Greetings! Before I start, I would just like to say thanks to marinawings for her support and review. Secondly, all my names used are from derivations from a wide range of languages. Ask me if you want any more info! And now, back to the story!

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Festivities were in full swing at the current camp of the Tectyr. Adorned with firelights and streamers, the octagonal tents looked fit for a visiting monarch. The Chief's daughter had just come of age, meaning that the leather strip that she usually wore around her forehead was to be replaced with a silver circlet, representing her age and status within the tribe.

Although the circlet was forged and carved especially for the daughter, it was only for ceremonial purposes; People knew each other inside out; they did not wear circlets every day: only for days like this and for going into battle.

Battle, although only sometimes necessary, was important for the tribe. For the protection of the lands, they trained long and hard from the age of six to learn how to keep evil at bay by the ways of a variety of weapons. Most importantly used was the sword, but the bow was also relied upon. For a rare amount of the Tectyr, the gift of Magic was bestowed upon them, which was also practised. The Tectains were known through the lands for their durability in battle, strength, and most of all, for their secrecy, in all ways and customs.

One of the most important occasions for any Tectain was for their age- coming. The ancient spirit of the tribe, Senwix, which resided in the chief along with his own spirit, told him who was next approaching their age- coming. Senwix, during this celebration would then enter the youth's spirit and prepare it for its life. Even though simple as it may seem, the age- coming did not rely on how old a Tectain was, but how mature their spirit was. It was rare for anyone to become of age before the age of seventeen. Someone who was of age before this was thought of as a miracle; it was the same with common humans: youths before the late teens were still used to "mischief making" within their small groups as the Chief was accustomed to calling it. He believed fully that this would be wiped out when Senwix approached a youth.

The chief's only daughter, Allissa, had finally been approached by Senwix, and so he waited for a great occasion to celebrate this and tell her the news: her eighteenth birthday. All had gone well to plan so far: he had sent his daughter out with her advisor to do some late night hunting. He had summoned all the scouting Tectains that were scattered over the land back to the current camp as a surprise, including Allissa's fiancé, Conall as well. He was delighted to hear that his soon-to-be wife had now also been approached by Senwix: as now they had the freedom to join.

A gigantic tent had been pitched in the middle of the camp. It had been charmed by the chief, making the area inside larger to fit all of the tribe in. A gigantic table had been made by a workman especially for the occasion. It sat, only with two seats at it, at the end of the tent. Many rows of benches, stools, and chairs had been brought from round the camp for the tribe to sit on and watch Allissa be received into the adult community.

Out, in the forest that was near to the camp, sat a tall girl on a rock. She was on the very edge of the forest, looking back to the camp. She was extremely bored as well. Her head was in her hands, and her almost black poker straight hair was curtaining her face, shoulders and neck right to the small of her back. She opened her mouth and shouted to her advisor.

"Cal! Cal? Can we make our way back to the camp now?" the novelty of hunting pheasant and deer had worn off a few hours ago. Although she was an avid hunter, Allissa could not sit in one place for a very long time. She was always reprimanded by her advisor for this.

"I almost had that pheasant!" a familiar female voice in the trees said. Out from behind a great ash, came Cal, old in Allissa's eyes but nonetheless, extremely dangerous and skilled. At fifty two, Cal's long hair was starting to show many flecks of moonshine silver, and her skin was loosening around the face and neck. But on her back, she carried a small doe and in her hand a magnificent pheasant. Cal was a great hunter, known for her skills. She and her young friend Allissa often went hunting together to find food for the Tectyr that were staying in the camp at that time. About only a hundred stayed at one time. The rest of the tribe were scouting the hills and lands, searching for evil to vanquish.

"Well, I think we have enough here," Allissa replied, pointing a booted foot to five pheasants piled beside her rock.

"Come, we shall find that last pheasant," Cal said, ignoring Allissa's comment. She unhooked her bow from her back and took out an arrow. Allissa rolled her eyes and followed suit.

"Allissa, since when have you wanted to go back to camp? You love being out in the wilderness!" Cal said, swinging her hair back over her shoulders.

