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 monkurchakar@yahoo.com.au greatly appreciated

Chapter eight

The lands hereabout were less wooded than Kiri was used to. Green, sloping hills opened into lush valleys, with high humidity. His old home was past the spine of the world; a ridge of mountains that spanned the entire continent. It was the physical barrier that defined the border between Predator and Prey lands.

Ironically, Predators considered it a rite of passage to climb over those mountains and track down Prey. As a consequence, Prey had booby-trapped the entire spine. This had kept things on an even keel in the distant past.

Things changed when the Predators grew adept at seamanship. Prey magic was unpredictable on the seas, and therefore only a few explored that endeavor. Those Prey, who could work their magic well upon the seas, were commissioned to remain close to the Citadel, the Prey Capital. The Predators became the scourge of the seas.

Coastal villages were plundered seasonally. Prey had their magic, and used it effectively against any landing ships. That all changed when those with Predator royal blood began pillaging. Their magic was too strong and it left the coastal town defenceless. The Prey Elders were forced to put their heads together. They devised a system whereby they taxed all the villages and used the goods and money to buy off the marauders. This had worked for many years, although the Prey Capital gnashed its teeth at the losses while the Predators sailed off with food, supplies, and wares.

Prey armies, in the past, had come down to fight off the Predators, but they were no match in hand-to-hand combat. Even with their magic, they were on uneven ground, and the Predators had the advantage. Most of their arsenal involved magical constructs, and those that weren't, were inferior to Predator speed, agility, and fighting senses.

Kiri walked openly; he wanted to be seen and to see others. Kale had stressed the importance of hiding his Sigil and, reluctantly, Kiri had obeyed. He had masked it with fey dust; a powder that could hide any blemish or unsightly spot upon the face. It seemed that even Fey were prone to acne when going through puberty.

Kiri smiled at that thought, and continued towards the Prey Capital; named, the Augury Citadel. Ten miles along the outskirts of the Citadel, the buildings were impressive in their own right. Kiri could see the magic, in every granule of stone used, that helped shape and hold the integrity of the houses. The designs were elaborate and impracticable, but impressive to behold.

The houses had delicate spires, and curved spiral walls like those seen on seashells. They had fragile, curled railings and flimsy looking stairs that led up to the entrances. Many houses were built on stilts yet Kiri couldn't understand their reasoning. The land beneath was solid and no sign of marsh, or pond, could be seen for miles around.

It wasn't until he got closer to the citadel that Kiri began to understand what was going on. Here, there were more houses, and the walls looked like they were made out of pearl, or shell. That was impressive, but not as amazing as seeing the houses hover above the ground, tethered by silver chains.

Kiri's amazement dulled to sadness and, eventually, anger as he looked at the land around these houses. The earth was dying. The people living in these houses were either great mages, or they had enough money to pay great mages to build them. He saw that, to maintain the hover, silver chains were used as channels into the power of the earth itself.

There were no lattices of energy that connected all living things with this land. All Kiri could see, with his inner eye, were moats of power around each house. Yet, the spaces between the houses were dead. No travel under the earth was possible in those dead spaces. The grid lines of the earth that were supposed to flow like a lattice had been altered, and directed into maintaining these houses.

Kiri blinked, getting his eyesight back to normal, and saw how even trees and grass no longer grew here. To hide this, the Prey residents had covered the land with cobblestones, and water fountains. Even the water, Kiri noted, had no life within it. Kiri looked around him more carefully. The people had smiling faces, yet their bodies revealed the lack of energy that was obvious, because the land was stagnant. Food was only sufficient to give sustenance, but lacked flavour.

He wasn't used to a land that seemed so pale in comparison to his home. At home, the energy of the land flowed smoothly and strong. All life was abundant, with animals and people flourishing in good health. It was a stark contrast for Kiri, and he began to realise that appearances weren't what they initially seemed here. Perhaps he needed to be wary about who he trusted. After all, looking at how they treated the land, Kiri was automatically put on guard.

