Chapter Six

Promised Price

Filix Laburnum paced back and forth in his borrowed room in the castle in Starlach. His boots sounded heavy on the polished floor. He crossed his arms and muttered the incantation to his favourite anti-sleep spell. He hadn't slept in days. He couldn't sleep and every time the spell wore thin, he felt twenty or thirty times worse than the last time. Right now his body was so weak that he felt like he was finally knocking on death's door. Every muscle ached, every nerve felt frayed, his knuckles and his knees were terribly bruised. When he slept now, he would probably sleep for days, but not yet. Not quite yet. He had to wait for Celesia to come to Starlach. She had to come after him. Earlier he had cast a spell to reveal her location. It wasn't an easy spell for him, since he was so weakened, but he couldn't keep this up forever – even for her. He would go mad if he didn't kill himself. However, it wouldn't come to that. She was coming. He exhaled heavily and prepared himself for the night's festivities.

Who would come to try to capture him tonight? The night was always the hardest time for him. Apparently some bounty hunters hadn't figured out that he was twice as alert during the night. That's how he had to be, because twice as many attacks came.

Tonight would be the hardest one yet and his muscles felt stiff. At least at night he had one luxury. He took his hair in his fingers and tied it into a low ponytail. During the darkness of night, his beard was sufficient to hide the secret on his face and he didn't need half his hair falling over one eye. That helped. It helped a lot.

He stretched his arms and his legs. Now he was ready. After all who knew who might be the first warrior or sorcerer to break through his barely latched window? They should know better. They should know that he was expecting them.


The stars glittered through the trees as Tesai carried Eiko through Spindle Wood on the road to Starlach. It would take all night if they rode without pausing. They would probably arrive at the gates sometime around mid-morning. Tesai found himself aggravated over the trouble of having to do things the slow human way, but the point of this journey was not just to make it to Starlach, but also to figure out what had changed.

As soon as he was positive that Eiko was sleeping like the dead, he pushed open his pouch and ordered Sugarglow out.

"I don't want to come out," Sugarglow pouted from inside the bag.

"Don't make so much noise. You'll wake her up. Now come out and tell me what's been happening. Right now," Tesai said in a hollow voice. It felt ridiculous for him to have to persuade his minion to follow his commands, but he'd have to deal with Sugarglow's attitude at a less urgent time.

Sugarglow poked his head out of the pouch and dragged himself over to Nightfaux's horse head where he perched himself between the other minion's ears.

No wonder Nightfaux hates him, Tesai thought dryly as Sugarglow started his explanation.

"A couple days after you left Starlach, Filix and Celesia left, too."

"Where did they go?"

"They headed west towards the Vervaine Mountains." Here, Sugarglow swallowed hard and his eyes filled with tears. "They started down the Second Crescent Pass and I decided to meet them on the other end rather than accompany them through the snow and wind and ice … they didn't talk very much amongst themselves. I didn't know why I was watching them and it didn't feel like anything was going to come out by listening to their conversation …"

Now Tesai understood why Sugarglow had hidden in the pouch, but he didn't say anything, either to reprimand or to comfort his minion. He didn't know what to say. Lyla's rage had been justified and that made Tesai's mouth fill with loathing. There had never been a screw-up of this magnitude in his history. It would take awhile for Tesai to decide how dire the consequences of this breech needed to be.

"Better keep going," Tesai advised when Sugarglow stopped speaking entirely and was now weeping uncontrollably into his tail.

"I waited for them on the other side of the pass for three days when I started to get nervous. So, I went back along the trail and I found Filix."

"What had happened?"

"I don't know. Filix and Celesia had separated. He was tromping back towards the Silver Bottle Plains. I thought that he was looking for her, so I went along the trail ahead of him and found her. It looked like she was running away from him. She made it to the entrance of the pass long before him and got a lot of distance on him, because he was still tramping through the snow when she made it to the plains. She went northeast to Fusian."

"Filix looked like the tracker type. Did he have much success following her?"

Sugarglow shook his head, "He didn't even try. He went straight to Starlach."

"So, I take it that it was around this point that you stopped following Celesia?"

"She wasn't doing anything. She was just wondering around Fusian and Spindle Wood. She went to the graveyard and cried."

"But she's not from there, is she?" Tesai asked quickly.

