AN: Hi guys...hope you like this chapter, sorry it was so long in coming, I've just been so busy.... Comen nasai, k? I promise I'll undated the other chapters quickly...well, relatively quickly. Hm. Anyway...

One of my new year's resolutions was to reply to reviews more personally...something I know I'm terrible at...sorry! Well, since NO-ONE BLOODY REVIEWED THE LAST CHAPTER I feel released from that this time...no, actually, I did get ONE review, from an anonymous person who quoted the 'no title yet'!! Jeez, what's your problem, man?! Ok, I'm really unreliable and I know I should've thought up a chapter title, but I didn't. So sue me! I will put a title...someday. When I get inspiration, maybe. Until then, you'll just have to wait. So there!

Anyway, hope this chapter won't seem too confusing, but if you have trouble understanding what's happening, then read the Faultemir/Aryah bits separately, skipping the others (or vise versa) and then the others. Oh, and about the formatting, I've left two spaces in word in between the 'switches' although I don't know what FrontPage and then FictionPress formatting will do to it....if it's oddly formatted then please be patient and wait until I sort it out. Thanks.

Kiarad nevtun! (happy reading)

Chapter 30: Meeting with Destiny

The room that Enek Balaru ushered them into was high, and lofty, and cold- but it was full of a deepness so black, so impenetrable, that almost nothing could be seen.

In the middle of the room, where once the Artifact of the Catgions was kept, there was an opening.

What else could describe it? thought Rife with not a little wonder; it was simply that: an opening.

A hole, a gap, a fissure, a breach. A window.

Window to what?

His question was soon answered.

Through the black space in the middle of the room, a shadow moved. Then, a chilling voice issued from the blackness.

"Iden tolken itol tesiaren?" the language was unfamiliar even the well-versed Rife, but more than that, it was decidedly alien. "Imen eteled itol tesiaren meldeneren."

Enek Balaru came forward. "Yes, it is them."

"Idu eteled inad tesiaren meldeneret?"

"I have not told them anything, save that you wished to speak to them."

A hiss of satisfaction came from the darkness in vortex. "Ferth."

Then, another voice- if voice it was- called out, "This language speak will we, for a while, that understand may you."

Rife turned to shoot a glance at Ilo. In the shadowy half-darkness, all he could see was a slight frown on his face.

I wonder if he knows what these creatures are...

No, I don't think so, if even I don't know, then surely none of the others...

He doesn't know, yet he's just standing there, ready to face the unknown

He's not afraid even though these beings are so strange-

I wish I was more like him.

There was utter silence in the room, disturbed only slightly by a faint hissing noise coming from the edges of the vortex. Then-

"Closer come you."

Enek Balaru sighed. "They don't know very good Seken." He said loftily. "But they're able to explain what they want well enough."

"What they want?" Tyfonas asked suspiciously.

"Well, yes, you see-"

"Not much want we." One of the voices interrupted. "Just- you hear us. And then decide."

Ilo moved forward as step closer to the dais. "Decide what?"

"If us to help. If Shielath to help."

Erif also moved a pace forward, drawing her sword as she did. The ring of metal echoed around the lofty room. "Whose side are you lot on, anyway?" she asked suspiciously.

The voice that came from the window was irritated. "On no side are we- only Shielath's side."

"But who are you?"

There was a rustling sound from the vortex.

"Not matters that. But, explain must we. To you."

"Explain what, by Terethen?!"

"Steadiers are we. Rulers of many planets- not that they know that. For centuries have we intervened, to change things. Ungood things changing."

Another voice took over. "We were the ones who stopped your world, Shielath, from being destroyed by eternal war in the Third century. We it was who made the Kings sign an agreement, the Peace Ultimate."

"Yes, but who are you?"

The dark shapes shifted, and another being came forward.

"Wanderers between worlds. Yours is not the only world we know of; there are many others. We...we change things, we order things, so that Evil will be defeated."

In the forests of Bezevenese on the other side of the world, Aryah stared at Faultemir. "Yes, but who are the Beings?"

He grimaced, hate disfiguring his features. "Scum! They are liars and scum- I hate them!"

"But what do they do?!"

"They....change things."