It was almost enough to make Kiri balk at going further. He frowned once more, thinking about the earlier towns he had seen. The grid lines in the land near these villages had flowed with great strength. Even the young ones he had spied upon, making love, had power to regenerate the land. Yet, here, closer to the Citadel, the land grew darker with dead spaces. And Kiri was further dismayed to see that the dead spaces covered hectares of earth.

There were no whispers on the wind for miles. The earth had stopped screaming half a mile back, and now only whimpered in agony. The sentinels of the land, the trees, were gone. Even animals were far and few between. Kiri rubbed his hands up his arms as he rode across the dead spaces. His animal growled within him, and Kiri could only agree. Why weren't the people taking care of their land?

He couldn't let it go any further. Seeing the land in this much pain was torment. Kiri walked into an open field. The grass was brown and the soil looked dry and crumbly. A lone hen clucked, and tried to pick at the grass and dirt in a futile attempt to find something to eat. Dust puffed out with each step he made. He looked at the houses that floated above the earth with distaste. People stopped working when they saw Kiri's hair trail around him, shinning with inner fire. His face shone almost magnesic white, but Kiri was unaware of his audience.

A single tear trickled down his face as he felt the earth cry out. Bending down, he crouched and touched the soil with his hands. The tear drop dripped from the edge of his chin and splashed into the dry dirt below. The sky rumbled above him. Clouds began to coalesce. Kiri dug his hands into the soil and trickled power down to the core of the land. His power went further, past soil, rocks, molten lava, and eventually to the core of the world.

The heart of the world pulsed rhythmically against Kiri's heart, and he embraced the beat. He filled his mind and soul with the pulse, and began to dance. High above, he felt his physical body sway in sync with his spiritual essence. Kiri opened his mouth and sang an ancient song that the land of the Prey had not heard in nearly three thousand years.

Kiri felt the rain dropping down upon his physical shell, and began to spin and dance with increasing speed. The power built, and Kiri rejoiced as if the full tide was sliding through his body. He opened himself to the Feminine and felt a response from the east. The Masculine had sensed him, and was also crying out to him.

Kiri saw the silver chains dragging the energy of the world into their grip, and he snarled. With a sharp twist of his wrist he wrested the ley lines from their silver anchors, and they came to his call.

Kiri danced across the land, pulling the ley lines behind him. They dropped back into the old channels that had been their original design, and Kiri heard the earth sigh with relief. The houses collapsed, one by one, as Kiri pulled the ley lines away from them and into their rightful places. He heard screams of terror, but paid them no heed. He opened his eyes and looked towards the sky. Rain was falling steadily, and the soil lapped it up eagerly.

Kiri sensed the potential for new life under the soil, and called on it to bloom. The seedlings responded eagerly, and Kiri's power brought them to life. Grass grew from seeds and into green shoots in only a matter of moments. There were only three trees left standing, and Kiri pushed love and respect into them. They had held sentinel during the centuries, and it was their time to go. With a tear mingling with the rain, he watched as the trees withered and crashed to the ground. Yet, he sensed the tree's children falling to the earth. Kiri pushed energy into them, and felt them respond with glee. Roots grew out of the seeds, and dug into the earth. Saplings sprouted, and the wind carried more of the seeds over the ground. Saplings turned into young trees, and Kiri looked on with affection. Each tree held the knowledge of its parent, and they began the next generation of sentinel duty.

The sun burst through the clouds in a single ray, shinning upon Kiri's head. He raised his face to the warmth, and smiled. A small grove now grew around him. The rain still fell, in a light shower, and the grass swayed and danced as Kiri's power continued weaving its magic through them.

The villagers looked on with awe, and fear. Kiri walked toward them, and grass and flowers grew in his wake. Green life rushed over the pavements and spread all across the villager's promenades and any piece of ground where the grass could take root. Kiri looked at the villagers and the damage his power had caused. The houses had cracks racing up and down their walls. All of them were tilted on their sides, stuck into the ground at odd angles. The silver chains lay shattered and broken. Some pieces were smouldering, but the light drizzle was quickly dowsing them.

