February 11, 2009
By Holly Utley BRONZE, Anchorage, Alaska
Holly Utley BRONZE, Anchorage, Alaska
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

The woods in Dewpoint were sparkling with the smell of new rain. The old ramparts stood well over four hundred feet high with its rosy red walls and ivy carpets of vines. Good old Cornelius woke from his eight-hour sleep. Stretching and yawning, he stood up to get dressed. Today was Monday, the fresh beginning to a new week. He dressed in a slow and dignified fashion and casually walked out to the gatehouse. He paused to lean against the wall watching with a bemused smile as the little ones played in the piles of fallen leaves that old Chelmsar worked on all day yesterday. He smiled even wider as he thought of the gatehouse keeper coming out of his house and seeing his lovely yard full of playful little ones. Shaking his old head, he walked down the halls to the Great Hall. Cleaning the tables was Princess Minarya, his pretty little niece. Her long brown hair fell to the back of her knees; her soft green eyes sparkled as she stared into the sunlight. Dressed in a light purple gown, she was seated by the window, humming to herself as she cleaned. Cornelius softly cleared his throat. The young maid gave a startled cry and looked up. She held her chest, breathless with surprise.

'Uncle, I didn't expect you to be up. What brings you to the hall?' She asked in that sweet and melodious voice. Cornelius smiled at her. His light blue eyes glowed warmly through his spectacles. Minarya was so much like her mother.

'Oh, child. I just fancied a walk around the ramparts. It's Monday today. Today is a special day for you.' He said in his kindly voice. Minarya cocked her pretty head to one side.

'Oh? And, what, pray tell, is that day?'

'It is your birthday my dear. As of today, you are twenty years old.' Minarya shrugged her pretty little shoulders.

'My birthday. Oh how splendid! I shall get ready for the ceremonies, Uncle.' She turned to leave, but her uncle gently caught her arm.

'Not so fast, child. Today, you do not have to help. Why don't you let the others prepare. You may go outside and ride the horses. My goodness, how time passes.' He sighed gently as Minarya turned to go outside as her uncle bid. Chuckling to himself, Cornelius set out to wake the rest of his friends.

Velzbane Macruff leaned against his prison wall. He was a young man of twenty-nine and a fearless warrior. He came from up north along with thirty of his men (who had all been slaughtered on the spot). He had light brown eyes and dark brown hair that hung about his shoulders. He wore his armor from Norway when he'd visited. The chain mail was made from dragon skin and the pants made of soft leather. He wore long black boots made of the same leather. He sighed angrily as he twirled a bit of twig in his hands. His best mate, Gez, was fast asleep in the corner. Like Velzbane, he came from up north, but unlike Velzbane, he came from the Highlands. Gez stretched and opened his bright blue eyes. He had long curly dark hair that hung down to his waist. He wore a long torn cloak and a knee length kilt with pockets in the underside where he cleverly hid his weapons. He turned onto his side to his friend.

' Guid mornin' Velzbane. Feel better now ye great lump of a warrior?' Gez said with a bright smile. Velzbane nodded as he looked out the cell door.

'You've been asleep too long. What more is there to do now Gez? Are we to perish here? It doesn't seem right to be trapped like a couple of rats in a barrel.' Gez rolled his eyes. Velzbane was in one of his moods again.

'For the love of Christ, Velzbane shut your moanin.' We'll be gone by mornin' tomorrow.' The Highlander turned his back to the door and slipped his white open collared shirt back on. 'Ah, well. Today, we break out. I know exactly where we're goin' too. If we break out from this wall here, we could go south to Dewpoint. When we get there, we'll just lay low for a few days until those idiots of Magnus's give up on ever catchin' us off guard again.' Velzbane stared at his friend in amazement. All though Gez was younger and more headstrong, he was definitely brilliant. Velzbane sat back and watched as Gez dug out of the cell. He turned to his friend with a roguish smile on his face.

'Gez, are we going to make a run for it? What'll we do if Magnus catches sight of us?' The young man's smile slipped as he thought of the evil lord sending his best warriors to the quiet town of Dewpoint.

