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.

All comments to ME, greatly appreciated

Chapter Eighteen

Sonny awoke with a start. His arms tingled and the tips of his fingers felt numb. Disorientated, he tried to move his hands, and heard metal clink against metal. Blearily looking up, he saw his hands bound in chains. He lay on his back, with his arms and legs stretched, firmly strapped in place. There was very little leeway for movement, and Sonny could feel a heavy pull across his shoulder muscles. His body protested the unnatural angle, but Sonny remained quiet.

He looked to his side and sucked in a deep breath. Kiri lay on the next table, unconscious...and changed. This was the Kiri he remembered, lying there with an unguarded expression upon his face and the innocence of a child. His riotous red curls spilled over the edge of the table like a cascade of dripping blood. A cold chill travelled up Sonny's spine as he watched that hair sway in an unseen draft.

On a third table lay his spirit beast, strapped down and as unmoving as the Avatar. He tried calling to them, but his voice felt rusty and unused. Frowning, he tried to recall how they came to be in this place, and only remembered making love to Kiri upon the mounds, and then darkness. He had no recollection after that.

Looking up at the shackles that held him, he saw that there was dried and caked blood covering his manacles like rust. The tendons in his shoulders ached, as every slight movement sent bolts of pain through his body. He had obviously been here a while. But where did the blood come from? Although his wrists felt numb, he assured himself there were no injuries on his arms that could account for so much blood. He felt the muscles spasm in his back as he moved, and he hissed, gritting his teeth to keep from shouting.

Closing his eyes, he tried to call on Killara's power, but there was no response. Looking towards the prostrate form of his beast, he tried licking dry lips with a tongue that felt thick and ungainly. There was no saliva in his mouth, and a dry racking cough issued forth as he attempted to gather some. Swallowing painfully, he tried mentally summoning his beast, but there was a solid wall that kept him at bay. He tried it on Kiri and, again, that same blank wall. Gone was the rage of the beast; gone was the connection to the first Avatar's power; and even his mind speech and control had been muted.

Scoping out the place in which he and Kiri were trapped, the room looked oppressive and otherworldly. The floors and walls were made of black marble. It was a rectangular room, with light coming from square blocks in the ceiling. Sonny scanned Kiri's body and was relieved to see not a scratch upon him. The three marble tables stood in the centre of the room, with enough space between and around them for three people to walk side-by-side, comfortably.

Sonny searched the room trying to find a door or an exit. The walls appeared seamless, but the angle of the tables prevented him from seeing the floor, so he couldn't be sure if there was a trapdoor on the floor. "Kiri, can you hear me?" Sonny croaked. The Avatar remained unresponsive. Sonny tried a little louder, but his throat seized up, causing him to cough. The harsh sounds irritated his throat even more.

He tilted his head to the side, and gasped for breath. The hair on the back of his neck prickled, and he again raised his eyes to scan the room. He jerked, and hissed as his neck and shoulders protested the sudden movement. As if the strange room had summoned them, snakes were staring him in the eye. They wove side to side, tasting the air with their forked tongues before pulling back to rest atop a person's head, like an elaborate hairstyle. Sonny's eyes widened as he stared up into a face that was familiar and yet, very alien. He looked toward the still body of Kiri upon the table, and then looked back at this impersonator.

Dark green lips smiled, revealing delicate fangs as the dark side of Kiri spoke. "You're finally awake."

"Where did you come from, and what are you?" Sonny croaked.

This Kiri ignored the first question, and answered the last. "I am a part of Kiri that does the necessary, when required. I am the piece of his soul that can kill without remorse. I am the source of his Masculine power."

"Is this place real? And why am..." Sonny coughed, and it felt as if a thousand nails were scraping his throat.

"This won't do," the Masculine said, frowning as Sonny convulsed into another coughing fit. Pushing a claw against his wrist, he dug in deeply and placed his bleeding arm against Sonny's mouth. "Drink. Your body is trying to adjust to some changes. And yes, this place was the home of the Fey, once upon a time." There was a smile on his face as he lowered his wrist.

The smell of blood made Sonny's stomach clench. He could smell the metallic scent as it trickled over his lips. With a will of its own, his tongue slid out and the coppery taste of blood had him in paroxysms of pleasure. If his hands had been free, he would have grabbed that arm and held it firmly against his mouth as he licked and suckled. But he could only strain his neck, and lick as much of that life giving fluid as he could at that angle.

