Edited on July 10, 2015. I'm currently working through this story and making slight adjustments to the story in order to fix certain inaccuracies that started popping up later in the story.

I own nothing of the Black Jewels Trilogy or any following novels. All rights go to Anne Bishop. Thanks for reading!


Chapter 15

The next week was somewhat quiet. Faced with Arina's imminent departure, Farostel, Lucien, and the rest of the boys all hovered close to her. Her words tended to repeat in their minds—if she were to form her court right then, none of them would qualify to be a part of it. It was a rather horrifying thought. Still, they only had this last week left before the group split up, so it was reasonable that they take a break and just have fun.

Arina split her time equally between the girls, Lucien, Farostel, the boys, and time spent on her Healing with Jaenelle.

With the girls, they all curled up with hot drinks in Arina's sitting room and just chatted about themselves, the boys, life…everything. Arina soaked it all up like a sponge, happy to have friends for the first time.

And let it just be said that the girls were variable fountains of blackmail material on their brothers.

When she spent time with Lucien, half the time they didn't talk at all. Arina loved to take naps on his lap, and he enjoyed playing with her hair, so it worked out for them both in that respect. They also spent quite a bit of time in bed together. They had always managed to stop before they went too far, but they had gotten very close once…or twice…or every time…

Seeing as Arina was a virgin, however, Lucien was more than happy to give her time, so he could talk more with his father about what to do about the Virgin Night. He did not want to mess that up, and he had never done that before.

The pair also talked to each other. Lucien told Arina about the times that he had gotten into trouble with his father for various escapades, and she mentally compared his stories to the ones that Rose and the girls told her, hiding smiles. Slowly, though, Arina began to open up more and tell Lucien about living in a house where her parents didn't even realize that she existed a majority of the time, and even then only as an afterthought. She told him about how hard it was to have a drug addict for a sister, and how she couldn't even leave her room for fear in her own house. She cried a lot during those talks, and when she curled up to go to sleep, he would go and take out his frustrations on the practice field.

The only other person that Arina spent individual time with was Farostel. She had grown increasingly close to the quiet male, enjoying the peace with him. There was no hum in her mind when she was with him, like the thrill she felt with Lucien.

They went into the woods around the Hall, and Farostel taught Arina how to move unseen and unheard through the trees, much like a Dea al Mon. Arina enjoyed the lessons, and used the time with him to settle further into her new life in the Realms. There was nothing romantic between them, but there was a growing confidence, and Arina felt like he was her brother—something that thrilled her to no end.

As the week passed, Arina adjusted to her body so that she no longer noticed that her ears were different than others, or that she had a tail, even. She wasn't entirely surprised to wake up on Thursday and find that her elongated legs, ears and tail had all vanished back into her Dream, no longer showing on her flesh. That left only the wings as the remnants of her Dream in Flesh.

It was hard to tell who was more disappointed when the appendages disappeared: herself, Farostel, or Kaelas, who had taken quite a shine to her. However, as a sign that she was truly adjusting to her new life, Arina loved the vanishing acts.

When Arina was spending time with the boys, it was usually playing a game or two. The group had decided to teach her to play chess, possibly hoping that she would therefore learn to play in a reasonable—that is, male—style. Sadly, the confusion between what little she knew of chess from Earth, and what she was learning about chess in the realms left Arina hopelessly confused. After a few games that ended up in horrible messes, the boys gave up.

Unfortunately for the males, the girls had already managed to teach Arina Cradle, but the boys did teach her some other card games, so they considered that a success.

They also regaled her with stories about the girls, which Arina smiled at and filed away in her mind with the stories the girls had told about the boys. It was quite funny, actually, the things that the goys had caught the girls doing and vice versa. The stories really helped Arina to learn more about the people that she was now hanging around with, and she was putting together a good picture of the group as a whole.

Of course, she was leaving in less than a week, but still. That wasn't the point, the point was that she was making friends with them, and it wasn't like they wouldn't be able to visit.

She repeated that line quite a bit lately, it seemed.

"Are you excited about going?" Farostel asked her on Friday. The pair of teens had climbed into one of the towering pines in the woods around the Hall. The male lay out on a long branch, facing the trunk where Arina sat curled up with her arms around her legs. They were about 60 feet in the air, but neither of them really thought about that fact. It certainly didn't bother them.

"Mmm…" Arina murmured, considering the question. "Yes, of course, very much so," she agreed. "But I'm still nervous about going as well, you know?" She added slowly. "It's such a big thing, and this decision, and how I do when I'm there, is going to effect the rest of my life."