'Yes, we're going to run.' Without warning, the cell collapsed and both warriors made a dash for the sad excuse for trees. Upon hearing he footsteps of the approaching guards, Gez drew his claymore hidden in his clothes. 'Just like old times, eh?' Velzbane drew his long broadsword.

'Aye, and we ought to free the slaves as well. Just so Skellgar can slay his second in command.' The warriors ran to the slave and harem house. All the slaves cheered as Velzbane cut the chains with his powerful sword. Gez escorted them all out and was about to leave until a slave grabbed his arm. She was very pretty with white hair, pale blue eyes and snow-white skin. She wore a long white dress that only allowed her toes to peek out. Her pretty eyes shimmered in tears as she searched Gez's face in desperation.

'Please. You must rescue my sister. She's in the Room now.' She said in a soft voice that sounded like the winter winds. Gez shivered at the thought of the Room. The Room was the place in the castle where young girls would be tied down and violated.

'All right then, I'll save your sister for you.' The beautiful lady sank into him with relief. Gez averted his eyes. He was shy when it came to girls. He smiled at her then left He ran into the Room to find the girl tied down. Her client was nowhere in sight. 'Let's go, miss. I'm here to save you.' The girl looked him up and down.

'Well at least you're somewhat decent looking. Well, how should we do this?' She asked in a low but sweet voice, assuming a provocative position. Gez shook his head.

'You misunderstand me. I'm saving you, not raping you. Come on, get dressed and let's go.' The girl cocked an eyebrow.

'Salvation for a harem girl? How odd for a soldier. What caused the sudden change of heart?' Gez sighed.

'I don't work for scum like Magnus. I am a fighter not a order follower.' He grabbed her hand and they left the room. Velzbane was waiting for him. Corpses of soldiers were strewn on the floor. The harem girl took one look, turned bright white and fainted dead away into Gez's arms. 'Uhn, what do I do with her?' Velzbane laughed at him.

'Carry her laddie. She needs to escape with us. Let's go.' Gez nodded and lifted her onto his back. The girl weighed practically nothing. They ran for cover under some hollow logs. As they sat there gasping for breath, Gez looked at the girl lying in the pile of leaves. She was very pretty. She had long tangled blonde hair with wisps of leaves intertwined, pale skin and dark eyes. She was naked, lying shivering on the ground. Gez gently lifted her up and put his long, tattered cloak over her body. Velzbane gazed at the unconscious girl with Gez.

'Maybe we should leave her here.' Velzbane said, reaching over to pick the leaves from the girl's hair. As he was doing so, he did not notice the leaves reappearing in her hair. Gez sat with his back against the wall.

'No. I saved her; she has to come with us. Dewpoint can give her proper medical attention and a decent place to live. Old Cornelius wouldn't mind. He's dealt with maids for a while now.' As he spoke, the girl's dark eyes fluttered open. She stared soundlessly at the two men. One appeared to be about twenty-nine with shoulder length brown hair and dark eyes. He was pretty well built and reasonably tall. He was quite a looker too. She glanced at the younger one. He had long, curly dark hair that fell to his waist and light blue eyes. He was extremely well built and was very tall. She blushed as he smiled at her.

'Are you alright, Miss?' He asked in a thick accent that she couldn't place. She nodded dumbly.

'What's your name?' The other man asked her in a gruff irritated voice. She wrapped the tattered cloak tighter around herself and lifted her chin to stare at the stranger.

'My name is Autumn. I am the sister of Winter, Spring, and Summer. Daughter of Nature and Time.' The younger of the two nodded.

'Are you a daughter of Eve or a daughter of a goddess?' He asked. Autumn fixed her attention on the young man.

'I am a daughter of Eve. My parents were named Nature and Time.' She said in her sweet voice.

'I am Velzbane, and this is Gez. We saved you from the Room.' Autumn cocked an eyebrow.

'I don't remember you there. I remember your friend. Gez, is it? An odd name to be sure.'

'Not half as odd as your own. Autumn'it's a pretty name.' Gez said flashing her a charming smile. He suddenly remembered something. 'Um, Miss Autumn'I don't know if you've realized this, but you're naked.' Autumn looked down at her exposed flesh.

