Disclaimer: This is a story of pure fiction. If you are not allowed to read this in whatever part of the world you are living, then try not to get caught, and legally you shouldn't be reading this. If you are not 18 or older then again, do not read. Lastly, this will contain gay sex between consenting people and if this offends you then click back and ask why you're on here in the first place.
This story is property of myself, the author, and may not be copied or used on other sites without my express permission. All characters are fictional.
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Toby stood with his chest puffed out, staring balefully at Kale. The new Elder Rain had to stifle his smile at the rebellious look on the young boy's face. Instead, he gave the kid a steely look. He had to admire him for his gumption and guts. This boy had them, in spades.
"You will take me back to my master, immediately!" Toby demanded.
Kale arched his brow and studied the boy. As soon as Toby had been pushed back to Trevailier forest, he hadn't cowered in front of him or his warriors; in fact he had eyed them up and down with a scornful look, and declared them unsatisfactory. The boy very nearly had his head lopped off by one of his warriors, but Kale had flicked his hand to stop any of his warriors from killing him. That had been two days ago.
However, a wise man, or boy in Toby's case, knew when to back down and fight another day. If he didn't, Kale would need to teach this boy diplomacy...well, try to.
"I will tolerate your insolence for only so long, young pup. When Kiri was young and misbehaved, I bent him over my knee and paddled his backside. I am not afraid to do the same to you."
Toby's mouth dropped open. "You paddled Sir Kiri's backside?" His expression changed from shock to outrage. "That is just cruel. My master is the kindest, most caring soul ever, and you HIT him?!!!?" Toby's face darkened. "If you ever lay a hand on him..."
Kale sighed and blocked out the boy; it had been a long time since he had dealt with a stubborn young male. Kiri, as gentle as he was, could be stubborn at times, but he went about getting his way much more subtly than this boy. He eyed his warriors as they moved restlessly around him. Toby, unaware, blithely kept talking. Kale saw their agitation. Having a prey child talking to their Elder in such a way was something they were not used to. As far as Kale was concerned, if this boy could show them that Kale was more approachable, then he would allow the child a certain amount of leeway. Cutting off another tirade about wanting to leave the forest in search of Kiri, Kale raised his hand to silence the boy.
"I cannot take you back the way we came because Kiri, who is the wielder of the Carmi medallion, has blocked access from this side."
"Elder, you do not owe this mortal an explanation," one of his warriors said.
"But I do, Sharle; I have watched this boy for the last couple of weeks through the pond. He has not only taught the Avatar the art of trade and how to live amongst other peoples, but he is loyal and courageous, and would protect the Avatar with his own life. As far as I'm concerned, we all could learn a thing or two from the lad."
Sharle's face was as still as a marble statue. He stood there, silent, for such a long time that Kale idly thought he could pass as a stone guardian. Sharle bowed once to Kale, then turned and looked at Toby, pausing to give him a very small nod before retreating. There was a large mental gasp from those gathered.
Toby, sensing something amiss, smirked, and spoke into the silence as the warrior departed. "You guys sure are awfully silent and stuff. I could watch grass grow, and it would be more entertaining."
Kale mentally groaned and closed his eyes. This kid just didn't know when to shut up. He heard a titter of laughter, and opened his eyes in surprise. Nuala walked towards them, amusement sparkling in her eyes. She giggled once more, and then burst out laughing.
Toby frowned, not expecting this reaction, and stamped his foot. He wanted to offend these people so much they would boot him out. He had a fair idea that they wouldn't touch him, since he was under the banner of the Avatar. His earlier attempts to sneak out had failed miserably. These Fey were sneaky hunters. Toby hadn't even heard them until they appeared, right in front of him, and escorted him back here to face Kale. There were a few close encounters where he thought his number was up, and they would lop his head off but, so far, his head was still firmly upon his shoulders.
"This child is a delight, Elder," Nuala said. "It has been a very long time since we had a youngling among us."
Kale's face remained impassive and polite, but he smiled inside. He had summoned Nuala to meet Toby. Children were a rarity among the Fey. As long-lived as they were, once the Fey reached puberty, they only had a fertility cycle of ten years before they became barren. Seeing a child, no matter that he was a prey one, would bring out the mothering nature of many of the females. And once their affection was gained, no fey male dared gainsay their womenfolk. Nuala, the clever little fey, was playing the role of protective mother.
