Breathing heavily, Dawn sat under a tree, her knapsack in her arms. It was already sunset and she was well and deep into a forest. So far, she hasn't encountered any spirits, much to her relief. The Wicca Faction had not given her any protection spells so she only had her basic magic to rely on.

This mission really was suicide. There was no sign of any building whatsoever and she could come across many different kinds of human-hating spirits before she could even spot anyone's house. There was an extremely big chance that she would be dead by nightfall.

Dawn was given a loaf of bread to eat, nothing else. She could ration her food but she doubted that the small loaf would last for a week – not that she could last a week unless she found Fao's home soon and even then, he might just decide to kill her.

However, Dawn realized as she was walking, that there was a big chance that Fao would turn her down and send her back home. He was a spirit, yes, but Oloron told her stories about Fao being more merciful than others spirits to humans. That gave her some comfort and made her desire to get to his home rather than stay in an enchanted forest. At least, she can hope for a quick kill from him if he decided to kill her. For the creatures that lurked in the forest, she was not sure.

Dawn suddenly heard the rustling of bushes coming swiftly towards her direction. Before she could stand up and run, a ball of fur slammed into her, sprawling her on the ground. She heard heavy panting as her arms instinctively wrapped on the warm mammal. Looking up, she saw that it was a small adorable fox with gigantic ears and sand-coloured fur.

She had no time to ponder on what the fox exactly was since she suddenly heard a vicious cat snarl. Standing up with her knapsack and the fox in her arms, she cast the spell she learned from Oloron, a cloaking spell. If cast right, it can hide one's presence, including the smell. Not sure if it worked, she reached out for the lowest branch of the tree she had been leaning on and placed the fox carefully on it, along with her knapsack. She then jumped as hard as she could and tried climbing over the branch with some difficulty. The fox just watched her with its dark, intelligent eyes.

There was a small rustle of leaves before a leopard came into view. Dawn was praying as hard as she could that the spell worked. Luck seemed to be on her side, as the leopard didn't seem to sense them. It did not even look up at the tree, knowing a tiny fox could not climb. Swishing its tail, the leopard skulked off, in search of its prey.

Dawn waited for a few moments before judging the situation currently safe. She then jumped from the branch, taking her knapsack with her. Raising her arms, she gestured for the fox to jump in her arms, knowing it would understand her. It did and it landed snugly in her hands. It was just so small!

The witch knew that there was a possibility that this fox was actually a spirit, especially after seeing the intelligence in its eyes. Maybe it was a young spirit. Knowing that it might not be able to help her, she released it.

"You're all right now, you can go," she said gently. Remembering that spirits hated to be indebted and considering that this spirit may be a small child in spirit standards, she added, "And don't worry. You are not indebted to me. I saved myself just as much as I saved you."

The fox lingered for a moment before giving a yip and running off. Dawn was sad to see it go and wished fervently that it would be safe. She just realized that it was already nightfall and dark. This was the most dangerous time in the forest. If she survived this, then luck truly is on her side.

The best thing she could do right now was to try to be as quiet as possible and not to draw attention to herself. However, that was rather difficult, seeing how she had white hair that became more pronounced in the darkness.

Opening her knapsack, she found a big kerchief that she could use to cover her hair. She also found a shawl. Dawn knew exactly who placed these items in her knapsack. Who else but Helen?

Tears pricked her eyes as she remembered her sister – the sister that she might never see again. She would never see Oloron too.

And Jed… She hasn't seen him in at least a year and she wasn't even able to say farewell! Dawn knew that Jed adored her and looked up at her despite the fact that he was older than her by about seven years. She remembered how his eyes would always shine whenever she visited him. Caught up in trying to achieve her sky magic, her fortnight ritual of visiting him crumbled. They were forced to send letters to each other instead. Every single letter from him sent the message that he understood she was busy and to not worry about him. But Dawn was also able to read the undertones in those letters and she knew that he missed her terribly.

