Spirit Guardians: Search for the Essences

By: Belle the Shadow-cat

Chapter 9: Sufficient for a Day Pt. 1

"Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof."

-Matthew 6:34

A low, steady beat of flapping wings was all that could be heard across the open plain as a large, bird creature – if, indeed, it could be called a bird - soared downward slightly at the command of its master. The creature looked rather prehistoric, perhaps because of the dragonish head that highly resembled that of a tyrannosaurus, along with its tyrannosaurus feet, though the two feet bore long, scythe-like talons like that of a bird.

The animal was known as a Galthant, a creature that was said to have existed even in the ancient times. Though, now, very few existed. The remaining had fled to the rocky crags of mountains, very wild and untamed, holding firm to their ancient past.

The Galthant screeched, diving downward suddenly in a race of wind, flapping its large wings just before it came in contact with the ground, now skimming the flat plains below. Another pump of the Galthant's wings moved its body gracefully upward – a feat which seemed unfathomable with the Galthant's large, bulky structure. Large, foreboding mountains loomed in the distance, easily seen across the plain. Everything along this wide, flat piece of land could easily be spotted. It was not a place for a wandering traveler to hide, for no secrets were kept here. So it came to no surprise that the Galthant had easily noted the passage of nine travelers: four human, and five animal the day before. Although it was noted that one the creatures could have been easily mistaken for a human, but the Galthant's eyes would not be easily fooled.

"Down, Aeros, use the hill," said a shaggy black-haired boy perched on the Galthant's back that went by the name of Malachite.

The Galthant screeched and descended, his claws scraping along the ground as he landed on a small, rolling hill, flapping his large wings for balance. Aeros soon regained his composure, looking across the sky to the rising sun. His eyes soon wandered over to the group of travelers that his master and he had been following for no apparent reason, or so it seemed to the Galthant. They seemed to all be asleep, crowded around the tree.

The pale boy and the Galthant had watched the group's travels closely throughout the day before, flying high in the air, out of sight. The group had traveled most of that day, before stopping to rest that night under the only shelter available for quite some distance: an old, gnarled tree. It was leafless, and bore scanty protection, and was more a large, tall beacon then anything of aid. But, it had sufficed the travelers tastes, it seemed, for they had immediately started a fire, unknowing that they were being followed.

Malachite watched the band with a face of disgust, noticing one of the figures – a blonde haired girl - stir. She then nudged a large Fire Cat, jolting it out of sleep. It gave a rather sleepy glance over to its Trainer, before prodding the dying fire with a flame-covered paw. The fire roared with life again, and the Fire Cat yawned widely.

"Why arrr we herrrer, arow?" The raspy, guttural voice of the Galthant rang out, static and sandpapery, though little above a whisper.

"No, reason, really," said Malachite, "but, they interest me for some reason. These are the Corbie competitors, or so I've deducted. So perhaps these Trainers have some skill. Hopefully more skill then the idiots I have had to deal with in the past."

"Why duhss it matter? If they arrr weakk then we will destruyr them, arawaro."

"Yes, yes, I know that. But I do want some challenge after all. I despise those faint-hearted weaklings that dare call themselves Trainers. It's like killing a fly – easy, but annoying. Not to mention it gets rather monotonous. Unlike you, I don't want to feel mocked every time I'm pitted against something that puts up little resistance. Besides, Athanasius could use more competent servants. Not to mention there is a chance, a very small chance, that one of these children could actually be one destined to find one of the Essences. You never know. Though I daresay the Essences have made some rather poor choices in masters lately."

"We must get back tuu the team suun, yuu knuw this."

"Yes, it's quite a pity really," the boy said, beginning to move down the hill. "Almost as much pity as to the fact that these Trainers are heading off course. Heh, they may miss Nyro entirely. They shouldn't have been heading so close towards the Alta Mountains, but I suppose that's what I should expect from little naïve fools. Speaking of fools, my dear Aeros, I do believe I spot another one."

