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Chapter 39

"To hell with this!" Lusia turned and started to run away from Feffion, back toward the prison. However, she didn't get far when she bumped into the wizard when he suddenly appeared in front of her.

He grabbed one of her arms, and pulled her toward him, "I'm going to bring you in, and whether or not you survive it is entirely up to you. But it would be a shame for such a rare beauty to die before her time."

Lusia struggled out of his grip, and stumbled back away from him. "Are you crazy, Feffion?! Don't you realize how my magic works? We're underground, and there are plants everywhere! And aside from that, don't you know what will happen if lightning strikes water?"

Feffion grinned, floating toward her. "But you are the one who is immersed in water, are you not?" He slowly extended his finger again, pointing toward her, but aimed low. Reacting on impulse, she sent one of her magic orbs careening toward his hand. But as she cast the spell, he made a flicking motion that was augmented by some magical lines and suddenly her spell shot right back at her, and grazed her arm.

Feffion shook his head. "My, my. Don't you have any better spells? You must be awfully overconfident if you think you can best me with that learner's spell. Though I must admit, the amount of power you put behind that was quite impressive." He cleared his throat. "I'm sure you realize that was a warning. If I'd wanted, I could have deflected that right between those pretty eyes of yours. Now please, won't you take the easy way out?" He extended his hand toward her.

Lusia backed away from him, preparing to run the other way again. As she backed up, she hurled another magic ball at him, but this time she had a plan. As she expected he reflected it toward her, but she stepped aside before the reflection and put up her barrier again, focusing on the area where the ball would impact, and trying to make it bouncy. The result was that the ball was deflected away from her, and back down the cavern, but not in the direction she had hoped.

Feffion raised an eyebrow. "My you are resourceful, but as I sai-"

"Oh, shut up!" Lusia screeched. She regretted the outburst when Feffion sent another bolt of lighting in her direction, and she was sent scrambling away from the area. She made it away from the jolt, but she still felt a numbing shock pass through her legs, and it caused her to stumble for a moment.

She quickly rose to her feet, sending another magic ball over her shoulder as she rounded the corner, so that he wouldn't be able to follow up his spell with another. It ricocheted off of a nearby wall, causing her to stop for a moment out of fear of being hit. She'd seen what her spell could do. However, she had seen his lines again, and started to wonder if she could possibly mime his spell. She didn't know a lot about magic, but she did know that a spell was dependent upon the lines of power. So wouldn't that mean that if she could copy his lines it would be the same as copying his spell?

She continued to run, and Feffion floated behind her but he didn't follow up with any more spells. He simply kept pace with her, waiting. She periodically fired some of her magic orbs back toward him hoping to catch him off guard, but she watched his hands every time he deflected her spells, and started experimenting as she ran. Eventually she was able to form the lines to look much like his deflection. It wasn't as difficult as she had thought, because it was actually very similar to the barrier she had been using for a long time. It was a great deal more complex, but the similarity struck her, and she could only think to describe the difference as a mirror-like feeling to the spell.

Lusia was distracted from her discovery when she saw the cave widen out to a massive cavern ahead. But what had caught her eye was a shimmering bubble around the mouth of the cavern. She almost stumbled into the mass of swirling colors before she realized exactly what it was, and she almost tripped trying to stop herself. So that was why he hadn't been attacking…!

"You intended to trap me in there with the Zethil, didn't you?!"

Feffion nodded, "Indeed. It would only be fitting you share the fate of your master."

Lusia turned about to face Feffion. She had no choice now. She had to stand her ground. "Feffion, why can't you accept the fact that I'm not trying to free Ryukamei? Why must you assume the worst about me? Do you really think I'm that terrible of a person?"

Feffion floated up to her. "I didn't want to believe it, but the evidence speaks for itself. Why else would you find the idea of returning to the Councilhall so repugnant?"

Lusia said, "Because of everything that happened there. All the restrictions, and the fact that they were just looking for excuses to put me to death. They're afraid of me, and I don't blame them, but it made it impossible to live there. Not to mention the kidnappings and Dark wizards sneaking in to cause me trouble. I didn't feel safe."

Feffion argued, "But what of all your other mischief? You wouldn't have been in such trouble there if not for all your misdeeds in Rotenno and Vesperone."

Lusia said, "Don't you understand Feffion? People are drawn to my good looks, and the more ruthless ones try and take me by force. Its only natural I would try to defend myself."