'Really? So that's why it's a bit drafty in here. Wait a moment please.' She lifted her hand and drew fancy patterns with her hand. As if by magic, she had made herself a short gown and cloak fit for the Fall goddess herself. Gez and Velzbane stood astounded by the girl's power and beauty. Autumn smiled as she looked at herself.

'There, much better. I daresay I look fit to dance a reel.' She turned to her new comrades in arms. 'Shall we leave gentlemen?' She said in that honey-sweet voice of hers. Gez swallowed. She was definitely something. She climbed out of the log and beckoned the other two to follow.

'We'll be right there!' Velzbane called. As Gez turned to gather his things, Velzbane grabbed his shoulder. 'I can see you're taking a fancy to that maid.' He said with a knowing smile. Gez pretended to look outraged.

'Hah! As if I have anythin' to offer her! A life on the run doesn't seem romantic to me.' He said laughing. Velzbane nodded and went to climb out of the hole.

'Let's go boys! I wasn't born tomorrow!' Autumn called. The two men nodded and both of them left without a word.

Back in Greystone Castle, Skellgar was in a whirlwind of madness. Magnus, his second in command, failed him. He let two prisoners free all his slaves and get away without so much as sending scouts after the escapists. Skellgar sat at his throne, drumming his long skeletal fingers on the arms of the chair. Skellgar was the epitome of evil. He stood at eight feet tall with long curved horns on his skull-like head. He was dressed all in black with silver trimmings and his symbol painted on his forehead. A slave timidly knocked at the door.

'Master, Magnus is here to see you.' She said in a shaky voice. Skellgar scoffed. That meant open the door. Magnus stood in the doorway, his long black hair pulled back in a ponytail and his purple eyes gleaming. He was dressed in a black tunic with a long cloak. He pulled down his hood to stare into the horror of Skellgar's eyes. Magnus kneeled upon the floor in a deep bow.

'My Lord Skellgar, I have sent ten and five scouts to search for the escaped prisoners. They must be hot on their trail now.' He said in a voice as soft as spider web silk. Skellgar stood from his throne.

'Then we shall see the prisoners' heads on a pole by midday. What were the names of the rebels?' He asked in a scratchy voice that sounded like nails on a chalkboard. Magnus fell silent and didn't answer right away. 'WELL!' Screamed the warlord. Magnus kneeled lower.

'Their names are Velzbane Macruff and his partner Gez, the two warriors from the north, my Lord.' He said bitterly. He had lashed his minions for letting the men escape and free all the slaves. Skellgar looked at Magnus in confusion.

'Who? DID YOU SAY VELZBANE? YOU LET THEM ESCAPE!' He backhanded Magnus and the second in command went flying. He hit the wall with his boots and pushed off in a front flip. He landed expertly on his feet. He smiled and tossed his head.

'My Lordship, it is unwise to strike a fellow officer when he is not prepared. Given your wisdom I'd assumed you knew that.' Skellgar eyed Magnus with a newfound respect. Who could have known that the talented officer could take a blow like that to the face and live? Magnus turned to leave Skellgar in peace. Obviously, the warlord was in no mood for pleasant surprises. Skellgar moved quickly as a cobra an put his skeletal hand on Magnus's shoulder.

'My trusted servant, have you sent any more scouts to recapture the fool Velzbane? What exactly were your demands?' Skellgar asked. Magnus merely shrugged.

'I told them to recapture the slave that went with them and Velzbane. They were to kill the partner. He is of no use to us.' Skellgar smiled an evil smile. Gez was certainly worthless. Velzbane was definitely a better warrior and a better opponent. He could understand Velzbane better too. Gez's thick Highland accent did wonders to Skellgar's ears. Skellgar returned to the window.

'Then,' said he. 'We shall fly to the point which they are headed. Do you know where they are bound, my faithful servant?' Magnus nodded grimly.

'They are bound to Dewpoint!'

Gez and Autumn sat together under a large willow tree. Velzbane had gone out to get firewood and Gez had insisted to stay as a sentry. He played with his claymore, his bright eyes scanning the horizon for any sign of Magnus and his fleet. Autumn looked over Gez's rigid profile. He sat ramrod straight with his claymore in hand, waiting for an enemy.

