Of course, I do not own ANY of the original characters of ElfQuest or the world in which they live in. Author's Note: In this story, when a character is sending, it will be bold and in italics, like this: My secret soul name is Tam. Please enjoy this fic and remember, it IS fanfiction. Enjoy.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Prelude:

You call me...mocking...challenging! Yes...yes, curse you! I'll come!

Bearclaw took one last tender glance at his beautiful child. The sweetest and most precious part of his beloved lifemate so sensely murdered by the vicious Madcoil. Yes, murdered, for her death served no purpose but to appease his brutal and disgusting thirst for bloodshed. If it took all he had, he would protect the young life of his most precious son...Cutter.

He brushed his hand against the lad's cheek and with that final show of affection, strode into the darkness of the wood to court his fate.

EEEOOOWRRR!

"Huh?" Cutter gasped as he was jolted from his sleep by the cry of the most dreaded beast. "Bearclaw!" he cried, pulling himself to his feet. "Bearclaw! Bearclaw!" he shouted, as he raced through the woods, the branches and nettles tearing at his clothes. If the impeding foliage pained him, he ignored it as continued to tear through the brush until he at last came to a clearing where...

"Bearcl--!" he cried, falling silent as he saw the body of his father lying sprawled across a blood-soaked grassy woodland floor. Silently, he rushed over to his father's side and gently turned the elf onto his back.

Father? he sent, as words found themselves lodged in his throat. Father...please, answer me.

Unexpectedly, Bearclaw let out a deep chuckle. "Don't worry, Cub." he coughed, sounding very much like he was in a great deal of pain.

Father, please send. Don't waste your strength.

He chuckled. And thinking isn't a waste of strength to you?

Finally, it was Cutter's turn to let out a show of mirth. Father, are you alright?

I am. But, that monster will not live through the night. I wounded it, badly. It is his blood that you see coloring the grass, now.

And you?

Only a little bruised. He sighed. Dehl, sweet Dehl, wherever you are...it is finished. You can rest now...Beloved...re-

...G-...Grenn?

Suddenly, Bearclaw shot up, his eyes wild and searching.

"F-...Father?" Cutter breathed.

Though clearly hurting from some internal something, Bearclaw stood, breathing heavily and listening intently. Joyleaf... he lock-sent. Is it...Beloved...is it...you?

Stone-still he stood, waiting, praying just as he had done before, hoping against hope that this time, the outcome would be different. This time, his patience would be rewarded with a most wondrous reward. ...yet, all that awaited his sending was the eerie silence of the night forest. His heart sank to the very pit of his soul. It was her, he was sure, but of course, it could not have been. To send to him now after all this time was impractical. If she had been alive, surely she would have sent long before now. It was hopeless.

"Father?" Cutter whispered, softly, gently touching his father's shoulder. "What's wrong. You look pale."

For a moment more he was silent before he finally said, "It's nothing, Cub. I just thought..." he said, allowing his thoughts to trail into the arms of nothingness. "It's nothing. Come, it's a long way back to the holt. We should go."

Cutter nodded his affirmation. Happy that his father was safe, yet still somehow somber about the whole situation the had survived, he turned and started away.

Bearclaw started after his son, walking with empty, ghostly steps, one after the other. He thoughts were no longer his own nor were they even with him. They were elsewhere. He stopped in his trek and allowed himself one last grace. Dehl my love...farewell. he sent, then continued on his way.

Grenn...Grenn...don't...don't leave me...

He stopped with a jolt. There was no mistake. It was her, he was sure of it! It was his beloved Joyleaf, he knew it was. It was her soul's cry he heard, her soul's song that he knew so well. ...her soul...her SOUL!

DEHL! he sent, furiously.

G-...Grenn...

Dehl! I'm coming, Dehl! he sent as he hurried toward the wood.

"Father?" Cutter mused as he heard the footfalls of his father change direction. He turned to see him sprint off into the woods. "Father wait!" he shouted as he sped off after him.

Dehl, keep sending to me. Where are you, Beloved?

I am...here... she replied. From her weak sending, Bearclaw could tell that she was growing weak. If she lost consciousness, it would be that much more difficult to find her. And if she were hurt...

Beloved, you must keep sending to me. I am coming! I swear I will find you! Just keep sending! Take strength from my very soul if you must but don't lose yourself to the darkness! Stay with me!

I am...tired...

No! Just...tell me, how did you get here! he sent, desperately searching for a way to get her to keep in contact with him. I feared the worst I tried to send to you. I sent and sent and sent but, you never answered.

I-...I could not hear you, Beloved.

He was getting close. She was near, he could feel her presence. Yes, but, why?

I...I...must have...been...out of range...

Just a little more. She was so near. Just a little more. You mean, you were here? But, how did you get here?

There was silence.

Dehl?

Silence, once more.

Dehl, answer me!

...he...dragged me...here...

There! She was there! In a tall tree overlooking Madcoil's den, Bearclaw could see her glorious golden locks spilling over one of its branches. His heart leapt as he nimbly ascended the tree's scope. He found her lying lifelessly across the branch, blood staining her tunic and body with its scarlet hue. Gently, he pulled her into his embrace and breathed in the sweet scent of her.

Dehl, I'm here. I'm here. he sent, pulling her close.

Slowly, she opened her eyes and beheld the sweet sight of her beloved rescuer. Her eyes filled with tears that flowed freely down her cheeks. Grenn? Is this...is this spirit joy? Am I...dead?

With a laugh more hearty and full than any he had ever laughed in his entire lifetime, Bearclaw rocked with joy. Like his lifemate, tears flowed freely from his eyes, cascading down his cheeks and trickling down upon her as he gently pressed his forehead against that of her own. No, Beloved. You are alive. Joyleaf...you are alive.