Chapter 0 – Prologue

He'd done his part. He'd found her, raised her, and hidden her away until the time came. What more could they ask of him? He'd done all he was told. It wasn't his fault all the trouble had been for nothing. It wasn't his fault that she turned out to be completely useless to them. They'd never told him to make sure she could do what they needed. They'd never told him to do more than protect her and keep her out of the sight of the Seelie.

But no matter what he had or hadn't been told, he knew they would not see it that same as he did. When they found out she was no better than human, they would have her killed. He, of course, wouldn't be harmed. He was much too important for such punishment. He would be chastised, but hardly more. He too, would most likely have to be present for her execution. And a very large part of him would not be able to handle it, he knew. Just the idea left him tense, jaw tight and fist balled desiring desperately for something to take all his frustration out on. He'd made one of the biggest mistakes he could have.

There were times when he wanted to tear out his ever-beating heart just to be rid of the horrible feeling. Out of all his years he ought to have learned that affection, caring, and love was the greatest ruin of any person.

His heart clenched just at the sight of her. Her once beautiful, long dark hair was now greasy, flat against her head and dirty with leaves and brush. Her face and arms were scratched and bruised. All of her looked so much more fragile to him. And why? Because she had chosen to put all her faith in him. And even now, in the middle of the black night, yet another by the dwindling fire, she slept with the comfort that he would be there in the morning, ready to move on to safety.

There was no safety. Not for her. Not anymore. But she trusted him so wholeheartedly that it tore him apart until he had no choice but to try. He knew it was a futile attempt. The earth had already begun to take back what had once belonged to it. They didn't have much time left. When the courts once again took their power back from Man, they would find them all too easily.

He raised his head to look at all the tall trees that hid them. He could remember back to a time when they once sung to him; when he would run free as a child, dancing with their songs. How he longed for such freedom again. But now there was Amabel, sleeping soundly, the most peaceful expression on her face as her dreams led her somewhere far, far from this dismal place.

Damn his heart. Damn it to the far corners of the earth where it could rot and die in pain and misery. Because as much as he yearned for the return of his once proud, free life, he knew now that he would give it all away to keep her safe.