"You...change things?" Ilo's voice was confused.

"Yes."

Tyfonas glared at them. "What exactly do you mean? Do you maybe float down on clouds of air and blast anyone you don't like with thunderbolts?"

Rife sniggered.

"...what...sort of things?" Faultemir's answers, instead of enlightening her, were just making her more confused. But then again, Faultemir normally had that effect on people, didn't he?

"No. As said I," the being's voice was less anxious, more cold now. "ungood things. Evil. There is much evil in the worlds. Change that we."

Faultemir was pacing up and down the clearing now, unable to sit still.

"Anything thing they don't like- anything that threatens their control on the worlds they rule- regardless of the suffering they cause!"

Tyfonas snorted loudly. "And just how do you change evil?"

"But- " Aryah felt helpless. "They- they just can't- I mean, if they're from a d-different world, then someone whould've noticed, wouldn't they? How are they supposed to carry out their plans?"

"Systems have we." The Being's voice was now extremely unfriendly. "When born are creatures, the temperament check do we. Sometimes, prevent souls to be give life. Or create different souls. When born is creature, its life and death arrange do we, the good of the world for."

"They- oh, they have their ways." Faultemir's voice was shaking now. "They have immense power- whether magical or otherwise even I do not know- and this they use to arrange things to their liking, and thus depriving all the beings under their control from every single choice they could possibly make....they prevent people from being born as they would in the normal way of things, they arrange people to meet another and be at chance places at chance times-"

The Beings noticed their stunned silence. "Example say I." another one took over hurriedly. "Phepheria, caused born was by us. Given courage, strength, determination was she by us. And so Queen of Kerikardia did she become, and things better for people became. Also....." here it paused for a moment. "You, you all- you been given your own qualities, you been caused born for you to here be this day."

"-But I still don't understand!" Aryah protested.

Faultemir stopped pacing and turned round to look at her. With a shock, she saw his eyes were glittering.

"Don't you, Aryah?" the furious rage in his voice had left it now, but was replaced with a bitterness that was far worse. "I....I was created by the Beings, for no other purpose than to be their tool in the suffering of others. If it wasn't for the Beings, my..... my mother would.....never...."

Aryah, startled at the rapid change in Faultemir, got up unthinkingly.

There was utter silence in the chamber. Then, finally, Tyfonas made a sound like an angry cat.

"What the hell do you mean by that?!"

"Quite simple is it. Example: you. Pride, and defiance to you gave we; ruthlessness and cruelty to Raivendia Rashkneel gave we. So she caused you to hate her. Also, we caused you to enjoy drinking; that way, fall asleep would you, to see Raivendia weeks ago, to attack her. And so start all the events that lead up to now."

"Faultemir....." Aryah was struck speechless. Up until now she had never quite been able to think of Faultemir as an actual personwith feelings; he just seemed to exist on his satanical aura. But now... "....I don't...really-" then she gasped. "So that was what you meant when you said I had to go against destiny!"

Faultemir sighed heavily. "Yes. Otherwise they will destroy you."

"Wait- wait one moment!" Tyfonas's voice was shaking in anger. "You- you're lying! No-one can do that, no-one at all!"

"I assure you, they can." Balaru's voice was dull. "I was given curiosity and a disregard for authority, so that I would find the gateway through worlds in this room, just so I could then free you from prison, so you could go on to fight the enemy of the Council, Daminart- the Aboveall."

"But- but why would they destroy me? I mean, it's not them that's after me, it's the Aboveall!"

Faultemir sighed deeply and rubbed his forehead. "It's difficult to explain. You have to understand just who you are- or rather, who you aren't. I don't know where to begin....but.....well, the Council- that's the Beings- they have one enemy, who they fear more than anyone else." He smiled slightly at the look Aryah gave him. "No, it's not me. Unfortunately. This enemy is a Being, who used to be on the Council until he was thrown off. His name is Daminart."

Erif gaped at Balaru; Ilo raised his eyebrows slightly, while Rife scratched his neck in a pre-occupied way. Tyfonas, however gave full vent to his feelings.

