Rules of Engagement

Cadell angrily made his way down the path to the pasture, swatting his short golden ponytail behind his neck. He was sick of his brother mocking him every single time they sparred. It drove him insane. Nineteen years old and still the shortest boy in the family. At least, he was just as talented as the rest of the members when it came to archery, riding, sword fighting, and agility. Maybe even more so.

Yes, he was the better of his six brothers in these aspects. Cadell took pride in being the best at practically everything. Nobody could rival him. Well, nobody except...

Excited whinnies reached his ears; interrupting his thoughts and making him change his dragging pace into a frightened sprint. As soon as he reached the start of the fence at the pasture, it was clear what was driving the horses into a frenzy. In the middle of the field, a large ebony stallion was racing along the other animals, causing them to rear back and snap in agitation. Upon the rude creature's back sat a young man about his age, his short raven black hair whipping in the wind as he leaned against the horse's mane. Cadell was sure that he was probably telling his steed to speed up.

Instead, the rider suddenly turned the horse and charged toward the fence. He stopped inches before it and jerked the animal to a stop, pulling back and waving at the other figure eagerly, dark blue eyes glistening with merriment. "Hello Cadell."

The other's sky blue eyes glared at him and Cadell slammed his hands down on the fence. "Get the hell off my land!"

"Awww, don't be such a nag, Cadell. I'm just giving Grey a little treat. He loves to be around other horses. And wouldn't you know, your horses are some of the nicest around this area. It's a shame they have such a brute for an owner."

"Perhaps, you weren't listening. Cadell of Florestia just demanded that you leave his land."

"True. So Arlen of Fenric shall respond. Make me."

"Dammit, Arlen! You're scaring the horses, especially my precious Lanis," accused Cadell pointing to a lithe dappled gray filly who was rearing on her hind legs and making sharp neighs through her teeth. Her saddle wear was still fastened since Cadell only took it off when she was in the stables just in case he needed her.

Arlen turned his head and chuckled lowly. "Lanis is just trying to show off for Grey." He whistled using his fingers as the horse's feet fell to the ground and she trotted over to the black stallion. Grey pawed at the dirt and nuzzled the other animal's neck, tossing part of his mane to the side to reveal the gray star on his forehead.

"I don't have time for this. My brothers and I have some matters to deal with before the evening is upon us. I need Lanis and I need you to get out of there before one of my brothers show up. Unless you'd rather have me kill you, of course."

"Do what you want," Arlen called back, increasing his mount's speed to a full gallop as the pair dashed around the circle of the pasture several times, causing the rest of the animals to gather into a tight mass in the center.

Cadell continued to holler at him while Arlen dropped Grey's reins upon the saddle horn and spread his arms out to the side. He closed his eyes and let the other scream his lungs out. The noon sun poured its radiance upon him, catching on the jeweled circlet that dangled from a chain around his throat. It was a brilliant topaz stone with a set of golden spikes jutting from its edges and forming a symbol of the same burning sphere that was currently caressing his form.

As it did, Grey reared back and neighed loudly, almost throwing Arlen from his back and forcing the boy to grasp at the reins once more. Arlen locked his legs around the stirrups and brought his steed back to the ground, pulling on the reins to turn Grey's head to the side. He whispered reassuring words into the creature's ear and looked down to see what had startled the horse. Along the ground was a rift, about three yards long and two feet thick, that was emitting a subtle green hue. Before Arlen's eyes, the rift started to become smaller and smaller as the land begin to connect with the other side, sealing the gap.

"Cadell!" Arlen spat, jerking his eyes back to the boy, who was placing a jade relic in the shape of a thorned rose under his crimson tunic while smirking all the while.

"Your steed has a sloppy reaction to...distractions, Arlen. Perhaps, you should work with him on that."

Arlen lead his horse back to Cadell's part of the fence and looked down at his companion with a somber expression on his face. "You know what others think of those with the Gift, Cadell. You should know better than to display your powers so foolishly. Do you want to be persecuted or worse, banished?"

