Chapter sixteen: Returning and the guardian

Storm's P.O.V.

I hadn't been able to keep track of the time ever since we'd left the small village to head for the Cave of Mists. It was impossible to tell night and day; the twilight sky never changed. It was beautiful, but this process soon grew annoying and I eventually was forced to inquire Cillian of the time.

"We do not have night and day as the races of earth," Cillian replied, in his soft, serious voice. "We have only hours. We count the hours of our world, and start over every time we reach fifty. We are now at exactly twenty-seven hours. I've started over once."

"So it's been . . . Three days and three hours. It's three in the morning," I murmured to myself, fascinated by this concept. "So you don't have day or night? Do you have weather at all?"

Cillian shook his head. "Most of my village doesn't understand the concept of day and night, nor rain nor snow nor sunlight. I am one of the only members in my village that has actually ventured into other dimensions and witnessed 'weather' and 'day and night'."

I nodded, absorbing this. "How do you keep count?"

Cillian glanced up at the sky, a faraway look in his eyes. "By the shifting of colors in the sky. Every ten hours the sky shifts colors slightly. You have to have a very keen sight to catch the changes, but nevertheless, they're there." he sighed, almost fondly.

"I take it you weren't very fond of the weather on earth." I commented.

Cillian glanced at me, his rainbow colored eyes keen, glinting now with a yellowish sheen. "I regard your world as you do mine. I tolerate it, but truly, I just find it so alien to my own world. It's not that I don't appreciate foreign culture; it's that it's different. Do you understand?"

I nodded. "I see what you mean."

"Precisely," Cillian's eyes shifted to greenish gold, and I found myself curious once more to the color-changing of his eyes.

"Why do your eyes change colors?" I asked him, curious.

"The eyes of eslendar shift colors to adjust to their mood. Some who are very experienced can mask the shifting in their eyes to keep their emotions from showing, and others train themselves to be emotionless. Myself, I've always been terrible at masking my emotions. Besides, what would be the point in having a phrase like, 'The eyes are the gateway to the soul,' if you couldn't see through the person in question?" With those words, Cillian strode past me gracefully, his eyes shifting to black.

Cillian was a strange guy, and that was for sure.

I glanced up at the sky every once in a while, after that conversation, to see if I could note the changes in the sky, but the only changes I saw were from slight pink to green. And that was about it. It grew frustrating, so I just gave up.

"Where exactly is the Cave of Mists?" Derek questioned Cillian, who was ahead of us. We'd been traveling across plain fields with black fog for a while, now, and I had to admit, the scenery was boring, and it had lost it's affect on me.

"Within the mountains at the end of these fields. Deep within the mountains. Unfortunately, I'll have to have one of you two werewolves scout out ahead for . . . enemies. The mountains are very dangerous." Cillian replied, gesturing to the mountains beginning to appear at the end of my vision. I let out a silent sigh of relief.

"We could run the rest of the way. If you could fly, we could carry Aralyn on one of our backs." I offered, because I was eager to get there and running to get out some energy appealed to my canine side.

"Ride on one of your backs?" Aralyn demanded indignantly. She snorted. "I can fly with magic, thank you very much. Ride on one of your backs . . ." she muttered darkly. I smiled sweetly at her.

Cillian stopped, placing one of his hands on his hips in a bit of a feminine manner that I usually would have made fun of, but since I didn't know him, I wasn't going to risk it. He might clobber me. "Well . . ." his eyes were gray, and he looked thoughtful. "I suppose. It will get us there before the fiftieth hour. Aralyn," he turned to look at her, tilting his head. "Are you sure your magic will hold the distance?"

She nodded. "I'm a witch."
"I'll say," I murmured to Derek, and the two of us started snickering. Cillian grinned at us and Aralyn shot me a searing look over her shoulder.

"Then we'll go. Follow me." Cillian backed a few steps up, before crouching and spreading his wings, vaulting up into the air and flapping his great wings, already soaring through the air at an incredible pace.

I looked at Derek, exchanging wicked grins with him, before I closed my eyes and began to shift, feeling the customary snapping and cracking and stretching of my muscles, as well as feeling my face shifting, my ears pushing up to the top of my head. I felt my hair spread down my back, covering my shortening arms and legs, as my tail grew. I dropped to all fours, shuddering when the transformation was complete, once more, blinking to adjust my eyes to the strange world around me. I looked to my left, to see Derek crouching before springing forward in his own form, sprinting after Cillian. Aralyn was already ahead, floating on a purple disk of energy, speeding above the ground. Letting my jaws fall open in a grin, I raced after them.

It was exhilarating, running at this speed, with no obstacles in my path to stop me. My claws flung up dirt as I ran in powerful strides, soon catching up to my brother and pushing myself to my speed limits, excelling past him, flicking my eyes up at Cillian's form.

