Chapter 6

Chapter 8

Running Again.

He had to brace himself before entering her tent, but not for what would be the obvious reasons. Ty knew that his queen was not angry. The air was not bizarrely cold, nor had there been anger in her eyes as she had asked him to see her.

Ty had to pause to compose himself.

Out of all of the pirates, this old man was the only one who could say he had known the pirate before she had become a queen. For Reine it was both a blessing and a curse. She could trust him, but he knew her well enough to know what she was doing now.

Reine Raconias the dreadful pirate queen was running, again.

The first few times had been understandable with completely valid reasons; this time was not valid or reasonable. In fact, Ty thought that running because you had let your temper get the better of you was just plain childish.

Telling Reine that he though she was being immature was not what he planned to do, which is why he paused before the tent flap and schooled his face into a smile. The fairy that was sharpening an arrow notch to the right of the queen's tent watched with a snicker.

"Ye look like ye just bit into a lemon sir."

With a glare Ty rid the fairy of her snicker and pulled the tent flap aside to enter the dwelling of the demon queen. He was surprised to find two other people already conjugated in there.

They had not bothered to conceal the anger on their faces.

The large meeting table had disappeared to leave behind a rather larger tent. In its place sat a makeshift desk, and in various corners smaller tables were placed haphazardly. Most of the tables had several inches of various items on them. Some were covered by multitudes of maps while others had daggers and weapons strewn across their wooden tops.

Marie was pacing the length of the room while Nathaniel was settled in one of the empty chairs that had not left with the table. Reine wasn't even looking at them from behind the makeshift desk. On the floor Kit watched the scene with wide, green eyes. Immediately Ty's eyes changed into a stony gray in preparation for the battle ahead.

"Then they know too?" he growled, it wasn't as much as a question as it could have been.

Reine didn't answer.

"Tell her she can't go!" yelled Marie, beating her faerie wings furiously and sending a multitude of papers flying through the room. Nathaniel watched the outburst with his scarred face emotionlessly.

Reine didn't even look up.

"I can't tell her anything Marie," replied Ty, taking a few steps forward so that he was looking down on Reine's desk. "She stopped listening to sense long ago."

"I can't believe this! You're going to just let her go? The two of you?" The fairy rose a few inches into the air with a final beat of her wings, than landed on the ground with a loud thump. "We all know a war is beginning, what in the name of Vie are we going to do without a queen when it all begins."

There was silence. The only sound that could be heard was the dull swish of Kit's tail as it swept across the floor.

"We have other leaders," muttered Nathaniel thoughtfully, but he seemed prompting Reine into an answer more then actually answering Marie.

The blonde fairy merely hissed and turned to Ty, who looked back with equal anger. It was the change from gray to red in his eyes that charged her into getting a grip on her temper.

"They aren't Reine," agreed Ty with the unspoken thoughts in Marie's mind.

Nathaniel shrugged, but whether it was in agreement or acknowledgment was not made clear. He did not look at Ty, or the now grounded Marie. The old man's eyes were reserved for Reine, who had finally looked up from the map she was studying. Still, she did not say anything.

It was all in her eyes… the anguish, the knowledge at what she was doing, and amusement at the arguments her followers were attacking her with.

"Well, are you going to say something?" snapped Ty, loosening his tongue without forethought at the sight of the emotions burning in her golden eyes.

"Perhaps," she whispered, then turned her eyes back to her map with a smile. "Perhaps I should…" She paused, still smiling but now with a tinge of puzzlement as if she really had no idea of what she was doing.

Marie stopped her pacing, and Ty stopped his scowling. Only Nathaniel seemed undisturbed by her more than cryptic answer. His face remained emotionless compared to the questions on Marie's and Ty's faces.

The Pirate Queen looked up again, this time her eyes were a little less puzzled and a little more sane. Her brunette hair was sweat-streaked, dark circles highlighted the light of her eyes, and underneath her tan she was pale… sickly pale. Immediately with this sudden unmasking of their sovereign the three inhabitants of the tent regretted their thoughts, so negative in passion.

They waited for her to speak.

When she did, it was far from what they expected.

"Is that all then?" she asked, as if dismissing everything that had just happened in the closed tent. "Because I have a journey to get ready for."

The anger in the tent became suffocating, but it was heat so it did not radiate from Reine. It flew unhidden from Marie and Ty.

