They had been traveling about an hour when Zala pulled up Tierza. Courtney quickly pulled up her unicorn and the boy's unicorns stopped without a signal.

"I think it is about time to eat and figure out where exactly we are heading." Zala said in a leader like way.

Courtney nodded agreement at Zala's stare. Adir and Dale jumped quickly off of their unicorns. They weren't used to being that long in the saddle and they were sore. Zala dismounted and brought out some cold bread, meat, and cheese for their lunch. They ate silently all still dwelling on that morning. They soon finished eating and Zala repacked the saddlebags.

"So where are we going?" Zala asked Courtney.

Courtney shrugged. Although she was eleven years older than Zala who was fourteen, she didn't seem to be able to handle her grief and pain very well.

"Okay, well, I think we should go to Noriko. It is the biggest city in Selima and we may be able to find some information about who that army was. I will also need to find people to help restore Selima Castle." Suddenly Zala felt a pounding headache.

How could she do this all by herself? She had to restore Selima Castle, figure out who the army was and either become queen herself, or find someone else to take the place of her father. Dale couldn't rule and neither could Adir, they were only nine and six. She hadn't thought that she would be queen for years. It would also be Dale who sat on the throne, not her.

"Milady?" Courtney asked uncertainly.

"What? Oh, I'm sorry." Zala said as she realized that she had been staring off into space thinking of her suddenly enormous responsibilities.

"Your plan sounds fine to me, in fact it sounds absolutely wonderful!" Courtney said sounding and acting very happy.