The Masculine pulled his wrist back, with Sonny straining to drink more. The Prince was panting, and his body felt rejuvenated and alive. Exposed as he was, his body had responded the only way it could; he was hard and ready. Sonny looked at those green smiling lips, and he craved for the taste of those lips, but it was more than that. He could see a faint pulse beating on the side of the Masculine's throat, and he wanted to put his lips against it. He inhaled deeply, and the blast of Kiri's scent made him grow even harder. He heard mewling sounds and was shocked to realise they were coming from his own throat.

The Masculine smiled, slit his other wrist, and gave it to Sonny to feed upon. "You have drunk of the Avatar's blood, just as he has drunk from yours. Now, you have tasted from the source of the Masculine. Mine will be the power that fills you. You are the sword, and the physical representation of Masculine. Blood to blood, we are now one."

Sonny's eyes blazed with hunger and lust. He looked at the sleeping forms of Kiri and his beast, and was surprised to see them gone. It was enough to pull him back from the deep abyss he could feel himself sliding towards. Fear coursed through his veins. He looked towards the Masculine. "What have you done with Kiri and my spirit beast?"

There was a decidedly unpleasant smile upon the Masculines face. "I am a part of Kiri too. From this moment on, you're mine to do with as I see fit. From this moment on, your spirit beast will no longer be." With those words, Sonny screamed as the Masculine ripped the connection of his panther away from him. Sonny sagged against his chains. He had endured an underground maze in Trobal forest; he had watched his beloved change and transform faster than he could understand; he had seen the beginnings of an alien invasion; and now he had to endure the loss of his spirit beast. It was too much. Sonny sobbed. His soul cried out for himself, and for those for whom he felt responsible. His panther was an important part of his foundation. He relied upon it to always be there for him. He was doing this because he loved Kiri, but there was only so much he could endure. Sonny thought this could be the last straw. He felt something shift and change within him as the Masculine touched the side of his face. It was as if the part of him that had made up the panther was being reforged into something he didn't know or want.

Sonny looked into the Masculine's eyes, and strength flowed into him. Gone was the cynical smile. There was understanding in those depthless black eyes, and Sonny could feel himself calming under that stare. "You are as important to Kiri's wellbeing and beliefs as your panther was to you." A rueful expression crossed his face before he continued. "I see now why Kiri felt it was important to save the spirit beasts. Without hope, you are a powerful vessel, but without substance. Rest assured, your Spirit beast is still alive. It will come back to you, eventually." Sonny remained silent. He still felt a little fragile, even with the energy of Masculine flowing into him. He was growing steadier as time went by, but there would always be an empty space until his panther was once again a part of him. "There is an important reason why I cut off your spirit beast. My power, combined with your beast, would bring out his feral nature. When enraged, he would be very dangerous. Even you would be unable to stop him, so he needed to be tempered, and the Feminine is doing that as we speak. I do this to help you control my power. When you first awoke, your beast very nearly ripped Kiri's throat out. It was out of control, and that is the reason why you are chained to the table, and why I don't like spirit beasts. They are a primal part of you, and only respond to my power by resorting to their animal instincts. In your case, you have already had some alterations by the Feminine power, but it has been colored by some kind of tainted spirit and, lastly, by Killara while you were hunting under Trobal forest. It resulted in your beast being able to work independently from you, and you had no control over it."

The Masculine flicked his hands and the chains disappeared. Sonny dropped back onto the table with a loud "oomph" and hissed as he felt blood rushing to his hands. It was like he had splinters of glass in his veins and he flexed his hands, hoping to ease the pain. "What do you want from me?" he asked.

"It is not what I want from you, for I do what is needed. You have to ask yourself if you have the balls to finish what you started."

Sonny looked into those black eyes once more. There was no compromise and no regret staring back at him. "I understand why you took my beast away, but why take Kiri away? And how come he was unconscious?"

The Masculine sighed with impatience. "He was keeping your spirit beast occupied and tamed. He wasn't unconscious, just walking the dreamscapes with your beast. I also needed to take your new powers away from you, so that you are a purified vessel. Your powers will return once I have finished; Kiri has them in check. Now enough distractions. Are you ready?"

With fingers still tingling and painful, Sonny stared up at the dark side of Kiri and nodded. With a satisfied smile, the Masculine walked toward Sonny, until his body was all that Sonny could see, and then he saw no more.

