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 Twenty One

The Elders looked at the world with new eyes. Kiri had broken the chains that held their natural instincts at bay, but old habits still died hard, and they felt lost without the invasive mind of Elder Wind directing them. The Avatar had been very harsh with them upon returning from the abyss. He had put in place mind locks that prevented them from turning against each other. There was excruciating pain if they disobeyed, and death if more than five of their people got out of hand. Elder Flame, in particular, had bitterly complained about it.

Kale had paid little attention. He was busy assessing the damage to the hall and his people. He was more interested in establishing order. The lagoon had receded at his command and that was his starting point for damage control.

Kiri and he had had a quick session of rebuilding some of his memories, but both of them knew he would never be the old Kale again. It was not possible. Many of his memories about Kiri growing up were lost. Many of his feelings and emotions about living among the Prey and Predator clans had been erased. Nevertheless, Kale still had the innate ability to care for those he considered his. As the Elder, he had an ingrained instinct to care for his people. There was still no regret within him for killing the boy, even though he knew he should have felt some kind of remorse. It was this fact that worried him most. Nuala had not spoken to him and refused to look him in the eye. He only hoped that, in time, she would be able to forgive him. As for Toby, Falcon had appeared while they were in the abyss and teleported him someplace. Grief had flickered in Kiri's eyes but Falcon had assured him that Toby would have a proper ceremony beneath the mounds.

Kale thought back to the appearance of Prince Falcon as they returned from the abyss. He had stood within the hall, arms akimbo, frowning at the Avatar. The Prince assured the Avatar that he had taken care of Toby's body. The look on Kiri's face was one of great anguish. Falcon had looked around at the watching fey and pulled the Avatar to one side. Even though Fey hearing is acute, a shield of some kind shot up around the two figures, distorting their appearance and preventing sound from reaching the curious.

There was speculation when Kiri appeared flustered, and Falcon looked smug. The serpents had disappeared from the Avatar's head, and his long white, gold, and red curls bounced around his face. His eyes were the smouldering silver with streaks of gold and black lightning that flashed as his lush red lips pouted.

Kiri was softening the tiles, when Falcon had yanked the two screaming Ciaran out of the ground prison. There was a smirk of satisfaction on his face as he saw raw and scratched flesh. He handled both of them with ease, holding them by their necks. He gripped tighter and shook them once more. He spoke with false cheer as he said, "If I ever find out that you two harmed the Avatar again, I will personally rip your entrails out, while keeping you alive as I do it. Then, I will use your intestines as a rope, to drag the both of you along behind me." Turning to face the Elders, he assessed them, and his face hardened as he took in every single detail of their features. "If it were up to me, the three of you would be dead."

Kiri then commanded a female Wind Nation Fey, by the name of Cilara to come forth. He inducted her as the next Wind Elder, and pushed the power of Wind into her. Before the rest of the Fey could murmur over the suddenness of it, he informed them that there would be a war meeting, at noon, in two days. It would be held in the Old Fey mounds, which were now his base of operations. Whispers ran riot with that last bit of information. Kiri had looked around and nodded before taking his prisoners and the Prey Prince along with him.

Now, Elder Earth was unusually quiet; he and his people were working hand in hand on the damaged grounds outside. Many of his people had been caught in the flood, and died; he worked the land where some of the bodies had been found, like pieces of flotsam. There were tears of grief amongst his people. However, Elder Earth's people were not the only ones affected. When Kiri arrived within Trevailier Forest, he had gone on a rampage and slaughtered many of the visiting Fey. Therefore, all four nations had been affected in one way or another.

Kale looked upon his people. Clean up was almost finished after six hours of heavy work. Kale glanced at the new Elder Wind. This new Elder was withdrawn and solemn. She spoke very little, and Kale noticed great hostility directed toward her from the other nations. It was understandable in some ways. To discover that the oldest of the Fey had been using all of the other nations for his own personal vendetta, to the detriment of their growth, was sacrilege to the Fey. Also, the fey needed a scapegoat and this new Elder became a convenient target. If not for the restrictions placed upon the Elders' minds by Kiri, a riot would have ensued. It was fortunate for her that when an Elder gave an order, a fey was forced to obey.

