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 Four

Falcon raced through the undergrowth of an unfamiliar forest. He was now on foot, as the vegetation had thickened and his large wings were impractical. The gull remained just in sight but never close enough to touch. He had even used speed to catch up to it, and yet it still remained out of reach. He had come to the conclusion the bird was an illusion of some kind. Attempts to scan it were rebuffed and even his coaxing of the trees to hinder the bird's flight had proven non-productive. The plants couldn't see the bird. If it had been from the spirit world he would have been able to command it, but even that attempt failed.

This running about had made him fidgety. It was as he climbed over an old tree that had crashed to the ground, that he felt it. The place screamed of power. It made him giddy from the sensation. It was odd to see a seagull deep in the forest, away from its natural habitat of the beaches. It stood on a patch of dark moss, head cocked, looking at Sonny speculatively. He came to a halt and felt, more than saw, a shift in the energy around him. The bird morphed until a naked woman stood before him. She had long silvery hair that flowed past her waist in a long curly mass. But, it was the eyes that captivated Falcon. They were the same silver as Kiri's.

"Hello, warrior," the lady said. There was a sultry, seductive tone to her voice, and Falcon's loins responded. Frowning, he tried scanning her and she still remained an enigma. An unusual scent wafted off her and Falcon shuddered as warm lust encased him. She glided over to him, never disturbing the leaf-strewn floor with her feet. The Prey Prince was rooted to the ground. He shuddered as her hand slid over his cheek, surprised and aroused to know she could touch him physically. Grabbing one of his hands in her own, she pressed his large hand against her belly and moved it further down. She sighed as his hand touched the apex between her legs. She arched her hips back and forth coaxing Falcon's hand to explore her fully. Her unusual scent got stronger and it pushed Falcon's senses into overdrive. He cupped her firmly and slid a finger into her moist crevice. She gasped out loud and rotated faster on his wiggling digits.

He knew this was wrong, but her scent drove caution out of his mind. He was a slave to his own lusts. Her eyes glittered as she moved faster over his fingers. It was the silver tint in them that jolted Falcon. He shook his head trying to clear it. She dug her nails into his back, trying to keep his attention solely upon her, and gripped his fingers tightly inside her; a promise of things to come. The sharp pain of her nails was enough of a catalyst to partially pull him out of her web of seduction, but his mind teetered on falling back into her snare as she gripped his fingers deep inside.

"Fight her, Falcon." Kiri spoke in Falcons mind. "You have the power of feminine within you. Cast her out, like an infection."

The Prey Prince shook his head once more, and shoved her away. He wrapped his power around him and heard his phoenix roar as it, too, was pulled from the mesmerising charms of this entity. Gone was the look of lust upon her face. She glared at him and turned her back. An odd crooning sound came from her mouth. It pulled at his heart to hear it.

"Stop falling for it," Kiri said impatiently inside Falcon's head. "I'll be there to help you soon. Keep her distracted until I get there."

"So this is not your mother?" Falcon asked.

There was silence from Kiri's end. "I'm not sure," he finally said.

Falcon kept a light shield around his body. It would prevent this `thing' from touching his skin, and it acted as a filter, preventing her strange scent from affecting him. She backed away from him, snarling and hissing. He raised his hands in a peaceful gesture, hoping it would prevent her from retreating further. He relaxed when she stopped.

His relaxation was short lived as she lunged toward him. Her nails turned into sharp claws as she ran straight for him. Falcon's body reacted without conscious thought. He sidestepped her lunge and his arm came out hitting her in the throat and slamming her to the ground. He pushed a shield around her to prevent escape. She squealed and shuddered as Falcon's power touched her body. He watched as her skin sizzled and smoked, and he stretched the shield out a little, giving her more room to move.