'You are very intense today my friend. Do you sense evil?' asked Autumn moving to Gez's side. The Highlander shook his head.

'Just because I can't see them doesn't mean that they're not watching us.' He said quietly. Autumn nodded.

'Sneaky bastards watching our every moves. Small wonder how they end up with scum like Magnus.' He muttered, throwing and catching his claymore in impatience. He tossed it back up in the air and then cried out in pain as the sharp blade grazed his arm. Blood dripped from his new wound.

'Damn it!' He clutched his arm and dug around in his pouches in search of bandages. When he found them, he was having difficulty pulling them out of the pouch. Frowning in frustration, he tried to get the stubborn roll onto his arm and furiously tangled them up around his arm, shoulder neck and head. He sat like that and just sighed. Autumn was having a difficult time trying not to laugh at the unfortunate sitting below her. He was certainly adorable she could give him that. His eyes were bright with frustration and his long dark hair tousled and hanging in his face. He blew up sharply, pouting adorably. Autumn snuck down the tree and slowly unwrapped Gez from the bandage's clutches.

'Why don't you let me do it? I know of a special plant that grows in this area to help make you feel better.' Gez smiled.

'Thanks. I really need to slow down a bit.' Autumn smiled back and stood up to go into the woods. She was gone five minutes and she reappeared with a handful of moss.

'Here, this should make you feel better. It soothes the cut.' She said sitting down next to him and putting her hands on his wound. Gez inhaled sharply. The moss stung his cut.

'Ah! It hurts. I thought you said it wouldn't hurt.' Gez said in a weak voice. He was tired from losing so much blood and delirium was beginning to kick in. He laid down and let Autumn gently bind his arm.

'It only hurts for a little bit. You just go right to sleep.' Gez slowly shook his head.

'I promised Velzbane I'd stay awake and stand guard. He'll be furious! He'll'' He was cut off as Autumn had begun to sing a song that lulled him into a deep sleep.

'Some say love, it is a river
That drowns the tender reed
Some say love, it is a razor
That leaves your soul to bleed

Some say love, it is a hunger
An endless, aching need
I say love, it is a flower
And you, its only seed

It's the heart, afraid of breaking
That never learns to dance
It's the dream, afraid of waking
That never takes the chance

It's the one who won't be taken
Who cannot seem to give
And the soul afraid of dyin'
That never learns to live

When the night has been too lonely
And the road has been too long
And you think that love is only
For the lucky and the strong

Just remember, in the winter
Far beneath the bitter snows
Lies the seed, that with the sun's love
In the spring, becomes the rose'

(Used with permission by Janis Joplin)

Gez fell fast asleep on Autumn's shoulder. She sat there for a while, waiting for Velzbane to arrive with firewood. He arrived five minutes later with a big pile of firewood in his arms.

'Gez fell asleep?' He asked as he kindled the fire. Autumn nodded as Gez let out a long sigh. Autumn shrugged him off her shoulder and into her lap. He sighed contentedly and continued to sleep. Velzbane laughed quietly. 'Well he's taken a liking to you, I see.' Autumn ignored him and started combing Gez's wild tangles. Velzbane warmed up near the fire and the sparks danced in the sky. One particularly brave spark landed on Gez's hand. Gez opened one eye and closed it again. He was exhausted. Five seconds later, he realized his situation. He sat up and scooted away from Autumn.

'Sorry miss. I am really sorry. I was delirious and I didn't know what I was doin' at the time.' Gez murmured shyly. Autumn smiled kindly at the young man.

'It's quite all right Gez, you were tired. I suggest we all get some sleep. Tomorrow, we march straight on to Dewpoint.' Autumn said lying down beside Gez. Velzbane lay down across the fire and sank into sleep. Gez sat up and alert. He kept his blue eyes on the horizon. Woe betides any guards who dare disturb his sleeping friends.

