know, and it was tearing her apart to keep it from them. But what if Khivar did win? Where would she be? He would sentence her to death if she betrayed him! But... She was betraying her family and friends. Could she really do that?

Alan's sharp voice cut through her thoughts, "Betray Khivar?! Betray Khivar?! We are your god d-amn family Vilandra. We've been here for you every step of the way. Whenever you needed help. And you're worried about betraying our enemy?! You disgust me." Alan pushed himself off the bed and back towards the lite screen, sitting back down and returning to search for anything that would shed even the lowest light on the subject.

"I'm sorry," she murmured, "I just can't."

"Why not."

Vilandra rose and stood over Livanka, her head c-ocked to the side, "because, I can't betray him. Not Khivar. I... I...Love him."

Livanka snorted and turned around, a dry laugh filling the room, "You love that son of a b-itch? The same cruel monster that was behind the death of your parents and millions of Antarians?! You love that... that... psychotic monster?"

Vilandra stepped forward, shoving Livanka roughly, "Don't talk about him that way," she hissed, "You just don't understand him. None of us did. He's just hurt and angry. As much as we are. He's been through his own share of pain! Maybe if my brother would just listen to him if any of you would just listen to him, than maybe..."

Before Vilandra could continue her retort, Alan's voice, once again, rose higher than her own, jolting Livanka from her conversation, "If that's so Lonnie. Than try telling that to Mariana. Because she's really going to be sympathetic to that...to him when I tell her this."

"Tell her what?"

"This." He turned the screen around, making it face both women. Livanka frowned and stepped towards the screen until she was able to read it. But as her eyes slowly began to scan, what was possible an old news article, her hands began to shake and her eyes began to widen. Her arm shot out in the darkness of the room to find anything to hold her up. When her arm latched onto the edge of a desk, Livanka's other arm wrapped itself around her stomach. A pained expression contorted her face as she continued to read the article, and tears of anger began to fall down her cheeks. She glanced up quickly to notcie Alan's set jar and the far-away look in his eyes.

When their gazes meet, they communicated silently, this was what they were looking for. But for the first time that evening, Livanka wished she had never decided to break into Zan's personal files. She closed her eyes in reflex as a sudden stab of pain assaulted her mind. Thousands of sounds, smells and images slammed into her, memories of a forgotten past flooded her mind,

"Did. You. Know." She bit out between gasps of pain, forcing her eyes open to stare down at the Princess, "Did you know."

"Yes." The reply was barely audible, but it wasn't hesistant. And just the thought of why it was said that way, made Livanka's stomach churn even more.

"You're a f-ucking b-itch. Traitor."

*********************

Ava found herself materializing before three people. One, a dear friend, another a lost cousin, and a... well....A lunatic. When her entire body reappeared an in order, her vision finally cleared and she frowned as the onslaught of rain finally hit her, soaking her instantly. She fixed her gaze towards the cloaked figure, standing farthest away from her,

"Khivar."

The man returned the gaze and nodded slightly, "Ava. So nice of you to join us."

"Keep that mouth in check." Khivar's gaze shifted to the figure standing directly behind Ava, one arm snugly encircling the Visionary's waist.

"Oh. well, hello to you to Healer. Welcome to the party."

"I sure hope you brought some strong stuff, Kael. Because this party's a blast." Kael frowned and looked down towards his sister who was sitting miserably on the ground, one hand laying against the ground and another with blood seeping through the fingers. Ignoring her sarcastic comment, Kael removed his hand from Ava's waist and quickly went towards his sister, intending to heal the wound,

"Sorry, I left it all in my dress coat. But move you're hand, I need to take a look at that wound of yours. Well hello," his voice raised a few octaves as Mariana removed her hand from her ankle, "What the hell happened to this? It's... it's almost impossible to distinguish." He looked up sharply into her eyes, "Aren't you in pain?"

"More than you want to know Kael. Just heal the d-amn thing." Marian replied, through gritted teeth. Nodding his head quickly he placed his open palm against her finger, wincing as he felt fragments of bone and tissue pressing against his skin, "When we get back to the Palace, I'm going to have to take a better look at this... It's..." He let his sentence trail off as his sister caught his eye and frantically nodded his head towards the Guerin brother standing beside her. He opened his mouth silently and nodded his head. Right. Don't tell Guerin more than he needs to know.

But before Kael could reach a full connection, he felt himself flying through the air and his back hitting a cement wall painfully, "S-hit." He blinked his eyes several times, fighting the tears back. Damn that hurt. Leaning forward, he heard a few cracks and decided to lean back again. Dammit, some of his bones were cracked.

*******************

Mikel lunged towards Khivar, throwing him to the ground with his weight alone. He threw his fist forward, making contact with any part of Khivar that he could. His teeth were bared and he growled as his fist continued to meet bone and flesh,

"You f-ucking Bastard. I don't give a rat's ass if you look like Zan or even sound like Zan. I'm going to take you to an early grave!" He continued to slam his fists into the man's face until he felt a small hand and light force pulling his arm back,

"Rath, No!"

Rath.... He froze, his fists mid-air. He quickly jumped off Khivar and whirled around, coming face to face with his cousin, Ava.

"What did you call me," he whispered dangerously, his eyes slits of anger and power.

But the small blonde didn't back down from the steel gaze and only nodded her head, speaking slowly, "I called you Rath. Because... That's who you are."

"No." he roared, yanking his arm from her grip, "My brother's gone!"

She continued to shake her head, a look of pain and sympathy on her face, "I know you don't want to hear this. I know your mind doesn't want to let you accept it. And I didn't think I'd ever agree with... Khivar, or any enemy for that matter, but... He's telling you the truth. You are Rath. You're not Mikel, you're Rath."

Before he could open his mouth, Ava unrolled a piece of canvas from her hand and pushed it towards his own, gently taking his hand in her own. She carefully opened his fist and placed the piece of canvas in his hand, closing it until it was gripping it lightly.

"Don't tell me you forgot, Rath," She spoke quietly, motionning towards the canvas, "You painted that. Many others too. You told me once they were suppose to help us when we needed it most. When we were close to forgetting who we were, that these would help us back again."

Suddenly, Mikel's eyes widened and he dropped the canvas on the ground, as if it were burning his hand. The canvas fluttered to the ground and landed in the mud, face down. Mikel looked down and familiar handwriting stared back at him.

SWITCHED

*********************

Kael grunted as he made his way back towards his sister, his back screaming at him to stop. But he continued on, until he was beside her. But she wasn't watching him, she didn't even see him. Her eyes were trained on Ava and Guerin, wide as ever.

"Is it true?" Her voice was light and rough.

Kael looked at her critically. Her body was beginning to shake and he swore when he noticed her blood was continuing to seep into the Earth. She was going into shock.

"Mar, let's just... Let Ava handle it. I need to get you back to the Palace." He began to wrap his arm around her shaking form, but she pushed him off her forcfully, staring him down, "No. I don't go anywhere. Tell me. Is that... Rath?" She said his name in awe, almost afraid that if she said it, it weren't true.

"Yes."

"How."

"I don't know."

Suddenly she was crying, the tears were falling as quickly as the rain was, and her face scrunched up and her body racked with sobs. Stricken by surprise, Kael just gathered his sister close,

"Mar?"

"No! No! He can't be... He can't be Rath! He's Mikel," She was in hysterics, her screams echoing through the valley. Her arms were beginning to glow and Kael looked down in awe. They were shining a light silver, casting an angelic glow around her, "It can't be true Kael! Rath... It can't be him. Please don't tell me it's him... Please." His heart broke for his sister and he understand the anger and the pain. Her mind was so confused, but Ava warned him this might happen. Her mind was still trapped within Khivar's mindwarp and in it's own denial.


"She would rather have Rath dead than be alive right beside her. She would rather have Rath be emprisonned on another planet than to find out he was here with her. She gave Rath everything she had and when this... Happened, her mind didn't want to think. It didn't want to think of the lose. It was much easier for Khivar to warp her mind if she was willing to take it." She had explained to him.

"So she let Khivar mindwarp her?"

"No. She didn't know it. But her mind welcomed it. She just wanted to make the pain go away, any way she could."

"But how can I help her?"

"You can't. Only Rath can," She had pressed a small, tattered, letter in his hand. The edges worn from being opened and closed so often, "She has to remember the truth. And she has to accept it. They both do."



He fingered the rapidly soaking parchment in his pocket and dropped his head, knowing exactly what he had to do. Pushing Mariana off him slighly, he used one hand to cup her chin gently and he raised it slightly, until she was staring him eye to eye. The usual spark within the emerald was missing, they were dull and red, with tears cascading down. He winced. She was stronger than this! She had to be. Pulling the letting out of his pocket, he pressed it into her own, until it sat between their two palms.

"Look. Please Mar, look." She nodded her head silently and Kael unfolded the letter and placed it in his open palm for her to read. She reached a shaking hand out tentively and ran her fingers along the top of the page. Almost magically, letters began to appear and her eyes grew, as pictures began to fly through her mind.

"What use will it be to show her an empty piece of paper, Ava?"

"It's not empty."

"It sure looks that way to me."

"Of course it would. Khivar doesn't want you to be able to read it."

"Do YOU see it?"

"Yes."

"What does it say?"

"None of your business. Just give it to her. It will do what we need it to do."

"What?"

Grumbling slightly, she just starred at him, "Just give her the d-amn letter, ok Kael?"

"Fine. No need to be grouchy!"


******************

Livanka tightened her grip on the table edge and she looked up again, her gaze locking with Alan's. The two of them stared back at each other hopelessly, as they let the images take over

******************

Mariana shivered in Kael's arms, as he whispered soothing words into her ear, telling her to let the memories come back.

*******************

Mikel stared down at the word. It called to him. It screamed at him. He threw his head back and let out an inhuman scream as sounds and lost memories took over his vision.

********************

Ava shifted her gaze from her cousin to the man standing behind them, blood trickling,

"They're all remembering."

"That's impossible!" he screamed, anger taking over his entire body. But he felt a pain in his own head, a knocking almost, a tearing.

Ava was smiling dangerously, "And it seems so is Zan. You've lost Khivar."

"NO!"

*****************


 

Chapter 14d - I Once Was Lost



*****************

She continued to stare at the mirror and frown. She lifted the hem of the thin material and her frown deepened,

"Av, is this white?" she asked, fignering the thin material, "It doesn't look white to me. More like cream. And I wanted white. Not off white, not pearl white, but snow white, pure white. None of these cheap knock offs, just pure white."

The other blonde stiffled her giggles as she stepped up to her friend and patted her shoulder, "Don't worry Mariana, it is white. I made sure of it. The poor messanger boy looked frightened to death when Rath told him you wanted white and if it wasn't white he'd have to deal with him. I think the poor boy went around the planet searching for the 'right white'."

Mariana smiled slightly and nodded towards her friend. Ok, maybe this was white. Rath would have made.. Wait a minute - "Did he see the dress?!" she exclaimed, a hint of hysteria in her voice, "He couldn't have seen the dress. That's bad luck for the groom to see the gown before I walk down the aisle," she began to mutter to herself, oblivious of the amusement of the other occupants of the room, "Leave it to Rath to screw things up. It was probably Mikel that put him up to it. Damn those Guerin boys and their curiosity. He's ruined it now! Rath's ruined my-" Suddenly she stopped talking when laughter reached her ears. Irritated at their lack of sympathy towards her dilema, Mariana crossed her arms and glared at her maids of honour, "Don't laugh at me! Rath probably screwed everything up. Or Mikel. Yes, those two always do something stupid."

Livanka ran up to Mariana and hugged her lightly, smiling at her friends expression, "Don't worry Mar! I had a long talk with Rath and told him not to do anything you would deem stupid! He's fine. He only wanted what was best for you," She winked at Mariana as the girl's facial expression suddenly softened and she let out a coying sound,

"Aw! Rath's such a sap! I think I'm falling in love with him all over again!" The other two girls just rolled their eyes. Rath, a sap? Right....