"No. I thought Celesia was from another kingdom. She didn't visit any homes in Fusian or talk to anyone. She just wandered around and looked completely lost. It didn't look like she knew a soul there or that anyone knew her. But things really started to heat up once Filix got to Starlach. The king put a bounty on Filix's head – twelve thousand gold pieces – dead or alive. It's been going on for the past ten days and let me tell you – competition is fierce."

"What do you mean?"

"Well, absolutely everyone in Starlach who has even the slightest makings of a warrior, a sage, or a blood sage has been trying to catch him. And …" Sugarglow said tremendously.

"And?"

"No one has been able to. It's amazing. He's not hiding out or anything either. Bounty hunters have been swarming the city, but no one has been able to touch him. That's how I was able to prompt you to tell this girl that you were on your way to Starlach. If she's thinking of being a bounty hunter then she'll definitely want a piece of the action."

"And you're positive that this is Celesia?"

"Absolutely positive," Sugarglow said without even blinking. Tesai had to believe he was telling the truth.

"So, have you been able to find out if he's a blood sage or not?"

"No," Sugarglow said regretfully. "The spells he uses are strange. Most of them are generic spells that blood sages and regular sages can both use. I've watched all his fights and he's never been seriously injured, so he's never had to use a regeneration spell – which would signal that he's a sage. But I've also never seen him use a high powered demon spell either, so I still don't know what he is, except that he's fast and … he's got a lot of rage."

"What did he do to get the bounty on his head?"

"I'm not sure. Unfortunately, I wasn't with him when he entered the city – I was with Celesia then. I'm not a complete idiot – she was acting so strangely. She was calling herself a different name and buying black clothes."

That's it, Tesai thought to himself, she was clothing shopping and he couldn't stand to be left out of something so interesting. Tesai eyed the workmanship on his gloves. Yeah, that was Sugarglow for him.

"But then, when I went to check on Filix, he was being attacked by one of the kingdom's elite knights. I thought that if I watched him carefully enough I would be able to piece together whether or not he was a blood sage. But I was too scared to leave him to report to you just in case he betrayed the truth while I was gone. He was getting attacked day and night and sometimes by more than one person at a time."

"Really? And he never betrayed it once?" Tesai worked hard to keep his voice unimpressed.

"He's a careful bastard," Sugarglow said, making tiny fists out of his paws. "There's one thing that I really don't understand, though. Every day Filix is accompanied by the sage that is second in line for the throne."

"A sage?"

"Yes. Her name is Jessamine and she's Duke Ferndale's oldest daughter. It doesn't make sense that she'd be sticking to him like glue if the king is the one who put the bounty on him."

"Is she helping to protect him during his fights? She could be casting protection or healing spells."

Sugarglow shook his head. "No. She hasn't cast a single spell. She just follows him around."

Tesai groaned. "And now, we're taking a crazy Celesia to go fight him when everyone else in the kingdom is chronically failing? Lyla is punishing me."

"Do you really think she's insane?" Sugarglow asked quietly.

"Do you have any idea what might be wrong with her? Did you see anything that might give us a clue?"

"No. All I know is that whatever is wrong with her – that is definitely her."

"If that's the case, then Lyla definitely knows something that she's not telling us. Perhaps this personality change has happened before. Maybe this is how we get her into a blood pact – we have to approach her when she's like this. I'm still not sure why Lyla has me doing this, though."

"It's weird," Sugarglow said candidly. "Back in the old days you used to help Lyla start wars between humans. You were so good at it. The humans would become so desperate to beat their foe that getting blood pacts was easy. Then they just killed each other in battle and Lyla would collect their energy."

Tesai looked down at Eiko's sleeping face. "Is this girl's spirit energy really so valuable?" he asked reflectively.

Tesai's path was only lit by the light of the moon, but he could still make out Eiko's features in the dimness. Something about her seemed so familiar, but whoever he was reminded of was not Celesia. Perhaps it was the way she pressed her lips together or the arch of her eyebrow, but she seemed to be someone he had seen hundreds or maybe even thousands of times. Except now, he couldn't remember who.

In the end, Tesai concluded that she must be descended from someone he once knew. Sometimes he ran into people like that. They almost looked like someone he cheated – almost.

Tesai noticed that Sugarglow had finished his report was now snuggling into Nightfaux's mane in order to sleep, but Nightfaux shook his head. Sugarglow ignored the protest and tried again.