"Alright then. We shall leave now and continue south as we were. We should reach Noriko," Zala furrowed her brow in thought as she recalled her father's map. She blinked rapidly to prevent tears from forming. " We should be there by the end of two days." They mounted once again and continued at a trot south.

~~~~

The second day as nightfall began to descend upon them they reached Noriko. The huge city lay sprawled on the banks of the Reena River, which ran from west to east. The walled castle where Baron Vasu and Baroness Ambi resided was at the west side of the city. Inns, houses, stores and marketplaces covered the rest of the area. The lights from the windows of buildings looked to Siddaly like fireflies from where they were. They rode into the city at a walk. The princes looked in awe around them. Selima had been just a large village and the boys had never been to a big city before. Zala had been to Noriko six years before, so she knew what to expect. Courtney peered around her with interest, as if she were looking for something, or someone.

The buildings in the city where all crowded close together and noise and laughter filtered from everywhere. The shops where just closing down. As they passed by an armory store Zala could hear the boys ooo and ahh at the swords on display. There where all kinds of stores that sold all kinds of things from food, to clothes, to weapons, to just fun things, like toys. They passed by many people on the road and most stayed away from their mounted party. If they had been walking they would have been jostled and pushed every which way. The common people pointed at Zala and her brothers because they were riding nobles' unicorns. Noble's unicorns had a jewel on their foreheads, whereas other breeds of unicorns didn't.

Zala led them to an inn called The Cherry Blossom. The Cherry Blossom was the place that Zala had stayed with her parents the last time they were in Noriko. They rode into the stable yard and dismounted. A young stable boy about a year or two older than Zala walked out of the barn.

"If you would come with me I will get you unsaddled and find you something to eat." The boy said speaking to the unicorns. He bowed noticing that they were noble's unicorns. He turned to Zala, Courtney, and the boys.

"Your bags will be brought to your rooms. If you would like a hot meal it shall be provided in the common room. Now if you will excuse me I will see to your unicorns." He bowed and gestured to the unicorns to follow him. Tierza stepped into the lead and they disappeared into the barn.

"Well, he had nice manners." Zala said.

"I'm hungry!" Adir whined.

"Okay, let's go get something to eat and get you settled in for the night. I still have to talk to the Baron and Baroness about our situation." Zala said.

They entered the well-lit inn. There were only a few people sitting around. Two were playing some kind of game in the corner of the room, one was lounging by the fire and a family sat eating. A plump woman with graying hair bustled towards them. She curtsied.

"Would you young nobles. Princess Zala!" the woman said recognizing her. The room grew quiet and the few people there turned towards the group.

Zala walked over to Enwa and whispered into the short woman's ear. Enwa nodded.

"Well if you would follow me I will show you to your rooms and then see about getting you something to eat." She walked over to the stairs and once she made sure that Zala was following her continued up. At the landing she turned right and down the hallway.

"We only need one room." Zala said.

Enwa nodded with a puzzled look on her face and unlocked a door. The room she gave them was large. It had a large painting on the wall to the left, a window across from the door and one large bed on the wall to the right.

"Well here you are. Your baggage should be up in a moment and we shall make up cots for your Highnesses and your servant." She said nodding to the princes and Courtney.

"Thank you Enwa." Zala said.

The woman nodded and left the room. She was bursting with curiosity about why they were there and where the king and queen were, but she wasn't very familiar with the Princess and so decided to wait and see if she could find anything out.

"Okay, well I guess we might as well go and get something to eat." Zala said.

Adir and Dale nodded. They were definitely tired judging by how they could barely keep their eyes open. A knock on their door sent Courtney to walk over and open it.

The stable boy stood there with their baggage. "I am sorry if I am intruding, but I have brought up your bags."

Zala nodded. "Come on in. You can just drop them on the floor over there." She gestured to the empty wall under the painting.

He ducked his head to her and carried the bags over to where she had said and put them down. He bowed to them and than walked away. "Thank you!" Zala said to his receding back.

They left their room and walked down to the common room. They seated themselves at one of the many wooden tables. The family had left, supposedly up to their rooms and now a man in black sat in a corner, as far away from the fireplace as he could. A maid walked over to their table with stew and bread. As soon as she placed the food in front of Adir and Dale they began to eat.

"Is there anything specific I can get you to drink?" she asked.

"No, we will all just have water, thank you." Zala said.

After the maid had left Zala and Courtney started to eat. The stew had smelled delicious, but after tasting it, Zala knew it was beyond delicious. The bread was just as good and warm, right out of the oven. They all ate the food quickly.

"Well, Courtney if you could get Adir and Dale into bed than I could go talk to the baron and baroness." Zala said sitting back in her chair.

"Sure, milady," Courtney said. She stood up.

"C'mon you two, time to go to bed." She said

For once they didn't argue. They sleepily got up and followed Courtney up the stairs back to their room. Zala followed. Up in the room Courtney got the boys into bed and began to hum to them. Zala changed into one of her nicer dresses that she had salvaged. It was deep emerald green with gold trim. After she dressed she quietly left the room and went to the stables. She walked inside the barn, which smelled of hay and unicorns. Tierza poked her head out of her stall.

"There you are," Tierza said, "It took you long enough. You said we were in a hurry."

"I'm sorry," Zala whispered not wanting to wake any of the other unicorns up.

"Where is your tack?" Zala asked.

"Down the aisle to the left. That's where the room he put it in is."

Zala walked down the dark aisle and came to the room. Zala turned the knob, but it was locked.

"Shoot!" she whispered.

"Tierza, I'm going to have to ride you bareback." She said.

"That's fine with me, I know you like riding bareback. That dress it isn't going to be easy to ride bareback in though. It might get stained from my sweat." Tierza said, she pushed open her stall door and walked over to Zala.

"Well, hop up." Tierza said waiting.

The barn door opened and the stable boy walked in.

"Who are you?" he asked startled. He couldn't make out anything because it was so dark.

"Zala," she said. "Do you have the key to the tack room? It will be much easier riding sidesaddle then bareback in this dress." Zala said.

He nodded and quickly walked over to where she and Tierza stood. He took a key from his pocket and unlocked the tack room door.

"Which one is it miss?" he asked.

"The saddle pad is the green one there and the saddle is that one." Zala said pointing to Tierza's saddle pad and Courtney's unicorn's saddle since Zala hadn't rode to Noriko sidesaddle.

He took out the green saddle pad and saddle and quickly tacked up Tierza. He glanced at Zala once or twice trying to figure out where she was going in the night dressed nicely. It wasn't his business though so he wasn't about to ask.

"Thank you." Zala said. He cupped his hand and she lightly sprang into the saddle. Tierza walked out of the barn and they left the stable yard onto the cobblestone road. There were less people out now and the streets weren't as crowded. Zala sat on Tierza's back and let her lead. Tierza walked toward the west of the city.

