Chapter Seven

A/N: Hello again! This is the second part. Sorry it took so long. School. Anyways, if you haven't read "Journey of A Knight", it would be a good idea. A lot of things are explained.

For those of you who have read it, this is about three or four years later. Richard is in the South during the first chapter.

And as before, Richard, Lara, Otho, Blithe, Hobbs, Jemmy, Zen, and Wes have an Irish-like accent, Yin has a Chinese like accent, the Elves, Gabrielle, Jadeth, Santir, Moreena, the Queen, and the King have an English like accent. All right, enough babel. On with the story!

Chapter Seven

The morning was dark and foggy. Somehow, it seemed to make the impending battle more ominous than it should've been. Richard's horse, Revuien, pawed the ground and then snorted nervously. Richard patted his neck, and looked over at the small warrior girl, Yin. As always before battle, her eyes were closed and her face was set in concentration. Richard didn't know what she was doing; he had never asked and she had never offered an explanation.

"Somen!" Galenel breathed. Richard looked at him inquiringly. The Elf smiled without humor.

"They are coming closer." He said, then looked at the small army of theirs. Galenel and Richard had been given command of this one. Murdock, Glock, and Minyalosse were in charge of the others.

"We're ready." Richard said confidently. He had grown over the years. Once a young farmboy, with a schoolboy crush and hopeful dreams, he was now a young man, experienced, but had not quite lost his idealism or naiveté.

Yin opened her dark, almond shaped eyes, blew out a soft breath, and smiled.

"I'm ready." She said. Her accent had gotten better, although she still got mixed up a bit with Northern dialect.

"Good." Richard said. He and Galenel exchanged looks. Richard unsheathed his sword, Yllon, and raised it. He waited. The air was thick with tension. Every muscle was strained, every nerve taught. The air was still and silent. Richard looked at Galenel, who was peering into the mists, leaning forward on his horse.

Galenel gave a slight nod. Shouting, Richard brought the sword down, and as one man, the entire army galloped forward, shouting a great war cry. They crashed with the enemy and the action became somewhat confused.

Yin's horse was stabbed, but she deftly leapt off, with elvish grace, and began to swing her war club with great skill. Galenel was using his short archer's sword. Richard and Revuien pressed forward, Revuien using his hoofs just as much as Richard was using his sword.

Jadeth, Richard's other friend, led the footsoldiers, who had come behind the horsemen, finishing off the enemies who had fallen from their horses with their spears. It was a fierce fight. To Richard, it seemed to go on for hours. In reality, the enemy was routed within the space of little more than half an hour.

Richard rubbed Revuien's nose. "Good boy." He said. "You did well today." The bay's dark eyes looked at him, as if to say "What did you expect?", then turned his head away, disappointed that Richard had no bit of apple or bread to treat him with.

Richard laughed. "You'll get some later, old boy."

"Such a pretty horse." A voice commented. Richard jumped a little. He turned to see Galenel's sister, Pallaorewen, leaning on her ax and smiling. She stood and came over.

"A good breed." She went on, patting Revuien's neck. "Elvish bred?"

"Yes." Richard said. "Galenel-"

"I know." Pallaorewen interrupted. "My brother is fond of you."

"We're good friends."

"I know." Pallaorewen turned to him. "Thank you for that. Since you and Jadeth have befriended him, he has had a lighter heart. It makes me glad." Then she turned and walked away. Richard looked after her, looking thoughtful.

Jadeth passed Pallaorewen, greeted her, and continued for Richard. He grinned when he reached him.

"What was that about?" he asked. Richard picked up the cloak he had hung on Revuien's temporary corral, and he and Jadeth walked towards the center of the camp.

"She only wished to thank me for befriendin' Galenel." Richard said. "There was nothing more than that."

"Oh." Jadeth said, nodding. Richard shot a look at him.

"I don't think I like your tone." He commented in mock seriousness.

Jadeth shrugged. "Too bad." He commented cheerfully. The two men laughed.

"Glad to hear laughter." Mara said as they approached one of the fires.

"Mara!" Richard grinned. "We were wonderin' when you and Glock's lot would join us."

The brown-haired woman smiled at them. "We've only just arrived." She was about to say more, when she glanced pass them and shouted, "Cornflower! Come back here, now!"

A tiny girl of about four years of age ran up. "But mum." She complained.

"No!" Mara pointed to a tent. "I told you to stay with Kerill."

"But Kerill is sooo boring!" Cornflower frowned. "She just keeps talking."

Mara sighed. "This is what I get for letting a dragon baby-sit."

Jadeth grinned. "I'll take charge of her for a little while."

"Yay!" Cornflower shouted.

Richard laughed. "You do that." He said. "I need to talk to Yin."

Gabrielle sighed as she stitched on her embroidery sampler. There was a slight knock on the door.

"Enter." The red-headed princess said. Lara, Gabrielle's maid, entered timidly.

"Another letter." She said. Gabrielle took it. Lara curtsied, and was going to walk to the door, when Gabrielle stopped her.

"Lara," she said. "Would you read it to me? I wish to finish a little more of this sewing before Lord Santir arrives."

"Of course, m'lady." Lara said in her soft voice. The petite brunette took the letter from Gabrielle's slender hand and began to read.

"My Dear Princess," it read. "I apologize for not having written sooner. Business in the South has become more serious than we thought, and we have fought much. As of yet, I have been fortunate in not being seriously wounded."

"I miss the greenness of home. The South has greenery, but not much. There was something called a desert, which we had to cross. Nothing but sand stretched as far as the eye could see. It was silent, almost to the point of eeriness. And as we walked, the wind blew our tracks away. We were blessed in having a good guide who has crossed this land many times and knew places for us to stay. Would you believe that in the midst of all that heat and sand, there was a small pool surrounded with trees and plants?"

"They said it was called an oasis. We stayed at several. The towns here are quite different too. There was one city entirely carved into a canyon wall! The people here are dark skinned; it is very strange to see. They have very white teeth, which makes their skin look almost black. Jadeth said that he supposed the sun had burnt them, but we saw a newborn infant the same color of blackness. Jadeth said, 'There, you see! The sun burns them as soon as they come into the world!'"

