Not every romance is a fantasy, but ours are!

I sat astride my new horse. A “gift” from Aiden and the Kingdom. At eighteen hands high, with an eerie grey coat, and pale blue eyes, Phantom was the type of beast that lived up to his name. Though he was large he moved swiftly and silently through the surrounding countryside. Hue had done his best to keep us abreast of the situation but I could feel his longing to be out on the hunt with us.

Aiden and Tallyn headed towards the nearest town with a small contingent of men while Vallen and I headed back to where I had fallen through the portal that brought me here. The sun was sinking in the sky and I knew our best hope was to get there before nightfall so we could lay in wait for the the Ghost we hoped would appear. As we drew closer a sharp pain cramped my stomach, knocking the wind out of me. Sucking in air and leaning over the neck of Phantom I urged the beast on at a breakneck speed. As twilight came we crested the hill that looked down into the woods.

Vallen stopped beside me, carefully looking over me. “Lady Alizeyah, are you unwell?”

“I’m fine,” I answered sucking in another deep breath and pushing through the pain. In a less-than-graceful motion I swung off my horse and landed firmly on the ground. I watched as the men with us followed my lead. As they stared at me expectantly I realized for the first time that they were under my orders. I pushed down the momentary panic, then relaxed slightly when a familiar hand rested on my shoulder. I felt Ian’s presence even before his physical touch.

I pointed to Vallen and the two Elves closest to him. “Vallen and you two take a wide berth through the woods and flank the area wherethe King first found me.” I turned to the next three. “Stay to the trees and quietly move in upstream.” With nods from the six I watched as they fanned out with their given orders.

“What would you have me do, Lady Commander?” Ian asked with a smart-ass grin.

Quirking a brow at him I reached up and mocked scratching behind his ear. “Be a good wolfy and go find me some Dwarves,” I directed in my best condescending tone.

“And what of you?” he asked.

“I’m going to play bait,” I explained as Ian shifted. He growled low at me, venting his disapproval. “Don’t look at me like that. I’m in charge, right?” The wolf nodded then headed off into the woods. I turned one last time to make sure Phantom was secured then headed into the forest.

Darkness had set in and the trees seemed to take on a life of their own. The looked like monsters bursting up from the ground reaching for me as I wandered through. I heard a ghostly giggle drift through the trees and another sharp pain in my stomach brought me to my knee. Gasping for air I pushed back up to my feet. “I know you’re here. Come out, come out, wherever you are.” Behind me I heard the crack of breaking branches. I whirled on my heel to see a single Dwarf with a loaded crossbow aimed at me.

“Why can’t I jump into your body?” A disembodied female voice came from his lips as his eyes looked through me.

“Jump into my body?” I asked as I slowly started to back up.

“Yes. Over the years I have waited for a Pixie who was powerful enough to give me refuge and free me from my curse. I knew things were looking up when you arrived.”

I stared at the Dwarf in front of me. “Dani wouldn’t free you,” I argued.

The Dwarf bit out a bitter laugh. “Not while she was awake. While she slumbered I used her blood to call her to me. When I couldn’t hop to your body, the one place I couldn’t be detected, I figured I could entrap those who committed crimes against me. I realized too late that her love for you would not allow the curse to harm you.”

“So you left Dani there to take the fall?” Rage boiled under my skin.

The Dwarf released the first bolt from the crossbow. I ducked and rolled out of the way. I stayed crouched, ready to move quickly again. “I thought this Kringle would know where the rift in the realm was but I was wrong. It would seem I made a poor choice.” The Dwarf reloaded the crossbow.

“What happened to the others?” I asked and started to raise my voice in hopes someone would hear. Another bolt whizzed past me as I dove to safety.

“Asleep like the others.” The Dwarf motioned to the surrounding woods. “MAKE AS MUCH NOISE AS YOU LIKE,” she yelled. “You’ll find all your friends are asleep and there is nobody left to help you.”

Hue… if you can hear me I could really use some info on how to stop a mad Ghost Pixie? I pleaded.

Of course I can hear you. What’s wrong? 

Help, now please?! I jumped in shock as a bolt was deflected by my armor.