Feffion nodded, "Any magician would."

Lusia said, "But its different for me. Father once told me that High Grade magicians have something called static. Under times of great stress sometimes your magic will just start going off, as a self defense mechanism."

Feffion said, "I know what static is. But you can't expect me to believe you could cover an entire castle in living vines or cause earthquakes just from static."

Lusia said, "No, not my static. But my true magic is a lot like it in some ways. It just… reacts. I couldn't control it at first, and it would go wild responding to every little fright. I've learned to control it now, and that's probably why you're still alive."

Feffion shook his head, "That is quite a stretch to believe. But even if what you say is true, you are still a very dangerous nilf. The High Council of Magic still wants you brought in, and I still have my duty to serve them." Then Feffion gazed past her, looking into the cavern beyond the swirling bubble. "Ryukamei is stirring. What a beast he is."

This prompted Lusia to look into the cavern herself. She could not see the other side of it. At first, she couldn't tell where Ryukamei was either, and she tried to look past a rounded hill stone that rose out of the water that filled the bottom of the cavern. It was an oddly shaped hill, with eight massive spires at regular intervals, and a multitude of jagged protrusions from just below the level of the water. Then the mountain moved. It rose ever so slightly out of the water, and sank down again, and she heard a sound like a bellows being pumped, only more drawn out. It was him.

She'd heard the Zethil was of a massive size, but she had not been prepared for this. She felt miniscule compared to the size of that creature. She wasn't even a gnat compared to his size.

Lusia backed away from the sight, afraid even though she knew the barrier stood between them, and nearly backed right into Feffion. She turned to face him again, and he floated back from her, brandishing Phoenix Feather. Lusia said, "You are not giving me any choice here Feffion. I don't want to cause any more trouble, but I have to defend myself."

Feffion pointed at her with his free hand, "You waste your words." A bolt of lightning lanced out form his finger tip, but Lusia was already trying Feffion's reflection spell, though she had a sinking feeling that her logic was flawed at best. However, the spell actually did work, exactly as his had. The lighting inverted, heading back toward Feffion who was quite surprised. However, the reflection was poorly aimed, and Feffion was untouched by the lightning bolt.

"I thought you didn't know that spell! Why didn't you use it before if you knew it? How vexing! Don't tell me you learned it just from watching me do it?"

Lusia smiled, as her green aura flared to life around her. "As a matter of fact, I did. It was a big risk, but I figured that if I learned how to make the same lines you did, it would be the same as learning to cast the spell."

Feffion said, "My but you are a resourceful one, miss Berie. I am impressed. But that was amateurish at best, and now that I know you can reflect things, I won't be caught off guard again. Do you think I haven't dealt with other magicians that can use that spell before?"

Lusia said, "Actually, if I were you I would be more worried about the mass of vines growing behind you. Those things can take down a dragon."

Feffion laughed, "Surely you don't think I wo-" He paused when a vine wrapped experimentally around his ankle. It was pale, more reminiscent of sea-weed than surface plants, but nevertheless the mass of them was a frightening sight to behold. He glanced down, and said. "My, this is an unfortunate turn of events." Then he was embroiled in a struggle to fight off Lusia's vines. He slashed wildly at the encroaching tendrils with Phoenix Feather, but the sword kept twisting in his grasp, and he nearly decapitated himself several times. After a while he threw the sword aside in disgust, and oddly enough Phoenix Feather whirled about in midair, somehow ending up in Lusia's hand.

Phoenix Feather sighed happily. "Glad to be back with you. Man, I can't stand that guy. He has such sweaty palms, just yuck!"

Lusia said happily, "I'm glad to have you back. I'm sorry I was so careless."

Meanwhile Lusia was treated to an impressive show as Feffion fought off the vines using his spells. He conjured several mirrors that appeared around him, and where the vines collided with the mirrors they were reflected much like by his spell. Meanwhile, he went on the offensive with a sword of ice, slashing every vine within reach. However, Lusia knew that his approach wouldn't work. Every vine he cut only grew back in greater numbers and stronger than before. Every blow from his magical sword became less effective, until he was forced to make a different one. An axe of thunder, a spear of flames, he displayed in impressive variety of spells before he finally turned on Lusia again.

"I see. As long as you continue to feed them power, they cannot be defeated. Then…" Feffion lunged toward her at all speed, but vines shot past him and engulfed her.

