Her mother is still in council with the females of the other nests, Emrys is out with Aymeri, searching for Riain, leaving only her father and Oren in the nest to look after her. But she's nearly an adult now herself, and needs no looking after. Arienh slips out at dawn's first light to meet Kirwyn, the dragon she's chosen as her first.
"Here," he says, leading her to an unclaimed spot in the territories held by their kind, "I found the perfect place for our nest."
"It is perfect," she says, sitting nestled against him, letting him wrap his arms around her as her back rests against his his chest, "I wish we could start using it now." Adulthood cannot come quickly enough, Arienh longs to leave her mother's nest and lead her own.
"I slept here last night," Kirwyn tells her, "And I will stay here until you come of age and can make it ours."
Dragons choose one nest and never move from it, and as there are no other females coming of age for years to come, there is no need for Kirwyn to guard their claim. "I'm sorry you have to wait for me," Arienh says, understanding that he's staying out here alone to avoid the other males in his mother's nest, "It can't be easy to be an adult and still be called a child."
"I just think about you, Arienh," he says softly, coming around to face her, drawing her close to taste her lips, "Being your first will be worth the wait."
"I cannot give your markings yet," she says, he voice grown husky with desire, "But I can make you mine, right here, in our nest, right now..."
"Arienh," Emrys calls here name, coming on the pair.
Suddenly a child again, Arienh hides herself behind Kirwyn. "Emrys, First of Radhari," Kirwyn says in greeting, speaking as an adult male though he is as yet unmarked, "Aymeri, First of Tearhne," his brother, born of the same mother, but even with their blood relation, a formal greeting is always required when males of other nests meet.
"You should be in the nest, daughter," Emrys says to Arienh, "These are dangerous times."
"This will be my nest, soon enough," Arienh, coming out from behind her chosen First, "And Kirwyn can protect me from any danger."
Kirwyn expected to be taunted, called a child and told to go back to his mother's nest, but these dragons are on a serious mission and have no interest the typical tests and provings males force on each other.
"Ico, my fairy, has been taken," Aymeri explains, "I fear one of the nests that stand against us may have captured her."
"Like our mother's nest?" Kirwyn asks. Aithne leads the charge for war against the fairies, and has recommended brutal punishment against Tearhne's whole nest for their infraction of the dragon law. A law that both he and Arienh now break by standing in the presence of the fairies present in Aymeri's band of followers, though their status as juveniles would protect them from any punishment.
"Have they taken her?" Aymei asks him.
Kirwyn shakes his head, "Not since yesterday afternoon. I've been out here and haven't seen any of Aithne's mates to know what they've been doing since."
Auberon stands separate from his companions as they confer about which dragon nest would be the most likely to have stolen Ico. He's been in their company only a short time, but is already becoming too well acquainted with the dragons' penchant for discussing everything at great length. The fairy is surprised by this, having expected them to act quickly, without thought, a prejudice he acquired by having previously only known them in their other, more bestial form.
But all this discussion is not helping them find Ico, and Auberon decides it is time for him to take immediate action. He raises his arms into the air, calling on his magic.
Arienh gasps sharply and Kirwyn points n Auberon's direction, "The fairy is doing something!"
Whoever has Ico has shielded her from discovery by means of magic, and Auberon cannot find her with his mind. But no spell can protect her from the elements, and all he needs is one drop of rain to fall on her, touch her skin, and he will know where she is.
As the rain he called falls to the ground, so does Auberon collapse to his knees. He's had no rest for days, and he's expended so much magic, constructing a house from his imagination, the pain he'd inflicted on Riain, and now this, fragmenting his consciousness amongst the countless raindrops that fall over the land, seeking Ico, has pushed him to the edge of what he can bear. And though he hates to expose the limits of his power to these dragons that watch him now, it will be worth it when he finds his missing fairy.
"Having her here makes people nervous," Tor says, "They fear what she will do if you cannot hold her." He isn't telling the Spirit Talker half of what the people are grumbling about. Aven has served the tribe well since the spirits showed her their favor, she's tended their wounds, birthed their children, predicted the changes in weather and the movements of the herds they follow. But while they are all grateful for what she does for them, they also fear her for the very power she uses to serve them.
