by J. Falconer


Disclaimer: Xena, Gabrielle etc belong to MCA/Universal and Ren Pics, and anyone else who has an interest in Xena Warrior Princess, not me.

Copyright ã 2000: The characters in here belong to me. All rights reserved. No part or whole of this work may be copied or used in any shape, form, or manner whatsoever without the author's express written consent. If you want to use them, all you have to do is ask … nicely.

Violence disclaimer: This story depicts scenes of violence and/or their aftermath. Bit more graphic than usual (enter, stranger, at your riske – here there be icky bits), but readers who are disturbed by or sensitive to this type of depiction may wish to read something other than this story.

Love/Sex warning: This story depicts a love/sexual relationship between two consenting adult women. If you are under 18 years of age or if this type of story is illegal in the state or country in which you live - move along, move along, nothing for you here ...

Major vote of thanks to my ever patient beta readers Foreva Xena and Diamonddog for taking valuable time out to read this. Without their support this would still be an idea floating around in my head. BTW, please remember to feed the bard …


Sunstar and Nightshade stood at the ornate door to the throne room. Nightshade cast a quick anxious glance at her confident companion, inwardly sighing, unable to shake her unease.

It took all her courage to walk beside the young Princess. The two guardsmen outside the throne room came to stiff attention at the approach of Sunstar, faces expressionless, carefully concealing their shock at Nightshade’s glowing blue eyes, clearly proclaiming her to be drow. Yet they bowed easily, and opened the doors to admit the elves.

The throne room was a vast, circular room hollowed out of the trunk of the most ancient oak in the Elven Forest. A disk was cut out of the high ceiling, showing the verdant canopy of the forest to good effect. All around the walls were tapestries, depicting great historical scenes and past Kings, in the minutest of colourful detail. There was no evidence of weapons or armour in the room – long dead elven magicians had cast spells within so that if anyone that entered was armed, then they would instantly be sent into a magical sleep from which they would never awaken. The morning sun shone into the chamber, lighting up every corner, setting the crystal floor ablaze in a sea of vibrant color.

Nightshade barely noticed any of this, her full attention drawn to the simply dressed young elf on the throne, gold circlet resting easily on his head the only display of rank. He sat forward comfortably, chin on hand, glittering emerald green eyes and shoulder length golden hair hauntingly reminiscent of his daughter’s.

Nightshade felt Sunstar give her hand a reassuring squeeze, and quickly gave her gentle companion a small smile. She was nervous, thankful that she had learnt control over her body’s reactions from a very young age. There was no sign of her inward trepidation over the meeting with the most powerful of Elven monarchs.

Darkwood did not speak; he merely pinned both his daughter and her bastard lover with a cold stare.

Sunstar saw this, and for the first time felt some alarm.

"Father," she said firmly, bowing formally, feeling Nightshade do the same beside her.

"Sunstar," he said quietly in his deep, melodic voice, barely moving an inch, still favouring them with an unwavering cold stare.

The stony silence stretched out.

Uh oh, thought Sunstar grimly, dread seeping into her.

"I would like to present Nightshade to you, Father," she said easily, forcing confidence into her tone, gracefully indicating her lover.

"Your Highness," said Nightshade respectfully, bowing low, dread coursing through her system.

Again, her father did not answer, green eyes boring into them. Finally, he straightened up on his throne, and leant back comfortably, elbow resting on its ornate arm.

"So this is Nightshade," he said quietly, far too calmly.

"Yes, Father," said Sunstar equally quietly. She could see that he was angry, but did not understand why. He knew she loved Nightshade. She had told him that right from the start, when she had gotten back. She remembered crying her broken heart out in his arms on more than one night when her nightmares had gotten too much for her to handle.

"Come closer," he finally said, tone still easy, though his smouldering eyes said otherwise, waving Nightshade forward.