"Your houses were cages that were destroying the land. Your crops died and the soil dried up, and still you refused to see that your magic was destroying the earth that you were supposed to care for."

Sullen silence met Kiri's statement, but none dared to contradict him as he glared at them. Some villagers shuddered as they felt his glance pierce their souls. "Heed my warning! Great change is coming to this world. If you do not wake up and replenish the land that you take for granted, there may not be a land to stand upon. The time of Dire is coming, and if you are not prepared to look after yourselves, you will starve. Protect the trees, the land, and the animals. In return, they will nourish and protect you."

Kiri raised his hands, and the ground rippled and rose like a wave, washing over him. He pulled out of the ley line river, an hour later, near an inn that called to him. He knew it was getting too risky to travel through the ground, as he got closer to the Citadel.

He approached the inn and asked for a room. Kale had given him money and told him to never show anyone where he kept it, or how much he had. He smiled, thinking back at the look on Kale's face when he began to explain currency and the bartering system. Kale had been ferocious in teaching him as much as possible. Looking back on the years, he understood that Kale had been subtly training him all along. He knew Prey etiquette as much as he knew how to hunt like a Predator. More importantly, he knew the dances that could help rebuild the ley lines that this land desperately screamed out for.

The innkeeper had been the first experience at testing his understanding of the intricacies of Prey life. They had playfully negotiated prices for the food and bedding for two nights. Kiri had ended the night with friendly company, a full belly, and a warm, clean bed. The next day, the innkeeper took Kiri under his wing, and began subtly asking questions. Kiri knew he looked different from the prey people around him. They were sun touched in skin colour and lighter than the predator clans. Their hair ranged from blond, to straw, to rich brown. With Kiri's striking red hair, pale skin coloration, and flashing silver eyes, he was unaware of how his beauty drew the prey people to him. Growing up amongst a clan of dark beauties had always made Kiri feel as if he was lacking.

When the Innkeeper began to inquire about Kiri, he became aware that Kale had prepared him for this line of questioning also. It was part of the reason Kale made Kiri wear such elaborate clothing. Kiri told the innkeeper that he was sent as a trade emissary to the Fey lands. Kiri had surprised himself that day, as he winked conspiratorially at the innkeeper, and told him that he was now the ambassador for the Fey. Of course it helped that the new Elder was Kiri's dearest and closest friend. And the clothing spoke for itself, declaring that Kiri had indeed been within the Fey Woods. From then on, Kiri had been an honoured guest.

It was later in the evening that the innkeeper showed his true colours. Kiri went for a walk, needing to feel the land beneath his feet and listen to the trees whisper to each other. The land here was strong and vibrant, and it was a pleasure to feel the grass beneath his feet. It was just as he was heading back towards the inn that he heard a sharp yelp of pain near the stables.

Kiri went to investigate. Lamps were lit within the stable, giving the room an ambient glow. It was a lie to what was happening. Hands clenched in anger, Kiri saw the innkeeper glaring at something that was hiding underneath the tallest horse Kiri had ever seen. The horse was dappled silver and dark grey, with a silver horn on its forehead.

"Get out from under there, or I'll thrash the living shit out of you!" the innkeeper threatened.

"No!" a piping young voice said.

"You ungrateful little wretch! I clothed and fed you, and here you are lollygagging around the fucking horses!"

Kiri walked further into the stables to look at the source of the voice under the horse. The horse, in the meantime had his blue eyes resting on the innkeeper, his head pointed in his direction and sharp horn ready. The innkeeper was not taking this lightly. Kiri watched as a brown and black pheasant crow shimmered behind the innkeeper. It flapped its wings, and Kiri watched as the energy of air was channelled into the bird and sent into the innkeeper. Kiri felt the Sigil on his head respond, and he locked it down forcefully.

A ball of air went racing out of the hands of the innkeeper and toward the horse. It knocked the horse off its feet and sent it sprawling into the back wall with a heavy thud. The small boy had a ghost-like black crow flapping behind him, and Kiri saw how the child had used the earth's gravity to keep him locked in position.