The biggest adjustment for all the Fey would be cooperating with the Prey and Predator societies. It was a decree that the Avatar had stressed. No one was prepared to argue. In many ways the previous Elder Wind had been right. The old ways of the Fey were going to disappear and the Fey, as they were known today, would fade into the history books.

Kiri ransacked the minds of the two Ciaran. It was oddly easy, and he frowned at that. Ciaran minds were different from those born from Architect. Killara even mentioned it in her crystal diary; their thought patterns were difficult to grab and read. Yet Kiri could not only grasp their minds; he understood how the mechanics of their psyches worked. This was another mystery he would have to figure out at a later date.

Falcon hadn't taken his eyes off the two prisoners since they left Trevailier forest. They were now along the base of the spine of the world. The sky was a bright blue, yet the temperature was cold enough so that Kiri felt his fingers stinging in only a matter of seconds. Before he could alter the temperature around him, Falcon interceded and Kiri sighed with relief, as the temperature grew warmer. Kiri looked at the two Ciaran and noticed their teeth chattering. He turned to Falcon and arched his brow.

Falcon looked unrepentant, and turned to scan the surrounding terrain. With a little sigh, Kiri turned toward the shivering Ciaran and wrapped a warm summer's day around them. Since teleporting them, all their mechanical equipment had failed. Without their technology, they are dead weight, the analytical part of Kiri said. It was also interesting to know, should the Ciaran attempt a double cross, that teleporting them would disable their weapons. There were possibilities here when negotiating.

According to the Ciaran, there was a doorway that gave them access to the underground city. The Ciaran had then warned them that the security sensors would pick up Falcon, and Kiri, as anomalies and go into defence mode. Kiri had an idea about how to get around that.

Looking up at the craggy mountains, he shook his head. Just to think, nearly a month ago he had been standing on the Spine of the World. Even his dreams had included these mountains. His subconscious had been trying to explain to him about the secrets within the Spine of the World, but he hadn't picked up on the significance until now.

Kiri shook his head and looked around for any sign of the door. Falcon was searching along the shrubbery. There was a look of concentration on his face as he seemed to be following a trail. There was a dip in the side of the winding path that lead up and over the mountains, and Falcon quickly walked over it. He disappeared and, with a triumphant shout, his head popped up and he waved Kiri over.

The Avatar pushed the two Ciaran ahead of him, in Falcon's direction. The Prey Prince was crouched with his hand hovering over a spot on the rocky ground. A look of concentration came over his face, and he nodded once more before he curled his hands and made a pulling motion. Electrical sparks shot up from the ground when he moved his hand away. It spread out in a circular pattern until the rocky ground disappeared, replaced by a large metal plate.

"Walk onto the plate and activate it," Kiri said to Kilar, the female Ciaran. "Don't try anything stupid."

Kilar turned and looked at Kiri defiantly. "How can we disobey you, when you have programmed our minds not to? We are aware of the mind traps you have put in place." She stuttered almost to a halt before continuing. "How is it that you have used the mind traps, one of the most powerful of our mind arsenals, against us? That should not be possible. Our data on the last Avatar explained all her weaknesses, and you should not be any different?"

That's when it came to Kiri; it made perfect sense now. It was Killara who gave him the hint, right after he had gained the Feminine power. Subsequently, the first time he had met the First Avatar, the answer was upon his forehead. The silver Sigil was not an architect design, but a Ciaran one.

It meant his Ciaran genetics were coming into play. It was why he could read their minds so easily, and probably a large reason why he could avoid and sense their weapons when they were in use. It might also explain why the two powers, Feminine and Masculine, were unique personalities, and why they came out as separate entities within him. Killara had spoken as if the two powers were one within her. They did not have individual personalties the way they seemed to within Kiri. In fact, she had explained that the combined Power Sources felt like pure energy with no distinction between them. The Ciaran genetics must have altered the way he channelled the two powers and, in return, his genetics had altered how his powers worked. Therefore, Kiri had an advantage over the Ciaran. He didn't dare tell them his discovery. That was beyond foolishness.

