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Ancient Mystic’s War of the Realms Saga:

#1: The Ancient Mystic’s Challenge

By: Adella Dratianos,
Author of The Young Guardian Trilogy


BOOK I: A Circle of Sisterhood
Part One: Dark Secrets

Prologue One:
Twin Dilemmas

Aluna Woods-Morehouse couldn’t be happier than she was at that moment. Sure, she was doing a mediocre chore of washing the dishes by hand, but the thoughts in her head made her smile.
She thought of who she was. Not only was she a famous Ancient Mystic of the Dream Realm with powers beyond comprehension, she was now the title of Grand Magus. She was a mother of three beautiful children: Caleb, Meredith, and Logan. She was the wife of a wonderful husband, detective and father, Shane Morehouse, and she was the Young Guardian’s own twin sister.
At that moment, all was perfect in her life.
She hummed a tune to herself while she dried the dishes and put them away in the cupboards. Her children were each at school; six-year-old Caleb in the first grade while four-year-old Meredith was smart enough to be in Kindergarten. The baby Logan was fast asleep in his crib. Shane was at work, as a Detective for the Hill View Police Force.
The house was quiet, which was good. It helped her to think.
It took three months to get life back to normal after the Crusades, and Luna couldn’t have been happier. When her niece Kelly took her Ancient Mystic Oath at the age of thirteen, Luna and her twin Ariana had also taken theirs. Since then, both twins’ powers began to grow rapidly. Luna was an avid Ancient Mystic of the Dream Realm, knowing all about its secrets and nuances. She knew loads of spells; so many, she couldn’t fit them all in her Spell-Book! She knew the dangers of Dark Magic, the wonders of the Unicorn Magic, and specialized in being a Clairvoyant. Aluna knew all there was to know about the Ancient Mystic Magic. She even knew the linage from front to back. That in itself was a remarkable thing; her mother said so many times.
When she was finished, Luna cleaned the kitchen and headed to the back room, which was her Altar Room. It held all her Magical supplies. Candles, bells, books, crystals, herbs, wands, chalices, and numerous other magical tools covered an old mahogany hope chest. If someone were to walk into this room without knowing her, they would have thought she was a witch or a Pagan. They would be wrong. Luna was an Earthbound Ancient Mystic.
On the east wall, there was an old vanity Mirror; only, it wasn’t an ordinary Mirror. The Elder Ancient Mystic Sisters, Enchantra and Challandra, had given it to her as an Anniversary gift. To Luna, it showed the Sisters thought she was mature enough to handle such a powerful gift.
Luna’s gaze went to it immediately. The reflection wasn’t hers; it was the image of a pink and white cyclone, rotating clockwise. As she drew closer, she could feel something compelling her to touch it. When she did, her eyes closed, and the picture of an old nemesis flashed through her mind.

In moments, Luna was inside the mirror, only feet away from the image of a woman.
The woman in her mind was sadistic, evil, cunning and cruel-hearted. The vision was dressed in new-age fashion, with a black leather jacket. Everything on her was black; black hair, black leggings, black miniskirt, and black low-topped boots that zipped up on the sides, black halter top with a spiked collar around her neck. She even had black lipstick and eye shadow.
Images of the Crusades passed through Luna’s mind. She was back in time, to that night in the Hill View Cemetery at the edge of town, where one of the Crusaders fought against the nemesis and lost his life. One name flashed through her mind, but she was speechless in fear and couldn’t say it aloud.
Sabrina.
Luna dared to delve deeper into the image, being careful not to show her Ancient Mystic Force to her enemy. Around Sabrina’s neck was an odd-looking crystal. It reminded her of the Dominionite Crystal in some way, but Luna knew this wasn’t it. The Dominionite Crystal was with Lord Maximaniac and Queen Jezebel, Sabrina’s mother, in the Realm they called the Grey Area.
No, Luna thought, this crystal has a deeper, darker purpose.
It was shaped like a diamond, but she didn’t know where it came from. The diamond-shaped crystal around Sabrina’s neck illuminated as her eyes glowed evil red. A sadistic smile was on her lips for only a second before the Dominionite Maiden burst out laughing.
Luna tried to get herself out of the vision, but found she was hooked. She couldn’t move her eyes from Sabrina’s own, paralyzed with fear and panic. She could only stand in her spot.
Wait, Luna thought. How can Sabrina be haunting my mind if we Exiled her to the Unknown? How did she return and why?
No time for silly questions, Mystic menace! Sabrina’s thoughts echoed in her mind.
Sabrina walked toward her.
If only Luna wasn’t so afraid of the Empathy. She’d sense what the Maiden was up to, and put a stop to it before anybody got hurt. Now more than ever did she want control over it. She searched for the Ancient Mystic Force in her mind, finding nothing but darkness.
Her fear of the Maiden and the Empathy was clouding her Mystic’s vision. Luna didn’t want the Dark Magic to take over her so she found her voice.
“What do you want?”
You Exiled me, now you must pay . . . Sabrina’s cackle brought Luna out of her frozen state as the two stared at each other.
The strange necklace was glowing again, and Luna was too frightened to move.
Sabrina kept her smile as she announced. I dare you to sense me.
Luna was silent, holding her breath so she wouldn’t cry out.
Sabrina placed a hand against her cheek. Is that better? Can you sense me now?
Luna stepped back, staying silent. To speak now would be giving up the fight.
It’s okay, Mystic. I will not bite you. Sabrina supplied. I only want you to open your Empathic eyes and ears for me.
Luna shook her head.
What is the matter? Are you afraid of the Empathy? Sabrina pressed, a smile on her face. It is only a simple Magic. Even Young Guardian uses it daily.
Luna wanted to scream, “I’m not Young Guardian! I’m her twin sister!” But she couldn’t.
Sabrina found Luna wasn’t going to speak, so she gave up, shrugging her shoulders.
Oh well. No use wasting time here. Sabrina supplied with a bored sigh. Off you go, Mystic.
It only took a moment, but Luna was frozen with fear. Sabrina waved her arm, plummeting Luna into complete darkness.
Not knowing where she was, she screamed.

II

Across the street, Ariana Woods-Reading, Luna’s twin sister, was doing her homework at the kitchen table when a Vision clouded her mind.
Something told her the Dominionite Maiden was back.
After staring at her book without reading it, she put it away. Closing her eyes, she used the Empathy and Premonition. Ariana, the Young Guardian of the Dream Realm, held her Jewels Amulet in her hand while she focused on the Vision in her mind.
Luna was lost, in trouble.
Ariana opened her eyes once again, stuffing her books back into her bag. She heard the door open, with her three children racing through the door.
Thirteen-year-old Kelly and her fourteen-year-old step-adopted-brother Bradley Allen were behind Ariana’s six-year-old twin boys, Mark Antony and Andrew.
“Hi Momma.” Kelly smiled, her silver-blue eyes sparkling when she gave Ariana a kiss on the cheek.
“Hi, Mrs. Reading,” Bradley echoed, kissing her other cheek and smiling.
The twins were already gone, and Ariana looked to the door to find their school bags and coats on the floor.
“Hello to you, too, kids.” Ariana grinned. “Will you put those away for them, please? I need to get ready for school.”
Not to mention get to my sister, Ariana thought to herself.
“Sure, Mrs. Reading,” Bradley chipped.
He raced off and Kelly stood beside her. “What’s wrong with Aunt Luna?” She asked.
“Nothing, why do you ask?” Ariana asked back, pretending to sort through her bag and books.
“I heard what you said in your mind.” Kelly replied.
Ariana stared at her, frowning. “Kelina Erin, that’s an invasion of privacy and you know it.”
“Sorry Momma,” Kelly replied. “It just happened.”
“Were you thinking about her as well?”
Kelly nodded. “I had a vision on the way home. Looks like we were thinking about her at the same time. I didn’t mean to hear your thoughts.”
Ariana thought it over. It was true. Whenever two Ancient Mystics thought of another person in their minds at the same time, they heard each other’s thoughts.
She sighed, sitting at the table.
“What’s wrong with her?” Kelly repeated.
Ariana shrugged. “I was just going to find out before you walked in.” She thought for a moment, rubbing her temples after pushing her eyeglasses up on her nose. She looked at her daughter. “Can you babysit?”
Kelly nodded. “Sure. Go.” She replied with a smile as Ariana stood up. “Bradley and I can take care of the twins and Melody.”
Bradley himself came back to their sides. “The bus is waiting out there for Mrs. Morehouse. Did you want me to bring Caleb and Meredith over here for you?”
“Come on, Bradley.” Ariana nodded, wrapping an arm around her adopted-nephew’s shoulders and flashing him a smile. “You do that, and I’ll check up on my twin.”
Bradley beamed.
When Ariana turned to Kelly, she was already gone.

Ariana’s sensors took her to Luna’s Altar Room, where she found her twin sister lying on the floor in front of her Ancient Mystic Mirror. She bent down to Luna’s body and passed a hand over her closed eyes.
“Oh no. The Abyss.” Ariana whispered, placing her index fingers on Luna’s temples.
Luna was trapped in the one place Ariana hated above all others. Despite that, she closed her eyes and chanted under her breath to wake her sister from the trance.
Ariana opened them again when she heard Luna’s soft moan and felt her move.
“Ari?” Luna sat up slowly with her sister’s help. “What are you doing here?”
“I felt you from afar.” Ariana announced.
Luna shook the cobwebs from her mind, hugging her twin. “Thanks.”
“Don’t mention it.” Ariana replied with a smile. “What happened?”
Luna stared. “You didn’t see it?”
“See what?”
“The Mirror’s image.” Luna supplied.
Both twins stared at it. It was back to its normal mirror shape, showing how identical the twins really were. Elbow-length reddish-blond hair, perfect, youthful complexions and golden frames accented each sister's silver-blue eyes.
“What about it?” Ariana asked her reflection.
Luna turned to her with a look that told Ariana something was up. Her sister's eyes were silver-blue, when they usually were ocean-blue. “Let’s get out of here first, and I’ll explain.”
“Good idea.” Ariana replied.
The twins headed to the kitchen, where Ariana fixed her sister a cup of hot tea to calm her.
Luna sat at the table while Ariana stood at the Cook’s Island. Ariana folded her arms and leaned on the counter as she patiently waited for her sister to speak.
“I’m having intense visions of Sabrina again.” Luna replied as Ariana placed a hand on hers. “I don’t understand it. Why would she use that thing around her neck to give my power a little oomph?”
Ariana was confused. “Oomph?”
“Well, my Clairvoyance has gotten stronger, and that’s my main power.” Luna explained.
“How do you know it’s her doing that, and not yourself?” Ariana wondered. “You could be getting stronger on your own, you know.”
Luna supplied. “I know it’s her, because that black jewel glowed in my visions of her, triggering it.”
“Black jewel?” Ariana asked. “You don’t mean the Dominionite Crystal, do you?”
Luna shook her head. “Not even close. This one is shaped like a diamond.”
“Do you think this diamond crystal is the one that did it?” Ariana asked.
Luna shrugged. “I don’t know what to think." She sighed, and then took a sip of tea. Ariana was patient, thinking over what her sister was saying.
"Did she do anything to you?" Ariana asked gently. "Tease you, or taunt you in any way?"
Luna gave it a thought before saying anything. "She wanted me to use my Empathy."
"That's it?" Ariana was confused.
Luna stared at her twin. "You don't understand, Ariana." She spat. "I'm afraid of the Empathy. I always have been."
"Why? It's one of the most basic Ancient Mystic powers." Ariana explained. "I use it all the time."
"You're not afraid of it."
"Why are you?" Ariana prodded.
Luna was silent again and sighed before opening her mouth. "I was aware of everything you went through in the Orphanage. I couldn't help it." She began to explain. She shook her head, trying not to cry.
Ariana sensed her sadness and stood to hug her from behind.
Luna leaned in her sister's comforting embrace and grasped her hand before going on. "I fought the urges of pain as you were being beaten constantly. When I -- we -- turned thirteen, those feelings only got worse. I turned it off, and have been afraid of the Empathy ever since."
Ariana kissed her sister's head. "That's all over now." She whispered, hugging her. "We're together at last, raising our children with loving husbands and caring friends. No harm will ever get us like that again."
Luna stood, facing her. "I wouldn't be too sure of that."
"Why do you say that?"
"According to the feelings I got in the Mirror with Sabrina, we’re going to be in trouble soon.”
“Excuse me? We?” Ariana was interested.
“Our sisters and us.” Luna supplied.
Ariana closed her eyes, trying to sense where each of their sisters were at the moment. “Anna’s with Jake, but I gave her the message. Claudia’s working on a project at home for school, and Mary Ellen is at the Clubhouse, a local teen hangout.” Ariana opened her eyes again, looking at her sister. “Well, if Brad and Kelly can watch the kids, do you think we can get them together?”
“Maybe they’ve had weird experiences with their powers as well?” Luna asked. She stood up. “Where to first?”
“My house.” Ariana replied. “Your kids are there, and I promised Kelly I’d tell her what’s going on with you.”
Luna put her cup in the sink as she dried her tears. “I hate to wake up Logan.”
“I’m sure he’ll understand.” Ariana kidded.
When the baby was ready, Luna smiled at her sister, wrapping her free arm around her twin. “Let’s go.”

III

Thirty-two-year-old Annabelle Woods, known as Anna, walked along Parker Commons, a local park in the heart of Hill View’s Rich District. With her, hand in hers, was her recent boyfriend, Jake Reading. She smiled, remembering when they met, and how. She hadn’t realized when she giggled.
“What’s so funny?” Jake whispered in her ear, kissing it.
Anna shook her head. “I was just thinking of how we met.”
Jake laughed. “Oh yeah, your brilliant premonition at work.”
Anna nudged him. “Jake!” She cried.
They stopped, kissed and sat on a nearby bench.
That’s when she got the vision.

The thoughts of Aaron Schmidt, her sister Ariana, and her niece ran through her mind. It nearly brought her to tears. She nearly became the vision of her sister, Ariana, feeling her emotions along with the vision.
The image of Aaron came up to the bench, sitting next to Ariana. “Hey, are you okay?” He asked.
Ariana stared at him. “I’ll be fine once Kelly’s back in my arms for good.”
He hugged her; she hugged him back, bursting out in tears. He’d always been the one to comfort her in the orphanage, Anna knew.
That’s when Anna became Ariana...
“It’s going to be alright.” Aaron whispered in her ear. He kissed her head.
She snuggled in his warm embrace. All worries were gone once she began to relax and enjoy his company. That’s how it’s always been between them; even Aimee noticed that.
Something didn’t feel right.
Anna’s eyes looked at him. It was his image all right. Thing was, how did he get where she was now? An image of a necklace ran through her mind, and this image of Aaron blankly stared back.
“What’s up?”
Anna as Ariana stared at his eyes, whispering. “How did you get here?”
His answer was a short one.
“This is my Dream Realm.”

Anna snapped out of the vision when Jake touched her shoulder. “Anne?”
She looked at her boyfriend. “I’m okay. Just another Vision.”
Why would she have a Vision like that? Her Clairvoyance has never been that strong before in her life.
“What did you see?” Jake pressed in a whisper, kissing her ear.
Dare she tell him? “I saw when Ariana and Aaron were searching for Kelly.” She looked at him. “I was able to feel her feelings and emotions as she felt them in her vision.”
“Her Vision? What are you talking about?" Jacob Paul Reading was beginning to worry for her now. "Out with it, Annabelle Woods. What just happened?”
“I had a Vision of Ariana having a Vision.” Anna said. “I became my sister Ariana when she had a Vision on this bench.”
It took a moment for it to sink in, with the lovers staring at each other.
“It sounds crazy, doesn’t it?” Anna groaned.
“You’re right, Anna. It does sound crazy.” Jake teased, wrapping his arms around her waist. “But I love you anyway.”
He kissed her, making her feel as if she were in heaven. When they parted, she leaned against him, closing her eyes.
Another Vision popped in her head. This time, it was urgent.
She jumped up like a shot. “I hate to do this to you, but I have to leave.” She kissed him again before she ran off, leaving him shaking his head.
“I don’t know about you, Annabelle Woods.” Jake Reading muttered as he followed.

IV

Twenty-three-year-old Claudia Woods stood at the top of the stairway, looking down at her twin brother, Christopher. “‘O Romeo, Romeo, where for art thou Romeo? Deny thy father and refuse thy name; Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love and I'll no longer be a Capulet.’”
“Claud, you’re not in the play yet.” Christopher interrupted, sounding bored. “Why practice?”
“I want to get the words right, just in case I make Juliet.”
“I think you know the words to all Shakespeare’s plays by now.” Christopher jibbed. “He’d be proud.”
Claudia stepped down to his level. “So what? I still want to be prepared.”
“Believe me, Claudia, you’re prepared.” Christopher joked.
Claudia smacked her twin brother. “Come on, Chris. Please help me? Be Romeo.”
“Fine.” Christopher sighed, reciting the words from memory. They’d gone over Romeo and Juliet so many times, it would seem he knew the entire play by heart. “‘Shall I hear more, or shall I speak at this?’”
“No! Not yet!” Claudia cried. She raced back to the top of the stairs. “Now.”
Christopher rolled his eyes as he leaned on the banister. “‘Shall I hear more, or shall I speak at this?’”
“‘'Tis but thy name that is my enemy; Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.” Claudia continued dramatically from memory. “‘What's `Montague'? It is nor hand, nor foot, nor arm, nor face, nor any other part belonging to a man. O, be some other name! What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other word would smell as sweet; So Romeo would, were he not Romeo called, retain that dear perfection which he owes without that title. Romeo, doff thy name; and for thy name, which is no part of thee, take all myself.’”
Chris was bored, but continued anyway. “‘I take thee at thy word. Call me but love, and I'll be new baptized; Henceforth I never will be Romeo.’”
Christopher happened to look up at his sister. Something in his gut told him something was wrong. Usually, she’d continue, but when looked up at her, he found her in a trance, staring into space.
For Claudia, the Vision was astonishing, if not amazing. She hadn’t had what she called an “attack” from her Photographic Memory in years. In her Vision, she saw an old enemy, Sabrina, taunting Luna from within her Ancient Mystic Mirror. She felt Luna’s sure terror when Sabrina suggested she used Empathy. Everyone in the family knew Luna was afraid of it, though only her twin Ariana knew why. Claudia focused Luna’s eyes to stare at the strange black necklace hanging at Sabrina’s bosom. It was black but it glowed white. When Ariana sent her an urgent message, Claudia knew. Her sisters were in need of her.
“Claud, are you okay?” Christopher asked, worried now. Whenever she went into a trance like that, her Magic was triggering trouble, and he knew it.
She was still staring into space when he went up the stairs, tapping her shoulder.
“Claudia.” Just the mention of her name was enough to get her out of the trance. “Hey, what happened? What did you see?”
Claudia shook her head, looking at her Sisterhood ring. “Uh, the twins need us. I mean, they need me to meet them at the Clubhouse.” She turned to Christopher with a grin. “You’re off the hook for now, little brother. I’ll be back later to finish, so you’d better be prepared.”
“Claud!” Chris yelled as he watched his sister race out of the house and into her car. He sighed for a second time. “I’ll never understand you, Claudia Marie.” He mumbled under his breath as he began to pick the Playwright Room up.

V

We’ve grown up so quickly, Twenty-eight-year-old Mary Ellen Woods thought as she peered out the window. The twins are back in the family, raising their own children, Anna is engaged to Jake Reading, and even Claudia has found her love in Craig Richardson.
Mary Ellen sighed, playing with the French fries still left on her plate, keeping an eye on her Sisterhood Ring. Right now, her ring was a calm pink, symbolizing harmony in the Dream Realm and her own.
For the five sisters, Anna, Ariana, Aluna, Claudia, and herself, the Sisterhood Ring was more than just a ring. It symbolized the Ancient Mystic Sisterhood, their magical family. Each member had various powers, hidden in the very colors of their eyes – silver-blue. The five basic powers being telepathy, clairvoyance, telekinesis (Mary Ellen’s strongest), empathy, and premonition.
She was startled out of her reverie by a voice.
“Good. You’re still here.”
Mary Ellen looked to see the four of her sisters gathered around her. They sat down, each taking a seat beside her or in front of her in the booth.
It was Ariana who spoke.
Mary Ellen smiled. “What’s up?”
Neither Ariana nor her twin smiled back.
“Sabrina’s back.” The twins chorused.
Mary Ellen stared at them, listening as they and Anna explained their visions.
For Ariana and Luna knew their enemy very well. Too well for each of their own tastes. For the twins to actually speak at the same time meant disaster was ahead. It never happened before, and it was sure to happen again before the adventure was over.
Adventure? Mary Ellen thought. What am I thinking?
She shook her head, paying attention when her empathy told her something was wrong.
“The Circle.” Anna supplied softly, showing them her ring.
All four sisters stared at the glow coming from it. It glowed a deep red, signaling she was either in a precognitive trance or there was something wrong with the Dream Realm.
“Anna?” Ariana asked. “Are you okay?”
As soon as Claudia put a hand on Anna’s shoulder, she was out of the trance.
Turning crimson, Anna looked around at her sisters. “We’ve got company.”
“Company?” Mary Ellen whispered.
Anna put a finger to her lips. “We’ve gotta go.”
“What? Why?” Luna and Ariana chorused.
“Trouble, thy name is Sabrina.” Mary Ellen whispered, and Anna nodded. She gathered her bag, paying the check. “The Circle awaits, my Sisters.”
The sisters nodded, following.
“Where should we have it?” Claudia asked.
“The place where Sabrina dares never to enter.”
“The Mirror.” The twins chorused.
What adventure awaits us in the Circle? Mary Ellen wondered, following behind them.
She wished she had grasp of her other Ancient Mystic Gifts. She had a feeling she’d need every one of them, and soon.
As for the menace named Sabrina – she only had to wait to see what fate brought them.

Prologue #2:
Evil Unleashed

Aaron Theodore Schmidt tossed in his sleep. Memories played in his head, and he was powerless in his own Dream Realm. Being a Dream Realm Crusader, he could usually control his Dream Realm.

He was disoriented, confused, lost in his own Dream Realm. Where was the Young Guardian when he needed her?
The air around him cooled and his head hurt. He looked at his hands and noticed a greenish glow. The Unicorn Magic. Why was it itching to come out now? What made that special Magic want to be used, and why? So many questions plagued his mind and heart.
He was dizzy, seeing two of everything as he stumbled through a dark forest. He sensed someone watching him, and stopped. The moment he looked up, he regretted it. He doubled over near a tree, retching from the feel of Dark Magic in the air.
Darkness surrounded him like a blanket, making his necklace burn at his chest. He managed to grasp it with green-glowing hands, wishing the Unicorn Magic he had in his blood would shield him from darkness.
His head continued to pound harder, louder, so he released it.
Through the noise in his head, he heard a woman’s voice calling his name. “Aaron. . . . Aaron . . . . Come to me, my lover.”
It sounded vaguely familiar, like the voice of his best friend Ariana, but it didn’t feel right. Something about that voice in his mind screamed Dark Magic to his very soul. He jolted upright, finding his voice to scream into the darkness. “Who are you?”
That’s when she appeared from a thick cloud of black smoke. In all appearances, it was Ariana, but the eyes....so hollow and lifeless. The stranger approached him, and he was entranced by the sight, unable to move. She had the same reddish-blond hair and features as the woman he’d fallen in love with years ago.
His heart echoed in his chest as he stared.
When he and the strange look-alike woman were face to face, she spoke. “I am your heart’s desire, my Aaron Theodore.”
Aaron Theodore. The name from his youth brought thoughts of both the orphanage and of the love he and Ariana had shared. It was her name for him, for those special times. To hear it spoken now, in his Dream Realm, by a stranger who looked like his Ariana Moon, was a mixture of torture and betrayal. His heart and soul told him it wasn’t her, it wasn’t that special girl who let him into her own fractured soul so long ago.
“I am no longer that man.” Aaron pointed out with a low growl. “Least of all to you, stranger. Who are you?”
The woman didn’t answer. Instead, she smiled as she changed her image. The air whisked around her body, wrapping her in a ribbon of red smoke. With raised arms, she changed from the blond look-alike beauty to something he immediately felt as pure evil. When she was finished, her black eyes glowed red, and he knew he was in trouble. He tried reaching for the necklace as he had when Exiling the Merchant years ago, but found he again couldn’t move. So he stared, mouth void of words and mind empty of his own thoughts.
The woman wrapped an arm around his neck while one of her cold hands gently caressed his cheek. She was tall, with bright red hair and hollow black eyes. He could see the reflection of his own frozen state in them.
“I am whoever you wish me to be.” She whispered, kissing him firmly on the lips. “For I represent your hidden desires, your secrets within, your forbidden passions and yearnings. I can help you or hurt you.” She let her hand wander to his growing manhood. “Love me, Aaron Theodore,” she said in Ariana’s familiar voice. “We belong together.”
Thinking of that special night at the orphanage years ago, he found the glowing sphere of Unicorn Magic that pulsed his system. He closed his eyes, picturing himself, twin Amethyst and his Ariana Moon, linked forever through her blood. With that thought, he found the strength to open his eyes and push her away. One denying word came to mind and mouth. “Never! I am a powerful Crusader and you are nothing but a demon after my own affections. I will never love anybody but Young Guardian!”
At the last two words, she stood a few paces from him, stunned and unable to speak. To her, he’d used the name of the very being to Exile the Master to his Unknown realm. Lord Guardian’s own successor’s very name frightened her. A thought came to her mind, and Aaron saw the look on her face turn from shock to determination.
“Maybe not today, Young Aaron, but soon.” The crimson-haired woman’s voice was suddenly her own, vile and empty. She disappeared, leaving her voice to whisper in his Dream Realm, “You will be mine.”

Aaron woke up, drenched in sweat. He sat up in bed, pulled back the covers and headed to the bathroom. He quickly washed his face with cold water before heading to his twin’s room. The Crusader team’s Over-Seer had to know about this.

II

Meanwhile, the demon known as Shenara returned to her mother and sister’s sides. She was scared now, especially after Young Aaron had mentioned the Young Guardian. Though she’d never met the woman, Shenara knew of her. To a Dominionite such as herself, Young Guardian was a threat, and a powerful one indeed.
Shenara paced the hideaway dwelling where she lived, trying to think of something to take Aaron’s attention away from Young Guardian.
“Foiled again, were you sister?” Came the shrill voice of her step-sister Albrath. When Shenara turned, her sister laughed.
“Shut up!” Shenara screamed at her. “He thought of no one but Young Guardian.”
“Ah, the infamous successor of poor Lord Guardian.” Albrath announced. “He still pines for her, does he not?”
Shenara nodded. “I intend to change that.”
Albrath laughed again. “Ha! I suppose you have a plan?”
“Not yet, but I will.” Shenara promised.
“When?”
Shenara sighed, then said. “Soon.”
“You will have your chance, my daughter.” Came the voice of their mother, Gloriana. “Just as I will have the Master as my own.”
“How dare you speak of the Master so lightly!” Shenara cried. “Do you not know the Maiden has returned?”
“Aye, Shenara. I know.” Gloriana said calmly, which told both her daughters she was up to something. “I also know she brought great, corruptive magic back with her.”
“You have seen her since her return?” Albrath asked, eager for gossip. “Is she assembling another Army against Lord Guardian?”
Gloriana shrugged. “That, I would not know. I have heard she stole the Black-as-Night Crystal from the Gatekeeper’s hidden alcoves in the Abyss.”
Her daughters were silent, looking at each other.
“For now, we plan our return to the Master’s side.” Gloriana said. “It will only be a matter of time before my revenge can begin.”

III

Orthos paced his cavern in the Unknown, thinking of another way to get back at his brothers, O’Dell and Maximaniac. Especially Maximaniac for taking Jezebel away from him, leaving him alone in the Unknown.
He fired the kindling under his Dark Cauldron, wondering what was going on in the Outer Realm with his brother O’Dell’s Ancient Mystics. There wasn’t another soul in the hidden cavern with him, not even his favorite Warrior slaves. He was alone in this room to ponder his next move.
It had been nearly a decade since O’Dell and his Dream Realm Crusaders defeated him, Exiling him and his two remaining children to the Unknown. Young Guardian, O’Dell’s successor and leader to his Crusader team, had Exiled her longtime enemy, the Maiden Sabrina, with an Exiling spell. Unwittingly, she’d used the most powerful of her own Magics, the Ancient Mystic Force to Exile Orthos’ seductive daughter. One of the Crusaders, Aaron Schmidt, had used a power like none he’d ever seen. Aaron’s Unicorn Magic had Exiled the Merchant Damian, Orthos’ son. After his children disappeared, Orthos found he had no control over the Warriors. O’Dell, Lord Guardian of the Dream Realm himself, dared to face him, making him freeze with an Ancients’ spell of Exile.
He’d let his brothers have their time, their glory in the sun. No more. Time has almost run out, and Orthos, former Master to the Dominionite Warrior Army, could let them have no more. He had to do something to retaliate....something no other would think of....something so cunning, they wouldn’t suspect him.
His attention turned back to his Dark Cauldron when he happened to catch a glimpse of his daughter Sabrina.
She was back in the underground dungeons of Dark Tower, where she held an Ancient crystal necklace in her hands.
The Black-as-Night Crystal. How did she get it from the Gatekeeper in the Abyss? How did she return to the Dream Realm when Orthos himself couldn’t? What was she planning? She disappeared, crystal aglow.
He watched as she reappeared in the Dream Realm’s Canine Valley. The crystal pulsated, seeking power while Sabrina sought the Lady of Canine Valley with glowing red eyes and vicious smile.
He knew, whatever Sabrina was doing, he would have a hand in it sometime.
Prologue #3:
Katherine’s Fear

Katherine Hawk-Stargazer, Lady to the Dream Realm’s Canine Valley, stared straight ahead. She didn’t like what she saw. Using the Ancient Mystic power she had within, she could faintly feel the air cool as her cousin approached her.
“Sabrina.” Katherine hissed under her breath. The evil in the air made her shudder.
What could Sabrina want with her now? More importantly, how did she get un-Exiled from the Unknown?
“My, cousin, what a life you have for yourself.” The Dominionite Maiden appeared in front of her in moments.
“Go away, Sabrina.” Katherine hissed curtly. “Your kind are not needed here.”
“But I am family.” Sabrina sounded innocent, her raven-black hair swept behind her back as she circled her cousin. “Are you going to turn family away?”
Katherine ignored her, anger bubbling up in her blood.
“Shall I bring my mate to escort you, or will you go willingly?” Katherine admonished.
Sabrina only laughed in her Immortal form. Katherine stayed in her Feline Companion form, taking as the breed of her father, a Balinese.
“You actually think I am afraid of Wolf?” Sabrina laughed. “I used to own him, or have you put all thought of the Wars out of your head?”
“What do you wish from me, cousin?” Katherine bit her tongue on the words. “The Wars and Crusades are long over. You have no need for me now, nor do I have any need for you.”
“Only to brag about my newest conquest.” Sabrina flaunted, ignoring her cousin’s rebuttal. “You see, I am not finished with the Woods’ sisters, yet.”
That also meant her friend, Ariana.
“Leave them be.” Katherine commanded. “The Crusaders –”
“Ah, ah, ah.” Sabrina shook her head in shame, playing with her glowing-black diamond-shaped necklace. “Not so fast. They Exiled me to the Unknown; I want payment for that.”
“How are you in the Dream Realm’s Canine Valley, then?” Katherine watched Sabrina closely.
“An easy spell from Father’s Spell-book.” Sabrina admonished, bored. “I am not here for a cat fight, cousin. Merely to strike a bargain with you.”
“What kind of bargain?” Katherine asked, knowing whenever Sabrina wished to strike a bargain, it meant trouble for whoever was involved. She had no choice but to comply, or see her friends get hurt.
“Katherine!” It was her mate’s husky voice that made both look to see who spoke. “Sabrina, leave.”
“I merely –”
“Leave!” Sire Wolfton Stargazer was serious, fists clenched in anger. He roared loudly, making Sabrina jump.
Katherine looked first to her canine mate, then to her human cousin. “You had better leave now, Sabrina. Or fear his wrath.”
“Very well.” Sabrina supplied. She gave Katherine a wink and a point. “I shall return.”
Wolfton growled again, and she disappeared.
Both Katherine and Wolf stood silent, watching the distance. It took a moment for either of them to speak.
“Kat?”
Katherine looked at the Sisterhood Amulet that gave him the immortal powers of speed and agility. She was afraid to look into her loving canine mate’s eyes.
“What did she want?” Wolf pressed.
“To strike a bargain, my love.” Katherine whispered, turning away when he asked the question.
“To make trouble for us, you mean.” Wolf corrected angrily.
Katherine took a breath and walked away.
Wolf stood for a second, now worried about his mate and love.
“Kat, what’s wrong?” Wolf asked, catching up to her. “What did she say to upset you?”
Katherine stopped, and only turned her head. “She is going to harm Young Guardian and her sisters. I can feel it.”
Wolf hugged her from behind, nudging her neck with his snout. It was clear his anger over Sabrina’s arrival was gone. “Darling?”
Katherine took a deep breath, letting it out slowly. “I fear for them.”
Wolf sensed her quiet fear, kissing her. “Be not afraid. They will know what to do.”
“I hope so.” Katherine tore herself from his kind embrace, walking back to Stargazer Castle.
Wolf was suspicious. Usually, she would agree, but something bothered her. Thinking of Sabrina’s true intentions, he began. “What kind of bargain?”
“I would not know.” Katherine supplied. “Had you not interrupted, I would have been able to hear it.”
“Do you think Young Guardian knows what she is up to?” Wolf asked, tending to his daughter Celine.
“She knows.” Katherine sighed. “Boy, does she know. Whatever Sabrina has in store for her and her sisters, I will be there to help them out.”
“As always, but what will they do in return?”
Katherine was silent for a moment, watching her daughter closely. “Help me should I need it. That is how Young Guardian is, and always will be.”
“I suppose you are that way as well?” Wolf laughed lightly, hugging his mate and making Katherine smile.
“Mommy’s always nice, Papa.” Celine giggled.
Katherine was glad to hear that, but she had a feeling it would come time when she wouldn’t be able to be nice. Especially when it came to Sabrina.
She held Wolf close, wondering what her cousin had planned. Whatever it was, she was scared shiftless.

II

Jezebel paced her quarters like a restless tigress. She had an urge to go to her daughter, but her will told her to stay away.
“Will you sit, my darling Jezebel?” Her mate, Lord Maximaniac asked her. “You are making me dizzy.”
Jezebel sat beside him at her throne. She sighed.
“Whatever is on your mind this time?” Maximaniac asked.
“Sabrina.” Was the only word from her lips.
“Come now, darling. Do not fret over her.” Maximaniac suggested. “She has accepted the darkness inside her empty soul.”
“Nevertheless, she is still my daughter.” Jezebel countered.
“Bah!” Maximaniac growled. “Think nothing of her. I do.”
“She is still your niece, and former lover if you recall the Crusades.”
Maximaniac sighed. “The Crusades were long ago, but now we are happy.” When she didn’t answer, he took her hand in his and kissed it. “We are happy, are we not?”
Jezebel looked up at her gargoyle-human mate. It was his regal form to take, when acting as royalty. She had to smile, kissing his lips. “Aye, we are happy. At last.”
There came a ring of the chimes in front of the castle, with a loyal subject of theirs announcing, “Here ye! Here ye! I now announce the lovely Lady Katherine of Stargazer Castle and the entire Canine Valley!”
The subject bowed as Katherine stepped lively to her new aunt and uncle. She bowed to the couple.
“Rise, Katherine.” Jezebel supplied, allowing the young woman to stand and face them. “What brings you to the Grey Area?”
“Trouble brewing in the mists, Queen Jezebel.” A glint in Katherine’s eyes was enough for fear to run up and down both their spines.
Jezebel and Maximaniac nodded to their servants, telling them to leave before Katherine continued. Jezebel stepped down, face-to-face with her niece.
“Tell me what distresses you, Lady Katherine.”
“Sabrina came to me, threatening Young Guardian’s life.” Katherine supplied. “Not to mention those of her sisters.”
Jezebel turned to Maximaniac. “This is nothing to fret?” She asked sarcastically.
He waved her off, silently telling her to get on with it.
Jezebel turned back to Katherine. “Tell me all you know.”
Katherine explained Sabrina’s unannounced visit, ending with. “I fear for all our lives, Aunt Jezebel! Please, do something about her!”
Jezebel sighed, looking into Katherine’s innocent eyes.
How pure they’d stayed as she grew up in Dark Tower? How lovely and adult she’d become in spite of living with her and Orthos? How knowledgeable and kind? If there were anything to learn about the wonderful Dream Realm in which she lived, it would have to be taught by Katherine.
Jezebel was lost in the trance, unable to take herself away from her niece’s gentle silver-blue eyes. It was only recently Katherine found she was a Ancient Mystic – just as Jezebel was. She was a daughter of Jezebel’s twin sister, Sibylline.
“Jezebel?” Katherine’s voice interrupted her thoughts.
“My apologies, Katherine.” Jezebel touched her niece’s head, petting it. “I will speak with Sabrina as soon as I can find her.”
“Please hurry, aunt Jezebel!” Katherine pleaded. “It may be too late before too long!”
Jezebel nodded, and Katherine disappeared from sight.
Somehow, the feeling in her soul – her newly-reborn Ancient Mystic’s soul – just got bigger. The news of Sabrina’s wrath hit like a ton of bricks, but not even she – Sabrina’s own mother – knew how to handle her. Nor did she know what kind of trouble Sabrina was about to cause.
Part Two:
Maiden and the Master

Prologue
Dark Visions

Aaron Schmidt tossed in his sleep.

He was in his private Dream Realm, but someone else was there with him. The demon-girl, whoever she was, was back. She was tall, with bright red hair and hollow black eyes. He could see the reflection of his own frozen state in them. He was hooked in his own Dream Realm, and for once, he couldn’t control it.
He thought of the Unicorn Magic that pulsed in his system. With it, he raised his arms, keeping an eye on the demonic beauty.
She stood just paces ahead of him, beckoning silently for him to come closer. He saw the bracelet around his wrist glow, knowing the Unicorn Magic was hopefully shielding him from whatever she had planned.
“Come to me, Aaron.” The girl beckoned in a voice that was all too familiar to him. “Give yourself to me.”
Her voice echoed around him, making him realize at once who she was imitating. The girl sounded like Ariana, his best friend and fellow Crusader.
In front of him, she closed her eyes, ran her hands over her hair and changed her image. When she was done, the demon girl had a smile on her lips, and her face looked exactly like Ariana’s!
The two parts of him were torn. On one hand, he wanted the girl as he wanted Ariana. To love him and care for him. On the other hand, his conscience told him to get away, fast, before he did something he might regret. Aaron didn’t know what to think or believe.
“Come on, Aaron.” The look-alike whispered in his ear as they embraced. She sounded so much like Ariana, it was eerie. “Protect me.”
He found his voice. “What do you need protection from?”
“The Maiden and the Merchant.” The girl supplied. She stroked him, from his chin to his chest.
He could feel the bulge in his jeans pulsate, and he began to sweat nervously. She was doing the same thing as Sabrina had in the past!
Finding his wits, he pulled away. The girl’s image changed back to the red-haired demon girl.
Don’t look a Dominionite in the eye. Mrs. Woods’ reminder rang in his head.
“Who are you?” Aaron demanded loud enough to hear his voice echo in his Dream Realm.
The girl smiled, moving to kiss his ear. “Shenara.” Her cat-like voice purred, kissing his mouth.
Aaron knew what she was trying to do. He’d been put through it plenty of times before with Sabrina, the Maiden of the Unknown. Shenara, whoever she was, was trying to weaken his magic with a kiss. He knew better, though. He knew to close himself off before Shenara could totally drain him of the Unicorn Magic.
Her lips parted from his, finally realizing what he was doing. A scowl was on her face.
“Next time, my sweet.” Shenara blew him a kiss. “You will be mine.”
She left him standing in his Dream Realm, speechless.

He awoke from the scene, exhausted but proud of himself. He’d stalled time for himself before he could come up with a plan to Exile her.

II

Shenara reappeared in the Dark Area of the Dream Realm’s Old Dominion.
“Well, how did you do?” Her sister, Albrath was curious when Shenara appeared in front of her. Albrath’s white curls of hair bounced, wondering.
“I failed, sister.” Shenara cried, throwing a blast of Dominionite Magic to a wall in frustration. “I will never be as evil as the Maiden.”
The blast had almost hit their mother, who was standing in the doorway.
“Never mind her,” Gloriana supplied. “You are your own demon-mistress. I am sure a mere weakling like Aaron Theodore will be begging to give you his power. You will see.”
“Yes, sister.” Albrath supplied, and Shenara glared. “Be patient.”
“I suppose you can do better?” Shenara spat sarcastically.
“No need.” Albrath shrugged. “I have no grudges against the Maiden.”
“Who said I have a grudge against her?” Shenara continued.
Gloriana grinned a sneer as vicious as the Master himself. “Admit it, darling. You are jealous of Sabrina. You want to be just like her.”
Both Gloriana’s daughters’ eyes were wide. As Dominionites, all three had been a part of the Warrior Army, which was led by Sabrina and her brother Damian. To call their leaders by their informal names would be a grounds for punishment.
Knowing this, Gloriana kept her sneer. “Not to worry, my dears. Once we get ourselves Exiled to the Unknown, I will work my own seductive Magic on the Master.”
The girls stared at their mother, but Albrath was the one to speak.
“He is our Master, Mother!” Albrath supplied. “Why would you want to seduce him?”
Gloriana chuckled, sneaking a look at Shenara. “I have my own reasons for wanting Master Orthos as my own.”
Gloriana’s sneer was enough to make her two daughters wonder what was on their mother’s mind.

III

As soon as he was dressed, with Bradley, Angel, and Aimee already gone, Aaron raced next door to see Ariana Reading. He knocked on the door, waiting until Ariana herself answered.
“Come in, Aaron.” Ariana Reading’s voice was firm. As soon as the door was closed, she said. “I hear a demon-mistress wants your Unicorn Magic.”
Aaron stared at her. “Who told you?”
She smiled. “The Young Guardian knows all that goes on in the Dream Realm.”
Aaron had to smile back. He knew Ariana was the Young Guardian. “So, what should I do about her?”
“The only thing to do. Exile her.” Ariana replied in her ‘Young Guardian of the Dream Realm’ tone.
“How do I do that?”
Ariana thought for a moment. “Lure her to you, then call on me.” She replied. “Once we have her cornered, we call the spell and Exile her to the Unknown.”
Aaron stared. “That easy, huh?”
Ariana shrugged. “Only one way to find out. We Crusade tonight and try it.”
Aaron’s smile widened. He moved closer to her, giving her waist a hug and lips a soft kiss. “That’s what I love about you, my Ariana Moon. Always one step ahead of the bad guys.”
Ariana blushed away, laughing lightly. “What are Crusaders for?”
Aaron let go, feeling her discomfort. She always did that whenever he tried to show his love for her. He decided to leave, becoming uncomfortable himself.
“See you tonight in my Dream Realm, Young Guardian.” He said softly. “Maybe we’ll Exile her then?”
“Maybe.” Ariana nodded. “See you later.”
Aaron saluted, leaving.
Why was my heart still pounding over her? He thought, shaking his head as he opened the door to his house. With one last look next door, he sighed.

IV

“I hear Young Guardian is going to Exile us tonight.” Gloriana rubbed her palms together, laughing out loud.
“Why would we want to be Exiled?” Albrath asked.
“So we may be reunited with our Master.” Gloriana replied. She turned to Shenara. “Find Aaron Theodore’s Dream Realm tonight. I want to be there when they Exile you.”
Shenara was furious. “Mother!”
“Trust me.”
“Where will we go?” Albrath remarked. “We will be powerless, and stranded in the depths of the Unknown.”
“Leave it all to me.” Gloriana sneered. “If Young Guardian and Aaron Theodore wish to make the mistake of Exiling us, let them.”
“What are you planning, Mother?” Shenara wanted to know.
“I plan to becoming Queen of the Unknown.”
Shenara smiled at the prospect. “And we it’s Princesses! Oh, what a disastrous idea!”
“Wait? How will you do that?” Albrath asked.
“I told you; leave it all to me.” Gloriana replied. “The Master will be eating from the palm of my hand once I am through with him.”
“Hold your tongue!” Shenara cried. “The Maiden might hear you!”
“I am not afraid of her anymore.” Gloriana remarked. “She is a mere thorn in my rose of deception. Sabrina may have bossed us around in the past, but she had better watch out.”
Gloriana took a blackened apple that had fallen from a nearby burned tree. “How does Queen Gloriana sound, girls?”
Shenara and Albrath looked at each other maliciously. Whatever their mother was planning, it was going to be hot.
Gloriana turned to Shenara. “Lead me to Aaron Theodore and the pesky Young Guardian.” She commanded, with Shenara nodding. “Prepare to be Exiled.”
Chapter:
Young Guardian’s Demons

After making sure her four children and husband were in bed for the night, Ariana Reading climbed in bed herself. Derrick was reading a book when she came to bed. He placed a marker in the page he was reading and put it on the night stand next to the bed.
He wrapped his arms around her, kissing her passionately. When they parted, Ariana stared into his eyes.
She didn’t want to tell him she had to Crusade tonight. Any other night would have been fine, but this was for Aaron, her former lover and fellow Crusader.
Ariana sighed, thinking. How should I tell him?
“Just tell me.” Derrick whispered in her ear, holding her close.
Ariana smiled, snuggling in his warm, comforting embrace. She’d forgotten the telepathy they had with each other. It took a minute for her to gather her thoughts.
“I have to Crusade alone tonight.” She told him softly, fingering his wedding band as they held hands in the dark.
“Why?” Derrick kissed her hair. His breath felt warm in her ear.
“Aaron needs my help with a demon mistress.” She told him. “We’re going to Exile her to the Unknown together.”
Derrick pulled back. “Be careful, Love. Please?”
“I will.” Ariana said. “I promise.”
Derrick smiled, turning off the light.
At first, they lay snuggled next to each other.
It felt so good to be loved by him! Ariana thought, kissing his lips passionately.
Soon, they were embraced under the sheets, their heads filled with thoughts of love. Her Romeo Reading truly had come out of a fairy tale! She couldn’t imagine being with anyone else but Derrick James Reading. Since they were sixteen, they’d had a love unlike any other. Ariana was Derrick’s Dream Girl, haunting his heart with her pleas for help and love. Derrick was Ariana’s Imaginary Romeo, reaching out to her for help with his own demons and escape from his war-torn family.
“I love you so much, Derrick.” Ariana panted, feeling high on love.
He kissed her entire body, from head to toe, each time filling her entire spirit with ecstasy. When he made love to her, the excitement in her system grew until he cried out in orgasm.
“Our private little paradise.” He whispered as he held her. She snuggled close to him.
With a final kiss to the mouth with wet lips, Ariana was exhausted, lost to the Outer Realm.
“I mean it, Ariana Moon Reading.” She heard Derrick’s voice whisper from afar. “Be careful.”

He sensed her nearby, waiting in the shadows for her to appear.
“Aaron!” She called, descending to the ground.
As always, she was gorgeous. She wore what she called her “Guardian’s Gown.” It was a flowing white gown that made her look like an angel. A multi-pastel-colored wrap hung over her right shoulder, with her Jewels Amulet pinning it together. The gown’s top was partially see-through, and she wore a rose-colored slip underneath.
Time to make his move.
“So glad you found me.” Aaron crept up behind her.
“How dare you do that to me?” Ariana turned and asked with a smile, playfully slugging him.
“This is my Dream Realm, you know.” Aaron teased, nudging her. “I can do anything.”
“Can you lure this demon girl to you?” Ariana wanted to know. “How did she find you the first time?”
Aaron rolled his eyes. So much for the playful reunion. When she’s on patrol, her mind’s on the mission. They began walking side-by-side. Without thinking, he took her hand.
“She just came to me in my sleep.” Aaron replied. “If she’s persistent enough, she’ll be here.”
Ariana wasn’t paying any attention to him. It was as if she didn’t hear him. He unclasped her hand to wrap an arm around her waist.
“Remember the good old days?” Aaron whispered.
“What good old days?” Ariana responded sarcastically. “When we were getting beat up for being kids? Yeah, it’s kind of hard to forget that.”
Aaron sighed, pulling her close to kiss her ear. “I was kind of thinking about us.”
Ariana stared at him, confused. He knew how much she enjoyed his embrace, yet she pulled away from him. “There is no us, Aaron.” She said softly. “How many times do I have to tell you?”
He was silent, staring. Would he ever have her love again?
They broke apart and Ariana wandered ahead of him.
“I know you’re here!” Ariana yelled in the air. “Show yourself! Young Guardian of the Dream Realm demands it!”
All that was heard was a cackle.
“You’re trespassing on Province ground, Dominionite.” Ariana continued her one-sided rebuttal. “I can sense the darkness, so don’t try and fool me with charms.”
It was then Shenara showed herself, and Aaron got a good look at her. The bright red hair and shadowy hollow-black eyes stood out.
“Who are you?” Ariana demanded.
Shenara walked over to Aaron, who immediately took Ariana’s hand as he watched her change form. Aaron could sense Ariana’s confusion.
“I am Shenara. I see we are competition for his affections?” She purred with a grin.
“No competition here.” Aaron growled, not looking into Shenara’s eyes.
“I am the Young Guardian and you’re treading on forbidden territory.” Ariana pointed out firmly.
“My apologies.” Shenara supplied, bowing. At that, two more Dominionites appeared beside her. “I meant no disrespect.”
Ariana stepped back, glaring at the newcomers.
“The Master will reign.” Gloriana announced, throwing a ball of Dominionite Magic at Ariana and Aaron.
They tried to dodge the fire, but Aaron was hit in the shoulder. Ariana knelt beside him and placed a hand on his wound, healing it. They could do nothing but listen to Gloriana’s ranting.
“I serve only the Master, and do not acknowledge any Young Guardian.”
This made Aaron mad and he could feel the Unicorn Magic inside him growing. He could also feel the Dark Magic coming from Ariana, fierce and angry.
They helped each other stand.
“Watch your tongue, or I’ll –” Ariana announced, but was interrupted.
Gloriana laughed. “What will you do, Exile us?”
Aaron opened his mouth to retort.
“Ah, but you must know our names before you Exile us.” The demon girl with the curly white hair and black eyes remarked. She bowed. “I am Albrath.”
“Who are you?” Ariana asked Gloriana.
“The Dominionite Warrior Gloriana.” She replied.
“Call the stupid spell, Ariana!” Aaron cried. His best friend was stalling for time.
Ariana looked at him. “Together.”
Aaron nodded, repeating the words with her.

“Magics of the Realms Unite
“Take these Old Dominionites
“In a cloud of dust to the Unknown
“I Exile you all alone!”

“Hold on, girls.” They heard Gloriana remark. “We are going home.”
Aaron fainted on the spot as the trio disappeared in a cloud of grey Magic dust.

Ariana folded her arms, smiling. She turned to Aaron, but found her best friend had fainted in his own Dream Realm. She knew why: he’d used Magic he wasn’t accustomed to.
She bent down to touch his face and close her eyes. He was resting peacefully. “Time to get you home, my Aaron Theodore.” She whispered, softly kissing him on the lips.
They disappeared, returning Aaron to his bed in the Outer Realm.

Ariana woke up beside him, sitting in the chair by the bed. She looked out the window, greeting the stars and the moon that were shining brightly at her. It was still the middle of the night, and she let out a yawn.
She contemplated the short confrontation with Shenara, Albrath, and Gloriana. It seemed all to easy to Exile them. They’d wanted to be Exiled, she realized.
Ariana sighed. She heard a knock on the door shortly before it opened.
Aimee ran to hug Ariana. “Is he okay?”
“Just power-drained.” Ariana told her. “He was hit by Dominionite Magic, but I healed him. You might want to watch his shoulder.”
“What about the demon girl?” Aimee asked.
“We Exiled her and two others to the Unknown.”
Aimee shook her head. “After all these years of peace. Somehow, I don’t believe it.”
“Me, either.” Ariana whispered, standing. “I have to get home. Derrick’s probably worried sick about me.”
Aimee nodded, then giggled. “Yeah, he is.”
With that, Ariana kissed Aaron’s cheek, and hugged Aimee goodbye.
“Let me know how he feels in the morning.” Ariana announced.
Aimee nodded, and Ariana went home, back to her own bed.

II

By the time Ariana climbed back into her own warm bed, she was half-way into the Dream Realm. She drifted in the Dream Realm until she found Queen Jezebel and Lord Maximaniac in the Grey Area’s Shady Kingdom.
“My Lord Max, I have something to tell you.” Ariana blurted without warning. “I just Exiled three of your Old Dominionites to the Unknown.”
Lord Maximaniac practically jumped from his chair, startling her. “You what!?” He stammered. “Why?”
Jezebel placed a hand on Maximaniac’s arm to calm him.
“Aaron was being haunted by a demon-girl named Shenara.” Ariana replied. “I realized something that might be of interest to you, My Lord Max.”
“Aye?” Maximaniac sat back down at his throne. “Tell me.”
“Do you remember a Dominionite Warrior naming herself Gloriana?” Ariana asked. He nodded and she told him the whole story.
Jezebel had been listening, too, and finally decided to speak up. “You felt the Dark Magic growing with your anger?”
“Yes, my Queen Jezebel.” Ariana nodded. “I was careful not to let it overcome me, but when I heard Gloriana say that, I was mad. Don’t the Grey Areans know of me, and who I am?”
“Aye, of course, but there are some...” Maximaniac let his voice trail.
“We call them Dark Areans. They do not wish to be good once again.” Jezebel said. “They are still Warriors at heart, if they have hearts.”
“Why would Gloriana want her and her daughters to be Exiled?” Ariana wondered. “It was so easy, they didn’t even put up a fight.”
“That, we could not tell you.” Maximaniac said.
Jezebel stood next to her, wrapping an arm around her shoulders. “Come with me.” She turned to her mate. “We will not be gone long, my Lord.”
Maximaniac nodded, but both women could tell his head was still in the clouds.
Jezebel took Ariana to the small garden in back. “I know why Gloriana wanted that.”
Ariana stared.
“Max does not need to know.” Jezebel said. “Not yet, anyway. Gloriana needs a father for her daughter Shenara.”
“Who?” Ariana was confused. “What? Why?”
“You must listen and not tell a soul.” Jezebel replied. “Not even Protector Derrick, understand? We do not need the Crusaders getting into any trouble they cannot handle.”
“I promise, my Queen Jezebel.” Ariana bowed to her, showing her loyalty.
“Orthos never knew this, but he fathered a child with her.”
“While he was your husband?” Ariana sat next to her on the grass now. “Did you know then?”
“I knew, but failed to believe.” Jezebel said. “Her mate, Vestal Companion, never found out about the affair before his death in the Wars. Not even his own daughter Albrath knew. When Gloriana became pregnant with Shenara, I was pregnant with Damian. She disappeared from Warrior view after the Wars ended, taking her only daughter Albrath with her.”
“Where did she go?”
Jezebel shrugged. “No one knew.”
“Did you ever confront Orthos about it?”
Jezebel nodded. “Many times. Each confrontation, he denied the whole thing.” She said. “When I found out his betrayal, I lost what little love I had for him. I realized I missed my loving Maxwell.”
Ariana repeated. “Maxwell?”
Jezebel smiled. “That was Maximaniac’s name before he Banished himself.”
She reached into the air and pulled a scepter. It fit perfectly in the palm of Jezebel’s hand, with the silver rod as long as her arm. There were different Ancient Mystic runes covering the rod, but Ariana didn’t know enough of the Ancient language to translate. At the tip was a glowing black ball, about the size of a small basketball. Jezebel pointed it at Ariana.
“What are you going to do with that?” Ariana asked.
“A lesson in the Dark Magic, Young Guardian.” Jezebel smiled. “Tell me what you see.”
As soon as Ariana’s eyes hit the sphere, the memories of the orphanage came back to her, full force. She saw herself curled up in a bed, crying tears of pain. Little Ariana Moon was shaking, afraid. She was sure to be silent, she didn’t want any of Mrs. Gertrude’s spies to put her in the Torture Room.
“I see myself crying in bed.” Ariana whispered, her eyes glued to it. “I remember; it was after I was beaten for practicing magic. I was only seven. I didn’t know what I was doing.”
“What had you done?” Jezebel dared to interrupt.
Ariana felt the tear racing down her cheek, wiping it away. “I only made a little unicorn statuette levitate to me. I wanted that unicorn back; Mrs. Gertrude had taken it away from me. I didn’t know what I was doing. I swear it.” She hugged herself, shaking. She pulled her eyes from the glowing black ball to stare at Jezebel.
“I beg for forgiveness, my Queen.” Ariana was in a daze, bowing at Jezebel’s feet and kissing her hand. “I was only a child. Please, forgive me.”
Jezebel smiled at her, holding Ariana’s hand. “You need no forgiveness from me. You could not control your desire for Magic.”
“What should I do about it?” Ariana asked.
“Nothing.” Jezebel supplied. “What is past has passed. There is nothing you can do about that. You wanted to learn the mysterious gifts you held, but no one was there to teach you.”
“Not until I met Lord Guardian.” Ariana added, then smiled. “I was so afraid of learning it. I kept thinking about the abuse, and what Mrs. Gertrude would do if she found out.”
“Katherine Hawk helped with that fear, did she not?” Jezebel asked. “Once Orthos Banished her to you, she became a friend.”
“Not only a friend, but a confidant and teacher.” Ariana stood. “We’ve been through so much together; it’s hard to believe she’s not with me anymore.”
Jezebel was silent, throwing the scepter into the air and making it disappear. “She cares a lot about you, Young Guardian. I believe you will be confidants, Crusaders, and friends until the end of time and destiny.” She hugged Ariana. “There, feel better now?”
Ariana stared, then smiled at her. “Yes, I do, in fact. I feel a burden has been lifted from my shoulders.”
“Good.” Jezebel remarked with a grin. “Do you feel up to making your rounds?”
Ariana nodded. “Of course; I have to.” She supplied, waving her arms to change into her Guardian’s Gown. “I’m the Young Guardian.” She bowed once more. “Farewell, my Queen Jezebel.”
“Pleasant journeys,” Jezebel called after her, long after she’d disappeared.

