The Unseen Kingdoms - Chapter 8

Yvonne landed just on the outskirts of the city she had been aimed toward, and she felt a sudden nostalgia as she looked around. The high mountain location meant the city nearly always had a blanket of snow, and her beloved Iris had been the same: a year-round snowy landscape. She did not even feel the cold thanks to her own Ice Flower Element. A particular Ruler gift of that element meant to regulate one's temperature or the temperature of others, and Irisians as a whole had been perfectly acclimated to the cold anyway.

This particular city had a fairly small size for Protea as a whole, and it felt welcoming and wonderful. Some creative souls had even made their houses look like the little iced cookie house made as treats around several holidays. She evaluated her options and her nerves and finally went to a small hotel to rent a room for at least the night. She left her bag in the room and then asked a local sweeping their steps where to find her destination: the tavern known as a Sparkling Ice.

Certainly a play on words, she decided as she walked that direction. A reference to the city, the owner's element, and even a classic drink Iris had been famous for creating. That last alone told her that her soul mate had his memories. Yet . . . she could feel anxiety bubbling up. It felt as if meeting Dane for the first time. She just could not evaluate her own emotions. Ice types had almost as many issues with emotions as Dark types did, and even a Light core Ice type like herself could be tripped up. More than most, actually, because the two aspects played at odds with one another.

She let out a breath that hovered in the air before disappearing and then squared her shoulders and opened the door to Sparkling Ice. She was instantly wrapped in the warmth within and the comforting and friendly air. Because it had been dimly lit with the majority of light coming from a crackling fireplace on one side of the room, the tavern felt like the living room of a friend's home.

Smiling because the place seemed to require it, she took her coat off and draped it over her arm as she looked for a place to sit out of the way. Being midday, it looked mostly empty since the bigger crowds would come when evening arrived and those who had jobs would be freed from them.

A waitress with vibrant red hair came up to the table and grinned cheerfully. "Hello! Alright, let me start with gushing over your hair. I've never seen anything so lovely!"

Yvonne's purple ombre hair had always caught eyes since it ran the gamut from pale to dark and back in the space of its shoulder length waves. Trademark of her Iris heritage. "Thank you!" she said in return. "My friend Desiree is always after me to do fancy things with it, but I'm very not a fancy person."

The waitress laughed, and the sound filled the room warmly. "The world takes all sorts of people, so nothing wrong with not being fancy! What's your name? Where are you from?"

"Yvonne Kingfisher, and I'm from Lux." She offered her hand palm up on a smile. She just could not help but liking this other woman. She reminded her a bit of Sherry, oddly enough. "It's nice to meet you!"

"Likewise." The waitress placed the back of her hand on Yvonne's palm with a mock solemnness.

As she did, Yvonne felt the unmistakable jolt through her blood that meant she touched someone with powerful majik. All Cultivators could sense such a thing inside any adult witch, but Yvonne had not met any in this life, and she had only known a few in her last. It startled her deeply, but since the waitress' expression didn't change, she could only assume that she did not sense the magic in Yvonne in return. Or, if she did, she had chosen to not say anything.

"My name is Chloe," the waitress said, as if to confirm she had not noticed a thing. "I'm the main hostess here at Sparkling Ice. You'll like Mount Clarity. It's a beautiful place even when it's snowing." She laughed. "It's nearly always snowing. Are you vacationing?"

"Yes I am, and yes it is." Yvonne chewed on her lower lip for a moment and then asked softly, "The owner. Is he around here anywhere?"

"Doug? Oh, sure, he's probably in the back fussing over his music. Award winning music, no less!" Chloe leaned a hip companionably on the edge of the table with a confidence that Yvonne could only envy. "At twenty-seven, he's got more medals for theatrical scores than some composers twice his age! Which is even scarier when you consider that he has actually done so many to begin with! If he does a score, he gets a medal. He's that good. I keep telling him he needs to look at stage theatricals as much as the filmed ones. He'd have more fun." Conspiratorially, she added, "He's also gorgeous. If he didn't have a lost love, I'd make a pass for him myself."