Kiri appeared, with Sonny at his side. The Avatar looked at the creature trapped behind Falcon's shield. He gasped as he got closer to examine her. She seemed as entranced with Kiri as he was of her. He sank down beside her and waved the shield away. She shied from him as he put his hand towards her. Flinging her hands out, her power flowed over Kiri in a warm wash of heat. He jolted and arched his back. Images glided behind his closed eyelids. A look of horrible realisation hit Kiri as he opened them.

"We have to send her back to the Earth's core," Kiri said. Sonny frowned and looked at Falcon for enlightenment. The Prey Prince seemed as confused as he was. Kiri looked at the two, before gently placing his hand upon his mother's hair. She mewled, but remained where she was. "Just as the Oak Heartwood Tree in the Prey Citadel was the key to accessing the Masculine Power, my mother played that role for the Feminine. The Feminine power source lay in Trevailier forest, but Kira was the key to opening its power. It was part of the reason why Kale's father could never harness the Feminine power completely. He could siphon from its edges, but never its full potential."

"That still does not explain why she is in the state we see her," Falcon said.

Kiri clenched his fists, his anger almost bordering on self loathing. "There are consequences to power," he said, "Because of how my two power sources have split personalties of Masculine and Feminine, it altered many things. My mother was a key bearer and, when I channelled my power, I also changed how the key holders used it." Lifting his mother by the hand, he stared at her youthful face. "I need to send her home and then, hopefully, you will understand more." He turned and looked at the two anchors. "Join with me; it's about time the both of you knew how to work off each other."

Almost as if it was choreographed, Sonny came up to Kiri's right and Falcon to his left. A beatific smile crossed Kira's face as Kiri gathered the power of the two sources. He felt the constant struggle between Masculine and Feminine and drew on that friction. It built inside him as energy. Sonny pushed his power into him, the same as Falcon. It made Kiri gasp at the amount of power he was channelling.

The chill of death crashed against the heat of life. Falcon and Sonny saw planets rise and fall. With the birth of one planet, Falcon was renewed. With its death, Sonny rejoiced and wallowed in the void. Both gained tremendous power in those two stages. Kiri taught them to draw upon the power they generated when they clashed; the periods when neither power held absolute sway. Pulling the two Princes deep into his mind, he made them watch as he opened up the earth and sent his mother back to the energy source that belonged to the Architect.

The two princes gasped as they saw how the interplay of the two power sources created the cycle of life and death. It was there in the energy flowing around the core of the Earth. Without one, the other could not survive. They felt Kiri blend the two powers into a symbiotic union, which altered his mother's design; the Ciaran genetics within Kiri meant the two Power Sources would forever be changed, and how they were channelled. When Kiri became the Source of Feminine, his mother began loosing her higher intellectual functions to her more primal sexual urges, because she didn't have the Ciaran genetics and, therefore, could not tap into the Feminine the way she normally would. Sex was the only way she could build enough energy to still play her role as guardian, and to remember her true identity.

Now that Killara had also returned to the source, her information on Ciaran genetics was being put to use. Sonny had also sped the process along when he sent the spirits home that resided within the darkness beneath Trobal forest. The Core was learning to adjust, and those that returned to the earth with Ciaran genetics as part of their makeup were being integrated. Kiri was pushing his mother back home for two reasons. One, her time as guardian was over and she deserved her rest. Two, as part of the Feminine she would feel the pillaging of the earth more in this form when the invaders came. She didn't deserve that; for all that she had sacrificed so far. Kira gave one final smile and looked at her son, before her image faded and her essence returned back to the earth. Sonny and Falcon watched as Kira's essence was broken down into its four elemental components. Even within these basic four components, each element held its light and dark sources. Masculine and Feminine.