Falcon surveyed the woods. He knew where the Malasii were, and idly wondered why they hadn't left the forest with their captured Predators two weeks prior to being imprisoned by the Plants. Why stay in a forest, knowing, a probable rescue would come. Most people would get as far away from the crime scene as quickly as possible. His skin twitched every so often as Sonny's Predators ran with him. He had to grit his teeth and believe that his disguise would hold up. So far it had, but he was in enemy territory and, as much as he was trying, he found it hard to talk to the Predators in a civilized manner. The Predator group, in turn, had noticed how taciturn he was. He may have the scent and face of Sonny, but he didn't know how the Prince thought or acted around his people. He was wondering how long it would be before he was discovered. As long as he made it out of the forest with the Malasii, he didn't care. After all, even with their power of the Silver Sigil, his power was far older and more powerful than Predator magic. He just had to keep convincing himself that it was true.

He had transported the Predators with him to about two hundred metres away from the trapped Malasii. The earth had told him about the plant prison, and what Sonny's beast had done to create it. Falcon felt overwhelming awe toward Sonny and his spirit beast. They were certainly a force to be reckoned with. Concentrating on the task in hand, he mentally linked with his warriors and told them to spread out.

Falcon was going to get inside the plant cage, while the rest of the Predators remained on the outside as guards, in case any of the Malasii escaped. He didn't want the predators to battle one-on-one with them, but act only as observers. Many of the predators had grumbled at the idea of watching without taking action, but Falcon wasn't to be persuaded. This plan would work, he informed them. It was more important that everyone get out alive, than play heroics. It had silenced the Predators when Falcon closed his eyes to concentrate.

He sent his mind out over the prison, quietly impressed once more. It was an artistic piece of work, but Falcon knew how to get past it. After all, defence was his area of expertise now that he was the shield for the Avatar. His mind melded into the plant prison, taking note of what had been altered to gain their defensive capabilities. He was disconcerted to realise that the design was permanent. The Forest rustled around him, whispering its approval of the new designs, and Falcon had to stop a chill from rushing up his spine. He wasn't used to forests talking back to him. Trobal forest was a living entity, one that Falcon felt uncomfortable being around.

`Talking forests' aside, he had a job to do and pushed away any more distractions. As he walked up to the plant prison, vines with poisonous thorns moved and slithered. The bark looked slick and shiny with some kind of resin, and Falcon could feel static energy prickling the small hairs on his arms. He could sense something observing him. Sonny's panther had instilled commands into these defensive plants that only Sonny, as Avatar, or the Spirit of Trobal Forest could control.

Pulling on the power of Feminine, he felt it filling him, almost overflowing in its joy. Pushing that power outwards, the thorny vines shuddered and sent out delicate tendrils to caress his body. From behind him, he could hear the Predators shout in consternation. It appeared as if the vines were going to consume him, but they gently touched and coaxed him, almost as if he were a child.

The power of Feminine whispered to the plants, explaining who Falcon was. At first they had resisted, realising this was not Sonny or the Avatar, but the power of Feminine was something Trobal Forest recognised. The Plants welcomed him. Falcon sighed, and felt his body meld into the plants, through them, and then out the other side.

Here was the tricky part, and the reason he hadn't wanted any of the rescuing predators coming with him. Filled with the power of the Feminine, his true design reasserted itself as the plants examined him. Now, a Prey Prince stood before the Malasii and the captured Predators. Because it was dark within the confines of this plant prison, he only hoped that the darkness would hide him until he could transform back into Sonny.

The Malasii were the first to react, before he had the time to change. They rushed Falcon at once, thinking numbers would overwhelm him. Thorny vines came out behind him and lashed out at the attackers. Lightning sparks splashed over the tips of those thorns, and Falcon watched as they knocked the enemy back with their electrical charge. The Malasii made no noise as they flew back, nor did they show expressions of pain, but Falcon noted how slowly they got back up.

Opening his hands, he began to generate electricity between his fingers. He watched as the Malasii began to duplicate themselves, surrounding him in a semicircle. Some grew sharp blades for hands, others turned opaque, almost jelly-like. The vines hissed and crackled as they regenerated energy sparks on their tips. Falcon spread his legs, making sure his feet were firmly planted on the ground. Although Kiri had asked him to bring the Malasii back, he hadn't stipulated how many. Therefore, Falcon could play. He gave the Malasii an evil smile. They rushed him and, this time, Falcon went out to meet them.