This time the Pixie let out an angry battle cry and the Dwarf barreled towards me, tossing aside the crossbow and pulling free a large, wicked-looking axe. Without hesitation I called out to the elements and drew my sword, swinging it up to meet the deadly weapon. Hue’s voice cut back in. You need to call on the elements and trap the Ghost in a circle. From there we can withdraw her from whatever unfortunate host she has taken using some sort of grounding stone.

Our weapons connected again and again. Where do I get the stone, Hue?

I’m on my way now. Just stay alive and get the circle up. His words rang in my ears like he was standing next to me.

Not entirely sure what to do, I sent up a silent prayer and began kiting the the Dwarf around in a circle. As I hit each directional axis, I called forth the Element that resided there and pleaded for their help. With no offerings and no ash or salt to bind the circle I wasn’t sure how stable it would be. I swore loudly when I underestimated a swing and the axe cut through my armor and bit into my leg. I looked down to see the slow flow of blood, thankful it wasn’t gushing or spurting. The injury did slow me down though.

As I rounded to the West my foot caught a stump and I went down hard, swinging my sword up to deflect a blow. As I hit the ground I lost hold of my sword. I reached frantically for it, but a Dwarven boot crunched down on my outstretched arm. I felt the bones cracking under the pressure as the Dwarf raised his axe high, preparing to bring it down on me. “Good night, sweet Princess,” said the vile Pixie voice. I pulled on the Fire within me to pull forth my shield, but as the axe fell there was a golden flash and suddenly Hue was above me in his Dragon form. I heard myself scream as the axe connected with his back. There was a stomach-wrenching sound of cracking bones and a wing fell to the ground beside me.

He phased into his Human form, his eyes wide with pain. I ripped my hand through the air, hurling the Pixie-possessed Dwarf back into the circle. I watched as my hands shifted to claws. “Elements of the land, I COMMAND you to hold this circle!” To my surprise the circle sizzled to life. Carefully I turned Hue over in my arms, noticing I was covered in his blood. His skin was already a pasty white and his breathing was labored. “Hue, Hue stay with me.”

He reached for my hand and pushed a small jade stone into it. “Seal her away forever.”

“I will,” I promised. “Hue stay with me. Don’t close your eyes.” I pleaded with him not to leave me. I felt my heart pound against my ribs.

“I love you, mo chroí. Promise to go on without me.” He reached up, touching my cheek.

“No, you can’t talk like that. You’re my Soul Mate, what about forever?” Tears blurred my vision and sobs shook me so hard they were painful.

I clutched him tightly, willing him to live. “Please Fates, God, or whoever is listening, don’t take him from me.” In that moment I felt my heart turn icy cold. I felt arms wrap around me from behind but at my core I felt numb.

 

So you got a Monday/Tuesday post this week because big things are happening. The down side is no post today or Thursday… unless you count this one. Good luck!

Isabelle

I pursed my lips together as I watched Young and Hue pour over the books. I was trying to focus on the finding the missing Dwarves but I kept coming back to questions about Kat’s armor resembling Vallen’s so much. I picked up my book and moved it beside Hue, plopping down on the stool beside him. “Psssss, Hue…” I stared at him expectantly. He didn’t look up. “Pssssss, Hue!” I tried again with a bit more force.

He whirled on his heel, facing me almost nose to nose. “Yes?” he said with a bit more snap than I expected from him.

“Have you ever noticed that Kat’s and Vallen’s armor is nearly identical?”

He blinked at me. “They are NOTHING alike,” he informed me, turning his attention back to his book.

“They look identical except for the different colors,” I offered.

He sighed and sat back on the stool. Running a hand through his hair he turned and considered me for a moment, then glanced over at Young who was deep in research. “Kat and Vallen both have Dragon Scale or Dragon Soul armor. It means it manifests from from their Draconic blood.”

“Can all Dragons do that?” I asked.

He shook his head. “Kat, Vallen and Young all have ties back to the Original Dragon in their blood. Urthur’s Dragon, to be exact.” He paused as if something had hit him, and then began counting off names on his fingers. His jaw tightened before he shook his head. “It’s not important now. We need to find the Dwarves, then we can discuss lore.”

Sighing heavily I relented and agreed. “Okay, but when this is all over we need to chat.”

He smiled and nodded before returning to his work. I had just picked my book back up and was turning to join Young at the table when Hue jumped up again. “Dani, I think I found something.” I set my book back down and rushed to his side. There in old Fae writing was the clue we had been looking for.

