Aidan, Sergi, and Brian searched through the campsite for the third time and still found nothing that could lead them to William and Ana. Once they took one step out of the camp site the woods surrounded them leaving them only able to find a confusion of hoof prints and broken tree limbs that went out in every direction.

"Sergi, have you found anything?" Aidan asked as he watched Sergi sitting with his eyes closed on the ground. He had his hands placed palms down on the ground next to him and didn't notice the wet melting snow that surrounded him. He had no trouble blocking out the surrounding sounds as he sat in the forest. Anyone else would call the forest silent. There was not a bird or squirrel or rabbit within five miles and the nearby stream was frozen solid. But Sergi was having trouble concentrating. He took a deep breath and tried to follow the energy that was pulsing through the ground, using his hands to grab hold of it. He followed the energy through the ground, around tree roots and rocks. He suddenly came to a stop as the energy splintered and lay in fragments throughout the ground.

Sergi forced his mind to leave these fragments behind and to seep through the ground and into the air where it took flight in the form of a hawk. He followed the currents of energy in the air and frowned when he saw where he was. He flew in circles over the snow covered mountains of Sviebard and swooped down over the castle at Valmeere. He skirted along the battlements until he found a place to land on the top of a spire. He looked around, cocking his head from side to side listening for noises that normal birds could not hear. He hopped down onto the roof then flew into the snow covered courtyard.

He flew past empty corridors, through doors, passed crowded people talking loudly to be heard, and into a room that held warmth and comfort as well as noise. He alighted on a table and cocked his head at the young woman who was making a pie before him. She looked up in surprise when the hawk walked up to her and pecked at her hand.

"Hey!" she exclaimed making several people turn and look at her with quizzical expressions.

"What's the matter?" asked an older man as he lugged chopped wood over to the large fireplace built into the wall.

"There's a hawk on the table next to Sonja," a young boy said cheerfully as more and more people crowded around the table.

"What should we do with it?" Asked a young woman who looked frightened.

"Is it one of the Kings?" asked another woman.

"I've never seen it before."

"How did it get in?"

Sonja didn't say a word as the hawk hopped up to her and looked at her with his head cocked to one side.

"I think it wants you to follow it, deary," Katrina said returning to the kitchens with an empty bowl and several wet rags. Sonja nodded and extended her arm for the hawk to perch on. Surprisingly, the large bird gently gripped her wrist with its claws and continued to stare into her eyes.

"You're a smart one aren't you?" Sonja asked and the bird nodded its head. "Lead the way," She said and ran after the bird as it took flight and swooped out into the hall.

Kara was frightened out of her mind as she walked hurriedly behind her husband and in front of the emissaries from Terranol. What would Stefan do when he learned Erick was gone? Who would he ask? Would this lead back to her? Her mind was racing with all of the possibilities that lay in her future. The emissaries were conversing in hushed tones behind her. When they found Erick was gone would they declare war on Sveibard? Was Erick really the one killing those poor people in Terranol? Why would he do that? The Erick she had always known was so kind and loving. Yes, he had killed his parents, but they were old and would have died soon enough. He had just wanted to claim his inheritance and live his life. But would he have stopped there, Kara wondered. He had shown no mercy in killing his mother and father. Would he have killed Stefan if he had been given the chance? Would he have killed her?

No! Of course not! He loved her. She was no threat. She had given Stefan no children in the years they had been married. Sometimes she was worried that Stefan would be mad at her for not being able to produce an heir, but it seemed that every time she finally conceived a child, some ill would befall her. But Stefan never said anything to her about wanting an heir, which was odd in itself, since he was king and desperately needed and heir.

She pushed that thought from her mind as they neared the lower levels of the castle where the dungeon held those convicted of committing crimes against the crown and others. She had to do something she realized as Stefan opened the doors in front of him and began to descend the steps. But what to say? Kara didn't know.

Mallory turned to the man beside her and frowned when she saw the worry in his brown eyes.

"John, do you think the queen looks a little restless?" John nodded his head in assent as he watched the king and queen walk quickly before them.

