Author Notes: Couple things. 1) Changed what happened to Ta're, go back and read "The Truth" chapter to see. In short, I didn't let him die. He added a dynamic to the story, I think, and it just wasn't as interesting with him gone. Even though I brought in Amandil to try to fix the problem. 2) Changed the royal Ranger last name. Not in every chapter, yet, but it will start from here.


Infused Magic

"If our nature is decided by color and innate skill, then why give us free will?"

Part II: Draiken

l—Year 9669—l

Chapter 23: He Begins to Understand

After things had been somewhat arranged, the group of us had been moved into Zeith Raetyl's meeting chambers. Looking around, I finally understood why my room was given to me so easily. Zeith's chambers were, well, sparse. Even with everyone inside, there was still plenty of open space to walk around comfortably.

Bookshelves lined the white walls. Xa'du already claimed his spot, staring up at scrolls situated on the left wall bookshelf, even if he'd been ordered not to touch. Apparently, he was only allowed because I admitted how little I knew of the Catrek Capital, our only city.

Of course, that meant they had brought Ta're in, too. The mage I had so respected ten years ago ignored me now, but his ears twitched. Apparently, he could tell something new was in the room, but the fact that the Ranger Lord was in the room and the added fact that Cest Elsang held his leash kept him from asking any questions or investigating in any way.

Zeith Uppercut stood against a desk, his arms crossed against his forest green attire, covering the symbolic white bird of the royal house. His left foot stood flat against the large rug, which spread about the majority of the room, while his other leg crossed his left, standing on the toes of his right foot.

Across the room from Xa'du, stood the Draiken, Amandil. His wrists had been clasped together with chain manacles and similar shackles had been placed around his ankles. Aldein the Elf stood near him, whispering words, slowly this time. Brow furrowed as if in heavy concentration, the Draiken listened and nodded. Curiosity pumping, I wish I could understand the whispers, because with my ears, hearing them in the first place wasn't a problem.

I, on the other hand, had been pushed to my knees beside Cest Elsang, who held not only Ta're's leash but a new one for me, too. I suppose with a permanent block around Xa'du's magic, they had no reason to fear him, though why they held sudden resentment towards me…

Sighing, I looked up to Elsang, who was glaring at the Draiken; he was not happy with the way Zeith had decided the matter either. Under his shadow, reminded of Ta're, I felt more like a Wulfcon slave than a Catrek, even with my striped tail twitching through the air behind me.

"Aldein, Amandil." At Zeith Uppercut's voice, my ears pricked up and my eyes focused on him, though I did spare a glance for the two called, who were both meeting his gaze. "Explain to me why the rest of the world has been lied to as it concerns Draiken."

Amandil cocked his head. "I…don't understand the question."

While the Draiken himself seemed confused, Aldein's face was livid. Arms waving, he shouted, gesturing at Amandil, but spitting angry words at the Ranger leader. After his tirade, the Rangers seemed stunned into silence, and Amandil appeared…embarrassed?

"Hey, uh, I don't think I would put myself as more important than the Elven Prince, even if he seems to think so; I'm here by accident, not, uh, 'preordained will of the gods.'" He paused, glaring at the shackles on his wrists, shaking them as if to test a theory. "Look, I'm sorry I can't control my aura, but is complete numbness really necessary?"

Aldein murmured something. Amandil sighed.

Zeith's eyebrows lowered, his eyes narrowing. "None of that answered my question."

Before I could think, a question popped out of my mouth. "How many, err, Draiken, are there?" At Zeith's glare and Elsang's tug on my leash, I winced but kept going anyway. "I mean, if there's only a handful, and they're living with Elves, what need is there to tell other races about them? Wouldn't it put them in more danger? If Catrek can steal the Elven Princess from her home world so easily, wouldn't the Elves want to keep the Draiken's existence a secret – to protect them?"

"You call that easy?" Ta're murmured softly.

"No one asked for your opinion, Catrek!" Zeith shouted, slamming his palm on the table. "Elsang, why do you let him speak when you'd punish another for daring to talk at all?" Apparently, he hadn't heard Ta're this time.

At the threat, I closed my eyes and tensed up, feeling my tail freeze in anticipation. Aldein's shout and the absence of pain had me open my eyes back up, looking around curiously, wondering what the Elf was going on about, wondering why I was always getting rescued from terrible treatment.

Amandil laughed. "I told you—that Catrek boy can help me rescue Adriana. See how quickly he puts facts together?" Another pause. "Now, please, the inability to feel my magic is making me dizzy."

All heads turned to the Draiken, the Elf worried, the rest of us curious. Before someone could even ask what he meant, Xa'du piped up. "I found something that might explain it." Turning to my friend, I sighed when I discovered he had taken a book from the shelf and was now seated on the floor, reading from the Ranger's collection. Before Zeith could rant about Xa'du breaking the "no touching" rule, my cream-colored mage friend read a passage.

