"Everything will be fine Dagda, I promise." Mandrake cooed soothingly as he tried in vain to comfort his son who cried in pain and fear.

"I don't w-want to die." Dagda managed weakly, looking up at his father with pleading eyes begging him to stop the invisible force that was pulling him deeper into the unknown, his vision was darkening around the edges, his father's voice was had gained a slight echo and Dagda himself shivered uncontrollably as his body tried to fight the rot that had invaded his bloodstream.

"You're not going to." Mandrake insisted firmly, but Dagda heard the fear in his voice and with resignation Dagda understood and breathed in deeply even though it hurt to do so.

"Will I wake back up?" Dagda asked, sagging back into his father's arms, he hoped his father understood what he meant, admittedly the concept of an afterlife wasn't something his father had discussed often, in Mandrake's eyes it didn't matter either way.

Dagda wasn't granted the pleasure of hearing his father's response because seconds later he learned the answer.

Mandrake worriedly regarded the limp form that hung limply in his arms it had stopped whimpering and shivering minutes ago.

In the distance, high pitched shrieks assured him his hoard was rapidly closing in, not that they would be any help to the object of his concern, nudging his son with a clawed hand he searched for signs of life, even though he already knew, Mandrake had known the moment he reached his son's side, but he refused to believe it.

Death was no stranger to him day in and day out Mandrake watched its grim shadow descend on the forest, he had witnessed massacres, seen executions and over the years he had become very attuned to death's nature and laws, death respected neither commoner nor royalty. It ignored pleas and passed up all bargains, it made widows and left orphans in its wake. Death was a friendless mercenary and still it dined with thousands each day.

Yes, Mandrake knew a lot about death, yet as his denial shattered and realization sunk in, dread filled his stomach like fast falling stones.

His son was lying dead in clearing and for all his knowledge of death Mandrake couldn't begin to comprehend what had just unfolded before him, grabbing his son's hand he rolled it around his own gingerly finding himself both baffled and horrified at how lifeless Dagda's hand was, to Mandrake it was unfathomable that a mere thirty minutes ago his son had been fretting over the sheer number of the leafman army Dagda had been talking, breathing, smiling, moving.And now? He was as lifeless as the rat cloak he used to be so fond of, to Mandrake that shouldn't even be possible.

"How?" That one word spoke volumes to his increasingly frantic state, Mandrake had risen from his spot on the ground and paced around his son's body, panic began to mingle with his dread and Mandrake resisted the strong urge to try some outlandish method to wake his son up.

He's dead, not sleep.

Mandrake stopped pacing abruptly as soon as the thought crossed his mind, with hesitation he glanced back down at his son again, sinking back down into the grass as grief and guilt joined his already raging emotions.

Sitting back in his original spot in the clearing Mandrake could only stare numbly at his son, in his youth Mandrake had experienced something similar and in those moments he had told himself nothing could hurt worse. He had been wrong.

Loud noises rang in her ears, fleeting strands of light danced teasingly over her eyes.

Tara floated listlessly in a dark, desolated place she couldn't tell whether her eyes were open or closed and if it weren't for her shallow but steady breaths she would have sworn she was trapped underwater. Every instinct in her body demanded she try and get out of this place, but she stayed eerily still because somehow Tara knew that was what she was supposed to do.


And as her heart fluttered against her rib cage like a bird begging to be freed from its confines, Tare knew her wait was drawing to a close. Her heart soared to the point it felt like it would burst from her chest, finally the darkness began to shrink around her and she felt herself recoil in fear. Then she heard it two unmistakable voices Ronin, and Mandrake? It took her another moment to figure out they were fighting as she understood snippets of their conversation.

"Ronin?" She heard herself call out into the darkness. "Where are you?"

She heard a crunch followed by Ronin grunting in obvious pain, and Tara's heart beat just that much faster, she couldn't just sit there and listen to him die, there had to be something she could do. What were they fighting over anyway?

Her racing heart stopped in its tracks as she the days events from early flooded back to her, Boggans, Mandrake, Ronin, arrows.

Had she died? And where was the pod?

Frantically she felt around for the plant, then Tara remembered, she had given it to the young Stomper girl she had shrunken, Tara still wasn't sure how she had managed to pull that off, Tara's job was to grow things no shrink them, unless of course she had...No she was the Queen of life, growth the same Queen she had always sworn to herself to be, but none of that was important right now, as the Stomper girl's innocent curious face flashed into her mind, Tara winced and prayed she hadn't gotten the child killed, what had she been thinking? Bringing a child into a war zone? The thought of death instantly reminded her of Ronin who she knew for a fact was going to die if something wasn't done quickly.