"The king is telling the truth though, I can sense it. He truly believes that his brother could not have done the things we have charged him of. The queen though, she paled when we mentioned Erick's name." John glanced at his future wife's green eyes and smiled.

"Don't worry. I'm sure that whatever is going on will be cleared up soon." Mallory sighed.

"We've already had to put off our wedding once, John. I just want all this to be over so we can be married and –"

"I know," John said hushing her as they entered the dungeons. "We'll talk about this later." Mallory and John turned to watch King Stefan talk to a guard who was consulting a book on a table. Another guard was asleep on a cot in the corner of the room. The room had a rather odd smell: musty, damp, and decaying all at the same time. Altogether repungent.

The young guard said something to the king then walked off in the direction of another door. Mallory could hear the sound of prisoners crying out as the guard passed without even glancing in their direction. Mallory turned her attention to the queen and tried to make out her converstion with the king as she whispered quietly casting ansious glances to the door the guard had entered.

Why are you so worried?" Mallory thought.

Sonja ran through crowded and empty corridors as she followed the hawk through the castle. She had knocked into several people and broken at least one bust on a stand in the hallway. She raced down another passage just to see the bird turn down another corridor. She suddenly found herself running toward a door. The hawk was flying up and down the length of it as if looking for a way to fly through it.

"Here, silly bird," Sonja said gasping as she opened the door and pushed it in for the bird to fly through. "Wait!" she called as the bird took off flying again. She ran down the narrow hall, grabbing a lit torch by the entrance as she noticed the darkness before her. "I'm not as fast as you are!" she cried to the bird as she began to run down the stone stairs after it.

Erick looked up as the guard unlocked his cell. He saw that the girl, Ana, was awake and whispering to that man, what was his name? Oh, yes. William. They turned to look at him as the guard helped him to his feet.

"Your brother wishes to see you," the guard said as Erick brushed off his clothes.

"What would you have done if he had called while I wasn't here?" Erick asked the guard as he tied his hands behind him.

"We would have informed him that you didn't wish to see him, or that you were ill, or that you had refused to be chained again. I believe Kara has a list of excuses she's been drilling into the other guards for weeks." Erick nodded.

"Why has he suddenly decided to talk to me?" Erick asked as another guard stepped into the room.

"You had better hurry. The king seemed pretty impatient." The other guard nodded then answered Erick.

"There are two envoys come from Terranol asking about the destruction you caused in their country. A woman and a man."

"Did you catch their names?" Erick said as he stepped out of the cell and was led to the door.

"I think the woman's name is Mallory, but I didn't catch the man's." Ana choked on the water that William had handed her through the bars of his cell. William slapped her back and the water came shooting out her nose. She glared at him before Erick captured her attention.

"You know her? Interesting," He said before the guards led him out the door and locked it. Ana glanced at William.

"Do you think we could-?" she left the question hanging in the air as she nodded her head to the two soldiers from Montairne that were sleeping loudly in the cell next to William. William shook his head.

"They'll be out of the castle before we could even make it out of these bars."

"Great," Ana said hoarsely as she leaned her head onto the cold iron bars that separated her from William. "My head hurts," she whispered as William rubbed the back of her head through the bars.

"No whining, soldier," he whispered as he watched tears fall silently down her face.

"Stefan, please listen-"

"Kara, I won't attack him, you don't have to worry. Relax, I can control my anger toward him."

"That's not what I'm worried about-"

"I don't think he'll be able to attack me either-"

"No, It's just that-"

"What?" Stefan growled. Kara gulped terrified.

"What if he isn't there?" She squeaked.

"Kara," Stefan said softly in a treatening voice. "Is there something you are not telling me?"

"No!" Kara whispered fiercely as her brow wrinkled in worry. "You don't trust me? I'm your wife!"

Stefan was about to answer as the door in front of him rattled as the guard was unlocking it from the other side. Just as the guard opened the door and Stefan could see several figures behind him, the door they had entered from flew open and he heard a crash behind him. He turned to see a hawk flying in circles around the low ceiling. The woman emissary was picking herself off the floor and helping a young woman to her feet.