~~~~

Courtney sighed; she had finally gotten the brats to sleep. She left the room and walked down to the common room. She looked around the room and seeing the man in the black cloak walked over.

"Finally," he growled, "What where you doing up there?"

"Putting the brats to bed." She responded. Her voice pitched down into a whisper.

"You saw her leave, right?"

He nodded, " I have five of my men following."

"So the attack is planned for tonight?"

He nodded, "Plav, will signal the men when Zala passes the main western entrance."

~~~~

Tierza's hooves rang on the cobblestones. They had been riding west for about fifteen minutes now. Tierza's ears swiveled behind her.

"Someone is following us." She whispered.

"Do you know who?" Zala asked also whispering.

"If I did I would have told you." Tierza said.

They passed by the main western entrance. Zala could see the walls of Noriko castle ahead. They were almost there, and then whoever was following them wouldn't be able to follow anymore. A scream sounded out from behind Zala. Tierza sprang into a swift canter. A crackling sound filled the air and Zala began to smell smoke. Screams and shouts filled the streets and lights were being lit in all of the houses. People were running everywhere. Tierza had to slow down so as not to run over people. Presently Zala heard the clash of steel on steel. It rang through the streets. Everyone was in a panic.

Zala could see Noriko castle. The guards on the walls where shooting arrows at something below and the gates of the castle where open letting in the panicked city people. It was just like what had happened before at Selima. She clenched her teeth tightly together to keep from screaming herself in fear. From the streets around her she began to see black riders on their black unicorns.

"Come on Tierza!" Zala said whimpering with fright. "We have to get out of here!"

A moment later she felt her arms pulled to her sides and her mouth covered. She looked down and saw ropes pinning her arms to her sides. Her mouth was covered with some kind of cloth. She tried to scream, but it was muffled and unheard over the chaos in the streets. She struggled against the ropes, but they were strong. How did I get bound like this!? She screamed in her head. Nobody had been around that she saw and she hadn't felt hands. Tierza reared up and Zala struggled to keep her balance and stay on. A rope had been fastened around Tierza's neck! Zala felt Tierza come back down to all fours. "Hold on Zala!" Tierza yelled.

She swept her horn back and forth and kicked out with her hooves at the black riders who where closing in on them. Zala pushed her feet into the stirrups and gripped the saddle with her legs. A sudden force swept Tierza off of her feet. She crashed to the ground with agonized neigh. Zala rolled free and stood up. She tried to run, but her feet wouldn't move! She saw Tierza get back up and then she too, seemed frozen in place. She neighed fiercely and tossed her head her horn shone in the night like a spear and it dripped blood.

Noriko castle's gate had been shut and arrows still rained down into the city. Most of the people had made it into the castle, but those who hadn't were either hidden in a building or slaughtered by the black riders. The night was dark because no moon shone from the sky. A few buildings were on fire, but not many. The smoke drifted upwards blocking out the light of the stars.

With a signal from one of the black men the group left at a gallop. The last one to go scooped up Zala into the saddle in front of him. She struggled to get free of his grip, but it was like fighting against iron. She saw Tierza, still frozen in place neigh after her. The group swept through the city and out the western gate. Zala glanced back at the city. The black Calvary was pouring out of the city's western gates like a flooded river. The snorting of thousands of unicorns and the thundering of hooves made the ground tremble.

~~~~

Courtney rushed up the stairs and quickly changed into her black uniform. The boys were still soundly asleep despite the havoc that was happening in the city. All of the other guests at the Cherry Blossom inn had fled to Noriko castle. She smacked the boys across the face waking them up. Adir began to cry at the site of her. Dale sat up and glared at her. He jumped out of bed and without warning tried to punch Courtney. She easily blocked his attempt and backhanded him. As he fell to the floor she gripped his arms behind him and tied him up. Adir was still crying so it was an easy task to tie him up. She dragged the boys outside to the stable yard. The barn doors were open.

