It's been over eight months since I've posted a new chapter. So, THANK YOU if you are reading this. I had a few rough months earlier this year and there were simply too little time to do all the things I wanted to do. Since it's been a while, some readers may have forgotten the main plot lines of this story but I will make up for that by providing some brief notes before the start of all future chapters to make things easier for everyone.

In chapter 33, Dannyl had to separate from the rest of the Guild magicians to help Tayend who was alone in the city. When explaining to Rothen his reasons for doing so, his former guardian surmised the nature of their relationship and took Dannyl by further surprise when he offered help in protecting Tayend. Upon arrival at Errend's house, they discovered the main door was already broken into and a terrifying scream coming from the upper floors made them believed that the scholar was faced with a grave danger…

An Attractive Victim

Dannyl glanced up the stairway. Hovering between wariness and apprehension, he led Rothen to the floors above them. Occasional murmurs wandering through the hollow silence grew steadily louder as they came closer to the first level. They paused at the landing, and listened intently. The voices were distant; no one seemed to be lurking around the corner. Only then did they move down the corridor, keeping their presence guarded, and went through room after room in search for Tayend until the voices led them to the second last door.

Heart hammering, Dannyl carefully positioned himself beside the entrance and began to make out the words he could not decipher earlier.

"…don't be scared, I will not hurt you. I will treat you nice…if you stop fighting me," someone drawled in a baiting tone.

Desperate whimpers of refusal were the only answers given by the other person.

"No?" A loud sigh of disappointment, then the man carried on in a distasteful manner. "That's too bad…it's been so long since I had a good time..." And he broke into savage laughter.

A sudden fit of retching had Dannyl stealing a look of the room within. Tayend was pinned to a corner. Flushed with exertion, his captor held him roughly by the neck, and the both of them were surrounded by a magical barrier. The Ichani's back was turned towards Dannyl. And he seemed to be too occupied with the scholar to notice he had company outside the room. Dannyl shifted his gaze. Broken glasses and upturned furniture scattered around the floor indicated that some form of struggle must have happened before he and Rothen had arrived here. At Dannyl's signal, Rothen crept to the other side of the door and appraised the situation inside the room with a worried expression. Dannyl's attention was drawn to the Ichani again when he carried on speaking.

"Bad for you I mean…" He told Tayend in a tone that sound almost too regretful to be true. Then his voice hardened, as with the grip he had on the scholar. "When Chikara says so, no one refuses me!"

Tayend's eyes went round with horror. His attempts to fend off the Ichani, by loosening the fingers around his neck, proved useless.

Outside the door, Dannyl struggled to contain his emotions. Fear and anger sent his mind racing in wild circles for he could not believe what he had just discovered. A lad, the Ichani is actually a lad! A fine jest it would have been if only they were under different circumstances. Judging from the bewildered look that Rothen gave, he seemed to share his shock and confusion. His pulse quickened. Tayend was already an attractive victim to the Ichani with his latent magical potential. If the man wanted more from him, would he kill him or would he enslave him? Dannyl's blood turned to ice as he considered all the possible things that would befall the scholar, each of them more horrifying than the previous. He shook his head clear and frantically called up all the tactics he had learnt to deal with a stronger magician but none of which could he apply with the lack of both strength and power. He cast Rothen a look of desperation, and then stole another glimpse of the room.

This time, he looked right into eyes of his lover. It was a mistake, a costly one which precipitated a confrontation that should not have happened. The flicker of hope flashing across Tayend's face had the Ichani knowing at once that they were not alone in this place. Releasing Tayend from his grip, Chikara spun around and faced them fully. Power sprang from his fingertips. The heat strike came sizzling towards Dannyl and he took the full brunt of a black magician's attack without the protection of a magical barrier or the power to return the favour. Red hot pain radiated through his body as he slammed against the cold hard wall behind him. Dannyl felt as if his skull would explode after a collision so violent. And a rush of panic consumed him when the black dots flooding his vision came close to blinding. He wrestled wildly to fight his fading awareness. Then, he felt someone grabbed his hand in desperation.

"Stay with me, Dannyl!" Rothen's voice pierced through the dark mist. "Channel your remaining energy to me, hurry!"