Nuala walked up to Toby and touched the side of his face. He stared back at her, awestruck. So far, he had only had the male fey as companions. His first two attempts at escape had meant he was `detained' for his own safety. As far as Toby was concerned, they talked pretty but they were keeping him as prisoner. Therefore, he hadn't seen any of the civilian fey, or how beautiful their women were.
"Are you hungry, child?" Nuala asked.
Toby stared, dumbfounded, and only managed to nod his head. Kale bit his tongue to stop the smile that wanted to spread across his face. He turned away, and saw he wasn't the only one trying to bite back a grin. His stolid warriors were all studiously staring at the ground, hiding the mirth in their eyes. Toby had ranted and raved, and swore like a trooper, every minute he had been locked up within the outskirts of the Fey city. His yells and shouts had scared the animals for miles around. To see him mute and thunder-struck was a pleasant change. Nuala wrapped her arms around the boy's shoulders and ushered him past the gathered warriors. He went as meekly as a lamb, and Kale bit the inside of his cheek once more. The wiles of women were dangerous.
"Don't worry about the men; they get crotchety after they pass the hundred-year-old mark," Nuala confided to Toby. "Now, the women on the other hand, well they're just going to love you."
There were groans, and a few whimpers from Kale's men at that last statement. Kale could only groan in agreement.
Sonny stood on the foamy soil of Trobal Forest. His clan looked around with glee and giddiness. They broke from the circle and went racing through the trees. Sonny watched them release the pent up stress of their ordeal. Sonny could not join their joy. His heart was still aching at the loss of so many of his men. Four men were not going back to their clans. He would personally go to their mothers and tell them, himself. It was the only way he could ease the loss.
He looked on, and saw how his people dealt with pain. Some danced and cavorted like little kittens; others watched, smiling. Sonny straightened his shoulders and observed his surroundings. They weren't very far from the temple, which lead into the underground facility they had just escaped.
There was a bite in the air, and Sonny frowned. It had been full summer when he left the Panther lands to come here. The air should have been hot, and the overwhelming fragrance of summer flowers should be present. He scanned around once more. The flowers were still there, but they were past their first blooming.
Sonny slumped down to the ground. His hands sank into the earth, and he jerked as he heard the land whisper to him. According to the earth, the sun and moon had touched this part of the land twenty times since he had last been seen here. He stood up jerkily, trying to wipe the soil off his palms. He had been under the ground for nearly three weeks? He turned to look at Elder Wind, and saw the expression of dismay cross his face, too. They both stared at each other.
"We have been three weeks beneath the ground?" Sonny asked, confused.
Elder Wind nodded his head. He looked nervously at Sonny, before turning away. Sonny narrowed his eyes at the Fey Elder. There was something that didn't sit right with him, and Sonny wanted to get to the bottom of it.
"Why are you here, Elder Wind? Tell me truthfully."
Elder Wind looked at Sonny, and then away. "What I do, or don't do, Prince, is none of your concern."
"But I think it is," Sonny persisted. "I think that it is of vital importance because, as far as my Beast is concerned, you're under suspicion."
Elder wind looked at Sonny. His gaze never wavered, looking upon the cold suspicion evident in Sonny's eyes. "So, you think that because you have been given a taste of power, I will crumble and confess to a mere mortal such as yourself?" The Elder snorted. "Grow up, boy; I have been around almost from the beginning when your race was just conceived. Your power trip means little to me." Turning, he walked away from Sonny. His men took his lead and disappeared into the woods.
Sonny folded his arms, staring at the place where the Elder had disappeared. Sighing once more, he turned and looked at the survivors. He mentally commanded them to return to his side and they came back into formation.
"It's time that we went and found out where the rest of our year mates have gotten to," Sonny declared.
They moved out of the training area. It was quiet, with no sound of the priests humming, or any sign that anyone else was present. "Stay alert," he mentally commanded his people. Sonny didn't like the feel of this. Something obviously wasn't right, and the last eight hours had made him more jumpy than normal. The wind blew through the forest, a whispering melody.
Sonny scented the air, trying to catch the scent of anyone near. Going by the stale odours, none of the living clans had been here for at least two weeks. He looked down at the ground. Using his night vision, he focused on any tracks, trying to judge in which direction his missing people had gone.
"Scouts" he barked. "Spread out."