Nightshade eyed the young elf on the throne. He barely looked a day older than Sunstar, but his eyes spoke volumes. They told tales of an elf that had seen much of life, reckoned as old amongst his time. He was clearly a King and a powerful Elven magician, who had held the throne for many years, and was wise to the ways of the court and the world.

He gracefully got off his throne, and descended the stairs of the dais, walking towards them slowly, calculatingly. He was tall, almost as tall as Nightshade who stood a shade over six and a half feet. Slowly he circled them, noting the firmly clasped hands, then faced Nightshade, almost nose to nose, gazing deep within her startling blue eyes.

Darkwood sighed inwardly. His daughter had entered the throne room with her customary confidence, demon lover firmly in tow. Though he did not show it, burning shock had gone through his system at the sight of the much discussed Nightshade. He knew she was drow, that much he had been told. But Windwalker had not told him that Nightshade was clearly half an elf. She did not have the customary white hair and indigo skin of the drow; instead, she had a cascade of long midnight hair, creamy skin, upswept ears and the smooth features of an elf. A twisting red scar wound its way down one delicately sculpted cheekbone.

She could almost pass for an elf.


The one thing that gave away her evil heritage was the glowing eyes of the drow. Did it matter that they were a gentle shade of sky blue, instead of red or gold?

He had watched his daughter interact with her carefully. Love shone deep and bright in Sunstar’s eyes, plus a good measure of the trepidation that had finally set in when she realised that he was not pleased by her choice of lovers. Nightshade … now she was an entirely different proposition. Her clean features gave away no hint of what she was feeling, luscious body seemingly completely relaxed in his presence. The eyes were a gently glowing pool of pure blue, devoid of expression. He had no doubt that years of living with the drow had given her more than her fair share of ability to mask what she was feeling.

Slowly he backed away from them, then stood comfortably, arms crossed.

"Well?" he asked coldly, raising an eyebrow.

"W-well what?" Sunstar faltered, seeing that her father was furious, and things were not going as planned at all.

"Would you care to explain this?" he asked airily, waving a hand at Nightshade.

"This is Nightshade. I have told you all about her father. She is the one who rescued me from the Drow."

"You neglected to mention that she was a drow herself."

"She is not a drow!" hissed the Crown Princess, completely forgetting to whom she was speaking. Darkwood’s eyes flashed fire. "Any idiot can see she’s half an elf!"

Darkwood said nothing, attempting to reign in his temper, pinning her with a frosty stare. "Windwalker!" he called, voice clipped. "Come forth."

From behind the shadows of the throne, Windwalker emerged, seemingly calm, inwardly rocked by the same shock that had coursed through his King. Jarrod had indeed neglected to mention that Nightshade was clearly half an elf.

Without looking behind at his Captain of the Guard, Darkwood said coldly, "Captain, take this … this … this thing to the castle prison."

"Father!" screamed Sunstar, shocked and outraged. "You can’t do that!"

"Sunstar, you forget yourself," he said icily, emerald eyes furious, openly pinning his daughter with an enraged glare.

"No, Nightshade, NO!" screamed Sunstar in hot denial, as more guards emerged from the shadows and coldly and firmly pulled them apart. Tears coursed down Sunstar’s face, as Nightshade locked anguished blue eyes with her young lover, growing ever more distant as the guards roughly pulled the half elf along.

"Don’t forget the promise you made to me in Dragonar! I make the same to you!" screamed the desperate Sunstar, reaching out to touch her lover once again as her father restrained her.

The guards dragged the unresisting half elf out of the throne room, Nightshade’s eyes a pure blue mask of grief.

When the sad spectacle was done, Sunstar tore her arm out her father’s grasp and turned on him in a furious torrent of rage.

"What do you think you are doing Father?" she hissed, a level of ferocity never before seen shining bright and clear in the normally gentle elfmaid’s eyes. He was taken aback, but did not show it.

"Sunstar, I am the King and your father. I advise you to get out of my sight and stay away from me before you say or do anything else that you might regret."

