reggie11: (Kindred 2)
[personal profile] reggie11
Part Two
Over the next two weeks, Jens'n would be unable to fly. The king insisted he remain at court until he healed completely and sent word to the chief of the Ackl's clan to assure him of his son's safety, and that when the time came, he would receive an Amazon escort for his return. Jens'n's father had sent him alone on his mission under the perfectly natural assumption that he would draw less attention and be safer. Jens'n used Magic to travel more quickly, as Jared had used to spirit them all back to court, but the distance is great and rest stops must be taken. It was during one such stop that Jens'n was set upon.

The Goblins were refusing to talk. As predicted, one of their number succumbed to his wounds before the Amazons had brought them to the faerie guards. The wound was mainly through the shoulder but had nicked a major blood vessel. The other injured Goblin seemed too afraid to speak up, and the uninjured one was stubbornly refusing to open his ugly little mouth. The Fae did not agree with torture but after a hastily called meeting with Queen L'via, King Ga'len agreed that these were in fact dire times and his principles would have to be put aside for the good of his people and all of the Southland dwellers. The king spoke with his commander of the Protectors, J'ffrey, who volunteered himself for the job stating that he would not ask his Protectors to do what he was unable to do himself. He was on his way to complete the task.

One week had passed since Jens'n's attack, and he and J'red were spending every moment together after King Ga'len agreed to putting J'red on detail as Jens'n's personal Protector. J'red had shown him around the palace and they had taken many long walks into the forest. After seeking and being granted permission from his father, J'red took Jens'n to see the Sacred Tree and even to view the Lake. Considering his loyalty and his position as possible savior, it was agreed that he should be made an honorary member of the Protectors until such time as he could go home to seek permission from his father to officially join the ranks.

It took a full day for them to walk to the mouth of the cave. J'red had told Jens'n he wanted to show him something special but hadn't told him what. His head was still reeling from seeing the Sacred Tree. It was such a sight to behold. A glow like golden molten lava flowed through its trunk and branches, and the leaves shone with colors like prismatic light refracting from a crystal. Like J'red's eyes, Jens'n thought to himself and shook his head a little to clear it. He was falling in love. But although J'red was extremely affectionate and seemed to genuinely enjoy Jens'n's company, he also seemed to be keeping himself at arm's length. Jens'n wasn't sure what to do. He wanted to tell J'red how he felt, but he was worried that if he did, and he was wrong about J'red having feelings for him, he would destroy their friendship which felt as strong as if he'd known him his whole life.

As they neared the rear of the cave, the soft glow grew a little brighter, and Jens'n wondered if J'red had perhaps set up dinner by firefly light. No, that was ridiculous. Why would he do something like that? It was Jens'n's own romantic notions he was projecting. Suddenly J'red took his hand, and Jens'n's heart was in his throat.
"I hope you don't mind, but we kind of need to fly for just a bit. Is it okay if I carry you? I don't think it's a good idea to put any strain on your wing yet. Healer Heyer'dahl said you should wait another week at least."

"Uh, sure. I guess."

Then J'red was lifting him with those muscular arms, and Jens'n, who was not a small faerie himself, was wrapping his arms around J'red's neck. It would be so easy to just lean in that little bit and kiss him. Faeries had no notion of sex being anything but enjoyable and often had many partners before settling with their mate. It was an act of affection, of fun, and of physical pleasure. He didn't know why he was being so hesitant to make a move. J'red, like himself, had most likely had sex with every one of his friends at one time or another. It's just...this felt so big, he thought his heart would beat clean out of his chest. Suddenly they were airborne and entering a vast space that was breathtaking.

When J'red set them down on a rock, Jens'n knew he was gaping. This was it. This was the Lake, the lifeblood of the land and all that lived on it. He turned to J'red who was grinning.

"This is...it's...Goddess, this is amazing! Thank you for bringing me. We all know of the existence of the Sacred Tree, but the Lake has always been a myth."

He threw himself into a hug and almost squeezed the life out of J'red who let out an "oof" and that low rumbling laugh.

"You're welcome."