As silent as the wind, the four scouts scattered. His clan had caught on to his uneasiness and were on full alert. Sonny walked into the clearing, checking above and below in case of an attack. The Forest was quiet; no animal called. Something very big or dangerous had scared them. They were keeping quiet until the threat left. Sonny looked at the ground and saw signs of a fight. He moved further into the clearing where they first arrived. There were strange markings on the ground, things Sonny had never seen. They were neither animal nor human, as far as he could tell. Whatever this threat was, it had not fought to kill, instead dragging his people away towards the west. Sonny crouched down and placed his hands in the soil. The land opened his mind and told of the events within the glade. The Clearing screamed in pain and anguish as it absorbed the fear and pain of his missing clansmen.
Illiana, the Tigress, was rallying her people to her side as silver creatures lunged and attacked the sleeping clansmen. They looked humanoid, but had no facial features, nor clearly defined fingers or feet. It had been a week since Sonny had been gone and the Tigress, given responsibility of watching the clan, had been keeping them busy by hunting, battle drills and mock sparring routines. She was thankful she had. The practice had now turned serious as these invaders poured into the clearing and surrounded them. The battle was fierce, but the creatures seemed reluctant to kill. The Tigress, many of the priests, and the rest of the clan had no compunctions about that. They attacked with tooth and claw, and were dismayed to see the silver creatures reweave themselves into one piece. No matter how many times they loped off limbs, the severed piece would turn into liquid, crawl across the ground, and rejoin with the main body. One frustrated predator went running full tilt into a silver creature, only to be swallowed. The onlookers gasped as one of their own was seen inside the silver, liquid body. They could see him screaming and holding his throat as he gasped for breath. The silver alien curled forwards, and the predator's face burst from its back. The predator gasped for breath, sucking in the life giving air. He tried to move the rest of his body, but it was firmly lodged inside this moving `thing.'
As one, the aliens all stilled. Then, in a burst of speed, they latched themselves onto the remaining predators, who were standing in a circle in the middle of the clearing. It was a typical, predator defensive manoeuvre that was now their downfall. Before anyone could register what was happening, they were all captured inside the silver bodies of their enemy. Screaming and pleading, the priests who had refused to fight were rounded up and dragged away with the rest of the clans.
Sonny landed flat on his ass. He raised his hands to his face and looked at the soil. A slight tremor shook his hand and he closed it into a fist to stop the trembling. His beast had warned him, when he had confronted the Darkness, that a threat from the sky had come. This was what it meant. He just knew it.
Standing back up, he looked around and saw the fear and uncertainty on his people's faces. They, too, had gone through so much in such a short period of time. They had seen him transform into something they couldn't understand, and yet they still followed him faithfully. Deep down, he wondered if it was fear that kept them by his side. Either way, they remained loyal. None had voiced their fears over the `new' Sonny, nor about what had happened while he was away from them in the facility. Sadly, they hadn't had the time to reflect on it. There were missing clan members to go and find.
"There is a threat that has come from beyond this planet," Sonny said to his watching predators. "Something that has been searching for those we call the Ancients. They call themselves Ciaran. I know that you have all wondered what happened to me while I was away from you, in that place beneath the ground. As your prince, I am humbled to know that you all respected me enough to wait until I was ready to tell you." He stared at every clansman as he spoke. "I met the first Avatar, Killara, there." He waited for the noise to settle down. Everyone had heard of the First Avatar, she was legendary. He smiled before giving them the next bit of information. "We have a new Avatar."
"Is it you!?!" one, from the leopards, asked excitedly.
Sonny's smile grew wider. "No, but those from my own home clan have known and met him. I am connected to him, in a way." There were shrugs and puzzled looks as he stared at the other Panthers. Sonny's smile wilted at the edges, as he remembered all the taunts, and teasing Kiri had been given by some of these people staring back at him. His smile faded completely, and he looked grim. "When he arrives back home, I expect everyone to give him their utmost respect, or you will answer to me by duelling."
The clan members looked at Sonny and his serious expression. A lion asked, tentatively. "But who is the new Avatar, and what does this have to do with the missing clan members?"
Sonny turned and looked at the Lion. The young lion baulked and swallowed. Sonny, unaware of how menacing he looked, returned his stare back to the panthers. "The new Avatar is none other than my own cousin, Prince Kiri." Sonny watched as the panthers paled and looked at each other nervously. "And I've seen him in visions. He is glorious to behold. I'll tell you just a little about what my dear cousin has been up to, while we have been here. He destroyed ten fey, and one of them was their leader, the Fey Elder Rain." Excited whispers surrounded Sonny and the silent panthers. His expression burning a hole into the down-turned heads of those panthers present, he almost crooned. "Now, should you even think about pissing him off, make sure you do it outside of Panther forest, because I'm not sure if the forest would be standing after he ripped you apart. And, if he didn't, I would."
