Chapter Six---Surprise Surprise

Rane was storming about the castle furiously. How could that imbecile have accomplished such a feat?! Men never returned from the Sea of Seren if they weren't barricaded in their rooms. Rage simmered underneath the Princesses skin and Xander watched in vague fascination as the tattoos began to glow and pulse once more. She felt her own hair start to stand on end as the woman's electrical power began to rise.

"That fool! It was an impossible task, how could he have managed?" Rane was speaking to herself but Xander decided to be helpful and answer her anyways. After all, it's no fun talking to yourself.

"Well, there was that girl with them. And I gave Dagan beeswax to help. I do hope that big lummox didn't die." Xander pursed her lips, frowning at the thought of being without Dagan; perhaps she shouldn't have forced him to go after all.

"You WHAT?!"

"My dearest Lady, may I present Kora Stormbreak?" Jarek had swept into the Hall in a whirlwind of self-importance and victory. That little wench was no match for him! Take that Rane of Indira!

" I am Honored, Lady Changeling." Kora blinked several times, eyes scanning the crowd before her eyes fell on the little white-feathered thing on Xander's shoulder. She licked her lips.

" As am I Lady Kora. Jarek, darling, however did you manage such a… delightful feat?" Rane forced the words to be syrupy and affectionate. How she wanted to strangle that man…

"My love for you knows no limit, sweet. And of course, Lady Zure Faelon, Dagan and Ilias helped. Invaluable, I may say, Lady Zure has been on this expedition. Most amusing as well." Jarek added, snickering as he snuck a peek at Dagan's still black eye.

"Our wedding song shall be one that the people will sing for centuries. But dearest…" Rane rose, her shakran trailing on the floor behind her as she approached Jarek with sad eyes and pouty lips.

"I was so wishing for a faerie as well. I've been told they make wonderful gifts. And that miserable little whelp Hadassa was given a Griffin but her fiancé Drodin." Scowling, Rane turned away from Jarek then. If there was one thing she didn't need to fake it was her disdain for Hadassa Thane.

" Drodin?! That scoundrel?! Do not lose heart dearest, if it's a faerie you want, a faerie you will get. What kind does my Princess desire?" The very name Drodin made Jarek's skin crawl and if getting Rane her little faerie meant smashing Drodin Anixter along the way than by Toshon, Rane would get a faerie!! Rane however was caught very much off guard and stammered in her reply.

"Wh-what k-kind? Well…that is to say…" A vase of flowers caught Rane's eye and she grinned.

"I'd love a faerie that paints the flowers and… one the night sky. One should be big and one small, quite small in fact. No larger than Zovi. I can't have something gargantuan roaming about my wedding now can I? How unseemly." Smiling sweetly, Rane crossed her fingers. Perhaps that auspicious twit would fail this time.

Ilias was quite shocked, to say the very least. If Jarek was so bent on breaking his engagement to this Indiran woman, why in Toshon did he keep accepting her ridiculous little fancies? Why?! Ilias voiced his concern rather loud and abrasively but that did little to faze the blue haired man that dared call himself friend.

"Why? Ilias, you should know me better than that, old friend. When have I ever turned down a challenge? And more importantly, when have I ever lost?" A pale brow was raised in question but Ilias could see the mirth in Jarek's speckled eyes and he sighed. Jarek had never lost a challenge and had never once thought he might not win at something, therefore, the buffoon didn't know defeat. Jarek's pride was a firmly placed and a much looked after thing. If it boosted his pride, Jarek was up for anything.

"You're going to lose if you keep this up! At this rate, you're going to have a lovely wife. Striking even." He stressed, referring to Rane's more…brash qualities and Jarek simply grinned at him.

"Have no fear, Ilias. I won't live my life as the husband to that whiny little woman. Now, Zure says that the best place to find these faeries Rane wants are in the Jivaythian Court. She also says if we want their help we'll have to either give them something or promise them something. I don't particularly like the sound of the latter option, so I took the liberty of brining several different things a faerie might be interested in. At least I hope they will be." Jarek rubbed his chin, hair falling into his face as he studied the little treasure trove before them. Ilias slammed the lid down and barked a command at the servants to take the chest to their ship.