"Sonja?" Both Stefan and Kara asked simultaniously when she stood looking at the hawk that was circling the room, her blonde hair falling away from her face. Kara and Stefan looked at each other.

"How do you know her?" They chorused.

"How do I know her?" They asked together pointing to their chests.

"Well, isn't this an interesting family reunion," Erick said from behind them. He was flanked by two guards, plus the guard who had gone in search of him. Stefan turned to look at his brother and frowned at the look of relief that had flooded his wife's face.

"I can't really say it's pleasant to see you Stefan, but I'm truly glad to see you Kara. You look well." Stefan frowned even more. Then Erick looked at Sonja. "It has been a long time, Sonja. Come give me a hug." A moment or tense silence followed as Mallory looked back and forth between Sonja and Erick, then Erick and Stefan, then Stefan and Sonja.

"How do you know Sonja?" Kara asked confused. Mallory watched Stefan and Sonja both put their right hands on their hips and frown even more at Erick. Realization hit her like a ton of bricks and she let out a little "oh" as she watched the young woman glaring at the man in chains.

"Remember your place, brother," Stefan growled before Sonja snarled, "I'd rather not, Erick."

Erick pouted dramatically.

"That's too bad. It's been a while since I've seen you. You've grown into a beautiful young woman, just like your mother. Too bad the whore's dead-"

"Shut up!" Sonja and Stefan yelled at once. Stefan moved to strike his brother but was too slow. Sonja had run past him and kicked Erick in the stomach before the guards could even react. He groaned and fell to his knees as she jerked his head up, gripping his neck tightly.

"You can insult me all you want, Erick, but never insult my mother!" Erick's eyes widened as her eyes started to glow and change color into a bright gold. Her grip tightened around his throat until he couldn't breathe. She felt hands on her shoulders but her rage was consuming her.

"Sonja, listen to me. Relax." Stefan stood behind her with his hands on her shoulders. "Release him, Sonja." The hawk circled around the room once more then landed on Sonja's arm. It looked into her eyes and cocked its head. Sonja felt a deep calm sink into her as she released Erick and fell back into Stefan's arms. As she lost consciousness she whispered,


Then the hawk disappeared before the eyes of everyone in the room. Kara screamed.

Sergi's eyes snapped open to find Aidan about an inch in front of him.

"Just because my mind is in another place, doesn't mean I can't hear what you are saying here," he said as he grasped Aidan's hand and stood slowly.

"Well? Did you find anything?" Aidan asked impatiently. Sergi nodded.

"Sveibard," he said firmly.

"You saw her?"

"No I felt her presence, through several doors, and I could smell her on Erick but no one else. He was covered in her smell."

"Who else did you see besides the King of Sveibard's incarcerated brother?" Brian interjected.

"I heard names. All blonde except two. A man and a woman. I think they were from Terranol. One of them looked familiar. But the names: Stefan, Kara, Sonja. They were surprised to see her. She has a great power in her that she has somehow learned to control. Her eyes, they are beautiful-"

"Enough about some girl's eyes… should we set out today?" Aidan said walking in circles. Sergi looked at the sky… it was clear. "Yes, but bring the rest of the army. I think we will need them."

"Now that you have seen him, do you wish for any more proof? Do you doubt these walls?" Stefan asked Mallory as Sonja was carried out of the room by two guards. Mallory shook her head.

"No. I believe in the strength of your walls," she said watching the bound man converse in undertones to Kara. "I have less faith in those they house," she said pointedly. Stefan followed her gaze then raised his eyebrows slightly.

"Are you accusing my wife of conspiracy?"

Mallory quickly shook her head.

"No your majesty. I was just stating my belief that people will go to any lengths to achive what they want. Murdering their families or provoking countries into wars," She bowed her head so she could lean close to his ear. "Your daughter has a great power in her. She will make a fine ruler someday." Mallory leaned back and said louder, "Thank you your Majesty. I will inform my king of your great kindness and forgiveness." Stefan's eyebrows were still raised.

