Loading...
Menu
Ebooks   ➡  Fiction  ➡  Fantasy  ➡  Epic

Children of the Sun and Moon

p={color:#000;}.

CHILDREN OF THE SUN AND MOON

BY

P.D STEWART

a World Of Melarandra novel

Book 1

Copyright © 2015 P. D. Stewart

Revised Edition

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any manner without written permission except in the case of brief quotations included in critical articles and reviews. For information, please contact author.

Shakespir Edition

FIC00900 Fiction/Fantasy/General

All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

“In their sixteenth year, the twins sun and moon

shall be separated by betrayal but shall

be found in the light. Only when the night

is restored will the evil be destroyed.

United they will return the night but it

must be done with the power that is sun

and moon or chaos will overpower all.”

As told by Kaleneve Aldea, Head of the Magik Prophets, in the book Prophecies of Magik’s

Never give up on your dream. It is never too late to try! Thank you to all who helped me believe I could do this.

PROLOGUE

Olrond Traug is a very even-tempered, composed man. It was this quality, in his mind, which had allowed him to be promoted to the rank of general two years earlier. He was a man to whom the moment you looked upon you were very aware he was military. At six foot two, he was as tall as most soldiers, but his build stunned many. Most wouldn’t call him slender, but he wasn’t largely built like most of his men. Should you think he was easy prey, one would just need to watch him move. His muscles were honed so tightly you could see them moving under his clothing. He was the youngest soldier to receive the rank of General in the Order of Maget. In the time since, Olrond had become the head of this order he had learned many hidden truths, but nothing had prepared him for the news he had just received.

Queen Elizanne was in labour, a fact that would be unimportant if it wasn’t for one little detail in a prophecy. Her very pregnancy had been the course of one rumour after another, one of which implied the queen was carrying twins. Like all the other whispers he had heard, he tried to block the rumour of the queen’s condition. Truth be told, he couldn’t bring himself to believe the king and queen of the Central Lands were going to be part of a prophecy, which, to the Order, meant the end of the world. To make matters worse, he had also been informed that Gillock, the king’s trusted adviser and teacher, may possess magic. Too many negative things were happening at once.

He had already prepared to dispatch two Magima, testers for the Order of Maget, to Castle Klayhern, but he was hoping it would be for nothing. He didn’t know what he would do if it were true. What if Gillock, whom the Magima had long thought to possess magic, really did? What if the queen does indeed have the twins foretold in the prophecy? Olrond knew he would have to act as he had in the past, send those who possess magical abilities to the Tower to be dealt with. He couldn’t help but wonder what it would do to the Central Lands if their own king were keeping a wizard in his castle, or what it would do to the king and queen if their children were to be terminated. It was far too much to think about. King Jeremy was an old friend and thinking this way bothered Olrond greatly. Unsure of what the night was going to bring, Olrond thought it wise to go to the castle and see how everything was going with the queen.

Jeremy paced outside the birthing room, seeing the looks the servants gave him as they passed. He knew what they were thinking. The queen had gone into labour too soon, and there were usually only two reasons for that. Either something was wrong, or she was carrying more than one child. Moving over to the window, he glanced towards the garden, and saw Brin, his oldest daughter, playing with one of the servants. Having enough of the stares, he decided to go join her. Someone would find him when he needed.

“Push,” shouted Marina. “You need to push!”

Elizanne, exhausted from the hours of labour, gasped, “I cannot push anymore.”

The midwife sighed, understanding the queen’s issue.

“It’s almost over, your majesty. You need to give one more push.”

Giving it all the strength she had left, Elizanne pushed. “It’s a boy, my lady,” exclaimed Marina.

Elizanne allowed a smile. “His name will be Eric, after my father.”

Suddenly, Elizanne’s face contorted and she screamed. “I still have to push!”

Marina passed the baby off to one of the other servants and ran back to Elizanne. “Get me another towel and some more warm water. There’s another one.”

Elizanne could hear the fear in Marina’s voice, but she pushed with all her might. “This one is a girl, my queen,” she stated, her voice low and sombre.

Elizanne began to cry. “Why did it have to be twins?”

Marina tried to smile. “What will her name be, my lady?”

“Koral, after Jeremy’s mother.”

Marina, not wanting the others to be a part of what may come, began to clear everyone out of the room. She walked over to try to calm Elizanne down. The queen grabbed at her gown and whispered, “Get me Gillock.” Marina just nodded at the queen and made her way to find the advisor.

When Gillock arrived, Elizanne had dozed off. Not wanting to wake her, he went over to where the children lay sleeping. “I knew this would come to pass. Now we just have to see if the world is ready for what is to come.”

“They are the children from the prophecy,” came Elizanne’s voice from behind Gillock.

Gillock went over, sat on the bed next to her, and held her hand. “Yes, my dear, they most certainly are. However, does not fear, the Magima will not find anything. They don’t realize it will take a few years before their magic begins to take form.”

Elizanne smiled. “Jeremy will not be pleased with this news.”

“You are right, I am not pleased at all,” said the king, coming into the room. There was no doubt he was king. His every movement showed he was royalty, his every order obeyed. Bordering just over six feet, Jeremy was a tall man. He had a full head of black hair, which was complimented by stunning green eyes, and should you find yourself in their gaze when he was not happy, you were left feeling very small.

Gillock stood and faced him. “I told you she was going to have the twins. The prophecy has been set into motion. Their training must begin now.”

“No. Not until we are sure they are the twins told of in the prophecy,” replied Jeremy.

Gillock’s expression suddenly changed. “General Traug is here to see you both. He has some Magima with him. They will be taking me along with the children for testing.”

When the general entered the room, he knew they had been discussing the chance that these children were the ones from the prophecy. “King Jeremy, Queen Elizanne. I assume you know why I’m here with the Magima. The children need to be tested.”

Jeremy nodded. “We understand, general. You may take them whenever the midwife says it is okay.”

“Thank you, your highness. We will take our leave.”

All three watched as General Traug and his two Magima left the room. Jeremy turned to Gillock, “They will not find anything will they?”

“No. The children will not show any signs for at least two years and I will be getting tested as well so we will not have anything to worry about.” Turning back to Elizanne he said, “Nothing will happen to your children.” Smiling, he walked out, leaving the two alone.

Jeremy looked at Elizanne and could see the fear in her eyes. “Maybe they are not the ones. Brin has shown no signs of possessing magic.”

Elizanne nodded, but she knew the prophecy had been set in motion. She also knew if the children failed the Magima’s tests, she would never see them again. Now all the king and queen could do was wait. “This must have been how my parents felt,” muttered Elizanne to herself.

Traug was feeling just as uneasy about the entire situation. Pacing and staring at the door, he kept thinking about the chaos, which would ensue, should the children fail. While he was in mid thought, the door opened. Slowly, the general turned to face it.

“They passed the test,” stated Gillock, holding the children. “As have I.”

Traug let out a sigh of relief. “That’s good news indeed, Gillock. I’m sorry for the inconvenience. You may take the children back to their parents.”

“Thank you, and it was no inconvenience. This must be done to ensure our way of life.”

“Thank you for understanding my position,” replied General Traug.

Gillock nodded and left to bring the king and queen their children.

Jeremy was in the same state as General Traug. When he saw Gillock come through the door with the children, he collapsed into a chair. “They passed!” he exclaimed.

Gillock just smiled and placed the children in their sleeping baskets. “I told you there was nothing to worry about, my king. Now, their training must begin.”

“No,” yelled Jeremy coming to his feet. “We do not know for sure they are the children from the prophecy. If they are to be trained, it will be in sword fighting and other tactics. They will not learn magic.”

Gillock let out an exasperated sigh. “They are the children. You’re in denial if you believe otherwise. If they don’t receive the proper magical training, they may fail.”

Jeremy paced back and forth. “I am sorry Gillock, we must uphold the law. They will not be trained in magic.”

Gillock knew by the tone of Jeremy’s voice the matter was finished. “Very well, but know this, you may have doomed us all.” Giving Elizanne a kiss on the cheek, he turned and left the room.

Jeremy went over to Elizanne. Stroking her red hair, he stared into her deep blue eyes. “It is for the best. We do not even know if they are the ones.”

Elizanne just smiled. “Yes, we will just have to wait and see,” she whispered and fell back asleep, happy her children were all right.

There was much excitement around the castle. Twins had been born to the king and queen, and with the announcement they had passed the tests, a great holiday was declared. Today, being the Festival of the Moon was normally reason enough to celebrate, but with the declaration of a royal holiday, it became an even grander event. Many people were running about making all sorts of preparations. With all the bustling, about no one noticed a boy slip away from the castle and disappear into the village.

Payton didn’t know why he was heading into the seedy part of town, he just felt overly compelled to go. He also appeared to know exactly where it was he was going. As Payton neared his destination, his pace slowed. He stopped at the entrance to the alley, but didn’t see whom he was supposed to meet. So strong was his need to be here, he just stood there and waited.

“You are late,” said a voice from the shadows. Payton turned to face the voice and saw what appeared to be a man in a long cloak, hood drawn.

“I’m sorry. The castle is full of people. It was hard to leave unseen.”

The figure stepped closer. “And the news?”

Payton gulped. He just stared at the figure, trying to see a face, but all that greeted him was unbelievable darkness. “Twins were born to the king and queen,” he stammered.

The cloaked figure did not make a move. “And were they taken care of?”

Payton again gulped. “No. There is said to be a wizard guarding the children.”

This news caused the figure to shift uneasily. “Gillock,” it hissed and then disappeared.

Payton shook his head and looked around. He had no idea why he was in this area of town or how he even got here. Looking about, he decided it was a good idea for him to go back to the castle. They probably needed him to help with the Festival preparations.

A few alleys away, the figure reappeared and drew what appeared to be a mirror out of its cloak. “My queen,” it spoke to the mirror.

The image which appeared in the mirror, was that of a strikingly beautiful woman with jet black hair and unusually deep blue eyes. “Yes, Moray, what news?” she asked.

“Elizanne has had twins. They were not disposed of. Gillock is with them.”

Queen Malena smiled. “It is not a problem, my loyal servant. This will work in our favour, that I am sure. Now, return to the castle. We have much to plan.”

Moray nodded and in a wisp of wind, disappeared.

Lakin let his scrying pool cloud over. Things were finally starting. For many years, he had been preparing in the Tower, waiting for this day. Now all he had to do was wait sixteen more. Smiling to himself, he set about writing the daily lists for his Magima.

CHAPTER ONE

It was a beautiful morning in the Central Land of Melarandra. The dawn arrived with a red brilliance, causing the new buds on the trees to glisten from the dew. To the villagers in the south, where fishing was a norm, this would be taken as a warning of bad water today, but to the young woman standing in her window; it was going to be taken as the beginning of an amazing day.

Gazing out her window, Koral took a deep breath. There was a light and crisp south breeze coming in, and she drew it in deeply. It caused her long red hair to flow into her face. Brushing it away, she turned her bright green eyes towards town. Some snow still littered the ground, but it was melting away fast. Klayhern was one of the largest towns in the Central Lands, and nothing pleased the young princess more than watching her people mull about in the morning. There was almost never any crime, and it always amazed her just how friendly everyone was.

Koral started to move away from her window when she heard the clanging of swords. She had to lean out of her window to see where it was coming from, but she knew exactly where to look. It was Korben and Payton, practising their swordplay. This was another of Koral’s favourite things to watch. Seeing how well the two sparred made her happy they were in charge of her safety. It was her hope to someday handle a sword as well as them. Koral knew she could not watch them for too long today. There was far too much to do.

“Today is going to be an interesting day,” she muttered to herself. Carefully, she pulled herself back in the window, and looked about her room. It was about time she got herself organized. Today was going to be an eventful day.

She mulled about her room, finding her tunic and leggings, but could not focus on getting ready. Gillock had promised he would give them their final test today, and Koral could not wait. Nothing could be more exciting than knowing this would be the last test she would ever have to take. No more lessons, no more mock sword fights and no more having to miss out on beautiful days! Of course, she was grateful Gillock had taken the time to be her teacher. If it had not been for him, she would not know anything about the prophecy, which was supposedly about her. He knew so much, Koral figured he had to have been alive for hundreds of years. When she had finished getting her tunic and forest pants on, Koral again glanced outside. She was stunned to see the sun had moved considerably.

“Oh no,” she shouted. “Eric is going to kill me if I am late.”

Grabbing her sword and belt, the princess ran out of her room, and headed toward the stable.

When she arrived, she saw Eric was already there, finishing up with his horse.

He turned to look at her. “Nice of you to join me,” he remarked, sarcastically.

Koral gave her brother a look which caused him to smirk and go back to his horse. He was only slightly taller than his sister was, with his father’s black hair, cut short as per the style of the time. The only thing similar between the twins was their eye colour. Neither had the striking dark green their father possessed. Theirs appeared to be more vibrant. Gillock had commented to Elizanne on more than one occasion that it was the magic stored within them both making their eyes so bright.

“Sorry, Eric, I lost track of the time.”

Eric just huffed at her and finished up with Blade. Koral rushed over to where Swift was kept, and found Robyn working on him. “Tolly figured since you were running behind, I should help out.”

Tolly was a very old man. His natural expression made him look miserable, but in reality, he was very sweet. Tolly had been in charge of the stables at the castle for longer than Koral had been alive. Although there were only six horses kept in the stable, Koral always felt Tolly was far too old to maintain them himself, even with Robyn as his groom. “Thank you, Robyn. I can take it from here.”

Robyn nodded at her and moved out of the stall.

Looking over Swift, Koral found nothing wrong and finished up. With Robyn’s help, she was finished at the same time as Eric.

Eric climbed up onto Blade and turned toward his sister coming out of the stall. “Well, we have a long day ahead so we best get going.” Quickly he turned his horse and raced out of the stable. Koral leaped onto Swift and chased after him. The twins headed outside of the castle grounds and went north. They were to meet Gillock at the field which had been their training ground for as long as they could remember.

Today was to be their final test, which was fine by Eric. Between Gillock’s books and Payton’s sword fighting, he was getting a little tired of it all. Eric knew he was part of a prophecy and was glad to have learned all he could to help with it, but he was a great sword fighter and felt it was enough. He did not really care to learn about the geography of Melarandra, or the history behind everything. None of it would make him a hero.

Eric watched as Koral caught up to him and passed by. “So what is this final test?” he yelled to her.

Koral stopped and waited for Eric to catch up. “I am not sure, but you can bet it will be hard.”

“This is all ridiculous anyway,” he muttered. “I already know everything I can about fighting.”

Koral laughed. “If this prophecy is true, than you do not know half of what you should.”

Eric just glared at his sister and took off in front of her.

Neither one had noticed the figure in the bushes, shadowing them. Gillock had stopped when the twins had. He heard the entire conversation and agreed with Koral’s surmise. Eric needed a lot more training, but he had run out of time. Watching the two ride off, he felt a sense of pride seeing Koral atop her steed. You could tell she was royalty. She was so sure of herself, never making any quick decisions, always thinking things through before acting. Everyone loved her. Koral was indeed a born leader. The person straggling behind was not. Eric had a bad temper and felt since he was a prince; he should be treated with the utmost respect and admiration. He did not realize that both of those things should be earned, not handed out. Quick to anger and quick to act was the best way to describe Eric. It was all about glory and power with him. Gillock sighed, shaking his head. Too much time was lost due to Jeremy’s decision to wait and then forbidding him to show them any magic. He had shown them some things, but more was necessary. The twins were not ready for what was about to happen, and Gillock knew he did not have a choice.

Again, he sighed and diverted his attention to another problem. The twins were being followed, and the person following them unnerved Gillock. It was a Maget soldier, and it was someone he did not recognize. Lately a lot of the Magima and soldiers were people he did not recognize, and yet they were all so young. “Lakin is definitely up to something, I just wish I had the time to figure out what,” he thought to himself. Moving off, he cast a simple blocking spell around the twins. Hopefully, the soldier would not be able to detect it and would travel in circles until he had finished with the twins.

When Eric broke through the tree line, he saw Gillock sitting in the middle of the field. It was a sight which almost made Eric laugh. Gillock’s long hair was always wild, but out here it looked even more so. Mostly black with strange streaks of grey (almost as if he had put them there), sticking out in very odd angles. His eyes were almost the same colour as his hair, black pools that never gave anything away and his stance always had a gangly look to it. Seeing him sitting there with his hair flying around and his green robes swirled about him was somewhat comical. On closer look, he appeared to be in deep thought. With Koral close behind, he sped up to get there first.

Koral shook her head when she saw Eric hasten his step. Everything was a competition with him. Noticing Gillock,

Koral pushed the thought aside and headed toward him. When they arrived, the twins dismounted and sat down beside the old wizard. They noticed he was reading a book, but when he realized they were there, he closed it.

Gillock shifted his gaze back and forth between the twins. “I feel I should start by apologizing to you both.”

They were surprised by this statement, but kept quiet.

“Your lives since you were born have been nothing but training. You’ve never had much time for yourselves. Neither one of you even has a real friend.”

Koral and Eric looked at each other. Although this was true, it was something which had never bothered them before. They always had each other, and for some reason, it was enough.

Koral decided to respond first. “Gillock, we both know we are not normal young people. We are first and foremost royalty, and that alone can be a lonely life.”

Gillock stared at Koral. She really was wise beyond her years.

“I agree,” came Eric. “Besides, we cannot discuss our training and having friends would have just complicated our lives even more.”

Gillock smiled. “Again, you both show me just how much you’ve grown these past few years.” His smile then faded. “Now, for why we are here. I’ve decided to move your test from today until tomorrow,” he stated.

“What! Why?” asked Eric, obviously upset by the news.

Expecting his response, Gillock slowly turned his black orbs to look at him. “Because it’s what I have decided and that’s all you need to know.”

“What is going to happen today?” questioned Koral.

“Well, I want you two to take this book and study it. Your test tomorrow will have a lot to do with what is contained within. I feel today, we will discuss magic.”

This news induced a sense of anxiousness in Eric, and dread in Koral. Both knew they possessed magic. Gillock had shown them basic spells, on top of the little tricks they had figured out for themselves.

“What are we going to discuss?” asked Eric excitedly.

Shifting his position, Gillock thought out his response carefully. “Well, all which is important. We need to start at the beginning. You both need to understand the importance of this subject.”

Koral was confused. “You have shown us basic spells. That fact alone would have you executed. Even to discuss it is forbidden and subject to arrest.”

“I know, child,” he responded. “This is of great importance otherwise I would not dare disobey a law as important as this one.”

“As Koral has said, you have shown us basic spells. What do you know about real magic?” inquired Eric.

Gillock just looked at him and smiled. “I know much. Why do you think that is?”

“Because you are a wizard,” Koral responded.

“Yes and your brother knows very well I am.”

Eric looked embarrassed by Gillock’s accusation, something that puzzled Koral but she decided she would ask her brother about it later.

“Now, let’s begin your final lesson. I know you both understand why the law is in place. The wizards of the past started a war with each other, and it nearly destroyed Melarandra. What you don’t know is I was one of those wizards.”

This revelation surprised Koral, one of the wizards from the war! She had always suspected he was older than he appeared, but did not realize he was that old. The war happened almost five hundred years ago. Koral glanced at her brother and was stunned to see the news didn’t appear to surprise Eric. She wondered how much of this he already knew.

“Something which is just as important is the Maget. Why the Maget Order was created, and what the Magima are exactly, may surprise you. You see, the Magima are all magic users.”

“But how can that be?” interrupted Koral. “How can those who enforce the law be able to practice it?”

Gillock understood her confusion, but continued his story. “It was decided by a king from the era, something needed to be done to ensure a war like that never happened again. One of his advisers figured out the only way to stop people from practising magic was to make a law forbidding it. This adviser possessed minimal magical abilities, and he came to the realization that those who possess magic can detect it in others. When he informed the king he could do this, the king immediately ordered him to find others like him. The Maget soldiers were brought in to help him with his task. The soldiers were originally from the king’s personal guard. The adviser, realizing the soldiers were not going to be enough to enforce the law, came up with the idea to have others who possess magic join him. This was how the Magima came to be. It was to be an unfortunate time for those people. They were told they would join the Maget Order or die, and most, picked death. They didn’t believe the law should exist or wish to put others through the same torment. Once he had enough Magima, the adviser convinced the king to go after all creatures that possess magic.” He paused for a moment, wanting to see how this information was affecting the twins. Koral looked appalled, Eric bored. Shaking his head, he continued. “The first to go were the fairies. They were very trusting beings who were easily captured. With them out of the way, they went after the

Elves. It was an incredible battle, which lasted almost a year. The Elves did not stand a chance against such a formidable force and were destroyed. The hardest to get rid of was the dwarves. Although they did not appear to possess obvious magical abilities the king’s adviser thought if they did not remove them, war might develop. The king agreed but found it difficult to enforce the decision. Living deep within the mountains, the Magima had trouble finding them all. They thrive to this day, in their mines. Lastly, it was the dragons. There were not many left after the war, but it was decided if they lived then magic would flourish, and they would never be able to rid the world of it.”

“So dragons were a key to magic?” asked Koral, enamoured by the entire conversation.

Gillock smiled. “They were very important to the balance of magic. In fact, I had befriended one myself. They were very close to us wizards. They felt we were the only humans worthy of their friendship. This was mostly because we were almost as intelligent as they were. Unfortunately, they were caught in the war. Used as pawns by the wizards and almost all were destroyed along with their wizard counterparts. Any found after, were slaughtered on sight. The day they said they could not find any more dragons was a dark day indeed.”

Koral and Eric could see the tears in Gillock’s eyes. Obviously, the wizard’s dragon friend had been very close to him.

Regaining his composure, Gillock continued. “Now you must understand this. Both of you possess magic. You’ll need to harness your abilities if you are going to fulfil the prophecy.”

Eric smiled, and muttered under his breath, “I am going to be the greatest hero of all time.”

Gillock heard, but pretended not to. “The prophecy fulfilment is upon us. You’ll need to be ready when the time comes.”

“For what?” asked Koral.

“I’m not sure, exactly, but something will happen soon which will set the second stage of the prophecy in motion. The first, as I’m sure you are aware, was your birth.”

Gillock watched the twins take everything in. It looked to be a lot for Koral to deal with, but Eric appeared unusually calm and this bothered Gillock. Eric appeared to understand everything he had just said without question.

“Now, take the book back to the castle and study it. We will meet here at the same time tomorrow. I must go now, but I promise to be here to administer your final test.” Then he walked up to his horse and rode off to the west.

Koral and Eric just stared at the book. It just looked like an ordinary book, but was tied shut with a rope. “I guess we take that off at home,” said Eric.

“Yes, I guess we do,” Koral iterated.

Seeing that Eric obviously was not going anywhere near it, Koral picked it up. “Well, we should get home and see what this says.”

Eric just nodded and they both jumped on their horses and headed toward the castle.

The entire ride back Koral could sense someone was watching them, but she could never figure out where it was coming from. “Do you feel it?” asked Koral.

“It is just the Maget soldier following us,” Eric responded, knowing exactly what she was meaning. “You would think you would be used to it by now. They have had one following us since we could go off on our own.”

“I guess,” said Koral, unconvincingly. Koral’s uncertainty was making Eric uneasy. It was not very often she showed she was scared of something. “We should pick up the pace,” he suggested. “The sooner we get home the sooner we can figure out that book.”

Koral agreed and pushed Swift to go faster.

They would have quickened their pace sooner had they known it was not a Maget soldier sent to watch them, but a Magima. Watching from the bushes, Tarowen saw the twins pace quicken. The Magima wondered how it was they could have eluded him for so long and then conveniently show up right in front of him. Not sensing any magic, he just followed them back toward the castle. When they neared, he turned and headed for the tiny quarters which had been set up for the visiting Magima for the festival. He had a report to fill out, but had no idea how to explain the twins’ ability to hide from him. Tarowen decided it would be best to wait until General Traug arrived and discuss it with him then. Shaking his sandy blond head, he realized he was suddenly feeling very tired and just wanted to go to sleep.

Gillock, spying the young Magima, decided Tarowen should forget all about the twins and their ability to elude him, and take a nap. He had been lucky it was just a young wizard sent to follow them. A more experienced one would have detected his spell. It was quite unusual for the Order to have an actual Magima follow the twins. “Maybe Traug has received information, and is concerned,” he thought to himself. It did not matter, he had much to prepare and did not need a Magima snooping around. Knowing the general would be arriving in a few days, Gillock had to hurry with the twin’s magical training. Everything was happening far too quickly and Gillock knew he was helpless to slow it in the slightest. Not wanting to waste any more time on a

Magima, he quickly put the spell on Tarowen and headed to his room in the castle. With the help of a minor spell, Gillock went to his room undetected. He did not want the twins, or anyone else figuring out he was there. There was too much to be done and no time to do it in so the twins had to figure out the book on their own.

They arrived at the castle without incident. The odd feeling Koral had disappeared when the wall of Castle Klayhern came into view. When they arrived at the stables, Tolly was waiting to take the horses from them. Grateful not to have to worry about the horses, the two and ran off towards Eric’s room. They flew up the stairs to his room, threw off their outer garments, and just stared at the book. Neither wanted to touch it, let alone open it.

“Well, I guess we have to start sometime,” stated Eric, opening the book. However, to both of their dismay, the pages were blank.

“What kind of joke is Gillock playing!” said Koral, exasperated. “Why would he stress the importance of this book if there was not anything in it?”

Eric flopped down on his bed. “I do not know, Koral, but this is not right.”

Koral began to flip through the pages, desperately searching for something. “Maybe the words are hidden and we have to figure out how to see them.”

Eric sat up, “Maybe, but we do not know enough about magic to unlock something like this.”

Koral agreed. From the time the twins were little they could do simple tricks, but always hid them from people. She did not have the expertise to do something like this, and figured neither did Eric.

“I guess we should just leave it then,” said Eric.

Koral shook her head. “No, we need to try and figure this out.” Sitting down beside Eric on his bed, they both began looking through the book. After hours of staring at empty pages, both fell asleep.

CHAPTER TWO

Koral awoke with a start. At first, she could not figure out where she was but soon realized she had fallen asleep beside Eric, the book between them. She glanced down at the book and saw that the pages were still blank. Moving herself off the bed, she went toward his window. It was another beautiful day, and she could not wait to see Gillock. Shaking Eric awake, she ran off to her room to get ready. Today, the test was definitely going to take place, and she wanted to be ready for anything. After the morning meal, they went straight to the stable. Neither one said anything to the other as they got their horses ready. Both were quite nervous, more so than the previous day, and they wanted firm answers about the book. The ride out to the field was quiet and uneventful, although neither would have noticed if anything were amiss. When they arrived, there was no sign of Gillock.

“I guess we are early,” muttered Eric with annoyance.

Koral nodded. “I guess we will have to sit and wait for him,” she said, moving down from Swift. She pulled the book out of her saddlebag, sat down and began flipping through it. She could sense the magic within it. Eric decided to practice some of the fighting moves Payton had taught him.

After a while, Eric’s patience began to wane. “Where is he?” he asked.

“I do not know,” answered Koral.

Eric was about to give his own answer when he noticed something moving in the trees. “Koral, do you see something in the forest?”

Koral raised her head, and then jumped up. “I see the forest moving!”

Suddenly, the trees started to move toward them. As they drew closer, the twins were able to make out faces in the bark. They both watched, stunned, as the branches transformed into pointed weapons.

“What are we going to do?” yelled Eric, keeping an eye on the advancing trees.

“I guess we are going to have to fight them,” answered Koral.

“Maybe this is our test. But how do we fight trees?” he asked.

Koral ran for her sword. “Well, this is the only way I know how to fight!” she yelled, running towards them.

The trees began to advance quickly and before they could figure out a strategy, the trees attacked. Eric and Koral were very well versed in the art of sword fighting, but neither had ever had to put the knowledge to use against real foes. The fight started clumsily, both making easy mistakes. It appeared luck was on their side, though, as the trees were inept at fighting. Eric, noticing the trees clumsiness, started to remember some things which Payton had told him. Getting his wits about him, he charged the trees. He was slashing and chopping everything he could see, but it was all in vain. More and more trees just kept advancing.

Koral was having problems as well. She had become surrounded and noticed the limbs had changed into different weapons. Eric ducked to miss a club-shaped limb, but it caught Koral square in the chest. Koral had the wind knocked out of her, but otherwise did not feel any pain. Shaking off the blow, she realized her sword was knocked from her hand, and began to crawl on the ground looking for it. In the distance, she noticed the gleaming from the blade and moved toward it. When she drew near, something caught her attention in the forest. Every time Eric chopped off a branch from a tree, another one emerged from the forest. This is why there were some many, they were reproducing. Koral ran toward Eric, trying to avoid severing any branches.

“Eric stop!” she yelled. “You are just making more of them by cutting off their limbs.”

“So how do we fight them?” he yelled back.

“I do not know,” she answered, arriving beside him. “Just move back toward the centre of the clearing and maybe we can figure this out.”

Slowly they backed away from the advancing trees, turning away the blows and trying to avoid making any cuts. They had almost reached the middle when some clouds rolled in, and there was a rumble of thunder. The two turned and looked at each other, both wearing a confused expression. When they turned back to face the trees, a bolt of lightning came from the clouds. It landed between them and the trees, knocking both Eric and Koral off their feet. Eric scrambled to get up and noticed the trees were avoiding the spot where the lightning had scorched the earth. “I know what to do,” he hollered to Koral. Not waiting for a response he ran toward the trees and threw down his sword.

Koral gathered herself and stood, watching Eric as he ran away from her. She thought she heard him chanting something, and he began to sway his arms back and forth. Koral, felt the hairs on her neck stand up, and started to move closer to him. The air appeared to have a sizzling sound to it. Just as she drew near, there was a loud WHOOSH and the trees went up in flames. Koral could not believe what she was seeing. The faces of the trees appeared to be screaming in pain, and as fast as all of this had started, it was over. They disappeared from in front of them, reappearing in the forest, back to normal. Eric, exhausted, collapsed to the ground.

The clouds which had blown in, were now gone and Eric suspected it was Gillock’s doing. He heard Koral yell his name, then felt her arms around him, but could not respond. The spell had taken more out of him than he had expected. Eric felt the ground under his head and assumed Koral had laid him down. He was feeling quite dizzy and decided to close his eyes and rest. The last thing Eric heard before drifting off was the distant sound of a galloping horse, which appeared to be drawing nearer.

Gillock watched the twins approach the clearing. Judging by their expressions, he gathered they had not been able to unlock the secrets of the book. Not that he had expected them to. It had been a diversion to get them to, at the very least, think about magic. Gillock sat and listened to them, and of course was not surprised by Eric’s impatience. After sending out several searching spells, Gillock was quite relieved to discover that no Magima had followed them today.

When some time had passed, Gillock decided to set his test into motion. Quietly chanting his spell, the trees around him began to move. He decided this would be a simple test; nothing too complicated, and was not at all surprised to see Eric start slashing right away. He was, however, disappointed to hear Koral suggest it. Just when it looked like the twins were getting the upper hand, Gillock changed the weapons of the trees. Eric and Koral reacted accordingly, still clumsily slashing and chopping away. He almost stopped the test when Koral was hit, but decided to see how she would handle it. Gillock was quite stunned when he saw Koral unharmed, except for maybe losing her breath for a moment. “She has more power than I thought,” he muttered to himself. When they started to retreat, Gillock decided he would have to give them a bit of a hand. Calling up a minor storm, he tried to show Eric what to do and was pleasantly surprised when it worked. Watching as Eric cast his spell, Gillock became worried. The spell he cast was very powerful one, which he should not have been able to do. Once the trees were back to normal, Gillock left his hiding place and rode off toward the twins.

“Eric, wake up,” came a voice in his head. Eric opened his eyes to see his sister and Gillock hovering over him. “Can you speak?”

Eric slowly sat up. “Yes, I am fine now.”

Koral sat back. “Good to hear. What was that anyway?”

Eric looked at his sister, then to Gillock and realized things had now been set in motion, as he had been told they would. Jumping to his feet Eric said, “I am sorry Koral, but I cannot explain it. I have to go.”

He turned away from them and ran toward his horse. Koral was going to chase after him, but Gillock stopped her. “Let him be. A lot has just happened with him and he needs to deal with it. Now, let’s go get Swift and head back to the palace. We have much to do.”

Reluctantly, Koral agreed and slowly made her way to her horse. When everything was gathered, they headed toward the castle.

Koral sat in silence, but sensed Gillock wanted to discuss something. Her assumption was confirmed a few minutes later.

“What do you know of the prophecy, Koral?” asked Gillock.

“I have heard about it my entire life, but father never really wanted us to remember what it said. I guess he did not want us to draw attention to ourselves. All I know, it is about twins, and they will return magic to the world.”

“The beginning says ‘In their sixteenth year the twins, sun and moon, shall be separated by betrayal but shall be found in the light’. Does this mean anything to you?” he questioned.

“No,” said Koral, flatly.

Gillock sighed. “It means one of you will betray the other. It’s this one action which will set the prophecy into motion.”

Koral stopped. “You think Eric will betray me?”

Gillock turned to face her. “Yes, his sneaking off means something, but I’m not exactly sure what. Something is blocking me from seeing. I do know you need to watch him very carefully.”

“I will not believe my brother would do something to betray me,” said Koral, her voice rising.

“I don’t think he would do it intentionally, Koral. None the less you need to be watchful.”

“I cannot believe Eric would do anything to hurt me.”

Gillock nodded. “I don’t expect you to. I just want you to be careful.”

Koral turned away, “I will.”

“There’s something else you must know. In order for the prophecy to happen, you and Eric must use your abilities. Eric has shown his. He’s the sun. You must be the moon, which means your strongest ability will be to manipulate water. This doesn’t mean you aren’t capable of other feats, it just means your main ability. Both of your special powers must be used in returning magic to Melarandra.”

Koral stopped Swift. “Did you know about Eric’s abilities,” she stated.

Gillock stopped his mount. “Yes. Though I didn’t know he was this far along in his studies. I knew he had been borrowing my books, but I didn’t realize what he was doing with them. He’s quite powerful, which makes him very dangerous.”

“Why would he be dangerous?” questioned Koral, resuming their pace?

“He doesn’t know how to control his magical abilities. This was quite apparent after his display in the forest.”

Koral nodded. “I see. He fainted, which shows he cannot handle doing that type of spell, at least not yet.”

“Exactly. He has great potential, but he must learn to harness it and channel it properly or it could destroy him. Being a wizard of the sun means Eric is capable of manipulating fire, and this is a very powerful form of magic.”

Koral did not know what to make of everything. “Well, we best be getting back to the castle. Eric is probably already there.”

Gillock agreed and they resumed their ride.

Eric was embarrassed and confused. He knew he was capable of manipulating fire, but what he had created frightened him. The power and the fury behind it had caused him to faint, something which had never happened before. Eric knew he had to get away from Koral before she could start asking questions. Eric rode back to the castle as fast as his horse could take him. He knew this was what Nak had been preparing him for. This is the great power which would alienate him from his family. Eric knew he now had to make a choice, one he was not going to like. By the time he arrived at the castle, he had made his mind up. Now all he had to do is explain it to Koral. In the stable, he did not even bother to unsaddle Blade. He was going to be leaving in the morning and figured the quicker the exit the better.

Running up to his room Eric decided it would be best to just leave Koral a note. She would only try to get him to change his mind. Writing the note, he felt a sense of grief pass over him. Pushing his emotions aside, he finished writing it, and went about packing his bag.

Koral had arrived back at the castle moments later, but sensing Eric probably just wanted to be left alone, she went straight to her room to change for dinner. Eric heard her go towards her room and was grateful he did not have to face his sister tonight. His older sister, Brin, arrived at his room moments later. “Dinner is going to be later this evening. Father has been working on the plans for the festival and is running late.”

“That is fine, Brin. I do not really feel very well, so I do not think I will be coming down to dinner tonight.”

Brin just shrugged her shoulders. “Suit yourself. I will let mother know.”

Eric watched as she went down the hallway. Once she was gone, he left his room. He needed to signal his friends he would be leaving tomorrow. Everything was in place.

One thing Gillock had discussed yesterday that he had been wrong about, was friends. Eric had made new friends months ago, and they were beings to whom he could discuss his problems, and gifts, with. They knew all about his abilities and the prophecy and they were waiting outside the castle walls. He was certain no one suspected a thing, which will make leaving much easier. All Eric could do is return to his room and get some rest. He had a feeling things were not going to go so well once he left the safety of the castle.

CHAPTER THREE

The morning brought another sunny day and Koral could not wait to see Gillock. She moved from her bed over to her window where she sat for some time just staring at the horizon. So much had happened yesterday. So much of her future had been laid out before her. She had countless questions for Gillock, but had no idea where she should start. Koral also wondered if she should inform Gillock of the abilities she already knew she had. Moving away from her window, she looked around her room. Above her desk, was a copy of the prophecy.

‘ In their sixteenth year the twins sun and moon shall be separated by betrayal, but shall be found in the light. Only when the night is restored will the evil be destroyed. United they will return the night but it must be done with the power that is sun and moon or chaos will overpower all.’

Betrayal. This was how it would start. Gillock had said it would come from Eric, but she was not so sure. Anything could be construed as a betrayal. She herself may one day tell a secret Eric swore her to keep. Would that be the betrayal? Koral knew she was just trying to convince herself there was no way her brother could ever do that to her. Deep down, she knew

Gillock was right. Eric had been too secretive over the last few months. Something was up. Not wanting to dwell on it anymore, she decided to get ready for the day. As she was getting dressed, Maiya came in and informed her that Gillock was waiting for her in the garden.

“Is Eric ready?” Koral asked.

“He’s still sleeping, my lady. He’s not feeling very well this morning.”

Koral sighed. That had been a regular excuse recently. Not wanting to let her suspicions show, she just smiled at Maiya. “Figures. He always seems to get ill on the days I really need him to be there.”

Maiya just laughed, gathered up the dirty laundry, and left to finish her chores.

Koral could not help but feel excited as she left her room. Maybe she would get more information from Gillock today. Daydreaming, she turned a corner and bumped right into Brin.

“Have you seen our brother?” she snapped.

It always amazed Koral how much her older sister looked like their father, the only difference being she had inherited their mother’s blue eyes. However, the looks she could give were most definitely not anything which came from their parents. Constantly in a bad mood is how the entire palace viewed Brin. “He is still sleeping,” responded Koral.

Brin just shook her head, and her tightly wound bun barely moved an inch, and stormed off towards Eric’s room.

“I will never understand why Brin is always so miserable,” muttered Koral to herself as she headed for the garden.

When Koral arrived, she saw Gillock sitting in the centre, facing towards her. As she approached, she noticed he had a strange look on his face.

“Something troubling you?” she asked. Gillock could hear the concern in her voice.

Gillock motioned her to sit down beside him. “Where to begin,” he thought. “There’s been a lot happening lately,” he started. “So much for you to learn and now we are out of time.”

“I do not understand,” she remarked, confused.

“Koral, you and your brother are destined to save this world. It may not look that way, but magic must be returned to us. I fear neither you nor your brother is ready for the challenges ahead.”

“Eric and I have learned so much. I think we are ready,” said Koral, defensively.

Gillock sighed. “Yes, you have. Unfortunately, nothing I have taught you will help. You need to use your magical abilities to fulfil the prophecy and in this, you’re both not ready.”

“We will just do the best that we can, I suppose,” she surmised.

Gillock smiled at her optimism “You don’t understand what lies ahead for you. For this to work, you and your brother must use magic, and do it together. I’m afraid my earlier speculation has come to pass.”

“What do you mean?” she asked, not liking the tone his voice had taken on.

Gillock sighed. “Eric is about to betray you.”

Koral was taken aback. It was happening. The betrayal that would set her course was occurring.

“You can’t stop him. It must happen,” stated Gillock.

Koral stared at him. “I know, but it does not mean I cannot try.”

Gillock knew he could not stop her from going, so he motioned her to leave.

“Maybe this will not start it,” she said, though her voice betrayed her true feelings. Not knowing what else she could say, Koral turned and ran from the garden.

Gillock watched her as she ran away from him. “In their sixteenth year the twins of sun and moon shall be separated by betrayal,” he recited to himself.

“Who are you speaking to?” questioned a voice from behind.

Gillock turned to see Queen Elizanne approaching. Looking at the queen one could see how Koral may look in a few years. “Koral,” he replied.

“Is she a spirit?” asked the queen, jokingly.

Her expression changed as she drew closer to Gillock. “What is wrong?” she asked, seeing the fear in his eyes.

“As we speak, the prophecy is beginning. There’s no time left, and they are not ready,” he stated.

Elizanne sat down beside him. “Are you certain?”

“Unfortunately, yes. Everything is about to be set in motion. We must find the king.”

Elizanne nodded in agreement. “He will want to know.”

They stood together and headed towards the throne room in silence. Both knew how Jeremy was going to react to this news.

Koral left the garden and headed straight up to Eric’s room. She burst through the door and saw he was not there. Moving around the room, she noticed most of his things were missing. Frustrated, Koral headed back towards the door, but something on his desk caught her eye. It was a letter addressed to her. As she began to read it, her heart started to beat faster. The letter was telling her he was leaving and was going to figure out the prophecy on his own. It mentioned friends who were going to help, but did not name them. Koral was stunned, and flopped down onto his bed. The betrayal, could this be it? He always wanted to be a hero, but to go off alone? He had never even been any further away than Sprague, and that was only a week from Klayhern. There was no way he would survive on his own. Suddenly worried about his well-being, Koral jumped up and headed out of his room. She moved into the hallway and was surprised to see Korben standing before her.

“Is something wrong?” he asked his voice quiet and gentle.

The head of the castle guard always amazed Koral. His brown hair and light brown eyes gave him the appearance of a gentle man. He could be gentle, but he could also be fierce.

“It is Eric, Korben. I think he is going to do something bad. Have you seen him?”

“No, but if something is amiss then I’ll help you find him. Do you wish me to alert the castle guard?”

“Thank you, but I think I need to find him on my own.”

“As you wish, but I’ll tell Payton to keep an eye out for him. You also may want to check the stable. He didn’t unsaddle Blade last night.”

Koral turned and headed down the stairs. “Thank you,” she hollered back to him, but he was already gone.

Korben watched Koral as she headed towards the stables. Gillock had told him to give her that clue, but to not help in any other way. He had watched Eric packing earlier, and it was hard for him to just stand on the sidelines and not help. These two were his responsibility, had been since birth, and he was expected to just let one run off alone. Korben sighed. Both he and Gillock knew Eric would not be alone. He had made some unusual friends these last few months. Korben sighed again. He knew there was nothing he could do so he headed to the throne room, positive he would be needed there shortly.

The closer she got to the stable, the more Koral felt something was wrong. It was not something she could place, and that unnerved her even more. As she neared, Koral heard voices arguing. She recognized the louder of the two to be Brin and after a few moments realized the second was Eric. Koral slowed her pace as she neared the barn and was able to make out some of the argument.

“I just cannot believe you would betray your family so easily,” she heard Brin yell.

“I am not betraying our family,” Eric hollered back.

“Running off to do who knows what days before the celebration and you do not see it as betraying anyone?”

Koral slowly moved into the stables. All she could do was stare at Eric.

“I am glad you are here,” remarked Brin, turning towards her. “Maybe you can talk some sense into him.”

Before Koral could even respond, Eric jumped up onto his horse. “No one can change my mind,” he spat. “Maybe you should change yours.” Then he turned Blade and rode off.

“Koral, go after him,” said Brin. “I am going to inform father of this.”

“Fine,” responded Koral, angrily. “I just hope I can catch him.”

Brin did not respond as she ran passed towards the castle. When Koral looked back towards the direction Eric had gone, she noticed her horse was out and ready. Robyn, the stable boy, came out of a stall. “I had a feeling you’d be needin him,” he stated flatly.

“Thank you,” she muttered, more concerned with finding her brother. Kicking her horse into motion, she set out.

The path Eric had taken was not well used, and although it should have been easy to track him, Koral had to stop many times to find his trail. After stopping for the twentieth time, Koral gave up. The path looked as if no one had been down it in months, let alone a few moments ago. There was no way she would ever be able to determine which way he went. Dumbfounded, Koral began yelling Eric’s name, although she knew it would be in vain.

“What am I going to do,” she said to herself. Confused and frustrated she decided to turn around and go home. As she turned Swift, she saw movement out of the corner of her eye. Turning her head back, she saw a creature, which almost made her fall off her horse. Standing in the pathway was a being Koral thought to be long dead. An elf.

The elf smiled and moved towards her. “Do not be afraid, Princess Koral Traven,” came his musical voice. “I am here because I need your help.”

Koral just stared. He was easily six feet tall with long blond hair and violet eyes. He looked exactly as the history books described his race, tall, lean, and graceful. “Who are you?” she asked, trying to regain her composure. “And how is it you know who I am?”

The elf smiled, and she immediately felt at ease. “Please excuse my rudeness. My name is Glavlin. I am king of the Cyprian Forest elves. I have come because of the prophecy concerning you and your brother. I know you were following Eric but you will not ever catch him. His companions have a magic item with them. It is erasing all traces of their passing.”

Companions? Just like his letter had mentioned, and this worried Koral even more.

“What do you want from me?” she asked.

Glavlin smiled again. “There are many things we can discuss, but not here. Please, return to Castle Klayhern and I will come to you there.” He paused, as if contemplating saying more.

“You must tell no one we have had this meeting, save Gillock. He will not be surprised to hear this news. Until then, Princess Koral,” he finished then stepped behind a tree, and was gone.

For many minutes, she stared at the spot where the elf king disappeared. So much had happened in just three days. Gillock had been trying to prepare her for years and she had thought herself ready. She had been wrong. Things were moving too quickly and it was becoming quite overwhelming. First the book, then the test which showed how powerful Eric’s magical abilities were, and now an elf. “Magic is not as dead as we all thought,” she mumbled to herself. Wanting to get back and talk to Gillock, Koral kicked Swift and headed for home as fast as she could.

Magic may have blocked Koral from following Eric, but the two elves on their trail were not so easily fooled by it. Having been out on a routine patrol of the area, the elves were surprised to come across goblin tracks. “They appear to be travelling east,” stated Darly.

“Yes, their trail is quite odd,” answered her brother, Mekken. “Why do they keep switching directions?”

“They must know we are tracking them,” she replied.

They followed their trail for a few more miles before Mekken noticed something odd. “Look, they are no longer hiding their trail with magic. They must have thought someone else was tracking them.”

Darly studied the ground. “Yes, they have slowed their pace as well. They will probably be making camp soon.”

Both elves thought it would be prudent to move off the trail to continue to follow the goblins. It was not long before they came upon their camp. There were fewer goblins than they thought, but both did not expect to see a human boy with them.

“They must be joining up with a larger group,” said Mekken.

“Perhaps, but why is there a human with them?” questioned Darly. “It appears he is not their prisoner.”

“It is odd, but he may be under a spell. We must track ahead to see if there is a larger group.”

Darly shook her head. “The boy may be in trouble. You go on and see. I will stay with this group and we will meet further up the road.”

Mekken agreed and headed off. Darly watched as her brother disappeared into the trees. Turning her attention back to the camp, she hoped she would learn why the human was with a band of goblins.

Darly watched the camp well into the night, but no one really said anything. It was the oddest band of goblins she had ever seen. They actually appeared to be protecting the boy. Darly knew they would be leaving at first light so she took a quick nap in a tree, in case someone decided to come her way. She awoke to the sounds of the camp coming down. Climbing down from her tree, Darly noticed they were heading south again. Wanting to make sure Mekken found them, she left a marker showing him the way she went. Darly followed them until they made camp again. By this time, they had switched their trail back to the east. The constant changing of directions made her think this really was no ordinary band. Goblins were definitely not welcome in this area, as was seen by the villagers responses when they drew too close. However, this group appeared to be avoiding something else altogether.

It was four more days before Mekken finally returned. “Did you find anything?” she asked him.

Mekken just stared at her. “No,” he answered, flatly. “There was nothing.”

“Then we must return and report our findings to the king.”

Mekken laughed. “Report there is a boy with some goblins. It will be of no interest to the king.”

“He will want to know,” she responded, with a hint of annoyance in her voice.

“If you insist,” said Mekken moving away from Darly. “Off we go.”

Darly did not understand why her brother was trying to bait her into an argument but decided not to dwell on it. He always had to be difficult. Turning away from him, she decided it best to just forget about it and head off home.

Moments after Koral had ridden off to find Eric; Brin was bursting into the throne room. A look of surprise crossed her face when she saw both her parents and Gillock there, apparently waiting for her.

“Eric has gone,” she gasped, trying to catch her breath.

The queen’s face paled. “Where is Koral?” she asked.

“I sent her after him, but he had a good lead.”

Both the king and queen looked at Gillock. Returning their look he said, “They will be separated by betrayal.”

“But it cannot be,” stated Jeremy.

“But it is,” Gillock shot back, his voice fierce. “I told you and you wouldn’t listen. Now all may be lost because of your foolish honour to a ridiculous law.”

“It was in their best interests,” Jeremy started, but could not finish his thought. He knew Gillock was right and it may cost him his children.

“All is not lost,” remarked Elizanne. “We still have a few days to try and teach Koral.”

Gillock was about to respond, when Brin interrupted.

“What do you mean?” she asked, not following the conversation.

They had all forgotten she was even in the room.

“Nothing,” said the Queen quickly. Too quickly, Brin thought.

Everyone was silent, not knowing what to say. Jeremy broke the silence. “Where is Koral now?” he asked his wife.

Queen Elizanne closed her eyes and concentrated. Sighing, she opened them and looked at Jeremy. “She is returning to the castle, and she is alone.”

King Jeremy sighed. They all knew what that meant. Koral was unable to catch Eric. “We must get back to the festival planning,” he said. “It must go on no matter what. We cannot let anyone know what is conspiring here.”

They all nodded in agreement and went their ways. Brin, who was feeling very confused, went to her room.

It was disturbing to see her mother use magic to find Koral. At least, it looked like she was. It also dawned on her, that they had been discussing the prophecy. Her siblings were not supposed to be the twins, but Gillock’s remark made her wonder if maybe they were. Magic was forbidden, and anyone who used it was to be reported to the Maget immediately. Brin’s loyalty to her family was strong, but stronger still was her need to uphold the law. Confused, she decided to get ready for the evening meal.

Koral arrived at the stables, very tired, an hour later. Robyn informed her she had missed the evening meal. Feeling more confused than hungry she thanked him and headed to her room. Both of her parents stopped by, but once they saw how exhausted she was neither wanted to press her about Eric. She had heard about this prophecy her entire life, and now it is actually happening. It was all too much, but before she retired, she wanted to tell Gillock about meeting King Glavlin. Unfortunately, exhaustion overtook her so she lay down and was asleep instantly.

“The betrayal has begun, and I must make sure things go my way,” thought Malena, letting her scrying mirror cloud over. She had just witnessed Eric leaving the stables, thanks to Robyn’s mirror. Raising herself up from her throne, she summoned her bolamer. Stupid creatures, one of her first experiments, but they still did her bidding. “Find me someone who will help me further my plans,” she stated to them.

Two days later Malena sat across from her captive in the dungeon. “I hope your trip through the void was not unpleasant,” she commented. The prisoner did not respond. Slowly rising, she turned to her companion. “No answer?” she remarked.

Moray smiled, which was an unnerving and evil looking movement. “It would appear having ones heart ripped out cause’s difficulties in answering questions,” he said.

Malena smiled, and hers was no less cold and evil. “That is too bad. Would this form please you?” she asked the demon.

“Yes, I believe it would suit our needs,” he responded.

Malena moved over to the body, and began chanting. Quietly at first, then growing louder and the spell became more intense. She shouted the final phrase needed to allow Moray to enter the dead body, and collapsed onto the floor. Moray raised himself up, then went, and helped Malena off the floor. “Now, go and find the princess,” she said breathlessly.

CHAPTER FOUR

During the next few days, everyone threw themselves into the festival planning. No one discussed Eric, and if brought up, you were expected to change the subject. Rumours had begun to spread throughout the town, but no one would openly discuss it. With it being the twins sixteenth birthday, as well as the Festival of the Moon, the town of Klayhern would be bursting with people. Already caravans of musicians and farmers were pouring in. The priests from the three temples were setting up booths to preach from and of course, directly across from the Temple of Ademorna tavern tents were going up. Koral smiled at the sight. The Temple of Ademorna hated taverns, so it had been a joke at many festivals to set up tents near their booths.