Now she can't even give him a proper good-bye. He would be devastated… Jed was the only person who could make Dawn feel needed and for this, she loved him dearly. She thought this was selfish but she could not help herself. She needed him to need her so she could pretend that she was of some use to somebody. Helen may be her younger sister but she had never needed Dawn. She had always been independent and the out-going one of the two. Helen also radiated of self-confidence but not to the point of seeming egotistical, making it easy to trust her. Dawn had always wondered if her parents wished Helen would be the sky mage and concluded that they did want Helen to have magic instead of her.

Dawn heard another rustling of leaves and decided to cease wallowing in self-pity for the moment. This was not the time for it. She was still in a gods-forsaken forest.

Alert, she treaded as cautiously as she could, looking around her and behind her for any signs of danger. She heard another rustle of leaves from her left. Quickly turning in that direction, her eyes widened as she recognized the fox she rescued earlier.

The fox ran around her feet in circles, yipping. Dawn pressed a finger against her lips, trying to quieten him down. It did not work. Instead, the fox went on its hind legs and started pulling at the hem of her skirt with its small mouth. Realizing that the fox wanted to take her somewhere, she let the fox pull her away. She followed, hoping that it would not lead her to danger.

About five minutes later, the fox stopped in front of some tall bushes, bushes taller than Dawn herself. The fox then pushed itself through the leaves and on to the other side. Taking a deep breath and then exhaling, Dawn followed. What she saw on the other side caught her breath.

It was a small spring!

Dawn just realized how thirsty she really was when she saw the spring. She gave the fox a questioning look. As if knowing what she was asking, the fox tipped its head in a gesture that said, "Go on." She did and she knelt beside the spring and dipped her hands in. The water was lukewarm. Cupping her hands, she brought the water to her lips and started drinking. After satisfying her thirst, she leaned back and looked at her surroundings.

Very tall rocks surrounded the spring, about twenty feet in height. The tall bush behind her was the easiest way to get in. Dawn wondered if she really could stay in this spring for now. Nevertheless, she trusted the fox and if it said it was safe for her to remain here, then she would believe it.

The fox started pushing its head against her ankles, as if trying to move her feet. Dawn let him and she ended up going into the spring. The fox yipped and wagged its tail once.

"Are you saying I can take a quick wash here?" she asked quietly. Dawn was not taking any chances. If there were predators around, she would not start talking in a loud voice.

The fox yipped again and wagged its tail once more. Dawn could not help but smile. It was just so adorable!

"If you say so," she replied. She then gave him a criticizing look. "However, I won't let you watch me. You are a male after all."

The fox then started yipping angrily, as if saying, "Why would I want to watch?" Dawn chuckled.

"You are obviously a young one then who hasn't reached adolescence. Though, that is a good thing for me." The fox turned its back on her, tail raised primly. Dawn chuckled some more.

Slowly, unsurely, Dawn shed her dress and her kerchief and was left with her undergarments that covered only the lower part of her body. These undergarments were thin and see-through as soon as she went to the water. Throwing caution aside for once, she waddled into the spring and started washing herself.

The water was a cleansing agent, as it not only washed over her physically but also mentally and emotionally. In the water, she forgot all about her troubles and woes.

She was not sure exactly how long she stayed there, her mind void of thoughts. When she opened her eyes, the moon was shining right on the spring, illuminating it and seemingly reflecting the silver ball in the sky.

The spring was rather shallow. Standing up, it only reached to her hips. Now standing, she realized that the tall rocks protected her from the wind.

Dawn looked up at the moon. But instead of fixing her gaze on it, another thing caught her gaze and her breath caught.

There, perched on one of the tall rocks, was a firebird. Well, to Dawn, it looked like one. However, this one was ugly. The feathers were lifeless and out of place and some were ready to fall off. It also had some bald spots and some wing feathers were missing. But its eyes…

It's eyes were a beautiful blue that reminded her of blue fire. Despite its appearance, its eyes blazed with heat and vibrancy. She then realized that its eyes were intent on her.