"Won't you stay the night and rest your horses?"

"I'm sorry your majesty but I have my orders to inspect the rebuilding of Nordskov and other villages. I must also inform the king that he needs to keep a closer eye on Montairne, since Sveibard could not be at fault."

"Good journey," Stefan said and nodded his head as the two emmisaries left and he turned back to his brother and Kara who were staring at him. "I would like to know what's going on," he said softly.

"Nothing at all, Stefan," Erick said grimly as Kara looked at her feet.

"Kara, return to your chambers, please," Stefan said sternly and watched her almost run out of the room without looking at him. When the door had closed, he turned to the guards that were standing on either side of his brother.

"Get out!" he yelled and the guards fled through the door at the other end of the room. Once they were alone he slammed Erick against the wall. His head hit the stone with a resounding CRACK! Stefan leaned his head in to talk quietly in his brother's ear.

"Erick, there is one thing we have to lay on the table. I know about you and Kara-"

"Stef, let me-"

"I've known about you two for years," he said over his brother. "And I really don't care." Erick looked at his brother in shocked silence.

"What?" he managed to ask after a minute.

"I know that your love for her is greater than mine will ever be. I love her too, she is my wife, but it's more of a companionable friendship sort of love. If Maia were still alive you and Kara would have married, of that I am certain." When Erick began to say something again Stefan covered his mouth with his hand.

"Will you just listen to what I have to say?" when Erick nodded, he continued. "You don't have to keep your affair secret from me; I already know. But you do have to keep Sonja's identity secret from Kara."

"I still can't believe that you haven't told your wife that you have a daughter," Erick said thoughtfully after his brother had released his hand from his brother's mouth.

"She doesn't need to know at the moment," Stefan answered.

"She does care about you, Stefan," Erick said as Stefan turned to leave the room. Stefan stilled. "I just thought you would like to know that." He turned and knocked on the door. A guard opened the door and led him to his cell. Stefan stood there with his back to his brother for several minutes before her turned the door nob and opened the door before him. He walked up the stairs and through corridors without thinking about where he was going. When one of his advisors met him in the hall, Stefan handed him his heavy mantel and kept on walking, leaving the poor man standing alone in the hall.

He paused before the heavy wooden door before he opened it. What if she didn't want to see him? He pushed that thought to the back of his mind and opened the door to the busy kitchen. Several people stopped what they were doing and watched in amazement as Stefan walked slowly between the tables and waited patiently for the older woman to look up at him.

"Pull up a chair," Katrina said without looking up. Stefan pulled a nearby stool closer to him and sat picking up a small knife and beginning to peel apples that were covering the table.

"We had a good crop this year, didn't we?" he asked quietly as he peeled apples. Almost everyone in the kitchen had stopped working by then and were staring at their king as he worked among them. Katrina looked up and laughed, "Yes we did." Then she looked at the rest of the servants in the kitchen. "Have you never seen a man peel apples before? Get back to work!" suddenly there was a flurry of motion. When things had calmed down a bit Katrina asked, "Something on your mind?"

"She's ready," Stefan said taking a bite out of one of the apples he was cutting. Katrina slapped his hand away. "Hey! I haven't had breakfast," he said as he rubbed his stinging hand.

"Those are for dinner," she retorted as she handed him a plate-full of vegetables that were cooked with little bits of ham, and bread. "Eat that." She turned back to making pies. Once the room had cleared of most of the people she murmured, "I know she's ready. What do you want to do?"

Stefan looked at the vegetables on his plate and sighed before he forked them unceremoniously into his mouth. "I want to meet with her in private, somewhere we can talk so I can explain things to her." Katrina smiled as she watched Stefan make a face as he swallowed the food.

"What's in there?" he asked choking.

"What's wrong with it?" Katrina asked innocently, but her smile gave her away.

