Hello Shadow Raiders Fans!  This is sort of a Prequel to my fanfic The Return.  Its mainly a Pyrus/Zera fic, but of course, it includes all of the characters.  I just wanted to write this to get these ideas out of my head so I can write The Return with out them interfering.  Its also to explain some of the new characters in my main fic, as well as the whole Pyrus/Zera thing.  No, I don't own Shadow Raiders…because if I did, I would be making a 3rd season right now.  All other characters are my own.  This fic begins right after Jade takes the throne of Planet Rock.  The Beast Planet has been teleported to places unknown, leaving behind many rogue squadrons of Beast ships.  The Alliance is now trying to gain a foot hold on itself, and where they now stand with the Beast Threat gone.  Back to enemies, or remain at a some what settled peace.  Anyhoo! Enjoy!

Chapter 1: Falling Snow

*********

"Perhaps I should take the controls."  Zera huffed as Pyrus flew the small transport ship through another spatial fluctuation.  The ship rocked slightly as it regained its heading toward Planet Ice to drop Zera off.  With everyone else trying to find out where the Beast Planet had disappeared to, Pyrus and Zera had been left to their own devices. 

"Just keep your eyes on the engine power levels."  Pyrus rolled his eyes at her comment.  "It's the big blue screen with the yellow rotating axis."

"Listen, match brain, I don't need you to tell me where it is."  Zera crossed her arms and sat down in the seat beside him.  As another jolt shook the ship, Zera peered over at Pyrus's controls.  "Perhaps it is I who should be giving you the flying lessons."

"If you don't like my flying, then why'd you come?"  Pyrus kept his eyes on the screen output.

"You were the only one available for three hours, and there is now way I am waiting around on Rock for three hours."  Zera smirked slightly.  "So I had to lower my standards and make due with what was available."

"Excuse me?"  Pyrus raised an eyebrow at the insult.  "Would her Ladyship prefer to ride in the cargo hold with her over abundance of useless luggage?"

"How dare you!"  Zera narrowed her amber eyes at him. 

"Me?"  Pyrus took his eyes away from the controls to meet her icy glare.  "Look, either deal with my flying and shut your frost bitten yap, or go ride in the back." 

"With the way you fly, the back would probably be safer!"  Zera retorted.  It seemed they couldn't spend more than a few minutes together before their conversations turned into fights.  Completely opposite in every way, they seemed to be oddly united in the passionate spark they both had for a good argument when ever possible. 

"Well, it certainly would be easier to fly with out your loud-mouthed complaints every five seconds."  Pyrus shot back.

"Loud mouthed!" Zera blinked for a second before knocking a good punch to his right shoulder.

"Ow!"  Pyrus shot into a surprised defensive posture.  "That's it!  If you won't go quietly, I'm just going to drag you to the back." 

"You wouldn't dare!"  Zera stood up and backed away a few paces.

"Try me."  Pyrus stood up and approached her.  "C'mon frosty butt, its to the cargo hold with you!" 

"Back off before I am forced to kick your lava headed butt through every part of this ship."  Zera took on an attack posture with an aggravated glare on her face.  Despite everything, she was enjoying this, and on the inside, she was laughing at it all.

"You and what fleet!"  Pyrus laughed.  Just when the fight was getting good, however, a large jolt nearly upended the ship.  The sudden movement pushed Zera into Pyrus's arms as the consul's sensors began to sound off the alarms.  Zera paused for a moment in his arms before defensively pushing him away. 

"Now what have you gotten us into, Ace."  Zera huffed and made her way back to the controls. 

"Ah yes, I always forget.  Everything is my fault."  Pyrus rolled his eyes and joined Zera at the consul. 

"This time, I am afraid its worse."  Zera got out before another jolt rocked the ship, the aft thruster disintegrating into a mass of fire and debris. 

"Beast ships!"  Pyrus blinked.  "They must have missed the transport with the Beast Planet."

"And now they are targeting us!"  Zera held onto the consul as the Beast squadron took out the other thruster. 

"Quick, get on the com and notify planet Rock."  Pyrus looked at the almost useless controls and the scenery of Planet Ice becoming every closer at an increasing speed.  "Tell them we are going down." 

*********

"My King."  General Gala entered the meeting hall of Rock where the Alliance Leaders all sat.  The look on the general's face caused King Cryos to rise from his seat. 

"What has happened?"  Cryos said in his usual mask of calm. 