"Yin has continued to teach me, though she says there isn't much more I can learn. Murdock has given me commanded of a small force. It is a great honor. Jadeth and Galenel both are my officers."

"Continue to pray for us. And I pray that I might see your fair face again, and soon. Farewell. Richard."

Gabrielle had stopped sewing as Lara read. Her lips were parted, and her dark blue eyes looked out the window, but she did not see the palace gardens, or the hills beyond. Before her eyes danced the scenes Richard had described in his letter.

Lara folded the letter and quietly cleared her throat. Gabrielle shook herself, and smiled.

"Can you imagine, Lara?" she shook her head. "Black people."

"I can't say that I can." Lara said, a little uncomfortably. She was not used to being addressed by Gabrielle, save for what was necessary.

Gabrielle sighed, then looked at her maid.

"He's your brother, isn't he?" she asked. Lara nodded.

"Well," Gabrielle said slowly, "I think I should like to know you better Lara."

"Oh." Lara searched for what to say. "I don't know, m'lady. It's not very proper…"

Gabrielle laughed. "Nonsense." She patted a chair next to hers. "Sit down."

Lara sat timidly.

"Now, tell me about yourself." Gabrielle invited, sewing a rose on the white linen.

"There's not much to tell." Lara said. "I'm the eldest of five. My mother died when Richard was three and I was five. My dad married when I was nine and Richard was seven."

"Do you like your step mother?" Gabrielle asked. Lara nodded.

"She's a very nice lady. And my little bother and sisters are – well, I love them, but it's hard sometimes." Lara fell into silence again.

"Are you close to Richard?" Gabrielle asked.

"Oh, yes." Lara said. "He's a bit strange, though."

"How do you mean?"

"Always dreamin'." Lara said. She was about to go on, when the door opened, and Lord Santir walked in.

"Hullo." He said cheerfully. Lara stood quickly, her face red, curtsied to Santir and Gabrielle and left. Santir watched her go.

"I say," he exclaimed. "I didn't interrupt anything did I?"

"Not really." Gabrielle said, putting her needle and thread away. "Just a chat."

"Oh, terribly sorry."

"It's all right." Gabrielle smiled. "Let me get my cloak, and we'll go for our walk."

"Sorry about Ivin." Richard said to Yin, referring to her horse. The Eastern woman looked up from the small fire she had built.

"It was not your fault." She said in some confusion. Richard grinned.

"No," he explained. "It's just a way of expressing sympathy." Yin nodded, then looked at the stars. Richard sat next to her.

"Funny how the stars seem the same." He commented. "One doesn't feel as homesick when one looks at them."

Yin nodded again. "You hear from your princess?" she asked. Richard shook his head.

"She's probably only just got me letter." He said. Yin shivered a little. Richard frowned.

"Somethin' wrong?"

"No." Yin said. "And yes. Something not feel very right. I don't know…"

Bragol and his sister Yari stood in a balcony, looking at the vast kingdom which they ruled. It would be come vaster in the years to come. Campaigns to the North of Desanq had opened up more land, and steadily, Desanq had come to rule most of what lied around the outskirts of the kingdom.

Bragol sighed and turned away from the view. The sky was overcast today, and the black stone of the castle seemed darker and it's carved gargoyles more ominous. Yari glanced at him.

"Are you all right?" she asked.

"Tired." He admitted. "A little nervous."

"Don't worry." Yari said. "You'll be safe. I promise."

Bragol smiled wryly at his younger sister. Wondering how something that looked so innocent could hide such dark power.

"I had a new sword made for you." Yari continued.

"Did you?" Bragol asked, sitting on the edge of the balcony. Yari turned and leaned against to see his face better.

"Yes." She answered. "It will be ready tonight."

"I look forward to it then."

The camp was almost merry that night. There had been a rumor that they were going back to the North; away from the Southern countries and their heat, strange animals and mostly hostile people. Trolls had been migrating to the North, it seemed, and garls were becoming more numerous. There had even been talk of Neesan, dark spirit-monsters.

"Wonder if all the rumors are true." Jadeth commented on their way to the main tent. Murdock had called a meeting for all the leaders and officers.

Richard shrugged. "Probably not."

"I could do without Neesan." Galenel said grimly. "I've dealt with their kind; and lost more friends and brothers to them than I care to recount."

They entered the tent. Richard knew most of the people there. Most had been in his original company; others whom he did not recognize were from other orders or companies, or had joined up as the group had traveled. The three friends took a seat next to Glock and his wife Mara.

Murdock stood and held up his hands for silence. When all was quiet, the tall, stern knight began to speak.

"You have all heard that Trolls and garls have arisen again in the North." He began. "It is true. Also true is the rumors of Neesan."

Several Elves in the company made noises of dismay or terror.

"Please!" Murdock said. "We must remain calm. Neesan are hard to kill, but they are not immortal; at least not yet." He paused and looked around.

"We have also heard that several kingdoms have been invaded. The Sorql, Resuin, Savan, and most recently, the Korien kingdoms have fallen prey to their neighbor, the Desanq kingdom. I have not heard why or how, only that somehow, some way, Evil has arisen in Desanq." Murdock looked at Okgog. The elderly wizard stood.

"Evil has arisen again." He said quietly. "As it always has done. I don't know how or who has awoken it; all I know is we have to destroy it before it spreads. Queen Derman, who managed to send us a message before her kingdom was taken, said that there was a revolt in Desanq, and that the king's niece and nephew have gained control."

"That was almost five years ago. The Korien kingdom fell three months ago. Anything could have happened between then and now; including the strengthening of our enemies. We are going back, but it is urgent. This is not a trip, a holiday; but most likely a journey for which most of us will not see the end."

There was a long pause. Several of the others looked at each other. Richard could see an array of feeling in the faces; fear, anger, uncertainty, sadness, but all had the same determination.

"We will leave tomorrow." Murdock said.

Moreena first smelt something burning. Then someone began to shake her. Opening her eyes, she saw Gerharad, fully dressed.

"Moreena?" he said. "Wake up, quick."