III

As soon as Ariana had disappeared, Jezebel raced to her Mirror Room. Her mate saw her rush and excused himself from his delegates to follow her.
“Jezebel.” He tried calling to her to get her attention.
Jezebel found and flipped through her Spell-book with a determined look on her face. Lord Maximaniac was nervous just watching her.
“What are you looking for?” He growled roughly.
“The spell Sabrina used to return to the Dream Realm.” Jezebel replied.
“It would not very well be in your Spell-book.” Max remarked.
“It is.” Jezebel insisted, and faced her gargoyle mate. “I should know; I wrote it.”
Max was interested as he watched her throw the book up in the air, making it levitate. She whispered something under her breath in the Ancient language, a seeking spell to find what she was looking for.
Both watched as the book glowed yellow, its pages turning furiously, searching. It only took a moment, but the book stopped on a page, returning to Jezebel’s hands.
“Well?” Max asked just as Jezebel said. “I should have known.”
“What is it?”
“It’s called the Abolishment Spell.” Jezebel faced him as he read over her shoulders. “Orthos and I wrote it, in case one of us were Exiled before the other.”
Max stepped away, then turned back to her. “Why had you not used it before I banished myself for you?”
Jezebel could sense he was hurt, and comforted him with a hug and a kiss on the lips. “Once your own Spell-book fell, I stood, speechless. O’Dell was there, but dared not say a word as I picked it up. When I found your words of love for me within its pages, I was heartbroken.” Jezebel kissed him, waiting until he turned back into the human-male she’d known. “Besides, If I had, would we be in each others’ arms now?”
Max smiled, hugging her. “I suppose you are right, my love. It was destiny.” He took a deep breath, pointing back to the Spell-book. “Well, do you have a counter-spell?”
Jezebel nodded, smiling back.
“And?” Max pressed.
“I intend to find her and call it.” Jezebel remarked, disappearing.

Jezebel found her daughter near the old Garden Gate, taunting a helpless creature.
“I see you have not changed, Sabrina.” Jezebel spoke, startling both Sabrina and the creature. As soon as the creature saw her, he fled. “Trying to make Dominionite Warriors out of innocent souls.”
Sabrina stared at her. “What are you doing here, Mother?”
“I have come with a warning.” Jezebel announced. Not to mention, re-exile you in the process. She thought to herself. “A never-ending circle of hate only multiplies the trouble it causes.”
“Dare tell me you are on their side?” Sabrina scoffed. “You, of all people!”
Jezebel noticed the Black-as-Night Crystal around her neck, deciding to stay silent.
“The Ancient Mystics Exiled you, Mother, and you know it.” Sabrina pointed out. “Do you not hate them for that?”
Sabrina was telling the truth, unfortunately. Enchantra and Challandra had Exiled her to the Unknown for the trouble she caused during the Wars.
“I could never hate my own sisters; not now, not ever.” Jezebel shook her head. “I may have been hurt when I was first Exiled, but I assure you my daughter, I am not now.”
“You cannot tell me you do not hate them.” Sabrina scoffed. “You have complained for years at Dark Tower during the Wars; admit it.”
“I admit to nothing but my own selfishness.” Jezebel replied. “They only wished to teach me a lesson in love and loyalty; a lesson you yourself should learn.”
Sabrina only laughed. “The Ancient Mystics hurt us, tearing you away from us. How can you dare be on their side after all this?”
“Leave them alone, Sabrina.” Jezebel cried. “You have done nothing but hurt them with your games. Now, the hatred must be stopped.”
“Since when do I listen to you?” Sabrina cackled, then mocked. “You are nothing but a traitor, Queen Jezebel!”
Jezebel didn’t dare look into her daughter’s eyes, but warned her softly. “Be forewarned Sabrina. The Dark Magic will destroy you if you are not careful.”
Sabrina only laughed at that statement. “Not if I destroy the Ancient Mystics first!”
“You will only destroy yourself in the end; for you are a Ancient Mystic as well.” Jezebel replied. “Keep that in mind.”
Sabrina smirked. “As if!” She remarked before watching Jezebel leave.
In her argument, Jezebel forgot to call out the counter-spell.
Story #1:
Gloriana’s Curse

When the Crusades ended in a brilliant flash of Ancient Mystic Magic, the Barricade that connected the Province to the Dominion fell. All Dominionite Warriors, once held captive by the Master Orthos’ powerful spell, were shaken from their dazes. Since the Master was Exiled to the Unknown by the Dream Realm Crusaders, they were lost and alone. The thick cloud of grey smoke cleared, revealing a new place to inhabit, new land in which to live. Recently back in the Dream Realm from his own Banishment, Lord Maximaniac took his new bride of Sister Jezebel and claimed the land his own. It had no life color, so they called it the Grey Area.
Now, knowing his own brother Orthos was no longer in the Dream Realm, Maximaniac took pity on the lost souls. He decided, with help from Orthos’ twin Lord Guardian O’Dell, to take the opportunity and make the old Dominionite Warriors good again. All Warriors once had powers of their own; great powers of Companions and Creatures. Those who wished to turn good again, could with their Majesties’ help.
Three lone Dominionite Warriors had served the Master with utmost respect and dignity. Once the wall fell, they disappeared to a much darker part of the Grey Area. They weren’t the only ones who disappeared after the Wars and Crusades. About half of the Warriors followed, making it their own doomed place. They called it the Dark Area, for they didn’t want to be good again. When Maximaniac found out, he was furious, but could do nothing about it. Since there were two totally different parts to the Grey Area, the good part, where his Castle stood, was soon called the Shady Kingdom.
Those three Dominionite Warriors hated Lord Maximaniac and Queen Jezebel. They knew Jezebel as a betrayer, for she once served the Master as his bride. When the Crusades ended, Jezebel saw in her heart and soul what love she’d had for Maximaniac, who’d Banished himself for her.
Gloriana was always jealous of Jezebel, but remained a loyal servant and Warrior to Jezebel’s children, the Maiden Sabrina and the Merchant Damian.
She’d stayed silent long enough. When she heard about the Maiden being back in the Old Dominion, she decided to make her move. All she had to do was get her two daughters and herself Exiled to the Unknown. That was easy, once Gloriana found out Shenara was acting like the Maiden and haunting young male Dreamers’ Dream Realms.
Gloriana had heard all about the Crusades and the Crusaders, Young Guardian and her friends. It was hard not to once the Wall fell and she had her own mind once again. She ordered Shenara to find the most vulnerable of the Crusaders, and haunt him until he gives himself to her. Turned out, Aaron Theodore Schmidt was the lucky victim. It was all too easy to lure him in. Shenara knew about his love for Young Guardian, and used it against him.
Aaron had done just as Gloriana thought he would. He went to Young Guardian and told her about the strange demon-girl in his dreams. Sure enough, they had welcomed Shenara back into his Dream Realm to cast the Exiling Spell.

Once cast, Gloriana and her two daughters, Shenara and Albrath had disappeared. First, they reappeared in the Abyss, where the Keeper of Souls took their Dominionite Magic. The Keeper sent them through a portal to the Unknown, landing face-down in a pool of murky water.
Gloriana looked up to see two female figures standing over them. One held out her hand in assistance, helping Gloriana to stand.
“Warrior Gloriana,” one replied, bowing. “It has been too long.”
“Who are you?” Gloriana snapped.
The girl’s black eyes flashed red for a moment. “I am the Maiden’s personal servant, D’Kora.” She introduced. “You and I were on the same watch together.”
Gloriana nodded, turning to her soaking wet daughters. Shenara was wringing her hair, twisting it to get the water out. Albrath simply shook her head to get her hair dry.
“You remember my daughters?” Gloriana announced. “Shenara and Albrath.”
At the sound of their names, the girls looked up.
“Aye.” D’Kora supplied. She nodded to her attendant. “That is Kasha. The Master took her voice for speaking out.”
“Serves him right.” Gloriana announced, turning to the timid girl. “You should know better than to talk back to the Master. I am surprised he did not have you hung for the act.”
Gloriana wasted no time. “D’Kora, can you tell me where to find the Master?”
D’Kora nodded. “He is in Dark Tower, not far from here.”
Gloriana looked at her daughters, then back at D’Kora.
D’Kora was smiling. “I can show you if you like, Gloriana.”
Gloriana herself grinned. “Perfect.”
Kasha tapped D’Kora’s shoulder, then waved goodbye as she disappeared.
It didn’t take long for the quartet to reach the newly rebuilt Dark Tower. Gloriana’s heart skipped when she saw it. This Dark Tower was as grand and grotesque as the one he’d had in the Dream Realm’s Dominion.
D’Kora showed Gloriana and her two daughters through the massive rotting doors leading into the throne room.
“Master, you have visitors.” D’Kora bowed to Orthos.
Orthos and Gloriana set eyes on each other. “Leave, D’Kora.”
“Yes, Master.” The servant left.
Gloriana walked up to Orthos, who was sitting at his throne. Shenara and Albrath stood in their spots, silent.
“Master, I have returned to you.” Gloriana bowed.
“Explain yourself, Dominionite!” Orthos’ booming voice made Shenara and Albrath jump in fear.
“I have been Exiled by Young Guardian, Master, and so have my daughters.” Gloriana stood, walking closer to Orthos.
Orthos sneered at the mention of Young Guardian’s name. “You seek shelter in the Unknown?”
“Aye, Master.” Gloriana nodded. “I was hoping to persuade you to house us with yourself.”
Orthos laughed. “With me? Hah! I have yet to house a lowly Dominionite.”
“I assure you, Master. I am no lowly Dominionite.” Gloriana supplied. “I am known to you as the Warrior Gloriana, with my daughters, Albrath and Shenara. We served you, and only you until the Crusades ended.”
Orthos shook his head. “What is your point, Warrior Gloriana?”
Gloriana took the chance to step up to Orthos’ throne and whisper in his ear. “Do you not wish for a lady to rule the Unknown with you?”
Her hand stroked his human-male face. Orthos was speechless.
“Remember our affair, my Lord Master?” Gloriana licked the rim of his ear, keeping her voice down to a whisper. “Was it not wonderful for you? Jezebel could not have satisfied you as much.”
Orthos looked her in the eye. Her aura was seductive, but he wasn’t complaining.
“Besides, I have claim on you.”
“Claim? How?” Orthos’ tone was serious.
“My daughter Shenara?” Gloriana and Orthos looked at the girl with flaming red hair, bowed paces ahead of him.
“Aye?”
“She is yours.” Gloriana whispered, kissing his ear. Both the act and her words made him cringe. “She was born shortly before the Wars began, the same time Jezebel was with your son, Damian.”
Gloriana stepped back, kneeling to him once again.
“What do you want from me?” Orthos asked.
“I wish to become your Queen.” Gloriana told him in a straight-forward voice.
“Why should I grant your wish?”
“I give you my oath as a Warrior,” Gloriana whispered, keeping her black eyes on his. “As your Queen, I will never betray you.”
She held his glare for a few moments. Her daughters stood aside in wonder.
Orthos stepped down from his throne to take Gloriana’s hand, allowing her to stand. When they parted from the kiss to her lips, he held her close to his body. She was surprised and confused at the same time.
“Keep the secret of Shenara’s birth between us only.” Orthos demanded in her ear.
“Certainly, Master.” Gloriana supplied in a gasp.
He devoured her mouth with his, pulling her body tight to him. After the kiss was finished, he took her hand and called into the air. “D’Kora!”
D’Kora appeared in front of their eyes, kneeling when she saw Orthos. “Aye, Master?”
“Spread the word. Warrior Gloriana is to become Queen of the Unknown.” Orthos demanded. “Her daughters will now become Dark Ladies. Now, go.”
D’Kora nodded. “Aye, Master.”
With that, she disappeared once again. Albrath and Shenara grinned at each other. Orthos and Gloriana, once kissing to seal the deal, cackled.
Queen Gloriana was with her lover and Master once again.
It was only the beginning.

II

Back in the Outer Realm, the Woods sisters led their somewhat peaceful lives.
Claudia was out with her boyfriend, Craig Richardson. Unfortunately, her thoughts were further than Craig liked.
Craig held her hand. “Okay, Claud. What’s up?”
Claudia shook her head, looking at him. “What makes you think something’s up?”
“It’s not everyday your sisters gather at the Clubhouse together.” Craig pointed out.
“You were there?” She asked.
Craig smiled. “I’m surprised you didn’t see me.” He said. “By the way, what’s with Anna’s ring?”
Claudia didn’t know what to say. Should she tell her secret to him, or leave it as it is? “What do you mean?”
“It was glowing.” Craig said. “If I didn’t know any better, I’d say something is going on, and neither of you know what to do about it.”
“Why do you say that?”
“My best friend just happens to be the Young Guardian’s husband.” Craig whispered in her ear, so no one could hear him. “I know more than you think I do.”
“You knew?” Claudia asked incredulously.
Craig shrugged. “When Derrick came back from California some time ago, he and Ariana brought over Ariana’s daughter Kelly. I let Kelly and Cara play upstairs in her room. Meanwhile, Derrick and Ariana told me the whole sordid story.”
Claudia stopped walking and stared at him. “Just how much do you know?”
“Just that Ariana didn’t grow up with the best of people, and how much Magic she’d had.” Craig said. “She told me, if I was still to be Derrick’s best friend, shouldn’t I be trustworthy enough not to tell?”
Claudia smiled at him. His dark brown eyes twinkled as he talked, which made him irresistible.
A minute passed where neither of them said a word, just staring into each other’s eyes.
Craig took Claudia’s hand and led her to the nearby pond. When she saw a hurt seagull dancing around, she knew she had to do something. Letting go of his hand, she went to it.
“Are you nuts?” Craig cried. “It could bite you!”
“Trust in me, Craig.” Was all she said as she knelt down near the injured bird.
Claudia was grateful he didn’t question her actions further.
She began talking to it. “Don’t be afraid, little one. I won’t hurt you. I want to help you.” Slowly, she began to earn the seagull’s trust enough for herself to handle it. She tended to the mangled wing by putting her hand on it and closing her eyes. She felt the warmth of her Healer’s Magic going through her body. “That’s it,” she whispered, and the seagull began to calm down. It snuggled closer until Claudia was finally holding it in her arms. The Healer Magic warmed her hands and the wing glowed. She pictured the inside of the wing, and where the injury was. She focused on the main bone, moving it in her mind until it was mended once again.
Suddenly, her thoughts were interrupted by a very familiar face. Dark hair, dark eyes, dark-glowing crystal necklace. A sadistic laugh escaped from the image’s lips, giving her identity away immediately.
Sabrina.
Claudia gasped, opening her eyes. She gently sent the seagull on its way, staring into space for a few moments. Craig was at her side.
“What’s wrong?” Craig asked her. “Is it okay?”
Claudia’s heart raced with the thoughts of Sabrina. “Yeah,” she breathed. “It’s fine.”
Craig helped her stand, leading her to a nearby picnic table. He moved the curly red hairs from her face before staring into her eyes. “You’re not, right?”
Claudia shook her head. How can I explain it? She thought to herself.
She clasped her Dream Locket and said softly. “Sabrina’s after us again. This time, she came to me while I was healing the seagull.”
“What did she do?” Craig was reluctant to ask.
“My Healer Magic hasn’t been that strong since I was a little girl.” Claudia pondered.
“Just tell me already.” Craig was anxious, she could tell. “Stop talking in riddles.”
Would he understand, though?
“That’s just it. Sabrina made my Healer Magic stronger by using that black crystal necklace she’s wearing.” Claudia tried to explain.
“Why would she do that?” Craig asked. “Wouldn’t she want to destroy it?”
Claudia shrugged, turning around to lean against his chest. “I don’t know, but whatever it is, will you stay with me, no matter what?”
Craig kissed her ear, whispering into it. “No matter what.”
Claudia sighed, enjoying the rest of their date with no other interruptions.
Instead of driving her home, Craig led her to his. She looked at him, wondering what he was thinking.
“While this Sabrina chic is on the loose, I insist you stay with me.” Craig told her as he helped her out of the car.
“I would have been fine at home, Craig.” Claudia insisted, taking his hand. “My family is there, you know.”
“That’s all fine and dandy, but I want to be sure you’re okay.” Craig kissed her cheek, leading her into the house.
“Fine! I’ll spend the night.” Claudia said with a laugh.
As they walked in the door, the phone rang.
“Who could be calling you at this hour?” Claudia wondered aloud, noticing the clock on the wall said midnight.
Craig shrugged before answering it. “Richardson’s.” After a moment, he handed the phone to her. “It’s Ariana.”
“Hello?”
“Claudia, did you just walk in the door?” Ariana’s voice was concerned.
“Yes, why?”
“Did you have a Vision of Sabrina earlier?” Her sister prodded.
Of course Ariana knew, she was the Young Guardian. Premonition was the more powerful of her Ancient Mystic Magics.
“Y-Yes, I did.” Claudia stammered.
“I felt it.” Ariana told her softly. It was obvious her sister didn’t want anyone to know she was on the phone at this hour. “Just be careful until we can figure out what’s going on.”
“I will.” Claudia promised. “Good night Ariana.”
“Good night Claud.” Ariana returned, and the click on the other end told Claudia her sister had hung up.
Claudia sighed, looking at her boyfriend.
“She sounded urgent. What’s up?”
“She felt my vision with the seagull, and told me to be careful.” Claudia explained. “That’s all.”
“Aha!” Craig wrapped his arms around her waist and teased her lips with a kiss. “I knew I was right about that. Come on, let me put you to bed.”
Claudia blushed and giggled. “If you don’t pipe down, we’ll wake your sisters.”
Craig shrugged. “Oh well. They’ll have to get used to your being here.”
“Oh? Why’s that?” She asked with a giggle.
Instead of answering, Craig pulled her tighter to his chest. “Claudia Marie Woods, I want you to move in with me.”
Claudia didn’t know what to say, so she wrapped her arms around him and smothered his face with kisses. “If you didn’t catch that, yes. I will.” She kissed him on the lips. “It’s about time, Craig Black Richardson!”
“Hey, some things take time.” Craig said. “I had to make sure you cared about me as much as I do about you.”
“Of course I do. You know that!” Claudia replied. “Now, you wouldn’t mind showing me to that bed of yours, would you?”
Craig kissed her. “Ours, my darling Claudia, and I’d love to.”
As she lay her head on her pillow to sleep, she grasped her Dream Locket and called the Dream Chant in her head. It felt natural being with Craig, sleeping next to him in his bed. They were made for each other and their hearts knew it.
As for Sabrina’s threat to her happiness, it’ll have to wait until the morning.

III

At the new Woods’ estate, Mary Ellen was bored. She just lay on her bed, hands under her head in thought as she stared at the ceiling. The house was vibrating with the rock music coming from downstairs. Sure, Anna and Kevin had friends over, really enjoying themselves, but she just wasn’t in the mood to party. Since the other day, Mary Ellen had been wondering what Sabrina had up her sleeve.
She and her sisters had disbanded, going their separate ways instead of joining in the circle. Neither sister had time then. Ariana had to get back to her children, and so did Luna with hers. Anna had to get ready for a date with Jake Reading and Claudia had Drama Class at Hill View University.
It was too bad. Mary Ellen was really psyched about the Circle. She was finally beginning to feel like she was worth something to her family, like a savior or something. Not only that, but the elder twins, Ariana and Luna, hadn’t been in the Ancient Mystic Circle with them yet. They’d been in a similar one with the Crusaders, but it wasn’t the same. Mary Ellen wanted to show them what they could do with combined power.
Mary Ellen sat and spotted a book on her desk across the room. Instead of reaching for it, she decided to use her Telekinesis. Goddess only knew she needed the practice.
In her mind, she imagined the book coming to her. It lifted itself off the desk slowly, floating toward her as she thought about it. Just as she reached for it in the air, a sharp pain in her temple made her lose her concentration.

In her mind, a picture of a blond-haired male smiled at her, taking her hand and kissing it. As Mary Ellen tried to delve further into the vision, she could faintly see the man’s face slowly getting darker. His eyes, which were green before, were now glowing red. His smile, which had been gentle and caring, was now one of great evil power. He turned into a woman, with long black hair, black lips, and a crystal like none Mary Ellen had ever seen before. The woman, on the other hand, she recognized immediately.
Sabrina.

Mary Ellen gasped, making the book fall to the floor. It only took a split second for her to think and react. Her sisters must know of this, like it or not.
She raced downstairs and found Anna talking with some of her old high school friends.
Sabrina’s at it again, she thought to her sister with telepathy.
This made Anna look up and excuse herself from her friends. When the two sisters were out of earshot, Anna whispered.
“What do you mean, she’s at it again?”
“Sabrina got to me, using the premonition against me.”
“How?”
Mary Ellen quickly explained her vision. “We have to tell the twins.”
Anna looked at her watch. “It’s too late to do anything tonight. Ariana’s already patrolling and Luna hasn’t been herself lately. Whatever is going on, it’ll have to wait until morning to be taken care of.”
“Do you think we’re safe until then?”
“Kevin and I will work some sort of Protection Spell, okay?” Anna assured.
Mary Ellen wasn’t convinced, but nodded absent-mindedly anyway.
“We’re sending them home so we can cast it right away.” Anna told her, hugging her. Mary Ellen shook in her arms, afraid. “Relax, we’re Ancient Mystics. We can handle this, right?”
Mary Ellen looked at her, saying. “Right.”
“Now, go to bed and let Kev and I take care of it.”
Defeated, she went upstairs to bed. Despite the rumbling thoughts of Sabrina on her mind, she fell right to sleep.
Story #2:
Blast From the Past

In the Dream Realm, Katherine found herself with her Young Guardian in the Garden. She had been playing with her daughter Celine when she disappeared, reappearing near the rock the two friends always met at when they were younger.
How odd? Katherine thought to herself in her mind. Ariana was probably wondering the same thing.
She could see her friend sitting on the rock, eyes squinting in thought. Young Guardian Ariana Reading wore the same flowing white gown as she always had, complete with the Jewels Amulet pin hanging over her right shoulder on a multi-pastel-colored wrap. The gown’s top was partially see-through, and as Katherine grew closer, she could see Ariana wore a rose-colored slip underneath. The gown went down to her ankles, making her look more sophisticated.
“Young Guardian?” Katherine asked, approaching her. “Why have you brought me here?”
Young Guardian Ariana shrugged. “I didn’t. I thought you brought me here.”
Did her dear friend Ariana know about Sabrina’s plight?
Katherine shook her head. “Nay, but I do have some concerns.”
“If it’s about Sabrina and her dark crystal, I already know.” Ariana said. “Luna, Anna, and Claudia have already had experiences with it.”
“What does it do?” Katherine asked. “Do you know?”
Ariana frowned, shaking her head. “I wish I did, old friend. I’d take care of it and stop Sabrina for good.”
Katherine could tell her friend was thinking like a detective again. Trained from her youth at a place simply known as the System, Ariana was both a powerful Ancient Mystic and brilliant sleuth. Those reasons were why Katherine had to confess.
“She came to me.” She said softly.
Ariana was alert in seconds. “What did she say, Kat?”
“She wished to strike a bargain, only I never heard it.” Katherine said regretfully. “Wolf interrupted, throwing her out of our sight.”
Ariana wasn’t paying attention. She just stared into space.
Katherine went on. “I have gone to Queen Jezebel for answers, but still fear for our lives. What can we do about her?”
“Why is Sabrina playing around with our powers?” Ariana asked her friend. “Why not destroy them altogether, instead of just teasing us with the powers we don’t understand? What’s her motive?”
Katherine was the one to stand silent, saddened she didn’t know the answers.
“I’ve got to see her again, and stop her.” Ariana was insistent as she cried aloud. Her face brightened with determination.
“No, you cannot!” Katherine tried to stop her but it was too late. Once Ariana Reading made up her mind on something, there was no stopping her. In moments, her friend had disappeared. Katherine called into the air. “Do be careful!”
She sighed, closing her eyes to return to her daughter’s side.

II

When Ariana appeared again, she frowned, recognizing her surroundings.
Her heart dropped in her chest. She was in the Abyss.
The chasm between the worlds was a dark and solemn reminder of the distant past. Three years ago, her husband’s ex-girlfriend kidnapped her ten-year-old daughter Kelly. Using her magic, Kelly had brought her here from the comfort of Katherine Stargazer’s home. The image of Kelly took her to the past, to another sad memory.
Now the Abyss was deserted, dark, gloomy, and cold.
What am I doing here? She asked in her mind. The thought echoed loud and clear around her.
“Hello!” Ariana called.
She tried to take flight, but found she couldn’t get her feet off the ground, or whatever she was standing on.
To light her path, she used Magic to make a candle appear in her hands. She grasped the candle-holder with one hand, shielding the candle itself from being blown out by the numerous winds that blew in the Abyss.
Ariana walked forward, sensing someone was watching her.
“Whoever you are, show yourself!” Ariana called into the air. “The Young Guardian of the Dream Realm demands it.”
As soon as she’d finished the word “it,” a familiar figure of the Dominionite Maiden Sabrina appeared.
“If I have told you once, I have told you one-thousand times.” Sabrina started, bored. “I need no permission from you to appear. I come and go as I please.”
Ariana frowned. “Why have you brought me here? I know it was you; I wouldn’t dare return here on my own.”
“I brought you here to show you something.” Sabrina smiled, fingering her necklace.
What is that thing? Ariana said in her mind, but she heard it repeated in the air around her.
“This, my dear Young Guardian, is a very special crystal.” Sabrina showed her.
“The same crystal in my sisters’ visions.” Ariana realized.
Sabrina clapped. “Bravo.”
Ariana glared at Sabrina now. “What have we done to you?”
“You Exiled me to the Unknown using the mighty Ancient Mystic Magic.” Sabrina stated.
“I can do it again.” Ariana grinned, folding her arms to show her point.
Ariana could feel the Dark Magic bubbling in her system. Evidently, so did Sabrina, who smiled.
“Not if the Dark Magic destroys it first.” Sabrina crooned, fingering her crystal again.
“Why have you brought me here, Sabrina?” Ariana repeated her question, getting angry. She wanted revenge and she wanted it bad. Just thinking about what Sabrina did to she and her friends made her want it enough to use the Dark Magic. With her old enemy around, it was harder to control the Dark Magic within.
Sabrina’s lips produced a satisfied smile. Just the reaction she’d expected.
“Tell me, Young Guardian.” Sabrina began. Ariana stared, scowling. “Do you wish revenge?”
“You know it.” Ariana said sarcastically.
Sabrina circled her, tracing a finger on Ariana’s shoulders.
“Can you not feel the Dark Magic bubbling in your soul?” Sabrina continued, whispering in her ear.
Ariana didn’t answer, making sure not to make eye-contact with the Maiden. She stared straight ahead as Sabrina continued her rebuttal. Sure enough, she could feel the Dark Magic just itching to come out. She didn’t want that. Suddenly, after years of being the brave leader, Ariana felt truly afraid.
“Is it not exhilarating?” Sabrina grinned. “That Dark Magic is the same you used to exile me, remember?”
“What of it?”
“What did you feel when you thought you had killed me?” Sabrina asked.
That night in the cemetery....Mark Grey dying there...her Oracle Children as Sabrina’s new Warrior pack. The awful memories ran through her mind, along with the moments Ariana used her Magic to exile her to the Unknown.
“I won against you, finally.” Ariana announced softly, finally meeting Sabrina’s eyes.
“Or so you thought.” Sabrina scoffed. “Did you not feel the surge of energy run through your very system?”
Ariana nodded. “Do you have a point?”
“Have you ever really learned the Dark Magic?” Sabrina whispered. “It is a very powerful force, you already know that.” Ariana stood and stared. “Ever tested its strange and new power?”
“It almost took the sanity of my friends and my own sister.” Ariana said softly. “It made us do things we didn’t want to.”
“Admit it, Young Guardian.” Sabrina crooned. “You are curious about the limits of your Dark Magic.” Ariana stared at her. “Why not embrace it, learning all you can? You may be surprised at how much more powerful you become, with practice.”
With that, Sabrina left, and Ariana looked around her.
The Abyss was quiet now, almost peaceful.
She found the doorway back to her private Dream Realm and jumped through, waking in her warm cozy bed next to her loving husband Derrick.

She wrapped her arm around his chest and squeezed, tears coming to her eyes. Sensing her pain, he woke with her.
“What’s up, Love? Another bad dream?” Her Imaginary Romeo, almost-perfect husband whispered in her ear.
She couldn’t tell him about Sabrina. Not yet. She didn’t want him worried, so she smiled, kissing his lips. “No, darling. Everything is perfect.”
She fingered his Protectors’ Pendant as he fell back to sleep. She closed her thoughts from him before thinking. Oh, my Love. If you only knew what was on my mind.
At that statement, she fell back to sleep next to him, ready to patrol the Dream Realm once again.
Duty called.

II

Across the street at the Morehouses was Ariana’s twin Luna, tossing in her nightmarish sleep.

“Luna...” She heard Sabrina’s voice whispering her name.
“Show yourself, coward!” Luna cried.
“You only have to use the Empathy to find me.” Sabrina’s voice echoed.
“I’ll never use it around you!” Luna protested. “Show yourself or leave me alone!”
Sabrina appeared in front of her, a snide smile upon her lips. “Why do you fear your Empathy, while Young Guardian uses it freely?”
“Because I am not my twin.”
“Aye, you are not, but who are you without her?”
“A powerful Ancient Mystic of the Dream Realm with enough Magic in my system to re-Exile you by myself.”
“Oh, but how is that possible without the Empathy?” Sabrina taunted, playing with the necklace.
“The Empathy had nothing to do with your Exiling, Sabrina.” Luna replied.
“Do you know exactly how Young Guardian Exiled me?”
“I was there. She used the Ancient Mystic Magic.”
Sabrina shook her head. “Nay, she used the Dark Magic, with the Empathy to boot. The feelings of hatred she had over the years finally overcame her and POW!, she found herself gaining enough power to defeat me once and for all. Is that not accurate?”
“That was between the two of you.”
“You have a lot to learn, Young Luna.” Sabrina grinned.
“I have earned full rank of Elder Ancient Mystic.” Luna said adamantly. “Now, leave or I’ll be forced to use what Advanced Magics I’ve learned.”
Sabrina just shook her head and laughed. She waved an arm in front of Luna’s face, making her close her eyes. Not daring to open them, Luna could feel herself flying through the air before landing against something hard.
Rubbing her head and finally opening her eyes, she found herself in a familiar place. She was in her parents’ old car. Looking to her hands, she found herself back in time, reliving a memory.
Which one?
She dared look out the window, seeing immediately which memory Sabrina whisked her to.
Oh no, not again. She thought, shaking her head. I’m five-years-old again. Why now? Why must I relive the pain of losing my twin sister? It was bad enough back then!
She felt someone touching her hand, making her look up. It was Ariana, and she was smiling.
What are you thinking about? Ariana asked telepathically.
Luna shook her head, not wanting to tell her. It was all too horrible. Here she was, a child of five, holding her twin’s hand tightly. Ariana didn’t know anything about a little thing the Ancient Mystics called Destiny. She never would, either, for the Forgetfulness Spell her mother will give her would erase all her memories of family, love, and happiness. Too bad the Spell would also take away any thoughts or memories of a certain twin sister named Aluna Star.
Just the thought of losing her sister again made her cry.
Sissy, why do you cry? Aren’t you happy anymore? Ariana’s little voice was inside her head once again.
Luna could only look at her twin and nod.
Aluna, It was her mother’s gentle voice this time. It’s for the sake of destiny. I thought you understood that.
Luna looked at her mother’s reflection in the rear-view mirror. There were worry lines on Susan Woods’ face. She nodded her response, turning back to her twin.
“I love you, Ariana Moon.” Luna whispered, hugging her twin tightly.
Confused, Ariana could only answer. “I love you, too, Luna Star.”
It was then the car pulled into the restaurant, and Luna was well aware of what would happen next. Within the hour, her sister would be given the Spell and taken to the Shore Point Orphanage to grow up without her.
Wanting to make the last hour together happy, Luna smiled at her sister. From that point on, she would close her Empathy, afraid of the memories that would resurface.
She closed her eyes, wishing herself back into the present.

Back in her own bed, she cried softly.
Shane stirred beside her, wrapping one of his arms around her. “Luna, what is it? Why are you crying?”
Luna turned to her loving husband, holding him close for comfort. His Protector’s Pendant was glowing a soft yellow, indicating her troubles were enough to wake him.
“Did you have a nightmare?” Shane whispered, kissing her tears away. “Tell me, sweets.”
She told him everything, including the scene in the Mirror just days before. “I’m truly scared.”
“Doesn’t that give you the incentive to trust your Empathy again?” He asked. “If only to learn her plan and defeat her?”
Luna shook her head. “I don’t want that ever to happen again, Shane. You know that.”
“Sweetheart, it’s not. I promise.” He kissed her to calm her fears. He pet her hair, which always soothed her. “She may have made you remember that, but you must remember this: I love you.”
“Even your love won’t stop Sabrina.” Luna said softly, snuggling close to him for comfort. “I’m afraid, Shane. Really, I am.”
His lips found hers in the dark, whispering against them. “There’s no need to be afraid, Aluna. Not while I’m alive, for I won’t let anyone or anything hurt you.”
To make her forget the haunting dream, he made love to her.

III

It was one o’clock in the morning by the time Annabelle Woods and her brother Kevin had told their friends to go home. They cleaned up the dining room, and Anna couldn’t keep her mind on her work. She sat on the couch, twirling a wand in the air with telekinesis.
Kevin stopped what he was doing to see what was up. “Anna.” He called her name. He sat next to her, whispering. “Hey, you, what’s up?”
Anna shook out of her daze with a sigh. She grasped the wand in her hand, running a finger over the stones encased in it. “I’m not so sure we should cast the spell, Kevin.”
Kevin looked at her strange. “Why not?”
“It doesn’t feel right. I mean, even my power is beginning to scare me.” Anna said.
“Which one?”
“Mostly clairvoyance.” Anna told him about the vision she’d had on her date with Jake Reading.
“You literally became Ariana?” Kevin whistled in awe. “Now that’s powerful Magic. Your clairvoyance has never been that strong. Why now?”
Anna shrugged. “Mary Ellen told me her own vision. This time, it had Sabrina in it.”
“Didn’t the Crusaders crush her some-odd years ago?” Kevin wondered. “How could she make Mary have a vision?”
“She’s got this crystal thing around her neck.” Anna began. “I don’t know where she got it from, but it’s extremely powerful, Dark Magic style.”
Kevin wrapped an arm around his sister, smiling. “All the more reason to cast a Protection Spell.”
“I still don’t know about it.” Anna stood. “What if my clairvoyance kicks in? What if I went into a trance I couldn’t get out of? There are a lot of issues out there, Kevin Woods, and frankly, I’m scared stiff.”
“Sit and calm yourself.” Kevin told her. “It won’t do you any good to be hyper about it.” She sat and rubbed her temples with her eyes closed.
He rubbed her back until she calmed down. He thought of something that happened when they were kids, and chuckled softly to himself.
Anna heard it. “What’s so funny?”
“Do you remember when we had to stay with Great-Aunt Dorianne some time ago?”
She smiled. “Great-Uncle Paul’s pocket-watch?”
“It was just the three of us: you, me, and Mary Ellen.” Kevin began. “Dorianne warned us not to use Magic at the house or she would punish us. Late one night, we snuck in her room and stood at the door.” He grinned at Anna, making her smile at the memory. “We held hands and used our combined powers to bring the watch to us. It looked so funny, until it fell to the floor. Dorianne sat up straight in bed and looked around. As soon as her eyes hit ours, along with seeing the watch broken on the floor, she knew what we’d done.”
“We may have gotten in trouble, but it was fun.” Anna supplied. “If you’re trying to get me to relax and not worry, you’ve succeeded.” She took his hand and stood up. “Come on, little brother, let’s cast a Protection Spell.”
“I knew you’d come around.” Kevin joked, following her to the altar room.

IV

Meanwhile, Ariana Woods-Reading flew through the air as fast as she could, heart pounding with fear. The memories of the Crusades ran through her mind, making her quiver, not knowing what to do.
It was all Sabrina’s fault. Why did she have to take me to the Abyss and remind me of the Dark Magic? Ariana mused with herself.
In a matter of moments, she was in the Ancient Mystic’s Province, heading toward O’Dell’s Castle. She barely had her feet on the ground a moment when O’Dell himself answered.
He saw the look on her face and cried. “Young Guardian! What distresses you?”
“My Lord Guardian, I’m truly scared.” Ariana whimpered, racing past his human-male form to the Castle’s main room. She didn’t want him to see her tears; it would show weakness.
“It cannot be that bad.” O’Dell claimed. “Calm yourself, then tell me what happened.”
Ariana looked at him finally, as if she were being made to.
“Would it help if I shifted?” O’Dell suggested, thinking of his often less-intimidating form of an all-mighty unicorn.
Ariana nodded without saying a word.
She watched as her Lord Guardian shifted to her favorite form. It was always easier for her to talk to him as a unicorn; his rainbow-colored mane and tail were soft to the touch, and the opalescent jewel which had been on his headband, was now underneath the horn on his forehead. It was only when Lord Guardian was a unicorn did she feel comfortable and safe telling him what was on her mind.
“Sabrina came to me in the Abyss, taking me there with what little power she had left.” Ariana began as she sat down on the comforting blanket next to him. She nuzzled into his mane, smelling the warm sweetness of the Dream Realm’s relaxing scent.
“May I ask what happened?” O’Dell was interested, his voice soft and calm. As much as he would like to deny it, Sabrina was his niece, and always the seductive trouble-maker.
Ariana twirled a clump of his multi-colored mane around in her hands. He didn’t seem to mind, seeing how the act always relaxed her. He let her continue. “She taunted me with the Dark Magic, reminding me of the feelings I’d had when I exiled her.”
“What feelings were those?”
Ariana took a deep breath, not wanting to remember. She had to explain to O’Dell, and warn him of Sabrina’s new plan (whatever it was). When she didn’t answer for a moment, he continued, nudging her with his muzzle.
“Ariana Moon.”
She shuddered; the name always brought back memories of the Orphanage. In the same respect, they also brought back the memories of her escapes to the Dream Realm as a child.
“I wanted revenge so badly, my Lord.” Ariana supplied softly, snuggling closer to him. She needed his warmth to go on; the pain was just too intense in her mind. “I wanted to kill her for what she did to the Crusaders.”
“More than that, I wanted to kill her for what she did to me.” Ariana’s heart began to pound as she thought about the Crusade once again. “I let the Dark Magic take over, but I didn’t want it to.”
Ariana pet his mane, thinking over the Crusades; how Sabrina wanted to turn Derrick, Aaron, and Mark Grey against her, reminding them of the love Ariana had for them.
“It is alright, you know.” O’Dell confirmed. “You did nothing wrong.”
“Why do I still feel so bad?” Ariana asked him, sitting up and trying to look into his deep green eyes. “I mean, the Dark Magic nearly made the Crusaders crazy. Aaron with his necklace, me with my past visions, Luna with her loves of both Shane and her own Magic, Derrick with his parents’ fighting, even Shane with his own loves of Luna and detective work.”
“You won out in the end, once your Earthbound sentence was over, correct?” O’Dell tried to lighten her mood.
“I guess so.” Ariana whispered to him, though her mind was elsewhere.
He had a hard time saying what was on his mind. “You know what must be done?”
Ariana looked up at him in horror, understanding his suggestion. She stood up abruptly and stepped away from him. “You can’t mean?”
O’Dell nodded his unicorn head, then shifted back to a human male. “You must learn to tame your wild Dark Magic, Ariana Moon.”
Ariana shook her head. “Please my Lord, anything but that. I can’t possibly – not after what it almost did to us?”
“You must.” O’Dell confirmed. “Your sisters are counting on you, for you are the middle daughter.”
He had a point there. She was the middle Woods’ daughter. Anna and Mary Ellen were both older than she was, with Luna and Claudia being younger.
“How?”
“You are the link, already grasping the powers they are now afraid of.” O’Dell told her. “They seek council in you, Young Guardian. It would be best not to let them down.”
Ariana thought over his words. “Must I learn the Dark Magic?”
O’Dell nodded.
“You’ll teach me, right?” Ariana asked. He’d always taught her how to control her growing Magics. Everything she knew about them, she learned from him.
O’Dell shook his head sadly. “Not I, Young Guardian.”
Ariana was confused. “Then who?”
“Me.” She heard Jezebel’s soft voice behind her.
Ariana turned to face a sorrowful Jezebel, once Orthos’ bride, now the Queen of the entire Grey Area. “You, Jezebel? I would have thought you would want to stay away from it.”
Jezebel shook her head, then nodded with a grin. “Who better than I to teach you how to control it?”
Ariana thought of something. “Did you teach Sabrina?”
Jezebel hugged her. “My daughter took it too far. She saw too much evil in it, wanting to learn that path more on her own.” Jezebel looked briefly to O’Dell, who nodded.
Ariana knew right away Jezebel wanted to talk to him in private.
Jezebel looked back to Ariana. “You, on the other hand, I trust will learn to control it responsibly.”
“What about when I exiled Sabrina to the Unknown?” Ariana asked.
“As I said; you did nothing wrong.” O’Dell replied. “Go home to your children, Young Guardian. They worry for you.”
“We will see each other tonight, when you make your rounds.” Jezebel supplied.
To ‘make her rounds’ meant to patrol the Dream Realm. It was Ariana’s duty as the Young Guardian to keep an eye on Young Dreamers and make sure no Dominionites, whoever were left in the Dream Realm, would harm them.
Ariana nodding, bowing to both O’Dell and Jezebel. “Until then, Lord Guardian and Queen Jezebel.”
Jezebel nodded her goodbye, and Ariana turned to leave.
“Ariana.” Lord Guardian’s voice boomed softly.
She turned to face him once again. “Yes, My Lord Guardian?”
Lord Guardian smiled. “You may call me O’Dell, anytime you like.”
“You’re an Elder, and I should call you by your title.” Ariana said. “Any other would be disrespectful, not to mention rude.”
Ariana stood silent while O’Dell laughed. “Who told you that?”
“You did, my Lord.” Ariana replied. “When I was very young.”
“That I did.” O’Dell said. “Now, I am telling you to call me O’Dell. After all, that is my name.”
Ariana smiled.
“Besides,” O’Dell went on. “We are on the same ground now. We need to work together.” He smiled at her, winking. “You are my successor, you know.”
Ariana laughed lightly. Trust him to make her smile when she was feeling lousy.
“Thank you, O’Dell.” Ariana replied. “I’ll return tonight, to patrol and begin my lessons in the control of Dark Magic.”
Jezebel nodded again, smiling this time.
Each only hoped the good mood would last, and Sabrina wouldn’t want to ruin that, too.
Story: #3:
Witches Grove

The next night, all five sisters found themselves in an enchanting place in the Dream Realm. It was somewhere Ariana and Luna had been to before, each in their own Crusades.
“This place looks marvelous!” Mary Ellen cried, running to each bush, each tree, each flower, just to get a feel of them. Everything around the girls was glowing with Magical brilliance, as if it came out of a fairy-tale.
“Be careful, Mary Ellen.” Ariana warned, watching Mary Ellen walk. “It’s not as enchanting as it looks.”
“How do you know?” Mary Ellen asked.
“Let’s just say I wandered here one time too many.” Ariana replied.
“What is this place?” Claudia couldn’t help asking as she knelt to feel the leaves on the ground. “Everything here has more energy than I’ve ever been in contact with.”
“That’s why you have to be careful.” Ariana told her.
“This is called Witches Grove.” Luna replied. “It is, or should I now say was, in the Dominion.”
“Now the Dominion Wall fell, I believe it’s in the Grey Area.” Ariana said after her twin. “At any rate, this place is known best for using images against you.”
That made Claudia shiver, with Mary Ellen and Anna meeting anxious eyes.
“Sabrina’s here.” Ariana announced, walking. “I can sense it.”
“She was here, you mean.” Luna replied as she followed. “That’s what I sense.”
“Don’t argue, you two.” Anna scolded. She saw something ahead of her and stared, unable to tear her eyes away. “What’s that?”
It was an image of Kelly, Ariana’s thirteen-year-old daughter, kissing Bradley Allen, her step-brother, who was a year older and lived next door with Aaron and Aimee. Both Kelly and Bradley looked a little older, with Kelly wearing a strange yellow crystal around her neck. They were holding hands, smiling into each other’s eyes when they parted.
“Let me guess.” Luna whispered, turning to her twin. “You haven’t told them the truth, yet.”
Ariana shook her head. “The twins, Derrick and I don’t want to ruin their bond.”
When the twins turned back to the image, both Kelly’s and Bradley’s were gone. In their place was a hurt seagull, jumping around and screaming.
Claudia’s first impulse was to run to it, to heal it, but she remembered what happened in the park.
Anna, Mary Ellen, Ariana, and Luna each stared at her confused when she gasped.
“Your image with Sabrina.” Ariana whispered, remembering their late-night phone call. “Is this how it started, Claudia?”
Claudia nodded, standing. “Craig was with me. I healed it from the inside out, but realized my Healing Power hasn’t been so hot since I was a little girl.”
“She’s right.” Anna remarked. “Claudia was always intrigued by it, practicing before she took the Oath.”
“I wasn’t intrigued, Anna, I was scared.” Claudia remarked. “When Christopher sprained his ankle and I felt it, I wanted to heal him with it.”
“What happened?” Luna asked.
“The P.M. Got in the way.” Claudia remarked. “I saw how he sprained it as it happened, but was too scared to do anything about it.”
“P.M.?” Ariana asked.
“Photographic Memory.” Claudia said. “That’s my strongest power. The Healing has always been my weakest.”
The sisters turned back to the image, but the seagull was gone. Claudia heaved a sigh of relief. She shared a look with Anna.
Ariana gasped. She sensed something and took her older sister’s hand. “Take my hand, Mary Ellen.”
Luna took her other hand, with Anna and Claudia looking at them strangely. “Why?” Claudia asked.
“Trust us.” The twins chorused.
There it was again. Mary Ellen thought. The twins never speak together like that unless something’s going to happen.
“What’s going on, Ariana?” Anna asked. “Luna?”
The twins looked at each other. “You’ve never been to Witches Grove, have you?” Luna asked.
Anna, Mary Ellen, and Claudia all shook their heads.
“Be aware of reality, and the truth.” Ariana warned.
“Images are forced in your mind, testing your senses of reality.” Luna supplied. “Why Sabrina would bring us here is beyond me.”
“Testing, huh?” Anna asked. She took Claudia’s hand, who took Luna’s other. “Maybe that’s what she’s doing with that strange crystal-like thing around her neck?”
Ariana held her breath, remembering her run-in with Sabrina in the Abyss. Luna could sense her twin’s discomfort.
“Testing our power, so she can see its weaknesses and destroy it?” Claudia mused. “Why?”
Before either sister could answer, Ariana felt Mary Ellen’s hand let go. When she looked to where her older sister’s gaze was, she found out why.
Surrounded by a yellow-white glow stood a male with green eyes and blond hair. His eyes sparkled and his arms were outstretched.
Be aware of the truth, Mary Ellen. Ariana warned her sister telepathically. She and Luna shared a look.
Anna stood beside Claudia, who gripped Luna’s hand so tightly, it hurt.
The four sisters watched as Mary Ellen Woods wandered to the man’s arms, waiting to embrace him.
The man didn’t say a word, and neither did Mary Ellen. The four sisters were silenced with fear as they watched the scene.
Mary Ellen walked closer to the man until she could see his eyes. They were glowing dark green, and Mary Ellen was forced to use her wild Empathy power to sense his intentions. Her heart began to pound as she was drawn to him. Her Empathy was useless, she couldn’t sense a thing; good or bad. Her hungry curiosity urged her closer, drawing her into his arms. As soon as he had his arms around her, with her eyes still glued to his, he whispered in her ear.
“Gotcha.”
Immediately, she recognized the monotone of the Dominionite Master’s son, Damian. Mary Ellen blinked, and sure enough, the man’s green eyes turned bright red, glowing with malicious intent.
Ariana, Luna, Anna, and Claudia could do nothing but stand aside, knowing what was going to happen. They were frozen in their spots, unable to move.
To their dismay and confusion, as Mary Ellen screamed, she disappeared.
At that, all five Woods’ sisters woke up, afraid for their lives.

Mary Ellen sat up straight in her bed, gasping for breath. She had to get help, fast. Not only is Sabrina messing with the five sisters, now Damian is in it, somehow.
Anna sat up in bed, too, her own heart pounding. She pulled back the sheets on her bed and raced to Mary Ellen’s room.
“What just happened?” Anna demanded.
“Protection Spell didn’t work.” Mary Ellen replied at the same time.
Anna sat on her sister’s bed, repeating herself. “What happened to you?”
“You saw me in Witches Grove.” Mary Ellen supplied in a whisper. “Damian posed as some visionary guy, luring me into his arms.”
“Who was this visionary guy, and why would Damian want to disguise himself as him?” Anna asked.
“Who is he? Good question.” Mary Ellen said. “He was the one in my vision the other night, the one I told you about.”
“Your premonition going haywire because of Sabrina.” Mary Ellen nodded, confirming. “Who is he is the question.”
“That doesn’t matter.” Mary Ellen supplied. “What does matter is what Damian has to do with Sabrina’s current scheme.”
Anna shrugged. “Have you been dreaming about this visionary guy a lot lately?”
Mary Ellen looked at her sister. “Why are you dwelling on that? We’ve got a major crises here!”
“I know. We’ll get to that with the twins and Claudia; I promise.” Anna supplied. “Just answer my question.”
Mary Ellen sighed. “Yes, why?”
“He’s your Earthly Protector.” Anna supplied. “And you’ll meet him soon.”
“I shouldn’t even ask how you know.” Mary Ellen groaned.
“My power is premonition, remember?” Anna said with a grin. “Enough about that. Where did Damian take you?”
Mary Ellen shrugged. “He didn’t take me anywhere.” She replied. “He whispered ‘Gotcha’ into my ear as we disappeared.”
“Did you feel anything?” Anna asked.
Mary Ellen had to think of that one. “I felt a jolt of energy surging out of my body.” She told Anna. “How’s that for weird?”
“Somehow, he took one of your powers.” Anna replied, then yawned. “We’d better get back to bed. We’ll discuss this further with the twins in the morning.”
“What about Claudia?”
“She’s got an early class.” Anna supplied, standing. She hugged her sister. “Try not to think about it too much anymore tonight, okay?”
Mary Ellen nodded, lying down. “I won’t. Thanks, Anna.”
Anna left her room, closing the door behind her.
“The fear is all I’ll think about.” Mary Ellen mumbled under her breath as she snuggled under her blankets once again.
Part Three:
Song of the Ancient Mystics

Prologue:
Sisterly Scare

Luna Morehouse woke up afraid, unable to go back to sleep. Shane woke up with her.
“Confess, Lu. What’s up?” Shane murmured.
“Nothing, honey.” Luna supplied. “Just go back to sleep.”
Shane sat up and shook his head, trying to meet her eyes in the dark. “Whatever woke you up, also got my Pendant jumping. Something’s up, Aluna Star, and I want to know what that is.”
Luna should have known better than to keep something like this from him. He was too smart for fools’ moves.
“It’s not anything you can help with, I’ll tell you that.” Luna whispered, playing with her ring.
The couple heard the doorknob turn and the door itself creep open. With the hallway light, Luna could faintly see two of their children, Caleb and Meredith standing at the door.
“Mommy, we’re scared.” Six-year-old Caleb announced, holding his sister’s hand.
“See, even the kids are afraid.” Shane announced, ushering them in with a gesture.
After Luna waved her hand to light a candle beside the bed, the hallway light was turned off and the kids ran to their parents’ sides.
Meredith climbed into her mother’s arms, and Luna could see the tears in her daughter’s eyes.
“Why are you crying, Meredith?” Luna whispered to her daughter, hugging her tight.
“Bad man got Auntie Mary.” Meredith sniffed.
Both Shane and Luna gasped, with Shane sharing a look with his wife.
“Which bad man?” Shane asked his daughter.
“The Merchant.” Caleb pronounced. “I saw it, too. They disappeared.”
Meredith nodded her little head. “Where they go?”
Luna shook her head. “I don’t know, honey. The only way to find out is to ask them in the morning.” Luna stood up. “Meanwhile, you kids have to get back to bed.”
“We’re scared, Mommy.” Caleb whined. “We wanna sleep with you.”
“Tunder-thorms, Mommy.” Meredith tried to say.
“Thunderstorms are one thing, demons are another.” Luna announced.
She held her hand out for Caleb to take. After Caleb and Meredith kissed their father goodnight, Luna took them back to their rooms to welcome sleep. Meredith was easy to calm, with Luna singing her to sleep with a lullaby. Caleb wasn’t as easy, though.
“Mommy!” Caleb cried, sticking close to Luna’s side. “I don’t want him to get us.”
“He’s not going to get you.” Luna assured him. She tucked him in his bed, kissing his cheek. “Good night, son.”
“Will you protect me?” Caleb asked.
Luna had to smile. “Always, Caleb Ryan.”
Caleb smiled back, now closing his eyes. “I love you, Mommy.”
As Luna went to shut the door behind her, she stopped and stared at her son. “I love you, too, Caleb.”
Before heading back to bed, she checked up on the baby Logan. Staring at her hand, she quietly entered the room. In seconds, a glowing orange ball of her Magic was hovering over her palm, giving her just enough light to see by. With it, she headed to Logan’s crib.
She didn’t like what she saw. Logan’s closed eye dropped a single tear down his tender cheek.
Could he be bothered by the same dreams we had? Luna mused to herself. She reached in and lightly pet his head of soft blonde hair. Sleep well, Little One. Mommy will always love you.
Luna kissed her forefinger and touched his cheek. At that, he smiled. She smiled, too, easing the door closed behind her.
She went back to her husband, who was already sleeping by the time she got back to bed. She snuggled next to him after kissing his cheek.
Whatever happened in Witches Grove would have to wait until morning. There was no way Aluna Star Woods-Morehouse would let it ruin her picture-perfect family tonight.

II

The next afternoon, Ariana Woods-Reading let her next-door neighbor Aimee take care of the kids. Something was depressing her, and she didn’t want Kelly, Bradley, Mark Antony, Andrew, or even Melody to see her distress.
“What’s going on, Ariana?” Aimee asked as the kids rushed past her. “I can sense trouble, and you know it.”
Aimee wasn’t a Ancient Mystic, and neither was her twin brother Aaron. Ariana knew they were both powerful Ancient Mystic Over-Seers, with a touch of Ariana’s own Magic in the bracelets they wore. According to Lord Guardian, Aimee had Unicorn Magic, power of the earth, which enabled her to sense any living being, animal or otherwise.
Ariana could tell this time would be no different.
“I know you can.” Ariana supplied softly. “There’s nothing I can do about it, but I don’t want the kids in the middle of it.”
When Ariana looked at her best friend-almost-sister’s eyes, she could tell Aimee wasn’t getting any sleep, either. Her normally brown eyes looked puffy and tired. “What about you? I sense your worry for Aaron.”
“Aaron’s wanting to use whatever power he’s got in the bracelet and the necklace against bad guys, that’s all.” Aimee supplied. “Mystic Havens forbid, right?”
Ariana had to smile. Her almost-sister had grown up with her, knowing the attraction Aaron had for Ariana. Aaron fancied himself as her protector sometimes, though he knew very well Derrick was Ariana’s Earthly Protector.
“Let him learn it.” Ariana supplied. “He’ll soon find out using the Ancient Mystic Magic is dangerous if not handled right.”
“Like you, huh?” Aimee asked. Ariana was confused. “I saw your visions in Witches Grove. What made you guys decide to go there?”
“We didn’t.” Ariana told her. “Sabrina whisked us there. I was patrolling in the Province Wood, talking to a Companion when I disappeared in front of his eyes.”
Aimee’s eyes widened, then hugged her. “I’ll watch the kids, that’s no problem.” She said, then met Ariana’s eyes. “I want you to be careful.”
“Yes, husband.” Ariana teased, smiling. “Derrick tells me that all the time, and I don’t even know why. I’m the Young Guardian. I think I can take care of myself by now.”
“We just worry for you, that’s all.” Aimee said. “We love you.”
With that, Ariana headed back next door to start on her housework.
When she started the dishes, she began to think of Derrick. She’d closed herself off to her Earthly Protector, not wanting him in the middle of another battle with Sabrina. Ariana had barely spoken to him for a week. She only saw him at night shortly before her classes, which always gave her the excuse to get away. She could tell he was worried for her, but she avoided his caring eyes.
Even Kelly knew something was up. Both Ariana and Kelly had woken up in the middle of the night after the images at Witches Grove. Ariana promised her daughter everything was okay, and she shouldn’t worry, but Ariana didn’t dare take her own advice.
I wish I knew what to do! Ariana cried in her mind. I feel so helpless against the Dark Magic.
She snapped out of her daydream when she heard a familiar voice call. “Ariana!”
Derrick was home, and, unfortunately, there was no means of escape.
“In the kitchen, Derrick!” Ariana cried into the air.
She dried her hands on a dish-towel and left the kitchen. Derrick hung his coat up in the foyer closet, placing his briefcase on the stairs before meeting her eyes with a smile.
“I’ve got great news!” Derrick kissed her, then announced.
“What is it?”
“Where are the kids?” Derrick asked, searching the house for them while Ariana followed quietly. “I want them to hear this, too.”
She couldn’t tell him about Sabrina now.
“They’re at Aimee’s.” Ariana said. “I had some extra housework to do, so I dropped them off there after school.”
Derrick tried to meet Ariana’s eyes once sensing something in her tone. “Love, what’s wrong?”
Ariana shook her head. “Nothing, Derrick.” She told him. “Why do you say that?”
“It’s not every day your face tells a sad tale with no words.” Derrick said softly. He hugged her, kissing her lips softly. “Besides, you’ve closed yourself off to me. That’s not normal.”
Ariana had to turn away, a tear making its way to her lids. The emotions from the other night in the Abyss ran through her mind. Taking a chance, she opened herself up to him, letting the Pendant around his neck sense her pain.
Derrick handled the Protectors’ Pendant, reminded of the one thing the tough Young Guardian can’t seem to overcome. “Dark Magic.” He whispered, then looked at her. “What’s going on, Ariana Moon?”
There was that name again. For ten years, that name coming from him meant he was seriously worried for her. “Yes, there is Dark Magic coming from somewhere.”
She sat on the couch in the Study, gathering her thoughts. He sat next to her, an arm draped around her neck to comfort her.
He went on. “You can handle it, right?”
Ariana looked at him, letting the tears flow down her face. She thought of what to say, whispering. “In order to handle it, I have to learn it.”
Both Readings knew what that meant.
“Why now?” Derrick whispered, holding her close.
“My sisters and I are being tormented by Sabrina.” Ariana explained, snuggling in his warm embrace.
“How?” Derrick asked. “What is she doing to you?”
“Messing with the powers we’re most afraid of.” Ariana told her husband. “I’m afraid of the Dark Magic, love. I don’t want to learn it.”
Derrick just held her, letting her cry on his shirt. “Shh, it’s okay. I’m here to protect you.” He kissed her tears away, then met her eyes. “I love you, Ariana.”
Ariana smiled despite her tears and depression. “I love you, too, Derrick.” She said softly, sitting up and blowing her nose with a tissue. “Now, what was your good news?”
Derrick stood, laughing. “Can’t tell you, yet.” He teased. “Follow me next door and I tell everyone at once, if Shane hasn’t already.”
“What does Shane have to do with it?” Ariana asked.
Derrick’s eyes were teasing as she followed him. “You’ll see.”
Trust Derrick Reading to take her tears away and make her smile.