This infuriated the innkeeper, and he went bellowing towards the child, fists raised. Kiri moved without conscious thought and grabbed the innkeeper's hands. He gripped tightly and yanked hard enough to halt the innkeeper in mid-stride.

"What do you think you're doing?" Kiri asked calmly.

Spittle had flecked the edges of the innkeeper's mouth and there was a glazed look upon his face. "This has nothing to do with you, kind sir, so if you don't mind, I would ask that you keep out of my affairs."

Kiri held on tighter. "If it involves you thrashing a young child, then I think I will have to intervene on his behalf."

The innkeeper glared at Kiri. He tried forcing his hands down, but Kiri didn't budge. Realising he was out-muscled; he relaxed, but continued glaring at Kiri. "As an indentured servant, he is mine to do with as I see fit. That is Prey Law."

Kiri gave the Innkeeper a hard stare; one that had him swallowing convulsively. "How much does this child need to pay before he is no longer a servant?"

A crafty look crossed the innkeeper's face, before he could control himself. Kiri saw it and his eyes narrowed. Talking in the old tongue, Kiri bade the innkeeper to speak plain and true. The compulsion wove around the innkeeper, wrapping him with words of truth telling. Kiri watched as the man's eyes bulged in their sockets.

"Now, you will tell me everything that I need to know, honestly and without arguments. Are we clear?" Kiri said, looking into the trapped eyes of the innkeeper.

He nodded, his eyes still bulging and fear sliding through him. Kiri gave a predatory smile. "How much does the boy have to pay to remove his indenture?"

The innkeeper swallowed before answering. "I paid ten coppers for him."

"That was not the question I asked. How many coppers does he have to pay before he is released?"

Rage slashed through the innkeeper. He choked out a word, stopped, and tried again. Kiri smiled and looked at the innkeeper as his fists bunched against the compulsion.

"Try all you like, but you won't escape my compulsion `good sir'" Kiri said mockingly. "How much is left of his indenture?" he finished on a firm note.

"Five coppers," the innkeeper said in a strangled voice.

"I will give you six coppers for his release. And you WILL hand the boy over to me with his papers."

The horse came up and sniffed Kiri's hair when the negotiations began. Kiri turned and patted his mane and looked underneath him, into the wary blue eyes of the young boy. Dirt covered the side of his face, and his clothes were torn and ragged. Kiri could see bruises on his arms and legs. Many of them looked as if there were bruises on top of bruises.

Anger surged through Kiri and he looked at the innkeeper with the beast's eyes. The innkeeper took two steps back. There was a growl in Kiri's throat as he spoke. "I will be taking the horse. I will give you two gold pieces, and I expect the horse's papers too."

He walked up to the innkeeper and trailed his finger down the side of his face. Red welts appeared, and the innkeeper pulled backwards, falling on his ass.

"There will be no negotiation on the price of the horse. Go and get the papers now."

The innkeeper scrabbled onto his feet and raced out of the barn. He was back a few minutes later and his hands shook as he handed over the two papers with his signature and name already on them.

"Please, good Sir, this horse was to go to the Prey Prince; my brother gave it to me on goodwill."

"Kiri smiled and looked at the innkeeper. "I will make sure to tell the prince when I see him. But this horse is now mine."

Looking down, he spied the boy. He had remained where he was, with awe on his face. "What is your name boy?"

"Toby, sir," he said.

Kiri led Toby to his room. It was spacious and was considered the best room in the Inn. Two windows revealed a view of the pond that was at the back of the Inn. Kiri ordered another cot to be set up for Toby, and the maids glanced at the boy before looking down quickly. There was a small room next to the main room and, when opened, it showed a copper tub. This was the best feature that the innkeeper had been boasting about earlier. Two taps labelled in blue and red indicated cold and hot water. Kiri turned them on and looked at the boy.

"I expect you to be scrubbed and clean by the time I get back. That includes your privates. If I'm not happy with how well you have cleaned yourself, then you will be back in this tub with me scrubbing you. Do not put any of your clothes back on. They are to be burned. Is that clear?"