"I think it should be my choice what I do, since it is my birthday," Allissa sharply replied, shooting at her arrow at a small pigeon in mid flight. It fell with a small thud a few yards away. Cal looked round at her.

"Since when could you make blind shots like that?" She inquired, knowing perfectly well that Senwix was now taking his full effect on her now.

"I don't know," Allissa muttered, furrowing her eyebrows. She downed her bow and sat down on the floor. "I have been feeling very different recently. My aim has been a lot better, I am responding to blows with the blade faster. I spar a lot more accurately. I don't know why, though!" she kneaded her forehead in confusion.

"Hmm." Cal muttered. A sudden flicker in her mind ticked. The chief was summoning her and Allissa back to camp. All the preparations must be ready. "How about forgetting that last pheasant and going back now? You can have a rest and feather some more arrows that you wasted on some bony little bird," she smiled, picking up Allissa's bow from the mossy floor and giving it to her. She offered Allissa a hand. She accepted, and they walked their way back to where the other birds and the doe were, and picked them all up and started back towards the camp at a slow pace because of the weight of the birds.

When they arrived at the top of the hill where the camp was situated, Allissa only needed one look around to furrow her eyebrows. It was strangely silent. She waited for Cal to come back behind her and she walked into the camp, past the outside guards who kept watch at all times.

"Cal? What's going on?" Allissa muttered over her shoulder. "Cal?" she repeated. She looked behind her, only to see that Cal had disappeared. She walked further into the camp. Still, there was silence. So she walked round to her tent, but she did not complete her journey. In the very middle of the camp was a gigantic tent, more like a marquee, which was lighted around the outside with firelights. Fireflies were hovering strangely low. Allissa smiled to see that the pathway was lined with small glowing candles. She downed the birds that she held at the beginning of the pathway, and walked up it. Was this for her? Allissa hesitated at the drapes that closed the marquee. She held her breath, and pulled back the curtains.

What was inside was certainly a shock. There were rows and rows of benches, chairs and stools, all facing one huge long table. And on them were people, too many people to count. Every single eye in the room was on her, Allissa. And then, the figure at the head of the table started to clap. Her father, the chief, had started the rest of the tribe off clapping. There was no doubt that the marquee held almost all of the Tectyr tribe. The noise was deafening. The chief came down from the head table and walked towards the aisle down the middle of the rows of benches up to his daughter. He smiled, and said in a quiet voice,

"Happy birthday, my daughter!" and then he took her hand, and led her, (or practically dragged) to the head table. Only two chairs were there, strangely. They stood in the front of the table, facing the tribe.

Allissa was shocked- all those faces were there, looking up at her, smiling. She found the faces of her friends, beaming on the front two rows. She bent over to her father.

"Why for my birthday, father?" she asked.

"There is another thing that I have the pleasure of telling you," the Chief said only to his daughter and smiled. He put up a hand to silence the audience. "Some of you will know," he gestured to the young men and women in the front few rows, "that we are not only here to celebrate my daughter's birthday. We are also here to celebrate, another extremely important occasion that will only ever happen once in our current lives. It is my duty and pleasure to announce Allissa's coming of age." The marquee exploded with cheers, claps and whistles.

Allissa was overwhelmed. So that was why she was feeling so strange recently! She was so lost for words. What was she going to say? She saw, sub-consciously (for she was too lost in her own thoughts) Cal, her dearest friend, coming up to the table with a two flat boxes in her hand. One was the length of Allissa's leg, the other, much smaller.

"Lis? Lissa?" Cal was speaking to her, beaming through every word. "I have two things to give to you," The Chief gave Allissa a small nudge. Allissa opened her eyes wide. "First of all," Cal started, "is your most important present from me. Please would you kneel down?" Allissa knew what was to come next. She knelt down and lowered her head. She felt Cal's calloused hands slipping off the leather band she usually wore around her head. She then heard the opening of a box, and then the feeling of a light weight on her head. She had finally received her circlet. Allissa stood up again; smiling at her father and Cal. Cal then embraced her, tears of happiness rolling down her face. And then so did her father. "And I think it is now time for present number two," Cal smiled. She opened the longer box, and inside, was a beautiful sword, carved with many different patterns. It was curved slightly, and so was the scabbard. Cal took it out of the box and offered it to Allissa. She took it, and instantly felt the strong charge of Tectyr magic that resided in the blade. It was certainly powerful, and by the look on her face, her father could tell.