"What's wrong?" she asked. The young king merely looked at the window. Quickly pulling on a dressing gown, Moreena stood at the window, and stared in horror at the large fire near the harbor.

"What's happened?" she asked.

"We're being attacked." Gerharad answered. "I woke you because my mother's gone into hysterics, and I need to be-"

"Of course." Moreena cut him off. "Tytania!" she shouted, calling for her maid. Gerharad turned to leave. Moreena grabbed his hand.

"Be careful." She told her husband. He gave her a small smile.

"I will." He promised.

They had ridden all day and were going on far into the night. Yin rode behind Richard, since her own horse was dead. He could tell how scared she was; she was gripping him tightly. Richard glanced over to where Mara was. Cornflower was asleep, strapped to her mother's back. Galenel was riding a unicorn he had befriended some months ago. Jadeth had his horse and was riding between Minyalosse and Pallaorewen. Both Elf maidens had grim looks on their faces.

Murdock called for a halt. A very bare camp was made. Almost no tents, one fire per company.

Yin shivered. "It's going to be cold tonight." She said.

"As long as it doesn't rain, I'll be happy." Richard answered, helping her from the horse. Yin smiled.

"I can manage." She said. Richard only nodded, to distracted to be amused. Galenel and Istar, the unicorn walked over.

"I don't like this." Istar was saying.

"What doesn't he like?" Yin asked.

"I don't like this place." Istar snorted in a very horsy fashion. "It's wrong somehow." Shaking his blue mane, the unicorn trotted off to find a bed.

Galenel sighed. "He's been saying things like that all day."

"Kerill's no better." Richard commented, taking off Rivuien's saddle and bridle. "And is it me, but has that dragon gotten bigger?"

"She has." Yin answered, helping him to take care of the bay.

"Good." Galenel said, somewhat wryly. "Maybe she'll be able to spout some fire now."

A hoarse cough sounded. The three looked over to where the noise had come from. Kerill had been trying to light a fire, but had not been successful, as she had choked on her own smoke. Walking past, she stared at their amused looks.

"It's not funny!" she hissed, snapping her yellow wings back.

"Of course not." Richard said straining not to laugh. Yin and Galenel hid their smiles behind their hands. The dragon shook her red head at them and left, still coughing.

Gabrielle and Santir were in one of the castle's drawing rooms, where Gabrielle was playing her dulcimer. They were interrupted by Lara bursting in.

"Your highness!" the girl exclaimed. "Come quick! There was a message from your sister. Galastron is under attack."

Gabrielle and Santir practically ran to the throne room. When they entered, they saw that most of the nobles, officers, and the city representatives were there, along with a tired looking man streaked with soot.

King Arman looked weary, Queen Silhal worried. Gabrielle swallowed hard, then joined her parents at the dais. Santir joined the crowd.

The man, who was obviously a messenger, spoke, as if he was continuing something that he was saying, "As I was saying, Your Majesties, King Gerharad and his wife, your daughter, beg your help. This is not a naval battle, nor could we escape that way. The enemy somehow managed to burn all our ships." The man paused. "What message do I take back?"

"We will help." Arman answered. "We will come with all speediness."

There were some murmurs of assent in the crowd. Gabrielle's hands tightened on the armrests of her chair. She knew what this meant. It meant war, and meant that Santir would have to lead his men into battle. She looked up and met Santir's honest blue eyes. He looked back, then nodded his head sadly, answering her unspoken question. Gabrielle looked down, blinking away the tears that had suddenly sprung up.

Bragol removed his black helmet, and winced. He had been wounded today. Not bad, but a stab from a spear had made it's mark. Entering his tent, he was surprised to see Yari sitting there, in a black cloak. She looked at him, then at the wound, and her face softened.

"You've been hurt." She said softly, getting up and helping him to sit.

"Not badly." Bragol answered. "Merely a flesh wound."

She helped him take off his armor.

"What are you doing here?" he asked.

"I don't know." She answered honestly. "I felt I had to come."

Bragol frowned. This had never happened before. "Has something gone wrong?"

"Oh, no." Yari shook her head. "But I need to be here. Don't ask why."

"I see." Bragol leaned back, and closed his eyes.

"You should be in bed." Yari said. Bragol looked at her.

"I guess so." He amended. Yari helped him up, and over to the raised cot he used. Bragol grimaced. Maybe that spear had gone deeper than he had thought.

"Come on, Lara!" Gabrielle urged. The small maid looked a little frightened.

"I don't think-"

"Oh, hang it all!" Gabrielle exploded. She is different from Richard. She thought. She doesn't like adventure, probably never wanted it. Admittedly, she had only met Richard once, but since then they had exchanged letters, and she knew his character.

Looking around, she spotted Santir talking with an armored man. Santir too had armor, though his helmet was tucked under his arm. His thin face was serious as he spoke to who was apparently his captain.

Gabrielle pulled her burgundy velvet hood over her face, so she wouldn't be recognized right away. Her parents would have a fit if they knew she was here.

"Lara," she began, but the maid had disappeared. Gabrielle frowned, then saw Lara talking to a tall, brown-eyed youth. He had her hands in his, and was obviously speaking earnestly. One only had too look at them to know they were sweethearts. She walked up to Santir, who had just finished with his captain.

"Santir." She said. The man turned.

"Princess?" he asked. Gabrielle nodded, and pulled her hood down.

"I had too see you." She said, then grabbed his hand. "Please be careful." Gabrielle begged. "I-I don't want anything to happen to you."

Santir looked at her, expressionless. "I'll be careful." He promised, then smiled.

Gabrielle smiled shakily back. "I mean it." She whispered. Santir took Gabrielle's slender hand, and lifted it to his lips. Kissing it, he met her eyes, and smiled again.

"I will return." He promised in a low tone. Gabrielle felt color rise in her cheeks, as Santir mounted his horse.

Otho watched solemnly as Zel beat his plowshare into a sword. Otho had given Yllon to Richard when he had left to join the Knights. When Zel had finished, Otho hefted it, getting used the feel of it. Old tricks he had learned flooded back. Zel watched him silently.

"Ever regret sendin' Richard out?" he asked, wiping sweat from his brow. Otho looked at his friend with his one good eye.

