Return to Balinor

Logen clutched the verdant mane of a celestial unicorn as he raced through the forest that covered the steep slope of the mountain. Her hooves, though hitting hard stone, made almost no sound. She almost drifted down the mountain effortlessly.

Her body didn't run down hill like she wanted to, instead she traveled across the mountain, drifting further and further to the side as she made her way down the mountain. She neither spoke nor gave her rider much attention. He was holding on with all his might while trying to maintain some sort of proper posture. He gripped his sword tightly in one hand while weaving his fingers tightly through the mare's mane with the other.

Logen felt battered and bruised, the events of the last couple of days were finally catching up with him. He looked down at his wounded arm; the one Rhalluan had cut. Then he glanced at the other. He truly was a mess, and in more ways than one.

He didn't speak to the unicorn. He was too afraid to do so. He didn't want to believe that he was in another world.

She didn't seem interested in conversation either. He only hoped that she was leading him somewhere important. He hoped it was to Dria. He hoped he would be able to get some proper attention to his arms. He hoped he would be able to get something to eat.

There were a lot of things he hoped for, but as of this moment he was just along for the ride.

The green unicorn vaulted over a fallen log and flicked her ears. She slowed her light canter to a brisk walk, and then stopped, still as a doe in the thicket.

Logen remained quiet but he stilled as well, she might be listening to something he couldn't hear.

In truth, she was. The green was listening to the trees and the moss, and the sound of the whispering grass. Her ears swiveled on her head held high, her nostrils flared. She let out a shrill whinny into the air.

Far, far in the distance, there was an answering call.

The green relaxed and resumed her brisk walking pace, to Logen's immense relief.

They continued on in silence until Logen could not handle it anymore.

"Where is Dria?"

The green flipped an ear his way. "Hopefully with her Bonded."

Logen thought his ears had never heard anything me lovely. He wondered if all unicorns sounded this way.

"We're in Balinor." He said that aloud, more to explain it to himself than to hear confirmation but the unicorn told him he was correct anyways.

He didn't want to believe it but it was true. He looked behind him. He didn't see the blackened portal.

The green celestial continued on, paying closer attention to the man on her back. He seemed to be in shock. She snorted. She could pick up the scent of blood on him, and if she wasn't mistaken… It was getting on her.

She diverted her course and began trekking a bit uphill. She lunged forward, throwing down her head to give her more momentum, her rider leaning forward to help. She was glad that she was fortunate enough that he at least new the basics of riding.

She reached a flat of rock, which contained a bit of run off that pooled there.

"You may replenish yourself here if you wish." She said with a bit of aloofness.

Logen slipped from the unicorn's back and hit the ground hard and gracelessly. Kneeling before the little pool he quickly drank greedily. He hadn't known how parched he was until this moment. He quickly washed off the dirt, grime, and dried blood from his hands and arms, wincing all the while. He glanced back at the unicorn.

In form, she was different from Ocean. She was completely built for agility. Her legs were thin and long. The angles of her body slight and sleek. She looked as though she would disappear at any moment. The horn on her head caught the light and refracted a rainbow on the ground. Her hooves were a bronze, reminding Logen of roots. She was like a vine that could move.

She tossed her head about in the wind and then stopped when she caught him staring at her.

"You've never seen a unicorn, Outlander?"

"You're my first." He answered, averting his gaze. He made to rip his shirt to cover his wounded arm.

"Don't." The green stepped closer and lowered her horn. "Allow me." Before Logen could protest the Green's horn was pointed at him and he could tell how lethal it could be. But she gingerly hovered over his wounded arm and touched it as lightly as a butterfly before retreating.

In an instant, his arm was healed.

His eyes nearly bulged from their sockets. "Thank you…" He found himself speaking quietly.

"You are welcome, Outlander." The green bowed slightly then turned away. She turned an ear towards him, finding his lilting brogue rather interesting.

"What kind of a unicorn are you?" Logen found himself asking. He found it very strange to talk to an animal, not to mention such a vibrantly green one at that.

The green celestial turned towards him again, a bit of mirth in her eyes as well as a bit of surprise. "You know that there are different kinds of unicorns?"