Taking a deep breath, Sonny shook the tension out of his shoulders. "Now, back to the part about what the Avatar has to do with the missing clan. Whenever the world is in grave danger, an Avatar is born. That threat is drawing near." There were grumbles and dissent at those words. Sonny raised his hand. "Let me finish!" Everyone turned and quieted down. "Those `things' that took our clan members are the forerunners of something much bigger." `World Eater,' his beast whispered inside him. "Those `things' are two hours to the west of us. Their job is to analyse everything here that is suitable for the...World Eater that is approaching. We most stop them from returning with any information at all costs."
A barrage of questions met him, as everyone spoke at once. "We are wasting time; we move out now. I will tell you on our way." With that, Sonny turned and moved into the western section of Trobal Forest, his people following in his wake.
The Prey Citadel lay in sombre silence. Dust swirled in a hazy murk over the buildings as the sun shone above. Riots and rampaging ran rife, with people screaming and scurrying like mice. Certain factions of the citadel had gathered together and began cleaning up debris, while acting as guards against looters and violent mobs. The warrior mages and guards, who hadn't been as deeply affected by Kiri's power surge, were trying to re-establish order, and had sent guards to the most heavily damaged areas, looking for injured and helpless nobles.
Hail, the captured Predator, moved along the outside wall of his prison. He had seen the day turn to night and had smiled with wicked vengeance. These uppity Preys were getting what was coming to them. He had been trapped here for five tormented years, being ordered about like a tame pet. He had very nearly lost his rebellious spirit, but Kiri had brought it back. Now, with the spells gone from his chains, he had been able to break free. Many of the warrior mages and guards, who had been near Kiri, had lost the power to summon elemental magic.
Hail had grabbed his opportunity. Without the spells, he broke the chains that held him and made his escape. Metal was no match for an enraged predator. His hands were bloody, but they were free, and he would have sacrificed an arm if it meant his freedom. Lucky for him, prey tended to rely much more on magical devices than the mundane. The metal had been reworked with magic, but there were still flaws and rust spots that had been glossed over with repairs.
He made it near the western gate undetected. Many civilians and even some nobles had similar ideas and were trying to flee the Citadel. Kiri had not only destroyed all the noble-born houses, but he had left a recurring message. Every hour, on the hour, since the Avatar's abrupt departure, the walls had rung out with that eerie tone, and those within the Citadel had been spell bound. Images flashed through Hail's mind and he shuddered. They were images of creatures coming from the sky and destroying the Citadel with a beam of light. None wanted to be around when that happened. Yet, some stayed because the images had shown the destruction of the entire world. Hail wanted to return to some place he knew, and that was the Panther lands. Even though he was forbidden to return, his people needed to know what was coming.
Within the Prey Palace, the King still clung to the macabre memento of his beloved; Elder Earth. Her head hung listlessly from his hand as he stood within the Avatar's room. His strong shoulders were slumped, and his proud visage had streaks of misery permanently etched into his face.
Gently placing the head with the body, he turned around. In the door way were two of his council advisors and the head of the militia. Falcon's parentage had been a well-kept secret. These three were the only ones privy to the knowledge about Elder Earth, and they stood respectfully in the doorway. The girl that had play-acted as Falcon's mother had begun making noise before Falcon was due, threatening exposure, and Anson decided to remove her before the lie was discovered, and revealed to the general public.
Anson looked down once more on his beloved Seranan. She had come to him nearly twenty four years ago. Back then, she was the newly appointed Elder Earth. In human years, she had only been twenty at the time, and was considered the youngest Elder in history. Anson had been smitten on sight with her, and had wooed and courted her. Being so young for a Fey and an Elder, his clumsy advances had flattered and charmed her. When she had proposed that they join to create Falcon, Anson had jumped at the idea with enthusiasm. She let him know that they only had six years to attempt to create a baby before her fertility cycle ended.
Anson smiled wistfully at the fun they had had trying to create Falcon. As the weeks turned to months, and then years, with no luck, Seranan had begun to despair. Anson, in an attempt to help, had told her about an amazing fertility Priestess who lived on the coast. They decided to summon her to the palace. That night the High Priestess, Kira, danced for them. They felt the magic of her dance, and they had made love with such abandon and passion that a bond was created that had never been broken. That was also the night that Falcon was conceived.