With those words, struggling to control his fully ignited temper, he turned on his heel and strode away, leaving his tear stained daughter standing by herself in the centre of the throne room.

Nightshade was torn from the throne room, and dragged down to the prison by extremely ungentle guards. They threw her into the darkest, coldest cell they could find, uncleaned but long disused. Taunts of "Now you’ll be at home Drow!" and "This is where you belong hellspawn!" rang in her ears.

She collapsed in a tangled heap on the straw, guards’ words tearing into her frozen consciousness. She was not a full drow. Could they not see she was half elf? Would verbal abuse be enough for them?

Not content with rough handling, one of the guards, hatred and malice clear on his young, smooth features, strode back into the cell, kicking the half elf in the ribs as hard as he could. He turned to look at his companions, and they all exchanged a speculative glance. As one, they moved into the cell, and began kicking and beating the half elf as hard as they could.

Soon she was little more than a bloody rag lying on the floor of the cell, ribs broken, covered in bruises, black eye almost swollen shut, thin trickles of blood leaking from the corner of her once beautiful mouth.

Nightshade lay there on the floor of the cell, lying still, hoping they would leave if they thought her unconscious. She proved correct. With a satisfied grunt at the work they had done, the elves spat on her, then slowly filed out of the cell, locking the door behind them.

Slowly and painfully, Nightshade clutched her ribs, agony tearing through her abused body, and sat cross legged on the cell floor.

Don’t forget the promise you made to me in Dragonar! I make the same to you!

Sunstar’s words echoed in the mind of the half elf. She remembered her promise to Sunstar in Dragonar: I’ll not let them harm you. That promise had already been broken. She had known that the elves would not accept her outright, but had trusted in their normally gentle natures to ensure that she remained unharmed. She had known she should never have ventured into the elven city, but she was truly desperately in love with the young Sunstar, and had never wanted to leave her side.

The elves had put her in prison. She had expected that. Her entire life, up until a little over six months ago, had been spent committing the most atrocious crimes that any of the races had ever seen. They were crimes she did not commit anymore, and never would engage in again. She knew that when she left the drow, she would spend her entire life in penance for past crimes, and punished as a symbol of the drow. But Nightshade was paying for her crimes a thousand fold, and her life was in and of itself a prison. Surely that should have been enough?

She reasoned that they would not leave her in prison for the rest of her life, they would have to let her out some time. Even if they banished her again, at least she had known the love of her beloved Sunstar. It would have to be enough. If not … well … if not, then she would have to find her own way out of the prison the forest elves had so thoughtfully put her in. No matter what happened now, her beloved Sunstar was lost to her forever. She would just have to get used to it.

The pain that tore through her was intense, and she sat there on the cell floor, eyes open, glowing a gentle blue in the darkness. Tears streaked down her dirty face, landing on her body and the floor, washing the blood clean away.

Sunstar stood in the throne room, alone, head bowed, tears shining bright in her eyes. The rage and intense sense of betrayal that had coursed through her, directed at her father when he had ordered Nightshade imprisoned, had slowly departed from her, replaced by intense pain.

She loved Nightshade with all her heart, and had seriously thought that would be enough. She had obviously been living in her own fantasy world.

She had spoken to her father during her sleepless nights, slowly telling him of some of the things that had happened to her, but had been unable to describe to him what had happened to her in Dragonar. That had been too much for her to face. He knew some details of her escape back home, but again, not a lot. The memories of a quiet, strong half elf giving her life for a near stranger had been too much for Sunstar to openly deal with.

She thought about Nightshade and what she had given up for Sunstar. She was a fugitive from her people, forever to be shunned by the other races. She was half an elf, that much was quite obvious, so along with the bloodthirsty nature of the drow, she had also had a gentle spirit, and a reverence for life that would not be long denied. The actions of the drow and the call of her blood would always have caused intense conflict in her, and one nature would have had to become dominant eventually.