He nodded, "Dria told me that there were."

The green tilted her head a bit. "I am a celestial unicorn."

"What's the difference?"

"I was not born here in Balinor, but in the Celestial Valley." She explained simply.

"So in another country?" He asked, confused.

"A celestial unicorn is born on a different plain of existence. I belong to this world now, but I did not originate here." The green looked up wistfully at the sky. "The Celestial Valley is a place of peace and beauty and it rests in the sky. The people of Balinor call us celestial because the first time we visited them we came down from the sky in a shower of light and stars."

"A creature of Heaven…" Logen murmured, recalling some of the Christian tales of angels and heralds from on high. Looking at this creature he would agree that she was a piece from the stars.

"And Ocean 'tis a celestial unicorn." Logen stated. "Are there many of you?" He took off his belt and began wrapping it around the blade of his sword near the handle. He was getting tired of holding it. He left the scabbard… Somewhere. Back in Scotland, he supposed. Back in Scotland on Calwel's saddle. He missed his horse. He didn't want to think about anything or anyone else he would miss. He was trying to keep his mind off his family as it was.

"Yes, but not in Balinor."

"Why is that?"

"We are forbidden to step foot here in Balinor. It is too dangerous. I remained behind for many reasons. Besides that, before the fall of Balinor only members of the royal family were allowed to bond and ride celestials." The green stepped under the steady drip of the stream to refresh herself.

"So Dria 'tis a princess?" Logen swallowed hard.

The green shook herself vigorously and leapt out of the water. "Ildrianna is the regent. She is queen of all Balinor now that the late king and queen were murdered."

"You didn't wish to know, did you?" The green asked, curious.

"I didn't kin she was royalty." Logen admitted, crest fallen. He didn't realize how much distance there really was between them. He was a common peasant; she was a queen. He felt his chest constrict from pain. There wasn't any way he could see Dria being his in the way he wanted. He didn't see how he fit here in this world.

"What is your name?" The green finally asked as she watched the conflict and distress flit across his face.

"Logen." The name had to be pushed out of his throat, past the lump that threatened to choke him.

The green unicorn stepped close to Logen's form and gently nudged his shoulder. "Logen," she spoke softly as if to a child, "Do not look at her as a queen, but as a friend in need of help. Ildrianna never wanted her title, but it is her duty to her people and her country to become queen of Balinor. Her list of friends is few. If you protected her while on the Other Side you are more than worthy to stand as her equal. Don't think that you are any less of a person because of your station. You are both human."

Logen looked at the deep brown eyes of the celestial unicorn and nodded, reassured by her soothing words.

"What do we do now?" He wanted to change the subject. He still felt distance between himself and Dria.

"We ride on." The green bowed a bit on her feet, lowering her shoulder to a more mountable level for the exhausted Outlander. Once Logen was clutching her silvery mane she rose to her feet and took off towards the west, coming ever closer to Ocean's last location.

She wove through the forest as if she were a ghost, blending into her surroundings as if she were a chameleon. She remained silent and vigilant as they made their way into flatter country but the terrain was still heavily wooded. She soon came across some impassible underbrush.

"Need me to cut a path?" He offered, hefting the sword tied at his side.

The green snorted and shook her head violently. "Men and your axes and knives." He heard her mutter under her breath before she waved her horn across the path. To Logen's astonishment the tangle of brush and limbs quivered before sliding back with a sigh. The green unicorn stepped through the freshly made path with confidence.

Logen craned his head and watched as the path swallowed them up behind them, leaving no trail.

"That was amazing." He told his mount.

The green brushed off the flattery. "I am a Green," She proclaimed, "The earth and all that grows is my domain."

"What do you mean?"

"Each celestial unicorn has dominion over something. I am the Lady of Nature. Wherever my footsteps go new growth follows. I make sure that the fields of Balinor are rich and verdant." She whispered, making a tree lean back.

Logen leaned forward to get a look at the green's feet and sure enough he founds new vines, ferns, and moss spreading out from underneath her feet. He watched amazed as tiny flowers began to pop up and bloom a soft violet.

"What does Ocean lord over?"

"What do you think?" She asked amused.

