* * *

"Silverstreak?" Tari snorted, "What kind of name is that?"

"What kind of name is 'Tari'?" he retorted.

"Fully, its 'Tarianna', and it actually means something," Tari emphasized the word 'means'.

"As does mine," he said coldly.

Maran sat crosslegged on the opposite side of the fire. She was mending a rip that had occured in the knee of her other pair of breeches earlier in the day whilst they were riding through the dense woods. Maran was generally quiet; she did not like to quarrel with others, preferring compromise to confrontation. Tari, however, was a different story.

"Tell me your other name, then!" Tari half-shouted.

"I already told you, I can't," the utter calmness and control present in both Silverstreak's voice and soft sapphire eyes was almost unnatural.

"Liar," Tari whispered.

"You know my Face Name. That is more than I could have told you, admit it!" his voice was cold. Eyes as blue as ice and twice as cold flickered from under the dancing shadows cast by the flames of the fire.

Maran sighed inwardly at the silence that followed. It would be an interesting journey, to say the least. She wondered why she had come, and reminded herself: to keep her friend from finding trouble. Or trouble from finding her, she mused. She laid the breeches and needle aside, the tear neatly mended, and looked up to the sky.

Through a small opening, no wider than Maran's fist, she could see a single star twinkling. She wished upon it: please don't let anything bad happen on this journey; I've miles to go before I sleep. She laid down upon her ground sheet and pulled her cover blanket over her. She glanced up at the star once more, but it was hidden by branches. Faint silvery light could be seen flickering gently from behind a tiny leaf.

'And miles to go before I sleep...' she thought, just before she drifted softly into the dream world.

* * *


Maran jumped slightly as she was awoken from a yell from Tari. She sat up and rubbed her eyes sleepily as Tari yelled again. As she glanced around, she could barely make out the enraged Tari in the dark, pre-dawn light.

"What's wrong, Tari?" she asked, attempting, and failing, to stifle a yawn.

"The horses are gone!" Tari half-shouted. Her eyes were wide and flaring with outrage.

"So...why blame Silverstreak?" Maran asked sensibly.

"Don't tell me its just coincidence that he isn't here, either?" her friend replied sarcastically.

* * *

From his perch in the dark shadows of one of the trees of his forest, Silverstreak smirked when he saw how the arrogant human jumped to conclusions. What use would a demon of the forest have for a horse? They were useless in ambushes from the treetops. He snorted inwardly at the carelessness and mistrust of the girl. Though, the quiet girl. What was her name? Maran. She had a sharp mind. Uncannily like a demon, he thought. He stood from his position on the branch and slipped quietly away, melting into the shadows of the forest.

* * *

Under the advice of Maran, the two girls wandered through the forest, carefully staying within view of their campsite. After a few minutes of fruitless search, they returned to the charred fireplace and folded blankets, the only remnants of their campsite.

"Where would we go, if we were horses?" asked Maran.

"I'd head for water," said a smooth, cold voice behind them.

Tari and Maran whirled around. Silverstreak was laying nonchalantly on his back in a mid-level branch of a towering oak tree. Tari instantly glared at the demonic boy.

"You're just saying that so we'll go looking for water and get lost!" Tari accused.

"Why in hell would I do that? I just want you out of my forest," he said coldly.

"So you could run off with our horses!" the raven haired girl shouted.

Silverstreak glanced down at the two girls, smirking inwardly. And redheads are usually the fiery ones, he mused to himself. The redhead had a knowing look across her features...he could tell that she knew he hadn't taken them. He drew one corner of his mouth back in a devilish smirk. He knew what he'd do.

"What use would I have for horses?" his voice was eerily calm; it sent shivers down Tari's back.

"I don't know. You tell me, you're the one who stole them!" Tari accused loudly.

"Prove it. Or, you could ask your friend there. She seems to have some form of a brain," he taunted.

"I can think for myself, thanks," Tari replied scathingly.

"Prove it," Silverstreak said in the same taunting voice.

"Fine, I will," Tari paused for a few moments. A hint of disappointment, barely noticeable, formed in her eyes as she realized that she was wrong. "You didn't take them," she admitted.

But when Tari looked up to see how the arrogant demon had reacted, only the silent whisper of the broad oak leaves in an invisible wind met them. Tari rolled her eyes, muttering something about 'arrogant demons', and they turned back to their campsite.

"Why don't we check the map for water nearby? Who knows, maybe they did head for water," Maran suggested quietly.

There was much grumbling on Tari's part at following the advice of the demon, but she followed the suggestion, and they were soon searching for all water nearby.

* * *

Maran and Tari were heading northeast towards a small brook marked on the map. They had been walking for about half an hour, and Tari had estimated that the pond was twenty minutes away, and Maran was starting to get irritated.

"Tari," she said tentatively.