He still had hold of J'red when he looked up into those prismatic eyes. He knew he probably looked like a lovesick fool but he couldn't help it. And then J'red dipped his head and laid the softest kiss on his lips. Jens'n sighed into it.

J'red pulled back slightly, his brow creased in concern. "I know I shouldn't because you have a destiny with someone special, but I'm not sorry. I've wanted to do that since the moment I laid eyes on you."

"I've wanted it too, but I was scared you didn't feel the same way." He pushed forward almost unbalancing them both and dove into another kiss, this one filled with passion and hunger that he felt returned just as strongly from J'red. Their tongues tangled as they explored each other's mouths, J'red lightly biting at Jens'n's full lower lip as they broke for air.

"What did you mean by destiny?"

"You really have no idea how important you are, do you?"

"Uh, I'm glad you think I'm special but I have no idea what you're talking about."

"Have you ever heard of the D'vine Prophecy?"

"The bedtime story?"

J'red found a rock covered with soft spongy moss and sat, pulling Jens'n down to sit beside him, and wrapped an arm around his waist just under his wings which made him shiver. Jens'n leaned into it, laying his head on J'red's shoulder.

"Yes, but not the bedtime story version, the real prophecy."

"It's real?" Jens'n pulled slightly away so he could look into his friend's face to see if he was joking with him but his expression was serious.

"Probably not the version you were told, and not the version I was told either. Well, parts of it are real, just elaborated on and turned into a children's story."

"Uh, okay. But what's it got to do with anything?"

"Have you ever performed a magic transfer for healing? Or have you seen your magical aura"?

"I've never done a healing transfer but I've seen my aura plenty of times, why?

"What colors did you see?"

"Green with varying green sparks and a touch of gold, probably from some royal blood many, many generations back. But greens of course, same as my eyes."

"Huh, it must only show in times of great stress or strong emotion."

"J'red, I have no idea what you're talking about."

"Can we...do you trust me?"

"Of course I trust you. I'd trust you with my life, you've already saved it once." Jens'n smiled but let J'red see just how serious he was.

"Can I ask you something?"

"Anything."

"What did you feel when I kissed you?"

Jens'n felt himself blushing but he could see the earnestness of J'red's face. He was almost certain now that J'red felt just as strongly as he did. It was now or never, and his words came out so fast they were almost tripping over one another as he looked at he floor. If he looked at J'red's face he would lose his nerve.

"I felt like a thousand miniature butterflies were trying to beat their way out of my stomach. I felt like my breath had left my body. I don't think I've ever felt like that kissing anyone. It felt like I'm falling in love with you."

He forgot how to breathe as there was silence filling the air after his enormous word vomit. He thought it might just be possible to die of embarrassment after all. Then J'red used his finger to tip Jens'n's head up, and he saw that J'red was beaming, and his eyes were glittering with unshed tears. He sucked in a much needed breath at the love in J'red's expression when he responded.

"I felt like if I didn't kiss you, my heart was going to burst open. I felt like you were the part of me that I never knew was missing until that moment. I know I've never felt like that kissing anyone. I'm already in love with you."

Jensen moved forward to smash their lips together only to be stopped by J'red moving slightly back. Confused, he was just about to ask what was wrong when J'red said, "Use your magic when we kiss."

"Why? I'm pretty sure it'll feel pretty magical on its own if the last kiss was anything to go by." Jens'n smiled.

"Just...trust me, okay?"

"Always."

Jens'n brought his magic to the surface, and he could see J'red doing the same as they both began to glow, and Goddess above, J'red's aura was magnificent. Jens'n knew his aura was pretty, every faerie's aura was beautiful, it came with the territory of being Fae. His aura was moss green, with sparks of every shade of green on the spectrum and a little gold which he'd always been inordinately proud of because of how rare it was. But Jared's, his shone like the purest gold that was found in the nearby hills, but with the force of a hundred suns shining on it. Through it all shot sparks of brilliant blues, turquoise, emerald and jade greens, and cocoa brown. It reminded him of the gemstone his parents had stood upon when they renewed their bonding vows fifty cycles ago. He couldn't remember what it was called, but he remembered how it looked when the sunlight hit it and all of the colors reflected off his mother's gown. He'd dreamed of using it for his own bonding ceremony one day.