Nightshade had chosen the way of peace. The teachings of her forest elf mother had always remained in the half elf’s mind, unacknowledged until confronted by the needless death of a small child. Then she had called a halt to the bloodlust of the drow and vowed to leave. But she had not left her home alone, she had left with the Elven Princess they had captured.

Nightshade had never asked for anything herself, content to follow the wishes of one foolish young elfmaid, travelling with the dreadful knowledge that she was a fugitive. The half elf knew she would the hated drow upon them as though she were a beacon, yet she had stayed, simply because a young, frightened elfmaid had asked her to. Nightshade’s courage had never faltered, nor had her gentleness towards Sunstar.

Friendship had sprung up amongst them, love, though neither one had realised at the time. It had not been until that final goodbye that they both realised that they loved one another.

Then Sunstar had lost her beloved half elf, never thinking that Nightshade would come back to her.

But she had.

The forest elves were supposed to love and revere all life. All life? Surely that meant the life of a homeless half elf? Nightshade may have been a half drow by birth, but she was also half an elf, and therefore kin of the forest elves.

How could her father do that to Nightshade? An elf and the saviour of his daughter at that? Especially when she had whispered to him in the dark of the night that Nightshade held her heart so firmly that she could not entertain the notion of another.

She loved Nightshade with the passion of a fully grown elf, not a foolish elfling. The mere thought of not having Nightshade close to her filled her with a barren emptiness that she knew she could never recover from. No, life would not be worth living without Nightshade by her side, that much was certain. Not even the carefully instilled reverence for life would allow her to see beyond that barrier.

So it was with a heavy heart that Sunstar slowly left the throne room, a long time after her father, determined to visit the love of her life in her new cell of elven fashioning.

Nightshade sat on the floor of the cell, meditating. She had withdrawn deep within herself, drawing on the teachings of her Drow weapons master to clear her mind and prepare herself for whatever ordeal it was she had to face next. The first step had been the reunion with Sunstar, the next step was to find her way out of prison. After that was an uncertain future she was not yet ready to face.

Her timeless state was suddenly interrupted inside by a sensation she could not name. She examined the feeling, gently studying it, then opened her eyes, bruised lips curved into a half smile as she saw the wide open, tortured eyes of Sunstar.

"Sunstar," she murmured in gentle recognition, voice muffled by her swollen mouth.

"Nightshade," said Sunstar softly, entire being quivering with shock as she stared at her dirty, bruised, horribly injured lover. "What have they done to you?"

There was a hissing intake of breath from Nightshade when Sunstar leant forth and pulled her lover gently into her arms. The Princess instantly let go, then felt Nightshade’s arms gently encircle her, pulling her close.

"Sunstar, it’s alright," Nightshade began soothingly, as fresh tears flowed from Sunstar’s eyes onto the half elf’s chest.

Nightshade closed her eyes and held her lover, giving her the comfort she needed, Sunstar’s mere presence the balm her tortured soul craved.

"I’ll survive," murmured Nightshade with gentle reassurance. "I have had much worse done to me."

That caused Sunstar to cry harder. Foremost in her mind was that Nightshade was lying; this was about the worst that could be done to her. It had been amply demonstrated to her that she had no home, and would not be welcome in Shimmering Moon.

"This is your home," said Sunstar emphatically, voice thick with sadness. "They should not be doing this to you at all."

"My home?" for the first time, Nightshade’s voice was bitter. "I have no home. I ask you only one thing: when your father decides what to do with me, please do not let him execute me."

Sunstar gasped in shock. There had not had an execution in Shimmering Moon for time out of mind. The elves had such a reverence for life that they would rather banish a criminal than kill them. On rare occasions they did execute certain criminals, but that had to be for committing a crime so gross that the forest elves had to believe that there was no hope for redemption. Sunstar could not recall the last time this was ever done.

"My father would never execute you. And if he exiles you, then we’re going together, I don’t care what he – or anyone else – says."

