So, I apologize for taking...who knows how long on this thing, but I've had a crazy hectic summer...In the next 72 hours, I work 42 of them. Yeah. 14 hours a day. The saving grace of this is uber overtime!

Um, the next update could be a while in the future, but it is coming...

I own all of these creatures/humans!

Tayla's cloth-covered feet itched. Not with an external itch, but one of escape.

This was so, so bad. She could almost feel the anger bubbling from Halcon. Okay, in a tense situation, try to placate the aggressive one.

Until she looked up and met his brilliant green-blue eyes. Anger filled her, starting in her stomach. It boiled through her, making the world faintly red-tinged. Water crashed in her ears, roaring. This was all his fault, right from the beginning. He was the one to kidnap her, he was the one with hostile ideas against her country. She was not giving in to this evil, evil elf.

She didn't say anything though, just clenched all her muscles, trying to refrain from hitting the elf in the face. He spoke first. "I'll be taking my headband back, Highest Princess."

Melu smiled once, and bowed a little. "I'll be taking my leave for the moment. Highest Princess Tayla, Halcon."

The pale faced girl looked nervously over to the dark elf. Good clashed with evil. Evil won.

Halcon stared at her, eyes slowly wandering over her form, stopping at the bulge in her dress, located where the headband was conviently located. He extended a hand. "If you don't mind, Highest Princess."

She swallowed once, before her defences solidified. "Don't mind what? Coming back here?" She put all her effort into glaring at him. "I mind a lot, you jerk."

Halcon raised his eyebrows, before smirking. His hand was still outstretched, still waiting expectantly. "The headband, please."

A smirk whipped across her face, and then was replaced with blank innocence. "Oh that – was it important? I sort of…um, lost it."

Tanned skin pulled up into a slow smirk, revealing white teeth. "I don't think it is as lost as you seem to think, Princess. In fact, I think I know just where it is…" He directed his green gaze to her stomach.

She flushed instinctively. Her lying skills were definitely not very good if he knew so easily. Then again, it was pretty obvious - her dress had been quite form-fitting, after all. Another grin flashed across his face, almost feral looking.

"So, are you going to give it back?" He paused, slyly looking at her. "Or do I need to…convince you?"

She gulped again, only not completely in fear. At the moment, she felt very exposed. Her only clothing was a ripped shift, and probably looked terrible.

Tugging the shift down, it highlighted the pointier spikes of the headband. Halcon's blue-tinted gaze narrowed in on it.

Her whole face narrowed in anger, hoping the elf would combust. No luck. How dare he threaten to touch her! "Look, Elf, I'll go into the forest and retrieve your headband. I know where it is, only you can't come with me, or I will castrate you." Her voice was low and almost growly in the last sentence.

He nodded once, amusement shining out of his silver-flecked eyes. Canting his head, he replied. "Of course, Highest Princess."

She huffed once – stupid elf always had to have the last word. Stalking off, she clenched her fist, and muttered under her breath, about the stupid elf. At least that dragon wasn't around – him she really couldn't stand.

Once she was into the woods, she peered around, and pulled the flowing coronet out of her shift. It really was beautiful, she noted. The flowing silver lines of the headband gleamed in the dim light. She idly ran her fingers over the farthest right hand gem.

A tiny spark zapped her fingers. She nearly dropped it when a cool, slightly irritated voice spoke in her mind. What is now, Halcon?

She gasped, and shrieked. "Ah! Who are you, and why are you in the headband?"

The voice, in a slightly more irritated tone replied, Where is Halcon, and what have you done with him?

A flush rose in her cheeks in anger. "I stole this headband off him after I hit him in the head with a tree branch! Now, who are you!"

Amusement laced the voice. A mere human hit him in the head, and stole his coronet. I will never let him hear the end of this. The amusement disappeared, leaving only coldness behind. Who are you?

She frowned – the voice was talking in a familiar way. Almost like Arja's voice, Frosty, had. She threw a wild guess out mentally. "Iauron?"

There was a frozen pause, and then the voice returned, colder than ever. If you do not wish to die, tell me who you are immediately.

Tayla rolled amber eyes. "Look, Frosty, I'm really not in the mood – by the way, how can you hear me?"

Who are you? She had a feeling that was the only thing that she was going to get out of the cold elf. Taking her fingers off the coronet, the icy, windy pressure on her mind ceased.

Toting the headband back to the elves, she tossed it idly to Halcon. "You might want to placate the ticked off elf in the corner gem – how'd you get him in there anyways?"

His cerulean eyes flickered briefly, before he put the headband on again. He didn't touch the gem. She frowned once, a very unladylike display of emotion. Curiosity was driving her to inquire about the elf – she needed to get as much information about elves as possible before she got home.

