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Chapter Two (When the Rain Falls)

By Darrell Walker



Brian groaned in his sleep, tossing and turning, his sheets wrapped tightly around his body, wet with sweat. The dreams had come again....

Brian poured wine from the crystal pitcher into the small, worked wineglasses. The beautiful woman across from him smiled, squeezed his leg with her hand. Birds sang in the trees around them; the golden sun overhead warmed their skin. Brian smiled. "Do you like the wine?"

"Forget the wine, my love," she replied softly, her voice sweet as the morning dew. "When will you search for me? I miss you.."

Brian felt his heart squeeze in pain at the sorrow in her eyes. "I don't know how....I don't even know who you are...."

Rachel stirred the hot cereal absently, listening to the sounds her son made getting ready for school upstairs. She had just finished the cereal and was putting some on his plate, when he came down the back stairs into the kitchen. Rachel sighed to herself. It was another black day.

Brian came to the table, throwing his trench-coat on the back of a chair, and slumped into his usual seat, looking at the plate of food with unseeing eyes. He wore black jeans and a black T-shirt. It was one of those group shirts he wore all the time. It was Nine Inch Nails today--not a good sign. Rachel didn't even think he realized how his clothes reflected his mood. He looked terrible, with large, dark circles under his eyes. His face was pale and drawn. He hadn’t combed his hair very well. He’d pulled it back into a matted, tangled pony tail. Rachel sighed. He had such beautiful blond hair; if he’d just take care of himself a little better.

Brian was a dreamer--he always had been. He’d always had his head in the clouds. Rachel dreaded the day he found out the world wasn’t the wonderful place his young, idealistic mind thought it was. She was worried about him. He looked tired, very tired--much more weary than any eighteen-year-old boy should look.

Rachel sat across from him at the table, looking at him with a concerned mother's eye. He tried to ignore her, scooping cereal into his mouth. "The dreams again?" she asked softly.

Brian sighed, looked up at his mother wearily. "Yeah. Look, I've gotta go. We're having practice early today." He rose from the table, kissed his mother lightly on the lips, and then left the kitchen, throwing on his coat as he went.

"Take care of yourself, Brian," she said after him, doubting he would hear. "Take care."

Brian sat on the bus in a daze. He tried to gather his thoughts. He closed his eyes, concentrating as he'd been taught, trying to empty himself. As was usually the case when he’d had the dreams, he just couldn't find his center. Finally, he gave up and settled for watching the trees pass by his window. Never in his life had he felt so alone.

Marcus watched the young man as he got out of the school bus and followed the stream of teen-teenagers into the high school. He fingered the visitor's pass on his jacket and smiled, following the young people inside.

Brian didn't notice the man watching him as the band practiced after school that afternoon. People always came to watch. He stood on the 30 yard line of the school's football field. Normally they would be on the practice field, but they had a contest that weekend, and the director had pulled some strings with the athletic department. Brian watched the field-commanders arms move, as if in a dream, seeming to order reality itself. Mallets whirled on xylophones and timpani. He smiled to himself bitterly. It was quite ironic, and appropriate, he thought, to be standing all alone with so many people only twenty yards away. Further infield the band moved in a pinwheel, waiting for him. Brian sighed, raising the trumpet to his lips. As the bitter-sweet notes began to fill the open air, something within him snapped. He couldn't take it anymore--the pain, the loneliness, the confusion. He didn't even realize he was doing it, but his feelings began to form into music, and the music flowed out of him like darkness flowing out of a dark room when the shades were pulled back from the window. He lost himself in it; became one with the music--he was the music.

Finally, the song trickled to a conclusion. Brian fell to his knees, gazing at the trumpet in his hands in awe, tears flowing down his face. It was then that he realized the rest of the band was standing around him, looking at him as if he had gone insane. Somewhere a girl cried brokenly. He looked up into the red face of his director. She didn't look happy.

Marcus nodded to himself once, then disentangled himself from the crowd, hurrying from the field. He had to speak to Cassandra right away; they would have to hurry. There wasn't much time.