"Nobody saw," grumbled Cadell, averting his eyes from the other boy.

"It doesn't matter. There's so few of us in this world, Cadell. We can't do anything that would endanger the others. Furthermore, what would your family do if they knew that their youngest son had the ability to manipulate elements of the earth? How do you think they would feel about having a hated warlock in the family? Cadell Florestia, member of the deadly Florestia assassins. Nothing more than a demon."

"Be quiet! I know how to keep my secrets. I am a mercenary after all," Cadell snarled before pulling aside the cloth at his neck to flash the jade amulet at his companion, as his eyes burned in fury. "Don't underestimate me, Arlen. Just because I haven't killed you yet doesn't mean I won't. Besides, I swore that I wouldn't kill you until I've proven myself better than you at something. That's the only reason that you're allowed to live, knowing what you know about me and my kin. So I would highly suggest that you...DON'T EVER COMMAND ME AGAIN!"

"That is precisely the reason why you'll never kill me. You can't beat me. Face it, Cadell, I'm the best. You'll always be second-place as long as I'm around."

"There is something that I can surpass you at and the day I find out what that is, you shall join the fate of the rest of my family's prey. You forget, Arlen my friend, I am a hunter."

"So am I."

The boy's deep blue eyes took on an almost bestial quality as a sinister smile lifted his lips, revealing a bit of teeth. Even though Cadell had often prided himself at his courage in standing down his opponents, he had to drop his eyes from that ghastly sneer. Arlen never seemed much of a challenge but whenever he adopted that killer visage, he seemed like an entirely different person. His black hair always seemed suddenly so much wilder and his straight posture seemed so much stiffer. Arlen really did look like a vicious hunter, much more than he or any of his brothers ever had. It was strange to see such an easy-going figure immediately transform into a dangerous adversary.

Maybe it was the way he could produce instantaneous fear just by that cold gaze that gave Arlen his great strength and made him seem so invincible. Yes, he was powerful, one of the most powerful people that Cadell had ever met, regardless of age. His strength came both from his physical ability and his talent with magical elements. The possession of the Gift was something he had yet to uncover anywhere else. For the longest time, Cadell had been arrogant enough to make himself believe that only he harnessed such power. Though he knew better than to use it around people, he had quickly learned how to use it covertly. Then, he had met Arlen Fenric, the one person that had ever challenged his mastery over the Gift as well as his superiority over virtually everything else. It made Arlen a worthy foe for any opponent. Arlen was almost the perfect warrior and Cadell coveted that power with an intense jealousy. He knew he could never be truly proud of himself until he had defeated Arlen. It didn't matter what it was. Anything would do. All that mattered was that he'd win and Arlen would have to suffer the agony of defeat and humiliation.

Wincing slightly at the leer Arlen was giving him, Cadell turned his back on the boy. "You're just bitter because I told you your horse was sloppy. I should have added slow."

Arlen slanted his eyes and backed Grey from the fence, nudging him into another run. "Grey may not be the fastest, but he is quite the jumper. Want to see, Cadell?"

"Not really," the boy said curtly, walking away from the pasture.

There was an ear-shattering neigh as Grey suddenly overtook the fence and came crashing down inches from Cadell. The horse bucked and kicked at the air with his muscular legs. Cadell's face went stark white and he frantically scrambled backward, falling on his back and crawling along the ground. Arlen was laughing over the din of his horse's deafening sound, making it seem like both the boy and horse were mocking the shaking Cadell. Grey stopped after a moment and returned to his usual stance, snorting roughly as Arlen patted his neck.

"Quite impressive, no?" asked Arlen, peering down at Cadell who was desperately trying to get back to his feet with as much dignity as possible.