III

“What, exactly, is going on with you Claudia Marie?” Craig Richardson was worried for his girlfriend. “You’ve barely spoken to me for three days.”
Claudia and Craig were riding back to his house after a night out. Craig wanted to cheer her up, but quickly found nothing would.
“I’m sorry, Craig, but I can’t help it.” Claudia was quiet as she stared out the window.
Claudia felt him touch her hand, holding it and making her meet his eyes.
“I’m worried for you, Claud.” Craig whispered, planting a quick kiss on her lips once they’d stopped at a traffic light. “I don’t want to see you get hurt. I love you.”
Claudia had to meet his eyes, her heart jumping at the sight of them. “I love you, too, Craig.” That’s when she thought of Witches Grove. “I’ve just had a bad few nights, that’s all. I didn’t mean for you to worry.”
They drove for another five minutes before pulling into his driveway.
When she got out, Claudia saw her niece Kelly’s bike against the garage door.
“Kelly’s here, which means Cara is, too.” Claudia announced.
Craig was at her side in moments, kissing her ear. “Will we ever be alone?”
Claudia giggled, taking his hand and going inside with him.
She stood standing by the kitchen sink while he checked the house. “Cara?” He called up the stairs.
“I’m up here!” His younger sister’s voice yelled from upstairs.
“Just checkin’!” he announced, heading back to Claudia’s side.
He wrapped his arms around her waist and kissed her tenderly. “Let’s see how much free-time we have until the girls figure you’re here.”
Claudia had to smile.
She watched as he took two cans of pop out of the fridge, handing her one. He took her hand and led her to his – now their – bedroom.
Once sensing he was up to something, Claudia gave him a quizzical look. She sat on the bed uneasily, wondering what was on his mind.
“You are going to explain to me what’s going on between you and your sisters.” Craig replied as he sat next to her.
She looked to her lap, then back at him. Could she tell him about Witches Grove? “What makes you say that?”
“I don’t know.” He shrugged. “Something about the way you’re acting is making me nervous.”
“What’s there to be nervous about?” Claudia asked.
“Your safety.” Craig said softly, kissing her. “I’m just afraid neither of you are going to be able to handle it, that’s all.”
The scene at Witches Grove stood in her mind, and she stared at her hands. Her hair fell in her face, but she didn’t move it. Good thing; her eyes were tearing up.
That’s it, she scolded herself. Break down in front of your loving boyfriend. Show him how weak you are. Claudia sighed.
Craig tucked her hair behind her ear. That’s when he noticed the tear running down her cheek, kissing it away. “Whatever’s going on, I’m sure we can work it out together.” He whispered, taking the can out of her hands and placing it beside his on the night stand. He wrapped an arm around her waist, pulling her to him.
Claudia always felt so warm and comforted in Craig’s arms. “I’m so glad you understand, Craig.”
Craig laughed lightly, kissing her forehead. “How can I if you don’t tell me what’s up?”
Claudia looked into her boyfriend’s handsome brown eyes. She explained everything that had happened in Witches Grove that night, and the horror she felt as she woke up panting.
He was quiet when she finished. She could tell he was thinking it over, but worried when he didn’t say anything after a minute.
“You probably want nothing to do with me now, do you?” Claudia asked, standing.
Craig stared at her. “Don’t think like that.” He scolded her. “I told you I’d stick beside you, no matter what. Just because this Sabrina chic decides to play a joke on you guys doesn’t mean I’m gonna desert you.”
He really did love her as much as she loved him! She gave in to the urge to hug him tightly.
He laughed. “That’s more like it.”
They met eyes, and Claudia had to ask. “No matter what, huh?”
Craig kissed her passionately. “No matter what.”
They parted, hearing a knock at the bedroom door.
Craig groaned, pulling away but holding her hand. Claudia smiled.
“What do you want?”
“We need a ride.” Cara’s voice peeped from the other side of the door.
“You’ve got a bike.” Craig said sarcastically.
“Too dangerous.” Kelly replied after him. “Momma would kill me if she knew.”
“I’m sure she wouldn’t kill you.” Claudia told her, opening the door. “Ariana’s not that mean, you know.”
Kelly smiled innocently. “I know. I just wanted you to open the door.”
“Where did you want to go, squirts?” Craig had to ask.
Kelly and Cara looked at each other, with Cara shrugging.
“It was your vision, Kelly.” Cara replied, trying to meet her brother’s glance.
Claudia’s eyes went up.
“The Hill View Cemetery.” Kelly whispered.
“Why would you want to go there?” Craig asked.
“What was your vision?” Claudia made Kelly sit on Craig’s bed and explain.
“Sabrina’s power crystal.” Kelly said. “I saw it before she took you guys to Witches Grove.”
“Have you ever been there?” Claudia remarked.
Kelly nodded her head. “Momma knows about it. Ask her.”
Claudia sighed. “You’re not going there tonight, or any other night.” She said. “At least, not without Ariana’s permission.”
Kelly hopped off the bed. “Just checking.” She kissed her aunt’s cheek before grasping Cara’s hand and leaving them alone. “See you later.”
“Now I’m really worried.” Craig said.
Claudia stared after the girls. “So am I.” She turned to him. “We’ll be able to handle it, right?”
Craig looked at her eyes and kissed her. “I sure hope so.”
Chapter:
Dark Curse

Sabrina and her brother Damian hid in his old dungeons of Dark Tower. Though the building had been destroyed in the Crusades, the dungeons had been underground, and had survived. The siblings set up the dungeons as their hideaway, once seeing they couldn’t return to the Unknown without being Exiled.
“Tell me again, sister.” Damian growled as he paced the dungeon. “What fuels your anger?”
“Young Guardian Exiled me to the Unknown.” Sabrina was tired of telling him. “Do you not know anything?”
Damian shifted to Dragon-Mite form, which told Sabrina to back off. “I know more than you!”
“Ha!” Sabrina scoffed, her human-form changing to a Dragon-Mistress, half-dragon, half-human girl. “You cannot scare me with shifting!”
The siblings met red-hatred eyes, with both changing back to their human forms.
Damian was silent as she continued.
“I have been to the Outer Realm and back.”
Damian wasn’t impressed. “So?”
“So, I have also heard something from Mother that might interest you.”
Damian was alert in moments. “Tell me.” He demanded.
“She is a Ancient Mystic.” Sabrina replied.
“Father is not, so we are not.” Damian told her, not wanting to believe it.
“Does not matter anyway.” Sabrina announced. With a wave of a hand, a cauldron appeared in the middle of the room. Since it was dark, she lit the room with a fire underneath it.
That’s when Damian noticed the dark crystal hanging from her neck and touched it. “Ah, the famed Black-as-Night Crystal. I am surprised you know how to use it.” He gave her a smile of his own. “Or do you?”
“I have already used it on the Ancient Mystic Sister Annabelle Woods. She is scared of her Clairvoyance power, so I decided to spook her out with it.”
“Is that all?” Damian scoffed. “With such power at your disposal, I would have thought you would not dare waste it.” He laughed. “Especially on a weakling like Sister Annabelle.”
“Not only that,” Sabrina didn’t want to be tormented by him right now. She was on a roll. “Mary Ellen, Aluna, and Claudia all have powers they are afraid of.”
“Oh?” Damian asked. “What about Young Guardian?”
“Young Guardian has only one fear,” Sabrina told him with a grin. “Her Dark Magic power.”
“Is that why you took her to the Abyss?” Damian wanted to know.
Sabrina nodded. “She will learn just how truly painful the Dark Magic can be.”
Damian was silent, circling her cauldron and tracing its rim. “I am impressed, little sister.”
Sabrina smiled, but found he wasn’t finished.
Damian had a mischievous smile on his lips when he faced her. “Not bad, for a beginner.”
Sabrina was furious. “I am no beginner. I have been Earthbound with the Dominionite Crystals. I have been Exiled in the Crusades, coming back with the Abolishment Spell of Father’s. I have also led your Warrior Army to battle against Lord Guardian.” She spat. “How dare you call me a beginner!”
Damian held his grin. “Did you know what I had done?”
Sabrina was curious. “Tell me.”
“Sister Mary Ellen pines for love, power, and control.” Damian replied. “I just gave her a push.”
He showed her a sphere of pink energy.
Sabrina grabbed at it, but he jerked it away. “You took away one of her powers?” She was astonished. “How? You must tell me!”
He made it disappear by throwing it into the air. “In time, sister, in time.”
Damian tossed a few charms into the cauldron until it smoked up the room. He stood silent while he watched her stare deep into her cauldron. He saw the self-satisfied grin on his sister’s face.
Damian couldn’t have been prouder of his sister than he was at that moment.
“I want a piece of the action.” He declared, making her look up at him.
“Do your worst, Damian.” Sabrina supplied. “I dare you.”
They never knew their cousin had listened from her hiding spot, hearing the whole thing.

II

Katherine Hawk-Stargazer flew to the Palace of the Ancient Mystic Sisters. They had to know what was going on. Sabrina and Damian were back, and worse than ever. Lord Guardian O’Dell himself met her at the door.
“What bothers you, Lady Katherine?” O’Dell asked her.
She bowed, telling him what she overheard. By the time she was finished, she’d had more of an audience. Jezebel had joined them.
Jezebel and Katherine stared at each other, with Katherine biting her lower lip.
“Just Sabrina and Damian, my Lord.” Katherine told him. “Why must they threaten our happiness?”
O’Dell shook his head. “The Dark Magic consumes them.”
“I have even tried to re-Exile her using the Exiling Spell.” Jezebel told them.
“What happened?” Katherine asked.
“The Crystal’s glow distracted me.” Jezebel said. “Before I could be drug into its power, I disappeared. I warned her she would destroy herself if she was not careful. I even told her the truth about herself being a Ancient Mystic, but she did not believe me.”
“She is too into the Dark Magic, Jezebel.” Katherine said. “She is truly her father’s daughter.”
When she closed her eyes, an empathic vision clouded her mind-sight. It made her gasp.
“Katherine?” Jezebel put a hand on her niece’s shoulder, startling her out of the vision.
“It’s Kit.” Katherine said. “Something’s wrong with her.”
“Hurry, then.” O’Dell instructed.
She closed her eyes and disappeared. She reappeared in the air, flying above her sister’s home in the Feline Village. When she caught sight of Kit’s mate, Toby, pacing in the grass, she called to him as she descended.
“Toby!”
Tobias “Toby” White-Snow was a jungle tiger, with black and orange stripes. The Emerald amulet around his neck glowed black, telling Katherine something was wrong with Kit.
She was in front of him in moments. “Toby, what’s wrong?”
Toby stopped pacing to face her. “Kit is acting strange, but she will not talk to me.”
“I will speak to her.” Katherine told him.
Toby grabbed her arm as she passed him. “Tiger worries for her. Her amulet glows red, and I am afraid for all our lives.”
Katherine purred, hugging him to calm him. Tiger was their white tiger son. “Please Toby, calm down.”
“The Crusades...” He muttered, now staring into space. “She keeps talking about the Crusades.”
Katherine didn’t want to remind him, but she had to, to get his attention. “Warrior Tobias, listen to me. The Crusades are long over, you know that.” He faced her once more, his eyes frightened. “Relax. I will find what is worrying Kit.”
Toby nodded, and Katherine headed inside.
She found her sister curled up in the corner of a room. Kitten’s Claw was shaking, rocking herself and crying. Katherine rushed to her side.
“Kit, what’s wrong?” Katherine hugged her sister, hoping to calm her tears. She noticed the Sisterhood Amulet around her sister’s neck was indeed glowing red. Being it was the White Crystal Amulet, it would usually be clear.
“I did not mean to do it...” Kitten’s Claw muttered under her breath between gasps.
“What did you do?”
It took a moment for Kit to answer her sister’s question. By that time, Katherine’s fur was wet from her sister’s tears.
“It is all my fault.” Kit revealed. “I brought Sabrina back from the Unknown. I did not mean to, it just happened.”
“Nonsense.” Katherine assured her, secretly watching the necklace. The amulet was now pink. “Sabrina got the spell from –.”
“Jezebel’s and Orthos’s Spell-books.” Kit replied. “It is called the Abolishment Spell.”
“Still, how are you to blame?” Katherine asked.
“It was the middle of the Crusade, with Sister Shannon’s friends.” Kit started. “I found Aunt Jezebel’s Spell-book in the Throne Room of Dark Tower. It was opened to a new page, with nothing on it. In front of my eyes, it appeared. I read the words as they were written. Once the spell was finished, it glowed, and I knew I had to have it. I did not know its purpose until I overheard Jezebel and Orthos talking later that night. I wrote it down on a separate piece of paper, just in case something happened to me, I would call it.”
“Where does Sabrina’s Exiling come in?”
“Somehow, she found my copy of the spell, using it to come back.” Kit began to cry again. “I told you it was my fault.”
Katherine hugged her sister, keeping an eye on it. The amulet was back to clear white. “Come on, Lady Kitten’s Claw. Your followers need you to be strong.”
Once Katherine helped her sister to stand, Kit hugged her. “You do not blame me?”
“Nay.” Katherine shook her head. “You know how Sabrina is. Evil, seductive.”
“Hurting, cruel, mean, heartless.” Kit went on, then rolled her eyes. “Thank you for listening, Katherine.”
“What are sisters for?” Katherine smiled. “I have to be going home now. Wolf and Celine are waiting for me at Stargazer Castle.”
“You will come again, Kat?” The sisters heard Toby’s voice behind Katherine.
Katherine turned and saw Toby holding his son’s hand. Toby’s necklace was back to the green Emerald color it had been before.
“Of course.” Katherine supplied. She hugged her nephew’s shoulders, making Tiger White smile and blush in embarrassment. “Anytime.”
“Can I come with you?” Tiger White asked her.
He and Celine got along great, and were always the best of friends with another Companion-Crusader’s daughter, Destiny.
Katherine looked to his parents. “If you do not mind.”
Kit shook her head, hugging Toby’s waist and kissing him on the cheek. Now Toby blushed, and the sisters laughed. “Go right ahead, but be careful in the Canine Wood, Tiger.”
“Aye, Mother.” Tiger White mumbled reluctantly.
Katherine tapped his shoulder. “Race you!”
Tiger smiled and disappeared in front of their eyes.
With a wink, she was gone.
When they reached Stargazer Castle, both Celine and Destiny Grey were there to greet them.
As she let the children play in the Wood, Katherine couldn’t help noticing her own Sisterhood Amulet. It was the Ruby, with the Earthbound power of Telepathy. At that moment, it was bright burgundy, the color it was supposed to be. Smiling, she opened the door to greet her canine mate.

III

At about the same time, Sabrina and Damian were in the Old Dominion’s underground dungeons. Damian was growing tired of waiting for his sister to make her next move.
“Come now, Sabrina.” Damian growled impatiently. “If we do not do something soon, they will think we have given up.”
“Who said I was giving up?” Sabrina asked, facing him. “Who is to say I do not have something bigger planned?”
At this, Damian laughed. He jumped off the rock he was sitting on and went over to the cauldron. “Face it, little sister, you have no clue.”
Sabrina fumed. “How dare you!” She screamed. “Just wait until you see what I have planned for them next.”
Damian shook his head, looking at her. His laughter stopped when he saw the Black-as-Night Crystal that still hung around her neck. It was no longer glowing. In fact, as he took it into his hands, he could see and feel the magical glow fading. “Have you used this recently?”
“At Witches Grove with Young Guardian and her sisters.” Sabrina said. “Why?”
“Feel it.” He said simply.
She was confused. “What? Why?”
“Just do it!” He roared, once-black eyes now glowing bright red.
She took it from his hands and closed her eyes, hoping to catch the power in it through her system. She found nothing, opening her eyes. “What’s wrong with it?”
“Its power is being drained by the Dominion.” Damian said. “Do you know how to charge it?”
Sabrina looked at it and shook her head. “Maybe if we go back to the Unknown, Father will know what to do?”
“What? And give up here?” Damian wasn’t too happy with her suggestion.
“We will get back to the Dream Realm; I assure you dear brother.” She said, nodding her head with a malicious grin on her blackened lips.
Damian crossed his arms. “Well, how do we get back without being Exiled?”
“Hmmm.” She said. “Good question.”
“Maybe Mother was right and we are Ancient Mystics?” Damian suggested. “Maybe then we could use our powers to propel us back to the Unknown?”
“If in fact we are Ancient Mystics.” Sabrina replied.
Sabrina began to pace, thinking. Damian watched her as she circled the cauldron, touching its rim with only a finger. When she stopped, he stared at her.
Her face brightened, her eyes glowed brilliant red. Sabrina the former Dominionite Maiden had a wonderful thought in her head.
Excited, she blurted it out. “The Palace of the Ancient Mystic Sisters!”
Damian was listening. “Go on.”
“Well, we could use the Mirror at the Palace to take us to the Unknown without losing our powers in the process!” Sabrina screeched happily. “What do you say about that?”
Damian smiled. “That is the first sensible thing you have said in your life.” He looked away. “Wait, though. How would we get in? No one but the Ancient Mystics themselves can enter it, or the Mirror Room. Father told us that in the Wars for Power, remember?”
“Yeah, Yeah, I remember.” Sabrina mumbled. “Why not give it a shot anyway, Damian? What do we have to lose but the power in this necklace?”
“I admit, you do have a point.” Damian said. “What are we waiting for?”
The siblings took hands and whisked themselves to the Palace of the Ancient Mystic Sisters.
Damian’s head began to pound so he shook it. He saw Sabrina was having a hard time standing on her own. “Are you okay?”
She nodded. “The power in the necklace is weakening. We have to get to Father, quickly.”
“Right.” He said, looking from side to side.
“What are you looking for?”
“One of the Sisters.” Damian said. “I do not plan on getting caught.”
Sabrina rolled her eyes, then spotted the door to the Ancient Mystic Palace.
“What luck?” Sabrina said. “The door is open.”
The siblings tiptoed inside the forbidden Ancient Mystic Palace. As they walked to where they thought the Mirror was held, Sabrina could feel her Dark Magic fading, and a new, invigorating Magic filled her system. It was enough to make her sick, yet, it also made her feel more powerful than before.
The former Maiden didn’t know whether to curse the new feeling or bless it. It made her feel energized and dazed. So dazed, she didn’t feel it when Damian pinched her arm.
“Ow!” She cried, scowling at him.
She found herself in front of a door with a Magic jewel on it.
“Is this it?” Damian asked. “Do you know how to get in?”
Sabrina touched the doorknob. A sudden jolt of Magical energy zapped through her arm. She may not have known the spell before but she did now.
She blamed it on a Ancient Mystic Spell that was put on the door.
“I do now.” Opening her mouth, Sabrina sang a wordless tune, consisting of only seven notes.
The door opened slowly, the spell worn off it by her voice.
Sabrina and Damian smiled at each other.
“This is it.” Sabrina whispered. “We need to hurry.”
“How do you use this thing?”
“A chant to the reflection and presto, instant Unknown.”
Damian sighed. “I hope you are right about this, Sabrina. I am tired of feeling so goody-goody.”
He took her hand. With the other hand, Sabrina chanted a spell.

Ancient Mystic Mirror take me away
Through the nighttime where we play
A special place to be alone
Take us through to the Unknown.

The siblings closed their eyes at the last word and prepared to be whisked away.

IV

Minutes after the sibling duo used the Mirror, Enchantra returned. She appeared in front of the Palace door, sensing something amiss. Not sure what to make of it, Mistress Sister Enchantra closed her silver-blue eyes and opened her empathic eyes and ears. She walked the path her Clairvoyance took her.
Feeling something familiar, Enchantra could literally smell the rotten stench of the Dark Magic. It was faint, but still got her nose and sensors bothered.
Whoever was here had the Darkest of Dark Magic. She thought to herself.
Her sensors made her feel her something she didn’t want to feel, telling her something she didn’t want to hear. Something had to be done, immediately.
O’Dell had to know about this.
“Lord Guardian, come quickly!” Enchantra called into the air, staring at the door to the Ancient Mystic Mirror Room. To her alarm and despair, it was open.
In moments, the Lord Guardian of the Dream Realm appeared behind her. “My Love?” he asked, grasping her waist with his human arms. “What is it?”
“Look at the Mirror.” Enchantra whispered. “She’s glowing.”
He looked, alarmed himself. “The traveling glow indeed.”
Enchantra nodded. She stepped closer to it, the feeling of Dark Magic in her nose and heart.
“Dark Magic, O’Dell.” She said. “Do you not sense its presence in the air?”
“Aye, I do.” He replied, stepping closer to the Mirror. “Ask her.”
Enchantra looked from him to the mirror. She raised her hands and called out to her reflection.
“Show me what I wish to see,” Enchantra started, calling to the Mirror. “Who has last grasped the Magic within thee?”
The Mirror Mistress appeared, glowing a pastel violet-white aura. Her long white hair whipped around her with the winds that blew within the mirror itself. Her silver eyes showed only mirrors of her soul, and silver-white gown was laden with sparkling jewels.
“‘Tis an easy tale to tell.” The Mirror’s sweet voice echoed simply. “T’were the children of Jezebel.”
“Where did they go, Mistress Mirror? Show me a vision to make it clearer.”
“They go to the Unknown and find, a surprise of a darker kind. Dominionite Gloriana is there, with her daughters Albrath and Shenara fair.”
O’Dell was getting angry, knowing who the Dominionites were. He didn’t feel like speaking in rhyme when he demanded. “Why single Gloriana and her daughters out, when there are Dominionites with more standing?”
“Simple, my Lord Guardian alone,” The Mirror’s gentle voice echoed. “Gloriana is now Queen of the Unknown. Your brother is now the Master of this domain, but we are in trouble all the same.”
With that, they could see the Mirror darken, and its mistress was gone.
“They will pay for this.” O’Dell fumed.
Enchantra placed a hand on his chest, hopefully to calm him. “Please, calm yourself.”
O’Dell looked to his lover, confidant and friend. He took a deep breath. “I am sorry Enchantra, but no.” He spat.
She stepped away, afraid of his growing anger.
“Do you know what their union means to this world?” O’Dell asked gently, grasping her hand and pulling her to him. They were face to face now.
“Nay.” She shook her head, almost fearing his answer. “Tell me.”
O’Dell pulled her face so they met eyes. “Now that Gloriana is my brother’s mate, there is no stopping the Dominionite Army.”
“The Army has long disbanded, my Lord and Love.” Enchantra pointed out. “Some have gone with him to the Unknown, some stayed in the Grey Area with Maximaniac.”
O’Dell pulled away from her. “Do you not remember the Wars? When a simpleton Dominionite named Gloriana seduced Orthos?”
Enchantra stared, listening to his words.
“She has always wanted to be his queen.” O’Dell replied. “Now that she is, who knows what destruction they will cause?”
Enchantra gasped, finding herself in his arms. Scared, she put her head on his chest, feeling comfort in his warm embrace. “Will you stay with me, O’Dell? It is lonely around the Palace without you.”
O’Dell saw humor in the statement and laughed. “Dearest Enchantra, I need no reason to stay with you. I would and will because of my love for you.”
“Thank you, my Lord and Love.” Enchantra was happy at last. They kissed, hugging each other. She looked up into his loving and courageous eyes. “You will stay with me forever?”
“Until the ends of eternity.” O’Dell pointed out, teasing her nose with a kiss. He then kissed her lips and felt something good inside. Right away, he knew something he hadn’t known before.
Enchantra’s love for him was a comfort in these troubled times.
Story #1:
Family Circle

Aimee Schmidt couldn’t help being worried, and for good reasons. Aaron, her twin brother, had a new Magic within he wasn’t able to control too well. Ariana, her best friend who lived next door, was being bothered by the Dark Magic and the Maiden once again. Ariana’s children, her nephews Mark Antony and Andrew, and her niece Kelly were worried for their mother, wanting Aimee’s advice. Little Melody was always giving Aimee looks of worry, using telepathy to communicate to her. Aimee’s adopted daughter Angel was helpless with worry. Even her own adopted son Bradley Allen, who followed wherever Kelly led him, noticed the worry lines that practically glued themselves to Aimee’s face.
Aaron had told her at length what happened with his demon mistress, claiming his Unicorn Magic was wanting to come out. It made her think of her own, whenever the Crusaders were in trouble, she’d feel it right away with empathy. Her eyes peered to the small scar on her right wrist, where the Musketeers had made a blood pact. Trouble had been following her since that day, but she wasn’t complaining. Aimee loved being the Crusaders’ Over-Seer with the Unicorn Magic in her blood. She just wished she could help. She’d known Ariana since the three of them were five-years-old. They grew up together in an orphanage in Shore Point, California, calling themselves the “Three Musketeers.” If one of them would be in trouble, the other two would shelter them from pain. Years later, with children involved, Aimee wondered what the Crusaders’ old nemesis wanted with them.
She couldn’t think of anything to do about it until the other day. That’s when Ariana had left the four children with her, while Ariana herself mentally fought the Dominionite Maiden. Ariana didn’t want her children to be in the middle of battle. Heck, she didn’t even want her own husband in the middle of battle. Sabrina was being obnoxious again, and it was now up to Ariana and her four sisters to figure her scheme out.
Aimee sighed, shaking her head. She blinked and looked down. She was vacuuming the carpet, her thoughts taking her back in time.
“Aimee.” She heard fourteen-year-old Bradley Allen’s voice beside her, and felt a hand on her shoulder.
She turned after shutting the vacuum off. “Sorry, Bradley. What is it?”
“I wanted to know if I could spend the night at Alex’s tonight.” Bradley replied, then looked closer at his adopted aunt. “Are you okay?”
“Oh, sure honey.” Aimee smiled for him. “I’m fine, but which Alex?”
“Not Reading, but Farthay.” Bradley told her. He stared at her eyes. “Are you sure you’re okay?”
“Positive,” She laughed lightly.
Bradley was serious. “Why are your eyes green?”
Green? Aimee asked herself. “They’re not. They’re brown.”
Bradley shook his head. “Go check.”
With him at her heals, she went to the bathroom and checked her reflection. She didn’t like what she saw, at first. Then she whispered. “The Unicorn Magic.”
“I’m sorry, what?” Bradley asked.
Aimee looked at him, wondering if she should tell him about the Unicorn Magic she had. He knew the Ancient Mystic secrets, thanks to Kelly and the Crusaders: Ariana, Luna, Shane, Derrick, and Aaron. He even knew she was their Over-Seer.
“I have Unicorn Magic.” Aimee tried to explain to him. “Lord Guardian told me when I was younger.” She fingered the bracelet on her right wrist. “The power in the bracelets Ariana gave Aaron and I helped bring it out.”
“That still doesn’t tell me why your eyes are green now.” Bradley pointed out.
“Green is the color of Unicorn Magic.” Aimee responded. “Aaron has it, too. Not only with the bracelet, but the necklace Ariana gave him.” She looked at her reflection again. This time, the green glow in her eyes was brighter. “I’ll have to go to Mrs. Woods for advice.” She turned back to him. “In the meantime, yes, you can spend the night with Alex Farthay. Just be sure to stay away from his sister Kirsten.”
“Thanks, and her name is Krysti.” Bradley playfully corrected her.
He left her in the bathroom, staring at her strange reflection in the mirror.
Why are my eyes turning green now? Aimee asked. They never did before.
She looked to the bracelet once again. Even it was glowing.
Something is going on, and Amethyst Theresa Schmidt was scared stiff.
“Hey, Aim?” She heard Aaron’s voice from the living room. “Where are you?”
She could hear him coming closer so she met him in the hall.
“There you are.” Aaron announced. He noticed her eyes. “Woah. You, too, huh?”
“Me too, what?” Aimee asked.
“The Unicorn Magic is begging to come out, isn’t it?” Aaron supplied. Aimee had to nod. “I’ve been gettin’ vibes from my necklace again.”
“What about this time?” Aimee questioned. The twins headed to her bedroom.
“Sabrina and her Dark Magic.” Aaron replied. “Only, she wasn’t alone. There were others with her, including Damian.”
“What would they want with you?” Aimee sat on her bed, and Aaron sat next to her. “What are you to them?”
“Aimee, I’m a Crusader, remember?”
“The Crusades are long over, remember?” Aimee pointed out.
He huffed. “Listen to me, will ya?” He admonished. “My Unicorn Magic, along with both Magics from the bracelet and necklace, are itching to be used. Sabrina and her consorts want my power, Aimee, and I believe they’ll do anything to get it.”
“As long as you close your Force against them, they never will.” Aimee said. “How many times do I have to tell you that?”
Aaron groaned, fingering the necklace with closed eyes. He shook his head.
“What’s wrong?”
“All this is giving me a headache.” He replied. “How does Ariana handle all her Magic?”
“You have to remind yourself she grew with it. She’s a born Ancient Mystic. We’re just a pair of her trusted friends she was raised with from the time she was five.” Aimee said, beginning to rub her brother’s back.
“Speaking of Ariana, I’m really worried for her.”
“Aren’t you always?” Aimee tried to joke, but he didn’t smile.
“I’m serious, Aim.” Aaron responded. “I tried talking to her yesterday, but she didn’t want to talk to me. The chain on the necklace became really hot, and I began to sense the Dark Magic around her again.”
“Again?” Aimee groaned. “Now I’m worried.” She looked at her brother’s eyes, which were now greener than hers. “Well, what do we do now?”
“If there was some way we could join forces, the twins and their sisters with their Magic, and us with ours, we’d be more powerful.” Aaron supplied.
Join forces. Not a bad idea, after all, and it just might work. Aimee thought with a gasp that made Aaron jump.
“Okay, what’s up?” Aaron asked, unsure if we wanted to hear what was on her mind. “The only time you screech like that is if you have an idea.”
Aimee laughed, hugging him. “You just reminded me of the Power Circle. Brilliant, Aaron Theodore! Perfect!”
“What are you talking about?” Aaron was confused.
“Don’t you get it? If we get together, we could stand a chance of beating out the Dominionite Maiden!”
“What about the dreams?”
“Let Ariana or Lord Guardian handle it.” Aimee supplied.
“Mom, what’s going on?” Six-year-old Angel’s voice peeped from the doorway.
“We’re in a bit of a Ancient Mystic crises.” Aaron tried to explain to his adopted niece. “We were trying to figure a way out of it.”
“Can I help?” Angel asked. “I know I’m not an Ancient Mystic, but there must be something I can do.”
“I’m sure your Aunt Ariana will have something for you to help with.” Aimee cried. She turned back to her twin, grabbing his arm and crying. “Let’s go!” She dragged him next door to the Readings.
With a sigh and a shake of her head, Angel followed close behind.

Derrick Reading was worried about his wife, and they both knew why. By the time he was finished with cleaning up the kitchen, he heard the loud knock on the door, and opened it.
In burst Aimee and Aaron, with Angel in the rear.
“Woah!” Derrick cried, sharing an astonished look with Aaron. He closed the door behind them and asked. “What’s the rush?”
That’s when Aimee let go of her brother’s hand. Aaron shrugged, rubbing his hurt wrist.
“Where’re the twins?”
“Lu’s across the street with her kids.” Derrick supplied. “Ariana’s at a class. Why?”
“Do you know where I could find their sisters?” Aimee asked. She was excited, her eyes widened and hand playing with the rings on her fingers.
She paced, biting her lip in thought.
“What’s with her?” Derrick asked Aaron. He looked to Angel, who just shrugged.
“I can feel Ariana’s Dark Magic bugging her, and so can she.” Aaron summed up the best he could. “It’s forcing the Unicorn Magic Aimee and I have to peek out.”
“Bradley noticed my eyes first.” Aimee supplied, stopping in front of Derrick. “When Ariana came over the other day with the kids, she claimed she had housework to do. Somehow, I knew she wasn’t herself.”
Derrick nodded, his fingers playing with the Pendant. “I’ve noticed that, too. She actually let me in on Sabrina’s comeback.”
“Who’s Sabrina?” Angel asked.
“A lady from our past who wasn’t very nice.” Derrick told her.
“Question is; what do we do about her?” Aimee asked. “I have an answer, thanks to Aaron.”
Derrick looked at Aaron, who shrugged.
“Ariana, Luna, Mary Ellen, Anna, Claudia, Aaron, and I could join our Magics together in a Protective Circle.” Aimee spat, clapping her hands after she said it.
“Will you calm down?” Aaron asked, rolling his eyes at his sister.
Derrick grinned at him and said. “In that case, why not Shadow and myself as well? We have part of their Magics in our Pendants, remember?”
Aimee paced again. “Good point.” She said, half to herself. “We have to get Kelly and even the younger children in on it, too.”
“What about Jake?” Derrick asked her. Jake was his brother that just happened to be dating Anna Woods, the oldest of Ariana’s siblings.
“He doesn’t have magic, does he?” Aaron asked, now interested.
“No, but he does love Anna.” Derrick told him. “Isn’t that enough?”
“Does he know Anna’s an Ancient Mystic?”
Derrick nodded. “We grew up with the rumors, remember?”
“How could I forget?” They heard a voice behind Aimee. When they stopped to look, they saw it was Jake. Anna was with him.
Angel ran up to Jake and gave him a hug.
“Those rumors stirred the city in an uproar.” Anna announced, hugging the girl after him.
“What are you doing here?” Derrick asked after greeting his brother.
“Anna had a vision. Something told me I had to be here, too.” Jake replied.
“Me, too.” Luna’s voice supplied, only, no one could see her.
Aimee had to giggle. “If that’s an Advanced Magic, Lu, learn it before you try it out.”
“What do you mean?”
Derrick laughed. “Your voice is here, but you’re not.” He replied. “Where are you?”
“Right in front of Aimee.” Luna’s voice said.
Angel just stood and listened quietly. She knew better than to ask questions about the unexplained.
“Concentrate, Lu.” Shane supplied as he came into the room. He shut the door behind him, nodding his greetings to the group. He turned to Derrick. “Astral Projection. It’s the only Magic she hasn’t learned yet, and she was curious.”
“You know what they say.” Derrick grinned. “Curiosity killed the cat.”
“Let’s hope it doesn’t kill me first.” Luna announced, this time appearing where she said she’d be. “How’s that?” She asked, arms crossed.
“If you feel like you’re being pulled, go back to your body. Understand me?” Shane told her. She went to him, but actually went through him when she gave him a hug.
“Yes, Shadow.” Luna teased him.
“We can see you, but you’re still not here.” Aimee replied. “I don’t even sense you.”
“You have Empathy?” Anna asked her, and Aimee nodded.
“Aren’t we here for something more important than Luna’s new power?” Jake asked. “Like, what made Anna have a vision?”
“Depends.” Luna said. “What was it about?”
“Us forming a circle in the backyard.” Anna replied. “All of us.”
“Who’s all?” Shane asked.
“Well, everyone who’s being bothered by Sabrina.” Anna told him. “That means, our sisters, the Earthly Protectors and the kids, Kelly, Mark, Andrew, Melody, Caleb, and Meredith.”
“Who are the Earthly Protectors?” Derrick asked. “All I know of are Shadow and I.”
Anna smiled, hugging Jake’s waist. “Jake for one, Craig for another. He’s Claudia’s Earthly Protector.”
“That’s right.” Aimee announced. “Since the Unicorn Magic we hold is begging to come out, I thought it would good if we joined forces. Aaron’s the one who gave me the idea.”
Aaron shook his head. “Oh, no, little sister. You’re not blaming this one on me.”
Aimee took a closer look at her twin brother. His eyes were still glowing green, but it seemed only those with the Magic could see it. Neither Reading brother had said anything aloud.
“Are you thinking of the Power Circle the Musketeers made?”
He nodded his head sadly. “It did wonders then. Do you think it will work now?”
“Slow down.” Shane announced, his hands up to stop them. “Power Circle?”
“Yeah, what’s that?” Jake asked. Even Anna looked interested.
“The Power Circle.” Ariana’s voice was heard just as she popped in Magically. She caught the eye of her twin and smiled. “Shortly before I ran away from the orphanage in Shore Point, the twins and I wanted to protect each other somehow. We held hands and I wished with what little Magic I had in the Dream Locket. The Power Force within me grew, and formed a circle of protection. Therefore, we called it the Power Circle.”
“How much Magic did you know back then?” Luna asked.
Ariana noticed her sister was flickering, as if disappearing. “I’ll tell you once you bring your body with you.”
Luna and Shane exchanged looks. “Even she agrees with me.” Shane kidded.
She disappeared after sticking her tongue out at her sister, crying. “Spoil sport.”
Angel giggled.
“Am not.” Ariana called into the air. “Besides, it doesn’t matter how much I knew then, does it?”
Derrick hugged her, wondering how she popped in so quickly. He wasn’t complaining. As long as she was in his arms, she was safe from any bad guys of the Dream Realm.
“Who were the Musketeers?” Jake asked.
“Ariana, Aimee and I.” Aaron supplied.
“Yeah, we were Mrs. Gertrude’s favorite orphans.” Aimee said.
“Basically the Power Circle awakened the little power I’d had, keeping the twins safe once I left.” Ariana replied.
They heard the door open, and footsteps behind them.
“Look who I found snooping in the front yard?” Luna’s voice made them turn. She walked in the door with Logan in her arms. Kelly, Mark, Melody, and Andrew cowered behind her. Caleb and Meredith, who were ahead of her, ran to their father.
“Sorry, Momma.” Kelly apologized. “I kept them away as long as I could.”
“No need, Kelly.” Ariana grinned. “We need you four, or should I say six, for a Power Circle.”
“Sabrina?” Andrew asked, both his and his brother’s eyes open wide in fear.
Ariana nodded. “Everybody in the backyard.” She announced. “Time to make our visions come true.”
“You had one, too?” Anna asked.
“You better believe it.” Ariana supplied, nodding. She noticed how pale her twin looked, taking her nephew from Luna’s arms. “Are you okay, Lu?”
Luna was rubbing her temple. “Not really, but I’m sure I’ll be okay in a bit. I just need some grounding food.”
Ariana looked at her strangely. “Huh?”
“My body went astral, right?” Luna asked. “Astral Projection; where the physical and mental parts of the body split. Anyway, in order for them to realign properly, I have to eat something solid. Get it?”
Ariana nodded, laughing.
“You’re sounding more like a witch instead of a Ancient Mystic.” Anna noticed.
“Yeah.” Ariana grinned. “Darlene Bennington would be proud.”
“I guess all that Wiccan stuff is starting to rub off on me. Call me Multi Magically Cultured.” Luna said with a smile, and the three sisters laughed.
“I don’t mean to break the jamboree, but what’s the special occasion?” They heard their sister Claudia’s voice behind them.
“Anna and I had visions.” Ariana told her youngest sister.
“Is Craig with you?” Anna asked.
Claudia blushed, nodding. “He’ll be out in a minute, so you can stop teasing me now.”
Anna hugged her sister’s shoulders. “Never.”
Claudia shook her head. “So, what’s the ruckus about?”
Anna and Ariana both told her of their visions.
“That just leaves Mary Ellen, doesn’t it?” Claudia asked.
“Not anymore.” Ariana’s older sister announced from behind Anna. “Can we start, or what?”
Ariana looked around at her siblings. “Let’s do this, shall we?”
She handed Logan to Angel, telling her to stand aside and keep an eye on him for her. Angel took Logan and headed to a tree not too far from the large group.
The Readings’ backyard was large, so everyone was able to hold hands. Once the large group were connected, with each Woods’ sister in a particular corner, and the Three Musketeers side-by-side, they were ready to begin.
Something in the back of Ariana’s mind told her to watch her twin closely. Luna had used a powerful Advanced form of Ancient Mystic Magic without knowing much about it. Ariana herself was cautious with it, fully learning it herself. Who knew how stable it was in the hands of Aluna Star Woods-Morehouse? It frightened her, and she was afraid for Luna’s life.
Ariana, Aaron and Aimee squeezed each others’ hands as they shared secretive looks. Thoughts of the old chant took their minds back in time, their emotions against Sabrina filling every void of hate and darkness they had.
The Three Musketeers were the first to chant it, eyes closed.

“Give us the strength, give us the power
“Help surround and protect us, in this mortal hour
“Combine our powers, Ancient Mystic and might
“Link us in Magic, form a circle that’s bright.
“By night and by day, let truth guide the way
“United in Magic, we’ll do what is right.”

The entire group’s minds echoed with vibrating thoughts of Sabrina, focusing on gaining the power to defeat her.
Ariana could feel her Ancient Mystic Force growing brighter and stronger with each chorus of the chant. She thought of everyone in the huge circle, instantly gaining knowledge of how they felt against Sabrina. Derrick, Shane, Aaron, Aimee, and herself were focused, but Ariana could tell Luna wasn’t. Soon, all was silent, with the chant echoing in everyone’s thoughts.
Using Empathy, Ariana could tell her sister was going to be sick.
“STOP!” Ariana yelled, letting go of Aaron’s hand.
All eyes were on her as she raced to catch Luna as she fell.
Angel hurried to the group with Logan in tears.
“Do you want me to call an ambulance?” Craig asked, coming up to the twins.
Ariana shook her head. “She tried Astral Projecting today. She’ll be fine after she has something to eat and rests.”
“Are you sure she’ll be okay?” Shane asked, holding onto one of her hands.
“Yes, Shane. Like I said, she’ll be fine.” Ariana supplied before instructing. “Help me get her to bed.”
Everyone was gone after giving their condolences, leaving just the Readings and the Morehouses.
“Watch the children, will you Kelly?” Ariana asked absently. She and Shane set Luna’s unconscious body on a bed in one of the guest bedrooms.
Kelly nodded, obeying. She and Angel shared a look, leaving the room.
Derrick and Shane stood aside, watching the twins together.
“Derrick, get her something light to eat.” Ariana was in charge in moments. “Shane, go with him. I need to be alone with her.”
“Right.” The boys chorused.
In moments, Luna was brought something to eat. Ariana sat next to her twin on the bed, forcing her sister to swallow. The boys, Derrick and Shane, didn’t know what to think of the situation. When Luna was finished, she lay down, with Ariana taking her glasses off her face. She shooed their husbands out of the room, claiming Luna needed her rest.
Derrick squeezed Ariana’s hand and kissed her cheek before leaving.
Once they were gone, it was quiet. Finally.
Ariana took a deep breath, hands in her sister’s, closing her eyes. She was going to do something she might regret later, but her sister needed it more than she did.
Thinking of the Magic Force, Ariana chanted softly.

“What’s mine is yours, and yours is mine.
“Part of mine now yours ‘til the end of time.”

Ariana literally felt some of her Healer’s Power going to her twin.
She opened her eyes, now seeing the tears running from her cheeks to Luna’s legs. Ariana moved closer to her twin, lying beside her as she began to feel weaker herself. She’d never done this before, and knew it was dangerous, but it had to be done.
Unfortunately, Luna wasn’t willing to take it. Her mind was blocked to Ariana’s Magic, which was unusual.
“Come on, Luna. Take what I can give you.” She whispered, wiping the tears using her shirt sleeve. “You need it now more than I do. We need you, sister. I need you.”
When Luna’s mind opened up, it let Ariana’s Magic in.
With a smile, Ariana lay beside Luna and fell asleep holding her.
Story: 2:
Ancient Mystic Crush

A few hours later, Mary Ellen drove Claudia to school, going back to check up on their twin sisters Ariana and Luna. It had been a long time since Mary Ellen could come and go as she pleased to the house. The house on the corner of Sycamore Road and Grosset Avenue had been her childhood home, but it now belonged to Ariana Reading and her family.
When Mary Ellen knocked on the door, her niece Kelly answered. “Hi, Aunt Mary Ellen.”
Mary Ellen showed herself inside. “How are they?”
“They’re still in the guest bedroom, sleeping.” Thirteen-year-old Kelly replied, leading her down the hall.
“Do you know what made Luna fall?” Mary Ellen asked.
Kelly stopped at a door and nodded. “She used too much of her Ancient Mystic Force when she astral projected.” Kelly replied, now whispering. “She grew weak, so Momma had to give her some of her own Healer’s Power.”
They reached the door. Quietly, Kelly opened it, revealing the twins, dressed identically, laying on the bed and indeed holding hands as they slept.
“Didn’t Ariana realize how dangerous it is?” Mary Ellen went to her sisters and sat on the chair by the bed. “She could have killed herself.”
“Not the way Momma did it.” Kelly said. “I heard the spell. Thanks to Momma, she and Luna are bound by that Magic.”
“It’s still dangerous.” Mary Ellen replied. “Thank you, Kelly.”
“I see you want to be alone with them, so I’ll leave.” Kelly announced. “Call me if you need me.”
How thoughtful. Mary Ellen thought in her mind, watching the twins.
She noticed Ariana was still wearing her glasses, and slipped them off her face. She set them on the table beside the bed, sitting back on the chair and admiring her sisters as they slept.
The twins were each twenty-six-years-old, but they barely looked a day over nineteen. It was hard to believe, by looking at them, they had kids of their own. Ariana had Kelly when she was thirteen, running away from an orphanage in fear of the baby’s life. She gave her precious daughter up for adoption, reuniting with her seven years later. After marrying her Imaginary Romeo, Ariana had a pair of twin sons, who were now six. Mark Antony and Andrew Reading were the identical cousins to Luna’s own son Caleb. Two years later, Luna had a daughter of her own, Meredith, and three years ago, Ariana had Melody. Just last year, Luna had her third child, Logan.
Mary Ellen thought back on Luna’s story of how they reunited. It was at the System in California, and both were almost eighteen-years-old. Until then, Ariana had never known she had a family. Ariana grew up in an orphanage in Shore Point, unknowing of the Magic that passed through her little veins. The twins were five-years-old when Ariana was given a vile of rose-colored liquid the Ancient Mystics called the Forgetfulness Spell. The Spell made her forget everything she knew about herself and her family, but nothing about the Magic. Luna, on the other hand, was taken to the System to live with their Grandmother, Dixilynne Ryan and cousin Shannon, Dixie’s niece. Luna grew up knowing everything about the Magic, always wanting to learn more. Both twins were powerful as they grew up, but each knew something was missing in their lives. That something was each other.
Since reuniting, the twins were inseparable. Ariana learned not to be afraid of the Magic, while Luna learned more every day. Ariana had learned the Healer’s Magic within while Luna ignored it. Ariana used Empathy throughout her life to sense strangers, while Luna was afraid of it.
Luna often told Mary Ellen how the Empathy gave her horrifying visions. If she opened her Empathic eyes and ears to anyone or anything, the fear of constant, heart-pounding emotions would distract her. Instead of using the Empathy, Luna’s Ancient Mystic Force would be out in the open, and she would be helpless against a Magical opponent.
Mary Ellen knew the daily threat of Dark Magic would haunt Ariana’s life. Ariana had good reason to be afraid; she was the Young Guardian. As an advisor to its Dreamers, who visited nightly, Ariana would help her Dreamers overcome their fears and nightmares. Long ago, Ariana was being haunted by Sabrina, the Dominionite Maiden. Sabrina had gone too far by pitting Derrick, Aaron, and Mark Grey against her. Not wanting her loved ones to suffer from the Maiden’s hands anymore, Ariana summed up all her courage, strength and Magic Force. Once the Crusaders were transported by Sabrina to the Dominion’s Lava Lake, Ariana took her chance. In one blow of powerful Ancient Mystic Magic, the anger Ariana felt toward Sabrina shot out of her system, Exiling the Maiden to the Unknown.
Mary Ellen knew the Magic Ariana passed through her hands was a form of the Dark Magic. A powerful, negative force every Ancient Mystic has to live with in order to have balance. As soon as the shot Exiled Sabrina, Ariana fell to the ground, weakened by the Magic. It didn’t take long for Ariana, the Dream Realm’s Young Guardian, to rejuvenate herself enough to go home. Mary Ellen knew, by the way Ariana stared at her son Mark Antony, not a day went by she didn’t think of Mark Grey, the Crusader lost in the fight, and how much she missed him.
Mary Ellen shifted once hearing a low sigh coming from the bed. She rose. “Are you all right?”
The twin felt her face, and Mary Ellen gave Ariana her glasses.
Once in place, Ariana’s attention went to her twin. “I am, but I’m not sure about her.”
“How’s your Healer’s Magic?” Mary Ellen asked, worried. “You didn’t give all of it to her, did you?”
Ariana stared. “Who told you?”
Mary Ellen smiled. “Kelly. You could have killed yourself by doing that, you know.”
Ariana smiled, petting her sister’s hair. “Yeah, I know, but somehow, it’s different with Lu.” She turned back to Mary Ellen. “I don’t feel as if I lost anything. Instead, I gained insight into my twin’s Magic.”
“And?”
“And, she’s powerful, just like I am.” Ariana told her older sister. “She has one power I use every day, Empathy. She told me how Sabrina taunted her in the Mirror, sending her to the Abyss. If she can overcome it, she’ll be able to combine her knowledge of Wiccan Magic with our own.”
“Why would she want to do that?”
Ariana shrugged. “That, I couldn’t tell you. As for her, I’d had the boys make her a light lunch. After eating it, we both totally zonked out. I was power-drained while she was just drained from projecting.”
“I’ve never done that before, and I don’t plan on it.” Mary Ellen said.
“I wouldn’t recommend it.” Luna’s voice moaned from beside Ariana. When she sat up, Luna held her head. “It’s one heck of a head-rush.”
“Not to mention it’s not one of our normal powers.” Mary Ellen supplied.
Luna looked down. “I know. I was just curious.”
“I’m just glad you two are alright.” Mary Ellen replied.
“Me, too.” They heard Shane’s voice behind her.
Meredith and Caleb were with him, as were Derrick, Kelly, Melody and Ariana’s twins. Logan was asleep in his arms.
Meredith ran to her mother. “Are you okay now, Mommy?”
Luna hugged her, kissing her cheek. “Of course, Sweetheart.” She told her daughter. “I’ll be tired for a while, that’s all.”
Shane came to the bed. “Don’t scare me like that again, Aluna Star Morehouse.” He kissed her on the lips.
Mary Ellen saw the look between Derrick and Ariana, standing. “Well, I’ve got to go. I’m glad you two are in good hands.”
“You can stay if you want to, Mary.” Derrick replied. “You don’t have to leave, do you?”
“It’s Mary Ellen, and yes, I do have to leave.” She replied, correcting him. “I have to register for classes at the University.”
“What’s your major?” Shane asked.
“Biochemistry.” Mary Ellen supplied. “Something about science excites me, so why not make a career out of it?”
Ariana giggled. “Taking after Anna, are you?”
Anna was a nurse at Philbrooke Memorial Hospital, in downtown Ray City.
Mary Ellen shook her head. “No, I don’t want to be a doctor. I just want to learn the science behind medicine.” She turned to leave. “You guys take care of these two. I’ll see everyone later.”
After hugging her sisters, Mary Ellen left.
As she drove to Hill View University, Mary Ellen Woods was suddenly depressed. The twins were so happy being married and raising their children. She was the only Woods sister without a boyfriend or husband. She felt so alone, until she began to see an Imaginary Romeo of her own.
It had literally been years since she thought about him, losing her mind and attentions in books and her current career. Only when Sabrina reminded her did Mary Ellen’s dreams of him return.
He was tall, with dark green eyes and sandy blond hair. He had a dimple underneath his right eye when he smiled. He was built like a swimmer with a perfect structure. He was smart, funny, athletic, gentle and caring. In one vision of him, she was beside him, playing touch football with a few of the neighborhood kids.
If only my Imaginary Romeo was real! Mary Ellen sighed when she parked in the lot.
She made her way to the Admissions Office to register for classes. She waited in the long line of students, thinking of her Romeo with a smile. The numerous voices blended into one as she waited her turn. A male voice awoke her from her thoughts.
“Hey, Heather. Think you can give these to Burney for me?”
Mary Ellen stared straight at the back of his head. He had sandy blond hair, just like her Romeo! He handed a stack of papers to the clerk as she watched.
“Sure thing, Mike.” Heather responded, taking them.
That’s when he turned, nearly bumping into her before trying to push his way out of line.
Quick! She scolded herself. He’s getting away!
“Hi!” She squeaked.
He stared at her for a moment, then smiled. “Hi. I’m Michael Ashburn, Student Advisor.”
“I’m Mary Ellen Woods.” Mary Ellen replied, blushing. As soon as their eyes met, she felt a kind of zing that made her heart skip a beat. Immediately, she knew why.
Michael had dark green eyes and was built like her perfect Romeo. Could this be him?
“Nice meeting you, Mary Ellen Woods.” Michael Ashburn announced, keeping his eye on her. “What’s your Major?”
Mary Ellen had to smile. “I think the pick-up line is ‘What’s your sign?’” She didn’t get any reaction from him, but sensed his hesitation. She spoke up again. “I’m going to Biochemistry. How about you?”
“Me? I’m what you call a career student.” Michael replied. “I can do a lot, but don’t know what I want to do, get it?”
Mary Ellen nodded, smiling.
He tapped her shoulder. “I’ve gotta split. See you around campus, Mary Ellen.”
With that he left, and her smile faded. Too bad he couldn’t stay longer, she thought to herself. My name coming from his lips sounded so wonderful.
“Mary Ellen Woods?” The clerk at the desk called for her, making her turn. “You’re next, so have a seat.”
Mary Ellen cleared her tightened throat. “Thank you.”
She was lost in a daydream, comparing her Imaginary Romeo with Michael Ashburn. She hugged herself happily, finally realizing he was it. She couldn’t wait to tell Anna and Claudia.

II

It took an hour for her to register for classes, and another half an hour to find them. While she toured the Hill View University campus grounds, she looked for Michael Ashburn, but couldn’t find him. She headed home after picking Claudia up from her classes.
“You’re quiet.” Claudia remarked, stuffing her shoulder bag in the back seat before hopping in the passenger seat. “What’s up?”
“I think I found my man.” Mary Ellen announced, telling her what happened in the Admissions Office.
“Do you really believe this Michael Ashburn is your Earthly Protector?” Claudia asked.
Mary Ellen nodded. “Now, to tell Anna.”
Claudia whistled. “Intense.”
“You’re telling me.” Mary Ellen teased. “Anna knew about him before I did.”
Claudia nodded. “What brought it up? The Earthly Protector, I mean.”
“Witches Grove.” Mary Ellen told her younger sister. “Damian made me think he was him, and when I tried to use Empathy, it was useless. I couldn’t sense a thing; good or bad.”
“That’s strange.” Claudia remarked. “Was that before or after he said ‘gotcha’?”
“Before.” Mary Ellen replied. They turned in the driveway and parked. “Anna thinks he stole one of my powers away, but I didn’t notice or care.”
“There’s only one way to find out.” Claudia replied. “Use them.”
“How?”
“Doesn’t matter how, just do it.”
“Now?”
“Let’s get the twins and Anna together first.” Claudia supplied. “I want to find out if Ariana’s Power Circle worked.”
“Good idea.” Mary Ellen complimented. “Let’s find them and meet at the Clubhouse.”
Story: #3:
Startling Revelations

“It feels so good to relax.” Luna supplied with a yawn.
“Are you feeling better now, sis?” Ariana asked.
Luna hugged her again. “Thanks to you, of course.”
“You both knew the dangers of your actions.” Anna reprimanded. “Luna, you knew not to mess with a type of Magic you don’t know.” She turned to Ariana. “As for you, I don’t care if you are the Young Guardian. You could have killed yourself giving Luna part of your power.”
“I only gave her enough to heal, Anna.” Ariana complained. “I didn’t want her to die. You, of all people should know that.”
“Yes, I do know that, but it still is inexcusable.” Anna said. “What if Sabrina had been there? She would have taken the chance to take that power away from you.”
“I’m too closed in for her to do that, so don’t worry.”
“I’m going to worry.” Anna told Ariana. “You’re my sisters. I don’t want to see either of you get hurt in any way.”
“Now she’s beginning to sound like our husbands.” Luna remarked.
“We shouldn’t dwell on what she did.” Ariana said. “We have to figure her next move.”
“Not to mention what Damian has to do with it.” They heard Mary Ellen’s voice above them. She and Claudia sat down at the booth beside Anna.
“Why would he choose the image of a guy that doesn’t exist?” Luna asked.
“He does exist, and I met him today.” Mary Ellen told her three sisters what happened in the Admissions Office.
Ariana smiled. “Another Imaginary Romeo turned Reality, huh?” She and Luna shared a grin. “Sounds familiar.”
“That’s right,” Claudia remarked. “Derrick was yours for the longest time, wasn’t he?”
Ariana nodded, blushing.
“I want to know something.” Claudia said. All eyes were on her, so she continued. “Did that Power Circle we did work?”
“No.” The twins chorused.
“Why not?” Anna asked.
“Everybody’s mind had to be focused on the energy.” Ariana replied. “Only, Luna’s wasn’t because she wasn’t fully aware after astral projecting.”
“I felt so sick and light-headed, but decided to stay silent.” Luna said. “I didn’t want to interrupt the spell, so I didn’t say anything.”
“The reason you were light-headed was because your own Magical energy was focused on yourself, and not your opponent.” Anna replied.
“Because of that, my first instinct was to watch for you.” Ariana replied. “It didn’t help when I felt you slipping away.”
The twins hugged, tears streaking down their faces.
Anna, Mary Ellen, and Claudia exchanged looks before moving to hug them.
“Look what the cats drug in.” the sisters heard a male voice. When they looked up, they saw five gentlemen. Derrick, Shane, Craig, Jake, and a newcomer only Mary Ellen knew, Michael Ashburn.
It was Craig who spoke. “What’s wrong with you guys?”
Claudia rushed to hug him. “The twins almost lost each other.”
Derrick and Shane shared a look.