Farostel shook his head. "It really isn't that big of a deal," he told her. "Just relax. If things don't' end up working out in Hayll—"

"—Then I'm obviously not meant to be a Queen in charge of anything, or something along those lines. If I really fail out of Hayll, then no Queen in her right mind is going to let me try again in her Territory. There is no way."

The male made a noise of frustration in the back of his throat. "Don't be ridiculous. You are not going to 'fail out' of Hayll. You'll make a wonderful Queen." He rolled his eyes. "Failing. The very idea," he muttered. Arina smiled very slightly, heartened by his confidence in her, and relaxed back against the trunk, taking a long breath. Dropping her arms, she let one leg dangle over the edge of the branch, bursting out laughing when her shoe fell off and plummeted to the ground. Refocusing, she looked back at Farostel, still smiling.

"I'm excited," she repeated. "And a little bit of nerves is healthy, after all."

"Of course," Farostel replied. Arina shot him a sharp look as she registered his glum tone. Her eyes narrowed momentarily in annoyance. And here she had thought that he, at least, was ok with her leaving.

"And how do you feel about me leaving?" she asked. Farostel had always supported her decision to make her own path, and she didn't like that that was apparently no longer the case. At all.

The silver haired male looked down at Arina's fallen shoe instead of meeting the girl's eyes. "I like it less every day," he admitted at last. "We of the Dea al Mon don't like to let go of those we consider our own."

Arina appreciated the compliment, but she wasn't any happier about it. "If it helps at all, I'm going to miss you as well," she told him gently.

"It doesn't."

Arina blinked at the blunt response. He still hadn't meet her eyes. The Queen sighed. "I guess it doesn't matter, in the end," she mumbled. It hurt to lose Farostel's support, but it wasn't going to stop her. "I'm still going, and no one else is coming with me. Well, Janos and Star, but they are different," she amended. Farostel snorted slightly, but didn't disagree. The dog at least was going to follow her no matter what, everyone knew. "But it's only for three years, when I make my Offering and form my court, and that isn't that long," she grumbled. "I don't see what the big deal is. If I was going to college, it would be four years."

"Maybe it isn't that long for you," Farostel snapped, not hearing the last bit. "I'm not going to live for centuries like you are. Time matters to me!"

"What, you think it doesn't matter to me as well?" she snarled at him, infuriated.

"My life will be a blink of an eye for you," the Dea al Mon retorted, rising to his feet and looking down at her. "What does a few years matter to someone who will still be here 4000 years from now?"

Arina shot to her feet, swaying dangerously for a moment. Farostel took a step toward her, reaching out to steady her, but she caught herself and took a step back. "Until a few weeks ago, I was just as short lived as you!" she shouted. "The idea of living for so long still doesn't register to me, you know! I don't think I'm really going to get this living forever thing until I'm standing over your grave! How the Hell do you think that makes me feel, when I think about the fact that I'm going to still look twenty when you and a majority of my friends die of old age? How? I'm honestly curious as to what you think!"

Farostel stared at her with wide eyes, utterly dumbfounded.

"Because it makes me feel like a freak, that's what! Even without the extra parts, I've still changed so much I barely recognize myself!" For a heartbeat, her fangs and slit pupils, ears and tail appeared, changing her into some fantastic creature in the shadows. Then she leaped off the branch and dropped to the ground in a crouch, the changes vanishing just as quickly as they had appeared. The girl vanished into the trees within seconds, leaving Farostel still staring after her in shock. Janos lunged to his feet from where he had sprawled under the tree and raced after Arina, followed by one of the wolves.

After a moment, Farostel climbed down the tree as well, but he didn't even try to go after her. While he would be able to find her, it wasn't worth getting attacked by the canines, and she was protected. Besides, Arina was likely to take a knife to his head, considering how angry she was at the moment.

That probably hadn't been the brightest thing to say to her, in retrospect.

Picking up Arina's discarded shoes, Farostel walked slowly back to the Hall, slipping through the back passages in order to avoid Lucien. It just wasn't worth it.


Arina ran through the trees as quickly as she could, letting the rushing wind burn away the wetness in her eyes. Janos loped next to her, accompanied by a grey wolf on her other side. Both canines were silent, letting her run out her frustrations without distractions, perfectly understanding the urge to just move. The pounding of their feet, the rush of the wind through the branches and her hair, and heavy breathing were the only sounds that she could hear, all the other animals having left at the approach of the predators.

Tension drained slowly out of her frame the longer the girl ran, and with it went her anger. It was hardly Farostel's fault that he didn't want her to leave—part of her didn't want to leave, and she wasn't the one who spent her entire life longing for a Queen to serve. Besides, the waiting was grating on everyone's last nerve, including the adults. It would no doubt get better and easier for everyone once Arina was in Hayll and everyone separated to the different territories and resumed lessons. For now, other than her healing sessions, none of the teens were doing anything. It was a good idea in theory—no one was going to focus on school work for the week—but in reality it left a bunch of somewhat hyperactive teenagers with nothing to occupy their time.

