A Sunless World

It had been a long journey and Edric was exhausted. He dragged feet heavy as lead up the stone steps of Caer Liel, one foot after another. He turned a dimly lit corridor and at last found the door to his new bedchamber. As Captain of Weir he had the privilege of having his own. Once on a time he would have been happy about this, but he was drained of all emotion now. He twisted the handle and it opened with a creak. He stepped across the wooden floor. A window at the far side of the room revealed a starry sky. The rest of the room was small and plain with walls of dismal gray stone. There was a bed on one side of the room and a chest of drawers on the other. He opened a drawer. It was filled with clothes that were all black, from tunics to trousers; from cloaks to boots. He dressed into a simple tunic and trousers and plopped down on the small, but inviting bed. The sheets were cool and soft. He blew out his bedside candle and fell almost immediately into a deep sleep.

As Edric slept, he dreamed.

He was laying on a grassy hillside staring into a sky full of stars. He was holding someones hand, he turned his head and his eyes met those of Tania's, gold-flecked and green; she lay close to him. She smiled at him briefly and then gazed sleepily into the sky.

She seemed to be glowing a tint of blue. He stared at her for a moment, confused. Then it dawned on him that they were at Crystalhenge, for he could now see the tall shafts jutting from the field around them, illuminating the dark night in a radiant blue.

"Do the constellations have names here?" Tania was asking.

Edric smiled, always happy to help restore her memory of Faerie. "Yes, they do." He pointed. "Do you see those three stars in a row with the two stars going of to the left? That's called the Starved Fool. And those five stars in a W shape is the Girl in Violet." He slid his finger to the left side of the sky. "That's the Phoenix, and next to it is the Singing Dragon."

"How is it a dragon?" Tania murmured, the words sounding a bit slurred. "It doesn't look anything like a dragon."

Edric grinned at her obvious sleepiness. "You have to use your imagination," he said. "Would you like to hear the story of the Phoenix and the Singing Dragon?"

Tania's eyes closed slowly. Her voice was so soft and low that he only just heard it. "Yes please."

He began to tell the story, but after a few minutes he noticed that Tania's breathing had grown deep and steady and that she was asleep. Edric looked at her, his heart full. Her fiery red hair framed her heart-shaped face. Her perfect pale skin was tinted sapphire by the crystals. She looked so peaceful, so beautiful. He leaned forward and gently kissed her forehead before drifting away as well.

Edric woke feeling hollow and empty. He found that he was back in the bedchamber of Caer Liel, the castle of Weir. It was shrouded in darkness.

Tania?

She was gone. Perhaps for forever. Tears slid down his face. For so long he had been numb and emotionless, but at last he gave into the despair of having to leave his love.

Edric had tried to block out all thoughts of Tania on the journey back to Weir, but now it was as if the dream had opened a door that he couldn't close. He shuddered as the last image he'd had of Tania burned in his mind.

It had been in the throne room of Veraglad Palace, right after Lord Aldritch had instructed him to tell the troops that they were to leave, to turn their backs on the family of Oberon Aurealis forever.

His heart sank when he heard this. He glanced past Lord Aldritch to Tania, trying to keep his face unreadable, though he felt as if he were dying on the inside.

She stood stiff and rigid, her skin paler than usual. She seemed so confused and lost. Her eyes were hollow as she looked at him with shock and desperate need. He couldn't bear to look any longer. He tore his gaze from her horror-stricken face, agreed briefly to the Lord's request and left the room, using every ounce of his emotional strength.

Edric had no choice. It was his duty. He had been unable to stay, unwilling to leave. And now he was in a world without his sun, stumbling in the dark with an unclear future. A dark world. A lonely world.

A sunless world.

Edric got up out of his bed and walked up to the window, staring out into the deathly quiet night. I wonder where Tania is now, he thought as he gazed moodily at the stars. I wonder what she's doing…

Meanwhile...

"The stars are all different here to how they are on Earth," Tania was saying. "Did you notice that?"

"I did," Connor said, truthfully just now looking at the stars for the first time. Okay, so he hadn't noticed. He had been preoccupied looking at something far more stunning than all of the faerie stars combined. How had Connor not noticed Anita's-Tania's- radiant beauty before? Was it because he had seen her go through the awkward stages of adolescence and continued seeing her as a geeky little kid? Whatever the reason he realized he had been blind. Laying here beside him in this unexplainable world of magic, she looked every inch as though she had walked right out the pages of a faerie tale.

And, he realized, it was not only her looks that he loved. Talking with her now, for the first time since he had entered this strange new world, he felt completely at ease. It was so refreshing to hear her spluttering laughter after he told her a joke, or the way her eyes had sparkled while they spoke of their childhood memories. And above everything else was the fact that she understood what he was going through. Like Connor, she had also left behind a life in the Mortal World; her life as Anita Palmer. Though she looked as though she belonged in the realm of Faerie, she still held the personality of an ordinary Mortal girl. This he found very comforting; it was as though he had a piece of home with him. Connor wondered if Tania felt the same way about him.

He opened his mouth to tell her how happy he was to be with her, but chickened out last minute and said instead, "I don't recognize any of the constellations up there. Do they even have constellations here?"

"Yes, they do," Tania replied eagerly. Connor guessed she was excited to share knowledge that she actually knew about Faerie. She pointed an elegant finger to the sky. "Those three stars in a row with the two going off at an angle- that's called the Starved Fool. And the five stars-" She stopped abruptly, drawing in a sharp breath.

"The five stars?" Connor asked, completely bewildered. "They're what?"

When Tania spoke again her voice was full of hurt. "We should get some some sleep," she said, not sounding tired at all. "Rathina wants us to get going at first light" He tried to get a glimpse at her face, but she had turned away from him.

"Tania, what's wrong? What just happened?"

"Nothing. Go to sleep," she said, almost rudely this time.

Connor let the conversation drop, she obviously didn't feel like talking about what had just happened. But that didn't stop him from wondering what it was that had upset her. Was she sad that she would never see her parents again after the shutting of the portals? Probably, but that wouldn't cause her to break off like that in mid sentence. No, the constellations had reminded her of something painful. But why would constellations make anyone sad?

It must have been a happy memory, he thought, of something she knows she won't be able to relive.

Then it all clicked.

Edric. Connor didn't know much about him, but he could tell that Tania loved him. She had acted so awkward the entire time he was with them; from the streets of London to the chambers of Veraglad Palace. And he had run off with that Lord Aldritch guy who hated Tania-how charming! And what was it Rathina had said? He had been meddling into something called the "Dark Arts". That couldn't be good. It wasn't like they were called the "Sunshine Arts. Connor might be new to this world, but he wasn't stupid. After all, Voldemort, the villain from Harry Potter was into the Dark Arts. Connor knew this could only mean one thing-Edric was bad knews.

Tania's shuddering breath snapped Connor out of his angry thoughts. Was she crying? Connor wanted so badly to comfort her, to tell her that everything would be alright. "Tania?" he tried, his voice seeming loud in the quiet darkness. "You know you can tell me..." She didn't respond. Asleep, he thought...untill her voice sounded out.

Connor couldn't make sense of anything she was saying at first; it was just incoherrant mumbling. Oh, she's sleep talking, he realized. After a while, her words became more clear. "Edric," she whispered, her voice shivering, "He's just gone." She repeated the sentence a few times before her sleep talking trailed off.

Connor gasped. What a hold he must have over her! A burning rage filled his mind and he knew two things for certain.

(1) He hated Edric for hurting Tania.

(2) Connor knew he would never allow himself to make the mistake that Edric had-Connor would never hurt Tania.