“Mary Ellen?” Michael pushed aside to greet her. “What are you doing here?”
“Just talking with the family.” Mary Ellen replied, nudging her sister Anna.
“Want to introduce us to your handsome stranger?” Anna winked at her, making her blush.
Mary Ellen stood beside Michael. “This is Michael Ashburn. I met him at the college today.”
“You sure work fast.” Shane said sarcastically.
“He’s my Earthly Protector, only he doesn’t know it.” Mary Ellen announced, blushing when their eyes met.
“What’s an Earthly Protector?” Michael asked.
Ariana and Derrick looked at each other, as did Luna and Shane, Anna and Jake, and Claudia and Craig.
“Sit down. We need to explain a few things first.” Ariana replied.
Anna shook her head. “Not here.” She took Jake’s hand. “Follow me to the back of the building. It’s more private there.”
“What’s the big secret?” Michael asked, following. He stared at Mary Ellen, who was smiling with her arms crossed.
As soon as they reached the rear of the building, they noticed they were alone.
“First things first. Ever heard of the Ancient Mystics?” Ariana asked.
Michael nodded. “Yeah. Don’t they have these strange powers and do evil magic?”
They all shook their heads.
“On another subject, do you dream?” Shane asked.
“Sure, everyone does, don’t they?” Michael supplied.
“Not in the way we’re speaking of.” Luna replied. “When you dream, are they all in the same world?”
“Yeah, how did you know?” Michael asked. He was getting suspicious. “Just who are you people anyway?”
“I’m Ariana Reading, and this is my husband Derrick.” Ariana replied. “He’s my Earthly Protector.”
“I’m Luna Morehouse, Ariana’s twin sister, and this is my husband Shane.” Luna said, hugging him. “He’s my Earthly Protector.”
“I’m Claudia Woods and this is my boyfriend Craig Richardson.” Claudia announced, sharing a smile at him. “He’s my Earthly Protector, and I’m just waiting for him to pop the question.”
Craig kissed her lips, smiling.
“I’m Annabelle Woods, known as Anna.” Anna replied. “I’m the oldest Woods sister, and this, is my fiancé Jake Reading.”
Michael looked from Jake to Derrick.
Derrick smiled. “We’re brothers.”
“Which brings us to me.” Mary Ellen replied. “You know who I am already, and its time to tell you the main secrets of the Ancient Mystic Magic.”
“Ancient Mystic Magic?” Michael was confused. “Earthly Protectors? I don’t get it.”
Mary Ellen held back an urge to hug his waist. Instead, she tapped him on the shoulder. “Don’t worry, you will.”
“You’ll have to in order to help us defeat Sabrina.” Ariana replied.
“Wait a minute,” Michael held his hands up. “Sabrina? Who’s that?”
“The Dominionite Maiden.” Luna said. “Long story short, the Maiden and her brother Damian, who calls himself the Merchant, are haunting us again. Sabrina has this strange power-crystal thing around her neck and is hurting us with it.”
“I still don’t understand.”
“Basically, the girls are Ancient Mystics.” Derrick said. He wrapped an arm around Ariana. “My wife Ariana has all the powers of the Ancient Mystics, because she’s the Young Guardian of the Dream Realm.”
Ariana stared at Michael for a moment before announcing. “You weren’t brought here against your will. Something in your heart told you to be here with us, right?”
“Uh, I guess. Yeah.” Slowly, Michael nodded.
Michael sighed, not knowing what to say. He looked at Mary Ellen, who continued to stare at him. What had he done by talking to her? What had he gotten himself into?
Soon, all but Mary Ellen and Michael were gone. They sat at a table back inside the building, with him ordering a drink.
“What did you think of all that?” Mary Ellen asked.
Michael shrugged. “I don’t know what to think. All I know is this. As soon as my eyes met yours in that office, I knew I had to have you.” Mary Ellen blushed away. He reached across the table to touch her cheek. “Your eyes had me hooked the moment I saw you.”
“Oh stop.” Mary Ellen replied.
“Your sister’s right, you know.” Michael went on. “Something in my heart told me to be here. How did she know what I was thinking?”
“Ariana just used telepathy.” Mary Ellen remarked. “All the Ancient Mystics have it, and the Earthly Protectors only have it with their loves.”
He moved to sit next to her. “Here, we haven’t known each other a day and I feel ...”
“You’ve known me forever?” Mary Ellen supplied. “Yeah, it’s like that.”
They stared into each other’s eyes, with her making the first move. She reached to take his hand in her own.
Something in her silver-blue eyes was irresistible. Her lips so full, her black hair so soft to his touch. He had to do it, and did.
Michael kissed her on the lips, his heart jumping at the amount of passion he put into it. It doubly pounded when she kissed him back.
I’ve found you, Earthly Protector, came Mary Ellen’s voice to his mind.
When the kiss ended, they stared at each other.
“Did you?” He asked.
Mary Ellen smiled, kissing him again. You’ll learn soon enough, my love.
“Is this all an illusion?” Mary Ellen asked, searching his dark green eyes.
“I sure hope not.” Michael announced softly, kissing her again.
They stared into each other’s eyes for a moment, holding each other in a romantic embrace as they thought the same thought.
This was the beginning of a beautiful relationship.
Epilogue:
Beginning of the End

Sabrina and Damian managed to make it through the mirror without passing through the Abyss. They didn’t have to surrender what little powers they’d had in the Dream Realm to the Abyss’ own Keeper of Souls. Instead, the siblings fell though the portal to the Unknown, landing in the murky waters just west of the newly-built Dark Tower. Sabrina managed to land without hitting the water while Damian landed face-down in the mud.
“What’s wrong, brother?” Sabrina quipped. “Forgotten how to land?”
Damian wiped the mud off his face, spitting it out of his mouth before responding with a sneer. “Very funny. Can we get home already?”
“Certainly, but first, to check up on things.” Sabrina stood, shouting into the air. “D’Kora! Appear in front of your Maiden!”
In seconds, D’Kora was there. When she saw who it was, she bowed. “Maiden, you have returned!” Standing, she caught the eye of Damian, who noticed something odd about D’Kora right away. “My Lord Merchant!”
“Enough, D’Kora.” Damian commanded. “What news have you to tell us?”
Sabrina was silently fuming. D’Kora was her maid-servant after all, not his.
“There are newcomers to Dark Tower.” D’Kora responded. “You will be pleased to know them.”
“Who are they?” Sabrina asked.
“Old Dominionites, come back to Lord Master’s side.” D’Kora replied. “Come, I will take you through the Haunted Forest to Dark Tower.”
D’Kora led them though the forest, past the gates of Dark Tower, and finally to Master Orthos’ own lab, where Sabrina and Damian met the eyes of three Old Dominionites.
“Lord Master, your children have returned.” D’Kora announced, head bowed.
That’s when he looked up. “Wonderful!” He cried, arms around his new queen. “Now leave us.”
“Yes, my Lord Master.” D’Kora bowed, then disappeared.
Sabrina stared at the familiar woman her father now held in his arms. Damian’s eyes went to the red-headed beauty beside her. The siblings looked at each other.
“Lord Merchant!” Shenara squealed, racing to meet his open arms. “I have missed you!”
“And I, you, my sweet Shenara.” Damian kissed her.
As he whisked her away from Sabrina’s dangerous glare, Sabrina turned to the girl with the short, spiked white hair that stood beside her father.
“What are you doing here, Dominionite Albrath?” Sabrina commanded.
“I have come to be your humble servant, my Lady Maiden.” Albrath’s eyes were mischievous, and it was as if she wanted to spill all she knew.
Of course, it wouldn’t work out that way.
“I will speak to you later.” Albrath continued, watching Sabrina’s face turn expressions. With a final bow, she, too was gone.
Exasperated, Sabrina stalked closer to Orthos. “Father? What is the meaning of this?”
Orthos only smiled at his daughter. The woman beside him smiled, too. “I believe you already know Gloriana?”
“Of course.” Sabrina said. “What is a mere Dominionite doing here?”
Orthos ignored her. “Call her Mother, or Queen Mistress Gloriana.”
The statement was a new one on Sabrina, the Dominionite Maiden. She had once been in charge of Gloriana and her daughters. Now, it would seem Gloriana would be in charge of her.
“Wonderful to see you again, Sabrina.” Gloriana grinned.
Sabrina was furious. “How dare you show such disrespect to your Maiden!”
Gloriana faced her new step-daughter. “Now, now Sabrina dear. Is that any way to treat your new mother?”
“You have wanted my father since the Wars.” Sabrina whispered. Gloriana smiled, listening to her. “Now that my own mother is gone, you wish to take her place.”
Gloriana shrugged. “Of course. I always get what I want in the end.”
Sabrina was fuming at her new “mother.”
Orthos decided to break them up. “Ladies, ladies. There will be time later to reminisce.”
Sabrina nodded in agreement. “For once, I agree.” She cleared her throat before stating. “I have come home for your help.”
“My help?” Orthos asked. “In what? Your personal struggle with the Woods’ sisters?”
“The Black-as-Night Crystal, Father.” Sabrina said, showing it to him.
“Yes, the famed and acclaimed Black-as-Night Crystal.” Orthos said. “My girl, how did you get it?”
Sabrina shook her head. “That does not matter. What does matter is getting its power back, quickly. When I was in the Old Dominion, it was getting weaker by the moment.”
“In a hurry?” Gloriana quipped.
Sabrina glared at her, then continued, turning back to her father. “It has been nearly two Outer Realm weeks since I was last able to use its power against the Sisters.”
“So what?” Orthos replied.
“So what?” Sabrina echoed. “I need to recharge the Crystals power, that’s what!”
Orthos put a hand on his daughter’s shoulder. “Relax, my Maiden daughter.” He said with a smile. Sabrina saw Gloriana had her arms folded in front of her as she watched the scene. “Use the power sphere in your room. It holds power for you.”
Sabrina was impressed. “Thank you, Father.”
“How did you manage to get home, Sabrina darling?” Gloriana snipped. “Were you Exiled by Young Guardian again?”
“No!” Sabrina responded. “We used the Ancient Mystic Mirror in the Palace.”
“How?” Orthos was intrigued. “Only Ancient Mystics are allowed in the Palace. How did you get through the door? It was laced with Magic spells!”
Sabrina laughed. “Simple, Father. The door was open.”
“Neither of the Sisters saw you, did they?” Gloriana was getting into her story now.
Sabrina shook her head, finally happy being the center of attention. “Nay.”
“How did you get in the Mirror Room?” Orthos asked.
How did she get in? She didn’t remember a thing.
“I touched the knob and called the spell.” Sabrina supplied. “After that, the door opened. Damian and I got the idea to use the Mirror to return after Mother told me something.”
“Only Ancient Mystics can use that Mirror.” Gloriana cried.
“Never mind, Gloriana.” Orthos waved a hand at his new bride. “What did Jezebel tell you?”
Sabrina didn’t want to tell him, but by the look in his eyes, he was dying to know. “Damian and I are Ancient Mystics.”
Orthos turned away. “That cannot be true.”
“How were we able to use the Ancient Mystic Mirror than, Father?” Sabrina cornered. “Tell me that!”
Orthos paced to his Dark Cauldron, silent in thought. Gloriana took the hint and turned to her.
“Go to your room, Sabrina.” She commanded softly.
“I refuse to listen to you!” Sabrina yelled.
“Do it!” Orthos yelled in his dragon’s voice. That made Sabrina jump.
Without another word, Sabrina the Dominionite Maiden turned on her heel and huffed to her room.
“How dare he do that to me!” Sabrina screamed, slamming the door and going to the glowing sphere of power that stood in the middle of the room.
She took the Black-as-Night Crystal from around her neck and chanted something under her breath. It started to glow, brighter this time. In her mind was a devious plan that not even a mere Dominionite like Gloriana could destroy.
Sabrina smiled. “Just wait until the Crystal is at full power!” She whispered under her breath. “I will show them who is boss around here!”
At that, she cackled, her laughter echoing the building.

II

Meanwhile, Damian took Shenara to his quarters in the south wing of Dark Tower after leaving Orthos and Gloriana. Now, Damian paced the room in thought while Shenara stood watching him. In an effort at grasping his attention, Shenara wrapped her arms around his neck and gave him a passionate kiss.
“It has been too long, my Lord Merchant lover.” She purred seductively.
It seemed to work, for Damian wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her closer. “Aye, but it is good to be back in your arms, darling.”
Though she knew he meant it, she could tell her lover was distracted.
Shenara stroked his cheek, forcing him to turn his hollow eyes on her. “What is on your mind? Why is your face so distant to me?”
Damian kissed her lips again. “Think nothing of it, Shenara my love.” He said. “I was merely thinking of something my sister told me.”
The very mention of the Maiden made Shenara excited. She took his hands. “Oh! Do tell!”
“It would seem we are Ancient Mystics.” He said simply, as if it were an everyday statement.
She was silenced in awe for a moment before finding her words. “Surely, she jests!”
Damian shook his head, smiling.
“I do not believe it!” She crossed her arms over her chest.
“Nor did I until we entered the Ancient Mystic Palace.” He told her. She was intrigued, waiting.
“What happened?”
Damian held his grin, loving to tease his former Warrior lover. The look on his face was mysterious and cunning. He loved holding her in suspense. He had been in love with the Dominionite girl since they were children, fighting with their parents in the Wars for Power. Now, all grown up, his feelings for her had grown as well.
Shenara stomped her foot, impatient. “Tell me – What happened!”
“I felt something I had never felt before.” He told her, taking her hands. She waited for him to continue, searching his eyes. “Pure power. It was so peaceful and full of the goody-goody energy the Ancient Mystics carry with them.”
“Really?” She asked, a scowl on her lips. “Go on...”
He took her into his arms. “I have been thinking, my love. Since we are Ancient Mystics, able to keep our power coming home this time, I had an idea.”
“A devious idea?”
“None other.” He said. “Sabrina wants her revenge on those who Exiled us.”
Shenara shrugged. “So? Let her have it.”
“You do not understand, my sweet.” Damian replied, pausing her words with his finger on her lips. “Not only will I let her, I will help her. For it was Young Guardian and the Crusaders who Exiled us here in the first place.”
Shenara gasped, stepping out of his embrace. “Young Guardian, your former lover?”
“That affair was long ago, and you know my sister was to blame for it.” Damian took her in his arms and teased her cheek with kisses.
“She and Young Aaron Exiled us here.” She told him, not listening.
The statement had him thinking. “That Young Aaron is a royal pain, is he not?”
“Aye.” Shenara replied, then told him the story of her own Exiling. “He has the Unicorn Magic and Mother somehow found out.”
“Aye, it is unfortunate he does. He used it to Exile me as well, in front of my own father!” Damian was angered by the memories. “In that case, would you like to help me get back at them all?”
Shenara giggled. “I already started.” When he looked at her anxiously, it was her turn to hold him in suspense. She told him what she’d done to the lovesick Crusader in his own Dream Realm.
“Very clever my dear.” Damian said. “But I am more so. I stole a Ancient Mystic’s power.”
“All of it?”
“Nay, just enough to shake her up a little.” Damian said. “It were Sister Mary Ellen, Young Guardian’s older sister. It seemed Mary Ellen dreamed of an Imaginary Romeo, just as Young Guardian herself had so long ago. When the five sisters were in Witches Grove, I simply made her thoughts and images my own. I had her in my arms in no time, whispering into her ear as I disappeared, taking with me one of her powers. Neither Woods’ sister were the wiser.”
“Why would you wish to do that?”
He grinned an evil grin. “Because I can.” He told her, kissing her lips passionately.
After they made love on his bed, they lay next to each other, wondering.
“So, what’s next?” Shenara asked, snuggling into his embrace.
Damian laughed. “Only time will tell.”
With a wicked smile and a red, evil glow to his eyes, he disappeared, leaving her staring after him in wonder.
BOOK TWO:
THE CIRCLE UNBROKEN

Part One:
Evil From Within

Prologue:
The Cost of Love

A week after they met, Mary Ellen and Michael Ashburn asked her for a first “official” date. Mary Ellen couldn’t help pacing her bedroom. Ariana was there, happy to be there for her older sister.
“I hope my Imaginary Romeo is just like yours, Ariana.” Mary Ellen replied, finally sitting.
Ariana laughed, brushing her sister’s hair in front of the vanity mirror. “Why do you say that?”
“You and Derrick knew each other for years before you actually met, right?” Mary Ellen pointed out.
Ariana shrugged, smiling. “Yeah, I guess.” Her smile turned into a frown. “I was so happy when I finally met him, but it wasn’t the same.”
“Why?” Mary Ellen dared to whisper, staring at her sister’s reflection.
“I wished for perfection, but didn’t get it.” Ariana said. “Instead, he was mean to me. From the moment we met, I could tell something was going on, and he was keeping something from me.”
“Ever find out what that was?”
Ariana began braiding Mary Ellen’s hair. “Yeah. He was keeping Luna from me. Derrick was also anxious about showing his true feelings for me for awhile.”
“When did he decide to change?” Mary Ellen asked. “What made him open his heart to you?”
“I had a nightmare.” Ariana said. “It was when we were Crusading for the System.” She shook her head. “Enough about me. It’s your turn to be a Dream Girl to an Imaginary Romeo.”
At that, Mary Ellen sighed. “I can’t wait. We’re actually going on a first date.”
“I would have thought our little get-together would have thrown him off the chase.” Ariana teased her. “I mean, even I didn’t understand all that Magic stuff in the beginning.”
Mary Ellen laughed.
“Really. Look at us. We’re five Ancient Mystic women, with Magic in our souls and hearts, learning how to use it.” Ariana began. “The Maiden, who the Crusaders crushed years ago, is back to haunt us. She uses the Black-as-Night Crystal around her neck to get her power back, and test us on ours.”
Mary Ellen thought it over. “Now that I think about it, it does sound far-fetched.”
The girls heard the doorbell ring from downstairs. Mary Ellen stood.
Ariana closed her eyes and smiled, opening them again when she figured it out. “He’s here. Are you ready?”
Mary Ellen shrugged. “Ready as I’ll ever be. Thanks for helping me get prepared. I’m a mess when it comes to dating.”
Ariana giggled, shaking her head. The girls listened as it rang again. “You’d better go, or Michael will leave without you.”
The sisters hugged and Mary Ellen answered the door.
She met the smiling, but nervous, face of Michael Ashburn. He was holding a lone red rose, handing it to her. “Ready to go?”
Mary Ellen nodded. She was ready for anything.


II

As soon as her sister left, Ariana checked up on Aaron. Aimee answered, leading her to his bedroom.
“How has he been for the past week?” Ariana asked.
“Really exhausted.” Aimee replied. “He constantly complains of aches and pains.”
“We Exiled his little demon-mistress last week.” Ariana told her. “You mean to tell me he hasn’t regained his magical strength back yet?”
Aimee shrugged, joking. “I think he’s milking it for all it’s worth.”
Ariana thanked her and headed to Aaron’s room, where he found him sleeping peacefully. She sat beside him on the bed, stroking his hair. She could feel the Magic in his system bubbling as her hand reached the necklace and bracelet.
Aaron stirred, and found her sitting next to him.
“Hey you.” He whispered with a small smile, sitting up.
“How are you feeling?” Ariana took his hand.
“Better.” Aaron said. “I’m slowly getting back my Magical strength. What about you?”
Ariana nodded. “I’m fine, too. It’s been a quiet week without you, Aaron.”
Aaron and Ariana’s eyes met. He kissed her gently on the lips. She didn’t know what to think about it. Her heart jumped, as it always did when he kissed her like that. She quickly looked away, ashamed of her own actions, but unwilling to deny her feelings for him.
That’s when he surprised her with a statement.
“I felt you kiss me in my Dream Realm, my Ariana Moon.” Aaron pulled her to himself on the bed. “That was no kiss from a best friend.”
Ariana tried to push away, but Aaron’s hand caught her arm. He kissed her lips once again. “Aaron, stop. Please.” Ariana begged, but her emotions screamed for more. “We can’t.”
“Why not?”
Ariana stood up and she quickly thought of an excuse. “Because. I’m married and have four children.”
“One of which is mine.”
“Aaron!” she nearly screamed.
“What?” He exclaimed, frustrated. “It’s true, right?”
“That’s not the point.” Ariana’s voice lowered again. “You’ve been dwelling on the past way too much lately.”
“What’s the harm in that?” He shrugged.
“What’s the harm?!” Ariana echoed. “I beg you, plead you. As your best friend, mother of your child, fellow Crusader and your Young Guardian – Don’t let the Dark Magic take over again. Please.” Ariana was in tears by the time she finished. “I don’t want to deal with that pain again.”
He whispered, confused. “What are you talking about?”
“The Dark Magic.” Ariana pointed out. “Do you remember what it almost did to us?” He stared and she ticked. “It made you so crazy, you took advantage of Luna.”
“That was years ago.” Aaron argued. “Nothing like that’s going to happen now.”
“Don’t be too sure of yourself, Aaron Theodore.” Ariana commanded. “I’m warning you now. Don’t let it happen again.”
What that in mind, she left, slamming the door behind her. He stared after her, angry at her biting words.

III

Mary Ellen sat beside Michael in a booth a Pierre’s, an expensive French restaurant. They talked about everything they could possibly think of; from college to each other. When the subject turned to the get-together a week earlier at the Clubhouse, Mary Ellen was nervous.
“What did I say?” Michael asked.
“You, nothing.” Mary Ellen replied. “It’s all me.”
“Why? What’s wrong?”
“What do you believe about the Ancient Mystics?” Mary Ellen replied. “You grew up in Hill View, right?” He nodded. “What were your feelings about us? What rumors did you hear and believe?”
Michael was uncomfortable as he stared at her. “The same as everyone else, I guess.” He said. “Devil-worshiping, power-hungry, seductive and a little insane.”
Mary Ellen stared at him. “Do you still believe that?”
Michael took a drink and thought of his words carefully before saying them. “Now that I’ve met you, no.” She stared at him, her silver-blue eyes piercing into his, making his heart jump. “I’m ready to see for myself what the Ancient Mystics are about.” He said, taking her hand from across the table. “I’m willing to forget everything I’ve learned and start with fresh, new eyes.”
Mary Ellen swallowed. “Really? You’d do that?”
Michael smiled, and his green eyes sparkled. He squeezed her hand.
“I have to tell you something.” Mary Ellen said. “You have to listen and promise not to judge me.”
Michael didn’t think the tone of her voice sounded promising, but he nodded anyway.
“The Maiden of the Unknown, Sabrina, is after us.” Mary Ellen started. “She’s using the power from a necklace called the Black-as-Night Crystal, to test us on the powers we’re all afraid of.”
He shifted, listening, but didn’t interrupt.
Mary Ellen looked down, playing with her food with a free hand. “I’m most afraid of the Premonition. You know what that is, right?”
Michael nodded. “Telling the future?”
Mary Ellen confirmed it. “Yeah, and Sabrina somehow knew about my dreams.”
“What were your dreams about?” Michael whispered. “Or is that being too nosy?”
Mary Ellen studied his face. The neatly-combed sandy-blond hair was away from his face, accenting his bright green eyes. After a moment, she smiled.
“You.” She said. “I dreamed about you, time and time again, only I didn’t know you were real until I met you in the Admissions Office.”
Michael was astonished. “Really? Your dreams were about me?”
She nodded, blushing. “This is where it gets interesting. A couple of weeks ago, Sabrina’s brother Damian disguised himself as you. He lured me into his arms, where he took one of my powers away from me before disappearing. I woke up screaming, yet wondering who he was imitating.”
Michael released her hand, gulping. He sat back in the booth and contemplated her words. “I, uh, don’t know what to say. I mean, I’ve dreamed about you, too, for I don’t know how long, only I thought you were just that. A dream.” Mary Ellen stared at him, biting her lower lip. “I never really expected to actually meet you.”
“Neither did I.” Mary Ellen supplied in a whisper. “I just assumed...”
“I stayed a dream?” Michael finished her sentence for her. “What about now?”
“Now, I don’t know.” Mary Ellen said. “I’m sorry for dragging you into our Magical mess, Michael.”
At that, he smiled, laughing lightly at her words. The very sound of her voice, like a song, made his heart beat faster. “Don’t mention it.”
For the rest of the evening, she did just that.
Chapter:
Second Thoughts

A couple days later, Derrick Reading joined his friends at the bar downtown. Craig Richardson, Shane Morehouse, Aaron Schmidt and Derrick’s brother Jake were gathered around him. They all knew the truth behind the mysterious, powerful Ancient Mystics, and loved the girls the same.
Jake had been dating Anna Woods since they were teenagers. When he’d turned into a rebel, and his parents began to fight, Anna stuck by his side, loving him and helping him through it. Now, they were inseparable.
At Derrick’s wedding in Hill View, a special ceremony held by his parents, his childhood best friend Craig had met his Ancient Mystic beauty in Claudia Woods, Anna’s youngest sister. Sure, it was a rough beginning with all the rumors against the Ancient Mystics, but somehow, Craig couldn’t keep away. He was hooked.
Shane, formerly known as “The Shadow,” had practically grown up with his Ancient Mystic beauty, Luna. He was spared from the Hill View rumors, unable to deny his feelings for her. When Shadow had picked Derrick up from some remote town ten years ago, taking him to the System for the first time, Shane had helped open a new world of detecting for him. They became instant best friends after the twins reunited.
Aaron, a former Crusader, was responsible for so many things. He’d once loved Ariana Moon, Derrick’s own Ancient Mystic beauty, sheltering her from abuse. Aaron was the true father of Ariana’s daughter Kelly. He knew the insides and outs about Ariana’s Ancient Mystic powers, learning along with her through their childhood. He even had the Unicorn Magic in the necklace and bracelet he wore. To this day, Aaron is over-protective of Ariana, even knowing Derrick wouldn’t let anything happen to her.
Derrick smiled around the table at his friends before standing.
“Gentlemen, I’d like to propose a toast.” He said, clearing his throat. “Congratulations to the best damn detective on the Hill View Police force. Shane Morehouse, my best friend and brother-in-law, I couldn’t have made it without you.”
“Ah, yes, you could.” Shane teased. “All you needed, buddy, was a little push. Derrick, not only are you my brother-in-law and partner, but you’re truly my best friend.”
“Here! Here!” Aaron and Jake echoed, and Derrick sat down.
Craig looked sheepish before speaking up. “Is he really your best friend, Derrick?”
Derrick found the words hard to say. “You’ve been my childhood best friend since I learned to walk, Craig. I appreciate that, really, I do, but Shadow and I have a bond that not even you can compare to.”
“I rescued him from his desolate family life.” Shane announced.
“I admit we weren’t getting along, but we were far from desolate.” Jake replied.
“You want desolate, try growing up in an orphanage where the Mistress hands out daily beatings.” Aaron said, looking down at his beer glass.
Craig stared at Shane, who had his arms crossed. “At least I didn’t desert him when he needed me most.”
“I never once deserted him!” Shane stood, fists at his side.
Craig stood, pushing up his shirt sleeves.
“I took him away from hell and taught him his craft.” Shane continued, eyeing Craig. “What have you done for him?”
Jake and Aaron, who were sitting quietly, shared a glance.
“Sit down, both of you.” Derrick demanded, each of his hands on both guys to stop them. “This isn’t the time nor the place to discuss the matter.”
The boys sat and all was silent around the table as they drank.

Meanwhile, across the bar sat a lonely, confused young man. Michael Ashburn was depressed and lonely, worried and lovesick at the same time.
He didn’t know what to think about Mary Ellen Woods. She was smart, funny, beautiful, and seemed the perfect woman. Her only downfall he learned was that she was a Ancient Mystic, and he didn’t know what to think of her. Normally, he’d ignore the strange, silver-blue-eyed Ancient Mystics, but it wasn’t the same. He’d grown up with the rumors of the Ancient Mystics being devil-worshiping creatures who practiced evil magic. Mary Ellen seemed to totally prove those rumors wrong, and that made him itching to learn more. He couldn’t keep away.
He was also confused by her. For the longest time, he’d only dreamed of a girl that special. On the other hand, he’d also dreamed of her being in desperate danger, where he was the only one able to rescue her. He didn’t know how, or why, or even what the mystery about her truly was, but he wanted it, and her, badly.
“Another drink, Mac?” The bartender tapped him out of his thoughts.
Michael shook his head and the bartender left. His eyes surveyed the bar, where they fell on four of the five guys across the bar.
He knew them vaguely by name. Derrick and Jake Reading were easy to remember, and hard to forget. They were from one of the richest families in Hill View. Michael also knew Craig Richardson, somewhat. He’d heard all about his parents dying in a fatal car crash the night of his sister Andrea’s college graduation. Shane Morehouse was somewhat of a mystery. He had just shown up in Hill View one day, buying the house across the street from the Woods’ and moving in.
Michael only recognized them because of Mary Ellen and her family of Ancient Mystics. They were the Earthly Protectors to her sisters. Derrick was Ariana’s, Jake was Anna’s, Craig was Claudia’s and Shane was Luna’s.
He sighed, shaking his head. Michael knew he was getting himself in deep trouble by dating Mary Ellen, but he also knew it was going to be well worth it.
He heard the bustle of chairs falling coming from the table Derrick and his friends were sitting at. He watched the scene.
“Knock it off, you guys!” Derrick yelled, trying to separate them. Jake stood in front of Craig and a brown-haired guy with a strange necklace stood in front of Shane. “I mean it! You’re going to get us kicked out!”
Shane and Craig are on the edge of fighting! Michael thought, rushing over to them.
“I wanna know, Derrick, who’s your best friend?” Craig asked. “This blowhard or me?”
“Blowhard?” Shane cried, pushing up his sleeves and attempting to shove the stranger out of the way. “Let me at him, Reading! I’ll show him who’s the blowhard.”
“I said, knock it off!” Derrick commanded, scowling.
“He started it.” Craig cried, jumping to attack, but Jake stopped him.
“In your dreams!” Shane said sarcastically, doing the same.
“Come on, Shadow.” The dark-haired stranger turned his head to tell him. “You’re a Crusader. Don’t do this.”
As Michael walked over to them, he could have sworn he saw Derrick’s, Shane’s and the dark-haired stranger’s necklaces pulsating a black glow.
He rubbed his eyes, and had a bad feeling about this.
“Come on, you guys.” Michael yelled above the noise. “You’re all grown men.” All five guys looked at him, and the fight was slowly dying down. “Declare a truce and talk it over like real men.”
“Do you know this guy?” The brown-haired stranger asked. As Michael looked closer, he saw a ponytail in the back of his head.
“Vaguely.” Shane sighed. “Wanna get off me now, Aaron?”
“Can you behave?” Aaron asked him, then turned to Craig. “Both of you?”
“Yeah.” The two chorused.
Aaron looked at Jake, who nodded.
As the guys settled back in their spots, Michael cleared his throat.
“Let me reintroduce myself.” He began. “I am Michael Ashburn, Mary Ellen’s boyfriend and Earthly Protector, whatever that is. I already know Jake, Derrick, Shane, and Craig, but I don’t know you, yet.”
Aaron stuck his hand out for Michael to shake. “I’m Aaron Schmidt.” He supplied. Michael sat in the empty seat next to Aaron. “How much do you know?”
“About what?”
“The Ancient Mystics.” Aaron said. “I mean, you obviously know something about them to know about Earthly Protectors.”
“Yeah, so?”
“So...how much do you know?” Jake asked.
“Not much. Just that a chick named Sabrina is making a menace of herself. According to Mary Ellen, she’s already used some kind of power crystal to haunt her premonition.”
Aaron frowned. “So, you don’t know exactly what’s going on, do you?”
Michael shrugged.
“In that case, we’ll tell you.” Derrick said. “Sabrina was once the Maiden of the Dominion, an evil place in the Dream Realm. She and her brother Damian used to lead an army of Dominionites.”
“Unfortunately,” Shane supplied. “We’re dealing with something even more fierce than just a Dominionite messing with us.”
“You’re kidding.” Michael breathed, gulping.
“I believe we’re in way over our heads trying to protect the girls.” Craig replied. “Those things scare me to death.”
“For once, Craig’s right.” Shane replied. “Dominionites, in case you don’t know, are the most terrifying part of the Dream Realm. They are creatures bent on destroying the minds of Dreamers and using the energy for their own dirty work. Most of them were turned around by Lord Max’s impact. Others, like Shenara, Albrath and Gloriana, ran away after the Wars for Power.”
Aaron gasped. “You know about them?”
“Yeah. Luna told me.” Shane said.
“But we Exiled them to the Unknown.” Aaron said. “Ariana was the only one besides my twin Aimee to know about Shenara in my Dream Realm.”
“Aaron, the twins tell each other everything.” Derrick said with a grin.
“I know.” Aaron remarked. “I should have known better than to keep a secret from Luna.”
Michael sat up in his chair, eyeing the others, and sighed.
“If what you say is true, Mike, don’t worry about learning all this Ancient Mystic stuff.” Aaron replied.
“You’ll learn soon enough.” Derrick said.
“I don’t know about you, but I intend on helping them.” Craig announced. “I’m afraid for Claudia. She’s told me what Sabrina’s done to her Healing Power, and she’s scared stiff.”
“Isn’t Healing a basic power?” Aaron asked. “Ariana’s been healing us since we were six. I thought it would come naturally.”
“The only reason Ariana had the Healer’s Power at such a young age is because she’s one in a powerful set of twins.” Derrick explained.
“How do you know?” Michael asked.
“I’ve been dreaming about her since I was young.” Derrick remarked, suddenly sullen.
Shane pat him on the back, getting him to smile again.
“Look, we know the girls are powerful,” Aaron began. “But I happen to know Sabrina is much more powerful.”
“I’ve had my share of experiences with the Maiden.” Derrick said. “For three long years, we were the only Crusaders. Sabrina would haunt Ariana’s dreams. She even succeeded in switching us for a while.”
“Sounds intense.” Jake said. “How did you get back?”
“It wasn’t easy, I’ll tell you that.” Derrick said.
“Whatever Sabrina has in mind for the girls won’t be easy either.” Aaron said. “I say, we keep an eye out for anything suspicious when we’re with them.”
“I don’t understand any of this.” Michael complained, hand on his head to stop his thoughts from spinning.
“Go to Mrs. Woods.” Craig said. “She’ll tell you all you need to know.”

II

At the Reading Estate, Mary Ellen Woods and her four sisters gathered in the basement, in a special room Ariana had put together for her Ancient Mystic Magic studies.
“I gathered you here for an experiment.” Mary Ellen replied. “A week ago, Damian came to me in Witches Grove, disguising himself as my new boyfriend, Michael Ashburn. You were watching on the sidelines, unable to move to save me. Damian took me in his arms, whispered ‘gotcha’ in my ear and made us both disappear. When I disappeared, I woke up.”
“What did you feel?” Anna asked.
“Some kind of energy was being taken from me.”
Ariana and Luna looked to each other, amazed. “Go on,” they chorused.
“When Mary Ellen told me about her new man,” Claudia began. “I had the thought that he might have taken one of your powers.”
“Exactly.” Mary Ellen pointed. “That’s why we’re here. To test that theory.”
“How have you felt since then?” Ariana stood and examined her sister. She began by holding a palm up, and the Healer’s Magic Touch barely grazed Mary Ellen’s standing body.
“Strangely enough, I didn’t feel weak.” Mary Ellen supplied, watching. The orange glow from Ariana’s hand turned different colors as she passed it over her sister.
“What did you feel?” Luna repeated. She watched as her twin’s hand turned red when it hit Mary Ellen’s heart.
Ariana dropped it, sharing a look with Luna.
“Nothing.” Mary Ellen shrugged.
“You couldn’t have felt nothing.” Anna supplied. “As Ancient Mystics, one of our very basic powers is Empathy.”
“Right.” Claudia said. “It forces you to feel the emotions of others around you.”
“I’m not lying, you guys.” Mary Ellen said. “Honestly, I didn’t feel a thing.”
“He must have taken it away.” Claudia shrugged.
“How?” Ariana asked. “Our powers are a part of us, whether we like it or not. How could he have stolen one of them so easily?”
Claudia jumped when Luna screeched. “Oh! I know how he did it!”
“Mind explaining to us?” Claudia asked.
“He used the Magic of Witches Grove to pull one over on her.” Luna said.
Ariana understood immediately. “He used the image of an Imaginary Romeo to distract her, taking her power of Empathy away.”
“Thus, leaving her senseless, literally.” Anna said. “Question is, how do we get it back?”
“First off,” Ariana started. “We figure what Damian has to do with Sabrina’s plan.”
“In order to do that, we have to figure out Sabrina’s plan.” Claudia slumped back in the soft-cushioned armchair. “Great. We’re doomed.”
“We’ll never figure her plan out and get Mary Ellen’s power back.” Luna was depressed as she slumped next to Claudia.
Ariana and Mary Ellen shared a depressed look. Mary Ellen hugged herself, about to cry. Being the good sister she was, Ariana wrapped her arms around her older sister, comforting her.
The Woods sisters were stuck on a dead-end road, and even Anna felt the sorrow.
Story #1:
Dark Magic Fever

Meanwhile, Gloriana and her new mate watched over them.
“Do they not look wonderful, my darling?” Gloriana waved a hand over the Dark Cauldron.
“Indeed, they do.” Orthos kissed her neck from behind. “I love misery. The Crusaders have no idea what to do next.”
“That daughter of yours is a treat.” Gloriana said. “I bet even she does not know the power within the Black-as-Night Crystal.”
“My brothers say she risked her life, clamoring in the Abyss to get it.” Orthos supplied, hugging her tighter.
The image changed with another wave of a hand. This time, Orthos could see his children in the underground dungeons of the old Dark Tower.
“What is Damian up to?” Gloriana asked him. “Why is he helping Sabrina?”
“He was wronged by Young Guardian.” Orthos spat on the ground. “For she did not return the lust he had for her.”
The couple watched as Damian pulled a pulsating sphere of colored energy from behind his back.
Immediately, Orthos knew what it was. “How did he get that Ancient Mystic’s power?”
“He stole Young Guardian’s power?” Gloriana wondered, separating herself from Orthos’ arms.
Orthos laughed. “He wishes! No, my sweet, that power is only one of Sister Mary Ellen’s many useless Magics.”
“Why target a weakling if she is useless?”
“She is not useless, the power he holds is.” Orthos remarked. “Damian holds her Empathy power, so she is unable to sense anyone’s emotions.”
At that, Gloriana laughed. She changed the image back to the Woods sisters. Splitting it, she could see the Earthly Protectors gathered at a bar. To Orthos and Gloriana’s amusement, they were fighting, biting at each other’s throats.
Gloriana smiled. “And to think – I had a hand in this. I caused all the chaos amongst the Crusaders.”
“You are proving an excruciatingly wonderful addition to the Throne.” Orthos kissed her neck, then laughed.
“The fun hast just begun.” Gloriana supplied, helping herself to his lips.

II

Back at the bar, Michael couldn’t believe his eyes and ears. Derrick and Aaron were fighting over Ariana, Shane and Craig were fighting over who was Derrick’s best friend, and Jake was interrupting his brother to fight over their parent’s arguing.
“This is all your fault!” Derrick spat at Aaron.
“How do you figure?” Aaron yelled back. “You’re the one who married her!”
“At least I’m not obsessed with something I can’t have!” Derrick cried.
Michael’s ears went to Shane and Craig.
“Who’s the one to teach him his craft of detecting?” Shane cried. “Certainly not you!” Craig was astonished, unable to say a word. Shane fed on that anger bubbling in Craig’s system. “In fact, he never mentioned you when we were in the System! He was perfectly happy living without his so-called best friend!”
“So-called! Who’s so-called?” Craig asked, sarcastically. “When he had no one to turn to, I was the one to stand by him. When everybody else deserted him, I stood by his side.”
“I bet he didn’t even want you around!” Shane cried.
Michael turned back to Derrick, who was now in the middle of an argument with Jake.
“If it weren’t for you, we’d be the perfect family.” Derrick announced in his brother’s face. “But no, you decided to turn rebel.”
“Don’t you get it, Derrick?” Jake hissed. “It was your fault we were fighting to begin with.”
“I suppose it’s also my fault Kendra was so depressed all the time, and Brian looked up to me for guidance?” Derrick said. “You were all the reason I ran off to begin with!”
“Poor little rich kid wasn’t getting his own way.” Jake said sarcastically. “Lemme show you the world’s smallest violin?”
Jake rubbed his thumb and index fingers together. This made Derrick even redder with anger.
Michael suddenly felt queasy. He sat down in the nearest chair. He could tell the other bar-hoppers were watching the scene, but they didn’t see what Michael did.
From the corner of his eye, he could faintly see a trail of black energy smoke slowly making its way to the group. It floated around each guy; first Derrick, making his necklace glow black, then Aaron, Jake and Craig. When it circled Shane, then Shane’s own necklace glowing black, the fighting stopped. All six guys stopped to stare at the necklaces.
“Uh, guys, do you see what I see?” Shane asked, frightened.
“If you mean the dark mist that’s making my Pendant glow, it’s kind of hard to miss.” Derrick announced.
“I don’t know what you guys are on, but you’re outta here!” The owner started shoving them out the door.
The guys were all too shocked to object as the door slammed behind them.
“Somethin’s goin’ on, and I’m not waiting around to see what it is.” Jake announced.
“Whatever it is, we’ve gotta warn the girls.” Derrick said.
“The twins will know what to do.” Shane announced. He turned to Michael. “Comin’ with us?”
“I know where it is. I’ll meet you guys there.” Michael announced.

Back at the house was a different story. Ariana was pacing the floor, trying to think. Luna fiddled with the rings on her fingers, biting her lips. Mary Ellen sat on the floor, her arms hugging her legs close to her chest. Anna and Claudia were on the sofa, depressed.
“I hate Sabrina!” Ariana announced, angry. She could feel some intense energy bubbling in her system, but ignored it, excusing it as mere frustration. “She’s been a pain in my ass since I first found out I was a Ancient Mystic.”
“We all hate her, but that doesn’t do anything about her.” Anna replied.
“This is Mary Ellen’s fault.” Claudia said.
“My fault?” Mary Ellen looked up with tear-stricken eyes. “How do you figure this is my fault?”
“If it weren’t for your so-called Imaginary Romeo and your libido, we wouldn’t be in this mess right now.” Claudia pointed out.
“That’s not true and you know it!” Mary Ellen supplied. “If anyone’s at fault, it’s Luna.”
“Yeah, right.” Luna spat. “Prove it.”
“Simple, little sister.” Mary Ellen replied. “If it hadn’t been for you entering that mirror of yours, we’d be living our lives peacefully.”
“Don’t blame this on Luna.” Ariana cried. “It’s not anyone’s fault but Sabrina’s.”
“Sure, stick up for your twin, who, might I remind you, left you for dead at that orphanage when you were five.” Claudia said.
“Can it, Claudia.” Ariana spat, tears coming to her eyes, just thinking about the Orphanage.
“How did Sabrina get free in the first place?” Anna asked.
“Kit told me it was her fault.” Luna said. “I don’t know how she got it, but she got the Abolishment Spell out of Jezebel’s Spell-Book.”
“So that’s it.” Anna said. “It is your fault.”
“Is not!”
“Everyone knows Kitten’s Claw Hawk used to be Banished to you.” Anna announced. “What kind of influence was she on you, or you on her?”
“Not a good one, apparently.” Claudia mumbled.
Ariana couldn’t stand it anymore. She covered her ears, letting her mind drift with thoughts of the orphanage in California. It was so long ago, but the memories remain the same.
Suddenly, Ariana felt something she didn’t want to feel.
She began to see something she didn’t want to see.
She knew what was making her sisters bite at each other so harshly.
She turned back to the group, screaming. “Stop it!”
At once, her four sisters stopped to stare at her.
“What?” Luna asked, rushing to her sister once seeing the tears forming in Ariana’s eyes. “What is it? What’s wrong?”
“Look what we’re doing to each other!” Ariana cried, gathering her sisters around her. “There’s Dark Magic at work; I know it. I can sense it, and I don’t like it!”
They heard a door slam and sounds of footsteps racing down the staircase.
“Ariana’s right.” Derrick and the other guys agreed. “There is Dark Magic somewhere.”
Ariana raced to him, burying her face in his chest and crying. He hugged her, tears in his own eyes for feeling so much of the pain, thanks to the Pendant around his neck.
Luna ran to Shane, Anna hugged Jake and Claudia greeted Craig with a kiss.
Michael, seeing Mary Ellen on the floor, curled up in a ball, went to her.
“Mary Ellen, are you alright?” He asked, helping her to sit up. “I’m so worried about you!”
“You are?” Mary Ellen asked. Michael answered by kissing her on the lips.
When he helped her to stand, Michael noticed something. “Hey, where’s Aaron?”
“He went home next door.” Derrick cleared his throat, sharing a look with Ariana. She understood immediately. “He’s really bummed over you.”
“I know, my Love, but he can’t help it.” Ariana sniffed.
“You’ll talk to him later, right?” Luna asked.
Ariana nodded. “Yeah, later.” She said, grabbing Derrick’s hand and leading him to the sofa. “For now, we have to prepare for Sabrina and Damian’s little plight.”
“Let’s deal with Damian first.” Luna said.
“Why him?” Claudia asked.
“He’s not much of a threat.” Ariana told her. “We have to get Mary Ellen’s power back anyway, so we’ll deal with him first.”
“Wait a minute.” Michael said. “Power back? You mean, this dude took your powers?”
“Only one, which confuses even me.” Anna replied. “Damian took Mary Ellen’s Empathy power away, and we have to get it back.”
“Explain to me what’s going on, and we’ll tell you what we saw.” Shane told the girls.
The sisters told the guys what happened, and the guys told them what they saw in the bar, before getting booted out.
Ariana looked to Michael. “You actually saw the cloud of Dark Magic?”
Michael gulped. “Judging by the name, I’d think this wasn’t a good thing?”
“You better believe it.” Claudia said. “The Dark Magic is just that – dark.”
“It’s the only part of the Magic no Ancient Mystic can seem to conquer.” Ariana replied. “It tries to destroy friendships, lovers, families. Wherever love is, it goes and destroys it.”
“It almost turned us against each other just now.” Shane announced. “Our bottled-up emotions over petty little things that bug us was the main target.”
“That’s why I warned Aaron about it.” Ariana replied. “Last week, we Exiled three Dominionites from his Dream Realm. A few days ago, I looked in on him. He was still weakened by the Magic, but he had these thoughts of us together still in his mind.”
“Do you think that’s what started this Dark Magic thing at us?” Michael asked, not exactly believing, but willing to try.
“The Dark Magic is in everyone, even those without Magic.” Ariana said. “We, as Ancient Mystics, must learn to control the balance between the Ancient Mystic Magic and the Dark Magic.”
“If we don’t, we could end up like Sabrina and Damian.” Luna supplied.
“Ouch.” Craig said softly. “So, what about the rest of us? What will it do to us?”
“Turn you against the ones you love.”
“My guess is Orthos is behind all of this.” Derrick said. “It would be just like him to do this to us.”
“Then again, maybe not.” Luna replied.
“Yeah, we Exiled him to the Unknown, remember?” Shane pointed out.
“We also Exiled Damian and Sabrina.” Ariana announced. “Look where they are now.”
“I get your point.”
“So, what are we going to do about it?” Jake asked. “We can’t just sit here and take the abuse.”
“We won’t.” Anna said.
“Until we can come up with something against them, we’d better go back to our own lives.” Ariana announced. “I hear Melody and Logan up from their naps, and the kids will be home from school soon.”
“Right. Let’s go.” Luna announced.
The group went upstairs, to their separate houses and their separate ways.

III

It was night at last in the Outer Realm, and Anna Woods found herself lost in the Dream Realm. She knew exactly were she was once entering the Old Dominion, which was now the Grey Area. She’d been in this exact place before, not liking the feelings she got from it then, either.
Anna realized she was in Witches Grove. She remembered what happened last time she was there with her four sisters. There were images of an older Bradley Allen Schmidt and her niece Kelly kissing, a lone seagull jumping about and screaming and Damian disguising himself as Mary Ellen’s Imaginary Romeo, Michael Ashburn. That was also when Damian the Merchant took Mary Ellen’s Empathy power away, leaving her senseless with a simple touch.
Now she was cold, and Anna thought of her fair Jake to come to her side. She tried not to think of the sudden chill that she felt, making her use Magic to keep warm. She tried not to let the magic of Witches Grove fool her into thinking she was alone.
Try as she might, she knew it were useless. She really was all alone. Anna sighed.
She called into the crisp, near-frozen air. “Hello! Anybody here?”
Her voice echoed.
In the distance, she saw something sparkling, and a figure seemed to be floating up to her. She shielded her eyes from the glare of a wintry sun. She noticed everything around her sparkled as if it were wintertime, though the Dream Realm itself had no sense of time. It was beautiful in a spooky way.
The figure walked closer, the sparkle turning out to be something around the stranger’s neck. She walked closer to the stranger, recognizing her true love of Jake Reading.
“Jake!” Anna smiled, running into his arms.
“Annabelle!” Jake’s image cried, kissing her passionately.
Anna noticed something strange about the look in his eyes, and the necklace that sparkled in the sun. She knew it couldn’t be his Protector’s Pendant, the very necklace to link them together. He didn’t have one that she knew of. She dismissed the feelings, glad he was here now. She gave him a tight hug.
“What are you doing in Witches Grove?” Jake asked, holding her hands. “I thought the last time you were here scared you senseless?”
That was strange. Anna thought to herself. She remembered telling him a little about her encounter at Witches Grove, but she didn’t recall telling him, or even showing him, where it was or what it looked like.
She stepped back from him, looking at him closer. She opened her empathy power, just enough to sense the evil in his demeanor.
“What’s wrong, Annabelle?” Jake’s image asked.
Another strange thing. Anna thought. He never calls me that.
“You.” She said. “Who are you?”
He laughed, reaching for her hand, only for her to pull away. “It’s me, Jake. You know, your boyfriend?”
Anna wasn’t convinced. She folded her arms. “Prove it.”
He kissed her again, this time the empathy picking up cruel intentions.
“No.” She whispered, staring. Even his kiss doesn’t feel right. She thought to herself, pulling away again. “Who are you?”
The strange imposter simply smiled, eyes glowing red. The necklace glowed bright white, scaring her as she stared. Anna couldn’t pull herself away from it, gasping for breath in fear.
He saw her eyes bulge, frightened at the strangeness of the situation. Damian the Merchant was satisfied with her response. It was just as he had hoped.
“Go ahead, Annabelle. Touch it.” He prodded in his own voice, wrapping his arms around her frozen body. He whispered in her ear. “Feel the power of the crystal.”
Anna didn’t want to, but was powerless to stop herself from touching it.
“Does it not intrigue you?” Damian whispered, watching her hands and eyes explore the Black-as-Night Crystal.
“Yes, my Lord Merchant.” Anna found herself saying in an empty voice. Her eyes were glued to the magnificent crystal around his neck.
“Open your senses, Annabelle.” He instructed. “Let the Magic take over you.”
Anna closed her eyes, opening her clairvoyance to see where this strange crystal came from. She could feel the power surge through her body like an electric current. It was invigorating and heart-wrenching at the same time.
“That’s it.” Damian whispered, helping himself to her lips. Feel the passionate overpowering heat of the crystal. He sent to her mind in his own demonic voice.
That’s when she broke off the kiss and came to her senses.
Damian laughed heartily as she backed away, frightened of the Merchant’s great power. He changed into his dragon form, making her scream.

Back in the Outer Realm, Anna Woods woke up with tears in her eyes and a rapidly-beating heart.

IV

Claudia Woods woke up with a photographic image in her mind. It was the middle of the night, and she wondered why she had it. Craig stirred in their bed, but didn’t awaken. She kissed his cheek before using the bathroom mirror to call the Travel Spell.
The spell took her to a hallway of Anna and Jake’s apartment. She heard Anna’s scream from across the hall. Claudia ran to her, not bothering to knock on the door. She barged in, seeing her oldest sister sitting up in bed, clutching her pillow and crying. Where was Jake? Shouldn’t he be there in the aide of his Ancient Mystic girlfriend?
“Anna.” Claudia whispered, running to hug her. She let Anna cry on her shoulder, shaking as she calmed herself. As soon as Anna’s tears subsided, Claudia dared to ask. “What just happened?”
Anna shook her head. “That’s what I’d like to know.” She groaned. “I can’t feel a thing.”
“You don’t think Damian took that power away from you, too, do you?” Claudia asked.
“You were there?”
Claudia shook her head. “I saw it with the P.M.”
Anna nodded, understanding. “Oh, Claud, it was so strange. I couldn’t keep my eyes off that necklace.”
The sisters were silent in thought for a moment until Anna spoke up. “He made me use my Clairvoyance to see where it came from, and now I don’t have it.”
“This has gotten out of hand.” Claudia said.
Anna said. “We have to do something about it. I haven’t been able to think of anything lately due to how busy I am at the hospital.”
This gave Claudia an idea. “Need volunteers?”
“Always, why?” Anna was curious. Her youngest sister hated hospitals. Why would she want to volunteer at one?
“I could kill two birds with one stone by helping you.” Claudia said. “I could keep an eye on you and practice controlling my Healer’s power.”
Anna shook her head. “No Magic at Philbrooke, Claudia.”
“I know.” Claudia smiled. “I was teasing, but I will help out at the hospital.”
“Really?”
“Really.”
“Thanks Claudia.” Anna said.
Claudia hugged her. “What are sisters for?”
Anna was left feeling a lot better that night.
Story: #2:
Truth Be Told

The Dominionite Albrath was bored in her new Master Father’s castle. Being the nosy creature she was trained to be, she snuck to the south wing of Dark Tower, where Sabrina’s rooms lay.
Albrath could hear the screams and shouts Sabrina made as she drew closer to the Maiden’s chambers. She peeked in silently, crossing her arms and smiling as she watched Sabrina search her room. Before long, it looked as if a hurricane hit.
Albrath couldn’t help laughing at the sight. Sabrina stopped throwing things around long enough to see who was there.
“What are you doing here?” Sabrina demanded. “Get out this instant!”
Albrath shook her head. “I would thank you not to speak to me in that tone anymore, sister.” She said, clearing a spot on the bed and sitting on it.
“What do you think you are doing?” Sabrina fumed. “I gave you a direct order, Dominionite! Obey it!”
“Not if you wish to know what I do.”
Sabrina crossed her arms. “This had better be good, Albrath.”
“Not to worry, my Mistress Maiden, it is.” Albrath said. “I know who borrowed the Black-as-Night Crystal from you.”
Sabrina’s eyes shone bright red. “Tell me.”
“Ask your brother, he knows.” Albrath pointed out with a sneer.
“Stop stalling, Dominionite!” Sabrina wasn’t happy, but Albrath loved teasing her.
“He stole it from you.” Albrath grinned.
Sabrina didn’t know what to say, angry. “You jest?”
“Nay, never to you my Maiden sister.” Albrath shook her head. “As the Dark Ancients as my witnesses, I tell only the truth.”
Sabrina let out a frustrated sigh. “You, I will deal with later. As for my brother...”
She cut off her own sentence by disappearing in a cloud of black smoke.
Albrath just grinned and left her quarters in search of Shenara.

II

A few days after the encounter at the bar, Aaron Schmidt thought it would be best to practice his awakening Unicorn Magic. Since Aimee was working at the daycare center, and Angel and Bradley were both at school, Aaron had the house to himself.
He stood at one end of the kitchen, clutching his necklace and concentrating on the bowl of fruit at the other end of the room. He could feel the Magic flowing through his system when he closed his eyes and felt for it. He opened his eyes, willing the bowl to move. Just to make sure, he pointed in the direction he wanted it to go.
Ten minutes passed with no results, and Aaron was getting frustrated. “Come on, move already!” He mumbled under his breath. He crooked his finger, silently telling it to rise off the kitchen table.
He was patient, holding his breath as he used the Unicorn Magic to move it.
Aaron smiled when it rose at least a foot above the table.
“Yes!” He shouted into the air, his concentration breaking.
The bowl of fruit instantly dropped to the floor, shattering.
“Aw, man! I had it, I swear I did.” He scolded himself.
He went to the closet and reached for the knob when a voice startled him.
“Here, let me help you.” He turned toward the door, seeing his best friend Ariana Reading smiling at him.
“Hi.” Aaron’s cheeks were flushed.
“Hello yourself, my Aaron Theodore.” Ariana grinned, taking the broom and dustpan from his hands.
He shook his head at the mess he made. “What did I do wrong?”
“You must have lost your concentration.”
“I see you use telekinesis all the time.” He said as he watched her drop the broken pieces into the trash. “You make it look so easy.”
“Believe me, it’s not easy.” Ariana laughed at him. She returned the broom and dustpan to the closet before sitting at the table. “And no, I don’t use it all the time.”
Aaron smiled, glad his best friend was so close. His heart pounded as she responded to the kiss on the lips he gave her. “So, what’s up?” He asked, sitting next to her and taking her hand. “And don’t tell me you came over for that little lesson in Magic.”
Ariana looked to her lap. “No, not that.”
“What is it, then?” Aaron was worried now. She wouldn’t act like this around him. Something was on her mind. “What’s wrong?”
Ariana looked back up at him and held her breath. “Derrick and Shane told me about your fight at the bar. Michael told me how he saw the grey mist of Dark Magic floating toward you and their Protector’s Pendants.”
Now he was uncomfortable. He stood, thinking about that night.
She stood behind him. “I warned you about the Dark Magic’s power when we Exiled those three Dominionites, remember?”
He turned. “Now you’re saying I told you so?”
“Aaron.”
He cut her off. “How about another lecture?”
His anger was growing along with his disappointment.
“Aaron.” She raised her voice.
“Oh, I know!” He said sarcastically. “You’re gonna tell me you don’t care about me anymore, is that it?”
He could feel the necklace’s power growing hotter with his anger, but he didn’t care.
Fortunately for him, she did.
“Stop it, Aaron Theodore!” She scolded. “Look at what you’re doing to yourself! You’re making the darkness inside you grow with your anger. I don’t want to see you succumb to the Dark Magic again!”
He was silent, staring into the silver-blue eyes of his best friend of over twenty years. “Why?”
To his surprise, she kissed his lips, long and hard. When they parted, he could see the tears in her eyes. “I happen to love you, that’s why.”
Aaron’s anger faded, his heart and soul filling with love for her. He took her in his arms and kissed her lips firm and passionately.

III

Sabrina found her brother in her personal quarters, placing the Crystal and its chain atop the pulsating orb. “Damian!”
At the shout of his name, he turned to face his sister’s red-eyed glare. The Merchant smiled. “Hello, sister.”
“You stole the Crystal!” Sabrina accused, pacing to the orb to retrieve it.
“I would not touch it if I were you.” Damian warned as she pushed by him.
Of course, she didn’t listen. As her fingers touched the Crystal, she felt the searing pain. She snatched her hand away, nursing her charred fingers as she glared at him.
Damian only smiled. “I did warn you.”
“What did you do?” She demanded. “What have you done to the Crystal?”
“I only wished to see for myself what power it holds.” Damian admitted with a grin. “So, I found a willing victim to test it on and used it.”
“Who willingly fell pray to your charms this time?” Sabrina mocked, folding her arms.
“Anna Woods.” He said. “I found her in Witches Grove, using the Crystal’s power to take her Clairvoyance ability.”
“Why?”
“To show them we still have the ability to keep them guessing.” Damian remarked. “That is all. Besides, the crystal begs to be used. I just answered the call.”
Sabrina pondered the statement. Before she could comment, she was whisked away. Not even Damian could guess where the violet mist of Magic came from, or why it took his sister from his sight.