Aeros looked slightly confused as he looked up into the air, before spotting a black winged figure flying fast across the sky. The Galthant's amber eyes gleamed maliciously. "Kezreel."

"You are correct. Hmm . . . strange, he's flying right by us. You'd think he'd show me some courtesy and acknowledge my presence. Surely he can't not see you."

Malachite fell silent, and Aeros watched his master, his dragon face becoming perplexed as his master's did.

"He's either thicker then I thought or he's too busy to care what's going on around him. And I believe more in the latter, the simple fool. But why is he in such a hurry?"

"Rrr, what shuuld we duu?"

Malachite grinned coldly. "Hmm, if a Raven falls, as the sayings go, do you think anyone will care?"

Aeros let out a strange growl, one that sounded very much like an odd, strangled laugh. "Nyuw?

"Unfortunately not now. But perhaps later. He is still a useful tool. But come, let us follow him. I am deeply curious as to what our little winged fool is up to."

Aeros, once Malachite had clambered onto his back, began to lift off with steady, powerful beats of his wings, into the sky. Above the clouds they flew, flying after the black figure, becoming nothing but mere shadows in the cloudy sky.

Serena prodded a few flaming sticks in the fire ring with her paw, watching with some display of amusement as the flames grew larger, changing colors every time Serena touched it with her paws. Blue, red, yellow, green, pink . . . Serena kept prodding it, mesmerized, before she startled as Belle's voice spoke.

"Have you seen Teggom?"

"The little scallywag? Not recently. He wandered off this morning – said something about hunting down in the fields there. He also said he'd try to bring back some food and whatnot back if he could."

"Aww, bless his little heart. I hope he's alright, he's such a tiny little thing."

Serena's flame-tipped ears twitched and she turned her head to the direction of the tree, noticing that Nicki was stirring.

"I believe she's waking."

Belle nodded. "Yes, Adorell too."

Serena scowled over to where Adorell was leaning against the tree, eyes wide-awake and staring.

"No, he was awake long before," Serena answered, sitting up onto her haunches. "I'm not even sure the rabbit even slept at all."

Adorell stayed silent, despite the Fire Cat's comment. Nicki slowly moved from her supine position to a sitting one. She looked slightly drowsy as she glanced up at Adorell, who only moved his body a little in response.

"Morning," said Belle.

Nicki nodded slowly. "Thanks. It seems to be a nice day."

Serena growled, smacking a small stick into the fire, watching with a small sense of satisfaction as the stick crackled and popped in contact with the rainbow flames. "Yes, fine morning to you all," she said, sending Adorell a rather baleful glare. "Adorell doesn't seem to have the courtesy to say Good Morning, even to his trainer."

"Serena . . ."


Adorell stayed silent, keeping his usual stoic expression. He opened his mouth moments later as if to speak, but he stopped, as if contemplating on something.

"What is it, Adorell?" asked Nicki quietly.

Adorell shrugged, pointing a long, clawed paw across the plains where a black shape could be seen darting across the yellowed plain in a strange, bounding run.

"I do believe our little hunter has returned," said Serena, "with a trophy, no less."

"Trophy?" said Nicki.

Teggom was nearly upon them, slowing as he approached the gnarled tree, a dead, headless mouse swinging by the tail in his jaws.

Nicki choked out her reply. "I suppose that's what you meant by 'trophy'."

Belle nodded. "This happens all the time with cats. As a matter-of-fact, Serena did it quite often when she was young. Although . . . calling it a burnt offering would describe it better."

"Charred mouse – fresh, it makes no difference," said Serena, shrugging. "It means the same thing."

Teggom meowed in greeting, padding passed Belle, Nicki, and their guardians with his tail waving strait and proud behind him. He seemed to be padding over to where the sleeping Joel and Aura were laying against the base of the tree. Teggom's meow was muffled as he attempted to rouse the sleeping pair, though to no avail.

"I do believe Joel has a fan," said Serena, smirking.