He looked at the two Ciaran, considering what he would say. "Your scientists forgot to put in one major factor; I'm male, which means I channel power differently. Our powers are determined by our personalities, and how we perceive things." Kiri gave a quirk of his lips before continuing. "Naturally, you're not to give that information away in any form, and that's a command." One could never be too careful, Kiri thought. After all, he was planning on letting them return. Therefore, it was important he plant as much false information as he could.

"Avatar," Falcon said, "I think it's wise you remain here, and I'll go into this city, in your stead."

"It's not necessary, Falcon. Once the plate is activated, it automatically opens up a communications channel. That is all I need to send my message across the entire city. Our lovely prisoners gave me all the access codes, so I can broadcast my message to every nook and cranny. Their minds are augmented by strange technologies. It helps them communicate information instantly, no matter where they are. Unfortunately for our two captives, when we teleported them we destroyed some of the..." Kiri searched for the right word, "machines, which they have implanted in their brains." Turning to see how the Ciaran were taking this last bit of information, he concluded, "In fact, it is my healing power that has prevented their brains from deteriorating. Due to the break down of the tiny artificial machines attached to their brains, they would be dead or comatose right now."

Kilar gasped. "You discovered all of that while pillaging inside our heads?"

Kiri cocked his head to one side before replying. "In many ways, information can be just as powerful as my Avatar strength. After all, isn't that part of Ciaran philosophy...with knowledge, comes power?"

Kilar looked at Kiri and, for the first time, the Avatar saw great fear in those depths, and not the adrenaline kind. This was a fear that would take root and never leave her. After all, it was her faction that controlled the weapons division. Kiri now had all of that stored in his head. Her frightened stare reminded him of the look the three surviving Elders had given him when he dropped Elder Wind into the Soul Eaters Pond.

Good, he thought to himself, the message was finally sinking in. There were many concepts in both Ciaran minds that he found difficult to grasp. What he did understand was enough to forearm him and those he protected against them. Kiri's eyes flicked over to the male, Kengar. There was a wary look of comprehension on his face also.

"Open a communication link now," Kiri said to the female Ciaran.

Her hands shook, but she placed a hand on the centre of the platform. She moved away and quickly stood up as the sound of moving machine parts rumbled through the air. Released air could be heard and, from the centre of the platform, a small circular pedestal rose up with a console in its centre. Lights flashed over the console and the Ciaran quickly got to work.

"I have to do this manually," she said.

She placed her hand upon an arched groove on the data pad and concentrated. Light shot up from the perimeter of the plate and a holographic screen hovered in front of them. Kiri walked onto the plate, with Falcon and the Male Ciaran, Kengar in tow. Kiri stared, fascinated by the screen. In order for him to achieve something like this, he would have to take control of a person's mind and convince him about what he was seeing. Even using the power of Feminine, he would never be able to create this ephemeral illusion. The feminine power could create an illusion but, in a matter of minutes, it solidified and became real.

"I'll take over from here," Kiri said. There was a slight buzzing in his ear and, with a start, the buzzing started sounding like voices. Hearing about the concept from the Ciaran's mind and then experiencing it were two entirely different things. Taking a deep breath, he closed his eyes. What he was attempting to do was new territory for him. The Ciaran used their artificial implants, which connected to the electrical pulses in their brains and acted as radio signals to the main frame of the City communications system. Kiri didn't have the implants but, on a very basic level, he understood electrical pulses and mind speech. In a sense, the Ciaran used technology in the same way; Kiri could converse mind to mind, with Falcon or Sonny. Therefore, he would communicate his message using short bursts of electrically charged air. His main concern was the possibility of destroying the entire communication systems by inadvertently using too much power.

Kiri thought about what these actions might reveal about him to the prisoners. But the two Ciaran were literally locked out of their city, so this was the only way to communicate. Time was of the essence, and Kiri knew he was out of his league when it came to intrigue. If they discovered that he could work within Ciaran technology, and how much he could detect their equipment, so be it.