Brian hurried down the empty hallways, avoiding the few people he saw. His face still burned with embarrassment from Ms. Stephens humiliating lecture. No one understood. The whole band had been there to hear her remonstrations: he didn't concentrate, he was full of himself, he obviously didn't care for the group. Brian sighed. At least Amber hadn't been there. For the first time, Brian was glad she wasn't into music. He looked at the clock on the wall: it was after 5:30. Amber would be wondering where he was. He'd had to stay after practice and help the percussion bring in their equipment to repay the band the rehearsal time his "little stunt’ had cost them. Brian rubbed his lips absently as he walked into the art room. Amber always teased him after practice. "There you are! I was wondering if you were still coming." Amber looked up from the painting she was working on: a sylvan painting with rapids winding through a forest, blue sky overhead. Brian felt his spirits lift just looking at her. She was beautiful, with short, dark hair and deep brown eyes. Brian loved the way her hair curled against her graceful neck. She was medium height for a girl and slender. She was also a wonderful painter. The one she was working on now was an oil. Brian had no idea what Amber saw in him, but she was his friend at the very least. Their relationship was hard to define--probably because neither made any effort to do so.

Brian hugged her, holding her tight. "I'm sorry," he said into her hair, "I had to stay after."

Amber backed up from him, smiling. "What did you do now?"

"It wasn't my fault! I was playing my solo, and I just started doing my own thing. It's a solo, you know? Stephens was pissed!"

Amber stopped him, putting her finger to his puffy lips. "Oh no, what have you done to yourself?"

Brian rolled his eyes. "Come on, Amber, I'm tired."

She smiled and kissed him soundly. She pulled back, still smiling. "What would you do without me to massage your swollen lips?" she asked with a mischievous looks in her eyes.

Brian just rolled his eyes, grinning. "How's it coming?" he asked pointing towards the painting.

Amber sighed, blowing her dark bangs away from her face. "I don't know. It just doesn't seem right somehow."

Brian smiled, "You'll get it; you always do. So, when do you get out of here?"

"I should stay another couple hours or so. I really need to get this done. We could do something later, though."

Brian smiled, "That's fine. I was wanting to go to the park anyway."

Amber's face clouded with concern, "What happened? The solo?"

Brian sighed, "It's nothing, really Just the same old shit."

"The dreams?"

"Yeah. Hey, I gotta go. Call me later when you get home, okay?"

"Alright." She still didn't look convinced. "I'll call you later. Take care of yourself, okay?"

Brian kissed her lightly on the lips. "I will. I promise."

Brian strolled through the park, leaning his head back, drinking in the sight of the sky. He sighed, trying to sort through his turmoiled thoughts. The sky burned with yellows, oranges, and reds. It really was a quite beautiful sunset.

Suddenly, everything shifted. Brian grabbed at a tree for support as he fought a sudden sense of vertigo. He lowered himself to the ground slowly, leaning on the tree. He felt as if everything were moving, and nothing was the right color. Brian tried to get a grip on what was going on, fighting the vertigo and nausea that coursed through his body. He wondered if he was flashing back, but he'd never experienced anything like this. The trees seemed to be moving, the wind was moaning, the grass seemed to be growing underneath him....

Brian's head jerked up; he heard something from the woods near-by. It sounded like some kind of animals fighting. He could hear snarling and the sound of crunching bone. "Oh my God," he murmured to himself. "Whatever that is, it's getting closer."

Suddenly, something started tearing through the underbrush, coming right for him. No, it wasn't something, he could tell that there were many somethings. "Oh shit!" Brian was sure he was losing it now. He remembered something his mom had told him about people on acid going crazy. This must be it. Maybe this was a hallucination, but Brian wasn't taking any chances. He jumped, grabbing the lowest branch of the tree, and hauled himself up, climbing as quickly as he could. Brian clutched to the trunk of the tree, within the top branches, panting. He could hear something below him scratching at the trunk. Whatever it was, it obviously couldn't climb. Brian closed his eyes, trying to calm himself. He was on the edge, his heart pounding, adrenaline coursing through his veins. Oddly, he wasn’t frightened, but instead a strange excitement had come over him.

He heard a sound as if of someone whispering. Brian opened his eyes and almost fell out of the tree when the trunk in front of him shifted until it resembled a woman's face. "Hello there," she said in a lovely, melodious voice. "Who are you and why do you hide in my branches?"

Brian opened his mouth to scream, then stopped, his breath catching. Someone had just called out his name. He listened, his ears straining, trying to hear something, anything other than the pounding of his heart and the blood rushing in his veins.

"Brian? Brian, where are you? Brian?" Brian's breath caught, he felt as if he were choking. That was Amber....