As a direct result, the teens were spending every waking hour with each other, and it was starting to get to the point where they were picking at each other in order to start a fight. Little things were starting to get to everyone as well—just yesterday, Alexandra had shouted at Titian for leaving a book on the floor that she tripped on. It was only inevitable that Arina snap as well, especially considering the attention that she was getting from everyone.

Separating would be good for everyone.

After a solid hour of running, Arina collapsed onto a fallen tree, panting heavily. Despite her exhaustion, though, she felt much better for the run. She was ready to apologize to Farostel for screaming him, at the very least.

*Better now?* Janos asked anxiously, laying his muzzle on Arina's leg to peer at her face. She absently scratched at his hear when she nodded in response. *Good. Food now?*

Arina laughed, climbing to her feet again and stretching slowly. "Food sounds pretty good," she agreed. And judging from the soreness building in her hamstrings, a long soak in steaming water was in order as well. The girl stifled a groan as she began walking.

Starting back to the Hall took a minute of thought, unfortunately. In all of her explorations with Kaelas and Farostel, she had never seen this clearing before, and she didn't remember where she had come from either. The wolf started off to the west with no hesitations, however, and Arina followed slowly, trusting it to know the way back.

"What's your name?" Arina asked the wolf as they treaded their way through the trees.

*I am Shadow,* the wolf told her. He was a Purple Dusk Warlord, Arina judged, and big for a wolf, though young enough that he hadn't made his Offering yet. She tilted her head as she looked between Janos and the wolf. *Meet Janos when he joined pack,* the wolf added. Arina nodded absently and let the subject drop, focusing on the area around them, taking a deep breath of the sweet air.

"Thank you for running with me," she murmured at last. By that point, they had crossed over into familiar territory for her, and she knew where she was at last. Arina was stunned to realize just how far she had to have run, considering that this was almost a mile out from the Hall.

*Was fun,* Shadow told her practically. *Again soon?*

"No, not for a while," she told him, smiling at his enthusiasm. "I'm going away to learn how to be a Queen soon."

The wolf appeared puzzled. *You are a Queen. Why learn?*

"Being a Queen is instinctive, but I need to learn how to administer to a Territory, and just being a Queen doesn't teach me that."


And then they were quiet again. And it was a good thing, too, because Arina was starting to have to work to hide from the two males how much it hurt to move. It was nothing that a good soak and some aspirin wouldn't solve, but right now, it hurt. If the males realized that, there was no doubt that they would make her stop and go get someone to carry her the rest of the way, and that was not something that she wanted.

There would no doubt be enough lectures from Jaenelle, Karla and Gabrielle without the added embarrassment of having to be carried in as well. She would walk if it killed her—perhaps a bad choice of words.

About an hour after starting back, the tri reached the Hall entrance and slipped inside. Shadow quickly detached from Arina's side and headed off in the direction of the kitchens; Arina, followed by Janos, headed upstairs to her bedroom. Avoiding everyone in the corridors was simple enough, and once she reached her room she quickly locked the door. Janos whined in surprise on the other side of the wood, but Arina didn't budge, leaning against the door in sheer exhaustion.

"Sorry, J, but I'm taking a bath. I want to be alone right now," she added when the Warlord Prince didn't move.

The German Shepard went away after a long moment, nails clicking softly on the wood floors. Arina waited until the sound was gone to stager into her bathroom, and promptly collapsed on the on the edge of the huge tub. She started filling it with hot water and sent a message down to the kitchen for food before simply vanishing her clothes and sliding painfully into the water.

She floated.

Knocking on her door roused her from a stupor after a while, and the girl shifted so that she was sitting on one of the benches around the edge rather than floating on the surface. "Come in," she called.

Jaenelle and Gabrielle came in, floating a tray covered with rich foods—steak, stew, spaghetti, bread, and fruit. Arina's mouth watered, and she moved to the bench closest to the edge of the bath eagerly. The two women chuckled as the set the tray down on the side of the tub and sat down. Arina instantly attacked the food, and Jaenelle waited a moment before starting the interrogation.

"So, how are you feeling?" Jaenelle inquired innocently, a knowing glint in her eyes.

Arina hesitated, wary. "I'm feeling alright," she said at last.

"Really? Because Shadow tells me that you ran about nine miles today. In fact, he was very excited because it had been a while since he was able to run like that—and considering his pack, that is quite the accomplishment."