"You are no demon queen, but the queen of cowards!" yelled Ty, forcing his hand onto Reine's table. The motion sent maps and papers flying. Even Nathaniel looked shocked at the burly man's sudden anger. Marie's mouth hung open, and Ty stood breathing heavily.

Reine sighed, setting her pen down in an oddly calm manner. Bracing himself for her anger, Ty found he was more frightened by the look that she gave him. It was not rage driven, or even remotely angry. The pirate queen's stare was totally and utterly blank.

It was the same look that had filled her eyes in this morning's bout with Caleb, and now it was turned on the first mate. He was startled to realize that he was shivering and sweating in the fever of the demon queen's gaze. Oh, how very, very wrong had his last statement been?

Then she looked away, and Ty fell into the sanity of reality.

Marie and Nathaniel had not experienced the full intensity of Reine's eyes, but they had felt the few escaping tendrils of emptiness. For the sake of restraining tension they said nothing as Ty clutched the desk in an attempt to remain upright.

"I would tell you 'I told you so', but I doubt you are in a state to understand," Reine said with a monotone filled voice. "Instead I will agree with you. I am no demon, I am no queen, and in all honesty I am a coward. You seem to be missing something however," she paused to flip over a map. Nathaniel noticed that her hands were shaking, but not in rage. "I am also mortal."

Another map was flipped over, but Ty was too tied into her words to notice the insistent shaking of the pirate's hand.

"I fear all that I do not understand, but this is something even immortals face. My skills lie only in the fields of lying and manipulation. The only time my skill with a blade is remotely reasonable is when I loose my temper, and I can not face failure."

She looked up again, but this time a half-smile curled the edge of her lip. Whimsically she pointed to a chair, and obediently her first mate fell into it. Marie also fell into an almost empty seat.

The pirate queen leaned back into her chair, surveying the three pirates instead of just Ty.

"I fear failure," she continued, still with the amusement on her face. None of the three could even remotely understand her emotions, but that was how it often was. "Which is why I run… most of the time."

Reine smiled a little bit wider.

"Sometimes I do have a reason for running. Take this time for instance," Nathaniel snorted in disbelief. Instead of letting her anger flare Reine simply shrugged. "I had counted on Ty to remember our conversation this morning, but it seems to have passed your mind."

The mentioned man blinked, still gathering thoughts into his numb mind. For a few minutes he dumbly opened and closed his jaw. Then it registered in his eyes. Instead of explaining the revelation to Marie and Nathaniel he merely said 'oh'.

With a nod, she acknowledged his realization.

"I'm afraid I'm rather out of the loop," muttered Nathaniel," but as long as Ty says that your reason is not ridiculously stupid, I see no reason why we should with hold you any longer."

Victory flashed in the pirate queen's eyes. Ty nodded at Nathaniel's words, his mind finally regaining sensation. "Yes… she must go as soon as possible," said Ty.

"Well then, I can only see one thing stopping you Reine," said Nathaniel, sending away the victory in Reine's eyes.

Marie, the one who was the furthest out of the loop looked furtively from Nathaniel to Reine. Ty also had surprise in his face, which was back to its normal tan. Even Reine looked taken back, but she didn't say anything. Nathaniel would continue in his own way.

"I faintly remember you making a promise Raconias, many years ago. And even though you like to be seen as the unfeeling demon queen," he paused to watch the scowl flicker across Reine's features," I know that you keep your promises."

"Stop," interrupted Reine. "I know what you are talking about. Let me assure you that certain promises are meant to be broken."

"Ah," sighed Nathaniel thoughtfully," then why have you never broken one before? No. You can't. You may cheat, steal, and kill when it is needed, but you never break a promise willingly."

"Wait, what promise? What are you talking about?" asked Marie, her purple eyes blinking in confusion. At a scathing from Reine she shut her mouth with a snap. What on earth could cause the queen to become so guarded? What kind of promise could cause even the pirate queen to shield away from her path of choice?

"I'd rather not-"

"Perhaps, but you have no choice, my queen," interrupted Nathaniel. "I won't stop you, but I think that you may stop yourself."

"What was the promise?"

Ty's voice was harsh and unrelenting; the look in Reine's eyes had left him weary and shocked. Now, he did not understand, and he felt uncontrollable anger flowing through his pounding head.

It was not Reine who answered, but Nathaniel.