"Oh lookie, what’s this?" An indescribably rough and lecherous voice said from the bottom of the tree. "Ooh, that's nice, real nice. Oh, don't be afraid darling, we're going to have lots of fun!" Brian heard sounds of struggling, then Amber screamed--

Time stopped. Brian existed in a timeless moment, his brain working wildly. Then everything seemed to happen at once. With an inhuman scream, Brian leapt from the tree. He hit the ground rolling, managing not to hurt himself. He jumped to his feet just in time to see a man rushing towards him. Something was wrong with this man, though. He had blood-red eyes, and rows upon rows of teeth. Indeed, his mouth seemed to be full of mismatched, crooked, broken teeth. Brian looked towards the tree, and saw Amber held between two more of these creatures. Her clothes were torn, and she looked at him with horror-filled eyes. It didn't take much imagination on Brian's part to figure out what he'd interrupted. The creature standing in front of her looked very disappointed, and very angry.

Brian turned back to his attacker, his heart dropping to his feet. The creature ran at him, then suddenly stopped, his eyes going wide. "What the fuck is that?" the creature asked in a phlegmy, croaky voice. Brian's breath caught; it was looking at him, or rather, above him. Brian looked up and saw a ball of blue energy hanging over his head. It looked like living ball of lightning. The ball slowly elongated, stretched, condensed, became more and more solid. Within moments a gleaming sword of a type Brian had never seen before rested in the air over his head. Brian felt his mouth fall open.

"Ooh, you've got a sword, do you?" his attacker snarled. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a wicked-looking battle-axe. It was an outrageously horrible weapon--wickedly curved, double-bladed with barbs, hooks, and spikes for decoration. It looked totally unwieldy, but the creature swung it in a tight figure eight with nauseating ease.

Brian blinked. How the hell did he fit that in his pocket? The creature lunged at him; Brian dodged desperately, barely avoiding the axe. He looked toward the sword. He had never even touched a sword before, but it was better than nothing. He feinted and dodged around his opponent grabbing for the weapon's hilt--

Energy seemed to surge through Brian when he touched the sword. His hands closed around the hilt on their own. An aura of blue light erupted around Brian, and he felt energy flowing through his body. The creature in front of him just stared. It seemed unable to move. It just stared with wide eyes, mouth open, drool dribbling down his chin. Brian looked around wildly. No one was moving. They were all looking at him, even Amber--she looked like she'd never seen him before.

"Very good, boy, very good indeed." Brian jumped at the voice behind him, and whirled lashing out with the sword.

The man easily sidestepped the wild swing. He was dressed in gleaming silver armor, and had a sword hanging at his side. The sword looked much as Brian's did. "Easy there, I'm a friend. My name is Marcus of House Eiluned. I've been sent by the Lady Cassandra Demones to guide you through your Chrysalis. Looks like I got here just in time."

Brian blinked as the man rattled on, spouting gibberish. "Do you know what's going on here?" he finally asked, interrupting.

Marcus sighed, "There's too much to explain now. We have to get you and your girl out of here before those redcaps come to their senses. At least they scared most the nervosa away."

"What?"

"Get your girl, we're leaving."

Brian walked over to Amber cautiously. The...redcaps watched him warily. Amber's eyes were full of fear. God, he hated to see that look on her. Her clothes were torn, and her lip was bleeding. He looked toward Marcus. "How do I make them let her go?"

Marcus smiled. "Just tell them to. Try to be impressive."

Brian shrugged and turned to the redcaps. "Let...her...go." His voice was hard, cold, he felt energy flow through his body. The redcaps blanched, let go of Amber, and ran towards the woods screaming. Brian caught Amber before she fell, lifting her in his arms. She'd fainted. He turned around. Marcus was looking at him with awe.

"I can't believe it..." Marcus murmured, then he shook himself. "Let's go. Follow me."

Brian followed the knight, for that's obviously what he was, out of the park to a waiting van. He laid Amber gently down on the back seat. She seemed to be asleep. He tenderly brushed her hair from her face, trying to arrange what was left of her shirt to cover her decently.

"How is she?"

Brian turned towards Marcus. "I don't know. I don't see any bruises or bleeding, but she's unconscious." He placed his head on her chest, listening to her breathing. "She may be in shock."

"Here, let me." Marcus laid his hand on Amber's forehead, murmured something under his breath. Brian sensed something happening. The blood on her lips disappeared, and her face relaxed, became peaceful. "She'll sleep for a long time, but she'll be fine."

Brian looked at the man, wide-eyed. "What did you do?"

Marcus waved him off. "Later. Right now I need to get you to the Baroness; she's quite interested in you, you know."

"Is she?" Brian mumbled, wondering why he suddenly had a sinking feeling.