The younger girl paused and considered. "I'm feeling alright now," she allowed. "I was sore—well, I'm still sore—but it isn't actually that bad. All I had to do was soak the tenseness out," Arina insisted.

Jaenelle leveled an even stare on the girl. Finally she inclined her head in concession, silently agreeing not to lecture—as long as Arina wasn't lying. "Alright then," she said. "Get out so we can check on you," Jaenelle told her. Then, giving the water a longing look, she changed her mind. "Never mind," she said, exchanging a look with Gabrielle, who smiled. "We'll join you instead."


"I told you I was fine," Arina grumbled as she sprawled out on her bed. Gabrielle had left after the two Healers had determined that there was nothing wrong with Arina that a good night's sleep wouldn't cure, and that the run hadn't done damage to the healing and forming muscle. "I'm a decent judge of my physical limitations, seeing as I have been taking self defense classes for years," she added.

"I suppose," Jaenelle said in amusement. "Remember to stay in bed for the evening, to rest your muscles. You have flying lessons tomorrow morning as well."

"Yes," Arina agreed. She was excited, still unable to believe that she was going to be able to fly—it was a dream come true, literally. Jaenelle left the room quietly while Arina mused, shutting the door with a slight click that brought the girl back out of her thoughts. She instantly sat up and reached out with her Jewel to find the others.

Janos was out with the local pack in the woods; Star and the rest of the horses were sleeping in the stables. Retreating back inside, Arina located Rose, Lillian and Alexandra together with Karla, and she remembered the three Healers in training talking about asking for a lesson. Everyone else had split up in their individual rooms though, making it easy for Arina. Merely brushing against Farostel's mental barriers was enough to let him know that she wanted to see him.

*I'm coming,* he sent almost instantly.

Of course he was, she grumbled to herself. Because it wasn't at all like she was nervous about apologizing for completely losing it earlier.

Sure enough, there was a tap on the door about a minute later. Arina beckoned to the door, and it swung open on its own—momentarily distracted, Arina beamed.

"Impressive," Farostel said quietly as he entered the room. Arina jerked her head up and looked at him, flushing slightly.

"Thank you," she mumbled. She fidgeted with her blanket for a second, then straightened. "I wanted to apologize for earlier," she told him. "For snapping on you. It was uncalled for, and you didn't deserve it."

"Maybe I did, a little," Farostel disagreed, coming to perch on the foot of the bed. "I was goading you, and I didn't consider that you weren't of the long lived races before. I was inconsiderate, and I'm sorry, too."

"Well, we're both sorry. So we should just forgive each other and forget about this whole incident then," Arina suggested.

"Of course," Farostel agreed. He got to his feet again with a small smile. "Lauranna wanted help with something, so I should go," he announced, already heading out the door. "Good luck tomorrow, Lady," he called over his shoulder.

Lucien entered the sitting room just as Farostel was leaving, and Arina caught a glimpse of the look exchanged by the two males.

"What was that about?" Lucien asked after he closed the door behind him once Farostel had gone. He came over to the bed and lay down next to her, letting her curl up next to him and lay her head on his chest.

"We had a fight earlier. I wanted to apologize to him, and he wanted to do the same to me." She shrugged. "It wasn't a big deal or anything."

"Ah," Lucien muttered. Then, "What did you fight about?"

"That, Lucien my love, is none of your business," Arina huffed. "Besides, it doesn't matter anymore, because we have decided to forget about it and move on. But part of it was about my moving to Hayll, just like you thought, no doubt."

"So he's finally come to his sense, then?" Lucien asked idly, running his fingers through her hair. "He tried to convince you to stay, to apprentice to someone nearer to home? In which case, he obviously failed."

"Well, he doesn't want me to leave, but he didn't try to convince me to apprentice to someone else. At least he gets where I'm coming from with the whole favoritism thing. I'm not going to apprentice in one of the Territories ruled by Jaenelle's circle. Then that family would claim that I liked them more or something. Even with you, so I won't do that. Besides, who would I chose? Your mother? Farostel's? Or maybe someone else's mother?" Arina shook her head. "I care about more than just you, Lucien, and I'm not willing to hurt anyone." Her tone had grown increasingly sharp as she finished her statement. "So no, he didn't convince me to stay. As little as you like it, this is the best way for things to happen."

Lucien wrapped his arm around the girl and pressed his lips to the top of her head to still her voice. "I'm sorry. I don't want to fight tonight, okay?"

"Alright," Arina agreed. She was already half asleep at this point, so she just curled tighter into his side and hummed quietly. "We can finish fighting about this tomorrow," she mumbled. Within minutes, Lucien, still musing over that last comment, realized that Arina had fallen asleep on top of him. Smiling softly, he followed her lead.


