Célestine was really learning to hate the courts. Sure, she knew by the time she was fifty that she hated the both the Dark Court and the Darker Circle, but how should she know that by the time she hit eight hundred she'd hate them so much more?

The Dark Court, her father ruled currently, as they say, with and iron fist. Tristian had been ruling in the Dark Court for over eight hundred years. The Dark Court was home to half of what the human world, Darkland, rejected. The friendlier half. Things from the Darker Circle made creatures in the Dark Court look like fluffy bunnies.

Célestine sat on her bed trying not to think of a way to kill her own father. By rights she was Princess Célestine of the Dark Court, but by the laws of their people, royalty only got the throne after they proved themselves fertile or a useful diplomat.

As things stood, Célestine was neither pregnant nor marrying a prince from a different court. Translation: politically she was screwed. She couldn't take the throne, even under her father, as she was.

She flopped backwards to lie on her back with her legs still crossed. Tristian's latest revelation was that simply she was to "remedy that problem". Iron fist or no, King Tristian of the Dark Court was fading into a hollow shell of himself. He was loosing power, and what happens when the leader is weak of a court? The jackals come in, feast on the dying carcass, and kill all remaining relations, and then they take over.

As a relation to the dying king in question, Célestine was not happy with her problem. Célestine also had to fix her problem before her father and king died which would be fairly soon. A rap at her chamber door caused her to stir, to get up off the bed as the door opened.

"The King requests your presence, Princess." Tomás said after a deep bow.

"My father is in his chambers?" Célestine asked of the minor guard. The difference between a minor guard and one of the King's Eagles, besides height, skill, ferocity, and sanity was the number of them. There were only fifteen the king's personal guard, his Eagles, while there was close to seventy of the more minor guards.

"I believe so, Princess." Tomás said. Of course the princess this and the princess that really got annoying now and then. Célestine knew better than to ask that people just call her Célestine, she'd learned that lesson once but still remembered it quite well. Tomás ducked out into the hall, realizing she'd dismissed him. Célestine made her way to her father's chambers.

She only got as far as the door to his study, which led to his bedroom, but for the King's Eagles. They were an intimidating bunch, scars, weapons, and nasty attitudes to top it all off. Célestine squared her shoulders before making herself known and walked past six of the Eagles and into her father's study.

The large room was lined with shelves of books on everything from anthropology to this year's copy of DC's Almanac. So the Dark Court had very little respect for their name? After all it was cliché.

A scream from the far side of the bedroom door rent the air. So Tristian was getting along in his years, and dying, that didn't mean he had to stop his favorite pastime: making women scream. Célestine rolled her eyes as she approached the only barrier between Tristian's bedroom and the study, the door and the Eagle.

"Princess Célestine, so good of you to reply so promptly to the king's summons." Daces said with a bow. Célestine never liked Daces but she'd never convinced her father that he did not at all have his or her best interests at heart. She gave him her court smile, the bland one that means everything and nothing.

"What is his entertainment of the week this time?" Gaul asked lazily. The woman in question screamed again. It wasn't a pleasure scream, that was for damn sure.

"I think its Adrienne from the kitchen." Daces replied to his lieutenant.

"Why would he call me into his room when he's in the middle of…this?" Célestine muttered. "He knows it doesn't do a thing for me."

"He likes fear in his people, and you happen to be one of those." Gaul said.

"I'd hate to interrupt the beauty of such a moment." Daces said. Like Tristian, Daces was a sadist. But by no means were their games ever as serious as what the Darker Circle did to their females.

"Open the door, Daces." Célestine said sharply. She strode into the room past the two Eagles. The room was dark but you didn't need light to get the general idea of what the man was doing to the woman. The reek of blood was prevalent in the air.

Célestine could make out her father's back and thrusting hips as Adrienne screamed once more. Adrienne was manacled to the wall, eye level with her rapist. Tristian made a low sound of triumph when he came and Adrienne let out a low wail.

"Most impressive, Father." Célestine said in a dry tone.

"Decide to show up did you?" Tristian asked in an annoyed tone. "Like the show?" Tristian pulled out of the female and eyed her full breasts.

"If I may ask, why did you send for me, my King?" Célestine asked and the name was bitter on her tongue. Célestine thought that 'my King' should indicate that you felt something close to at least loyalty to your king, but she d her father died, there would be no love lost

"I wanted to know you'd be taken care of," Tristian said, "So I've taken the liberty of arranging a temporary Guardianship." His fingertips were dancing around a nipple of Adrienne's. God and Goddess, was he out of his goddamn mind? A Guardian was so much worse than having a domineering father. Guardians practically owned their charges. Célestine didn't allow her surprise to show.