No matter how fast I was, though, legs couldn't compare to the speed of wings. Cillian flew ahead after glancing down at me, a glint of challenge in his eyes. If I could have lifted an eyebrow, I would have. I went lower to the ground, laying my ears back, and quickening my pace once more. Even then, I couldn't catch up with Cillian. I heard his laughter from above, and I barked at him when he dove down suddenly, gliding beside me, and gently pulling on my tail before ascending up quickly before I could retaliate. His playful manner reminded me a lot of . . .

My pace faltered a little when I thought of my violet-eyed vampire friend, and sadness crashed down on me horribly. Derek could smell my sadness, and he let out a little yelp from behind me, asking me what was wrong.

I just shook my head, pushing back my emotions, giving a small yip in reply before falling back into pace with him. Derek gently nudged my shoulder with his own before racing ahead of me, trying to challenge Cillian, now.

When we finally reached the base of the mountains, I was panting hard. I collapsed next to Derek in a heap, without even the strength to shift back to my human form. My tongue lolled out of my mouth, and I rolled onto my back, trying to catch my breath.

"Now that you're defenseless . . . I should skin you," Aralyn leaned over me with narrowed eyes, her hand raised and glowing dully with blue magic.

All I could manage was a pleading whine.

Aralyn snorted. "That's what I thought." She glanced back at Cillian, who was standing in front of the trail to the mountains, his arms crossed over his slim, taut chest.

"Cillian? Aren't you tired?" she asked.

He glanced at her over his shoulder briefly. His great wings were folded behind his back. "I fly longer than that everyday. That was merely . . . a warm-up, you could say, for me."

Aralyn lifted an eyebrow but sat down beside me and Derek. I leaned my snout over and nipped her hand gently, and she flicked me in the ear. I growled at her, and she laughed.

I rolled over onto my belly, though I stayed laying down. Aralyn absently ran her hand down my back, sinking her fingers into my thick fur. I closed my eyes contently, just as Cillian said, "As soon as all of you have rested we'll move on, I suppose. Myself, I going to go scout ahead for anything that might have changed in the mountains. I'll be back in a few hours." with that, I heard the fluttering of his wings as he launched himself into the air and took off.

I slept for the duration of the time that Cillian was gone, and apparently Derek and Aralyn did, as well, for all of us looked like zombies when Cillian returned and woke us up.

"Are we ready?" he asked us, looking between the three of us with his wide, black eyes. His tone was determined. I noted that down in my mind. Black equaled determination.

I yawned, climbing to my feet and stretching, though my muscles were sore from my long run. It felt good to stretch. I shifted back to my human form, and said, "Sure. As ready as we'll ever be. Let's go."

Derek trotted beside me in his wolf form and Aralyn lagged behind, yawning all the while, as we followed Cillian up the rocky trail that led into the mountains. White mist billowed about, up to our thighs, and the deeper and higher we traveled, the harder it became to see. The mist and fog increased, until it appeared that we were only surrounded by rock walls and white.

"Derek, could you run ahead and scout out for enemies? They have a habit of trying to ambush travelers." Cillian stated. Derek ran ahead, and I watched him go with reluctance. I didn't like the idea of watching my little brother(only by two minutes, he always said)going anywhere without me. We were inseparable, the two of us.

"So you've actually been inside the Cave of Mists?" I asked Cillian, eyeing the rock walls encasing us in with wariness.

"Oh, yes. I've been all over it. Along the walls, floor, ceiling, you name it," he answered, with something close to enthusiasm. "That's where all of this mist comes from, in fact. From the Cave itself. The people of my village say that the mist is actually made up of wandering spirits, but I say it's made up of bits of the essences of the gods and goddesses. It only makes sense, that way." he replied.

"He rambles a bit, doesn't he?" I murmured to Aralyn lowly. She only shrugged.

Cillian didn't seem to notice. "We should reach the Cave in a few hours. Then, the real fun begins."

"I'm guessing you're referring to the guardian?" Aralyn asked.

"Surely nothing else." Cillian replied with almost a dreamy tone, glancing at us over his shoulder and smiling.

He was strange, that was for sure. But not in the disturbing way, at least. Nevertheless, though, I exchanged wary glances with Aralyn.

Derek returned a while after that, once more in his human form. "I didn't see anything out of the ordinary . . . Other than the big fat cave around the corner." he informed Cillian.

Cillian nodded. "That's our destination, then."

We followed him around the bend, and the hill grew so steep that soon I had to shift to wolf form to leap up the rocks, before shifting back to help Aralyn up. By the time we reached the top we were panting again(excepting Cillian).