"Don't even start," Lucien snarled at his sister as she sauntered up to him, smirking widely. He glared down at his cup of coffee before automatically looking over to check on Arina. Next to him, Rose snickered softly. Lucien ignored her grimly, watching as his mother and Uncle talked to the girl, appearing to give her advice.

The pair had been found by Lucivar at nine that morning, roused by his usual wake up call. The man had laughed on seeing them, and then dragged Lucien out of the bed. Arina had moaned slightly, curling up into the warm hole that was left behind by the male. Lucien was unceremoniously shoved into an icy shower after a short tussle where Lucien tried to drag his Uncle in after him. By the time that Lucivar got back to the door of Arina's room, it was locked, with the Queen dressing quickly in skin tight pants and a backless shirt for easy maneuverability when flying. Lucivar was quite impressed with her initiative, and amused by the fact that they had slept together without sleeping together.

By the time that Arina and Lucien had gotten to the field, everyone in the Hall knew that they had spent the night together. The girls thought that it was cute, and thoroughly approved. The boys, on the other hand, couldn't decide if they were impressed or jealous of Lucien. Either way, the result was a lot of people giving him knowing looks and smirks. Arina was busy, and she was the Queen, so no one was giving her the looks, only Lucien.

It was irritating. After the first ten minutes of it, the Warlord Prince started snarling at people—after that, they stopped teasing him and gave him distance.

His mother stepped back from Uncle Lucivar and Arina, calling in a pair of gossamer black wings and slipping them on. Lucien's father leaned forward intently, and everyone stopped their conversations to face the field, knowing that the lesson was about to begin. Arina and Lucivar had both spread their wings, and Arina had a look of intense concentration on her face. Her wings started to move, slowly at first and then picking up speed, whipping her hair around her face. But still, nothing happened, and Arina frowned thoughtfully. She said something to Lucivar softly enough that no one could hear it, and he looked interested. Glancing up at the Hall, the older male nodded after a moment of consideration. Arina folded her wings and Lucivar picked her up and took off to everyone's surprise. Jaenelle followed after a moment, and the three disappeared over the roof of the Hall and didn't show back up for a few long moments.

Finally, Lucivar reappeared, hovering over the roof and looking down, and then Jaenelle ascended as well. When Arina didn't show, Lucien exchanged a confused look with Rose and Farostel, who had come up behind him.

Then Arina leapt off the edge of the roof to general shock. Lucien let out a shout of horror and lunged forward, reaching out with his Jewel simultaneously. She didn't need him to catch her, though.

Her wings swept out and caught the wind, and she curved up far above the ground. Arina spiraled upwards by tilting her body slightly to the left, laughing loudly enough to be heard from the ground. Lucivar rose up to join her, and within seconds Jaenelle swept behind Arina to examine her wings as the girl used them. Lucivar started to lead the girl in different flying patterns in a vast circle around the field, allowing Jaenelle to simply rotate in place to watch Arina work.

Lucien could hear her laughing from far overhead, gleefully spinning around the larger male. It was hard not to be jealous that he couldn't fly, particularly when Daemonar and Andulvar both took off and joined Arina in playing games with their father in the air. Janos ran around the field below Arina, snapping playfully at her heels when she dipped low.

Farostel made a thoughtful noise as he looked between Arina and the three Eryians.

"What?" Rose asked, curious. She followed his gaze to the fliers, but didn't find what he was seeing.

"They fly differently," The male noted. "She has more control than the Eryians, it looks like. More precision." Arina was dancing around Lucivar in tight maneuvers and tiny shifts that the male couldn't replicate, despite many attempts. The ones on the ground watched in surprise as one of the most skilled fliers was outdone by a scrap of a girl flying for the first time.

"Are the differences in the wings really so distinct? I thought that they just got them in the air," Rose mumbled the last bit under her breath, but Rillian and Lillian gave her dark looks in response, obviously having caught it. Rose just shrugged at them. "Don't you use Craft to fly?"

"We rely a lot on power, yes," Rillian began. "Strong wing beats, support from Craft, and such. We can use wind currents to glide and help build up speed, but we have to maintain our power to fly. Arina doesn't seem to use as much of her Craft and power—it's more physical for her."

"I don't know if she even does have to use Craft. It's a distinct possibility that she doesn't," Lillian mused, looking up. "I wonder how much Dad can teach her, if she doesn't use Craft or fly in the same style."

"Not all that much," Andulvar announced. The girls all jumped as their youngest family member landed beside them, folding his wings and looking back up at the sky. Rose swore at him for scaring her; Andulvar and Lucien both snickered.