"Liv," Mariana absentmindedly asked, "have you seen Lonnie?"

****************

He was playing with the cuff of his dark jacket when the door suddenly flew opened and a very familiar face stood in the doorway.

He snarled slightly at him, "Don't break the door off Mikel, Mar would have my ass for it."

The man smirked at his grumbling brother but never-the-less turned and closed the door lightly, "Sure she would. She'd be all over your ass you mean."

The man rolled his eyes at his brother, who looked very much like himself, "Whatever."

"You look a little gloomy there, Little Brother. I would have expected you to be skulking around Mariana's room, trying to sneak a peak of her in her dress... Or out.," He smirked good naturedly as his little brother glared at him.

Kael came out from a back room, adjusting his bow tie. Noticing Mikel, he grunted a welcome and began to complain about the tie around his neck,

"This bloody thing is impossible!" he tore at the loose fabric and the knot suddenly came undone. Throwing his hands up in the air as a sign or resignation, he finally noticed the silent brother starring at him curiously.

"What's up Mikel?" he asked, while walking closer to the two Guerin brothers, both adoring similar clothing. Mikel wore a dark traditional suit, with a silver shirt underneith and a black bow tie, with a small lilly pinned to his jacket, "I like the lily. Very becoming," he snorted.

"Shut up. I'm just wondering why you and my brother aren't going around causing trouble as usual... And why you didn't invite me!"

Kael's face suddenly lit up as he clasped a growling Rath by the back,

"Oh! You're wondering why Rath here isn't pulling his usual antics?" he asked, smiling down at Rath ,who was shooting him dark looks, "Well, it's simple really. Liv came by to give our groom-to-be a little talking to. She told him not to do anything Mar would deem stupid. Sooo..." Kael let his sentence drag off as he heard Rath mumble something under his breath.

Mikel switched his gaze between his brother and friend, "Huh?"

"You gotta speak up Rath, I don't think Mikel can hear you!" cried with child-like glee.

Rath sent his friend another glare as he tore his shoulder out of his grasp, "I said, which pretty much meant I can't leave the room."

Mikel broke out into laughter, pointing at his brother, who had his arms crossed, his eyes narrowed and a dark look on his face, "You're so d-amn whipped Rath!"

"Whatever," he snapped, adjusting his suit jacket.

But Kael wasn't finished, "And she also told Soldier Boy here not to, and I quote: 'do something he might," he lifted both his hands up, using two fingers a piece to create little quotation marks in the air, "'regret'. It was priceless, man. You missed a show! Liv was looking all sinister and business like. One glance from her almost made me piss my pants!"

The two men continued to fall into laughter, as the third man, sitting on a small sofa shot the two dirty looks as they clutched their stomachs, "It's not that funny."

"Oh but it is, Rath! Because," He got out through snorts of laughter, "You're a prisoner on your own wedding day!" He dissolved into laugher again as Rath just gruffly muttered to himself about the stupidy of people these days, and got up from his spot, pushing his brother and best friend over in the process.

"Ow! Rath, that hurt!"

"Come on, Little Brother! Have a sense of humour!"

"He doesn't!" Kael piped up from the ground, while Rath opened the door and slammed it shut on his way out.

Several seconds passed, before the two men became calmed and composed. Neither moved from their spot on the floor and the two stared up at the ceiling, noticing the fine craftmanship of the church's ceilings.

"I suppose we'll have to go after him." Mikel remarked.

"Unless you feel up to dealing with a pissed off Mar, I suppose we should."

*************

Vilandra crouched down below the window, pulling her dark cloak around her body tighter. Glancing quickly towards the sky, noting the position of the suns, she glanced back towards the window - hearing laughter from inside. She sighed and turned around quickly, raising her eyes just above the frame of the window, getting an unobscured view of the Bride's Chamber.

Mariana was standing upon a small foot stool, twirling around slowly with her dress pulled up slightly. Vilandra had to admit, she looked beautiful. Her face was flawless and her hair was pinned up in a mass of curls, a few tendrils loose to frame her face. A small crown sat atop of her head, securing the long veil in place. Her lips were tinted a slight shade of frosted pink, and around her neck was a necklace with a small cross glittering with diamonds. The dress itself was magnificent and created the illusion that it's wearer was an angel. A shimmering stark white with multiple layers of thin silk, tied together in the back with a thin band of the same material. It was light and flowing until it reached the ground and pooled at her feet.

Think strapped sandles held Mariana up a few more inches and you could see the faint outlines of the straps through the multi-layered dress.

"She looks like an angel," she murmured to herself, half expecting to see a heavenly glow appear around the girl.

Mariana let out a hoot of laughter and Vilandra's stomach tightened and guilt washed over her. She should be in that room right now, with Ava and Liv, helping to soothe Mar's obvious panic attacks. But she closed her eyes tightly and reminded herself that if she were in that church right now, it would most likely be that she'd be attacked along with the other.

"Am I doing the right thing?" she asked herself, but as she tried to reassure herself that she was doing it for love and that if they truly were the intended Royalty that they would survive Khivar's onslaught, her hands began to shake and she sucked in a ragged breath.

Taking a quick glance towards the sky, Vilandra nodded her head, realizing it was too late to do anything about this. It was time.

***************

Rath stared out towards the horizon near the cliff's end as he fingered the small piece of parchment in his hand. Unfolding it, his eyes scanned over the words he'd read and re-read a thousand times in the past couple of weeks. His vows. He could say them perfectly... He hoped. All he wanted out of today was to not screw it up. He knew how often Mariana had dreamt about her dream wedding and he hoped to the heavens he could give it to her. All he had to make sure of was he didn't stutter or forget something important.

Ring?

Kael had the ring, safely stowed away in his pocket - and assured him that if it did perchance fall out of his pocket, he could always transfigure it back into his hand.

Check.

Suit?

Rath looked down at himself and checked the front of his jacket and his pants. His sword was safely attached around his waist and he grinned. No wedding of his was to be without his sword. He wasn't going to have a pansy ass wedding - no matter how much Mar pleaded. And opps! Don't forget the shoes!

Check.

He looked up towards the skin and frowned at the suns. Damn sunlight. He sighed and rubbed his eyes, taking slow, deep breaths. He needed to relax. Refolding the piece of parchement, he slipped it into his breast pocket and prepared to stand, when a sudden tingling pulled his mind.

And suddenly his surroundings looked all too familiar to him. Without thinking, he drew his sword and twirled around, bracing the attack. Metal clashed against metal as he threw the man with his weight. Noticing the red patch sewn onto his attacker's shirt, he swore again and ran back towards the chuch, landing a hard kick to the attacker on the ground.

*****************

Mariana's head snapped up as she heard the familiar sound of metal hitting metal. Alarmed, she went towards the door and threw it open. Her eyes widened as she came face to face with a a man's dirty face, snarled and contorted in anger,

"Well hello there General Deluca. Pleased to meet you." The man tauntered her and raised his sword high above his head, ready to strike. But Mariana glared at the ridiculously clothed man and raised her own hand, a green blast of energy sending him crashing against the corridor wall. She spoke in a low and dangerouns tone as she leaned over him,

"You weren't invited to the wedding, A-ss hole."

Turning towards her friends, she cocked her head to the side, agitation and confusion written in her features, "What's going on? How the hell-"

But she was cut off as one of her soldier cams racing by the door, but stopped when he noticed her. Saluting her slightly, she just nodded her head, indicating that he should be at ease, "You're always at ease around me, Perry, what's going on?"

The solider had the grace to look uncomfortable with the question. He began to stutter a response, more afraid to hear his Genereal's reaction than to meet the small army outside the building," Uh, well um, you see General... It's um.. well."

"Come on, tell us!" Ava urged, standing behind Mariana.

Perry looked slightly flustered, but answered the Visionary's question directly, "We're under attack. Khivar has a small army surrounding the church. And he's attacking."

"He's here?"

"Yes, General."

"Damn, Rath isn't going to like this."

Both ladies and Perry looked at Mariana as if she were insane. All three asked the same question simultaniously,

"You're worried about Rath?"

Mariana nodded at all three of them, as if her worries were most natural, "Of course! He's not going to like Big-Bad-Annoying-Khivar crashing his wedding."

Perry just let out a small squeak and with a quick salute continued on his way. Before Livanka or Ava could shout out a warning, Mariana had already torn off her veil and was running after the dismissed soldier.

"Look at her run in those heals!"

"She's a woman of many talents."

"Damn, I wish I could do that."

********

Rath pushed aside another of Khivar's soldiers as he finally came upon his brother and friend, both fighting off a small army. He smirked as his brother wore a dark scowl on his face, while Kael kept screaming about 'Buddah's going to be pissed'.

"Mikel," Rath hollared, over the sounds of metal and screams of pain, "I thought you were suppose to make sure no one crashed my wedding!"

Mikel, upon noticing his brother just deepend his scowl and yelled his response, "Well, sorry Rath, but I didn't forsee Khivar trying to stall your wedding."

And suddenly the words hit Rath, his wedding! S-hit.

"Mar's gonna be one pissed Ainkan!" Kael shouted between punches, "Crashing her dream wedding, only a fool like Khivar would do something as stupid as that!"

Rath just grunted and grabbed a fallen soldier by the collar of his shirt, lifting him several feet off the ground,"Look you piece of mother f-ucking c-rap. You just ruined my wedding. And I don't take kindly to that, especially when Mariana's concerned," the soldier cringed, "so tell me who the f-uck helped you and your men here. This location was classified. Private."

When the man didn't answer, Rath just shook him and shoved him againt a wall, banging the man's head against the edge of a winder, "Answer me. Now!" But the man suddenly went limp in his hand. He had fainted! Rath threw him away, disgusted.

His brother's voice followed him as Rath made his way back outside, "Damn it little brother, don't scare the s-hit of them! We want answers, not induced heart attacks!"

*********

Zan frowned as he saw Rath open a space portal and throw a dozen men through it. Dammit, his General was going to destroy this place.

Making his way towards him, Zan felt a familiar tug in his mind, "Lonnie?" he whispered. Stopping suddenly and searching around him. But all he saw were his own soldiers battling Khivar's. What the h-ell? Shaking his head, he continued to make his way towards his friend.

"F-uck Rath! Stop it! You're going to send more through your portals than just men! Use you're god d-amn sword. That's what it's for!"

But Rath didn't answer his friend and king, but rather shoved a couple of extra men through the portal, sending them shooting twenty feet away.

"I don't give a d-amn, if I tear their limbs from their sockets. These mother f-uckers crashed my wedding. They knew what they would get. Let them have it then."

Zan cringed at the darkness in his friend's voice. The one man army was just a little angry... He'd better hide.

***********

Mariana stopped to wipe the blood from her forehead. Her sandals long gone, she winced as she stepped over a piece of glass, "S-hit." Leaning against a wall, she suddenly felt it vibrate. Moving away from it, she looked around her. The ground began to shake and she let out a string of curses as she felt the foundation of the ancient church start to give.

Her eyes widened as she realized there was no way she could make it away from the church before it came topling down above her. Bracing her head for the debris and fragments of stone, she squeezed her eyes shut and relaxed the muscles in her knees, preparing to allow them to buckle.

But the wall never hit her and a pair of warm arms encircled her waist, propelling both her and themselves away. Blinking, Mariana's eyes focused around her. She was still well within the battle, but she was at least thirty feet from where she was before. Feeling a hand rubbing her stomach, she turned over and a smile broke out on her face.

"Oh god, Rath!" She squealed and buried her face in his neck. Rath's look softened and he tightened his hold around her body, pulling her close to him. When he had felt the ground rumble and saw the walls of the church begin to crumble, he'd begun to search for his fiancee, finally catching sight of her ramming a sword through the gut of one of Khivar's men.

He's forced himself through a portal, sending him rocketing towards Mariana and throwing them both as far away as his powers would allow him to, without causing her any harm.