"Yes." He admitted. "It is hard. I miss him very much." Zel nodded, as his own son, Jemmy came in.

"Pa," the boy said. "One of the nobles' here. Needs to talk to ya."

Galastron had been besieged for almost three months now, Moreena thought. She looked at her husband, who was pacing up and down looking pale and strained.

"Gerharad?" she asked. He stopped.

"Yes?"

"Must you keep pacing?" she asked. "I-I mean, your mother, she well, she…" her voice trailed off.

"Teranis help me." The young king moaned. Moreena looked down.

"I'm sorry." She whispered. "I shouldn't have said anything."

Gerharad came over and put his hands on his shoulders. They had been married for three years; and they had first met on their wedding day. Since then, Gerharad had come to love the quiet and wise woman who had become his queen.

"It's all right." He said. "This is hard on everyone."

Moreena's green eyes looked into his blue-gray ones. "I know." She said. "I understand."

Gerharad smiled for the first time in days. He leaned over and kissed her on the forehead. "I have to go know. Tell Mother not to worry. And my sister, make sure she rests."

Moreena nodded watching him leave the room. Left to herself she whispered, "Help him, Teranis, help us all."

Gabrielle knelt in the abbey sanctuary, looking at the stained glass window, which depicted Teranis, the Creator, and the Astarie, the Over-seers, around him.

She knelt quietly, not quite sure what to say. Silently, a figure in a green robe walked up.

"Your Highness?" the novice said uncertainly. Gabrielle looked at the small boy with dark hair, and large dark eyes.

"Yes?" she asked.

"Your Mother requests your presence. Your maid, Lara, is waiting. She looks worried." The boy said.

"You speak as if you know her." Gabrielle said. The boy smiled.

"I do." He answered. "I'm her younger brother, Blithe."

Chapter Eight

Istar nudged Galenel slightly. The Elf sat up sleepily.

"What is it?" he asked. The unicorn snorted quietly.

"I don't know." He admitted. "But something smells wrong."

The Elf sat in an alert fashion straining his senses. "I don't –" he stopped as the low growl of a garl wolf met his ears.

"Callen! Callen su ych!" he shouted, grabbing his bow. All over the camp people were suddenly awake. Galenel shot a garl who had leaped for a semi-conscious Yin. Istar ran one through with his iridescent horn.

There seemed to be millions of them; all together. All Galenel could concentrate on was shooting, shooting till all his arrows were spent. Turning quickly he grabbed his sword and was pulling it out of the sheath when one garl jumped him from behind. Galenel felt it's claws and hot breath for an instant, then all was blackness.

Silhal turned from the window as her daughter entered the room. Gabrielle stopped suddenly, the sight of her mother's pale and tear-stained face scaring her.

"Gabrielle." The woman said and held her hands out for her. Gabrielle came. Silhal hugged her youngest daughter tightly.

"Mother what has happened?" Gabrielle asked. Silhal looked at her sadly.

"Your father has fallen." She said softly. "I only just received the news."

Blithe brought in buckets of water and set them down. Constance, who was in charge of domestic matters in the abbey, turned towards him, hands on her ample hips.

"Very good, Blithe." She said. "You're a strong boy." Blithe smiled shyly. Another novice, Sarah smiled at him. Blithe blushed.

"Oh, before I forget," Constance went on. "Your father is here; I think you'd better go to him."

Otho turned as his young son touched his arm. He was amazed that Blithe could creep up on people so quietly; it wasn't natural.

"Father." Blithe said in his calm, soft way.

"Blithe." Othe answered. "I suppose you know what's happened?"

Blithe nodded. "We were told."

Otho sighed. "I'm, I'm thinkin' about taking you away from the abbey."

Blithe looked at him in shock. "Why?"

Otho sighed again. "Because I'm not sure it's the safest way. It's secluded."

"But strong." Blithe argued. "The walls are practically impenetrable. You know that. What's the real reason?"

"Your mother needs you." Otho admitted bluntly. Blithe was quiet.

"I see." He bit his lip. "I can't leave, father."

"Why is that?"

Blithe's black eyes met his father's gray one. "Because I am one of the few people who is aware of the real danger. In an abbey, it is easy to forget the outside, and most here are children. I am needed because I can help. Right here. Mother and the girls can come here; they will be welcomed."

Blithe spoke with a quiet self-assurance that was somehow disconcerting for a twelve year old. It seemed that somehow, he was years older. Otho nodded, blinking away tears. When did he grow up so fast? He asked silently, then looked at the picture of Teranis.

"I see." Was what he said. "I trust your judgment."

"Thank you." Blithe looked at his father with a look that was too old for his young face. "I will not disappoint you father; I promise."

Galenel came too painfully, lying on his stomach. He looked around, and saw Minyalosse looking at him with a look of compassion and concern. There were tears in her silvery eyes.

"Thank Teranis you are all right." She whispered.

"What happened?" Galenel asked, almost in a whisper.

"Istar barely saved you." Minyalosse told him. "Galenel, I have something to tell you."

"What." Galenel felt a gut wrenching fear. "Not Pallaorewen…"

Minyalosse smiled. "No, not that." She paused. "You're father's here."

Galenel clenched his jaw. "Why?" he asked, trying to sit up. Minyalosse gently pushed him back down.

"You can't get up just yet." She said. "You're still very weak."

Galenel ignored her and stood up slowly and painfully. His face was drawn and pale as he got ready to leave the tent. Minyalosse watched him worriedly.

"Galenel…" she began. Galenel looked at her sharply.

"You've just recovered from the fever." She said. "Okgog and Mara could barely pull you back. You nearly died."

Galenel buckled his sword on, and pulled his boots. He stood, and took a shuddering breath.

"You're sick Galenel." Minyalosse said. "Please, lie down."

"Minya." Galenel sighed. "I haven't seen my father for over two decades now. Please, let me go."

Minyalosse looked into his vivid aquamarine eyes. They were shining with unshed tears.

"At least let someone help you." She took his arm and put around her shoulders. Galenel gratefully leaned on her. He was weaker than he cared to admit. Minyalosse looked into his eyes again, and Galenel saw the unspoken message. He swallowed and returned it: I love you.

