it's been a while, eh? well, i hope you don't all hate me for the really long wait! I'm sorry, real life has been very hectic! anywho, enjoy the chapter!

R&R on your way out if you would, please!


"I'd ask what you're doing here, but I get the feeling I know the answer." Sam says simply, scrubbing at Malachi's hair wildly with a towel to dry it. Once we had returned to Sam's lavish rooms, she had demanded we both clean off all the grim and grossness that crawling through the gutters had entitled us to.

"I can dry my own hair, thank you very much, and yeah, the reason is pretty easy to figure out." Mal gives Selene a pointed look and she cowers behind me, afraid to face her oldest sibling.

"I wanted to find Sam," She says, her voice wavering. "And I found her…"

"That doesn't matter Selene! You could've gotten killed running around here by yourself!" Mal hisses angrily, standing up and pacing back and forth. His uncombed hair stuck up in all silly directions, but it didn't detract from how serious he was.

Selene backs away and her lips tremble, tears gathering in her wide eyes.

Sam and I eye both look at Mal with blank expressions.

"I haven't seen you in ages, and here you are, still being an ass to our little sister." Sam says with an exasperated sigh. "I guess as the oldest it's your job to be the total ass, but you—."

"Well, excuse me for wanting to protect my little sister!"

"That doesn't mean you have to make her cry!" Sam yells back. "You're such a jerk, Malachi!"

"So what if I am? It wasn't my decision to be orphaned with no way of knowing when I might be next on the hit list. I made sure she was safe, no matter what, and I'm not going to lose my little sister, even if I manage to get killed. If being a jerk means she's safe, then I'll be the biggest jerk in the world!" Mal throws his hands up in exasperation, and Sam tugs at her hair, both glaring daggers at each other.

"Gahh! You are so infuriating!"

"But…mommy and daddy…I thought…" Selene sniffs.

Mal and Sam both freeze, and I stare down at Selene, realizing exactly what had just happened.

Selene hadn't known their parents were killed. But Mal's convenient word choice of orphan had allowed her to connect the dots. The reason why they hadn't come home, or written a letter, why Mal had avoided the subject. All because they were dead, and she hadn't been informed.

"Selene…" Mal says softly, taking a step toward us.

Her hands clench tightly in the fabric of my pants and I can feel her shudder as tears start streaming down her cheeks. "No! You always lie to me, brother! You never tell me anything, and you're always so sad, and…and…" Selene stomps a foot down and shouts tearfully, "I wish mommy never would've given you that stupid key! Everything has gone wrong since she gave it to you!"

Selene turns tail and pushes open the huge chamber doors, running out of sight before any of us have a chance to grab her. We all freeze for a long moment, as if no one knows what to do next.

"Go get her!" Sam hisses, pointing at the door Selene had just run through. "And don't you dare come back without her!"

Mal gives her a pained expression and mutters an apology before running out after their little sister.

And that leaves me and Sam alone.

"So… who are you exactly? No offense." She apologizes quickly.

"Well…" I frown, not exactly sure to how explain my meeting of Malachi. "First of all, I'm Fae. Faelia Cross."

Sam shakes the hand I offer out to her and she smiles. "You probably read fairy tales as a child, right? Remember 'The Three Inkmasters?' No doubt you've heard it before."

I bite my lip, thinking back all those years. "Wasn't it about the three friends that sealed away all the evil magic and saved the world? I haven't read that in ages." I admit.

"Yes. The three friends that understood the dangers of Free Form magic, and sealed it away for good. They had three special keys to do it."

A wry smile twists my expression. "Sounds familiar—a magic key…"

"Mal has the only magic key we know for a fact exists. It's a bedtime fairy tale, but we have no reason why it might not be true."

My frown deepens. It was just a harmless picture book, one I'm sure was read to most children at bed time to get them to calm down and sleep but... Who would think it was actually real?

"It doesn't really matter right now," Sam says simply, plucking at her harp gently. "For now, we just have to hope that Mal can get Selene back safely."

"He's seems… like he isn't what he says he is." I say, meaning Malachi. I frown.

"He isn't" Sam replies. "He's had to deal with a lot more than he should…he's a lot different then when I left." She smiles sadly at me, playing with the hem of her dress. "He used to trust so easily. When he was a kid, he never thought there were bad people in the world.