"Hey," he whispered gently, brushing the soiled locks of curls away from her face. He frowned when he noticed the small cut on her forehead, but the couple was rocked back to their current situation when pieces of debris began to rain around them.

Extending his hand out to her, he lifted her up and the two Generals surveyed the disaster around them. There were hundreds of bodies on the ground, pools of blood marring the holy ground and long-forgotten weapons laying without their masters.

"Oh my god," Mariana gasped, for the first time seeing the entire battle, "all the blood." Rath nodded, his eyes noting the remaining Royalty Soliders and the Rebellions. They had two men to one. They would win this - but at what cost? Hundred, thousands of lives lost. He looked down and noticed as his fiancee was staring intently at her open palms.

"What's wrong?" he asked gently. But she only shook her head several times, drawing in several deep breaths.

"This is going to end. Now."

Grabbing a sword on the ground, Mariana pulled Rath with her, towards the front of the ruins of the church, a determined glint in her eyes,

"Khivar! Where the hell are you Khivar! Stop hiding and come out and play. You ruin my wedding, then at least have the balls to ruin it to my face!!"

Her exclamation haulted the fights around her. Both Rebellion soliders and Royalty soldiers stood in silence as they looked upon the couple; a tall, dark menacing General, whose hand was firmly clasp within that of a small pixie-like angel, whose torn gown only served to highten her beauty.

"Khivar!" she shouted again, looking around crazed. She opened her mouth again, but a tall, slender man, with sandy brown hair, stepped out from behind a crumbling pillar, a cold look marked his features,

"You called, General. And I come."

****************

Livanka stood appauled at the sight around her. Blood covered her from head to toe and she dropped the sword in her hand, to hear it clatter against stone pavillion ground.

"Oh, God Alan. Look around us. All the blood, the bodies," her hands shook as she sweeped them around her, "This was suppose to be a day of love, rejoicing. And now..."

"A bloodbath. I know." Alan came to stand beside her, a sword in each hand. His voice was controlled, but Livanka could hear the strain within it, "I hear so many voices, so many cries for help. For mercy. I hear them all Liv."

The two Royalty, who held bonds so close to the extremity of life, looked on in pain at the bodies that lined the ground. Livanka closed her eyes as she felt another aura dissipate and die. And when she felt it slip between the two realms, she coudln't contain it any longer and she fell to the ground, tears spilling from her eyes, a cry escaping her chapped lips. The voice of one, held the voice of many. Alan looked down in concern at his friend, but doubted himself, whether or not his sanity could withstand this either.

**************

Mariana whirled around as Khivar came racing towards her, sword held forward, she shot her arm out instinctively, shooting an energy blast towards him. He dodged it easily, rolling and then raising on one knee again. He continued towards her, but Mariana stood strong, her arm outstretch.

Rath stood beside her, his teeth bared, his eyes narrowed, his sword held in both hands. The two General's locked gaze and they both nodded, silently communicating between them. Mariana took a step forward, then another, then another, picking up speed. She ran straight towards Khivar, a war cry leaving her lips.

***************

Alan dragged Livanka forward, an inward sigh of relief when he spotted Rath and Mariana straight ahead. But he only felt the thoughts of one being... Mariana...

**************

Both and Kael and Mikel raced back towards the front, Mikel wincing upon feeling his twin bond being strained. But he stopped midstride as he noticed a figure standing behind his brother, a long sword held above his brother's unaware head.

"F-uck"

He tried to scream a warning, but Rath didn't hear or pay heed. Picking up his pace, Mikel ran forward.

***************

Mariana swong her sword downwards, hitting Khivar striaght on. But when she didn't feel any resistance, any contact, she pulled back slightly and gasped. There was no one there.

****************

Vilandra pulled back behind the pillar, clicking the holographic projector off. She closed her eyes and prayed to the heavens.

**************

Ava raced around a pile of rubble and stopped when she came upon the sight. Mariana, racing towards Khivar. Rath, watching, at ready to cover... Livanka and Alan, limping towards them from the right, Zan, stading to the left, watching with wide eyes. Kael, runnign and slamming remaining soliders down to the ground. and Mikel... Racing towards...

The scene was all too familiar to her. And then she realized she had seen this all before. Last night, in a vision. One she couldn't quite place or remember.

She followed Mikel's trail and her mouth opened in a cry of warning...

"RATH! Watch out!"

************

Fear encompassed her. She blinked and looked around, no one. What the... There was no one. But it had been Khivar she knew it. Standing there all c-ocky. But if he wasn't here, taunting her. Then that means, he had wanted her to be here, in this very spot. But why? To get away from....

She turned around and began to run, her legs pounding against the bare soil, overcoming the pain small pebbles and glass were doing embedding in her bare feet. Her hand dropped the sword as she continued to run, but he was too far away. And a cry of pain left her lips as she saw the figure bring the sword down upon Rath.

"NO!"

***********

Confusion was swimming through his mind. How had he dissapeared? And then he head it. Three seperate cries:

Mariana // RATH! Watch out!

Ava // RATH!

Mikel // F-uck

He pieced it together too late, turned, he dropped his own sword on the ground and look up with wide eyes as a smiling Khivar began to lower his a glint of silver towards his head.

But the blow never came. Instead a heavy mass slammed into him, throwing him off-balance. Falling backwards, he looked down at his hand and panic filled him - blood.

Feeling all over his body, he felt no oozing or sharp pains, which meant, he hadn't been hit. But if he hadn't been hit...

Scrambling up, he finally realized where the blood had come from.

Mikel.

************

Mariana raced towards the brothers dropping to the ground beside Mikel, who was staring wide-eyed at his abdomen. iIs hands were laced together, holding his stomach, as blood began to seep out. Trying to move, pain swam through his nerves and he let out a grunt of pain,

"Ow."

Mariana froze beside him, a horrified look crossing her face. She slid closer to him, her voice wavering, "Mikel? Mikel?"

He tried to open his mouth, but he couldn't. He was suffucating around a warm liquid. It began to drizzle out the side of his mouth and he felt warm, soft hands lifting his head and lowering it again onto an equally soft lap.

He coughed and more blood began to seep out of his mouth, running onto Mariana's dress.

"Mikel?" She whispered again, her hands working a frenzy around him, pressing over his own two hands, trying to stop the blood. Tears were welling in her eyes, and Mikel frowed, lifting a shaking hand from under her own.

"Don't." he choked, touching her cheek lightly, "You have. Him. A-a-nd, he has. You." But in reflex, his entire body convulged and he was forced to drop his hand. Closing his eyes briefly, he heard a gruff voice,

"F-uck Mikel! Open your god d-amn eyes!" Rath leaned over his brother, slapping away both Mariana and Mikel's own hands from the wound. It was gastly, deep, and seeping blood. Rath swore again and tore the bottom of his shirt, pressing the wad of fabric against the gash.

"Someone get Kael! F-uck! Get Kael!" Rath's voice was filled with hysteria, as he watched his brother blink, confused.

"What. You doing. Little Brother." The voice was clipped, the words barely audible, as the blood began to fill his mouth.

Rath fought back tears as he heard a sob from Mariana, "Oh god, Mikel! You can't. Come on, stay with us. Everything's going to be alright. Oh god, oh god. Please Mikel! Stay with us! You can't die on us. You can't die on me! You're suppose to walk me down the aisle. Oh God! Please! Don't die on me!" Her wail broke his heart and Rath took in a sharp breath. He pressed harder against his brother's stomach and closed his eyes, muttering, for what was the first time a prayer.

Suddenly a familiar hand touched his shoulder and Rath snapped his eyes open. Kael was there, sitting beside, telling him to move his hand. Obeying willingly, he moved his hands and watched as Kael rolled up his own sleeves and pressed both his palms against Mikel's skin.

Nothing happened.

Kael removed his hands and tried again.

Rath started to move away, when he felt a light grasp on his arm. Looking back sharply, we saw his brother making eye contact with him. Nodding, he leaned forward, his ear close to his brother's face.

"You've... Always... been... a pain. in. The. ass. Little. brother. But... You and I. You're." Mikel couldn't get the words out. Rath watched his brother's mouth move, but no sound came out. He shoved his brother lightly and a familiar scowl returned, "Just. take. Care... Of... Yourself."

And then the warm breath stopped, the grip on Rath's arm dissapeared. And Rath scrambled away.

Mariana was screaming incoherently, yelling instructions at Kael to make it better. Bring him back.

Kael just sat frozen, his hands covered in blood, staring down at his friend's opened eyes.

Livanka stared wide eyed at Mikel, laying in Mariana's lap. And she realized the fading aura wasn't going to come back. Attempting to put a hand on her hysterical friend, she leaned forward, but Mariana knocked it away, pulling Mikel's body closer to her own, barrying her face in his chest.

"No! No! No! Mikel... Come back to me! Mikel!!! Rath needs you! I need you! Please!... Please!!" Her sobs continued, her words spilling out of her mouth.

Rath pushed away, his mind hollow, the connection lost. Tears were forming in his eyes and he shut them, but opened them again as he felt a shadow above him. Opening them, Ava leaned down, tears cascading down her own cheeks,

"Rath. Go. It's happening."

And he pushed off the ground, running towards the ruins of the church.

**********

No one payed heed to Khivar's form, as it walked away from the scene, towards Zan. No one noticed as the Rebellion soldiers slipped away into the night.

*********

Zan watched horrified as he watched one of his own General's die on holy ground. The remainder of the Royalty Council were going through various stages of shock, the inability to make a decision, clouding their minds. Khivar had succeeded - he had hit the Royalty where it would do them the most damange.

Clenching his fists tightly, only one other person heard his strangled cry of distress, "I won't let the Royalty die down."

The second man, rose out of the shadows and extended a friendly hand to the king, "Join with me, and I promise you, your Council will not be broken."

**********

Rath ran frantically through the building, jumping over fallen rocks and beams in his way. He slammed his shoulder painfully against a sharp edge of rock, but only grunted and continued on. Finally reaching his destination, he stopped and looked around him cautiously.

Pushing the wooden door out of the way, Rath found himself in what was once, the Bride's chamber. Almost tripping over a sheet of white, Rath frowned and plucked it from the ground. His hand stilled as he brought the light fabric to his face and inhaled.

Mariana.

Realizing he had minutes to spare, he threw the veil onto the small footstool, bypassing it to reach the small vanity. Opening the various drawers, he finally found what he was looking for and grabbed a pen, shaking it to ensure there was ink.

Pulling a piece of paper out, he began to scribble madly, his knuckles white, from holding so tightly. When the groan of the door alerted him to another presence, he continued to pay no attention and mark the final sentence on the paper. Folding it between clumsy he hands, he shoved it under a pile of scarves, before the intruder could see it.

Whirling around, he stood his entire body relaxed, knowing what was to happen and that nothing could stop it.

"Zan."

"I think it's more appropriate to call me Khivar."

"You f-ucking bastard, you won't get away with this!"

"And who's going to stop me? Your Visionary cousin? Please, her powers are nothing compared to Zan's mind warp capabilities.

Rath just ground his teeth, eyeing the man. He snorted, "Then I guess you haven't found the first part of the Prophecy like I have. That's a f-ucking shame."

The man looked alarmed and surprised but managed to cover with a scowl, Rath began to throw himself towards him, but he closed his eyes, envoking the powers of the Heir of Antar, and the General's body went limp, crashing to the ground.

The figure chuckled and kicked him twice in the gut for good measure, "It's a shame your brother saved you Rath. With you alive, you'll ruin anything. But then again General, let's play a round of 'guess who'.

And then he turned and walked out of the chamber, shaking his head and preparing himself to play a role in the greatest game that Antar would ever encounter.

*************

Vilandra watched in concern at the glazed features of both Alan and Livanka. Snapping her fingers several times, neither responded. Tentively rising from the bed, she scurried close to the screen, curious of what had sent them into such a catatonic state.