"Our dearly beloved lady had a lover once, when she was younger," at this Reine snorted, muttering that 'it had hardly been love'. "I'm not telling you of their love, I am telling you the promise that Reine made to him, and it isn't coincidence that I bring it up now."

The pirate queen was no longer looking up. Her hands were wrapped tightly around the table, and her fingernails were digging like claws into the wood. Ty and Marie were too tied into a brief segment of the mysterious queen's past to notice her discomfort. Only the old veteran saw the anger and sadness that falls with remembrance.

Yet he continued. "She promised that when Decalage was once again on the brink of war, she would take with her one who could be her eyes when she was blinded in ignorance, her ears when she is deafened by her own thoughts, and her heart when she closed her own to the world. For out of all of us, he knew Reine the greatest. He knew her faults."

Here, Reine once again interrupted.

"You go too far old warrior. They know what they asked now, the promise I made. I forgot you were there when we parted… and you are right. I do not break my promises."

Ty nodded curtly, the headache finally dissolving into a last few pounds. In an effort to ease the tension he attempted a smile. Marie also tried to lower the tightness in the room by easing away from the topic of memories.

"Whom are you going to take with you?" she asked softly.

"I would think it was obvious," answered Reine. "Since you all assume that I am far greater then I actually am, I'll take someone who knows almost nothing of me. Nathaniel?"

The scarred face raised an eyebrow in question.

"Bring Caleb to our little get together, would you? And ask someone to bring in lunch. I'm rather ravenous."

Nathaniel stood and bowed slightly before exiting the tent. Kit stood as well recognizing that she might get some turkey for lunch if she followed the harsh-seeming warrior.

That left a still slightly shocked Ty and a wary Marie.

"Caleb?" asked Marie.

"Yes."

"How do you know that you can trust him? No offense milady-" "None taken." "But how can you be sure… he is after all, the Foncian Prince."

Here Reine let another half-smile inch across her face. There was a sudden light in her eyes that one might mistake for an optical illusion. Some of the edged lines in her face thinned, and she shrugged. They wouldn't understand, couldn't understand. He was different. Of course, some of that difference may be from the fact that he was the son of her enemy. There was no fear in his emerald eyes when he looked at her, even when she had almost slaughtered him this morning. There was only undying fealty, unspoken gratitude on both of their parts. Hers was for his understanding in the sourest of her moods, and his was for her forgiveness of his past.

For the sake of their companionship she would take him.

"I'm not sure," replied Reine, "but who is now and days? I can take care of myself if he isn't what I think he is, but until then he's as wanted as I am."

"Not true," muttered Ty. "You still have the larger bounty on your head." He looked up from his thoughts with a smile without any shock or fear in it. He understood better than the fairy did of why Reine did not choose to take her or Ty. Besides, with her gone there would be work for Ty and the rest of her trusted people to do, more so then when Decalage thought the pirate queen was dead.

She had her own path to follow, but that was simply the way of it. Caleb was responsible, a good sword fighter, and so far had shown a cooler head then Reine had. Being a prince he understood politics, and under Reine's tutelage he would learn the way of those who live with freedom as a guide… and who knew the exact amount of sound echoing from people's pockets.

Before Reine could continue the tent flap was pulled aside and Caleb entered the tent, balancing a tray of food and tea in his hands. Next to him Nathaniel had a slightly smug look on his traced features.

"Nathaniel said you wanted to see me Reine?" asked Caleb setting the tray down on an almost empty table, not bothering to move what papers were on it.

With speed accredited to hunger Reine moved from the map she was reading and to the tray of food. Within seconds she was munching thoughtfully on a muffin.

"Have you ever been through the rest of the Unclaimed Lands before Caleb?" asked Reine, concentrating on her muffin. The hungry look in her eyes gave Caleb the chills, as he realized the hunger went deeper then a hunger for food.

"No milady," he replied.

"And what about the Untamed Lands?"

"No but-"

"Lumiere?"

"No-"

"Moyen?"

"Once. Reine I-"

"But you want to see these places, don't you Caleb? The beautiful valley of the Circia, the end of the world where the waters fall into the very nothingness from which we were created."

"Of course." He didn't even try to continue, for he knew that Reine wasn't asking him these questions for the answers. She already knew how he would answer. The questions were for the careful eyes watching him in the tent, eyes that trusted him- but were still wary.