Pushing aside all distractions, Kiri began familiarizing himself with the buzzing voices and how they transmitted their messages. He detected a slight variance with each voice; a unique flavour, so to speak. He opened his inner eye and gasped in wonder. His eye was drawn down onto the plate and he saw the electrical charges racing through it. It was very similar to the lattices of the Earth's ley lines. They ran outwards towards the perimeter of the plate and travelled up the shafts of light surrounding the plate as sound waves. Kiri looked towards the rectangular screen. He put his hand upon its holographic image and watched as the screen reacted to his touch.

One of the buzzing voices came through the screen, loud and clear. "This is security Deckard, ID 643953. Your imprint is unknown; please state your identification registry."

Kiri looked towards Kilar and realised that without her implants she couldn't hear them. Taking a deep breath, Kiri turned towards the screen. Gathering tiny amounts of electrical energy, he spoke, "This is Avatar Kiri; I have come with a message..." Before Kiri could continue, he felt the plate pulse beneath him. With his inner eye, he looked down and saw the blue sparks change to orange. "Kilar, what does it mean when the plate turns orange?" He looked up to assess her.

Her face paled. "They are charging up the energy beam." She tried running off the plate, but the light had turned into a barrier, preventing escape.

Kiri turned to the Prey Prince. "Falcon, shield us."

"If you persist," Kiri said into the rectangular screen, "I will not hesitate to bring these mountains tumbling down and your city with it." His heart pounded as he looked at the orange sparks pulsing beneath the plate. To prove he meant business, he looked up at the peaks and then down at the earth. Unleashing a small part of his power, the ground trembled slightly. Rocks began tumbling down and rolled around the perimeter of the shielded plate. He felt the life teeming under the mountains, and surmised that he could feel the pulse of Ciaran hearts beating beneath the surface because he had both power sources available. Acting on impulse, he reached out to those hearts and felt them, like the touch of small birds, on the metaphysical palm of his hand. Closing his hand into a fist, he squeezed. Screams of pain trembled across his senses, reaching across the entire underground city. He vaguely heard the two Ciaran prisoners, shout beside him in concert. "This is my one an d! only warning." He squeezed a little harder and felt the Ciaran respond with concerted groans. "If you think you can kill me with your beam, before I stop your hearts, than try me." There was a pause, then the orange sparks flickered and died, returning to blue.

A shaky voice replied, "This is security Deckard, ID 643953. I am transferring you through to my superiors. I am not authorized to take your call."

Kiri folded his arms. "I'm glad we came to an understanding. Be quick about it; my time is precious."

A face appeared on the rectangular screen. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the two Ciaran prisoners jerk when they saw who was on the screen. Kiri's interest was peaked, but he observed this new person, assessing him. The Ciaran said, "I am General Ursh, Leader of the Ciaran federacy. What do you want of us?"

Before he replied, Kiri observed the man and then turned to Kilar. "Is he who he says he is?" The female Ciaran nodded her head. General Ursh narrowed his eyes before his face went impassive. "The World Eater received your distress signal, all those centuries ago, and, has decided to come and pay a visit to our realm. We are having a war council in two days time. I expect the Ciaran to participate."

General Ursh didn't reply. Instead, he looked at the two Ciaran standing passively beside Kiri. "What have you done to my people? I see them, but readouts indicate they should be dead. Their responders are not active."

Kiri turned to Falcon, indicating he was ready to depart before replying. "I'll let them explain that to you. They have the information you need on where we are holding the meeting; I don't have any more time to talk." Kiri paused and stared at the General for a few seconds before concluding. "If I don't see you personally at the meeting, I will consider the Ciaran as a threat, and will act accordingly." With those last words, Falcon and Kiri teleported.

Sonny stood in Panther Forest alongside representatives of each Predator tribe. His stomach churned as he waited for his year-mates to walk into the clearing. The scouts had broadcast the message across the entire forest earlier. There was already a large crowd behind him, and excited whispers and mutters raced through the multitude.

Sonny's mind was spinning in circles. He was going to have a baby. He felt exhilarated and terrified at the same time. But, just to be certain, he wanted to see Illiana and check the babe. His stomach did a little flip flop.

