It wasn't very hard for Kit to find Sarah. All he had to do was travel in the opposite direction of various fey nobles, their faces ranging from annoyed to amused to slightly scandalized. He was thrown off track for a few moments when he didn't see any nobles approaching from any direction, but this was quickly remedied when he heard a soft, singsong sort of chanting. Following the sound, he came across a rather isolated room decorated with old weapons.
"Mine and mine and mine and mine and mine and mine and mine and mine and mine and –" The redheaded Fire's'guardian seemed blissfully ignorant to anyone's presence, though she stiffened when he stepped into the room. "Pleased to meet you, but I'm a bit busy at the moment," she stated in a cool, distant sort of voice that made him wonder how many nobles had been by. "If you leave your name, I promise to get back to you at the thing… erm, party they're having tonight."
Well, her answering machine-like message certainly explained the expressions.
"You've forgotten me already?" He made a tsk-ing sound. "Shame."
"Kit?" She turned around, looking somewhat abashed.
The Earth's'guardian glanced down at himself and nodded. "I thought you needed me to leave my name before you know who I am."
The redhead scowled at him. "I did that to Aria and she said the same thing." The scowl deepened. "So did Pyrshalyn."
The frown turned into a broad grin. "He just came in, watched me for a bit and then started saying, 'Yours and yours and yours and yours and yours.'"
He shook his head. "Have you finished mine-ing everything yet?"
Sarah held up a finger, and then pointed at a few last things with her other hand. "And mine and mine and mine. There. Done. Now, how can I help you?"
His amusement at her way of claiming everything in the palace faded abruptly. "Well… It's nearly the middle of August. My mother will be at the camp to pick me up tomorrow, and I can't exactly stay behind or anything… So we're going back to Cal'asan today."
Sarah's scowl returned, surprising him. Then, sullenly, she said, "You're only doing this because you don't want to go to the party, right?"
She grinned wickedly. "Of course! Don't think I didn't see through you!" Then, seeing the stunned look on his face, she began to laugh. "Bright Lord, Kit! You look like I just hit you over the head!"
It was his turn to scowl, though his sense of humour returned quickly. "You are an evil, evil fairy."
She smiled. "I know. But since I'm an evil Fire's'guardian Fire Queen fairy with a sword, I can get away with it." She sighed. "I still can't get away with missing parties without a good reason." Her expression grew plaintive. "And you should see the dress they're trying to get me into." She shuddered, then managed a sympathetic smile. "Sorry. But still, you going to the human World means that Shadow and Aria will likely return, too, and since Stormwing is Aria's oathsib and all, she'll probably go back too. So I'll be the only Guardian back here with more than a dozen crazy fairies."
"I guess that it's goodbye, then. Or at least, it will be goodbye at noon."
She smiled faintly, though it seemed her mind was elsewhere. "That was when Stormwing built the first World Gate, remember? And I was so worried that Shadow or Aria or Storm was going to catch me coming through, and that they'd send me back." Then she sighed. "I still wish there was a way that I could go too…"
Kit couldn't help but grin. "First you risk everything to come to the Aelfen World, and now you want to go back home? Fickle."
The fairy flicked him with a wingtip. "Wait a minute. We haven't told my mother that I'm fey yet, or that I'm the Fire Queen, or the Fire's'guardian. You don't think that she'd be very happy if she heard this from Shadow and Aria and I wasn't there. So obviously, I have to come back for at least tonight."
He nodded seriously. "And you have a promise to keep, too, remember? You were going to knock Green heads together for me. Queens and Guardians can't go around breaking their promises. That would be a very bad thing."
"But of course. So, sadly, I'll have to postpone the party until at least tomorrow night." The two teens grinned at each other. "D'you think I'll have to tell them before I leave?"
"If you didn't, they'd probably decide that the rest of the Guardians had kidnapped you, and that wouldn't be very good." They considered this for a moment.
"You're probably right. Let's go find someone who won't shout at me for disappearing after all the planning they've done." It took a few minutes to come up with the name of someone whose message would be trusted and who couldn't be blamed for letting the Fire Queen run off with her iawyth. "Pyrshalyn," she decided with a grin. "He'll help us."
