Disclaimer: All rights to the Hollow kingdom trillogy belong to Claire B Dunkle. Not me. This is just a loving fan writing stories for the fun of it. ^_^

Chapter 2: The beginning of the beginning of the end

Her black curls were braided into a heavy crown on the top of her head, studded with buttercups, forget-me-nots, and daises. After much fidgeting her mother had declared her presentable and Caprina was allowed to rise and stretch her limbs. A type of nervous anticipation had built in her all night long, and now strangers were beginning to arrive. Elf men and women laughed together sipping at elderberry wine as their children whirled and twirled around an elven piper. Caprina shot her mother a desperate look. Would she be needed so much that she couldn't dance tonight? Surely nothing could be so important! A soft lilting chuckle sounded above her. "Peace child," Her father soothed, "Go and dance for the moon and stars, Caprina." With a gleeful beam the girl did just that. The elf girl joined the loose throng of dancers, leaping and kicking, twirling and prancing with all the grace and power she could command. After all, one never knew what prospective husband may be watching.
The knowledge had her shimmying in a whirl of awakening feminine prowess. Soon visitors were asking about the noble child who sparked with lavender lights. Her brown eyes glowed as never before, her delicate complexion shimmered under the moon light, and the perfect braids were starting to unravel sending tendrils of sable hair to flow behind her like satin ribbons.

Marak Lobsterclaw glared into the black eyes of his arch nemesis barely hiding his smug satisfaction. An even bride. She had cost him a full reign with no raids, and several months of hunting rights on goblin land, but he was pleased none the less.
"I still say you should have chosen one of the humans from the manor," Diacollour snarled.
"I'll have them too," Lobsterclaw jeered placing his claw on the paper. With a deep flash of purple a miniature outline of his claw marked the paper in agreement with the terms printed upon it. "Tomorrow night you will present all the unmarried females of the lion star camp for inspection." Marak gloated with a quiet smile.
"Tomorrow my hunters will begin to raze all the meat from goblin lands." Aganir retorted. It had been a hard winter, and a dry spring. The drought had reduced the game on elven lands, and the additional hunting rights would have to see them through winter. He knew it was best. The children couldn't be allowed to go hungry in the winter. Yet his heart bled for the child or woman who would die only to birth another of these hideous monsters. What a horrible fate! He turned his back on the feathery, furry, red eyed, lobsterhanded beast with his eyes stinging. Horrendous! The elf had to fight his gag reflex as the image of the goblins remained in his mind. They were a waste of good precious air, he concluded, saving off his nausea and guilt.

Marak smiled in triumph at his two best friends and clapped Shestyn on the back. "Not bad for a night's work, eh?" He was riding his victory out in style he decided. "Come men, we'll go see what the lodge has to offer in the way of women!" Their long powerful gaits soon ate the long distance from the truce circle to the manor grounds. Slowing to a cautious creep the three goblin men studied the windows of the main house until Marak held up a finger for silence. He cocked his head. Taydor swiveled one feather covered cat ear to better pinpoint the sound and then mimed that it was coming from the far corner of the manor. Silently they crept through the trees till they spotted two young women sitting on a bench overlooking the lake. They burst into laughter and continued talking with animated gestures until the taller of the blonds rose from her seat and walked hurriedly back to the building. The other sat there a few minutes longer and as the goblins had just decided to head home she too got up. Instead of racing for the safety of the house, where all humans should have been at this time of night, she headed straight for them. Marak couldn't contain his joy.
"Alright," He whispered urgently in goblin, "Who wants her?"
"I'll take the other one," Shestyn offered helpfully. Taydor shrugged as the blonde swept the shadows with blind blue eyes. Before she had taken more than ten steps into the tree line she shuddered to a stop. Taydor watched her with a bit more interest. Was it possible that she sensed them? He knew that human vision would be useless with this little light to gather, so she certainly hadn't seen them. None the less the girl swept her eyes over the Forrest, over the shadows that hid them, and back past again. She backtracked quickly, obviously terrified to turn her back on the unnamed threat, and then bolted for the house in a flurry of tyedyed skirt. Taydor chuckled. He had no real interest in getting married yet, but this one seemed as good a candidate as any.

Caitren slammed through the front door earning a smoldering look of disapproval from the night desk clerk. She gulped an apology before desperately collecting herself and walking slowly to her room down the first floor hallway. Jittering nervously she retrieved the room key from her pocket and unlocked the door before slipping inside and locking, bolting, and chaining it behind her. For a moment the shadows in the room frightened her. Maybe some demon hid there to grab her? Flipping the lights on hastily she cursed her own cowardice. Demons and haunted forests do not exist out side of fantasy, she scolded herself, although she didn't believe that. She shuddered again at the memory of that cold merciless dark, with it's odd movements and animals that made sounds like laughter. Sleep seemed to be unobtainable at the moment so she decided to draw a bath and let her worries soak away.
Flipping her suitcase onto the bed she opened it and riffled to the bottom, where she pulled out a silky lace trimmed night shirt. She would die of embarrassment if someone caught her wearing it, but the material was so smooth and soothing. As long as the shades were pulled and the door was locked, the way she kept them at home there's no reason to be modest, she reasoned. Fishing her soaps and shampoos from the bag as well she ventured to the bathroom and stopped the tub, adjusting the water to be slightly cool against her skin she waited for the tub to fill. Brushing her teeth as she waited she glanced over to check on the depth of the water and saw from the corner of her eye a flash in the mirror. She returned to face it watching her reflection quizzically brushing it's teeth back at her. She raised her brow at her reflection and glancing back at the tub, strode over to shut the water off. From her angle she could see the mirror still and as she returned to the sink to fetch her soap she let out a horrified shriek. Her reflection still stood in front of the mirror brushing it's teeth! Her reflection paused in it's administrations, shrugged and then disappeared, leaving her to gape at her self once more. This wasn't right.

So what do you think? Good or bad, please review, I really enjoy writing and relish the chance for pointers, tips, and general conversation. LOL thank you for reading !