With the addition of Elsaafrithaleon, Elsa for short, to their group, their journey shortened dramatically. Avoiding the road, since Emory receieved more bad prophecies any time they stepped on it, meant climbing cliffs, wading through swamps, tramping over brush and brambles. Elsa was willing to ferry them over these pesky obstacles. She was big enough and strong enough to carry two of them with their packs at a time. Just her mere presence scared away any predators that ordinarily would have come sneaking around a human camp.

After the initial scare with Emory collapsing from being so close to the corrupted gryphon that had once been Elsa's mate, his brothers had warmed up to her, especially after learning about her mate. Elsa had informed them curtly she had done them no small favor as gryphons mated only once and for as long as they lived, which was a very, very long time. Elsa was two hundred fifty and still young. Killing her mate to save Emory was not a simple act.

Emory had to wonder if whatever controlled prophecies had made sure Elsa had no choice but to come on this journey. Had forced her to uproot and turn over her life. Strangely, the thought did not comfort him.

They were almost halfway to King's Hollow, a full day ahead of where they would have been had Elsa not joined them. The fragment of the prophecy still toyed with Emory and he thought about asking Elsa but the prophetic force within him would not let him speak it out loud. So he settled for fretting and worrying.

He also worried of the sisters three. Who were they? One of them had to be like him. How else would she know words the king's tongue? As far as Emory knew, royalty did not have its own language so it would have to be a literal interpretation of that line. And what truths were about to reveal themselves? Also, how would the king know they were coming unless he had a prophet of his own. Or did something happen in ten days that would decry their approach. Did the Gods' Servants know they were coming? Would any of the Gods know to pass on their message? Emory knew that no God had ever made themselves known to him and so he was obviously not a Chosen One.

He could not stop thinking and thinking and thinking. Even as they forded rivers and leaped across gorges, his mind was ever on the prophecy. How would they meet the king? He was surrounded by guards, the King's Men. Everyone knew they were the best of the best. Even taken by surprise, they would fall by those warrior's hands. Though Raulf, Galien, and Bernard were just as good. He knew they had been practicing, spurred on by mocking comments of their glamour-less roots. He had watched them from the library. Raulf could disarm Galien easily and Galien was no fool with a sword, having received his sword mastery only a month ago. Bernard could hit a squirrel or a rabbit in the eye every time, and he never missed what he shot at. And Elsa was not to be trifled with either.

And who knew what the myth was. For all they knew, a dragon could be the second seer.

"Have you fretted enough?" Raulf's voice came from before Emory and he took his eyes off watching the ground to his brother's face. Raulf held out a hand and helped his youngest brother up the steep pitted hill. "You have your worrying face on."

Emory shrugged, not responding. Raulf's face softened and the kindness that only his brothers ever saw appeared in the crinkles of his eyes.

"You're brave Emory," Raulf reminded him. "And whatever we'll face will be together. That should make it pause."

"I just don't understand how we are supposed to accomplish this. What if this is not what we're supposed to be doing? What if we're going the wrong way and it's not the right king? What if-"

Peace, cub. Elsa suddenly appeared beside him, rubbing her face against his arm. Of all of them, she was most affectionate with him. The prophecies would tell you if you were going wrong. You know this to be true.

"Yes but-" he cut himself off as the force within him shifted. "We have to get to Aberonmore. Tonight. Before midnight."

Cecily sat on Sevestrion's back, fingers curled in his long mane. Fine creamy hairs twisted in her fingers and her dark brown cloak contrasted heavily with his fur. He walked carefully along the deer trails and breaks in foliage, following Alianor and Branwyn as they led the way through the woods.

Cecily had reached exhaustion by the third day of walking and sleeping on hard, cold ground. She had pushed as far as she could but Alianor, watching her eat her lunch listlessly, refused to continue on unless Cecily consented to ride Sevestrion, who had only voiced his agreement. Cecily, who had told Alianor and Branwyn of the prophecy the night they found Sevestrion, did not have the energy to argue. Indeed, she barely had the energy to keep herself mounted, hence her fingers in Sevestrion's mane.