She brought them here to this land of plenty, drawn by a vision, and Tor was well pleased to settle his people in a place of such warmth and beauty. But it's also a land of new dangers, strange creatures unlike any of the beasts they hunt or the predators they compete with for their prey, creatures of greater magic than even their Spirit Talker, who took two of their best hunters down without leaving a mark from fang, claw or weapon. Now one of these creatures is being kept in her ht, and his people grow anxious.
The Spirit Talker for him to follow her into the hut.
"You think I cannot hold her?" she asks, magic swirling visibly around her as she raises her arm in a mystical gesture. "You forget how much power I hold."
Ico watches the display in bemused silence. The magic the woman is casting is just light and color, nothing but a display to impress the male. And judging from his expression, her illusion worked, and the man leaves satisfied with her power.
"What do you want from me?" Ico dares to ask when she's alone with her captor. Though the spell she displayed for the male was a simple trick, Ico is quite aware of this woman's real power. Though she does not understand how she acquired it, it is strong enough to hold Ico prisoner here in this circle of stones.
"I want your magic," the woman answers.
"My magic?" Ico asks, "My magic is my very essence, it's not something I can separate from myself to give you."
The woman smiles in a way that makes Ico shiver, "Magic is not something you are given, it is something you must take."
Uvie stands outside the doorway, listening to her mother's exchange with the beautiful spirit.
"I cannot delay much longer; I'm going to gather what I need for the sacrifice," Aven says as she leaves the hut. She hadn't expected this rain, which troubles her, as she always knows the shifts in weather before they occur, but she will not let it deter her from her purpose. Tor can be placated by cheap illusions for only so long, and Aven must carry out her plan before he seeks to interfere, "Be sure that none enter the hut while I'm away," she instructs her daughter, "And do not enter the circle again. That creature is dangerous and you haven't the experience to protect yourself."
Uvie nods, promising to do as her mother says, while she makes plans to break her word. She'll find a way to stop her mother from killing the beautiful spirit and taking her power. She has to.
The rain falls on the thatched roof of the hut, but not a drop penetrates it to find Ico. She can hear Auberon, his consciousness present in every drop, calling out for her, but she cannot respond if she cannot touch the water that carries him.
She sinks to her knees in despair, her hope of rescue fading quickly.
The girl enters and kneels in front of her, just outside the circle that holds her prisoner. Ico sorely regrets attacking the girl when she first woke up here, as she may have lost her only chance at gaining an ally to help her escape.
"I am Uvie," the girl says, staring in obvious fascintion.
"I am Icovellauna," Ico answers, her hope rising again as she realizes that while the girl may fear her, she appears ready to trust. "Can you help me escape this place?"
Uvie nods happily, and then frowns, "I cannot break the circle spell my mother placed here," she says sadly, realizing that her desire to help the spirit may come to nothing after all.
"You don't have to," Ico say with a smile, leaning over the stone bowl of water placed in the circle for her to drink. Ico touches the water, infusing it with her essence. Uvie enters the circle to watch her, her fear completely gone now. "Take this bowl out into the rain," Ico instructs her, careful not to make any gesture that would startle the girl, "Take it somewhere away from your people, and do not spill any of it. When you are somewhere safe, let the rain fall into the bowl. It will summon one of my kind. Tell him you are my friend, and lead him to me. He will help me escape."
Ico feels a pang of guilt a the girl walks carefully away with the bowl of water, fearing the destruction Auberon will bring to these people as he rescues her. If she can, she will protect Uvie from his wrath.
His consciousness is embedded in very drop of rain that falls, he feels every blade of grass, every bird's feather, every stone, every animal pelt touched by the sudden downpour, but he still cannot find Ico.
"I don't understand," he whispers to the dragons that kneel beside him, waiting for his plan to come to fruition "What kind of spell can protect her from rain?"
"Maybe she is inside somewhere?" Riain suggests, his own memories of being held inside still recent and unpleasant.
Uvie lays the bowl on the ground in safe place, neither too close nor too far from the encampment, and away from the direction her mother went off in, and watches as the drops of rain fall into the water, waiting.
Auberon rises as his rain finds its intended target. "I feel her now," he says, almost moaning, "I've found her."
The air shimmers around him, and he's gone...
Reappearing in the place where his rain touched Ico.
"What trickery is this?" Auberon demands of the creature he found in place of Ico, his anger rising at being so deceived by what can only be one of the creatures Shayeleigh described as hunting her. "What have you done with her?"