Centuries ago Leonide had imprisoned a Pixie within the castle dungeon. She had chosen to practice dark magic that brought curses down on the people of the land. She was given a chance to repent her actions but she refused. When she was imprisoned she cursed the jailer to peel the skin from his body so that she could use it like a familiar to wander the castle halls. The skin creature attacked the Queen. While the attack didn’t prove fatal, it was all the motivation needed to have the Pixie executed. With her dying breath she swore she would return when the time was right to enact her revenge.

When I finished reading the story I looked up at Hue. “Do Pixies have Ghosts?”

He nodded. “Most Ghosts are the spirits of Otherworlders unable to move on.”

“Great, so why did she choose now to wake up?” I wasn’t really sure I wanted an answer.

Hue winced. “It could have been having another Pixie around, it could have been the power of Kat’s aura… who knows? Either way she could be our culprit.” A Ghost was our best lead, and I hated it.

 

I stuck my head out of the room to look around. Oliver tugged on my arm, drawing me back in and pushing the door closed. “The best thing you can do right now is stay out of sight. The castle is blaming you and I really don’t think I should be forced to solve this issue by removing heads in order to keep you safe.”

“You make is sound like you would have to kill them all,” I told him.

Wrapping both arms around me he pulled me close, kissing my forehead before resting his chin atop the crown of my head. “Witnesses,” he said plainly. “They would all have to die to avoid witnesses.” He paused for a moment. “I guess I could let Kat live. She would probably even help.” I couldn’t help but chuckle.

“Glad to know that after all the time I invested in finding her you would let her live.”

With a firm grip and gentle handling Oliver turned me in his grasp. He looked down at me with his dark eyes and his jaw set with a determined edge. “I would move mountains and slay all the monsters of the underworld for you Danielle. I love you more than I have anyone or thing I have found in my lifetime.”

My heart skipped a beat and I felt my cheeks glow at the declaration he had just made. I opened my mouth to say something, but before I could get the words out he pressed his lips to my own. I melted against him, wanting nothing more than to join with him once more. With increasing need he lifted me from the floor so I could wrap my legs about his waist as he returned me to the bed we had occupied an hour earlier.

We spent the day in bed unaware of the world outside. I felt one pang of guilt for a moment, just before a certain Vampire caught me off guard again and whisked me back to a world of not caring. Not long after dawn there was a rap on the door. The chamber was in complete darkness for Oliver, who was sleeping. I pulled on the first garment I could find and struggled to the door, cursing each time my shin connected with a different piece of furniture. I cracked the door open and looked out.

Vallen stood quietly. His eyes wandered over me and for a brief second a look of pain filled his eyes. He pressed his lids shut and reopened them, regaining his normal composure. “Kat has returned and she needs to speak with you as soon as possible.” I started to turn back to find my clothes, but as I did Vallen cleared his throat, pulling off his coat and holding it up so that I could step into it. “She said as soon as possible. I’m not sure we have time for you to hunt down your clothes right now.”

I slid my arms into his coat, pulling it around me and belting it. On him it hung just below the knee but on me it hovered only an inch above the floor.  I looked down, taking in a deep breath. It smelled of masculinity, cloves, and campfire. Taking me by the elbow he rushed me through a series of corridors to a room that sat low in the belly of the castle. For a moment I worried he was taking me to the dungeon, but I relaxed as soon as I saw Kat in what appeared to be a war room.

The door behind us latched with a menacing click that made my stomach turn. She was in deep discussion, pointing to locations on a map. She leaned forward over the table, her arms flexing under the weight of her and her armor. Tallyn and Aiden stood on either side of her also pointing out locations. When she looked up her eyes were intense and almost seemed to glow. “Dani, do you remembered where you entered this realm?”

Her words were to the point. No hello or pleasantries. Each day she sounded more like an Elf. I came to stand beside her and looked at the large map spread across the table. I glanced at the different landmarks, but quickly pointed out a forest just to the west of the castle maybe two days’ ride. Kat took a deep breath. “That’s roughly where I came in as well. The tear in the realm must be there.”

Tallyn clapped and rushed for the door. “I’ll make ready the horses.”

Aiden reached for his belt securing it at his waist but it was Kat who turned to me and finally spoke. “Dani, I know you want to see more action, but can you stay here and work on researching with Justin, Hue, and Young on how to reverse the Pixie spell, should the Pixie be unwilling to help?”