"You'll need some training with that, which I am sure Cal will help you with," he smiled. "Now. I need to keep this crowd under control. To your right is a curtain. Go through that, your tent opening is just on the other side. There will be a new outfit in there. Get changed and come back and then the festivities can begin!" Allissa beamed, embraced her father one last time, and went through the fabric door, with her sword carefully placed back inside its box. She absorbed all the cheers for her as she walked past. She couldn't stop beaming. Finally, she reached the tranquillity and familiarity of her tent. She looked in the mirror at herself. The circlet perched neatly on her forehead, silver in colour, with the customary onyx and then the two opals that represented her father's family. Carved in the middle of the onyx was the pattern that she had traced too many times on her father's circlet. She certainly looked different, older. She smiled at the new reflection that met her and tossed her hair back over her shoulders. Yawning, (for it had been a long day,) Allissa started to unbutton her overcoat when she suddenly felt two strong arms encircle her waist. Two arms that she only knew too well from being embraced by them too many times. Was it really whom she thought it was? She turned round, still being held by those arms, to look up into the kind blue eyes of her husband-to-be.

"Conall!" Allissa squealed, flinging her arms around her fiancé's neck. "I can't believe you are here!" she squeaked, being rather muffled by Conall's tunic.

"I am here, and I am staying here for some time!" he replied, between eager kisses from Allissa.

"Really? But... I thought you had to take care of business in the south," Allissa said, still holding on. Conall was one of her father's most loyal and strongest warriors, standing at least two heads taller than Allissa.

"Do you really think I would miss my fiancé's Birthday and age- coming?" he smiled, sitting Allissa up on the dressing table. He sat himself down in front of her on the small carved stool that served as Allissa's dressing seat. Allissa stroked the stubble on Conall's face and absent-mindedly touched his black chin-length hair.

"Does this mean we are to be joined soon, then? She asked after a close study of any injuries to Conall's face.

"Whenever you wish," he smiled.

"But, this business... the shadows... what about them? Surely what is happening there is more important than me," Allissa said, lowering her eyes and staring at her short fingernails.

"Do not even think like that, Allissa," Conall said, raising her head. "Now, get dressed, and we can head back to the marquee!" He handed over the outfit that was on the bed, and helped her down from the dressing table.

"Wait outside then." Allissa said, smirking at the annoyed look on Conall's face. "We are not married yet." She laughed when Conall crossed his arms in annoyance. "Go on," she prompted, giving him a little nudge towards the tent opening. "I shall not permit you to see the outfit I was born in yet. Now get out!" she laughed, giving him a harder shove. This time Conall went out of the tent.

Allissa carried on unhooking her over coat. When it had gone back on its hook, Conall stuck his head through the tent openings. "Just one little kiss," he pleaded.

"Fine," Allissa said, and gave him a quick peck on the cheek. She stuck her tongue out at the annoyed look on his face and pushed his head back out of the tent. Taking her circlet off, and placing it carefully on her dressing table, Allissa then took off her sword belt. Allissa went to the outfit that was put back on the bed. She now had a careful look at it. It was one of the most beautiful outfits that she had seen. It consisted of a navy blue silken tunic that ended mid-thigh length. It was embroidered with silver thread in intricate Tectyr patterns. Over that, a suede jerkin, dark violet in colour, which had the same silver embroidered patterns, this time over the shoulders and elbow- length sleeves. It went to just above the knee. She kept her boots and breeches on, and put on the new garments she had on the bed. When she was finished, Allissa went to put her sword back where it belonged, around her waist. Finally, she noticed a new set of leather vambraces, embossed with the same designs as her overcoat and tunic. Just as she was adjusting the last buckle on her right vambrace, Allissa heard a distant high pitched scream. Thinking it was just an over excited female, she thought nothing more of it and went back to her dressing table to brush her hair and put her circlet back on her head.