"I can take you to see them Caleb," whispered Reine, letting the muffin fall back to the platter with a small crash. Her golden eyes turned upwards, narrowing as she studied the Prince's face- and then she saw his shaking hands, the sweat on his forehead- and she smiled. "I can show you the wonders of the world, all of the beauty and the magic- but with me you will also see death. Your own- and others. Will you follow me?"

Caleb paused, still not quite understanding her question. Perhaps she meant after the war she would show him, and was trying to tell him that for now he would have to be a good boy and stay out of trouble. Yet there was no way he could say that he would not follow her- his devotion to her- his love… they were the first real things in his life.

"I would follow you into the nothingness- and I would die with honor for you."

There was silence, shocked silence from Marie, acknowledging silence from Ty and Reine, and amused silence from Nathaniel.

"You're coming with me Caleb," said Reine with a small smile as she picked up the muffin again and once more began chewing on it.

"I agree with our lady," muttered Nathaniel, the look on his haggard face relaxed and assured.

"It is true, he seems like the most likely candidate. We are all needed elsewhere- except him," whispered Marie, still puzzled at the Pirate Queen's decision but able to see the reason behind Reine's choice.

"Then it is settled?" asked Ty. "No arguments for our queen?"

"No it is not settled!" yelled Caleb, breaking out of the trance he had woven himself into. Even Reine's face showed surprise at his sudden outburst. "I'm dangerous, I can't be trusted. The two of us together- it would just attract more attention. I would endanger you!"

At that Reine laughed.

"Caleb, honestly. You're being ridiculous. I doubt that you would make me more wanted then I already am. Fonce won't admit you're gone- it would make their armies loose respect for them. It would make people question whether what their kingdom is doing is right or wrong. If anything, you'll keep me safer. As a person I can take down an army. As two people we could take down Fonce," she was obviously joking, the laughter lining her eyes as she stared him down. His fists were still clenched in debate and his jaw was clenched in stubbornness. No matter, Reine could match his will with hers easily.

"How do you know this?" asked Caleb. He was on the tips of his toes as if he were about to begin pacing- or running. Ah, they were so alike, the prince and the piratess. As soon as they were approached by something they feared they would run, always looking over their shoulder in fear to make sure the thing was not following them. Unfortunately, it was.

"Because I have seen how deep your loyalty goes Caleb, I know how great your fear of killing me is. But I also know your family, and the hatred- and the anger- and their inability to admit that not everything is going to plan. Grow some buck my boyo, what happened to the assassin I met in the tavern?"

He paused. He too knew his family, but they had their ways of indirectly affecting everything that they sought to touch, and they could keep the hunt for Reine and him a secret. Whether that was good for Reine and him was still a question.

Nathaniel cleared his throat roughly and motioned to Caleb to sit. Unable to go against the old man's will as he watched him beneath furrowed brows, the Prince sat.

"I will admit I didn't trust you when you first came here boy. You have the look of your father around you- and I will not say that I totally trust you even now," Nathaniel's voice grated through the room. His fingers stroked his wrinkled temples in thought. "But I think fate has decided to make you companion to our queen, at least for now."

"Aye, ye two balance each other out well," mused Ty, grinning slightly.

Caleb bowed his head; nesting it in the palms of his hands as he attempted to brush away the headache he was getting form his confronting feelings. He was elated that she had chosen him… that she was asking him, but he was dangerous. They both knew it. Not to mention the fact that Reine could take plenty of care of herself, so why was she taking anyone along?

Gods, he had known her for what- a week? Two weeks? A month? Half of that time he couldn't even remember. The rest of the time they had traveled in silence. She knew nothing of him- but he knew something of her.

Do it. Watch over her, keep her safe, whispered a voice in his head that was his own, but not his own. Instead of freaking out Caleb buried his face deeper into his palms. This voice was no stranger to him- it was his conscious, the voice that had told him Fonce was wrong in what it was doing.

I can not, thought Caleb, I could kill her.

You will not harm her- you know this. Stop being an over-dramatic child and serve her as you yearn. Said the voice with so much compassion that he knew the voice could only be his own.

"Yes," he said aloud, looking up from his palms and at the munching Reine. "But you have to listen to what I say. They're going to have people after us- and I know them. I know my family."

The Pirate Queen bowed her head in acceptance. It would be hard, of course. She hated being told that he was wrong, that she had to do something. It was in her nature to be contradictory and hardheaded.

"Now that we've settled this small matter," interrupted Ty, "I've got a question for ye both. When are you planning on leaving?"

