Don't be mad at me people, but I want to take this story nice and slow so that I can write at my
best. Also school... but we won't go there. You want to know which characters are based off
you? Well too bad because some of the characters are based of more than one person so just
imagine who you want to be. I don't know...

Any other questions? Don't be afraid to ask. But I own everything. Mostly all of it comes from
this messed up head. *Points to her noggin.*

Well now onto my story my faithful readers. Hope you like. : )

_

When Barius came down to the camp the next morning, Nicholas was waiting for him in front of
Red's tent. The big man sneered at him.

"Red told me, you and I are to make a map of the area together. You tell where things are and
I'll make the markings." Nicholas said stretching out a big sheet of parchment on top of a high
table.

For the next hour, Barius and Nicholas worked on the map. Meanwhile Red had directed her
army to pack up. Red met them in front of her tent later.

She was wearing long dark brown pants. A maroon colored cloak draped around her. It was
clasped to her shoulders and the hood hung down. She wore a brown leather shirt which laced
tightly up in the front. She pulled the hood over her braided hair and strutted down to where
Barius was standing. Her boots lightly patted the gravel as she walked. She adjusted her cloak
and looked up at him from below her hood.

"Thank you for coming, Barius." She began. "Will you show me your town now?"

He smiled and offered an arm for assistance as he began to walk up the slope. She declined it
and walked up the slope quickly before him.

The journey to his town was hard and rough. They had to cross down and up many slopes. Some
paths were no bigger than a foot away from the cliffs.

"We do not travel far from our home very often." Barius explained.

Once Red stopped, huffing for air. Barius stopped to wait as she rested besides a conifer tree.

"Is the path too strenuous?" Barius asked curiously.

"I think the air is much thinner here than in the lands of the East." She explained. "I am in
excellent shape, I assure you." She continued. "This does not happen often." She got up and
again, Barius led the way.

"Here we are!" Barius announced as they came to a flat clearing on the side of a mountain. She
looked around confused.

"I don't see anything." She said.

"Ah. That is because it is hidden. Come on." He said and took her hand and ran toward the edge
of the cliff.

"There!" He pointed below them. And there about fifty feet away on the bottom of the cliff was
a huge door carved into the side of a mountain. From far away, trees would have hid the ornately
carved door. Now, two tall beams stood on each side of the door, whiter than even the snow.

Red gasped as the early morning sun shone into the door revealing furniture made of the same
white stone as the white beams.

"Beautiful." She gasped. "Is this your house?" She asked amazed.

He chuckled. "Not my house. It is the temple."

"But how do we get there?" She asked looking around.

He led her closer to the side of the cliff and there, unseen from far away were steps carved into
the cliffs edge leading down to the temples door. She held onto his arm as she hesitantly stepped
down onto the first step.

He chuckled softly as she began her assent into his world.

"I am the son of Havar Elemarch. He is a direct descendant of the people of the cloud." Barius
explained as they walked through the surprisingly large temple.

'People of the cloud?' she thought. Why did that sound familiar to her? Then she remembered. A
legend of her Eastern home told of beings coming from the sky. Could he be speaking of the
same legend?

She stopped and looked at him surprised. "The gods? Your father is related to the gods?"

He chuckled. "You Easterners are too superstitious. I have heard of this legend of the gods, but
we believe the people of the clouds were human just like you and me."

She lowered her eyes. "I see." She said gazing at a painting of a group of people standing in the
clouds with a rainbow over them.

"But because my father has a direct descendants from these ancient people, he is the leader of
our people. And as his first born son, I am entitled to take up leadership of this temple till I
become the leader of our people."

"You are like a prince then?" Red asked.

"More like a priest at the moment." He laughed. "For I tend this temple. I already have two
students who will take over leadership when I am gone. In fact, we are planning an induction
ceremony tonight if you'd like to come."

Red smiled. "All right…"

"Shall I show you the rest of our town?" he asked.

She shrugged. "If it is anything like this temple, I would love to see it!"

He led her out of the temple and back up the cliff stairs. Unbeknownst to them both, two pairs of
eyes watched them from behind a group of bushy pine trees. These pair of eyes belonged to
Barius's two students.

"This way." He beckoned and they walked a narrow path, which only Barius could see. They
traveled higher and higher up the side of a mountain.

"How far is it?" Red asked between breaths.

"A couple more steps." Barius assured. And they finally reached the top and there stood a
beautiful cozy looking village. Small houses made of mud and wood lay on the outside. But in
the background a huge castle had been built against the mountain wall!

Barius's people were busy with their morning activities. Some were tending the garden. Others
were sweeping out their houses. Others were leading sheep down to the valleys on a side road.
Children played in the few patches of snow and dogs barked as they chased the children. Their
mothers and fathers were busy making breakfast over a fire as smoke blew out of the chimneys
of their houses. Everyone was so busy and Red was reminded of her own village.

A strange noise came out of her mouth as she remembered her life before the Adver-Ties had
destroyed her home. Everyone had been so busy and peaceful in her own village to the East. And
then the Adver-Ties had come to wreck her world...

Barius looked over at her to see her frozen and staring upon his village with a nervous face.
"Red?" He called to her giving her a confused look. She looked over at him and quickly
vanished all hints of fear in her face and walked to his side. She gulped and inside she felt as if
her heart would explode.

As they walked toward the front of the town where the castle stood, they got a couple of curious
looks from the towns people. Some greeted Barius and he greeted them back, but he did not
introduce her to anyone. They walked under a huge archway before they go to the castle.