"This is a bad idea Jarek, a very bad idea." He warned, raging inside at Jarek's nonchalance as the man replied,

"Nonsense, Ilias. This is a good idea, a very good idea."

Xander wondered about the woman she sat next to. She was quite pretty, despite the strange, feathered appendages and the long, creepy nails. Her skin was the most unusual shade of purple and her teeth a matching shade while dark blue hair fell about her petite face in wild curls. 'Kora's' eyes, however, had ceased to move from Zovi's small form huddled in Xander's lap, a fact that made both Zovi and Xander very, very uncomfortable.

"Zovi is afraid." The little bird whispered, huddling closer. Xander wrapped her arms around her companion a bit more tightly, edging away from Kora's hungry eyes.

"Why is it you hold food so? Are you not hungry?" Childlike curiosity shone in gray-blue orbs and Xander stared in a mixture of disgust and awe.

"Um, no? It's a pet, we don't eat it! You can't eat Zovi, Kora."

"Why not? The Zovi bird is small enough." Kora reached out a pale hand and stroked the bird almost lovingly but Xander moved him out of reach, still worried the woman would try and eat him.

"Because, we don't eat pets. I'm sure Rane would be more than happy to provide you with any number of wild birds eat…" Xander looked around for her Lady but the tattooed woman was nowhere to be found.

"What is this wild you speak? Is it tasty?" Quirking her head to one side, Kora raised a brow, intrigued by this thing the changeling called 'wild'.

" Um…well, I suppose so. But wild birds aren't pets, so you can eat those. There's all kinds you can eat…if yu can catch them, that is."

"Catch what?" Ilias broke into the conversation with all the grace of a solar implosion. Xander turned her amber eyes towards the man, infinitely relieved by his presence as she moved to stand by him.

"I was just explaining to Kora that we don't eat pets…"

"Oh really?" His gaze swept from the Siren to Xander and back again, amusement buried in charcoal optics before he ushered Xander from the room, leading her by the small of the back.

"I need a favor." The whisper made Xander cringe as fury swept through her, making her skin glow brightly as she flun Zovi from her arms.

"You need what ?! It's bad enough that I let you talk me into this hair-brained scheme of yours, that FAILED may I remind you, and now you want another favor?!" Every thing about Xander in that moment was hard and unyielding; her arms crossed over her chest, shoulders back and jaw squared as she fixed an iron gaze on Ilias who, in retrospect, had the audacity to meet her incredulous demand with a simple,

"Yea, that about sums it up."

Xander growled and lunged for the man, intent on removing his spinal column from his person in a very violent manner, as Rane entered the room. To say the soon-to-be queen was surprised was an understatement. Ilias had at least a 100 pounds on the Estinorian but obviously size didn't matter to Xander because she currently had her hands around a thick neck in a vise-like grip. Ilias was having no luck in dissuading the woman from her goal.

"Am I interrupting something?" Rane asked hesitantly, making no move to separate the two.

"Yes. Ilias was in the middle of dying, you can come back later and talk to his remains!!!" Xander yelled, squeezing tighter before she was abruptly yanked back, and therefore off of Ilias, roughly. A loud thump was heard as the back of her head connected with the marble floors and Xander let out a few choice curses in Estinorian as she looked up to Ilias's savior. Dagan. That traitor was going to get it too, of that Xander would make absolutely certain. He was going to die slowly and painfully….

"Xan! Are you listening?"

"I don't consort with traitors." The younger sibling looked away from her brother in disgust. Obviously he was in on this favor that Ilias wanted from her.

"Yea, about that. We just wanted your hairpin. Actually, your Highness, we were wondering if we could borrow Xander while we go on this trip. Zure is bound to kill me at some point and I thought some female company might pacify her long enough for us to bring back your request. I'd so love not to be hit again. Or die, dieing really doesn't sound like fun." Dagan turned puppy-like eyes up to the Princess, pleading, quite literally, for his life.

"Lady troubles I see. Of course your sister can go with you. Just try to bring Ilias back in one piece. I think he has more to worry about than you." Rane snickered on her way out as Zovi flapped off and perched on her shoulder, leaving a seething Xander and an affronted Ilias behind.