Koral could not believe all of the sights and sounds. Off to the side Koral noticed a carriage and knew it would be carrying a noble from somewhere. If she were seen, she would have to escort them to the castle, as was custom. Quickly she darted down an alley, and ended up in the section of town, which held the actual temples for the three religions. As she approached the Temple of Allorethna, goddess of the moon, she thought of a part of the prophecy. “The twins of sun and moon” and her mood darkened. This was to be the Festival of the Moon, beginning of spring, their sixteenth birthday, and she had not heard a word from Eric.

“Is something troubling you princess?” came a voice.

Koral turned and saw Meechie, the head priest at the Temple of Allorethna. “You look as if you need to talk to someone.”

Meechie was the only other person who knew the truth about the twins. The Temple of the Allorethna did not believe magic was evil. Being a religious temple put them somewhat outside the law, so they often harboured those with magical abilities. Magima Tower would never openly attack the temple, but it was an uneasy relationship. Meechie had been a part of her life for as long as she could remember.

“Eric is gone, and no one knows where. How am I going to be able to do this on my own?”

Meechie smiled, and drew Koral into a hug. “You’re the strongest young woman I have ever known. This is something that has been in the stars for many years. It will all work out.”

Koral held back her tears, and pulled away from Meechie.

“Thanks,” was all she said, and then headed back to the castle. The spell of all the wonders in town broke and she just wanted to go home. Not wanting to talk to anyone, she went up to her room to nap until the evening meal.

The evening meal at the castle is usually quite boring, but today it was unusually boisterous. Aside from Baron Allen Lychen arriving, which of course unnerved her father, things were going quite well. Everyone was going on and on about the festival. How much larger this year will be, how the farmers from the south would make an amazing amount of money, and how this year representatives from Keenley were actually going to attend.

“Two days hence, it will be the Festival of the Moon,” Jeremy’s voice boomed. “I am glad to say, it will also be the sixteenth birthday of my two youngest children. This will be a joyous occasion and many noblemen are planning on attending. Perhaps we will see love blooming?” he joked, staring at Brin. Koral could not help but laugh at her father’s attempt at humour, and at Brin’s embarrassment. Her mother was also smiling, something she had not done in days.

King Jeremy went on about the plans for the festival. There was going to be parades, plays with young children acting out the twin’s lives and many, many taverns. The only problem Koral had with the festival was the fact that the Temple of Allorethna was not against taverns. Due to this, a tradition had started on the day of the twins’ birth and she would be required to visit every one of them as a type of blessing. Everyone talked about the festival well into the night, and no one noticed Koral slip out and go to bed.

“What are we going to do with Koral?” asked Elizanne as she was preparing for bed.

Jeremy looked up from the bed at her. “I do not know. You have not been able to track Eric at all?”

Elizanne shook her head. She had used as much power as she could, any more might be detected. Looking around their bedroom, she thought about how much smaller the castle felt without the twins running around, learning all they could. She had known this day would come, but it still felt too soon. Sighing, she decided a proper night’s sleep would do her good. Elizanne climbed into bed and fell asleep almost immediately.

Jeremy, on the other hand, had a bit of difficulty falling asleep. He had never wanted to believe his children were part of the prophecy. The last thing he wanted was for them to be in danger. Then there was Brin. She had not really spoken to them during the last few days. Something was bothering her and they had to find out what. Jeremy did not want to lose her as well. Not being able to sleep, he decided to slip out and go to the library. There had to be something in his many books which could help. He slowly crept out of the room, not wanting to wake his queen and alarm her.

Slowly and steadily, he made his way to the library, hoping no one else would be awake.

“A little late for exploring,” came a voice from the darkness.

“Korben, do you always have to hide in the shadows. You scared the life out of me.”

Korben laughed and stepped into the candlelight. “Sorry, your highness. I heard someone moving about and decided to investigate.”

Jeremy smiled and started walking again. “It is quite alright. I do not know why I was sneaking about anyway. I just wanted to go to the library and see if I could find anything on the prophecy which might help.”

“With Eric leaving as abruptly as he did, I can understand your reasoning,” commented Korben, walking with him.

“Everything is just happening so quickly now. I know it is only a matter of time before Gillock tells me Koral has to leave too. I just wish I knew where it was they had to go and how I could help. It is all just so frustrating.”

Korben did not know what else to say. “You should really just head back to bed, your highness. We’ve checked everything many times. You know this is something they have to do themselves.”

Jeremy stopped, and sighed. “You are right. I really should get some rest. I will have my hands full with the festival.”

They walked back towards the king’s quarters in silence. “I need you to do me one favour, Korben. Please keep an eye on Brin. I fear with everything which has been going on, she is in a very confused state.”

Korben nodded, “Of course. Have a good rest.”

Quietly, Jeremy moved into the bedroom, over to the bed and sat down.

“Doing some last minute planning?” questioned Elizanne.

Jeremy lay down and faced her. “Just up talking with Korben. What are you doing awake?”

“I sensed something odd and it woke me. I tried to find out the source, but was not able. It would have taken too much magic and I probably would have been detected.”

“Was it anything sinister?” he asked with concern.

“No. Probably Gillock up to something. We need to rest, so do not dwell on it.”

Jeremy knew she was right, and they fell asleep in each other’s arms, both dreaming of ways they could help their children.

The scrying pool clouded over and Lakin sat back in his seat. “Poor Queen Elizanne,” he muttered to himself. “Little does she realize I can detect all magic.” Smiling to himself, he stood up and went over to a large mirror. Pulling off the cloth cover, he tapped it three times. After waiting a few moments, he spoke. “I know you are there, Malena. Show yourself.”

Within a few seconds, Malena appeared, looking very annoyed.

“This better be important,” she spat.

Lakin smiled. “Elizanne keeps using her magic to try and find Eric. It should not be long until she reveals that she possesses magic. It also looks like Gillock is going to try and teach Koral to unlock the secrets of the book.”

Malena tried to keep herself composed, but Lakin could see she was very upset. “Are you sure he has the book?” she asked.

“Quite sure, my lady. Don’t worry; things will be getting quite hectic around the castle soon. I have sent General Traug for the celebration and already have two Magima there. That, on top of the little plan we decided on for after the festival makes me believe Koral will not have a chance to learn from it.”

It was Malena’s turn to smile. “I am glad to hear our plans are coming together,” she purred. “I must rest now. I have just finished my own little surprise for the princess. A friend for her long travels.”

“Very well,” responded Lakin. “I must prepare for the morning prayers. It is so demanding being the head of the Maget Order.”

Malena laughed. “And I always thought Traug was the leader.”

Lakin joined in her laughter. “Well, all that matters is everyone thinks so.” He then let the mirror go dark and threw the cloth back over it. Lakin could not have Malena peeking in on him whenever she desired. She might figure out his plans have changed and were no longer including her. Still laughing to himself, he set about his tasks.

That night, while everyone was sleeping, Koral awoke to a terrible thundering sound. Jumping from her bed, she looked outside and saw a storm brewing. On closer inspection, she noticed it appeared to be coming from Gillock’s tower. Wondering what the old wizard was up to, she threw on some clothes and ran over to his end of the castle. Coming up to his door, she could hear him chanting. Slowly she opened the door, not wanting to disturb his concentration. He was on his knees facing the window. Suddenly he stopped his chanting and turned to look at her. “I see you brought the book with you,” Gillock said quietly.

Koral looked down at her hands and saw she had indeed brought it with her.

“I do not even remember it being in my room let alone picking it up,” she remarked.

Gillock smiled and stood up. “It was the book itself using your subconscious.” He moved to a table sitting off to the side and sat down. Koral walked over and joined him.

“Do I get to find out what is in the book now?” she asked.

“You always had the power to read it,” Gillock responded. “You just need to be given the proper opportunity. Open the book and I will be your guide.”

Koral opened the book, but the pages were still blank . Concentrate came Gillock’s voice in her head. Staring at the pages, Koral began to concentrate on seeing the words. Push the real world away. Think of nothing but the book. Koral started to push out the things around her as Gillock had taught her.

First, she got rid of the furniture then the rest of the room slowly began to disappear. Finally, she blocked out everything about Gillock except his voice. The only thing left was her and the book. “Think of nothing but the book,” came Gillock’s voice again. She was concentrating harder now but still nothing was happening. Just as she was about to give up, words started to appear.

They appeared slowly at first, popping up in different areas on the page. Then they started leaping onto the page faster than Koral could keep track. She tried to read them, but they were in a different language. Concentrating harder she noticed the words started to make sense. They were talking about the past. Wizards, dragons, and magic dominated the text and to Koral, it appeared to be a history of Melarandra. The book mostly focused on the Central Lands but it also talked about the western, eastern and even the southern lands. Some things made sense to her, but most of it was just a jumbled mess. The book felt like it was enveloping her and then she could think of nothing else.

Gillock, watching her from across the table, decided to prepare things for Koral. Reading the book for the first time usually took a few hours, and rarely made sense. It would also drain her of all her strength. He was very pleased she could read it. Only those who possessed a potent type of magic had been able to decipher it. Koral was far more powerful than Gillock had thought. He went back to his tasks. She was going to be on a journey soon and he wanted to make sure everything was ready for when she left. Malena, he was sure, was watching their every move so he had to make sure they did everything just right.

When Koral returned to the conscious world, she was exhausted. The sun was up and it looked like it was early morning. “How long was I reading?” she inquired.

“Almost four hours,” Gillock responded.

Koral was stunned. It had only felt like a few minutes and it had been hours. Koral also realized she could not remember a thing about what she read. “I cannot seem to remember what it said.”

Gillock sat down opposite her. “The first time you read it, you use up a lot of your energy just trying to concentrate on it. The more often you read it the easier it becomes and you start to remember some of it. Some things you read are stored in your subconscious memory and show themselves when they are needed.”

“So it is a spell book?”

Gillock stared at her. “It’s many things; a spell book, a history book, and a map. It holds the key to where the Wizard’s School is.”

Koral gasped. She could not believe it. She had read about the Wizard’s School in her books. It was one of the first places destroyed by the Magima after the war. It was supposed to have untold magic inside. There had been rumours the school they destroyed was a false one and now it appears they were true. “The Wizard’s School still exists?”

“Yes, but it’s hidden,” he responded. “You need to go there.”

Koral did not know what to think. So many things she did not understand were happening.

Gillock, seeing just how exhausted Koral was, decided to change the subject. “Today we are going to study your magical abilities. Your mother is a very powerful sorceress and you have seen what your brother can do. We just need to see what you can do.”

Koral just stared at Gillock. “So it is my mother who possesses magic,” she remarked.

“Yes, but there is more to that story as well. We shall discuss her at another time, but for now, you must rest. You’ll need a lot of strength if you’re going to practice today.”

“I am quite tired,” she mumbled, sleepily. “I will go to my room and have a nap.”

Gillock watched as she stumbled out of his room and headed towards hers. “So much time lost.”

Gillock let Koral sleep until early afternoon. Today he was going to test her. He needed to see how strong she really was. Of course, there was the minor problem of General Traug arriving last night with a regiment of soldiers. The king had welcomed him and his men and a tent had been set up for them inside the castle grounds so they did not have to travel outside the walls and to the small outpost nearby. Jeremy had only seen the general and his men, so he felt safe, for he thought no Magima were present. Gillock knew otherwise, but was unsure if more had arrived with him or if the only ones present were the two he sensed the other day. He knew testing Koral would be very dangerous, but he had run out of time. Whether Koral knew it or not, she would be going on a trip, and very soon.

Gathering up some things, he left his room and headed for Koral’s. Arriving at her door, he was preparing to knock when he felt something behind him. Turning, he saw Korben leaning against the wall.

“She will begin her magical training then?” he asked.

“Yes,” answered Gillock.

“This changes things.”

Gillock smiled. “Yes, it will. You know what needs to be done?”

Korben smiled back. “Yes, it will be done.”

Gillock, confident Korben would make the necessary arrangements, turned, and knocked on Koral’s door.

The day was again beautiful but the sky told of rain to come and with it being spring this was definitely not unheard of. Koral loved this time of year. The flowers were starting to bloom, and she could not wait for the garden to be full and fragrant.

“There are many things we can do to develop your magical abilities,” remarked Gillock to Koral, drawing her out of her reverie. “Today, we are going to stay in the garden and see what you can do.” Gillock walked to the centre of the garden, where the fountain was. “This will be the perfect spot to do our first experiment.”

Koral looked confused. “What am I supposed to do here?” she questioned.

“Here we are going to develop your ability to manipulate water,” he responded.

“You had said my strongest ability would have to do with water, but is it really so simple?” she asked.

“It is manipulation of the space surrounding the water. It is quite easy really. You need to concentrate on creating a ball out of the water. See it forming in your mind, and then project that image onto the water.”

Koral nodded, sighed, and prepared her mind. First, she concentrated on the water, blocking out everything around her. Then she created a picture of what some of the water would look like in the form of a ball. Once she had the image in her head, she sent her thoughts toward the water. At first, nothing happened, but then some of the water started to rise out of the fountain. Slowly at first, then more and more started to rise. Once it was out of the fountain it started to form into the shape of a ball. “Move it towards the flower bed,” came Gillock’s mental command. Slowly she moved it over to the flowerbed. “Let the water slowly drip down onto the flowers,” he commanded. Koral began to let the water drip from the ball, but this amount of concentration was beginning to take its toll on the princess. She could no longer maintain the shape and the water came splashing down. Exhausted, Koral sat down on the bench.

“That was very tiring,” she remarked, breathless.

“That was incredible,” Gillock declared.

“Why?”

“That’s not an easy thing to do for someone who has never used their powers in this way before. Forming the ball is fairly difficult, but moving it over to the flower bed and releasing it slowly is extremely difficult indeed.”

Koral looked at Gillock and laughed. “You told me it was an easy trick,” she exclaimed.

Gillock smiled back. “If I had told you it was difficult you wouldn’t have succeeded.”

Koral, still laughing, agreed.

“So shall we try it again?” he asked.

Koral took a deep breath, stood up, and nodded her agreement.

The scrying pool clouded over and Elizanne sat back in her chair. The thought of so much power inside Koral frightened her. Gillock had stated Eric had natural abilities, so he needed to see what Koral was capable of doing. Elizanne had not expected Koral to be able to manipulate water without an amulet. Her daughter was not an average enchanter, which meant she was a perfect target for Malena at this stage, and the Magima. This was all so unnerving for her and today a guard had heard people in town were talking about Eric and rumours were spreading about where he really was. So many problems to solve, and no time to do it. There was obviously a spy in the palace, but she had no idea who it could be. They had so many town folk as staff and then the visiting dignitaries all had their entourages. It could be anyone. Then there was the general. With Koral’s magic growing Elizanne was worried. Too much would have her discovered. She decided it was time for her and Gillock to talk about what to do. Elizanne walked through the adjoining door leading to her bedroom and changed into woods clothes. Many things needed to be done.

Elizanne walked into the garden, but many hours had passed and only Gillock was there. Gillock stood as she approached. “I have been waiting for you,” he stated when she was close. “You were watching your daughter practice. It must be disturbing to see the potential she has.”

Elizanne looked at him sternly. “Too much time has passed. She is very dangerous at this stage. The general is here and although we cannot see any, there are Magima present. I also feel there is a spy in the palace. The entire town knows of Eric leaving. We must do something about this now!”

Gillock nodded. “I’ve known of a spy for quite some time. I have some defences up so Malena and the Magima are unable to see what I’m doing. They will not be looking for spells of that kind. Anything more could let either know we suspect something. Right now, it’s in our best interests to let Malena think we don’t know she is watching, or that she has placed a spy in our midst. She has been waiting for this day, and she knows Koral and Eric must cross into the Void to accomplish their task. Malena wants out.” Gillock’s voice was grim.

“Tomorrow is the festival. We need to be on the lookout for something to go wrong,” she advised. “Koral must be watched.”

“That will be my job,” stated Korben coming up from behind.

Elizanne turned and smiled. “Always where I least expect you to be, Korben.”

“Korben will watch her, your majesty,” said Gillock, turning their attention back to him. “Don’t worry about her. What we need to do is find Eric.”

“That will be our first priority after the festival,” said Elizanne.

“Not to change the subject, but there is someone here to see Gillock. He said he was a friend from a long time ago,” interrupted Korben.

Gillock stood. “Thank you. I have been waiting for him to show himself.”

Confused, Elizanne and Korben just nodded as he left. “With so many people staying at the palace at this time it is a wonder if the gods are present,” Elizanne remarked. Korben laughed and took his leave. Alone in the garden, Elizanne decided to go and finish what she had to do. Tomorrow was going to be a big day.

Gillock and Elizanne were not the only ones stunned by Koral’s abilities. Brin had been watching them in the garden from the shadows the entire time and was quite shocked at what she had seen. Her mother’s abilities were bad enough and now it appeared Gillock and Koral had these abilities as well. Things were getting quite out of hand but she had no idea what she was going to do. The anger within her was so intense it scared her and once she saw her mother leave, she headed up to her room. A good night’s rest would help clear her head. By morning she was sure she would have figured out what to do with the traitors in her family.

The evening was filled with people doing last minute preparations. Rain had begun to fall, but it was nothing they couldn’t handle. Small cloudbursts were always expected. Koral was in awe at the way the nobles were acting. Demanding they be wakened before dawn to prepare for the day. It was amazing how many pages were needed this year, not to mention cooks and maids. It was obvious, this year the festival would be the largest ever. Gillock was even seen from time to time, and never without his companion.

Koral had not seen the General all night, which was normal. He hated these gatherings, but she could not help but wonder if he suspected something. Koral was also worried about Brin. She had not seen her sister much today, and when she had, Brin had not said two words to her. Knowing tomorrow was going to be quite eventful, Koral decided it was best to just stay out of everyone’s way and get some sleep. Tomorrow she would find Brin and see if she wanted to flit about the festival with her. Maybe it would help get their relationship back on track.

CHAPTER FIVE

The first rays of dawn crept over the trees and it was as if everyone had been waiting for the event. Within minutes, people were emerging from their homes, hustling along the streets. Everyone wanted to be the first ones open for the festival. The clouds, which had moved in overnight, had disappeared and it looked like it was going to be a beautiful day. The noise from the festival grounds awoke Koral. She could tell it was early because the sun had not fully enveloped her room. Throwing on her robe, she moved out of bed to have a look. Tavern tents were getting ready to open their flaps and the priests from the Temple of Ademorna and the Temple of Almena were out preparing to save the souls of the people who would go into them. The priests from the Temple of Allorethna would not be making an appearance until later in the day, as was custom.

Koral moved from her window and called to Maiya. With it being so early, she figured it would be the perfect time to have a bath. It felt as if she had only soaked for a short time when Maiya returned, informing her the castle was awakening. With a sigh, Koral got out and went to get dressed. Judging by the sun’s position, she figured almost two hours had passed. The noise from her window had gotten louder and she went over to look.

Koral could not believe the bustling she was seeing. It was unbelievable how within that time the streets had completely filled with patrons. Sellers were bargaining with people for their wares and already arguments on quality were arising. Some noblemen and their wives, dressed as if it was a ball, were looking for the best buys in wines and cheeses. The laughter of children could be heard among the noise of the crowd. Koral smiled to herself. It was definitely going to be the largest celebration yet. Maiya came to her room again and informed her the morning meal was going to be served soon. Koral quickly finished getting dressed, and headed downstairs.

The morning meal was her favourite part of the festival. It was served in the castle, and anyone was allowed to attend. This was a custom only practised in Klayhern. Most of the nobles would not show up for the meal because they considered it disgusting to eat with the poor, a thought which always bothered Koral.

Walking into the main hall, she could not believe how many people were already here. She glanced across the room and saw her parents serving. Her father loved every minute of this and it made her smile to see him enjoying himself so much. Being raised in a castle made him royalty, but it was the way he always treated everyone with respect, no matter their station, which made him such a great king.

Koral could not believe the excitement this day brought. It had always been a favourite time for the twins. Eric would love this, she thought, but decided it best not to dwell on the fact he was not here. Instead, she went and helped serve. It was always a great experience for her, being able to help the people of Klayhern. It was satisfying to know you were helping those who did not have very much.

The town of Klayhern looked forward to this day as well. It was a great time to sell their wares and most would go home with more money than they would usually see for a month’s worth of work. This festival always brought more people than all of the others, partially due to the fact it was also the twin’s birthday. Everyone was in such a jolly mood that Koral eventually forgot all together that Eric should be there. Once everything was done, it was time for Koral to go and see all taverns.

Koral decided she did not want to do this alone, and set out to find her sister. Koral searched everywhere but could not find Brin. Realizing that with all of the people about, she was probably just missing her, Koral decided to just head out on her own. Gathering her strength, she set out into the festival.

From her window, she had seen the festival to be in full swing, but she did not realize just how many people were actually here. The streets were so crowded in some areas she had to push her way through. Of course, once she was recognized people would move out of her way, it was trying to get recognized that was the trouble. After a while, she just gave up and moved with the flow of people.

There appeared to be many more tents this year than last and it was attributing to the crowding problem. She was amazed at all of the different foods and wares present, beautiful cloth from around Keenley as well as some of their native foods. Koral was amazed at some of the fruits and vegetables from that area. The different foods looked so delicious and she had never seen such vibrant colours in cloth. Koral felt she could spend hours sampling the foods and trying on different dresses, but knew protocol would not allow it. Instead, Koral decided she would ask her father to take her to Keenley. After all, he went a few times a year to see how Duke Dubar was running things so it would not be a bother for her to tag along. It made her wonder why he never took any of his children on his trips south or why he never brought back any of the magnificent foods she was seeing everywhere. “More questions,” she muttered to herself. Glancing up at the sun, she realized quite some time had passed and decided it was time to visit the tavern tents for their blessing.

The first two tents were normal, with the usual type of patrons making it dull and uneventful. When she arrived at the third, however, things changed. Gillock, dressed in a strange green robe, and his friend were inside. This in itself was odd, as Gillock did not like to go to the tavern tents until later in the evening. At first, this was the only thing out of the ordinary. It was not until she began talking with some of the patrons that something felt odd. She knew Korben had been following her, as he always did during the festival, but it felt as if someone else was watching her. Looking about she noticed Gillock’s friend was staring at her. What was more unsettling was Robyn, who was off to the side doing the same thing. She was used to people doing this, but both appeared to be studying her every move. This was quite disturbing for her so she quickly took her leave. Looking about she noticed there was a stand selling beautiful material for dresses so she decided to inspect it. She needed to get her mind off the tavern.

Gillock watched as she ran out of the tent. “It would appear her magical abilities are developing faster than I had thought,” he stated to his companion.

“Yes, she felt the same disturbance as we did in the room,” he responded.

“Well, Glavlin, when do you think she will have to leave?”

The elf smiled. “I think we can wait until after the festival. I do not want anyone suspecting anything.”

Gillock nodded. “Yes, we definitely don’t need any more rumours about…” Gillock stopped mid-sentence and was staring. Glavlin followed to see Robyn, who had gotten up and was leaving in the direction of Koral. “Now I wonder what he is up to.”

Glavlin started to rise. “Don’t worry,” Gillock said, placing his hand on his arm. “Korben is watching the princess,” continued Gillock. “Nothing ever gets by him, she will be fine.”

Glavlin sat back down. “It would appear someone has something planned. I only wish we could figure out what it was.”

Gillock nodded, “Knowing Malena, her plans will be made clear soon enough.”

Back in the palace, Jeremy and Elizanne were preparing to start their festival rounds. Both had needed to bathe after the morning meal. Some of the local children had decided to start a food fight. It only took a look from the king for them to stop, but by the time he had been able to do so the hall was a mess. It had taken much longer than expected to clean things up, but both stayed to help.

Elizanne put on her favourite blue gown, finished fastening a necklace made of pearls and moved over to the window. So many people flitting about, but so far the castle guard has not had to break up a fight or major disagreement.

“Things are going well so far,” noted Elizanne, moving away from the window. “I hope it lasts.”

Jeremy smiled and held her hand. “Things will be fine. We are taking every precaution we can.”

Elizanne smiled back. “I guess you are right.” Laughing, she added, “There is a festival waiting for us and we should attend.” Arm in arm they made their way to the festival site. Everyone stopped what he or she was doing to greet the royal couple, as was custom. Koral, seeing everyone stop, knew her parents had arrived and decided to go and join them.

Brin had waited until this moment to make her move. With the arrival of her parents, no one would notice her. It was her only chance to make her way over to the tents of the Maget. Slowly and carefully, she moved toward the general’s tent, making sure not to draw any attention to herself. She could only hope the general was still inside. If he wasn’t, it would only be a matter of time until he returned. He rarely showed himself at these festivals, usually he would make a round to let his presence be known, and then would head back to his tent. Brin was not even sure what she was going to say to him. Over the last week, Brin had seen many things she wanted to forget. Going to see him was the only thing she could think of doing in order to protect the town. Tonight, things were going to change and she knew it was for the best.

“She is within my grasp my queen,” communicated Robyn.

“Just place the spell on her,” Malena responded. “Do not attempt anything else.”

“As you wish,” he replied.

Koral sensed something out of the ordinary. Glancing around, she noticed Robyn coming towards her. “Good day your highness,” he said.

“Good day, Robyn. Are you enjoying the festival?”

“Oh, very much so.”

Just then, a group of children ran past pushing Koral into

Robyn. Taking this opportunity, he placed his hand on her back and spoke a single word. Koral felt something wrong immediately, but it went as fast as it came. She apologized to Robyn and quickly left to find her parents. Robyn watched as she ran away. He could see the talisman spell was leaving a trail of pale green mist. Soon it would be on all of her belongings and she would never be able to hide from them. He smiled and decided to go and enjoy himself at the festival.

Korben also watched the princess run away and immediately suspected something was out of the ordinary. For a moment, he considered following Robyn but decided to keep an eye on the princess. Things appeared to be involving her quite a bit lately.

Koral spotted her parents near the tavern she had run out of earlier. Ignoring her thoughts on the matter, she ran over to them and gave her father a big hug.

“What is this for?” Jeremy asked.

“Just glad to see you,” she replied.

“Have you been enjoying yourself so far?” asked her mother.

“There are so many different tents set up this year. Fruit and vegetables I have never seen before, not to mention all the different cheeses. It has been amazing.”

Jeremy saw the glow in her eyes and felt guilty. So many times, he travelled to the south and not once had he taken his children.

“Maybe we can go and visit the south sometime,” he stated and saw Koral’s face light up.

“That would be wonderful, father,” she said, hugging him again.

Elizanne grabbed Koral’s hand. “I think it is time for some dancing.”

Koral ran with her mother to where the minstrels were playing a bouncy merry tune about adventure and excitement. Forgetting all about her strange feelings and questions, Koral danced away with her mother. Other people from the town joined in and Koral and Elizanne laughed as they were spun from partner to partner. Coming out of a spin, Koral came face to face with Gillock’s companion. “May I have this dance, princess?”

Koral gasped when she saw who it was. “I would be honoured,” she responded, then whispered, “Elf King.”

Koral could not believe how graceful he was. The stories of the elven people were definitely not exaggerated. Glavlin moved with such ease, Koral felt as if she were floating.

“Why are you here?” she asked.

“I told you I would be coming. In truth, I am here for you.”

Koral was stunned. “Why for me?”

“You are very important. I need you to come back to the Cyprian Forest with me.”

“What! Why?”

“It will all be explained to you soon, right now you are to have fun. It is, after all, your day of birth.”

Koral laughed. Of course, she was to have fun today, no worries, and absolutely no problems. They danced together for three more songs until King Jeremy asked to cut in.

“Have a good day, princess,” Glavlin said before disappearing into the crowd.

Turning to her father, Koral held out her hand. “I would be honoured to have this dance,” she declared.

Elizanne watched her husband and daughter with delight. With Eric being gone and Brin alienating herself, she was not sure if Koral would have been in the mood for the festival. Everyone appeared to be enjoying themselves, save for Baron Lychen and his men. Elizanne just smiled. “That man will never be happy,” she thought to herself. When she turned to walk towards a tavern tent her smile faded. Ahead of her, she saw Brin, walking with determination towards the palace, with General Traug and two Magima in tow.

Lakin had been observing the festivities as well. He was quite upset when he noticed the green mist following Koral around and knew at once that Malena had done something.

“That stupid witch,” he muttered to himself. “If she keeps this up, she will ruin everything.” Deciding to put off dealing with her until later, he turned his attention back to Brin. He could tell by her determined walk, she was going to see General Traug but was somewhat confused about it. “Surely she is not going to tell her families secret,” he stated to the air. It would be quite interesting if she were. He had thought, as did everyone, she had no significant magical abilities. They were all wrong. Lakin had witnessed her little temper tantrum after seeing her sister use magic. It had intrigued him. The way she incinerated her night table with a mere thought had him enthralled with her. “It must be quite confusing for you, my princess,” he purred, stroking her image in the pool. “Do not worry, I will guide you and then maybe I can be rid of Malena forever. Besides, it would be much better if I were king when I take over this world.” He was daydreaming about Brin when Malena’s voice pulled him back to reality.

“I know you are watching, Lakin. Come to the mirror.”

He moved from the pool and withdrew the cloth on the mirror. “What is it?” he snapped.

“Well, we are testy today,” Malena snapped back.

“I am tired. What is it you want?”

“Koral will be easier to follow now. I thought you would be pleased.”

Lakin sighed. “I am going to send Traug after her when she leaves. I did not want to make it easy for him to catch their little group.”

He could see Malena’s face change. “I am so sorry if it interferes with your plans, but we are in this together.”

“Not for long,” he thought then smiled. “Yes, I’m sorry. I didn’t want to give him too much information is all. I guess it would make things easier if he knew the truth of things.”

Lakin could tell by Malena’s expression she was not pleased by this. “If you think it will help our cause, Lakin, then do it. Just be careful what you tell him. Remember, he believes you wish to destroy all magic not help bring it back.”

“Yes, I am aware of his beliefs. I think he will understand.”

Malena just shook her head and disappeared from view. Happy she was gone; Lakin went back to his pool to watch Brin.

CHAPTER SIX

Eric was not having as much fun as the festival goers. On their second day travelling, a small village had chased them away. Although he announced who he was, the town folk had thought Eric and his companions were raiders. With no letter stating who he was under the royal seal, Eric could not convince them otherwise. Having to move off well-travelled roads and take the smaller trails through the forest bothered him. He was the Prince of the Central Lands, and was reduced to slinking through forests to go around villages. It was absurd and getting quite frustrating. They also appeared to be travelling in circles. They had started out heading west, turned south and had since turned back eastward. He did not want to question his companions because they knew what it was they were looking for but he was getting curious. They had divulged very little information and Eric did not like secrets. There was too much at stake, with the prophecy, to keep secrets. Then again, maybe it is just the way of goblins.

As they rode on, Eric realized what day it was. The Festival of the Moon. It was the celebration for the Allorethna, goddess of the moon and his day of birth, and he was not with his family.

He had been gone almost a week and Koral was probably still mad at him. The festival did work in their favour though. It kept the roads pretty empty, which made it easier when they had to cross them. He had expected a search party to follow, but knew they would not be able to track him. Even if Payton or Korben were leading, it would have been impossible. The goblins were very good at hiding their trail.

Eric really wished Koral was here with him, but was also glad she was not. This was not the world they thought it was. Their father hadn’t let them travel very far from home, and Eric realized this fact made them very naive about life outside their little town.

He could not believe there were so many people living in such sordid conditions. It was revolting and it amazed Eric they could survive like this. A week of travelling brought them into Baron Lychen’s lands. The area was the worst yet. There were sign’s posted everywhere proclaiming tax increases and longer work hours due to the fact that his lands were not bringing in enough for the king’s liking. It bothered Eric to read this, and was sure the baron just made it up. He could not believe his father would order such things. They had kept off the main trails so he could only see what was happening in the fields. When they got close to towns, you could see it in their dwellings. In some areas, people did not even have enough money to farm their lands and they were going to waste. Eric did not know why his father was allowing this to happen but decided he was going to have to discuss this with him when he returned.

They were currently riding through the forest between Regrit and Lissal, five days from the Destiny River. This forest was full of game yet the people living in the town they had passed yesterday were living in squalor. They appeared afraid to leave the protection of their town even if it meant starvation. Eric decided he needed to find the underlying cause of this. There were just too many things happening and it was somehow connected to them.

Eric rode to where Nak, the head of the tribe, was riding.

“Where exactly are we going?” he asked.

Nak turned, “Wez is goings toz eastes.”

“Why are we travelling in a circle?”

“Wez nots,” Nak answered. “Goins toz Destiny Rivers. Thens wez goeses downs Rivers Rage tos Tranquil Rivers tos Keenleyz. Gots businessz theres.”

“It seems to me, we are avoiding something,” Eric stated.

Nak turned to him. “Theres somethings wrongz inz woodses. Somethings bads.”

Eric looked around. Everything appeared normal. “I do not see

what you are talking about.”

“Animals wez seez werez runnings fromz somthings. Listens toz woodses.”

Eric shook his head. Listen to the woods, what good would that do? Sighing, he did as asked. What he heard was silence. No birds chirping, not even a wind whispering through the trees. This perfect forest immediately became very forbidding. Eric had a sense of trepidation. “There is something you are not telling me is there not Nak?”

“Yeses, youz knows soonz.”

Eric did not know what to say. He was very confused. “I was under the impression we were going to try and fulfil the prophecy.”

“Wez is, princez boyz,” was Nak’s answer. “Goings arounds evils onlyz wayses.”

Eric rode on in silence. This forest was making him feel very leery. Everything was so quiet he could hear his own heart beating. He tried to keep his mind off it by thinking of Koral, and what she was doing. Eric was lost in a daydream when he heard a yell. Coming out of his reverie, he saw it was only the scout, Mork, saying he had found a suitable campsite for the evening. The sun was already beginning to set so they had to make haste in setting up their camp. Eric’s responsibility was to make the campfire. He loved being able to show off his

abilities even if it meant detection by the Magima.

“Firez kepts smalls,” said Mork. “Manys weirds things outz thereses.”

“I will make sure it is small and not too smoky,” replied Eric.

While the rest of the troop was setting up the bedrolls, Eric set out to find some wood which wouldn’t burn too fast or cause much smoke. Stepping just a few yards from the site, he could feel the wrongness in the woods again. He spotted some branches, quickly grabbed them, and went back to the campsite. The feeling subsided once he was back with his friends, but was not quickly forgotten.

Eric began setting up the campfire while the rest of the group organized the night meal. It always amazed Eric at how well the band worked together. They were not like the goblins he had been taught to hate. They loved nature and were very in tune with it. Sometimes he felt as if Mork actually talked to the trees and animals around them. He knew goblins were very good trackers, but Mork appeared to be a part of the forest. Eric looked around at the little band and smiled. He was very glad to have made such companions. Their journey was going to be a long one and Eric could not think of anyone else he would like to be making it with him.

Their camp was always an adventure in its own. The goblins always sang songs to their god and asked for his blessing. The songs, even though he could not understand the lyrics, always had a calming effect on him. No matter how bad the day had been, the songs always made him feel content. Tallmeken said it was their god, Nelvlick, giving them his blessing and thanking them for the good they have done. Eric did not know what to think, but it was a good enough explanation for now.

Knowing they had many long days ahead of them, Eric settled down for the night, falling asleep to the sound of goblin voices singing.

The next morning was quite gloomy. The sky showed signs it might rain. This looked like it made Nak and Mork very happy.

“Noz onses tracks rainses,” declared Mork to Eric as they were breaking camp.

“Will it not be difficult,” he asked.

“Noz,” Mork answered. “Horseses goods throughs muds.” Then he rode off ahead to see what the trail looked like.

Eric knew the goblins understood more about this than he did so he just packed up his things and decided to see what the day had in store for them. The mist the morning dew was creating, amplified the eeriness from the day before. The ride was slow going because of the conditions of the trail. Eric had never felt such a strong sense of anxiety. The forest was really starting to unsettle him and it was not something he alone was feeling. All of the goblins were constantly glancing about.

“Somethingses watchings usses,” whispered Goulerick from behind Eric.

Eric just nodded his agreement, too nervous to speak.

Nak had rode on a bit ahead but Eric could see he had stopped. When they caught up, he could see why. Lying on the ground was Mork, badly injured. Apparently, the approaching band had scared off whatever had attacked him. Even though there were only six of them the creature had been intimidated. At least this is what they were hoping and it really was not going for reinforcements.

“Weses getses hims fixes,” stated Tallmeken. “Mights hunts bloodz smellses.”

“Then we need to heal his wounds as best we can. He can ride with me until he is strong enough to do it himself,” suggested Eric.

Nak agreed. “Riverses closez. Twoz days mostes.”

“Thenz, twoz weeks toz cittz,” finished Dilmek.

“I hope Mork can last.”

They spent the next hour cleaning up Mork. Eric knew some minor healing spells and used them to seal his wounds. “That will help but I am not sure what to do about his injuries inside.”

Nak placed his hand on Eric’s shoulder. “Youz dids bestes. Weses needses goes nowz.”

They were getting ready to leave when Goulerick silenced everyone. “Whatevers gots Mork backses.”

The group scanned the forest around them and they could make out five forms moving in the bushes. “Apparently it went for friends,” stated Eric despondently.

Drawing their weapons, they prepared themselves for a fight.

The fight didn’t come instantaneously, in fact the figures paced in the bush for quite some time without making any move to attack. The tactic unnerved the small troupe. Goblins were used to full out attacks not hesitation. The unrest of goblins appeared to be exactly what they were waiting for because without warning they attacked.

Eric, on the other hand, had been prepared. He was familiar with this tactic. It was one of the attacks Payton had used on him many times in his training. When they charged the small band, Eric charged them. Running for the nearest form, he had survival on his mind. When the creatures came into view, Eric regretted his bravery. The creatures were nothing he had seen before.

They looked to be part bear and part boar. The animals stood over seven feet tall and had an intelligence in their eyes. Intimidated, Eric decided he needed to change his strategy. The thing he was fighting had picked up a piece of a broken tree and was using it as a club.

Eric dove between the creature’s legs and drove his sword into it. Scrambling to get up he could hear the creature howling in pain and decided to go back to where the others were. Coming out from the bush, he saw his companions were faring just as well. Dilmek was unconscious on the ground and before Eric could reach him one of the creatures scooped him up and went running away. Knowing there was no way he could catch the creature he turned towards his companions to help with the fight.

He ran over and was about to take a swing at the nearest creature when he felt a thud on his head and then everything went dark. Nak, seeing his companion fall, attacked with more fury. He had to get to Eric before these creatures killed him. Being the only goblin trained to use a long sword helped him. The blade sliced right through the skin with ease. The creature tried to fight back, but the goblin, being smaller, avoided the hits with simplicity. Eric stabbed the thing, then dove to the side and came up swinging at its ribs. The being, realizing he could not survive the attack, ran off leaving its companions behind. Nak, seizing the opportunity, went on to attack the creature by Eric in the same manner. Fortunate for him these creatures did not learn very quickly. The creature was injured, and tried to swing its club at Nak but was unsuccessful. Nak was a very experienced fighter and attacked with the fury known to all who attack goblins. His hits were very precise and the creature was no match. Wanting to finish this, Nak went for the creature’s neck. Anticipating a killing stroke, the creature smashed Nak down and shuffled after its cohort who had run off. Not wanting to leave the prince, Nak didn’t follow.

Tallmeken and Goulerick, in peril of their own, were struggling with one of the creatures. The beast’s strength was amazing. It picked up Tallmeken and threw him into a tree without even trying. Goulerick heard Tallmeken’s shoulder snap as he hit the tree and began stabbing the beast with his short sword to no avail. The creature’s thick hide was barely scratched, and its boar like face growled at Goulerick and took a swing at his head. The goblin at least had size on its side. Ducking and rolling away from the creature he almost fell over a cliff hidden from view. This gave him an idea, but before he could implement it, the creature picked up Tallmeken and threw the injured goblin at his friend. Not expecting this kind of attack Goulerick was hit full on.

The beast howled in glory and charged on all fours towards the wounded pair. Its claws ripped the poor goblin’s skin, but they continued to fight back. Tallmeken took a few swings, but his broken shoulder kept him from making any good hits. The pain was unbearable and as he was coming around to attempt another hit, the blood loss caught up with him and he fainted. This didn’t stop the creature from attacking and it made another charge at Goulerick. Nak, after seeing Eric was okay, ran to help.

Charging the creature from behind, Nak raised his sword and attacked. Striking downwards at the kneeling creature, Nak hit it right in its back. The beast howled in pain, twisting its body to try and pull the sword free. Nak did it for him and struck again, this time slicing across the beasts hamstring. The creature, blinded by pain, was swinging aimlessly. Unfortunately, for Nak, he was hit. It threw him back a few feet and as he was trying to get up, he saw the creature charging towards him. Nak threw himself down to try to avoid the attack but it never came. He looked up to see the creature burst into flames and disintegrate. Nak and Goulerick looked around and saw Eric standing facing them. “I could not let it harm you,” he said, then fainted.

After he was certain the creatures were gone, Nak surveyed their situation. The one creature hadn’t even attacked, it just grabbed Dilmek and left. The rest of the group was in bad shape. Tallmeken’s shoulder was broken, and he had lost a lot of blood. Goulerick had many scratches on his back and legs. Eric had a large bump on his head and some scratches, but he was going to be okay. That only left the already injured Mork. It was lucky for them the creatures had left him alone. Not long after, Eric woke up and was able to offer his services.

“I have some spells which can help heal,” he informed Nak, and was told to just worry about healing the small scratches and gouges the goblins had. “I may be able to do something about Tallmeken’s broken shoulder,” he added.

Nak looked at the boy and saw how drained he already was. “Wez bez fines,” he said to Eric.

Eric smiled. “If we wait a day before we ride again they all should be okay.”

“Yeses. Needs rests.”

Eric just nodded. “I am going to lie down for a while. That is if it is okay with you.”

Nak turned to Eric. “Forz humans whoz nots fight youz dids goods.”

Eric smiled, thinking about how proud Payton would’ve been to see him fight. Exhausted, he walked over to where his horse stood, falling asleep instantly.

Nak watched as Eric drifted off. It was easy for Eric to fall asleep, having had an eventful day. The creatures, and what it meant, bothered Nak. He knew those creatures, but didn’t say anything to Eric. They were bolamer and they belonged to Queen Malena. He had seen them before, in her palace. They were no more than retrievers, usually sent to bring those who would oppose the queen into the void. They were also used if the queen wanted all traces of someone erased. Bolamer were very efficient at killing and always did it quickly. It was obvious the creatures were supposed to injure them, slow them down. If their objective were to kill them, they would be dead. Nak wasn’t sure why Malena would want to slow them down instead of stopping them altogether. If magic were returned to Melarandra, she would no longer have an advantage over those in her realm. Why was she letting them live? It was also curious that they took Dilmek. That didn’t happen often. Things were not what they appeared to be. When they had started this journey, Nak was quite certain of what needed to be done. Now, there were many questions arising.

When he was certain the prince was asleep, Nak went about setting up the warding spells, which he placed every night around their camp. It amused him that Eric hadn’t noticed he was never asked to be on watch. With all the power he possessed, Nak just assumed the young prince had more important things on his mind. When he was done, Nak decided to get started on healing his fallen companions. Nak knew he wouldn’t be able to heal them completely, but they would be able to leave tomorrow. They had to get to Keenley and seek out a healer. Dilmek just had to stay alive long enough for them to find him. Nak wondered about how he was going to explain his companions, somewhat miraculous recoveries to Eric. Deciding it was best to heal first, he put the thought out of his mind.

Eric’s dreams were of fighting unseen creatures, losing his companions and death. The reality of the dreams woke him with a start. The dream had felt so real, like it was a vision into the future. It was quite unsettling, but the longer he was awake, the more the dream lost its hold. Although the agitation he felt was diminishing, Eric knew he would not fall back asleep so he decided to see if Nak needed any help. He sat up and saw Nak by Goulerick. Eric was about to call his name when he noticed something odd. It appeared that Nak was chanting over the injured goblin. Then Eric felt it, the magic in the air. The hairs on his body were electrified by it and he realized he had felt it before. In fact, every night since he had joined up with the band. Nak practised magic.

He knew goblins of old had magic users among them, but didn’t know it still happened today. He stood and went over to him. Nak was so involved with the spell, he did not notice until Eric was beside him. He finished the spell and turned to face Eric.

“Somethings youz wantses askz,” said Nak.

“Do you realize your magic is most likely being tracked by the Order,” stated Eric, flatly.

Nak stood and turned from Eric. “Theyses nots oneses worries boutz.”

Eric could not believe what he was hearing. “If the Order sensed your magic use, then they know where we are, and if they know where we are then you can bet they have already dispatched some Magima. All could be lost if they catch us before we can finish our task.”

Nak stood. “No. Alls wez doz is makes itses Keenleyses. Froms

theres wez bez finses.”

Eric sighed. “I hope you are right Nak. But if I know the Order, they already have someone on our trail.”

CHAPTER SEVEN

General Traug was quite bored with the festival. He never did like these social gatherings and wished Lakin would stop making him come to them. Deciding he had made enough of an appearance today, he headed towards his tent. Drawing closer to his tent, a sense of anxiousness overcame him. Sighing, he pulled back the flap and entered.

“Tarowen? Luthien? I assume it’s your presence I’m sensing.”

Two figures emerged from the shadows. “Yes, we are here,” answered Tarowen.

“I’m guessing you have some news,” asked the general.

“We have news from Maget Tower. They have sensed magic in the woods south of here. It is thought it may be the group which Prince Eric left with,” began Luthien.

“And seeing as how he passed the tests we can only assume it is the goblins he is with who are practising the art,” finished Tarowen.

Traug moved over to his desk and sat down. “When do you leave?”

Luthien moved over towards him. “We aren’t leaving alone. Lakin has ordered you to lead this particular mission.”

Traug turned with a start. “Why am I to lead this? My place is here at the king’s side. I should not be gallivanting around the countryside after some goblins.”

Traug kept his stare on Luthien, but it was Tarowen who answered. “The Order has determined these goblins may be trying to fulfil the prophecy. This is what requires your immediate attention. We will, of course, be informing the king of this before we leave.”

“Very well,” responded Traug. “We will leave at first light.”

Both of the Magima bowed and were about to take their leave, when Princess Brin burst into the tent. “Your highness,” stammered the general once he had regained his composure. “To what do I owe this visit?”

“I have no time for formalities, general. I overheard your conversation and there is something you must know. I have reason to believe my brother and sister are indeed the twins from the prophecy.”

General Traug was taken aback and it took him a moment to respond. “You have proof I presume?”

Brin moved closer to the general and lowered her voice. “I have seen members of my family perform magic,” she whispered as if stating the fact could get her into serious trouble.

Luthien and Tarowen looked at each other and Olrond knew they must know something more. “Can you tell me who, and what it was they did?” he asked.

Brin looked about nervously. “Not here. I can explain it all better if we go to the castle.”

General Traug agreed and he, along with the two Magima, followed her to the castle. Brin lead them to the gardens. Brin was not sure how she was going to explain what she knew to the general, but it was the law and he had to know. When they arrived, Brin searched the entire garden to make sure they were indeed alone.

“I have seen my mother and sister perform magic,” she stated bluntly.

Traug was stunned, but noticed the news did not have the same effect on the two Magima. “Are you certain of this?” asked Traug.

“Yes,” she answered, solemnly. “When Koral went to look for Eric, my mother knew exactly where she was and what was happening. I also saw Koral with Gillock in this very garden, doing unusual feats. I did not know where else to go.”

General Traug could hear the pain in Brin’s voice. “It must be terrible for you,” he calmly said to her.

Brin looked at him with tears in her eyes, “What are we to do?”

“We won’t do anything until morning,” he stated.

Luthien and Tarowen said nothing. They both bowed and left the princess and the general alone.

Traug stood to take his leave as well. “Don’t worry; we will keep this quiet for now.”

Brin nodded and said her thanks and the general left her, alone, in the garden.

Elizanne was beside herself. She knew the only reason Brin would be with General Traug was to tell him what she saw. She also knew she could not just up and leave the festivities, but it was becoming increasingly difficult to act happy around the festivalgoers. Finally, when the stress was getting unbearable, she decided to head towards the palace. Elizanne was about ready to turn and run when she saw the general and the two Magima coming back towards their tent. The general turned and stared at the queen. His eyes showed a pained look and Elizanne knew he had been told the truth. The years of trust and friendship withered away with that one look. She did not know why he was not outright arresting her, but figured it was his last act of friendship. Elizanne was not going to waste it. If she or any of the royal family left early, it would look suspicious, so she had time to plan. Now things were moving much faster, and it was not going well at all.

Koral staggered towards her room. The dancing had gone on all night, the sun would be coming up soon, and she needed rest. This was the first time she was allowed to try the different mead’s and ales in the taverns and had decided they did not agree with her. Not even bothering to take off her dress, Koral slumped onto her bed and was asleep instantly.

“Princess, wake up,” demanded a voice.

Koral moaned and opened her eyes to see Gillock standing over her bed.

“Is there something wrong?” she asked, groggily.

“Just get changed into wood clothes and come downstairs.”

Slowly, she pulled herself out of bed. Gillock was already gone so as quickly as she could, she proceeded to get changed and go find the others. Koral, her mind still swirling from the drinks, stumbled about the palace, finding everyone gathered in the throne room. Judging by the light outside, she had only been asleep for maybe an hour. Koral wondered what could have happened in such a short time. Everyone was huddled discussing something.

“I am here,” she said yawning. “What is the problem?”

Brin looked at her. “Probably you!”

“We do not have time for your squabbling,” Elizanne snapped. The outburst stunned Koral, and by her mother’s tone, she figured something bad was going on.

The king looked worried. “We have news of your brother. He appears to be travelling south, or so the reports say.”

Koral could feel the tension in the room, and it was having a sobering effect. “What else is happening?” she asked her father, but it was Gillock who answered.

“Your parents know about my friend who is visiting and his true nature. They are not pleased.”

Koral was confused. “Why is this a problem?”

“Because of what it could mean,” he responded.

That answer just confused her more, but she decided not to press the issue. Obviously, something more was going on here. Gillock and her mother appeared tenser than they should be over an elf. Koral was going to ask Brin if she knew anything but the look on her sister’s face showed just as much confusion.

Suddenly, Glavlin and Korben burst into the throne room. “Majesties! We are under attack.”

“There are creatures flying around the castle. They have not attacked yet but you can bet they are going to,” stated Korben.

“My queen,” Glavlin said, turning to Elizanne. “They are most likely minions of Malena’s. You must protect the castle long enough for Koral and me to leave for the Cyprian Forest.”

“NO,” shouted Jeremy. “It is too soon for her to leave.”

“Jeremy,” said Elizanne calmly. “She must leave now.”

“You are not going to use magic are you,” stated Brin, frowning.

“She is very powerful, princess. It is the only way,” replied Glavlin.

Brin turned as if to make a comment to Glavlin but stopped short. His cloak was down and she could finally see what he was. Not missing a beat, she turned to face her father. “I cannot believe you are letting her use magic. It is forbidden!” she yelled.

Elizanne, ignoring her daughter’s outburst, hugged Jeremy. “I must go then if we are to stop them,” she sighed. She turned, gave Koral a kiss goodbye, and headed for the castle tower.

Jeremy watched her leave, and then turned to Brin. “I do not expect you to understand, Brin. You must trust me.”

“I do not think I will ever trust you again,” she yelled and ran out of the room.

Koral could not believe her sister’s reaction. She was going to go after her when she felt a hand on her arm. “We must get ready, princess,” came Glavlin’s voice.

“Yes, I will go pack.”

“I will help,” offered Jeremy.

Koral smiled at her father. “I think you need to make sure mother is okay.”

Jeremy stopped and looked at his daughter, hoping this was not going to be the last time he would see her. “You are right.

Please be careful and come home safely,” he said and hugged her.

“Do not worry father. I will come home and Eric will be with me.”

Letting go of her father, Koral headed to her room. There was not much time and she needed to get organized.

