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      "Raven! Are you alright?" Emmelyne asked. She could feel his very life essence bleeding away. After all that had happened, she had hardly noticed before. An aura of pain haloed the blond man. As she watched his eyes roll back, she leapt to her feet. "Catch him!" she yelled.

      The cloaked man responded instantly catching the boy before he fell face first into the grass. Emmelyne rushed to Raven's side, her hands glowing with healing magic as she dropped to her knees beside her fallen comrade. Closing her eyes, she placed her hand on his forehead. A sudden jolt of his pain rushed though her, bringing tears to her eyes. Manipulating her powers as trained by her Elvin brethren, she searched out his injuries, healing the most life threatening first. Emmelyne had already exhausted much of her limited healing power on her father's wounds. She could feel herself faltering already. Raven's internal bleeding had gone unattended far too long; she feared it was going to take more strength than she had to bring him out of his critical condition. She could feel the long gash on her cheek reopening, warm blood trickling down her cheek, as she pushed herself further than her limited healing powers could handle.

      ~Stop, Emmelyne, you'll hurt yourself.~ Her father's voice rang through her head, painfully.

      She winced, and fought to concentrate. ~Quiet father.. just a little more. ~ She replied, concentrating on realigning Raven's broken ribs. She paused and took a deep breath, and let herself become aware of her own weakened state. She pulled off her backpack and reassessed the young man's condition. I've stopped the bleeding, repaired what I could now the rest is up to you. Raven was still pale, but some color had returned. Blood was beginning to spread across the fabric of his shirt from a deep burn in his shoulder, and the Elvin girl knew her work was far from over.

      "Will he live?" Blind asked.

      She glanced up briefly. "I.. I did all I could" the weary elvin girl stuttered, reaching for her bag. Her hands shook as she rummaged through her pack, pulling out her canteen and a small bowl. With a few herbs from her vest pockets, she mixed up a salve. "Are you injured as well?" she asked. Blind shook his head. "How did this happen?" She asked, tenderly pulling the fabric of Raven's shirt from the bloody wound on his shoulder applying the green gel like substance. "Something really powerful did this.. not one of those skeletal warriors." Emmelyne searched her pockets once again, pulling out a cloth.

      "A girl, name Astra attacked us. She claimed to be one of Baneheart's generals. I would have stayed, but Raven insisted that you were in danger." Through the blindfold, the cloaked man's expression was hard to read. He stood stiffly, his poker face in place. "So I left to find you."

      "A girl?" She wondered, wiping the blood from Raven's face. He should have known not to handle one of the generals alone, not after what happened with Dora. She sighed, rinsing the cloth with her canteen, watching the water turn red as it filtered through the fabric of the rag. She sighed heavily. She had seen so much blood shed... and she feared more was to come. The elk nuzzled at her cheek. She reached up, absently, caressing his soft fur.

      "We'll be safe..for the night anyway the Forest Spirit is still strong here." She told him, and looked off into the trees. Her thoughts obviously elsewhere. Blind nodded.

      "I'll go back to the Elvin village, and help the survivors.""Tell them to go to the mountains" She stated, her eyes still lost in the darkness of the trees. "They will be safe there " She looked down at her hands, "for a while at least." Chaos Devil left with a flurry of his red cloak, and disappeared silently into the forest. Emmelyne watched him go, enjoying the stillness of the forest that was left in his absence. She glanced back, finding her father resting, and for the most part, she was alone with her thoughts. Her eyes once again fell onto Raven's deathly still form. "Will he live?" Blind had asked, "I did all I could" was my answer. What a pathetic answer.She thought, shaking her head. I have these wonderful gifts, and I am nothing but a disappointment to those who gave them to me. I couldn't save my Elvin brethren, or properly heal one of the legendary pendant bearers. She felt along her cheek, fingers finding the warm dampness of blood. The gash stung and even after her Elvin powers had healed it, the first time, it had ached. It was the result of the first blow, which started it all. She looked down at her blood-covered fingertips, her mind tracing over the disturbing sequence of events that had lead up to the slaughter of her brethren.