The next thing Lusia knew, she was covered in them. They were wrapped tightly around her covering her torso and writhed along her legs, forming a somewhat snakelike tail where the vines connected with her new living suit. Four tendrils trailed from her back. They arched over her shoulders, and their ends split into maws with extended mandibles. She felt a prick in her back, much like when the flower had consumed her, but this time her legs did not go numb. Still she felt the vines around her as if they were a part of her, and she felt their anger.

The vines caught Feffion, holding him away from her before he could deliver his blow. Lusia screamed in rage, running her power through Phoenix Feather until it glowed brightly with green flames. She started to plunge the sword forward, right toward the source of her anger, but at the last second she stopped herself. "N-no! This… this isn't… I'm not like this…" All at once her anger faded. She could still feel the plant body around her, but now she was the one in control.

Lusia blinked, and realized that she was staring at Feffion, and he looked frightened. With her plant arms she hurled him away. He floated back, stunned for the moment. "Such an expression…" he gasped. "What happened to you?"

Lusia shook her head. "This has happened before, but not often. Do you see now, Feffion? The worse the danger gets, the stronger the reaction is. If you don't stop you will die. I don't think you are a bad person, Feffion. I don't want to think of you as my enemy, and I don't want you to die. So please, stop this."

Feffion bowed his head. "I see. You really mean every word you say, don't you, Lusia. This must be a terrible curse to live with." His unexpected calmness was unnerving. "Prince Kallan must be the luckiest elf in the Niafold to have a nilf like you." A sword of pure magic formed in his hand. "But… I just can't let this madness continue. The longer you are free, the more chaos you will cause. Forgive me." He lunged at her again, but he didn't make it far.

The pod had been growing behind him as he spoke, and as he lunged it burst. The needles weren't particularly big, and didn't tear his body to shreds as she feared. But they dripped with a foul smelling blue venom. Feffion collapsed, the green orb fell from his numb hands into the water, and he would have fallen into the water too if Lusia hadn't caught him in her vine arms. She hoped to revive him with her healing nectar, but one look at him told her it was too late.

Lusia retrieved the green stone with another of her vine arms. She stared at Feffion for a while, contemplating what to do with him. But it didn't take long for her to decide to take him back to the others for a proper funeral.

As Lusia started to leave, a deep rumbling voice came from behind. "That is an interesting Aura you have. Such a lovely green."

Lusia whirled. The face staring back at her filled the mouth of the cavern and then some, and it was clearly a long distance back from the actual opening. Lusia opened her mouth to say something, and then realized that hadn't the slightest idea what she should say to Ryukamei. She ended up staring stupidly at him.

"You seem… surprised."

Lusia nodded slowly, "I thought you were… supposed to be sealed, or something." It sounded lame to her ears. Should she really talk with this massive creature so casually?

Ryukamei explained, "Of course. I cannot pass through the bubble. But I saw your fight. I awakened when I felt the power of another Zethil."

Lusia said firmly, "I'm not a Zethil."

Ryukamei blinked. And then stared intently at her. "Yes, you're right. But how did a nilf come to have such powers? You use your true magic so naturally."

Lusia said, "Well, you see… I'm the daughter of two high grade magicians. I was born with these powers, except I never knew it until recently because I hadn't egomanced yet."

Ryukamei spent a good time digesting this information. Lusia simply stood there, not sure what she should do. Supposedly the Zethil wasn't a threat to her, but then she was also curious what he might have to say. "How very unlikely, that your parents overcame the mutual repulsion of high magic. But even so, I cannot help but think there is more to this power of yours than just that. It seems too strong, even for a dual lineage."

Lusia said, "I wouldn't know then. I really should be going."

"Wait." Ryukamei stopped her. "I am so very lonely here. Won't you stay and talk with me?"

Lusia hesitated, "What would you want to talk about with someone like me?"

Ryukamei answered, "Anything will do. It has been so long since I had company. It has been thirty years since anyone got trapped in here."

Lusia asked, "What exactly happened to the people who were trapped in there?" It was more of a reflex, to fill the void in the conversation since she hadn't a clue what she should talk about.

Ryukamei answered, "Various things. Some died of old age, others went insane, or took their own lives. I imagine it is not easy for such short lived beings to be confined to my cave for the rest of their lives. Unfortunately, I could do little to ease their suffering, since most of my magic does not work within the confines of the barrier."