"Yeah?" Tari answered from in front of her.

"What are the chances of finding the Wind Charm?"

"Slim to none, I'd say," Tari replied.

"Then why are we still trying to find it?" Maran questioned carefully.

"Because it's our chance, Maran...our chance to do something that no one else has done! Not to mention, if we find it, can you imagine what we could do? No more boring days spent knitting or sweeping!" Tari smiled, her face gleeful.

"But, Tari," said Maran, "I'm tired. The horses are tired, and I'll bet you're tired, too. Maybe we should just give up."

"Give up?" Tari said incredulously, stopping in her tracks (Maran nearly running into her) and turning to face her red headed friend. They were silent for a few moments before Tari spoke again.

"I can't. I've told everyone what I've set out to do...I can't go back until I've got the Wind Charm. I'd be letting myself down, and that is something I cannot do. No...I won't."

Tari sat on a rock, staring distractedly at the forest floor. She nudged distractedly at a fallen leaf with the toe of her boots. After a while she stood, and they continued walking in search for their horses; an unspoken agreement passed between them to let the subject rest for the time being.

* * *

The demon pondered this information from his shadowed spot in the trees. Silverstreak had heard rumour of the Wind Charm; the sacred charm that gave ultimate speed and Wind Techniques to its weilder. And in the depths of the clever mind of the demon, a plan formed, a plan with nearly disasterous effects that were unknown to him. His sensitive hearing caught unnatural noises; not like forest creatures, nor the blundering, noisy humans.

He moved swiftly toward the source of the sounds, and found the two human's horses. He smirked, and leapt to the forest floor, making enough noise so as not to startle them away. He grabbed their reins, and quickly lead them through the dense forest to the stream where the two girls were headed.

* * *

When, from over the top of the rise, Tari and Maran saw their mares, an instant wave of relief swept over them. The forest seemed to lose the dark, heavy, forbidding feeling and the sun shined brighter as they reached a small meadow. The girls paused for a moment, to savor the beauty that lay before them.

A small stream, no larger than five feet wide, was to their left, bubbling out of a small spring. The spring's source was invisible; the water seemed to surge from under the thick, tangled roots of a towering, ancient, twisted oak. Long, flowing meadow grasses waved gently in a soft morning breeze. Small, bright spots of color shone from between the tangle of soft green grasses; vibrant pinks, reds, yellows, soft whites, bright blues. They were wildflowers that grew in that oasis of hope in the forest of fear and darkness.

The meadow was so small that the branches of the surrounding trees interlaced above it. Only a small spot of sunlight, like a star shining amid the twilit skies, pierced the dense canopy. The sunlight that fell gently down to the meadow was not filtered, greenish sunlight, like hope tainted with fear, but good and golden, and shone pure to the forest floor, casting its golden fingers and bringing life to the meadow.

Leia and Arnatuile, as well as the pack horse, were grazing quietly on the soft meadow grasses, their coats glossy and reflecting the soft, golden sunlight of the morning. Leia lifted her head, sniffing the air, and turned toward the girls with inquiring liquid brown eyes. She tossed her delicate muzzle and whickered in greeting, and the two girls hurried down the hill to them.

They checked their mares over for any injuries, but didn't find any. Their saddles and bridles were still intact, and the girls' packs still strapped securely on the soft bay. They replenished their water supply, and remounted their mares.

"Told you," an all-too-familiar voice sounded from behind them. Tari went rigid in the saddle.

"Told us what?" she said slowly, haltingly.

When Silverstreak failed to respond from his spot in the oak, Tari turned Leia and they began heading for the edge of the meadow.

"Where are you going?" he said suddenly. Tari pulled Leia to a stop and turned to face the demon.

"Away from here. Got a problem with it?" her voice was rebellious.

"Perhaps I have," he said, leaping from his spot in the lower branch of the tree with his cat-like movements, "I'm going to lead you from now on. It's obvious that you two don't know what you're doing."

"What if we don't want you to take us through the forest?" Tari said haughtily.

"Too bad. I'm not dealing with hundreds of blundering humans in my forest looking for you when you get lost."

Silverstreak walked around them, and began heading north. Tari, who had been about to retort, was stopped by Maran, and the redhead started following him. Tari grudgingly followed suit.

* * *

a/n- would you sacrifice length of this chapter if i told you that next chapter will be twice as long as it would have been? o well. that's whats happening anyway. r/r please!

Preview of Next Chapter:

"What's wrong with the people here?" Maran asked as she glanced around.

"There isn't anything wrong with them," Silverstreak said defensively, "They are merely different from you."

Maran glared inwardly, then stopped herself, thinking 'Tari is certainly rubbing off on me...' then replied calmly, "That isn't what I meant. Why are they moving so fast? And a lot of them look worried..."

"They are preparing for war. And I'm going to help them."