Brave of Heart

Deep blue sky stretched over Central City from horizon to horizon. Not even a wisp of a cloud dared spoil the beauty of the day as the twin suns shone brightly. Sunlight glistened off the shining spirals of the city giving them an almost magical glow.

As the people of the city moved about with the concerns of their daily lives, a lone figure paused to turn her face skyward. Welcoming nature's offering Princess Azkadellia closed her eyes as a smile slowly crept over her features. After three long, cold days of rain the suns warmth tingled against her skin. Three days of being trapped in doors with lessons and duties was beginning to take a toll. While Azkadellia enjoyed the comforts of the palace she longed for some fresh air and freedom.

"What are you doing, Azzie?"

Opening her eyes she smiled at the man standing beside her. "I'm just enjoying the suns, Daddy. It seems as if they've been gone forever."

Smiling Ahamo offered his arm to the girl, she took it without hesitation. "Yes it does. So my dear, where would you like to go first?"

"May we walk along the canal?"

"Certainly." Placing his free hand atop the one wrapped around his arm, Ahamo led them forward at a leisurely pace. "So are you excited about leaving for Finaqua tomorrow?"

"Yes." The girl's smile broadened.

"Let me guess, you've packed a crateful of books to read while we're there?"

A bright blush crept up the girl's face as she ducked her head. "It's really not that many, just a few I've been wanting to read."

A heartfelt laugh shook Ahamo as he patted his daughter's hand. "It's alright, Azzie. I'm just teasing with you. I knew my little bookworm wouldn't be able to resist a chance to read in peace."

"There is so much to learn."

"I wish your sister shared a quarter of your interest in learning."

"DG likes to learn, she just prefers to be more hands on than scholarly."

"Always the diplomat. You'll be a great help to your mother at court next annual."

He noticed the smile faded. "Is something wrong, sweetheart?"

"No, I just, I'm not sure I'm ready to attend court."

"I wish I could tell you that you didn't have to go, or we could put it off another annual, but it is the custom. When the heir-apparent reaches her thirteenth annual she must begin attending court. It's time for you to begin hands on training in diplomacy and interacting with other leaders."

"I know." She answered quietly.

"What is it, Azzie?"

Bowing her head the girl spoke softly. "I already spend most of my days in lessons and training, when we return I'll have to work even harder. When will I have time to spend with you and Deeg?"

Placing a crooked finger under her chin he tilted her face upward. The tears glistening in her brown eyes brought a sad smile to his face. "Unfortunately, that is one of the prices of growing up, my dear. As you get older there will be less and less time for the things you enjoy doing. That is why you must make the most of the time you have. This will be your last summer with your sister as a little girl, but she will always be your sister. And as you grow older you'll learn to make time for her, and maybe even a moment or two for your old dad."

"Oh daddy." She leaned up and kissed his cheek before resting her head on his shoulder. "I promise, I'll always find time for you."

There were times when he wished he could rescue his little girl from the burden she was born to bare. The child's entire life had been structured around her one day taking the throne. While he and Lurline had tried to give her and DG as normal a life as possible, the weight of the crown was always there. Not that Azkadellia ever complained about it, she had understood her place in the world at an early age and she always bore it with grace.

Still with his little girl on the verge of womanhood, Ahamo knew her responsibilities would increase as she tried to lighten her mother's load. Just as her mother had done for her mother before her.

Though he would not tell her, he too was concerned about her arrival at court. Not only was she expected to learn diplomatic training, but her arrival signaled her coming of age. It was only a matter of time before he would have to stand by as eager young men tried to capture her attention. Soon she would be attending balls and other grand events not as his little Azzie, but as Royal Princess Azkadellia Gale, the future queen of the O.Z.. Till then he was determined to enjoy as much time with her as he could.

Strolling leisurely along the city sidewalks passerby's paid little heed of the man walking with his daughter. No one even noticed the two plain clothed guards walking behind the pair. The guards held back allowing them some privacy, yet close enough to protect the royals should trouble arise.

