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Today was different

      The forest was eerily still. Among the massive trees not a single woodland creature stirred. A gloom hung through out the damp forest air. It was nothing new, this dark, dank feel the penetrated every fiber of the enchanted woods. The Forest God was weakening.

      ~What's going on, Father? I've rarely seen the forest so still.~

      ~Change, my daughter... Now be alert, I hear something up ahead.~

      Astride a large white elk with one horn protruding from it's forehead, rode a young woman. Strapped to her back was a polished staff finely carved and decorated. She wore a vest covered with tiny pouches, thigh high boots over thin leather pants. Strapped around her right thigh was a wicked dagger and four more tiny pouches. Worn as a cape over her clothes was a thick white animal fur. She was bent over the elk's neck, searching, two long, thin braids of blue hair dangling from her mass of thick auburn, sun-bleached hair.

      ~There," up ahead, do you see it?~

      She looked up, long elvin ears twitching as she examined the forest ahead. There was a movement among the trees, slowly and steadily heading north. The woman adjusted her fur cloak, hiding her long Elvin ears and pulling a white half mask over her face. ~Human..Let's go!~

      The Elk leapt in to motion, making little sound as he shortened the distance to movement among the trees. The Elk and woman soon had a clear view of a young man walking with a determined stride. His strawberry blond hair kept falling forward into his face, and he brushed it away irritably. His eyes made a quick sweep around. The girl ducked, and the elk stood stark still. The young man continued walking, appearing quite unaware that he was being tracked.

      ~He smells strange, Emmelyne. Not quite like a human...~

      ~A half breed like me?~

      ~No, not Elvin, nor elemental, though there is an elemental residue around his scent.~

      ~Well, lets get him out of the forest before he is eaten. He'll taste the same to a wolf whether he's human or not.~

      ~There is something strange about this one, daughter.~

      The girl laughed, hugging the elk's neck. ~Don't worry! I'm always careful, dear father! Now lets go.~

      The elk leapt into motion again, his hooves touching upon the ground silently. The girl adjusted her position and let out a long wailing cry. The young man quickly scanned the forest, soon pinpointing the source of the sound. The Elk and girl were no longer hiding themselves. They bounded towards the man; the Elk reared up on his hind legs, brandishing sharp hooves before him. The young man stumbled back a couple of steps, moving away from the great beast. Emmelyne screeched again. The Elk spun around, and leapt back into the forest but not before the man had grabbed a piece of his rider's cloak, pulling her to the ground. She landed hard on her rear, but was immediately on her feet again. A knife appeared in her hand. She crouched, making a few sharp jabs at her assailant, catching clothing, but not skin.

      The blond man avoided her blade and danced out of her reach. The girl screeched again and reached into one of her pouches. She blew it's contents into the man's face. He wiped the stinging powder from his eyes. Emmelyne darted away, keeping low to the ground. She searched for a hiding place before the man regained his vision, but it was too late. Before she knew it, he had advanced upon her and well-aimed kick sent her tumbling into the bushes. She lay there for a moment, stunned, which was just enough time for the man to disarm and catch her. He took the rope from her belt bound her hands behind her back. His grip was firm, and as hard as she tried she couldn't wriggle loose.

      ~FATHER! I've been caught!~ Her heart pounded in her chest as an old panic gripped her. Emmelyne looked up at her captor, who stood nearly a foot taller than her. He removed her mask and stared hard into her eyes.>

      "I don't know who you are what you were doing, but you'd better start explaining." He demanded.

      "Guiding..." It felt strange to use her real voice. She rarely spoke aloud.


      She nodded. "Guiding you from the forest before you get eaten."

      "Attacking me with a unicorn is your idea of guiding me?"

      Unicorn? she wondered. He must mean father. She looked around for any sign of the great white elk.

      "And what is going to eat me out here? I have been walking for hours and it's been completely still. I saw not a single creature until you."

      "Why didn't you run from me?" Emmelyne asked, still striving to free herself.

      He laughed, "After all that's happened today, nothing can surprise me."

      "Everyone always runs..." She made one more fierce tug against his grip and freed herself. Her hands were still bound, but she put a good deal of distance between them. She spun around to watch him while she worked to get the knots loose.

      "Who are you and what are you doing in my forest?" She demanded, eyes narrowed.

      "My name's Raven, and I have no idea what I'm doing here." He stepped towards her and she shuffled back a few feet, glancing about like a cornered animal. "Now relax," He coaxed. "I only tied your hands because you attacked me. I'll let you loose." She sighed and watched him cautiously for a few moments. He hadn't hurt her so far. And her father was no where in sight. She considered her options, then turned and put out her hands. With a quick tug on the rope, he'd freed her. She spun back around to face him.

      "My knife?" She put her hand out.

      He shook his head and chuckled.

      "Give me my knife, and I'll give you a place to stay for the night and then guide you out of the forest." The white elk appeared from the forest behind her. ~Kind of late, aren't you?~

      ~You had things under control before I could do much...~ Eldin replied.

      "How about I give you the knife once you've guided me out of the forest."

      Emmelyne swung up on to the elk's back. "Fine, let's go." She put her hand out to him.

      He looked up at her on her perch upon the large elk.

      "Come on, I'll pull you up. You don't want to walk, do you?"

      "Oh, no. That thing attacked me."

      Emmelyne snorted at his reaction. "This is not a thing," she replied, her eyes narrowed dangerously, "this is Eldin, my father. And you'd better show him some respect. He understands every word you say."

      "Your father? And what are you, Princess of the forest?"

      "Sort of, now get on before I make you walk!" Raven shook his head and took her hand. With a smooth movement, she pulled him onto Eldin's back.

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