"Oh, things are just getting better and better! You know that maniac too? Wonderful! Terrific!" he turned to the others. "Do any of you guys have a clue what's going on, cause I sure as hell don't!"

They all shook their heads silently.

"You see?" he turned back to the Beings. If he was hoping for an answer, he got none. Gritting his teeth, he continued none the less. "Now, let me get this straight. You, basically are.....Destiny. Your enemy is the Aboveall, who also happens to be our enemy-Erif suddenly snorted as she realized something. "Oh, don't tell me," she said scathingly, "You made him our enemy in order to get us to do the dirty work for you, uld?"

There was a sound of rustling from the vortex.

".....yes."

"....Daminart?"

"You would know him as the Aboveall."

"The Aboveall! You mean, he's an enemy of these Beings?"

"That's right. And he's also the reason that.....I....was created. The Beings gave me special powers, powers unknown to any others on this planet. They intended me to be their fighter, their servant." His voice, so steady before, snarled the 'servant'. "So that I would fight and destroy Daminart." He swallowed. "They made a mistake, though." He said in satisfaction. "It had been so long since they made any of my kind, that they let me get out of hand, and keep the strong rebellious streak that I inherited from my mother. That will prove to be a fatal mistake."

"Oh."

"So that's what you want from us!" said Ilo, startled out of his silence. "You want us to keep on fighting the Aboveall...."

"Yes." Another Being took over. "Ordinarily, your task would not be this, but of others. However, not possible is this. Servant we had- but he has turned to Evil." Here, the dry, hissing voice, devoid of emotion before, now sounded angry. "He betrayed us. Him made we, powers gave, but he went to our enemy, to serve him. Our enemy, your enemy- Daminart. Daminart serves does our servant, Daminart who this world destroy will."

"You....you were created?"

"Yes. But that's beside the point. You've got to understand who I am- but, more importantly, who you are." Faultemir turned around and began to pace the clearing again. "Daminart is a Being. He was once a member of the Council- a member of the rulers of destiny. Not only our planet, but all other planets under their sway. There are countless billions. Anyway- from what I've heard, Daminart wormed his way into the council, and then started to manipulate it for his own gain. He knew he'd be very harshly punished if the Council ever got wind of something strange happening, but he believed he had the wits and gile to avoid discovery until his plans were ripe. What he was trying to do was become soul ruler of Destiny, without the others, and if he had...well, things would be even worse than now. About 18 years ago, the Council realized Daminart was not all he seemed. One Being, Aeritus, forsaw the problems that Daminart would create, so he...he, along with some other Council members, he....changed the Fate that they had previously assigned to certain people. In my case...well, they gave me powers, as I said. They turned me, from a human, into a type of creature that have been extinct for many years, who were first created by the Council as a disciplinary force, back when people knew of the Beings' existence." Faultemir paused. "I became a Shadow Spinner."

"He'll destroy this world?!"

"Yes. Rule harsh will he, the same is it."

Ilo sighed. "I'm afraid I don't understand anything of this. Just who is Daminart?"

"A rebel. We saw he was evil , so we some....measures took. Created you. Created Shadow Spinners. One, he evil turned. Works against us does he. Another, two years later made we, because the dangerous temperament saw we of the first servant. Months ago fled Daminart. Came here. On Shielath tries he a shield to make, to keep us out, to become soul ruler. To do this, power needs he. That is why, Nymphs needed he. Enek Balaru told you, he wants Nymphs. But he realized has, other, bigger power exist does. Now after our servants, the two Shadow Spinners is he."

"A....shadow spinner?"

Faultemir smiled slightly. "Yes. Why does it seem so strange to you?"

"...well, I've...I've never....heard..." catching the look in his eye, she faltered. He was staring fixedly at her.

"It might seem strange to other people. But it shouldn't to you."

Aryah blinked. She couldn't even begin to fathom the way Faultemir's mind worked, but nevertheless, she had a go. "You mean, because I'm a Nymph?"

At that, Faultemir burst out laughing. Aryah started, surprised.

Faultemir stopped laughing and surveyed Aryah through eyes suddenly lightened from graveyard slate to clouds at dusk.

"Ah, but, Aryah," he said, still smiling. "You're not a Nymph."