I nodded but stopped for a moment. “Wait, why isn’t Hue going with you?”

“He reads Old Fae and Elven script. He’s more use in the books then on the field at the moment.” She gave my arm an affectionate squeeze and stepped past me. I turned to watch her leave. It was in that moment I saw her and Vallen standing side by side. Their Armor was almost identical. The only difference was the color. I tucked away the piece of knowledge to discuss  or research later and made my way towards the library on the second floor of the castle.

When I arrived the men were all pouring over books. Only Young looked up. He waved me over and pointed to a pile of books he had already pulled. “Those specifically have to go with Pixie lore and magic. Think you can start weeding through?” I gave him a quick nod and set to work.

Tallyn and I sat quietly glaring at each other as Justin, Hue, Vallen, Ian, and Aiden argued about how to resolve this mess. It was a death match of stares and I didn’t dare blink. For a recently-found family member, he was not taking it lightly that I tried to set him on fire for threatening Dani. Dani, for all her insistance that she wasn’t responsible was certainly making herself scarce, but I blamed it more on a blonde, curly-haired Vampire than fear.

“You’ll help with the search, right Alizeyah?” I blinked a few times, realizing I had been addressed. I looked up to meet Aiden’s eyes.

“Yes, of course. What am I searching for?” His eyes flashed a mild annoyance but returned to their normal kindness quickly.

“The Pixie responsible,” he offered. “You seem to support the theory that your friend didn’t do this, so I thought you would want to lead the charge. Lord Ian has offered to assist you while the others engage in research and finding the missing Dwarves that came with Lady Dani.”

I blinked, processing the information. “The Dwarves are missing?”

Justin nodded. “One of my cousins and a brother-in-law is missing. My goose is cooked if I go home without them.”

I climbed to my feet, making my way around the table to catch up with Ian, who was already headed for the door. Tallyn spoke up. “I’ll assist Lord Ian and Lady Alizeyah.” I felt my shoulders droop at his words. He followed after me and Ian. I didn’t waste any more time discussing why I really didn’t want him to come along. Instead I focused on the mission at hand. Find the Pixies responsible.

Hours passed slowly before we found ourselves saddled up and riding away from the castle. Ian had picked up a scent and Tallyn, who was an excellent tracker, thought he knew where we were going. As darkness approached I began to question if either of them really understood what we were trying to do. “We should make camp,” Ian announced.

Tallyn looked at the sky and surroundings before agreeing. “This place will work as well as others I suppose. Alizeyah, you may take a rest by the tree while we prepare camp.”  I tried not to laugh at his comment but it didn’t stop Ian from giving a bitter chuckle. I slid from my horse and was happy for Ian’s steadying grip as I connected with the ground. Tallyn eyed us both carefully. “I didn’t realize being concerned about your health was a joke.”

I opened my mouth to tell him to stuff it but Ian’s tightening grip warned against it. “I think it’s comical because Lady Alizeyah isn’t really much of a watcher or rester. She is more of a chaos-on-two-feet sort of woman.” I shot Ian a warning glare, catching the twinkle in his eye.

Tallyn pulled his saddlebags free and began unpacking their contents. “Does Lord Hue know you are in love with his Princess?”

I sighed and rolled my eyes as Ian growled under his breath. “He is well aware. Before Hue, Ian and I were lovers. Though we may not be in love any longer, there is still a love there that would make either of us travel to the ends of any realm to help the other.”

“So you collect misfits like this Were and the Pixie you are trying to protect. You would even attack your own bloodline to protect her?” He took a bite of an apple and turned to start clearing space for a fire.

“Tallyn, I’m sure you are a good man, but right now you are being an ass.” He stiffened at my words. “Ever hear the expression blood is thicker than water?” He turned to look at me over his shoulder. ” ‘The blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb.’ I’ve known Dani for years and she is like a sister to me. I met you hours ago.” He seemed unmoved. “If I attacked one of your guards right this moment, what would you do?” His features softened and he nodded before turning around to return to his self-proclaimed duty.

Ian cleared his throat. “I’m going to dig up dinner. Kat, think you can handle firewood and getting the fire going?”

“Yeah, I think I can handle a few sparks,” I answered with a grin.