Content that Sonny and Falcon understood how important their powers and their roles were, Kiri decided to check up on the Oak Heartwood tree within the Prey Citadel. If his mother had failed to draw upon the Feminine, how was the Heartwood Tree faring? There were even more dangerous consequences should the tree start dying. After all, it held the land the Prey Citadel was standing on in one piece. Without its anchor, the land would eventually die, and the land's connection to the Earth's core and its source would disappear. It was one reason why protecting the forests was so important with the upcoming war. Many of the ancient forests hosted thousand year old Oak Heartwood Trees. Their roots ran deep and were some of the main vessels by which the Earth's core rechannelled its energy back into the world. Should the enemy discover this potential weakness, they would all have a major fight on their hands.

Still melded with the two Princes, Kiri's spirit raced towards the Prey Citadel. The Heartwood Tree glowed in their joined spiritual eyesight. But its physical appearance was decidedly different from when they last saw it. The branches were twisted, with spiny thorns, and the leaves had a strange blight running along the edges of their heart tipped shape. "Falcon, you deal with returning the Tree's original shape. Sonny, you deal with the blight." There was slight puzzlement from the two Princes, but Kiri wanted them to figure out his reasoning. Kiri concentrated on altering the tree's Architect design. Because it was still a key bearer for the Masculine, it would forever hold a faint trace of its power, and returning the Heartwood tree back to the Earth's core was not a safe option. Therefore, he needed to make sure the tree was able to adjust to how the new Masculine Power Source was being channelled.

Falcon asked a very good question as all three concentrated upon their various tasks. "What about the rest of the Oak Heartwood Trees? Won't they be similarly affected?"

Kiri concentrated on what he was doing; altering parts that would help allow the Tree to flourish before answering. "As I said, now that the Ciaran design has been incorporated into the Earth's core, the rest of the trees will eventually learn to adapt. However, since this tree in particular has a link to Sonny as the Masculine anchor, and me, it's important that it is maintained and altered as quickly as possible."

Once completed, all three gave a sigh of satisfaction. Kiri pulled them away and they returned back to their bodies. Sonny was thoughtful before he spoke. "I think I know why you gave us the tasks you set us."

Kiri smiled. "Go on."

"Falcon, as the anchor for Feminine should have been the best choice to destroy blight. After all, healing lies among his talents. But even in healing, sometimes you have to kill something, like an infection, to help the body. That, in its own way, is a death and in my department. Because I was destroying blight, it was a small death and it gave me power." Sonny looked to Kiri for confirmation. The Avatar smiled encouragement and urged him to continue. "I also watched as you siphoned power from the two Sources clashing within the tree. It also has Feminine and Masculine components that clash. I watched as you used that power to alter its unique design." Sonny paused, trying to find the right words for what he was about to say next. "When my Power Source clashed with Falcon's, I almost felt like I could pull on that kinetic energy when he and I clashed. It wasn't comfortable to do that, but I think, with more practise, I would be able to draw from that power too."

"Well done! To a certain degree, both you and Falcon can tap into each other's power. That is the nature of duality. I decree this lesson finished." Kiri said. Turning to Falcon, he gave the Prey Prince a quelling look. "I set up an entry point to the mounds near the Prey palace. Your father should be arriving any minute, so I suggest you go and get cleaned up while I keep them entertained." Falcon rubbed the side of his head ruefully. "Oh, before you go," Kiri said, "thank you for the effort of finding my mother." Falcon smiled and teleported out of sight.

Kiri sighed and looked at Sonny. "I'm not sure if your father, our King, will be very welcoming, but I have already arranged for some of the buildings to be set up for the Prey. Tomorrow is a big day for all of us. On that note, there is one more thing I need to tell you before I explain this within the meeting." Sonny arched his brow before pulling Kiri into an embrace. He hadn't liked watching Kiri and Falcon interact, but he refrained from mentioning it. Kiri continued, "In order for this alliance to work well, I need to break my ties to the Predator Clans, and become neutral."

Sonny tightened his grip on Kiri. The Panther within him growled and it came out of Sonny's mouth as a warning rumble. Kiri placed his hand placatingly on the Prince's shoulder. "You'd better have a good reason for this," Sonny snarled.