Nicki laughed as she watched Teggom plop down in front of Joel, dropping the dead mouse at his feet. The cat's golden eyes looked up at the eighteen year old expectantly, waiting for a word of thanks or praise. Receiving none, Teggom jumped onto Joel's chest, letting out a high-pitched, ghoulish yowl. A sneeze followed seconds later, and the cat jumped back, startled, yet happy at the same time. Teggom had accomplished his task: both Joel and Aura were awake.

Joel looked startled, his eyes wide, immediately spotting Teggom in front of him. Joel shot the cat a disdainful look before sneezing again. "Oh, it's only the cat."

Teggom meowed in answer and Joel's eyes moved to his shirt, now covered in tiny black hairs. Sneezing, Joel began to rapidly brush the fur off his shirt, while Aura watched, looking slightly amused.

An orange blur landed on the ground with a thud at the side of the tree. Faranda's head snaked around the trunk, an undecipherable expression on her face. "What in the name of Gravity was that noise?"

"Teggom," said Nicki. "He's got quite a call."

"As well as an unnatural abundance of fur," said Joel, still picking off the remaining slivers of black.

Faranda watched the sitting cat with interest, as though alarmed that such a tiny creature could make such a noise. "Yes, a call that could wake the dead."

"True enough. Though it seems it had no effect on Ligue" said Serena, glancing upward to where Ligue was laying outstretched one a long tree branch, asleep. Her ears turned in Teggom's direction, as he let out another plaintive meow. "Oh, Joel, Teggom wants you. It seems his calls for your attention have gone thus far unnoticed."

Joel's eyes wandered over to where Teggom was now sitting, right next to his side.

"What does he want?" asked Aura, moving closer to Joel to get a better look at the cat.

"I have no idea."

"He wants to give you something," said Belle, "come on, Tegg, show him what you got."

"I think he's already accomplished that task, Belle," said Joel, "considering the rather large amount of fur he so gladly left me."

Teggom looked rather miffed, as he pranced over in front of Joel, grabbing an object lying at Joel's feet. The brown mouse now dangled from the cat's mouth once more, swinging back and forth gently in the breeze.

"You've got to be – "

Joel never had the chance to finish his sentence as Teggom sprang onto Joel again, dropping the mouse onto his chest. Joel stared, looking somewhat dumbfounded, while Aura turned slightly pale at the sight of the dead mouse.

"You should feel quite honored," said Serena, a smirk present on her face. "Cats tend to only give their trophies from their hunt to someone they respect and admire."

Looking unsure of how to reply, Joel patted the cat softly on the head, before pushing him off his chest onto the ground. He then flicked the mouse away into the grass beyond, out of Teggom's sight.

"Well, now that he has proved himself fully capable of taking care of himself," he said quietly to Aura, "you think we could leave him here?"

Belle's eyes narrowed at the comment. "I think not. We can't just leave him here, all alone. Poor little thing."

Joel shook his head before shrugging. "In any case, we should be leaving soon. We still have quite a ways to travel, or so Ligue said."

Faranda nodded. "He said that we would head towards the mountains to me last night. Now . . . there's got to be something decent to eat around here."

Teggom's ears perked up at Faranda's comment, letting out a small chirp.

"He says that he could go get something for you, Faranda. According to him, 'there is more where that came from.' Oh, and yes, the same goes for the rabbit."

Adorell glanced at the cat, then the dead mouse lying in the grass, before back to the cat, shaking his head. He began to move down across the plains in his long, loping stride, nodding sharply over to Nicki.

"Where is he going?" said Serena.

"To look for something, of course," said Nicki, "no need to get into our food packs before we have to. Though I doubt he'll find much of anything in this place."

"It's better than eating what you humans call food," said Faranda. "And, I think I shall take Adorell's advice. There's got to be some kind of creature worthy for a meal" - she stopped glancing at Teggom, who was looking imploringly upward at her – "and no, mice do not count. They're no more than a scant morsel to me. However, I suppose I must thank you. And Ligue had better be awake when I come back."