"Lost love?" Yvonne's heart began to beat harder. "What happened?"

"I'm not sure." Chloe tapped a finger on her chin. "He won't talk about it. I had to get him drunk one night and pry some of it out. He said that he had to give her up for her own sake, and that so much had happened to him since that he didn't feel he could be a proper mate to her any longer. He wrote a song for her, though. He never actually titled it, but his sheet music had the words My Ice Queen." She studied Yvonne's face, saw the rising of tears she couldn't stop, and suddenly smiled. "Well, well." She leaned in. "Can you tell me what happened?"

"It is almost exactly what he said it is," she managed to whisper. "Please, don't tell him I'm here. It's complicated."

"Alright. Let me bring you a glass of fermented wheat, though. You look like you could use it." She winked sassily as she straightened up from the table. "I promise not to get you drunk to pry more out, though it is tempting. Ah," she added as she heard a door from behind the small stage open, "there's the boss now. Say, where are you staying? The hotel?" When Yvonne nodded, Chloe smiled to herself and headed behind the bar.

The stage was small, but it took up most of the side of the room it sat on. The only thing on the stage was a single piano and bench. Yvonne took a sharp breath and felt fresh tears sting her eyes as she watched Douglas Notesong walk across the stage toward the piano. He looked no different than she remembered him from the Royal Era. A slightly tall lean frame that deceptively hid his strength, yellow-blond hair that just touched his shoulders, beautifully tanned skin, and peridot green eyes full of dreams.

He dressed rather casually for someone who owned a business, but it suited him and his city alike. His boots, though, made no sound as he walked—a sign Yvonne recognized from several of her friends. That utter silence implied a body highly trained in combat. He had used a lance, but he had trained with Jayden enough to use his hands as needed to protect either their prince or princess.

It actually hurt to see him, to feel the flood of nostalgia and love, and it took everything she was to not get up and run to him. They were strangers in this life, and even her emotions of the past couldn't get over that.

He sat down and began to play the piano, and his hands moved elegantly over the keys. The music that followed was soft and romantic and so lonely it broke her heart. His magic and his weapon may have been taken away, but nothing could remove his Shaman gift. He played that lonely and longing song until the music felt as though it was part of her heartbeat, and she had the sudden panicky feeling of falling without knowing where she would land.

His beautiful, powerful, voice began to sing with the music, and the lyrics gouged deep into all listeners. Lost love and stolen moments. Fragile promises ended too soon. The words sank into her, and she stopped falling. She landed, hard, and found herself facing a startling truth: she had not stopped loving him. She did not have to fall in love again. Two souls that loved would never stop loving; you could fall in love more than once, but you never stopped first. She still loved him, loved this sensitive musician with a warrior's heart. She still wanted him, still burned for his touch once more.

For someone who much preferred a calm emotional life, it was terrifying. She dropped some money on the table and fled for the exit. She didn't want Doug to see her. She needed to think, to analyze. She needed to find her footing before she flung herself into his arms and begged him to never leave.

Doug was oblivious of everything until he heard a feminine voice stammering an apology. The voice was so achingly familiar that his head jerked up. He turned sharply only to see the last of a woman with ombre hair scrambling out the doors. He shot to his feet and rushed across the room past his startled customers. He jerked open the door and went outside into the falling snow, but she had disappeared. As he sensed Chloe behind him, he asked roughly, "Can you conjure someone by wishing for them too hard?"

"Come inside, Doug." She pulled him back into the warm tavern. She was both his friend and employee—more the former rather than the latter, really—and there was little she did not know about him. Very little. She studied him with shrewd cerulean eyes and then said, "Her name was Yvonne Kingfisher."

He went still, his heart pounding hard. "She wasn't my imagination."

"No. She's from Lux, and she had a very . . . distinctly cold sort of magic inside her. She said she was here on vacation, and when I told her about your song, she started crying. And when you were playing . . ." She shook her head. "She's the one, right? The one you thought you'd never see again. You might think you're not good enough, but I don't think she feels that way. Stop gawking at me and go get her."