"Oh." Said Tyfonas. "Well, that's good, he's got away from Aryah, then."

There was a startled rustle from the window.

"Aryah....?"

Erif scowled. "Yes, you know, the nymph? We traveled all over Kerikardia and Bezevenese only to find she's been with us the whole time!"

Tyfonas grunted. "We should have realized her magic was too powerful to be human."

Anther Being answered, their voice amused. "What do you mean? The Nymph - daughter of the most powerful Nymph on Shielath- is here on Kerikardia." Two eyes stared out at them from the shadowy gate. "In fact, she's outside this castle and her name is Yram Ikandinex."

Aryah stared at him, unseeing, uncomprehending. "I'm...not a Nymph?"

"No." there was a strange look on Faultemir's face. "It was Tyfonas who said that, after all. I was surprised at the way you were eager to believe it, to accept it. I'd never expected you to be so gullible."

"But-" Aryah answered hotly, stung at the sneer. Ignoring the other rush of confused emotions, she took refuge in anger. "But what about my magic? That's-it's too powerful to be human, isn't it?"

"Quite. But that's only to be expected, isn't it? It'll be interesting to see if you're more powerful than me....although I doubt it."

Aryah shook her head desperately. "But, no, I-I-I amthe Nymph, you're lying to me, lying like you did before!"

"I am not lying, Aryah." A flicker passed before his face. "I swear by the Gods, I am not lying to you."

Four voices gasped at the same moment.

"Yram!"

"But, if you're not lying to me, then- then, who am I? Who am I, Faultemir?" her voice was a desperate shriek.

"Yes, Yram." The Being was amused. "She is the one Daminart has been searching for, to, ah, absorb her powers. To make magic shield, to keep us out. Did you never wonder at her mysterious birth, at where she might have been before the Catgions?"

"Well, yes, but-" Erif began.

"All that time was she with her mother, the most powerful Nymph on Shielath. Then, when we contacted her, she agreed to thwart Daminart. So she left her daughter to eventually meet you, and help our servant." Here the Being snorted. "We could have changed Destiny without her, of course, but Nymphs are so much better to talk with than Humans."

Rife, who had been standing all this while quietly at the back, took a step forward. "Ulda...." he said slowly. "You said, 'help our servant'?"

There was a slight hesitation. "Yes. You had to meet our servant. To watch over, to guard, to protect."

"Yes, but....we hadn't met Faultemir, then..."

There was a gasp from the others.

"Faultemir?!"

Rife frowned, puzzled. "Well, yes." Catching their looks, he snorted. "Oh, come on. Who else do we know who has strange powers, evil tendencies and a past he's only too anxious to keep quiet?" he frowned. "But that's not what's bothering me." He turned back to the Beings. "You're talking about the other one, the other servant...."

"We are the same. I've said it before."

"What do-" Aryah's eyes grew wide. "No, no, no-"

"The other servant. The other shadow spinner." The Being said coolly. "Oh, yes, you've met her. Aryah."

"No!"

This isn't possible, this isn't happening, I can't be, I'm not, no, no, no- she sank to her knees, oblivious to her surroundings. No, no, no, I don't understand, I'm not, a- a-, oh Telris, Telris, help me! No.....

A dark wave rushed over her and she gasped as she lay on the sunny forest floor, choking and sobbing.

Then, in the midst of the anguish, she felt a touch on her arm, found herself looking into a pair of slate-gray eyes.

As Faultemir looked at her, she heard a clear voice in her mind.

I know, it's hard. I know. But we're equal to it. We can't just let them win.

Trembling, Aryah looked into his face. Expressionless, it seemed, yet now she could see the seething mass of emotion behind the cold eyes.

It's so hard...

I know. I know, Aryah. But all we can do is survive. You have to find the strength within you to fight them, to destroy them. Can you do that?

I don't know. I don't think I can....

You do. You can. You do have strength, Aryah, I've seen it.

But it's so hard...

Her mind traveled briefly over the shocks sustained- then glanced off, still too painful to examine. Instead she touched the hand on her arm, feeling the consolation of the warm steady weight.

Faultemir breathed in sharply.

