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The glowing orb bathes the land with a soft, seemingly peaceful light as it floats through the clear night sky. It moves slowly, undetected, creating long shadows that change ever so slightly. Nearby, a lone figure departs the dark opening of a cave and seeks shelter in the shadows as he moves silently, swiftly through the night. When he reaches the nearby town, the buildings are silent, and he seems more like a wisp of dark smoke as he moves between the shadows. Eventually, he stops in a darkened doorway and extends his senses. His eyes narrow as he focuses and looks up at a shuttered window, and his senses tell him that he has found what he seeks.

The room is small and neat, kept tidy by the young girl sleeping there. A writing desk, rocking chair, wardrobe, and bed are her only furniture. The thick, warm comforter on the bed moves restlessly, and then the bewildered girl bolts upright, her eyes wide with fear as her head whips back and forth to search the room, sensing something that does not belong there. Her heart beats rapidly as she sits there, barely breathing as she imagines the possibilities. The light slanting through the open window lets in enough light so she can see only her bare furnishings and the closed bedroom door. With a sigh of relief, she finally climbs out of bed and goes to the window. After a quick glance outside, she closes the shutters tightly. Hopping back into bed with a shiver, she snuggles down into the warmth, and in a few moments her breathing slows and dreams once again dance through her thoughts.

From the corner of the now-darkened room, the silent intruder skims along the wall, past the shuttered window. Coming up next to the bed, he looks down at the sleeping girl for a moment, viewing her only as a conduit for his dark purposes. His arm comes up slowly and the open hand hovers just above the girl until an even blacker darkness forms and then sinks into the warmth below. The hand lowers and he takes a step back and waits. His wait is not long. The girl turns onto her side, rolls over to the other side, and finally onto her back. The legs kick uselessly a few times, and her head lolls on the pillow. Soon the head stops moving, and her last breathe escapes her lips.

A moment later, the girl's body sits up slowly, stiffly, and her head turns towards the shadow waiting next to the bed. Her eyes slowly open and her once warm brown eyes are nothing but dark hollow orbs, unblinking and lifeless.

"You have done well with this one," utters a voice from her mouth that is guttural, deep, and lifeless.

"The vessel had to be strong, master, and the path is not as clear as it was. I had to search for a proper conduit to make it possible for you to enter this world. What is your command, master?"

"I have a new task that will require your special talents, and this task will give you a second chance at the child."

"What is the task, master?"

"Within the chamber of my servant and her lover is an artifact that they were crafting together. It was completed before they were taken from me. You will retrieve the artifact and place it about her neck at the moment of her greatest distraction. The artifact has two functions -- it is a conduit for my essence and, for a short time, it will separate her from the rest, allowing the opportunity for me to take her. Do this at her weakest point and I will have a body worthy of calling my own. If you succeed, this will cancel your 'other' failure."

"I did not fail, master, the child did die. I will complete this task as well. I will not fail."

"See that you do not. When it is accomplished and I have what I want, I will give you the other young one to use as you wish. Then she will no longer be able to interfere again. She should serve you well for a long time."

"How am I to gain entry, master, if there are forces barring my way into the valley? Even though I can find the lair, that too I cannot enter."

"At some distance is one who is ripe with what we need," rasps the dark master's voice. "Seek her out and sow the seed of the pretender. She will not let this insult to her kind go without retribution. Be with her when she comes. She will either be invited within, or she will take the title, and in so doing, she will gain control of the lair. The wards that prevent others from entering will not stop you."

"It will be done, master. Would not the pretender make a more suitable vessel?"

"Yes, but possessing her would not be as enjoyable. The pretender is not as strong as the other. 'She' is the better choice and it will be much more satisfying. The fear she will cause as their champion, friend, and lover, as she destroys all that she helped make and betrays all those around her. That will make taking over her body even more pleasurable. What I will make her body do, and what I will put her through, will be most satisfying. I will also confine her within herself so that she is keenly aware of the power that is no longer hers to command."

"As you wish, master," the servant replies as he steps back, blending into the shadows again.

The lifeless body of the girl slowly lowers onto the bed as the master releases her, and wisps slowly rise from the limp, young form. "Go, my trusted servant. Bring me Aithera Kilbray, and Jira Santree will be yours."



Chapter One

A Visit to Orodreth

The tall man standing near the window turns and moves up behind the graceful lady sitting at an ornate desk with a quill in hand. He stands next to her chair for a moment, silently contemplating the woman that has changed his life in so many ways. Solen Telendris does not contemplate his families role in the elven realm, he does not even think about his time, or position in Orodreth. He just marvels at the woman before him.

The smooth, dark hair stops just below her shoulders. She is about a head shorter than he is, and like him, she is lean and strong. Her soft features hide the strength within, which is well beyond any he has encountered. Most of it is in her determination, will, and abilities than, in her body. But don't count out that body, he thinks to himself. He watches the long, tapered fingers handle the delicate quill as she records the entries in her journal. She turns her head from time to time to contemplate what she has written, and he notices her amber eyes twinkling when she looks at him, then refocusing on the task at hand. He is amazed that she is so warm and caring, after all the events of her past. Her death at birth, rebirth, and then the destruction of her family. Being hunted, though she knew it not, until she faced those that were hunting her. How finding an old man changed her life even more, as she became tied to this valley and to the others here, as one of their protectors, as a part of the seal of containment.

Leaning over, he moves the dark hair from her neck and kisses the soft, smooth skin. She scrunches up her shoulder and giggles lightly, turning her head to kiss him, and then she looks up at him with warm, adoring eyes, full of love.