"Where is she staying?"

"The hotel." She lifted her brows as he turned and rushed out the doors. She would have shouted for him to take his jacket, but if Yvonne couldn't warm him up, then she didn't deserve him. Content, she turned and shouted at her patrons, "Drinks on the house! Doug's going to feel like celebrating soon!"

It wasn't until he saw the hotel in the distance that he realized he didn't know what he could possibly say. They had never met before in this life, and he knew from talking to Sam that the Cultivators had not remembered anything of the Commanders—though that clearly must have changed. He sighed and tucked his hands in his pockets as he walked toward the hotel more slowly. Her presence there seemed to imply she came looking for him, but she had run away. Then again . . . he all too well remembered how her anxiety had held her back. He had always been there to take her hand and help her through. Maybe . . . there could be a chance for that to happen again.

He didn't bother to stop at the front desk because he could feel in his heart the closer he got to his soul mate. When he found himself standing in front of the room she was staying in, he hesitated before knocking lightly. The door opened, and he felt the floor tilt out from under his feet. She was more beautiful than he had remembered. The color bled slowly from her face, and he instinctively reached out to catch her in case she fainted.

The minute his hands closed around her arms, she lost the battle she had been waging from the moment she had seen him in the tavern, and she broke down in tears. She immediately found herself gathered close in his arms as he rocked her gently, and the familiarity in his touch tore her heart open. She missed him. Oh gods, how she had missed him!

He lifted her off her feet and carried her into her room far enough that he could close the door behind him with his foot. As the tears finally ebbed, he set her on her feet again and gently drew back so that he could see her face. "I can't believe it," he said a bit roughly. "Are you real?"

"I was going to ask the same thing," she sniffled as she wiped her eyes on the sleeve of her sweatshirt. She had thrown on the comfiest things she owned, so she looked even less put together than usual. For the first time in her life, she regretted it. Maybe she should have listened to Sherry and Desiree about style. She would have preferred opening the door to this particular person while wearing something suitably sexy. "Why are you here?"

"Stupid question," he said thickly. He framed her face in his hands. "Did you think I'd stay away if I knew you were there? I heard your voice and thought I was finally insane. Why did you run?"

"Your song." Her lower lip trembled and she bit down on it hard to stop it from giving away more of how she felt. If he didn't stop touching her, looking at her with those beautiful loving eyes, she would probably cry again. "I heard it. And I still loved you. It hurt!" She was crying anyway, and he gave a soft sound of pain as he pulled her close again.

The next time she got control of herself, she discovered she was snuggled on his lap with his arms tight around her as he sat on the edge of the bed. He was rocking her gently, his Shaman voice a soothing murmur as he whispered in her ear. "Doug," she said softly as she tilted her head back on his shoulder to see his face, "what . . ."

The question died as she saw the emotion glittering in his eyes. She found herself framing his face with her hands and tilting up for his kiss as naturally as if the last five thousand years hadn't passed. His lips were cool when they touched hers, but they warmed quickly as he deepened the kiss with the familiarity of a lover. She forgot her unappealing wardrobe and her lack of flirtatiousness. She forgot everything except the hunger stirring to life inside her soul and body equally.

When he at last lifted his head slightly, she opened her eyes to study his face hungrily. "That hasn't changed," she whispered huskily. "You still make me feel as if I'm the only one in your universe."

"To me," he said just as softly, just as huskily, "you are. No one ever thought of either of us as particularly passionate, did they?"

"I believed them about me, but I never believed them about you." She smiled as she found the memories more comforting than painful. "I knew you were dangerous to me. From the day I first saw you, there was something about you. And you were always there. I got so used to you being there that I didn't even think about why it was."

His lips curved. "So I was a little underhanded. What else was I supposed to do? You had blinders on. You were so dedicated to your princesses that you didn't even notice the suitors throwing themselves at your feet in longing."