Then J'red wrapped his arms around him, and he tilted his head to meet him in a kiss that he felt through every fiber of his being. When they broke apart, J'red was looking at him like he was the most wondrous thing he'd ever seen.

"Look."

"What?"

"Look at yourself. I was right, it worked."

Jens'n looked down at the glow emanating from him, and twisting like ribbons through the greens he was used to seeing was shining ruby red. His breath hitched in his throat . This had never happened before. It was impossible. Red just didn't exist in faerie aura's, they were always shades of blues, greens, grays and browns, and in cases of royal blood, gold.

"What's happening? This isn't my aura, it can't be."

J'red was smiling but it was tinged with sadness now. "Do you remember the story of prophecy?"

"You think it's me? You think I'm one of the Kindred?" His voice raised so high at the end he almost squeaked. It was ridiculous. It was a bedtime story told to children. But he did remember now, one of the chosen had a crimson aura. It couldn't be real. Could it?

"I know it's real. The original scroll is somewhere in the palace library. My father has the staff looking for it, he's not the most organized with books. It's you, Jens'n. I love you, but you have a destiny. There's someone out there who is your other half. Your soulmate. The part that was split that will be rejoined. I can't get in the way of that. You're too important to us all."

"You're wrong. I could never feel the love I have for you with anyone else. It's just not possible."

"I wish I was wrong. I feel like my heart is going to break in two. But you and your true mate will save us all. And when you find them, you'll be truly happy. You'll be whole again."

"Curses, I can't remember enough of the tale. What were the details of the other faerie in the prophecy?"

"I can't really remember it either, and the few others I've asked who have children, they all have differing versions. The only consistent parts are the story of a faerie soul divided yet destined to find the other half. One with an aura of crimson that shone like ruby. I guess that one really stuck in people's minds as the story got passed around because rubies are so important to our race, and it's a color that would never be found in auras. Some have told me hers was an aura of diamond whites, some said it was pure silver which is the color of the ancients. None of the bedtime stories I've been able to find seem to match on the second faerie. The story has been bastardized after a few thousand cycles of being handed down, and the original was locked away in a library vault. But every story agrees, that at the time of great danger that could see our entire race wiped out, the Kindred - the prophesied pair - will lead our people to victory and into a time of unparalleled peace. Jens'n, one of them is you."

"But I'm just me. I'm just Jens'n of Ackl's Clan. I'm not even really trained properly in battle. How in the name of the Goddess would I ever be able to save anyone, let alone our entire race?"

"With the other half of your soul by your side, I guess."

Jens'n looked into J'red's eyes and saw sorrow as deep as an ocean, and it threatened to drown him.

"Well, none of it has happened yet, and until I see what the scroll really says with my own two eyes, it's all speculation. I'm here. You're here. We're in the most magical place in the entire world." He sat back down on the soft moss and held out his hand to J'red. When J'red finally took his hand after a few heart-stopping moments, Jens'n laid back and pulled J'red down with him. "We don't know what's real yet, J'red. But this is real. This place. You and me. Let's deal with the rest of it when we actually know what it is. Be real with me right here, right now."

J'red knew that his heart was going to get broken. He wasn't sure if making love with Jens'n would make it harder or easier to deal with. But they were here. Together. And if this was the only opportunity he was ever going to get, then by the Goddess he was taking it.

The next morning J'red and Jens'n made the long trek home to the palace in relative silence, both lost in thought, J'red trying to figure out how to give Jens'n up when he knew it would feel like extinguishing the light inside him. Jens'n was mentally preparing himself to fight his so called destiny, prophecy be damned. He would fight for his race if he really was one of the Kindred, of course he would. But he would do it with J'red by his side, not some girl with an aura like diamonds. Now that he'd found J'red he couldn't let him go, it was just unthinkable. They might as well ask him to stop breathing.