Not far away from where Gez was sitting sentry, two of Magnus's scouts were in the area. They poked about the woods, looking for something or someone to kill. The fatter of the two, whose name was Rosbin, looked to the west and saw a longhaired maiden lying under a tree. He nudged his mate and both guards stealthily approached the sleeping girl. Just then, a dagger skewered poor Rosbin. The second guard Catseye turned to see a young man in a kilt, standing up with a long curved sword in his hand. He faltered under the young man's bright icy blue eyes. Gathering his courage, he pulled a whistle and blew. All ten of Magnus's guards appeared from the bushes. Unfortunately for Gez, the whistle did not stir his friends.

'Velzbane, Autumn wake up! We're under attack!' Try as he might, Gez could not wake the two. Dealing with the fact that he will have to fight alone, he drew two of his swords and prepared to fight his hardest.

Velzbane woke up to find the campfire in a mess. Blood was splattered on the trees, but there were no sign of corpses.

'Autumn, wake up! Something's happened!' Autumn came awake slowly. At the sight of the massacre, she bolted awake.

'What the devil happened here? Where's Gez?' She franticly searched for the Highlander. Velzbane pushed back some bushes to find Gez lying facedown in a pool of blood.

'No, Gez! Wake up! You can't be dead! God, you just can't be!' Autumn followed Velzbane's cries to find him holding his friend up. The young man's handsome face was covered in painful cuts. His body was limp and heavy for Velzbane to lug around. Autumn kneeled down to the ground and put her hand on the man's shoulder.

'I will teleport us to Dewpoint. He needs medical attention immediately. It might kill me, but this is worth the risk.' She grabbed Velzbane's hand and instructed him to hold on. Autumn and Velzbane found themselves standing at the great stone gate of Dewpoint. Frantically, Autumn banged on the door. Old Cornelius answered, his eyes sparkling with warmth. Velzbane felt rather silly to be standing there with a wounded Highlander in his arms.

'Is he all right?' The old man asked them. Autumn looked fearfully at Gez's limp form.

'I don't know sir, but he needs help! Please can you help him?' She said tears making their way down her pretty face. Cornelius nodded and helped Velzbane carry Gez up to the sickbay.

Autumn sat beside Gez's still body. She held his hand and occasionally told him that it was going to be okay. She wept bitterly knowing full well that there was a good chance that he would die. The sickbay keeper, a kindly woman named Sarah, put all the medicines on the bedside.

'Quite a handsome fellow isn't he?' She remarked smiling fondly at the still form and Autumn's rigid profile. Autumn nodded. He was indeed. Even with those scars he still looked as adorable as ever. The thing that saddened her was the expression of pain he wore on his face. Suddenly there was a call of distress. Several small children entered the sickbay and crowded around Gez's bed. The children stared with wide eyes. They had never seen such a strange man before.

'Is he gonna die, Miss Sarah?' asked a youngster. The infirmary keeper laughed.

'Certainly not, my dear.' She said kindly. Just then, Gez opened his eyes and groaned.

'Where am I?' He asked aloud. Looking about, he noticed bright children's faces staring at his bare chest. 'Where did all of you come from?' He asked looking from child to child. They all stared at the wounded man; none of them said a word until a small girl spoke up.

'You're very good-looking mister!' She said out loud. Gez perked an eyebrow. Autumn laughed.

'Yes he is. Don't you think so too Sarah?' She asked the sickbay head. Sarah nodded.

'Your friend is very lucky to be alive you know. You'd taken quite a beating.' Gez nodded.

'I guess I'm just lucky. It happens to the best of us you know.' The children stared in awe.

'You must be really strong!' One of the children said admiringly. Gez shook his head, smiling at the young child's innocence.

'No, Velzbane's much stronger then I am. He's survived more then a few scratches I can tell you that.' The children shook their heads disbelievingly.

'You're much stronger, Mister!' They said. Gez laughed. The children were all so cute. If there was one thing Gez could never resist, it was a child. A child could say and learn so much; it was amazing their little heads didn't explode. Autumn giggled too. Gez looked at her, confused why she was there. One of the children misunderstood the look on his face.

'Mister, are you and that pretty lady sweethearts?' Autumn and Gez laughed. Sarah looked offended.