"They did not!"

"They did too. Trust me on that one. I saw the list." He lowered his forehead to hers and smiled. "When did you realize what I was up to? I don't think you ever told me."

She thought about it. "You had become a permanent part of my life. If I needed anything, you were there. You jumped to escort me if I needed an escort for somewhere. Whenever I visited Shanae, you were quick to greet me and stay by my side if I needed anything. Then, one day, you weren't there. I was standing in the hall, feeling out of sorts, and Shanae came up to me."

"What did she say?"

"She just looked at me with those wise eyes of hers. I had just turned twenty-five, so she was nearly nineteen. She smiled, linked her hands behind her back, and said 'Yvette, did you ever wonder why Dane drops everything for you? Or wonder why you're so happy when you're near him?' She walked away and it just sort of hit me all at once. It made me a little mad," she confessed, "that you had been so sneaky."

"So says the woman who immediately got me locked into a corner I couldn't get out of!" The tone was both fond and exasperated. "You sent out notices to every periodical in the galaxy that you had decided to accept the attentions of one of your suitors. You didn't say which one, and it terrified me. How was I supposed to know that you were referring to me?"

"It worked, didn't it?"

"I was ready to kill you when I got to your castle!"

"Instead, you kissed me and said you would never let me marry anyone else. I told you that the suitor I meant was you, and made my intentions clear."

"You demanded that I propose right there."

"Well, it worked, didn't it?" She ran a hand over his beloved features. "Why didn't you come find me this time, Doug? Sam said you all had all of your memories. Did you really think that I would think less of you for losing your magic or your weapon? The latter could be replaced by Kellie easy enough."

"I just . . ." He huffed out a breath. "I felt unworthy, Yvonne." He let go when she pulled away, and he frowned. "What is it?"

"Douglas." She did not turn to face him. "You are a Commander. You are a true Commander, and I will explain later what that means. For now, it is enough to know that love is what makes you worthy of that position, as much as it makes you worthy of being my Caretaker." She turned around, and her yellow eyes sparkled with chips of her icy magic. "Defenders and Commanders alike are infused with love. I willingly sacrificed myself for my Apex of Dark in order to help force her to evolve. It may happen again for her or for my Apex of Light. I am the weakest, and I would do it. And in doing it, I realized something important: Love is the only thing in this world worth fighting for, worth dying for. I love you, with everything I am, and will love you even in the Resurrection Era. I will fight to hold onto what we have. Will you fight, Commander Dane Etudele? Will you come to Lux with me, make a life with me there even if you feel you cannot properly protect me or your prince?"

"Yes," he vowed instantly. He would face any hell to be with her again.

"Then . . ." She smiled and held her arms out to him, and she laughed as he swept her up into his arms and around in a circle. She softly framed his face with her hands. "Siobhan is searching for your magic, and Shana is looking for your weapon. They'll find them, and then you'll be able to fight alongside us once more. I promise."

"As long as I'm by your side," he countered as he slowly lowered her to her feet again, "I don't care." He felt her suddenly go still, and his entire body tensed in return as he recognized the look in her eyes. Without his magic, he could not feel the danger to his Defender, but he knew she could feel it to him. "What is it?" he asked softly. "What didn't you tell me?"

The answer came in the form of a monstrous creature dropping right into the center of the hotel room. Doug reacted first and shoved Yvonne to one side safely even as he dove toward the other, thus making it harder to hit both of them at once. "What the icy hells is that?" he demanded. "Other than the obvious! If you say 'a monster', I will smack you with a pillow!"

She managed to smile despite the situation. "Part of a very long story! It's a monster we've started calling a Phantasmat. It comes from our current war enemy." She rolled up to her feet and grabbed her Mask from her bracelet. This would be damned tricky when she had no offensive magic, and no weapon with it, and Doug did not have his sole magical gift either; conveniently and usefully, he should have the Defender Ice based ability to make ice projectiles, something perhaps ironically that no Iris Defender had ever had personally.

