Chapter 16: Attack

Saeth watched Asha lose consciousness in satisfaction. The girl would never wake up... she'd see to it...

"Saeth, you b-"

The Dark Dragoness snapped her head around, let out a breath of fire, only to have it contact another giant burst of fire. The flames consumed each other in the air, faded into nothingness as Saeth glared up at the furious guardian angel in the air above her.

"Stay out of this, Raziel," she snapped. "You don't have the rights to mess with the mainland dragons."

"I have more than enough permission. Now let the girl go, you've hurt her enough."

The blonde-haired seraph furled his wings carefully, slowly descending to the ground. Rage beat through Saeth's blood. Her, hurting Asha enough? No...

Raziel didn't have time to react as black claws sliced the air, stabbing into one of his wings. Raziel let out a yell of pain, his face turning to her, blue eyes like flame. He raised a hand, and she saw him altering the air to make it burst into flame...

He choked, eyes rolling back into his head as she slammed her heavy, strong tail in the back of his head. Saeth snatched Asha up in her claws as Raziel crumpled to the ground, unconscious, his torn wing spreading blood and white feathers across his body. If she couldn't get a moment's peace to kill Asha here, she'd just go somewhere else.

The black dragoness had hardly gotten a quarter of a mile into the air when there was a streak, like blue-black lightning, and a furious, hissing, spitting dragon was blocking her way, dark blue eyes raging. She snarled, tried changing her path, only to find him zooming in front of her, natural like a feather on the air.

"Lail, get out of my way, or I'll kill you too."


Lail hissed, his eyes narrowing even more. Then, he caught Asha's faint, unconscious voice on the wind...

"Cafall... Lail..."

That did it - all his anger burst free, singing in his blood. He let out a loud, angry roar, unlike any ever heard before - Saeth cowered slightly in the air. To see the Dark Prince truly angry was a rare feat indeed...

She took his blind anger to advantage - folded her wings and soared past him, free on the air. Lail turned on his wingtip with another roar of rage, taking after her as she flew at full speed south.

Saeth... this time, when I catch you... you'll be dead...


Zahra ran into the clearing just as Lail's dark form was becoming just a speck in the distance. Ai darted in next to her, swiftly transforming.

"Ai, matte!"

"Iie!" Ai called, beating her wings furiously to catch up with her father. "Asha ga atashi no tomo - atashi no nakamayo!"

Zahra watched helplessly as her only child quickly became a dot in the distance as well. Then, gingerly, she knelt down by Raziel.

"Raziel? Mezamete yo..."

She knew better than to hope he would - sighing, she grabbed one of his arms and slung it over her shoulder, half-carrying him back towards the Ronans'.

"Adian wa atashi o korosu... omae o misete..."


"What in Yetzirah's holy name happened to you?!"

To say Adian was angry would be wrong. No…she wasn't angry….she was beyond angry. She was vicious. Raziel held a hand to his head, where Zahra had been kind enough to place a wet rag before he woke up. His head was pounding…and his superior's shrill words were echoing painfully in his mind.

"Adian…stop…please…," he murmured weakly. She ignored him.

"You could have told me you were going after her! The second Cafall was gone, I would have come help! It was foolish of you to think you could take on a vengeful female dragon on your own! You hear me? Foolish! You could have been destroyed!"

Raziel looked at her with narrowed blue eyes, and opened his mouth to say something. She gave him one of her glares, and his mouth shut. Her wings ruffled in agitation. "You and I are going to find Cafall," she said in a deathly calm whisper. "I think letting you explain this to him will be a suitable punishment for your stupidity, Raziel, don't you?"

The look she was giving him told him that he didn't have much of a choice. "Yes, it is…"

He had never seen Adian this angry with him….he shuddered to think of Cafall's reaction.

The pits of hell were looking rather inviting right now, actually…


Mark sat in the midday sun, his eyes closed in meditation. He and Alex had decided to stop for a bit for some lunch and the creation of a better plan of action. He was waiting for Alex to finish his meal.

Magic flowed in smooth waves outward, invisible to all but him. Soft, pearlescent light encompassed the world, broken only by dark spots and trails. There were so many….but then, dragons were commonplace in the East. He concentrated harder, aiming for Cafall's trail. The prince of dragons had a very…distinct air about him. There!