"I was thinkin' water or somethin'…" His voice trailed off.

"Ocean is the head of his band of Indigos. He is a prince in his own right and the most powerful of his band. He is the Guardian of the Indigo Star." The green vaulted over some loose shale and skittered into another piece of brush. With a flick of her blazing horn and a flash of her jewel the vegetation bent to her will.

"What is the Indigo Star?" Logen asked, confused. He didn't realize that Ocean was that powerful.

"The Star is a jewel of power that contains the strength of the Indigo band. Of the seven bands that make up the rainbow it is the blue and green bands that hold the most power. Because of this a physical manifestation was called forth for each. The Indigo Star and the Jade Stone. They store power and bestow it upon Balinor."

"What makes blue and green so special?" Logen found himself asking, his head spinning trying to keep up with the tale.

"It is said to be the Father Above's favored colors, since they dominate the landscape. The Indigo Star is said to bring out night, push the oceans, and even make the rain fall. The Jade Stone breathes life into winter, makes things grow, and keeps the soil fertile." She paused in her trek and turned her head so that she could see her passenger more clearly.

"I am under the power of the Stone. Ocean is under the power of the Star. Only the leaders of our band know where these jewels exist. Ocean shares the power of the Star." There was a sense of wonder in her eyes. "The Star is protected by a dragon."

"Dragons exist?" Logen exclaimed.

"Many creatures exist. I take it they do not in your world?" She asked, curious.

"We 'ave animals, but they donna talk. They're ordinary, nothing like you or Ocean, or those things that attacked us." Logen explained.

"The creatures in your world would not be ordinary to me." She reasoned, resuming her pace.

Logen had to agree on that thought.

"I never got your name." He said suddenly as the brush began to thin.

"I am Emera." The green said elegantly. Stepping out into a clearing.

"Logen!" Came Ceraphina's elated squeal.

Logen jolted at his name and was glad to see the gypsy. He slid off Emera's back and was surprised to be embraced by the girl.

"I'm so glad that you're alright. I was worried." Upon approaching the green unicorn she bowed low to the ground out of respect, admiring the beautiful creature. "A real unicorn." She whispered.

Emera arched her dappled neck. "A real human." She retorted.

Logen snickered.

Ceraphina smiled good-naturedly.

Now that the two Outlanders had been united Emera left the two to talk amongst themselves and made her way over to Ocean. She touched noses with the stallion and stepped forward so that she nosed his withers and he did the same. It was a simple bonding ritual that reaffirmed their companionship. Itching each other's withers was a practice that even the horses of Logen's world practiced, he noted.

"My poor brother, I didn't want the rumors to be true." She whispered sadly.

Ocean huffed and pawed the earth, stepping away from his herd mate. He bobbed his head up and down silently and pushed his ears back.

It was as if all three suddenly asked the same question aloud at the same time.

"Where is Dria?" They asked in unison.

"She's not with you?" Logen asked Ceraphina, alarmed.

"I thought she was with you." Ceraphina shrugged her shoulders, putting her hands up in defense. All her bangles chimed down the length of her wrists in protest.

"You mean the queen was not with either of you?" Emera interjected, more forceful than Logen had heard from her before.

"We got separated when we went through that portal. It was as if we were pulled in a hundred different directions at once." Ceraphina explained, clutched her sides at the memory. She thought that she was going o be ripped in half from the force or die from suffocation.

"I had hoped Ildrianna had been with you, Ocean." Emera said mournfully. "I must find her. She can't have gotten far." She turned back to the Indigo. "Watch after the Outlanders. I will retrieve your Bonded." She stamped her hoof and baby ferns unfurled beneath her foot.

Ceraphina watched, fascinated.

"I must go quickly, and be back as soon as I can." With that the dappled green whirled in place and fled back into the forest and disappeared into the bark of a tree.

Logen rubbed his eyes and looked up at Ocean who stared intently at the place his herd mate had disappeared.

"'Tis that normal?" He asked, gesturing to the fact that the unicorn had melded into the trees.

Ocean nodded his head and began pacing, nervous, listening to the natural song of the forest.