There was an explosion of exclamations in the darkened chamber. Tyfonas's jaw dropped open, Ilo stared silently at the Beings, and Erif jumped a foot in the air. Rife, however, merely nodded soberly.

"Ah, yes. Of course."

The next moment, he winced as Erif punched him.

"You little idiot!" she hissed. "You just have to know everything, don't you?!"

Rife blinked. "Really, Erif, I understand that instead of trying to comprehend unsavory facts, you find consolation in anger; but, please, please, could you maybe take it out on someone else?"

Erif merely growled at him. However, she wasn't the only one angry.

"You're lying!" Tyfonas yelled. "Aryah's the Nymph- she can't be a-a-"

"-Shadow Spinner." Rife supplemented coolly.

"Yes, that," said Tyfonas impatiently. "She can't, I mean, we'd have known-"

"Of course you would have." The other Being with the better Seken said quickly. "But until recently she was not clamed by us, she hadn't come into all her powers. She only had the most basic of Shadow Spinner powers, her Element powers. Now she's got the same powers as your-ah- friend Faultemir."

"Ulda-" said Ilo, frowning slightly. "When you say 'claimed', what do you mean?"

The Being shifted slightly. "Glad I am you asked me that." A dry laugh, like a hiss, came from the Window. "We used that vertel Faultemir, to do it- by opening a window, that is." Seeing their confusion, the Being hastened to explain. "A Shadow Spinner can only be claimed by us when we can reach through the veil separating the worlds. And to open a fissure is extremely difficult, it can only happen at certain times or certain places, or using a set of ancient spells together in a Ceremony- as Faultemir did. By causing Raivendia Rashkneel to learn the undefeatable sword-spell Heldarian when she was fifteen, the Elkerzort, Ilo, was wounded. Faultemir, we knew, would be in that region at the same time as you, although we couldn't know for sure- Daminart has taught him spells that keep us from sensing him, and he has an extraordinary habit of being in different places from the ones we intend." Here, the Being gave a dry, mirthless laugh. "Despite that, he was there- and Faultemir healed your friend, Ilo. And so, he would later be recognized by the Nymph-Girl, Yram.

"The Ceremony Faultemir was trying to complete would have achieved a window much like this one. He would have gone through it, to our own world, to find us and destroy us. That was his plan, which he had formed after years of searching. Now, Faultemir knew the Ceremony needed a sentiment Being for a sacrifice. He took the appearance of you- to a certain extent rightly- as our influence. He misread the motive, though. He thought we were willing at last to fight him face-to-face, and for that reason had sent him sacrifices. It is amazing, really, the way some people see only what they want to see, blatantly ignoring reality." The Being laughed. "In that we were fortunate, as Faultemir has developed an uncanny foresight. He is often able to see through events to our influence behind them- and so thwart it."

Aryah looked up into Faultemir's face.

I don't feel strong.....

But you are. The Beings created you, but they made another mistake, allowing you to be so strong. We must use every one of their mistakes to our advantage.

These Beings...what they're doing is wrong. We should be free, shouldn't we? Free to leave things to chance, and not to have things decided for us....

Faultemir laughed. Now you understand the cause that has given a reason to my existence.

The Beings should be stopped....but how? How can we do that?

Using our powers. In the Eclipse, where new spells can be created. We can try to create a magic barrier, a kind of shield, that will protect our world from the influence of the Beings.

Powers....? Oh. Aryah sagged. I'd almost forgotten....I'm....a....we're....

Shadow Spinners?

Aryah nodded.

Faultemir gazed at her steadily and this time, Aryah thought she could see concern in the depths of his eyes.

Rife nodded thoughtfully. "Yes. I understand." he said musingly. "But, 'claimed'? What do you mean by that?"

"It means she came into her full powers as a Fire Shadow Spinner." The Being shifted slightly. "It also means we have total power over her."

It's not as bad as all that. Faultemir smiled fleetingly. You might even come to like it.

But what are Shadow Spinners?

We are creatures of legend, surrounded in myth and mystery. Countless tales on this world alone refer to us, although the facts are twisted and embroidered, as is inevitable. We were created by the Beings for the first time over a thousand years ago. Faultemir shifted slightly. You must understand, the Beings rule over thousands of worlds –openly or otherwise. He smiled briefly. To make you understand fully, I must recount the full history of our planet.