Toby scowled before replying. "But it's unnatural to be washing so often. I might catch a cold or sumfing; I had my bath last month, and them clothes is all I got."

Kiri stifled a smile; the boy wasn't intimidated by him, which was a good thing. "Nevertheless, while you are with me, you will be clean. And, since you are under my care, it is my duty to supply you with clothes as your liege lord."

The tub was steaming gently by this time. Kiri bade Toby sit while he scanned the boy for disease, and to see how deep the bruising went. He placed his hands on Toby and began sending healing energy into him. The earth whispered to him as he began to mend broken blood vessels and boost the child's immune system. Kiri was dismayed to note that the child was malnourished, and his growth was being stunted because of lack of food.

"Get in the bath Toby. I'll be back shortly."

Toby stood there stubbornly, his chin jutting out. "I aint no whore, sir. My bum is not for sale."

Amusement flowed into Kiri's eyes. "Your chores will involve looking after my possessions and tending to the horse. Skinny bags of bone like you are not to my liking."

Toby folded his hands over his chest and stared back. "Just so you know... sir."

"How old are you Toby?"

"I be twelve sir."

Kiri looked at him in surprise; the child looked no older than eight, being so skinny. Kiri was only three years older. "The proper way of speaking is `I will be twelve sir' Have you been taught your numbers and how to read and write?"

Toby shrugged one shoulder. "Jordan, the innkeeper, said it was a waste of good money to spend on me."

Kiri fumed quietly. Kale had always boasted about the schools that had popped up all over Prey countryside. He had said it was the one advantage that the Prey might have over the Predators. Their way of teaching was more structured and efficient in comparison to the Predators and, by Prey law, all schools had been free.

"That will have to be remedied if you are going to be part of my retinue. Get in the tub. The water will start growing cold soon. You can use my undershirt as sleep ware in the meantime."

Kiri went back downstairs; he needed to get some clothes for Toby. Rain began to pour down as he trudged along the street of the small town. He bought shoes, under clothing, three warm shirts, two trousers, a jumper and a warm cloak. He trudged back through the rain toward the Inn.

Danger swirled around him but he continued walking casually. He could sense, through the earth, the people crouching behind the barn. The land whispered to him what they were talking about. The beast snarled inside him and Kiri embraced it. If these louts wanted to tangle with a predator, then they would realise their error in a painful way.

He placed his packages in the pockets of his cloak. They made no bulges as they went in. The Fey were wonders at mage craft. These pockets could hold Kiri's entire travel kit, food items, and anything else Kiri might require, without overflowing or breaking the line of the cloak. Kiri affectionately called them `gobble pockets.' All he had to do was think of the item, put his hand in his pocket and out it came.

Pushing the wonder of his gobble pockets aside, he readied himself. The goons came out, just as he passed the barn and had his back to them. There were four of them. Kiri sensed their spirit beasts before he sensed their physical presence. He slipped through witch time racing around in back of them.

"Looking for me?" He asked.

They turned, with surprise on their faces. One of them, the leader, attacked. Kiri watched the leader's spirit beast open its mouth and roar. Kiri's own beast, the Gryffin, responded with his own challenge. His beast leapt forwards and blurred around the four men, cutting their connections to their spirit beasts and rendering them useless.

The spirit beasts, seeing what was attacking them, fled in fear, and the four men moaned in pain as their links were severed. "You have lost the right to a spirit beast," Kiri said in his sibilant voice. "They were a gift from the Architect to help you take care of the land. You have forgotten that, and misused them. For your impudence, you will now walk this land cut off from the source."

As one, the four men dropped to the ground. Shock stood out on the leader's face and he stared at Kiri in fear. "Who are you?"

Kiri's hair floated around him like a red halo, and his skin shone in the night as radiant as the moon. "I am the Avatar, and you have been judged. Leave!"

With that, the men got up and fled. The image of Kiri seared the retinas of their eyes. They would crave him, and loathe him, as the days went by. But they would never, ever, forget him.