Illiana the Tigress, watched this strange man who appeared out of the trees, literally. She couldn't see his face clearly but, watching him fight, she was in awe of him. There were no acrobatics to his moves that would leave him open to quick attacks. He was smooth and controlled in his stance and actions. She also had to admit that his nude body was flawless. He was a stunning male specimen. She gasped when a Malasii seemed to have gotten past his guard, ready to stab him in the chest. With a blur, his hand pushed the liquid blade to the side while his other hand shoved the Malasii in the chest with an electrical charge. Illiana watched as the Malasii flew backwards. This time, the Malasii didn't get back up; it stayed down, and then melted into a puddle, sizzling as it turned to mist.

She could see the agitation in the other Malasii. They walked warily around this possible rescuer. Illiana inhaled deeply trying to catch his scent but he was too far away to get a clear reading. He moved like a predator, but this was one she had never heard of. Someone, as strong and as powerful as he, would have been recognised by any of the Predator clans. The man laughed aloud and gleefully, giving the Malasii a look only another Predator gave to their prey.

Illiana's heart was in her throat and there was excitement building inside her. He moved so fast. She watched as he touched the Malasii. He looked so gentle with his touch, yet the power behind that `gentle' touch had the Malasii sizzling and evaporating. More Malasii were cloning, but this stranger moved faster than the replicating process could keep up. She inhaled once more, trying to catch what flavour of predator he was. Frowning, she couldn't understand his scent. If her senses were anything to go by, their saviour was Prey?!!?

She felt movement behind her, and could sense some of the other Predators watching the fight with desperate hope in their eyes. She turned back and watched the battle. She kept note of how many Malasii were still present. She noted something strange about the enemy as they kept repopulating. With sudden insight she realised what was odd and called out. "They are shrinking. Each time you kill one, they shrink."

The man kept looking at the enemy, but gave a nod of recognition. If anything, his speed increased and all Illiana could see were puffs of mist as the Malasii were destroyed. The mist got so thick that, even with her Predator night vision, she lost track of the man. The mist covered the entire clearing. It already looked like deep twilight with the tree cover smothering out the light but, with the mist added, there was an eerie quality that had Illiana huddling in on herself. Taking her mind of her childish fears, she tried to focus on the fight. The strange mist even covered heat signatures so she was forced to use her ears to track the battle.

She heard scuffling and shuffles, but nothing else. There were no gasps or shouts; something she would normally associate with battle. This was quiet, and more deadly. "What is happening?" one of the predators whispered in her ear. She shook her head to silence him, as she concentrated on hearing foot falls. She closed her eyes to get a better `feel' for it. The Malasii made an odd scraping noise with what passed for their feet and, as the mist thickened, she could tell, by the reduction of this sound, that they were getting picked off, one by one. There was another sound that she tried to pick up. But, as hard as she tried to listen, there was no sound of human feet upon the ground. That was not possible; everything made a sound. Predator hearing was so acute they could hear insects rustle under a twig on the forest floor. This shouldn't have been any different.

Whoever or whatever this man was, she did not want to be on the bad side of his temper. She only prayed that he was an actual friend. It was while she was posing these thoughts that a loud, ear piercing noise reverberated through the entire clearing. Being enclosed they way there were, the sound seemed to echo back and forth through the clearing. Everyone covered his or her ears as the noise ricocheted, bursting eardrums. Illiana shouted with pain; the noise burned into her ears and brain. She curled over, eyes closed, begging the sound to stop.

Moments later, she got her wish. She pulled herself up and assessed her people. Some were still rolling on the ground. Others had huddled together, and others looked at her, expecting her to have all the answers. She turned her face away from those accusing stares, and looked back out into the mist-enshrouded darkness. There was a slight ringing in her ears, but there was nothing she could do about it other than wait for the healing process to take over.

Scanning the semi-darkness, she tried searching for what she considered, `her rescuer.' A fuzzy shadow stood stock still in the thickest part of the mist. She looked at that still figure, her eyes wanting to tear as she refused to blink. For three full minutes it remained motionless. From out of nowhere, a light breeze blew the mist away, and the surrounding plants absorbed the alien mist into their leaves. Illiana shivered and swore she would never look at Trobal Forest the same again. It made sense why the Priests had created the rule that hunting was prohibited, except once a year. The forest was a living, breathing organism.