This went on four times before Nightfaux growled in the deepest voice, "Get off me, Rodent."

"Aw, but I'm not doing anything wrong," Sugarglow whined.

"Shut up," Tesai interjected, "don't annoy Nightfaux and get back into my pouch. I don't want Eiko to see you. You're definitely not normal."

"But …"

One look from Tesai was enough to send the racoon scrambling and Tesai was happy to see him go. It wasn't long before dawn now and he had had enough nonsense from Sugarglow.

Anyway, Tesai had enough on his mind to keep himself occupied. He wanted to know why Filix didn't follow Celesia when she left him in the mountains. What happened between them to cause him to rush back to Starlach? What needed to be done there? Why was she willing to fight him now? Something major had happened there in the mountains and he needed to find out what it was.


Filix felt the hard edge of his knife between his teeth. He jumped clear of the glinting spear aimed for his heart. His hand grazed the carpet to slow him down as he prepared to leap. Then he bounded behind his attacker and whipped the knife out of his mouth and pressed the flat of it against the man's throat.

"Don't move," Filix said gruffly as he tightened his fist around the man's shoulder. "Whether you've attacked me for money or glory; you've lost. Leave quietly and you'll leave with your life. I don't give second chances."

The man inclined his head and Filix released his grip. The man bowed and left the room by the door instead of by the window he had entered by.

Filix sheathed his knife and threw himself into his armchair. It had been whole at the beginning of the night. Now it was missing an arm and the cushion was punctured. He opened his canteen and took a drink, sloshing it thoughtfully between his teeth. He had a moment to think now. He was certainly getting an interesting selection of challengers. The guy before this one had once been a knight in Aurantium. Filix hadn't known him personally – didn't even know his name - but he'd seen him a time or two. All the same, Filix was often amazed by how many people knew him on sight when he used to walk unguarded through the capital city. However, here in Ribbonsphere it wasn't the same. His guarded face was hardly necessary. However – it didn't hurt to take precautions … especially when occasionally someone familiar appeared.

The knight didn't recognize him, which was lucky. He came at night, which helped. And best of all Jessamine didn't stay with him during the night. She only accompanied him during the day. It wasn't that she hadn't wanted to – she did ask – but Filix needed some time to himself to be alone and the last thing that he needed was to compromise a duke's daughter, so help him.


The first of the morning lights began to sparkle through the trees and cast a dull glow on Eiko's cheeks. She looked cold even though she didn't exactly feel that way in Tesai's arms. She felt nice. Maybe it was just because it had been such a long time since he had held anyone, but just at that moment, she seemed really special to him. Maybe she hadn't meant to, but she had let down her guard and let him carry her. She was so vulnerable. If he hadn't been there, she may have had to stop and camp by herself and then what? Would she have been safe? Would he have been happy knowing that she was somewhere in the wilderness unguarded?

At this thought Tesai's eyebrows crunched together. He didn't like where this was going. When was the last time he had felt this way about someone else? He didn't care about humans. They were just tools.

Suddenly, Eiko's eyelids fluttered and her breath quickened. She put her free arm around his neck and fitted herself more comfortably into his arms. "Morning," she whispered. "I had the most fantastic dream."

"Won't you tell me about it?" he answered smoothly. He didn't let his voice show that he found her behaviour strange. She was acting like she was his lover – yet nothing like that had ever happened. She pulled a knife on him. This seemed like the ultimate proof that she clearly didn't remember anything about Celesia. But, they shared the same body? Hmm …

Eiko moistened her lips drowsily and mumbled, "Maybe later." Her fingers wound their way up into his hair and she began kissing the side of his throat.

Was this a trick? Tesai wondered as he felt her work her way up to his ear. Trick or no, soon he realized that he didn't care and he began to respond to her. He bent down and pressed his lips against hers. He clasped both hands around her waist and let Nightfaux's reigns slip between his fingers. Her breath was warm and her kiss mellow, not like a first kiss, but the kiss of long time love. Tesai didn't feel that way. She was brand new to him - young and vibrant. He pressed for something deeper, but when he coaxed her mouth open, she suddenly shook her head and pulled away.

"I can ride alone now," she said coldly – looking away from him.

