Sorry for the long hiatus. It's good to be back. Enjoy and review.

Chapter 9: Stranger

I pat Miri on the head gently. She mewls at me gently, softly biting at my hand, careful not actually hurt me.

She's trying to ask me a question. I know what she wants to know.

Where are Randy and Maranda? I could practically hear her asking. But I couldn't answer.

I had no idea where they were. And I had a hunch I was going to have a hell of a time figuring out where they'd gone, too.

"Come on," I say softly, holding my arm out to her. She leapt up to sit on my arm, her tail curling around my wrist so she doesn't lose her balance and fall. Though she's barely two days old, she already weighs nearly twenty pounds— and she was growing nearly half a foot a day. "Let's go find Ceriz and see what he's up to."

Truthfully, I was at a loss. At a loss for what to do, what to think about. Hell, I could hardly even decide whether not it was safe to talk through a mind link anymore.

For the first time in a while, I've been truly scared to do anything beyond breath. I hadn't been scared when I met Ceriz for the first time, though he could have easily been trying to kill me. The last time I had been this rattled by anything was when Ceriz's father had tried to kill me. But that had already been almost…what four months ago? It felt like an eternity compared to all these memories that piled up after that.

And now two big contributors to those memories were missing. And I didn't know what to do.

I don't know what to do.

Ceriz lay under a tree, his head tucked against his chest, long black hair- that very much needed to be cut- hiding his eyes. I didn't need to see them to know he was asleep. He had his sword unsheathed beside him, in case of emergency, but he was completely relaxed, his breathing deep and even.

Without any warning, Miri yipped and jumped down off my arm and onto Ceriz, landing on his stomach. He sat up with a gasp, his hand darting out to his sword—only to stop when the dragon that was licking him became his first concern.

"Don't let her jump me like that!" He mutters, annoyed. He swiftly disentangled himself from the small dragon and sets her to the side. When she makes a move to jump on him again, he says sternly, "No. Don't do it."

Miri lets her head and tail droop, her sorrowful green eyes staring right at Ceriz.

The adorable look would've brought me down and made me unable to say another word in such a stern voice, but obviously, Ceriz was not affected by said adorableness.

Maybe he'd created some sort of immunity to it? I had to wonder what he'd do if I gave him that look. I smile a tiny smile and remember to store it in my mind for later use.

"So what do you want?" He asks, as Miri drags her feet and she pads behind me, just peeking out from behind my leg. I take a seat next to him, and Miri makes sure to stay a good distance away from Ceriz, seeming wary.

"I'm just lonely I guess." I say simply, knowing it really is all to true. Becca had grown very distant since Randy had been taken. I hadn't seen her for two days. She hadn't been at all happy since he was gone—which wasn't a surprise. They were best friends after all.

Are best friends. It's sad I have to remind myself. Randy is not dead. Nor will he be anytime soon. He is way too much of a pain in the ass to have let himself die without pranking Ceriz one more time.

"You know," Ceriz says with a bitter smile, "That kid sure was annoying when he flirted with you…but now that he's gone….I kinda miss him."

I snort. "Did I just hear you admit you miss him?"

"Yes. I'm not just saying that. As much as he tried to charm you, I'm surprised you didn't leave me for him."

I shake my head furiously. "I wouldn't do that to ether of you. That's just…not right. Besides, I think he fell for Maranda anyways."

He groans. "Great. Now we've got another guy falling for Maranda."

I raise an eyebrow and let a laugh—Maranda never seemed to be the dating type. She was more of the….I-may-look-pretty-but-I-can-actually-kick-your-ass-so-get-away-from-me kind of person.

"Another?"

"Long story." He says, waving me off. "Anyways…you were saying?"

"Oh…" I take a deep breath and avert my eyes, unable to stare directly at him. "We're going to leave. Tonight."

"Where are we going?" He asks, already standing up with his sword in hand. His eyes seem to brighten noticeably at the suggestion.

"First, your mother."

"It'll be good to see her again."

I stand straight, my shoulders broad as we walk back to find Becca and Ali.

"Then," I say, my voice filled with determination. " We'll find our missing friends and kill your father."

He gives a little laugh. I glance back; I'm glad to see he finds something—no matter how cynical- amusing.

"You make it sound so easy, my dear."

"That's because it will be easy, love."

He smirks at the usage of pet names like dear and love. "You are very confident."

"Not confident. Just certain."

*(*)*

Maranda was sure she was dead.

Well, she should be at least. It felt like she was slowly withering away into nothing.

But she wasn't dead.