IV

Deep in the Canine Valley, Lady Katherine was sparring practice staffs with her student and fellow Companion Crusader, Marie Grey.
“I still don’t understand why we practice this.” Marie complained, stopping Katherine’s staff from striking her head.
“There is more to being a Crusader than just loyalty and Magic.” Katherine huffed. “I may not have been a Warrior during the Wars for Power, but I learned the art of survival quickly.”
“Weren’t Wolf and Toby Warriors?” Marie asked, spinning to miss the next strike.
“Aye, they were.” Katherine jumped out of the way before her shins could catch her friend’s move. “Yield!”
At the command, Marie halted. “Is something wrong, Lady Katherine?”
It had been years since the Crusades, it was true, but Marie was still the timid new Companion. The human girl had a lot to learn, especially about the violet Magic she held in her eyes.
“Nay,” Katherine shook her head. “I just want to rest.”
She stretched her weary muscles. They ached from the hours of practice. She thought of something. “Do you recall the lessons on healing, Marie?”
Marie placed her practice staff against a wall next to her friend’s, and sat next to Katherine. “Yes, why? Did you want me to heal your muscles?”
Katherine purred. “I will return the favor, I promise.” The woman was apprehensive. “Why not begin when you are ready?”
“Can’t you heal yourself?” Marie asked. “You are a Ancient Mystic.”
“Where would the ache go?” Katherine asked. “For me to heal another is to take the pain into my entire self, then banish it away in my mind.”
Reluctant, Marie obeyed. She placed her hands on Katherine’s Balinese-human shoulders, closing her eyes. In her mind, she pictured the healing magic flowing through her system. The bubble of magic was there, and Marie grasped it with her mind. Focusing on the bubble, she directed the magic to her hands, feeling them warm as it worked on Katherine’s muscles. She was startled out of the healing trance when she heard Katherine’s yowl.
“Marie, enough!” Katherine laughed, backing away. “Do not use yourself up! I did not hurt that much!”
Marie was ashamed of herself, falling to her knees. “My deepest apologies, Lady Katherine.”
“You need not apologize, just be more careful next time. That is all.” Katherine said, gesturing for the woman to rise. “I believe we are finished for the day. You may return to Panther’s side.”
Rising, Marie nodded and grabbed her staff. “Thanks, Kat.”
“Anytime.”
As soon as she left, Katherine turned to grab her own staff. A premonition clouded her mind. In it, Sabrina was arguing with Damian. Katherine’s thoughts turned ugly, making her frown and growl softly. She thought of how her cousin had wished to destroy the Ancient Mystics, one by one. According to Young Guardian, who kept her updated on Sabrina’s actions, the Maiden’s own brother had haunted both Sister Mary Ellen and Sister Anna’s minds, stealing a single power from each of them. In the premonition, Katherine saw the Crystal upon the orb. She wondered what it was, and how each of her cousins had used it.
On her chest, the Sisterhood Amulet grew warm. Katherine opened her eyes, reaching to touch it only to see her hands glowing purplish-silver. The Companion Magic was purple, she knew. Mixed with her own Ancient Mystic Magic color of silver, would it make such an odd color? What about the Ruby stone around her neck? What was going on?
That’s when she heard a screech from behind her. Turning, Katherine gasped when she met the evil red eyes of her cousin Sabrina.
“What are you doing here?” Katherine demanded, her thoughts angry.
“Where am I?”
“Do you not recognize the Canine Valley’s own practice fields?” Katherine asked her cousin.
Sabrina looked around. “How did I get here?”
“Did you not transport yourself here, using your powerful Crystal?”
Sabrina finally faced her feline cousin. “Thanks to Damian, I wear no Crystal now. Answer me – how did I get here?”
Katherine shrugged. “That I would not know. I would rather you leave my sight.”
“I wish I could, believe me.” Sabrina scoffed. “Since I did not bring myself here, I cannot leave. Whoever brought me here with purple magic must send me away. You, of all Companions, should know that.”
Purple magic? Katherine looked at her hands again. Sure enough, they were still glowing purple-silver. Why couldn’t Sabrina see it as well?
Katherine faced her cousin. “It would appear to have been me, though why I would want you here is anyone’s guess.”
The cousins stared at each other until Sabrina noticed the staff in Katherine’s hands.
“Do you know how to use that?”
“Of course. Wolf taught me after the Wars.” Katherine admitted, gripping it tighter. “What business is it of yours?”
“You learned the Warrior arts, yet you rally for peace in the Dream Realm.” Sabrina admonished. “How is it you never wished to be a Warrior, then?”
“I am a warrior.” Katherine said, silver-blue eyes blazing. “Just not one of your useless drones.”
“Do you teach your child these arts as well?”
“When Celine wishes to learn, yes, I will teach her.” Katherine said. “I only learned myself for the simple matter of survival.”
“Ah, but before you could use them, you were Banished to the Outer Realm.” Her cousin was smiling, the wickedness shone in her eyes.
“That was then, this is now.” Katherine said. “The Wars and Crusades are long over. As I told you before, I have no need for you, nor have you any for me.”
“Oh, but I do have a need for you.”
“I do none of your bidding.” Katherine spat, hissing. “Keep me out of your plans, and leave Young Guardian and her sisters alone. They lived peaceful, fulfilling lives before you got in their way. If I could, I would stop you myself.”
“But you cannot. You are just a Companion. Nothing more.”
The statement hurt.
“No. Thanks to you, I am a Companion Crusader with the Ancient Mystic blood from Queen Sibylline herself.” Katherine told her. “I fight for peace only, against any Dominionites left in this world. I am in charge of the entire Canine Valley with the title of Lady, with my mate Wolf being its Sire. We have a daughter who carries both bloods of Magic from her parents. We’ve come a long way since the Crusades and your Exile. Through it all, we have remained strong. Stronger.”
Sabrina rolled her eyes. “You bore me, Kat. Have you not learned anything from Young Guardian?”
“What was I supposed to learn?”
“Being a Ancient Mystic, you must fight the Dark Magic within.” Sabrina told her. “I believe you have not done this, yet. I will be there to help you.”
Katherine laughed out loud. “Help me? Hurt me you mean! If I have anything of the Magic to learn, it will be for me to learn. As for the Dark Magic, I refuse to let it, or you, get to me. Now leave!”
Dropping her staff, Katherine waved her arms in a shooing motion. The purple-silver magic flowed out of her hands, surrounding Sabrina and rendering her helpless. In moments, the Maiden was gone.
A rush of dizziness washed over Katherine, making her faint on the spot.
Story #3:
A Haunt of Healing

Anna led her youngest sister through the corridors of Philbrooke Memorial the next time she worked. It was well into the afternoon before they took a break.
“How do you feel?” Anna asked, leading her sister into the Nurse’s Lounge.
“Exhausted.” Claudia gulped down a Styrofoam cup of orange juice before slumping down in one of the comfortable chairs. “How can you do this so long without collapsing?”
“Don’t tell me you didn’t turn off your Empathy.” Anna scolded.
Claudia shrugged. “I guess I should from now on, huh?”
“You bet.” Anna said with a small grin. “Other than that, how do you like volunteering? Not exactly what you expected, is it?”
Claudia reddened. “I thought it would be more...I don’t know...”
“Glamorous? Like in the movies?” Anna finished, with Claudia agreeing. She shook her head. “This is a hospital, not some perfect Healing Palace in the Realm.”
“I get your point.” Claudia rolled her eyes, tossing the cup into the trash.
Before she could say another word, the pager on Anna’s belt beeped.
Claudia saw the frown on her sister’s face when she looked at it.
“Where are we going this time?” Claudia asked dreadfully.
“Nowhere.” Anna said, replacing the pager to her belt. “I’m needed upstairs to calm a patient.”
“What about me? Am I supposed to just sit here and wait for you?”
“Not at all.” Anna handed the folder to her, outlining the route she had to take during the rest of her shift. “You’ll just finish what we started.”
Claudia stared, thinking her older sister was crazy.
“Stop looking at me like that.” Anna nudged her. “I know you can do it. Here, I’ve even provided a perfectly good map so you won’t get lost. The shift ends at seven, so meet me here when you’re done, okay?”
Claudia sighed. “Are you sure you can trust me to do the right thing?”
“Not only are you my sister, you’re also a Ancient Mystic.” Anna whispered, giving her a final nudge of the shoulders before leaving. “I trust you.”
“Famous last words.” Claudia cried as the door shut behind her.
She looked through the folder in her hands. “Might as well get back to work.” She whispered to herself.

II

Sire Wolfton Stargazer could literally sense something was wrong with Katherine, his beloved bride. The Sisterhood Amulet around his neck also served as his Protector’s Pendant, linking them together in thought and emotions. Whenever Katherine was in trouble or hurting somewhere, the Amulet-Pendant would give him her power of Empathy to make him feel her pain.
He could see this time would be no different. For a brief moment in time, he had Kat’s power of Premonition. He saw his beloved confronting Sabrina and fainting after sending the former Dominionite Maiden somewhere.
“Celine!” He called to his bi-breed daughter, but she was already in front of him. Tears were in the child’s silver-blue eyes, telling him she already knew. He hugged her, using magic to transport them both to Katherine Hawk-Stargazer’s side.
They reappeared but yards away from her still body. As soon as Celine saw her mother, laying on the ground, she raced to her, crying. “Mommy!”
Wolf watched as his daughter tried to use what little of the Ancient Mystic Healer’s Magic she knew on her mother, but to no avail.
“Do not exhaust yourself, daughter.” Wolf growled, finally going to them. “You cannot spare the energy.”
Celine purred in agreement, looking at her father for answers.
Wolf wanted to heal his mate with the Magic within the Amulet-Pendant. He tried as well, nearly exhausting himself, the very thing he told his daughter not to do. Feeling helpless, he took Katherine in his arms, holding her close.
“Oh, Katherine, my beautiful, wonderful Balinese.” Wolf whispered into a non-listening ear. He rubbed his snout lovingly against her cheek. It was warm, so he knew she was still alive. “I am here for you. Please wake up darling.”
Celine silently stood aside, saddened by her father’s actions and the fact she couldn’t do anything to help ease either of her parents’ pain. She watched as her father cradled her mother the same way he used to when she was a pup-kit. That’s when she noticed the faint glow coming from her mother’s body. The violet-silver glow was brighter around her Sisterhood Amulet.
She noticed her father was glowing the same color, especially around his own Amulet-Pendant. Why would they each be glowing violet now? She bent down beside her parents, but her father didn’t even realize she was still there. She placed a hand on each of their cheeks, one on her father’s and one on her mother’s.
“Papa.” Celine whispered. Wolf turned to his daughter with grief in his eyes. “Do you not see it?”
“See what, Celine?” His voice was soft, barely a whisper.
“Mommy’s glowing!”
He shook out of a daze and stared at his mate. “How?”
Celine could only shake her head. She didn’t know, either. “The Sisters. They will heal and revive her for sure.”
Wolf pondered his child’s words. “So be it.” He said, taking her hand and disappearing again.

III

Claudia was half-weary by the end of the day. Though she closed her empathy power hours ago, she felt drained. She looked at the folder in her hands as she rode the elevator up. Her last charge for the day was a recovering lung cancer patient.
The elevator stopped at the third floor, opening to let her out. She walked down the hall to room 325, where she found the patient in bed, resting. She watched from the doorway, afraid of moving to wake him. From her view she could see the heart monitor, softly beeping after every heartbeat. The patient was hooked up to a slow-dripping IV. She found his chart on the door, reaching to look it over.
His name was Daniel Norton. He was sixty-two years old, husband of Alison Norton, father of three, grandfather of seven and a cigarette smoker for forty years. Judging by his age, Claudia thought he was old enough to have lived through both World Wars.
“Don’t just stand there, lass, come in.”
His soft voice interrupted her thoughts. She looked up and stared at him. His eyes were open and he was awake.
“I’m sorry Mr. Norton.” She apologized. “You looked so peaceful, I didn’t want to wake you.”
“That’s fine, but you get used to it around here.” He replied with a grin. He gestured for her to come closer. “Come talk to me, lass. I don’t get many visitors these days.”
“What about your family?” She asked, standing above him. “Don’t they visit you?”
“Used to, not anymore.” Mr. Norton told her with a shake of his head. “They’re all too busy with their own lives to visit an old man like me.”
“How sad?” Claudia said softly.
They talked for a full hour. He told her how his parents, brothers, and sisters were all dead years ago. He tried to joke about it, saying. “They always called me the stubborn one. Wouldn’t go down for nothing.”
Claudia smiled. “You seem to have kept your humor through it all.”
Mr. Norton nodded. “Have to in this world.”
There was something in his tone she felt wasn’t right. She slowly opened her empathy, using it on him. She saw the devastation and felt the horror as she was made to watch each of his family members tortured and killed. He was a teenager during World War II, a Jew sent by the Germans to a Concentration Camp. If it weren’t for his knack at working heavy machinery, he would have been dead with the rest of them.
The very feelings she got from his memories made a tear escape from her eye.
“Lass?” He placed a hand on her arm. “What’cha crying for?”
Claudia opened her eyes and sniffed, wiping away the tears. “I’m empathic. I can sense feelings and emotions from people I read. My power isn’t very strong, but what I read from you was intense.”
“Ain’t that something?” Mr. Norton was impressed. “What did you read from me?”
“I saw a vision through your own eyes.” Claudia began. “I felt your feelings, almost becoming you. I saw. . .”
“What did you see, lass?”
“The camp you were in.” She replied. “I was made to stand aside while the Germans killed your family in front of you.”
Now she felt depression from him. She didn’t want to depress him, that’s not what she was here to do. She wanted to make him feel comfortable. Claudia reached out and touched his hand.
“I’m sorry Mr. Norton.” She said. “I didn’t mean to open up old wounds.”
He pet her hand. “Alright, lass. No harm done.”
“You can’t lie to me. I can sense your depression.” Claudia told him. “I wish there were something I could do to help you get over it.”
Mr. Norton held her hand for a long time, staring at it. “There is.” He told her. She looked at him and waited for his answer when he smiled. “Heal me.”
“I can’t. Not really.” She replied. “The doctors –”
“I don’t mean my body, lass.” Mr. Norton said. “I mean, my mind.”
She held her breath, letting it out. “I can’t do that, either. Even if I could, I wouldn’t know where to begin.”
“You can do it, lass.” He said. “Have faith in yourself. By the look in your eyes, I’d say you were an Ancient Mystic. The only Ancient Mystics I’ve known had great healing powers. Try it. I know you have it in you.”
Of course he knew about the Ancient Mystics. He believed, no – knew what he said was true.
She smiled. Now, so did she. She thought of her healing lessons, and all that Anna had taught her. An idea popped in her mind. She shut the hospital room door from her spot with telekinesis, locking it. When she looked back at Mr. Norton for his reaction, she saw the smile on his face.
She released her hand from his arm. “I’ll need to go inside to heal your mind. Will you let me?”
“Of course, lass.” He said. “I trust you.”
“I’ll explain what I’m going to do.” Claudia told him. “I’m going to implant a dream-like memory in your mind, letting you be with them again. It should give you the feelings of peace and happiness. Each time you feel depressed about anything, simply think of this dream-memory and let yourself feel good again. Ready?”
“Ready.”
She placed hands on each of his temples, closing her eyes as she allowed herself to enter his mind. Just as she opened the metaphysical door to his Dream Realm, a face flashed before her.

Sabrina’s Maiden form appeared in front of Claudia’s image.
Before the Maiden could do anything, Claudia cried out. “Not this time, Sabrina!”
“He’s mine, Ancient Mystic wench! Let me have him!”
“Never!” Claudia’s image cried out. The Magic flowed through her system, begging to be used. Sweeping an arm in front of her, she yelled. “Begone!”
Claudia’s multicolored magic wind wrapped around Sabrina’s still-standing form. In moments, the Maiden disappeared and Claudia was left to her task. Once she planted the dream-memory in Mr. Norton’s mind, she left.

She opened her eyes to see her charge sleeping quietly. She was weary yet unharmed. Her last empathic feeling of him was contentment. She closed her empathy power, feeling drained.
She couldn’t stand without feeling dizzy so she sat on a chair beside his bed. She thought over what just happened. How did she know what to do? Her Magic studies never included fighting demons in Dreamers’ minds. She closed her eyes to shut out the thoughts.
They were interrupted when someone pounded on the door. Without getting up, she used telekinesis to unlock it.
“Hmm. The door must have been stuck.” She hear an unfamiliar female voice mutter.
It was Mr. Norton’s nurse, with Anna at her heals.
Don’t get up, little sister. Anna thought in her mind. Wait until the dizziness wears off.
Claudia didn’t argue. As soon as the nurse was gone, she spoke up. “I know how to beat Sabrina and Damian.”
Anna stared at her. “How?”
“Control.” Claudia told her what happened with Sabrina in Mr. Norton’s Dream Realm.
“Amazing.” Anna whispered. “Our sisters have to know about this.” She looked at her watch. “Shift’s over anyway, so let’s go.”
With one final look of goodbye to Mr. Norton’s sleeping body, the girls left the hospital.

IV

Sire Wolfton Stargazer carried his mate in his arms, daughter close at his side as she followed. When they arrived at the Sisters’ Palace, Celine jumped to ring the hanging bell chime. The Mistress Sister Enchantra answered, gasping when she saw them together.
“Sister...” Wolf’s hoarse voice growled softly.
Enchantra nodded for them to come inside. They followed her to the main room, where Wolf lay Katherine’s still, silent body on the nest of blankets and pillows. Wolf kept a loving hand clasped in hers, fighting himself not to cry. Celine was somber, the tears coming quickly and quietly.
Enchantra scooped the child in her arms, hugging her close. She had to do something, but what?
“What’s wrong with Mama?” Celine wiped tears away to ask. “Wake her up, please Mistress. Papa’s hurting.”
Enchantra looked over to her niece Katherine. She was her sister’s child, a strong Companion Crusader with brilliant Ancient Mystic magic. Even she hadn’t the answers to her grandniece’s questions. Enchantra did the only thing she could think of.
“My Lord Guardian, come quickly.” She called into the air.
In moments, O’Dell’s human wizard’s form appeared, cloak and all. Once he saw the Stargazers, he knew the problem. He looked to Wolf, who was still clutching his mate’s hand, a somber look on his face as he stared.
“Sire Wolfton,” O’Dell began.
Wolf didn’t turn, responding with a soft. “Help her, my Lord. Please.”
O’Dell sensed the desperation in his follower’s voice. He noticed how Katherine was glowing violet-silver. “Had you any visions before you found her?”
Wolf turned his head, not meeting his Lord’s eyes. “Aye. I had.”
“What did you see?” Enchantra asked, holding onto Celine’s hand to reassure her.
Wolf stood, faced his Lord and Mistress and told them. He watched as the two Originators shared a look and wondered why Enchantra smiled.
“Get the Book.” O’Dell whispered. “Take the child with you.”
“Aye, my Lord.” Enchantra answered, taking the child to the Mirror Room to get the Spell-Book.
O’Dell let out a sigh. “I see Sabrina is far from finished with us.”
“Is there nothing we can do to stop her?” Wolf asked. “Look what she has done to Katherine!”
“Lady Katherine did that to herself, with great Magic she did not know she had.” O’Dell told him.
Wolf was dumbfounded. “How?”
“I believe the threat to her dearest friend triggered the Magic’s appearance.” O’Dell explained. “She wanted to rid herself of Sabrina, and did so.”
Wolf looked again to his lady love. “I worry for her, my Lord. Is she going to recover?”
“With rest and a healing spell, aye.” Enchantra’s voice reassured him. “For now, let Lord Guardian and myself work our magic on her. Take your daughter home to rest herself. She is weary from her Healer’s Magic.”
“I mean no disrespect, but no.” Wolf growled. “I will not leave my mate here alone. I will not abandon her.”
“You are not abandoning her, Wolfton.” Enchantra replied. “The Magic we are about to do will heal her, but would harm you in the process.”
“I wish to take the risk.” Wolf said, determined. “She is my everything. I am nothing without her.”
“Do not make me pull rank, Companion.” O’Dell told him gently. “I am a patient Lord, but can be harsh when I need to be.” O’Dell replied. He watched Wolf bow his head to Katherine’s chest, holding her hand. It brought warmth to his heart to see such loyalty. “I understand your duty as mate and Protector, but now is not the time to argue.”
Celine pulled away from Enchantra to run to her father. “Papa, please. Do you not trust them?”
“I trust them, daughter, but do not trust myself without her.”
Celine took his hand and looked into his eyes. “You have me. Can we go home now?”
Wolf looked from his daughter to O’Dell.
“We promise to tell you everything, Wolf.” Enchantra replied. “When she is well, we will send for you.”
“Can I do nothing else for her?” Wolf asked.
Enchantra nodded. “Tell Young Guardian everything, as you have told us. The time draws near, I can sense it.”
“Time for what?” Wolf asked, afraid now. “What is going to happen?”
Enchantra and O’Dell chorused the same word at the same time. “Sabrina.”
Wolfton Stargazer was truly afraid. For his mate, his family, and his friend Young Guardian. He left then, disappearing on that fearful thought.
Enchantra stared after them until O’Dell placed a hand on her shoulder. “Come now, my love.” He said. “It is for their own good. You know this.”
Enchantra sighed, turning to his gentle silver eyes. She pet his hand. “Aye, but you know that pup.”
“He is a strong one, I will give him that.” O’Dell said. “For now, what does the book say about young Katherine’s appearance?”
Enchantra shifted through the Spell-book for an answer as he read over her shoulder. “Naught.”
He was surprised. “Not a single thing?”
She shook her head, glancing at her niece. “I do have a thought of my own, my Lord.”
“Aye?”
“What color is Companion Magic?” She asked him.
“Violet to purple.” He caught on in a moment. “Ah, I see. Between her Ancient Mystic’s color of silver and Companion’s color of purple, this is the result.”
“As for what Wolf told us, each Magic is growing rapidly.” Enchantra said. “Much so, she was not able to control her use of it, or even know what she was doing.”
“Do you suppose the effects will wear off?” O’Dell asked her.
She shrugged. “That, I do not know. All I can surmise is that the two Magics were somehow triggered by thoughts of what Sabrina had done.”
Enchantra sat on the nest of pillows and blankets beside Katherine’s silent body. She pet the Companion’s hair, watching her eyes dart from side to side beneath closed lids. She immediately got a vision that made her gasp.
“Chantie?” O’Dell whispered, stepping closer to her. “What is it? What do you see?”
“The two Magics battling each other, with the darker side of each wanting to win.” She whispered. Taking her hand away, she opened her eyes and stood up. “I know what to do. I must have your help.”
“Whatever it is, I will do it, gladly.” O’Dell told her.
Enchantra nodded, grasping his hand. “Repeat after me.”
She began to chant in the Ancient’s language with O’Dell joining in. With her other hand, she grasped one of Katherine’s. Not missing a beat, O’Dell grasped the other, forming a circle. They repeated the chant until they heard a soft moan.
“Mama?”
“Shhh child.” Enchantra sat beside her, helping the girl sit up. “You are at the Palace. Lord Guardian and I woke you from a magical slumber.”
“Mistress? What happened to me?” Katherine held her head, trying to remember.
“According to Wolf, you brought Sabrina to yourself in the practice field, then banished her somewhere with great magic.” O’Dell relayed. “How do you feel now?”
Katherine nodded her head. “Better, my Lord. Thank you both.”
“The dueling Magics in your system overcame you.” Enchantra told her.
“Dueling Magics?” Katherine asked. “What do you mean?”
“You have both kinds of Magic from your parents.” O’Dell replied. “From Sibylline, you have the Ancient Mystic Magic and from Braken the Companion Magic.”
“You have learned little about either one.” Enchantra continued. “Because of that, the two were battling each other in your mind.”
“What about the glow?” Katherine examined her hands. The violet glow was fading, but still visible. “Why am I glowing Wolf’s Amulet color?”
“Do you not remember, child?” Enchantra smiled. “Purple is not only his jewel color, but the color of Companion Magic.”
“Does that mean Wolf has it as well?”
“Aye, he has Wolf Magic.” O’Dell replied. “In his case, it is very powerful, and dangerous.”
Katherine moved to stand. Enchantra helped her. “I must get to him, and warn him about my cousin.”
“I assure you, he already knows.” Enchantra told her with a smile. “He found you lying on the ground in the practice fields, thinking to bring you here.”
“He even told us he saw you banishing Sabrina.”
“He saw me?” Katherine wondered. “Now I must get home to him.”
“Certainly.” Enchantra replied. “I will help you.”
“Thank you Mistress, my Lord.” Katherine announced as Enchantra made her disappear.
The two Originators looked at each other. “Well, now what?”
“Now, we wait.” Enchantra told him. “They will fight Sabrina and her consorts.”
“Question is, will they survive the battle?”
“Have faith in them, my Lord and love.” Enchantra sighed, hugging him. “They will know what to do.”
Story #4:
The Ancient Mystic’s Spell-Craft

Back in the Outer Realm, Claudia and Anna gathered their three sisters at the Reading estate. They were in the backyard sitting at the picnic table.
“So, tell me again, Claud.” Luna shook her head, trying to understand. “You say control is the key?”
Claudia nodded. “I somehow controlled her in the Abyss.”
“The Abyss?” Ariana and Luna chorused.
“How did she get there?” Ariana asked.
Claudia shrugged.
“How’s Aaron doing?” Mary Ellen asked Ariana. “Last I heard, he and the boys had a fight at the bar, seeing the Dark Magic mist.”
Ariana looked to her lap. She didn’t want to tell her sisters what happened after she talked to him. “He’s fine. Really.”
“You don’t sound convinced.” Luna replied. “Has he been able to control the dark aspect of his Unicorn Magic?”
“As far as I know, yeah.” Ariana said.
“That’s great.” Anna replied. “One more point for the good guys.”
All but Ariana cheered. “If only we could do the same against Sabrina.”
“That’s why we need to control our Magic.” Claudia said. “I have a hunch.” The twins exchanged smiles, but she continued, ignoring them. “The Maiden only bothered us with the types of Magic we’d never been able to control, or hated to use.”
“Such as Luna with her Empathy and Mary Ellen with the premonition.” Anna supplied.
“I believe we’d be able to outsmart her if we combined them together against her.” Claudia announced.
“Using the Empathy?” Luna asked sheepishly. “I don’t know, Claud.”
“Yeah, Claud. You know what that does to her.” Ariana remarked, sticking up for her twin. “Just as you know what each of our feared Magics do to us.”
“What do you have in mind?” Claudia asked, narrowing her eyebrows at her older sister.
“Nothing.” Ariana said. “I confess I have nothing. In fact, I haven’t been able to patrol since Luna fought her in the Mirror.”
“That’s why we need to figure out a plan to stop her.” Luna said. “So we can all get our lives back.”
“The two cons of Magic.” Mary Ellen suddenly announced.
Her sisters looked at her. “What?”
“Don’t you remember Anna?” Mary Ellen continued. “The two cons of Magic are control and convince. If we can control what we fear, we can convince Sabrina she’s got some stiff competition.”
Anna nodded, smiling. “Tonight. We find and finish her.”
“We’ll meet at the Canine Wood.” Ariana said.
Fearing a purpose for her sister’s sudden reply, Luna asked. “Is something wrong?”
“You bet, and I can smell it in the air.” Ariana replied. “Something happened to Katherine two nights ago. I want to know what it was.”
“Hey, maybe she can help us?” Claudia asked.
Ariana smiled. “I would count on it. She and Sabrina are cousins, fighting against each other for as long as I can remember. She’ll definitely want to help.”
“This is it, ladies.” Luna looked around the picnic table to her four sisters. She put her arm out in front of her. “Tonight, we do it.”
Her sisters placed a hand on one another’s until all five of them were one.

II

Meanwhile, in the Unknown...
“Where is Sabrina?” Albrath asked her sister and Damian once she’d found them in the Maiden’s own Warrior Training hall.
Shenara shook her head. “Who knows, and who cares?”
“You should care.” Damian reminded her. “You are her sister now, you know.”
“Only by marriage.” Shenara pointed out. “We share no blood.”
“Does it matter?” Albrath screeched. “Have you seen her or not?”
“She is not in the castle.” Shenara told her, then looked to Damian.
“She disappeared in front of my eyes.” Damian replied. “A wind of purple magic whisked her away in the middle of our fight.”
Shenara giggled. “What did you fight about this time?”
“The Black-as-Night crystal.” He said.
“What about it?” Albrath asked.
“Let’s just say I borrowed it without her permission.” Damian smiled at the sisters.
“Oh! I would have given my Dominionite Magic to see her face!” Albrath screeched, clapping her hands. “What was her reaction?”
Damian smiled. “Priceless.”
“As priceless as the Crystal itself?” The trio heard a female voice above them. They looked up to see Gloriana frowning down on them.
“As much so, my Queen stepmother.” Damian remarked. “How much did you hear?”
“Everything.” Gloriana remarked, folding her arms. “You say she disappeared from her quarters in a wind of purple magic?”
“Aye.”
“You do know what that means, I presume?”
Damian exchanged looks with the sisters before answering the mother. “Nay, but I am sure you will enlighten me.”
“Too true, Merchant stepson.” Gloriana replied. “Purple is the color of Companion Magic, which could only mean a Companion took her away. Do you recall any Companions of the Dream Realm with that much Magic? Enough to defy the rules of all dimensions?”
“Only two, and they are unfortunately family.” Damian supplied, rolling his eyes. “Katherine and Kitten’s Claw Hawk, my cousins.”
“Ah, the newly-revealed Ancient Mystic Companions.” Gloriana said with a sneer. “My, my, what a pair. It is rumored Kitten’s Claw gave your sister the spell to return to the Dream Realm.”
“That kit has always been gullible.” Shenara replied.
“Aye, but her sister is powerful.” Damian remarked. “Perhaps if we use the Crystal to take us to see my dear cousin?”
“She will know where Sabrina is, I assure you.” Gloriana said before disappearing.
“What are we waiting for?” Albrath screeched. “We have some Ancient Mystics to fry!”
Then they were gone, and only the Dark Ancients knew what they had in mind.

III

“Teach me more of the Warrior Arts.” Katherine demanded from her mate. The couple were back in the Canine Valley’s practice fields.
“You have only just recovered, my love.” Wolf supplied. “I will not have you overdoing yourself.”
“I must do this, Wolf.” Katherine remarked, grabbing a sword from off the far wall. “I have gone far too long without proper conditioning.”
Wolf grabbed his own Warrior-marked sword from the wall. “Do you even know how to use the sword?”
“You should know.” Katherine smiled. “You taught me back in the Wars for Power.”
“Aye, I know.” Wolf chuckled. “So, Nay.”
Katherine drew the sword from its scabbard. She held the hilt with both hands as she shifted to her full-human form. The jewel on the pommel sparkled an incandescent rainbow, with the glow running up the hilt to the end of the blade. “As you can see, I beg to differ.”
Wolf unsheathed his own sword. The same one he’d had since the beginning of the Wars for Power. “Dearest Kat, you do not know what you do to me.” He too shifted to human form, with help from the Amethyst around his neck. His eyes glowed purple, then yellow, showing his playful Warrior demeanor. “You see, I, too, know how to wield a sword.”
“Shall we duel or just exercise?” Katherine suggested.
Wolf’s yellow eyes glowed. “How about if we play?”
“Play?”
As she asked the question, he swung his sword to meet hers. “Aye Kat.” He nodded his head, showing his teeth. “We play.”
The couple fought with swords branded with magic and fighting arts until Katherine caught her snide mate by surprise. She swept a foot above the ankle, tripping him. He went down flat on his back, sword thrown from his hands. Without its focused magic, he changed back into the wolf-man he was. The tip of her blade pointed at his chest. He was forced to raise his hands in surrender.
“I see you have been practicing.” Wolf remarked to the snide smile on Katherine’s human face. He pointed to her sword. “If you may be so kind?”
Katherine saw what he was pointing at. “Oh! Of course!” She lifted the sword, placing it back in its scabbard on her back. She then held her hand out for him to grasp. Instead of him standing up, he brought her down on top of him.
“Wolfton Stargazer!” Katherine screeched, laughing. As she changed her form back to his Balinese-human beauty, she remarked. “How dare you?”
They kissed and he growled seductively. “I dare very well, my dear.”
He was still flat on his back, with her astride him. Sweat and dirt covered both their bodies. Both of them were still trying to catch their breaths when they heard their daughter’s laughter.
“Mama! Papa!” Celine giggled as she joined in. She saw the swords. “Can you teach me that, Papa?”
Katherine stood, helping Wolf to stand as well.
“When you are ready, my daughter.” Wolf supplied, kissing her on the cheek. He picked up his sword, handing it to Katherine. “I will prepare our meal while you put these away.”
“You have been too kind to me, mate.” Katherine teased, kissing his lips as she took it by the hilt. “Fear not, I am not complaining.”
Wolf laughed. “I hope not.” He turned to his daughter. “Come Celine. Help me in the kitchen.”
“I will be there shortly Papa.” Celine replied. He nodded and headed for the house. She waited until he was inside before turning back to her mother. Being careful of her father’s blade, she hugged her mother. “I am glad you are okay, Mama. Papa and I thought we would lose you.”
“Not for a very long time, Celine.” Katherine remarked. “On that you can rely.”
Celine kissed her mother’s cheek before heading to the house herself.
Katherine watched her daughter until she, too, was inside. She went about putting the practice equipment away and cleaning up before following. In the shed, she happened to glance at her long staff. She thought of what happened a few days before and still wondered how she did it. Without touching it and closing the door behind her, she left.

IV

The five sisters retired early that night, each hoping they were truly ready to fight the Maiden again. Anna silently prepared herself, her fiancé Jake not even realizing what was going on. He wasn’t her true Earthly Protector yet, so he couldn’t feel her mixed-up emotions. Mary Ellen finished studying alone in her apartment, meditating to clear her mind before she headed to bed. The twins in separate houses said goodnight to their husbands and children, each closing their minds off so their Earthly Protectors wouldn’t sense their intentions to fight in the Dream Realm. Claudia, finished with her nightly chores, headed out to the yard. As she sat on the deck in the darkness, she thought of her own strategy. In their minds, each sister lost themselves in memories of the Maiden.
Remember sisters, meet me at Stargazer Castle. Ariana thought to them. As soon as she heard their silent confirmations, she called the Dream Chant and was ready to go.

True to their words, Ariana and her sisters met up at Stargazer Castle, deep in the Canine Valley. Right away, she could sense something was wrong. The amount of power in the air was higher than Ariana had ever experienced it before. At the edge of the wood, just before the opening to Stargazer Castle, she stopped, staring into the mist.
“What’s wrong?” Luna asked. “Why’d you stop?”
“Use your empathy.” Ariana told her without moving. She turned to her twin. “It’s important. I want to make sure I’m not the only one sensing this.”
“I can sense it too.” Claudia replied, nodding. “In fact, I can smell it.”
The twins looked at her, then back at each other.
“Think of Kit.” Ariana prodded. “She wouldn’t want you to be afraid of a basic magic.”
“What if Sabrina’s already here?”
“I don’t sense her, so there’s no trouble.” Ariana remarked. “Come on Lu, it’s for Kat.”
Luna knew how close her twin and the Companion Crusader were. They were almost as one soul, closer than she was to Luna herself. It was Katherine that taught Ariana all she knew about the Magic and control of it.
Luna nodded. “Right. For Kat.” She closed her eyes and dared to do something she hadn’t done in years. She opened herself to the Empathy, letting it sense her surroundings. Finding her sister was telling the truth about Sabrina, she cautiously went on.
“There’s more Magic here than I’ve ever experienced before.” She told her sisters. Closing herself off, she opened her eyes. “I can see some kind of bubble surrounding the Castle itself, protecting it.”
“We’ve been here hundreds of times.” Ariana replied. “When was it put up?”
Before either of her sisters could answer, they heard a rustling of leaves from above them. Ariana could sense they meant no harm, so she called out. “It’s the Young Guardian and her sisters. Come on out, whoever you are.”
They were startled to find Wolfton Stargazer himself jumping down from the top branches of the closest tree. When Ariana saw him, she smiled. She frowned when she saw the serious look on her Companion friend’s face.
“Come with me.” Wolf told them.
Once they followed him to the Castle, they met up with Katherine and Celine, who were outside in their garden. The twins embraced them before asking questions.
“Now, now. Settle down.” Katherine remarked. “I want to know what Sabrina has been up to lately.”
“No way, Katherine Hawk-Stargazer.” Ariana said, shaking her head. “You first. Why did I sense something wrong when we arrived?”
The Stargazers explained what had happened to them not two Outer Realm days ago.
“You’re okay, right Kat?” Ariana was worried for her friend now.
“Now, aye.” Katherine assured her. “Somehow, both sides of my Magic wanted to take over me. I have learned how to control it, thanks to Wolf and Mistress Enchantra.”
“Speaking of control, we know how to beat your cousin now.” Claudia intervened. She explained what had happened in the hospital, and how she made Sabrina disappear.
“How could she do that?” Katherine asked. “I sent her away. How could she possibly be able to journey through Dreamers’ minds?”
“The only way possible.” Ariana groaned. She and Luna looked at each other, saying. “The Abyss.”
“Does that mean we have to travel there to get rid of her?” Mary Ellen asked.
“If she’s able to do that, she’s more of a threat now.” Anna supplied. “She can not only destroy us, but innocent Dreamers.”
“I’m not so sure I’m ready to deal with her, yet.” Claudia moaned.
“You have to.” Mary Ellen replied. “Think of poor Mr. Norton, and Dreamers like him.”
Claudia sighed. “I suppose you’re right.”
“The question is how?” Wolf spoke up. “The only few I know of who can do that are the Elder Sisters, Lord Guardian, Lord Maximaniac and you, Ariana.”
“You know how I hate the Abyss.” Ariana supplied.
“Whether or not you like the Abyss has nothing to do with fighting my cousin.” Katherine replied. “She has the Black-as-Night Crystal, or did before Damian stole it from her.”
Anna gasped at that. “So that’s how he did it!”
“Did what?” Wolf growled. “What did he do to you?”
“Disguised himself as Jake in Witches Grove.” Anna told them. “I have never told Jake what that place looked like, or where it was, so I was suspicious. Next thing I knew, my clairvoyance power was taken from me.”
“How did he take it?” Katherine asked.
“That Crystal.” Anna supplied. “He made me use it to see where it came from.”
Katherine commanded. “Each of you, use the Empathy.”
She spoke in a voice like an Elder Companion demanding respect. Her tone went from friend to teacher and the sisters knew to listen. They all obeyed except Mary Ellen, whose Empathy power was taken by Damian some time ago. She paid attention, watching her sisters’ reactions. Ariana’s face was the most serious.
“What is it?” Mary Ellen dared to interrupt in a whisper. “What do you guys sense?”
The twins were first to speak after a moments silence. “Damian.”
“Where?” Claudia’s shaky voice peeped. She stood closer to Anna’s side.
The twins pointed.
“Right over there, in the bushes that lead to the trail.” Luna supplied. She and Ariana marched back to the Wood toward Damian’s hiding spot. Their three sisters and Katherine followed.
Wolf touched Katherine’s shoulder, making her turn.
“I must do this.” Katherine remarked, shaking out of his grasp and following.
Wolf was left staring at their backs.

V

Damian appeared in the Dream Realm’s Canine Wood. He recognized his surroundings, smiling to himself. Without looking back, he followed the trail up to Stargazer Castle. The two sisters were quiet as they followed, not saying a word. When he turned around, he didn’t see them. He assumed they were in hiding, so he thought nothing of it and moved on.
The Crystal around his neck shone, heat radiating it on his chest. His sensors told him there were more Magic spells protecting this place than ever before.
Who would be strong enough to do such powerful magic? Damian thought to himself. Had the Companions and Lord Max’s followers regained what little Orthos took from them in the Wars for Power? Or did the Sisters give it to them?
Once he reached the end of the trail, he had to stop. His head hurt from the amount of power in the area. He found a place to hide in the shadows, watching the scene in front of him and waiting.
What are Young Guardian and her sisters doing here? How did they get past the barrier? So many questions rolled around in his head.
“Shenara! Albrath!” He said in a tight whisper. He didn’t want the Ancient Mystics to hear him. The sisters didn’t answer so he called out. “Cowards.”
He stood, finally remaining in perfect sight of the Ancient Mystics. “If you want something done...” He whispered. He saw Young Guardian and her twin, the Grand Magus marching toward him, side by side. Their three sisters were behind them.
To his delight and surprise, Katherine brought up the rear.
“Come out Damian!” Young Guardian demanded.
He shook his head, laughing under his breath. To think, he was once in love with her. Time to play a little game. He stepped out of the shadows and bowed before her. “Certainly my adoring little dove.”
“Can it, Merchant,” Anna cried.
He ignored her, instead heading to the former flame of his heart. He froze her with a stare once all six of them were outside the protective barrier.
“Such anger.” He replied with a snide smile. “I see you still have much to learn about the Dark side of your brilliant Ancient Mystic Magic.”
Ariana stood her ground, pulling away when he reached to kiss her hand. “You’re only stalling the inevitable, cousin.”
Damian froze, staring at her. So much for the game.
Ariana Reading only smiled at him. “Oh, didn’t you know? You’re an Ancient Mystic, too.”
“So’s Sabrina.” Luna added.
“How?” Damian asked, astonished.
Katherine faced him now. “Easy. Your mother Jezebel is my aunt. Her twin sister Sibylline, Queen of the Epsilon herself, is my mother.”
“So you see, you indeed are a Ancient Mystic.” Claudia replied. She smiled mischievously, folding her arms. “Cool, huh?”
“And to think, you wanted to destroy us all.” Mary Ellen spoke up, nonchalant. “Shame on you.”
“I will destroy you worthless goody-goodies.” Damian sneered, sneaking a look at the twins. “That is, all except those who embrace the Dark Magic.”
“Enough stalling, Damian!” Anna huffed. “Time to send you back to the Unknown, without your powers.”
She brought her hands in a diamond shape at her chest. Closing her eyes, she summoned the Ancient Mystic Force from deep within. Her entire body began to glow, an opalescent wind surrounded her.
“Impossible!” Damian yelled. “I took one of your powers! You cannot use the Force against me!”
“Surprise, I can.” Anna cried, smiling. Her usual silver-blue eyes turned bright yellow.
“Correction – we can.” Claudia added, following her sister’s lead.
“We shall see about this!” He remarked. Grabbing the Crystal around his neck, he called out a quick spell.

“All the power I have in this
“Send us to Sabrina in the Abyss!”

Before they could do anything but hold on tight, they disappeared, screaming.
The glows of each sister’s bodies were the only light to see by as they entered the dark Abyss.
“Let go of the Force, ladies.” Ariana demanded gently. “You’ll use yourselves up quicker that way.”
“She’s right.” Anna replied. “We need to save our energy for Sabrina and Damian.”
“Speaking of Damian, where’d he go?” Claudia asked.
“He was here just a moment ago.” Mary Ellen supplied.
“Great. Stuck in the Abyss.” Luna groaned.
“Way to think positive, Lu.” Ariana replied sarcastically. She looked at her surroundings. “I’ve always hated this place.”
“You’re not the only one.” Luna supplied.
The sisters kept close to each other, walking straight ahead. As they walked, brightly lit doors passed them, flying through the air.
“Are those what I think they are?” Katherine asked, finding herself holding onto Ariana’s hand.
“Doors to Dreamers’ worlds.” Ariana supplied as she made a candle appear in her hands. “It’s the only way to get there.”
“Huh?” Mary Ellen and Anna questioned.
“I patrol through the doors that are lit the brightest.” Ariana explained.
“Sounds cool.” Claudia remarked. “I’ve always wondered what you did when you patrolled.”
“Well, now you know.” Ariana smiled.
Katherine felt her friend shiver. “What is it?”
Ariana shook her head, but kept going. “Nothing, Kat.”
“Liar.” Katherine teased. “I can feel you shaking.”
“I told you how much I hated this place.” Ariana remarked. “It’s too cold for my blood.”
Before either of the sisters or Katherine could reply, they heard a booming female voice overhead.
“SILENCE!”
The twins and Katherine looked at each other. “Sabrina.”
“Come on out, Sabrina, and fight like a Warrior.” Katherine called into the air.
In a mist of white dust, Sabrina stood in front of them. “Wish I could say the same for you.”
“Knock it off, Sabrina.” Ariana called. “We’ve come to Banish you.”
Sabrina laughed. “Yeah, right.” She said. “As if.”
“You definitely hung around Caroline Parker too long.” Ariana said with a sarcastic laugh.
Another mist of white dust appeared beside Sabrina, Damian appearing.
He grinned at Ariana. “You will not be needing that where you are going.” He remarked, blowing out the candle.
“You should know better than to disrespect us.” Anna said. “Or hadn’t your parents taught you any manners?”
“Jezebel tried, but I am not so sure it stuck.” Katherine said.
“Clearly, neither of you heard me the first time.” Sabrina remarked with a sigh. “I said SILENCE!” She turned to Damian. “Get them.”
“Gladly.”
Damian reached for the Black-as-Night Crystal, but Ariana was too quick to remark.
“Let me see that, Damian.” Ariana supplied, stopping him.
He looked at her suspiciously. “Why?”
“You let Anna see it, why not me?” Ariana added. She had a quick plan, only hoping it would work in time. “See if I can tell you where it’s been.”
“Duh!” Sabrina cried. “I got it from the Gatekeeper. Obviously it came from here.”
“No, sister.” Damian had a plan of his own. “Let her see it.”
After a moment, she understood. “Aye, but make it quick. We have not all night, you know.”
“Oh, I’ll be quick about it.” Ariana promised with a smile.
Reluctant, he handed it to her.
Hook, line and sinker! Ariana thought. Now to get the powers back from it.
She looked to her sisters, silently relaying her plan in their minds. Together, they made the glowing Crystal and its chain hover in the air.
On my word, sisters. Ariana thought to them. They nodded, smiling at each other. Open yourselves up and say the spell-words.
“What are you Ancient Mystic rejects doing?” Sabrina inquired.
Ariana met her old enemy’s eyes with a sneer. “This.”
Now!

“Black-as-Night, Crystal bright,” Katherine and the five sisters chorused.

“No!” Sabrina screamed.
They ignored her, continuing the spell.

“Give back the powers to those they’re right.”

“You cannot do this!” Damian added. “That power is mine!”
Still, they continued calling the spell.

“Forgive the evil from within
“So let the good of truth begin!”

At the last word, the Crystal glowed its brightest, nearly blinding the six Ancient Mystic fighters. Sabrina and Damian screamed before disappearing. Each of the sisters closed themselves off, catching their breaths. After a moment’s silence, they looked at one another.
“Let’s get out of here.” Ariana replied softly.
“How?” Mary Ellen asked.
“What about the Crystal?” Katherine asked.
“I’ll deal with it later, in the comfort of my own home.” Ariana said.
“How do we get home?” Mary Ellen asked.
“Easy.” Ariana replied. “Find the door that has your name on it and jump through it.”
“What about me?” Katherine asked. “I am not of the Outer Realm, so those doors do not pertain to me.”
“I’ll help you get home to Wolf before heading to mine myself.” Ariana told her. Katherine smiled at this.
The sisters said goodbye to one another before finding each of the doors to their Dream Realms.
As Ariana escorted her home, Katherine asked. “Do you think this is over with my cousins?”
Ariana shrugged. “Is it ever truly over?”
Katherine groaned. “I guess not.” She thought of something. “What about my powers?”
“What about them?”
“Will you help me develop them as I had helped you?”
Ariana had to laugh. “What a silly question. Of course I’ll help you, Kat!” She hugged her. “If it weren’t for you, I wouldn’t be here.”
Katherine giggled. “Remember that when I teach you the Warrior Arts as payment.”
“Yeah, that’ll be the day.” Ariana joked. “The Dominionite Warriors are gone, remember?”
“Not by a long shot.” Kat supplied. “I am not speaking of those warrior arts. I mean those of your world. Gallant knights in shining armor fighting for their country on horseback.”
Ariana was surprised to hear her longtime friend talking like this. “Dare I ask, but since when have you wanted this?”
“Since long before the Wars for Power.” Katherine said, looking ahead of them. They came up to the trail in the Dream Realm’s Canine Wood. She was almost home. “Thank you for taking me home, Young Guardian.”
“You know better than that.” Ariana said with a grin. “You, of all Companions, can feel free to call me by my given name.”
Katherine shrugged. “I know, but it is a force of habit.”
They hugged their goodbyes before heading in their opposite directions toward home.
Part Two:
Gloriana Gets Her Kicks

Prologue:
A Plight of Demons

When he was taken away by the Black-as-Night Crystal, Damian thought of his father back in the Unknown. Orthos had to know about this. Now, neither sibling had it. Damian didn’t want to be the one to break the news to the former Master of the Dominion. The odds of his survival weren’t good.
He found his father in his Lab, catching his new mate up on the times. She showed him something in the Dark cauldron, making each of them smile.
It was going to be hard breaking the news.
Orthos sensed his son standing in the doorway. “Come in, Damian. Come in.”
Bowing like a good servant, Damian didn’t meet his father’s eyes. “I lost it, Father.”
Orthos’ happy exterior turned awful, and his form turned from a human to a centaur. “You what?!”
“I lost the Black-as-Night Crystal.” Damian supplied, standing.
“Who took it from you?” Orthos demanded, making Damian step back.
“The – the – the Ancient Mystics.” Damian spat. “Young Guardian and her sisters.”
“Go on,” Orthos growled.
“Katherine was with them when I used the Crystal to transport them to the Abyss.”
“Why the Abyss?” Orthos asked.
“That’s where the Ancient Mystic Claudia banished her to when Sabrina tried for a Dreamer’s mind.” Damian explained.
“So – tell me what happened!” Orthos growled. “How could you lose such a priceless gem?”
“They did something to it, returning each of their sister’s powers to them.” Damian said. “They called a spell not even I knew, making it levitate in the air. The power from it sent us home.”
Gloriana shook her head. “Have you seen your sister since then?”
“Nay, why?”
“She’s not here, Damian.” Orthos replied. He returned to his human Wizard form, staring into his cauldron.
“What devious plan are you thinking of my lord and love?” Gloriana sneered, watching both Orthos and the cauldron’s image.
Damian was curious, too. “Whatever it is, I want in.”
Orthos shook his head. “No, not this time.” He said. “This time, it’s personal.” He turned to his new mate and son. “Both of you, leave. I have to prepare.”
“But –” Gloriana began.
“I said LEAVE!” Orthos roared in his dragon’s tone. “NOW!”
“Yes, Master.”
“As you wish, Father.”
Looking at each other, they obeyed.
“This is plain humiliating!” Orthos cried into the air. “Must it always be my brother and his stupid followers? How dare a child like the Young Guardian make a fool of me? I must think of something so terrible, not even she will get out of it alive!”
He laughed out loud.
“At least, not with her sanity!”
His eyes glowed, searching his lab. “How can I finally defeat the Ancient Mystics? Come on, think! Surely –” He cut off his own sentence, letting out a soft. “Perfect.”
From the corner of his eye, he saw his Spell-book leaning against an antique vase. Both the Spell-book and the vase gave him an idea. He grabbed both, setting them on the table in the middle of the room. He opened the book and flipped through it, searching for the perfect spell. The perfect words to call upon the Djinn.
Like the genies of Arabian myth, the Djinn could grant wishes. The Djinn work in ways unlike the Arabian genies. Instead of just granting three wishes, the Djinn feed on the hidden desires of their victims, using them. Once the victim was in their spell, they were slowly driven insane. It was a kind of Dark Magic Orthos loved to surround himself with.
Orthos set the vase on the table in front of his Spell-book. Staring at it, he raised his hands and called the spell in the Ancient Wizard’s tongue.
A silver mist leaked from the vase, slowly filling the room. Orthos had to step back in awe. He’d forgotten the famous Djinn entrance was so . . . smoky. It was meant to amaze and captivate, impressing those who called upon them. Once the air cleared, a man in a burnoose, golden armbands and black hair tied up in a horse’s tail held together by various colored wire stood in front of Orthos. In every aspect, he looked like an Arabian genie.
Of course, that was intentional, meant to fool. Orthos wasn’t fooled one bit. He recognized the Djinn god Omri, smiling at himself. He’d called upon the greatest of the Djinn.
“Your wishes are always my command, Master Orthos of the Dominion.” Djinn Omri made an attempt to bow.
“Look around you, Omri.” Orthos commanded, waving around him. “I am no longer Master of the Dominion, for that Realm no longer stands tall as it once did. I now rule over my Dominionites here in the Unknown.”
“Who was fool enough to Exile you?” Omri laughed.
“My own brother O’Dell.” Orthos growled.
“I see, brother against brother, as it always has been for centuries.” Omri smiled. “Tell me, what do you wish of me? Shall I bring the Djinn High Council together against him?”
Orthos shook his head. “Nay, not yet. I want him to think he has won against me for a while longer. Nay, what I want are the Earthbound Ancient Mystics.”
Omri’s grin widened. “Which of them and why?”
Orthos told him about the Crusades, O’Dell’s team of Crusader misfits, and how he’d gone as far as turning back time in hopes of ridding himself of the Crusaders.
Djinn Omri was impressed. “You say these Earthbound Ancient Mystics will try anything to defeat you for good?”
“Aye.”
“It would be hard to concentrate if they had, shall we say, other things on their minds?” Djinn Omri folded his arms and laughed heartily.
Orthos had an idea what the Djinn god was going to do. “Waste no time. I want them out of my way. Then, it will be between O’Dell and myself once again.”
With a wink and a nod, Djinn Omri disappeared, leaving Orthos alone in his cavern once again. He waved a hand to make the vase and Spell-book return to their rightful places on the highest shelf.
With a final laugh, he thought. The fun has just begun.

Gloriana watched him disappear. Orthos didn’t know she was listening in to their conversation. She wanted in on it, but for a different reason. She wanted to show him how disastrous she’d become since the Wars for Power. She looked it over once again. This time, a little closer.
It looked similar to the one he had in the Dominion, but this one was bigger. Darker. Better.
She got an idea.
Making sure no one was around, she went inside to explore. She passed bottles of potions, quills, parchment papers, books on the dead, books on the living, and even books on bringing the dead back to life. Her eyes spotted something in the corner on a shelf. Gloriana smiled to herself, taking the book down.
“If Orthos can call on the Djinn, I can do some damage as well.” Gloriana whispered to herself. She flipped through the thick book with ratted pages and Dark Magic spells of every kind.
It was Orthos’ Spell-book.
“Show me the right spell, the right incantation.”
There were spells for the most disastrous of works, but she didn’t want them. She wanted one especially for the Dream Realm, and going back. “Where is it?” She muttered under her breath. “I know you have it in here. If Sabrina used it, surely –.”
That’s when she spotted it. She put the book down on the nearest table, reaching for a feather quill and parchment.
“Perfect.” Gloriana said as she folded the parchment of paper and put it down her blouse. “Now to have some fun of my own.”

II

Something told Ariana she wasn’t finished seeing Gloriana, the new Queen of the Unknown. Whatever told her that, it was right. This time, she wasn’t going down without a fight. She was prepared for anything Gloriana had to throw at her. Nothing was going to stop her from making the Dominionite pay for messing with them.
Nothing that is, but her own mind.

On a night like any other, Ariana began by patrolling the Dream Realm. She happened to come upon a little girl, sitting on a rock by a lake. When Ariana went up to her, she could hear the little girl singing to herself.

“Love me tender, love me true, never let me go
“Aaron, how I have loved you, but I can’t let you know.”

It was a short tune, reminiscent of Elvis Presley’s “Love Me Tender.”
Ariana went over to investigate. Something was suspicious about this pretty little girl.
“Hello, little one.” Ariana said softly.
The little girl ignored her. Close up, Ariana could see the red-blond curls in the little girl’s hair. There was a sparkle to the child’s eyes when she looked. A silver-blue sparkle.
The girl was playing with the petals of a rose, making them move around her by staring at them.
“Little one?” Ariana tried again. This time, the girl turned to see her.
“Hello. Would you like to play with me?”
That voice sounded vaguely familiar. Was it her own, or Luna’s?
“Sure. What are you playing?”
“I’m playing a game.” The girl said. “Do you know how to play?”
“I don’t think so. Can you teach me?”
The girl smiled, taking her hand. “I can teach you anything, Ariana Moon.”
Ariana stepped back from the girl. “How do you know my name?”
Ariana was shocked. The little girl shifted her form, and turned into an older woman she met recently.
The Dominionite Gloriana, with her long black hair and perfect curves, was the epitome of evil. She wore a revealing leather skirt and red shirt that showed her cleavage. Her eyes were pitch-black and she had seductive-red lipstick on her lips.
“My dear, we have met before.” Gloriana began.
“How did you get back?” Ariana asked.
“Thank Sabrina. She gave me the spell, in a way.”
“What do you want from me?”
“Only you. You see, the Ancient Mystics have been making my Lord Master very angry.” Gloriana responded. “If I rid myself of you, Lord Master will be happy again.”
“Tough nuggets, Gloriana. Whatever you or even Orthos has planned, you better think twice before messing with us. Haven’t you learned we can’t be defeated?”
Gloriana shrugged her shoulders, waving it off. “Were you not wondering why I was singing that song?”
“Why should I care?”
“Because in your heart, you have a deep desire for someone that cannot have you.” Gloriana supplied. “Sure, Protector Derrick is sworn as your love and husband for all time, but Aaron. Aaron’s a different story.”
Ariana was silent and let her continue.
“Aaron has been in love with you since you met two decades ago. Would it not be nice if you could give in to the feelings you have for him without feeling you are betraying your husband?”
“I don’t have any feelings left for him but best friendship. He knows that.”
“Is it not true he has been there for you through thick and thin? Against Dominionites and nightmares? Protecting you from the awful orphanage master when you were in trouble?”
“Yes, it’s true, okay?” Ariana remarked, wiping a tear from her eye. Just thinking of her days in the orphanage made her heart wrench with feeling and love.
“Ah, but that friendship was only the beginning.” Gloriana continued. “Think back to your own feelings for him when you were barely teenagers. Forget you ever had an Imaginary Romeo to warm your thoughts. Just focus on Aaron Theodore, and the love you had for him. How much fun it was to defy everything you had ever known and just go for it. You let your feelings show just one time and what happened? Destiny kicked in and you became pregnant with the Enchanted Child. What had you felt when you found out? Hope? Love? What was it that made you want to run away from Aaron and his love?”
“If I stayed, I would have denied myself and the baby that chance at a better life. Nothing good would have ever happened to us. We’d be stuck as orphans, unloved and unwanted, fit for slaves.”
“What about Aaron? He would not have felt so alone and heartbroken all the years he was without you. Have you ever blamed yourself for that?”
“Every day of my life I blamed myself for leaving him.” Ariana cried. “When we reunited in that store five years later, it just wasn’t the same. I felt I betrayed him by loving another man – Derrick. I hurt him so much, but there wasn’t any choice. What could I do but let the past go and fight the battle we were having against Sabrina.”
That sentence gave Gloriana a smile upon her lips. “Do you think it is time you talked it over with him?”
“Wait – why do you want to help me?”
“I only want to reveal your deepest regret, forcing you to face it.” Gloriana replied. “That is all.”
With that, both women disappeared. Ariana went back to her patrols and Gloriana found another Ancient Mystic victim to entertain her.

For the past week, things between Aaron and Ariana had changed, drastically. They couldn’t look at each other without the constant thoughts of their abusive but loving past. He was reminded of the love she used to have for him and she was reminded of the feelings of betrayal. They had been the Three Musketeers, one for all and all for one. When she left, there were only two. For five long years they missed each other dearly and kept in touch only in thoughts. He found out what kind of powers he had, asking Lord Guardian to teach him. His sister Amethyst learned her special type of Unicorn Magic from Enchantra, the Elder Mistress Originator of the Dream Realm. It was thirteen years later, with the twins and Ariana reuniting during the Dream Realm Crusades. Aaron found his best friend was changed. She was more self-assured, more powerful, and most of all, more beautiful than he’d last seen her. Since that day, his heart yearned for her, and hers felt for him.
Seeing her daughter was imitating Sabrina, Gloriana decided to make her move. First, go back to the Master’s side and become his Queen. Second, reek havoc amongst the Crusaders using Sabrina as bait, and last of all, (and her favorite part), destroy the Ancient Mystics and rule the entire Realm of the Dream Realm. Once that was finished, it was only a matter of time before she and Master Orthos would rule all dimensions with their evil Dominionite followers.
The next step in her glorious plan was to hit the Ancient Mystics where they hurt the most – their hearts. The one Ancient Mystic Crusader that was most vulnerable was Aaron Theodore Schmidt, Young Guardian’s old lover and best friend, father to the Enchanted Child. It would prove very interesting.
Gloriana reunited with him in his Dream Realm, waiting for him to recognize her.

