Chapter One

They had been watching the human family for over a week now.

His father had given instructions that a careful watch had to be maintained – to make sure that no human set foot over the boundary of their land. He had also instructed that no animal was to be harmed – that no game, no hunting was to be undertaken by the humes.

As his father's son, he had made sure that these orders were followed. No fish did these humans catch, no animal came close to their weapons.

And no ease would they find under the eaves of his father's woods.

He had been watching them more carefully than had been asked of him, but, he felt in his heart it was for the best. Since the breaking down of the wards around their home of late, humans could wander through fairly easily until the magicks were strengthened again. No human that crossed onto their lands with evil in their heart survived... and those accidental wanderers that found themselves under the magical eaves were occasionally allowed to live – although many wished for death quickly, and were granted it. For few that entered onto their lands would ever return to human society. As was their law.

So, he had seen their setting up of camp when his father alerted the sentries to their arrival. There were four humans, an older couple with a younger human pairing. The younger female was the daughter – the darker skinned male with her, her lover. Well, so he guessed by the way the two looked at each other. If they were not lovers yet, he did not doubt they soon would be.

He remembered this child. She had crossed into their lands when she was but a baby... she was one of the few humans they had let leave their realm in the last five hundred years. But they had let her as she was just an infant – a baby in their terms, and their spell weavers had made sure she would remember nothing. That and she had been unconscious – 'sleep walking' his father called it - when she had initially crossed over.

That one, for some reason, seemed to float through the barrier between the realms without a care. His father had felt her crossing into their world the first time and every time after, but even he, one of the key spell weavers who upheld the magical walls between worlds, could not explain how the child had done so. He had decided that it was a simple fluke... and as it was something that the child had not done for a little while now, they had let it go.

But he had kept watch on her. He had watched her as she wandered from the group on several occasions on her own – nervous she would find the entrance again and cross through. He had watched her bathe naked in the waterhole close to the edge of their realm. He had watched perhaps a little more closely than was necessary at that point. He was just doing what was needed, he told himself.

He had watched them talk around their fire just the night before. Watched her and the young male head towards her tent, and kiss quietly in the darkness.

He didn't like the boy he had decided as the youth wrapped arms about her and tried to steal more kisses than she was willing to give.

He had then watched them this morning, the two males and the young girl making their way into the woods, with killing on their minds.

And he had watched the child bring them through the archway.

His group had gathered behind him, awaiting his command at this crossing. All knew now what was to occur. He held off. He did not wish to kill. But, he had his father's word to consider....

When the older male killed the doe, he had had no choice.

His sentries descended on the older male leader, and his blood was spilled. The male youth they returned past the arch, unconscious and to remember nothing. They did not delight in having to take the two lives they did, and were glad to at least spare one.

For, they did steal two lives. The human girl they took alive and captive. This too was by his father's orders.

Never again would she pass through the archway. His father had decided he wanted this human if she made the crossing now.

As his father's son, he had obeyed.


She hadn't wanted to go hunting.

She had begged with Michael to leave it – she had even suggested they just go home earlier instead of having to go and kill something. Food had been low this trip, but surely they didn't need to resort to killing a wild animal.

He had said no of course. Michael could be even more stubborn than she was. Anyone would have thought they were actually biological father and daughter, and not step-relations. Well, Alisa saw him as her father regardless of blood ties. He had helped raise her since she was seven years old, and had been there when her biological father had repeatedly let her down.

He was her father, now.

Alisa would have thought this close tie would have helped sway him into not going into the deeper part of the woods to hunt when she begged him not to. Obviously his somewhat stereotypical love for red meat as a male overrode his love for his step-daughter in this instance. She told him this and that he was a bully and that he had to make it up to her.

He told her to be quiet otherwise she would scare everything away.

Alisa snapped back that she hoped that she did.

Lucas – her friend-turned-boyfriend of late – laughed softly through the whole argument. He had been invited on this camping trip by Michael who absolutely adored him. Lucas was the son of one of Michael's childhood friends, and Alisa had known him and his family since she knew Michael. Things had... 'changed' between her and Lucas this summer, and it was still at that awkward but heady stage of first love. Well, Alisa thought it might have been love. She hardly had anything else to go by. She guessed she was a late bloomer – at seventeen, no one else had really gotten her attention. Probably more importantly, she hadn't gotten any one else's attention either. Perhaps it would have been different if more boys had asked her out... but boys didn't. She didn't know why that was, but it didn't bother her too much either.

Something moved in the trees to the group's right and they all froze, nervous. It wasn't a deer; Alisa knew it in her heart even as Michael lifted the shot-gun and readied it. A shiver ran up her back and that weird feeling of being watched that she had had this entire trip washed over her making the hair stand up on the back of her neck. Something just hadn't seemed right from the beginning. It had been different, in other ways besides the addition of Lucas to the family group. Usually on visits there was a strange calming feeling throughout the woods, a soft energy to the place that would calm and rejuvenate. This visit however there had been restless nights, a few arguments between the four of them, and a lack of fish in the rivers for fishing. On top of that there was a feeling of things not being quite right... and repeatedly Alisa had felt almost like they were being watched. She wondered if it was because of Lucas coming along; she wondered if it had thrown out the dynamic.

That couldn't have been it though. Her family loved him. But everyone agreed, this trip didn't have the good feeling it usually had.

Even so, she had still enjoyed the trip out here, and had still had fun. She always had since she was a little girl and her mother and Michael had taken her on camping trips every summer. She loved the outdoors, and she loved this forest retreat that no one seemed to know about. The Madison's, who owned a large patch of this forestland, were good friends of the family, and had let them come here for the past ten years – pretty much when her mum and Michael had started seeing each other. She had loved these getaways into the wilderness, and never wanted to come home again.

They wandered further into the woods, as quietly as possible, Lucas taking her hand in his and smiling shyly. She blushed in response, and looked away. It still felt strange to be close to him in a way different from friends. If he had taken her hand a year ago, she wouldn't have cared... but it was the feeling behind the gesture now that made it nerve-wracking for her. She had only come out on this hunting excursion because he wanted to go. She deplored hunting, and could barely eat meat let alone hack seeing a defenceless animal being shot. She couldn't believe she was coming along, all for a boy. It seemed crazy even to her - no matter how good a friend-turned-boyfriend he was.

They had wandered for about an hour, Michael always keeping track of where they were, and noting the suns position in the sky. He knew these woods like the back of his hand – but he wasn't foolish and he always carried supplies, a satellite phone and even a compass.

He gestured deeper into the forest and began to head westward. It was strange, as Alisa also felt herself being pulled in that direction Michael was leading them anyway. It was as if something was calling to her... as it was obviously calling to Michael, as they soon found a little path obviously ground down by wild deer. It was to thin a track to be human-made. They followed it for a little while, and then came across a strange opening in some greying stones that pointed heavenward proudly. Alisa had felt a strange shiver as she walked through them, but no one else seemed affected by the sight of the strange rocks.

'They look staged.... like people have put them there. Did people ever live here? I mean, years ago?'

'Ssssh...' Michael bit over his shoulder.

Lucas smiled and whispered 'it's just a rock formation, Ally. No one has lived out here.'

'How do you know? It looked...'

'Quiet!' Michael interrupted the two and he was down on one knee, lining up a shot.

That was when Alisa saw the deer.

It strangely did not see them; it seemed completely at ease in this part of the woods.

Michael lined up a good shot. Alisa tried to beg with him not to take it, under her breath, as quietly as she could. He ignored her.

She covered her eyes and bit back a whimper, knowing he was going to take the shot.

He fired.

The deer went down in a heap.

Then, chaos ensued.