"We received a distress call from the transport Kyre. "  Gala continued.

"That's the one Pyrus was using the take Zera home, is it not?"  Tekla questioned, now understanding the look of concern on Cryos's face.

"Yes, My Lady."  Gala answered.  "They were under attack by a rogue squadron of Beast ships left behind after their planet disappeared." 

"Where are they now?"  Cryos clenched his fist slightly, but the calm look of distant concern remained on his face.

"We are not sure, My King."  Gala responded in a disheartened sadness.  "We believe their ship crashed somewhere in the Northern Plains of our planet.  We also believe that the Beast ships have gone after them."  Gala lowered his head with a long sigh.  "I am sorry I am unable to tell you more."

"It is not your fault, General."  Cryos took in a long breath.  "Send out search parties immediately, and prepare my ship for departure." 

"Of course, My King."  Gala nodded and hurried off to carry out his orders. 

"Lets go then."  Femur hopped off of his chair and began to waddle out of the door. 

"You're coming?"  Graveheart looked at Femur.

"You better believe it."  Femur nodded.  He and Graveheart continued out of the room.  "Don't want that kid to turn into a Popsicle."

"Do not worry."  Tekla put a hand on Cryos's shoulder.  "We will find her." 

"I know we will."  Cryos looked to her and nodded.  "We must." 

*********

"Where…"  Zera's hushed voice broke the dark silence of the cockpit.  The only light illuminated the room from blinking consul indicators and errant sparks from fallen wires.  Zera blinked in the darkness as her eyes adjusted to the light levels.  Her hands immediately clutched her aching head as she sat up.  A small moan from the corner of the room broke the returned silence.  "Pyrus?" 

"I think so."  Pyrus moaned out before coughing. 

"What happened?"  Zera stood on shaky feet and stumbled her way over to the voice. 

"We crashed."  Pyrus said as he pushed the thin piece of inner hall plating off of himself.  The light he added to the dim room caused Zera to blink several times.

"Very funny."  Zera huffed and helped him to his feet with all four of her hands.  Her eyes searched the darkness again as her two back arms folded against her shoulder blades.   "But where are we?"

"One of your planet's caverns in the Northern Plains I believe."  Pyrus shrugged, not really sure of exactly where they had landed. 

"Wonderful."  Zera shook her head with concern.

"All we have to do is wait here until they find us."  Pyrus winced as he put weight down on a sore ankle.

"Are you dimmed?"  Zera pointed a finger at him.  "Do you have any idea how many caverns there are in the Northern Plains?  It could take them weeks to find the right one!" 

"Oh."  Pyrus blinked.  "Well then what do you suggest, oh insightful one?"

"Simple."  Zera said matter of factly.  "We have to make our way to the surface so they can spot us from the air."

"And do you by any chance know how to get to the surface?"  Pyrus questioned with a less than assured look on his face.

"We go up, of course."  Zera replied as she made her way out of the wreckage of the ship.

"Oh that's brilliant."  Pyrus rolled his eyes and grabbed a emergency supply kit before following her out.  He watched her begin to climb one of the walls that led up to an upper tunnel before mumbling to himself.  "Up she says…"

"Are you coming, or are you just going to stand there and freeze to death?"  Zera looked down at him after reaching the top of the wall.  Pyrus reluctantly began to follow, promising himself to never go on another ship alone with the Ice Queen again. 

********

"At this rate, it could take weeks to find them."  Cryos said with a heavy heart as the many search vessels continued to scan the Northern Planes. 

"Still no signal from Zera's pendant?"  Graveheart looked over at his friend with concerned eyes. 

"No."  Cryos sighed and shook his head.  "And I doubt their will be."

"Why's that?"  Femur quirked an eyebrow.

"These deep caverns are walled by a mineral known as Nanzyte."  Cryos  responded.  "Any signal from her pendant would be reflected back at them by the cavern walls.  They will only be able to send a signal when they are closer to the surface where the Nanzyte is less dense." 

"My King,"  General Gala's image appeared on the com screen.  "Sectors 4 and 5 have not revealed any sign of a crash sight." 

"Split up your team so we can cover more ground."  Cryos looked out at the horizon and its fading light.  "It will be dark soon."

"I will do as you wish, my King, but with the amount of snow we have received in the past few hours, we could pass over the crash site and not even know it."  Gala informed the search party.