But when she finally read the headline on the news clipping, a hand went to her mouth to supress the gasp.

// A DREAM TURNS TO A NIGHTMARE AS AN ENTIRE PLANET MOURNS THE DEATH OF GENERAL MIKEL GUERIN, who died during one of the most ruthless battles to shake Antar to this day//

Vilandra gasped. They were remembering. Running towards the door, a sudden dark and slightly haggard voice stopped her in her tracks,

"You're not going anywhere without us Vilandra. I want to know what part you had to play in it."

 

 

 

Chapter 15 - Everlast


**************

Vilandra cringed as the words reached her ears. She began to play with her fingers as she turned back towards the two Royalty, whom were both looking pale and angry.

"I-," she stuttered,"I didn't play in part in what happened."

Livanka gave her a skeptic look, "So why weren't you in Mar's room with us? It just so convenient that you weren't there. Where were you? Taking a beauty nap?"

Vilandra just stood, mouth agape as Livanka continued on,

"Because that must have been an awfully long beauty nap."

Vilandra just nodded her head, not knowing how else to comply. The rutter of the printer came to life as Alan jumped from surprise and looked around wildly for something to put over the machine, to quiet it's horrendous noise.

"God Lord," he screeched, " Why is the thing so loud! Zan can't afford some top-of the line equipment?" He continued to cringe as the squeaking noises didn't cease and just began to come more frequently. Both scared for his sanity and of being discovered, Alan waved his hand over the entire machine, sufficiently molding the molecular structure of the components to run together smoothly.

He let out a sigh of relief. Super Alan saved the day! But when he began to pick up the rather vulgar thoughts towards his cousin from Livanka he quickly grabbed the printed copy of the news heading and shoved it into his pocket for safe keeping. Starting to come between the two girls, he stopped when he heard a small clicking noise. Turning around wildly, Alan frowned. None of the equipment was on except the printer and nothing was printing… How odd. Pushing the curious thought out of his head, he began to grip Livanka’s arm, intending to drag both her and Lonnie outside when he heard the noise again.

Stopping quickly, he closed his eyes and began to listen. It was crazy how he hadn’t heard it before, but then again, his thoughts were too wrapped up in the moment to hear such a small noise. But now it was bugging him - a lot. He began to pace around the room, bent over half way, a concentrated expression on his face.

His odd behavior caused both women to watch the insane man as he crept around the room.

“Um, Alan,” Livanka ventured in a normal voice, “what in the world are you doing?”

But Alan just waved a hand at her hissing, “Shhhhhh! Be quiet. Do you hear that?”

Both Vilandra and Livanka exchanged a worried glance. Were they sure Alan hadn’t been affected by the break in the mindwarp? True, Alan often acted a little… differently than others, but then again… One can never be to cautious.

“No,” Vilandra began slowly her voice low, as if speaking to a child, “I don’t hear anything.”

Alan just waved her off as well as he came to a stop in front of Zan’s fish bowl, sitting on the desk. Starring at it intensely, Alan let a whoop of laughter, “The fish moved!”

Again, both women exchanged a glance. Uh oh.

“Um, Alan,” Livanka began to creep towards him slowly, cautiously, ready to pounce on her sick friend, “Fish usually do tend to move.”

Alan whirled around, suprising both women. He continued excitedly, waving his arms around in circles, “No, no. You don’t understand. The fish moved! But it’s not really a fish. Listen.” He motioned for both of them to stand still and close their eyes. Deciding to humour their friend, both did as instructed.

Silence.

They were ready to collectively grab him and knock him out when a small sound make them stop. It was barely audible, but it was definitely there. It sounded like a… a… small motor? Both women opened their eyes to find Alan hunched over Zan’s desk, an unmoving gold fish on his open palm.

"Pass we the letter opener," Alan muttered, sticking his arm out behind him, fully expected it to be placed there. When it was, he swung it around and slammed it full force against the goldfish. Both Livanka and Vilandra cringed at the sight. Alan was going to mutilate the poor helpless fish!

But instead of hearing a disgusting sound of flesh being smeered against the desk top, they heard metal slamming and sparks hissing. The two ladied leaned over Alan's shoulder, astonished at what they saw.

"What in the world?"

"It's a camera."

"WHAT!"

"You heard me," Alan insisted, "It's a camera. Not particular advanced, mind you, but I suppose it did whatever it was meant to do. See!" he turned and pointed a finger at Livanka, "I told you there was something weird going on with this fish."

Livanka meerly rolled her eyes at her friend, "You said he was on crack."

"Well, crack, machine, you know, same thing." Alan just waved his hand and went to retrieve his small computer from the floor, dropping it onto the desk. He placed the small mechanical camera beside it and waved his hand over both. Suddenly a small cord appeared, hooking the two together.

"Nifty trick I learnt!" Alan said, with a smile on his face. But the smile soon turned into a frown as he began to click away at the screen, "This is weird," he muttered more to himself than the other occupants in the room. But the other two heard his comment and leaned in on both sides of him, watching over his shoulder,

"What do you mean, that's weird? Weird as in, 'oh look at that fish on crack weird' or genuinely 'weird'?"

Alan narrowed his eyes and glared at Livanka who meerly lifted her hands up and shrugged at him. Letting out a sigh he turned towards both of his girls,

"There is only one file in here. Which is weird, because as far as I can remember Zan's always had that stupid fish in the fishbowl. Unless he suddenly switched the fella for this mechanical friend, it seems he's just left it in here. Maybe he forgot about it. But then again, it's Zan. He was always a little off -" when Vilandra sent him a dark look, Alan just closed his mouth and double clicked on the file, brining up a large screen, "Well ladies, let's get ready to watch a movie."

"I sure hope it isn't homemade porn."

"Ewww."

"Lonnie! Liv! Shut up!"

********

The three watched as the scene unfolding in front of their eyes. As the pictures began to form, Vilandra felt perspiration begin to collect on her brow. She knew exactly what this was...

********

The scene was blurry, due to the water surrounding the camera, but strangely enough the sound was crisp and clear.

The door to Zan's chamber flew open and someone entered the room. A large heavy package was thrown onto what they believed was the table and a few minutes of muffled voices until one loud voice let out an exclamation,

"F-uck that Zan. You're going to listen to what I found"


Both Alan and Livanka exchanged a glance. Rath?

"Rath, calm down. Just-"

"Like hell I will Zan. They tell me I have wait to see you. Wait for you? I don't need to see anyone. And this is important s-hit. And they-"

"Rath! I told you to calm down."

"What? like you're my King?"

"That's right. I'm the King."

"Maybe in another lifetime."

"Rath..."

"Whatever. Just look at this."

Another loud thump was heard and what seemed to be pages flipping

"What is this Rath?"

"The key."

"Hit your head again?"

"Zan. Just read the f-ucking manuscript."


Again, the two stared at each other as they mouthed the same word 'manuscript'.

"You don't think he's talking about the Prophecy do you?" Livanka asked, while Alan went to hit the pause button.

Alan just shrugged his shoulders and reached forward to hit continue to the recording. Neither noticed as Vilandra rose slowly and quietly leave the room.

"What do you want me to say Rath?"

"I don't know. Tell the Elders! Tell the planet, I don't know."

"What would I say? Our General has decoded the Prophecy of a different fashion?"

"Yes! No! I don't know. Just..."

A growl

"Do something Zan. Please. Before my wedding to Mar is announced."

"Why?"

"Do you really think the Elders are going to let me wed Mariana when they think it's Vilandra I am suppose to be mated to?"

"When have you ever been so tactful to rules?"

"I don't usually care. I just want this marriage to be official. Accepted."

"I don't..."

"F-uck Zan, what's your problem?!"

"I won't show them this Rath."

"Why not?!"

"Because how can I take your word over those of specialist who took years to decode the Prophecy and you, took what? A month?"

"Four years."

"Four years. You probably made a mistake Rath. Go back and play something you're actually good with."

"Zan..."

"Don't even try to convince me Rath!"

A loud bang was heard, as if someone was thrown up against a wall.

"What the f-uck is your problem Zan? Why won't you do this? What are you afraid of?"

A muffled reply and a loud gasp as another thud was heard

"You're insane Rath!"

"Tell me!"

"You think I'm going to allow this to come to light? It's going to ruin the Royalty Council! Everything we had be raised to believe in is a lie? You want me to believe that?!"

"Damn it Zan. You aren't worried about the beliefs of the people. You're just a passifist. You just don't want to have an uprising on your hands."

"Damn right."

"Fine. You won't tell the public, I will."

"RATH!"

"What, you're going to command me to not? What? You think you're the man?"

"Yes, that's exactly it. I'm the man. The heir to the throne of Antar. And you will not let this out. Do you understand me Rath?"

"F-uck you Zan."


Both Livanka and Alan cringed as a loud slam of the door resounded from the small speakers. Alan made to close the recording, when Livanka suddenly grabbed his hand and nodded towards the screen,

"Listen. It's not over."

Scuffle, a door opening and a huff

"Zan! You know better than to piss Rath off."

"I'm tired of playing nice with him Lonnie. Come on, he's just trying to find a way out of your impending engagement."

"Is that really that bad?"

"Yes!"

"Zan, I'm not in love with Rath. Rath is evidently not in love with me. Don't force us to marry!"

"I won't. I'll allow Rath to marry Mariana, but as far as the public will know, you will be Rath's wife."

"What?!"

"He can marry Mar in the privacy of our own lives. But the planet will think you have married Rath."

"Why?"

"I won't let the Council be destroyed because one of my General's has stepped out from the Prophecy."

"What are you going to do Zan?"

"Whatever it takes to preserve this council. Khivar will attack eventually and I will not follow in our father's footsteps. I will live and so will this damned Royalty Council."

"Zan..."

"Be quiet Lonnie. I'm going to do this. And Rath isn't going to stand in my way!"

"But Zan, what if Rath is right, what if the original translation was wrong?"

"And what Lonnie? This Prophecy we have is the first clue to the real one?"

"Yes-"

"Well, ten points to you. You're both right."

"What! You knew..."

"Of course I did."

"But why..."

"The Council will prevail! Do you hear me!"

"Zan..."

"Go play with Rath then Lonnie. Go humour him."

The sound of paper being moved

"Zan?"

"Take this stupid thing and leave!"

The sound of a door closing.



The feed on the camera was suddenly cut and Alan and Livanka meet each other's gaze.

"That means that what... The Prophecy is wrong? That Zan knew? That Lonnie... Oh my god..." Both scambled up and headed for the open door when they noticed that Lonnie was nowhere in sight. Both neglected to notice the picture reappearing on the screen,

"Damn it. Damn it. Damn it. Stupid idiot. Why the hell did he have to find it..."


 

Chapter 16 - Testing the Limitations


***

No one noticed how quickly Mariana had bolted out of Kael's arms and threw herself onto Zan's body, sending them both toppling to the ground. Kael noticed the lack of lacerations on her ankles and wondered to himself how that had happened... Mariana didn't hold the capabilities to heal.

Khivar began to fight, trying to push the small warrior off of Zan's body, but when he glanced up at her face, her eyes were narrowed, still slightly red and puffy from the tears trailing down her cheeks. The eyes were what made him freeze, they held a glint of darkness, almost as if fortelling a possible future for himself.

"I don't know how you did it, " she muttered to the man below her, "But you won't get away with it. You killed Mikel and I'm going to make sure you pay, you sadistical bastard!" She threw a right hook and made contact with his nose. Blood began spurting out, landing on the tips of her fingers. Khivar just made a grunting noise, believing he still had a card to play,

"Would you really kill me Mariana? Would you? Would you take a life?"

Sht just rolled her eyes at him, and slammed his head into the hard ground below, "Don't even doubt me a-ss hole."

"Not even if I know a secret?"

She paused in her assault for a moment, judging whether or not this man was being serious or just prolonging what would be a very short life. Deciding she'd rather let secrets be secrets, she started to grab him by his hair and lifted his head as high above the ground she could, preparing to send it crashing down below.