Brin had enough. Her father condoning her mother’s actions was the last straw. She was running towards General Traug’s tent when she ran into Payton and nearly knocked him down.

“You should not be going outside, your highness,” he said. “There are weird creatures circling the castle.”

“I am going to General Traug’s tent and no creatures are going to stop me.”

Payton was stunned by her forcefulness. “I can’t let you leave unless it is absolutely urgent.”

“My mother and sister are magic users and my father knows and is letting it go on. Right now, my mother is going to the tower to fight those creatures with magic. The general must know what is happening so he can stop it.”

The news of magic did not shock Payton, but he feigned it anyway. “I will escort you personally, my lady.”

“Good. Then let us get moving.”

Payton took up the lead, but he and the princess did not get very far. Ahead they noticed the general and the two Magima heading for the castle.

“Payton, thank goodness,” hollered the general over the noise. “What’s happening?”

Payton waited until they were near to answer. “Queen Malena’s doing I assume.”

“Malena,” hissed Tarowen. She was the one creature of magic the Order had wanted to get rid of, but weren’t able to. Gillock had seen to that.

“Yes, that is what Gillock said as well,” stated Brin, ignoring Tarowen’s obvious hatred for the woman. “There is also a more pressing issue, general. My mother is going to use magic to fight off the creatures.”

The general said nothing. He had expected the queen would be protecting the castle from the creatures. He was going to respond, but Luthien did it for him.

“Unfortunately, we cannot do anything about it right now, your highness. It is far too dangerous. When the danger has passed, Tarowen and I will approach your parents.”

“And what of me?” asked Traug.

“When the danger has passed, you will get us supplies and to report back to the Tower. We still have our mission to complete.”

In that one statement, Traug’s eyes were opened. It was becoming quite apparent where the real power lay in his order. “As you wish.”

“Is there someplace we can stay until this is over?” asked Tarowen.

“Yes,” answered Brin. “Please follow me.”

“If it is all right, I will take my leave. The guard may need me somewhere,” stated Payton.

“That is fine, Payton. And thank you.”

Payton bowed and watched as the four headed towards Brin’s quarters. He had to find Korben and let him know what was about to happen.

Elizanne had made her way to the tower without incident. Once she moved into the open, however, the creatures started to attack. Swooping in from all directions, they attacked all at once. Expecting such an attack, Elizanne already had a defence up. The creatures, which resembled large bats, tried to scratch and bite at her but the defence globe kept them at bay. Trying to think of what she could do to counter these creatures she did not notice they had changed their tactics. Instead of scratching, they began to push the globe. Elizanne realized this was slowly moving her toward the edge of the tower and decided to use small flashes of light to determine how many she was dealing with. After she sent up the first few Elizanne, was stunned at how many of the creatures there were.

Realizing the seriousness of these attacks, Elizanne knew there was only one thing she could do. It would allow the Magima to sense her full power, but it was the only way. She started to recite a spell, which appeared to send the bats into a fury. When it started forming, she started to levitate. Slowly, her body began to glow in a pale green colour, which appeared to distress the creatures further. Her spell slowly spread out across the top of the castle and without warning, a huge green fireball erupted taking all of the creatures with it. Exhausted, Elizanne dropped to the tower roof.

Jeremy, having arrived in time to see her destroy the creatures, was there waiting.

“It worked, darling,” said Jeremy, soothingly. “Now, I will take you to lie down.”

“No,” she whispered. “You must take me to Gillock.”

Jeremy nodded and carried her to Gillock’s room. He had apparently been expecting them, for he already had a potion to give Elizanne to help her strength return.

“This was Malena’s doing. She sent those things to draw me out,” stated Elizanne. “And I must leave because of it,” she added, despondently.

“I know,” responded Jeremy.

“You must do so immediately, my queen,” remarked Gillock. “The Magima are already in the castle and are planning to take you into custody. Payton and Korben are stalling them, claiming parts of the castle are unsafe to travel, but it is only a matter of time.”

“I understand,” she said, standing. “I must get some things and then go.”

Jeremy escorted his wife to their quarters. There, he helped her pack.

“I will not need food, I can make my own,” she remarked. Turning to him she said, “Do not look so sad. I will not be away too long and it is for the safety of the entire town. You will need to assure them of things before the Maget start spreading rumours. I am sure that as soon as I leave, the two Magima in the castle will follow. You will then have to deal with the general, and with Brin.”

Jeremy sighed, “I know, but it feels like my entire family is leaving me.”

Elizanne smiled. “Brin is not happy about the latest revelations. You will have your work cut out for you with her.” Then she gave the king a goodbye kiss and was gone.

King Jeremy stared at the door for a while and then decided to go and find Brin. There was going to be much to explain.

Watching from his window, Gillock saw Elizanne sneak off into the night. Moments later, he watched Glavlin and Koral ride in another direction. “Now things are getting interesting,” he remarked to himself. He had sensed Malena’s magic and knew there was more here than just the creatures, but he did not have the time to dwell on it. He would be leaving as well, but was unsure as to what to bring with him or where he was going to go.

With Elizanne headed southward towards Eric and Glavlin and Koral headed east, the Magima will be having all sorts of problems trying to figure out which way to go. Gillock decided

he would head south as well, after going west for a time, to confuse the Magima even more. He knew they would send for reinforcements, but it would be a while before they would pick up the separate trails. Looking down at what he packed, Gillock decided he was not going to take anything. “That should give Malena and the Magima something to think about.” He then changed into dark green robes and headed out of the castle.

Elizanne’s assumptions were right. Malena did send the creatures to draw her out. It had been the plan Lakin and she had come up with. She knew Lakin would have the king placed under house arrest and put the town under martial law. This would make it easier to keep an eye on everyone. Everything was going perfectly. Lakin was sending out his most powerful Magima, with General Traug in tow. The twins were going to find each other soon, seeing as how her bolamer slowed down the goblin troupe quite a bit. Things should work out perfect for her.

“Well, Moray, things are going quite smoothly, “stated Malena into her mirror.

Moray, in his new form, smiled. “Yes, my queen, they appear to be going quite well. When shall I join the princess?”

Malena turned towards him. He did look so convincing in that form. “She has left the palace and will be in the elven lands soon. You must join her before Elizanne does. I am positive she will try to join up with her children and we cannot let that happen.”

Moray nodded.

“Do not fail me,” she hissed.

“Everything will be done as you wish.”

Satisfied, Malena waved her hand over the mirror and it returned to normal. Everything needed to be accomplished her way. The prophecy must be fulfilled, but not with the twins. If Gillock succeeds, then her magic will most likely weaken. “So many things you did not tell them about the prophecy, Gillock,” she thought. “You should have made certain they would not fail, for if they do, it will be easier for me to take over Melarandra.” Laughing to herself, she decided to finish one of the spells she was developing. It was going to be quite useful for what she had in store for the goblin she had captured.

Hours of scouring the castle had passed. There was no sign of the queen or Gillock. This did not surprise the general. He recognised the stalling, but could not prove it so he had let it go. Now, finally at the entrance of the throne room, it was clear what needed to be done. Olrond approached King Jeremy, and could not believe what he was about to do, what he had to do.

He stopped in front of the king and bowed. “Your highness, it’s with great regret I must place you under house arrest for knowingly harbouring a person who possesses magic. I will also be placing the town of Klayhern under martial law. More Maget troops will be arriving within the next few days.”

The king stepped down from his throne and faced Traug. “I know the law, but please let me know when the town is to go under martial law so that I may tell them myself.”

The general nodded. “I’ll do this one last thing for you, Jeremy. But I should warn you, if the Order finds you guilty of more heinous crimes, you will lose everything.”

The king, saying nothing, left the throne room and headed to his quarters. Now, he just had to deal with Brin.

CHAPTER EIGHT

Koral had never ridden so hard in her life. She had seen the elven king give something to Swift to eat, but had no idea it would have this effect on him. They were moving so quickly she had felt like she was flying. Within a matter of hours, they were in the Cyprian Forest, a trip which normally would take at least two days.

Koral knew when they were getting closer. The trees began to take on more vivid colours. It was as if nature itself was coming alive in the presence of the elves. It was not long before Koral felt eyes watching her. Having read all about elves, and how easily they can blend in with their surroundings, she knew it must be them. She was about to ask Glavlin, just to be sure, when they came to an abrupt stop. Looking around, she could see nothing, but Glavlin did not move. For minutes, he did not move or talk. Suddenly a figure moved from the brush, and stood facing the two. It was an elf. From his stance and build, it was clear he was a soldier. It was odd to Koral to see him. He wore a tunic, which did not have sleeves and pants which were form fitting, showing his muscular tone. His hair was white and tied back. He turned his deep brown eyes to the princess, causing her to blush.

“How do you expect me to do my job with you gallivanting about the countryside?” he asked forcefully, turning his gaze to the king.

“Things were moving too quickly for me to alert you, Auroram.”

“I am aware of the situation. I will meet you in the village.” He said, then turned and was gone.

Glavlin spoke a word and the horses were off again, but at a much slower rate. After a few minutes of riding, they burst through the trees and stopped right before what looked like a village.

“Welcome to my home,” said Glavlin, reining in his horse.

Koral looked around, and was going to comment about the incident with Auroram when she suddenly felt ill, and fell forward on Swift.

“The feeling will pass princess. There must have been a tracking spell on you. No one who enters our realm can have spells on them. It is a precaution.”

The elf king was right, and after a few moments, she felt fine. Not wanting to dwell on who could have placed the spell on her, she decided to ask about the unusual elf.

“Who was that?”

Glavlin smiled. “That was Auroram. He is head of the

Protectors. They are in charge of the safety of the royal family. However, here, he is the only Protector.”

Koral was confused, but felt asking more questions would be rude. Instead, she decided to look around, and was surprised at how small the village was. There looked to be just a scattering of dwellings. “I had expected it to be much bigger,” she responded, disappointment apparent in her voice.

Glavlin, amazed at how quickly she pushed aside the tracking spell, laughed. “You are only seeing what we want you to see. Look into the trees and tell me this is a small village.”

Koral raised her head and almost fell off her horse. Hidden within the trees were at least a hundred houses, with rope bridges attaching them all together. Koral never would have noticed them had she not been told to look.

“This is amazing,” she said with awe.

“We have only a few houses down here, and living in them are our guards. It is a way to protect the actual village,” declared Glavlin.

“Village,” remarked Koral, laughing. “It looks more like a city. Even Klayhern is not this magnificent, and it is one of the biggest towns in the Central Lands.”

“I would get used to seeing large cities if I were you. Where we are going, you may have to go through one.” Glavlin stated, then jumped off his horse and motioned for Koral to follow.

It confused her as to why he would say such a thing. Klayhern was home to the king, there wasn’t anywhere larger than her town. Sighing, she let herself be led towards a large tree, and was amazed to see the bark move aside and reveal a lift. “This is how we get up to the village,” explained Glavlin.

“I can see this is going to be a very interesting visit,” replied Koral.

The elf king just smiled and closed the door, activating the lift. When they arrived at the top, it opened up onto a landing area. From this point, Koral could see just how vast this village was. From the ground she could see about a hundred houses, from here, it looked like three times that amount.

“I wish I could show you everything,” whispered Glavlin, “but we must catch your brother.”

Glavlin’s remark pulled Koral out of her state of awe, and she knew he was right. “Yes, we should get down to business.”

They walked for some time and when she saw the structure rising up before them. Judging by the size of it, Koral knew it had to be Glavlin’s home. The tree molded to create doorways, hallways, and rooms. It was magnificent and fascinating. They went inside and straight to his throne room, or at least she assumed it was. Inside it there were many elves waiting to speak with the king. “Koral, could you please go into the room on your left. I will join you as soon as I am done here.”

Koral nodded, not wanting to speak in the presence of these creatures. She was still in awe when a guard approached her and asked her to follow him.

The guard took her into what appeared to be a library. The room astounded her. The books were unlike anything she had seen before. Their coverings were aged, but everything was neat and tidy as if put together that very morning. Running her fingers over some, she noticed they were not all written in elven. Gillock had shown her books of the different languages of Melarandra, so she was shocked to see there were books in languages from every creature that once lived in the Central Lands, and some were in a language Koral did not recognize. Her curiosity got the better of her and she pulled a book from a shelf. As she flipped through the pages, she could sense the magic within.

“That one talks about the prophecy, and many other things,” said a musical voice.

Koral turned to face the stranger. The elf before her was as tall as the king, but his features were very different. Where the king was fair-haired with violet eyes, this one had short brown hair and eyes, very plain looking for an elf. At least compared to the ones she had just seen.

“My name is Mekken,” he said, taking a step towards her. “My sister Darly and I tracked your brother and the little band for some time. It appears they are trying to elude someone, or something. We will have no trouble catching up with them.”

Koral felt quite intimidated by this elf’s presence. She was going to ask what he meant by little band when Glavlin and a female elf, obviously Darly by her features, entered.

“I see you two have met,” observed the king.

“Yes,” answered Koral. “I assume these two will be accompanying us on our trip?”

The king moved over to what looked like a desk. “Yes, they will be. They are my best trackers and will have us at your brother’s position within a matter of days.”

Koral was a bit stunned. A matter of days? Eric had a week’s lead on them. Glavlin, sensing her question, smiled. “We will be travelling rather quickly. Once we are past the borders of the Cyprian forest, we will have to travel without the aid of magic. Your horse will be fed some of our food and fitted with a special type of shoe.”

Koral did not know what to say. “When do we leave?” she asked, looking at the king.

“We will be leaving at first light,” replied Darly. “Do not worry about your things, they will all be ready for you when we leave.”

Koral was going to thank her, but she turned, motioned to Mekken, and left.

“Elves are very unusual,” stated Koral after the two had left.

“They have just seen much horror, and wish to see the prophecy fulfilled,” replied Glavlin.

“How will the prophecy affect your people? You appear to be thriving here?” questioned Koral

Glavlin sighed. “We are not. We are creatures of magic, without it we will not survive. What you did not notice was the fact that there are no children here.”

The remark was true. Thinking back, she had not seen any children.

“We are dying,” continued Glavlin. “There has not been a birth in many years. The magic of the earth is failing. If you do not succeed in bringing magic back to Melarandra, all will be lost to us.”

Koral wasn’t certain what to say. Gillock had always told her magic needed to return, but until now, she didn’t realize how important it really was.

“I will do my best,” she told him, placing her hand on his. Koral suddenly realized she still had the elven book in her hand, and Mekken had said it spoke of the prophecy.

“What of this book?” she asked, handing it to him.

“It does not surprise me you were drawn to this particular book,” Glavlin responded. “It is the mate to the one you carry.”

Koral was surprised. She hadn’t told him she had taken the spell book from Gillock. “How did you know?”

“These books will be needed to fulfil the prophecy. I am not sure how, but they are a key of some kind.”

“Do you really think we will find Eric?” she asked quietly.

Glavlin took her hand. “There are many things standing in our way. We know Queen Malena is up to something and it must have to do with the prophecy. She will most likely try to send a spy into our midst. We also know the Order will not let what happened at Klayhern go unpunished, so they will be after us as well. All we really need to worry about right now is finding Eric and going as far south as possible.”

“Why do we need to head south?” questioned Koral. “And why did you tell me to get used to large cities?”

“You are going to see many things, and hear many rumours,” he began, then paused as if he were carefully choosing his words. “Keenley is one of our destinations. There you will see a great many things, one of which is a magnificent castle. That castle is the true home for the king of the Central Lands.” He stopped, giving Koral some time to think about what he had said.

This news surprised her. “Then why do I live at Klayhern?” she asked.

“Maget tower may be close to your home, but Keenley has a town all its own just southwest of it which is home to many Magima and Maget soldiers. It was the Tower’s way of always keeping an eye on the kings of the past. They were certain some of the royal family possessed magic, but could never prove it. Your father, knowing how powerful your mother was, moved them into Klayhern.” Again, Glavlin paused to let Koral take in everything he was saying.

“Duke Dubar runs Keenley, as you know,” he continued. “But what you do not know is that he feels since he lives in the king’s true home, he should be king. Our going there may cause many problems. You may even have to wear a disguise.”

Things were starting to make sense. The reason why her father did not want any of his children, not even Brin, who is next in line for the throne, to go with him to Keenley.

“There is another problem. The Magima town is near exactly where we need to go, and magic may be needed for us to pass.”

Koral just stared at Glavlin. He had explained many things to her, but also created more confusion within her.

“To answer your second question, we need to go south because we have to pass through Death’s Boundary.”

Koral was getting even more confused. Nothing had been said about the boundary, but then again Gillock hadn’t even told her anything about Keenley, or the trouble brewing. Glavlin, seeing her confusion, decided to take her to her quarters. It was late and Koral needed to be well rested for the trek tomorrow.

Once Koral settled in, she decided to try to learn more from her book. This time it took less concentration to get it started, but it ended up being more confusing. She saw images of herself and Eric standing in a very peculiar looking hall. At the far end was a door and try as she might she could not make herself move towards it. Eric, on the other hand, had no problems walking towards it. She could hear voices yelling, but could not tell whom they were or what they were saying. Then, everything went dark and she came out of her trance. It took her a few moments to compose herself, and she realized the book had not shown her spells, it had shown her images of what may come to be. With things moving even more quickly now, she decided to get some sleep.

Sleep didn’t come easy. Her dreams were filled with betrayal and the images the book had shown her. When Glavlin awakened her the next morning, Koral felt she hadn’t slept at all. The entire dream had felt so real. As Darly had said the night before, her things were packed and already on Swift. Leaving made her feel sad. Koral wanted to see more of the elven town, but there were too many things happening. Koral couldn’t believe how safe she had felt, and now they were leaving the forest area, a strong feeling of trepidation was creeping in. It was as if something very evil was surrounding her. She was going to mention it to Glavlin but decided against it. It was probably just her dream from last night affecting her judgment.

It took Koral a few moments to get used to how fast they were travelling. They had ridden for mere moments, but had travelled half a day. They had headed south from the moment they left the forest surrounding the elven town. Koral wished she could figure out what in the south could be so important. Glavlin had told her about the boundary, but she knew there was more. Deciding enjoy the scenery before things got hectic, she let the idea slip from her mind.

Glavlin, riding behind Koral with Darly, had been watching her closely. He could tell she had not slept well and was curious as to what could have plagued her dreams.

“You have not told her what is in the south, have you?” asked Darly.

“No,” he answered. “Gillock does not want her to know quite yet.”

Darly frowned. “Keeping things from the one person who may be able to restore us is very unusual.”

Darly’s comment was an accurate one. It confused Glavlin as to why they needed to keep this information from her. Gillock had been quite adamant about letting her know too much about the Wizard’s School. Glavlin, knowing Gillock as well as he did, knew there was a very important reason and he would reveal it when he felt it was prudent.

“Do not worry, Darly. She will know when the time is right.”

Darly just shrugged her shoulders and rode to the head of the group to speak with Mekken.

They rode all day and made camp in a clearing. “We are almost out of the Cyprian Forest,” stated Glavlin to Koral.

“Already,” she responded, shocked. “I thought you said it was at least three days from your village to the south edge of the forest.”

Glavlin smiled. “I told you we would be travelling fast.”

“So how long until we meet up with Eric?” she asked.

“If we could keep riding like this, we would be passing by a dwarf mining town just before we make camp tomorrow.

Unfortunately, starting tomorrow we will have to travel at a normal pace. It may take us five or six days, if the weather hits. Still, with any luck, someone there will have heard something,” he replied.

“I am certain General Traug has dispatched someone after us,” remarked Koral. “I just hope my parents are all right.”

Glavlin could see the pain in her eyes. She had no idea where her mother had gone and her father may be in prison by now. “Well, you should get some rest. Tomorrow could get interesting.”

Koral smiled. “Yes, I will see you in the morning.”

Glavlin watched her walk to where she had set up her area. She looked very worried, and he hoped tomorrow would bring some good news.

The next day was very gloomy. Rain was a definite possibility, which did not please the group. It would most likely hinder their efforts to reach the dwarf town. They packed up camp, and were preparing to leave, when there was a shout from the front. One of the elves came up to Glavlin. “There is a woman up ahead. She looks like a gypsy. She has asked if it is alright to ride with us.”

Glavlin was suspicious. “Bring her back here. I will speak with her.”

Koral was worried. What if this was a trick? Her suspicions disappeared once she saw the woman. She was not much older than Koral. Her deep brown hair sat braided down her back, and her eyes showed signs of worry.

“Your highness,” she said as she approached Glavlin. “My name is Adora. It would be a great honour if I could ride with you as far as Keenley.”

“How is it you know that area is our destination?” asked Glavlin, still suspicious.

“The trail you are on only leads to Keenley. You are either going to the dwarf town or heading to Keenley. It was an obvious deduction,” she replied.

Glavlin smiled. “You may ride with us, Adora, but stay close. We may have some trouble headed our way.”

“Thank you greatly,” Adora responded with a slight bow.

Koral was not sure what to make of this woman. For some reason, Adora made her feel at ease, and the fact disturbed her greatly. Sighing, Koral decided not to dwell on it. It had started to rain, and it threatened to push back their arrival at the dwarf town.

The rain came down hard so they made camp early. While Koral was unpacking her things, she could feel something strange. It was as if someone was staring at her. She looked around the campsite and everyone, including Adora, appeared to be busy unpacking. “It must be my nerves,” Koral muttered to herself. Laughing, she turned back to continue unpacking her things and almost fell over. Sitting on Swift’s saddle was a squirrel. It was completely grey and looked to be quite interested in her. She tried to shoo it away, but the little creature wouldn’t budge. “So you are the one who has been watching me,” she stated. The squirrel tilted it is head sideways as if acknowledging her, then ran off towards Adora. Koral watched as Adora let the creature climb onto her hand. It looked as if she was talking to it. When Adora noticed Koral was watching, she scooped up a few things and went off into the forest.

“There is something odd about that woman,” said Glavlin’s coming up behind Koral.

Koral turned to him. “Yes, but it does not appear to be anything evil.”

“I know,” he remarked. “And that is what bothers me.”

Koral smiled and went back to work unpacking. It was going to be a long, wet night.

“My queen, I have something to report,” came a call from her mirror.

“Yes Moray, what is it?” asked Malena.

“We are nearing the dwarf town, I expect us to be there within a few days,” replied the demon.

It had been four days since the group had started their journey, and Malena was wondering if they were ever going to make it. She thought the elves foolish to ride at a regular pace.

“Call me again once you have arrived. I am sure Glavlin means to ask if he can travel through their mines to Elma’s Pass,” she stated.

Moray did not share her assessment, but said nothing. “I will report to you as soon as the plans are revealed.”

“Have you met up with Eric yet?” she asked.

“No, my queen,” he responded, and he could sense she wasn’t happy.

“Inform me at once should you find him,” she spat, then let the mirror go dark. Apparently, she had not slowed down the prince and his band as much as she thought.

CHAPTER NINE

Grund Stonecutter was not a happy dwarf. The land had been changing, and food was hard to come by. Being one of the few dwarves, who ever left the safety of the mines, Grund was one of the few who were aware of the changes. After seeing what it was like in Keenley, Grund knew this was something the dwarven council needed to hear about.

It had been just over a week since he left the town of Keenley and in that time he had only seen one deer, and it was dead. This was one of the few times he wished he had Drundle with him. He preferred to make these trips alone, but her presence would have been comforting. It was still a day until he would reach the mines. Glad he had packed extra food when leaving Keenley, he decided to take his afternoon meal. Finding a place which was partially hidden from the trail he had been travelling, Grund sat down and pulled out some of the dried meats he had packed.

Not long after he had started eating, he heard a noise. Grund knew no one had been following him, and whomever it was, they definitely weren’t trying to be very quiet. Moving slowly through the bushes, Grund made his way towards the voices. What he saw almost made him laugh. There was a small band of goblins and a human. They were pulling a cart, which held two injured goblins. Goblins and dwarves are not very friendly towards each other, but Grund could not help but feel sorry for the troop. As they drew closer, he could hear part of their conversation.

“I do not understand why we have not gotten to Keenley yet,” remarked the human.

“Gots pushed fars downs Rivers Ragez. Wez lostes horses alsos onz wrongs sides of rivers,” said the goblin with him. “Wez gots finds places to crosses.”

“I guess not using the ferry was not such a good idea after all,” said the boy, his voice showing annoyance. “Now it is going to take forever to get there.”

“I be thinkin’ ye’ll be wantin’ me help,” stated a voice from the bushes.

Eric jumped at the voice. Neither he nor the goblins had heard anyone in approaching.

“Not be meanin’ to startle ye boy. Names Grund.”

Eric felt like laughing. What he saw before him was a very short and stocky looking person. He had a long braided beard, which reached all the way to the ground. His hair and beard were the darkest black Eric had ever seen. Realizing he was staring, Eric introduced himself. “My name is Eric Traven.”

“Well, yer highness, yer in dwarven territory,” remarked Grund.

Stunned, Eric stammered, “How did you know who I was?”

Grund laughed and it was the deepest laugh Eric had ever heard. “We be knowin’ lots o things, Prince Eric. But not be knowin’ what yer doin’ here.”

Eric was about to answer, but Nak cut him off. “Wez notz needs helpz fromz dwarvses.”

It was then Eric noticed the goblins had been practically hiding behind him. “Nak, he knows these mountain areas. I think we should get help from him.”

Nak looked at Grund suspiciously. “Yous helps goblins?”

“Well, it be lookin’ like yer needin’ some healin’ help.”

“Yes we do. Tallmeken and Mork are in pretty bad shape,” responded Eric with a sigh.

Grund eyed the prince. “Ye be a days walk from me village but yer over o week from Keenley. Ye be welcome to come. We be havin’ healers like ye never seen.”

Eric could see the goblins were reluctant to go into an old enemy’s home, but Nak knew they didn’t have much of a choice. Both Mork and Tallmeken needed help, and soon.

“Wez gos,” stated Nak after a few moments.

“Well, eat a’fore we be gettin’ on the road,” declared Grund.

“Sounds good,” said Eric, smiling. He was happy something was finally going their way.

Grund led them to the spot where he had left his pack. They all sat down and broke out some rations. Nak stayed by his injured comrades, but Eric, curiosity getting the better of him, decided to sit next to Grund.

“I be thinkin’ the travellin’ gonna be mighty slow with them two as hurt as they be,” commented Grund.

Eric nodded. “Will they make it to your village?” he asked.

Grund shrugged his shoulders. “Not be knowin’ but the sooner we be goin’ the better.”

“Agrees,” stated Nak from behind Eric. “Theys notz doins

goods. Needs heals.”

Grund stood up and grabbed his pack. “Then let’s be goin’.”

The unusual group packed up their things, got Tallmeken and Mork organized on the cart they had built, and set out for the dwarf village. Having lost all the horses, things were slow going.

They rotated pulling the cart with the injured goblins, and by the time they needed to set up camp for the night, they were still more than half a day away from the village. Eric was upset about the entire situation. He set up his sleeping area near Grund, much to the amusement of the dwarf. Grund had noticed how the young prince had taken a liking to him. After Eric had set up his things, his mind immediately turned to the dwarf. “Does your village have a name?” he asked.

Grund settled down beside Eric. “It be havin’ a grand name. Ye never heard o it?”

Eric became a little uneasy. He had never heard of any dwarven villages, and felt unsettled about the situation. Eric couldn’t figure out why no one had ever talked to him about villages which were inhabited by other creatures. “No. No one has ever spoken of dwarven villages. I did not even know if your people really existed or not.”

Grund laughed, which to Eric sounded like a landslide.

“Ye never be hearin’ stories o Xamblers? He be a mighty hero in dwarven legend. Just ask yer goblin friend.”

Eric had noticed when Grund mentioned the name Xamblers, Nak looked very uncomfortable.

“Yesses dwarfses. Thatz names wez knows. Hez killses goblins.”

“He be savin’ many a dwarf village from yer kind, goblin. Yer kind would have slaughtered the lot o us.”

“And you still want to help them?” questioned Eric, looking very puzzled by all of this.

“Thems be goblin crimes o the past. I be livin’ fer the now,

boy.”

“Orz youses leadins olds enemieses toz deaths,” hissed Nak.

Eric noticed the tension, which had been building up between these old enemies, was about to come to a head.

“Nak! Tallmeken and Mork are going to die if we do not get them help. Either keep being perturbed by the situation, or grateful he is willing to help. I am glad someone came along to help us and not kill us. I trust him even if you do not and I am the one in charge of this expedition so as long as I am alive, we will take help whenever we are given it.”

Nak stared at Eric. “Goingses sleeps nowz. Weses leaves suns comes ups.”

“Good night, Nak. Remember, this trip is going to help out all of us,” said Eric softly.

Nak nodded and went over to his pallet.

“That be a brave thing ye did lad,” remarked Grund.

“Thanks, Grund. I only hope he sees I only want everyone to get out of this alive. One of our group had been taken when we were attacked. I think that is what is bothering him.”

“I see. Maybe he be thinkin’ dwarves be behind it.”

“That could be. Anyway, we should not be worrying about that right now. I just want Tallmeken and Mork to get better.”

“Ye should be gettin’ rest.”

Eric agreed and went to sleep. When Grund heard Eric’s breathing level out he got up and went over to where the goblins slept.

“I know ye be up goblin. I got herbs that may help yer friends.”

“Knows bouts dwarfses healings. Princez trustes youz. Yous gives herbs.”

“That be very gracious o ye.” Then he went to work mashing up the herbs and mixing them with some water. He poured a little in each of their mouths and sat back. The potions started to work immediately and within a few seconds they were both breathing better and their natural green colour had returned to their skin.

“They be walkin’ tomorrow. Ye should be gettin’ some rest, Nak. And I need to be thinkin’ o what to tell the boy.”

“Iz explains. Yous notz like stories ofz dwarvses wes taughts.”

Grund smiled. “And ye be nothin’ like the stories I be taught.”

Grund patted Nak on the shoulder and went over to his pallet. His little trip just got a bit more interesting. As he was falling asleep, he realized something. These goblins did not sacrifice creatures, but worship them. The council was never going to believe him when he showed up in Xamblers with followers of Nelvlick. That was yet another thing he was going to have to explain and he was sure was going to be a very difficult task.

Koral woke with a start. She had sensed Eric, and he was not far away. Knowing this was going to be their one chance to catch him, she bolted to where Glavlin lay sleeping. Jumping to his feet upon her approach startled Koral, and she paused for a moment.

“Eric is close,” she stammered.

“There is something else in the forest as well,” stated Glavlin. “You and I will pack our things and leave immediately. The rest of the group will continue to the dwarf town.”

Koral nodded and ran back to her things, throwing them as quickly as possible into her pack. The sun was slowly poking through the trees and she suddenly felt a sense of urgency. She grabbed her things and brought them to Swift. When she was done, she noticed Glavlin, Darly, and Mekken were all waiting for her. The king handed her some of the food he had given Swift earlier. “Feed this to him. It will get us there faster. Hurry, princess, we must be off.”

Again, Koral just nodded. She fed the food to him, then hopped up and was off. They had to find Eric, and quickly.

Eric woke up with the sun slightly above the trees. He had thought the goblins would have awakened him sooner, but figured they just wanted everyone to rest, so he got up and started packing up his things. He almost fell over when he saw Tallmeken and Mork packing their belongings.

“Dwarfes healings,” came Nak’s voice from behind.

Eric was going to respond when he got an overwhelming feeling. It was so strong that it brought him to his knees.

“Ye be alright boy?” asked Grund.

“It is Koral. I can feel her. It is as if she is close by. It was such a strong feeling it overwhelmed me for a moment.” Getting to his feet, he added, “I think I will be fine.”

“No you will not because I am going to kill you,” came a

voice through the trees. Koral and her elven friends were upon them in seconds. Glavlin’s food had worked it is magic again. They had just made a day’s ride in under an hour.

Reining in Swift, Koral jumped down, walked up to Eric, and punched him in the stomach.

“That is for running out on me, you little snake.”

Regaining his composure, Eric faced his sister. “Glad you could join us.”

Koral clenched her fist to take another shot at Eric when she noticed the goblins had drawn their swords.

“Some friends you have here, “she spat.

Eric turned. “Wait, this is my sister,” he yelled, putting himself between the goblins and Koral.

The goblins placed their swords back in the sheaths and went back to packing up their things. Grund on the other had was staring at the elves.

“What brings ye to this area, Glavlin?” he asked.

“Grund,” shouted Glavlin realizing whom it was speaking to him. “I have come to see you about this boy actually.”

Grund laughed and Koral could not believe how it sounded; like two stones rubbing against each other.

“The boy be trouble fer sure. We be headin’ to Xamblers.”

“The rest of my group is headed there right now. I guess we will be escorting you home.”

Grund smiled. “We could be usein’ some o yer help. This little band be pretty beat up.”

Koral and Eric exchanged glances. She was stunned to be seeing a dwarf, and he at seeing an elf. It appeared they both had made new friends.

“They look it,” responded Glavlin. “We will head out then.”

Koral helped Eric finish up with his things while Darly and Mekken helped the rest of the group. “Are they really elves?” asked Eric, speaking barely above a whisper.

“Yes,” answered Koral. “They are going to help us fulfil the prophecy.”

This news upset Eric. He did not want any more help than what he had. It meant sharing in the glory and that was not something he wanted to do. Koral saw the look on his face and knew this wasn’t what he wanted to hear.

“In case you forgot, this has to be done by both of us,” she stated.

Eric just stared at her. Of course, he knew the prophecy said it would take both of them, but he was certain he could figure it out on his own. “Yes, I remember. I left when I did because I knew father would not let us go otherwise. I knew you would find me.”

Of course, it was all a lie. Eric had been hoping that with him running off their parents would make her stay until he was found. He threw the pack onto the cart and picked it up. “Well, let us get going.”

Koral got up onto Swift and watched her brother move off. A goblin joined him, and the two of them headed off down the trail. Koral knew her brother had been lying; it was something she could always sense in him. What she did not know is why. Eric had always wanted to go down in history as some great hero, but she could not believe he would risk something this important. She decided not to dwell on it for now and headed off with the rest of the group.

Glavlin watched the entire scene, and was in the same frame of mind as Koral. “Darly, we must watch this boy,” he whispered to her.

Darly looked ahead at Eric. “He doesn’t look like he would be a problem.”

Glavlin was not so sure. “He wants to fulfil this prophecy by himself and that is something we cannot let happen.”

Darly was stunned by the forcefulness of his last statement. Obviously, there was more to this prophecy than he was letting on. “Mekken and I will watch him,” she replied and rode off to where Mekken was riding.

It took them the rest of the day, but they made it to Grund’s village. Eric was astonished by how small the actual village was. After Grund’s story, he had been expecting something grand. Grund, seeing the disappointment on his face, placed his hand on Eric’s arm. “Don’t ye worry, boy. There be more here than ye be seein’.”

Eric had no idea what he was talking about, but followed him into the village, the rest of the group in tow. They saw no one, but Grund assured him they were about especially with goblins amidst the group. As if on cue, out stepped about twelve dwarves, weapons aimed.

“Grund, what ye be doin’ with the likes o these?” asked a dwarf, pointing to the goblins.

“They be friends,” Grund answered.

An odd look crossed the face of the dwarf. “Friends ye say. Well, that be up to the council. They be waitin’ for ye n’ yer group.”

“Then ye best be takin’ us in,” Grund replied.

The dwarf nodded. “Not all ye. Need be pickin’ who goes in.”

Glavlin turned and sent his elven entourage, save Darly and Mekken, away. They bowed and without a word, left.

“Is this satisfactory?” asked the elf king.

“It be,” he said, leading them towards the mountain running behind the town.

Eric kept looking for more dwarves, but none appeared. Glancing ahead, he noticed they were heading directly for the mountainside. “Do you expect us to be able to climb that?” he asked Grund.

“Just ye watch, boy,” was his reply. Grund could not wait to see what Eric’s expression would be when he saw what was about to happen.

Two of the dwarves escorting them stopped the group, and the one who had spoken before went off ahead. “Now ye be seein’ where we be goin’,” Grund whispered to Eric.

Eric was about to ask him what he was talking about when the mountain started to shake. This is when he noticed the dwarf had been chanting something. All of a sudden, an opening appeared within the wall of the mountain.

“Now that is something I did not expect to see,” was all Eric could come up with.

Koral almost fell off her horse when she heard the rumbling. The elves, on the other hand, weren’t bothered in the slightest. The dwarves told the group to dismount and take only their sleeping packs inside. Darly and Mekken exchanged glances at this, but Glavlin assured them it was safe. Koral was not happy to be leaving Swift, but realized she didn’t want him to be a part of whatever was waiting for them in the days ahead.

When they started through the doorway, it was apparent the horses wouldn’t have been able to travel through the tunnel. It looked as if the area was carved by hand. The floor was very uneven, but the walls were unbelievably smooth. Eric reached out and touched the wall, quickly snatching his hand back. It had begun to glow. The goblins hid behind Eric, shielding themselves from what they thought was going to be an attack. The dwarves with them all began to laugh, and the sound echoed so strongly the group thought the mountain would come down on top of them.

“Don’t ye be worryin’,” laughed Grund. “It be a spell. Lights the walls when one who not be a dwarf touch it.”

Koral was amazed. “How is it the Maget have not destroyed you?” she asked.

“It be too hard fer ‘em to find us. None but Naned can open the doorway in,” he stated, pointing to the dwarf who had spoken with him earlier. “It be his family who created the doorway into the mountain and it be only his family blood which can let ye in.”

Koral thought it was quite ingenious of the dwarves to come up with that kind of system. It explained why there were eleven other dwarves with him. No one would know for sure which one could open the doorway.

The group felt as if they travelled for nearly an hour. It was dark and musty, which was starting to annoy Eric. Koral was feeling quite uncomfortable as well, but hid it. She didn’t want to insult the dwarves by saying or doing something wrong. Eric, on the other hand, was just about to start complaining when he noticed a light ahead. “We be at Xamblers,” stated Naned.

Koral and Eric stood in awe. They had never seen anything so magnificent in their lives. It was an entire underground city. Even Klayhern was small compared to this. The homes and roads were carved completely out of the stone surrounding it. A river flowed through the centre of the city, and Grund informed them this was part of the River Rage.

“We must have travelled a long way,” stated Eric, his voice

barely above a whisper.

All Koral could do was nod. She couldn’t believe the magnitude of this city. It appeared to go off in all directions forever. Koral was making herself dizzy by trying to look everywhere at once. She was trying to absorb it all, and turning too quickly she bumped into Adora. The act stunned Koral for a moment; she had forgotten the girl was still with them. It looked as if everyone had forgotten, judging by his or her expressions. Koral apologized and moved back over to Eric. The encounter had made her suddenly realize just how foreign this place was. What a moment ago was awe-inspiring was now ominous. Koral huddled close to her brother; the feelings were so strong it was giving her a chill. They travelled into the city and when they were coming near to a very large building, the twins could see a garden area, with many different types of plants and vegetables.

The group stopped and the twins could hear the elves mumbling to themselves.

“Ye need to go from here on yer own,” stated Naned.

Grund nodded and opened the door for the group to go inside. “This should be interestin’,” he muttered to himself, and closed the door behind them.

“My queen, we are with the dwarves. We have also found Prince Eric.”

Malena smiled, “Well done Moray. Lakin will be sending out General Traug and his little Magima within the next few days, I am sure. If you can, try to speed up your group. We cannot have Lakin’s lackey catching any of you.”

Moray smiled, “We are about to go in and meet with the council. I am sure they will let us pass through.”

“Wonderful! Let me know when you exit from the mines. I will pass the information to Lakin stating you were denied, and have to travel the long way. That should through Traug off.”

Moray smiled again. Nothing pleased him more than seeing his queen smile. “When will I be able to shed this form?” he asked.

“I am sorry, my dear, but you must remain in that form until the end of this journey. Only then will we be able to make sure the prophecy turns out in our favour.”

Moray’s smile faded. “As you wish.” Then his mirror clouded over, and he followed his fellow travellers into the meeting.

CHAPTER TEN

Duke Selwell Dubar could not believe his good fortune. For years, he, along with Baron Lychen, had been trying to find a way to sway the king’s loyal subjects. Raising taxes, making longer work hours, giving little in return and all under the king’s seal. None of it ever worked. It was as if the people of the Central Lands just would not believe their king would be the one behind it. It was almost too easy; it ended up being his own family which would spell his doom. The duke knew there was no way the people could remain loyal to him now.

When the courier pigeon arrived, telling him the king had been placed under house arrest for harbouring those who possessed magic, Dubar had fainted. It was not the fact that the king was under house arrest, which made this so wonderful. It was the fact he had known four people in his household possessed magic. Now, the king was vulnerable. He was only left with his oldest daughter and his two guards. Dubar knew all along Korben would be a problem, but none of it mattered now. So long had he desired the throne, so long had he tried to take it. As always, though, King Jeremy’s loyal subjects overthrew his ideas, and that was all about to change.

Today, as he did every day, Dubar opened the secret door into the throne room. It was treason to enter here when the king was not in residence, although Jeremy had long forsaken this castle. Today, as every day, he seated himself on the throne. Slowly he lowered himself into the wood and gold seat, his extremely round body barely fitting. That didn’t matter to him though; it felt so right sitting here.

For nearly twenty years, he had been in charge of this castle, and the south Central Lands. It disturbed him that even after all these years; his people would treat him as just another duke. Yes, they were his people, not the king’s, and it annoyed him whenever Jeremy would visit. The people would swarm the castle to see him, drinking up his every word, praising him at every mention of his name. When their own duke, who walks among them every day, would usually be snubbed and ridiculed. Dubar didn’t realize it had to do with the fact he raised the taxes, he was well fed while many starved or that he rode through the town in a carriage, ignoring those who wished to speak to him. In his mind, it was all because of Jeremy! Duke Dubar felt the city folk deserved to be treated like the disgusting dogs they were, and every time Jeremy visited, he took it out on his people. All this would change soon enough, though. Once he was king, the people would either treat him with the respect he deserved or die in the dungeons. Moreover, no one would ever be allowed to mention the name Jeremy Traven. If they did, they would be killed on sight.

Dubar opened his eyes and came out of his daydream, smiling. Baron Lychen was due to arrive within the next month to discuss plans, and the ambassador from the Eastern Lands was due to arrive at about the same time. He wondered how the good baron would react once he found out the Emperor of the Eastern Lands was interested in helping them overthrow Jeremy. In Keenley, it wasn’t unusual to see travellers from the Eastern Lands. This city was the only place they were able to trade. With it being the only area along the Sea of Arran with a port, it had served the kings of the past well. The Easterners were a ruthless bunch of cutthroats, and it was decided long ago they were not welcome in the Central Lands anymore. Dubar was well aware of the Easterners abilities, and planned to use them a lot in the coming coup. Getting up from his seat, he moved back towards the secret doorway. It would not do to be seen leaving here.

Slowly he made his way back to his rooms. When he had first discovered there was a passageway leading from his room

to the throne room, he had considered it a sign. A sign the goddess of the stars approved of his desires for the crown. He was positive Almena wouldn’t have shown him the way otherwise and refused to look at it any other way. He did not realize his current set of rooms was used to house the king’s personal bodyguard.

Within moments of him re-entering the room, there was a knock on his door.

“Enter,” he shouted, upset he was being disturbed before morning meal.

The page entered cautiously. Although Dubar was not a very imposing man, the page knew the temper his duke possessed. He was short, overweight with salt and pepper hair cropped short in the most unflattering way. The only thing interesting at all about Dubar’s appearance was his eyes. An unusual dark green, which most found difficult to look straight into. Slowly the page approached, afraid if he moved too quickly his duke would be offended.

“Well, what is it?” Dubar snapped.

“A mmmessage,” stammered the page, handing him the paper. “From Maget Tower.”

Duke Dubar had been expecting this. Smiling, he reached out to take the parchment. “Thank you,” he said in his most soothing voice. “You may leave now.”

Relieved, the page turned and ran out of the room.

Dubar held the parchment, his hands shaking. He hoped what was written inside would make him temporary ruler, giving him the power of the king. He was mistaken.

My dear Duke Dubar,

By now, you are aware of the situation regarding King Jeremy. It was with great regret that the Order had to put the king under house arrest, but we thought it was in the best interests of the kingdom. It would appear that Prince Eric and Princess Koral are indeed the twins from the prophecy.

Selwell paused in his reading. This was perfect. Everyone will be so distracted from this; they will not see the war coming. Of course, he was a bit concerned with Baron Lychen. Why hadn’t Allen mentioned this little bit of detail? Ignoring his doubts, he read on.

Although it is dictated that you should become temporary ruler until the King is either cleared or charged formally, we have decided not to grant you this. With the prophecy being involved, it was the Order’s decision that we be placed in charge of the Central Lands. Again, this will only be temporary. Once the twins are captured or stopped, ruling will then revert to you. I hope you understand our position.

On another note, all of the Magima there are to return immediately to the Tower. The soldiers can remain in your care. Please inform them at once.

Your humble servant,

General Traug

Duke Dubar was stunned. Control would revert to the Order, and he would still be the pathetic duke. However, he thought to himself, if he could catch the twins, the power would be his.

His musings were interrupted by another knock at his door. “Yes, what is it now,” he snapped, angered again.

He put his temper in check when Vernia, a very powerful Magima, entered. “I was hoping to find you at morning meal, my duke,” she purred.

Her appearance always shocked him. She was unusually tall, with blonde hair and the bluest eyes. Although blonde hair was not uncommon, hers was so bright it sometimes appeared white. Her eyes always felt as if they were piercing into your very soul.

“I am sorry,” he said, once again trying to be in control. “I have had many things to do this morning and have not yet left my quarters.”

Vernia smiled a knowing smile and Dubar thought she might know his little secret. As if sensing his uneasiness, she continued speaking. “I understand we have been recalled back to the Tower.”

Dubar was annoyed; he had just finished reading that letter. “I received a letter of my own,” she stated quickly, again as if sensing his uneasiness.

Dubar eyes her suspiciously. “Yes, they wish you back.”

“Then my brethren and I will leave immediately.” Then she bowed low, turned, and was gone before Dubar could make a sound.

“Good riddance,” he muttered. He never did like having so many Magima staying here and was not at all sad to see them go. The growling in his stomach told him his morning meal was long overdue. He quickly composed a response to the letter, sent it off to the general, then headed to the great hall to eat.

There was so much planning to do, and Selwell was not sure where to start.

After the morning meal, he decided to ignore his regular duties and went straight back to his rooms. He advised the guard outside his office door that he did not want to be disturbed by anyone except Captain Moore. Selwell had sent word he wished to speak to the Captain of the City Guard, who was also once a Maget soldier, and assumed he should be arriving shortly.

The guard nodded, but Dubar was already shutting his door.

“So much to do, so much to do,” he twittered to himself. The Magima had already left, and in secret, one less group to worry about, so he was free to scheme uninterrupted. He had just finished laying out the papers, which held their previous plans, when Captain Moore arrived. Dubar loved the air surrounding the captain. He carried his head high, averting his eyes for no one. His six-foot five, tanned frame alone was daunting, never mind the well-toned muscles and shaved head. His eyes were soft, a deep, soothing brown, and his face was kind. The people of Keenley loved their Captain Jacob Moore. “If only they knew the truth behind those eyes.” Selwell thought.

Although Jacob appeared to be for the people, he was all about power. His face would contort into the most evil grin, one that even frightened Duke Dubar, when plans of over-throwing the king were discussed. Dubar was quite thankful the captain was on his side.

“The Magima have been sent back,” stated the captain.

Dubar smiled. Of course, the captain would know they had left, that was his job. “Yes,” he responded. “It should make planning things easier. We will not have to meet in secret.”

Captain Moore gave the duke a sideways look. “You are so certain they do not have any spies inside the castle?” he questioned.

“I am confident they do not,” came the reply.

Captain Moore smiled back. “They never did seem to care much about the goings on in this castle. Too concerned about magic and that prophecy.”

At the mention of the prophecy, Selwell’s face clouded. Jacob noticed it immediately, but was not sure as to what could be his reason. “Something wrong?” he asked.

“I received a letter today, telling me I would not be placed in charge. All royal matters are going through the Order.” Dubar watched for a reaction, and was quite disappointed that the news did not appear to affect the captain.

However, Captain Moore was indeed disturbed by the news and knew Dubar wanted a reaction. He was not about to give him one. “Why?” he asked, his voice calm.

“Because the prophecy may be fulfilled,” spat Dubar. “Apparently Jeremy’s children are whom the Order has been seeking all these years. They say I will be placed in charge once all this prophecy business has been taken care of.”

Captain Moore broke out into a grin. Seeing the horrified expression on Dubar’s face, he knew he had better explain himself and quickly. “This is perfect,” he yelled, unable to contain his emotions. “Don’t you see it?”

The obviously confused look on Dubar’s face answered his question. “The Order will be going after the twins. This means they will be asking my soldiers to do some of the legwork. They will want us to patrol the near regions.” He stopped then, thinking this information would be enough for the duke to figure out the rest.

Dubar’s face turned red. “What is your point?” he screeched, his voice so full of rage the captain thought Duke Dubar may order him slaughtered. Of course, this just made Jacob laugh.

“You fool! It means I can take my men on training exercises and practice raids. We can say it is all in the name of stopping the prophecy. They will never suspect it is to attack Jeremy.”

Dubar was about to go on another rant, and stopped, letting Jacob’s words sink in. Jacob watched as Dubar’s face went from sheer anger to joy. “This is perfect,” he exclaimed, then turned back to the papers on his desk. “We must come up with a plan then.”

“We must wait,” came the captain’s voice. “We cannot make plans without our eastern friends. To do so may anger them.”

Duke Dubar sat roughly, into his chair. “You are right. I had forgotten how temperamental they could be. What do you suggest?”

“I will get my men ready. As soon as we have received word from the Order we will begin,” he told Duke Dubar. Then, he bent in closer to Dubar, his voice lowered and his face turned into that horrible grin. “When our friends arrive, we will be ready to take over the Central Lands.”

Standing up, he bowed to Dubar and walked out, leaving the duke with mixed feelings about how the meeting went. Sighing, he decided to pen another note to General Traug. “Offering my help may speed things along,” he mumbled to himself.

Captain Moore paused outside the door, took a deep breath, and then headed for the barracks. He was not as sure as Duke Dubar that the Magima did not have someone spying on them. Every time they met, Jacob was sure someone was watching them. Sometimes it was just a feeling, others he swore he would see movement out of the corner of his eye, and this time was no exception. With the Magima gone, he knew it could only mean they had someone inside the castle under their control. It unnerved the captain to know he was being spied on, but understood why. To see if anyone they spoke to possessed magical abilities. Jacob immediately pushed those thoughts out when he arrived at the barracks. There was too much planning to be done now and he could not afford to be distracted.

Sol slowly moved back into the secret passageway behind the curtain. He was glad when both Duke Dubar and Captain Moore stated they felt the Magima did not care about their plans. They were quite wrong, of course. The Magima for some reason were very interested in these two. He had hoped his days of spying were almost done, but when he read the parchment sent to Duke Dubar, he knew different.

Sol knew he had to play dumb when Vernia approached him. If she found out he had read it, she would be very upset. Of course, he was well practised in the art of acting scared. Being only fourteen, little things like that amused him. Sol ran down the passageway, not afraid of being heard. These walls were magically sealed. Sol always felt special because even Duke Dubar did not know there was a passageway behind one of his many silk curtains. It was supposed to be used to spirit the king away if trouble arose, leading him outside the castle walls. This fact amused Sol too. Now he was the one spiriting away to report what he had heard, and he knew Vernia would be most happy to hear it.

CHAPTER ELEVEN

At almost the same moment the twins were before the Dwarf council, General Traug was approaching Maget Tower. The large wall was in view and of course so was the Tower itself. The Tower was the one place he hated going. The building was not too spectacular, completely black, but the feeling one got once inside was quite ominous. All of those Magima present, unnerved him. There was also the ‘impenetrable wall’, which surrounded the entire area, and all he knew about the wall was anyone who tried to enter that way, died a rather horrible death. Shaking the thought from his head, he recalled the events of late.