As they walked through the palace's main entry, they were practically set upon by members of J'red's family, all babbling excitedly, other members of the court looking confused, and the staff looking like they were about to burst. Everyone was talking over one another, and the boys couldn't make out anything that was being said.
"Hold it. What?" J'red was trying to say while being drowned out by the voices of all of his siblings...all forty nine of them.

"Shut up. Shut up. SHUT UP!" J'red roared, finally putting a stop to the noise. "What is going on? And don't all try and answer me at once! D'vid! You're the eldest, you speak." Jens'n heard the grumbled mutterings of several of the siblings and almost burst out laughing. The whole situation was ridiculously comical, except for the fact that something big was obviously going on and there was news to share. Good news by the looks on everyone's faces.

"Where have you been?" D'vid almost shouted. "Father sent for you last night and you were nowhere to be found. He's had the staff scouring the palace and forest for you."

"Well, I'm here now. Why does he need to see me so badly? Where is he now?"

Every set of J'red's sibling's eyes turned to look at Jens'n and he found himself shrinking back, wanting to hide behind J'red.

"Father found it! The original D'vine Prophecy written by the oracle Lor'etta. He's in the great hall with mother, and he wants the entire family there."

Jens'n felt like the bottom had just dropped out of his world, and he was walking to his own execution. J'red had a sudden urge to grab Jens'n by the hand and flee, fly off deep into an unpopulated forest where they could hide and live out their lives together. But the fate of the Fae rested on this. A broken heart didn't even come close to that kind of importance. He squared his shoulders and took Jens'n's hand. As the rest of his brothers and sisters began to file into the great hall, J'red hung back until there was enough of a gap that they wouldn't be overheard.

"I'll never regret last night. And I'll never regret meeting you or loving you. I just want you to be happy."

"I could never be happy without you," Jens'n answered, his eyes glistening with unshed tears. He sniffed loudly, but held his head high, and said, "Let's get this over with."

By the time they entered, everyone was already seated. J'red's brothers and sisters on either side of the long table, his parents side by side at the table's head. There were two vacant chairs at the opposite end so they sat side by side, their hands clasped tightly, out of sight beneath the heavy wood of the tabletop. J'red's parents were beaming and he felt like his life was ending.

"You boys have been impossible to find. Where have you been?" asked Queen Sof'ia.

J'red cleared his throat, and he hoped that nobody could hear how close he was to breaking down. "Father agreed that I should show Jens'n the Lake. It took a lot longer than normal to get there because of the damage to Jens'n's wing, and I did not think it prudent to travel by magic while he has not yet fully healed. It was late in the evening so we decided to stay overnight and walk back this morning."

"So you've seen the Lake that is vital to us all. Impressive, isn't it?" King Ga'len asked Jens'n.

"It was the most incredible night of my life."

J'red barely choked back a sob but covered it by coughing. Jens'n squeezed his hand so hard he felt the bones grind.

"I take it J'red explained to you that we feel you're one of the two prophesied Kindred who are destined to save us all?"

"Um, yes. I'm not sure I believe it though. I certainly don't feel like I'm anyone special."

"Well, hearing the original prophecy might just change your mind." The king smiled enigmatically. Queen So'fia exchanged a meaningful glance with her husband.


Ga'len continued, "We shall let you take the scroll with you to peruse in detail, and in private when we have finished here. It is quite long, and a trifle confusing. Not nearly as simplified as the bedtime story which was adapted from the prophecy. Jens'n, after J'red told us of your aura we wanted to be sure that we were correct in assuming you are one of the Kindred, so as well as searching for the scroll, we consulted with an expert.

"We had the royal seer use her own vision while examining the scroll to provide us with a full and thorough interpretation. Not only was she certain that you are, in fact, one of the Fae from the prophecy, we now also know the identity of your destined mate, Jens'n. It seems you are not the only one with an unusual aura. We have seen the other many times without knowing what we were seeing. The Kindred are each imbued with the properties of a precious stone. As you are aware, Jens'n, yours is the ruby which is the gem of royalty, and of protection. It is a power the Protectors harness every day with the help of the rubies within the palace. But I expect of more importance to you right now is the identity of the other half of your soul, your kindred mate. It is none other than our son, J'red."