Khivar noticed the small shrug she gave and he began to panic. He hadn't believed that she would kill anyone, much less himself. Had he misjudged her? His mind ran through thousands of ideas, anything to put a stop to this,

"Wait!" he screamed, his mind swimming from the pain, "It's about the Prophecy!" Khivar let out another scream as Mariana just snorted and pushed the heel of her hand into his broken nose, further shattering it,

"Yah well, anything you have to say is worth about as much as cow s-hit it is, so..." she let her sentence trail off, glaring down at him.

"No! Rath knows what I'm talking about! Rath knows!" He let out a gasp of air as the assaulting girl stopped mid-strike, eyes narrowed in suspicion. Not taking her eyes off the man, she called to him,

"Um... R...ath " She was uncertain of how to address him. With his hesitation to reply, she knew he too felt awkward in the situation.

"Yes." His voice was clipped.

"Do you know what this freak is talking about?"

"Maybe."

"Maybe? Want to be a little more specific here." she offered, rolling her eyes towards the sky. Whether Rath or Mikel, both were so damn elusive. It was a nuisance.

"Well," he began slowly, "I don't know what he's talking about exactly..."

Maria nudged Khivar with her knee, "Talk."

He let another wheeze of pain as his body tried to contract, but with the girl's weight pinning him down, the body's joints only constricted painfully,

"The Prophecy," he gasped, "It's translation-"

"Was wrong."

Khivar's eyes widened and he nodded frantically. Mariana just starred down at him,

"You know what, I don't know who's more pathetic, you or Zan."

"Mar!" Kael's voice cried, trying to cover his bout of laughter with a cough. Mariana just bristled, shaking her head. Landing a final blow to the body, she rose from the ground, dusting herself off. But she didn't turn away, she just crouched down beside the unmoving body.

"Stop playing that game. I can see your chest moving. You're breathing." But Khivar didn't respond and Mariana turned to look at her brother, a bored look on her face, "Fine, you want some medical attention, let me-"

But she was cut off as a sharp pain in her lower back forced her to fall forward, her vision quickly meeting the ground. The pain was never-ending and her nerves were frantic. Her scream was loud and shrill, ending in a clip as she felt someone put pressure onto the pinpoint of pain. A round of laughter made her both cringe and scream.

Khivar dove his knee harder into her back, as his arm pressed the small knife deeper into her flesh, "You thought you had me, little sister? Doubtfully." he turned to meet the eyes of the others, spending a second with each gaze,

"Move and I'll snap her vertebrae." No one moved, the only sound was of the rain, slapping against stone. Khivar glared at Ava, "You thought you had won, this? Come on, Visionary, you know better than that. Just because all your little friends remember doesn't mean anything. They're just as confused as before, especially the General." He nodded towards Rath whose eyes were starring intently down where Khivar's knee met Mariana's back. A deep growl began to form in his throat and it exploded from his mouth as he lunged towards the unaware Khivar.

Rath pushed the man off of his fiancée, landing on one knee, "You tried to kill me once f-ucker, but instead took my brother from me. If you think I'm going to let you walk away from here taking more lives, than you're in for a rather nice surprise," his voice dripped with venom as he stood between the enemy and Mariana's body.

***

Kael, unable to move from his spot on the ground his own back screaming from it's run in with the stone wall, instructed Ava to go to Mariana and to drag her towards him. Ava just nodded curtly and scurried towards her fallen friend, who's skin was already pale. Leaning over, she looped her arms under Mariana's and began to drag her carefully back, taking quick glances over her shoulder to ensure a smooth path,

"It's ok Mar. Kael's gonna fix you right up."

"He'd better," her voice replied, sending a tight smile up towards the blonde.

***

Kael nudged forward, a look of concern on his face. Mariana just twisted her head sideways and laid it across her folded arms, watching him.

"You ok, Kael?" she asked gently, noting his own lack of mobility. He just waved her off

"No problem. My body's already begun to heal. It's still just incredibly sore. You on the other hand..."

Ava's hand grasped the edge of the small dagger and she began to draw it out, as Mariana's eyes grew and her nails dug into the earth below, a scream leaving her mouth,

"Stop!"

"Stop!" Kael cried quickly, causing Ava to look up at him surprised.

"What?"

"Don't take it out," he explained, "the knife has created a suction with the skin. If you remove it now, out here, she'll most likely... Lose blood. Not to mention go through a horribly ordeal. So just leave it in for the time being. I'd rather have her lose less blood with the knife still in her than for her to bleed out for the sake of removing the blade."

Kael, wrapped his hands gently around his sister's, drawing her fingers out of the ground,

"Think you could pull yourself up, Mar? I want to take a look at that back of yours."

She bit her lip, tears of pain threatening to drop from her eyes. But she nodded at him. Kael gave her hands a quick squeeze as she pulled herself towards him, Ava watching the pair with frightened eyes. He pulled her into his lap, her body laying across him legs. He brushed a few strands of matted hair away from his eyes as he stared down at her back.

"Give me a cloth," he said, sticking his arm out towards Ava. The blonde looked around her, but her eyes landed on her own cloak and she grabbed the hem of the thick fabric and tore it in one smooth motion, using her powers to loosen the molecular bond. She placed the long strip of cloth into Kael's outstretched hand.

He folded it over three times, creating a rectangular pad. He pressed it onto Mariana's bare skin, right above where the blade was sitting within her back. He leaned to the left, tapping her on the head gently,

"I'm going to take the knife out now. It's going to hurt like a b-itch. But do you feel the cloth I'm pressing into your back?"

Mariana looked up at him puzzled, "No."

"Oh."

"Is that a bad thing?" she asked quickly, fright entering her gaze. Kael stared down at her face. No, that was not a good thing, but was he going to tell her that? Not bloody likely.

"No, no," he reassured her, smoothing her hair, "it's nothing. Just. Brace yourself."

She chewed her bottom lip and squeezed her eyes shut, mentally preparing herself for the painful feeling she knew she would be reacquainting herself with in seconds...

But it never came. She cracked one eye open and then the other. That wasn't right.... Seconds ago, the pain was unbearable, but now? She couldn't even feel it. Panic began to take over her body as the statement hit her. She couldn't feel...

"Oh my god, " she whispered, "Kael, Kael, " she cried, tugging on his arm slightly, her eyes crossed as she noticed the blo0d on the edge of his sleeve, "am I paralyzed? Kael?!" She tried to kick her legs, but nothing happened. She tried to twist her lower body around... Nothing happened.

"Oh god... Oh god.. Kael? Kael?!"

She felt warm hands on her shoulder, "Mar. No. It's. Uh. Don't worry, you'll be fine. We just have to get you out of here. Your body is probably just going through shock." She tried to hear his words, but her own mind was blocking them out. The only thought that flashed across her mind was the one that told her that she was paralyzed.

Kael starred down at his sister and her unfocused gaze,

"Dammit, Mar. Listen to me." He took her head between her hands and give it small shake, "You aren't paralyzed. Do you hear me? You're body is going through shock. Your nerves were shot. Just let me get you back to the Clinic and I'll regenerate them. Ok. You're going to be fine."

Mariana just gazed up at him, a fearful look in her eyes. She looked so small and vulnerable, Kael's heart ached, "Promise?" her voice was equally as small, too weak for the sister he knew.

"Promise."

****

A gust of wind pushed past her and she looked up, seeing a pair of familiar boots in front of her face. But before she could open her mouth, she felt herself being jerked up into a standing position, her brothers arms snuggly around her waist.

"Hold on, " he grunted, swinging her entire body up. She let out a sqeak of surprise as her arms wrapped themselves around his neck instinctively, to keep from falling over.

Mariana turned in her brother's grasp to see Rath dodging a piece of stone flying towards his head,

"Rath!"

*****

He heard her cry of distress, but he knew he couldn’t turn to comfort her. If he turned this prissy-rock-throwing-man would probably pelt him in the head with one of his many stones. Idiot.

"You know, a gun or maybe a sword would be a little more menacing to me, "Rath drawled, baring his teeth. Khivar nodded his head agreeing, "It sure would. But that would make this all less fun!"

Rath starred at the man. Fun? Fun? Psychotic, maybe. Fun? No.

He passed his arm infront of his face, sending the group of rocks shooting by. Khivar began to back up and he took a step forward, staying with the man, wearing Zan's body.

"I'll tear you limb for limb!" he screamed. But Khivar just looked indifferent.

"And kill your friend here? He can't live without his body. I don't think you're that cold blooded, General."

"Sacrifice Zan for you? I'd do it in a heartbeat. The man would understand," he growled back, waving his hand again, "You can keep throwing those rocks and I'll just keep deflecting them. I'm not even starting to feel tired."

Rath never noticed how Zan's body split in two and one version slipped behind a mountain of rocks and the other continued to throw rocks.

*****

Mariana watched, hitting her brother on the shoulder, "Wait!" He grunted, nudging her higher in his arms,

"Yah, when we get back to the Palace, I'm putting you on a diet of some sort. I think you've gained -"

"A few pounds" Ava threw in, cutting the man off. He was entering dangerous territory...

"A few pounds?!" Kael cried, "More like-" but when he finally noticed Ava's eyes and the her hand signals to tell him to cut it off, he glanced down to his sisters face. Which, despite it's paleness was looking less than pleased.

"No pounds!" He squeaked.

"Right..."

"Really Mar!"

"Sure... Big meanie. Telling me I'm fat! I'm gonna tell Rath!"

Suddenly Kael paled and he almost dropped his sister in fright. His mouth opened and a strangled noise came out, "I didn't mean it! Honest!"

She just snorted at him. But the small smile slipped off her face as she noticed Rath waving in midair. What in the world?

Looking around , she caught site of a hunched figure behind a pile of rocks, a sharp fragment within their hands.

"That bastard!" she muttered. She slapped Kael on the shoulder, forcing him to stop.

"Look!" she said, pointing towards Rath, "Look!" Kael grabbed onto her wriggling body tighter, afraid her movement would send them both towards the ground.

Kael twisted around to look over Mariana's shoulders. "Rath's waving in the air?" he asked, perplexed, "That's not right."

"Not that! That!" she placed emphasis on the last word and waved her arm wildly. Even if Kael still didn't notice, Ava did. She let out a strangled cry.

"No!"

Panic rose in Mariana as memories began to replay in her mind

// Her scream
// Khivar's raised arm
// Mikel throwing himself in front of the blade
// The blood
// Closed eyes

"NO!" she screamed, extending her hand. She suddenly felt a rush of power and she pushed out of Kael's arm, throwing herself forward, a bright blast of energy leaving her hand. The last thing she heard before her world turned to darkness was the voice of another person... Vilandra.

****
Vilandra ran faster, pumping her legs as she closed in on the scene. She had to get there faster! She had to save Khivar!

Pushing forward, she caught sight of him, standing behind Rath's body. She shook her head as imagines of a too-familiar-past shot through her head. But she ignored them. But a bright light out of the corner of her eye caught her attention and she stopped mid-stride. Mariana's energy blast was headed straight towards Khivar.

No, no, no!

"Khivar, Look out!" her voice screamed into the night air...