Then do.

Faultemir looked into her upturned face.

Very well.

"Total power?"

"Yes. She cannot escape her identity as a Shadow Spinner now."

Ilo shook his head. "I don't understand. Just what do you mean by 'total power'?"

"Clear enough, isn't it?" said Tyfonas sourly. "They can do what they like with her, use her as a weapon against us all- uld?"

"Something like that." Said the Being frostily.

"Yes, but-" Erif broke in impatiently. "I don't understand- just what are Shadow Spinners, for Hekki's sake?!"

Tyfonas scowled at her. "They've explained already, they're-"

"Their servants." Said Ilo deliberately. His eyes darted around them all in the sudden hush. "Now," he said clearly. "I think we should all just calm down." As no-one said anything, he turned back to the Beings. "Now, you've been very clear about Shadow Spinners' role to you- but, just what, if you'll forgive my bluntness, have they got to do with us?"

No-one knows just when the Beings discovered our planet. However, I believe it must have been some time in the second age. Humans then worshiped the Dragons as gods. When the Beings first showed themselves to the humans, they were petrified- and after the Beings had killed a few, they fell on their knees and worshiped them....

"Uld..." said Aryah in surprise, "They knew about them?"

Of course. It was only later that they were forgotten. Please, let me finish. Many centuries passed, with the Beings being worshipped by humans. They were, in effect, the rulers of Shielath- each of the despots had to consult the Beings in every action...Well, that's how many years passed. The Being's interference was most noticeable in the third age, when war threatened to overwhelm the world- they interfered, making the leaders sign the Peace Ultimate- promising a reward if humans could keep the peace. Well, they did, and three hundred years later, humans were given the least of the Beings powers- Elemental Magic.

So things passed, until the sixth Age.

It was around a thousand years ago, when the Beings first realized that, to make sure the creatures in their power obeyed them fully, they would have to have immediate power as well as controlling Destiny; they needed creatures powerful enough to punish the more wayward beings...

And so, we were created.

Aryah, caught up in the spell of his silent words, bowed her head. Us? Shadow Spinners...

Yes.

"W-Wait a moment," said Aryah out loud. "Let me get this straight; Shadow Spinners were created by Destiny as their soldiers?"

To put it simply, yes. We were given immense magical powers- some that rival even the Beings'- and were sent to all the worlds under their rule to make sure everything was as they wanted it.

The words ended. Silence reigned.

"I....don't know what to say." Said Aryah at last. "I-I am a Shadow Spinner?"

Faultemir sighed. "Yes."

"But then...the Nymph...the others- the others don't know! They have to find the Nymph, before the Aboveall gets to her-" she stopped suddenly at the half-smile on Faultemir's lips. "What?"

"Well, Daminart, your Aboveall- if what I've heard of him is correct- he will know by now about us; know about the two Shadow Spinners the Council created behind his back, to fight against him-"

"So is that what we've got to do?" Aryah interrupted, "Defeat the Above- I mean, Daminart?" She stopped quickly at the look on his face.

"Oh, come on, Aryah! The Beings- they ruined my life and wrecked yours, and now you're saying we should do just what they want us to do?!"

"Well, no, not like that- I mean- well...then what should we do?"

The half-smile was back, his anger vanishing quickly.

"Destroy the Council."

"I'll tell you what they have to do with you," said the Being, annoyed. "You were designed to assist Aryah destroy the rebel Daminart- and his servant, Faultemir."

"...but, what about Daminart?"

Faultemir shrugged impatiently. "It's the same thing- the same unconscious tyranny...." he sighed. "The war between Daminart and the Council will get even worse- and in the end, one will triumph over the other. That suits us, as then we've only got one enemy to shield ourselves from."

"But who do you think will win?"

"And if we don't help you?" Erif's voice was defiant. "What then?"

"We- we will win with or without your assistance. But there is no escaping Destiny. None whatsoever."

Faultemir leaned back. "To tell you the truth, Aryah, I don't care. I'm set on destroying Destiny, whoever creates it." He smiled fleetingly. "But my money's on Daminart."