"Which begs the question of whom?" Les said quietly.

"You shall meet him after Samhain Feast, Les." Tristian retorted dismissively. "And daughter?" The king mentioned as she started out of the room. Les turned and looked to her father. "The guests began arriving yesterday."

"What of the Darker Circle, Father?" Les asked. During Samhain Feast the Dark Court, the Darker Circle, and their allies joined together for a celebration: a feast, a ball, and a type of gift exchange. The difference between the Darks and humans' exchange was that humans typically exchanged gifts of money or some other useful product. The Darks traded humans, a product of a different manner altogether. They also traded females.

"The rest of them will be arriving tonight. The sorcerers are here." Tristian said tightlipped. Well shit. If there was an influx of power Les should have felt it. Shouldn't she have? Les demanded of herself as she left the room. She strode down the hall toward the kitchen. Not only that but the sorcerers were one of the most feared beings in the Darker Circle.

Once inside the area with its white walls and busy scents, the chief cook stumbled upon her, almost literally. Les stepped away from the grizzled old maid. Marty looked at Les, blinked, then realized the upper classed female she was dealing with.

"Oh, Princess, to what to I owe the honor?" Marty asked in a bored tone.

"Adrienne probably won't be able to make it to help you with the Feast tonight." Les said icily, itching to smack the cook. However, if she did that then they wouldn't have a cook, as Les knew she would not end with just a smack. Les left it at that and left the kitchen, hoping to have some alone time outdoors.

Les stopped and did what she knew her father would banish her for if he knew she could do it: she teleported. She went from the empty hall in the castle to the dark woods by the towering structure.

Les wandered into the woods, and unlike a human or another Dark being, she walked toward the wolves when they howled. Dark wolves were not like what humans considered wolves. Dark wolves were colored similarly as they were the ancestors of present-day what humans call wolves. Dark wolves were bigger, stronger, faster, and occasionally changed into a human-looking male. Humans called them werewolves, but the Dark called them Dark wolves as they belonged to the Dark. The werewolves were more intelligent then their relations.

In truth, Les wasn't entirely sure of her background. She had one brother, one whom was nothing like her. She found that she could do things that were just not normal for the Dark Court.

Les swallowed and teleported back to her chambers.

£

October was an annoying month, no doubt about it. Dyre otherwise enjoyed being a political figurehead. Samhain at the Dark Court was almost too much. The Dark Court's people mostly found themselves above the Darker Circle though politically they had pledged they were equals. Dyre smirked. What the Dark Court's problem was thinking they were better than the Darker Circle. They knew the Darker Circle was much stronger than the Dark Court.

Dyre stood by his sitting mentor. Garrett had taught him all he knew about controlling his power, his magick. Garrett had been around some time before mentoring to Dyre and then he had been with Dyre for quite sometime. What concerned Dyre the most was that his old friend had gone completely blind by the time they had arrived at the Dark Court.

The Darker Circle was composed of society's dangerous predators; something weak in the mix did not survive well there. Blindness was weakness for Garrett. All Dyre could do was prolong the time between now and the time when the others figured it out.

Garrett was his contrast: Garrett was short where Dyre was tall, calm where Dyre was impulsive, hot-tempered where Dyre was calculating, blond where Dyre had hair like a raven's wing.

The door to the guest chamber opened without a knock, safely saying that it was one of Dyre's own people not Dark Court. Talus bowed quickly as soon as the door was shut. The taller male was guard to Dyre. Talus glanced around the room, idly rubbing the silver ring in his left ear. Satisfied his king was safe, he shot a smirk at Dyre.

"Have you gotten a look at some of these people?" Talus asked with a chuckle. "It's like they think their humans, totally immune to us."

"I take it you wish to disprove that come the dinner." Dyre said, rewarding the guard with a grin.

"Cretins, yes." Talus replied. "I hear tell that their king is dying."

"Oh?" Garrett inquired. Talus nodded and repeated what he'd said.

"Now I see them in a whole new light." Dyre said thoughtfully. "They've completely disregarded the fact that we're stronger and now they're arrogant enough to invite us here when they are at their weakest."

"That's not the vibe I'm getting, Dyre." Garrett said, just as thoughtfully. "Their princess has yet to prove herself worthy of the throne. So invite the stronger and see how she deals with it."

"That's how Tristian operates, slimy bastard." Dyre said. "How long to we have to wreak minor havoc?"

"Three hours." Talus replied enthusiastically.

£

The last place was set, overseen by Célestine. Dinner was in twenty minutes and counting, and gods was she dreading it. The hall was beginning to fill as the servants left.