I took this time to look around, seeing that the mist up here only reached my ankles, and the huge gaping mouth of a cave was across the large circular space around me. I was tense, looking around, waiting for some kind of huge dragon to come crashing out. Well, in a lot of fantasy books I read, when someone mentioned a 'guardian' it was some kind of huge monster thing. And the monster thing usually ate whatever dared to trespass.

I glanced over my shoulder at Aralyn and Derek, who were looking bewildered, like me. I shrugged. Cillian was behind the two of them, I noticed, watching us with an impassive expression.

Since it looked like no one was going to do anything, I turned back around and started toward the cave. After a moment, Derek and Aralyn followed me, close behind.

It wasn't really surprising that when I reached the mouth of the cave a wall of mist rose up. I put my hands against it, but it was as solid as rock. I turned around, and was shocked to see Cillian had drawn a sword, though from where I had no idea, and was holding it out against us. Or, a scimitar, rather(a sword with a curved blade). Behind him, the mist had rose to block an escape route, as well.

"You're the guardian?" Aralyn demanded, her eyes wide.

Cillian's eyes were black again, tinged with purplish gray, as he drew a second scimitar. "I'm really sorry about this." he said softly, right before he dove forward and attacked.


Raylan's P.O.V.(You'd better enjoy this!)

I glanced over my shoulder at Eva, seeing the dark circles that lined her eyes, seeing how her shoulders were slumped as she walked. Her movements were all stiff, like a robot's. No matter how hard I tried to see her beauty, I just couldn't, not when she was like this.

Of all people, I shouldn't have cared. But I did, and this angered me. I didn't want to care about how she was feeling, and how mentally healthy she was. But I did, and there wasn't anything I could do about it, other than piss and moan. And I'd be damned if I let Eva see that her current state concerned me.

I was leading her to a portal within the mountains past Christiansburg that held a portal leading to the shadow world. I knew where it was, for when I'd been allied with our enemies, we'd traveled to the shadow world often, trying to convince the eslendar to join our side. They never had.

But since I knew where that was, I was going to go there and make sure the flea-bitten wolves and the witch had gotten the crystal safely to the Cave. If they hadn't, I was going to have to track them down and do it myself. An irritating thought, but it had to be done. It was the Underground's only chance of winning.

I fell back into step with Eva, and she didn't even seem to notice me right there. She just continued to stare ahead blankly, her eyes lifeless, empty. All the joy I was used to seeing in her was gone, pfft! Like it had never even been there.

"Evaine," I murmured, but she didn't even seem to hear me. So, I kept my temper in check and tried again. "Evaine." Still, I received no answer.

Frustrated, I tried to think of something that would at least bring her back to reality. What was one thing I could do that would bring her to her senses? As an idea came to mind, I grimaced. It was, technically, taking advantage of her for the state she was in, but I needed for her to be focused. I needed . . . her.

"Eva, look at me." As expected, she didn't. I maneuvered myself in front of her suddenly, taking her by her shoulders and pressing my lips firmly to hers.

Her lips were cold, and they were unresponsive against mine. I pulled back, my brows pulling together. Eva blinked, past the film over her eyes, and her voice was hoarse when she whispered, "Raylan? Is that you?"

A response! I was nearly giddy from this. "Yes. Evaine, you need to snap out of this. There isn't any sense in you letting go like this. Besides, it isn't guaranteed that Julian is dead--" As soon as those last three words left my mouth her eyes clouded again as tears spilled from them.

Way to go, genius, I thought. Way to put things delicately. Now she'll never speak again. But there wasn't anything I could do about it.

So I merely let her delicate shoulders go, and my expression was stony as I turned on my heel and said without emotion, "Let's keep moving."


Storm's P.O.V.

My eyes widened as Cillian's blade glinted in the dim light, heading down toward me in a graceful arc, and I dived to the side swiftly, barely avoiding the attack. His blade stuck in the dirt and Aralyn took his momentary vulnerability to aim a thunderbolt at him. The air crackled and sizzled as the pure white electricity seared through the air toward him, and Cillian swiftly held up his other blade. My mouth fell open in a gape when the bolt of lightning deflected off his blade and hit it's creator, eliciting a scream from Aralyn as the electricity coursed through her body and she crumpled to the ground in a heap of smoking, burnt clothing. The smell of burnt flesh filled the air, making my insides churn.

I raced quickly toward Aralyn to make sure she was all right, but a smack from Cillian's wing stopped me short of that goal, knocking me onto my back. I yelped, before growling and snapping my tail out at Cillian like a whip, trying to catch him off guard. He kicked my tail aside uselessly and Derek pounced while Cillian was distracted, sinking his teeth into Cillian's thigh. Cillian growled and bashed the hilt of his sword into Derek's skull, and with a whimper, Derek slumped down to the dirt.