J'red's head whipped up, his eyes widening. "Me? But how...what...I don't understand?"


Queen Sof'ia took Ga'len's hand in her own, and answered for him. "Your eyes were the clue, my beautiful boy. Your aura has always been remarkable in its myriad colors, just like your eyes. We had always assumed it was an anomoly of nature. But the seer, she consulted the crystal. Jens'n is the ruby, and you, dearest J'red, are the opal, the gem of the Goddess, love, insight, and also protection. There is so much more but we shan't go into that right now. I think this is more than enough to digest for one night."


"It's really me?" J'red almost whispered.


"Yes, child, the seer has assured us you two are indeed the Kindred of the prophecy. The saviors of the Fae."

J'red and Jens'n sat dumbfounded, the astonished gazes of J'red's siblings, and the proud looks from his parents all falling on them. J'red was too numb to move. He was almost too scared to even attempt to look at Jens'n. It was D'vid who broke the silence.

"I always knew you were special, little brother. I can't think of anyone else I'd want to rest my fate with. You are the most caring and generous of all of us, you are brave and honorable, and even though you sometimes get up to some foolish antics, you are incredibly intelligent. I'm proud of you."

"We all are," their mother added.

J'red felt the first tear as it fell and splashed on the tabletop. His sister Jas'min reached over to place her tiny hand on his, a frown creasing her pretty face. "Are you not happy? I was certain you boys were falling for each other. Oh my. This is dreadful!"

"No," croaked Jens'n. "It's the opposite of dreadful. It's so perfect I can hardly believe it."

Jas'min's face broke into a broad grin. "Well, for the love of Goddess, will you both please stop looking like the world has ended?"

J'red sobbed out a laugh and finally looked at Jens'n. The overwhelming love and relief he felt was mirrored back at him from the one who was literally the missing piece of his soul. "I never knew I was incomplete until I met you." He launched himself at Jens'n's mouth so forcefully they both fell in a tumble to the floor, to the cheers and jeers of his family, J'red's father trying to speak through his laughter. "I'm not sure that's entirely appropriate behavior for the saviors of our people, or for two members of royalty."

Jens'n made an undignified squawk and stopped their mock wrestling. They both sat up and turned sheepishly toward the king and queen. The royal siblings were all smiling fondly at them but none quite as big as D'vid.

J'red turned to Jens'n with a huge dimpled grin. "You do realize that when we're officially bondmated, you'll be a prince as well?"

"I'm no prince!" Jens'n squeaked.

"You will be." J'red volleyed back.

"Actually, Jens'n's right." D'vid's voice effectively silenced the room.

J'red whirled around. Shocked that of all of his family, it would be his doting big brother who would protest. As he jumped to his feet, Jens'n grabbed hold of his hand and squeezed hard. "It's alright, J'red. Truly."

Before J'red could shout that it wasn't even remotely alright, this time it was his father who spoke. "Your brother is right." He held out his hand in a stop gesture before J'red could protest. "When you're officially bondmated, you both will be kings."

Jens'n, who was half way to his feet when Ga'len started speaking, fell flat on his ass, his eyes ridiculously wide.

"Father?" J'red's voice sounded small and confused, and he looked to D'vid to try to grasp what was happening. His father would rule until he died, and then D'vid and his bondmate, Rach'l, would be crowned the new king and queen. His mother had expressed no desire to rule if his father should pass before her. D'vid was smiling broadly, as was Rach'l beside him.

"Sit down, J'red. You too, Jens'n. Perhaps you might help your future bondmate off the floor." His father said with exasperated fondness. J'red's siblings sniggered.
Once they were settled back into their seats, Ga'len's face and tone grew more serious.

"After reading the prophecy last night, and being unable to find you both, your mother, D'vid, Rach'l, and I discussed the implications late into the night. We all feel, unanimously, that for the sake of stability, and for the good of our people and that of our allies, the prophesied saviors should lead our people. Once you and Jens'n are bondmated, your mother and I are abdicating the throne." Jared was once again silenced as he began to protest by his father's hand. "D'vid and Rach'l both agree that it is the best way forward. Even the wording of the prophecy hinted at this outcome. You can read it in full when we're finished here. It's the best for our people, J'red. I understand that it must be overwhelming for you, and even more for Jens'n, who was not raised in a life at court, but you are both strong and brave, and you will lead the Fae well. Of course, D'vid and I will remain as your advisors. Neither of you are expected to do this alone.