Sunstar gazed at her once beautiful lover through tear stained eyes. She could clearly see what had happened to Nightshade, that much was obvious, and she made a mental note to see Windwalker and discuss the treatment of guests with him. If necessary, she would override any decisions he made and exile the soldiers in question herself. It was the most minor punishment she could think of; quite frankly, they deserved the same beating to be administered to themselves.

Nightshade enjoyed the comforting feel of her young lover in her arms. Sunstar was serious, that was certain. Nightshade knew what the forest elves would do to her. Exile at best, execution at worst. She was going to escape, she decided, now all that remained was to see if Sunstar would come with her.

"Sunstar," she began softly, questioningly. "I do not wish to be a prisoner here."

Sunstar felt a sliver of dread enter her heart. Surely Nightshade did not mean that she was going to take her own life? Concerned, she leant up and looked deep into the gentle glowing blue of her lover’s eyes.

"Yes," she murmured. "I want you to be free and with me."

That would surely tell Nightshade that suicide was not an option, though who knew what an elf raised by drow would be capable of?

"So do I," said Nightshade slowly, glad her young lover appeared to know what lay in her heart and shared her desires. "I am going to leave here, and I want you to come with me."

Sunstar inwardly gulped. Was death the only way out?

"I will help you escape," she said sofly and firmly, giving her companion a gentle, reassuring squeeze, forgetting the half elf’s ribs.

Nightshade gave a hissing intake of breath from the sudden pain in her ribs, and Sunstar inwardly cursed her lack of empathy and backed off slightly. "Exactly," replied the half elf quietly, resettling the princess in her arms, small, gentle smile playing about her lips.

Inwardly the elven Princess sobbed with relief. It had not been as bad as she feared it was to be. She should have known, she quietly chastised herself. Nightshade would have known that Sunstar could not live without her.

Sunstar mentally began to grin. She knew the schedules of the guards in some detail. Windwalker had always shared them with her, while teaching her to be a good war Princess. He had always reasoned that she had to know what her guards were doing at all times, and where their abilities lay.

Just at that moment, a young guard appeared outside the cell and coughed politely for Sunstar’s attention. Though sickened by the wasted regard he saw for no more than a hideously disfigured drow, he kept his face carefully expressionless.

"Your Highness?" he asked, tone carefully neutral.

"What is it?" Sunstar snapped, turning to glare at the guard. He was probably one of the ones who had done this to Nightshade. Well, since he was so brave, he would find himself in short order out at the furthest and most active border they had with their sworn enemy. He wanted to beat drow? Fine, then he would have his chance with well armed ones.

The guard was taken aback at the normally gentle Princess’s tone. Well, to the dark one with her – she was clearly out of her mind. In any case, why waste respect on someone who clearly had no loyalty to the elven nation, and was most likely engaged in the darkest treason?

"Your mother the Queen requests your presence," he said calmly, flickering shadows from the torchlight in the prison casting shadows on his face, making it appear as though he was screaming in agony.

There was moment’s silence.

"Well? Where is she?"

"Pardon," the guard said, word grinding out in his attempt to appear to be properly respectful. "She is in your chambers."

"Fine. I’ll be there in a moment. Get out!"

With the correct, almost respectful salute given, he turned and strode from the cell, without waiting for her acknowledgement.

A flash of rage swept through Sunstar. Time to talk to the guard personally once she was out of the prison. She turned back to her lover, heart aching, guilt at having brought this dire fate upon Nightshade eating her from the inside out.

"I will return. I must not keep Mother waiting," she said softly, strongly concerned for her beloved Nightshade’s welfare.

Though it caused her agony to do it, Nightshade leant down and kissed her lover soundly, cursing the bruising which stopped her from fully feeling Sunstar’s soft lips. She had faith in her young lover’s persuasive abilities.

With a deep sense of aching loss, Sunstar left the cell, taking one last, loving look back at the gentle blue eyes, shining with faith and hope for her.

Temper running hot and out of control, she strode back into the guard’s room at the end of the dark, stone hallway.