When Tesai realized what tone she was taking, he frowned deeply. He hated showing emotion, but he couldn't help it. He reached down and carefully picked up the reigns. Even if he was annoyed he could recover quickly. "There's no point letting you down right away. There's a rest area ahead. It's more comfortable if we stay together. Right?"

"No, it isn't," she said, actually pushing him away with her hand. "Let me down now."

"If you mistook me for someone else when you were just waking up, I'm sure I can forgive you for it. Who was he?"

"No one. There's no one else here, but you," she nearly shouted. "I can ride alone."

Tesai bit his tongue. He didn't like her persistence. He was trying to show her that he wanted her to stay and he had never begged, but this time he loosed his tongue and said, "If you stay, I'll tell you a secret."

At this she seemed genuinely interested and beckoned for him to finish.

He smiled playfully and answered, "You're keeping me warm, so please don't go just yet."

"Ride bareback and your horse will keep you warm!" she shouted as she freed herself from the circle of his arms and jumped down.

"You don't have to be so cold," Tesai exclaimed as she untied Catchfly's reins from the back of Tesai's saddle. He was trying to hide his feelings behind his mask of never-failing cheerfulness. He thought he pulled it off rather well, even though he felt very chilly now that she was gone.

"I didn't ask you to carry me," she said ungratefully.

"Then you shouldn't have been so irresponsible as to fall asleep while riding," Tesai pointed out.

Eiko fumed. "Why should I have to take that kind of a comment from you? Have you ever had a serious thought in your life? All you do is make jokes. And why should you be so concerned about me? I'm not a stray cat."

At first Tesai couldn't answer. Eiko leaped onto Catchfly's back and matched his pace.

Tesai tried to answer her calmly, "Maybe you are."

"Maybe I am what?"

"A stray cat," he said seriously. He had given up being the jester.

Eiko's eyes flickered as she stared back at him. "And if I am? Are you saying you want to take care of me?"

Tesai looked down at her black dancing slippers and the little black ribbons that traced up her legs. How high up did the ribbons go? They disappeared beneath the hem of her dress. Could she really be a cruel bounty hunter with such delicate ankles?

"Do you know how to use magic?" he suddenly asked her.

"No."

"How do you plan to fight Filix?"

"I have a whip, and I can take care of myself," she said. Her voice sounded so young and obstinate.

"Of course you can," Tesai told her. It wouldn't do to rouse her rebellion against him, yet he couldn't help but think that there was no way she knew how to use that whip. "But I'll tell you what, if you decide that you need some help in a disaster, you can hunt me up and I'll kill your demons for you."

"Like a champion?" she asked caustically.

"No, like a brother." Tesai couldn't believe how important her retort to this comment was to him.

Eiko rolled her eyes and turned her head and spat. "Don't ever call yourself my brother. It's too late for that now."

"One kiss and I'm marked for life?" he laughed, now completely relieved.

"Well, let's put it this way. If I ever wanted you for anything – it would be for that."

"So, you're the kind of girl who enjoys that kind of fun?"

"Don't make fun of me because of something like that, or we won't even be able to be friends. And you want us to be friends, don't you? I'm clever enough to know the reason why you're following me."

"Oh?"

"You think I'll lead you to Celesia."

"Maybe," Tesai answered flirtatiously. "There's only one thing I'm positive you'll lead me towards."

"Starlach?" she asked sarcastically

"Trouble," he answered.


When Tesai and Eiko arrived in Starlach, Tesai suggested that they get rooms at the Lily Petal. He tried to put his request in an undemanding tone, almost so that it sounded like he didn't care if she stayed or if she insisted that they part ways, but she just rode along side him like she wasn't planning on deserting him.

Once inside the hotel the host appeared and greeted them. "Good day, Mr. Tigrid and Miss Burdock. How may I serve you?"

Tesai opened his mouth to correct the host and to introduce Eiko to him, but he was not fast enough to stop Eiko from correcting him herself.

"What did you just say?" she rasped. "I am not Celesia Burdock. I am not at all related to her nor do I have any affiliation with her. Isn't it bad business to assume the identities of customers?"

Her hostile attitude might have reduced some men to cinders, but the host kept his head heroically and apologized to her by bowing deeply and giving her the register, so that she could sign any name she wished.

Eiko crashed her wound up whip against the surface of the counter. She gave him a threatening glare before she wrote her name in big bold letters – taking up two lines on the page – Eiko Vi.