Light hearted giggles slipped from the girl's lips as her father pointed out little things of interest.

Turning a corner they reached the sidewalk which followed the canal. Az pointed to its swollen banks. "It looks ready to top the flood wall."

"Yes, it appears all of the rain has filled the reserves and overflowed into the canal."

"Ahamo."

Both looked up to find a well dressed man moving toward them. There was a bounce to his step in spite of the cane he carried.

A smile spread over Ahamo's face as he accepted the white gloved hand the gentleman offered. "Mystic man, how are you my friend?"

"As well as an old showman can be." His smile broadened as he turned to Azkadellia and bowed deeply. "Ah, Princess Azkadellia." Accepting her hand he kissed it then held it a moment longer. "My dear, you grow lovelier everyday."

Blush crept up Az's cheeks as she curtsied in response. "Thank you."

Smiling at her embarrassment he looked to Ahamo. "And where is your lovely wife and little Princess DG?"

"They're at the palace. Since the weather broke I promised Azkadellia a walk."

Motioning skyward the older man tilted his head back slightly. "Tis a lovely day for it."

"We were going to take a walk along the canal, would you like to join us?" Ahamo asked.

"I'd be honored. That is if the Princess doesn't mind my tagging along?"

Az looked from the Mystic Man to her father and back again. "No, I don't mind."

"Thank you, Your Highness." With a slight bow to her, he fell in beside Ahamo matching their pace as they walked.

As the Mystic Man joined them Azkadellia noticed two Tin Men appeared ahead of them on the path. Stealing a glance over her shoulder she spied two fedora covered heads shadowing them.

"Is something wrong, Princess?"

She turned to the man. "No, I didn't realize there were so many Tin Men in the area."

"Don't be alarmed, they are part of my protection detail. They're good men but," Lowering his voice he leaned toward her. "At times they can be a bit smothering."

Fighting a giggle Azkadellia smiled. Having spent her life surrounded by bodyguards she could sympathize.

Her father and the Mystic Man fell into friendly chatter as they walked. Though Azkadellia tried to focus on their conversation her attention was drawn to the children playing in the grass just beyond the great stone wall.

Watching a small girl chase after a runaway ball, she regretted not bringing her sister along. The regret lasted only a moment as she remembered what happened the last time the child had joined them on a walk. DG had wanted to run through the streets as if she were in the woods of Finaqua. When she slipped down an alley unnoticed, they spent nearly half an hour frantically searching for her. While the minutes ticked away Ahamo, Azkadellia and the Royal Guards grew more concerned.

Rounding a corner she spied the dark haired girl standing at an intersection, slowly turning in circles. At the sight of the child Azkadellia's concern quickly turned to anger.

Her mind raced through all the ways she was going to scold her sister. Stomping up to the child she stopped within arm's reach. Placing her hands on her hips she gave a very convincing impersonation of her mother's best scolding look. "Dorothy Gale!"

Spinning to find her big sister towering over her, DG threw herself at the older girl. "Az!"

All of her anger faded as her little sister clung to her, sobbing about being lost and not knowing how to get home.

No matter the offense she had never been able to withstand her little sister's tears. All thoughts of the harsh scolding were forgotten as she knelt and embraced the child, offering reassuring words of comfort. Once the tears were dried they made their way hand in hand back to the others.

'Yes,' she thought. 'it's better DG isn't here. Besides, she's probably torturing Tutor right about now.' The girl smiled at the image of her little sister unintentionally driving their teacher to madness with her lack of attention and constant questions.

Several men carrying shovels and bags rushed pass bumping her into her father.

"Sorry, Miss." called the man who struck her, without breaking stride.

"What was that all about?" Ahamo wondered aloud.

"I don't know, but it warrants some investigation." The Mystic Man turned to a tall, lanky Tin Man several feet away. "Morse, run ahead and see what is going on."

"Yes, sir." The young man answered, sprinting away.

Before the young lawman could return screams and shouts began to spread among the small crowd gathered several yards ahead.