It had been almost a week since he put King Jeremy under house arrest and Klayhern under martial law. It was something he still regretted doing. The king had been his friend for a long time. The realization he did not really know Jeremy at all perplexed him. Olrond also wondered how it was that so many people who possessed magic could go undetected. Lakin must have sensed it, he could detect even the minor workings of wizards and yet Gillock had eluded him. Something was not right with this whole situation and that bothered him. He was brought out of his reverie by the sound of the main gate opening in front of him. One of the guards informed him that as soon as he had freshened up he was to see Lakin. He nodded his acknowledgement and headed for his quarters. As he passed by the Tower, it suddenly became quite menacing. He decided a meal and a quick bath was in order. Maybe that would help his thoughts to clear.

Lakin watched as the general slowed his pace near the Tower. He could tell by his movements the man was intimidated by it, and this amused him. Of course, that was the point to its construction. It was supposed to appear menacing, which made it easier to dominate all who entered the grounds. The look on Olrond’s face, however, was something he did not like. His expression showed his mind was bristling with questions. With everything happening, the last thing he needed was the general challenging anything. Moving away from the window, he figured the general would take his time coming to see him so he decided to go to the lower levels to see how things were progressing.

Lakin loved moving through the tower. Nothing pleased him more than to feel the magical properties the Tower possessed. Housed here were close to one hundred magic users,

not that anyone knew this. Lakin had been building his army for the last sixteen years. The general knew the Magima possessed magic, but Lakin made sure he only ever saw no more than fifteen of them throughout the tower. After seeing the look on Olrond’s face, Lakin knew it was time the general found out the truth. Malena would not be happy, of course, but he did not care. Soon, he would be sending for Brin. Once she was under his control, he would not need that old witch anymore.

As he crept through the secret door, leading to the lower levels, a smile crossed his face. It was going to be interesting to see how the good general would react to what he was going to be shown. Lakin approached the door he was looking for, and hesitated. It had been many years since Lakin had looked in on this captive, and wasn’t certain how he would be received. Slowly, he opened the door.

Lakin had forgotten just how large this room was. Magically done, of course, otherwise outsiders might wonder why the Order needed such a large room. It was magically sealed as well; it needed to be to hold a dragon. Lakin slowly moved inside, spotting the creature against the far wall. It appeared to be sleeping, but Lakin knew better.

“It has been a long time my friend,” stated Lakin.

The dragon opened its eyes, and stared at Lakin, deep purple eyes seething with hatred. “You do not know the meaning of friend, Lakin dragon slayer,” came the reply.

It took a moment for Lakin to compose himself. He had forgotten, as well, the effects a dragon’s booming voice could have on a person. “Do you know where your mate is?” asked Lakin.

The dragon ignored the wizard and closed his eyes as if to go back to sleep.

“The prophecy is about to be fulfilled,” continued Lakin. “Soon, magic will be returned and my abilities will be restored to their full power. I will find her, and she will also become my captive.”

The dragon snapped its head around, meaning to devour the wizard. Lakin had been expecting this attack and had erected an invisible protection wall. The dragon’s head bounced off it, not coming anywhere near its mark.

“You will not win. Even if you find her, we will not give you what you desire,” the dragon growled.

Lakin just stared at the dragon. The sheer beauty of the beast always overwhelmed him. His dragon had been a black, like his heart, this one was blue.

“Your mate will be found and will be my captive as well,” he stated again, and this time he saw fear in the dragon’s eyes. He smiled, thinking the beast was finally being broken, but he had one more card to play. “Gillock lives as well.”

This news caused the dragon to sit up straight and glare at the wizard. “You lie,” it hissed.

Lakin knew he would not believe him, so he had already begun casting a spell. A mist appeared and started to swirl. The dragon was stunned when Gillock’s face appeared in the centre. “It cannot be,” the bewildered beast whispered.

“But it is,” Lakin replied. “All this time he has been alive, and not once did he come to rescue you.” As soon as he spoke the words, Lakin knew he had made an error. The dragon reared and spewed forth his breath. The room was designed to stop dragon’s breath from doing any harm, but it took a moment for the magic to dispel its fire. That moment was enough to burn someone where they stood, but Lakin’s shield spell was still in effect. The dragon howled when he saw his mark unharmed. Lakin decided to take his leave, and without another word, left the dragon.

Although he had been in the lower levels for over an hour, the time delay spell made it so he had only been gone for a few moments. Lakin knew Traug would not be much longer. He could tell by the look on his face earlier that the general had many questions to ask him and figured although Olrond did not want to come and see him, his curiosity would get the better of him. Olrond was not the first general to question things after a time, and Lakin was hoping his reaction would be different from his predecessor. The last thing he needed right now was to have to promote a new general. He walked to the front hallway, and informed the two Magima positioned there to escort the general to his sitting room as soon as he arrived. Not waiting for a response, he went straight to the room to prepare. If things did not go well, Olrond Traug will cease to exist and that type of spell takes a bit of time to prepare.

Olrond tried to take a bath, but was too preoccupied to let its relaxing effect happen. Sighing quite resoundingly, he got out of the tub. He had wanted to take his time, but had too many questions which needed answers. Slowly, he got dressed and headed over to the tower. It still had an unnerving effect on the general, but he brushed it aside. Too many questions. The moment he was through the front door, the two Magima posted their told him where he was to meet Lakin, and escorted him. Normally, this would not bother Olrond, he was quite used to Lakin’s eccentricities, but with all his questions, it felt a little odd. The Magima opened the door for him, and motioned him to go inside, closing the door behind him. He noticed

Lakin off to the side, sitting behind his odd-looking desk.

“We need to talk,” he said, motioning the general to take the seat across from him.

“Yes we do,” answered Olrond as he sat.

Lakin stared at Olrond, as if trying to read his thoughts. After a few moments of silence, Lakin spoke. “You are wondering how it is I let so many who possessed magic go unpunished,” he stated, surprising the general.

“It’s odd that so many went undetected for so long,” Olrond responded after a composing himself.

“I need to show you something. It will help you understand a great many things. Will you come with me?” asked Lakin.

The question surprised Olrond, and a feeling of trepidation came over him. He had a feeling that saying no could result in a horrible consequence. “Of course I will go with you,” he responded, unsure if it was the right answer.

Lakin smiled. “Then follow me.”

Lakin led the general out of the sitting room and down to the main hall. They moved across the hall to the far wall, where Lakin said something, and a secret doorway opened up. The feeling of trepidation grew stronger, but Traug knew he had to follow. Somehow, he knew all his answers would be found through that door. Down he followed Lakin, and he could sense the magic within the walls. Traug had no idea how far down they were going and thought the stairs would never end. They came into a hallway, which had many doors. “This is the housing floor,” stated Lakin, his voice reverberating off the walls. “There are around one hundred Magima here.” Lakin paused and looked at the general for a reaction. “We will discuss their importance soon,” he said when the general offered no visible reaction and continued to the end of the hall. They went down another flight of stairs, which went on and came upon another hallway. This one only had four doors. Lakin stopped in front of the first door and stared at Olrond.

“What you see in these rooms will leave you with more questions. We will discuss everything when I’m done showing you what I feel you need to see.”

Olrond just stared back. He had no idea what was going on but felt any type of negative reaction would be hazardous to his well-being.

Lakin muttered a few words and then pushed open the door. When the general moved inside, he almost fainted. The room was full of small creatures flitting about. “They are fairies,” came Lakin’s voice, as if anticipating the general’s next question.

“Why are they here?” asked Olrond, his voice almost a whisper.

“They supply these chambers with the magic we need to sustain them. They are not the only creatures of magic here,” Lakin stated.

Olrond just stared at the creatures. Their faces were so sad and the general was overwhelmed with grief. Lakin, knowing the fairies would have this effect on him, pulled the crying Olrond out of the room, and shut the door. It took a few moments for the him to regain his composure. “What wonders are next?” he asked Lakin.

Lakin moved them to the next room. “Inside here is a prisoner.”

Olrond almost laughed. It was as if Lakin was implying the fairies were here of their own free will.

Lakin, oblivious to the general’s state of mind, continued. “He was captured about seventy-five years ago in a raid just outside the Cyprian Forest. He is very uncooperative and is tricky. Do not listen to anything he has to say.”

Again, Lakin muttered a few words and opened the door. The room was small and not very well lit. On the far side of the room, Olrond could make out the form of a creature chained to the wall. “You may move closer,” came Lakin’s voice from his side. Olrond felt compelled to move closer and was stunned to see the being was an elf.

“He was the king of the elves,” stated Lakin, emphasizing ‘was’. “His name is Glomain.”

Still Olrond just stared. The elf hung there, hatred filled his eyes, but he did not speak.

Olrond wanted to yell at Lakin for his treasonous ways, but thought against it. Suddenly, his promotion made sense. Olrond had been young and somewhat inexperienced, but the general he had replaced had vanished without a trace so he was picked to fill the position. Olrond now knew if his true feelings about all this were to come out, he would not survive the encounter. He took a few deep breaths to calm himself. “I am assuming that having these creatures here is of some importance?” he questioned.

Lakin smiled. “Yes, it is very important.” Turning to leave the room, he said, “I just have one more room for you to see, then we can leave and discuss everything.”

Olrond just nodded, afraid he might say something wrong, and followed Lakin to another room. This time, when the door opened, it was into an enormous cavern. Lakin moved the general inside, slowly, and Olrond wondered what could be housed in this room. It was only a moment before he saw what was in the room. The dragon opened its eyes, and glared at the two. Olrond was frozen with fear at the sight of the creature. Having never seen one, Olrond did not know how he was to react. “It’s beautiful,” he exclaimed without thinking. As soon as the words left his mouth, he turned to see Lakin’s reaction and was amazed to see he was smiling.

“Yes, he is a magnificent creature.” Then he turned to face the general. “We must be going now. We have much to discuss.”

Olrond backed out of the room, not wanting to turn his back on the creature for fear it might melt him on the spot. Lakin led him back up the stairs and into his sitting room again. Olrond could hardly believe what he had just seen, and could only stare at Lakin, hoping for some kind of answers.

Lakin sat down and sighed, wondering where to begin. “I have known they were the twins since their birth,” he started. “For sixteen years I have been training Magima. The entire room has an enchantment on it. One hour above is a day below. That is how we came to have so many Magima. They are all very powerful magic users.” He paused, looking at Olrond. His face was that of a man who had just been slapped. “Not everyone whom has been brought here within the last thirty years has been executed; some went down below to be trained. People have lived full lives, had children and grandchildren in the time you have been alive. It was all for the sake of the prophecy.”

There it was; the prophecy. Olrond knew somehow it would play an important role, but was not sure how.

“And now it is upon us,” Lakin continued. “We must let it be fulfilled.”

Those words stunned Olrond, but he remained composed. “I thought we were stopping it at all costs.”

Lakin leaned forward on his desk. “No, it was always to be fulfilled. We just have to make sure it is done with only one of the twins, not both. Both would bring the end to our Order, one fulfilling it will make us stronger.”

Olrond was not sure how to respond. The fierceness in Lakin’s voice frightened him, but he knew he had no choice but to go along with everything. “What do we need to do?”

Lakin sat back, happy that he would not have to kill the general. “We will discuss that tomorrow. It’s getting late; we should both get some sleep.”

Olrond stood, and many more questions plagued his mind. “We will discuss everything tomorrow?” he asked.

“Yes, I will answer any questions you have.”

Lakin led the General from his study and to the front hall. Traug said his farewell and opened the door, but just outside the door, was a figure. Brin moved into the light. “I have come to turn myself in,” she announced to a stunned Lakin and General Traug.

CHAPTER TWELVE

Jeremy sat alone in the throne room. He was under house arrest, his town was under martial law, and Brin had run away. Jeremy was not one for brooding, but with the current situation, he couldn’t help it. Moments earlier, he had received the second of two letters addressed to General Traug from Duke Dubar. Apparently, he had expected him to still be in residence.

Things were not going well for the king. First, he had found the letter from Brin stating she was turning herself in because she also possessed magic, a fact that stunned the king. The second was not all shocking. Jeremy knew Duke Dubar had wanted the crown for some time now, so he was not very surprised when he read the second letter. What did amaze him though, was just how quickly he was to respond, and happily, to the general regarding the king’s house arrest. He had not wanted to open the letters, but the first one arrived in shabby condition, and practically opened in his hands.

After reading what had been enclosed in the first one, Jeremy felt he had no choice but to open the second. Sitting back on his throne, he let out a deep sigh. War was not something he ever thought he would have to deal with, and now it was becoming quite apparent that Duke Dubar would not settle for anything short of the crown.

The main doors opened and Korben strolled into the room. Since the town folk were forbidden to enter, Korben knew the king would be alone. “Brooding again are we Jeremy,” he stated. Being so informal did not bother the king in the least.

Jeremy gave him a smile, which showed no amusement. “Yes. So many things happening of late and I am powerless to stop any of them.” He handed the letters to Korben and waited until he was done reading them before he spoke again. “We are about to be stuck in a civil war.”

Korben moved and sat down in front of Jeremy. “Duke Dubar assumes you have no defences. He doesn’t realize your entire town is filled with soldiers.”

“Yes, that is true. He thinks they were all disbanded by the Order twenty years ago when I moved here. Dubar has no idea most of my men followed me here.” Realizing this truth brought a real smile to the king’s face.

Korben smiled too. “It’s about time you stopped your moping about,” he said jokingly, then is voice became more sombre. “I know it has been hard, especially with finding out Brin has abilities, and was turning herself in. We have to plan for Dubar’s attack. We know it will not come for a while, with him having to muster up some soldiers, but it will come.”

Jeremy stared at his Captain of the Guard, the only person directly linked to the King’s Guard from all those years ago, and nodded. “I am not allowed to leave the castle, but you can. Especially if it is on the king’s business. The Order knows I will want to make sure my subjects are all right, even if I am temporarily stripped of my title. You will need to get word to the men in the town.”

Korben stood. “It’s good to see you becoming your old self again. I thought I was going to have to slap some sense into you.” Then he turned and ran out of the throne room, before Jeremy could come up with a response.

Jeremy watched as Korben disappeared from sight and laughed. Then he got up and headed for his study. Plans had to be drawn up and he figured now was as good a time as any.

For almost a week, Korben slipped out of the castle doing some errand or another. The Maget had twenty soldiers to control the martial law, and the two ordered to stand guard at the front gate had gotten used to seeing him come and go and had stopped asking questions by the third day. Korben had thought it would take at least a week to convince them he was on the king’s order to speak with each house individually, just to make sure they were all right. He was not about to let his good fortune go to waste, and started setting a plan into motion. Jeremy had thought it a good idea to get as many men as were available, back into training.

This was not a task which could be easily done with the town being under martial law. Travel was only allowed from sunrise to sunset. Anyone caught out after dark was to be thrown in the dungeon. It was good fortune that no one in the town of Klayhern had disobeyed this order, or at least no one had yet been caught.

The biggest problem, in Jeremy’s mind, was loyalty. He had no idea how any of the townspeople were going to react to him now that the truth was out. This was one of Korben’s many tasks. The first thing he was to say when arriving at every household was that the charges were true. He did indeed know his family had magical abilities, and was not ashamed. Jeremy hoped that in telling the truth, his people would find it in their hearts to forgive, and possibly still be loyal to him.

On his seventh day, Korben reported all he had learned, and done, during the week. It had been important that he and the king were rarely seen discussing matters when the Maget soldiers were about. A group of about five usually patrolled inside the castle. It somewhat annoyed Jeremy when another group of fifty soldiers showed up and had taken over the old soldier barracks, but he knew he had to allow it.

When Korben arrived back at the palace, Jeremy was waiting in his office. “Well?” he asked impatiently.

Korben sat down and stared hard at the king. “Things are not as bad as we thought. It would appear the subjects of Klayhern are still loyal to their king.”

Jeremy let out a long sigh and sat back in his chair, knowing Korben had more to say.

“I’m not sure if this news is good or bad, but the order for martial law is to be removed tomorrow. General Traug will be arriving sometime soon with even more soldiers and I’m not sure how we should react to this.”

The news of the general returning upset the king. He and Olrond had been good friends for many years and the king knew it had been hard on the general to place him under house arrest. Jeremy also knew Olrond was fiercely loyal to the Order. “We must not assume this is ill news. This may be something which will work in our favour.”

Korben wasn’t so sure, but didn’t voice his opinions. “What are we going to do? Those loyal to you have begun their training, in secret of course, and with the martial law lifted, it should make it easier. However, what will happen once the general arrives? What if he becomes suspicious?”

All of Korben’s questions were valid ones, but ones the king didn’t want to dwell on. “We have too much at stake to worry. The men will just have to be careful and with any luck, the general will allow me to hold court again. It would make it easier to communicate with everyone.”

Again, Korben was not so sure of the general’s intentions, but kept the thought to himself. “May I take my leave? I haven’t eaten yet today.”

Jeremy waved him off. “Of course, but take your meal in your room. We still have much to discuss. I will join you shortly.”

Korben nodded, rose, then headed for the kitchen. He wasn’t sure what Jeremy still wanted to discuss with him that couldn’t wait, but decided to focus on getting some food. He was famished.

When Korben arrived at the kitchen, he found Bastle hard at work. He was the one townsman who was allowed to come and go as he pleased. Jeremy had been trying for years to get him to move into the castle, but he refused. Bastle would go on and on about how he needed his space from the royal family and their constant badgering. He was old, close to his sixtieth summer, but you would not know it by watching him. His movements were quick and precise, and on more than one occasion, Korben would comment on how he was glad the man was just a head cook, not a soldier. The way he handled a knife made some people wonder if Bastle was always a cook, but none dared to ask.

His appearance was somewhat unusual. Having hair that was a dirty blond and always tied up, and eyes which were black, made him somewhat mismatched. If one did not know the castle head cook, one would think him a bandit or some other seedy character. Everyone in the castle knew different. To the children, he had been like an uncle, to the king, a father, often scolding him in front of his subjects. Many other nobles had commented on this behaviour, telling the king he should throw the old man in the dungeon. Of course, the king wouldn’t hear any of that type of talk regarding the old cook, and would immediately dismiss any who even suggested it.

Korben cleared his throat to announce his presence, but Bastle was already aware he had entered the room. “Finally gettin’ some food in ya,” he said.

“Yes, what’s available?”

“Well, we got some hens about ready to come off of the spit, and a mix of fruits, cheese ‘n breads. I’m thinkin’ yur wantin’ a bit of everything.” Bastle didn’t wait for an answer, and was already loading up a platter for Korben. “And let me guess, havin’ it in your room?” Korben smiled. Nothing ever got past the old cook. “Yes, please have it sent up along with some wine as soon as you can.”

Bastle just waved him to go, and Korben headed to his room.

When he arrived, Korben wasn’t surprised to see the king already inside, and waiting. If it had been anyone else, Korben would have thrown him out on his behind for entering without permission, but his relationship with Jeremy was much deeper than king and head of the castle guard.

“Bastle is having some food and wine sent up,” stated Korben, moving over to the empty chair next to his writing desk.

Jeremy just nodded, and didn’t say a word until after the servants had brought up Korben’s food and wine. It didn’t surprise Jeremy that Bastle had sent up enough of everything for two. Nothing ever got past the old man.

“You never did agree with my decision to move here,” stated the king, in a matter-of-fact voice.

This wasn’t what Korben had expected. He had thought the king would want to discuss the unavoidable attack which would come from Duke Dubar. “No. I thought, as did everyone, the king’s place was in Keenley, not in this forgotten northern village.”

Jeremy nodded, while eating a bit of cheese. “I could not stand all the pomp, and this is not some forgotten village. In case you have forgotten, this was your family’s home.”

Korben hadn’t forgotten, but didn’t like to dwell on the past. “They are only my family by blood. I severed that tie many years ago.”

Again, Jeremy nodded.

So many secrets his family had. Korben could easily have fought for rule of the Central Lands. He was, after all, the first-born child of the Duke of Klayhern and protocol dictated any person of royal blood from either the Klayhern line or Traven line, was allowed to be king. Although it was Jeremy’s father who was the previous king, tradition stated that because they were the only two true bloodlines who could claim lineage to the kings of the past, they were allowed to fight for the right to rule. Yes, Korben could have very well contested Jeremy’s claim to the throne, but he had stepped back, kept in the shadows, and let his sister rule instead.

“You really should tell her,” said Jeremy, after a few moments of silence.

Korben stared at Jeremy. “Do you really think Elizanne would understand?” he asked. “And then what? Tell the world I didn’t die, but chose to be raised by monks from the Temple of Allorethna? It would cause too many problems.”

Jeremy looked deeply at Korben. He was not sure if the man was trying to convince the king or himself. Jeremy spoke again, carefully choosing his words. “Korben, I have known your secret for years and your sister for just as long. Elizanne needs to know her brother lives. She will not judge you. You were fourteen winters old, and hated the idea of ever having to fight me for rule. The monks may have been able to alter your appearance so you would go unnoticed, but your heart is still true. When she returns, you must tell her.” Jeremy paused, but then added. “She is your twin. She blamed herself for your accident. Knowing you are alive may help her with what is going on.”

Korben now understood why he had started this conversation. The king was afraid he would never see his family again, and if he did, he wanted there to be no more secrets between them. “When she returns, I will tell her. But there is something else.”

Jeremy looked at his friend and knew he was having a hard time with everything. “What is it?” asked the king.

“I told my father who I was. When he became ill, I felt he needed to know. When they said he only had a few hours at most to live, I snuck in and told him the truth. He smiled at me and told me he had known all along. Apparently, the monks had informed him not long after I decided to join their order. He did not ever say anything because it had been obvious my mind had been made up.” Korben stopped, finding it hard to speak. Through tears, he finished. “He knew, Jeremy. He knew and he still let me live my life my way. His last words were that he was proud of me, and then he died.”

“I know it was hard for you during that time, not being able to mourn your father openly. I am glad you told me,” said the king, his voice sombre.

“So am I,” responded Korben.

Jeremy smiled and reached for some wine. “Good. So now, let us drink and talk of days long past.”

Korben laughed at the change in the king’s mood. Civil war was about to be started, he had no idea if his family lived or where they were, but he still wanted to celebrate. Therefore, the king and the head of the castle guard ate and drank until late into the night. Discussing times past and fond memories of their youth.

Olrond Traug was not in good humour. It had been three days since he had been shown the truth behind the Order and Brin had come to turn herself in. In that time, Lakin had not requested his presence, and had even denied him entry to the Tower. The only contact the general had with Lakin was when he received a parchment ordering him to find the twins. He was to find and follow, but not interfere with anything, so the general set about getting a small band of ten soldiers ready.

Within two days, he was back on the road again. His course should have taken him straight south, but he had decided to go back to Klayhern. With everything going on, he needed to speak to the king. Although the general hadn’t seen Brin since her arrival, he knew she was not harmed. Somehow, the eldest daughter of the king was going to play some important role. Traug only wished he had some idea as to what those plans were. He had hoped Lakin would call on him again, and explain everything in detail, but with Brin’s arrival Lakin was all consumed.

As Traug rode out the gate, he passed by an entire legion of Magima, and could only assume this was the group recalled from Keenley. That was another thing which bothered him, but now made sense. Lakin was recalling his underlings so he could use them in what was to come, but what was to come?

Frustrated and confused, General Traug rode out towards Klayhern. The only thing he could do now was hope he and the king could work out their differences.

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

Eric paced back and forth. Three days had passed since the council meeting, and although he had been glad everyone had been declared a friend, he was upset the council decided they were to remain in the town. The council had not yet specified when they could leave, but it was hinted they would be remaining for a few weeks.

“This is ridiculous,” he shouted, and not for the first time.

Koral just smiled at her brother’s frustration. She was not at all happy either, but she also did not feel ready to rush out and fulfil some vague prophecy. She wanted to know more.

Eric, seeing his sister’s smirk sat down in a huff. “Well, at least I have been able to practice my sword techniques. I think I would be able to handle Payton now and win.”

Koral nodded, not knowing what to say. The elves were more than happy to teach the twins their way of sword fighting, and how to shoot a bow. Eric was by far the better of the two at swordplay, but Koral had mastered the bow after the first lesson.

Thinking of the elves made her glance over to where Glavlin sat. As usual, he was alone on the edge of the river, only this time he was staring at the twins, not into the depths.

Koral rose and moved over to where Glavlin was. Many questions had been forming in her mind since their arrival, and she had a feeling the elf king was the only one who would be able to answer them.

She was about to sit next to him when he rose. “I can tell by that look, you have many questions,” he stated. “Let us go where we can talk in private.”

He moved off and headed towards the council chamber, Koral in tow. She was about to ask why they were headed to the chamber, which was always busy, but he turned to the left, and went around the side of the building to an unmarked door.

“I did not even know this was here,” she said. In the three days, the twins had been nosing about and she never once noticed this door.

“At the time, you were not meant to see it,” came Glavlin’s response.

They moved inside and the sight took Koral’s breath away. It was a library unlike anything Koral had ever seen. It was as high as the cavern in which the town sat in, and appeared to go on forever.

“What type of place is this?” she asked her voice barely above a whisper.

“This is the library of Zanth. It was once above ground, and run by wizards. When the dark time came, the dwarf caretakers grabbed as many of the books as they could. Here you will find your answers.”

Koral glanced around. “I am sure some of my answers can be found in the books here, but one cannot.” Turning her eyes away from the awesome spectacle, she looked deeply into the king’s. “Where have your kind been all this time?”

The question surprised Glavlin. “You are more perceptive than most humans. How did you know?”

“We did not stay long in your village, but it was long enough to notice that it had just been recently inhabited. The buildings were old, and in some disrepair. It was not difficult to figure out you had only returned recently.”

Glavlin stared back at the princess. “We had been hiding out in the Western Lands,” he answered.

“The Western Lands,” she gasped, shocked by this response. “But, there is no way to get to the Western Lands. The Unmoving Mountains and the Lake of Despair block off it. You also cannot get to it by going south. Anyone who has tried it from a southern route has never returned.” Koral was truly astonished.

“We are magical beings, and some of our people are in the west. It is a long story and one we cannot discuss right now. Let us look around and see if we can answer some of your easier questions.”

Koral followed the elf, not sure what else to do. He had made it obvious he did not want to discuss where he and his people had been, at least not right now. Koral could only hope he would be more forthcoming in the days ahead. She did not know why, but Glavlin was becoming a very important part of her life. It almost pained her to see him in deep discussions with Darly, thinking they were discussing love and other such nonsense. Koral was not sure, but she thought she may be falling in love with the king of the elves. By the way, he sometimes looked at her, she wondered if the feelings were the same.

Eric watched as his sister disappeared with Glavlin. He was going to follow but decided whatever she wanted to discuss with Glavlin had to be important and she would probably tell him all about it later. Instead, he went over to where his goblin friends were sitting. They had kept to themselves for the last three days, not even talking with Eric much. The prince knew they were just nervous being in the home of an old enemy.

Halfway to the goblins, an eerie feeling enveloped the prince. Looking around, he noticed Adora, whom no one had really seen lately, was staring intently at him. She had surprised the entire group by speaking on behalf of the goblins, assuring the council that they were indeed followers of a good god. It still unnerved him to see her staring at him, as if her eyes were piercing his very soul. He shook off the feeling and ran the rest of the way to the goblins.

Adora moved off into the shadows, away from the rest of the group. She had spent the last few days secluded in her room. This was her first day out and almost immediately, Eric had sensed her presence.

“Do you think he suspects?” she asked the squirrel seated on a rock.

“No, but he is curious about you,” the squirrel replied. “Let’s go back to your room,” it continued. “It’s easier to talk there.”

Adora scooped up the animal and headed towards her room. As she passed by the goblin group, Eric again stared at her. As unnerving as her stares were to him, the obvious disdain he felt towards her, pained her. She pushed the thought from her mind and rushed to her room.

When they arrived, Mekken was standing outside. He was about to say something, but Adora just rushed by and slammed her door. “Why must he look at me like that?” she asked the squirrel again.

“Everyone suspects you may be working for Malena or worse, the Order. You did come upon them quite suddenly. You should have stayed on the road and let them catch you.”

The squirrel then jumped up onto her bed, transforming back into the wizard he was. “Well, that’s much better,” stated Gillock.

Adora smiled. “If only I did not have to remain in disguise,” she remarked.

Gillock motioned her to sit down beside him. “Your children need to learn things on their own, Elizanne. You can’t interfere, no matter what the danger.”

Elizanne looked into Gillock’s eyes, and knew he spoke the truth. “I am only going to go with them until Keenley. I can get them through there better than anyone in the group. After that, they will be your responsibility.”

Her tone made the last statement stick in Gillock’s mind. She was now placing her children’s safety on his head. “Don’t worry, my queen. They will be fine. The Order has no idea where they are, and the spell I put around Robyn will make it hard for him to keep in contact with Malena. I’m also going to speak with Glavlin tonight. He should have been made aware of our presence from the start.”

“I agree,” said the queen, “but be careful. There is something not right with this group.”

Gillock nodded his agreement. “I sense something off as well.” Then he turned towards the table full of food and with much enthusiasm said, “Let’s eat.”

“There are just so many books,” exclaimed Koral, as she ran her fingers across some texts.

When Glavlin didn’t respond, she turned around to discover she was alone. Wondering where he could have gotten to, Koral started to roam around the library.

She wandered between shelves and came upon an open doorway. Inside, Koral could see the elf king staring at something on a wall. Moving beside him, Koral was again overwhelmed by the sight. It was a map. “Is that what Melarandra looks like?” she asked, stunned by its size.

Glavlin kept his eyes on the map. “The parts which have been travelled, yes. There is a lot of this world which has yet to be discovered. Not what you expected is it.”

“The Central Lands appear so small,” she stated, moving closer to it. “The Western Lands look to be at least two times the size, and I did not even know the Southern Lands really existed. I also did not realize these lands have names.”

Glavlin chuckled. “Yes, the Western Lands are known as the Realm of Lungast, although it has not been travelled past

Marlsman Keep. No one has been able to travel through Death’s Boundary to get to the Southern Lands in a great many centuries. It is also accessible by sea, but the entire coast became riddled with reefs so no one has attempted it for many years either. But it does exist and once had more people than the Central Lands.”

“And what of the Eastern Lands?” she asked.

“It is called Jijitsa. You can get there by sea. You can also travel through the Cyprian Forest, but once past the elf borders there are many dangers. Anyone who has tried that way has never come back.”

Koral was astonished. There was so much about her world she didn’t understand. “Who lives in those lands?”

Glavlin moved over to where there was a small table and two chairs set up. He motioned Koral to follow and they both sat down. “Have you ever seen a giant?” he asked. “Or perhaps an ogre?” He noticed she was shaking her head no and continued. “And I know Eric’s friends are the first goblins you have ever seen. Have you not ever wondered why? I know Gillock has taught you all about these creatures and many others. Did you not want to question him about these things?”

Koral was shocked by how forceful his questions were. “Were they not all creatures of magic?” she asked.

“No, although some had developed magical abilities, none of them are creatures of magic. They were banished to Lungast. Every creature deemed evil or corrupt was sent over to the Western Lands. This was done by force, of course, and to ensure they did not ever try to return, the Lake of Despair was created. All done by wizards after the war was over.”

The last part of his statement stuck with Koral. Glavlin was letting her know that the Order had moved all of those creatures and had most likely sent them to their deaths. “Why did they do that?”

Glavlin leaned forward and rested his elbows on the table. “It is rumoured that the leader of the Order was really a powerful wizard. If this is true, then he could have removed all of those creatures to ensure the Order would not have any trouble taking over the Central Lands.”

That statement made Koral sit up in her chair. “How would they to do that?”

“If all the creatures which usually caused trouble were removed, then there would no longer be a need for kingdom soldiers. The kings of the past kept their soldiers, against the Orders wishes. Your father did have them disbanded, as one of his first acts as king.”

Koral remembered this story. Against her mother’s wishes, he had disbanded the soldiers. Korben and a few others were the only ones who stayed and became the king’s personal guard. “So you think the Order is going to try and dethrone my father?”

“I am not sure, but the dwarves have been hearing that odd visitors have been seen in Keenley and there has been talk of some kind of war. I do not know what to think, princess, but I have a feeling someone is going to exploit this prophecy to their own gain and you and your brother will be caught up in it.”

Letting her take it all in he added. “Koral, there is more to this prophecy than you or your brother realize.”

Koral looked into his eyes and saw a flicker of fear. “What am I to do?” she asked.

Glavlin took her hand and moved in closer to her. “I am not sure, but I will be there by your side until the end.”

Koral felt her heart start to race. Glavlin moved closer, drawing his face up to hers. Koral closed her eyes, waiting for the kiss she longed for, but was startled by something jumping into her hair. She quickly jumped up out of her chair and brushed the creature from her head. Glavlin, not understanding what had happened started to laugh. Koral, becoming a bit furious with him, turned and saw why he was laughing. On the table sat the same grey squirrel she had seen on the road. Glavlin reached out to pick it up, but stopped his hand short. His laughing had stopped and was replaced by an odd look.

“We must leave,” he stated quickly. “I am sure your brother is wondering where you are.” Then he grabbed her arm and practically dragged her out of the library.

When they arrived at the entrance, Glavlin moved her past him and out the door. “I must stay. There are many books I feel you should read, and it will take time to find them all. Please go and find your brother.” Then he shut the door and Koral heard the lock fall into place. For a few moments, she just stared at the closed door. “What just happened?” she muttered to herself. Not knowing what else to do, she turned and slowly lumbered her way back towards the area she had last seen her brother.

So many thoughts were running threw her head and all were about what could have happened with Glavlin. Koral was certain the elf king was going to kiss her, but then why did he push her out so fast? Maybe she had just read the situation wrong, after all, she was only sixteen and not very experienced in these matters. Although Koral had no idea what had just happened, she knew it was significant in some way. Confused and a little shaken, she made her way to try to find Eric.

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

“Did I interrupt something?” asked Gillock. He had kept his squirrel form until they were safely inside Glavlin’s room.

“I am not sure,” was the elf king’s response. “When I am around her my emotions overpower my good judgment.”

Gillock sat down beside him on his bed. “It sounds like you may be connected to her in some way.”

Glavlin gave Gillock a doubting look.

“Don’t doubt my hypothesis. No one knows her full potential, or even what all of her abilities are. Koral is an elemental wizard and the fact she is a human makes it an impossible thing. Somehow, she may be sending her emotions onto you. Of course you have to be feeling some of the same emotions for it to be affecting you that badly.”

Gillock, seeing his friend squirm, knew he had hit the mark. A thought, which disturbed him. He was glad to see Glavlin finally thinking about love, something he thought his friend would never consider, but picking a human was not what he expected.

“I think it is because we connected so well these past few days,” came Glavlin’s voice a few minutes later. “I do not recall ever feeling this close to someone. I feel I could tell her anything, and she would understand. As if my past would not matter to her.”

Gillock sat up. He had not thought about Glavlin’s past being an issue, but apparently, the elf king did. In addition, there were certain similarities between what was going on with Koral and the prophecy and Glavlin’s past. “Glavlin, what happened was not your fault. Your birth may have triggered events, but you were not the cause.”

“How many people, including my father, have died over the last ninety-five years because of my birth? How can I justify my own existence when so many have died? I know I am young by elven standards and war is something my people have experienced many times within the last thousand years, but living every day is still hard for me.”

Gillock sat staring at his friend. He was indeed young, only ninety-five years old. By elven standards, he was a young adult, and his entire life had been one trauma after another. He was thrown into his royal duties at the age of twenty when his father disappeared and as he said, his birth had not been a good thing. “I’m glad you are finally feeling something other than guilt. You’re a young king, but you are a good king. Don’t forget you have many friends, and your subjects are loyal to you. There are many people with whom you can talk to about all of this.”

Glavlin gave him a half smile. “I know you understand, but what of everyone else,” he asked, motioning out the window to Eric, Koral and the rest of the group.

Gillock smiled back. “Your people may not know the whole truth, but they still follow you. Do not doubt them, especially now.”

Glavlin shook his head. “And what of Koral?”

Gillock sighed. “That’s a decision best left to you, but remember, she does have feelings for you. She may not understand what she is feeling, but I’m certain Koral thinks she’s in love with you. Handle the situation with care, but you can let it take its course. Who knows, maybe when all of this is over we will be attending a wedding.”

Gillock’s attempt at humour shocked Glavlin, but he laughed anyway. “To dignify that with some type of response would be beneath me,” he remarked. “Now, you should be getting back into your squirrel form. I have to go and find Koral and apologize for throwing her out of the library so rudely.”

Gillock smiled, glad to see his friend’s humour returning. He transformed himself back into the squirrel and set out to find Elizanne. She may want to hear about her daughter’s new found love.

Koral and Eric sat, eating their lunch, in silence. Koral, brooding about what happened in the library, and Eric, about having to sit and do nothing.

“This is getting ridiculous. How long are they going to keep us here?” grumbled Eric.

“I have recommended a month,” said Glavlin. Eric turned to see him approaching, and it appeared to the young prince, he had purposely snuck up on them.

“Why a month?” Eric demanded. The anger in his voice was apparent.

Glavlin moved to stand beside Eric. “You and your sister need to be trained to use your magic.”

Koral nearly choked on the water, she was sipping. She had thought Gillock would be the one preparing them magically. “What are we to learn?” she asked.

“There is going to be a time when the two of you will need to combine your magic to gain something which will help you fulfil the prophecy. It will take some time for you both to master it so we best get started.” Glavlin had responded to Koral’s question, but had kept his eyes on Eric. When he started to move away, the twins scrambled to catch up. “What about the mess we have there?” asked Eric.

“I will take care of it,” said Adora.

Neither one turned to thank her; instead, they ran to catch up with the quick moving elf.

They followed him to the library. Eric’s response to its vastness was the same as Koral’s had been, but more vocal. However, Glavlin did not give him any time to digest his surroundings. Instead, he spirited them off to a small room at the back of the library.

“I have already discussed Melarandra with Koral so this will make more sense to her,” he began, taking a seat at the only table in the room. The twins joined him. “There have been many prophecies over the years, but they are all insignificant next to yours. You will be restoring the life force of the earth and thereby bringing back life to the world.” Glavlin could tell they were both a bit confused but continued anyway. “All magic is connected. When some of it dies, other parts will weaken or get stronger, depending on the magic. The strongest magic is that of the earth. The only ones to possess it are the woodland beings. Elves, fairies, some gnome tribes, and dwarves. Humans and other beings possess other types of magic. The only way they have been able to use elven magic has been through the use of amulets, potions, and specific spells.”

Koral was going to comment, but held back. Glavlin, knowing what her comment would have been, decided to make it easier to ask it. “Of course, this all leads to an unusual question. How is it that you, Princess Koral, possess earthly based magic?”

Eric’s mouth dropped but it was Koral who spoke. “Yes, that is an unusual question. Do you have an answer? I had thought my mother possessed it?”

“No, to both. Your mother can manipulate water with the help of the amulet she wears around her neck or with an actual spell. As to you being able to do it on your own, Gillock and I had discussed that curiosity, but neither one of us could come up with a solid answer. All we do know is, you are a very special human, and no one must ever know about your abilities.”

Glavlin saw Eric scowl. He certainly did not like hearing that news. “You are also different, Prince Eric.”

Glavlin’s remark caught Eric by surprise. “Why do you say that?”

“Well, you are a War Wizard. This means you have strong destructive powers that are naturally within you. Your ability to manipulate fire, without the help of an amulet, shows that you are very powerful. That is different because one of your kind has not been born since the Wizards War ended.”

Eric could tell the news shocked his sister, but he was quite pleased. Finally, he was just as good, if not better, than his perfect sister was.

“So when do we get started training?” asked the prince.

“Soon. Gillock and I discovered a passage in a book stating if magic needed to be returned to the land, a magical mist had to be created for it to again be free. That is why the twins were in the prophecy. With Koral’s water ability and your fire ability, you will make the mist.”

“So how do we do it?” Eric asked.

“I am not certain. Gillock thinks it will take much practice for the two of you to be able to do it. It may sound like an easy task, but it will take the right amount of both water and fire to make the proper mist and both of you are not used to using your magic.”

“Well, I guess we should be getting started,” remarked Koral, though her thoughts were unsure she was capable of doing this task.

Glavlin sighed. “Well, to start I need you both to read up on your abilities. There are two books here. You will need to find them and read every word found within.”

To Eric, this felt like a simple task. “So where are they?”

Glavlin smiled. “You need to find them yourselves. I cannot help you until you understand your abilities better.” The elf king watched them both, searching for reactions he did not want to see. He was not surprised to see the upset look on Eric’s face, but was disappointed.

“How is that fair?” spat Eric. “There must be thousands of books in here and you expect us to find two measly books?”

“It is part of our training,” said Koral, her voice showing a hint of anger. “The books will call out to us, wanting to be read by those who will understand its contents.”

Glavlin was surprised. He did not expect either of them to figure out the first part of the training so quickly. “Very good, princess. So, you both better get going if we are to be ready to leave in a month.”

Eric shot out of his seat and ran into the library. After Koral just showed him up, he wanted to be the first to find his book and prove he was just as smart. Koral had expected him to be enthusiastic about finally learning more about his magic, but she hadn’t expected him to be so arrogant about everything.

Eric ran to the centre of the library and stopped. “Concentrate,” he said to himself. He remembered the meditation Gillock used to make them practice, and decided this was the best way to find his book. Eric closed his eyes, and slowed his breathing. Once he was in a perfect state, he sent his thoughts out to find the book. For minutes, he felt nothing, not even a twinge that he was getting close. Eric could feel his anger starting to swell inside him. His thoughts became that of Glavlin helping Koral so she could be done first.

Eric was quite wrong, of course. He could not sense the elf king, who was standing just a few feet away, watching the young prince. Eric pushed the negative thoughts from his mind and went back to searching out his book. This time he sensed something. It was weak, and felt distant, but it was there. Slowly, and not opening his eyes, he headed in the direction in which the book appeared to be calling from.

Glavlin was surprised at how quickly Eric had put himself into the meditative state needed to find the book. He had expected the prince to just start running around pulling books off the shelves. Glavlin was pleasantly surprised that the prince appeared to finally be making mature decisions instead of rash choices. Maybe he would impress them all by becoming the prince they knew he could be.

Within minutes, Eric had his book in his hand. Glavlin faded into the shadows as to not be seen, and headed back to the little room. Eric arrived in the room a few minutes after Glavlin.

“I found it!” exclaimed Eric, his face beaming with an ear-to-ear grin.

Glavlin smiled. “Then start reading. There is no reason to wait for your sister.”

Eric quickly took a seat and began reading his book. Within moments, he was completely enthralled by the stories of War Wizards of the past.

Glavlin had thought Koral would’ve returned not long after Eric, but almost an hour had gone by and she was still not there. Eric was completely oblivious of this fact as the book had entranced him, but Glavlin was starting to worry. The library was vast, but someone getting lost rarely happened. Something was wrong.

Grund watched as the twins entered the library with Glavlin. “Seems they be learnin’ about their magic,” came Drundle’s voice from behind.

“Those two be needin’ more then o month, I be thinkin’,” replied Grund.

Drundle laughed. “Don’t ye be shootin’ down those two. There be more t’ them than meets the eye.”

Grund turned to face her. “What be your thinkin’ on the council’s decision,” he asked.

Drundle’s smile faded. “I be thinkin’ they be fools for tellin’ ya ye cannot be goin’ with them. But, knowin’ ye the way I do, ye be plannin’ on goin’ anyway.”

Grund wasn’t shocked at all by her blunt statement. “Ye be right. This be too important to be standin’ by and waitin’. Will ye be comin’ with me?”

“Try ‘n stop me,” she responded with a smile.

He was about to make a comment when the door of the library opened, and Koral came out. “Now what this be about.”

Drundle turned to see Koral, eyes closed, walking towards the groups sleeping quarters. “I not be knowin’ but me thinks we best follow the lass.”

They followed and watched with awe as the princess made her way to the elf sleeping area. With her eyes closed, she was still able to manoeuvre around obstacles with ease. When she arrived at Glavlin’s bedroom door, she stopped. Moments passed, then with a simple wave of her hand, the door opened. The two dwarves did not follow her in, but were quite stunned when she came out carrying a book.

“Now why she be stealin’ from the elf king?” asked Drundle.

Grund just shrugged his shoulders and moved out of the princess’ way as she came past. They had expected her to go back to the library, but instead she went to the centre of the clearing where everyone met each day. Once there, she sat down, opened the book, then did nothing. For an hour, they watched her, and from what they could tell, she was still in a deep trance. “Me thinks it be time to get Glavlin,” remarked Grund.

“Ye stay, I be gettin’ the elf king.”

Grund just nodded his response, but Drundle was up and running towards the library. She was about to open the door, when the elf king pulled it open and nearly trampled poor Drundle. “You best be comin’ with me, yer highness. Yer princess be doin’ somethin’ strange.”

Glavlin followed the quick moving dwarf to where Koral was seated in the clearing.

“She took the book from yer room, highness,” said Grund when they arrived.

Glavlin was in shock. Gillock had told him the twins needed to find two books in which to learn from. It never occurred to him, he had meant the books of magic. Why had Koral been drawn to his? Slowly, he started towards the princess, but she quickly got up. Glavlin stopped as Koral raised her hands above her head. It sounded like she was chanting something, then suddenly Glavlin’s hairs stood up on his arms. He was about to move again, but Koral had begun to glow so brilliantly, no one could even look in her direction. When the light had gone and everyone could again look at her, she was gone. In her place, stood the most unusual looking tree.

“Oh no,” exclaimed Adora’s voice from behind the dwarves. “She has invoked the spirit of the earth.”

Glavlin fell to his knees. “I think we are in a great deal of trouble.”

“Yes, I should say so,” came a voice. Everyone turned to see Gillock. “I think we had better find the prince, before something else happens.”

Everyone quickly made his or her way to the library to find Eric. They arrived in moments, to the room where Glavlin had left him, and found him still there. The room, however, was not how the elf king had left it. The entire room was smouldering, as if a great fire had started and was extinguished. Glavlin moved to try to get Eric’s attention, but it was to no avail. The prince was unconscious, and all attempts to revive him failed.

“We are most definitely in trouble,” surmised Gillock, and no one argued the point.

“What do we do?” asked the elf king.

“We wait,” was Gillock’s response.

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

Jeremy awoke to the sound of trumpets. Slowly opening his eyes, he glanced towards the window and noticed the sun had not yet come out. Again, the trumpets blared and the king realized they were announcing the arrival of General Traug. It had been four days since he and Korben had their midnight chat, and both had been feeling a lot better about their situation because of it. Now with Traug arriving, Jeremy did not know how to feel.

Olrond and he had been friends since childhood. It had been Jeremy’s great honour of pronouncing him the new General of the Order. His father had thought he should learn how to do these things properly since he was to be the next king. So many things had occurred that day, and the days to follow. The same day, Elizanne had told him she possessed magical abilities, Gillock revealed he had once been part of the Wizards Order almost five hundred years ago and within a few days, Korben told him his secret. The strange thing about it all was he was more shocked to hear Korben’s news than he was to hear those close to him possessed magic. So many truths given to him, and yet he was unable to talk to anyone about any of them. Keeping all of these secrets had been tearing him up inside and now he had been forced to expose almost all of them.

Robyn awoke to the trumpets as well. Knowing he would be needed he headed to the stables. He was stunned to see General Traug back again. The last time he had spoken to Queen Malena, she had stated the general was going to be sent after the twins. It was apparent to Robyn that his queen’s fears regarding Lakin were very well placed. The general told his men to wait in the courtyard for he was going to see the king, alone. To Robyn, the general’s tone said everything. He was going to help the king. Robyn had heard rumours, which said the king had reinstated his royal soldiers, and that Korben had been training them again. What Robyn did not know was why it was all happening. The stable boy knew if the king was worried about war, than Malena would probably be concerned as well. Robyn excused himself and headed into the darkness. When he was certain he was far enough away, he pulled out his mirror. “My queen. I have news,” he said softly into it, but all that greeted him was darkness. Again, he called to her, but received no response. Panic overtook the stable boy. Had he done something to warrant this treatment? Unsure and very confused, Robyn went back to the stables to await orders from the castle.

Jeremy dressed and headed to the throne room. When he neared, he saw Korben, waiting for him.

“The general wants to speak with you alone,” stated Korben. Then quietly he added, “Do you think he knows?”

Jeremy answered by shrugging his shoulders. Aloud he said, “I will let you know when you are needed.”

Korben nodded his understanding and moved off into the shadows to await the king’s call.

Slowly Jeremy opened the doors and entered the throne room. Olrond was already inside, seated in a chair off to the side of the throne.

“If you lived here, that would be your seat,” said Jeremy, trying to break the silence. The general remained silent until Jeremy sat down near him. The king had decided to sit on the steps leading to his throne, instead of in it. Olrond stared at Jeremy, then carefully choosing words, began to speak.

“The Order is a lie,” he stated calmly.

“You have learned something?” asked the king.

“Lakin has rooms which are surrounded by magic. In them he holds beings thought to be long dead. I wondered why he would risk showing it all to me, and as I was riding here I, understood. He is the true power of the Order, and he was basically letting me know.” He paused as if thinking of how to proceed. “I believe his intent is to take over the Central Lands, and from there all of Melarandra.”

Jeremy sat stunned. He had not expected this type of an attack from the Order. “This news is grave,” he whispered.

A confused look crossed the general’s face. “You have other news?”

“Yes. It would appear Duke Dubar is unhappy with his current situation. I have reason to believe he is planning to overthrow me.”

Olrond gasped. “If he should do that, then Lakin will have no problem taking over the Central Lands.”

Jeremy nodded. “Now you know why the news is grave.”

Both sat in silence, not knowing what else to say. Jeremy broke the silence. “I never really disbanded my army,” he stated.

Again, a confused look crossed the generals face. “Why?”

“I feared that someday my family’s abilities would be discovered, and I would need to defend them,” answered the king.

“It appears those fears have come to pass,” the general responded calmly. “I only wish you had trusted me enough to tell me the truth long ago.”

“The day you became general was the day I found out that Elizanne possessed magical powers. Within a week, Gillock informed me of his abilities. It all happened so fast, I was not sure how you would have reacted. That is in the past. Right now, we need to figure out what to do about all of this. My soldiers make up almost the entire town of Klayhern, and Korben has sent them into training again. Maybe this can end well.”

Olrond smiled, but it was obvious he wasn’t as optimistic as the king. “The men I have brought with me are loyal to me, not the Order.”

Jeremy sighed. “I am glad we are again friends. I hated not being able to tell you all, but I am glad you now understand my position in all of this.”

Olrond smiled, this one more sincere than the last. “I do understand, I think I always did. It pained me to put you under house arrest, but it was something I had to do.”

Olrond’s face changed, for he still had more news. “I have other news, your highness. Brin turned herself in to Lakin.”

This news struck Jeremy harder than learning people were trying to overthrow him.

“She showed up minutes after Lakin had finished showing me his secret lair. I fear he may use her abilities to his advantage.”

Jeremy sat in silence; there was nothing he could do. Brin had decided her family was evil, and to be feared. He knew if Lakin should say the right things, Brin would join him loyally.

Lakin could not believe his fortune. The power he could sense in Brin frightened and aroused him. “Do not fear me,” he said, in his most soothing voice. “And do not be ashamed.”

Brin smiled weakly. “I know possessing magic means death, but I had to turn myself in.”

Lakin smiled. “Not necessarily,” he said. “Please, follow me so I may explain everything better.”

Brin nodded and followed Lakin through the same course the general had gone on a few days earlier. Her reaction to all of the creatures and people whom possessed magic was one of awe and confusion. She was not angry with Lakin, as Olrond had been, only curious. To Lakin, this was a very good sign.

“But what does this all mean?” she asked once they had returned to his office.

“It means the Order needs you, Brin. Yes, the Order consists of some who possess magic, but is a necessity. Those who possess magic can use it to lead them to others. We have all taken a vow never to use it for any other reason than to protect the Central Lands.” He paused for a moment, hoping the break would make Brin feel he was torn inside as to whether he should reveal these secrets. Once her face showed some signs of understanding, he continued. “We need someone with your power to help us. There is much evil in our world. Some people possess abilities so powerful they can even threaten your father’s rule. It’s up to the Order to stop these people at all costs.”

Brin stared at Lakin, but it was not with malicious eyes. She was honestly intrigued with what he was saying. “I will help in any way I can, but I am not sure how I can be of any assistance.”