He breathed in deeply, and looked over at her, a feral look portrayed on his narrow face. She gulped again, deciding to speak to break the tension between them. "So, where are the six other elves with you? Did they all bring their Imperial Dragons with them?"

Green eyes inspected the dirt beneath them, and then flashed up to look into her eyes. She felt funny, with acceptance coursing through her. Shock hit her system. She was accepting? The tree-hugger?

Shaking her head, tangled red-gold curls hit her dirty face. No, no, no, no, no! She would not accept his kidnapping her, and Melu catching her again. Acceptance should be the last thing on her mind.

Hot, fiery anger filled her, making her catch her breath.

Halcon smiled into her raging amber eyes. "To tell you the truth, the others left after Irujeha caught you."

That could be true, but she didn't feel like it was, her guts told her he weren't telling the truth.

She narrowed her eyes – that didn't feel right. "You're lying."

The elf's left eyes twitched, only minutely. She wouldn't have seen it if she hadn't been inspecting his face closely. She closed her eyes, and said it again, even more certain. "You're lying. There weren't seven of you – I don't know how you did it, maybe an illusion, but there weren't that many of you. People would notice seven huge dragons flying overhead, even if they were really, really high."

He smirked. "You're getting better at it." Warm pride glowed in his eyes, and she felt good.

Gah! She was doing it again, letting what he thought influence how she felt – it wasn't healthy, and it definitely wouldn't help her get back to Sliya.

He spoke again. "Well then, Highest Princess, how many of us would you say there were?"

Her eyes narrowed at the dumb title again. Anger fueled her guess. "Three," she said it confidently. "Three birds flying don't look suspicious – any more would. Elves are, reportedly, powerful enough to decimate human forces, so you wouldn't need a lot of power, and I'm guessing there isn't a lot of you to spare."

One corner of his mouth lifted into a sly half-smile. "I think you give us too much credit Highest Princess."

She smirked back. "On the contrary, I feel quite confident that I guessed right. May I meet them?"

He inclined his head. "You'll only be able to meet two, the other four left days ago for Zardia."

Her smirk widened. She had been right, unless the elves really did have a meeting with the Zardians, which would make no sense. Zardians hated elves with a raging, fiery passion. Arja was unusual in the idea that she didn't hold malice towards elves.

Also, the route that Halcon and his cohorts travelled was one of the longer ways to reach Zardia – they could have just travelled across the bay dividing Zardia and Faeladalin.

"Of course," she said smoothly, smugness evident in her tone and face.

"You've met Melu, of course. You'll meet the others soon enough."

She flinched as a massive bellow resounded through the woods. "Is it Irujeha, or one of the others?"

He smiled, light sparkling in his eyes. The noon light flashed overhead in the trees as she stared up. The teal behemoth crashed downwards, flaring giant wings down. She stared in awe as muscles contracted, bunching and displaying insane power.

Her muscles clenched as the giant turquoise head lowered to sniff her. The hot breath washed over her, pushing the tangles that had escaped the rough bun back. Apparently she didn't smell good, because a huff of stinky air blew over her face.

She frowned, and glanced over at Halcon. Dumb dragon, she thought, as loud as possible at him.

Halcon smiled over at her, and held out his hand, fingers up. "Shall we?"

The frown deepened. "I want to meet the other two."

"And you will, if you come with me." His voice was low, laced with a challenge.

She straightened her back, and lifted her chin, displaying the necklace she always wore. Stepping forwards, she gripped his warm hand, and defiantly stared into his eyes.

"Lead on." Tree hugger, she mentally added.

He smirked, and she knew he had read the thought. That was good – she had meant him to hear that one.

Tugging her close, he jumped upwards. The sensation seized at her stomach, and she swallowed once. He landed easily, somehow tossing her up a bit, so he was carrying her bridal style. She squeaked, noting that his leather armband was the only thing in between her legs and his bare arm.

He grinned down at her, feral face warm. The two teal streaks in his hair had appeared, as had the gleaming eyes. Water dripped from his hair, and ran down his face, gliding over the five turquoise gems. There was something hidden in his gleaming, marvelous eyes.

Her stomach lurched again – must be due to the jump, she decided. She remembered what Melu had told her. Shrieking, she pushed away from him as hard and fast as she could. With her hand on the dragon's head, she crouched in a battle-ready stance.

"How old are you?" she spat out. "At least two hundred, right? You have two streaks in your hair, so that means you are over two hundred."

Surprise flickered in her, but only his eyes showed his shock. Almost immediately, he sighed, and ran a hand through his hair. "Melu."