Teggom seemed satisfied, curling up into a tight fluffy ball, while Faranda followed Adorell's trail.

Fiery embers hissed and spat as the fire tried to hold on to its life, every moment becoming dimmer and dimmer, now nothing more than a few remnants of charred sticks and ash. Serena stared at it lazily, resisting the urge to rekindle the dying fire. No one had moved for the past hour. They were wasting a day's food and travel on account for one person, and that did not sit well with Serena.

"Will your trainer ever wake?" she asked, glaring at Faranda who had long since returned from her hunt.

"Yes," she growled.

"Perhaps one of us should wake him, we shouldn't waste the day here," said Nicki, Belle nodding beside her.

"I have to agree," said Joel, looking up from a book he was studying. "It's past noon. We really should be on our way if we want any considerable distance covered."

Serena seemed satisfied, stretching as she stood up. "I'll go and wake the idiot up, but if worse comes to worse I'll carry him on my back."


Everyone seemed a bit startled at Faranda's outburst, all eying her curiously.

"No! I mean, he is my trainer. I have the responsibility. Besides he'll wake up, even if I have to pound him into the ground."

"And that really worked well last time," said Serena, pretending not to notice Faranda's venomous glare as she walked over just below the tree branch where Ligue was laying.

"LIGUE! Come on, LIGUE!"

There was no reply, except for a faint snore from Ligue's tree branch. Faranda's face contorted with fury as she yelled again, but still her trainer refused to awake. Faranda's orange-yellow aura began to flare up as her hand clenched into a tight fist. A strange, cracking noise was beginning to sound as the branch Ligue began to bend downwards, as if pushed by an unseen force.


A resounding crash followed a split-second afterward as the large branch was violently ripped from the tree, smashing hard into the ground. Everyone winced involuntarily as the branch landed, and Adorell had to jump out of the way as a flying shard of bark whizzed through the air as the branch quite literally shattered. Teggom, tail fluffed up and yowling, bolted away from the tree in fright, hiding behind Serena's large body.

The large amount of dust cleared as an impatient gust of wind blew past, revealing Ligue lying in the exact same position among the shards as he had been on the tree branch.

"Is he all right?" asked Aura to Joel, looking quite concerned, moving a few strands of white hair out of her face.

Faranda looked a little shaken and concerned at the sight of Ligue's still body. The concern was quickly replaced to one of obstinance and fury upon noting the smirk on the Fire Cat's face. "He's just fine! Ligue! Ligue! Get up!"

No answer, or reply, was heard from Ligue.

"Ligue . . ." repeated Faranda once more, a hint of unsureity filtering into her voice. She inched her way toward the boy, noting with a hint of amusement, Ligue's spiky red hair was in no way harmed. She cocked her head at the peaceful expression on Ligue's face. "Ligue…"

This time, a loud snore was her answer, and Faranda jumped back, surprised.

Serena was at Faranda's side a second later, as the rest of the group began to crowd around Ligue.

"Well," said Serena smugly, "your trainer is either a very sound sleeper, or you knocked him out cold. Congratulations. It really is no wonder your Trainer is so dense . . . he has to have lost hundreds of brain cells by now."

Faranda looked like she was using every ounce of self-control to resist attacking Serena. Glaring, she stalked off to the other side of Ligue, watching Serena closely.

"Now what?" asked Belle. "We really need to get a move on."

"Simple," said Faranda, rummaging through Ligue's pack, lying by his side. A moment later she appeared, a long piece of rope in her claws.

"What? You going to drag him all the way to Nyro?"


Serena padded along on the grassy earth, blue eyes focused before her, noticing they were nearing the mountains, it wouldn't be long before the reached the start of the forest, and onto the mountain base.

Her eyes moved passed the two figure's of Nicki and Belle perched on her back, over to Faranda, who was tramping along the earth rope she had taken was tied securely around her tail, the other end was tied around Ligue's legs. Ligue was drifting along like a kite, with Teggom sitting on his chest in the almost none-present breeze. Even Teggom didn't seem to mind when his perch would wobble back and forth when Faranda would suddenly change direction.