 

We sat around the fire that night munching on some rabbits and discussing our plans to find the Pixie. “If a Pixie didn’t come in with you or Dani, then he or she must already live in this realm. I figure she took the Dwarves to find her way out of the Realm.”

“If she has left the realm then it may be hard to track her,” Tallyn offered.

“Dwarves are trained hunters and trackers – I bet they would leave us a trail,” I said before taking another bite of crispy critter.

“Then we should be tracking the Dwarves and not the Pixie,” Ian supplied.

“We need to get back to the castle as soon as possible,” I told them.

“First dawn’s light,” Tallyn offered. He paused and considered me. “May I ask you a question?”

“You just did,” I pointed out but then nodded so he could continue.

“What is your plan? Typically your job would be to return to the castle and take on a leadership role here, but don’t you already hold one in Dragon society?” I hadn’t even considered what this new discovery meant.

“I’m Hue’s mate. My role is to be at his side,” I pointed out.

Ian shook his head. “Kat, has it not occurred to you yet that maybe his is your mate and not the other way around? His title and privilege come from your mother naming him heir. You are her true heir, and you are a Princess here.” He took a long sip of water. “Hue would follow you wherever you led him. I know that the world keeps getting crazier for you, but maybe you are the key and not the other way around.” Tallyn’s words almost seemed supportive. “You don’t have to make any decisions this second, but you need to be aware of who you are.”

“You’re a prince, what is your opinion?”

He smiled at me coyly. “Like you, I am the second born from a second wife. I understand how it feels to never totally feel like you are worthy. Just do what’s in your heart.”

I looked at him again, re-evaluating him and realizing I had far more in common with this Elf then any other I had met so far.

There was a cracking noise as I hit the table with a resounding thud that shook the stone walls. “Why did you do it?” Tallyn demanded as the air rushed out of my body. I struggled to sit up, gasping for a breath in hopes of answering his question. As I righted myself it was just in time to come face to face with the point of Tallyn’s sword. I opened my mouth but I was still struggling to breathe. Just when I thought I might meet an untimely end, a rather large fireball collided with the Elf, knocking him to the ground.

“That’s enough! She didn’t do it.” Kat stood holding her own sword once again with Hue doing his best to hold her back.

Climbing to his feet, Tallyn rushed to face Kat’s fury. The two stood inches apart locked in a staredown that could peel paint and send demons cowering. “You don’t have any jurisdiction here,” he snapped.

Aiden cleared his throat and slid between the two, facing Tallyn himself. The two Elves stood all but nose to nose and towering over all but Hue. Tallyn, who was shaking with anger, stepped a little closer. “Step aside, cousin. The Pixie will answer for her crimes against the Elves and Lady Alizeyah will learn her place.”

Aiden looked unimpressed and quirked a brow. “If what you are saying is true she is Princess Alizeyah and this is more her domain than yours. As I am KING, I will handle this situation as well as remind you of YOUR place.”

Tallyn’s jaw clenched but he took a deep breath and stepped backwards.”Yes, your majesty,” he said with a hint of sarcasm.

Aiden smirked and stepped aside, leaving Kat to continue her stare down with Tallyn. “Let’s figure out how to wake everyone up – then we can worry about who and why.” Kat nodded and turned back to face Hue. Tallyn excused himself from the group to go check on the others who had come to help with the rescue.

Aiden turned to face me, his face more stern than before. “Lady Dani, please know it is Alizeyah’s faith in you that keeps you from getting better acquainted with my dungeon while we sort this out. Let’s hope you are forthcoming with ALL the answers we ask of you.”

I blinked a few times, not missing the threat laced into his words. “Your Majesty, I can assure you that at no point did I hatch a plot to put you or your subjects to sleep.”

“We shall see,” he answered. I watched him leave before turning to Kat and Hue.

Kat had attached herself to Hue and currently was hugging him in a death grip he didn’t seem to mind. His arms wrapped protectively around her as if she may float away if he didn’t. “Dani, is there any way you could have done this accidentally? I mean, as part of your awakening?”

I considered the question carefully. “I don’t think so. I warded everything into and out of the room. If I had Pixie-bombed anything, it would have been the two of us.” Kat was quiet, a change for her.  I smiled gingerly. “You know that whole thing about me being more than a book worm?” She nodded at me. “Yeah, forget that. I think I like being a book worm. Heroine sort of hurts.”