Illiana shook her head in annoyance. It had taken the vines, swallowing the mist, for her to realise the full implications of what that meant. The Forest could well and truly protect itself, and her people had better pay it respect, or they could end up in a prison such as this one. Shaking off the dawning realisation, she looked back at the still figure. He stood beside what seemed like an oak tree stump by his side, as wide as he was, and just a few inches shorter. Illiana opened her night sight, until she could see clearly details of the man and tree.

At this point, she realised the clearing was getting lighter. Her night sight was starting to hurt, the first indication of too much light coming through the retinas. She looked up briefly and noted with pleasure that the plants and tree tops were moving away, allowing the setting rays of the sun to shine down. Behind her, she could hear sounds of relief and joy. A fresh breeze blew through her metallic bars, and she inhaled the scents of the forest.

The man hefted the tree stump onto his shoulder with ease and walked towards them. The trees and plants rustled as they pulled away from the prison they had created. Illiana had eyes only for the man walking towards them. She gasped, as the face that stared back at her was Prince Sonny. Her eyes narrowed. Something wasn't right here. She had smelt his scent earlier, and she knew Sonny's unique scent intimately. Inhaling once more, this "person" smelt like her Sonny, but...?

"Who are you?" she demanded, as soon as he was near enough. She mentally slapped herself, as she watched him stare at their metallic cage. She should have waited until he had freed them, before outing him. Now, it was too late. The impostor Sonny looked at her with frankness that convinced her, even more, that this was an impostor. Her prince was never this open about himself.

The man standing before her smiled before squatting down to look her in the eyes. He placed his heavy wooden log to one side. "I am Prince Falcon, Prey Prince and Heir to the Prey nations. I will set you and your people free. Your men are waiting in the tree cover a few metres away. I am here because the Avatar asked me." Illiana looked behind the impostor, watching as the trees and plants were still trying to untangle themselves from the plant prison. She cursed herself once more. There wouldn't be any help coming from them anytime soon.

Getting up, Falcon placed his hands upon the metallic bars, and Illiana watched as the bars turned to mist, just like the Malasii. "Your Prince Sonny will return, once the initiation is complete." With those last words, Prince Falcon picked up his log and disappeared. There was something strange about that log, but she pushed it out of her mind as she tended to her people. Besides, she was too busy wondering what his cryptic message meant. Initiation? What initiation? There were too many factors she didn't understand. She would have to start thinking things through before acting. First, she would ask what Sonny's team knew about this `initiation.'

As she walked home with her people, she realised what had been bugging her about that log Falcon was carrying. She nearly stumbled to a halt, as the image came to her mind. She saw it clearly now. On the outside of that log, there was an outline of a Malasii, reaching its hand out, trapped inside the bark. She shivered. If that was what a Prince of the Prey nations could do; then he was indeed a very dangerous enemy. Especially within Trobal Forest; the place was supposed to be protected against Prey magic. The King himself rewove the Sigil into the forest, consecrating it each year. Shaking her head, she looked back at those who had gone with Sonny.

They were quieter. There was closeness within that group; shared pain or memories that left out her and those who had suffered within the cage. Even though they, too, had gone through hardships, it seemed theirs was of little consequence compared to what they had endured. When she asked them about what happened, they would clam up. But they weren't afraid to talk about Sonny and his efforts to protect them.

So far, the team that had gone with Sonny had told her some very interesting things about their Prince. She had asked them about the initiation, but there was only speculation. While talking about Sonny, she noted there were mixed reactions of awe and fear. So far, the only connection that had stuck out, for her, was the name "Avatar." Prince Sonny's `odd' cousin was the Avatar, a member of the Panther clan had informed her. Also, of course, Prince Falcon had admitted he was doing the Avatar's bidding. All in all, strange things were happening abroad, and King Connor needed to be informed.

Kiri stared down at the nude and sleeping form of Sonny. The Masculine had reshaped his body before filling him with its Power. There was more muscle all over Sonny's body. Kiri sighed, eyeing his lover. They were sitting on the green mounds once more. Beneath the mounds, he could sense the dimensional door they had fallen through. Their lovemaking had opened that door, and Kiri had discovered the history of the Fey. Inside the mounds was a miniature world. Even so, it was big enough to fit the entire population of Predator and Prey, and still fit an extra four Prey Citadels inside its dimensional space. The Fey had been trying for generations to open the mounds. The last to open them was Killara. When she was lost, two millennia ago, so too was the power to keep the dimensional doors open. Half of the Fey civilisation was living in the mounds when the doors began to close.