"It was formed naturally over time." Barius explained as they passed under the grayish rock
arch.

They finally came to the door of the castle and it was larger than Red had first thought. The
castle stretched far up the mountainside. Fog made it impossible to see all the way to the top.

"This is more magnificent than the King's castles of the Middle lands to the East!" Red
exclaimed. "I've never seen a castle built on the side of a cliff like this!"

"It was built by the ancient people of the cloud."

"And it still stands! That's amazing!" She exclaimed.

Barius pushed the wooden door open. Red examined the strange designs upon the door as Barius
slowly pushed the door aside.

A middle-aged woman wearing a green robe met them inside. Her black hair was in a large
bundle upon her head tied with green ribbons.

"Barior." She exclaimed and rushed to see Barius. She hugged him and didn't seem to notice
Red who stood uncomfortably behind Barius.

"Mother." He acknowledged and hugged her back.

He held her out at arms length. "Mother…" He began. "This is Red, the warrior woman who is
leading the army against the Adver-Ties."

The woman looked at Red up and down making Red feel uncomfortable. She wished she might
have worn different clothes as she felt the older woman's eyes observing her unlady-like
appearance.

"You brought a stranger into our house?" His mother accused using their own language.

"I am showing her our house to prove that she can trust us." He answered. But his mother had
turned her attention to Red and he feared what she might say.

"It is nice to meet you warrior-Red." His mother said bowing slightly to the woman.

"I am Chalesae Elemarch. I used to be an Easterner like you. I believe the proper greeting in the
East is a handshake?" She said holding out her hand. Red smiled and gratefully took the older
woman's hand. Barius sighed in relief.

"Would you like to breakfast here? Or perhaps you've already had breakfast. I could still offer
you some fruit, or perhaps some crystallized water?"

"Mother…" Barius complained annoyed.

"I'm afraid I must be going." Red said. "I have an army to lead and we must be off this
morning." She continued.

"You will not stay for the induction ceremony tonight?" Barius pleaded.

"I will stay, but I must leave in the morning." Red announced. Chalesae sighed in disapproval,
but Red did not seem to notice. She walked out the door.

"Your father will not be pleased that you invited an outsider to the temple." Chalesae said under
her breath. Barius shrugged. "It is my temple. I am not longer a small child. I can make my own
decisions without his approval."

"Don't tell that to his face." She warned.

"Goodbye Mother. I shall be back before the ceremony tonight."

And with that he ran after Red.

_

"You must go with them Lenna!" Red argued.

"But my place is with you!" The small girl pleaded.

"It is final! Stay with Nicholas. He will take care of you."

"No." The girl continued.

"Yes!" Red shot back and turned away to end the argument.

She walked over to Nicholas who had been studying the map he and Barius had made. He rolled
it up and looked Red in the eye.

"I'll catch up with you tomorrow." She announced. He put his hand on her shoulder. "Are you
sure you want to hang out with this guy? I don't trust him."

"Don't be jealous Nicholas. Besides I need a break. I don't think you'll catch up to the Adver-
Ties anytime soon, and Zenith will take me back fast enough to catch up to you." She said
pointing her hand toward the tall brown horse, which Lenna was hugging at the moment trying to
hide her tears.

Barius, who had been standing out of the way, had gone over to the tall horse to pet it. Lenna
looked up at him surprised, wiping the tears from her face. Barius smiled down at the girl.

"You like horses, don't you?" He asked. She looked up at him with wide eyes shaking her head
yes.

"I had a horse in the Bovine Wars."

Lenna turned to him attentively.

His name was Kantaros and it was almost as if he could read my mind. He would turn without
me having to tug on his reigns. He could outrun any other horse in the army. When dressed in
red and black he looked almost like a demon and we would charge upon the hordes of infested
cows." Barius remembered. "No one killed more cows than we did."
His expression changed to sadness. "But one day we were surrounded. And poor Kantaros was
gorged to death. I only managed to survive... After that I've never owned another horse again."

Lenna pet the horse in front of her. "This is the Master's horse." She said. "Though I wish she
was mine." She added.

"What's her name?" Barius asked.

"Red calls her Zenith, but I think her name should be Starlette or Flower." Lenna said pressing
her head to the horse.

"Doesn't sound very war-like." Barius chuckled. "She is a war horse after all."

Lenna shrugged.

"Be careful Red." Nicholas said. Red put her arm upon Nicholas. Then he grabbed her in a bear
hug.

"Remember your fiancé!" She chuckled. "She wouldn't be happy to know you've got your hands
on another woman!" She laughed. "Plus I'll only be gone for a day." She continued while being
squished under the big man's hug. He kissed her on the cheek and let her go.

"You make me miss her already." Nicholas said speaking of his fiancé.

"Nicholas I trust you to lead an army." She said trying to be serious. "Don't turn around and go
back for her!" She warned. He smiled. "And don't stop in any cities to seduce anyone else!" She
continued.

She remembered the girl he had seduced in a city they had stopped at. Now the two were
planning to get married after Nicholas helped Red defeat the Adver-Ties. She wondered how he
could make such a quick decision after he only met the girl.

"You take away all the fun. You'll be gone… who else is there to seduce?" He said jokingly.
They had joked about his fiancé ever since.

She dropped a velvet bag of coins into his hand. He looked at it confused. "I don't need any
money!"

"This is for any of the men who get restless."

"Money is good and all, but it is useless when there is no place to spend it at." Nicolas said but
still clutched the moneybag.

"Well you better be off." Red said.

Nicholas gave the orders to the rest of the army and they continued on through the mountains
after the Adver-Ties.