She laughed. “You’ll get used to it.”

Hue sighed. “Think, Dani. Anything?”

I was at a loss and was about to tell him as much when tall, blonde, and vampire walked in… or should I say stalked in. He moved with the grace of a predator set to kill. Before I could utter anything else he positioned himself at my side and laced his fingers through my own. “She said she didn’t do it. I suggest you start working on other theories.” Hue gave a nod and nobody stopped us as Oliver led me out of the room. We ducked down the hall and with a light tug we disappeared into another room.

No sooner had the door clicked shut and the lock in place when I shoved  Oliver against the door, wrapped my arms around his neck and pressed my lips to his. He was startled for only a second before returning the kiss, pulling me close and lifting my toes off the ground. “I missed you, you grumpy old bat,” I teased in a whisper between kisses.

I felt the corners of his mouth turn up where his lips were pressed to mine. I squealed as his kisses moved to my ear and down my throat where he playfully dragged his fangs along my tender flesh. “Oh, how I have missed you,” he told the curve of my neck, and with startling speed he pulled his head back and crushed me against his chest. “If you love me at all, never scare me like this again,” he pleaded with me.

“She was in trouble and neither you nor anyone else would listen to me. She’s not just my friend, Oliver, she’s like my sister.” He stroked my hair and shushed me.

“We have bigger problems. Like how did you put the entire castle to sleep and how do you undo it?” He didn’t resist as I struggled to move far enough back to stare at him.

“Why are you so convinced I did it?” I argued.

“Pixie dust and the castle is sealed off.”

I hated that he was right. “Wait, you said you believed me in the other room. Why the sudden change in heart?”

“I said that you said you didn’t do it,” he corrected. “For what it’s worth I don’t think you did it intentionally.”

This time I pulled out of his embrace. “No, this is like at the nest all over again. I’m telling you, I didn’t do it.”

He thought for a moment then nodded. “Ok, then who did and how do we find them so we can clear your name?”

“Contrary to what you may have heard, I don’t really know everything.”

The Rescue Party

Dani finished clearing the last bits of Pixie Dust from the kitchen. “Ok, I think it should be safe for you.”

I struggled up to my feet from where I had been sitting on the floor. My foot was asleep after hours in a fixed position. Hobbling, I joined her in the castle’s large kitchen. “So I can munch on things?” I asked, picking up an apple. As I lifted it to my lips she batted it to the ground.

“Are you crazy? We are already living out Sleeping Beauty – we don’t need a Snow White moment as well.” I rolled my eyes and bent over to grab the apple. I took a large, satisfying bite out of it as I stood back up. I was half tempted to feign a death scene as I looked up to glare at Dani, but instead almost choked for real when I saw a tall Elf with a bow drawn and pointed at her from behind. I dove for Dani, knocking her to the ground instead. The feeling of an arrow whizzing by seemed surreal. “What was that for?” she asked as she shoved up to a sitting position.

I pointed in the direction of the Elf but when I looked up, he was gone. “There was an Elf there just a moment ago who had every intention of shooting you.” I glanced around and pulled the arrow free from the table leg beside us. Dani took it from my hand and paled a bit looking at it.

“Why the hell would they go after me?” she asked.

“Well you did sort of show up and the next morning the castle was wrapped in thorns and covered in Pixie Dust.” My answer was rewarded with an unhappy glare.

“I am not the villain in this story,” she protested. I almost expected her to stamp her foot. I knew the last month or two had been stressful on everyone.

“I know, but I can’t guarantee the guards know that.” She tugged at her dress, then pressed herself against a wall so she could peek around the doorway. I stepped past her, ignoring her tugs on my arm, and walked back out into the hall.

“Where are you going?” she demanded.

“Well, one of two things has happened. People are waking up and it’s better I slow them down before they get to you with accusations, or our friend who’s running around knows something. Either way the answer isn’t in the kitchen.” I shrugged, gathered my dress up, and made my way across the hall.

Guess what?

Hue! I squeaked loudly with delight. What?

We’re here, he explained.

Here like the castle or here like the realm?

The realm… what’s wrong? His ability to tap into my emotions never failed when I wished they would.

There is a homicidal Elf running around the castle with a bow trying to kill Dani.