Kiri walked back to his room. Candles were lit inside the lamps along the wall, and his bed was folded down. Toby sat on his cot, his eyes drooping as he waited for Kiri. His skin was clean and pink, and his damp hair shone a strawberry blond in the lamplight. The rain pounded harder outside, yet Kiri's cloak remained dry and clean. Toby stood up.

"Mister, I don't know if you was drinking, or smoking dream weed or poppy dust, but you can't get rid of me now. I will go to the magistrate. You boughts me and that's that!"

Kiri stood there and waited patiently. "Have you finished?"

"There was this noble that gave me a gold coin just for caring for his horse. I know what you nobles can be like," he finished.

Kiri walked up to Toby, and blew on him. "I don't drink, nor do I smoke. Can you smell anything on my breath?" Toby shook his head in the negative.

"Do my eyes look glazed or dilated?" Another negative shake of the head.

"Good, because as a healer, my body would reject anything harmful to me. So I never use drugs. I also promise you this: I will never, ever, hit you. But you will probably feel the end of my sharp tongue. Understood?"

Toby nodded his head. "Now that we have that out of the way, go back to bed."

Kiri turned and began disrobing. Small hands came up to assist him. "If I'm to be your servant, sir, then I must help you," Toby said.

"I am capable of taking my own clothes off, thank you," Kiri said primly. Toby ignored him, helping to take off each boot. Once removed, Kiri told Toby to scat while he refilled the tub for a soak.

Kiri closed the door to the small alcove, and sank gratefully into the warm bath. He heard small snores on the other side of the door, and smiled to himself. He knew that bringing along a child or, more accurately, a young man, wasn't the wisest move. He had reacted with protective instincts more than with logic.

Watching the boy ride in front of him, bouncing up and down at the sight of the Citadel, Kiri had to smile. In the last week, the boy had proved his weight in gold over and over. He was better at negotiating with merchants than Kiri could ever be, and was entrusted with most of Kiri's funds. He knew what Kiri needed, and was always handing him the required item before he could ask for it. But Toby's most valuable skill was his ability to commune with animals. It was a rare gift, and one that the idiot innkeeper hadn't realised under his stupid nose.

Kiri had decided to go scouting one night, while Toby slept, and slipped out of his body, onto the wings of his beast, to observe the Citadel. The Citadel was a marvel of mage craft and artistry. It stood along the edge of a rocky cliff that was four hundred meters above the crashing ocean below. Its walls were smooth, with a glossy shine, preventing any hooks or grapples from ever taking hold. The stone shone peach and pink during the day, and moonlit white at night. As pretty as it looked, the stone effectively cut off any attacks made from the sea to the east. The front of the citadel, facing west, had a two hundred foot wall that circled the city to the cliff edges. Kiri had squeaked with pain as his eyes were assailed by the spells placed upon it, even as far as seven miles away.

He looked down upon the City with amazed eyes as he flew high above. There were three tiered levels to the city which sprawled in a circular pattern. With what seemed like food plazas and shops on the outer circle, there was a spiralling road that wound upwards to the second tier. This tier appeared to be the residential area, with many very elaborate houses, even more grand than the shell houses he had seen. This time, they were more like miniature shell mansions.

The road continued upward to the third and last tier, where a majestic castle stood. It had pointed spires that stood symmetrically upon the four compass points. There were towers facing outwards from the four corners, with a large main one in the centre. It drew Kiri like a magnet, and he knew that was the place he needed to be.

The following day, they rode up to the Citadel gates. "State your business," the guard said without looking up.

Kiri stood straight in his saddle, and glared down at the guard. Kale had warned him that imposing and superior was the attitude to take. "I come as an ambassador for the Eastern Fey, from Trevailier Forest. I wish an audience with your King." The guards' mouth dropped open, and people around him began to whisper.

The two other guards on duty began to drift over to see what the ruckus was about. The guard looked around, flustered, and then glared back up at Kiri. "I don't believe you."