'Of course they aren't. Now go on. Off to bed with you! Leave Mister Gez to his rest. He's had a very long day. Off with you!' The children scattered and went to their beds. Gez sighed.

'Well Autumn, I think I should go back to sleep. I'll see you in the morning.' He rolled onto his side and fell asleep. Autumn stood up and walked down the long hallway. She looked around for Velzbane and found him in the hall.

'Hey, how're you doing? If you're wondering, Gez is fine. He'll recover in a few days time.' Velzbane nodded at her.

'Poor Gez, he really did take a beating. Of course he's been through worse.' He said. Autumn perked an eyebrow.

'Really? Worse then what he went through today?' She asked, taking a seat next to him.

'Much worse. You saw those scars right? Well, he was nearly dead when he got those. He bled like a stuck pig.' Velzbane said, tossing a roll to himself. Autumn didn't know what to say. She bade Velzbane goodnight and walked to her guest room to take a well-deserved rest.

Velzbane sat in the hall for two hours. He sat there just thinking of how his friend was faring until a pretty girl in lavender walked up to him and bowed deeply.

'I-I am supposed to show you to your room sir. I hope it's to your liking.' Velzbane stood up and followed the pretty maid to a large room. He inspected the room, pacing carefully. The girl smiled weakly. Finally Velzbane turned to look at her.

'It's perfect, thank you.' Velzbane said giving her a charming smile. The girl blushed. Her green eyes sparkled with embarrassment.

'I am Minarya, Cornelius's niece.' She said shyly.

'I am Velzbane, Gez's friend.' He said sitting on the comfortable bed. She smiled.

'Your friend is very lucky to have someone as caring and devoted as yourself.' She said sweetly. 'I'll bid you good night, sir.' She left and Velzbane exhaled. That girl was probably the most beautiful thing he'd ever seen.

The next morning, Autumn walked into Gez's room to find him sitting up in the bed, the scars still fresh on his chest. Autumn blushed as she realized he was completely naked. Gez looked up and his bright eyes widened. He threw the blanket back over his body. He rolled over onto his side so that he faced the wall.

'Sorry ma'am I didn't see you. I, um, forgot that I wasn't alone for a while.' Autumn laughed.

'Oh Gez, you silly thing. This isn't the first time I've seen you when you weren't decent. I bathed your wounds remember?' Gez tried not to think about that and didn't answer. Autumn sat on the bed next to him. 'How are you feeling? Those scars don't look inviting.' She put her hand on his chest. Gez took a sharp breath. Autumn's hand snapped back like a rubber band. 'I'm sorry, did that hurt you?' She asked in her sweetest voice. Gez silently shook his head.

'It didn't hurt too bad.' He said softly, turning to face Autumn. The girl beamed as he propped himself up. 'It would take more than a few silly scratches to keep me on my knees, I can tell you that, miss.' The two friends continued to stare at one another until Sarah came into the room.

'Mister Gez, it's time to clean you up. Miss Autumn, would you kindly leave the room?' She asked, handing Gez a fluffy towel. Autumn nodded and kissed Gez on the cheek.

'I'll talk with you later,' she said winking. The girl stood up and left the room. Gez stared after her in a daze. Sarah noticed his profile and smiled.

'She's a real beauty, that one.' Sarah said helping Gez out of his sickbed. Gez nodded dumbly and walked to the bathtub.

Velzbane sat at the table as Autumn walked out of the sickbay. He gave her a look that made Autumn quirk an eyebrow.

'What?' She asked, putting her hands on her hips.

'You've visiting Gez a lot Miss Autumn. I wonder whether it has anything to do with the fact that Gez saved your life, or something else.' Autumn's eyebrows shot further up her forehead.

'What are you talking about? Gez is my friend and I am at perfect liberty to visit him when I please Mister Macruff, don't you forget that.' Velzbane laughed.

'You love him don't you?' He said smiling. Autumn shook her head.

'I certainly do not! Even if I did I would think twice before telling you.' She stomped off in a huff. When Velzbane was out of sight, Autumn blushed to no end. How did he know? How did he know that she loved Gez? Did she mutter something in her sleep about the Highlander? She shook her head, and went to go sit by the lake.

