Note: Holy crap, I really do suck at chapter fics. This chapter was a bitch to me. Seriously, it sat around with just that last paragraph to write and I still wouldn't finish it. Anyway, this is rather fluffy at points - enjoy it now, its gonna get a lot darker ;-)

Alys stretched as she opened an eye, and even without being able to see outside, she could tell from the pleasantness of the air that the fog had lifted. In the couple of days since Selendrile had returned, Alys had kept indoors out of the heavy rain and murky air. Selendrile hadn't liked the weather much either - he said while the rain could be refreshing at times, the thick air made it uncomfortable to fly. So when he wasn't hungry, he would stay close to the cottage , and when the sun fell, Alys would practice her reading and writing by the firelight while Selendrile guided her.

But today was not a day for staying inside and reading, as much as she loved it. Stepping out into the sunlight in her light nightgown, she felt her skin tingle pleasantly under the sun's rays. With a robe on one arm, she walked down to the neighboring lake to bathe.

Lounging by the shore, across from where Alys had arrived was, of course, Selendrile, curled up like a cat, his tail occasionally twitching as though he were having happy dreams of fleeing knights and fields full of vulnerable livestock. The sun glinting off his golden scales was almost too strong to look at; so, shaking her head, she quickly stripped and dropped herself into the cool water. She thought she saw one dragon eye pop open at the sound of the tiny splash, but being that she was submerged to her shoulders she wasn't too concerned, and she dunked her head under the water, getting used to the startling temperature.

Alys had never learned how to swim, and even if Selendrile had any interest in teaching her, she would never let him - she had become considerably less bashful about her body since they had first met, but allowing him to instruct and position her naked, wet form was asking for a bit much. However, she had spent enough time in lakes and ponds that she had learned to hold her breath and kick her legs to propel herself a little ways. She also learned that she could float once she was relaxed enough, and perhaps that said something about her new allegiances as tradition would suggest, but she shrugged it off as at worst an unexpected benefit to keeping bad company.

So in the clear water of the lake, Alys rinsed her skin and hair, and occasionally dove under the water, enjoying the trickling, muffled sound of the world around her and the warped rays of sunshine that danced across her closed eyelids. Surfacing, and breathing deeply, she wiped her eyes and wrung out her hair and found herself facing the opposite shore. She was startled to find that Selendrile was no longer peacefully sleeping there, and in fact there was no sign of him at all.

The water was now only a little bit above her head, so she kicked her legs to stay afloat as she scanned the sunlit lake, but there was no sign of the glistening dragon. She looked up at the light blue expanse above her, to see if he had taken flight, but there wasn't a single dot in the sky, nor could she hear the sound of his wings. It wasn't till then that she looked down and noticed the hulk of gold underneath the surface of the water, propelling towards her.

Immediately she began backing up, so that she could at least have some footing, and it was right when she was able to dig her toes into the lake's soft bottom, that Selendrile's head and long neck burst out from under the surface, the lake water showering down on her.

Alys sputtered and gasped in surprise and exasperation, despite the fact that she was already thoroughly wet, and splashed him back in return. Selendrile made a low sound in his throat, and Alys, not having the slightest clue what it indicated, splashed him again, harder this time. Now he retaliated, dipping his head and collecting water with his magnificent jaw and spitting it at her.

Alys squeaked in protest, flinching away and briefly dropping her head into the water to rinse off whatever foul things were hiding in his mouth. "Ugh," she muttered as she surfaced. Selendrile made another noise and dipping his head again, he nudged her lightly with his snout against her neck. She reciprocated this reptilian sign of affection by smacking him on the nose. "Oh, have some manners, you fiend," she said, pushing the hulking dragon's head away. For all she knew, he had decided to go for a swim just to get a glimpse of her body beneath the water. But if he had any intention of taking her advice, he didn't show it, and slid past her through the water, and onto the shore.

"Clothes!" Alys shouted at him, before he could shake himself dry. "My clothes are there," she said, pointing at the heap on the shore. "I'd like to keep them dry, thank you." He made a slight huffing sound - she could at least tell what that meant - and stepped further down the shore, where he stretched and flapped his wings and shook out his flaxen mane, and even so she felt a few sprinkles land on top of her head. It was then, finally, that he took off into the sky, using his powerful legs to spring himself up into the air and spreading his wings wide. Alys watched him go, thinking that no matter how many times she'd seen it happen, it still seemed slightly unreal.