“You will need to be trained to control your powers. With you by my side, we will be able to thwart all that is evil in this world and save the Central Lands from a new tyrannical ruler. Will you do this? Will you join the Order of the Maget?”

“Yes,” Brin shouted, but she did not know why. She was suddenly overwhelmed with emotion. “I will learn your ways, I will help you find and destroy those who would threaten my father. Please, Lakin, teach me.”

Lakin smiled and reached out for her hand. “Then follow me.”

At Jeremy’s signal, Korben entered the room. “You have need of me, my king?”

“No, Korben. However, the general brings grave news. It would appear the Order has plans to overthrow me as well.”

Korben said nothing, not wanting to reveal too much in case the general was not aware of their situation.

Jeremy, sensing this, continued. “I have informed him that you have begun retraining my men, and that there appears to be a threat from Keenley. With us receiving threats from both sides, I do not know how we will survive this.”

“There may be three sides, highness,” said Korben. “Or have you forgotten Malena?”

Olrond looked confused. “You mean that creature of magic, banished to the Void? I do not understand, why would she be a threat. I know the order has had problems in dealing with those creatures she can send out, but it has never been any real concern.”

“If my children succeed, the void will be no more. If she should be allowed to roam free, she may cause as much concern as Lakin and the Order do.” Turning to face Korben, he added. “And should I fall in one of the conflicts I know we are going to be facing, I will not allow Duke Dubar or Lakin to be king, even if it means disowning Brin. I will only allow the true heir to rule in my steed.”

Again, Olrond looked confused. He was about to question the king, but Korben responded to Jeremy first. “If it is your wish, highness, I will do as you ask.”

Jeremy turned to Olrond. “I have one more secret for you, and you must not ever speak what is about to be revealed to you to another soul. Do I have your vow?”

Olrond was taken aback. “Of course, your highness.”

“Korben is really Jessup Klayhern.”

Olrond nearly fell off his chair. “You can’t be serious. That boy died many years ago in a terrible fire.”

Korben took a deep breath, knowing what he was about to say was going to stun the general. “That’s not true. I fell through a trap door in the floor. It appeared that in years past, whoever owned the house used it for smuggling for the opening was well hidden. Stone surrounded it, so the fire didn’t penetrate the area. When the fire was over, I had nowhere to go so I waited for someone to find me. Three days later someone did. I had expected my father, but instead it was a monk from the Temple of Allorethna. He informed me that a day of mourning was happening because everyone thought I had died. I had never wanted to be part of the royal family, so I went with him to the temple and changed my name. Jeremy and I had always been friends, so it was hard to pretend I didn’t know him when we ended up in the same sword training class together. The monks told me to keep my distance from him, but we became fast friends again. The monks had altered my appearance slightly so that I would go unnoticed, that’s why he did not recognize me.” Korben paused to catch his breath, and call up more memories. He had buried them so deep he had forgotten most of this until he started speaking of it again. “I told Jeremy about it just after you were given the title of general. I thought he should know, since he had just married my sister. But even she does not know that I live.”

Olrond sat back in his chair, taking it all in. “So should Jeremy fall, you will take his place as king?”

“Only if Elizanne wishes it,” responded Korben. “If she chooses to rule instead, then I will stay in the shadows.”

Olrond was going to respond, but Jeremy interrupted. “You know as well as I that Duke Dubar will not allow her to rule. He will use her magical abilities against her; have the people turn on her. No, it is decided now. Should I fall in one of the coming battles, you will take your rightful place as king.”

Korben nodded. “As you wish highness.”

The king then turned to the general. “Will you bear witness?” he asked

Olrond nodded. “Of course, your highness.”

CHAPTER SIXTEEN

Malena paced nervously. She had been trying for days to get an update on the king, but failed at every attempt. Malena knew it had to be a spell from Gillock, and was quite unnerved he had figured out one of her spies so quickly. It also bothered her that Lakin had not tried to contact her in almost two weeks. The truth was, she had never trusted him, and always assumed he felt the same. It was unfortunate she had to use him, but he was a means to an end. The fact he had not contacted her in so long made her realize, she had been the same to him. It had also been some time since Moray had updated her, but she wasn’t worried about it. He would only contact her if something important happened.

Malena stopped pacing and looked around her throne room. She had designed her castle to look exactly like the one in Keenley, although this throne room was nowhere near as magnificent, or dusty. Some days she wished she had not designed it so closely to the original. The memories would sometimes consume her, but how she longed to be back there. Balls, and servants waiting on her every need. Not like here, where she was required to do everything herself.

“I cannot wait to be free from this prison,” she shouted.

“I’m afraid that will not be for some time, my lady,” said a voice.

Malena looked about, but knew she wouldn’t be able to see the wizard. “Mordekai, what brings you to my humble home?” she asked coyly easing herself into her throne.

“You appear to be agitated, and that brings turmoil to all those in the Void. Is it something I can help with?”

Malena laughed. “Set me free, wizard. Maybe then I will not be so unhappy.”

Mordekai stepped out of the shadows to Malena’s right. “That is not in my power. I have been noticing you have been more content as of late. May I inquire as to why?”

Malena faced the wizard. He was old, wrinkly, almost bald on top and walked with a slight limp. Most would assume he was old and weak and attack him. Malena knew better. He was the most powerful of his order, and not one to be reckoned with. “The prophecy is to be fulfilled, as if you did not know.”

“Ahh,” came his response. “The twins have started their journey, of that I am aware. But know this; the second stage has not yet happened.”

Malena shot up out of her chair. “It has, I saw it myself. Eric betrayed his family.”

“No, he did not. I fear the betrayal has not yet occurred, and when it does occur, the world will not be the same.” Mordekai paused, and seeing how distressed Malena was getting decided to finish his thought. “Don’t fret, your highness, it will still come to pass. The twins will finish what they’ve set out to start, but it may not be as everyone has thought.”

Malena was getting annoyed. “What is it that everyone has thought? And do not give me an answer in a riddle; I tire of your little games wizard.”

Mordekai smiled. “Everyone has assumed that once they have finished their quest, magic will be restored and life will continue. I know your goal is to make magic return chaotic, and it will, don’t worry, but the prophecy will not be fulfilled by this one act.”

Mordekai stared at Malena, hoping he had given her enough to think about. “And one more thing, your highness. The next disturbance we will feel will be their group passing through the Void. It would be in your best interest if they were to make it to the school unharmed.” Mordekai looked at Malena with eyes which showed that although he had just revealed more than she had known, he still knew more than he was telling. “I would also be wary of your associate. I fear he does not really want to help you escape. Not anymore.”

He then disappeared into a mist and left Malena sitting on her throne, stunned and confused.

All was quiet in Klayhern castle, which was unusual considering all that had happened. It was perfect though, the king and the general were communicating again, and the royal guard was in training. It was unfortunate that the men’s peaceful existence had to be interrupted by the thought of war, but no-one argued. They were just happy to be in the service of the king.

For Payton, it was a joyous time. Over the years he had endured hours of training with Korben to become a very accomplished soldier, and was glad he may have the chance to prove his worthiness in a battle for his king. He never knew why, but he always felt guilty of something whenever he was near the royal family. Walking through the halls, he tried to push the thoughts away, but could not.

As he wandered, the air grew cold, and a chill ran up his spine. Payton then felt the call and before he realized what was going on, he was again under Malena’s control. “I have need of you my fair soldier. Please find out what is happening with King Jeremy and report it to me.”

Payton, no longer in control of his body, could only agree.

Korben felt a slight disturbance, but within an instant, it was gone. He may not possess any magical abilities, but with having a sister who turned out to be a very powerful sorceress, it was hard not to become in tune with it. He had no idea what had happened, but assumed it was either Lakin or Malena trying to penetrate Gillock’s shield. Korben could only hope neither one had figured out a way to get through the spell.

It had been a day since the general arrived, with much accomplished in the first meeting. The king and general were again friends, and although they will never get back the friendship they had, Korben was glad that Jeremy was finally able to reveal the secrets he had been carrying around for so long. Korben moved his way through the castle, trying to see if he could sense the magical presence again. The only time he felt it was when he neared Payton. As before, it was gone, leaving Korben with no idea what it was about.

“There has been developments,” said Korben, once he caught up with Payton. “The general and his men will be staying here for a time. We need to set up the old soldier barracks to accommodate them.”

“I will go immediately and get the maids cleaning, and the stable boy as well,” stated Payton.

Korben patted him on the back and off he went. Korben was glad he had his second in command to trust. Still unsure of the magical presence he was feeling, he decided to keep looking around. He could always go and help later with the barracks.

Robyn had been watching the soldiers closely since they arrived. Trying to find out all the information he could in case his queen called on him for an update. Most of the men had no idea what was going on, but the two who kept to themselves were full of interesting information. He was so entranced by the information he had discovered he didn’t hear Payton come up behind him.

“Doing something productive I hope,” commented Payton.

Robyn slowly turned, keeping his eyes down. “Yes, I was just finished cleaning up this area.”

“Good. The soldiers will be staying here for some time, so we need to clean and set up the old barracks for them. I will be going and asking the maids to clean the inside, but will need you to do the stables.”

“Ya, I can set up those stables easily,” Robyn remarked.

Payton nodded his head. “Oh, and one more thing. Why have I not gotten a report from you?”

Robyn lifted his head and stared into the guard’s eyes. “My queen?”

“Yes, I am here. What is going on?” Payton demanded.

“I’ve tried to report, highness, but have had nothing but darkness greet me. I do have news.”

“Then spit it out. I can only hold on to this body for a short time.”

Robyn swallowed hard. “Yes, majesty. Brin has gone and turned herself in to Lakin personally. He has convinced her to join the Order.”

“How did you come by this information?”

“There are two soldiers, highness, and they discuss this fact in great detail. They don’t appear too interested in matters of war. However, with the king ordering the barracks cleaned, they may change that opinion.”

Payton stared, eyebrows crossed, towards the soldiers. “Keep an eye on those two. They may prove useful to us.”

“Yes, highness,” said Robyn bowing.

Suddenly Payton’s expression changed and he looked about, confused. Robyn, knowing his queen had left the body, responded immediately. “I’ll clean out the old barrack stables like you asked. Please tell the king everything will be ready by night fall. I’ll need you to ask the maids to clean the barrack rooms though.”

Payton, not wanting to show he had no idea what the stable boy was talking about simply nodded and moved off towards the maids quarters.

Malena was again pacing nervously. It was now obvious Lakin was moving forward with their plans, without her. There were too many unknowns in this situation. Slowly, she sat down on her throne. “Moray, report to me,” she hollered into her mirror. It took a few moments, but her call was answered.

“One moment, my queen. I must go where I will not be noticed.”

Malena nodded, and waited. It felt like an eternity before Moray finally spoke.

“There have been developments, majesty. It would appear the princess has invoked the spirit of the earth and is currently a tree. The young prince nearly incinerated the library, and is now unconscious. Also, Gillock is here.”

Malena sat back in her chair. “Gillock is there, but Elizanne is not? Very odd. I thought for certain she would join with her children. No matter, it is good news indeed to see the power growing in the children. How long have they been in these states.”

“Two days, my lady. From what I can tell, the princess possesses elven type powers, and the prince is most definitely a war wizard. They were supposed to be getting trained by the elf king when this happened. I assume this is why Gillock showed himself.”

“Interesting. Then Elizanne may be nearby.” A smile slowly crept onto her face. “I want you to be as helpful as possible. After all, you are currently an elf. Report to me again if your situation changes.”

“It will be done, my queen.”

Within moments of the mirror going dark, it again turned into a swirling mist of someone calling. Malena could tell it was coming from Lakin’s room, but the face that greeted her was not Lakin.

“Vernia, this is a surprise. What can I do for you?”

“We have a problem,” stated Vernia.

Malena smiled. “What kind of problem could you and I share?”

“It looks as if our services are no longer needed.”

Malena had no idea what she was on about. “Please, go on.”

Vernia, glad to have her attention, sat back in her chair. “Lakin has taken in a new enchanter. He has taken it upon himself to personally train her, and has brought her to his bed. She is more powerful than you are and that makes her more appealing than I. So you see we have a problem.”

Malena was quite disturbed by this revelation, but hid it. “Why would this little tramp be a problem? I am sure you just think she is more powerful than I am.”

“He immediately took her down below to train. With all the training she has been given she is now more powerful than Queen Elizanne. If he continues this intense training she will be as powerful as he within four months.”

Malena could no longer hide her anger. “What a fool! And who is this young magic user?” she asked, but already knew the answer.

“It is Princess Brin. I have been ordered to send a letter to the king informing him that his daughter is now part of the Order.”

Malena laughed, but it was not that of humour. Her voice had an insane pitch to it. “Oh, this is perfect. He is going to use Brin to become king. I cannot believe I did not see this coming.”

Vernia was confused. It was obvious that Malena was upset by the news, but it also appeared as if the news had embarrassed her. “What should we do? We cannot allow him to succeed, especially since it was us who brought him this far.”

Malena shot out of her seat. “There is only one thing we can do, my dear. The twins will succeed, that we know, but if Lakin has become so enthralled with his new playmate, he may not realize how quickly it is coming. We must keep him down below for as long as possible. We must also help the twins along. They cannot afford any more delays. The sooner they succeed the sooner I will be free and then we will be able to deal with Lakin’s treachery.”

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

It had been three days since it happened and Nak had not left Eric’s bedside. A sight which amused and bewildered Gillock. He himself had been moving between the twins, trying to figure out what to do. Every spell and enchantment he tried failed. It was as if something was blocking all attempts to reach them. Gillock again glanced over to Nak. The concerned look on the goblin’s face was sincere, and it saddened the wizard to see it.

“Do not fear, Nak. He will return to us.”

Nak looked at Gillock. “Youses nots knowz thats,” he said softly.

Gillock smiled. “With you watching over him, I’m sure of it.” Gillock stood and was about to leave Eric’s side and check up on Koral, when Eric suddenly sat up.

At the same moment, Koral began to glow again and fell to the ground, as herself. Darly ran to get Gillock and came upon him running to see the princess.

“Has she returned as well?” asked the wizard.

“Yes, only just,” answered Darly.

“You must bring Koral to her room immediately.”

Darly nodded and ran back to tell Glavlin what to do.

The entire dwarf town was in a tizzy. Koral and Eric were again themselves, but at the same time different. Eric had been the first one able to speak, but he could not remember anything.

“I remember reading the book, and finding it fascinating. Other than that, my next memory is waking up here.”

Gillock just nodded. “I will let you get caught up with your goblin friends.” Then turning to Nak he added. “Don’t stay too long, he will need to eat and rest.”

Nak said he would, and then Gillock moved off to Koral’s room.

When he walked in, he was glad to see she was alert and eating. He moved into the room and took a seat beside Glavlin.

“How are you feeling?” he asked.

“Just hungry right now,” she answered between mouthfuls of food.

When she had finished, she reached out for Gillock’s hand. “I am glad you are here. I saw so much and do not understand what happened. Maybe you can help me figure it all out.”

“Yes, of course,” said Gillock. “You should start by telling me what you remember.”

“Well, it was odd. I felt the need to find a book, and then before I knew it, I was in Glavlin’s room, taking his elven book.” She stopped suddenly, and a look of regret crossed her face.

“It is all right,” said Glavlin softly. “It was not you, it was the book.”

“Please continue Koral,” bade Gillock.

“Well, I kept seeing the same spell over and over, so I decided to recite it. I am not sure what happened next, but I guess I blacked out. A while later, I came out of it and started to see visions.”

“Were you aware of anyone nearby?” asked Glavlin.

“Yes, I knew you were sitting near me, and that Gillock would sometimes be nearby, and sometimes not. It was odd. A sort of detached feeling, but I was aware of you the entire time.”

“What were your visions?” asked Gillock, trying to get her back on track.

“Well, they were odd. There were two of them, repeating. They were of two women, both giving birth to twins. One was human and the other elven.”

Both Glavlin and Gillock gasped, and both hoped when she continued that their assumptions would be wrong.

“What is it?” asked the princess.

“Nothing, please continue,” said Gillock quickly.

“The first vision is of an elf woman in labour. She is in a lot of pain, and when the first child comes out, some men take it away. Again, she is screaming in pain, and the second child is born, this one taken away by someone. It was odd, but I felt as if it was the baby’s father.”

Gillock turned to Glavlin but said nothing. “Please continue,” said Glavlin.

“Then things move about and it goes to the other woman giving birth. Her labour is much easier, and everyone is happy until they find out it is twins. A man leaves the room, very upset. Then something odd happens.” She stopped and looked right at Gillock. “It switches to another time and I swear I saw you, Gillock, dragging the woman who had just given birth, away. She is screaming for her babies, but you just ignore her.” Again, she paused, tears swelling in her eyes. “What does all this mean?”

Gillock, after a few moments, responded. “The first vision was Glavlin’s birth. The second was your mother’s.” He looked at the princess, and could tell she was shocked by the news. “Yes, princess. Your mother was a twin as well. In fact, it was thought that she and her brother may be the twins in the prophecy. Of course, I knew it was not true. Your uncle did not possess any magic.”

“So why have I never heard about an uncle?”

“He died young, and your mother doesn’t like to talk about him.”

Koral was going to ask about his part in her mother’s birth but decided against it. It was apparent that he didn’t like talking about such things either. Not wanting to press the matter, she turned to look at Glavlin. “I am so sorry, highness.”

Glavlin smiled weakly. “It is not your fault, and I am sorry you had to relive that awful moment over many times.”

“Someday soon I will want to hear your story, elf king,” she stated.

“Someday, I will tell it to you,” he answered.

A knock at the door brought the two back to reality. “Enter,” shouted Gillock.

“Beggin’ yer pardin’,” said Grund moving into the room, “but it be seemin’ the prince be rememberin’ somethin’.”

“I will go and see what this is all about,” said Gillock. “You two need to talk I think.”

Gillock did not turn to see their expressions; instead, he just walked out and headed back to Eric’s room.

“Now, what is this all about?” he said, moving into the room.

“I remember something, Gillock. It is not much, but it is something.”

“Well then spit it out, boy”

“I remember seeing dragons and wizards fighting. Two in particular. Both appear to be very powerful and quite intent on killing the other. It is odd, but I feel like I know who they are.”

“And that’s all?” questioned Gillock.

“Yes, maybe I will remember more later, but that is all for right now.”

“I’m going to go back to my room,” said Gillock after a moment of silence. “If anyone needs me I will be in there for the remainder of the day.” Then he swiftly moved out of the room and headed for his own.

“Gillock, wait,” came Grund’s voice. “I be needin’ to speak to ye.”

Gillock slowed to allow the dwarf to catch up. “What is it?”

“The council be thinkin’ it time ye all left. Eric be a bit too much fer em after the burnin’.”

“I thought they might feel that way. Very well, let them know as soon as the twins are able to travel we will leave.” Then he turned and headed quickly to his room.

Grund made his way to Urlick’s chamber. As head of the council, he figured this would be the person to go and tell. When he arrived, Grund hesitated before knocking. It bothered him that the council was just throwing this group out on their own. Sighing, he knocked and when it was answered moved into the room.

“The wizard said they be leavin’ once the twins be well enough.”

Urlick grimaced. “Me thinks they should be leavin’ now.”

Grund was stunned by the forcefulness of his statement. “The humans still be weak. Sendin’ them out now be their death.”

“That not be me problem. It be theirs. This be the wishes o the council.”

The last statement was to let Grund know there was no one he could go to for help on this. “If it be the council’s wish, then I be leavin’ with em.”

Urlick jumped out of his seat. “You be goin’ when the council be forbiddin’ it?”

“It be me choice.”

“Then ye be banished,” said Urlick smugly, not at all concerned he would never see this dwarf again.

“That be me choice too.” Grund left the stunned council leader to his thoughts and headed back to Gillock.

“We be findin’ horses in Tress, don’t ye worry,” said Grund. He had just informed Gillock of the council’s order, and the wizard had gone into a most colourful rant.

“But how can they be so utterly cruel? Those poor children have been through quite an ordeal and to just throw them out is horrible.”

“I not be knowin’ what the council be thinkin’. All I be knowin’ is that I be comin’ with ye. Now, we can go through the mountain. It be quicker than goin’ around. The council will not be carin’ which way we be goin’. But they be carin’ when we be goin’ so we best be gettin’ everyone ready.”

Gillock sat down on his bed exasperated. He knew he wouldn’t be able to sway the council’s decision, so instead he just set about planning the rest of the journey.

The company was ready to move out within two hours, much to the delight of the council. Grund felt even more offended when not one dwarf came out to bid them good journey. Something was wrong with his village, and he was glad to be leaving it. The twins were placed in wagons pulled by oxmifs. They were curious little creatures that resembled the ox of the above world, only a third of the size. It was a rough way to travel, but they were both still too weak to walk.

Grund and Drundle, who had joined up with them as they left the village, led the way. The route they were taking was rough, but it would bring them out near a small dwarf fishing town. Behind them followed the wagons, then Gillock and Adora were next. Behind them were the goblin’s followed by the elves. Without a word, they began their trek through the mountain.

Koral and Eric, with the help of Gillock, were fast asleep for the first day of their journey. When they awoke, most of their strength had returned so they both decided to walk. The road was unusual, like nothing they had ever experienced. Gillock made sure the way was lit by magical means, which he felt was much more effective than torches. All the twins could do was marvel at the wonders they were seeing.

The village of Xamblers may have been an awesome sight for them, but the caverns they came into were extraordinary. Sometimes their way was nothing more than a trail on the side of an immense cliff. Many times the twins stopped to marvel at the depths.

“How deep is this gorge?” asked Eric.

Grund smiled, having heard the question nearly a hundred times already on this trip. “This one I not be knowin’, prince. Me thinkin’ it’s been round longer than Gillock.” Then he snickered at Gillock’s obvious scowling face.

“What Grund means to say, is that some mining areas were done by dwarves in times past. Some of these go very far down, so do try and stay away from the edges.”

Eric moved back at Gillock’s request, but was still curious. “I see other tunnels across the way. Where do those lead?”

“I not be knowin’ some o them,” said Grund.

“Rumour has it, some of them were trading routes to the Eastern Lands,” commented Glavlin, his elven ears hearing the entire conversation.

“Wes heards rumours toos,” said Nak. “Bads thingses thats ways.”

Eric stared off into the distance. He heard the remainder of the conversation, but the only thing which stuck in his head was, Eastern Lands.

“Someday I would like to travel to the Eastern Lands,” he said, not realizing he had spoken aloud. No one commented on it though and everyone moved off further down the road.

On the fourth day of their travels, they arrived outside. Everyone, save the dwarves, was glad to be out in the fresh air again. Since evening was fast approaching, they needed to get organized.

“We be campin’ here tonight,” said Drundle once everyone was out of the tunnel and into the makeshift campsite. “Tomorrow we be goin’ down and gettin’ supplies n’ horses from Tress,” she finished, pointing to the small village off in the distance.

“How far away is it?” asked Koral.

“Only half a day’s walk,” responded Darly, coming up from behind. “From there it is only two days ride to Keenley.”

“I thought this was the quick way around,” stated Eric, obviously annoyed.

“It is if you want to be supplied and unharmed the entire way,” was Mekken’s response.

Eric was going to comment, but thought against it and instead grabbed some things and began setting up the camp.

Adora moved closer to Gillock, so she would not be heard speaking to him. “Things are going quickly and the twins are not ready. Maybe they should be told about Keenley. They have not ever experienced it and I am not sure how they will react.”

Gillock leaned down as if picking something up. “They have been told, but I don’t think they believe. This is going to be the hardest part of our journey. As for their training, I think they are ready. Their trips into the unconscious world have boosted their powers. I have shown them how to create the mist. They achieved it perfectly on their first try.”

Adora gasped. “They should not have been able to do that yet. What does this mean?”

“I don’t know,” he answered truthfully. “All I do know is that we need to be worried. They are becoming very powerful, very quickly, and it could cause problems.”

“What type of problems?” she asked, worry creeping into her voice.

“With power this strong anyone or thing possessing magic may be able to sense them. It could very well give away our position, as they do not know how to hide it yet. I’m afraid our journey is going to get more difficult, not easier.”

Adora moved off, not wanting to question him anymore. She was afraid of what she might get as an answer.

Glavlin, Darly, and Mekken exchanged glances. Their ears had heard the entire conversation between wizard and gypsy. None of them understood what had transpired between them, but they were now all worried. Not just because of the twins power, but because two of them had thought she was in league with either the Order or Malena. The other elf, of course, had been doing everything possible to make it look that way. Now Moray had another task; setting the camp against Gillock so suspicions would still fall on Adora. Malena would not like him doing it, seeing how she had told him to help in any way he could, but Moray did not care. Soon he would have no need for the foolish queen. Smiling, he moved off into the distance to make his report to Malena, carefully leaving out the fact he was about to cause chaos within the camp.

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

Lakin awoke with a start. Unsure as to what had awakened him, he slowly sat up. Looking around the room, he did not sense or see anything out of the ordinary, and then the feeling came again. It was such a powerful sensation it almost knocked him back in the bed. He turned to make sure Brin was still asleep. He saw her chest slowly rising so he knew she was in a deep sleep. Lakin quickly dressed and headed into his study.

Again, the powerful wave struck him and this time it nearly knocked him to the floor. It was then he understood what it was. The last wave had a consciousness attached to it, and it was one he recognized. Actually, it was two. The twins had come into their power. Lakin felt they were definitely going to be a match for their sister. He sat in his chair, and smiled to himself. This one family possessed enormous power, and his smile faded with the thought. One family should not have this much power. The idea was disturbing him greatly. Lakin was positive he had destroyed all strong magical lines, leaving him the most powerful. Obviously, he had been wrong, and the only thing he could think of was that Gillock must have had something to do with it. Gillock would be the only wizard powerful enough to hide something like this from him. Another wave struck, but this one was weak. “The twins may have come into their power,” he said to himself, “but they still do not know how to use it.”

“And this is a good thing?” came a voice from the doorway.

Lakin turned with a start. He had not heard Vernia and wondered how long she had been there. “What are you doing awake?” he asked.

Vernia moved into the study. “I felt the power as well. The twins are becoming stronger.”

“Yes and quite quickly.” Lakin saw the look in her eyes and realized she was here for a reason.

Vernia moved closer to Lakin. “I wish to discuss the goblin prisoner we received from Malena. Are we going to do anything with him or may I have him destroyed?”

Lakin was not expecting this. He had assumed she was going to ridicule him about his current relationship with Brin. “I was thinking of letting him find his friends. It may prove advantageous to have him back with the group.”

“Shall I perform a spell on him to make him our eyes and ears?”

Lakin smiled. Vernia was most definitely the smartest witch he knew. It somewhat saddened him to no longer have her as his bedmate, but times change. He was going to have to find another way to use her.

“Yes, and soon. I am sure the twins are near Keenley. Make sure their friend is found, but not in perfect condition.”

The last part of his statement made Vernia’s skin crawl. “As you wish,” she said, bowing. Then she turned and left the wizard to his thoughts.

Vernia felt Lakin’s eyes on her until she turned out of the room, and it gave her a chill. Although his new relationship had upset her at first, she was now glad of it. If Brin had not happened along, she may never have realized their entire relationship had been a lie. For many years, she fancied herself in love with the wizard, but now she knew the truth. A spell was all it had been, and it bothered her to know that she never once suspected it. All those times she disagreed with Lakin’s plans, only to never say anything. Mindless and gutless was how he liked her to be, but no longer. Now she found him disgusting and pathetic. It did amuse her when he would mutter the spell under his breath, trying to recapture what he had lost. Sometimes she would pretend it had partially taken her, but never completely. The fact she had placed a spell of her own around herself made her smile. It was something he would never think of, not from one of his Magima. They were all loyal and dim-witted. None would ever fight his control or question his rule. None except Vernia.

Vernia arrived at her destination with a smile on her face. The guard at the door assumed it meant she was about to torture the creature within.

“Lakin has ordered me to take the prisoner. He’s to be released.”

The guard did not even try to hide his disappointment. “Too bad. I was hoping to hear more of his screams.”

It took all of her willpower not to melt the despicable guard to the wall where he stood. “Don’t worry, he’s not to be released healthy,” she said.

The guard smiled, but it soon faded when she disappeared with the goblin. Upset, he slammed the door and headed for his quarters.

Vernia waited until she was positive the guard was not coming back before becoming visible again. The goblin sat quiet, and was quite curious as to what was happening.

“We do not have much time, goblin, so listen carefully. I’m to send you back to your friends, but there is a catch. I must put a tracking spell on you so the Order will know where you and your friends are. You must tell Gillock I have done this, but warn him to do nothing right now. Tell him he will know when the time is right to dispel it.”

Dilmek nodded, not wanting to say anything in case it was not what she wanted to hear.

“Good, now I’m going to transport you somewhere close to where we think they are. We know they are heading to Keenley so you may want to wait for them on the outskirts.”

She stepped away from the goblin and began to chant. Knowing Lakin would want the goblin to be slightly injured, she had the spell burn him a bit once he arrived at his destination. When he had disappeared from her sight, Vernia headed back to her quarters. Lakin would most likely be calling on her later in the day so she needed to rest now.

Lakin waited until he was sure Vernia was no longer nearby to activate his mirror. He hadn’t spoken to Malena for quite some time and didn’t want her to become suspicious.

“What is it?” stated her annoyed voice.

“I’m just checking in with you, my queen,” he responded.

It amused Malena to hear him refer to her as queen. Not wanting to let him know she was aware of his new bedmate, she went along with it.

“I am sorry to snap at you, Lakin. I am afraid all of this has begun to take a toll on me. Is there something to report?”

“We sent the goblin back to his friends. I thought it wise to have another set of ears among the group.”

This news annoyed her, but she hid it. “That is very wise. If there is nothing else, I must take my leave. I need rest.”

Lakin bowed low. “No, there is nothing else. Get some rest; you will need all of your strength for the coming changes.”

Malena did not say another word, and the mirror clouded over. Lakin wondered if she suspected something, then brushed the thought from his mind. If she had, he was certain something would have been said. Smiling to himself, he headed back to his room. Luckily, Brin was still asleep. He did not wish to explain why he was up and about in the middle of the night and was glad to see she had not moved.

Several days passed before Lakin finally sent for Vernia. The long wait bothered her, but she knew it was his way of controlling her still. Instead of knocking at the door of his study, she just burst in. Brin, of course, was with him.

“Please excuse us, Brin. We have things to discuss.”

Brin stood and left without a word. Vernia noted she used to be the exact same way.

“You wished to speak with me?” she asked, letting him hear the annoyance in her voice.

“Yes. Has our little friend found his companions yet?”

“No, he was injured so he has not moved towards them. He is close to Keenley, though, so he may just wait them out.”

Lakin was obviously annoyed by the news. Vernia figured he had hoped the creature would have run off to find its friends. Conveniently, she failed to mention the goblin had set markers about, letting his friends know where he would be making camp. She only hoped he would not sense her deception.

“Is that all?” she snapped.

“Yes. But let me know the moment the goblin finds the group.”

Vernia just snorted a response then stormed out.

Lakin watched her go, and when the door shut, Brin materialized in her place.

“She is not so powerful. She did not even know I was here,” she stated smugly.

“Do not underestimate her. She was annoyed with me, and it distracted her. If she were on her guard, you would probably be a pile of ash.”

“One should always be on their guard, especially in the place you feel most confident,” was Brin’s response.

Lakin smiled. Brin was coming along quite nicely. “Yes, that is very true. Do not worry, my princess. The prophecy will soon be filled and then you and I can rework this land into what it should be.”

Brin was going to respond, but a sense of dread overtook her.

Lakin noticed the change in her stance. “What is it?” he asked.

“Eric and Koral. The other day I noticed I could not sense them, but now I can. I wonder what happened?”

Lakin was disturbed by this comment. He had no idea she was linked to her siblings, nor that she was aware something had happened to them.”

“They are coming into their powers. You may feel things off and on for the next few weeks. Are they still with the dwarves?”

“Yes. I do not think it will be for much longer though. They both appear agitated.”

The remark shocked Lakin. Not only could she sense them, but feel what they are feeling. “Have you always been able to sense your brother and sister?”

“Yes. It is funny though, I never sensed the magic within them.”

“Perhaps you did but did not want to believe it so you made it into something else.”

Brin thought on that. “Yes, perhaps you are right. Perhaps I did know all along and just wanted to pretend it was not true. After all, I tried to ignore it in myself.”

Lakin heard the sorrow in her voice. He may have turned her to his cause, but it was still going to be tough to get her to kill her brother and sister.

“What would you like to do today?” he asked, wanting to change the subject.

“I would like to practice some more. I still do not feel very strong.”

“If that’s what you wish than that’s what we will do.” Lakin got up from his seat and extended his arm for her to take. “Let’s be off to the chambers.”

Brin smiled, happy to have someone in this world care about her.

Vernia had indeed sensed Brin’s presence while she was speaking to Lakin, but thought it best to keep it to herself. Under her own spell, she watched as Lakin escorted Brin to the lower levels. They would be down there for the rest of the day, she was certain. It would give her plenty of time to go through Lakin’s study. Something wasn’t sitting right about everything, and she needed to figure out what it was.

Slowly Vernia made her way back into the study. She opened the door and moved in. It was apparent Lakin hadn’t put up any warding spells, but then why would he. No one here would dare question his methods, or go through his things. He had nothing to fear in this place. Of course, Brin had warned him to be cautious, especially in the tower. Vernia started with his desk, but found only the expected papers. Books on the shelves were real, no spells of any kind. Then she moved near the mirror he used to communicate with Malena, and sensed something odd.

In behind it was another bookshelf, this one contained the exact things Vernia did not want to see. There were books, all written by Lakin, maps of every corner of the Central Lands and beyond. The books contained Lakin’s exact plans for the entire world of Melarandra. It all appeared to revolve around a magic school and Holison. Slowly she read the books. The more she read, the more worried she became. Vernia decided to contact Malena and let her know.

“What is it now, Lakin?” came Malena’s annoyed voice.

“It’s not Lakin,” responded Vernia.

“Then what do you want?” Malena asked.

“I have found some of Lakin’s things. His plans go deeper than what I ever thought.”

“What do you mean?” asked Malena, concern creeping into her voice.

“Apparently Lakin has something against all the wizards. He wants to find a school of magic, take it over and bring demons to help. I don’t know what it means, but I do know he has a plan all worked out. Once he is in charge of this school, he plans to take over the rest of Melarandra and hand it over to the creatures from Holison.”

Malena sank further into her chair. “This is ill news.”

“Do you know what he is talking about?”

Malena nodded. “The school is a place for all beings of magic to go. Bad or good, they may attend but are not allowed to do harm once inside. If Lakin tries to take it by force, the results could be catastrophic.”

“How will he even be able to find this school? None exist here.”

“One does exist, but it is not on your plane. It is on mine.”

Vernia was stunned. She had suspected Malena was in the Void, but now knew for certain. “The Wizards School.”

“Yes,” said Malena. “When the twins succeed, the school will again be visible. There are only a few wizards within it now and although they are quite strong, they will not be able to fight off an attack. If Lakin can get enough wizards trained, there will be no stopping him.”

“And with Brin at his side, he will have a royal claim to the Central Lands,” stated Vernia.

“If the twins succeed, we are doomed. If they do not succeed, we are also doomed. It is quite a predicament,” said Malena, sighing. “It was my dream once to take over the school and destroy those who had put me here. Now it would appear I am going to have to protect them.”

Vernia felt saddened for Malena. It was not until that very moment she realized who Malena really was, and it made her heart ache. “Being trapped for nearly forty years must have taken its toll,” she said calmly.

Malena looked at the woman, wondering how it was she knew. The spell Gillock cast made it so no one knew her true identity. “Yes, it has. All these years I have done nothing but plan the demise of those who put me here. Make them suffer as I have. Now that must change.”

“We must do what is best for Melarandra, Malena. What can we do?”

“My deal with Lakin is now void. He has taken my plan and turned it into something beyond even him. He does not realize what will happen should he take this action against the school. I will try and talk to Mordekai. He and I may be enemies, but in the end, we want the same thing. Magic returned.”

The mirror went dark and Vernia was alone again. She quickly piled up all of Lakin’s things as she had found them and move to leave. The door started to open so she quickly made herself invisible. Lakin and Brin moved into the room, so while the door was open Vernia moved herself out. The only thing she heard was Lakin stating, “and now our deal is sealed with this kiss.” For a moment Vernia wanted to move back into the room, but decided against it. She felt she was taking too many chances this day so she made her way back to her room. Her sleep was filled with horrible visions of other world beings taking over her precious lands.

CHAPTER NINETEEN

The night was warm and the moon was so bright it lit up the sky. The view over the Sea of Arran was breathtaking. The stars were out in full force, making the sea glitter. The sight amazed Eric. Many flowers were in full bloom and it was clear summer was beginning. He hadn’t realized how long he had been underground, and was glad to be outside once again. Being cooped up inside the mines for so long had taken its toll on the young prince. While everyone else had no problems falling asleep, rest eluded him. His thoughts still lingered to the fighting and power he had witnessed while studying the book. It had been a terrifying but exhilarating experience, and he wanted it to happen again. The power he felt just before losing consciousness had been overwhelming, but it was something he needed to feel again. Sighing, he closed his eyes and focused on the images he had seen, hoping sleep filled with dreams of powerful magic would come to him soon.

Koral found sleep easily, but it was not a sound one. Her dreams filled with questions and images she did not wish to see. Flashing from the births she had witnessed in her dreams earlier to the deaths of those she travelled with caused her to toss and turn in her sleep. Everything in her dream appeared very real, as if it was a warning of what could happen to everyone should she and Eric fail. One foul image after another grabbed hold of her soul, then suddenly everything took on a new shape and Koral realized she was somewhere, which felt eerily familiar.

It was a clearing, surrounded by the most beautiful and exotic trees she had ever seen. It was odd, but somehow she was aware it was a dream, and realized at once that this must be of some significance.

“What is this place?” she asked herself.

“You are in my realm, princess,” came a female voice from the trees.

Koral, not knowing who, or what, was going on, felt frightened. It was a feeling which quickly diminished once she saw a figure step out from the tree line. “Who are you?” asked Koral.

The figure moved closer to Koral, but she did not back away. The woman had a calming effect on the princess. She was tall and slim, with amazing silver hair and eyes that were grey like a sky before a storm. “Do you not know me?” she asked.

“You are the Earth Mother,” stated Koral, confused. She had indeed known who this woman was. “Why am I here?”

“You are here because I needed to speak to you directly. You are becoming quite a powerful wizard, princess, and it has caused me some concern.” She paused for a moment, as if waiting to see if Koral would react to the news. “You see,” she continued, “those who possess magic from the earth are usually woodland creatures, not human. It has created a curiosity in me, for I do not know how it is you came to possess these powers, or why it is so strong within you.”

“So a human having these powers disappoints you, is that it,” stated Koral with a ferocity in her voice which scared her a little.

The Earth Mother smiled, and again Koral felt calm. “No, but it is a problem. Humans who have powerful magical abilities often become greedy. I have not sensed this in you, yet, but your brother has it seeping from every pore. I am afraid should he sway you, your powers may be used for personal gain, and not for the earth as they are intended.”

Koral became confused. “What do you mean?”

“He is only concerned with going down in history as a great warrior. He does not truly care about this prophecy and what it may do to the world, as you know it. It is important you do understand this. When magic is released, sacrifices may have to be made. Are you willing to die to protect me?”

The statement confused Koral even more. She had not thought of her abilities in this way, and it frightened her. “I do not know if I can do that,” she said.

The earth mother nodded. “That is good, for no one can answer the question truthfully until they are placed in that situation.”

Koral became worried. “What am I to do? I did not ask to have these powers, but I do not want to be rid of them. I feel as if I had a hole in me, and it is finally filled. Does that make sense?”

“Yes, more than you realize. Just be careful, princess, for many dangers are ahead of you. Trust in Gillock but be aware, he hides things from you. Most importantly, watch your brother. He does not realize his thoughts yet, but all it will take is the wrong influence.”

Koral was going to ask her about Gillock when she heard the most beautiful song. Oddly enough, she found herself singing along with it, as if she had known it all her life. The Earth Mother and the surroundings faded from view, and all Koral knew was love and overwhelming happiness.

Eric awoke to the sound of yelling. It startled him at first, for the sun was not even beginning to show itself, and then he realized they were calling to Koral. He jumped out of his bed and ran to where his sister had made her camp. Where she should have been sleeping was an unusual tree. “What is going on?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” answered Gillock. “It appears your sister is again talking with the Earth Mother.”

“Why am I not unconscious again?” he asked.

“I don’t know that either, Eric.”

“What are we going to do?” Eric asked, panic starting to creep into his voice.

“We wait until she changes back. There is nothing else we can do.”

Eric fell to his knees. “I will stay here until she changes back.”

Gillock was going to say something, but decided to let the prince be. He needed to figure out why Koral had again turned into a tree so he left Eric and went over to Glavlin. “Is the book safe?” he asked the elf.

“Yes, she did not take it this time.”

Gillock sighed. “I don’t have an explanation for this.”

“Maybe the Earth Mother sought her out this time. What does it all mean?”

Gillock saw the concern in the elf king’s eyes. “I don’t know, but if the Earth Mother has called to her, there must be a reason for it. All we can do is wait, and ask Koral.”

Glavlin nodded. “Yes, wait,” he said with a sigh.

“Eric is going to stay with his sister until she comes out of it.

Until then I suggest we just tell everyone not to bother packing up. We must all stay here until this is over.”

Again, Glavlin just nodded his response, and then he moved off towards the others to inform them of this decision.

Eric grew weary of keeping watch over his sister. It had only been a few hours, but her change had happened in the middle of the night, and Eric was exhausted. He closed his eyes for a moment, but quickly opened them again. A bright light shone in his face, and lying in front of him was Koral. He moved over and cradled his sister in his arms.

“Eric,” she said her voice hoarse.

“Yes, what happened?” he asked.

“She called to me. I cannot ignore her when she calls.” That was all he heard for the rest of her speech slurred and she fell asleep in his arms. Carefully, he placed her back under the blankets to sleep for as long as she needed, then he moved off to find Gillock and let him know Koral was back.

“What is it?” asked Gillock.

Glavlin had suddenly become stiff and silent. “Koral has been returned to us,” he stated. Within moments, Eric came running up to them.

“She is back,” he said, out of breath from sprinting to their location.

“Yes, I know,” said Gillock, but he did not elaborate as to how he knew. “Is she awake?”

“No, she told me the Earth Mother called to her, then fell asleep. I put her under her blanket them came over here. How did you know she was back?”

Gillock ignored the question, and went back to the notes he had been reading. Something was going on with the princess, and he feared to know what it was.

He read and reread his notes, all thoughts he had during her last change, and kept coming to the same conclusion. The Earth Mother needed Koral, but as to why he was not sure. It was a need, which was important enough to speak with Koral directly, something that never, happened with humans. Gillock feared what it could mean, and hoped the Earth Mother was all right.

“You should go and get some rest, Eric,” said Gillock, after a moment of silence.

“Your sister is back now, and she needs to sleep. Go and relax.”

Eric nodded and left the wizard to his thoughts. He was wide-awake now and when he spotted the goblins Eric decided to go over and talk with them.

“Youses sisters okays?” asked Mork.

“Yes. How are you feeling?”

“Tiredes,” responded the goblin.

Eric sat down next to Nak and Goulerick. “I am sorry I have not come over to see you lately. Too much has happened these last few days.”

“Weses been wonderings boutz Dilmek,” said Nak.

Eric gasped. He had forgotten all about their friend. “We never did go after those creatures who took him. I am so sorry, Nak. I…”

“Notz youses faultz. Prophecyses mores importants.”

Eric nodded, but did not agree fully. Dilmek was their friend, and he had abandoned him for his own gain. “Once we move off towards Keenley, I will talk to the elves about tracking those creatures.”

Nak smiled, showing his razor sharp teeth. A sight which used to make Eric feel uneasy, but no longer. “Thankses.” Eric spent the remainder of the day hearing stories about Dilmek, and pushed the prophecy from his mind.

Adora had kept her distance, not wanting to upset Eric. The moment he moved off, she rushed in to talk to Gillock.

“Is Koral alright?” she asked, her voice quiet and concern was evident.

Gillock looked up at her. “She is resting right now. When she awakens I will let you know how she’s feeling.”

Adora nodded and moved off towards her sleeping pallet.

“I do not trust her,” remarked Glavlin.

“You don’t need to,” was Gillock’s reply and his tone stated the matter was no longer open for discussion.

Koral opened her eyes and groggily pushed herself into a sitting position. She had known Gillock was there before she turned to face him. “You know more than you are telling me, Gillock. And I am not sure this is something I like.”

The tone in her voice disturbed Gillock. She suddenly sounded more mature than her sixteen years. “Some things are best left unsaid until they are needed to be known,” he responded.

“What of Malena? I am certain I had a dream about her. She was with Eric’s goblin friends. Was it just a dream, or is it possible to cross from where she is to our world?”

Gillock sat back against a tree, studying the princess. She shouldn’t have been able to recognize Malena. It appeared she had learned a great deal in her time with the Earth Mother. “It’s true, there are ways to pass from our world to where she resides, but only creatures of magic can do it. Those goblins once belonged to her, which is probably where they heard about the prophecy. Clearly, they no longer follow her rule, so don’t worry. They are quite safe.”

“I was not worried about them, I am worried about her. If we succeed, will she be able to come back? My parents fear her greatly and I do not want their lives to be in more danger than they already are.”

Gillock sat in silence, not sure how to answer. “If you and your brother succeed in this, she will again return to our world. I’m not certain what it will mean to your family, but it can’t be helped.”

Koral said nothing, but stared at Gillock with such intensity he wondered if she could read his thoughts.

“Yes, it cannot be helped, but something must be done to contain her.”

“That’s a problem for another day, princess. It’s getting late and the evening meal is about ready. You should eat something.”

Again, Koral said nothing, but stared intently at the wizard. “That is a good idea. I am famished.”

Gillock smiled; glad to hear her voice change back to the young familiar girl. They both moved off towards the fires to have their evening meal.

The camp was in a light mood, despite the fact they had to delay their trip into town another day. The lighthearted tone Koral heard in the voices of her companions lifted the weight of confusion she had been carrying since she woke. After the Earth Mother had left her, she had felt happiness. It quickly changed into the images she had been shown the last time. Everything was the same, except Gillock’s role. He had become the central character, standing out while the others were in shadow or faded out. Koral still hadn’t been able to make out any faces, except Gillock’s, and it made the Earth Mother’s warning about him become a bit ominous.

Koral shivered at the thought. Gillock had been her teacher, mentor, and friend since the day she was born. She just could not bring herself to think of him as someone she could not trust. A smile came to her lips as she glanced around the camp. The simple fact that so many beings, some who were not supposed to exist anymore, could get along famously made her heart swell. It was times like these which made her realize just how important this quest was. She took the plate handed to her, and moved off to find a spot to sit.

“Koral, come and join me,” came Glavlin’s voice.

Koral smiled and moved towards the elf. “You are eating alone?” she asked.

“Not anymore.”

Koral laughed at his attempt at humour and sat down beside him. “It is good to hear you laugh, princess. We were quite worried about you.”

“Really? You did not have to worry; the Earth Mother was with me.”

The statement came out hard and so quickly, it took Koral and Glavlin by surprise.

“I am glad she was there to guide you,” responded Glavlin.

“I did not mean it to come out way,” remarked Koral.

Glavlin smiled at her. “It is a great honour to have spoken with her. Many woodland creatures go their entire lives without getting to meet her. You have nothing to apologize for. I know how overwhelming it can be.”

Koral stopped eating and turned to look at Glavlin. “You have spoken to her?”

“Yes, a few times actually. My birth was a significant one for my people. Twins are rare in the elven world; I guess she felt it important enough to call to me.”

Koral looked at Glavlin intently. His eyes showed there was more to this story, but she did not press. Instead, she changed to subject to her life at the castle. Glavlin had stories of his own, but never revealed too much with them. Koral resigned herself to the fact that it was going to take a while for the king to open up fully to her. It was something she was more than willing to wait for.

Three women watched Koral intently through their scrying ball, as she yet again became a tree.

“The Earth Mother speaks with her,” said one.

The other two nodded in agreement. “What does this mean for us?” asked the one who had spoken.

Not one had an answer.

“We are gods,” stated Ademorna, Goddess of the Sun.

“Yes, but so is the Earth Mother,” responded Almena, Goddess of the Stars. “If magic is truly failing on Melarandra, then it means the Earth Mother is as well.”

“And without her,” continued Allorethna, Goddess of the Moon, “the world could be lost to us.”

Ademorna and Almena stared at their sister. “The twins will complete the quest, but not the prophecy. Not in a way they expect anyway,” said Ademorna.

Almena sighed. “They are the children of the sun and moon. We do not know what other gods could be watching. Perhaps when the time arrives, if possible, you two should offer your assistance.”

Ademorna and Allorethna could only nod their agreement.

CHAPTER TWENTY

The morning was misty and a chill filled the air. Koral awoke with a start, but did not move. Unsure of what had awakened her, she slowly rolled over and instinctively felt for her sword. It was then she noticed almost the entire camp was awake and in a feverish rush.

“What is it?” shouted Koral to Gillock as he ran past.

“Tress is burning. We must move out immediately.”

He had said something else, but Koral did not hear. She had begun throwing her things together so she could move out with him. Eric had also heard his remark and was quickly getting himself together. “We need to move now. Something really does not feel right about all of this,” he commented.

Koral agreed and they both hopped up and started to run as hard as they could. They caught up with Gillock and the elves, who were not moving quickly.

“Why are you not moving faster?” asked Eric. “They could be in trouble.”

Glavlin turned to face the prince. “The people who did this have left. We spotted their ships on the horizon, moving away from the town.”

“Besides,” added Gillock, “the dwarves are probably almost there.”

“What do you mean?” asked the prince.

“What he means is nothing moves faster than a mad dwarf,” announced Darly.

Koral laughed and despite the situation, the others joined in.

“What do you think it means?” she asked.

“I am not sure,” responded Glavlin. “The ships were headed towards Keenley, though, so it may mean trouble when we arrive there.”

“How is it we did not hear anything?” questioned Eric.

“That is something which has been bothering me since we saw the smoke,” said Glavlin, obviously annoyed. “One of my elves should have heard something, but all was silent to us last night. I do not understand how it is possible. We were not so far away and should have heard something.”

Eric saw the pain in the elf king’s eyes. It bothered him greatly that none of the elves had heard anything. He did not want to say it, but figured everyone was thinking it. “It must have been some kind of spell.”

Gillock nodded. “Yes, it’s the only explanation I can come up with, but who cast it?”

“Maybe we have more enemies than we originally thought,” said Mekken, walking up to them. “The dwarves have made it to the town. I did not see any movement, but any survivors may be gravely injured or hiding. I was not close enough to determine either.”

“You say we may have more enemies,” came Koral’s confused voice.

Mekken nodded. “As I said, I did not get close enough to determine anything, but I can tell you this. The sails on those ships were like none I have ever seen before. We best keep our guard up as we approach the town.”

Everyone agreed, and they quickened their pace.

As they approached the town, the group slowed. The devastation was immense. The twins were stunned; neither had ever seen such destruction before. The elves, however, had seen this many times. Slowly, they entered the town, everyone silent. They came around a corner and heard Grund’s voice. All were relieved once they realized it did not sound distressed. Mekken immediately moved off towards the sounds, the others close behind. They found both dwarves in a small house, and they were not alone.

“What took ye so long?” asked Drundle, her voice filled with worry. “They be in trouble here.”

“We came as quickly as we could,” responded Glavlin. “What happened here?”

“They be Easterners,” said one of the dwarves. She was smaller than Drundle, with greying hair, but her voice and presence exuded strength.

“Are you certain?” asked Gillock.

“We be sure,” said another dwarf. “We be seein’ the ships many times o late.”

“Have they ever stopped here before?” Gillock questioned, his voice now sounding nervous.

“No,” said Grund, annoyance in his voice. “This be the only time, and they be taken most o the men. Some women ‘n children be gone too.”

Koral sat down, distraught. “Why did they do this?” she asked, her voice barely a whisper.