"Unless he's eating," Kit observed dryly, but obligingly followed the redhead on their quest to find the Starsinger.
It wasn't very hard; they simply went downstairs, taking care to duck out of the way of various fey nobles, and headed into the kitchens. Pyr was there, dodging amused cooks who threatened his wings, his life and his odds of ever getting something to eat again if he didn't return whatever it was that he'd stolen. He popped it into his mouth smugly, and then bowed with his usual mixture of irony and amusement.
"Hey, Sarah, Kit. Can I help you?" Then, turning to one of the cooks, "Can I help myself to one of these? Thanks," he added without waiting for a reply. He proceeded to peel the small fruit, waiting for the Guardians to answer.
"Kit's going back to the human World today, and I figured I'd pop back over to say goodbye to everyone back home. But they've planned this lovely… reception or something for tonight, and I doubt they'd be too pleased to have me miss it. So I was wondering –"
"If I could cover for you? Certainly." The bard turned to the cooks. "Don't make any preparations for the party tonight that can't hold until tomorrow evening. There's going to be an… unexpected delay." He smiled and turned back to them, the red and gold beads that ended the braids in his hair knocking against one another. "One night will suffice, of course?"
They nodded. "Thank you, Pyrshalyn."
He snatched a tart with some sort of dark filling and contemplated it before answering. "No problem. But swordlady? Don't try to run off. That would have… consequences."
Brown eyes shinning with good humour, Sarah laughed. "What would we do without you, Pyr?" But before he could answer, the swordlady was tugging at the enshira's arm. "Come on, Kit. We got to get going, if we're going to leave at noon!"
Stormwing didn't seem very surprised to see the pair of teens entering the garden they had spent so much time in weeks before. In fact, she barely even shot them a glance through her deep blue eyes as she stared analytically at the wall. Finally she seemed to choose a place that she liked, for she stood before it and drew a line in the ground in front of it.
Aria walked through the doorway, closely followed by Shadow, who appeared to be supremely content about something. Sarah frowned slightly, not certain what she had missed, and wondering if it was maybe what she had been hoping for. They grinned at the younger Guardians. "I told you she'd find a way to get out of going to the party," Shadow informed the far shorter woman almost proudly.
"No, I told you."
"No, it was the other way around."
"Or so you claim."
"If everyone is done debating who said what?" Storm interrupted. There was a surge of energy, energy far more evident to her now that she was a Fire's'guardian, and then the World Gate stood before them. Knowing what to expect made crossing over far easier than the first time, and the fact that this time she knew that no one would try to stop her. At least, no one would if Pyrshalyn had delayed telling the fey where she as going.
Home was… home. It certainly hadn't changed as much as she had in the weeks since they had gone to the Aelfen world. The trees still stood in the same places, the river still lead to the Cal'asan waterfall, and the sky was still blue. She felt something inside relax at the familiar setting, another aspect of her personality taking over after the one who sought out adventure retreated. She stepped eagerly through the sheer waterfall into the passage behind, not waiting for Shadow or Aria as she raced to the meeting hall.
"Sarah Cal'asan! Where were you?" Iar Cal'asan stood before her, arms crossed and glaring down at her through dark eyes. The redheaded swallowed hard. She hadn't planned for her mother to be this angry…
"She was with us," Shadow said, happily oblivious to his mother's anger. "After all, I had to keep my promise."
"What promise?" the dark haired woman asked, her voice hard.
"See, I told Sarah that only Guardians could come to the Aelfen World."
Emotions flickered over the woman's face, first anger, then a touch of confusion, then realization and pride. "Fire's'guardian? Both of my children are Guardians?" And never mind the fact that one of them was adopted – they were both her children in the senses that mattered.
"Yes." Sarah glanced down at the ground. "But… uh…"
"Sarah's not going to be here for long," Stormwing noted from the doorway.
"She's got a few obligations to fulfill," Aria added, coming up to lean her head on Shadow's shoulder, his arm coming up behind her to hold her loosely around her waist.
Kit smiled, the expression telling Sarah just how far the part-Aelfen boy had come since he had escaped from the Greens. "Sarah learned a few things about her bloodline."
Well, the rest of the Guardians had spoken, even if they'd left her with the hardest bits. She took a deep breath and focused on the wings that had disappeared when she'd crossed through the World Gate, then let them spread. "I'm fey."