Dawn swallowed, her arms automatically flying to her bare chest. She knew that this firebird was a spirit and it was possible that it had a humanoid form. If she was lucky, the firebird would remain a bird and fly off. However, she did not seem too lucky this time. The firebird took off from its perch and landed on a rock in the water and closer to Dawn. The young witch was ready to turn around and make a run for it when she made the mistake of looking into its eyes.

Those sapphire eyes held her gaze and Dawn was entranced. Without a second thought, she slowly walked in the water towards the magical bird. She stopped when she was in its reach. Then, as if the spell broke, Dawn snapped into attention and stared at the eyes in front of her with her own wide eyes – eyes full of fright. Try as she might, her legs would not move her. Somehow, she was still under the bird's spell.

Slowly, carefully, the bird nuzzled her cheek with its ugly head before moving its beak to her throat. Dawn held her breath, wondering if the bird's beak was sharp enough to cut her throat and kill her. She closed her eyes as the beak moved again, breathing heavily.

The beak stopped right above her breasts. It then nuzzled its head against the spot where the beak was and Dawn felt heat pool within her, startling her into shock and releasing an uncontrolled gasp. When the bird removed its head, an intricate pendant rested on the space the head had occupied. The pendant had a blue jewel at the centre. The pendant itself was made of interwoven gold and silver. A thin, delicate golden chain wrapped around her neck secured the pendant in its place.

The firebird stared deeply into her eyes once more before flying off into the night, Dawn's eyes following its departure.

A firebird had given her a gift. But why? What has she ever done for it? She was sure that it was the very first time she had ever seen it.

The fox yipped, calling for her attention.

Lost and confused, Dawn went over to her clothes and started dressing up. All she wanted to do now was sleep and forget everything.

But what exactly – or who exactly – was that firebird?

dddddddddd

Dawn opened her eyes as she heard yipping noises. She sat up abruptly, suddenly remembering where she was. To her immense shock, the spring and the rocks were already gone. In its place was a clearing. Luckily, she had slept near the bushes so she wasn't exactly out in the open.

The fox was trying to get her attention. Dawn was quite surprised that it stayed with her. Wouldn't its parents be looking for it?

Remembering what she was here for, she leaned forward to look straight into the fox's eyes.

"Do you know where the Spirit Lord Fao lives?" Dawn asked the fox. The fox's tail stopped wagging and it looked at her as if in disbelief that a human would go looking for the Spirit Lord's household.

The fox snapped out of its shock after a few moments and gave a nod of its head. Dawn smiled. "Can you please lead me there?" The fox gave another nod, albeit reluctantly. It then trotted off and Dawn followed, carrying her knapsack on her back.

A/N: Thanks for the reviews! Since this is the last in my list, I had to update it or else people would think it's dead! Hope you enjoyed it!

AmbrosiusEmrys - Yup, I'm continuing! This chapter is dedicated to you as you are my first reviewer for this story!

terpsichore - Sorry if this is not soon enough. Please keep on reading!

Sora Kohaku - Doomed? We'll see about that, LOL! As for why he is interested in her... Just keep on reading!

flora - I'm sorry if you had to wait! I hope you enjoyed this chapter! Thanks!

midnight - AAAH!!! (cowers in fear) Sorry, here's the update! HERE'S THE UPDATE! LOL! Did you check out my other stories? Hehe...

Aish - Aww... Thanks! Well, I hope you enjoyed this chapter!

Quicha75 - Well, here's more! Did you enjoy it? I hope so! Thanks!

alineofprose - Aww... (blushes) No, I'm not leaving it, don't worry. Though I do take ages to write chapters up... Anyway... Thanks for reading and reviewing!

sarah - Confusing? Well, there's going to be MORE characters! Haha! I'll try not to make it as confusing but yeah, it can be due to the number of characters... But I can't help but have lots! Thanks!

Lovediamond15 - Aww! Thanks so much! I hope you read my other stories too! I'm sorry if I didn't update fast enough but at least I update, right? LOL! Thanks again!