Rhalluan came into consciousness slowly and painfully. He felt as if his chest was being crushed. He tried to open his eyes but he quickly squinted them shut, something was blocking and getting in his face. He went to brush it away and got his gauntlet tangled within locks of hair.

He slowly opened his eyes and realized that Ildrianna had yet to regain consciousness and she was collapsed on top of his body, the majority of her weight concentrated on his ribcage.

He was confused, wondering how he had come into this strange situation. He recalled diving in after her as she had crossed into the Gap. Then everything went dark. He remembered the Gap suffocating him, and then he had Dria in his arms.

He pushed her off him to get a better look at her. Spreading on the face of her forehead was a sickly twisting bruise blossoming in color. He touched it gently and the slightest brush caused her face to contort in pain. He pulled his hand away and gathered her up against him as he settled his back against the trunk of a tree.

He pulled off his gauntlets to free his hands and tenderly pushed away the hair from her face, revealing her beautiful heart-shaped face. His fingers traveled down the column of her neck, resting at the crook of her should and pressed his fingers down upon her skin.

He could feel the flutter of her heartbeat from the pulse point.

Satisfied that she didn't seem to be in any real danger from her condition, Rhalluan leaned back and closed his eyes. How long had it been since he had been alone with Dria? The last time he recalled such an occurrence was when his mother was alive. He flinched away from his mother's memory. He could hardly stand the thought of her just like he couldn't stand the thought of Dria.

Yet here she was in his arms.

His arms instinctively clutched her closer, wrapping her up in his armor. He never wanted to let her go.

He remembered the Outlander who came to her defense. What could she possibly see in him?

The prince ran his fingers through the girl's heavy mane. He loosened her braid to allow her hair to fall free like he remembered it.

"She has beautiful hair doesn't she, Rhalluan?" Queen Pela asked her son.

"I don't know." Rhalluan had answered, trying to squirm away from his mother's vice like grasp. She was preening, and she never stopped once she started. She ran a hand through his dark locks and pulled it into a low ponytail.

"I don't like you leaving her alone. I do not want to hear any more wild stories of you stranding her somewhere on the estate." She knelt down so that she was more eye-level with her son. "Will I?"

Rhalluan, then fifteen, had no interest in playing with a ten year old. "But mother, she's just so—"

"She is a little girl, my sweet, be nice to her." Pela got to her feet. She hugged her son and kissed him softly on the forehead. She straightened out his finely tailored shirt before looking at him. "My son, you mustn't let her go. She may be your saving grace from all this."

Rhalluan shook his head from reliving the past. He hated thinking about his mother. That was the last time he had ever spoken to his mother since before she died. She was always going on and on about little Ildrianna, making him escort her around their estate while her family was visiting, trying to patch things up between Balinor and the split Vurinada.

He looked down at the angelic face in his arms. A small smile graced his lips. He wished he could do this whenever he wanted. He stroked her face, rubbing the pad of his thumb across her lips. His fingers froze when her eyes fluttered open, revealing thunderous sea foam eyes.

She gasped and jerked away but found that his arms trapped her.

"Rhalluan." She breathed, shocked.

"Dria." He whispered back to her, reaching to push back his mass of wavy locks. It pleased him to find that she didn't flinch away from his touch as she had before.

The young queen took this time to regain her senses. There was a throbbing hurt pounding in her head. She was gathered rather intimately in the arms of her archenemy and her body was betraying her! She should have felt nothing but revulsion and disgust at his touch but she found that she had inexplicably relaxed. She felt like they were back in old times, when they would be with each other while their parents argued and raged at each other.

Then memory came crashing back to her as she remembered her Bonded, Logen, and Ceraphina. Her breath hitched in her throat as she looked about her wildly, causing her throbbing head to spin.

"Where are we?"

Rhalluan hushed her, capturing her cheek in one hand and stroking her racing pulse on her neck with the other. He looked deeply into those oceanic orbs that haunting him in his dreams and found himself at a loss for words. He had not seen her since she had fled from the winter castle that dark day in Balinor. He only had Estellana's feverish eyes to gaze at, a mockery compared to Ildrianna's. Rhalluan believed that he would never see the spirited girl he had grown up with. Yet here she was, in his arms, staring up at him expectantly.