I could just picture him sighing heavily and rolling his eyes. Is it the King? Are you two safe?

Safe for the time being. Nope, the King and the rest of the staff are all asleep. Someone bombed the place with Pixie Dust and sealed the castle in thorns. The Elf is the first awake person we have come across. I took a deep breath and dashed for the stairs. I would be in the open until I made it to the landing on the second floor.

Get someplace safe and bar the door until we arrive. If there is one, there could be more.

Yes dear, I told him, rolling my eyes.

Kat? There was a pause. Remember I love you. We’re so close – stay alive until we get there.

I smiled as I sunk down behind the walkway wall, taking cover. Closing my eyes I focused my energy on the world around me. Quickly I began to whisper, “Water wash away my fear, Earth give me your own strength to vanquish my foes, Wind be at my back so that I may move swiftly, Fire be my shield and sword.” The air around me shimmered softly but I could feel the presence of the elements as they came to me. With a deep breath and all my focus I felt the sting of fire race over my skin. I watched as my gown burned away, leaving my thin white armor forged with my scales and fire. I stood up and with a fire breath pulled free my sword from its resting place in my heart. Silver and gold runes twinkled across the blade and my armor.

There was the sound of rustling not far ahead of me. I ventured a quick look to see Dani land gracefully on the second story walkway. “Kat?” she called in a whisper.

I made my way over to her. “Why aren’t you in a safe place?”

She looked like she was ready to slap me. “You know what? I’ve had it up to here,” she motioned with her hand at her eye level. “I am not some weakling that needs everyone to protect her. May I remind you, I FOUND YOU!” She let out a little breath of frustration. “I figured it out. I went to Justin and managed to gather a group of Dwarven hunters blessed with Kringle Magic. I went to Queen Mab and was blessed with Pixie… ness. I’m made of stronger stuff than that. I may be a book worm but I’m not JUST a book worm.”

I leaned forward and gave her a hug. “You’re right. I’m sorry.”

She sighed and patted my back. “Now, let’s find us an Elf and get some answers. I can see you are taking this seriously.” She looked down at my armor. “You haven’t pulled out the Fire Scale in a long time. Not since the battle with Ian.”

I all but shuddered at the memory. “I have a funny feeling we are going to find our guest in Aiden’s chamber.” Dani’s eyes flared with alarm. We wasted no time as we made our way there. When we arrived the door was sealed shut. Dani quickly started working on the wards and within moments there was a click and the door popped open. “You are getting dangerously good at that,” I told her. She smiled as I pushed open the door.

A tall Elf stood with his back to the large stained glass window, facing the foot of Aiden’s bed. He had a dagger in his hand that dripped blood. My eyes filled with tears as I saw the splatter of blood across Aiden’s face where he lay lifelessly.”What have you done?” I bellowed, feeling the fire within me boiling with anger.

The Elf’s head snapped up and his eyes narrowed on Dani. “Why don’t you ask Dani why she did this?”

Dani stepped around me, focusing on the Elf standing there. “Tallyn?”

He nodded. “Why would you attack a member of the royal family? I helped you find the missing princess.” He motioned in my direction.

Dani put her hands up defensively. “I didn’t do this. We woke up to discover this mess.”

“Then why is everything coated in Pixie Dust and why are you two the only ones awake?” He raised the dagger to point it in her direction.

I stepped in front of her and raised my sword. “She warded our room against EVERYTHING she could think of. Now lower your weapon, Elf.”

“Bold words for a child against the Captain of the Royal Guard and Prince of Vesaria.” He breathed out slowly. “I promised Hue that I would find you, but I never promised I would let you curse your brother, my cousin. I may not like him, but he is King.” I blinked at him and looked at Aiden. His chest still rose and fell with breath. I sighed in relief.

“Oh thank goodness. I thought you had killed him.” I lowered my sword. Tallyn stepped back in surprise.

“Why would I have killed him?” He looked deeply confused.

“Bloody dagger, blood on Aiden.” He still looked confused.

“You’re Lady Alizeyah, are you not?” He asked. “Soul Mate to Prince of the Dragon’s Hudraer? Daughter of Lady Jura and King Leonide?”

I paused and processed what he said. “I am Lady Alizeyah, the Mate of Dragon Elder Hudraer, Daughter of Lady Jura but my father was a King’s Guard only. He died battling a monster called the Itheaga.”