With a chuckle Reine motioned to a small pile of bags dragged into the corner of the tent. Surrounded by the other mess of maps and notes, the pile was near unnoticeable. "We go with the cover of night- at the time when all sane things are asleep. I want to reach the Wizards and Witches by tomorrow afternoon. We'll go straight west, and stop at the home of a friend of mine around dawn."

In the mere day they had spent with the pirates Caleb had forgotten how bloody fast she moved- and he found himself off guard, again.

"I have to pack," he muttered, half wondering why Reine, who had been traveling so light, had so many bags tucked away into her corner.

Again Reine chuckled and shook her head in amusement. "Boyo- already done. You're clothes, weapons, and all of your other personal items are lying in that corner over there. You have today to do anything else you need. I would recommend taking a nap."

She turned back to her muffin- letting her eyes glaze over in a thoughtful way that was a simple dismissal. Without another word Marie and Nathaniel left the room. Caleb looked like he wanted to stay until Ty placed a heavy hand on the young man's shoulder- and then they too left.

On the floor Kit meowed, having been forgotten in the mess that was Reine's tent- and the chaos that was her life. The black and white kitten moved from her hiding place under a table situated in the west corner of the tent and padded on Reine's boot.

Understanding the animal's want- she picked up her kitten and held her in her arms. Reine's eyes were still glazed- darkening with the edge of her thoughts.

"Running, running, evermore," she whispered sadly, letting the soothing purr of her kitten ease the fear in her own mind. It was always a masquerade to make sure she stayed hidden, but for some reason she was never really safe.

The God of Death lounged quietly in his realm with its black burned marble and gentle thrum of the falling river. The screams were quieter than they had been during Eris's visit, standing beneath the archways of the pavilion instead of grabbing in terror at the bone-built lounge.

He had an idea of why the change had come, an idea that his mind was turning over thoughtfully, over and over again. It had begun with the conversation in the realm of God, and then Lei had come down here this morning, last night.

When the God of War had told him of the events in the Pirate Queen's meeting, the God of Death had found himself feeling something that he had not felt in thousands of years. He had felt a connection to the actions taking place to the west. Instead of feeling as a dark God should, for the ravishing Foncians, he had instantly thought of the futures of the rebels.

After realizing that he was becoming interested in the affairs of the Pirate Queen and her band of rag-tag criminals, the God of Death had promptly sat on the skeleton lounge, and had dismissed the God of War with a simple wave of his hand.

Now he knew that she was insane. Only an insane woman would dare to stop the unstoppable. It didn't matter that Fonce was leading the world to a brink from which it would not return, and it didn't matter that the dead that flowed through his door was more numerous then it had ever been.

No, all that mattered was that Reine was the only one who had a chance of doing anything. He could feel it in the pounding of his dead chest, a heart steadies into rhythm after an immortal lifetime of being still.

He was confused, puzzled, and Abrafo would even admit that he was afraid.

Death did not like change, especially when the changes affected Death. Everything was supposed to end, but at the same time everything had a time- and when something was not right with the world, when death became random instead of neat and ordered…

Well, it simply wasn't good.

"What to do- whatever do we do?" he asked himself, tapping his chin with his black-gloved hand. The long black trench coat was tossed over the arm of the couch, revealing the God of Death to be clothed in a similar way to the Pirate Queen, thought less ragged and a little more upscale. His shirt, though loose, was tailored and silkier. His pants were stiffer and were not pushed into a pair of knee-high boots. Instead he went barefoot, connected to the Earth in a way that his siblings could never be.

Even if his heart had never pulsed for his first millennium, the Earth had. Its heartbeat had always been as steady and rhythmic as death. Then a hundred years ago it had begun to quicken, and today- it had slowed.

The Authinia too had been peaking insistently. One minute it would be mournful, and then it would fly into something that left him feeling breathless. Now it was simply mournful, waiting for something that was coming, was flying towards them.

He had a feeling that the Pirate Queen was connected to it all. Whether or not she was the force causing it, or if she would stop it and bring balance once more, that was the unanswerable question.

Or perhaps it was answerable.

With a slight grunt Abrafo leaned forward and stood up from the couch. With a snap of his fingers one of the souls standing in the shadows stepped forward. He was a man who had walked from the River of Death because he had too much strength to simply slide into the nothingness and be lost forever. Since then he had served the God of Death, seeking for a way to rid himself of his yearning to remain in the world of something- and slide into the world of nothing.