"I see. To be honest, I expected you to say you'd eaten them, or something like that."

Ryukamei chuckled. "No, elves aren't very tasty, and they are such small morsels for the likes of me. But enough of that. Why don't you tell me of your travels?"

"Why not?" Lusia told Ryukamei of all that had happened since her awakening, as well as she could remember. When she finished her tale, she said, "Actually, there are several things that still bother me. I was wondering if maybe you knew who Ashyn was."

Ryukamei answered, "I do not. But I can surmise several things about her, from her description. One is that she is a spirit body."

"A spirit body? What is that?"

He explained, "She has compressed her body into an energy form. She exists much like a ghost, and is neither truly living nor dead. She likely had great power in life, but as a spirit body she has to use most of her power simply to maintain her existence. Unless, of course, she bound her soul to a physical object. Likely, that dagger you told me of, Despair's Edge."

Lusia asked, "Why would she do that? And why does she have such an interest in me, and Nelime?"

"I don't know." Ryukamei said. "There could be any number of reasons. Perhaps she was dying, and this was the only way she could have saved herself. Or perhaps she had some other reasons. As to her interest in Nelime and yourself, well… I believe she is seeking a new body. If she could displace a living soul from its body, she could inhabit that body herself and shed her spirit body form. It would be the only way she could truly live again."

Lusia mused, "But she could have possessed anyone's body. Why Nelime? And why didn't she take Nelime's body before she killed herself?"

Ryukamei answered after a moment's thought. "Vanity."


"She wanted the perfect body. Someone young and beautiful, someone powerful and wealthy. Nelime would have been a perfect candidate, except that she could not channel magic. Ashyn would have lost all power if she had taken that body. I could see why she would be unwilling to make that sacrifice, under the circumstances. But you pose a different problem. Your power is so great that Ashyn can not take your body on her own. But I imagine that she must greatly desire to take it, to gain your power."

Lusia shuddered, "Why do I get the feeling that I'm not so safe then?"

Ryukamei said, "If she used a magic ritual with a number of other magicians, their combined magic would be able to overcome your natural resistance. Of course, getting a group of wizards to cooperate with her would be difficult at best for someone like her."

Lusia found the information to be quite sobering. "I see."

Ryukamei bowed his head ever so slightly. "Well, it is merely conjecture."

Lusia asked, "So, is it true what they say about you? I heard… a lot of bad things about you."

Ryukamei closed his eyes for a while. "I imagine it is only natural that the elves would revile my name. I did some atrocious things that day, after all. That is why I accept my punishment."

"What happened to make you do such things?"

Ryukamei answered, "Back then, there was a war. The Sea Dragons fought with the Land Dragons over the coastal territories, and the elves were caught in the middle of the ferocious fighting. At first, I tried to stay out of it. The Zethil were declining in numbers, and I was very possibly the last one left. I knew inciting the elves would be my downfall. But there was another reason. A beautiful female with glossy, milky white scales and lovely red eyes… I hadn't loved anyone so much since my time with Galaxia. But then, the elves had taken up arms against the dragons, and offered massive bounties for their hides. Unfortunately, she was one of the Dragons that was poached.

"I'm sure you understand the difficulties that come with true magic. So you can imagine the terrible forces that were unleashed when I was consumed with anger and loss. I wanted to make those elves PAY for killing the one I loved. And so I did. But when my anger passed, I was overcome with guilt. Yes, I had exacted a terrible revenge, but how many lives had I destroyed? What sorrow had I wrought? I had no right to cause such a terrible calamity. I returned to the seas feeling utterly miserable, and it was not long before the Council of Wizardry decided to eliminate me as a threat. You have every right to despise me."

Lusia shook her head. "No, I don't. Maybe I didn't kill as many as you did, but I caused a lot of damage anyways. I worry that something might happen to a loved one of mine. Not just because of how it would hurt me, but also because of what happen because of that hurt. I understand only too well. But you have had hundreds of years to learn to control your true magic. I'm… I'm too young. I just can't cope with it."

Ryukamei chuckled. "You remind me of another girl. A nilf who had the same problem."

Lusia asked, "There was another nilf with powers like mine?" She was a little surprised.

Ryukamei explained, "It was about eight hundred years ago. My long time partner, the Zethil Galaxia had been driven from the western continent by the Demi-Elves, and had taken refuge among the elves by shape-shifting into a nilf."