“Because Easterners collect and sell slaves. It’s a thriving business for them,” answered Gillock.

Easterners. It was something, which frightened and intrigued Eric. They were people of rumour, no one was really quite sure about them. No-one except Gillock that is.

“But they were headed for Keenley,” came Koral’s voice in his head. It brought him out of his reverie and he turned towards her. “Surely they would not find anyone to buy them there,” she finished, horror now showing in her voice.

“They are not even supposed to be able to travel here,” stated Eric, moving further into the room. “The sea has not let anyone travel between here and the Eastern Lands for many years. How is it they can do this?”

“That’s not an accurate statement,” said Gillock. “The Easterners come once a year to trade with Keenley. No-one is sure how they do it, and they will not reveal their secrets. There are strict rules for dealing with them that both sides must follow. I’m quite worried about what their reason for this attack was.”

“Enough talkin’,” shouted Grund. “These folks be needin’ help. We best be movin’ off ta Keenley. That be the best place fer supplies fer these folks.”

The others just nodded, not wanting to upset the dwarf further.

“We will be on our way,” said Glavlin quietly. “We will not be finding any supplies here. We will have to make do with what we have.”

Eric was going to comment but a shot to the ribs from his sister immediately quieted him. Sore and not impressed with their situation, Eric moved off towards where he had seen horses penned.

Grund moved over towards the old woman. “When we be gettin’ to Keenley, we be sendin’ back supplies ‘n help. I be gettin’ word to Xamblers fer help.”

The old woman smiled and whispered something to Grund. He laughed, and moved off to catch up with his friends.

“We will meet up with the goblins, and head out,” announced Gillock. “They should almost be here.”

They turned a corner and found the goblins already a top horses, waiting for them. “Wez thoughts bestes wez stayes hereses,” said Nak.

“That was a good idea,” commented Gillock. “We will find no supplies here. We must move off towards Keenley.”

Gillock rode past them, and the goblins turned in behind Eric. He noticed the sadness on their faces, and wondered if it was for the town, or because they could not go and search for Dilmek.

“I am sorry, Nak. I wish we could afford to go and search for your missing friend.”

“Wez knowses. Mores importants thingses do’ses,” he replied.

Eric did not say anymore, but stayed with the group instead of riding off to catch up with Koral. He felt it more important to stay by his friend’s side.

“Sire, your guest has arrived,” said the page.

Duke Dubar smiled. “Please show him in.”

The page quickly moved out, and motioned for Baron Lychen to enter.

“It has been too long, old friend,” said Dubar, moving towards the baron.

“Yes it has,” responded Lychen, embracing the duke.

“You may leave us now page. We will call should we need you.”

Again, the page quickly moved out of the room and Dubar motioned the baron to take a seat.

“Have they arrived yet?” asked Lychen once he was certain they were alone.

“No, but it will be any day now,” responded Dubar.

“And you are positive they will help us? I cannot afford to let Jeremy remain king.”

Dubar smiled a very wicked grin. “The Order has put my soldiers to work in case the twins should come here. Captain Moore is using this time to get his men ready for an attack. So even if the Easterners help only slightly, we will have enough power to take over Klayhern.”

“And no one suspects what the soldiers are doing? I noticed you have put a curfew on the city as well. The people do not question any of this?” Baron Lychen was a bit skeptical of the duke and his tactics

“Of course not, it was decreed by the Order. Well, I may have added a bit to the decree, which was read to the people, but they will not question anything. Fear of the Order has kept them in line for this long and I do not see that changing anytime in the near future.”

Now it was Baron Lychen’s turn to smile. “I must say you have impressed me. I did not think we were ever going to be able to get rid of the king. Now, it is my time to impress you.”

Dubar was happy to hear Lychen was impressed with him, but his last comment unnerved him. “How so?”

“The Order was kind enough to send me some of their top Maget soldiers to protect my land some time ago. They have been patrolling my lands, keeping things in order.”

Dubar was becoming annoyed. “Is this going somewhere Allen?”

“Well, you see. When everything started to go wrong with the king’s family, I put out a summons for all able-bodied men to come see me. They were then sent to the barracks where the soldiers have been staying and are now part of my army.”

Dubar laughed. “There are not many men who would go against the king. How is it going to help us?”

Lychen laughed. “The soldiers have ways of convincing people to their cause. All those men are now loyal to me, and are training as we speak. In a months’ time they will be ready to attack the unsuspecting king.”

Dubar’s face lit up. “An army so close to the king, this is fabulous news! We can use them in a surprise attack much sooner than I had imagined. Maybe we will not need the Easterners help after all.”

Lychen looked confused. “For a war, we will. I do not have enough men to fight off the ones Jeremy is training right now.”

“What do you mean?” asked Dubar, confused.

“General Traug has joined ranks with the king. All of the men loyal to him have also joined and it is rumoured the king has reinstated his personal guard.”

Dubar was going to ask how he came by this information, but decided against it. The less he knew the better. “So your little army could attack and confuse the king and his men. Then once the easterners are ready, we start the war in full. It may work, but I have a better idea.”

“And what is that?”

Dubar smiled. “Your men should attack as soon as they are ready, as you have planned. Their goal should not be just to confuse and upset, it should be to find Jeremy and eliminate him.”

Lychen now understood Dubar’s reasoning. “We get rid of the king, and then we use the easterners to go in and clean up the rest. It takes the blame off us and puts it onto the Eastern Lands. The people will be so outraged their king was assassinated, they will not question it when you assume power.”

“Exactly,” said Dubar smugly.

A knock at the door brought them both back to reality. “Enter,” shouted Dubar, annoyed with the interruption.

Sol entered. “I’m sorry to disturb you, sire. I’ve been informed that eastern sails have been seen on the horizon. They should be in the harbour by morning.”

Dubar clapped his hands. “Perfect! Thank you, page, you may go.”

Sol bowed and backed out of the room.

Once the door closed, Dubar again turned his attention to the baron. “In one months’ time, Jeremy will be destroyed and I will finally sit on the throne!”

He poured them both a glass of wine. “A toast to us!” shouted the baron and drank deeply.

Moments later, they were both passed out in their chairs. When Sol was certain the drug had taken hold, he moved into the room. He moved quickly, not sure how long the drug would last. He wrote his note to Vernia and made sure to use Dubar’s official seal to close it. Then he put it into his robe and went about finishing his work. He dumped the wine out the window and replaced the flask with one almost empty and not drugged. He then found some of the guards and told them to move the men to their beds. The two always drank in excess so the order wasn’t questioned. He only hoped Dubar and Lychen truly believed they had drank themselves into a stupor, and did not suspect what he had done. When all was taken care of, he sent the parchment to the Tower and went to his room. He hoped his news was not something Vernia was already aware of, but brushed the thought aside. How could she know about the baron’s plan to attack? He just hoped she responded with his orders soon.

CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE

Jeremy paced, aware that Korben was waiting for a response. “Are your scouts certain?” he asked, the concern in his voice apparent.

Korben understood why the king was worried. Late last evening, two men, who have been training as scouts, reported to him about a small army massing in Sprague. It appeared that Baron Lychen was going to move against them. “Yes, your highness. They brought back a very detailed report.”

Jeremy stopped and plopped himself down onto his throne. “This is most dire news indeed. What are we to do?”

Korben sighed. The men were training, and with the general’s help had been progressing far quicker than expected, but they were not ready for a fight. “We must move the villagers inside the castle, and fortify the defences.”

Now Jeremy sighed. It had been so many years since the fortifications had been used. They were in such disrepair he was not certain if there was a point to fortifying them. “We are months away from being able to fortify the town. Those defences are far too old to be of use.”

“I know, Jeremy, but we must try.”

Jeremy stood and placed his hand on Korben’s shoulder. “I know you are right. Begin moving the villagers inside. Once we are certain the town is clear, start working on the fortifications.”

“Do not worry, your highness,” said Korben, reverting to formalities. “My scouts are certain they will not be able to mount an attack for at least two months. The baron’s men are still finishing their training. He’s not going to let them move against you unless he’s certain they can defeat you. Lychen also doesn’t know of your own men training again. This all may work out.”

Jeremy smiled at Korben’s optimism. “You always did look to the bright side of things. Koral takes after you.”

Jeremy’s smile faded when he mentioned his daughter. Korben could see the pain in his eyes. “They are safe. Elizanne and Gillock are with them, I am sure of it. If anything had happened to them, we would have word.”

Jeremy nodded and moved off past Korben. Korben followed, not speaking any more on the subject. When they exited the throne room, Jeremy moved towards the library, Korben towards the barracks. Korben wanted to stay with the king, but knew his duties came before friendship.

As he neared the stables, the magic he had sensed previously suddenly returned. He decided to investigate what it could be and was stunned to see Payton standing over Robyn, threatening him. He wanted to intervene, but realized it wasn’t Payton speaking. His speech was far too formal to come from a soldier. Not knowing what was going on, he decided to confront Payton.

He moved in, grabbed Payton, and threw him to the ground. Quickly pulling his sword out, he placed it on Payton’s neck. “I don’t know who you are, but you have some explaining to do.”

Payton’s face turned into a sneer. “I knew one day you would figure it out, Korben Captain of the Guard. I was just conversing with my friend Robyn, nothing to concern you.”

“Malena,” spat Korben.

“How impressive. I did not think you would come to the right conclusion so quickly. You really do possess unusual abilities for a lowly soldier. No matter, I am done with this body. You may have your second in command back now.”

Payton suddenly shook, and lay still. Looking up at Korben, quite confused, asked, “Why am I at sword point?”

Korben felt Malena depart and knew it was again Payton speaking. “How long have you been working for Malena?”

The tone in Korben’s voice frightened Payton. He had not heard him ever speak with so much hatred before. “What are you talking about?”

As Korben had suspected, Payton did not know he was being used. Slowly he moved his sword away from Payton’s neck, but did not put it away. “How long have you been blacking out and not remembering what has happened?” asked Korben, softening his voice.

Payton slowly stood. “Since a few days before the twins were born.”

“That long! You should have told someone.”

“I know,” said Payton, obviously embarrassed. “I didn’t know what to do. I was a palace page. I carried privileged information personally for the king. If I told anyone I may have been taken off the position, and not made it to where I am.”

Korben understood his reasoning. Payton had been an orphan, left at the temple of Allorethna. Jeremy had personally chosen Payton for this post. It was more than he could have ever dreamed of.

“You could have told me.”

Payton felt ashamed. “You’ve always been like an older brother to me, Korben. Don’t think it wasn’t appreciated, but you’re a close friend to the king. How could I tell you?”

Korben, suddenly realizing that he had ignored Robyn this entire time, let the matter drop. When he spun around, the stable boy was gone.

“I don’t think we will be seeing much of him anymore,” stated Payton.

“I think it’s you we will need to be watching. We already knew about Robyn being a spy, but Gillock had taken care of it. It appears Malena decided to risk using you to get information. Do you remember anything?”

Payton shook his head. “No, just like the previous times. It has become more frequent since the general and his men arrived. I just assumed I hadn’t been getting enough sleep.”

Korben was going to respond when a shout came from the direction of the barracks. Both Korben and Payton were running before the shout was repeated.

“What is it?” yelled Korben as they approached.

One of the soldiers turned and replied, “Baron Lychen sent someone to spy on us. We spotted two men running back towards the south. We figure the baron will soon know of our plans.”

“Did anyone get hurt?” asked Payton.

“The stable boy. He was running when the baron’s men were spotted. I guess he was in the wrong place. Sword went clean through his stomach. He won’t live the night.”

The moment Robyn was mentioned, Korben had started running. He barely heard the last part of the soldiers report. He found Robyn, lying on one of the beds, his stomach loosely bandaged. There were two soldiers near him, both were men who came with the general. When they saw the captain they stood and saluted. “He was stabbed by accident,” one stated.

“Don’t be so sure,” Korben responded. “One of you quickly go to the Temple of Allorethna. Ask for Meechie. Bring him here immediately.”

The soldier, which had spoken, saluted then ran off towards the town. “Payton, go inform the king, he should be in the library. Bring him down here as well.”

Payton saluted, and ran towards the castle. He still felt ashamed for not coming forward with his blackouts, but since he didn’t know why they were happening, how could he? He found the king exactly where Korben knew he would be.

“Your highness,” said Payton, bowing. “You’re needed at the barracks. There’s been an incident.”

Jeremy did not even ask what happened, he just nodded and followed Payton out to the barracks.

“What is going on?” he asked Korben.

“Someone has stabbed Robyn. My men think it may have been spies sent from Lychen, but I’m not so sure.” Korben then moved the king off out of earshot and informed him of what was discovered with Payton.

“Payton should have come forward, but I understand why he did not,” stated Jeremy. “So, you think someone was sent to do this?”

“Yes,” responded Korben.

Jeremy was not so sure. “I do not know, but it all happened far too quickly. He may have been hurt on purpose, but I am not sure whom did this.”

Both men stood silent, and both were wondering just what was happening to their little kingdom. Meechie arrived moments later.

“What’s going on?” he asked, out of breath. “Your soldier wouldn’t say why I was summoned.”

Korben moved over towards Robyn. “This boy has been stabbed. We don’t know by whom, but it may be fatal.”

Meechie did not say another word. He quickly moved over to where Robyn was laying and examined him. His face changed from shock to horror and he hollered to have the room cleared, save for the king and Korben. Once everyone was out, he chanted quietly, moving around the room. When he arrived back to where he had started, he explained his actions.

“That was a spell, your highness.”

The king said nothing, he had already surmised as much.

“There is a dark magic at work here,” Meechie continued. “Come and look at this wound.”

Both men moved in and noticed how odd looking the wound had become. “You see the odd colouring. Whomever stabbed this boy was using an enchanted sword. It was made to look like a poison, but anyone who possesses magic can sense the oddness of this immediately.”

Korben nodded. “I thought something was odd, but with all the excitement I pushed the feeling aside.”

The king was visibly upset by this news. “Well, now we know it was not Baron Lychen who sent those spies.”

Korben and Meechie turned to face the king. “The Order was behind this, your highness, I would bet my life on it,” stated Meechie.

“It is my guess as well,” he replied. “I just do not know why they would attack this boy. No one but us knew who he was.”

Meechie looked confused. “Who he was?”

“He was a spy for Malena,” answered Korben. “We don’t know when or how he was chosen by her, but he’s been feeding her information for a while now. Most likely, since he came to work at the castle two years ago. It’s odd the Order would target this boy.”

“I feel that there’s more to this than we know, and the boy will not be telling us any of it,” said Meechie, his voice quiet.

Jeremy and Korben looked over to see Meechie closing Robyn’s eyes. “Whoever did this had a reason, and I’m guessing part of it was to throw you off, your highness.”

Jeremy now looked at Meechie confused. “What do you mean?”

“Well, now you are curious as to why this boy was killed. Normally, you would put a lot of effort into finding out why, and my guess, that is what the Order is hoping for.”

“I see where you’re going with this,” said Korben. “Think about it, your highness. The Order doesn’t want the prophecy fulfilled. They will do anything to ensure this. Throwing you off keeps you from helping your children. There’s also the chance the Order is helping Lychen and Dubar with their plans. Either way, the Order must be behind all of this and by killing Robyn it sets you off your guard.”

“And by setting me off my guard, it will be harder for me to see a fight approaching. This means Lychen is most likely preparing to attack, and soon.”

All three stood in silence, taking it all in. “I must go back to my temple, there are things which need to be done if a war is about to happen.”

They bid Meechie farewell, and moved over to Robyn’s body.

“We must have a proper funeral for him. He had no family that we know of, so he will be buried next to the royal tombs.”

Korben nodded, understanding the king’s reasoning for this.

He may have been a spy, but had never hurt anyone and was just a child. “I will make the arrangements, your highness. You need to go inside and prepare for whatever is about to happen.”

Both moved off in separate directions, saddened with what had happened and what was about to.

Malena shrieked louder than she ever had before. She had lost many spies over the years, mostly due to her overusing them. People with no magical abilities could only handle so much stress on their minds before they went mad or died. Robyn was young, and had many years left. His death hit her hard, mainly because of the mental connection. Gillock had blocked it, but once the boy was stabbed, they were connected once more.

The pain was overwhelming, and as suddenly as it came, it was gone. She knew Lakin had something to do with this. He was well aware of her situation with Robyn, and knew that with magic he could reconnect them. Slowly she regained her strength, and pulled herself back onto her throne. “That wizard has vexed me for the last time.” She moved her mirror over and called to Moray.

“Yes, my queen,” came his voice.

“I am changing our plans. I want you to come back here. There is something I need you to do.”

Moray looked dismayed, but his expression changed quickly.

“You presume much if you think you can order me around, Malena.”

Malena became worried, but did not show it. There was no way he could have broken her spell. He was bound to this world by her will alone. “I think you presume much if you think I cannot,” was her response.

Moray grinned evilly. “You are weak, and I tire of you. I think once I have killed off the twins, I will go to the Tower, and join with Lakin.”

Malena’s worst fear became realized. If Lakin and Moray joined, he could release an entire demon army onto Melarandra. “You will not get away with this. I summoned you and I can send you back.”

Moray laughed, and the sound made Malena’s skin crawl. “You silly human. I am no longer within your power. When you made this body ready for me to inhabit, you transferred not only me, but the binding spell as well. I am now here with a will of my own.”

Malena was stunned. She had tried every spell she had on him, silently, and nothing had even swayed him.

“Now if you don’t mind, I have two children to kill, and their friends to blame for it. Oh, don’t worry, your highness, they will not suffer, much.”

She was going to respond, but the mirror went dark. A chill took over her body, and she realized her hold on Moray was gone. She considered trying to reach Lakin, but changed her mind. He did just try to weaken her. Lakin would be quite angry if someone killed the twins, a fact that Moray appeared to have forgotten. She could not let the twins die, not when she was so close to being free. Somehow, she was going to have to let Vernia know what was going on, without Lakin knowing. If the wizard knew a demon wanted to join with him, it would make things move quicker than they already were. Malena sat back in her chair, and realized what had to be done. She was going to have to kill Lakin.

CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO

The funeral took place the next day, with the entire town in attendance. Only a few knew the truth of how the boy died, but how he died didn’t matter to the people present. Why it had occurred was what bothered them the most. All were aware a war was coming but none was prepared for a child to have been killed. Jeremy had filled in General Traug when he had returned about what happened. They had lost the trail of the men who had killed Robyn, but the news was not a surprise to the king. With the Order behind them, he would have been surprised if they had been caught.

Meechie had decided to oversee the funeral, something that did surprise the king, seeing as Robyn was not one of their order. He could only assume Korben had convinced his old friend to do it. Slowly the soldiers carried the casket by the throngs of people. Following behind, as was custom, came the king. Korben on one side, Olrond on the other. At the front of the procession was Meechie, chanting and singing songs to Allorethna, asking her to keep Robyn safe on his journey to her.

As they came closer to the royal cemetery, tears started to stream down the Jeremy’s face. They were not just for Robyn, but for all of the men in front of him and the townsfolk they had walked past. Soon, funerals may become a daily occurrence, a thought that did not sit well with him. Death was always a part of war, and this war was not going to be any different. Jeremy could not push the thoughts from his mind. Soon many would die, and for what? To save the kingdom from a greedy duke and his friends? Was it really worth the risks? So many things going through his mind, he did not even notice they had arrived at Robyn’s burial site.

Jeremy made his way to stand next to Meechie. The king was not required to say anything about someone who was not part of his family, but he felt he should.

“Robyn was not of royal blood, but he had been a part of my household for the last two years and with no family of his own, I felt it only right to place his body here. It always saddens me to see someone so young die, but his death will not be in vain. Duke Dubar and Baron Lychen threaten our livelihood, and this is something I cannot allow. You are my subjects, but you are also my family. We will thwart these attempts to take our lands from us, and push them out of the Central Lands for good.”

The clapping and cheering was so loud, no one heard the end of his speech. Jeremy did not mind though, he was just glad that despite everything which had happened, his people still believed in him. He moved off and let Meechie finish the ceremony, then Robyn was laid to rest. Everyone gathered inside the palace ballroom for the wake, and Jeremy was glad to see the townsfolk were in high spirits, even with Robyn’s death hanging over the room. “If only it could last,” he muttered to himself. Tomorrow the townsfolk would start moving inside.

Lakin watched the funeral and laughed at the king’s speech. Luthien and Tarowen had done well in making the king upset, but he had hoped the death of the boy would have made him less eager for war. It upset him to see they had only succeeded in making his resolve stronger. Although the Magima were in disguise, it was only a matter of time before Traug recognized them. Another problem he would have to deal with. Lakin sat back and smiled. He wondered how Malena was taking things and his smile turned into an evil grin. He hoped this incident would put Malena in her place. Since Brin came to him, he had noticed just how bothersome Malena had become. He heard shuffling coming from his rooms and moved to see what Brin was doing.

He stood in the doorway and saw she was rearranging the furniture.

“I think the room was fine before,” he said, trying to be calm. Nothing annoyed him more than someone moving his things about.

She stopped what she was doing and looked at Lakin. “It was fine before. Now it needs to be changed,” was her response, and she went back to what she was doing.

“And why is that?”

“I do not know. I just had the urge to move everything around. It is as if someone is guiding me.”

Lakin’s anger left him quickly. If some higher power was urging her to do this, there had to be a reason for it.

Suddenly she stopped what she was doing and flopped down onto the floor.

“Is something wrong?” he asked.

“You have not heard from my father. I had hoped he would have written you by now wondering about me.”

Her comment came as a bit of a shock. He had thought Brin was rid of these silly thoughts of her family. Lakin had been certain she was now against her family and this remark made him upset.

“I told you your parents don’t care about you. They are only concerned with Koral and Eric, you have to see that.”

“I know mother only cares for the twins, but father was different around me.”

In that one statement, Lakin realized his error. He had made her give up all the family at once, when he should have targeted them individually. Now he would have to come up with a plan to put Brin against her father.

“We should go to the lower levels. You still have a bit of training to do, and it may take your mind off of your family.”

Reluctantly Brin agreed and took Lakin’s arm as he escorted her to the lower levels.

As they passed fellow Magima, Lakin was pleased to see they had finally taken to Brin. Some had been suspicious of her, wondering if she was just here to infiltrate them. They didn’t ever speak of it, but they would never bow, as her title demands. Most would whisper after they had passed. Now, when he walked down the hallway with her, they acknowledged Brin in the same manner as he. Although he wasn’t royalty, Lakin was their leader and they treated him as a king. They arrived at the training room and Lakin noticed something was not right.

Vernia stepped out of the shadows at moved towards the two. “We have news, my lord,” she stated, bowing low.

The act unnerved Lakin. “What news?”

She looked up and her eyes quickly shifted from Lakin to Brin and back. He understood what she was meaning and quickly excused himself and Vernia from the room. Brin nodded and moved off.

“What has happened?” he asked, knowing what the news would be.

“It appears someone has killed one of the king’s servants. In addition, the king has formally announced he is preparing his defences and going to begin training men. He’s aware an attack is imminent.”

Lakin was stunned. This was a bold move for the king, and would work out perfectly. He now needed to twist things to his liking and then inform Brin of what is going on. This was just what he needed to turn her against her father.

“He must have good cause to be announcing he is preparing for war,” said Lakin, feigning surprise.

“Yes, but do you think this will affect our plans?”

“No, in fact this will help us greatly. With the king going to war, all eyes will be on the coming battle, not with the children. Everyone’s attention will be away from our doings. We will be able to steal the kingdom from under him.”

Vernia nodded, understanding how this would help Lakin, but

Inside, she was realizing just how far he was willing to go.

“Do you think that was wise?” asked Korben. They had started moving the townsfolk into the castle and he was worried the king’s speech may reach the ears of Baron Lychen.

“What else could I have done? He and the duke started this; I was just letting the people know.”

“The men who killed Robyn were not found. You don’t know they were sent with the baron’s knowledge.”

“It is most likely they were not, but it does not matter. He has joined with forces he does not understand, and it is going to be his downfall.”

Korben stared intently at the king. He had never heard him speak so vehemently, and it disturbed him. “I hope you have taken this course for your people, not because of Brin.”

“What if I am doing this because of her? What if she is the reason all this is happening, did you ever think of that!” yelled Jeremy.

Korben took a step back. “No, I didn’t think of that. I do think this is going to become more than a simple battle to put a baron and a duke back in their place.”

The king flopped down into a chair and surveyed the library. “So many stories of epic battles, wars which saved worlds, but what will be written of mine.”

“I don’t know, Jeremy,” said Korben softly, sitting next to him. “I never thought we would be involved in a political battle. I know we are all trained for the day we may be called to war, but we have been segregated from the rest of Melarandra for so long; I didn’t think my services would ever be needed.”

“There are many things you did not expect to happen,” came Meechie’s voice from behind.

Both men turned to see the old priest shuffling towards them.

“What do you mean?” asked Korben, motioning for him to sit next to him.

“Well,” he said, sitting down. “It seems we have a problem.”

Jeremy and Korben exchanged glances, and then looked back at the priest. “It appears you aren’t going to be able to maintain this facade anymore, Korben.”

Meechie looked into his eyes and saw he understood. “If the twins succeed, the spell which was cast on you will no longer be effective. I have researched it and everything I find points to this conclusion. Magic returning will be an over powering event. All illusions will cease to exist, and only truth will be seen. And it may be quite some time before it can be changed.”

Korben sat back in his chair and Jeremy gasped. “What will this do?” he asked.

Meechie looked hard at both men. “Duke Dubar would be able to claim you succeeded to the throne under false pretences, your highness. He could have you dethroned.”

After a few moments of silence, Korben spoke. “I wonder how close the twins are to their goal.”

“We cannot stop them. Their quest is for all of Melarandra. The failing of magic in our kingdom will eventually spread. We are just going to have to deal with this when it happens,” stated Jeremy.

“There is another option,” said Meechie. “I could remove the spell early.”

“How will that help?” asked Korben exasperated.

“The townsfolk love you both, they would understand. Maybe it will make it an easier transition and the baron’s claims may fall on deaf ears.”

“No,” snapped Jeremy. “I will not put Korben through that until we need to.”

“It is ultimately Korben’s decision.”

Both men looked to Korben. “I will have to think on this.”

“I understand, but remember we don’t know how much time we have.”

Meechie stood and left the room, leaving the pair with much to think about.

Korben excused himself from Jeremy’s presence, and headed to his room. Remove the spell early, or wait until magic returns? This was something he never thought he would have to contemplate. He had become accustomed to being the head of the Royal Guard. He learned more from studying in the Temple of Allorethna than he would have in any royal position. Nevertheless, the old priest was right. The duke would most likely use this against Jeremy. Elizanne was a proven witch now, and although she was older, her claim on the throne was no longer valid.

It was then his course of action became apparent. “There is only one thing I can do,” he whispered to himself, sadly.

Luthien approached the barracks in Sprague slowly. Spotting an old tree stump, he sat down and waited. Moments later, a soldier approached.

“Good evening Luthien,” he said.

“And to you as well, Marlon.”

“I was not expecting a summons from you,” said Marlon. “Has something occurred?”

Luthien smiled, and wondered in the good baron even realized he had Magima mixed within his ranks, never mind having a captain as one. “A stable boy was killed, and the baron’s men have been blamed. Lakin ordered it, so be prepared for when the news comes. The baron, most likely will receive the news by the morning. We predict you will receive your orders within a week.”

Marlon nodded, “I understand,” he stated, then turned and left. Luthien waited until he was out of sight, and then uttered the spell to take him back to Klayhern.

CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE

Dilmek was frustrated. He had been waiting for many days and still had seen no sign of his friends. Passing the time had been easy so far. Having to hunt for food in a forest, which appeared to be devoid of animal life, was keeping him occupied. Searching for a campsite had been just as difficult. He had wanted something he could easily defend if needed. It took a day, but he found a small alcove in the base of a cliff. It was large enough for him to be able to set a fire to cook food and no one would really notice the smoke. The opening was cleverly hidden from view by a large outcropping of bushes. They appeared to be dense, but in fact, it was overgrown. It was also away from the main road, but close enough he could check it regularly for his friends. At first, he had wondered if the cave had been a campsite for someone, but the webs inside told him no one had been here in a great while.

The waiting was starting to wear on him. Dilmek had hoped to see at least some sign of travel, which would hint as to where his friends might be. He was quite surprised that during the few days he had been in this area, he hadn’t seen a single person. Dilmek began to wonder if Vernia had sent him to the wrong area and was going to move on, but had changed his mind.

He woke this morning and noticed there were many boot prints in the mud near the road. It didn’t take Dilmek long to figure out who was making the prints. Within moments of his returning to his campsite, he spotted three soldiers slinking through the bush. He didn’t worry about his hiding place being found, but he did worry about his friends. It was obvious he was indeed in the right area, and these men were most likely here to find his friends. He spent the day watching the soldiers and quickly realized they were quite inexperienced. Their patrolling was so unorganized it made Dilmek snicker. Keeping hidden from their eyes wouldn’t be a problem. He just hoped his friends kept their guard up.

Another day passed, and still no sign of his friends. The soldier’s tracks had come close to his camp, but never entered it. Their job appeared to be to circle around the road to see if anyone had passed. It was too bad that every time the soldiers passed by, they trampled all signs of anyone else. On his way back to camp, after catching lunch, Dilmek noticed a different set of tracks. Whomever left this different set of boot prints was very light on their feet. He wouldn’t have even noticed them had he not dropped his knife. They went close to his camp, circled it, and moved off. Dilmek knew they weren’t from his friends, and they didn’t appear to be from any of the soldiers. Nevertheless, he decided to check out the soldiers’ camp. If they had someone he hadn’t seen working for them, it would explain the different boot prints. Any information would be found there.

He ate his dinner and waited for nightfall to come. Once the sun went down, Dilmek headed towards the camp. There were guards posted, but he had no trouble getting by them. Slowly he moved around the camp, getting a better idea of how many soldiers there were. He was glad to see there were only eight men in the camp. In total there were twelve soldiers, and with them being so inexperienced Dilmek knew he would have no trouble moving in closer. He crept around until he found an area where he could hide and still hear the soldiers’ conversation.

The soldiers were discussing the horrible conditions they were forced to work in, and the terrible food. Dilmek almost laughed. The men were eating fresh deer, with all the trimmings, and they found it vile. Quietly, he started to move more into the camp, but a shout made him turn and bolt back to the bushes where he had just been hiding. Within moments, the camp was in an uproar, and Dilmek wasn’t sure what was going on. His first thought was that his friends were sighted, but the thought was quickly pushed aside when one of the guards came into the camp, dragging a young woman. Dilmek quickly, and quietly, made his way closer to the men. The guard dragged the woman into the camp, and threw her down in front of the soldiers.

“I found this little tramp sneaking around the camp. I bet she’s the reason some of our food and supplies have been disappearing,” said the guard.

The girl stood up and held her head up in defiance. “If your duke didn’t starve his people than I wouldn’t have to steal from you.”

Her voice was deep and unusual for a girl so young. Every word pierced Dilmek’s skin. Her speech was common, but the way her words came out was anything but. Dilmek moved in closer to see her better and was stunned at her beauty. Her hair was such a deep black it appeared to have blue hues and her eyes were an unusual light green. She was breathtaking, for a human, and this was not lost on the soldiers.

“Well, she is a pretty thing, isn’t she boys,” commented one of the soldiers. “I bet we could have a bit of fun with her before we take her back to the city.”

All of the soldiers laughed, and their leering glances bothered Dilmek. He couldn’t allow such a beautiful creature to be harmed by these cutthroats. Although he wasn’t sure how he could help her escape without them finding out he had a camp close by, Dilmek was determined the woman wouldn’t be here long enough to come to harm.

Dilmek watched as a soldier put the young woman into a tent and let out a sigh of relief when he came back out. They posted a guard in front of the tent, but went about their business. Dilmek thought it odd seeing they were so interested in her a moment ago, but didn’t pause long enough to question it. It wouldn’t be long before they would again take interest in her so he needed to act quickly. He moved over to the tent, and drew his knife. Slowly and as quietly as possible, he cut a small opening into the back of the tent. They hadn’t left a lantern for her, so he had to wait a moment for his night vision to brighten the room before he entered. The young woman was sitting to his right, but was not huddled and crying. He had always thought human women to be weak, but should have realized she was different. There was an air of confidence around her, and although he couldn’t be positive, he had a feeling she had some type of magical ability. Slowly he pulled himself into the room. The woman turned to face him, but didn’t appear to be startled.

“I was wondering when you would show yourself, goblin,” she said. Again, it had an odd effect on him.

“Hows yous knowses?” he asked.

“I have seen you moving about the forest. I’m not as dumb as these soldiers,” she stated. “Will you be taking me to your camp?”

“Yeses,” he answered, realizing it was her footprints he had seen. “Ifs wantses.”

“That would please me greatly,” she responded, rising and moving towards the opening.

Dilmek pulled the tent open and they both crept through. Keeping a very slow pace, they both steadily moved through the camp. The young woman was in the lead, and it appeared she knew exactly which way she needed to go to get to his camp. Her steps were careful and precise and it was then Dilmek realized why the soldiers had called her a thief. Her movements were so fluid, it was clear thievery was her profession.

Once they cleared the guards posted their pace quickened. Getting to Dilmek’s camp was most important now. It was obvious the girl had been to his camp many times. It had taken her no time at all to find the best course to get them there.

They were both exhausted, emotionally and physically, from moving so quickly away from the soldiers. They hadn’t heard any alarm from the camp to show they were aware the girl was missing, but they still wanted to make good time back to the camp. He offered her water, which she gratefully accepted.

“My name is Maeve,” she stated between gulps. “Thank you for helping me.”

“I’s Dilmek. Youses welcomes,” replied Dilmek. “Youses bez safes tonights.”

“I know,” she said and the tone in her voice confused Dilmek. He was used to people showing nothing but distrust towards him, and her voice showed no signs of that. It was as if she trusted him completely without even knowing anything about him.

Maeve stood and moved over towards him. “You don’t need to be suspicious of me, goblin. I know your true nature and do truly trust you.”

Her voice was so calm and soothing it made Dilmek’s apprehensive feelings disappear, and he knew this was someone he could trust.

Not wanting to risk a fire, they had a cold supper. Maeve had indeed stolen food from the soldier camp, and had conveniently hidden it near Dilmek’s camp. It was becoming more apparent their meeting was more than a coincidence.

Their meal, although cold, consisted of breads, cheeses and some wine. Quite a feast for the goblin who had been living off berries, water and whatever animal he could trap. Of course, this was better than the food he was given during his captivity.

“You’ve been in the forest for quite some time, Dilmek. Why is that?” she asked, bringing him out of his reverie.

Her question, although valid, made him nervous. Although he knew he could trust Maeve, a part of him didn’t want to talk about it for fear of revealing too much.

“I’s waitings fors friendses,” he replied, hoping she would drop this line of questioning.

“You’re a part of a larger group,” she surmised, hoping he would continue for her. When he stayed silent, she continued. “I think your friends are the ones the soldiers are waiting for.”

“Don’ts knowses thatsss. Justs knowses theyses arez comings thisis wayses.”

Maeve moved closer to the goblin. He was uncomfortable with this closeness, but didn’t let it show. “You’re waiting for the twins to arrive to help them complete the prophecy.”

It was not a guess; her tone showed she knew this as fact.

Dilmek was asonished by her revelation. “Howses doz youses knowses thisis?”

“I have a magical ability, as I’m sure you have sensed. It allows me to see the truth behind one’s words. It makes life a lot easier for someone in my profession when you know whether or not someone is lying.”

“Whenses Izes speaks, yous seeses truths?”

“Yes, and to answer your next question, I knew exactly what those soldiers planned for me. It was a lot more than to just have fun with me. I was going to be taken to the castle and tortured until I admitted I had magical abilities.” She paused and saw the horrified look on Dilmek’s face. “They’ve been after me for some time. Apparently, they were told I may be hiding out in this forest and used it as an excuse to set up camp here. Their real purpose is to capture the twins.”

“Whenses lasts withs myz friendses, weses wereses justs withs princes.”

“You must not have seen them for quite some time. The twins are together, and according to the intelligence the soldiers are getting, they’re almost here.”

Dilmek had purposely tried to block his true thoughts from her, and had found a weakness in her abilities. Vernia had informed him there was a larger group now. It was clear if you knew about Maeve’s gift you could block it.

“There’s something you aren’t telling me,” she stated, somewhat annoyed. Never before had someone been able to hide things from her. “There’s a magic surrounding you, that’s not of your own design. Why is that?”

Dilmek did not answer right away, and it bothered her. She was so used to seeing the truth in everyone that being denied it was unnerving. Her first thought was someone had placed the spell on him to find her, but she quickly dismissed the thought. He may be hiding something, but it wasn’t something malevolent. Whatever it was, made him worry, and it centred around his friends.

“Perhaps this discussion is best kept for another day,” she announced, when it had become clear Dilmek wasn’t going to answer.

“Yeses, weses restses.”

Maeve agreed and they both settled down for the night. They heard no signs of pursuing soldiers and so neither one had any trouble falling asleep.

Vernia stepped away from the scrying device and sat down. The young woman was indeed of interest to her. Never had she seen someone with such a power. If Lakin ever found out about this girl, there was no telling what he could accomplish. The very idea of Lakin knowing her every thought frightened Vernia. She was going to have to keep a very close eye on this young lady. With any luck, she would move off tomorrow and Dilmek would again be on his own. She got up and made her way to Lakin’s rooms. He had ordered a report to be given immediately and Vernia didn’t want to keep him waiting. She knew Lakin wouldn’t be pleased the group had not yet reached Keenley, but she didn’t care. Her only concern right now was keeping Lakin from finding out about this girl. For some reason, Vernia knew this girl would spell the doom of all things on Melarandra if she fell into Lakin’s hands.

CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR

Koral was frustrated. Seeing the utter devastation in the dwarf town had bothered her, but the fact they were now travelling so slowly was making this trip unbearable. The longer they took, the greater chance they wouldn’t be able to find out what happened to the dwarves who were taken. The oddest thing was, it was the dwarves leading, and they had slowed down the pace. She was also annoyed with Glavlin. He and Gillock had decided that since people may be looking for elves, they should change their look. Now they just looked like thin, tall humans. No more angular features or pointy ears. She did not approve of this new look, especially on Glavlin.

Their first day travelling they had made unbelievable time. Grund was determined to get the missing dwarves back. This day, however, they had changed their pace. She had seen Gillock and Glavlin talking to them earlier that morning, and figured they must have said something. She did not understand why they would have the group slow. After brooding on it, she decided to ask Gillock about it. She quickened her pace to catch up to the wizard. “Why are we going so slow?” she asked the moment she had pulled in line with him.

“I was wondering when you were going to ask me about that. You appeared to be quite frustrated this morning.”

“So answer me then,” she snapped.

Koral’s forcefulness shocked Gillock. Everyday Koral appeared to be turning into someone else. “The elves have spotted soldier footprints, and they are only a day old. Someone is waiting for us.”

Koral felt foolish. It was obvious to her the dwarves wouldn’t have slowed down unless they had a good reason, but for some reason she couldn’t see it earlier. Instead of apologizing to Gillock, she turned her horse around and went back to her place in line.

Gillock sat in a state of awe. He was bothered by the princess’ attitude of late. Gillock had been certain Eric was going to be the problem on this quest, and he was the one who had actually been acting like royalty. Eric’s dealings with the goblins had amazed Gillock. He approached every situation with tact instead of his usual head strong and emotional ways. Something odd was happening with the twins, and Gillock wasn’t certain if it was going to help them or cause more problems. Shouts from ahead caused him to push the matter aside.

The group immediately stopped and everyone prepared for an attack. The elves moved into the bushes and out of sight. The dwarves moved to be behind Koral, Eric, Adora and the goblins. Gillock moved into the lead. They had practised this many times on their trip so far, but it still unnerved Eric and Koral to have to put it into practice. Both were aware any attack would be directed at them, not their companions, which is why everyone moved off. With the main attack aimed at the twins, no one would expect dwarves in the back to attack, or elves to come flying out of the trees.

Days of preparation and practice did not prepare them for what happened. They had expected an army to come crashing through the bushes. Instead, they got a beautiful young woman.

“Quickly!,” she shouted. “Dilmek needs you!”

Koral and Gillock just stared at the young woman. Eric and the goblins, on the other hand, began to move.

“Where is he?” asked Eric.

“Through the tree line. He’s fighting off four soldiers from Keenley. Be careful, prince. They’ve been expecting you.”

Her tone had gone from frantic, to composed and thoughtful in a moment. Gillock was intrigued by this but pushed it aside. “We must help your friend, Eric,” Gillock started to say, but Eric didn’t hear him, he and the goblins were already off.

Glavlin was also intrigued by the young woman, but moved off to follow Eric.

Koral was stunned no one had even questioned this woman as to how it was she knew Dilmek. This all may have been a trap for them, but everyone moved off without hesitation. As if sensing her thoughts, the young woman moved towards Koral. “My name is Maeve,” she stated. “Maybe it’s time you told the wizard everything.” Maeve did not wait for a response from the princess, instead moved off back into the forest.

Maeve slowly made her way back to the fighting. Her goal was to meet up with the prince and his goblins, but was stopped when a figure leapt from the trees.

“Who are you?” asked a fair haired, purple-eyed man.

“I am Maeve, a friend of the goblin Dilmek,” she responded. Her features changed and she reached for Glavlin’s face. “Why do you hide your true self? You really are quite a handsome elf.”

Glavlin was taken aback. No magic should have been able to penetrate his glamour disguise. “I do not know what you mean,” he answered.

Maeve smiled. “Don’t worry, no one in Keenley will see your true self. if you ever get there.”

The final remark was lost on Glavlin; he had already started to run away from the unusual girl. His ears told him which way the battle laid, but something else in the forest intrigued him. He had thought Koral would run off with Eric, but was surprised to see her slowly moving through the forest, around the fighting. His first instinct was to follow her, but he pushed the thought aside. Eric and his friends may need him.

He quickly made his way towards Eric, following the sounds of swords clashing. When he burst through the trees, a soldier quickly engaged him. The young woman had told them four soldiers were fighting with the goblin, but now there were eight. They were obviously not well trained, and the elf had no problem dispelling them. He went into the elven battle dance and easily killed three soldiers. Within moments, all of the soldiers lay dead, and Glavlin was happy to see his friends had only suffered minor injuries. He started to move off towards Eric and the goblins when something caught his eye. Koral was making her way among the dead soldiers, and had the most peculiar expression on her face.

“Are you alright princess?” he asked, but she ignored him and stopped in the middle of the bodies.

“Those who die here must be returned to the soil,” Koral yelled. Then she reached her arms over her head and began to glow. It was something Glavlin had seen before and within a breath, she was the silvery tree once again.

“You must find Gillock,” exclaimed Glavlin to Darly.

Darly nodded and sprinted off through the trees.

Within a few seconds of her moving off into the forest, the ground began to shake. Although they weren’t certain what was causing it, all assumed it had something to do with Koral changing. They quickly moved away from the tree, and found once they were a distance away the shaking did not affect them as much. It felt as if it would last forever, but a few minutes from when it started, the shaking suddenly stopped. The group looked at each other, and Glavlin decided to move back towards Koral. When he came back to the area where the fighting had occurred, an unusual sight greeted him. The bodies were gone and all signs of a small battle having taken place, erased. Where the ground had been trampled now lay wildflowers and the trees scarred by sword strikes no longer showed any signs of ever being hit. Koral, still as a tree, stood tall bathed in sunlight, unharmed.

Koral looked around, surveying her surroundings. She recognized where she was, and awaited the arrival of the Earth Mother. Moments later the area in front of her began to shimmer, and the Earth Mother stepped into the field.

“Hello again, princess,” came her voice.

“What is it you want of me?”

“So impatient, but no matter. You are again a tree in the waking world and your friends are worried about you. “

Koral just stared, not knowing what it was the Earth Mother wanted her to say.

“Your time here will be short. I have brought you here again to warn you. One in your company is spelled and reveals all to the Order. The traitor, which has plagued your company will be revealed soon. One of your company will cease to exist. Not all are destined to see this to its end.”

Koral was about to question the Earth Mother’s cryptic words when she felt the pull back to the waking world. As she slowly ascended, the dream she had about Eric swirled around her. He was running towards the door, surrounded by light, and she could not follow. The images changed to that of wizards fighting and the births she had seen before. One image in particular kept reappearing. It was that of a young wizard and judging by his surroundings, it was an image from long ago. At first she was confused by the image, since it kept appearing between all of the other images. Then it all changed, and the image kept continually repeating in front of her and finally she understood what it meant.

Gillock, Glavlin and Eric sat near Koral. It had been some time since she had transformed, and all thought she would have returned by now.

“I think she is coming out of it,” exclaimed Eric.

The tree again began to glow and Koral reappeared, dropping to the ground. She opened her eyes to see all her friends gathered about her. She moved her eyes from one face to the next, stopping on Gillock. “You are one of the first wizards, but not just any wizard. You knew of the prophecy, were on the island when it was foretold, and a part of my family since that day. What is it you are not telling me?”

Gillock knew with her powers growing quickly, so there was a chance she may figure out some things, but never this.

“There is a lot I have not told you, and I have no plans to reveal any of that information soon.”

Koral scowled, but realized she was just going to have to be patient. Remembering what the Earth Mother had said, she felt it was time for her and Gillock to talk in private. “There were things revealed to me by the Earth Mother,” she stated, getting to her feet. She again faced Gillock. “Things I think she wished to be shared with you.”

“You need to rest. Let’s move you to a pallet and we will talk there.” He took her arm and slowly they made their way to the area they had set up for her.

“How long this time?” she asked.

“Only a day.” Gillock carefully lowered her onto the blankets set out. “Now what is it the Earth Mother has told you?”

“She said someone in the company is spelled and giving information to the Order, and the traitor will be revealed soon. She also said not all of us will see the end of this journey.”

Gillock nodded. He had already been told by Dilmek about the spell on him, but he was not about to let Koral in on it quite yet. “Well, thank you for telling me. I will have to think on this information. I want you to rest now. We will be heading into Keenley in the morning.”

Once Gillock was certain Koral was asleep, he moved off towards Glavlin and Eric.

“What is happening to my sister?” questioned Eric.

Gillock sighed, and sat down, staring intently at the fire Eric had created. “I’m not certain,” he said after a moment. “Her powers are growing far more rapidly than I had anticipated. And if she continues to morph into a tree, it may get worse.”

Eric shook his head. “She is the strong one. I am the one which should be a hindrance to this quest.”

Glavlin gently placed his hand on Eric’s shoulder. “You and I have not been on this quest together for very long, but you are not a hindrance to it. You have proven your abilities, many times already. Do not sell yourself short.”

Gillock just nodded his agreement. Eric is whom he had figured would be a problem. It amazed him to see Eric had also worried about how he would handle the situations which arose.

“I will admit, your highness, my thoughts of you on this quest were also ones of worry,” stated Gillock. “But Glavlin is right. You have proven your worth. Just look at how well you deal with the goblins. Only one with your training and abilities would have been able to accomplish such a feat.”

Eric gave a weak smile. He appreciated the compliments and reassurances, especially from Gillock, but he wasn’t convinced they were accurate assessments.

“How is your friend?” asked Glavlin, figuring a change of subject was in order.

“He is well. Only minor cuts and bruises,” answered Eric. “What about his travelling companion? She is quite unusual.”

“Yes, she is, and I think we need to learn more about Maeve before we head into Keenley,” remarked Glavlin.

Gillock nodded his agreement but before he could make a suggestion, Eric was up and moving towards Dilmek, and his strange new companion.

CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE

Duke Dubar paced nervously. The Easterners ships were spotted on the horizon two days ago, yet not one had made any attempt to come into the harbour. He stopped his pacing, looked out the window, and caught his breath. One of the ships had finally moved in closer, and looked like it would dock within the hour. Sighing with immense relief, he set to find Captain Moore and Baron Lychen. Both would need to be present at the meeting.

The three men gathered in Dubar’s study. They had met with the Easterners here many times, and wished to keep them contained. They were to be allies in a war, but none of the men trusted them. There were four of them this time. They had only met with Changru, whom appeared to be a type of leader and Testra. The two new men in the group were introduced as Morleg and Boroten. Dubar, having met with the Easterners many times over the years, had no trouble with their accent. The deep, guttural sound they produced when trying to speak the king’s tongue was amusing, but no one laughed. The men were easily around seven feet tall, and built to be fighters.

Their dark tanned skin showed many scars, and Dubar could only assume they were from battles. There was a danger surrounding all of the men, and no one wanted to offend them.

“Thank you for coming. I hope your trip was not eventful,” stated Dubar. Changru smiled. His face so tanned it had taken on a leathery appearance. His smile was not one of humour. His teeth were brown, and it looked as if he was smiling to amuse Dubar.

“It be good.” He turned to his men and muttered something in their native tongue, and all four began to laugh. “Yes, it be good,” responded Testra.

Dubar turned to his associates, but did not get any help. “Well, that is good news. Now, shall we set about our business?”

“We come to say no help now.”

“What do you mean no help now?” inquired Lychen.

“Emperor says no help now. Needs to still get warriors. Will come within a year.”

Dubar’s face turned red. “A year! This is unacceptable! We assumed since we saw so many ships in the distance you had brought the men we required.”

“No,” stated Testra. “We go in two sunrises. Then come back with trained warriors. Emperor has said it so.”

Dubar collapsed into his chair. This was not what he had expected at all. “When you return, will the warriors be ready? We were hoping to train them in our fighting ways.”

“They will fight our way. You will win.” The statements made by the Easterners were so matter-of-factually none of the men could even voice their concerns.

Duke Dubar finally spoke. “Then return to your ships. We will see you within a year.”

The four men bowed, and then left the stunned duke, baron and captain to their thoughts.

Jeremy roamed through the castle. In the past few days, he had begun to realize how quiet it had become. Even with all the women, elderly and children now living within the castle walls, it was still strangely quiet. Robyn’s death still hung heavy over the entire town. Although he had betrayed them to Malena, he had still been a part of the castle. Jeremy sighed and quietly muttered. “My dear Robyn. Would you have helped her if you had known what kind of evil being she really was? And the goddess help me, for when she is released, many terrible things may happen.”

He paused outside of the door to the throne room. He knew inside Olrond and Korben were waiting. It was time to discuss his strategy. The only problem was he had not come up with one. With so many things occurring recently, he had not been able to keep his mind on the upcoming war. Taking a deep breath, he opened the door and moved towards the waiting men.

“We have news, your highness,” said Korben, and his voice had an almost cheery note to it. “Baron Lychen has pulled all but a handful of his men out of this area. They have all been called to Keenley.”

“Keenley? The only reason for making this move is if he is not so confident with an attack. He wants reinforcements.”

“That’s the conclusion we came to as well,” stated General Traug. “But the soldiers in Keenley are not very well trained. It will take them months to get themselves organized enough to attack.”

“This is indeed good news. We will have more than enough time to get things prepared. When they do attack, we shall be more than ready.”

“Although I am optimistic about this recent development, we cannot forget Lakin is up to something.”

Jeremy nodded to Olrond. “Yes, we must not take our eyes off of him.”

“I do not think he will be a problem. Not yet anyway,” said Korben. “He needs us to be distracted and with Lychen moving his men away, he is not going to be too happy.”

Olrond smiled. “Yes, he was expecting a war to begin. Now, he must wait and if the children succeed before the war starts, he may have trouble attacking us.”

Jeremy’s smile faded. “That is if we are organized enough. When the children succeed, a new threat may arise. We cannot forget about Malena.”

“It is a threat to worry about another time,” said Korben, his voice quiet. “She may not have the strength to fight us right away.”

Olrond nodded his agreement. “Let’s just set about fortifying the town. We have more than enough time to build a decent wall around the town now. I feel it should be our main focus.”

“I agree,” remarked Korben. “The men are already prepared; they just need time each day to keep up with their training. Building a wall would keep them occupied.”

“Do you have scouts following Lychen’s men?” asked Jeremy.

“Yes,” responded Korben. “I ordered them to follow as far as the river, then I will have scouts posted along the river to make sure they do not return. Early reports have a good chunk of the town of Sprague moving off to Keenley.”

“Well, at least the baron is taking responsibility for his town. For once,” remarked Jeremy.