"We've returned to Balinor." He finally informed her.

No matter how much she wanted to relax into his comforting touch she knew she shouldn't. He killed her parents. He turned her world up-side-down. He nearly tore her Bonded away from her for good.

Rhalluan could see her eyes harden, becoming unforgiving currents that cut through him mercilessly.

"Now that you have me, what do you plan to do with me?" She was nearly seething at him, invading his personal face.

Rhalluan could hardly breathe as she moved closer. The urge to crush his lips punishingly against hers was nearly overwhelming. He frosted his expression and remained impassive. "Nothing." He smiled as she leaned back, a confused expression muddling her beautiful face.

"What do you mean?" She asked, bewildered further by his devastating smile. When was the last time she had seen a smile like that grace his stony features? Not since she had seen his mother, queen Pela.

"My father has ordered me to kill you," Rhalluan leaned forward, the hand on her neck becoming more menacing. When he heard her gasp quietly he slid his hand to the back of her neck and explored her lovely locks. She remained rigid in his grasp.

"So why haven't you?" She asked, voice quivering. She swallowed, closing her eyes against him. He had just threatened her life and she couldn't stand to look at his mouth that said such awful things while his touch remained so tender and gentle. She couldn't comprehend the contradiction.

Rhalluan remained silent as he just stared at her, drinking in her presence. For this moment they were alone with nothing else to disturb them. Here she was not a queen but a young woman and he was not a loathsome prince but a man. He didn't want to think about the game that awaited them once this moment broke. For now, he was willing to steal as many moments as he could with this girl.

"Why do you think?" He asked, whispering in her ear as if he were telling her a secret. It took all his strength not to nibble her earlobe as he felt a shiver travel down her spine.

"Because you want to bring me before the court and execute me in public?" Came her biting reply, growling back at him.

He wasn't surprised in her answer. He deserved all she had to throw at him and more. The mental image she had conjured caused him to wince away from her. He would not present her like a whore for the entire world to see, especially to his father. No, if he were forced to cut her down he would do it in the seclusion of these wooded mountains so that she could finally and forever be his own to hold.

His grip tightened on her as she tried to resist and pull away.

"Because you have vowed to do the bidding of that vile brute you call a father?"

He stared at her impassively.

"Because you will kill me as easily as you killed my parents!" She found herself hitting him when she said that one, her fist grazing over hard metal and leather armor.

She was possessed by her grief and anger, her eyes flashing dangerously as she abandoned herself to her emotions. "You killed my family!" She raged, slapping the Prince of Darkness clear across the face. "You took them away from me!" She slapped him again. "You destroyed everything!" She pounded her fists into his chest, enraged that he did nothing to stop her so she kept pummeling him in vain, knowing that his armor was only tearing up her hands but she didn't care.

Rhalluan's mouth thinned into a firm line as he watched the woman in his arms hit him. He could almost taste her emotions as tears flooded her eyes and her voice became ragged as she tried to choke back sobs.

"You monster! You vile beast! How could you?" She cried, hitting his chest.

Rhalluan remained silent.

"How could you?" She wailed, slapping him hard across the face, this time drawing blood.

The prince recoiled from the blow, never believing that she could actually bring stars before his eyes. He rolled his tongue around in his mouth before spitting out blood. He didn't want to face her.

She gasped at the red collecting at the corner of his mouth. Dria had never done such a thin in her life. When she was around him he seemed to bring out the worst in her. That fact that she wanted to fix her mistake made her even more furious. She was not supposed to feel like this towards him. He was supposed to be ashamed of himself, not her.

"You're a monster." She finally spat out, scrambling to get away from him now that he had loosened his grasp. She backed away from him as if he were a rabid animal; one fast movement might set him off.

Rhalluan nodded before looking up at the wrathful girl in front of him.

"You're right." He merely agreed.

Ildrianna gaped at him, appalled. "What?"

"I am what you say." He got to his feet, wiping away the affliction from his mouth. He wanted to laugh.

"You weren't always…" Dria muttered, backing herself up against a tree. Her limbs felt heavy and sore, no doubt a side effect from traveling through the Gap.

The prince merely stared.