The tower rose out of the forest like a giant gem, faceted sides glistening in the sun. Eagles soared around it's pinnacles, gliding in and out of clouds; they pierced the sky. Brian stared at the palace in awe as his escort spoke with the two troll guards at the gate.

The trolls bowed to the knight. "Greetings, Marcus. I see your mission was successful," one said in a deep voice. The trolls were impressive creatures to behold. They both stood over seven feet tall and looked to be made almost entirely of muscle. Their skin had a blue tint to it and both had bony plates on their foreheads, complete with two backwards-sloping horns. Brian thought they looked like a strange cross-breed of a demon, a Klingon, and a Smurf. Both wore very Nordic-looking plated armor, and both held halberds built to a troll’s proportions.

Marcus had hurriedly told Brian on the short drive to the palace that he was a Faerie. Actually, he was a changeling, which seemed to be some kind of cross between a Faerie and a human. There were different races of changelings just as there were different races of humans. Brian was a sidhe--a member of the nobility. Trolls were another race, or kith, of changeling, as were redcaps. Other than being large, serious, and stoic, Brian so far had found trolls to be much better company than redcaps.

Marcus nodded to the knight. "Tell the Lady I am here, and tell her I have brought her fledge." The troll nodded again and motioned to his companion who hurried within the palace. The troll bowed low to Marcus, sweeping his halberd wide.

"Please enter, I will escort you to a comfortable place where you can await the Lady's pleasure."

As Brian passed the troll on the way inside, the troll caught his eye, held it, seemed to weigh and balance him in a moment. The troll nodded once, in respect, then motioned for Brian to enter. Brian spoke a short greeting to the troll, feeling a little uncomfortable after their exchange. The guard ignored him. Brian entered the palace thoughtfully; he was already noticing differences in the way these Faeries acted. Brian's words died on his lips as he entered the palace and the reality of the Dreaming impressed itself on his newly-awakened Faerie senses. The entire palace hummed with an alien intelligence. Geometric designs in laser light flickered on display panels on the walls.

Brian looked around himself in awe. "What is this place?" he breathed, gazing here and there with wide eyes. He was in a large chamber with a thirty-foot ceiling. Video screens covered the walls and displayed everything from star charts to planetary analyses.

"This is a Freehold," Marcus replied patiently, "a place of Faerie power. You will be safe here, Brian. Safe from your enemies and, most importantly, safe from Banality.

"This way," the troll motioned with his halberd, and Brian for the first time noticed the synthetic construction of his body-armor. They moved silently through the corridors of a living, breathing entity. A dense mist curled at their feet, and phantom sounds came from the walls. An eerie, futuristic techno music echoed faintly through the corridors. The troll halted before a large door which swept slowly open at their approach. "You may wait in here."

Brian lounged in the large overstuffed chair, trying to bury himself in it. Marcus paced the room impatiently, muttering to himself softly. Brian felt torn between the comfort of the armchair and the warmth of the relaxing fire in the hearth. Firelight glinted off dark-paneled walls. Funny, Brian thought, this is almost the perfect study.

Brian watched the knight for a moment. He was an impressive sight. The light gleamed off of his black plate armor. The sword at his side, like Brian’s, was of a length that facilitated two-handed use. The knight stood about six feet tall--of a height with Brian. But while Brian was thin, Marcus’ arms displayed powerful muscles. He didn’t look like a man Brian wanted to mess with. His pointed ears were very obvious due to his shortly-cropped brown hair. Marcus’ eyes always seemed to be looking everywhere at once. He didn’t seem shifty so much as just...wary. Brian wondered what he was so afraid of. Probably redcaps.

Brian studied the crest on Marcus’ breastplate. A black serpent coiled around a round tower. It was the standard of House Eiluned. Marcus had told Brian they would not know what House he belonged to until after his Saining, which was some kind or rite of passage in the Faerie community.

"Relax, Marcus, take it easy. We may be waiting here awhile, you know."

Marcus looked at Brian a moment, then sighed, sitting down on one of the armchairs. "You're right, Brian, I should have known she'd keep us waiting." He looked at Brian again thoughtfully for a long moment. "She'll want to make an entrance...." The knight shook himself, as if noticing Brian for the first time. He opened his mouth to speak and was interrupted by the swift, sweeping entrance of the Lady of the palace.