Richard carefully cleaned the wound on Revuien's flank. The horse turned and whinnied at him.

"All done, Rev." he said. He idly stroked the bay's dark mane. Revuien nudged him softly with his nose.

"Is everything all right?" Yin asked, walking up. She rubbed Revuien's forehead.

"Yeah." Richard answered, then sighed. He was tired; they all were. The journey had been hard on all of them. Right now; they were almost home. But the marks of destruction they had passed stayed imprinted on his mind.

"Galenel's awake. Minyalosse taking him to see the Elven king." Yin said. Richard nodded again.

"Good." Richard turned. "Hey, Jadeth!"

"Yes?" Jadeth called back.

"Come on, time for a meeting I think."

Mara looked at King Thivuien. Like all wood elves, he was tall and slender, with pale skin, pale blonde hair, high cheekbones, and vivid aquamarine eyes. There was a sort of ethereal quality about his wife, Hayen. She was smaller in stature, and her expression lacked the haughty pride of her husband's, but she still seemed aloof. Pallaorewen and Galenel were their children, Galenel the Crown Prince, exiled, but for what reason; Mara did not know.

She saw as Richard and Jadeth slipped in, she smiled at them. Then Galenel came in, leaning on Minyalosse, his face pale and strained with pain, both emotional and physical. Minyalosse helped him to a chair, and then stood behind him.

Minyalosse's people would probably not help. She was a mountain elf, and her people lived farther West. She too was fair-skinned and had high cheekbones, but her eyes were silver gray and her hair was black, with a reddish tint.

"Well," Murdock said, standing. "I suppose since we're all here, we can get to the point."

Tytania shook her mistress, sobbing fearfully. "Mistress, Mistress!" the frightened girl whispered.

Moreena sat up sleepily. "What, what has happened?"

Tytania was quickly laying out clothes, even as she sobbed. "The kingdom's fallen. You have to flee."

Moreena paled. "Gerharad…" she gasped. Tytania looked at her.

"The king was alive last I saw, Highness." She said. Moreena nodded, then quickly began to dress.

Gabrielle watched people flood into the city, pheasants from the country surrounding, refugees from Galastron, and some healers from the abbey nearby. Soldiers were also coming. Gabrielle's heart leaped into her throat as she saw Santir being carried in on a stretcher. A cold fear touched her heart. No, not him too! She begged.

Yari handed Bragol the long wrapped bundle. He looked at her questioningly.

"It was your sword." She explained. "You weren't able to see it that night."

Bragol smiled wryly. That night he had been called out, and had not been able to return home. Taking away the cloth, he drew the double edge blade that was engraved with spells. The hilt was made of silver, with gold wire. The cross was the shape of two horns, curving upwards. He looked at the long blade and experimentally handled it.

"It's of a good make." He said. Yari smiled.

"It's more than that." She said. Bragol shot a look at her.

"What do you mean?" he demanded.

"I'll show you." Yari said, taking it from him. Though it was heavy, her slender hands had no problem in holding it. She held it, pointing heavenwards, close to her face and closed her eyes.

"Shenshie, Shenshie, castila komen! Werva, Werva, castila komen! Mak ti Casta, qes su hembrabe!(Spirits, Spirits, come to me! Slayer, come to me! Give me your power, destroy mine enemies)" She said in a low voice, then repeated it louder.

Bragol watched her in awe, but no longer in contempt. He supposed he was used to it by now. Yari finished the spell, and then snakes of misty blue light appeared and wrapped around the sword. Bragol heard voices, low and evil, speaking, though he did not understand what they said. All he felt was a heart-rending fear. The lights seemed to sink into the sword, only taking a few minutes. Yari opened her eyes and handed the sword, now glowing with a cold blue light. Bragol took it, aware that his hands were shaking.

"I don't –" he began.

"They won't harm you." Yari said. "It is your protection."

Bragol met her eyes, and swallowed hard.

Everyone else had left, including Minyalosse. Pallaorewen and Galenel were left with their parents, and Galenel's younger brother, Artho. Galenel stood, somewhat shakily.

"Mother, Father, Arthos." He said, quietly. His mother stood, her aloof expression gone. In it's place was one of motherly sympathy. She held out her arms and hugged him tightly, tears silently streaming down her face.

"It's so good to see you." She whispered, then hugged her daughter. Galenel looked at his father, then went down on one knee.

"Father." He whispered hoarsely. "Please, take me back." He looked up, pleadingly. "Haven't I been gone long enough?"

"You expect me to forgive you?" his father asked. Galenel swallowed, driving back his tears.

"Thivuien." Henya said. "It's been over twenty years."

"It makes no difference." Thivuien said coldly. "My sentence still stands."

Galenel bowed his head, then stood shakily and left the tent. He stumbled out, hardly seeing where he was going through the mists of tears.

"Galenel?" he heard Minyalosse say. "Galenel?"

He grasped her and held on tightly. The world swam and he felt himself sinking into unconsciousness.

Minyalosse looked around desperately. "Richard, Jadeth, help me!" she called. The two knights ran over and helped the elven girl carry Galenel to the medical tent.

Blithe and Sarah helped take stock of supplies in the abbey. Many refugees had come for protection. Elisle, Blithe's mother, was also helping, Ini, her four year old, following her and sucking on her thumb.

"Blithe." Constance called. "Could you come here please."

Blithe handed his scroll to Sarah and went over to the headmistress.

"Yes?" he asked.

"Come with me." Constance said, putting a heavy hand on his shoulder and guiding him to the Father Abbot's sitting room.

Father Abbot Rufus was a quiet, deliberate man, with gray hair and brown eyes framed with spectacles.

"Ahh, Blithe, there you are." The old man stood as Constance and Blithe came in.

"What's wrong Abbot?" Blithe asked.

"This war is what's wrong." Abbot Rufus said. "Constance tells me you've got a good head for strategy, and she seemed to be very impressed."

"I suppose I am." Blithe admitted.

"How would you like to be a part of the defense team?" Abbot Rufus asked. "I don't like fighting, but I don't see any other choice."