“Aaron Theodore...” Gloriana called.
Aaron held his head, as if it hurt him to look at her. “Who are you?”
“Do you not recognize me?” Gloriana asked. “You Exiled us not long ago.”
“Gloriana?” Aaron whispered, confused. “How?”
“Does it matter how?” She asked, facing him. She was so close, she touched his cheek, or tried to at least.
“Don’t touch me!” Aaron cried, backing off.
“Would you rather have Young Guardian’s hand upon your cheek?”
“Leave me alone!” Aaron cried. He doubled over in pain, the necklace growing warm at his chest. He opened his mouth to shout the Exiling Spell, but forgot half the words.
“Shall we part company so soon? After all, I can give you your most precious desire – Young Guardian.”
“She’s married to Derrick. I can’t have her anymore than a friend.”
“Ah, but you can, for she still loves you.”
Aaron’s attention was sparked. “What?”
“Need not sound so astonished. It is not as if you did not suspect.” Gloriana smiled a crooked smile. “She warned you of the Dark Magic, did she not? If she did not love you, she would have left you to deal with it on your own.”
“That’s not true.” Aaron shook his head. “How dare you say such a thing!”
“It is true. Remember our little run-in, and how she kissed you back to life.”
Aaron’s hand shook as it found his lips. His eyes were blank and he fell to his knees. “I love her so much, Gloriana. I would do anything to have her in my arms again.”
“Anything?” Gloriana was intrigued, listening.
“Anything. Just name it and I’ll do it.”
Just what I wanted to hear. Gloriana thought. He would make the perfect slave to my plan.
“Go to her in her hour of need.” She supplied. “You will know when. Show her how you feel, and make her see how she feels about you. Only then will she become yours once again.”
Gloriana kissed his lips before whispering. “Do not fail me, Young Ancient Mystic, and I will not fail you.”
In a cloud of smoke, she disappeared, going back to Orthos. Aaron was left with a blank look on his face, his hands clutching his special necklace.

III

It was a peaceful day in Hill View. Ariana had time to clean house and finish her homework for class before the children got home. Melody was quietly playing in the backyard, and for that, Ariana was thankful. Derrick would return home soon from work, so she wanted everything to be perfect when he arrived. Once checking on Melody, she headed upstairs to begin cleaning there.
She started in her own room, where her eyes spied the odd-shaped black gem on her night-stand. Trying to ignore its faint glow, she cleaned up. Her attention wandered away from her work and to the gem. She couldn’t keep her eyes off it.
Without moving, she used telekinesis to bring it to her. Once it was in her hands, she examined it.
“How could this little thing cause so much damage?” She whispered to herself.
That “little thing” was the Black-as-Night Crystal. In it evoked such power not even Ariana knew how to handle. Somehow, she and her sisters had taken it away from Damian and Sabrina. Who knew what happened to the awful duo then?
Her patrols told her Sabrina was no longer in the Abyss. That was a good thing. Dreamers were safe from her. What about Damian? Had he somehow returned to the Unknown?
With a shake of the head, Ariana tried to return it to the night-stand. Its glow was brighter now as she stared at it.
“That’s strange.” She whispered, sitting on the bed. She handled it again, using her eyes to see any strange marks. There was a tiny hole near the tip of the gem, big enough for a necklace chain. She fingered it. “That must have been where she put the chain.”
On the gem itself was writing. Ariana recognized it as Ancient Mystic text, but couldn’t translate. She threw it up in the air and tried to make it disappear, but it remained in the air, levitating.
“Okay, now what?” She asked herself. The Crystal began to spin in place, its glow changing colors. She stepped back, watching. “What in the world?”
She tried reaching for it with her hands, but got burned, so she snatched them back. She tried telekinesis to bring it down from the air, but nothing happened. The effort only made her head ache that much more. She was getting frustrated.
“No mere gem is going to make a fool out of me.” Ariana remarked. She closed her eyes and concentrated on the Magic within. A rainbow wind warmed her entire body. She opened her eyes and reached out to the gem again, using the Ancient Mystic Magic to bring it to her. The wind carried itself to the gem, wrapping around it like a rope. With her mind, Ariana pulled the gem to her open hands.
She smiled when it obeyed, landing in her hands. She let go of the Magic and received a premonition.

She saw the Gatekeeper of the Abyss with Its long black cloak and strange glowing-white eyes. She also saw who It was talking to. Sabrina.
How dare you try to steal what is not yours? It yelled in a raspy echoed voice.
“I want that power, Gatekeeper!” Sabrina screamed. “It belongs to me!”
The Gatekeeper raised a hand, revealing a long magical staff. If what you say is truth, reveal to me the key to its freedom. Only then will I comply to your demand.
“That should not be hard.” Sabrina shrugged. She stared at the Gatekeeper’s face, or what she could make of it, and smiled. “Actonius Alpha, Raytonius Manaya.”
What of the translation, young one?
“Actions of one, reactions of many.” Sabrina replied. “Now, hand it over!”
The Gatekeeper nodded, raising a free hand to her. It held the Black-as-Night Crystal for a moment before Sabrina snatched it from him.
Careful with that, Maiden. The Gatekeeper warned. Its power is very potent.
“I know that. Why do you think I wanted it?”
With a grin and a laugh, Sabrina stared into the Crystal. It glowed brightly in her hands. “Now, to do a little damage.”
She disappeared, along with the vision from Ariana’s mind.

Ariana gasped out of it, staring at the Crystal in her hands.
“That’s it,” she said to herself. “This thing is going back.”

That night, she dreamed. It was a strange dream, even for her.

She tried patrolling, or even heading the Dream Realm to visit friends there, but she was stuck. Confused, she tried every traveling spell she knew, and even made a few up, just to get herself out of the Abyss. She wasn’t in her Guardian’s Gown, which made her wonder who brought her there.
She couldn’t sense a thing, and that scared her. The scene around her changed from the usual gateway between the dimensions to somewhere reminiscent of a memory long forgotten. It was dark, the moon was full, and the stars were out. There was a slight breeze in the air that came from no wind. It made her shiver.
Up ahead was a building, a restaurant. The neon red light said “Benjamin’s Family Restaurant.”
“Benjamin’s?” She muttered under her breath. “Why does that sound familiar?”
In the blink of an eye, she was inside. Apparently, people around her couldn’t see her.
This must be a dream. She mused. But what does it mean?
Oh well, better to just watch and find out.
She walked a path her will wanted her to. The path led her to a table in a corner of the restaurant, which was hiding in the shadows amongst the bustle of the crowd.
She could hardly see what was in front of her, but it seemed three people sat at the table. Two young children and a woman.
Probably their mother. Ariana assumed as she watched the scene.
A waitress came up to the table. “Is there anything else I can get for you tonight?”
“Just the bill, please.” The woman replied. “Thank you.”
Why does that voice sound so familiar? Ariana asked herself.
One of the children yawned as the waitress walked away.
“Getting sleepy, dear?” The woman asked.
The child nodded her head. Red-blond hair whipped the girl’s face, making her nose itch. The girl scratched the spot, making the other girl giggle.
That giggle. Ariana thought. Something fishy is going on.
“Don’t laugh at her, Aluna.” The woman playfully remarked. “You do that, too when you wear it in tails.”
“That’s why I have no more tails.” Aluna said knowingly with a grin. “Just one. That’s all.”
The woman shook her head, clearing her throat. “Now, I have to go to the bathroom. Can I count on you to do it?”
“Do what?” The other child, Aluna’s sister, Ariana believed.
“Make sure you don’t wander off.” The mother said as she nodded.
“But I’m the good twin, remember?” The girl argued. “I won’t wander off, Mommy.”
“I know dear, I know.” The woman replied. With a moment’s delay, she walked away from the sisters.
That’s when Ariana knew. This was a memory all right. A memory taken from her life, but why didn’t she remember it? The woman was her mother, Susan, and Aluna was her twin sister. The girls in front of her looked no more than five, if that.
I was in an orphanage since I was five. Ariana recalled. Why is that the earliest I can remember?
She had the feeling she was about to find out. She turned her attention back to the twins. It was of a young Ariana and her twin Aluna. What was Luna going to do to her? Why?
Aluna stood up and reached something from their mother’s purse.
“Don’t dare steal anything, Aluna!” Young Ariana whispered. “You could get in trouble.”
Aluna continued to ignore her. Both Arianas watched as their young twin sister pulled out a tiny vial of rose-colored liquid.
“What’s that?” Young Ariana asked. Then she knew. “That’s one of Mommy’s potions, isn’t it? Do you know what it does?”
“Yeah, I do.” Aluna stared at the vial in her hands, then looked at her sister.
“Well, what is it?”
Even then, Ariana was inquisitive. She smiled until she saw the tears in her sister’s eyes. The other Ariana was still staring at the vial.
Aluna uncorked it, putting a few drops of the liquid into Ariana’s drink. Staring into her sister’s eyes, which were transfixed on her own, Aluna said softly. “You’re thirsty. Drink.”
That’s exactly what Young Ariana did, too. She drank the rest of her pop, gulping it down as Aluna watched.
Aluna put the cork back in and placed the vial back into her mother’s purse.
The older Ariana watched the scene with interest. It was like a tale unraveling in her mind.
She looked at her younger self, whose eyes were no longer silver-blue. They were plain blue, without a touch of Magic in them at all. Aluna’s on the other hand, were crying softly.
Aluna hugged her twin, whispering “I’m sorry” in her ear.
It was too late. The life had left from her eyes.
“Come now, girls. We have to go.” Susan’s quiet voice came from afar.
“Who are you?” Young Ariana asked her mother.
Susan shared a look with Aluna before replying. “I’m a counselor, ready to take you to the orphanage.”
“You’re pretty.” Young Ariana said, grabbing Susan’s outstretched hand.
That’s when the scene grew dark again, returning the older Ariana to the Abyss. She closed her eyes and braced herself for anything. When nothing came, she opened them.
A bright white light was shining in her eyes. She covered them so she could see what was happening. Another bright light, a spotlight, shone a few yards in front of her. She heard footsteps of heels click-clacking in the air.
“Hello? Who’s there?” Ariana called.
Nothing, then, “At last, we meet alone.”
That voice, Ariana recalled in her head. She forgot about the voice echoes in the Abyss, and whoever spoke gave a low laugh.
“That’s right. My voice.” The person supplied. “Surely, you know it by now. Or do you?”
“Who are you?” Ariana demanded. The spotlight still shone on her eyes. “Take the light off so I can see your face.”
“Say pretty please.” The voice sneered.
Ariana’s Empathy told her the person was up to no good. “Just do it.”
“Aye, I believe I will.” The voice said. In moments, Ariana saw who it was.
“Gloriana.” Ariana’s voice was braver now. “Aaron and I Exiled you and your two daughters. Shenara and Albrath, was it?”
“Very good, Young Guardian.” Gloriana clapped.
“I’m not afraid of you, you know.” Ariana told her straight-out. “I can Re-Exile you, and make sure you don’t come back. I hear Realm of the Gammas is excellent this time of year.”
“I have no need for such sass!” Gloriana replied. She took a breath before going on. “Now then, do you know why you were brought here?”
Ariana shook her head. “Not really, but I’m sure you’re gonna tell me.”
“I wanted you to remember what you’d long forgotten.” Gloriana announced. “Do you know why I chose that particular memory?”
Ariana waited in silence, arms crossed. “Spit it out.”
“To make you think, and think hard you will.” Gloriana said. “Your picture-perfect life is filled with holes. I just want to help you fill them.”
“That’s probably not even a true memory.” Ariana remarked.
“Ah, but it was.” Gloriana said. “It was, and I assure you, it was a smashing one at that. You saw what your so-called perfect sister put in your drink.”
“Looked familiar, but what was it?”
“The Ancient Mystic’s Forgetfulness Spell.” Gloriana said with a grin. “Not a spell, more of a potion, really. Why you bloody Ancient Mystics insist on calling it a spell if it has no words is beyond me.”
“Stop stalling. Just tell me what you’re up to.”
“Recall my song? And the little girl who looked just like you?” Gloriana supplied. “I want to help you remember all the times you’ve pushed in the back of your mind.”
Ariana raised an eyebrow at her. “Why?”
“Do you not wish to know everything about yourself? Why Lord Guardian chose you for his successor instead of his own son, Braken Joel?” She asked.
“We’ve made our peace with each other long ago, Gloriana.”
“Very well, but what about your secret desires? Ever want to just go for it instead of hiding your feelings from those you love deep inside your heart of hearts?”
“I don’t mean to interrupt, Gloriana, but I have a job to do.” Ariana remarked. “Make this quick so I can patrol. I’m still the Young Guardian of the Dream Realm, with or without your input.”
“Very well, Young Guardian. Some last words, then, if I may?”
“If you insist.” Ariana sighed.
“Learn about the Black-as-Night Crystal. Listen to its call, heed its advice and use it. Use it to its most extreme.”
“I’ll do nothing of the kind!”
Gloriana’s smile grew larger as she disappeared. “Ah, but you will. I know it.”
At her last words, Ariana woke up.

She opened her eyes, spying the crystal on her bedside. She sat up and grabbed it.
“What’s that?” Derrick walked into the room and sat down beside her. “Is that Sabrina’s strange crystal?”
Ariana nodded to her husband, explaining her dream.
“Sounds intense.” Derrick supplied, kissing her. He took it from her hands and placed it back on the night stand. “You’re not going to listen to her, are you?”
“You know me.” Ariana said with a light laugh. “I do want to learn about it, that part is true.”
“Learn about it safely, by taking it back to the Gatekeeper.” Derrick remarked. “Let him – it – whatever it is tell you the crystal’s story.”
Ariana stood up and changed into her night clothes.
“You’re going to bed already?” Derrick asked. “It’s hardly eight o’clock.”
“I know, honey, really.” Ariana said as she climbed back into bed. She took her glasses off and placed them next to the crystal on the night stand. “I told you I didn’t feel good.”
“Right.” Derrick said slowly. “In that case, goodnight.”
“‘Night.”
Derrick closed the door behind him, wondering what was going on with his wife. He sighed and headed back downstairs to the family.
Chapter:
The Crystal’s Curse

The next morning, Ariana woke with a headache and a task. She opened her eyes, staring at the Black-As-Night Crystal on the night stand. Deep in thought, she wondered what it would be like to use its power. Sitting up and putting her glasses on, she grabbed it in her hands.
Something came over her. A brush of heat she’d never experienced before. It made her grasp the Crystal even tighter, her body heat rising.
It was the weekend, and she could hear the children playing in the house.
Good. They’ll keep busy. Ariana thought to herself with a grin.
She looked out the window, surveying the neighborhood. Next door, Bradley and Kelly were on the porch with Cara Richardson and Steve Edwards, looking over a notebook in Kelly’s hands. Three other friends of Kelly’s were with them, Kirsten Farthay, Josh Stevenson and Samantha West. Looking across the street, Ariana saw her twin sister Luna in her flower garden, daughter Meredith beside her, playing in the dirt.
Ariana turned to change her clothes, catching her eyes on a picture of herself and Derrick together. They looked so happy, it was sickening. At the moment, she didn’t care where her husband was, and the thought didn’t bother her.
With a grin, Ariana strung a chain through the hole in the Crystal and placed it around her neck. Before leaving the room, she took off her Dream Amulet, placing it where the Crystal had been.
“Won’t be needing that, will I?” Ariana said to herself.
She dressed and hurried downstairs.
“Woah, Mom!” It was one of her sons. Mark, probably. “You look cool!”
“Thank you, Mark.” Ariana supplied absently. “Go next door and tell Kelly to watch you three.”
“Uh, okay. Sure.” Her son gave her a strange look. “Are you okay, Mom?”
Ariana smiled at him. “Of course I am, Mark. Now run along like a good boy.”
With that, he left. She headed across the street, catching her sister in her garden, planting flowers. Meredith was beside her, playing in the dirt.
Now, to catch her off-guard. Ariana let out a low laugh.
Luna heard it, turning to see her sister marching across the street. She had a very strange look in her eyes, almost evil.
Ariana stopped a few feet in front of her twin. “Hey, Lu.”
“Uh, hey Ariana.” Luna could sense something wrong, but kept the thought to herself. She stood up, brushing her hands together to get the dirt off.
“No need to get up.” Ariana smiled. She thrust an arm out, forcing a glowing-wind from her hand. The wind hit Luna in the chest, making her fall back on her flowerbed.
“Hey! What was that for?” Luna demanded.
Meredith stood up, scared, heading across the street in tears.
“Oh well. Better without her.” Ariana remarked with a shrug. “Don’t want to hurt the poor tyke. Now, where was I?”
For the brief moment Ariana paused, Luna caught a glimpse of what was around her neck. The Crystal.
“Oh, yeah.” Ariana said. The evil, menacing look returned to her face, her eyes glowing another color. “I want an explanation, Aluna Star Woods, and I want it now.”
“Explanation? Of what?” Luna stammered.
“I know what you did to me, and I want to know why.” Ariana growled.
“What are you talking about?”
“The Forgetfulness Spell, Aluna!” Ariana shouted, getting in her sister’s face as Luna stood. “You put it in my drink when we were five. I know it.”
Luna gasped. She noticed the Crystal was glowing red, pulsating. “Who told you?” Was all she could manage responding.
“She showed me.” Ariana remarked. “She made me remember my forgotten past. The past you took from me with that spell!”
“Who are you talking about?” Luna asked. “Who showed you? Who made you remember?”
“Gloriana. She made me see first-hand what you did to me.” Ariana explained. “Now, I want to know why.”
It was Luna’s turn to shout. “Why? You want to know why?”
“Is there an echo out here? Of course I want to know why.” She cried. “And I want you to tell me.”
The sisters stared at one another for a while. Ariana’s face held a menacing expression while Luna’s was on the verge of tears, scared for her.
“We had to do it.” Luna responded.
“Why?”
“Because you weren’t ready.” Luna explained. “We weren’t ready.”
“Ready?” Ariana shook her head, trying to understand. “Ready for what?”
“Ready to be who you are now.” Luna said. “If we didn’t do what we did, we wouldn’t be where we are today. Don’t you understand?”
“If you stopped talking in riddles, maybe I would.”
“Think about it, sister.” Luna whispered. “You wouldn’t be here now if we didn’t do it.”
“Get to the point, sister.” Ariana sneered. She pointed a hand at her, freezing her in her spot without saying the word aloud.
“We had to take you to the orphanage to get the ball rolling.” Luna started. “If we hadn’t, you never would have met Aaron and Aimee, fallen for him at such a young age, had Kelina, therefore never had the Enchanted Child. Never being there, you never would have gotten the Dream Locket, known about the Dream Realm, or even met Katherine Hawk.”
The mention of Katherine’s name made Ariana pay attention. “What are you saying?” she whispered, touching her sister to unfreeze her.
“What I’m saying is this.” Luna said. “Basically, no Forgetfulness Spell, no Destiny. No Destiny, no Young Guardian or the Crusaders to Exile the Master. If we hadn’t done that to you, none of the Ancient Mystics, myself included, would be here. We would have all been dead, killed in our sleep by the Master himself, made Dominionite Warriors.”
Ariana stood speechless. Her thoughts ran through her head like lightning. “No Destiny, no Dream Realm.”
“No Dream Realm, no Dreamers.” Luna supplied, agreeing. “Ariana, Lord Guardian would have died in the Wars if it not been for that Spell.”
“But why so young? And why was I sent to the orphanage?” Ariana asked her sister softly. “Why couldn’t I have been the one to go to the System?”
“Because I had a Destiny, too.” Luna said. “I had to learn the hard way, too. I may not have had it as bad as you did, but I still was lonely.”
“You grew up in the perfect place, Lu.” Ariana said. “I was beaten every night for being myself. My very differentness shunned most away from me, scared.”
“No one liked me, either, you know.” Luna said. “I was so little, yet no one wanted to play with me. Shannon had Nick and her friends, our brothers and sisters were back here, living their own lives. How do you think I felt about it all? You weren’t the only one who lost their identity.”
“Did Mom give you the Spell, too?”
“I didn’t have to ingest it.” Luna supplied. “I lost you. Of course, I knew I’d see you again, but not for a long time. I never knew it would be years and years later, after we both grew up.”
Luna hugged her twin. Tears were coming from her eyes. “You don’t know what you mean to me. You’re my other half.”
“It was only when we found each other I began to find myself.” Ariana whispered.
Luna pat her sister’s back, looking at her eyes and wiping her tears. “Go home, Ariana. Tend to your beautiful children. Live knowing who you are at last.”
Something in Ariana’s mind clicked. The tears were gone instantly and her expression turned blank. “Thanks, Lu.”
She walked away, stunning Aluna and confusing her at the same time. There was something in Ariana’s eyes and tone that told her she’d been tricked.

II

For the rest of the day, Ariana acted as if nothing happened. She wore the Crystal around her neck, touching it as she dressed for the night. She wore a strapless red dress that showed her youthful curves. It was something she normally left for dinner parties, but tonight was special.
Tonight was different.
Humming to herself, she made sure she looked perfect before heading out the door.
Again, she headed across the street to her sister’s house. She knew Luna was gone to a coven meeting with Darlene Bennington and their other Pagan friends. The children were all spending the night with their friends, just as Ariana liked it.
That meant Shane Morehouse was home alone.
At the door, she didn’t bother looking around to make sure no one was watching before disappearing into thin air. She reappeared in the Morehouse’s study, where she met Shane himself. He was reading over some of the case files for work.
“All work and no play makes the Shadow a very dull boy.” Ariana crooned seductively. She put her hand, palm up, to her chin before blowing a wind to him. The papers scattered.
“Hey!” He cried, staring at her. “Luna – what?” That’s when he caught both the dress and the necklace. He stood, eyeing both suspiciously. “When did you buy this?”
She spun in front of him. “Like it?”
“Mmmm. I love it.” He grasped her hand and pulled her in for a kiss. When he pulled back, he stared into her eyes. He whispered. “Ariana?”
“Surprise!” Ariana threw her hands up in the air and announced. She put them down again.
“What are you doing here?” Shane asked. He pushed her away when she tried to kiss him again.
“Don’t deny your passionate feelings for me, Shadow.” Ariana said in a low voice.
“You’re like a sister to me.” Shane remarked. “I have no more feelings for you other than that.”
“Well, incest is best you know.” Ariana quipped.
Shane stared at her. “This isn’t like you. This isn’t you.” He remarked. “Go home to your husband, Ariana.”
“Who, Derrick?” Ariana laughed. “That old dud wouldn’t know how to romance his way out of a paper bag. Besides, it’s you I want. Not him.”
“You don’t want me.” Shane supplied.
“Why not? We were made for each other.”
“No.” Shane remarked. “You and Derrick were made for each other. I love Luna, your twin and my wife. Would you hurt her by doing this?”
“Doing what? Revealing my true self to you? Freeze.” Ariana made a move toward him. This time, he didn’t budge. By a simple word, he was frozen. “Admit it, Shadow. You have passionate thoughts about me, don’t you?”
He couldn’t move, because she was right.
“I used to, but not anymore.” Shane told her.
“Care to rekindle what we once had?” Ariana kissed his lips firmly.
He was unfrozen but lost in the kiss.
For a moment, she made him give in to any feelings he used to have for her. Her hands went from his chest to his pants. She squeezed his crotch, making him come to his senses. He pushed her away.
“Stop it, Ariana! I mean it.” Shane cried, backing away.
Ariana laughed. “Stop what? Being me? No, I’m afraid I can’t do that.”
He grabbed her shoulders, shaking her a little. “This isn’t you. The Crystal’s making you do this. Why won’t you listen to me!”
In a blink of an eye, she’d slapped his hands away and pushed him back on the couch. Making sure he couldn’t move, she strode him. “If it isn’t me, then who am I? In fact, who are you? The man who has no family.” Before he could move to sit up, she pinned his arms above his head. “The man whose very identity is a lie.”
“What are you talking about?” Shane asked, struggling to break free.
“I wouldn’t try anything if I were you.” Ariana cornered. Her eyes glowed. “Remember how much power I have.”
“Power is nothing if not fickle.” Shane remarked sarcastically. “Remember who I fought against before you were given your grand title.”
“You have no idea what that title has brought me. You have no clue, Detective Morehouse, just how much hell I’ve been through.”
“Why don’t you enlighten me.” It wasn’t a question. It was a challenge.
“You’ve always known who your parents were, and how they died.” Ariana started. “I myself never have, and it’s all because of your wonderful wife.”
“I know all about what the Ancient Mystics call Destiny.” Shane supplied. “I was there, fighting in the First Crusades, also known as the Second Dream Realm Wars. I know more about you than you think I do.”
Ariana laughed again. “Oh, I doubt that.” She pressed her face close to his. “Do you remember my sixteenth birthday, when Shannon announced that ridiculous project we were going to be on?”
Shane gulped. “What about it?”
“It was supposed to help us heal.” Ariana supplied. “You know, from our pitiful pasts comes a shining new future?” She laughed. “What a hoax.”
“It wasn’t a hoax.” Shane responded. “We did help each other. You even admitted it when the project was over.”
“We helped each other, alright.” She said. “We were tortured, Shadow. Don’t you get it?” He just stared as she continued. “Neither of our partners were there. I never even knew where Luna was, or who she really was, but that doesn’t matter. What does matter is what that did to us. It made us crave each other.”
“We had a short-lived relationship, ending in a friendship.” Shane supplied. “That’s all.”
She stood, stepping away from him. She closed her eyes and changed her clothes using the Changing Task magic. She stood in silence, not opening her eyes.
“Do you know why I called myself the Shadow in the System?” She didn’t bother to look up or even open her eyes. Shane stood and rubbed his wrist. “Because I was a shadow. I saw things no one else even paid attention to. For a long time, I was nobody.”
Ariana finally opened her eyes, looking at him. Neither of them dared to move.
“Yes, I was nobody.” Shane admitted. “Only Dixilynne knew of my potential. That’s why she took me in when my parents died. She gave me a home, food, clothing, schooling, and a chance. She gave me hope when I didn’t have any. She helped me find who I was, and who I wanted to be.”
Ariana still didn’t move, but she took a breath.
“Ariana, I don’t want to ruin our friendship.” Shane supplied softly, moving toward her. He put a hand on her cheek. Her hand move to meet his. She closed her eyes, enjoying his touch.
“We’ve been through hell, both apart and together. Only true friends stick by your side when things get rough.” Shane remarked. “Call me your truest friend.”
He kissed her cheek lightly, backing away from her. Ariana opened her eyes, staring at him.
“Go home to Derrick, Ariana.” He said. “He’s a man that really loves you.”
Ariana nodded, disappearing from in front of his eyes.
When he turned around to his paperwork, it was already off the floor and back on the desk. He wondered just what about the necklace made Ariana act the way she had.
He sighed, returning to the work that was waiting for him on his desk.

III

It was three days before anyone she was around decided to do something about it.
Derrick met her in their bedroom one night as they were getting ready for bed. He shut the door behind him, glaring at her. “What exactly is going on with you?”
Ariana looked at her husband with a smile. “Nothing.”
He showed her the Dream Amulet necklace she’d put on the night stand days before. “Why did you take this off? Why haven’t you patrolled for the past three nights?”
“I’m taking a break, if that’s any of your business.”
“Well, while you’re taking a break, innocent Dreamers are in danger of losing their minds.” Derrick replied.
“That’s ridiculous. They can’t lose their minds by my not visiting them. Honestly.” Ariana remarked. She continued to brush her hair.
“Why has my Protector’s Pendant been giving me visions of you, then?” Derrick remarked.
She turned around. “This has nothing to do with Dreamers, does it? It all comes down to you.”
She stood, putting the brush down before using telekinesis to take the Pendant off from around his neck. “Let’s see what happens when you don’t have this stupid thing. Will you return to normal, or will you be ruthless?”
He couldn’t move as she made it float to her hands. With a smile, she tossed it into the air. In front of their eyes, it disappeared.
“What did you do that for?” Derrick demanded. “You know what that means to me.”
“No, not really.” Ariana said nonchalantly. “Tell me.”
“It’s the link that keeps us together.” Derrick supplied. “Now you’ve made it disappear, not to mention your taking the Amulet off, what do you think is going to happen?”
“I don’t know.” Ariana replied. “Trust me, we’ll think of something.”
Derrick marched up to her. “What’s happening to you? This isn’t the woman I married!”
“Oh really? I’m no longer your Dream Girl who needs your constant companionship in order to survive. Is that it?” Ariana cornered. “Well, this is the real thing, Derrick Reading, so get used to it.”
“This isn’t you.” Derrick remarked. “I know it’s not.”
She tisked. “That’s what Shadow said.”
“When did you talk to him last?” Derrick asked.
“A few days ago. He wouldn’t go for seduction, though.” Ariana said. “What a waste.”
“You tried to seduce him?” Derrick cried. “In Lord Guardian’s name, why?”
She shrugged her shoulders. “Something to do.”
“Something to do? Are you mad?” Derrick interjected. “Forgetting about me? The man you married?”
A force of wind moved from Ariana’s very soul to her body, producing a breeze in the room.
“You’re also a man who bears no trust for his woman.” Ariana said softly. Her glowing eyes stared at him, scaring him.
“I’ve good reason not to trust you these days.” Derrick interjected. “I thought you loved me.”
“I did, until I realized something.” Ariana supplied. “You wanted the perfect Dream Girl you imagined years ago. I’m changing and you’re not liking it.”
“How can I like it if it’s not really you?” Derrick added. “Ariana, please, let me help you with this. Take the Crystal from around your neck and let’s talk.”
“Talk is cheap, Reading.” Ariana supplied. “Actions speak louder than words.”
Derrick moved toward her, but she already knew what he was going to do.
“I wouldn’t touch it if I were you.” Ariana warned. “You could get hurt.”
The door opened then, revealing all four of their children. Kelly held onto Melody in her arms. Melody’s eyes looked like they’d been crying, but there were no actual tears. Mark and Andrew just stared, holding each other’s hands. Kelly was frowning at her mother.
“What’s going on?” Kelly asked.
“Go away, kids. This is between me and your father.”
Kelly put her sister down. The boys immediately took each of her hands in their own. Kelly marched up to her mother.
“Listen to me, Kelina Erin. Go away.”
“Not until I have the Crystal in my hands.” Kelly supplied.
Derrick looked from mother to daughter, watching.
“Give me the crystal, Momma.” Kelly reached her hand out.
Ariana did the same with her daughter as she had a few days ago with Luna. The wind slammed the door shut, forcing Derrick to the ground.
“No!” Kelly put her arms up, forcing her own Magic as a shield.
Ariana fired as much of her wind Magic as she could to her daughter, trying to make her budge, but she didn’t move. The girl’s power was just as strong.
“Give up, Kelly.” Ariana replied. “You’ll only wear yourself out.”
“Same goes for you, Momma.” Kelly remarked. “I don’t think you want either of us to die.”
Derrick gasped. “Die?”
“If we use up our Forces, we die. Our Magic Force is our Life Force.” Kelly told him.
“At least we’ll know where to go.” Ariana said with a laugh.
“You’ll kill us both, Momma! Think about that!”
“Stop this, Ariana! Please!” Derrick cried. He turned to his sons. “Help them. I can’t move.”
“You said we can’t use our Magic, Dad.” Andrew supplied.
“Just do it before they kill us all!”
Mark, Andrew, and Melody looked at each other. They kept their hands clasped, linking their Magic together. The twins reached out their free hands to their mother and sister. Out of their hands came different colored Magics. From Andrew, it was blue, from Mark, it was red. The two different winds linked together in the air like a ribbon of violet. The violet wind headed to their mother’s arms to bind her.
“You don’t know what you’re doing, boys.” Ariana’s voice was different, more masculine and definitely not her own.
“Stop boys.” Kelly suggested. “The Crystal’s taking your Magic winds. It’s only making it stronger, and you weaker.”
“We have to do something, Kelly!” Derrick yelled. “We can’t just give up.”
“I’m not giving up.” Kelly was determined. She turned to her mother and stared. She continued to shield herself with her own Magic wind, but she was getting drowsy. She noticed her mother’s own wind was getting lighter.
This was her chance. If only she could move her arms without giving up her own wind shield. She thought of something. Just a bit of telepathic magic was all she needed. She imagined the wind keeping her safe as she made her move.
“Freeze-Frame!”
The call froze Ariana in her spot. The wind immediately stopped when she screamed the words.
Kelly let down her guard, slowly. Her brothers, sisters and step-father watched from behind her as she cautiously stepped closer to her mother.
“I’m gonna say it again.” Kelly whispered, tired from her Magic. She had to go on. “Give me the Crystal.”
Her mother’s eyes were blank.
“Andy, I need your T.K.” Kelly said softly.
Her brother broke himself from his siblings to clasp her hand. Andrew looked up at her.
Kelly smiled. “Get it from her. Mine is weak.”
Andrew nodded. Using a beckoning motion with his free hand, he used his telekinesis to take the Crystal necklace from around his mother’s neck. Once it made it to them, Kelly grabbed it.
Ariana crumpled to the ground.
“Mommy!” Both boys raced to their mother’s side. Melody joined them.
Kelly collapsed to her knees on the floor, clutching her head with one hand while her other held the necklace. Derrick was unfrozen so he went to help her.
“Are you okay?” He asked.
She nodded, showing him the necklace in her hand. “I got it, Daddy.”
Derrick hugged her fiercely. “Thank the Gods! You guys did great!”
The boys deserted their mother once using telekinesis to get her on the bed. They headed to their father and stepsister, running to Derrick’s open arms.
“Don’t ever let me tell you never to use those beautiful gifts!” Derrick cried as he hugged his twin boys. Melody hugged him, too.
“So tired, Daddy.” Kelly whispered.
He surveyed the scene. “Come on, kid. I’ll help you to bed.”
“No. I want to stay with Momma.”
Derrick let out a small laugh. “I didn’t mean yours.”
Kelly smiled, nodding off as he set her beside her mother.
They looked so beautiful together. He thought, hugging his daughter Melody. The boys were on the end of the bed, sitting with their legs crossed.
“What’s gonna happen now, Dad?” Mark asked him.
“Are they gonna be okay?” Andrew asked.
Derrick just stared, but nodded anyway. Melody’s tap on his shoulder made him blink back to life. He had to do something for her, but how? Neither of them had their necklaces. Ariana was out cold, and so was Kelly. The boys and Melody’s own Healing Magics weren’t strong enough, apart or together. Derrick himself was no healer. He did know who was, and she lived right next door.
“Boys, get your Aunt Aimee.” He announced.
The boys nodded before leaving.
What was wrong with Mommy? Melody’s voice asked in his head.
“She used too much Magic, honey.” Derrick replied, kissing her on the cheek.
Melody must have sensed something wrong with her father. She put her arms around him and squeezed. I love you, Daddy. Mommy will get better, you’ll see.
Derrick looked her in the eyes as he sat down on the rocking chair beside the bed. “I sure hope you’re right, Melody.”
“Oh my stars, what happened in here?” Aimee Schmidt’s voice bellowed. “Derrick, Melody.”
Melody reached her hands to Aimee, who picked her up.
“Are you alright?” Aimee remarked.
Derrick nodded. “Just shaken up. It’s them I’m worried about.”
“Where’s the Crystal?” Asked another voice. It was Aaron.
“I put it away, where no one can find it.” Derrick supplied.
“Good.” Aaron said. He rubbed his hands together. “Now, to heal the girls.”
“Do you really think we can do this, brother?” Aimee asked. “We’re not as powerful as she is.”
“I know that, but it’s worth a shot.” Aaron supplied. He looked at them lovingly. “I don’t want to lose them, do you?”
The family chorused “no.” Melody shook her head, her bright blue eyes big.
Aimee returned Melody to her father.
“Where are her healing supplies?” She asked.
He shrugged. “Didn’t know she had any.”
“Thought it was all Magic, did you?” Aaron asked.
“Never mind, I think I know.” Aimee announced. She went to the closet and felt for loose boards and misplaced panels in the walls and floor. “Got it.”
She carried out a small box with a pentacle on it. Etched on the top in bright letters was Ariana’s title the Bennington’s gave her: the Akasha. It meant, “Goddess of Spirit.” She opened it, taking out various vials of oil.
“Which do you think I should use? Lavender, Jasmine, September Rain, or Winter Snow?”
“I don’t know.” Aaron replied.
“September Rain.” Remarked Andrew in a quiet voice. “I’ll get the oil burner Aunt Claudia gave me for my birthday.”
He raced to his room.
“How would he know? He’s only six.” Derrick asked.
“Ariana knew a lot more when she was six.” Aaron responded. “I trust she taught him.”
“Well, he does have a flair for herb magic.” Aimee nodded. When he came back, he brought with him a ceramic squirrel. The squirrel looked like it was holding a small bowl, under it was just big enough for a small tea candle to fit.
Aimee took the squirrel burner from his hands. “Thank you, Andrew.”
“Welcome.” He said, going back to his brother’s side.
Aimee set the burner on the night stand next to the Amulet. The vial of September Rain oil in her hand, she placed a dropper-full in the small bowl.
“Can I light the candle, Aunt Aimee?” Mark asked.
Aimee grinned. “Sure.”
“With Magic?”
Aimee and Aaron looked at each other. Aaron shrugged. “I don’t see why not.”
Mark smiled, pointing a finger to the candle from a foot away. It lit automatically. He clapped his hands. “I did it!”
“Good job, son.” Derrick grinned. “Now, sit tight and watch.”
Aimee took the Amulet from the table and laid it around Ariana’s neck. “There, nothing missing.”
Aimee and Aaron each dipped their index fingers into the bowl, rubbing the oil on their hands.
“Let’s do some magic.” Aaron breathed. He leaned over Kelly while his sister leaned over Ariana. Their eyes closed, the twins waved hands over both Ariana’s and Kelly’s bodies.
Derrick stared, watching the scene. It still amazed him just how much Magic the non-Ancient Mystic twins knew.
It felt like forever before anything happened.
His eyes began to droop, falling asleep, but he heard a moan. When he opened his eyes, there she was, his Dream Girl-turned-reality. She was holding her head, groaning. Aimee was helping her sit up.
Kelly gasped awake beside her. She opened her eyes to see Aaron there.
“Daddy!” Kelly gave him a huge hug. He hugged her back.
“Well, sister, what happened?” Aimee took a seat on the bed beside her.
“I-I-I don’t know.” Ariana supplied, holding her head. She felt at her throat. “The Amulet. I dreamed I took it off.”
Derrick stood up and went to her. Aimee took the hint and stood, leaving them together.
“That was no dream, Love.” He said softly. He searched her eyes. Surely enough, he could tell she was back to normal. Holding her close, he kissed her passionately.
“Ew! Dad!” The twins echoed. “That’s gross!”
They raced to their mother’s lap.
“Derrick, why don’t you and Aaron get them something to munch on?” Aimee suggested. “I’ll watch over them and the boys.”
He didn’t want to let her go, especially now, but she was right. Ariana and Kelly needed something to boost their energy. They used a lot of Magic against each other. Once he and Aaron were in the kitchen, he asked. “Where did you learn to do that?”
“Ariana taught us.” Aaron supplied, reaching in the cupboards for plates and glasses.
“With Gertrude breathing down your backs?”
“No, thank goodness.” Aaron laughed. “She taught us in the attic, when we could get away from the abuse, that is.”
“Did Mrs. Gertrude ever know about her?” Derrick asked. “Magic-wise?”
“Yeah, and I think it drove her batty.” Aaron said. “How could you not know something was up when the bruises from a beating were erased the next day?”
The guys headed back upstairs after fixing a couple of sandwiches and glasses of juice.
“So, what could she tell you?” Aaron asked his sister, watching she and Ariana smiling together.
“Everything, and boy, was it wild.” Aimee said.
“You’re okay now, right?” Derrick asked, sitting down next to her.
Ariana nodded. “I will be. Tell me, where did you put the Crystal?”
He shook his head. “No way. I’m not telling you. I don’t want that to happen again.”
“It’s not, don’t worry.”
“What are you going to do with it?”
Ariana took a deep breath. “Take it back to the Gatekeeper.”
“In the Abyss?”
“That’s the only place the Gatekeeper is.” Ariana supplied sarcastically to Aaron.
“What about your fear of it?” Aimee asked.
“I’m not afraid of it, I’m just uncomfortable there.” She said. “That’s why I’m glad it takes a second to find a Dreamer’s world.”
“I think we should go now.” Aimee replied. “Kids, you don’t mind spending the night, do you?”
The boys and Melody shook their heads.
“Can we watch movies?” Mark asked.
“Yes sir!”
“Can we pop popcorn?” Andrew asked.
“Anything you guys want!” Aimee laughed.
Ariana, Aaron and Derrick laughed.
“You can keep them.” Ariana joked.
“No thanks, I’ve got my own.” Aimee replied. She was being pulled away by the boys. “Okay, you two, let’s go!”
Melody clapped her hands, silently laughing.
Aaron kissed Ariana’s cheek. “Catch you later, Ari.”
“Later, Airhead.”
Aaron shook his head, blushing as he left.
Kelly was sitting up, smiling at them. “I’m so glad you’re back to normal, Momma.”
She gave her mother a kiss and hug. “Can you help me to my bedroom, Daddy Derrick?”
“Go ahead.” Ariana replied, shooing him. “I promise not to move an inch until you get back.”
“In that case...” Derrick smiled, kissing her again. “I shall return.”
When Kelly was in her bedroom, she hugged him.
“Hey, what was that for, kid-o?” Derrick laughed.
“That was a thank you.” Kelly supplied. “Thank you for being my stepfather, thank you for loving my Momma, and thank you for being yourself.”
“Well, you’re welcome, I guess.” He replied. “You did good back there, you know that?”
“I didn’t get your Pendant back.” Kelly said. “Sorry.”
“That’s okay. I’ll have her bring it back for me.” Derrick kissed her forehead. “Finish whatever homework you have left tonight.”
“Okay.”
“Okay?” Derrick asked. “Is that it? No arguments?”
“I figure you’d had enough negativity for one weekend.” Kelly smiled. She hugged him again. “I love you, Daddy Derrick.”
He grinned. “I love you, too, sweetheart.”
He left her room, going back to his own across the hall. When he opened the door, he saw her waiting for him on their bed. “Now, where were we?”
He went to his wife and took her into his arms, kissing her on the lips.
Nothing more was going to take her away from him again.
Story#1:
The Haunted

Orthos, once the Master of the Dominion and thousands of his followers, wasn’t at all happy.
He stared into his Dark Cauldron, the image making him frown. He called upon the Djinn god, Omri.
“What other pleasures do you wish, Master?” Omri grinned, bowing to him.
“What is this?” Orthos cried, gesturing to the Cauldron’s image.
“Interesting.” Omri supplied, nonchalant. His grin remained.
“How can nothing be interesting?” Orthos cried. “What do you think you are, disobeying me?”
“You were granted your wish, Master.” Omri replied. “My subjects are doing what I tell them.”
“So, you tell your subjects to do nothing, is that it?”
“Calm down, Orthos.” Omri laughed. “Have you ever heard of the Outer Realm saying, ‘the best things come to those who wait’?”
Curious, Orthos narrowed his brows. “Go on,” he growled.
“Your way of dealing with the Ancient Mystics and your brother has failed you more than once.” Omri pointed out. “Now, it is for me to turn a few tricks.”
“Stop talking in riddles, Djinn!” Orthos roared, changing his image to that of a dragon.
Omri stayed calm, as always. “Fine. To the point, you want it? Not a problem.” He faced Orthos’ figure until the Master returned to his human male form. “Your way is to mess with the powers. The way of the Djinn is to mess with the mind, the very source of control over those powers.” Orthos was silenced, and could only stare with yellow eyes. “Is that not why you called upon Us?”
“Whatever you plan on doing, do it.” Orthos remarked. “I grow tired and impatient.”
Omri chuckled under his breath, shaking his head. “Time is of the essence.”
“What do the Djinn know or care of time?” Orthos demanded sarcastically.
“Trust in the Djinn.” Omri whispered. “The best is yet to come.”
This time, Orthos grinned.

II

Derrick Reading sat at the desk in the office he and his partner Shane Morehouse shared. He looked at the clock, noting how late he’d stayed, working on a very important case. Shane had gone home hours ago.
His eyes began to blur so he took off his glasses, setting them on the desk in front of him. He rubbed the bridge of his nose to relieve the pain. When that didn’t work, he shook his head. He was tired, but had to go on. They were this close to cracking the case wide open. This close to catching the big boss of the city’s biggest crime organization.
He sighed, replacing his glasses. As he continued to work, a breeze blew through the window. Papers flew to the floor from atop his desk. Before picking them up, he went to the window to close it.
It was already shut.
That’s strange, he thought to himself. Where did the chilling breeze come from?
His trained eyes searched the office. Vents are closed, he noted. Door’s the same. When his eyes hit his desk, he was curious. Papers were neatly stacked on the desk, just as he’d left them.
“What the hell is going on?” He whispered to himself.
He sensed something wrong. A feeling of dread washed over him, rattling his bones. It was worse than anything he’d ever experienced before, and he was a Dream Realm Crusader. He’d seen practically everything in his short twenty-seven years.
Until now.
Now, he stood in the darkened room. The light on his desk burned out.
“Okay, jig’s up.” He called out into the air. “Whoever you are, come on out.”
Silence. Derrick could hear nothing but the soft ticking of the Life-Line watch around his wrist.
“I know this place is a walking joke to some of you, but I don’t find this funny at all.”
Nothing.
His eyes closed, chest tightened, heart and head both pounded as he could feel the darkness creeping up on him. Something wanted to take over his body and mind. Something wanted him dead.
He felt for his Protector’s Pendant, slowing the spinning view of the room by sitting down. It glowed red-hot, an amber light shone from the jewel.
Unable to fight whatever or whoever it was in his mind, he closed himself off, sending a secret message to his wife. He only hoped she’d know what to do.

III

When Damian was excused by his father, he headed to his quarters. He was met by the former Dominionite sisters, Albrath and Shenara. They were waiting for him by his door.
“Why did you not take us home with you?” Shenara asked, facing him.
“I did. You two were too cowardly to show up.” Damian responded.
“Not true. We never made it there.” Albrath responded. “You did not include us, step-brother.”
Damian shrugged, pushing past them into his room. “Then let me send you my deepest apologies, step-sister.” He turned, finding the sisters had followed him inside.
“Liar.” Albrath muttered under her breath as he bowed sarcastically.
Damian stood face-to-face with her. “What was that remark, Dominionite?”
Albrath met his eyes. He meant business. “Nothing, my Lord Merchant.”
Damian looked to Shenara without moving.
“She called you a liar, Damian.” Shenara said softly.
“Traitor.” Albrath sneered at her sister.
“She is no traitor, Albrath, and I am no liar.” Damian supplied. “I called the spell, taking us to the Canine Wood. When I arrived, I assumed you were staying out of sight. I called your names, but you did not show. Therefore, something must have happened between here and there. Correct?”
Albrath relaxed. “I suppose.”
“Is there a way of finding out for sure?” Shenara asked, caressing him.
“Not now, Shenara.” He barked. She stepped back, pouting. “If we had the Crystal, we could find out what happened. As it is, we lost it to Young Guardian.”
Shenara shivered. “That name gives me the chills.”
“Wait. Who’s we?” Albrath supplied.
“Sabrina and myself. Young Guardian and her four sisters, not to mention my cousin Katherine, met us in the Abyss.” Damian explained. “They called some spell when they took it away from me, making it, and us, disappear. Father tells me Sabrina never made it here.”
“How awful!” Shenara said. “We must get the Crystal back.”
“She is your cousin, Damian. What are you going to do about her?”
Shenara nodded after her sister.
Damian only smiled. “Only time will tell.”
Story #2:
A Mind Possessed

Two weeks after she and her sisters fought Sabrina and Damian in the Abyss, Ariana was pleasantly enjoying her quiet evening at home. The kids were in bed, sleeping, everything was shut down for the night, and the house was silent. The only noises she heard while finishing her homework for night school was from the grandfather clock at the top of the stairs. It chimed ten o’clock, usually the time she and her husband would recount their days in bed as they fell asleep.
This time, it was different. The small light at the Study desk showed her reflection in the open window. That’s where she saw her Dream Amulet pulsating. She closed her eyes, thinking of Derrick. A demonic face entered her mind, its yellow eyes glowing. A loud cackle came out of the demon’s mouth, scaring her. It gave her a vision of Derrick, pleading on his knees for the madness to stop.
“Derrick.” Ariana whispered, standing up. “Hold on, my Love. I’m coming.”
“I want to go with you.” She heard her older daughter’s voice speak up from behind her. When she turned around, she saw Kelly in her night-shirt, rubbing her tear-stained eyes. “I couldn’t sleep. I was worried about Daddy Derrick.”
“Honey, I need you here.” Ariana told her, hugging the girl. “I know you need to be sure Derrick’s okay before you go back to bed, but I need you to watch over your brothers and sister while I’m gone.”
“Momma,” Kelly whined.
“Please?” Ariana begged. “I’ll let you know as soon as I can, okay?”
Kelly nodded, kissing her mother’s cheek before heading to the living room. “Okay. Will you tell him I love him?”
Ariana smiled, grabbing her purse and keys. “It’ll be the first thing I say.”
She left the house, deep in thoughts. Where would he be at this hour? Could he possibly still be at the station, working? Only one way to find out.
When she opened the door to the Hill View Police station, a powerful brush of empathy almost took over her. She could feel someone in deep emotional pain, fighting for their sanity.
The officer at the desk called her out of her reverie.
“May I help you, Miss?”
Ariana shook her head, clearing her mind. “Yes. Yes, you can, in fact.” She said. “I’m looking for my husband, Derrick Reading. Is he here by any chance?”
“He’s in his office.” The officer replied. “Let me show you.”
Before either of them could move, they heard him calling her name. “Ariana.”
It sounded urgent, desperate.
She looked into her husband’s eyes and gasped. The Protector’s Pendant was glowing through his shirt, his eyes bloodshot. Fearful, she ran to him. “Derrick!”
She caught him as he fell into her arms. “Help me, Love.” He whispered, desperate. “There’s something inside me. I can’t get it out.”
“It’s okay. I’m here.” Ariana remarked, kissing his lips.
She got a vision of the demon again. It wanted him, badly. It was playing with his mind.
Just then, Derrick’s eyes turned yellow. Whatever it was smiled through him. Suddenly, Derrick wasn’t himself. The demon had finally taken him over.
He reached for Derrick’s gun, pointing it at her. She stepped back, frightened.
The officer pulled his out, pointing it at Derrick, or what he thought was Derrick. “Put the gun down, Detective.”
The demon turned his head to the officer and laughed. Sweeping an arm in front of him, a blast of wind caught, blowing him clear across the room. The gun the officer was holding dropped to the ground, firing. Ariana ducked at the sound before turning back to her demon-stolen husband.
“I know you’re in there, Derrick.” She replied. “You can fight it.”
The demon kept Derrick’s gun aimed at her. “He cannot fight me.”
“Maybe he can’t, but I can.” Ariana gathered as much courage she could muster. She flicked her wrists in his direction. “Freeze!”
The short spell froze him from the neck down. The gun dropped to the ground but didn’t fire.
Ariana was glad.
“You cannot defeat me!”
“I don’t want to.” Ariana replied, feeling the anger in her system bubbling. “I just want to make you disappear.”
The demon inside Derrick’s body laughed. “I dare you!”
Ariana smiled. “Gladly.” She crossed her arms, closed her eyes and concentrated.
What kind of spell would make a demon leave a body? She thought to herself. An exorcism! Of course!
Time to put her advanced powers to the test. She felt for her Ancient Mystic Force, deep within her soul. She grasped the Dark Magic, the anger making it glow. In her mind, she meshed both the Ancient Mystic Force and the Dark Magic together, creating a powerful combination. Not even she knew what would happen next. All she knew is that she wanted her husband back, whole and sane again. The only way was to exorcize the demon from his body.
Softly under her breath, she chanted a short spell.
“Dominicus, Exordium Bane!”
With each repetition, her voice grew louder and louder. She held her arms out, directing the Magic through her hands to her husband’s body. “Dominicus Exordium Bane!” She screamed, the Magic throwing the demon from Derrick.
She could hear it shrill as it left him. Derrick’s eyes rolled to the back of his head, making him fall to the floor. She rushed to him, power-drained but worried. She knelt next to him as she began to lose consciousness.
“Ariana! Are you alright?” Shane’s worried voice called to her, rushing to her side.
She wouldn’t answer the call as her vision turned black.

Shane Morehouse searched the area with his niece Kelly at his side. Officer Chalmers, who had security duty, was waking from his faint. Ariana lay across Derrick’s chest, both of them unconscious. He couldn’t do anything for them so he went to Chalmers instead. Kelly raced her mother’s body.
“Hey, Chalmers, what happened in here?” Shane asked, helping the older man up.
Chalmers moaned, shaking his head. “I don’t know.”
The men stood.
“It look like a tornado hit.”
Chalmers managed a low chuckle. “Maybe it did?”
“Do you remember anything? Anything at all?”
“Some.” Chalmers told him. “She came in here, looking for Derrick. He came from around the corner, embracing her.”
“Yeah. Go on.” Shane had to know what happened. The entire station reeked of Magic.
Chalmers was silent as Shane led him to a chair, handing him a glass of water.
“It’s strange, man.” Chalmers mumbled. “One moment, I was at my post, the next, I was across the room.”
Definitely some kind of Magic. Shane thought. “Call an ambulance for those two.” He directed. “I’ll investigate the area.”
“Sure thing, Detective.” Chalmers picked up the phone and dialed.
Shane walked around, picking up pieces of trash. There was Magic here, he could smell it. He grabbed his Dream Locket from around his neck, looking at the scene through fresh eyes. Something had been here, he thought, and it hadn’t been pretty. Derrick’s body was glowing yellow, and Ariana’s was a Ancient Mystic’s silver.
“Whoa, silver?” Shane muttered under his breath.
Kelly turned her head, questioning him with her eyes. “Uncle Shane? What is it?”
“Magic, Kelly.” Shane whispered. “Strange-colored Magic.”
She turned back to her parents, eyes closed. He knew she was trying to use her Healer’s Power to wake them. It didn’t work.
“Stop.” He suggested. “Don’t wear yourself out.”
He turned his thoughts back to the colored-Magic. The last time he’d seen silver-colored Magic was back in the Wars for Power during the first Crusades. Dixilynne Ryan, the System’s boss then, used it against the Master, Orthos. She claimed it was the darker side of her Magic working in her favor.
Would Ariana know to use it? If so, what prompted her to do so?
“Detective Morehouse?”
Shane turned to see a fellow cop, Officer Dan Barkly standing beside him. “Sorry, Barkly. Was kind of in a daze.”
Barkly laughed. “Yeah, I could see that. What do you make of the area?”
“I don’t know what to think.” Shane remarked. “Has the ambulance arrived, yet?”
“Yep. It’s taking them away now.”
“Where to?”
“Philbrooke, I think.” Barkly answered.
Shane rushed past him without another word, Kelly at his heals.