 

 

 

 

Chapter 17 - In Retrospective


~~~~

She opened her eyes, but shut them quickly, blocking the harsh light from above. With a moan, she rolled over to her side, burrowing deeper within the warmth of the bed. She inhaled slightly but was confused when an unusually sharp smell meet her flaring nostrils. Flipping back on to her back, she cracked open one eye and confirmed her suspicions - she was still in the Clinic.

She dropped her hand over her eyes, sufficiently blocking the pain the brightness of the light was causing. Slightly disoriented, she tried to speak, but a muffled grunt was the only result. The repetitive whirling sound was slowly drowning into her conciousness and if she didn't know better, would have thought Kael had placed her underneith the ventilation opening on purpose.

"Hey Mariana."

She froze. Speak of the devil...

Opening her mouth several times she felt her jaw slacken and finally mumbled her greeting,

"Hi."

Her step brother walked up to her beside and waved his open palm across her body. He smiled down at her, a cheerful expression on his face,

"Well, you're looking-"

But he never got to finish his sentence, as Mariana bolted forward and Kael found his shoes being drenched in yesturday's Clinic meal. He blinked several times, before motioning for one of his assistance to clean the... mess up.

"Sorry," she pipped up, staring up him sheepishly, "I couldn't stop myself."

"Aw, don't worry about it. This floor and my shoes have seen worse days. Just a little... Unpleasant is all. I've been meaning to talk to you about your signs."

"My signs?"

"Well your blood test results are back."

Mariana sat up in panick, "Oh no, what's wrong with me," she blurted out, "Do I have some blood disease? Some horribly bug has infected me, haven't they? And you're going to make a cure for me right? You would never let your little step sister die... Of course you wouldn't..."

When she began to fight his hold, hollaring about keeping her at death's door uninformed, Kael just removed his hands, surpring Mariana into silence.

Wiping his hands onto his pants, Kael smiled at her, unchanged by her ranting,

"Now. If you'll stay quiet, I'll tell you what the results were. And no, you aren't dying."

"Oh."

"Yes. Anyway, first I have to start off by saying, I'm your loving brother. I've always protected you and always been supportive. And you know how good I am with kids, right?" His face shone with eagerness.

Mariana looked at him suspiciously. What was he blabbering about?! Deciding to humour her brother, she nodded her head slightly.

Kael continued on, "Well, you just have to remember to keep this all in mind. Ok?" He insisted, grabbing her arm in a loose hold.

"Sure."

Kael let out a whoosh of air and his smile grew, forcing Mariana to lean backwards, partially appauled by his... magnification of happiness.

"Well. You haven't been dying. And you have been gaining a little weight," before she could cut him off angrily, he hurried along, "But Mar," he stopped suddenly, calming down, his smile gone from his face,

"You have to tell me something. How do you feel about what happened..."

Mariana just glanced at him uneasily and diverted her gaze,

"I don't know what you're talking about."

"Mar... I know, it's only been a couple of weeks. And usually I wouldn't want to rush you, but I need to know, how are you?"

Looking down at her hands, her fingers wrapped around the edge of the cover, twisting the fabric around in a spiral. She shrugged her shoulders but still didn't look up at him,

"I don't know. Ok I guess. I mean... Rath is here, but Mikel. I just. After three cycles I was still getting over loosing Rath, and now I find out it was really Mikel I lost? How can I be, Kael? I lost my best friend. It's like I have to trade one of them in. I can't have both. I feel like..."

Kael nodded at her, rubbing her back soothingly,

"Like I switched Mikel for Rath. That if I hadn't done anything, than I'd still have Mikel... But I want Rath?" She glanced up at him, pleading that he understand her, "I love Rath, god I love Rath. I cant' live without him... But I was learning how to? You know? I was learning to live half empty. But now it's Mikel that's gone and I'm just so confused. I don't know how I'm suppose to feel. Or think. I'm just... I hate Zan."

"I hate him too."

"He had to do this... He had to screw everything up. He had to..." Mariana broke down in sobs, falling into her brother's open arms. He held her tightly to him, as he listened to her talk about the switch for the first time in weeks,

"And Rath... I don't even know how he feels. He hasn't come to visit me since I've woken up. He hasn't..." She continued in her undecipherable cries as Kael looked down at her, feeling a similar pain in his own mind,

"I know, Mar. I know. Zan did a horrible job. He made the wrong decisions. Why? We'll never know. But he did and he had no right to. But it's going to be ok. It's going to be ok."

"How do you know?" she whispered between sobs.

"Because there's always hope."

She looked at him in confusion, he was talking weird again...

Noticing her confusion he removed his arms from around her and tipped her chin up, a huge smile on his face,

"Because, a little Rath or Mariana is going to be running around here soon and I think that's going to cheer us all up."

"What?"

"You heard me."

"Oh my god..."

"I told you, you were a little differ-"

"I didn't think..."

"You'd better tell Rath."

"Oh my god..."

"I can't wait to see him hold a little baby..." a cackle, "all big and mean Rath, playing with a little baby. Won't that be hillarious?"

"Oh my god..."

~~~~~

Mariana robbed her palm over her belly, a tired smile playing on her lips. She began to poke it gently, holding herself up on her arms.

"Hey, little guy, I don't know what you're going to be, but whatever it is, I'll love you. And so will your daddy. Even if he looks mean sometimes."

She poked her belly a little harder, trying to make out any swelling, a sign that the life within her was already growing. Looking to her right and left, she frowned, several nurses were running around, tending to every day patients, but her step brother was no where to be seen.

A cubby man started to race past her, a clipboard in hand, but Mariana was quicker and shot her arm out, grabbing his own in a lose hold,

"Hey," she said, smiling, "do you know where Kael is?"

The man smiled back at her, obviously enchanted by her charisma, "Nope, sorry General. I think I last saw him a little while ago, but then he stepped out with Miss. Ava."

Mariana giggled happily, patting the man on his back. Oh! So, Kael and Ava had finally warmed up to each other! About darn time too! Always playing tricks on each other, they were almost as bad as she and Rath were. Speaking of which, she dropped back down onto the bed with a sigh. Rath hadn't come to see her in the Clinic since they had gotten back to the Palace three weeks ago. She had talked to Ava about it and her friend had only avoided her eyes and mumbled something about Rath redecorating.

Mariana snorted. Rath redecorating? Sure... And pigs fly. She didn't believe that for a minute, so she couldn't do anything to stop the feeling growing in the pit of her stomach. She tried to tell herself that Rath was just still confused and tired over the entire ordeal. How could she expect him to bounce right back from Zan's betrayal in two weeks. It was a lot to ask. But subconciously she knew she was hoping.

Hoping that everything could go back to the way things were before - before what exactly? The wedding? The three cycles. She shook her head. She wasn't sure. All she knew was that unless she went to Rath herself, she would be losing both Mikel and him. Something that scared her more than she wished to believe. For as long as she could remember, there had been a Guerin brother in her life, by her side, helping her along.

Caught in thought, she didn't notice as her step brother walked up to her and poked her in her stomach.

"Hey!" she cried, slapping at his hand, "Don't hurt the baby!"

Kael smiled at her, "Don't get all fiesty with me! I'm not hurting the baby. It hasn't even started to grow yet. I'm still just poking your fat."

"I'm not fat."

"I know."

"Then why did you say fat?"

"I didn't!"

"Yes you did."

"Er-"

She let out a loud sigh and began to laugh loudly, her entire body shaking, she pointed a finger at his estonished face,

"Oh come on Kael!" she explained, through laughter, "You're just too easy."

He started at her shocked but joined in on the laughter,

"How are you?"

"Same as usual," she replied with disdain, "When can I leave this prison? Everything's so boring here. People just walk back and forth. They keep giving me needles. There's absolutely nothing to do!"

"Rath hasn't come by has he?" Kael asked quietly, seeing through his step sister's half hearted rant.

"No," she said, in a small whisper, "I haven't heard from him at all."

Kael stared up at the ceiling, cursing whatever God watched over them on this particular planet and sat himself down beside Mariana, brushing her hair through his hands,

"I like the color though," he offered, fingering her newly dyed locks, shining a dark strawberry blonde, something close to a brown, "It suits you."

She nudged him a little, but was smiling, "Yeah. Liv came by with Ava and they shooed all the nurses out and we had a little Girls' Night. It was fun. I think they were trying to distract me from the current situation." she paused for a minute, watching as a bird flew past the bay window, "It's different though. And I needed it to be. A change from... My past."

"There's nothing wrong with your past, sis." He patted her on the back, while checking her vitals,

"No, I guess not. But I don't want to be this person anymore. I want to be someone different now. I've tried being me and it isn't working out too well."

"Patience. Just be patient Mar."

The two step siblings stared at each other in silence, until Kael noticed a folder piece of paper on her bed side table. Snatching it up and unfolding the paper he just blinked without any emotion and dropped the paper, letting it flutter to the bed spread.

"Alan came to visit?" he asked in a monotone voice. But Mariana knew better. He was trying to hid his anger, as not to get her worked up. He was always looking out for her.

She nodded, plucking the paper from off the bed and replacing it on the table, under a small paperback. "He even gave me a copy of the recording, " she pointed to a small shiny disk, "I don't need to see it though. I already know Zan betrayed me and Rath, all of us. There's no need to rub salt in the wounds."

"But aren't you even curious to get your hands on the real Prophecy, or at least the part that Rath managed to decode," he asked curiously. He coudln't understand it. He would have thought Mariana would have already torn the palace apart, searching for the manuscript, but instead she begrudgedly stayed in the Clinic, like he told her. It was a little confusing, knowing that if the original Prophecy was wrong then that could mean that Mariana and Rath still had a chance to be together - in both a destiny desired and wanted.