His heartbeat quickened. Cafall wasn't alone…there were at least two other dragons with him. And Asha was within their grasp. He followed the trail mentally. Maybe he could learn where they were headed…catch up to them…

Mark's sapphire eyes snapped open with a shout, causing Alex to jump and choke on the fruit he was finishing.

He coughed. "…Mark?" Wide eyes met his, the high mage's skin drained of color.

"Bendefig Chrau…they're going to Bendefig Chrau, Alex…"

"What's in Bendefig Chrau?"

Mark swallowed. "My mother's family…"

Alex stared.


Ai finally caught up to her father, slowing her wingbeats and letting out a little whimper of pain. She'd strained so hard to be able to keep up with him…

Slowly, the Dark Prince lowered his head to look at his daughter. His eyes smiled slightly at her, although he was obviously still angry with Saeth.

"Ai, you wanted to come?"

"Hai, chichiue…"

He nodded once. "Good… you can rest on my back if you want."

She was too tired to protest. She soared up above him, then settled down on his back. Almost as soon as she touched him, he quickened his pace even more, snarling and breathing angry fire at the black dragoness in front of him.

Ai remained silent as her father screamed angry, tearing words at Saeth. She was praying in her heart that Asha would be okay… and safe…


Cafall landed in the Ronans' yard, sighing and transforming. He rubbed his silver hair. Now he had to find Asha and apologize…

I honestly shouldn't have said that I wanted to send her back to her brother…I should have known she'd be upset…


"I'm in the back, mother," he called back, straightening his black shirt. Adian came into the back, dragging a slightly-resisting Raziel behind her.

"Raziel, what happened to your wing?" Cafall asked, slightly in horror, as he saw the angel's wing stained with blood.

"Never mind me," Raziel mumbled.

"Can you two tell me where Asha is?" Cafall asked. "I need to find her and apologize…"

Adian practically threw Raziel in front of her. "He can tell you."


Raziel choked.

"Let him go!" Zahra cried, running out. Adian watched, a slight satisfaction crossing her face. He ignored them both.

Cafall snarled, gripping tighter on the angel's throat as he threw Raziel against a wall. "Give me one reason why I shouldn't curse you into oblivion, Khabîth 'Adn…"

He gasped for breath as the prince's grip tightened. Cafall sneered before dropping the angel to the ground unceremoniously as Raziel gratefully swallowed the fresh air, weakly raising his head as Cafall turned his back on him, breathing heavily.


"Which way did they go?" His voice was angry, but when he turned his head, the angel could see the tears in his eyes. "Which way did they go, Raziel?!"

He looked down in shame, not having stayed conscious long enough to know the answer to that. "South," Zahra said softly.

"Fine…tell Asha's family what has occurred, then thank them for their hospitality." Cafall started to transform. Fiery jade eyes looked at Raziel coldly, still rimmed with uncried tears. "For your sake, Raziel, you better hope she's still alive. You don't want to see my merciless side."

Adian moved, helping Raziel to his feet as they watched the silver prince fly away, breathing smoke and fire. "It could have been worse," she said softly. "He could have known about…"

Raziel didn't even want to imagine that.



The Dark Prince turned, seeing a silver form coming swiftly behind him. As Cafall came up beside him, Lail reached over, gently nipping his jaw. She's still alive…

I wouldn't say the same for Saeth once I get my hands on her… he growled.

Nor would I.

Ahead of them, Saeth was starting to descend. The forest was thick…there'd be no way to get through as a dragon. They heard her cackling laugh as she lit the canopy of trees on fire with her breath. Lail watched as she turned her head and, unaware of Cafall's pale presence, sneered at Lail.

Three pairs of eyes watched in horror as a limp figure was dropped from Saeth's claws, rapidly falling into the now raging fire three hundred feet below them.


Ai threw herself from her father's back with a cry, spreading her wings and beating them hard, trying to beat Asha to the flame. Saeth's surprised snort alerted her - she caught Asha as carefully as she could in her front claws and jerked up just in time to avoid Saeth's black claws. Their steely touch ripped through her shoulder joint - Ai let out a cry of pain.

"AI!" she heard her father scream.

Saeth's claws tore at her neck, and shoulders, and chest - the tiny dragoness vainly tried to battle her way free. With a rage filled, furious roar, Lail threw himself at Saeth and caught her neck in his claws, freeing Ai from her grasp.

Heavily wounded, Ai angled herself away from the rapidly-spreading flames, to the other side of a river nearby. When she was close to the ground, she transformed and hit the ground on her knees with a loud kiop, then crumbled to the ground, Asha's fall broken by her limp form.