Morse broke from the group running at them full force. "Sir!" He slid to a halt before the Mystic Man. "We need to get you out of here, now. The flood wall is crumbling, it's going to fail soon."

"If that wall fails we'll lose the entire lower section of the city." Ahamo said.

"Yes sir, they've begun evacuating the area. Please, we need to get you to safety."

Ignoring the man Ahamo turned to the Mystic Man. "Send some of your men to the lock gate further up and shut off the water, then send some more to the locks further down. Perhaps we can take some of the pressure off of this section of the wall."

"Good idea. Morse, get the others, send Phillips and Cain to the north lock and everyone else to the south locks."

"Yes, sir." Once more the young man disappeared into the crowd.

"Jacobs!" Ahamo motioned to one of the plain clothes guards. With several quick strides the man was at his side. "Sir?"

"Take the princess back to the palace and let the Queen know what is happening."

"Yes, sir."

Clutching Ahamo's arm Az felt panic start to build in the pit of her stomach. "Daddy, what are you going to do?"

"I'm going to help with the evacuation, sweetheart."

"No." Planting her feet Azkadellia tightened her grip on his arm.

Trying not to flinch at the fingers digging into his arm Ahamo cupped her cheek. "It will be alright, Azzie." He smiled at the tears gathering in her brown eyes. "I promise. Now go with Jacobs, I'll be along as soon as I can." Kissing her forehead he patted her cheek and pulled from her grasp. As he disappeared into the crowd she took a step forward to rush after him.

Stepping into her path the Mystic Man effectively blocked her. "He'll be alright, Princess."

"Your Highness," Jacobs waited for her to face him. "We should go now."

"No." Straightening she forced her fear down and faced him squarely. "If there is trouble I should be here. The people need to know they won't be abandoned."

"Spoken as a true leader." The Mystic man smiled at her. "Your mother would be proud. But she would never forgive me if something were to happen to you."

"But I want to help."

"I know my dear. But you are the future of the O.Z., we cannot risk your life."

A scream drew their attention to the crowd. Men were frantically stacking sand bags before the wall in an effort to support it. But in spite of their efforts small leaks were starting to form through out the structure.

A woman carrying a small child stumbled at the edge of the crowd. Curling up she was forced to shield the child from the trampling feet of the panicked people.

With more speed than Azkadellia would have thought him capable the Mystic Man rushed to the woman. Using his body to shield her, he helped her to her feet, as the woman rose she thanked him. A loud creaking sound filled the air. All eyes turned to the stone wall as larger cracks formed, then several blocks at the top of the wall broke loose.

Standing near the base of the wall the Mystic Man turned his gaze upward. As debris and water began to rain down on him and the crowd, he knew they would not be able to out run it. Panicked screams filled the air as others realized the wall was collapsing.

Bracing for the impact, the Mystic Man closed his eyes. But the crushing blow did not come, the screams of terror turned to cheers.

Opening his eyes the Mystic Man stared in wonder at the blocks and water suspended in air over his head. Turning he found Azkadellia standing behind him, her arms outstretched and palms flat. Though the princess stood tall, one could see the strain in her face as she struggled to hold back the wall of water.

"Everyone get to high ground." Moving to Azkadellia's side he smiled. "You're doing well Princess, just hang on."

"Alright." She gasped. Closing her eyes she drew a deep breath, focusing all of her magic on the task at hand.

Ahamo rushed from the crowd, but the Mystic Man stopped him before he could reach her. "What are you doing?"

"I'm going to get my daughter out of here."

The older man caught his arm and held him with surprising strength. "She is all that is standing between us and a flood. I do not think it would be wise to distract her."

Opening his mouth to protest, Ahamo paused to look over the fleeing crowd.

"If she releases the wall now many of these people will not survive."

Looking from the frightened people to his daughter and back he felt his stomach knot. "You're right. But I don't know how long she can hold this."

"Every minute is a chance to save more lives."

"Agreed." Ahamo answered softly.

"Good, I'll see about getting some vehicles to remove those who can't run."