She nodded once, sharply, and narrowed her eyes. "How old are you?" She was so embarrassed that she had acted so undignified and kissed him – now she learns that he is an old geezer? That made it so much worse!

He smiled, and she just knew that he was sifting through her thoughts. Humor played through his voice. "I'm just a baby still – only 242 years old."

She gulped. "You are so...old!" It was the only thing that was processing, both mentally and vocally.

A laugh escaped his throat, deep and rough. She liked it, and then froze. Still chuckling, he spoke. "To elves, you wouldn't even be a baby – you are so young."

Her eyes narrowed. "Then why'd you kiss me?" It came out as a nearly strangled screech.

A snicker escaped the infuriating elf. "Au contraire Highest Princess, if you remember, you kissed me first."

She stood, and her fingers clenched. "I did not kiss you first! I touched your headband, and you assaulted me! I think that means you started it! And I was intoxicated!"

He shook his finger. "No, you touched the headband, and fell into my arms. That means you started it."

She stuttered out something incomprehensible, and then huffed. Turning around, she sat down, crossing her arms and sitting cross-legged. Ignoring the dumb, delusional elf behind her, she waited for Irujeha to start flapping and take them somewhere.

Another snicker came from behind her, and she felt his warm presence right behind her. Water dripped on to her cheek, sliding down. She brushed it off angrily. "Geez, you sweat like a pig when you touch Irujeha."

Irujeha lurched, and started shaking his head. She squeaked, and threw her hands out, smacking the surefooted elf in the chest. He didn't even twitch, merely sat down behind her and made sure she didn't fall off. Clutching to the smooth, warm scales beneath her didn't seem to be doing much good.

As they flew, she noticed that he got progressively closer, but he didn't seem to notice that he was moving. She scooted farther away from him, until she was against a spike. The elf merely moved until he was right behind her, touching her back lightly. Finally Irujeha lurched to a clearing, and settled down, wings rustling as the dragon tucked them into his teal sides. Halcon lightly wrapped his arms about her waist and jumped them down, landing lightly in the grass.

She moved away, and straightened her clothing, as best she could. Affecting an unflustered, albeit annoyed look was easy when she was with humans, who weren't superbly skilled at reading facial expressions.

There wasn't the slightest whisper before two people appeared before her, padding out of the woods on silent feet. One was Melu, tanned and navy blue-haired. His long hair fell smoothly over one shoulder, and silver eyes gleamed at her. The scar she had inflicted on his right cheek was still there.

He was wearing the same attire as Halcon, minus the sword. Melu only had the bow. That gave her a smirk of satisfaction – knowing she personally sliced an elf.

Her amber eyes flashed to the other elf. He had long burgundy hair, and pale, washed out blue eyes. Pale skin was accented by dark leather clothing. He carried no weapons she could see.

Melu smiled, teeth flashing. "Nice to see you again, Highest Princess."

Her teeth ground together. "I see you still have that scar, Melu."

The smile Melu was sporting grew. "I quite like it – I think it adds character." He ran slender fingers across the scar.

To the other elf, she nodded her head once. It wasn't like she wanted to – he just inspired respect, regardless of how small he was. His fingers curved upwards, and beckoned to her.

She walked forwards, unsure of why she doing so. Her hand lifted, and settled into his.

His face lifted, and he breathed out slowly. "Highest Princess Tayla, you have my congratulations." He stepped backwards, and released her hand.

Confused, she stepped back, and smiled unsurely. "Congratulations?"

He nodded minutely, not saying anything. Blue eyes stared unseeingly forwards.

Halcon stepped forwards, and paused beside the burgundy-haired elf. "This is Lowedi, and you already know Melu."

Without meaning to, she descended into a curtsy in front of Lowedi. She couldn't help herself – his whole aura demanded respect.

"I am honored to meet you, Master Lowedi."

His head inclined, blue eyes closing. "I am honored to meet you as well, future Dragon Queen."

She blinked, and turned to Halcon. "Dragon Queen?"

He smiled at her. "That would be the Dragon King's Intended."

Amber eyes narrowed. "What is an Intended, and who is the Dragon King?" Her voice rose in volume.

A sly smile curled across his face. "An Intended is an elf's soul mate, our partner. They are the other half of who we are."

Tangled curls bounced as she nodded. "And the Dragon King?"

Halcon looked over her head, and spoke. "The Dragon King is a ruler whose power rivals, or equals, the Emperor's. They are the strongest elves in Faeladalin, and rule together."

She was impressed, despite herself. "So, who is this Dragon King?"

That sly smile was back as he looked down into her eyes. A sinking feeling rose in her chest. "I am."