"What was that?" Lillian asked once she collected herself.

"We can't really teach her much. What we could teach her was about wind currents and how it helps us conserve energy and how to use them to full effect, and very general things, but anything more complicated than that, when she tries to do what we say, it just messes her up." The boy shrugged. "There isn't much we can do about it."

"She has to have gotten the wings from somewhere, and if hers are so different from yours, then it stands to reason that someone—many someones—dreamed them in a specific way. The question is—who?"

"Better idea—what."

Everyone turned to look at Farostel, and the male stared back evenly. "The only thing that I can think off, that would give her wings like that, would be some kind of bird kindred that we are unaware of. Why else would she have wings so different from the only winged Blood?"

"Who knows," Lucien muttered, dropping to the ground and stretching out. "We'll find out sooner or later."

Mumbling in agreement, the others all lowered themselves to the ground and closed their eyes as they relaxed. About half an hour later there was a rustle of grass by Lucien's head, and fingers brushed over his hair, moving it gently out of his face. Opening his eyes a slit, he looked up at Arina's glittering silver eyes, and smiled.

"Hey you," she murmured. "Taking a nap?"

"Maybe," he drawled. She tugged lightly at a lock of his hair before straightening back up and moving away. Sitting up, he saw her return to where his mother and uncle were having a quiet conversation, her wing tips trailing lightly over the grass. To his irritation, Farostel had already gained his feet and moved to stand behind Arina. Growling slightly, Lucien stalked after them.

"You obviously know what you are doing in the air, Arina, and there is nothing more that I can teach you. Anything else I tell you will only hinder you, from what we've seen. Other than trying to locate whoever—or whatever—Dreamed your wings, you are done. Flying is instinct, after all. You don't need much help anyway."

"Yes, you are already quite skilled in the air. I do want you to take it easy and not spend more than an hour flying at a time, and no more than twice a day for a month, and then I'll visit you in Hayll and see how you are doing," Jaenelle agreed.

"Great," Arina said. She spread her wings out to their full, sixteen foot span before folding them in tightly. As they molded to her back they began to look translucent and insubstantial. Lucien sucked in a breath in surprise and reached out to touch them—too late. Within seconds the feathered appendages were completely gone, fading into the shadows as though they had never been there. Arina twisted her head around in surprise as the weight vanished off of her back, muscles loosening and relaxing automatically. "Huh," she said, disappointed. The wings had bade her different, set her apart, but she loved them. Like many children, she had always dreamed of flying—the freedom of it—though perhaps more than most children. "I do wish that they would have stayed," she said wistfully.

Jaenelle smiled understandingly. "I know. But they aren't completely gone, of course. Just put away for now, the Dream having fallen beneath the Flesh. Now," she said seriously as Arina nodded, "You need to remember to summon your wings every day and fly for an hour, both to keep strengthening your wings, and to practice."

"Right," Arina agreed. "I'll be fine," she added in exasperation when Jaenelle didn't relax. "I get that I still need to practice, really."

Lucivar nodded sharply, accepting that she understood instantly. "Then we're done here," he said. "Arina, you only have three days left before you leave—are you packed?"

"I'm…getting there," she mumbled, looking down momentarily in embarrassment.

Alexandra popped up next to Arina, making the males standing by her jump in shock. "I'll help her finish packing," she offered.

"Great," Arina said brightly, relieved. She had enough left to do that she didn't want to do it alone—it would take her forever to finish, considering how often she was interrupted. Spinning, she hugged Lucien quickly. "I'll see you later then, okay?" she told him. She knew perfectly well that he wanted to spend the day with her, but this would be better in the long run. Lucien softened slightly, wrapping his arms around Arina for a long moment.

"Have fun," he told her, dropping his arms reluctantly. Arina stuck her tongue out at him before strolling off with the other Queen back to the Hall, waving at the rest of the teens as they went. Alexandra said something to Arina as they walked out of hearing distance, and both girls laughed. Alexandra flicked a glance over her shoulder at Lucien and Farostel and smiled sweetly.

Both males shivered on instinct. It was rarely a good sign when a witch gave someone a overly sweet smile.


"That was kind of cruel," Arina managed as the pair reached her rooms. The expressions on both the boy's faces when Alexandra had smiled at them were so funny, though, that Arina really couldn't bring herself to scold too much.