"Chichiue... yurunasai... one...gai..." Ai whispered, her eyes sliding shut.


Lail stared down at his daughter's limp body, black blood spreading from it. He felt his pupils grow tiny, fears slashing through his blood. No... Ai...get up...

Saeth was backwinging away, a furious but triumphant look in her eyes as she nursed the tears on her neck. "You are truly an example among fathers, Lail..."

"Ai... mezaokure..." Lail whispered, unable to move for fear. "Asha... Ai... mezaokure..."

Cafall was staring down at them. "Ai... 'm cara... na... na..."


Lail's scream tore Cafall's heart. With effort, he raised his head to look at his friend. Tears he couldn't cry, words he couldn't say... he couldn't understand the pain in Lail's heart.


Lail's head slowly raised, blue eyes furious, glowing. Cafall backwinged, feeling his eyes widen - he had never, never seen Lail like this...

"You... are going to pay..."

Lail's image seemed to waver, and then within what the Island dragons called a setsuna Lail's teeth were viciously dug into Saeth's throat. She screamed, throwing her head from side to side, trying to throw him off. She scratched at his face and eyes with her dark claws, to no avail. Lail, with a snarl, flexed his neck and threw her over his shoulder, hurling her through the air, where Cafall was ready with outstretched claws and bared teeth.

Saeth struggled, fought back as best she could. Two near full-grown dragons on one was hardly fair... right?

Lail's teeth clipped her wing - with a cry, she fell to the earth, impacting hard on her side. Both princes landed, were advancing on her when a single whisper touched them.


It stopped his heart. Cafall turned his silvery head to see Asha stirring. He abandoned Saeth and Lail and galloped over to his wife, plunging into the river and coming out the other side, not bothering to shake the water off his scales. He dropped to his stomach beside her and nudged his head against her, cradling her and crooning softly, ready to cry with joy.

"'M cara... you're safe..."

Slowly, Ai pushed herself up, flinching and wincing. "Ch-chichiue..."

Lail immediately left Saeth and jumped the river to his daughter's side, licking her wounds and caressing her gently with his nose, humming and crooning to her soothingly.

"Ai... omae wa daijoubu ka?"

"Hai... kizu..."

Lail nuzzled her, then picked her up gently in his mouth and put her on his back. "Nemurunasai, musume." He then looked over at Cafall, who quivered for a second, but then relaxed when he saw Lail was relieved that his daughter was still alive. "We should probably go back to the Ronans... get them healed and rested... and then leave as soon as we possibly can."

Cafall nodded, then looked across the river at Saeth, who had just transformed into human form. Her mahogany-red blood stained her dark skin and pale hair as she cried, heartbroken. He turned his head and decided to pay her no more heed, instead picking up his wife tenderly in his claws and holding her close to his scaled chest as he and Lail spread their wings and took off, leaving Saeth behind.


Alex coughed on the smoke. His watery eyes looked to see Mark holding a handkerchief over his face, his eyes watching the column of smoke and fire rise in the distance. From where they were, it had to be a couple miles high at least…

"They might need help," Alex said. Mark nodded.

"Let's go!"

They ran towards the fire, unable to see the winged figures hidden in the smoke, escaping from the blaze.


Cafall and Lail landed outside the village, hearing the human cries from within. Gently, Cafall set Asha on the ground, laying her on her back. Lail cradled Ai, unable to move her from his arms. Cafall looked at him sympathetically. Losing Tsuyu had nearly killed the Dark Prince…Cafall was certain he had never really accepted it. To lose Ai…his only daughter, his now-only child….grief would kill him, if his own hand didn't.

He lightly ran a hand over Asha's face, feeling the sticky blood plaster on his skin. The girl moaned softly. Cafall bit his lip, her bruises, cuts, and burns not lost him. He pulled off his shirt, ripping the front in half and making a ragged blanket to cover her with. Night was falling, and her clothes were torn…just to keep her warm.

"Lail! Cafall!"

Their heads snapped up as Zahra came running into view, their traveling packs on her shoulders and back. Raziel was right behind her, with Adian dodging the branches of trees. Cafall heard Lail swallow behind him, and he must have held her tighter to him, as Cafall also heard a small whimper.

"I'm so glad you're ba—AI!"

