Valerie felt like her eyes had been glued shut. Opening them was more of an effort than she'd ever thought possible, even worse than the last St. Patrick's Day hangover she'd had. When she was finally able to see again, the familiar sight of her star bedecked ceiling sat above her, the glow-in-the-dark stickers pale yellow in the sunlight. She frowned as she slowly fought her way into a sitting position, her purple comforter falling back. She could tell it was hers because it still had the burn mark where she'd dropped a candle during the blackout two years earlier. The unusual heaviness of her body deepened her frown, as she mulled over the last things she remembered.

A moment later she threw her head back and screeched "Darren", her anger burning out the last traces of the drug. Running footsteps and a door slamming followed her yell. She turned to face her door, hands balled into fists, eyes ablaze, and chest heaving as she panted with rage.

When Isaac opened the door and poked his head in, he raised one eyebrow at her glaring, furious state. "Good morning. Or rather," he said glancing down at his wrist. "Good afternoon as it is nearly three p.m."

"Where is he?" She hissed.

"He? Oh, Darren. Well he's still in Armith waiting for the alliance's army to arrive. Or he was when I last saw him," he replied, pushing the door in so he could lean against its frame.

"You helped him drug me," she whispered, her soft voice causing the hairs on Isaac's arms to stand up. There was something far more terrifying about her being quietly angry he decided.

"Now, now Val, who's side do you think I'm on?" When her expression didn't change he sighed. "We both know he was going to keep trying to find some way to ship you off. If I'd gone against him he'd probably have found some way to drug me as well and then where would we be? At least this way you have help. Of course, given how things have gone, I'm pretty sure he suspected me of being prepared to help you get back."

"How things have gone? What things?" She said as she padded over so she could stare straight into his eyes.

He winced and dropped his eyes. "I know you're angry Val, and you have every right to be of course, but I ask that you please don't take that anger out on me."

Her eyes narrowed further. "What happened?"

"Well you see, you've been out for a while. A long while. If I didn't know Darren wouldn't do anything to hurt you, not knowingly at least, I'd have been worried."

"How long is a long while?"

He sighed and met her eyes again. "A week."

"A week? A week? I've been asleep for a week!"

Isaac ran one hand through his hair as he watched her eyes heat up further. The slight tremor to her arms let him know if he didn't break her out of her anger soon, he'd have to go find a bucket again. "Look Val, calm down. You don't really think I'd have gone along with it if I didn't have a plan for getting us back, do you?"

She froze, her mouth still open slightly to hiss a reply. She wrapped her arms around herself and nodded, her eyes dimming slightly.

He smiled and patted her on the head. "There's my girl. Now, what you have to understand is the only two people stupid enough to think that drugging you and sending us both back was a good idea were Darren and Erramun. Everyone else thought it was a ridiculous idea but no one was willing to get in Darren's way. So when I made a brief stop-over at Satinka's, she was ready to help."

Valerie's eyes widened. "Satinka? The godmother? She helped you?"

Isaac chuckled. "You know she's not that bad when you get her off her dignity. The only reason you two don't get along is because you're both stubborn and proud. But your chronic inability to admit you're wrong is not what's important here. It's these," he said, pulling up the chain he wore around his neck.

She stared at the two gold rings, reflecting sunlight back at her as she watched them swing gently on the necklace. "She gave you travel rings?"

"Oh she did more than that. You see, she knows Darren quite well and how he's likely to react if you were just to appear in the middle of the palace hall. Heck, I wouldn't put it past him to have that placed watched. So Satinka stretched the magic of these two. They should take us into the city. Where we'll end up…well that she wasn't too clear on but at least it won't be the palace."


Isaac smiled. "We go back. Whenever you're ready. I've been using the time you've been asleep to pick some stuff up that I think we'll need. I've got us each one of those huge backpackers' backpacks, lightweight sleeping bags, trail food, canteens, some strong, warm clothes, the works."

She nodded as she half-listened to Isaac's continued list of things he's prepared. She felt the black fog of her fear and worry rising up to try and swallow her. She again thought about what Darren had done to her and what she was going to do to him when she got a hold of him. Her anger warmed her back up, blasting the fog back down to the deepest part of her. She couldn't afford the distraction or the hesitation. She was going back and she would ensure Darren never, ever pulled something like this again.

Note: Since I'm doing this story for NaNoWriMo, updates are probably going to be a bit more all over the place. And by that I mean some days you may get multiple chapters and others none. I apologize in advance