As soon as she entered the room, both guards shot to their feet and stood to attention. Sunstar eyed them coldly, pinning the guard who had delivered the message with an open glare.

"You," she began coldly, approaching him, body stiff with rage, emerald eyes flashing.

"Your Highness," he began, almost respectfully, forcing himself to bow slightly.

Without warning, she backhanded him, steadfastly ignoring the pain in her already bruising knuckles.

He gasped, and staggered back slightly. The blow had been a hard one; pain and shock that she had done it at all coursed through his system.

She leaned forward, looking up at him, and grabbed the front of his leather jerkin. "I don’t know who did that to Nightshade," she ground out, hatred shining from her normally gentle eyes. "If you did it, then you will pay. And show some respect to the Crown Princess or I will have you beaten and bleeding for all to see."

With that, she shoved him back so he stumbled back down into his seat, surprise etched into his young, smooth features, bruise beginning to darken on his cheekbone.

She strode out of the cell block, not looking back, not caring what the guards did or said.

She stalked through the halls of the palace, in a blind rage. Just what was going on here? First of all, her father threw her saviour into a cell, and then the guards had the absolute gall to beat the half elf! An elf, of all things! How could elves do that to one another? Then, to top that off, they had shown her nothing but disrespect? What on earth was the world coming to? What would they do next, throw her in prison? Once her interview with her mother was concluded, she made a note to personally demote the guards and remove them from the royal palace.

She strode into her chambers, emerald eyes flashing fire.

"Sunstar," said a feminine voice softly. Sunstar whirled to find the speaker. It was a willowy, young, red headed elf with clear hazel eyes, almost six inches taller than Sunstar. It was Morningstar, her mother.

"Mother," said Sunstar coldly, struggling to calm her temper, eyes clearly showing her rage. "I suppose you’ve come here to lecture me as well."

Inwardly, Morningstar was taken aback at Sunstar’s tone. It was true; she had been planning on trying to talk some sense into her daughter, but now she was not so sure. She had never seen Sunstar angry, let alone furious enough to strike her mother, as the Princess seemed about to do.

"No," said Morningstar soothingly, noting the tight set to the young elfmaid’s shoulders, the restless pacing. "Please, sit." If Sunstar was to be of any assistance at all to her lover, then she had to calm down and begin thinking rationally.

Morningstar quietly seated herself in one of the comfortable chairs Sunstar had in her sitting room. Sunstar glared at her for a moment, in between bouts of pacing.

"Sit," he mother commanded in her most no nonsense tone, cool hazel eyes commanding. Once Sunstar’s temper was ignited, that was the end of reason for quite some time it seemed. Where had that come from? Normally Sunstar was such an easygoing young elfmaid.

Sunstar’s shoulders sagged, and she took a seat across from her mother. Without a doubt her mother was of the same mind as her father.

"I know of what happened this morning with your father," began Morningstar quietly. "I know you are upset. But why do you carry such anger with you?"

Sunstar stared at her mother and bit off a retort. Her mother’s real question was why was Sunstar still angry? Surely Sunstar would have known that her father would sit down and discuss the matter? He would not do anything without Morningstar’s support. Shoulders slumping in defeat, Sunstar gave vent to a deep and miserable sigh.

"Mother," she began, thinking carefully about how to phrase her response. "Nightshade is not a drow, she is half an elf. She took me from an evil place I was going to be a prisoner for the rest of my life in, and took me home. She destroyed her own life in the process. You knew I loved her, and instead of giving her – and me – the benefit of the doubt, you put her in prison, probably for life."

Morningstar sighed. Sunstar had told her of her love for Nightshade in the darkest hours of the night after her return home. However, Sunstar had neglected to tell them a drow had helped her escape, a vitally important scrap of information. It was not a matter of how to manipulate words to view a situation, it was about cold, hard, well established facts of drow behaviour.