Shaking off his reverie, he looked at the councillors in the doorway. "Wrap the body in cloths, and hold her in stasis. No doubt her people will come to claim her. In the meantime, we have a Citadel to save. Do not touch the ley lines, leave them as they are. But take the civilians into the catacombs, reinforce the protective spells around it, and prepare the men for a siege. One last thing; get the mages' guild to find a way to recreate the spells in the Citadel walls, and stop that infernal belling sound. We can't afford to be debilitated every time it tolls. It's about time they earned their wages."
"At once, Your Majesty," the two councilmen said in unison. They bowed and scurried to do his bidding.
General Abel walked into the room, staring at the sightless eyes of Elder Earth. "Many of your people are fleeing the Citadel as we speak."
"It is as expected." Anson said. "Give me the damage report. What sections of the Citadel have the most extreme cases of rioting?" he asked.
"The Merchants' dens and the Nobles' district are the hardest hit. Pillaging is rife through the debris of the collapsed buildings, and about a third of our mages have lost their connection to their spirit beasts indefinitely."
Abel observed his King, and was quietly amazed at his determination and capacity to think, and cope, under all the pressure heaped upon his head. The King rubbed his nose as he moved out of the room and down the hall. Bodies had been moved, while he had been incapacitated earlier, but the smell of blood and intestines lingered heavily.
"I assume reinforcements have been issued. We can't afford to lose our Merchants or the money of our nobles."
"It has all been taken care of, Your Majesty."
"Good, because the next step, once order is re-established, is to give the Avatar as much support as we possibly can."
Anson looked grimly at his friend and old sparring partner. "We should have given him help from the beginning. I allowed my judgement to be clouded by my own personal feelings, and now my people are paying for it. The Avatar is a force of nature, not to be reckoned with. We have seen that first hand. The Avatar is here to prevent our world from being destroyed. We owe it to ourselves to make sure that he has the best possible chance."
"We just tried to take him out four hours ago. If he comes back, I'm not sure the Avatar will believe our sincerity."
"I know, my old friend, but we have to start somewhere. Besides, I have my son to worry about, too."
Sonny had stopped to hunt and replenish their food supply. His men were mentally and physically exhausted, and taking them out to save the rest of his people was costing a great deal. They had hunted down an old doe, and were well fed. He had given his men a few hours to sleep while he kept an eye on them. The power of the Avatar was still riding inside his veins and sleep was hard to find. The world was a riot of sound and colour. It whispered and talked to him and Sonny idly wondered if this was how Kiri felt.
It was at that moment, from the east, that he heard a dual Bird-Panther cry out its need. His beast woke up and perked its ears. The mournful yowl came again, and Sonny's beast responded. It roared over the mental connection, and Sonny felt an urgency to get up and move. Yet, he was frozen with indecision as he looked towards the west. His people were in trouble, and he couldn't leave them like this.
Sonny waited for another yowl from that distant panther. He knew who was calling and his heart hammered in his chest. His Kiri was in distress, which was the only reason Kiri's beast, the Griffin, would be calling to him. He had to go...but his people needed saving too.
The Panther slid out and looked back at Sonny. `Go to him. I will stay here, and hunt the Malasii,' the panther said into his mind. Sonny nodded his head in gratitude. Closing his eyes, he thought of Kiri and, in the blink of an eye, Sonny disappeared. The Panther rumbled deep in its throat before settling down to watch over the sleeping predators. It dug its claws into the ground, commanding the trees to prevent the Malasii from escaping until he had them in his sights.
For the first time in over a thousand years Trobal Forest came to life, moving and whispering as the panther awoke its spirit. Tree roots and vines moved and slithered around the camp site of the silver Malasii. Branches moved closer, blocking the light. The captured predators were inside a cage made out of the same material as the Malasii. They turned and watched the phenomenon. Meanwhile, the Malasii were busy inputting the data and cataloguing it.
The Panther closed its eyes and sent power tingling into the vines and branches surrounding the entrapped Malasii. It wove spells, and remodified the designs of the trees holding the enemy captive. No known sword, or element would be able to break through now. With a satisfied purr, the panther sheathed its claws and lay its head down to wait. The predators needed their rest. The Panther only hoped that Sonny would be able to get to Kiri in time.
By the way guys, I have a yahoo group where you can see all my writings. I'm a new author and haven't sent all my stories on there yet. But I will be sending my chapters there first. So become a member and enjoy!
Thanks as always goes to Richard for his fine work in editing!