So A/N. Changed some major parts due to LookingWest's, Kay Iscah, and Dr. Self Destruct's input (Thank you by the way, so much!) and for those that have read before you'll notice I put a lot more detail: almost 650 words worth! But regardless, please review, let me know how you like it :) Or dislike it. I could really use the feedback!


Prologue

Her nails bit into the skin of her palm as she struggled to breathe calmly, to hold on to some semblance of peace as fear and fury choked her. Lenil could feel herself cracking, could feel just as she would an eggshell in her hand. For weeks now she had struggled to stay sane, to calmly handle her dreams, had tried writing them off as drivel. But she couldn't any longer. She could feel fate swirling its hand in the fabric of their lives, could feel the truth to her dreams on the breeze, could hear it in the tree's whispers as she sat beneath them. It was the curse of Prophesy to see these signs when others couldn't, when others wouldn't.

It was all she could do to remain sitting, to not jump up and grab each and every one of the eleven other people with her and shake them till they saw reason. They sat around the oak table they had sat at countless times before, its surface stained and scratched from countless spilt drinks, countless arms resting on its surface and countless decisions made for the fate of all Druids. In this room they had argued; they had raged and weighed options before deciding what their people would do. She knew this table, this room in this house standing since before her people had even come together to settle their lives here. Since before their ancestors had traveled the Realms to find this perfect little world of magic-a feat that had never been redone.

She had sat at that table for years and knew the people that sat there with her, had respected them, learned to love them. Until now, when all had turned on her, too weak to see as she did, too afraid to face the truth.

They had been her comrades, her friends. Some she had been raised with, some who helped raise her. Some she had even taught the art of magic to. Men and women, all equal in wisdom or power, adding insight to whatever troubles plagued their people.

And yet each and every one thought her mad, rambling on as a frightened woman with no ground to stand on. Hysterical, not wise as she had once been.

When she spoke, her voice shook despite her efforts and she felt her breath hitch. "He's coming," she whispered hoarsely, her lips trembling as she clenched her closed eyelids even tighter. Gods how she hated this, the fear sitting so sickenly sweet in her belly that it took all she was not to heave. Hated the sight that greeted her eyes every time she opened them, seeing the disbelief on their faces, or worse, the pity.

Lenil's voice rose in volume as she chased the tremor from her voice for her next words.

"He's coming, and you sit there and tell me there is hope." She breathed past the knot in her chest, the heavy stone of fear weighing her down. Was she the only one that heard the children's screams when what she feared came to pass? They rang in her ears constantly now and never more loud than when she woke up screaming in her bed, sheets stained with sweat.

She almost choked on her next words. "The trees are screaming, the animals are fleeing, and you SIT THERE DOING NOTHING!" She screamed, her eyes flying open, flashing green fire.

She took in the sight of the eleven other council members before her, unable to believe how blind and unfeeling they were. Unable to believe that her desperation wasn't a tangible thing for them to feel, for them to know.

But none more than the man directly before her. The man she thought she had known staring back at her with his own gray eyes stoic and calm. His faith served him now as it had through all of his hardships in life, as stable as the ground he walked on.

He gave a sigh, a hand reaching up to rub the bridge of his nose, those once beautiful eyes closing.

Her chest ached at the thought of how she had once loved this man, but now anger and distrust kept him so far from her. In the same room and yet he might has well have been miles away. He had been her smiling, silent giant-using soft words and touches to bring a smile to her face. Now he was a man that thought she was mad, that snapped at her, that had turned against her because he was too blind to see.

"Lenil, calm down," his low baritone assured her, as he had done so many times before. His voice was low and calming, meant to soothe the nerves and fears of the others but only made her more desperate, her fear more fierce. His eyes met hers again, boring into her with his convictions clear in his gaze. She almost choked on it, her nails digging into the palm of her hand enough to draw blood. "Yes, the bonds holding him are weakening, but we have time. We have time to search for an answer, to-"

She closed her eyes against the helpless fury rushing through her, rising from her seat and whirling away to cover the space between her and the window with hurried steps.

She stared out of its glass, the fingers of her right hand shaking as she rested them against her lips, as if trying to hold back the words burning like acid on her tongue.

His voice continued behind her, sharpening with frustration but she ignored it, pushing it to the back of her mind as she stared out at the haven she called home.

Just through the surrounding canopy of gigantic pines that rose to the sky like grasping hands, she saw the sky. The golden light of the setting sun shone through, painting the sky with flecks of red and shades of caramel.

Through the window she saw one of the five colossal trees she knew surrounded this small building, scarred and worn from standing since before men had first stood on two feet and taken their first steps, when the Earth Mother had first woken and formed the rivers and mountains and ravines that made her surface. It reached for the heavens, unbelievable in its size-one of the last touches the gods had left in the world, their magic singing through each branch, so thick that she felt it as a comforting blanket over her skin. It's trunk large enough to fit a small town within and held her whole world easily.