      Spindly towers of the court rose up before her. It was a familiar sight, from her tutelage. Her father had been of royal blood, so she received her teachings next to the few noble Elvin children. Not exactly the best of her memories, but she had felt a renewed sense of determination as she approached the gates for the first time in two years. All eyes had been on her as she walked through the courtyard of the large castle. It doesn't matter any more, their opinions All that matters is the weakening forest. How can they not feel distress the forest is in? She wondered, throwing open the heavy oak doors of the Council Chamber. I'll be exiled for sure after this. She shook her head and repressed a smile. Raven's bullheadedness must have rubbed off on me. The members Elvin council looked up at her, slender eyebrows arched haughtily. Where sunlight would normally pour into the room, there were maroon curtains shutting out the light. Smoke rose from torches burning dimly in the far corners of the room. A shutter ran down Emmelyne's spine. Something smells wrong.

      "May I help you, my dear?" the center elf asked, leaning forward on the long table at which the council sat. Before she could respond, one of the council members next to the head elf spoke up. Emmelyne recognized him, he was an older elf, nearing the end of his long years.

      "Ah.... Emmelyne, the half breed." He gave her a crocked smirk. "Did you tutelage go to waste? One would think that a halfbreed would want to stay in our good graces. Follow proper protocol and you may return to address the council." He said, waving her off. Emmelyne grit her teeth and stood subornly, her fists planted on her hips. Ignoring the elder elf, she turned to the head of the council and continued.

      "The forest..."

      "You insolent mongrel!" The elder elf cut her off, rising to his feet. Emmelyne flinched, though she had long since grown use to her elvin brethern's general distaste for her, the harsh words stung, and she couldn't help but question her judgement.

      "No, Altair, let the girl speak. This may prove amusing." The council head chuckled. The young halfling narrowed her eyes at the council members, looking them over carefully before continuing. Dispite her rare visits to the center of the Seelie Court,she was familiar with the council members. The men and women who sat before her now were the fabled council, but not as she remebered them. Their faces seemed slightly distorted, as if their skin din't quite fit.

      "How can you not feel the ache of the forest?!" She demanded, eyeing them warily.

      "Perhaps I would, if I cared" The center elf grinned, revealing a row of wicked teeth. A doppelganger! The half elf stumbled back, emitting a strangled cry. One of the council, an imposter?! Fright turned to horror as the rest of the council let their Elvin guises melt away. This can't be real! She thought, all her instincts screaming at her to run.

      "What is going on here?!" She demanded, finding her voice. The center doppelganger chucked, letting a snake like tongue flick out of its mouth. It leapt to its feet and was instantly upon her, one claw like hand wrapped around the tender flesh of her throat. Emmelyne blinked back tears as he slit a gash across her cheek with a talon-like claw.

      "Well, my dear, we," he gestured to the table of grinning doppelgangers, "and our lord Baneheart, have meticulously eroded the high and mighty Seelie Court." The half elf closed her eyes, trying to think of an escape. Suddenly the hand on her throat released, and she fell back from the doppelganger's grip. The imposter fell to the floor, several arrows quivering in its side. An Elvin archer, still grasping his bow, ran to her aid. Obviously an hunter, the man was garbed in leather dyed a dark forest green. His skin was amber, and his hair flaxen streaked with a pale blue. Torrin! Emmelyne thought, recognizing him instantly. He helped her to her feet.

      "Run, to the village, warn the people." He told her, pulling her to through the halls, down to the courtyard. "Baneheart has been killing off and replacing the elders one by one for years. Your destiny is calling, Emmelyne." He gave her a gentile shove out into the bright, sunlit courtyard. She turned, dozens of questions upon her lips.

      "But.." was all she managed. He gave her a cockeyed grin, and ruffled her hair.

      "I believe in you Emmy, I'm just sorry I couldn't have said so sooner. Now hurry, Elvin lives are at stake."

      "What?" She asked, dumbfounded.

