Obviously, none of it is mine. At least, in the first chapter. Except for the plot.

Author's Note: Just so everybody knows, it has been a LONG time since I've written fanfiction. I love the Firebringer series. There are only twenty-two other stories, so I doubt this one could be generic yet, but you never know. I decided to include a little background on why I chose this particular plot line. If you want to skip it, go right ahead. The story takes place post-SoSS, probably a little after when the twins would have been initiated, just barely accepted as adults.

When people think of 'evil' and 'good', generally evil is black and white is good or pure. So I found it odd that the main enemies of the Unicorns of the Vale would be pale, while the Unicorns' hero the Firebringer was to be black as starless, moonless night. They are opposite than the normal mindset.

This in mind, I figured it must be significant in some way; so I took this idea and applied it to none other than our beloved Firebringer's children. I will say no more now, but hope that somehow this will make you want to read on to see the little plot line that I've made; otherwise you will guess my intent, and not want to read it. If that be the case, I hope you will read it anyway.

This little plot has been bouncing around in my head for quite a while, and I have no reason for writing it other than a) to make room for my own novels and b) for my own entertainment.


Chapter One: The Fate of Royal Twins

The predawn was her favorite time of day. The false, pale half-darkness turned everything a shade of grey, until the full, ripe milkwood blossoms, heavy with tiny droplets of condensation, seemed to almost glow with an other-worldly luminescent silver light. Walking through the peaceful groves at these times was ethereal, made even more so when moving toward the Mirror of the Moon. Aiony was headed there now, moving liesurely through the tall trees, calmly gazing around at a world still in dreams. It was one of the rare times that she was unaccompanied by her brother; a rare time that to her seemed to be coming only too frequently.

Since the pair's acceptance as grown, her dam and sire had had to make a choice. Two children they had, twins; either unknown or uncaring which had emerged into the world first. So which, then, should ascend to govern the Unicorns? The Council wasted countless hours to come to the same conclusion Aiony had days ago: it would be Dhattar, the male, the stronger one. Despite herself, jealousy raged in her young heart for her twin. And contrasting it was the sharp relief it was not she, and shame with herself for hating her pale-coated brother.

The entire herd knew of she and Dhattar's abilities. She had older mares come to her often, wide-eyed and light on their feet despite their girth, and ask if their foaling would go well, did she know if it was a colt or filly, would it be weak or strong, what color, what traits, twins? Would it survive the winter? And the old and frail, asking of the weather, and the warriors, asking for battle, and the Elders, asking for peace. Yet it if she believed she had troubles, she knew her brother's regime was difficult, the daily routines that parted him from her.

She stood by the pool's edge now, entranced by the shifting depths that never disturbed the surface. She had found that Seeing into the depths had become harder. She saw less, and could not gaze as long. She feared the ability was leaving her, other times she was tired; most oft the blame was set on the absence of her twin. Whatever the cause, she could still sense something about the world was amiss.

Ever since winter-past the taintless beauty of the Hills had faded, the barren and pale limestone cliffs slowly seeming to take over the rich and verdant fields. It wasn't fading significantly; she had mentioned it to Dagg and he had said it was only from others passing by, the hooffalls trampling the grass. But nobody went near the Wyvern dens.

She was brought back to the present as suddenly, gazing on the swirling waters, a form appears. It was pale, milky white, indistinguishable, small; but growing larger, and clearer. Thin, long, like a serpent. A barbed tail, clawed paws, plaited, armored skin. An alabaster jaw parting, revealing countless razor-sharp teeth dripping as the form seemed to launch from the bottom toward the surface, jaws aimed for her face bent low over the misty water. It drew closer and closer, a rush echoing in her head as though she could hear the form moving through the waters, deaf to all other noise. Closer, and closer it drew, jaws widespread and now open wide enough to consume her entire being . . .

Until Dha shouldered her. Her concentration broke as she wobbled sideways. Her head jerked up and back, surprised and alarmed. She was amazed to find her heart beat too hard and fast in her chest. She tried a small, convincing laugh, though the motion now sounded hollow, forced, and awkward in her brother's presence.

"Do not frighten me so, Dha."

"Sorry, Ai. Lell is looking for you. I must go; Teki means to teach me basic Healing."

She watched her brother depart, willing her heart and breath to calm. It was only in observing her brother that she knew how much they took after their warrior dam; each had grown into strong-set forms, with muscled quarters and powerful limbs, strong-set crests supporting finely-chiseled faces. But where Dha's pale face was tired, with sunken-spots above his eyes, she liked to believe hers held softer kindness. Each of their relatives, and even some who weren't, felt they had something to teach him that would be useful during his reign as King, thus he was up from dawn until well past dusk practicing Healing, Magicking, fighting, dancing, singing, memorizing history, learning strategy, tradition, politics. When he collapsed every evening within the small grove they shared with Lell and their dam and sire, she sorrowed for him, and was glad she would not be taking the office.

With a sigh, Aiony too left the Mere, gazing about the small grassy valley nestled between the tall wooded hills. It had become the gathering place of all the Unicorns of the Hills, though often as not there were small groups scattered amongst the streams and forests and meadows; it was only at Moondance that the whole herd gathered together to dance beneath the full moon.

She spotted the flicka, her coat shining a pale goldenrod against the subdued colors of the rest of the herd. Aiony made her way over. As she drew within earshot, the other nearly leapt into a fast trot to meet her the rest of the way, fairly bouncing with contained excitement.

"Ai, Illishar returns tomorrow, doesn't he? Isn't today when you said he would come back?"

"Yes, it is. To maintain the pacts that were set years back," Aiony said, her small giggles coming much easier than they had with her brother.

"Illishar. My gryphon. He carried me to the waters to quench the fire."

"Yes, Lell, I know."

She had to smile as the king's sister launched into a dreamy rant of the day nonetheless. She had tuned out Lell's tale, one that she herself could have repeated word for word by heart, when her pale-coated brother cantered up, breathless.

"Teki has an herb hunt for me. I must find coldweed, rueberry, and longshanks. Will you and Lell help me?"

Both gave their assent, and it took the three until well into the afternoon to find all three, for all the herbs were difficult to find on this side of the Hills. They returned to the grove late that night, sleeping easily.

None knew that during the night Jan would disappear. None knew that the Seeing abilities of the twins would disappear entirely No one certainly knew that the gryphons' journey would bring them ill will during that final night. Too many strange occurences, and too few explanations.

Nevertheless, the following evening was the biggest shock of them all.