"You will have the support of your entire family." Ga'len looked to all of his children. "If any of you do not agree with our decision, the time to speak up is now." They looked at each other and then to their parents. The room remained quiet. "Are you all in agreement?" The entire family spoke as one as they answered, "Yes!"

The next 24 hours were a blur. J'red and Jens'n talked late into the night. Both were more than a little terrified that the fate of their people might come to rest upon their shoulders, not knowing how, why, or what would happen. It helped that J'red's family had such enormous faith in them, and Jens'n knew he would find equal support from his own father, and also from his clan. Still, it was a lot to take in.

The king must have met with Queen L'via, as Gen'vieve and D'neel arrived to tell them that she was offering the same loyalty to J'red as she had to his father, and that the alliance with the Amazons would remain. She herself was in the twilight of her very long life, and leadership of her people would eventually pass to Gen'vieve's eldest sister, S'manth'a, with whom J'red had always gotten along well, and who he knew would always remain a strong and loyal ally. Both women were filled with happiness at hearing that they were to be bonded, and even though their size and their reputation as fearsome warriors initially made Jens'n quite nervous, he was warming to both of them very quickly, especially D'neel as she shared his cheeky sense of humor.

J'red proposed that he travel with Jens'n to meet his family, and to extend J'red's family's welcome to them. They decided there was no real rush for the formality of the bondmating ceremony, as J'red didn't feel ready yet to take over from his father, and he also didn't want to push his father from his throne. Queen Sof'ia had spoken at great length to Jens'n, and had began to educate him on some of the responsibilities of the royal family and the leadership of their race. When Jens'n admitted his fears, she explained that it would be of no consequence that Jens'n was not raised at court, that he would rule as J'red's equal, and their people would love and accept him as they had her when she was bondmated with King Ga'len. Jens'n knew J'red would treat him as an equal but he knew, too, that although they would rule together, it would be J'red who took the lead for the foreseeable future. He had always lived this life, watched his father rule, and Jens'n's life had been quiet and uneventful...at least until now.

They were in the king's chambers with J'red's parents in the midst of making travel plans to meet with Jens'n's family before they both returned to the palace, when Grand Protector J'ffrey burst through the door without announcement or waiting permission.

He bowed deeply at the startled foursome. "Please accept my apologies, Sire, but this is most urgent."

"Of course, J'ffrey, come in. You have information from the Goblin...interrogation?"

"Yes, Sire. It took much to break him, and understandably so, after their reasons were finally revealed. It seems the information provided by the Ackl's clan is correct. King Omuds'n of the Northlands is rallying forces and promising untold wealth and power to the races that join him in his quest. He is convinced of the existence of The Lake and the Sacred Tree and intends to wipe out any who stand in his way to get to both."

"And the Goblins?"

"They are already on board. Their own king has been sending scouting parties south to capture faeries to take back to King Omuds'n to be tortured for information."

J'red took Jens'n's hand and squeezed as his mother drew in a sharp breath. This was to have been Jens'n's fate, and J'red felt a shiver of terror pass through him.
"Do we know how far along he is in his planning, and what, if any, real information he might have about the location?" Ga'len questioned gravely.

"According to the little information the Goblins had been told before setting out on their mission, there are still various tribes and clans who do not trust any Minotaur. They think King Omuds'n to be a delusional fool, though a very powerful and dangerous one. He has not yet convinced the Fenrir. They are holding back, but are under enormous pressure, and no little threat, to join forces. I think it will be only a matter of a few short months before Omuds'n demands the Fae surrender control of the Lake and Tree, or he will declare war on the entire Southlands. We need to begin preparations immediately, Sire."