They rushed through the Emergency Room doors.
“What’s gonna happen to them, Uncle Shane?” Kelly asked him. “Are they gonna be okay?”
He sighed, plopping himself down on a chair in the waiting room. “I sure hope so.”
Kelly sat beside him. “So do I.”
Shane’s head pounded as he put his hands on his temples. They sat for ten minutes before hearing their names being called. He looked up to see his sister-in-law Anna.
“Shane, I’m glad you’re here.” Anna remarked out of breath. She’d run to greet him.
“What happened to them?” Shane asked her. “Why did we find them unconscious when we got there?”
“Calm down, please.” Anna instructed.
“Is Momma okay?” Kelly asked. “How’s Derrick?”
“Everything’s okay, honest.” Anna announced. “Derrick’s sleeping and Ariana’s at his bedside. Once she woke up, she complained of weariness so I fed her. Derrick, on the other hand, hasn’t woken up yet.” She turned to Kelly. “She knows you’re here, and told me to take you home.”
“I wanna see them first.” Kelly announced, determined.
“Can we, Anna?” Shane asked, hopeful.
Anna looked at the two of them and sighed. “Follow me.”
Story #3:
The Silver Magic

Claudia Woods was glad everything was back to normal. The Maiden was gone, so there was nothing else to fear about her wildly growing Healer’s Magic. She had finished moving into Craig’s house after saying a heartfelt goodbye to her twin Christopher and younger brother Antony. Her life was falling into a wonderful routine.
Only one thing bothered her, and Craig was the reason. Since asking her to move in with him, he’d been acting peculiar, even distracted. At first, he was glad she was there, but now, he barely even noticed she was alive.
One night, a week after her encounter in the Abyss, Claudia decided she’d had enough. Craig hadn’t paid much attention to her since the boys’ fight at the bar. She was getting to the bottom of this, whether he liked it or not.
“You’ve got some explaining to do, Craig Black.” She remarked as the couple dressed for bed.
Craig stopped what he was doing to stare at her. “What are you talking about?”
“What’s up with you lately?”
“Nothing. Why?”
Claudia narrowed her brows. “Don’t lie. Tell me the truth.”
He stared at her for a moment before sighing. He turned his head away from her, sitting on his side of the bed. “I don’t think Derrick likes me anymore.”
“Nonsense.” Claudia remarked. “Why would you think a silly thing like that?”
“It’s not silly. It’s true.” He supplied, depressed. “Derrick doesn’t need me anymore. He’s got Shane now.”
“Stop thinking like that.” Claudia ordered. “Just because they happen to be brothers-in-law and partners doesn’t mean Derrick doesn’t need you anymore.”
“You haven’t seen him lately.” Craig admonished, facing her. “We used to be like brothers in the Academy. When he ran away years ago, I was the first one to notice his absence. He’s been different since he came back, and Shane’s to blame.”
“So he was the one to take Derrick out of a wretched family life? So what? That was years ago, Craig, and you know it.” Claudia remarked.
“They’ve been best friends ever since.”
“Not true.” She supplied, explaining. “Ariana told me those two barely spoke a word to each other before the twins met. It was only when they became the twins’ Earthly Protectors did they become friendly with one another. Before Derrick ran away from home, he had you.”
“Well, he doesn’t need me anymore.” Craig repeated.
Claudia took her pillow and threw it at him. “That’s it! I’ve had it!”
Craig could do nothing but stare, stepping back. “Claud?”
“I’m putting an end to this pity party of yours here and now!”
Before either of them could do or say anything else, the phone rang. Craig answered while Claudia listened in.
“Hello, Richardsons.” His eyes bulged as he took in what the caller was telling him. “Sure, Anna. We’ll be right there.”
He hung up, staring at the phone for a moment.
“Craig? What is it?” Claudia went to his side when he didn’t answer right away. “What did she want?”
He finally looked at her. “It’s Derrick. He’s at Philbrooke.”
Claudia gasped. “What happened?”
Craig shook his head. “They don’t know. Ariana’s there, too.” He was silent, sitting on the bed in disbelief. “He needs me.”
“What are we waiting for? Let’s go!”
It only took the couple a few minutes to reach the hospital’s emergency room. Waiting for them were Anna, Shane, and Kelly. When they reached the trio, Shane explained what he found at the station.
“Intense.” Craig said, sharing a look with Claudia.
“You say she used silver Magic?” Claudia answered.
Shane nodded, “Only I don’t know why, or what for.”
“Let’s find out, shall we?” Claudia replied.
“Not so fast.” Anna stopped them. “Not everyone can go in at once. I’ll take Claudia and Kelly while you boys wait here.”
The boys, Shane and Craig, looked at each other. “Right.”
“Sure. Whatever.” Craig mumbled.
“Come on, Claudia. Time to do for Derrick what you did for Mr. Norton.” Anna remarked seriously.
Gulping, Claudia nodded. She kissed Craig on the cheek before leaving him.
Craig, on the other hand, slumped in a chair. He watched as Shane paced the floor in front of him, eyes lined in thought and one hand fingering a necklet lined on his throat. After a few minutes, Craig was dizzy just watching him.
“What’s on your mind, Morehouse?”
Shane stopped pacing to face him. “I was thinking about that silver Magic.”
“What about it?”
“I’ve only seen it used once before, by Dixilynne Ryan.”
“Wasn’t Dixilynne Mrs. Woods’s mother?”
Shane nodded, finally sitting down. “How much do you know about the Dream Realm?”
Craig shrugged. “Not much, except the little Claudia told me.”
“Some time ago, years before Ariana was named Dream Realm’s Young Guardian was the Wars for Power.” Shane explained softly, making sure no one could overhear him. “In that senseless war, hundreds of animals we call Companions died fighting the Dominionite Master.”
“Let me guess, Sabrina’s father Orthos?”
“You’re catching on.” Shane joked. “Anyway, Dixilynne was the owner and Chief of Detectives at the newly-built place called the System. She got the First-generation Crusaders, myself being one of them, together to help fight the Master. I was wounded badly by a shot of Dominionite Magic during the battle. Something came over me, and to this day I don’t know what it was. Whatever it was had me fearing of losing my mind. That same something reminded me of my parents, who died earlier that year in a car accident, leaving me orphaned.”
“Orphaned?” Craig asked. “What does that have to do with Dixilynne Ryan and the silver Magic?”
“A lot. You see, it was Dixilynne who rescued me from a foster home. She was also the one to use that kind of Magic against a demon enemy in the Dream Realm Wars.” Shane explained. “Get it?”
“Yeah, I guess.” Craig said.
Shane stood, only to begin pacing again. While Shane paced, Craig was deep in thoughts.
I never knew Shane was an orphan. He thought to himself. Maybe that’s why he and Derrick got along so well? In Derrick’s case, he only felt like one.
Derrick ran away from home years ago, meeting a strange young man who would soon become his best friend. Shane took Derrick away to the System in California to learn his craft of detecting.
Shane was also the one to bring Derrick back home, where he belonged.
Craig stared at Shane, looking at him in a whole new light. The only thing they had in common besides the knowledge of the Ancient Mystics and the Dream Realm was Derrick. It had been Derrick that introduced them at his wedding in Hill View. When the guys received promotions to Detective, they took their closest friends (and brothers) to the bar to celebrate. That’s when the Dark Magic began to haunt them, turning the boys against each other.
“Hey Shane.” Craig spoke up.
Shane turned.
“I want to apologize for what I did to you at the bar.”
Shane smiled. “Don’t sweat it, Craig. I’ve already forgotten it.” He sat next to Craig. “If it hadn’t been for you, Derrick and I never would have met in the first place.”
That was a new one on him. “What do you mean, me?”
“He told me a lot about his last months at the Academy, how everybody would shun away from him.” Shane replied. “Everybody that is, but you. You stood beside him when no one else would. You were the one to convince him to get out of Hill View.”
“Once he got out, he forgot about me, didn’t he?” Craig asked.
“He wanted to forget everything about Hill View and his family.” Shane replied. “Craig, I don’t know what’s going on in that mind of yours, but you are his first best friend. You know it. It’s not easy competing with you, you know.”
“You? Competing with me?” Craig had to laugh. “Tell me you’re joking.”
Shane shook his head. He noticed something moving in the corner of his eye. He looked up to see Anna and Kelly leading a very tired Claudia Woods out to them.
“What happened to her?” Craig rushed up to ask. He took his girlfriend out of their grasps.
“Fainted.” Kelly said.
“She was trying to heal Derrick’s mind, but was knocked out of it.” Anna said. “Get her home and to bed.”
“What about Ariana?” Shane asked. “How is she?”
“Fine, thank goodness.” Anna replied. “Listen, Craig, take Kelly home for me, okay?”
“Why can’t I stay here?” Kelly admonished.
“There’s nothing more for you to do, kid, so go home and heal up.” Anna told her.
“Come on, Kelly. We’ll see what Cara’s up to. How does that sound?” Craig asked.
Kelly brightened. He knew the mere mention of his sister would make her smile.
Anna and Shane shared a look, with Anna nodding. Craig thought he should leave them alone. Whatever happened to Derrick and Ariana had to be extremely serious. He only hoped his best friend and his wife would be okay.
Part Three:
Fight to the Finish

Prologue:
The Djinn’s Curse

Ariana Reading sat at the bedside of her husband, stroking his still cheek. “Darling, please. Come back to us. Your family needs you.” She kissed his soft lips, the tear from her eyes dripping to his face. “I need you.”
She leaned to hug her arms around his body, listening to his heartbeat. She softly cried, not hearing when someone came in the room.
“Ariana. . .” A voice echoed her thoughts, her ears catching it.
She dared to look up and see who spoke. It was Shane. She stood and raced to his arms.
“Shh. It’s okay, I promise.” Shane whispered in her ear, kissing her forehead. “I’m here for you, sister.”
“There’s nothing more you can do for him.” Anna remarked, placing a hand on her sister’s back.
“What about?” Ariana began.
“Let the doctors take care of him, now, okay?” Anna asked. “Shane’s going to take you home. I want you to rest, you hear me? You’ve gone through a lot, body, mind, and Magic. I suggest you spend the night with Lu and Shane.”
“What?”
“If you’re worried for the kids, they’re with Aimee.” Shane remarked, pulling her back to meet his eyes. “Safe.”
Ariana managed a small smile. “Safe.” She turned to Anna. “Thanks, Anna.”
“No problem. We’ll let you know when he wakes up, okay?”
Ariana sniffed, nodding. Shane led her to his car, opening the door for her.
After a few minutes of driving, with Shane’s mind deep in memories of the Wars for Power, he spoke up. “What really happened at the station today?”
“A demon wanted to take over his body.” She explained, playing with her rings. “I overdid myself when I Exiled him.”
“That wasn’t the Magic for Exiling, Ariana.” Shane decided to confess.
“Of course it was. I just thought of a different way of using it.” Ariana supplied, sleepy. She slid closer to him, laying her head on an arm.
Shane’s heart jumped. He debated wrapping an arm around her shoulders. “I’ve seen that kind of Magic before, and not from Luna, either.” She didn’t respond, so he continued. “It’s called the Ancient Mystic Force. I’ve only seen it used by Dixilynne Ryan, your grandmother. She used it against a demonic enemy, saving me from insanity.”
“Really?” Ariana’s soft voice whispered. “Interesting.”
“More than interesting.” Shane continued. “She was weak for a month after the Wars for Power.”
“Wish I’d been there to help.” She replied softly. “Maybe we wouldn’t have had to go through the Crusades.”
“Maybe. Maybe not.” Shane replied. “What’s in the past can’t be changed, no matter how much Magic you possess.”
“Mm-hm.” Ariana said, snuggling closer to him.
With a smile on his face, Shane decided to take the long way home.
His mind began to whirl, this time of his lost family. Telling Craig the tale had brought back so many memories, not to mention the hard lesson he’d learned about his parents’ deaths. His heart went out to his sister-in-law. He felt a deep concern and love for Ariana, for he cared for her as much as he did his own wife.
The Crusades not only bound the five of them as friends and comrades, but family. Derrick has always felt like a brother, from the day he was brought to the System. He grew up with Luna, with his feelings growing with them. Aaron was a mystery, having the heart of a brave fighter. As for Ariana, it was different. Shane always knew she was something special.
Shannon and Luna had told him she was the Elder Guardian’s successor, the Earthbound Young Guardian. Once hearing the story of her orphanage family life, he began to respect her. Despite an angry mistress using her as a daily punching bag, Ariana used Empathy and her other growing Magics to become strong. He admired that about her.
He rubbed her shoulders, giving her a quick kiss on the head as he rode up the driveway of his house. She’d fallen asleep so he carried her inside the house, where Luna was waiting at the door. He lay her on the couch, placing an afghan over her before turning to his wife.
“Is she going to be okay?” Luna whispered.
Shane took her to their bedroom before speaking. He told her everything that happened, except his thoughts about his lost family.
“What about the kids?” Luna asked. “Kelly goes to school with Bradley earlier than the younger ones do. Who’s going to take care of them while Derrick’s in the hospital and Ariana’s like this? What of my sister? Is she going to be well enough to take care of her children?”
Shane laughed, hugging and kissing her.
Luna pulled away. “Just what is so funny, Shane Michael?”
He pointed to her chest. “You, my love, are a born worry-wart.” He kissed her again. “Besides, Kelly and Bradley will help out, you know that. They can practically take care of themselves, now.”
Luna sighed. “I guess you’re right.”
Shane shrugged, smiling. “Aren’t I always?”
Luna caught his smile and laughed. “I don’t know about you. I’m going to check on my sister. Why don’t you say goodnight to your children?”
Shane nodded, “Gladly.”
It was late, and thankfully, all three of their children were in bed, fast asleep. He stopped in Meredith’s room, sitting on her bed and thinking back to when she was born. Luna had been so proud, and so had he. He had a daughter.
He kissed the top of his daughter’s head, quietly shutting the door behind him as he left the room. He went back to their bedroom to find Luna sitting up. She immediately saw the depressed look on his face.
“What’s wrong, darling?” She asked as he sat beside her on the bed.
He shook his head. “Nothing. How’s Ariana?”
“She went home.” Luna told him. “I told her I’d be there in the morning to help get the kids off to school.”
Shane nodded, searching his wife’s silver-blue eyes. He stroked her cheek, kissing her lips tenderly. When they parted, Luna smiled, holding his waist.
“Wow. What was that for?”
“I love you, Aluna Star.” He whispered, kissing her more passionately.

II

By the time she went home, Annabelle Woods was exhausted. She thought back to the night’s events on the drive home. She’d wanted to use her Healer’s Magic on her brother-in-law but was wary. She knew someone would be either listening in or watching her every move. She had to be careful. Already, too many times she’d been seen using her power.
From the very beginning of her nurse’s training, she’s slipped in a little of her Healer’s Magic to help her learn. Her classmates had all but shunned away from her after seeing her in action. By the time she’d graduated, earning her nursing degree, she’d had more than a few enemies. They thought she, being a mighty Ancient Mystic, used her powers to get her through school, when in truth, she’d hardly used them at all. Sure, she’d had help from her siblings, mother and aunt Sharon, but she never used them unless they were dually necessary.
The road blurred ahead of her so she shook her head to clear her vision. Up ahead was a train passing the road, the block-lights flashing for drivers to stop. She was the only one on the road so late at night. Watching the train pass her, the infinite pattern of the twinkling lights put her in a daze.
Her fiancé Jake’s face came into her mind, flashing an alarming vision.

Jake was lost in a world he didn’t know. He called for the first person on his mind. “Anna!”
He searched around, the night sky growing darker, unfamiliar surroundings making him shiver. Anna didn’t answer him, so he began to walk. Each step was harder than the last, the mud thick under his feet. The howling wind blew, making him lose his balance. He grasped the nearest tree and held on for dear life. He somehow knew he was in the Dream Realm, but this was no part of it he’d ever been to before. He called her again. “Anna?”
“I’m here, Jake.” Anna tried to send to him telepathically, but he didn’t hear her.
The wind stopped just as suddenly as it had begun. Every sound he’d heard was silenced, and that made him stop in his tracks.
A light the color of fire nearly blinded him. The light flashed in front of him. It recoiled inside itself as he watched, scared. Whatever it was in front of him had him scared witless.
What was that thing? Anna asked in her mind to him. Again, he didn’t answer.
“Surrender yourself to us, Earthbound.” A shrill voice echoed.
Jake was too scared to answer. He stood, staring at the pulsing light-thing.
“The Ancient Mystic girl uses her powers against you. . .” The voice continued. The light turned itself into an image of a woman. She – it – smiled at him. “No wonder you are so jealous of your own flesh and blood.”
Jake could do nothing but blink. Anna, deep in the vision in her mind, could feel the amount of evil power emanating from the light-thing.
Snap out of it, Jake! She’s a demon!
“Leave him to me, Ancient Mystic brat!” The light-thing shrilled in the air.
Jake slowly came to his senses. “Anna? She’s here?”
“Of course, Earthbound.” The demon light-thing told him. “The madness is getting to you. I can tell.”
What was that thing talking about?
“I’m not mad.” Jake announced.
“How do you explain your visions, boy?”
Jake stepped back, startled whatever it was knew.
Visions? He never told me had visions? Anna asked herself in her mind. How?
“How can he not have visions with you around, Ancient Mystic?” The light-thing echoed with a laugh.
“Anna.” Jake whispered. “Leave her alone! Take me instead!”
The thing turned back to him with a red glow to its yellow eyes. “Certainly.”
Anna feared for him, screaming in her mind. “NO!”
A shrieking laugh filled the air as the thing moved to kiss him. Neither could do anything but watch, fearful. As it kissed him, Anna could see it fill his very body, mind and soul.
The last thing she saw before shaking out of the vision was that light-demon-thing smiling at her through her boyfriend’s eyes.

Honking of a horn startled her out of her vision. The train was gone and people behind her wanted to move. They shouted obscenities as they passed her. Putting the car back into gear, she headed home.
The vision had her stumped. A feeling of terror itched her Empathy, making her fearful of Jake’s state. Was he okay? She hadn’t seen him at their apartment in nearly a week. He’d claimed he had plenty of work to do, planning for the wedding and taking over the family business. She worried for him, for he hadn’t even answered her silent call when she had the nightmare weeks ago. He was nowhere to be found.
Anna sighed when she arrived. She parked the car and locked it before heading inside. The image of the light-demon thing entered her premonition. Right away, she knew Jake was in trouble.
“Jake.” Anna whispered, racing to the apartment and unlocking the door. She called to him when she opened it. “Jake!”
She could hear whimpering coming from their bedroom. “Jacob!”
Her Empathy kicked in, warning her of danger. She tried to close herself off but it didn’t work. Her love for Jake didn’t allow it.
She found him curled up in a ball in the corner of the room. “Jake, honey, what’s wrong?”
His hands clamped his head. He rocked back and forth, his entire body shaking. She could feel him in pain, his mind confused.
Anna did the only thing she could think of to do – she stooped to the floor beside him and held him.
“Anne. . . I’m scared.” Jake whispered, holding on to her tightly.
She pet his hair, kissing his lips to make him see her. “It’s okay now. I’m here.”
“What was that thing?” He whispered.
“That was a demon called a Djinn. No one, not even the Gatekeeper in the Abyss knows where they come from.”
Jake looked her in the eye. “Am I mad now?”
“Oh, honey, no. You’re not mad.” Anna assured him, holding him. He was still shaking in her arms. “You couldn’t control it, no matter what you tried to do. That doesn’t make you mad.”
Once he calmed down, she helped him to his feet. She could feel the love he had for her, along with the delight of her presence. He took her in his arms and kissed her. “Thank you, my dove. You saved me.”
Anna grinned, making him smile. “I love you, Jake. I will always be there for you, no matter what happens.”
“Good to hear that.” Jake replied, kissing her again.

III

When she arrived home late that night, Ariana Reading was sure to be quiet. She didn’t want to wake the children. The flickering of a television from the livingroom caught her eye. She saw Bradley and Kelly, fast asleep on the couch and smiled to herself. They looked so comfortable, curled up together. Bradley’s arm was around Kelly’s waist.
One of these days, those two are going to find out the truth about themselves. Ariana thought with a grin. They’re smart kids, they’ll figure it out.
She tapped each of them after turning the television off. “Come on, you two. Wake up.”
Kelly groaned, slowly waking. Bradley stretched, sitting up.
When Kelly saw her mother, she was wide awake. “Momma!” She whispered, being sure not to wake her siblings. “Is Derrick okay?”
Ariana nodded. “I’ll tell you everything in the morning.”
“Can I spend the night?” Bradley asked.
“Did you tell your father where you are?”
Bradley yawned, rubbing his eyes. “He knows I’m here, and at this time of night, he’ll expect it.”
Ariana grinned at him. “That’s Aaron for you. Alright, you can stay. Why don’t you head to one of the guest bedrooms for the rest of the night.”
Bradley nodded. “Thank you, Mrs. Reading.”
“Thank you, Bradley.” Ariana replied. “For looking after the kids for me.”
She kissed each of them, sending them to their beds before heading to her own.
At the door to her bedroom, she stared at the bed wistfully.
“Oh darling...” She whispered out loud. She sat on the bed, grabbing his pillow and hugging it tight. She thought of what happened hours ago.
She’d gotten a vision, rushing to her husband’s side. Once meeting his scared eyes, she sensed something out of place. Reaching deep inside herself, she had grasped the Ancient Mystic Force, meshing it with the Dark Magic. She called a spell, exorcizing the demon that had taken over his mind. Once hearing her brother-in-law’s voice from the shadows of her hearing, she fainted beside her still husband’s body.
She woke up to find herself in the emergency room, sister Anna at her side. Anna told her how Shane found her unconscious body lying on the floor, and how he’d thought of calling for an ambulance before calling on her. When Ariana awoke, there he was, sitting beside her in the chair. Her daughter Kelly was on the other side of the bed. Anna brought in some food and Shane told her what he saw. He would wait until the ride home to ask questions.
Lying on Derrick’s side of the bed, she cried herself to sleep. She was so exhausted, she didn’t think of calling the Dream Chant or wanting to patrol the Dream Realm. She hoped O’Dell would understand. Thinking of her beloved Derrick, she made a wish in her mind.
She heard a male moan, “What the?”
Ariana froze, eyes wide open.
Whoever he was whispered again. “What’s going on? Where am I?”
She recognized her brother-in-law’s voice. “Shane?”
“Lu?”
Ariana took a deep breath and sat up. Turning the light on, she turned to him. “I don’t think so.”
Shane looked around. “How did I get here?”
Ariana shrugged. “Magic?”
He stared at her. “Why am I here, and not home in bed?”
“I don’t know.” Ariana confessed. “I wished for Derrick, but got you instead. Silly, huh?”
Shane kissed her cheek. “No, not silly. It’s not as if you wanted me here, right?”
She gulped. “I don’t know how it happened, Shane, honestly.”
“I believe you.” Shane smiled. He stood. “Need to talk? I’m here for you.”
She smiled back. “How did you know something was on my mind, Shane Morehouse?” She teased. “Are you practicing telepathy?”
“Yeah, I wish.” He joked. “I’ve noticed you out of sorts lately, especially since that night in the Abyss. She told me what happened.”
She was Luna, his wife and her twin sister.
“Take a seat. It’s gonna be a long night.” Ariana replied.
Chapter:
Hell Hath No Fury

Derrick was released from the hospital a day later. He was home again, but hadn’t been the same since. Ariana was confused and appalled as she watched her husband pack a suitcase.
“Where are you going?” Ariana asked him.
He ignored her. She tried telepathically asking the question.
“Knock it off, Ariana!” Derrick shot, making her cringe.
“What’s wrong with you?” She asked, worried. “You’ve brooded around the house for three days, ignoring the family, not going to work. I want to know why.”
He stopped what he was doing to look at her. “Love, it has nothing to do with you. I’m the failed one here, not you.”
Ariana was confused. “Failed one? What are you talking about?”
He didn’t answer her, preferring to shove various clothes into a suitcase. The mood was getting tense, making Ariana angry. She could feel the bubble of Dark Magic in her soul.
Not now, please. She begged it in her mind, forcing it back to the shadows of her mind.
Derrick finally stopped to stare at her, his intuition and Protector’s Pendant telling him something was wrong. He saw the pained look in her eyes and moved to kiss her lips. “I’m going away for a few days, maybe more.”
She looked into his eyes. “Why can’t you stay here? We can work it out together.”
He shook his head. “I’m afraid not. I’ll only be in the way.”
“In the way?” Ariana asked.
Derrick chose to sit on their bed instead of answering. She sat beside him. “Honey, please. At least tell me what’s wrong.” He wouldn’t meet her eyes. She used Empathy to sense his feelings, knowing she’d made a pact to herself never to do so with him. What she felt was shame. Pure and simple. Shame and depression.
“What are you so ashamed of, Derrick James?” Ariana whispered, hugging him from behind.
He sighed, turning her around to hug her tightly to himself. “Myself, and how I acted with that demon.”
She knew exactly what he was talking about. He wanted to fight it alone, only he lost himself in the shuffle of his mind.
“We can’t always fight our battles alone.” Ariana told him. “You of all people should know that. You’re a Crusader, not to mention my Earthly Protector.”
“No one was there to protect me from being taken.” Derrick stood again, returning to his packing. Once he’d closed the suitcase, he paused. “I have to be alone for a few days, away from life. I need to sort out the garbage going on in my head.” He put the suitcase down beside him as he took her in his arms. “Don’t feel bad, darling. I love you very much. I also love our children, but I just need to do this. Okay?”
“What will I tell the children and the family?”
He smiled. “You’ll think of something. You always do.”
He kissed her passionately, making her heart beat loudly.
She clung to his chest, savoring his embrace. “When are you coming back?”
Picking up the suitcase, he announced. “Soon. I promise.”
On that remark, he was gone. Ariana never felt so alone.

II

Deep in the Unknown caverns of Dark Tower, Orthos smiled into his cauldron. He called upon the Djinn god, Omri.
As the god appeared, he announced. “My congratulations to you, Omri. You have done well.”
The Djinn god only smiled. “I am not the only one. My subjects helped as well. It were Abu that haunted the Young Guardian’s Earthly Protector. Sheena took his brother’s mind, turning him around.”
“Are they not Mind-dwellers?” Gloriana replied from the doorway. She embraced Orthos and turned to the Djinn god.
“Aye. A different race of Djinn. They deal with deception and jealousy.” Omri remarked. “Was there something else I could do for you, Master?”
“What of the other Earthbound Ancient Mystics?” Orthos asked.
“What of them indeed?” Omri supplied. “The final touches are in play. Watch, listen, and learn, Master Orthos. The minds of Earthbounds are wonderful playthings!”
Orthos laughed with him. “Who is next?”
“Perhaps we use a pawn in our game?” Omri decided with a grin to Orthos. They each looked to the cauldron, where the image of a newly-made Earthbound Ancient Mystic.
“Why not?” Gloriana cried. “It will teach him a lesson.”
“Indeed.” Omri sneered, stirring the cauldron with a wave of his hand.

III

It was late at night in the Outer Realm. In the home of the Schmidt’s, Aaron lay awake in bed. Eyes staring at the ceiling, he envisioned a beautiful maiden, one he’d known since boyhood.
His mind raced many images of them, together with his twin Aimee. The wonder, the mystery, the magic, the love. They cared for one another as none other has cared for them, before or since. They’ve seen each other through beatings and secrets, good times and bad, joy and pain. Nothing, not even an Earthly Protector would stand in the way of that. Their bond went beyond best friendship, for it were Aaron she trusted first with her heart and innocence.
Thinking of her, he closed his eyes and imagined himself at her bedside. He hoped to catch her before she fell asleep. When he opened his eyes, he saw himself where he wanted to be. He gasped, startling her out of her book.
“Aaron!” She cried, surprised. “How did you get here?”
He shook his head. “No traveling spell I knew of.”
Ariana placed the marker in her book, placing it at her bedside table. “What did you come here for?”
“You.” Aaron supplied. He used the little empathy power he knew to sense her feelings. Her heart was pounding. Not from surprise, he noticed. From the mere glance of his face. He sat beside her, taking a chance at kissing her lips. He searched her eyes when they parted. “I can’t stop thinking about you, my Ariana Moon.”
The name made her shudder, her thoughts confused. If she thought they were finished with this years ago, she’d better think again. Looking at her now, her eyes filling with tears. He felt terrible, but couldn’t say anything. She never gave him the chance.
“Oh, Aaron...” She stammered. Hugging him tight, she let her emotions go. “You’re always there for me. I love you for that.”
“I always will be. Remember, I promised.”
Aaron held her, rocking her as her tears flowed. In an effort to stop her from crying, he kissed her tenderly. It was meant to distract, but quickly turned passionate.
“Please, Aaron...don’t.” She pleaded, trying to push herself away.
“I can’t help it, my Ariana Moon. I love you.” Aaron supplied softly. “Can’t I show you one last time?”
She was shocked. He put the images of the orphanage in her mind, taking her back to the time when they were together. Those thoughts would remind her of who he really was to her. They stared at one another, a loss for words.
“Aaron.” She whispered as they kissed.
They made love one last time, with the full moon shining on them from the window above. Two hearts were as one once again. For Aaron, it was wonderful. For Ariana, it would be the beginning of a long journey of the soul. Afterward, they snuggled together under the sheets.
“We can’t do this ever again.” Ariana replied, laying her head on his chest. “I love my husband, you know that.”
“But?”
She sighed. “But I also love you.”
He placed a finger to her lips. “Don’t speak of this now, Ariana Moon. Let’s cherish what we have for as long as we can.”
She sighed again. This time, she kissed his lips as a reply. “You are my rock, you know that?”
“Didn’t before, but I do now.” He said simply, smiling.
Ariana moved to sit up. He watched her pace the floor after she dressed in her flannel gown. She caught his reflection in the mirror when he stood behind her. She fingered her necklaces, choosing just the right words. Finally, she whispered without looking at him. “You have to leave. Now.”
“Can’t I spend the night?” Aaron asked, touching her shoulder. “Just one night in your arms is all I need.”
She shook her head. “Definitely not.” She turned around. “What if one of the boys or Melody has a nightmare? They’ll run in this room and find you here instead of their father. What about that, huh?”
“Good point.” Aaron thought it over. “Let’s not mention this to anyone, and that includes Katherine and Luna.”
“I agree. Will you go now?”
“Trying to get rid of me?” Aaron teased.
“Sorry to say it, but yes.” Ariana replied. “It’s late and I have to patrol yet.”
“Right.” He groaned, dressing. “Duty calls.”
After dressing, and a final kiss on the lips, he closed his eyes and disappeared. Ariana was left wondering just how long it would take for anyone to notice the differences in her behavior.

IV

Gloriana clapped in the Unknown, screeching in delight. “Wonderful! I love it!”
“Chaos was always a lot of fun.” Orthos supplied. “Even I did not think of undoing Young Guardian’s pride this way. Brilliant work, Omri.”
“Did I not tell you?” Omri laughed. He hovered above them. “The mind of an Earthbound is a wonderful thing to play with.”
“Aye, I agree.” Gloriana replied, caressing him. “The seed of doubt has been planted.”
“How true.” Orthos supplied. “How true? Tell me, Omri, what is payment for such wonderful work?”
“I want nothing, not yet.” Omri said. “For you have nothing I desire. I will come on my own when I find such a payment for my services. For now, I have subjects to rule, and plenty others to play with.”
With a puff of smoke, he was gone.
“I do not like his attitude.” Gloriana mumbled.

V

“Any word from Derrick lately?” Claudia asked Craig, who was sitting in his place at the breakfast table. She was cooking them all breakfast.
Craig looked up from his newspaper. “Last I heard, he skipped town.”
Claudia gasped. “Skipped town? Who told you that, and why?”
“Shane. Neither of us knows what’s going on with him.” Craig said. “He hasn’t been to work in a week, so Shane says. Ariana tells him he hasn’t been home in days. My guess is he had to get away from it all for a while.”
“What makes you say that?”
“Come on, Claud. He’s my childhood best friend.” Craig replied. “We’ve known each other since our days at the Academy. All his life, he ran away from his problems instead of facing them. It’s just the way he is.”
Claudia shut off the stove and sat down before him. “I remember. All the papers boasting about a ‘poor little rich kid’ wanting attention.”
“Attention was never the case.” Craig replied. “He got plenty of that. If fact, I’d say he got too much of that. No, I believe it was something else. I believe something in his mind finally snapped.”
“Do you think anybody else knows what that something was?” Claudia replied. “I happen to know Ariana doesn’t have a clue.”
“Even after all these years, I don’t think she really knows him at all.”
“Maybe that’s what made her use the silver Magic?”
“Maybe, whatever that is. Do you know what the silver Magic is?”
Claudia shook her head. “Not a clue, sorry honey.”
Craig stopped and smiled. “You called me honey.”
Claudia kissed his lips. “Of course I did.” She stood and continued with breakfast until the rest of the family came in the room.
“I smell something good!” Cara cried, helping herself to some eggs and bacon. “Sunny-side up, just the way I like ‘em. Thanks, Miss Woods!”
“Cara, I’ve told you. Call me Claudia.” She laughed. “After all, I’ll be your sister soon.”
Cara’s eyes widened. Since her mouth was full, she gave Claudia a thumbs up sign.
“When’s the big day, Claud?” Claudia’s older brother Kevin was engaged to Andrea, Craig’s older sister.
“We thought we’d make it a double-wedding.” Craig answered for her.
“With us?” Andrea asked. “Or with Christopher and his fiancé?”
“Chris isn’t getting married anytime soon.” Claudia reassured her. “We were thinking, since we’re each siblings to each other’s true love, we could marry together.”
Craig nodded in agreement.
Kevin rolled his eyes.
“By the way Kevin, do you know anything about the silver Magic?” Claudia asked. She explained what Shane had told Craig.
“Very little, sis. Sorry.” Kevin supplied. “I’ll look into it if you want.”
“Thanks.” Craig replied. “It’ll be a big help.”
“Hey, what if that silver-Magic stuff is what made Mr. Reading leave home?” Cara asked.
“How do you know what’s going on, squirt?” Craig asked.
“How do you think? Kelly told me.” Cara supplied. “She also told me how scared she was when she found them at the station last week. When he came home, he wasn’t the same. Kelly was beginning to think he was losing his mind. His aura was every color of the rainbow, all wild and stuff.”
“A wild aura, huh?” Craig replied. “I believe it’s time to pay a visit to good old Ariana.”
“I’m coming with you.” Cara and Claudia chorused. Kevin laughed under his breath while Andrea nudged him.
That’s when the phone rang.
“Richardson’s.” Craig said into the line. “You’re kidding. Okay, fine. Meet us at the Reading’s. We’re going to get to the bottom of this mess. See you. Bye.”
“Who was it?” Andrea asked.
“Anna.” Craig said. “Jake’s in the psychiatric ward.”
“What?” Claudia asked. “Why?”
“He thinks he’s gone insane.” Craig replied. “Turns out, whatever got to Derrick, also got to his brother. If you’re coming, Cara, let’s go. We’re meeting her at Ariana’s.”
“What about the breakfast dishes?” Andrea asked.
Kevin and Claudia looked at each other, both calling a quick-spell to clean up the kitchen. As Andrea groaned, Cara laughed.
“I love having Ancient Mystics in the house!”
With that, all five of them left, slamming the door behind them.
Story #1:
Power of the Mind

Meanwhile, Shane was watching his kids playing on the giant play castle in the backyard while he was catching up on some reading. He was startled out of the story by shouts from his nephews.
“Uncle Shane! Uncle Shane!”
He looked up to see Ariana, his nephews Mark and Andrew, and the silent Melody walking up to them. Ariana was forcing a smile. The boys raced to hug him before dragging their sister to their cousins.
Ariana and Shane sat next to each other, silently staring at their children.
“Hey, how are you feeling?” Shane asked her, watching Ariana’s eyes dart from one child to the others. When she didn’t answer, he touched her cheek.
She turned. “I’m sorry, Shane. What did you say?” He repeated it. “Oh, I’m fine now. Just a little tired, that’s all.”
“Kids running you ragged?”
She laughed softly. “Yeah. You could say that.” She cleared her throat. “What about you?”
“I’m better, thanks to you.” Shane replied. “Could you – ?”
He stopped in the middle of a sentence, unsure of whether or not to bring it up.
She stared at him. “Could I what?”
“Nothing.” He supplied with a shrug. He changed the subject, seeing she was in no condition for Magic. “Have you heard from Derrick? It’s been three days.”
Ariana sighed. “Not really.”
“Doesn’t he call you at all?”
“Sure he calls me. He tells us how much he misses us, and loves us all.” Ariana replied. “What he won’t tell me is when he’s coming back, or why he left in the first place.”
“Why do you think he left?”
Ariana shrugged. “I don’t know what to think.”
Both of them looked to the children, who were playing happily. Shane noticed how her twins and his son Caleb were wearing similar clothes. Did those three plan it to fool, or was it in their minds to begin with? He thought with a small grin. Logan played in the sandbox by himself. Melody and Meredith were sitting under a tree, playing a sign-language game. Even they looked identical, if you put blond hair on Meredith or brown hair on Melody. I guess it comes from having twins for mothers. Shane thought to himself.
He looked over to Ariana, who was staring into space. Her mind was elsewhere, he could tell. When he stayed to talk with her, they shared everything about each other, their lives, their loves, and even of their families. Every time he thought about it, the yearning to have one of his own grew. Talking with her about his missing family had helped him in some way. He could see that night how her talking everything over with him also helped her.
Just like Derrick and Luna, he mused. Best friends.
He suddenly felt nervous around her, and had no idea as to why. He never felt nervous before. Why now? He spoke up. “The kids look like their having fun together, don’t they?”
“What?” She asked, coming out of a daze. “Yeah, they do.”
Another tense silence.
“When did we become so formal with each other, Shane?” Ariana asked quietly from out of the blue.
Shane shrugged. “I don’t know.”
“Remember the question you asked me the other day?” Ariana inquired. “The one about your lost family?”
He perked up. “What about it?”
She looked at him, shielding her eyes from the midday sun. “I can help you find out if you have any family out there.”
He was impressed. “You’d be willing to help me?”
She smiled, nodding. She grasped his hand. “You’re like me before I met Luna. All alone in the world, save for your own married family. We’re a lot alike, you and I. I grew up as an orphan, with only the twins to keep me company. I didn’t know I had a family until the day I met her. I know what you’re going through, Shadow.” She used his old codename from the System. “I want you to find your true family as much as you do.”
Shane was silent for a moment. “Why?”
“I know how it feels to know where you come from and who you are.” Ariana replied. “I want you to be happy because I care about you.”
Shane squeezed her hand. “I care about you, too. That’s why I came to you. I knew you’d understand the reasons behind such an absurd question.”
“It’s not absurd to want to know who you are.” Ariana said softly.
He grinned, looking back to the six children who were playing on the castle. “I’m happy with my kids, but I can’t help feeling there’s something missing in my life. I know your story; how you struggled constantly to find the family that gave you up. I noticed a great change in you once you met Derrick, and how much happier you were when you finally met Luna. No longer were you the sad, sullen little girl Big Guy brought to the System to live. No, you were better than that. Not only were you more assertive and sure of yourself, but you were also one of the top detectives.”
He stopped and kissed her cheek. “I’d admire you for that, Ariana, and I want you to show me how to be that way, too.”
She sighed. “You already are that way, Shadow, and you know it. More, even.” She said. “I just wasn’t complete until I had my entire family with me. All my life, yes, I felt something missing, too. Maybe that’s one of the reasons I clung to Aaron so much in those days. I was looking for it.” She paused to lean against him. He wrapped an arm around her shoulders and quietly let her continue. “That one thing that was missing was my family, or at least the knowledge I had one. Only when I reunited not only with Luna but my daughter Kelly, did I even begin to feel complete.”
Ariana sat up, her eyes determined. “Enough talk. Let’s try it.”
“Really?” Shane asked. “In front of the kids?”
“They’re too busy playing to pay any attention to us.”
“What about your feeling tired?”
“I’m fine, Shane. Do you want me to try to find your family or not?” Ariana spat.
Shane stared at her. She was serious. “Whenever you’re ready.”
“Good.” Ariana positioned herself so she was facing him. Taking his hands, she instructed him to look into her eyes and think about his parents. They were silent as they stared into one another’s eyes. He could feel her glare reaching inside of him. Oddly enough, he felt relaxed.
He didn’t realize how much time had passed until one of the kids tapped his leg. It startled Ariana out of her trance and him out of her eyes. He turned to see Melody tapping his leg, pointing to the house across the street. Her own.
“What is it, honey?” Ariana asked aloud to her daughter, signing as well.
Melody made the sign for “come,” and “follow.”
Both Ariana and Shane looked to where she was pointing. The other kids stood at the fence, staring across the street.
“What’s going on, Mom?” Andrew asked. He had Logan in his arms. “Did you invite them to dinner?”
Ariana shook her head. “No, I didn’t.” She looked to Shane. “Let’s go find out what’s up.”
Together, with all the kids behind them, they headed across the street.
Ariana recognized the cars of her sisters. Mary Ellen, Anna, and even the Richardsons’ Blazer was in front of her house. That left only one sister, and Luna was climbing out of her car. After greeting her, they went inside.
Sitting in the living room were Claudia, Kevin, Andrea, Anna, Mary Ellen, Craig and Cara. After telling Cara to watch the kids outside, Ariana folded her arms.
“Alright, what’s going on, and why is everyone here?”
They all started to talk at once. She whistled to stop them. “One at a time.”
They explained everything, from their reasons to being there, to their worries of the Djinn takeover. When they were finished, Ariana slumped on the couch. “Okay, Lu.” She told her twin. “Your turn.”
“That’s pretty much it.” Luna replied. “With the Empathy, I felt Jake’s silent insanity.” Looking to Anna, she said. “I didn’t want to worry you, Anna. You’d had enough problems of your own for me to add to it.”
“You should have told me. It didn’t matter.” Anna said. “Jake is my Earthly Protector.”
“Not yet.” Shane supplied. “He doesn’t wear one of these.” He showed her his Pendant. “And neither do Craig, Andrea, or even Michael. So far, Derrick and I are the only ones who have them.”
“You earned them in the Crusades, showing how much you cared for us.” Luna supplied.
“I guess this is your chance to earn the Pendant.” Ariana added. “Then again, I’m just the Young Guardian. What do I know about the Pendants?”
“Right now, we’re here for something a little more important than just a silly necklace.” Craig replied.
Shane spat. “It’s not just a silly necklace.”
“Enough!” Ariana yelled above them. “There will be no more fighting in this house. Understand?”
They groaned their agreements.
“We’re here to bring Derrick and Jake back home to us.” Anna supplied. “Not just in body, but in mind and spirit as well.”
“It’s all Sabrina’s fault.” Mary Ellen remarked.
“Not true.” Kevin replied. “Sabrina didn’t do this to them. The Djinn did.”
“The Djinn?” The twins echoed. “What are they?”
“Worse than your ordinary-variety genie.” Anna said. “They take over your body and mind, making you feel as if you’d gone insane.”
“How?” Claudia said. “And how do you get rid of one?”
“How? Easy. By playing with your doubts, fears, and secret deceptions deep inside your mind.” Anna said. “How to get rid of them? That’s not so easy.”
“I got rid of one, didn’t I?” Ariana asked. “I didn’t Exile one from Derrick, I exorcized it from him. When it was gone, Derrick fainted. I used so much Magic I fainted beside him.”
“Shane told me how you did it.” Anna said. “Yes, you got rid of it. For now, but be fully aware of him for next time. The Djinn planted the seed of doubt and deception in his mind. Until he figures it out for himself, he’ll doubt everything in his life.”
“You used a silver-kind of Magic I’ve only seen once before.” Shane replied.
“You’ve seen it used before this?” Claudia asked.
Shane nodded, and told the group when and how.
“How did you know she used it?” Luna asked him.
He took out the Dream Locket from under his shirt. “Lord Guardian and Enchantra gave this to each of the original Crusaders. We’re able to do pretty much what our minds want to do with it. In my case, I trained my mind to smell and literally see different kinds of magic that were being used in an area. I got so good at it, I could just touch it to get it to work.”
Luna shook her head. “Shane, there’s a lot I don’t know about you.”
“You know everything, lover and you know it.” Shane kissed his wife. He explained. “We practically grew up together.”
“While we grew apart.” Ariana muttered, looking at her twin.
The group talked over what was going on. Ariana stood and headed to the back door to check on the kids. She and Cara met eyes, with Cara nodding her head and smiling. Ariana lost herself in memories until she heard someone calling her name.
“Hey Ariana.” When she turned, her sister Claudia continued. “Whatever happened to the Black-as-Night Crystal anyway? Have you returned it to the Gatekeeper, yet?”
Sadly, Ariana shook her head.
“Let me guess.” Luna spoke up. “You’re afraid to go back there alone.”
Ariana received a hug from her twin. “You’d better believe it. I’m still thinking about the time Orthos took Kelly and I there, making us Invisibites.”
“Okay, I’m confused.” Anna said. “What are Invisibites?”
Luna explained. “When the soul and body split. She and Kelly were taken to the Abyss by Orthos, but their bodies remained.”
“Since we didn’t have Magic to return, we had to wait for Maximaniac to call the spell and take us to the Dream Realm, where we could safely return home.”
“Wow. Intense.” Craig whispered. “Where was Derrick in all this?”
“He was there, standing above her body in her bedroom.” Shane said. “I was there, too, for Luna when the twins switched places.”
Ariana nodded, agreeing. She closed her eyes to think of her loving husband. She sensed him nearby and called out. “Derrick!”
Just as she raced to the front door, he opened it. She gave him a hug and a passionate kiss.
“I’m home.”
Ariana laughed, holding onto him. “I can see that” She hugged him again. “I’ve missed you!”
“Oddly enough, I’ve missed you, too.” Derrick joked, kissing her again. “Remind me never to do that again.”
“Anytime.” Ariana cried with a laugh. It was good to have him home again. “Everybody’s here to see you.”
“How did you know I was coming back today?” Derrick asked. “You didn’t sense me until I came up the drive.”
“How do you know that?” Ariana replied.
“I took the Pendant off when I arrived at the hotel.” Derrick confessed. “Sorry, Love.”
“How could you just take it off?” Shane cornered him. “That’s your link to her. What if something happened to her when you had it off? You never would have known!”
“Never mind for now, Shane.” Ariana said sternly, not wanting anymore arguments. Especially when Derrick just walked in the door. “He’ll explain everything in his own time.”
“That’s right. Now, I’m going upstairs to take a hot shower, dress and unpack.” Derrick said.
Ariana stopped him. “Say hello to your children first, will you? They’ve been worried about you.”
“Oh they have, have they? I’m willing to bet they aren’t the only ones.” Derrick teased her nose with a kiss, hugging her shoulders and making her smile.
She sighed happily as he left. Luna walked up to her, whispering. “Well?”
“Well what?”
“Is he telling the truth? Did he take it off?”
“Why would he lie, Lu? Think about it.” Ariana replied. “I’m sure he had good reason to. Besides, I shut my empathy and telepathy to him off when he left.”
“Why?” Craig wanted to know.
“He said he needed to be alone for awhile.” Ariana said. “To me, that meant severing my links to him. Wouldn’t you do the same thing if you were in our shoes?”
Craig and Claudia looked at one another before looking at Ariana. “I guess so, yeah.”
“I have to tell him about Jake.” Anna said. “He is Derrick’s brother, and they are pretty close.”
“What about him?” Came Derrick’s voice from behind the group. The kids were hanging on him. He handed young Logan to his mother before taking a seat. “What’s wrong with Jake?”
“He’s in the psychiatric ward of Philbrooke Memorial.” Anna said softly.
Derrick laughed. “Yeah, that’ll be the day. Jake’s got to be the sanest person I know. What would he be doing there?”
“He had an attack from a Djinn.” Anna supplied. “The same thing that attacked you at the station. You were strong enough to hold it off until help arrived to banish it. Jake, well, he didn’t know what to do. He couldn’t control his own mind.”
“Who sent him there?” Derrick asked, worried. “When is he getting out?”
“I sent him there for observation while we figure how to use the silver-Magic to banish it.” Anna said.
“Is that how I banished Derrick’s Djinn?” Ariana asked.
Anna nodded.
“Who knows about this silver-Magic thing?” Craig asked.
Each Ancient Mystic in the room: Ariana, Luna, Kevin, Claudia, Mary Ellen and Anna either shrugged or shook their heads.
“Nobody knows?” Cara peeped up. She was sitting on the carpet with Meredith and Melody on both sides of her.
“I already told you what I knew.” Shane supplied.
Ariana began to pace, putting her mind in detective mode. She thought back to how she exorcized the Djinn demon. “Try using a short-spell with him, Anna.”
“Which one?”
“Dominicus,” Ariana started.
“Exordium,” Luna added.
“Bane.” The twins echoed.
“Is that Latin?” Craig asked.
“Nope. Ancient Mystic.” Luna stated. “Sounds the same, but isn’t. The Ancient Mystics came before them.”
“What’s the translation?” Derrick asked.
“Dominicus is ‘Dominion’,” Ariana began. “Exordium means ‘to Exile.’ Last, Bane is ‘to Banish.’ So, a Dominion Exile Banishment.”
“Huh. You learn something new every day.” Kevin said with a grin. “Good for you, little sister.”
“Thanks, big brother.” Ariana said, grinning back. “I think very highly of your praise.”
Cara laughed. “Finally! Everything’s back to normal around here!”
The entire group laughed.
“Come on, kid. Let’s go home.” Kevin said to Cara. He, Andrea, Craig, Claudia, and Cara said their goodbyes. “You’re gonna be okay, right Ariana?”
Ariana hugged her older brother. “Yes, I’ll be fine. Thank you.”
Mary Ellen was shortly behind them. “I guess I ought to be going, too.”
“Thanks for coming.” Ariana remarked. “Where’s Michael?”
“Had to work. Should I tell him what’s going on?”
“Only if it involves him.” Ariana supplied. “He’s too new to the Ancient Mystic mess to get him uptight over it.”
“You’re right, as always.” Mary Ellen joked. “See you later, little sister.”
Only Anna, Luna, Shane and Derrick remained with the kids.
“What do we do now?” Luna asked.
“I want to get Jake back.” Anna said. “Who’s with me?”
“I’ll go with you, Anna.” Derrick remarked. “I want to see just how bad he is.”
“I’ll stay here with the kids.” Ariana said.
“Me, too.” Shane said.
“I guess that leaves me.” Luna replied. “Do you think he’ll know the difference between us?”
“I’m sure he will.” Derrick said. “We’ll take my Jeep.” He turned to Anna. “Lead the way.”
“Gotcha.”
With kisses to their loved ones, they were off.
Ariana and Shane were alone again. After sending the kids outside to play, he asked her.
“So, what did you see?”
She pondered her next words. “You really want to know?”
“I asked, didn’t I?” He countered as he sat himself down at the mini-bar in the kitchen.
She took a seat beside him and explained what she saw. “I saw a vision of your father, long before he ever met your mother. Shane, he was with another woman and his children.”
“Are you sure? Dad never told me anything when I was young.”
“That’s because to him, there was nothing to tell.” She supplied. “He was happy with you and your mother. Other than that...”
“What?” Shane prodded. “What is it?”
“I don’t think you want to hear what I saw next.”
“Tell me!” Shane held her arm so tight, it hurt. Once he noticed what he was doing, he relaxed, releasing her.
“It was a suicide-homicide.” Ariana replied softly. “He killed himself in that accident, killing your mother with him. My guess, it had something to do with the woman and children he had before her.”
Shane pondered her words. “That’s – I don’t know what to think, to say. It’s so amazing.” He stood, pacing the floor. “I mean, wow. This is great!”
“Great? Great that your father killed himself and your mother?” Ariana cried. “Are you nuts?”
Shane shook his head, a giant smile on his face. “Do you know what this means?”
“I’m sure you’ll humor me.”
“My first lead to my true identity.” Shane replied. “The other day, Luna watched the kids while I was at work. Caleb had a couple friends over.”
Shane “the Shadow” Morehouse had returned. Ariana rolled her eyes. “Go on.”
“She told me one thing that made me think. Those friends of Caleb’s had our last name.” Shane supplied. “Morehouse!”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Ariana replied. “There could be hundreds of Morehouse’s in the state alone! You can’t be certain Caleb’s friends are related to you.”
“You don’t think I can prove it?” Shane asked, pointing a finger at her with a smile on his lips. “Watch me.”
“I was afraid of that.” Ariana muttered as he stormed out the door. “Thanks for volunteering me as a babysitter!” She cried into the air, heading out to the backyard.
Only Shane knew what was on his mind, for Ariana didn’t even want to try to guess.

II

At Philbrooke, Luna and Derrick followed Anna to Jake’s room. Derrick knocked, but there was no answer. He turned the knob and walked inside.
“Jake?” He called.
He saw his brother staring out the window, pen in hand and paper on his lap. Jake was tapping his pen to the pad nervously.
“Jake.” Anna said aloud, finally grasping his attention.
“Anna.” Jake raced to her, hugging her tight. He looked at his brother and Luna. “Are you here to spring me from this place?”
“Not yet.” Derrick said. “We want you to sit down. Anna and Luna are going to call a spell to get the Djinn from you.”
“Djinn?” Jake asked.
“We’ll explain later.” Luna supplied.
Jake sat on the bed. “Whatever works, go for it.”
Anna turned to the door, closing and locking it with telekinesis alone. Luna nodded after closing her eyes and checking to make sure no one was around to witness. The sisters held hands and called the spell. Derrick could only stand aside as the women did their work. They repeated the spell, first softly, then louder with each repetition. When his brother began to shake, Derrick raced to his side to hold him upright.
“Fight it, brother.” He whispered in Jake’s ear. “I know you can. Come on, fight it.”
Anna and Luna continued to repeat the spell, concentrating their attentions to Jake.
“Help me, little brother...” Jake’s voice whispered, his body now rigid.
“There is no help for the rebels!” Came another voice from Jake’s mouth. This one was more airy and anything but feminine.
“Let him go, Djinn!” Derrick cried, wrapping his arms around his brother’s body. When he began to shake again to free himself, Derrick held on tighter. “I don’t think so.”
“Lousy Ancient Mystic chump!” The voice cried in a hoarse whisper.
“If you won’t give up, I have three words for you.” Derrick said, then whispered. “Dominicus, Exordium, Bane.”
Derrick joined in the chant, using the power of love he had for his brother as an anchor.
With a scream that deafened, the Djinn left Jake’s body, leaving it limp. Derrick sat back on the bed, holding his brother from behind.
Anna and Luna stopped chanting to stare at them, silent. Neither said a word as they watched.
Derrick put his head down and softly began to cry. “Jake, please be okay. Please. I’m sorry for the lousy life we had, for not showing you I cared.” He hugged his brother harder, closer to his chest. “Come back to us, big brother. Anna’s here; she needs you. Heck, I need you. You’re my big brother. I idolize you.” He removed his lenses and wiped his tears with his shirt sleeve.
“Derrick...” Anna dared to whisper. Luna nudged her, shaking her head.
Let them be. They both need this as much as they need each other.
I need Jake, too. Anna supplied to her sister’s mind. I love him.
Annabelle, let them be.
With a quiet sigh, Anna agreed. They continued to watch the somber scene.
Derrick had replaced his glasses and was now sitting on the bed next to his brother’s body. He held Jake’s hand, looking at the floor and shaking his head.
“How could I compete with you, Jacob?” Derrick whispered to his hands. “You were the perfect jock while I was just a joke. Whatever mean words I ever said to you in my life I take back. I didn’t mean them, Jake. Truthfully. I didn’t want to hurt your feelings, I just wanted my old brother back. The one I came home to so many years ago.” Now he sighed. “I wish I had the magic to help you through this. I hope you’ll forgive me when all this blows over. I only want you to be happy.” He stared at his brother’s face for a few moments. “You’re my big brother, Jacob. I love you.”
The room was quiet then. Time seemed to pass slowly while Derrick sat next to his brother. Luna sat in one of the free chairs and dabbed her tears. Anna walked over to the bed and placed a hand on Jake’s cheek. Each were at a loss for words.
The heard a moan coming from Jake after a few minutes.
“I love you, too, little brother.” Jake whispered.
Derrick looked up and smiled, hugging him. “You’re back! You’re okay.” He looked to Anna. “He’s okay.”
She nodded.
“That was one heck of a head rush.” Jake said softly. “My head is pounding.”
“I bet this will take the pain away.” Anna grinned, kissing him.
“It still hurts a little.” Jake teased, kissing her again. “Did you get it out of my head?”
“We all did.” Derrick said. “Luna and I helped.”
“Can I get out of here, now?” Jake asked them.
Anna smiled, petting his hair. “I’ll see about getting you released.”
“Thanks, Anne.”
“No problem.” Anna remarked. “I’ll be right back. Lu? Coming with me?”
“Huh, oh, yeah.” Luna snapped out of her reverie. “Sure.” She turned to Jake. “Good to have you back.”
“Good to be back.” Jake said with a smile as the girls left the room. He took a breath and waited until they were gone to say anything. “Did you mean what you said?”
“You heard?” Derrick answered. “Why didn’t you answer?”
“Yeah, I heard. Every word.” He said. “I didn’t answer because I was waiting to see what you’d say next.”
“I meant every word.” Derrick said. “Remember when I ran away?”
“That was nearly ten years ago. Why are you bringing that up now?”
“Just answer me. Please.”
“Yes, I remember.” Jake said. “It’s hard to forget. Why?”
“Somewhere between our years in the Academy, you’d gone from a cool guy to an insensitive jerk.” Derrick said. “When I came back nearly three years later, I found you’d changed. You were cool again. I had begun to miss that about you.”
“You missed me?” Jake asked, amazed. “If you want to know the truth, you were the reason the family changed. We found how much we missed having you around, even if you were just a book worm most of the time.”
Derrick smiled at that. “From book worm to detective. How do you like that?”
Jake laughed. “I love it, and you, Derrick.” The brothers hugged once again. “I’m willing to give you half of my share in the family business.”
“You’d do that for me? Even if I’ll never rule the Roost?”
The Roost was what the Readings called their family business.
“Don’t knock it, brother.” Jake said, clapping him on the back.
The girls came back in to the brothers laughing at each other.
“Okay, boys, what’s so funny?” Luna asked, folding her arms and smiling at them.
They looked at each other. “The Roost.”
“Ah, the family business.” Anna supplied. “Speaking of family,” she started, sitting next to Jake and hugging him. “It’s time to start one of your own.”
She gave him a mischievous smile, kissing his lips.
“You don’t mean?” Jake asked, wondering. She nodded. He took her in his arms and swung Anna into his lap. “That’s great! I’m gonna be a daddy!”
“At least something good came out of this.” Luna remarked to Derrick when he moved to stand beside her.
Derrick looked to his girl-best friend. “Did she tell you?”
Luna shook her head. “Nope. This is the first I’d heard of it.”
Derrick turned back to his brother, who was busy laughing and teasing Anna with kisses. They looked like they were having fun. “So, when are they releasing him?”
“They’re not.” Luna said. “He’ll go downstairs and be admitted for a few days for observation. Just like you, his body went through hell, and they have to make sure he’s fine before sending him home.”
“He’ll be fine.” Derrick supplied, smiling at his brother. “He’s a Reading. Strong, dependable, loyal, caring. Definitely a Reading, inside and out.”
Luna giggled. “You make him sound like a family pet!”
“Well, he does look like our old schnauzer, Leo.” Derrick said with a laugh, loud enough for Jake and Anna to hear.
“I heard that, Worm.” Jake joked.
“Worm?” Luna asked. “Where did that nickname come from?”
“He used to be a bookworm in school.” Anna supplied.
Both Luna and Derrick stood above the couple. Derrick looked at his watch.
“Visiting hours are long over.” He said. “We’ve got to get back and tell the family what happened.”
“Not our family, I hope.” Jake wondered. “Dad wouldn’t know what to do with the info.”
“No, not ours.” Derrick replied. “Mine. Besides, I owe Ariana some explanations.”
“You bet you do.” Luna said.
Derrick rolled his eyes at her. “Don’t push your luck, Aluna.”
Luna frowned. “Fine.” She looked to her sister. “Sorry to break it up, but we came together so we have to leave together.”
“Good point.” Jake told her.
“Traitor.” Anna playfully teased. She stood up. “I’ll be in to see you in the morning, okay?”
“Hurry back.” Jake told her. “Take care of my son.”
“Son?” Anna asked in teasing mood. “I thought we’d have a daughter. At any rate, we’ve gotta go. I love you, Jacob.”
Jake reddened and his brother smiled. “Anna, not in front of my brother.”
“Why not?” Luna asked. “He loves you, too.”
“Let’s go already.” Derrick said. He shook his brother’s hand, hugging him goodbye. He whispered in Jake’s ear. “Not a word of what I said to anyone, you hear me?”
“Hey, would I blab?” Jake asked innocently.
Derrick laughed. “Don’t make me get into it. See you later, Jake.”
“See you.”
The trio left, just as a nurse walked in to take his vital signs.
Story #2:
The Bond of Ancient Mystics

As that was happening to the Readings on Strawberry court, Ariana’s other sisters were living their own lives. Claudia and Craig planned a wedding date with Kevin and Andrea, Cara giving her own advice. Anna and Jake were on rocky trails since his release from the hospital, getting ready for the new addition to their tiny apartment. Mary Ellen and her new boyfriend-Earthly Protector were getting to know each other better. Without threats to their powers and lives, the other three Woods’ sisters resumed their normal lives.