Dawn rose, sending splashes of colour across the clearing. On silent feet, Sonny's year-mates walked into the clearing. With them came the Priests. Illiana had refused to allow anyone to stay behind. Sonny walked forward when he saw the group who had gone with him under Trobal forest. They walked like a guard behind, and beside, Illiana. They, in turn, gave relieved smiles. He clasped hands with them all, smiling back at them. So much had happened; it felt like a different lifetime ago. He glanced quickly at Illiana and she looked back at him, noting the muscle bulk he so easily carried. He had changed a lot too, he ruefully thought. His inner eyes scanned her body, and he heard the heart beat of another life growing within her womb. Joy spread across his face, as he felt a lick of pleasure spread through his belly. Turning to face the entire group, Sonny watched the expressions of happiness cross his year-mates' faces as they looked at parents and relatives who had come f r! om the various clans to meet them. He mentally commanded the travellers to halt until he had a private word with all of them. They showed no resentment, and waited for him to continue.

Illiana looked around at her year-mates, noting the respect their Prince held. She was both awed and envious. Her reign as Leader had not been easy. Tempers had frayed while having to obey her. Nevertheless, they had listened, she consoled herself.

"We have all seen strange things within the last couple of weeks," Sonny projected into the minds of his year-mates. "It will only get worse from here on in. We are at war, and we have all been tested. Some of us were forged through battle, others through sustained capture and tests of mental endurance. Regardless, we have been given a taste of what can happen to us as a people if we are not united." He made sure he caught every single one of his year-mate's gaze, giving him a nod, before moving on to the next person. "In three days time we gather for a war council, the kind that has never been seen in known history. You all know that something strange from the skies is coming. Because of this, we must push aside our natural distaste of the Prey Clans." Sonny expected rumbles from that last statement, but was surprised; everyone remained calm and expectant. It told him that they, too, had grown in their own way. "We will soon become allies w i! th not only the Prey, but the Fey, and if the Avatar has anything to do with it, the Ciaran, also known as the ancients." Sonny gave one last nod before concluding. "Go back to your clans, and spend time with your loved ones. It is for their sake that we must fight, to protect their future. Dismissed."

Sonny watched as his year-mates raced towards their clan members. A loud cheer went up as the gathered predators embraced their young. He grabbed Illiana's arm before she could move. "I need to speak with you later." She gave him a questioning look, and nodded her head, before moving towards her clan. The Priests milled around, not sure where they fit into everything. Sonny walked up to them.

An elderly Priest bowed low at the waist as Sonny approached. The priest said, "We are but humble servants. Why were we brought here? Our homes are in Trobal Forest and not interfering with the politics of the clans."

"I asked my men to bring you along because, as you know, it is not safe to stay in Trobal Forest any longer. Among your own people, we can protect you. You will still hold your autonomy, and if you do not wish to join the war council, that is your prerogative. For now, rooms have been set up for you within the mounds." Sonny turned and beckoned a young female panther clan member over. "Shayla will direct you to your rooms and answer any questions you may have about your temporary abode." The Priests knew a dismissal when they heard one, and bowed their heads.

Falcon teleported Kiri to the burial site he had created for Toby. They appeared in one of the fields Falcon had created earlier. The Avatar was pale and drawn, but he walked with determined grace. A crystal effigy of Toby stood at the head of a hole six feet deep. Toby's body lay in an amethyst coffin on wooden slats above the burial site. Most of his body was hidden by the coffin, and only his head could be seen. His eyes were closed, and Falcon had managed to sew his head back onto his shoulders.

Kiri looked down, then back up with gratitude to Falcon. "I don't know how you managed to create this, in the time you had, but it's perfect." A single tear trickled down his face. There was no one to grieve for Toby's passing, except for Kiri. The boy had no one, and Kiri grieved more as he realised that.

Placing his hands upon the coffin, Kiri closed his eyes and amethyst grew beneath them, completing the coffin. The crystal was such a pure shade of purple; Toby's body was obscured within. Kiri raised his face to the sky above. He sang in the old tongue. The ground shivered and rippled, as pure green roots grew into the rich loam. Flowers burst from the ground. A depression grew until a channel was made. Smooth pebbles popped out of the ground and a slow trickle of water followed in its wake.