"I have to be fair to both nations. I can't allow your father to blackmail me, because of familial ties, to do his bidding."

"My father won't care; he'll see this as treason."

"I'm not worried about how your father sees this. I'm more interested in how you feel about it."

Sonny sighed, and looked down at his cousin. "You still haven't told me your reason why you want to become neutral."

Kiri looked into Sonny's eyes. "Don't be obtuse. You know why I can't show my allegiance solely to the Predators. You know I have both predator and prey blood flowing through my veins. If I am to treat everyone fairly, they need to see me as neutral. I can't do that with the stigma of Predator upon me."

"So now you consider being a Predator as a stigma?" Sonny said petulantly.

"Stop twisting my words," Kiri said heatedly.

"No, you need to choose your words more carefully," Sonny retorted.

Kiri pulled out of Sonny's embrace. If they were going to argue, he wouldn't be able to do that in his cousin's arms. "What is this really about?"

Sonny paced back and forth. He looked like what he was...a predator. "What's wrong with being a Predator? Are you ashamed of us? Is this some kind of punishment because you were teased and hurt growing up?"

Kiri crossed his arms and narrowed his eyes. "I have don't have time for this."

Sonny rounded on his cousin. "Then make bloody time!"

"Fine!" Kiri shouted, "Before I became the Avatar, of what use was I to the clan? How many times was I ridiculed and tormented because I looked and smelled like a child, while everyone my age had already ripened towards maturity? How many beatings or small pranks did I have to endure?" Kiri advanced towards Sonny. "What were your last words to me before you travelled on your quest?" Kiri asked, prodding his cousin in the chest. "You accused me of not being able to stand up for myself. I can do that now, and I'm standing on my own two feet. Out of love and courtesy, I decided to tell you my decision to become neutral. If I recall, you told me I had to deal with the harsh things in life. Well if my decision is hard for you, then deal with it." Turning his back on his cousin, Kiri teleported to the mounds.

Sonny stood there with fists clenched. This was not how this conversation was supposed to go. Seeing Falcon and Kiri interacting together had made him see red, and jealousy had flashed hot and fast through him. He had wanted to fight, but now his heart hurt more than it did before the fight started. He wanted to go to Kiri and apologise. At the same time he wanted Kiri to make the first move. Rolling his shoulders to ease the tension, he took a deep breath in and then released it. To the Hell abyss and back, he thought. The Avatar could come crawling to him for a change. He wasn't going to go back like a beaten man. He had too much pride for that. Turning, he teleported too.

The Ciaran General, Ursh, gave a satisfied sigh. All was going according to plan. They had what they had come for. It was effortless, and the spells interwoven into the stones were no match for their technology. They had been in and out before those chosen to protect the wards could stop them.

"We will set out tomorrow morning for these mounds the Avatar was talking about," General Ursh said. He stared down fondly upon a slim bodied person covered in a grey cloak. "I think you will be comfortable among us."

Pale slim fingers pulled back the hood of the grey cloak. "So someone finally succeeded my mother as the next Avatar?"

General Ursh felt his loins stir, looking upon this female who was half Ciaran. She was exotic. Her long silvery hair only enhanced the blue spirals upon her cheekbones and near her ears, a trait from her Ciaran father. She was Killara's own daughter, called Terse, locked away on command of her Grandfather, Elder Wind. Being immortal, she was as youthful as the Fey. The Ciaran had very long life spans, but eventually they grew old. General Ursh had been a youth when Killara's daughter was born. Terse came into the world inside these Ciaran walls, so her birth was recorded on the birthing records. After the birth, Killara was betrayed by her lover and Anchor. Elder Wind had whisked Terse away to forever be locked behind enchanted walls. He had systematically gone about erasing records of her whereabouts within the mounds. Without Elder Wind to maintain the spells, General Ursh had decided to try his luck, and fortune was smiling upon him. They had managed to breach the por tal that led to the dimensional world where Terse was being held. Just as intuitive as her mother before her, she was waiting patiently for them with her meagre belongings packed beside her.