"It says here that Catrek Essence's are built in the upper body, towards the neck—which is probably why those collars work so well. Rangers, Elves, and Anon either have their magic concentrated in their hands or their brain, depending on the type of specific power they possess. It even has a diagram on Draiken and Dradian magics, showing that unlike other races, their power flows throughout the blood and is genetic." Xa'du paused. "This is really interesting, moreso because it's in Catrii script. How old is this scroll? And why would a Ranger have it?"

No one answered my friend's question. Amandil was slouched backwards against the wall, being kept on his feet simply because Aldein was holding him up—and screaming in Elven at the same time. Before I could process what was happening, Cest Elsang dropped my leash to my collar and sprinted to the other side of the room, working at the shackles on the Draiken. Ta're moved with the Ranger, even though his leash length could have handled the short distance.

Amandil was now sitting down, with his legs stretched out, arms limp beside him, head lowered, breathing ragged. The chains had been removed quickly and tossed to the side. Aldein and Cest both kneeled beside him, the Elf muttering fast, the Ranger General nodding. Throwing aside rules and orders, I stood up and raced to be by the stranger's side as well.

"I guess since his magic is in his blood, cutting it off from him is like cutting off a piece of his life force," I whispered. When I received a nod and nothing more, no words to be silent, no commands to sit down, I continued to ponder out loud. "So it also makes sense for him to have fainted after teleporting here from such a great distance; it's like a limit is placed on the amount of magic he can pull out – not because of knowledge or the amount accessible, like it is with Catrek – but because it's a direct connection to his life."

"Nice to know you listen to me now, kit," Ta're whispered from where he was leaning against the wall nearby.

I turned to him and glared. I saved your life. You should owe me something.

Ta're just shrugged in response to my mental shout, bringing attention to the collar, the leash, the reminder that he had become a pet slave, something to show off and control. So much for the great warrior.

With a sigh, I turned back to the Draiken, only to find him staring at me. "Everyone back home was mourning the loss of Adriana, the Elven Princess. She was not only the pride of the Islands for her beauty and kindness, she was smart and quick to learn. Quick to laugh." He paused. Shifted his gaze to Ta're. "She also had a strange ability for an Elf. Something a Draiken might have, I always thought."

I turned with everyone else to face Ta're, who had tensed. His eyes. He had said that Adriana had been the one to punish him. How would an Elf do that, anyway? As far as I had learned, Elves were defensive masters. They didn't attack. They refused to. So why would an Elf – and the Princess! – have an ability to blind someone?

"We could never figure out what it was, exactly. It only happened when she got angry or when I tried to make her do something with it…"

"Wait, wait, wait," Zeith Raetyl walked over to the huddle of people, focusing on the Draiken. "You knew Adriana first hand? Who are you?"

Aldein spat out something quick and to the point. Amandil laughed. "I do not think that is what he wanted, Aldein." He paused and looked up, as if thinking of a real way to answer the Ranger Lord's question. "A friend of the royal Elf family, though I'm hurt Aldein didn't recognize me at first." The Elf muttered something and Amandil laughed again.

"Ah…" Ta're muttered. "That is why your aura feels familiar."

The Draiken's laughter cut off and he sent a glare to the red robed mage. "It is nice to know she got her own revenge on you for what you did, cat. Also nice to see you living like this. Death would be too sweet."

A fang-filled grin spread across Ta're's face, and I shivered. I saved him from that fate. Gods, did I do the right thing? Should I have let him die? Is this the crueler fate?

"Wouldn't the irony picture be complete if I helped you fools rescue her, then?"

The room seemed to burst into laughter at the absurdity of the idea, but something started clicking in my brain. A plan began to form. While the others laughed and Ta're growled, pieces began to fall into place in my mind.

"Actually, we could use him to barter with the Ruler."

Everyone grew silent. Amandil looked at me expectantly. The Elf stared at me with a tilt to his head. Zeith had his arms crossed, waiting. Cest Elsang had an eyebrow raised.

Ta're spoke, though, his voice cautious, curious, worried. "How?"

"Well, we can't exactly sneak into the Catrek Palace. Not easily. But once we get in, we should be able to learn the layout, where Adriana is being kept, and find a way to rescue her. So, we need a way in that would keep us there. Why not use Ta're and the mage collars?"

"Come again?"

"The Ruler isn't a mage, right?" When Ta're shook his head, I went on, but turned my attention to the Ranger Lord. "I'm guessing that he feels a little nervous with a whole Academy full of magic-wielders and him only having the power of his position keeping them at bay. He probably fears usurpation like most any ruler. Why not give him the mage collars, use Ta're to show what they do – since Ta're has personally met Tetsunori before? We could even try to get him to give us Adriana in return, but if that doesn't work, at least the Rangers aren't going to the dungeon the minute we get there."