Korben smiled. “Yes, quite out of character for the baron.”

Jeremy could not help but smile. Times may be bleak, but he was the king, and he was expected to be light-hearted. If the townsfolk saw he was worried, it would cause alarm.

“So what will be our next move?” asked Olrond. Jeremy sighed and sat down. “I am not sure. It is good news that the baron’s men are moving out, but with Lakin so close by, we still need to be prepared.”

Olrond nodded. “I agree, but this does give us some more time. We should continue preparing the men. I know we both have trained groups, but they are trained quite differently. It’s time we combined our knowledge and teach them a new way.”

“My lord, an entire patrol has gone missing,” stated Captain Moore. “We must assume the twins are in the city, or very close by. The patrol was scouting just outside the walls. No more than a day’s ride. An all-out alert must be issued.”

Dubar was tired. First, the problems with the easterners, who, although stated they would not be helping them earlier that day, were still in the city and causing many problems. Fortunately, they had picked up supplies and appear to be planning to stay aboard their ships. Now a patrol has gone missing and the twins may be in his city. Slowly he raised his eyes to meet the captain’s. “Fine, fine. Do what you must,” responded Dubar, waving his hand towards the door. Captain Moore quickly left to organize his troops. The entire town would need to be searched, and it was going to be a daunting task.

Within the hour, Captain Moore’s patrols were searching the city. Across town, a small group of travellers were entering the city gates. Moments after their crossing the alert came through. None of the guards thought it was worth hunting down all the small parties that had crossed throughout the day. A fortunate move for the twins and their companions. Only the goblins had remained outside the walls. The edge of the forest was an hour away, and perfect place for them to hide. Everyone felt they would be easily spotted and draw unwanted attention. Coming in throughout the day in small groups had been Maeve’s plan. She knew the city was going to be on alert as soon as the patrol did not return. Small groups coming and going were a common sight, and would most likely be overlooked when the searching began.

The twins were in awe of the city. On approach, they were stunned to see the fortified wall surrounding it. The sheer size of it made them realize just how much danger they were putting themselves in by entering the city. Gillock had thought it would be wise to move past the city and come back for the dwarves, but the ships in the harbour had changed his mind.

They looked as if they were preparing to leave, and with it not known where the kidnapped dwarves were, they could not take the chance.

Maeve had decided the groups would all rendezvous at an inn close to her home. It was easily found, and she had friends there who may help with their plan. Although most of the group were still on edge about the young woman, Gillock no longer suspected her of working for the enemy. In fact, he was quite happy when she agreed to travel with them beyond the city. Eric was concerned by Gillock’s sudden change in opinion, but Dilmek spoke highly of the girl, so he pushed his thoughts aside. Glavlin had also become at ease with Maeve, but kept his distance from her. Maeve could feel his eyes on her, but understood his trepidation. Most people reacted poorly once they found out her gift. This group did not, so when Gillock asked her to continue with them, she felt compelled to do so. The only person still unsure of the young woman was Adora. Gillock tried to calm her worries, but knew it would not work. Keenley was going to put Adora on edge and she would most likely remain this way until the twins were safely away.

Quickly and carefully, they eased themselves through the streets. Maeve made sure to take them on well-travelled roads, as to blend in. Someone moving through the alleyways would be stopped by guards.

“Is that the castle?” asked Eric, pointing to an object off in the distance.

“Yes,” replied Maeve. “Our destination won’t take us anywhere near it, so don’t worry.”

Eric just nodded. He had not been worried about being caught; the sight of the castle had just stunned him. This is where his family should have lived, and although he had a strong connection to this place, it felt cold.

“Father was right in not staying here,” said Koral. “This does not feel like a happy place.”

Gillock smiled. He was glad the twins saw the truth of the city and not the illusions. So many people they passed appeared to have everything. On closer look, their clothes were faded and torn, their shoes on the brink of falling off their feet. An order came down stating that everyone was to look their best in the presence of the Easterners, or be thrown into the dungeon until they left. Maeve informed them all that new laws like this were a daily occurrence.

They arrived at the Star Dancer moments after a patrol had left. One of Maeve’s friends, a young man who looked like a blind beggar, had informed the group as they approached a patrol was inside. They had slowed their pace, but not enough to look like they were avoiding anything, and made it inside without incident. The clientele of the Star Dancer were thieves and hired thugs, all of which were suspicious of the group when they came through the door. Maeve moved to the front of the group, announced they were all her friends, and that more were coming, and the mood changed. Maeve moved them over to a table near the hearth, and then went over to the barkeep.

“Yur hangin with odd folks these days,” stated Miles McLeowel, barkeep, and owner of the Star Dancer, as Maeve approached.

“These are odd times, Miles. Did anyone come in asking for me?”

“Aye, some dwarves. Told em that yur about and would make an appearance tonight more ‘n likely.”

Maeve smiled. Miles always knew when she was near, most likely a spell he had placed on her years ago when he had taken her in.

“Do you have rooms to spare for tonight?”

“Yup. Yur in luck, most of the rooms er empty tonight. Lotta folks in the dungeons fur not followin the law.”

The news saddened Maeve. Many of those folks were likely friends and fellow thieves. If they were discovered to be thieves, most wouldn’t be making it out of the dungeon. “Do you think a patrol will be back tonight?”

“Yur friends ‘r who they’re lookin fur?” he stated more than asked.

“Yes, they are. They’ll only be staying tonight. We hope to be out of the city by nightfall tomorrow, if all goes according to plan.”

Miles put down the glass he was filling. “Then we best be makin sure yur plan goes right.” He finished his sentence with a wink, and Maeve moved off to her new friends.

“He will get us the help we need,” she told them, pulling up a chair.

“You told him our plan?” Eric remarked, anger in his voice.

“No, I didn’t. He doesn’t need to know the details to help. Now, did you all order yet. I’m famished.”

Glavlin laughed, a musical and unusual sound, and it made a few people stop and stare. Then the rest of them joined in. So much tension in their lives, they had all needed this break.

Maeve waved over the barmaid and ordered for everyone, including the dwarves who had just come in. Grund spotted them, and moved over to the group. Moments later, Darly, Adora and Mekken entered. The group, which had commanded so much attention upon entering, were ignored. The others in the inn just went on about their business. The mood in the inn grew loud and boisterous. Laughter was heard from all corners. The members of the little band joined in. Talking about their homes and lives and the good times they had. Everyone careful as to not let out who they were or where they were from, not that anyone in the place would have cared. Although they all knew the mood would not last, they couldn’t help but enjoy themselves.

A minstrel, who Maeve informed them was also a thief, moved into the centre of the room and began to play. All were stunned for as he played images appeared above the room. Magic was quite apparent in his playing.

“All the Maget have been recalled to the tower, not that it would’ve stopped Jervin. His magic for some reason isn’t easily detected,” stated Maeve quietly to the group. Everyone sat back and stared at the minstrel. He was most definitely not who he appeared to be. The merriment went on until late into the night, with Miles having to order some people to leave. The group was shown their rooms, and they split up and said goodnight. Maeve told them that just after dawn they would be meeting back in the inn’s common room with some friends. Everyone grunted their acknowledgement, and immediately fell asleep.

CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX

Brin was in a foul mood. For weeks, she had been training in the lower levels, living like a common pupil in the bowels of the compound. Lakin had rarely even visited, and with her affection for him growing stronger each day, this was quite frustrating. She felt her room pathetic, and voiced this quite often to her teacher. Lakin was amazed at how accustomed to luxury she had become in her brief time at the Tower. Brin also hated that time moved differently. The fact she felt she had been down here for weeks, when in fact she had not, annoyed her even further.

Hiding in her room, she complained loudly to the walls, not aware they were listening. Lakin had to keep a close eye on the development of his queen to be. It amused him to hear her complain. Of course, this was all going as Lakin had planned. He felt he needed to change her routine, get her away from the rumours of her family. Maybe that would finally break her, and he was right. She was more loyal to him than he ever could have imagined. It brought a smile to his face. Her teacher was Vernia, who was an unwilling teacher at best. Brin was not very receptive to the idea either, but soon realized Vernia was a very powerful witch, and learned all she could from the woman. It took Brin three days to master what had taken Vernia almost six months. Vernia had always been able to sense the magic within Brin, and how powerful she was, but wasn’t aware of her strength until she began teaching her. This was a side effect Lakin didn’t anticipate, and Vernia didn’t reveal any information to him, other than what she felt he expected to hear.

She found it amusing he was so easy to figure out lately. His guard was down more often, especially when Brin was involved. He obviously had great plans for this girl. Vernia approached Brin’s room and heard the usual complaints coming from inside. She knocked loudly, to be heard over the constant yelling. Brin pulled open the door so hard that Vernia was shocked it didn’t come off its hinges.

“Why are you here?” Brin snapped. “I have no lessons today.”

“No, actually your training is complete, for now. Lakin has asked me to escort you to his study.”

Brin instantly broke into a grin, and skipped across her room to gather her things. “Thank the gods I do not have to stay in this horrible hole any longer.”

Vernia tried to hide her smile. Brin’s training had been finished for a few days now, but Lakin had made her sit down here, with nothing to do, for the entire time. Strict orders were given to not associate with Brin in any way. Another of Lakin’s plans which worked quite well. With no one to talk to, or give her any information of life outside the Tower, she became withdrawn, and only associated with Vernia and Lakin.

Lakin sat in his study, watching what was going on in Keenley in his mirror. The fools had relied too heavily on the Easterners help, and it was now quite apparent there would be no war. Not for some time, and time was something Lakin did not have enough of. He needed Jeremy and his soldiers, as well as Dubar and his men, to be occupied for his plan to work. If either one realized they were just pawns, and were going to be destroyed no matter the outcome of their war, they may join forces and come against him. Vernia had also reported the twins were indeed in Keenley. He had hoped they would bypass the city, and was disappointed when they went in. If Duke Dubar and his men were to capture the twins, they may ruin all of his plans. He had at first thought to send word to hold them. Perhaps to delay the twins long enough for the war to start. Lakin chuckled to himself. Dubar was too intent on becoming king. He would most likely use them to get Jeremy to give up the throne, therefore moving the war back even more. Lakin could not delay. War or not, his plans needed to move forward.

He had to be ready for when the void came down. Brin followed Vernia up to Lakin’s study, without saying a word. When they arrived, he was seated in his chair, and appeared to be in deep thought.

“I am glad you feel my training is finished, for now. What is next for us?”

Lakin turned his head and focused on Brin. It was a bold question, and he had to make sure he answered properly. “There still is much to be done. Queen Malena appears to be testing the Void. We must make sure she can’t break through. If she can contact anyone on the outside, she may send them after us.”

Brin frowned. “I do not see how she is any threat. She lives in the Void and even if she can talk to someone we are well fortified. It would be quite difficult for her to get in and find us.”

Vernia nearly gasped, but caught herself. Was it possible Lakin had figured out she and Malena were working against him?

Lakin smiled. “And what if she was able to enter the mind of someone in this facility? There are strong magical wards in place, but they will need to be maintained. So far, only Vernia and I have the power to check them. I am now placing the responsibility onto you. Bind yourself to the wards which are in place, and you will be in contact with everyone’s magical energy. Should you feel Malena is trying to contact someone, inform me immediately. There are special wards around my study. Do not worry about what you sense in them. I am constantly using my powers, and it may interfere.”

Brin smiled. Being in touch with everyone’s powers would take a strong and disciplined mind. It was a great honour being given to her, and she didn’t want to disappoint Lakin.

“You may move all your things back into our quarters. I have missed you,” he said with a leer. “Oh and I have news of your family. Your mother is still missing, and your brother and sister appear to be moving closer to their goal. We must ensure our goals are met. It’s the only way to save everyone.”

Brin smiled, and moved towards Lakin’s desk, sitting on the edge of it she leaned towards him. “Then we must make sure it is done.”

Malena stared up at the walls of the school. She remembered back to her youth, when she was positive it existed. It had become her obsession, and ultimately was one of the things which lead to her banishment. Had she not become so enthralled with finding it, she never would have summoned help from evil sources. “Mordekai, may I speak with you?” she said to the walls. Shouting was not necessary. The walls were spelled, and Mordekai knew what was going on near them. He had known for quite some time she had been standing there.

“If you have come to inform me of Lakin’s plans, I am already aware,” came his voice from the wall.

“How did you know?” she asked, confused.

“Because Lakin has had this plan in mind since the school was moved into the Void.”

Malena was now even more confused. “Since the school was moved! How is that possible? Only Gillock knew it still existed.”

Mordekai appeared from the wall. “Lakin knows because he was one of the main reasons Gillock and I moved it here.”

Understanding suddenly showed in her eyes. “He was alive during the war.”

“Not only was he alive, he was the one who started it. It was he who thought wizards should rule, not kings. When he started to draw in followers, we decided we needed to intervene. We were too late, and the war began.”

Malena was mortified. “Kinsley! You are saying Lakin is really Kinsley? He and all his followers were destroyed. I was taught it was the king of the time’s decision to banish the school.”

Mordekai shook his head. “No, Kinsley’s followers were destroyed, he was not. I have felt him and it was only recently I realized he had become Lakin. Gillock thought he had destroyed him, and seeing as I could not pinpoint where he was, I felt it best to not let anyone know he was still alive.”

“But how did he hide for so long?”

“He took over the body of a young wizard and made himself the leader of the Maget. Since he had the king’s ear, it was easy for him to start destroying magical beings. He needed their power to hide from my sight. When one possessing magic is killed, their powers are sent into the Void. I have a special stone to catch and hold this power. Gillock and I created the stone for we knew one-day magic may cease to exist and would need to be returned. This stone interrupts my magical sight, and Lakin was easily able to hide because of it. If the twins do not succeed, the power will be released and will be uncontrollable for some time. If Lakin can gather it, he will be able to enter the school, and I won’t be able to stop him.”

Malena’s face dropped. She knew Lakin’s power had grown, and with Brin at his side, they would be unstoppable. “Is there nothing I can do?” she asked softly.

Mordekai smiled. “Why this change of heart?”

Malena stared at him. “I will still have my revenge for being banished here, mark my words, but I will not allow Lakin to control all of Melarandra. And now I know he was really Kinsley, I can imagine what kind of world he wants it to be.”

Mordekai smiled again. “Your banishment is almost at an end. When the barrier comes down, expect Lakin to attack. Just be ready.” He turned and moved back inside. Malena stood for a few moments longer, taking in all she had learned. A faint call brought her out of her reverie. It was her mirror, so she quickly moved off back to her castle.

Morning came quicker than the group had hoped. It had been a long time since any of them had slept in a comfortable bed, and no one was in a hurry to wake up. Slowly the group converged on the common room. Maeve was already there, speaking with Miles. Koral and Eric scanned the room. There was a small group of people seated around a table near the fireplace. Koral studied their faces, and was certain she had seen them before. She noticed Gillock and Glavlin seated off in a corner, studying the group as well. Maeve, who was sitting at the bar, moved to follow the twins.

“You needn’t fear that group. They are my friends,” Maeve said as she a sat down next to Eric.

“I recognize most of them. We passed them in the streets on our way here,” remarked Glavlin.

“Yes, we did. They are the best thieves in Keenley, and were watching us closely. The only reason you all weren’t parted from your coins was because I gave them a signal to keep away.”

Koral looked appalled, and Gillock could not help but laugh.

“I do not see what is so amusing,” she spat.

“No,” he said, lowering his head, “you wouldn’t. You don’t understand how a city this large works.”

Koral quickly regretted getting so angry. “You are right. I have read about cities, and I am sure it is quite normal for ones this size to have a thriving thieves guild. This is just very overwhelming.”

It was Maeve’s turn to laugh. “Yes, cities this size do have a thieves guild, but that’s not all these people are good at.” She then did a high whistle, and her friends stood up and moved over to their table. As they were pulling up chairs, the dwarves came in the front door and moved to join them.

“What information do you have for us?” asked Gillock. The question aimed at Maeve’s friends.

“There are prisoners on the Eastern ship in the harbour,” said a young girl. “We haven’t been able to get a close look, but we are positive it must be the dwarves you’re seeking.”

“They are also planning to leave within the next day,” added an old man.

“That soon,” stammered Eric. “How will we ever get them?”

Maeve smiled. “We already have things set into motion, Eric. By the end of the day we should have your dwarf friends.”

“And what will you need us to do?” asked Glavlin.

“All of us will be making the trip to the harbour, but most of you will be used for distraction purposes. We don’t have a lot of time, so if you are capable of following my lead, I will explain on the way,” responded Maeve.

Koral was about to protest, but a look from her brother stopped the words from coming forth.

“We will follow you,” stated Eric, and the others quickly agreed.

They left the inn in small groups, each going in a different direction to make sure they did not draw attention to themselves. The last group to leave consisted of Maeve, Eric, Koral and Gillock. Darly and Mekken were out scouting the area and showed up in time to join the last group. Adora, who had been keeping to herself on the other side of the common room, crept out behind them.

CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN

Moving slowly, so they did not draw attention to themselves, the groups made their way to the docks. Darly and Mekken were slightly ahead of their group, mainly to give signals once they had located guard positions. As they neared the docks, Maeve became concerned. No guards save the usual dockmen were anywhere to be seen. She moved closer to Gillock, who was viewing some rather colourful fabrics.

“I think something is wrong here,” she whispered to Gillock. “If Duke Dubar was aware of the dwarf prisoners, he would have guards here. I’m thinking Easterners sacking villages wasn’t part of their agreement.”

Gillock motioned for the others to move closer. “It would appear the Easterners have a goal which is not the same as the duke’s. They are taking slaves, and are doing it without the duke’s consent. We must proceed with great care. I don’t know what they are up to, but something is not right here.”

Suddenly a huge commotion erupted in an adjacent street, and most people moved off. “That’ll be our cue to move,” said Maeve.

Quickly they headed for the docks. Even the Easterners who had been on the dock had moved off to see what was going on. Eric tried to strain to see what was going on, but to no avail.

“You can ask what happened later,” came Koral’s voice from behind. “Right now, we have dwarves to save.”

They had no trouble getting onto the ship and finding where they were holding the dwarves was easy. The door to the hold, however, was bolted shut with an iron rod so thick it took all of their strength to move it. Quickly they moved the prisoners out and onto the dock, all without incident. Something did not sit right with any of the companions. Not wanting to press their luck, the group moved back to the street in which they had come. They moved quickly down the street, wanting to move fast but trying to make certain they did not draw attention to themselves. At a convergence of two streets sat a large courtyard, and waiting in courtyard was thirty armed soldiers. As soon as they had seen the soldiers, they knew they had been spotted as well.

Scattering, they quickly moved into open stores, barricading themselves inside. Maeve, Eric, Koral and most of the saved dwarves were in a bakery.

“I know this place. There is a safety hold in the floor,” said

Maeve. Quickly Eric helped her move a table and rug to reveal the trap door. They moved the dwarves into it. All three moved back towards the window, expecting to see the soldiers setting up to break down the door. The soldiers, however, were making no such move. They had re-positioned themselves to face the stores, but otherwise had done nothing. The reason for that became apparent a moment later.

Captain Jacob Moore slowly made his way to the front of the soldier’s line. Although most people in Keenley loved the captain, Maeve and her friends, having suffered in the dungeons under his protection, hated him. His vile nature became quite apparent when he was questioning any poor thief who had been captured.

“Prince Eric. Princess Koral,” said a booming voice. “You are hereby under arrest for being peoples who possess magical abilities. Under the law, you will be placed in the dungeon here at Keenley until you are tested by a Magima. Should you fail the test, you will be escorted to Maget Tower to be dealt with accordingly. If you come out now and turn yourselves in, I will spare your companions. If not, I will be forced to enter the bakery, and I do not want to destroy property in order to obtain you. I will give you five minutes to decide.”

A gasp was heard from the crowd of spectators that had formed behind the soldiers. The prince and princess were here, and going to be arrested. Some shouted to break down the door of the bakery, but more still muttered at how they couldn’t believe it was true. One person in the crowd’s face had paled with the announcement. Adora had kept away from the action but now had moved to stand just to the side of the square. She was halfway between the store and Captain Moore, and was forming a plan of her own.

Koral and Eric looked at each other. “We cannot fail in our task, but we also cannot let harm come to anyone,” said Koral quietly. “What are we to do?”

Eric started to answer, but Maeve cut him off. “You must finish your quest. The entire world is depending on the two of you. You can’t be taken.”

Again Koral and Eric looked at each other, but before either could speak, a commotion from outside brought them back to the window. It was Adora.

“You will not have them, captain. I will not allow it,” she yelled, moving herself to be between the captain and the store.

Captain Moore laughed. “And who are you to be making such a demand?” he asked.

Adora raised her arms and began chanting. Slowly the air began to feel charged, and the hairs on everyone’s arm tingled with the magic flowing. Adora began to float just off the ground, her body glowing lightly. No one was even able to take a breath, when suddenly before them stood Queen Elizanne.

The soldiers started to kneel, but Captain Moore stopped them with a wave of his hand. “You dare come here and show magic then expect us to obey your orders? Seize the queen! She is under arrest.”

Koral and Eric were stunned, which quickly changed to horror. “NO,” they both hollered when the captain had ordered her arrested. At the same time, the trap door in the floor opened, and Gillock appeared. “Come with me. There is a tunnel and we must escape.”

Neither twin moved. “We have to stop them,” said Eric, anger in his voice. “We cannot let them take her.”

Gillock placed his hand on Eric’s shoulder. “She did this to save the two of you. Your mother knows how important this quest is, and they will not harm her. We must leave.”

Slowly, the twins and Maeve followed Gillock, moving safely away from Captain Moore and their mother.

Moments later, the door of the bakery flew off its hinges. Soldiers poured in, but found nothing. Gillock had blocked the trapdoor from view, so none of the soldiers ever found the tunnel. Gossip later spread through the city stating the queen most likely used magic to whisk them all away.

The groups all met back up at the Star Dancer. Although there was a joyous reunion between the rescued dwarves, Grund and Drundle, it didn’t last. Gillock quickly informed everyone what had transpired. They knew the twins and their friends were going to have to be moved out of the city, so everyone packed their belongings. The thieves in Keenley were more than willing to show them tunnels which led out of the city. Most likely, due to the revelation they were the prince and princess, and wanted themselves.

The moving was slow, for the tunnel they were using had collapsed portions from years of neglect. Eric commented on the condition of the tunnel, worried it would be blocked at the end. Maeve was quick to respond, informing the group it was the route she had recently used when she had escaped the city. After hours of navigating the dark tunnel, the group found themselves just north of the city. Grund and Drundle lead the rescued dwarves towards Tress, promising to be back by morning. The goblins, having sensed Eric was near, found their companions within an hour after they emerged from the tunnel.

They camped that night, knowing the soldiers would be looking for them in the city. It was a sombre affair, with no one wanting to speak. Koral and Eric, still stunned from the ordeal, ate their meals in silence, then turned in for the night. Gillock and Glavlin were both worried. The confidence which the twins had shown appeared to be deteriorating, and it was something they could not afford to have happen.

CHAPTER TWENTY-EIGHT

Lakin re-read the message he had received from Duke Dubar, and was in shock. Two days earlier, they had captured the queen. Koral and Eric were spotted, but escaped. (this brought a sigh of relief) And of course, the usual demand he be made king. Leaning back in his chair, he stroked his chin. It didn’t matter that Dubar had the queen. What mattered was the prince and princess had escaped. He could just imagine what would have happened if the bumbling idiot of a duke had actually captured them. Lakin sighed, and wondered what should his next move be? He couldn’t make the duke king. That was never part of the plan. The only good he had seen from the duke was to create chaos in the Central Lands, taking his eyes, as well as others, off the prophecy being fulfilled. Smiling, he sat back and composed his reply.

“The Easterners ships are no longer in sight, my lord,” said Sol.

The duke raised his head and looked at the page. “Good. Please send for Captain Moore. Tell him I wish to speak to him at once.”

Sol bowed and left to find the captain.

Duke Dubar was devastated. He, as well as Baron Lychen and Captain Moore, had figured the Easterners were under their control. The events of two days ago showed they had seriously underestimated their companions. They had shown up in his audience chamber that morning, telling him they had heard a rumour royalty was in the city and were going to be boarding their ship. When Dubar had asked them why they felt this would happen, they fully admitted they had ransacked a small village and taken captives to be sold as slaves. Duke Dubar was appalled by this, and had stated that fact. The Easterners response was to laugh, and suggest a trap be set. They then left to finish loading their ships, for they were preparing to leave that evening. Not even one word came from them when their captives were taken, and the trap sprung. The duke had nearly fainted when he was informed the prince and princess were the ones who had boarded the ships, but had escaped. He was pleasantly surprised, though, when Captain Moore had shown up with the queen in tow.

Immediately he had ordered sweeps be done of the city, but when no sign of them had been found come morning he had called off the search.

“You wished to speak with me?” asked Captain Moore.

Duke Dubar looked up from the papers he had been reading. A strange glint was in his eye.

“Do you know what these documents are?” he asked the captain.

“No, I don’t. If you only brought me here to ask ridiculous questions, then I’m going to take my leave. I do have a prisoner to interrogate.”

The duke smiled. He knew how much joy the captain got from his dealings with prisoners, and figured the queen would hold even more joy for him. “These papers state that in the event one of royal blood is proven to have magical abilities, then they lose their title and all which goes with it.”

Jacob became even more upset. “It wasn’t the king who has these abilities, it’s the queen. She may lose her title, but Jeremy is still ruler of the Central Lands.”

“Yes, this is true. Unless his wife comes forward and claims he has abilities as well. Should that happen, then an inquiry will come about. Even when it is proven he does not have abilities, the people will never believe he was unaware his wife and children all possessed these abilities. He is done!”

Captain Moore smiled. “If a confession is what you are wanting, then I must get back to my prisoner. The sooner she makes that statement, the better it looks for us.”

Elizanne was in poor shape. After her capture, the captain paraded her through the streets leading to the castle. Rotten vegetables and fruit were thrown at her the entire walk, which left the queen disheartened. She didn’t expect the inhabitants of Keenley to come to her aid, but she didn’t think this kind of hatred would have been present. Had the queen been able to lift her head, she would have seen the looks in the people’s eyes. Very few were doing this out of hatred. The rotten food was given to them by the soldiers, and all ordered to toss it at the queen. Punishment if the order was disobeyed, was death.

Once arriving at the castle, their route changed. Elizanne was blindfolded, and moved through a courtyard, then what sounded like a stone door opened. Unfamiliar stale smells assaulted her, and it was then Elizanne became afraid. They travelled down many flights of stairs, and then another door opened. Blindfold removed, she was thrown in a small cell, and whipped until she lost consciousness. For the last two days, this had been her horror. Whipped until unconscious, then woken up hours later and have it done all over again. This last time, however, was worse. Salt was applied to the new wounds and when she collapsed, Captain Moore only let her stay this way for a few minutes before forcing her to stay awake the rest of the night, constantly throwing water on her if she should nod off. Finally, in the early hours of the morning, he had taken her to the Room.

The Room doesn’t look very spectacular, but the moment you enter a feeling of dread overwhelms you. In the middle of the room sits a chair below a hole in the wall, which at certain times of day, casts light on it. When you’re seated in this chair, and the light shines on you, everything else is blocked out. Elizanne knew something wasn’t right the moment she sat in the chair, and strapped down. The hairs on the back of her neck stood up and a chill passed over her.

“My dear queen, are you comfortable?” asked Jacob in a sugary voice.

She did not answer, which didn’t surprise him.

“I am certain by now you have noticed an odd sense in this room. Perhaps you had a chill pass over you? Well, you should know this room has been around since before the Wizards War. Many people were interrogated by wizards, sitting in that very chair. The magic from blood spilled from those who possessed magic cover this entire room. In essence, the life force of so many wronged make up this room.”

The chill returned, and Elizanne knew he was not lying. It was if the people who had been tortured before had left a part of themselves in the room.

The captain smiled at Elizanne. He leaned towards her and got so close she could smell the sweat on his skin. “When I am through with you, there is nothing you will not admit to,” he whispered in her ear.

“We shall see about that, Captain Moore,” she replied and he was amazed at the defiance in her voice. He had thought her to be broken already. Jacob had seen the look in her eyes as she was being paraded through the streets, and had assumed her spirit had been diminished. The whipping and being denied sleep, he had thought would have finished the job. It never took him more than three days to get people talking. It was his gift.

Unsure as to how he should proceed, he regained his composure and left the queen alone in the room. Soon the sun would be up, and beating down on her through the slit in the wall. Guards came into the room and were told she was not to be fed or allowed to fall asleep. Elizanne took in a deep breath and awaited her fate.

The duke poured himself a drink, and sat at his desk. He was expecting Lakin to reply to his message at any time. “He cannot deny me the crown now,” he muttered to himself, smiling and slowly sipping his drink. Of course, his message had all but demanded he be made king.

Selwell felt that perhaps he hadn’t been clear enough with his previous letters and this was why the Tower had not seen fit to crown him.

A knock on his door brought him out of his reverie. “Enter.”

Sol entered and handed him a note. “This just came in from the Tower, my lord.”

Smiling, the duke took the message. “Thank you,” he replied, and when he noticed the page still there added, “you are excused.”

Sol tried to hide his disappointment. “As you wish, my lord,” he said, bowing and left the room, conveniently leaving the door ajar.

Selwell slowly sat back in his chair, staring at the folded paper. For some reason the moment the page had handed it to him, a sense of trepidation had crept over him. He sighed deeply, confused as to why he was taking so long to open it. When the doubt started to subside, he opened the letter.

Dearest Duke Dubar,

Wonderful news to hear you have captured Queen Elizanne, and after she had shown herself to possess magic. Although I am certain you are going to attempt to get her to confess to other, shall we say, indiscretions, I demand you cease all attempts immediately!

I hereby order you to make an example out of her. Place her in a cage and hang it from a post positioned in front of the castle. Keep it high enough so people are unable to rescue her, but where the townsfolk are able to see her rotting. Give them stones, rotten fruit and pointed sticks to throw at her. Make sure she remains in that cage until long after she has died. Let her corpse send a message!

As for the Prince and Princess, I am sure you are doing all you can to find them. Please keep me informed.

Sincerely yours,

Lord Lakin

Selwell was stunned. Nothing written about giving him the crown, the strange order to cease getting a confession from her and then the way she was to be dealt with. It was fitting, but not without a confession. They needed it to make it a legal punishment, but nothing shocked him more than how it was signed. Lord Lakin. The signature alone spoke a thousand words. Although it was a fitting title, given how much control he had over the Central Lands, never had Lakin used it. The duke was suddenly frightened. Had he overstepped by demanding to be made king? Was this Lakin’s way of letting him know? Too many thoughts flitted through his mind, and none of them were pleasant.

“Bad news my lord?” asked Sol.

The duke looked up at the page. “Where is Captain Moore?”

“Last I saw him; he was in the courtyard training with a few of his men.”

“Please ask him to attend to me as soon as he is able.”

Sol bowed, “Of course, my lord.” Upon leaving the study, he couldn’t help but wonder if the expression he saw on the duke’s face was a good sign, or horrible one.

Arriving at the courtyard Sol heard the grunts of the captain. There in the middle, he stood alone. Moving through his exercises, he looked at peace. Spotting the page, he stopped. “Do you require something, page?” he asked with a sneer.

“Duke Dubar wishes for you to attend him in his study as soon as you are able to, captain,” responded Sol, his voice showing no sign of being intimidated.

“Fine. Tell him once I am cleaned up I will be there.”

Sol nodded and left. On his way back to the duke’s study, he couldn’t help but notice the similarities in the moods of both the duke and the captain. Something very wrong was going on in the castle, and he wasn’t sure if he wanted to be around when it all came to a head.

Just over an hour later, Jacob entered the duke’s study. The first think he noticed was the haggard look on Dubar’s face. “Is something the matter?” he asked, sitting himself down.

Before the duke could answer, two guards burst into the room. Jacob jumped to his feet, for they were the two he had set to watch Elizanne.

“My Lord, the Queen is gone!”

CHAPTER TWENTY-NINE

A poor night’s sleep and an early cold morning meal had Koral and Eric in a foul mood. They had been devastated after watching their mother be taken away, but that had turned into anger. The rest of their group was not fairing much better. They had to leave the area, and quickly. Soldiers were certain to start doing regular searches of the surrounding forest in hopes of capturing them, but Eric and Koral had refused.

“We have to save her,” yelled Koral. She and Eric had been arguing all morning with the rest of the group.

“You must see this quest through, then we will focus on your mother,” was Gillock’s calm reply.

Grund, however, had heard enough. “Ye be willin’ to destroy yur world fer this?” he asked, his gruff voice sounding deeper and menacing.

Eric started to reply, when the goblins came up and stopped him. “Wez not gos homes. Wez gives ups alls forz youses,” said Nak, is voice full of emotion. “Yous fails, wez dies”

“As do we,” stated Glavlin.

Eric glanced around at all the faces staring at him, and finally saw things in perspective. “They are right, Koral. We cannot be selfish in this. Too many could die.”

Koral, having come to the same conclusion, hung her head in shame. “I am truly sorry,” she said quietly. Looking up at those regarding her, they saw the tears.

Gillock reached out and took her hands. “We are close to finishing this task. Where we need to be is a less than a week away.”

Koral nodded. “Then we should be on our way.”

Maeve, having remained back so as to not interrupt the confrontation, moved forward. “There are soldier barracks to the west of us. Unfortunately, we have to pass near them to get to Deaths Boundary. My contacts have said most of the soldiers have been on training patrols even further west and north. If we are lucky, there won’t be many around to worry about.”

“We will be moving through the forest, but following the same direction as the road,” stated Darly. “Leaving the horses behind will make it easier to keep our trail hidden.”

“The moving will be quick, where permitted,” added Mekken. “Everyone is going to have to maintain my pace. Once we are past the barracks there should be less trouble.”

Everyone agreed. Mekken and Darly took the lead as scouts, followed by Maeve and Glavlin. The goblins and Gillock surrounded Eric and Koral, with Grund and Drundle bringing up the rear.

Soon they were in the forest, following an over grown game trail. It was obvious some time had passed since it was used, and it amazed Eric that the elves eyesight was so keen. He only noticed the start of the trail when pointed out to him. Grund, being one of the few dwarves who liked being outside, marvelled at the forest. Drundle smiled at the look of amazement on his face. The forest was thick and old. The trunks of some trees were so massive if three people stood fingers touching on one hand, they would barely find the other.

Although Koral and Eric were in awe of the massive trees, the goblins appeared at home. Birds and animals chirped, flitting from branch to branch in the trees, but were never seen. The foliage was so thick the sun came in only through holes, or where younger trees dwelled.

Within an hour, they had arrived at the edge of the barracks. It was a massive compound, which stunned everyone except Gillock and Maeve. A stonewall surrounding it gave the appearance of a town. Buildings peeking over the top, and watchtowers at varying intervals along the wall made you realize it was more than a town.

“This must house hundreds of soldiers,” exclaimed Glavlin.

“It can hold thousands,” was Maeve’s curt reply. “And we better keep moving.”

Slowly they crept around the edge of the compound, hoping they would not encounter any patrols. Everyone was on edge, and every sound appeared exaggerated. For half an hour, they skirted the barrack wall, and finally the end came into view.

“This is a massive compound,” remarked Eric. “If the Maget ever decided to attack, the Central Lands could be in great danger!” No one replied for they all had been thinking the same.

They turned southward and continued away from the compound. After a bit of travel, an outcropping of rocks came into view, with a path leading down to the left.

“Perfect spot fer a trap,” commented Drundle.

Glavlin apparently had the same idea, for he had brought the group to a halt. The goblins tightened ranks around Eric and Koral, and Gillock moved forward to converse with the elf. After several minutes, the travellers started to become nervous. It was clear a trap awaited them. The forest was silent, and this was the only way to go. The quiet was unnerving.

“We must fight. We have no choice,” whispered Gillock to the elf. “This begins the trail which will lead us to the path that will take us to the entrance to Deaths Boundary.”

“Maybe it is time we used magic,” stated Eric, coming up quietly on the two.

“Yes, perhaps you are right,” replied Gillock.

“They are down about thirty feet. Probably wondering why we have stopped,” said Darly. “If we are going to make them believe we are not aware of the trap we need to move now.”

Everyone agreed, and they began to make their way down the trail. It only took a few moments and then they were under attack. Soldiers swarmed all around them. They were outnumbered, but only by a few.

Eric and Koral had never killed before, but both knew the day would come. They danced around, fighting with all they had but trying to disarm and injure instead of kill, but to no avail. One soldier, trying to sneak up behind Maeve, jumped to the side, and onto Koral’s blade. Koral watched his look of shock fade from his face as he died. She had always worried how she would react and was quite surprised it didn’t bother her as much as she had thought it would. Quickly forgetting the soldier, she turned to face a new foe.

Eric, after killing two soldiers, was getting nowhere with the third. He decided a new approach was needed. Calling upon his magic, he set his sword on fire. It was not a real burning fire, but more of an illusion. The soldier was instantly thrown off his game, and Eric quickly took advantage. The soldiers were defeated in a matter of minutes, the elves taking out the majority. Eric and Koral had been enthralled by the beauty which was the elves fighting technique.

The group slowly gathered their things from where they had thrown and set to continue on. They passed through the bodies and before anyone could react one of the bodies jumped up and slashed Mekken across the chest. Darly was instantly on the soldier, cutting him down. She turned to her brother, figuring the worst, to find him standing and smiling. Then she noticed the slash. Deep and clearly a death blow, but it was bleeding black. Mekken began to laugh, and all of them knew now who their betrayer had been. Before anyone could attack, he turned into a wisp of black and disappeared.

Darly sank to the ground. “How long has my brother been dead?” she asked no one in particular.

Maeve moved beside her, kneeling down. “Many weeks would be my guess.”

Darly just shook her head and let the tears fall. Moments later, she regained her composure. “Let us be off. We are nearing the end of our quest.”

The goblins stood off to the side, taking it all in. Nak felt guilty. He should have known Malena would have sent a demon to find him. The rest of the group did not realize it, but Nak was the key to getting them into the Void. Gillock being the exception.

“Yes, let us get this over with,” said Koral. All agreed and then headed off down the trail. It was slow going, and no one spoke until they made camp that night.

The evening was spent in almost silence, only a few words spoken by anyone. It wasn’t long until everyone decided to settle in for the night. Having a cold supper, and heavy hearts for the loss of Mekken, had made everyone sombre. The night was warm, and by morning was quite humid. Clouds had rolled in and threatened to rain. By the time they had packed up camp, it had started to come down as a drizzle. Walking was slow going as they were still going through rocky passes. The rain had started to come down a bit harder, making the path muddy and slick.

For two days, they walked through the rain, barely a word spoken. Luckily for the group, the trees being large, gave them protection from most of it. When they stopped for the afternoon meal, the rain had begun to lighten again.

“Tomorrow we will not be stopping to make camp until we reach the end of the forest,” announced Gillock. The rain had slowed their progress and time was something they did not have.

“End of the forest?” Eric asked.

It was Maeve, who answered. “Deaths Boundary is in a desert. We must travel for two days through the Salmany Desert, and then we will come upon an odd rock formation. It was created to keep unwanted creatures to the south.”

Gillock was again surprised by the young woman and was going to comment when an overwhelming sense of dread over took him. “I must leave!” he stated then disappeared.

The entire group was stunned, and stared at where Gillock had just been. How were they going to continue without the wizard?

“Wez inz troublez,” said Mork.

“No, Mork. The wizard will return,” declared Maeve, her voice calm. “We must continue as planned. Time isn’t on our side.”

“Maeve is right,” remarked Glavlin. “Gillock must have an important reason for leaving us, but he will return. We will continue on.”

Miles away, in a small room, Elizanne sat facing the hole in the wall. Clouds had made it so she could sit in the chair and not be blinded, but the dread she felt was beginning to overwhelm her. It was as if hundreds of voices were all trying to get her attention, but were just out of her reach. Slowly, she could feel her sanity slipping away, and it alarmed her. She had only been in the room a short time, and wondered if the souls of those who died here were trying to tell her something. She hadn’t tried to use her magic, feeling the room itself might harm her if she did. Frightened and confused, she closed her eyes.

Concentrating on Gillock, she sent out a thought towards him, trying to convey her frame of mind. After a few moments, she felt as if she connected to him, but it immediately faded. Opening her eyes, the tears began to fall. She began to imagine all the tortures, which were awaiting her. A bright flash behind her brought her out of her reverie. Gillock immediately came around so she could see him. He knelt down and cupped her face in his hands. “I am here, my queen.”

Elizanne had never felt such relief in her life and within a few moments, he had cut her free and whisked them out of the room. Within a breath, they appeared in another small room. As she looked around, she realized she was in Jeremy’s study, back in Castle Klayhern. Overwhelmed, she collapsed to the ground.

Gillock picked her up and placed her on a chair. “Stay here. I will go find Jeremy.”

He flew out of the room, running past startled servants, and headed straight for the throne room. It was mid-afternoon and Jeremy was in the throne room discussing tactics with Olrond and Korben, when Gillock burst through the doors. The guards standing outside had been stunned to see the wizard and didn’t argue when he pushed his way in. Jeremy glanced up when he heard the doors open and was shocked to see Gillock. “The queen is in your study,” was all he said, then turned around and headed back to Elizanne. It took Jeremy a second to gather himself, then he was off running to catch up with Gillock. Olrond and Korben but a step behind.

Jeremy burst into his study, and quickly took Elizanne into his arms. They stood, embraced for many minutes until Elizanne pulled away. She again sat down, and bade the others to sit as well, and began to inform them to all which had transpired since she had left. Jeremy was elated to hear Eric and Koral were safe, and almost at the end of their quest. He began to tell his tale, and started with Brin. Elizanne was devastated, but let Jeremy continue with the rest of what had been going on in Klayhern.

Korben watched their reunion, and listened to the tales, but could not stop thinking about what Meechie had said. Perhaps it was time.

“So much happening in such a short time,” exclaimed Elizanne.

“And there is more,” said Korben standing and coming over to the queen.

“More?” she asked, confused.

Korben looked at Jeremy, then Olrond. Both nodded, knowing what he was about to do. “Many years ago, I was in a house. It caught fire, and everyone got out, except me. Days later I found out people had thought I had perished, but I had not. I had fallen into a secret compartment, long forgotten, under the house. Many things had been happening at that time, so instead of coming forward and letting everyone know I was alive, I went to the Temple of Allorethna, and let them take me in.” Here he paused, finally looking into Elizanne’s eyes. Tears were welling up in them. “Meechie was a junior priest then, and convinced the senior priests to alter my appearance. When my father lay dying, I snuck in and told him the truth. He had known all along I was alive, and had decided to respect my decision.”

Elizanne burst from her chair and threw her arms around Korben. “Jessup,” she whispered through her tears. She let him go and took a step back. “Father knew?”

He smiled. “Yes. Apparently one of the young priests informed him.”

Elizanne sat down again. “There is more, is there not?”

“Yes. Meechie thinks when magic is returned, the spell altering my appearance will end. To prevent it from happening when I’m not prepared, I’m going to get him to remove the spell early. Now that you are back, I would like to send for him, and do it tonight.”

Elizanne now smiled. “That seems quite prudent. And I look forward to seeing my brother’s true face once again.”

CHAPTER THIRTY

The group made camp at the edge of the forest. They had arrived as the sun was setting and everyone was amazed at what lay before them. Miles and miles of sand started right where the forest ended. One moment you are in thick trees, the next nothing but sand.

“This not be possible,” stated Grund, staring at the vastness in front of him.

“This is Death’s Boundary,” remarked Glavlin. “The magic which created the Void expands as far as here. If we had gone west towards the Unmoving Mountains, you would have seen a vast forest turn into a vile swamp. That again is from the magic which has separated the Central Lands from the rest of Melarandra.”

“Will all this change once we complete our task?” asked Koral.

“When your task is truly completed, many things which have not been seen for many years, will again be visible. The shape of the land surrounding the Central Lands will vastly change,” came Maeve’s cryptic reply. “Magna Pass will again be travelled,” she added quietly.

“Creatures which were banished from here will again be able to move about these lands,” continued Glavlin. “This forest will continue all the way to the rock formation which was the original Death’s Boundary. The desert will start on the other side.”

“And what of the swamp to the west?” questioned Eric.

“The swamp was always there,” commented Darly. “It is larger than it once was and has become more vile and dangerous over the years. However, I am sure at least part of it will remain.”

“Yes, magic somewhat exists in the swamp, so part of it will most likely remain,” came Gillock’s voice from behind.

The entire group started and turned to see the wizard. “Be about time!” exclaimed Grund.

He moved the group to the campsite and started a fire. “We have no need to worry tonight,” he said when he saw the concerned looks on some faces. When everyone had settled down, he began to speak. “First I am going to apologize for leaving as I did. Elizanne was in great peril and I had to intercede.”

Koral and Eric were about to start asking him questions but Gillock put up his hands. “She is fine, and with your father,” he said to them. Both relaxed and sat back to listen to the rest of what he had to say. “I will not bore you with all the details, but there are some things you must know. Duke Dubar is planning to start a war with your father and the crown is the goal. He was going to use your mother and the fact your family possesses magic to persuade the Tower to help him. Lucky for the king, General Traug has renounced his position within the Order and has joined him. I can only assume it’s the reason why the Easterners were here was to join up with the fight. I fear the fact they have sailed off is only going to delay the inevitable.”

Everyone sat in silence, taking in all Gillock was saying. Nak broke the silence. “Whenz youz finishes quests, troublez comes.”

“What do you mean?” asked Eric.

“Myz queenz. Shez wants thronez. Wez meantz stops youses butz Nak changez minds. Queenz banishs ussses,” replied Dilmek.

“Iz haves magicz toz gets usses throughz voides,” stated Nak.

“I had known some type of magic was going to be needed to get us all through the passageway which takes us into the Void,” said Gillock. “Is it a spell?”

“Amz spellz,” he replied.

“I see. Malena put a spell on you so you could always travel between our world and the Void. It must have been a very complex spell.”

“Peoplez diedz, demonses cames, cutz me. Myz bloodz mixedes withses demonses ands deadz. Monthsez tookz.”

It was clear by the tone of Nak’s voice he was not at all happy about what was done to him, and to create the spell. Gillock could sense the sadness in his voice.

“You speak a word, and all those with you are able to travel into the Void. Is this right?” asked the wizard.

Nak nodded. “Youz knowses spellz?”

“Yes,” said Gillock. “And it’s a horrible one.”

Everyone waited to see if Gillock was going to elaborate but it became apparent, after several moments of silence, he was not. Gillock was not planning on saying anything more about the spell. Instead, he was thinking about whether or not he should let Koral and Eric know about Brin, but decided against it.

“We should eat. It is two days travel across the desert and we will need to make sure to make camp during the hottest part of the day and travel during the evening,” said Glavlin.

Malena sat looking at the nothing which was her view from the window in her chambers. By now, Moray would have run off to Lakin, and she had no idea what that meant. For many years, demons had been her allies, doing her dirty work all the while helping her become more powerful. In the beginning, she had desired to rule the Central Lands, but that quickly changed once she realized the powerful nations which existed beyond the Unmoving Mountains, Deaths Boundary and even to the east through the Cyprian Forest. Her dreams turned to ruling all of Melarandra, and it started with finding the Wizards School. She now realized if she had kept her desires small, she probably wouldn’t have been found out, and banished to the Void. She still had no idea how Gillock had managed to surprise her, and cancel her powers, but it no longer mattered.

Destroying Gillock was still on her mind, as was ruling the Central Lands. Malena observed what was going on beyond the Unmoving Mountains, and saw the chaos there. War was happening, and looked to destroy the realm. Perhaps she could use it to her advantage.

Malena had lost Moray, Lakin was no longer her ally, but she now had Vernia. She also knew once she was free more allies would be easy to gather. More determined than ever, Malena knew she must be patient. Eric and Koral would be entering the void within a few days. Once they had completed their quest she was going to push ahead with her plans. Figuring all of her plans were finally going to come into being she could not help but be happy. Clearly, the gods were finally on her side. Smiling to herself, she decided to retire for the evening. Only a few more days.

The Central Lands knew few gods. Ademorna, Almena and Allorethna were the main ones. Three brightest stars in the sky. The Earth Mother was a story, and most thought her to be a myth. The gods of other creatures were never discussed, so it had become common thought that they didn’t worship anything. The Central Lands were wrong. Other lands had their own gods, and all were closely watching Koral and Eric on this quest. What those gods did not realize was that something even darker was watching as well. The gods existed high up in the heavens, but the lower levels held beings as well. Not as powerful as the gods, but they were strong enough to overpower Melarandra should they be set free. The demonic realm, know to some as Holison, was gaining strength. Malena’s usage of demons over the years had helped them greatly. Every time she had performed the spell, they had leached a little of her magic. The demons were patient. Exiled to the lower levels, demons hated the gods, save one.

Lakin had created a small connection between his tower and the lower levels, allowing small amounts of magic to seep into the demon realm. It was partly because of all this Lakin was sitting in his study, very worried. He had received word the queen had somehow escaped. This wouldn’t have bothered him if it hadn’t been for the bumbling fool who was Duke Selwell Dubar. He had wanted permission to send out the soldiers to try to find her. Lakin knew she was probably already back in Klayhern with her husband. The only way she could have escaped was with Gillock’s help and he would have gone right to the castle. He had sent word back that Dubar could, but to do it quietly. Lakin was sure the request was probably too difficult for Dubar to get right.

Sitting at his desk, he rubbed his temples. Lakin knew it wasn’t going to be much longer until he could rid himself of the fools who surrounded him. Thinking about how much he was going to enjoy getting rid of them all made Lakin relax. Suddenly a bright flash followed by a black mist appeared in his room. Moray slowly formed himself, keeping the elf appearance. The demon was not sure how Lakin would take him in his actual form.

“Good even, Lord Lakin,” came the hissed voice of the demon.

Lakin knew what stood before him was not an elf, but had no idea why a demon had come. “I was not expecting a visitor from the lower levels,” he said, keeping his voice calm.

“You have been working with the higher denizens of my realm, but they did not send me. I was summoned by Malena many years ago and have been working with her. Of course, she thought it was to help her with her designs. I now find her to be useless to me and have left her side to join you.”

The demon kept pacing, and it was beginning to irritate Lakin. “Do you have a name?”

The elf smiled, showing razor sharp teeth. “Moray,” he hissed.

“Well, Moray, why have you decided to join me?”

The demon stopped pacing, and actually sat down. “Like I had stated, I no longer felt Malena was useful. You’re creating quite the army, and leaching magic into the lower levels to help us become stronger. Soon we should be able to create a breach and again appear on this world. You aim to rule this world, and I want to be beside you.” The voice had been so matter-of-fact that for a moment Lakin thought the elf whose body he was in, was once again showing through.

“I know you have the oldest daughter of the king here with you. I’m positive she does not know your true goals so therefore I will remain as an elf. But should at any time I feel she is going to betray us, I will change and kill her without a thought.”

The statement surprised Lakin. He was not sure why the demon had spoken as he did, but the tone of voice was so sinister Lakin had no doubts the demon would do exactly that. It made Lakin wonder if the demon wanted to rule with him, or to rule alone.

“She is my claim to the throne, nothing more,” stated Lakin.

“I see,” hissed Moray. After a few moments of silence, he added, “I will take my leave now. Perhaps I will make a proper appearance in the morning. Easier to have me around if it appears you actually asked me to the Tower.”

Lakin was going to voice his agreement, but the demon was already gone. Wondering if things had improved, he decided to go to bed. The next few days were going to be interesting.

Lakin awoke to the sound of arguing just outside his door, and as he got out of bed to put his robe on he realized it was Brin and Vernia. “I am looking forward to this ending,” he muttered to himself.

“If anyone is going to tell him he has a visitor it will be me, not you,” exclaimed Brin.

“Who’s here to see me?” asked Lakin.

Brin turned with a start. She had not even heard the door open. “There is an Elf!” she spat out the word like it was poison.

“Ah yes, I was hoping he would arrive today,” came Lakin’s reply, surprising both Brin and Vernia.

“He’s waiting in the main chamber downstairs,” said Vernia, smirking. “Would you like me to assign him a room?”

“Yes, and bring the elf to my study.” Then he turned and went back into his room, shutting the door.