"It would be an honor." Blithe said, his eyes lighting up. The longing for adventure was in his blood, as it had been in his ancestors. It had just been waiting for a chance to show up.

Chapter Nine

Despite having wounded, the company pressed on. The need for urgency was felt everywhere. Even Cornflower, young though she was, seemed to understand and behaved obediently for a change.

Kerill flew above, scouting out a safe place to stay. Galenel had insisted on not being carried and Istar had allowed him to ride. Richard glanced at his friend, and wondered briefly why the Elf was not riding with his father's army, like Pallaorewen was. Behind him, Yin watched Kerill soar above the treetops.

"I wish I could fly." She said wistfully. Richard glanced up as Kerill swooped downward.

"I do too, sometimes." He admitted. Yin sighed.

"I wish for home." She bit her lip. "My younger sister will be grown up by now, maybe even married."

Richard didn't say anything. He had a brother or sister he had never seen before. Would Wes and Lara finally be married by now? He couldn't help but wonder.

"I know how you feel." He said. Yin laid her head on his shoulder.

"I'll go back someday." She whispered, then smiled. "Maybe I'll take you with me and show you the beauty of the East."

"I'd like that." Richard said.

Gabrielle sat beside Santir, and looked at him worriedly. His face was ashen. She bit her lip and tried to keep from crying. It didn't work. Everything that had been stored up inside her- her father's death, Galastron's fall, the fight outside, Santir wounded- came out as she sobbed, face buried in the light blanket over Santir's form.

"I-it's not as b-b-bad as all that, is it?"

Gabrielle looked up. Santir smiled weakly.

"Santir!" she gasped, looking very much like a child. "Oh, I was so frightened…"

"None of that." Santir interrupted, stuttering a little. Gabrielle smiled slightly.

"That's more like it." He said.

"You promised." Gabrielle told him. Santir frowned.

"Promised what?"

"That you would be careful." Gabrielle reminded him.

"Oh. Well, I was doing a pretty good job of it, till some bloke got it into his head to stick a spear through me. I got him pretty good, then his partner decided that I needed to be taught a lesson and gave me a proper beating."

Gabrielle frowned at him. "You don't need to make so light of it." She scolded. Santir opened his mouth, but Gabrielle put a finger to his lips.

"You need to rest." She said, standing. "I'm going to get Sister Helen to take care of you."

Blithe sighed to himself as he walked through the stone hallway, hung with tapestries. The enthusiasm he had felt in being a part of the "defense team" had faded, to be replaced with frustration. As he had told his father, most of the residents were children, scholars or healers. None of them prepared for battle and many too small or young to really be useful. He entered the sanctuary, and looked at the window.

"I'm doing my best." he said to the smiling figure pictured there. "but it's like an uphill battle." He knelt at the altar, and leaned his curly brown head on the wood. "I just *sigh* … I'm scared." Blithe looked up again. "I need your help more than ever."

Arthos walked uncertainly through the knights' camp. Approaching one man, he asked for the medical tent. The man sent him in the right direction. Entering the tent, he was greeted by Mara.

"What do you need?" she asked.

"I came to see my brother." he answered. "Galenel."

"I'll take you to him." Mara said. They left the main tent to go to the one that Galenel preferred to be in: his own. Mara left him at the entrance to go back and care for those still sick or hurt. Arthos paused outside. It had been a long time since he had seen his brother, and wasn't sure how Galenel would take his presence.

Making up his mind, he entered. His older brother was sleeping peacefully. Arthos just stood there for a minute, staring at him. Galenel stirred, then opened his eyes.

"Arthos?" he asked.

"Yes." Arthos knelt by his brother's cot. "It's been a long time."

"Yes, it has."

There was a pause. Finally, Galenel spoke.

"Why are you here?" he asked quietly.

Arthos looked down at the ground. "To apologize, I guess. I should not have mocked you that night. I should have seen…" his voice trailed off as he shook his head.

Galenel ran his fingers through his hair, and slowly sat up.

"You were young." was all he said. Arthos looked up.

"That isn't an excuse."

Galenel shrugged. "It's the only one you have."

"Yes, I know." Arthos was quiet for a moment, the spoke again. "It has been quiet, since you've been away. Far too quiet. Heritha has been asking for Palla again. She misses her sorely."

Galenel nodded his head. "I would think so." he looked at Arthos. "I forgave you, you know. A long time ago." he put a hand on the younger Elf's shoulder. "There aren't any hard feelings, Arthos."

Arthos looked at his brother gratefully. "Thank you." he whispered.

Wes, Hobbs, and Jemmy stood on the battlements, surveying the dark army arrayed below.

"Not a loud lot, are they?" Hobbs asked, his cherubic face solemn and worried.

"No." Wes answered. He sighed heavily, and looked to the east. From here, one could see the Amuien Fields, the place where he had last seen Richard. Jemmy and Hobbs followed his gaze.

"Buck up, Wes." Jemmy said. "I'm sure Richard's comin'. It's just taking him a little time, that's all."

"It's been three months since we've been under siege." Wes answered. "Six since Galastron fell. How long will we last?"

The two others looked down. They had no answer to that question.

Lara sank to the floor and rested her head on her knees. The healers passing took no notice of her, for which she was thankful. Lara had been on her feet with scarcely a break since yesterday afternoon. She put some strands of her brown hair behind her ears and willed her eyes not to close in sleep. She only wanted to sit for a few minutes, before the bustle began again.

Lara sat up suddenly. Someone was sobbing. Quietly, but the sound echoed in the castle's empty storeroom. Lara stood and followed the sound. It led her to the barrels of wine. Behind one, a girl with raven hair and a sulky, but rather pretty face, was crying.

"Hello?" Lara said. The girl looked up, and quickly wiped tears from her face.

"Who are you?" she asked.

"Lara."

"I'm Tytania."

Lara nodded, recognizing the name. She was the Queen Moreena's maid. Lara looked with interest at the Galaian woman.

"Are ya all right?" she asked softly.

"All right?" Tytania let out a bitter laugh. "No, I'm not all right. I'm terrible." she swiftly got up and pushed past Lara, knocking the brunette to the ground. Without looking back, Tytania left the storeroom. Lara got back up, feeling very slighted.