"I know."  Cryos nodded.  "You are right, of course."  He paused again to keep his calm composure.  "We will have to continue with a ground search tomorrow.  We are little help from the air.   Tell your men to set up camp and set out at first light." 

"Yes, my King."  Gala bowed and the com image disappeared. 

"We are giving up for the night?"  Femur raised an objection. 

"Will they be alright over night?"  Graveheart hated to give up, but he new searching in the dark would be futile.

"Sure they will!  Those are the two most stubborn kids in the galaxy your talking about!"  Femur tried to offer an uplifting vote of confidence.  Cryos simply nodded quietly and stepped off of the bridge of the ship.  The smile faded from Femur's lips as he looked up to Graveheart.  "They'll be ok…wont they?"

*******

"Damn these walls."  Zera cursed and closed the pendant around her neck.

"Still no luck?"  Pyrus smirked at Zera's curse.  It was an uncommon thing for miss "high and mighty", and he had to admit that he liked it. 

"No."  Zera paused and looked up at one of the high cavern walls.  She looked at her reflection in the mirrored surface for a moment before glancing at Pyrus's reflection.  It was then that she noticed he was limping.  She turned sharply to him.  "What is wrong?"

"What?"  Pyrus took a few steps with the same small limp. 

"That."  Zera pointed at his leg.  "Why didn't you tell me you were hurt?"

"Its nothing."  Pyrus swallowed a stab of pain has he attempted to put full weight on the ankle.  "Just a sore ankle." 

"Sure it is."  Zera raised an eyebrow at him in a smirking glance.  "Well I suppose we could stop for a rest."

"Tired already, are you?"  Pyrus smirked back at her. 

"Pyrus…"  Zera rolled her eyes.  She knew his stubborn pride wouldn't let him rest.  "Fine.  Yes.  I am tired and I would like to rest for a bit." 

"Oh."  Pyrus blinked, surprised to have her give up so easily.  Pyrus slid down one of the mirrored walls of the open cavern they had come to and let out a small sigh of relief.  The pain from his ankle had been steadily increasing for the past four hours. 

"Well, besides the ankle injury that does not hurt, how is the rest of you doing."  Zera sat down across from him.  "You seem a little shorter of breath than usual."

"It's the deep cold of the caverns I think."  Pyrus let his eyes wander about the cavern walls.  "And the lack of air movement.  You?"

"I am alright."  Zera wrapped her arms around her knees and pulled them to her chest.  He was right about the deep cold.  Even the people of Ice have their tolerance levels.  She reached out one hand and searched through the supply kit for a moment before retrieving a heat blanket and tossing it onto Pyrus's lap.  "That should help for a bit." 

"Thanks."  Pyrus unfolded the blanket and wrapped it about himself.  He watched her for a moment as she put her head down on her knees and closed her eyes.  A small flitch came over her body as she tightened her grip on her knees for a moment.  It passed and she returned to the calm silence.  He had seen her do this once before in their trek through the vast caverns and tunnels. "You sure you're alright?"

"Yes, of course."  Zera replied without raising her head.  "Just try and get some sleep before we have to move on." 

"Alright."  Pyrus sighed.  He knew he wouldn't be able to fight the information out of her, and he was to tired to even try.  He found himself watching her form in the small lantern light as it moved with the breaths she took.  Before he had time to think on what came to his mind with that image of her, he was fast asleep.  

******

"Who's bright idea was it to camp out here and freeze our tails off?"  Femur shivered around the small camp fire.  The search fleet had stopped for the night to get some much needed rest and replanning.  The snow had ended for now, but it had been replaced by a bitter wind that swept with out mercy across the open plains.  With it, it blew away any tracks or evidence of a crash site.  With every hour that passed, hopes became dimmer.

"You're more than welcome to go sit on the ship."  Graveheart said after a sip of warm mineral cider. 

"Nah."  Femur sighed.  He looked around at the quieted camp area.  Most had fallen asleep already, awaiting first light to return to the search of their missing princess.  The distraught in the Ice soldiers' eyes was evident.  Soldiers of Fire would arrive at first light, but what help they could be in such harshly cold conditions was yet to be seen. 

"May I join you?"  General Gala approached Femur and Graveheart. 

"Please."  Graveheart extended his hand toward a place to sit.  

"Thank you."  Gala took a seat and stared at the small fire burning in the center of their small group.

"How is he?"  Graveheart tilted his head toward the troubled General.

