Sitting on her bed, Nat laid down the last of the dollar bills and sighed. She was still twenty dollars short. Nat vaguely wondered how much money she would have by now if she had taken the garbage-diving job offered to her by old Ms. Flitwood last month. Shaking her head, she stood up. There was only one alternative left: go to Ashley.

Nat hesitated in front of Ashley's bedroom door, uncertain if this was the correct course of action. She's always loaded with money, thought Nat, and besides, she owes me.

She knocked.

"May you go to hell," a voice called out.

"Ash, come on. Please?" After a short pause, Ashley replied.

"Whatever. Come on in."

Nat entered Ashley's dark room; it was lit by one single candle located on the windowsill. Hey 21-year-old sister, Ashley, sat cross-legged on the floor looking extremely annoyed at the disturbance.

"What do you want?" she asked. Nat sat on the deep red bed.

"Can I have some money?" Ashley looked even more annoyed.

"What for?"

"Kita's birthday is in three weeks and I need some money for her present. Please, Ash?" Ashley's expression softened immediately.

"It depends. How much?"

"Twenty bucks," Nat replied quietly. Anger blazed in Ashley's auburn eyes.

"Twenty? Nat, do you have any idea how much I have to work to earn twenty? You know I don't get paid much these days. Besides, I have to pay for myself, you know."

"Well, it's not my fault that the mayor cut three million dollars from the Denver Hospital-"

"I know, I know. It's not anybody's fault that the economy is bad right now. Tell you what. Since it's for Kita, I'll give it to you. But you gotta pay back, alright? Soon!"

With that, Ashley briskly walked over to a small, black jar with elaborate designs on it and pulled out some money.

"How old is Kita turning, anyway?" she asked as she thrust the money into Nat's hand. Nat pocketed it happily.

"Huh? Oh, fifteen." Ashley's face changed dramatically. Fear and worry rolled into her eyes and her expression became stony.

"What? Fifteen, already? Are you sure?"

"Well, you think I would know how old my best friend is."

"When's her birthday, Nat? Tell me!" Ashley said urgently. Nat stared at her sister.

"Whoa—slow down. Her birthday is on the 30th of November. Why?" Ashley sank into a chair, looking sick.

"Oh no…about to happen…fifteen…came to soon…whole town…danger…" she muttered.

"Ash!" Nat said loudly, "What's going on?" Ash looked at her, her face full with envy.

"You don't know, don't you?" she whispered.

"Know what?" Nat said impatiently. Ash sighed deeply and Nat noticed that Ash looked weary.

"Oh well. You'll find out soon, sister. Best you know what's going on," she leaned toward Nat as if to tell a secret though they were the only ones in the room, "Your friend, Kita, is no ordinary girl."

"What the hell are you talking about? You know, maybe Mom was right. I think college is really getting to you. Here, lie down." Nat started to lay Ashley down on the bed gently. Ashley brushed Nat's hands away.

"There was a prophecy made, just before Kita was born. I attended a meeting at the Zorachism Shrine, you know, just to see what it was like. I went alone, since Mom had to work. Anyway, this meeting was a special one because they had a guest. It was Alina Tamspor, the celebrated Seer…"

"And now, ladies and gentlemen, a big round of applause to, you all know her, Alina Tamspor!"

A great noise issued from the small crowd as a tall thin lady in an emerald green dress and black shawl walked to the podium. Ashley's gasp caught in her throat and for that one instant, Ashley could have sworn Alina's eyes pierced through the crowd and looked right at her.

Alina was fairly young, about in her late 20's, with glistening black hair and wide eyes. She held up a hand to silence the crowd. Her wide eyes scanned the room.

"There is one here who does not belong. One who does not believe in the Holy One. Will Ashley Burkhin please come up here?"

Uncertainly, the 8-year-old Ashley walked up the aisle to Alina. She looked up at the Seer fearfully.

"Do not be scared, dear," Alina said gently, "What brings you to the Shrine?"

"I-I just wanted to-to see what-what it was like. My-my friend is-I mean-" Ashley trailed of.

"Never mind, dear. You are not in trouble. The Holy One is pleased that you are here, Ashley. That is your name, is it not?"

Slowly, the girl nodded.

"You may go back to your seat."

As Ashley walked back to her seat oblivious to the stares, Alina Tamspor started to talk once again.

"There is one here who is about to give life, one who has an aura of guilt. Please come up here, Mrs. Bouni."

Mrs. Bouni walked up the aisle and extended a hand. As their hands met, Alina went rigid. Instinctively, Mrs. Bouni dropped her hand. Alina's eyes rolled back and her face became pale. Her breathing went rigid and she spoke harshly. The crowd hushed.

"The one with the power to destroy evil approaches…Born to parents who have renounced evil, born as the eleventh month dies, she will have the power to conquer the evil that is yet to come…the evil that wakes as she approached womanhood…the evil that wakes as her fifteenth year dies…She will have the mark of the Eternal Protector…"

Right then, Mrs. Bouni went into labor.

A/N: Sorry it took so long for me to get this chapter up. I just never got around to typing it! And thanks to all those who reviewed.