A/N: Yup, another new story- bad Eim, bad Eim! I really should stick to just one storyline, but regardless… I'm afraid this might be my last post for a good while, as Sixth year is fast approaching, but I'll do my best to update sporadically. Dedicated to everyone down at the CQ forums, who are all exceedingly awesome people :)

Chapter 1

The shaded glen concealed within the depths of the Amazonian rainforest, where they had chosen to locate their sparse, non-invasive campsite, seemed a different world entirely from the quiet country roads of Hescombe. In fact, the small village had seen very little of its eldest Universal the past few months- the moment she turned eighteen, her duties as a Trustee were dropped as unceremoniously into her lap as a basket of unwashed clothes; decades of conflict without a truly objective mediator had accumulated a substantial amount of work for Connie to do. These duties mainly entailed matters of diplomacy, particularly between two groups of creatures, or between humans unaware or uncaring of the destruction that they were causing and particularly rare creatures whose companions could not be identified. Within the past few months, she had travelled more than many people do in a lifetime, her presence being required in countless different countries. Of course, with the abilities that she had inherited upon defeating Kullervo, travel arrangements were a little easier, but her life had the potential to get very hectic, at times.

Of course, where Connie went, Col inevitably followed- both had chosen to take a year out of their studies before they started university, and the pegasus companion was her constant comrade on her travels. Rat had surprised them all as regards to academics- he was currently studying to be a vet in a small college on the outskirts of London, and was enjoying himself immensely. Even more of a surprise, however, was the fact that he and Anneena had began a relationship- Anneena was studying a journalism course at the same college, giving them opportunity to pay more attention to each other. Their strong personalities did result in an occasional, inevitable clash, but despite one or two fall-outs, they still appeared to be going strong.

Jane and Anneena were still very close; although Jane had chosen to do her course in photography elsewhere, they worked on media projects together often. Jessica and Arran were both studying to obtain degrees in marine biology, which had resulted in some very creative manipulation of documents to gain the selkie entrance into university. Shirley, as far as she knew, was engaged to a young aspiring lawyer, as she lost no opportunity to show off her engagement ring when Connie and Col had last set foot in the Masterson's, about half a year ago. Knowing Shirley, there was a strong possibility that the relationship had not lasted too long.

Evelyn and Mack were in good spirits; little George was now four years old, and was the undisputed pet of the Chartmouth Chapter. The small family had suffered an unexpected, heartbreaking loss with the passing of Col's grandmother a year prior. Time had already begun the slow healing process, taking the sharp edge off the pain, yet causing Lavinia to be no less fondly remembered by her son and grandsons. Col, to whom Mrs. Clamworthy had been nothing short of a surrogate mother, had been devastated by her death- her funeral was the only time that Connie had ever seen him cry. Nevertheless, they had made it through, somehow, and were now even closer than ever.

The brilliant jade foliage that cascaded, seemingly, from the branches of a large kapok tree, gave an enticing rustle, and Connie's eyes darted instinctively to the source of the noise. They had chosen the remote location in Brazil as their destination in order to deal with a colony of curupiras, who, understandably, had been so enraged by the demolition of the trees that they guarded that they had destroyed several of the machines used for clearing the land. Currently, the remaining four Trustees were in the middle of talks to conserve the remaining trees, but Connie had been sent on a 'field mission' of sorts to minimize collateral damage and exposure of the curupira colony, and to look into the possibility of relocation, if all else failed.

Now and again, it could get quite disparaging, Connie had to admit; in some situations, she had been nothing more than a translator, so it was easy to feel as if she was being taken advantage of. She told herself countless times that the work that she was doing was worthwhile, but niggling doubts still managed to surface every so often.

Despite this, the vast majority of the projects that she had undertaken had been incredibly rewarding; it helped immensely to have Col with her- he had the ability to calm her temper when things became too overwhelming for her to deal with, and prevented her from feeling alone, to rationalize things, but really, his company meant so much more than that to her. The nights they had spent huddled together for warmth in a snow cave in Antarctica, the camel ride that they had taken through the Sahara desert, the mad chase after the sloth that had stolen Col's mobile phone… she wouldn't have traded any of those moments for the world.

The canopy of leaves shook slightly again, and a hand reached out through the tangled plaits of vines. Unlike the tiny, tough, calloused hands of the curupiras, the hand was one that Connie recognized immediately as being human, due to the fact that it was concealed under a heavy thorn-resistant glove. Col had risen early that morning, possibly to get a head start on negotiations with the curupiras. They seemed to have a particular affinity for him- they possessed the ability to pick up a few human words, and made a great effort to both learn new things and communicate their own knowledge. 'Ohfhurpla', they had deduced, was a particularly choice insult, usually used to depict the tree-fellers, in which the person at whom the insult was aimed at was compared unfavourably to a particularly foul-looking species of grub that dwelled inside the bark of trees. Col had wasted no time in sharing a few new pieces of vocabulary of the same manner in reciprocation.

"Hold on, Col," she laughed, reaching up to assist in the attempt to untangle the vines. "To be honest, I don't think that's going to work. Go around the side- follow my voice." She heard his footsteps crunch against the fallen leaves and twigs as he navigated his way around the overgrown undergrowth, until distance eventually carried the sound away. He was taking an awfully long time to go around the side, she mused- perhaps he had come up against some sort of an obstacle.

She peered around the side of the large canopy curiously; he didn't seem to be anywhere in sight, unless he had entered their campsite from another direction. Connie pushed back the curtain of leaves again, to the best of her ability, but could see nothing.

The gloved hand clamped over her mouth before she had the chance to scream.