Yeah it's me. Sorry it took so long. Here ya go. Enjoy!

Chapter 19



I am so ebil!

I fought hard to stifle my laughter. My memory of last night threatened to send me into convulsions of laughter. The look on the boy's faces…!

I couldn't help it. I laughed.

"What's so funny?" Edward asked me suspiciously.

I covered my mouth, trying to stop laughing.

"Nothing." I said innocently.

"Where are we headed now?" Roy asked me.

"We'll reach the Dark Forest soon. After that we'll enter the East town. That's the settlement of Nadraks I told you about." I told him.

"How much farther?" Alphonse asked me.

"Not much till the forest." I answered, "We did most of the walking yesterday. Once we reach the settlement I'll buy horses to help us cross the mountain passes."

After that most of us fell silent. We had left before dawn and I estimated that we'd reach the Forest at noon. As the day progressed, our conversations became shorter and shorter. Most of us saved our breaths for the trek instead.

Finally, we came in sight of the edge of the forest.

"There!" Alphonse shouted, "I see trees!"

"Great!" puffed Winry.

"We'll stop for lunch under the shade." I decided, "Then we'll make our way to the settlement. Hopefully we'll get there before dark."

No one argued but I think it's just because they were tired. I couldn't blame them. I had been driving them like a slave driver to make it in time. I chafed at the delay of bringing them along. I needed to reach the capital soon.

I distributed the dried meat and fruit that I had taken from the cave. We all drank water from our containers. We were done in fifteen minutes. I rallied them to stand and push on.

"Oh come on!" Edward complained, "Let's rest first."

"We have to go now!" I said, "We need to get to the settlement."

"Come on Fullmetal." Roy said, getting up and helping Riza to stand, "We need to go."

Edward grumbled but let his brother pull him up.

We set off into the forest. I led the way with Roy following me closely and Riza just a step behind him. Then came Winry and Ed. Alphonse took up the rear.

Our trip was uneventful. The wild animals that inhabited the forest left us alone...It seems that it pays to speak wolf after all.

To my distress, no matter how much I pushed them to hurry, night fell and we were still half a mile away from the settlement.

"We should stop for the night." Roy said.

I frowned, "We need to get out of the forest NOW."

"Why?" Alphonse asked me.

"I promised the wolves we'd be out of their territory before night fell."

"WOLVES?" Winry exclaimed, "There are wild animals in this forest?"

I sent her an annoyed look.

"Of course there are. It's a forest. What did you expect?"

"Wait a minute." Riza interrupted, "Promised? How did you promise them something…let along talk to them."

I blushed sheepishly, "Whoops. I guess I forgot to mention that I can speak to animals?"

Roy glared at me, "Why yes." He said sarcastically, "I think you did."

"Well it kind of easy to pick up when I can turn into any one of them!" I exclaimed, "Geez, you're so dense. You SAW me turn into an owl didn't you? Did you expect me to just have ONE different form?"

I stopped suddenly. Everyone was staring at me like I was a maniac…wait…maybe I was.

I let out a breath, "Never mind. We have to keep going. Okay? We should get to the settlement in another hour or so…if we walk fast."

"And just how are we to do that?" Roy asked, "Or if you haven't noticed it's a bit dark out here."

I glared at him. Geez, these guys must be blind. The moon was full for sorcery's sake! But I let it pass. I cupped my hands and breathed into them.

"Flame…" I whispered.

And there cupped in my hands was an orb of fire. I lifted my hands and let the orb go. It floated in the air and illuminated the ground around us.

"There." I said, sending a scathing look in his direction, "Happy?"

None of them answered. I think they were in shock.

Shaking my head I checked that all of our disguises were in perfect order. The boys were wearing breeches and leather jerkins with dark brown cloaks over them. Al was…well he was Al. I made the girls change from their dancing costumes to slightly less revealing skin tight leather clothes. Let's just say that there were blood red faces from both the girls and the boys in our little group. We also wore collars around our necks and the brown cloaks. They were pretty much a staple throughout the entire Old World.

Once I was sure that everything was in order. I set off again, leading the way to East Town.

When we drew in sight of the walled settlement, I briefed the others on what to expect. Roy would do much of the talking and the rest should just keep quiet.

