By: Aaron E. Smith

�Move away from him Voraphet,� Chendrelle demanded, as she broke free of Tahletha�s grasp.

The black millipede let out a gurgling snicker and began crawling upon Simeon in an undulating pattern, digging her pointed legs into his flesh. �It has been many seasons since we shared council Chendrelle; must we digress directly into conflict� over this?� Voraphet asked, licking Simeon�s face with her slimy tongue.

Chendrelle flew lower into the grove and came to a hover a few paces above Simeon, staying just beyond Voraphet�s reach. She scanned the surrounding darkness with her Fey-sight, noting the locations of the other lurking Dark-Fey.

�Return to your dark masters Voraphet,� Chendrelle said. �You abandoned your leadership in this council and offered up your wings as sacrifice to serve at the feet of those who rape and subjugate. You have no place here any longer.�

Voraphet�s milky eyes narrowed sharply as she let out a long, menacing hiss. She raised the front half of her long body and released a noxious cloud of mist from her mouth, catching Chendrelle by surprise. The cloud quickly enveloped her and rapidly spread into the air of the ancient grove. Chendrelle�s eyes began to ache and burn as she struggled to clear her vision.

The Dark-Fey seemed to melt into the surrounding dark, hidden even from magical sight. Chendrelle heard the urgent warnings from her sisters above and retreated higher into the air, drawing the moonlight into her as she rose. The pale, glimmering beams began descending upon her like a waterfall, filling her with light. Soon, she began to glow with a golden radiance. Chendrelle raised her hands skyward, urging the lights to come faster and faster until they were nothing but flashes in the night. The gathering Fey watched in awe as Chendrelle slowly lowered herself to the ground, landing beside Simeon�s helpless body. Her eyes burned with golden flame as she looked upon the Dark-Fey that crept toward her.

Voraphet crawled from Simeon�s chest and slithered around him to face Chendrelle, baring thin fangs as she came.

Before the Dark-Fey could close the remaining distance, Chendrelle gathered the light she held inside her and hurled it outward. Her Qelltalis flared in response, triggering a burst of light that lit the ancient grove like a mid-summer sun. The raw power of it stunned even her.

The Dark-Fey cried out in anguish, retreating quickly to whatever dark nook they could find nearby. They clamored over each other to escape, lumbering with closed eyes toward the burrows from which they emerged. Though the light lasted but moments, the warmth it generated lingered tangibly in the night air.

Chendrelle�s body tingled as the last flickers of power inside her dispersed. Both the Dark-Fey who cowered before her and the Fey that flew above, regarded Chendrelle with open-mouthed disbelief. Nettamion regained her composure first, flying earthward to chastise her reckless sisters.

�You dare bring your powers upon each other in the heart of our sacred grove!� Nettamion fumed. �Your disregard for the sanctity of this council is intolerable. By my authority, submit yourselves.�

�They do not deserve the privilege of holding council among us,� Chendrelle argued.

Voraphet cautiously approached them, her pale eyes studying Chendrelle intently. �Though we have aligned ourselves with stronger powers beyond, our flesh remains bound in death with the remnants of this wood, and thus we must have voice in all that concerns it.�

Voraphet retreated from Chendrelle slightly and shifted her gaze to Nettamion, bowing insincerely as she added, �Although it should be pointed out that only Queen Sephron holds true authority over this council. Nevertheless, we willingly submit to the authority of Nettamion, Princess of Decay.�

Nettamion glanced at each of the gathered Dark-Fey in turn, pondering Voraphet�s words carefully. It would be the first time in hundreds of years that all of the surviving sisters had convened together in council, and though she was reluctant to admit it, it seemed appropriate. �Considering the importance of the decision held in debate this night, I welcome you all to council. Bring yourselves to order,� she directed.

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About the Author

Born and raised in Indiana, Aaron has long enjoyed the craft of writing and, with the constant support of family and friends, hopes to pass that joy to those that read his stories.
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