"I'm glad someone took on the mantle of Avatar," Terse said, "It saves me the hassle of hunting down the Masculine and Feminine Power Sources. This way, it's been nicely placed into one whole package and, once the new Avatar is destroyed, I can take his place."

General Ursh smiled. "I am glad we agree. Naturally, the Ciaran are at your disposal."

Terse nodded her head, "Let's meet my cousin. It will be interesting to see how he has shaped the two Power Sources."

Kiri stormed into the large kitchen inside the mounds. He watched as both predator and prey went to and fro, preparing for the banquet. It had been Falcon's idea to start introducing the two nations to each other by working together on food. It had been a complete disaster, until Kiri decided to enter the fray and keep an eye on everyone. He had then appointed a chef from each nation to start working on dishes together. At the beginning it had started off rocky but, as dinnertime drew closer, both chefs became much more pragmatic. Although they came from two separate nations, both knew that hungry men become irate men, and both got down to their tasks in a matter-of-fact way.

Now, after a few weeks of watching the friendly rivalry between the two chefs, Kiri could feel the tension seeping out of him. He wrapped an apron around his waist and rolled up his sleeves. The two head cooks had set up a roster of sorts, where each had a turn at running the kitchen while the other played second in command. To Kiri's surprise and delight, it was working well. The two chefs looked his way and Carlad, from the Prey nation, came rushing over. It was his turn to act as head cook. He was nervous and excited; after all, the Prey King was coming. He had never been in charge of the royal kitchen within the Prey Palace, and he wanted to ensure his food was at its best.

Carlad bowed low before saying, "Prince Kiri, you should not be in here. This is below your status, and..." pausing, he rubbed his hands down the side of his apron in a nervous gesture.

Christian, the Predator chef, looked up and shook his head before finishing the unsaid statement. "Avatar, the Prey King should be arriving any minute now, so get your butt out of here and go do your Avatar duty by welcoming him. Everything is taken care of in here, now shoo."

Carlad gasped at what he considered insubordinate behaviour from Christian. Prey protocol, in regards to Royalty, was much more formal and he never felt comfortable addressing Kiri in any way but with polite and humble regard. Kiri, in the meantime, laughed at Christian, and shook his head before walking out.

Kiri fleetingly thought of Kale and how much he would have been proud of him. He stopped that thought and stifled an up welling of sorrow, remembering that the old Kale was lost to him. He missed his mentor, and trying to juggle everything in his life was so very hard sometimes. Kale had always been able to reassure Kiri that things would turn out all right, eventually. He rubbed his eyes, to remove any signs of moisture, and sighed, annoyed at himself. Now was not the time to be seen as emotional; he had a King to meet.

The entry point from the Prey Citadel to the mounds was situated in one of the botanical gardens of which Kiri was especially fond. The door was an old stone arch way that a person could peer through to see the flower beds. His Avatar flowers grew riotously among many other native plants that Kiri, had planted at random throughout the gardens. Its rich red petals were a startling contrast to many of the other flowers. Kiri preferred the more natural look to the geometrically shaped formal gardens the Prey were fond of. In many ways, the position and placing of his avatar flowers reminded Kiri of his life and his heritage. He had Fey, Prey, Predator and even Ciaran genetics. The way his flowers were interwoven into the different variety of flowers was also an indication of his talents and the connections he had made. It was a reflection of who he believed he was; a person descended from all races, but at the same time, set apart.

He opened his connection to Falcon, and watched through the Prey Prince's eyes as he was hastily putting on clean clothes. Falcon preferred the old way of collecting water and then warming it before bathing. Kiri had studied the many various books, and had reinstalled the inside plumbing systems that had been a feature of many of the buildings in the past. Falcon thought it was cheating. Kiri mentally told the Prey Prince to hurry up, as he sensed the pull from the dimensional doors opening. The centre of the stone archway turned grey and hazy as Prey soldiers walked through thin air, eyes scanning every which way, before the King arrived.