"Salt!" Stefan exclaimed as he went over to the pot and began throwing things into it. "Whoever cooked this forgot that the meat was salted. Either that or they had not idea what they were doing."

"I'm sure it's the latter."

Katrina laughed as she watched the royal grab an apron and roll up his shirt sleeves. He picked up some dried beans and began throwing them into the pot before adding water. He wandered through the kitchen shuffling through shelves and baskets, picking up a vegetable here and an herb there. A few of the women in the corner looked at him oddly when he began chopping them in fine pieces and threw them in the simmering pot.

"I hope you know what you're doing lad," said an ancient woman as he crushed different herbs and threw them in. He mumbled something indistinct and added more water to the pot. After a while he sat back down at the table were Katrina was mixing a large vat of dough for pie crusts.

"You should come visit me more often and save me from the food my helpers fail to make edible," Katrina said as he handed her a small bowl full of the dish he had saved. She smiled as she took her first bite. "You should have been a cook and not a king," she commented with her eyes closed. "I really don't know how you saved that, but it is excellent." She opened her eyes to see him smiling.

"I try to excell in all things," he said leaning back and locking his hands behind his head. Katrina laughed and replyed, "I'm going to go bring this to Sonja," she said spooning a bowl full of veggies and placing it on a tray. "Would you care to join me?"

Stefan nodded and followed the older woman out the door.

Ana groaned as her head hit the wall once more.

"Stop it!" William yelled trying to break down the bars that blocked his access to his student. Erick just snorted in laughter as he watched the man try to break down the bars.

"You can't stop me. Doesn't that just make you feel," Erick paused. "Weak?"

William growled as Erick advanced on Ana once more.

"Now I'll only ask you this once more," Erick said menacingly as her gripped Ana by the troat. "Who did you tell?"

"No one," she whispered, her eyes downcast.

Erick slapped her face with enough force to send her head flying into the wall again.

"Stop lying to me. The emissaries knew that I had done it. I was sure to leave no one alive, except you, so you are the only one who could have done it." He released her neck and she choked on the rush of air that came down her throat.

"I didn't even know your name. How could I-" he back handed her and she fell to the ground. She landed close to William's cell. As she looked up he could see a tiny trail of blood run down her forehead.

"Will you stop it!" William yelled at Erick as he came striding over again. "You're hurting her." Erick just laughed.

"I'm sure she's enjoying it." He caressed her cheek and she shuddered in disgust. "She did before," he said glancing at William and raising his eyebrow suggestively. William roared and flung himself at the unmovable bars once more. Erick smiled.

"What I don't understand is why you care about her so much. What is she to you?" he looked back and forth between him and the woman lying crumpled on the floor. "Are you lovers? Relations? Acquaintances?"

"Does it matter?" came the voice of one of the Montairne soldiers as he watched on lazily picking some food out of his teeth. Erick turned to him and shrugged.

"Not really." He lifted Ana off the floor by the collar of her shirt and shoved her against the wall once more. He smiled at William as he said, " I just wondered how you would react when I did this." He grabbed Ana's breast roughly through her shirt. Her cry of pain mingled with William yell of "Don't touch her!" He shook the bars and yelled as Ana fought frantically with her captor.

There was a knock on the door and suddenly everything went still.

"Who is it?" Erick asked loudly.

"Who else would it be?" a light female voice asked sarcastically. Erick let go of Ana and she dropped to the floor with a sob. Erick opened the door and led in the tall blonde woman. She flashed her violet eyes over the scene that greeted her and frowned.

"She's the one you were telling me about?" she asked discusted as she looked at Ana's body that was racked with sobs. When Erick nodded she shrugged and leaned into his arms. "I have a lot of questions for you."

"About what?" he said holding her in his arms.

"Did you really kill all of those people?" she asked quietly, her eyes looking pleadingly into his.

"And if I told you 'yes'?" he asked kissing her temple. She frowned.

"You know I don't like it when you kill people. What had they done to hurt you? What had you to gain?" she whispered softly in his ear.