Brin was shocked, but didn’t want to show her confusion to Vernia. So pushing her way past the witch, she headed to the library. Quiet would help her thoughts now. Running down the stairs, negative thoughts plagued her. She burst into the library and went over to the table she had claimed as her own. Many books on the Central Lands and Melarandra littered the table. She sat down hard, placed her elbows on the table, and rested her face in her hands.

Brin knew there was an elf prisoner in the lower levels of the Tower. Lakin had said he was there for his crimes, but must be kept alive for purposes he still hadn’t told her. Being in the cell with the elf Brin had felt the sadness and pain he was experiencing. This new elf was much different. He appeared cold and cruel. She pondered this for many minutes and then came to wonder if this was how elves truly were. There were many stories of them in the books which sat before her. Brave, strong and fierce fighters was how one tale described them, but they were also quiet, calm and very in tune with the world around them. They could talk to animals and it was said their singing could cast a spell on anyone, including the forest around them. Had Brin read these stories a few years ago, she would have hidden the books away, thinking they were showing magic was not all bad. Now, she had been wondering if maybe Lakin was right. Some magic should not be allowed, but not all should be banished. Sitting back in her chair, she smiled. That was why the elf was here. Elves were a necessary evil, but having one in the tower would make it easier to find others and eliminate them. Again, she was seeing the genius which is Lakin, and got up to go about her daily chores, once again a happy follower of Lakin and his Magima.

CHAPTER THIRTY-ONE

The morning came, and all in the group had a sense of trepidation. The desert was vast, and appeared to go on forever. There was also the fact that in two days they would be at the end of their quest. It was the end, but a beginning as well, and everyone had their own worries as to what was coming.

“We should be off,” announced Darly.

Everyone agreed and they headed into the desert.

The goblins had gotten the group up long before the sun had even come up, explaining this was the best time to start travelling. Within a few hours, everyone understood why. It was still two hours until they were breaking for lunch and to shelter themselves from the scorching afternoon sun, and all but Gillock, Maeve and the goblins were sweating and weak. The elves were faring better than the others were, but it was clear Koral, Eric, Grund, and Drundle were not going to last for long. Gillock passed around a water skin, and had them all wrap their heads with towels he had soaked. (Koral made a mental note to ask Gillock where he had gotten so much water from.) They pressed on and after what felt like forever, they stopped.

Gillock pulled a giant tarp and poles from his pack. “I will set up a shelter to spend the afternoon hours in. I suggest you all get some sleep during this time. I’m hoping to move as far as possible through the evening.”

Gillock and the goblins had the makeshift shelter up in a matter of minutes while Maeve tried to help everyone get settled. When it was ready, everyone slowly made their way inside, and welcomed the shade it brought. The welcome was short lived as a breeze, which had been welcomed at first, but since had picked up causing their meal to have sand in it.

Not long after, the dwarves began to grumble and you could feel a change slowly happening in everyone. The shade was nice, but you could still feel the heat, and Nak knew it would not be long until tempers became short. The breeze was causing more problems as it was blowing sand around causing it to get into everything. They were supposed to get some sleep after the meal, but Grund did not think it was going to happen, for him at least.

“Sand in me food. Sand in me pants. How do ye think I be sleepin’?” he hollered at Gillock.

Gillock’s reply was to stand up and move outside of the shelter. He then began to pull down the covering until the sides were drawn. He left one side open and said it was needed for airflow. The breeze was no longer a factor and although the heat was stifling, the group found they actually could relax and possibly get some sleep. Grund maintained his grumbling, but it was no more than a mumble and it made Eric smile. It was good to know there was something in this world which Grund was not prepared to deal with.

Although relaxing was easy, falling asleep was not. At least not for Glavlin. He lay awake watching the group. So much rested on this small bands shoulders. None of them realized how much peril their land was going to be in once this quest was over. However, where one quest would be over, another one would begin. The elf just hoped those here were able to deal with what was still to come.

Koral was not sleeping. She found she was not even able to relax. Her magic had been pulling at her for the last few hours, begging to be released. It was not another call from the Earth Mother, but something different all together. The restlessness got the better of her, and she moved outside of the shelter and into the sweltering sun. She had only gone a few steps when she heard footsteps in the sand behind her.

“Princess is everything all right?” asked Glavlin.

When she did not reply, another voice spoke her name. The magic was beginning to overwhelm her. Slowly she turned and faced Glavlin and Gillock.

“There is something wrong,” she tried to say, but her voice was barely a whisper. Glavlin’s sharp hearing caught what she had said and he repeated it to the wizard. Gillock stared into her eyes and saw the power building there. “What is wrong?” he asked, slowly moving towards her.

“My magic is demanding to be released,” came her voice, now booming for all to hear. “It is this desert. It is not right.” Then, before the wizard and elf, she began to glow. Unlike the times when she had become a tree, she was enveloped in a soft glow. Gillock and Glavlin could hear her chanting, but neither could make out the words. After what felt like minutes, they both could feel the magic flowing around them. It was strong enough that it had brought out the others, who were now staring at Koral in awe. Suddenly, Koral pointed her arms above, then at the ground, and all around them began to change. The first thing they noticed was the heat was not as intense. Next, the ground changed from sand, to grass. And as quickly as all this had started, it was done. The entire group did not know what to think. One moment they were in a desert, and now they were in a lush field filled with wild flowers. From where they had come, there was a river, and a road marked where they were heading. They had made camp just to the side of it.

Grund had tears in his eyes, staring at the river. “It be Evan’s River. Drundle, it not be dried and gone.”

Drundle’s eyes mirrored his own.

“The desert was an illusion,” stated Koral, her voice weak.

Gillock turned to her. “You are an elemental wizard. The illusion could fool your eyes, but not your magic.”

“Where does this road lead?” asked Darly.

“It should lead us right to the passageway which will take us into the void,” replied Gillock.

Eric walked to stand by the dwarves. “I have never heard of Evan’s River.”

Grund, now composed, shook his head. “It be named after a dwarf king,” was all he said, then he turned and walked away.

Drundle turned to follow. “It be a story for ‘nother time,” she said, putting her hand on Eric’s arm. Eric nodded and Drundle moved off.

Koral moved over to Glavlin. “You and Darly sensed something was not right as well,” it was more of a statement than a question.

“Yes,” he replied. “But clearly it was not as strong as it was for you.” He then reached out and took hold of her hand. “Are you feeling alright?”

She looked up into his eyes, and saw again, what she had seen back in the dwarf library. “I was a bit tired at first, but I appear to be recovering,” she answered with a smile. A commotion from behind broke the spell.

“Wez needs moves. Nowes thats noz heats wez canses moves,” stated Nak and he and the other goblins were already taking down the shelter and Maeve had begun packing up things.

Everyone else moved back to the shelter area and began to shake the sand out of their belongings and pack. It was going to be much easier to travel during the day, especially now it was no longer in a stifling heat.

The road led to another forest, which was just on the edge of the field. This one not as thick as the one surrounding the compound. More light penetrated through the treetops, giving the roadway an ethereal look. The road was well maintained and the sound of birds could be heard filtering through the forest. The entire group walked in awe at was around them. Their minds still trying to accept all which had happened that day.

“It is amazing,” remarked Darly. “Like the road has been well travelled all this time.”

“Magics mades itz stays samez,” said Goulerick, and Gillock agreed.

“Yes, it’s like it has been trapped in time for the last few hundred years,” commented Maeve.

Gillock nodded in agreement. “We wizards all thought this area was destroyed when the barriers were created. It’s remarkable it survived.”

“Dwarf magic be behind this me thinks,” stated Grund. “Evan’s River always be said to be magic for them who be needin’ it.”

“I had heard those tales as a child,” said Glavlin. “Of the great dwarf king who sacrificed himself to help his people escape. It was said; he stood atop the Unmoving Mountain and called upon his god to use him to help his people. In reply, he was struck by a beam of light from the heavens, which melted the snow upon which he stood and created the river, flowing it down to where the village was, wiping away those who were attacking.”

Grund and Drundle looked at the elf, stunned. “Me not be knowin’ that elf’s told our tales,” commented Drundle.

“It is not a tale, but a fact which is documented in a book in the Wizard’s School. Witnessed by many,” stated Gillock.

“Yes, it was indeed an amazing sight to see,” remarked Maeve, her voice sounding distant.

A silence followed Maeve’s words. Everyone was always in awe when she spoke, unsure if she was speaking truth or riddles. Darly broke the silence. “I am going to scout ahead.

There are birds in these woods so other creatures may have survived as well.” Then she was off, disappearing into the forest beside them like a wraith.

They spent the rest of the day walking in silence, taking in their surroundings. Darly did not return to the group until the sun began to set. She had found nothing which would cause them harm in the surrounding area and had found a good spot to spend the night just ahead of where they were. After walking for another half hour, they came upon a little alcove in the road, where they were to camp for the night. For the first time since they had set out on this quest, all felt they would get a good night’s rest. They had a fire, warm supper, then set up their bed rolls for the night. Watches were still set, the goblins taking turns as usual. Koral was surprised the goblins always wanted to be the night watchers. Darly explained that they goblins did not need as much sleep as the rest of them, and it was probably their way of fitting in. Koral had to agree that their night vision had been a blessing on many a night.

It was an uneventful night for those sleeping, but not for the goblins. They were worried about what waited for them at the end of the road. When all was finished, would they be accepted in this new world, or exiled like the rest of their people? Dilmek was the only one who did not appear to be overly concerned. He felt Eric wouldn’t let them be sent away. Tallmeken and Mork wanted to agree with Dilmek, but humans had deceived them before. They fell silent; all of their fears laid out before them, and went back to taking turns watching over the camp.

Eric, having been awoken by their whispers, didn’t know what to make of the discussion. It was the first time on this trip the goblins had used their language to communicate. It was clear they were scared, and Eric hoped whatever it was which was bothering them was not something the rest of the group needed to worry about. He also hoped they would discuss it with him. He fell asleep, and again dreamed of fights, dragons, and heroes.

Morning came, the sun slowly creeping through the trees. The group was slow to get up, having slept soundly. Everyone was refreshed, and feeling more optimistic than they had felt in weeks. They had a quick morning meal, all wanting to be on their way. By the end of this day, the passageway would be before them. Excitement and anxiousness filled them all.

Darly moved off again to scout ahead, and this time Glavlin joined her. Each disappeared on opposite sides of the road, making not a sound. Koral considered asking them to teach her how to track and move like the wind, but thought better of it. After they were finished would be the time to learn new things. It was probable she was going to need new skills to survive whatever was to come.

Steadily they moved along the trail, but as the day went on, they appeared to slow their pace. “Don’t be afraid of what lies ahead,” came Maeve’s voice. She had moved herself to be behind the group. “This was the day you have been preparing for. Don’t let your doubts cloud your mind. All will work out as it is intended to.”

As she finished the elves reappeared, breaking the spell her voice had placed over everyone. “There is a field ahead, and an odd rock formation beyond,” stated Glavlin.

Gillock sighed, “We have arrived then.” Then he raised his voice for all to hear him. “When we arrive at the clearing we will be taking a rest. What lies ahead will need all of our strength.”

They arrived at the field moments later and settled down for a small meal and rest. In the distance, you could see an immense rock formation. It appeared as if giants have moved large boulders into place, creating a wall.

“It be said there be a quake that shook the mountainside and all these be fallen here and create Death’s Boundary,” remarked Grund.

“Yes, that is what happened, but the quake was due to the fighting of the wizards,” said Gillock. “When that particular fight was over, the boulder’s had created a wall separating the south lands and the central lands. Death’s Boundary got its name due to the fact it had very dangerous and narrow passageways through it, and some very nasty creatures made their home in them. On the other side is a vast desert.”

“Do these creatures still exist?” asked Eric.

“Yes,” replied Gillock. “But you need not worry. The road before us leads to a portal, which will take us into the Void. We will not be venturing far enough into the boundary to meet up with any problems.”

The group felt a bit better knowing that no creatures were waiting, they had all seen enough fighting, but they were still worried.

“Wez needz goz nowes,” said Nak, after everyone had eaten. He then looked at Gillock. “Rockses looks closes buts theyz hourses awayz.”

“Yes, Nak is right. We have about three hours of travel until we reach the boundary. We best be off.

Koral and Eric stared off towards Death’s Boundary. Their future was going to be decided soon. By the end of the day, they would be in the Void, but none knew how long it would be until the twins were to use their magic. Both Eric and Koral hoped it would be soon.

The group set off, determination in every step they took. All of them were nervous and worried, but all also knew they needed to push those thoughts aside. Nak worried he would not be able to get them through the Void, the elves worried about the prophecy being fulfilled and Gillock worried about what Malena might do when she sensed them crossing. Maeve was worried, but it concerned herself. Gillock had taken her aside and told her the key to her past would be found in the Void. She had so many memories, but was never sure what was true and what was dream. Maeve worried that when she discovered something about herself it would not be good. She smiled to herself. That was a road crossed when it was placed before her. For now, she needed to help these new friends finish what they have set out to do.

Slowly the field moved behind them, the grass now hard dirt and rocks and before they knew it, the passageway stood before them. The rocks had formed an usual arch, and upon closer look you could see writing on the stone.

“It is elvish,” remarked Darly. “An older dialect, but I can still read it.”

Gillock moved beside her. “We wizards created the Void, but it was the elves that made it possible to travel into it.”

“The elves made this so we could travel inside and give judgment on those banished into it,” stated Glavlin.

“That was its intention, sadly it was not used that way,” said Gillock. “The wizards which practised the dark arts used it to torture and kill those who got in their way.”

Nak moved beside Gillock. “Iz bez readyz.”

Gillock nodded and turned towards the group. “I need you all to move and stand within the archway.” he commanded.

Quickly they all moved under the arch, standing with shoulders touching. A few moments later, Nak began to chant.

Immediately the lettering on the arch began to glow. First, a light blue, then piercing white. Energy began to build, and bolts of electricity started to shoot all around them. No one moved, fearing what would happen should they be struck. A sound occurred next, which sounded like the earth itself was taking a deep breath. After a few minutes, the energy dissipated and all was quiet. At first, the group all thought nothing had happened, then they looked around. The archway was still there, but the boundary no longer surrounded them. Instead, they stood before a vast building. Looking behind them, in the distance, they could make out the towers of a castle. Elation quickly took over. They were in the Void.

CHAPTER THIRTY-TWO

Korben stood facing his friends, looking from face to face, settling on his sisters. Elizanne smiled. They were in the king’s study, just off the throne room. Meechie had arrived moments earlier and Jeremy had decided the study was a better place to perform the ceremony.

“Are you ready?” asked the priest.

Korben nodded. “What should I expect?”

“I have never seen this spell performed, but from the readings it will be similar to what you experienced the first time.”

Again, Korben nodded, remembering how painful it was to have the bone structure of his face altered. “We should get started. I will probably be unconscious until morning.”

It was mid evening, the sun beginning to set. It cast a golden red hue into the study through a small window high up in the ceiling. Korben sighed deeply, preparing for what was to come.

“Sit,” ordered Meechie, pointing to a chair.

Korben moved to sit and Elizanne tensed. She knew the magic needed to perform this spell was immense, and worried for Meechie as much as for her brother. Olrond and Jeremy moved back towards the door, wanting to make sure neither caused a distraction, for what was sure to be a complicated procedure.

Meechie began chanting. Slow and deliberate the words came. It was clear, he needed to say each word properly, and all watching did not want to know what the consequences would be if he misspoke. For half an hour, he chanted, and then his tone changed. The room began to electrify with magic. Elizanne could feel it flowing through her, calling out to her. It took all of her energy to keep it in check and she regretted wanting to be in the room. Jeremy and Olrond could feel it as well, penetrating their skin. Again Meechie’s tone changed, and so too did Korben. His face began to shimmer, and then it shifted and looked like a rippling pool of water. Then, he screamed.

The pain coursed through Korben and went to his very core. His own magic, small as it was, welled up in response to the spell being cast. Last time he had tried to fight it, this time he knew better. His magic needed to blend with Meechie’s. He was nowhere near as powerful as his sister was, but he did possess basic abilities. If it were not for these abilities, he may not have survived the first time. After another half an hour, Meechie stopped chanting. Moments later, Korben stopped screaming and slumped forward. Slowly Korben fell to the floor, as did Meechie, exhausted from the ordeal. Jeremy reached out and grabbed Meechie, who stated he was fine, just tired. Elizanne went over to Korben and rolled him over. There, unconscious on the floor, was a man who resembled her father so greatly, it made her gasp. Jessup had returned. They gathered him up and took him to his chambers, making sure one would watch over him until morning, rotating every few hours. Meechie was given a room to recover in as well. Elizanne was elated. Her brother, back to her, but there was a burning question to answer. What would they do now?

The dawn came but instead of the usual brilliant colours, there was only a deep red. Every villager in the Central Lands took it as a bad omen. Elizanne stood in her bedroom window and knew what it really meant. Her children had passed into the Void. She assumed the colouring was thanks to the Goddesses, who were attempting to prepare the people. Elizanne sighed. She could sense the unease in the village below. She and Jeremy were going to have to go out among the people and ease their fears. “And introduce them to Jessup,” she muttered to herself. Moving away from the window, she changed out of her bedclothes and went to her brother’s room.

Jessup had slept soundly, and no ill effects appeared to have occurred from the spell. When Elizanne arrived, he was eating his morning meal with Olrond and Jeremy. Upon seeing, him her breath caught and a smile crossed her lips.

“I really should have known it was you all this time,” she stated, coming into the room. The three stopped eating and looked at her. “Your favourite story as a child was the one about the dragon saving the world. His name was Korben. You had the same eye and hair colour as well. Funny how this comes to me now.”

Jessup smiled, remembering the story. “I think the original spell created a bit of confusion with people who knew me, whenever they were around me. You may have recognized the name but could never place it.”

“Yes, that is exactly what the original spell was designed to do,” stated Meechie’s voice from the door. “How are you feeling today?”

“Hungry, and a bit of pain, but nothing I can’t handle,” answered Jessup.

“So what’s the plan now?” asked Olrond.

“Eric and Koral have entered the Void,” said Elizanne. “It is only a matter of time before they finish their quest. The sun rose a deep red, a sign. The villagers are going to need us to explain what is happening.”

Jeremy rose. “Then I suggest we all get ready and go out into the village. We need to explain Korben disappearing, and Jessup reappearing as well.” He turned to Olrond. “General, I would like you to accompany us as well.”

“Of course, your highness,” he replied.

Moray was getting impatient. He had hoped Lakin would have already begun taking control of this mortal world, but instead he appeared quite content to sit in his study going through old books. Back and forth he paced in his room, becoming more and more agitated. Glancing out his window, he noticed it was well after midnight hour, and felt enough was enough. He threw open his door and stormed to Lakin’s study. Without knocking, he burst into the room to find Lakin alone.

“I have had enough of you wizard!” he bellowed, making sure to keep his voice elven. “Why haven’t you begun putting your plans into effect?”

Lakin sat back and stared at the demon. Moray had been there for almost a week now, and with each passing day becoming more irritable. “Koral and Eric have just this day passed into the Void. I was just going to head down to begin preparations for their arrival.”

Moray looked confused. “Arrival?”

Lakin grinned. “They need the breath of a dragon to complete their task. I have the only living specimen. A portal will be created to bring them into the lower levels. When they are in the room with the dragon, we will change the outcome of this prophecy.” He then closed up the books on his desk and again looked at Moray. “Would you care to accompany me?”

Moray nodded his agreement, and followed Lakin out. Lakin knew it was not a good idea to have the demon in the lower levels at this time. There were preparations to be made and his attention would be elsewhere. There was a chance the demon could take advantage of the situation. Not wanting to dwell on the demon, but focus on the task at hand, Lakin pushed the thought aside and headed to the library, hoping Brin and Vernia would both be there. He was not disappointed.

They were seated at the same table, but opposite ends. Books piled between them. It appeared they were searching everything elven. “I apologize for my interruption, but the time has come,” he said approaching them.

Brin slowly stood. “So, they are at the end of their quest,” she stated, coldly. Lakin was shocked at her tone, and he smiled.

“Yes, my dear. They are going to attempt to break into our lower levels and free our prisoners.”

Her face turned to iron. “Then we must prepare. They are already going to return magic; we cannot allow them to free those who could be their allies!”

Vernia, who had been watching the interaction between Lakin and Brin closely, turned her gaze to the elf. She caught her breath, not wanting to let on she had figured out what it was about this elf which bothered her. He was a demon in disguise. Moray was elated and he had slipped, allowing his eyes to glow slightly during the discussion. He caught himself, but Vernia had already seen. She quickly averted her eyes, hoping he had not noticed and turning her attention back to Lakin.

“My lord, perhaps we should be on our way,” she said, her voice composed.

Lakin, who had finished his discussion with Brin, nodded. “Yes, we must get below and make sure we are ready when they arrive.”

They moved out of the library, Lakin pausing to converse with passing Magima. Those above ground needed to be ready for anything. They passed by a window and Lakin paused. The sun was rising, but it was like nothing he had seen before. The sky was a blood red, a sign from the Goddesses.

Vernia gasped. “My lord, perhaps I should send a message to Duke Dubar. I am sure he and the people there will be worried about this sunrise.”

“Yes,” said Lakin absently. “Make sure he understands this is not a bad omen.”

Vernia moved off to send a message to the duke. She also planned a detour into Lakin’s study. Malena would want to know what was going on at the Tower.

When the mirror cleared, and Malena appeared before her, Vernia was taken aback. “Is something wrong, your highness?” she asked.

Malena, looking very pale and weak, smiled. “Koral and Eric have arrived. Their passing into the Void caused a ripple throughout. All of us here were temporarily stunned by it. I will be fine.” Pulling herself into a more imposing posture, she continued. “I assume you are contacting me because Lakin is up to something?”

“Yes. He knew Eric and Koral were now in the Void and is beginning his preparations for their arrival.”

Malena sat back. “He is going to allow them to arrive, but something must happen after they release the mist to create chaos. Do you have any idea how he plans to do that?”

“I believe he is going to use Brin. She will distract one of them long enough to ensure they do not achieve this together.”

“Ah yes, that would be quite clever of him. Neither of them knew their sister has betrayed the family.” She fell silent, clearly contemplating what was about to occur. “I want you to be ready Vernia. When the Void collapses, I will transport you here.”

Vernia smiled. “Yes, my queen.” She bowed and the mirror clouded over. Suddenly Vernia was not feeling so helpless anymore, and saw a bright future ahead.

Malena stood from her throne, and slowly walked across to the window. She had partially lied to Vernia. It was true, the ripple of their passing into the Void had weakened her, but there had been another one earlier which had been far more intense. The one Eric and Koral created was obvious, she could sense theirs and Gillock’s magic throughout it. However, the first one was a mystery. It felt as if her own magic had looped back on her. Now was not the time to ponder the odd ripple, but she knew it would require her full attention once the Void was down.

She stared out the window, contemplating what was to come. For so long her only view had been the rocky terrain of the Void. Soon she would see forest, rivers, and mountains again. Patience was needed now. There was no way of knowing how long it would be until the twins completed their task.

CHAPTER THIRTY-THREE

Mordekai watched the group emerge from the archway. He watched as they realized where they were, and their reaction to seeing the walls of the school. They all walked with determination towards the school, knowing their quest was almost over. He sent a spell down to create a door for them to pass through, and then made his way down to the greeting area. By the time he arrived, he could feel the group entering the school. It would be a matter of moments for them to walk to where he was. He was anxious and nervous, two feelings he had not experienced in quite some time. Knowing now was not the time to second-guess what was to come he pushed the thoughts aside.

Everyone was in awe of the school. It was a massive structure which looked quite ominous from the exterior, but once they were inside, their thoughts changed. Never had any of them seen such architecture. Beautiful statues surrounded the entryway and as they moved further in, they saw the walls covered in beautiful paintings and tapestries.

“This is the greeting area,” stated Gillock. “It was designed to showcase what the school was capable of. Not only did wizards, enchanters, witches and others with abilities train and learn about magic here, but they were also allowed to express their creativity. Everything you see before you was created by a student or teacher.”

Darly was amazed. “I know we elves have amazing artists among us, but I was not aware humans were capable of creating such beauty.”

Gillock laughed, and the sound startled them all. “Some of these were made by elves, and one of the teachers here had been an elf. He inspired many artists.”

“He also annoyed many humans,” came a gruff voice from the far end of the room.

They all turned to see a short, round man standing before them. He was in a blue robe that had clearly seen better days. His blue eyes were playful and his grin infectious. Before they knew it, all were smiling. All but the goblins. They had been afraid to enter the school and now wondered what was in store for them.

“Mordekai!” exclaimed Gillock, embracing the man.

“It is good to see you again, my old friend,” remarked Mordekai, his voice showing how emotional this reunion was. “Come, you must be tired and hungry. I have had rooms prepared for you so you may clean up. We have much to discuss so if you do not mind, I would like you all to join me in the dining hall when you are ready.” He took them up a set of spiral stairs at the far end of the greeting area, and led them down a hallway to their rooms.

Everyone had been given separate quarters, except the goblins. Anticipating their unease, Mordekai had seen fit to give them a larger room which they could all share. Each room had an area off to the side containing a large tub to bathe in, as well as an area to prepare. All took no time undressing and bathing in the warm waters. It was clear the water was maintained magically, it never got cold. Koral added some oils she had found on the side of the tub, and suddenly felt at ease. No more tired, aching limbs. When she finally pulled herself out, she felt refreshed, and quite hungry.

Koral moved off into the area where she had left her pack, to discover her clothing had been washed and mended. Having not heard a sound, she was unnerved by it, but assumed it was again magic. Once dressed, she went down the hall to Eric’s room and knocked on the door. When he opened it, she could tell by the look on his face, he was unnerved as well.

“This place is strange. Water which does not cool, oils that revitalize you and clean clothes appearing out of nowhere.”

Koral smiled. “It is a magical place,” she remarked. “I was heading to the dinner hall, are you going to join me.”

“Yes!” he exclaimed. “I had not realized how hungry I was.”

They moved off and as they passed the other doors their companions emerged. When they arrived at the dininghall (none of them knew how they had found it themselves) the goblins and Gillock were already seated. Mordekai and Gillock were discussing old times, with the goblin group listening. Eric was glad his friends were more at ease now.

“I hope you found everything to your liking,” said Mordekai.

“This place is quite interesting,” said Maeve.

Mordekai stared at the girl, and turned to Gillock. An unspoken word passed between them, and Mordekai turned back to Maeve. “I am glad you think so. It took many wizards a few years to perfect the spells which maintain the school.”

When Maeve looked at Mordekai, she saw the same things as she did with Gillock. They were both very honest people, but they were also hiding something. Things that made them worry. “How is it the magic is still able to sustain itself?” she asked.

“The spells were infused into the school. Every brick and beam is magic. It was designed this way so only one person was needed to maintain it. There are four of us here and we all have our areas we check daily to make sure the magic is still active. However, it is failing, but that is because our own magic is failing.”

“I hadn’t realized the Void was being affected,” commented Gillock.

“Don’t worry, old friend. There is more than enough left to accomplish what you have set out to do. Now, we shall eat, and begin discussing what is going to occur.”

Three men appeared through a side door leading to the kitchen. They each had plates of food in their arms. It didn’t look like enough food to feed them all, but when the plates were placed on the table, they multiplied. The group just stared at the table. It had been many weeks since they had seen this much food, and all dove in not wanting to waste the opportunity. There was not much conversation, most of what was said was coming from Gillock and Mordekai. Talking about the world outside. It was a light conversation until Gillock told him about Koral breaking the illusion spell. Mordekai fell silent after and just ate his food, as if he was contemplating something.

When all had eaten their fill, they refilled their wine goblets and moved through a doorway into a sitting area. There was a fire burning at the far end, with seats arranged in front.

“I felt it might make you all feel more at ease if we discussed things in comfort,” said Mordekai, taking a seat in an overstuffed chair.

Again, magic was at work. The seats all appeared to be exactly suited to each individual. The goblins sat on cushions placed on the floor, which was their custom. The dwarves on hard, solid looking chairs and the elves were on ones which appeared to be made of tree branches. Solid yet delicate in appearance. Eric marvelled at all the magic around them. He could sense it everywhere, and for the first time in his life, he felt at ease. He glanced over at Koral to see the same sense of relief on her face. Here, they could be themselves. Mordekai saw their glances, and sadness came over him. He quickly composed himself, hoping no one had seen.

When all were comfortable, it was Gillock, not Mordekai, who spoke.

“This has been a long journey, but the hardest part is still to come,” he started, turning to look right at Koral and Eric. “I have not spoken of how this was going to end, and I am sorry for keeping secrets from you.” Turning his focus back to the group, he continued. “There is a portal here. It will need all of our magic to open it wide enough for us to go through.”

“A portal to where?” asked Eric.

“To the lower levels of the Magima Tower,” answered Mordekai. “It is there your quest will come to an end.”

“Why do we need to go there?” questioned Darly.

“What be down there?” asked Grund.

Gillock raised his hands. “Please, let Mordekai explain.”

Mordekai stood, and paced in front of the hearth. “I have kept some secrets from you, Gillock. I hope you will forgive me.”

Gillock, unsure as to what Mordekai was speaking about, kept quiet.

“There is a stone here, a stone specifically made to capture the magic of beings that were killed. Lakin’s plan was to harness this magic and become powerful; at least it was his plan when he started the Wizard’s War.” The wizard paused, taking a deep breath. “Lakin is really Kinsley, first wizard and destroyer of magic.”

Everyone present had been taught the tale. It was necessary to explain why magic was forbidden, and had a strict penalty attached to its use. All were shocked to hear the news, but it appeared Mordekai had more to say, so they kept their questions to themselves for the time being.

“Down in the bowels of the Tower, Lakin has rooms filled with magical creatures. He also has many more Magima than you are aware of, training them down there until the time is right to attack Melarandra. Time is different in the lower levels.”

“What kind of magical creatures?” asked Maeve, her voice showing her question was more than curiosity.

“There are many rooms, but I’m only aware of what is kept in one. This room is special, designed to appear small until the door is open, then it becomes a vast cavern. This is necessary for the occupant of this room is a dragon. Your dragon, Gillock. Lakin holds Demosi, and he has had him all this time.”

Gillock was rocked by the news. So many emotions happened all at once. Joy that Demosi was alive, shock he hadn’t felt his dragon, anger at Lakin for having him and betrayal at Mordekai for keeping this from him.

“How long have you known?” questioned Gillock, his voice quiet yet full of emotion.

Mordekai could see the pain in his friend’s eyes. “I was not positive until a few years ago. I could not tell you, Gillock. If I had Lakin may have killed him and he is the key to returning magic.”

Mordekai then turned to Darly and Glavlin. Both of the elves had tears streaming down their faces. “You both have every right to be upset. Few people know of the bond dragons and elves share. That it was your people who took care of the eggs, singing and talking to them until they were ready to hatch. You will be witness to the last dragon, and he will need your help.”

Both of the elves just nodded, unable to speak.

Koral, Eric and the dwarves were not sure how to react. Eric had always dreamed of having his own dragon, and knowing one was still alive made his dream seem possible. Koral always loved the idea of dragons, their elegance and intelligence always impressed her. The dwarves were thinking differently. Dragons did not agree with dwarves. The goblins were worried. Once upon a time, dragons snacked on goblins.

“Why do we need a dragon?” asked Koral, realizing no one had spoken in some time and felt the silence needed to be broken.

Mordekai sat back down. “The stone was made by magical means. The only way to destroy it is with the fire breath of a dragon. When the dragon is heating it, this is when you and Eric need to create the mist which will carry the magic slowly into the world.”

There it was. What the quest was all about. How important it was the twins create the spell. The fact that all the lives of the people on Melarandra depended on that one moment. Neither one knew what to say. It was all of a sudden, far too real and over-whelming. The confidence which had brought them this far appeared to waver.

“Eric. Koral. You need to remember your training,” came Maeve’s voice. Her ability showing her their doubts. “You have spent all of your life learning about this. And the entire trip here you have become stronger, and your abilities more focused. Plus, you have all of us to help you succeed. Don’t doubt yourselves, this is what you were trained to do.”

Eric and Koral looked at each other, then slowly to the faces of their friends, and both knew they could do this. “It is late,” said Gillock. “We should all retire for the night. Tomorrow we will begin our planning.”

Everyone agreed and headed to his or her rooms, all save Gillock and Mordekai. It was clear the wizards had more to discuss and wanted to be alone. No one spoke except to say good night to the others, and all retired to their rooms. Even though they were confused and had many thoughts going through their minds, the magic of the school intervened. All were asleep moments after their heads hit their pillows.

“What more have you not told me, old friend?” asked Gillock when they were alone.

Mordekai sighed, wondering where to begin. “The prophecy is not as it appears. The true betrayal has not occurred yet.”

“What do you mean? Has all this been for nothing?” Gillock noticed his voice was rising, and calmed himself down.

“All this was necessary. There is more to the prophecy than what we ever understood. All the years here, I was able to read many books, and discovered a few things. It starts with what we are doing here, but will end in the lands of the west.” Mordekai paused, seeing if Gillock had any questions. When he voiced none, Mordekai continued. “Below us, in a secret and protected room, are six wizards. The elven wizards left the west lands with Glomain all those years ago. They are here because they have a part to play in the return of magic. I am not sure what it is yet, but they assured me when the time came, I would understand.”

“Lakin has Glomain as well,” stated Gillock, although he was only now sure that was the case.

“Yes, I believe the elf king is in the lower levels of the Tower as well,” responded Mordekai.

“And will Glavlin be told his father lives?”

“Tomorrow, when the plans have been made, I will tell him. We cannot leave him down there. There is no telling what Glomain has endured.”

Morning came, and all those in the group were refreshed and ready for the day. Eric’s sleep was filled with dreams of heroes, and he knew this was the day it would come true. Koral’s dreams were far different. It was the dream she had before and it left her feeling cold. Not wanting to dwell on it, she splashed cold water on her face, got dressed and headed down to the dining hall and moved through to the sitting area.

The goblin group was already there, in deep discussion with Gillock. She could not understand because they were speaking in their tongue, but it appeared as if they were worried. Moments after she arrived the rest of the group trickled in. Mordekai appeared, and beckoned Glavlin who followed him out of the room. Koral, not knowing what to do sat down and waited.

Glavlin followed Mordekai for a time, and then they entered a room, which appeared to be a study. “This is my private study,” said Mordekai, taking a seat off to the side. He gestured to the chair beside him and Glavlin sat, curious as to what was going to be discussed. Mordekai folded his hands in his lap, but it was many minutes before he spoke. “I have been trying to figure out how to explain myself to you, but have come to realize that any judgment you give to me will be just.”

Glavlin sat back, his curiosity turning to concern. “Speak then,” he said calmly. “For clearly, it is something which is weighing heavy on your heart.”

“In a few hours we will be in the lower levels of the Tower,” he began his voice soft. “There is the danger that Lakin will be waiting, and will do what he can to prevent Koral and Eric from succeeding. You are going to be needed to protect them, but once you are there something else will pull at you.”

Glavlin leaned forward, his curiosity piqued again. “What could be down there that will distract me?” he asked.

“Your father,” came the reply, and it stunned Glavlin.

“My father?” he said slowly as if to convince himself they were true.

“On one of the scouting trips outside of the Cyprian Forest the band was attacked. Lakin made it appear as if your father was killed in a ball of fire. What actually happened was that Lakin kidnapped him, and has held him prisoner since that day.”

Glavlin remembered the day well. He had just turned twenty and was hoping to go scout with them, but there had been rumours of dark things attempting to get into the Cyprian Forest, and his father would not allow him to come. Eight elves and the king left that morning, only three returned. Glavlin was claimed king that evening, and as is elven custom when a body is not recovered, all of Glomain’s personal belongings, aside from those passed down, were burned in a ceremonial fire. It took him weeks before he could come to terms with the loss.

The small band that had left the westlands with them worried he was too young to handle the responsibility placed before him. When he had finished his mourning, he proved them wrong and they all swore fealty to him.

“When Koral and Eric finish their task, I will free him,” stated Glavlin, his voice full of determination.

“I assumed that’s what you would do. We just must make sure the twins finish first,” said Mordekai.

They rejoined the group, all who were sitting, drinking morning ale. They could tell something was not right with Glavlin, but no one said a word. It was something that would wait until this was done.

“Gillock has told me you have practised and perfected the mist spell which is necessary,” said Mordekai to Koral and Eric. They nodded yes it was so, and he then shifted around so all could see him. “Good. The spell to open the portal is simple, just three words, but I will need all of you to say them for it to work. Each person must say it individually. This will allow you to move through to the other side. Now, if you will follow me, we shall head to the room which contains the portal, and finish this quest.”

CHAPTER THIRTY-FOUR

Lakin looked around. All of the Magima were split into two groups and sent above, with Mekken and Vernia each in charge of one. This left himself and Brin alone in the lower levels. He placed a spell around the door of the dragon’s cell, and also in the hallway where the portal would appear. They were easy to overcome spells, but not too easy. He had to make it appear as if he wanted them stopped.

Next, he created an alcove with a barrier which would hide himself and Brin, where they could wait and watch until the right moment. Brin was going to be the key. Lakin wasn’t certain how he was going to get her in the state of mind he was going to need, but she was close. The time they had spent together had been perfect. She was now completely his. Lakin knew the sight of her siblings would make her doubt, but he figured enough time had passed and he could convince her to do anything. Then, and idea came to him.

Brin watched as Lakin sent off the other Magima, and was quite happy when Vernia and Mekken were told to leave with them. Vernia didn’t look impressed, but bowed and moved off with her group in tow. When they were alone, she watched him create the secret alcove where they would hide, then cast the spells which would prevent her siblings from finishing their quest. Lakin had explained to her the twins would need to cast their spell, but not finish it. It was he who needed to finish the final steps in order for the magic to not take hold properly. Brin was anxious. She knew there was a part in this for her, but just didn’t know what. Lakin finally finished his preparations, and he looked to be in deep thought, when suddenly he went stiff. His eyes turned completely white and his skin went ashen. After what felt like forever, everything went back to normal. Brin rushed to his side, for it appeared as if all his strength had drained from him. Slowly she lowered him to the floor, so he could rest for a moment.

“What happened?” she asked fearfully.

“I had a vision,” he said through gasping breaths. “It showed me the true evil.” He then raised his head to look her in the eyes. “One of the twins, I do not know which, they are the true evil. They are using the others to achieve their goal of ruling all magic. When they cast their spell to release the magic, the one who uses water is to be destroyed.” He then sank down and fainted against the wall. His breathing had returned to normal, so Brin was not worried. She was bothered by the fact one of her siblings needed to be destroyed. Koral was the one who used water, she had seen it herself. Recalling all that had happened, Brin realized Lakin was right. Koral had been secretive and could be manipulative as well. “I will make sure it is done,” she whispered to Lakin, and went off to find him a blanket. When she had moved off, Lakin smiled.

The room was a decent size, but was clear of any objects save a mirror. It was the size of an entire wall. Mordekai explained that this was a special type of scrying device. It allowed those who spoke the spell to move through it. It was designed so the wizards could move to the homes of those who had submitted applications to the school, and interview them.

“It could also move armies through it,” stated Darly.

“Yes, and a few nobles had attacked the school for that exact reason,” replied Mordekai. “However, the magic in the school would know if it was conquered, and would cause it to crack, rendering it useless.”

“How it be knowin’ that?” asked Drundle.

“If the school were to come under attack, the device would be linked to two wizards. If one should perish, then the other would release a spell into the school letting it know to be on guard, so to speak. If both perish, it would automatically place a single crack through it. Easy enough for us to fix, should we hold the school,” answered Mordekai.

“Now, to decide who is actually going through,” said Gillock, to the shock of everyone. They had all thought they would be going through. “Dilmek, you are the only goblin coming with us. I need to rest of you to keep guard.” Gillock stated. “We are opening this portal, but you can bet a spell is ready at the other end to allow anyone to pass back through. You need to watch for Magima, and Lakin.”

The goblins grumbled their agreement.

“Glavlin and Darly are needed to guard Koral and Eric,” continued Gillock. “Grund and Drundle, you will come through, but stay near the portal. We may come back through fighting.”

The dwarves, not happy about being told to sit and wait, just nodded their agreement.

“As for you Maeve, you will be staying behind with Mordekai. The two of you need to watch for an attack from the outside.”

Maeve was going to protest, but Mordekai put a hand on her shoulder. “You will find your answers soon enough,” he whispered to her. He then handed a medium sized, unusual shaped stone to Gillock.

Gillock moved in front of the wall. “It is time.” Then he turned and spoke the words to activate the portal. Time appeared to slow, and to all it felt like every second was a minute. When he finished his chanting, the wall shimmered, and before them now was a hallway.

Glavlin and Darly spoke the words, then with swords drawn and defensive spells on their lips, moved through. They took up defensive positions on either side of the hall, their eyes constantly moving. Gillock then had the rest speak the spell, and they moved through. The dwarves stopped just outside the portal, as was decided, the rest slowly moved along. They had only taken a few steps when the first attacked happened.

Gillock had assumed Lakin would have had spells in place, guarding the area. Bolts of electricity flew around the room, one catching Darly on the arm. It just grazed her, but it left a smouldering line upon her tunic. “A little more to the left and that may have hurt,” she commented jokingly, clearly happy to be fighting again.

It took Gillock a few moments, but he figured out the counter spell, and the bolts dissipated. Dilmek told them there were many doors down there, but the one at the end of the hall with the odd frame around it was where they needed to go. Glavlin moved slowly away, casting feeler spells to detect if magical defences were in the area, and only sensed one around the door Dilmek had told them about. As he passed one of the many doorways, he felt compelled to open one, and he knew what lay within. He wanted desperately to stop and open the door, but he knew the quest had to be completed first. Slowly he pushed past.

Lakin, hiding in his alcove, saw Glavlin hesitate. He had hoped the elves before him, would have stopped to rescue the old king, but knew they would take him eventually. It made him smile to see everything going according to plan. Even Brin, standing next to him, appeared prepared for what was needed. She had sucked in her breath when she saw her brother and sister move into view, but that was all.

Cautiously, they moved towards their destination. Everyone waiting for an attack, but happy their presence had not yet been detected. When they arrived at the door, Gillock again worked at a counter spell. It took a bit longer than the last, but finally it was gone, and they opened the door. All moved in quickly, shutting the door behind them. Gasps were heard from all over as they all caught sight of the beautiful dragon. The dragon pulled itself and stared at the creatures before it.

Gillock moved out in front to stand in a shaft of light. “Demosi,” he said, tears coming to his eyes. “I did not know,” he started to say, but was unable to finish.

The dragon slowly lowered its head and sniffed. “You have seen many dinners, old wizard,” it said, the voice booming through the cavern.

Gillock laughed. “We have much to talk about, but first we need to free you and need your help. We have a stone. Within it’s all the magic Lakin had tried to siphon off from the creatures he destroyed. Only the breath of a dragon can crack it and help us release it again into the world. Will you help us?”

Demosi sat back up and after many moments replied, “Yes.”

“We haven’t a moment to lose,” said Gillock, moving in a flurry of robe. “We will set the stone down in front of the door, just on this side. Koral and Eric stand outside of the door, spell ready. When you see a black smoke come through the door, cast your spell. When it is done, we will all move back to the portal, and the safety of the school.”

Glavlin moved and opened the door. Searching the hallway before him, he saw and heard nothing. He gestured all was clear and he, Dilmek and Darly moved out. Koral and Eric moved to the outside of the door, standing just off so they weren’t burned. Gillock counteracted the spell designed to stop the dragon’s fire from burning long, then placed a spell around himself so he did not get burned.

Lakin and Brin prepared themselves. It was almost time. Brin, having thought of what spell she should use to destroy her sister, had it brimming on her lips. Eric and Koral heard the dragon take a deep breath, and started to prepare the spell. Within moments, they could feel the heat, and see the smoke.

Quietly, they chanted the spell. Koral created a ball of water and sent it towards the smoke, Eric created a ball of fire to mix with the water and create the mist. The spells mixed, and the mist began to spread. Both knew they had to maintain the spell until it all spread out; otherwise, it could be released chaotically. Darly and Glavlin stared in awe at the mist as it began to form, neither one saw Brin move out from her hiding place and send a bolt of energy right at Koral.

The bolt hit Koral, and she gasped, not sure as to what was happening. Slowly, she spun and fell, but was caught by Glavlin before hitting the floor. Darly and Dilmek grabbed Eric and pulled him back towards the portal. Brin moved back into hiding but not before Glavlin and Koral saw her. Gillock cast a spell shrinking Demosi, so he could easily fly down the hall into the portal. Koral, laying facing the hallway, suddenly realized she is now her dream.

Glavlin scooped her up in his arms and ran towards the portal, tears streaming down his face. As he was approaching the doorway, he felt the warmth leave her body. Slowly, he stepped through the portal and back into the room. He looked at everyone before him and lowered Koral to the floor. “She’s gone,” he says behind the tears.

CHAPTER THIRTY-FIVE

Koral looked around. She was in the realm of the Earth Mother, but it looked different this time. Then she recalled seeing Brin, and realized something bad had happened. “Do not despair, princess. All is not what it appears to be,” came the Earth Mother’s voice, as she appeared before Koral.

“I am dead, am I not?”

“No, and yes,” came the reply. “Your time is over, for now. But as I had said, nothing is what it seems.” Then she disappeared, leaving Koral to contemplate the meaning of those words.

The group stood in stunned silence. Eric ran over to where Glavlin placed her and knelt down. “No,” he repeated over and over.

“Who be the one doin’ this?” asked Grund. He and Drundle had come through last, bringing an old and ragged elf with them, and the portal was again a mirror.

“It was Brin,” stated Glavlin, head down not realizing Gillock had saved his father and he was now in the room.

Gillock gasped. “I knew she had gone to the Tower, but I was not aware of how close she and Lakin had gotten.”

“The true betrayal has occurred,” came Mordekai’s voice from behind. “Except Gillock and Glavlin, I need you all to leave immediately.”

Everyone began to protest, but Mordekai was not in the mood to negotiate. Eric could not contain himself, his grief overwhelming. Mordekai placed a sleeping spell on him, and ordered him carried to his room. He then had the other two wizards at the school take the rest to the dining hall to await him. Glomain was escorted to a room to have his wounds attended and where he could recover.

Once the room was clear, Mordekai moved towards Koral. “Please step away Glavlin,” said the wizard softly.

The elf did as asked and watched as Mordekai sprinkled a powder over her body and start chanting. The spell was quite powerful and it filled the room. When he was finished, he collapsed. Both moved to help him.

“What was that?” asked Glavlin.

“A preservation spell,” whispered Mordekai, for he could not catch his breath enough to speak louder.

“Let me explain,” said Gillock. “You are too weak just yet.” Turning to face the elf, Gillock continued. “What he means is Koral is now in a type of suspended animation. Her part in this tale has only just begun.”

“Let us go to my study, I have much to explain,” said Mordekai, his strength returning.

Slowly they made their way towards the study when one of the wizards came running up.

“The girl, Maeve, is having some type of fit. We don’t know what to do,” he exclaimed.

Gillock and Mordekai started running, with Glavlin in tow. They arrived to see her on the floor of the dining hall, writhing around as if in pain.

“Get her out to the courtyard, NOW,” yelled Gillock, who turned to see Demosi following as they carried her outside.

Within moments, she began to glow. “Move away!” yelled Demosi, who was also glowing, and becoming his proper size.

Maeve began to float up off the ground, then in a brilliant flash the girl was no more. Before them stood a beautiful black dragon.

She was almost the same size as Demosi, but her scales were black, which shimmered with blue hues. Maeve was stunned at first, but then in a flash the memories came flooding back. With the death of her mate, Maeve had decided to change into a human. Living among them was the only way she felt she would survive. It felt good to be a dragon again, and then Demosi moved into her line of sight.

“My Maeve? Is it really you?” asked the dragon.

“Demosi, is it you?” was her reply, and then they intertwined.

“We shall return,” stated Demosi, then both leapt into the air, and within seconds, they were out of sight.

The wizards told the group to go and have a bath, see their aches tended, and have something to eat. There was much to discuss, but it could wait.

Within a breath, the southern landscape of the Central Lands changed. The Wizard’s school was clearly visible in the distance from Keenley. Those inside the castle still had yet to realize the Void had collapsed, and that the school was again in the real world.

Malena’s castle became visible, but it wasn’t the same one she had created in the Void. It had become a black fortress. It appeared, nestled in a crook connecting the Unmoving Mountains and the true Death’s Boundary. The fetid swamp, which had blocked the entrance to Magna Pass dried up, all save the area near the fortress. A thick and forbidding forest would develop in the weeks to come. An evil magic was present.

Malena moved onto the balcony, one she had stood on many times, and noticed the change. More important was the fact that for the first time in almost forty years, she breathed in fresh air. The view made her eyes tear, finally she was free, and everyone was going to remember who she really is.

Further north, Elizanne collapsed to her knees. Jeremy ran towards her, and lifted her head in his hands. Tears streamed down her face.

“What is it?” he asked.

“Malena,” she replied. “She is really my mother!”

As she spoke the words, the memory came back to him as well. It had been a spell placed on all the Central Lands. They would remember she was an evil creature, bent on ruling the world, but that was all. Now, the entire Central Lands, and perhaps beyond, would remember who she was.

“My brother returned, and now the memory of my mother. I fear this may be exactly what Duke Dubar needs to start his war,” stated Elizanne, terror in her voice.

EPILOGUE

“My queen, I have good news,” stated the scout.

“Well, then speak,” was her reply.

“Magna Pass is again visible, as you thought. We scouted far down into it and there is no sign of any armies heading in. I am confident they are not yet aware it has been opened for travel again.”

Queen Saralimina sat back in her throne. For the last few years, magic had been failing. Just a day earlier, she had felt it surge through her again, and wondered if the prophecy was set into motion. She had sent out her scouts to check and see if the pass opened. This news was indeed good.

“Thank you for the information. You may go.”

The scout bowed and left the queen.

Melakite eased himself beside the queen. “I told you it would come to pass,” he said, sitting beside her. “What are your plans now?” he asked.

“Prepare the army. We cannot be caught off guard should an army come at us from the Pass. We have enough problems with the humans on the other side of the Mason River. You did see a war, did you not?”

Melakite was a seer, and advisor to the throne. “Yes, I did see war, and we are at war. But I also saw the one-who-is-dead. He is whom you need to be fearful of.”

The queen laughed. “I will never fear him, or anyone. I am the Queen of the Elves, my dear Melakite. People fear me.”

Melakite bowed his head, and took his leave. Outside he found Tao in his usual spot. “Captain, I need you to get one of your men to take word to General Destra. The army is to be ready for anything.”

Tao bowed, and headed towards the general’s quarters. Melakite smiled. Soon everything he had been preparing for would come to pass, and he would have his revenge.

###

Thank you so much for reading Children of the Sun and Moon. Feel free to leave a review.
P.D. Stewart

Continue on with the series:
Book 2 – Cavern of the Heavens
Book 3 – Shard of the Fallen Goddess


Children of the Sun and Moon

Nearly 500 years ago, the War of Wizards almost destroyed the world of Melarandra. The Order of Maget was created to ensure this never occurred again. For five centuries, they have destroyed any creature, or human, who possessed magical abilities. Even as this went on, a prophecy had foretold magic's return. Royal twins Koral and Eric Traven had been told since they were children the prophecy pertained to them. The prophecy told both were needed to complete the task of returning magic, but Eric had other ideas. Always wanting to go down in history as a great hero, he planned to do it alone. Now, as their sixteenth birthday approached, the betrayal which the prophecy had foretold has occurred, setting everything into motion. Eric has gone off on his own, leaving Koral to scramble to find him. If they do not achieve the task set before them together, magic would return chaotic, and destroy the world as they know it. Now, with the help of Gillock, a wizard from the old days, and beings that are no longer supposed to exist, Koral sets out into the Central Lands. Time is already against her and she wonders if she will find her brother in time. And more importantly, before the Order does.

  • ISBN: 9781370872060
  • Author: P. D. Stewart
  • Published: 2016-08-11 01:05:35
  • Words: 95420
Children of the Sun and Moon Children of the Sun and Moon