The Avatar had mixed emotions as the Prey King finally entered the mounds, surrounded by his men. Falcon had been meeting with his father and his people for the past week, and there were still many fears about coming here. To assure Falcon's people, Kiri and Sonny had gone to meet the Prey King personally. The King had then gone on to give Kiri a formal apology for the abysmal way he had been attacked. For the sake of the fledgling alliance, Kiri had pushed his own resentment aside and graciously accepted the King's apology.

Now, the King was here with his entourage, and each soldier carried the lethal weapon that had peppered Kiri's body. The Avatar later discovered that the weapon was called a musket. There was slight nervousness on Kiri's part, but he couldn't refuse them entry solely based on the fact that he hated their weapons. He gave the King a slight nod of his head, before he spoke. "Welcome to the Mounds, King Anson. Your son should be here any minute but, for now, you have my company to entertain you." Looking toward the battle-ready look upon the Prey soldier's faces, he turned and ushered a young predator forward. "This young man beside me is called Mateus. He is from the Tiger Clan. If your men would like to get settled in, he will guide them to their sleeping quarters." Mateus was one of Kiri's specially trained warriors from the abyss. He was capable of handling himself and any Prey that decided to get out of hand. More importantly, Mateus was willing to be open-minded when it came to the Prey.

A look passed from Henry, the Prey seneschal, to the gathered Soldiers. A faction of six men separated from the main group and walked up behind the King. The rest followed the direction Mateus was leading. The King looked apologetically at Kiri. "They are very protective of me. I would never hear the end of my seneschal's admonishments if he thought I wasn't properly escorted by some of my people." The seneschal bowed his head to Kiri before giving a bland smile.

Falcon suddenly appeared in their midst, startling the soldiers. He laughed heartily as they hastily returned their hands and weapons to the `stand down' position. Like good soldiers, they didn't bow but maintained surveillance of their surroundings. The Masculine within the Avatar frowned at how amateurish it looked. He preferred his Prey agents to be subtler about assessing the threat in any environment. They looked and acted like muscle. Unassuming was a strategic tactic that would work much better on Predators than an outright act of aggression. Predators thrived on aggression. It was better to appear non-aggressive and be underestimated because of it. Not to mention, Prey didn't have the physical strength of Predators, so it was better to undermine them psychologically.

Falcon distracted Kiri by grasping him in front of the Prey and mashing their groins together. He gave Kiri a lascivious grin, to the catcalls of his people, and cupped Kiri's ass in his hands, moulding them firmly. Kiri grabbed Falcon's privates with invisible hands made of wind and squeezed warningly. Falcon's smile turned decidedly sour as Kiri's own smile widened with justified glee. Falcon took his hands off Kiri and raised them in surrender. King Anson guffawed and gave his son a hearty hug. Falcon returned it with gusto. The King grumbled to be put down as the Prince lifted his father off the ground, shaking him in his enthusiasm. Falcon gave a cheeky grin, before putting his father back down.

Kiri watched father and son. They were mirror images of each other and, judging by the way they horsed around, Kiri could safely say they were matched personality wise too. The Avatar began the tour of the mounds; he had not been idle. He took them through the fruit orchards, the vegetable patches, and the large forests that hosted the many animals Kiri had coaxed from both Predator and Prey forests. However, Kiri knew it wouldn't be enough to feed the horde, so many of the animals were created magically. He was secretly quite proud of his achievements. The land hummed with rich, heady potential, and the air was full of many scents unknown to the Prey. And, as they passed through many of the orchards, Kiri heard on more than one occasion how the Mound was intoxicating. They were beginning to understand how lifeless the land around the Prey Citadel had truly been without the ley lines to keep the soil rich and fertile.