Ahamo nodded.

Satisfied the Mystic Man slapped his shoulder and headed off.

Carefully approaching his daughter, he spoke softly so as not to startle her. "It's alright sweetheart, we'll get you out of here as soon as possible. Are you alright?"

"Yes, Daddy." Though she refused to admit it he could hear the strain in her voice.

Turning to Jacobs he could see the fear in the young man's face. "I'm sorry, sir. I was trying to get her to leave, then the wall gave way. Before I could stop her she was there holding it in place."

Placing a hand on the man's shoulder Ahamo gave him a reassuring pat. "It's alright. What's done is done. Now I want you to find Marlin, tell him to get the Queen. Then I want you to watch over the Princess. Do not let anyone distract her."

"Yes, sir." The young man quickly moved off to carry out his orders.

--------

Time seemed to move in slow motion as everyone worked to clear the area. Helping load several elderly people onto a bus, Ahamo stepped away from the convoy to see how things were progressing. Word had spread quickly of the threatening flood and everyone had been removed from the area of the wall. All except the princess who stood with arms still outstretched holding the water at bay. Nearly thirty minutes had passed since the wall's collapse and he wondered how much longer his daughter could maintain her position.

A hand touched his sleeve and he looked down into the face of an elderly woman, with white hair and sunken eyes. She smiled at him. "The Princess is truly a gift to the House of Gale."

"Yes, she is."

"She will lead the O.Z. to places it's never been before."

"I'm sure she will."

Patting his arm she turned to a young man who was trying to guide her to one of the waiting vehicles.

With the evacuation well in hand, Ahamo went to check on his daughter. From a distance it had seemed the princess was holding her own. But as he drew closer his heart dropped.

Tears stained her cheeks as she fought to hold her position and her slender body trembled from the strain. Small drag marks in the dirt offered tattletale signs she was losing her battle against the weight of the water.

Resisting the urge to touch her shoulder he spoke softly. "Hang on sweetheart, it won't be much longer."

Unable to answer she nodded slightly, a small drop of blood slipped down her chin as she bit her lip to keep from crying out. Pain, fear and exhaustion battled for control of her body. Tutor's hardest lesson had not prepared her for what she was feeling at the moment. Though her magic was nearly exhausted she refused to let go. The people needed her to be strong and she would not fail them. She felt her feet slide back another inch. Drawing

a deep breath she pushed back, the effort caused her body to tremble harder. 'Just a little longer.' Silently she chanted the mantra.

Clutching her dress in her hands Lurline came running over the ridge, closely followed by Ambrose and one of the royal guards. At the top of the hill she paused to take in the scene. A lone figure stood before the crumbled wall. "Azkadellia? Oh, gods." The color slipped from her cheeks as she started down the hill.

Ahamo ran to meet her catching her in his arms. "Don't. You'll break her concentration."

"How long has she been holding the wall?"

"Nearly thirty minutes."

"Thirty minutes!" She cried in horror. "Her body's too young to handle that kind of stress."

"I don't know how to get her out of the way without the wall collapsing on her."

"I do." Stepping away from her husband Lurline planted her feet, then drawing a deep breath she raised her hands. Holding the palms out, she slowly straightened her arms. As she did the water moved back. With a quick thrust of her hands the blocks of the wall fell solidly back into place.

With nothing to support her Azkadellia swayed for a moment before dropping to her knees. Strong arms grasped her shoulders, keeping her from falling face first into the dirt. Then the arms swept her up and cradled her, tilting her head back she found herself face to face with the Mystic Man.

"It's alright, Princess. I have you."

Something in the man's gentle smile seemed so welcoming, unable to hold her head up she leaned against his shoulder.

Ahamo moved closer reaching for his daughter, the Mystic Man handed her off as gently as possible.

"Azzie?"

Long lashes fluttered open, but as he caught a glimpse of the brown eyes beneath the lashes drifted closed. "Daddy?"

"I'm here, sweetheart." Pulling her to him he kissed her forehead.