"Yes, I fear you are correct. I will call a war council for three days hence. We need to send out messengers immediately. There is something else you have not yet told us, J'ffrey, I can see it in your countenance."

"I'm afraid you are correct, Sire. The Goblins have heard their own rumors. It seems that not only has Omuds'n found a way to control the Blemmyes, who are mindless cannibals, he has a most dangerous weapon we could not possibly have anticipated, and if true, things are far more dire than we imagined possible. He is rumored to have a most powerful wielder of magic in his close circle, one who has information that gives the Northerners a clear advantage."

"Northern magic is strong, but Faerie magic is the strongest of all. The threat from the North lies in their size, strength, and sheer brutality. It is our magical strength and the unrivaled skills of the Amazons which levels the playing field. What does this wielder of magic have that could compete with the magic of the Fae?" J'red queried.

"I'm not certain I believe it myself. It seems too fantastical a notion to take seriously, but I think we must consider the possibility." J'ffrey scrubbed a tired hand across his mouth. "The Goblins say the sorcerer is Fae. We may have a traitor, Sire. And if this is true, he or she knows not only the truth of the Tree's existence, but knows it is here. Not its actual location, but that it is in this vicinity. The faerie will also be able to see its true form."

"I can not believe it," Jens'n rasped. "No Fae would ever turn on its own kind. It's impossible."

"I hope you're right, young Jens'n. But we must plan for the worst case scenario," J'ffrey responded.

"You are right, of course." Ga'len sighed. "We can not risk that the Goblin's information is not true. J'ffrey, please organize messengers to set off immediately to warn all Clan leaders that Goblins are crossing the border. I shall have N'yah organize a heavily warded sanctuary for the Unicorns. Pel'grino, the leader of the Centaurs, will need to be assured that we will do everything we can to protect the unicorns from the threat of the Goblins, and I will also request that he himself, or a representative of his choosing, join us in the war council. We must ensure the safety of all of our people. No faerie should travel alone or unarmed. Have D'vid sent for. I need you both to try and determine if any of the more powerful Fae are unaccounted for. We need to uncover the identity of the traitor, if they do, in fact, exist."

J'ffrey bowed and flew out at great speed. Ga'len stood and paced while the others sat silently, each trying to absorb the terrible news. At last he turned and spoke.
"J'red. Jens'n. I know you both thought you would have some days, even weeks, to plan for your bonding ceremony, but waiting is a luxury we no longer have. The best time would be when the war council convenes. We will be beside you all the while, but you must assume leadership and be crowned in front of the entire council."
J'red swallowed audibly, and he could feel Jens'n shaking where their hands were joined. "Wouldn't a change in Kings now be too unsettling?"

"On the contrary," his mother said. "Your father is right. When we announce you as the Kindred of the prophecy, and that you are to assume the crown, it will only strengthen us. All of Oracle Lor'etta's prophecies have been accurate. She has foreseen your success. With the two of you leading us, everyone will be assured of our eventual victory. It will ensure there will be no dissent among the clans and races of the Southlands."

J'red nodded. It made sense. He was afraid, more than he had ever thought possible, but he spoke with resolve. "We will begin preparations immediately. Jens'n?" Jens'n nodded, but couldn't find his voice.
They retired to J'red's chambers within the hour. Both of them were exhausted and scared, but also determined.

"This all feels like a dream. It's hard to believe that less than two weeks ago I was living a simple life, and was no more important than a clan leader's son. And now, by the end of the week, I will be bondmated, and a king."

"Do you wish you had never met me?" J'red asked, his eyes soft.

"I could never wish that." Jens'n sat beside him on the bed and kissed him gently. "It was meant to be, all of it. You were right, I have a destiny, we both do, and we will fulfill it with honor and bravery."

"We will. With you by my side I know there is nothing we can't achieve, no war we cannot win."

"I love you," Jens'n whispered against J'red's lips.

"And I love you."

As they made love under the pale moonlight shining through the open drapes, with each kiss, each stroke, and each caress, they felt stronger and more assured. War might be imminent, but they would rule as one, and as one, they would defeat the enemy and bring lasting peace to their land and their people.

They would be victorious.
The end...for now.
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