"I must say, you have very creative way of dragging people."

Faranda only nodded as she stepped over a large log, the mountain's base loomed ahead of them.

"You sure we are going in the correct direction?"

Faranda turned her head to face Joel and Aura, only a few feet behind them. "Ligue said we'd head to the mountains today, and that's what we're doing."

"I didn't even know there was any trail that led past the mountains to Nyro. The only way to do so would be to travel cross-country - and that could take weeks.

"It does seem a little strange," said Nicki, jumping off Serena's back as they entered into the dense forest. "But maybe Ligue knows a pathway that we don't."

"Perhaps," said Joel. "Has Ligue ever taken you this way before, Faranda? Has he even told you a trail exists here?"

"No and no," growled Faranda, her tone sounding defensive. Ligue's body followed close behind, drifting farther toward the ground. "But Ligue knows what he's doing. We should just follow this trail until Ligue wakes up."

Teggom hissed as he and Ligue were dragged through a pair of leafy bushes. Looking as if he had enough, Teggom jumped off, padding over to Joel's side like a loyal dog.

"I don't think I can drag him through here," said Faranda, as they entered into a small clearing a few minutes later. "I think we may just have to wait here."

Serena shook her head. "I can carry him."

"I'd prefer that we wait," came Faranda's immediate reply.

"And I prefer that we go," said Serena, letting Belle jump off her back, before plodding over to Ligue. "We'll cover more distance anyway."

Faranda grudgingly agreed, helping Joel and Nicki untie the ropes and hoist Ligue onto Serena's back. And they began to once again head deeper into the forest, and up the grassy mountainside. The scenery changed little as they traveled, stopping only to clear a few plants and roots covering the dirt path away. Ligue still showed no signs of waking, the same peaceful expression imprinted on his face. They began to clear the forested part of the mountainside a half hour later, though still full of plant life, the terrain was becoming rockier and more difficult to tread upon by the minute.

A loud yowl stopped the traveling party in their tracks. The group turned to find Teggom sitting on a patch of rocky ground, holding aloft his front forepaw. Seeing as he had everyone's attention, he began to meow pitifully. Belle immediately walked over to Teggom's side, her eyes full of concern as she bent down to inspect the paw.

"What's wrong with him?" asked Aura, "He didn't hurt himself did he?"

"He's got a thorn in his paw," answered Serena, grabbing Ligue, pulling him off her back by the scruff of his shirt, setting him down against a tree. "At least, that's what he's complaining about."

Belle nodded, examining Teggom's paw, immediately noticing a large, black thorn embedded in the furry pad of the cat's paw. "It's a rather large one . . . poor thing. Now hold still, Tegg."

Teggom hissed and squirmed as Belle took a hold of his paw. Belle quickly grabbed hold of the thorn, pulling it out a few moments later, trying to ignore Teggom's pained cry.

"I'm sorry. But at least it's gone now. There you go, Tegg. It's all gone now. There's a good cat."

Teggom, looking quite relieved, began to purr as Belle scratched his head.

"Well, I suppose we should get a move on," said Faranda, but Belle shook her head.

"And make him walk on his hurt paw? No. Let the poor cat rest."

"Then tell Serena to have him fly," said Joel, eyeing the cat with distaste. "Or you could always carry him."

"Well…" said Belle, stumbling for an answer. "I suppose that'd be all right. Come on, Tegg, I'll carry you. Up you go . . ."

Teggom twisted and squirmed as he was taken in Belle's hold, yowling up a storm as he did. Belle sighed, and allowed Teggom to jump out of her grip. Teggom landed gently on the ground, moving into a large patch of sunlight, before collapsing on his side.

"We can't go now. Look at Tegg, he's exhausted."

"Just carry him, Belle."

"He didn't like that. Just let him rest for a while. A little longer of a delay won't hurt us."

Faranda snorted and sat down beside Ligue. "So you think its all right to delay the journey for a cat, but not for Ligue?"