Without answering, he grabbed a part of the fence and vaulted over it. Arlen watched in wonder as Cadell mounted Lanis and rode her to the back of the pasture in a steady trot. Before the other could discern just what he was doing, Cadell urged his horse in a violent sprint toward the fence. Lanis' hooves beat upon the soft ground as she charged, gathering enough speed to make Grey's jump. Cadell flattened himself against the animal's neck and held his breath as her feet left the dirt. The horse leapt into the air with a fluid grace, curves of muscle tensing underneath her silver coat. She easily cleared the fence and landed just a foot away from the surprised stallion. Lanis looked at the other horse and tossed her head with a tiny whinny. Cadell was happy that his horse was enjoying herself at their rivals' expense.

"Not that impressive," he taunted Arlen, "Too bad that was Lanis' skill and not mine. Otherwise our friendship would be dispensed with this very moment."

"Of course."

"What's wrong? Upset that my horse has more skill than your old beast?"

"That's it. I think I've let you berate me enough for today. I guess it was pointless to think I could talk with you anyway. All you care about is your damned pride and being able to prove your superiority," Arlen growled, leading Grey back onto the main path toward town.

"What did you want to talk to me for?" inquired his companion, bringing his steed to a halt in front of him.

Grey sidestepped him as Arlen shook his head. "Never mind."

Cadell jerked the reins to the left and began to lead Lanis into a dizzying circle around the other horse. The movement made Grey uncomfortable and he stamped his hooves and whinnied impatiently, bobbing his head up and down in exasperation. Arlen tried to steady him even as he tried to determine why Cadell was giving him the vulture treatment. He glared at the boy who was simply staring at him with a mischievous twinkle in his light eyes.

"You can't leave just yet, Arlen. You trespassed on my land and bothered my horses. You owe me some compensation."

"You know I don't have that much gold."

"Well, I suppose I could let it slide...If you beat me in a race. My brothers can stand to wait a little," challenged Cadell, lofting his head so that he appeared especially haughty.

Arlen's eyes widened and he fell upon Grey's neck, laughing hysterically into his crossed arms. Grey, still bothered by the circling Lanis, snorted and shook the boy off his mane. The boy still hissed with laughter. "You've got to be kidding me, Cadell. You know you can't win. Anyway, I'm getting sick of defeating you. You challenge me at least once a week. Aren't you tired of this already?"

"I will win!"

"There was last week and the sword match over the river. You fell in. The week before that was the holding breath under water challenge. You were unconscious. Before that there was the mountain climb. You tore up your leg on the way down the crevice. Let's see. There was also the archery contest. You shot me in the arm and completely missed the target...."

The other shrugged. "It was worth it."

"The foot race. You pulled something. Then, there was the...."

Flushing in embarrassment, Cadell lowered his head and coughed. He remembered everything Arlen was bringing up. Images flashed through his mind, making his head spin and his stomach queasy.

~Shivering and splashing to the shore as Arlen asked if he needed help. ~Watching as everything went dark beneath the crystalline waters as he fought with himself not to break the surface. ~The feeling of hot blood rushing down his calf as Arlen begrudgingly shoved a piece of cloth toward him to use as a tourniquet. ~Arlen cursing at him vehemently as he yanked the arrow-tip from his swelling flesh. ~Holding his injured leg and screaming in pain as he toppled into the mud.

Hoping to chase away his feeling of submission, Cadell shifted the reins into his left hand and rubbed at his forehead and then shook himself. He tried to make the gesture appear very harsh and almost like an irritated action so that Arlen wouldn't pick up on his thoughts of self-doubt. Sensing Cadell's change in attitude, Lanis nickered gently and turned her head to him, lowering it so he could stroke her nose. Cadell smiled at his horse and then delivered a dark sneer to the other figure.

"Are we going to race? Or is your strategy to bore me to death with your prattling?" he questioned, watching how Arlen's eyes narrowed as he gripped the reins of his black steed.

"Do I really have a choice?"

Cadell kicked at Lanis' sides and forced her into a gallop, veering to the left to lead the way into a forest further down the land. "Follow me. Once we reach Brynwood, the first to get to marker at its edge shall be declared champion."