Lurline appeared before him and took her daughter's hand, as she placed the other on Az's forehead. Closing her eyes she used her magic to check for any injuries.

Her eyes snapped open, meeting her husband's waiting gaze. "We need to get her back to the palace."

"Is she alright?" Ambrose asked.

"I don't know." Fear clouded lavender eyes as she brushed hair from her daughter's face. "I've never seen her so exhausted. I want Tutor and a healer to check her."

Ahamo turned and started toward the palace.

"Wait." The Mystic Man called. "Take my car."

"Thank you." Ahamo replied as the man led them to a dark sedan.

As he held the car door open Ahamo climbed in cradling Az. Lurline slid in beside him. Once she settled he lowered Az's head into her lap. Lurline stroked her daughter's hair as Ambrose and the Mystic Man climbed in taking the seat facing them.

While the sedan sped down the crowded city streets the Mystic Man watched as the worried parents hovered over their daughter. "I've never seen one so young show such magical strength. She may well be one of the strongest Gale's in several generations."

Taking a handkerchief from her sleeve Lurline tried to smile as she wiped the blood from her daughter's pale chin. "Yes, she maybe." Lost in her thoughts she continued. "I'm so use to chasing after DG and watching her train, I sometimes forget how much Azkadellia has grown. She is so quiet and reserved it is easy to miss how powerful she can be."

As they reached the palace entrance the small group slipped from the car. Lurline led the way as they climb the steps and entered the palace.

Entering the foyer she turned back. "Ambrose, would you find Tutor and tell him to meet us in Azkadellia's chambers, please."

"Certainly, Your Majesty." He sprinted down the hallway.

Servants and palace guards stopped to watch with concern as the small group made its way through the palace. Word spread quickly of what had happened and all wondered if their princess would recover. While all in the palace fawned over DG as the youngest, they adored their future queen.

As the group approached the princess's bed chambers DG came running at them from the opposite direction. At first the child was smiling, but as she drew closer she noticed her sister's limp form. She could feel the fear in the adults surrounding her. Darting to her father's side she tried to reach for her sister's hand, but her mother caught her arm and pulled her back. "No sweetheart, you must not touch Azkadellia right now."

She held the child at bay as Ahamo slipped into the bedchamber followed by Tutor, who closed the door behind them.

"But why?"

"She needs to rest. She can't use her magic right now."

DG was old enough to know if Az couldn't use her magic something was seriously wrong. Fear gripped her little heart and she began to cry. "I want to go with Az."

"Not right now, angel. You can see her after she has rested."

"No. Az!" Pulling against her mother's grip she tried to reach the door.

"DG, angel please, you can't go in there." Lifting the child into her arms Lurline held her close. "I need you to stay here while I go check on Az." Turning to her advisor the Queen looked for help. "Ambrose, will you please take DG while I go inside?"

"Of course, Your Majesty." He took the child from her mother's arms.

"No, I want to be with Az." DG cried as she struggled in his arms.

"Hush now, angel. I'll send for you as soon as possible." She kissed the girl's cheek then disappeared into the bedchamber.

The chamber maids fought back tears as they watched the Queen's advisor shift the little princess in his arms and carry her away. Crying out for her sister she struggled against him with all her strength.

Though he tried to reason with her she would not be comforted. Finally, in exhaustion she curled up in his arms, burying her face against his shoulder. Tear streaks covered her little face as she silently clung to the man's jacket.

"I want to be with Az." She spoke softly, her voice raw from crying.

"I know little one, but the healers are with her now. You can see her when they're through."

"I'm sacred, Ambrose."

"I know, little one. But the healer will take good care of her." Placing a gentle kiss against her hair, he held her close. Silently he offered a prayer to Ozma to protect his little princess's.

Stopping before a large window overlooking the palace gates, Ambrose swayed gently trying to comfort her. Several stories below a crowd had gathered outside the front gate.

Eying the crowd DG did not lift her head. "Why are they here?"

The Mystic man moved to Ambrose's side. "They are here for your sister."