I rolled out of the way to avoid being hacked in two, trying desperately to think of some way to catch Cillian off guard, to get through his defenses. He was an expert fighter; there was no way I would be able to fight him with no weapons of my own. The only weapons of mine were my teeth and claws, but I couldn't get right up on him without getting chopped up. Derek was out like a light, and I was scared to death that Aralyn might be dead.

I was running out of options. I just circled Cillian, trying to find flaws in his defenses. But I hadn't been trained in the ways of the sword, like Julian had been. I had no idea how to defeat him.

"You have to attack eventually, Storm," Cillian said, watching me closely, his eyes bright orange.

He was right. But I wouldn't give him that satisfaction, yet. I began to flick my eyes around, searching for something, anything, to help me. I felt my hope fall even further when I realized there was nothing.

Cillian took advantage of my distraction and dove forward, his sword headed straight for my head. I backed up frantically and tripped over my own feet, his sword barely nicking my nose. I yipped from the pain as warm blood ran down into my mouth.

My eyes widened, however, when I looked over Cillian's shoulder and saw the giant flaming ball headed in our direction. I scrambled to my feet and practically tripped over my own legs in an attempt to get out of the way. I managed, though, and just as Cillian turned around his eyes widened as well and he gasped, his swords going up defensively just as his wings moved to cover him.

I had never been so happy to see Raylan in my entire life. He was climbing over the rock walls encasing us in, his hands outlined in flame, his golden eyes blazing. I saw Evaine climbing weakly up, as well. She looked awful.

But I didn't have time to ponder this. Cillian unfolded his wings, and I was shocked to see he was completely unharmed. Apparently his wings were fire-resistant, or something. Great. Lovely. What was this guy weak against?

He looked pretty pissed, though. His eyes were blazing bright red. Anger, I picked up, right away, for how he held his swords out toward Raylan offensively.

Raylan laughed, though it was humorless. "Oh, honestly. I've faced enemies you would cower at the mention of. You think I'm worried about swords?"

Cillian growled and sprinted forward, tucking his wings in before diving down and somersaulting to avoid a line of flame that Raylan issued from his hand. I had to flatten to the ground to avoid it, as well, but I felt the very tips of the hairs on my back singe from the incredible heat.

While Cillian and Raylan were going at it, I made quickly for Eva, shifting back to human form. "Are you all right?" I demanded, upon reaching her.

She looked slowly at me. "Storm?" she smiled, sadly. "Julian's dead."

My eyes widened. "You know--" I was cut short as the hilt of Cillian's sword slammed into my gut. I doubled over, coughing, my body jerking from the pain as I was reduced to my knees. Cillian dealt a hard blow to my back, and I fell to the ground, red and black dots swirling before my vision. I saw the flare of flame, heard Cillian growl as he was knocked off the top of the rocky ledge we were on. He landed hard on his back below but quickly rolled to his feet, both his swords out.

"Storm! Are you all right?" Evaine fell to her knees beside me, sounding a little more sane now. "I can heal you, hold on!" She began to chant tiredly in the language of magic, and within moments, my vision was clear once more and the pain was reduced to just a minor ache. I stood up, and said, "You don't need to get involved in this, Eva. Cillian's too dangerous. Stay back here while Raylan and I take care of him."

I jumped off the ledge before she could reply, shifting to my wolf form and racing to Raylan's side just as he hurled a series of globes of fire at Cillian. Cillian wrapped his wings around himself to protect his body, and I raced towards him. The minute his wings opened I sank my teeth into his thigh, ripping and tearing with all my strength and tasting blood. Cillian roared in agony, fighting me back furiously. His fist smashed into my muzzle and I whimpered, easing my grip from him as pain made me shudder.

"Storm, he's going to--" Evaine didn't get to finish before Cillian picked me up and hurled me with all his strength. I slammed into Raylan who let out a startled cry before we both went rolling head over heels across the ground.

Cillian didn't get to rejoice for long, though, because another lightning bolt sizzled through the air toward him, striking him into the chest and coursing through his slender form. Cillian screamed in agony and crumpled to the ground, writhing as the lightning wreaked its havoc. I looked weakly, seeing Aralyn was back on her feet, though her arms were trembling. Derek was on his feet as well.

I rose to my feet, moving toward Cillian with Raylan right on my tail, my teeth bared, and Raylan's hands wreathed in flame. We closed in on the eslendar on the ground, leaving him with no escape.

Cillian looked up, around at all of us, panting. His face was spotted with dirt and blackness, and there were tears in his clothing.

I don't know how long we stood there, all prepared to strike a killing blow if need be. Finally, Cillian stood up slowly, his swords out--

And then he sheathed them calmly at his hips, and raised his empty hands, declaring, "I admit defeat."