She shrugged her shoulders and drew both her hands through her hair, "I don't care what a piece of paper says, written in a long forgotten past by people we don't even know. We make our own destinies Kael. And Rath should know that just as much as I do. It doesn't matter what the Prophecy says, because if it's not what I want, I'll fight it until the end," she paused, "I just wish I knew if Rath and I... If there was still something to fight for." She rested both her hands across her belly and closed her eyes, taking deep breaths, "I just want to know who I am."


~~~~

Rath starred out the window overlooking the large meadow. The room was dark and the curtains were part-way drawn.

"You don't need to stand in the dark you know, the light won't bite.

"You don't know that."

Ava let out a sigh and closed the door behind her quietly. She stopped and stared around the room. Rath had reclaimed his old wing, but had nothing more than a mattress and small bedside table in the large room. The walls had been stripped of their color and were awating being painted. The room was cold and dark.

"I'm leaving."

Ava let out a strangled cry as she stared at her cousin's back, "What?" she asked, praying she didn't hear him right the first tim.

"I'm leaving." his voice was cold. Dark.

"Why?"

Rath let out a low growl and grabbed onto one of the dark curtains, ripping them off their rings. The fabric slid to the ground and landed in a disorganized pile. Ava cringed. He twirled around and stared at his small cousin, a wild look in his eyes. She took a step back from him, as she saw flames licking across his pupils.

"Do you see me?!" he screamed at her, baring his teeth, "Well I don't. Every God damn morning I wake up and I see this face. This face of two men, " his voice was depleting in anger and emotion, "of another person. Someone who isn't me." he sounded defeatedl, a tired ring to his voice.

"You're Rath."

"Am I? Am I Rath? Or am I Mikel? I have my brother's thoughts and memories in my mind, still swimming about. I have his feelings, his emotions, his opinions. Even after the mindwarp, Ava, my brother's still here, " he pointed to the crown of his head, "haunting me."

Ava layed a soft hand on his arm, "That's okay though Rath, you're confused. No one would expect you to be all fine and fit after what happened to you. It's okay to be confused. You just need time."

"No!" he screamed again, ripping his arm out of her grip, he looked down at her with fearful eyes, "Get away from me Ava."

She stared at him with wide eyes, "Rath-" she murmured,

"Just get the f-uck away from me. I'm not safe." he equally murmured, staring down at his own two hands, "not until I figure out who I am."

"You know who you are though Rath!" she pleaded with her eyes, following her cousin around as he trampled around the room, grabbing shirts and pants and throwing them into a small bag, "You're just... You need time. You don't just snap out of a mindwarp and recover instantly. You just need to be patient. All you need is patience."

The warrior stopped in his tracks, letting out a deep sigh, his entire body heaving, "I don't have patience Ava. And no amount of time will fix this", he slammed his finger against his head forcefully, causing the small blonde to cringe, "I'm f-ucked up. I'm angry, I'm violent, I'm unstable. Call me whatever the hell you want. I just shouldn't be here." He continued on, packing his bag with essentials.

"You've always been angry and violent and ever since I can rememebr you've been impossible, pig headed, stubborn and unstable. That's nothing new!" she cried, anger pooling within herself. This was just stupid and she knew it. Rath was feeling sorry for himself and running away from his problems. Something both Guerin brothers always had in common among other things, "Running away won't solve anything Rath!"

Ava let out a gasp as a blast of silver light flew past her and created a smoking hole in the wall.

"Do you see that?" he growled, his eyes dark and menacing, "do you see that?!"

But Ava was just waving at him, as she examined the charred remains around the hole, "Rath, how did you do that?" she asked, confusion swirling in her eyes.

"I don't know, " he muttured, not paying attention to his cousin.

"But. I. That was an energy blast. Like Mariana."

"Yes. I sort of noticed that." he bite sarcasticly, rolling his eyes at her.

"But how?!" she exclaimed, looking to him for answers.

"I don't know." he ground through gritted teeth, "If I knew, I wouldn't be locking myself in my room all alone now would I?" Ava took a step back as she noticed the faint silver glow around his hand.

"Rath-" she said, pointing towards the light.

He cursed and glared at her, as if she had somehow intentional forced the light to appear. But it was her turn to roll her eyes. This was definately Rath. Always so volatile and touchy. But she paused and mulled over his last answer. And suddenly it dawned on her.

"You're protecting Mariana."

Rath sniffled and just ignored her, causing Ava to jump in glee, pointing to him, "That's it. You think that you're going to hurt Mariana with your powers! Don't you! That's why you're going. You big nut. Trust me, Mariana will be fine. The girl has already mastered the power. She can send your pitiful blasts with a flick of a finger. You can't hurt her Rath," she circled around him, trying to get him to react, "You still love her."

That got his attention.

"That's all I do know." he replied quietly.

She smiled sadly at him, as he looked up at her through his bangs, innocent and scared eyes peeking out. This was the cousin she knew existed under his gruff exterior. The scared and vulnerable one. But as quickly as he had stared at her, his look had hardened to his usual glare.

"Can I convince you to stay?" she asked, fully knowing already what his answer would be. Another trait of the Guerins? Stubbornish. Especially strong in Rath when it came to protecting Mariana. His devotion to her never ceased to amaze Ava.

He snorted as if she had said a joke, "Not in this life time."

"You have to tell her you know, that you're leaving."

"I will."

"When she's awake."

"F-uck that."

Ava narrowed her eyes and grabbed onto her cousin's arm, in an impressively strong hold, she turned him around and glared at him, "Look here, Rath. You're not the only one with a little Guerin blood in you. I'm just as pig headed, stubborn and damn well violent as you are. And you are going to tell Mariana you're leaving. When she's awake too. Do. You. Understand. Me." She punctuated each word with a stab at his chest with her middle finger. He didn't miss the hidden message. He patted her head like a small child and smirked at her,

"Fine," he stopped for a second, looking at her suspiciously, "but why is it so important to you that I tell Mar?"

Ava just looked at him ominously, "She loves you too. She deserves to know." Before she had finished her sentence, Rath was out of her hold and half way through his door, bag swong over his back. Ava just stared at his retreated back sadly, ringing her hands, her thoughts wrapping around the news Kael had told her earlier that day in secret.



"She's pregnant."

"No way!" Ava cried, munching on a cookie.

"Yup." Kael smiled proudly and Ava rolled her eyes. The man acted as if he had invented the next greatest thing.

"Well, she's going to tell Rath right?"

When Kael just muttered something Ava narrowed her eyes and tugged on his sleeve, "What did you say?" she hissed.

"Well, um, " he began to stutter, smiling at her hopelessly, "I. I think she wants to, but.. uh. She's scared? He hasn't come to see her. I think she's afraid he doesn't love her anymore."

Ava just let out a small sqeuak, "That's crazy! Mariana's the only thing Rath will ever love! He's been in love with ehr for all his life! She knows that! How can she no-"

Kael just cut her off, "She's insecure about the entire thing." He grabbed Ava by the shoulders, forcing her to stare at him. His eyes had a serious glint in them, "But promise me Ava. Promise me you won't tell Rath about the baby. Mariana needs to tell him, when she's ready. No matter how long it will take, I know my sister will do it. She just.. .Needs time to heal first. Keep this to herself as a way of hope. Just leave the two of them to figure it out."

"It could take months though!" Ava spluttered, starring at him as if he had two heads.

"Well, she has as long as the pregnancy lasts and that's 18 months. So she has time. But promise me Ava."

She looked at him reluctantly and nodded her head.


Ava shook her head. She had to keep her promise, but she knew that Mariana wasn't even close to being ready to tell Rath and that would mean, Rath would walk right out of her life... Like so many other men in her friends life - some welcomed, some mourned.

 

 

 

 

Chapter 18 - And it All Comes Tumbling Down



Throwing a glance towards the closing door to the Clinic, Mariana smoothed the palms of her hands across the surface of her leather pants, letting out a sigh. She could feel the small disk burning a hole through her pants and all she wanted to do was blast the microchip into thousands of small particles. But she knew that no matter how much destruction she spent upon destroying that small piece of evidence, it wouldn't make circumstances different; Rath was still a mystery to her and Zan was still a traitor. She glanced up startled, unconciously she had already taken herself through the Palace corridors and was standing before the entrance to the Royal Gardens. She looked around her, the well groomed shrubs and bushes beckoning her to enter. But no matter how many pretty flowers there were, she was still hesistant to enter into the one place she knew she would find Zan. The Gardens were his refuge, ever since she could remember. She rememebered Ava telling her something about how Zan's mother use to tend to the garden's personally, and her children would be right there with her.

Clenching her fists at her side, she stepped past the threshold and into to green... This was not the time to have second thoughts. It was either now or never. And she had already been waiting for her entire life.

***

She stared at him. As he sat on the bench alone. She walked up in front of him and took a seat to his right. He didn't seem to notice her approach, but merely continued to watching a rose bush a few feet away.

"Zan."

The man looked at her unemotional, but the expression suddenly transformed into a frown,

"What are you doing here Mariana?" He asked in a sharp tone.

"I want answers. I deserve answers. And you're the only one who can answer me."

He just shook his head and turned away from her . She rolled her eyes at his back, hating his childish actions.

"I don't have answers. I barely remember anything from the past three cycles."

Suddenly Zan was pulled back and he stared wide eyed at his General,

"That's a load of bull and you and I both know it. You rememeber every god d-amn minute of it and you're just lucky I haven't told anyone that you do. Or we both know what Rath and Kael would do you. So don't play this game with me, Zan. I want my f-ucking answers. And you're going to give them to me. Now." She hissed, emphasis on the last word.

He sniffed her, and ripped his arm away from her grasp, "I have no idea what you're talking about Mariana. You're fourth sense is off balance."

She stared at his back, unrelenting, "I can feel it Zan. You remember. I can tell."

"How?" He asked, his voice controlled.

"I don't know. Call it a gut feeling."

"Nothing about you is a gut feeling." he pointed out, staring her down.

"Well that's the only answer I need to give you."

"And why should I answer your questions?"

"Because you did a s-hit worth of a job on us. And I have the right to know everything. Besides, I didn't kill you. I saved you from him. You owe me this much." She pointed out, jabbing a finger into his shoulder.

Zan ground his teeth together, mulling over her words. Finally, he threw his hands up in the air and rose from the bench, "Fine!" he screeched, still not facing her.

Mariana watched him for a moment, wondering if he would tell her the truth at all, or would he just threw words out to silence her. Realizing there was no way to avoid his potential lies than to hear them, she started her questioning,

"Why did you allow Khivar to inhabit your body?"

He stayed silent a moment, pacing, his voice was emotionless, much like his earlier expression, but he answered her,

"Because. Mikel was a large part of the Royalty Council. Everyone respected him. You didn't see yourselves. You were all broken. Alone. Dying. Your will was crushed. And if it was, my Council would have gone right along with Mikel. And I couldn't let that happen. Not with Khivar so close to assembling an army worthy enough to fight our own."

"So you did it to fill your own ego?" she asked, appauled by his reasoning. She had expected something as honourable as him being forced to. Or threatened. But he allowed Khivar to take over his body, because he didn't want the Council to destroy itself?

"I didn't say that." he argued, irritation evident in his tone.

"Oh drop it Zan. You were just assuming we would drop like flies. You had no way of knowing how we would react to Mikel's death. You were scared you would be left unguarded, without your Generals at your side. You just didn't want people to look upon the Council in any way except in awe."

He didn't answer her.

"I take it you agree?" she mumbled just loud enough for him to hear. Again he contined to remain silent and she continued on, reminding herself that Zan's attitude would not phase her.

"Ok. Why did you make Rath believe he was Mikel?" The question came out in one quick breath of air, barely understandable.

Zan just snorted, "Why not? The man was close enough to his brother that they could have been one being. It wasn't hard. And who better to replace Mikel than Rath?"

"Sick b-astard."

"You didn't seem to think that way when you and Rath were together during the ball-"

"Zan..." Her voice was dangeroulsy low, a look of surprise, shock and anger swirling through her eyes. She glared at him, starting to rise, "Admitting you're a pervert isn't going to be winning you any compassion points."

Silence met her. She smiled. At least he was finally being reasonable.


"So," she drawled, watching him pace back and forth, "Why did you leave your camera in your fish bowl..."

He froze mid-stride and turned slowly to stare at her,

"I didn't want Khivar to find it."

"You actually did something honourable?" she exclaimed, staring at him mouth agape.

He glared at his General, "I'm not entirely a horrible person Mariana. Of course I didn't want Khivar to find out about the poor translation of the Prophecy."

"But he did, through Lonnie."

"How was I suppose to know my sister would betray us?"

"I don't know. She was lonely though Zan. And you were her brother. I guess we could say it runs in the family?"

He turned away from her again, standing still as he crossed his arms over his chest. The two Royalty remained silent for several minutes.

And now, this is what she came here for. The answer to the question that had been haunting her for the past four weeks.

"Why was Khivar calling me his little sister?"

Zan just shrugged his shoulders, avoiding her question. But Mariana stood from the bench and walked up behind him, twirling him around to face her,

"Look Zan. Don't just ignore the question. I know that you know. Why else would you be avoiding me so much. You can barely look at me!"

"What will I get?"

Mariana looked at him stuned? He wanted something... Ok...

"A slap on the head for your stupidity?" she offered seriously. When his eyes narrowed, she just waved at him, indicating she wanted an answer and quite obviously he would only get the knowledge that he had done an honourable thing as his reward.

"Khivar's father died when he was young,"

"Well we have something in common, " she muttered, still listening to Zan,

"His mother became depressed, longed to die, join her love in the realm. Until one day, she met a peasant man during on of her runs to a small village for food..."

When the silence still hung in the air, Mariana threw Zan a dirty look.