The sun rose on a new day. It found the knights finishing a meal, and preparing to leave. Galenel limped over to Istar.

"I'm going to have to ask your permission to ride again." he said. Istar gazed at him with blue/violet eyes.

"Of course." the unicorn said. "What are friends for?" Galenel smiled wanly as he mounted.

Nearby, Richard held out his hand for Yin, and helped her mount up behind him.

"I can do it myself." she said, not for the first time. Richard smiled.

"Yes, but well, you know."

Yin looked confused. Richard sighed.

"Never mind."

"Hey, less chat please." Glock said, riding by. "Let's get into formation."

Richard nodded and spurred Revuien forward. The white unicorn and Galenel rode up beside.

"You all right?" Richard asked. Galenel nodded.

"Never better." he said, rather cheerfully. Richard looked at him, in confusion, as did Yin.

"Elves," Yin whispered in Richard's ear. "are as steadfast in their moods as the waves of the sea." Richard glanced over his shoulder at her and she grinned.

"Old proverb." she explained. Richard nodded and grinned back.

The battle between Desanq and Ithania was fierce that day. Lara and Gabrielle both were busy. Lara worked in the kitchens, cooking for the soldieries and people, and getting herbs and wine for the wounded. Gabrielle had opted for battlement work. She and several others worked along one wall, collecting stray spears, javelins, arrows, stones and other missiles, and handing them out to the soldiers.

It had been Gabrielle's first day, and she had quickly lost her breakfast. All day long, she had stepped over the bodies of the dead and the wounded, and from crouching over so much, her back had become stiff. Tired and worn out, she made it back to her mother's chambers, not caring for the fact that she was still wearing a dress she had borrowed from one of the servants.

Glancing at herself in the one of the large mirrors out side her mother's sitting room, she couldn't help but smile. Dressed in a faded, worn, brown dress, sturdy pheasant shoes, with her red-gold hair in a messy braid and her face smudged with soot and dirt, she looked every bit scullery maid and not at all the princess she had been this morning. Shaking her head, Gabrielle pushed the door open, and went to see her mother.

Arman's death had effected the queen badly. Since the day the King had fallen, Silhal had been very ill. Even now, she could not stand to receive her daughter, but only looked at her with a pale face. Moreena stood behind her, face tear-stained and eyes red-rimmed.

"Mother." Gabrielle curtsied, and prepared for a lecture about her appearance. Silhal held out her hands to her daughter. Gabrielle came closer and the queen pulled her close and hugged her tightly, soot, dirt and all. Gabrielle's dark blue eyes met Moreena's green ones in confusion. When she pulled away, Gabrielle knelt by her mother.

"Where have you been, Natay?" Silhal asked. Gabrielle looked surprised. No one had called her by her pet name since she was twelve.

"I was out on the battlements." Gabrielle answered. "I was helping gather missiles for the soldiers."

"I should have known." Silhal smiled, but her blue eyes, so much like Gabrielle's, looked worried. "Please be careful."

"I will." Gabrielle promised. Silhal leaned back in her chair.

"Moreena, why don't you and Gabrielle go to your old study?" she suggested.

"But mother," Moreena began.

"Go on." Silhal said. "I'll ring for Alice; she can care for me."

"Yes mother." Moreena murmured. The two sisters left the room.

Kerill landed and spoke rapidly to Okgog. Jadeth nodded his head at the dragon and wizard.

"Meeting time again soon." he commented. Richard, Yin, Galenel, and Minyalosse looked in the same direction.

"I hope it's good news." Richard murmured. "Could use some good news."

"It never is." Minyalosse said. The young knights were seated around a small fire, eating a dinner of prath, elvish journey bread, water, and some berries Yin had gathered during the long day's march.

"I can still hope." Richard stated. Minyalosse shrugged. Galenel gazed at the fire, his mind obviously somewhere else.

Kerill walked by. Jadeth grinned at her.

"Istar says that he definitely does not approve of your comments and that if you were a real dragon, you would be able to breathe fire."

Kerill growled. "Well you can tell that four-legged fjn, that I am a dragon, and that if he doesn't approve of my comments, then he doesn't have to listen." Snorting, the horse-sized dragon lumbered off.

Richard shook his head. "You really shouldn't encourage them, Jadeth." he said.

Jadeth shrugged. "It's the closest thing to amusement here. I can't help myself."

Yin and Minyalosse exchanged glances and shook their heads.

Later, the officers were once again gathered. Though still weak, Galenel could walk and insisted on coming with Richard and Jadeth. When they were all gathered, Murdock stood up and gave them the news.

"It's both good and bad." he announced. "First of all, we are almost to Ithania. That's were the Desanq are stationed. The city itself is under siege."

Jadeth glanced at Richard. The young man's jaw had tightened, and his eyes flickered, but otherwise, he remained expressionless.

"The Desanq out number us quite a bit, however." Murdock continued. "But I think if we are able to press them from the back, and Ithania continues to fight them in the front; we will eventually succeed." he paused. "I don't ask you to do this lightly. When we became knights, we swore to give our swords, our skills and even our lives in service of the countries, be it East, South, West, or North. This is going to be a long and a hard battle." Murdock glanced at the elven King and his officers.

"But we do have help." the silver - haired knight sighed. "That is all for now. Be prepared to leave before first light."

That night, a shadow slipped into the camp. Istar felt its presence first. The white unicorn rose to its feet, sniffing the air. Something evil was near, but it alluded him. Istar trotted over to Kerill.

"Hey." he whispered, nudging the red and yellow dragon. "Hey."

"Go away." Kerill murmured.

"No." Istar said. "Something's wrong again."

Kerill opened one yellow-green eye. "What are you talking about."

"Something evil is here. Smell the air."

Kerill took a deep breath. "You're right. What is it?"

"I don't know. Can you wake Okgog? I'm going to get Master and Mara." Istar trotted off without waiting for an answer.

Okgog opened his eyes sleepily and scowled. "What is it, you crazy lizard?" he growled.

"I'm not a lizard." Kerill said irritably. "I'm a dragon. And there's something wrong."