"I know," Alexandra said smugly. Putting her hands on her hips, the blond girl looked around Arina's bedroom critically. There were blown up images of the rooms in her new manor, covered with raw designs for fabric colors and types, furniture woods and styles, and everything out of an interior designers dream. These images were partially covered by newer pictures of the group of teens caught at odd moments over the past week, usually when they were picnicking out on the lawn or playing games at night. Papers with drawings of the Hall and hand-drawn images of the pictures were on top of those pictures. Piles of clothes separated by seasonal wear were sitting next to elegant looking trunks, each decorated with a tree in each of the seasons—bare branches for winter, buds for spring, green leaves for summer, and wild red and gold leaves for autumn. "So, what needs doing?" she asked.

"My clothes are mostly separated already," Arina began, refocusing on the current task. "But I still have a couple of shopping bags to go through and sort," she continued, gesturing to the small pile of shopping bags, some from the Realms, and some from Earth. "Plus, most of my random stuff still needs to get packed." Arina picked up the book nearest to her, moving across the room to set it in a plain black trunk obviously meant for only her books.

"Why are we sorting everything if they are already in bags?" Alexandra asked, frowning at the bags by the wall in resignation.

"Because it is not useful to have them in bags," Arina said tartly. "And that's that."

Alexandra laughed as she sat down and reached dutifully for the first of the bags. "Because you say so?" she teased.

Arina smirked at her. "Exactly. But anyway, the boys probably think you are planning to kill them in their sleep or something like that. That smile was devious on so many levels."

"But I'm right, aren't I?" Alexandra pressed, bringing them back to the topic they had been weaving around on the way up to the rooms. Arina made a face and turned around. "They are two sides of your triangle. Who will stand as the Steward, though?" Alexandra mused. "None of the boys really have the right temperament for it, and I don't think Great-Uncle Saetan would agree, to be honest. I think he is happy as just a librarian in the Keep," she continued.

"I know that already. And shush, will you? I'm not choosing my Court yet, and I'm not going to until I make my Offering in three years and actually set up my Court, so I'm not going to worry about it right now."

"But when you do establish your Court, Lucien will be your Consort, and Farostel your Master of the Guard. Everyone knows it, even if you won't say it out loud."

Arina grumbled quietly, not actually saying anything as she complained. She started to move around the room, separating her photographs from her drawings, and those from the room layout designs. Stacking them all neatly in piles next to her book trunk, she avoided looking at Alexandra as she searched for something to say. Meanwhile the other girl sorted through the sundresses and flowing tops, humming softly as she set them in the summer trunk.

"Why trunks?" Alexandra asked suddenly. "Why not use the suitcase you brought or something instead of buying a bunch of admittedly nice trunks?"

"What? Oh, well, I'm a bit of a Harry Potter fan, and I always thought it would be so much fun to pack up a trunk and go to Hogwarts, so when I saw them, I had to get them, even if I'm not going to Hogwarts."

Alexandra stared at the girl blankly. "I understand the words that you just used, but the way that you put them together makes no sense in my mind." She told Arina, who laughed.

"Yeah, I keep forgetting that you don't have Harry Potter here. It's a book series, kind of. It almost has a cult following, actually, but that's not actually important right now. I'll let you borrow the books after Lucien reads them, if you want. I think you'll like them, actually. Magic seems to have a lot of similarities to Craft."

"Ah, if you say so," Alexandra muttered, eyeing the rambling girl.

"I'm just nervous. It would appear that I tend to ramble when I am nervous. Interesting."

Alexandra sighed. "It's going to be a long three days," she predicted mournfully. That said, she closed the lid of the summer trunk, moving onto the winter piles, shaking her head.

Arina huffed.


The next two days passed in a daze of flying practices, last minute packing, games played with the group, and moments stolen in dark corners with Lucien. There were countless times when Arina second guessed her decision, and considered calling off her apprenticeship and just working with Jaenelle instead. But every time, she would remember all her reasons for going away in the first place. And even beyond that, she wanted to go. It was something that she had decided for herself, unlike the decision to come here, or even forming bonds with these people. That just happened, it wasn't something she consciously chose for herself. Going to Hayll, though, was. And she wanted to go, even when she hesitated as she spent more time with her friends. Her decision was never really going to change, and the others stopped trying to convince her to stay after the first day.

Wednesday morning dawned beautifully, with no clouds blocking the sunlight, a crisp breeze to brush across her skin, and the promise of a warm and sunny day. Arina had woken early, standing at the window and looking out over the lawn to the forest beyond, remembering the wildness of the jungle, how different it was.

A quiet knock on the door preceded Lucien into the room. Arina didn't turn away from the window, instead reaching her hand behind her for the male to take. He came up behind her and wrapped his arms around her waist. She leaned back against him, and he rested his chin on the top of her head.

"This is it then," Lucien whispered.