At first he had simply been another of the dead. Many were too strong to move onwards, they surrounded his pavilion and moaned in shame, or in boredom. Then the night had passed when Eris had tried to slaughter the Pirate Queen in anger, upon finding her Foncian Prince had fallen for the Pirate Queen's charm.

Abrafo had made a move before he could blink. The shadows were as much his as they were Eris's.

"Milord?" asked the flickering shadow, it's living form lost since its retreat to the dead. The voice was male though, calm, soothing, and respectful. The hint of apprehensiveness didn't escape Abrafo's attention.

"You know her, don't you?" asked the God of Death, pointing towards the land of Decalage towards the West, towards the land of the pirates and their queen. "Reine Raconias- you knew her."

The shadow began to flicker more, stalling for time as it struggled to answer and not answer at the same time. In the end the will of he God was too strong and he soul simply nodded.

Abrafo merely let his red eyes glitter as he stared first at the soul, and then at the direction where he had waved.

"Tell me- everything," he demanded.

"I can not," replied the shadow, fading, flickering, and doing everything in an attempt to disappear. "She made me promise, they made me promise." Then the soul stopped flickering and gained in visibility. The form of a body appeared in the nothingness, its shoulders turned back in defiance. "You will not hurt her," forced out the soul.

Surprise filled the Death God's face as he tried to register what had just taken place. Off handedly he took a step back from the now glowering ghost, but then his coolness once again filled his body and he stood his ground.

Around them the shadows danced.

"You will do as I say. You are dead, and the dead belong to me," growled the God, raising his fist in a warning.

"My body is gone," whispered the soul, "but my soul remains. You had my life, but you can not take this," he motioned to himself.

Disbelief ran rampant in the red eyes of the God of Death, causing the shadowed souls surrounding him and the rebel to grow in the intensity of their sounds and movements. They stirred the God's clothes, echoing his silent fury, and a little bit of his disbelief.

Then everything began to slow. The souls ceased their rapid movements, and simply stood still. A peace that was supposed to be found only in death settled over them, and even settled over the Death God. His fist lowered and the fury, the disbelief, fled from his eyes.

In front of him the soul still stood its ground, but Abrafo's attention had turned from the uprising.

The Authinia was rising. In rhythm it sped, causing the souls to trembled slightly, but other than that they did not move. Even the rebel soul shivered slightly in excitement, as the song filled the chamber.

It was the song that put the idea into Abrafo's head as he listened to the beauty. In surprise, before the song had finished, he let his eyes grow in fire once more, but this time it was the fire of knowledge.

"You loved her?" asked the Death God, amazement glowing in the red pits of his eyes. "You gave your life for her, didn't you? And she is the reason that you continue on- that you don't fade away?"

This time it was the soul's turn to be surprised. Abrafo didn't need the soul's agreement though, for the Authinia could not lie.

"But you died-" then the God of Death stopped, stilled into motionless by his own trail of thoughts. As if sensing the God's direction the soul once again began to flicker, loosing its shape, form, and will.

"You don't understand," whispered the soul, but the words were lost in the awe of the God's mind. He was already turning away, picking up his trench coat from the ground and muttering both curses and praises to himself.

It was impossible. Every legend spoke of nothing, and even though he was the only one who knew different, even he couldn't believe this… this idea… this maybe truth.

"Watch over her, your one time love. Make sure no harm comes to her," commanded the God as his hurried steps took him into the shadows that surrounded the pavilion of Dead. Instead of heading in the direction of land and life he headed in the direction of the river of dead, and the nothingness that stretched beyond it.

All the soul could do was bow then fade. There was no escaping the direct order of the Death God, but as he went a collective sigh filled the room- and it was not a sigh of thankfulness or joy.

She was quiet at she stared at the great oak which spread its limbs towards her. There was a heaviness about her that caused even the trees to cease their chattering, for they dare not interrupt a woman with the weight of the world on her shoulders. They understood what she was doing, what she was listening for, but that was because they could hear what she was singing in her mind.

"Reine?"

Unfortunately, not everyone could hear the Authinia, or understand why around this woman it was so deathly quiet. Even the breeze had died down, ceasing its endless rustling of the forest's leaves.

Caleb came within a foot of the Pirate Queen before he realized that she could not hear him. Her eyes were glazed over so that they looked half blind rather then their usual molten gold.