I let out a sigh of relief, all my muscles relaxing as I slumped. Raylan lowered his hands reluctantly, and Aralyn sighed, letting her arms swing back down to her sides. Derek exchanged glances with me, his ears slowly perking back up. I grinned at him, and he flashed me a toothy grin back, his tail wagging happily.

I shifted back to human form, just as Eva joined us. Before I did anything else, I embraced her small form tightly, saying, "I can't believe you left us like that! Don't you ever do anything stupid like that again! Do you hear me?"

"I hear you," she said softly, hugging me back. Derek tackled us both in a bear hug, in his human form, and Aralyn added her arms to the pile. Raylan stood at the sidelines, his arms crossed over his chest, his expression dark.

"Thanks for your help, Raylan," I added, turning to him. He glanced at me, and I sensed a grim, reluctant respect in his eyes that he would rather not let me see, but did anyway. He nodded curtly, before turning away. I moved over and squeezed his shoulders affectionately, ignoring the way he stiffened, before I released him and turned to Cillian.

He was already standing at the mouth of the Cave. "You've been permitted entrance. Come." he moved inside, and I glanced at the others, before gesturing with a quick motion of my head and following the eslendar inside.

I moved deep into the earth within the Cave, in the darkness. When we reached level ground, I felt my mouth open in awe as light filled the cavern within me and I gazed around.

The walls were made of pure white crystal, sparkling and shining in the light, almost seeming to glow. The dirt floors of the cavern seemed to be littered with glistening blue and white crystals, and I glanced up at the ceiling, to see it was also made of crystal. Within the center of the cavern, however, was a great hole, and from it, mist was billowing profusely. The mist swirled about, reaching out toward us with icy tendrils, reaching our thighs. It was cool in this room, and the light seemed to be coming from the great hole.

Cillian moved up to the edge of the great hole, and I followed him, leaning over the edge of peer down into the depths. Within, was clear water. But it did not overflow. It rippled, as if flowing, but it didn't overflow.

"This is the same water that flows within the spring of refuge," Cillian commented softly, still peering down at the water. "It has healing properties that some have only dreamed of. Not even your enemies know the location of this cave."

That was good, I decided. "So, how do we speak with the gods?"

"They will speak to you. Don't worry." Cillian stepped back from the hole, moving back to stand with the others. I followed suit, after a moment, because abruptly the water stopped flowing and stilled completely, as if disturbed.

I felt my breath catch as the mist began to suddenly flow back towards the hole in the floor, coalescing together into one mass. A bright white light filled the room, and I soon had to close my eyes and throw up my hand to shield myself from the brilliance of it.

When I was able to open my eyes again and the light had dissipated, I felt my breath catch again at what I saw. She . . . she was beautiful.

The woman who now floated above the water had deep blue hair(yes, blue)that seemed to ripple and flow like water itself. She had a gentle, delicate face, with aquamarine eyes. Her lower body was in the form of a great fish tail, with deep blue scales. Her upper body was naked(it was very distracting; I thought of Olivia quickly to keep myself from having any thoughts), but her hair covered her chest. She seemed to emanate an aura of power and serene grace.

"Welcome to my cave, humble travelers," she said softly. Her voice emanated power, as well, but it was soft, and gentle. "I am Selaphene, Goddess of water."

I glanced at Eva, who was watching Selaphene with more life in her eyes than I'd seen before. I looked back to Selaphene, just as Eva asked, "Why are you here, Selaphene? I thought you were at the spring of refuge."

Selaphene smiled gently. "No, my faithful servant. I am not the only deity who dwells here, however. I believe the five of you have come to inquire about a certain item of power?"

Eva nodded, seeming to gather courage. She stepped forward, and said, "Yes. The Crystal of Twilight. We have to do something with it, so our enemies don't get it . . ." she trailed off, so I picked up where she left off.

"The leader of the Council, Helen, instructed us to come here and ask for the decision of the gods on the matter," I told Selaphene. Her eyes switched to me and I felt a jolt go through me, and I was suddenly aware of another presence in my mind. I put up no resistance, letting her probe around, to see my words were true. She didn't trust all of us, and for that, she was wise. "I have the crystal here." I reached into my backpack and withdrew the cold, large gem, holding it out for Selaphene to see.

Selaphene eyed the crystal with something close to cautiousness. "Thank-you, noble werewolf, for traveling this long way to deliver this item. And thanks, to the rest of you, as well. But before anything is decided, I must consult with the other deities for their opinions on the matter."

Even as she said it, mist was coalescing all about the room in different spots, forming into other humanoid shapes. Some were male, some were female, and some were not even human, it appeared. My god, Drandar, the god of wolves, caught my eyes and winked at me. I shifted immediately to my wolf form and bowed low to him, laying on my stomach in the symbol of submission. Derek did the same, and Drandar trotted over to us, in his own wolf form, nudging us lightly. The power I could feel through just that small touch shook me to the core and made my body erupt out in goosebumps.