Falcon was like an exuberant puppy, and boasted about his mulberry trees and the silk worms that helped create his clothing. Kiri quietly watched, and let Falcon guide the tour. The Prey Prince was not shy about his achievements, and Kiri shook his head with a gentle smile upon his lips. Falcon had been in charge of the aqueducts that he proudly displayed. But it was the renovated hall that was Falcon's pride and joy. Kiri told him to wait until the banquet was set before allowing the King to go there. After all, everyone was busy with preparations, and there was too much to do to go interfering. Falcon sighed and nodded his head resignedly, making his father stare at him in surprise. The King looked at Kiri and arched his brow speculatively. Kiri returned stare for stare, giving a bland smile. The King only smiled once more and bowed before turning back to his son, encouraging him to explain the intricacies of creating a dimensional space the size of the mounds. At the e nd of the tour, many of the Prey were staring around wide eyed.

Kiri excused himself and told Falcon to lead the King to his rooms, as the banquet would begin in two hours. He shook his head once more as he heard Falcon animatedly talking to his father before he teleported to his own rooms. Once there, Kiri floated the King-sized bed from the centre of the room to expose a clear quartz crystal embedded in the amethyst floor. It was the size of Kiri's fist. Placing his hand over it, he sent a tendril of power into it, making it pulse and glow. Sitting down, a white circle blazed around Kiri before he disappeared. The bed lifted on its own accord, and returned back to its original position.

He was now within what he considered his own laboratory. It was a plain square room, and held hundreds of old relics, including Killara's smoky quartz journal, upon rows of shelves on two walls. In one corner, the wall was bare except for a large, wooden, circular frame that nearly filled the whole wall space. It was a creation of his own making. Upon it were silky strands of colour interwoven into each other like a spiders web. Purples, reds, blues, yellows and greens splashed across the pattern. In the centre of the web was a dark stone with blotches of white. The entire structure would have been perfect except, at the top of the wooden frame, a large crack could be seen. The colours closer to this flaw seemed faded. This was Kiri's version of the tapestry of life.

The Avatar walked up to it and sat down to observe. A grim look came over his face as he concentrated on the web. The colours began to shift and move within it. Kiri felt his mind falling into sync with the moving patterns, his fingers moving over the threads. Delicate clear strands of power flickered over his fingers as he added more threads or cut some. Images, future possibilities, and faces appeared inside his mind. No matter which way he moved and switched the threads around, someone he cherished was going to die in the upcoming war. The crack was inevitable and, if he didn't find a way to prevent the crack from spreading, it would untangle everything and everyone he cared for. There had to be a way.

The colours slowed down until a new pattern appeared. Kiri looked at it critically. He looked up and saw a rich red silky strand wrapped around the crack. He finally had his answer. Following the thread down to the two main strands it was connected to, Kiri began planning.

Kale stood outside the mounds and inspected the energy of the portal. Beside him stood Terse, Killara's daughter. She smiled and placed her hands over the opening. "How very interesting," Terse said, "The doors appear to fluctuate between two different power sources instead of one."

Kale looked at her speculatively. "Can you tap into it?"

A look of concentration appeared on her face. "I need to study it a little further, but I think I can."

Kale nodded. Earlier, Terse had sent an urgent call to all the Fey Elders, using each element to summon them. It had caused a riot, but the call was answered. She had then set down a plan to return control of the Mounds to their rightful owners, the Fey. They had to swear allegiance to her first. Elder Flame had laughed at her preposterous plan. Terse had not liked being ridiculed and, for his audacity, she cut him off at his power source. Elder Earth and Elder Wind had joined together and sent out a plea to the Avatar, only to have their call blocked. Terse had then cut off the two Elders from their power sources, effectively cutting out three Elders.