She put on her Mask to call her armor and then jumped to her feet and rushed at the Phantasmat. It had been advancing on Doug, so her sudden and rather unexpected attack knocked it back a step. It turned on her instead and she had a sudden flash of inspiration. It was crazy, but it might work. "Grab me if you can!" she taunted.

"Yvonne!" Doug snapped as he scrambled up. "What are you doing?"

The Phantasmat grabbed Yvonne in a bone-crushing hug, and the metal parts of her armor groaned warningly. The mostly fabric rest, strangely, offered better cushioning. She slapped her hands onto each side of the Phantasmat's face and reached not for Defender magic but Ruler. The Phantasmat began to turn bluer and bluer and then beyond to white, and its grip on her loosened. She kept pouring in the magic and it abruptly dropped her before crashing onto the ground and dissolving.

Doug stared at the sight and then hastily moved to Yvonne's side. "Are you okay?"

"Tender in a few spots." She removed her Mask, and her armor went away. She lifted the hem of her sweater a bit to reveal bruises already forming. "Ouch. Well, I've had worse." She saw her lover staring at her and winced. "I didn't know that would work! You know how Ruler Cultivators of the Ice Flower Element can control the temperature of living beings?"

His brows shot up. "You dropped the Phantasmat's temperature so low that it went into hypothermia and then froze solid, which effectively killed it, so it disappeared. That . . . that's on one hand a bit creepy, but on the other sort of reassuring." He let out a long breath. "I assume there's a reason it looked particularly mad at me?"

"There very much is." She evaluated things and then smiled at him. "But could we get into it later? I'm a little sore right now. A hot shower would help."

"Of course," he agreed instantly. "You get warmed up, and then we can talk."

She caught his hand before he could turn away. "Did I say I didn't want you to share the shower with me?" She bit back a giggle as he gingerly, so very gingerly, picked her up. "I've never tried to be seductive before. I'm glad that worked. May I practice more in the future? I think it could be fun."

"Any time you wish," he vowed fervently. He looked down at her, and he smiled thinking of how utterly beautiful she had looked in her armor and Mask. He was honored to be the Caretaker to this Dual Cultivator. "Did I say yet that I love you?"

"You didn't have to." She kissed him softly. "I already knew."

* * * * *

Siobhan and Edgar landed safely on the outskirts of the city they had been aimed at, and they found it to be one of those random places on Lux's landmass that didn't just cool off at sunset but actually get cold. Edgar stuffed his shivering lover into his jacket to help and then they made haste for the closest hotel. He got them a room, and Siobhan shivered her way up the stairs behind him. They hadn't even considered the fact that they might be going somewhere very cold, and her light jacket did not help in slightest, especially since she hated the cold to begin with. She had always found it remarkably unfair that the two Proteans, those closest to the sun, could actually adjust for the cold almost as well as the heat. She had always fancifully thought they just stored up the sunshine and then used it when needed. The thought always made her smile.

He shut and locked the door behind them and then peeled her hands from her death grip on the jacket. "Into the shower. It'll help warm you up." He wouldn't have been her lover if his hands hadn't lingered on her skin gently as he continued undressing her, but he reluctantly kept himself in line.

She watched his hands and then smiled and reached for the buttons on his shirt. He promptly caught her hands, and she pouted a little. "Spoilsport. You're cold too, you know. Your hands are like ice." She squeaked indignantly as he put those same hands on her bare hips. "Cold!" She very quickly got away from his hands and darted into the bathroom, and she smiled as she listened to him laugh at her. She never tired of their teasing. She couldn't imagine a life with him where they weren't always gently poking fun at each other.

Content with her life, she got into the shower to warm up. After washing and rinsing her hair, she was finally feeling warm again so she turned off the shower and wrapped her hair in a towel as best she could. Curly locks still escaped from all edges as she swathed herself in a robe as well.

She went back into the bedroom and found Edgar sitting on the bed with paperwork in front of him. She frowned a little as she walked over to him and kneeled behind him on the bed to begin lightly rubbing his shoulders. "What are you looking at?"