Lusia said, "Wait a minute, I think I know that story. She married the emperor of the old empire, but then he was assassinated and the noblemen did not trust her."

Ryukamei said, "Yes. I visited her a few times during those days. She needed a peer whom she could confide in, and I was surprised to find out those feelings she harbored for a mere elf. But anyway, I suppose my point is that you remind me of her daughter by him. The one who supposed to wear that pendant of yours."

Lusia nodded, "I guess I never really thought about it. I mean, it was eight hundred years ago, and yet she still hadn't claimed it. She probably died a long time ago."

Ryukamei nodded, "She was a lot like you. She had true magic, but she could scarcely comprehend how to use it. Of course, true magic is never quite the same for any person, and hers was not nearly as strong as yours was, because her father lacked the magical gift. I only spoke with her once, but she told me the same thing you did. She was afraid of her power, she could barely control it."

"And what did you tell her?"

"True Magic can never truly be controlled. It can only be directed, or guided. It is a wild, untamable force."

"Oh." Lusia was a little disappointed by his answer.

Ryukamei sank back down into his chamber, and she heard his head splashing into the water below. "At any rate, I have probably taken up enough of your time. You should return to your friends. Learn all you can about magic, and learn to use your true magic. And do not forget, you are like us Zethil. You must assert yourself, and teach those around you to respect your power. Not just in defeating the ones who stand before you as enemies, but also by using your power for the greater good. It was something that we all realized too late. But with all that power we had, think of what we could have accomplished by spreading healing and helping those who were in need. Instead we squandered our powers selfishly, and in the end we were isolated and alone. Remember that, child. Learn from our past mistakes."

Lusia shook her head. "I don't know if I can. But I suppose you are right. If I linger here much longer, the others will start to worry."

"Be well. And visit me sometime in the future, once your difficulties have passed."

Lusia slithered back down the tunnel in her plant body, contemplating what Ryukamei had told her. If nothing else, he seemed a very knowledgeable creature, though she still trembled from the sight of him. And yet, she felt a strange kinship with him too.

Before Lusia reached the tunnel back to the prison, she ran across Lallilan, who had probably come looking for her. But when the nilf laid eyes on Lusia she screamed and ran. She could hear Lallilan screeching as she fled. "Oh, my god! The fungus is real!"

By the time Lusia made it back to the prison, Lallilan had rallied Ratha, Shadow, Thekrath, and Lugaren, and they stood at ready for her arrival. But when Lusia slithered up to them, the group relaxed, except for Lallilan who pointed at her, saying, "You see! It's got her! What do we do?"

But Shadow said, "Well, nothing. That isn't a man-eating fungus, its her."

Lallilan shook her head, "I don't understand." As Lusia approached, she backed away.

Lugaren asked, "Who is that? Another dark wizard." Lusia was a little confused at his question at first, until she remembered she was carrying Feffion's body.

Lusia answered, "A wizard, but not dark. He was from the High Council. He said his name was Feffion."

"Feffion!" Lugaren was shocked. "The master of Mirror Magic?"


Lallilan commented, "Eww… you're… you're talking to it…"

Shadow explained, "Lallilan, calm down. Lusia has power over plants and earth, and this is one of the ways she uses that power to protect herself, by making a living armor."

Lusia continued to answer Lugaren's question, "He had some crazy crackpot theory that I was going to try and free Ryukamei. I think he realized his mistake before the end, but…" She shook her head, "It's so senseless… I don't think he was a bad person, but I couldn't stop him." She laid his body down on the ground before her. "Anyway, I thought the least I could do was give him a proper burial."

Ratha shook his head, "You should not feel too badly, Lusia. You did what you needed to survive."

Lusia asked sharply, "Did I? I'm not so sure."


Lugaren seemed surprised by her assertion as well, "Is something the matter?"

Lusia said, "I know you guys are trying to help, but… I can't keep running like this. I just can't keep living this way, always afraid there might be a wizard hiding in my shadow."

Shadow asked, "But what are you going to do? Do you really understand your position, Lusia? You are a wanted rogue wizard now, and the Dark Council is still after you. I don't think there have ever been as many wizards seeking after the same person."

Lusia sighed, "I know, but all this sneaking around trying to avoid trouble, it just isn't working. All I'm doing is causing more and more trouble, and I keep hurting the people who try to help me. If this keeps up, I'm going to end up just like Ryukamei, or worse!"