"See that you don't forget," she said crossly as she took the keys to her room and stomped up the stairs, before Tesai had even signed in.

"Don't worry," Tesai told the host reassuringly after she had gone. "I'll keep a leash on her."

"She's a lively one. I hope you can handle her," he said and Tesai noticed that his voice wavered.

Tesai smiled and said roguishly, "There has never been a woman that I couldn't handle."

He signed the book and headed upstairs.

That had been an interesting experience. Did bounty hunters usually scare bar tenders or innkeepers when they weren't hunting for information? What was the point of making unnecessary enemies? Maybe Eiko had even less experience in this profession than he thought.

Tesai knocked on Eiko's door.

"What do you want?" she asked after she opened the door a crack.

"I was wondering what your plans were."

"I was going to have a bath and then eat something downstairs," she said hesitantly.

"I'll meet you in the dining room then," Tesai said as he backed away from her door.

Tesai heard her close it and lock it as he headed down the hall. Once he closed the door to his room, Sugarglow bounded out of his pouch and took a seat on the end of his bed, where he started scratching his back furiously.

"What do you make of her?" Tesai asked Sugarglow, as he swung his coat off his shoulders.

"I think she's crazy," he said candidly.

"Oh, you think that way now?" Tesai said as he poured water into a basin and began washing his face. "Besides Celesia, does she look like anyone else to you?"

"No."

"Really?" Tesai asked, contemplating her mannerisms and speech. "She reminds me of someone, but I can't remember who."

Tesai and Sugarglow went over the possibilities as they cleaned Tesai up. He was dusty from travel and needed to change his clothes, but above all – he needed to beat Eiko to the dining room. He and Sugarglow worked quickly and soon he was breaking hearts sitting alone at a table downstairs, for he had to decline several invitations from young women who wanted to sit with him.

Eiko walked in just as one such woman was being rejected.

Eiko blew her curls out of her eyes, as they were now loose around her face and sat down across from Tesai. "You could have sat with her, or invited her to sit with us if you wanted to."

"That wouldn't have been fair to you. Aren't we 'together'?"

"Not really," Eiko said – disinterested. "I thought you were Celesia's lover, especially after the host mistook me for her when I was with you. Your name and hers sounded so nice when he said them together."

"You should have asked him to say our names together. I bet that would have sounded even better."

Eiko looked at him levelly and said "Huh," like she didn't believe in his sincerity. "Did she throw you out? Is that the real reason you're looking for her?"

"I barely laid a hand on her, so please stop talking about her with all that jealousy. You're going to have to get over that if we're going to travel together."

"Who's jealous?" Eiko flared, her cheeks turning bright red. "And who said anything about travelling together? This was just one trip – not a permanent arrangement."

"Aren't I good enough for you?" Tesai continued.

"You probably have fifty girlfriends."

"Actually, right now I am completely without. You know," he said, suddenly realizing something and perking up. "I don't think I've ever had a girlfriend."

"I don't believe you."

"No, really," he said, thinking about it some more. He had been alive for hundreds of years, but he had never been with a woman who was more than a passing amusement. Love was something he had never experienced. Granted, he had found some women more intriguing than others, some more beautiful than others, some more lovable than others, but he had never felt strongly enough for any of them to call it 'love'. No one had ever lasted long and most died during the course of their relationship. "I don't think I've ever met someone who could move me."

Eiko's eyebrows rose. She obviously didn't believe him.

"Maybe you'd be interested in trying to win me over. You could be my first official girlfriend if you're interested in the position."

Eiko sighed in exasperation and didn't answer him.

"Come on," he urged playfully. "You saw me turn down that lovely lady in the peach crepe, right? That ought to be at least a small indication of my devotion for you."

Eiko's face suddenly fell and she looked immeasurably sad. "So, you just flirt with everybody? What would make me so special? Besides," she said quickly. "I think you're lying. I think there is a woman in your heart and as long as she's there, there isn't room for anyone else."

"I already said there has never been anyone truly special," Tesai said, quick to continue their banter. But, in a way, Eiko was right when she said that there was a woman, but it was Lyla and not a lover of any kind. Lyla was the only one there could ever be for him. It was amazing that he hadn't thought of her immediately when he first started taking stock of his romantic experiences. Tesai could never abandon Lyla for anyone or any purpose, regardless of her strange treatment of him lately. They were a team and he would always be there to support her.