At first, when the fey tried to focus upon the door, it was hazy and hard to get a complete picture. Two weeks after Killara disappeared, it was nearly impossible to get an image of the doors into fey minds, with the exception the Four Elders. By that time, many of the Fey had already fled. The suns and moons had started fading from the ceilings, the plants died, and the water was drying up. All this Kiri had learned, and more. He had been fascinated with reading their history, and he sat atop the mounds, reflecting, while a cool breeze blew through his hair.

While Sonny was being shaped by the Masculine, Kiri had awoken and wandered the paved grounds and hallways inside the mounds. Square buildings made up of quartz and amethyst filled the space, climbing so high into the sky they rivalled the Prey Palace. Pockets of light peppered the ceiling, giving a dawn light to the city. He had come across fields that were arid and dead, and water features clogged and dry. The walls of the buildings were solid, and looked as grand from a distance, as they did close up. Crystal was a hard and enduring substance, and it showed in its ability to stand up against the years. Kiri slid his hands along the side of one wall, marvelling at the texture and energy that still seemed to flow inside. It was while he was walking through the enormous city, by pure luck, that he found the hall of records. He had stubbed his toe over the sign that used to be a fixed plaque on the side of the building, showing its name.

With baited breath and excitement, he entered the halls of learning. Lights slowly came on, filling the darkness with brightness. There were scrolls and parchment filled cubbyholes all the way to the ceiling. Looking at the signs, it dawned on him, something he should have picked up earlier. The sign he had stumbled over was in a language he knew. That shouldn't have been possible. The Fey were an entirely different species. Yet, as he began strolling through the sections, with signs indicating what each section of the library represented, his frown turned thoughtful. After all, the only logical explanation he could come up with was that the written language taught today was, in actual fact, the written language of the Fey. Someone of Fey descent, in the distant past, had taught reading and writing to his people. Was it Killara?

Did that mean they also created the spoken language the Prey and Predator used? After all, the old tongue was too strong for the average Prey or Predator to use without being burned from the inside out. Was this deliberate? Or a safety precaution for a new and developing race? So many questions to find answers for. With a gleam in his eye, Kiri got to work.

He had been reading for hours, his insatiable appetite for knowledge unquenched. The biggest discovery had left him gasping with surprise, and shaking his head in wonder. Looking up, he felt disorientated without the sun to warn of the passage of time. He stared through the tall windows beside his table, at the fake lights so high up in the ceiling. The lights had remained steady and unchanged. He mentally sent out a link to see how Sonny fared, but was rebuked by the Masculine. Sonny's beast rumbled, deep inside him, as it perked its ears.

Kiri closed his eyes, and sank into the cave he had created for the Panther inside his mind. He gave the cat a mental ruffle behind its ears. There was the sound of fluttering wings, and Falcon's phoenix cried outside the entrance to the Panther's cave, wanting also to be petted. Kiri smiled and walked out. It had grown since the time he had snatched it away from the Masculine. It was now the size of a peacock.

Sonny's Panther rumbled and snarled, slinking out of the cave to sit at the entrance, watching the firebird. The Phoenix cocked its head and stared at the Panther with its beady eyes. There was the light of battle shinning in those bird-like eyes. "That's enough from the both of you," Kiri said firmly. "It's bad enough I have to endure it from the two grown men in my life. I don't need it from spirit beasts that should know better!"

The phoenix began plucking at imaginary seeds upon the ground. The Panther lay it's head on its paws, pretending to doze. Kiri wasn't convinced. But a kernel of an idea came to him. Sitting down, he put his hand out and touched the soft warm feathers of the Phoenix. He placed his other hand over the head of the Panther. Concentrating, he told the two spirit beasts his great discovery. Both spirit beasts roared. Feathers and fur standing up, they turned towards each other and snarled before they raced away. Kiri shook his head, resignedly. If this was how the two spirit beasts reacted, he dreaded telling the two men in his life. Their spirit beasts were representations of their feelings, in many ways, and this test had proven that what he had to say would not sit well with either of them.