Every thing she was carrying dropped to the ground as she ran over to Lail, tears already in her eyes. "Ai…Ai…iie, iie….kudasai, iie…."

Lail finally set Ai on the ground softly, immediately hugging Zahra close, whispering gentle words to her. "She'll be fine, she's strong, she'll be fine…"

Cafall watched them for a moment before a small whimper from Asha forced his attention back to her. He wanted so badly to hold her in his arms again, but was hesitant to….once he got a good look at her wounds, he realized that even picking her up could have killed her….her neck was one massive bruise littered with cuts. Her breathing was ragged, and blood drizzled steadily from the soft, coral lips. He swallowed, not wanting to face the fact that she might have already lost too much blood, that her injuries might be beyond repair…that it was a miracle she was even living…

A hand touched his shoulder, and Cafall looked up to see Adian looking down at him. "Mother…I don't…know what….to do..."

One of her hands wiped the blood off Asha's face. "Trust in faith, Bendefig…trust in faith…"


Mark and Alex reached the river, magically blowing smoke away. They had already been through three different villages, all claiming that the dragons were the ones responsible. It had only fueled them more.

"Vento túnel!" Mark shouted, effectively clearing the smoke away. Their view of the river cleared immediately. "I don't like this…."

Alex nodded, his ears twitching. He blinked, turning his head.


The elf didn't answer, walking over to a layer of singed bushes. Gently, he pushed them aside, and his eyes widened. "Mark…I think you should see this…."

"Hm?" He walked over, and the color drained from his face. Within the bushes lay a very battered and bruised Saeth.

And clutched in her hand were several mahogany and sky blue hairs.


"You won't be able to get back into the village…" Zahra muttered softly.

Cafall's head snapped towards her, tearing his eyes away from where Adian was healing Asha as best she could. "What?"

"There's rumors already flying….a few villages saw several dark-colored dragons fighting….saw the start of the fire….it already wiped out a village before you even got here…"

Cafall nodded. "We'll have to make a run for it…"

"Where would you go?"

"I haven't the faintest idea."


It hurts...

Slowly, Saeth opened her eyes, glazed. The pain in her body, her side... all the cuts...

It's like he was possessed by a demon...

The pain of the Dark Prince's slashes tore through her again - she flinched.

"Saeth! You're awake?"

Her eyes shot open, and she jumped, then bit her lip, half-screaming in pain. Mark knelt beside her, hesitantly putting a hand on her shoulder.

"Calm down... I healed you... but you'll still feel the pain... you were pretty bad."

Saeth turned her head. She didn't want to look at him.

"Saeth, look at me, please. I have to ask you something."

There was an undertone of plead in his voice. Slowly, she looked back at him, into his blue eyes. He took a breath, then held something out over her eyes.

"These were in your hand. They're my sister's hairs."

Light gleamed off sky-blue and mahogany threads. Behind Mark, Saeth saw Alex hovering, his silver eyes furious, expectant. She didn't say anything. She couldn't lie to an elf... not again. She had barely pulled it off the first time.

"Saeth, please answer me."


"Yes, what about Asha?" Mark asked, slightly impatiently.

Wincing, Saeth pushed herself to a sitting position. "Her... I grabbed... took away... from Cafall."

Mark's and Alex's eyes widened. "You took her away from Cafall?"

Saeth nodded vigorously. "Took Asha... fled. Cafall and..." She shuddered, remembering the demonic glow in Lail's eyes. "...Dark Prince... chased me... fought me... struggle started fire... Cafall took Asha back... left me here..."

It was honest enough. Both mages stared at her.

"Saeth, that's the truth?"

"I look... victorious?" she demanded, pressing a hand to her half-covered side, where she could feel the bruise from her fall darkening. She could tell her hair was stained red with her own blood... she was just lucky she didn't have a rare blood color, like silver or black...

Alex looked guilty. "You got wounded trying to get Asha back... I'm sorry... I misjudged you, Saeth..."

She waved a hand, then whimpered, starting to crumble back to the ground. Her fall was stopped by strong, dark arms, which pulled her close to a familiar muscular chest.

"Why didn't you tell me you were leaving us to try and get her back?" Mark whispered, his blue eyes shining strangely. "We would have come with you, and helped!"

"You... mad at me before... I failed... you be mad at me again... for failing..." she whispered. Let me go... I don't want to be this close to you...

"No... you did your best..." His fingertips caressed her shoulder and back, making her shift and moan. "I don't know how to thank you..."