"Oh, get up, you lazy louts. No need to bow to me." Drandar said. That was one thing I envied about him. He could speak in his wolf form, while I couldn't.

"No need to bow?" A man in full chain-mail armor demanded, his violet eyes glinting with anger. "You are a god, Drandar. Do not lower yourself to their levels, as mortals--"

"Hush, Eviergo, god of war." Selaphene chided softly, in her gentle voice. She turned to me and said softly, "Noble wolf, bring the crystal forward, if you please."

I shifted back to human form and did as asked, setting the crystal in her cool palm. Her skin was damp, but I expected that.

"We are gathered here to come to a decision about this crystal," Selaphene spoke loudly, now, holding the crystal up for the other deities to witness. I felt a bit overwhelmed, being in a room with all the gods, but I managed to contain my excitement. All of them were either extraordinarily handsome or beautiful. Not a one of them was ugly in anyway. All of them were completely flawless, in looks and power and strength and wisdom.

I noticed gods and goddesses alike tensing at the sight of the crystal, all eyeing it with a wariness that was to be expected.

"Destroy it! You don't even have to ask me for my opinion on it!" one god said immediately. He was rather short, in leather armor, with a short sword belted at his hip. I tried to remember what god he was. I was sure he was Philean, god of luck.

Selaphene shook her head. "We cannot simply destroy it. Faced as we are, this crystal could be the only answer to the war for those that are good."

"Those that are good?" sneered one female goddess(Goddess of love, Fleur), tossing her thick red hair over her shoulder. "Good? You call monsters that drink the blood of others good, those that shift into the forms of wolves and lose their minds, those that--"

"Monsters that drink blood?" demanded another god. This one, I definitely knew was Rashiar, god of vampires. He was very handsome, with golden eyes and black hair that tumbled freely down his shoulders. He was garbed in tight black leather armor, and his fangs curved over his bottom lip. "Be very careful, Fleur. For I will not tolerate such comments of my race."

Fleur looked like she was about to retort, but Selaphene cut them both off swiftly. "Enough! Now is not the time to discuss preferences of races. We must come to a decision, and quickly."

"The crystal is a dangerous tool that should not be given to any race upon the earth or in any other dimension. Consider the chaos it brought about before." Eviergo said firmly.

"Yes, but that was because it was given to the wrong people. If it were given to the vampires within the Underground, surely they would use it wisely." Philean piped up, raising both his small hands.

Fleur snorted. "That is a fool's hope! The crystal corrupted the minds of vampires before, what will stop it from doing so now?"

"There are other races that are there to ensure that the use of the crystal is for good," Drandar interjected, rising swiftly to his feet from beside me and adding his opinion. "After all, once the crystal is used for good or evil, it can only perform that certain type of magic. If it was used for good, they would not be able to use it for evil."

"But surely, there is always the risk that the crystal can fall into the wrong hands?" Eviergo retorted. "If the human, werewolves, witch, and elemental hadn't fled the Underground, the crystal would have been taken!"

"The key word in that sentence is 'if' ! It was not taken and it is here, in our possession. If these 'mortals' could keep the crystal in their possession without using it for evil couldn't they ensure that it was not used for evil at all?" Philean reasoned.

"Preposterous!" Eviergo snorted. "Their minds will fall to its influence in a matter of time--"

"The crystal is not a manipulative item, Eviergo. It does not have a will of its own; nor does it possess life," Rashiar interrupted. "I created it specifically to wield great power. I was not stupid enough to make it so it could influence anyone. The crystal is perfectly balanced upon good and evil. Neither one triumphs over the other, unless the wielder chooses for one to."

"The only thing that could influence a decision is the lust for the power of the crystal," Drander added, in agreement. "I say that the crystal be kept with the 'mortals' to be used to their defense in the war."

Selaphene held up a hand. "Then we must come to a decision. All in favor of the crystal remaining here, in our possession, say 'I,' ."

A few "I," 's went through the room, but there were only a few. I held my breath in anticipation as Selaphene gazed around, before saying, "All in favor of the crystal being given back to the mortals to be used to their aid in war, say, 'I,' ."
I heard many more "I," 's this time, and expelled my breath, grinning at my friends behind me with relief. They all grinned back, except for Raylan and Eva, of course.

"Then come forward, and accept the crystal. It will be used to your defense in war." Selaphene declared. I watched as Eva stepped forward, and took the crystal in her hand, before nodding to Selaphene and placing the crystal in her pack.

As Eva stepped back, Selaphene said softly, "I understand that all of you have suffered a great loss. You had endured the pain of the death of your friend, Julian. And you have endured the pain of the loss of your love, Evaine," Selaphene looked to Eva. I saw tears running silently down Eva's face.