Toby's burial site stood on a grassy island, in the centre of the flowing stream. The Coffin lifted, and hovered above the wooden slats that had held it above the six-foot deep gravesite. Shards of crystal grew along grave walls until they were lined with pure crystal. The wooden slats turned to dust and the coffin descended into the ground by itself.

Kiri's voice rose in volume as he watched the coffin sink into the ground. The amethyst coffin began humming a descant note, interweaving its clear sharp notes into Kiri's tones. Light and dark shades shone from the amethyst as the singing cascaded through the mound.

Predators, coming and going through the massive city, could hear it for miles. The buildings began resonating with Kiri, and people were drawn out of the buildings. They followed the voice down to the newly made gravesite, and gasped as they watched the Avatar shining in all his glory.

His hair flowed around him in silky gold, red, and white strands. Light shone from inside his skin, basking him in a magnesic white light. His voice rose and fell like waves crashing against cliffs. The coffin and the entire city responded, in a choreographed orchestra of sound.

For many of the predators watching, this was the first time they had seen the Avatar standing in his power. Many were left gasping, tears sliding down their faces. It was like the Avatar had pulled memories from their childhoods, and laid them within the tomb that was being lowered into the ground. But he did more than that; he shared his love for Toby, and offered it to those listening, to feel and understand.

The coffin and the Tombstone absorbed the love that Kiri poured out. A thousand years from now, this site would still sing the heartfelt praises of what Toby meant to Kiri. The Avatar had ensured it would be so.

Soil covered the hole where Toby lay. It was a smooth transition, without a lump of soil to show where the hole had been. The crystal effigy was the only indication that a body lay beneath the soil, at the base of its stone feet. Spring flowers meandered across the dark soil of the grave plot, creating a square patch of flowers.

Kiri lowered himself to the ground. Exhaustion from channelling so much power, and from the Fey battle, overwhelmed him, and he rested his head at the watching tombstone. One last tear trickled from his eye. It raced down the curve of his cheek, and balanced precariously on the edge of his skin, before it dropped to the grass and soil beneath. One single Avatar flower shot up and kissed Kiri's cheek, before oblivion overtook him.

Falcon gently lifted Kiri to his chest, cradling him like a child. He never took his eyes off the sleeping Avatar as he disappeared. Behind him, the Crystal statue shone with purple light. It held the love that Kiri had shared with the people, and with the boy. In days to come, it would be a place sought by many, especially children, as a place of refuge.

Sonny paced back and forth. He had sent for Illiana to meet him privately. His stomach churned and he felt out of sorts. A child was a momentous happening, especially within the Panther Royal family. It meant that he and Illiana were a fertile pair. His heart dropped to his stomach. Where did that leave Kiri? As protocol and tradition dictated, Sonny would be life-bonded with Illiana once his parents discovered the new inclusion. In fact, Illiana was supposed to be his betrothed. Now that a child was added into the mix, he was already three quarters of the way through the life-bonding ceremony. But he didn't love Illiana. He laughed bitterly to himself. That fact wouldn't matter soon. It was imperative that a spiritual connection went along with the physical union they shared, for the child's sake. Whether he liked it or not, he would be bound to her until she died.

The other side to it was this: if he refused to go through with the completion of the life-bonding ceremony, there was a chance his child would not have the spiritual essence of a Panther beast, but that of the mother, who was from the Tiger clan. During pregnancy, a newborn's spirit beast was influenced, not only by the mother, but also by its father's spiritual energy. Should the father's spirit beast be the alpha within the relationship, his energy influenced the outcome of which beast the newborn would have. Likewise, with the mother. Should her spirit beast have more punch than the father, her beast would influence the next generation. This was why displays of dominance played such an important role within Predator society, and why both genders were considered equal if they took up the warrior mantle. This was also one reason why many of the Predator clans intermarried within their own tribes; there were fewer chances the next generation would follow in the steps of a! parent from another clan entirely.