The Dark Court, the Darker Circle, the Light Court, and the lycanthropes were all to be seated at the same table. Goddess, this promised to be a disaster and three-quarters.

Les watched as servants directed creatures to their seats then she walked out of the Great Hall and towards her father's chambers. Tristian's grand idea was that the pair of them should enter with the Eagles and make a spectacle of themselves. That's just what Les wanted, all those eyes on her, not.

Her father had even made her wear a dress for the occasion. Which the king almost had to do at sword-point. It just wasn't fair. She arrived as the Eagles and her father were filing out of his chambers. Tristian eyed his daughter head to toe and wondered if he should have bothered making her wear a dress. She was garbed in a slinky, short black dress, her blood red hair down, and black heels he was sure she'd break her neck in.

"I don't think he should have bothered." Daces muttered. Les gave him a smirk and was yanked into the throng by her father. To her right was Gaul and to her left was her father, all the way into the Great Hall. Les couldn't understand with their positions at the table in the Great Hall she needed to be in the throng but her father thought he knew best.

From the moment the first Eagle set foot in the Great Hall, all conversations ceased and every eye was glued on the spectacle. Her father stood at the head of the table, and half the Eagles broke off from the others and walked her to the far end. The first half made a semicircle around the back of Tristian as the second half did for Célestine at the far end. The others rose in respect for the Dark Court and sat as Tristian and Les did.

Conversation returned with a vengeance. To her right was a dark-haired male who appeared tall, even sitting. The lack of a visible piercing told her he was another court's royalty. Piercings were signs of ownership or servanthood in all three courts. The male on her left was shorter, his hair a flaxen color, his eyes were an empty gray; Les expected them to be opaque. Only something that couldn't see had that empty of eyes. His right eyebrow was pierced once. Les didn't like the vibe she was getting. The metal through his brow was silver, with no ornamenting. Black and silver were the patron colors of the Darker Circle.

Well shit. That meant that the guy on her right was their king. The fact that the male on her left only had one visible piercing meant that he was their king's mentor. God and Goddess, she was sitting between two of the most feared sorcerers in Shadow, the other world.

Ye gods. Food was quickly and efficiently being served by that point. The laughter and talking going on in the Hall drowned out her silence and for that she was glad. Then the blind male spoke as her gaze settled on him once more.

"Child, I feel your eyes on me." He said. "Speak or refrain from staring." His king at least had the decency to chuckle only a moment under her glare. Plates of food were put in front of the three of them.

"Garrett, that was…inappropriate." The male next to their king mentioned around a laugh.

"Old man, if you feel that I was staring at you, you are mistaken." Les said carefully. The male called Garrett offered a bleak, somewhat apologetic smile as he took a bite of food. Les thoughtfully took a bite of her own food and felt their king's eyes on her.

"I suppose you're the daughter of the glorified King Tristian." The king said. Célestine didn't like his tone.

"I'm assuming there's a point to this observation." Les remarked, sipping the red wine and ignoring her food. She evenly met his dark gaze.

"I take it the … goes higher up on the food chain than just the guards." The other male said with a roll of his eyes.

"Care to fill in that blank?" Les challenged. The attitude of these males was haughty, like the Dark Court was the one in the wrong.

"I don't believe you want me to, Princess." The male replied, stabbing a bite of food on his plate.

"So your real answer is that your are to afraid to say what you think." Les made it a statement and not a question. The male flushed and bared his teeth at her. The pair of silver hoops in his ear glinted.

"That is not what I said, Princess." The male retorted, angry.

"Calm yourself, Talus." Their king said calmly.

"King Dyre," Talus murmured, his head bowed, "I do apologize."

"I understand you are to acquire a Guardian, Princess Célestine." Dyre said, his gaze on hers. "Why would this step be necessary?"

"Because my father feels it is necessary."

"He feels that it is necessary to put his daughter in the care of a Guardian yet he goes ahead with his Samhain plans and opens himself up for attack?" Dyre asked.

"My father's thinking is not my own, thus I have no control over it." Les sufficed to say. "He invited only those he considered allies so to keep himself from attack." Dyre offered a smile but it was those calculating blue eyes that caught Les's attention.

£

Four months later:

Dyre watched her fidget, rather disturbed by the arrangements. His fam, familiar, was on edge and had been ever since he'd told her the news. The biggest news in all of Dark Court and Darker Circle's history: the two courts joining as one. King Tristian of the Dark Court died two months previous and his daughter had decided the two courts needed to be joined. So Calla was nervous about losing his attention and he was more than willing to be Célestine was nervous about gaining it. Dyre allowed himself a satisfied grin at the thought.

"Socerer, "