"Perhaps not," Eiko said reflectively after a few moments. When she raised her eyes to meet Tesai's, they pierced his like daggers. "Maybe the person in your heart is not a woman at all."

"What are you suggesting?" Tesai gasped. "That I …"

"Only love yourself," Eiko finished for him, even though they were not the words he would have used.

Tesai chuckled. She was definitely amusing him. "I'm not that much of a narcissist."

"Oh, but you are. Otherwise you wouldn't think that I was a sure thing."

"It doesn't hurt to ask," he said, winking.

"It might," she said, her voice like ice.

Just then, the waiter brought the tray and served them

When their food was on the table, Eiko glanced over at Tesai and said mischievously, "I think I've changed my mind."

"Oh?"

"Yes. I don't think you're very reliable, but you did carry me on your horse last night and you were sensitive enough not to bump me. Maybe you could be a good boyfriend … at least for a little while."

"Hmm…"

"But don't get the wrong idea. I'm not begging - and you wouldn't be my permanent boyfriend - just someone to help tide me over until I find my real boyfriend."

"Real boyfriend? I didn't realize I was stomping on someone else's territory. Who is he?"

Eiko looked very troubled. "Yeah, I wish I knew where he was, but he's always out of reach."

"Is it Filix? Is that what this chase is all about?"

Eiko took a drink from her glass before she answered. "He's not my type."

"Not like me, eh?"

She rolled her eyes. "It's always something like that with you, isn't it?"

Tesai suddenly leaned forward and took a drink of her water instead of his own. "I'm getting your attention, aren't I?"

Her next glance at him was almost hateful in its intensity. "This isn't you being serious. This isn't anything. I realize you can probably have any woman you want, but maybe I'm not like the rest. I'm going now," she said, getting up before she'd really had anything to eat. "I've had enough of this prattle. I'm going to go find Filix. I'll miss out on him if I wait too long."

"I'll go with you," Tesai volunteered.

"No, please continue eating. I noticed you missed breakfast, and besides – you'd only be in the way," she said as she stepped out of the dining room and left Tesai to pay for both their meals.

Tesai watched the door for a few moments before he snatched up an apple and left the table too. Now that she was finally going to fight Filix, it was time for him to move. There was no way he was going to miss out on something like this. He made his way up to his room and threw open the windows. Luckily, the buildings in Starlach were built close together, so he could follow her without her noticing if he trailed her from above. Tesai discarded his overcoat and wore only his vest for swift mobility. Sugarglow pounced on Tesai's shoulder as he lifted himself out of his window and dropped himself onto the roof of the stable. Soon he had worked his way over to the main street and was running along the roofs of the marketplace.

Eiko was walking down the center of the main street, checking her right and then checking her left.

Tesai paused and leaned against a chimney.

"What do you think is going to happen?" Sugarglow asked, still perched on Tesai's shoulder.

"She'll lose."

"Do you think so? If she's Celesia, then don't you think she has a really good chance at winning?"

"No. Even if that's true, with the way she is right now - she's too emotional, too excitable, and didn't you say that no one has been able to beat Filix?"

"Yes," Sugarglow admitted hesitantly.

Tesai eyed his minion. "Well, why are you so miserable? Does it really make a difference to you who wins?"

Sugarglow shrugged his shoulders, "I was just hoping we could have a bet …"

"But you thought I'd place my wager on Eiko instead of Filix."

"We can't bet if we both think the same person will win," he whined.

"No," Tesai said, examining the street and spotting a darkly clad man with his hair falling in his face – undoubtedly Filix. "Shut up. There he is. We're about to get this party started."

Tesai was trying to study Filix. What weapons did he carry other than his sword? But his attention was completely stolen by the small woman by his side. It must be the girl Sugarglow was talking about – Jessamine Ferndale.

Tesai cocked his head to the side.

He was suddenly intensely curious about her. Was that sort of outfit normal for this day and age? Tesai didn't think so. All he'd seen indicated that women weren't afraid to show themselves. This girl showed nothing about herself at all. She wore a headdress that not only covered her hair, but also had a veil that covered her face. Only her eyes were visible through a small slit. Her clothes were plainer than Celesia's – if such a thing was possible. She wore a loose shapeless dress with a long apron over the front. The fabric shone in the sun like the scattered fragments of a broken mirror. That was the only attribute that might have marked her as privileged, when she was essentially the crown princess even though she was only the daughter of a duke.