"Do not despair . . ." Selaphene went on, softly, moving slowly toward Eva, and laying her hands on Eva's shoulders. "For he is not very far at all."

Eva sniffed, looking up. "What do you mean?" she whispered.

Selaphene stepped aside, and we all looked, to see another goddess moving forward. Her golden hair flowed down her back to trail behind her in soft mass of gold on the floor, it was so long. She also appeared beautiful, and delicate, wearing a gauzy white dress that emphasized her curvy form.

"I am the goddess of life, Angelestia. And for what I believe was taken unfairly from you, I will give back." she waved her slender, pale arms, and a soft golden light appeared before her, growing larger, until I found myself once more covering my eyes from the bright light.

Eva's P.O.V.

A slender, but muscular frame formed before me, garbed in black. Pale, fair skin seemed to shimmer in the golden light, and sensual lips parted, revealing fangs curving over a perfect bottom lip. Dark lashes lifted; eyes of blue-violet opened, half-lidded, almost sleepy-looking. Dark black hair fell down into those eyes.

I choked on a sob, not believing what I was seeing at first, not aware that was was trembling, and tears were rolling down my cheeks like a waterfall.

"Eva?" his voice was hesitant, soft, a sweet shock to all my senses. I heard the French-accent underneath all of it, and knew it was him.

I burst into tears, and raced towards him, throwing my arms around him and kissing him fiercely, not caring that anyone was watching, because I wouldn't let myself care. His soft, cool lips pressed back against mine and he wrapped his arms around me. I opened my eyes, because I didn't want to close them and not see him. His eyes were open, as well, and I kissed harder, trying to merge myself as tightly as possible to him.

When I broke from him, I was gasping to breathe, and yet, I was still crying. "Don't you ever leave me again! Don't you ever commit suicide for me! Do you hear me!? Do you!?" I clenched my fists in his shirt, before I began pounding on his chest, sobbing into his shoulder all the while.

"Eva," Julian just repeated softly, wrapping his arms around me once more and closing his eyes, sighing as he breathed in my scent.

Someone clearing their throat brought us both back to reality. The minute Julian looked up from me Storm and Derek tackled him, taking him from my arms as the three of them practically rolled across the floor in a giant hug.

"You stupid, fat, ugly, retarded, stupid stupid brute!" Derek cried, and I was shocked to see tears were running down the faces of the twins as well. Aralyn was crying as she rushed towards them and barreled Julian right back down to the floor just as he started to get up.

I couldn't help it. I laughed. For the last week I'd been so miserable, so lost, so lonely, but now that Julian was back, everything was all right. Everything was fine. Because he was here, living, breathing, beautiful. Because he was here, and I loved him no matter what happened. Because I wouldn't leave him for the rest of my days and he wouldn't leave me.

I just let it all go. I threw myself into the pile and weasled my way back into Julian's arms, and he smiled as he embraced us all, saying softly, "I missed all of you guys, too."

What I hadn't thought about yet was Raylan. I glanced at him over my shoulder, seeing his golden eyes were expressionless, as his face. I would have been angry at him for standing there like a stone, but I couldn't be, on these circumstances. After all he'd done for me, after he'd taken care of me, done what he could to protect me. I respected him. I owed him that at least, if I couldn't give him my love.

And for that, I wanted to give him my friendship, too. I held my hand out to him. "Come here, Raylan. I want you to meet Julian."

I noticed the twins exchange wide-eyed glances, and Aralyn tensed, as well, looking alarmed. Julian gently pushed me back and rose to his feet, saying quietly, "You're Raylan?"

"I am. And you're Julian?" Raylan's tone was almost mocking, as he tilted his head.

"Yes. Eva's boyfriend. I take it that you're the one who has been harassing Evaine?" Julian said, his tone quiet, edged with ice.

"Harassing? Is that what she told you?" Raylan asked softly.

Julian stared at Raylan for a moment. Then his fist came up and he smashed it into Raylan's jaw. I was too shocked to really react in the brief second that Raylan's eyes flashed with anger and he started forward, to rip Julian to shreds, no doubt, if Julian didn't rip him up first.

"Oh, come on, guys, way to ruin the moment!" Storm complained, even as he grabbed Julian's arms and attempted to hold him back. I rushed over to Raylan and grabbed him around his slender waist, trying to stop him as he advanced towards Julian, but I wasn't even near as strong as he was, especially from how tired I was. He towed me easily.

So Derek came over and held him back, as well, which proved a little more difficult for him. Finally, Aralyn stepped between the two struggling men and said, "Enough, guys! This is supposed to be a happy reunion, not a grudge match! Come on, guys!"

Raylan finally stopped, and said coolly, "This isn't over."