Kiri arched his eyebrow. "The Western Fey insignia and my clothing aren't enough proof for you?"

The guard waved dismissively, "If you were an ambassador, you would have more than you riding, but you don't."

Eyeing the ladies that were looking on with avid interest, the guard puffed his chest out. "Why don't you leave?"

Kiri's eyes glittered as he stared the guard down. His two guard duty friends walked up beside him, their hands on their weapons, and their spirit beasts hovering above them. Kiri's beast growled a warning to the spirit beasts, and they backed away. The guards felt it, and gasped, before looking nervously at Kiri.

The lead guard wasn't going to let this pass, but Kiri didn't give him any time. He opened his mouth and sang in the old tongue. The walls of the Citadel shook, and then blazed with heat. The protection spells appeared upon them, scribbled across the walls and burning their marks on the smooth surface. Light emanated off the walls, pulsing like a living heart.

"I can speak in the old tongue, and if I choose, I can turn you all into cinder blocks. Is that enough proof for you?" Kiri warned the shaking guard. "Now, find someone in authority to escort me to the king, immediately!"

The people behind Kiri were screaming, running in haste and fear. Guards and mages, who had been alerted to Kiri's display of power, raced towards him, now wary. The cocky guard was talking into his ring, communicating with someone. The guards and mages, who had come because the spell alarms were screaming, slowed, but still looked at Kiri with mistrust and fear.

Toby looked back at Kiri, wide eyed. "That was amazing, sir. Can you teach me that, too?"

One of Kiri's lips quirked to the side. "I'm trying to be serious here, and leave an impression. You'll ruin my image if I start laughing. Now, hush."

Toby whispered conspiratorially back. "Yes, sir. Sorry, sir."

Kiri bit the inside of his cheeks, holding his laughter in, and glared about him. He sat imperiously on his horse. A few minutes later, a tall man on a Palomino horse came walking towards Kiri. He had a strong face, Kiri noted. Dark brown curls fell down to the man's shoulders in a careless mass. His bearing was aristocratic, yet Kiri sensed strength in that wide frame. Thin lips, brown slashes for eyebrows, and green assessing eyes completed a package that was handsome and masculine.

The man's spirit beast floated proud and majestic behind him. Despite himself, Kiri couldn't help but be impressed and awed. This man had a phoenix. The bird stood with three fiery plumes atop its head. They could almost be described as peacock feathers, except the colours were multitudes of oranges, reds, yellows, purples, and blues. It spread its wings, and they arched out on both sides of the man, absorbing the suns rays and reflecting them onto those in front of its host in a kaleidoscope of colours.

People behind Kiri gasped, and bowed their heads. "It's the prince," a chorus went whispering through the crowd. The guards all gripped their weapons and ringed the prince, looking worriedly at Kiri. An older man came rushing toward the royal prince and his spirit beast. "Your Highness, please, this is not safe."

The older man halted as he saw Kiri's inquisitive glance, and swallowed his words audibly. The prince held his hand up towards his old seneschal and looked at Kiri, almost spell bound. Kiri felt an almost tangible need to squirm. He straightened his spine and stared down his nose at the prince.

"Welcome, Ambassador for the Western Fey, I am Falcon, Prey Prince of the Bird Clans. It is an honour that you grace us with your presence." He eyed Kiri's horse appreciatively, but his eyes kept being drawn back to Kiri's face. "If you will follow me, I will escort you to the palace."

Kiri nodded his head. It was only Toby who felt the small tremor of nervousness in his master's hands, which gave the lie to the calm demeanour Kiri showed the crowd around him. Toby surreptitiously patted Kiri's hands, before avidly looking around him once more. Kiri relaxed, watching the enthusiasm and wonder of the boy in front of him. Toby would be a great companion, Kiri concluded.

Thanks for all the feedback guys, to email me contact me at monkurchakar@yahoo.com.au

By the way guys, I have a yahoo group where you can see all my writings. I haven't sent all my stories onto it yet. But I will be sending my chapters there first. So become a member and enjoy!


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