"What do you mean?" asked Ilo, frowning.

"Even if you do not assist Aryah and she is used by Daminart and dies, we shall manipulate events to make sure you'll convert Faultemir to our cause."

"And why do you need Faultemir?

"But why?"

"Well-" Faultemir grinned for the first time. "It turns out that the Council messed up again; in the destiny they made for Daminart it was written that the only Being who could take his life would be a Shadow Spinner. He can only be killed by one of us. They were trying to protect him, who they designed to be their most useful member- but in the end, they've made things terrible for themselves. Ironic, uld? Now we're both against the Council, Daminart ent going anywhere."

The Being shrugged the question off. "Power much, has he. But-"

Another Being interrupted him. "But you must follow our instructions willingly- otherwise you'll find yourself doing the same against your free will. Which one would you prefer?"

"Oh." Aryah sat back, stunned by all she had heard. Almost absurdly, her mind went back to the others; wondering, perhaps, how on Shielath she could explain everything to them....

Faultemir leaned against a half-fallen tree.

"Well?" he asked at last. "Do you understand now?"

"I...think so...."

"Then you'll see that the Beings are an evil that must be eliminated at all costs."

Aryah looked down. "I...don't know. I mean..." she stopped, frightened at the look on Faultemir's face. "I mean, no, they shouldn't meddle in other peoples' lives, but, well- do we really have to kill them?"

There was a heavy silence in the chamber. Then, Rife broke it-

"Of course the ideal solution is to be able to do what we want with your approval....but I don't think that's going to happen somehow..."

"No." Tyfonas agreed sourly.

Ilo hadn't taken his eyes off the vortex. "Let's not be too hasty." He said levelly. "Just what do you want us to do?"

Faultemir glared at her. "If you think they deserve any pity then you're a godcursed vertel-"

"Wait, wait, wait-why do you always take everything so badly?! Why won't you just let me finish?" Aryah was suddenly on her feet, glaring right back at him.

Faultemir made to speak, but then shrugged and stared at the floor.

"Now," said Aryah, feeling slightly light-headed but defiant all the same. "I understand how much you hate them; and that they probably, no, defiantly, deserve to be killed- but I don't like the idea of killing."

He looked at her in disbelief. "You, an arsonist, don't like the idea of killing?"

"No." She looked at the ground. "Before...I guess I just didn't care if some people were injured or killed or whatever; but now...I don't know...." she looked up again, her gaze focused once more. "Can't you see, I do agree with you, that I want to help you? I just don't know how."

There was a hushed silence for a moment, then the Being's voice came again eagerly. "First, you must go back to Bezevenese, to free Aryah from Faultemir." Seeing their startled faces, he elaborated. "Faultemir is determined to destroy us; he is trying to create a spell to shut us out of Shielath. His plan is to achieve this in the Eclipse, when new spells can be created- that time is not too far from now, just a few days. For this he needs another Shadow Spinner; so he has taken Aryah by force and is heading North with her." The Being's voice was flinty. "We guess this; unfortunately we cannot know for sure; but that is what Faultemir would do."

An exclamation from the chamber. The Being continued,

"You will rescue Aryah from Faultemir. Then, you will go to Goania."

Erif suddenly found her voice. "Goania?!"

"Yes, Goania. The Nymph-Girl, Yram, has to be re-united with her mother."

"That is simple. All you have to do is help me create the Shield-Spell in the Eclipse."

"In Tolka!"

"Yes."

Aryah looked down at the ground. "And the others?"

Faultemir looked at her steadily. "They have gone over to the other side now. They are servants of the Beings."

"What?"

"Servants of the Beings. They will have been contacted by now, probably." Seeing her blank look, he added, "Look, I know the Beings. They've been my enemies for seven years now, and most of those years I've spent researching them. I know them."

"But...they've contacted the others, ok, but...the others will never help them, ever- will they?"

Faultemir sighed. "One thing I have noticed about humans, is that they're so gullible. But, anyhow- they have no choice."

"No?"

"No."

"Yram has to meet her mother?"

"Yes."

"In Goania?" asked Erif faintly.