"Yes. Besides, he's so little. He could really hurt himself."

"I'm sure…" said Faranda, glaring down at the black ball of fur. The cat grinned back, a strange golden gleam in his eyes.

"No use arguing," said Nicki, pulling two apples she had gathered along the way out of her bag. She tossed one to Adorell, who was staring at Teggom intently. He appeared startled, fumbling to catch the apple.

"You all right?" asked Nicki, concern in her blue eyes.

Adorell bobbed his head, taking a bite out of his apple, continuing to stare at the cat.

"All right . . ." said Nicki slowly, moving a strand of dark blonde hair out of her face as she sat down, though her eyes had not yet left Adorell. "If you say so."

"Like he even said anything," said Serena, the fire on her paws changing to a golden yellow.

"You want one of these apples, Belle?" asked Nicki.

Belle shook her head. "No thanks."

"Joel, Aura?"

Joel looked up from his place across the clearing. "Yes, thank you."

His hand easily caught the flying object, as well as another apple as Aura gave Nicki her answer. He handed the first to Aura, before looking across the clearing to Teggom.

"There's something strange about that cat."

"I don't see anything strange about him," said Aura, smiling a little as she spotted the winged black cat, who was rolling in a large patch of dirt. A large cloud of dust and dirt rose in the air around the cat, looking like tiny flakes of gold. "Not in his looks, persay. But rather . . . I don't know, his very demeanor. I'm certain no cat that isn't a guardian could ever be like he is. He seems to understand every word."

"Serena translates for him."

"Yes, but still . . . there's just something strange . . ."

A sharp ring of Aura's golden bell stopped him in mid thought. And Aura's soft voice soon replied. "I think he's just a normal cat."

"Maybe he is," said Joel, despite a sudden pang of doubt.

A sudden sound of movement caused Joel to look to his left, noticing Ligue was awakening.

Faranda was immediately at the boy's side, muttering something Joel could not fully catch. The boy blushed, and laughed sheepishly, before looking around the clearing, surprised.

"Yo, where are we?"

"We're in the Alta Mountains, on the trail Faranda was leading us on. Don't you recognize it?" asked Nicki.

"In the Alta Mountains? But why?"

"You said that we needed to head into the mountains yesterday, Ligue!" growled Faranda. "And that is where I led them. Just as you said."

"Fur . . . there's no way you could get to Nyro through these mountains. Not without it taking weeks, or months."

"Sooo . . . are we lost?" asked Serena dryly.

"Of course not," said Ligue, fumbling through his knapsack. "All we have to do is follow the trail back down. We'll be there in no time, I'm sure of it. Besides… I always carry a map. You never can be too prepared. You could have used that, you know, instead of taking this detour." He paused, taking out a large map, scanning the area. "How long have we been traveling?"

"A half hour," said Nicki, moving over to get a better view of the map. "Maybe more. I can't say."

"All righty," said Ligue, pulling out a pen from the sack. "I think . . . we are right about . . . here," he said with a note of finality, pointing at a small speck he had marked with a pen from his knapsack. "Right at the base of the mountain."

"I thought you hadn't been here before," said Belle.


"So how would you know that we are here?" she continued, jabbing at the map.

"I don't," said Ligue, "but in any case, it doesn't matter. We'll just go back the way we came. Not a problem."

"Maybe but –"

Nicki cut Belle off as she pulled out another apple from her bag. "Ligue, want one?"

"Uhh, sure, yeah."

Nicki tossed the apple toward Ligue, but a black blur leaped in front of it, knocking it off course.

Teggom, eyes alight, darted after the rolling apple into the brush, tail held high.

"I thought he hurt his paw," said Faranda.

"Tegg! Hey, don't run off! Tegg!"

"He's not going to listen," said Serena, "not if I know kittens any. C'mon, we better go follow him."

"Surely he'll stop," said Nicki.