His own eyes mirror hers as he stares into their depths, and then he turns his head and looks down. "What are you writing now?" he asks curiously, peeking at the journal.

"I am just making another entry about the day's events. Nothing ... telling. Well, maybe a little telling," she says with a mischievous smile.

"Well, then," he replies softly as he nibbles her earlobe and then whispers in her ear, "Maybe I can give you something else to put in your journal." He wraps his arms around her and gently pulls her out of the chair and onto her feet.

"Solen!" she exclaims in mock protest, but then her lips become too busy to say anything when his kiss stops her from speaking. When he pulls back finally, she asks, "What about my journal?"

He picks her up, scooping her off her feet, and she nestles her head against his bare chest. "I think your journal will just have to wait for a little while. The sun has been gone for some time, and the moon is full," he says as he walks over to the bed and sets her gently on its edge. "Lady Aithera Kilbray Telendris, I think it's time for bed."

"Yes, Milord," she replies with a breathless, radiant smile.

Aithera slowly opens her eyes and blinks as the soft light of day invades her vision. She takes a moment or two, trying to remember where she is, for her memory seems to be fuzzy. Then a smile slowly lights up her face and her eyes sparkle as the memories of the previous night come flooding back, and her cheeks begin to flush as she remembers. With a nearly cat-like purr, she stretches, raising her arms high above her head, and with a very contented sigh, she brings them back down. Starting at her hair, she fluffs the long tresses out from under her head on the pillow. The hands travel along her cheeks, feeling the warmth in them as they travel along her neck, over her shoulders. Over the prominent breasts, shivering inside as her hands brush the sensitive flesh that quickly comes to attention. Her hands travel along the ribs and over the flat muscles of her stomach that ache from lovemaking. Her hands move smoothly over the hip bones and partly down her thighs, which also have a pleasant ache from the evening, with her lover. She turns onto her side, resting her head in the palm of her hand. With a soft sigh, she admires the man lying next to her, sleeping on his back. The chest slowly rises and falls with his gentle breathing, and his face is serene and relaxed.

Her smile gets bigger as she carefully reaches out and brushes a stray hair off his forehead, and then her fingers gently trace the narrow face, marveling at the softness of the skin. She runs a finger lightly along the strong jaw, neck, and over the shoulders. Then her hand flattens out as she lightly skims her flattened hand over his chest. An involuntary shudder runs through her and she gasps quietly as her hand rests on his stomach. She jerks and her eyes flare as his hand gently covers hers as he rolls to his side. His deep eyes sparkle as he studies her face, smiling contentedly.

"Morning," he says, his voice barely above a whisper.

Aithera's blush gets deeper as she replies, "Morning, my love."

Solen smiles as he gently rubs the back of her hand. "Been awake long?"

Aithera smiles tenderly. "Not long, did you sleep well?"

He chuckles. "Very well, and you?"

"Oh yes," she breathes. "I think I passed out," she says, and his smile gets bigger.

"Well," he replies, "I think I was not far behind you." He sighs contentedly. "So, what do you have in mind this morning?"

The window to their room slowly opens. A large bird of prey glides in, and with a rustle of feathers, it lands lightly on the foot board, chirps, and then turns its head upside down and back upright as she thinks, <What have you been up to?>

"Good morning to you, too, Chaka," Aithera replies and then chuckles. <It's none of 'your' business, dear.> The bird turns its head upside down, blinks, and then chirps at them before turning her head right side up and chirping again.

Aithera ends up on top of Solen as he rolls onto his back, and she leans down and kisses him. Then she sits up and smiles wickedly. "More?"

As Solen reaches for the prominent, flawless skin, presented to him so invitingly, there is a squawk of protest and a flurry of feathers as Chaka flies out the window, and the window closes on its own.

After they have rested from another round of play. He comes up behind her as she is brushing her hair, and leans down to nibble on her neck.

"Solen!" she exclaims and then giggles. "We cannot hide in our room all day. You said that we needed to go to Orodreth."

"Sounds good to me. Hiding in the room, that is."

Laughing, she lightly bops him on his head with the brush. "Be good now."

"I thought I was good," he replies with mock surprise, straightening up quickly.

Aithera laughs as she turns in her chair, looking at him with her head tilted slightly to one side. "Oh, that you were," she purrs. "Now, behave yourself," she says as she turns back to the mirror. "We have already been away from the others too long. They might get the wrong idea and get worried."

Solen laughs lightly as he goes and gets his robe. "Unless the room has wards around it, I don't think anyone will have the wrong idea. I think everyone knows how ... well, just how mellow you are," he adds with a wide grin. "Because I think you were broadcasting your feelings without much shielding last night."

Aithera looks aghast as she sits straighter in the chair, and then her exposed skin blushes brightly as her eyes widen. "Oh dear," she whispers. Then she turns in her chair, looking at him. "Now look what you made me do." Then she laughs softly. "Well, you can look at it this way, Solen. Others might look at you a bit differently now. Perhaps the ladies will be wanting your attention, so I think I may have to keep a closer eye on you. The prim and proper elf has a wild side," she says as she gets up and goes over to him, wrapping her arms around his neck. "Hmm, yes, a very close eye indeed," she whispers and then kisses him deeply. When she finally breaks the kiss and steps back, she slips from his arms and turns to her desk. "Now get ready to re-enter the world," she says, "and no more fun and games." Aithera sits down and then turns her head, giving him a wanton look. "Until later, that is," she adds, and then she turns back to the desk, picks up the quill, and gently dips its tip into the inkwell.






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