She wished she were dead but she wasn't. No, and she was slowly but surely coming around to.

When she finally could concentrate long enough to open her eyes, she was confused. It looked no different. Then she realized that the room she wa in was pitch black. Fumbling to her knees and taking a deep lungful of air she trembled, slowly dragging her hands across the floor, in search of something.

Upon the cool touch of a spherical ball, she allowed herself a tiny smile. Speaking a few words under her breath, she coaxed the witchlight ball to glow a soft amber color, bathing the room with it's light.

"Maranda…" She hears a quiet whisper—so weak she thinks she imagines it. But when she casts the light to her left, she sees a dark shape, and realizes that she and Randy hadn't been separated.

"Randy!" She whispers quickly, releasing a pent up breath she hadn't known she'd been holding. "Oh my god…are you okay?" She crawls over to him as fast as her half numb body will allow her to.

Even in the pale orange light she notes how incredibly pale he looks. Several scratches rake across his face, dangerously close to his eyes. He seems unable to focus on her too, like he's not sure where she is.

"I think so," He replies after a minute. He tries to sit up, only to fall back with a gasp, and curl up on his side as pain wracked his battered body.

"What did they do?" She asks, beyond worried. That relief from finding him alive was gone—in it's place now was worry for his well being. He's hurting pretty badly, at least that much she can deduce from his gasping and position as he lay on the floor trying to stop himself from coughing and aggravating the broken bones any more.

"Gave me something…made my mind go numb…but I could still feel…the pain…"

"Let me see." Maranda says, reaching to up his shirt.

He weakly tries to bat her hand away. A line of blood drips down from the corner of his mouth as he attempts a crooked smile. "Haven t…buy me dinner first…"

Maranda growls at him in a frustrated fashion, "Half dead and you still have enough nerve to tell stupid jokes."

"That's me…" He coughs again, and Maranda worries that he might have a punctured lung. "The class clown."

"Please Randy…." She says meekly.

He doesn't answer.

The uncomfortable staring contest ends when a door creaks open and lights pours in, practically blinding them. Her companion shudders, his eyes closing.

A bucket clanks to the ground, the water inside dumping and sloshing out onto the floor in a rush as the bucket tipped over.

"He's dying. The poison we gave him is taking effect about now…" A familiar voice says. The doorway is unobstructed, and Maranda can't see Falacis, but she knows he's there. That snarky tone gives him away.

"So, my dear Maranda. You have a use for me, just as the boy does."

"I'll do nothing for you," She hisses angry.

"Then he'll die."

Maranda didn't reply right away. She's torn. Save Randy and doom the rest of the world…or let him die and just hold out on her own until rescue or her own demise?

"I promise I'll get the information I want from you. It doesn't matter to me whether he dies or not."

She stares at the ground tears falling silently. She was deafeaten. She would save Randy at least. But… "What is it you want?"

"You are the sole survivor who knew the shape shifter who created the basis for all science hundreds of years ago."

Maranda's eyes widened. Was he talking about Rafael? He did he know him? He had died years ago…

"He only had around ten pupil's. One, was my wife. Ex-wife sorry," He amends the statement. "The others died long before he did himself. But you…You were the last one to learn the secrets."

Maranda's snarls. "What secrets?"

Falacis stepped into view, his black silhouette towering over her. "The secret that could very well destroy millions of innocents in one fell swipe. The most scientific magic there is…Alchemy."

The End

*(*)*

Why, no I'm not dead thank you very much.

Hahahaha! Sorry for that oooooooooooooooooooooober long cliff hanger slash intermission slash everyone thought I was dead because I hadn't updated in like threee months- period of time!

If that made sense….

Ummm. Anyways, yeah I m sorry. I got barely any response for the last chapter…and I kinda lost a reason to write this for a whle. I'm sorry :P

Well, will continue this story line, but if other things demand my attention than this'll probably be the last thing on the update list XD

Sorry for anyone even likes this story anymore.

But yeahhhhhhh…..

Remember at the end of chapter 8 ( I know it was a long time ago, sorry) I said the name for the next story would be Skylegend? Scratch that okay? The title for the next story is going to be FROSTDAGGER! It will be the last book for this fight against the evil Falacis. Then, we'll go into the past (sort of like star wars does) and have three stories—one surrounding Claire and the original Maranda as well as Rafael, then the next will be… ummm…blank. Sorry. Then Maranda's story

If I have any readers left out there, I'm sorry for the long absence, and hope you'll forgive me. Review and make sure this hiatus never happens again XD next time I might not find the courage to keep going XD

Love,

gilraenstar