Kale, seeing where retaliation had led his fellow Elders, had decided to hold his tongue and ask how she would go about returning the mounds to the Fey. Terse had looked at Kale and curled her lip in disgust. She had expected this odd looking Elder to at least show some fight. It was disappointing to win so easily. She sighed; her grandfather, the former Elder Wind, would have given a better fight than all four combined. Kale secretly smiled; he wanted her to underestimate him. It was a necessity.

Coming back to the present, Kale listened to Terse as he felt the rest of the Fey and the Elders appear beside them. Terse had been kind enough to return their connection to the elements that were a part of the Elders' persona and power source. The three had been visibly shaken, and now looked cowed. As far as Kale was concerned, the Fey were stuck between a rock and a hard place. They had Terse on one side that threatened to dominate them, and Kiri on the other who threatened something very similar. But Kale knew he had a small advantage with Kiri, as the Avatar still held a soft spot for who Kale used to be. He could use that. With Terse, she was unpredictable, and it was safer for his people if he went with someone he was supposed to know. So, as far as Kale was concerned, Kiri seemed the safer option as an ally.

However, Terse had thought ahead, and smashed those plans by making each Elder swear allegiance using the old tongue. It meant the contract was binding. Kale had sweated, wondering what he was going to do. He thought quickly and went into a trance, going deep within his mind. Ripping parts of his psyche in two, the way Kiri had taught him during their memory building sessions, he pushed the kinder, gentler person into one section and brought a colder aspect of his personality to the forefront. Leaving a trigger in the back of his mind, hoping Kiri would see the difference and help bring forth the other half of his personality and combine them, Kale swore allegiance to Terse.

Now, Kale looked at the mounds, searching for a possible weakness that the Avatar might have. They were here at the request of Kiri, in time for the war meeting. Beside them stood the Ciaran General, Ursh and his men. Kale looked at the potential these Ciaran held, and frowned. It was well known that the Avatar had threatened the Ciaran and that they, too, were here by force. Nevertheless, Kale felt the Ciaran were a dangerous threat. They most certainly had their uses, but only with great caution. Kale and the Elders had discussed the possibility of insubordination, perhaps playing the two Predator and Prey nations against each other, but Kiri had the Princes in his hands. Attacking head-on was a foolish endeavour against Kiri. After all, he was the Avatar. But perhaps, encouraging those dissatisfied with the way Kiri was doing things could get a few people on their side.

Still, that would only be a distraction; after all, Terse had other plans in store. Kale didn't know what they were, but Terse seemed to know exactly what she wanted and how to go about getting it. Kale would almost feel sorry for Kiri, if he had any emotions. It would be interesting to see how this power struggle came out.

Far above, the silver vessels of the Malasii drew closer to Earth. Had Kale and the Ciaran looked up, they would have seen the vessels as multiple black specks. But their attention was solely fixed on the opening portals and the welcoming party. Kiri, however, was well aware of the approaching vessels.

Time was running out, but he had prepared for that. Looking at the Ciaran and Fey, side by side, Kiri nodded his head. Everything was going according to his tapestry. His eyes lingered over Terse and he felt his face tightening before he realized what he was doing and relaxed. Even her presence was necessary.

"Welcome Terse, daughter of the first Avatar, and my cousin." Kiri watched from the corner of his eye as the Ciaran General stiffened in shock. Kiri hid his smile, maintaining his focus upon Terse. Raising his hand towards the sky, he continued. "We are here to stop those things from reaching our home. Should they destroy any of the main anchors to our earth, namely the Oak Heartwood Trees, we will not have a planet left. I suggest we put aside any differences we may have, until the most immediate threat is sorted out, agreed?"

Terse looked up and everyone followed. There was grim silence as they took note of the black specks. Would there be enough time to sort everything out? Even Kiri and his tapestry weren't entirely sure. As long as he kept everyone focused on the threat at hand, he had a chance. He watched Terse's expression and inwardly sighed as she too nodded her head. It was time he started putting his own plans into action.

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!