"His name was Brian Deluca." Zan's voice continued to sound emotionless.

Mariana let out a strangled cry, which turned into a snort. When Zan looked at her oddly, she just glared at him again. Understanding what she meant, Zan just continued on, telling the story,

"Khivar and his mother both fell in love with man. He was a great father. Always had time for him. And he made his mother happy - willing to live. They were a happy family."

"It's a touching story, so where do I come in," Zan looked over at Mariana sharply, her own voice was very much like his own. which was strange. A girl filled with such emotions, and she sounded... Hollow? This wasn't his memory to tell, explaing his lack of connection, but Mariana... It was strange to say the least.

"Brian met a young girl..."

"And?"

"She stole his heart. He saw her as sunshine and he would always talk about her. She was a good friend. But she was more than a friend to him. And when she became pregnant, he left them both to be with her and his child."

"And..."

"Khivar's mother killed herself later that cycle."

Silence reigned between the two. Mariana sat unmoving and Zan turned to watch her.

"So we've established that Brian Deluca is a b-astard. I don't see how I fit into this."

"The young girl's name was Amee."

Mariana just glanced at Zan as she walked by him, fragments of rocks which were once a bench laying in her wake.

Zan heard Mariana yell over her shoulder towards him, as she walked off back towards the palace,

"There's nothing worse in the world than to betray friendship Zan. You can not rule if no one is willing to hollow. And by the way, thank you so much for being such a good friend - helping us through the past three cycles and all."

He couldn't overlook the sarcasm and the anger that hung around the words. He grit his teeh and fell back down onto the bench, his dark cape, fluttering around him. He dropped his head into his hands, and began to rub his temples, as millions of thoughts began racing through his mind. Perphaps Khivar had been removed from his body, but his essence still rang through his sanity...

 

 

 

Chapter 19 - And Through it All, We Awaken


***

She tried to keep a grip on her emotions - or her lack of them. If there was one thing that could be expected from her, it was that she should be angry. She was the type of person whose anger became all consuming until nothing else made sense to her. But sometimes, there was a first time for everything and this was one of them. For the very first time, she wasn't angry. She wasn't screaming and she wasn't overcome with the desire for revenge. Quite the opposite, all that Mariana wanted to do was go to sleep, for a very long time and awake in a perfect world.

She stared down at her opened palms and watched as she clenched her hands closed, her nails digging into her flesh. If it were up to her, she would want Zan off the Council, off of Antar and shipped onto a far away planet, but she wasn't angry with Zan. She was just tired, so very tired.

Pulling in a ragged breath, she made up her mind that the only person she truly hated at the moment was a man she barely knew and yet, he played a pivotal role in her existance - her father. Or, the man that was suppose to be her father. The man that had walked out on her and her mother at an age she could barely remember. All the memories that did exist were ones of fear and terror in the night and tears. In her heart of hearts, still to this day, she had always wished that her father would somehow suddenly appear in her life and whisk her away to another land where they would have a happy reunion and her mother and father would get married again. But she was a grown woman, and this dream that she had wished ever since she could remember was becoming nothing more than an illusion to her. Because she didn't want to meet her father anymore and she would give anything in the world to make sure that he continued his long absence in her life.

The feeling in her gut began to churn and pull her every each way. Flashes appeared infront of her eyes and she screwed them closed, until the colors vanished and she was once again with herself. She wished she didn't know, she wished she didn't feel it coming. But it was. Maybe not this day. But very soon. The War was coming.

Before she knew where she was going, she was standing among many ruins of a cathedral. Stones scattered around her and blood staines still visible on some undersides of rocks. This was it. The place where it all started and the place where it all ended. Irony had a twisted sense of humour. There was no wind that night and the moons hung overhead, castly a faint glow upon the once sacred place - turned cemetary.

"You're here somewhere Mikel, and I guess - I guess. I just want some answers. Maybe a direction to go? A little shove in the right direction. I'm just completely lost," she paused for a moment, wondering if she was just becoming a sudden lunatic, speaking to nothing but a cliff edge and rocks, "and tired."

****

She pulled away from him and smiled, "Come off of it Kael, I'm just going to follow her to make sure she's alright."

The Healer pulled a hand through his hair, leaving a few pieces in the front sticking up at odd angles, "Dammit Liv, just leave the two of them alone! For Pete's sake, she's probably going to know you're following her and all that's going to do is wig her out. And you know how Rath gets when people watch him. And now with these apparent new powers I don't think sneaking up on him is the best thing."

"Don't worry! I'll keep far enough away from them so they don't know, but I have to make sure at least she's alright!"

"Why Liv! Why?" He was equally confused and tired as she was and as his sister was. The battle had been a long one and even though it seemed as if they had found a small refuge in peace, they all still had a very disturbing feeling about what this spared moment would cost them.

The small brunette just slammed her hand onto the table, surpring him, "Because, it's my duty to make sure she's going to be ok. She's all we have left Kael. Everything will one day depend on her. She's hurting right now and I don't want her to think that it's not ok to let that show."

"But you don't understand Liv," Kael replied, a tiredness showing through his words, "She's been like this her entire life. You can't change her suddenly. She is who she is."

"I know."

*****

She was standing behind a cluster of trees, keeping a keen eye on the tired girl who was speaking to the world.

"...direction... tired."

She frowned slightly and began to wonder exactly what she was talking about over there. But a rustling from nearby caused her to shrink back into the foliage and wait. Destiny was taking a turn.

*****

Mariana could have sworn she felt Mikel here, she could have sworn she felt him smiling and trying to tell her something, but she couldn't hear him. Or see him.

A rustling behind caused her to tense up and raise her arm in anticipation. The rustling began to come closer, with one arm around her waist and the other begining to glow, Mariana's eyes narrowed and she stood ready to blast whatever insensitive b.astard was coming to interrupt her 'alone time'. She sort of wished it would be Zan. That would sort of put her in a better mood - blasting the man would give her a hold on life. She was suppose to hate Zan and what better way to reinforce that idea than for him to pull such a moronic stunt and follow her when she clearly threw vibes of "It's Mariana alone time" straight at him.

But she was unprepared for the figure to come out from between the trees and she dropped her hand immediately.

"Rath."

******

He jerked his head up when he heard his name on her lips. He cursed himself. He should have known it was likely she would be here. This was, after all the only place that had a connection to him before. And he had come here for a similiar reason she had - to say goodbye to his brother, one last time.

Her head was c.ocked to the side and he couldn't make out her expression. It was neither one of anger or resentment, of joy or happiness. It was just void. He stood uncomfortable, shifting his weight from one foot to the other. He prayed she wouldn't see the bag slung over his shoulder... He had no intention of saying any sort of good bye to this beautiful woman.

*******

She stared at him and drank him in. Every inch, every amazing feature. He truly was the most beautiful thing on this entire world. His eyes were uncertain and almost scared, but with a touch of softness she knew he held for her. But the only thing that caugt her attention and caused her heart to pick up speed was the bag hanging behind him.

"Where are you going?" Her voice was soft, concerned. Nothing like she wanted it to sound like. She wanted anger, or - something that would make him stop, make him tell her what he was up to.

"Somwhere." His reply was gruff, but he wouldn't look at her.

It didn't take a genius to figure out that he was leaving.

"You're leaving."

It was a statement, not a question.

"Yah."

"Oh."

They both stood at a standstill. Her, not knowing what she wanted to do and him, not sure if he should just run for it and bloody well hope she didn't pull and power blasts on him or stay where he was. He decided he would wait, if she wanted to say anything she would.

"I got your letter."

He nodded, his head still downcast, "I sort of figured you would. You know what it was right."

"Yes. They were beautiful."

He hesistated for a moment, "The Prophecy, it's out there somewhere," he nodded his head towards the horizon, "just like this war. I know you can feel it coming. I can feel it too. And I need to find this Prophecy. Maybe if I do..."

"You can find some answers?"

He gave her a small smile and nodded. She had always understood him better than he knew himself. She had always known what he craved, what he desired, what he needed and who he was. But right now, he was more unsure than he ever was. And the only way he could even try to give her the kind of life she deserved, was to find himself. He was doing this for himself... And Her.

*****

She stood behind the trees and prayed. Mariana only had to say one thing - one thing to change it all.

*****

She pulled out a ragged piece of parchment from her pocket and held it in her hand, "I always have it with me."

He began to feel uncomfortable as she held the letter he had written in her hand. He expected her to scream and fight and pull and yank. He had expected her to ask him to stay - no, force him to stay, but she didn't. So he knew it was now or never.

The words replayed themselves over and over again in her head, Rath, I'm having our baby.. But every time she tried to tell him, something else would come out, something stupid. That something was never what she needed to say. So why coudln't she say it? If she didn't he would leave her. She wasn't ready. She wasn't ready to be a mother or a lover or a wife. She wasn't ready because she didn't know who she was anymore. She felt a shadow going past her and looked up.

He began to walk past her, his long strides taking him farther and farther away from her as time moved on.

*****
She rose from her hiding spot, and panic began to overtake her. This wasn't how it was suppose to work! Rath was suppose to stop, Mariana was suppose to tell him about the baby and... and... They were all suppose to live happily every after - leaving the Prophecy to hell.

*****

Her chest was tight and it was beginning to hurt to breathe.

"Rath! Wait!" She ran after him, even when he didn't stop. Her legs pumped hard against the grass and earth as she finally caught up to him. She spun him around and looked up into his eyes. The confusion and pain that met her, sent her reeling. She couldn't say it. She just couldn't tell him.

"Be careful. Come back to me." Her hands and fingers flew across his face, memorizing every contour, every curve, every imperfection. She couldn't forget him, she would never forget him ever again. His hands came up and stilled her own.

"I aways am. Wait for me." He closed her palm around the letter she clenched and he kissed her fingers gently, "I meant every word of it you know. Every single word. It's all for you, Mariana. It's always for you."

And then he was gone and his warmth had disappeared and Mariana was no longer standing under the wings of her angel. He began to walk over the crest of a hill, becoming smaller and smaller. Her panic began to rise again, to a whole new level. She had to say this at least, if not what he gave her, than at least she could tell him one more time.

"I love you Rath!"

And suddenly everything began to become clear to her, as if a fog had begun to rise.

*****
Livanka smiled. Mariana was beginning to accept her life. And this was a start.

*****
She saw him turn and stare back at her before disappearing into the night. But a familiar voice in her ear made her eyes water, "I think that we both know that he loves you too." She turned, expecting to see him standing there behind her, prepared to hold her tight and tell her that his brother would be back... But she was alone, expect for a soft warm wind, hugging her tightly.

With shaking hands, she began to unfold the letter. The words touched her to the core and in that very instant, she knew. She knew she wasn't alone. This letter was a final piece of her puzzle and maybe it would help her uncover who she was and maybe, just maybe if she held on long enough, she could keep on living, the way she was before.

"I'll wait forever." her voice carried among the ruins of the church and through the valleys below. It became lost with the wind, where she could have sworn her best friend looked over her.

Mariana carefully folded the tattered paper and placed it back into her pocket, resting her hand over it to make sure it was still there, still real. As she turned away from the cliff edge, a spark of hope gistened within her aura, and Livanka smiled. Maybe not today, but maybe tomorrow, Mariana could finally find her way home, through all the cries in the night.

****

The blonde threw the covers off, sweat dripping down her face, her heart was pounding within her chest and the screams of pain, the laughter of hatred rang in her ears through the night. Ava leaned over and swong her legs over the edge of her bed, her eyes darted every way. Her insides were churning and flashes blinded her. Gasping for air, her voice tight, she gripped the covers in her hands,

"Oh God. It's coming... It's coming..."

****


Epilogue

Final Interlude - The Warrior



If you're reading this Mariana, that means something's happened, and I'm not sure when I'll come back, but I promise you I will. For everything in this world, the only light I've ever seen has been you and you alone.

For all my life, I've searched for something better than being this warrior in Zan's army. Something better than death and blood. A place where my sword can rest and not be lifted high in defense. Where my barriers can fall and not give way. I've looked for a home and a place to belong. I felt alone in a world filled with love and peace and all I ever felt was anger and hatred, pain and loneliness.

And at first, I never found anything, I was met with dead end after dead end, disapointment after disapointment. I thought maybe this future I've found myself in isn't the one I should have, the one I'm destined to have. Maybe leaving would bring me face to face with happiness.

And then I met someone. The light at the end of the tunnel, the one who made me complete. When I watch her I feel content and I feel peace and for the first time in my life, maybe I'm not so alone. Because her smile lights up the world and her eyes sparkle brighter than the sun. Her voice echoes through my heart and rests it still. Her soul soothes my own and she showed me love. She made me come alive in a world of darkness and she showed me my way home.

And so, I tell you this; the moment I saw you, was the moment I loved you, the moment I knew you were my home.

So I will come back to you, Mariana. From wherever I may be. No matter how far I am, no matter how long I must fight. Because I will find my way back home. And all I can ask is, will you wait for me?

~ Rath

 

 



The End