We reached the gate with little incident. The guard on duty didn't give us a hard time…something that I would look into. Security here should have been tight. Anyway, enough of that!

I led them to one of the inns within the settlement.

Just then something…someone caught my eye…

"By the Gods!" I swore, "What is he doing here?"

Roy turned to me with a questioning look.

"Later!" I whispered hurriedly pushing them through the door, "Go on! Sit there." I pointed at a table in the corner.

It wasn't even a moment after we were seated and given plates of food and wooden cups of dark brown ale that a burly looking Nadrak tanner strode over to our table.

"And who might you be?" Roy asked.

"Never you mind!" the Nadrak snarled, "You on the other hand," he said, provoking Roy by poking a finger at him, "Are a stranger! And strangers have no place here in East Town."

Roy opened his mouth to retort but I got there before him.

"Why don't you go shove off?" I demanded, putting a bored tone in my voice, "We're trying to eat here and you're not helping my appetite."

The Nadrak purpled in rage, "How dare you…you…"

I glared at him, my eyes burning into his, "Don't you dare say another word."

The tanner's mouth opened and closed soundlessly, he looked like a fish…

"Now why don't you turn your fat little behind around and leave us alone?" I asked.

The man was turning already. Apparently he wasn't used to the people he bullied to bully him back.

"Nice job." Ed said gruffly.

I raised my eyebrow at him, "A compliment? I'm flattered."

The small teen just scowled at me.

I sighed in relief. One potential eruption averted. Now that left the trouble of Het… I was sure that it was the Horse Lord that I saw outside the inn. It was impossible to mistake his long black ponytail and his eagle sharp eyes. His being on a proud black stallion also had something to do with his looking out of place. It was rare for him to be far from his people…he would leave only for important reasons. And if I knew Het he'd have a really important reason to be so far from his people, the Algars.

"So why did you suddenly push us in here?" Roy asked quietly.

"I saw someone I knew." I said just as quietly, "I didn't expect to see him here."

"You mean the warrior on the tall horse?" Al asked.

I nodded, surprised that the youth would notice him.

I was about to elaborate when a merchant walked over and introduced himself.

"Hey. I'm Thrall. Heard your little conversation with Bull there." He said, jerking a thumb in the direction of the man who bothered us a while ago.

I nudged Roy with my toe. He got the hint.

"Name's Roy, how may I help you?"

"Well I couldn't help but notice your woman here." He glanced at me, "Was wondering if you'd like to sell her."

The table was suddenly silent. Sheesh. Now how do I get out of this.

"Come of it!" I snapped, standing up to look down at him, "Look at him Roy, he couldn't afford me."

Roy shrugged, playing along.

"I am rather attached to her." he said grinning.

I glared at him, I'd remember that for later.

"Come on, I'll pay 15 silvers." The merchant haggled.

"Too low! No less than fifty!" I snapped.

"You're pretty girl." Thrall said, "But I'm not handing over that much for you. I don't even know if you dance."

"You pig. My price just went up ten silvers."

Out of the corner of my eye I noticed that Ed, Al and the other two girls were staring.

"Why don't you dance and we'll talk about it."

"What if I really don't want to?" Roy asked mildly.

"How about a wager then?" Thrall suggested, "I'll pay sixty silvers for the girl if she dances here and now and I still want to buy her. If I don't then you can keep her."

I laughed loudly and shook my head at him, "If I dance you won't be able to afford me."

"Well?" Thrall asked Roy.

I nudged him with my toe.

"Fine." Roy said, leaning back, "But I still don't feel like selling."

That settled things. Since I hadn't expected to give any performances, I was dressed in the leather outfit that consisted of formfitting pants, vest and boots. True it sounded masculine but with the way it was cut and the way it clung to me like second skin no one would mistake me for anything less than a woman. I had no time to change so I just had to make do.

Since our little discussion had grown a bit heated and since any patron of a Nadrak tavern loves a good dance, a lot of people were interested in what was going on.

Ever the show off, Roy addressed them regally.

"This is the beat."

Then clapped his hands to the beat I had coached him on. Three measured beats followed by four staccato ones.

I dug in my bag for my bangles and anklets. After slipping them on, I strutted to the middle of the room.

That's it. Sorry guys. The dance will be in the next chapter. Also, a new character is going to be introduced. Someone who knows Sophie!

Till next time,