"Blacknight!" Courtney called into the barn. A huge black unicorn stallion stepped out of the barn. He was already tacked up, because Courtney had asked the stable boy to have her unicorn ready after Zala had left. She had dosed the boy's unicorns with a sleeping draught and they wouldn't wake up for twenty-four hours. She mounted and tied the boy's onto the saddle like sacks of grain.

Dale had been yelling at her the whole way down to the stables, but it was muffled from the cloth around his mouth and she didn't much care anyway. She mounted her black stallion and rode out of the stable yard. She rode to the west gate. Courtney stopped her unicorn around a corner and dismounted. She peered around the corner and watched as Zala got captured. After she had made sure that Zala had been caught she mounted and at the sound of a horn galloped out of the city.

~~~~

Aron, the stable boy, quietly watched from the hayloft as the dapple gray unicorn he had recently tacked up grew darker. His coat began to fade into a darker and darker gray, eventually he became black, but even then he still grew darker. The unicorn also grew taller and his horn grew sharper into a deadly point. His eyes were like black holes.

The other unicorns had all fled the barn to their owners, when the attack struck the city. Only the prince's unicorns where still sleeping peacefully in their stalls. Aron heard a cold feminine voice call, "Blacknight!" The now black stallion pushed open his door and galloped into the stable yard. Aron crept down from the hayloft and went out the back door. He walked around to the front of the barn and looked around the corner. A woman dressed all in black was tying the princes to the back of the black unicorn's saddle. Their hands were bound behind them and their mouths covered with a cloth. The woman jumped into the saddle and kicked her unicorn into a trot. Aron followed.

He ran after them and the panicked people around him made him blend in better. Dead people littered the ground and blood made the cobblestones slick. Body parts lay scattered and heads rolled. Aron gulped, trying not to throw up. At the sight of a severed head close up his body heaved and he vomited his dinner all over the cobblestones. He wiped his mouth with a grimace and ran to catch up with the balck unicorn.

The women jerked her reins and the unicorn turned down another street. At the end of the street she stopped and dismounted. He watched her as she looked around the corner. He heard a girl yell and a unicorn neigh. Then a crash was heard. A moment later unicorn's hooves rang on the cobblestones and soon they faded away with the sound of an angered unicorn still heard. The woman mounted her unicorn again. A horn sounded and he watched as she kicked the stallion into a gallop. The hooves of black unicorns thundered all around. When all had grown quiet he walked out of the street to find Zala's unicorn standing and tossing her head, neighing in distress. The bodies of a few black riders lay on the ground around her.

He walked up to Tierza, but before he got to close she whipped her head around and pointed her horn at his chest. Her eyes grew wide in surprise; she hadn't expected the stable boy. A moment later she felt her legs unfreeze. She whirled around and was about to spring into a gallop after Zala.

"Wait!" the boy said.

She stopped and looked at him. "What!" she asked impatiently.

"Where's the princess?"

"Those people took her! Which is where I was going until you stopped me." She said she stomped her hoof.

"Take me," he asked.

"What!?" she asked, she wasn't exactly expecting that.

"I said, take me," before Tierza had another chance to say something he rushed on, "You might need someone with hands, and I'll be able to help! I don't have any family, so I won't be leaving anyone either.please?" he asked.

Tierza gave in, "Oh, fine, hop on."

"Umm, do you mind if I ride bareback?"

She laughed realizing what he meant. She was wearing a sidesaddle and for a guy that would be rather uncomfortable. "Sure," she said with amusement in her eyes.

He walked over and quickly took the saddle off. He measured the distance to Tierza's back leaped into the saddle. He almost lost his balance as Tierza launched into a gallop. He gripped her mane and they rode out of the city, following the trail of thousands of hoof prints.

~~~~