"We fought so hard over her!" One of the voices cried out. "Can we really risk it? What if she is lost to the beast?"

"I agree the risk is too great."

The voices had gathered in a place where no mortal could hear them, where they were on equal terms with one another. No one was the master of this place.

They stood apart from one another, setting aside grudges and old wounds, but remembering to be cautious. They kept themselves separate.

The voices rarely gathered together like this, the place was neutral to all of them, and for some of the more possessive Voices this was difficult. They liked to feel in control, for in every area of their own lands, they were unsurpassed master.

"There is no risk," one of the younger Voices said, "She is the only choice."

The Voices paused. No one liked much to cross this one; his wrath was terrible when kindled. He was made of smoke, and drifted all through their realms. His house was one of the greatest of all.

Unlike the others gathered, the Smoke's tone was calm and empty of any of the concern that the others seemed to feel.

A female in their midst, one of the very few, shook her head. She was one of the oldest ones. Seeing the fire in Smoke's belly made her melancholy; for once, she had burned the brightest of them all.

How long ago that had been, she didn't know. Time meant nothing to her kind. But it seemed like a long time.

She was an Ember. The eternally living remnant of a Flame that had burned passionately and too fiercely.

"You have a great deal of faith in this one," the Ember's voice broke through the silence. "I think you are blind to her weaknesses, but they are many and not unimportant."

He glanced sideways at her, his eyes like smoky holes set in a pale mask.

He did not rise.

"She will not be lost to me." He held his head up, chin confidently jutting out.

His word choice did not escape the attention of the Ember, and she would remember it, as she did everything about this young one.

The Eldest noticed it also.

He wasn't the first of them, but he was the oldest of those who remained.

"You made your name warring for this girl, young one; I think your opinion is not unbiased in this matter," he inclined his head. He spoke so often in double negatives, the Agents often misunderstood him.

The Darkest of them spoke next, his voice smiling. No one stood near him, for he was made of nightmare, and like the strongest of them, he travelled everywhere.

"'Twas my beast that escaped, should be my choice as to whom is the best qualified to return it."

"She is in the vicinity of the thing." The Smoke tilted his head.

"Mere physical convenience is not enough to make her the right choice." The darkest replied. "Though I am intrigued by her, I also have followed her career as you have. She is a true Agent, and she has never denied me entry to her world," the air was heavy as he paused.

"She welcomes the adventure I provide I think," he chuckled.

"She guards her physical self very well she has not let me invade her reality for a long time. I do not know where she is now, thought it seems you do not experience my rejection..."

The Voices murmured, and the Eldest of them gave a long sigh. The Young ones always became far too invested in the affairs of the agents.

"She is of my house and so I know her best."

"She is of your house because you took her to your house. She did not agree to it," the Darkest moved closer, he didn't walk; he just appeared to zoom in and come into closer focus. "You bound her heart to yours and keep it there, safe and sound. Nothing else may touch it, in this world or hers. That is why you know her best."

"I have acted entirely within the bounds of my rights." He defended himself. "She is my champion."

The Eldest felt the Ember stir; she was tender for this smoky one. His voice took up.

"It is your beast," he said to the Darkest "and so for now it will be your problem. We will step in as soon as the need arises." He promised and before anyone else could argue, he faded.

The Ember followed him, glancing curiously at the young one for a moment, "Be wary" she warned the Smoke. "The agents are both more and less than what they seem."

The others left one by one, until only the Darkest and Smoke remained.

"She will not fail." His face, mask-like as ever showed none of the emotion that the Darkness suspected him of.

"I will examine her," the Darkest chuckled, "that in itself should prove entertaining…she and I have not met for some time now."

He faded, and a shadow lifted off the place.

Smoke's eyes glowed softly, plans were hatching, things were coming together.