"No pain... be good," she said dryly, wincing.

"It should be gone within a few days. I'll let you rest."

Almost hesitantly, he set her back down, then covered her with his coat. "Sleep... get better, Saeth..."

She closed her eyes. As long as I'm near you... I don't know that I will...


Cafall felt Asha stir from where he was carrying her on his back. The others stopped as well, looking back as he gently set her on the soft grass at the side of the road, watching her closely as her eyes fluttered open. She looked up at him, hazily, and he couldn't help but to give her a soft smile as the back of his hand lightly brushed her cheek.

"Evening, cariad…"

"Cafall?" She blinked, trying to sit up slowly. He hugged her to his chest.

"I'm here…gods, I'm so sorry, 'm cara...I shouldn't have left you alone out there…"


He held her close. "I know. She's been dealt with…and you're safe, that's all that matters…"

The young girl nodded, resting her head on his shoulder as they stood up together, one of his arms wrapped around her waist. He kissed the top of her head lightly, looking at the others with a renewed hope in his eyes that quickly turned to suspicion and hostility.

"So…where are we headed, oh great and wondrous exiled prince?"

Jade eyes narrowed as two humans descended from the air on invisible wings, ruby and caramel eyes staring at the girl he pulled closer to him, protecting.


"What do you want?" Cafall snarled. Within seconds of the two touching ground, he was caught up in a sudden headlock, still holding Asha.

"Is that any way to greet your friends?" the man with violet-blue hair asked, grinding his knuckles into the top of Cafall's head. The prince let out a yelp of pain.


Lail and Zahra sweatdropped as they watched Cafall struggle to get away, still holding Asha close.

"Nharanu, let him go," the coppery-headed one said. "You'll hurt him."

Nharanu snorted, then let go of Cafall, who stumbled back a bit, giving the other a grateful look.

"Thank you, Pell..."

"This must be your wife... will you introduce me?" Pell asked with a soft smile. Asha relaxed as she looked at him. He was obviously a very sweet, kind dragon...

Cafall nodded, then led Asha carefully over to Pell. "Pell, this is Asha Livana Afon n'Cywir."

Pell took the hand she held out and bowed low, kissing it lightly. "I offer you my services, Lady."

She blushed lightly. "It's good to meet you." She looked over at Nharanu. "You too."

Nharanu tilted his head. "Pleasure's mine."

"So why are you here?" Cafall asked. "Weren't you two helping exile me?"

"No," Nharanu said instantly. "We didn't say a word."

"We're here to protect all of you," Pell said, closing his eyes in a smile. "We'll be more guarding angels to you."

Asha looked up at Cafall, startled to see his green eyes watering.

"Nharanu... Pell... thank you."

Nharanu saluted him. "No problem. We'll scout ahead and find you guys a place to stay."

He and Pell bowed, then jumped into the air, smoothly transforming and flying away. Asha watched them go with a small smile on her face.

"Are all your friends so loyal, Cafall?" she asked, looking at Lail, who gave her his heart-melting, charming smile.

"I'm glad so," Cafall replied, nuzzling her. "Come on, let's keep going."


Alex leaned against a tree, careful not to draw Mark's attention. The elf had gone out for more kindling, and returned to see Mark kneeling at Saeth's side. The High Mage's lips were moving with soft, whispered spells as his hands ran along her wounds. Even from his distance, Alex could see the deep, angry red slashes and dark black bruises. He shuddered, refusing to think of Asha must be being treated in Cafall's care. Saeth had said that the girl was still alive…but badly injured.

He shook his head, trying to rid himself of the mental images. Unconsciously, his fists clenched and dug into his fair skin as his body trembled somewhat. He wasn't going to rest until he saw Cafall dead and Asha safe at home with him and her brother.


Matte! – Wait!

Iie! Asha ga atashi no tomo – atashi no nakamayo! – No! Asha's my friend – my partner!

Mezamete yo… - Wake up…

Adian wa atashi o korosetai… omae o mittai… - Adian's going to kill me… you'll see…

Chichiue… yurunasai… one… gai… - Daddy… please… forgive me…

Mezaokure… - Wake up…

Kusou – (swear word)

Setsuna – fraction of a second

Hai… kizu… - Yes… I'm wounded…

Nemurunasai, musume – Please sleep, daughter.

Vento túnel! – Wind tunnel!