"Not until the apple stops rolling from his attacks, or the cat gets bored," answered Serena, darting into the brush, Belle behind her, adding as she ran, "which is quite unlikely."

Nicki quickly followed, with Adorell behind her as they darted into the brush. Faranda stayed where she was, watching the retreating pair. Ligue, however was quickly stuffing the material he had thrown out back into his bag.

"They'll be back," said Faranda.

"You never know, that cat may hurt himself, or one of the girls. And I have First Aid supplies. They may need my help. There's no need for us to accidentally get split up either."

Ligue followed the trail through the brush. Faranda growled, looking indecisive for a few moments, before plunging after him.

"He does have a point; it will do us no good getting split up," said Joel, starting off at a brisk pace into the woods, Aura following close behind.

Teggom's black body was not hard to spot through the green foliage, darting to and fro among the leaves, trailing the elusive apple. Teggom was only managing to stay just ahead of his followers, giving the apple a playful bat with his paw whenever its trail began to slow.

The loud noise he was making didn't help his elusiveness either as he blundered through every fern and leaf in his way, uncaring of anything but stalking his prey. He ignored Serena's growl, continuing his journey through the brush. He cleared another bush, reaching a barren clearing, the rocky sides of the mountain just before him, a hill sloping gently downwards. Teggom meowed happily, as he spotted the red apple on the grass, he darting forward, prodding it with his paw; it only moved a centimeter in return. Teggom's face fell, disappointed, before looking down the hill where a dark entrance shaped like a doorframe, stood strait and daunting ahead of him.

Teggom blinked, sniffing the air before turning. Gold eyes widened, seeing a white form make its way through the bushes toward him; Serena. The apple began to roll once more at a rebellious smack from the kitten's paw, sending it tumbling down the hill at high speed. Teggom's head bobbed up and down rhythmically as the apple bounced, stopping as the apple stopped just in front of the cave entrance. Teggom cried joyfully, darting downwards among the rocks and grass, not halting even for a moment when large rocks appeared in his trail. He stopped near the apple, meowing. It was as if he expected his meow to get the apple to move. Teggom batted it gently again, his eyes wandering to the dark doorway, where strange markings were inscribed at the top. The cat hesitated, wondering if it would be profitable to explore this dark place. He flatted his ears as a loud, shrill call came from the hilltop, and he immediately recognized Serena's voice. Teggom stood up, with Serena's call from the top of the hill resolving his dilemma, darting into the foreboding darkness.

"Teggom! Teggom, you little rascal, come back here! Now! Don't you dare go in there! Tegg!" Serena called louder, as Belle appeared out of the bushes at her side.

"Where is he?"

Serena's flames turned a livid red as she answered. "He went into that cavity in the rock there."

"Well," called Faranda, arriving with Ligue out of the vegetation, along with Nick, Joel, and their guardians. "you know what they say. Curiosity killed the cat."

"Which is no doubt why they say we have nine lives, because we always seem to come back," said Serena, eyes narrowing.

"Come on, we got to go and get him. He may get lost in there," said Belle, already scrambling down the rocky hill toward the cave. "Come on, Serena, I'll need some light."

"You can't go in there alone, you know," said Ligue.

"She's not alone. Serena's going with her," said Faranda.

"Have you even been in a cave before?"

"Well . . . no," Belle replied. "But we'll make this the first."

"Well, Fur and I will go with you then. Besides, I have some chalk we can mark the walls with, so we don't lose our way."

"Adorell and I will come, too," said Nicki, following Ligue, with Joel and Aura starting to walk down just behind her.

"Oh, thanks – wait you carry chalk in that bag of yours?"

Ligue nodded. "You never can be too prepared for anything. You never know when you'll need it."

"Right," said Belle, making her way into the cave with Serena just in front of her.

"I think we should follow them," said Aura to Joel in a whisper, as the other four disappeared into the hole in the rock. "I don't want anything to happen to Teggom either."

Joel nodded, smiling as he recalled a distant memory. "You know . . . my Father would have loved this."

"Yes he would," said Aura, already halfway into the darkness of the cave.