"Is this really necessary?" whined the other, falling into a staggered canter behind him.

"Yes. Today I shall prove to you that I am the better man."\

~*~*~*~*~

Brynwood was an usually dark forest, crowded in by trees that grew out of odd angles in the ground. Not many animals inhabited its quarters for the lack of sunlight and the strange aura that hung about the wood. Cadell had long ago guessed that Brynwood was a sacred place. It was were he had first discovered his magical prowess, testing it out on fallen limbs and gnarled vines. Parting the hardened thorns by the mouth of the forest was the only way one could enter Brynwood, which was another reason why the creatures inside it were so few and only consisted of small rodents and birds with a high flight-stamina.

It was also here that he had first encountered Arlen, who had used his own power to burn away some of the rotted oaks that guarded the edges of the forest. A year ago, Arlen had been seeking a place to use as possible refuge in the near future. Instead, he had found a very perturbed boy with the peculiar ability to shift the earth beneath them. The following fight and Arlen's easy victory had spawned the rivalry that now existed between the two boys.

At the moment, the rivalry was at its worst as the pair raced through the wood, hurdling broken tree limbs and avoiding perilous rock patches. Foam flecked Grey's coat as he took the lead, spraying dirt and pebbles against the other horse. Grey jumped over a clump of three-feet tall bushes, scratching his forelocks on their sharp bristles, and then dashing toward the river. Aghast that he was losing again, Cadell urged his filly into leaping strides so that she was running alongside Grey within moments. Lanis' long strides made up for her lack of bulk strength and she was able to pass the older horse without even a shuddering breath.

The horse flew through the air and splashed into the river, making her way through waves that crested at her chest. Cadell turned back to mock his opponent even as his clothes were drenched in the frigid water from Lanis' jumps, weighing him down upon his steed. But as Lanis tried to climb the embankment, her flailing hooves slipped on the muddy incline and she slid back into the water. Arlen took his chance and pushed his horse past Lanis, having the stallion leave the river in an amazing leap that made him appear to soar above the embankment and onto the dry land it connected to.

Frowning, Cadell steered his horse back up the slope and tried to regain his lead, realizing that he had lost several yards during Lanis' slip-up. Desperate to find a way to narrow the distance between them, Cadell reached for his jade amulet once more and held it in his fingers, awakening the power that rested inside of it. The jeweled rose glowed slightly and released a transparent beam of light into the ground. Cadell directed it at the space of land just two yards from Arlen. Just as Arlen approached the chosen spot, the ground splintered and groaned, forming a medium-sized chasm in the earth. Grey tried to buck but Arlen ground his teeth together and kept him on all fours. He commanded the beast to jump the land fissure and continued on his way.

"You fight dirty, Cadell," he chastised his challenger as the addressee ignored his comment, quickly regaining lost ground due to the time it took for Arlen to deal with his last obstacle.

He was neck and neck with Grey when a searing orange light from the front fazed out his vision, causing him to jerk his horse to the left to avoid the blinding luminance. As quickly as it had appeared, the incredible light faded and Cadell blinked his eyes to check his vision. He saw Arlen waving his topaz relic at him with a huge grin on his face.

Renewing the chase, Cadell rode behind his opponent, wiping his watery eyes with one hand. "What was that you said about using magic?"

"You used it first and as they say, turnabout is fair play," joked Arlen, without looking back.

"My magic doesn't have severe side-effects, such as ruined vision!"

"Then, perhaps someone should race more fairly."

"Are you telling me what to do again?" Cadell bellowed as he produced another split in the ground and took the lead amongst the other's confusion.

Grey overtook this crack as well as Arlen tossed a look backward to see that the gap was disappearing gradually. "Enough's enough, Cadell. Do you want to get caught?"

Another shift in land startled Grey. Cadell laughed maliciously. "Who's going to catch us here? Nobody knows where we are."

"The hoof prints, you jackass! Did you forget all about them?" reminded Arlen as he tried to break away from the cracks that spread practically everywhere Grey tried to run.