Cornelius was planning a party for his little niece He stood in the kitchens, working on a wonderful cake made out of strawberries and cream. The cook, Cookie as the young ones referred to him, wiped his hands neatly on a dishrag.

'I must say old one, that cake does look absolutely delicious! Where did you learn to bake?' Cornelius sighed and smiled.

'My mother taught me when I was about eight.' He replied, sprinkling fresh berries on the cake. Cookie nodded excitedly.

'Oh, Miss Minarya will be so happy today. We really should enlist some more help Cornelius.' Cookie said taking a hot apple pie out of the oven. Just as Cornelius was going to respond, Gez opened the door.

'Good morning, I thought you might want a bit of help.' He said with roguish smile on his face. Cookie jumped at the sight of such a tall young man. Cookie looked at Cornelius bewildered.

'Who on earth are you?' Cookie asked with his ladle in his hand. Gez laughed.

'I'm Gez. I'm going to be staying here for a while, sir. I was exiled out of my old home.' Cookie couldn't understand Gez's thick accent.

'What did you say sir?' Cookie asked. Cornelius laughed at the pair.

'He said that his name is Gez and that he wants to help with the surprise party.' Gez nodded. Cookie beamed.

'Well then make yourself at home young sir, oh my goodness yes, and have you recruited anyone to help you help us?' Gez nodded and as soon as he opened the door, a mob of little ones busted in, each one looking extremely confident.

'Mista Gez said that we could help wiv da cake Unka Cornelius.' One of the little ones said.

'Yeah! He also said that we could eat it when we're done!' Another said behind him. There were murmurs of 'aye' and 'that's right' all around the kitchen. Cornelius laughed until tears poured out of his eyes. Cookie did not look amused.

'Oh, he did, did he? Did Mister Gez also mention that naughty children who eat the cake they bake would go to bed without supper?' The children looked up at Gez.

'Did I forget to sat that? Oh dear, I'm sorry kids.' He smiled and tossed each child a cookie that he'd snatched from the tray. 'There's your treat my little friends. Come on, we should get to work on this cake if we want to finish it by today.' Gez and the children helped Cornelius put the strawberry cake into the oven. When they were done, Gez escorted the little ones out of the room. When he shut the door, he laughed.

'Little people amuse me to no end. No telling what they'll do next.' He sat down in a wooden chair and took a bottle of strawberry fizz. He grinned and lifted it to his lips. Cookie and Cornelius were rolling dough for some more cookies.

'Have any of you seen Autumn? I can't find her anywhere.' He said looking concerned. Cornelius looked up.

'I saw her by the lake earlier today, Gez. Perhaps she's there.' Gez sprang to his feet and rushed out the door. Cornelius smiled as the door closed.

'I think Valentines Day has come early, Cookie.' He said with a grin.

Autumn sat by the lake, trailing her feet in the icy water. She sighed as she swirled her feet.

'Something on your mind?' Autumn jumped about a mile and turned around to see Gez in the tree behind her flashing her a winning smile. Autumn laughed as he jumped to the shore.

'I thought Sarah was going to keep you for a week.' She said looking at the lake. He smiled at her.

'She was planning to keep me for two weeks, however I made a remarkable recovery. It's nice to be outside for once.' He sat next to her he took her hand in his, smiling softly. Autumn laid her head on his shoulder.

'I'm glad you're alright Gez. I don't think I could stand it if something happened to you.' He focused his gaze on the horizon. The sun was just beginning to set, turning the sky different hues of red and orange. Autumn felt Gez gently squeeze her hand.

'Beautiful sunset, isn't it?' He said softly. She nodded against his shoulder.

'It is beautiful, just like my home. I've never seen so many different hues of red and orange before.' Gez looked at her.

'Where are you from?' He asked turning to be able to look her in the eyes. Autumn sighed deeply and nuzzled into Gez's shoulder.

'I'm from a place about a thousand leagues from here. It used to be a beautiful forest before Skellgar and Magnus came and killed the trees.' Autumn said her eyes closed. Gez focused his attention on the sunset. He closed his eyes trying to listen to the waves.

to be continued'

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