Anna was reading a book on the balcony of their apartment when the phone rang. Jake answered it from inside, leaving her wondering who it was. Since their run-in with Sabrina and Damian in the Abyss, she’d been feeling tired, almost exhausted.
The balcony was so peaceful and the neighborhood so quiet. The only sounds were from the tree above her, birds fluttering in the leaves, chirping at one another, squirrels running up and down the branches. It was a sunny day this side of the city, and Anna could feel her energy boosting itself from the fresh air. She put her book down and stood over the railing, daydreaming.
A red squirrel saw her, shaking the leaves as it skittered toward the end of the branch to say hello.
She put her hand out to the little squirrel, using telekinesis to make berries and nuts appear in her hand. She watched as the squirrel cautiously tiptoed along the branch, closer to her hand. He stared at her with tiny beaded eyes.
“Don’t be afraid, little one.” Anna whispered, using empathy to give the squirrel a sense of her kindness. “I won’t bite.”
I know you will not, human girl. You are different. From the Gods themselves.
Anna smiled. “Why, thank you, little one.”
My friends call me Skitter. How can you understand me?
“I have Magic that allows me to talk to the creatures of the earth, tree brother.” Anna replied. “Are you going to take them or not? If you aren’t, I will.”
Skitter the squirrel grabbed as many as he could before shoving them into his cheeks. We share.
“How generous of you.” Anna laughed lightly.
The squirrel scampered up her arm and onto her shoulder.
Much better view from here. The squirrel commented.
“I’ll bet.” Anna replied. She asked his permission before taking him off her shoulder. “Do you always come this close to humans?”
Skitter shook his tiny head no. None are as nice as you.
“Thank you, Skitter.”
“Who’s Skitter?” Came a male voice from behind her. It was Jake. He had the cordless phone in his hand.
Anna turned. “My new squirrel friend here.”
He looked to see the squirrel staring up at him.
Skitter asked Anna. He looks big! Is he nice like you?
Anna giggled.
“What’s so funny?” Jake asked.
“You look big to him.” Anna supplied. She turned her head back to Skitter. “And yes, he is nice, even if he’s a bit thick sometimes.”
“Hey!” Jake cried.
Skitter chittered at him before scampering back to the tree. I smell trouble. See you later, Earth sister.
“I was only kidding, honey. You know that.” Anna supplied after the squirrel had left. She went back into the apartment with Jake at her heels. “So, who was on the phone?”
“My parents have invited us to dinner tonight.”
“This ought to be interesting.” Anna replied. “Dinners with the Readings always involve my getting in the middle of a family squabble.”
Jake shook his head. “Not anymore.”
Anna washed her hands in the kitchen sink. “I’ll believe it when I see it.”
“I’m not joking, Anne.” Jake told her. “Last time I had dinner with my parents, they were actually civilized.”
“Right.” Anna smiled at him when she dried her hands. “Who else will be there?”
“Ariana and Derrick of course.” Jake said. “Oh, and Kenny, Brian and AJ.”
“So, all the Readings, with the addition of two Ancient Mystics.”
“Six.” Jake wrapped his arms around her. “Seven, if you count my son.”
“Daughter.” Anna smiled.
“Child.” Jake remarked. He took a deep breath. “I just hope nothing happens while we’re there.”
“What could happen?” Anna asked. “Sabrina’s gone, Damian’s dust, and we’re going to be parents before the end of next year. What could possibly happen?”
Jake shrugged. “You know my family.”
“More than you think.” Anna replied. “So, when are they expecting us?”
He put his hands in his pockets. “Would you believe in an hour?”
“Jacob Paul!” Anna cried, rolling her eyes and laughing.
True to his word, they were at the home of Alexander and Evelyn Reading within the hour.
“When do you think we should tell them you’re pregnant?”
“Knowing your mother, she’ll want to take over our lives, getting ready for the baby.”
“Come on, Anne, she’s not that bad.” Jake supplied. “At least, not anymore.”
“Just to be on the safe side, we’ll tell them we’re getting married.” Anna said as they walked up the stairs. “That way, we’ll already be wed by the time we do tell them.”
He sighed. “Anything to keep the peace in this family.” He rang the doorbell before waltzing in. “Mom? Dad? Anybody here?”
“Jakey!” They heard a young woman squeal before embracing him. It was his younger sister Kendra.
“Hey, Kenny, what’s up?” Jake hugged her.
Nicknamed Kenny in her youth, she was the only girl in a set of five Reading children.
“I’m so glad to see you guys!” Kendra cried. “Ariana and Derrick are already here. The kids are in the playroom.” She grabbed one of each of their hands. “Come on!”
“Where’re Mom and Dad?”
“They’re in the living room, talking to Derrick and Ariana.” Kendra told him. She stopped in her tracks and looked at Anna. She gasped in a stage whisper. “You’re pregnant!”
Even Anna was amazed. “How can you tell?”
“The glow in your eyes is like, wow!” Kendra exclaimed.
“We don’t want Mom and Dad to know, yet, so keep your big mouth shut.”
“Ariana will know.”
“Too late, she already does.” Anna said. “Let’s go greet the family.”
“This is so exciting, having everyone together again.” Kendra said, leading them into the living room. “A real family again. I love it!”
Anna laughed. “I do too, believe me.”
“Jakey’s here!” Kendra announced to the family. Her father and mother were sitting on one couch while Ariana and Derrick were on another. They were drinking coffee and talking things over.
The brothers greeted each other with handshakes and hugs.
“Well, how are you feeling now, Derrick?”
“Fine, and you?”
Jake smiled. “Never better, and I have you to thank.”
“Oh, stop.” Derrick started to blush.
“Boys, what happened between you two that we don’t know about?” Evelyn Reading asked her sons. “Derrick? Jake?”
They looked at each other, each getting messages from their Ancient Mystic loves. Tell them.
“I was so stressed out last week, I left for awhile.” Derrick told her.
“You ran away.” Evelyn countered.
“Yeah, you could say that.” Derrick supplied, clearing his throat. “After sorting things out in my head, I came back. Ariana and I talked it over and everything’s fine now.”
“That’s good to hear.” Alexander, Sr. remarked seriously. “What about you, Jacob?”
His father never called him by his nickname. It was always “Jacob.”
“Well, Dad, I kind of had a nervous breakdown last week.” Jake remarked.
“He was in the psychiatric ward for observation.” Anna whispered nervously. “Derrick helped him by staying with him as long as possible while he was there.”
“We talked about life, family, you name it, we talked about it.” Jake said. “He revealed his true feelings about me and I about him. I’d say we’re closer than ever.”
“That’s wonderful news, boys!” Evelyn cried, hugging them both. “I’m very proud of you two.” She turned to Ariana. “Did you know these guys competed for everything in school?”
“I’ll bet.” Ariana smiled. “With Jake being the handsome one and Derrick the brain, there were bound to be some competition between them.”
Derrick gave Ariana a look, which made her start laughing. Anna joined in, along with Evelyn and Kendra.
“Women.” Jake rolled his eyes and joked.
“Come on, ladies.” Evelyn said once they’d calmed down. “Let’s get dinner started.”
Ariana stood up, teased Derrick with a playful peck on the cheek and followed Anna, Kendra, and Evelyn into the kitchen.
Kendra grabbed Anna’s arm, causing her to yelp.
Evelyn and Ariana turned around. “What is it?” Ariana asked.
“I need to talk to Anna about something. We’ll be there in a minute.” Kendra said rapidly.
Ariana and Anna shared a look. Anna shrugged.
“Okay, I guess.” Ariana said. “Come on, Evelyn. Let’s see what we can do in that kitchen of yours.”
As soon as they were out of sight, Kendra’s face turned red. “Can I ask you a question?”
“Anything.” Anna said in a whisper.
“I, uh, do you think, maybe...” Kendra started. She played with her rings and bracelets, refusing to look at Anna’s face.
“What’s on your mind?” Anna asked. “Spit it out.”
“Could you talk to Antony for me?” She rushed.
It took a moment for Anna’s mind to register the question. “What? Why?”
Kendra looked to the ground, blushing as she said. “I like him.”
Anna covered her laugh. “You what? You like my brother?”
“Yeah, I do.”
“He’s four years younger than you are.”
“He’s smarter than that, and he’s really nice.”
“I know that, Kendra.” Anna smiled. “How long have you liked him?”
“Oh, forever. Since we were kids.”
Anna nodded. “Thought so. Listen, I’ll talk to him and have him call you, okay?”
“Thanks, Anna.” Kendra let out a sigh. “I hope Antony likes me as much as I like him.”
“Despite the rumors?”
“What rumors?” Kendra smiled mischievously and shrugging her shoulders.
Anna laughed, leading her to Ariana and Evelyn in the kitchen.

II

Meanwhile, Mary Ellen reflected over the last week. Since the night she and her sisters met in the Abyss, everything had been running smoothly. Her Empathy power was back and better than ever. She wasn’t as afraid of the Premonition as she was before, and even her Telekinesis power was growing. Mary Ellen Woods could safely say she was happy.
Her feelings for Michael Ashburn were growing, and she could tell his were growing for her. That was good. They’d come a long way since meeting, and Mary Ellen was surprised he wasn’t scared away by the Ancient Mystic family and their secrets. Then again, he was almost convinced she was only a dream. She only had to show him differently.
She got her chance when the doorbell rang on her cozy apartment door. When she answered it, she found it was Michael. He was bearing a bouquet of flowers and a warm smile.
“Beautiful flowers for a beautiful woman.” He remarked, green eyes aglow.
She let him inside, taking the flowers from his hands and led him to the dining room.
“Let me put them in some water.” Mary Ellen replied.
“Read the card first.” Michael said, taking it from the bouquet and handing it to her.
She took it, reading aloud. “My dreams become reality with you.” She looked up at him, one hand still holding the card, the other the flowers. “How sweet, Michael. Thank you.” She kissed his lips, savoring the mint flavor.
“You’re welcome, Mary.” He said. “So, what do you want to do tonight?”
“You mean other than homework?” Mary Ellen asked as she came out of the kitchen with a vase. She placed the flowers in it and put the vase on the table.
“Naughty girl. Haven’t done your homework, have you?” Michael ticked at her.
“Oh, stop.” Mary Ellen grinned. “I’ve just been busy lately, that’s all.”
“I guessed that.” Michael remarked. “Without me, even. So, what’s been more important than school and me?”
“Family.” She said quickly.
Michael caught on immediately. “What are you hiding?”
“Nothing.” She laughed off. “There was a problem with one of my many cousins. We had to deal with her, that’s all.”
“Are you talking about Sabrina?”
He remembered! And he sounded concerned.
“Well, yeah. I am.” She replied, sitting on the couch.
He sat next to her. “Mind telling me?” She looked away from him. “Or is it too painful to talk about it, even to your...what did you call me once? Your Earthly Protector?”
“It’s been at least a month, Michael.” She started. “I don’t expect you to know everything that’s going on, or even remember.” She waved a hand at him. “Besides, my sisters and I took care of Sabrina and her brother, so there’s nothing more to worry about.”
“The one thing I’ve learned in Creative Fiction class is that it’s rarely that easy to get rid of the bad guy.” He said. “For good, anyway.”
“Yeah, that’s what I’m thinking.”
He wrapped his arms around her, kissing her ear. “Let’s not talk about that anymore tonight, okay?”
She looked at him, relaxing in his embrace. “Alright.”
“Not one word, got it?”
Mary Ellen nodded. “I got it.”
“Tell you what.” Michael started, pulling her closer. “I’ve got an idea.”
“An idea, huh?” She teased, snuggling in his arms. “Tell me.”
“Let’s just stay in tonight. We can order Chinese take-out, turn the lights down low and just talk”
“Sounds good.” She said. “What would we talk about?”
He began to sing. “The birds and the bees and the ocean and the trees.”
Mary Ellen giggled.
“Hey, don’t laugh.” He said.
“I’m not laughing at your voice.” She said. “I love your singing voice.”
“What are you laughing at?”
She sat up and faced him, smiling after she kissed his lips. “You.”
“What about me?”
“You make me laugh, Michael.” She said. “And I can honestly say I love you.”
He kissed her again. “All jokes aside, I love you, too, Mary Ellen.”
She settled back in the nest of his arms. “That’s good to know.”

III

It was late at night when Claudia went outside to think. She always loved the night, and everything about it. The air, the moon shining and stars twinkling from the sky, she loved it all. Tonight was the first night in a long time she was able to be alone in the dark. She went out to the very back yard, just before the fence that met the house behind the Richardson’s. She found the wooden swing and sat down.
It was so peaceful; not even the Stevenson’s dog Charlie was rustling around his yard. The sky was clear, the moon full and bright. To Claudia, it was perfect. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath of the cool night air. She let herself be lost in the peace of the night, relaxing every muscle as she meditated.
With her heightened Empathic senses, she felt the earth’s heartbeat. The night creatures were awake while the day creatures were asleep. A mother owl in the tree above was teaching her younglings how to hoot. Crickets were singing their songs with the harmony of the grasshoppers. Claudia felt like she was one with Mother Earth herself.
Claudia....
She could hear Mother Earth calling her name. She tried to send a message with thoughts, but something was blocking her mental path.
Claudia....
Mother Earth called her again.
She felt the wind gently touch her body, breathing it in.
“Claudia!”
She was startled out of her meditative state by an outer voice calling her name. She turned to see Craig sitting beside her on the swing.
“I’ve been calling you for a few minutes.” He told her, kissing her cheek. “That must have been some trance you went into.”
“Uh, yeah, it was.” Claudia stammered. She looked around her, noting the familiar yard was quiet once more. “I was one with Mother Earth.”
Craig smiled. “Oh, really?”
“Yes, really.” Claudia said. “What did you want?”
“To know why you were out here in the dark, alone.”
“I always come outside at night. Especially on a night like this.” She told him. “It’s perfect for thinking.”
He wrapped his arms around her shoulders. She slid into his embrace, enjoying his presence.
“I’ll bet.” Craig said. He pointed to the distance. “See that mound in the corner there?”
“What about it?”
“Andrea and I would play in there, hiding in our own fort.” He said. “When we were kids, we got into a lot of trouble together.”
“So I’ve heard.” Claudia remarked with a small laugh.
“From whom?” Craig asked.
“Your parents, of course.” Claudia supplied. “Their ghosts, at least.”
“Yeah, right.” He said.
“I’ll prove it.” She replied. “Have you ever felt like someone was watching you when you were home alone?”
He didn’t respond.
“How about getting the chills when all the windows and doors are closed?”
He cleared his throat. “That doesn’t prove anything.”
“Sure it does. It proves your parents’ ghosts are in that house.”
“And you can feel them?”
“Sure, and so can you, if you try hard enough.”
“Why didn’t I know this before?” Craig was skeptic.
“You never had Ancient Mystics in the house before.” Claudia replied. “Especially the very two who can sense and talk to ghosts.”
“If that’s true, what do they say?”
“I’ve only seen and spoke to your father.” Claudia said. “Wasn’t his name Wesley Adam?”
“He told you that?”
Claudia nodded.
“You could have gotten that from some newspaper. Or from their room.”
Claudia shook her head. “No, but he did tell me something.”
“What’s that?”
“He’s really sorry for what he did to Andrea and hopes Cara Mae never knows the truth.” She said. “What did he do to her? And what truth does he want to keep from Cara?”
Craig shifted his position. “It’s supposed to be a secret.”
“If you want this relationship to work, Craig, I suggest we trust each other.” Claudia responded. “You know the truth behind the Ancient Mystic secrets, now I want to know yours.”
Craig shook his head. “I’ll tell you, but not now, okay?” He asked, pulling her close to him and hugging her tight. “Let’s just enjoy the night for awhile longer.”
Claudia shrugged. “If you insist.”
She closed her eyes again. This time, both of them were lost in silent thoughts. While his were on whatever secret he was hiding from her, hers were on the past week’s events. They sat in complete silence, enjoying each other’s embrace.
Claudia’s mind was plagued with an intense vision.

She saw gravestones. Looking around, she saw each of those she knew by heart. Mark Grey, Diane Parker, Bonnie Parker, and Jack Parker were all in the same family plot around her. Behind them were her own relatives, Melody Jacobs being one of them. She couldn’t read the rest, but knew who they were.
From the corner of her eye, Claudia saw a tiny light shining. She looked up to see the ghost of someone she didn’t even know.
“Leave here, Ancient Mystic child...” The ghost’s raspy voice moaned.
“Why?” Claudia’s voice echoed.
“The Maiden has returned.”

As Claudia gasped, she opened her eyes and felt her throat for the Dream Locket.
“What is it? What’s wrong?”
Craig was still beside her. She wasn’t alone after all.
“She’s back, but that’s impossible.”
“Who? Who are you talking about?” Craig was confused.
Claudia was scared as she told him.
“Sabrina.”

IV

Meanwhile, in the Dream Realm, Katherine Hawk-Stargazer and her mate Wolfton were practicing Japanese-style fighting. Each were in their human forms as they were when they were Earthbound years ago. They went through the motions slowly, following one another’s moves with counter-attacks.
“Haji does not know what he is doing by teaching us his Outer Realm arts.” Katherine supplied, throwing a double-punch at Wolf.
“He knows perfectly well what he is doing.” Wolf said, blocking his midriff. “He is a wise teacher, or Lord Guardian would not have sent him to train us.”
“We already know how to fight.” Katherine said.
“True, but now we must learn how to defend if ever we are under attack again.”
Katherine sighed. “I suppose you are right, my love.”
Wolf stopped to kiss her. “Of course I am right.”
Katherine smiled and Wolf laughed.
“Katherine! Wolf!” They heard a familiar female voice calling her name.
The couple looked to see who called.
“Is that Young Guardian?” Wolf asked his mate.
“Aye, but why is she running?” Katherine wondered to herself.
When Ariana made it to them, she huffed, catching her breath.
“What is the matter?” Wolf asked. “Is it Sabrina once more?”
“I used the Crystal. In the Outer Realm ” Ariana said sadly. “I don’t know how, but it almost killed me and my family.”
“What happened?” Katherine asked, terrified.
“It was Gloriana’s fault, now that I think about it.” Ariana replied.
“What did she do?” Wolf and Kat exchanged looks.
“Came to me, taking me from my patrols to the Abyss.” Ariana explained everything Gloriana had said to her. “When I awoke, I went across the street and attacked Luna.”
Katherine bit her lip, nodding. “Go on.”
“Next, I seduced Shane, or tried to.” Ariana said. “I even made Derrick mad at me, not even caring. What’s the worst of it is when Kelly tried to get the Crystal from me, I attacked her.”
“Are you okay?” Wolf asked. “What about the Enchanted Child? How is she now?”
“Oh, everything is back to normal.” Ariana replied. She pulled something from one of her pockets. “I managed to talk Derrick into giving this back to me.”
Katherine and Wolf gasped.
“What can we do to help you?” Wolf asked her.
“I’m here to take it back.”
“Of course, you must!” Katherine cried.
“Back to the Abyss?” Ariana stared at the Crystal in her hands. “I’m not going alone.”
“I will go with you.”
Ariana looked at her. “Are you sure, Kat?”
“You are my Young Guardian and dearest friend.” Katherine supplied. “Need you ask twice?”
Ariana threw the crystal up in the air and caught it. “Alright then, let’s go.”
“I will tell Lord Guardian.” Wolf replied.
Story #3:
Through the Abyss

When they reached the Abyss, Ariana changed from her regular clothes to her Guardian’s gown. Katherine couldn’t help staring.
“It is different now than the last time.” She remarked. “I like it.”
Ariana bowed. “Thank you, Lady Katherine.” She stood. “I fashioned a cloak made from rough materials. Tough enough to withstand any weather, yet light and comfortable enough to wear. It has a hood on it so I can cover my head if I want.” Her hands touched the Amulet at her throat. “The Jewels Amulet keeps it on. Pretty nifty, huh?”
Katherine nodded. “Resourceful.”
“I also have a belt that holds my wand and short-sword. The harness I carry under the cloak holds my broadsword.”
“A real Guardian’s gown.” Katherine remarked. “When did you change from a dress to breeches and tunic?”
“Soon after beginning my Guardianship.” Ariana replied. “I noticed the dress was getting dirty and ripped every time I patrolled, so I did my research and came up with this.”
“Brilliant, yet lovely.”
“Thanks again, Kat.” The girls walked, silent.
“Sabrina has not bothered you lately, has she?” Katherine asked.
Ariana shook her head. “I haven’t seen her since our encounter.” She explained. “Do you think we should tell O’Dell?”
“Aye, definitely.” Katherine replied. “Especially if she is holed up in the Unknown, buying herself time.”
“You’re right. It was too easy to get rid of her.” Ariana supplied. She pulled something out of the purse that hung at her belt. “In the meantime, let’s get this to the Gatekeeper.”
“I still do not understand how you got it to the Outer Realm.” Katherine responded.
“Can you keep a secret?”
She nodded. “Always.”
“I wanted to learn about it, so I made a wish and took it with me.” Ariana said. “After what happened with it, I feel I’ve learned more than intended.”
“You are strong, Ariana. You know this, or you would not be here, returning it.”
“I guess so.” Ariana’s voice was depressed. She fingered the crystal’s inscriptions.
“Definitely so.” Katherine supplied. “In any other’s hands, this Crystal would take over their minds, making them want power. In yours, though it may not have been pretty, it taught you a lesson.”
“Yeah, never take evil objects out of the Dream Realm.” She said sarcastically. Ariana looked around her. “Where would we find it, anyway?”
“I would not know. The Gatekeeper could be anywhere in the Abyss.” Katherine said. “It is the only living being here.”

II

While Ariana and Katherine searched the Abyss for the Gatekeeper, Wolf arrived at the Ancient Mystic Palace. O’Dell himself answered when he pulled on the hanging chime.
O’Dell looked at his Companion follower. “What brings you here, Sire Wolf?”
Wolf stood from his bowed position. “Young Guardian has the Black-as-Night Crystal. She claims Gloriana made her use it in the Outer Realm. It nearly broke up the entire family.”
“Where is she now?” O’Dell asked.
“In the Abyss.” Wolf supplied.
“And the Crystal?”
“She and Katherine took it back to the Gatekeeper.” Wolf replied. He stared at O’Dell. “Do you know anything about it?”
“Unfortunately, yes, I do.” O’Dell agreed.
Enchantra came into the room to greet them.
“It had been hidden for many generations.” Enchantra said. “No one knows how Sabrina got it in the first place.”
“However she did, she risked life and limb.” O’Dell remarked.
“So, Young Guardian must risk life and limb to return it?” Wolf asked, worried.
“Nay, her heart is good while Sabrina’s was not.” O’Dell said. “If what you claim is true, she was forced to use it in the Outer Realm. She did not want to use it of her own free will.”
“That is the difference.” Enchantra replied.
“What are we to do, my Lord?”
“What can we do?” O’Dell replied. “If no one knows where Sabrina disappeared to, there is naught to do.”
Wolf sighed. “What of Shenara, Albrath, Damian and Gloriana?”
“Let us handle them.” Enchantra said. “If they should bother you, come to us immediately. Is that understood?”
“Aye Mistress.” Wolf nodded, agreeing. “I am yours to command, as always.”
“That is good to know.” Enchantra smiled.
“In the meantime, go home to Celine.” O’Dell told him.
“Aye, my Lord.” Wolf nodded before disappearing.
O’Dell suddenly had the foreboding feeling of woe.

III

Back in the Abyss, Katherine and Ariana found a shack and knocked on the door.
Who dares interrupt me? The Gatekeeper’s voice was more terrifying now than in her vision.
“The Young Guardian of the Dream Realm and her friend Lady Katherine Hawk-Stargazer of Stargazer Castle and the Ancient Mystic’s Canine Valley.”
Why bother my peace and quiet?
“We wish to return something of yours.” Katherine’s voice shook. She nudged Ariana, who showed him.
What would you be doing with that?
“Returning it to you.” Ariana said. “Sabrina stole it from you and I stole it back for you.”
The Gatekeeper stood above them, contemplating its next words.
You wish not to use it?
Ariana shook her head. “I was already forced to use it, in the Outer Realm. I don’t want it.”
Katherine agreed.
Ariana and the Gatekeeper stared at one another. Ariana couldn’t see it’s eyes, nose or mouth, but knew it had them. She reached her hand out, the Crystal glowing.
“Please, take it. I said I don’t want it.”
You told the Lady here you wanted to learn about it. Do you still?
Ariana nodded. “Yes, will you tell me its story?”
Do not answer a question with another!
Ariana and Katherine jumped back when it bellowed.
“Please, Gatekeeper, tell us why my cousin would want it.” Katherine stammered.
Why would any creature want it? For its power.
“In the wrong hands, it became destructive.” Ariana replied.
Correct, Young Guardian. The Gatekeeper remarked. You have used it. Do you know what kind of power it holds? Or what it does?
“Shows your hidden desires, making you act upon them.” Ariana replied. “Sabrina used it against myself and my sisters to scare us into using our most feared power.”
What are your feared powers?
“Anna, she was afraid of the clairvoyance.” Ariana told it. “Mary Ellen, she was afraid of the premonition. My twin Luna was afraid of the Empathy and Claudia was afraid of her Healer’s Power.”
What about you?
“Mine was, and still is, the Dark Magic.” Ariana said. “Once I saw it almost destroying me, I took the Crystal for myself.”
To learn but not use?
Ariana nodded. “That’s right.”
Are you sure you were not tempted to use it for its full powers?
“She already said no!” Katherine yelled.
Dare you interrupt me again! The Gatekeeper bellowed. Leave at once! Both of you!
“Take the Crystal from me and I will!” Ariana yelled back. “I won’t even bother you on my patrols.”
In the blink of an eye, the Crystal disappeared from her hands.
See that you do not. The Gatekeeper’s words were final. It disappeared, leaving the girls alone again in the Abyss.
“How that thing ever got to be Gatekeeper is beyond me.” Katherine hissed.
“Leave it alone, Kat.” Ariana stared at the spot it disappeared from. “It’s not worth the trouble.”
“For once, I agree.” Katherine supplied. “Let’s go home.”
The girls held hands and disappeared.
Story #4:
Within the Unknown

Aaron couldn’t sleep. He tossed and turned in his bed, tangling the sheets around him.
In the Dream Realm, he fell from the sky, clutching his arm in pain. He hit the ground hard, landing on his arm. The pain jolted his sensors to life. Between the sudden headache and the pain in his arm, he felt he was in hell. Immediately, he felt a rush of Unicorn Magic give him a warning. Just as it had years ago, the Magic in Aaron’s blood gave him visions of the other Crusaders in trouble.
He stood in his Dream Realm, trying to walk without stumbling in pain. The feeling of pure evil grew more intense with each passing moment, intensifying into a strong headache. Another rush of pain hit his arm and the horrifying vision began.
Something was going to happen. He could feel it from the center of his being.
Damian and Shenara were in the dungeons of the Old Dominion with Shenara’s sister Albrath. The trio poured over a book, the caverns lit by candles around them. With Damian in the middle, they held hands, chanting something Aaron couldn’t hear.
He paid close attention to the scene, watching and waiting. A voice, Damian’s no doubt, rang in his head.
Poor, pitiful Crusader. You are still quite young in what you think is power. Pathetic, you are. You may think you have Unicorn Magic, but you do not. What you have is merely an echo of a Ancient Mystic’s Magic.
The chanting was of the Ancients, that Aaron knew. What he didn’t know was how Damian was able to get to him from afar.
The bubble was growing in Aaron’s system. The Magic heated up with each passing thought. Aaron let the Unicorn Magic take over his emotions. The pain Damian and his consorts had caused made Aaron determined to take on the former Dominionite Merchant by himself.
If Damian wanted to mess with a Crusader, then let him.
“I’m not afraid of you anymore Damian.” Aaron both whispered aloud and thought in his mind courageously.
Darkness surrounded him in his Dream Realm, the usual gentle warmth turned to a darkening chill that went up his spine. The chill raced to his head, making him wishing to shake the pain away.
Simple minded idiot. Damian’s voice echoed. You have a weakness most do not. Your lover loves another, and that makes you angry. Hurt.
“Stop it. Stop it now.” Aaron could feel something from the bottom of his soul, itching to get out. It was the Unicorn Magic, active after all these years. Now, he wanted to use it. “Before I do something you might regret.”
Damian laughed. I regret nothing. Only mortals revel in that emotion.
Damian used imagery to make the pictures in the book jump to life. Even the sisters on either side of him were impressed, eyes wide and staring at the book in front of them.
Aaron didn’t like what the Merchant was making him see. The Empathy kicked in when he saw the images up close. It was Ariana and Derrick, caught in a cage somewhere Aaron had never been to before. The images of them made Aaron’s head ache, his heart aching for his Ariana Moon.
Like what you see, Ancient Mystic wannabe? Shenara’s voice cooed. Your lover and her Protector in peril.
How quaint. Albrath sneered.
Damian and the sisters stared into the book, chanting louder. Another picture came to life. Luna and Shane. Again, they were caught in a cage. One by one, with each chant, each picture sprung to life. Next were Anna and Jake, then Mary Ellen and Michael Ashburn. Even Claudia and Craig were caught.
Let us see how powerful you think you are. Shenara replied.
Come and get them. Damian severed the link between them, forcing Aaron to snap open his eyes.

Upon waking, Aaron’s head ached even more. As did his arm.
He forced his racing heart to slow. He was forced to sit up, holding his head. The pain in his head stopped, heading directly to the scar on his arm. He rubbed it to ease the pain but it didn’t work. It itched so much he couldn’t stop rubbing.
Itch was a light word to describe the way the scar on his arm felt. It didn’t itch, it burned.
Once again, the Unicorn Magic was telling him the other Crusaders were in trouble.
No, not in trouble. Missing.
His twin Aimee came to his silent call.
“They’re gone.” Aimee replied, scared. “Where’d they go?”
He shrugged. “I can’t feel them anywhere.”
“You don’t think they could be in the Old Dominion, do you?”
“No chance.” Aaron shook his head, watching her sit next to him on the bed. “Those three may be there, but that’s not where the trio took the Crusaders. I know it.”
Aimee noticed her brother holding his arm. “I saw you fall. Are you okay?”
Aaron rubbed his arm, looking at it.
It was glowing red and hurt like hell.
“I will be, yeah.”
Aimee examined it. “Too bad Ariana’s not here to heal you.”
“Aimee, we don’t need her Magic or advice anymore.” He told her. “We can do this on our own.”
“Do you really think so?”
“We healed Ariana and Kelly on our own, didn’t we?”
“We did have help from the twins.”
“Just for the flame and oil burner.” Aaron said. “The rest, we did together. On our own.”
Aimee smiled.
A jolt of pain brought Aaron back to the problem at hand. Even Aimee clutched her arm with him, yelping in pain.
“What the?” Aimee noticed the scar on her arm glowing deep red.
“Does it burn?”
Aimee rubbed it, nodding. “It’s warning us, Aaron. Something is going to happen.”
“Too late, Aim. It already has.” Aaron supplied softly.
“It’s never done this before.” Aimee supplied, leaning into the crook of his arm. “I’m scared, big brother.”
He hugged her, trying to comfort both their fears. “So am I.”
“What about the kids? Are they okay?”
Aaron closed his eyes and used the Magic to sense them.
“Sound asleep.” He said. “Caleb, Meredith and Logan across the street as well as Kelly, Mark, Andrew and Melody next door.”
She shook her head. “What about Bradley and Angel?”
“Right here, Aimee.” Bradley’s fourteen-year-old voice was concerned. Angel clung to him in tears. As soon as the girl saw Aimee, she rushed to hug her.
“Don’t ask me to go back to bed, because I won’t.” Bradley replied. When they didn’t respond, he continued. “I’ll do anything to help find them.”
“Why, son?”
“I care about my family.” Bradley announced.
The twins exchanged looks. “Where to first?” Aimee asked.
“I’ll go next door. You go across the street.”
“What about me?” Bradley asked.
“You can come with me if you like, Bradley.” Aaron supplied, to which Bradley nodded.
“I’m coming with you, Mom.” Angel said.
They went their separate ways.

II

He opened his eyes, the view slowly becoming clearer. He tried to sit up but found himself tied and gagged. Only his wrists were tied together, and he lay against a cold wall.
What the hell happened? He thought to himself. Where am I?
His eyes tried to focus, but it was blurry. Where were my glasses?
He heard a groan a few paces from him. His head ached from squinting to see who it was. It was male, he knew. Who was it and where were they?
“Hey, are you okay?” He heard a voice above him. He recognized it as being his brother-in-law Shane.
Derrick could see Shane bend down to his side, untying the knots around his wrists. Someone beside Shane untied the gag.
Derrick nodded. “What’s left of me, that is.”
“I hear ya, bro.” Jake whispered. “Where are we?”
“Caverns of the Unknown.” Shane supplied. “Oh, Michael and Craig are here, too. They’re still unconscious.”
“You know this place more than I do, man.” Jake began. “Tell me how we get out of here. My head is pounding.”
“I only know it’s the Unknown because I’ve had visions of it.” Shane said.
“Visions? As in, the Pendant?” Derrick asked.
“You got it.” Shane supplied. “As for getting out of here, your guess is as good as mine.”
“Were you tied up, too?”
Shane nodded. “I used the Locket to untie myself, going over to Jake next.” He said. “As for your glasses Derrick, think about it. Where are you?”
“In the Unknown. What does that have to do with my glasses? I still can’t see.”
Shane pointed to the Life Line watch on his wrist. “You don’t need them here, just as you don’t in the Dream Realm. Haven’t you learned that by now?”
Derrick felt silly. He’d been Crusading for years and never noticed until now he didn’t wear glasses on assignments. “Yeah, I guess so.”
“As for getting out of here?” Jake brought the two back to attention.
“I tried the locks and bars before you woke up.” Shane said. “Each are locked with powerful Dragon’s Magic.”
“According to lore, doesn’t Unicorn Magic break all spells used with Dragon’s Magic?”
“That’s right.” Shane supplied.
“Wait a minute. You’re confusing me, man.” Jake said. “In standard English this time.”
Derrick and Shane looked at each other. “Do you remember what the Dream Realm is?”
“Vaguely. Go on.”
“In the Dream Realm are different animals we call Companions.” Shane said.
“Okay.”
“Each species of Companion has its own kind of Magic.” Derrick replied. “The five basic being Gargoyle, Dragon, Hawk, Wolf and Unicorn. Each of these five can be used on a cardinal point on a map.”
“You know, north, south, east, west?” Shane asked him. Jake nodded.
“To make it easier, each point has its opposing side. Unicorn Magic is for North and Dragon Magic is for South.” Derrick continued.
“In order to break any spells or enchantments used by Dragon Magic, you have to use the Unicorn’s.” Shane concluded. “Understand?”
Before Jake could answer, the three heard a muffled male scream from behind them. When they turned, they saw Michael Ashburn trying to wriggle free.
“Hey – Mike, it’s us.” Jake said, helping Shane with Michael’s ties.
When the gag was off his mouth and his wrists free, Michael broke from Jake’s hold and ran to the bars. When his hands touched them, they came back burned. Michael screamed in pain.
“Woah, are you okay?” Jake asked.
“What the hell is going on?” Michael demanded. “Let me out of here!”
Shane looked at the wound, or tried to but Michael winced in pain, snatching his hand away.
“Do you want to know what’s going on?” Shane insisted. Michael stared, nursing his hands. “I need you to chill out, okay Mike?”
“How can I chill out, Shane?” Michael asked, whispering. His voice was shaking. “I’m claustrophobic.”
“Boy are you in the wrong business.” Jake quipped.
“Shut up Jake.” Derrick replied, going over to Michael. “Nothing good has ever come out of panicking. You must think straight to gain order, got that?”
“Listen to you, Mr. Philosopher.” Shane teased him. He turned back to Michael. “Find a way to get over it. There’s nothing to be scared of here, trust me.”
“Shadow, this is the Unknown.” Derrick reminded him. “You know as well as I do how freaky this place is.”
“Sure I do, Reading.” Shane said. “I also know nothing can bother you if you don’t want it to.”
“What bothers me is why Craig’s not awake, yet.” Jake said, nodding over to the fifth man.
Derrick looked over to his childhood best friend. “He’s awake, just listening.”
“That’s comforting.” Jake said.
“Jig’s up, buddy.” Derrick went over to him and tapped his arm. “We’ll help you out of this mess.”
“Wondered how long it would take you to notice I was here.” Craig said plainly, rubbing his wrists as the ropes came off.
“Wherever here is.” Michael quipped. His eyes went around the cage, surveying.
“Like I said, this is the Unknown.” Shane said. “Trouble is, not even I know where in the Unknown.”
The boys heard a female voice yelling not far from them.
“Hello! Anybody there?”
“Help us out of here!”
“We know you’re there. I can hear your voices.”
Derrick recognized the last voice as being that of his Love, Ariana. “Ariana? It’s me.”
“Derrick!” Ariana’s voice cried back. “Help us out of here.”
“We only wish we could, sister.” Shane supplied. “We’re trapped, too. Have you tried your bindings?”
“The bars are enchanted.” Derrick said. “Can you use any Magic, Love?”
“We tried. It’s just like the Crusades and the Dominion.” Ariana said. “Any attempt gives us pain, yours truly especially.”
“We?” Jake asked. “Who’s there with you?”
“Just my sisters.” Ariana replied. “What about you?”
“The Earthly Protectors.” Craig announced.
“Who could do this to us and why?” They heard Claudia’s voice peep.
“Can’t be Sabrina. She’s dust.” Derrick said. “Nowhere to be found.”
“Shenara, Albrath and Damian, you think?” Luna’s voice pondered.
“I believe so, but how?” Derrick said. “Neither has power over a Ancient Mystic.”
“Only one of them does.” Shane corrected.
“Shadow’s right.” Ariana supplied. “Damian’s an Ancient Mystic himself.”
“Why do this to us?” Claudia asked again.
“Because we have power and he wants it for himself.” Luna said.
“As do any good-for-nothing demon we run into.” Shane quipped.
“Who’s taking care of the kids while we’re here?” Mary Ellen decided to speak up.
“My guess is Aaron and Aimee.”
“Think Aimee can sense us in pain?”
“She’s the Crusader team’s Over-Seer.” Ariana remarked. “That, and bound to me by blood-ties, she has to have by now.”
“They have the Unicorn Magic, don’t they?” Shane asked.
“Sure, from me.” Ariana replied. “The blood-tie I was talking about. When I did the spell, I sealed them to me, and myself to them. The Magic is only a trace of what I’ve got, but it’s still there.”
“Recently, the twins used magic to revive Ariana and Kelly after a major battle.” Derrick told them. “I never knew just how much Aaron’s Unicorn Magic has grown after all these years.”
“What do you expect, love?” Ariana asked. “Both the twins have been bound to me half their lives. They’ve always been there when I needed them, and I have been there when they needed me. I’ll try my best to communicate with them.”
“No!” Both Luna’s and Derrick’s voices cried.
“Don’t do it, Love.” Derrick replied.
“It’ll hurt you even more than the Dominion.” Luna said.
“Relax, worry warts.” Ariana said. “I wasn’t going to use Magic. I was going to use the Life-Line. Aaron does have one, you know.”
“What’s that?” Jake asked.
“The Life-line is a wrist-communicator.” Shane explained. “It serves three purposes. Verbal and audio communication using brain-wave patterns, telling the time by verbal command, and searching for a lost agent with coordinates, also using brain-wave patterns.”
Jake looked at Shane’s as he explained. “So this thing is what links all agents together.”
“Not all of us, just those with it on.” Shane replied. “Speaking of which, have you tried it, yet?”
“Can’t get an answer, Shadow.” Ariana’s voice cried out. “I’ll keep repeating the sequence until I have a reply.”
“Good girl.” Derrick responded.
“If they’re going to rescue us, they’d better hurry up about it.” Craig said.
“Why’s that?”
“Mike’s not looking too good.” Jake answered.
The girls didn’t see what the boys did. Michael had found a corner to curl up in. He was shaking, rocking back and forth, muttering to himself.

III

Aaron found a somber scene when he walked in the door. The air felt like a wash of death. His heart pounded, thinking of the children, especially his own.
“Kelina!” He cried, racing around the house trying to find her.
Kelly raced out of her room and into his arms. “Daddy! Oh, Daddy, they’re gone! I know it.”
“It’s okay, I’m here.” Aaron replied. “Aimee’s checking on your cousins. In the meantime, how are the twins and Melody holding up?”
“They formed a Circle together.” Kelly replied. “I had a vision of Momma and them getting kidnapped. They didn’t need me to tell them what to do, they did it on their own.”
Aaron shook his head. “What about you, kid?”
“I’d just snapped out of another vision when you walked in the door.”
“What happened?” Aaron asked. “What did you see?”
“You don’t want to know.” Kelly supplied, drying her tears.
“Later then. Time to rescue them.”
“I agree, Uncle Aaron.” He heard Angel’s voice say. Aimee was beside her, holding a sleeping Logan Morehouse. Caleb and Meredith gathered on either side of Aimee.
“How?” Aimee supplied. “Neither of us has enough Magic to make it there, let alone the energy it would take to rescue them and bring them home. What if we run into their captors? Will we have the energy to fight them?”
“I’m going with you.” Kelly said.
“Me, too.” Meredith replied.
“Us, too.” Andrew and Mark came from behind Kelly with Melody.
“Not Melody.” Aimee supplied.
“Why not?” Kelly asked. “She has enough power to help.”
“No, Kelina Erin.” Aaron said. “She’s too young.”
You were young when you met Mommy. Melody’s voice rang in his head. How is it different?
“Sorry, little one, but I’m not taking any chances.” Aaron replied, hugging and kissing the girl.
Melody pouted.
“We’ve got Meredith, Caleb, Kelly and the twins with us.” Aimee said. She turned to Bradley.
“I’ll watch Melody and Logan while you rescue them.” Bradley grinned. “Angel will help me, won’t you?”
Angel nodded. “I’ll be really good, Mom. I promise.”
Aimee handed Logan to Bradley before turning to her brother. “What are we waiting for? To the Altar Room.”
With the kids at their heels, the Schmidt twins were going to rescue the Ancient Mystics and their Earthly Protectors.
EPILOGUE:
The Ultimate Circle of Magic

Aaron, Aimee and the children found the underground caverns of the Unknown with ease. It was dark, so Aaron used his magic to conjure a ball of light.
“Where do you believe they are, big brother?” Aimee whispered, holding onto Meredith and Caleb’s hands. Kelly was in front of her with Andrew’s hand in hers as he held Mark’s. Aaron took the lead, using the strength of the necklace to see.
“My guess is the same place Damian took her last time.”
“Wouldn’t that be too easy, Daddy?” Kelly asked. “Why would he do that again? I don’t get it.”
“Neither do we.” Aimee answered for her brother. “Well, Aaron? Can you sense them?”
He shook his head, holding it as a headache came on. “Sorry, sis, but no.”
“What about you, Kelly?”
“It hurts to use empathy, Aunt Aimee.” Kelly replied. “I can feel them though. They’re close by.”
The watches around Kelly, Aaron and even Aimee’s wrists beeped, signaling someone was trying to get through.
Kelly checked her Life-line. “It’s from Momma!”
“Thank the Ancient Mystics!” Aimee whispered. “Follow the signal. According to Shannon, it will get stronger the closer you get to the sender.”
“Send a message back, kid.” Aaron told Kelly. “Let her know we’re on our way.”
“She knows, Daddy.” Kelly replied. She read the message on the LCD screen of the Life-line. “Uh, how much Unicorn Magic do you have?”
“Why?”
“You’ll need it to rescue them.” Kelly supplied. “Plenty of it.”
“She says they’re trapped in cages bound by Dragon Magic.” Aimee supplied.
“Who’s there with her?”
“Claudia, Mary Ellen, Anna and Luna.” Aimee said, closing her eyes to sense and see them. Oddly enough, it didn’t hurt to do so. She saw through Ariana’s eyes. “In another cage are Derrick, Craig, Jake, Michael and Shane.” Aimee paused. “We’d better find them, quick.”
“Why?” Andrew spoke up. “What’s wrong, Aunt Aimee?”
“Michael is claustrophobic. He’s not doing so good.”
“Let’s get them out of there so we can heal him, shall we?” Aaron announced. “Onward, troops.”

Before too long, their captors returned.
Shenara and Albrath grinned at one another as they watched over the Ancient Mystics and their Earthly Protectors.
“It would seem we have the advantage, Young Guardian.” Shenara crooned. “How quaint.”
“Reminiscent of anytime in particular?” Albrath screeched.
Ariana wasn’t going to back down. Her sisters and their Protectors counted on her. “Now that I think about it, yes. I seem to recall when I escaped from Damian’s cage during the Crusades.”
“There’s no hope for you, now. Not even your Protector can escape to rescue you.”
“You’re forgetting one thing, Albrath.” Luna stood beside her. “Good always triumphs over evil.”
Albrath laughed. “That will be the day!”
“In case you have not already figured it out, these bars are enchanted with powerful Dragon Magic. Not even Goddess of Fire herself could get out of it.”
“I wouldn’t count on that if I were you.” Ariana said sarcastically.
“SILENCE! ALL OF YOU!” Damian’s voice boomed over them. Once he got all their attentions. “I only have one wish you need grant me before you can be released.”
Damian headed to Ariana and stood face to face with her.
“You’ll get nothing from me, Damian, and you know it.” Ariana supplied.
“All I require is your power.”
“You have your own. Use it.” Claudia spat.
“No, dear Young Claudia. I want Young Guardian’s.” Damian announced. “You see, neither of you has as much power as she does.”
“Glad you realize that.” Ariana responded. “I’m still not giving it to you.”
“You will do as he asks, or die!” Albrath butted in.
“Albrath, back!” Damian cried. “Let me handle her. After all, she is my cousin.”
“So is Katherine.” Ariana supplied. “You know if you let anything happen to me, she’ll sense it and come to our rescue. Not only that, but Lord Guardian himself will have your hide. You’ll be toast by the end of the night.”
Shenara laughed. “Not if I can help it.”
“As if a Dominionite like you could ever do anything to hurt Lord Guardian.” Luna said.
“I am now a Dark Lady of the Unknown. I demand respect, Ancient Mystic.” Shenara commanded.
“Demand all you like, you won’t get it.” Anna said.
“Respect is something you earn, Lady Wizard.” Ariana announced.
Shenara was confused by the statement.
“This has gone far enough.” Damian said. He pulled out a dagger and pointed it at Ariana’s chest. She froze, not wanting to be stung by the blade. “Now then. Give me your power or die a Dominionite.”
“Leave her alone, Damian!” Came a voice from the shadows.
Ariana and her sisters looked up to see Aimee, with Meredith and Kelly beside her.
“What will you do, Ancient Mystic wannabe? Zap me with what little power you think you have?” Damian laughed, turning to greet them. “Get them, Ladies.”
Shenara and Albrath attacked. Shenara went to Aimee, who shielded herself with Unicorn Magic. Unknown to her, Aimee had been practicing.
Aimee smiled innocently as the beam from Shenara’s palm hit the shield, bouncing back at her. “A little power goes a long way, Dominionite.” She replied.
Shenara recovered quickly from the shock, standing. “I’ll kill you, Over-Seer!”
“I’d like to see you try.” Aimee countered. Something from within made Aimee fearless.
Deep inside Aimee’s system, the Unicorn Magic wanted out. She let it have reign over her very soul, allowing it to be free for the first time in years. Shenara noticed the green glow from the vicinity of Aimee’s heart. Eyes closed, Aimee took a deep breath. When she opened them again, her brown eyes were green, deep and determined.
“I dare you.” Aimee announced, ready to pounce if she got the urge.
The urge came when Shenara was fed up. “I will teach you!”
Using her own power, a silver ring of magic tried to wrap itself around Aimee’s body, but the shield devoured it.
Shenara was shocked. “You are no Ancient Mystic to have their powers!”
“Surprise, Shenara! I am a powerful Ancient Mystic.” Aimee supplied. “Maybe not by birth, but by blood.” She showed Shenara her wrist. “Blood ties are just as powerful as any birth line, especially when it comes to Ancient Mystics. Will you go away or will I have to get nasty?”
“Aimee, behind you!” Came Claudia’s voice from a distance.
From behind, Aimee was attacked by Albrath. She was tackled to the ground of the cavern, unable to move. Both Albrath and Shenara had her pinned.
Meanwhile, Kelly and Meredith were trying their best to use what Unicorn Magic they had to reduce the Dragon Magic hold on the bars. It wasn’t working, and the girls were getting tired.
“Don’t exhaust yourselves, girls.” Anna remarked. “You’ll only make yourselves sick.”
“Especially after our battle, Kelina.” Ariana warned. She looked up, seeing her almost-sister pinned to the ground by the Dominionites she’d Exiled not too long ago.
Damian saw a drained Kelly and Meredith by the bars. “Careful, Child. You may lose yourself in the Dragon’s Magic.”
“Bite me, Damian.” Kelly said wearily.
“Let them all go home and you can have me.” Ariana announced, ready for anything.
“Ariana!” Claudia was exasperated. “What are you doing?”
“You don’t think he’d fall for the same thing she did, do you?” Luna asked.
“No matter how noble your cause may be, I am certainly not my sister.” Damian replied. “For each of you has different distinct powers I need to become one of you.”
“You’re already a Ancient Mystic, if that’s what you mean.” Mary Ellen supplied.
“No, not that.” Damian looked at Young Guardian. “You know what I want, I know you do.”
“You want to be Earthbound.” Ariana deduced. “Why? So you can bug us there?”
Luna laughed sarcastically. “You wouldn’t be able to handle it.”
“Which is exactly why I need your powers. So I can.” Damian remarked. He took the blade from the twins, making them relax. He began to walk away. “Do you realize just how boring it is in the Unknown? There are no Dreamers to keep me busy, and no one ventures here but the insane Dominionites and lost souls.” He turned around, facing them again. First, he saw Aimee, being held by Albrath and Shenara. He smiled. “You might as well give up. Even your precious Over-Seer is finished, once I give the word.”
“Leave her alone, Damian.” Luna commanded.
“Who is going to stop me? You?” Damian laughed. “No, I think not. You are much too frightened of me to try anything.”
“I am not.” Luna lied, trying to keep her composure.
“Dear Aluna, you cannot hide your feelings from me.” Damian remarked. “You may be afraid of the Empathy, but I am not.”
“Leave my Mommy alone!” Meredith tried to shout, only it came out a whisper.
Damian only laughed.
That’s when the cavalry arrived.
“You heard the girl. Leave Luna alone.” It was Shane, disguised as his Shadow persona. The necklace at his throat glowed.
Damian and the sisters turned to see them all standing there. Derrick, Shane and Craig were in the lead while Aaron and Jake helped a delirious Michael walk. The Reading twins, Andrew and Mark were with their father and Caleb.
“How did you escape?”
Aaron grinned. “I believe it’s called Unicorn Magic.” He said. “Would you like a second demonstration?”
Derrick shared a look with Aaron that made Ariana wonder what they were up to. Aaron nodded, leaving Jake and Michael in Craig’s hands. He grabbed Derrick’s and Shane’s hands, linking them together in a Magical bond nothing would break.
Ariana and Luna both noticed how Derrick’s and Shane’s Protector’s Pendants were glowing. In the Dream Realm, it meant they were tapping into their own kind of Protector’s powers. What would it do in the Unknown?
“On three.” Aaron replied. “One, two,”
“Three.” Aaron chorused with Derrick and Shane.

“The powers of one, the powers of mind.
“Link us together, form magic that binds.
“Unicorn to Dragon, I urge you to break
“The spells that hold the magic that takes.
“Protectors of one, Protectors of all
“Release these Bindings upon my call!”

From the Pendants and Aaron’s necklace came different-colored Magics. Aaron’s was his own, the green magic of the Unicorn to smother the bindings that held Ariana and her sisters captive. With help from Derrick’s and Shane’s Protectors’ Pendants, the bars to the cage began to change, from Dragon Magic red and dangerous to Unicorn Magic green and calm. Soon, the bars had all but disappeared and the girls were able to escape.
Damian and the sisters could do nothing to stop them.
Aimee came up with an idea to use a little of the Invisibility part of her magic to disappear, confusing her captors. She reappeared next to Aaron, just in time to catch him when he began to falter.
Shenara and Albrath were disgusted, so they left. Seeing how he was outnumbered, Damian followed.
Each Woods sister ran to her Earthly Protector, hugging and kissing them. Mary Ellen saw how distressed Michael was and disappeared back home with him. Craig and Claudia left next, then Jake and Anna. All that were left were Ariana, Derrick, Shane, Aaron, Aimee. Luna, and the five children.
“We did it!” Caleb cried.
“Let’s go home.” Shane remarked. “See you in the Outer Realm, everybody.”
He took the hands of Luna, Caleb, and Meredith, disappearing.
The Schmidt twins looked almost dead.
“Are you guys okay?” Ariana asked them after healing Kelly and her boys.
“Yeah, you used a lot of Unicorn Magic back there, Aaron.” Derrick supplied. “I didn’t know you had it in you.”
Aaron shared a look with Ariana. “I’d do anything for her, you know that.” He said. “She’s my best friend.”
“Aaron.” Ariana started.
Derrick stopped her. “Not now. Let’s just get home and rest up. The boys used a lot of their own Magic trying to rescue us.”
Ariana looked to her sons. “What exactly happened before you barged in to save us?”
“Uncle Aaron had us help him with the Unicorn Magic.” Andrew replied.
“Yeah, we remembered what you said about polarity, Mom.” Mark said. “We just used the knowledge and applied it to help Dad and them escape.”
“It was Aaron’s idea, Ariana.” Derrick said. “Shane and I could both tell he didn’t have enough energy after fighting whatever guards were at the door. He insisted in using his Magic to reverse the hold on the bars, but he was weak. The boys held each of his hands while he chanted to use it. After that, we had to wait until the right moment to crash Damian’s party.”
“I am very proud of you, boys.” Ariana said, hugging and kissing each of them. “You, too, Kelly. If it hadn’t been for the three of you, Aimee and Aaron never would have been able to stand up against those three.”
“Really, Momma?” Kelly asked.
Ariana nodded. “Really. Derrick, take the kids home. I need to do something about these two.” She stood beside Aimee and Aaron.
Derrick smiled, knowing what she had in mind. Holding onto his twins’ hands, he and Kelly disappeared, returning to their beds at home.
The Schmidt twins exchanged looks before meeting Ariana’s eyes.
“You used great Magic back there, you know that?” Ariana asked, hugging each of them. “Allow me to help you restore your strength.”
“I have one question.” Aimee said.
“Go ahead.”
“Can we get out of here first? This place gives me the creeps.”
Ariana laughed lightly. “Certainly.” She held her hands out for her almost-brother and -sister. Once they grabbed hold, Ariana called the Dream Chant and returned to the Dream Realm’s Ancient Mystic Palace.

II

“How could you be so careless!” Gloriana yelled at her daughters. “And you!” She pointed at Damian. “I would have expected something better from you, Merchant! You used to lead hundreds of Dominionites. Now you cannot even handle a bunch of misfit Ancient Mystics! What do you three have to say for yourselves?”
“If we meant it, we would apologize.” Damian supplied. “As I recall, all you did was hang on Father’s every word. You did none of the work yourself, sending us to do it for you.”
“You promised power, Mother!” Shenara cried. “I want it!”
“Too bad, brat! You lost your chance.” Gloriana replied. “Not to worry, I am sure the Maiden has something up her sleeve this time.”
“We do not even know where she is, let alone what she has in mind.” Damian said.
“Rumor has it she is Earthbound.” Gloriana said. “Soon, we will be Earthbound as well.”
“Let me guess, you stole the Outer Realm Spell from Father’s book?” Damian asked.
“There is no such thing.” Gloriana supplied. “I looked. But, there is something else of interest to me, and your stingy sister Sabrina.”
“Do tell, Mother.” Albrath said.
“As with everything, we wait.” Gloriana said. “We will have our revenge on the Ancient Mystics. After that, Orthos will destroy O’Dell and all will be as it should be.”
“A bit sure of yourself, are you not, Dominionite?” Damian asked. “We have been dealing with them for eons. It would seem nothing can destroy them.”
“Maybe nothing here, but what if we altered the very fabric of existence?”
“Are you thinking what I think you are?” Shenara asked.
“The Resurrection Spell in the Outer Realm would work.” Damian announced. “Just tell me when and where.”
“Not so fast, Damian.” Gloriana said. “Only the most powerful of Ancient Mystic blood can call it and survive.”
“Father is no Ancient Mystic. He is like Uncle O’Dell. A Wizard.” Damian said.
“Are you so dense not to see the very nose on your face?” Gloriana spat. “Your sister and yourself are Ancient Mystics.”
“So we have been reminded.”
“Use that to your advantage, Merchant.” Gloriana said. “Get my drift?”
Damian smiled a secret smile, sharing mischievous looks with Gloriana, Albrath and his lover Shenara. “Crystal clear.”

III

At last, the sisters and their Protectors returned home to the Outer Realm, where they belonged. Anna and Jake were so happy to see one another, they waited until they knew it was safe to make love in their tiny apartment. Claudia and Craig had to relay what happened to Andrea and Kevin, who were worried sick. Of course, Cara listened in to every word, amazed something like this could happen to their little family. Mary Ellen took Michael home with her, healing his mind with a powerful potion. She debated giving him the Forgetfulness Spell to make him forget the horror of facing his darkest fear. In the end, she decided to just lighten the blow to his fragile mind. Shane and Luna nursed their kids to health with old-fashioned remedies. Of the two, Caleb was the most alert. When Luna tucked Logan into bed, she swore she felt tiredness from him as well. It was as if he fought in his own way somehow.
At the Reading Estate across the street, Aaron and Aimee lay side by side on the queen-size bed in one of the bigger guest bedrooms. They were silent, with Ariana watching over them. Now that they were home, Ariana was at full strength and the twins needed her to heal them.
“Kelly and the boys are fast asleep.” Derrick whispered, coming in to see her placing a washcloth on each of their foreheads. The smell of jasmine was in the air and Derrick saw the incense burning in the corner. “Are they alright?”
“After a long nap, yes.” Ariana said softly. “I made them drink my special concoction before sending them into the Dream Realm to rest.”
When she sat on the armchair, he sat beside her. “What about you? Are you drained from healing them?”
Ariana looked to her husband, holding his hand. “What do you feel?”
“I feel exhaustion.” He stated.
“Well then, yes, I am drained.” Ariana smiled, kissing him. She stood to face him.
She looked to where Aaron was sleeping peacefully and sighed.
Derrick kissed her forehead. “Love, tell me what’s on your mind.”
Ariana looked at him. “There’s a lot I have to answer for.” When he didn’t reply, she was forced to continue. “I’m sorry for every bad thing that happened with me and that Crystal. I didn’t mean to hurt you, Shane, or even Luna. I guess I didn’t know what I was doing.”
“Hey, forget about it.” Derrick said. “I have.”
“You forgive me?” Ariana asked.
“Love, it wasn’t your fault. The Crystal had you in its power.” Derrick remarked. “I was just glad you were able to return it, and not further use its darkening magic.”
He hugged her. “Come on, let’s go to bed. We’ll leave explanations until morning, when we’ve all gotten a good night’s rest.”
“You’re right, but I’m still not so sure.”
He faced her. “What’s there not to be sure about?”
“Sabrina’s out there somewhere.” Ariana announced. “She’s Earthbound again, I can feel it.”
Derrick looked at her curiously.
“Have I ever been wrong when it came to her?” Ariana whispered, scared.
Derrick shook his head, leading her out of the room. All he wanted to do right now was take his wife to bed with him and make passionate love to her. He wanted to make her happy again, and full of hope and smiles.
Until Sabrina and her consorts were totally taken care of, things in the world of the Ancient Mystics would never be the same.

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Publication Date: 08-12-2009

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