Raising her head DG eyed the man. "But Az is sick."

"That is why they are here. They are worried about their princess. You should be proud of your sister, she is very brave."

"I know. She protects me at night from the storms."

A wide smile spread over the man's face. "That is a very brave act indeed. Do you know what your sister did today?"

Shaking her head from side to side the child stared at him.

"She did something very heroic. Would you like me to tell you about it?"

"Okay."

"Very well, then." Holding out his arms, she reached out to him without hesitation. Taking her from Ambrose's arms he moved to a nearby bench. Sitting down he held her in his lap.

"Do you know the canal wall near the park?"

"un huh, I've played there before."

"Very good, well all of the rain from the last few days caused the wall to break." Lowering his voice for dramatic flair, he swept an arm out as he spoke. "As the wall began to fall, the water rushed forward threatening to wash all of the people in the park away."

The child's eyes grew wide. "Did they float away?"

"No, and do you know why?"

She shook her head no.

"Because as the wall began to fall, your sister stood in front of it and used her magic to hold back the water.

Tilting her head to one side the child frowned at him. "Az, held back all of that water by herself?"

"She certainly did. What's more she held it till your mother came and used her magic to fix the wall."

"Were all the people saved?"

"Yes, they were."

"Was the water heavy?"

"It was very heavy."

"And she held it for a long time?"

"Yes, she did."

The Mystic Man had expected the girl to be excited by the story. But instead her small brow furrowed deeply. "Is that why she won't wake up?"

"I believe it is, my dear. She is very strong, but it wore her out and now she needs to rest."

"Is she going to be okay?"

"I hope so, little one." He placed a gentle kiss on the side of her head. "I hope so. But now she needs for you to be strong. Your parents will have to look after her and they need to know you are safe. Can you be strong for them?"

DG nodded. "Yes."

"Good girl."

She laid against his chest and he wrapped his arms around her.

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

Within Azkadellia's chambers Tutor and the healer examined the unconscious girl. For what seemed like an eternity her parents stood at the foot of the bed and watched. Finally, Tutor straightened and met the healer's gaze, with a slight nod he turned to the waiting parents.

The older man shook his head as he approached. "She is exhausted and it will take several days for her strength to return. But I believe she will recover fully."

With a collective sigh the couple hugged each other.

"Her body under much stress, will be sore for several days." The healer warned.

"She'll probably sleep through the night and perhaps well into tomorrow, but if she should awake she must not use her magic. It will only weaken her further. I will check her again tomorrow to see how quickly she is recovering."

"Thank you." Lurline offered. "We should tell Ambrose and DG."

"I wouldn't let DG near her while she is sleeping." Tutor warned.

Ahamo frowned at him. "Why not?"

"DG doesn't know how to control her magic, she is going to want to touch Azkadellia and she may even try to link their magic. That could be dangerous at the moment."

"I understand your concerns. We will take the necessary precautions to make sure she does not touch, Azkadellia. But she will be heartbroken if she cannot at least see her sister." Lurline spoke softly. "Thank you, Tutor."

"Yes," Ahamo spoke. "thank you, both."

"You're welcome, Your Majesties. I'll go let the others know she is alright." With a bow he left the room.

The healer bowed and followed after him. Lurline moved to the bed and sat down on the edge. Lifting a limp hand she brought it to her lips, placing a gentle kiss on it. Tears blurred her vision as she watched her daughter sleep.

"Lurline, she's going to be alright."

'I know. It just hurts to see her like this."

Sitting on the bed behind her, he placed a hand on her shoulder. "I know, my dear. When the wall collapsed I thought I had lost her." His voice hitched and she turned to face him.

Placing a hand on his cheek she kissed him softly. "My love, she's safe now."

He pulled her into his arms holding her close. "I know."

There was a soft knock at the door and they turned as Ambrose leaned in. "Your Majesty, may we come in?"

"Of course." Lurline stood wiping tears from her eyes.

Ambrose entered holding DG's hand.

"Come here, angel." She leaned over with open arms.