"Don't be such a coward, Arlen. By the way, you are falling rather far behind. You better try to pick up that pace soon or you won't have to worry about being caught because I'll finish you off before anyone else does."

Arlen had enough. The second Cadell reached for his amulet, he tapped into the magic of his own relic to blur everything around them in a thick blast of light. He heard Cadell swear profusely as he charged into the bright void, knowing that the incandescence would only fade for him. It was like navigating through a massive cloud of fog, but Arlen accomplished the task with relative ease thanks to his manipulation of the element. Cadell, on the other hand, was left to search for the long way out of the maze of light.

"I hate you, Arlen Fenric!" he screamed, listening to the heavy footfalls of hooves alongside him as Grey moved forward.

Left with nothing but his own stubborn determination to win, Cadell produced another array of land schisms. Both Grey and Lanis neighed sharply at the abuse of sorcery around them, growing angry at the flashing light and noisy groans of earth as it was torn asunder. When Cadell tried to direct his steed out of the haze, she refused to budge, stomping at the soil and flinging her silky tail about her. Grey took her lead and ignored the rest of Arlen's commands, instead choosing to seek out the filly lost in the sea of light. His neighs soon located her and he waited patiently by her side as the boys continued to bicker.

"This is all your fault," Cadell pouted, jabbing a finger toward the other boy. "You and your damn sunlight."

"What about you and your need to play Neptune? That probably disturbed the horses just as much as my magic," shot back Arlen, slipping off Grey and forcing the pool of illumination from the group.

"Well, now they won't run so where does that leave us?"

"I guess we have to try and reason with them." Arlen sighed and examined his horse for any injuries that might be another reason for his refusal to head him. He gave his horse a mournful look and put his hand on the animal's head. "Grey, you should know how important it is for you to always obey me. Would you do this if I ever needed you while guarding Celeste?"

"Who's Celeste?" demanded Cadell, still kicking Lanis' sides with his heels. "A conquest of yours?"

"Don't be such a boor. Celeste is a good friend of mine. Though, sometimes I wish I could be more."

Cadell snickered. "You? A suitor? Hah! You're too noble to mess around with those girls."

"What do you mean by that?"

"Relationships are simply too much of a liability," scoffed the boy.

"Well of course, you would say that! Your occupation doesn't leave you much time for such luxuries as courting. And Celeste isn't a liability! I would do anything for her! I'd die for her! I promised her that much," Arlen argued, bristling at the way his companion was making light of such a serious subject.

"Ah, loyalty...even worse. How mundane to sacrifice your life for the sake of one inferior?"

"I should think you would find such a devotion honorable. It's the same as being devoted to your work. Protecting Celeste is my job. I am her bodyguard. It's just that I have also grown devoted to her as well," Arlen explained as a distant look shone through his dark eyes.

"Ugh! I can hardly believe that such a romantic is my worthy rival," griped Cadell as his horse's ears suddenly pricked.

~*~*~*~*~

"Caddy! Where are you, little Caddy?" a voice called from farther off in the forest.

"Cedric!" He whirled around to Arlen. "My brother will kill you if he finds you here. Outsiders only mean witnesses to those of Florestia. He is a skilled marksman with the bow. You'll never escape on Grey."

Arlen looked nervous and prepared to mount Grey. He hoisted one foot into a stirrup and wrapped his fingers around the pommel. Grey neighed anxiously as Arlen shot an icy look toward the other boy. "So much for your theory about nobody being able to find us. I bet you forgot to close the thorns around the entrance during your rush to start the challenge. Anyway, couldn't you just explain to your elder brother that you are involved in some honor feud with me?"

"I, Cadell Florestia, admit to having lost to you? How dare you suggest such a thing? Cedric would never let me hear the end of it. I would be shamed forever. The family might even disown me for having been outdone by a common wretch."

"Fine!" Arlen fumed at him, dropping down to the ground and leaving Cadell with his steed. "I have a better idea."