Mandrake and Ronin had never gotten along, during Queen Donna's negotiations with Mandrake's father, Ronin had tagged along to further his training but mostly to act as the young princess's playmate, and Mandrake, while his father had vainly hoped to get on good terms with the Jinn through him, was much too morbid and far too much of a flirt to score any points with Ronin. But this time Tara, realized as more of the evenings events returned to her, it was personal it involved the death of a child and this time there wouldn't just be insults thinly veiled as playful banter tossed around, Mandrake wanted that pod and there would be bloodshed if he didn't get it.

"Ronin!" Though she still remained motionless her voice was louder and more desperate than ever. "Just give it to him!"

The fight wore on and Tara didn't know how much longer he could hold out.

"Ronin!" Tara was beginning to fear they couldn't hear her. "Please."

Tara's breaths were no longer shallow and she was sure her heart was going to explode, but then suddenly Nod was there, he was speaking in a serious tone, Tara couldn't quite glean what he was saying expect for the word "Alone." Unfortunately that only seemed to infuriate Mandrake further, but on the bright side Nod wasn't alone the chances of fighting Mandrake off were high, it wouldn't be easy but highly possible. Tara drew a deep breath and held it beginning to count to five.

One. She could hear Ronin breathing, he was alive.

Two. Nod's speech was over he had drawn his sword and begun fighting.

Three. The dark had stopped wrapping around her and the thin rods of light were back and Tara began to relax.

Four. Mandrake was huffing, this was going to be hard for him, very hard. But not impossible, Tara reminded herself with slight worry, but with any luck the moon would be shining on the pod and their heir would be chosen. By her? Maybe not but whoever the new princess-Queen was Tara was sure she would be able to aid in pushing Mandrake back.

Tara didn't get to count to five, because as soon as finished her thought of her new heir Mandrake made the most disturbing sound, though she was sure none of her people had heard it before, it was one Tara had heard frequently in her youth before Queen Donna had insisted she stay outside the clearing with Ronin during negotiation meetings, it was a noise that even sent nearby Boggans scattering mostly because it preceded a blind rampage of terrifying proportions, similar to that of a rabid animal and anyone caught in the crossfire would end up severely injured at best.

Honestly Tara couldn't see Mandrake behaving like his father's delegates or even his father himself. (Who would often call this kind of behavior a rarity that almost never happened in a normal environment.) Mandrake had always struck her as calmer and more collected than them all, but the noise, that was like a frightening mixture of a vicious roar and a vibrating screech resounded in her ears and sent a tingling sensation through her scalp, she could only imagine what it must be like for her men at such a close range and Nod was going to start talking again, she just knew it.

Her heart went from cruising to trying to hammer its way out again in two seconds flat and she let out a wordless screech of her own. Her people were going to die and she was going to hear every snap and tear along the way.

Tara barely noticed as the darkness began to encroach around her again she was too focused on the first crack and hoping it wasn't Nod he was so young and Ronin, oh Ronin. Tara for the first time that day wept, for Nod, for Ronin, for all her people and of course for the Stomper girl who's name she had yet to learn, if only she had listened to Ronin none of this would have happened. She had signed her people's death warrant the moment she had landed on the pond with her barrage, she deserved this Tara decided this was all her fault anyway. So why not be forced to listen to the fruits of her actions?

Resignation began to settle in her chest the same time a loud thud reached her followed by another crack and a blood chilling shriek of pain, for the first time the scent of blood filled the air and Tara realized she had been squeezing her eyes shut, hesitantly she pried them open and was shocked to find she was in her throne room, looking down she noticed not only was the once pristine floors stained with crimson blood but also the balls of light that had surrounded her before were merging quickly with her body. Tara didn't have time to ponder this as she quickly began to survey the carnage before her, scanning the area she covered her mouth at the sight of limp bodies sprawled across the tile but forced herself to look on and felt a great sense of relief when she saw that Nod and most of the Leafmen were still breathing.

"Tara?" A barely audible voice asked, looking to her left she saw Ronin who while battered and bruised didn't look like Mandrake had really gotten to him yet.

A smile graced her visage and she resisted the desire to run to him, now was not the time the pod needed to bloom.



Hi sorry for the late posting, but here it is!

I'm going to go back and fix the previous errors please tell me if you see any errors here though.