"He is…lost."  Gala sighed.  "That is the only way I can describe it.  She is his whole world."

"That's for sure."  Femur nodded.  "That's why we gotta find her and the kid."

"Lord Pyrus?"  Gala raised an eyebrow at Femur's reference.

"Ya."  Femur chuckled slightly.  "Don't know why I still call him that."

"He has grown up since we first met."  Graveheart nodded.  He turned to Gala with a look of honesty.  "And if anyone can keep the princess safe, he can."

"You bet."  Femur agreed. 

"He does care for her, I know."  Gala spoke bluntly as his eyes turned toward the fire.  His words left the other two in a silent agreement.  "He is the only true friend the Princess has ever had."  Gala paused to look at the two.  "I have full confidence that he will look out for her well being."  He turned to look at the rest of the Ice soldiers.  "We all do." 

******

"Zera?"  Pyrus awoke with a small yawn and looked across from him where Zera had last been.  Finding her no longer there, he searched the dimly lit cavern for her.  A distant yelp of what seemed to be pain brought his attention to an opening in the cavern wall.  With a great amount of effort, he rose from his position with the heat blanket still firmly wrapped around his shivering form.  "Zera?  Where are you?"

"Leave me alone."  Zera called from beyond the opening in a raspy voice. 

"What?"  Pyrus raised an eyebrow and made his way into the opening.  Zera sat in the larger cavern beyond, clutching her knees to her body.   The weakening lantern gave him a dimmed vision of her face.  Small wells of tears in her eyes reflected in the lantern light.  "Zera, was has happened?  Are you injured from the crash."

"No."  Zera turned her face away from him.  "Please, just leave." 

"Fine."  Pyrus huffed.  Before he could turn to go, Zera's body posture caused him to stop.  Her head raised in a voiceless gasp as her feet and hands dug into the hard ice below her.  He walked toward her again.  "What is wrong with you?"

"Pyrus…please…"  Zera spoke in between labored breaths and dry gasps of pain.   Loosing control of her senses, she turned sharply to him, her hand coming at him with a heavy thrust.  "Leave!" 

"No."  Pyrus caught her wrist as he dodged the fist she threw at him.  The strength of it surprised him as his muscles tensed to keep her arm in his grip.  "Not until you tell me what is going on." 

"I…"  Zera gave up trying to fight his grasp and turned her eyes way from his.  "I can not stop it.  Please leave."  

"Why must I leave?"  Pyrus knelt down beside her, his warm grip still on her wrist. 

"Because,"  Her eyes raised toward his.  Finally at this close range, Pyrus could see the great amount of pain that she was under, and how every part of her was fighting the urge to yell out in anguish.  "I fear I may hurt you." 

"Hurt me?"  Pyrus blinked.  "Why would you do that?"  Pyrus got his answer as another wave of violent shaking hit Zera's body.  A deep moan echoed through her throat, followed by a quick movement of her wrist.  He watched in confusion as her eyes rolled back into her head, a surge of strength hitting him from her other arm.  He found himself on his back a few feet away from her.   As her senses returned to her, a look of helplessness and anguish filled her eyes.

"I am so sorry."  Zera turned her eyes away from him, unable to face him.  What was happening to her was more than just uncontrollable, it was embarrassing.  "Now you see why you must leave." 

"No, I don't."  Pyrus got back up on his feet and approached her again.  "You still haven't told me what's going on. "

"Must you be so stubborn."  Zera inched away from him as he knelt down beside her again. 

"Around you?  You bet I do."  Pyrus offered her a small smile as she brought her eyes up to his. 

"I could hurt you again."  Zera spoke honestly. 

"I'll take my chances."  Pyrus watched as a smaller wave of pain made its way through her body, her face contorting into a strong resolve to keep herself still and quiet.  As the wave passed, she let out a long breath, tears once again finding their way across her cheeks.  Without thinking, Pyrus reached out and made the tears disappear against her skin in a wisp of steam.  The lost look in her eyes as she opened them again caused Pyrus to loose his thoughts for a moment.  Despite all of the fighting and differences between them, the fact that he unexplainably and truly did care for her was never more obvious to him than when he looked into her hurt eyes.   "Please tell me what is wrong." 

"It…"  Zera began then stopped as her eyes looked away from him again.  A welcome warm and gentle hand brought her chin up again.  Her eyes opened to look into his and she found the strength to continue on.   "It is the Drach'mar."