"Recent financial data from Chivanti Corporation," he responded as he continued reading the document in his hand.

Bullseye, she thought. "Isn't that confidential?"

"To the average person."

She sighed and rested her chin on his shoulder. "My beloved prince, I am trying very, very, very hard to be patient. I have resisted very hard the urge to look right into your mind for the information I need." She curled her arms around him and rested her hand over the hidden Ruler Mark on his chest. "Let me support you," she urged softly. "I know this is a matter of your family, but I am also family. Rocky and I both are."

"You both are also terrible at keeping secrets." He brought her hand to his lips and kissed the palm. "When everything is in place, we'll tell you. I promise."

"Oh, alright." She eased back and resumed rubbing his shoulders. "I suppose I can accept that. I just want to support you."

"Trust me, just being here is more than enough." He closed his eyes and leaned into her hands as tension faded away. "I ordered room service, by the way. It should be here in another ten minutes."

"Good, I'm starving. And don't you dare comment on my appetite, you brute," she muttered. "Rocky's worse than I am."

"He's bigger." He tugged her around onto his lap and smiled as she tried simultaneously to keep the towel on her head and her robe closed. The robe won, and he was treated to a breathtaking view of her plump body and creamy skin. "You are so damn sexy, Siobhan. Thank you for seducing me when we were twenty-one."

She started giggling. "You're welcome! I mean, us being each other's Caretaker means it was perfectly within my rights to do that, right?" She gave up on the towel to wind her arms around his neck. She was just leaning up to kiss him when there came a discrete knock on their hotel room door, and he said something rude under his breath. She giggled as she slid off his lap and closed her robe tightly again. "Feed me now," she said, "and you can seduce me in return later."

"With incentive like that . . ." he teased back. He started to open the door when he felt the unmistakable presence of power. An oddly familiar power that echoed with, very oddly, a Shadow Flower Element. It did not at all feel like Aldan, though. This felt less like a Light Shadow than a Dark Shadow. His shoulders tensed, and he eased the door open only enough to look into the hallway.

A man dressed from head to toe in white stood on the other side of the doorway. He had strangely familiar dark red hair and darker brown skin, and his crystalline blue eyes could have almost passed for gemstones. A scar over his nose angled a bit left to right, and a second scar could be seen on his lower left jaw. His face as a whole felt eerily familiar, and Edgar's eyes narrowed. "May I help you?" he asked.

"Dane Etudele had a home just north of town," the man said in response. His voice echoed oddly even though he spoke quietly without emotion. "It now sits buried beneath the land. His stone is there." Message delivered, he turned and started walking away.

Edgar was momentarily too stunned to do anything and then he stepped into the hall quickly. "Hey wait!" Unfortunately, he was too late. There was no one there any longer, and any trace of the man's presence had disappeared. More than slightly puzzled, he stepped back into the room and quietly closed the door.

"Edgar?" Siobhan asked softly. "Who was that?"

"I don't know, but he felt very familiar somehow." He let out a soft breath. "He knew we were looking for Dane's stone of Light. He also knew where it was. He said it was north of town under the land." He frowned. "I would swear I know that man from somewhere. Something just seems different enough that I just can't remember."

"Hmm." There came another knock on the door and she smiled. "That would hopefully be room service."

He opened the door again, and sure enough there was a staff member waiting with a cart of food. The boy wheeled the cart into the room and uncovered the dishes before accepting a tip from Edgar and leaving them to their meal.

They made short work of the food between the two of them and then Siobhan stretched out on the bed to watch as Edgar did some more reading before gathering the paperwork up to put it back in his backpack. She had spied something on one of the pages that had her suspicions even higher. It had looked a bit like a will, and she had seen something about the writer of the will's 'two children' each to 'inherit forty percent each' of something 'on their day of adulthood.'