Brian rose unconsciously from his seat as the most beautiful woman he had ever seen strode up to him and bowed over his hand. "I have waited long for your arrival, my Prince." Brian's eyes roamed over the woman in front of him, his mind not believing what they were telling him. He found it hard to concentrate on the woman's words. She was tall, almost as tall as Brian, and elegant. She wore a long, flowing dress of the colors of autumn: browns, reds and oranges. Her auburn hair was had been meticulously piled in curls on her head. Her eyes were hazel with flecks of green. She was breath-takingly beautiful, and Brian was instantly enamored by her.

Brian smiled a little uncertainly. "You're very kind, but I'm not a prince..."

The woman smiled indulgently, "I am the Lady Cassandra Demones, but you may call me Cassandra." Marcus bowed low to the Lady, and Brian copied him. "I hear you had some trouble bringing him to me, Marcus."

"Oh! That's right!" Brian interrupted. "Amber's hurt, I should go to her!"

Cassandra smiled, laying a soothing hand on Brian's chest. "Now don't you worry about your little friend. She's fine. I have my best healers seeing to her needs now. I would not have your mortal lover become damaged, my Prince," she murmured, running her finger along his jaw.

Brian backed away from her, shivering. He found it hard to think in her presence. What kind of woman was this? "I don't know what you're talking about. I'm not a prince, and I don't know who any of you are!"

The Lady smiled, nothing breaking her serene calm. "I, as I said before, am Cassandra. I am a Baroness in the Kingdom of Willows and Lady of this freehold, and this is Marcus, one of my knights. We are of House Eiluned, and you, I know, are of House Fiona, although that will not be official until your Saining day. Until then, I am your teacher and your mentor. I will teach you to utilize and manipulate Glamour, the power of Dreams, that which makes us exist. I will also train you in the use of your own inherent Glamour." She motioned towards the sword stuck into his belt with disdain. "Marcus will train you to use that."

Brian smiled weakly. "Thank you for your explanation. If you don't mind, I should probably go home now. Amber's parents will be worried about her and I should be--"

Cassandra cut him off. "She will be taken to her home after she has healed. And you, my Prince, will be my guest. I'll take no refusal. Marcus, show him to my chambers, and send one of the servants for his dinner."

Marcus bowed low and backed out of the room, pulling Brian with him by the arm. Brian sighed; it didn't look like he had much choice in the matter.

Cassandra smiled to herself as the door closed behind the two men. It was him, she'd known it, and he was just as handsome as she remembered. His seeming was still a little faint, but a few nights with her in her freehold would cure that. Cassandra poured herself a glass of wine, spiced with Glamour; she smiled again as see enjoyed a taste. She'd never had a prince to play with before....

Brian followed Marcus through the hallways of the freehold. He still hadn't figured this place out. On the outside it seemed an enchanted Faerie palace, while on the inside it resembled an alien starship. Brian glanced at the display and computer panels as they passed. They seemed to be spending a lot of time doing nothing. Marcus stood before a door. It opened with a slow hiss. "Wait in here, Brian." He motioned for Brian to enter the room. "I'll see you later."

The door closed behind Brian with a soft hiss. He stood in an opulent sitting room, decorated in Victorian style. Brian's mind goggled at the striking contrast of a Victorian chamber and a futuristic starship. He looked behind the other door in the room and found that it opened into a bedchamber. A huge round bed rested within the floor. The room smelled of sandalwood. The wispy silken tapestries covering the walls stirred in an unseen breeze. Brian closed the door to the room, feeling much more comfortable with the sitting room. He quickly found a table with some kind of punch. It tasted fruity and seemed to be more than a little alcoholic. Brian shook his head, downing a glass of the cool punch. The woman was trying to get him drunk!

Hours passed. Brian soon grew bored, deciding that Victorian rooms weren't very entertaining--there wasn't even a stereo. He plopped down on the thick rug in the middle of the hardwood floor. For the first time in hours he could think, and the previous events came crashing into his awareness. It was too much. Almost before he realized it, Brain’s hands were packing his pipe, full.

"Okay," Brian said to himself, puffing on his pipe, letting his body relax, and trying to order his confused mind. "It would seem I'm a Faerie." Brian thought about that, decided it was pretty cool. "Then it would follow that I can make magic of some kind." He thought about those monsters with the teeth freezing in front of them, they're eyes going wide in awe. His eyes widened. He'd already done it! Brian pulled the sword out of his belt, held it up before his eyes. The warm, golden light of the room glinted off the shining blade, which seemed to be some sort of blue steel alloy. Soulguider, the word seemed to whisper through his mind. Not just a word, he realized, a name. Soulguider.