"Drach'mar?"  Pyrus recognized the sound of the ancient Ice dialect, but was unable to remember the meaning of the word. 

"The time of the changing."  Zera said in words he could understand.  She took in a heavy breath.  Explaining this to off-worlders was never easy or looked forward to.  She found it even more difficult to tell him, to let him see her in this great  moment of weakness.   Small waves of sharp tingling continued to run across her skin, causing her to pause and regain her composure.  She looked at Pyrus as he patently waited for her to continue.  "We have known each other for three years now.  Have you noticed in all that time, that even though you have changed and grown, become stronger…more masculine…even more mature…"  Zera gasped in a suddenly large surge of pain to her spine.  Her hand found its way into his as he offered it to her.

"Stop and breath for a moment, Zera."  The deep concern in his voice brought comfort to her.  The strength of her grip increased as the wave ebbed into its climax.  As it subsided, he strengthened his own hold on her hand and smiled to her as she nodded.  "Yes, I have changed."  

"And I have not."  Zera finally continued.  Her words caused Pyrus to nod in a strange realization.  Never noticing it before, he now saw what she meant.  She had not grown a single inch, or changed in the slightest way at all.   "The females of my race must wait for the Drach'mar."  Zera said bluntly, wanting to get the embarrassment over with.

"The Drach'mar allows you to grow and change?"  Pyrus could see the small amount of embarrassment mixed with the pain in her eyes.  

"Yes."  Zera gave a small nod.  "We go through three Drach'mars in our lives. This is my second.  The first was when I was of ten years, now the second in my sixteenth year, and the last in my twenty-first year of life. "

"But the males do not go through this?"  Pyrus tilted his head, watching her every expression. 

"No, they do not."  Zera shook her head. 

"Is it supposed to hurt this much?"  Pyrus asked honestly.

"Yes."  Zera nodded, her grip on his hand tightening again for an instant as she held her breath.   "But my time has come earlier than was expected.  Usually, I would have a Drach'mar Neich."   She paused too look at his confused eyes.  How strange he must find this.  Yet another difference that now existed between them.  "The Neich is a female who has gone through the Drach'mar I am entering, and is to act as my guide in dealing with the changes.  My Neich, however, is not here at the moment…so I am forced to go the first wave alone."

"This is only the first?  Of how many?"  Pyrus could not believe that this much pain was only the beginning for her. 

"The number is different for everyone."  Zera shrugged. 

"When will this first one be over?"  Pyrus tilted his head again, hoping the answer was sooner than later.

"Perhaps by morn..." Zera stopped and closed her eyes again as another wave hit her.  This one was much more violent than before.   As Pyrus watched her muscles tighten, he began to think their was more to this Drach'mar than she was telling him.  He had never seen her so strong or so violent. 

"Breath Zera."  Pyrus watched helplessly as her hand flew from his grip and her body began to contort in painful convulsions.  As cries of pain began to make their way past Zera's clenched teeth, Pyrus found himself taking her shaking body into his arms.  Holding him to her, he tightened his grip around her misleadingly delicate looking figure, finding himself having trouble keeping her in his grip.  "Shh."  He soothingly hushed her, his hand caressing her back. 

"By Frore…"  She yelped in tears against his chest, her hands clutching tightly to him for stability.  "It hurts so much…" 

"It'll be ok."  He whispered to her.  It was an odd, yet comforting, feeling that he found himself experiencing as he held her close to him.  It was so rare to have the stubborn Ice Princess so helpless and in need of his support. He remembered the look in her eyes when he had saved her on the bridge, and he remembered her face when she had realized that touching him had not been as bad as had been rumored.  Over time, they had grown accustomed to each other's touch.  Her look held much the same confusion as she brought her tear filled eyes up to look at him.  For an unknown reason, he found himself both lost and  comforted by her eyes looking into his.  As another wave shook her body, her head fell against his shoulder, her weakened body unable to fight it any longer.  "Shh.  It will be ok.  I will stay here until it passes, I promise."  He could tell she was still fighting the screams rising in her throat.  "Just let it come, Zera.  There is no one here to hear you but me."

"Pyrus."  She whispered, her resolve finally ending.  A great howl of pain escaped her and filled the cavern with its anguish.  Clutched to him for more reasons than she could grasp, she let it come.  It was then that she knew he would be there for her this night, and any other time to come.   He would always  be there.

******