"The Rhal I knew could never hurt a fly! The Rhal I knew was always so kind to me. What happened?" Dria begged, wanting to know the source yet at the same time knowing the answer.

"Don't ask stupid questions, Dria." Rhalluan growled, taking a menacing step towards her. He snaked a hand out around her upper arm and yanked her from her spot. "A monster wouldn't suffer the thought of allowing you to live. A monster wouldn't keep your precious sister alive." He enjoyed the way her eye lit up at the mention of her sister. "Yes, neither of us are who we used to be."

"What do you mean?" Dria tried to pry Rhalluan's iron grip from her arm but she could so much as budge his fingers. She glared up at the face that had destroyed her life.

"What is he to you?"

Dria writhed under Rhalluan's piercing stare, feeling as though he had captured her image in his icy eyes. She felt lost in those eyes.

"Who are you talking about?" Dria tried to pull away but had her face caught by the prince's other hand. With tremendous force he made her look at him and she wanted to spit in his face. She refused to look at his perfect mouth.

"The boy who followed you through the Gap. Who. Is. He. To. You?" He ground out the question through clenched teeth, trying to squelch his rising hostilities toward the object of his affections.

Dria was a bit overjoyed when Rhalluan confirmed that Logen had made it through the Gap with her. On the other hand, it meant that he had been torn apart from his family, home, and entire world. She needed to speak with him to find out how he felt about the entire situation. She gave Rhalluan a knowing look before answering, "Jealous, are we?"

The was gratified to hear a growl growing deep in his throat, well worth the pain of his tightening and bruising grip upon her arm.

"Do you love him?" He seethed.

Dria was thrown by the question. She didn't think Rhal would be so direct about the issue. Unlike her, he wasn't afraid of consequences. He fought for what he wanted, which made her shiver. She pulled away from the hand that held her face.

"That is none of your business." She struggled against his other grasp.

"You didn't answer me." He grabbed at her again, pushing up against the tree. He watched as she winced as the bark cut into her back. He didn't care.

"You lost your privilege to know my mind the day you cut down my parents!" Ildrianna retaliated in her most royal voice, shoving him away with all her might. There had been a time in her life when she told this man her most intimate secrets of her heart and worries. The person before her was a shadow of the Rhalluan she had known most of her life.

Rhalluan staggered back, not expecting Dria to act so authoritative. It seemed that she had hardened since she had fled from Balinor. It both elated him and saddened him. Her heart was no longer open to him, he knew that, but having her scream it aloud to him just added salt to the wound. He had harmed her in every possible way imaginable. There was no redemption for the Prince of Darkness. He could feel the mark of evil on his back twist like a knife between his ribs as if to confirm it.

"I've hurt you in the most horrible way possible. I deserve the worst from you and more. But everything I've done was to protect you." He said quietly, his hands trembling in fists at his sides. He stepped closer to Dria and wrapped his arms around her waist, embracing her tenderly. "I promised I would always find you and I've not broken that promise." He whispered into her hair.

Dria's eyes widened as she remembered that long ago day in the gardens when she used to play hide-and-seek with a boy. He always found her no matter how well she was hidden. He had found her even while in another place and time.

"I won't lose you to someone like him." He tilted her head up before smashing his lips against her in a searing kiss.

Dria's world somehow tilted out of balance when she felt his hot lips crash into her own. It was the last thing she expected. His mouth was dominating, commanding the kiss to the point she was helpless to do anything against it. She tried to will herself to fight and her arms pushed weakly against him but to no avail. It was like being swept away in a torrential storm, all you could do was endure.

She whimpered into the intimate gesture that was full of raw emotion.

Rhalluan couldn't think there could be anything more heavenly than the feel of her against himself. He wanted to brand her. If that Outlander had so much as touched her the prince wanted to erase all thoughts and memory of him so that when she recalled this moment all she would think about would be him. She felt so good; he never wanted the moment to end.

His tongue darted out to explore her full bottom lip and was exhilarated to find that she parted her lips allowing him access. He plunged in, accepting her invitation and began battling with her tongue. He nearly groaned in pleasure when she bit down on his bottom lip, punishing him for being sold bold and rough.