A book hit the ground. I spun around to see Xa'du staring at me, eyes and mouth wide open. He was speechless, but he didn't look impressed. More or less, frightened? Hurt? Angry? I couldn't tell exactly.

"Gods," Ta're whispered, sinking down the wall until he was sitting. "Mage freedom for her. Not even the Rangers were cruel enough to think of that one. Irony indeed."

When I turned back to the Rangers, Elf, and Draiken, I found them grinning. Amandil was the one to speak first, though. "Get rid of that collar. He's more one of you guys then he is one of them."

Ta're stared into the darkness that surrounded him. Memories filled his mind. One memory. Adriana. A pet slave, no, worse than that…worse than this…

He wanted to save her. He did. Now.

But could he sacrifice the Academy's position? The hard work of all the Sects on both sides? Could he cripple them? They already followed Tetsunori before the HighMage. Even if the Ruler feared otherwise. They didn't deserve to be slaves, working magic for someone else. It wasn't right.

-I did not think Dai'mon would suggest such a thing.

Ta're grunted at the direct mental message from the kit. Kana's gift to him. She must have known about Ranger abilities, yet she made sure the apprentice she brought would make at least decent company.


His mind memory shifted to her smiling, playfully shoving him against a wall, demanding to be given the secret of the DarkMages. She could have asked anyone. She chose him, the war hero everyone whispered about but avoided. And he had given it to her, but for a long, long while that was all he allowed himself. Then this happened…

The Draiken said it best, I'm afraid. He's one of them now.

-What are we going to do? They'll force you to do whatever they want, and there's not much I can do, either.

If they take you with us, you could always break free and betray them in order to save our kind.

Ta're sighed. Even as he suggested it to Xa'du, the idea didn't sit well in his mind. Betraying Dai'mon seemed worse than betraying the rest of the Academy, even though the kit should have been one of them to begin with. Whatever the kit thought of him now, he was only ignoring Dai'mon most of time because Elsang was always around playing babysitter. If he could have, Ta're would have told the kit all the secrets of the Academy, of his past, of whatever he wanted to know. That Ranger Princess had found his true feelings. He loved the boy like a son, for some strange, stupid reason.

Even though he pulls this "Ta're for Adriana" idea.

-In his defense, he doesn't realize Tetsunori would keep you.

Ta're growled in the direction of Xa'du's aura. That kit was getting better at breaking mental walls, and doing so at the most inopportune moments.

-Sorry. I just feel like I have to defend him, sometimes. He's too innocent. If that Princess hadn't been so friendly with him, I doubt he would have taken to Ranger ways as fast – if at all.

Ta're nodded. The kit had a point. Esra probably loved Dai'mon because he was so innocent. Still willing to believe the best of people; still willing to believe a lying old warrior with a list of sins.

If Shairokan was still around, I probably would have been his chosen. That of all things keeps me up at night the most.


Nothing, kit. Go back to your book. Leave an old cat alone.

"Ta're?" He glanced up instinctively at the voice, giving his favorite kit the benefit of his full attention. "Are you mad?"

Focusing on his other senses, he determined that the others were still in the room, so he bit back his truth and turned away, his tail twitching around him. "Does it matter? Aren't you committed to this plan of yours already?"

There was a hesitation before the kit responded. "Are you?"


"I get a choice?"

A flurry of negatives came from the Rangers, Elf, and Draiken, but Dai'mon answered differently. "Seeing as you're the one who'd have to sacrifice the most here in case of failure, I would like to know your opinion, I guess."

He really is surprising. No one I ever know of would do that, not for anyone.

"I-I…" he drifted off. "Falik. You ask something really difficult of me, kit. As much as I truthfully want to save Adriana from the fate I gave her, I…" he paused; his tail twitched once and was still. "I don't think I could condemn the mage Academy to do it."

"But, we wouldn't actually give Tetsunori any collars," Dai'mon said. "We don't have them to begin with."

-I think I like him again.

Put your walls back up, kit. Your thoughts annoy me.

With Xa'du's thoughts behind a wall, Ta're focused his thoughts out to Dai'mon, unable to stop the smile from forming when he read the kit's real idea. It was him for Adriana, but only if the plan failed. And even then, the kit had a backup idea forming. If they didn't manage to trick Tetsunori or rescue Adriana right away…It might take years, years Dai'mon planned to spend at the Academy, learning the magic arts after all.

He couldn't help the tear that fell from his eye, but he ignored it. "I think you will be something great one day, kit. And a better person than I could ever be. Yes. I'd gladly give myself for you, for her. Maybe you were right to save me, after all."

-Redemption can come if you let it, Ta're.

He didn't respond. He couldn't respond if he wanted to. Dai'mon wouldn't have heard his thoughts.