The other was clearly perplexed, but he kept Grey from rushing after his owner as he waited for Cedric to find him. It didn't take much more than five minutes before Cedric charged up on his gigantic black horse, sadistically yanking back the silver bit in the animal's mouth as knotted clumps of mane fell about the beast's forehead and covered its sullen eyes. The numerous trappings on the horse's saddle clinked against its sides, which bulged within the inhumanely tight straps that held the saddle to its back. Cedric liked his animals to appear firm and tense at all times.

Condescending green eyes crossed over Cadell's face as Cedric gave him a chilling gaze. "Here, you are, Caddy. We have been searching for you for the last hour. Why aren't you on your way to the conference?"

His voice was like the dull roar of a grumpy lion as it filled Cadell's ears, making the boy cringe and back Lanis away from his brother. "I-I was...just...."

There was a muffled sound from the bushes as a large black wolf burst from the plants, looking back at Cadell with triumphant sapphire eyes as Cedric's steed leapt backwards in fright. Seconds later, Cedric had drawn his bow and was aiming a deadly arrow right at the wolf's jugular. Cadell scrambled off his horse and pulled the wolf to the side, avoiding the arrow by less than a second. A hard object draped around the animal's furry throat smashed against his fingers and he bit back his pained cry.

"Cedric, this wolf is harmless. I found it here along with that black stallion standing next to Lanis. Somebody must have gotten lost in Brynwood and left them here. They are nothing more than pets. I'll show you," Cadell stammered, bringing his arm close to the wolf and encouraging him to spread his jaws. The wolf willingly obliged as its eyes brightened. Cadell leaned closer to the creature and added in a faint whisper, "Try anything, Arlen, and I'll make a lovely fur coat out of you." With a nod, the wolf closed his teeth lightly over the boy's arm. Cadell looked back at his brother. "See? Harmless."

Cedric lowered his weapon and returned it to the others on his back. "You should be more careful around strange places like these, Caddy. Some of those dark wizards might be roaming about these parts. I thought I saw some unusual flares of light coming from the forest just as I was entering."

"I didn't see anything," said the younger brother.

"Indeed. Well, you must always be prepared. Wouldn't want one of those magic-fiends carting you off and casting some evil hex on you, now would we? It's too bad there's no way to really identify their kind. If there was, we could wipe them out right quick. That would be some marvelous fun, eh Caddy?"

"It would, Cedric," Cadell replied in a hushed voice.

"What I wouldn't do to find one of those Gifted ones. I'd show them how magic fares against the eldest of the Florestia. First, I'd...."

With a snarl, the wolf tore free of Cadell's hold and nipped at the hooves of Cedric's horse. It fell into a frenzy and bucked madly as Cedric shouted. Cadell gaped at the wolf, which dashed past him and took off into the deeper part of the woods. As soon as Cedric had regained control of his steed, he sped off in hot pursuit. Cadell was left in the dust and debris of the animals' wake. He stood up and brushed off his attire, calling Lanis over to him.

"Arlen, you half-witted imbecile."

~*~*~*~*~

By the time Cadell caught up with his brother, the older man was livid and scratched all over by the sharp branches that littered the expanse of Brynwood.

"I leave that damnable canine up to you, Caddy. I imagine that you will be able to find it and destroy it, given your remarkable affinity with the wood. If you do find it, bring me its head at the conference. Don't be late again, little brother."

Cedric turned his horse and rode off into the forest. Cadell climbed down from Lanis and started to search for the elusive wolf, pulling aside bushes and checking underneath fallen trunks. Arlen was more trouble than he was really worth. Now, he would have to suffer more humiliation from his brother when he failed to bring back the lifeless carcass of the wolf. Why did that fool have to let his temper get the better of him once more? All Cedric had to do was degrade those with the Gift and Arlen was back on predator mode. He really was a reckless person.

"Arlen," he called, bending down on his knees to explore the space underneath a hollowed-out log. "Arlen? I'm not baby-sitting Grey forever, you know. That horse is not fit to be in my stables. So you better come out and retrieve him. Arlen?"