Iar Cal'asan took in the wings with only a faint hint of surprise touching her eyes. "Well… I can't say that I ever expected you to say that to me. So, what obligations do you hold to your family?"
"I'm… a Queen. The Fire Queen."
That earned her a pair of raised eyebrows. "What a world of changes I have missed." She gestured for them to sit down. "You'll have to tell me about everything."
The morning sunlight was a bit weak, though considering the many pine trees it had to filter through, perhaps that was understandable. Kit trudged unhappily through Goldenwood's forest, his packs spread out between the five Guardians. It wasn't very hard; he hadn't brought very much in the first place, and even with the things he had picked up at Cal'asan and in the Aelfen World added to that, he didn't have much more. They drew near a familiar border, the one dividing Green territory from that belonging to the Silvers.
"Isn't there another way we can get to the main site?" he asked quietly as he strained his eyes for any sign of the group that had cast him out. "I don't really want to go through here…"
Nodding, they changed their course to travel around the borders, chatting quietly amongst themselves as they did so. Even with the change of course, it didn't take very long to come near the edge of the place where the other campers were already meeting with their parents, the younger ones excited and babbling tales of camp, their older counterparts more collected.
Shadow put down the small bag that he'd been carrying in one hand and gave the enshira a quick, one-armed hug around his shoulders. "It was nice to meet you, Kit. If you're ever around Cal'asan again, or if we're in Kierstha region, we'll see each other again. And of course, perhaps there'll be a World Gate in your room on a holiday." He raised an eyebrow, black eyes smiling.
"We'll send news through the Chain," Aria added as she gave him an equally quick, firm hug. "I'll have the Queens send a message to keep an eye or two out for you." She hadn't been carrying anything; there simply wasn't enough for five people to carry without them looking ridiculous.
Storm put down her somewhat larger bag and hugged him. "Stay safe, and try not to give away your gift. Even if your parents – grandparents, maybe? – know about the Aelfen blood, that doesn't mean that they'd be thrilled about an Earth's'guardian son. And if they don't…" She trailed off and shrugged. "Just stay safe."
Sarah stepped forward and gave a small sigh. For some perverse reason that she hadn't deigned to explain, she'd kept her wings. "I never did get the chance to knock Green heads together for you, did I? Oh well. Maybe next time?" She grinned hopefully and he laughed, though it didn't quite banish the sadness he felt at having to leave the rest of the Guardians behind. Then she hugged him, as quickly as the rest. "Goodbye, Kit."
"Bye…" He felt his throat tighten and swallowed hard. From the tight smiles the rest of them bestowed upon him, however, he wasn't the only one feeling so unhappy at the circumstances. "Can't I just stay?" he finally asked, wishing away the plaintive note in his voice.
"Maybe another time," Aria said. "You don't want to scare your parents, do you?"
He sighed and nodded grudgingly. "Goodbye."
"Goodbye, Kit." There was a warm affection the rest of the Guardians' voices, affection tinged with sorrow at parting and the hope of meeting again, that buoyed him up. He bent and picked up the packs, then left the forest, never looking back.
He saw his mother standing near the other side of the field, her brown hair covered by a wide-brimmed hat, her eyes scanning the mass of children. She froze, seeing him, then ran forward to hug him. "Kit! There you are! I was wondering if you'd gotten lost."
"I'm fine, mom." He might be leaving four of the closest friends he could ever have behind, but physically speaking he was fine. "I just got a little delayed coming with saying goodbyes." Again, the truth.
"Well, come on. We have a flight to catch back to Ontario." She took one of the bags from him, and then walked off to where she had parked the car. The enshira kept glancing out the corner of his eye, catching glances of red feathers, stormy blue wings, dark and light hair through the veil that the pine branches provided. He waved once, discreetly, then ran to catch up.
They put the bags in the back of the rental car, then sat in the front. "So, was camp fun?"
Fun? Being with the Greens? Never. But helping to get Sarah into the Aelfen World, meeting Stormwing and Aria, joking with Shadow, listening to Pyrshalyn's song-tales, simply seeing the fey and Aelfen? "Worlds of fun."