"Yes," she returned, equally soft. "I know." A pulse from the webs drew both of their eyes to the landing web in front of the house, where Lady Irena Delanio had just stepped out of a carriage. Lucien stilled. With her was her husband, Prince Harrison Delanio, and an older man that Arina pinned as the Steward of the Court. The three disappeared through the doorway, and Lucien buried his face in Arina's hair.

"Please don't go," he mumbled.

"I'll miss you," she told him. Turning in his arms, she took his face and her hands and studied him. "Every day, I will miss you. Don't doubt that. I love you, Lucien."

It was the first time that she had said the words out loud, and Lucien's eyes widened in shock. Then he kissed her, hard, desperately. She returned it every bit as hungrily, backing him into one of her bed posts.

"Is this a bad time?" an amused voice asked from the doorway. Arina snarled, twisting to glare at Daemon furiously. "Because last I checked, you were supposed to be leaving in a few minutes," Lucien's father added dryly. "This doesn't look like leaving."

"You little—" Arina released Lucien, spitting curses in several different languages at Daemon while she did so.

"Come on," Lucien grumbled. "Really?"

"She is expected downstairs, son," Daemon said simply. He turned and walked away without another word, leaving his son to glare after him. Groaning, he turned to the furious Queen.

"Are you ready to go?" He asked, holding out his hand. Arina glanced around the room once more to check that she had everything she needed before nodding and taking it.

"It's time to leave," she murmured. They left the room, closing the doors behind them and headed down the stairs. The hum of voices guided them to the large breakfast room, where everyone appeared to be congregated. Arina paused and scanned the room from the door.

The Hayllian Queen was sitting at the head of the table, chatting with Jaenelle and Karla. Her husband and the Steward were talking with Daemon and Saetan. Farostel, Alexandra, Rose, and Yaslana were all standing by the buffet table, and everyone else was scattered around the room. They all turned to face Arina and Lucien in the doorway with smiles.

"Darling, it's lovely to see you. Are you ready?" Lady Irena chirped, coming across the room to take Arina's hand.

The girl smiled slightly. "As ready as I'll ever be, I suppose."

"Excellent! Once you eat, then, we'll go!" She went back to her conversation with Jaenelle, leaving Lucien staring after her in shock.

"I know, dear. Don't worry, you'll get used to it." Arina started pulling the male towards the buffet table, where Farostel and the others were waiting.

"She has to be the most excitable woman, let alone Queen, that I've ever heard of," Lucien said flatly.

"That's what makes her so scary, though," Arina told him, amused.

"I don't understand," Lucien admitted.

"She seems so sweet and loving, that when she turns lethal, it stuns people far more than it does when say, you or Farostel do. People expect it from you—they don't from people like Lady Irena," Rose explained, smirking. "Obviously."

"Ah. Anyway, here's some food for you," Farostel handed Arina a plate filled with scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, pancakes, and fried potatoes. At least they knew better than to feed her steak at this hour by now. Sinking into a chair, Arina started to eat while the others slowly gathered together in a clump around her. Soft murmurs flowed around them, and when Arina finally set aside her plate, silence fell.

One by one the teens came up and hugged her, whispering goodbyes in her ears before walking away with their parents, leaving for their own territories. The gathering of adults had been as long as the teen gathering, and it was high time that everyone went back to their own homes. Within minutes, only Lucien and his siblings, and Farostel and his sisters remained in the Hall. The girls had already said their goodbyes, and Lauranna and Astira had rejoined Gabrielle and Chaosti. Rose had vanished out the door, leaving the two boys behind to say goodbye.

Standing, Arina wrapped her arms around the Dea al Mon male and squeezed. He hugged her back equally fiercely, burying his face in her hair. "Don't forget about me, ok?" he murmured at last.

Arina pulled back in shock. "I would never!" she sputtered, indignant. Farostel smiled wanly at the girl, shrugging in mock helplessness. Arina glared at him, then hit him in the arm. "You are an ass," she growled.

"But you love me anyway," he teased. Still, there was that faint hint of worry in the back of his eyes, just like in everyone else's, which concerned Arina.

"Alexandra's right," she said softly. Kissing Farostel on the cheek, she murmured, "I have chosen my Master of the Guard." Turning away towards Lucien, she called over her shoulder, "I'll see you at Winsol, Farostel."

"What did you tell him?" Lucien asked when she reached him, staring at the stunned male behind the girl.

"Only the truth," she assured.

"That is not comforting," the male muttered. Then he was quiet, because kissing Arina was a much better option than talking.

"Don't worry," Arina breathed.

"Stay, please."

Arina smiled sweetly at him. "I love you, I'll miss you. Don't do anything foolish while I'm gone."

And she was gone without another word.


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