      "Elvin lives are at stake." He repeated, "Tell the villagers to evacuate, to the mountains." She nodded, and ran through the courtyard. Eldin galloped along side her, and dipped his horn in her direction; she grasped it, letting him toss her onto his back. She crouched down along his speeding form, to the village below. Her mind was full of questions. Torrin, she hadn't seen him since her tutoring at the Seelie court, he had been one of the assistants to the war tactics instructor. He had loved to shame Emmelyne at archery. She had shown a great talent for the sport, more so than any of her fellow students, the same went for her skills with a staff, yet Torrin had shamed her with her favorite weapon as well. But what she remembered most about the young Elvin warrior was that he had treated her the same as any other elf..

      Raven awoke to a dull ache in his chest and a pounding headache. He opened his eyes, letting them focus slowly. Trees loomed in the distance, lit by a full moon. The forest.. the god-awful forest this all started in. He closed his eyes, trying to remember what had happened. All he could remember was trying to find Emmelyne, stumbling through the forest, only blind instinct as a guide.

      "Raven?" came a gentle voice through his thoughts. His eyes flew open at the sound. Well, at least I know I found her. Emmelyne knelt beside him, taking his hand. "How do you feel?" She asked, her face backlit by the moon, casting shadows across her features. He smiled slightly.

      "Terrible." He replied. She nodded.

      "Do you think you can sit up?" He nodded, and the girl helped him to a sitting position, propping his pack behind him as a pillow. She handed him a mug of warm liquid. "Drink this. It will help." She brushed an errant strand of hair behind her ear, and sat quietly, watching him. The drink was bitter, Raven sipped at it suspiciously.

      "Do I have to drink it all?" He asked, making a face. A faint smile softened the girl's wearied features.

      "All of it." She replied, stirring the embers of a dieing fire. "We need you on your feet as soon as possible." She looked out into the dark shadows of the forest, the translucent bodies of kadamo flickering in and out of sight throughout the clearing. "The spirits of the forest are agitated we have to leave before everything comes tumbling down around us." As if it hasn't already. She sighed heavily.

      "Where is Blind?" Raven asked.

      "To the Elvin village to help bury the dead." She was glad that the cloaked man had gone to help, she couldn't bear to return herself. The blond man nodded slowly, narrowing his eyes at the Elvin girl. She looked different, hardly like the forest princess he had met at the beginning of his journey. A long, thin gash ran from the right edge of her cheek to the bridge of her nose. Her hair, stringy and limp, hung in her face, partially hiding her eyes. She looked to the forest, where Blind had disappeared, wondering if the survivors had escaped safely. "I failed them all of them." She muttered, holding her arms tight about herself. Raven gazed at her questioningly. I didn't see as single survivor She thought. "I.. I started it all, I barged into the Council of Elvin elders, and then it all began." She shook her head, running her hands through her hair. "All their beautiful Elvin warped into horrid little puppets." She whispered, still in shock. She though she'd feel grief, or pain, or something. But instead, there was just emptiness.

      "What did happen?" Raven asked, pulling her from her reverie.

      "The all of council were imposters, Baneheart's minions. It was as if they were expecting me.. they unleashed the skeletal warriors on the entire Seelie court." There was much more to the story than that, but she didn't feel like going into detail. "You know the rest." Raven nodded, leaning back, using his backpack to prop himself upright. "Finish the tea" Emmelyne told him, changing the subject. He rolled his eyes, and downed the rest of the drink. The Elvin girl nodded, and reached forward for the mug. Raven caught her arm, examining the wound running across her cheek.

      "Why have you not healed?" he asked, remembering what he'd learned about the Elvin girl's healing abilities during their battle with Dora. She didn't respond. "Are you alright?" He asked. She pulled out of his grasp.

      "No." She whispered. Raven's heart sank. What do you say to an answer like that?

      "Is there anything I can do to help?" That was incredibly lame.

      "Yeah.. don't get yourself killed." He nodded dumbly, and she turned away, her hands falling into her lap. Silence hung in the night air once again. Emmelyne returned to her usual place by the white elk, her burying her face in his thick fur. Raven sat awhile longer, pondering the girl's words and the events of the day. He knew he'd come awfully close to death earlier that night. If it hadn't been for the kodama and Emmelyne's Elvin magic.. He shook his head wearily. Sleep was more important than worrying over could haves and would haves.

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