"What happened?" I ask.

"Mal started having a lot of nightmares. Never could get rid of them—mum cast a charm, to keep him safe during his dreams, because they weren't normal dreams."

Chasing his youngest sister was by no means unexpected; after all, she had just learned of the death of their parents.

But this is not the best place to chase after a distraught little girl.

He has to be careful as he runs through the long winding halls. Guards seem to stand in front of every door and entry way.

Mal can see her running ahead, and she stumbles down another hallway.

He skids to a halt when he sees Selene back up slowly, once again in view. Her hands her shaking at her sides, curled into tiny fists, and tears still stream down her face. But now she doesn't seem to be crying because she's angry.

She looks terrified.

Malachi gets the feeling that the sword tip resting on the hollow of her throat has something to do with that.

"Insolent girl." The man sneers at her.

Selene glances to where Malachi stands but he motions for her not to say anything. She whimpers, but does as he wants.

"You thought you could sneak in here, and take what you wished?" The guard says acidly as Mal silences his steps and walks closer and closer to his youngest sister.

Selene mutters something, her voice tiny and scared.

The man chuckles, pressing the blade closer; Selene is forced to take a few steps back, the grisly and overly tall man now within view. He's focused on Selene, and thankfully doesn't notice Mal, who continues to creep forward.

Her eyes flit back to her brother, wild with fear, and she practically pleads for him to make a move.

And he does.

"Find Fae!" Mal shouts, slamming his into the man without a thought.

Selene nods fiercely, forgetting her anger for the moment and runs back the way she had come, slipping through the hands of yet another guard along the way. He chased after her, leaving Malachi and Selene's first attacker alone.

"Oh, I know now!" The man says, grinning wickedly. His teeth looked to be rotting in his head and Mal tried not to notice the rancid smell that went with it.

Mal lets his hand fall to the pommel of the sword at his side. Things were going to get bad quick, he just knew it.

"You're the child that managed to anger our King!" He hisses at Mal, slicing through the air with his short sword.

Malachi jumps back nimbly, and the tip of the blade barely misses.

His own sword is drawn now, and he knows he has the advantage.

Not only is his sword much longer and light as a feather, but it's also a relic.

Malachi has to admit, the Shadowsong Blade was one of his favorite Relics he had obtained.

The guard swings again lazily—he didn't seem like he wanted to fight.

"You know, I was on that assignment…to kill your parents."

Now Mal understands. He's being toyed with.

"That's lovely." Malachi replies briskly, blocking the next attempt and landing a blow of his own, which is also fruitless. The man smiles even wider and moves swiftly, nearly catching Mal unawares. The edge of the guards blade rests flat against Mal's shoulder and the man has Mal sword arm twisted awkwardly to a position where he can't move.

The two are now locked together, face to face, and the closeness brings back the familiar feeling of being slammed into a tiny space. It makes Malachi feel dizzy.

"She screamed." The guard whispers. "She had the voice of an angel, and she screamed like a dying cat."

Mal tries to tune him out, but the words reverberate inside his mind.

"And I remember you… how wide your eyes were as she bled out on the floor in front of you…"

"No!" Mal yells, shoving him away with all his might. Without even thinking, he summons forth a burst of magic, using a spell he hadn't let himself even think about.

It was the same spell they had used to kill his parents.

The guard falls back, utterly surprised by the action.

Blood oozes from his mouth, nose and ears, and the newly formed slashes on his chest that created a haunting collection of letters and words.

"Glory to the Empire." Malachi reads out loud.

It was not the lack of emotion that he used that scared the dying guard.

It was not the way he performed magic without spoken word… nor was it the hatred he showed silently.

It was the dark and all knowing look in his eyes.

Those eyes had once been so innocent.

But they were no longer.

The man does not regret following orders. But he does regret not killing the boy when he was still a child. Now he fears that those eyes would be willing to cause far more destruction than a thousand men.

But he'll die before than.

The boy had made certain of it.

Still, the guard cannot help but smile as the last breathe leaves his body.

Things are going to move forward very quickly, and very violently. He regrets knowing he'll miss it.

:) tell me what you think! I'd love to hear from you!