"Let her be," muttered a voice that caused Caleb to spin and draw his sword. His short brown hair was left on its end and his green eyes were blazing in warning. He stopped as suddenly as he had begun when he realized that there was nothing in front of him.

"Where are you?" he asked of the surrounding forest, "I am a Prince of Fonce and I demand you to show yourself."

The voice came back, closer but also quieter as if it was whispering in his ear. "I am here, but I was there. Sometimes I go near to there, and there to here, but never can I be there and here."

Chills ran up and down Caleb's spine. The Foncian Prince turned his head slightly to his right in an effort to see the speaker in his peripheral vision. There was nothing. Then he turned slightly to the left, but still there was nothing.

"You can not see me because I do not wish to be seen," whispered the voice with amusement.

Caleb looked towards Reine, hoping that a part of her was still among reality, and that it would see his glance. She had the unearthly ability to see things that were hidden to him.

"She can not see me either boy," said the voice, a little louder, with a chuckle. "If she were here, she would be able to feel me- but she is there. Stop attempting to get rid of me. I mean no harm."

The Foncian Prince did not drop his guard, did not relax, as he did not believe that this voice was not a threat. Starting tonight everything was a threat to him and his ward- everything. And this thing, whatever it was, sent goose bumps running rampant like ants up and down his arms.

"I don't believe you," growled Caleb roughly, not bothering to be polite.

"I don't expect you to," replied the voice sadly, "If I were you, and you were me, then I would be the same. You can drop your guard now though- I'd better be going. She's coming back to here, from there. I shouldn't be here, but there. It would be rather hazardous to both of us if she were to realize-"

The voice stopped, and somehow Caleb knew that the speaker was gone as well.

As the voice had said though, Reine was slowly becoming less immobile. The gold was returning to her eyes, and her skin was becoming more of its usual tan that the ghastly stone it had been a few moments ago. It was still a few minutes until Reine shut her eyes, opened them, and realized that he was standing there.

"Oh, hello Caleb," she said, slightly dreamy. "I didn't see you…" she trailed off, unsure how much he had seen, and how long he had been standing there.

"I noticed," muttered Caleb, still slightly dark from the slightly fear inspiring conversation he had just had. Taking it as anger towards her Reine indignantly tensed her body.

"Well? What do you want?" she half snarled, half whispered, still groggy from wherever she had been. Noticing the bite in her voice, as it was hard to ignore, Caleb held up his hands in surrender. Then he noticed that he was still holding his sword-

With hurried movements he sheathed his sword and gave the Pirate Queen an apologetic look.

"I'm sorry kitty," Reine's eyes narrowed at the nick name, "Your forest gives me the creeps. I came looking for you, you had me worried and I-"

The tension cleared from Reine's body and she smiled off-handedly. "You're forgiven boyo. I was just… meditating. It's my way of sleeping when I am too wired to get any real sleep."

She was a good liar, Caleb knew that, which is why he didn't trust a word that she just said. Reine, who didn't have many people challenge her words didn't give the lie a second thought.

Very well, thought Caleb with a bit of sourness, if she still insists on keeping secrets, I can keep one too.

"Maybe you should get one of your friends to cast a sleep spell on you or something," he suggested wryly, moving to sit next to her whether she liked it or not. Interestingly enough she only moved over a little to give him some room to lean up against the tree.

With a shake of her head she dismissed the idea.

"Even if they did manage to get me asleep I wouldn't like it- and I probably wouldn't stay under for long…" she ran off, out of words to explain. The tiredness was still lining her eyes as she looked upwards again. Caleb directed his glance from her to the same spot that she was staring at.

He thought over what she had said, searching for a double meaning, but could find none. Instead he merely sighed and asked a simple question.

"Nightmares?"

She shook her head again and placed her hands up to her temples, rubbing the emotions out of her head in circular movements.

"No. Just dreams. Vivid, real, dreams. "

The way she explained it made Caleb feel as if she were lying- or perhaps not lying, but not telling him everything. And even though he knew that was simply her way of protecting herself he couldn't help but want to shake her and tell her to snap out of it. If the Prince did do that, however, she would probably just snap out of her own thoughts enough to slap him across the face and then bite his head off.

Instead he just nodded as if he understood. He didn't understand though, and he doubted that he would ever be able to. Some things could just not cross the boundaries between genders and other things

Next to him, Reine was looking into the canopy of the trees at the quickly setting sun.