"Kerill…"

"Quiet! You haven't given yourself time to feel it." Kerill said. "I can smell it, so can Istar. I think it's one of them."

Okgog laid quietly, the sat up straight. "Oh, my." he whispered. Grabbing his cloak and staff he quickly came out of the tent. His daughter joined him, looking very much like a dryad in her green cloak with her pale brown hair loose about her shoulders. In her hand was a staff as well.

Mara and Okgog glanced at each other and began to walk, following the trail of evil.

"Kisah!" a voice hissed. Mara saw the metal of a scythe raised, and lifted her staff in response. Wood met iron with sparks. A tall cloaked figure stood outlined in the moonlight. Hurriedly whispering a spell that would make her staff as strong as metal, Mara fought with the figure. Glancing to the side, she realized that there were more. Okgog was doing his best, but he was old, and it was one against three.

Richard sat up. For some reason, he felt a gut –wrenching fear. Something was wrong. He heard a distant clang of metal against metal repeatedly. Hurriedly pulling on his shoes and grabbing his sword, he exited the tent he shared with several others. Mara and Okgog were outside, fighting four huge shadow like creatures. Richard ran towards them to help. One turned towards him, and he was gripped with that fear again. It paralyzed him. At the last minute, he put up his sword, to block the creature's blow.

"Richard, don't!" Mara yelled, breaking the eerie silence. "You don't have the skills nor the training!"

Richard couldn't hear her. All he could do was focus on this, this, thing that was trying to kill him, and try to choke down his fear. He aimed a clumsy blow to where the shadow's head would be. It ducked easily, and pressed harder.

What is wrong with me? Richard thought. I can fight better than this. Desperately he strove to remember the training with Yin.

Little by little it came back. Soon, Richard had the upper hand. His slices, blocks, and attacks were almost lighting quick. Often he used his hands and feet as much as his sword. But how does one fight something made of shadow and fear?

Mara's foe hit her hard with the butt of his scythe. Mara fell, then rose frowning.

"Enough of this." she hissed. "I call upon the powers of the Light, chase these shadows from mine sight!"

She held the front end of the staff at the creatures facing her and her father. White fire shot out in a column. The three shadows gave a horrible cry and retreated.

"Power of Fire and Power of ice, release thy forces and forget thy strife!" Okgog commanded, adding his barrage to his daughter's. Together, they diminished the shadows' power, till they were reduced to nothing but mere wisps of black fog, fleeing back to their mistress. Okgog opened his eyes, then leaned on his staff. Mara ran over to where Richard was still fighting the fourth Shadow.

"Get you gone, spirit!" she shouted. "You have no more power here." Distracted, the Shadow turned to face her. Richard took this advantage and raised his sword to deliver a killing blow.

"Richard, don't!" Mara cried. Shadow turned and deflected the blow, but not before Richard had slashed it. The Shadow gave in inhuman cry and raised its scythe. Richard had fallen to the ground, exhausted. Mara blocked his blow with her staff. Using it as a balance, she swung around and kicked the Shadow, knocking him away. The Shadow fell to the ground, and Mara advanced, a grim look on her face.

Richard glanced up, and tried to reach for his sword, but his arm would not heed his commands. He felt sick. Beside him, the sword that had been his father's burned away, the Shadow's acidic black blood claiming it's beauty.

Critically wounded, the Shadow changed its form in to a bat, and flew away. Mara looked at her weakened father. He waved her away.

"Richard." was all he said. Mara turned and knelt beside the young man. She turned him over, and the boy stared at her with unseeing gray eyes. Mara bit her lip, feeling his right arm. It was ice cold, and was burned where the Shadow's blood had splattered.

Mara quietly whispered a spell, then ran to get some herbs from her tent. Grabbing them and a special cordial, she ran back to Richard. Forcing some of the cordial down his throat, she proceeded to quickly boil some water. She held Richard's head in her lap, then glanced over at Okgog, who was whispering to himself. It suddenly occurred to her that the rest of the camp was still sound asleep.

Probably spell-induced. She thought grimly. Okgog would be returning the camp to normal in a few minutes. Mara suddenly realized how tired she was. She had not used the Light Spell for ages now, and had forgotten how much it took out of one.

When the water boiled, she threw the herbs in and waited for it to boil. After several minutes, Mara washed Richard's arm with the herb and bandaged it, relieved that after the bathing, warmth was already returning.

Glock came out, looking worried and sleepy.

"What in Teranis' name happened?" he whispered.

"Attacked, by Neesan this time." Mara answered. "Help me carry Richard back to his tent."

In the study, Gabrielle and Moreena sat in the window seat and leaned against each other. Both girls had been crying. Gabrielle now sniffed.

"It's like a horrible dream." she said. "I keep thinking that I'll wake up and everything will be normal again."

"I know." Moreena answered. She sounded distant, her thoughts on her husband, wondering if he was dead or alive.

"I'm sure he's all right." Gabrielle whispered. Moreena looked at her and smiled wanly.

"I hope so." She said. "And what about your own knight?"

Gabrielle blushed. "I-I know him better now." she said. "I like him very much. I think, I think I may even love him."

"Only through letters?" Moreena asked.

"Yes." Gabrielle answered. "I don't know. He…" she shook her head.

"I hope he's alive." was all she said.

Richard woke up, and was struck by the fact that the sky was moving.

Wait, that's not right. He looked around. He was on some sort of stretcher that was being dragged by a horse. His horse, and Yin was riding. Blinking, he tried to remember what had happened.

Then, it all flooded back. The Shadow creatures, the fight, all of it. Richard moved his right arm. It was numb and sluggish. He looked around. Where's my sword?

Kerill walking by, looked at him and gave him a toothy smile. Passing Yin she said, "He's awake."

Yin turned in the saddle. She looked down at Richard and smiled. "Good morning, or rather good afternoon."

"How long have I been out?" he asked.

"Since last night." Yin answered, turning around again. Richard laid back and closed his eyes again. He couldn't remember ever being so tired…

Yes, I know that I left you all hanging (again), but I am working on the last (hopefully) part of the story. If any one has any ideas they'd like to share E-MAIL me, k? – J.S.