Now Eiko and Filix were coming closer together.

Across the stone street, she challenged him. "Filix Laburnum, I am Eiko Vi. You know why I'm here?"

"Of course," Filix growled under his beard. "You're a bounty hunter, aren't you? So, you're going to try to catch me?"

Eiko tugged the whip at her side free and let end fall to the ground. "I hear you're pretty good, but I'll finish you."

"I look forward to it," Filix muttered without emotion as he put his right hand to the hilt of his sword.

As the crowd started making room for their fight Tesai took his apple out of his pocket and started eating it. It was awfully refreshing during this tense moment before the battle, and before he had to intervene – if such a thing became necessary.

When there was space, Eiko cracked her whip once to let Filix know she was ready.

Filix didn't draw his sword, but nodded his head and then suddenly, he turned around and ran.

"What the …" Tesai blurted, nearly choking on his apple.

Eiko jumped up and took off after Filix. "Come back and fight!" she screamed at him.

Filix stopped and yelled to her, "Follow me then. I dare you."

Eiko doubled her speed, but just as she passed by where Jessamine was standing, Jessamine finished the words to a spell she was casting. She shouted the key words, "Bond break!"

Tesai recognized the spell. It was used for breaking enchantments.

But nothing happened as the spell hit Eiko. She merely shook her head as though her hair was in her face and continued chasing Filix.

Tesai started running too. If he didn't keep up, he was going to get left behind. Sugarglow went on ahead of him and so both of them followed the fight.

"Again!" Filix screamed to Jessamine.

"What are you blathering about?" Eiko hollered, as she paused to crack her whip in front of Filix, who was attempting to turn right.

"Do it again!" Filix ordered.

Amazingly, Jessamine managed to finish the incantation a second time. Tesai thought she must have started immediately after she finished the last spell – amazing.

"Bond break!" the words shot through the air like the girl had shot an arrow, but once again, nothing happened.

"Quit making fun of me and draw your sword!" Eiko said as she confronted Filix.

Filix didn't say anything to Eiko, but instead addressed himself to Jessamine. "Do it again. Please!"

Eiko drew up her whip and cracked it at Filix again. He caught it around his forearm and held it tight.

"What are you doing?" Eiko yelled, as she tried to free it. "Let go!"

"No. I'm doing this for you," he said.

"Bond break!" Jessamine called a third time. There was clearly power behind the spell, but even a third time, it yielded no results.

Eiko still pulled on the whip like nothing had changed.

Tesai pulled his lips taut. It was clear to him that she had no enchantment on her. This was something else. Good for them for trying though. It was something he would not have been able to do – only sages could cast that kind of magic.

"It's not working," Jessamine cried urgently.

"Damn it!" Filix shouted crossly before he grasped Eiko's whip in both hands and dragged her close to him. She didn't even have a chance to let go before he had his knee in her stomach. As she doubled over in pain, he used the handle of her own whip to knock her unconscious.

Filix put out his arms and caught her gently before she hit the ground. "I'm sorry," Tesai saw him mouth, before he drew her into his arms and began carrying her back towards Jessamine.

Now was the time for Tesai to act. He dropped himself down from the roof of the store where he had been watching and approached them clapping. "Good job, Filix. What a good way to deal with a troublesome female. I should learn from you."

Filix span around and glared at Tesai, "What are you doing here?"

"Just passing through on a whim," Tesai said, smiling.

"Oh really? I seriously doubt that. What do you have to do with this?"

"Not a thing. I found her in the woods, she told me her story, I found it interesting and I followed her here. An enchantment, eh? An incredibly powerful one, isn't it?" Tesai lied. He knew full well that it couldn't be.

Filix looked at him suspiciously. "I don't understand why you'd bother."

"It's all very interesting. Perhaps we could talk over this problem. I might be able to help you."

Filix looked hesitant. Tesai thought it was because he understood what Tesai was offering. He knew that Tesai was a demon. Demons didn't give help for free.

"Come to the castle," Filix said at length. "We'll talk it over."

"Excellent."


Author's Notes: Hiya everyone! Thanks for reading! Please review! PLEASE!