Lugaren shook his head, "I don't believe things are as bad as you believe them to be. If you lay low for a while, I think the High Council will decide to leave well enough alone. The real problem is those dark wizards. The High Council isn't taking them very seriously, but if they are really your grandfather's followers then there's no telling what they might do to get you in their control."

Lusia nodded soberly. "I've been thinking for a while now, maybe we can't sit back and wait for them to come after me anymore."

Lugaren asked, "What are you saying? You've been fighting back well enough, haven't you?"

Lusia shook her head, "That's just the thing. I've been reacting, letting them control the game. But it isn't enough. Every time I beat them down, they just come back with new wizards and some new plan. I didn't want to think about it, but I'm sure they won't be above going after people I care about if they get desperate. What will I do then? What would I do if something happened to one of you guys, or my brother, or father?"

Lugaren looked away, "Don't worry about them, Lusia. Your father is one of the most cunning wizards in the Niafold. The Dark Council would be hard pressed to deal with him."

Why did Lusia feel like there was something he wasn't telling her? She asked, "Lugaren, you saw my father before we met in the Holy Lands at Vesperone, right? Are you sure they weren't chasing after him? Did he tell you anything?"

Lugaren still refused to meet her gaze. "He just told me to look after you, Lusia. He told that he didn't want you to have to worry about him."

"You didn't answer my question, Lugaren!" Lusia closed in to him, and before she realized it, her vine-arms were reaching for him, and he flinched back. She stopped herself when she realized she was probably scaring him a little. Even Ratha and Shadow had tensed up. "S- sorry. I'm sorry uncle. I'm just… I'm just…"

Lugaren shook his head, "Lusia, you want to the fight to them, don't you?"

She nodded, "I just don't think they will listen to me otherwise. I don't want anyone to get hurt, but if it's a choice between them or someone I care about then I'm not going to let them hurt the people I care about. So I need to teach them to respect my power, even if it means putting the fear of death into them. It might be the only thing they understand."

Ratha nodded approvingly, but Lugaren objected, "What makes you think that will work, Lusia? If you attack them, they will retaliate in force. That means ritual magic, and I don't think even you could withstand that. Besides, how easy was it for you to take out their wizards? As I recall, you were exhausted after the last major battle, and you still have cuts. And that time, they had specific orders to take you alive. If you made an enemy of the Dark Council, and they really decided to kill you, how many of their wizards do you think you could kill before you exhausted your power? And then once you did, you would be finished. Even if you had all of us, and Kallan besides, you wouldn't get very far."

Ratha argued, "Is it not better to die bravely than to live in constant fear and misery? Lusia is showing the Dein spirit, and her words are brave, you must honor them."

Lugaren said, "Her words are foolish, Ratha! But I guess I should expect that from a Dein."

Ratha snapped irately, "That's pretty cowardly for a High Elf! Where is your pride?!"

Lugaren and Ratha squared off angrily, and it looked like they might fight before Shadow got between them. "Enough of this! You all have valid arguments. I've had my world turned upside down yesterday, and I feel like I don't know all that much anymore. But one thing I do know is that I still care about all my comrades. You guys might just be all I have in this world anymore, and the thought of something happening to you is unbearably painful. But at the same time, Lugaren is right. We can't fight them head-on, we might as well just hand Lusia to them on a silver platter if we do that. But I think that we haven't seen Lusia's true power yet, either. She is already formidable, but she has little knowledge or experience with magic. And now that I know the truth about my Shadow sword, that it is a form of magic, I know that I can learn magic too. Maybe I can learn to fight like Vahlgas did. I almost swore off using that skill, when I learned the truth, but then I realized something. Power is just power. Just as a sword is just a sword. It can be used for evil, to hurt people, but it can also be used for good and to protect. I… we just have to learn how."

Lugaren stroked his chin, "So what you're saying is that you think it's possible, just not right now? That we need to prefect our skills, and make a plan?"

Shadow nodded, "Yes. I couldn't sum it as nicely as you did, but that is what I was thinking." He glanced over at Ratha, "You agree, don't you?"

Ratha nodded, "Just charging in blindly is asking to be killed. It is better to study your enemy, and learn his strengths and weaknesses. Then when you do fight you know exactly where to strike.'

Lugaren turned to Lusia, "So, what do you think, Lusia? As it stands right now, we have little to go off of. We don't even know where the Dark Council is based. But if you allow me to train you in magic, you will be better able to deal with the Dark Council. And by then, we will have time to find where their leaders are, and make some kind of plan."