Tallyn lowered his dagger, sliding it back into his belt. “I know what the Itheaga is all too well, Lady Alizeyah. My wife and mate was the one to finally slay the beast.” He looked at Aiden’s sleeping form on the bed. “You and he share a father just like my brother and I.”

I looked at Aiden and almost laughed. “Prince Tallyn, I think there is a misunderstanding. Aiden found me wandering about his lands and was kind enough to bring me here and offer me refuge.”

Dani stepped out from behind me. “Where are the others?”

“That’s a good question. Where is Hue?” I asked.

“And Oliver?” Dani added.

“I scouted ahead. They should arrive shortly. I had to borrow one of Justin’s tricks and come down the hearth because of the vines.” My heart fluttered at the thought that Hue was almost here.

I looked back at Aiden. “How do we fix this?”

Tallyn’s gaze joined mine, looking at his sleeping cousin. “Blood. Mate, sibling, parent, or child. I had hoped mine would work since we are cousins.” He looked at me carefully. “Perhaps your blood will do?” He reached for my hand but I snatched it away.

Dani watched the scene carefully. “Tallyn, is this why you were so quick to help find Alizeyah?” She stared him down like he was one of her misbehaving kindergartners.

I looked back and forth between the two. Their eyes were locked in a battle of wills. Finally the Elf sighed and sank down on a bench in front of the window. He reached out and took my wrist, urging me to sit beside him. “Many years ago my father had two brothers. One died very young and the other was the second born, like I am. He was Captain of the Guard as I am now. Our Grandfather was not a peaceful man and claimed many kingdoms through his power. My father, King Naelym, molded himself to be like my Grandfather and was also power-hungry. When he took the throne he was forced to take a bride. She tempered him and urged him to peace over the years, but not before my uncle Leonide left the Kingdom, taking a number of our subjects with him. He came here, to a kingdom that had fallen, and built a new land. It was considered an act of treason and my father called for his death. To raise an army Leonide married a local Elf and had Aiden. For a long time he and my father did battle, until my father grew weary of the feud between them and called for peace.”

“Ok, so there is more, right?” I asked.

Tallyn gave me a nod. “Even though my father had called Peace many of the people felt that treason still needed to addressed. They said my father and Leonide were both weak. A council used Dark Magic to summon a beast to destroy them both. When Leonide found out, he banded together with my father and together their armies attacked the Itheaga. When my wife Lillian fought it, it was fueled only by one hateful soul. When it attacked the Elven kings it was fueled by many many more. King Leonide fell in battle.” He looked at Dani then back to me. “An official peace treaty was never signed and Aiden locked the portals between our realms. Families have been torn apart with no way of reaching each other for over thirty-some years. Before Leonide was killed, he remarried to a second wife. He had rescued a Dragon highborn and High Priestess from the clutches of a monster of a Mage. They had a child that has been missing from either kingdom since. We knew of Lady Jura, but we were unable to locate her daughter. The rumor surfaced that she had been abandoned as a Changeling to protect her from the Mage’s wrath.”

I blinked. “So you think I AM that child?”

“I don’t think, I know,” he said flatly.

Dani reached out and touched my shoulder lightly. “Kat, take it in slowly,” she urged.

I nodded and climbed to my feet. “Lied to, again.” I reached down and took the dagger from Tallyn’s belt. I made a small cut on the palm of my head and without a word I walked over to Aiden. Kneeling on the bed beside him I held my hand over his open mouth and two small drops splattered on his lips. I held my breath. If he awoke it was all true. If he didn’t they had the wrong person. I held my breath but he didn’t stir. Sighing, I turned to slide off the bed, when someone tugged on my wrist. I sat refusing to look back.

“My Lady?” Aiden’s voice said groggily. “You have awakened me.”

Slowly I turned and looked at him. I hoped horror wasn’t evident on my face. “Aiden, you’re awake.”

“Who are you?” he asked, processing the world around him. “I was asleep. No matter how I tried, I couldn’t awaken from my slumber.” He paused. “Are you my Soul Mate?”

“No, she’s mine!” said a husky voice from the doorway. Panting heavily with a sword in hand, Hue stepped into the chamber. “Now, release her. I’ve been searching far too long to lose her to an Elven King.”

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