She could picture it so clearly in her mind's eye, this one tree standing as one corner of the protective circle that made the pentagram all Druids called a haven, each tree a perfect copy of the last. Each so large that though she had lived here most of her life, it still took her breath away.

Lenil could just imagine how her ancestors had felt, coming to this world where magic soaked the air, so different from their dying world. Finding people so like them, numb to the Earth Mother's power but living in peace regardless. And then finding this place, so grand and awe inspiring. She doubted they had ever thought they would need to leave, that the power that came so easily would turn on them, bringing a man that would destroy their people.

She saw her home in these trees, saw her beginning and end swaying in their branches. She could almost sense the lives in those trunks, her fellow Druids moving through the many corridors the gods had formed in their trunks, living their lives free from the fear of what loomed over their heads.

Before now the sight had always filled her with a sense of safety, with wonder and hope. But not now.

Now visions of fire danced across her eyes, and her fear rose up to her throat before she closed them, blocking out the doom her dreams foretold.

She was too stilted, closed in, the shadows creeping closer. The heat from the fire in the corner was suffocating her.

With one jerk she opened the window, letting the chill from falling night rush over her fevered skin.

She gulped in the clean scent of the forest, and for once her trembling eased.

Her long robes swished as she turned again, her heavy gaze finding Aiden's. Her heart pounded in her ears at seeing the look there, the polite distance, and she wanted to scream, wanted to rail and weep and make him hold her again so safe in his arms as he used to. To hold her hand so tenderly as he had in their bonding ceremony, his eyes so full of love she had cried from it. But she had pride dammit, and if he wouldn't bend, neither would she.

She could feel the other's gazes on her skin, knew what each would be thinking.

Daena, the youngest of their members at barely twenty nine, would be torn, her loyalties divided between the woman that had trained her in her magic, and the man who had saved her life not a week before from a Ghoul's attack. Elder Cam, the one beside Aiden, looked at her in pity, his lined face creased as he held back his words. Meandra, her once dear friend, sat there in stony silence, looking as if she couldn't recognize the person Lenil had become.

She could taste many of them waiting to speak, but as she had invoked Ciúin, the sacred right of the council members to talk without interruptions. Now none had the right to speak unless she spoke to them first, inviting them into her argument. Only Aiden had been addressed and so only he had the right to speak, though now she regretted bitterly giving him the choice. It was rare for the Ciúin to be called upon-the council prided themselves on respecting others enough to never interrupt other's thoughts needlessly. But they had been so loud, talking over her, each voice sharper than the last, until she had almost cracked from her silence, until she had screamed it and they had fallen into blessed silence. Now they could finally listen to her, would sit there like silent lumps until she was through.

"You say we have time," she said softly, her heart sinking even deeper in her chest. "But how long? How long will we have to save our world? Our children?"

She saw him flinch, barely, but saw her opening, hope blooming like a flower in her heart.

The other council members faded in to the background, unimportant now. He was the one she needed to convince, the one she needed on her side. To save them all, to save their son, she had to convince him. Bring him to her side again, and then she could convince everyone as they had in the past, a united front that no one could stop. With him she could do anything, could save them all.

"How can we defeat him again?" she continued softly, almost gently. "We couldn't the first time. No amount of time will make us strong enough now." She searched his eyes, pleading. "We are doomed, Aiden. Each and every one of us doomed to death and pain and fear if we stay. All we can do is flee, flee to wherever the gods take us and pray we escape his wrath. Call upon the power that had brought us here so long ago and tear a rip in the world for us to leave though. To find another home, another earth. That is all we have time to do! Are you willing to sacrifice our son in your bid to ignore reason?!"

Eyes the color of smoke glared back at her, calm dissipating like water, and she knew instantly that she had over stepped her bounds in bringing the fate their child into the argument.

"I know so because I am not willing to give up so easily with everything at stake! You forget, Lenil, in your fear that we are not the only ones to suffer from his hand," he hissed. "If we abandon the world to suffer with no hope, we are no better than the minions he uses to cause suffering." His gaze bore into her, hard like flint. "We as Druids hold the only way to stop his abomination. To run away like children is cowardly, and worse, inhumane. There is a way, and we will find it! END OF DISCUSSION!" His fist came down with a crash on to the table.

Eleven faces as one flinched at his outburst, shock making them still. The usually calm and easy-going Aiden radiated fury from every pore, and it was frightening. Frightening to see him draw himself to his full towering height, his shoulders pulling back, showing the physical power he rarely used.

She knew what it meant if they didn't leave, the horrors they would face. Scars from when he had been free still marked this land. The Shadowmaster, a being so powerful it made all of them look like children playing at magic. The very Earth Mother, the land they stood on, the deity of all that was and all that would be, shook in the presence of his magic, parting at the force of his fury. Lenil had lost many friends as he tore across the land, family she had loved, children she had held in her arms as they died.