"You'll have to tell me about it."
He strained his eyes for one last glance of the Guardians as his mother drove down the packed-dirt road that led into the camp. "Maybe later. I'm a bit tired."
"Ok." Then they were out of the boundaries of Goldenwood and Cal'asan. With a quiet sigh, he sat back, truly feeling tired. How long would it be before he could come back? Absently he started playing with the automatic window opener. Open… shut. Shut… open. Something flew into the open window and he snatched it quickly, before his mother could catch it.
"What was that?"
"Oh… Just a paper. I guess some sort of flyer." He closed the window once more and uncrumpled the paper.
Don't worry! Aria's already worked something out with one of her Chain friends, who thinks that she can get us places to stay for a bit of the year in Kierstha region. It'll probably be near the end of the year, though, but we promise we'll come to visit. You're one of us, after all.
Give us a shout any time you need us!
Shadow, Aria, Stormwing and Sarah.
PS: If you send any letters through the Chain, try and give us your home address so that we can get it to your house. That'll make things easier.
Suddenly, it didn't seem so bad to be going back home.
Hehe… --trails off-- --stares at ground-- Yup. More than a month since I last updated. Bad me. But… I dunno. It was just really hard to end. So, my apologies to those of you who are ticked off at the long wait, and my thanks to those of you who deign to review.
There may be a sequel to Fate and Fire, but only if I can come up with a good plotline. I'm not going to bother writing it if it's just going to be a pointless ramble. Yeah… Anyways, The Ravens is pretty good, too (or so I'm told, but I'm a wee bit biased), so if you want to read that too, that'd be cool. Yeah. Mhm.
Random Quotes of Gryph
# 1 - Do you know what happens at the end of Paparazzi? They all die! (A friend of mine in gym class, threatening a photographer)
# 2 - Me: I like Saetan!
Aya: --backs away slowly-- Um…
Me: --frowns-- What? Haven't you gotten to that part in the story?
Aya: … Nevermind.
# 3 -- Those aren't chicks! They're… small, round, yellow eggs that just happen to be fluffy and move around.
Phoenix: Hem… Well, you've probably already made your trip decision, but here's my two cents worth anyways. Do you want to go to Italy? Really, really bad? Cause you're going to have to do a load of fundraisers and all sorts of stuff. If you're going to be miserable fundraising and on the trip, don't bother. But If you think you can do it, then go for it! Europe trips are great!
Lily: Aw… your faith is touching. Well, here's the last chapter. I doubt I'll make 200, but 190 is pretty good, too!
Alareic: Yuppers. FMH advertising is important. Heya, why haven't you done anyhting with TLD lately? It's like you've vanished…
Wolfie: Hah! See, disbeliever! I have conquered my urge to write more Raven chapters, dodged the bombardment of ideas for the second part of The Ravens and made myself sit down and finish it! Muahahahaha! --shoves evil overlord-esque aspect of self into a small box -- Ah. Yes. Anywho, this was the last chapter. I think. Probably, anyways.
Casey: --laughs-- Scurries is a great word. And the story was pretty darn good, too. Update?
Alexei: --grins-- Yup. I was planning that when I first made him make the outfit promise… wow… so long ago… Anyways, it was your constant asking when this would be updated that got me to do it. Be proud of yourself.
Harmony Isarine: --quiet sigh-- Yeah, I'm working on going through and fixing tidbits. I'll keep those in mind while I'm doing it. --blinks-- Dog slobber is… slippery. Makes tug-of-war awkward. --scowls at neighbour's dog-- I swear that dog cheats. --walks off, muttering--
So, m' Lord and Ladies (or dudes and dudettes), this is pretty much the end of Fate and Fire. Comments, questions and reviews are all adored… --thinks-- It feels like something's missing. Aha! A survey!
1 – Favourite female character
2 – Favourite male character
3 – Least favourite character (evil and not evil?)
4 – Most confusing moment
5 – Favourite scene
6 – Part you wished would have happened
7 – Part you're glad didn't happen
8 – Any remaining questions?
I'll tally the survey results and answer any questions in another post, most likely.
In the mean time, have fun, and do come back and check out another story. --coughs and points at The Ravens-- That one's going to go far, so there'll be a lot of reading…