"Yes. But first you must rescue Aryah from the evil Shadow Spinner."

"But...what will they do?"

Faultemir leaned back comfortably. "The Beings' first priority is to stop me from creating the shield-spell in the Eclipse. Their second, is to destroy Daminart. Their third- to destroy me."

"So....?"

"So they'll tell the others to intercept us on our way to Tolka for the eclipse, saying you've been kidnapped against your will- as could be perfectly true, probably. If we hurry, they won't reach us before we've got to the Mountain on Tolka. There, we will explain to them the evil of the Council's tyranny; and they will come on our side, we will create and then cast the shield spell, Daminart will be trapped on our world and we'll be able to track him down and exterminate him easily. Probably."

"Oh."

"Rescue Aryah?" asked Tyfonas, confused. "What's the matter with Aryah?"

Rife sighed inwardly. "It's obvious." He said. "We left Aryah on Bezevenese-"

"With none other than Faultemir." Said Ilo, groaning. "It was our mistake."
"I can't believe it!" said Erif furiously. "I cannot believe it! We trusted him- I knew there was something funny about him!"

"Yes." Said the Being expressionlessly. "So you must stop him, stop him before they get to Tolka and create the Shield-Spell."

"But how?" Tyfonas turned to the others helplessly.

"I'll tell you how." Erif was paler than usual, her eyes flashing fearlessly. "We've got to go to Tolka."

"Yes. You've got to go to Tolka."

"So when do we leave?"

"Go now." Said another Being. "Hurry. There is a full armament ready to ship to Misaetar in a few hours. Make your excuses to the war-lords and make your way north through Bezevenese. Take the Nymph with you. She has been healed."

"Now." Said Faultemir, standing up. "Come on. Do you understand now?"

Aryah met his eyes steadily. "Yes, I do. But...Faultemir...there's one thing I don't understand."

He turned around and started leading the way out of the clearing. "What?"

Aryah hesitated a little, frightened by what she was asking. "You...you seem to have a very good reason for hating the Beings. A personal reason."

Faultemir stiffened and looked back at her, and she was frightened in spite of herself.

"If I do, it's none of your business."

Aryah stiffened at his tone but said nothing. She let him lead her silently out of the glade, through the silent forest- to the sea.

Behind her, the cut ropes and gags lay discarded on the forest ground.

"Go, go now. Balaru, make sure they follow our orders."

".....Alright..."

Enek turned from where he had been standing silently, and ushered them out. They waited until the door slammed shut behind them, before bombarding him with questions.

In the shadowy room, the portal in the center of the room crackled and gave out a last final hiss, before disappearing completely.

The room was silent, as shaded and watchful as before. As sinisterly expectant, as though something was yet to happen.

Behind the dais, on the dusty floor, lay an empty, black, shadowy cloak. The cloak worn by the Guardian of the Artifact, the expelled Council member Aertius.

An invisible tremor seamed to run through the room. The cloak seemed to give a small sigh before turning into black ash, that a sudden wind scattered in all directions.

-------

AN: Phew, it's finally over...took me long enough! I'm really sorry about the three months it took me to write this chapter, really, really sorry...please forgive me! I will update more often in the future! I promise!

Well, the second part is officially over. Now it's the THIRD PART! YAY! Well, I'm pleased even if you guys couldn't care less. -- So what'll happen in the third part?

Lots of things. All of them dramatic, some gruesome. Some romantic. Yes, ROMANCE IS FINALLY HERE! WOO-HOO! (sees Dei glaring) Heheh, come on Dei, you'll love it! (I hope so, at least...)

But honestly, the third part is the best . And I'm finally getting almost near to finishing this damned book...been writing it for 2 years and still not done...--

So, my little trailer for the next chapter (the title, as you should know by now, will probably change. I can NEVER make up my mind about titles. Hehe.)

Chapter 31: new horizons

The gang go to Bezevenese only to find aryah and Faultemir already gone- so they end up going to Tolka, their chance to disrupt the ceremony of the eclipse....

If the gang stop Aryah and Faultemir, then the fight will be over and the battle won for the council. Freedom's only chance is to convince them, and bring them onto their side...

But would you really trust a plan made by Faultemir?