Lenil still didn't know how he had been locked away, only that five years ago one brave couple had called upon Earth Mother, and had disappeared once the Shadowmaster lay deep in Earth Mother's belly, magic binding him and his minions on a whole new plane from mortals. Paelu and her husband, the ones responsible for his prison, were thought to be dead, and the Druids grieved every day for their loss. Despite their sacrifice the magic was slowly weakening, wasting away as he struggled for freedom. She could feel the Mother screaming from it, trembling so minutely that others stayed deaf. If he escaped, hell would reign again, and blood would bathe the streets. She'd give anything to never see that again.

A cold chill snaked up her spine, and something prodded her mind. She ignored it, too intent on arguing further. One moment she was there, her words just sitting on her tongue almost spoken, and the next her mind was fading, sinking fast into a white void, magic swirling around her in a vortex, dragging her further down.

A sudden gust of wind blew through the open window, twisting around the room in a way no natural wind could, extinguishing the lamps and fireplace. Darkness swamped the room, extinguishing all light and hope with it.

As one those in the room froze, the hair on their skin lifting as the knowledge of another presence found its way into their minds, as their magic quailed at the immense presence that made its way into their haven.

They felt as it moved, slithering its way to wrap around Lenil, and they held their breath as everything shouted to run.

Slowly a steady light came from beneath Lenil's skin, lighting her from within. Magic hung in the air, thickening it as it filled their lungs, forcing them to stay still and silent as fate laid out its hand.

Lenil no longer saw her surroundings, the magic thrumming through her system freezing her in place and stealing her thoughts. Dimly she heard a woman's voice through the thickness in her mind, old but kind.

Oh my child... This world is no more for you, but your sacrifice shall save all. Paradise is a place you will call home, the voice promised, and Lenil almost smiled, lethargy filling her mind until not even death held fear for her. She felt light for the first time in years, the worry of the world no longer on her shoulders, no more power beneath her skin being the very thing that threatened her life. She let go gladly, sinking farther into the abyss, letting go of the ties that held her to her body.

Everything that ever was Lenil faded into obscurity, leaving barely the faintest of traces of herself in the husk that had once held her soul.

The men and women at the table stared at Lenil, muscles locked tight as they waited for the magic to run its course.

Her eyes opened, fading to a swirling milky white, and she stared into the air blankly. Her voice was a raspy breath when she spoke, her words soft and light, yet heavy with the magic of the world.

"On all Samhain eve,

The day of the dead,

He shall stir from his earthen bed.

Ghouls and ghosts roam through the air,

the Beginning of Darkness shall stir from its lair.

Luna hid by veil and smoke,

Shadows rise, the light shall choke

Evil can only be laid to rest,

if one passes the gods-born test.

Feline mother, yet human born;

Scorched and flayed thy skin be torn

Marked in flesh by fallen blade,

sign of bird from creatures aid.

Though young, the power great;

from the hands that hold our fate.

With peace within may conquer all,

plunge the blade before we fall.

One so young yet of us must lead,

with the truest love to do this deed.

Find the courage or time shall expire,

The Stirring of Shadows holds future most dire.

With birth of Light we shall be free,

from slaughters bloody tyranny ."

The last whisper of the prophecy passed from her lips and for a breathless moment she stood there so still as her eyes cleared. The light faded from her skin, leaving only a mortal husk behind as her eyes slid slowly closed. Her body went limp, falling in to a heap on the floor and the power that had seized her soul vanished as if it had never been, taking her life force with it.

Power exploded within her skin, hers that had been so powerful it could topple mountains and part seas.

Her power spread out touching each mortal in the room with a resonance that left nothing unaffected. The window she had just opened shattered, its shards landing with soft tinks on the ground. The other council members fell with light thumps as the power passed over them, as it swallowed their magic, leaving them unconscious lumps on the ground.

Only one man still stood, the one man who had been her equal in every way, that had loved her with a passion that could have burned entire forests to the ground. The father of her one son, the mate to her heart. The man who had been deaf to her, blind to her proof.

Aiden somehow made his way to where her body lay, unable to feel anything of his flesh. He was numb, save for the ache of emptiness in his chest where his heart had been.

Without touching her he knew she was dead. Could see it in her pale face, in the lack of breath filling her breast.

He gave a broken sob and with shaking hands, gently lifted her head and pulled her close. There was no hope for her, but he handled her with care and infinite tenderness. Tears blinded him, but he held her tightly anyway for one last time, his body shaking violently.

His sobbed out his soul, crying his grief to the gods that had abandoned him, and clutched her to his chest until others found them the next morning, when the other council members finally roused.

And so he began his slow decent into grief's madness.

...

As death took away one spirit from the world, another took its place. Miles away from where Lenil fell, hope bloomed in the humblest of places. In a place of pain and blood and fear a new-born girl lay near the grass hut that would be her home, in the blanket her mother had lovingly wrapped around her.

Violet feline eyes opened, and the newborn let out her first cry into the night.