Lusia nodded a little reluctantly, "Alright. I guess I can't argue with that. I'm probably just nervous after being attacked again." She sighed, "At any rate, I need to change my clothes, and I want to see Kallan again. Okay?"

Shadow and Ratha took Feffion's body and Shadow asked, "What should we do with this guy, in the meantime?"

Lallilan suggested, "We could send him to the deeps, where the merkin are laid to rest. Please let me take care of it for you."

"Yes, that would probably be best. Thank you, Lallilan." Then Lusia slithered away to her chamber. She moved over to a stand of sea-flowers where Blink was sleeping, and she took in the tiny sleeping form of her familiar and allowed a contented smile to cross her lips for a moment. She looked so innocent while she slept. Not at all like the energetic little monster she was while awake.

Lusia was, once again, baffled as to how to get the vine armor to drop off of her. But as before, once she started to want it to fall from her, it did. However, this time she willed it to live, in case it was needed again, and it did not wither and die as the flower armor in Vesperone had.

Lusia quickly slipped into her dress which, miraculously, had managed to avoid getting doused in the water from the river. Once she was dressed, she left her room and made her way to where Kallan was being held.

As she neared the doorway, she heard raised voices. What was going on in there? Lusia rushed to the doorway, her heart racing, and opened the door. She saw Glen inside, standing over Kallan with one hand holding his collar so that they were eye to eye. Glen was panting angrily, while Kallan seemed to look through him, his expression unruffled.

"Bastard!" Glen roared, and then he punched Kallan roughly in the stomach with his free hand. "You make me sick!" He punched Kallan again, dropping him this time.

Kallan groaned in pain, caught his breath, and then said to Glen is slightly strained voice, "Do you think you are any better, taking your frustrations out on me like a common bully? What would Lusia think if she saw you like this?"

Glen pulled him back up to his face, "Why you…!"

He pulled his fist back again, but this time Lusia rushed up and grabbed him. "Glen, stop it! What do you think you're doing?"

Glen struggled violently against her grasp, so angry that he didn't even seem to realize who was grabbing him. After a few moments of struggle, he struck her away, and she tumbled backward away from him, screaming in pain. She rose to her knees, holding the side of her face where he'd hit her. That had really hurt!

"Lusia!" Kallan rushed over to her, his chains clinking, and kneeled down next to her. "Are you alright?!" He glared up at Glen, "Now you are just as guilty as I am."

Glen whirled around, a shocked expression on his face. "Oh no! Lusia! I… I didn't mean to…!" He was not able to meet her gaze anymore. Shadow and Saresse both rushed in then, but Glen quickly turned away from her, and stormed off.

"Glen…" What could have caused him to act like that?

Shadow asked, "What was that all…" Then he saw Lusia and Kallan and asked, "What happened? Did Glen do this?"

Lusia nodded, "He was fighting with Kallan, and I tried to stop him. He was so angry he didn't even recognize me until…"

Shadow said, "I see. He didn't hurt you did he?" He reached out to Lusia, and pried reluctant hands from the bruise on her cheek. "What the hell was he thinking?"

Lusia brushed her hand against her check, using her minor healing spell to hopefully patch up the damage. "I don't know but…" She turned to Kallan and asked him sternly, "What did you say to make him so angry Kallan?"

Kallan bowed his head, "I am sorry, Lusia."

Lusia sighed, "Honestly, I don't see how we'll last a week down here with everyone on edge like this."

Shadow said, "Perhaps I should talk to Glen."

Shadow started to leave but Saresse stopped him. "Wait."

Shadow asked, "What is it?"

Saresse said, "I nearly forgot why I was here in the first place. I came to tell you that Ileira just returned."

Both Shadow and Lusia exclaimed at the same time, "She's back?!"

A big thank you to my reviewers:

For What its Worth: I'm sure he'd find Feffion annoying, at least, but I guess he won't be having that problem now... Although Feffion himself wasn't really meant to be a big conflict, but was an excuse to introduce another character. And yeah, I know. My updates have been pathetically slow. I do apologize for that.

Casey Drake: I wasn't entirely sure about that scene, but from your reaction I would say it works. And yes, culture shock indeed. But you won't be finding many cooking fires underwater, will you? I tried to be as logical as I could when trying to envision what the Merkin culture would be like.