"See it from our point of view," Morningstar said evenly after a few moments. "Your lover is from a people who are no less than our sworn enemy. Your father only has the safety of all our people in mind." She was surprised Sunstar could not see this herself. She had proven herself as an objective, just ruler in the recent past. Why were her emotions clouding her judgement to this degree now?

Sunstar eyed her coldly, unable to credit what her ears were telling her.

"Really? Safety? Well, what about Nightshade’s life? I just came from visiting her in prison, and it turns out the guards have beaten her within an inch of her life. But she tells me she’s just fine."

There was bitter sarcasm in the tone.

Morningstar stared at her in surprise. Sunstar could not have been right – forest elves were not vicious by nature, and they would never harm anyone from malice, enemy or not.

"Yes, they did," said Sunstar emphatically, leaning forward to pin her mother with a glare. She got to he feet and began to pace restlessly again. Then she strode back to her mother and held out her bloodstained hands, tilted her head to one side so the shocked Elven Queen could see the blood on her neck.

"They beat her. She saved me and they harmed her. You want to throw her in prison for the rest of her life. I tell you now Mother, if you do that, then you put me in prison as well, because if you don’t then I will release her myself. We will not be staying with such a hypocritical people."

Morningstar became angry herself. Just whom did Sunstar think she was speaking to? If wrong had been done, then Morningstar and Darkwood would see that the elves involved were punished. They were a good, peace loving people, and much more open minded than other races!

"Do not threaten me child," she said softly, hazel eyes glittering. The anger passed almost immediately; inwardly, she was dismayed at her child’s threatened choice of action. Sunstar’s lack of faith in her parents was quite disturbing, she thought curiously. When had that come into being?

"Or what?" asked Sunstar coldly, bending down and grabbing the arms of Morningstar’s chair. She was eye to eye with her mother, emerald green eyes boring into hazel ones with a vicious glare.

Morningstar’s face became expressionless. Sunstar had always been an impulsive, adventurous child. She had been the first one to fall out of trees and break an arm; the first to mount an unbroken horse; the first to run from her royal guard. When she had come back from the drow, they thought she had changed. Gone was the immature, spirited girl, replaced by a near stranger, wise in the ways of the world, governing her father’s kingdom with a patience and thoughtfulness they had not known she possessed.

She agreed with her husband. Nightshade should remain in custody until she either proved herself, or showed that she did not have the temperament of a true drow. It was not clear whether that custody should be behind the bars of a prison cell, or watched carefully by the guards as she moved through elven society in relative freedom.

Morningstar took careful note of the dried blood covering her daughter. In that, Sunstar was correct. What had come over the guards, that they could treat another living being in such a barbaric fashion? Though she did not know it, she agreed with her daughter. Perhaps the guards should be sent to a place where they could reflect on the indignities visited to a guest’s person, and to relieve themselves of such unwholesome urges. In the mean time, there was the matter of Sunstar’s drow lover to attend to.

Sunstar pulled herself away from her mother’s chair, and began to pace again, hands clasped behind her back.

"Sunstar," the Queen began tone still quiet and reasonable. "We do not agree on what is to happen to your lover. But I can assure you, your father and I will be just. If you would like a say in the future of Nightshade, I suggest you come with me, and we will go and discuss it in council with your father. Trust in our fairness – we are good elves, good regents and above all – we are your parents, and we do care for you a great deal." She was struggling to find the words that would calm and reassure her daughter, and give her the necessary perspective to see the situation from both sides of the fence.

Sunstar felt the anger drain out of her, replaced by shame. Her mother was right; they were her parents, and would do what was best for her and their people. She just had to trust them.

Morningstar watched the tension drain out of her daughter, seeing her words had the desired effect. She smiled.

Sunstar leaned forward and matched her mother’s smile with a rueful grin.

"I hope you’re right, Mother," she said softly. I don’t want to think of what will happen otherwise.

Morningstar stood, and enfolded her daughter into a warm embrace. Thank goodness Sunstar was appearing to come around.

"Clean yourself up and come and see your father."


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