Sonny came awake, aware of his surroundings in a way that was more than it had been, even as a predator with heightened senses. He could feel every blade of grass beneath his body. He could sense the presence of Kiri sitting beside him, and he opened his eyes to stare. Kiri's eyes had a faraway look, frown marks marring the middle of his forehead. Sonny smiled, watching his lover's lips turn into a moue. Kiri, unaware of the appraising stare, laid his chin on his raised knees. Sonny was content to stare and looked over this `new' Kiri. If this is what his beloved would look like from now on, then Sonny would memorise every line and feature of his body and face. After the training the Masculine had given him, he needed to see Kiri's face. The Masculine had nearly turned his love of Kiri into hatred. But Sonny's mental picture of those silver eyes staring at him, with love and compassion, kept him from the brink many times during his training.

Now looking at Kiri's face, Sonny was comforted, in a strange way, to see all the old expressions cross his lover's face as the boy was lost in thought. His cousin was such a deep thinker. In hindsight, it was probably half the reason why many of the Predator children had been able to sneak up on him. He was always lost in one thought or another. Predators were active people, but Kiri had a stillness that irked most of them. They had to keep on the move; it was part of their nature. This stillness was a trait that Sonny loved about Kiri. Sonny didn't see it as tiresome. He had always found that still quality something to cherish, for it was the anchor he used to help find the focus he needed as the next ruling leader. Kiri's quiet and unassuming way of giving advice was another aspect that Sonny missed and cherished. He sighed internally. Now that Kiri was the Avatar, there would be more responsibilities laid at his feet, and his unassuming nature would not do for someone of his potential. Sonny wondered how much of the old Kiri would be eaten up by the responsibilities placed upon the Avatar. With the up and coming war with the World Eater, Kiri would need his support to bring the Predators to their side. The clan chiefs didn't know enough about Kiri to trust him. The Avatar had never won a duel, nor had he been recognised as a great warrior or hunter. And, in a culture that considered strength a necessity, Kiri still exuded gentleness. The Predator chiefs would not take him seriously. And, Sonny's own father, King Conner, had considered Kiri a non-entity. Old views died hard, and Sonny wasn't sure Kiri would be able to change the King's mind, without breaking him.

Sonny looked at Kiri and insight unexpectedly came to him. Perhaps that was one of the reasons Kiri brought Falcon into the picture? None of the Prey would trust a Predator Prince, and that was what Kiri was. His Silver Sigil was all the identification the prey needed to know it for themselves. With the upcoming battle, old rivalries would have to be put aside to save the world. Touching the grass beneath him, he asked the earth how long he and Kiri had been away. The earth whispered back that it had only been mere hours. He stretched, and felt the muscles move under his skin. He smiled as he looked down on his finely sculptured chest and stomach. The Masculine had not been easy on him during training; there were scars all over his body to prove it. He knew they were permanent, but Sonny saw them as tokens of war, and he would wear them proudly.

Sonny had been brought up to date, during his training with the Masculine, about the World Eater, and his part to play. Without his beast, or the Feminine power at his disposal, he hadn't realised how much he relied upon those skills to get past most obstacles. The Masculine began teaching him to use his body, and nothing else, as a weapon of destruction. Months, even years, seemed to pass without Sonny ever tiring or stopping from his training. His body began to develop rhythm, as the Masculine created drill patterns that Sonny had to go over, perfectly, every time. Sonny, who considered himself a good warrior, had then realised how undisciplined his moves had been. The Masculine had pointed them out, over and over; as Sonny kept making intuitive leaps or guesses instead of the ingrained drills he had been taught. The Masculine had beaten that out of him. Control and discipline were of the utmost importance. Leaps of intuition were only good when he had his foundation solidly built. Time and time again, the Masculine had shouted out how sloppy his stance was, or the weak effort he put into his punches. Sonny had gritted his teeth, thinking of the masculines face that looked disconcertingly like Kiri, and pounded that face beneath his fists over and over.

Time lost meaning as the training became even more intense. This time, Sonny was allowed to use his skills as a predator. His senses were honed and enhanced to such a degree that he could hear a leaf fall miles away. The last ability to fill him was Killara's power, and the Masculine had smiled with great joy as the two fought each other. The fight seemed to last an eternity, as both Masculine and Sonny fought, using all the skills they had. It was the Masculine that called the battle to a halt. He was sweating and panting as hard as Sonny. With a congratulatory smile, the Masculine had confirmed that Sonny was now ready.

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, and I also have another talented author (Lincard) sharing his stories too. I will be sending my chapters there first. So become a Member and enjoy. Otherwise feel free to Contact me.

Thanks as always goes to Richard for his fine work in editing!