Brian lowered the sword hastily as the door to the hallway slid open and Cassandra entered, the room seeming to grow warmer and more intimate with her arrival. "Brian, it's so nice to finally get a chance to talk with you. You wouldn't believe how busy I've been lately. It's a small miracle in and of itself that I noticed your Chrysalis. If it wouldn't have been for my Seer, Drugaurd, I wouldn't have realized your importance, my Prince." She bowed before him. Brian blushed. "You see, Dan has brought us together. I will help you with these first steps in your rise to power."

Brian shrugged, "If you say I'm a prince, then I'm a prince, but it's completely new to me."

"Oh, you're not a Prince any more, Brian," Cassandra said cryptically, "but soon you will be again. Soon." She shrugged, seeming to put the matter out of her mind. She smiled at Brian, and her eyes seemed to glitter. Or maybe it was just the light. Brian swallowed, suddenly feeling trapped. "I have looked forward to your arrival. You have no idea how much status having a Prince in my bed will give me."

"But I'm not in your bed," Brian stammered. But he was; his mind ground to a halt as reality seemed to quiver around him. He lay under the covers, naked, in the round bed he had seen earlier. This was impossible. Brian looked back to Cassandra and his heart stopped. She lay in the bed next to him, seeming to glow with an inner light. It was almost as if Brian could suddenly see infrared radiation and she was boiling hot. Her face radiated a surreal beauty that was nothing close to human. Brian's mind whirled, but his body seemed paralyzed. He couldn't move his eyes from her face. Gradually, he became aware of her heat beside him; she was naked too. Then she moved on top of him, her soft, firm body pressing down upon him. Brian couldn’t deny that her soft skin felt wonderful, but this was all wrong somehow. His mind was all muddled, and it wasn’t from the pot.

"Oh, I beg to differ," she purred, tracing a finger along his jaw. She felt him tremble at her touch. She doubted he would ever resist her, but if he tried the powerful Glamour she'd woven into her cantrip would keep him passive. She wasn't going to take any chances.

Brian's mind floated in a haze, watching events unfolding before him from a distance. Maybe he shouldn't have had that smoke....

Few can comprehend the supernatural beauty of the Sidhe. Had Brian known how highly the odds were stacked against him, he might not have tried so hard. In the end he could deny neither her beauty nor her power.

Afterwards, Brian slept, exhausted, and dreamed. He dreamed of a mortal woman with raven hair.

Brian groaned as the lights in the bedchamber came on, flooding the room with warm brilliance. He rubbed his fists in his eyes, yawning.

"Come on, Brian, it's time for breakfast. After that, I'm going to start teaching you the sword."

Brian squinted up at Marcus, his eyes slowly adjusting. "Sword practice?"

"Come on." Brian hurriedly got dressed and ran a brush through his hair as he followed Marcus out of the room.

"Where did Cassandra take off to?" he asked.

"I don't know the Lady's affairs," Marcus said, looking hard at Brian.

Brian brushed hotly, suddenly feeling uncomfortable with the knight. Brian followed him to a warm breakfast. He could barely eat the food the cook heaped onto his plate. His stomach was all twisted up. His mind whirled, trying to sort through the tangle of emotions Cassandra had left him with that morning.

Then he followed Marcus to a practice-room in the Freehold. It resembled a gym of some kind. There they took practice swords and Marcus began showing Brian basic techniques. Brian swung his sword, trying to guide it smoothly through the form, his face a mask of concentration. The feel of the sword in his hands felt familiar, and his body seemed to remember the motions. Brian's eyes flickered closed as he remembered....

...The assembled Fae cheered as Brian whirled, his sword flashing in his hands. The blade sliced into the troll facing him. The troll fell to his knees, groaning as Brian pulled out his sword. "Hail the victor!" the Sidhe cried, grabbing Brian's hand and thrusting it into the air. The crowd cheered again. Brain’s exultant smile faded as a Sidhe in black armor stepped up, his dark, curved sword at the ready. Brian turned in slow motion, his throat tightening at the feeling of evil flowing from the dark knight....

....Brian staggered, Marcus' sword had stabbed through his defenses. The blow knocked him to the ground. "Brian, you should have had that one," Marcus chided, his handing reaching down to help Brian to his feet.

Cassandra watched her Prince at play far below. She smiled to herself as she let the curtain fall back in place over the tower window. Already he looked more the Sidhe Knight and less the human teen-teenager. "Soon my Prince will be King, and he will need a Queen at his side--to guide him with her wisdom." Cassandra's smile widened. She would have to add on to the Freehold...."

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