"Oh, piss it," Alys huffed. Even amongst the shade of the trees, the day had become hotter than she anticipated, and her walk through the woods was turning out to be more laborious than fun. She leaned against a tree as she pulled a piece of twine from her satchel and tied up her hair. She relaxed for a moment looking up at the tree's skinny, still bare branches, and breathing deeply. She stood like that for a while, wondering if she would see a body of golden scales shoot past her vision at some point, until she heard voices.

Snapping to attention immediately, her eyes darted around but she saw no one, and it wasn't until a moment later that she realized where the voices were coming from.

Gathering her skirts about her, she crept towards the edge of the trees where the earth dropped off very suddenly and steeply. Through the tangle of branches at the top of the small cliff she looked down at the band of men gathered by edge of a stream. Five of them, dressed in rich looking clothes, talking and laughing, completely oblivious to her looking down at them.

First one gets lost, now this, Alys thought to herself. She and Selendrile had chosen their home because it was far away from people, yet either she was traveling further from home than normal, or they were. She didn't like the thought of the latter, especially for what it could mean for Selendrile and what he might do. It would not be the first time he had to dispose of a knight or two, but until now such valiant and ultimately helpless characters were nothing but that to Alys. They might as well have been drawings in the dirt for all they worth to her and her dragon friend. Now they were faces, laughter, and voices. A name. Nonetheless, concealed by the thick brush, Alys watched them.

Don't let him be there, Alys begged the air. Let him be far, far away.

Her hopes were dashed quickly though when the tall figure of Sir Jaron emerged from the wood, laughing and smiling with his comrades. From where she stood she could not hear what they were saying, but that's not what interested her, though perhaps it should've. Instead, Alys found herself intrigued by the things about Sir Jaron that she had missed in the murk of the wood when they first met, such as the way his blue eyes sparkled and the corners crinkled pleasantly when he smiled. His rich brown hair had a reddish tint to it that shown in the sun, and tangled in unruly waves on his head and over his ears. With his fair skin and childish features, he probably wouldn't have much of a chin without his beard, but that didn't bother her so much, he still had strong cheekbones and the softness in his face added to his expressiveness. Alys found herself smiling faintly whenever he did, taking note of the quirks in his gestures, like the way he had a tendency to ruffle the hair at the back of his head making it look even more messy than usual.

Alys, you're pathetic, she thought to herself finally, and with a sigh she knocked her forehead lightly against the tree trunk she was hugging. Quietly as she could, she turned away and heading back home. She did not turn around to see if she had been heard or noticed - she did not want to know.

"How many?"

Alys stared back at Selendrile across the table. She might as well have tried to discern the thoughts of a stone wall. She shrugged, "I think four. There might have been more where I couldn't see. I didn't stay long." Tell him.

"And this was at the ravine?"

She nodded, "At that little stream," and he nodded as well. His eyes were had turned downward now. Why aren't you telling him?

Finally, she added, "They didn't look like they were on a mission of any kind, they might have been hunting for sport, but…" She bit her lip. "You don't think…It shouldn't be a problem…should it?"

Selendrile paused for a moment. "No, I don't think so," he said, and Alys suppressed her sigh of relief. "But I'll keep an eye out from now on." Alys nodded in agreement.

He looked at her then, catching her eye forcefully. "Don't wander that way again." It was not a suggestion.

"They didn't see me. Besides if I did happen to come across one of them, I doubt they would wish to do me harm -"

"It doesn't matter." He stood and started to head towards the door. "I'll be back before dawn. Don't wait for me." He walked out without another word as Alys watched him, slightly unnerved. She sighed as she heard the sound of enormous, leathery wings pushing at the air, slumping back in her chair as the beats began to fade away.

She felt she had made mistake, but she was not sure if it was because she had not told him the whole truth or that she had told him anything at all.

Jaron stared out into the dark blue knight, his brow furrowed. The air was cooling fast and goosebumps were raising along his arms and neck, but he didn't care. The sound of the rustling woods from earlier that day was haunting him - all he saw was the flutter of a skirt and a moment of movement, but he knew. Alys, it had to be her - this dainty ghost that was haunting the woods of his mind. As much as it pained him to have missed such an opportunity to talk to her, to see her again - even though it was not a good idea to make her presence known to his friends, and he had not intention of doing so - he knew their paths would cross again, inevitably. He was sure of this, though he was not sure why. He felt it in the tingle in his skin that the thought of her gave him, in the cool night air that he knew she was breathing as well.