She was fairly certain unicorns did not usually consent to being ridden but Sevestrion made no mention of this. He understood the relationship between Cecily and her sisters and succumbed to their whims as easily as if he was one of them. Branwyn and Alianor were a force to be reckoned with.

Many hours past this way as sunset gave way to twilight and twilight to dusk. It became harder and harder to get through the trees and a good place to camp was as unlikely as their continuing on.

"There's a town called Aberonmore, right of the road." Branwyn was reading the map, drawing her finger across it in patterns Cecily couldn't decipher. "It's sizable which means we could slip by unnoticed."

"Or be noticed as the only new people around." Alianor gazed down at the map, spread over a rock and lit by the glow of Sevestrion's horn, which he could hide from the townspeople if needed.

Perhaps we should get closer to the town before coming to any conclusions, Sevestrion suggested. A peek from the woods should do no harm and if it seems lively, a stay would not go amiss. Your sister needs it more then she lets on.

Cecily gasped, even through her exhaustion. "No I don't!" She protested drowsily. "I can sleep in the woods, it's fine!" She was soundly ignored by all three.

"I think that's a good idea," Branwyn said. "And he's right about Cecily."

"Alright, let's try it. Keep your bow ready and I my swords. If anything happens, we ask questions second." She caught sight of Cecily slumping over on Sevestrion's back and lifted the cowl of her cloak over her face. With careful, gentle, hands, she brushed hair out of Cecily's eyes and drew the hood over her forehead, hiding her face from sight. "Rest easy Cecily. Hopefully tonight you'll have a bed."

"I don't need one," Cecily grumbled.

"I'm sure." She heard the smile in Alianor's voice but didn't do more then voice a half hearted mumble of argument.

They were not very far from the road. The road itself was far from the town but not so far they could not see the town though they could not hear.

"Seems like there's a lot of people. And the inn seems to have a lot of business," Alianor noted. Branwyn made a sounds of agreement but continued to gaze at the moving lights and flickering shadows.

"I'm not sure, there doesn't-"

Whatever she was going to say was lost as Cecily gasped, suddenly wide awake. Three men appeared on the opposite side of the clearing. They froze at the sight of Sevestrion and before anyone could act, a gryphon emerged next to them, carrying another man.

Sevestrion, I should have expected you. A wry female voice said from the place that was not their ears.

Elsaafrithaleon, it is nice to see you again. Sevestrion greeted.

"You know them?" Branwyn snapped, hand in her quiver, bow ready to draw.

"Elsa what's going on?" One of the men said, hand on the massive broadsword slung across his back.

Neither Cecily nor the man on the gryphon's back noticed any of this. Their eyes had locked from beneath the hoods of their cloaks and neither could look away.

Something had unlocked in Cecily and she felt as if parts of her were open in a way that could not be. She could feel the slightest shift in the air, taste the storms on their way, hear the pounding hearts of her sisters and Sevestrion beneath her. The force within her moved and unfurled where she hadn't known it had been curled up from somewhere near her heart. It flowed through her hand, lifting it, palm up. The man on the gryphon mirrored her and she could sense his own force making its way through his arm and out his palm. Gently it flowed through the air and met in the middle.

It was like a blast in Cecily's mind. Suddenly she was Emory and Emory was her. His memories flitted through her brain like a waterfall, crashing down on her own, desperately trying to reinstate herself, forcing them away. She saw Raulf and Galien and Bernard as children, working in the inn, in the bookstore, in the market, finding legal ways to pay for their own food. He saw Alianor and Branwyn promise to watch over her in the best ways they could. She saw Galien get beaten for insulting a noble and Raulf extracting the promise of silence from Emory. He saw her crippling shyness in the schoolroom and the looming sense of someone behind her. He saw Alianor beat the man who tried to rape Cecily and she saw him turn away from society and shut himself in the house the brothers had finally bought. She saw him learn his prophecies and he saw her turn away from society and to the Chronicalist and Librarian. Then their memories meshed as they recalled the moment they first heard the prophecy. Emory chopping onions and Cecily inking a new page in the Chronicles.

Then the force ejected each of them from the other's body and they became themselves, unaware that they were both screaming. The process was like burning yourself on an iron pan and not letting go, like the sting of a thousand bees, the bite of a hundred wolves. Then both fell limp and did not move.