However, there was one major dilemma that Sonny wasn't sure he could overcome right now. He had lost his connection with his spirit beast. In many ways he felt emasculated without it. He had faith that Kiri still held onto his beast, trying to find a way to reconnect it but, at times like this, the waiting was unbearable.

Illiana walked through the door. "You wanted to see me, Prince?"

Sonny turned around, his mind still jumping with all the questions churning inside his head. He stared at Illiana before his eyes went down to her stomach. She instinctively clutched her abdomen, and realised a second too late what she had done. Sonny's golden eyes turned smoky with emotion and he walked towards her.

His large calloused hand splayed over her still unnoticeable belly, and he felt the life pulsing beneath his fingers. A large smile wreathed his face, and his heart jumped with joy. The child responded to the touch of his fingers, and Sonny gasped with wonder as the child's spiritual essence stroked against his finger, before returning back inside the foetus. It seemed content, and went still, deciding sleep was in order. Illiana felt her heart lift and her stomach do little somersaults as the child stilled under the Prince's hand. "This is my child growing within you," Sonny said with awe and excitement. "We have created the next generation of Panther royalty." Touching Illiana on the side of her cheek, he stared sincerely into her eyes. "You have my deepest gratitude."

Illiana was spell bound. She stared up at Sonny with her heart almost bursting. She had dreamt of this day, and had almost convinced herself she would never see it. Yet, here the Prince stood, staring down at her, as if she were the most precious being in the world. A small part of her twinged as his eyes lingered more upon her stomach than her face, but she was grateful that he noticed her. She swooned and felt his strong arms hold her firmly, but gently.

Kiri walked in and caught sight of Illiana staring up at Sonny with a tender look of love. The Predator Prince cradled Illiana to his chest like a lost love, and a sharp shard of pain sliced into Kiri's heart. Sonny sensed Kiri within the room first, and looked at the Avatar, feeling guilty.

Kiri's silver eyes, held an indefinable emotion within them, and Sonny's chest felt heavy. He gently pulled Illiana back onto her feet. Kiri looked away from Sonny, then turned and stared at Illiana. She seemed to glow with her pregnancy and the Avatar's heart felt over burdened. He had no right to feel resentful but, nevertheless, he did.

With as much grace as he could muster, Kiri gave a small nod to the pair and said, "I'm sorry for intruding, but there was someone that needed to return to where he belonged." With those words, Kiri opened his hands, and a white mist shot from his palms and onto the ground. It grew, and the fog turned dark and murky, until it took the shape of a panther. With one leap, the mist-like panther leaped into Sonny. Kiri watched the Predator Prince's face with longing, before he turned around and disappeared into the dark.

"Kiri, wait...I..." Sonny wasn't sure if it was guilt, or the friction between him and Illiana, but he thought he had missed something of great import in Kiri's last statement. He just wasn't clear headed enough to see what it was.

Illiana watched the expressions flow across the Prince's face. A dark and unsettling sensation kept interrupting her beautiful world of love. Yet, she was afraid to pursue or delve too deep. The world she had always wanted was right here in front of her, and that's all that mattered. Just to make sure, and assure herself that he cared, she decided that playing the swooning maiden could be to her advantage. As a warrior, it was not an option most would use, but there were great rewards and it was a necessity. After all, most men wouldn't believe another warrior would use such a degrading tactic. Women saw it differently. She saw the indecision and the Predator Prince's urge to follow the Avatar. She swayed on her feet, moaning in distress.

Alarmed and startled, Sonny forgot about Kiri in his attempt to make sure his child was doing okay. He grabbed onto Illiana and led her to his bed, urging her to rest. She smiled up at him before closing her eyes. Sonny felt his panther circling inside his cave. It came out to sniff the child growing within Illiana's womb, purred, and retreated back into its metaphysical cave. No amount of coaxing from Sonny could get it to budge after that.

He had his panther back. A new child was going to grace the royal panther family, and Kiri seemed understanding of the situation. Sonny took a deep breath and tried easing the muscles in his shoulders. As much as he tried to ponder on the happy events of his life, something big was happening that he didn't completely understand. It was like everything around him seemed to be in sharp, clear, focus. Yet there was a foreboding taint to everything he saw.

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!