Dria felt like she was on an emotional roller coaster. One moment she was furious with him, then next confused, and now she was ensorcelled with his treacherous mouth! What was going on?

But she reveled in the kiss. It was hot and passionate, brimming with emotion and more to the point that they threatened to engulf them both. She hated him! He was the bane of her existence! So why was the participating in this kiss?

She was so conflicted, thinking she was betraying her family and country with what she was doing. Her mind rejected the very thought of ever showing any sort of kindness to him and yet her heart openly committed mutiny.

She pushed into the kiss, clacking her teeth against his as she battled with his mouth but the prince always seemed one step ahead of her and instead drew out a heated moan of pleasure from his handling.

Rhalluan pulled her closer, running his hands through her hair when he heard the whinnying cry of a unicorn not too far. He reluctantly slowed the pace of the burning kiss, no longer emoting power but defeat. His lips parted from her, his breath ragged and uneven. He leaned his forehead against her, finding she was playing catch up with her lungs as well.

"I believe that's for you." He whispered to her, kissing her forehead affectionately before letting go completely of her. It was the hardest thing he had ever done in his life. For the thousandth time he wished that things had been different, that he was different, that circumstances had been different. Different so that he could be who he wanted to be around this girl.

Alas, sins of the father live on in the sins of the son, he thought bitterly.

He looked at Ildrianna and could see what could have been instead of what had really happened. He never would have thought that she would have thought him capable of slaying her parents, although he was not surprised.

Dria could se the torn look plainly displayed on Rhalluan's face and for a moment she could see the boy she once knew, the Rhal that she had known. It killed her inside to see this side of him. How could his actions possibly have protected her? How could he still act this way around her after everything he had done? Why hadn't he really killed her? Why wasn't he holding her captive? Why was he letting her go?

She bit her lip as she heard the calling unicorn again, hardly recognizing the sound. She glanced back at Rhalluan, his face now stoic and unreadable. It was far easier to hate this Rhal. "I will never forgive you." She promised him before running from the clearing.

"I wouldn't expect anything otherwise…" He nodded at her retreating form.

For a moment he nearly succumbed to the emotions that threatened to rip him apart yet he pulled himself together when his thoughts circled around to his father. He had to come up with an explanation of how he had come back across the Gap without the queen's head, that is, if he even told his father that she was still alive.

Facing his father again was a sobering thought.

He needed to find Harbinger. He had to get back to the Mourner.

He hoped that the brute hadn't been left stranded on the Other Side.

The Prince of Darkness set out across the mountain.

Dria ran from the clearing as if she were running from the winter castle all over again. She didn't spare a glance over her shoulder to see if Rhal was following her or not, her flight instincts took over. She followed the sound of the unicorn, vaulting over fallen logs and rough patches of terrain until she finally came face to face with an old friend.

"Emera!" Ildrianna exclaimed, wrapping her arms around the green's neck. Her fingers wove through the fine locks of her mane as she inhaled the sweet scent of pine and rosemary. "I never thought I would see you again!" She breathed, overwhelmed.

"My queen, I feared I had lost you forever." The green affectionately nuzzled her shoulder, puffing warm air against her neck.

Dria pulled back. "Where is my sister?"

Emera's eyes became sad. "She is held captive by Rhalluan. I cannot free her."

But to know the mere fact that she was alive, as Rhal had said, was joyous news. Dria had thought she had lost her entire family.

"My queen, we must rejoin your Bonded. Ocean is in a panic." She knelt so Dria could mount without difficulty and quickly began weaving her way through the forest back to the others who were waiting. "Many things have changed in Balinor since you have been away."

"What kind of changes?" Dria asked, before looking around. It seemed to be late summer here. A thought suddenly struck her. "How long have we been gone?"

Emera flicked an ear back at the woman on her back, tension charging her body. "It has almost been three years."

Dria nearly fell off Emera's back at hearing this. "Three years? That's impossible! Only two seasons have passed on the Other Side." Dria was dumbstruck at the time difference. Just how much had Balinor changed for the worse?

Some sauciness in this chapter, hope you enjoyed it. A lot happened in this chapter.

As always, please Read and Review!