"A crown,"Ana whispered from the floor. "You start a war between the countries, have your brother killed and assume the throne." Erick looked down as Ana pushed her hair out of her eyes. "Am I right?" she asked sarcastically as she pushed herself up and grasped the wall to remain standing.

"How perceptive," he said smiling and nodding his head in her direction.

"But you didn't really think it through, did you?" she continued. Erick's smile faltered as she walked slowly over to William and grabbed his fingers through the iron bars. "You didn't plan on letting anyone who had seen your face get out of there alive. But I did, and when you realised I was still alive you kidnapped me, and my companion. What are you going to use us for? A bargaining chip? I don't think the king will care much about two insignificant people, not when he's worried about his country coming to war."

"What are you saying," William hissed through the bars. "Do you want ot get us killed?" Ana continued on anyway.

"What are we worth? Nothing. You don't need us. Why don't you just dispose of us and go on your merry way?" she smiled slightly then she said. "Ah, but you won't do that, Erick. You don't mind if I call you that, do you?"

"Ana, have you lost your mind?" William whispered grabbing her other hand and holding her in place against the iron bars.

"You destroyed my life, you raped and killed my mother and sisters and you seemed to enjoy my body yourself before you-" William slapped his hand over her mouth and hissed," If you know what's good for you, you'll shut up now." Erick tried to lunge toward them but Kara held him back.

"Erick, she's not worth it," she said soothingly as she caressed his face and shoulders. "I have some other questions," she said changing the subject. Erick turned his eyes from William and Ana and smiled at the blonde woman in his arms.

"What is it you want to know?" Erick asked quietly.

"Who is Sonja?" she asked as Erick froze. He heard his brother's voice in his ears for a moment then shook his head and replied, "I can't tell you."

"But why?" Kara asked annoyed. "Why is she this big secret?"

"Why should you be interested in a servant?"

"Because both you and Stefan seemed to know her quite well." After a pause she continued in an accusing voice, "Have you slept with her?"

"No!" Erick said discusted. "I'm old enough to be her father."

"You're old enough to be her father," Kara said pointing at Ana. "And you've obviously slept with her. She obviously didn't like it." Ana let out a "humpf!". "Who is she? Stop keeping this secret from me!" She said beating her fist against his chest. Erick pushed her away and yelled,

"It's not my secret to keep! You want to know about her? Ask your husband!" Sonja stared at him for a moment before she turned and walked toward the door.

"I'll do that," she said coldly. The door closed behind her and Erick closed his eyes.

"Well," he said rubbing the bridge of his nose with his fingers, "I kept my promise". He looked over at his two captives who were watching in fear. He looked at the two soldiers from Montairne who looked thoroughly bored. "I think it's time we leave," he said as he unlocked William's cell.

"It will be easier for us all if you are not bound," he said to William and Ana as William wraped his arm protectivly around her shoulders.

"Where are you taking us?" William demanded as they strode down the halls and through the same door they had recently come through.

"The Northern Wilderness," he answered. The two soldiers stopped in their tracks.

"What?" they chorused.

"The envoys are likely to travel through Nordskov. When they see the destruction they are likely to come back. We need to be far away by then. I don't think my brother will be able to restrain himself from killing me then next time he sees me." They all followed Erick through the caves in silence. William bumped his head on the hard ceiling and thought, oh not again.

AN: I just wanted to say to you all how extremely sorry I am that I haven't posted in almost a year. I have no excuse other that the fact that I was not motivated enough to do it while I had other things going on at school. I am sorry, but for those of you who messaged me and reviewed asking where I was, THANK YOU, you made me get off my lazy butt and write some more. I have the next few chapters planned out but they take some time for me to write because I re-write them every time I work on them and re-read them about ten times each before I post them... so it takes a while... Hopefully I will post another 2 chapters in June. Until then, thank you to everyone who favorited, reviewed, alerted, or messaged me.

Please do not hesitate to review (I like constructive criticism)... I don't care if it is one word or twenty, your reviews mean so much to me.

Until next time,

Yggdrasil Oak