Running to the embrace, she wrapped her arms around her mother's neck as she was lifted from the ground. Lurline held her close, rocking her gently.

Over her mother's shoulder she could see her sister asleep in the bed. Ahamo placed a hand on his daughter's back. "It's alright, darling. Az is going to be fine."

"Can I stay with her?" DG asked leaning back.

Lurline chuckled. "Yes, sweetheart, you may stay. But, you must not touch her or try to link magic with her, especially while she is sleeping. Do you understand?"

DG nodded. "Yes, ma'am."

"Good." Moving to a nearby chair, Lurline sat down with her daughter in her lap. "Ambrose, would you announce to the people that Azkadellia is recovering and will be back on her feet in a few days. Also, let the staff know as soon as she is able to travel we'll be leaving for Finaqua."

"Certainly, Your Majesty." Bowing he left the room.

Stroking DG's hair, Lurline hummed quietly to her.

Resting her head on her mother's chest, DG did not take her eyes from her sister.

The hours ticked away as they kept watch by the girl's bedside. Shortly before dusk DG dozed off. When she awoke it was dark out and a lone candle lit the room. Lurline was sleeping soundly and Ahamo snored softly from his position on the bench seat under the window.

A soft moan drew DG's attention to the bed and she watched as Az began to move. Moving her arms Azkadellia gasped in pain.

Slipping from her mother's lap DG moved to the edge of the bed. "Az?" She whispered.

Long lashes blinked heavily as she fought to push through her fatigue. "Deeg?" Turning toward the girl she tried to lift her head. But pain shot through her neck muscles and she groaned.

Reaching for her sister's hand DG grabbed the blanket instead, remembering her promise to her mother. "You shouldn't move around. Mother, said you need to rest."

Slowly turning her head toward her sister Azkadellia watched her for a moment. "Did mother fix the wall?"

"Yes."

"Good." Closing her eyes she tried to relax into the mattress. All of her muscles ached and she grit her teeth against the pain.

"Az?"

"Yes?"

"Are you going to be okay?"

The fear in her little sister's voice drew her out of the pain, she smiled at the child. "I'm okay, Deeg. I'm just sore." Blue eyes watched her closely. "Come on, lie down with me." Slowly sliding her hand across the blanket she offered it to the child.

Eying the hand DG looked on the verge of tears. "I can't."

"Why not?"

"Mother, said I couldn't touch you."

"What? Why?"

"She said your magic is weak and I have to wait till it's stronger." Ducking her head she whispered. "Tutor said I might hurt you."

"That's silly. You won't hurt me. Come on."

DG looked at her debating if she should or not.

"Please, Deeg. I want you to sleep with me."

Kicking off her shoes DG climbed onto the bed slipping beneath the blankets. Resting her head on her sister's shoulder she curled up against the older girl.

"Az, you feel cold."

"I am cold. It's just a side affect of exhausting my magic."

As the child snuggled up to her, Azkadellia wrapped an arm around her. Laying her head against the one on her shoulder she sighed.

"The Mystic Man said you are very brave."

"He did?"

"Yes, he said I should be proud of you. I told him I'm always proud of you."

"Thanks, Deeg.

"Az?"

"Hum?"

"When we get to Finaqua are you going to be able to play with me?"

Azkadellia chuckled softly. "By the time we reach Finaqua I'll be fine. Then we can play as long as you want. Now go to sleep, little sister."

In a few minutes both were sleeping soundly. Lurline awoke and realized DG was missing. Sitting up she almost cried out as she spied the child curled up on the bed. Moving to the side of the bed she watched the girls huddled together. Her girls looked so peaceful, she should have known they would not be happy unless they were together. The paleness had left Azkadellia's cheeks and even in the dim light she looked healthier. Resisting an urge to touch them, instead she took a blanket from the foot of the bed and laid it over them. Satisfied all was well she returned to the chair and watched them sleep. Soon they would be at Finaqua and there would be nothing to harm them there. Satisfied her children were safe she drifted back to sleep.

The end