Part the First

The sun shone through the trees, giving the ground a greenish tint. The air was cool, crisp, it held no moisture. The day was warm, it was spring or early summer. The wind whistled through the trees. The paths of the forest were surrounded by the beauty of nature. Flowers sprouted from the ground, in huge bushes that you could not see through. Birds were chirping from the branches, creating nests. The squirrels were scurrying around, collecting nuts for their collections. Deeper in the forest were the deer, and sometimes foxes. Deeper still, animals that retreat from human eyes easily. Even farther off, almost invisible in obscurity, are the faeries and elves, for these are creatures who haven't had contact with humans for centuries.

The numbers of elves and faeries in the forest have dwindled since the days that they walked abroad amongst the humans. They have slowly died from lack of belief. Because after all, if you are not believed in, what is the point of existance? Occasionally there would be a village where the existance of such things was plainly believed in. And for those villages, the remaining faeries would be always flitting about, the few living elves would sit in the surrounding trees and play their beautiful musical intstruments all day.

Imagine you are walking in just such a forest on just such a day. The wind blowing through your hair, refreshing you and bringing with it the sweet smell of flowers.

As you near the village, people would begin to appear. At first it is the adults, sapping the trees and collecting berries. They nod to you and you nod to them, then each goes his seperate way. Then you find the adolescents, who always think they have cleverly hidden in the underbrush, even though they are easy to spot, talking so quietly, even when they think no one can hear. You pretend that you do not see them, and they do you no mischeif. Closer still to the village are the children, climbing trees, and running on and around the path. Trying to catch the poor faeries and elves, which are creatures who do not enjoy human company and have not had contact with humans for centuries. But they appease the children, for it is such a relief just to be believed in again, for once. The children swarm to you, and you give them little tokens, a penny or a peice of chocolate. They run their little merry way, and you approach the village. As you enter the village, you think that nothing out of the ordinary would happen.

But if you had done this on that one day, not on any other day just like it, on that one fatal day you would have been wrong.

You would have seen two figures standing, on the edge of the village. One of them was Ataenia, a village girl, and the other a stranger to this forest. You would have sensed the rivalry between them. On that day, the tension thickened the air and made it hard to breathe. You might have seen little Kedmael, scarcely 6, lying with his leg broken between them. But chances are, you wouldn't. Most people's attention was grabbed by the two people standing about him, the young woman, and the young man, glaring at each other, staring eachother down.

~ ~ ~

Ataenia stood, icy calm and silent in preparation. This spell was not one to be trifled with, but it was her only choice. She hadn't wanted to do this, but he was almost as good as she was, and so it was necessary. Not that she was sure this would work. It had only been successfully cast twice in history. The rest of the people who had tried lay, in death-like comas, trapped in a dream world with no chance of escape. She gulped.

I was forced into it. He made the first move, attacking my little brother like that. She reminded herself, as an undivided conscience was helpful in such matters. The sight of Kedmael lying between her opponent and herself, leg broken (It would have been worse had she not gotten there) steadied her thoughts even more. Determination flowed through her veins. This was right. She had to do this. Only a few more seconds were needed. The wind rustled the trees behind her. People were noticing that something was happening, she could see them behind her opponent, and hear them behind her. That was just what she needed, an audience to show how she could protect her family.

"Are you going to do anything, little girl, or will you just stand there?" Taunts. Anything to break her concentration. The people were whispering. Whispering about how she was doomed, he was at least 10 years older than her, maybe more. He did look older than she did, but she looked younger than she was. She had kept to herself all her days here, they knew she was from their village but little else, and when she had examined her opponent, she found he was probably no older than twenty, and she was 18, so they were, for all intents and purposes, the same age. She was an adult now. She would show them. He laughed. Softly but she could tell. There was something behind those threats, as she realized just in time to understand what he was doing, but not fast enough to prevent it. She cursed herself, and tried to brace herself for the oncoming attack.

"Kedmael, get away from here!" she yelled. If she really was doomed, it was the least that she could do to save her brother. Hopefully someone would help him. And they did, villagers came and helped him away, to the hospital where they would treat his leg. And a larger crowd gathered. Her opponent seemed oblivious to all these things, concentrating fully on controlling the spell he had stolen from her. She took time to relax, and take in the scenery for perhaps the last time. Then she turned back to her fight, ready to take the results, whatever they might be.

He's stronger than I thought, she told herself. How could she have been so foolish? Of course, random stranger walking in and picking on small children has to be a stronger fighter than anyone in the town. Because she had fought those people's sons. She had beaten the audience members' sons. The brave, wonderful, daring boys who would now fight and fail to defeat this newcomer. She had been the best that village had to offer, and all the children knew it. The best at everything, and somehow, she had lost control of her spell. Defeat was bitter, a bitter taste in her mouth, a tear coming to her eye. Maybe they were right for thinking her a small child. Maybe she wasn't responsible and adult-like. I never could do this. She felt the energy; the air was full of it. In that same moment, she knew that she had no foresight as to its actions. She had lost. Ataenia fell to the ground, her own spell used against her. The intruder looked for his original prey, oblivious to the fact that Kedmael was long gone. Not seeing the boy, he gave up on that pursuit and turned to the crowd now gathered for him.

Author's Note: Well, chapter one is revised and back up again, better than ever (I hope) Only slightly different, but I think it flows better this time. So, read and review, please! Thanks to the following: Anon, Em, and the Starsheild Writers' group. You all reviewed, and I'm very happy that you did. Over and out! And if you've read but haven't reviewed, then hop-to! Make my day! Review! By the way, I'm planning to revise all of the chapters, but the plot will (of course) remain the same. So that's what's going to happen with the re-posts. It's nothing new, really, just a little revision and making nicer for new readers and reviewers.