Dannyl wanted to say that he had no more strength left in him, but he couldn't find his voice as his conscious was abandoning him rapidly. Wadding through waves and waves of darkness pulling him down under, Dannyl plunged into his power source already reduced to a mere tiny globule and sent it forth to Rothen. A flash of light was released. His eyes flew wide in disbelief as he saw the Ichani's shield tumbled into pieces, sending bursts of energy splaying in all directions. Chikara's eyes widened with horror. He howled in pain as he slumped heavily onto the ground, exposing a terror-stricken Tayend staring incredulously at the man before him. It was then Dannyl noticed the knife protruding from the Ichani's back. But no sooner had relief washed through him he was immediately assaulted by another surge of alarm and panic.

"Get away from him!" both he and Rothen yelled at the same time.

And everything went black.

Pain which drove him into total darkness now jarred him back to complete awareness. The pounding in his head came back in full force, if not worse. Cognition was lost to him when Dannyl unscrewed his eyes to odd images hovering before his face in a disconcerting fashion. What he thought were several faces became a distinct one as he slowly regained focus.

"Dannyl…Dannyl!" His heart leapt, it was Tayend. "Are you hurt?" The scholar's voice was edged with concern and his hands roamed the sides of Dannyl's face as if he was feeling a child running a temperature. "Talk to me, don't just stare at me! Are you in pain? Can you hear me?"

Dannyl tried to speak. A loud boom sounded at a distant, making it impossible. The ground below shook for a few seconds and the swooshing sensation in his head returned, before it gradually settled.

"Wh...what's that?" He managed hoarsely. "What happened?" His stomach turned as his head did when he looked around him. Rothen crouched at the other side of his body, his expression worried.

"We are safe now, Dannyl," the old alchemist assured him.

From where he lay, Dannyl could see that they were a few houses away from Zerrend's mansion. They helped him to his feet, holding his arms until he was able to stand without staggering. It awoke all pains from the blow he took from the Ichani. At that moment, Dannyl recalled the last thing he saw before he went unconscious.

"You stabbed him?" Dannyl turned to Tayend looking disbelief. "How…?"

Tayend grimaced; a look of disgust twisting his lips. He turned up the bottom of his loose Kyralian shirt revealing an empty knife sheath belted around his waist. "You said they know nothing about healing like Guild magicians does," he explained. "I thought…I could weaken him by hurting him…"

Dannyl widened his eyes in shocked surprise, looking as if he had seen Tayend for the first time. "Did he die?" He could not believe that Chikara was defeated that easily.

"Not immediately." It was Rothen who spoke this time. "His heart was still beating…" He paused, inhaled deeply, as if recalling a horrifying memory. "But we couldn't kill him. Instead, I tied him up and dropped his body into the well at the backyard…"

"And I carried you out here," Tayend added.

"That explosion…?" Dannyl asked.

Rothen nodded soberly. "It's over now." His voice was strained with exhaustion. "We should go." Shifting his gaze between Dannyl and Tayend, he then decided to leave them and then walk ahead instead.

At once, Tayend pulled Dannyl close and held him tightly. "I thought I had lost you!"

Pains of varying degrees exploded in the Ambassador's body. But such discomfort was of little importance as compared to immense gratitude he felt for being able to hold his lover again. Dannyl squeezed his eyes shut. "No, I'm sorry, so sorry to put you through this," he choked. "If I'd been here earlier…you-" His voice died in his throat as Tayend pressed a deep kiss on his lips. Warmth rushed up to Dannyl's face, he secretly wished that Rothen was not close enough to see it.

"I'm not as vulnerable as you think, Ambassador Dannyl," Tayend quirked a small smile. "Although it always helps to have a magician nearby…"

Knowing that the scholar was trying to lessen his guilt, Dannyl's heart swelled with affection. For the first time, he was thankful that he had refused to return to Capia. Afraid of losing him again, he circled his arms around him. "And I'm glad you are here with me, Tayend."

Author's notes:

I hoped you've enjoyed this chapter :) Although Akk/Son fans would be disappointed that there was no mention of them, I promised that I would bring them back in the next one. Also, the Thieves have more up to their sleeves for the Ichani, let's see what they will do next.

Most importantly, please do leave a review if you've liked this. That way, I will know that you've not given up on this story :)

Thanks Laura for beta-ing this chapter and being a wonderful help in getting me through this tough period!