Something snagged the top of his hair and wrenched his head backwards. He looked up to see a pair of delighted blue eyes, half covered by a few damp strands of midnight black hair. "Gotcha Caddy!"

"Don't call me that. I hate that name! Only my brothers use it and Cedric sees it a some twisted insult," Cadell reprimanded him, gripping his hand and tugging it away from his wavy hair.

"Understood." Arlen jumped down from the inside of the log he was hiding in.

"We're going to have to arrange another time to redo our race. I have to get going now before Cedric changes his mind and decides to drag me out of here. Take Grey and make yourself scarce until you're clear of our land." The reins were shoved at the disheveled boy who reluctantly accepted them.

"Thanks for helping me back there."

Cadell tossed him an dark smile and stepped away from the other. "I'm not letting any of my kin take down my target. You're my kill, Arlen. Cedric can find his own sport."

His companion chuckled a bit at his comment and ran his hand through his thick hair. "Cadell, have I ever told you about the Alistars?"

"I think I've heard the name mentioned in some ancient text. They were said to also have had the Gift. Only it was so much more powerful in them. It dwarfed all other's power, even the dark warlocks that ordinary people mistake us for in our time. But all the Alistars were supposed to have been killed off years ago...."

Arlen returned his attention to his horse and arranged the pieces of the saddle. "Not all. Celeste, my charge, is one of the last Alistars. That is why I, along with another girl of the Auriel family, were given the task of protecting her from harm. I control the sun and light while the Auriel has dominance over the balance of light and dark. We are known as the Guardians, a group that none but the Alistars know about. It is our fate to protect Celeste at the cost of our lives."

"Why are you telling me all this?" Cadell asked softly, trying to meet Arlen's eyes.

"I was hoping you might be able to help us. Or at least, me," sighed the other boy, lifting his eyes ever so slightly.

"I don't understand."

Grey pawed at the earth as Arlen hushed him. "We could use another member. Someone to fall back on if one of us were to fall. Lately, I've just been having this feeling that I may not survive the course of my task. I want to know that Celeste will be safe. I need the best and aside from me, that is you, Cadell. You are the best."

"I don't work under such constraints. I have no interest in the survival of your Celeste. Those of Florestia do not work with others. It is against our code. We are loners. We cannot make our abilities known to outsiders."

"I will promise you your confidentiality. Nobody will know about this alliance except you and me. All it requires is that you aid me if I shall ever have use for you and that you take my place should misfortune ever befall me. Don't you see, Cadell? I will be in your debt forever. It will be better than having beaten me. Besides, I'm certain we can still have our petty contests in the meantime."

The other boy contemplated this for a while, weighing the advantages and disadvantages in his head. When one was in another's debt, it meant that the one practically owned the other. What a sweet victory it would be to have his rival at his beckon call. So what if it meant assuming Arlen's position in the circumstances of his death. The chances of Arlen losing his life were fairly slim unless it was him delivering the deathblow. Either way, Arlen would have acknowledged his superiority over him.

He walked forward and offered Arlen his hand in the customary shake used to seal a bargain. "I shall serve as your trump card, Arlen."

"Glad to have you on our side, Cadell." Arlen shook his hand heartily.

Pulling his hand away with an expression of disdain, Cadell got back onto Lanis and readied her to ride off. "This changes nothing between us, Arlen of Fenric. The challenge still stays in place. The day I best you at something shall be your last day on this mortal plain." Lanis disappeared into the forest, leaving Arlen to find his own way out.

~*~*~*~*~

Author's Note: Interpret this however you like. It's actually using characters from a small dream sequence in Psychosis. Basically, most of the characters mentioned, except for Cedric, are the ancestors of the major characters in the larger story. Try catching the similarities behind the ancestors and their descendants, especially with Cadell. It may seem cut-short but that's because I had to edit it for my Creative Writing class and lost some of the original copy.