She continued to hear the screams as she brushed her hair. She frowned and placed her new circlet on her head.

That was when she heard Conall shout her name.

"Allissa! Allis-." And then he went silent. The other screams were getting louder. Allissa strained her ears to hear if Conall was still speaking, but she only heard more screams, and then, the clash of steel. Roars, roars of evil were reverberating around the hill and into her tent. Allissa drew her sword and braced herself to go outside. She silently cried when she saw what was on the other side of the tent.

Mangled, was Conall's body. It looked lifeless. Across his chest were deep gashes, too deep ever to be repaired. Allissa put a hand over her mouth to stop her self screaming with heartbreak. She rushed over to his mangled body. His neck had more deep gashes. Fresh blood had cruelly decided to seep out by what seemed like the gallon. Allissa knelt down and put her hand to his face. She immediately felt the life seeping out of him by the second.

"Conall! Don't go! Get up! Get up! Please!" she cried, stroking his face. "Please." She took his hand, which was stone cold. He had a small smile on his face. Allissa kissed his brow, and got up, whispering what was the Tectyr form of the final rites. She carefully unsheathed his sword and placed it across his chest. That was when, from behind her tent, Allissa saw something that she prayed, in her dreams that she would never see during her lifetime.

A shapechanger.

She cold tell straight away that it was one, he had the flashing cold steel eyes that any of them would have. He was in the form of a great lion. Blood, fresh blood, was dripping from his fangs. He had just killed two men, who were heaped unnaturally on the ground. He was looking for his next kill and was heading towards the marquee. He bounded in, growling, and then what Allissa heard next was the horrible sound of flesh being ripped from flesh. She swallowed hard and walked towards the tent, still hoping that that terrible sound was that of happenings to the shapechanger. Stepping over the bodies, she levelled herself with the curtain that was her entrance to the tent, and slowly peaked in. Immediate tears came to her eyes when she saw what was inside.

At least twenty shapechangers, in shapes of ice bears, lions, and tigers, looking with malice at around two hundred dead bodies. How had the Tectains given up and just died? They were powerful, the Tectyr. But there they were, all sprawled out on the floor, corpses waiting for burial. No one to bury them, though.

What was she going to do? If the shapechangers had made their way to the marquee, then all the guards must be dead, too. The guards would have at least killed a few.. But none of them even had a scratch, no slashes or injuries.

Her friends! What about her friends! Her father? Was he dead too? Allissa wiped back a few tears. She was most probably alone, the only one unscathed and unnoticed by these fell creatures. She had to get out of the camp and get as far as possible out of the way. She grimaced to think what they might do to her.

Allissa started to run. She ran out of the camp as silently as she could, jumping over bodies of friends and relatives. She ran as fast as possible for at least quarter of an hour, trying to ignore the painful stitch that was now throbbing at her side.

Thinking of freedom and what do next, she ran headlong into something large. Something furry. Something that was muscular. She stood back, only for the great beast to look at her with malice with his large round eyes. Large round steel eyes. A shapechanger! Allissa screamed, out loud this time, and drew her sword, still out of puff.

"Who do you think is going to win, little Tectain?" it growled. Allissa knew she had to run, it was the only thing for it. He would rip her limb from limb and have her circlet as a trophy to give to whoever his master was. She bounded off, clenching her teeth, willing for the stitch to go away. The shapechanger-lion gave out an almighty roar and started after her.

Allissa knew the lion was catching up with her. And she was coming up to a cliff. Knowing what death she would prefer, Allissa ran straight over the edge, praying to the Gods that there was a deep river below to break her fall. She knew if there wasn't, she would die instantly, and so she braced herself. She looked down, amazed and thankful to see an ever- enlarging deep blue ribbon. Praying over and over as she fell, she positioned into a diving pose and plummeted to the depths below.