Siobhan may not have had her elder brother's 'rubber brain' but she by far was not without some bendability of her own. If those children were Shana and Edgar, then that something to inherit had to be the Corporation, and if each had forty percent, then together they would own far more than half the company—which would all but remove the board of trustees from any measure of control or command. Edgar would have gained his the December previous, which would easily explain how he had gotten the financial paperwork. He could do nothing significant without Shana, though, and she would be an adult come this December.

Siobhan watched as Edgar undressed for bed, and a tiny smile tugged at her lips. She would hazard the trustees felt pretty safe and comfortable since Edgar hadn't done anything except ask for standard paperwork. He was far too intelligent to do something that would set off alerts, so no doubt the trustees expected by now that neither heir really felt at all interested in taking over. Oh, how little they knew, and how much they would learn! It would be far too late before they realized that the best hunters never let their prey know they approached—and no greater hunters existed than Protean Ruler Cultivators.

She woke up alone in bed the next morning. It was more than a little disorienting for she had long before grown used to having her lover to snuggle against. She sat up and shoved her hair out of her eyes just as he entered the room from the hall with a periodical in hand. "Morning," she yawned.

"Morning, indeed." He looked at her, then at the clock, and had to smile. "You must not have been comfortable in bed if you actually woke this early. I actually thought you'd be out a little longer."

"Can't sleep without you anymore." She sleepily wound her arms around his neck as he sat on the side of the bed next to her. "Come back to bed?"

Highly tempted, he set the periodical aside and pulled her into his arms. He loved how her fluffy and curly hair seemed to cling onto him as much as it did her. Even at its ankle length, no amount of weight could drag out those curls. If it had, her hair would have probably trailed a few feet behind her! He nuzzled the side of her neck and had nearly decided that they should spend the day indoors and in bed when he saw someone moving outside their window. "What in the sunny hells?"

"Edgar?" Fully awake now as she watched him move quickly toward the window, she tugged the sheets up over her bare form, uneasy with the idea that someone was watching them. Thinking it, she frowned. They didn't have a balcony and they were on the fifth floor. How could someone be watching them?

"That man from before was out here," he muttered. He shut the window and pulled the drapes closed before turning to look at Siobhan. "Get dressed so we can check out. I suspect he won't leave us in peace unless we get Dane's stone."

"That's not precisely a bad thing," she pointed out as she grabbed her clothes. "It's not like he's trying to stop us." But what did he want, and how did he know them?

Fifteen minutes later, dressed and packed again, Siobhan followed her fiancé downstairs as they headed to check out at the counter. Once they had paid their bill and left the hotel, she accepted his offered hand and stayed close as they headed for the edges of town. They had chosen a hotel close to where they had landed, so leaving only took a few minutes.

As they walked over a grassy hill a bit away from the main roads, Siobhan's entire body glowed and her hair began rippling around her. Edgar looked down at their feet to see the glow being echoed by something underneath them. It had to be the land under which rested Dane's old home.

They linked hands tightly and used their powers to transport themselves down beneath the surface. They were dropped into what felt like a giant amber stone; dirt and stone of every shade of brown and red and orange greeted them. The sheets of limestone almost sparkled as the light from Siobhan touched them. Something else sparkled too, in the distance down a little tunnel.

They followed the light and soon came upon the tattered and torn remains of an old house. It was still in amazingly good shape, but the shelter from the weather would have aided in that. The glow came from inside the house. They went inside carefully and looked around. There, resting on the middle of a broken table, was a softly glowing white gem.

Siobhan picked it up and felt it pulse coolly in her hand like the little bite of ice. She held it to her heart with a smile and looked at Edgar. "Two down, four to go. I hope Yvonne was able to find Dane because this needs to be returned to him."

"Where is Ulyen's stone then?" The stone hummed at his words and then sent out a bright beam of light that went up through the ceiling overhead. He put a hand on the ground to track it and watched as it flew across the sky until it stopped over a city out in the veritable middle of nowhere on Axium's landmass. "Looks like Protea's lone desert."

"A desert. For a Water Flower Element?"

"Ulyen will love the irony."

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