"Wouldn't dream of it." Julian said icily, just as Raylan turned on his heel and walked out of the Cave, brushing past me as if I didn't exist. I swallowed, before I moved meagerly back to Julian's arms, snuggling against him and wrapping my arms around his waist. Immediately he wrapped his arms around me, all anger forgotten as he laid his cheek against my hair.


Eva's P.O.V.

"So how did you know about Raylan?" I asked Julian softly. Everyone else was outside, eating and talking and having fun, because just for one night, everything was at peace. I felt as if a great weight had been lifted from my chest.

Right now, I was snuggled in Julian's lap, and he was leaning back against the walls of the Cave. Everyone had left us to be alone for a little while, since we hadn't seen each other in so long. I was grateful for this.

"Because I was brought back to life a few hours after I died," Julian replied bluntly. I flinched when he said the word "Died,". "And Angelestia let me keep an eye on you. I was so worried about you all of this time . . ."

My face turned bright red. "So you saw everything with . . . Raylan?"

Julian lifted an eyebrow.

Guilt crashed down on me, and suddenly I didn't feel worthy of being this close to him. "I'm so sorry," I whispered, tears welling up in my eyes. "I . . . I tried not to like any of it, but I . . . there isn't any excuse. I cheated on you, and I'm a horrible girlfriend. If you don't want me to be with you because of what I did, then I understand . . ." I started to climb off his lap.

"Don't you dare," Julian growled. "You are not leaving me. I'm not concerned about what happened. For all I care, it's in the past. And as long as I'm here, it won't happen again. Because I'll make sure that you're too preoccupied with me for it to happen again. I won't leave you again to let it happen." By the time he finished his voice was soft again. Then he took my face between his hands and kissed me, passionately and with all his soul and being, pouring it into a single kiss. I couldn't breathe but I kissed back just a fervently as he, merging as close as possible to him, burying my fingers in his hair and feeling his cool tongue touch my lips. I parted my lips in acceptance and his tongue gently massaged along mine, deepening the kiss. I shivered from the contact.

When Julian pulled back, I was panting and he was breathing a little faster. I rested my forehead against his, looking into his eyes, whispering, "I love you."

"I love you, too." he whispered back, and I realized it was the first time he'd ever said that to me. I kissed him again, feeling his arms tightening around me.

"Angelestia brought me back to life because she said my duty on this earth wasn't finished yet and I had a commitment to you that I'd already made. She said it seemed unfair that after all you'd gone through in life, that you had to lose love, as well . . ." Julian explained softly, once we calmed a bit.

"It did seem unfair," I muttered, and Julian nodded.

"Which is why she sent me back," he repeated. "And plus, Olivia more than likely won't involve herself by using the crystal. I'm the only likely candidate to use it, so that was another reason to send me back."

I sighed, closing my eyes. "I'm glad you're back. You have no idea how scary it was to face the concept that I'd lost you forever."

Julian smiled, kissing my neck softly. "I did it for you." he whispered.

"Never do anything for me again." I said, pulling back to look into his eyes.

Julian smiled again. "Well, I suppose I can't sit here for you, or let you sit on me for you, or let you kiss me . . ." he began to pull away.

"Oh, no you don't," I grabbed him, holding him in place as he grinned. "You aren't going anywhere as long as I have a say in it. I love you, and you're staying. I love you, and I love you no matter what. Do you understand me?"

Julian nodded. "Yes, ma'am."

"Oh, shut-up, you smart aleck."
He just grinned and kissed me once more.

When we parted, I whispered, "I'm going to kill you for leaving me in the first place later."

Julian grinned. "Is that a threat or a promise?"

"Mmm . . . Both." I replied, kissing him again.

Soon we both were growing passionate again, and I felt my heart skip a beat when Julian's fingers gently touched the hem of my shirt. I pulled back slightly, looking into his eyes, questioning to see if this was really what he was asking.

"Are you afraid?" he whispered.

I bit my lower lip for a moment, before I shook my head slowly and I whispered in return, "No."

There was no reason for me to be nervous. Every part of me, every breath that I took, every second that I lived, belonged to him. Every fabric of my being was his to do with as he willed or to cast away should he choose to forsake his love for me.

And he never would.

End of Book One

Author's Note:

This is not the end of the series, this is simply the end of this book. I'm going to redo the title and call it Book One: The Shadow's Eve, blah blah blah, and next weekend, I'm going to come out with a new book about two new characters. But all of my books will eventually tie into one final book, and you'll get more of Eva and Julian then. But for now, their story is over. Don't kill me!!

P.S. Please let me know your honest opinion on the entire story, as it is only a rough draft and I want to know if there are things I should change, or add, since I'm done with it. Let me know what you think in many, many many reviews! :)