Joel started to follow, before his eyes darted over to the strange inscription at the very top of the entrance. They looked very much like the symbols in his book, but dead and dull, unlike the Symbols, which surged with life and color. He began to try to translate the runes in the rock, making out a few words.

"Joel," called Aura's voice, "are you coming?"

"Enter thou – Yes, I'm coming -, be ye stranger or –" Joel suddenly stepped back, as a strange, rather dark white sparkling liquid (that he guessed to really be a gold color) began to seep into the rune groves. It rapidly was becoming a mix between liquid and solid, morphing into the exact shapes of the runes on the wall. A few moments later, they began to twist and change into new, yet familiar shapes. He blinked again, and the Symbols stood before him, staring at him with unseeing eyes. And Joel rapidly began to translate the simple words

Go Back. Look back.

"Go back? What?"

Joel stared, his mind racing for whatever meaning they were trying to tell him. They could mean one thing – yet they could mean another. He took a pace backwards, and the symbols rapidly changed like liquid gold, before they began to fade.

No, go back. Look back, fear not what lies behind. Remember as you go back!

The Symbols grew brighter in color, and a flash of sparkling white, they were gone. Joel, perplexed, began to slowly walk into the cavern, his colorblind eyes scanning the area behind him until he was next to Aura in the dark. He said nothing about the Symbols to Aura as he walked along the smooth stone, the mysterious appearance of the Symbols invading his thoughts. He had seen no Spirit Guardian near where the runes were, or anyone else for that matter. Yet, the Symbols were there when, by all means, they should not be.

A small white orb began to form in Aura's right hand and she led the way through the darkness. The orb was a strange mix of light, contained within the invisible boundaries of the sphere. It shined brightly in the dark, lighting the paths before them, and they followed the chalk marks on the wall that Ligue had no doubt made. Joel soon made out a large, winged, shape covered in a white flame making its way toward them, with a few figures trailing behind. It was Serena.

"There you both are," said Ligue. "We were wondering where you were."

"You think they found Teggom?" said Aura to Joel as they approached the group, her orb disappearing into small wisps of white smoke as they approached.

"Yes," he said, "he's riding on top of Serena, I think."

Teggom indeed was riding proudly on Serena's back. His shape was easily made out against Serena's white fur.

"We didn't have much trouble finding this little brigand that insisted on riding on my back, it's a good thing we didn't have to look for –"

A sudden loud rumbling stopped Serena in mid-sentence. Rocks and pieces of stone began to fall from above and from every side. Adorell, glowing silver, quickly summoned up a translucent shield around them. The shield was made just in time to stop a rather large piece of stone from crashing into them; it instead bounced harmlessly off the shield.

The white light ahead of them – which happened to be the tunnel entrance - disappeared as the tunnel collapsed around them, and they suddenly realized that the only exit they knew of was now blocked.

A/N: Yeah, I know. Way late. But many things have waylaid me on my way. This is just a small part (the first part) of the chapter I have been writing, it's 6, 182 words out of the 15,000 that I currently have. Yeah, I know, "Why not post more?" Because it didn't make sense to me to post more, as I'd have to cut off stuff before I'd want to. I had hoped to fully finish the chapter, but right now, it isn't going to happen right now. Sorry! But it's coming. Plus, I still have to edit the next part with a fine toothed comb, as it's very important – as well as think about some things concerning this story.

And yes, I know you're dying to know what happened to Releshenada – and the rest of them. I'm trying. ^^ Though I'm sure you all have an idea of what's going on. So here's part of the chapter, hopefully I'll post more in another week, but with my writing, who can tell? I have a lot of stuff to do now, a Forum to run, a job (yes finally got one) and I'm rather addicted to a game I'm ordering but haven't played yet… geh, and many other things. But enjoy this chapter. And if you were looking for stats… well don't expect them, as I've lost where everyone was at – and all the reviews *glares at the Fiction Press Staff*

Anyway.. yeah, hope you enjoyed.